30 August 2013

Who is God #2

Having established in our first installment of this series on God, that He is, in fact, God, we move on to the next step.

God Must Be Our Only God. We should have no gods before Him – or beside Him. This claim of God to our allegiance to Him is an exclusive claim. In other words, if we worship Him, we may not worship any other, whether it be a false god, a person, or things. Let me give you an example. US citizenship is intended to be exclusive. Technically, an adult may not be a US citizen and a citizen of another nation. We do not allow dual citizenship. Now I know that this law is poorly, if ever, enforced, but the principle is that it is impossible to split your allegiance between two sovereign nations.  Jesus stated the principle pretty clearly in Matthew 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." 

So what’s the practical application of this principle?
First, we may not make things (even ideas) into gods. Men and women worship just about everything. Today’s great false god is Nature. To be an environmentalist today doesn’t mean caring about your environment and being a good steward of the universe God has created. No, it means to call the earth, “Mother Earth,” and to extend to this mother all the worship and allegiance due the only true God – who created the earth. 

We also worship wealth and belongings, and power.  Some even worship their own children. Then of course, there are the false gods in the traditional sense: Buddha, Allah, etc. We cannot worship Buddha and the true God; Allah and the true God. Deuteronomy 4:39 states the case plainly - "...know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other...".

Second, we may not make ourselves into gods. Romans 1:25 says, "...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." Mankind chooses to worship - mankind. We human beings do tend to deify ourselves. Instead of reliance upon our God; our reliance is upon our own wisdom. 

We make science into a god and claim that discoveries come from our own fertile minds, while we are merely discovering what God has created and put in place for us. We worship strength and beauty and youth. We adore wealth and power and connections. But we need to be brought back to our senses and remember that we already have a perfectly good God who does not need to be replaced. Why try to replace Him with a frail or faulty copy which can only lead to hell?

27 August 2013

And now, a word from...

Tim Challies, who is listed as one of my favorite bloggers, has some thoughts about sheep today. In an essay titled "Dumb, Directionless, Defenseless," he writes:
Do a little bit of reading about sheep and you’ll soon see they are not survivors. They are not strong and independent creatures, not proud hunters or fierce predators. They’re actually kind of pathetic, entirely dependent upon a shepherd for at least three reasons. Two of these reasons are related to the brain of a sheep and the other is related to its body.
This is a real news story that aptly tells us the first reason sheep need a shepherd: because sheep are dumb.

Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived. Shepherds from a nearby village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.
The entire piece is worth reading and can be found here.  

23 August 2013

Is God Green?

We don't hear as much about "Global Warming" (or "Global Climate Change") today as in recent years. Do not be fooled, however, into thinking that it has gone away. Consider this fantastic headline and subtitle from National Geographic published just days ago:

Wars, Murders to Rise Due to Global Warming?Shifts in temperature and rainfall linked to more aggression, study says.

Recently I read in an old copy of a journal on Central European international affairs, the following quote:
Private property, rational prices and individual responsibility are more important for environmental protection than the activities of governments, legislators and environmental organizations.         - Vaclav Klaus, Former Prime Minister and former President,            Czech Republic. From an address in August, 1994.

This sounds, to me, like a voice of reason.

A few years ago, I did a study titled, "Is God Green?" I think this is an appropriate time to share this with whomever is out there reading these posts. This will be a somewhat lengthy study, but I believe it's something that (especially) Christians need to ponder.

Sandra and I taught a new word to an English-speaking Czech friend the other day. That word was ubiquitous. It's a word that applies to Global Warming. Just as one cannot enter a science-related museum without confronting the assumption of evolution, one cannot hide from the assumption of global warming and the accompanying need to be "green."

Some examples:

  •       TV commercials abound with allusions to “being green.” From Green cars and Green housing to light bulbs. Green appliances are all the rage. Even banks run ads offering cash rewards for every electronic transaction their customers make, instead of using paper.

  •       Movies have been produced with green themes for years. Who can forget Star Trek IV, with its save-the-whales theme, in which two humpbacked whales (which were extinct on earth) must be returned to earth or else the planet would be destroyed. A partial list of these environmentally-themed flicks would include: Waterworld, A Civil Action, Erin Brockovich, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, The China Syndrome ,Never Cry Wolf, March of the Penguins, and, of course,  An Inconvenient Truth.

  •       Educational institutions are saturated with green curricula. Producing such curricula has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Here’s a blurb from just one of the many companies selling green education: “Greening the curriculum means ensuring that students are capable of taking on the 21st century challenges of global warming and climate change (the most serious threat ever to face humanity), social inequities, unsustainable lifestyles, and the urgent need to switch to a renewable energy-based economy.”  In higher education, nearly every college or university offers degrees in varying aspects of “greenness” these days. One college, in Vermont, specializes in green education. In its mission statement, we read this:  “Green Mountain College prepares students for productive, caring, and fulfilling lives by taking the environment as the unifying theme underlying its academic and co-curricular programs. This innovative interdisciplinary approach to liberal arts education is grounded in the institution’s strong tradition of effective teaching and mentoring, and is complemented by a diversity of community-oriented campus life opportunities.”

  •       We have Earth Day and Earth Hour. We have TV stations doing greenouts, with no backlighting and only essential lights in the studio. Shopping centers are green. Schools are green.
    It’s everywhere. With such an invasive presence in our society, Christians ought to be engaging the ideas and philosophies behind this massive global movement.  Do we start with the presupposition that all forms of environmentalism are right or wrong? No. Do we accept the more radical aspects of environmental activists? No. We start with God and His Word. But as a prequel to what will be our topic in this series, we will take a look at some historical examples of environmentalism; some of the major issues; and them some quotes from environmental leaders. That starts NEXT TIME.

20 August 2013

The Seventh "C"

So we come to the end of our little excursion into a study of Christian leadership. We have looked at the topics 
  • 1.  Calling
  • 2.    Cost
  • 3.    Commitment
  • 4.    Confidentiality
  • 5.    Communication
  • 6.    Cooperation

Today we take a peak at the final C of the "Seven Cs of Christian Leadership": Completion.

We already pondered the concept of Commitment. When we say we will do a job, we should see to it that it is done, unless we are providentially hindered.  In 2 Corinthians 8:10-11, the Apostle Paul wrote, 
10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.11So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 
Paul wanted the Corinthians to finish the good work they had started. He also gave us the ultimate example of the need and desire to finish well. This is found in Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Here are just a couple of tips as to how to get this done.

Ask for help. I know we all like to think we can manage on our own, but sometimes we need help with our commitments, if we are going to carry them out. And when we ask for help we need to be able to let the other person or persons do what it is we asked. In other words, we need to be able to delegate - and trust those to whom we delegate. I love the advice Moses' Father-in-Law, Jethro, gives him in Exodus 18:13-18
13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.
14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?"
15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God;
16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws."
17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good.
18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.
Sometimes a job, a committee, a program needs to carry on to completion, even if we are not there to do it. There are some things that we can all do to make sure the work of the Gospel is being carried on

Pass the baton. This is not the same as quitting. Sometimes, we just are not the one for that particular job. That doesn’t mean that God’s done with us and there is no job for us…. Consider Elijah and Elisha.
1 Kings 19:19. Elijah had been the Lord’s prophet. He had battled the prophets of Baal and the Lord had shown Himself through Elijah’s ministry. Now it was time for Elijah to leave. He was sent to find his replacement: Elisha, and he put his cloak over him. This was the mantle of leadership. But he didn’t just walk away.

1 Kings 19:21. He became Elijah’s attendant. He was working under him and learning from him. Elijah was passing on his knowledge and experience. We do not just say, “OK, I’m done,” and walk away. We need to train up the next generation of leadership, through hands-on apprenticeship. Bring them in; give them tasks; show them how to do the tasks; then ask them; As Elijah did:
"Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you."  (2 Kings 2:9).

Conclusion: Leadership is the job of all Christians. We all lead somebody, by word and/or deed. We have been called and we have been given gifts. 

As Paul wrote in Romans 11:29….

“God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”