Archive for August, 2011

ABC Extra – Shattered

Last Sunday, I was pulling out of my garage to come to church.  As I was backing out, still half asleep, I all of a sudden heard this loud “CRACK!”  My head snapped to attention and I looked to my right to realize my driver’s side mirror had scraped up against the garage door frame.  My garage frame was fine.  My mirror was not.  Half of it got shattered by the encounter.  Apparently, the warning, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” really is true.  I had misjudged just how close my side view mirror and my garage frame really were…and it cost me.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we tackled the topic of pride.  As I mentioned in ABC, there are two different kinds of pride.  On the one hand, there is positive pride.  This pride flows from our creation in God’s image.  Because we are created in God’s image, we owe each other respect and dignity.  Such human dignity is positive pride.  But then, on the other hand, there is also negative pride.  And negative pride is when human dignity gives way to human arrogance.  It is when the insistence that all human beings ought to be treated with respect and dignity gives way to the insistence that some human beings ought to have their egos stroked and their self-images inflated.

Because the Scriptural authors are keenly aware that humans tend toward arrogance rather than dignity, the vast preponderance of biblical references to pride are in its negative sense.  This is certainly true when Solomon writes, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).  “Negative pride,” Solomon warns, “comes with a high price – destruction.”  The Hebrew word for “destruction” is shabar which, as I discussed last Sunday, describes a “complete collapse” or a “shattering.”  Pride eventually and inevitably leads to a shattered life.

It is important to note the preposition Solomon uses to link pride with destruction:  “Pride goes before destruction.”  The Hebrew word for “before” is lipne which can be used in both a temporal as well as a spatial sense.  In other words, if a person is prideful, destruction can and does indeed catch up with them chronologically.  A person is prideful, and destruction then ensues.  But pride and destruction are also close spatially.  Indeed, the preposition lipne is often translated as the phrase, “in the face of.”  Thus, prideful people stare destruction right in the face.  They are closer than they might think to having their lives shattered.

Just like a side view mirror can be shattered in a close encounter with a garage frame, a person can be shattered in a close encounter with pride.  This is why we are called to flee from it – because pride destroys.  So you don’t want to get too close to it.  You don’t want to stare it right in the face.  Just verses before Solomon’s famous words concerning pride and destruction, he offers this sharp warning: “The LORD detests all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this:  They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).  When we insist on living proudly, God will not let us stand.  He will humble us in our sin.

The Hebrew word for “pride” is ga’on, referring to someone who is “exalted” or “lifted up.”  This is why Solomon writes, “A haughty spirit goes before a fall.”  For a person who ga’ons himself will not be able to maintain his position of exaltation.  He will fall.  Conversely, God’s promise to those who humble themselves is that He will do the ga’oning for them – He will “lift them up” (James 4:10).  And being lifted up by God is a much more secure position than doing the lifting up yourself.  So wait for God to lift you.  For when He does, it will be unto eternal life.  And that’s enough to lift even a troubled soul in a humble – and sometimes humiliating – life.

Want to learn more? Go to
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and check out audio and video from Pastor Prieto’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

August 29, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – Don’t Settle for All-Natural

In 1802, British Christian apologist William Paley published what has become one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God.  He wrote:

“In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I know to the contrary, it had lain there forever…But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had given before…For its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose.”[1]

This argument is classically called “the argument from design.”  The argument runs like this:  When we look around at the irreducible complexity of our world, we cannot help but wonder about the origin of our stunning surroundings.  For someone certainly had to knit together this vast and intricate universe!  And that “someone,” Paley argues, is God.

In his argument, Paley appeals to what is known as “natural revelation.”  Natural revelation describes the human ability to discern God’s existence by means of basic reason.  And basic reasons deduces, when confronted with a remarkable creation like ours, that there is indeed a Creator!  Thomas Aquinas explains natural revelation thusly: “There are some truths which the natural reason is able to reach.  Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like.”[2]  John of Damascus describes natural revelation similarly, but adds that we not only deduce God’s existence by our reason, but know of God’s existence from our very creation: “The awareness that God exists in implanted by nature in everybody.”[3]

Scripturally, the doctrine of natural knowledge is asserted in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voicegoes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

The verbs in verse 1 are striking.  “The heavens declare the glory of God…”  The verb “declare” is often translated as “number.”  The glories of God are infinitely numbered by the heavens!  After all, every star is a testament to its Creator!  “The skies proclaim the work of His hands…”  The verb for “proclaim” in Hebrew is nagad, meaning, “conspicuous.” In other words, God is not hidden by His creation, He is plainly revealed through His creation for anyone who cares to see!  This is natural revelation.

As wonderful as natural revelation is, it only goes so far.  For although natural revelation can tell us there is a God, it cannot tell us who this God is.  Indeed, the Thomas Aquinas quote I cited earlier is only the second half of the quote.  The whole quote reads: “There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God.  Some truths about God exceed all the ability of human reason.  Such is the truth that God is triune.  There are some truths which the natural reason is able to reach.  Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like.”  Aquinas knows that human reason can only get you so far when it comes to the divine.  In fact, human reason won’t get you very far when it comes to the divine!  Martin Luther explains why:

All heathen known to say that much of God as reason can know from His works, i.e. that He is a creator of all things, and that one should be obedient to Him etc.  We know, however, that they don’t yet have the true God, because they do not want to hear His word, which He has revealed about Himself from the beginning of the world to the holy fathers and prophets, and at last through Christ Himself and His apostles.[4]

Luther here makes a critical distinction between natural revelation and biblical revelation.  Natural revelation can declare the glory of God.  But only biblical revelation can tell someone about Jesus and His sacrifice.  Natural revelation can reveal God’s power.  But only biblical revelation can comfort with God’s grace.  This is why the Psalmist does not leave us stuck in the realm of natural revelation.  He continues:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. (Psalm 19:7-12)

The Psalmist moves from God’s glory in creation to God’s forgiveness in Scriptural revelation.  He asks the Lord to forgive his sins.

The sunny days.  The starry nights.  The majestic mountains.  The gentle breezes.  The lazy rivers.  In all of these we see God.  But only in Scripture do we hear God.  For in Scripture God declares to us His intention for us.  And His intention is one of salvation.  Praise God that we can not only see His handiwork, but read His Word![5]

Want to learn more? Go to
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and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message!


[1] William Paley, Natural Theology (London: J. Faulder, 1809) 1-2.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.3.2.

[3] John of Damascus, De fide Orthodoxa, 1.1.

[4] Martin Luther, WA 51:151 (Roland Ziegler, trans.).

[5] For a nice discussion of natural revelation, see Roland Ziegler, “Natural Knowledge of God and the Trinity,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, vol. 69:2 (April 2005) 133-154. Many of my thoughts in this blog are indebted to this article.

August 22, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – Agnostic No More!

Agnostoi Theoi.  This was the inscription that graced one of a countless number of altars in the city of Athens in the first century.  It means, “To an unknown god.”  Theoi means “to god” and we get our word “agnostic” from the word agnostoi.  Though the Athenians of the first century built many altars to the gods they knew – Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Helios and, of course, Athena, the patron goddess of Athens – the Athenians wanted to leave no god un-worshipped.  And so they built an altar to a god they might have missed.

The Athenians were agnostic – at least when it came to the god for whom they had built this altar.  But the apostle Paul refuses to leave the Athenians content in their agnosticism.  He says:

What you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:23-24, 30-31)

“Your agnosticism,” Paul says, “is not acceptable.  The God you call ‘unknown’ is not unknown at all!  He has a name – Jesus Christ!”

Importantly, Paul also says this God has “made the world and everything in it” and “is the Lord of heaven and earth.”  Zeus was the god of the sky.  Poseidon was the god of the sea.  Hades was the god of the underworld.  Helios was the god of the sun.  Athena was the goddess of Athens.  Jesus is the God of…everything.  This makes Jesus far greater than any of these other gods.  Indeed, finally, all of these other gods are not only lesser, they are not even truly gods!  Paul says to the Athenians, “Men of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious” (Acts 17:22).  The Greek word for “very religious” is deisidaimon.  This word can have either a positive connotation, meaning “devotion,” or a negative connotation, meaning “superstition.”  Though Paul is probably appealing to the positive sense of the word out of courtesy, finally, the Greek pantheon of gods is nothing more than superstition – and a dangerous superstition at that.  The word deisidaimon contains the word daimon, the Greek word for “demon.”  Scripturally speaking, because there is only one true God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4), all other gods are not gods at all, but demons.  It will not suffice, then, to be merely “religious,” worshipping whatever god may suit your fancy.  For there is only one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Every other god is a delusion of Satan.

This past weekend in worship Pastor Tucker spoke about the mission trip a group of seventy-seven Concordians took to Crownpoint, New Mexico, a Navajo Indian community nestled in the high hills of the desert Southwest.  On the bus ride there, one of our college studnets spent a good deal of time in conversation with one of our bus drivers who was very spiritually confused.  He spoke about everyone from Mohammed to Jesus as if they were all essentially the same.  The god he worshipped was not specific or defined, but unknown.  Blessedly, our student made known to him the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  He followed the lead of the apostle Paul.

How about you?  Will you follow the apostle’s example?  Our world is full of far too much agnosticism.  But people can be transformed from ambiguous agnostics to defined disciples of Christ by the gospel.  Make the gospel known to someone who needs to hear it!

Want to learn more? Go to
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and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message!

August 15, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

God and the Debt Crisis

It was a rough day on Wall Street. On Friday, Standard & Poors downgraded United States debt, taking it from its time-honored AAA rating to AA+, with a warning that another downgrade could be in the making. Today, the markets reacted as the Dow Jones plunged 632 points and closed below 11,000, its worst one day loss since December 2008. Though I’m no financial analyst and would never deign to give anyone counsel concerning our fiscal future, right now, the economic horizon of our country does not look particularly bright to me.

The current debt crisis has invoked a fair amount of personal reflection concerning the ethics of managing money. From greed to irresponsibility to politics to entitlements, there is much to be said concerning our pecuniary predicament. But it was an article in The Huffington Post that led me to some new and sober analysis on how we, as Americans, view our finances. The article was titled “Why Atheism Replaces Religion in Developed Countries” and was written by Nigel Barber, who holds a Ph.D. in Biopsychology. Barber’s thesis runs thusly:

Atheists are more likely to be college-educated people who live in cities, and they are highly concentrated in the social democracies of Europe. Atheism thus blossoms amid affluence where most people feel economically secure. But why?

It seems that people turn to religion as a salve for the difficulties and uncertainties of their lives. In social democracies, there is less fear and uncertainty about the future because social welfare programs provide a safety net and better health care means that fewer people can expect to die young. People who are less vulnerable to the hostile forces of nature feel more in control of their lives and less in need of religion.[1]

Barber’s argument, then, is this: The more money you have, the less religion you need. Religion is for those who cannot secure their futures via monetary means.

There are a couple of things that strike me as odd about Barber’s argument, not the least of which is its conflict with much of the empirical evidence. According to Barber, money and religion compete with each other in an inverse relationship. The more money one has, the less religion one needs. But many studies do not bear out this assertion. Take, for instance, the percentage of atheists in our nation throughout the years. In 1944, 4% of our nation’s citizens were atheists. In 1964, it dropped to 3%, remaining steady through 1994. In 2007, it crept back up to 4%.[2] Over the course of sixty-three years, through good economic times and bad, the percentage of people who self-identify as atheists has remained remarkably consistent. Indeed, the economic vitality of our country seems to have no effect on the religious sensibilities of our people. Moreover, because our nation is one of the most economically prosperous in the history of the world, one would expect to see a much higher percentage of self-declared atheists. But this is not the case. Statistically, atheists make up a small segment of our population, regardless of our economic state.

The second thing that strikes me as odd about Barber’s argument is his massive assumption that all human desire can be reduced down to a single need: the need for security. Barber’s argument runs like this: Our foundational need is to feel secure. And we will get the security we so earnestly desire one way or another. Some superstitious people get security from religion. Enlightened people, invigorated by their economic prosperity, receive security from money and the government that doles and dishes it out. But is this really true? Can money, managed by the government nonetheless, really offer the kind of security human beings desire and need? If our latest financial crisis is any indication, it cannot. Finding refuge in money is like finding security in a house of cards. The slightest jolt can send it crashing down.

Additionally, is the need for security really the only fundamental need human beings have? What about the need for purpose in life? Atheism, with its commitment to a closed and sterile universe, cannot offer the transcendent purpose that human beings seem to innately desire. Bertrand Russell, the famous British atheist philosopher, explains with clinical sobriety the view atheism has of the universe and of human beings:

In the visible world, the Milky Way is a tiny fragment; within this fragment, the solar system is an infinitesimal speck. And of this speck our planet is a microscopic dot. On this dot, tiny lumps of impure carbon and water, of complicated structure, with somewhat unusual physical and chemical properties, crawl about for a few years, until they are dissolved again into the elements of which they are compounded.[3]

Is it any wonder Bertrand didn’t make it as a motivational speaker? But Bertrand is simply honest enough to admit what so many atheists have fought so vigorously to sugarcoat and excuse: The inevitable philosophical concomitant of atheism is fatalism. If atheism is true, that means we are born, we live to struggle against the evolutionary goads, and then we die. That’s it. Our lives are merely blips against the backdrop of a cold, and ultimately triumphant, evolutionary system.

This is why atheism will finally never carry the day. Atheism will never carry the day because human beings want their lives to count for something – something bigger than money, something bigger than accomplishments, and something bigger than even this life itself. And only God can meet this want. And it seems only reasonable to recognize that if only God can meet this want, then maybe there is a God who has placed this want in human beings in the first place. Doctrinally, we call this the natural knowledge of God. And all human beings, yes, even atheists, have this knowledge – even if they fight this knowledge.

All of this leads us back to our debt crisis. The economic future of our nation is indeed frightening, but it is not surprising. After all, stocks and bonds, debt limits and balanced budget amendments simply cannot offer what God offers, no matter what Nigel Barber may assert. For capital cannot offer comfort and hope. Only God can offer that. That’s why so many in our nation continue to trust in God – through this crisis and the crises to come.


[1] Nigel Barber, “Why Atheism Replaces Religion in Developed Countries,” The Huffington Post (July 26, 2011).

[2] Matthew Hutson, “One Nation, Without God,” Psychology Today (September 1, 2009).

[3] Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays (London: Routledge Classics, 2004), 19.

August 8, 2011 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Keeping Your Cool

When it counts, I am cool, calm, and collected.  When my mother-in-law passed away earlier this year, I did my best to make sure everything was covered for my family.  When a dear woman wept in my office as she recounted the grievous way she had been sinned against, I offered the most sober solace I could muster.

When it counts, I am cool, calm, and collected.  But then I lose my car keys…and my demure demeanor crumbles.  “Where could I have put those stupid things?” I grumble as I stomp around the house, making sure everyone within a fifty-foot radius of me knows exactly how incredulous I am.  “This is ridiculous!  I set something down for one second and it up and disappears.”  Melody, of course, tries to provide some perspective for my not so precarious plight.  “It’s no big deal, honey,” she says.  “They have to be around here somewhere!”  But I am inconsolable.  “No!” I retort.  “I’m already running late to this appointment.  This just makes things worse!”

In our text from this past weekend, Solomon writes, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).  “Having good sense means having a long fuse,” Solomon says.  Apparently, then, minor annoyances can cause me to check my good sense at the door.  I can get far too frustrated far too fast.  I not only react, I overreact.  But it ought not be this way.

In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word for the phrase “slow to anger” is macrothymeo.  This is a compound word made up of macro, meaning “big,” or “long,” and thymeo, meaning “an outburst of passion or wrath.”  I remember thymeo’s meaning by thinking of a thermometer.  Like a thermometer, our anger can get hot and boil and bubble over.  To be macrothymeo, then, means to take a long time to get hot under the collar.  It means, to borrow a phrase from bestselling author Richard Carlson, to “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

But all too often, I do sweat the small stuff.  And my guess is, you do too.  In fact, maybe it’s not so much the small stuff that you sweat, but the big stuff.  Maybe someone has cheated you out of what is rightly yours.  Maybe someone has hurt you in a profound way.  Maybe someone has sinned against you and the damage feels irreparable.  It’s at times like these when we can be tempted to let anxiety and anger take over.  And such anxiety and anger seems justified enough.  After all, anger at sin seems not only acceptable, but called for!  But Solomon says that a wise man “overlooks an offense.”

How could Solomon say such a thing?  Is he encouraging us to just let sin slide?  No.  But he is encouraging us to let God take care of sin for us.  The apostle Paul explains it like this to a group of pagans in Athens: “In the past God overlooked ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed” (Acts 17:30-31).  Even as God overlooks the ignorance of unbelief out of His grace, we are called to overlook the offenses of others against us by God’s grace.  Now this does not mean that God will not judge the world for its sin.  He will.  But judgment will be carried out not by you, but by “the man He has appointed.”  And that man is Jesus.

Finally, God “overlooks ignorance” not because he does not care about sin, but because He is giving those who are ignorant of Him time to repent and trust in Him.  As the apostle Peter says, “Our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).  This is why our God does not immediately judge sin and sinners, including you and me.  This is why our God is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).  Like our God, may we too be slow to anger.

Want to learn more? Go to
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August 8, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Genesis 6:1-4 and Christian Marriage

The other day, I received a question regarding the opening verses of Genesis 6:

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

This passage is a perennially puzzling one because it immediately raises a host of questions.  Who are the sons of God?  Who are the daughters of men?  Who are the Nephilim?  To add to the perplexing nature of this passage, commentaries offer a whole array of conflicting interpretations, perhaps the most famous of which is that the “sons of God” are fallen angels who are perverting the daughters of men by intermarrying with them and allying themselves with an evil race of giants called the Nephilim.

I’m not sure that the interpretation of this passage needs to be nearly so esoteric.  Indeed, the interpretation proffered above flatly contradicts what Jesus says about the nature of angels:  “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25).  Jesus here makes it clear that angels are not the marrying kind. Thus, when Moses writes about the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, he seems to be referring simply those who follow God and believe in His promise of a Messiah.  Most likely, the sons of God are from the line of Seth who replaced his late brother Abel as an heir of righteousness (cf. Genesis 4:25).  Conversely, the “daughters of men” seem to be those who do not follow God, most likely from the line of Cain, and are prone to wickedness and violence (cf. Genesis 4:17-24).  Thus, essentially what is going on here is that righteousness is intermingling with wickedness.

The sons of God intermarrying with daughters of men is paired with a reference to the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4.  Most often, the Nephilim are portrayed as giants, thanks in large part to the description of them in Numbers 13, when Moses sends out a team of spies to scout out the land of Canaan before the Israelites are supposed to enter and settle there.  The spies return with this report: “We saw the Nephilim there…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).  Interestingly, this is the only other reference to the Nephilim in the Old Testament.  Because the spies compare themselves to “grasshoppers” in light the stature of the Nephilim, the Nephilim are often assumed to be giants.  Indeed, in the Latin Vulgate, Jerome translates the word Nephilim as gigantes, or “giants.”  But what Moses seems to be referring to in Genesis 6:4 is not so much the physical stature of the Nephilim, but their spiritual state.  “Nephilim” is a Hebrew word meaning, “fallen ones.”  That is, the Nephilim are wicked tyrants who care not for God and His Word.  They have fallen into sin. In the scope of four short verses, then, we find the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men, an act which is portrayed as sinful, and we hear of the Nephilim, renowned as evil thugs.  Sin is on the move in Genesis 6.  And it is spreading like gangrene.  This is why in the subsequent verses, Moses writes, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:5-6).  What follows is the story of Noah and God’s judgment on wickedness by means of a worldwide flood.

So why would I spend all this time trying to sort out the exegetical puzzle of Genesis 6:1-4?  Is it out of mere theological curiosity?  Though I am always theologically curious, the practical implications of a proper interpretation of this passage are enormous.  For it gives us a down-to-earth look at what happens when righteousness intermingles with wickedness.  For when righteousness intermingles with wickedness, wickedness all too often seems to prevail.  This is why the apostle Paul later warns:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Paul is crystal clear here:  Our God does not want His sons and daughters to yoke themselves to the sons and daughters of this world.  This has an especially poignant application to Christian marriage.  Christians should not marry non-Christians…period.  To do so is to try to yoke righteousness to wickedness.  So to the Christian singles I say, “Marry inside the faith.” Follow Paul’s admonition:  The person you marry “must belong to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).

Now, certainly it is good to share your faith with others.  Certainly it is even fine to have friends who do not share your same faith commitment.  But to yoke yourself to these people is a different matter entirely.  For to yoke yourself to someone is to declare your solidarity and agreement with them.  And solidarity and agreement with unfaith is something you cannot and should not declare.

Thus, this little passage from Genesis 6 has weighty practical implications for how we relate to others, especially in the context of marriage, and puts us on notice that the results of righteousness intermingling with wickedness are never good.  Righteousness should never merely intermingle with wickedness.  Rather, it should overcome it!  As Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  May you overcome the evil you encounter with the goodness of Christ!

August 5, 2011 at 8:24 am 1 comment

Sermon Extra – Lingering Lies

Last month, Scientific American published the results of a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Western Australia.  In this study, researchers asked college students to read an account of a bus accident involving some elderly passengers.  The students were subsequently told that, in reality, the passengers were not elderly but were part of a college hockey team.  Later, the psychologists told some of the students to be vigilant about getting this story straight when they were asked questions about it and were warned about what is called “the continued influence of misinformation,” which describes our propensity to remember and be influenced by information we first hear in a story, even if that information is later updated or corrected.   In spite of this warning, however, some students continued to stubbornly cling to the lie that the people in the bus accident were elderly.  For example, when the students were asked whether or not the passengers had a difficult time exiting the bus because they were frail, many students responded that they did, citing their advanced age.  Ullrich Ecker, one of the psychologists conducting the study, commented, “Even if you understand, remember, and believe the retractions, the misinformation will still affect your inferences.”[1]

Lies linger.  That is the upshot of this story.  This is why the words you use and the truth you tell is so important.  One of Jesus’ favorite sayings is, very simply, “I tell you the truth…” (e.g., Matthew 5:18, Mark 3:28, Luke 9:27, John 3:5).  Jesus wants no part in telling lingering lies.

This past weekend in worship, I spoke about the importance of choosing your words wisely.  In Proverbs 17 and 18, Solomon gives us four tips for choosing our words wisely.  First, we must choose our words slowly.  Words quickly spoken, especially in anger, later lead to regret.  Think before you speak!  Second, we must choose our words with counsel.  In other words, we need to be willing to receive guidance and even correction from others in our words so that we learn how to choose our words better with time.  Third, we must choose our words charitably.  Especially when a person is not around, we must be very careful how we speak about them so that we do not malign their character.  Finally, we must choose our words truthfully, for dishonestly leads only to disaster.

In a world that stretches, fudges, and hedges the truth, we are called to be truth tellers.  After all, we do not want our lies to linger in the lives and hearts of others.   The good news, however, is that the lies of this world, though they may linger, will not ultimately last.  Solomon says, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19).  Compared to the truth of God, lingering lies are only a flash in the pan.  The truth will finally carry the day.  And God’s truth will endure forever.  So align yourself with that which lasts!

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message or Pastor Josh’s ABC!


[1] Valerie Ross, “Lingering Lies: The Persistent Influence of Misinformation,” Scientific American (July 18, 2011).

August 1, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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