Bad fruit, bad trees

In my last longer blog I used weeds as an analogy for the bad ideas in our heads. Jesus uses fruit for products of our life. Here I am extending it to an idea, a concept.

Jesus said “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7: 15-20

 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But, the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control.” Galatians 5:19-23.

Earlier this week I read an article about Charles Finney by Dr. Horton (here: https://www.monergism.com/disturbing-legacy-charles-finney). I also recently finished reading The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher.

I’m really boiling down both of their arguments for my purposes here. Dr. Horton argues that Finney gave us the current obsession with emotional conversions. This runs against  1800 years of church practice. For these 1800 years we (short version) taught people the Gospel: the good news of Christ in Us, we trained them in the creeds, we baptized them, we prayed for the infilling of the Spirit, we celebrated the Lord’s Table (Eucharist) every week together, and we expected changed lives. None of this is easy. It’s very hard work. It takes encouragement from other, longer in the faith believers. It takes time to change a way of life. What Finney did was to use the emotions as the gateway. He essentially got people hooked on a feeling of conversion. Unfortunately, that is a weak tree limb. The emotion fades and people are left wondering if they lost their faith. It’s tragic in both it fails the person with constant doubts and it fails the church because the weakness of its members. It’s called revivalism.

Rod Dreher starts his narrative a few centuries prior to that: the enlightenment and the rise of romanticism. In this period we lost our ability to see the divine in everything. This mere sentence sounds weird to our ears. That weirdness illustrates how much our view of the world has shifted from the late middle ages. We have essentially imagined the work of the creator can be separated from the Creator Himself. This can not be true. Colossians 1:17 “and He (Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Rod goes on bravely from here to describe Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and its destructive effect on Christian youth culture and how we as Christians need to pull together into real physical communities to defend the faith and build up each other in Love. But that is a topic for a future post.

So, combining these two thoughts, we have weak Christians fed on a diet of emotional fluff (really nothing more that logical positivism) and a worldview that has eliminated transcendence: the world is nothing more than the physical matter and observable phenomena that can be explained rationally.

Enter the sexual revolution. The “if it feels good, do it” way of life. This emotional streak makes it very hard for the modern revivalist Christian to see its deeper error.

I think we can agree that marriage is hard work. But instead of trying to work it out, we choose divorce because we have “lost that loving feeling.” So the church caved on divorce. We “feel freer” with a new mate and ride the emotional high of the infatuation. So the church started remarry the divorced. Gone is dying to self, in is living to be happy. In came the prosperity Gospel. Out is building relationships, in is instant gratification in “hook-up” culture and rampant pornography. And there are numerous and regular examples of this behavior rampant among those who call themselves Christian.

We are made in the image of a Holy God. Emotions and sex are a mere part, a small slice of the totality that is a human being, a man or a woman. Yet we are constantly bombarded with images and messages of the “profound” importance of sex and the sexual act. It has become so important to the culture that one can now become another gender, as if it were possible to change XX and XY chromosomes. The outward appearance is all that is of importance.

So, I think the rotten fruit of this rotten tree is fairly obvious at this point: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry.” That so many churches and Christians have caved to this new “orthodoxy” is to me fairly obvious evidence of the tree being rotten. Our rejection of a God centered universe has led us down this dark path.

But that is a mere diagnosis. We all need Christ. The hard work is in BEING a Christian, a “little Christ”. It’s that present progressive verb. To be doing something in the present:

Having Divine Love.    Being Joyful.    Being at Peace.    Being Patient.    Being Kind.    Being Good.    Being Faithful.    Being Gentle.    Being Self-Controlled.

This is not a list of exterior attributes. This is a list that comes from a deeply ingrained trust in the Lord. It comes from the hard work of prayer, fasting and the giving of alms. It comes from reading scripture. Being in community with other believers. In celebrating The Eucharist together. In confessing our sins to one another. In forgiving others just as we are forgiven by God. In praying for one another. In not thinking of ourselves as superior to another.

So it comes full circle to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Trust in the Risen Lord Jesus in all you say and do; and look to the day when ALL will be revealed and we will be made new, resurrected to new Life in Him.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Death and Life

So Christian, the big day is coming. The dirt nap, the big send off, the shuffling off of this mortal coil, the big sleep: our death. 

So, are you looking forward to it? Do you yearn for it? 

In the news right now is at least 20 dead at a church in Texas. 

Are you ready for that send off? Are you ready to meet your maker?

Jesus conquered death. It no longer holds power over you. The Apostle Paul said “to live is Christ, to die is gain!” 

Gain?!

Yes. Gain. 

We leave behind a broken and battered world. We leave behind broken relationships and incomplete knowledge of each other.  We leave behind evil and violence and torture and pain and anxiety and fear. 

So, yes it is gain. So until then let us live free of the fear of death. For death to this life means to rise to new life, an imperishable life. Life eternal joined to the source of all Goodness and Life. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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What is the human condition?

Answer: The universal human condition is that, though made for fellowship with our Creator, we have been cut off from him by self-centered rebellion against him, leading to guilt, shame, and fear of death and judgement. This is the state of sin.

Genesis 3

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,

    cursed are you above all livestock

    and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,

    and dust you shall eat

    all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

    and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,

    but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree

of which I commanded you,

    ‘You shall not eat of it,’

cursed is the ground because of you;

    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face

    you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,

    for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,

    and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever–” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

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Dig them weeds out

Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast by the church planting movement of the Anglican Church in North America: Always Forward. One of the comments, said in passing, was this: “the gospel is supra political.” I’m not really sure if I heard anything else for the next few minutes as I listened to the podcast. It seemed so inherently obvious that I couldn’t believe I had missed it. God is super natural, he is above nature. God created all things and all things have there being in and through him. The gospel speaks to the entirety of our lives. It is for all aspects of human existence. It is for the relationships between husband and wife and parent and child and citizen and state and of course human being to God.

I have been chewing on this idea for days. I was raised in the house of politics. I think I’ve mentioned before that my father was a political philosophy professor and my mother was a high school English teacher. All of my parent’s friends were academics. We frequently had discussions about politics. When we went for walks as a family, my mother and my father would discuss politics. So, I’ve struggled to prioritize the Gospel over politics: politics is sort of always running in the foreground and the gospel trying to overlay it.

Now I know this is a problem. But, there’s a huge difference between intellectually knowing there’s a problem and being able to resolve it in practicalway. In one little comment I was able to see the flaws in my thinking. Not that I didn’t know there was a flaw but I couldn’t clearly define what that flaw was.

I don’t think I really have a fancy conclusion for you. This particular idea has been spinning like a splinter in my head for days. I’m putting it here in my blog has a way of reminding myself and giving full voice to the idea.

Jesus clearly told us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon.  For quite a while now, I have known that politics was a problem for me. It was getting in the way of my view of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of God. One of the phrases I have used to describe my process of being more like Christ is philosophical weed pulling. There are many thoughts and ideas in each of our heads that are in direct conflict with the gospel. Going into the field of our minds and clearing out all that which is damaging to the word, to the seed of the word that must be implanted, means pulling out by the root all the ideas that are contrary to the Gospel. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

So, this small comment nestled in a podcast about church planting somehow made me see the contours of the root that I needed to dig out. In a way I guess, just as a church is planted, so is the word implanted. A local church is a small field of sown seeds. So church planting and personal implantation of the faith go hand in hand.

I encourage you to pray and search out those things in your life that are choking off the roots of the seed implanted in you. Not just because it is the good and right way to live out your faith but for the benefit of the church and the Kingdom of God, both those near and those yet to be born into the kingdom.  

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the good news of God loving and saving lost mankind through the ministry in word and deed of his Son, Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1-4

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

John 1:12-13

12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

1 John 5:11-12

11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Soli Deo Gloria 

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My Absence

Hi everyone. Sorry, I’ve been caught up in other things. You’ve seen some of it worked out in the 30 day blog challenge.

It’s been about focusing on time with my wife. We actually have more time alone together than we’ve had in years. The kids are gone half the time with school and work and social lives. So, all of a sudden we have time.

Honestly we are both a little different than when we married, life experience and maturity and all that. We were just 22 (me) and 19 when we married. This year is our 25th anniversary. So we’ve grown up together. We’ve both been married longer than we were ever unmarried.

I hope to move forward with a plan for this blog. I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering how to invest my time. I’ve got more spare time, but I’ve specifically invested it in more time with my wife, in prayer and in study. What I do with this blog (and maybe more of a formal website?) with be an outcropping of those investments.

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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Why Amateur?

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Work and the curse of the daily grind

Ahhh, Monday. Back to work. To the grind. To the salt mines. The nine to five. Working for the man. The rat race. 

I think you get my point, there are lots of ways we see work in a negative light. As something to be avoided. But work should be separated from “a job”. I work at a job. If I tend my plants, it’s work. I surely don’t get paid for it, so it’s not a job. But it is, in fact, work. I reap a benefit from working my plants well, in my case that’s fresh mint and cilantro. 

The benefit of working a job is not as easy to pin point. At a minimum it’s a paycheck. It has been my experience that many people focus on work principally for that end result: the money. For many of us that paycheck is every two weeks.  So, fortnightly the benefit is reaped. Essentially making the job about an event that occurs every 14 days. 

So then the job becomes a means to an end. It can then be viewed in terms of its utility or usefulness to obtain money, the reward. So then the job isn’t about the work but the reward. Then the “reward” must be utilized somehow. For bills? Or clothes? Or saved? Or on entertainment? Etc. I know plenty of people who spend 14 days thinking about what they will spend the next paycheck on. 

So then, what happens to the work? In many instances it becomes an annoyance of sorts. It’s then drudge work, the grinding monotony that separates the 14 days between what is really enjoyed, which is the paycheck. 

This was not so in the beginning. In Genesis, God has made man (in the older sense of that term, modern term would be humanity) in his own image and planted a garden full of beautiful trees and bushes and green grass. It also describes the land as being full of precious stones and metals. 

Man was put into the garden to work it. God works in the creation. His creation then is given work in tending what God created. God then creates a companion for man from a rib: a woman. Man was given basically one rule: don’t eat of the true of the knowledge of good and evil. He evidently doesn’t clearly articulate this command to Eve (see communication problems from the beginning!) and Eve eats of the tree and then Adam and the then we’re kicked out of the garden. 

Genesis 3:17-19 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

So work is hard essentially because God made it harder. It’s the result of Adam’s disobedience. So, you may ask yourself, why am I made to suffer because of the disobedience of another? It doesn’t seem “fair” our society would say. 

So enter Jesus. Born pure, truly innocent.  No mark of sin on him. Never any disobedience. And yet He goes to work as a carpenter. A worker of wood. That means callouses, splinters, wood under the fingernails, and a few cuts and bruises. 

According to the writings of Justin Martyr, a second century Christian, there were still products in use made by Joseph and Jesus. Yokes and other farming equipment. God became an incarnate being, the God who made everything out of nothing came and made something out of his own creation. 

Should it be any surprise that it was of superior quality? He was a carpenter for about 15 years before beginning his ministry. Never once is there an accusation against him about his work as a carpenter. He produced wood products for 15 years and not one complaint? Because I guarantee you the Pharisees would have found that person. 

I don’t want to draw too much out of this concept. But I think it is at least a reasonable conclusion to come to that Jesus’s work as a carpenter was superior. Why would it not be? 

Our approach to work should be no less attentive. We are where we are because of the plans and designs of God. We should be putting our best into our work. I’m not talking becoming a work-aholic. Balance in life between our different responsibilities is important. I’m thinking here of doing our very best under the circumstances we find ourselves.  

God worked under the very curse he had placed on Adam for which Jesus bore no guilt. But he shared in our nature, even to the point of the daily grind under the curse on work. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

A standard prayer in the Anglican Tradition (called a collect):

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Labor Day

Right now in the USA is one of those weirdly named holidays. A day to rest from labor named after the thing we are resting from? 

The historically savvy know that it relates more to beginnings of Communism than anything else. Karl Marx and the struggle of the working class, etc. 

What’s truly weird is the complete loss of the concept of a holiday. Which derives from Holy Day. And that a nation might have a Holy Day would probably be a source of derision from the secular culture.   

Now we’ve managed to keep a few actual Holy Days in our line up of official holidays: Christmas and Thanksgiving. And even these are tenuous at best and detrimental at their worst. That Thanksgiving is now the kick off for voracious buying for the commercial nirvana that is Christmas morning gift opening is disheartening. 

The Holy Days instituted by God for the nation of Israel were based around an agrarian people.  Planting and harvest, cycles of the moon and the like. A rhythm built into the very fabric of the society. 

We have ours built in here: summer is marked between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The fall season of Halloween to Thanksgiving with a build up to Christmas. After New Years it’s the slog to spring marked around Easter (secular culture has stolen Holy Week from us, giving us instead the pathetic “spring break”). 

Then back to Memorial Day. A loop. And the older one gets the more one feels the repetitive nature of it all. The slow meandering brook of life.  We labor under the sun, toiling and laboring to an unknown end other than knowing we will be with our Lord. 

Now you might be wondering why I took you on this tortuous loop. It’s this: don’t separate the labor from the Holy God who gave it to you. Today is a Holy Day, an extra day of rest our Lord providentially provided for us. We were made to tend the garden of Eden. We were made to labor, to work. Not aimlessly, but to the good of our neighbor and the Glory of God. 

The culture may have forgotten about Holy Days, but our God surely has not. Someday all will be made right. Today let us rest and yearn a little for that day. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 30: It is finished

Today is the last day of my personal challenge to write 30 days in a row. A few days were nothing more than me phoning it in, pretty perfunctory really.  But overall I think I did a lot of writing. I do have one piece that’s nearly written that needs to be posted on a particular day to have the desired effect. I think you will know it when you see it. 

The title is two parts: one, I’m officially done with the challenge; two, the work of Christ is finished. Since today is Sunday, it’s fitting since it is a recalling of the Resurrection. Just before giving up His spirit he cried “It is finished.” The work of atonement was done. The Resurrection is the initial proof of the atoning sacrifice. 

When we come to Christ (and we only come because He called us) and we turn from our sin, we are forgiven. That forgiveness was purchased on that cross. 

There is a phrase “between the already and the not yet”. This is where we live. The work of Christ is done, the atonement finished, forgiveness is purchased. The kingdom of God is already, but not yet in its fullness. 

So I shouldn’t be striving to earn my forgiveness or impress God with my religiousosity, my Christian “bonafides”. I shouldn’t be praying to impress God, but because I’m leaning into Him for strength.  I don’t cross myself to prove to others my religiousness. No, I do it to remind myself to whom I belong. I was bought with a price. 

I don’t bow at name of Christ in the Nicene Creed because it want to show off, I do it to remind myself one day all knees will bow to him. Right now I choose to kneel. But only because He called me. It’s the end of me and the start of Him. I’m finished. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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