Wednesday, June 30, 2021

wild faith

 John was a wild man. His life didn't start out that way--he was a miracle baby, born to parents who were way too old to have a baby. His dad was a priest, which meant everyone would expect John to follow the same line of work.

But John was born to be a rabble-rouser. He was born to challenge the status quo and shake things up. He didn't follow in his father's footsteps and serve as a priest in the temple. Instead, he grew up in the wilderness. He wore clothing made of camel's hair. He ate locust and honey. What made him truly wild, though, was what he was saying.

John wasn't trying to sell some happy-go-lucky kind of belief. He wasn't worried about what people wanted him to say. I mean, he called them a brood of vipers. He told them that their religious habits were useless. He called them to the carpet on the idea that being children of Abraham was all they needed to be right with God, saying God could turn the rocks into children of Abraham if He wanted to. Still, people came from Jerusalem and all of Judea to listen to John.

Why?

Why in the world did they journey out into the wilderness to listen to a wild man dressed in camel hair? Whey did they listen to him insult them? Why not just stay in their cushy lives in Jerusalem? After all, some of these people were Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the cream of the crop in Jewish society, especially the Sadducees. They were fawned over and put up on pedestals. They had power and prestige--they didn't need this wild nobody telling them how to live their lives.

They traveled into the wilderness for one reason--spiritual hunger. That same hunger is why we have so many mega churches and so many people who say they believe in God, yet so many people have broken hearts and empty lives. They are hungry for truth, but they aren't being filled.

Instead, our preachers have become celebrities and our church buildings have become entertainment venues. You're more likely to see a light show and get a concert on Sunday morning in most church buildings than you are to hear the truth preached from the pulpit. Preachers stand in front of broken, hurting, lost people and tell them that God just wants them to be happy and that they are perfect just the way they are--no repentance or change required. Instead of pointing out how sin destroys lives, they ignore sin as some sort of old fashioned concept that doesn't really apply to today's enlightened people. They tell people that they can live like the world and find fulfillment in their earthly desires.

And yet, the emptiness is still there.

People are desperate for the truth, even when (especially when) they have no idea what the truth actually is. When Jesus stood before Pilate, He said, "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the cosmos: to demonstrate the power of truth. Everyone who seeks truth hears My voice." (John 18:37, VOICE)

As followers of Christ, we should speak truth. Not some watered-down, twisted version of the truth. That would be like giving someone food laced with poison. The food would seem to satisfy their hunger, but it wouldn't give them life. When we take the truth of God's word and mix it with the world's views, we're mixing the poison in with the bread. When we tell someone that God is love and since He loves them He supports everything they do? The truth in that statement becomes useless because of the lie.

My mom used to tell me--and now tells my kids--"I love you too much to let you act like that." The same is true of God. Yes, He is love. His love for us is unfathomable and nothing we could ever explain. But that love means that He loves us too much to let us just do whatever we want.

His rules aren't arbitrary. They are perfectly designed to give us the best shot at life. When we go against them, we're sitting ourselves up for failure and heartbreak. Sexual immorality, lies, gossip, pride, disobedience-- all those things lead to broken families and broken people. They lead to empty lives. God tells us to turn away from those things--to "repent" to use the church word.

And when we insist on doing things our way? When we push so hard against His guidance, telling Him over and over that we know what's best for us, that we can do it ourselves without His help? That's when He gives us what we want.

When you look around and see that sins are being accepted by society--and not just accepted, but promoted and celebrated--it may seem like an indication that God has decided that we know what's best after all. It might seem like He has decided to move with the times and tell us that all those things He said were sins in the past really aren't so bad after all.

What's truly happening, though, is what Paul warned the church in Rome about: God has decided to give us what we think we want.

It's something we've seen examples of time and time again, yet for some reason we still don't get it. We have two choices in life--we can do things God's way or we can demand to have our own way.

Our problem is, we seem to think that our way is better. We see the limits God has placed on how we should live and we get it in our heads that He just wants to ruin our fun. We think that His thinking is outdated and doesn't really apply to us today--rules about how people in "Bible times" were to conduct themselves aren't things we need to listen to. Sexual purity has been brushed aside, traded instead for celebrating sexual immorality. Arrogance is promoted. Gossip has become a way of life, with whole facebook groups devoted to nothing else (all the "a little birdie told me..." groups ring a bell?). Fathers are the butt of jokes on almost every show on television--or at least that's the case for the shows that include a father. Families are distorted. Now, there are even "mating sites" for people who say they want to meet someone to have a baby with, but don't want the "complication" of a romantic relationship. Kids are being told that they get to choose whether they are a girl or a boy. "Love is love" is promoted as the answer to everything, and if you believe that God is love, and thereby His definition of love--one man, one woman, united with a vow to Him and each other, until death--defines it for the rest of us, you must be a hateful bigot. People are pushing the idea that we should judge everyone by the color of their skin instead of the content of their character. The media holds up criminals as heroes and ignores the deaths of innocent children.

All of this in the name of Progress.

When God lets us have our own way, it isn't because He has figured out that He was wrong and we are right. When He steps away, it is Him saying, "Okay, have it your way--and deal with the consequences."

...because there are always consequences. God loves us and His mercy is unending. He can and will forgive anything when we truly come to Him in repentance. His is also just, though, and His justice demands consequence for sin. The sins that are permeating our world today aren't any different. In fact, we've seen the consequences of exactly what is going on in the United States. Paul wrote about it in his letter to the Romans:

"18 For the wrath of God is breaking through from heaven, opposing all manifestations of ungodliness and wickedness by the people who do wrong to keep God’s truth in check. 19 These people are not ignorant about what can be known of God, because He has shown it to them with great clarity. 20 From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people 21 because, despite the fact that they knew the one true God, they have failed to show the love, honor, and appreciation due to the One who created them! Instead, their lives are consumed by vain thoughts that poison their foolish hearts. 22 They claim to be wise; but they have been exposed as fools, frauds, and con artists 23 only a fool would trade the splendor and beauty of the immortal God to worship images of the common man or woman, bird or reptile, or the next beast that tromps along.

24 So God gave them just what their lustful hearts desired. As a result, they violated their bodies and invited shame into their lives. 25 How? By choosing a foolish lie over God’s truth. They gave their lives and devotion to the creature rather than to the Creator Himself, who is blessed forever and ever. Amen. 26-27 This is why God released them to their own vile pursuits, and this is what happened: they chose sexual counterfeits—women had sexual relations with other women and men committed unnatural, shameful acts because they burned with lust for other men. This sin was rife, and they suffered painful consequences.

28 Since they had no mind to recognize God, He turned them loose to follow the unseemly designs of their depraved minds and to do things that should not be done. 29 Their days are filled with all sorts of godless living, wicked schemes, greed, hatred, endless desire for more, murder, violence, deceit, and spitefulness. And, as if that were not enough, they are gossiping, 30 slanderous, God-hating, rude, egotistical, smug people who are always coming up with even more dreadful ways to treat one another. They don’t listen to their parents; 31 they lack understanding and character. They are simple-minded, covenant-breaking, heartless, and unmerciful; they are not to be trusted. 32 Despite the fact that they are fully aware that God’s law says this way of life deserves death, they fail to stop. And worse—they applaud others on this destructive path."

 It can't be any more plain, can it?

In a time when God has turned us over to the desires of the flesh, the world is crying out for people to live out the wild faith that marked the life of John the Baptist. People are desperate for truth and meaning, though they are searching for it in all the wrong places. They are trying to fill the emptiness in their souls with the things of this world, which only leads to more emptiness.

As followers of Christ, we have the answer. We know He is the only way to the Father, the only hope for a fallen and depraved world, the only Savior for people drowning in sin.

Monday, May 31, 2021

memorial day 2021

Okay, so this is the third time I've started a post for today. There are so many thoughts and emotions flying around in my head, but I can't seem to get them to hold still long enough to name them, let alone to get them nailed down on paper.

On one hand, I'm as excited as everyone else about the "unofficial" start to summer. I'm looking forward to an extra long weekend, sunshine, family, and grilling out. We've got ribs ready for the smoker and all the goodies to go with them. We spent Saturday and Sunday with family and are doing the same thing today.

On the other hand, I'm having a really hard time with Memorial Day this year. It's been 17 years without Michael, so logically things shouldn't be so hard. 17 years is a long time--I should be used to it by now. This year, though, I've just been a bit off all week.

I always miss my brother. Most of the time it's not a dramatic thing, just little things that I wish I could talk to him about. Conan reminds me of him, and I wish his Uncle Michael was here to help him figure out what it means to be a warrior poet--someone bigger and stronger than most but with his "teelings" just as big. There's not a lot I wouldn't give to have him here with us to chow down on ribs today. I would love to watch him with all his nieces and nephews.

This year, I think my feelings are all stirred up by the chaos that has come to our country. The evils that so many American patriots fought on foreign soils have come to our own land, brought in by people who have claimed the benefits of living and thriving in our great country while decrying everything it stands for. I can't help but think that the people pushing the Marxist agenda are tarnishing the memory of every man and woman who fought and died for our country.

This country was founded to honor God. It was founded to be different, a light in a dark world. For almost 250 years it has stood as a beacon of hope and freedom, the land of opportunity to which so many people flocked for the chance to follow the American dream. It has been a land where hard work pays off, where anyone can take advantage of the rights and freedoms granted to each of us by our Creator.

They are freedoms that have been paid for over and over again by the lifeblood of so many. Now, though, that high price seems to have been forgotten and those freedoms and rights are disappearing.

Today, remember the price paid to ensure your freedoms. Take a stand and don't let those freedoms be taken away. So many before us paid the price--now it's our turn to make sure those rights and freedoms are preserved for future generations of Americans.





Friday, May 14, 2021

weighing the risks

I'm not an "anti-vaxer"--you know, just to get that out there. I'm a science nerd. Growing up I loved TLC because they showed surgeries; I loved watching science documentaries and shows like Nova; my bachelor's degree is in physics with a minor in biology; I studied medical physics in grad school before adding in education. I am thankful for the knowledge and wisdom God granted those who developed vaccines and am incredible thankful that we have them in place to ward off what used to be common childhood diseases like mumps and measles. I'm thankful the polio vaccine has resulted in so much less heartbreak.

But...

If you know me, you probably knew that was coming.

There is a huge governmental push for everyone to receive a Covid vaccine. Now that push has extended down to 12-year olds and to be honest with you, that thought terrifies me.

As of May 12th, the CDC shows a provisional count of 2,139 deaths attributed to Covid for those under 17 (1). That's a third the number of deaths in the same age group from pneumonia. While the death of any child is a horrible tragedy, we need to put that into perspective.  For that data set, that's 0.4% of the total deaths for the same age group. In fact, of the 3,190,353 cases reported in the CDC's data tracker (2) data for kids up to age 17, there have been 492 reported deaths. That's a case fatality rate of 0.015%. There is research showing that children aren't "super spreaders" of the virus (4,5), which was the initial reason given for shutting down schools around the world. If you look at the data, kids simply aren't any more at risk from this coronavirus strain than they are from any other typical childhood bug.

Why, then, are we being pushed to get our kids vaccinated?

My concern with this vaccine is two-fold. The biggest red flag to me is the fact that this is a new type of vaccine that hasn't ever been used in humans, and therefore we have no way to know the long-term effects. In the US, we've fast-tracked a vaccine before. Roughly 45 million Americans were vaccinated against swine flu in 1976... a vaccine that didn't go through the typical testing and approval process because it was deemed an emergency (6). That vaccine was later scientifically proven to be linked to a higher risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and debilitating neurological disorder. I'm not saying there will be serious fall-out from these vaccines. Although, a look at the VAERS data suggests that there are significant issues that need to be looked at more closely...especially since the critique of VAERS in the past has always been under-reporting.

Photo from Wendy Bell Radio
 

The testing process for vaccines was put in place for a reason. It takes time to figure out the true effect any new medication has on our bodies. These shots quite simply haven't been around long enough to give us a true understanding of the effect they will have long-term. (3) I'm not saying they are unsafe; there's not enough data out there to support that conclusion, either. I'm saying that an untested and unproven vaccine isn't something that needs to be pushed for a disease with over a 98% survival rate. If you leave out the "over 85" category, the case survival rate (from the CDC's published data) goes up to just under 99%(1). Besides that, we don't know a whole lot about the true efficacy of these shots. Sure, we've all heard the "95%" numbers. What we aren't seeing, though, is something called the Absolute Risk Reduction.

Absolute Risk Reduction basically tells you, with all things considered, how much your risk is decreased when you choose a specific treatment (7). This number is a much bigger deal when you're deciding whether or not to get a specific treatment. In fact, the FDA says, "Provide absolute risks, not just relative risks. Patients are unduly influenced when risk information is presented using a relative risk approach; this can result in suboptimal decisions. Thus, an absolute risk format should be used." (8)

So what is the Absolute Risk Reduction for these shots that are being pushed? That has been calculated for Pfizer BNT162b2 and Moderna mRNA-1273 (8):

Pfizer ARR = 0.7%
Moderna ARR = 1.1%

That means that when you take all factors into consideration, the Moderna shot is more effective yet only reduces your overall risk of getting Covid by 1.1%

There are too many immunologists and virologists warning against the possible dangerous effects of these shots for me to blindly follow something being pushed by politicians and celebrities and take a shot that only reduces my chances of getting an overwhelmingly survivable virus by 1.1%. If you look at kids, that Absolute Risk Reduction would be even lower.

That leads me to my second, more controversial reason. Why in the world is this shot being pushed so hard?

So here's where some people will start calling me a conspiracy theorist, and some will start saying things like, "I thought she was smarter than that." But there simply isn't data to support the worldwide push that has been made and is being made for these shots. We have been told to get an unproven shot for a disease with an incredibly high survival rate. Never mind the fact that these are the vaccines we were told not to trust when they were being developed under the leadership of President Trump's administration (10). When we didn't all jump in line and do what we were told, the tactics changed. The government made commercials and pulled in big celebrities to convince us. When that didn't work, they started with the bribes. Companies have been encouraged to give freebies to people who show their vaccination card. The state of Ohio decided to give away five $1,000,000 prizes to adults... and then threw in 5 full-ride college scholarships for teens. We've had the promise of our freedom hung over our heads--we're being told when and where we can go and the conditions we have to meet in order to do so. The President of the United States has now issued an ultimatum to U.S. citizens: "The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours.”

This is not right. This is not American. This is a leap towards a totalitarian government, one that will dictate every aspect of our lives if we let it. This is, to put it quite simply, a power grab. It is a group of elitist "experts" telling the little man what to do while they live their lives in their ivory towers as if the rules don't apply to them. And they haven't--not since the start of this mess over a year ago when we were told that we needed to shut everything down for 2 weeks to flatten the curve. Those very same people who were condemning those of us who chose not to wear a mask at all times? They weren't wearing them unless the cameras were rolling (9). Now, if I choose not to receive what is in every sense of the term an experimental vaccine, I'm called just about every name in the book.

1984 Quotes By George Orwell 

Here's where the confusion comes in for some people. I'm not getting this shot. I don't think there is enough data to back up the need. I don't think taking something when there is not even a hint of what the long-term effects might be is a good idea. I don't want my kids to get this shot. I don't feel it is right to bet their futures on something so untested when they have a minuscule risk of getting sick. Honestly, because of our jobs and exposure to people who have tested positive at some point or another, I imagine my family has dealt with this virus already without even realizing it.

I also think each individual has the right to make that decision on their own. If you have done your research, weighed the risks and benefits, and decided to get the shot, that is your right. I'm not going to stop you. That doesn't change the fact that I'm worried about my friends and family who have chosen the shot. If you ask me, I'll give you my thoughts and opinions. I will present the evidence I've come across, the concerns from doctors (11, 12) I will not, however, try to force you into a decision. That's the great thing about being an American. Well at least, it always has been. If we let Big Government take over and start making our decisions for us, we'll lose the right to self-determination for good.

If America becomes a totalitarian, socialist state, there won't be anywhere else to turn.

 ****

(1) https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Provisional-COVID-19-Death-Counts-by-Sex-Age-and-S/9bhg-hcku/data

(2) https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#demographics 

(3) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-00789-5#Sec10

(4) https://adc.bmj.com/content/105/7/618

(5) https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2021/02/11/Study-Children-less-likely-to-catch-spread-COVID-19/9871613068455/

(6) https://www.history.com/news/swine-flu-rush-vaccine-election-year-1976

(7) https://www.tldrpharmacy.com/content/absolute-risk-reduction

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996517/

 (9) https://www.breitbart.com/clips/2020/10/07/fncs-carlson-on-democrat-mask-hypocrisy-this-isnt-science-this-is-medieval-superstition/

 (10) https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/harrris-vaccine-i-would-not-trust-donald-trump-n1239422

 (11) https://scivisionpub.com/pdfs/covid19-rna-based-vaccines-and-the-risk-of-prion-disease-1503.pdf

(12) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-risks-of-rushing-a-covid-19-vaccine/

 


Thursday, April 15, 2021

thankful

 

I'm thankful that home for my family is down a rough dirt road that doesn't get a lot of traffic. I know there are people who would never dream of living out in the middle of nowhere, but when I see the craziness of this world I can see the blessing of being surrounded by fields, trees, hills, and animals.


I'm glad that my kids play in the dirt and feed livestock and haul rocks and build fence.

No photo description available.

Don't get me wrong--they spend way too much time in front of screens, too. But they wander in the woods and splash through mud puddles and climb trees and catch snakes.

 
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To some extent, they are shielded from the horrors of this world. Our family is tucked away, hidden in the beauty of the hills. We can step outside and hear the water rushing over the rocks in the spring when rain is common.

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We can pick honeysuckle, rose petals, persimmons, chicory, wild onions, sassafras, blackberries, and chamomile.

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We listen to the bullfrogs, coyotes, and owls at night. We can gaze up at the night sky and try to count the stars or look out over the field and try to count the lightning bugs. We collect eggs each morning while counting the days until the goose hatches her brood.

No photo description available. 

 I'm thankful for a place where time seems to move just a little bit slower, even though at the same time it feels like there's never enough hours in the day. And I'm most thankful for the people I share it with.

May be an image of 4 people, child, people standing and text

 

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Equality or equity?

 "Equity, not equality" has become a bit of a war-cry lately. You see it and hear it everywhere--in researching for this post, I even found somebody relating it to the story in 1 Kings when King Solomon was faced with a decision between two women who were each claiming the same baby to be hers.

I bet you don't have to think too long before you know what conclusion they reached, because right now all we hear is how things should be equitable, not equal.

I've got to admit, it sounds good. I mean, how wonderful would it be if we could ensure that everyone's life turns out spectacularly? That each individual is successful--you know, happy, healthy, and wealthy? It would bring about that elusive utopia, right? We would all happily get along and love each other and everything would be all hunky-dory.

The problem is, in a fallen world a utopia simply isn't possible--and that's exactly what the current definition of "equity" would require. Granted, the way equity is being used today really doesn't fit with what it has always meant, but that's an Orwellian 1984-ish thing that has been happening a lot lately... so I'll use equity the way people are using the idea now. In that sense of the word, King Solomon only had one choice that would have truly been equitable--he should have gone ahead and split the baby in two. After all, that would have ensured that both women got the same outcome, right?

The United States wasn't--and shouldn't have been--founded on equity. The foundation on which our great country was built is summed up in one simple sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We are equal because our Creator made us that way. Since the Creator made us to be equal and granted us certain rights, the government doesn't have the authority to try to regulate either. The U.S. government doesn't "grant" us our rights and doesn't determine our "worth" as citizens--those things come only from God. So the question then becomes, what is the Creator's sense of equality? Here's a great place to start: "For there is no partiality with God." (Romans 2:11)

And we'll go from there to this:

"Still the Eternal remains and will reign forever;
    He has taken His place on His throne for judgment.
So He will judge the world rightly.

    He shall execute that judgment equally on all people."
(Psalm 9:7-8)

The word that is translated as "equally" by The Voice is translated as "equity" in the NIV. The Hebrew word is "meyshar," which means "evenness" or "straightness." And perhaps most importantly in this situation, it's talking about how God judges. Since that's the case, let's go back to Romans 2 and look at the verses that come before verse 11:

"But because your heart is obstinate and shameless, you’re storing up wrath that will count against you. On the day of His choosing, God’s wrath and judgment will be unleashed to make things right. As it goes, everyone will receive what his actions in life have cultivated. Whoever has labored diligently and patiently to do what is right—seeking glory, honor, and immortality—God will grant him endless joy in life eternal. But selfish individuals who make trouble, resist the truth, or sell out to wickedness will meet a very different fatethey will find fury and indignation as the fruit of living in the wrongSuffering and pain await everyone whose life is marked by evil living (first for the Jew, and next for the non-Jew). But if you do what is right, you will receive glory, admiration, and peace (again, first for the Jew, then for the non-Jew). God has no favorites." (Romans 2:5-11)

When Paul wrote of God being impartial, he was talking about impartiality in judgment. He said that God holds everyone to the same standards, regardless of background. That's a whole different thing than people are talking about when they say "equity" today. In today's society, we're constantly being told that we should make sure everyone has the same outcome regardless of background. The problem with that? Outcomes are--and should be--based on merit.

Think back to school and those group projects that teachers were so fond of having you do. I'm sure there was at least once that someone in your group didn't pull their own weight and everybody else had to pick up the slack. At the end of it all, when all 4 of you got the A that only 3 of you worked for, didn't it rub you the wrong way? You knew deep down in your core that only 3 of you deserved that grade; there was something inherently wrong with the person who didn't do the work getting an A on the project.

Uh oh, that makes me guilty of believing in another offensive idea: meritocracy. It's become a dirty word in most circles, with many people even coming out to say that the idea goes against Christianity. Why, then, did Paul tell the Thessalonians, "This is exactly why, while with you, we commanded you: 'Anyone not willing to work shouldn’t get to eat!' You see, we are hearing that some folks in the community are out of step with our teaching; they are idle, not working, but really busy doing nothing—and yet still expect to be fed! If this is you or someone else in the community, we insist and urge you in the Lord Jesus the Anointed that you go to work quietly, earn your keep, put food on your own table, and supply your own necessities."(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) The Scriptures are filled with the concept of people getting what they deserve. In fact, it's at the root of our need for salvation.

A just, righteous God who judges fairly--or equitably, to use the popular word--must by the very definition of those words give each of us what we deserve. And that's something that's made very plain as well: "The payoff for a life of sin is death," going back to Romans (6:23). What the Voice translates as "payoff" is something more commonly translated as "wages," but in either case the meaning is the same. We sin, and the righteous justice of a perfect God requires that we receive death as what we deserve for those sins. If we weren't deserving of death for our sins, we would have no need of a Savior. As it stands, we need someone to step in for us, to be the intercessor between us and the Judge. And because of the righteousness of the Judge, that Savior has to be perfect--which excludes any earthly form of government from the role.

So why is equality of opportunity so much more essential than equity of outcome, especially in society? That boils down to the fallen nature of people. If left to our own devices, most of us would much rather be lazy than productive. Most of us would much rather have things given to us than to have to work for them. That's the whole reason socialism doesn't work. The only way you can assure equity of outcome is if you take from the group that works and give it to the group that doesn't work.

That doesn't mean that we are excused from taking care of those who honestly can't take care of themselves--that's a task that has been given to God's people since the very beginning, and sadly it's something we've fallen woefully short on for almost as long. God has admonished His people for centuries for not taking care of the helpless. That, though, falls in line with equality, not equity.

Equality says we are all given the same chance to work; equity says we all get the same reward, even if we choose not to work. Equality says all people are treated the same under the law; equity says some groups get special treatment solely as a result of being part of that group... thereby legalizing--and often demanding--discrimination. When you give a certain group special favor, that's the very definition of partiality. And remember this verse?
"For there is no partiality with God."

 


scales - Wiktionary

 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Does the resurrection matter?

Easter is coming.

Those words have come to mean a lot of different things. In recent years, they've mostly just come to mean that people will get together to let kids hunt for eggs stuffed with candy. Many will step through the doors of a church building, the only other time besides Christmas that they get dressed up and make an appearance, usually with a big family dinner afterward. It means pictures with chicks, bunnies, and tulips to send to the relatives--a celebration of spring more than anything else.

I read an editorial the other day that talked about how the "true" meaning of Easter was reawakening and "spiritual and moral transformation." Then today I saw a comment on social media about how Jesus was just a man, but a man who died believing it would save the souls of the entire world, so that made him a man worth following and emulating. So is that the case? Is this weekend about simply the death of a good man who thought he was dying for the world, a man with some sort of mental disorder that made him truly think he would be brought back to life? Is it a time for us to think about the ways we need to transform our lives, the ways we need to "reawaken"? Do we really have to believe that Jesus physically, actually, completely died, or can we go along with the idea that it can all be taken as figurative language, because the example Jesus set for us is what matters?

"And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God,
because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ,
whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."
1 Corinthians 15:14-19

Paul didn't mince words. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then our faith is something to be pitied. If the resurrection was just some sort of farce, then He wasn't the Messiah promised to Israel. If Jesus stayed in the tomb, then nothing else He did mattered because it meant He was just some sort of lunatic who really shouldn't be emulated. If we worship a Savior who died on a cross and then stayed dead, then our faith is worthless.

On the other hand, a Savior who had the power to step down off of the cross but chose to hang there, mocked and ridiculed, suffocating unless He held himself up by the spikes driven through His feet--that Savior who was then dead and buried, but raised to eternal life and a glorified body?

A Savior who sacrificed Himself for the very people who crucified Him, who prayed for them and used His final breath to point them toward the One True God?

A Savior who promised that He was preparing a place for all those who believe, who wants to spend eternity with us?

A Savior who walked out of the tomb is a Savior worth following.

Children's Sermons Today: Christ is Risen!


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Don Lemon's god?

"I respect people's right to believe in whatever they want to believe in their God. But if you believe something that hurts another person, or does not give someone the same rights or freedoms, not necessarily under the Constitution because this is under God, I think that this is wrong, and I think that the Catholic Church and many other churches really need to re-examine themselves and their teachings. Because that is not what God is about. God is not about hindering people or even judging people."~Don Lemon

These words were spoken close to two weeks ago, and I've been struggling with what to say in response for a while now. Not because I think Don Lemon will ever read my words, but because this is an idea that has become more and more prevalent--sometimes even from the pulpit.

We were talking last week at church that it seems like people look to extremes when they try to picture God. They either see God as this horrible, vindictive tyrant ready to throw lightning bolts at anyone who has too much fun... or, as Don Lemon seems to do, they see God as a jovial, rosy-cheeked grandfather type who lets all the "little ones" get away with everything, no matter what.

As Pop pointed out, Satan loves getting us to think in extremes. Because if you start seeing God at either end of that spectrum, you aren't going to see Him as He really is. And if you don't have a true picture of who He is, it becomes really easy to think you don't actually have any use for His laws or His love... or Him.

It is absolutely true that God is love. I think John 3:16&17, the verses that so many people learned before any other, is profound theologically because it points out just how much God loves us:

"For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten
Son,

that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world
to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved."

The God who created us, the God who spoke time into existence, loved us so much that He sent His only Son as a sacrifice, His death paying the price for our sins and in exchange giving us life if we simply believe in Him. Jesus came to save us, not to condemn us.

Too often, though, we stop there. When Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus, that wasn't the end of the conversation:

“He who believes in Him is not condemned;
but he who does not believe is condemned already,
because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And this is the condemnation,
that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil.
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.

But he who does the truth comes to the light,
that his deeds may be clearly seen,
that they have been
done in God.”

 While it is true that in Christ there is no condemnation, there is a caveat: we have to believe in Him. We have to, as the writer of Hebrews said, "believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) We have to believe that we are sinners who are totally unworthy when left to our own devices, but the One True God loves us enough to save us from the sins that wreck our lives.

The flip side of that is, those who do not choose to believe are already condemned. It's not a matter of God "sending people to Hell," but rather a matter of people choosing their commitment to their old ways instead of changing their lives to fit God's way. In either case, we've been promised that we will all stand before the throne and be judged by God one day, and that His day of judgement is something to be feared.

I know when I've done something wrong. To be honest, I usually know in the moment when I'm doing something wrong, though I often choose to keep doing whatever it is that I know I shouldn't be doing. And as long as nobody finds out about it I'm good, right? That's how we tend to think, anyway. Like Jesus said, when we are doing things we shouldn't be doing we love the darkness--because that way our deeds can stay a secret. As long as there isn't light to expose our actions, we can convince ourselves that they aren't really all that bad.

The idea of coming to the light should be terrifying then. At least, that's what human logic says. It tells us that if the writer of Romans was right and all of us "have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (3:23), if all of us have been doing bad things in the darkness, we should be afraid of having all those things exposed.

An amazing thing happens when we come to the Light, though. John told us,

"His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,

    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched."
(John 1:4-5, Voice)

You see, we don't have to be afraid of our deeds being exposed when we step into the light because we have been given the awesome opportunity to know the Light.

"Because There is one God and one Mediator between God and us—
the man Jesus, God’s Anointed,
Who gave His life as a ransom for all so that we might have freedom."
(1 Timothy 2:5)


 I have to say, Don Lemon's god is not my God. The Eternal God, the One who spoke the universe into existence and created light out of darkness--He says He is a jealous God.

"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
but a certain fearful expectation of judgment,
and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy

on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose,
will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot,
counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing,
and insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord.
And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
(Hebrews 10:26-31)

The Eternal God demands perfection from His people. At the same time, though, He created us and knows we are nothing more than dust. In His great and unfailing love for His creation, He sacrificed His Son--the Light that came into the world He created--so that when we stepped into that light, He would see nothing of our past and dark deeds.

We will all face judgement, a day when every thought, word, and deed will be exposed, and we will all be declared guilty. What happens next, though, depends fully on whether or not each one of us chose to walk away from the darkness into eternal life in the Light.

wild faith

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