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My Uncle’s Eulogy: A Gospel Moment

Funerals are for the living. Funerals are also gospel moments. This is the text of my uncle’s eulogy that I preached on March 31, 2016.  My uncle, Lennox Minors, passed from this life on March 24, 2016 at the age of 75.

I’ve been tasked today with saying a few words. It’s been a bit difficult to gather my thoughts because my thoughts have been everywhere lately. The cares of life regarding work and career have been weighing on me, weighing on my friends and weighing on some of you. I know some of your own personal struggles because we keep in contact. I’ve had three friends or associates lose relatives in the past two weeks – two of them, a brother and sister – lost their mom and just yesterday, the insurance company informed them that insurance will not cover the cost of the funeral or cemetery fees. My friend and fraternity brother Hugh just lost his house and belongings and his downstairs roommate to a fire at his house in Gaitherburg – a few of you might have seen it on the news Tuesday night.  A friend of mine of seventeen years passed a few days before Lennox did – his funeral service is also today (right now, in fact) in Virginia and I was originally going to be there until Lennox died. A high school classmate of mine lost her twin brother the same day Lennox died.

So the troubles of this world are not unique to us individually. They are a shared part of the human collective and human experience.  We all experience loss, disappointment, death, depression, loneliness, anger and sadness, grief, and more. The real question is this – what do we do now ? What does this death – Lennox’s death – mean for us right now ?

I believe, according to scripture, it gives us an opportunity for perspective and reflection. It gives us an opportunity to consider the God of the Universe, His ways, His creation, His goodness and what He expects of us in light of this time in our lives and the moment of our being assembled together.

I want to point you Godward, first and foremost. Consider His ways. Ephesians 1:11 reminds us that God works all things according to the counsel of His will. He does not consult with angels on how the world will be run. He is in control. He does not wait until we act and then react like a chess player – the game is already set, the moves on the board are already known to Him including both what is possible and what will ACTUALLY happen. Nothing catches Him off guard or by surprise. He is not in a ‘fight’ with Satan for souls as if He and His creation are equals. That view gives Satan too much credit and power.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson in Daniel 4. After bragging in his arrogance about how he built up Babylon, God struck him so that for seven years, he crawled on all fours like an animal and ate straw. Nebuchadnezzar stated:

” At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

Let these words also in Ecclesiastes 3 sink in:

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God will call the past to account.

Seek to understand what has been said here by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. Every period of life is ordained by God. Every time – joy, pain, sunshine and rain. I want you to reflect for a moment on the words “He has made everything beautiful in its’ time. He has put eternity into man’s heart so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” Consider His ways. God has put a vast and unending ‘unknowing’ in the heart of man so that men cannot find out what God is doing from beginning to the end. This should remind us to be humble in the face of pain and sorrow. Too often during these times, we can be tempted – either by external pain or internal pain – to conclude that since whatever God is doing at the moment is not something we can understand or not something we would expect a loving God to do, then God is not worthy of our worship, service and devotion. It is easy to serve God when the wine is flowing, the children are laughing and the sun is shining.

Consider His ways. Solomon reminds us that these wonderful and beautiful times are indeed a gift from God. He states “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Lennox embodied much of these two verses with his life. He was definitely joyful – always with a joke, a song, a song with a joke included, always looking for opportunities to make the people around him laugh, always cooking (he loved to feed people when they came over to visit). He took the time to help relatives as he could – I remember a recent time that my mother, his sister, left her keys in a co-worker’s car and couldn’t get into her house. Len provided shelter and food for her like a good older brother should do for his baby sister. Growing up, I remember quite a few times Len did things like that for various family members. Lennox worked hard – I believe I got some of my work ethic from watching him, my grandmother, my mother and my other uncle Rupert. All of them were serious about getting work done and making sure the work was done well. Len spent many years when he first came up to the US spray painting cars in a body shop. I think I asked him about the process of painting cars somewhere around age 10, but I didn’t fully understand the process. All I remember was “that’s a lot of work!”. He enjoyed his job. He took pleasure in it – as scripture says we are to do. Many years during Thanksgiving, he invited my mother, grandmother and I and Lennox over to his long-time apartment in Parkside. Many laughs were had at that table. Many stomachs were full. Much dancing and singing also happened.

These things are a gift from God to us. They are a sign of His goodness toward us. God caused the sun to rise and fall on Len for 70+ years. During that time, countless people were shown hospitality and goodness through the gift of Lennox Minors. Reflect on them and consider His ways. He is good. He has been good to all of us.

Consider your own way in light of God’s goodness. Moses has written in Psalm 90:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
 throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
 or you brought forth the whole world,
 from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
 saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night.

Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:

In the morning it springs up new,
 but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger
 and terrified by your indignation.

You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence.

All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

10 Our days may come to seventy years,
 or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
 for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
 Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.

12 Teach us to number our days,
 that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Moses gives us a glimpse into the other side of the equation – the frailty and delicateness of life. Each of us in this room is one heartbeat away from standing in the presence of God and giving an account for the life that we have lived.

Consider your own relative goodness in light of God’s goodness mentioned in Ecclesiastes. Why does a good God say “return to death you mortals” ? Why are we consumed by His anger and indignation ? Why should we consider (v. 11) His the power of His wrath and the fear that is due to Him ? Why is there death in the first place ?

God speaking through David says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
 but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is that same fear mentioned in v. 11 that Moses says is due or owed to God. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up the entire matter: Now all has been heard;
  here is the conclusion of the matter:
 Fear God and keep his commandments,
 for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, 
including every hidden thing,
 whether it is good or evil.

To fear God is to hold Him, His ways and His Word with reverence AND to hold a healthy fearfulness of Him. It is all of these things. It is the equivalent of being stuck in a F-5 tornado and finding a place of safety where you can observe the power of the storm without being torn away by its wrath. A scary experience, but one that will instantly teach you respect and reverence for the power of a storm.

Look back at verses 8 and 9: You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

 You must understand: Death exists for two reasons. Death exists because of sin – yours and mine – and because God is good and just. What is sin ? The failure to do what God has commanded be done and the doing of what God has said not to do. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam to not eat of the fruit of the tree containing the knowledge of good and evil, Adam disobeyed, the penalty was death. He was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and work became toil. All of creation was thrown into what scripture calls “futility” – you plant a rose bush, thorns pop up in addition to the rose. Grass is here in the morning, scorched away by the hot sun later in the day – at least over in some middle eastern countries it is. Worse, that action of sin which brought about physical death also brought about spiritual death and separation from this same good, Holy God. As a result, men and women die. Animals die. Plants die and decay. So sin isn’t just an action – it’s a condition that permeates all of humanity. Death and decay taint all of creation so that, as Romans 8 says, the creation itself groans for the day it will be free from corruption and decay. This is why instead of gentle rains to fix dried out crops, we get flash floods; instead of gentle winds to carry seeds from here to there to begin life anew, we get violent storms ripping the trees from the ground.

You may say “kinda harsh of God to do ?” Understand – God is 100% good. There is no evil in Him. Because God is good, He is also completely just. JUST meaning that He, as the only true and righteous judge in the universe, will not let sin “slide” by. If He did, He would not be good or just. He would be a corrupt judge with an uneven scale for judging. Be thankful He is not a corrupt judge – He has stated repeatedly that He will judge the world. Every corrupt politician – including the ones we voted for – will all give account to God for their actions. Every unsolved murder has not escaped His eye – every murderer will stand before Him and give account. Every theft, every lie, every evil thought and intention – are all included in what God will bring into judgment. Remember: He is a GOOD judge.

In addition, consider the following – in our legal system, the penalty for a lie varies with the degree of honor and seriousness of the situation. If I lie to my mother as a child, I may get a spanking. If I lie to my teacher as a teenager, I may get a suspension. If I lie to my boss, I may get fired. If I lie to the police, I may get arrested. If I lie before a judge, I may get jail time for perjury. So what happens when I lie to the Creator of the Universe whose very essence and being is truth and truthfulness ?

In light of this, consider your own relative goodness. People often say “only God can judge me” or “God knows my heart” as if this is a source of comfort when Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. What happens when your heart, thoughts and motivations – all of them – are laid bear and open before the Creator of the Universe ?

Consider your own relative goodness in light of His perfection.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the gathered crowds that the standard of righteousness they’d been taught by tradition was not God’s standard. They’d been taught (in the righteousness system developed by the Pharisees) that to ‘look’ at a woman 2 times would not be considered lust. So they made that second look last for a little while. Jesus cuts through these external acts of righteousness and tells them “if you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart”.   Don’t be so quick to condemn the Pharisee – how many times have you heard someone say “It’s okay to look as long as you don’t do anything ?” or “I was just admiring her or his beauty ?

The Pharisees had a righteousness code that also stated that as long as you didn’t physically harm the person, you were free to call him “a son of a worthless person who deserves not to exist”. In Aramaic, there was one word that carried this meaning; RACA! Jesus attacked this too – a murderous attitude in the heart is still murder in the eyes of God. The penalty on earth may be different because the physical act hadn’t taken place, but God judges the intentions of the heart as well as the physical actions.

I taught middle school for ten years and have also taught high school for four years before that, going back to teaching high school again this year. A favorite refrain from lying students is “I swear to God I’m telling the truth”. You’ve heard it from adults as well: “Read my lips; no new taxes!” and “I did not have sex with that woman”.

Again, nothing new – the Pharisees had this same righteousness code, only they would swear by things (heaven, earth, Jerusalem, their own heads, the temple, etc….). They would make these ornate and over the top oaths in order to make themselves appear as righteous truth tellers. Jesus made the issue simple: tell the truth. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Swearing by “stuff” is placing more value and reverence in that ‘stuff’ than in the God who gives you breath to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Anything further is from the evil one.

Well, everybody lies, you might say. Everybody breaks one of these commandments at one point or another, right ? We should still be okay ? Right ?

Psalm 130:3 states “if you, Lord, kept a record of sins….Lord, who would stand ?”

Isaiah 64:6 states “All our righteousness before you is as filthy rags.” Think disposable “rags” used once a month.

Jesus sets the standard, dovetailing back to what I mentioned earlier: the Pharisees redefined what ‘neighbor’ meant and believed that your ‘neighbor’ and your ‘enemy’ could not be the same person. So you were free to ‘hate your enemy’.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Again, don’t be quick to condemn the Pharisees – it’s election season. There is a ton of ‘hate the republicans, they’re not one of us’ and ‘hate the democrats, they’re not one of us’ speech flying back and forth on social media, television and radio. People have cut off and hated family members and long time friends over political disagreements over the past 8-12 years. Nothing new. It’s the same problem.

If the standard is perfection as God is good and perfect – and it is – none of us by our own works, have a righteous standing before God. None. James reminds us in chapter 2 that if someone breaks one of the laws, they are guilty of breaking all of the laws.

God being good and just, will deal with all of these sins. I may have stepped on your toes with these words. This is a time to reflect and consider your ways before the God of the Universe. This is a moment to “take stock of your life” as my grandmother – Lennox’s mother – used to say….or as Moses has stated “number your days so that you may gain a heart of wisdom”.

The Bible also tells us that God is exceedingly gracious and patient, even toward those who continually break His laws. This perfect life of perfect law-keeping that you and I were not capable of keeping and doing was done perfectly by one. That one is the One whose perfect life, death and resurrection was celebrated last weekend.

Consider the call of God to repent.

Let me put this another way for you. Suppose you are on trial for a capital crime. The judge reads your charges to you, presents evidence of your guilt in detail, even getting into the inner thoughts of your mind that show you were guilty…. To the point where you couldn’t do anything else but plead guilty….. and then the judge declares you guilty…. Brings out HIS OWN SON to take your penalty…. His son, who was innocent of the crime you were guilty of… went off in your place to face capital punishment. And then…. The Judge comes down off of the bench, takes His robe off, places it around you, takes you home with him and calls you his SON.

This is what God did for sinners like you and I. This is what Jesus’s life – His perfectly obeying the law of God on behalf of those who place their full faith and trust in Him – death – taking the penalty of God’s wrath in full while on the cross in the place of people like you and I who deserved that instead – and His resurrection – rising from the dead to show that the sacrifice was complete AND accepted – meant last weekend, this week and every day we are alive.

Paul writing in Romans 2 warn both Jew and non-Jew alike in the church at Rome that the goodness of God leads to repentance, but for the unrepentant, you are storing up wrath for the day of judgment.

God has not given you this life to waste getting drunk, pursuing pleasure outside of God’s appointed means, and pursuing riches and ‘things’ as though they are the sum of life. He has given you gifts – Lennox – my uncle – was one of those gifts. Everyone doesn’t get to have a funny uncle who tells jokes, loves music, makes everyone laugh, cooks and likes to keep a nice house and have parties. We had that. We are better for it. But make no mistake – it was a gift from God.

But if we ignore the Giver of the gift and simply use the gift, we are being unthankful to God. And Romans 1:18 makes it clear that part of the reason the wrath of God is being poured out on the ungodly is because we do not acknowledge Him and give Him thanks.

Don’t be thankless.

All of us live one heartbeat away from death. One wrong breath. One ruptured blood vessel. One inattentive or drunk driver. One fallen building. One fire with no way to escape, as my friend Hugh’s downstairs renter perished two nights ago. One untreated cancer cell multiplying, like my friend Zach.

The Bible commands us to repent – turn from – our sins and place our full faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His perfect life, death and resurrection on our behalf. Repent means to turn from something – the same way if you were driving to Florida and you saw a sign that said “Welcome to Maine”, you would immediately turn and head in the opposite direction. Place your full faith and trust in Him the same way you would place your faith and trust in a parachute to save you from hitting the ground if you jumped out of a plane.

There is no “piggybacking” into heaven off of someone else’s faith. There’s no “friend’s list”. Your faith must be your own. You must be the one to cry out to God “Have mercy on me, a sinner! Forgive me for the sake of your Son!”

I will not speculate on the final destination of my uncle because I wasn’t here during his final days. The words I have brought are to you, the living. They come from the living God to whom all will stand before and give an account to.

Every death, sickness, moment of joy, moment of grief, time of happiness, day of beauty, every sunrise, every sunset, every storm – all of these things – are reminders from God to reflect and evaluate your life. They are reminders of the God of the Universe telling you about Himself….and about yourself.

They are calls to turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Remember that the One who gives you the wonderful gift of people – friends – relatives, food, shelter, provisions for life, also demands that you fear Him. Fear Him as a young child fears, loves and trusts their father. He’s God…. He has that right.

The one who comes to Him in faith will never be cast out and cast away. Jesus said this in John 6:37-40. As long as you breathe, remember that your sins are not bigger than God. No sin can keep you out of heaven if you turn from them and turn to Christ in faith. Jeffery Dahmer became a Christian in prison a few months before being murdered in prison. The thief on the cross trusted in Christ moments before his death.

One hundred years from now, this issue will be settled for everyone sitting in this room. You sin will either have been paid for in Christ, or you will spend eternity paying for your sins facing the wrath of God mentioned in Psalm 90…and Romans 1-3.

I implore you today – Consider His ways. He has brought you here today to hear this message. He has orchestrated your life to make it here safely today. He has put all of the necessary resources and people in your life for you to be able to stand where you are today.

Consider His goodness toward you. He has raised you up today from sleep – some didn’t wake up. He has clothed you – some are naked. He gives you good friends to walk through life with – some remain lonely. The fact that God is good is shown by the fact that all of you are here today hearing these words.

Consider Your life. Have you wasted it ? A wasted life is a CEO who goes home to his mansion, sits with his money and possessions and feels that all of it is a waste. A wasted life is one spent chasing everything else – recognition by men, acceptance, seeking the next ‘pleasure’, seeking the next dollar and never having enough….

Consider the call to repent. Scripture calls “today” the day of salvation – the acceptable time.   God is gracious and loving toward those who turn from their sin. He calls for you to do so today. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ.

Still Around. A Few Quick Thoughts on the 2012 election….

Beginning of the school year….as usual.  A few quick thoughts:

1. As I trust God more, I worry less about the culture of the US going to hell in the next election. Paul wrote in pagan Rome, where young boys were expected to be molested, there were brothels on every corner, temple prostitution was the norm (prostitution as part of a religion) and the penalty for being a runaway slave was sure death.  BIBLICAL Christianity thrived under these conditions.

2. As I watch politics more and more, I realize that both sides are simply playing the pro-wrestling game. It’s all scripted and controlled by someone(s) over both parties who will still benefit no matter which candidate gets in office.

3. As I watch the intersection of politics and theology, I realize that even well-meaning believers can be suckered in by hucksters whose only concern is to rope them into voting for them with ‘God-talk’.

4. As I said 4 years ago…no matter who wins, it will be the person that God wants in office. The same God who gave Bush, Clinton and Regan 8 years has given Obama at least 4 (and probably another 4).  Let us be faithful to worry about changing hearts and minds with the gospel message first rather than with political power and legislation.  Pray for the peace of the city, vote your conscience, preach the gospel regardless.

Meditation on the Sovereignty of God: Never Abstract and Theoretical.

I can’t share all that’s been going on with me over the past 72 hours. My wife and I drove the 11 hours to Nashville and our family requires much prayer at the moment.

I may be beating the same drum again, but it needs to be said. The sound theology that so many people turn their nose up to during the days of sunshine is designed by God for the benefit of the believer when the storms come.

Sound theology doesn’t take the pain away. That’s not its’ purpose.

What it does is ground you in reality.

Romans 8:28-39, the doctrine of election, the perseverance of the saints and the rest of the doctrines of grace aren’t simply theoretical ideas that have no basis or real impact on the life of the everyday believer.  They are comfort when hard times come.

You see, every true believer defaults back to a position similar or identical to reformed theology when trials hit.

They know God is wiser than our desires (thanks for the reminder RaRa). And so when they have done all that they can do to fix the situation, they default back to trusting God in His infinite wisdom to do what seems right to Him. They may pray for deliverance and relief from the situation, but know full well that if their prayers are not answered in the affirmative, God is still good….and God is still God.

At times when most people would lose all hope, true Christians have hope. They rely and trust upon God. They acknowledge simple things about God: His goodness, His omniscience, His power and ability to rescue…and deep underneath it all, they know.

Romans 8:28-30 again. God is for me.  As a believer, I may endure all sorts of trials – even down to persecution and death at the hands of my persecutors (vv. 33-36). Think of the implications of that closely.  And the promise I have that God is for me is seen in the fact that He gave up the most valuable possession in the universe to Him – He gave Himself.

God the Father, who loves His son, gave His Son. His Son who did no wrong, took the penalty for my wrongdoing.

If God is capable of doing this, then Him choosing me, calling me to salvation, paying the penalty for my sin on the cross, preserving me, sanctifying me and eventually glorifying me is not an impossibly big deal.

And I take this promise and feed on it for comfort during times like these. I realize that God has not only called, saved, sanctified me, but also others.  And when those others are enduring their own pain, I point them to these promises as a source of comfort and hope.

No, the pain doesn’t ‘not happen’. Every day is not a Friday. Every day can’t be a Friday. Joel Osteen’s book is full of lies and is nothing more than paganism and selfishness wrapped in fake Christianese with a few misquoted scriptures tossed in. If your ‘BEST life’ is now, then your next life will be in hell.  God never designed the Christian life to be free of pain or struggle. But He did design it to be full of hope and joy even in the midst of tribulation and trial.

So I rest in the Sovereignty of God  and trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (Gen. 18:26), even when my finite, limited-understanding, easily moved and changed mind and emotions don’t understand why things have to happen the way they do when they do.

Pain, then, becomes a beacon pointing us back to the true and living God for comfort, and not simply our friends & family. It also points us away from things like alcohol, drugs and other destructive things that provide a false sense of temporary comfort. Suffering becomes an opportunity for trust, not dismay.  Nothing less than a God who is both Sovereign and in control of all human events (including, but not limited to earthquakes, death, famine, marriages, joy, celebrations, and accidents) is able to promise Romans 8:28-30.  He can be trusted. Nothing less than a God who is carries out election, calling to salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is able to promise and carry out Romans 8:38-39. We don’t serve a God who simply wishes well for us or thinks well for us like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching the game.

Never theoretical. Never abstract. Always real. Because God is real, life is real and pain is real.

What are you resting on ?

Trust God.

New Videos: 10 Things on My Mind and Comments on Fallout from the Elephant Room 2

Been doing a few short video responses in-between writing on the main page of the site.

Three weeks ago,  I put this out: Top 10 things on my mind right NOW. 

Last night, after watching this:http://apprising.org/2012/01/31/james-macdonald-elephant-room-2-and-the-race-card/

and reading this: http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/elephant-room-2012-01/

I recorded this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hafz-HrCZCw&list=UUv_imwREtUbv6u2fV7a4Fwg&index=1&feature=plcp

Additional good reading:

http://apprising.org/2012/01/30/fallout-of-the-elephant-room-2-hits-acts-29-church/

http://apprising.org/2012/01/24/theres-more-to-the-resignation-of-james-macdonald-from-gospel-coalition/

Thoughts on Kim Kardashian, gay marriage and….marriage

There’s been jokes about the brevity of Hollywood marriages for years now. Britney Spears and her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander a few years ago still strikes me as incredulous and nothing more than a publicity stunt. It got press, but not much, since it seemed to happen on a whim over the course of a weekend spent partying in Vegas. But it, along with the many other relatively short ‘star’ marriages (usually 2-4 years at most) that continue to happen (and dissolve) among stardom go to underscore a lack of understanding about the seriousness of marriage.

Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries has been latched onto by homosexual activists and pro-gay marriage folks as proof that the problem (as purported by conservative politicians and talkshow hosts) is not ‘gay marriage’ eroding the sanctity of marriage.

In part, they are correct.

Gay marriage and the desire of homosexuals to ‘marry’, no-fault divorce, Jada and Will’s open marriage – all of these things aresymptoms of a de-valued view of marriage.  George Takei and Perez Hilton have both commented on their twitter feeds that ‘straight’ people are ruining the institution of marriage just fine without homosexual folks’ help.

Both men have a point – but it’s only a small point. They cannot rightly use Kim’s, Britney’s or any other short-term marriage as THE ‘examples’ of straight marriage that are ruining the sanctity of marriage.   To put it in perspective, one cannot look at Britney Norwood and any other two random black people who commit heinous acts of murder and conclude that they are ‘all’ making it bad for black people as a whole.  Just as Norwood’s actions represent her and not all black people, likewise, Kardashian’s 72-day wedding (with a huge payout for the rights to broadcast the wedding….seems like she just made 18 million dollars easy) doesn’t represent ‘straights’ or ‘heteros’ (as I’ve heard one gay person call us).

Where’d the low view of marriage come from ?

While it’s been the purview of the culture to wax and wane on the sanctity of marriage, it is the responsibility of the church to always uphold it. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage itself is a ‘great mystery’ and that this great mystery refers to Christ and His church.  Think of it. Marriage is supposed to be an earthly ‘picture’ of Christ’s relationship to His church.

Marriage was the first societal institution created by God – even before the fall (Genesis 2:25-26).  So, political rhetoric aside, it really is one of the bedrocks and basic institutions of society itself, regardless of what form of government you believe is better (or what form of government you live in).

What happens when the church forgets this fact ? We get adultery allowed and almost encouraged in churches. When the church gives a wink and a nod to a pastor and merely ‘sits him down’ for a bit, but then ‘restores him’ to his previous office (even though 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 CLEARLY state that he must be above reproach – see my comments here), the church’s stance on marriage is taken to be a joke at best and the ‘rantings of clearly repressed individuals who are probably gay themselves’ at worst.  Eddie Long comes to mind immediately.

When we add to it cover-ups by other believers or the simple ‘excusing’ of sin under the guise of ‘grace’ (cheap grace at that) without biblical repentance (and where necessary biblical church discipline which may include excommunication for unrepentant sin), and the church indeed becomes no better than the world.

Notice – I’m not separating marriage and sex in this. God created them to be together, just like one does not get a first down by running off the football field and putting the ball on a parking lot line. We may expect the world to divorce the two – which Paul warned against repeatedly in 1 Cor. 5, 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and many other passages. But scripture never does and believers should renew their thinking to match scripture. Hebrews 13:4 reminds us that God doesn’t consider sex to be a bad thing – it’s undefiled in marriage.  Key words: in marriage.  And God defines what marriage is in Genesis 2. God wrote an entire book on the joy of marriage and sex with Song of Solomon.  God gave section after section of scripture to instruct couples how to deal with each other in marriage and what marriage itself entails (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, etc….) and how and why to avoid temptation toward unfaithfulness (Proverbs 5-7).

When the church abandons these things as foundation and begins to imitate the culture, homosexual folks coming up and trying tocall something that isn’t marriage ‘marriage’, folks trying to call open adultery a form of ‘marriage’ and so on really become commonplace.  And when the church knows these things, but does not support and proclaim them openly, the same thing happens.

Thankfully, there are men like Voddie Baucham, Bob Lepine, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Gary Thomas, organizations like Family Life Today and others that seek to purposely proclaim and present a biblically accurate view of marriage, even in the face of society seeking to do the opposite.  As these men continue to step forth and stand in the gap, may those of us taught by them also take up the charge – not to proclaim what we are against as political pundits often do, but to wisely present a biblical case for what marriage really is and moreso – present the person asking with a view toward their need for a Savior – whether gay or straight (remember: 1 Cor. 6:9-10 treats heterosexual sex outside of marriage the EXACT same as homosexuality).

While We’re Waiting: Thoughts on the SGM Controversy (weeks later)

Ah. Yes. This.

Those of you who’ve followed here for a long time know that a few years back, one of my exes was an SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministries) church member (she left there while we were dating).  There were stories she used to tell me about spiritually and emotionally hurt people (herself included) that resulted from not going along with whatever ‘plan’ or program was being promoted at her church.

In addition, my own bits and pieces of independent research (including talking to then-current members and a few former members)  turned up a lot of ‘things that didn’t add up’ (i.e. no mention of Larry Tomczak’s name as helping to start SGM in their official history – not even in the 30 year anniversary DVD with a skit of how their church and ministry started), even though it appears in scholarly works like The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.

As an outsider, I can’t say that I’ve *always* had red flags about SGM. I haven’t. They’ve been on my recommended list of churches for years now (even on the main portion of this site) because the good there outweighs what I thought were simply a few negative criticisms (after all….no one’s perfect and spiritual hurt occurs even in the most sound of churches). I’ve heard stories of entire care groups taking off from work to help an individual move, come alongside someone who is grieving and even help with cooking, housekeeping and other things as an outworking of what the ‘oneanother’ passages in scripture point to.  So there are some very good things about SGM. God is at work in that denomination (yes, I know they don’t call themselves a denomination….but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….name it Donald or Daffy and move on with life).

I only found SGM Refuge and SGM Survivors on accident about 2-3 years ago….visited a few times, read a few dozen posts and a few hundred comments (for perspective) and then got tied up in other things.  So they weren’t an ‘influence’ so to speak, in me formulating my opinion of SGM. My general opinion was that they’re a good church movement, their teachings are relatively solid (only relatively…they are baptists… 🙂 ) and as the leadership in the movement grows more reformed in their thinking, the movement itself will grow more reformed. I do think that theologically, they still had (and this was my 2008 opinion of them) some growing to do in a few areas, but nothing to pull people away from.

I also noticed (and this is me analyzing church culture) that it seemed like all of their churches are clones of the mother church (Covenant Life). There seemed to be a certain personality type that ends up at CovLife (I didn’t notice a real ‘diversity’ of personality types like I would at other churches I’ve visited  and I’ve visited repeatedly at different points between 03 and 06 with sporadic visits between then and 08).  I don’t mean that in a negative way….it’s just an observation I noticed.

Anyway, we fast forward to the present. I may have read about 70-100 pages of the first documents that belonged to Brent D.  The rest of the smaller documents (the 26 and 30 page docs), I read in full, since they tended to summarize the earlier documents.

I’m not too surprised.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely unless your name is Jesus and you’re fully God and fully man.   This isn’t a problem unique to SGM.  Stuff like this happens in other denominations as well, albeit on a smaller scale in most cases. There’s also a certain tendency toward shepherding in some pentecostal movements that SGM’s leadership may have held onto all this time – either knowingly or unknowingly.

I’m also not surprised that a number of Christian men whom I’ve met, talked to and respect very much have jumped to his defense. They are his friends and friends do that for each other.  I personally think it might be smarter of them to belay their public defense of him (notice – I didn’t say their support….just public defense).  The reason I say that is that watching the entire thing unfold on the web as it has (not discussing whether or not it should be up there or not now….it’s there… you can’t unpop a balloon), if the independent panel evaluating Brent’s accusations does come to the conclusion that CJ is at fault, everyone who defended him (and trashed Brent at the same time…see below….) will necessarily be tainted.

That also includes the independent three-man panel (who tried to appear impartial on the issue, but actually have lots of ‘links’ to SGM and CJ in particular) who just declared CJ fit for ministry.

I say that as a caution because of the multiple discrepancies visible in the handling of the situation to date:

  • CJ acknowledges some things as sin and sees deficiencies in his leadership style as well as the style of SGM as a whole.
  • Josh says SGM is being publicly spanked. Rest of the leadership disagrees, Josh decides to leave the leadership board.
  • Others jump to CJ’s defense as if ALL the charges are completely false (in contradiction to CJ’s own released statement). In addition, they (along with SGM leadership) say whatever is necessary to discredit blogs like SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge…along with all of Brent’s documents.
  • Josh, on the other hand, at a family meeting (as well as in the Sunday morning sermon), pretty much encouraged people to go read the documents for themselves, read the blogs and acknowledged that there are some ‘true truths’ in the documents – enough to be concerned about and address as they have been doing.
  • Josh recently (this past Sunday I believe), backtracks on his previous statement (it appears..at least according to reports. I’m listening to the sermon now….) and regrets telling people to read the blogs and documents.

I’ve seen plenty of CJ and SGM defenders pop up as well as CJ and SGM bashers pop up.  Some people are straight speaking out of the pain that they experienced as SGM church members and now this is their time to ‘get even’.  A few out of genuine concern for the movement and the people involved in all of the situations.  Some speak as though CJ can and has never did any wrong and SGM is the ‘most perfect church on the face of the planet’.  A few have just shaken their heads in disbelief and said ‘move along…nothing to see here’. To also be honest, some are popping up simply because they hate reformed theology (which is what I caught a few whiffs of when reading Refuge and Survivors for the first time years ago) and this gives them a chance to ‘blame Calvinism’.

There’s been lots of ‘honest and open dialogue’ now in SGM. I keep reading from current members how their pastors are now discussing issues, failings and shortcomings, seeking out reconciliation with former and current members and much more.  SGM has even (and this is a good thing) allowed negative comments to stay up on their blogposts, with their main media guy (big ups to Andrew for doing such an awesome and gracious job) answering comments as they come in.

Maybe along the path of reforming SGM from a charismatic shepherding-movement/Jesus-people-movement spin-off to a pentecostal/charismatic church with reformational tendencies to a more solid biblical movement, some changes to the leadership structure must happen. God is sanctifying his church. There are a lot of good people in SGM and a lot of good things there.  But apparently, there’s also some things that need to change….otherwise, you wouldn’t have Survivors and Refuge and the hundreds of people who read and/or post there.

I don’t have a horse in this race.  I’m just the random presbyterian guy who has interacted favorably with a few SGM folks, know a few of them and see many “evidences of grace” in the lives of the folks I’ve dealt with (including a few of the leaders that I’ve had passing and/or extended convos with). The last person who I was ‘starstruck’ with was John MacArthur, Jr. at T4G 2006 when I got a chance to shake his hand and tell him ‘thanks’ for The Gospel According to Jesus. All men are sinners – we are saved by grace and without grace, would be nothing more than sinners. Learning that lesson has reminded me not to put people I admire on a pedestal.

Reflecting on SGM’s spiritual trajectory and looking at my own spiritual history down to this point, I see quite a few parallels. Those who know me from my interactions with folks on HCR over the years (and other places) know that I can be (and have been) a really harsh dude at times to those I’ve disagreed with.  Over the years, as the doctrines of grace sunk in deeper beyond the surface, I’ve learned to be more gracious to those I disagree with (don’t get it twisted. I will still call something moronic, stupid and idiotic if it is…and if it’s heresy, I have no beef with calling it lies from the pit of hell).  My theology got solid first and it gave me quite a ‘zeal’, so to speak….a zeal that I’ve grown to learn how to temper (not eliminate or ignore) with mercy, forgiveness, patience and kindness.

So maybe SGM’s going through some of those same growing pains, but as an entire movement and not just individuals (even though CJ is a main focus, since he leads SGM).

I don’t think it’s wise to treat it like a free-for-all-bash-all-things-SGM-related-and-pray-for-their-collapse as I’ve seen some do.  Likewise, I don’t think it’s wise to jump up in automatic defense. I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss all of the documentation that Brent D. has provided (he himself did not put it on the web, but apparently knows who did post it anonymously).  But I also don’t think it’s wise to take only one presentation of the story at face value (Prov. 18:17).

The blogsphere has a tendency to polarize folks on issues like this – thus, I’ve waited until weeks later to post and tried to be as objective on the topic as possible before releasing my thoughts to the general public. My suggestion is to pray for all involved as more things become public, and weigh them with biblical wisdom before simply ‘choosing a side’.  Pray for the men leading the movement and that they would not succumb to cronyism (CJ mentored most of the board members who are now responsible for evaluating him for ministry), favoritism and the ever so tempting tendency to ‘spin’ truth, spin presentations and only appear to be doing something without actually doing anything. Pray for CJ. It’s real easy to resort to defending yourself, ignoring comments of critics in place of your own self-evaluation which seems ‘good’ to you (trust me…been there…done that).

Pray for those hurt by SGM’s practices who’ve left the movement (and even those who have left the visible church altogether). Pray for those SGM pastors left in the movement to exercise wisdom, patience and to discharge their office in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

Pray for those still in SGM’s churches.  Pray that their faith be not shaken, but placed rightly in the Savior first and foremost and not in men.

That’s all for now.  Got a few articles to write for the main site.

-KG

Why I won’t convince anyone of the doctrines of grace

10. Believing sound theology involves both the intellectual side of the mind and the emotional side of the mind (Deut. 6:5). I can’t make you love truth.

9. Believing sound theology requires work (2 Tim. 2:15). If you’re looking for quick and simple answers with one or two or ten proof texts, you won’t sit still long enough to meditate on scripture, I might as well be talking to the UBS guy. But the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, right ?

8. Believing sound theology requires time and patience (see above – Joshua 1:8). We live in a microwave age. But sound biblical theology isn’t just something you learn quick and then move on to something else. It’s like learning music theory and composition – you’re always referring back to the basics and your understanding of them grows progressively as you move deeper into them. That part falls on you…. but the fruit of the Spirit is patience, right ?

7. If you’ve got a particular personal reason for not believing the doctrines of grace, I can’t help you. You need to let go of whatever it is you’re holding on to and seek repentance and healing from it from God. Otherwise, question after question, response after response will make no difference. Your heart will be closed toward it no matter how many convincing arguments I posit to you.

6. If your idea of Christianity is ‘here’s a list of things you need to believe, okay got it, let’s move on to something else’, the doctrines of grace won’t appeal to you (Hebrews 5:9-6:14). In fact, most sound theological teachings won’t appeal to you, since spending time meditating on the word of God requires time, patience and ‘moving onto something else’ doesn’t work well with it.

5. If you’re irrational, the doctrines of grace won’t appeal to you. God Himself is the ground of all logic – the doctrines of grace work on that basis. So if you’re used to believing things that are mutually exclusive of each other (i.e. postmodernism), you probably will feel ‘tied down’ by the doctrines of grace. But hey, truth isn’t dependent upon how you feel about it, is it ?

4. If you’re walking around with unbiblical notions regarding the abilities of man and you’re not willing to have them checked, the doctrines of grace won’t make sense to you. But that requires you to approach them and admit to being wrong on something…and a lot of folks aren’t willing to do that when it comes to discussing salvation.

3. My understanding of the doctrines of grace and reformed and covenantal theology are still growing. Eight years ago, I would’ve told you that I’d never be presbyterian because ‘babies can’t believe! Why would you baptize them ?’ As my understanding grows, my ability to present a sound and convincing argument grows. Stuff I know now may not be convincing and intelligible to you the way I phrase it. Maybe five years from now I can present it better in a way that you might catch onto immediately.

2. If your acceptance is based on whether or not you like me and the way I say things at times, you’ll probably reject me. I don’t pretend to be perfect. I’m harsh at times, and even the best intentioned words sometimes come out wrong. Of course, even if I never existed, the doctrines of grace would still be true. So in that vein, I’m really unimportant.

1. You can argue with me all day (some of you have tried…LOL). At the end of the day, I always point you away from me to scripture first and foremost. You can dislike me and call me names all you’d like. You can’t argue with scripture. And God is the one who ‘convinces’ folk of sound doctrine once they take time and apply themselves to studying it. So I always encourage folks – study it till you can articulate it accurately. Then you’ve earned the right to attempt to critique it. But usually, by that time, God the Holy Spirit does something to make folk see….’oh wow. it’s there. and it’s RIGHT THERE. How did I miss it all this time ?’

Going to hell and other excuses

Someone posted a link to Laci Green’s youtube channel (youtube.com/gogreen18) where said young lady (she looks like a high schooler, but is probably in her early 20’s) has posted several videos advancing atheism, including why atheists care about YOUR religion and a two-parter on why she’s going to hell.  The ‘going to hell’ ones seemed to have garnered her sympathy as being the ‘victim’ of various ‘Christian-fundamentalist’ attacks (as well as praise for her ‘freethinking’ and ‘intelligence’).  During the vid, she does the usual “paint a half-argument of your opponent” (aka the strawman fallacy)  routine, brushes off Christians as illogical, non-reasoning, unintelligent, uninteresting, etc…

There’s always more to the story.   Several people have challenged her in the comments, and like most atheists (new militant ones included), she cherry-picks what she will respond to and ignores the strongest arguments provided against her views.  It shouldn’t be a surprise: Christopher Hitchens does the same type of ‘dodge’ here.

Laci also has links to other vids and a whole other channel….on sex. Her page lists her as having served as a peer counselor on sex during her high school years (she lets folks know up front she’s not a professional), reproductive rights advocate & teaching female sexuality at the college level and a few more bits and pieces.   What does that have to do with anything ?

Everything.

Every atheist always tells on themselves about the real reasons they claim there’s no God.  Thankfully, we don’t have to hunt far to find it – between her sex+ channel video on the use of the word ‘slut’ and her video (listen between the lines on her views on sex) and her talk on the subject of why atheists are concerned about others’ religious views…well…. she (like every other one) eventually states that they’d like to live as they want to live with no one telling them what to do.

Nothing new here to anyone who’s been paying attention. Everyone that rejects the God of scripture does so because they want to be the ‘god’ of their own lives (either that or create one in their own image that allows them to live as they like).

I mentioned the strawman attacks earlier.  I’d love to see her post a video interacting with the strongest viewpoints that answer her objections (one only has to do a small search around the net and you’ll find them easily).  I can appreciate Christopher Hitchens at least debating Bill Craig (William Lane Craig) and attempting to interact with his arguments (though he does not do so in a satisfactory manner).  I’d love to see exactly what he’s saying now that his own brother, Peter (whose book I mentioned in a previous post on here) has joined the opposition.

Food Choices, Church Choices and Their Effects on Living

I’ve been threatening, gathering, pondering and chunk writing portions of a new series (which, at this rate, will end up as a book) on reasons to leave your current ‘not-heretical-but-not-really-deep-theologically’ church for one that is. My friends and my own life experiences are continually giving me new source material to write and use as illustrations.

So you’re at a church that doesn’t teach anything overtly heretical, but the sermons are rather ‘light’ in doctrinal content. The preacher may be content with giving you practical (supposedly) sermons week to week which seem to be ‘how to’ more than anything else. All well and fine. We do need to know ‘how to’ from time to time. But you find yourself a bit ‘critical’ of the sermon week to week – “not enough meat!” So you supplement your church’s sermons with podcasts from people you consider ‘meatier’ – MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, or any number of lesser known but solid biblical and exegetical pastors.

There’s an old saying – if the cook doesn’t eat here, why should you ?

Maybe that’s a bit too strong. Maybe your church is more like this: Not adequately consistent on biblical teaching. The equivalent of eating steak one day, McFood Product 3-4 days out of the week, a McFood Product Apple Pie one day and then one day it’s potluck.

Since we’re running with food illustrations, let me add one more.

My wife and I recently started (maybe over the past 6-8 months) moving the bulk of our diet to being more organic. So we eat at Silver Diner (because they’ve switched over to organic) and Chipoltle as our primary food places if/when we eat outside. The occasional Chic-Fil-A comes in every once in a while (emergency food – but at least we know they serve real chicken) and Arby’s (my wife used to work there, so she knows how the food is prepped – at least the beef).

Since the new food choices have come into play, several things have happened.

1. We’re finding out that processed and non-fresh foods (i.e. canned fruit cocktail versus fresh fruit that you chop up or that is prepared the same day) don’t retain their flavor or their nutritional value. For example, at an event my wife and I went to, my wife (who loves fruit) didn’t finish the fruit cocktail she got (it was one of the healthier choices). She said it didn’t taste like anything. In the past, she used to be able to devour canned fruit cocktail all day….but now…not so much. Fresh fruit tastes better and as you spend extended time around fresh, canned begins to lose its’ appeal.

2. We’re finding ourselves having more energy to do more things. Healthier diet and lifestyle = more energy. The old food choices we used to do (rushing around with little time to cook) tended to ‘fill’ us up, but it left us feeling sluggish and tired afterward. As we’ve learned in researching some restaurants, some of it is because most or ALL of the nutritional value of some foods was pretty much NON-EXISTENT. So your body was working harder to draw nutrients out of something that didn’t have nutrients in it to begin with. Therefore, you’re left tired. Related to that is the additional fact that some of the food which DID have some nutritional value was also high in fat and sodium. So now, the remainder of your body’s energy is spent converting stuff to BAD fat and the sodium content is sapping your body of fluids, dehydrating you. So your body has to work harder to process less and you end up with less energy, altered moods, physiological issues, chemical imbalance, etc… This affects your thinking and communication skills as well. When we switched to organic choices (and added some harder work/regular exercise to the mix), things started to change gradually. At the end of last school year, I did the school yearbook, kept up with the school website and a plethora of changes, did two performances 3 days before the end of the school year and a few dozen other things that normally, I would’ve been completely burnt out to do. I’m not saying I wasn’t tired at the end But compared to last year, I’ve found myself recovering quicker.

3. Overshare time (wife cringing as I type this) !!! We’ve found ourselves more apt to get rid of…stuff. This has also helped with losing weight (since we’re not holding onto stuff in our intestines for extended periods of time) and digestion (good food digests easier).

These three points have great theological significance. Churches that are light on their treatment of theological topics and issues often find their members working harder (whether it be to work themselves into a shout and live off of the emotional high for the next week, or thinking that the various programs and outreaches they get involved in are the equivalent of growth and being spiritual) with diminishing returns (because now they have to involve themselves in ‘more’ over time just to feel like they are ‘doing the Lord’s work’ or ‘serving Him’ or ‘worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth’).

No real spiritual nutritional value. Just empty spiritual calories to fill you up. ‘How-to’ sermons divorced from their theological and biblical foundations, become morality lessons. Morality lessons don’t transform your way of thinking and they don’t save people. And you can only live off a cliché or morality lesson…until real trials strike.

Good spiritual food (in the form of consistent sound doctrine and good teaching) is like eating steak, organic chicken, fresh vegetables and such….every day. Good food on a regular basis helps your body grow stronger and keeps you free of most diseases. Likewise, good spiritual food will keep you free of most of the pitfalls that some believers constantly face and struggle with (i.e. “Am I good enough now to merit God’s favor beyond Him just saving me ?”). But the key is this: you have to be in the atmosphere consistently. That means you don’t simply live off of podcasts, tapes, CDs and DVDs, but you have people alongside of you who believe the same things, encouraging and strengthening you to move forward. You have a shepherd who consistently teaches and preaches these things every week. Your church consciously is modeled after this line of thought.

As other members of your community are being transformed by the preaching on Sunday and teaching throughout the week, they, in turn, pass that on to you as you interact with them. And as you find yourself being transformed, you pass that back to them. This ‘mutual edification’ gives you the spiritual strength necessary to endure all sorts of trials as they come.

Your view of God changes in a sounder atmosphere. God goes from being a benevolent grandfather up in heaven looking down at you and smiling and waiting to give you all sorts of gifts (because He’s nice and loving) to being the Almighty Creator of the universe, before whom, you deserve nothing but wrath and death, but who instead chooses to give you love, blessings and salvation. Realizing your condition makes God appear as He should – much bigger, much more awesome and then it hits you…. His love for you doesn’t depend on your performance. He didn’t save you because of something you did or would do. He didn’t “see the best in you” and then save you based on that.

It’s easy to think of yourself as being ‘worthy’ of a certain kind of love and knowing that your mate or another human being loves you because you’re you. There’s even a song out about it now (The Best In Me by Marvin Sapp). But knowing that God loves you when the best of ‘you’ is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and coming to realize that it doesn’t depend on you at all…well…that’s humility-producing.

It also produces a different kind of sanctification. You’ll find yourself more apt to self-examination (per 2 Cor. 13 and all of 1 John) and find yourself jettisoning as much ‘waste’ in your life that weighs you down from running toward the goal of Christlikeness.

Now I hear, on regular basis, people say things like “well, maybe some people are built up by things from this style of preaching versus that ‘theological’ stuff.” That, to me, falls in line with thinking that “ Well, maybe some people are built up by eating unhealthy food versus all that ‘organic stuff’.”

Objectively speaking, there’s only one meaning to the text of scripture. It cannot mean one thing and the exact opposite of that one thing at the same time. Objectively speaking, only ‘real spiritual food’ brings real spiritual growth. In other words, if what gets taught is false doctrine, no matter how the person feels about it, they are not being built up in the faith. They may be built up in habit, tradition, feeling, thinking and experiencing, but these things are not the Christian faith as taught in scripture.

In food analogy terms: one cannot say that McDonalds builds up people in a healthy fashion and that real beef from one cow builds up people just as well. Both statements are mutually exclusive (if you know how McDonalds’ meat gets mushed together from several different animals in varying shades of health). One is good for you and provides more nutrients for your body.  One is not and provides little nutrients for your body, gives you unwanted antibiotics, possible disease contamination (because those cows aren’t in the healthiest of shape and they eat a lot of filler).  Both taste differently.  So although both might fill you up, don’t mistake being full for being healthy. Both are having different effects on your body over the long haul.

I’ve encountered people who, after eating so much fast food for so many years, really don’t have a taste for real food. They have a taste for food…but not healthy food. And like children, over time, they must be weaned off of the bad food in order to develop a taste for the good.

A few ramblings of a man determined to nudge folks on to better ‘food choices’. I already know that some people will be moderately offended by it because they know that their church has good food. I teach middle school kids who think that McDonalds’ is good food too. But I’ve also been humble enough to sit and watch Super-Size Me and follow up on that with personal research. I also realize that middle school kids don’t necessarily have the maturity and capacity to think at the level of ‘what is this doing to my body over long periods of time’ because they’ve been trained up (by culture, society, media and parents) to have everything ‘now’ and focus on ‘now’. Likewise, there are many believers who have been trained up to not think critically and use their minds to the glory of God (Deut. 6:5).

The thing with good food, though…even if your palate has been trained to love fast food, you can be weaned off of it and moved over to real food. You can grow teeth that will bite into and rend steak. You can develop a taste for fresh fruit so that canned longer appeals to you. It takes time, work and the same way you would reprogram your muscles with daily workouts to grow stronger, you’d need to reprogram your appetite with good foods.

All that said…move somewhere with fresh, real, healthy, nutritious food. Nothing scripture says that you should remain at a place that is malnourishing you. You have friends at these places ? Instead of staying for their benefit, why not bring them with you to your new place of eating ?

The Sovereignty of God and HD Crashes

Day before yesterday, while using the laptop near a hard surface, I’d accidentally knocked it over.  Mind you, my laptop HD had been gradually starting to click since the middle of last year.  I preemptively bought a 630GB internal HD that I’d planned on transferring everything to in late May, but didn’t get around to doing so.

Well, it (my 320GB internal HD in the laptop) finally died, much to my dismay.

I bought a 1TB external for more back ups, but the old 320GB internal isn’t coming up.  And I have (literally) 30-50GB of new things I’ve been doing since my last back up (which was January).  While it was still in the laptop, it WAS coming up as a Firewire drive, but now as USB….nothing.

It’s another one of those “Live Your Theology” moments, as I’ve found myself having to come back to the point of realizing that even a hardware malfunction with the data arm of a hard drive is not outside of the Sovereign control of God. And once again moving back to Romans 8:28, I must remember that all things (including this) are working together for my ultimate good and His highest glory.

I must not form my theology based on my experiences, but allow my theology to dictate how my experiences should be interpreted rightly.  Too many people do it the other way and end up denying that God is God.  They say He is ‘Sovereign but not in control’ and other rubbish.  They say that God didn’t know the future, otherwise He would’ve never allowed a tree to fall and strike someone’s car, killing them instantly or (fill in your calamity here).

Repeatedly in scripture, we’re confronted with God knowing and ordaining things as tiny as a bird falling from a tree (Matthew 10:28-29) to things as large as kingdoms coming into power and specific rulers coming to power (Cyrus in Isaiah 45, Daniel 4:29-37).  It is foolishness to think that God doesn’t know the future or is simply a casual observer to it, fretting all the bad things that happen. It’s insulting to call God a chess player who reacts and ‘always has the upper hand’ after a tragedy of sorts strikes. We cannot speak out of both sides of our mouth and call God Sovereign, yet deny that He is in control of every molecule in the universe.

So while I sit here and pray with my wife, I’ll be putting in a call to MacAuthority in the morning (and a few other places) to see how many hundreds of dollars I’ll be spending to retrieve all the video and audio work I’ve built up since January.  In the meantime, I’m thankful for my wonderful wife who has constantly reminded me to pray first before taking out a hammer to strike things and get them working again. 🙂