Friday, September 30, 2011

The Heart: Where it all starts

Romans 1 gets a lot of bad press, perhaps because it explicitly condemns homosexuality and labels it as "unnatural." However, only 2 verses in Romans 1 explicitly mention this sin (1:26-27). It would seem that the church is missing the big picture by only referencing this chapter in discussions on homosexuality.  So what's the rest of the chapter about?

In Romans 1, Paul begins to develop a lengthy presentation on the gospel of Jesus Christ (1:16-17). As you have probably heard, "gospel" means "good news." But there is not much actual good news in Romans 1, as Paul seeks to establish the guiltiness of all mankind (1:18-32). It makes sense, right? We don't really care about good news of a Savior if we don't think we're in danger and in need of saving!

In order to show that all men our guilty, Paul tracks the downward spiral of our sin.
- We knew God, but didn't honor him (1:21).
- We exchanged his glory for the glory of other things (1:22-23).
- God gave us up to bodily impurity (1:24-25).
- God gave us up to rank impurity, specifically, homosexuality (1:26-27).
- God gave us up to an entirely debased mind, leading to loads of sins (1:28-32).

A book could be written on the above. (In fact, many probably already have.) But I wanted to point out where sin's downward spiral begins- in the heart. In this sequence, Paul does not write "Mankind is evil, look at all the bad things they did." No, he writes, "This whole process starts with a decision in the heart to not glorify God."

Romans 1 is not about homosexuality (though it certainly has something to say about it). Romans 1 is really about where sin starts, and where it goes when unchecked and "un-graced." Sin, however "big or "small", start in the heart, when we choose the glory of something very finite over the infinite Glory of God.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Where I Belong" ... Switchfoot

'Where I Belong', the closing track from the new Switchfoot album, Vice Verses. It's not exactly a worship song as we know it, but there are very few songs more worshipful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Feeling like a refugee, like it don't belong to me. The colors flash across the sky
This air feels strange to me, Feeling like a tragedy, take a deep breath and close my eyes
One last time

Storms on the wasteland, Dark clouds on the plains again. We were born into the fight
But I'm not sentimental, This skin and bones is a rental and no one makes it out alive

Until I die I'll sing these songs on the shores of Babylon
Still looking for a home in a world where I belong
Where the weak are finally strong, where the righteous right the wrongs
Still looking for a home in a world where I belong

Feels like we're just waiting, waiting while our hearts are just breaking, breaking
Feels like we're fighting against the tide
I wanna see the earth shaking, I wanna see a generation finally waking up inside

Until I die I'll sing these songs on the shores of Babylon
Still looking for a home in a world where I belong
Where the weak are finally strong, where the righteous right the wrongs
Still looking for a home in a world where I belong

This body's not my own, this world is not my own
But I can still hear the sound of my heart beating out
So let's go boys, play it loud

On the final day I die I want to hold my head up high
I want to tell you that I tried to live it like a song
And when I reach the other side I want to look you in the eye
And know that I've arrived in a world where I belong

I still believe we can live forever. You and I we begin forever now
I still believe in us together, You and I we're here together now
Together now, Together now, Forever now, Forever now

Why aren't you a Christian?

People claim many reasons for rejecting Christianity. Usually, these reasons fall into 1 of 3 camps.

First, let me note that a decision on Christianity is very unlike choosing one's favorite ice cream. Christianity deals in the realm of true or false, and not in the realm of preference or opinion. Either Jesus is God, or he is not. Both cannot be true at the same time. So one cannot claim that Christianity may be "true for you, but not for me." That doesn't make sense. That's like saying "Gravity is true for you, but not for me." So, when it comes to the question of Christianity, we shouldn't ask, 'Do I like it?', but rather, 'Is it true?' Kapish?

So...why aren't you a Christian? (Or if you are a Christian, use the below to determine why those you are speaking with aren't Christians...)

1. Intellectual- In this camp, you don't believe that Christianity has been proven to be true. You may be open to the evidence for or against it, but you think the evidence is stacked against it. At least, in this camp, you are asking the right question- Is Christianity true? I believe that the evidence convincingly shows it to be so. But at least those in this camp are asking the right questions.
2. Volitional- This camp is for those who don't want Christianity to be true. Regardless of the evidence, there are those who wouldn't believe, because they really don't want someone telling them what to do. If Christianity is true, that means they have to answer to God for how they live and the choices they make. ("Volition" means "the power to make a decision.")
3. Emotional- A third camp rejects Christianity for emotional reasons. They may not like the Bible's teaching on hell, or homosexuality, or gender roles, or predestination. Something doesn't sit well with them, so they refuse to accept it.

Keep in mind that camps #2 & #3 above do not affect the truth of Christianity. I might not like gravity. I might not like the Civil War. My negative emotional feelings, however, do not affect whether these are true or not.

So skeptic and saved alike, keep in mind that in discussions on Christianity in specific (and "religion", "truth", and "morality in general"), the question is not one of opinion or preference. The question is, "Is this true or not? And what does the evidence say?"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Adam & Eve, Fables, and Genealogies

I interrogate my Bible when I read it. I think it's the best way to learn. Someone really, really smart once said that "the unexamined life isn't worth living." I think the unquestioned faith isn't worth believing. Therefore, I firmly believe that we must question what we believe. Not to be an annoying skeptical guy, but to deepen our faith, to arrive at tough answers for tough questions, and ultimately to know God better. My, is it scary sometimes. But your faith will be better for it.

So I asked myself the question, "Doesn't the story of Adam & Eve seem kind of like a fable? Doesn't it seem made up, possibly a cute and childish Jewish anecdote for how we all got here, and why everything's jacked up? Kinda like Greek mythology a little bit?" (P.S.- I ask myself weird questions like this all the time. Then I usually ask them and ramble about them to my wife. Poor gal.)

On the surface, how do we know that Adam & Eve is no more historical than say, the notable "Tortoise and the Hare"? Besides the typical (yet true) answer that the Bible is God's word, and is therefore true, how do we know?

I'm sure there are several answers better than the one I'm about to give. But the weird thing about Adam & Eve is that the story doesn't just get told in a vacuum. If skeptics kept on reading, they'd realize that Adam had children. And they had children. And this is all recorded. There are in fact 3-4 genealogies in the next few chapters (4:17-22Gen. 5Gen. 10 & Gen 11:10-32). These genealogies are retraced in the New Testament as well, linking Adam & Eve and their descendants to real, historical humans that, guess what, actually existed! (See. Matt. 1Luke 3:23-38)

Some claim that the biblical accounts of creation are nice, but are ultimately fictional. They would essentially equate the creation & fall of man in Genesis 3 to Aesop's Fables. However, a real reading of the text indicates that the author and his audience entirely took this account to be historical. There's no way around it.

Often times, genealogies are the sections I skip over in my Bible (except to look for funny names). But tonight, they really encouraged me and strengthened my faith in God's Word. Let 'em strengthen yours.