Ted Haggard Repents and is Restored…?

I can hardly believe its been two years since the revelations of Ted Haggard were brought to the public.  For those of you who do not remember, Haggard was exposed for having a secret homosexual affair with a male escort when the escort came forward with the tales of their meetings.  He also said that he supplied Haggard with Methamphetamine.   Haggard, who was the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, lost his ministry and reputation, and dropped off the map for awhile, and rightly so.

Now he is coming forward with his progress with the release of a new documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” airing on HBO.  The Washington Post has a long write up on Haggard, including an interview on what he has been doing and how he has made it back.  Let me say, first of all, that I believe in restoration and believe that God can use situations like these.  I am not saying that Haggard isn’t qualified to do anything ministry the rest of his life, but after reading this article, I struggle with the point that Haggard has come to.  I’ll just list some quotes from the article and you can draw your own conclusions:

“My spiritual life was wonderfully empowering for me in the midst of the struggle. But it wasn’t the solution,” he says  “I needed a therapist.”

“I thought, ‘I don’t need to go to a therapist!’ I mean I didn’t even understand therapy. ‘Jesus is the solution to everything!’ ” he says. “And I personally believe now that this process has occurred so that I would get the therapy I needed. I believe my therapy is the answer to 30 years of prayer about this subject. And so I am very grateful for the decision of the overseers and the restorers and I’m so thrilled about the way my life is now. I’m the man now that — no, no, no, that’s not true. I am becoming the man now that everybody thought I was then.”

………..

“Up until the book ‘The Speed of Trust,’ I so deeply wanted to be a man that thoroughly reflected Scripture, I just buried the struggle in my heart,” Haggard says, referring to the self-help book on building relationships. “And it was ‘The Speed of Trust’ that set me free in that.”

………..

“And I call it my sin,” he says. “That’s my sin. I’m not saying everybody is a sinner that does it. I’m just saying with my standards and my values, it was a sin against me and God. For me.”

……….

“Prior to this scandal, I felt as though the definition of marriage was an important issue to be reflected in law,” Haggard said. “I now believe that the Gospel is so wonderful, that the New Testament is so wonderful, the grace of God is so wonderful that that word might not be so significant that it should define publicly evangelicalism.”  (not sure why he limits the Word of God being wonderful to the New Testament…)

………

The following is from an interview with USA Today:

When I started in counseling, I thought I was a spiritual disaster and a complete idiot for what I’d done. And the counselor started out by saying “You’re spiritually OK.” He asked, “Have you repented?” Yes. “Have you memorized scripture?” Yes. “Have you been through inner healing?” Yes. He said, “According to the Bible, you are in fine relationship with the Lord Jesus.” And I said I think I am. I love Him. I’ve never rebelled against him willingly. This has been a wrestling in my life, never an acceptance thing.

And then he said, “You are rationale—have you read books on the subject?” Yes. And he said “Ted, if you could pray about this and be OK, you would have done it. If you could think about this and rationalize your own life, you would have done it. This is not spiritual nor reasonable. It is physiological.” And he started to teach me how the brain works. And in that process, over two years, I’ve grown in eliminating the incongruities in my life. I’ve learned physiologically how the brain works and how that related to sexuality.

(HT: Challies and Justin Taylor)

“Jonathan Edwards and Hell” by Chris Morgan

There is a lot of things that could go into buying a book.  Most of the time, I will see a recommendation of sorts and be compelled to purchase the book.  Sometimes, I am given the book by friends, family, or at conferences.  And sometimes, I’ll be strolling through a book store and see an intriguing book and have to buy it.  That was the case with “Jonathan Edwards and Hell” by Chris Morgan. 

Honestly, most of the purchase had to do with the cover art and thinking it was cool looking.  After that grabbed my attention, I noticed “Jonathan Edwards” and “Hell” on the cover and thought, “That sounds intriguing.”  And the purchase was made.  And is the case with most books I bought, it was placed in a large pile of books that had to wait until after Seminary was over. 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I was going to walk to work.  Leah needed the car, I needed the exercise and didn’t have my bike at home, and I figured it would be a good chance to do some reading.  A light 2 mile walk with a good book is an hour well spent. 

Once I was well into the book, I was quickly disappointed as to the actual content of the book.  The first three chapters are all about annihilationists and their view points, followed by a chapter on the evangelical response.  That makes up Part I of the book.  Part II had to do with Edwards.  The first chapter of Part II was about annihilationism in the 18th century, followed by a chapter on Edwards response.  The closing chapter discusses how to apply Edward’s method to today’s theological climate. 

So, in 140 pages of content in a book entitled “Jonathan Edwards on Hell”, there are 16 pages specifically about Jonathan Edwards on the topic of Hell.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t an enjoyable and profitable read, but it seemed misleading to say the least.  During my time in seminary I had to read through Robert Peterson’s book “Hell on Trial”, and that covered most of what this book does.  The only thing that this book does differently, is just scratch the surface of Edward’s thoughts on the topic. 

What Morgan does is explain the views in the words of the proponents of such views, and then offers a critique of the strength of the argument.  Morgan offers good insight and has good things to say about how the debate should be discussed.  There are good things about linguistic, exegetical, philosophical, and polemic approaches to the argument, but Morgan appeals to the theological approach Edwards takes. 

The other approaches offer good input, but both sides are still left at an impass.  Here are some helpful notes taken from those sections:

  • One insight that I found interesting is the debate over the word ‘aiwvios’.  That is the word for ‘eternal’.  Some annihilationists would say that there are two senses to the word.  One is quantity, meaning everlasting.  The other is a qualitative sense, meaning a time to come in contrast to the present time.  This view is best propgated by Edward Fudge.  Instead of focusing on everlasting punishment, they focus on the eternal result of the punishment.  The main weakness, as I understand, would be the same word being used in relation to the eternal life granted to believers.
  • The other main point that I liked was how he pointed out that many Annihilationists, including John Stott, find it primarily difficult to believe because of the heinous nature of everlasting torment.  They see it as being a doctrine that does not fit with their defintion of God.  Edwards had this to say:

“It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God that He is merciful in such a sense that He cannot bear that penal justice should be executed.  That is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which His nature is so subject that GOd is liable to be moved, affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery so that He cannot bear to see justice executed… The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary.”

Edwards saw it as an issue of questioning God’s sovereignty of His creation.  God’s sovereignty is absolute, universal, and unlimited. 

To the objection that everlasting punishment is not suitable for God, Edwards had this to say:

“Since the infinite hatred of sin is suitable to the divine character, then the expressions of that hatred are also suitable to His character… It is suitable that He should execture infinite punishment on it.”

All in all, it was a profitable read, but reader beware that the title may mislead you into thinking the book is about Jonathan Edwards and Hell.

Cha Cha Changes

A few changes recently have rocked my world lately.

.99 cent only?  Not so much

For those of you who have been out here, you probably have had some experience with the “.99 Cent Only” stores.  Just recently, Leah and I headed to one to get some small things for Micah to play with on the way to Hume.  You can find all kinds of fun stuff, and most everything for .99.  Some stuff is two for .99 and some are even cheaper than that.  Even the trucks say that the driver carries no more than .99 cents.  Well, those days are over.

There are 277 .99 Cent Only stores, mostly in California, and now they will be charging more than .99.  Due to inflation, they will be pricing some items above .99 cents.  In the last quarter they lost 2 cents on every share.  During the same time last year, they gained 4 cents on each share.  Apparently, they are keeping the name of the store “.99 Cent Only”.

Ray Boltz Shatters My Childhood

Like many young Christians, I was subject to the crooning of Ray Boltz.  I remember listening to his casette with “I Pledge Allegiance” and loving it.  Then I saw a music video of people standing up for their faith in the midst of trials.  Well, apparently, Boltz didn’t really believe the message.  After 32 years of marriage, Boltz has come out of the closet and gone public with his homosexuality.  Ray’s wife has come out in support and joined a religious homosexuality advocacy group.

As I heard on Way of the Master Radio and read here, Boltz came to faith after a musical experience.  Interesting that it didn’t include the preaching of God’s Word.  He thought it was the solution to his homosexuality and that things would change.  They didn’t.

Here are some quotes:

“His faith was in transition — tenants he’d adhered to all his life suddenly were up for reconsideration, but there was a peace he hadn’t felt before.

“I had a lot of questions [about faith], but at the bottom of everything was a feeling that I didn’t hate myself anymore, so in that sense I felt closer to God.”

……………..

“If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I’ve grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.”

……………..

“I don’t want to be a spokesperson, I don’t want to be a poster boy for gay Christians, I don’t want to be in a little box on TV with three other people in little boxes screaming about what the Bible says, I don’t want to be some kind of teacher or theologian — I’m just an artist and I’m just going to sing about what I feel and write about what I feel and see where it goes.”

………………

Hogue, who worked with Boltz on his 1991 album “Another Child to Hold” and has helped him record a few new songs for a still-evolving possible new project, says he hopes for a day when Christians will see homosexuality as no more a perceived sin than it used to be for women to be ministers or for divorced Christians to hold leadership positions in churches.

……………

“This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”

Resolved Conference 2008- Session 1

Right now, I’m in Palm Springs and it’s been averaging over 110 degrees each day.  There would have to be a pretty good reason why I would subject myself to that kind of heat.  This weekend I’ve come out to Palm Springs with students from our college group to be fed at the Resolved Conference.  It’s a college conference put on by Grace Community Church in the spirit of the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.  I have wanted to go in the past, but never had the opportunity due to schooling.  This year, though, I resolved to go.

The speakers are John MacArthur, John Piper (my plane friend), CJ Mahaney, Steve Lawson, Randy Alcorn, and Rick Holland. The theme this year is “Heaven and Hell”.  It sort of feels like you are trying to continually take a sip from a fire hydrant.  It’s coming fast, furious, and powerfully.  All you can do is try to process a small amount and leave encouraged and fed.  I realize that there are many who read this who desire to be here, so with you in mind, I thought I would provide a summary of each message.

The first evening was kicked off by Rick Holland who spoke on the topic of death.  Obviously, that isn’t really a message that sells and attracts the right kind of attention.  Our culture does everything we can to avoid dwelling on the subject of death, from being reminded of the immanent nature of it, to being confronted with those that that find themselves on death’s threshold.  Holland traced Edwards’ own thoughts on death and his commitment to constantly remind himself of his own frailty and every possible way he could die.

The point on focusing on your own death is because if you are ready to die, you will then know how to live.  If you are at peace with where you are going, then you will know how you should act in the present.  The text that Holland chose was Hebrews 9:27-28, and he set out to point out the three most important facts of life.

The first fact is that death is unavoidable.  It comes to everyone.  Other than two men (Elijah and Enoch) every single person has died.  We are the only ones in creation who have not died, but we will soon enough join the rest of humanity.  Our time to pass is appointed.  We are passively involved in the end of our lives.  We can think that we will last 70-80 years on earth, but no one is guaranteed that.  Death exists to communicate the seriousness of sin, to convince us of the true penalty of our rebellion against God. No one can deny the reality of death.

The second most important fact of life is that judgment is certain.  All will stand before a holy, righteous, and just God who will judge.  Not only is death a reality, but so is Hell.  Hell exists for those that are condemned at the judgment that is certain.  Hell is such an unpopular subject to speak and dwell on, but it cannot be avoided.  R.C. Sproul said “If you think of Hell rightly, you’ll get saved or go mad.”

The third and final fact of life is that salvation is possible.  Were the first two points left alone, the future would seem bleak.  But the great news is that salvation is possible for those that face an eternal death apart from God.  For those that are saved, they should be characterized by eagerly awaiting and anticipating Christ’s return.  We generally fail in this world because we find our hearts longing more for the present world than the future world.  The believer is to long for the future fulfillment of salvation in such a way that it demands a life that lives for that world alone.

More sessions to come!

The Wrath of God

This is piggy backing on a previous post on an article that I read by Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today. Carolyn was kind enough to find the post and give a little explanation and defense, and instead of writing a long response in a comment, I thought, hey, it’s my blog. I can just write a new post. You can refer to the link of you’d like to see the original post and Carolyn’s comment.

Let me first say that the topic of God’s wrath isn’t a topic I necessarily like talking about. I don’t get off on being able to stand behind a ‘big, bad wolf’ and stick my tongue out at people who haven’t repented. If anything, its the exact opposite. I still see the sin in my own heart and when I read of the wrath of God, my knees shake, knowing that that is what I deserve. But, thankfully, Christ bore that wrath on my account. I had nothing to do with averting God’s wrath, and I’m fully aware that I deserved it. When I speak of those on which the wrath of God still dwells, I don’t do it casually, but with the knowledge that, there but by the grace of God, stand I.

I would say that the definition of God’s wrath is one of the most important things here. You define God’s wrath as opposition to sin, but I think that is incomplete. God’s wrath is more than his opposition to sin. It is his punishment of that sin which He opposes. I don’t have to fear God’s wrath, but God still disproves of the sin that entertain in my heart. It is more than opposition. I’d like to go through some passages to see how God’s wrath is defined in the Bible.

In John 3:36 we see that the wrath of God is reserved for those that do not believe in the Son of God for eternal life. The wrath of God ‘remains’ on them. This idea of the wrath of God remaining on those that do not repent is seen also in Ephesians 2:3 where it says that unbelievers are ‘children of wrath’. Romans 2:8 says ‘for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury’. In Colossians 3:6, Paul says that the wrath of God is coming on account of the works of the flesh of the old man. We are not to seek those things on the account of the fact that we have been raised with Christ.

From a quick look at these passages, I think it is clear that the wrath of God is something that is reserved for those who are not believers. I don’t think the article reflects the fact that God’s wrath comes down on those who refuse to repent, and is an eternal punishment, not a temporary correction to steer people away from sin and destructive habits. God’s wrath is eternal in nature, not temporal and correcting.

I also believe the Bible clearly conveys the fact that wrath comes as a result of sin that is ultimately and primarily an offense of God’s nature. God’s holiness is His transcendent attribute that affects and influences everything that He does. He is lovely and righteous altogether. Sin is anything that fails to live up to God’s holy standard and God’s love. Romans 3:23 is simple and clear. Sin is falling short of God’s glory, not His perfect plan for man.

We can see the fact that sin is primarily a sin against God’s holiness by looking at the cross. Christ was put forward as a propitiation for our sin. He took the wrath of God against our sin. It was not done primarily to create a perfect society or to correct a culture, but to satisfy His righteous demand of holiness.

If we confuse this, we make man the center of everything, and remove God’s glory from that position. I think Wayne Grudem says it well: “Although God’s punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin. The primary reason is that God’s righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe He has created.” (Italics are the original authors, Systematic Theology, 509)

Here is the second comment that was left. I’m copying it here so it can be referred to as a respond to it:

Will try to keep this as short as possible: meaning will have to leave out a lot of supporting stuff. I’m a retired minister (over 35 years) ((LtCol,Chaplain,USARet.); PhD (psychotherapy). Religion/theology is not a “hobby” with me. And, yes, I’m “born-again”.Now then.
1. Carolyn A. is just about absolutely right.; light years ahead of whoever the author of “Preferences and Principles” is. 2. God is no egomaniac. He lives for his glory , yes, – but we are his glory; or don’t you believe we are his “image”. 3. The worst part of Calvin was separating Jesus from God. (”…has seen me has seen the Father.” ;) The glory of the Almighty Sovereign God may be observed in the little dead lamb (now risen). He’s not the “bad cop”. He’s never bad; and I mean by my- our- standard. We know what “good” is; he taught us. He’s no monster, damning big parts of his “beloved” creation whenever he takes a notion to. 4. He’s my Father. I won’t let you talk about him like that! Does it make you feel pious and powerful to be on the side of the “big guy”- as they say today. There’s a lot more psychology goes into people’s “theology” than a lot of so-called Bible study sometimes. 5. Early Christians understood that if you walk away from God you are separating yourself from Love, Light and Life; in short you have chosen hell. 6. Anybody who tells you he just goes by the Bible is an ignorant parrot; he heard someone else say that! Rather than elaborate for days- as I could- on this subject, I’d better quit. Arends is right; largely because she seems to understand Christ/God and is therefore more human. And isn’t God human? Or is the Incarnation a cruel joke? And, by the way, I’m really more conservative than any one who’s written or commented so far. So, it won’t do to write me off as some kind of “liberal”. Thank you for sharing with us, Carolyn. ( forestphilosopher.blogspot.com)

To Bill Borch, I have a few comments.

No, I don’t believe we are His glory or His image. That is Jesus Christ. We are made ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27). Colossians 1:15, speaking of Christ, says “He is the image of the invisible God”. Hebrews 1:3 says that he is the exact imprint of the nature of God. There is a stark differnce between being created ‘in the image of God’ and being the image of God. I don’t believe that man is God’s glory, but I do believe that God’s glory is evident through the lives of His redeemed, through Christ.

You say I’ve (presumably through Calvin) separated Christ from God. But you have just done that yourself by attributing the nature of Christ in relation to the image of God to the nature of man. I don’t separate Jesus from God, but I see that they have different, complementary roles within the Trinity. The Son wasn’t sent unwillingly by a power hungry God, but embraced the cross for the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12:2). I never used the term ‘bad cop’, but I think my list of God’s wrath in relation to those of His creation that have rejected their Creator speaks for itself.

This is not my own idea or my own my leanings on Calvin. This is my impression from what I read in the Word of God. I don’t get my marching orders from Calvin, but from what God has communicated to me through His Word. It doesn’t mean that its easy to accept the doctrine of God’s wrath being reserved for the rebellious Creation, but my preferences don’t matter. It is what God has said, therefore I must accept it and trust that He has a better understanding of His holiness and the insult that sin is to it than I do.

It is true that I may have been taught by men, but I was taught in the Word of God. If you see an area in which I have failed to represent the Word of God accurately, I’d love to talk about that. But until then, here I stand, for I can do no other.

Finally, on your suggestion that God is human, I’d like for you to defend that belief through the Word of God. The incarnation wasn’t ‘a joke’, but Christ “who, though he as in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Christ took on flesh and lived a life that you and I cannot, paid a debt that you and I cannot pay, so that we can be granted a righteousness that we don’t deserve and could not attain.

God is not human. Humanity is God’s creation. I don’t know what being ‘conservative’ has to do with anything. I find it amusing to be accused of not being conservative enough, as I’m usually accused of the opposite. I’m not really concerned with being conservative. I’d rather be biblical, and that is what I strive to be. If you see an area in which I have misrepresented the Word of God, please let me know. I’d like to continue this discussion, but only on the grounds that it is grounded in a discussion of the Biblical text. Like you, man’s opinions don’t really matter to me. I’d rather focus on the revelation of God.

God’s Love vs. God’s Wrath

I don’t often read through Christianity Today articles, but recently I was perusing the one page columns in the back (full disclosure- they are shorter, easier to read, and usually more interesting). When I was perusing, I ran across a column entitled “The Grace of Wrath” by Carolyn Arends (May, 2005, page 64). The title jumped out at me of being an article with some theology and thought involved, so I gave it a quick read and found an interesting conversation.

Arends’ main point is that we have frequently, and often mistakenly, created a bipolar God. We think of the God who is loving and gathers children in His arms, and then we think of the wrathful God punishing sinners with eternal damnation. Arends says, “I unconsciously developd a theolgy that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer”. She finds a tension between two different pictures of God that we have developed. We don’t want to make God out to be the big downy soft cuddle bear in the sky (my words, not hers), so we remind ourselves that God is also a God who hates sin and must punish it.

Are those two things contradictory? Can a God of love also be a God of wrath? Arends says that God’s wrath is driven by God’s love. Up to here, I agree with her. God is not a hateful God who finds pleasure in arbitrarily punishing His creation. He’s not sitting in Heaven sending hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, or earthquakes just to mess with people. But what Arends says next I disagree with.

She says, “What if God’s wrath is not a caveat, qualification, or even a counterpoint to his love, but an expression of it? What if God grieves sin less because it offends his sensibilities, and more because he hates the way it distorts our perceptions and separates us from him?” She adds that God’s wrath is “his emphatic ‘NO!’ to anything that leads to our destruction.”

Arends has just managed to make God’s wrath man-centered. In other words, if I understand her correctly, God punishes people to show them that the path they are on is not in the best interest more than punishing sin because it transgresses His nature. God is more concerned with man than Himself. God’s ultimate purpose resides in the preservation of man rather than the preservation of His own glory.

I think Arends fails to distinguish a couple of very important things here. First, what is God’s wrath? God’s wrath is focused and reserved for those that have not repented of their sins. Does God correct those whom He loves? Absolutely. But she fails to distinguish what God’s wrath is here. For believers, they need not fear God’s wrath. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those that are found in Christ. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for sin. But I wouldn’t classify that as being the wrath of God. I think that God allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, corrects and chastens us so that we realize that sin is detrimental to us.

Secondly, God’s wrath is not centered on man, but on the preservation of His own glory. It is God’s fury focused on rebellious sinners. God’s ultimate concern is not with pointing people on the right path, but rather with satisfying His love for His own glory. It sounds awfully self centered and prideful to us, but God must satisfy His own glory because He is worthy of it. To say that the primary function of God’s wrath is man-centered, misses the the point. That can be a secondary reason for God’s wrath, but not the primary.

There is grace in wrath shown to man on this side of eternity, because it is another opportunity for man to repent before the final judgment. But Arends fails to distinguish between God’s eternal wrath and the current punishing of sinners on this side of eternity. God can be providing more opportunities for repentance, but ultimately, it is to satisfy His own glory and His love for His own holiness. For God to be motivated by anything rather than his holiness would be idolatry simply because there is no higher cause or motivation for anything.

This article sounded more like dangerous speculation, rather than the result of an honest and deep study of God’s Word. This picture of God was born out of speculation rather than from His Word. God does correct believers to show us the dangerous nature of sin, but that isn’t God’s wrath, and ultimately, God’s wrath exists to satisfy God’s love for His own holiness. If we get this wrong, we get very close to getting the Gospel wrong. We must keep God in the center.

No Regrets!! Really?

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t have any regrets. Maybe its an athlete being interviewed after a game or a person looking back retrospectively over an event in their life, it seems like a lot of people are living without regrets. Of course, its not that this is a new saying or that people are necessarily saying it more often, but is probably more of a case of me just hearing it more.

An amusing thing about this, is that a person is usually speaking on the heels of some failure. Maybe its a quarterback who came up short and says he doesn’t have any regrets of how he played. It could be the athlete who is retiring, and chances are you’ll hear them say that they don’t have any regrets. Brett Farve (NFL). Tiki Barber (NFL). Craig Biggio (MLB). Pete Samprass (tennis). Dale Jarrett (NASCAR) Often times, someone is being interviewed about having escaped a dark period in their life and they would not change the way they did anything. No regrets! President Bush recently said he had no regrets of how things have gone in Iraq. And Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t regret voting for the war. We’ve become a culture skilled at no regrets. Just do a search for ‘no regrets’ and you’ll come up with an impressive list of failures and mistakes that bear no regrets.

Are regrets bad things? Certainly, we humans do a good job at messing things up, and to look back over our lives and say we wouldn’t change things is just ridiculous. I have regrets. That doesn’t mean I let them eat me up, but if I could do some things different in my life, I certainly would. It seems that our society has placed such a high importance on self esteem, that we’ve raised a society of people who live without regrets. After all, they are just negative feelings, right?

Regrets can be very useful. The source of a lot of wisdom in life is learning from mistakes. God allows us to go through dark periods in our lives, and if we go through it all and say we have no regrets, then have we really learned anything?

The funny thing is that people can usually recognize regrets in other people. Surely George Bush or Hillary Clinton have to have regrets, right? Brett Farve has no regrets? He and his NFL record 288 interceptions. You don’t regret any of those? Not even the one that was the final note of your career? We can point fingers and tell people what they should regret, but we should be so skilled at looking at our lives, seeing decisions, words, or actions that we regret, and learning from those mistakes.

Of course, our goal should be to live life in such a fashion that we may never regret our decisions, but the reality is that on this side of eternity, we’re all bound to do something we regret. How you react to your sin and failures will dictate how you grow. David was a man after God’s own heart, in part, because of his repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. You think he regretted that mistake and the ones that followed? Are regrets bad things. Technically, they only exist because of sin, but that doesn’t mean that they are to be avoided. The sin is to be avoided, but in the season that we give in, regret is something that will help us repeat the follies of sin.

Two Worlds

My friend John works at a church in InnerCity LA, just down the street from the Staples Center, where the Lakers, Clippers, Kings (hockey), and the Avengers (arena football) all play, and other events like the Grammy Awards are held there.  This past week I had the awesome opportunity to speak at their family dinner that was put on by the youth.

It really is a different world for me, as I was speaking about 20 minutes from my house, but had to use a translator so half the audience could understand me.  Most of the families were not necessarily church families, and many of them were broken homes.  Almost all were well below the poverty line, but you couldn’t tell by the excitement and buzz at the tables.

I spoke on the cross-centered family, and encouraged them to not only embrace the Gospel individually, but to be families that are passionate about the Gospel.  Not just about preaching the Gospel, but knowing the Gospel, reflecting on it, and studying it.  I encouraged them to preach the Gospel to themselves and their children on a daily basis.  Impress the idea on their children that they are sinners in need of the saving grace of God, and live out that message to their children in their own lives.

John recently had an interesting post on his blog about a day where he experienced two different worlds.  It’s an interesting read, so check it out!

A Living Hope, A Living Savior

This past week we started a series in I Peter in our High School group on Wednesday nights, and I ran across something that I was a very cool thought, so I thought I’d share it with you all!  Lucky you!

A major theme in the book of I Peter is how suffering is part of life and should be part of the sanctification and growth process.  But that suffering should be endured with a hope at the fulfillment of our salvation in Jesus Christ.  Peter doesn’t only view salvation as being something that is already completed, but something that is “already, but not yet”.  We’ve been declared justified at the moment of our salvation, but we still struggle with sin and the effects of sin.  While sin is no longer on the throne of our hearts, we still struggle with it.  And this will continue until our salvation is completed, that is that our victory over sin will be completed at the appearance of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But Peter isn’t looking for people to grin and bear life.  He doesn’t expect people to just put up with suffering in life, and hold your breath until your salvation is complete.  Instead, our hope should lead us to go through life with a joy that is inexpressible.  We are to rejoice in our position in God and in light of the work of our Savior.  We are to rejoice in the salvation we have received, in the fact that we have an incorruptible, unfading, and undefiled inheritance being kept for us in Heaven, and in the thought that one day we will see the Savior we presently love, though we have never seen Him.  Imagine the love that you will have when you finally do come face to face with your Savior?!  You love him now, but you have never seen Him!

But what I found most interesting of the first passage here, is the idea that we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  We have a living hope because we have a living Savior.  If there is anytime that you question the hope that is within you, remind yourself that you have a Savior who tasted death, defeated sin, and is seated at the right hand of God.

This past Sunday, Pastor Steve started a series in Amos, and he spent quite a bit of time speaking of the importance of the Old Testament to the New Testament believer.  One thing that he said that stuck out was the comparison of Christ to the priests in the Old Testament in the book of Hebrews.  He noted how the Temple did not have any chairs in it, because the high priest’s work was never done.  They were not to sit down, because they were constantly interceding on behalf of the Nation of Israel.  That is why it is significant that our Savior and High Priest is seated at the right hand of God.  His work is done!  The atonement of our sins has been completed, and our Savior’s residence on the throne is a testimony to us that our hope is living!

The New Atheism

Disclaimer: This post will begin a series I’m going to be doing on New Atheism.  Let me begin with a warning and a request.  I realize that these posts will be somewhat unpopular with many people, namely atheists.  The purpose of these posts really isn’t to create a dialogue between Christians and Atheists, and as you will see later, I don’t think this would be possible or a good opportunity to do that.  So here is my request:  if you are an atheist and you really hate these posts, this isn’t a place for you to voice your aggravation and continue to attack Christianity.  As we will see, New Atheism isn’t about an open debate, but about intolerance towards any sort of acceptance of Christianity.  So if you have a comment that wouldn’t be considered ‘healthy dialogue’, I kindly and respectfully ask you not to post it.

New Atheism

For many years, atheism has been a view that a person would hold to if they just didn’t believe in God.  It often reflected a lack of desire to try to believe or search things out.  Most of the time they didn’t mind if anyone else believed in God, as long as those beliefs didn’t infringe too much on their own lives.  Recently, there has been a significant shift in atheism, and a ‘New Atheism’ has been born.  This new movement can be characterized by not only intolerance towards Christianity, but also towards anyone who would tolerate it to any degree.  They see themselves as being repressed and held down by a society that inexplicably holds to Christianity, only to its own demise.

Just like any movement, this one is lead by charasmatic personalities, both young and old.  The senior statesman would be the British scientist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford was, for many years, known as the author of  “The Selfish Gene”.  Though he grew up in a normal Anglican family, he questioned religion from an early age.  Interestingly, at one point he was convinced back to Christianity due to the argument from design, but eventually abandoned religion altogether when he became convinced that evolution satisfyingly answered the questions of the complex design of the world.

Recently, around the events of 9/11, Dawkins began to become more militaristic in his fight against Theism, namely Christianity.  This is worked its way to his recent book, “The God Delusion”, where he presents his evidence that a belief in God is just foolishness.  It is mostly centered around the idea that Creationism is just  “preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood”.  The book has been very successful, reaching #5 on the New York Time’s bestsellers list for hardcover non-fiction books.  As of November 2007, it has sold 1.5 million copies.  It has gotten around, to say the least.

Another, and even more militaristic personality, is an American named Sam Harris.  He has been called Atheisms new bulldog, and has led his charge with two books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”.  Sam Harris seems to take it to the next step, blaming every bad thing in America on Christianity, calling for an abandoning of  Christianity to a new society based on  reason.  The thing that all these men have in common is that science is the new religion. They see science as falling woefully short of obvious scientific truths.  Harris grew up in with a Jewish mom and a Quaker dad, attended Stanford studying English, but dropped out when he started Ecstasy.  This lead him to study Buddhism, meditation, and read hundreds of religious books.  Eventually, he would return to Stanford, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.  He is now pursuing a doctorate in  neuroscience, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty. (Wikipedia)

Harris says that religion, namely Christianity, served a purpose for some time, but it is now time to view God the same way we view the myth of Zeus.  It is now time to leave religion behind, and take society in a new direction.  Religion as been “one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised.”  According to Harris, we must bring the nation to a point where we can not only talk about how mentally ridiculous Christianity is, but to the point where we cease to let it effect the way our society is run.  Reason, instead, should be the basis of society.   In the near future, I will be writing some views on his “Letter to a Christian Nation” book, so you will become very familiar with Harris.

Other personalities in the New Atheism movement are Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens, as well as entertainers Penn and Teller, who have made bashing Christianity and Creationism a part of their popular act.  If you could boil all of their thoughts down to one, I think it may sound something like this: A belief in Christianity, Theism, God, Creationism, the Bible, the Koran, or any other ‘holy scripture’ is idiotic, baseless, and you are stupid if you believe them.  They very much carry themselves as being societies best thinkers, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just a nim-wit.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding various other posts to continue to explore some of these writings, what they teach, and how it may affect our society.  Their mission is to make Christianity intolerable, outlawed, and banished, along with those that hold to it.  They will not rest until their mission is accomplished.  What is a Biblically minded Christian to do?  Through this series, I pray that you do not fear these men and their bravado, but you realize that this is another season of attacks on faith.  Interestingly enough, in England, where Dawkin’s books shot up the sales of books of spirituality by 50% and the sales of Bibles by 120%.  Somewhat ironic that this has lead to a resurgence in the reading of the Bible.  I doubt that was the intended reaction.  I pray that it leads us to a resurgence in understanding our faith, and how to defend it.