Can You Really Separate the Two?

It seems like everyone is crying about it these days.  Especially the atheists.  Some people bang it like a cheap drum.  It’s the tired battle cry of separation of church and state.

The original intent was to keep the state out of the church.  The individual should be able to believe and worship as he sees fit without government intrusion.  Unless, of course, you want to slaughter babies.  Baby slaughter is unacceptable in all circumstances unless the baby is preborn.  I only wish that was a bad joke, but abortion is big business.

The First Amendment is also supposed to be a safeguard against state-sponsored religion.  The mere thought of that makes me shudder.  As a Christian, I believe that Christian values are beneficial to society, but we have seen time and again that the government can wreck even the best of intentions.  The government has a knack of turning A T-bone steak into a crap sandwich.  This protection should include worldviews.  This atheistic “freedom from religion” movement has reached a fervor that rivals the intensity seen in many religious circles.  This is where I take issue because I believe this rabid secularization violates the original intent of the First Amendment.  I would be less inclined to take exception if this anti-religion witch hunt didn’t appear to single out Christianity.  

For example, Christians are being targeted for their views on abortion and homosexuality.  Muslims certainly hold unpopular views regarding homosexuality as the Koran calls for their execution, but Christians are challenged if we make a stand that opposes sin.  It’s not that we arbitrarily decide what is sinful and what is not, God has determined that.  We are exercising our faith when we are being obedient to what God tells us in the Bible.  We are considered intolerant if we uphold God’s word.  The godless insist that we essentially renounce our faith if someone gets their feelings hurt.  The Christian mustn’t be compelled to violate his conscience which is a sin for both parties involved.  

These protests are more insidious than merely overlooking sin.  The hidden reason is to seek approval.  Affirmation of sinful behavior is what is desirous as if this was a matter to be resolved in the court of opinion, not in God’s holy court.  Christians must remember Romans 1:32 lest we be inticed to ignore our conscience.  Paul states, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”  Christian, do you think it is harmless to leave others to their own devices as long as they are pursuing “happiness?”  Think again.

This atheist goal is less about keeping Christianity out of government than it is about separating the Christian from God.  If it was merely to have freedom from religion, then one could come to the conclusion that these opponents to religion would be equal opportunity offenders.  Instead, the main thrust seems to be against Christianity.  If the atheist truly believes that God is some contrivance, why does he expend so much energy to dismiss him?  We can agree that Santa Claus is a fictitious guy, but where are the Santa protesters the day after Thanksgiving at the mall?  Perhaps they are standing in line to tell Santa if they’ve been naughty.  

Mall Santa lives on because he really is a fake, but the atheist doesn’t simply oppose a make-believe Jesus.  The atheist attacks him with such veracity that Psalm 14:1 gains credibility.  The Psalmist writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”  After all, only a fool is foolish enough to entertain such a thought.

Here’s To Mobility

It has been a couple of months since I have had a full-on flare up.  Maybe even three or four months.  I gave up counting time from the last flare up.  I just try to enjoy my newfound mobility.

I’ve been on Humira for some time now.  It is certainly no panacea, but it definitely helps.  I’m actually surprised that I have been back to work for two months now.  It can be physically demanding, and when I get home from work, I crash on the couch the rest of the day, but I’m able to do it again the next day.  It is gratifying as I haven’t worked much over the past four years.

I’m switching to Remicade to see if it does better as I still have nagging pain in various parts of my body.  My left SI joint has been aggravated pretty much since I went back to work.  I have yet to undergo my first infusion, but I hope for some improvement.  I can always go back to Humira if it doesn’t work.

I’ve also lost fifteen pounds over the past couple of months.  That makes thirty pounds over the past year or so. I’m hovering around 195, but am working to get down to 180.  Less weight = less stress on my joints.  That, and I’m looking svelte.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Quagmire of Hypocrisy

It’s a good thing that I don’t have any original ideas and I crank out mindless drek, because I never considered how much working again was going to interfere with my free time.  I was going to say productive free time, but time spent watching cartoons isn’t all that productive.

I was listening to Wretched today when it occurred to me that this trend of requiring affirmation for certain proclivities is an effort to dull the conscience.  (More like Todd Friel, the host, said it and I ripped him off.)  If we are really honest with ourselves, we know right from wrong, we know sin from virtue.  But in our fallen condition, we want to eat our proverbial cake and we want society to cheer us on as we sin with impunity.

We must consider this:  does society determine right from wrong or is there a higher authority?  If there is a higher authority, are his laws nullified if society rejects them?  

If society is in charge of determining morality, then there is no absolute standard.  We can find societies through history that have sanctioned all kinds of evil, but if society determines right from wrong, racism isn’t inherently evil.  It is reduced to a preference.  Segregation was legal at one time, so who are we to say that segregation is bad?  Our conscience.  

If we rely on subjectivity, what is good today is evil tomorrow.  Further, how do we know we weren’t wrong in integrating blacks and whites here in America?  If anything, if we deny an ultimate authority, it was wrong to upset the status quo.  The wrongness stems from the imposition of values.  After all, if you think abortion is wrong, don’t get one, right?  But if you tell me that, you are wrong for telling me what (or what not) to do.  

The problem is that we are sinners.  Our conscience clearly tells us right from wrong which comes from God, the one who made these laws.  We don’t want to feel guilt, so we try to rope others into our delusion because some of us think that our guilt will be assuaged if everyone affirms it.  Murder is always wrong no matter how many people affirm it.  Some want to blur the lines to equate killing to murder, but they are not necessarily the same.  All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.

We can shut down all bakeries that don’t toe the party line.  Some call us Chistians intolerant.  That’s fine, but should you fight intolerance with intolerance?  If you do, you step into a quagmire of hypocrisy.  Besides, the real problem isn’t with Christians.  For the unrepentant, the problem is with God.

A Little Clearer

I’m always fascinated when I encounter something that helps to refocus my perception.  I’m not saying that I’m willy-nilly in my beliefs.  Quite the contrary.  Yet, I’m continually growing in my faith and my limited understanding is slowly expanding.

Granted, my focus has been on victims of natural disasters and on the homeless (I prefer to consider them as outdoor friends), but the world is much larger than my myopic view.  We live in a world with immeasurable complexity, yet I tend to reduce it to black and white.  Through the lens of the Bible, there are the saved and the unsaved, the ultimate black and white comparison, but oftentimes I find myself usurping the Judge’s Seat.

I’ll admit that I can only consider one idea or issue at a time.  I’m aware that John 3:16 tells us that Jesus came because God loves the world (or more specifically, mankind), but I am also aware that John 3:17 states that the world might be saved through him (emphasis added).  That implies that not all will be saved.  

I believe in the doctrine of election as evidenced in John 15:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and Revelation 13:8 (just to name a few verses).  I also believe in free will as evidenced in the Garden which Paul points out in Romans 5:12.  Two apparent paradoxical truths that are difficult to hold simultaneously.  It’s like a difficult calculus problem that has to be addressed in parts before the answer can be derived.  

The point is that God alone determines who goes to heaven without compromising our free will, and we need to be faithful to what He has charged us with:  to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel.  

It’s not up to us to decide if the homeless, or the Muslim, or the postmodern, or our neighbor across the street is grafted in.  Our job is simply to proclaim the Good News.

When Work Interferes With Laziness

I haven’t posted lately because I forgot how taxing a job can be.  I get up at 4:30 each morning, and it feels great to get off work so early in the afternoon, but I’m always tired.  It feels strange to get ready for bed so early in the evening.  It’s not that I really have an issue with getting up so early, I just don’t like to go to bed before 10 p.m.

It’s also a bit of a challenge spending most of my day on my feet.  My ankykosing spondylitis on top of my general sense of laziness is why I spend my free time lounging on the couch.  I’m switching from Humira to Remicade, so I’m hoping it will help.  Now if I can only get a shot to combat my laziness.

A Shattered Delusion

There was a time when my life was illusory and paradoxical.  I used to have a bleak outlook where I believed that my life was purposeless and I was wasting the years that had been given to me, yet I was certain that I was a pretty good guy purported by my strong character and perfect sense of right and wrong that would ultimately garner an exceedingly favorable afterlife.  On October 9, 2009, my life was completely upended.  I had a vasectomy, a relatively minor procedure that left me in crippling pain.  October 8, 2009 was probably the last pain-free day I’ll ever enjoy.  Interestingly enough, that fateful day was the most important day in my life.

I didn’t realize that one must be utterly broken to come to the Cross.  After all, I had already asked Jesus into my heart, was sprinkled as an infant, and was confirmed when I was thirteen.  I was in the system.  I was so saved that I didn’t even need Jesus.  At least I lived that way.

Deep in the hidden recesses of my heart I knew I was in big trouble but I told myself that I was a swell guy.  In comparison to everyone else, my flaws were so minute that God could easily overlook them.  My foibles were infinitesimal in comparison to the godless heathens running the streets.  I was a terrific catch for God.  It’s not like I murdered anyone, right?  Or have I?  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that unrighteous anger is murder in the heart.  Oops.

Then there is the lying, the stealing, the dishonoring of my parents, even adultery of the heart.  That’s a tough one to swallow, but Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:28.  If we delve into the OT, Hosea illustrates that we are all adulterers to God.  The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is a picture of the marriage of Christ to his church.  His unfaithful bride. Our broken vows.  An ongoing affair where we turn to our success, our money, our vices, our hobbies; we turn our idols into cheap substitutes for our Redeemer.  Yet Christ made an unbreakable covenant with his people.  This was the God I rejected because I already had my ticket to heaven punched with all that I had done.  I created my own paradise in my mind where I was my own savior.  I lived in a world where I had broken all of the Commandments before breakfast, but in my eyes, I was a good person.  I was delusional.

I was blinded by my relativism, and my veil of perceived goodness had to be pierced.  Not just pierced, but utterly shattered by a curse that left me with a lifetime of pain.  This was much more than hurt feelings, but enduring physical pain that will forever remind me of what I once was.  This curse was perhaps the greatest gift that God could have given me because it afforded me the opportunity for saving grace.

I can clearly see that I once lived in a world of make-believe.  I persisted in a fictitious realm where I usurped God’s authority and redefined the qualifications for entrance to heaven much like people redefine gender and marriage today.  I am still a bad man, but I am a bad man who has been redeemed by a good God.

CC image courtesy of waferboard on Flickr.

Livin’ the Dream

I started working at the Shreveport Bossier Rescue Mission a month ago and I have to say that this is the most fulfilling and rewarding paying job I have ever had.  (I still have my unpaid job with Mercy Chefs, and God willing, I will be a Mercy Chef living like no one else for many more years.)  My chef friends with Mercy Chefs have trained, guided, and counseled me over the years to prepare me for this job.  It’s certainly challenging, but the opportunity to serve the homeless is why I eagerly get up every morning at 4:30.
It took me many years to learn that one reason God created us is to serve others.  All too often, we get mired in self-importance and lose sight of the fact that we are only dust.  Life is only a vapor.  I don’t want to waste it in selfishness.  Most important, I have my beautiful wife to help me to stay focused on the prize when I fall and throw a pity party.  
That being said, I can’t wait for 4:30!

Could Be Raining

It’s been three weeks since I started my new job.  For the most part, I haven’t worked these past forty-five months because of my medical ailments.  We have spent this time paying off debt and it’s just about time to throw our debt snowball at my thousands of dollars in student debt.  It’s interesting that my education has been utterly worthless from a financial perspective.  Nevertheless, I still have the debt and my wife told me, “Suck it up, Princess.  We have to get gazelle intense and start killing cheetahs.”  You just gotta love Dave Ramsey and his analogies.

I’m fortunate in that I actually have a job that I value.  I get to serve our homeless everyday.  I believe that my volunteer work over the past four or five years have prepared me for this job.  Granted, I’m only a cook, but a delicious meal can bring some color to a bleak life. 

Am I still in pain?  Certainly.  If my nerve pain isn’t flared up, I’m dealing with the nightmare that is ankylosing spondylitis.  I get ready for work at four a.m. when I feel pretty decent.  When I finally get home from work, I’m in so much pain that I can’t pry myself from the couch.  Or the floor.  I have an appointment to see my rheumatologist next week, so maybe I’ll get to try a new medication as Humira helps greatly, but I’m still suffering.

I know that I have a blessed life despite my hardships.  When I am crushed by the pain I sometimes remember what Marty Feldman said to Gene Wilder as they were grave robbing in Young Frankenstein.  He said, “Could be worse.  Could be raining.”  

Obedience

A couple of weeks ago, I was hired on at the rescue mission as a cook.  Granted, it’s not the most glamorous job and it certainly isn’t the highest paying, but it is work that I would do for free.  Actually, I already do that with Mercy Chefs, but that’s another story.

There are a couple of reasons why I chose this job.  We have been clawing our way out of debt for three years and it’s finally time to tackle the mountain of student loans that I have accrued.  My wife’s job fully supports us, but everything I make will be applied to debt and we should finally have our freedom in two more years.  Well, debt free except for the house.  Close enough for now.

Without that millstone we can serve and give more.  I’m already involved with Mercy Chefs, both with disaster relief and with homeless outreach, but I’ve been looking for something at home that would allow me to follow two of my passions with more regularity:  food and serving the homeless.

Feeding the homeless is only one small thing that can be done to help.  After all, that feeling of satiety only lasts so long.  I’m only feeding the body, but I work alongside capable people both at the rescue mission and with Mercy Chefs that feed the soul.

That’s what I try to teach the residents I work with in the kitchen.  It doesn’t matter how we view our station in life, or if it doesn’t appear to be all that important.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters and our obedience is a demonstration of our love for him.

I believe that God has shaped me for this position and I’m delighted that He has entrusted me to carry out His work.

If you would like to learn more about how you can partner with Mercy Chefs to feed body and soul, click here.

More Human than Human

One would be hard pressed to launch an argument against Intelligent Design without including the bankrupt worldview of Darwinian evolution.  Essentially, we can determine that God made everything, or more or less, the natural world is self-made.  Further, to assert that anything or anyone other than God is responsible for the creation of the universe is calling God a liar.  The Bible tells us plainly in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 that God (or more specifically in John 1:3 that Jesus Christ) is the Creator, not random happenstance.

Another interesting point regarding evolution is that it is commonly accepted that some mutations actually will improve a species.  Who decides if these changes over time actually make a particular species better or worse?  How are these value judgments decided?  Imagine if some monkeys sprouted wings.  Are these wings a product of evolution, which implies that these changes are favorable to the species?  Who gets to determine that winged monkeys are superior to regular wingless monkeys?  What shapes their worldview?

The argument for Intelligent Design also falls short.  Evolutionists can cite “imperfections” in genetic make ups, and an argument for Intelligent Design can challenge these “imperfections” by stating that these traits are in fact perfect for the species in question.  However, there are imperfections in genetic makeup, and without citing God as the Designer and The Fall in Genesis 3, one is hard pressed to fully explain these “mistakes.”[1]  The Bible explains that sin cursed creation, and that curse is the cause of these defects.

It seems that science cannot wait for evolution to improve humanity.  Instead of waiting on contrived science to bring about a new age for mankind, scientists are meddling with human genetics and making value judgments as to what traits are more desirable than others.  Everyone can agree that disease certainly is not desirable and the use of this knowledge could be a boon for humanity.  But human enhancement  is not about medicine.  Steward states, “Human enhancement refers to the use of technology designed and implemented not for medical reasons but for enhancing the human body.”[2]  Science fiction has covered this subject for years, and now we are on the cusp of engineering superior intelligence, enhanced senses, and in general, making people more human than human.  Again, how are we to determine what traits are more desirable?  From a biblical perspective, mankind had an opportunity for perfection and we blew it.  From a worldly perspective, anything is on the table.  Maybe people will be engineered with bioluminescence.  Who doesn’t want to glow in the dark?

In all seriousness, when genetic engineering wanders beyond curing people of disease and packages human enhancement as a commodity like plastic surgery, it is perverted as we are usurping abilities that should only belong to God and the day will come when mankind realizes the true fruits of genetic tampering.

[1] https://answersingenesis.org/intelligent-design/ided-for-a-imperfect-argument/

[2] http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/fall-2013/human-enhancement#.VOuDI_nF_C8

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