10 Sure Signs We’ve Lost Our Minds by Trevin Wax

Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition

Documenting the bizarre beliefs and inconsistencies that surface in contemporary discourse…stone faces in berlin

1. We worry about the shallowness and superficiality of online relationships, so we go to FaceBook and Twitter to register our concerns.

2. We are so focused on the newest and latest things that we leave behind the oldest and most foundational things.

3. We’ve turned the virtue of prudence into the vice of prudishness and the vice of impropriety into the virtue of authenticity.

4. We ban soda from schools but make condoms widely available… because corn syrup is a more serious matter for youngsters than sex.

5. We decry the exploitation of women, but cry “censorship” when someone wants decency standards against objectifying women on television.

6. We chide a pregnant mother for smoking because of the harm it does to her child, but we applaud her choice to walk into a clinic and have her baby torn limb by limb and extracted from her uterus.

7. It’s arrogant to buck the current push to redefine marriage, but not arrogant to buck the consensus of virtually every society before us.

8. Citizens who would like to keep the money they earn are “greedy.” Politicians who would take their wealth and give it away are “generous.”

9. We believe in tolerance: everyone can believe whatever they want (as long as they don’t really believe it).

10. We believe every religion should be open and inclusive, but not open and inclusive enough for a Jesus who claims to be Lord of all. 

~~~ Frustrated with our failure to live up to our ideals, we do away with them altogether. And then we feel better for being worse. ~~~

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Please Don’t Say That

A good friend of mine recently sent me a link to a hilarious YouTube video entitled “Shoot Christians Say.” If you grew up in the Bible Belt, spent a week at youth camp every summer, attended every Christian conference imaginable, and are currently plugged into a thriving church with multiple services each Sunday, then this video will make you laugh and cry. If this doesn’t describe you, I’d encourage you to watch it anyway. You’ll get a good glimpse of current church subculture in a little under three minutes time. (You’ll find the video at the end of this post.)

I’ll admit that it is remarkable the “shoot” that Christians say. And while I can laugh at much of it from inside the Christian culture and admit that I too sometimes say the darndest things, there are other words that escape many a Christians’ lips these days that cause me to shudder and cry. And no, I’m not talking about insider Christian terminology, nor am I addressing bad language, bad jokes, or even bad grammer. I’m talking about bad theology; the kind that makes you want to grab a bar of soap and start cleaning your mouth out.

I recently heard of a small group that consisted of about four couples that met regularly for Bible study and fellowship. The group was comprised of couples from the same stage of life, in their 40’s-50’s and with grown kids. At one of their meetings, one of the couples announced some shocking news to the rest of the group; they were not actually married but just living together. This was a big admission, especially in a conservative group of believers from a prominent church in the Bible Belt. There could be some major backlash from letting this out. But after a small explanation from the couple, some awkward moments of darting eyes, and a quick second to gather a response, one of the men in the group dared a reply. “That’s great,” he braved. “It’s obvious that you deeply love one another, care for one another, and have a great relationship. I think God honors your relationship and so do we.”

This is where the rub comes. This response saddens me. I do think it’s correct that the couple was loved and accepted in the group regardless of their marital status, but I find the quick, disarming response that “God honors your relationship” to be misleading and false. God does not, can not, honor something that is contrary to His design and intent.

Now I believe this is just a common example of the things we are hearing from Christians today. It’s not necessarily the exact words that matter in this case but rather the bad ideas behind that words that are upsetting. There are implications spread throughout the conversation of social and cultural pressures that trump basic Biblical knowledge. At the same time the pendulum swings the other way as well. Instead of answers given that soften a Christian position, there are often thoughts verbalized that attempt to stand on a more solid Biblical foundation but that are skewed to the point of being demeaning, pompous, and in similar theological error. Examples abound when we speak of politics, abortion, gay-marriage, and other social topics that are tending to divide many Christians into either a camp that compromises Biblical truth for social harmony or a camp with higher and higher walls to keep the heathen out. My friends, this should not be so.

This is perhaps one of the things that I am most interested in understanding and communicating: how I can keep and proclaim solid, Biblical truth while also keeping open communication and relationships with those who may disagree with my beliefs? Also, how can we live this out in the fellowship of believers as well as in the lives of those outside the church? Anyway, much more on this I need to hash out. So more to come. But first, let’s listen to the “Shoot Christians Say.”

The Empty Courtroom

We may not know where it’s found, what context it’s used in, but we know it’s in there. Grouped with other well-known verses like the Golden Rule and most of the 10 commandments is the Biblical phrase “Don’t judge.” To quote the verse in its entirety we can look to Matthew 7:1 where Jesus, in the middle of his sermon on the mount, proclaims, “Don’t judge people, and you won’t be judged yourself.” And many reading this quietly or enthusiastically proclaim, “Amen! That’s right!”

It appears easy enough on the surface and to our earbud-filled ears it sounds ideal. This has become the anthem of our day and the go-to pitch for cultural peace and harmony. If only everyone lived this out the world would be in such better shape, right? But would it?

Today, we interpret Jesus’ statement as a call for the courtroom of cultural and moral judgment to be being emptied for the sake of tolerance and equality. The new standard is to remove the judge from the stand, adjourn the jury, and simply let people live their lives in peace away from scrutiny. This is becoming the height of cultural perfectionism and to make any statement that even remotely shows disagreement with another’s opinion, choices, or lifestyle is to pick up the judge’s gavel and declare a verdict of guilt. And who are you, or who am I to have such authority to swing that gavel? Therefore, leave it lie. Don’t judge. Clear the courtroom, for the court of public (or even private) opinion is now adjourned.

Yet, upon closer evaluation we discover that this barren hall we desire simply does not and can not exist. How can it? Someone has to sit behind the bench and declare a recess. The court cannot determine this for itself. When someone says “don’t judge” they have just declared a court order, a judgement you could say, on the rights of another. To tell another person not to judge is to determine that your verdict on the situation overrules theirs. You become the judge behind the bench. The same question then arises in different form as we ask who then does has the authority to declare such a verdict?

“Fine,” we may say, “I won’t tell others not to judge, I’ll just practice that behavior myself by not judging others.” Well this sounds fine and reasonable, but you are still elevating your ideals over those of others even if you choose not to express them. At some point, because others will not carry your same sense of quiet rejection of judgment, your values are going to clash with those of others. And what then? And where does this value begin and end? Surely some things are worthy of judgment, while others situations demand judgment. Your value of not judging others simply can not apply to all people and all things in all situations. Life is full of decisions, choices, judgment calls and verdicts of right and wrong. To make those decisions, some sort of court order must be exercised. By this I mean that even your right not to judge others and the extent of that right has to come from somewhere or someone that you deem authoritative. Again the question; how holds such authority? Therefore, the court, even if muted, is still in session.

Then where does this leave us? If we go back to Matthew we find that Jesus alone appears to carry the authority to make such a statement. He alone is the only person who can decree “do not judge” because he is the only man who himself is blameless. He has the moral authority to make this declaration because in the courtroom where we ridicule and fight with one another, Jesus stands above it all clean and guiltless. Therefore, when we look at the Scriptures we see Jesus as judge, as the one who declares right and wrong, guilt and innocence. So, he gets to swing the gavel while we sit in the defendants chair.

In this way, Jesus is right in that we should not judge others. We have no right to judge because we are just as guilty as the person next to us. What an awful place to be in. Each day we find ourselves dragged into the judgement seat. No wonder we want to defer judgment on others because perhaps by doing so we can escape judgment ourselves. But once again, as pointed out earlier, the court is in session and we find ourselves on the stand with a tree in our eye. We plead our case on a daily basis but to no avail. The guilt remains…unless it can be taken by someone else.

At this point the scene in the courtroom changes as Jesus, the innocent and blameless judge, takes our place and receives our sentence upon himself. He has ruled and found us guilty and worthy of death, yet he takes the guilt from us and goes to death on a cross in our stead. As a result, the trial is now over. The courtroom has been cleared because the verdict was handed down when Jesus went to the cross. The moment we believe in Jesus as our substitute, as the one who accepted our conviction upon himself, the gavel fell and the court dismissed. Jesus went to trial for you and for me.

Now I’m no longer required to stand in any courtroom and I can take any opinion leveled at me because I already have my verdict. This verdict also frees me from the need to elevate myself above others because I am as guilty as they are. This freedom has nothing to do with my worth but everything to do with Jesus’ value. No longer am I judged by others because my sentence is in and I have been found innocent by the blood of Jesus.

You see the problem we have with the courtroom is not the judgment, it’s the guilt and sentencing that comes with it. We want the court of law but we don’t want the verdict that we know is coming against us. We want so desperately to avoid our own guilt that we posture to refer from judging the guilt of others in hope that we too will be spared. This is why others want the court dismissed. If we don’t judge others, maybe the log in our own eye will be overlooked.

However, if we just receive God’s verdict in Jesus, then we can actually help one another remove the planks and splinters we have in our eyes. As neighbors we can become closer because our desire to is love and help one another. This just is not possible if we’re all walking around with oaks growing through our pupils. As believers we become free to be judged by others, to be criticized, because the opinion of the only one who counts has been given. And He finds me valuable. He finds you valuable as well.

In Sickness

It’s been eleven straight days of sickness for my family. My wife and both kids are currently taking antibiotics to rid their bodies of the green gunk that clogs their ears, nose, and sinuses. It’s been a messy and tiring week because life continues even when you’re sick. I’ve wanted life to stop, to press pause, and to resume only when we were back functioning at 100%. But for some reason that hasn’t happened.

I’ve taken lots of personality profile tests and assessments and have yet to see empathy crack into my list of strengths. Unfortunately, this becomes painfully obvious when others around me are sick. When I’m the lone man standing against my stuffy-nosed wife and two mucus hacking kids my patience tends to wear. At first it’s not too bad. I’m sympathetic and want to help care for my wife and kids. I don’t mind playing with them so that Liz can lie down and rest. I don’t mind fixing food, or picking up, or giving baths and medicine. I feel for them and I want to be the loving husband and father that I should be. But seven days later I find that I’m kind of done with this whole sickness routine. Surely these people are feeling better and ready to start pulling their weight again. After all I’ve sacrificed for the last few days, I now just want things to be normal again so I can pick up my routine, get back to the things I need to do. (I can see the head’s shaking in disgust and the fingers wagging at my selfishness.) Such is my weakness.

Don’t worry, I feel ashamed of my thoughts and my self-absorbed mentality. I don’t want to feel this way and I battle letting it leak out of my mind and into my actions and words, but sometimes it still shows up. My frustration at the situation just eats at me and I feel disappointed in myself. I’m not upset with my wife or kids but with the fact that our lives are not within our control and that this situation is something I can’t correct on my own. It makes me want to shut out everything and focus on me at the expense of others.

At the same time this whole ordeal has actually helped me to reflect more on God’s provision. Yes I have become more aware at my lack of empathy, but I’ve also found myself praising God that he has no such shortage. God sent his own Son to heal the sick, to make the lame to walk, to open the eyes of the blind. He sent his Son not to care for a small cold, but for a sick and dying world. And by becoming one of us, by being born a man, Jesus has experienced firsthand the deep needs of sick and ailing people, the foolish ideas and ways of the disciples, and the overwhelming arrogance of the Pharisees. And yet in all these situations he never walked away, never gave up on people, never gave up on his own task. He overcame all of the temptation to focus on himself and to put his needs or desires first. He loved and served others at great expense and without complaint. In the end he loved so much that he even abandoned his own life so that others may be healed and have life eternally. In every way, Jesus displayed the perfect love of a husband and a father in ways that I will never even approach.

That’s right, there is no way I can approach that kind of selfless love on my own. t’s not something I can muster up by my own assertive will or strength and it certainly isn’t something I was born with. So, instead of me trying to reach it myself, God brought it to me. When Jesus went to that cross and when he rose from that tomb, he brought the power to love and serve as he did directly to me. The power of the Holy Spirit living and working within me allows me to be patient in times of frustration, loving in times of anger, assured in times of doubt, and selfless in times of selfishness; all because Jesus did these things for me first. I can love and care for others because Jesus has loved and cared for me first. Only thought him alone can I can be of any use to my family.

So before I head back home to care for my family, I thank the Lord that he has given me the strength through Jesus Christ to do so. I know I’m not a great healer or comforter, but I pray that they’ll see the Great Comforter and Healer within me.