Don’t try to hide it.

bible.com/72/mat.5.14.hcsb

Again, read this verse a hundred times, but never really thought about it. In the midst of Jesus Sermon on the Mount, you read many short statements like this that stack upon each other and lose their meaning after a while. This is one of them. I get and understand the “light of the world” and this is what most people zero in on. Jesus is the Light coming into the World. He is the One who brings Light into Dark places. By Him we have the True Light. Through Him we can share that Light and fulfill the intent of this passage. We too are the light of this world. We offer illumination to those caught in darkness because the torch has been laid in our hands.

That’s why the second part of this verse is so jarring and unexpected.

“A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” What’s up with that?

Suddenly we are thrust into defensive strategies for hill-top cities. If we can’t hide it, how can we defend it? But the stress here is on the obviousness of a hilltop city. Zion was a hilltop city. It was taken only by extended siege, by the Babylonians and much later by the Romans. The problem of a hilltop city is that you can’t miss it. Either in the day or at night. It stands out.

So why put this phrase right here? Since Christians are the light of the world, He extends and changes the metaphor. Christians are also like a city on a hilltop. They ought to stand out against the background. They ought to be lit up at night (in the darkness) so that people who are looking for them can find them. To add to this, Jesus says such a city cannot be hidden. Think about that.

Aren’t there times you feel like hiding your faith? I’ve felt that way, especially as a Preacher, because people treat you differently when they know you are a Preacher. A few years ago, I decided to start wearing a cross around my neck, so regardless of what I was doing, good or bad, I had that thing in front of me, reminding me of who I am and who I belong to. It’s helped me. Because as a Christian, I am a Christian at church as well as at work, at Walmart and the drug store. At home and at play. I ought to like a city that cannot be hid. So should you. Figure it out for yourself, but find something that will help you remember whose you are.

God bless!

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0110 – Source Code 6 -The Call of Justice

“You shall not murder.
(Exo 20:13)

While many of the Ten Commandments seem clear-cut, surprisingly, this one has become more murky, especially as it has been interpreted. In the King James, this text reads, “thou shalt not kill.” Seems simple enough, right? But it is right to “kill” sometimes? What about Capital Punishment? Isn’t that a just “killing” by the state to execute a law-breaker?

Many years ago I got into an argument (surprised?) with a lady I worked with. Our argument was basically about Capital Punishment. To her, executing a condemned man violated this commandment. As as seen as an absolute, this is not incorrect. All life is sacred, even life which has taken the life of another, or committed treason against the state. But this is not a position I take lightly. The State is authorized, even commanded to take the life of the convicted man (or woman) who takes the life of another person. It is the very seriousness and sacredness of life that one ought not to take it from another person. God tells the family of Noah after they emerged from the ark:

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Gen 9:5-6)

Because God considers life so precious (it is made in His image), He commands that anyone who takes someone else’s life ought to be killed and thus deliver him up to God for judgment. If you follow the Old Testament Law, you find that God pronounces several categories of sin, in addition to murder, that call for the killing of the perpetrator, including religious malfeasance, sexual deviance, dabbling in witchcraft and sorcery and so on. However, these later laws were only binding on the people of Israel, not the whole world. However, the law given in Genesis 9 is binding upon all men who are descendants of Noah, which is everyone.

Does this have anything to say about state-sanctioned killing, like war? This commandment comes from the same God who commanded the Israelites (as a King commanding his troops) to go to war against Canaan and retake their rightful property (according to the promises made to Abraham). Because God commanded it, it was automatically a just war. So the idea of going to war and killing your enemy in a just cause seems to be legitimate. What a Just War is or what a state is should the subject of another blog entry. The point here is that killing on behalf of a state, as a soldier or representative of that state, is also exempt from this command, “do not kill.”

So it seems obvious that Exodus 20:13 does not supersede Genesis 9:5-6. So if this command does not refer to the state-authorized killing of murderers to whom does it refer? All other taking of human life apart from the state. Thus it is translated above as “do not murder”, meaning do not take someone else’s life as an individual. But where does this impulse from from? Jesus explains it this way:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Mat 5:21-22)

Have you ever been angry?

Have you ever been angry with another person? What was it that made you angry? I think people get angry for one of two reasons: 1) that their own sense of right is violated, or that 2) someone else’s right has been violated.

If someone steals your car, your promotion, your place in line, you get angry. Why? Because they were not entitled to these things, you are. And your sense of justice, the oughtness of things, is violated, by which you choose to become angry, because taking back by force seems just under those circumstances.

But have you ever been angry for someone else? Someone called your wife a name. Does that make you angry? Your kid being bullied at school. Does that make you angry? Four planes were used by terrorists to hurt your country. Does that make you angry? Though these things didn’t happen directly to you, your own sense of right and justice are violated, and you can respond with anger.

But this anger comes from a judgment call. If the repo man “stole” your car because you were delinquent on payments, you may still be angry, but are you righteous in your anger? If your child was being rude and obnoxious, did he deserve to be treated in kind? You may still be angry, but is it a righteous anger? We often make these judgment calls, resulting in ANGER with insufficient information. We take action before we’ve heard all the facts. That’s why the state is authorized to execute a man, because the state takes the time to gather all the facts and make summary judgment towards the accused. It takes longer, and justice isn’t always Just, but is better than a snap judgment, and the horrible long-term consequences that emerge from it. If you remember the Hatfields and the McCoys, you know why its a bad idea for people to “take the law into their own hands” and act as “judge, jury, and executioner” because it leads to murder and destruction of whole families due to near endless feuds.

This commandment is more than trying keep us from killing each other. It is to prevent the massive internal conflicts that happen when people feel justified in killing their fellow man. It is to stem the tide of aggression and destruction when anger is not held in check.

I’ll cap this here, but I think you get the idea. Please comment below and tell me what you think . Looking forward to reading your comments. Thank you all for subscribing.

 

So What Are We Learning?

“Formal education is about learning more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing” – Daniel Lucas, Better Life Church

So I am taking in the Pastor’s Conference at the Creation Museum this week. I heard Ken Ham and Dr. John MacArthur this morning, with a couple of AiG’s other staff personalities this afternoon. Ham and the others stated that our education system has become a target for secular humanism (duh!) and is basically an indoctrination center. Our kids are being targeted so that in just a few generations, our country will exit the church. If you compare the number of hours kids spend in school versus what they spend in church, the math is pretty easy. Add to this the number of hours the kids are exposed to media, and the case is closed.

So what to do? Their solution is to restore Bible education to the kids, restore the foundation of the church to Young Earth Creationism, and we will be on our way to restoring Christianity in America. Sounds good, right?

So why does this bother me?

They made the statement this morning that once upon a time, the schools taught Bible and morality and ethics, while the churches concentrated on teaching their theology. Somewhere, probably in the early sixties, the schools stopped teaching the Bible, stopped teaching morality, and starting teaching the kids they are descended from animals instead of created by God. In the meantime, the churches have continued to stay within their narrow theologies while their congregations are beginning to wander off and wonder, “who cares?”

But do I want my government teaching me what to believe?

I suppose government already teaches me what to believe about mathematics and the rules of English (which are arbitrary by the way). Government teaches me about history, but usually with an agenda, never a bare recitation of historical fact. It teaches me science, and I would be content with that if it left off trying to convince that science can also prove the un-provable.

Science in its essence is the formulation of a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, and either changing your hypothesis to meet the facts or using your data to prove your hypothesis. When science tries to tell me that the universe exploded, stars formed after a particular fashion, and planets came into being by a peculiar process, it is making a hypothesis it cannot prove. No one had ever run an experiment lasting millions of years to prove that you can in fact make a universe given the right conditions over millions of years. It is not an observable process. You cannot prove it, so stop trying to tell me that you can. When you say you know its true without the scientific method, you are expressing a belief, a faith in something, and you are no better in your reasoning that the people you say are “unscientific”.

I suppose we are deceiving ourselves if we believe we can teach anything without a certain point of view. We all have an agenda, a bias, so that when we share information, we also share a perspective. It doesn’t matter if its math, science, or language; you cannot help but share your perspective about it. If you teach history or social studies, you share your bias, what you think is important.

So back to my original question. If the Bible returns to school, whose bias and perspective gets shared along with it? The America that taught the Bible in the classroom was predominantly Christian. Everyone shared the same values and morality, and even though churches disagreed on specifics, they agreed on the general points of theology. But could your Jewish or Muslim teacher teach the Bible in the same way? What about the Hindi or the Taoist? What about the Atheist who is told she has to teach the Bible to her students? How do you think her perspective will affect her teaching?

So many Christian parents have resorted to pulling their kids out of the public schools and putting them in home schools or private schools. Fair enough. That is their right. What happens to the public schools? What happens the Christian influence? It’s like a premature rapture. Suddenly all the Christians are gone, and all that’s left is the heathen. Is that what we want in the public school system?

I guess what I’m saying is that I have no easy answers. My kids are in the public schools, because I can’t afford to put my kids in private school. They have to be salt and light. They have to learn how to get along with people who don’t share their faith. We have open and honest discussion at home about stuff at school. I teach my kids about young earth creationism, because I believe it best fits the text of Scripture. That’s my solution for the present. If you find something better, pursue it.

God bless.

The Unluckiest Ram

In Genesis 22 is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. It is a heartbreaking story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son because God said so. As we walk that path with Abraham, we note his cringing grief when Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Truer than Abraham himself realized, he says, “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

Rewind to several years earlier. Somewhere in the holy land, a lamb was born in an unknown place to an unknown sire. This lamb was raised in its family of mountain sheep, becoming a young adult. But a notable fact of this animal was its horns. It had a long and curly set of horns that circled its head as ram’s horns often do, giving it the advantage over other rams and making it the envy of other males. These horns attracted good ewe lambs and made him a king.

But one day, this king of rams wandered off on his own, perhaps to admire himself in some pool or seek worthy challenges from other rams. As he wandered, he moved from grassy patch to grassy patch, moving ever higher on this particular mountain.

As he moved closer to the top, he noticed some commotion near the summit. People, two of the them, one tied and laid upon a pile of rock. The other brandishing shiny metal, but much distressed. The ram knew this was not a place he wanted to be. Dueling rams was one thing, but he stayed away from people.

But something caught his eye. Under a set of bushes, hidden from view, was a wondrous patch of green, so inviting, so delicious. The ram could not help himself. He had to have some of that tender green. While the people were distracted, he crept over to the bushes and tasted the green. It was the most delightful, most wonderful patch of grass he had ever eaten. He must have more. He was fully consumed by his desire for this wonderful food.

And then suddenly, a powerful voice broke the air. “Abraham! Abraham!” The ram was startled, even scared, and raised his head to assess the threat. Was it the people? A lion? He looked up and saw nothing. The voice made a few more sounds, and the man dropped the shiny metal and unbound the other one. Then they embraced. People are weird.

As he bent down again to eat more of that wonderful grass, he stopped short. His horns, his big, luxuriant, beautiful horns that had been his best allies all his life, granting him the best grazing, the best ewes, suddenly betrayed him. They were tangled in the bush he had been feeding under. He pulled, pushed and pulled again. His fear turned to anger, and anger to rage. He would pull this bush out by the roots! But the more he struggled, the tighter the branches held him. Within a few moments, he was hopelessly stuck. That’s when the man saw him.

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

Sometimes you have been extraordinarily blessed, not simply to glorify you. Sometimes God has laid enormous advantage upon you, maybe even privilege that others do not share. But God gives His gifts in wisdom. Sometimes God blesses you so that through you someone else might receive the blessing.

Magna Cum Laude

I didn’t graduate with anything like the honors above. Oh I had a couple of things back in High School, but in college and grad school, I was glad to graduate. But there is something funny about that special honor, because it sounds like “come Lordy” as in, get back here Lord before I really get myself in trouble. But of all the honors and degrees we can receive, there is none better than, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” That degree doesn’t come from a piece or paper or a stack credits to your name, papers written or classes taken. It comes from the wisdom from above, not granted by colleges, but by the Lord, through the grandest textbook of all time, God’s Holy Word. Of all the books in the world one could ever own, let his hands be laid upon this one. For in it are the words of eternal life.

Have a blessed Sunday. Read His Word. Worship well and often. For these mean more than a whole stack of degrees.

Once Clean

bible.com/72/1jn.1.7.hcsb

Do you understand the privilege you now share because you are a Christian? Because you have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, and since you are now free from the slavery that is sin, you now have fellowship with every other person on earth that has made that decision. Imagine never being alone again. Imagine that because God is your father, all of these others have now become your family. All because you all share this unique quality, you are cleansed from sin. You are part of an amazing family. Let us choose this day to rejoice for the wonderful gifts He has showered upon us. Thank you Jesus for my brothers and sisters. I can’t wait to meet them all one day.