Cru @ Sru : Ask Anything Night (Part 4)

64079-ask-me-anythingYou can visit Pages One, Two, or Three in the series, or just scroll down on the home page.

 

I am graduating soon and am very unsure of what I’m going to do with my life. How do some people find it so easy to put all their stress on God and not on themselves? 

They’re faking. Haha.

If I would spend any considerable amount of time pondering the reality that God can (and often does) bring about unexpected change,I’d curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the road for fear of coming upon a fork in the road or a tunnel. (that’s a metaphor) When I arrived at Grove City College in 1997, I was a pre-med atheist. When I graduated, I was a Christian biz management major. I worked in sales & management with building materials, installing windows & mirrors, laser engraving (which then became the first business I started on my own), considered grad school (I was going to get a PhD to teach business until I was rejected), started a graphic design business, and then answered the call to ministry, which has been the most steady period of my life by far.

All that to say, I had no clue what life was going to look like. But I found an amazing wife along the way, some great friends, started a family, and lived.  We’ve moved our family. I’ve walked away from one job with no other job on the horizon. You just don’t know. But there is a contentment at knowing whose hands are forming the clay (see Post #3 and Philippians 4:13)

Everyone handles stress differently. There is no fast-track to surrender and contentment. I promise, though, that the closer you walk with Jesus, you’ll find peace there… not necessarily calm or quiet, but real peace. Peace is not tied to circumstance, nor is contentment or joy. They are in a glorious, divine, saving Person. Seek first his kingdom! They are cliched and overused statements, but they are true. It will look different for you than it did for me, but the great news is that the object of our affection is consistent, and so the result for both of us will be glory.

 

Is smoking weed a sin? 

I’m sorry to provide a redirect, but I’ve appreciated this article, and so I feel it’s a great share for a perspective on marijuana.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-let-your-mind-go-to-pot

 

Why does God not perform any more of the big miracles he did in the Bible? 

You’ll get two answers here, depending on who you ask. Some would say he still does. Some would say he has stopped. Interesting, isn’t it?

I believe God is still God, unchanging and ever present. As such, I believe he still, at times, does the same things… I would also argue, though, that he does them for the same reasons. In the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the “main character,” taking center stage through the spread of the gospel, validating the ministry of the early church through repeated acts of power. In other words, as the gospel extended further and further from Jerusalem, the good news was accompanied by testimonial acts of God’s power as a form of validation. These acts were extraordinary and “proved” the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. I’ve spent enough time with missionaries to believe that God still works in power to validate the truth of the gospel as needed. However, salvation comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. In other words, it’s not the “sign” that saves, it’s the gospel. God has given us all that we need to experience the greatest miracle of all.

Reaching back even further to the Old Testament, which in many cases included a different set of miracles, I would present an additional thought. The many acts of deliverance by God in the form of extraordinary manifestations (the Exodus as a huge example) served to reveal God’s character and nature, all the while preparing the world for the ultimate expression of the miraculous – the incarnation. God in flesh, walking the earth in perfection. People could touch and speak to the Creator of the universe in the person of the Son. Amazing! Not a moment, but decades with the God-man. The miracles of the Old Testament prefigured a great many details of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The miracles were shadows, hints at a greater reality, whereas Christ was – and is – the full representation. It’s funny, most think parting the Red Sea was a big deal, but dismiss the unthinkable – that God would not only take on a human nature, but sacrifice it in an act of supreme love. How glorious!

Likewise, in modern terms, the regeneration of a human heart from a state of enmity with God to one of eternal life is a miracle we cannot fully comprehend… yet we ask to see something else, because “seeing is believing.” We’ve been asked to take hold of a spiritual reality – the most concrete truth – without sight. Our definition of miraculous (mine included – there are days I just want to see amazing things!) is short sighted, because we are limited by our five senses. The Scriptures promise that one day faith will be made sight… then the stories of old will seem as miniscule compared to the fully revealed glory of God in the salvation he provided.

 

Why should people believe God is real?

There are folks who dedicate their whole lives to coming at God from a purely rational perspective. The field is called Christian Apologetics. Some are great in this field. Ravi Zacharias is probably the best if you’re into the YouTube. However, one thing cannot be underestimated, and that is the biblical reality that apart from Christ, our understanding is darkened. Grace awakens in us the capacity to understand things that our sinful hearts are not inclined to acknowledge. I bring this up to say, there is – and until Christ returns there will always be – a critical element of faith to this question.

However, to give an overly simplistic answer in the form of a question and a statement – I would encourage you to give these some thought… If there is a sovereign God who is responsible for creating everything out of nothing, then is it fair to say that he is entitled to establish the rules and judge the outcomes? As an unfortunately combative side thought, but one that speaks into your question, I’ll share this. If Christians are wrong, then they’ve wasted their lives pursuing faith, hope, and love. If the atheist is wrong, they’ve wasted their eternity. Again, harsh, but intended to further raise the idea of consequence. I find the matter of consequence to be a significant motivation to consider the biblical narrative.

 

Are there requirements to get into heaven?

According to Scripture, only perfect righteousness is worthy of heaven. No mere human has ever attained righteousness. Due to our sin nature it is impossible. Christ was born in order to live a perfectly righteous life, which accomplishes two things… first, his perfection enabled him to bear the weight of sin as the perfect sacrifice – sin deserves death… in order for God to be just, death is required. So as Jesus died, he was bearing a penalty that he did not deserve, a feat only possible for one who is without sin. Second, his perfection is then credited to the believer in what is traditionally called the great exchange… Christ takes sin, the believer takes righteousness. With this righteousness in our accounts (so to speak, for there is far more than a mere transaction), we are free to approach God. This imputed (gifted) righteousness, then, satisfies the requirement. This is why salvation, for the Christian, is the gift of God, given by grace (unmerited favor) through faith.

 

 Is there only one God? 

According to the Bible, yes. The doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious… that we have one God, eternally existing as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three manifestations of one God, or three representations of one big idea of God. Three distinct persons, yet one God. The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but he is not the Father or the Son. The only word to describe this is a mystery, but it is the revealed truth of God’s word. If the Bible is true, then yes – there is only one God.

 

Is believing in God possibly just ignorance for us not knowing where we started from? 

One of the arguments in favor of God, proposed by Anselm, is the Ontological argument. Oversimplified, the argument states that the idea of God is evidence for the existence of God. There is something inherent in the concept of a supreme being that suggests his existence. I believe it unconvincing that man could invent such a being. Moreso, I find it even less convincing in light of the reality that the concept of God has not only be sustained, but increased in time, even if not every expression of deity is in line with the truth. The pursuit of deity is a human norm… far beyond any simple ignorance.

The irony of Scripture is that the word makes clear the fact that our unbelief is a result of not knowing where we started from.

 

 

This was a longer post, but I’m still working through questions! Please keep checking back for additional food for thought!

In Brief : The Brick Bible

Title: The Brick Bible – The Complete Set
(Click image to view on Amazon)

Author: Brendan Powell Smith

 

I come at this review with such a heavy heart, because I believe the premise is brilliant, but the execution is terribly flawed. Using Legos to tell the greatest story ever told is fascinating and appealing to multiple generations. My generation would read out of nostalgia. My kids love everything Lego, and so the appeal would obviously be there. Smith’s execution of the scenery from an artistic standpoint is amazing. The photography is wonderful, the product of a decade of work. These graphic novels read so easily and well, that I am equally joyful and devastated, because the content couldn’t be more short-sighted and void of the fullness of God’s character.

I would summarize this attempt at a biblical synopsis as caricature at best. In leaving out the essence of the gospel, the story becomes a mockery of God’s revelation.

 

Regarding that violence…

Before I completely lose the people who might love this work, I am NOT upset at the violence or even the vulgarity of particular scenes. (Though I understand a number of panels have been removed because they carry the shock factor far beyond what might be “necessary” – I am thankful) I applaud the attempt at maintaining authenticity in the historical account. The Bible is a violent and vulgar story at times. Read the last two sentences again, because most reviewers who disapprove of the depiction do so for this very reason. In fact, it is the violence and vulgarity that caused Sam’s Club to remove this volume from their shelves.

Any faithful telling of redemptive history will include lots of blood, and lots of inappropriate accounts of sin. Yes, even sexual sin. The Bible is not shy about reminding us all of our legacy of sin. For the many who complain that a kid might just pick this up and be scarred, I remind you that they also might pick up the actual Bible and read the very same stories, though with words instead of toy pictures. Instead of silly plastic figures, they’d just have to use their imaginations to decide what it looked like when the Levite cut his concubine into a dozen pieces and shipped her to the tribes of Israel.

 

Brick Bible 1

 

A bigger issue…

I’ve spent a couple days trying to sum up the theology of the Brick Bible in my head. I still haven’t nailed it down, but here are a few key observations that bother me way more than the violence.

1) God the Father is always angry. Smith uses real Lego pieces from real Lego sets to provide faces throughout the work. (As a side note, it is part of the fun to look for characters I recognize – various Star Wars and Harry Potter, for example – and how they were used.) Smith’s chosen face for the Father is one of upturned eyebrows. God is presented in perpetual anger.

2) Missing the mark on Moses. Bible quiz: why didn’t God allow Moses to enter the promised land? You won’t find the answer in the Brick Bible. The account of Numbers 20 is included, but without the sin of Moses. Consequently, when God forbids Moses later in the Brick Bible, it is just another account of Angry God withholding goodness from people. The absence of grace is also reiterated by the inclusion of Moses among the murderers in hell at the conclusion of Revelation. Moses actually has the front and center place in hell for that crowd. So while our forgiveness towards others is necessary (see #5 below), God’s forgiveness is conspicuously absent.

3) God’s judgment is the big picture. It is true that Jesus talked about hell more than heaven, but Smith spends so much time on hell that you wouldn’t even believe heaven is a reality. I also missed the kingdom of heaven come crashing to earth. At every turn in these novels, God is judgment. Absent is “the LORD, the LORD, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulnessbut who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children”. (Exodus 34:6-7) I’m not saying God isn’t the epitome of justice, but his justice does not exist in a vacuum.

4) Jesus died for no good reason. The Lord is depicted as a kind of nice guy. He teaches – but his teaching is a frustrating mixture of moralism and futility, telling people to be good, but that it’s unlikely our angry God would ever let them into heaven. He provides no solution. His death was not only ineffective to pay the ransom for sin, but it was not appropriated to anyone to draw them near to God. It just sort of happened. Angry God strikes again.

5) Forgiveness might be the basis for salvation, rather than faith – and certainly not grace. Forgive others and God will forgive you. In other words, tolerance is king. Because the life of Christ was not a preparation for the death of Christ, and because neither the life nor the death of Christ are presented as a gift to sinful humanity through the good news, then the resurrection also is a byline. There is no real basis for hope. The way to heaven comes by forgiving everyone. The introduction to the New Testament Bricks, written by a seminary professor, provides the foundation for the relativism that follows. Truth is subjective (especially stuffy old truth provided by millenia of scholarship, prayer, and ministry by Christ through his Church), and so forgiving everyone as they live out their experience of truth is the apparent key to eternity.  Granted, this is not explicitly stated – but in the absence of the gospel, this is the most consistent message throughout.

 

Brick Bible 2

 

 

Can you make the Bible say that? 

The New Testament includes Scripture references near the spine, which is helpful – I’m guessing an idea that sprung up after the Old Testament novel since they are there absent. And yes, the vast majority of the text is direct quotation from the Scripture. But quoting half of a Bible verse is not necessarily helpful. Context matters. “Behold, the Lamb of God…” is a flowery half-quote, but it is given weight by the other half, “… who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) Guess which half was not found in the New Testament novel?

A series of half-verses and quarter-passages without access to the explanations offered elsewhere in Scripture will only create a fractured doctrine built on a heaping mound of misunderstanding. The Brick Bible is a series of hand-picked illustrations used to portray a partial understanding of God. Imagine with me, if you will, the backlash if I were to use the same process to caricature another person? To see sin without seeing the image of God? To see their faults without their qualities? There is an inherent hypocrisy in this work of tolerance to skip out on the whole revelation of God as the perfection of love, justice, mercy, grace, wrath, and forgiveness.

Overall, I enjoy exercises in critical thinking. So I embraced the mental calisthenics. Though my facial expressions at times may have suggested otherwise, I found something in this reading. But where I had hoped to find a fun resource to reference in ministry from time to time, I instead found an account too dangerous to even grant such an endorsement. I would not recommend these books to anyone who is not familiar with the Scriptures. Otherwise, the absence of context could be very damaging.

The introduction states that the novels are an invitation to read the Bible. I’m not so sure. For those who already believe this always angry, one-sided caricature of God, they will only be emboldened in their incomplete views – such a result does not require further Biblical exploration. Believers might be drawn to the Scriptures to reaffirm what the novels miss. I’m not sure what happens in between.

If only someone would write a toy Bible with sound doctrine. A toy Bible with the shock of God’s forgiveness in the midst of our overwhelming sin will compel people to read the real thing for a good reason.