The Symbol of Marriage

For those blessed enough to live under a rock and never watch/read the news, the latest cultural skirmish is about a law on the books in Indiana that codifies religious freedom.  Supporters of those with ‘alternative sexual preferences’ fear that this law will allow for discrimination against this group of people.  The flashpoint for this harrumph was about a caterer refusing to work for a same-sex wedding.

With that as a backdrop… I read an interesting take on this from a secular source.  The author indicated that the caterer/restaurant in question was being hypocritical because they would not serve at this wedding but they would help out the same-sex marriage by providing food to the couple as they lived out their ‘married lives.’  The author says that the owner protests the symbols of gay marriage but help out the substance or marriage – the day-to-day living together that is married life.

It is amazing how much of God’s law is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15).  The author is right – the wedding is a symbol of marriage.  I shiver involuntarily when I see a couple spend upwards of $50,000 to get married, yet fail to get any pre-marital counseling or anything else to help them meet the life that follows the ‘I do’, the wedding cake and the honeymoon.

But what we as Christians must know is this:  our marriages are also a symbol – a picture of Christ and His bride (Eph. 5).  Marriage is one of God’s witnesses to an unbelieving world about Himself.  Marriage spans all cultures and eras – a sign that can be clearly seen by all showing how God cares for His people.  Complitarianism – the idea that men and women are different in function but equal in value – is a key idea lost upon the world but is a sorely needed correction to the biases of today.

The battle for ‘same-sex’ marriage was lost by this culture when divorce (which God hates – Mal. 2) was freely available and socially acceptable.  I pray that the church stays true to the symbol and that all of us strive to preserve and care for what God has joined together.  Pray for your marriage and the marriage of others.  Seek to improve marriage as in institution and the individual marriages that you know.  Give grace when possible and give God glory at all times.  Finally – remember that the light will shine brighter as the backdrop gets darker.  (BTW - It will get darker - evens, come Lord Jesus...)

Agendas

As a sport’s official, I get to see many people react in stressful situations.  Many lessons are learned under such conditions – this is why (originally) that our society supports youth sports.  Character is revealed, too – sometimes to the good and sometimes not.

As happens every year, the character of some was put on display on the baseball diamond.  This involved different people in different leagues in different Alaskan locals, yet I noticed a common theme in all these situations.  (It wasn’t me! – this time…)  Each time, the aggravated party accused the other of having an agenda that is wrong.

As an umpire, this thought of different agenda stuck me as a ‘Duh’ moment.  Of course there are different agendas in an athletic contest.  Each team wants to win – there are two different agendas.  Each player wants to play and be the star.  Many parents want their child to play and be the star – some want it with a passion that more intense that if the parent was playing the game.  A good coach wants to see the growth and development of the players – sometimes more than the win. When I am working at a game, I have a different agenda – no injuries, good competition, rules followed, minimal murmuring and a speedy conclusion.  All these agendas come together in one spot – no wonder conflict ensues.

I was pondering this as I was accused of being against the agenda of a team (victory for them).  My agenda is so totally foreign to that team.  Sometimes, my actions will align with the team’s agenda – other times, my actions will be in conflict with their agenda.  Great eruptions of anger can and do ensue when people are convinced that I am out to 'get them' or I am thwarting theri agenda.  The reality of it all was I had no interest – zero – in their agenda.  My thoughts and actions are towards an entirely different end.  Most of the players have no concept of what I am trying to accomplish.  Yet, through it all, I do have the best interests of the players at heart.  I want the best for all of them - just not the 'best' as they define it.

I see much similarity in this with Joshua 5.  The scene is just before the Israelites attack Jericho.  Joshua is night scouting the city when an unknown figure draws close.  Joshua asks him  “are you for us or for our enemies?” – are you for our agenda or for there agenda?  The response is unexpected – ‘Neither’.   God was not out to establish he agenda of either side.  Rather, God was fulfilling His agenda – the long, slow march to Calvary.  That was the ultimate good – fulfilling our ultimate need.   How short-sighted and foolish are our fleshly agendas!

Romans 8 reads “Since God is for us…”. Remember that God wants the best for us and many times our wants and desires are not the best for us.  Place His ‘No’ to your prayer not as God being against you but as being for you and for an agenda that is more glorious than we can ask or even think.

Easter Eggs, Pixar and God

Recently my family went to see the new Pixar movie “Brave”.  (Sorry, no spoilers nor recommendations from me.) While there, I was reminded of my mother’s axiom – cartoons are not made for kids, but for grown-ups.  She was commenting on my fondness for Bugs Bunny at the time, but the same holds true for Pixar.  The animation in “Brave’ is wonderfully done, with a beautiful, rich Highlands backdrop – a quality that most kids simply overlook for various reasons.

Another thing that I like about Pixar is the many ‘Easter Eggs” that they place in each one of their films.  In modern media, an “Easter Egg” is a ‘hidden’ message, usually a joke known to the creators of the movie.  For example, every Pixar movies has a pizza delivery pick-up somewhere in the film.  Even the medieval “Brave” had the 20th century pick-up truck hidden in the film.  It is a subtle note placed in the movie by the creator of the movie.

As I dig into our VBS curriculum, I am reminded of the same thing: The fingerprints of God are evident in His creation.  If you know Him and know where to look (like an Easter Egg), you can see a subtle message hidden in the creation by the Creator.  The whole of creation points to a loving, careful, wonderful Designer - one who created you and loves you with an everlasting love

Through the history of the Church, God has been seen in His creation.  Martin Luther writes:

Now the whole creation is a face or mask of God. But here we need the wisdom that distinguishes God from His mask. The world does not have this wisdom. There it cannot distinguish God from His mask. When a greedy man, who worships his belly, hears that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4), he eats the bread but fails to see God in the bread; for he sees, admires, and adores only the mask. He does the same with gold and with other creatures.

And from John Piper:

God means for us to be stunned and awed by his work of creation. But not for its own sake. He means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself!

These are but the backside of his glory seen through a glass darkly. What will it be to see the Creator himself! Not his works! Not even a billion galaxies will satisfy the human soul. God and God alone is the soul's end.

If you like Pixar movies, enjoy the Easter Eggs (A-113, John Ratzenberger, etc.).  More importantly, seek out the gems of creation and use them to better worship the Creator – your Creator and hopefully your Savior - Jesus Christ.

Evil shows that God is

Evil shows that God is

This post deals with mature topics. 

I have been following the trial of Jerry Sandusky with more interest than most people in the area. (He was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors – the details are unpleasant and are not helpful in this context)  Some of that has to do with the fact that the trial took place in Pennsylvania, near my aunt’s house.  Some of that has to do with the nature of Mr. Sandusky – he and Joe Paterno were minor demigods in the area where I grew up.  If they were at a football game, scouting players for Penn State football, it was a big deal.

To see the details from the trial was sickening.  Further details that came out after the trial about Mr. Sandusky’s relationship with his adopted children were even more sickening.  The man will spend the rest of his life behind bars, which is good but will not heal the victims.  He will have to answer to his Maker – I pray that Mr. Sandusky knows Christ and that his sins were paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

An interesting sidelight, however, has been the (justifiable IMO) moral outrage over the crimes that Mr. Sandusky committed.  People know that a wrong was done (BTW – so did Mr. Sandusky – why else did he commit his crimes alone in the basement or in the showers after hours? John 3:19).  There has been much outrage over the crimes and why no one did anything.  The question I am asking is – why?

Why are people who believe in moral relativism so upset?  Those who say that we make our own right and wrong are angered over Mr. Sandusky’s choices of right and wrong.  I believe that their anger comes from the imprint of God on their heart (Romans 2:14-15).  There is a right and wrong.  We know that.  We did not makes it – we live by it and when we see gross actions that violate this sense of right and wrong, we get angry.

Where does this sense of right and wrong come from?  God.  Where does this anger come from?  God.  The same anger that burns against this sin burns in the heart of God against all sin – were it not so, He would not be a good and just God.  Evil has been defined as the absence of good and of God.  The fact that evil is – and our passionate reaction to evil – shows us that God is.

Passionate Worship

I have to admit this story gave me a smile.  A kindergarten student was so committed to her parents’ alma mater that she would not color a picture of the mascot from the rival school, even though it was a required assignment in school.  The teacher was not happy, but her parents were pleased that she stuck up for her convictions.  Eventually, the little girl colored the picture (Because Mom said she had to), handed it in and threw it away when she received it back from her teacher.  The story spread like wildfire at the alma mater to the point where the little girl was the guest of honor at a recent Big 12 Conference game.  It is a great, lighthearted story that has at least 2 powerful reminders for Christians.

The first one is – how passionate is our worship of Jesus?  Would we do the same thing for Christ?  How quickly we show our passion at athletic events for our favorite players and teams – would we do the same for the Kingdom!

The second brief reminder is similar – how much does passion for Christ please the Father.  The little girl received great ‘rewards’ for her passion to a university.  How much more will the Lord honor those who have suffered and died for Christ!  In fact , we will ge the greatest reward imaginable – we will receive Him! 

Revelation 21:3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

I hope that these story stir up our passion for the Lord and our desire to honor him in all we are, even at the cost of everything we hold dear in this life. 

KS

Wow!

And they will say, “Come, behold the works of God who multiplies his wonders upon the children of men!” – Psalm 66:5

I hope you were able to watch the Northern Lights from the last solar storm. In Soldotna, they were visible @ 1:30 in the morning – I set my alarm to get up and see them. It is always a spectacular sight and my heart was moved with gratitude.

However, something else moved my heart even more. In order to get a better look at the skies, I drove my younger two children out from town (about 2 miles). There, we could see auroras that were calendar-picture quality. When I pointed them out to my son and daughter, they each said the same word independent of each other – ‘Wow!’

That word gave me such joy – to see my children beholding the majesty and power of God – to together worship Him with that simple exclamation of praise. My prayer for them, for me and for you is that we all maintain that wonder in our hearts at the power, goodness and love of our saving God. I hope God shows you something that will make you say ‘Wow!’ like a child.

KS

Do you think we’ll be saying ‘Wow’ in heaven often? What will you say when you finally see your risen Savior face to face?

The Captain

The collision between a cruise ship and a sand bar near Italy has been big news all around the world. The conduct of the captain has some calling for criminal charges. I liked this quote from CNN, quoting a US Coast Guard veteran, lawyer and Coast Guard Academy Instructor – "If you're going to be master of a ship, your responsibility is first to your passengers, second to your crew, then you look after yourself," said Allen, a Coast Guard veteran. "It's shameless and dishonorable [for the captain] to take himself out of the mix like that."

Jesus made a different choice – to insert Himself ‘into the mix’, so to speak. He chose to identify with a rebellious crew of shipwrecked sinners. As Hebrews 2:9-10 puts it (better than I ever could), "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder (or captain) of their salvation perfect through suffering."

The captain in Italy chose to save himself and was dishonored and worse. Jesus – My Lord, my Savior, my Captain - chose not to save himself, but us. Because of that, God honors Him – and we should to. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:24

KS

Movie ratings

I hope all of you that came out to the Bible Chapel’s showing of the movie Courageous had a great night.  My family did – we thought it was an awesome movie!  While I enjoyed the cinemaphotography, the ending where men were challenged to serve their families was absolutely the best part of the movie.

The very beginning threw me for a surprise, though – a PG-13 rating.  Now I am not going to say that the movie did not have moments of violence and talked about drugs – after all, when you discuss sin, some unpleasant details usually follow, even in Scripture.  No, what threw me was the realization that my 12- and 10-year old children would not be allowed to see this movie in a theater without an adult, yet other movies that are far less redeeming lack that filter.

We need to have filters on out entertainment.  The question, Christian, is what filter do you use?  Do you use the world’s filter of G, PG, etc.?  Or do you do the hard work of digging into the media, analyzing the content against the Bible, and use that – along with your knowledge of your family – to make entertainment decisions?  The latter requires much more work, but brings about much bigger blessings – kinda the theme of Courageous, no?

KS

P.S. – A resource my family uses to help with these decisions is http://www.pluggedin.com/ by Focus on the Family – give it a try!

Strategic Living

Well, Christmas is over and 2012 has begun.  Many people are sad that their decorations have been boxed up until next December.  I am not – my feelings toward Christmas are much more ambivalent.  I enjoy the songs, the Story and the giving spirit that seems to flourish at the end of the year, not to mention the food!  The focus of stuff – material possessions – does not me feeling jolly on December 25th.

I don’t know about you, but I suspect that your house is like mine – you have too much stuff.  I have more clothes than I can use in a month, yet I keep getting more.  Same with movies, books, etc.  There is a part of me that just wants to pitch it all and not have to deal with it – especially on a day when I have to tend to dirty and/or broken stuff that clogs my ‘to-do’ list like leaves in a rain gutter.

Just getting rid of things, though, is not the answer.  My stuff can distract me from the battle that is raging all around – the battle for souls.  A better question that Randy Alcorn asks is this – Does my stuff work towards Christ’s Kingdom or not?  As a soldier of Christ, is this item a strategic necessity or a liability?  Sometimes that book I want will help me grow in Christ; other times that movie ticket will leave me further from His purposes.  This dinner out or vacation might be just the R&R a soldier needs; that 4th dinner out this week might be draining away money better spent (or given away!) somewhere else.

I hope and pray that your checkbook in 2012 will reflect strategic living choices.  Please pray for me that my checkbook will reflect the same.

KS

(For a great resource on this topic, click here.)

Benefits of power...

Since 9/11, a new growth industry has sprung up in the US - security.  More specifically, many corporate and government leaders are hiring bodyguards and private planes for themselves.  The reasons stated are for security.  Cynics note that these people were never likely to be targeted for a terrorist attack or kidnapping threat.  Rather, it appears that they are making themselves look and feel important, all at the expense of another.

This, of course, is in stark contrast to Christ.  In our Elder’s meeting this week, our devotional time focused on the kenosis, or emptying – where Christ voluntarily laid aside the independent use of his divine prerogatives – all to benefit us, the church.

Phil. 2: 5-11Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing ,taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Some take on power to benefit themselves.  Christ relinquished the use of His power to benefit us.  Christian, you know which model is from the world and which is not… 

KS

...is for us

Recently, I saw the pilot of a new TV show.  It was a cross between The Fugitive and the oracles of Delphi, although much darker in tone.  Actually, since the lead actor played Christ in The Passion of the Christ, it was not hard to see a (distorted) form of a trinity among the primary characters.

The reoccurring weekly plot identifies a person who is at the center of trouble, whether they are a victim or and criminal.  The trinity of characters moves to figure out what the problem is, then ‘fixes’ it.  My explanation describes a very generic concept, for sure, but one that was done well in the pilot episode.  I am not giving any specifics because I am not recommending the show, nor is that the reason I am writing this down.  The general outline is helpful to explain my thoughts below…

One scene of dialogue was fascinating.  The smart, rich person in need of someone who will go and rescue the helpless offered the lead actor a chance to ‘be there in time to stop the evil.”  That is the hook that captivated me – wouldn’t it be great to stop the evil?  To prevent bad things from happening?

God can do this, but He chooses not to.  He can stop evil, but doesn’t.  That is the claim of some unbelievers (and some Christians.)  However, a devotional I read that night by J.M. Boice put this discussion into a different framework.  A rough paraphrase of the devotional would read like this – Everything that happens to us is for us.  Again, EVERYTHING that happens to us is for us.  If you believe in the sovereignty and goodness of God, than this thought must follow.

This is a hard truth, but one that ultimately brings comport.  The escapism that TV and movies offer is shallow à why stop at this fix?  Why not fix my bank account?  My job?  My marriage? Etc.  Rather, the comfort that a loving God is bringing about the absolute best in every season of life gives us hope that the pain and suffering that we are going through will not be meaningless.

KS

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

A Tip

I was able to be at the SoHi vs. Grace Christian volleyball match on Saturday.  It was great – a thrilling 5 set match.  Both teams played well, but they both seemed to use an interesting strategy late in the match. 

In volleyball, each team is allowed three hits before the ball must cross over the net.  Most teams try and set the ball near the net for someone to spike the ball hard at the other team.  The defense often rises up to try and block the spike.  To counter, the offense sometimes tips the ball just over the blockers.  It can be an effective weapon – like a change-up pitch in baseball. 

In this match, though, the tips became more and more frequent as the match went along.  A friend of mine who was there agreed with my assessment – they seemed to be playing to not miss, to not lose.  Both teams were more afraid of making a mistake than making a play. 

I think that Christians sometimes feel the same way, especially when it comes to witnessing.  People don’t speak up for fear of making a mistake – a mistake that would turn the person away from Christ.  That is why I am comforted that God is the one who saves.  He can (and does) use our feeble efforts to bring eternal salvation to anyone.  We need to trust God more, be about His business and quit being afraid.  Remember what the Bible says about fear…

I John 4: 16-21  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Love God. Be fearless. 

KS

Flowers

This summer the entrance to the Chapel building was flanked by two huge hanging baskets of flowers.  They are quite pretty – Grace has put much time and effort into the care and feeding of these flowers.  As I look upon them out my window on the autumn(?) afternoon, I am still amazed at the differences between the 2 baskets.

As you enter the building, the flower basket on the left is growing and blooming, but the one on the right seems ready to burst open with all the flowers that are overflowing the planter.  That seemed odd to me at first.  Grace does not play favorites with their food or water.  She spins the baskets on the hooks as she is able to do so.  It seems like they are the same…

The difference, I have decided, is the amount of sun that each basket gets.  The basket to the east is in the shadow of the octagon, library and the overhang for most of the day.  The basket to the west has no such shadows from mid-afternoon until sunset.  Obviously, the one that is growing more gets more of the sun – the impetus behind the growth. 

I think the same is true of us – those that have more of the Son grow more, bloom prettier and bear more fruit than those with less of the Son.  How much has the Son shone on your life recently?   How is your basket?

KS 

I John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life

A hole in my sock

Because I am a sinner, there is a hole in my sock.  No, it is not down by the toe, it is up above the ankle.  Let me explain…

Yesterday, I got a pair of sock out of my drawer.  They were new and still had the plastic thingy that was holding them together.  I began to look for something that I could cut the thing and free my socks.  My family, the people that God gifted to me to live with, saw that I was searching for scissors.  Instead of helping me with the search, the air was filled with exasperated accusations – someone else had not dealt with the scissors properly.  In stead of assistance, I received comments of blame and sin. 

That sin made me upset, which was a sin on my part.  Instead of looking for the scissors, I decided it was not worth it and I would find a better way to cut the plastic thing  (As an aside – I swear that the people who designed plastic attachments for clothes and toys have an equity stake in psychiatric hospitals – they drive me crazy!).  I grabbed a knife and tried to cut.  While I missed cutting myself, I managed to yank the plastic out of my sock, leaving behind a nice pea-sized hole.

My disgust (instead of love) and pride (instead of humility) are sins I committed against my family.  I was wrong.  When I sin, I choose to sin – no one else’s behavior can control mine.  I must recognize my sins, repent of my sins and deal with the consequences – first to the Lord and then to others I have sinned against.

I am going to keep the socks.  My pants hide the hole, but I know it is there.  I pray that God uses the hole to keep me humble, instead of requiring a matching hole for my head.

KS 

I John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.