A Secular Defense of REAL Faith

 

Beware – I would say to believers – the patronage of unbelievers

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This author rails against the notion that because faith has social benefits, believers shouldn’t worry about the truth of what they believe. While I disagree on many points, I appreciate his candor. He warns us against unbelievers speaking glibly about the social benefits of religion without addressing the truth of the claims. And even though this may feel good, believers should beware of it as well. Useful lies are still lies. And truth is truth even if it doesn’t appear victorious in the moment.

“One of the reasons we can be pretty sure Jesus actually existed is that if He had not, the Church would never have invented Him. He stands so passionately, resolutely and inconveniently against everything an established church stands for. Continuity? Tradition? Christ had nothing to do with stability. He came to break up families, to smash routines, to cast aside the human superstructures, to teach abandonment of earthly concerns and a throwing of ourselves upon God’s mercy.”

And again

“As I get older the sharpness of my faculties begins to dull. But what I will not do is sink into a mellow blur of acceptance of the things I railed against in my youth. ‘Familiar’ be damned. ‘Comforting’ be damned. ‘Useful’ be damned. Is it true? — that is the question. It was the question when I was 12 and the question when I was 22. Forty years later it is still the question. It is the only question.”

 

Source: Beware – I would say to believers – the patronage of unbelievers | The Spectator

That Annoying Rattle- What A Snare Drum Can Illustrate About The Heart

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This is the bottom of a snare drum. Notice the beads stretched across the bottom drum head. 

I have two teenage sons that are both involved in high school percussion. They are in the marching band and play with several other ensembles at school and church. Prior to this high school music experience it would be safe to say that I was almost completely ignorant of the world of rhythm and percussion. I carefully maintained this state in spite of drumming on the steering wheel for most of my adult life. Anyway, I have learned a lot from their passion for drums. And I have learned that the world of rhythm is a delicate (yes “delicate”) blend of tones and instruments. Good drummers are serious about the smallest details.

One important instrument is the snare drum. The ones I have seen include a set of “snares”– very small beads strung across the bottom of the drum (see the picture above). When the drum is played the beads on the snare gently rattle against the surface of the drum adding a unique sound. This rattling is very sensitive to any action on the drum, even delicate strokes from a brush. Many snare drums have an off/on lever that can pull the snare away from the drumhead to keep it from rattling. The drum can still be played, but it makes a different sound. No rattling.  I hope you are impressed a little, and now slightly informed.

I mention this because a few nights ago I went to see one of my boys play in a concert where the snare drum featured prominently. This was unfortunate because it was NOT supposed to feature prominently. The high orchestra played first and then a visiting university symphony followed them. The music was beautiful, but because they were sharing the same space, some of the percussion instruments were left on the stage and moved to the side. As the university ensemble was playing, it was obvious that something wasn’t quite right. There was a strange noise overlaying the beautiful music. I am sure my face was wrinkled with irritation because there was something incongruent between the music I knew they were trying to play the sound I was hearing. Their group was larger and louder than the high school band. The increased volume caused a nearby, unused snare drum to vibrate. In response, the snares on the bottom of the drum began to rattle. It was NOT pleasant. After a while one of the band members walked over and switched the lever to the off position, silencing the annoyance.

This made me think of the conscience. Often this  effect is what happens inside our souls when we hear the truth of God. Human beings are unshakably moral creatures. And even relativists like to take the moral high ground when they insist it is wrong to judge them. God has reserved an ambassador within the soul, and when he speaks, our conscience rattles like that snare drum. This is especially true when we step over the line into the world of evil. It happens when we hear the truth spoken by friends or enemies, echoed in stories or songs, or read in the Bible. And often it happens during our own self-talk. We know how we ought to act, and that inner voice reminds us when we are in step or when we fall short.

Speaking of people that have never heard of the God of the Bible the Apostle Paul writes, “the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” (Romans 2:15)  I say this so that you will recognize the sound the next time you hear it. This sound is actually desirable- it was put there by the composer. Don’t try to turn it off.

Photo used by permission CC3.0 OCDP

I wrote this post several years ago, but lost track of it. It was recently discovered and I am happy to share it with you here.

 

 

 

Peace or No Peace? Which Is It? — Free Grace Church

Here is a post I wrote on our Church blog at Freegracefresno.com

Jesus says “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51).

After discussing how sin reveals itself in social structures I discuss the way that Jesus calls us to stand against the current around us. But that is still expensive. How could anyone be joyfully willing to pay that price?

“Here is the good news. Every other group that demands your allegiance will take advantage of you. They will use you for their own ends. They will expect you to sacrifice yourself for the good of the group. But Jesus is different. Just before he says that he did not come to bring peace, he says this, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished?” (Luke 12:50). What is this baptism? It is referring to his death on the cross (Mark 10:38).  Every other group is a kind of vampire. They will use you for their own ends.  And if you fail them, they will disown you. But Jesus, the only one worthy of your complete devotion, laid down his life for yours.  And he had to do that because of your misplaced loyalties.   And it is this love and sacrifice that is the power that moves us. It allows us to suffer the loss of relationships, respect, and approval that comes from standing with Christ against the world.”

Source: Peace or No Peace? Which Is It? — Free Grace Church

Monday Morning Haiku on Rest

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More amateur poetry offerings.  In the last year I have been writing more haiku. Today I am taking a day off and wrestling with the benefits and difficulties of rest when it is both needed and difficult. I am a workaholic and have been learning that rest is a form of both worship and repentance. It is a way to confess that I am not God,  and that it doesn’t all depend on me. It is also a way to express my trust that he will take care of “business” while I enjoy some time of restoration. Enjoy.

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Who Am I? My Identity Creed

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One of the deepest questions of human experience is this: “Who am I?”  And this question seems more urgent for our generation as we tumble into the abyss of self definition.  Is there anything that I “objectively” am.  And I mean this as a human, and especially as a Christian?  And is this something I need to create or to recognize?

How can we wrestle with the contradiction that we are? How can we honestly embrace the innate virtue and vice that is humanity?

It seems that everyone is trying to sell us a story for this. And it is hard to take the answers seriously when they come from marketers, politicians, and angry preachers. On one side are the cheerleaders telling us how amazing everything is.  If I could just recognize my inner superhero, euphoria awaits! On the other side you have the misanthropes that can only see the evil and injustice of humanity.  They downplay the obvious value and virtue we see in the world.  Both sides see something important, and simultaneously miss something obvious.  How can we wrestle with the contradiction that we are? How can we honestly embrace the innate virtue and vice that is humanity?  My answer below comes from Christ and what he has done for me.

  • I am a unique human being designed by a wise and powerful creator. I am not merely an animal. Like every human I have an eternal soul. I have value and dignity because I am made in the image of God. I was made to be like him in goodness and creativity. I have the ability to love and be loved by God and others.
    • I am a fallen person. I have turned my back on God and chosen to break the laws he gave for my good.  Sin has affected every part of my body, soul and mind. I was designed by God for good, but on my own I do not have the strength or will to do his good purpose.  I am now broken by guilt and shame. My natural tendency is selfishness. My attempts to fix myself often make things worse.
    • I am now a redeemed child of God. I am not what I once was. Jesus took my nature so that he might die for me and be raised from the dead. I am loved and forgiven because of the work of Christ, and his Holy Spirit lives in me. I have confessed my sins and returned to God.  I have been made righteous in Christ, and though I battle with sin, his grace is at work in me to restore my soul. I am now part of the body of Christ, and my fellowship with God has been restored.
    • Though I struggle, my faith in his promise assures me that he will complete the work he has begun in me.  He is daily renewing me and I am slowly growing to maturity.  Through Jesus my sincere love and faith please God. One day he will completely renew me and all things. And though my body is still decaying, I look forward to the day when I will be with him forever. He is making me more like Christ. In this joy and hope I live and serve.

Photo Used By Permission Jonathan Lidbeck. Some Rights Reserved

America’s First Woman Poet on a House Fire

This is a wonderful poem by an American Puritan Woman. Her house burned down, and she poured out her heart in this poem. It is beautiful and full of deep feeling, but I think I like most of all that she is able to realize that her life does not consist in the things found here on earth. That her real life is hidden with Christ in God. In light of the recent wildfires, this is applicable.

by Anne Bradstreet
(1612-1672)

Upon the Burning of Our House – July 10th, 1666

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.