July 25, 2017

Quotes from yesterday’s sermon

Posted in Sunday school/service tagged , , , at 2:34 am by sanguinemare

“After 18 years of pastoral ministry, I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their morality or their ethics.  Have you?”
-Scott Sauls

“The days ahead require an Evangelicalism that is both robustly theological and warmly missional, both full of truth and full of grace, convictional and kind.”
-Russell Moore

“Since Jesus Christ is coming again, the only way to be on the right side of history is to belong to him.”
-Tim Keller

May 13, 2017

How to talk about sin (and idolatry) in the world today

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:30 am by sanguinemare

Here’s a great article one of my friends posted on Facebook today by Tim Keller titled “How to Talk About Sin in a Postmodern Age“.  There’s good reminders in there for us as Christians to be aware of how idolatry manifests itself in our own lives today, and it also gives suggestions on how to approach others about what sin and idolatry actually mean.

Here are a few excerpts that I liked.  To start with, here are some that I felt were good reminders for the Christian – that we all have a tendency to want to have control over our lives, or to worship things in place of God:

“In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in Godʼs name (Gen. 1:26­–28). Paul understands humanityʼs original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God . . . and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or for our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order.

And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us.”

“[Romans 1:21] tells us that the reason we turn to idols is because we want to control our lives, despite the fact we know we owe God everything: “Though they knew God, they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to him.”

“[Luther] observed that the Ten Commandments begin with two commandments against idolatry. This is because the fundamental problem in lawbreaking is always idolatry. In other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the first commandment—the law against idolatry. Luther understood that the first commandment is really all about justification by faith, and to fail to believe in justification by faith is idolatry, which is the root of all that displeases God…

For example, letʼs say a person cheats on his income tax form. Why does he do that? Well, you say, because he’s a sinner. Yes, but why does his sin take this form? Lutherʼs answer would be that the man only cheated because he was making money and possessions—and the status or comfort from having more of them—more important than God and his favor. Or letʼs say a person lies to a friend rather than lose face over something she has done. In that case the underlying sin is making human approval or your reputation more important than the righteousness you have in Christ.

The Bible, then, does not consider idolatry to be one sin among many. Rather, all our failures to trust God wholly or to live rightly are, at root, idolatry—something we make more important than God. There is always a reason for a sin. Under our sins are idolatrous desires.”

In other words, we need to remember that everything we have is by God, and through God, for our good.  And thus, all our faith and trust should be put in Him, and not in the things He created.

Then, Keller gives some advice on how to approach the topic of sin and idolatry with those who may not believe.  I personally struggle quite a bit with this because I tend to get side-tracked like he mentioned here and go into apologetics, which usually results in both sides feeling unsatisfied and believing the same things they started with. So I thought these were some good pieces of advice:

“The typical way Christians define sin is to say that it is breaking Godʼs law. Properly explained, of course, that’s a good and sufficient definition. But the law of God includes both sins of omission and also of commission, and it includes attitudes of the heart as well as behavior. Those wrong attitudes and motivations are usually inordinate desires—forms of idolatry. Yet when most listeners hear us define sin as “breaking Godʼs law,” all the emphasis in their minds falls on the negative (sins of commission) and on the external (behaviors rather than attitudes). There are significant reasons, then, that “lawbreaking” isnʼt the best way to first describe sin to postmodern listeners.

I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:

Sin isnʼt only doing bad things; it’s more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.

Why is this a good path to take?

First, this definition of sin includes a group of people postmodern people are acutely aware of. Postmodern people rightly believe much harm has been done by self-righteous religious people… When we define and describe sin to postmodern people, we must do so in a way that challenges not only prostitutes, but also Pharisees, to change.

There’s another reason we need a better explanation of sin for postmodern people. They are relativists, and the moment you say, “Sin is breaking Godʼs moral standards,” they will retort, “Well, who is to say whose moral standards are right? Everyone has different ones! What makes Christians think theirs are the only right set?” The usual way to respond is to become sidetracked from your presentation of sin and grace into an apologetic discussion about relativism… I take a page from Kierkegaardʼs The Sickness unto Death, and I define sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they’re sinning because they’re sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they’re sinning because they’re looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything they should be looking for in God. Such idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

I’ve found when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not offer much resistance. They doubt there is any real alternative, but they admit sheepishly this is what they are doing. I’ve also found this makes sin more personal. Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer. To depict sin as not only a violation of law, but also of love, is more compelling. Of course a complete description of sin and grace includes recognition of our rebellion against Godʼs authority. But Iʼve found that if people become convicted about their sin as idolatry and mis-directed love, it’s easier to show them that one of the effects of sin is to put them into denial about their hostility to God. In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols, just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against Godʼs rule, just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones.”

Thank you, Tim Keller, for this great article :).

February 15, 2016

Finished Reading the Bible!

Posted in Personal impact/anecdotes tagged , , , at 12:00 am by sanguinemare

After reading the Bible (almost) every day for the last ~7 years, I’ve finally done it, as of a couple days ago!  This is a pretty huge milestone for me, since I’ve always wanted to actually have read through all of the Word to know what it actually says.  There are definitely some books that confuse me (not sure why Song of Songs is in there, for example, and still not fully resolved with how I feel about Job or Revelations), but I feel a little better about understanding the history of God’s people and how we are to live life, as well as to recognize when someone is taking Biblical words out of context, or claiming something is in the Bible when it’s not.  While I obviously cannot remember everything in the Bible, I do think it is important for all who profess to be Christians to take the time and try to read through it all at some point in their lives, just to have a better grasp of who God is and what’s going on.

Anyway, just wanted to share that milestone, and to encourage people that yes it can be done!  Even if it takes years to accomplish!  (Some days, I literally only read 1 verse to write about, because I was just too exhausted and/or that was it in the section).  Good luck!

February 14, 2016

Quotes from Today’s Service

Posted in Personal impact/anecdotes, Sunday school/service tagged , , , , , , at 7:12 pm by sanguinemare

Here were some quotes that really hit me from today’s service (and one from a previous week) – underlined parts are just my own emphasis:

“Men will never worship God with a sincere heart… until they properly understand how much they are indebted to His mercy.” – John Calvin

“Legalistic remorse says, ‘I broke God’s rules,’ while real repentance says, ‘I broke God’s heart.‘” – Tim Keller

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” – Ezekiel 18:32

Reflecting on these, I think the common theme is men’s hearts, or more specifically, the state of my own heart.  I’ve been on a bit of a spiritual low lately, and these were a good reminder to reflect how cold my heart has become, and that maybe part of that is in not fully appreciating God’s Mercy and Grace to us.  Which perhaps is also why I often find myself on the legalistic side of Tim Keller’s quote, where I feel bad about breaking God’s rules, but maybe not to the level of understanding that it’s deeper than that.  Breaking God’s rules is not just something a naughty kid has done to a parent, but rather, something that breaks God’s heart because He knows that this path is one that will be of heartache to me, and I am doing it of my own volition.  Sin is breaking us both from the potential that He has given us to be, and the ability to draw near to Him, and both of those break His heart.

The last quote I think is helpful encouragement, in light of all this.  It’s a reminder that God is not simply the wrathful God that people so easily brush Him off to be, in the Old Testament especially – the one who just wants to see people burn and die – but rather he is a loving God who wants people to repent of their sins, to turn to him, and thus, to truly live.

July 24, 2015

“Some Objections” – Chapter 2 of Mere Christianity, in audio/video form.

Posted in Audio/Video tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:56 pm by sanguinemare

I found this a while back (like probably almost a year ago now if you can believe that…) and just never had the time to actually watch it until now.  I had read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity sometime in college, and thought it was a pretty good read, so seeing it in audio/video format like this was a nice reminder of some of the contents of the book.  Overall, I liked the logic in the book, and it seemed more relevant/practical to daily living than some of the other books I’d read at the time.  I also felt it might be helpful for non-believers to just read and think about their own answers to some of the questions/thoughts Lewis proposes.  Anyway, since this has been sitting around on my computer as a tab open for forever just for this post, without further ado, here is “Some Objections” in its original form (with of course the addition of new, nice drawings for those who like visual stimulation): Lewis’s audio broadcast from his series Listener’s Questions about Christianity, around the time of Nazi Germany, which was late collected and revised into text form as the book we now know as Mere Christianity.

June 11, 2015

Christianity and Binge Drinking

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , at 12:00 am by sanguinemare

This is a topic that is often on my mind, since college and after.  I admit I have a tendency to be perhaps too Pharisee-like in how much I dislike drinking in general, but I thought this was a pretty good, balanced and Biblical article on the topic that addresses the problem and yet not going too far off the other end like I might in some situations.  I do think the consequences of drinking, especially in today’s society, is pretty dangerous, and something that people don’t think about enough in this culture.  And I think something one of the commenters brings up is also a main issue – that in addition to making excuses for poor behavior, as the article touches upon, drinking is often also due to some deep-seated pain (loneliness, fear, self-loathing) that has no other outlet and is not addressed.  I hope we as a Christian community can become safe havens for people in that situation – that true love and acceptance can conquer the need to drown one’s sorrows or numb one’s feelings through drugs of any sort (and yes, that includes alcohol).

(accidentally published this on the wrong blog… oops… so the original post date of this post was actually 8/26/2014 at 9:54pm)

June 9, 2015

Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook

Posted in Good reads tagged , , at 4:07 am by sanguinemare

I’m not sure how reblogging works, as this is my first time doing so, so hopefully this works haha. But anyway, thought this was a good reminder for how to respond as Christians.

May 14, 2015

Posted in Personal impact/anecdotes at 5:27 am by sanguinemare

Revelation of the day through growth group discussion: If it is true that God knows all and plans all, including the Fall, one might ask what the purpose of it all is. if He made a perfect creation to begin with, what is the point in orchestrating the Fall and Redemption of Man, back to the same point it started – of perfect creation?  The only answer I found was that perhaps it is precisely because he knows our nature – the nature of mankind – and knows that without first experiencing pain, suffering, and loss, we cannot truly appreciate what it means to be in perfect creation and harmony with Him.

March 12, 2015

From Lesbianism to Complementarianism

Posted in Random Interesting Facts tagged , at 1:59 am by sanguinemare

A great, personal article and testimony from someone whose life was touched by the Gospel and changed.

February 8, 2015

Death is not the end

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , at 4:12 am by sanguinemare

Here is another story that I came across a long time ago (more than half a year ago!), that I saved because I wanted to share.   This is a very touching blog post by a woman who had just lost her 5 year old son, her apprehension in explaining the loss to his twin brother and younger sister, and the hope that heaven brings despite it all.  I think it’s an amazing testimony to the strength God gives in times of need.  Get your tissue boxes ready.

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