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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Christians Recapturing Halloween

Shortly after I was saved, someone, I don't know who, introduced me to Chick's tracts and comics and the alternative, conspiratorial Church History he presents within the pages. When I started reading his materials, I pretty much viewed them as being spot on.

My understanding of Halloween was originally shaped by the Chick tract The Trick, complete with undercover satanists plotting to poison children, kids biting into candy apples containing razor blades, and blonde, blue-eyed virgins being offered on a sacrificial alter. I believed any Christian who allowed their kids to trick-or-treat, or participate in costume parties, or even carve a pumpkin, was inviting devils to come and take up residence in his or her home. I knew a young gal in my college group who liked putting up cute Halloween decoration like black kittens wearing a witch's hat or jolly smiling jack-o-lanterns and I would hassle her to no end by telling her she was in danger of being cursed by the devil.

Never once did I hear about Martin Luther or the Reformation that happened on October 31st. I was being conditioned to think of Halloween as only a satanic holiday I was suppose to despise and avoid at all cost. It never even occurred to me to use the time to evangelize trick-or-treaters. I always turned out the lights or left for the evening.

James Jordan presents what I believe to be a more balanced, and historically accurate, perspective a Christian should have toward Halloween.

Concerning Halloween

I will grant that though I agree with Jordan's main points, I think he has a rather culturally out-of-touch, Rockwellian idea of Halloween where children still dress up as ghosts, witches, and comical devils.

The reality these days is much different. Though there are kids who dress up like super heroes and pop culture celebrities, there is a split between two images. First, the imitation of gruesome, blood soaked gore, like haunted houses which use to be all about being scared by sudden jumps that are now turned into torture houses with people being disemboweled by a chain saw wielding maniac. The second is the supercharged sexuality directed to young pre-teens that encourages boys to be pimps and girls strippers. See here to see what I mean.

Overall, however, I hope Christians will reconsider their aversions toward Halloween if any exists. I do believe the Church has an opportunity before them every October 31st and we must seize it.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dissension in the Camp

The average "Joe" out there in the world mistakenly believes all scientists are unified around the various naturalistic explanations for the origins of our universe and life here on Earth. They don't realize that those "explanations" are about 10% observation and 90% theoretical guess work built upon a frame of unquestioned presuppositions.

When it comes to astronomy and astrophysics, the interplay between theoretical guess work and personal, unquestioned presuppositions is even greater, because we as men are limited to one specific vantage point in our abilities to study the heavens. Over the centuries as man has observed the heavens, they have developed a variety of models to help explain what it is he was seeing and how that relates to mankind's place in the grand scheme of things.

The most popular theory right now is the big bang model, and though nearly all secular astronomers (and some religious) affirm this model as being the proper way to understand the formation of our universe, the big bang isn't without its serious problems. Groups of astronomers have suggested theories to help explain the "unworkable" aspects of the model, and when those theories create more problems, more theories are developed to patch the holes the previous theories caused, all for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the model.

A recent article illustrates what I mean:

Scientists say "dark matter" doesn't exist

That is tantamount to blasphemy. "Dark matter" is suppose to be this "invisible" glue which hold galaxies together, because astronomers presuppose that the visible matter doesn't produce enough gravity to do the job. Hence, in order to explain the difficulty of regular, visible matter to produce the proper amount of gravity, an invisible, undetectable substance was thought up.

Invisible, undetectable substance? Reminds me of the atheists mocking vision of God as being a "flying spaghetti monster" or an "invisible pink unicorn," but I digress.

Back in August, two astronomers in Arizona claimed to have observed dark matter separate from regular matter during the collision of two galaxies, but now it is believed their announcement was premature. A second group of astronomers, however, suggest there is good reason we have never observed "dark matter:" it doesn't exist. They believe gravitational problems can be explained with alternative theories of gravity and with out the need to invoke the idea of "dark matter" to fill in the spotty places.

Its a good reminder that 'science' is fallible and is not the end all of discovering truth.

More on dark matter can be found here.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Even More Fire Photos

Bill Fickett, one our managers here at GTY, drove up to Lake Castaic about 4 or 5 miles north of our GTY headquarters, and snapped a few pictures of those "super scooper" planes landing on the lake to suck up water to fight the fires. They are quite amazing.

Check them out by CLICKING HERE

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Atheists Gone Wild

Christopher Hitchens puts a new spin on Neitzsche's "mad man:"

Hitchens Unhinged

A fun read for Monday lunch. The picture of a breathless, sweaty, red-faced atheist huffing and puffing in a semi-drunken rant against a Catholic priest is an image I won't forget. It certainly shines a much needed light upon the so-called "New Atheists."

The comments are amusing, too.

[Note. I talked with my wife shortly after I posted this, and she suggested that I let folks know that some of the quotes from Hitchens are crass and could be offensive to some. I make it a habit to listen to my wife who is full of all sorts of wisdom in these matters, so just to give you the heads up.]

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

More fire pictures

I mentioned in my post last Monday describing the fires burning in my hometown here in Southern California, that my neighbor -- the dear fellow who yelled out in the hearing of dozens of strangers the combination to the lock which opens the ladder to our roof access, and then proceeded to lead a large group of those strangers up the ladder to take pictures -- took nearly 200 plus images with his new, fancy telephoto lensed digital camera. He made us a CD and I copied the pictures I thought were the coolest.














Here the fire is encroaching over the top of a hill.














Here is a different hill that was being consumed. A couple of folks lost homes to this fire. Thankfully it was burning away from us.














Here's one of those super-sized water dropping helicopters. My children thrilled at seeing them fly directly over our house.














Then here is one of those giant "superscooper" planes dumping 3,000 gallons of water.

Keep in mind that all of this was taking place about 1/2 mile to a mile from our place.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Charlie Brown

[Note: I enjoy reading stories like this one, but I am also cautious of them because some of them can be urban legends. I checked the authenticity of this one first and it happens to be true. See Google links here. There are more details to this story here].















Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England . His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere .

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to and slightly over the North Sea towards England He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe.

When Franz landed he told the C/O that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.

They met in th e USA at a 379th. Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now - all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Is the word "eunuchs" really the Bible's way of saying homosexuals?

I have recently been exchanging emails with Justin Cannon. Some folks may remember the name. Justin manages a website called Truth Sets Free/Inclusive Orthodoxy that caters to gay "Christians." He also manages Rainbow Christians, a gay version of E-harmony that finds suitable companions for single, gay "Christians."

Justin is an apologist of sorts who defends the idea that God approves of homosexual relationships, and the Bible, rather than condemning homosexuality, genuinely commends same-sex couples and homosexual behavior. He further argues that the current debate against homosexual inclusivity into the Christian church is due in part to bigoted Christians who have mis-read the Bible and have warped Christ's teachings that affirms same-sex relationships.

When I first wrote about Justin, I stated quite clearly that he is an historical and biblical revisionist, and I bluntly proclaimed that he is "merely standing at the end of a long, twisting line running through Church History filled with a vast assortment of goofballs, kooks, and weirdoes who conveniently "revised" the Bible to fit their personal beliefs." My snarky name calling aside, I believe what I originally wrote is true and still stand by that assessment.

Justin wrote me a little bit ago to tell me how my comment amuses him to no end. He seriously finds it laughable. I wrote him back to ask him about his views of the Bible. He claims quite emphatically that he believes in inspiration and affirms the Bible as his authority, even though he is heavily dependent upon liberal theology and hermeneutics for shaping his "apologetics." I responded by saying I find such a claim mystifying, because if he truly believed in inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy, then he would treat with seriousness the biblical teaching on marriage found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. How can a homosexual couple fulfill the marriage mandate outlined by Paul when he tells us God established marriage to be a picture of Christ loving the Church? Justin responded by stating gay couples are exempt from this mandate and it only applies to heterosexual couples. Hmmm...

He then sent me an interesting email citing a passage from Matthew that he claims demonstrates his argument. Justin writes,

“His disciples say unto him, “If the case of the man be so with [his] wife, it is not good to marry.” But he said unto them, “All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it].” Matthew 19:10-12


Jesus is exempting three groups of people from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm.


1) Eunuch so born from their mother’s womb.

2) Eunuchs made so by men.

3) Eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.


The term eunouchos did not simply mean someone who was castrated. If you know anything about Greek, you will know that Greek words have manifold meanings, just pick up a good Greek lexicon and you will find pages of meaning for each word. Jesus shows three meanings of eunouchos above.


I will argue that eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb are not impotent, or physically damaged in any way, but simply men who do not have inherent sexual interest in women (i.e. gay men). And Jesus is saying we are exempt from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm.


Not only are there historical sources which refer to the semen of eunuchs, but Clement of Alexandria, though, reveals this perspective of eunuchs most clearly. He writes:


“…a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure…” (Paedagogus, II, 4.)


“‘Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity.’ And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman…” (The Stromata, II. 1.1.)


The idea is that these men are not aroused by women because they cannot physically, but because of an unwillingness, a repulsion, or a certain “temperament”—a word other sources use. There are accounts of these eunouchos appointed to watch over female royalty because they would not have sexual interest in them. In Rick’s book he does a good job in citing all these historical sources which help formulate a clearer understanding of what a eunouchos was in their Greek mind.


Now that is an interesting spin on Christ's words. Additionally, Justin quotes a couple of citations from Clement of Alexandria to show how the church fathers allegedly defined the word eunuch to be homosexuals. The argument looks rather impressive, but does it hold up under any serious scrutiny? I don't believe it does at all.


What exactly is a eunuch?


Now Justin says if you know anything about Greek, then you know a word could have a multitude of meanings. Such hyperbole aside, I do happen to know a little bit about Greek and his claim is a bit exaggerated in the case of the word eunuch.


The Greek word is a compound word that means literally "bed holder," or simply put, a holder of the bed. The historical understanding of a eunuch is a man who had been castrated or had his genitals mutilated in some manner that prevented him from becoming aroused around women. These men were commonly used as guards in royal harems, what would be known as a "bed guardian."


I made copies of articles from three of the standard theological and lexical works on the Old and New Testaments: The New International Dictionary of N.T. Theology, Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the N.T., and The International Dictionary of O.T. Theology and Exegesis, and all of them state the definition of a castrated man used as a harem guard was the standard, historical understanding of the word eunuch. I glanced through a handful of other theological and lexical works and all of them also affirmed the typical understanding of the word. In addition to the idea of a castrated harem guard, the word did expand in meaning to include high court officials who held prominent positions in a royal court, but may not necessarily be castrated. None of these works, however, implied the word could be used to describe a person disposed to homosexual persuasion. This is something of a novel, modern invention.


Yet, Justin argues otherwise, and even appeals to an external source in the works of early church father, Clement of Alexandria. Before I even address his citations, it is important to note that more times than not, external sources to help "define" biblical words, like appealing to quotations from church fathers, may not be particularly helpful. In the case of Clement of Alexandria, he is nearly 200 years removed from Jesus. We need to ascertain what Jesus meant by His use of the word during His time period and in light of scriptural definitions of marriage and eunuchs before we make authoritative appeals to some external source who wrote a couple of centuries later.


Now Justin cites from two of Clement's writings, the Paedagogus (the instructor) and The Stromata (miscellaneous writings). They can be viewed in their entirety here. Both works are divided into multiple books with multiple chapters in each book. According to Justin's reference, the first citation from the Paedagogus is found in chapter 4 of book 2. The second citation from The Stromata is found in chapter 1 of book 2.


I spent nearly a half hour or more looking through many websites which host these works, as well as the standard reference volumes found at my seminary library, and I could not locate the exact citations at all. After 45 minutes I thought maybe Justin mis-cited the reference, and sure enough I was right. I found them, but the first one was in Paedagogus, book 3, chapter 4. The second one was from The Stromata, book 3, chapter 1.


Now, I can excuse Justin's mistake. I have cited sources in the past and mistakenly credited them to the wrong reference. Such things are understandable, especially if he is re-calling from memory. What is truly inexcusable, however, is the intentional citation of these sources to make them say something they are not saying. In this case, that the word eunuch was understood by Clement of Alexandria to mean a person who doesn't desire women such as the alleged temperament of a male homosexual.


First, concerning the citation from the Paedagogus, Clement is addressing wealthy individuals who employ domestic servants. After giving an extensive list of individual servant staffers, he mentions eunuchs. The entire citation reads:


"Many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust. But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure." Paedagogus, book 3, chapter 4


Clement really says nothing about their sexual orientation. He just says these are individuals who are believed to be unable to indulge in sex, but in reality, a true eunuch is not unable, but merely unwilling to indulge in the pleasure. Nothing is said by Clement as to why the eunuch is unwilling. This could be a vow of celibacy for all we know, and it is dishonest for homosexual revisionists in our modern day to abuse Clement's words in such a manner as to make the Bible say something it isn't saying.


The second citation from The Stromata is even worse, and in my opinion, dangerously deceptive. The citation reads in its entirety as follows (note my emphasis):


The Valentinians, who hold that the union of man and woman is derived from the divine emanation in heaven above, approve of marriage. The followers of Basilides, on the other hand, say that when the apostles asked whether it was not better not to marry, the Lord replied: "Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are so of necessity." And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry. The Stromata, book 3, chapter 1.


The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Clement is citing the followers of a gnostic heretic by the name of Basilides, who also was from Alexandria. Justin uses these words as if they are Clement's own. I believe that is beyond the pale of dishonesty to make your readers think the words of a false teacher are the words of a church father. Moreover, nothing in the text, which is a part of Clement's larger discourses on marriage relationships, even hints at homosexuality. Basilides' and his followers said these individuals have a natural repulsion of women and do well not to marry. Again, it is reading a 21st century understanding of homosexuality back into a text that is nearly 1,800 years old and drawing erroneous conclusions.


I say this citation is dangerously deceptive because there are eternal consequences at stake here. Rather than being shown the grievous error of pursuing this sexual sin, many individuals desperate to justify their homosexuality will be led into destruction, because they latch on to this type of fraudulent research as evidence for justifying their perversion. This is unconscionable in my mind.


So what is Christ meaning when He says, "A eunuch from birth?"


Returning to Christ's words to the disciples in Matthew 19:12, nothing in the context of this first category of eunuchs, "a eunuch from birth," suggests Jesus had in mind natural born homosexual orientation. Christ had in mind the Jewish understanding of eunuchs as described in Levitical law and through out the Old Testament: those who were born with the physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse. Those inabilities could be more than just sexual impotence, but could very well be crippling deformities like paralysis, Downs, or other mental retardation that prevents a person from participating in being married to a spouse.

Moreover, and most importantly, Jesus could not have in mind homosexuals when he told his disciples there are "eunuchs from birth," because in the larger context of the entire revelation of scripture the participants in marriage are clearly limited to being only one male and one female. There are no other combinations permitted, nor are there any other combinations, such as a same-sex relationship, exempted from the divine ordinances established in Genesis for marriage, and are reiterated throughout the remainder of the Bible.

To ignore these clear commands, or even worse, reinterpret them according to a new paradigm, demonstrates a desperation to make the Bible affirm the non-affirmable. Perhaps that is why gay apologists like Justin have to appeal to liberal, neo-orthodox hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. What ever the case, this is still the historical and scriptural revisionism found in the writings of the myriads of heretical false teachers who have troubled the church since its founding in Acts.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Real Skills for Real Men

Dan the man links us to a Popular Mechanics' article that lists 25 things a man should know how to do. Such things as patching a radiator hose, framing a wall, fixing a dead outlet, filleting a fish, and hooking up an HDTV. I know how to do maybe 8 or 9 of the things listed, so I guess I am not a man, or perhaps only impersonating one.

But then Dan asks the Teampyro readers what biblical list of traits should a real man have. Well, speaking theoretically, humility, long-suffering, loving his family, etc., but those are given if you are a believer. How do we flesh out those ideas practically?

Here's my list of 12 items I thought of off the top of my head, in no particular order, and with great risk of being called to account by my wife:

1) Wash dishes
2) Do a load of laundry (you also should know how to separate the clothes)
3) Make a bed
4) Change a diaper, and not just the ones with pee.
5) Feed a baby at 2 in the morning.
6) Fix dinner.
7) Make breakfast on Saturdays.
8) Plan a date night that involves more than just "seeing a movie."
9) Water plants.
10) Set the table.
11) Use utensils in the proper etiquette way.
12) Baby sit more than one child under 5 at one time for more than 2 hours.

Before they were stars!

Joel Osteen













Most people in America know Joel Osteen as the pastor of the 47,000 member, Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. Not only is he a popular television evangelist who preaches inspiring messages of hope and personal betterment, but he is also a popular author having 2 books on national best-seller lists.

What most people don't know, however, is that before Joel became one of America's beloved ministers, he served on the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a pioneer in the paramedic program.

For nearly 7 years, Joel was a paramedic with L.A. County Fire Station #51. He and partner, Roy Desoto, worked with the always available Rampart hospital E.R. staff to coordinate with doctors via a portable telephone device to administer supervised medical care and prepare accident victims for transport to the hospital.

From helping guys pinned under fallen car engines, to rescuing 10 year olds lost in abandon warehouses, to freeing toy poodles trapped in chimneys, Joel and Roy saved countless lives. Their work in the early days of the fledgling paramedic program helped to establish the modern day paramedic response system through-out the U.S.

Later in his career, Joel felt the call to be a full time minister. "I had helped people put together their physical lives," Said Joel from his church office in Houston, "Now I wanted to help people put together their spiritual lives." As he became emotional, pastor Osteen stated with his cracking voice, "I so grateful I am able to be God's paramedic for those with spiritual emergencies."

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Monday, October 22, 2007

My Town is on Fire!

















Yesterday after church my family was entertaining some old friends of mine from Arkansas who were in LA to go on a cruise. We were eating at a restaurant and to the north of us was a monstrous cloud that looked like a thunderstorm coming our way. One of my friends says, "Wow, there's a big storm coming." I replied, "Nope, that's smoke from a brush fire; welcome to California." Another friend asked, "Do you get worried when you see a smoke cloud like that?" "Nope," I said, "It's just typical living here in Southern California."

Brush fires are common around here because the air is always dry and the humidity stays low. When the winds off the Mojave Desert pick up and blow towards the ocean, the fire danger increases dramatically. Usually the fires stay in the mountain areas and burn acres of dry brush land and the occasional trailer home and sometimes a big luxury house.

When we got home, we found out there were two particular fires in our area: a small one in Aqua Dulce, a little bit north of where we live, and another one in Castaic, across town, west of where we live. We all laid down to take our Sunday afternoon naps, and when we woke up about an hour later, we received a phone call from some friends who asked us about evacuating Canyon Country. "Hey, we heard Canyon Country was being evacuated so if you need a place to stay for the night, you all can come over here with us." I was stunned, "Evacuated? The fire is up in Aqua Dulce." But, when I looked out the window of our bedroom, the flames were on a hill top just a quarter of a mile away. "Welp, I don't think the fire will come down to us, but if we need to evacuate, we will certainly head your way."

All through Sunday morning, most of the media attention was centered on the Malibu fires because that is where Tom Hanks and James Cameron live and their homes were threatened by a canyon fire moving toward the Pacific. But, by mid-afternoon, all the attention was focused on the homes in the hills above where I live. What started out as a small fire spread quickly due to winds and was burning in neighborhoods just less than a mile from our house.

All my neighbors were coming out to see the flames on the hills - people I had never seen before and was speaking with for the first time in my life. (Isn't that weird?) Any ways, a neighbor across the way from us opened up the roof access to the public and 20 folks - women and children and people you would never allow on the roof to begin with - go climbing up the ladder to get a better view of the fire. I went too and took the picture you see above.

I told everyone, "People, you all may want to spread out and not stand in the one spot where you all are standing." Maybe I am a spoil sport, but I figured we didn't need to add to the media attention by having a large group of people seriously injured because they crashed through the roof of our condo.

The cool thing to watch was the water dropping helicopters and those giant "Super Scooper" planes. My kids received a major thrill watching them. It was like we were in a fire-fight with the Taliban and then the Apaches come in to rescue you. We would see the fire burning into a neighborhood, and then we would hear the thunderous roar of these planes behind us. We turn around to see three of them swoop over - and I mean almost tree top level - and drop thousands of gallons of water on a fire. After them would follow a line of giant helicopters, maybe 5 or so in a row, and then the white smoke would bellow upwards indicating they just extinguished a good portion of the fire.

Yet, in spite of the efforts of the fire fighters and those awesome planes there were some houses burned to ashes just a mile or so from where we live. I had mixed emotions, because on one hand I was thankful the fire was north of us and blowing westward, so we were out of harms way, but on the other hand I am staggered by the reality of what happened. A family awakens on Sunday morning just like every previous Sunday and by the evening, everything they owned was reduced to coals. My wife and I took our kids in and we prayed for the firemen and the families who no longer have a place to live, and nothing to own except the clothes on their back.

We never had to evacuate. The border for mandatory evacuation was north of us a few blocks. The sheriff's department set up road blocks on the main road through town and no one was allowed to go into the neighborhood unless they were a resident.

My neighbor who let everyone up on the roof had a fancy digital camera and he told me he would make me a CD with pictures, so if and when I get it, I'll post some of the better ones. In the meantime, here are a some local media links that give you an idea of what I am talking about: Here, and Here

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Spiritual Unity (pt. 3): Exhortations to the Weaker Brother

Part 1 and Part 2

This is the third part of my considering the importance of spiritual unity within the Body of Christ. Christians have been saved to be spiritual, and one key part of that spirituality is a mind freed from the shackles of sin that now can think God's thoughts after Him.

Sadly, as I have noted in my two previous posts, Christians will often separate unity with each other over what is many times trivial, personal convictions on non-commanded issues like the partaking of alcohol, whether or not to use birth-control, and sending your children to a secular, public school. Christians have passionate convictions when it comes to these variety of issues and those passions can often be expressed in a caustic way that disrupt the unity of a local church.

The Bible identifies two groups who will disagree: The strong in faith and the weak in faith. The strong have liberty in Christ to engage in non-commanded behaviors, where as the weak are not persuaded as to the truth of a matter and their faith in Christ prohibits them from partaking in an activity where the strong will have freedom.

I addressed the strong in faith with my second post, and I noted that their freedom in Christ demands from them a great responsibility of not being an offense to the weak. The strong must do all they can do in order to prevent the weak from stumbling. With this third post, however, I wish to turn my attention to addressing the weak, because they also have a responsibility, a responsibility to grow to become strong in their faith.

I had a reader email me after I posted my second article addressing the strong and he asked about how we the strong should respond to what he labeled the tyrannical weaker brother. I believe that is an apt description, because the weaker brothers can easily become tyrannical with their self-righteousness. They puff themselves up, believing they are more spiritual because they nurture personal convictions and abstain from certain activities deemed "worldly." They will often times quote scriptures (generally a-contextually) like "flee from all appearances of evil," and present anecdotal stories that tell of a person being led into sin by the "freedom" of the strong in faith which is suppose to vividly illustrate why Christians should abstain from such-and-such activity in spite of the fact the activity isn't a "sin." In many churches across the land, the tyrannical weak govern the congregations. Their alleged outward piety helps them to ascend to positions of leadership where they begin to enforce their personal convictions upon everyone else as the biblical standard of true spirituality.

The weak, though, should not allow himself to remain in his weakness. It really is a form of spiritual laziness. It is much easier for a person to remain bound to a set of personal convictions that are sub-biblical, because training one's mind to think genuinely along biblical terms takes work and study and the relinquishing of traditions that have erroneously shaped the way a person discerns spirituality.

I believe the scriptures can help a weaker brother strengthen his faith so as to move him from a state of spiritual lethargy stunted by erroneous "traditions" that have misguided his personal convictions. Paul's words in chapters 8-10 of 1 Corinthians touches on this exact problem.

First Corinthians is Paul's answers to questions sent to him in a letter by the Christians in Corinth. Similar to Romans, the church there also had groups of strong and weak Christians comprising its membership. The slight difference between the two groups was not between ethnic Jews converted to Christ who struggled with the gentiles' liberty to eat non-kosher food, but rather between gentile pagans converted to Christ who struggled with other gentile pagan converts and their freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Beginning in chapter 8, Paul addresses the strong in faith and their need to take heed to the weak in faith. Toward the end of chapter 10, he lays out principles to help govern the strong in the decisions they make; however, I believe there are 4 principles that can also help the weak in faith strengthen their conscience.

1) Is the activity lawful? (10:23). Is the activity under consideration directly forbidden by God? If there is not a direct command from the Lord against whatever it is, then there is no need for us Christians to create one. Because it is such a touchy issue with Christians, take the drinking of alcohol. The Bible forbids drunkedness, not the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Though Christians will often times conflate the drinking of alcohol with being drunk, the two are not the same. Additionally, even if the activity could be a pathway to a sin does not mean the activity is a sin. Sex can lead to adultery, but sex as God prescribes is not sinful.

2) Is the activity unhelpful and unedifying (10:23) The idea of something being helpful and edifying is whether or not it is the best thing to do at the moment to build up a fellow Christian. For example, there are many Thai restaurants around my church, but those restaurants have little statues of Buddha in them and the owners do buy the food they serve from a genuine Thai temple where it has been blessed by Buddhist monks.

I have had one occasion in which I encountered a gal who was saved out of that temple experience, so dining in a Thai place down the street was still an anathema for her because of the religious connection. It was probably the closest, real life illustration of Paul's directions in 1 Corinthians 8-10 I have ever seen. Us stronger Christians who have no spiritual connection to those restaurants are not helping her when we suggested them as a place to eat after church. Eating at a Thai restaurant is certainly lawful, I could care less if my fried bananas were sacrificed in a temple, but does it really help or edify my friend who still has bad religious connections to the fried bananas?

Now, Paul's words here are more aimed at the strong to exhort them to check themselves as to whether their freedom is helpful and edifying, but the weak, if they see the convictions of the strong as being unedifying and unhelpful, also need to ask themselves why they believe that. In other words, why exactly, for instance, is it unedifying to you the weaker in faith to see a Christian brother enjoy a cigar? Why do you think it is unhelpful if you know your strong friends enjoy drinking a glass of wine or two with their meal? If the weak in faith cannot provide a reasoned, scriptural argument, then they need to shore up their conscience in that particular area and cease from judging their stronger brothers.

3) Can you give genuine thanks for the activity? (10:30) If a Christian who has liberty with a particular activity can, with a clear and biblically informed conscience, give thanks for what he is doing, then there is no reason why the weaker need to condemn him for his activity. So again, taking the drinking of alcohol, if a group of believers who are drinking beer in moderation can give thanks for their fellowship and the drink they enjoy together, why should anyone speak evil of them? It is the weaker who need to adjust their think concerning their activity, not the strong being required to give it up.

4) Does it dishonor the Lord? (10:31) If an activity is lawful and those partaking in the activity can give thanks to the Lord for it, then it glorifies God. The weaker, though perhaps opposed to that activity, should not judge those who can glorify God by partaking in it. No one is dishonoring the Lord. They only dishonor the Lord if the activity could potentially be an offense to unbelievers or some in the church. If neither one of those scenarios are present, then the stronger's freedom is not in danger of dishonoring the Lord.

Now, as I wrap up this study, I completely understand there will be some Christians who will continue to maintain their personal convictions on a non-commanded matter all their Christian life. A person will always think smoking or drinking or attending movies is worldly and will never engage in those activities. I believe such a person is free to maintain those type of convictions; however, I would offer three directives:

Always remember your convictions are your personal convictions. They are not biblical commands for all to follow. Additionally, I would challenge anyone to re-evaluate those personal convictions in light of solid Bible study. It may truly be your personal convictions are merely derived from your up bringing, or some denominational traditions that are not supported by scripture, and you should be teachable to receive instruction in these matters even if they cut into your cherished convictions.

You cannot judge or separate from any other Christian who does not share your convictions. If you believe drinking wine is worldy, you cannot hold in contempt those Christians who disagree and partake in drinking wine.

Do not seek to enforce your convictions as authoritative standards of conduct in your local church. Again, your convictions are your own and it is draconian if you happen to be in a position of leadership or in a place of any significant influence to force those convictions on others.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Factory Hiding 101

Monday, October 15, 2007

How exactly do they define "Christian?"

Beliefnet has their list of the most influential "Christians" in Hollywood, and Mel Gibson has topped the list at number one. I guess I saw that one coming.

What I find interesting is the others listed. The entire list breaks down:

1. Mel Gibson
2. Denzel Washington
3. Patricia Heaton
4. Tyler Perry
5. Ralph Winter
6. Angela Basset
7. Martin Sheen
8. Martha Williamson
9. Kristen Chenoweth
10. Philip Anschultz
11. Howard Kazanjian
12. Scott Derrickson

I am only familiar with a handful of these folks. But what on earth qualifies them as being "Christian?" Patricia Heaton is probably the only one I would trust being a somewhat orthodox, conservative Christian, but, I mean, Martin Sheen? He spouts leftist conspiracy theory goobley-gook everytime he opens his mouth. I think it may be me, but a leftist, conspiratorial and activist world view just doesn't comport with biblical Christianity. If Sheen is considered a Christian, I certainly wonder about those others listed.

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Scary Accidents

Coming on the heels of this weekend's semi-truck fire in Newhall, here are some more scary accidents.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Truck Fire












So around 1 pm this afternoon I planned to take my three boys to play at a park and then eat at MacDonald's. When I jumped on Soledad Canyon road, one of the main roadways that links the west and east ends of the Santa Clarita Valley, the traffic came to a crawl near the bowling alley. That's about 2 miles from where Soledad Canyon cross San Fernando Road, the other main roadway in Santa Clarita. (Those not familiar with the geography can see this Google Map of "Santa Clarita Valley." That is if you are interested).

When traffic is backed up to the bowling alley, that means a few things: a) A yahoo has stalled his monster truck in the fast lane on Soledad; b) the brainiacs at Caltrans decided to do roadway construction work during a heavy traffic time, a common occurrence throughout the greater LA area; c) a traffic light is malfunctioning; or d) the freeway is shut-down. The traffic was so congested, I thankfully thought swiftly and turned around just before I got to that long stretch on Soledad where you can get stuck for nearly 30 minutes before having such an opportunity.

We spent nearly 45 minutes getting to our MacDonald's of choice (where they have those hamster tube play stations), that we had to nix the plans for the park. After we returned home from our outing, I decided to find out what the congestion was all about on the net. Much to my surprise, there was a massive truck crash on Friday evening that caused all the problems.

Apparently, from what I understand, two semi-trucks collided inside a tunnel on the truck lanes that take the trucks under the I-5 freeway. It just so happened that the accident took place during the late evening when there is heavy trucking traffic heading south on the 5 freeway down into LA and Long Beach Harbor. Their collision caused a major pile-up involving 10-15 trucks and a fire broke out creating an inferno that shot flame from both ends of the tunnel and hundreds of feet into the air. The fire was so hot it began to cause the concrete on the freeway to fall away in big chunks and explosions could be heard coming out of the tunnel for hours. The fire departments were able to get the fire under control just this Saturday afternoon. Transportation officials are predicting the freeway will be closed for a few days.

See a photo essay here

I realize folks reading my report in Possum Gap, West Virgina, are like, "so?", but here in L.A., that's a tremendous big deal, because one of the prime roadways that connects Northern California with Southern California is shut. That in turn means all that traffic - all those hundreds of thousands of cars a day - will be driving in front of my house to get to the city. Oh, bugger.

This happened one other time to my recollection: during the 94 earth quake. The 5 and 14 interchanges on the freeway collapsed. I lived in the San Fernando Valley then, but I still worked out in Santa Clarita. I had to car pool an hour or more with a group of ladies (when they remembered to pick me up), and when I couldn't return home with them, I had drive with another fellow in all the freeway traffic driving on the surface streets. We would leave work around 4 pm and I would get home around 7 pm. I did a lot of studying that week as a passenger.

So I am curious as to whether or not I will be able to get to church on Sunday. Heck, pretty much all the Grace Church staff lives in my neighborhood, including John and Phil. I guess we could all go over to his house for worship service. We can have a house church just like all those Christians in Acts.

I am sure his beagle will appreciate it.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Spiritual Unity (pt. 2): Serving the Weaker Brother

I began with the last post on this subject considering how Christians are to get along with each other when they may disagree concerning personal convictions. The personal convictions people hold are often the foundation for many disagreements between Christians both individually and in groups. Some Christians may believe that engaging in a particular activity is sin, whereas others do not.

In order to help shape our thinking about how we are to get along with each other as God people in spite of the personal convictions we may hold dear to our hearts, I have turned to Paul's words in Romans 14:1-15:13.

In that passage, Paul addresses two classifications of people with in the membership of the Body of Christ: The strong in faith and the weak in faith.

It's important to remember that the idea of faith here is not salvation per se, but whether the person was persuaded unto the truth regarding a conviction. Additionally, doctrinal purity is not at stake. The convictions were developed from personal opinion, not biblical orthodoxy. We are not talking about disagreements over how to understand the divinity of Christ or the nature of God's attributes, for instance.

The disagreement between these two groups Paul addresses in Romans divided along the lines of eating specific foods and the observance of particular days deemed holy. It is understood that Paul had gentile believers and Jewish believers in mind when he wrote his corrective. The gentiles would be the strong in faith and they had liberty to eat non-kosher foods, like bar-b-que pork ribs, and they didn't believe it was necessary to observe the many holy days associated with Judaism. The Jews, however, still had personal hang-ups about eating any food that wasn't kosher and they believed it was important to observe those holy days.

As a result of these disagreements, the two groups were divided with the weaker in faith asserting the strong are "just too worldly," and the stronger holding the weaker in contempt as being legalistic. The principles Paul outlines in Romans 14 and 15 are meant to re-focus these two groups to seek unity. They are equally compelling for us today who disagree, yet along differing convictions.

Beginning in 14:13 and following, Paul narrows his principles to address the strong more so than the weak. I believe there is a reason why he writes a substantial paragraph addressing the strong. Even though the strong are correct in their understanding of how the food regulations have been abolished (Acts 10:9-16, 11:4-17), because the abstaining from eating foods really has no value in helping a Christian's spiritual heart (Col. 2:20-23), and how the holy days were mere shadows that have been fulfilled in Christ (Col 2:17), they are at greater risk with abusing their liberty.

With liberty comes greater responsibility. Just like that teenager who earns his driver's license and is now free to drive dad and mom's SUV, he is now even more responsible for the abilities he has because the misuse of that freedom can endanger many lives. So it is with spiritual liberty. The strong have great freedom in Christ, but greater responsibility to utilize that freedom for Christ's sake.

I believe Paul outlines 6 principles the strong can use to serve the weaker brother

1) Maintain a clear path. (vs 13)

The liberty of the strong in faith should not be a stumbling block for the weak in faith. A stumbling block would be any obstacle that would cause a person to trip. Metaphorically, tripping into a spiritual downfall. Paul goes onto explain how what is considered clean to the strong, like eating certain foods, may still be "unclean" in the mind of the weaker brother. The stronger may consider such a conviction as "silly" and "ridiculous," but Paul is clear that by the strong partaking in their liberty, they potentially could cause spiritual ruin to the weaker.

2) Walk in love (vs 15, 21)

The stronger walking in love before the weaker is simple: if your liberty grieves the weaker, then deprive yourself of your liberty for the sake of the weaker.

I saw this principle illustrated recently with my children at play. In the afternoons I will sit in our garage while my two oldest boys ride their bikes around in the driveway between our condo buildings. I let them follow the sidewalk around our building so they can have a longer path to follow. The side walk takes them out of my sight for maybe 40 seconds and if they are late, I can holler their names and they come.

Our neighbors across the way also have a boy around the age of my two oldest who also likes to ride his bike. His father, however, doesn't want him following the sidewalk out of his sight, even if it is just 40 seconds. As would happen, my two boys started riding on the sidewalk and without thinking, their friend followed. The father was upset that his son disobeyed by riding out of his sight and thus made his son come inside. He goes into his home crying and my boys are bugged their friend had to leave.

Thinking swiftly, I asked them both, "What would have been the kind thing to do?" "I don't know," was the reply. I said, "Well, your friend's daddy didn't want him riding around the building on the side walk, right? So don't you think it would have served your friend by staying over here and not riding on the sidewalks?" "Yeah, I guess, can we have soda for dinner?" Anyways, in many situations, the strong will be serving their weaker brothers by limiting their freedom. Even if he can partake in eating pork ribs freely, don't do it for the sake of the weaker one who thinks pork is unclean.

3) Use your strength to serve Christ (vs. 16-18)

Liberty is a riotous good thing, be we must not all our good thing to be turned into a blasphemous or evil thing. What is good could be perceived as evil because it gives the appearance that all that matters in the Kingdom of God is the liberty to eat and drink, rather than what is truly good, a right relationship with God our savior and with our fellow men. Liberty is not about physical blessing, but spiritual blessing.

4) Pursue unity (vs 19, 20)

Rather than pursuing our liberty to please, what really amounts to our self interests, we need to pursue the common good of the Body of Christ. Our pursuit should be to build up our fellow believers and their best interests. Their best interests for the time being may not have anything to do with the freedom of eating food. What serves them better is to perhaps shepherd them through their "weakness" as it were.

Note Paul's words in Is your liberty to eat pork ribs, or in our modern world, drink beer, worth destroying the work of God in the life of a person just so you can enjoy your ribs or beer? And believe me, I have had some good ribs in my life, but my appetite is not worth destroying the sanctification of my fellow saint just to eat some ribs.

5) Please others (vs. 22-15:3)

Pleasing others involves two actions we have already considered: Deny your liberty for the sake of the weak and do that which edifies others. It may be you have faith to eat, but enjoy the use of your faith before God. Don't flaunt it before others to show off what you have in Christ. By conducting yourself in such a manner, it will seek to build up others. Christ is our prime example. He could have pleased himself by destroying his enemies. He certainly had the ability as God in the flesh. Yet, instead he took the reproach owed to us so we could be lifted up. Our mindset toward the weak in faith should be the same.

6) Receive one another

In other words, don't let petty bickering over personal convictions destroy the unity of the church. How absurd it is to think Christians will divide over mundane issues like a woman wearing pants, or if a pastor attends a Billy Graham crusade, or if a Christian couple uses birth control or not. Those are not the matters which should divide believers.


Now, with these points in mind, allow me to conclude by saying a word to my Reformed comrades. I believe my Reformed friends often times, and with the intentions of being provocative, violate these principles when they indulge their liberty to drink alcohol and smoke cigars. It's sort of the trendy thing to do nowadays if you are a restless young Calvinist. You join your theological buddies down at a high-end pub, drink up some ale and smoke a cigar while discussing the differences between Clark and Van Til. Though it may be the trendy thing to do, I don't believe it is necessarily the wisest.

Listen, my Reformed friends, I sympathize with you. For many of you, years ago, God gripped your heart with the doctrines of grace. You fell in love with the Puritans and the writings of those men like A.W. Pink who had a high vision of God's sovereignty. You more than likely spent all the extra money you had to purchase a boat load of Sola Deo Gloria reprints and R.C. Sproul videos. You also fell in love with solid biblical, expositional preaching like that of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and you probably read through your first systematic theology by someone like Louis Berkhof or Robert Reymond.

Nearly all of you more than likely came from an independent, fundamentalist background and it didn't take long to see how your new found Reformed beliefs clashed with the traditional American Bible-belt style Christianity you were initially taught at your church. Eventually, by either moving away to college or breaking away to attend a church more reflective of your new found Reformed ideas, you reacted against your early spiritual upbringing by attending your first movie, or smoking a pipe, or drinking your first glass of wine with out feeling the cringe of guilt that you are turning apostate.

But, what originally was the joy of liberty quickly turned to a opportunity to gloat against those men and women who didn't partake in your liberty. But your gloating, and what is often times a flamboyant display of spiritual liberty, is perceived as being obnoxious. This should not be, because the abuse liberty does violence to the biblical teaching you came to love. Rather than seeing a passionate lover of God's sovereignty, those who oppose you see a jerky worldly guy. Though you may be correct with your liberty, the weak in faith don't see the situation in the same manner. They have a lot of militant fundamentalism hung up in their souls that will take patience, shepherding and the sanctification of the Spirit to free them. Don't hinder that work by a flagrant misuse of your liberty.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Atheism in Kentucky

Mark Looy of Answers in Genesis deconstructs the glowing review the American Atheist magazine gave to the grand opening of the creation museum.

Why Do the Atheists Rage?

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Creating My Perfect Universe

So if you have been to the TeamPyro blog, you may have noticed that Phil has updated his blogroll in the sidebar column. Gone are the categories like, "Stellar," "Really Awesome," and "People who Sicken Me."

However, in order to maintain some distinction as to which blogs are more readable than others, Phil has kept in place the names of the authors in various font sizes and point thickness. So, if you are really readable, then your blog is listed with an 18pt., Arial bold, red font. If you are O.K., then it is standard, scrawny 10pt.

Now, I find it an honor just to be even listed on Phil's sidebar, even if it is a scrawny 10pt., but he offered this challenge:

In a perfect universe, Fred Butler (for example) would get a large-type listing, but I'm his boss in his real-world job, so 1) I don't want him to get cocky, and 2) I don't want to be accused of favoritism. So I decided to let Fred work harder for the large type.

In an effort to at least obtain a coveted 14pt. bold font, I have inserted the TeamPyro banner at the top of my site. That is good for a start, I hope. However, in addition I will be sending my children over to his house to wash his SUV every week, rather than every other week. That should really be good for at least a 12 if not a 14.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Spiritual Unity (pt. 1): Words to the Stronger and Weaker Among Us.

The couple of posts I made a few weeks ago discussing smoking and drinking caused me to reflect upon a series I did with my volunteers called Genuine Christian Spirituality. In that series I spoke about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians, crucifying the flesh, being filled with the Spirit, renewing our minds, spiritual gifts, and our need to make proper determination of God's will. I also addressed the need for Christians to strive for unity in spite of differing convictions about a particular issue.

In light of the handful of emails and comments I received from readers both positive and negative, I thought it may be helpful to address the subjects of personal convictions and the stronger and weaker brother.

An important part of biblical discernment has to do with making wise decisions concerning the gray areas of life; areas that are not specifically addressed by the scripture, but are left to individuals to form their own individual convictions based upon correctly applied biblical principles.

It is these areas where many Christians can and do differ. Among a host of believers, you may find a variety of expressed opinions on a number of subjects. For example:

Attending movies
Renting secular movies on DVD
Owning and watching a television
Listening to secular music
Listening to contemporary Christian music
Using CCM in worship services
Working on Sundays
Long hair on men, short hair on women
Women wearing pants
Smoking
Drinking (in moderation of course)
Models for courtship or dating
Whether to home school or send children to public or private school

What ever the conviction, some folks are down right adamant about the ones they hold near and dear to their hearts, and those convictions can become problematic when they disrupt the unity of the local church. Tensions can arise when one group of Christians may not agree to and accept the convictions of another group.

How exactly do we address disagreements? How exactly should we respond to those fellow Christians who may have liberty in a particular area, where as others are bound by conscience in the same exact area?

This division among Christians over personal convictions, liberty and legalism, was in the early church just like it is today, even though the early Christians were divided over different issues. Paul recognized this problem in the churches at Roman and he addressed their interaction with each other over these matters beginning in Chapter 14 and extending down to 15:13.

Paul addresses two categories of individual members: the weak and the strong.

The weak are called "weak in faith" (14:1). The idea of faith is not so much belief unto salvation as some suppose, but it is more along the lines of being persuaded of the truth; what their faith in Christ allows or prohibits. Whereas the strong had liberty in the areas of disagreement, the weak did not.

Paul mentions three areas that divided the two groups:

1) The strong eats all foods; the weak only vegetables (2).
2) The strong make no values as to specific "days;" the weak do (5,6).
3) The strong eat certain foods and drink wine; the weak abstain (6, 20, 21).

More than likely, the two groups may had been Jewish Christians (the weak) and gentile Christians (the strong).

Jewish believers would still maintain sensibilities with regards to food and recognizing certain holy days. Gentile Christians, coming from a pagan background particularly, would not share those sensibilities and would be in danger of offending Jewish Christians with their liberty. Though there is no clear word from Paul in his epistle to the Romans, it may had been that the two groups polarized themselves into separate congregations meeting at different times. Its similar, at least in my mind, to how churches in our modern world set up separate traditional and contemporary worship services.

In this passage (14:1-15:13), Paul confronts the disunity between the strong and the weak by laying out principles these two groups should honor so as to maintain unity.

One thing we do need to keep in mind:

It is important to note that their disagreements did not center around any doctrinal points.

In other words, there wasn't any doctrinal purity at stake here. I mention that because some Christians who wish to practice separation will elevate non-doctrinal convictions to a place of orthodoxy and make them a standard for fellowship. But what Paul is confronting is personal opinions and convictions, not doctrinal purity.

With this introduction in mind, I believe Paul lays out four principles to maintain unity.

1) Refrain from judging other's convictions.

Paul opening comments addressing these two groups are clear,

Let not him who eats (the strong) despise him who does not eat (the weak), and let not him who does not eat (the weak) judge him who eats (the strong); for God has received him. (14:3)

Both groups were guilty of judging each other's motives for their convictions. Usually in my encounters with individuals from these two groups, it is the weaker in faith who are the most vocal with their judgments against the strong. The strong are considered "too worldly." I reckon it is easier to prepare a sermon attacking some perceived "vice" like drinking wine or listening to rock and roll, and those attack sermons play well to the masses.

Yet Paul opens his words of reproof to the strong who despises the weak. The word despise has in mind an attitude of contempt. Basically one person looking down upon the other as being worthless. The strong are to repent of such attitudes of disdain. Additionally, the weak are not to judge the strong. To judge means the weak were condemning the strong probably with a mind-set of self-righteousness and being "holier-than-thou." The weak equally needed to repent of this attitude.

Two reasons for repenting of these attitudes:

- Both groups are saved. God has received both groups of individuals. Both are part of God's Kingdom

- God is the one who evaluates his servants. Each individual servant of God stands or falls before Christ the Lord. Again, these are not issues of revealed, doctrinal truth at stake, but matters of opinions when it comes to personal living. We as Christian have no place to scrutinize a person's convictions unless those convictions cross the boundaries into sinfulness.

2) Christ is the Lord over both groups

Paul draws our attention to the divisive issues in the congregations at Rome: food ordinances and the observance of specific holy days. Though the two groups had firm convictions concerning those areas, they both are to be submitted to Christ as their Lord. If a person has liberty to eat, he must do so with thanksgiving unto his Lord. So to with the person who does not have liberty to eat, don't eat with thanksgiving.

No person lives unto himself or dies unto himself, but is submitted to the Lord as His servant. That is the over-arching principle. (14:7-9)

3) Receive those who differ as brothers and sisters

The opening verse in this chapter states, Receive one who is weak in faith. The idea goes beyond just tolerating the person when you see him or her at church. To receive means you bring them into your fellowship, just like God has brought us all into His fellowship by the death of His Son. We are not to separate fellowship from a fellow believer because you may have liberty to smoke cigars and he does not. Nor are we to separate fellowship if you think drinking alcohol is a sin, and other believers do not and drink it on occasion. Separation from "brothers" should be the last resort and not something done easy.

4) Remember God in all we do

Ultimately, how we react to one another reflects upon our relationship with God. The outside world looking in upon us should not see God's people as bickering and separating over food (14:20) or anything else as trivial. Pursuing peace with each other in these matters not only honors God, but strengthens the work of God in our world.

More importantly, and this is something I will expand upon in my next post on this subject, never are we to cause to stumble a fellow believer in these matters or make one offended by our behavior. This is a danger for the strong. We are never, as Paul writes, to destroy with your food (or beer drinking, cigar smoking, movie watching) the one for whom Christ died (vs 15).

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

We Sold Our Baby This Weekend

I knew this day would come, and it has.

We had to sell our Camry.

Our family is growing and last year my wife and I discussed buying a van. Most of our conversations were just talking about the future, but then one day she calls me at work from our local Nissan dealer and tells me she had the opportunity to get a used Sienna at 50% off. She bought it, and a little black rain cloud of depression enveloped me and I moped around the house all weekend like Eeyore. I just knew buying this van meant we would have to sell the Camry.

It was the second car I have "officially" owned. We bought it used after my wife had a serious car accident back in November 2001. A big, bald fellow lost control of his pick-up truck and flipped it upside down onto her Nissan Pulsar coming toward him from the opposite direction. God knew I needed her longer in my life, so he spared her with only minor injuries.

Now that we were in need of a new car, we thought we would trade in my 95 Saturn and become a single car couple. A friend of ours who sold cars in Australia went with us to the dealer to help us pick out a new vehicle. Together, we narrowed our search down to a Toyota Camry that had just been traded in itself.

It was a sweet car. Handled nicely, had a CD player and a tape player, an alarm, hardly any maintenance required except for the oil changes and such. We drove a few times to Arizona in it. A few trips up the California coast; mainly though, back and forth from church.

We were determined to sell it before the fall, so a couple of months ago I bought a set of new tires for it and had it detailed. Except for a few dings and scratches on the body, we listed it for sale at the Kelly Blue Book price of "good." We were hoping to get at least 7,000 plus for it. We listed it for sale on Craig's List one Saturday morning, and with in the hour we had people calling us. My wife and I had to filter out the many independent car dealers who called us and smugly told us that "no one uses the Kelly Blue Book price to sell and buy cars," and would offer us no more that 6 grand to "take it off our hands." Six grand!? What?! So the guy could turn around and finance the thing to a chump family for 10,000 bucks!

We did have serious lookers, however, and about 5 buyers actually arrange to meet us and take a look. Usually, after about 30 minutes of looking the car over, taking it for a spin, and kicking the tires, they would all say, "we're definitely interested, but we have some more cars to look at, so we'll be in touch." Only but one "stayed in touch" and that was a perfectionist guy who told me he was shocked to see so many scratches on the car. At least he was honest - and stayed in touch.

Finally, a guy calls us at 11 pm one week night waking my wife and I from a sound sleep. He told me he was interested in the car and wanted to come see it. I said sure, but laughingly told him he couldn't come past 10 pm. He blandly replied, "Oh, OK."

Any how, on a Friday evening, a college aged kid dropped by with his uncle. They were both of Asian descent. Though the kid who wanted to buy our car was nice, he reminded me of an aimless smart aleck. After driving it around, he and his uncle offered us 6,800-dollars. I told him we wouldn't go below 7,000. He said ok, and that he would "be in touch." I figured I would never hear from him again.

The very next day, early in the morning, he calls back and says he wants the car and would pay us 7,000 for it. We agreed. He told us he would come back on Monday afternoon to pick it up. OK we said, that would be fine. Then I get another call from him a few hours later in which he tells us he can't get the money until late into the week. I told him that would be OK, but if someone else comes around and offers us more, we would have to sell it to the other buyer.

Friday came with out hearing once from our college kid, so we thought maybe his uncle talked him out of it. But Friday evening we get a call from him telling us he would come Saturday afternoon with the money in cash. We met him and a girl friend and it came to find out they were both international students from Hong Kong who just arrived in June to attend school. That probably explains the "aimlessness" I was sensing from the kid.

After counting the money and signing all the relevant documentation to transfer ownership, I hand this international kid the keys to our baby and watched him drive off. My wife and I both became weepy.

Of course we both began to wonder if we did all the right things legally and if whether or not they were really Chinese operatives here in the U.S. as spies, or worse, North Korean spies who just paid us for our car with some of that well made North Korean counterfeit money.

I'll let you know if the Secret Services pays us a visit.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Horrors!

"Evangelicals" are accused of force feeding U.S. Troops Christianity - Postmodern relativists freak-out; threaten law suits, want money.

Force feeding? Like herding soldiers into a giant room and making them watch a John Hagee sermon?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just in Case...

Let's say you come home from a long day at work, and you plan to enjoy the weekend tooling around the house. As you walk in the front door, your lovely bride meets you at the door with a kiss and a piece of freshly made chocolate-chip banana bread as a snack, and after you play with the kids and chat about the events of your day, your lovely wife then tells you how SHE DROPPED YOUR IPOD IN THE TOILET!

Just in case that happens, here's is one of the better and important articles I found helpful that you may wish to keep on file to help slow your spiraling descent down the vortex of despair.

It's also helpful for any water-logged electronic device.

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