Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In defense of brotherly love - Samwise Gamgee and Hermoine Granger

As is well known, my favorite book is The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.  In this masterpiece that launched the modern fantasy novel genre, the character of Samwise Gamgee follows his "master" Frodo on the journey to Mordor to destroy the one ring.  It is well known that Tolkien modeled the relationship between Frodo and Sam after the relationship between officers in the British army during WWI and their assistants, known as a "batman".  The relationship between Frodo and Sam is one of the greatest example in literature of brotherly love, loyalty, and friendship.  It should come as no surprise, then, that some would rather view this relationship through a sexual lense, wanting to see the Sam/Frodo relationship as a homosexual one.  Such a view would obviously ignore the intent of J.R.R. Tolkien, as the author, although for many this hurdle means nothing, but it would also destroy the nobility of the relationship for it would take away its most important quality: selflessness.  Sam is loyal to Frodo, and loves him like a friend, is there something wrong with leaving it at that?  Must every relationship have a sexual angle, can nothing be altruistic?
A similar thought occurs with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, it has been reported that the author considered having Harry fall for Hermoine, instead of what she actually wrote which had Harry's friends Ron and Hermoine end up together.  What was written is far superior, however, for it makes the friendship between these three paramount, and their willingness to risk their lives to support Harry in his quest is more noble without the angle of sexual attraction and romance that would have made Hermoine's choice to stay with Harry when Ron left temporarily in the Deathly Hollows a self-centered one instead of a self-sacrificial choice.
Romantic love is crucial to society, helping to hold marriages together, but there is something to be said for simple brotherly love, devoid of sexual connections, for love such as this has often changed the world.  "For God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sermon Video: King Manasseh - Wickedness and Repentance - 2 Chronicles 33

King Manasseh was a wicked man, he lived the majority of his life steeped in idolatry, blasphemy, and he even committed child sacrifice, offering up his own son in a pagan ritual.  As a king of Judah, the covenant people descended of Abraham, Manasseh bears a greater responsibility for his sin than someone who does not know who the LORD is.  By his actions, Manasseh was guaranteeing that both he and his nation would soon face the wrath of God in righteous judgment.  The only question is, can that future judgment be avoided, can such a wicked man repent and be saved?
In a stunning turn of event, Manasseh does indeed repent when brought low by the LORD, and to top it off, God accepts his contrition and forgives him, allowing Manasseh to spend what time remained in his life trying to make amends for his past.
To counter-balance this message of hope for even the vilest of sinners, if that person repents, the remainder of chapter 33 of 2 Chronicles tells briefly of the life of Manasseh's son, Amon, who only reigned as king for two years before he was assassinated.  In those two years, Amon followed the example of the earlier part of his father's life by engaging in much wickedness, but unlike his father, he refused to repent and died in his sins.
All have sinned, all must repent and seek the LORD's forgiveness, but not all are given the multiple chances that were afforded to Manasseh, for Amon only lived till his 24th year, at which point he had to account for his life before God.  Today is the day of repentance, for no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

To watch the video, click on the link below:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sermon Video: Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love? 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Nobody enjoys being corrected, but it is an absolutely necessary part of life, spiritual life being no exception.  Paul had ample reason to bring corrective discipline to bear on the people of the church of Corinth, and yet he chose to do so with a fatherly warning instead of public shaming.  Paul recognized the ineffective nature of using shame against a rebellious heart, focusing instead upon warning them in love.  That Paul eschewed using shame is not an indication that he wasn't serious about the discipline that was needed, in fact, Paul told the people of Corinth that his approach to them would be determined by how they responded to his letter of warning.  If the people accept the warning, he will be able to come to them in gentle love when he visits, but if they refuse to cede their pride to the authority of God's Word, Paul will instead be forced to visit them with the "whip" of tough love.  In the end, what matters is keeping the people of God on the path of holiness, if gentle persuasion works, all the better, if not, love will have to get tough.

To watch the video, click on the link below:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Christians must not advocate falsehoods

This really shouldn't need to be said, but given the current political climate in America, it has become clear that many people who call themselves Christians, from both sides of the political spectrum, have decided that the truth must be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.  In other words, the truth is getting in the way of winning in politics, therefore the truth has become a luxury that can no longer be indulged in.  The goal of winning against political foes has been valued more highly than the character trait of being a disciple of Jesus Christ who honors honesty and the truth.  The resulting common use of half-truths and outright falsehoods, knowingly, is not only weakening our democratic republic, but the ministry of the Church itself and the effectiveness of the Gospel, for it demonstrates that those who have placed the pursuit of power above the pursuit of the truth, have also placed their allegiance to Jesus in a secondary role, at best.
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, a true and committed follower who has been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and given the gift of the Holy Spirit, you cannot serve another master.  The contrast between the kingdom of God, its priorities and methods, and the world in which we live, is very stark.  To "win" by the standards of this world, is to fail in the kingdom of God.  The world values power, fame, and wealth, the kingdom of God values humility, submission to God's will, and service to others.

Psalm 34:12 "Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."
Proverbs 12:22 "The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful."
Proverbs 30:8a "Keep falsehood and lies far from me"
John 8:32 "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 8:44 "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Don't lie to yourself, if you've embraced falsehoods, if you are willingly believing and spreading lies, you're not serving the kingdom of God.  Whatever your goal is, no matter how worthy it may be, pursing it this way is sinful.  It isn't worth it, to tarnish your character for the sake of power in this world is a fool's bargain.  The people of God must be speakers of the Truth, and we must have no patience for those who have chosen instead to embrace lies, nor any part in spreading them.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A world without extra food: The not very distant past.

While reading Tom Holland's The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West, I was struck once more with the realization that most of modern humanity has no real notion as to what life was really like only a few short generations ago before the food surpluses we enjoy came to be following the Industrial/Agricultural Revolution.  Our ancestors lived season to season.  Every spring was a time of want, last year's harvest having been exhausted and this year's produce not yet available.  A single bad harvest could throw a family, a village, even an entire region into famine and starvation.  Is it any wonder that a people living such a precarious existence, while having faith in God, were still superstitious as they looked to the heavens and prayed that nothing would destroy their crop before the harvest.
Famine still exists in the modern world, much of it the result of human malfeasance, but still weather related disasters occur that threaten once more to plunge people into hunger.  There is a profound difference, however, between modern hunger and its past manifestations.  When hail, locusts, or a band of marauders ruined the harvest in 10th century Francia, 12th century Bavaria, or 14th century Ireland, there was no outside help to come to the rescue.  The U.N. did not exist to send relief, nor did international charities, or friendly foreign governments.  We still have humanitarian crisis in our world, and they still do spiral out of control at times, but a possible solution to them always exists.  There is enough food in the world to feed everybody, our ancestors couldn't imagine such abundance.
If you know history, you learn perspective, if you have a reality based perspective on the world, finding wisdom is far easier.  Is life difficult now?  Yes.  Do people suffer in the Third World and in even rich nations?  Of course.  Understanding that things were worse, significantly worse, in the past doesn't minimize the suffering of the present, but it does remind us gratitude ought to be near to our lips far more often than grumbling.  There are a lot of people who don't know what they will eat tomorrow, but gone are the days when nobody could prevent starvation following a bad harvest, shouldn't we be a people who don't have to be reminded to offer up thanksgiving to God?