Archive for March, 2012

Speaking, Out of Your Ass

Posted on March 25, 2012. Filed under: Culture |

I’m normally somewhat of a political junkie. I am not claiming to know all the ins and outs, but I generally have a good pulse on what’s going on in the nation’s capital. Until now. Though moving and preparing for another baby has something to do with it, I’m honestly just over all the flapping gums. Doesn’t matter if it is the left or right, these people pretty much all say one thing and do something else. Politicians are a special breed. Or so we’d all like to think.

Some of us don’t always say the politically correct thing, especially if you’re a Marine, but generally speaking we all try to say what we think others want to hear. Christians really aren’t any different – “I’ll pray for you,” “Praise God,” and “I need to get into the Word” are some of our best catch phrases. There’s nothing wrong with any of these and in fact we should be saying and doing them all. But, I know I don’t always pray for that someone, or actually praise God. Sometimes I look to the world, not God, for answers.  Even if we are successful at fooling others, there’s always that pesky Jesus fellow who knows what is really in our hearts. It’s times like these when I feel like it’s my ass talking, not me.

No, the church blogger didn’t just swear (…is ass really a swear word?). I’m referring to Numbers 22. If you’re not familiar, I will paraphrase.

While the Hebrews and Charlton Heston were mozy-ing about in the desert, King Balak of Moab saw the Hebrew mob coming his way. Fearing the crowd (2 million strong) was a threat, he decided he wanted to battle Israel, but first, he wanted a warm and fuzzy that he would win. So, he sent servants to Balaam, a man known for having God’s ear, and asked him to curse the Hebrews. Balaam and God had a fire-side chat and the Lord told Balaam Israel was blessed and to leave them alone. Balaam sent word to Balak that it was a no-go, but Balak just sent a more prestigious envoy, which tried to bribe Balaam. Balaam asked God again and this time God said to go with the servants but to do only as He commands.

The next day, Balaam gets up, hops on his noble steed (a donkey) and heads out. Along the way, the donkey sees an angel and freaks out. Balaam, not seeing the angel, gives a few sidekicks to his sidekick who turns to Balam and asks (out loud) why he is beating her, like donkeys do. Eventually, the angel makes itself known to Balaam who admits he has sinned. The angel lets Balaam continue on, but reminds him to do only as God commands.

So, what gives? After all, God told Balaam to go with Balak’s servants. Balaam said all the right things too – he told Balak’s men that he couldn’t go against God, so why all the anger? Because God doesn’t just listen to our words, He knows what’s in our hearts.

“A man looks at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Though the servants and even Balak may have been fooled, God wasn’t. God had already told Balaam the Hebrews were not to be harmed, but when the second more prestigious envoy showed up offering Balaam a reward, he decided he’d give it another shot. Balaam wasn’t obeying God, he was testing God to see if He really meant “no.” So, in a pretty comical way, God called Balaam out, by talking out of his ass.

So, just remember as you are cursing about the hypocrisy of politicians this election year, even the most devout and highly regarded among us do the same thing.  And, if your car happens to stop running on your way to do God’s work, perhaps there is a giant angel with a flaming sword in the way reminding you to keep your words and your heart in check.

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Springing Back Into the Future

Posted on March 17, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , |

If you were like me for the first part of the week, everything was just off. It seems there are never enough hours in the day, but losing one, especially one usually spent sleeping, throws you for a few days. Though I posted on Friday, I meant to still write another blog on Sunday but I ran out of time – or did I?

I once heard someone say that God gives us enough time to do His will, but we usually spend our time fulfilling our will instead of His. I confess that I find myself cramming the day full of errands and chores that ‘need’ to get done, while neglecting the other things that ‘can wait’: taking time to play with my son, complimenting my husband, calling up an old friend, spending time with my Savior. Too often these more important tasks get my left-overs. And we all know the only thing good left over is Chinese food. Suddenly, it’s 10 pm and I get a moment to myself: I should read the Bible, but I’m so tired. After all, God doesn’t want me spending time with Him out of obligation. I’ll do it tomorrow. 

“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (Prov 25:28). If we can’t control ourselves and how we spend our time, we invite self-destruction. Those who put too much on their plates are just as guilty as those who don’t put enough on them: both lack self-control.

But, what’s the key to time management? Driving at 88 miles an hour? Thankfully, there are alternatives. A few months ago I read Craig Groeschel’s “Weird.” While the whole book is worth reading, his perspective on time struck me as particularly insightful. He said that instead of asking ourselves if we want to do something, we should be asking if it is wise to do it. Scripture seems to back this up:

“So be careful how you live. Live as men who are wise and not foolish. Make the best use of your time. These are sinful days. Do not be foolish. Understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Eph 5:15-17).

“Teach us to understand how many days we have. Then we will have a heart of wisdom to give You” (Psalms 90:12)

Simply shifting from want to wise can really free up your schedule. I always wished I had more time to read, but gave myself the excuse that I had a small child to look after, which prohibited me from expanding my knowledge. Realizing 2-3 hours of television scattered throughout the day wasn’t ‘wise’ time management provided me with that time I needed to read a book or two a month. How much time could you free up if you limited checking your email and Facebook once a day? What about limiting Internet surfing time to 20 minutes? What if you spent half as much time playing video games as you do now?

I know I’m knocking the “brain candy,” but only because we’re all guilty of wasting too much time on it. Yet, as I said earlier, spending too much time on a good/noble thing isn’t so wise either (Prov 25:16). Is work consuming so much of your time and focus that your relationships or health are suffering? I think Christian women in particular fall into the trap of ‘helping’ others so much that they wear themselves down to the point of having nothing left of offer (if you’re in 8 small groups, volunteer at the soup kitchen, and are president of the PTA, it may not ‘wise’ to sign up as a soccer coach.)

Instead waiting for the DeLorean to finally prove it’s worth or wishing you lived in Arizona or Hawaii , knock out some of the time-fluff currently occupying your days. Re-evaluate if the important tasks are draining too much out of you. Dedicate some time gaining wisdom on what God’s will for  you is rather than what you wish it was.

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Cafeteria Christianity Part II: You Can’t Have Your Pudding If You Don’t Eat Your Meat

Posted on March 9, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , |

Last week, I claimed Christians unnecessarily treat the Bible as a type of ‘mystery meat.’ In doing so, I wanted to encourage Christians to know we can trust in it’s authority.

But I’ve also noticed the Church treats the Bible itself as a buffet. We often skip over the vegetable scriptures that aren’t so pleasing to the pallet, no matter how nutritious, and go straight for the soft-serve machine.  We are happy to take bites of the Psalms sprinkled with Proverbs.  If we eat anything with substance, it’s almost always the Gospels.  The Old Testament and the letters of Paul give us acid reflux (especially Leviticus).  I mean, if we are only going to eat out once a week (or just Christmas and Easter), might as well indulge on a nice Christian ‘meal’ complete with all our favorite goodies, rather than that other stuff.

I’m definitely guilty of this selective reading. I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it up until a few years ago. That was when I realized that I had been a Christian for about a decade, but I didn’t really have a ‘well-balanced’ understanding of what the Word of God actually said. Instead, I had been spending my whole time at my personal dessert tray. As a result, my walk with Christ could have been described as a series ‘sugar highs’ followed by crashes. Surely, this couldn’t be healthy way of spiritual living.

Why do we treat the Bible as a buffet rather than a well-balanced specialty-made meal?

I used to think it was because I didn’t understand how to read it, that it was just over my head because I didn’t go to seminary. Or perhaps it was because it was written for a different culture, one that looked very different than modern America, therefore not applicable. Better yet, it was itself written by men who were fallible. After all, God figured out how to organically store 20 gigabytes of information inside a nucleus that is 6 microns (or .000006 meters) in diameter, but surely writing a book correctly was too hard for Him.

Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I was picking and choosing the verses I lived by. I thought I had better ideas about right, wrong, and how to live life than the Creator of the universe. Talk about pride.

I recently heard my pastor say that we try to filter the Bible through our cultural world-view rather than filtering our cultural world-view through the Bible. I don’t think that this is something new, especially considering Paul wrote Hebrews almost 2,000 years ago. When God gave the Israelites the Law, He did so to set them apart from other nations. Living according to the Bible will only cause inter-relational problems, not solve them (Luke 12:51-53). When Jesus came to fulfill the Law, his teachings were so counter-cultural they crucified him for it. Like I’ve said before, people don’t crucify Mr. Rogers.

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Thankfully, we don’t live in Iran where following Christ will get you killed, but it will undoubtedly bring ridicule, even from others who claim they are Christians. The lives of the “the few” should include fighting creatures that shame Tolkien villains. They should also look different than the lives of those around us who are not living for Christ. If not, we’re probably doing it wrong (Mat 7:13).

Here was the sobering thought that changed me: what about my life defines me as a Christian? My life didn’t look any different than those around me. People could only have assumed I was a Christian because I wore a cross around my neck, gave presents to people in December, and attended church. I was a Christian 2% of the year, applying 2% of the Bible. I knew I wasn’t “doing it right,” but it just wasn’t convenient for me to do anything about it, especially in college! But Jesus didn’t say, “if you love me, keep my commands when when it works for you, when they align with your views and your culture, and when it won’t cost you anything” (compare to John 14:15).

So, now I am trying to do it “right”. Do I still fail? Hourly (minutely just sounds weird). Has it cost me anything? Sadly, yes. But my understanding of Scripture and Christ has exploded (in the good way), my life has been blessed ten-fold, and my heart has aligned closer to God, rather than to the world. I’ve grown more as a Christian in the past 3 years than I did in the ten before that.

I encourage all 3 of you reading this to remember God revealed Himself to us as in a well-balance, high-protein, low-carb meal made especially for us rather than a Golden Corral special for $9.99. As tempting as it is, don’t skip right to your specialized dessert tray and ignore the nutrition God knew we would need. After all,  if you are really ‘in Christ’, how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

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Cafeteria Christianity Part I: Mystery Meat

Posted on March 4, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Cafeteria food always creeped me out a little bit. There are only a few meals that I trusted, even fewer that I would call good eating. Most meals consisted of a few veggies or fruits, milk, and the main dish. Sometimes, the main course was so unidentifiable, it was labeled as: mystery meat.

I think the Bible is ‘mystery meat’ for too many Christians. Most of us don’t put faith in this ‘meat’ either and instead decide to give it a quick glance and maybe move on to the PB&J option.  We treat it as a book that looks edible at first glance with some good tips for living, but otherwise it is mostly out of touch, certainly out-dated, probably inaccurate, and definitely made for a different society therefore not applicable to 2012 living. It certainly isn’t the infallible Word of God or soul food at it’s best.

Paul said, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God” (2 Cor 10:4-5). Paul warns that there will be obstacles to knowing the Truth and that arguments challenging it’s veracity are false. The implication is that there is a truthful argument to be made for the Bible in the first place. Of course, quoting scripture to an unbelieving ‘Christian’ is circular logic, so we’ve got to go a different route.

Historians measure the veracity of a historical text a few different ways. One is by the level of variation among the manuscripts. For example, the Old Testament text can be found in the Masoretic Text (dated 800 AD) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated around the BC AD change over). Between these two manuscripts, despite the 800 year difference, there’s about a 95% consistency with the last 5% being comprised of mostly spelling errors rather than content variation. All without a Kinkos too, pretty amazing.

Two other attributes historians look at: a) the lapse between the event in question and the recording’s date  and b) the number of manuscripts. It’s estimated there are over 20,000 biblical manuscripts dating as early as 125 AD, the original text dating somewhere around 40-60 AD. Some might have a problem with the manuscripts dating about 100 years after the event. Fine, but compare that to the next most ‘accurate’ historical document, Homer’s “Iliad” (643 manuscripts, 500 years after the event), or other goodies like Caesar’s “Galactic Wars” (10 manuscripts, 950 years after the event) or Plato’s works (7 manuscripts, 1,200 years after the event). Yet, not too many people the existence of Plato.

Another reason to believe the Bible is from God – prophecy. Biblical prophecy isn’t at the fortune cookie or horoscope level, it gets pretty specific (though adding ‘in bed’ still makes them funny). There are over 100 prophecies relating to Jesus alone, including the year he would be killed (Dan 9:24-26). There’s also world events like the rise (and fall) of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek (and it’s break up into 4 territories), and Roman empires (also all in Daniel – he was a busy guy). There’s recently fulfilled prophecies like the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Ez 20:34).  And there are still prophecies yet be fulfilled too, like an alliance between Russia and Iran forming…that one’s probably wrong though, right?

There would be archeological evidence like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, but the Nazi’s had to go and ruin it for us all by choosing …poorly. Just kidding, but for example, until 1961, we didn’t have evidence Pontius Pilate was even a real man. But then a limestone ruin was found in a Roman theatre reading, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” Now there’s evidence he existed and served as a Roman governor in Judea.

Though it’s not ‘evidence’ per se, I’ve always wondered if the whole story was made up, why not make it better? For example, if the disciples wanted people to believe Jesus rose after three days, why send women, who’s word didn’t account for much, to the tomb? If I wanted to convince people, I’d have sent some well-respected men in the community that people would be more likely to believe. Or why when recording Jesus’s genealogy would the writers include men like Judah (the married guy who sleeps with his daughter-in-law while she was dressed as a prostitute) rather than Joseph (Judah’s stand-up brother and Jewish hero who rose to be Pharaoh’s powerful advisor)? And while people like Joel Osteen have millions in book revenue to gain today, what did the early Christians have to gain? When they were spreading the word, being the ‘light of the world’ literally meant their bodies were fuel for Roman street lights. They had nothing to gain but ridicule and death…or did they?

Like I said with my piece of evolution, this isn’t supposed to be a complete or exhaustive list on why the Bible is 100% true. If some Christians don’t want to buy into the Bible as the Word of God yet, I just suggest they do some research and know why (and while they’re at it, question Thucydides’s account of the Pelopanisian Wars – 8 manuscripts, 1300 years after the wars). But as for this Christian, I happen to like how the mystery meat and chilled monkey brains taste.

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