Saturday, November 1, 2008

Young Warrior

My daughter Claye* has finished another sculpture, model of a fellow student in her clay class. Now he has to dry for a few weeks and then go to the kiln to be baked--hopefully not to explode.
I persuaded her to take a lot of pictures in case he does. The fellow art student who posed for this one really likes that she put him in chain mail, which looks "really cool" and he appreciates lions and includes them in much of his art, so the neck-medallion is a nod to that. Right now, the clay is wet, so the white texture lines stand out. Eventually, they won't. The drying has to happen at just the right intervals--inside and outside taking turns, so, it has to be wrapped in plastic, then paper for several turns until it is dry enough to fire. It could take a long time.

*Well, that's what I call her online.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Man-Centered vs. God-Centered

Just as placing the earth as the center of the universe is offering a skewed view of things, so placing man at the center of our relationship with God is seeing things in a messed-up way.

One of the characteristics of post-modern Christianity is a tendency to elevate man and demote God. No longer is God seen as holy and awe inspiring. Rather, he is a jolly, Santa-like individual or even--in some conversations--a woman cooking pancakes in the kitchen. We are not creatures who have "faith in God", but rather, "He has faith in us." And while this sounds like creative expression stumbling upon a truth, there is nothing in the scripture to support this view. Like every other softening of doctrine, this is simply post-modernism molding around the edges of what was once a fresh slice of bread. God's love for his children becomes an excuse to take his name lightly; Christ's humilty in serving, an occasion for us to make demands upon Him, His willingness to give his life for us, a reason for us to inflate our own importance.

All this leads to an acceptance of our own unrighteousness, a tolerance of sin in our lives, a constant listening to that "little lawyer" who argues: "I'm not so bad. Why change, if God loves me just the way I am?"
A.W. Tozer addresses this attitude in his book, The Pursuit of Man.

At the base of all true Christian experience must lie a sound and sane morality. No joys are valid, no delights legitimate where sin is allowed to live in life or conduct. No transgression of pure righteousness dare excuse itself on the ground of superior religious experience. To seek high emotional states while living in sin is to throw our whole life open to self deception and the judgment of God. "Be ye holy" is not a mere motto to be framed and hung on the wall. It is a serious commandment from the Lord of the whole earth.
This is a warning that should be taken seriously by the Emergent church.

Gonna be a Big Day Here!

We've got lights!
The camera is rolling!
After many hours of practice...
The senior play is today...well the matinee is today!
And while it is just a silly, little comedy about pirates, there is something rewarding about watching students excel. They are amazing--each one holding up lines, each relying on another, and knowing that another is relying on them: If the lights don't go out at the crucial spot, there will be a moment of embarassment for Captain Belvedere, who will walk the plank onto the carpet instead of into the Caribbean; if the cannon doesn't arrive at the right moment...evil Captain Long John will run out of threats and his captors will be frozen on stage; if Roger Goodman forgets the "parrot" line, it will in a small way detract from Belinda's observation that parrots are soooo piratey. Learning to trust and rely on each other, to appreciate the unique gifts of each other--whether they be a gift for accents, a strong, clear, voice, or the ability to give a clever little smirk at the exact right time--these are benefits of class plays. It is worth all the hours I have spent and the days the English teacher has spent putting it all together.

Tomorrow we have several activities planned--In the morning there are all-state tryouts for vocal students, a parade for the band, and junior supper preparation. (for some junior moms and for me; I'll learn how to marinate and grill pork chops, I think) We will start serving the junior supper at five. The senior play starts at 7:30. Make-up! Lights! Pirates!

Sometimes it good to get away from the seriousness of life in these turbulent times...(although if it were real piracy we were talking about...well we won't think about that now will we?)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Three Back

It has been a month since the accident.

Joshua came back first--after a week of absence. He was pale and quiet, but seemed relieved to be around his friends.

Aaron came back a couple of weeks ago, and has been getting around well on his crutches; the smile is back too--although a little hindered by the fact that his jaw is still wired shut.

Today Paul came back to school, in a wheel chair, with an older brother in tow to help him adjust to classes again. He has had the most difficult time, because, while he was in the hospital, another older brother was killed in a car wreck. In fact, he attended the memorial service upon leaving the hospital himself. If you read this, stop and pray for him. It's a heavy load for a kid to carry.

We are still missing our fellow teacher,Patty, but we know that she is progressing well, and the prognosis for her walking again--on her own legs-- is good. In rehab, she is learning to get into a wheelchair, eating normally--all the tubes are out--and catching up with life.
I heard that she was worried that the carmel syrup in the teacher's workroom would run out and I wouldn't have anything to put in my coffee because she knows I don't like the rasberry flavor--just made me want to go hug her.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

But What If...

This post will be a bit longer, but I have to show you how the Emergent church philosophy poses a danger to the Christian Faith. While they profess to love Christ, and while they do stress living like He would want, many emergents also attack His own claims to divinity.

This long quote is from page 026 of Velvet Elvis:

What is tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry's tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being "born of a virgin" also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?

What if that spring was seriously questioned?

Could a person keep jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?

I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more. I'm a part of it and I want to pass it on to the next generation. I believe that God created everything and that Jesus is Lord and that God has plans to restore everything.

First of all, let me say that this is a strange kind of way to affirm anything. First you attack with a superficial, silly argument, then you say ...but what if this time you are presenting a valid argument. Then you make assertions and half-truths about what the scripture means, presenting an oft-quoted argument against the "virgin birth." ...and saying, in effect, so if it was all a lie and God didn't send his Son to earth to redeem mankind, but Jesus was just a man who lied about knowing God so your hope of eternal life is really just wistful thinking, could you still believe? You don't have much faith if you don't."

It's like saying this:

What if tomorrow the doctor came to you with the result of your family's DNA tests and told you that your three children belonged to your wife, but they each had different fathers, none of whom were you, and one of whom was an Italian with a Gypsy ancestor...

but what if as you confront your wife she explains to you that the word "faithful" to her just means full of faith in you, that she still loves you and is so thankful that you allow her to use your name to sign the checks; it has nothing to do with who she sleeps with when you are touring the country, leaving her alone with the Italian chauffeur; the word wife, to her, means that she will inherit half of your estate when you die?

Could you keep jumping? Could you still trust her? Would you still have a good marriage? Or would the whole thing come crashing down?

Don't worry. I affirm the historic institution of marriage--with all its beliefs about words like faithful and true, with whatever shade of meaning the culture has colored them, and I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. Really.

Slippery, slippery arguments--They are more like, accuse, slap, slap---then quickly pull your audience back with: "no, really, I affirm you--with what ever doctrine you happen to believe."
(Notice. He affirms the historic Christian church--with its doctrines--not the doctrines.)

So what does he believe? Really?

Simply this: that "God created everything and that Jesus is Lord and that God has plans to restore everything."

After that it's open. Where is sin, punishment, redemption, forgiveness, resurrection, eternal life? Where is realistic recognition of our depravity, and a hope: the "good news" from the gospel?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Check This Out

So I went online and found this interview.

Supposedly, it's a discussion about his latest book, but it really meanders into other things--on and on for twenty self-congratulatory minutes. All this from a "conversation" that decries consumerism in the traditional church?

Emergent Lesson Number Eight--The Way?

Most Emergent teachers do not believe the traditional teaching of Heaven, arguing that Christ planned for a kingdom which restores all things for the entire world, neither do they declare that Christ is the "only way" to know God. That is a doctrine of "exclusivity", and they wish to embrace everyone and everyone's beliefs. This would seem to be the kindest way for one to live, unless one honestly believes that eternity matters, that sin will be judged, and that Christ's own words declare his salvation as being a unique gift to mankind. You cannot, in fact, read the words of Christ and make them inoffensive to all people. Anytime you draw a line in the sand--an absolute--it necessarily divides.

Therefore, if one claims to love Christ and hail him as the most perfect being who ever lived, yet wants to embrace this doctrine of universalism, he must reinterpret scripture. Rob Bell does this in his book, Velvet Elvis. He says:

"Jesus at one point claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living , perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are."

And while I agree completely with that next-to-last sentence, the rest of the statement is simply false. If you look at the entire verse, instead of the first half, you can see that plainly. Ignoring the context of this verse also lends itself to misinterpretation.

The entire passage is from John 14: 1-6

"Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Thomas said to him: Lord we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?

Jesus said to him: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

You see, He isn't talking about a "way to do things". He is talking about a "road" a "route" a "way"... and in the process, He is being exclusive. With conversation like that, I wonder how Jesus himself can be embraced by those who claim to love him yet disregard His own words about himself.

Testimony or Story

The Bible is full of testimony. It deals with what people saw, with what they know.

Job says: "I know that my redeemer lives, and that He shall stand in the last day upon the earth, and though the skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God."

Paul says: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day."

The blind man, healed by Jesus, and accosted by the Pharisees simply told what he knew: once he was blind; now he could see.

That's testimony--witnessing to the truth. It's what the church is about.

In the Emergent "conversation" however, testimony is uncomfortable--too rigid, too close to assuming an existing truth that is possible to approach or stray from.

They prefer "story".

I like stories, don't get me wrong, but they lend themselves to enlarging, warping, minimizing, or changing the truth; they may supplement, but should never take the place of testimony.

Jesus told stories sometimes, to emphasize a point, but when he was alone with his disciples, he explained them all. . . and he was concerned with truth and testimony. He testified of the Father, and He was constantly saying, of a truth I tell you; The old, "verily, verily," means truthfully, truthfully. It is the truth that He said we would know; that would make us free.

What kind of Atheist are You?

Yesterday evening I read an article by Brian McClaren, an Emergent leader, which made perfect sense to me. Now there, I mused to myself, is an article I can fully agree with. It sounds good.

He discussed the fact that many atheists aren't that at all. They just don't believe in a certain type of God, maybe the God represented by a family member they dislike or a God conception they have known since childhood. He asserts that the key to bringing them into faith or relationship with God, is finding out what God they don't believe in and changing that idea.

I quote:

"So, if you could find a way to believe in God the way some of us do, and not the way your sister does, maybe it would be OK?"

"Wow, that really helps me," he said. A few months later, he did come to a deep faith in God, which continues to grow today. A lot of pastors have learned from similar experiences to ask people, when they say they are atheists, "Tell me about the God you don't believe in." More often than not, we can say, "I don't believe in that kind of God either. I can't blame you for being an atheist if that's the understanding of God that you're rejecting."

Of course, many people are more "orthodox" atheists of the naturalistic sort, refusing to believe in anything beyond physics and mathematics. But according to the Pew data, there are a significant number out there who at first seem to be simply illogical by claiming both atheism and belief in some sort of deity ... but with further conversation, it turns out they have an interesting spiritual story full of unresolved tensions, and that story isn't finished yet. Which is true of us all.

This morning, however, I awoke with a cautionary thought: We need to be careful that we don't tailor God to fit what people like, so they will believe in Him. God is revealed in the scripture as a God of both mercy and judgment. People like the mercy part; they don't want to accept the judgment. If we tell them "God is just a happy, free-spirited, dancing, best friend who doesn't really care how you live as long as you are reaching your full potential, believing in yourself, thinking good thoughts, and loving your neighbor." we are giving them a tailor made god, but where is truth in that? Man has always made his own gods...some pleasant to serve, some terrible. Our job is to help man find the real God, not make one he can't possibly find offensive.