Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's Blooming this Week? Everything!

Pictures taken this morning in my garden. From top to bottom: Globe Thistle (not a weed!), Knapweed (not a weed to me!), Purple Coneflowers, Spirea, Lillies. Click on the Spirea photo to see a surprise visitor!

"Is not his heart imprisoned by the summer
Snaring the whistles of the birds
And fastening in its cage the flowers' colour?" Dylan Thomas

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Mother Ship Weed

There’s a weed I call the “Mother Ship.” In order to eradicate it, one must dig down at least 8 inches or so in the dirt with a shovel and then nose around with a trowel to locate the large white tuber from which all the surface weeds feed. If I pick the weeds at the surface, they just grow back, and in fact spread through the many feeder roots which find their source at the “Mother Ship.” Whenever I’m able to dig up one of these tubers, I feel truly victorious, triumphant that that particular patch of garden or yard will no longer host this nemesis.

The “Mother Ship” tuber is just like sin, isn’t it? Sin is rooted down deep in our very nature (Galatians 5:19; 6:8 to name just two). We can pick away at the surface of sin through our own power, cleaning up for a day, a month, or a year, but never really eradicating it once for all. A new shoot from the "Mother Ship" always rears its ugly head.

Thankfully, we don’t need a trowel, harsh chemicals or back-breaking labor to fight sin. And we don’t have to rely on ourselves. Believers have something much better: The full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Jesus fought Satan’s attempts to tempt Him by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4). Ephesians 6:14 and 17 says we must do the same: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” and take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Scripture is the preventative that can block sin from taking root in the first place and is one of the ways God shows us the sin that is already there! Just consider it spiritual Roundup: a preventative and killer of sin all in one!

In addition to the Word of God, the other armor includes righteousness, faith, salvation and prayer. In short, we get access to this armor when we accept Jesus Christ not only as Savior, but as Lord of our entire life: attitudinal, physical, spiritual, and intellectual. Only then will the "Mother Ships" of sin in our soul begin to be eradicated.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:13-18

Monday, July 13, 2009

Charles Colson's "The Faith"

I just began reading “The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters” by Chuck Colson and Harold Fickett (2008 by Zondervan). I’ll be writing about each chapter as I go, which will appear here probably rather irregularly, as I squeeze my reading in between gardening, biking with my son, daily Bible reading, making some attempt at keeping the house from falling into total disarray and farming out freelance stuff (which is much easier to write than to find a home for!)

With that, here’s a look at the first chapter of “The Faith”:

Colson is all about defending the Christian faith in challenging times, something that has, in fact, been necessary since the beginning of Christianity. The thing I love about Colson (I’ve read his book "Born Again" and heard him speak this past February at Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week) is that he speaks plainly, passionately and confidently about being a Christian. There’s none of what I like to call “black turtleneck spiritual angst” in Colson: he doesn’t focus on and encourage mystery; he tells us plainly about the reason for the hope that he has; and he desires for all to have a changed life through Christ. He isn’t about "re-imagining" Christianity to where nobody can even recognize it—he’s about professing the simple and clear Truths of the Bible that all are called to and can understand through God’s Holy Spirit. In short, Colson isn’t embarrassed to be a Christian, even though he himself acknowledges that

“Christians are fallen, flawed, and broken people who often profess one thing and do another.” “But,” Colson points out, “contrary to the public misconceptions about Christianity today, the Christian Church and the truth it defends are the most powerful life-and culture-changing forces in human history. This enduring truth has been tested and proven true over two thousand years.”

So what is it that will help the church revive and bring more people to freedom in Christ? Orthodoxy. That is a word that many people strongly dislike, yet everyone follows some form of orthodoxy, be it secular, humanist, political, agnostic, atheist, etc. Colson defines Christian orthodoxy as “the core beliefs that have united Christians through the ages.” He calls it “right belief.” It is this Christian orthodoxy that is under assault today, and is the reason Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it.

Colson says critics of Christian orthodoxy say “we are trying to ‘impose’ our views on American life—that we want to create a ‘theocracy,’ or a government run by the Church. But this is absurd; theocracy is contrary to the most basic Christian teaching about free will and human freedom. Christianity gave the very idea of separation of Church and state to the West. And Christianity advances not by power or by conquest, but by love.”

The real challenge for Christians is that “we have come into a postmodern era that rejects the idea of truth itself,” says Colson. He says that “tolerance--falsely defined as putting all propositions on an equal footing…has replaced truth.” (not allowing refutations and constructive criticisms of evolution come to my mind as one example of where tolerance has failed).

Colson goes on to say how “Millions acquiesce to the all-beliefs-are-equal doctrine for the sake of bettering their social position in our values-free, offend-no-one culture. But to succumb to this indifference is not to accept a tolerant or liberal view of Christianity; it is to embrace another religion, a belief in some supreme value—perhaps tolerance—but not in the God who is and who has spoken.”

If we go to a Christian church or call ourselves Christians, why? Colson likes to ask the question “What is Christianity anyway?” He found that this is a very difficult question for Christians, and even Christian pastors, to answer.

Colson said, “Christians must see that the faith is more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus; the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it. Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don’t know what we believe—even what Christianity is—how can we live it and defend it? Our ignorance is crippling us.”

The Bible says that orthodoxy, right belief, Scripture, Jesus Christ Himself, will be foolishness to those who have not yet been born again. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That is something to keep in mind while reading this, and any other defense of the faith books. It means we need Colson’s book very much, so that we can continue with the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) in order to fulfill the great commission (lead people to freedom now and forever in eternity through Jesus Christ). We don’t shut down and cower because people--maybe even other church-attendees--think us foolish. No. We as Christians can joyfully and gently but firmly contend “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

It starts with knowing who our faith is in and why. Colson’s book will help us to do just that.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-21

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Freedom in Christ

The only True freedom is through Jesus Christ.

"Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." John 8:34

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. " Romans 3:21-24

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sports Salaries

An awesome editorial in today's Wall Street Journal written by Allen Barra looks at the ridiculously high salaries in sports. Read this quote and you'll want to read the entire article (which isn't too long):

"It isn't some vague indefinable "they" who pays the players. It really isn't even the owners. It's you, or rather, it's us. If we put our money where our mouths are and support cancer, AIDS or Down syndrome research and then buy our tickets with what's left over, athletes and rock stars will actually be paid what we pretend they should be paid. The fault lies not in our All-Stars, but in ourselves."

We are the ones accountable for much of what goes on in the culture through our support of it, even if we complain as we support it. Movie ticket prices go up? We go to the movies anyway. Urban sprawl takes over our towns? We flock to those stores anyway. Movie stars live's are train wrecks? We worship them and buy the magazines and watch the tabloid TV shows that capitalize on that very dysfunction. We despise the lyrics of certain rock bands and give our kids money and allow them to buy that music anyway, or we buy it for them for their birthdays and Christmas, shaking our heads as we do it. We've become blind, resigned or indifferent.

And now a day at the ballpark is no longer as American as apple pie, it's as American as the credit card.

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself." Proverbs 26:4