The Price for Fitting In

Seahawk fever flowed thick through the blood of Washingtonians over the past several months–for that matter, it infected millions ever since the celebrated Super Bowl win from last year. Like never before in our history, blue and green dominated the landscape of fandom as the local American football team went for a second world championship in a row.

All the hype is past now. With inches left between them and a repeat win, the Seattle Seahawks left the field to the cheers reverberating from the other side of the continent. Perhaps now is a less emotional time to raise a question, especially for those with ears to hear.

What is the price for fitting in?

Increasingly so, the closer it came to the big game, many church billboard signs took down their “Come Lord” slogans, and replaced them with “Go Hawks”.

One church in Tacoma hit front page news when some horrible person stole their huge blue game flag.

As I headed to prison to preach the gospel to a group of inmates, someone on the outside asked if I was a Seahawks fan. I responded–as our famed team was headed into overtime in the play-offs and about to win a second trip to the Super Bowl–that I was a Jesus-fan. She responded, “oh, ya, me too”, as she turned back to the screen (in the visitors center) with promises that if they won, she would go and buy team shoes and a jersey.

A head pastor of a large church told his audience: “God knows that we in Seattle tend to worship the Seahawks.”

The number of man appears to have been repackaged in Seahawks’ blue from 666 to 12. Over the past year, there have appeared in the Seattle area, more jerseys, flags, and signs with the simple number 12 than probably all other player numbers combined. 12 is the number of the fan, not the player. Quite literally, what that means is “go me”.

Week, after week, my family watched untold numbers of fellow church attendees, don the uniform of their devotion. Even the worship team, and ministers would cloak themselves in Seahawk garb. When the music leader would lead the congregation in a “Seeea – Haaaawks” chant, the thoughtful pastor would come up later and lead everyone in a “Jeee – suuus” echo. After all, this was church, and the Lord deserves at least equal billing to the great team.

True fans know how important it is to practice, what we call here, the Mo-Jo. As one guy told me, he waits to start drinking any beer until the start of the second half of each game. Others wear their lucky shoes–or in the case of Lynch–golden cleats. Of course, the ubiquitous jersey is absolutely necessary to wear all day long. It is especially helpful to go to church, even on game day, so as not to anger the gods, or God, or whatever. You don’t want to do anything that might jinks the team.

Such superstition hardly even gets a frown any more in the halls of God’s people. Meetings times were changed, or accommodations made in earlier service times, with jokes from the pulpit about how so many were changing their routines so they could “do both”.  After all, Christians have freedom in Christ, and there is nothing wrong with being excited for watching talent on the big screen. It is claimed that we can bear the name of anyone we want.

But at what price?

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

“Will you … follow other gods you have not know [or that you don’t tend to think of as gods], and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe”–safe to do all these detestable things?

“Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: ‘Your brothers [fellow believers who worship with you] who hate you and exclude you because of my name [because you pointed out their duplicity of worship], have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ [similar to “Jeee – suuus”, and come on lets all just be happy] Yet they will be put to shame. Hear that uproar from the city [perhaps in the sports stadium], hear that noise from the temple [in our day called the church]! It is the sound of the Lord repaying his enemies all they deserve.”

It is Jesus’ emphasis in his parable of the wineskins and shrunken cloth. Do not mix together what the Lord intends should remain separate. Come out from her, and be you separate.

But many prefer to blend in. More people will attend church if they are allowed and even encouraged to “come as you are” and “stay like the culture around you”. The latter phrase is generally not stated, but in practice, it is the full intent and meaning understood by most people to be in the first phrase, because that is how it is practiced in many churches. You can do both, be a part of both, celebrate both, fit in to both–or so it is often promoted.

But at what price?

“They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do,’ and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do…so the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.

“They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests.

“They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

“Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”

What it means to “be Holy” has been lost in the clam-dip and revelry of adoration for big money, big muscle, and big party.

But it is coming with a big price for those unwilling to repent and be sanctified, set apart from the world and its passions, to live with only one jersey of white, emblazoned with only one Name.

Of course the season is over, so all is well again, it is hoped. But is it? Will the sickness of false worship find a new priest and temple in your life? How about your job? Money? Maybe your retirement savings–you know, the pile of cash you are storing up in the big silos of your bank? It might be the coming sunshine and all the sunbathing activity of active living. Music? Alcohol? The power of foreign flesh on the internet or under the sheets?

The price has been paid–at least for those willing to submit under the Cross–otherwise, they demonstrate their preference for paying it themselves. Trying to hedge ones’ bets by playing both sides doesn’t ever work with God. It is him and nothing else, for not everyone who says: Lord, you are my Savior, will enter the Kingdom.

There is only one jersey, only one name under heaven.

Come Lord Jesus Come!

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TRADITION…tradition!

Perhaps it is no coincidence that our 2.5 year family review of what the Bible means by “being Christian” ends in the book Claiming Christ with an appendix reference–during the Christmas season–to tradition.

Few other times of the year, cloak themselves in as much glittering repetition as Christmas: the same jingle songs, the same crowded shopping malls, the same red and green lights, the same decorating of trees, the same long-time-no-see-relatives showing up, the same sugar-slammed digestive systems, the same and more of the same. Tradition.

Christmas, as its name implies, is a reflection upon the declared birth of a savior, many moons ago (or was that stars?). The holiday is a celebration of belief, repeated year after year. It is wrapped in tradition, and rightly so.

However, tradition of a very different kind, though still very religious, is also deeply entrenched within Christmas, and for that matter, equally infecting the Church itself.

The tradition of ecclesiastical men, otherwise dubbed: Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is the compilation over time of popular agreement on teachings within the Christian church. It forms the box–which during the off-season stores all our traditional ornaments, table settings, tinsel, and holiday fabric–for the historic beliefs of the Church. Orthodoxy is the main-stream beliefs that traditionally express what most Christians believe (or ought to profess).

Church councils, theological writings, official pronouncements, and popular teachings: all extremely important in the formation of defining Christianity, but not a single one Scripture.

The tradition of orthodoxy rightly deserves our careful attention, but only the word of God rightly deserves our allegiance. To those who believed in the glorious savior, born on Christmas morn (or so traditionally celebrated), that same babe-turned-Lord declared: only if you obey my teachings will you be accepted as truly my followers.

The orthodoxy of papal infallibility is Catholic tradition for many. The orthodoxy of “faith alone” is unquestionable Lutheranized tradition for many. The orthodoxy of TULIP, as it is known by Calvinites, is tradition established in blood. The orthodoxy of the divine-right-of-kings, has propped up many a teetering throne. In likely every denominational (and non-denominational) tradition there are well-meant, but imperfect claims. All teachings of men, and all shrouded in historic darkness. Yes, them’s is fightin’ words, but them’s is orthodoxy gone too far.

Tradition has its place, but some times it must be exposed to the ever-fresh air of God’s word, to expose the subtle inferences of men, those added pork-on-the-barrel of private agendas, the twisted tinsel of human invention overlaid upon the branches extending from the true Vine. This is not about new over old, but about truth over error.

As we sip our traditional punch, nibble on our yearly rum-balls, sing our come-again songs, and greet those long-past faces from yesteryear, celebrate tradition. Especially celebrate the tradition of God-with-us. But before you need that bottle of antacids, or contemplate numbing the nausea of unwanted repetition, take some time to reconsider what you are doing.

Is the tradition really an honor to the Lord, or more an excuse to fit into the culture? Are the things you have become comfortable in, a reflection of holiness, or holiday-ness? And with regard to religious tradition, long held by so many others, does it truly represent what God states, or has it become popular because that is the way it has always been done in your house, your church, or your life?

As Jesus challenged the orthodoxy of his day: You have a fine way of upholding your cherished traditions against the word of God. This problem is nothing new. It seems to come around again and again. Religious niceties have a traditional tendency to distract believers from hearing and following truth.

Tradition. Not everything is worth repeating; only that which lasts for eternity deserves a second look. Can you recognize the difference?

Have you made it a tradition to humbly measure all your traditions to the actual statements of Christ?

Make truth your habit…again and again. It is delightfully addicting, repetitively new, with no side affects.

Merry Christmas.

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Sanitary Grace

In a culture rampant with spreading diseases like Ebola or AIDS, it comes as no surprise when well meaning people attempt to apply their newly acquired training to sanitize their world.

Germs get on everything. They can spread unseen and contaminate everything they touch. Those in white lab coats tell us that the solution is to wash everything. Make an exception, and you risk contamination. Everything must be sanitized.

That includes surgical scrubbing even of the Christian gospel. Not even the glorious offering of grace is allowed to travel unrestricted. As the Claiming Christ book noted in its appendix, the grace of God is a teaching that many have found in need of a good scrubbing.

And yet, throughout history, there have arisen a few powerful voices, brave enough to call attention to the real threats against humanity. The first appendix echoed the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

A Christian preacher and live’r-of-what-he-taught, Bonhoeffer willingly walked back into the dragon’s den of Nazi Germany and confronted the two-headed beast in his day. The most recognized foe was Hitler and his monstrous abuse that contaminated so many in his day. Doing so cost Bonhoeffer his freedom and his life in a concentration camp that ended with the gallows.

However, it was the seconded demon-head that he fought with the most vigor. The first breathed fire, the second spewed poison. The first eventually hid in a bunker and died while all the world watched. The second head of the beast continues to flail about, injecting the poison of deception. It found sanctuary where few look for such evil…in the Church.

Bonhoeffer challenged the beast of abuse against the gospel, and he did so by starting with his very own denomination:

“We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcase [sic] of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ…in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself. Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception…we justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship)

The poisonous doctrine (or teaching), that he says has been elevated in the church to the importance of God, is Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” (or in modern terms “once-saved-always-saved”). Scripture never says such a thing. It is a teaching that has poisoned the communion cup of Christ and drips from the corners of many mouths.

Calvin and his followers got so caught up with this concept that they even burned alive fellow Christians who differed. They “condemned as heretics” those who have tried to follow what the Bible actually states.

To understand the grace of God, one must receive it within the context of Scripture–which is full of spilled blood and even the flicking of it on everyone–and refuse the latex-gloved treatment of philosophical sanitizing. There is a place for such efforts, but not upon the words of God. They can only be digested, when taken as presented, in spite of how the medicine makes us feel at the moment.

Grace doesn’t survive outside of crucifixion, both Jesus and ours, and that is messy business. It is foolishness to most. As promoted by many ministers, grace is undeserved mercy that costs us nothing. That is how this quoted theologian defines his battle against cheap grace.

“Cheap grace is grace…without the cross”.

You could read what Bonhoeffer wrote, or you could read Claiming Christ. The message you get should be strikingly similar. The dragon will not prevail; not in a bunker and not in the Church. There are some who have ears to hear and they will avoid the poison and acknowledge the truth.

Let there be light!

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To Be or Not Be Christian

That is the question. To be Christian is a declaration of the Spirit of God, not a claim established by you or me.

It has taken over two years, at our family-pace, to study through the concepts presented in the book Claiming Christ. The final chapter summarizes what the Bible demonstrates that it means for a believer to be “in him”. To be in Christ is a positional reality, declared by God upon those who put a biblicly valid faith in Jesus. That means that such believers will (as Scripture commands) show an enduring faith that lives in line with what it means to truly believe in the Lord.

To claim faith, but to live defiant, is to be deceived. It is a sad reality that the Narrow Way is found by few, while claimed by many.

And while the book emphasized the pointing of Scripture at what God expects of those who say they follow Christ, there must be a conclusion greater than anything discoverable in man. The truth about being in him culminates in the Supremacy of Christ, in a manner that seems shockingly opposite to all we seem to have been emphasizing.

So reads a closing paragraph from Claiming Christ:

The greatest part about being in him is what Scripture
addresses as the “mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (Col 1:26). The entire plan of redemption points toward ultimate divine oneness between believers and God. It is not simply about us dwelling in him, but principally about him dwelling in us. “This mystery…is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v.27, italics added). God himself desires to live and abide in you. This is what Jesus prayed for on behalf of those who “will believe in me,…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…I in them and you in me” ( Jn 17:20-23, italics added).

To be Christian is to live in Christ, as if every detail of our existence resembles him, and for Jesus to live in us, as if every detail of his existence resembles God-with-us:

Immanuel. To Him be the glory!

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Claim Blame

Do you claim Christ?

As we draw down on the closing chapters of the book Claiming Christ, we fall upon a recounting of several dozen references about what God thinks about those who make dramatic claims of faith but lack the confirming presence of Jesus.

If you claim to be Christian, does Christ agree? His word has a lot to say about it, for those with ears and a willing spirit to listen. Many claim, but they are to blame, so saith the Lord.

Some claim to have fellowship with him…

Some claim to believe in him…

Some claim to know God…

Some claim to be able to see…

Others claim to be free of sin…

Others claim to have faith…

Others claim to have irrefutable proof of the Holy Spirit working through them…

Some claim to be wise…

And many claim Lord, Lord…

However, in passage after passage, the word of God declares,

But by their actions, they deny him…

But whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me…

But they have become fools…

But they remain blind…

But without works it is dead…

But they are liars…

But there is no truth in them…

But I never knew you, depart you who do wicked.

The reasons are worth looking into, at least for those willing to acknowledge their own human tendency. It is a humbling thing to respond as the apostles did, “could it be me?”, when Jesus declared that from among his own chosen followers, a betrayer would develop.

The book Claiming Christ was written to assist toward this end, but all this book does is repackage what can be found within the Bible itself. If you can hear it from holy script, then you don’t need further assistance. The challenge, however, is that many have read significant sections of God’s holy word, and yet remain unable to hear the cautions contained within it. As Paul taught, “how can they hear, if someone doesn’t teach them?”

So I guess it comes down to, are you teachable to what comes from Scripture? How does your claim of Christ line up with his own words about such claims? Could the above references apply to you, or are you beyond such problems?

“He who thinks he stand, had best take heed lest he fall”. As the Lord, elsewhere states, “I have given them time to repent, but they were unwilling”.

Could your claim, be open to blame? Consider carefully how you intend to respond. You are on candid camera, but this is no joke.

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Conflict–A How To Guide

One of the most common experiences in life, in every culture, throughout history, and in every relationship, is conflict.

We all hate it, but it is as common to us as leaves are to trees. Something to do with the season known as The Fall–you know, that time when all the leaves turn yellow, then orange, and brown, and finally they shrivel and fall to the ground to compost the soil for later generations.

Our recent family devotion time raised this topic, while reading through Claiming Christ. As the book notes, many claim to be Christian, but if a believer applies the words of God in shedding light on divergent behavior in another, conflict is guaranteed. If only everyone always agreed with us, we could live in perfect harmony–the problem is in deciding which of us all the others should agree with.

The Bible instructs those who claim faith in Jesus, when they see a fellow Christian possibly caught up in sin, to eventually confront them through a series of escalating approaches. It really doesn’t matter how gentle, patient, or otherwise compassionate the method may be; suggesting to another that choices they prefer may not be right before God will most often drain the sap that sustains the leaves in the relationship.

As Proverbs reveal, the wounds of a friend are to be trusted far more than the kisses of an enemy. And yet, our natural inclination is to kiss those who kiss us, without any consideration as to whether or not the person is speaking truth into our life or just pandering to what we want to hear. You can always find someone to say whatever you want to hear, even within the Church, but that is no assurance that your choices are right before God.

To this end, New Testament Scripture declares that conflicts have to happen, in order to show who has the approval of God. In other words, conflict moments are chances to shine or shrivel in the forests of heaven. Those who are being confronted are being tested by God to see if they will respond to the critique as instructed within Scripture. Those who are doing the confrontation are equally being tested to see if they will do so in a manner and with the heart reflective of Christ, rather than per their own personality or feelings. Of course, when we find ourselves on the other end of a rebuke, we are equally being tested, but the emphasis at the moment is on the circumstance of being the one expected to “go to your brother”.

There are many guidelines presented in Scripture, for dealing with conflict, but two are worth highlighting (in order to generate photosynthesis) for those with green leaves. The first is found in Mt 18; the other is found in 1 Tim 5.

Mt 18 contains instructions, worded by Jesus, on the escalating manner he expects for believers in approaching fellow Christians with whom we either have a disagreement or with whom we are attempting to reveal some apparent sin in their life. They are presented as a general guideline, from which we need to adjust to our particular circumstances as noted more specifically in other related passages of Scripture. So, for example, conflict between a church member and an elder, regarding something related to the conducting of that elder’s service in ministry, is a more specific situation, for which 1 Tim 5 presents instructions that supersede the more general guidelines presented in Mt 18.

The difficult truth, is that if we obey God’s words, then approaching others with issues that the other party refuses to respond to in a biblical manner, results in the Lord’s command to separate the relationship.

In a Christian culture that finds it popular to promote the idea that “it’s all about relationships”, that command seems unthinkable. But each of us is being tested. It is not just in our willingness to help others see their faults before God, nor in our gracious methods, but ultimately in our follow through in cutting off all relational connection with those who refuse to bow to God’s word, while still claiming to be Christian, that our own standing before God remains under review.

As our Lord told “those who believed in him”, “if you hold to my teachings, then you are really my disciples”. He continues to state that it is upon that basis of faithful application of doing all that he says, rather than just the pieces we like, that he says “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” And in another place he announces, “if you love me, then you will do what I command.”

The sad reality is that most are desperately trying to avoid the painful circumstances of conflict with each other, without realizing that by so doing, they are causing conflict between themselves and God. Not a good move.

Perhaps this is why Jesus confronted the now popular Christmas theme of “peace on earth”, by saying “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He proceeds to describe how he fully intends to cause conflict between people and their most intimate relationships, such that our enemies will become the very members of our own families.

For those willing to humble themselves and submit to his instructions on dealing with conflict, in spite of how painful and distasteful the process or momentary conclusion may be, Jesus promises to give them access to the Tree of Life. In Revelation, he speaks of the leaves from that tree as being for the healing of the nations.

What may appear to contribute to the shriveling leaves from man’s Fall, by confronting sin as the Bible instructs, is promised to result in not only healthy, green leaves on our own tree of life, but leaves that will actually be finally able to heal conflict.

But, only those who apply his difficult remedy now, will be granted access to that incredible privilege of being able to reconcile, heal, bless, fix, and restore others to the Spring season of real life.

How are your leaves looking today? Try exposing them to the light of his word, and watch how they grow and cover your exposed branches in radiant beauty.

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Confronting Critics with Gentle Grace & Truth

Criticism comes is all shapes, sizes, and shades of darkness.

Every now and again, truth gets a chance to chase the darkness away and invite the ignorant into the light. What follows is a series of posts between a critic of God and my daughter. The two parties don’t know each other, but when the challenge was posted without response, my little girl felt compelled to take a stand.

The Lord’s promise to his faithful is to not worry about what you will say, when brought before the great of this world, for it will be God speaking through you–even through the mouths of babes.

CRITIC: Why would an all powerful being need your help?
DAUGHTER: He doesn’t .  There is no way He would need anyone’s help.  He simply gives us the opportunity to be saved because he “…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1Timothy 2:4)
CRITIC:  saved, from himself you mean?
DAUGHTER: No, , to be saved from ourselves.  He created us with a free will to chose Him, or to choose the world and all its attractions.  Every single person on this earth has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) and are all headed to Hell.  Sounds harsh, but that is the reality of this world.  Only through Jesus’ death on the cross, the perfect sacrifice, is enough to “wash” us clean from our sin, if we are willing to obey and follow Him.
CRITIC:  right…so he created us with free will, then got angry because we didn’t behave exactly as he wanted, kills everyone on earth in a big flood, sends some rules down but takes 40 days and nights to make stone tablets (made whole earth in 6 days), aaand then if we still don’t do what he wants he will burn us for all eternity, because he loves us.

Which makes free will not free will, and burning and killing people you love is the behaviour of a psychopath.

Why can’t you think about this stuff logically?

 DAUGHTER:  I am so sorry that you think this way about God.  Let me try to explain.  In order to understand why God sent the Flood, it is important to consider the circumstances that preceded it – including the actions of mankind and the actions of God.  “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5, emphasis added)  Those living upon the Earth were completely and utterly wicked beyond the hope of changing. There were no innocent bystanders caught up in the Flood; everyone was guilty of the most deplorable sinfulness. It had now reached a fruition that God could not overlook.  God did not wipe everyone but the ONE righteous man off the face of the earth in a fit of rage, but of necessity.  He then continued humankind through Noah and his family.
The Ten Commandments were written by God and given to Moses in order that, “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20)  “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.'”  I would imagine chiseling out 2 stone tablets by hand could definitely take at least 40 days, wouldn’t you?
God is perfect.  He is holy.  He cannot be around sin – it is simply against his nature.  He gives everyone he calls the chance to come to the knowledge of Christ and have eternal life, but if a person begins to follow Christ but turns away and follows his own sinful desires… he has defiled God’s holiness. God loves all people, but he hates sin.  Therefore, if the person continues in sin, then he has chosen the path that leads to destruction, which will end with Hell.  He is the Judge, and when a person is guilty, a good judge will condemn the man no matter his own feelings for the person himself.  Thus God is not a psychopath, but a perfect and just Judge.

 

CRITIC:  40 days…yeah why have Moses chisel them out and not just provide the tablets?

You know Moses had an awful lot of these episodes, somone doing and saying the same today would be put in a mental health ward.

God wouldn’t have to kill everyone on earth, if he’s so powerful, he could just fix everything as he wanted it to be.

What sort of loving parent kills all his children and tortures them?

Thing is, the flood never happened. There’s no geological evidence of it, at all. The story is one of the tales of Gilgamesh, and like most of the stories in the bible is stolen from other myths.

A worldwide flood for 400 days would leave a global signature in our geology – a mass extinction layer with humans and animals alike in it, as well as the mark it would make in the sediments anyway.

It doesnt exist. No flood happened. most plant and sea life would have also died, but people forget that.

DAUGHTER: I must beg to differ.  I cannot give you a concrete reason that you would accept for why Moses had to chisel the tablets out himself, but I expect it may have been a subtle reminder not to break these ones, as he had the first tablets.
I’m not sure what “episodes” you are talking about, but a lot of things were different long ago then they are now.  You can not expect everything to be exactly the same as they are today.  The things Moses did were miracles, not evidence of someone gone off the deep end.
You are absolutely right.  God could fix everything exactly perfect, and everyone would enter heaven.  Except, if He did that, we would all be mindless robots, doing the bidding of God because we were told, not because we love and desire a relationship with Him.  (1 John 4:19) “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Not because he has forced us all to.  Honestly sometimes I wish I was a mindless robot, and then I would never have to worry about all my mistakes.  But that is not the way God has chosen to operate, and we have the opportunity to still enter into a relationship with God and be washed clean of our sin, if we so choose.

This is a lie.  I don’t know where you got your information, but you have been seriously indoctrinated if you believe that there is no scientific evidence of the Flood.  One piece of evidence for a worldwide flood is the existence of what Rupke termed “polystrate fossils.”  Such fossils are found all over the world: especially in and around coal seams.  They are often in the form of  fossil  trees that were buried upright and which often cross multiple  layers of strata such as sandstone, shale, limestone  and even coal beds. They range in size from small rootlets to trees over 80 feet long.  Sometimes they are oblique (or at an angle to) the surrounding strata, but more often they are perpendicular with (or standing ‘upright’ in) it.  For example, at Joggins, Nova Scotia, polystrate tree (and root) fossils are found at various intervals throughout roughly 2,500 feet of strata.  Many of the trees are from 10-20 feet long, and at least  one was 40 feet long.
Very few of these upright fossil trees have attached roots, and only about 1 in 50 have both roots and rootlets attached. Likewise many, if not most, of the large, fragmented, and  broken-off  Stigmaria roots (of these trees) are also missing their rootlets.  Many of these roots and rootlets are also buried individually.  Thus virtually proving that neither the trees themselves, nor their rootlets were buried in the place where they grew, but were uprooted and re-buried where they are now found, which could only happen on this scale because of a worldwide flood, as similar circumstances occur elsewhere in Nova Scotia and other Canadian provinces, as well as the United States, South America, Europe, China, Russia, and Australia.

Other evidences include:
Evidence 1: Fossils of sea creatures high above sea level due to the ocean waters having flooded over the continents.
We find fossils of sea creatures in rock layers that cover all the continents. For example, most of the rock layers in the walls of Grand Canyon (more than a mile above sea level) contain marine fossils. Fossilized shellfish are even found in the Himalayas.

Evidence 2: Rapid burial of plants and animals.
We find extensive fossil “graveyards” and exquisitely preserved fossils. For example, billions of nautiloid fossils are found in a layer within the Redwall Limestone of Grand Canyon. This layer was deposited catastrophically by a massive flow of sediment (mostly lime sand). The chalk and coal beds of Europe and the United States, and the fish, ichthyosaurs, insects, and other fossils all around the world, testify of catastrophic destruction and burial.

Evidence 3: Rapidly deposited sediment layers spread across vast areas.
We find rock layers that can be traced all the way across continents—even between continents—and physical features in those strata indicate they were deposited rapidly. For example, the Tapeats Sandstone and Redwall Limestone of Grand Canyon can be traced across the entire United States, up into Canada, and even across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The chalk beds of England (the white cliffs of Dover) can be traced across Europe into the Middle East and are also found in the Midwest of the United States and in Western Australia. Inclined (sloping) layers within the Coconino Sandstone of Grand Canyon are testimony to 10,000 cubic miles of sand being deposited by huge water currents within days.

Evidence 4: Sediment transported long distances.
We find that the sediments in those widespread, rapidly deposited rock layers had to be eroded from distant sources and carried long distances by fast-moving water. For example, the sand for the Coconino Sandstone of Grand Canyon (Arizona) had to be eroded and transported from the northern portion of what is now the United States and Canada. Furthermore, water current indicators (such as ripple marks) preserved in rock layers show that for “300 million years” water currents were consistently flowing from northeast to southwest across all of North and South America, which, of course, is only possible over weeks during a global Flood.

Evidence 5: Rapid or no erosion between strata.
We find evidence of rapid erosion, or even of no erosion, between rock layers. Flat, knife-edge boundaries between rock layers indicate continuous deposition of one layer after another, with no time for erosion. For example, there is no evidence of any “missing” millions of years (of erosion) in the flat boundary between two well-known layers of Grand Canyon—the Coconino Sandstone and the Hermit Formation. Another impressive example of flat boundaries at Grand Canyon is the Redwall Limestone and the strata beneath it.

Evidence 6: Many strata laid down in rapid succession.
Rocks do not normally bend; they break because they are hard and brittle. But in many places we find whole sequences of strata that were bent without fracturing, indicating that all the rock layers were rapidly deposited and folded while still wet and pliable before final hardening. For example, the Tapeats Sandstone in Grand Canyon is folded at a right angle (90°) without evidence of breaking. Yet this folding could only have occurred after the rest of the layers had been deposited, supposedly over “480 million years,” while the Tapeats Sandstone remained wet and pliable.

Evidence 7: The Cambrian Explosion.
In the early 1900s, a paleontologist named Charles Walcott discovered fossils in a layer of Cambrian rock and found representatives from every major animal phylum that exists in our classification scheme.  (Among other things, this means that the bottom of the geological column in textbooks is, still to this day, WRONG, but that’s a tangent for another time;)  One of the most honest summaries of the problem of the Cambrian Explosion was given by prominent macroevolutionist Richard Dawkins: “It is though they [fossils] were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.  Needless to say this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists…Both schools of thought (Punctuationists and Gradualists) despise the so-called scientific creationists equally, and both agree that the major gaps are real, that they are true imperfections in the fossil record.  The only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation and (we) both reject this alternative.”  Dr. Hawkins agrees that there is no evolutionary explanation for this explosion of fossils, and even acknowledges that the only other option is divine creation, but instead chooses to cling to a theory falling through the cracks.  If that’s not lunacy, I don’t know what is.
The reason that humans are not fossilized in this Cambrian explosion is likely because they climbed.  It takes an enormous amount of pressure to fossilize a creature, and that pressure simply wouldn’t be there if all the people climbed trees, mountains, or higher land masses to escape the Flood waters before they died.
Then why don’t we find many fossils below the Cambrian? The earliest stages of the Flood, when the “fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11), were apparently very violent. Many creation geologists believe these early stages of the Flood shaved most of the pre-Flood sediment off the ocean floors. This would have destroyed most of the fossils that had formed in the pre-Flood world. Then, only after the violence of the waters had partially settled down, would the sediment and freshly killed sea-dwelling organisms begin forming the first sedimentary rocks and fossils from the Flood (the Cambrian rocks and fossils). So only rarely, if at all, would pre-Flood fossils be expected beneath the earliest Flood rocks.

Believe me, no one has forgotten that plant and sea life died.  They simply don’t fossilize very well, as many of the oceans’ creatures are soft-bodied.  Thus fossilization of sea plants and soft-bodied creature is made very rare, if ever.  There are many examples, however, of hard surfaced creatures like clams throughout the fossil record.  The point is, certainly many things below the water’s surface were destroyed, but some would have survived, and that would be enough to repopulate the oceans.

DAUGHTER:  if you are genuinely interested in finding out about evidence for the Flood, I suggest Answers in Genesis online.
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Circumstantial Evidence

How exasperating is it, when you are looking for a straight answer, and the reply is “Well, it depends”?

Remember when you were young, and you were doing your best to convince Mom to let you go out with your friends, and her smiling response was conditional on cleaning up your room, doing your chores, or other similar wastes of time to a teenager. Circumstantial evidence are those details that tend to alter the answer, the conclusion, or the decision depending on variables that shift from one circumstance to another.

In Claiming Christ, such details noted in Scripture demonstrated extraordinary power in changing the outcome, and raised the importance for recognizing what Jesus called “the signs of the times”.

In modern legal-eze, circumstantial evidence are facts or observations that are typically deemed unreliable and even unprovable. They don’t tend to provide much solid ground for making a case. However, in biblical terms, such evidence becomes paramount in assessing what the ultimate decision, action, or choice ought to be. Details that are particular to a specific setting or circumstance are often the keys to unlocking the path of wisdom that most stumble past.

Like many astute observers of nature, Nicodemus was admonished by Jesus for being a useful weatherman (Jn 3), but remaining completely inept at assessing the changing details of the circumstances right around him–namely that Jesus was fulfilling everything Scripture prophesied about the promised Messiah.

It is a point of scriptural interpretation, that is often missed, that if a passage or principle within God’s word relates more closely to a specific circumstance, issue, relationship, challenge, etc, then that instruction takes precedence over more general instructions that may appear to differ.

For example: When the Bible says that “love believes all things”, that ought to be viewed as an overall, general inclination; because, when more specifically faced with believing a lie (for example), love ought not be so gullible, for the more closely applicable passage would be something like “be as shrewd as a snake”.

The gentle-Jesus message often prefers to tout the verses that speak of being gentle–which truly are of God. However, when the circumstance involves dealing with conflict (like in Mt 18 or in 1 Cor 5), then turning someone over to Satan, or separating from relationships with those who persist in violating Scripture, would trump gentleness with obedience. This in no way promotes abuse of any kind, but it does require that believers submit to God’s instructions whenever their circumstances more closely fit passages that speak to such moments.

The disciples were directly commanded at one time to take no money or extra coat on their mission trip, but then later were countermanded with the very opposite instruction by the Lord. So which is it? And how do the differing instructions relate to us today? The latter instruction takes precedence because it more closely fits the timing of their circumstance, and thus ours.

As history records with near-endless variety, people can pick-and-choose passages of Scripture to support just about anything they want, but that does not mean that God backs up such misuse of his word. A faithful student will strive to discover which passages most relate to their particular circumstance and submit to that instruction, rather than thumb through the holy book in search of something that appears to condone their selfish inclination.

In the great temptation in the Judean wilderness, Satan tried to quote Scripture to entice Jesus to do something out-of-context, to do things that violated the sign of his time, to try and get him to do ahead of time what he was meant to do. That approach is still employed by many today, be it from church pulpits, or from Christian media, or through well-meaning friends who have little discernment for the things of God as ought to impact that moment. You can easily find a church or book or friend who will pander to your conscience and ease your guilt, but if you want to hear the voice of God, look for passages that relate closer than any others to your particular need or circumstance, and then apply that guidance in faithfulness.

The sad reality is that many have absolutely no intention of submitting their preferences to anything other than what they already find acceptable. They claim to be wise, but their actions prove otherwise. They are unable to hear the truth, in spite of all their religious activity or ministry.

As our Lord professed, “My sheep hear my voice” and follow me. That means that a faithful Christian will carefully tune their ear to hear the subtle shifts of instruction that ought to more closely fit their own shifting circumstances. They will look for the words that speak to their circumstantial evidence.

That kind of carefulness in interpreting and applying the words of God will develop within a believer the sensitivity to recognize the culminating prophesies that announce the glorious return of our Savior. They will hear the call of the Bridegroom, and with oil-filled lamps will rise to meet the Lord.

If you think you can hear, try considering how you respond when a fellow believer points out a potential fault or misuse of Scripture in your life. How you deal with such criticism will speak volumes about how well you deal with circumstantial evidence.

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Glossy Paint Makes Everything Look Good

A ’67 Corvette with a little rust underneath; a ’72 F100 left out too exposed to the Summer heat; a worn deck on a house up for sale; an old bike you backed into; all they need is a new coat of glossy paint and they will look as good as new.

At least to everybody else they will look that way. You will still know the real story that is hidden underneath. Glossy paint makes everything look good. That was the concept presented recently in our family devotion time through a chapter in the book Claiming Christ.

It seems that humans all have a natural tendency to gloss over known issues. We are natural born painters. We all have an inclination to decorate ourselves, our wrinkles, our ideas, our cravings, our addictions, and pretty much anything else that we want to present well to others, even though we know the real thing. For many, this truth is simply proved by making a sudden inspection of their bedroom, or garage, or TV viewing habits.

It is so culturally expected that everyone operate this way, that it tends to stand out whenever someone avoids the gloss and presents themselves or their thoughts without all the common fanfare. It is also shocking whenever a Christian identifies something that violates God as sin. Everything around us tends to scream abuse at calling abuse what it is: abuse.

Even within apparent Christian circles, it is not very PC (politically correct) to suggest that some action that clearly undermines scriptural expectations might not be appropriate. The pressure is to suppress such cautions in favor of “getting along”. Those who call a spade a spade are often attacked (not always just verbally) with a spade. People prefer to bury anything that makes anyone uncomfortable, especially if it appears to limit our independent free choice.

The opposition, to calling things as they are, will even go so far as to attempt to quote scripture, like “do not judge, lest you be judged”, but of course, like all false teachers, they will avoid quoting the full text, which in this case states, “then go and confront your brother” after checking the “mote” in your own eye. Even Satan tried to quote scripture to Jesus to tempt him to sin against God, but he had no intention of speaking truth.

“and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Rom 1:32).

And so, if that is our natural tendency, then what are you doing with that brush in your hand? Are you painting over your blemishes and glossing over the sinfulness in your friends, or are you willing to take on the hard work of striving to repair the broken parts before layering on the final color?

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Baseball: Heaven’s Game

Little else can bring as much excitement to rabid baseball fans than a day at the ball park. The home team has a new pitcher set to take the mound, and the opposing team has an unbeaten record. The sun is out, the peanuts are salty, and the hotdogs are smothered in spicy mustard. It is baseball season, and the big game is about to start.

As the summer wanes, nostalgia sets in, and I am inclined to reflect back on all those great days of summer camp as a kid. All those activities, all those new friends, all the excitement, and of course, the times playing out on the baseball field. That is the field upon which this reflection begins.

The young campers march down the dusty path to the chants of some newly made up camp song. The tune might be to Happy Birthday, or Mary Had A Little Lamb, or maybe some more modern song familiar to all the kids. Their counselor leads the way toward that days first activity at the baseball diamond. All the kids have their matching tee-shirts, colored to their dorm, a few are capped with their own favorite baseball hat. Most, however, have never really played much ball.

As they arrive at the field, they dig through the plywood box containing all the donated gloves and bats, from which they outfit themselves for the upcoming game. The counselor explains why the glove that looks like it is inflated with air belongs to the catcher. All the kids look up to their counselor–he seems to be able to do everything well–they trust anything he says.

The other team arrives. They look like they belong to some other summer camp, one with much older and bigger kids. They too have their matching shirts, but their chant song seems somewhat aggressive. A few spit in the dirt, imitating what they may have seen by players in the big leagues.

The umpire calls the teams out to home plate, tells both sides to shake hands, and explains the rules. The first team is given the right as Home team and can call the flip of the coin. They call heads, the coin lands tails up. The Away team elects to bat first–that is the typical choice for kids who seem to always prefer to bat than to stand out in the grassy field. The Home team looks worried. The Away team takes turns spitting on home plate.

The counselor tells each kid where to go. A few need added instruction on where to stand. He then models the stance he wants all of them to take, with legs spread, knees bent, backs leaning forward, and arms at the ready. They all follow his lead. He then steps up to the mound and picks up the game ball.

The Away team has an undefeated record, and as is their usual method, they send up their best player. Intimidation has worked well so far, and it is always good to undermine the morale of the other team by starting off with points on the board. He looks big and not very happy.

The infield players start to step back a bit. Their counselor encourages them to stand their ground. The batter spits on his hands and rubs the grip of his bat. It doesn’t seem like a helpful action, but the Away team prides itself on making an impression. The umpire yells, “Play ball!”

All eyes are on the counselor. He eyes the catcher, who knows nothing of signals, and who wonders why he opened his big mouth and asked about the inflated glove. The counselor winks at him and cracks a smile. The catcher shyly flushes and puts his gloved hand forward. The game is on.

The counselor winds up. The batter digs in. The pitch is flung toward home plate and begins to curve wildly. The batter grits his teeth and swings for the distant trees. Smack. The ball lands in the catcher’s glove. “Strike one!”

More spit on the ground. A few unrepeatable words. The Away dugout shouts out claims of belief in their star player. He is not accustomed to whiffing the ball and his anger is visible as he glares at the counselor on the pitcher’s mound.

Once again, the wind up. This time the pitch sinks almost to the dirt, kicking up a cloud of dust, before rising again to knee level. The catcher closes his eyes–besides, he can’t even see the ball anyway. The batter unloads a perfect swing. Tick, Smack. The bat glances the ball, but not enough to prevent it landing in the catchers glove. The Ump lets the technicality of the ticked ball pass with “Strike Two!”

The Away team is eerily silent. The batter is dumbfounded. The Home team has finally gotten control over their shaking knees. The umpire calls for the batter to step up to the plate. Then a growl is heard from the Away dugout.

The batter is called back, and the Away counselor steps forward as a Pinch Hitter. No more of this kids game. It is time for the big boys to play ball. Sadly, summer camps are not immune from such prideful displays, any more than in real life.

The counselor rises on the mound. The Pinch Hitter kicks dust at the catcher and makes him stumble backward. Even the umpire steps back, as the batter begins to hawk a massive loogie–but then appears to swallow it.

The Home team begins to reconsider why they came to camp in the first place. The batter’s hat shadows his face, so that only two glowing coals give off any form of light. He growls again; the umpire concedes and meekly suggests “play ball?”

For the third time, the counselor winds up and delivers. A floater. A seemingly random, dancing, shifting, slow delivery. The military sergeant, turned Mr. World, turned summer camp counselor, begins to swing his over sized bat. The apparent friction generated from the speed of swing, seems to cause the bat to glow, and even rage with uncontrolled fire. All the little campers on the Home team shut their eyes and pray for it all to end.

The ball enters Hell itself. It seems like days pass; perhaps even three days. Then the ball miraculously blows right through the flames, glowing bright white, and Smack into the catchers glove.

The force jolts the catcher back into reality before the others. Without taking his eyes of the ball, he gently lifts his gloved hand up for the umpire to see. The white sight fills the umpire with renewed confidence, and he yells, like he had never yelled before: “STRIKE THREE…YOU’RRRRE OUTTTA HERRRRE!”

For many, Baseball was invented for story telling. The Bible is preserved to speak Truth. The one can be used to point to the other, so long as the Word is caught and gently lifted up for all to see it just as it is.

Here is what our Lord has to say about the counselor, his Home team, and what the game plan is for confronting the Away team:

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: [3 strikes]

in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (Jn 16:7-16; NIV’84).

Play ball!

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