Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rediscovering the Scandal of God's Love

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm working through C. J. Mahaney's Living The Cross Centered Life. Today's chapter is called "The Divine Dilemma," and it focuses on the endlessly amazing fact that a holy God somehow and for some reason does not destroy immediately the creatures who have so consistently and enthusiastically rebelled against Him. If God is holy, then his wrath must be revealed against sin. It surely is on a daily basis, as sinful men and women daily experience the effects of being fallen people living fallen lives in a fallen world. Yet the sort of cataclysmic, world-ending, heavens rending judgment has not yet fallen. Why? Because in addition to being the utterly holy black-robed Judge who rules as Deity over all things and creatures, God is also the gracious and compassionate One (Ex. 33), whose love and holiness met perfectly at the Cross in the sacrifice of Jesus.

Yet as awe-inspiring as these truths are, in our day, they often fail to inspire much wonder. Mahaney writes,
...when you tell non-Christians, 'God loves you,' they aren't surprised, they aren't perplexed, they aren't stunned. Regrettably, the same is true among most evangelicals, who simply assume this gracious disposition of God-and therefore presume upon it (p. 61).
We have forgotten our true condition as we stand before a holy God, and so we aren't impressed anymore by His love. When we hear that God loves us, we are apt to think, "Well naturally. After all, I'm kind of cute, and I'm not really a bad person, in fact I'm far better than most. " It is because we think so little of our sin that we also think so little of God's grace; and it is because we think so little of God's grace that we in the Church are so little transformed by it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What I'm reading these days

I am an unrepentant bibliophile. As such, I always have at least a few "irons" in the fire at any one time. Here's what I'm trying to digest these days:

C. J. Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life. This little book is what I'm working through in my devotions. It's about looking afresh at Christ's sacrifice for me on the cross and seeing it with a renewed sense of wonder. So far, it's been a challenging book. More thoughts to come from this one, so watch this space.

Millard J. Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology. In our day, in the midst of all of the uncertainty that surrounds us, interest in the last things is quite high. This is certainly true of my Band of Brothers group on Wednesday mornings. These courageous men are going to study theology with me at 6 a.m., some of them sans coffee. I'm not sure how they're going to do that, but I'm looking forward to working through this neutral perspective book on the Millennium and the Tribulation.

Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness. This is a book that one of the elders at our former church deeply loved. I was totally unfamiliar with it, but out of respect for Dave, I started reading it. Good books are actually hard to find, so I tend to gravitate toward those which are recommended by good people. It's easy to see what he appreciated about it. Grace and truth are infused throughout this little book on sanctification.

Mark Dever, The Deliberate Church. This is a book about structuring your church in all of its practices-leadership, worship, teaching, preaching, membership, etc. on the explicit teaching of the New Testament. That is, in contrast to a lot of other modern ecclesiological thinkers, Dever bases his prescriptions for growing a spiritually healthy church on the idea that only those things taught by the Scriptures are permitted, rather than the idea that anything which is not prohibited by the NT is permitted. It's a challenging book that the Elders and I are working through together. Great stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

REAL MAN trap shooting

My competitive trap shooting career was short-lived and not much to write home about. I think my highest score in two years of being on the Faith Bible Church Club team was a 19/25. I was not a AA shooter, to say the least. However, I do think that I have found a version of trap shooting at which I could excel. Be sure to watch the whole thing, and while you're watching, ask yourself, "What have they got that launches those cars?"

I've got to have one of these!

I have long coveted an AR-15 style rifle. Those of you who don't hunt or shoot may not understand such things, but there's something about a semi-automatic rifle for which I can buy a 30-round clip and which is also light-recoiling, accurate, and cheap to shoot. There is also, of course, the high degree of similarity to the US Military's M-16, which deeply appeals to the part of me that loved to play GI Joe and cowboys and Indians as a kid. I justify this desire by telling myself that it would a fantastic coyote and fox shooting rifle (which is true), but I'm not much of a predator hunter now, so I suspect that my real reason has more to do with the magnificent coolness factor than anything else. What has mostly prevented me from buying one is the fact that doing so requires about 1000 of my hard-earned dollars, and given two kids going to orthodontist (with more to come), a car payment, a house payment, and giving to church and missionaries, we're just not at the stage of life when that is in the realm of possibility.

Well along comes Ruger Firearms with something nearly as cool, but at less than 1/2 the price. This is the new SR-22, a semi-automatic rifle in .22 Long Rifle. Ten round magazines come standard, but aftermarket 30 rounders are available. Shells are much cheaper (about 20 bucks for a box of 500 vs. 25 bucks for a box of 40), and so you can shoot a long time without blowing throw a major wad of cash. The stock is fully adjustable for length of pull, and the Picatinny rail allows for a wide range of optical and iron sights. It's not much good for coyotes (unless they're close), but I can console myself by shooting a lot of tasty bunnies and squirrels instead. Maybe this will be the year a dream gets fulfilled.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Something to consider...

The proposed healthcare "reform" bill now in the midst of a Congressional mess, and theoretically about to be passed in the teeth of furious opposition by the American electorate would hand control of 1/6 of the American economy directly over to the federal government. Trying to imagine the scale of that transformation is difficult, but these two thoughts will make it easier:
  • Imagine the federal government annexing the entire economy of Britain or France. OR
  • Imagine the various federal governments of the Eurozone establishing a federally controlled healtcare system from Dublin to Athens.

Even in Europe, in which many of the nations possess a healthcare system similar to the one Pres. Obama wants us to have so desperately, the scale of what he is attempting hasn't even been tried. After all, just keeping that many people of that many widely differing cultures aren't doing that well on a single currency, nevermind a single healthcare system. No one but the Soviets have ever even attempted a federalization of health care for this many people before. Which should tell us all something, I think.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Are We All Part of the Modern Family Now?

I'm not generally a fan of "slippery slope" arguments, because it is far from obvious that just because X undesirable social problem exists, it does not necessarily result in Y. For example, it is not obvious to me that forbidding teacher-led prayer from public schools necessarily produced the social upheavals which followed that 1962 Supreme Court decision. It seems far more likely that the social currents of the times produced the men who produced the decision, which did more to symbolize the unraveling social consensus than to create it.

That being said, it seems obvious to me that we humans seem to move naturally along a progression from being shocked by sin, to being mildly uncomfortable with sin, to failing to even notice it anymore. Consider the progression of three popular shows featuring homosexual characters: In the early '90's, Ellen was considered avant garde and was critically acclaimed for the "Puppy Episode," in which Ellen Degeneres' character "came out." The show, however, flopped in the ratings afterward. But 1998 brought us Will and Grace, a show in which two of the principal characters (Will and Jack) were openly homosexual. This show raised protests (and ratings!) initially, but eventually became so much a part of the landscape that NBC placed it on its "Must See TV" line-up on Thursday nights. Will and Grace ran for 8 seasons, garnering 87 Emmy nominations and 16 wins. It finished in the top 10 shows on TV for 5 of its 8 seasons.

Now we have Modern Family. What's interesting about this show is that it centers around a fairly ordinary suburban family. Dad (Ty Burrell) is a real-estate agent while the mother (Julie Bowen) is a stay-at-home mother. Mom and Dad celebrate their 17th anniversary during one of this season's episodes. They worry about their kids, work on their marriage, and encounter all of the challenges of modern life. Her father (Ed O'Neill) is married to a much younger Latino woman (Sofia Vergara), who has a son by a previous marriage, while her brother (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is one-half of a committed gay couple who have an adopted Chinese daughter. So within one show there is racial diversity (a good thing), a recognition of the realities of divorce and the difficulties of blended families (also a good thing), and the celebration of healthy, long-term committed marriage and the importance of Mom being home with her children (all good things). But there is also the persistent, never quite stated, but still presented idea that a committed gay couple has just as much right to be called a family as any other family structure. It's not the "out and proud" vibe of a show like Will and Grace, or weird coming-out drama like Ellen. It's more of a plea: Please love me, respect me, and regard me as equally a member of the family, the Modern Family, along with you. On top of all of this is some really great writing and some hilariously funny bits, all serving to make this attempt at intellectual and cultural reformation go down with sugar instead of salt.

Which strikes me as tactically brilliant. Humor disarms far more effectively than argument, and sympathetic portrayal does far more to advance the cause than impassioned protest. Moreover, I believe that this show is a reflection of the current state of American culture, just as surely as Engel v. Vitale was. If my prognostication skills are working, I think it will not be long before gay marriage and gay adoption seem simply to be part of the postmodern, post-Christian landscape of American life. Shows like Modern Family are helping that cultural transformation along, making us laugh our way through the gradual, but still radical, reshaping of our country.