Sunday, May 31, 2009

House Genius

Good quote from House (the tv show):

Almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything

Think about it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

James - Day 6

Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...

This is where James starts in. We've seen the return to Eden. We know where this is going. We're learning how to be the firstfruits of God's creatures.

This passage (ch. 1, vv. 19-27) was really hard for me to put together at first. But then I made the connection. He refers to each of these three areas (hear, speak, anger) but in a strange order. To be honest, I don't know what the reason is. Maybe we'll find out later. Anyway, he first discusses anger, then hearing, and then speaking.

...for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul.

Okay. So anger isn't helpful in learning to be the firstfruits of God's creatures. Specifically, it doesn't help produce dikaiosune. Dallas Willard describes this "righteousness" as "true inner goodness." God wants this goodness for us. And anger doesn't help us get there. So James makes a suggestion: do away with anger. But not just anger: all the wickedness and filth that goes along with it. And as you remove that... stuff, receive the word. Logos.

But he calls it the implanted word. Implanted? As if it belonged to someone else and it was given to us in order to save us? Sure enough - to save our soul. This word can save us. This truth can save us. And the Greek suggests that it will in fact save us from our sin. Another important observation is that if the word is implanted, that means that we didn't have it before. In other words, someone gave us this truth so that we may live. Powerful stuff. Anger moves us away from that life. Slow to anger is the key.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Off to hearing. Quick to hearing is the advice James gives us. Why? Well, the key is more than just hearing. You guessed it: doing. But obviously, you have to hear before you can ever do. Luckily, these verses are straightforward. It's stupid to listen and not do. So do truth. Hear it. Learn it. Do it. You'll be blessed.

By the way, law of liberty? Gotta love that phrase! So perfect. The truth was implanted so we can live. The law was given so we can have liberty.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.

Slow to speak. The last part James goes into.

The word for religious (threskos) has one and only one appearance in the entire Bible: here. That's not the point. It's just interesting.

The point is this. James is telling his audience: you want good, outward, ceremonial, religious appearance, watch your tongue. Think about what you say.

James adds one last bit on this "religious" topic. And it may or may not come up again. But it closes up chapter one, and I think it's just an interesting statement to conclude with.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

I don't think James is telling his audience that they should do this. I actually think it is closer to being advice for the Pharisees who were all about appearances. Interesting. I like James more and more each verse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Missionary Visit

Last night some Mormon missionaries visited my home. I had ordered a Book of Mormon and it took a while, so they finally brought me a movie too (haven't watched it yet).

It was actually funny because Caitlin and I had left my house a few minutes before and then returned to find our visitors in my living room. My dad was talking to them which was great. He never tells them he's a pastor and he just whips out Bible reference after Bible reference. It's hilarious. I would imagine being quite impressed if I didn't know that he had gone to seminary.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the conversation here.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I didn't say anything. My dad just bantered back and forth with Elder McGrew and Elder Salinas. I listened. Actually, Elder Salinas did most of the talking too. He was from Chile. Mason and Caitlin even sat in for a minute.

They discussed heaven a little bit, and essentially, my dad was trying to show that Mormonism and Christianity were very different and had very different views. Eventually though, Elder McGrew stepped in and began sharing the view of Jesus and Lucifer having different views originally and then a war breaking out. I knew a little about this, thanks to Amanda, so I stepped in.

"So... was there anybody in this war that didn't take a side?"

Both elders just kind of looked at me. Uncomfortably, I might add.

I clarified: "Well, the way I've been taught, there was a third group that remained neutral. And they were cursed with black skin."

"I don't know anything about that," Elder McGrew responded. Rather quickly too.

"Really?" I kept going. "Because Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both taught this belief."

"Wow. That's horrible," my dad said kind of quietly - but you knew what point he was making.

Slowly, the elders began sharing a little. Slowly. It was almost as if they were reluctant to admitting it was true.

Elder Salinas kept saying that Joseph Smith was very concerned about this issue. He said that Joseph Smith prayed about it, and that God never answered that prayer until 1979. There were a lot of other things that could have been discussed on that issue, but eventually the subject changed.

We also discussed historical and archaeological evidence. And I spent about 5 minutes prefacing my question which was really still never answered.

"Don't you think it's at least a little coincidental, or ironic, that Christianity has two thousand years of history and Mormonism doesn't? Archaeologists have confirmed that a man named Jesus existed. They've recovered fishing boats from the first century. Linguistic experts have confirmed that the languages the Bible references were actually used. Mormonism has none of that. The Book of Mormon doesn't even have maps."

Elder Salinas refused. "That doesn't affect me. I have faith. I've prayed about it."

I kept going. "I know it doesn't affect your faith. In fact, I wish I had the kind of faith you had. But that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking you this: doesn't seem at least interesting that atheists will confirm some truths from the Bible, but none from the Book of Mormon?"

He held to his answer: "I've prayed about it. I have faith."

I resigned. "I know you have faith. And I respect that. All I'm saying is that man, it feels awfully good to have faith and believe in something, and then to have my faith confirmed by people who don't even believe the same things I believe."

Nothing. And I really meant it when I said I respect and admire their faith.

The last interesting thing (and I might remember more later) is that when they got up to leave, I asked them for their email addresses because I had some stuff I wanted to send them. But they weren't allowed to give them out because they were LDS emails or something. Very hesitantly, Elder Salinas gave me the address that he wouldn't be checking until he got home. In a month. I told them I was sorry, but I didn't know their names. So they introduced themselves as Elder McGrew and Salinas. I didn't bother specifying for their first names.

But I got a Book of Mormon. I got a movie. And now my research begins. For myself at least. There's still a lot to learn. And I really feel passionate about this subject. It's personal (for reasons I won't go into here). And I need all the help I can get to talk about this subject lovingly with people that I know personally. It's not about arguing to be right - which is always tempting. It's about having a conversation that is open and honest, and loving the person you're talking to for who they are and not what they believe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Here's How Not To Live" and How Helpful That Is

Sometimes I wonder why I still attend the Men's Breakfast.

The only real benefit I find for myself is learning a little more about right-wing Christianity (as if I don't know enough already) each meeting.

This morning we discussed "Carnate Christians." The whole discussion was essentially the phrase "salvation by grace alone" repeated over and over. "If a person believes in God, they go to heaven." Apparently we didn't feel like talking about how to live, just how not to live.

Or maybe we just wanted to feel more comfortable in knowing that no matter how lazy our faith is, no matter how cheap our grace gets, we still go to heaven. Wow. Can't you tell I feel better?

Here's my response.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Decided

I am going to blog again. I really need to. It's summer and there's no reason not to. Somebody keep me accountable.