Saturday, January 27, 2018

Trapped Behind a Wall

If you were born in East Berlin, Germany in 1961, you were born in captivity.
East Berliners lived behind 15-foot-high concrete walls, prisoners in their own city.  Escape was attempted, seldom achieved. The fear and frustration continued for three decades. Friends and relatives lived just feet away, on the other side of the wall; death threatened any physical attempt to visit. Travel eastward was permitted but freedom was in another direction.
Like the citizens of Berlin, we are born prisoners, already dead in sin. (Ephesians 2:1)
Freedom and peace are available. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) We have “the kind of peace that sends people onto the streets after a war has ended.”
That’s what happened in East Berlin. 
On November 9, 1989, the Spokesman for the Central Committee of Germany’s Communist Party was asked “‘Herr Schabowski, when will your citizens be allowed to travel freely? Perhaps he was carried away by the rapidly deteriorating events inside his country.  Whatever the reason, nobody in the room – or anywhere around the world – expected the reply which was to follow. ‘They can go whenever they want, and nobody will stop them.’” [i]
28 years of captivity ended within a few hours. People were climbing the walls, running in the streets. A war had ended. They were free.
They believed what had been told them and acted.
Trust is how we are freed from sin. Faith is how our fear and frustration are canceled.  Belief is how we can go in the spiritual direction we crave without sin controlling our movements. The wall that traps us has collapsed.

[i] Durschmied, Erik. How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History: the Hinge Factor. MJF Books, 2005. Chapter 16

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Social Media's Big Failure

Last week I fell off the wagon.
My involvement in politics and current issues ran deep for many years.  (Chairman of state Christian homeschool organization, chairman of state political party, teacher and co-writer of constitutional curricula.) I decided to make these topics parenthetical.  I carefully wrote and reread my social media posts to avoid offense, not responding to responses that would lead to debate.  The plan was essentially successful. 
Until last Friday.
Most media outlets then reported that President Trump spoke disparagingly about Haiti. A Facebook post appeared with a friend’s view of this report.  I assumed the worst and responded with my opinion. An opposing voice argued contrarily with all and the discussion moved to ‘he didn’t say, they said.’ Civility disappeared and the thread with it. Fortunately, the discussion was removed after my second posting. I may have made things worse.  
While climbing back onto the wagon of media self-restraint I made some observations.
No one wins arguments on Facebook.  Even with the best intentions the search for truth is rarely successful.  In this case, the White House did not immediately deny the statement.  Two Republican senators did.  A Democrat senator claimed it was said.  Another person reported that it was not exactly the language used.  What really happened we may never know.
We support the media that agrees with our social view Several perspectives arose from this event.  Many Republicans backed the claim.  “That’s just the President being tough.”
Some Christians had no problem with the alleged foul language. Others were apologetic.  “He shouldn’t have spoken so crudely.  But he is getting things done.” 
Democrats generally remain in a state of disapproval.
I wonder how these two parties would argue if the supposed words were uttered by the opposite party’s president.   
Independent voters on each end of the political spectrum can say, “We told you he shouldn’t be president.”
The availability of unverified, internet information brings a unique challenge.  Information does not guarantee truthful knowledge.  For cutting edge apologist Francis Schaeffer, “true truth” is the conviction that there is such a thing as Absolute Truth and that, as Schaeffer puts it: “it is possible to know that truth, not exhaustively but truly.”*  Jesus said that truth is God’s Word. The more time we spend reading and learning God’s Word the truer our truth will be.  Our media responses will be based on truth, not used as a club but delivered in love.
That’s a great wagon to ride.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

There is No Innkeeper- And Why It Matters

 Where in the Bible are these statements?

Cleanliness is next to godliness.
God helps those who help themselves.
The Seven Deadly Sins
God moves in mysterious ways; His wonders to perform.
This, too, shall pass. 
The Three Kings

None of these quotes are from the Bible. They are not the words of God.
Unless John Wesley, author of statement 1, wrote Scripture.  (The phrase was first recorded in a sermon by Wesley in 1778.)
Or Ben Franklin was divinely inspired. (‘God helps those who help themselves’ first appeared in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757.)
Proverbs 6:16 says there are 7 things God hates.
‘God moves in mysterious ways’ form a lyric for the 19th-century hymn by William Cowper.
Possibly a Persian Sufi poet predicted that ‘this too shall pass.’
The men who visited Jesus were Magi, not Kings.  Matthew never says there were 3.  The number may have been greater.

The creation of a Bethlehem innkeeper is more egregious. 

Dr. John MacArthur illustrates the severity of the issue. In fifth grade, he was picked to be in the church Christmas play.  He drew the role of the innkeeper’s son.  Luke never mentioned an innkeeper.  This phantom clerk now has a son- who turns out to be . . . Barabbas!  Just as his mean father turned baby Jesus away so the bully Barabbas had no room for Jesus.  Unbelievable?

What are the biblical details?

The Luke 2 story relates no search for places to stay or a heartless innkeeper. Nor is there a friendly innkeeper who permits them to rest in his stable.

The word ‘inn’ is better understood as a guest room, not a building. Luke 22:11-12 “Tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” The “inn” of Bethlehem is a room. (A different word typifies the building that lodges travelers.)

Bethlehem, the town of Joseph’s family was a small town, likely full of people.  The family house of David, Luke 2:4, had no room for Joseph and Mary. Most homes in Israel had two parts, one for the family and another for the household animals. The young couple moves to the first-floor stable area and there Jesus is born.  The contrast is not about those who make room and those who don’t, but about the King of Heaven being born in the lowly place of earth.

When we claim something to be Scripture when it’s not, 3 problems develop. We

·                Miss the main point
·                Make God a liar
·                Bring doubt about inspiration

Mark Twain claimed, “It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand.” 
Let’s make sure we leave the ‘bothering’ to what the Bible actually says.