Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building a Sanitized Barrier Around Ourselves

There are those individuals who are born with a bad immune system and are forced to live their lives in a bubble for protection. But if we all tried to live in bubbles to avoid somehow contracting any disease, it would be destructive of normal human relations. However, we Christians can try to enclose ourselves and our children in a kind of spiritual bubble to avoid any influence from the outside world. Now we are not to love the world and its way of thinking (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1,2; Colossians 2:8). We are also to avoid too casually putting ourselves in the way of temptation (1 Corinthians 3:17,18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). But the  avoidance of things God graciously provides for us is not the solution for escaping sin (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:3,4; Titus 1:15). Further, we are to reach out to those who need to know Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Luke 15:1-9; Matthew 9:10-13). We cannot follow the ways of the world without caution and not expect to find ourselves gradually conformed to them. But the solution is not to enclose ourselves in a bubble.

Now there is a place for being innocent of evil (Romans 16:19; Ephesians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:33). But we are also to know how to confront and deal with evil (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 2:11; Ephesians 5:13-15). This is a difficult tightrope to walk, and it is more difficult with children, who do need a degree of protection from the evil of the world until they are old enough to deal with it intelligently. But trying to maintain a life of pristine protection from everything wrong in the world results in indignation at everything  that does not seem to fit your standards. It results in overreacting to things like the Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter. Now there is a place for appropriately rebuking wrong (2 Timothy 2:23-26; Galatians 6:1; 1 Peter 3:15), but we should not be surprised if the world is hostile to us (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:12). Much less should we construe things in the worst possible way (Proverbs 25:8-10; James 1:19; 1 Corinthians 13:7). And in the final analysis, it is not possible to protect ourselves from every outside influence. By trying to, we can end up weakening our spiritual immune system for dealing with such things. There is a danger of overexposure, especially if there is no balancing exposure to spiritual things. But some measured exposure to how the world thinks is necessary (even for children beyond a certain age) if we are going to avoid being bowled over by it when we seriously encounter it. And if we are to reach out to those around us,  we need to be able to communicate with them where they are.We do not need Christians who are hiding in a bubble, but strong Christians who can take their faith out on the open road.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Deep Interpretation

Why is it important to avoid reading things into the Scripture that are not there? What steps can we take to avoid this?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Being His Hands and Feet

Old Erich Proverb: Organization is a good servant but a bad master.

I would like on this my 500th post to look at some of the things I have said about the church, which is the body of Christ, and on how to behave within that church (1 Timothy 3:15).

1. The church is Christ's body and consists of different parts that are brought together to accomplish His purposes (On Being the Body, Understanding Christ's Bride What Is the Church?

2. The unity of the church does not result from agreement on every teaching or from some broad vague inclusion, but from agreement on the basics (Basis of Unity, Breaking Out of the Circle, Superficial Unity)

3. While the church is to be organized, it is not primarily an organization, and it is not possible to solve all the problems of the church simply by rearranging the organization (A Preoccupation with Clothes, Reconstructing the Maze, Rearranging the Deck Chairs)

4. The authority of the church is not passed on mechanically, but is based on the faith of the members. (Who Is in Charge?, Binding and Loosing, Who Has Received the Authority?)

5. The validity of the sacraments is not based on the theory of them or on who administers them, but on the faith of the recipients. (The Badge of the Christian, Sign and Seal, Who Has the Authority)

6. There are various appropriate ways to worship God, and freedom should be allowed within broad boundaries. (The Fight Over the Celebration, The Worship War,   Spirit and Truth)

7. It is sometimes hard to get along within the context of the church, but we need by God's power to work to overcome our differences. (Sharks, The Dark Side of Community, In Search of the Perfect Relationship)

Living together within the context of the Christian church, whether local or universal, is not always an easy endeavor, but we need to promote the unity God calls us to (Philippians 2:1-11).

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Voice from The Past - Charles Hodge

The true way to have our faith strengthened is not to consider the difficulties in the way of the thing promised, but the character and resources of God who has made the promise.

Charles Hodge, 1797-1878. Epistle to the Romans, Chapter IV, Remarks: 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1972, p. 130)

How do we go about doing this? What things can aid us in focusing on who God is?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Knowing God

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

What does it mean to know God? What does it mean to know any person?  I like to think I know my wife. Now you could know a considerable amount about her by launching an FBI investigation and finding out facts about her.  But you would not know my wife.  On the other hand, if you asked me questions about my wife and I could not answer any of them, you would wonder if I really knew my wife.  It is not enough just to know the facts about God; the demons do that (James 2:19).  But we cannot really know God without knowing about God (Jeremiah 9:23,24).  Knowing God, therefore, refers to knowledge gained in relationship.  Now the only way to genuinely know God is to come through Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8-11), who paid the price for our sins (1 Peter 2:24,25) and offers salvation based on faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9).  But we are called from there to increase in the knowledge of Him (Colossians 1:10). This involves an increase in the factual knowledge of God in the context of relationship and leads to, not just knowledge, but obedience (1 John 4:6,7).  It is this kind of knowledge, both factual and experiential, that we are to grow in.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bypassing the Mind

There is a tendency today to minimize the part of the mind in evangelism. It is thought the best thing is to appeal to the emotions and avoid the intellectual altogether. Now there is a danger in putting too much emphasis on the intellectual (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1:18-25; 3:18-20). But Scripture calls for the allegiance of all of us, including the mind (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). Now this requires more than just intellectual knowledge (James 1:22-25; Romans 2:17-24; Matthew 5:19). But that does not mean we can dispense with knowledge altogether (Jeremiah 9:23,24; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 1:17,18). Also, Scripture uses arguments that appeal to our understanding (Romans 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Isaiah 46:9,10). And it gives examples of such arguments (Acts 17:22-31; 14:15-17; Matthew 4:12-16). Christianity is based on the historical event of God invading history (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). Now this requires a response that goes beyond the intellectual, but it is still a necessary foundation.

No argument can convince anyone unless the Spirit of God works in their heart (John 6:44; Acts 16:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5). But neither can any experience convince anyone unless the Spirit is working. However, we are commanded to proclaim God's truth so that the Spirit might use it to accomplish His purposes (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14,15). Now I do not want to minimize the need to live a life that backs up our witness (Matthew 5:13-16; 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:1,2), one characterized by love (John 13:34.35; 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:10). Nor do I want to minimize the need to deal with people in a loving way (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:6). But we need with that a reasoned proclamation.

Why is this important? It has been my experience that God can use various different gifts to lead different people to Christ. Now I do not want to limit God; I am sure He can accomplish His will even if we refuse to use all the resources He has given us. But I do believe we are required to use those resources. Further, there are various kinds of false teachings which can produce an experience. It is hard to reach those who hold them unless we challenge them on another level. Also, if we use only one avenue of approach it is easier to make false converts, If we use only the intellectual, we can end up with converts who only know information but have not acted on it. If we use only experience, we can get people who have an emotional experience but no substance. If we use only the relational, we can produce converts who have a relationship with us but never fully embrace the truth of God. Also, if we leave out the intellectual, we can end up with a truncated faith that does not embrace all of life. We do not want to be people who have God relegated to one corner of our lives rather than ruling all of it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Touch of Humor - The Secret

Is there a secret to spirituality? How is genuine spirituality obtained?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Broadness

There are few as prejudiced as the broadminded man--against all less broadminded than himself.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Matthew Henry

A good man, wherever he goes, carries his Bible along with him, if not in his hands, yet in his head and in his heart.

Matthew Henry, 1662-1714, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalm 119:98-100; I,1 (Hendrickson Publishers, 1991, p.922)

How can we go about doing this. What things will help us accomplish it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Separation of Church and State

Do you believe in the separation of church and state? Perhaps you should read the small print before you answer yes or no. There are various issues involved.

During its infancy Christianity was persecuted and advocated tolerance. When Constantine the Great stopped the persecution, Christians continued to advocate toleration. But while paganism was still tolerated under Constantine, there was a strong incentive to adopt a nominal belief in Christianity. Christianity later allowed itself to become the state religion and, despite protests and conflicts of conscience, began to use governmental force to suppress dissent.

As Christianity became powerful it was important for the state to control it and the appointment of its leaders. In extreme cases  rulers put their relatives or supporters in positions of authority in the church, often despite their being uneducated and immoral. The result was a church that was worldly and corrupt. In the midst of the Middle Ages there arose a movement to correct this. They tried to make the church independent of the state and ended up claiming the church should rule the state. Ultimately, they became as worldly and corrupt as the government officials they sought to replace. The result was the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation resulted in many different approaches. There were cases where the church was put back under control of the government. Others continued to support state churches, but worked for substantial independence from government control. Some said Christians were not allowed to hold governmental offices or be involved in the government in any way. Others opposed a state church and the imposition of beliefs by force, but did not advocate Christian non-involvement in government.  From this view the present United States government position descends. But it was an experiment with room for disagreement as to how it should be carried out in practice. Now there is a tendency for those from a secular viewpoint to advocate the total exclusion of anything Christian from influencing the government or being involved at all in public life. The question is why any Christian should be willing to accept this. It seems to be predicated on the idea that our beliefs are evil and need to be controlled.

Adjusting the rival claims of church and state is complicated, and I question if there will be a perfect solution until Christ returns. But there are some conclusions I would draw. The state running the church is a bad idea. The church running the state is a bad idea. Any group, whether religious or secular, imposing their beliefs on others by force or excluding other beliefs from the political arena is a bad idea. Resolving the remaining conflicting issues can be difficult, but  respect and consideration for the other person's convictions go a long way. History has shown us that refusal to try to reconcile the differences and find ways to live together in peace can have tragic results on all sides.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God Works in Mysterious Ways

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Understanding and following God's leading in our life is not always easy.  And one thing I have learned the hard way is God does not always tell me what I want to know when I want to know it.  I have walked into a room and felt a spirit of dissension and prayed against it.  Only to see the people there end up at loggerheads with one another.  And I was later told by one of the people involved that on the day I walked into that room, nothing had happened yet.  But on other occasions I have been totally blindsided by things I had not a clue were going to happen.  And there were other cases that I still cannot make heads or tails of, where I felt God was leading me to do something and still do not know why He had me do it.  Elisha was a prophet (a title I would not at all claim), but we are told God did not always let him know what was going to happen (2 Kings 4:27). Why should I expect anything different?

But it is at times like these that I fall back on the fact that God is in control of the world and in control of my life (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10).  Still, I do not think God ever tells us everything, because He wants us to trust in Him and not in the knowledge He gives us (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 1 Corinthians 3:18).  If we think everything is on our own shoulders, we will falter.  But if we trust in God, He will bring us through.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two Kinds of Masquerades

Ofttimes people approach spirituality by putting on some kind of mask. While there are many types of masks in the world, there are two that tend to stand out. One is the mask of self-control. This says that the important thing is to control all our impulses. We need to be strong and unmoved by either problems or temptations that come our way. This attempts to deal with life by becoming hard and impervious against all assaults. This person can often be gloomy and hard to be around. It becomes hard to have close friends because you are afraid of letting your guard down.

The opposite mask is the mask of joy. This seems initially more attractive, but is as much a trap as the first. This says that to be spiritual we need to be cheerful all the time. So we fake a kind of continuous happiness we do not really have. We can become afraid that people might somehow learn we have down times. And we can desperately go from experience to experience, looking for a way produce within ourselves the feelings we are convinced we should have. And inside we can be anything but the image we are trying to project to the world. And it becomes hard to have close friends because you are afraid they will find you out.

To find the right approach, we need to start by understanding we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6; Romans 4:4,5). As a result, God is at work in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29), but it is a process that takes place over the whole of a Christian's life (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 12:1,2). While we cannot opt out of growing in Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15), we should be careful of judging ourselves or others, because we have not arrived yet (Romans 8:33,34; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). Now I want to be careful in speaking of authenticity. There are those who would make it an excuse to follow every impulse and not squelch any desire. It can even become another kind of mask, where I have to strive to be perfectly authentic. But I do believe that the gospel allows me to be honest with myself and others about my struggles and failures. Now self-control (Acts 24:25; Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6) and joy (Philippians 4:4; Romans 14:17; 1 Peter 1:8) have a part in the Christian life. But they are together expressions of the more basic principle of love for God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). This, in turn, is a response to the love which God has for us (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:6-8; Luke 7:36-50). But we grow over time in response to that love and do not have to put on a mask to pretend we have arrived (Matthew 11:28-30).

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Biblical Theology

Should we try to support every decision we make from Scripture? How do we make such distinctions?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Moneychangers

Ofttimes I think we need a scourge of cords to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Luther

If he that is above is pleased, what can the world do to me? And I lump them all together: the wise, the powerful, and the hypocrites. It is our confidence, no matter how much the world may boast, that God has qualified us to be ministers, and, secondly, that it is not only pleasing to the heart of God but also that we shall not preach in vain and that this ministry will lift to heaven some few who receive the Word.

Martin Luther, 1483-1546, Sermon on the Twelfth Sunday After Trinity, 1531 (Luther's Works, Volume 51, Sermons I, Helmut T. Lehmann, edited and translated by John W, Doberstein, Muhlenberg Press, 1959, p. 223)

Is this the correct attitude? What are the implications, one way or the other?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Understanding Christ's Bride

What is the church? The Greek word for church means assembly. (It has also been translated "called out ones," based on the root meaning. I question that this is the basic meaning of the word, but God does sometimes use plays on words.) More specifically, it is identified as the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:23-32; Colossians 1:18-24). We are pictured as relating to Christ as parts of a body, each different and all working and growing together (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:4-16). Now we are placed in this body by the baptism through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13: Colossians 2:10-15; Galatians 3:26-28). This baptism applies to all who have put on Christ, which we do through faith in Him (Philippians 3:7-14; Ephesians 2:8-13, 2 Timothy 1:9). (It is not my purpose here to deal of the relation of this with the physical ordinance of baptism, though the two are connected; however, going through any ordinance without faith accomplishes nothing (Romans 4:9-12; 2:25-29; Jeremiah 4:4.)  But the church and baptism through the Spirit are spoken of in the gospels as yet future (Matthew 16:18; Mark 1:8; Acts 1:4,5). While people in the Old Testament were indeed saved by faith in Christ (Romans 4:1-8; Galatians 3:6-14; Hebrews 11:13-16), they were saved in anticipation of a redemption not yet accomplished (Romans 3:23-26; Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4), and that explains the distinction here.

Therefore, the church is not the leadership, although they are a gift from God to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12; Acts 20:28; Colossians 2:19). The church is not an organization, though it is commanded to be organized (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:40; Acts 14:23). It is Christ's body, His hands and feet to accomplish His work in the world. While there are local gatherings in different places (1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 16:5; Galatians 1:22), there is no basis for identifying it with our modern denominational divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21-23; Philippians 2:1,2). Now the church is called to stand for God's truth (1 Timothy 3:15,16; 2 Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4:14), but I do not believe this is the exclusive possession of one denomination, though some may deny that truth. Further, the authority of the church to do God's work does not come from historic continuity, but faith in Christ (John 1:12; Matthew 16:13-20; 18:15-20; 28:18-20). Now Israel is a distinguishable entity, being those through whom the Messiah was to come (Romans 9:4,5; Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16), but it is not totally distinct (Romans 11:16-24; 4:13-16; Galatians 3:14). While the church unites together people of many types (Galatians 3:28,29; Colossians 3:11; Ephesians 2:11-22), this does not negate temporal distinctions between men and women (Ephesians 5:22-33) or as regards the Jewish people (Romans 11:25-32). Therefore, we should be careful of identifying the church with any organization or transferring things to it from any other entity. For it is the assembly of Christ's people to act as His body to accomplish His work in the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To Those in Authority

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

We are told to be subject to those in authority over us in the church (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13; 1 Timothy 5:17). But it also says that those who are in charge should not lord it over others but be servants (1 Peter 5:1-4; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:3-11). But too often the leadership of the church can be seen as salesmen set in place to meet the congregations' needs, and the leadership can see the congregation as subordinates to carry out their programs. They can end up seeing each other as hired hands. But we need to see that Christ is the one who is really in charge of His church (Colossians 1:18; 2:19; Matthew 16:18). And it is only as we see ourselves in relation to Him that we can find the right balance in terms of human leadership. Then we can be subject, though not mindlessly subject, to authority, recognizing the higher authority. And we can avoid being more concerned about upholding our authority than what is right.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Pursuit

Some see God as someone who is off somewhere, detached, observing us and encouraging us from afar. He sits in an ivory tower unperturbed by our woes, which is a goal we should endeavor to attain to. This is not the God of Christianity. The Scripture says that God left the comforts of glory to become a human being and walk among us and die a criminal's death to rescue us from the repercussions of our disobedience to Him (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18; John 1:1-18).  Why did God do this? He did it to show us what God is like (John 1:18; 14:8-11; Hebrews 1:1-3) and to be our example of how we should live (Philippians 2:5; Ephesians 5:1,2; 1 Corinthians 11:1). He did it that we might understand that He sympathizes with us in the things we go through (Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16; Matthew 26:38-46). But ultimately it was necessary to identify with us that He might save us (Hebrews 2:14-17; Romans 8:3,4; Colossians 2:9-15) by dying in our place (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 9:13-28; 1 Peter 2:24,25). For without the cross, Christ's example only condemns us (Romans 7:14-18; 3:9-20; Galatians 5:17. But the cross sets us free to see Him as He is and follow His example (Galatians 5:13; Romans 6:11-14; Titus 2:11-14).

Now this feat could not be accomplished by anyone less than God, for only God could bear the full penalty for sin. And those who deny the deity of Christ virtually always reduce the value of His death. Nor could some lesser being truly show us what God is, except as a reflection. Also, while it is not a strict logical answer to the problem of evil, it  nonetheless makes a difference if we recognize that God has joined us in suffering the consequences of evil so that He might deliver us from it. It forever destroys the idea of an ivory tower God. If God had only needed to deliver a message, He need not have come Himself. But He came to abolish sin and death. When we were lost and in danger and could do nothing to save ourselves, He came looking for us (Luke 19:10; 15:1-10; Romans 5:6-8). A great moral teacher could have corrected some of the details of our morality, but we still would not be able to keep his precepts. A prophet could have given us a new message, but it would just have been a clarification of the old message of the prophets, which people had already failed to live up to. What we needed was a Savior, and that is what God came down off His throne to become.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Touch of Humor - The Competition

Can we spend too much time competing with other Christian churches? What should be our attitude toward this?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Patriot

He is a true patriot who does not work to make his country unchanging, but to improve it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Chesterton

My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house in Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness is a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.

G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, Orthodoxy, The Flag of the World (Dover Publications, 2004, p. 59)

Is this the right approach to the world? Why or why not? How would it affect how we live?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Widget Company

 Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

(I do not normally feel comfortable with likening the Christian church to a business, but sometimes the analogy works.)

The Widget Company got together a sales task to determine why they were losing market share and what to do about.

"What we need is more advertising," stated one eager young executive, "A high quality ad campaign will help us immensely."

"And we must appeal to felt needs," said another, "We must convince people that having a widget will save their marriage, further their career, and improve their sex lives."

"We should redo the decor of our stores," said an older member, "We want something quiet and conservative, that conjures up a feel of reliability. All our salesmen should wear suits and ties and our saleswomen nice dresses, and they should behave in a reserved manner. The music should be quiet and soothing."

"Not at all," said a younger member, "People today are interested in friendliness. and openness.  We need casual clothes, upbeat music, and a decor to match."

"We should serve refreshments," gushed a lady from mid-management, "and have greeters at the door. We should make everyone who comes in feel they are part of one big happy family."

"We should be always be celebrating something new and having special events," said a young man newly hired from another company. "We should continually have new lines and new sales. Celebrate all the holidays and invent other special themes to capture people's attention."

The office boy stood up trembling, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, fearful to inject his foolish question. "Excuse me," the office boy stammered, "what's a widget?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Screwtapian Democracy

There is a common distortion of the idea of democracy that is dangerous to us and dangerous to democracy. C. S. Lewis describes it in his short article, Screwtape Proposes a Toast. Lewis characterizes it as the spirit of "I'm as good as you." The idea is that to be different, especially to be different in a way that might be construed as being better, is undemocratic. Now much has happened since Lewis' day, but I am convinced this concept is still around. We celebrate diversity, but often diversity means a superficial difference between things that are basically the same underneath. Any real difference, especially one that might imply I am right and other people are wrong, is discouraged. Also we try to be different, but we are different in the same way. We want to be what is "in" or "cool."

This can affect Christians in various forms. It can make them afraid of being fanatical. Now the problem here is, there really are bad kinds of fanaticism. But this fear of being fanatical can end up supporting Christian mediocrity and discourage seriously living for God. How then do we distinguish the bad types of fanaticism? Bad fanaticism tends to force on people a few key ideas or practices. Underlying this is generally legalism and self-righteousness. We take pride in the fact we think we are pleasing God by pushing our narrow agenda. What we need is not a more moderate faith but a deeper faith: in the cross and in God's grace and forgiveness. 

The Bible, however, pictures the idea of unity in diversity. The church is a body with many members, and all of them different (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10,11). Now Scripture does not directly apply this to the world at large, but we are told of different roles people have in society, and we are given the impression the same principle applies (1 Corinthians 7:17-24; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Titus 2:2-10). I would conclude we are called to use whatever good qualities and abilities we have to excel for God's glory and to encourage others to do the same. Now there are always the questions of better and best and of living a balanced life without over-committing ourselves. But the issue should not be refraining from doing something because it might keep us from fitting in. I do not say we should try to be ourselves, because a certain aspect of ourselves is sinful (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). But we should, within the boundaries of God's commands, work to be the selves God intends us to be. And we should deal with ourselves and others within the context of God's grace and forgiveness (Romans 8:33.34; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5), not try to push them into some mold. Nor should we try to pull everyone down to the same level.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Patriotism

Can Christians press patriotism to an extreme? What is the right perspective?