And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Monday, January 30, 2006

THOUGHTS ON EVIL (1)
I will begin preaching a series of lessons on Sunday nights pertaining to the omnipresent struggle to make sense of moral evil. The first message will center on trying to understand our problem with evil.

The first difficulty seems to be that we have striven to understand evil from a metaphysical/philosophical approach. We attempt to rationalize and rationalize away evil's existence but the urgency of the problem and the practical nature of evil rears its head in every generation. In our generation it is "Columbine" and September 11, 2001. We have assumed progress (think Hegel and his Progressive Idealism) because of medical advances and technological breakthroughs but it is far easier to make a better microwave than a better human heart. Nietzsche's power, Freud's sex and Marx's money issues have been feeble attempts to do away with the original sin of Genesis 3. Why we cling to progress when the evidence at times is other is beyond me. The questions about the holocaust, terrorism, tribalistic genocide, etc. are not answered . Nietzsche's route beyond good and evil leads to a Hitler and the old morality represented by Judaism an obstacle in the road that must be removed. Freud's notions about our sexual behavior are attempts to laugh at death and in the end the energy we pour into promiscuous and licentious behavior have brought massive heartache on countless families. Marx's money and power strategies in the final analysis do little more than misjudge true human nature and true human worth.Evil must be understood differently than the way we define it presently. More on that later.

The second difficulty seems to be our response when faced with evil. We ignore it until it splashes down in front of us. We are surprised when it does occur. And normally our responses to it are faint. Nobody took the threat of Al Qaeda seriously overall. With a few exceptions of truth speakers among the levels of democracy no one thought the evil of terrorism a real threat. September 11th changed all of that. I remember speaking at an all-church devotional on September 12th that of all people on the face of the earth, we as Christians should not be surprised at this kind of behavior. We understand how dark the dark side of this life can potentially be. And our surest weapon is prayer. A theological deepening on the nature of evil realizes that it is vastly more powerful than any patriot missile system can defend against.

The 19th century did not eradicate the world of the problems stemming from the original sin. Christians know this. And the beginning of a response to the presence of evil in a world where we declare God to be sovereign begins in thinking Christianly about the problem.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

AT HOME
Today I am recovering from some form of illness whose exact identification escapes me but feels like some water downed version of the flu. I think I caught it in time to stave off the more horrific forms and manifestations with sleep. Rich Taylor, an old farm boy from New Mexico, told me he had an Ag professor who told him he could go to the doctor and beat the illness in a week or he could treat it himself and be well in seven days. Thankfully sleeping around the clock did the trick in two.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Future Sermons for 2006
I enter each year with a head full of ideas, concepts, musings and plans for 104 different sermons I will preach this year. Believe it or not, some of them actually make it from the conceptual stage to actually being manuscripted into a sermon that in turn is memorized and delivered to the congregation. Here are some of the plans for the next twelve months:
  1. Romans 1-8: There is no title for this series as of yet but it will probably be something like "Unashamed" or something similar perhaps. Romans 8 is one of the most important pieces of Scripture in the entire Bible and should be memorized by every believer.
  2. The Presence of God and the Existence of Evil: A perpetual problem for believer and unbeliever alike this is. The attributes and characteristics of God are called into question because of the presence of evil in our world.
  3. Angels: Much is written erroneously and in contradiction to the biblical teaching on the presence and work of angels.
  4. Worship: What is worship and why is it a necessary component of the Christian life?

Pray for me as I struggle through the texts and attempt to speak a word for God (without presumption!!).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturdays
I remember reading somewhere once about how Saturday as a "day off" came into being but the details elude my memory at the present but I was thinking we should celebrate his birth or death with another day off. Rest is good. Rest is very good.

Today our band, The Potluck Bellies (the name says it all, right), will get together to play for a few hours. Jordan is heading back to school and it will be the last time we can get together for the purposes of music for a couple of months with Jordan included. Not that three lead guitarists are needed at every opportunity to play and practice but it's nice to have in the words of Paul Stanley some "fi-yah."

Jordan's youth aside, a band of mainly middle-aged dudes playing rock seems so anachronistic--like Roman Centurions wearing tennis shoes--when you think about it. The "Weezers" might have been a more appropriate name considering our diminished lung capacity but that name was taken. Rock is a young man's game yet, and yet, there is the lure of creativity and music-making that gets the juices flowing. And it fun. I'm not nearly as proficient on the drums as I was two-and-a-half decades ago and I'm half as quick, but I still dig playing from time to time. And as embarassing as it is to see Mick still strutting, I understand it a little better.

Hum a tune to a loved one today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

THOUGHTS AT SUNRISE
It's Thursday morning and I have just returned from a walk with the dogs. It is still dark outside and I can't help but think about the subject of last night's lecture.

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, "As you know, the Passover is two days away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." Matthew 26:1-2

There are three components of this text that are important for my thoughts. The first is all these things. The second the Passover is two days away. The third is to be crucified. Why does Jesus insist that he must be crucified?

The work of God in the cross is far more than a solution to the personal sin problem each human being faces. Viewing the work of the cross as an answer to the human dilemma of sinfulness and helplessness to do anything about it is correct but not nearly adequate.

The hope of the people of Jesus' day was that Messiah would come and defeat the great enemy of God's people and build/rebuild the Temple. Their significant leaders through history had done this very work. David's first significant work after being annointed was to defeat the Philistine Goliath. His last significant work was to plan and finance the building of the Temple. Judas Maccabeus some decades before the birth of Jesus defeated the Syrians and rededicated the Temple. Even Herod defeated the Parthians and rebuilt the Temple. Even a century later this is precisely the work the false messiah Bar-Kochba will fail to do: defeat the Romans and rebuild the Temple destroyed in AD 70.

And yet here is Jesus who is not only NOT going to defeat the Romans but the Romans by all human ways of reckoning are going to defeat him by crucifixion. Jesus is not going to rebuild the Temple but is going to condemn it (Matthew 23-25 contains I think the unit of Jesus' condemnation of the Judaism of the Pharisees and pronouncement of doom on the Temple). Jesus is not going to follow in the steps of the significant leaders of his people in the eyes of many.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. Jesus suffered and died to in fact defeat not just Israel's great enemy but the great enemy of all mankind. This is not the Philistine army, the Seleucid troops or the Roman legions but, as Paul described it, a victory over death which is the product of sin (I Corinthians 15). It is by his death that true freedom comes to those held in bondage by the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

What is more, the Passover/Last Supper comes to symbolize the new community that will be formed because of his death. The Temple is denounced and condemned. The work of Jesus on the cross will create the metaphorical yet very much real building of God's people into a place where God will be pleased to dwell.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Rejoice today in the work of the true Messiah, Jesus.

Friday, January 06, 2006

WHY THE TITLE?
Earlier I promised to write the "whys" for the title of this blog and to explain what I mean by it. In short, I see everywhere the effects of a fallen creation. Denial of what our eyes plainly tell us is happening all around us will not do. The very fact that we have words in our vocabulary such as unfair, unjust, unreasonable, unethical and unforgivable implies that we understand at some level that life has a harsh side. Things are not the way they are supposed to be.

This is not to say that there is not much good in the world. There is. And there are hints of it in the least expected places and at the most surprising times. When you least expect it, there is a moment when time is stilled and goodness, beauty, nobility and grace spill out onto the page for a time. The beginning strains of Mozart, an act of unexpected generosity, the changing seasons, the touch of a loved ones hand and more, much more, are part of the beauty of life. But they do not transform by some mystical alchemy that which is bad into something good; by and large we live in a corrupted and blemished world. At best they are momentary veils which hide for a time the lingering effects and daily reminders of grief.

And in each of us is a world. There is a world around us and a world within us, an inner world that at times is capable of tremendous mercy, compassion, gentleness and affection. But in the unguarded moment that same inner world is capable of dispicable crimes real or fantasized. Our hearts can teem with animosity, be brilliantly slanderous, and viciously cruel. We are the architects of our woes by and large. The world is thus; thus have we made it.

And we must not be fooled into thinking that the progress of technology translates into human progress. It is one thing to make a better microwave, a faster computer and richer shaving cream. It is another thing to make a better human heart. And try as we may it is not within us. The questions of secular man and the humanist regarding the holocaust, Enron and the like are still not answered. Sin will not go away.

But an optimist I am--even among the debris of ruined days. I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and that has made all the difference.

1. My relationship with God (a gift of His grace) is putting me on a track from "new birth" (the salvation of John 3) to "new creation/creature" (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 8:29). God not only forgives but begins to transform my life. The Apostle Paul would refer to it in Galatians 5 as the Fruit of the Spirit and describe it as the bloom of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the human heart. This leads to a second point.

2. God does not leave this "inner" development in His human project to humans alone. One of the great promises at the point of salvation is that God will put His Spirit in humans (see: Acts 2:38). How this happens I do not know. The Bible is vague on the specifics. But the Bible is clear that God is not finished with humans after forgiveness has been established and reconciliation celebrated. God's Spirit resides in humans and continues the work returning the human heart to its original state back in the Garden of Eden.

3. God also rules over every event as an absolutely sovereign King. God not only takes an ever-increasing control of my inner life, but God still reigns in the world around me. Suffering is a mystery. The Bible does not answer the question of "why" there is suffering and evil in the world with nearly as much detail as it does answering the question of "what" God is doing about it. I may not understand it all, but I can trust the God who reveals Himself, His good purposes and His sustaining blessings.

This is why I am an optimist. It is not because I believe in a moral-Darwinism where humans are slowly evolving into superior moral agents when the evidence suggests otherwise. It is because of what God is capable of doing in rebuilding humans spiritually from the inside out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's about three and a half hours away from THE kickoff to THE game of the year for those of us who appreciate the college game and are developing a distaste for the professional one. The Texas Longhorns get pugnacious with the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl and here is my prediction for the game. It is based on three conditions:

  1. The Longhorns play to their potential both offensively and defensively
  2. The Longhorns do NOT get conservative
  3. Reggie Bush is held to under 175 yards rushing

and one maxim:

Defense wins championships!

With that said: UT 45; USC 31

If the aforementioned conditions are not met, Mack Brown and crew will have a long trip back to the ATX. But until then: "hook 'em!!"

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's the beginning of a new year and I find myself watching the Ohio State v. Notre Dame game on ABC. With the Christmas and New Year holidays falling on Sundays this is the first game I have been able to pay much attention to. I'm rooting for the Buckeyes over the "golden domers" but not for theological reasons.

Pittman just ran for a sixty yeard score--game over.

One of my resolutions this year is to switch from paper journaling to cyber journaling (Think of the trees being saved!!). There are two main reasons for this. One is that with unlimited blank pages of paper my journaling efforts turn into marathons. Blogging by its nature forces shorter more concise writing. Another reason is that I have wanted for some time to provide a devotional forum for members of my church. Not that all the entries will be devotional in nature but it will be a major emphasis.

I'll write about the reasons for the naming of this blog what I have named it in a blog or two to come.

Happy New Year!