Who’s Guilty?

31 Jan

This week I had the blessing of being able to watch our legal system from an incredibly new and unique vantage point. I was called to jury duty. I always thought that since I went to law school, I would be exempt from jury duty. Alas, I was not. While the week I was originally assigned was in a few weeks, I will be assisting in a Bible Quiz at that time and, therefore, I needed to reschedule. I was rescheduled for this week, which wreaked havoc on my schedule for this week.

Jury Duty is a unique experience where you show up and sit in a room with about 800 other strangers. I was amazed that with there being 800 people that live in my county around me, I didn’t seem to recognize anyone. At any rate, the moderator begins to send people to rooms in groups of 25. At about 2:30, my group was selected. Eighteen of us were chosen to be potential jurors. While I was not one of those 18, six were eliminated for various reasons and I was chosen to be on the panel of 18. After various questions were answered, seven jurors were chosen. I was in that group.

Therefore, I was able to see a criminal trial from the perspective of the jury box. This was an incredible experience. I saw that it matters how good your advocate is. The fate of this man was in the hands of a couple of attorneys in many ways. And both of these attorneys were fine advocates. They both did a good job, and they both advocated well. There was a judge who did a wonderful job also. I was actually quite encouraged by the show of professionalism in the courtroom. On a personal note, I thought about if this was something I might want to consider doing in my life. While that may be something to ponder and write about later, I will not let it deviate me here.

Above all of that, as jurors, we were instructed to observe the law. Observing the law, I wondered how many times I had fallen short of the legal standard in my life, both intentionally and unintentionally. While the laws of the state of Florida may be able to be followed, I thought about how much more significant my falling short of the laws of God is. I am chronically sinning. I can’t seem to bumble through a single say without displaying this nature.

The difference between me and any defendant in the legal system is that everyone knows I’m guilty. My advocate has already paid the penalty for that guilt and given me imputed perfect following of the rules. This is something that no human court has ever seen, nor could it work very well. And, for that, I am incredibly happy!

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Soup-er Bowl Sunday

18 Jan

This was originally posted on my church’s website.

Our ministry is centered at a building in, and most of us are pleased to live in, Seminole County. Most people think of this as a relatively affluent county, where people are wise to budget

(for help with that, please attend our Equipping Hour class in the F1, where we have several experts guiding those who come into wiser choices with their budgetary decisions)

but that the average citizen is living in relative comfort. And while I would not dispute this, as compared to the world, when you learn that in our own backyard, there are a myriad of homeless students. There are a lot of children who don’t get food.

Certainly there are many different ways to feel about this cultural and political phenomenon, but at the very least, we are commanded to be generous to those who are poor. We are commanded to exhibit the love of God, wherever we go. One of the very small things we can do, and have traditionally done as a church, is to give a big donation to a local food bank.

We have a historical relationship with the Seventh Day Adventist Church down the street, and we have started donating our collection to their food bank. They have done a wonderful job, and there is no dispute that they are in the same area of ministry as we are. We have benefited from many aspects of their ministry in the past and are pleased to continue a great working relationship with them. The differences we have are certainly less important, in this case, than the fact that we can minister together for the sake of sharing God’s love.

Now, if you are anything like me, you have extra cans sitting around that are stuck from when you were in your fruit eating phase (which lasted about 22 seconds) or from when you decided eating beans would be helpful (which lasted about 36 seconds) or just when you decided that you would buy a Sam’s portion when you had company for Thanksgiving. You want to clean out the pantry to make room for the food you’ll actually eat, and you’d love to contribute to this food drive, but you always seem to forget while looking for your Bible and church clothes.

I’d love to appeal to your sense of competition and see which ministry or community group within the church could have the most participation. Instead, I’m going to appeal to you to have a real shot at attempting to see the hungry among us and offer him food. Do your best to contribute to the solution to a real problem. Do all you can to be the hands and feet of God in our community.

For the next three Sundays, culminating on the same date as the homonym of our event, the Super Bowl, we will be collecting cans. There will be a spot set aside by Paul Hunt, and we can put cans there throughout the time, so if you have the urge to stop by during the week, we can accept cans at that time also. And do your best to contribute all that God would have you contribute!

Sola Scriptura

10 Jan

A version of this was originally posted on my church’s website.

We began our Reformed Theology class in Equipping Hour last week and it was a wonderful time of introduction into what our reformed faith is. Broadly speaking, Reformed theology includes any system of belief that traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation. Among other things, Reformed theology holds to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace through Christ, and the necessity of evangelism.

Reformed theology teaches that God rules with absolute control over all creation. He has foreordained all events and is therefore never frustrated by circumstances. This does not limit the will of the creature, nor does it make God the author of sin. Christians are in the world to make a difference—spiritually through evangelism and socially through holy living and humanitarianism.

Of course, the Reformers themselves traced their doctrine to Scripture, as do we, as indicated by their credo of “Sola Scriptura,” so Reformed theology is not a “new” belief system but one that seeks to continue apostolic doctrine. This is a beautiful thing that we should never overlook. Yes, our Confession is fabulous, but all of it can and should be traced to Scripture. The Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice.

While we are teaching this concept, we will point out that it doe not rule out human teachers or eliminate systematic theology. The Reformers often cited the works of Augustine, Tertullian, Jerome, Cyprian, Ambrose, and others-ranging from the early church fathers through Aquinas. They didn’t, however, follow any of them slavishly, but they certainly took them seriously. This is the balance we will attempt to strike as we talk about the value of Scripture.

Sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is the final court of appeal in all matters of faith and practice. It is an affirmation that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” and that “nothing at any time is to be added to the Bible, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

There is ultimately no higher spiritual authority than God’s Word, so “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture… it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” But none of that means we’re obliged to discard the wisdom of godly men from ages past and require each man to try to discern truth from scratch by reading nothing but Scripture by himself. This often helps us, as midgets, to stand on the shoulders of giants and see far!

Feel free to follow our Reformed Theology class online!

Sport Buffet Hall of Fame Treatise

8 Jan

I am not a voter for the baseball Hall of Fame. I’m not a voter of any Hall of Fame, other than the BibleQuizzer.net one and since I’m actually in that hall of fame, my vote can be considered of minimal value. However, I feel that it is regular fans like me, who get away from the sanctimonious stuff who could actually give a good account of what the Hall of Fame SHOULD be. See the Hall of Fame is both a museum and a celebration of those players who are great.

The Hall of Fame is, in fact, the culmination of a great career. This is where a person must develop their philosophy on what is important. Is it more important to attempt to preserve the “integrity of the game” or is it more important to honor what actually happened on the field of play. I suppose there are a variety of answers one could have to that type of question, but the fact is that every individual who is up for the Hall of Fame actually participated in the game. They have statistics, memory-inducing moments, and games and/or championship winning resumes that demand consideration. I think this mandates giving candidates consideration, based on what they have actually done like Tim Kurkjian expressed here.

The Bob Costas test, which he discussed on the radio, is a great one theoretically. Attempt to determine if they were generationally great players before/without the use of performance enhancing drugs and vote on them with that dichotomy in mind. I call this the McGwire-Bonds distinction. McGwire was a great home run hitter, but the lack of other elements (he was a poor fielder and base runner, he had virtually no doubles or triples, and his batting average was certainly not hall of fame worthy—though not terrible) makes his case primarily based on PED-enhanced categories, whereas Bonds won several Gold gloves, had great batting average and on base percentage, and was a fantastic base runner at the ages where people are potentially great base runners.

None of that is to say that even if you accept the McGwire-Bonds Distinction that you cannot think that Mark McGwire is a Hall of Fame player. It just says that the case for Bonds can be made if you take away his alleged steroid use and his numbers in steroid use enhanced categories. McGwire may still be a Hall of Famer in your mind, but basically, Bonds has to be. The opposing view is one that says it is the job of voters to police the sport.

Here’s the problem with voting for the Hall of Fame being a way to police the sport. First, unless it is connected with being caught for doing the “crime” while playing, it undermines the policy. It undermines the sport itself. If we are going to make decisions like Ken Gurnick‘s decision where you leave out a whole generation, it seems to be a fair and consistent choice. By the same token, it also deprives the Hall of Fame of the recognition in an age of the game itself.

Realizing that baseball interest numbers are dwindling, it is a very poor decision to not recognize any period in your history to a group of potential new fans. People from my generation are entering the prime purchasing power of our lives and our memories, and the individuals who made them, are being excluded from the Hall of Fame. This naturally inhibits our interest in both the Hall of Fame and the game it memorializes. This is a bad move for baseball. On a complete tangent, I believe if the voters continue with this nonsense, someone will come up with a private hall of fame idea that will eventually replace Cooperstown as the memorial of baseball memories.

The second problem with trying to police the sport is you will definitionally be wholly inadequate at doing it. The idea of policing something is to do away with the problem. Not voting someone into the Hall of Fame does nothing to keep people from using Performance Enhancing Drugs during their careers. These careers are over, and very few people (if any) play with the primary incentive being to make the Hall of Fame. The incentive is to have fun, make money, be popular, or something that is more immediate. Therefore, you police the Hall of Fame, which is, by its very nature, a place that is a memorial of what happened. It’s asinine to believe that any memorial can ever improve the thing which it memorializes.

The third problem with policing the sport is knowing who is guilty of something worthy of exclusion. Sure, I believe Barry Bonds used Performance Enhancing Drugs. Excluding him from the Hall of Fame merely because I believe that means that I punish based only on my feeling. It is as unjust as a parent deciding to punish a child, merely because the parent believes that something wrong was done. And when you punish someone for something you “believe” happened, how can you ever be certain that you are punishing the right person and all of the correct people. The simple answer is you can not.

The fourth problem with policing the sport is that cheating is a sliding scale. Before replay (and even after it, to some degree), batters who knew they did not hit a home run tried to sell that they did, base stealers trying to spike fielders, outfielders feigned a catch, pitchers spit on a baseball to make it unbalanced in weight, catchers sold a strike, second baseman pretend to tag out base stealers, and first basemen obstruct baserunners views while pretending to make a play.

Deception is part of the sport. Deception is encouraged until it is caught. Aren’t all of these things cheating to one degree or another. Now certainly, none of them raise to the level of something that affects your entire being. But until outlawed, all of these things were part of the things players got away with. To classify everyone who does things that we now consider barbaric or illegal when it was accepted by the game is to not recognize the flaws of the game itself. And while today could have been a celebration of perhaps the best class of people to enter the Hall of Fame since the initial class, it is instead a debate on the morality of something where most evidence is circumstantial at best.

The game was flawed. Let’s fix it. Let’s make the punishment real steep. Let’s take multiple time offenders who falsify information and purposefully obstruct MLB’s intent to improve the game, like Alex Rodriguez, and eliminate them from the game permanently. That is a way that Major League Baseball can move forward and attempt to fix the situation. If any other players fit that category, give them lifetime bans. Exclude those people from the Hall of Fame. If we believe that people were only great because they cheated, we don’t want to honor that.

On the other hand, if you try to tell educated people of the forthcoming generations that the best players they ever saw never had a positive drug test, were linked in some conversation about improper drug use, and are therefore not worthy of being recognized as a great player in the best museum ever made, people won’t go to the museum that doesn’t hold those memories. Without nostalgia, the game begins to lose a foothold on the fabric of collective consciousness.
Without that, generations of baseball fans will find another way to spend their summers and the game will die.

Shear numbers tell us that if the Hall of Fame voters continue with this policing strategy for even just one more year, the backlog of great players that this generation of baseball fans remembers will be so great, that the tide will turn. Jim Caple noticed the math on this years ago, but the future of baseball fans is less enthusiastic than ever before, and that is frustrating.

A Christmas on Fifth Avenue

25 Dec

This is the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. I have written about how many people are willing to accept the birth of a baby, but many people are unwilling to accept that the very reason that He came to earth was to die. That is certainly, in my mind at least, the reality of the American culture today. The reality of the manger is that the cross is its intended completion.

While those theological thoughts are always present in my celebration, the practical celebration of the day took me to a set of movies that I happened upon a few years ago. The one that grasped my interest this year was It Happened on Fifth Avenue. This movie presented me with a wonderful thought about the reason why Christmas is such a fine celebration.

SPOILER ALERT

The story is about a wealthy man’s house that lies vacant for months each year. A group of otherwise unrelated squatters move into the house and take ownership of it. These vagrants are able to live in all the splendor of this house, with all the benefits of the house, and with most of the rights of the ownership thereof. At one point, the owner of the house moves in with them and lives among them, though he is relegated to the servant’s quarters.

The greatest part about this is that the owner lives among them, a fact unknown to most of them, and allows them to continue their arrangement for various reasons. That’s really where the similarities end, but I could not help but think that God takes those of us who are spiritual interlopers and allows us to participate in all the benefits, rights, and splendor of the life which Christ lived. Just as the people in this movie get the benefits of a multi-million dollar mansion, so do we get the benefits of a perfect life lived for us.

It is wonderful to remember that the baby Who was born two thousand years ago, and Whose birth we celebrate today, began what become the imputed life we have. And that is a magnificent thing. For us it doesn’t necessarily happen on a mansion on Fifth Avenue, but it is still a tremendous gift we have been bestowed.

There are many wise lines from this movie, including when the head of the house of misfits says, “Any house is only what the residents make it.” If you find yourself feeling a little ashamed of your financial position in this world, it is great to know that even a servant’s quarters can be the place that turns your life around. If you are a little down about your spiritual position in this world, it is great to know that even a miserable life of merely “filthy rags” is enough through the imputation of the One who came to earth for the express purpose of giving us new life!

A Dynasty Like No Other

20 Dec

Apparently there are these things you can use when hunting ducks to call them to where you are. Apparently the people that make these particular whistles are entertaining to watch on television. Apparently there are television stations that eventually notice that their value set is different than the stars of such a show, and when they do, they stand true to their values.

I have a very love-hate relationship with political debates. For much of my formative years, I thought I would eventually run for political office, so I studied a lot about government trends, went to law school, and put together hundreds of stump speeches on a variety of topics, including my bedrock speech about protecting your right to be stupid. This tends to make me think I know everything, which of course, I don’t.

The very unfortunate thing about this is that I tend to slip into these diatribes when political issues come forward. I believe the biggest problem with that is our call to be politically savvy and well educated is not the foremost call in our Christian walk. While those of us who reap the benefits of living in a republic should play a part in upholding said republic, the Bible does not promise us a politically easy life. My inclusion in this chosen race mandates that I live in such a way as to bring honor to my Lord, and He says that I do that by submitting to every human institution.

So, I will (for now) avoid all the political permutations and repercussions of this debate, and just say that I believe homosexuality is a sin. I’m guessing that noone on either side of the issue is surprised that this is the belief of these Duck Dynasty stars.

To paraphrase Joe Wright, Scripture says, “Woe to those who call evil good” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium, inverted our values, and ridiculed the absolute truth of God’s Word. We speak to others without love or their best interest at heart. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have embraced harsh speaking without kindness and called it standing up for what we believe.

I think we need to ask God to search and try us. It’s certainly possible to dialog properly. Many will use examples of Jesus being harsh, like when He warned against hypocrisy, cleared the Temple courts, or identified false disciples. In each of these cases, Jesus was dealing with someone who proclaimed God.

I don’t think this is a distinction we take lightly. Christ was much tougher on those people, than He was on those who made no proclamation of salvation, like the woman at the well or when He was healing.

I think this is a hard line to walk. We need to overflow with compassion when we are speaking to and about sinners. This is more than just political rhetoric, in fact it is different than much of my political rhetoric. I think we need to be kinder than (we feel is) necessary, because the only reason we are not struggling with that particular sin is the grace of God. And if we begin to trust in our own ability to stay out of sin, we fall into the same trap as those who have no hope.

The most wonderful thing about my particular theology is that I am able to easily recognize that I bring nothing of worth to my own salvation. It makes it easier for me to understand why others continue to live in sin. Regardless of what political agenda that may come from it, I find we need to lovingly give truth. Another wonderful thing about knowing theology is it allows you to understand what the truth is and why it is the truth. It allows you to understand what is really important and which dynasty we should have ruling in our lives.

The real challenge in my life is that I tend to get caught up in a political debate about

  • whether the Robinsons have the right to speak their mind or
  • if A&E has the right to fire them or
  • if we have the right to boycott A&E or
  • if we have the right to support A&E more or
  • if we really want the Blaze to pick up a reality show (or whatever we’re calling this type of show) or
  • if we should support either side if we don’t care about the station or the show.

The problem is that in my life and yours, the politics are a secondary concern to living the way we ought. Living the way we ought involves knowing what is sinful and knowing the proper way to deliver that message. That is such a challenge that I will, for now, leave the political debates to others who think that is more important!

Peace to Those with Whom He’s Pleased

14 Dec

This was originally written for my church’s blog.

As I’ve been reading along in Desiring God’s Advent Book, I came to the December 6 devotional. While I find the entire thing to be an excellent resource to go through as a family that consistently points us back to Christ and the true reason that is worth slowing down our lives and celebrating each December, this particular day stuck with me as I was explaining our hope and blessing to my children.

I had heard for years that suicides around Christmas time spiked. It made sense and in light of reading this devotional, it made even more sense. As Snopes will tell you, that is not quite true. However, the biggest 15-day span of suicides in the year are the two weeks immediately following Christmas. There are so many facts about suicide that can make any generalizations about it difficult to either state or affirm, but this much is certain, “Suicide is a decision made by people who have no hope.”

In God’s perfect timing, I read this wonderful piece by John Piper just days before I heard about a few people who actually made this decision of suicide, including someone I knew personally and so did many others who might decide to read this. I feel like this act often exacerbates a problem that we have as humans. We tend to characterize people into one general truth, much like Disney movies. If you think of a villain in Disney movie, you are normally hard-pressed to find one positive characteristic.

This is not how it tends to work in the “real world”! People are nuanced. In just the last ten days, two people have died that have caused a great divide amongst people writing on my Facebook wall. The problem with remembering anyone is that despite the fact that they are created in the image of God, they are born with a sinful nature. It can both be true that he did terrible things and that he helped accomplish great ones. Upon his passing, the part you choose to remember is up to you. I just dubbed this Nuanced Lives.

We all have nuanced lives, and this is why making a quick, snap, black and white judgment call on anyone is difficult. Fortunately, when God judges me, it won’t be the terrible things for which I am judged. It won’t even be on the basis of my accomplishing great things on my own. My only hope for getting a positive judgment in the afterlife is the same as my only hope for having peace while on this earth. hat is something to celebrate and one that most we all hope those we were close to are celebrating right now.

One of the great things that accepting the nuanced life in myself and others is that it will naturally lead to peacemaking. When we realize that we are flawed and others can participate in that same grace that allows us to live redemptive lives, despite our flaws, then we are able to truly grasp what it means to make peace with people. It allows us to build a culture of peace and realize what it means to have peace on this earth, as is suggested in the Luke 2 passage.

I am thankful that I am able to know Peace at this time of year, and really, throughout the entire year. As the devotional says, “The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God….When we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased—men who would believe.