Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where Do The 10 Commandments Belong?

A few weeks ago while driving to work I heard a brief news report on a town in Oklahoma which had decided to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings in order to avoid being sued by the group Freedom from Religion.  Most of the inhabitants of the town were not happy with that decision.  I don't know what the unhappy residents planned to do about the situation but the news report got me to thinking.

Every since the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools in 1962 there's been a battle in America over just where and how religion can be expressed in public.  In recent decades there's been especial emphasis on keeping the 10 Commandments displayed in public schools and in public buildings such as court houses.  I greatly sympathize with these efforts but I've begun to believe that they are misguided.

God's Law, indeed, the whole of His Word, are not symbols to be shown off to make a statement.  They are the Lord's revelation of His nature, holiness, and holy standards to mankind.  They are to teach mankind God's way of salvation and way of life.  They are not only to be treated with the utmost respect, they are to be believed and lived. 

Fighting to keep the 10 Commandments on display in public buildings is a noble cause but also futile if, in the process, God's Law ends up being nothing but a piece of paper on a wall.  The 10 Commandments and the rest of God's Word are meant to inform how we follow God and live our lives every minute of every day.

Where do the 10 Commandments belong?  Not in public schools or other public places (although there's nothing wrong with them being there).  They don't even belong in church.  The 10 Commandments belong in our hearts.  If they're not there then they are useless, meaningless words no matter how many schools, court houses, or churches display them on their walls.  Those fighting to keep God's Law on public display should consider that.  Perhaps if they did they could find ways to really make the 10 Commandments the "light unto [our] path" that God intends them to be.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sin, Not Guns

"Now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  And Abel also brought an offering--fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."  Genesis 4:2-5, NIV

"The LORD saw how great the wickedness of [man] had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil all the time...Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence."  Genesis 6:5, 11 NIV.

The horrific school shooting in Newtown, CT this past Friday has renewed calls for more gun control, as I knew it would.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school was a massacre of the innocents on par with Herod's slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem.  When such inhuman evil occurs we want--need--to know, why?  If we can get an answer to that question, if we can make the evil make some kind of sense, we believe the horror will become more bearable.  So we cast about for explanations and find no shortage of "experts" and talking heads ready to give us some.

When evil involves guns the explainers invariably opine that guns are to blame.  Motivated by ideological opportunism more than a desire to comfort victims, the explainers demand more gun control laws as teh only way to prevent more tragedy and save lives.  But is that true?  Will restricting access to guns really prevent violence?  No.

Let me clarify.

If people had less access to guns gun violence might decrease but not violence itself.  Read the Bible verses above.  You'll see that Cain killed Abel and that the earth was "filled with violence" thousands of years before the invention of firearms.  The case of Cain is particularly instructive.

Cain was in the first generation out of Eden.  In fact, he was the first person born after Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise.  Consequently, he was much closer to perfection than modern people and yet, enough anger arose in his heart that he killed his own brother.  Scripture doesn't say how Cain killed Abel, perhaps because that's not important.  What's important is what preceded Cain's act:  his anger.  Cain's murder of Abel was the end result of a moral rot that had taken hold of his heart, and that moral rot is the result of sin.  No, I'm not saying that anger is inherently sinful nor does the Bible teach that.  After all, God gets angry.  But sin causes anger to morph into rage that propels people to harm, and even kill, other people.  Guns, if they enter the picture at all, do so only after a person has made the choice to act violently.

Restricting or banning guns won't stop fallen man's propensity to violence.  If firearms aren't available he'll use some other weapon or object or even his bare hands to hurt and kill.  Sin, not guns, is the true bad actor, and no amount of laws in the world can conquer sin.  Sin is conquered only by God's presence in our lives and His spirit in our hearts.  Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, obviously didn't have that presence nor that spirit, and twenty innocent babies are dead because of that.  Sin is the problem.  Sin is the cause.  If any good comes out of the Sandy Hook tragedy I hope it'll be a return of the churches to preaching against the depravity of sin and that Jesus Christ is the only solution to it's strangle hold on our very nature.

The problem is sin.  Remember that.

God have mercy on the families of the dead in Newtown.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Being Quiverful, Part 2

While surfing the net a couple of days ago I came across several news stories about the Amish population boom.  According to those news reports the Amish are growing so fast that a new Amish community is established every 3 1/2 weeks.  These Plain People are now the fastest growing religious group in America, and virtually all of their growth is due to natural increase, not conversion.  Although they almost certainly didn't plan to, the Amish are demonstrating the potent power of being quiverful.

There's a lesson here for mainstream Christians.

I opined once before on the "quiverful" doctrine, which asserts that believers should forego contraception and let God determine the size of their families.  In that post I expressed some reservations about the teaching and I stand by them.  However, the surging Amish population highlights how "quiverfullness" can be a potent weapon to combat the Church's decline.

Let's face it.  Christianity is under siege in modern America.  Not only is the faith being attacked from without, but it is also collapsing from within.  It's been reported numerous times that 70% of today's Christian kids leave the faith after high school and never return.  Some have questioned that number, but if the actual apostasy level is "only" 40-50%  it's still catastrophic because mainstream Christians, even conservative ones, are not reproducing enough to replace the defectors.  The Amish have defectors too, but their high birth rate means they more than replace them.

Most modern believers seem to think of church growth only in terms of increasing membership in individual congregations.  They also seem to believe that such growth comes, and should come, exclusively through conversion of unbelievers.  The role that birth rate plays in growing the Church is lost on most believers today even though natural increase was one reason for the early church's rapid growth.  Unlike their pagan neighbors, the early Christians rejected abortion and infanticide--both very common in the Greco-Roman world--as murder.  Thus, they grew in numbers.  Just like the Amish are today.

As I said above, I have some problems with the "quiverful" doctrine but I'm coming to believe it can be the salvation of American Christianity.  Converting unbelievers is a duty for Christians and, I believe, will always be the primary way to expand the faith. However, natural increase also has a vital role to play in growing the Church, and it doesn't mean that every Christian woman must be constantly pregnant.  The early Christians' higher "birth" rate consisted not only of having more biological children, but also of taking in orphans and rescuing exposed babies.  Modern quiverful Christians should follow their example and eagerly take in the unwanted children of  the world.  They should build their large families, and thereby build the Church, through natural reproduction and adoption.  If God wants us to be quiverful I believe He wants us to be so by emptying out the orphanages, foster homes, and embryo freezers where children languish and die.

The Amish are doubling their population every twenty years.  They're growing their faith community exponentially.  That's the power of having a full quiver.  We can't deny it.  The evidence is right before our eyes.  The only question is whether the faltering mainstream Church will accept reality and change its ways.  Evangelizing the lost doesn't seem to be working.  If the Church can't convert new believers then it must grow new believers.  The Amish are showing how to do just that, if we will but have the eyes to see.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Women of Valor

Here we are, just a couple weeks out from Memorial Day.  Memorial Day, of course, is the holiday where we remember those who've given their lives in defense of freedom.  Dwelling on the meaning of the day I got to thinking about the women of valor in the Bible.  Yes, there are women of valor in the Good Book, but most people don't know about them.  I want to change that state of affairs by starting a new series called "Women of Valor" here on Ragamuffin Faith.  Periodically I will write posts on women in the Bible who showed great courage in standing up for their beliefs, defending their people, defending their faith, and doing what's right.  I'm not doing this to try and be "modern" and subordinate the faith to the spirit of feminism.  Rather, I'm starting this series just to highlight a neglected "niche" in the body of Christ and to enhance believers' lives with the lessons each of these women of valor can teach us.  So, I hope you, dear readers, like the series, and I hope it will be greatly edifying for you.  We need to know about God's brave women, His women of valor, and we need to learn from them.  For who knows?  The day may come when we will be called upon to be women of valor, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

THAT'S Manhood?!

While shopping at Wal-Mart the other day I took a look at one of those celebrity magazines.  I think it was In Touch.  One of the short articles was about how Zac Efron (you know, of High School Musical fame) shed his "squeaky clean image"  to show he's now a man.  And how did he do that?  By dropping a condom on the red carpet at a movie premiere.  Yep, you read that right.   Zac Efron established his manhood by letting the world know he's sexually active, and not just with one girl, either.  A friend of Efron's was quoted in the article as saying that the actor has been seen "taking girls to his room".  When I read that it just really hit me how screwed up secular culture really is.

The way a boy becomes a man, says the world, is by sleeping around with multiple women and letting everybody know it.  That's it.  No need for responsibility, commitment, duty, honor, respect for women, or doing what's right.  And certainly no need for faith in God.  Nope, casual sex is all that's required to cross the threshold from child to adult.  Now I understand this was a very short filler article and was most likely meant to be lighthearted, but even in "jest" this message about masculinity is disturbingly shallow.  It reminds me of an article I read a few years ago about the maturing of kid hip hop artist Li'l Bow Wow.  The article featured photos of the grown up Bow Wow--he'd dropped the "Li'l" from his stage name--outside of his mansion and posing with his four ultra expensive cars.  I was instantly put off by that article's association of maturity with brazen materialism.  Fast forward to 2012 and pop culture's message hasn't gotten any better, as evidenced by the In Touch article.  The Church must do more to counter the world's empty vision of manliness.

God's Word has definite teachings on the meaning of manhood, although many believers appear oblivious to them, perhaps because Scripture doesn't neatly package those teachings in a single volume entitled, "God's Rules for Men".   Rather, the Bible's portrait of Godly manhood--what it is and what it is not--is scattered throughout its pages, being revealed in the lives of the Bible's famous characters and in the Wisdom sayings.  Here are a couple of examples.

We all know the famous saying of Joshua (the leader of the Israelites after Moses) recorded in Joshua 24:15,  "...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."  Joshua made that statement after telling the Israelites to choose between serving the gods of their ancestors, the gods of the Amorites, or the true God, Yahweh.  Most believers think of Joshua's statement as a confession of commitment to God, and that's true.  But this little snippet of a verse also teaches us something about Godly manliness.  Look at the verse again, "...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."  Did you get that?  Joshua didn't just make a personal confession of commitment to God, he made a familial confession of commitment to God.  Not just him, but his house, would serve the Lord.

What does this teach us about manhood?

This passage teaches us that a real man leads his family to worship God.  Joshua was the head of his household and made sure that "his house" followed him in serving the Lord.  We see this also in Cornelius in the New Testament.  Acts 10:2 describes him as a gentile "who feared God with all his household".  Like Joshua, Cornelius also made sure his family followed his devout ways.  We aren't told in these passage just how Joshua and Cornelius led their families in practicing true faith but the fact that they did sends a clear message to believers.  Real men are the priests of their households and multi-generational fealty to God is a fruit of true manhood.  What a different message from the world!

We believers need to stop acting like biblical manhood is something to be ashamed of.  It's the world that needs to be ashamed of its shallow, libertine, materialistic, self-centered, misogynistic, and family-destroying vision of masculinity.  Believers need to boldly proclaim the Bible's powerful, uplifting, life-changing, family-saving, faith-producing, chivalrous, and civilizing message of real manliness.

Dropping condoms on the red carpet?  Kid stuff.  Leading a people to victory over their enemies and a household to faith in God?  Now that's manhood!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Short Earth Day Observation

While he was still running for president, Rick Santorum made a statement that got him pilloried and lampooned by the usual suspects. Santorum said that Obama believed in a pagan theology that taught that man exists to serve the earth. Like I said, Santorum was mocked for that observation but in truth he was spot on.  And what's frightening is that many people, not just Obama, are believers in the pagan environmentalist "creed" that the earth is higher than man. For these people nature, not Yahweh, is their god, and they will countenance any amount of human suffering to ensure the survival and purity of that "god". Bible-believing Christians do not and cannot subscribe to this false theology.  But as Earth Day brings environmental concerns to the forefront for 24 hours, just what should be the correct Christian position on environmentalism, the planet, and being "green"?   

Whether out of a misguided effort to be relevant or as a result of pagan infiltration into the Church, some Christians have gotten completely into green theology.  A couple of years ago, for example, some Australian clergy issued a declaration that believers should have fewer children because large families rob resources from future generations.  I cringed when I heard that on the news.  Pure paganism, to my mind.  Still, there needs to be a Christian response to environmentalism, and I think there is one, if we'd just look at Scripture.

I think the Christian answer to pagan, the-earth-is-god, environmentalism is Biblical conservationism, or "eco-stewardship".  It's right there in the book of Genesis, if we'd open our eyes to see it.  The first book of the Bible tells us that God created man in His own image and gave him dominion over the nature.  That dominion, however, is NOT a license to rape the planet for Scripture also informs us that "the earth is the Lord's."  Man is not the creator, God is.  Man did not make nature and, consequently, has no right to destroy or misuse nature.  Nature is God's gift to man for his survival. Man can use nature to meet his needs but he can't abuse nature as it is God's possession,  just like man himself.  God put man into the Garden of Eden to care for it, not destroy it.  Therefore, I feel that it's obligatory on believers to love and protect nature out of gratitude to God for His provision and not to serve nature itself.  That, in a nutshell, is my view of Biblical conservationism or "eco-stewardship".  Yes, Christians can "save the planet" without worshiping it.

Happy Earth Day.