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You mean life isn’t just about ME?

Posted on : 03-26-2006 | By : Andy | In : religion

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Monday nights I’m part of a Bible Study with some guys from the Kent State Navigators, and we’re studying 1 Corinthians. I love that book, and I’ve gotta say that a lot of what Paul says in this letter could be taken as a pretty strong indictment of America, and American Christians.

The American idea of Freedom –which few will argue is a bad thing– has come to pollute Christianity. Yes, we are free in Christ, free from the old Jewish law, free from condemnation. Unfortunately, all to often this “freedom” is taken as a license to kill.

The apostle Paul had a different take.

In 1 Corinthians 8 he is talking to the Corinthian church about eating food sacrificed to idols. He first tells them that they are free to do so–eating this food is neither harmful nor beneficial to them spiritually, and thus they should have no qualms over the source of the food. HOWEVER, he then goes on to state:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Cor 8:9-13)

Paul would rather go without eating meat than exercise his “God-given right” to eat this meat. His thoughts are for the benefit of others rather than himself! This theme of loving your neighbor as yourself pops up all over the Bible, but oddly enough those most vehement to point out the Biblical truths regarding freedom in Christ are often the most blatant transgressors of the Biblical truths concerning putting the interests of others ahead of your own interests. (1 Cor 10:24)

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: any time you’re speaking with someone about the “rightness” of something and they are not convinced, you must refrain from indulging in that action in their presence. If you ever think “but it’s my God-given right, and if they don’t understand, that’s their problem,” you are most definitely in the wrong.

Joel Osteen vs. Rick Warren

Posted on : 03-22-2006 | By : Andy | In : religion

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So I was playing around with a cool little tool Overture has that allows you to find the number of times that a term was searched for in the last month. (This is useful at Step2 as we look to optimize our website for specific search terms such as play kitchens or racing car bed) I had gotten a hit from technorati from someone searching for Joel Osteen, so I threw his name in there. It appears as if Joel Osteen had 45,063 searches for his name last month. Out of curiosity, I decided to compare this to a well-known evangelical pastor–Rick Warren, of SaddleBack Church. His results? 8855 searches. Why such a difference? Why are people flocking to his church so rapidly? After seeing his “sermons” on TV a few times, my best guess is this: there’s no conviction. After listening to Joel, it’s easy to feel like you’ve almost got it right. You’re just a step away from being perfect, from having that “best life now”. Flashy sayings like “God always causes me to Triumph” (take from his website) encourage you to believe that being a Christian means you’ll be on cloud nine. In contrast, The Wall Street Journal had this to say about Rick Warren’s philosophy, as seen in “The Purpose Driven Life”:

Life is not about you, your dreams, and your individual self-actualization. It’s about God and finding your own life’s purpose in him

I am reminded of a passage in 2 Timothy that says

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (vv. 1-4)

Draw your own conclusions, and feel free to leave comments if you feel I’ve misrepresented either side!

Clarification on Bible believers

Posted on : 03-22-2006 | By : Andy | In : religion

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I recently posted on the fact that it’s hard to find people nowadays who are hungry for Scriptural accuracy. Maybe I should clarify: some of the most vehement “Bible-believers” have got it all wrong. They search the Bible for verses that they can take out of context in order to condemn others or glorify their own position. I do not condone this.

If anyone ever claims that any one translation is right and all the others wrong (ie the KJV, NIV, Good News Bible, etc), you may summarily discount anything else they have to say. The Bible was not written in English, nor did God write it with fallacies that would only be cleansed of x-many translations. It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and the best way for us to truly understand the word would be to become anthropologists, historians, and fluent speakers of the ancient forms of those languages. As this is not going to happen, I recommend that those trying to make any theological statements from the Word of God look at a few translations, as well as one or more of the many wonderful commentaries written by anthropologists, historians, and students of those languages.

I am not claiming that everything they say will be untrue (indeed, many things they say will be true). I just recommend that you get it from another source who’s willing to get a better, broader look at the Word.

my dear friend the Word

Posted on : 03-20-2006 | By : Andy | In : religion

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Lisa and I were discussing yesterday how much it saddens us that it’s hard to find people passionate about the Word of God. There’s people on every street corner who try to be good, good enough, and there’s a lot of people who want to be a Sunday School teacher, or youth leader, or member of a Bible Study. But how many of us can claim, as Jeremiah did, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty” (Jer 15:16)?
All too often I see people who read the Bible as if it were a story. People who, as they read it, only really listen to the parts that match up with their thinking. People who read without understanding, without really critically examining it. It saddens me when someone reads a passage of scripture quickly, then makes a claim that it says something totally unfounded, or merely assumes that the meaning of it all is “be nice to people.” In a “Chicken Soup” world, we’ve forgotten what a treasure God’s Word is, turned off our brains, and started living a Joel Osteen brand of Christianity–where it’s all “good advice” and heartwarming stories, and no real scriptural wisdom.
If you want more than that, I have two steps start here and ask God to change the way you view scripture:

  • Memorize and Meditate on Scripture

  • Study Scripture

Study Scripture with a Study Bible if you like, but I highly recommend downloading e-Sword (it’s free) and taking advantage of the zillions of translations and commentaries that you can download and read side-by-side to help you come to a deeper understanding of the wealth of wisdom contained in the Word of God.

What do I do all day?

Posted on : 03-17-2006 | By : Andy | In : fun, work

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When I’m not criticizing the latest stupid idea (sigh, I need to be more positive), this is the kind of stuff I like to do at work–build landing pages for SEO and PPC reasons. Currently, these wonderful pages aren’t getting crawled well, so I’ll link to ‘em to give them some love, as well as demonstrate what my job is like to all those people who are always asking.

Play Kitchens

Stock Car Bed

Sand and Water Table

Children’s Wagons

Climbing Toys

Communion. Finally I Understand.

Posted on : 03-13-2006 | By : Andy | In : religion

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About a week or so ago, our church had communion. We practice open communion–if you believe in Christ as savior and have repented of your sins, we welcome you to partake with us, regardless of denominational affiliation. At the service I was at, they set out the juice and crackers on tables to let us spend time in prayer/meditation and then shuffle through to take communion at your own pace.

My point though, has to do with the internal workings of communion. Specifically, that Sunday I felt guilty partaking: part of me didn’t want to at all. I hadn’t had a very “holy” week. I’d struggled with a few areas of sin, messed up a couple times, and generally had a very selfish/self-serving time of things. I was just thinking that I didn’t deserve to take communion when it hit me…I was in a better position to benefit from it at that point than a lot of people who were glibly crunching those soup crackers and sipping their grape juice. (by this I don’t mean I was better than them by any means, but that the Holy Spirit had just revealed to me a glimpse of the whole meaning behind the action–read on and you’ll see)

You see, it’s only in light of sin that the phrase “do this in remembrance of me” really makes sense. It’s not a time to pat ourselves on the back for how well we’re doing, (because really, compared to the perfection we suck) nor a time for us to condemn ourselves for how miserable we’ve been (See Romans 8:1). It’s a time to remember Christ, and how his sacrifice means that our sins have been forgiven, and that He was willing to go to the cross to purchase our forgiveness–while we were yet sinners. My remorse over my sin was good, but to condemn myself for it was not. That Sunday I took communion remembering that Christ died for me knowing fully well that I’d never get it quite right here on earth. I thanked Him for Grace, and humbly (yet joyfully) asked for the strength to press on.

You don’t have to be perfect (or think yourself to be “a good person”) to take communion. In fact, if you do find yourself thinking that you’re worthy, I’d say you missed the whole point. Next time you take communion, rejoice in the fact that it’s a reminder that you’re not going to face judgement for the times you’ve failed.

What a breath of fresh air to a weary soul.