Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/31

Two boys look at the bodies of two government soldiers killed during clashes between Islamic fighters and government soldiers, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday, May 22, 2009.

(Why is it important to groan?)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/30

A young girl is rushed to a waiting ambulance and later died after arriving at Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, on May 10, 2009. A mortar shell landed in the girl's house in the Wardiglay neighborhood killing 6 people on the spot and wounding three others.

(Why is it important to groan?)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lions and Lambs...and Elephants and Dogs?

I saw this video on Randy Alcorn's blog and thought it was pretty cool:

As Alcorn says, perhaps this is somewhat of a foretaste of the peace to come in consummated Kingdom when, according to Isaiah:

“the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

A Wonderful, Non-Eternal Bond

The other day I received a wedding invitation from an old friend from my days at Penn State, inviting us to share in the joy of the happy parents by witnessing their children united 'in the eternal bond of matrimony.'

When I read this, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark 12:25. He had been asked a question about a woman who had been married to many men because she had been widowed. Whose wife would she be in the resurrection? Jesus told them,

"When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

In other words, while I was delighted to receive this invitation in the mail, it is not quite accurate. Marriage is a wonderful gift, but it is not eternal. That is why the traditional vows pledge faithfulness 'until death do us part', and why Paul allowed widows to remarry (1 Corinthians 7). When death happens, the marital bond is over. Michelle Lazarus will not be my wife in the resurrection, because our union is only a picture pointing to the eternal, marital bond that exists between Jesus and His Church.

The ultimate purpose for marriage in this life is to bear witness to the extraordinary covenant-love that exists between Jesus and His bride, the Church. And, as John Piper says, "In the resurrection, the pointer vanishes into the perfection of that glory." There is no need for the picture that earthly marriages are when Jesus, the Bridegroom, comes and dwells with His people on the New Earth.

All that to say, I was grateful to receive that wedding invitation for a few reasons. First, I am thrilled for the friend who is getting married in a few months. But second, I was thankful for the reminder that my marriage to Michelle is not eternal, but rather is a pointer to the eternal bond of love that exists between Jesus and the Church.

Which means I better get busy loving my wife today; she won't be my wife forever. And I won't get a do-over in the resurrection.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Atheists need to toughen up

So says Charlotte Allen in an op-ed column published last week in the L.A. Times. I found it to be an interesting read. Here's a quote:

"The problem with atheists -- and what makes them such excruciating snoozes -- is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God's existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God's omniscience with free will or God's goodness with human suffering...

What primarily seems to motivate atheists isn't rationalism but anger -- anger that the world isn't perfect, that someone forced them to go to church as children, that the Bible contains apparent contradictions, that human beings can be hypocrites and commit crimes in the name of faith...So, atheists, how about losing the tired sarcasm and boring self-pity and engaging believers seriously?"

Crowned with praises, throughout endless ages

Was moved to tears this morning singing this chorus from Shane Everett's CD, Window into the Inner Court (highly recommended!):

Throughout the endless ages
You have been crowned with praises
Lord most high
Exalted in every nation
You're the sovereign of all creation
Lord most high
Be magnified

Amen, Lord; let it be so. Get for Yourself the glory that You are due!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


O God, to those who have hunger, give bread;
and to us who have bread
give the hunger for justice.

-- A Latin American prayer

Remembering Memorial Day

I know Memorial Day was yesterday, but my wife sent me this link today. In fact, here is the loving, gentle way in which she exhorted me get this posted on the blog:

Okay, I know it's your blog and all, but I think this link might be a good post for people to be visually reminded of what the holiday is all about. I won't be offended though if you disagree. :o) I'll still love you.

After looking at the post, I was happy to oblige. Collected at this link are a handful of photographs for remembrance, acknowledging some of the men and women who have passed in conflicts from the U.S. Civil War through Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Does Lebron James think he's bigger than Jesus?

Alright, I promise, I'll leave Lebron James alone after this post. I can't imagine he's loosing too much sleep over being written about on this blog though! After I made my last post, I was reminded of the marketing slogan that Nike uses to promote James and his shoes:

Where do they get that phrase, 'We are witnesses'? Well, I'm pretty sure they get it from Acts 3, in which the Apostle Peter says,

"But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses." In the bottom left corner of the ad, it even says, 'Believe at'.

Lebron is admired by millions because of the way he can handle a basketball...but when he rises from the dead, then I'll be ready to be his witness.

Athletic Greatness is not True Greatness

Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world. It seems as though there is little dispute about that these days. His buzzer-beating, game-winning shot the other day was just the most recent demonstration of his remarkable skill (and of some pretty bad defense by Orlando).

Because I don't watch much NBA basketball anymore, I haven't seen James play a whole lot. Nevertheless, what I have seen is enough to convince me that he is a remarkable talent. Lebron James has great skill, but from the looks of things he still has a long way to go to obtain true greatness.

I say this because of the clip I seem to see over and over on the highlights of Cavs games, in which James takes some talcum powder into his hands and releases it into the air as part of his pregame ritual. Of course, I don't know Lebron and can only judge by appearances, but it appears that this pre-game ritual demonstrates an evident lack of humility.

Don't get me wrong; I understand that a little powder can help a ball-player get a better grip on the ball. And I understand that athletes have all kinds of strange pregame rituals. But every time I see Lebron James throwing his powder up in the air, I see a man desperately trying to call attention to himself. A simple pregame ritual turns into a public spectacle, just to get people to look at him.

Lebron James is an incredible talent. His athletic skills are extraordinary. But I wonder if James realizes that his talent does not originate with himself. To be sure, he has honed his skills with countless hours of practice, discipline, and hard work. But the talent itself is a gift. I could work every bit as hard as Lebron James and not come anywhere near the skill that he has. That is a witness that his skills were given to him by his Creator, and are thus a gift.

Lebron James' athtletic greatness is intended to call attention to his Maker, not himself. God is not as impressed with a buzzer-beating three-pointer as he is with genuine humility. It is the humble heart that embodies true greatness in God's sight. And so watching Lebron actually convicts me as well, because while I do not have his talents, I still find that same ugly pride residing in my own heart.

When I watch Lebron's powder display, I see a lack of humility. I see a lust for human glory and admiration. And I pray that Lebron would stop using his extraordinary gifts as a way of calling attention to himself, but rather to call attention to the greatness of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/24

Pakistani displaced children wait to be check by the nutrition specialists in a UNICEF supported clinic at the Jalozai refugee camp next to Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistani security forces have thundered into the main town in a northwest Taliban stronghold, engaging in fierce street battles Saturday while trying to avoid casualties among thousands of civilians still there, the army said.

(Why Should we remember to groan?)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Do We Groan?

This blog is called Redemption Groanings, and on the weekends I try to post photographs that help us remember to groan. Why?

The key biblical passage is Romans 8:19-22, which says:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

To understand what Paul is talking about here, you have to go to the very beginning of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 says 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.' After the description of God creating all things, at the end of the chapter we're told that God looked at all He made and declared that it was very good. There were no flaws or defects whatsoever; no suffering, no pain, no tears, no evil, no death.

But then Adam and Eve did something horrifyingly evil -- preferring a piece of fruit over fellowship with their Creator God -- that God not only sentenced them to death, but also cursed the entire created world because of their sin: "cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life."

Whereas once there was no suffering or evil, now every human dies. every human suffers innumerable pains and hardships before death, rivers overflow and sweep villages away, hurricanes destroy whole cities, tsunamis kill hundreds of thousands of people in one night, AIDS, cancer and heart disease kill millions of people old and young, droughts and famines bring millions to the point of starvation, and helpless babies are born without breath in their lungs or blood in their veins.

If we could see all the pain and misery of this world, we would collapse under the weight of it. This endless groaning is a perpetual reminder of the horror of human sin against our loving, benevolent God. When we see the misery of this fallen world, we should mourn over our sin, which is the cause of all this futility and pain.

But even in God's original curse on the created world, there is a window of hope. In Eden, God said to the soul-destroying, creation-corrupting serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

God promised that one day He would send a Redeemer to crush the serpent and undo all the futility that has resulted from that horrible sin in Eden. Paul knew this, so he said in Romans 8:20, "For the creation was subjected to hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." The day is coming when the whole creation will be set free from its corruption and decay (all the disease and droughts and tornadoes and death that infests this material world).

Paul knew that the promised Redeemer was Jesus Christ, who came to destroy all the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), not just in individual human lives but in the entire cosmos. Christian writer Neal Plantinga describes this cosmic healing like this:

"[It will be a] new age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain. The foolish would be made wise, and the wise, humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease, and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps.

People would work in peace and work to fruitful effect. Lambs could lie down with lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood, and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God and delight in God. ”

Everything will be the way it ought to be, the way God originally designed it to be. It will be a New Heavens and a New Earth, where the glory of God will be our all in all, and where everything sad in this decaying world will come untrue and be transformed into greater glory. That is the hope of redemption, and this great hope was purchased on the Cross when Jesus Christ shed His blood as a substitute for hopeless sinners.

Jesus is not only reconciling individuals to God, but He is also determined to put right everything that has gone wrong in this sin-soaked, misery-filled world. And because of His bodily resurrection, we know that no power of hell nor any scheme of man will be able to stop Him from this cosmic restoration. He will one day, in the words of Revelation 21:5, make all things new. This hope is for all who unite themselves to the crucified and risen Jesus through faith.

What a magnificent hope it is...but while we wait in hope for that wonderful day, we groan. And the groaning is both a reminder of the horror of human sin, and the hope of redemption that is found in Jesus Christ alone.

That is why we must remember to groan, today and every day until Jesus comes again to make all things new.

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/23

An unidentified man pours water on Bashir Ahmad Mir, an unemployed Kashmiri electro homeopath who put himself on fire to protest a lack of jobs for electro homeopaths as their medical degrees are not recognized by the Indian Medical Council, in Srinagar, India.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preaching at Age 30, and 60

At last month's Gospel Coalition conference, Tim Keller said the following:

“When I was in my 20’s I would read McCheyne’s Bible reading calender, and I would get some great ideas – and I would preach on it. And I do it now. And I hate to tell you: I’m a lot better preacher than I was. And I really don’t think its a matter of exegesis skills. Its the fact that you don’t see all kinds of things in the text because you haven’t suffered.

You haven’t had much experience of life. You haven’t had any major failures, where you’ve realized your a lot more sinful than you ever believed. You haven’t had major sicknesses. You haven’t suffered. You haven’t been broken.

And you know, the very same exegesis skills – bible reading – that you do in your 50’s gives you all kinds of insights… And then you preach, and you’re way better than you were 30 years ago. The real difference, I don’t think is usually exegesis or theology…its the fact that you’ve been in life, you’ve spent time with people, you’ve watched people die.”

I found this quote to be greatly encouraging. I am often thanked for my sermons and it encourages me to hear God's people genuinely share how He has blessed them through the ministry of His Word. But my preaching is not nearly what I'd like it to be.

If God wills, I look forward to decades of life experience, failures, sicknesses, suffering, brokenness, and even death with the members of Joy Community Fellowship. If they'll have me, I don't plan to be going anywhere for a long while.

And I am eager to see how 30 years of living life together will affect my pulpit ministry, and every other aspect of my ministry. I am hopeful that, by God's grace, the best is yet to come.

Exposing Worldliness

Writing on the words in 1 John 2:15, 'Do not love the world...', C.J. Mahaney writes,

Imagine I take a blind test in which my task is to identify genuine followers of Jesus Christ. My choices are an unregenerate individual and you.

I'm given two reports detailing conversations, internet activity, manner of dress, iPod playlists, television habits, hobbies, leisure time, financial transactions, thoughts, passions and dreams.

The question is: Would I be able to tell you apart? Would I discern a difference between you and your unconverted neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend?

A challenging, penetrating question for sure. I am grateful to God for courageous men and women who love God and people enough to ask it.

And may God give those of us who are Christians the humility and integrity to answer it honestly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Death is Not Dying

This video has been circulating many of the blogs I frequent, but for those who have not yet seen or heard of it:

Here's how the Desiring God blog explains the video:

Rachel Barkey is a 37 year-old wife and mother of two who is dying of cancer. She only has weeks to live.

On March 4, she addressed 600 women and in 55 minutes delivered one of the most God-centered, gospel-soaked, honest, moving, and beautiful messages I have heard. Check out Rachel's website where you can watch or download the video and audio. You will not regret the 55 minutes. Very little is more important than the things she says.

I have not yet watched the video, but Michelle has seen it and has told me that it is a must-see. I look forward to watching it and being strengthened by this godly woman's courage and hope in the midst of her incomprehensible pain.

A Prayer

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

From the song, As Long as You are Glorified, from the CD Come Weary Saints

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Love-Hate Relationship

Those words, love-hate, describe the relationship between Christians and this world. On the one hand Paul says, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:4). That is, the world, and the things of this world, are good and are meant to be gratefully enjoyed by God's people. On the other hand, John says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Life in this world is meant to be enjoyed, and it is meant to be resisted. We are to love the world, and we are to hate it.

I'll be writing a devotional on this subject in our church's upcoming newsletter. For now, I share a video which I recently came across that illustrates this point powerfully. It is a video of Carter Beauford, the drummer for the Dave Matthews Band, playing one of the band's songs. In my opinion, it is simultaneously one of the band's best songs, and one of it's worst.

The song is basically a celebration of a one-night stand. With all that God's Word says about the sacredness and beauty of marital, covenant-keeping love, the message of this song is repulsive (to put it as bluntly as I can). I do not make a practice of listening to this song for that reason, and if you believe listening to it would cause you to stumble in any way, please don't give yourself to temptation (though you can see some incredible drumming in the first 1:20 of the video, before the words of the song begin. There's also a great clip around 5:15 into the video where he breaks one of his sticks):

While the message of the song is indeed repulsive, the music (and Beauford's drumming in particular) is beautiful. I am not a drummer, but Carter Beauford's skill is simply astonishing, and is a gift from God and a reflection of His creative beauty.

I think this video teaches us two important lessons about the love-hate relationship Christians are called to have with the world:

First, the original beauty of this world that God created and declared good is still found all over the place, despite the arrival of sin and the curse upon creation. To the best of my knowledge, Carter Beauford is not a Christian. Yet I believe that his skill is something that God declares good, even though his heart may be indifferent or hostile to God.

Second, in this sin-soaked world, great beauty can be used in profoundly wicked ways. The good of creation can be used by sinful people to celebrate what is evil. What grieves me so much about this song is that the musical beauty of the song actually makes the wickedness of the one-night stand seem attractive and beautiful by the end of the song. That is why my conscience will not allow me to listen to this song for pleasure, though I share it here as a tool to think through these principles of loving and hating the world.

All this means that Christians must be very careful in this world. We can love it and enjoy it, but we must also hate it. And when Christians mindlessly absorb music and other forms of entertainment in the name of celebrating God's creative goodness, we must be very careful that we do not subtly begin to delight in what is evil.

It is a hard thing to live in this world, but to not be of it, to live in such a way that you fulfill both 1 Timothy 4:4 and 1 John 2:15. Yet that is the call of Jesus for His followers. I have no easy, absolute answers for how to tread this difficult road, but I'd certainly value the input of any other readers.

And would you join me in praying for Carter Beauford, that he would come to know the great and glorious God who is the Giver of his extraordinary talents, and bow joyfully before the glory of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/16

Pakistani firefighters try to put out a fire after a bomb blast in Peshawar, Pakistan. A car bomb destroyed an Internet cafe and tore through a bus carrying handicapped children in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 11 people and wounding many more, police said.

"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Four Motives for Christian Involvement in Politics

(This is Part 3 of a series on Christian involvement in politics. Read Part 1 and Part 2)

In my last post on the issue of Christian involvement in politics, I said that the motive for our involvement should not be as a method of trying to 'reclaim' America for Jesus Christ. And I said I would write another post explaining a more biblical motive for such involvement. That is the goal of this post.

I assume that the purpose of government is to promote and advance the cause of justice for all people, regardless of race, class, religion, or other personal distinctives. I realize that government does not always (perhaps does not often) serve this function, which is a product of the Fall of mankind into sin. Nevertheless, I think that most people would agree that the goal of government should be to promote a just, equitable, peaceful, harmonious society. I believe that this goal ought to be pursued by lovers of Jesus Christ, for at least four reasons. I'll touch on each one only briefly. I realize that they overlap in certain ways, but I also think they are distinct.

1. The display of God's glory. God is a God of justice, and Romans 13 says that governing authorities are God's servants, existing to manifest His justice and goodness by both promoting good and restraining evil, which are also fundamental to God's character. When the government is doing that, a part of God's image in man is shining forth, in what theologians call 'common grace'. He is glorified when, out of desire to honor Him, His people pursue a just society in which the common good is sought and preserved.

2. Love for neighbor. Jesus taught that the second commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and in Luke 10 He defines our neighbor as anyone we encounter with a need. While this involves more than politics, it does include the pursuit of a just government. The Good Samaritan story shows us that genuine love cares for both the body and soul of another person. So out of love for our fellow humans, we should desire that our political structures aim at the promotion of justice and peace for all.

3. Shalom. The Hebrew word shalom is translated as peace, but its real meaning is much deeper than that, referring to the full flourishing of human beings and society. I have given a more in depth explanation of shalom here. Specifically this has been helpful to me in correcting my attitude that because 'my citizenship is in heaven,' (Philippians 3:20-21), I do not have a responsibility to pursue the highest good of the earthly society that I happen to be an exile in for now. But In Jeremiah 29, God tells the Jewish exiles in Babylon not to retreat from the unbelieving society, but to seek its shalom. There are many ways to do this, but I believe basic political involvement is one important way that we can seek the shalom of our communities, states and nations.

4. The Kingdom of God. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus emphasized the good news of the Kingdom of God. This good news is not simply that God is collecting for Himself a group of individuals and restoring those individuals to a new relationship with Him. The good news is certainly not less than that, but it is more. It is the good news that in Jesus, the future, cosmic rule and reign of God has broken into the present. God's goal for the future is to completely renew and transform the entire creation, freeing it from its nautural and moral corruption. The images of this glorious future in both the Old and New Testaments picture a New Heavens and New Earth where God's perfect justice reigns, where racial and ethnic harmony flourishes, where weapons of war are turned into instruments of peace. Even modest political advances toward that glorious goal in our own day bear witness to the perfect Kingdom that Jesus will one day consummate.

For instance, the abolition of the slave trade that William Wilberforce helped to bring about made one aspect of his society a little more like God's final Kingdom. It did not bring about the Kingdom, but it serves as a signpost pointing to that glorious future. Likewise, when we labor to promote justice and equality for all, we give people a little taste of the perfect peace and justice that awaits the redeemed in the Kingdom of God.

Each of these four motives are deserving of much more thinking and writing. I have barely scratched the surface in this short reflection, but I hope it has at least given some broad, general principles to motivate Christians to care about the public policies of our nation.

Next week I'll finish this short series with a few posts about the common good, the role of religious beliefs in public policy and the separation of church and state.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Even a roll of toilet paper can serve as an instrument of sanctification

Yesterday I observed that there was no more toilet paper in the office where I do most of my work. So this morning as I prepared to walk around the corner from my house to the office, I remembered I needed to bring some toilet paper.

Michelle told me to put it in a bag because it looks pretty darn foolish to see someone walking down the street holding a roll of toilet paper in his left hand. But I told her I wanted to carry it, as a way of reminding myself that my calling in this world is not to be 'cool'. If I structure my life so as to be thought cool in the eyes of everyone I encounter, it will be impossible to be faithful in my calling to be Christ's ambassador.

So I picked up my toilet paper and went on my way. It was only a four-minute walk, but it was a good reminder that being fashionable is not the most important thing in the world. It was a pretty trivial reminder, but I was grateful for it nevertheless.

Sorry, I had to break up the political stuff with a little humor...

So the Government Can't Intrude in Private Family Matters?

A preface: President Barack Obama is quite a bit smarter than I am. Actually, a lot smarter.

Which makes this statement all the more baffling to me; on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision back in January, Obama said this of the Supreme Court's Decision:

“We are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters."

For the moment let's overlook the fact that abortion does not protect women's health; it destroys the health of 500,000 little women every year. Instead, consider the 'broad principle' that Obama says Roe v. Wade upholds.

If my 21 month-old daughter gets on my nerves tonight, I believe Obama's position is that the government can and should intrude on my right to throw my daughter in the dumpster and leave her for dead. It is a 'private family matter'. Yet the government intrudes on that right of mine, and I am sure glad they do.

Or what if a man chooses to sexually abuse his 3 year-old son every night before bed...isn't that a private family matter? Yes, but it's evil. And so the government rightly chooses to intrude upon a man's right to take part in that kind of wickedness, no matter how private it is.

I understand we live in a society in which my beliefs on abortion are in the minority. I do not regard supporters of abortion as my enemies, nor do I think they're any worse sinners than myself. After all, my Lord and King says that to be angry toward another person is to commit murder in my heart. So I do not regard myself as morally better than President Obama or a woman who killed her unborn child this morning. To condemn them would be to condemn myself. In the eyes of Jesus, I am am murderer. Who am I to condemn another murderer?

But I do wish that those whose views on this issue differed from mine would have the intellectual integrity to explain their convictions more compellingly than simply reciting tired cliches that even a journalism major from Penn State can see through.

Our government does not regard it a 'private family matter' to kill this:

So why is it a private family matter to kill this:

The top picture is my 7 month-old daughter, Felicity. The second picture is an 8 week-old baby in its mother's womb. The picture makes it pretty clear that the only thing that distinguishes my daughter from this fetus is time. So why is killing the baby in the second picture called a 'private family matter,' when killing the baby in the top picture is called 'murder'?

I don't want to demonize those who disagree with me about this; I just want an answer to that simple question.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let's Try this Again...

Now that I know at least some people have gotten their feet wet with comments, let's try this one again:

If you could spend an hour with any living person (who you do not know personally), who would it be, and why?

I've already given my answer here. Comment away, readers! And don't worry, your answer doesn't have to be as long as mine.

America is Not a Christian Nation

(This is the second in a series of posts on Christian involvement in politics. To read the first post, click here.)

In thinking through the matter of Christian involvement in politics, it's important to ask the question, 'Why should Christians be involved in politics?' I am going to answer that question in another post, but think it's important to first explain what is not the answer: that America has strayed from its Christian roots, and that it is our responsibility as Christians to ensure that our nation's public policies favor Christianity as opposed to other religions, or atheism. In essence, believers need to get active in politics so that America will be reclaimed for Christ. To be as clear as possible: I do not believe that is the proper motivation for Christian political involvement.

I trust that for many who desire to 'reclaim America for Christ', they are well-meaning and have good intentions. They desire to see Christ honored in our nation. And of course, I couldn't agree more! The question is, by what means is God seeking to honor His Son? I believe the answer is not, 'Through political activism that ensures our public policy reflects Christian values,' but rather, 'through the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ's unmerited mercy and grace to hell-bound sinners.' Putting our hope in public policies to turn America around for Christ might be an implicit denial of the power of the Gospel to change lives, and through time might cause Christians to weaken their grip on the fundamental message that Christ has called us to spread.

Ethical conformity to Christian values is no sure mark that any individual or nation has been reclaimed for Christ. The Pharisees in Jesus' time make that very clear. Here was a group of people who had all their ethical, moral values perfectly in line with Christian values. No doubt they were against fornication, they despised same-sex marriage, they were pro-life, etc. Yet Christ's most scathing words were reserved for them. Their lips honored God, their behavior often conformed to the right values, but their hearts were far from Him. Likewise, seeking to reclaim America for Christ by cleaning up the moral behavior of our nation is no assurance at all that Christ is really reigning supreme.

In John 18, Jesus said that His Kingdom is not of this world. When Christians cite Psalm 33:12 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 with reference to God's blessing on America, I fear that we are dangerously close to substituting our earthly nation for the heavenly, eternal Kingdom which Christ says is not of this world. God's 'nation' is not an earthly, political power, but a diverse multitude of people from every tribe, tongue, nation and language who have joyfully bowed before Christ as Lord and King. He cannot be forced on people through political jockeying; He must be freely received.

And so, I believe, Christian involvement in politics as a way of taking over America for Christ will always end in failure, and may well cause the Church to minimize or abandon her true calling. If we try to use the government to do the work that the Church has been called to do, we end up confusing God's design for both government and Church.

As I often write, these are simply my musings, and are therefore open to critique and refining. I don't claim to have all the answers, but am simply thinking through these matters in a public forum. So feel free to weigh in on things you agree or disagree with.

In my next post, I'll try to answer the question of why Christians should be involved in politics. If it's not to reclaim America for Christ, then why should we be involved? I'll try to tackle that subject tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Comment on Comments

This morning I had to censor a comment for the first time since I started this blog. The anonymous commenter did not leave an email address so I could not respond to him/her privately. And this is not really a response to that comment, but the fact that I censored something got me thinking about if and when it is appropriate to do such a thing. Obviously I thought it was appropriate, since I did it! So here is my justification, for better or worse.

The governing principle for content on this blog comes from Ephesians 4:29, which says,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Whether it is my own personal writing, or the comments of others, this is the standard I try to keep. If I fall short of that in my writing, I would value the loving, firm correction of those who read, so I can make necessary changes or deletions.

Because I am hopeful that non-Christians will also read this blog and leave comments, I do not necessarily expect those who are not believers to adhere to this biblical standard of content. So I will tend to more readily allow a comment from a non-Christian that has some objectionable, malicious content.

However the comment yesterday came from someone who clearly professed faith in Christ and regarded the Bible as his/her authority. Because I perceived the comment to be hateful and malicious toward a particular group of people, with no apparent desire to give grace or edify, I deleted it. And if that commenter does happen to be reading, I'd like it to be known that the practice that was being spoken of maliciously is a practice which I also believe to be sinful. The difficulty I had was that there was no evident heart of compassion behind the words that were used.

With that said, keep the comments coming! I enjoy interacting with others about that which I write about.

'Funny' isn't exactly the first word that comes to mind....

The lyrics to Dave Matthews Band's newest single captures the very same theme that actually inspired the title of this blog, Redemption Groanings. The song is all about how this world is not the way it's supposed to be; it's called Funny the Way it Is:

Lying in the park on a beautiful day
The sunshine in the grass
And the children play
Sirens passing fire engine red
Someone's house is burning down
On a day like this

The evening comes and we're hanging out
On a front step and a car goes by
With the windows rolled down
And that war song is playing
Why can't we be friends
Someone is screaming and crying
In the apartment upstairs

Funny the way it is
Make you think about it
Somebodies going hungry
And someone else is eating out
Funny the way it is
Not right or wrong
Somebodies heart is broken
And it becomes your favorite song

The way your mouth feels in your lover's kiss
Like a pretty bird on the breeze
Or water to a fish
The bomb blast brings the building crashing to the floor
Hear the laughter
While the children play war

Funny the way it is
Make you think about it
One kid walks ten miles to school
An others dropping out
Funny the way it is
Not right or wrong
A soldiers last breath
His babies being born

Standing on a bridge
Watch the water passing underneath
It must have been much harder
When there was no bridge just water
Now the world is small
Compared to how it use to be
With mountains and oceans
And winters and rivers and stars

Funny the way it is
Make you think about it
One kid walks ten miles to school
An others dropping out
Funny the way it is
Not right or wrong
A soldiers last breath
His babies being born

Funny the way it is
Not right or wrong
Somebodies broken heart
And it becomes your favorite song
Funny the way it is
Make you think about it
One kid walks ten miles to school
Another's dropping out

There is something very right about this song, and yet at the same time something terribly wrong. How can Matthews possibly say, 'Funny the way it is/not right or wrong, On a soldier's last breath/His baby's being born' That's not funny, Dave, it's wrong! It's not the way things ought to be!

But what a great joy it is to ponder that our Redeemer is coming, who will one day make all things new. How I wish I had an hour with Dave Matthews to tell him that it's okay to see something wicked and declare it 'wrong,' not 'funny', and to share the great hope of redemption with him!