Saturday, Aug. 30
Yesterday’s blog raises a number of questions for me. In dealing with human differences, why do some people have the potential to become great athletes or great musicians or scientists or poets? Why do some people gravitate toward evil more than others? Apparently inequality is part of human life, but there are some inequalities that appear to be worse than others, perhaps into the unjust category. Slavery is one of them. I guess we would not question that slaves and non-slaves fit the inequality test. I am amazed and baffled by this one. God seems to accept slavery as an institution. He just wants slaves to be treated with respect. I could find no Scripture that rejects slavery or puts it into the category of sin. This seems to be quite a contrast to the specific and detailed instructions under the Mosaic Law. God insists on a strict standard of behavior with penalties for the smallest of sins. The whole book of Leviticus covers this in detail. How does one reconcile God’s way of dealing with slavery with the strictness of the Law? How does stealing a coat from a neighbor a sin that demands restitution plus penalty and slavery is OK? Cheating is a no-no, but holding another human being in bondage is not? I’m also amazed and baffled that the New Testament does not reject slavery. Among other things, Jesus re-defined lusting after a woman as adultery, yet does nothing to modify the views concerning slavery. I am reluctant to call slavery sin simply because it is apparently not labeled such in the Bible. But I admit that this is a problem to me. I would be delighted if someone would enlighten me further on this one. Am I missing something?
Friday, Aug. 29
“God has ordained inequality.”—Pastor Dan McMillan. The preamble to our constitution says that God has created us equal, which seems to contradict Pastor Dan’s comment. It really doesn’t. They are in two different genres. We are all equal in that we have “inalienable rights.” The Bible teaches respect for all God’s creatures. James mentions that the rich people should not be given special treatment. Our constitution, based on Christian principles reflects that same principle. No one is outside the law. No one is specially privileged. But we all know that there are degrees of abilities among us. I can’t compete with Le Bron James or Payton Manning. Nor can I sing like Caruso or compose music like Mozart. I stand in awe of Einstein. And I have no illusions about becoming another Billy Graham. God recognizes differences, too. He seems to be OK with some being rich and some being poor. He recognizes different abilities. Jesus Himself chose 12 men to become apostles. And within the twelve, He recognized Peter, James, and John as being special. He picked out Paul to be His special ambassador to the Gentiles. The very core of the doctrine of election is that some are “called” and others are not. I think I’ve made my point, but so what? How does this affect us? It is simply that we each have limitations that are different than other people. We also have different potentials. We are gifted in different ways. Just as we all have different fingerprints, we are all distinct and unique. You are one special creature! You have limitations, yes. But you have enormous potential, too. God will hold you accountable according to your own unique potential. No more. No less. So if you need to understand where you are in the “pecking order,” compare yourself with your potential, not with other people.
Thursday, Aug. 28
“We really should be teaching students how to think on their own. Letting them struggle just enough, but not so much that they give up.”—Laura Lethe, math teacher in Salem, OR. This has been a standard principle in education circles for years. Nothing new, but a good reminder. God practices this policy with us, too. I rather believe that God came up with it long before educators did. None of us has ever been a model soldier, nor will we become one in this life. God understands that. Check out Abraham. Check out Peter. Remember John Mark. So don’t give up the struggle. Your battle assignment is just hard enough for you to handle without giving up. Hang in there! And while you’re at it, give a little encouragement to some other struggling soldier.
Wednesday, Aug. 27
The concept of free will and election (predestination) is a paradox. Theologians have debated this for centuries. The idea of being free and at the same time a slave is somewhat of a paradox, too. It has led to what is called the “Lordship of Christ” controversy. This has been debated throughout Christian history, and it has been a much debated issue in recent years. The key question is whether or not a person is a Christian if he doesn’t show Christ like traits. To some, a Christian should bear fruit. No fruit—he must not be a Christian. The other side is that becoming a Christian is solely a matter of believing that Jesus paid the price for one’s sin. The debate gets into “works” vs. “grace,” too. If one must DO something to be saved, that’s “works.” The “Lordship” side would say the works are the result of salvation, not a part of it, but lack of works indicates no conversion. In other words, works is the sign of being converted. One can find Scriptures that tend to support each side, so it’s not easy to resolve. I will leave it there. Ideally, being a soldier (or slave) is something that we volunteer to be, not something imposed by a task master. Put another way, we should be so passionately in love with God that we eagerly take the assignment of being slaves. I keep reminding myself that I can’t out give God. The joy and satisfaction as a result of making Him Lord is immeasurably greater than anything we can do in God’s cause. Just to know I’m taking part in a cosmic war that will defeat evil for all eternity is awesome and rewarding enough. But when all is said and done, you need to be a good soldier. Go back and check Peter Kreeft’s description of a soldier. See if you meet the standard. If you’re AWOL or somewhere in between, remember John Mark.
Tuesday, Aug. 26
“When you know you are in a war, your adrenaline flows. You are passionate. You willingly make sacrifices. You don’t expect or demand constant comfort, security, enjoyment, and entertainment.” –Peter Kreeft in The Good War. As a good soldier of Jesus Christ, how does that strike you? Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3 to be “a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” The implication is that one can be a bad soldier. Our churches are filled today with people who have embraced Christianity but who are not really committed in the sense of a soldier. Most Christians avoid the concept of being a soldier. It’s easier to think of being a servant—until you think of it in terms of being a slave. So it’s quite possible to be a born again Christian and fail to be committed to the Great Commission. Paul (among others) teaches us that our new relationship with Christ makes us free. Some people think that freedom means that we have a choice when it comes to total commitment. I think that takes it out of context. When Paul says we are free, he means freedom from bondage to Satan. And then Paul says that we become slaves of God. So the freedom from Satan allows us to choose to serve God. Becoming a slave of God—or a soldier—is the natural and obvious choice of being redeemed. But God does not impose it as an absolute requirement. Redemption is irrevocable. Once born into God’s family, we are forever in His family. But we need to choose how to respond to our new found freedom. We can be a good soldier or a bad one. Timothy followed Paul’s advice and became a good soldier. John Mark started out as good soldier, went AWOL and later returned to battle. Examples of good soldiers and bad soldiers are all through the New Testament. Their examples should make it easy for us to choose which way we will go.
Monday, Aug. 25
Here is a third way to get into meditation. We often use terms that are only partly understood and we seem to be content with that. Take the term “Christ like.” The first thought that comes to me is that we are not God and can’t be altogether what Christ was. Then I remember that Christ is the Greek term for Messiah. “Messiah” is a title, not a name. Jesus was His name. What does the word “Jesus” mean? What was His name before He came to earth? What significance is there that the N.T. often refers to Jesus Christ and other times Christ Jesus. Is there a difference in meaning here? If “Christ like” means “Messiah like,” how can I be that? What did being a Messiah entail? What was His principle goal? Can I have the same goal? Does the term “Christ like” ever appear in Scripture? If not, why do we use it? Are there passages that approximate the concept of being Christ like? We are told to take up His cross and follow Him. Jesus’ cross brought redemption to all who would believe. Is our cross like that? If not, what does it mean? Is following Him a matter of believing and receiving salvation, or is it more than that? Why did Jesus say to take up His cross daily? What did He mean? How do we do that? OK, this should get you going. You will note that I simply raised questions; I did not pursue them here. I could raise a few hundred more questions; I didn’t get to His unusual birth, His death, resurrection and ascension, His traits, His ministry, His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit—and much more. But I think you get the idea. And how are all these issues involved in the term “Christ like?” And, oh, yes, when you get through with this term, here are a few other terms you might like to look at: total depravity, the gospel, pastor/elder/bishop, ministry, baptism, the Law, the Church. I check out here. I think you understand the process and rewards of meditation. Hopefully, some of you are already aboard. Remember, the goal is to become more passionate about Jesus, to love Him beyond all else.
Sunday, Aug. 24
Another way to get into meditation is to start with a common Christian truth, and pursue it. Let me give you an example. We know that the Son of God (later named Jesus), left heaven to take on the form of a man in order to spend time on earth and eventually to die on the cross for man’s salvation. Was this His own decision or were the Father and the Holy Spirit also in on the decision? What triggered the debate (if there was one)? What precisely would be the Father’s role in this and what would be the Holy Spirit’s role? This, of course, leads to other questions. When would it happen? Why was Mary chosen to be the mother? How is Israel involved? Why the institution of what we call the Church? And many more questions. Not all these questions will be answered or can be answered, but the process of pursuing them is profitable. Hopefully, your meditation will be God guided, but please understand that your thoughts are not inspired Scripture. Be careful not to arrive at decisions that aren’t supported by the Bible. That’s how cults get started.