Category Archives: faith

To the Ends of the Earth

As is Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. – Psalm 48:10

This morning, I was struck by the words of this Psalm: “As is Your name, O God, so is Your praise…” The power, the majesty, the immensity of the name of God overwhelms. His name holds power throughout the universe. His hand is evident all over creation.

Even so is His praise. If we don’t praise Him, every rock, in every corner of the earth, every star, every galaxy, everything that is proclaims the glory of its Creator. There is no escaping His praise. There is no way He will not be praised.

To the ends of the earth, praise Him!

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Show Us What Is Possible

Crystal Kelley and Baby S. - Courtesy of CNN
Crystal Kelley and Baby S. – Courtesy of CNN

Crystal Kelley, a single mother of two who’d recently lost her job, was a surrogate faced with a terrible choice: terminate her pregnancy as the biological parents told her to do, or keep the child herself – a child who had severe medical problems and only a small chance at a “normal” life.  Despite an offer of $10,000 to have the abortion, she chose to disobey the biological parents.

“I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do,” Kelley said in the linked CNN article.

In the end, Kelley found a home for the child, referred to in the article as Baby S.  She was adopted into a loving family with the means and will to care for her.

There are ethical issues here outside of the issue of abortion.  Some may believe, as the biological parents appear to have, that abortion would have been the most humane choice.  But I believe Kelley chose the highest ethic – the preservation of the life of the child.

As a father and a human being, I understand the difficulty of choosing to bring into the world a child who has little to no chance at a normal life, or even survival.  But I also believe that’s no one’s choice but God’s.

As Baby S.’s adoptive parents stated in the quote above, “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving.”

Doesn’t every child deserve that chance?  Would that more people would choose the life of the child.

Redeemer

As I read Leviticus 25 this morning, I was reminded that God did not become Redeemer when Jesus died on the cross.  Here we see the redemption of land, slaves, and the poor.  We are reminded of the kinsman redeemer.

We see that, even in the beginnings of His relationship with the newly freed nation of Israel, as He formed a covenant with them at Sinai, God was Redeemer.  He was concerned with the redemption of those who could not redeem themselves, with the freedom of those who were powerless to free themselves.  God had freed His people from Egypt, and it was His intention to keep them free.

It was their own refusal to abide by the covenant that kept the Israelites from being free as God desired.

As followers of Christ – the Church – we are that nation’s successors, in that we are God’s people.  Like Israel, we sometimes stubbornly refuse to obey.  But God’s intention in the death and resurrection of His Son is that we would be free.

He didn’t simply make rules allowing for our physical redemption as He did in Leviticus.  He gave Himself that we would be redeemed effective, spiritually, eternally.  Jesus was and is the ultimate kinsman redeemer, who gave His life that we might be free from sin, free to live lives that glorify Him.

Not only did He give us the opportunity, but He empowers us to be free.  The very Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is in us (Romans 8:11), giving us what we need to live as the people of God.

We are redeemed!

Fighting the Wrong War?

In case you missed it, we Christians are involved in the Culture Wars.  If you haven’t yet, you’ll probably get your draft notice soon.  You’re not allowed to remain neutral.

So what the heck are these Culture Wars?

The enemy is anyone who stands against biblical values.  The heated battle of the moment – thanks in part to the “news” of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s views on the subject – is the issue of same-sex marriage.   The weapons of our warfare are outraged words, political wrangling, boycotts, legislative maneuvering.  What’s at stake – as the name suggests – is American culture.

In this war over the culture, biblical values appear to be steadily losing ground.  Is it because we’re not wielding our weapons well?  Is our strategy at fault?  As I mulled this over, at first I thought that perhaps we’re using the wrong weapons.  That’s part of it, but the full truth is much worse.

We are using the wrong weapons against the wrong enemy in the wrong war. The right weapon is the Gospel.  The real enemy is Satan.  We fight for the souls of men and women who are oppressed.

The Wrong War

Why shouldn’t we fight for the culture?  Well, what is culture?  One definition on Merriam-Webster.com is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  The culture is not some concrete object or place that we can fight over.  It is a set of ideas and values that finds its origin in the people.  In order for the culture to change, the people must change.

That’s how we got here, remember?  Americans used to hold different values.  Now they hold these values.  Therefore, the culture is what it is.

And the people.  All of us – every man, woman, and child on Earth – are oppressed, enslaved by sin.  (Romans 6:20)

Let’s fight the right war – to free the slaves from sin.

The Wrong Weapons

Our only hope of salvation is the Risen Savior who died to free us from the very thing that enslaves us. (John 14:6)  Therefore, our words hold no sway over the souls of men and women.  Only the Gospel does.  In fact, our words just get in the way. (1 Corinthians 1:17)  We cannot change the values of the people by fighting over them, shouting, making laws, or buying a chicken sandwich.

The Wrong Enemy

Imagine the United States Army during World War II.  The soldiers enter France to liberate the land.  They begin gunning down terrified men, women, and children in the streets.  Meanwhile, Hitler’s forces march ever forward, conquering all the peoples of Europe.  In every moment of the Culture Wars this is what we do.

We are using the wrong weapons to fight against people who are oppressed, and it is their oppression that that has led the culture to dismiss biblical values.  Our true enemy is their oppressor – Satan.  (1 Peter 5:8)

The people are so deceived by his lies that they believe God’s hatred of sin to be bigotry.  They are intolerant of the truth, but it’s because they are enslaved.  We can’t expect them to know and love the ways of God until their chains are broken and He remakes them into His likeness.

Let’s stop all the shouting and political maneuvering.  Instead, let’s pick up the Gospel and fight Satan for all we’re worth to free these slaves.

Review | Earthen Vessels by Matthew Lee Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matthew Lee Anderson’s Earthen Vessels is a hard book to pin down. The author’s voice is at once conversational and classical. (With titles like, “Preface: In Which I Clear My Throat,” I was often reminded, stylistically, of C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton.) And while he is not afraid of big words, he is somehow deceptively simple in his delivery. Imagine you have an old high school friend who grew up to be a philosopher and you guys get together for a cup of coffee – that’s Anderson’s style.

His tone belies the depth of his subject – “why our bodies matter to our faith” – but this is not a weakness. On the contrary, Earthen Vessels could have read like a text book, but it doesn’t. It’s a much, much easier read than it has any right to be.

Anderson presents as the basis for his book the idea that our physical bodies are “the place of our personal presence in the world.” (pg. 233) As such, we cannot separate our bodies from ourselves as easily as we sometimes try to (philosophically, at least). And in fact, Christ took on a human body, and He “died to save and renew human bodies.” (pg. 16) Therefore, we are inseparable from our bodies. There’s a lot of very interesting philosophical delving here to elaborate and drive the point home.

Once that premise is established, Anderson takes us on a wide-ranging journey into topics as varied as pleasure, tattoos, homosexuality, and death and the implications they hold for our bodies and our faith.

Earthen Vessels covers a great deal of ground in its 230 or so pages. The book may leave you with more questions than it answers, but Anderson’s purpose in these pages is to start a conversation rather than end it.

It takes a while to wrestle with all these topics, and it is not for the casual reader. As I’ve said, the book was easy enough to read, but understanding what you’ve read takes some serious thought. Unless you’re some kind of genius, it may take a second or even a third read. However, it’s worth the time. There’s a lot of meat to chew on here, and that’s something that is sorely missing in most Christian literature. I definitely recommend Earthen Vessels.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for this review as part of their blogger review program.

View all my reviews

Woe to you…

Matthew 23:13-30 – “Eight Woes”

I find the Pharisees to be – perhaps strangely – a strong example of how easily human nature comes between us and the truth of the Gospel. The roots of Pharisaism were in a movement meant to return Jews to right belief and right practice at a time when pagan culture (namely Greek) was overtaking their own culture and religious practices (the period between the Old and New Testaments). Instead, as evidenced in Jesus’ words here, they created a set of rules that actually drew them away from what God really wanted.

So, what does this have to do with human nature? Humans like rules. I know, most people would disagree. We don’t want to be told what to do, but think about it. We’d rather have rules that clearly define how we get to Heaven (Be good! Don’t hurt people!) than deal with this ethereal “relationship with God” thing. It’s easier!

Scripture points us to right behavior, but it is also clear that right behavior is meaningless without the right heart. Otherwise, why would Jesus come down on the Pharisees here?

It’s also easier when the rules serve to make me look good without my having to worry about other people.

You see, the Pharisees missed the point – the Law never saved anyone, not even a Jew. The Law existed for the people to maintain relationships with God and one another. Hence, the two greatest commandments:

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:36b-40

If that wasn’t happening, the Law wasn’t serving its purpose.

Sadly, many Christians – those of us who live under the New Covenant in which Christ has fulfilled the Law – still want it this way. We want the rules.  Even though they don’t teach this way with words, many churches teach this way by example.  It’s not about going to Bible study or Sunday morning worship or putting in time in the food pantry.  Those things are all good things, but they must all grow out of love.

This is not to say there is no place in the Christian life for duty.  Let’s face it.  Sometimes, we don’t feel like doing the things that we know we ought to do.  We should do them anyway because they are our duty as followers of Jesus.

It’s a line that is easy to cross, as the Pharisees show us. We must do our duty, but we don’t just do it for the sake of duty.  We do our duty because we love the God who first loved us and the people whom He loves.