Friday, June 06, 2008

More Random Thoughts

Here are a few more random, unconnected, unfinished thoughts…

John Piper posted a list the other day on why he doesn’t take pot shots at fundamentalists. It’s a great list and worthy of consideration because it puts into practice the I Corinthians admonishments regarding unity in the Body of Christ. I spent a few years running from God. When He brought me back, I was adopted by a family of wild fundamentalists. It was the stark contrast I needed to the life of sin I had been practicing to show me what God had put to death in my life and what real life was. Here’s the list:
  1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I've met).
  2. They believe in truth.
  3. They believe that truth really matters.
  4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.
  5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.
  6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.
  7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).
  8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.
  9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.
  10. Their "social action" is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn't usually get written up in the newspaper.
  11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don't have any better track record than non-Christians.
  12. They resist trendiness.
  13. They don't think too much is gained by sounding hip.
  14. They may not be hip, but they don't go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.
  15. They still sing hymns.
  16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.
  17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the "pillar and bulwark of the truth."
  18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.
  19. My dad was one.
  20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

What I find interesting is that for theological conservatives, we recognize those who deny the veracity of key elements of Christian orthodoxy as “liberals” while calling ourselves “conservatives”. “Fundamentalists” are those who are theologically conservative who tend toward legalistic trappings or appearances.

Most liberals don’t call themselves “liberals”. They call themselves “moderates”. They call conservatives “fundamentalists” and make no distinction between adherence to Christian theological orthodoxy and overt behavioral legalism. Use of the term “moderate” implies that there is some group much farther left that they don’t agree with. The problem is that if there are, they generally don’t acknowledge them. They certainly don’t criticize them like they criticize those they consider to be “fundamentalists”. As such, their intent seems to be to reframe the argument semantically in an attempt to move mainstream thinking ever leftward.

These same “moderates” would have been happy to leave me in my former sin. Thank God for the fundies.

Another one from Desiring God references a Piper sermon on “Spiritual Depression in the Psalms”. I’ve talked about depression before, but this is something I’m still processing. The question I ask myself is why do we treat depression like it is a spiritual weakness?

“You have emotional issues? You must not be very spiritually mature.”
“I have emotional issues. I can’t let anyone know about it because then they’ll think I’m not a very mature Christian and ostracize me.”
or… “I have emotional issues. People will patronize me or not know how to interact with me.”

Actually, all of these are fairly accurate. However, none of them are indicative of attitudes that are becoming of a healthy Body of Christ. A good church recognizes the truth. Truth alone does not good ministry make. Sacrificial service in love does. There’s a lady who has been visiting our church. She’s been tangentially active, but has had some issues in her life. She’s open about the fact that she’s had a nervous breakdown, but most people are unwilling to sit and listen to her – so I do.

Spiritual depression, severe stress and emotional needs are characteristic of many of the first-person view in the Psalms. In this fallen world, this is normal. The church above all should be the first to recognize and offer comfort and direction for this. You can’t do this unless you are transparent enough to offer your own struggles. However, this is viewed as weak and not becoming of good leadership.

I don’t have any admonitions here; this is just where I am in considering these things.

We (Christians) are gifts. Ok, we have received the gift of eternal life, but we are gifts to the Son by the Father. (John 17)

The question was asked, “What kind of gift am I?” I saw a commercial the other day. I think it was for an insurance company or some such. An old car, a classic that needed a lot of restoration work, was being bought and attached to the back of a truck.

The announcer came on and said something to the effect that “There’s nothing like towing a ‘new’ car home.” I imagine that’s what kind of gifts we are.

Perhaps we can imagine the Son saying to the Father, “Couldn’t you clean them up a little bit?”

The Father replies, “I have given them to you. It’s up to you to clean them up.”

I don’t mean to mischaracterize the relationship between the Father and the Son. No analogy is perfect. But I got a kick out of thinking that God saw fit to not only give me a gift that I do not deserve, but to consider me a gift fit for the Son.

PFC Ross McGuinnis was awarded the Medal of Honor a few days ago posthumously. He gave his life for his fellow soldiers in an act that, given fuse times of grenades, took a scant second or two to perform. He didn’t have time to think about it in that moment. Rather, in order to react as he did, he would have thought about it and made that decision ahead of time.

Dealing with sin is an act of living sacrifice. We can’t wait until temptation strikes to make the decision. It’s too late by then. We make the decision what to do when tempted ahead of time. Given the insidious nature of temptation, we must realize that our lives here are to be characterized with a trust in God that desperately clings to Him moment by moment not unlike a soldier who in the heat of battle desperately clings to his weapons and armament, and looks to his fellow soldiers for support and commander for guidance.

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