Monday, October 20, 2014

The Question: Leviticus; the Answer: Hebrews

This is one of those days where I read an amazing article on Tabletalk Magazine, and without trying to I read it again on the website.

It is the article where Benjamin Shaw explores the biblical dichotomy of clean versus unclean.

While studying the book of Hebrews this semester, I read about the book of Leviticus and realize: Leviticus is the question, Hebrews is the answer.

Our God is so holy and we are so not.  Without cleansing we cannot approach this perfect God or we will burn.

Leviticus 11-15 showed all the ways the Israelites had to cleanse themselves before they could approach God.  They had to stay away from any "unclean" food.  They had to abandon their houses if mildew showed up.  They had to sacrifice a lamb to the priest at the temple only to sin right away and have to be cleansed again.

This was God's way of showing them that they cannot ever come clean before our holy God by this treadmill of rituals.  This is where Hebrews steps in:

9:13-14, "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

God let these people labor until Christ came simply to show them that they cannot be clean and stay clean on their own time.  A perfect man had to live the perfect life and then take the punishment for us.  It's by his blood we are clean and we don't have to keep renewing the contract.  His blood was for one time.

I sang "Ancient Words" yesterday in church.  It has a lyric that says: 

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ


I meant to sing "faithful" during the practice before the service.  It wasn't even 9:00 and I was tired.  I mindlessly sang "faithless."  Ugh.

Mistake or not, that is no small error.  That borders on blasphemy.  If I lived in the Old Testament, I would have to bring a lamb to be slaughtered by a priest.  Afterward, I'd end up sinning again.  I would lose the salvation status that I have just earned by that lamb.

Now that I live in the New Testament, Christ was slaughtered for me.  He offered the perfect sacrifice of himself.  And he never sins, so he doesn't have to do it again.  And when I approach God for forgiveness, he now sees Christ's sacrifice and not my crappy version.

There are people who live under the name of Christ that still believe you have to keep your salvation status up because you lose it every time a peccadillo comes along, which is many times a day.  They are shocked when you think that they have to work for their salvation, but their system says otherwise.  If I was in that church, I'm sure I would have to go talk to a priest.  Then I'd have to say a prayer five times a day and do some community service.

"By these means, the people maintained, rather, regularly restored their cleanness before God through the ordinary course of life."
 
These folks still live in the Old Testament.  They do not live with the hope that Jesus paid their sin only one time and that's it.  They can't even approach him directly.  While the New Testament says that he is our priest and intercessor before God, they still like to approach a human priest or even someone deceased.  This is an absolute insult to God and what Christ has done for us.

And this logic leaks into all denominations.  (Not to step on any friends' toes, but here goes) Some have to say "Hail Mary"s, some have to speak in tongues, some need to be rebaptized, some need to end global warming.  We are always tempted to try to add to what Christ has done which shows we still do not trust him.  Just ourselves.  After my lyrical slip yesterday I seriously wanted to just do the song again.  Or bang my head against the pulpit.  Thank God that in the next two services I got it right because I looked to Jesus and not to my own memory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the prowling lion versus the Lion of Judah

I never quite know how to react when people say that Satan is preventing them from doing something.

This Sunday, there was an excellent sermon about not incurring debt.  Without the video, sound, power point, etc., we would still have a sermon based on the Word of God and pointing people to Jesus and not to materials.  Souls would be enlightened, and church would happen.

But life happens.  The power point presentation would not load up.  The video would only play the sound and not the picture.  The mics would give feedback, which never happens.  My husband Tim, who works with all that was like, it was like a gremlin got into the system.  The pastor said, it was like Satan didn't want me to preach this sermon but God overcame it.

It was a good conclusion but one I still ponder.  We know that since Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, Satan has no control over us.  He is defeated and cannot hurt his church.  God's grace comes through and his Holy Spirit works miracles in the otherwise dead congregation who can do nothing apart from God's grace.

But then, evil still happens and will happen until the Lord comes back.  1 Peter 5:8 gives a sober reminder that our enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour.

But the more dominant Lion of Judah is the one in control.  The little lion does nothing unless the big Lion allows it.

So the glitches happened in the technology in the service because God is still in control.  Why would he let this happen?  Maybe it underlines the fact that this was an important sermon.  Debt accrues because people think things and prestige will make them happy and save them from low-quality lives.  But this doesn't happen because they spend money on useless things and have nothing with which to feed their kids.

It is really important that we place our value on Jesus and follow his direction for our lives and not go out and buy the next iPhone.  It's not wrong to have an iPhone, but it is wrong when it becomes more important that Jesus and the people that he loves.  It becomes wrong when you can't feed yourself and have to get welfare, but you still were able to afford an iPhone.  I could see Satan wanting to stop this sermon from happening because he wants to distract us all from the true riches of Christ and his life that never fades or grows old, and he wants to get us trapped by having to pay for the newest technology that will already be obsolete next year.  Then we have a pile of debt and cannot go on missions or get our kids to college because we spent all our money on the next temporary fad.

Tim brought up something that had happened at Big Picture Con the week before.  He had a film in the short film festival that didn't win but still did really good in the voting poll by the audience.  The film that did win the voting poll but not the contest was a film called Checkmate, except Checkmate was in German and I can't pronounce that at the moment.

This film was the first to be shown, but when it started getting into the story, it stopped playing and would not continue.  We had to wait until the end of the festival to watch the whole thing after they found another file on the internet.

When I first saw the first half of Checkmate, I thought it was another lame video about a young kid or a woman groaning about life and its ennui.  When I saw the whole thing, I thought it was the best video and had a wonderful message.

This young boy is trying to ask this girl out who already dates the popular guy.  This boy is a quiet boy who plays the Chess that you find on Star Trek.  Life is like Chess.  You have to make hard decisions.  They may be good or bad, and you still may lose, but you have to keep playing.

In the long run, we see a hilarious exchange where he tries to woo the girl but to no avail.  This time around, he lost the game.  But you keep playing.

Satan doesn't want messages like that to circulate.  Even if the other team scores once, he wants us to stop the game completely and give up.

I cannot get over the fact that this young woman named Brittany, who is my age and newly wed, wants to go ahead and end her life with the help of a physician on November 1 because she got diagnosed with terminal cancer.  No consideration for her husband or her joyous bridesmaids in her wedding picture.  She says it would be more dignified to take her own life than to go through the long painful process of chemo.

She's wrong.  Every day is worth living.  Even the days ruined by a weakened chemo body are worth living.  God wants Brittany to live and continue playing until he decides to take her life as he only has the right to do so as he gave it to her.  Satan wants her to just throw in the towel and abandon her new husband and her loved ones because of her vanity.  This is not dignity.  This is mutiny.

Yes, the devil prowls about like a lion, but the verse before says to cast your cares on Christ, the dominant Lion, because he cares for you.  I suppose he still lets Satan prowl to call our attention to these things.  And if this is the case, please Lord, do not let Brittany and her doctors follow through with their anti-life plan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mortifying Sin: the Wrong and the Right Way

I've been reading "The Mortification of Sin" by John Owen along with Reading Classics Together on Tim Challies' blog.  John Owen's words flow with such depth and passion.  At the same time, I can't pay attention really well so sometimes I get lost.  That was not the case last night.

The whole theme of his book has been an exposition of Romans 8:13.  In the ESV it says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  Owen's tagline is "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

For the rest of the book, Owen shows how people try to kill sin the wrong way, using their own penances and rituals.  Instead, he wants them to leave human effort and come to Jesus to be changed.

There is only so many ways you can say this concept, but nothing is more important in reaching salvation and being sanctified in the Holy Spirit.

Basically, Owen says that people try to mortify sin, but they do it the wrong way.

He reached a point in his treatise where he gives the example of Peter's speech in Acts 2.  In verses 29-36, Peter explains how David died but looked forward to the resurrection.

God loved David, but without his help, David was a wicked man indeed.  In himself, there was nothing good.  But because of his faith in God's promise to send an eternal king on his throne, David died with the hope of living again and with the hope of freedom from sin.

"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."  God raised his eternal Son from the dead.  Why did Jesus die?  Because we are so hopelessly lost in our sins.  On our own, we will not come to God for salvation but always look to whatever we can do.  Jesus loved us so much that he lived the only perfect human life and then died under God's wrath that humans deserve.  Since he was perfect, he could not stay dead, and since he was the perfect sacrifice, we are not enamored with our sins anymore.

"Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

The penitent ones heard what Peter said and were "cut to the heart."  If I was among the crowd, I would think, "The only good man on the planet died so that I could be free from sin.  What must I do to repay him?"

This is what the folks asked.  Did Peter say to go wash seven times in the Jordan?  Did he say complete five years of a discipleship course?  Did he tell them to pray five times a day to some heavenly sponsor?

No, he simply said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

All they needed to come to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit would baptize them, and they could finally be fit to enter God's presence.  And if a man of the household came to the Lord, his children and wife and servants could also be baptized and be considered holy because of him.  Simply coming to Jesus makes no only myself clean, but also makes my whole family clean by association (though not necessarily individually saved.  They are still considered holy along with me and we must pray for Jesus to truly lead their hearts.) 

The bottom line: quit trying to find holiness apart from simply resting in Jesus.  He will make you holy.  The people you love are also holy because of you in their lives, so treat them as inside the faith and let Jesus change them.   Remember to forgive them as the Lord forgave you.  What you did to Jesus is way worse than what they've done to you or anyone else.  Trust the Lord to change their hearts and simply love them in the process. 

I close with this 2nd Chapter of Acts song:

 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Did you catch his face? Was it 10538?

This is another adventure in Evidence Unseen, the apologetics book I have been reading on my Kindle.  But it is more because it leads to music.

The author goes into detail about how atheists will try to find meaning in this world and life, but without God there really is no meaning.  If this world was a result of an explosion and other non-entities such as chance, then there is no meaning and all we have are biological fatalism. 

He gives the illustration of a master artist who one day let his 3-year-old nephew splatter paint all over a canvas.  That evening, he invited some critics over and showed him his nephew's painting, but then he told them he had made the painting.

So the art critics invented meaning after meaning about all the splotches and spatters arranged by the nephew.

Finally the artist gives in and tells them that this painting was created by his nephew this afternoon after he let him fling paint all over it.

Some of the critics left all angry because their deep meanings suddenly became meaningless.  But some stayed still drawing meaning out of the blotches even after the artist told them that it had no meaning.

Sometimes I feel like the art critics who stay after the big let-down when it comes to the "10538 Overture."  By Electric Light Orchestra.


It's lyrics are simple:

Did you see your friend crying from his eyes today?
Did you see him run through the streets and far away?
Did you see him run? Did you see him fall?
Did his life flash by at the bedroom door?

Did you hear the news, came across the air today?
Someone has been found on the rocks down in the bay
Did you see him hide? Did you see him crawl?
Does his life mean more than it did before?

Did you see that man running through the streets today?
Did you catch his face? Was it 10538?

My meaning: When I listen to these words and the amazing orchestral rock sounds, it has such meaning to me.  There is this man who does not fit in society roaming the streets all alone in life.  Does he have a name?  Why doesn't someone reach out to him?

Jeff Lynne's meaning: According to wikipedia, he simply wanted to write a song about an escaped prisoner who had a number and not a name.  He had a tune intended to be an orchestral masterpiece.  He then got inspired to write lyrics and the recording engineers added guitars and violins and all kinds of decoration.  The song became their first hit as ELO.

But all the same, Jeff Lynne would not have written the song down if it hadn't at least a subconscious meaning for him.  It has meaning.  It has an author, and lyrics and tunes don't just happen.  The same way, that guy's nephew gave the painting meaning when he spattered it with paint.  We don't know it, but the 3-year-old isn't a zombie robot.  He's a human with his own volition and ideas.

So really, I think this argument might fail in trying to logically prove God's existence to people who believe the earth has no specific origin.  Whether people realize the meaning or not, the earth was created.  It is clearly created by someone intelligent.  How can you study something like childbirth or planetary motion and not see that this could not have arisen from a non-entity?  How can you look at human progress and not see the original artist behind all these people?  Cities and internets and technology do not come as a result of biological synapses.  Someone invented it, and someone fashioned the man to have his desires and ideas.  This is no accident.  This is a planned work of a loving God who knows what he wants and who he loves.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happenstance and Wedding Rehearsals

I downloaded this book to my Kindle and started reading it yesterday.  It is called Evidence Unseen by James Rochford. 

I've only read one chapter so far, and it is indeed a clever book on Christian apologetics.

I thought I'd bring up one of the evidences and also recall my own wedding rehearsal. 

My sister-in-law gets married this Saturday.  She will have a normal rehearsal and dinner afterwards.

When I got married to her brother over a year ago, we did something different.  We rented a pavilion in Clark Park.  We could only rent for the afternoon so we decided to do a lunch instead of a dinner.  We also had my favorite barbecue place cater for the occasion.  Sadly Glenn's BBQ is closed now, but praise God it was open long enough to cater my rehearsal.

We had a lovely luncheon, a vast cross section of bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family, played some Cornhole, and even got to sit in the pavilion while it rained.  I can't think of any rehearsal dinner that can top that.  I look back with pride on that day.  (Not that Bethany's won't be good.  I'm still happy with the way mine turned out.)

But the thing is, if there is no God in the universe, and nobody made us, then we really have no choices as to decide if we want a traditional wedding rehearsal dinner or a casual picnic in the park.  Every decision we make is based on biological chain reactions and would have happened anyway.  In fact, neither rehearsal would have happened because marriage is something that doesn't just happen.  It's planned.  In a Godless world, we would just be amoebas going around and reproducing asexually with anyone and everyone, only following our pheromones. 

But we know that this is not true because we know we consciously make decisions every day.  We have a subconscious that makes us more than animal.  The fact that Bethany and I have two different kinds of rehearsals, much less weddings in general, show that we in fact both make decisions and that the outcomes were not just inevitable.  There has to be a God in the universe making sense of all of this.

This is the huge difference between fate and God's predestination.  Without God, things just happen.  With God, it is all planned and all has a purpose.

Ephesians 1:3-6, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

We have one situation where we are purposeless chemical reactions.  We have another much better and more real situation where God plans our lives while still making us responsible for our own personal decisions.  In fact, even from the atheist perspective, the idea of two cells coming together to create a different life is proof enough that it had to be planned and that there is a God.  How much better to believe in our colorful Yahweh who created us to all be unique and loved us even when we hated him and sent Jesus to live for us and to take our punishment on the cross.  How can people live without such a believe giving them backbone?

Friday, September 26, 2014

God of this City

Yesterday I wrote my thoughts on the book "A Timeless Place" and on land conservation and urban cancers.

This made me think about the song "God of this City."  Chris Tomlin's version of the song is more known, but it was written by an Irish group called Bluetree.


Apparently, this group went to play worship music in Cambodia.  They ended up playing for a brothel.  Sex slavery is very strong over there.  It made Aaron Boyd, the lead singer, wonder what more Christians could do to stop this.  Why do we still let this happen?

From their website: “We went back home asking, ‘How does this all work? Whose responsibility is it to see these girls released from prostitution and transformed…because if I just pray over the city and nothing happens, then it’s God’s fault, right?’ It’s very easy to push that over on God, but Scripture tells us to go into the world and love people.”

I think this is a sign of me going back and forth between amillennial views and postmillennial views.  They are both postmillennial, but it depends on if I believe the millennium has already happened or not. I still think it has and that we are in the last days.  If I did not think that Jesus was going to come back for another 1000 years, I would despair.

But just the same, he's going to create a new heaven and a new earth.  And I'll never stop being shocked over this: he does it through us.  He saved his elect through the substitutional atonement of Jesus on the cross.  We anticipate resurrection because Jesus came back to life.  But now that we are considered one body with Christ, Jesus commands us to not only spread the Gospel all over the world, but to also help make this place more like heaven with each step we take.  The eternal kingdom will be on this earth, and God honors us by commanding us to help.  We don't even deserve to be alive, but he calls us to help.

And that means helping young girls and boys come out of prostitution.  It means influencing women to not get abortions and letting people know the freedom from homosexual attraction.  It means we should have healthcare sharing programs and land conservation, and we should also build cities and buildings but still maintain the original beauty of God's creation.  We should care for all life, human and animal.

Sometimes, I worry about people taking a Charles Finney view of Jesus.  The view that he was more of a great moral example for us instead of our payment for our sin.  They are wrong.  Jesus's perfect life has been imputed to us and our gross sins all piled onto him.  He took your hell if you believe in him and will never experience it.  And you will rise up with him because Jesus could not stay dead.

All the more James's words in the second chapter of his epistle ring true: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Our works don't save us.  And we have faith that our contributions will be successful.  But because of our faith, we should strive to bring people to justice and Jesus.  We can do this knowing that Jesus finished the job.

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Timeless Place

Recently I decided to start reading a volume of Reader's Digest's Condensed Books from 1971.  It's borrowed from my grandfather's vast collection.  I finished the first novel:


A Timeless Place by Ellen Bromfield Geld.

The daughter of a famous author and her husband now take care of her father's farm after his passing.  She has one son fighting in the Vietnam war, a 17-year-old daughter, and a young son named Michael.  From what I can tell, I think this is her father's sister who lives there, too: Aunt Elizabeth.  Btw, her name is Cass Fagan, her husband is Dan, and her first two children are Steve and Leah.  Her late father was the author Thomas Barr.

Apparently Thomas Barr had this farm, and his writing was so successful that people would come from all over the world to see his farm country in Sutter Valley, Ohio, to see his inspiration.

Now that Barr has passed on, the town wants to try to preserve his memory by building a highway through the farm and the mountain and adding a resort and restaurants.  Cass, however, knows that this is not what her dad would have wanted.  Sutter Valley just speaks to Cass and her family in ways that nothing does.  Time passes by, but the land never changes.  If they built that highway, it would ruin one of Dan's most successful crops. 

Ultimately I agree with the protagonists.  It would be terrible to take some private property and build a highway over it just to bring more revenue into the state.  Especially when the owners do not want to relinquish.  I think that eminent domain is unconstitutional and that builders need to respect people's wishes to not raze their house and property.

A part of me, however, does not disagree with the Mayor of that town.  It would be nice to make Thomas Barr's land more accessible to handicapped people.  In fact, Steve loses his leg in the war, and it would be great for him.  I love the country, but sometimes I need some civilization and try to find the nearest Wal-Mart.

But all I know is that my hometown of Conyers, GA was a small rural town outside of Atlanta.  Then in 1996, the Olympics came and they built the GA Int'l Horsepark.  Then they built apartment complexes, a super Wal-Mart, IHOP, O'Charleys, restaurants, a new movie theater, and it's like they could not stop building.  There were nice houses and barns torn down to make way for this.  Along with the new businesses, the less refined people started moving into town and now Conyers is rather urban.  It's not safe like it used to be.

So yeah, the bug for money and advancement can really ruin a much cherished place.  But it can also enhance it.

I love Sky Valley, GA and Franklin, NC.  They are two towns next to each other in the mountains with beautiful national parks and mountain vistas.  My family goes there every year between Christmas and New Year's Day.  It feels like you are in heaven when you settle into the condo in Sky Valley.

But I am so glad that nearby Franklin has restaurants and even the Fun Factory.  A little progress is nice.  The Highlands nearby are also lovely and have nice tourist attractions without ruining the area.

But there is also a difference between the Highlands in NC and Helen, GA where they keep building really cute putt-putt places and tourist junk shops that really have nothing to do with the town.  The restaurants are over priced, and when Tim took me there, we were more excited about the Huddle House than we were about the restaurants.

If done properly, adding revenue to a country area can be a good thing.  Too much, and it could turn into the Conyers of today or even Gatlinburg which is completely a tourist town, now.

At least recently, Conyers added some parks and trails to the town, making it much more interesting.  I love those.  There's a trail in the city of Greenville, SC that also adds some green space back into the otherwise concrete desert.

The thing is, God created the planet.  And he did not feel the most satisfied until he build humans.  and it was his intention for humans to build cities and create inventions and learn how to go inside and change the weather.  We are created in his image, so we must do what we can to cultivate this land and let it change with the times.

But we also must remember to not cut down every single tree and pave up mountains.  We must not pave paradise and build a parking lot like Joni Mitchell suggests.  We still need a place for animals to live without too much change to their habitats.  And certainly, we must never trash the environment.

We also don't have to worry about destroying the planet either.  Our God won't allow that.  In Genesis 8:22, he promised Noah that seedtime and harvest, day and night, would never cease.  And in Revelation, he promises a New Heaven and New Earth that will be right here on a renewed version of this planet.  God intended for us to build cities, and he also will stop of from completely sapping up all our resources.

I think just now, people are figuring out how to contribute to God's creation on his terms without completely destroying his products.  The Gospel Coalition has a group called Every Square Inch.  Quoting Abraham Kuyper, Jesus takes every square inch of this planet and calls it "mine."  They are finding ways to care for the environment but in ways that also benefits people.  It's really exciting to see what happens if the Lord continues this.