For the Glory of God: Trust, and My Last Political Post

Reason for Writing This

I write this in both sadness and great joy at the same time. I have planned for a few weeks to send this as an email and post it on facebook saying this is I will have no other political posts. Finally, that time has arrived. The time before Nov. 3rd, a presidential election, where I implore you to vote no matter what your political bend or candidate you vote for. But I mostly implore you to put full trust in God no matter what the outcome.

I have never in my life seen such division. In the country, in my family, AND in the church. I am extremely thankful that my church has been a leader in how to work through division by allowing different opinions and viewpoints to exist in the Church while being a beacon of light for Jesus (www.hosannalc.org) at the same time! Praise God for that!

I feel sadness because in the last 4 years Donald Trump has been seen as the initiator of this division in country, family, and church. And he clearly does and has thrown fuel on the fire of division and chaos. I feel sadness because I (along with 81% of evangelicals) voted for a guy that manipulates our country more than manages and leads it. Trump started a language of division, mockery, and chaos and led us into a crisis-like division in our country. On top of that, he has not led or managed our country well through a genuine crisis (a world wide pandemic) well and even down plays the truth to Americans as if we are little children that need to be sheltered from the truth.

However, in many ways, Trump outlines a much bigger pandemic in the world. That is a problem of trust: for me, Christians with political agendas, and the rest of this world.

This BLOG post is about that Trust

My History

When I was a young Christian, My wife (Sue) and I took some bible study classes at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, Ia. They were led by a guy, Steve, that I continue to look back and still respect to this day.

Steve predominantly led couples classes and classes on marriage. I learned a lot from Steve and he laid the foundation of my faith today. However, Steve did something else. He also sent out signals and partisan cues that as a Christian we should also be lining up with republican values. As I look back at the dysfunction today, I see that this attitude and bend for partisanship in the Church as something in the church (sin?) that has paved the way for political predators like Trump to take advantage of evangelicals for their vote. Ultimately, evangelicals are one big voting block of people that allowed a liar and political manipulator to get elected,

Many believe a person like Steve was created by the religious right and Christian parachurch ministries that had a a political agenda while masquerading as Christian to accomplish their agenda. Their agenda: to pull people into the republican party. I recommend Randal Balmer’s book, Thy Kingdom Come, to understand more of why that statement is true. Randal is religious historian and a Christian. He is also Pastor and has a pastoral heart.

That might be partially right: Steve is a product of the religious right. However, as Lydia Bean point out in her book, The Politics of Evangelical Identity, this partisanship in the American Christian Church has no head and no leadership. It is a zeitgeist, a spirit in the Church, that has no head and no leadership. And let me be clear: this zeitgeist in the church is a spirit that does not FULLY represent the Jesus Christ I see in scripture. In other words Steve is a product of many dysfunctions in the American Church because politicians see the evangelical voters as a crucial block of people to get elected. Evangelicals and Christians are the target of many politicians manipulative words.

Steve, was also why I aligned my Christian beliefs with the republican party. Today, I see this partisan alignment as something that did not come from scripture. It did not come from the Spirit of Jesus Christ or even The Message Bible. It came from a spirit in the Church that runs contrary to Jesus’ character. Jesus allowed political diversity in his disciples. He even had a antigovernmental zealots and pro-government tax collectors. They all had a primary allegiance to Jesus as their lord and savor over their politics. They all trusted Jesus more than government or politics.

Thing I Affirm And Will Continue to Stand For

I feel the need to apologize for this division in my family and for the division in our country. However, before I do that, I want to say what I will continue to stand for:

  1. I will continue to call out Trump as a political predator for the evangelical vote. He clearly is. He demonstrated nothing of a deeper faith and daily flies in the face of Jesus moral vision in Matt 5 (The beatitudes), Matthew 5 is Jesus moral vision for His Christ following community and Trump represents that LESS than any president in my lifetime. However, this will not be done publicly on Facebook any longer
  2. I will continue recognize that a significant portion of American Church community (including some in my own family) have become victims of partisan theology that sees their faith through a partisan lens. They fell to the the same schemes I did.
  3. I will call out partisan cues when they masquerade as Christian when done by Church leadership — either lay leadership or other. Either they must (1) not allow partisanship to enter your view of God, or (2) allow equal representation of all sides and perspectives. I won’t do this by confronting them publicly but rather I will talk to them privately. If it continues I will remove myself from that individual or Church entity.
  4. I will continue to be a chief end voter. I wont fall for any political party to use a single issue like abortion or the environment to sway my political opinion into their camp. My primary voting priority will be: (1) To vote for the candidate that will glorify God the most (Matt 5:1-48 and Proverbs 6:16-19), (2) To vote for the candidate the makes the world best and lasting for my grandchildren, and (3) lastly, the other policies of the candidate.
  5. I dont apologize for calling abortion a political football for the right. It clearly is. Neither prolife nor pro-choice are prolife enough for me. To read more about this I recommend Randall Balmer’s book Thy Kingdom Come. I have a section of this article below dedicated on abortion since this idea is very important to me as I move forward.

Below is my Offical Statement on Abprtion as it is regarded in politics

Is it possible for a Christian to be both pro life and pro choice? Absolutely!

Although i prefer to say the pro life movement is not pro life enough for me. Neither pro choice nor pro life represent the Jesus I see in scripture any more or less than the other side. The basic question for me is would Jesus be for an unborn child or for an overwhelmed, often underage mother. For me the answer is YES… to both.

Love always requires a CHOICE. The goal of pro life politics is to make abortion illegal. This falls far short of what Jesus wants. Our goal should be to make abortion….. unthinkable. The only way to make abortion unthinkable is to come alongside the mother and family with grace and mercy while putting down personal agendas.I believe this idea represents MORE of Jesus and Gods character than either just the pro-life OR pro choice politics!

I believe that the only way forward is to adopt a Kingdom vision that transcends the civic and political vision on this issue. If we continue to hold the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate hostage by treating it as merely a political issue, we will get nowhere.

Below is an some general information on the history and origin of abortion being used as a political football in politics. Please do your own research. Balmer is a religious historian and a Pastor. It has been used as a political football by both religious right parachurch ministries as much as politicians.

I highly recommend Randal Balmers book Thy Kingdom Come. He is a Christian and a religious historian and then do some historical research on abortion in the moral majority and protestant America. For 6 years after Roe v Wade, protestant America did not take a stance either way. The Southern Baptist Church even had an official stance to not take a stance on Abortion in the early 70s.. Then in 76 Pat Robertson, Falwell and others supported devout Christian, democratic, pro choice Carter. In 80 they supported Republican Reagan.

Why the change? Because carter threatened to take away tax exempt status at Christian Universities because … drum roll please … they were highly segregated Universities, Bob Jones U did not allow inter racial dating and barely allowed blacks to enroll.So they formed the “moral” majority under Falwell. They had no decent leg to stand on in a racial ethical fight so they formed focus groups on how to “pull” people into a voting block of people. Out of the focus group… 6 years after Roe v. Wade, they finally decided abortion was the topic to use as political ‘bait’ to pull people into the republican party.

Tell me… in the last 40 years since the moral majority started pulling Christians into the republican party what have we all gotten for voting republican on the abortion topic? Zip! Why? Because its only bait for politicians and the religious right to get and maintain political power. All you might get out of it, if you are lucky, are some political table scraps.

Add to this historical information the statistical fact that under democratic presidents the abortion rate has had steeper rates of decline than their republican counterparts, I see no reason to use abortion as a reason to vote for either party

Things I Do Confess

  1. I need to learn to trust God even when I see other church leaders giving hidden partisanship cues linked to their faith. This also includes people in my family
  2. I need to ask for forgiveness of people in my family
  3. I have been living a half measured trust and I need to trust God more fully

Trust and Glorifying God

As I stated at the top of this topic, the last 4 years of Donald Trump outlines a much bigger pandemic in the world. That is a problem of trust: for me, Christians with political agendas, and the rest of this world and America.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. And trust is intentionally jumping into faith’s assurance and conviction with every aspect of our lives…. not just some aspects. I believe the tendency is for people to confess a full hearted faith… but we end up living a half measured trust. We confess God with our lips but we really dont live that way each and every day: This includes:

  1. We dont put trust in God with our money
  2. We dont put trust in God with our family
  3. We dont put trust in God with our future
  4. And We dont put trust in God with our politics

Instead we put trust in a vast menu of things the world puts before us. This includes

  1. Trust in this political party or that political party
  2. Trust in that candidate or this one
  3. Trust his policy or that one
  4. Trust this process or that one

Scripture tells us to Trust God with our finances , with our future, and with our children. Scripture never once asks us to put trust in those things but to trust God with those things. In the vast menu of life our idolatrous nature continuously wants to put trust in something other than God.

We are clearly living a half measured trust even though we confess a full measured faith. And I am putting a stake in the ground and saying it is time to stop having a half measured trust.

A few things I heard from a sermon this morning. (Yes. God was working as I prayed over writing this BLOG topic.)

  1. We will never learn to trust God if you are always blaming others
  2. You will never learn to trust God if you are blaming the other party and idolatrously trusting in your party over God
  3. You will never learn to trust God if you think it is your job to fix your family

Inherent to trusting God is self evaluation. Inherent to trusting God is being willing to trust God even when things don’t go your way. When you are constantly blaming others (or the other party or guy),when your constantly casting off responsibility, then what you are really saying is that God is not at work at everything in your life.

We can’t serve two masters. And to serve two masters is a violation of the first commandment to have no other Gods. We can’t serve God and money. We can’t serve God and family. We can’t serve God and country. We can’t serve God and a political party for our future. Our finances, country, political party all work best when we trust God with those things and not trust IN those things. Living an idolatrous life and a having a half measured trust is a sin.

After much reflection the perfect thought came to me via a sermon on trust this morning

Trust is found when we carry an abundance mentality while in a scarcity reality

No matter what the circumstance or who is in charge of our country, my full trust is in God.

This does not mean we quit using common sense, cast care to the wind, or stop being good stewards of the environment, our finances, or our vote. It means we stop putting our trust in other gods, in our portfolios, in our abilities, and in my political party, and definitely NOT in Donald Trump (or in Donald Trump losing as I have). It does, however, mean we trust God to provide in everything. It is time to confess that Lord is God. When we have radical trust in God, your life and the life others around are changed. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).”

It is time to put a full measured trust in God instead of the vast menu of this world… including the vast menu of ideas that politicians place before us. Through faith alone only can we achieve the goal of no longer living out a half measured trust.

It is time. This BLOG will be attached to a Facebook post saying I will no longer post anything political. I will continue to vote for the person that will most likely glorify God the most — republican or democratic. I will strive to be truly independent voter as I do this and to be good steward of my vote as I do this.

But what is it really time for? It is time to trust God fully. It is time to make Jesus King over finances, politics … and Donald Trump. God came here with a mission. To over come evil and to reconcile the world back to him through Jesus Christ. I trust God will do all of that ! I trust God!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).”

No more political posts!

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Matthew 5:2-3 The Beatitudes #1

Matthew 5:2-3 The Beatitudes #1

Mat 5:2-3  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This is the first beatitude and focuses on our attitude and posture toward God.  The first four beatitudes focus on your relationship to God.  What does it mean to be poor in spirit Matthew 5:2?  In the book of Matthew, the author consistently makes stark contrasts.  Therefore, it might be good to ask yourself what does it mean to be the opposite of poor in spirit?  Many biblical scholars will contrast poor in spirit with the idea of having a hardened heart.  Other contrasts might include prideful or having a haughty spirit. This basically means seeing yourself above others.  Jesus consistently in Matthew contrasts what he wants from His disciples with the haughty spirit of the Pharisees.

Matthew uses the term poor in spirit as a religious designation.  It means people that are spiritually humble before God.  It is a person with the right disposition before God.  For those with the right disposition the blessing is given from Jesus, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Lord, Grant me the strength today to discuss my weaknesses.  Give me a humble spirit and right disposition toward you.  Help me to grow closer to you every day. Amen!

 

Matthew 5:1-2 The Beatitudes: Jesus’ Community Morality

Matthew 5:1-2 The Beatitudes: Jesus’ Community Morality

 

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, Mat 5:2  and he began to teach them.

The beatitudes are significant because they represent Jesus’s first teachings to his disciples and the community of Christ-followers.  Anytime a significant teaching and transition is made in scripture or when scripture repeats itself we should reflect on what that means.  The author is quite possibly setting the stage for a larger theme he is trying to nuance out and is wanting the reader to take notice.

In this case, what is significant is who Jesus meant the beatitudes to be for.  Quite often when we read scripture we read it with an individual lens and not a community lens.  It is true that when scripture says “you” people read me.   Unfortunately, most “you’s” in scripture are really “y’alls.”  This is also an American cultural phenomon where we demand our independence and drive our own cars to work rather than commute with others.  Unfortunately, when we don’t see this community ethic and morality we often end up in multiple misinterpretations of scripture that become prideful and pharisaical.

It is important to understand the beatitudes as a community ethic because Jesus wants the beatitudes to be a reflection of His community.  This is important so we, as a Church, do not become ineffective Christ-followers and so that we can do what Jesus wants us to do in Matthew 28.  To go and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help me to put down my pride.  Help me to reflect You in my relationships.  Help me to become an effective Christ follower and an effective disciple maker as I exemplify the teachings you want for your community in the beatitudes.

The Salvation Debate

A paper I wrote that is an interesting topic during my mMDIV at The Masters Instititute.

 

The debate as to why some people are saved and others is often referred to as the “crux theologorum” (the cross of the theologians) because of the difficulty of giving an answer that is satisfactory using human reason. It is an issue that has been a controversial topic by theologians for many centuries. Arminians answer these questions through the perspective of man’s “free will”; only those who are saved “choose” to be saved. Calvinists answer this question by pointing to God’s sovereign will: God himself “predestines” (ordains) from eternity some to be saved. Some Calvinists go even further and would say God also ordains the others to be damned – referred to as double predestination. Still others (i.e. LC-MS Lutherans) often stand in the middle and allow this question to remain a mystery in an attempt to allow the scriptures to stand on their own and believe this question is impossible to answer using human reason and logic .

 
Before getting into the minutia of the differences between the various sides that represent the salvation debate, it is important to understand what attributes of God each side believes is non-negotiable. Without understanding the non-negotiables, it is impossible to fully understand the various viewpoints. Understanding the central attribute that each side holds about God allows us to fully empathize with viewpoints that are different than our own. For the Calvinist, the attributes of God that surround His sovereignty are the most important. One of the things they may say is “God is working things out” in His sovereignty for the elect. Sovereignty has a romantic compassion and care in this case. For the Arminian the central attribute that most fully represents God’s beauty is God’s love and the idea of God ordaining people to Hell or taking away choices takes on an anti-love characteristic to them. The love of God represents the great beauty of God and is THE attribute that draws people to Him. For the LC-MS Lutheran, the grace of God represents the greatest love of all. This represents God sovereignly “doing the work” to save man and represents the greatest blessing of all from God – Jesus Christ.
The Calvinistic view uses a 5-point TULIP acrostic that stands for the following: Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Total Depravity means humans are so inflicted by sin (dead in sin) that we cannot respond on our own to God . Unconditional election means that out of sheer mercy and grace God elects some individuals for salvation . Limited Atonement means Christ died only for the elect (4-point Calvinists drop this point) . Irresistible grace means the elect cannot resist God’s grace and calling for salvation . Perseverance of the Saints means the elect can never lose their salvation .

 
The Arminian view represents parallel but different points: total depravity weakened by grace, conditional or corporate election, unlimited atonement, resistible grace, and conditional security (4-point Arminians drop this point). Total depravity weakened by grace means humans are in bondage to sin but God gives “prevenient grace” (just enough grace to make a choice) so humans can respond to His offer of salvation . Election has two possible views in the Arminian view. Conditional election means God savingly elects those individuals that He foreknows will freely accept Him . Corporate election means “in Christ”, God unconditionally elects a saved community (the Church (NT) or Israel (OT)) and conditionally invites all humans to join their mission . Unlimited atonement means Christ died for the salvation of all people . Resistible grace means humans can resist God’s saving grace . Conditional security means God never abandons a believer, but it is possible for a believer to reject God and lose salvation.

 
Paul Eddy showed that for most of history many of John Calvin’s theological ancestors (pre and post Augustine) believed God’s will was compatible with freewill. This is called compatibilism. They see God’s sovereignty and freewill as mysteriously working together. However, some theologians pushed Augustine’s view of God’s providence so far that they denied that humans are free to choose. John Calvin came along in the 1500’s and strongly emphasized that God controls all things, including who will or will not be saved. Jacob Arminius argued that Calvin’s definition of providence is incompatible with human freedom and undermines the biblical teaching that God wants everyone to be saved. This view of Arminianism is called incompatibilism and asserts that human freedom is not compatible with God’s control. It is easy to see how the debate on God’s providence and free will is closely connected to the debate about salvation.
Dr. Eddy dug deeper into the history and origins of Calvinistic thought and language in the lectures. Augustine (~300AD) originally defended libertine freewill (or at least had no reason to believe libertine free will was wrong) until a debate with Fortunatas. Fortunatas was a Manichean – a group considered heretical and outside the realm of Christian thought and theology. Following the debate Augustine then plunged himself into scripture and a few years later came up with a more “focused” theology around God’s providence and sovereignty. Augustine also was a compatibilist and believed that freewill is compatible with God’s sovereignty. That view was the dominant view by the church until Jonathon Edwards (~1750AD). Jonathon Edwards thought the belief that freewill and God’s sovereignty was compatible was a bit of a cop out. Some vessels are made for God’s glory and others are made to show God’s wrath would be the scriptural basis for this thought. Out of Jonathon Edwards thought came a “stricter” view of God’s sovereignty often called the “theology of glory” that is held by many Calvinists today. This view believes God is sovereign over all creation, even for evil, as a way of showing His glory. If pressed, this group would state that God is responsible (either directly or indirectly) for every disease, Hitler and the holocaust, as well as every rape because it would ultimately demonstrate His Glory. Today, this “theology of glory” view of Jonathon Edwards continues to be promoted by well-known theologians like John Piper.

 

As I stated earlier, in order to fully understand each side it is important to understand what characteristics of God each side holds most dearly. For the Arminian this discussion is not about freewill, but rather it is about God’s love. In order for love to be true it must be chosen freely. Therefore, denying freewill is denying a central characteristic of God – His love. For the Calvinist, the attributes surrounding God’s sovereignty and control are the attributes that they hold most dearly. As for me, I believe it is important to be true to scripture and the language of the first century church as much as possible. This may mean playing the mystery card early and often in today’s world. As I read the book and listened to the lectures, I envisioned the barrel of monkeys game. The first century church was the first monkey in long link of monkeys. As church history went on we kept adding a second monkey, a third monkey, etc. However, the language of the last monkey does not completely represent the language of the first monkey. For the theology of glory Calvinists there seems to be an overdeveloped “language of sovereignty” that does not represent the language of the first century church – the first monkey. Paul Eddy’s deconstruction of history clearly showed evidence to this effect as theologians kept adding new “language” (a new monkey) on top of the previous centuries theologian regarding God’s sovereignty. On the Arminian side there was a similar barrel of monkeys that was different in that it used significant doses of human logic and religious philosophy in order to hang on to their central view that God is love. The chain of monkeys continues in things like the Synod of Dordt and every heated debate where they must further refine language to “win” the theological discussion.
In a sermon by Bill Bohline at Hosanna! Church, he once gave a reason for not allowing Rob Bell’s book Love Wins into the Hosanna bookstore. He said some theologians are in love with love. To this day, I also remember Dr. Kyle Fever’s Synoptic Gospel class where he discussed John 3:16 and said that love was not a squishy, “big hug” love but rather God loved us “in this way” and that the word love was not used in the ways the church used the word love. This is all to say that, like the Calvinistic language that seems to have overdeveloped language regarding Gods sovereignty and a difference in tone and language than first century church, the Arminians also have an overdeveloped language about God’s love that seems different in tone and language than the first century Church used in scripture.
As for me, with my Lutheran hermeneutic, I guess I am either a Calminian or an Arminist. My desire is to use language that represents the language of the first century and to continue to be aware of when my language is becoming overdeveloped due to too much theological or philosophical thought. The mystery card is always ready and available in my hand where I can just rest on scripture and not feel the need to defend theological mystery.

 
Approach to Theology and Ministry
Many years ago my LC-MS Pastor did a study on denominational differences and we studied the Calvinistic TULIP model and discussed where the various denominations and Lutheranism fell on each point. The study actually led me into a multi-year thought process regarding this topic where I tried to understand the various sides. The side most foreign to me was the Arminian side so I made a decision to read several of Greg Boyd’s books. I also made a decision to read Greg Boyd as if he was true as opposed to reading Greg Boyd to prove he was wrong. This led me to great respect for this central viewpoint on the idea that “God is love.” I also started reading John Pipers books and gave him many chances to prove his points. In the end, I was unable to finish his book Desiring God because I felt that the language he used could have been said the same way but in a more gospel-centric way. The language seemed to overdevelop the concept of God’s sovereignty in comparison to the language that I saw in scripture. I sometimes refer to this as language that has been “over baked” from far too much theological thought and debate. However, I gained much respect for God’s sovereignty and Calvinistic thought as well as Arminian thought during this process. I must admit that I have some concerns over the extremes of “Edwardian” Calvinism and the theology of glory of John Pipers.

 

However, I also have concerns over the overdeveloped theology of love and Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. I believe God’s truth stands mysteriously in the middle somewhere.
For this reason, this course on the various evangelical issues has reaffirmed my desire to do my best to stay true to the language of the first century church and the language of the synoptic gospels and Jesus Christ. I have listened to many sermons where the theological language seems “stretched” or out of proportion to the language that I see in scripture. I want to avoid these “stretches” in my personal Pastoral language. However, I do feel like I can move into a discussion about freewill when the problem of evil comes up. I can also move into a discussion about God’s sovereignty and a belief that God has a purpose in our pain. I also don’t believe I have to use too much theological or philosophical logic to support my theological understanding. Rather, I can point to God being a mystery and not always giving us all the answers.
This course has also given me empathy toward other views and an understanding that these theological issues are not issues that need to create division between Christians. We can have different opinions or theological differences, but these are not central dogma issues.

 
I did realize when listening to the lectures and reading the material that John Piper and the theology of glory Calvinists use theological language that “triggers” me the most when I listen to them. The lectures and readings have given me empathy even into the more extreme Calvinistic theology as to how their language developed. I have come to realize that if I was brought up in a Church that belonged to John Piper that I might agree with the theology of glory’s overdeveloped language about God’s sovereignty. Personal experience and church history shapes the lens in which we view the world and God. This is important for me since Minnesota and the Twin Cities are “theology of glory” central and I have already come across many Christians that see John Piper as being the “highest Christian truth.” Pastorally, I must always represent the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus even to the Christians and Churches that use language that triggers me.

 
The largest take away for me is that I desire to have my theological “language” shaped first by scripture, second by the first century church, and lastly by the barrel of monkeys where theologians add new theological language on top of last centuries theologians.

Truth — What is it? Thoughts for the Political Anxious Christian

We Don’t Recognize Our Own Spin

In recent years I have taken some Masters Courses in Divinity.  Part of the program is one of classroom content on various evangelical and Christian topics.  The other part is scripture practicum (SP).  SP is a study  into exegesis.  Exegesis is the process of taking a critical look at scripture to understand Gods truth.  One of the things I remember in SP was that before we apply Gods truth in the the hear and now  we must first understand the then and there.  First, then and there… then, here and now.  In other words before applying scripture today we should understand the biblical text through the eyes of the original author before we apply or misapply Gods truth today.

The second thing I remember from SP was that total objectivity of truth is a myth!  I remember these words very well!  In other words  all of us bring our biases and filters into our interpretation of scripture and the world everyday.  If we do not understand our own biases and filters we may never see truth in it’s fullness.  If we had an emotionally  difficult day we WILL interpret Gods truth differently than if we had a good day.  If we have experience Y in our background we will interpret things differently than if we had X in in our background.  No matter how hard we try or how much time we spend reading scripture,  we will always have a slant and a bias as we interpret truth!  The question is are you aware of your own biases and filters so you can … at times … put them down and let the “real” truth  stand on its own!  Exegesis is a arduous and difficult process since our lenses have often become “rigid” when we interpret and study God’s truth.

Continue reading

A Multi Part Series about Faith (and politics)

Due to many of the concerns  of mine and many human behaviors I have observed over the last 10 -15 years in the evangelical and political world I felt a multi-part, complex blog discussion was in order.   Yes you heard me right … this topic is going to be about both faith and politics.     Primarily I hope it is concerned with how faith and politics intersect and how the current  social landscape does not reflect the Jesus that I see in scripture.  My prayer and hope is that this topic speaks especially to evangelicals in the political world so that WE can be effective in His Kingdom to go out and make disciples of all nations.

And even though I do have my own biases, I want to keep those to a minimum in this discussion.  My hope is that like any good Gospel and Jesus centric sermon would do ….. that this discussion will convict both the perpetrator as much as the victim, the democrat as much as the republican, the liberal as much as the conservative, and the elder brother as much as the younger brother.  My prayer is that I can mostly put down my own biases and skews in life and talk to all sides and all people. In the end I hope you can hear the Good News about Jesus — that He died while we were still sinners so we can have TRUE FREEDOM!

This series starts with one basic premise I see that has reached an epidemic high in the current social and political landscape.    That our current culture embraces shame and criticism of others as a primary social tool to win.  Shame, I contend, since the fall in the garden is the primary tool that the serpent used to bend Adam and Eve toward sin.  And it is the primary tool that evil continues to use to keep entire cultures of people in isolation and propagating sin!  Todays social and political landscape continues to use shame as a tool to get on “top” of the other side. Also, this seems to be just as true in the Christian world as it is outside the Christian world.  It is just as true of democratic elites as is the republican elites, just as true of the political right as it is of the left.

Shame wants you to believe  it only shows up in big and grand ways.  However, it normally shows up in a persons face, subtle glances, and body language. It shows up in covert ways in our facebook posts and tweets.  Since we know as Christians it not right to be shameful people we submerge our shaming tactics into passive aggressive tendencies.  It shows up in a glance of disapproval and our  body language as much as our words when talking to a person we disagree with.  Shaming tactics are ubiquitous.  They are so engrained in our culture that we no longer see our tactics as shame.  We are not even aware of these shaming tactics.  We just see them as being right.  And in the Christian world many are in denial that our use of “truth”  often does not reflect both the position and posture of Jesus Christ toward a sinful world.  It does not reflect the Jesus that I see and read about in scripture!

This topic will have the following parts to it.  As I complete each part I will provide hypertext links to each part in this BLOG.

  1.  Truth — What is it?
  2. Genesis – Our Starting Point of Truth
  3. Gods Plan — Relationship and Community
  4. Establishing the moral vision of the New Testament and Jesus
  5. True Freedom — What does it look like?
  6. Application for Today

 

God is Transforming the Larger Narrative of Our Lives

Mat 9:12-13  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matt 9:12-13 should not be seen as just another discrete truth of scripture.  But rather this is a truth that summarizes much of the entire book or Matthew.  This verse is challenging the larger meta-narrative of how each of us interprets life and truth.  The definition of a meta-narrative is an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences and understanding.

Every time we leave Church on Sunday and attempt to apply our Christian truths, we apply them into the larger narrative, or a lens of interpretation, in our lives.   In Matt 9:12-13, Jesus is challenging this narrative by saying the religious narrative of the Pharisees, sacrifice, is not the narrative Jesus wants.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees with the narrative of mercy.  Jesus words about these two narratives seems just as applicable today as it did in His day when Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees.  Tim Keller nuances out these two narratives in today’s culture by saying one narrative is “religion” and the other narrative is “Gospel”.    He goes on to say the difference between Gospel and religion is religion says if you obey, you are acceptable; but the Gospel message says you are accepted, therefore you obey.

Matt 9:12-13 summarizes much of the book of Matthew as Jesus discusses the Kingdom of Heaven and what a discipleship community of Christ followers should look like.  The issue, Jesus says, when we apply truth with the religious (sacrifice) narrative we often misuse or abuse God’s truth the same ways the Pharisees did.  This narrative breaks down and destroys relationships!  However, when we apply God’s truth with the mercy narrative, we draw people into a community of people that represent the Gospel and Jesus. The mercy narrative builds and strengthens our relationship with God as well as our relationships with each other.

 

The Gospel (the Good News) of Jesus Christ tells us…

We are more sinful and weak than we ever cared to admit AND…

We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Its been  a while since I posted last.  However, there have been many deep thoughts I have had during the last election — and probably for many years before that.  As I pondered the Facebook and Twitter sphere and the attitudes that each side has toward each other, I believe that the moral vision of the new testament has been lost in today’s religious and evangelical world.   I consider myself an evangelical, but it seems to me the position and posture of Jesus has been lost today.

A few words I have seen used a lot in many evangelical Facebook  and twitter posts are the words integrity, morality, and truth.  However, as you read the posts you will notice that the words are used always used in a comparative (and often condemnational) stance.  They are comparing themselves to a group they consider not moral, not having integrity, and not being in the truth.  As you continue to read down the posts and the comments the language degrades further into more comparatives and more condemnation toward the other group.  I have seen many times references to the idea of “winning with truth”.

I need to say that I do hope we are moral, people of integrity, and that God’s truth comes out and prevails.  However, in terms of truth…  Jesus said “He” is the truth.  I have never seen Jesus use the idea of “winning with truth” in scripture.  Jesus always had compassion toward others sinners and other groups and loved them.

Today we often use the words truth, integrity, and morality as a language that makes us feel powerful over others.  We feel a sense of power over other people and other groups when we use this language.  We feel like we are “winning” when we use this language and hang out with others that reinforce this language along side us.  Our idea of truth can be a very powerful and abusive weapon toward other people and groups we may not agree with. IF we are not aware of our own sinful tendencies truth can be very powerful and abusive.

The moral vision of the New Testament is completely lost when our language of truth does not have a grace and mercy narrative toward others.   Speaking the truth in love is such and easy phrase to say but yet difficult to do unless we can clearly see the moral vision of the New Testament and actually start behaving like a gospel-centric community should behave.

I read recently read a re-tweet about how we must stand up for truth and not be politically correct.  The comments that followed almost made me sick as they degraded into condemnation and criticism.  As I read scripture, especially Paul, I see a lot rhetorical sophistication and political correctness when discussing many hot topics of the first century church.  For example the book of Philemon, shows Paul navigating the difficult topic of slavery in the first century church.  Paul knew exactly how to exhort and challenge Philemon to “do the right thing”.  Paul’s rhetorical sophistication navigated the culturally hot topic of slavery in just the right way.  Grace, mercy, and truth.

Today’s evangelical world, especially when it comes to politics, has lost the moral vision of the New Testament and the vision Paul showed in Philemon in my opinion.  We often do not show both the position and posture of Jesus in politics!!!

I encourage you to consider that much of the the nuance and balance that is in scripture has been lost today.  We lose the real vision of Jesus as we interpret scripture with brood strokes and over simplify God’s truth.  We have lost the moral vision of the new testament as we attempt to “win” our arguments.  Often, scripture does have rhetorical sophistication and often there is political correctness that strives to show mercy, grace, and truth.  As we strive to have both the position and posture of Jesus a new dynamic of truth will become evident.  A dynamic that does not just attempt to “win”, but rather a dynamic the restores all people and all creation back to God’s original design in the garden.

— post not complete, to be continued and adjusted later on

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ …

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes unproductive!

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes behavior modification!