What an impact a true Christian can be.
Vodpod videos no longer available. “How much do you have to hate sombody to NOT proselytize?”
December 20, 2008
July 16, 2008
I recently noticed that the popular NBC TV show, Heroes, is boasting a new series with the promo “In every hero there could be a villain”. It seems to be centered around the idea that the heroes are also the villains at different times throughout the drama. I think I can relate. But I would argue that in every hero there IS a villain.
I have been a believer in Jesus Christ since I was five years of age. I was dramatically converted from a life of thumb-sucking and temper tantrums, I like to say. In reality, I know I was “born from above,” as John chapter 3 puts it, because of the warfare that has raged in my soul ever since, among other reasons. Recently, I have felt frustrated with some of the ways that I have been tempted and, at times, given in to my old nature, the sinful power in me, the “villain” that opposes everything I want to be for God. I’ve been asking myself alot of questions. Questions like:
Where does my desire to tear down another person in order to build myself up come from?
Why do I worry about the future when I am promised my needs will be cared for forever?
What keeps me from sharing God’s truth to my aquaintances every chance I get?
Why do I care so much about my own comfort?
Why do I fear for my own loss when everything that really matters I already have, and that which I have I can never lose?
Why do I lose my joy? How can I fix my eyes on any earthly situation for more than a moment when I could be gazing (spiritually) into the eyes of my Redeemer?
How can I neglect to truly pray when I know that all that I could ever want is found in the whisper of His name?
Why do I choose to feed my physical thirst and neglect feeding my spiritual thirst when my appetite for the former is never quenched, but the latter springs up unto life eternal?
How is it that I can sin and not shed a single tear when Jesus Christ wept over my sin in the Garden the night before it cost Him His life?
Why do I no longer tremble when I think of how close I came to spending all of forever in eternal damnation and punishment?
How can I forget so easily the agony of that night in the garden or in Pilate’s palace? How is it that Golgotha slips so quickly from my mind?
Why does my anger rise up within me when I am ridiculed – do I not deserve every word against me and more?
How can I choose the evening sitcom over bedside prayers with my children?
How can I allow images of women other than my wife to linger in my mind?
What causes me to desire to deceive or withhold information in order to be praised by my peers or obtain a larger paycheck?
Why do I choose to stay in bed some mornings when I could be exploring the riches of the Holy Scriptures?
Why do I quickly question and want to rebel in my heart against any and all authority set over me regardless of who it is?
How do I fall in love so quickly with anything and everything that tickles my fancy when it displaces my first love for my Savior?
Why do I fail to be content when I already have everything that is good for me?
These are just a few of the questions that lately have plagued my mind. I want to do what is right. I want to be holy. I get so tired some times of struggling with my self. I see in me this law that all that I don’t want to do, that I do. And that which I want to do, I don’t do. What a treacherous man I am! Who will rescue me from from this war that rages in my soul? Thank God that I can be free through Jesus Christ, my Lord. So with my mind I am serving this principle of Christ, but with my flesh I am serving this principle of sin. (See Romans 7:22-25 – my own paraphrase)
Once again, my victory over this arch enemy deep within lies in Scripture. Romans chapter 8, verses 5,13, 14, 26 & 32 seems to spell it out.
Verse 5 teaches me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.
Verse 13 teaches me to put to death the actions of the sinful nature (the flesh).
Verse 14 commands me to follow the Spirit.
Verses 26 & 32 prompt me to pray for the victory.
Can it really be that simple? Yes, I think it can be. Has God’s will ever been hard to understand? The difficulty is in obeying these simple commands daily. This battle that I face every day is won by following these four commands. When I keep my mind on spiritual matters (the Word of God) through memorizing, meditating and mentioning (Psalm 119:11 & Joshua 1:8) it consistently, I have obeyed the first command. But I have only begun the battle. When I refuse to obey the desires of my sinful nature, I have gained another part of the victory.
Thirdly, I must follow the Spirit of God. “Follower” is a synonym with “disciple” from which we get the word discipline. We must discipline ourselves to follow the new law of the Spirit. Over 1000 commands are given in the new testament and by God’s grace, we are to follow them. Not as legalists trying to obtain God’s favor, but as children seeking to please Him who has made us accepted in the beloved. But, even this is futile if we fail to follow verses 26 & 32.
It is only when I add quality time before the throne of God, allowing the Spirit to pray through me in groanings that often cannot even be uttered, that I ensure I have done my part and have been victorious. Yes, and I know that I am victorious over this principle of sin because I am more than a conqueror through him that loved me and that predestined me to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:30 & 37)
Praise God for the victory that I have over the villain inside me when I simply trust and obey the truths of His word! And I don’t even need to watch the TV show.
July 16, 2008
Let me start by saying I’ve been called a jackass recently, a certain synonym for the “beast of burden” (AKA: mule, jenny, moke) for saying something similar to this. I’m not complaining. My point of view isn’t always the most comfortable and I’ve been known to stir things up a bit before.
What’s more, maybe the shoe fits, in some ways. Of course, I’m speaking of myself as in comparison to the four-footed animal with large floppy ears – you might have seen it. I agree that I may be like this dull creature in that I will carry my share of a load on my back, if I am beaten long enough. I am as ugly as the brute, my wife will tell you that. And as far as intelligence, there are some striking similarities between myself and the foolish burro. Just today, I was late for an appointment, so did I respond with increased haste, you might ask? Not hardly. I drifted into a daydream while driving down the highway. I missed my turn altogether and progressed from being just a few minutes late to practically absent altogether.
Although I guess I could physically be mistaken for a donkey if I was approached from the wrong angle in dim lighting while tying my shoes, I may be primarily like the animal as it pertains to my lack of knowledge of matters of higher learning, the arts, literature, history, etc. etc. I can perform basic mathematical functions on a calculator and I do know my ABCs. (Although at times my children have caught me singing the alphabet song when searching for papers in my file cabinet.)
So I’m not too smart, not the brightest crayon in the box, a couple of fries short of a happy meal, my elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, whatever … but, from my asinine point of view, I don’t get all this fuss about a “problem of pain”. I was listening to a talk radio show recently and some guy e-mailed in asking where was God when the host of the show had made some unwise choices and created alot of problems for himself. As if God should have stepped in and saved this guys family from financial ruin, divorce, etc. if he was “truly a good God.” I hear it all the time, “If God is a good God then why does he allow so much suffering in the world?” Somehow this question has stumped many people and caused them to become “bitter” against God. The question is asked, “If God could stop evil and pain, being an all-powerful being, how can he allow evil and suffering to exist?” The only two answers these people rationalize to be possible are that either (1) God is not good or (2) God is not all powerful. They say, “How can a good God allow people to suffer?”
My simplistic point of view, for which I am sometimes demonized, would be … What? Are you joking? You’ve got to be joking. This is not a valid question! This is absurd. Its more than absurd. Its completely blasphemous to insinuate that somehow its God’s fault for the pain in the world and that a good, all-powerful God should stop the pain. Pain is a direct and often indirect result of people’s rebellion against God! Did God cause the pain or did we? Of course, God will allow suffering in this world!
Maybe I should put it this way. When did we start thinking that God was on our side? We are the arch enemies of God by our very existence. He created us good and whole but we chose a long time ago to become the people that we are today. We are God’s enemies from birth. He hates what we do and what we have become, as a human race. He loves us because of what He knows we will become when we are recreated in His likeness again, that’s why he has sent his Son, Jesus, to change us, to make us new, holy creations in his image, but I don’t see how there is any reason he should take away our pain! If anything, we should suffer a whole lot more for the evil that is in our souls and our minds. My guess is we will too, as our society rebels against God’s clear commands more and more. Isn’t the whole purpose of suffering to deter further evil and to judge sin. Isn’t this what we asked for? what we deserve?
Yes, I said it, sin. Sin – there it is again. Why do we feel we must use words like “mistake” or “lack of judgement” to cover what we really are? Again, call me whatever you want, I’m sure I deserve it somehow. But aren’t we the ones who brought the curse on ourselves? Aren’t we the sworn enemies of God by nature through the choice of Adam our father some 10,000 years ago? We are the ones who rebelled against him. Not the other way around. Why do we think that he, the Creator of the universe, should allow us to live – much less take away our suffering?
If we got what we deserve … well, there is a reason they call it hell. Thank God there is a way to escape the judgment to come, by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and repenting of our sin. This way we can become new creations and escape what we deserve. If anything we should be thanking God for the times of reprieve from pain and suffering, not questioning how He could still be good in allowing it.
I know I’m not being very sensitive. My comments probably haven’t made anyone “feel” good. And I’m sure the responses I get to this post will make calling me a jackass look like a compliment. But that’s just the way I see it, and I think I’m in pretty good company.
The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (26) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; (27) and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (28) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (29) They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, (30) slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, (31) foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (32) Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
June 6, 2008
Many Christians are unsure of what to think of philosophy. Some believe that it is a volatile mixture of mysticism, humanist psychology, and pagan religion, while yet others believe it to be a discipline that is exclusively practiced by the intellectually elite. None of these ideas are true, however, and the people who hold them would be surprised to know that they practice philosophy, in some sense, every day.
For example, when two men are talking about the moral implications of our nation going to war they are, in fact, philosophizing. When woman dialogues with another concerning the issue of abortion, and seeks to demonstrate that an unborn child has the same right to life as any other individual, then philosophy is being utilized. In fact, many of the topics that we ponder and discuss every day fall into the realm of philosophy.
What is Philosophy?
Giving a clear, concise definition of philosophy is difficult. This is not because that there have been no attempts to define it, but because there have been so many different definitions. So where do we go to find a definition? The meaning of the word itself may give us a clue.
The word “philosophy” is derived from the combination of two Greek words. The word philos means “love” and the word sophia means “wisdom”; when you combine the two, you have the phrase “the love of wisdom”, which is the meaning of the word “philosophy”. So philosophy, at least in the ancient sense, is the love and pursuit of wisdom.
Based upon the etymology of the word and the practice of philosophy – at least from a classical or Christian perspective – we can come to this formal definition: Philosophy is the pursuit of truth and understanding through sound reason. This is, admittedly, a somewhat biased definition; but all definitions of philosophy are ultimately biased in some form or another.
The Value of Philosophy
You may still be wondering what value the study of philosophy holds for the CHristian. Allow me to point out a few benefits that the study of philosophy grants:
(1) It Cultivates Good Judgment
Individuals who are familiar with philosophical argument are less likely to be deceived by rhetoric or propaganda. They will look beyond ad hominem attacks and empty emotional appeals and be able to see to the crux of the argument. This is crucial for the modern day Christian in that it allows us to reason with individuals instead of falling for every rhetorical smokescreen that is set before us.
(2) It Aids in Our Understanding of Culture and Society
Philosophical principles help us to understand the intellectual forces that are driving our culture. Rather than seeing the ‘fruit’ of fads and trends, we will see the ‘root’ of a worldview that is giving credence to the culture. The study of philosophy will teach us that ideas do, indeed, have far reaching consequences.
(3) It Aids in the Systemization of Knowledge
Another benefit of philosophy is that it allows us to organize and systematize our beliefs. Philosophical analysis gives us the tools necessary to formulate rational arguments for what we believe. Also, it is impossible to do a Systematic Theology without employing philosophy.
Without any doubt, philosophy can be an extremely useful tool for the Christian, and is necessary for apologetics. It is important to remember that all truth is God’s truth. He is the Author of truth, and truth is an essential property of His Being. Since philosophy is the pursuit of truth, the Christian philosopher is in the best position to philosophize, for he knows the one who claimed himself as “the way, the truth, and the life”.
The Three Levels of Philosophy
Philosophy can be practiced and communicated on three levels:
Level One- Analytic Level
This level of philosophy deals with rigorous logical analysis, and is concerned with constructing analytic arguments that follow from strict logical inference. The classical proofs of God’s existence are set forth in this level of philosophy, as well as such issues as the nature of truth and morality.
The key word to remember in in regards to this level is “logic”; that is, beliefs and opinions are examined in light of the rules of reason. If an idea breaks down on this fundamental level and proves itself to be illogical or incoherent, then there is no more need for discussion on the matter: the idea is erroneous.
The benefits of philosophy on this level come from the fact in that it deals with solid and objective rules of thinking. It appeals to fact and not emotion or opinion. Every theory, belief, or idea should be able to stand on this first level of philosophy.
However, there are negative aspects to this level when it is employed exclusively. A debate on the theoretical level often becomes a contest of intellect, pitting one mind against another. Sometimes the facts are blurred because of the ability of some brilliant intellect or charismatic communicator to manipulate the debate in his own favor. To put it frankly, there have been intellectual giants who were and are Christians, and there have been intellectual giants who were and are non-Christians. If an idea or belief is only treated on level one, then everything boils down to a battle of the brains and a satisfactory conclusion may never be reached.
Level Two- Existential Level
The second level of philosophy is not communicated by theorems and proofs, but is carried out in the avenue of the Arts. Novels, poetry, painting, music, and many other methods of artistic expression can communicate ideas in an incredibly powerful manner. This level is concerned with illustrating philosophical ideas in the artistic expression of the existential struggles and questions that all men must deal with.
The Scottish politician, Andrew Fletcher, once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation; I do not care who writes its laws.” This statement by Fletcher shows enormous insight! The most influential philosophers of our day are not just the distinguished professors of great universities, but the individuals who maintain the print, television, and music industry. Although these individuals may not be giving lectures on hard philosophical facts, they are carrying their philosophies through the medium of the arts. The worldview of an individual will always be communicated in the art which they produce, whether it is fiction, drama, music, or any other creative work. C. S. Lewis realized the implications of this fact when he said:
We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite is taken for granted…We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.[i]
An evaluation of the existential level demonstrates that is a highly effective means of communicating ideas. Whereas many individuals will never pick up a work by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, or Alvin Plantinga, nearly everyone reads novels, goes to the movies, or listens to some type of music.
On the other hand, if one uses the existential level alone, he is bound to fall into error. The danger of isolating the existential level from the other levels of philosophy is that it leads to subjectivism (the idea that truth is whatever you believe it to be). The existential level must be grounded upon the analytical level to prevent this slide into subjectivism.
Level Three- Prescriptive Level
The third and final level of philosophy that we will deal with is the Prescriptive Level of philosophy. This level deals with the applicative nature of a certain philosophical system. This is the level that says, “How does this affect my life?”
This level deals with how we should live. It takes the information of the previous two levels and translates into reality. It is demonstrated in the parent instructing the child on what he should or should not do, or in the minister who sets forth moral standards for his congregation. We are constantly engaged in the prescriptive level day in conversations on the sidewalk or in our own living rooms concerning the far-reaching moral and ethical issues that we encounter each and every day.
This level of philosophy is important because any idea is meaningless if it can’t be applied to reality. It is on this level that the seemingly abstract arguments of the first level and the personal expression of the second level touch reality.
Again, there are dangers in using this level alone as well. If the child comes to her father and says, “Dad, we were taught in school today that there are no moral absolutes. What do you think about that?” If the father is not careful he will simply jump straight to the prescriptive level and began spouting Scriptural proof texts against the error. The problem, however, is that the teacher does not believe the Bible and the classroom milieu does not regard it as authoritative. In essence, the child is not asking her father what he believes about the issue, but why he believes what he does about the issue. If you forego the first two levels, then you are only left with application, which is very subjective and weak without a foundation.
It is important that we learn to operate on every level if we really want to communicate our worldview. Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, has wonderfully set forth the meaning and function of these levels of philosophy in this portion of his article, “Living an Apologetic Life”.
Level one concerns logic, level two is based on feeling, and level three is where all is applied to reality. To put it another way, level one states why we believe what we believe, level two indicates why we live the way we live, and level three states why we legislate for others the way we do. For every life that is lived at a reasonable level, these three questions must be answered. First, can I defend what I believe in keeping with the laws of logic? That is, is it tenable? Second, if everyone gave himself or herself the prerogatives of my philosophy, could there be harmony in existence? That is, is it livable? Third, do I have a right to make moral judgments in the matters of daily living? That is, is it transferable?[ii]
An important principle to keep in mind concerning these three levels is that we argue on level one (Analytical), we illustrate on level two (Existential), and we apply on level three (Prescriptive).
[ii] Zacharias, Ravi. “Living an Apologetic Life”, (Just Thinking, Fall 2003), p. 8
June 3, 2008
Very little was posted this month (the team has been busy!), but here are the Top Ten most visited posts for the month of May:
April 30, 2008
Here are the Top Ten April posts on Quadrivium: