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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can We Fix It? Yes We Can. But Should We?

I'm taking a class in secular psychology as it relates to the Bible as it relates to Catholic Mysticism.

Trust me, it's way more confusing than it sounds.

One thing that is jumping out at me is that every effort to conciliate psychology and biblical counseling is based on the assumption that we are supposed to be happy, and that when we are not happy, something is broken and it must be fixed.

Prior to me becoming a Christian and God taking our economy away, I made a decent amount of money through stock owned in Barr Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, and Tyco International; the effort to make ourselves feel better through any means available is big business. Antichristian author Thomas Jefferson set the ball rolling two-hundred years ago when he wrote that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. Certainly we have the ability to pursue happiness, but should we?

Recently I had several events come together, most of them my fault through scheduling errors, overscheduling, lack of rest, lack of forethought, letting down friends on accident, a girl, ect. not necessarily in that order; Beloved, I felt awful. For weeks. The only thought on my mind was, "How do I fix this?" I did indeed fix it, and now I'm back to my old jocular self. And I'm sort of angry at myself for having fixed it, but it has proved to be a valuable learning experience.

Paul writes that we are to rejoice in all circumstances. For some reason I read that and thought, "Be happy in all circumstances." But that's not what he said. While I was seeking to be happy in all circumstances, what I ought to have been doing is rejoicing in my sadness by remembering that this present evil age will not last forever, that Christ has defeated death, reconciled me to God, and given me a peace beyond all understanding. I should have sought not to cut my season of sadness short, but to rejoice in it that as Paul says, "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

In instantly setting out to fix my suffering (albeit suffering may be too strong of a word to use), I inadvertently deprived myself of growing in endurance, growing in character, and growing in hope. I'm reminded of my dad's words that "just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character," and beloved, we can all use more character, more hope, more endurance, not for our own sake, but for the sake of those we minister to, and ultimately for Christ's sake that he receive the glory by proving that his grace is indeed sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.

So, this is easier said than done, but I encourage you to rejoice in all circumstances, know that God will use all things for good to those that love him. Don't let happiness be your end goal, if Christ had sought to avoid pain to the exclusion of all else, beloved, we would be entirely deprived of hope, but because he had the glory of God as his ultimate goal, we have become more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave himself for us.

So, when faced with affliction, hardship, and sadness we can pop pills from Pfizer (whom I no longer own stock in), or we can look in the mirror and say, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and [Don'tcha Know] It, People Like Me!", or we can trust in God who raises the dead, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God, even when we despaired of life itself.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. Let us not shrink from bearing the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. For he will use all things for good to those that love him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. For the sake of Christ, then, be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

Can we fix those things? Indeed we can, but for your sake and Christ's, please don't be so brash in doing away with suffering. God created this world with the purpose of demonstrating the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and if we go around happy to live in a sin-soaked and destroyed world, we miss the point completely.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wisdom and Eloquence in Preaching

An interesting trend has unfolded over the past week in five venues. In my homiletics class we are studying how to display wisdom with eloquence in our preaching; in my missions class we are examining how to conform ourselves to the world; in a Greg Stier book I'm reading, he recounts a time in his childhood in which he was trained to preach with style in order to win a 'preach-off' for his school; Phil Johnson's testimony describes how he was utterly crushed by the reading the first chapter of First Corinthians, which denounces the wisdom of men; and finally I was interviewed on camera at Kennesaw State University, having preaching for about fifteen minutes, by a man completely astonished that I would do something so foolish.

It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. - 1 Corinthians 1:21

I vacillate frequently on my favorite book of the Bible. Last week it was Psalm 73, the week before that it was Romans, before that it was First John, and before that was Acts; but the most useful book which I always return to is the Epistle to Galatia, against a church that abandoned the wisdom of God in order to seek after the wisdom of men, thoroughly content to reject Paul as an Apostle, excited to be perfected by their own works. Truly, they called themselves a church of Christ, but were not, but were a synagogue of Satan. A variety of quotes jump out at me as pertinent to those who would reject the foolishness of preaching in order to win the world through their own eloquence and wisdom, completely content to empty the cross of Christ of its power.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel... - Galatians 1:6

Oh you foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you? Did you receive Eternal Life through words of eloquent wisdom or baptism? Or through hearing the word of faith as it was proclaimed? For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. And if I, or an angel from Heaven, would preach to you a Gospel different than this, let them be accursed, though they bring interesting stories, relevant to the world, indistinguishable in word or talk from the world, let them be accursed.

Paul, in one of his "unprofitable" boasting fits, states this, "I worked harder than any of [the other Apostles], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." (1 Corinthians 15:11) Paul, THE Super-Apostle, whom could have come with every manner of eloquence and wisdom of speach, is so quick to point at the grace of God as the source of the gift of faith.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. - 2 Timothy 4:1-2

Rely not on yourselves, but on God who raises the dead.