The 10 Commandments: Are Non-Essentials Important? (part 2)

Today, June 10, 2018 we listened to a Discover the Word conversation with Haddon Robinson, Alice Matthews, and Mart DeHaan, that sums up and puts into perspective the previous two lesson’s we’ve had about the Ten Commandments. Today’s discussion was “are non-essentials still important?” (part 2).

Is baptism necessary to be saved? Does going to church or giving at the offering save us? Does adhering to the Ten Commandments save us? None of these save us, but does that mean that they are not important? Haddon’s point is that today’s new readers of the Bible tend to begin reading in Matthew, the first book that appears in the Bible’s New Testament. The Old Testament, to them, appears very unrelatable and not important since Jesus came to set the record straight beginning in the New Testament. Therefore, we don’t need to pay close attention to what happens in the Old Testament (although the Old Testament is really the story of Christ).

But, as it turns out, the Ten Commandments (or the Law) is very important especially since each one is an indicator of something that could be very wrong in our spiritual lives. Even though the Law does not save us, it points us to the One who can… Jesus. It is only Jesus who can help correct what is wrong in our lives. Just as a thermometer indicates that we may have an illness it does not cure us, but directs us to see the doctor who can provide a cure. The same can be said of x-rays and MRIs. They don’t cure us, but are very important indicators that a doctor’s medical procedure or operation can be life saving.

Another purpose of the Law is to show us what is pleasing to God. Is the Law important? It sure is. If we are wise, we will follow its advice to seek Jesus… the only One who can make things right and the only One who can provide salvation for us.

Here is the link to today’s discussion.

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If God is God… why do bad things happen?

Today, June 3, 2018 we watched an interesting Day of Discovery video featuring Os Guinness, “If God is God… why do bad things happen?” He discusses the nature and differences of evil and suffering. It is actually a two part video, but I wasn’t paying attention and we watch both parts together. Thank you for taking the time to watch and discuss… it was good to see the entire video in one sitting, however.

We watched this video two years ago, but in the aftermath of many school shootings it takes on a new meaning since some in our group have grandchildren at the Noblesville Middle School where a shooting recently took place. In summary, evil is active while suffering is passive. Even though they are two separate concepts they both raise some of the same questions: Why me? Where is God? How can I stand it? What do I do next?

Has man become more evil or less evil over the centuries? The answer is that he is just as evil as he has always been, but in our post-modern era man has made evil more destructive (i.e. weapons of mass destruction) and Hollywood has even made evil “cool”. Just in the 20th century alone man has killed 300 million of his own people making him, in effect, the most dangerous animal on the planet.

G.K. Chesterton, along with many other British intellectuals, was asked by the London Times “what is wrong with the world?” and they were all asked to send in their answers. Most were long elaborate essays. Chesterton sent in his short answer on a postcard: “I am” … which is a deeply a deeply Christian response. If we tackle evil we need to recognize that we have the same thing in us and we need to be forgiven, repentant, and we need to move out humbly when we are attacking the worst evil.

Evil and suffering are obviously very difficult topics to deal with. Each of us interprets evil and suffering differently than others, and we sometimes react differently than others in the face of it. Many times even WE can’t forecast how we will react until it happens to us… which can surprise us most of all.

For us, as Christians, we require a moral absolute in the person of Jesus to evaluate evil. How different that can be for others who don’t believe in Jesus. First, Dr. Guinness says, is that we need to recognize that “we must be humble… we all have evil in us and we need to be forgiven, repentant, and move out humbly.”

He says that we also need to be forgiving, as Christians. “Forgiving cuts off the past and liberates the future. When we don’t forgive we are not living up to the way of following Jesus.” He says that we need to have the courage to do something about evil. We in the western world are not perfect, but the western world tradition is unique in history in that it reforms evil. All of the great reforms in the last 2,000 years have been inspired and led by people of faith who followed Jesus.

“Answering evil is not just a matter of meaning, interpretation, and a personal answer… we have got to do something.” Evil and suffering is a complicated topic, and when we don’t understand it or know quite how to handle it, we know the One who does and we can trust Him no matter what.

Here are the links to today’s discussion:

Part 1

Part 2

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The 10 Commandments: Are Non-Essentials Important? (part 1)

Today, May 20, 2018 we listened to a Discover the Word conversation with Haddon Robinson, Alice Matthews, and Mart DeHaan. Today’s discussion was about the Ten Commandments, but with a sort of oblique view: “are non-essentials still important?” (part 1).

Is it necessary to go to church in order to be saved? Is baptism necessary in order to be saved? Does having a medical test cure the disease that is indicated from it? The answer to these questions is “no”. None of them are essential. But are they important? Yes they are. All of them. They are indicators of something deeper that IS important. The Bible’s New Testament speaks to the fact that we cannot be a Christan alone. Paul says that we are saved by Grace alone. Live saving surgery might not be performed without first being indicated by a test.

The danger is that we can fall into the trap of measuring ourselves by these “unnecessary” behaviors. Are we saved, or do we become Christians by keeping the Ten Commandments? No. Does that, then, mean that the Ten Commandments are not important? We do not come to God, and He does not keep us, based on how well we keep the rules. But that does not mean that they are not important. The scriptures say that the Law is good if it is used in the right way. It is an interesting conversation that you will be glad that you listened to.

Here is the link to today’s discussion.

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The 10 Commandments: The Role They Play

Today, May 13, 2018 (happy Mother’s Day) we listened to a Discover the Word conversation with Haddon Robinson, Alice Matthews, and Mart DeHaan. The discussion was, essentially, “is believing a commandment the same as obeying it”. It is the first of several conversations looking at the commandments in a different way.

Mark, Chapter 10 (in the Bible’s New Testament) records an interesting conversation that a man had with Jesus. He asked “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responded “Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor”. Here Jesus points out to the man a weakness in his character (he loved his possessions more than he loved anything else), even though the man asked a very different question.

Even though we seem to obey the 10 commandments on a behavioral level sometimes our motives reveal something else. For example, telling half-truths about other people means that we don’t lie, but we don’t tell the whole truth. And, as Sherry pointed out, withholding certain information can be considered what the Catholics call “sins of omission”. There are many other examples in our own lives of not really living up to the “spirit” of the 10 Commandments. Some don’t even occur to us at the time but, upon examination, we can see them… and they can be a very surprising revelation.

Here is the link to today’s discussion.

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The Life of C. S. Lewis (part 4) – Joy and Beyond

For the past four weeks we have watched installments of a Day of Discovery video about the life of C. S. Lewis, one of Christianity’s most thought-provoking writers. He is the author of many popular books and today’s video introduced one of his books, written after the death of his wife, called “A Grief Observed”. It seems to be his way of coming to grips with grief using his favorite medium… ink and paper.

Today, May 6, 2018 we watched part 4, “Joy and Beyond”, where we learned quite a bit about his marriage to his wife, Joy Davidman. They met later in life and were attracted to one another by their minds and spirituality. It seems to be an unlikely relationship, given their backgrounds, but it appears to be a deep one.

We also learned quite a bit about C. S. Lewis, the man himself, from several of his friends and associates. These people, who were close to him at various points in their lives, let us in on the genuine C. S. Lewis not only by the information they give, but also with the passion of the words that they speak in such an articulate way.

This Day of Discovery documentary is a great way to get to know the depth of thought of a man who lived and died as part of our grandparent’s generation. If we are wise, we will listen to what people like C. S. Lewis have learned from their spiritual struggles so that we ourselves can learn more about God.

Here are the links to all four parts of the documentary:

Part 1: The Making of a Mind

Part 2: The Reluctant Convert

Part 3: The Widening Circle

Part 4: Joy and Beyond

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The Life of C. S. Lewis (part 3) – The Widening Circle

For the past two weeks we have watched parts 1 and 2 of a Day of Discovery video about the life of C. S. Lewis, one of Christianity’s most thought-provoking writers. Thank you to Tom P. for presenting the first two parts of the four part series that traces Lewis’ journey from disillusioned atheist to fearless defender of the Christian faith.

He is the author of many popular books such as “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Mere Christianity”, and “The Screwtape Letters”, and it is a wonder that Lewis found time for much else during his 65 year life.

Today, April 29, 2018 we watched part 3, “The Widening Circle”, which reveals parts of Lewis’ life that have not been widely publicized proving the notion that “if you really want to get to know someone, talk with their friends and associates”. He took the time to help a 23 year old mentally handicapped man learn to read. He touched the lives of people in his everyday life by not calling attention to himself and yet affirming the positive things in their lives.

Next week we will watch part 4, “Joy and Beyond”.

Speaking of the C. S. Lewis’ style of affirmation and everyday life, here is an interesting column that I read this week from a journalist, Joshua Rogers, about the life of his father and the impact he had on those around him even after death (sorry for the length, but it is worth the read):

“Last autumn, my brother Caleb and I knew our father didn’t have much time left. He had been in the hospital intensive care unit three times in one year and although his mind was clear, his heart was failing. But he refused to admit it – and that presented a minor problem.

 “Caleb and I wanted Dad’s final blessing – to get on the phone with him and hear whatever he wanted to say to us before he died. Instead, he insisted he was going to live to be 100, and when we would try to talk to him about dying, he just shrugged it off. It may seem unusual for a couple of grown men to want a formal blessing from their dying father, but you’d have to know my dad to appreciate it. Dad had been informally blessing us all of our lives.

 “I cannot count the number of times I heard Dad lavish affirmation on us, and it wasn’t just “I love you” either. He often said things like, ‘I love you so much, I don’t know where you stop and I begin.’ A formal blessing is just the kind of thing you’d expect from him, but time was running out and it looked like he wasn’t going to come through.

 “On a cold day in December, Caleb and I got on a three-way call to try to convince Dad he needed to go to the hospital. He was having trouble breathing because his heart wasn’t pumping hard enough. Through labored breaths he agreed to go to the hospital and then said four unforgettable words to us: ‘You’re my beautiful soldiers.’

 “A few days later, Dad fell asleep in the hospital and didn’t wake up. And while we hadn’t gotten the more formal blessing we had imagined, we were grateful for the four words he managed to say that day on the phone. What we didn’t realize was that Dad wasn’t finished. He had one more affirmation left.

 “Two days after Dad died, my aunt gave us a notebook that belonged to him, and what we found inside took our breath away. Dad had hand-written seven pages of individual blessings for my brother and me, our wives, and his seven grandchildren. Affirmation after affirmation filled the pages until at the end, he pronounced this final blessing over all of us: ‘Above all, I praise and thank a loving God who hasn’t and never will forget about me or you. You will never lose your significance to the Lord.’

 “Woven into that message was the thing we all needed to hear from Dad one more time: ‘You will never lose your significance to me.’ I knew that – of course I knew that – but I never stopped needing to hear it. We all need to give heartfelt words of affirmation, but for some reason, we hold back. The words are down in there but we can’t seem to get them out.

 “Maybe we didn’t grow up with someone like my dad who affirmed our significance as a person. Maybe it doesn’t come naturally for us to affirm others because we’re not good with words. Regardless, if we really love people, we can’t hide behind excuses. Too much is at stake. Our loved ones don’t necessarily assume we love them deeply, and even if they do, it means everything just to hear it. It doesn’t take seven pages or eloquent words to make the point either.

 I love you.

 You matter to me.

 I’m so glad you’re in my life.

 “Imagine what it would mean for you to hear those words from your father, mother, spouse, child or a friend. Imagine what it might mean if you gave those words as a gift to someone else.

 “Text someone right now and tell them what they mean to you. Give someone a call, tell them you’re grateful for them and then tell them why – even if it feels awkward. Speak a blessing over those whom you love. They need to hear those words as much as you do.”

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What is Good Theology?

Today, April 8, 2018 we listened to an interesting discussion by the Discover the Word team of Haddon Robinson, Alice Matthews, and Mart Dehaan looking at the question “what makes good theology?” It sounds like a simple question, but soon we realize how complex it can be.

This is a lesson that we probably need to listen to several times to get full value from the discussion. It addresses the definition of theology, what God reveals about himself and what he doesn’t reveal about himself, and the danger of filling those unrevealed gaps with human philosophy. There are places in the Bible where certain truths have not been revealed and our job is to recognize those places and avoid the temptation to draw on our own wisdom, philosophy, and logic attempting to fill the gaps with what we “think” God means. Attempting to fill in the gaps is a very dangerous thing since we may draw a conclusion for something that God didn’t intend, and it is best to say “I just don’t know… it hasn’t been revealed.”

This is different from our simply not understanding the things that have been revealed. We are still responsible to learn what we can, and to always ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the scriptures and what God says about Himself. The Holy Spirit will help unlock the mysteries of the scriptures for us as far as it has been revealed, but our faith requires that we resist the human tendency to fill in the gaps with our own thoughts. We need to leave room for mystery. We must trust Him with these things of “mystery” until we get to Heaven and the fullness of God is revealed. Until then, to try to explain God in every detail takes us beyond what has been revealed in scripture.

Here is a link to today’s discussion.

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