Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Supreme Court Is Not My Shepherd: Part 2

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to change the definition of marriage it is important for Jesus-followers to remember whose kingdom they really belong to. Jesus did not come to establish "Christian nations." He said "My kingdom is not of this world," while rejecting opportunities and invitations to rule over Israel as an earthly king. (See, e.g., Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation.) 

It is also important to understand that:

1) Every person has an ethical worldview. (See, e.g., Lewis Vaughn, The Power of Critical Thinking, Chapter 11, on applying logic to ethical thinking.)
2) In formulating an ethical system no one looks to Supreme Court rulings for guidance. 
3) This means that, as a Jesus-follower, the Supreme Court has no influence on my ethical worldview. 

In my worldview "marriage" is defined as between a male and a female. While I might have been glad had the Supreme Court agreed with me, such agreement would not bolster my already-established ethical position on marriage. In the same way the Court's decision to define marriage unethically (as seen from my worldview's POV) is fundamentally irrelevant to me. 

Note: One excellent example of formulating a Christian Worldview is Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

In Green Lake, Wisconsin

Linda and I are in Green Lake, Wisconsin, for our annual HSRM conference. 

On Wednesday night I'll be speaking n our main session on "Jesus and Money." I am very excited to give this message!

I'll also lead two workshops/seminars. The first is on "Leading the Presence-Driven Church: The Distinction Between Discerning and Deciding." The second will be an informal Q&A around theological and cultural studies I've been doing. I'll give the participants a bibliography, with some explanation. Then we'll discuss whatever. I'm looking forward to doing this.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Lawsuits

Will the Supreme Court's irreligious decision to redefine marriage affect pastors and churches? For those of us concerned that our government may one day force us to act against our strong, decided moral judgments, one helpful resource is: "Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Lawsuits" (thank you Lora and Grady).

This is a major resource, well put-together, that may prove helpful in these eroding times. (It's free to download.)

From the booklet, p. 1 - "SOGIs [Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity ordinances] have been invoked to attempt to force Christian photographers, bakers, and florists to participate in same-sex ceremonies, in violation of their religious beliefs about sexuality and marriage. They have been used to attempt to force a Christian printer to create advertisements celebrating a "gay pride" festival. SOGIs have been used to attempt to force Christian owners of wedding venues to host same-sex ceremonies, and Christian adoption agencies to choose between placing babies in motherless or fatherless same-sex homes or go out of business... [In this booklet] you will find examples of what other Christians around the country are facing; how your church, school, or ministry may be vulnerable to similar threats; and what you can do to secure crucial legal protections to help enable you to weather the fast-approaching legal storms."

Some of my friends have responded back to me wondering if my response is more fear-based and protectionist. Yes and no. My thoughts are:

  • There are rational fears, to which we should respond if possible. 
  • Some of us (like myself) have followed this discussion for 40 years. So I doubt that my response to the Supreme Court decision to redefine the word 'marriage' is reactive. Responsive, yes. Reactive, no. Concerned, yes. 
  • Churches may be vulnerable to similar threats. Therefore I and others see it as wisdom to anticipate what we see as rational, threatening possibilities to our religious freedoms. Wisdom looks ahead. This wisdom (while not perfect) is grounded in heaps of socio-cultural studies and observations over a period of many years (for me, beginning in 1975).
Wayne Grudem says: "This is an outstanding resource that will prove immensely valuable to every church and Christian organization. It comes with significant credibility, because it has been produced by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the nation's largest Christian legal defense organization, and an organization for which I have deep admiration, respect, and thanksgiving to God."


 " Without soul freedom we have no other liberties. The church cannot outsource our convictions to the state. This resource wisely helps equip churches on how to remain faithful to our mission in a culture that often disagrees with our message."
Russell D. Moore, President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

The Supreme Court Is Not My Shepherd (the Same-Sex Marriage Decision)

If the Supreme Court was my shepherd I would be in extreme wanting today. Fortunately my moral and ethical framework is not, and never has been, a function of our country's Supreme Court rulings. I began working out my ethical-theological viewpoint on same-sex issues back in 1981. I have occasionally presented my position on this blog, and in a number of other venues. See:

"Same-Sex Marriage Is Not About "Rights""

"Same-Sex Marriage Is Not About "Marriage Equality," But About the Definition of 'Marriage'"

Christianity Today has a helpful article which I'll post in full - "Here We Stand: An Evangelical Definition of Marriage: Nearly 100 leaders respond to Supreme Court legalizing marriage." 

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.
The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.
Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.
The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:
  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.
The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.
The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry.Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.
A.B Vines
Senior Pastor
New Seasons Church
Afshin Ziafat 
Lead Pastor
Providence Church - Frisco, TX.
Alistair Begg 
Senior Pastor
Parkside Church
Andrew T. Walker 
Director of Policy Studies
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Bart Barber 
First Baptist Church of Famersville
Bruce Frank 
Senior Pastor
Biltmore Baptist Church
Bruce Riley Ashford 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bryan Carter 
Concord Church
Bryan Chapell 
Senior Pastor
Grace Presbyterian Church
Bryan Loritts 
Pastor of Preaching and Mission
Trinity Grace Church, Kainos Movement
Bryant Wright 
Senior Pastor
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
Carmen Fowler LaBerge 
Presbyterian Lay Committee
Christine Hoover 
Christopher Yuan 
Speaker, Author, Bible Teacher
Clint Pressley 
Pastor & Former VP of SBC
Hickory Grove Baptist Church
Collin Hansen 
Editorial Director
The Gospel Coalition
D.A. Carson 
Research Professor of NT
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
D.A. Horton
Daniel Darling 
Vice-President of Communications
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Daniel Patterson 
Chief of Staff
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Danny Akin 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
David E. Prince
Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
David French 
National Review
David Jeremiah
Senior Pastor
Shadow Mountain Community Church
David S. Dockery 
Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
David Platt 
International Mission Board
David Uth 
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Orlando
Dean Inserra 
Lead Pastor
City Church, Tallahassee
Dennis Rainey 
Family Life Today
Eric Teetsel 
Executive Director
Manhattan Declaration
Erwin W. Lutzer 
Senior Pastor
The Moody Church
Fred Luter 
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church
Gabriel Salguero 
National Latino Evangelical Coalition
H.B. Charles Jr.
Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church
Heath Lambert
Executive Director
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
Hunter Baker 
Associate Professor of Political Science; Dean of Instruction
Union University
James MacDonald 
Harvest Bible Chapel
J.P. Moreland 
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Biola University
J.D. Greear 
The Summit Church
J.I. Packer 
Board of Governors’ Professor, Theology
Regent College
Jason Allen 
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Jeff Iorg
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
Jim Daly 
Focus on the Family
Jimmy Scroggins 
Lead Pastor
Family Church, West Palm Beach
John Bradosky Presiding Bishop North American Lutheran Church
John Stonestreet 
Speaker and Fellow
The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Johnny Hunt 
First Baptist Church of Woodstock
Jonathan Leeman 
Editorial Director
Juan R. Sanchez, Jr. 
Senior Pastor
High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
Justin Taylor
Karen Swallow Prior 
Fellow, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention Fellow
Professor of English, Liberty University
Ken Whitten 
Senior Pastor
Idlewild Baptist Church
Kevin DeYoung
Senior Pastor
University Reformed Church
Kevin Ezell 
North American Mission Board
Kevin Smith 
Teaching Pastor
Highview Baptist Church
Mark Dever 
Senior Pastor
Capitol Hill Baptist Church
Marvin Olasky 
WORLD Magazine
Matt Carter 
Pastor of Preaching and Vision
The Austin Stone Community Church
Matt Chandler 
Senior Pastor
The Village Church
Matthew Lee Anderson 
Lead Writer
Mere Orthodoxy
Mike Cosper
Pastor of Worship and Arts
Sojourn Community Church
Mike Glenn 
Senior Pastor
Brentwood Baptist Church
Naghmeh Abedini
Nancy Leigh DeMoss 
Revive our Hearts
Nathan Lino 
Lead Pastor
Northeast Houston Baptist Church
Owen Strachan
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Paul Nyquist 
President and CEO
Moody Bible Institute
Phillip Bethancourt 
Executive Vice President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. 
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ramon Osorio 
Hispanic National Church Mobilizer
North American Mission Board
Randy Alcorn 
Eternal Perspectives Ministries
Ray Ortlund 
Lead Pastor
Immanuel Nashville
Richard D. Land
Southern Evangelical Seminary
Richard Mouw 
Professor of Faith and Public Life
Fuller Seminary
Robert Sloan 
Houston Baptist University
Roger Spradlin 
Senior Pastor
Valley Baptist Church, Bakersfield, CA
Ron Sider 
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University
Ronnie Floyd 
President, Southern Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, Cross Church
Rosaria Butterfield 
Author and Speaker
Russell Moore 
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Sam Storms 
Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision
Bridgeway Church
Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver 
Union University
Samuel Rodriguez 
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Thomas White 
Cedarville University
Timothy George 
Dean and Professor of Divinity
Beeson Divinity School
Todd Wagner 
Senior Pastor
Watermark Church
Tommy Nelson Sr.
Denton Bible Church
Tony Evans
Senior Pastor
Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
Tony Merida 
Pastor for Preaching
Imago Dei Church
Tory Baucum 
Truro Anglican Church
Trillia Newbell 
Director of Community Outreach
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Trip Lee
Rapper, Author, Pastor
Vance Pitman 
Senior Pastor
Hope Church, Las Vegas, NV

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love Never Fails

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13
From here

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7,13

Solitude As the Place of the Great Encounter

Munson Park in Monroe
Henri Nouwen writes: "Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter— the struggle against the compulsion of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self." (Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart)

What does Nouwen mean by this?

First, "solitude" is being alone with God. There can be an interior solitude even when others are around. This inner condition is cultivated as one takes much time, without the presence of other people, to be alone in the presence of God.

Second, solitude is the place of the "great struggle." The struggle is "against the compulsion of the false self." This is the self that has come out of the kingdom of darkness. The false self is life-denying, controlling, manipulative, fearful, defeatist, and condemning. In solitude, especially as one begins to practice it, these unloving voices can make the experience crushing. In our busyness we have covered them up. Now, in our solitary unbusyness, the voices of darkness step onto the stage of our soul and recite their lines.

Third, solitude is also the place of the "great encounter." Here we meet "the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self." Here is God, who calls our name, saying, "You are my beloved child." In the God-encounter nothing surpasses this.

In solitude, the false self is burned away by the purging fires of loving holiness. This is soul's transformation into the joyous freedom of Christlikeness.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pope Francis and Caring for our Planet

Tom Toles, New York Times  6/21/15

"The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

We Need More Repetitive Worship (Tribal Worship Was 7-11 Worship)

Worship at Redeemer, at Furious Love
Tomorrow morning I'll preach on the repetitive worship now going on concurrently, in real time, as expressed in Revelation 5:7-14. We do repetitive worship at RedeemerGod often leads us to repeat lines, verses, even sometimes words of a worship song we are singing. This happens at the discernment of the worship leader, or myself and one of our pastors.

Many of us love this. But I think some people, not necessarily ours, despise it. Some even mock it, using the saying "This is just '7-11' worship: 7 verses each repeated 11 times."

OK. But tribal worship is repetitive. I've worshiped in several contexts in India. At one service the people repeated two lines for at least 20 minutes. I thought it was beautiful, and haunting to me in a good way. It stayed with me.

I've worshiped in several contexts in Kenya. At the pastor's conference I was speaking at there was a lot of very beautiful, harmonic, repetitive tribal worship. I recorded some on my phone. I was deeply moved by this.

African American worship retains this repetitive tribalness. (See, e.g., Peter Paris's The Spirituality of African Peoples for how African American worship and "church" owes much to its African tribal roots.) Certain lines are sung over and over and over... and over... Such worship is radically mindful, not mindless.

Hebraic culture was tribal. Therefore, Hebraic worship was repetitive. It was circular worship, not linear worship (4 verses, a chorus, then we're out of here "on time"). I've worshiped in several Asian contexts, and experienced a lot of repetitive singing of biblical themes and verses. I can see it and hear it right now. Repetition has staying power. Repetitive worship is meditative worship. Repetitive worship is the antithesis of McWorship.

Time is experienced differently in tribal contexts than it is in Western contexts. Western chronology fixates on the clock; tribal kairos-ology stays with the event. Tribal worship is event-oriented; Western worship is time- (chronos) oriented. The tribal-worship idea is that God is going to show up and do something. So we refer to Sunday mornings at Redeemer as God-events. Really, who wants anything less than this? And, BTW, God is not on our clock-time. God is not twitching and jerking to "get out of church on time."

Consider, e.g., Psalm 1. It sings:

1 Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Remember that these words, in Hebrew, were sung by the worshiping congregation. But singing through them once takes only a minute. Did they sing this song just once in their worship? Taking only a minute to do it? If there were any Westernized clock-watching addicts among them they would be pleased at singing just once through this short psalm. But there weren't any digitized "worshipers" there, and the song went on and on and on... 

Linear, Westernized clock-time worship is shallow and ineffective compared to Hebraic tribal-repetitive worship. A one-time-through-a-hymn approach skims the surface compared to repetitive-meditative worship's staying power. Repetitive worship digs deep roots into the neuroplastic physical brain and one's spiritual heart. This is worship as spiritually exercising, doing "worship reps" that build, over time, spiritual muscle. The spiritual antidote for our shallow, surfacy tweet-world of today is: lots and lots and lots of worship reps in God's spiritual gymnasium, where we exercise unto godliness.

Repetitive worship is "better is one day in your courts" worship. Non-repetitive worship, Western-style, promotes a "thousands of days elsewhere" attitude. Real worship dwells, and longs to do so; it abides and doesn't want to let go. The real worshiper isn't anxiously tapping his foot because he's got other things to do.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in Charleston, S.C.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the Jesus-followers who were gathered in a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last evening.

These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Please join me in praying for them today.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mysticism as Non-Discursive Experience

With friends in Bangkok
Any word can be abused and misused. The words "mystic" and "mysticism" have been. But I think, for Christian theists, these can be good words.

The word "mystic" derives from the Greek word muein which means "to close," in this case, to close one's mouth (e.g., see here, p. 6). One keeps one's mouth closed because of a felt God-encounter that cannot be expressed, hence a non-discursive experience (one cannot "discourse" about it).

This makes sense of classic texts as The Cloud of Unknowing and The Dark Night of the Soul. These works speak of a "dark knowledge" that is "dark" precisely because the 5 senses shed no light on the experience. Via our 5 senses we cannot know God as we can when these senses are "darkened." Thus the "dark night of the soul" does not essentially refer to something like "going through a really hard time in life," but instead refers to finding God non-discursively (i.e., I cannot adequately discourse about it). Going through a really hard time can issue forth in dark knowledge, but dark knowledge is not to be equated with the difficult time.

I find this sensible since the God I believe in transcends human sensibilities and rationality. God cannot be fully captured in my experience and by my reason. It is at this point that, if one speaks at all, one resorts to poetic-figurative-fictive discourse which, by the way, is not equivalent to "untruth." (My doctoral dissertation dealt with this; viz., issues of "literal" vs. "figurative" language and their referential capacities. See also French philosopher Paul Ricoeur's work on interpretation theory and a "surplus of meaning.")

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Economic Insatiability Rooted in Human Nature

Leland, Michigan

I picked up the Skidelsky's book How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life when it came out, on the recommendation of philosopher Michael Ruse (by political economist Robert and philosopher Edward Skidelsky). I'll be speaking at a conference this summer on God and Money, so tonight I picked it up again and began a re-read.

This book is so good! Listen to these quotes from the beginning.

  • "This book is an argument against insatiability." (3) "Insatiability" is the desire for more and more money.
  • Insatiability is a problem for this world's poor, "where the mass of the people still live in great poverty." (Ib.)
  • "In rich and poor societies alike, insatiability can be seen wherever the opulence of the very rich runs wildly ahead of the means of existence of the many." (Ib.)
  • What is the root of economic insatiability? What is the source of this incessant desire for more? The Skidelsky's write: "Our own view is that it is rooted in human nature— in the disposition to compare our fortune with that of our fellows and find it wanting— but has been greatly intensified by capitalism, which has made it the psychological basis of an entire civilization. What was once an aberration of the rich is now a commonplace of everyday life." (Ib.)
Forget for the moment the heretical teachings of some Christians that Jesus has come to make you wealthy (the "prosperity gospel," which is the false gospel). Think of what Jesus really said about money. It jives with the Skidelsky's ideas. Now I know why I am reading it again.

"Making money cannot be an end in itself— at least for anyone not suffering from acute mental disorder. To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is like saying that my aim in eating is to get fatter and fatter. And what is true of individuals is also true of societies. Making money cannot be the permanent business of humanity, for the simple reason that there is nothing to do with money except spend it." (5)

"Our deeper objection to endless [economic] growth is that it is senseless." (7)

"The unending pursuit of wealth is madness." (Ib.) The Skidelsky's argue for this in chapters 4 and 5.

"If the ultimate end of industry is idleness, if we labor and create merely so that our descendants can snuggle down to an eternity of daytime television, then all progress is, as Orwell put it, “a frantic struggle towards an objective which [we] hope and pray will never be reached.”" (10)

One more for now...

"We are condemned to dearth, not through want of resources, but by the extravagance of our appetites. As the economist Harry Johnson put it in 1960, “we live in a rich society, which nevertheless in many respects insists on thinking and acting as if it were a poor society.” The perspective of poverty, and with it an emphasis on efficiency at all costs, is built into modern economics." (12)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

God Thirsts to Be Thirsted After (PrayerLife)

Trillium in the woods across from my house.
Every once in a while some love comes my way from my sons, and from Linda. It may come in the form of a gift, or a helpful sacrificial act, or by loving words. I love Linda and my sons. While my love for them is not for the sole purpose of being loved in return, I like it when it happens. If time were to go by without reciprocity I would long for it.

While God is, in his essence, love, God also longs to be loved in return. This is the desire of every loving parent, and in this God is no exception. Craig Keener writes: "God is self-sufficient, but Augustine rightly declared that "God thirsts to be thirsted after." His love makes him vulnerable to those he loves, if we dare use such language to describe his desire for intimacy with us." (Keener, The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation, 181) 

One way I satiate God's thirst to be loved is in my praying. I often find myself saying "I love you, Lord" to him. When I think of how God has changed my life, and how God has rescued me and blessed me, it is natural and easy to express my love to him.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

An Appeal for Purity

Cape May, New Jersey - the Atlantic shoreline

(Linda and I are teaching a seminar on sexual purity and a few other things Sunday night at Redeemer, so I'm thinking a lot about these things.)

Before I was a follower of Jesus one of the things I wanted to do the most was have sex with girls. The truth is I didn't have as much sex as some of my fraternity brothers did. Some of them were screwing girls left and right, and I only could look on with envy. My understanding was that this was normal. In the Godless universe as I understood it, who really cares?

When I entered the Kingdom of God things were different. In my new life I was told that genital intercourse was reserved for marriage. This radically different viewpoint made sense to me, and still does. I do not expect this to make any sense to someone who is not a God-believer or not a Jesus-follower. In this I have no judgment against you. You are, perhaps, like I was. Like, what's the big deal about premarital and extramarital intercourse? Of course.

In my fraternity one of the brothers had a little black book. The black book contained the names of a lot of girls on campus, and had numerical ratings from '1' to '10' next to their names. A '1' meant she would in no way have sex with you on the first date; a '10' meant she would definitely have sex with you on the first date. My fraternity brother charged ten dollars to look at the black book, which was constantly being updated. Many of us, including me, thought this was so cool because we wanted to have sex, almost more than anything. Girls were for our pleasure. 

The Kingdom of God is way different from this. God's Kingdom is upside-down compared to this. Kingdom thinking operates in the light, not the twilight.

I'm writing to any of you who say you love and worship God and Jesus and The Kingdom. If you are screwing around, why? In God's Kingdom this is unrighteousness. In their book Real Relationships Les and Leslie Parrott write:

"Having genital sex before marriage is clearly not in line with God’s principles. Sexual intercourse is a “life-uniting act,” as our friend Lewis Smedes calls it. That’s why sex outside of marriage is “sex-too-soon.” It violates the intended purpose of sex. “It is wrong,” according to Smedes, “because unmarried people thereby engage in a life-uniting act without a life-uniting intent…. Intercourse signs and seals— and maybe even delivers— a life-union; and life union means marriage.””

In God's Kingdom do not mess with this. It is the road to relational failure (see the Parrott's book for the supportive scholarship). I know others are doing it, but why do you care what others think and do? That kind of thinking is what created the mess you and I were once in. I know there are people who act like I used to. I understand this. But you and I are not them any more. It's time to choose your kingdom and embrace it. You and I have left that dark kingdom with its compulsive disordered sex-obsessiveness.

Our sex-worshiping culture shows us that something has gone wrong. C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

Look - sex was God's idea, not the enemy's. The destroyer of our soul works by taking things God made and then OCD-perverting them so that our love for the distortion destroys us from the inside. Surely the One who invented sexuality knows best how to enjoy it, right?

If you are a Jesus-lover but have blown it in this area, come back. You know about the cross. You know about forgiveness. We all need forgiveness. Me too. You know that repentance means doing a 180 and changing directions. Step up and be like the prodigal son. Do it now.

Stop rationalizing your failure. Rationalization belongs to the kingdom of darkness. Rationalization muddies things. What once was clear to you has become cloudy. Just how many translations of 1 Corinthians 6:18 do you need? Our loving God, thankfully, pursues after us and then, counter-culturally, throws a party in heaven when we come home.

Flee from sexual immorality. (NIV)

There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (The Message)

Run from immoral behavior. (The Voice)