It's impossible to find a perfect leaf. On my walk into church one day I attempted to collect as many different leaves as possible. They had fallen from the trees and littered the ground all along my path. Wrinkled and curved and marked by rips and tears it was hard to find good specimens. As I gathered my collection I realized that beauty did not require perfection. The various colours and marks, curves and rips gave each of the leaves an interesting character. As I gathered and pondered I felt that God was saying to me that his love is not reserved for flawless people. His love is an active love that atones for our flaws and values us in our frailty. We are beautiful in God's eyes.
When it comes to the institutions of government and religion, Baptist thinking has always favoured a separation. This protects the freedom of conscience of every individual. Governments should not interfere with religious practices nor should religious practices be publicly enforced upon citizens.
If however we see politics as a process of shared decision-making and religion as a worldview or perspective that each individual has, then politics and religion must mix. One might say that it would be impossible for them to not mix. One approaches their political discussions from their religious (worldview) perspective. In this sense even a humanist or a naturalist would be considered religious for they have a set of values and beliefs that shape their lives.
I am intrigued by you work of Charles Taylor who describes modern secular democracies well and has a vision for how people can come together in a pluralist society. He understands that society cannot be built on one single confession but rather that all perspectives must be respected and our shared society must be based on a multiplicity of motives. No one religion or philosophy can be the only political foundation.
Consider this link which outlines some of Taylor's thinking. https://youtu.be/DKVnLwsl5JI
In fact, because the scientific method is limited to the natural frame of reference, science by definition cannot offer evidence for or against the supernatural. It is possible that our universe is affected by someone or something outside of the universe. If God were to produce a miracle, this would not invalidate the discoveries of science. I like how Eric Metaxas puts it:
"There are many important things beyond the scope of science. Asking why the universe exists or asking what is the meaning of life— or simply loving our children— are beyond that scope, but profoundly worthy activities nonetheless. When did scientists come to play the sour role of sneering at anything beyond the sphere of their chosen field?"*
* Metaxas, Eric. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (p. 30).
Because the book of Acts is written in narrative form we have to look for insights based on the examples given to us. When it comes to the filling of the Holy Spirit, I have found Acts 4: 29 – 31 to be helpful. In these verses we see that the disciples are praying for boldness in the face of opposition and we are told in verse 31 that " they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." First of all this shows us that courage may be evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The spirit moves in a variety of ways. Graham Cole, in examining this passage, also offers a helpful insight in showing us how to be filled with the Spirit. He suggests that the Spirit fills us when we are asking God to empower our witness. He writes,
When they made the object of their prayer the godly need in that hour (parrsia, boldness), then the fullness came. 149 If I want to be filled with the fullness of the Spirit, then let me set my heart on doing the will of God and call upon him for the enablement to do so...
Cole, Graham A. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Foundations of Evangelical Theology) (Kindle Locations 6146-6149).
Life with God is built on faith, but it is important for us to have a clear understanding of the nature of faith. It is too easy to intellectualize one's faith and consider that God is interested only in our beliefs. Faith however, requires that we act on our beliefs. Hebrews 11:6 say that "without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." This verse shows us the importance of belief but notice that even in this verse the point is that we must come to God. Our beliefs must motivate us to actively trust.
As I shared on Sunday, one of my favourite illustrations of the nature of faith comes from the story of the tight rope walker named Blondin. In this illustration the distinction is made between a person who believes in the ability of the tight rope walker and the person who is willing to actively put herself in his hands. Check out this short video on Blondin.
This video was passed on to me in response to my sermon on wisdom in conflict. It is a good illustration of how not to approach conflict. Almost any one of the Proverbs that I dealt with in my sermon could have defused this whole situation. This matter could've been let go. The confrontation could have been made with less attitude and anger. The rebuke could have been responded to without defensiveness. Instead the conflict escalates to comic proportions.
In my study regarding wisdom in our words, I came across this video which talks about the importance of moral wake-up calls. There is power in helping people see the significance of their words and deeds. This is one of the ways in which Proverbs function. They identify wisdom for us so that when we face the challenges of life, we are open to God and alert to his ways.
I am thankful that our statement of faith does not commit to specific prophetic details regarding the second coming of Christ. I am glad that we make room for a variety of beliefs in this matter. My personal understanding has changed on this topic. While at one time I favored a pre-tribulation rapture, the writings of Ladd and Gundry among others have shown me that the biblical descriptions of the rapture are connected to the second coming. The main passage which speaks of the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where we see the words "caught up". It is described in context with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet call of God. Nowhere in this passage is there a description of the timing in relation to the tribulation. If we compare other passages where the trumpet is sounded we can get a sense of the timing. We see that in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 we will be changed at the last trumpet and in Matthew 24:30-31 we see that the second coming of Christ will be announced by a trumpet and the elect will be gathered. It seems clear to me that the trumpet described in all three of these passages, must be the same. Being caught up at the trumpet call will be at the last trumpet when Christ returns. Let's not get caught up in the details, but rather rejoice in the hope that Christ will return, bringing justice and establishing his presence in a new heaven and a new earth. Amen come Lord Jesus.