Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote of the week...

Today Jesus Christ is being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere example. He is that, but he is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God. --Oswald Chambers

The bad and the ugly.... (part 2 of previous post)

I suppose the bad is simply an example of where we fall short in areas mentioned in the good. Unfortunately, for example, it is astonishing to me the rapid rate at which many denominations have seemed to either partially or completely cave in to social pressures that are the equivalent of a cultural mood that is only about 25-30 years old. This ranges from not stepping out and stating firmly that the particular denomination is against any homosexual behavior to actually opening positions of authority to gays and lesbians within the church.

Another example of our failure is our unwillingness or inability to think through our positions about homosexuality. An example of this is heard quite frequently in conversations about the origins of an individual's homosexuality. The person arguing that homosexuality is an abomination to God will often also be exposed to have not given this issue any significant amount of thought many times. On the one hand, I know that none of us possess some insight into this that is authoritative or even unique, but I think generally speaking people do not simply wake up and "decide" to be homosexual. However, I cannot tell you how many conversations that I have had when the person I am discussing it with or hearing discussing it seems to espouse this belief. I do not think this is because they have come to this conclusion after much careful consideration. Instead, I believe it is a symptom of their lack of having thought it through. This is not to say that choice is not involved, but I believe it is apparent that the equation is usually a bit more complex than, "they just decide to be gay."

Thirdly, as I mentioned in the earlier post, our lack of self-education about information that is readily available is another way in which I see the church falling short not only in the debates about homosexuality but also about evolution, embryonic stem cell research, and many other important topics of the day. I know I myself must continue to work on this area.

Finally, THE UGLY.....
Ok, I do not want the church to engage in some sort of campaign of political correctness, and it is painfully obvious to me that we often engage in too many public relations campaigns for Jesus in an effort to make Him more culturally palatable. However, with that having been said, I also think the leaders of the churches NEED to speak out more against some of the hatred and vile behavior that can often be aimed at homosexuals from those within the church. I do not believe that in most cases these problems are coming from the most spiritually mature among us, but this is all the more reason to make it clear to everyone that such behavior and attitudes are not in any way representative of Christ and should be seen for what they are....personal issues that are given legitimacy because they are cloaked in religious reasoning.

I do not claim to know every answer to the tensions that arise within our communities and even within ourselves about this and other issues, but I guess the key is the same as it is in every other area. We must look to the author and finisher of our faith to guide and empower us to live as He would live in the midst of any and all circumstances.

Thanks for your time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quote of the week....

“What we need is a religion that is not only right where we are right, but right where we are wrong.”

-G.K. Chesterton

Homosexuality and the church in America..the good, the bad, and the ugly

Part I-the good--(it was getting a little too lengthy to put into one post, so I'm breaking it up)

I suppose that when you become familiar with the political/social landscape of the country, there are three large areas that stick out where orthodox Christianity seems to speak out in united disagreement with some of their secular counterparts. They are abortion, evolution, and homosexuality. I know there are tons of other issues, but I call these the big three because they are hot button issues for many Christians in particular.

Once again this is not to be an exhaustive look into these three or even just homosexuality and the church, but more of a summary of some of the angles I see about it.

First, some of the good....
The church is right to the extent that they have stuck by their guns in defense of what is clearly taught in the scriptures. Homosexuality is considered an abomination to God. The scriptures have a singular place of authority within the Christian faith.

I appreciate people on both sides of the divide (Christian or secular) who choose to think through their positions about homosexuality. It is far to easy to get angry and frustrated when debates reach this level of emotional intensity, and this often leads people to accept ridiculous beliefs about all manner of things.

I am also glad when in regard to any of the "big three," Christians choose to at least try to educate themselves about what some of the latest information and research is about any one of the subjects. Homosexuality is no exception. Unfortunately, I think this area is sorely lacking in many cases. One example of a stunning level of misinformation that is still floating out there to this day is the "gay gene." In 1993, Dean Hamer, a scientist with the National Institutes of Health published some findings along with a new book called the Science of Desire. It was a matter of days before papers were publishing the discovery of the gay gene. Different papers published varying levels of wrong interpretations, but most were at least somewhat fundamentally flawed in their presentation of the data if not outright purposefully misleading about it. I read Hamer's follow up book called Living With Our Genes, and he regretted the ways his research was misused. It is also true that not only have his findings never been substantiated by a secondary research group, but his results have become a bit of a joke within scientific circles. In spite of all this, it is not uncommon to hear people on talk shows or in their writings refer to the "fact" that homosexuality has been shown to be a genetically predetermined path.

Finally, I think that many within the church are showing a proper balance of proclaiming a truth that brings freedom with the message of love that is to accompany that message. Essentially there is a right and wrong way to reach out to any and all lost. The ministries within the church that are specifically designed to be an open door to any homosexual genuinely willing to hear what is being said are catching serious flack from both sides. They are scoffed at and ridiculed by those who do not believe and often sadly berated by those who claim to believe as being to nice to them thar gays. We should not compromise the Bible to be politically correct, but one of the most obvious things about Jesus' teachings and His life was that he reached out to those who were outcasts to the self righteous hypocrites of His day too.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Thanks to everyone who posted their comments on the role of violence discussion. I have decided not to comment any more than my initial post because my purpose for that particular post was to create an opportunity for myself and others to hear the thoughts of other believers about it and compare and contrast allowing them to discern perhaps a little more clearly what the will of God is about this. My prayer is that is always the only thing we seek to know about any angle of this life.... His will.... and then hopefully we pursue that.

If you have not commented but still want to, please feel free to do so. I get emailed any time a comment is left. Therefore, I know if noone else keeps checking, I will definitely continue to gain from hearing your comments.

Quote of the week....

"Can't buy what I want because it's free. Can't buy what I want because it's free. Can't be what they want because I'm...."

-Pearl Jam-Corduroy

What is a Christian?

It is my understanding that the word "Christian" was first used to refer to followers of Christ during the time of the first generation of believers in a city called Antioch. (see the book of Acts)
I believe it was initially used as a derogatory term meaning "little Christs".

Now someone who refers to themselves as a Christian can mean a wide variety of things. In some countries, it can simply refer to the fact that they are not Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or atheist. Some throughout history have been Christian because if you were born in a certain country or part of the world, you were considered Christian. Some are raised in cultural Christianity where it is as much or more social than a spiritual identifier. Many are raised in church and simply follow the traditions of their parents and grandparents.

I suppose the truly important question I am getting at may not even be who or what is a Christian because what I am pursuing predates that term altogether. Perhaps the real question is who is truly a follower of Christ? or who is truly in dwelt with the Holy Spirit?

Before I proceed to far into this line of thinking, let me offer up that ultimately I know that God knows for a certainty who are His. People thinking that they can pin point who does and does not belong to Christ is a common trap that is fallen into all the time. I don't think many would have pointed to the thief on the cross as a particularly likely candidate, but I also believe it is made crystal clear that he was as much a receiver of the free gift of salvation as myself or some of the great men and women of God. God sees the heart, and this is where conversion takes place or doesn't take place.

With that having been said, I do believe that the scriptures and especially the letters from Paul, John, and Peter are full of messages to us that is meant to guide us in our understanding about what constitutes genuine saving faith and what does not. They expound on Christ's teaching and the Old Testament helping us to know general principles to use as we navigate our pursuit of Christ.

Finally, we arrive at the primary purpose of this post. I believe that one of the most basic general principles about saving faith is that it is faith characterized by obedience. I believe that in pointing ceaselessly to the scriptures that say essentially, "saved by grace through faith," we can potentially be guilty of painting an unbalanced picture of what is truly Biblical salvation. It is not that we must obey to earn our salvation. It is that the Bible teaches that true saving faith is always accompanied by repentance. If repentance represents a spiritual/moral uturn in our lives from self-centered to God-centered, then obedience simply represents remaining on the same course heading. I do not dispute that we all fall short of completely yielding ourselves in obedience. I think this is painfully obvious to anyone who has tried to follow Christ faithfully for any length of time. It is a path that inherently challenges us deeper and deeper to "die to ourselves" so that He may live through us. However, I am referring to an underlying current of thought that can use verses that point to only belief to mislead us as believers into thinking that we are not called to pursuing "as the deer that pants for water" a life that is yielded and obedient to Christ.

Please do not take these comments as condemning. John 3:17 makes it clear that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved. When a chastisement from God is turned into condemnation, this is the point that the devil has hijacked the scripture to try to use it to make a believer think that he/she cannot possibly live a life pleasing to God. Ironically, he is right but not in the way he intends it. We are called to become aware of this because each time we become aware of how woefully inadequate our own strength and ability is BUT then choose to be broken by that on the rock of Christ is when we genuinely grow that much in our faith in the power of the Spirit.