Thursday, February 15

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Are you familiar with the term "Drinking the Kool-Aid"?  It means blindly believing and obeying something that is foolish and wrong.  We recently saw a documentary on the People's Temple cult.  It was a socialist cult led by Jim Jones in the 1970's that ended when 909 members, 304 of them
children, committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid poisoned with cyanide.  Now, it appears to be true that some of the parents forced their children to drink, and others may have been forced by men with guns obeying Jim Jones orders.  However, the majority it seems, drank the Kool-Aid of their own free will.  Were those people Martyrs?  No.  Not in the strict sense.  They were not put to death because others found their beliefs to be abhorrent.  They committed suicide, or were murdered, and yes it was a result of their beliefs, but they were not martyrs.

A martyr is: someone who is murdered because someone else objects to them believing what they believe, and objects strong enough to kill them over it.  It is important to distinguish this from others who die because of their actions, such as the hijackers on 911.  They were not martyrs, they took their own lives while murdering others.

In John 21, Jesus speaking to Peter says "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God."
And in 2 Timothy 4 Paul says "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
History records that Peter and Paul were both martyred for their faith in Christ.  So how did they die?  Not really sure.  In works such as The Acts of Peter [end of 2nd century]
that the Apostles [except for John] we find some stories about their death, but there is doubt over whether the accounts are historical or metaphorical, but really, the exact method of their deaths is not all that relevant.  Oh, I guess it may be inspiring if Peter refused to be crucified right side up and was instead crucified upside down because he wasn't worthy to die like his Savior [and it is fair to note that there are historical accounts of people being crucified upside down] but the particularly heinous nature of his death [read sometime of the heinous death of Sir William Wallace] really doesn't tell us a lot about the truth of what he believed.

Of interest in this post is that the truth of Christianity is often argued from the martyrdom of the Apostles.  The argument goes like this:  The Apostles all died for their faith, so we can know from that it is true."  Is that a convincing argument to you?  It is often tempting to quote an argument we've heard that we don't really understand, and although occasionally you can win a point that way, it is most common that you cannot.  This argument for instance.  In response, skeptics reply, “Although not common, it is not unheard of for people to die for religious beliefs today, just as the 911 terrorists did. Just because someone is willing to die for a belief, doesn’t make that belief true.” 

What do you think about that?  Should we accept the deaths of the 911 attackers as evidence that
Islam is true?  No?  What about the followers of Jim Jones? No?  Why not?  They were really committed to their belief system weren't they?  Are you so committed to your beliefs that you would willingly sacrifice your life in such a dramatic fashion?  Maybe, maybe not, but I really believe that is the wrong question.  A better question is not "how committed were they", but "Does dying for a belief mean that belief is true?"  Nah, I don't buy it either.

 So why even talk about the martyrdom of the Apostles?  Is there anything we can learn from their deaths?  Yes!  Absolutely!  I submit to you that the horrific deaths of the Apostles as they were murdered for believing Jesus rose from the dead, is not proof that Jesus did rise, but it is proof that these men themselves did believe he rose.  They believed they saw and talked to the risen Son of God.

"Okay, so they really believed it, what does that matter?" you ask.  Their belief goes to integrity which DOES inform us about the veracity of their eyewitness testimony.  You see, if a man tells you he loves his wife more than anyone or anything in the world, and then, at some point she is kidnapped and he can save her life for $10,000, but he says "$10,000, are you kidding me?" and lets her die, that makes his declaration of love suspect.

Back to the Apostles.  They died proclaiming that they truly saw the risen Christ.  They wrote about what they saw, they followed what they taught, all their lives, it truly was a matter worth dying for to them.  This is unlike other witnesses.  The Three Witnesses to the book of Mormon for instance.  All 3 of them, at some later point repudiated Mormonism.  Not what you'd expect from men who are witnesses to the truth of the founding of a true religion is it?

You see, the proper benefit we gain from learning of the martyrdom of the Apostles is that these eyewitnesses didn't just talk the talk, they walked the walk, and if they had been imposters, lying about Jesus, it is unreasonable to believe that they would all be willing to live a life of suffering and finally die all on account of that lie.

Thursday, February 8

God could convince me...

Recently I saw a video where Frank Turek was answering questions on the Ohio State University campus.  Most of the questioners were believers, but there was this one guy, Javier who wasn't.  He jousted with Dr. Turek, and artfully evaded questions and arguments offered, however it was a good natured exchange.  One question he asked Dr. Turek though has stuck with me and I want to consider it with you today.

As I understood the exchange, and in my words, he argued that God, if he is God, would know exactly what type of evidence it would take to convince Javier that He [God] exists, so it is futile for him to seriously consider this 'unconvincing evidence' that was being presented, but instead it was incumbent on this 'God' to present sufficiently convincing evidence to convert him.

What do you think about that?  At least part of his point holds doesn't it?  I buy that since God is God, He knows and is capable of presenting evidence that would convince an honest skeptic right?  Oh, wait, did you catch that?  An honest skeptic.  Now I can't judge the heart of anyone, much less someone like Javier that I've just seen on a YouTube clip, however the question he artfully evaded was "If Christianity were true, would you be a Christian?"  Not exactly a hardball.  He argued [among other things] "Well, that depends on what you mean by truth...blah, blah, blah".  Anyone who is honest can be almost brain-dead and answer a "If this is true, would you accept it" question, but for some reason Javier couldn't bring himself to say "Yes, if Christianity is true, I will be a Christian".  Really?  If there really is a heaven and a hell, Jesus truly was resurrected, I will die and actually face Jehovah, standing before the Judgment seat of Christ and be eternally rewarded or condemned based on my response to this...and I can't bring myself to say, yes, if all that's true I'll follow Jesus?

That brings up my thought about Javier's question.  What kind of evidence would it take to convince Javier [or some other skeptic like him]?  He asked for direct evidence from God that he cannot reject.  But think about that request...there is a fundamental flaw in the request.  Unrejectable  evidence would remove the key human aspect of Christianity, faith. 
Consider the irony, he is using his free will to argue that, if there is a God, he should present evidence so undeniable that I will have no option than to accept it.  But if evidence is that strong, there is no point to free will, no need for faith, it is undeniable.  So his argument amounts to "If God wants me to believe in Him, he needs to remove my freedom to refuse to believe in Him."  Do you see the irony?

What I really think is that even if God presented undeniable evidence to someone who doesn't want to believe, they will still reject Him.  Doubt that?  Think about this.  Did Satan have undeniable evidence of God?  Oh yes.  Is there any doubt in Satan or his minions about God?  None.  But do they follow God?  No.  Why?  You'd think, if God is God He could give the devil sufficient evidence to convince them to follow Him, yes?  You see, the problem isn't with the evidence, the problem is with the heart of the one weighing the evidence.

A few years ago a young man approached me at church with questions [presumably from 'friends'] about the Christian faith.  Turns out he is a skeptic, just not 'sure' God exists.  Presenting it as though it is something noble, he tells me that he doesn't want to believe until/unless he's 100% sure that God is real and Jesus is His son.  Okay, that sounds noble, but it's really not.  What he is doing instead is believing that there [probably] isn't a God, even though he isn't 100% sure of that either.  He's just choosing to believe one less than sure option while rejecting another less that sure option because he "can't be sure".

Arguments like Javier's, on the surface have real appeal, but when you step back and think them through, they are just another smoke screen from someone who doesn't want to believe.

Thursday, February 1

It was a God thing

It was a God thing, and I know it because I...
  • Got tickets to a sold out play...
  • Won $500 to pay my bills from a Radio Station...
  • Found cancer at an early stage, by accident...
  • Saw a photo that was so amazing, it just touched my heart...

In modern American Christendom, I hear things like this all the time.  Pulling into the mall and
getting a good parking spot brings out a chorus of "Oh, there is a great spot! Go God!!!"  My question in today's post is simple: are these really "God things?" Does God reach down here and sweep someone out of a parking spot near the door because He loves you so much?

Don't go running for cover right now, I'm not denying or downplaying God's amazing love [Romans 5:8-10] in any way, it is Amazing! And I do believe it's wonderful to thank Him for all blessings, so just hear me out on this.  On the one hand, I agree that there is a sense in which we can attribute all these things to God.  Scripture teaches us that He "gives us richly all things to enjoy" [1 Timothy 6:17] and "every good and perfect gift is from above" [James 1:17].  Yes, it is appropriate to praise God when you score a touchdown or to thank God that He created you with the ability to experience emotion.

However, that grand overarching "everything good comes from God" isn't the sense I'm concerned about in this post, and it's not what's meant when one gets a selfish desire fulfilled and yells "Go God!".  You see, the same scriptures that teach us to give thanks to God in all things, [1 Thessalonians 5:18] also tell us He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust [Matthew 5:45].  Normal blessings of life are for everyone, not just those who believe in Him.  Since that's true, a radio station contest, or a game winning touchdown may be blessings given to Christians, or they may be given to those who don't serve God at all.

The other side of that coin deals with our attitude of praise.  Do you praise God when you're tackled on the 1 yard line causing you to lose the game and ending your season?  Do you thank God that he created you with emotion when you're so frustrated and angry your hands shake and you 'can't see straight'?  "Oh, well, I praise Him when I win, but sometimes forget to when I lose."  Interesting...

There is a sense, all too common among Christian folk, that God is specifically, minutely and personally orchestrating every experience I have to coddle me, clear obstacles and generally make me have a problem free life.  The mindset is often that "God loves me so much, he wants me to have a good parking place at the mall."  And that argument goes something like this: "Don't you love your kids enough to give them the good parking place?  Don't you think God loves His children as much as we love our children?"  Yes, I would, and yes I do, however, because I really love them a bunch, I would give them not just a good place, but the best place wouldn't you?
The problems with this should be obvious.  First, sometimes I go to the mall and have to park half a mile away.  What message about God's love does that give me?  Does God, for some reason not love me so much today?  "Oh no", you say, "He knows I need the exercise."  Great, so did you say "Go God!" when you got that far away space?  And what about the days when you get a close spot at the mall, but later have to walk the parking lot at Walmart?  Did you need exercise at 10am, but not at noon?  This may seem petty, or even a bit unappreciative to some of you, and please know that I
mean no disrespect to God at all in this, what I do mean is let's think carefully with the minds God gave us.  I am perfectly aware that if you want to believe He is orchestrating parking places and touchdowns like Bobby Fischer at a chess board then you can explain away every instance I could raise, but this isn't my only problem with this mindset.

Measuring God's love by things like sports or conveniences doesn't make good biblical sense.  Jesus Christ did not live a hassle-free, trouble free life, and we know God loved Him.  None of the apostles lived a 'charmed life', in fact, all of them but one were murdered for their faith. God Himself warns us that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" [2 Timothy 3:12]

Another problem is that very often when people say these things, as I dig a little deeper, I find out that the "sold out play"

that they got tickets to was filled with profanity and immorality.  Or the 'bills I'm gonna pay' with that $500 are my cable bill with the HBO/Showtime package, where my kids are going to learn about sex in graphic detail at 2am, and a ticket I got for speeding while texting in a school zone.  Do we really think God is in the business of blessing us by specifically, minutely, and personally removing obstacles to and funding our immorality and bad choices?

The final problem I want to mention, which plays directly to the issue of faith is this.  If God loves you so much He will open up the best parking space at the mall for you, what do you say, how do you process it, what coping mechanism do you break out when you get cancer? 
Does God not love you anymore?  You just told me He gives you touchdowns and good parking places because He loves you and those who love their kids give them good things.  Remember?  you'd give your kid the good parking space...?  So, would you give your kid cancer?  No.  Would you cure them if you could?  Of course you would.  I've seen it over and over, people who believe [without any biblical evidence] that God walks along moving pebbles from their path, when they are faced with a boulder feel abandoned by God, and that becomes justification for abandoning God.

I want you to consider this question because your life will get hard sometimes, and when it does, if you've lived in the fairy tale world of "health, wealth and prosperity" thinking it is so because you
have found favor in God's eyes, you will be overwhelmingly tempted to turn on Him for abandoning you,when that hasn't happened at all. He didn't abandon Esther in her time of trouble, or David, or Sarah, or Deborah, or Abraham, or Daniel, or Mary, or Paul, or Job...and he won't abandon you.  Quit judging your life by circumstantial blessings, and judge it by the relationship you genuinely have with God and Jesus Christ His son.

Thursday, January 25

Let me tell you a story...

Let me tell you a story...

There was a a good, honest man named Job who lived in the country of Uz. He respected God and refused to do evil, he hated evil. Job had a large family with seven sons and three daughters. He was very wealthy.  In a day when wealth was counted in livestock, he owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 1000 oxen, and 500 female donkeys and he had many servants. In fact, he was the richest man in the east.
Job’s family loved one another, they were very close and his sons took turns having dinner parties in their homes, and they invited their sisters. But Job was also very wise, and knowing the frivolity of youth, the day after each of these parties, he got up early in the morning, sent for his children, and offered a burnt offering for each of them. He thought, “Maybe my children were careless and sinned against God at their party.” Job did this because he respected God and loved his children and was very concerned that they would be forgiven of their sins.

What Job did not know...
The day came when God was holding court with the angels in heaven, and even Satan was there with them.  God asked Satan, “Where have you been?”  and he answered, “I have been roaming around the earth, going from place to place.”

So God asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a good, faithful man. He respects me and refuses to do evil.”

Satan answered Him, “Of course Job respects you.  You always protect him, his family, and everything he has. You have blessed him and made him successful. He is so wealthy that his herds and flocks are all over the country.  But if you were to destroy everything he has, I promise you that he would curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “All right, do whatever you want with anything that he has, but don’t hurt Job himself.”

Job still doesn't know, but his life is about to get painful...
 One day while Job’s sons and daughters were having a party at the oldest brother’s
house. A messenger came to Job and said, “We were plowing the fields with the oxen and the donkeys were eating grass nearby,  when some Sabeans attacked us and took your animals! They killed the other servants. I am the only one who escaped to come and tell you the news!”

 That messenger was still speaking when another one came in and said, “A bolt of lightning struck your sheep and servants and burned them up. I am the only one who escaped to come and tell you the news!”

That messenger was still speaking when another one came in and said, “The Chaldeans sent out three raiding parties that attacked us and took the camels! They killed the other servants. I am the only one who escaped to come and tell you the news!”

That messenger was still speaking when another one came in and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house.  A strong wind suddenly came in from across the desert and blew the house down. It fell on your sons and daughters, and they are all dead. I am the only one who escaped to come and tell you the news!”

When Job heard this, he got up, tore his clothes, and shaved his head to show his sadness. Then he fell to the ground to bow down before God and said,
“When I was born into this world,   I was naked and had nothing.  When I die and leave this world,
 I will be naked and have nothing. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Praise the name of the Lord!”

Even after all this, Job did not sin. He did not accuse God of doing anything wrong.
About the story...
You may have had some bad days, but you've never had a day like this [neither have I], but you do have bad days right?  How do you handle that?  Are you sad?  Do you blame God?

"Even after all this, Job did not sin. He did not accuse God of doing anything wrong."

When life is hard and it hurts, that's not evidence that God isn't there, or even that He doesn't care.  Worship Him.  Trust Him.  Serve Him.

Thursday, November 30

Wind, Roots and Stress Wood

"these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.  And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away." - Mark 4:16-17

There is a lot of talk about sending people to Mars these days.  NASA has a plan, Richard Branson has a plan, Elon Musk has a plan, even Amazon owner Jeff Bezos has a plan.  One aspect of something like this is 'contingency planning', in other words, what if something goes wrong.  For instance, what will we do if an astronaut is inadvertently left on Mars?  Intriguing question, enough so that someone made a movie about it.  No spoilers here, but this guy wakes up to find he's been left on Mars by his crew and spends the next year or so trying to survive while NASA tries to save him.

Interestingly, this kind of problem has been worked on for decades now.  In 1985 Space Biosphere Ventures began construction on  Biosphere 2 [Earth is Biosphere 1].  No expense was spared, meticulous research was done.  The perfect atmosphere, the perfect species of trees, food crops, insects and animals were identified.  They designed this artificial world [built in Oracle, Arizona] to mimic ideal conditions for life.  September 26, 1991, eight 'crew' entered the Biosphere to live in this completely man made world for two years.  And life worked.  The corral reproduced in the small ocean, they grew rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, cowpea beans and trees.  Many things worked exactly as planned, although many didn't [all pollinating insects died, they were over-run by cockroaches and ants, oxygen levels had to be externally supplemented, etc.]  They learned a lot of things, but maybe the weirdest of all were the trees.  They grew extremely well in the beginning, but at a certain point, they would just fall over.  No one knew why.  Eventually, they discovered one thing [of the many] they had not accounted for in the biosphere was wind.  Seemingly trees need wind to develop strong roots and 'stress wood' [also called reaction wood].  This stress wood gives trees the ability to stand up against natural stresses like gravity, storms, etc. and evidently, it develops in reaction to wind.

Now, I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.  I was reminded recently that as high as 75% of young people who grow up in Christian homes abandon their faith when they get to college.  Like the trees, they grow, but then collapse.  As a high school student in a Christian school, you've likely spent most of your life in a spiritual biosphere.  People [parents, grandparents, pastors, etc.] teach you about Jesus.  They are kind, tenderhearted and forgiving.  They discipline and admonish you, but you face very little that challenges your faith, very little that could be considered contrary 'wind'.  That's great in that you can grow unhindered, tall and gracious in your walk with God, but then, you go to college, or get a job in a secular workplace and BAM, stress hits.  People are not kind, not forgiving, immoral, unbelieving, antagonistic toward Christianity.  You find out that you, too, are not always kind, forgiving, or moral, and you begin to doubt.

So, what to do?  Should we attack one another's faith?  Refuse to go to college or get jobs anywhere but Chick-fil-a or Hobby Lobby?  I've got a couple of suggestions.

First, talk to people about your faith.  When you do, you will run
into resistance, even when it's in a "Private Christian School".  Don't be afraid to engage others about Jesus.  Will someone ask you questions you can't answer?  You bet.  Will you fall on your face, embarrass yourself, look like a fool?  Probably, I know I have.  Will you walk away, knowing you 'blew it' only to later realize "I should've said..."?  Absolutely.  Do it now, while you've got a place you can get back into [home, church, etc.] where the storm isn't raging.

Second, build on a solid foundation.  Jesus said the wise man builds on a rock, the fool on
the sand. [Matthew 7:24-27].  So what is a foundation?  Apologetics? no.  Theology? no.  Jesus said it was "hearing these sayings of mine and doing them".  BE what you proclaim.  If you think people they should read/study the Bible, then read & study the Bible.  If you believe people should refuse to "look on a woman to lust after her", then refuse to look on a woman to lust after her.  It almost seems too simple to say, but DO WHAT JESUS TOLD YOU TO DO.  Jesus was clear, storms will come, but if you are doing what Jesus said, you will be standing on a rock and you will survive.

Third, take a lesson from the mighty Redwood Trees.  Now, it makes sense to me that the taller the tree, the deeper the roots would need to be for it to stand in a storm, but actually, unlike a Pecan tree, a Redwood tree does not have a tap root [that is a central root that goes very deep into the soil], In fact, most of its roots are only 5-6 feet deep which doesn't seem like much when your talking about a tree over 300 feet tall.  This is odd, because Redwood trees are the tallest trees on earth.  Their secret is that these roots are loooooong.  They can be as long as 100 feet, and their great
strength comes from the fact that these long roots intertwine with roots from other redwoods, even fusing at times.  That gives them great strength and stability as they are, in effect, all holding each other up.  We are the same way.  A strong foundation is critical, but it is not sufficient.  You must remain connected to fellow Christians, people with like faith, people who will hold you up when the storm comes, and you can't do that by quitting [or slacking on] church while you're in college, by taking a job that makes it impossible for you to engage in daily life with fellow Christians, by filling your social calendar with the faithless.  David warned of this:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. - Psalm 1:1-2
So are you like the rocky land in the parable, who grew ewll initially, when conditions were good, but "When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away"  or do you plan to stand strong when you face adversity?  What are you doing to prepare for the storm?  Prepare to have root in yourself by these three things: 1) expose yourself to some wind, 2) do what Jesus tells you to do, and 3) build close relationships with people who can/will help & mentor you through the storms you will inevitably face.

Wednesday, November 8

What I learned from David Blaine

I don't know if you are familiar with David Blaine or not, he is a magician, seems to be a pretty weird dude in some ways. Not just normal sleight of hand magic, but Houdini type showmanship. He does stuff like:
  • spent a week buried in a plexiglass coffin [no food, just water] under a clear tank full of water so people could look down and see him
  • stood on a 100 ft. tall, 22 inch diameter tower for 36 hours,
  • spent 63 hours encased in a transparent block of ice
Anyway, I watched a documentary on him and one of his stunts was to live in a glass box, suspended by a crane next to the Thames River in London, fasting, for 44 days. In the interview, he talks about doing absolutely nothing for 44 days, not even eating. He said that [paraphrased] your values change, what you value changes, your priorities are re-arranged. That wasn't too surprising, however, what he said next I found very thought provoking. He said that as soon as he was out of that box, his values and priorities began to revert to what they had been before, and now, he finds it very difficult to even remember what his thoughts were during that time, so much so that he is thankful he wrote them down.

Anyway, I thought that was interesting, and wanted to share it with you. I think sometimes we [I] get this unrealistic fantasy of what it is like to live in that 'other dimension'. To make the jump to never-never land, where I'm all spiritual all the time, my priorities are right all the time...but it just hasn't happened yet. Oh, there have been times, times of acute personal failure, or intense times of prayer and fasting where I see more as I am seen, but those times just don't seem to last very long for me.

Probably the most consistent time I have like that is weekly communion, where I spend a few minutes in honest, no-holds-barred self-examination in the light of the sacrifice of Christ. [Sidenote: If you only commune at Easter, Christmas, or maybe quarterly, you are missing such a powerful time of weekly connection with Christ...I know the argument, but arguments aside, no it doesn't get 'old' or 'routine' to me any more than it gets old to swap sincere I love you's with my wife...but I digress...]

To me it is similar to bouncing on a trampoline and seeing into a neighbor's yard each time I bounce up, but then having the view blocked by the privacy fence each time I come down. It looks like the people there are always having fun, in a beautiful yard...why can't we be like that, no weeds, no arguments, no selfish passive - aggressive comments, no stress.  Unfortunately, I don't live at the apex of the bounce, I live on the ground.  The ground where I see the weeds, the tools that weren't put up, the playhouse that needs the door repaired, the limbs that were trimmed but somehow haven't made it into the trailer, the bricks left over from the garden infinitum.

It would be nice to live at the apex of the bounce, but reality isn't like that.  That is only a temporary, even momentary, transient state.  In fact, it might even be viewed as an imaginary state.  Not that the bounce doesn't happen, and not that what we see isn't real, but that everything we imagine about the bounce view isn't accurate.

I really try, sometimes more than others, but most of the time, I really do try to live on that higher plane.  I guess I like trampolines more than some, but try as I might, it is just that for me, a spiritual trampoline.  I see me as I might be, as I could be, as I aspire to be, and during those times it's almost like I have a new set of eyes, a new light shines on old things. But then, just like David Blaine leaving the box, I land back down here were I live and those glimpses of something greater begin to fade.

If there was ever anyone whom I believe to have lived on that ethereal plane it was the Apostle Paul. And do you know what he said about this subject? Listen up...

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Phil.3:12-14

He was not discouraged by those moments and their fade, he understood that those glimpses were what we are living to attain.  Paul always was "reaching forward to those things which are ahead", and how did he say he did that?

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. - 1 Cor.9:27
Paul was so committed/convinced that he once said "Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel".  Interestingly, when Paul gave his testimony, what he always told was about the time he met Christ.  He didn't spend a lot of time talking about his own life, not that he never mentioned it (See Romans 7 where he talks in detail about the same thing I speak of in this post), however, when he told his testimony to unbelievers, it was all about Jesus, when they met, what Christ told him, why he was given mercy.  What do you talk to unbelievers about?  Do you ever share your testimony?  It's really powerful you know...and just as it's powerful for people to hear how you met and chose to follow Christ, it's helpful to fellow Christians for you not to pretend you get it right all the time, that you never doubt, that you never slack, but that you always get back up and head toward finish line.

So what about you?  Are you "pressing on the upward way"?

Wednesday, October 18

Let's argue about morality

"When a wealthy Beverly Hills couple was murdered in cold blood while watching TV in their living room, America was shocked... but it was only the beginning of the tragic story. When it was revealed that the culprits were their two beloved sons, a media circus and national obsession were born. This eight-episode drama series explores the dark secrets and untold revelations about the family, the murder and the real-life trial that captured the country's imagination for nearly a decade. After all, everyone knows who did it, but one question still remains... why."

Above is the TV series teaser for one of the most popular shows on today.  The story of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who brutally killed their parents. The evidence is plain, they committed the murders; no one denies it. So, why does their guilt produce so much debate? Edie Falco, who plays defense attorney Leslie Abramson, in commenting on the case said
“She took the unpopular position that these people that she is representing — on some level, regardless of what they are accused of — are human ... People don’t like to live in that grey area. There are good people and bad people, and I think she was trying to let people imagine that maybe you don’t always know which is which all the time.”

Defense Attorney Abramson argued passionately that these young men endured a horrific childhood of abuse, and because of that, the murder was done from a kind of insanity that excuses them from first-degree murder charges. What has my interest in this post though, is that BOTH sides argued the same basic premise: evil was committed. 

The prosecution, using a common sense approach, said the brutal murder committed was evil, the defense appealing to the empathy of a society [and jury] that detests child abuse, said basically [my paraphrase] yes, it was evil, but what was done
to them was evil to the degree that it drove them to commit their evil.

This was not a matter of arbitrary human laws, "he didn't have a current insurance card with him" type of thing, it was much deeper than that. It was a clear matter of “right and wrong” [or I might even say "wrong and wrong"] — a sense that is universal and distinctive to humanity.

In every culture, on every continent and island, people recognize that some things are wrong.  And although they may differ on what they prohibit, every society condemns something as wrong/evil.  This point has been well understood and written about by others, for instance C.S. Lewis wrote:
"Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired". 
This is not just an academic matter either.  Everyone, including you and me, believe something is wrong.  We are imprinted with this moral sense that we did not create, it just is, and it is in all of us. Interestingly to our thought, there very fact that we would/could argue over morality proves that morality exists, that it isn't just some theoretical construct, because everyone, and I mean EVERYONE believes something is immoral.  An adulterer doesn't want you committing adultery with his wife, even a head-hunter doesn't want his head hunted.

There is no satisfactory materialistic, or biological explanation for it — Morality just doesn't come from random chemical reactions. But it comes from, where does it come from?  If nothing exists but energy and matter, how do you explain this moral sense that we all have?  Animals don't have it, plants don't have it, chemicals don't have it, rocks and water don't have it, only humans... Once again, I am struck with the sense that the most reasonable explanation is that of a personal God who created humans in His own image, giving us moral sensitivity.  Do you believe what the Menendez boys did to their parents was evil?  Do you believe what their parents allegedly did to them was evil?  You do?  Why?