Proactive Cultural Influence

The following is one chapter from my book Lifestyle Decisions: Touchy Subjects, Gently Touched. By clicking on the video below, you may listen as my son, Nathan, reads the chapter aloud.

Was there a time in your youth when your frequent response to parental instruction was “Why?”

My dad was tolerant of that question if it reflected a genuine search for insight and intolerant if it mainly expressed  resistance.  I suppose God’s attitude is the same.  Jesus said not to cast our pearls before swine.  Pigs can’t appreciate pearls.  They just trample them in the dirt.  A resistant person may trample truth in the dirt.

Sometimes the parental response to “why” is “You wouldn’t understand” or “You’ll understand when you’re older.”  Those answers annoyed me.  They didn’t fit with my self-image.  Of course, such an answer was probably correct.

A major issue stemming from these observations is whether we will comply with Biblical instruction which we don’t understand or appreciate.  Perhaps we wouldn’t understand further explanation.  Will our obedience be limited by our understanding?

I suppose God tolerates our “why” so long as our obedience is not contingent on our understanding.  I believe that in some cases knowing the reason why is helpful.

I Corinthians 11: 1-16 contains instruction that our culture deems irrelevant to modern America.  The verses prescribe a head covering for a woman who prays or prophesies.  I think that means doing so in public.

The common response to that instruction is that it was only for a culture in which the lack of head covering identified an immoral woman.  But the apostle doesn’t give that as a reason.  Instead he supports his instruction with comments about angels and nature.  Angels and nature haven’t changed.  If I Corinthians 11: 17-34 (directions for the Lord’s supper) is not culturally conditioned, why should we think verses 1-16 are?

Recent trends suggest a reason for I Corinthians 11: 1-16.   Our culture is rapidly adopting the belief that men and women are interchangeable.  Many conclude (and impose the conclusion)  that marriage can unite any combination of sexes.  If one is dissatisfied with his sex, have an operation; to segregate restrooms is unconstitutional; fostering “stereotyped” role models is oppressive; and so it goes.

Could it be that Christians have unwittingly cooperated with the trend?  It seems to me that God prescribed an emblem of sexual distinction.  Isn’t it true that values are caught more than taught?  People generally believe that whatever is common is the way it is supposed to be.

I think God intends that we subtlety teach our children that sexual distinctions are valuable and wholesome.  I wish it were easier for our young people to associate what they see in church with what they read in Scripture.

I can understand that a Christian woman would not want to draw attention to herself by being the only woman in the room wearing a head covering.  That’s my reason (or excuse) for not lifting my hands when we pray as assumed in I Timothy 2: 8. (Although I inwardly protest when we sing “We lift our hands before You as a token of our love” with nary a hand in the air).  Maybe a group of women could agree together to wear a simple head covering to a prayer event.  Perhaps they will, after a group of men agree together to lift their hands in prayer.

Am I consistent in my desire for simplistic commitments to Scripture?  I don’t know.  I don’t give money to every poor-looking man on a corner who asks for money.  I don’t give to every Christian organization that sends a letter requesting money, in spite of Matthew 5: 42.  I honestly don’t think that is what Jesus intended.  No doubt many women honestly don’t think God wants their head covered when they publically pray or prophesy.  “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14: 5

What if numerous people in our church took to hair coverings or uplifted hands?  Would they be accused of majoring on the minors?  Thought of as being “holier than thou?”  Would the church split? (Let’s hope not.  Proverbs 6: 16-19 says God hates the sowing of discord among brothers.)  Let’s decide that such people will be accepted as simple disciples stumbling along in search of God’s will.  Maybe they can help us.

It has happened time and again.  Orthodox denominations slide into heresy.  Christian colleges lose their collective Biblical convictions.  Christian organizations become anemic.  We need beware lest we do harm by ignoring Scriptures we fail to appreciate.

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Submissive Convictions

Here is a thought both true and dangerous.1  Submission has a part in wise formation of opinions, beliefs, and convictions.  “Submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21) is compatible with intellectual courage.  The Philpipians were admonished to “stand fast …with one mind striving together for the faith ….”  (Philippians 1: 27).

Shall we withdraw honor from John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale?  Probably not.

Shall we stifle independent thought?  Maybe so.  Maybe we should be skeptical of thoughts that emerge independently…at least hesitant.

“Do not be wise in your own opinion.”  (Romans 12: 16).  “ …that you may with one mind … glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 15: 6).

“If anyone  … does not consent to wholesome words … to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes … from which come … useless wrangling ….”  (I Timothy 6: 3-5).

“…withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3: 6)

Our thinking should be realistic. It is not likely that my parents, teachers, and elders were right about everything.  Nonetheless, it is proper to give the benefit of the doubt to my parents ,my teachers, and my elders.

I am not advocating intellectual laziness or stubborn unwillingness to change.  I am advocating a respectful, loving  bias (I Corinthians 13:7, Love “believes all things …..”).

On one hand, It is right that a child believes what his parents tell him.  It is right that a Christian is inclined to trust the teaching of his elders.  It is proper for a wife to have a respectful inclination toward her husband’s judgment.  On the other hand, every person becomes responsible for his beliefs.  Conversions are often right.  Often a person should change his opinion.  “On the one hand … on the other hand:”  both concepts are true, even though we do not know where to draw the line between them.

No man lives long enough or has the mental capacity to aggressively reconsider everything he has been taught.  I believe that the sun is 93 million miles away.  I believe that even though it does not seem that far away.  Many voices from “the scientific community” say the universe developed without intelligent design.  But I have explored that issue and confidently reject the mutation + natural selection + time hypothesis.  I lack a definition for when to accept and when to explore.  For example, I believe there has been a right reason for war.  I also believe that many wars have been needless.  I believe both concepts even though I lack a defining line between.

Conclusion:   I am responsible for what I believe.  Changing a belief may be the responsible course. Responsible thinking includes a submissive intellect.

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1 Doing something dangerous because it needs to be done is courageous.  Doing something dangerous for frivolous cause is wrong.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Trumpet Functions at the Rapture

The Old Testament prescribed four similar functions for a trumpet: to call together people for a meeting, to call together people for battle, to direct movement of the camp, and to signal a special occasion.

Numbers 10: 2-4,   “Make two silver trumpets …. you shall use them for calling the assembly and for directing movement of the camps.”  More specifically, blowing both trumpets meant everyone should gather at the tabernacle; blowing one trumpet meant leaders should gather at the tabernacle.

Verse 5 Sounding “the advance” meant the journey should begin.  I assume “the advance” was a known, distinctive arrangement of notes, like reveille or taps.

Verse 9 “When you go to war … then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets ….”  This use is referred to in I Corinthians 14: 8, “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”

Verse 10 “Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months ….”

I suggest that the familiar uses of the trumpet are relevant to the “trumpet of God” that marks the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:16).  At the rapture believers are gathered – “caught up together.”  Certainly this is a special occasion.  A climatic journey takes place:  the dead rise, all meet the Lord in the air; and henceforth all shall be with the Lord.  The “day of the Lord” (5:2) battle begins.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Different Translations of the Bible

Our school had a foreign student from Hong Kong, who spoke English well.  One day another student exclaimed, “That’s right on the money.”  Then he realized that a girl from Hong Kong would probably not understand his expression.

If the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible contained the phrase “That’s right on the money,” an “easier to understand translation” might have “That’s exactly right.”  A “closer to the original” translation might maintain “That’s right on the money.”

Some “closer to the original” translations include The New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version.

A good “easier to understand” version is the New International Version (1984 edition –  In my opinion, the NIV 2011 edition makes unacceptable deviations).

The older King James Version editions were excellent “closer to the original” translations.  Although the 1611 edition has some attractive features, it no longer reflects the commonplace vocabulary used in the original New Testament

Success According to Psalm 147

There are many activities which are good if allowed a small portion of one’s time and attention but bad if given too much time and attention. That is my assessment of the quest to make my life productive. I suppose that asking whether my life is productive is inherent to life as designed by God. Furthermore, the question is prompted by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25: 14-30. Reading that parable prompts one to ask himself if he is a profitable servant. Am I making good use of the abilities and opportunities given to me? However, attention to that question needs to be limited by the fact that my life is not about me. It is about God. My effectiveness and my role is a small issue in comparison to the much larger issue of whether God is being honored. To the extent that I focus on my effectiveness Psalm 147:11 seems a good measure. “The LORD takes pleasure ….” The ultimate human success is for God to take pleasure in me. And how does it happen that God takes pleasure in someone? “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” To fear God is an attitude. To hope in His mercy is an expectation. Together they make me a source of pleasure for God.

Receive, Yet Restrain

According to God’s design I celebrate pleasure and welcome comfort (I Timothy 4:3-4).  Nonetheless, it is impossible that my human pleasure and comfort will not need to be restrained. 

Ephesians 4:19  “… being past feeling, have given themselves over to ________,1 to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

I Peter 4:3-4  “the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in _________ ….   …they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation2 ….”

Jude 4  “For certain men … turn the grace of our God into _________1  ….”

1 The Greek word used here, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary,  “denotes excess” and “absence of restraint ….”

2 “Dissipation”  means wasteful or squandering and is the word used in the  NKJV, NASB, and the NIV of I Peter 4:4.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,  W.E. Vine, MacDonald Publishing Co.,, McLean, VA,

Moral Inconsistency

Moral inconsistency is pathetic, despicable, and difficult to avoid.  You may be a victim of moral inconsistency.  For denouncing some offences you are labeled morally courageous and heroic, and commended for taking the role of a prophet.  But similar discussion of other vices brings charges of being judgmental and legalistic.  Audience response is not the measure of Spirit-filled preaching.