I recently came upon a news item from several years ago, to which Ken Ham wrote:
“The Pope reportedly said atheists are ‘good people’ — the Bible says there’s only one ‘good’ and that’s God (Luke 18:19). He was also quoted as saying evolution is real. But the Bible makes it clear evolution is incompatible with the Genesis account. If Pope said the ‘Big Bang is real,’ as he has been quoted–then the Pope’s wrong. The Bible states the earth came before the sun–not the other way around! It doesn’t matter who it is, the Pope or any other human being: all statements need to be judged against God’s Word.”
My thinking is that we might cut the Pope some slack here. I wasn’t present when Pope Francis spoke, so I don’t know the fullness of what he’s said, only what is reported in this article. Based upon these quotes it seems that a fair-minded person could argue that Francis was not endorsing evolution theory as being fact, but rather saying that even the theory of evolution cannot escape the need for a Creator. Perhaps he was being too squishy for the tastes of some. Or perhaps he was simply being tactful.
Regarding the comments on atheists, let’s remember that the word “good” can have relative meanings (depending on context). And the Pope might not be saying what critics think he is saying when he says, “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart… The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Perhaps the Pope would also agree that no one is able to truly approach God with an absolutely sincere and contrite heart. And who among us can honestly say that we haven’t disobeyed our own conscience, and are therefore guilty of sin even by our own standards (much less God’s standards)? Let’s pay attention to the Pope’s actual words, and not the headlines and sub-headlines of the article. This will allow, I believe, for a more charitable reading of the Pope’s statements.
For the purposes of additional clarity, I will add that I am no fan of the current Pope. Francis gives every appearance of being a globalist who is in lock-step with the Communist/Fascist hybrid that is seeking to overtake the world. Pope Francis is dangerously in error on this point (and many other points), but those seeking to draw attention to the Pope’s unbiblical worldview undercut their credibility when basing some of their arguments upon what they think Francis has said rather than highlighting the words he has actually said. This dampens the impact they hope to have with the people they’re hoping to reach. It is wise to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions (even if those conclusions turn out to be correct) because it’s unnecessary. The Pope’s unambiguously clear statements on other occasions are evidence enough that Rome is led at this point in history by a false teacher.
A man posed an honest question to a group of his friends. He asked: “What is with the obsession modern worship song writers seem to have with the concept of ‘rising from the ashes?’ I see it all over the place. Is this a biblical idea? Because it seems to me to be decidedly based in mythology. But I’m willing to listen to reason if someone thinks otherwise.”
One friend was quick to respond, “That’s too deep. Think more practically. It’s an incredible metaphor of someone going from death to life.”
Here was my response to both of them:
Practical can be good, for sure. So, it is correct to keep practical concerns in view. However, I appreciate our friends thinking on this because we should go deep on these sorts of matters. This is the type of important question that leaders in local congregations should most definitely think through. We’re giving God’s people a steady diet of this particular metaphor. Should we be? Is it biblical? Are there other, better, metaphors from the Bible that we’re ignoring? I applaud our friend for posing these kinds of queries. In the end, I think there’s nothing to worry about specifically with the “out of the ashes” lyrics. (Except maybe the concern that our worship songs are too often stale, boring, and trite… when they could be more dynamic by singing God’s actual words back to Him.)
Ashes in the Bible are associated with symbols of death and mourning. For instance, “God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes.” (Job 30:19) Also, “He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.” (Lamentations 3:16) As well as, “Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.’” (Genesis 18:27)
God gives us beauty and joy from ashes. As it’s written in Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord ‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
While the word “ashes” would need to be replaced by the word “dust”, I believe Isaiah 52:2 also might capture the intended spirit of these songs. (Some of them, anyway.) Now, as for the question about songwriters obsessing… it might be more about copycatting. There’s way too much copycatting among writers of contemporary worship songs.
This came up as a memory on social media:
It is sad what’s happening. On the “Today Show”, Matt Lauer interviewed one of the wives of one of the Navy Seals killed along with the US ambassador in Libya. He asked what she would say to her children about their dad and how she would want them to remember him. Her answer, and I quote, “His love for Christ”, and then continued on with a few other things. Throughout the day and on the MSN homepage, in replaying the story they have edited the “Love of Christ” part out. Why? Because using the word Christ might offend someone. Well, what about offending Christ! Many followers of Jesus were offended that this was be edited out and offended that Christians are asked to tread lightly so as not to offend someone of another religion, but pagan secularists abide by different “rules”. This man apparently loved his country and loved the one true God. And this man ended up giving his life for both, a model of how Christ gave His life for His church.
Here’s an interesting article sent to me.
Based on what is written in this article, it does not appear that Bill Condon considers himself to be a Christian. And as far as I know, Disney had never claimed to be a Christian company. Perhaps it would be a good idea for those of us who are followers of Christ to keep this in mind. Attempting to hold non-Christians accountable to Christian teachings is asking them to do what even us Christians struggle to do. Let’s stand for righteousness, of course and for sure. But can we maybe try to do it without working so hard to make others slaves to the Law? In other words, do our hearts want them condemned… or do our hearts want them redeemed?
The immorality of our wayward culture, and those with positions of influence who are doing damage to our culture, must be resisted – as the bride of Christ defends truth behaving as salt and light, doing the work of the Kingdom by going out and making disciples. We want the world restored. The best way to do this is to proclaim the Way of Life. There is no other Way than Jesus. That’s the truth because He is the Truth.
Before wrapping up this blog post with a handful of quick hitting items, I want to share a poignant post that was written by one of my former seminary professors, Dr. Brian Lee. In a season that feels immersed in illness and death, these words might minister to you deeply:
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance. – John Updike, Seven Stanzas at Easter
“My dad died at home on hospice. We spent a few hours saying goodbye to him, until the mortuary arrived to take his body away. I have to say, this poem, and the resurrection, means more to me now that I have had that experience. Dad, dead, was still Dad. Not entirely Dad, but still Dad. His soul was apart from his body, but his body was not a discarded husk. It wasn’t waste. It was precious. You can see why homo sapiens bury their dead, almost everywhere in human history. My gospel hope is in the resurrection of the body. Because Jesus’s body walked out a grave, all who trust in Jesus will do the same, just like him. ‘We believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:14”
Amen to that.
Silly fortune cookie of the day: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is able to snap chat the occurrence, does it make a sound?”
Here’s something to get you ready in a couple of months. Do you know anyone who wears orange instead of green on St. Patty’s Day?
Someone I know retweeted this,“Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it.” This quote should include “and when to say it”.
Final quote (and comment). David Jeremiah tweeted this from Richard Sibbes,“The way to cover our sin is to uncover it by confession.” Ah, well… I’ll trust the blood of Christ as the best way and only way to cover my sin. I encourage you to do the same. Repent and believe, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Pastor Troy Skinner