Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Where Did Sin Come From?" - Part one (?) of Questions From the Lifehouse Youth Group

My wife and I help lead the youth group at Lifehouse Church. I've been doing this for about two and half years, Chelsea joining soon after we started dating. For a long time, the group only had five youths, three of them siblings. We played games and went on trips and studied cool books like Crazy Love, but nothing seemed to spark real excitement in the group. Then we began studying Wayne Grudem's Bible Doctrine. By this time, our church moved into two locations and we met a few teenagers from the Spring Hill area. Then our youth group more than doubled.

I mean, twelve teens might not seem like a lot to the seasoned youth group leader, but for us, it was a little dizzying.

I don't know if I can credit this all to the church now having a location in Spring Hill or if it's because we're digging into questions regarding deep truth, but the  conversations during meetings have changed dramatically. We're discussing Common Grace, Sin, Prayer, the Trinity, the Gospel, and the like. And I'm learning something from them about how I lead a discussion. First of all, nothing makes you feel so much like a dope when you ask a question and hear silence from a room full of teens. But instead of accusing them of disinterest, I try to figure out ways to ask questions about the topic so they want to answer.

It's one big reason why I've changed how I do things on this weblog. Not that you're a bunch of teenagers.

The kids also teach me how to ask good questions by, well, asking me good questions. During our discussion on Sin, one of the girls asked, "But where did sin come from?"

How beautifully simple. So I said, "From rules." Only after I said it did I think about it. Paul seems to say as much on his explanation of sin in Romans. Sin didn't exist on earth until God told Adam and Eve "Don't eat that fruit." That's not to say I think God gave men sin by giving them a rule. I mean to say that God created men with a will that would sin. The Fall may have easily happened if God said, "make sure to eat that fruit every day" because the serpent might have countered with, "Aren't you a little full?" and we'd be in the same mess.

I may be wrong. I may be only partially right. But where do you think sin came from? Do you even think sin is real (I'm looking at you, relativist reader)?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Guard vs. Young Guns - Two Ways For Believers To Look At Things Like Biblical Authority, Revelation, And The Church.

Before writing my last post, I told my wife, "I think I'm going to poke a hornet nest and talk about biblical authority again." Lots of people seemed to have read the post, even though Matt and William became the voices for what I think are the two major camps within the Western church. The Old Guard and the Young Guns.

I used to pride myself in my religious angst. At times, it was justified, like when a high school classmate told me, "You know, maybe you're not doing so well in Algebra because of that music you listen to." And other times, I think I wanted to see holes in the church, holes in the Bible, and "elasticity" to Christianity because it allowed me to justify almost anything. What can I say? My argumentative style is persuasion.

Even though I agree more with William's comments, I think I know Matt's point of view. I tried my best to grind an axe with the Bible, "institutional church," and every aspect of Christianity all the while calling myself a Christian and claiming to follow God. In hindsight, I think I was fighting God kind of like Doug in this sketch (not that I think it's a perfect example. Sorry if you think it's a little blue, but I hope you get the idea). I think I wanted my friends outside of the church to think I was savvy like the Young Guns and not judgmental like the musty, dusty, Bible-thumping Old Guard.

I used to say that human writers and translation errors made the Bible untrustworthy as a perfect book.

I used to say that I trusted the guidance of the Holy Spirit more than the Bible.

I used to say that every Christian was a part of the church, so why couldn't I call a group of believers in my living room "church"?

I gave up that kind of thinking when I realized this: I'm an idiot. I have a serious pride issue when I think I'm the wisest dude in the room.

If God wanted to explain Himself and His ways to men in a way they can understand, wouldn't He have some awareness of human folly and short-comings? If God allowed men to insert anything into the scriptures apart from His perfect truth, doesn't that mean the book is (at least in part) deceptive? Do we really think God is limited by human wisdom or even a deceiver?

If I feel like the Holy Spirit is putting something on my heart, but don't have an authority on the true nature of God, how can I know God is talking to me and not something foolish or evil? How could I know if I was feeling the Spirit's direction or just my own human passions?

If a group of people say they believe in Jesus, gather together in one place, and get drunk like those old friends of mine at our "men's Bible study," should I call that a church meeting? Do I grow closer to God, gain wisdom, or learn how to operate in my spiritual gifts?

But that's my story. What do you think? Do you think the Bible is inherently flawed because people wrote it? Can a person discern the direction of the Holy Spirit apart from Biblical understanding? Do we need the church or is it a breeding ground for antiquated, hateful codgers?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Popular View of Scripture - A look at the Press reader's perspective on the Bible.

I've heard and seen the Bible quoted in a lot of places. Sometimes it's poignant, like the scene in Renaissance Man where one misfit soldier quotes Ecclesiastes and says it's the only writing better than Shakespeare (start it around 7:31). Sometimes it's totally weird and misquoted, like in Ghostbusters. It's in books, television, all over popular culture. In a way, it's meant to make us feel a sense of weight. "You should take this moment seriously, they're referring to the Bible."

Then there are people who have respect for the Bible, but in ways that confuse me. In the past three months, I've had two friends tell me they think the Bible is full of errors, but still a perfect book. One friend went on about "the Deuteronomy hoax" and said it was proof the Bible admits its own faults. Last week, a guy at work went into a passionate discussion about his belief in Creationism but then finished with a lament over all of the books the church conspiratorially kept out of the Bible.

Then, of course, there are those who don't respect the Bible at all. Some think nothing of it. Some even hate it. I typically expect some polarization but every now and again get a disinterested shrug.

Since discovering the Stats tab on Blogger, I was surprised to see the second and third most popular posts are the two essays I wrote on the Bible's authority. It seems like a popular, if not heated, topic. Those of you who read my posts have an idea where I stand, but I want to know where you are on the subject.

Let's see what Press readers have about the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Bible. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saying It And Doing It - A possible super-theme of Nehemiah.

Through most of high school, I worked at a Marathon gas station down the road from my home. The law in Michigan at the time would only allow me to work 18 hours a week. Because of my schedule with school and church, I took most of the Saturday morning opening shifts.

Okay, so, it's high school. Getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning took a little effort, so I had to come up with ways to motivate myself. One routine involved playing a James Brown's Greatest Hits cassette I picked up at a truck stop. I'd sing every one of the songs while sweeping the floor, brewing the coffee, and filling the soda fountain ice dispenser. One morning, while singing For Goodness Sakes, Just Look At Those Cakes into the broom handle, I turned around to see an ancient old woman standing at the door. Admittedly, I gasped a little out of fright. This old lady wanted her very special brand of cigarettes at 6 in the morning and watched my Mr. Good Foot as she waited for me to unlock the door. From that day on, we had an understanding: if she didn't tell anyone about my stiff, suburban "dancing", I'd open the shop early and sell her cigarettes whenever she came to the door.

Well, all that to say, I listened to that cassette a lot. One of the songs had a chorus I especially liked (although I only today learned it was a cover song), Sayin' It An' Doin' It. I like that mentality. Do what you say. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Integrity. But it's a hard thing to decide sometimes, are we always willing to live by what we say we believe?

I think Nehemiah had this conviction. He seems to have demonstrated not only biblical knowledge, but also the courage to follow through on what he knew was right. People often talk about the book of Nehemiah in terms of leadership and serving. I wonder if all that can come under an over-arching theme of following through on what the Bible commands.

What about you, what do you think? Do you sometimes have trouble following through on doing things biblically even when you know the truth? Do you make excuses or say that it was only for a certain time and a certain place? How thin do you slice that slice?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can't You Just Pretend To Be Nice? - What might happen when we're accountabile to each other.

It's no real secret. When I was 19 years old, I joined the Rachel Leigh Cook fan club. One of the better songs in the movie Josie and the Pussycats, Can't You Just Pretend To Be Nice, got me singing along the moment I heard it. But something irritated me about the song. Not just because the guy in the song sounds like such a tool, but because the girl would for real find life easier if he faked it.

Earlier, I asked about confrontation. I mean, accountability. It's sort of tied together. When I read the last chapter of Nehemiah, I really had to ask myself which God likes better: Nice people or people pursuing holiness? Wouldn't it be more kind to confront people when they're deep in sin?

I'm not saying I want to tear anyone's hair out, but I am saying I want to know what you think. Is nice always kind?