Thursday, July 4, 2013

Speaking Their Language

Cultural exegesis is one of the most crucial tools to be employed when attempting to spread truth. If one is to present truth in a loving, yet relevant way, one must seek to understand where those who believe lies are coming from, and how to effectively communicate with them. An analogy I've heard in the context of foreign missions fits here--the analogy of a seed and a husk. Whatever truth one is seeking to present to another (e.g., a presentation of the gospel, or of a biblical view of abortion or same sex "marriage") is the seed, while the avenue in which it is presented is the husk. The seed cannot and must not ever change, but the husk can and should change to accomodate one's audience so that they understand what's being presented, so that effective communication takes place. In missions context, this is called contextualization. Many missionaries have an unhealthy and unbiblical view of contextualization, but that's a topic for another post.

Artists such as musicians, poets, and cinematographers are masters at presenting their views through their art, including views that contradict a biblical worldview. One recent example of such art is the music video Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, which propagandizes the support of same sex "marriage" by appealing to raw emotion and re-interpreting historic cultural trends and biblical truth.

Now, I don't have an artistic bone in my body, and I feel woefully inadequate in trying to present the seed of truth in a husk that they can understand. My approach to such matters is usually to pick apart an unbiblical worldview and apply Scripture to the situation in an analytical way. As good and needed as such an approach may be, this husk is not helpful when communicating with artists. As Bryan Baise and R.J. Snell have pointed out, there is a need for Christians to be on the scene, displaying biblical truth in culturally relevant ways that everyone can understand, including artists. I'm glad there are Christian movies out there like Facing the Giants and Fireproof, but where is the art that gets the world's attention? Where is the art that appeals to raw emotion and presents God's design for marriage and life? Where is the art that that presents a passion for the craft in which it is presented and a passion for the gospel? One such artist that is doing this well is hip-hop artist Lecrae. I pray for Christians will exegete our culture and spread seeds of truth encased in husks that connect with different people on every level.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Ex 20:12)

Every year when Mother's Day and Father's Day role around, I think of Ex 20:12. These set-apart-days are great yearly opportunities to be reminded of God's command to honor our parents. Of course, Christians should seek to obey this command all the time, but we can use Mother's Day and Father's Day as a means of grace to help us re-commit to this when we aren't doing so well; it can remind us to repent! As the apostle Paul points out in Eph 6:3, this command is so important to God that is it the first of his ten commandments with a promise. It is also the only commandment with a promise attached to it. God promises to bless those who honor their parents with prosperity and longevity. (This is a general promise, similar to a proverb. It is not an absolute promise to every individual.)

I realize that honoring one's parents is easier for some than for others. Maybe you had godly parents who raised you in a Christian home that was filled with love, grace, and godly discipline. Maybe your parents poured themselves out for you, and to honor them is a great joy. Or perhaps you were not raised in a Christian home, and your childhood was less than pleasant and fulfilling; perhaps your parents had many shortcomings and to honor the feels like a burden. Perhaps your parents are no longer living or are not present in your life. The gospels shows each of us how to honor our parents and our heavenly Father, no matter the type of parents we've had.

To those who were raised by godly parents in a godly home, the gospel says remember the grace of God that has been the air you breathed growing up. No one, including you and your parents, deserve anything but righteous anger from God. Your godly parents are a gift of grace, so honor the God who gave you the gift as you honor your parents. 

To those for whom honoring your parents feels like a burden, the gospel frees you to offer unconditional love and honor to your parents. If you have received unconditional love from God that has resulted in salvation and a filling with his Spirit, than you have all you need to obey this command with joy. But that doesn't mean one must be unrealistic about their parent's failures and sins and the pain that brough to their children; it simply means that despite these things, you have supernatural power to obey God in this. So even if you have to spend focused time meditating on the grace you have received in Christ before you can be empowered to honor your parents, we are all called to obey this command, which is gracious and not burdensome. 

Is it Okay for Christians to Use OMG?

An ordinary pastor addresses the all-too-common SIN of believers treating God's name as anything less than hallowed and holy, often expressed through the shorthand OMG (Oh My God!). Click here to read his excellent blog post.

I've heard many believers (usually younger ones) use the expression "Oh My God" in conversation as well, and it always makes me cringe. One of the issues here is that we are called to be set apart from the world, and a refusal to treat God's name lightly is a great, practical way Heed that call. Many Christians will use "OMGosh" or "OMGoodness." I think this is a good expression that sets us apart as those who revere God but don't have our heads in the sand, while maintaining the holiness of God's name. I also think just finding a different expression to convey the same emotion may be the best option. What do you think? What do you say in those situations?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

God's Wrath

The wrath of God is an unpopular subject. Most people, even Christians, seem to prefer to think of God and his Son Jesus as mainly gracious and forgiving. Others see the wrath of God in the Old Testament, and the grace of God through Jesus in the New Testament, and thus they assume that God changed his ways when he sent Jesus to the earth. Or one may even believe than God has no wrath; that is, he would never send anyone to hell.

The problem with each of these opinions is that none of them uphold the attributes of God in a biblical way. God is 100% of all of his attributes, 100% of the time. He doesn't decide to be wrathful one day (or in one testament/covenant), and gracious the next day (or in a new testament/covenant). God maintains 100% of all of his attributes all of the time. All his attributes work in perfect harmony all the time! This is good news for us because it means that with him "there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jas 1:17). We can always count on him to be the same gracious, loving, wrathful, powerful, sovereign ruler that he has always been. Therefore, to ignore or dismiss the wrath of God is to make up and worship our own God, instead of humbly bowing before the true God who is worthy to be praised. Would it be okay to ignore or dismiss the love or grace or sovereignty of God? Most people would say No. Neither should we treat God's wrath with such contempt. As Shai Linne says in the opening line of the song below, "God's wrath is a perfection for which he should be adored."

The Bible warns sinful man to flee the wrath of God and throw themselves on his mercy by believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you have done so, remember what you have been rescued from! Grace is only tastes sweet when we remember the bitterness of the wrath we should be tasting. If you have not yet thrown yourself on God's mercy and grace in Jesus, the Savior says you are condemned and under wrath already, but you can be saved today! (John 3:16-18)