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by J. Christian Andrews

February 24, 2012

He brought us forth by the word of truth

It was either Buffy or Jody, twins in the TV show Family Affair, who found the black and white 8x10 glossies of 15 year old Cissy. We were not given full view of these photos, but it was clear that Cissy had taken off her clothes for the shots. The discovery of Cissy's racy pictures forced Uncle Bill to deal with a tough issue and help his charges with a life lesson.

I don't remember how the lesson played out, but I do remember my introduction into the world of explicit photography. We were watching the show, one of the few that we were allowed to watch late, as a family; and it was up to Mom to explain to us that what Cissy had done was wrong. I was in 5th grade. It wasn't until I was in the 7th or 8th grade that the tempter once again struck with that same temptation. This time the lie came through the young men who frequented our home, and it may even have been on a Saturday evening when the young people of the church gathered for their weekly youth meeting. The black and white photos were small, smaller than palm sized, and clearly sexual in content. I knew what they were and that they were being passed around; but plead as I may, they were kept from me. That I never got a clear view doesn't matter. That my desires were aroused does.

I suppose there is come solace in knowing it is "every man's battle," but knowing this truth does not mitigate the consequences. What we all need to learn, regardless of the temptation--because we do all have them--is that there are consequences to our obedience to the temptation, even dire and eternal consequences. Pastor Paul reminds us that 'each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.'

Thankfully, to this law there is gospel. The bad news is that sin brings death. The good news is that the word of truth brings life. The Father of lights 'of his own will...brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.' The Word is the Word made flesh, Jesus, God incarnate. The Word is also GodŐs Word written and preserved by the Holy Spirit. The firstfruits are the first born as Elder John wrote, 'But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.'

February 18, 2012

we refuse to tamper with God's word

Sometime along the way, I had a librarian put new book-quality binding tape on the spine and retape the covers. Inscribed in Mom's handwriting in Spanish on the end-sheet inside the front cover are these words: Presented to Joel Andrews as second prize in the Bible contest, 9th of April 1966. I am spoiled by a great variety of translations and paraphrases to chose from, but this 1960 edition of La Santa Biblia is still my favorite even if it was the second prize in that contest.

I was eight, and all of my religious education since then has emphasized the place of God's Word in all of life. I was taught to believe that the Bible is indeed God's word. I was taught to believe that because it is God's word it is without error. I was taught to believe that the Bible's authority is faultless. I was taught to believe that the Bible, God's Word, is the only and final measure by which all things both in life and faith are judged.

Having a very high view of Scripture is not without its controversy. I was once called a "bibliolotrist," a label suggesting I worship Scripture rather than the God who spoke it. I often find myself at odds with social positions within the church but even more so with society at large. God's Word speaks clearly to His plan for one man one woman lifelong marriages, for sex within marriage only, for father/mother families as the center of society, and for respect for life all at odds with prevailing winds in society.

Greater, though, than God's positions on social issues in GodŐs Word is God's plan for the salvation of humanity. A clear reading of the Word reveals a creation broken by sin, God's wrath against sinful humanity, and God's everlasting love which by grace and mercy overshadows His wrath with forgiveness. God's Word speaks to the transforming power of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I believe Pastor Paul had a very high view of Scripture, too. He assured the Corinthian Christians that "We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 3:12 - 4:6 ESV). It would appear, like today, there were Scripture twisters and Scripture deniers in Pastor Paul's day. In clear opposition to those "in" the Church and those in society who did so, he affirmed his refusal to tamper with God's word. It is a great responsibility but also an awesome privilege to stand is such a tradition.

February 9, 2012

do all to the glory of God

I grew up in a home without alcohol. If Mom and Dad ever had wine, we children didn't know about it. We saw the ill effects of alcoholism, and a large part of our ministry was to model a life in which Christ provided all that was needed to fill those voids so many tried to fill with drink.

There were two kinds of drunks around us, each largely confined to the two major native Bolivian groups of people with whom my parents worked. Among the Cechua, descendants of the Incas, a drunken binge usually resulted in "sleeping it off." So it was not uncommon to see a man curled up on some grassy place along a street as he slept off his stupor. Drunkenness among the Aymara, a pre-Incan people, was a different story. Drunk Aymaras got violent. I remember the truck we were riding in through an Aymara village being pelted with rocks thrown at us by a drunk.

So, I suppose it was a bit of a shock when, at a barbecue held to bid us farewell just a few days before we left Bolivia the last time, Dad was offered a bottle of cervesa. I wasn't sure what to think, but as he was cheered on by the congregants, he tipped the bottle to his lips and drank. He later explained to us that refusing to participate with those who were saying their goodbyes would have been unnecessarily offensive.

Scripture is clear to condemn drunkenness as it is clear to condemn anything in excess. It is also clear to condemn selfishness and false piety. The struggle in the early church was over meat offered to idols, or as Pastor Paul said, offered to demons and not to God. So what was a believer to do when confronted with such a situation? Pastor Paul offered this advise. First, "eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience." Second, if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you." And finally, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:19-33)