How Could You Believe THAT?!

 

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One of the more interesting, completely unexpected, and entertaining story lines of the NBA season is the revelation that the NBA is sprinkled with “Flat Earth” theorists.  About a month ago, Cleveland Cavalier’s Kyrie Irving (proud product of Duke University) came out in an interview as believing the Earth is flat.

“This is not even a conspiracy. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat.”

“For what I’ve known for many years and what I’ve been taught is that the Earth is round, but if you really think about it from a landscape of the way we travel, the way we move and the fact that — can you really think of us rotating around the sun, and all planets align, rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what’s going on with these ‘planets’ and stuff like this.”

When he was talking about his theory, it was recognized as being pretty crazy, but just an isolated opinion of someone who thinks he is smarter than the rest of the class.  But then something odd and unexpected happened: other NBA stars started coming to his defense!  Some were tame, not wanting to create controversy.  LeBron James, his teammate, said, “If Kyrie says the earth is flat, then the earth is flat.”  Obviously, he was just trying to avoid creating an issue with a friend and teammate.

But then players started coming out of the woodwork, saying they, too, thought the earth was flat.  Wilson Chandler and Draymond Green, among others, came out in support of Irving’s claims, saying they not only supported him, but agreed.  Even Shaquille O’Neal, never one to shy away from attention, initially claimed to believe it, only to days later say he was just trolling everyone.

My first reaction is to recognize the complete absurdity of this.  All one has to do is fly in one direction for long enough to end up back where you started.  These are all players who have gone overseas for exhibitions, made trips to China, and have seen the curvature of the earth from an airplane on a weekly basis.  Never mind the fact that Kyrie Irving was born in Australia!  I’m sure he has travelled plenty.  And does the water flow off the edge of the earth?  Why has someone never been ‘underneath’ the Earth?  This is clearly shooting fish in a barrel.

But it was my second thought that had me making an uncomfortable connection.  You see, when I read everyone’s quick criticism of the statements, I realized that this is the way that many see Creationists.  Creationists, myself included, have been heavily criticized for ignoring ‘evidence’ and slammed as being blind to the obvious truth of Evolution.

Here are some criticisms of the Flat Earthers:

“it is really concerning when you have people in the public eye, or you have people in general who think that the Earth might not be round because it devalues the scientific method.”   Bill Nye

Irving defended his view saying, “It’s OK to have your own thoughts and be able to function and be able to formulate your own thoughts and opinions and still be able to convey them to other people.”  The columnist responded by writing, “The problem, of course, is that not all thoughts are equal. Facts require evidence. That is essentially the point of science. Sigh.”

It doesn’t take too much of an imagination or memory to recall similar things being said of those who reject the claims that the theory of evolution has been proven out scientifically.  I had an epiphany.  This is exactly how many view me.  To many, Bill Nye included, I am just as crazy as Kyrie Irving.

We’ve seen it in the recent reaction to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounters museum in Kentucky.  He’s just a raving lunatic.  He ignores the obvious evidence.  He should be ashamed of his convictions.  He should be quiet and not have any influence over people, never mind serve as an educator.

But this is the world that we live in.  And I’m content to be labelled an idiot, ignorant, or foolish for the sake of believing Genesis 1-2 is real.  Don’t be surprised when the masses turn and let this serve as a small lesson and window into how Creationists are viewed in the world today.

 

Learning from Other’s Repeated Failures

Every time that I read/study/teach through the Old Testament, I am struck by something different.  When I brought my kids through the last couple of years, I was struck by the constant example of a faithful God to unfaithful people.  From Adam and Even, to Noah, Abraham, the people through the wilderness, and then into the land, the people exhibit an all too familiar penchant for exchanging the glory of God for the world around them.  They pursued the creation rather than the Creator.

Over the course of our study with the Foundation’s Bible Study, I have been hit with something new.  I think this pattern is one that I have noticed now due to it connecting with my own fears.  It was never too much of a concern, but as I get older, and, more specifically, my kids get older, I realize this hits much closer to home than it used to.

The pattern is this:  throughout Israel’s history, the nation and its leaders show an astounding failure to pass God’s truth onto their children.  While I cannot say authoritatively that the reason many of their children fell away, there is definitely a pattern and many were not taught the fear of the Lord or to walk in His ways.

The list is somewhat comprehensive.  Let me provide a few examples of this pattern:

  • From the get go, Cain kills his own brother in a jealous rage over not understanding what pleases the Lord in worship!
  • Abraham’s failure to bring Ishmael up in the fear of the Lord.
  • Jacob raising sons who think killing their little brother is ok and then resigning to pretend he is dead and sell him into slavery.
  • Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering profane fire to the Lord.  They would have been intricately involved in leading the people in worship.
  • In the beginning of Judges, after the conquest of the land (2:10) it says, “There arose another generation that did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for them.”  The generation of the conquest didn’t pass on the fear of the Lord to the next generation, preparing the way for the constant cycles of faithlessness in Judges.
  • In I Samuel, we see Eli, the religious leader of the nation, raise two completely morally corrupt sons.  They were supposed to be leading the nation in worship before God and they were sleeping around with women who were serving God.
  • Samuel, who replaced Eli, had his own failure.  The nation of Israel was so afraid of his corrupt kids taking over that they demanded a king to rule over them.
  • David’s sons didn’t win any “Sons of the Year” awards, either.  Amnon, one of his sons, raped his half sister, Tamar.  When Absolam, Tamar’s brother found out, he eventually hunts Amnon down and kills him.  This is shortly followed by Absolam leading a rebellion and claiming the kingdom his while his dad is alive and well.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but you get the idea. Here are examples of people, many of them who served the Lord in faithfulness, whose own children fell so far away.  One doesn’t have to look far today to see young ones brought up in Christian homes who grow to want nothing to do with their parent’s faith.

As the father of two adorable children who claim to believe and want to grow in obedience, I fear that they too will walk down that road some day.  I know that nothing I do will save them, that there is no winning formula to guarantee their desires will be for Christlikeness.  But I think the tools to put them on the best path possible lay in my hands, just as they did with the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”

 

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to our fathers. And the lORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.  And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

 

Deuteronomy 11:19 “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”

 

It is clear that there is no way to guarantee your child will follow in your steps in their pursuit of the LORD, but there are things that we MUST do, not only for the good of our children, but primarily for the glory of God.  Teach them God’s Word.  Instruct their hearts to fear the LORD.  Train their hearts to beat for God’s glory.  Failure to do so is more of a guarantee that they will fall away.

It is astounding for me to read those words in Judges 2:10.  How does a nation fail to pass along the law of the LORD and tell of His great faithfulness and works on their behalf?!  A generation that saw the walls of Jericho fall at their feet, who saw armies destroyed by God, saw water just separate at His commands, fail to pass those along?  Again, it is easy to point disbelievingly at them, but the greater miracle has happened in the redemption of our rebellious hearts through the death and resurrection of God’s Son.  And there are those that fail to pass this along to their children.  May we be a people that do not hesitate to proclaim God’s unending faithfulness in our lives, and may God be gracious to open the hearts of our young ones to bring Him glory.

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

For those that know me well, you know that I like music.  I think that music a special gift from God.  There is little in this world that can move people so deeply and powerfully as music can.  You don’t have to even know the language or understand the words to be moved to the core.  Music changes everything.  Imagine the scene of a favorite movie without the musical score behind it!  When the preview for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, I cried just hearing the familiar tune.

Throughout my life, I have found myself attached to different artists at different times.  Each have had a profound impact on my life, usually for better than worse.  As I’ve grown in maturity in Christ, many of these men and women have comforted and counseled my heart at different stages of my life.  One of the most profound impacts has been caused by the music of Caedmon’s Call.

As a 18 year old college student, I remember the first time I heard Caedmon’s Call, it was walking in a room at The Master’s College, hearing the cries of Derek Webb in “I Just Don’t Want Coffee”.  It was a sound that I hadn’t heard before, but I loved it.  I immediately connected with him and Caedmon’s Call.  Immediately, I listened to everything of theirs that I could.  I looked forward to new music, to see what they would sing about, what they would challenge me on, and what songs by Derek Webb I would connect to.

I can still connect specific songs to specific times in my life.  It seemed like Derek Webb and I were connected some how.  He would sing of “wondering if I have ‘The Gift’ that everyone speaks so highly of”, referring to singleness.  When he sang that, I was struggling with it.  When he sang of missing his home town, I was there, too.  When he sang of being moved to repentance, I was there.

When God did bring a wonderful woman into my life, we dated (albeit for a short time) at a long distance.  Our song would be “Somewhere North” where Derek sang of being so far from the one he loved.  I listened to that song over and over and over again, being moved so powerfully every time.

Then Derek got married to his love and I got married to my love.  He sang songs about how their love was better than wine, about wanting to marry her all over again.  I related so powerfully!  I still think of those songs and how they are beautiful descriptions of my love for my wife.   I loved Derek Webb and couldn’t wait for anything that he would release.

As time went on, he began to release music that started to concern me.  His songs seemed to reflect less on the power of Christ.  It made waves when he cursed in a song.  He seemed to relish the increasing role of the Christian rebel.  He started going places I couldn’t follow, places I didn’t think reflected a Biblical grounding.  Then I just stopped buying his music.  And the relationship was functionally over.

It didn’t necessarily surprise me when the news came out that he and his wife were splitting and getting a divorce because of his infidelity.  It didn’t surprise me, but it hurt.  It hurt in a way that sounds foolish and childish.  It hurt because when things happened in Derek Webb’s life, they seemed to happen in mind.  My concern wasn’t that I would go through the same experience, but that he had become something I just didn’t admire.

Until recently, I have still had him on my Facebook feed.  I haven’t bought any of his music recently, knowing that the integrity I admired was gone.  And as time has gone by, his posts have proven to be less and less about Christ and more and more about being different, standing against ‘Evangelical Christianity’ or the status quo, whatever that means.  I realized, Derek Webb doesn’t make me excited about God’s grace anymore.

Recently, it has become chic for his followers to mock people like me.  People who have seen the direction he has gone and say they don’t like what he’s become.  You’ll occasionally see someone say how they miss the old Derek Webb, and he’ll admit he has changed, but for the good in his mind.  He said something to the effect of “no one should be who they were ten years ago.”  This is true, but as a Christian, I would hope it would look more like Christ and less like the world, not the other way around.

So it is, that I have decided to say goodbye.  I still have old music of his, but even that seems affected by the direction things have gone.  Sadly, I can’t listen to them the same way.  I don’t say these things thinking anyone would really care, but more as a cathartic way to say goodbye to a friend I never knew.  A way to say goodbye to an influence that pushed me and guided me through difficult years.  I’ve thought about writing him directly, but I don’t think that would be productive, so this will have to do.

Filling in the Blanks for God

Continuing in our study from through the Old Testament, our past study saw us go through the lives of Ruth and Saul, up until the anointing of David.  Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges, and helps us in a twofold manner.  First, it gives us a fascinating look into the life and times of Israel during the time of the judges.  Second, it introduces us to a family line that leads to King David and on to Christ.

As Israel makes it way to the end of the era of the judges, they find themselves under the judgeship of Samuel.  Under his leadership, they seem to be functioning as God envisioned and intended when He gave them the law at Sinai.  Samuel is leading them in pure worship, counseling their hearts and leading them to real victory of the Philistines.  The climate of submission to God is highlighted by a victory of the imposing Philistines that results in the recapturing of much of their land.

But like Eli before him, Samuel has a blind spot.  His two sons do not share in his zeal for God’s glory, instead using their position to seek financial gain and influence. As Samuel grows older, the people grow increasingly uneasy about the possibility of being judged by his sons.   The people look into the future and see instability under their leadership rather than growth they realized under Samuel.

Their concern was understandable and valid.  It is true that Samuel’s sons would most likely not have made good leaders.  They had not exercised good judgment and had shown that they were not faithful in the little things.  But what they failed to include in the equation was a God who promised to care for them and bless them in their obedience.

Once again, the people of Israel failed to trust God and instead looked to their own resources and the resources of the nations around them for protection.  They go so far as to say they want a king like the nations around them so that he can go out and fight their battles for them.  This is the same nation that saw their God drown the Egyptian army, destroy a city that they just walked around, eliminate an army by having 300 men surround it with torches and trumpets and more.  God had made it very clear that he fought their battles, that is in fact what terrified the people of Jericho before they got there.

It is easy for us to to sit and criticize the people for continuing to fail to trust God after He had done so much for them, but we ought to look to our own hearts and lives and ask ourselves where we fail in this respect.  I know in my own life that I far too often look to my own resources and try to fill in the blanks myself rather than trust God to fill them for me.  I show that I trust in my own limited resources rather than the endless resources of the unlimited God.  Its foolish to think of, but it is exactly what we do.

 

Forgetting the Unforgettable

 

46638940.cached.jpgIn our Foundation’s Bible Study, we have been going through the a chronological study of the Old Testament.  This past week found us covering the book of Judges.  Let me give a quick synopsis of the book for those unfamiliar.  The book takes place after the conquest of the Promised Land, after the nation of Israel escaped Egypt by God’s power and travail their way through the Wilderness.

It was in this time in the Wilderness that God took a rag tag group of people roughly the population of the state of New Hampshire and made them into a nation for His Name.  He gave them the law, went to great measures to teach them to depend on Him, and taught them how to worship Him.  He knew that they would be going into a land where they would not surround the Tabernacle on a nightly basis and would not behold his glory on a daily basis.  They would not have daily reminders of His faithfulness in the form of food found on the ground.  And more significantly, they would not have the direct leadership of Moses or Joshua leading them and directing them.  They would be dispersed amongst their tribes throughout the land, with the Levites spread out to represent them before God.

By the time the book of Judges starts, the generation of the conquest has died along with Joshua (Judges 2:10).  This generation that had been born in the Wilderness, saw God’s faithfulness first hand, and saw God power through the conquest has passed and handed the baton to the next generation.  Unfortunately, the next generation would fail to regard Yahweh God as holy.

The book of Judges is full of a continuing cycle of the people falling into sin, given over to servitude, crying out for deliverance, seeing a deliverer raised, achieving freedom from oppression, then experiencing some measure of peace until starting the whole cycle over again.  It can be nerve-wracking to see this cycle play itself out over and over and over again!

But the book of Judges starts with some of the most shocking words that you could imagine for a nation at this point in their history.

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers.  And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.”   Judges 2:10

How can this be?!  How can one generation pass and the next be so ignorant to the truth and reality of their LORD?  How can they not know of the work that God had done for them?  How does such knowledge melt away after just one generation?

The reality is, that God knew this was a possibility.  That’s why he instructed Moses in Deuteronomy 6: 20-25:

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes.  And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.  And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as we are this day.  And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

The people were to be talking about the greatness of God and His works in their families.  They were not just to recite law to their kids, but the goodness of God as well.  The goodness of God and His law was to be a central feature in their lives.  Observe Deuteronomy 11:18-23:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.  For if you will be careful to all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all His ways, and holding fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.”

This is what Israel failed to do.  They failed to regard God as holy and teach the law to their children.  They did not make God’s Word a central part of their lives.  The consequences that came were quicker and more severe than anything they could have imagined.

How does a nation so quickly forfeit such responsibilities?  I imagine there were probably many nights where conversations went something like this: “It’s been a long day.  I’ve been building this new home, breaking ground for planting, tending to the flocks, nevermind the work on the front to drive out the tribes around us.  I’m too tired to open up God’s Word.  Let’s just watch TV.”

Ok, maybe they don’t say that last part, but I can see the same temptations in my own life.  It was a long day at work.  I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m too tired.  It would be much more relaxing just to eat in peace.  This wasn’t an “Israel problem”.  It is a “humanity problem”.  We are so quick to relegate God’s Word to a lower priority.

We must not make the same mistake that Israel did.  These things were recorded so that we might read them and learn.  The mistakes have already been made and recorded so we don’t make the same mistake.  The priority in our homes MUST be to teach God’s greatness and goodness, and the eternal value of loving the LORD our God.  May it not be said of children that they did not know God or what He has done for us.

Sparing the Gospel from Prejudice

As the year draws to the end, it is a time reflecting on the year gone by.  Any casual observation of the last year leaves most recognizing it leaves us much to be desired.  This past year has produced a division in our country unlike anything I’ve seen in my short 36 years.  Friends and family alike have been divided by personal convictions and the lines that they’ve drawn.  It could be Trump vs. Hillary, liberal media vs. conservative media, gun control vs. 2nd Amendment, common core vs. anti common core, black lives matter vs. blue lives matter, or other debates that surround sexuality and how one self identifies.  They have all produced divisions in our lives.

It often appeared that any conversation would turn to some sort of divisive subject.  Often times, the topic of conversation compelled a discussion that would either embolden each other’s resolve if you were found to be in agreement, or, if not, it would create a gulf between the parties that slowly produced some amount of animosity.  “Agree to disagree” has quickly become impossible.

As many of you know, I am a person of strong conviction.  If a subject comes up and I feel strongly about it, one way or another, I will often make my convictions known.  But I don’t believe we live in a world where this is always wise or prudent anymore.  My concern has not been losing respect in someone else’s eyes or suffer some sort of social disgrace, but losing the opportunity for the Gospel.

The great missionary William Carey has a list of “11 Commandments of Missions” that I recently discovered.  As I was reading through this list, I noticed one of them said what I thought in a much better way than I ever could.  His third commandment was, “Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.”

For William Carey, he sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel, even general customs that would burn bridges with someone of a different culture.  When Carey moved to India, he was careful to consider his manners and customs and what would immediately close the ears of those around him.  This mentality of viewing all behavior and conversation in view of the Gospel has been one of my main concerns this year.

My concern was that, should I become vocal about a subject that was incredibly divisive but lacking in the impact of consequences that hang in the balance when it comes to the Gospel, I might lose that opportunity for the greater truth.  It isn’t that those things are not important, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge the Gospel can travel over.

We must beware, though.  I’m not in favor of sticking my head in the sand and not standing up for what I believe to be good and true.  If someone asks me what my convictions are, I will quickly and eagerly explain them, doing my best to connect them and point them to the Gospel.  But I think it is wise to not wave a flag that is so quick to divide.  If I am going to offend someone, then I want it to be the message of the Gospel, not my stance on gun rights, education, health care, political parties, or any other number of lightening rod topics.

The unfortunate thing is, I believe too many Christians have settled with waving the banner of the 2nd Amendment or voicing their boisterous support of a political party at the cost of reaching those around them with the Gospel.  If I turn people off with non-essentials, how quick will they be to listen to the ultimate essential, the beautiful truth of God’s unbounding love in the Gospel?

 

The Thread of God’s Goodness

One of the greatest privileges in my life right now is teaching Foundation’s Bible Study twice a month.  Presently, we are going through a chronological study through the Old Testament.  The main purpose is twofold.  One is to give us a sense of how one event leads to another.  These are not a series of flannel-graph stories, but a line of God’s grace that weaves through lives and events.  That leads to our second purpose: to see God’s continuing faithfulness and love.  These stories are given to us so that we can learn of God’s goodness and His fierce standard of holiness.

It seems that every time I read through the Old Testament, I see new themes, new threads woven throughout the narrative.  One thing that I have noticed this time around is the process that God takes His people through before leading them into Promised Land.  Certainly, God could have marched them straight out of the Red Sea and around Jericho.  But this was a people that went from the hundreds when the sons of Jacob were driven by drought to the storehouses of God’s provision in Egypt, to a population over 1 million, roughly equivalent to the population of New Hampshire.

When God brought His people out of slavery, He had to make them into a new people.  He needed to teach them who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped.  When they would enter the land of Canaan, the people of the land would be in awe of a nation that had a God that communicated to them.  Those nations were left to guess as to what they had done wrong to not have it rain, leaving their crops dry.  When it did rain, they were left to analyze what they had done that had brought such good fortune from their gods.

God would also show His people that they must depend upon Him for everything.  Things that we take for granted today, food and water, were hard to find in quantities enough to feed a nation wandering through the arid wilderness.  God took those hardships as exercises to increase their muscle of faith.  When they needed food, God would send enough for what they needed that day.  When they needed water, He made it come out of a rock.  God gave them enough for that day because He knew the temptation of the human heart is to grab for security and provision outside of God.

The path through the wilderness was certainly not the easiest road.  God’s endless power shows us it could have been ‘easier’.  But it would not have been better.  They would not have learned to depend on Him for their daily bread.  They would not have had a functional knowledge of God’s provision and goodness.

We want to learn things the easy way, but that is often not the best way.  My wife and I have a saying, “Hard is not bad.”  Hard times and trials are not chapters in our lives that we would choose to write for ourselves, but they are integral to our growth.  In those chapters, we learn of God’s provision, goodness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, and unwavering faithfulness.  That is exactly what God was teaching His people as He brought them through the wilderness.