When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com
Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

Advertisements

The Day Someone Shared the Gospel With Me

cornell vic poa place I don’t know where it came from, but it finally arrived. In fact, I think it has always been there, though I chose to ignore it. But it was there. And it was real. I am talking about something that exists in all of us, believer or not, born-again or not. It is the desire to live for something greater than ourselves. The need to worship. The yearning for something out of this world. Something more powerful, more important than we are. It is what keeps us going. Something that sets the standards and the stage. What gives our life meaning and a purpose. This is God calling us. It is God drawing us and nudging us, the chosen, towards Him.

I realized that I had a desire to worship. I acknowledged the existence of a supernatural being that held everything together. Everything on earth that I thought would sustain and satisfy me had let me down. Wealth had dumped me. Fame had worn me out and the search for approval had grown stale. I never contemplated alcohol or drugs (all by Grace, now in hindsight). I guess my need was more intellectual than emotional. No philosophy could make my mind content. No. This world just didn’t have the answers. Continue reading The Day Someone Shared the Gospel With Me

How God Redeems Culture

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him,  “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God.  “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man.  “No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

This popular joke communicates volumes about how God deals with His own creation. It was only the other day that I found this classic joke to be illustrative of a fundamental truth about how God redeems culture. Abraham Kuyper once remarked, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!” With this thought in mind, I decided to trace out some examples in the Bible where we see God taking a cultural practice and “redeems” it to serve His own purpose and to glorify Himself. In my study, I have come to the realization that the whole universe is one great metaphor. It is like a divine analogy of God’s glory; a transcendent illustration of God’s great design.

Even so, the problem with analogies, pictures and illustrations is that they are not the real thing. The best they can do is point to reality. But they are not the reality themselves. For instance, when I say, “My God is a mighty fortress”, I am using the fortress as a metaphor. God is like a mighty fortress. However, a fortress is not God, neither is a fortress like God. One is the metaphor of the other, never vice versa. God is the ultimate reality. It is important to maintain this distinction in our efforts to engage and redeem the culture around us. The following are a few examples of how God appears to have done it, as gleaned from the Bible: Continue reading How God Redeems Culture

Lyrical Review: Mateke by Size 8 […And Some Tips for the Artist]

The popular local secular singer/actress, Size 8, finally “came out” and confessed that she has been a Christian for a while. For a long time, she had struggled with the apparent contradiction between her music and her faith, and she finally decided to make the switch. As she explains in a recent interview, “I have been born again for quite some time and my songs were in conflict with my faith. As much as I was making big cash and commanding a massive fan base, my heart was not at peace.”

There has been a myriad of reactions concerning her announcement. The pendulum swings from skeptics (believers and unbelievers) who are convinced that she is only in it for the money in Gospel music; to the other extreme of Christians who are unreservedly celebrating the entrance of one more lost soul into the Kingdom. There’s also an apprehensive minority who have chosen to reserve their comments, wait it out and see if Size 8’s new found faith will stand the test of time.

If you’re wondering where I stand in that spectrum, I think these words from Paul best describe my current stand: Continue reading Lyrical Review: Mateke by Size 8 […And Some Tips for the Artist]

Be It Unto Me According To Your Word

I am currently reading Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality and this book is just overflowing with timeless gems of truth about the Christian’s walk with Christ. I came across this illustration and  had to share it with you. Schaeffer revisits the story of angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary and shows us how Mary’s response ought to be the response of every believer upon hearing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. What is your response? Are you born again?

The angel has come to Mary and says: “Mary, you are going to give birth to the long-promised Messiah.” This was a unique promise, and unrepeatable. There is something totally unique here: the birth of the eternal second Person of the Trinity into this world. What is her response? The Holy Spirit, we are told, is to cause a conception in her womb. It seems to me that she could have made three responses…

1. She could have rejected the idea and said, “I do not want it; I want to withdraw; I want to run. What would Joseph say?” And we know what Joseph thought later. Humanly, we could not blame her if she felt this way. But she did not say this.

2. Second… she could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.” But with this response she never would have had the child. She could not bring forth a child without a man, by her own will, any more than any other girl could do.

3. But there was a third thing she could say. It is beautiful, it is wonderful. She says: “Behold, the bondmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

There is an active passivity here. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, with her body, to God. In response to the promise, yes; but not to do it herself. This is a beautiful, exciting, personal expression of a relationship between a finite person and the God she loves. This is an illustration of our being the bride of Christ.

Indeed, God could have just planted the seed in Mary’s womb and not need to make any verbal promise or announcement. But the truth is that God was pleased to pay Mary a visit and proclaim the Good News to her. Let this be an example of how our attitude should be concerning evangelism. We need to go out and proclaim this news. In the same way, there are various ways Mary could have responded. But only one response was valid, and only one response revealed true faith. In the same way, there is only one response that is a response of faith, may this be our response, “Be it unto me, according to your word.”

Much Ado About Resurrection

For a long time in my Christian walk, I honestly didn’t get the resurrection of Christ. I confess that I am still not quite sure that I truly grasp it . What I mean is that I didn’t get what the “big deal” was regarding the resurrection, and why it must be included in our Gospel confession. I “got” why Jesus had to come to earth as a human being, I “got” why he was born of a virgin, why he lived a sinless life and died on the Cross.

But that’s where the story ended for me.

The resurrection just didn’t square with my understanding of the Gospel. It was like an awkward, almost unnecessary addition to the essentials of the Gospel. To me, the resurrection of Jesus was no more significant than the resurrection of Lazarus. It was just one more miracle. The big deal was the death of Christ, not His resurrection.

I doubt that I am alone in this boat. I am sure that many of us are (or have been) “conformists” when it comes to incorporating the place of resurrection in our Gospel messages. For many of us, we have noticed that the Bible includes the resurrection as part of the “essentials” package of what one must believe to be saved. We have noticed great Bible teachers emphasizing it in their sermons about the Gospel.

But we don’t quite get it. Continue reading Much Ado About Resurrection

How To Change God’s Mind

You’ve probably come across those passages in the Bible where God changes His mind after a prophet intercedes for the Israelites. Maybe you’ve even been part of discussions about how to reconcile such passages with those other passages that explicitly say God does not repent, or change His mind. Two common solutions have been proposed. Most liberals and open theists have settled for a smaller God, a God whose will conforms to ours. They have settled for a God who reacts to new information. A God whose actions are determined by our “free will”. An Arminian God, if you like. But others have sought to preserve God’s sovereignty in the face of this apparent contradiction. And the most common solution to the puzzle can be summarized in these words by R. C. Sproul:

“I think that what we have here is the mystery of providence whereby God ordains not only the ends of things that come to pass but also the means. God sets forth principles in the Bible where he gives threats of judgment to motivate his people to repentance. Sometimes he spells out specifically, “But if you repent, I will not carry out the threat.” He doesn’t always add that qualifier, but it’s there. I think this is one of those instances. It was tacitly understood that God threatens judgment upon these people, but if somebody pleads for them in a priestly way, he will give grace rather than justice. I think that’s at the heart of that mystery.”

While I do believe that this is the right way to handle the mystery, I was thinking about this issue last night and I noticed something that I’d never noticed before. Continue reading How To Change God’s Mind