Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Can the Forgiven Be Unforgiving?

I recently was told that I did something that was unforgivable. For the record, I think I did the right thing, and I would do it again, but it upset someone who claims to be a follower of Christ. This leads me to a quandary, can Christians be unforgiving?

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
 (Matthew 6:14-15 [ESV])

That seems pretty cut and dry doesn't it? And then there is this parable from Jesus:
 Then Peter came up and said to him, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?  Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, Pay what you owe.  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you.  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?      And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. 
(Matthew 18:21-35 [ESV])

So what happens when a Christian says that something is unforgiving or unforgivable? The scripture makes it clear that if we do not forgive, we are not forgiven. Does this mean that a Christian can lose our salvation? I think we would be making a mistake if we go that far, because we know from Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. When we are saved, we are saved from the eternal consequences of sin. We are saved from hell. To what does it mean that you will not be forgiven if you don't forgive?

There are a couple of possible interpretations. It could mean that as a Christian, you will not be unforgiving. The work of the Holy Spirit in your life will always lead you to forgiveness. While this is a great idea, I find it hard to reconcile the number of verses that command us to forgive if forgiveness comes automatically. I know in my life, I sure wish forgiveness came automatically.

Of  course, those who believe our salvation is dependent upon our keeping of the commandments will stay that forgiveness will cause us to lose our salvation. I reject this idea, I believe we are kept by the power of Christ and not from our own actions. This verse becomes difficult in the context of scripture, that we are forgiven and there is no condemnation. It would be easy to just assume those who hold forgiveness are not saved, but I know that all of us struggle to forgive at some times. I find that I struggle often to forgive a few individuals who have caused me a great deal of pain. So what are we to do with this passage?

I think often we forget that there are consequences for sin beyond eternal. Yes, sin brings death and that death is eternal in hell.  When Christ died, he carried the consequences of death by taking the wrath of God upon Himself. The sins of the elect are atoned for, but there is more to sin than just the eternal consequences. There is also the consequence of the broken relationship with God on earth. When we hold forgiveness, we are separated from the Father, in a spiritual sort of prison, like the servant in the parable.

The earthly consequences of sin causes our relationships to be strained. God can become silent in our lives, and darkness, depression and pain are the natural result. This isn't hell, but it's as close as a believer will come. This isn't outer darkness with the wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it's definitely a prison. When we hold onto unforgiveness, we break the bond with the Father as our sin breaks the relationship and kills us inside. A Christian can be unforgiving, but the abundant life of Christ is lost. We must ensure that each day we do what we need to do to be forgiving.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ashley Madison, Our Outrage and Blindness

This week we all heard about a hacker group that released the names of the users of an Internet service called Ashley Madison,  which is set up to help people have an extramarital affair.  There has been shock and horror as names of Christians have been released.  Maybe we need to stop and take a look at what has brought us here and maybe the shock will become grief and hopefully repentance.

The group that claims responsibility said they wanted the site shut down. Apparently they think it's a bad idea for people to have an affair. The problem is they need to be working on shutting down the porn industry,  that would definately be David and Goliath.  The porn industry in this country is huge,  in size,  influence and income. The amount of money brought in by pornography is staggering and we may never fully know the extent. It's said that 50 to 75% of men have a pornography addiction and the rate is quickly rising among women. 1 in 2 Christian men is addicted to porn,  that includes Pastors,  Elders and Deacons. The problem is so much bigger than Ashley Madison.

Combine that with the soft porn that is all over media, and you have hyper-sexualization. My boys can't even walk to the video game store in the mall without seeing the Victoria Secret pictures in the mall. Teenage girls are wearing tiny bikinis that were once only worn in raunchy college movies. The problem is out of control and way bigger than Ashley Madison.

Satan has two huge weapons,  lust and greed and they are together in this country to create a mine field. Marriage as it stands today is bombarded with attacks. I have seen numbers that 50% of marriages report some sort of infidelity.  That is report,  who knows how high the actual numbers are.  Combine that with the porn addiction of many men and women,  the promiscuity of our population and the greed of Internet porn industries,  and Ashley Madison is born,  and of course it's successful. It's the next stage in our depravity. People want to have the dangerous and erotic and now there is a business to help you do it. The hackers may have released the names of the users,  but the company won't go away. How do I know? I see people arrested for prostitution in my local paper,  but there are still prostitutes in my town. I see people arrested for drugs and drinking and bad behavior, and they continue to do those things.

What do we do in response to finding Christians and Christian leaders on Ashley Madison? We realize the problem is much closer than we want to admit. We would like to say the issue is in Vegas and New Orleans and San Francisco. It's not,  it exists in the small towns,  in the Heartland,  in the Bible Belt,  in the church.  It exists in your home,  soft porn is finding it's way in through the TV,  magazines, Internet and all over sources of media. We must resist it,  pray against it and hold it at bay with all we can muster,  but don't be deceived. We cannot assume that this reality won't enter our homes,  our lives.  The individual who says they will never have an affair is often the first to fall when temptation comes along,  and it will come. Let's be aware,  let's be vigalent and let's pray for one another. Lust and greed are ever where,  and the temptation is great. We need God!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Believe a Review of Ralf Crawford's book.

I was intrigued by the title. Believe: Proof That God Is Real. The title and the book claims to be able to prove there is a God. I believe in God, but everyone wants some proof,  right?  So I read it.

It wasn't a bad read, and there were some good points made. The book is apologetic work,  and it makes good and rational arguments,  but unfortunately they cannot be considered proof. There are many things that validate the claims of scripture,  but nothing that can be tested in a lab and shown to be proof.

Science in the only way to have proof.  Science is the study of the natural world. God,  by definition,  is supernatural,  outside of the natural world,  so science cannot prove,  disprove or even test for God or anything about God. As Phil Vischer states in his video series "Do You Know What's In The Bible",  using science to test for God or miracles is the wrong tool.  It's like trying to tell time with a thermometer. Science can't tell us about things outside of the natural world. Since we can't study God with science,  we can't have proof.

The nail in the coffin I'm afraid came at the end of the book. The archeological claims of Ron Wyatt are suspicious at best.  He claims to have discovered,  among other things,  the Arc of the Covenant,  but has not produced any evidence outside of his own story. This is the last piece of questionable "evidence"  along with crying statues,  appearances of Mary,  and the Shroud of Turin.  All interesting points to consider,  but far from proof.

This is a fun read,  give it a try to learn a few things,  but I don't recommend buying a stack and giving it to all your atheist friends.  It's not going to convert them,  it will give them more ammunition about unsubstantiated claims. Some of the material is evidence,  but the book is far from "proof".

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can We Trust Ourselves

One of the most cumbersome obstacles in the search for truth is overcoming our own opinion. If there is a truth, if there is a standard that it is completely independent from us and what we think or know or like about it makes no difference on it's existence. If it's true, it doesn't matter if we agree or like it or want it to be. The main issue is our own perception. We have complete trust in our own perception and senses, believing what we can see or hear, touch or taste. We never doubt our own senses of reality, even though there is no way to substantiate if our senses are truly accurate. We have no standard to base our perception of reality, so what if your perception of reality and my perception are different. Who is right, which perception is correct? Does that mean there is no reality, or is it simply the consensus of the majority?

Even more dangerous is perhaps we think we agree on what is real, but our thinking, perceiving and experiencing are totally opposite? There is no way to judge, there is no proof that your experiences have any base in reality or truth. This problem is elevated by the reality of social and ethical relativism. How can we trust personal perception without any evidence that it can be trusted?

Taking the example of a crime scene with eye witnesses. Often the police try to get as many witnesses as they can. Each one seeing from a different perspective, it takes many eyes to get a full picture. Society can be the same way, so how can a society trust a system that creates relativism with so many opinions, when it takes multiple perspective for just one truth? Doesn't it seem that the lack of credibility in all the multiple perspectives points to the unreliable nature of the observer? After all, if you and I witness the same event but have different stories, clearly someone is wrong. If I say the car is blue and you say the car is red, I can be wrong, you can be wrong or we both can be wrong. We cannot both be right, so someone's perspective is skewed.

Knowing that experiences and perceptions cannot be trusted, how do we arrive at fact and truth? If the social decay had eliminated the possibility of the multiplicity of witnesses, we are left with a couple of options. We can blindly choose the one which we like the best, which is the foundation of ethical relativism. We can wait until a power or force comes and commands us and compels us towards a certain belief system. That is much of the strategy of Socialism and the tactic of some in radical Islam. We can simply change our belief system based on the situation, adopting a situational code of ethics. Lastly, we can find something that stands as a pillar and a foundation. This has been the function of moral code, laws, ethics and religion. As these things fall apart around us, can truth be found? In which direction do we look, who becomes the keepers of truth, and who's perceptions do we trust as wise? Is there a sage or guru that can be trusted?

The reality of this day and age is so many try to be experts, but with so many voices shouting so many things from so many direction, there is no way to make any of it out. It becomes a tirade of noise and static, everyone screaming from their own direction, quoting statistics and research, contradicting one another, attempting oneupmanship, all in order to get their version of the truth heard. It's no wonder that social and ethical truth has fallen away, because in the marketplace, it cannot be found.

Even in the abandoned places we once considered sacred, those remaining behind cannot agree. The opinions in theoretical, philosophical and religious debate has turned from a dialogue to an assault. Many in the theological and philosophical have turned to the postmodern deconstructionist ideas in order to stay relevant to survive. Others have held on to the foundational truth they have found in the Bible, while others have held to tradition, not changing and hoping they can ride the storm. Many have tried a combination of these approaches, simply to find themselves so confused and lost they quickly fade away into the noise and chaos of the argument.

 If we can't trust our experience and our senses, and if we can't trust the thousand voices, what can we trust, where should be look for a foundation? What is the key, where is the map on the search for reliability, for foundation, for truth? When we reach the end of desconstruction and get to the basics of everything, what is left, what is the core and what is the center? Is there something we cannot toss away or get rid of? What is the one thing that unites and has in common with all mankind? I would argue that one things is the bond that holds people together. Call is love or devotion, commitment or community, it's that thing that keep us talking and sharing. It makes us care enough to find a code of conduct. If this is the core component, where does it come from? Why does it exist and what can it teach us? What are the implications that we are not solitary by nature? Does it lend itself to the connection to something greater than ourselves? If we take the connecting piece of this draw for unity and community, combine it with the ever present search for truth and exploration and add in man's creativity and desire to build and create, can we find a road map? Can we find an undeniable path to find truth and reality, or are we left with nothing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Class of 95 Revisited, Reflections from 20 Years.

It's been a week of reflecting on my 20th class reunion.  It was a surreal experience.  I hadn't been back to my home town since 2002. We stopped by briefly before moving to Phoenix,  and I haven't been back.  I saw the house I grew up in,  the Community College I attended,  my first apartment.  I saw how my home church has grown and expanded,  I saw the tree where my parent's ashes were sprinkled. I saw a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time.

The day of the reunion started with a tour of the old high school.  High school was an improvement in my life.  Middle school was horrible,  wasn't it for everyone?  I matured slowly,  I was awkward even into high school.  I never dated,  I was more shy.  High school is a great social experiment where everyone tries to figure out who they are,  just to graduate and become someone else. I know I became someone else.

Here I am,  20 years removed from High School with people I went to school with.  It was amazing to see them all,  everyone had done great things. We grew up,  figured out how to treat each other,  many of us had kids and have tried to teach them how to treat each other.  We have had good times and bad times and figured a few things out. I think more than anything we all learned the important of relationships and community.  High school is full of small little groups of people who socialize exclusively because the world is small to high schoolers.  My world was FCA.  I found my place in FCA,  as the non-athletic guy I was passionate about my faith,  still am.  I was all about making FCA awesome,  and I had a great time with it. My world was small,  my community was small. As I have aged,  my world has gotten bigger and my communities have become much more.

The class of Green River High School 1995 is scattered across the United States. Most of us stuck closer to the west,  but we are scattered.  I am thankful for social media that we can still connect. The community of the class of 95 definately means more to me now than ever before.  It's a group that understands me more than many because of the shared experiences. The football games,  the classes,  the teachers and the building. We have a shared past,  a time of life that shaped us so much and we will always have that connection.  I have more grieved that I have lost touch with so many,  friends that were good friends who I don't even know how to contact. Hopefully some day our paths will cross.

Thanks class of 95 for a great reunion.  If you asked me 20 years ago if I would have had such a great time,  I would have been more skeptical.  I was unsure back then,  I didn't really know who I was or what I was doing.  I still don't know what I'm doing,  but I know who I am. Looking back at who I was has helped me understand that even more.  I am glad I got to see you all,  my prayer is that God continues to keep our community together.  Here's to the next 20.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What Makes A Woman?

I don't generally enjoy posting about social issues,  and seldom back to back. I wrote about Planned Parenthood,  but I want to discuss one aspect of the Brucelyn Jenner story. Is Bruce,  now Caitlyn Jenner really a woman?

For those of you who say "yes,  we should accept Kaitlyn Jenner as a woman" make me a little sad. Especially for those of you who are women to think that the only difference between a man and a woman is some feeling and genitalia. From a Christian standpoint,  God makes them male and female,  but from a more general standpoint,  let's ask WHAT makes a person male or female?  Just some equipment,  or is there something more?

Gender equality people want to tell you there is no difference between men and women.  Those people clearly have never studied anatomy differences above the waste. I'm talking the brain. The male brain and the female brain are wired differently. Men have 50% less nerve connections in their corpus callosum,  the part that connects the right and left halves of the brain.  Women can process between both halves much faster.  Woman access logic and emotion at the same time,  men cannot.  Men are either logical or emotional,  we can't do both,  it's a natural,  physiological condition hard wired into humans.  You can disagree,  but the data is there,  we can see it,  pull out a couple of brains and there it is.

The DNA is different,  the brain is different,  women are made up differently than men.  So,  Bruce can say he feels more like a woman but how does he know?  No man understands what it's like to be a woman, why are women not outraged by this statement.  If I said "I think I feel more like I should be African American"  and started to get my pigment darkened,  I am not sure I would be embraced by the black community,  I haven't experienced what they experienced,  I don't have the knowledge,  and my brain and the brain of a black man are virtually the same. He or I hold no structural differences.  A man says he feels like a woman,  yet has differences in his neurology (aside from the hormonal differences)  says he feels like a woman and we are just like "ya,  ok,  sure that's legit".

No,  it's not legit. He can't be a woman unless they do some brain surgery. Changing some genetics and giving you some hormone pills don't cut it.  There is more to being man or woman than some equipment and some hormones. Brucelyn Jenner is not a woman,  at best he is part woman,  part man. His brain is still a man's brain,  regardless to how he thinks he feels. He doesn't even know what it feels like to be a woman,  he is operating on what he thinks it feels like to be a woman. In reality,  he feels like an effeminate man.

Here is what I would say to Brucelyn,  not that he reads my blog. It's ok to feel like a more effeminate man.  It's ok to be a man who likes to. . .  do the things you think make you a woman, but your brain and your DNA make you male. You can't change that. You look like a woman,  you sound like a woman,  you probably smell like a woman but you have th brain of a man,  and you will always have the brain of a man.  Embrace who you are,  not who you feel like you should be,  because you don't and can't feel like a woman. You don't have the proper wiring upstairs.

Be true to who you are,  even if you don't feel like you are who you are,  because some things can't be changed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Planned Parenthood, Enough is Enough

To say I dislike abortion is a major understatement.  I believe in my heart that the practice of contraception through abortion is beyond unjustifiable. Let me start by saying I am not interested in the "what about rape and incest"  argument because those account for less than 1% of all abortions.  I don't want to discuss the "what if the mother's life is in danger"  because that has always been legal as a medical emergency.  I'm talking about the 99% of abortions in which a man and woman have unprotected (or failed protected)  consensual sex that results in pregnancy. That pregnancy is unwanted and the result is the destruction of the unborn child.

Sex,  as an action has ramifications.  They are not negative or positive, just natural outcomes.  If I throw a rock up in the air,  it comes down. Throwing stones has positive and negative outcomes.  If I throw it just right,  I can skip is across a lake,  play a game of stick ball or even kill a giant threatening to destroy my people.  I can also break a window,  hurt someone or myself if I throw it straight up. Sex is the same way,  my wife and I have three wonderful and beautiful children. We wanted each of them and feel blessed to have them. Some people engage in sex and get pregnant with a child they didn't particularly plan for. It's a reality of the activity of sex,  it makes babies. We have known this for all of human history,  the entire animal kingdom knows this,  sex makes babies.  To have sex,  make a baby and then destroy the baby is a barbaric and inhumane action that doesn't belong in a civilized society. It's unjustifiable killing of a child.

Let's face it,  birth control in our day and age works pretty good.  Condoms come with built in spermicide and are 99% effective. If you get pregnant on accident,  it was because you were irresponsible. That might seem harsh,  but you got caught in the moment without having protection and you did it anyway. Things fail,  but they fail rarely,  most of the time it's because the proper precautions weren't taken. What we have done is allowed people to be irresponsible and destroy the new life,  and let's be clear,  it's alive. It's living cells,  living tissue, and by the time a woman knows she is pregnant,  it has it's own heartbeat. It's a living being,  a life that deserve an opportunity to live it's life.

We have found out that planned Parenthood is taking the aborted babies and selling the body parts. There is video of a national leader of the organization talking about what parts are often sold and how they can make sure when they do the procedure,  they can keep the desired parts intact. They have become a business enterprise to farm human organs and body parts,  at tax payers expense. This is butchery of a human being to sell off,  and it's unconscionable. They have duped the American people,  using terms like "it's a woman's right to choose" and having no concern for the woman or the baby.  Their concern is clearly the financial gain that comes from the harvesting of human tissue with the blessing of the American people and the Government.

Christians have protested,  picketed,  campaigned and above all prayed.  We need to continue to do these things,  but we must convince others that abortion is barbaric murder. We must convince our Senators,  our congressmen,  our leaders and of course our neighbors.  We are a government of the people and by the people. We as Americans must convince people that abortion does not belong in a civilized society. We have the means to prevent pregnancy,  if pregnancy happens that we have individuals who would love to adopt and raise a baby. As a foster parent,  I know there are people who wish to bring in children to their homes and care for them. Children and precious,  and the idea of killing them,  chopping them up and selling their parts should bother you. We must find a way to change the heart and mind of America to make this heinous activity a thing of the past.