Friday, February 27, 2015

A Little Warning about Breaking the Routine

The firsts of Spring Breaks will be happening this week. I know it seems early, and yes it is. But there are still those few people who get to have their spring breaks this week. I'm one of those few.

If you have a more standard spring break, know that it is still coming, and you will want this post in a few weeks because this post is a short public service announcement that spring breaks are dangerous times.

When I first started college and getting myself into a regular routine for the first time, I knew to create a time for daily devotions and time for the Lord. It then becomes easier at least to ensure that I adequately invest my time in "alone time" with the Lord.

But then comes the break, then comes the routine that is no longer there, then comes a change of environment. When the routine changes, that can effect all parts of the routine, and make it difficult to stay in the Word of God.

One needs to be very purposeful that as they have a different routine, that that routine as well includes time for a personal and daily walk with the Lord.

So that's my short public service announcement.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Government is not your God

There are two opposite problems in Christian culture when it comes to government today (not to say that these are the only two problems, just two that I can see exist). First is the problem that I often discuss about those who don't seem to care enough about what goes on in the political system.

But the second is equally a problem, and that is simply putting too much stake in what goes on in the political system. Simply, it becomes quite easy to find security in the way current political structures are set up, rather than in the Lord. 

I want to make it clear up front - this is not a big government problem per se. It is just as easy for someone in favor of limited governments, like me, to find too much stake in the political process.

 If my security is founded in the fact that Rand Paul is going to do awesome things and win awesome elections, and then revolutionize this country, then I am placing my trust in the political process. 

This of course is a problem because our trust should be firmly in God and not in the devices that God uses to ensure blessings upon His people (I think it's fair to call good governance a blessing, right?). I should feel secure in the fact that I know who holds sovereign control over all the earth. And to put this in the perspective of our last politics post, I should feel secure in the God who ordained the government, not the God-ordained government. 

But God is under no obligation to work out His plans through the government itself. He can decide to make our government like the government in China, and work to give Himself glory. I mean, it's His sovereign control.

So yes, God is in control, and as much as I care about politics, and love Rand Paul, God > Rand Paul. Rand Paul and the entire political system can only do so much, and it would be foolish to stake your security in that. 

Instead, we Christians need to ensure our trust is in the One who controls not just ALL of the political system, but all other elements that are outside our control too!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why the Mighty Have Fallen: A Sequel

Last September, I was reading through the book of Job and wrote a couple of blog posts based off the lessons that my reading of the book brought me through. One of them expressed a little on how the mighty man named Job, who was "a perfect and upright man, one who feareth God and escheweth evil," fell from grace to the point of accusing God of prying into his life.

While I decently well articulated some of the ways in which Job fell from grace as it were, I spent no time explaining specifically why Job struggled with this suffering. Job was a pure man, why when suffering came, did he suddenly fall into disarray? 

The opening dialogue between Satan and God probably provides us our answer. In this dialogue, we hear God proclaim the purity of Job. To respond, Satan doesn't deny Job's character - that apparently is undeniable. Instead, he asks God a simple question
"Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face."

Apparently, Satan is convinced that Job serves the Lord for the material gain and blessings that the Lord places upon him, rather than for the relationship itself. In other words, Satan is convinced that Job is more interested in serving Gd as a matter of a sort of economic contract - Job serves God, God serves Job - than out of a pure and true relationship or love for God.

Satan is convinced that Job loves God because Job loves Job, because Job receives a benefit.

So how would you test Satan's theory? That would be the entire book of Job, where Satan is given the opportunity to take away the "hedge" that the Lord had made around him. That indeed is what we see Satan suggesting in the passage quoted above.

So why did Job fall? It would appear obvious from the very first chapter that the book is testing Job's motivations. If Job fails that test (and he eventually does), that's probably an indication that his motivations were not where they should have been.

Which then leads to the all-important question - why do you love God? Because of your own gain, or because of God? Do you have a relationship or do you have an economic contract? Why do you serve the Lord today?

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Single Man in Possession of a Good Fortune...

"“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Thus begins the famous work Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It would seem through the scope of the story that the situation is just a tad bit backwards that every single woman is in want of a husband of a good fortune, but that is the irony, isn't it?

Dissecting Jane Austen's works is not my strong suit, so I will not go deeper into that analysis, but isn't it crazy how many Christians today fit into this mold? It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that every Christian young male and every Christian young female ought to get married. And it seems fitting to tackle this subject after Valentine's Day.. 

Now I really really want to get married myself. I want to have a wonderful wife one day with whom I can serve the Lord. We should have somewhere between 1 and 100 little children running around our house (no, I would not really expect it possible to get a hundred children, the number is just supposed to show that I have no preference for the number as long as it is greater than 0).

But in today's Christian culture, it would seem that we think it is necessary for us to be married to serve the Lord (and if I'm real with you, the pressure seems much greater on the lady than on the gentleman and that's also just wrong). That however is just sad. The only thing necessary to serve the Lord is willingness.

Of course, no one is explicitly saying that we have to get married to serve the Lord; all would know such a claim to be ridiculous. But the way we have set up our culture is implying it to be true.

Perhaps our Christian culture has forgotten the entirety of Paul's admonition in I Corinthians 7. Here Paul develops a very key theme - both marriage and non-marriage can be honoring to God. Paul himself is partial to non-marriage, and it's easy to see how this fails to effect his ability to serve the church.

As I aforementioned, I am partial to the concept of marriage. I love families, not gonna lie. And that shouldn't have to effect my ability to serve either. Noah didn't have difficulty serving the Lord because of his wife. 

Paul however does highlight some challenges, such as having to put a high priority in your life upon your family, and then having difficulty ensuring that high priority doesn't just become too high.

But the main takeaway is that marriage and non-marriage can both please God. So keep that in mind, y'all, and don't coerce young ladies and gentlemen to get married. It's not for everyone. (I do still hope it's for me though.)

The following was the obligatory relationship post. It was about time that it was written. It started because Ryan had no idea of what to write about, and found himself writing the beginning words to Jane Austen's novel. Then suddenly an idea! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why Going to Church is Not Enough

There was once a fellow who did everything right. He came to church every Sunday and sat in the front row. He listened to what the Pastor said and found himself yelling "Amen" in affirmation quite a number of times.

He tithed, and not only that, he gave 20%, not just the required 10! He was very liberal with his money, as well as his time for the service of God.

He then went home and continued to pray before his meals, and even read the Bible everyday. It seemed as if he was doing everything right, but yet he didn't seem to be making any progress in his spiritual life.

Despite the amount of time that he spent listening to talk about God or doing service for God, it just seemed that God was just kinda there in his life, and not something fully encompassing. No one around him could see it, but deep down, he knew it.

He knew that the reading he did during the day and the sermons he heard on Sunday were not having an impact upon his life. That although he was doing what he should be doing with being immersed in God's word, his heart was not being changed. But he just kept on reading, hoping that the time would come, when the magic of the Bible would clear up.

But it never seemed to happen. Why did this man never seem to actually grow closer to God. He became consumed with the words of God at all times, but he advanced nowhere.

I am about to make a radical statement (not really, I've not ever actually made one of those on these blogs) - reading the Bible and knowing all of its truths is not a magical formula for growing closer to the Lord.

Yes, reading the Bible is an instrumental part of spiritual development, but if you never open up your heart to hear what the Lord has to say, if you never allow what you hear in the Bible to actually impact the way you study the Word, then it doesn't really matter how much you read the words.

And note that just reading the words will not allow your life to suddenly change. As much as we want to ensure that we understand that we do it all by God's strength, that doesn't mean we have no influence in whether or not we choose to use God's strength in the first place!

So we must not just consume the words of the Lord, we must actually open up our hearts through prayer to allow them to expose our faults. And then we must yield to the Spirit to ensure that we can work through those faults by a still more constant prayer life.

It's not just about going to church, but what you do when you get there. In conclusion, I leave you with the words of Ecclesiastes 5:1,
"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil."

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Actual Origin of Goverment

It's a very popular opinion, and one that I have held for a considerable point of time, that ultimately governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed. It is an idea called the social contract theory, and remarkably, it is actually wrong. 

Yes, it sounds nice when we say it. Men live in a state of nature, free men, but they find that their freedom is not protected from stronger, less moral men, who like to prey on the weak. Thus, these men come together and form a government, delegating some of their power, so that their rights can be protected from brute force. 

But I don't know about you, but I've never seen a government that has been formed in that manner. Indeed, all governments that we seem to see formed are simply transferring from one government to another. We have never actually examined a government being formed from a state of nature.

That isn't necessarily a problem for social contract theorists because simply because we wouldn't know how the first government started, doesn't mean that it didn't start out as a social contract. 

No, the problem instead begins with the fact that we actually kinda have seen the first government being created, and it wasn't made by man, but by God. 

The very first government was put in place by God before the fall! Adam and Eve were given dominion over all animals when they were placed in the Garden of Eden. the Lord gave them a sceptre and used them to rule over creation. Welcome to government. 

Then of course, we sinned, and government's purpose was slightly corrupted, but God still ordained it as a good force. Romans 13 explains, 

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

Indeed, the social contract theorists' favorite points about how government is a necessary evil or necessary because of evil are kinda both wrong from a biblical perspective. Now don't get me wrong, there are definitely things done by government that are not good, and this verse does not prevent those from being a thing, but government as an institution is a "minister unto us for good." 

The fact that government is not actually evil is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that there will be a government in heaven. The Kingdom of God is just maybe a bit of a thing that comes up in Scriptures here and there. Probably not a big deal though. 

My essential arguments about the principles of government remain unchanged, but now it's not because there's a contract that men have signed with government that limits what they are to do, but because God ordained the government for a specific purpose, and they probably ought to fulfill that purpose. 

Yes, I actually think I have a more compelling case now. Following God's ordinance is more important than following man's ordinance, after all. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Some Bad News, Some Good News

So, I have some bad news and I have some good news. Which do you want first? 

The bad news? Fantastic because that will just naturally follow the organization that this blog should follow. 

So, the bad news is that one day you will die. Yes, I know it's terrible, but your stay on this Earth will not be eternal, but will instead come to a close, as our life is but a vapor. 

Good news is that you have a place where you will live eternally, and that you should then live your life in accordance with that. You should pursue a relationship with God the Father, to find true satisfaction in Him because that will give you eternal satisfaction. 

Everything that we seek in this world for satisfaction is unsatisfactory ultimately. It may satisfy for just a few minutes, but it will not actually satisfy us even for the entirety of our vapor. Thus, if we want to enjoy this life, maybe we should find satisfaction in God. 

That way, we can enjoy our lives now and later to its utmost potential. (I never thought I would write a post about enjoying one's life, since ultimately that conveys a watered down Christianity in many forms; however, finding satisfaction in God is not the same thing as guaranteeing you prosperity if you follow God, something that is explicitly denied in Scriptures.) 

So if you don't believe me, just read the book of Ecclesiastes. It's good stuff. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

3 Solid Reasons why Public Altar Calls are of the Devil (Yes, that is an Exaggeration)

There is a tradition that seems to be strong and well in the community of churches surrounding me at the moment. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to find a church that avoided this tradition, but others are not so lucky.

Indeed, this tradition permeates many churches and consistently replaces actual true conviction of the Holy Spirit to a conviction of one's emotions or simply of one's feeling guilted into making a decision. 

This tradition is the public invitation or altar call. Not to be confused with the less heinous private invitation in which you are invited to the altar while everyone's "heads are bowed and eyes are closed," the public invitation is one that asks you whether you were convicted about a message while everyone sees how you respond. (The closed invitation I still don't particularly like, but don't see as anything more than a preference in styles, rather than an actual issue to write a blog post about.) 

The problems with this could fill a blog post, which I guess is good, since that's what I'm attempting to do. 

1. It encourages dishonesty. Individuals who felt nothing within the sermon may find themselves in a social peer pressure situation in order to be seen as a "good Christian" walk up to the front, raise their hands, or otherwise signify that their heart has been changed. 

Additionally, those who in a private invitation may come forward and pray might find themselves in a social peer pressure situation to not come up to the front or otherwise signify their agreement because they believe that they will be perceived as a "goody-goody two shoes." 

2. It's manipulative. If you respond to my point about dishonesty by saying that it ultimately increases the number of people who commit to the Lord (such as at a missions conference), all I have to say to you is the tagline of this point. 

Seriously, manipulation is not exactly the tactic that we should be using to try to change people's lives. 

3. It involves an emotional rather than actually true conviction. To put it another way, it fails to encourage an honest to goodness change of heart. Instead, the emotional intensity of the moment leads to people making commitments that they don't actually comprehend. 

So instead of the Holy Spirit actually changing lives and hearts, we are left with emotional moves to the altar that look good for statistics, but leave no lasting impact. 

That's probably a reason why these public invitations just need to go away.