Saturday, January 15, 2022

HONORING CHRIST AS KING: What Happens when our Questions are not Answered

 

Coming to Christ is like inaugurating a new king. While before, our minds and desires reigned supreme, now we submit our lives to serve the king.
 
This means that Christ’s Words, the Bible, have now become my Words, my marching orders. It also means that when I don’t like His Words, I attribute this dislike to my lack of understanding them and not to any inherent fault in these Words. I allow the Word to judge rather than me sitting in judgment over the Word.
 
I have set aside my need to understand certain passages to await my growth to catch up. Later, I have found my patience to have been amply rewarded.
 
One common example: The Bible has a consistently negative and depressing portrayal of humanity. It needs to be more positive, I thought. However, the closer I came to the exposing light of the Lord, I began to see what I had repressed, and found that I was unworthy of the Lord.
 
But rather than crushing me, it freed me from obsessively trying to convince myself and others that I was worthy of heaven. Instead, my eyes were opening to a deeper insight and a greater appreciation for the love, protection, and forgiveness of my Savior. Despite my utter unworthiness, He loves unworthy me with a love that transcends all understanding (Ephesians 3:19). Consequently, since I no longer need to defend myself, I have tossed aside my mask in favor of freedom. If God loves me, who am I not to accept myself and to lust after the approval of others!
 
Another common example: The Bible taught that I had to be as holy as Christ is holy. How self-defeating and depressing! Such a requirement condemns me to continuous failure and disappointment. After all, doesn’t God want me to love myself! Therefore, the Word must be mistaken, right?
 
Later, I discovered that it was I who had been mistaken. Instead, I needed to first be humbled by the Word to be uplifted by my Savior afterwards. This has taught me to depend upon Jesus and not on me and my abilities. What a relief!
 
There are many examples of the same principle. When we put God and His Word first, He puts us first:
 
·       Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8, 10)
 
I still have many questions, but I am willing to wait, even if the answers will have to await the next life.
 

Friday, January 14, 2022

MORALITY DRUGS

 

 

Associate Professor of Medical Ethics, Humanities and Law, Parker Crutchfield, has suggested a controversial approach to battling the pandemic — namely a “morality pill.”
 
·       Specifically, he suggests that widespread administration of psychoactive drugs could provide “moral enhancement” that would make people more likely to adhere to social norms such as wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
 
Crutchfield and other professionals point out that:
 
·       well-known chemicals, such as oxytocin and psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) can lower aggression and increase empathy towards others, and thus potentially “boost” our “cooperative, pro-social behavior.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulhsieh/2020/08/30/could-a-morality-pill-help-stop-the-covid-19-pandemic/?sh=77ccb3d25b84
 
While I agree that morality is central to the health of any of us and to society, I have many reservations about secretly drugging-up our nation, as some have suggested. It starts with addiction and other possible side-effects. And what if this palliative must be terminated, will we become more immoral that we had been before!
 
If we are concerned about morality. Shouldn’t we also be concerned about slipping our citizens a continual “mickey.” I think so!
 
Besides, do we really need another imposed top-down mandate? When will it stop? When all behaviors deemed “negative” or “toxic” by our leaders are controlled or eliminated?
 
There are already proven methods to improve morality. The offer of a “new life” through the Redeemer Jesus Christ, who has radically changed lives and societies without side-effects or government mandates! He has radically changed this previously dysfunctional human being, and millions of others have proclaimed the same! However, this Solution is the one which is increasingly banned, even persecuted.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

THE MATERIALIST/ATHEIST PLAYS MAKE-BELIEVE

 


We judge a worldview by its correspondence with reality. If it doesn’t correspond, then it fails the test and fails to serve as a reliable roadmap for our lives and perceptions. Consequently, it will not take us where we need to go. Therefore, we ask, “Is it livable?” Here are some thoughts that I hope will demonstrate that materialism (the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural and material world) is not livable:
 
·       In a materialistic/deterministic universe, there is no room for freewill. Therefore, the materialist must make-believe that that he does have freewill to live life as if he is making freewill choices.
 
·       The materialist makes moral judgments but lacks an objective standard to make these judgments. Therefore, he plays make-believe.
 
·        The materialist wants to believe that love has meaning and purpose in his materialistic world, but if these are no more than biochemical reactions, he again must play make-believe that there is something transcendent about his feelings, even something worth dying for.
 
·       He wants to live according to his conscience, but if the conscience is no more than material reactions, why bother! He claims that we do not have to believe in God to be good. However, he doesn’t believe that the “good” is anything more than an evolving social convention.
 
·       He wants to believe in human equality and the equality of all under the law. However, the materialist is unable to make a case for these, since materialistically, there is no equality, and we are all different. Therefore, he has no choice but to play make-believe.
 
·       He wants to hold to human primacy over the mosquito and the COVID virus. However, the materialist lacks any coherent basis to value man over the mosquito. Again, he plays make-believe.
 
·       He knows that humanity must distinguish justice from injustice. However, for the materialist, these entities do not exist in his “uncaring and changing materialistic universe.” Therefore, he makes believe that they do exist.
 
·       He talks about human rights as if they objectively exist but has no basis to believe that they exist anymore than mosquito rights. Therefore, he makes-believe that they do exist.
 
·       His psychology craves for meaning and purpose, which are non-existent in a materialistic world. He might create them for himself but doesn’t fully realize that He is playing make-believe.
 
I know that this might sound harsh, but sometimes, even in love, there is a place of jolting words. The atheist/materialist lives in a fantasy world of make-believe. He has rejected God, and, in the process, he has also rejected his own humanity, truth, meaning, and human needs. He has minimalized his life at great consequence to himself and to society.
 
In view of the above, when we see that our worldview doesn’t coincide with reality, even our lives, it might be time to search for a new worldview.

CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR/TEACHER

 
I am not technically a pastor, but I often serve informally as a pastor. Therefore, I think that I can speak for pastors, teachers, as well as for myself.
 
We are just like everyone else. However, we might have walked with the Lord for a while longer and have had more time to grow in the fruits of the Spirit and in knowledge and wisdom. However, the same truths of the Christian life still apply to us:
 
·       For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:17)
 
Nor has our training and experience mitigated the temptations and anxieties. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to read these findings:
 
·       The 2016 Pastors Survey by ExPastors.com found that out of 577 completed responses, many pastors are going through a difficult time in their ministry…(71%) said they have or they are experiencing burnout. More alarmingly, an even larger number of respondents (85%) admit they have considered leaving the ministry. http://www.christianpost.com/news/many-pastors-feel-burned-out-and-want-to-leave-the-ministry-according-to-survey.html
 
What can explain these troubling findings? This study also reported
 
·       Of the 577 pastors who responded, 64% said they have wondered if they were really called to ministry. Of the respondents, 61% said they fight depression while in ministry, 62% said they feel lonely, and 65% are battling anxiety.
 
·       While the majority of respondents said they have a close friend to share their struggles with (75%), a quarter said they don't have someone to talk to about what they are going through. Less than half (44%) have a mentor to ask for guidance or help.
 
More recently, a Barna study (2021) found:
 
·       38 percent [of pastors] indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021. https://www.barna.com/research/pastors-well-being/
 
I was particularly stuck by the finding that “62%...feel lonely.” This might be surprising to the average congregant who observes that their pastor is held in high regard and has a supportive board. But this is only a small part of the story. I think that part of the problem is that, as social beings, we care too much about what others might think about us. It’s a trap:

·       The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. (Proverbs 29:25; John 12:42-43)
 
Most of us do trust in the Lord and want to please Him more than anything. However, our inadequacies, insecurities, and weaknesses gnaw at us almost continually. And if they don’t, we are probably afflicted by pride, an even worse problem.

We might be very aware of our weaknesses and insecurities and are even fortified in the knowledge that God makes us strong in our dependence upon Him through these painful factors (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). However, our insecurities are still ever present along with the consciousness of our many failures.

Besides, we have a legitimate concern about what our students or congregants think of us. We are concerned that if they lose respect for us, they will also reject us – another token of “failure.” Therefore, it is hard to not wear our mask and other protective armor. We don’t want others to see our struggles, lest they go elsewhere.
 
However, trying to always have our mask in place is also anxiety producing and serves to separate us from others. Instead of being transparent, we feel that we cannot allow others to see our many struggles. Perhaps they might even judge us harshly? After all, we are to judge, aren’t we? Jesus even taught us to exercise judgment regarding our teachers and leaders:

·       “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20)
 
But do I have the fruits that others will esteem? Will they find me lacking and go elsewhere? I think that there is a big difference between experiencing weakness, temptations, and insecurities, and how we respond to them. Do we always seek to honor God according to His Word, or do we do things our own way? Jesus also had been tempted in every way that we are, except without sin:
 
·       For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
 
Consequently, temptations and weaknesses are not sins. But we are not Jesus, and we do sin. Even though we might be convinced that, when we confess our sins, we are entirely forgiven and cleansed in God’s sight, this might not be true in the eyes of our students. To take the pressure off myself, I warn them that I am much like them, and that they shouldn’t think more of me than they ought. They even seem to respond favorably to this.
 
We also must not miss the vital message of Hebrews 4:15: Although we might not fully understand it, Jesus had experienced our weaknesses so that He would be able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” and become our faithful High Priest. I think that this same principle pertains to those in Christian leaderful.
 
Thank God for your weaknesses and insecurities. Without them, you would not be able to minister effectively to your flock. Instead of compassion, we would be ministering commands, as if to look down upon them from our superior position. This is not what ministry is supposed to be about.
 
Instead, we have learned that it isn’t that easy, and it’s not supposed to be, lest we fail to learn to trust in our Lord through His Word. The truth is that we aren’t adequate. Instead, the quicker we learn that we are inadequate and cannot do anything of any value without our Lord Jesus, the more effective servants we will be (John 15:4-5).