What is the “Age of Accountability”?

[This week’s posts will be a continuation of a recent sermon at Adventure Christian Church, based on questions members submitted to our leaders. Some answers were not addressed from the stage and will be covered here as a supplement. Check out the live answers here.]

Question:

What is the “Age of Accountability?” Continue reading

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How To Praise God In The Storm [Guest Post]

[This week’s posts will be a continuation of a recent sermon at Adventure Christian Church, based on questions members submitted to our leaders. Some answers were not addressed from the stage and will be covered here as a supplement. Today’s guest post comes from our women’s ministry director, Heather Snider. Follow other answers to these questions here.]

A storm blew over my house last night.  Continue reading

Go Fish!

Have you ever watched one of those fishing shows on TV? Not the super boring ones with a guy, alone on a lake with his cameraman, pulling in one little fish at a time. I’m talking about the real fishing shows. The ones with the career fishermen, who are gone for weeks at a time on a boat. The shows where they face terrible storms and risk life and limb to bring in the biggest haul they can manage. Have you seen those shows?

Every episode has a scene where the fishermen hit the motherload. As they bring their nets on board, hundreds—if not thousands— of fish pour out onto the deck of the boat. 

That is real man’s fishing. 

And I think it’s what Jesus had in mind when he called Peter, Andrew, James and John to be “fishers of men.” Here’s the passage from Matthew 4: Continue reading

The Way (part 2) – The ONE Way? Really?

[This is the second in a series about Jesus’ claims in John 14:6. Click Here to read the series from the beginning]

Jesus said he was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” In fact, he then said, “No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Those claims sound pretty exclusive to me.

And yet, it is so common for Christians to shy away from affirming this teaching of Jesus. Isn’t it interesting that we want to honor Jesus so long as he’s helping others, healing the sick, preaching peace and love, and tearing down _____ [insert your modern, contextualized, political pet peeve here], yet when he teaches something like his own exclusivity we try to explain it away, or—more often—ignore it completely and hope no one calls our bluff.

So today we ask, could Jesus actually mean what he said?

The Way to What?

Jesus said, “I am the Way.” But the way to what? This simple statement is implying two things: there is an end goal in life, and there is ONE way to it. Elsewhere he compares “the way to salvation” as a narrow path to which few will adhere, while the “way to destruction” as a wide and easy path to find. I’m guessing he’s not calling himself the latter.

In actuality, he calls himself the way to the Father. As in, being in the Father’s presence is the goal in life and Jesus is the only way to that goal.

What if there’s no Father?

Every religion has some image of “salvation.” They don’t all say anything about damnation, but they do all say something about salvation. A “higher existence,” if you will. It may be a separation from worldly desires, or a perspective on the world hewn from life experience that allows you to always make the right decision. Reincarnation into higher beings, trying to achieve a goal.

Nirvana.

Paradise.

Heaven.

Let’s not act as if there is no “salvation” in these worldviews. But just because they all paint the picture that we need some sort of deliverance does not make them all “the same.” It doesn’t mean they are all saying “basically the same thing.” What it reveals is that the notion there is something wrong or imperfect with us is a universal notion. It is a truth that—if we would just be honest with ourselves—we cannot escape. It’s part of our very humanity.

This truth also reveals that there is a desire for the perfect, for the correction of our brokenness, for the healing of wounds and for the freedom that comes when insecurity, self-preservation, and fear finally cease.

So the question is where this idea comes from? Where do we get morality, if not from a moral law-giver? Where do we get the idea of perfection if the very essence of the world is imperfect? If that is all that is observable, where have we learned to universally long for its inverse?

See, many world religions will deny God as Christianity understands him. They want to acknowledge God (some higher power, a guiding force, etc), but they don’t want this god to be personal. They don’t want their god to have created everything from nothing.

But a world without a creator God has no purpose, meaning, or basis for morality. A world without a personal, creator God is utterly futile.

The Way to the Father Creator.

The question of the Father implies that there is A CREATOR. Here’s why Jesus is the only way to be in relationship with said creator. One thing that is always true of created things is that they are subject to the will of the creator. When you create something, you have the right to regulate its purpose and use. It’s the reality that our copyright laws aim to recognize and thus, protect. It’s why we have patents. The creator has the right to dictate purpose to the creation.

As such, we owe God obedience to the will for our lives that he has set out. We were made for the purpose He alone dictates, and we are obligated to recognize and respond to that responsibility. When we fail to do this, just like any creator whose invention fails to do what it was supposed to, he has every right to scrap his creation and start all over.

But he doesn’t. Rather than destroy us because of our sin (falling short, or breaking his intention for us), God has given us a means by which we can be reconciled to him. The cost of sin is death, to be sure, but God gave his son to bear the death that we all deserve.

Think you’re pretty good? You don’t sin that much? Think your good deeds ought to outweigh the bad things you do (only once in a while, as we all seem to convince ourselves)? The issue is that even failing once separates us from him. And even if that weren’t true, I know I fall short several times, daily. So I don’t know whose scale we’re measuring on, or which good deeds “count” as more significant to counteract all my selfish deeds and desires, but I’m pretty sure a very strong case can be made for me breaking the relationship and the intention my creator had for me.

AND WHEN THAT HAPPENS, I need help. When that happens, I can’t “make it up,” because he already has exclusive rights to my life. Everything is already his. Even my “extra.” I already owe him everything for the very breath in my lungs. Any good I do to “make up for” the bad already belongs to him. It’s not extra credit. It’s just credit. and our account falls short every time when we rely on our own goodness.

This is why every ideological system in the history of the world has some concept of salvation.  We’ve come full circle and completed the cycle. We are broken > We need salvation (or whatever you’d like to call it) > We try to earn it by being good, >but we’re not that good > thus we are “broken” > and we need salvation (or whatever you want to call it).

Jesus breaks the cycle. Jesus says, “It’s not about how good you are.” Jesus says, “Your attempts were never going to be able to pay the penalty.” Jesus says, “I bring grace, where every other system only offers works.”

Jesus brings grace. It’s what is distinctive about Christianity, and it’s why Christianity is the only Way.

It’s why Christians have hope. Because the very law-giver has said, “I will forgive you of your lawlessness.”

No one else offers that.

Don’t miss your chance to take him up on the offer.

5 Ways to Protect Your Kids from Online Pornography (and other threats)

When my son gets a little older and starts playing sports, I think I’m going to give him a bottle of prescription pain pills.

I’ll tell him to use them responsibly, but what he does with them is his business. After all, he’ll be eight or so by then, and he needs to learn how to handle responsibility. Plus, considering pills are not damaging in themselves, it’s all in how you use them. I want him to make good choices, and people only learn from their mistakes, right? It’s the world they’re growing up in. Someday they’ll grow up and (in the “real world”) a doctor will prescribe them pills for pain. They need to know how to use them.

You’ve got to let your kids be their own people, after all. Continue reading

4 Thoughts on the Ham/Nye Debate

Let me just put this out there:

I don’t know where my Christian beliefs and Science meet when it comes to the Origins of the world.

I know I am created. By God. I know that mankind is created in his image (by observation…see what I did there?), and I know that as such, he has authority over his creation. He is king. It’s that simple.

But how creation came about is another issue. That is what Ken Ham, CEO of Answers In Genesis, and Bill Nye (yes, they Science Guy) got together to debate tonight.

The debate did nothing to land me in either camp. Maybe I’l explore that here, along with the various ways Christians have offered to make sense of the apparent discrepencies that fueled tonight’s shindig. But here are a few thoughts I had surrounding the debate.

1. Presuppositions matter

I think this was Ham’s biggest point, and it may have gotten lost in some of the other noise. There is a certain amount of faith that comes with a naturalist position and that faith can be easily under-estimated. It is dishonest for Nye to stand up and say that his presuppositions that there is nothing supernatural simply because it can’t be tested and repeated doesn’t shape his frame of reference for research. No one is neutral.

At the same time, Ken Ham was asked point-blank if there was anything that could make him soften his stance on young-earth creation explanation of the world’s origins. His answer was no. His presuppositions that the Bible is trustworthy is the guiding frame through which he views the data we have available to us today.

So since they are both colored by presuppositions, does that mean neither can be right? Absolutely not.

Let’s not come to a false conclusion about presuppositions. Their presence does not eliminate the reality of truth. Someday, we will die and we will see (or not, I guess, if we just decompose and that’s it) which side of this debate is true. We will see if the Universe was created, or if it just “happened to come about” from natural processes. One side will be right. Or both will be wrong.

But they can’t both be right.

Therefore, we should examine the data and find a position we can passionately  defend. I’m not quite there yet, but that just means I have more work to do, not that both are “equally valid.” We need to look beyond natural sciences, too. To morality and philosophy, to archaeology and other disciplines. If you haven’t done it before, read the Bible for yourself. But understand that in our postmodern world that wants truth to be subjective, one of these men will have been right and the other wrong.

God exists or he doesn’t. And whichever side you fall on will have consequences to the way you live, act and—yes—think.

2. Tonight’s special is Red Herring, with a side of debate.

I don’t know if you caught it. It was subtle and sneaky, and meant to deceive. But then, all fallacy is.

Red Herring is a fallacy—a faulty way of reasoning in debate—that responds to an argument by making a separate, irrelevant argument to draw attention away from the argument at hand. And Red Herrings were everywhere. It was like breeding season, with all of ’em swimmin’ upstream like that!

Here are some examples.

Bill Nye repeatedly called himself “A Reasonable Man,” which is a type of Red Herring known as an “ad hominem” argument. It is an attack on the arguer, not the argument. The implication, each of the several times Nye made this claim is that Ham is clearly not reasonable. It is the equivalent of “I know you are but what am I?” or maybe, “My name’s rubber and your name’s glue!” It took his argument and posed it as the “reasonable” position, and any other argument as the “unreasonable” stance.

This is related to Bill Nye’s “Appeal to Authority” Red Herring where he calls “us on the outside [of this silly creation-talk]” the “legitimate” scientists, the “traditional” scientists, etc.

Ken Ham’s opening presentation with scientists who were also creationists also seemed to me to be a fallacy. Maybe along the line of a straw man, where he sets up a misrepresentation of his opposition’s view just to knock it down. I’m not sure anyone was saying that those who believe in Creationism can’t be scientists. The debate was whether that specific view that those well-respected scientists held is indeed an adequate explanation of the Universe’s origins.

We could include Nye’s repeated questioning Ham to make a prediction, which he did, and then outright refusing to accept it.

We could include Nye’s many appeals to emotion, from the shunning that others who hadn’t heard Ham’s view feel (in light of their impending condemnation, according to Nye), to the many appeals that “it’s just ridiculous!” (as with Noah building a satisfactory Ark).

We could include Ham’s frequent use of the word “hijacked”

I could go on. I thought the debate was couched in these arguments that didn’t really stand on their own and, frankly, I saw Nye employing them WAY more often than Ham.

3. The Bible and the “Science” of Textual Criticism

Bill Nye is a Scientist. He accepts that we can look at things as they are now, and make certain assumptions about how they always must have been. Those assumptions are then shaped by the ancient evidence we find, and theories become laws, etc. He is a scientist.

So it baffled me the many times he attacked the Bible as “an ancient document, translated thousands of times into modern American English,” and scoffed that such an ethereal cloud of unclarity could ever be understood in the first place, let alone interpreted.

Herein lies Bill Nye’s Biggest fallacy of the night. He accepts the scientific process, but failed to acknowledge the scientific excellence that proves the Bible we have is, by and large, the original text written by the original writers. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 65,000 manuscripts from the Bible dating to the 1st century BC for the OT, and the early 2nd Century AD for the new (second place in antiquity is Homer with about 650 manuscripts from 400 years after he supposedly wrote it). Let those numbers sink in. We have an amazing number of copies of the text of the Bible. Those copies are not all identical: they have errors, just as if you or I hand-copied something a bunch of times. But we a) know where those discrepencies are, b)know the nature of most of the discrepancies and c) through comparing and contrasting translations, by listening to voices outside the Bible, by looking at archaeology of the region, we can determine the best variant to take. And most bibles (both Greek/Hebrew AND English) will offer the variant.

Textual Criticism is a Science. To suggest that we can’t look back at ancient Hebrew and know what it means is ridiculous. To think we can’t look at the way a “dead” Greek word used to be used by looking at all the Greek writing we have is absurd. There are men and women who have devoted their lives to looking for patterns and laws, and analyzing language the way Mr. Nye studies astronomy. To suggest (as he did) that choosing what is taken as poetry and what is taken as history is not a subjective exercise, but one that has been undertaken over the years through the studying of Greek and Hebrew prose and poetry.

Yet Mr. Nye wrote this off several times as being “unreliable.”

This doesn’t make the Bible true, but it shows his scientific bias toward even accepting the text as a reliable text.

4. I am sad for Bill Nye

My heart breaks for a man who denies God. A man who looks into the cosmos, sees the grandeur (not finitude), the order (not randomness), the life (not inanimacy), the consciousness of man (not brute instinct), and end up worshiping the created things, rather than the creator himself (Romans 1:25).

By heart breaks for a man who honored his faithful colleagues by acknowledging the “religious people” of the world could be great scientists, but who—in the same breath—called any religious systems that believe in a God “made up.”

I mourned tonight—genuinely—over a man who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the only salvation for our sins against a creator to whom we owe our whole lives.

I mourn because I know what Scripture says happens to those whose faith is not in him.

Tonight’s debate was never about creation and evolution. It was about presuppositions.

And my fear is that Bill Nye’s presuppositions are leading him to an end he doesn’t believe in, even though in the course of tonight’s debate he heard the good news of Jesus at least a few times.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the details, when what is really missing is a glimpse of the big picture.

Seminary Smatterings #1: Sausage, Silver, and Sovereign

There is a local butcher in town who has THE BEST breakfast sausage I have ever had.

The. Best.

We get a pound of it pretty much every week, and I pound out my own patties (a process that makes it that much more satisfying), and we enjoy taste-bud bliss for a couple of mornings.

And so I’m telling people about it all the time! My wife and I are telling people about the best-kept secret in Louisville, Kingsley’s Breakfast Sausage (if you’re in Louisville, go support this local family business; you won’t regret it).

But we tell people about it because we feel like they are missing out on something great.

Well, never does a week go by where I sit and class and don’t think, “People need to hear this!” Reading, studying, discussing, these things lead to deep connections being made in the Scripture and I come across things all the time that people need to know. I wish I had time for all the conversations I wish I could have.

So this is the first post in a series I will call, “Seminary Smatterings.” There won’t necessarily be consistency from week to week, but I just want to share some thoughts or lessons that have seemed profound.

From my Isaiah class:

We’re only in chapter one, but already there are a TON of things jumping off the page. I won’t go into all of them, but Isaiah 1 says some interesting things about Silver. In fact, God compares the Isrealites to Silver that has become “dross.” When a silversmith is working with silver, there is a refining process. Over and over, the smith heats the silver up to a liquid, and all the impurities—the dross—float to the top, where the Smith scrapes them off and repeats the process. And repeats.

Until he can see his reflection in the silver.

In Isaiah 1, God is stating his case against Israel: they have turned away from him and forgotten to properly honor him for all he has blessed them with. Worst of all, they have turned the means by which God graciously gave them a way to reconcile with him despite sin—the very essence of their worship practices—into mere lip service. Their hearts were not repentant of their sin, nor did they have any intention of turning to him.

Thus, their “silver has become dross” (Isa 1:22).

But wait, the end of chapter one (and remember, this sets the tone for all the book), God makes clear that he will redeem the faithful. And what image does he use?

25 “I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”

God tells Israel he’s going to turn up the fire. Let persecution come. Let hard times knock us down. Allow struggle. Ordain strife. And he allows that to bring out the impurities. He does it so that the faithful will remain.

And they will reflect his own face.

Be faithful, the fires are not meant for you, but for the impure, to reveal the faithful people of God.

From “Life and Teachings of Jesus”

Just a thought that was posed on day one that I found provocative (but possibly accurate—still thinking through this). What if Jesus’ whole ministry really could be summed up by his first pastoral sentence: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What if that is simply his message.

What if “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” is not primarily about the end times, or about Heaven, per se, but a statement of fact? Said another way, what if the statement was, “God is King. Therefore, in light of this fact, repent (for it is the only proper way to come before a king). And believe in the Gospel for your salvation, for your membership in this Kingdom.” 

What if the “Kingdom of God” is the kingdom where people actually live as if God were their king? Bowing to his authority, submitting where his decrees bristle against our will? Giving him glory and honor? Trusting him to provide based on the fundamentals of his economy, his social order, his reign and his ability to fight his own battles?

What if we came before him with our hat in our hands, pleading for mercy because we don’t deserve communion with him, because that is how you come before a king, rather than “waltzing in, handing him the resume we’ve built up and telling him how glad he should be to have us on his team. That’s not how you act in the presence of a King!” (this was a paraphrase from my professor, regarding the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18). What if repentance has much more to do with giving up the notion that our lives are our own, and less to do with apologizing for each individual mistake we make? 

The point is, what if we are being called to give far more to be a Christian than we’d previously considered? What if God really is King, and we treat him like he is our “co-pilot” or “homeboy?”

What if we really do need to Repent? What if the Kingdom of God really IS at hand?

Just some thoughts. I’m sure I’ll have more next week!