Thursday, December 29, 2005

Question 4: Is Jesus the only way to Heaven continued

Yesterday, I talked about the different views of Jesus and salvation. Today, I want to take a closer look at the view called exclusivism. An exclusivist believes that salvation only comes through believing in Jesus Christ. Anyone who does not confess that Jesus is Lord will not find heaven I do affirm with exclusivists the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I think Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Why I am not an Exclusivist
Again, an exclusivist holds that the only way a person can be saved is to confess a belief in Jesus. The difficulty of this statement arises when someone asks about the fate of those persons who never hear about Jesus. After all, there have been millions of people who have died never hearing about the gospel. There are also many people who live in a different culture that would not understand even the clearest presentation of it. The exclusive answer to this question is the reason I am not an exclusivist.

An exclusivist would have to argue that those people who never hear the gospel and those who cannot properly understand it will not be saved. This means that for a great many people, God does not desire their salvation. For instance, (1) If God is in total control of the world, then God can offer salvation to every person. (2) If the only means of salvation is Jesus and some people never hear about Jesus, then we have to conclude (3) God does not desire the salvation of everyone. This, I believe is contradictory to the heart of the biblical message. For example, the bible tells us that “God desires than none should perish and that all should come to eternal life.” It also tells us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his son for us.”

At this point, an exclusivist could argue that for those who never hear the gospel, God works in an agnostic sort of way. God judges people on the knowledge that they do have. However, I would suggest that this is not an exclusivist position. This is an inclusive position because the argument is saying that people can believe some type of truth and follow Jesus without confessing Jesus as God.

Sometimes exclusivist appeal to the types of revelation, which I wrote about yesterday in defending the justice of God in the face of God damning those who do not hear the gospel. They argue that everyone is a sinner and therefore held accountable for their sin. They believe every person is without an excuse because God reveals himself in nature. This is called “natural revelation.” The only problem is that natural revelation only makes us accountable for our sins, it never leads us to salvation. The knowledge of salvation is given through “special revelation.” This revelation is the gospel of Jesus. So, an exclusivist will argue that all people deserve hell because they reject God who has been revealed in nature. However, those who have been given special revelation will find salvation in Jesus. They believe this makes God just.

As well thought out as this is, I do not bye into it. For me it does not solve any problem, rather it creates more. For example, how could a God who loves the whole world give us natural knowledge which can only condemn us? Then, this loving God only gives some people special revelation, which is the only thing that can save us. Again, in this picture God does not desire the salvation of every person. Rather, it seems that this God cares more about damning humanity for their sins than he does about redeeming humanity from their sins. This is not the picture of God I see in the bible at all. Rather I see a God who goes to great pains to redeem fallen humanity. It seems to be that one of two things must happen. Either natural knowledge, which holds us accountable to God, can lead us to God or God gives special revelation to every person.

Next, I will examine pluralism.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Question 4: Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

This question arises from one of the answers I gave yesterday. In talking about Post-modernism, I suggested that pluralism was dangerous. What I was saying was that Jesus is God and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Let me explain over the next several posts what I mean by this and why pluralism does not work.

On the question of Jesus and salvation, there are three primary views. The first of these is called pluralism, whichhas largely been advanced by Paul Hick. Hick believes that God is known to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhis, and others. He says that these religions represent different “faces” or manifestations of God.

I have had it explained to me this way. Lets say a group of people are sitting around a table and there is a centerpiece in the middle of the table. If we sit in our seat and describe the centerpiece from our own perspective, we are likely to describe different things. However, our descriptions are no less accurate than the person sitting across from us. Likewise, all of the religions in the world represent different perspective of God. One description of the Ultimate Reality is no more correct than another.

In defense of this view, Hick appeals to the morality of all the major world religions. He claims that it is obvious that Christianity is not morally superior to the other religions and if Christianity has a “more direct access to God” then Christians should be more moral. Since Christians do not seem to live more moral lives than non-Christians, then we must conclude that Christianity is not the one and only explanation of God. Hick goes on to suggest that the problem is that we cannot fully know or understand God, who is infinite. Therefore, we cannot know which religion holds the total truth about God. All we can say is that all religions are equal in there understandings of God.

This has implications when understanding the person of Jesus. If Christianity is only one truth in understanding God, then Jesus himself cannot be God. If Jesus were God, then Christianity would hold the most viable explanation of God. This also means that Jesus is only one way to achieve salvation out of many. Jesus is a way and a truth that will lead to life. Pluralist will suggest that Jesus lived a life that reveals God to us and if we follow this, we will find God. However, Jesus was not God. We can follow many other people and find God as well.

Pluralism has become very popular of late because it is reacting to the traditional view of exclusivism. This is the view which says that Jesus is the only way of salvation and apart from professing a belief in Jesus, you cannot be saved. Some exclusivists claim that God gives two types of revelation: general and special. God shows God’s self to the world through nature and through all the good things that happen to us. However, this type of revelation is not enough to lead someone to God. So, God reveals God’s self to the world through special revelation. It is responding to this revelation that brings salvation. Therefore the exclusivist concludes that God does not show everyone special revelation, meaning that not everyone will accept God. In this view, salvation is excluded from anyone who has never heard the gospel or who have rejected it.

There have been some faithful Christians who have examined both of these views and concluded that nether view makes sense of the biblical witness or their own understanding of God. This group has adopted the view of inclusiveness. This view holds two premises. First, that God’s love is inclusive in that God desires the salvation of every person. Second, it holds that Jesus is the means of salvation. This means that God will save humanity in and through Jesus Christ. Therefore, God offers every single person the opportunity of salvation.

A great example of this is found in C.S. Lewis’ book The Last Battle. In the book Emeth worships the god Tash and finds out when he dies that Aslan is the one true God.

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of my death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him…. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, “Son, thou art welcome.” But I said, “Alas, Lord I am no son of Thine but the servant to Tash.” He answered, “ Child, all the service thou has done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”… I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, it is true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook… and said, “It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites- I take to me the services which thou hast done to him…. For all find what they truly seek.”

From this story Lewis points out that someone can be following God without knowing they are. People can be true believers and followers of Jesus without realizing that they are. Inclusivist believe that God works through any means possible to bring persons to salvation through Jesus Christ. This means that God could help people of other religions foucs on aspects of their religion that lead to Jesus. Although we may not totally understand how shares God's love with other, we do know that God does. Again, Jesus is the only way to God, but God desires and offers salvation through Jesus to every person.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Question 3: What is Post-modernism cont.

Positives of Post-modernity
I know of some people who are very down on post-modernism, but I think there are some advantages to post-modern thinking.

(1) Post-moderns focus more on knowing “why” than they do on knowing “what.” In other words, post-moderns want to know “so-what” For so many years I think the teachings of the church focused on knowing the facts without knowing how these facts were lived out in our lives. Post-modern thinkers are helping the church rediscover the Christian life. In Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy, he compares the concepts of “orthodoxy” verses that of “orthopraxy.” He says that orthodoxy is about having “right beliefs” while “orthopraxy” is about right living. I think post-modern thinkers are trying to understand right living.

(2) Post-moderns can see truths in multiple arguments. This dawned on me one day when a good friend of mine named Daniel was in a class with Dennis Flaugher at the church. Dennis presented a number of different views of the atonement (Jesus restoring us to God). Then Dennis had everyone divide into groups and discuss which view they chose and why. In Daniel’s group, each person carefully accepted one view and defended it. Then, when they asked Daniel which one he chose, he stated that he could see truth in all of them. Daniel’s response articulated what I believe most post-modern thinkers would suggest. This approach allows a Christian to be influenced by arguments that they may not agree with. For example, I am not a universalist ( I do not believe every person will go to heaven), but I do find some truth in the things they argue. I do believe that God loves every person and that God desires the salvation of everyone.

Negatives of Post-modernity

(1) Post-modernity can cause people to have a negative view of the world. If you do not believe this, listen to pop singers and rappers. Post-moderns have been taught to question everything and in doing this, have lost any kind of meaning to life. I love the sitcom Seinfeld. I was sad when it went off the air. However, the show was advertised as a show about nothing. Unfortunately, post-moderns are finding that they do not believe in anything and life looses all meaning.

(2) In our quest for finding truth in multiple arguments, post-moderns are embracing an idea that there is NO truth. To me, this is very sad. Christianity has become so watered down because we do not want to offend anyone. I have discovered that to a large group in the church universal, Jesus is offensive. Many Post-modern Christians are turning to Pluralism (meaning that all religions are equal paths to God) The problem with this is ,as Jerry Walls, in his book Heaven, the Logic of Eternal Joy says , “[A view such as this] requires Christians, as well as adherents of other religions that make exclusive claims, [such as the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and the Trinity] to give up what is distinctive to their faith and accept a generic substitute in its place." Pluralism not only forces Christians to surrender the things that we hold dear to us, but those people who belong to other religions are forced to give up a belief in those things they hold to be exclusive. For example, Islam would have to believe that Muhammad was not the greatest prophet and that the Koran was just another religious self help book. I am not sure about you, but I do not see Muslims choosing this option.

My hope is that we can continue thinking and believing in Jesus as the “way, the truth, and the life.” In so doing, we will hold onto those beliefs that are essential to our faith and understanding of God. I also hope that the post-modern influence will help us continue to ask what it means to follow Jesus. In other words, how can we live the way Jesus did so that others will see the truth of his life. I also hope we will be able to love those who worship a different god despite our disagreements. We can do this without denying what we believe about Jesus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Question 3 What is Post-modernism?

Question 3 What is Post-modernism?

The Routledge Dictionary of Post-modern Though defines post-modernism as “a wide-ranging cultural movement which adopts a skeptical attitude to many of the principles and assumptions that have underpinned Western thought and social life for the last few centuries.” Many people believe we are now living in the post-modern word, which has a great amount of influence on how we think about God.

As we explore the meaning of theology in our post-modern world, it is important for us to understand how each time period has understood the purpose of theology. The three time periods we will be focusing on are Pre-Modern, Post-Modern, and Modern. These time periods came into being during the enlightenment period when science began to dominate. We call this the beginning of the modern period.

The period before this is known as the Pre-modern period, which dates from 2500BCE to 1500 ACE. It was the Pre-modern period that produced the Bible and the emergence of the church. It produced our first doctrinal statements and our first attempts at theology. This period was primarily concerned with understanding who God was and who they were. They illustrated these truths through stories, such as the creation story. The writings in the Old Testament gave a picture of a God who loved them, even though they continued to rebel. Then the New Testament writers drew on these stories and told how Jesus gave these stories meaning. Jesus explained God in better ways than the other religious teachers. The disciples saw that it made sense of what they had read about God in the Old Testament. The early church fathers took the writings of the Old and New Testament and began to formulate what the church would believe. They wrote these in the forms of creeds and this became the doctrine of the church.

The purpose of these doctrinal statements in the Pre-modern period was attempts to understand God, as revealed through Jesus Christ. They used theology to help them better understand doctrine. They primarily asked the questions “What is God like and what are we like”. They wanted to know what doctrine said about God. For example, Athanasius, a fourth century church father says this about the doctrine of the Incarnation, “It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil.” His theology of explaining the incarnation focuses on telling us the incarnation is a reality because God is good. His theology told more about who God is than anything else.

Next we move to the Modern period, ranging from 1500 to 1980 ACE. Remember, this was the age of reason and the scientific method. In the scientific method, the goal is to prove a hypothesis true with as much date as possible. Something was not true unless it was proven by sound argument or evidence. Theology in this period became a means to prove doctrine to be true. The major questions being asked of doctrine was “how can we prove what God is like and how can we prove what people are like”. Theologians would not believe something just because it was passed down from generation to generation. It is in this generation that we see people trying to disprove the existence of God through scientific and rational explanations. Modernism taught Christians that certian explanations of the world had to be either true or false.

In the twentieth century, scholars believe we are headed into a new time period called the Post-modern era, which began around 1980. Post-moderns want to ask the question, “why does it matter what God is like.” They are not interested in whether something can be proven, unless it can be applied to their lives, empirical data is not enough. This has a huge impact on the way Post-moderns do theology. They are not interested so much in which theologies are right or wrong, theology is used to help apply doctrine to their lives.
Post-moderns normally look for truths that apply to their situations in any theological system.

Tomorrow I will talk about what I see as the positives and the negatives of Post-modern thought for Christians.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Question 2: God's Power

Question 2: If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big he can’t move it?

I am sure most people have asked this question before. (If you haven’t, you should. All the popular people are) Most of the time it is asked rather sarcastically, but there is a good point behind the question. The intent of the question is to ask, “Is there anything that God cannot do?”

This question goes back somewhat to the discussion I had a couple of days ago in explaining open knowledge. If you will remember, I said that there are some things God cannot do because that would be impossible. For example, it would be impossible for God to create a married bachelor or a square circle. Those things would be absolutely impossible. C.S. Lewis calls this intrinsically impossible because it carries impossibility within itself. These things would be impossible in all worlds for all agents. The same would be true for our question. Lewis goes on to say that intrinsic impossibilities are actually nonentities. In other words, asking if God has the power to create a married bachelor, a square circle, or creating a rock so big that God could not carry is nonsense because those things do not exist. Those are not “real questions.” Lewis concludes then, that God can do all things that a possible to do.

I also want to suggest that there is another question that is of greater importance than whether or not God can do anything. That question is this. “Are there certain things that God will not do?” This is, I believe a far more difficult question to answer. When we examine the world, we see lots of times in which we think God should intervene and perform a miracle and yet he doesn’t. Then, we hear reports from other people that claim God intervened in their life in an extraordinary way. I am not sure there is a real pattern to this. All I can conclude is that God does interact with the world, but there are times when he will not.

I do think there is one issue where we can conclude that God does not do. I think God does everything possible to help humanity respond in a positive way to his love. However, I do not believe God will override our freewill in order to bring about a faithful response from us. I think God does everything short of overriding human freedom in order to save people. Note that God could override our freedom, however, I believe he chooses not to in order for people to enter into a true loving relationship with him.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Question 1: God's Knowledge and Freewill continued

Yesterday I noted that I believed the best way to solve the problem of God’s knowledge and human freedom was to have a better understanding of what it means for God to know. I gave three options for doing this. The first was the Eternal Now, meaning that God is beyond or outside of time and views all of human history and the future as one event. Second, was to believe in middle knowledge, meaning that God created the world based on the knowledge of what every free person would do in any given circumstance. Finally, I presented the option of open knowledge which means that God knows everything that can possibly be known, including all the potential choices a person could make in all possible scenarios. However, God does not know with absolute certainty what a person with freewill will do until they make the choice. This would be impossible. God is still all-knowing because he knows everything that is possible to know. God is still completely sovereign because God uses our free choices to bring about his ultimate will.

In my own opinion, views one and two, namely the Eternal Now and middle knowledge do not completely solve the problem of God’s knowledge and freewill. I do think they are better solutions than accepting a compatabilist view of freedom, but they still do not solve the problem. For example, the Eternal Now view still holds that the things you do in the future are determined as far as God can see. The actions that you have not completed on earth are completed from God’s vantage point. Therefore, God still knows your futures choices with absolute certainty. If this is the case, then we are back to square one because God’s absolute knowledge cannot be wrong and we could not choose something other than what God already knows we will choose.

Middle Knowledge has the same problem. God creates a world based on what he knows we will do in any given situation. Therefore, after God’s decision to create the world, we do not have the power to change the world God has already created. God still knows with absolute certainty our future actions and we cannot change them. In fact, I think this view has another problem. If God knew from the beginning of time that there was no circumstances in which someone would accept Jesus and have salvation, would it not have been better for that person to not be created? If God is creating the best possible world and he knows the best way for us to accept Jesus, should we not all be able to accept him. If middle knowledge is true, God must have created some people knowing that they would never accept God’s offer of salvation. This does not seem like a God of love.

I do think open knowledge does the best job of accounting for God’s knowledge and human freedom. God knows everything that can be known, thus being able to remain sovereign over the world he created. Yet, God does not determine our actions, giving us the freedom to choose. You may say, “That means God is taking a big risk?” I agree. God is taking a huge risk, but I believe God thinks that the risk is worth the payoff. Freedom equals true love and that is what God wants from us.

One more note before I finish this question. God could have created a world in which all things were determined in advance. He could have created people that would always respond in a positive way to him. God had the power to create any type of world that he wanted. However, I believe he chose to create a world in which humanity can make free moral choices. God chose this world because it was the best possible one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Question 1: God's Knowledge and Freewill continued

As I noted yesterday, I do not think we can answer the question of God’s knowledge and freewill by changing the definition of freedom. In order for us to be free we must accept the libertarian view of freedom which says there may be things in our lives that influence our decisions, but these influences are not sufficient causes, meaning we are free to choose other than what we do. If this is the case, then how can we be free to make choices if God already knows what we will choose?

The first way to answer this question is to say that God sees all of our actions as the eternal now. What this means is that God is outside of time and he sees our past, our present, and our future as if it were one moment. This view says that if God can see all of our moments in one instant, then we can remain completely free when it comes to making choices. God only sees our actions, he does not cause them. John Wesley describes it like this,

God, looking on all ages, from the creation of the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all the children of men, knows everyone that does or does not believe, in every age or nation. Yet what he knows, whether faith or unbelief, in nowise caused by his knowledge. Men are free in believing and not believing as if he did not know it at all. John Wesley “On Predestination”

The second option for answering the question of God’s knowledge and human freedom is to believe that God has middle knowledge. This theory is often called Molinism, named after Luis de Molina. Middle knowledge gets its name because it comes between God’s natural knowledge and God’s free knowledge. God’s natural knowledge are the truths that are necessary, like mathematics and logical truths. God’s free knowledge is the knowledge that God has based on his decision to create. These truths are contingent because God could have created a world other than the one he created. Therefore, Middle knowledge is the knowledge of what all possible created free wills would do in all possible circumstances or states of affairs before God decided to create our world. God created a world (free knowledge) based on what he knew all created free wills would do in all possible circumstances (middle knowledge).

If you are not totally confused yet, lets move on to option three. If you are totally confused, just wait, it gets worse. The next option is called open knowledge. This view says that God knows all things that are possible to know, however, since future undetermined free actions are impossible to know for certain, our future free actions cannot be known to God with certainty. I am sure this sounds like blasphemy, but let me explain a little more.

Yesterday we asked this basic question, “Is God’s foreknowledge compatible with human freedom?” The open knowledge view answers the question by saying, “No, not in the traditional way that we understand God’s knowledge.” Therefore, the proponent of this view believes, as Jerry Walls notes, that “if an action is foreknown with infallible certainty, that action can’t be free. (Why I am not a Calvinist)” The open knowledge view basically says that God does know all things that are possible to be known, but there are certain things that are not possible to know, not even to God. This makes more sense if you view it in light of God's power. For example, God cannot create a married bachelor or a sqare cirlce. Likewise, God cannot know with certanity something that a free creature will before the event happens.

You may be asking, “Does this mean that God is not in complete control of the world.” I want to suggest that this view still places God as sovereign in our world. The open knowledge view allows for the future to be open ended, but God is still in control. Instead of God determining our future actions, he works through our free choices in order to accomplish his will. It is also important to note that God does know all the potential choices a person can make and all the possible scenarios the world can have so that no matter what choice we make, God can anticipate and plan for his response in order to accomplish his will.

Tomorrow, we will continue this topic and I will tell you which view I choose and why.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Question 1: God's Knowledge and Freewill

Over the next several weeks, I am going to be answering some questions that were turned in by our college students. Some of these questions are more philosophical and some are more centered on biblical interpretation. I hope these questions and my answers will spark your own thoughts around these issues. I am not trying to give easy answers so that you will know what to think. I am hoping to make the reading think through the issues involved.

Question 1: If God knows everything because he is God, then how do we have freewill? Wouldn’t his knowledge mean that he caused (our actions) it?

This is a great question to ask. This question has been greatly debated among theologians and philosophers. To begin with, I want to restate the question. The question is: If God knows what we are going to do in the future, do we have the freedom to do something different than what God knows we will do? For example, as I am answering this question, I know that I am going to eat lunch with the other pastors from our church. It is my turn to pick the restaurant and I have narrowed it down to two choices. I can either choose Chilies or Taco Mac. If God knows the future then he already knows which choice I am going to make. If God knows that I will choose Chilies then in one hour when I make my choice, do I really have the freedom to choices Taco Mac. If I did choose Taco Mac, then God’s knowledge would be wrong. So, do I have the freedom to choose something contrary to what God knows I will choose?

The first way to answer this question is to change the definition of freedom. The opposite of freedom is called determinism. This means that all of our choices in life have a sufficient cause so that we COULD NOT have acted in a different way. If one holds this view, then there are no moral consequences to our actions because we could not have acted in a different way.

The opposite view is called libertarian freedom which means that we are free in making our decisions. There may be things in our lives that influence our decisions, but these influences are not sufficient causes, meaning we are free to choose other than what we do. This is the type of freedom our question is assuming because if God knows the future, then we COULD NOT choose other than what God knows to be true.

There is one way around our predicament and that is to redefine what it means to be free. We would accept a notion of freedom called compatabilism. In this view, there are sufficient causes for all our choices so that we COULD NOT act differently than we do, but we are also morally responsible for our actions because we choose them freely. This notion of freedom says that we all behave the way we desire to behave, therefore we are completely free in our actions, however we cannot change our desire to behave a certain way. For example, if a friend of yours was caught robbing houses and you held this view of freedom you would conclude that your friend has a choice to rob the house he did and therefore is morally responsible for his actions, however, he could not change his desire to rob houses.

The way compatiblism answers the question that we have posed above is that God knows the future and his knowledge does mean that you have no choice in your actions; however, we are still morally responsible for our actions. We still make free choices, even if our freedom is limited to our desires which we cannot change.

Although this is the move most Calvinist make in defending freedom and God’s knowledge, I do not think it is the best answer to the question. It is an answer, but I still do not think it solves the problem. In this view, we are still not free to make choices and we will never be able to choose anything contrary to our desires. We cannot make a free choice to accept God unless God changes our desire for him. Therefore, our freedom is still limited by God’s knowledge. I believe we must maintain a view of libertarian freedom. If we are going to so this, we must reexamine what it means for God to know something.

Next, we will attempt to answer this question by looking at what it means for God to know .

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nov. 5, 2005
Mark 9:1-13
Refusing to be Taken In

In the book The Last Battle the dwarfs have been fooled by the Ape into believing that Alsan was living in the barn. When King Tirian tries to convince them to follow him they refused saying they would not be fooled again. In one of the final scenes, the King, along with Eustace and Pole meet Lucy and Peter in the barn. For them, the barn is a paradise. They see the dwarfs circled around and the dwarfs are not seeing the same thing as they are. The Dwarfs believe they are in the pitch black inside a smelly stable. When Lucy pleads with Alsan to do something for them, this is what happens.

Alsan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared in the Dwarf’s knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a Stable…. “You see,” said Aslan. They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

The reason this story reminds me so much of the transfiguration of Jesus is because on the mountain Peter, James, and John see the greatest sight of their lives. As they come down the mountain, they have the choice of either allowing this moment to shape them or they can shape the moment into what they want it to be.

This is true for all of us. God reaches out to us and we can allow those moments to define who we are or we can redefine the moment into what we want it to be. The dwarfs chose to take this moment and believe they were in a stable while the others took the moment as something marvelous. As we experience God, I hope we will allow God to shape our lives.

Nov. 4, 2005
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord
Mark 8:27-30

In the book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter and Susan go to ask the professors advise about a troubling situation. Lucy has claimed to them that she went into a wardrobe that has led her into another world. The other children do not believe her so she becomes very upset. Then, her brother Edmund also finds the world of Narnia but tells the others that Lucy is making it all up. Peter and Susan go to ask the professor who they should believe. This is his answer.

There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.

This is the same type of logic Lewis uses to defend Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God. He says that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, so he was either lying when he claimed it or mad when he said it, or else he was who he said he was. Lewis says this to point out that Jesus could not have been “just” a good moral teacher. He was either a devil or God.

In Mark 8, Jesus asks Peter who Peter thinks he is. Peter responds “the Christ”. Peter had been around Jesus enough and seen the things he had done to be convinced of this. Although I am sure Peter did not understand the full implications of this, Peter did believe it. The question we have to answer is “Who do we say Jesus is?” Is Jesus who he said he was? I certainly believe so.
Nov. 3, 2005
Rowing Into Darkness
Mark 4:34-41

As the ship battered crew near the end of their journey in The Voyage of the Dawn Trader they encounter The Dark Island. Their ship moves into total darkness which begins playing mind tricks with them. Just as they are beginning o go mad and give up on finding a way out of the darkness Lucy sees a sign of hope.

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them…. But no one but Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face. In a few moments the darkness turned into a grayness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm blue world again.

Just as Aslan came and gave hope to Lucy and then lead the ship out of the darkness, Jesus in Mark 4 calms the storm when the disciples believe they are perishing. Jesus reminds the disciples to have faith, just as Aslan reminds Lucy to have courage.
The amazing thing about these stories is that we are reminded that although there are dark times and storms, Jesus is the one who will calm the storm and bring us into the sunshine again. Jesus is just asking us to have courage that he is in control. So, if you are in the midst of the storm, hold on and have faith.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nov. 2, 2005
Heart Sinking Work
Mark 6:33-44

Just before the story I mention yesterday in Voyage of the Dawn Trader, Eustace had decided not to work when the ship needed to be repaired. Here is the story.

As Eustace lay under a tree and heard all these plans being discussed his heart sank. Was there going to be no rest? It looked as if their first day on the longed-for land was going to be quite as hard as a day at sea. Then a delightful idea occurred to him. Nobody was looking- they were all chattering about their ship as if they actually liked the beastly thing. Why shouldn’t he simply slip away? He would take a stroll inland, find a cool, airy place up in the mountains, have a good long sleep, and not rejoin the others till the day’s work was over.

In Mark 6:33-44, the disciples are confronted with a similar problem as Eustace, it was late for them and the place was barren. They told Jesus that he should send everyone home so they could bye themselves something to eat. Then, Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” I am sure the disciples felt like Eustace. They probably wished they could have snuck off somewhere until the work was done.

Unfortunately sometimes, we are all called to “feed” people when they are hungry, both spiritually and physically. These stories remind me that there is no such thing as “my time.” It is all “God’s time” The sooner will all understand that the more effective our witness for God will be. I do think rest is important, but we are still resting on God’s time so that we can feed others.
Nov. 1, 2005
Being Stripped of Dragonish Ways
Mark 5:1-20

In the book Voyage of the Dawn Trader, Eustace makes his first trip to Narnia. He is a very selfish person. In one scene, he decides not to work and to take a nap. He sleeps in a dragon cave and finds that when he wakes up he has been turned into a dragon. It is during this time that Eustace realizes his own selfishness and relies on Aslan to transform him back. Here is the account of that transformation.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off… Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off… and there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.

In Mark 5, we meet a man who is demon possessed. Nothing he could do would get rid of the demons. Instead he had to rely on Jesus to cast the demons out of him. It was then that he became a new person. Afterward, the man was “clothed and in his right mind.”

Whether we are selfish like Eustace or have made major mistakes in our lives, Jesus is the one who can transform us and make us into a whole person again. The process my hurt some, but in the end the pleasure will be watching God peel off the ugly part of us and replace it with something nice. I hope we will all allow God to transform us.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Oct. 31, 2005
"Shift Controls the Narnians"
Mark 2:56-3:6

In the book The Last Battle, Shift, the ape, takes over Narnia and orders all the animals to work against their will. He says to them, “You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you’re wrong. That isn’t true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you.”

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus confronts a similar problem. Instead of Shift making people work against their will, the religious leaders of the day, in order to preserve the Sabbath, had made a lot of laws in order to control the people. The Sabbath was no longer a day to honor God and rest, it had become a burden. In chapters two and three, the religious leaders get mad at Jesus because his followers are picking grain and Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. The rules and regulations of the religious leaders had become so strict, that Jesus could not even heal a person on the Sabbath because that was considered “work.” Jesus confronts his accusers and says, “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath,” and he says the Sabbath is a day for doing good.

I hope we will use the Sabbath as a day to rest and regain energy for the next week. I also hope the Sabbath will become a time for us to worship God and to do good things for others. True freedom is being able to follow God and doing what pleases him.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oct. 27, 2005
"Sticky Situation"
Mark 5:21-43

In the story The Silver Chair, Jill, Eustuce, and Puddleglum are on a mission to rescue the prince. They find the prince, but he has had a spells cast on him and he is bound to a chair in order to restrain him. The three heroes have a decision to make. Do they follow through with Aslan’s orders and free him which may mean they loose their lives to this madman or do they abandon the mission and save themselves.

“Oh, if only we knew!” ‘I think we do know,” said Puddleglum. “Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb. “I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole (Jill) what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that does not let us off following the sign.” They all stood looking at each other with bright eyes. It was a sickening moment. “All right!” said Jill suddenly. “Lets get it over. Goodbye everyone.” They all shook hands.

This is a great story about having faith in something even when you do not know the outcome. The three heroes only knew what they had been told by Aslan, then did not know that that everything would be alright.

In the story on the woman with blood in Mark 5 illustrates this same faith. The woman had faith that if she could just touch Jesus he would heal her. She also knew that coming out into the crowded streets while she was unclean was a risking thing. She had no idea how the crowd would react or how Jesus would do when she touched him, but she went for it anyway. In the end, Jesus tells her “Your faith has made you well.”

I believe these stories are challenging us to follow Jesus, even when we are not certain of the outcome. I think it will be our faith that will see us through.
Oct. 26, 2005
"Uncle Andrew and Hearing"
Mark 4:1-25

One of the most intriguing parts of the book The Magician’s Nephew is Uncle Andrew’s inability to hear the animals talk. The children hear all the animals plainly speaking while all Uncle Andrew hears are animal noises.

"I must have imagined it. I've been lettin my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing? "And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.

The problem with Uncle Andrew’s hearing seems to be that he was trying to make himself believe that all he heard was roaring and as Lewis points out, the trouble with this is that you often succeed.

In the gospels, Jesus tells a similar story about a farmer scattering seed. Only a small portion of the seed actually produces a good crop. Jesus goes on to say that some people will see and not perceive and hear but not understand. Then, in Mark 4:23, Jesus gives us the key to being able to understand. He says, “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! Be sure to pay attention to what you hear. The more you do this, the more you will understand.” Understanding is not based on hearing facts; it is based on the perception of the listener. If we listen with a receptive mind, then we will hear the truth. If we mentally tune out what we are listening for, we will not understand.
Lewis goes on to say, "what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Oct. 25, 2005
"Fending off a Lion"
Mark 2:1-12

In the book A Horse and His Boy, Shasta and Aravis are on horseback running from the Calormene army when the following scene takes place.

Before they reached him, the lion rose on its hind legs, larger than you would have believed a lion could be, and jabbed at Aravis with its right paw. Shasta could see all the terrible claws extended. Aravis screamed and reeled in the saddle. The lion was tearing her shoulders. Shasta, half mad with horror, managed to lurch toward the brute. He had no weapon, not even a stick or a stone. He shouted, idiotically, at the lion as one would at a dog. “Go home! Go home!” For a fraction of a second he was staring right into its wide-opened, raging mouth. Then, to his utter astonishment, the lion, still on its hind legs, checked itself suddenly, turned head over heels, picked itself up, and rushed away.

In this story, Shasta comes to the rescue of his new friend Aravis, even when it could have placed his own life in jeopardy. In the story found in Mark 2:1-12, four men place their own life in harms way as the cut a whole in the roof of a house to lower a paralyzed man on a matt to Jesus. In both these cases, we see examples of people risking their own well being in order to help someone else. I would call them “real heroes” We all need to be a hero to somebody else and lead them to Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Oct 24, 2005
Jill’s Surprise Task
Mark 1:1-20

In the book The Silver Chair, Jill (Pole) and Eustace (Scrubb) find themselves in Narnia. It is Jill’s first visit and she sees herself face to face with Aslan. Then he gives her a task.

“Please, what task, Sit?” said Jill.

“The task for which I have called you and him out of your world.”

This puzzled Jill very much. “It’s mistaken me for someone else,” she thought. She didn’t dare to tell the Lion this, though she felt things would get into a dreadful muddle unless she did.

“Speak your thought, Human Child,’ said the Lion.

“I was wondering- I mean- could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to- Someone- it was a name I wouldn’t know- and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.”

“You would not have called me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion. “Then you are the Somebody, sir?” said Jill. ‘I am. And now hear your task.”

The story of Jill’s encounter with Aslan reminds me Jesus’ encounter with the disciples. Jesus meets some fishermen and he calls out, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people.” When Jesus calls us, he gives us a job to do. I truly believe God has a purpose for each person and when we respond to God’s call, we begin working with him to fulfill that purpose. I hope we will all be ready to hear our task.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

October 19, 2005
“Those Faithful Recabites”
Jeremiah 35:1-19

As I was reading through Jeremiah, I came across a group of people called the “Rebabites”. I had never heard of them before, but apparently the come from a story in 2 Kings. A guy named Jehonadab (great name huh!) helped King Jehu end Baal worship in Israel. This group of people who helped Jehonadab were told not to drink wine or build houses.

In Jeremiah 35, this same group of people is still upholding their vow not to drink wine or build houses. God tells Jeremiah to invite them into the Temple and prepare wine for them to drink. The “Rebabites” refuse to drink because they had made a vow. God tells Jeremiah that these people will be blessed because they have been keeping their covenant while the people in Judah have not. God’s promise to them is that they will always have descendants who serve God.

I do not know about you, but I have to take my hat off to those “Recabites.” It is not always easy to stay faithful to your commitments. I would imagine there were times when they would have wanted to give up on them, especially after their land was taken by the Assyrians. Now they are being threatened by the Babylonians. Some would wonder, “What’s the point?” Well, the point is, they were faithful to their word. No matter how insignificant that may seem, God honored their faithfulness. I think this goes to show us that when we are faithful, even in the things that seem insignificant, God will honor it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oct. 17, 2005
“The Truth Hurts”
Jeremiah 28:1-9

One of the most difficult things to do is to tell someone the truth when the truth hurts. Michael R. Baer, in an article entitled Silence isn’t Always Golden tells of a situation in the church he serves. He writes,
We wanted to have something special for the children in our services, so one of our ladies volunteered to deliver a children's sermon. These sermons, however, quickly became discourses aimed at the congregation. (After all, what do three-year-olds care about the various theories of inspiration or eschatology?) I needed to correct the situation. But the best I could manage was to drop little hints.
I am sure we have all been in this situation, whether it is with a family member, friend, or a co-worker. We have all been faced with having to tell the truth, even when the truth is hard to tell. In Jeremiah 28, the prophet Hananiah had the difficult task of telling the truth to the Israelites about their future. God had told Jeremiah to wear a yoke around his neck to show the people that there would be taken into exile by the Babylonians (Which did happen). When Jeremiah shows up at the temple, Hananiah takes the yoke off Jeremiah’s back and breaks it in order to tell the people that they would return from exile in two years. Unfortunately, this was false information. Jeremiah told the people it would last for seventy years. Hananiah was not doing the people any good because he could not handle telling the truth when the truth was hard to handle.

I think we can all learn from this lesson in Jeremiah. Most of the time, people need to know the truth. Not only that, I believe people want to hear the truth. They may be upset for the moment. After all, Jeremiah was treated pretty poorly for telling the truth, but it is his truth that we still read today that helps draw us closer to God. The truth does hurt, but it is important. I hope we will find compassionate ways to share the truth, even when it is difficult.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 12, 2005
“The Potter and the Clay”
Jeremiah 18:1-10

I recently read a story by Chelsea Chin called the Potter and the Clay. The story goes:

There was a couple who used to go to England to shop in the beautiful stores. This was their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery and especially teacups. One day in this beautiful shop they saw a beautiful teacup. They said, "May we see that? We've never seen one quite so beautiful." As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke.

"You don't understand," it said. "I haven't always been a teacup. There was a time when I was red and I was clay. My master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and I yelled out, 'let me alone,' but he only smiled, 'Not yet'".

"Then I was placed on a spinning wheel," the teacup said, "and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting dizzy!" I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, "'Not yet.'" Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I wondered why he wanted to burn me, and I yelled, and I knocked at the door. I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head, 'Not yet.'

Finally the door opened, he put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. 'There, that's better,' I said. And he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. 'Stop it, stop it!' I cried. He only nodded, 'Not yet.'

Then suddenly he put me back into the oven, not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. All the time I could see him through the opening nodding his head, saying, 'Not yet.' Then I knew there wasn't any hope. I would never make it. I was ready to give up. But the door opened and he took me out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later he handed me a mirror and said, "Look at yourself." And I did. I said, "That's not me; that couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful."

I think this is a good explanation of Jeremiah 18:1-10. Jeremiah was looking in on a potter who made a jar, but the jar did not turn out. The potter then takes the jar and squashes it in order to start again afresh. The message for Israel is that God has the same authority to start over with them and create a new nation. Just as the clay has to be molded into a jar, Israel must allow itself to be molded into the nation God has called them to be. Just as the story above and the story in Jeremiah indicate the clay can be molded into a beautiful piece of art when it allows itself to be shaped. In the same way, if we will allow God to mold us, we will become the people God has called us to be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oct. 11, 2005
"Chruch Belongs to Jesus"
Jeremiah 7

Adam Hamilton in his book Leading Beyond the Walls asks the question, “To whom does the church belong?” This is what he says,

The church does not belong to the denomination, the bishop, or the denominational hierarchy, even if each has a ‘trust clause’ in the church’s legal deeds stating the contrary. The church does not belong to the pastor. The church does not belong to the choir director or any other staff member, even if these if these people have been in leadership for decades. The church does not belong to the lay leadership, the board, or any other official group in the church- not even the trustees. And no, the church does not belong to the members, though without them it would cease to exist. The church belongs to Jesus Christ.

I think this is a message the Jewish people had forgotten in the Old Testament as well. In Jeremiah 7, Jeremiah goes to the Temple and says, “Do you think that because the Temple is here you will never suffer? Don't fool yourselves! Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and worship Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, "We are safe!" – only to go right back to all those evils again? Do you think this Temple, which honors my name, is a den of thieves?” They had taken a place designed to honor God’s name and use it to honor their own.

As we reflect on this passage we are reminded that the church should never be a place designed to honor ourselves. The church is not in existence to satisfy our own wants and needs. The church is not a place where we can come and “be in charge.” The church is not a country club for us to meet friends. The church is here to give honor and glory to Jesus Christ. I do hope we get our needs met at the church, but I hope our needs are met because we are worshipping God and through our worship, our lives are being transformed and we are living out God’s will for our lives. This passage challenges us to look critically at ourselves rather than look critically at the worship leaders. Remember, the church belongs to Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Oct. 10, 2005
Hollywood Marriages”
Jeremiah 3

As I read through the first five chapters in Jeremiah, I could not help thinking about Hollywood marriages. This is in part to watching a special about Britney Spears. You may remember on New Years she married a long time friend Jason Alexander in a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. Fifty-five hours later, the marriage was annulled. The commentator on E-TV said that it was not really a marriage, “just a joke gone too far.” Britney is not the only Hollywood couple with marriages ending quickly. Starts such as Drew Barrymore, Tom Green, Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, and of coarse Elizabeth Taylor and her eight marriages.

Just as Hollywood stars have had trouble being faithful in their marriages for whatever reason, Jeremiah accused Israel of being faithless in their covenant with God. He says that Israel is like a prostitute sitting around watching for a client. Jeremiah is making reference to Israel worshiping other gods when they have committed themselves to worshiping the one true God who delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians.

Just as Jeremiah warns the Israelites about committing adultery with other gods, we are reminded of our covenant with God through Jesus Christ. I fear that sometimes our relationship with God becomes more like a “joke gone too far” than a marriage. We can duck in and out of our commitment to God based on what feels right. However, we are to remain faithful to God by keeping Jesus our first love.

The good news is that Jeremiah tells the people that although they are like “wayward” children, God will heal their “wayward” hearts. God wants to be our first love. I hope we will be faithful to our marriage to the one true God.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oct. 6, 2005
“The Good News”
Isaiah 56

Brian McLaren, in his book A Generous Orthdoxcy says, “Remember in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its nonadherents. [T]he gospel brings blessings to all, adherents and nonadherents alike."

In Isaiah 56, the writer is reminding his readers that God’s blessings also extend to those people who were not born Jewish. I think it is safe to say that the Jews in Old Testament times felt they were the only ones who could experience God’s blessing because they were God’s chosen people. They had forgotten that God had told Abraham that he would not only be blessed, but that he would be a blessing to other nations. They had forgotten that God called them to be a royal priesthood so that God’s salvation would extend to the world. In other words, God’s election for Israel was for the purpose of extending grace to the world. As verse three indicates, “God’s blessing is for Gentiles too, when they commit themselves to the Lord.”

Brian McLaren poses as a real challenge to us as Christians because we tend to fall into a similar line of thinking as the Jewish people of the Old Testament did. We sometime get into the mindset that our election and salvation is only for our benefit. We see the church as being the only ones capable of receiving God’s blessing. This passage reminds us that our salvation should change the world because we are sharing God’s love with the world. Therefore, the good news is that God wants to bless everyone. As Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” Remember, the gospel brings blessings to everyone

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

October 5, 2005
"In God We Trust"
Isaiah 44:9-20
As I was reading through Isaiah, I was reminded of some words by
Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ. He says, "Whatever I can desire or imagine for my comfort, I do not look for it here, but hereafter. For even if I alone could have all the comforts of the world and enjoy its delights, it is certain that they could not long endure. Therefore, O my soul, you cannot be fully comforted or have perfect refreshment except in God, the comforter of the poor and patron of the humble."

In Isaiah 44, Isaiah confronts Israel because they are relying on idols instead of God for their help. Remember, the people are in exile and God is telling the people through Isaiah that God plans on brining the Jewish people back home. Apparently, Israel has been turning to idols instead of trusting in God because in several places ( Isaiah 41:21-24, 44:6-20, 46:1-2, 5-7, 47:12-14, and 48:5) Isaiah compares the one true God of Israel to the idols Israel has been turning to . He goes into great detail about how idols are made and fastened together. An idol does not know the future nor can it help in a time of need. After all, it is just a block of wood. Isaiah pleads with the people to put their trust in the one true God.

If we are honest with ourselves we may have to admit that there are times when we turn to idols for our help and comfort in times of distress. They may not be made of wood and we may not call them gods, be we use them in our times of need for comfort. We say things like, “If I just had more money then I could make it.” Sometimes we turn to the god of alcohol or we become a workaholic to find our comfort. Oftentimes we turn to our relationships and make them into a god. Thomas a Kempis reminds us that nothing in this world will endure; rather we find our refreshment in God. Even our money reminds us that, “In God We Trust.”

Monday, October 03, 2005

October 4, 2005
Isaiah 40:27-31

Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. From what I can tell, chapter 40 provides a dramatic shift in the narrative. Some people say it begins a second book within Isaiah. Up to this point, Isaiah has primarily been a warning to Israel that if they continue in their sin, they will be removed from their land. Chapter 40 begins with a proclamation of comfort because God has pardoned Israel's sins. A messenger will come and prepare the way for God and the proclamation of good news.

Verse 27 picks up this same theme by telling of how God has not only heard the cries of Israel, but responded. Israel has been an underdog to other nations who have come in and swept them away into exile. Although these nations are strong, they do not compare to the God of Israel who has taken notice of Israel’s cries for help. Unlike even the strongest nation, God never grows weary, but gives strength to those who are weak. Isaiah tells his readers that if they wait on the Lord, He will lift them up on wings of eagles so that they will run and not grow weary.

This reminds me of a song by Audio Adrenaline called Underdog. Here are the words,

I am so weak and I'm so tired
It's hard for me to
Find enough strength to feed the fires
That fuel my ego
And consequently all my pride has all but died
Which leaves me
Down on my knees
Back to the place I
Should have started from

Been beat up
Been broken down
Nowhere but up
When you're facedown
On the ground
I'm in last place
If I place at all
But there's hope for this underdog !
That's the way, uh-huh, we like it!
That's the way, uh-huh, we like it!
You can call me the underdog

In many ways, like Israel, I believe we are all underdogs. There are many things in life that beat us down and destroy our pride. Certainly Israel was an underdog compared to some of the mighty nations around them. The good thing about being an underdog though, is that it brings you to your knees and causes you to wait on the Lord. It reminds us that our strength really comes from God. Therefore, there is hope for all of us underdogs because we wait on God’s strength.

October 3, 2005
Found Wanting?
Isaiah 5:1-7
In the movie, A Night's Tale after William defeats Adhemar in the final match, he says to him, "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting." This is the same way God feels about Israel in the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 5 records a love song in which God, the beloved, builds a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. He plowed the land, cleared the stones, and planted a vineyard and expected it to yeild good fruit. Instead, it yeilded fruit that was wild and sour. The writer of Isaiah says that this is a picture of Israel whom God rescued from the Egyptians and prepared a land for them. Instead of being fruitful by being just and righteous, they kill and opporessed the poor. The owner of the vineyard has found Israel wanting.
Just as God found Israel wanting, I sometimes wonder how God finds the church today. Are we people who baring fruit or are we sour because we oppress the poor? Does God find us righteous or unrighteous? I think if we are honest with ourselves and God, we would have to admit that we are found waning.
There is some good news however. In chapter 27 of Isaiah, we find another illustation to the vineyard. This time, Isaiah is saying that we will sing a new song of a pleasant vineyard. One that God will watch over and will water. God can do this because God has exiled Israel from the vineyard for a time in order to purge their sins, but God will restore them and make them prosper.
The good news for the church is that we too can be restored to the vineyard and we can bear fruit for God. We can again be the people God has called us to be and we will be watered and nurtured. I believe our task is to recognize that it is God's vineyard and we are God's laborers called to minister to everyone we come into contact with.