Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The God of Truth

God is described in Scripture both as being true (John 17:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20) and as speaking truth (John 3:33; Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2). This means that He genuinely exists and that He speaks with honesty. He is also wise (Romans 16:25-27; 11:33-36; Jeremiah 10:12). This is important, because it is not enough just to know things, but to know how to wisely use that knowledge.

This results in certain important questions. Is truth something above, to which God conforms, or is it something God creates? If it is the first, then there is something higher than God, and God is not really the one true God. If the second, then truth becomes arbitrary and has no real basis. The better alternative is seeing truth as God's nature, and that it is neither over Him nor below Him. This means that God is consistent; He makes sense. But it does not mean there are not things about God that are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:9; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 1:19-25). It is from knowing this that we must go into the difficult questions like why there is suffering in the world. These are, of course, not easy to answer, but they must be seen in this context.

It is also based on this that we are able to trust God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 37:3-6; Hebrews 11:6). Our faith rests in the fact that God is true and able to uphold His promises (Philippians 4:19; Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 5:6,7). This does not mean we will have a smooth life, with no problems. Scripture prepares us for exactly the opposite (Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18). And in this context, we need faith to continue to follow Christ. As C. S. Lewis points out, the real enemy of faith is not reason (real intellectual objections need to be met and answered) but feeling and desire. The feeling we get when everything around us seems to be going wrong and we wonder where God is. Or when we find ourselves in a place where it would be easier to do the wrong thing and we need faith in God to avoid it. It is then we need faith in a God who is true and does not lie, even if we do not know what He is doing in our lives. And it is there that faith in God, not as a piece of information but as a person, comes in.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Touch of Humor - A Matter of Difficulty

Can we go through the actions of worship without thinking too much about what we are saying or doing? How can we avoid this?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - Others

God calls to put others first and let Him take care of the issue of our importance.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Irenaeus

And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store.

Irenaeus, 125-202 BC, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter XXVII, 2 (The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Philip Schaff, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001, pp. 808-809)

Is this helpful in understanding God's judgment? In what ways?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Helping the Oppressed and Downtrodden

Scripture teaches the need to help the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden (Matthew 25:31-46; Proverb 21:13; Deuteronomy 15:7,8). Further, there were special provisions made for those in need (Acts 6:1; Romans 15:26,27; 1 Timothy 5:3-16). There was also the having of all things in common, which from the rest of Scripture seems to have been a specific provision for a specific need, but it showed their attitude (Acts 4:34-37). Now this does not contradict the Biblical requirement for a work ethic (Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 6:6-11). We may need to distinguish between those who refuse to and those who are unable to work. I recognize there are those who are unable to work because of their own wrong choices, but God is a God of grace and forgiveness. When possible, we ought to try to help people to a place where they can support themselves. This is a difficult thing to balance, and we may be better off giving through an organization, like a rescue mission, that is experienced in dealing with such situations.

But all this refers to the actions of the church and individuals; what place does the government have in all this? I would say from Scripture that the primary responsibility for helping the poor should not simply be wished off on the government. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7; 8:8; Acts 5:4). I know this is frequently applied to giving to the church (and there is an application there), but the context is helping the poor in Jerusalem. We are called to give based on our available resources, but no exact amount is given (1 Corinthians 16:2; 1 Timothy 6:17,18 , Matthew 6:19-21). And the government is called to punish wrongdoing, and that is hard to do when no specific requirement is given (Romans 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 25:1; Proverbs 20:8). However, there are examples of the law making some provision for those in need (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 14:28,29). But this seems more of a minimal provision than an attempt to meet all the needs of the poor.

Today, however, it is difficult to see who will meet the needs if the government does not do it. It is questionable that the Christian church, in its current divided state, could do it even if it decided to. But I do not think we should conclude this is the government's job and ignore our own responsibility to do what we can to help those in need. In terms of politics, I do not think we should have a knee-jerk reaction of creating a government program to meet every need. Neither can we just be indifferent to those in need. Deciding exactly what to do and what will work and what will create a worse problem than it solves is a matter of practical politics. But we must start out with a willingness to do what is best to help those in need.   

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Missing God's Will

One of the common ideas in Christian circles is that if you do not make exactly the right decisions, it is possible to miss God's best will for your life. This can be an enormous guilt trip. People can go through their whole lives feeling they have missed God's will and are stuck in His second best. Often this is seen as entirely turning on minor sins or even mere errors of judgment. It is often put forth connected to some complicated formula that you have to work exactly right to get the right answer. There is absolutely no basis for this in Scripture. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh and, blatantly and deliberately, went the opposite direction. God sent a storm, and God sent a sea creature, and Jonah went to Nineveh. Paul seems to have followed a complicated path before God made it clear where he was supposed to go (Acts 16:6-10). Scripture says God is in control of our lives, working things together for our good, and does not claim this is based on our figuring out what we are supposed to do (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13). Now I do believe that persisting in blatant sin can have an adverse affect on our life (Galatians 6:7,8; 1 Corinthians 11:29-32; Hebrews 12:4-11). And certainly, it is worthwhile to ask God for wisdom when facing the important decisions of life (James 1:5; 1 Peter 5:6,7; Philippians 4:6,7). But the idea that finding the will of God is like working your way through a complex maze does not stand up to Scriptural examination.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Rustic and the Meal

The was a rustic from the outskirts of the kingdom who came to the big city to see if he could learn how to properly do service for the King. Now he knew, even in his far-off home, that there was a special meal that the King  invited His servants to. But he had seen it done only crudely and was hoping to see it performed correctly in the city. When he arrived there were a number of booths set up, offering the meal, and they were all different.

One booth had an ornate beauty, with candles and incense and stained glass windows. "The thing to remember," said the man in the booth, "is that the King is physically present in the meal. We must recognize Him there in order to receive the benefits of the meal."

The next booth had more of an austere dignity. The man at the booth said, "The King is not physically present in the meal. But He is spiritually present. We must be careful to distinguish this."

The next booth had a more common, ordinary look, like somebody's house. The man there said, "You must ignore the extravagances of those other two. The King is symbolically present in the meal. These other complicated notions are thoroughly unnecessary."

As the rustic walked away scratching his head, a young man without a booth came toward him. "Don't worry your head about it," he said. "We need to do this because the King commanded it, but it isn't that important. What the King really wants is those who serve Him from the heart."

Then walking a short distance away, the rustic lifted up his voice and declared, "What are these things you are fighting about? What the King commands is certainly important. But He says it is to remember and declare what He has done for us. You have taken what is meant as a celebration of His goodness and changed it into a battle over things He said nothing about." Then he turned and walked away.