You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooking and Bible Study Methods

This week I started a new semester of teaching at the Grace College campus. One of my courses is "Scripture and Interpretation" which is an examination of the fundamentals of Bible interpretation. There is an illustration I use to try and hook the students into seeing the benefits of plowing through this kind of a methods course that I thought I would share.
I liken the need to learn cooking as similar to the need to learn how to interpret the Bible. So I ask, "Why is it important to learn how to cook?"

1) So I can learn how to feed myself. We have to eat to survive and so learning how to cook (and yes making toast could be considered cooking), is part of our physical survival.
2) So I can appreciate all the textures, tastes and smells available for good eating. Even though making toast and Ramen noodles could be considered cooking, limiting yourself to just these kinds of easy options really limits the amount of pleasure that can be taken from the world of food and the art of cooking.
3) So I can protect myself from poorly cooked/ inedible meals. I still remember taking the fried chicken off of my plate, putting my fork in it and watching the blood ooze out. Thankfully, even with my limited cooking knowledge, I knew that eating that chicken could be seriously bad for my health (and no it wasn't Lee-Ann's chicken :))
4) So I can serve other people meals, so that they can be nourished and appreciate the art of cooking and good food.

You probably already see the parallels that cooking has with studying the Bible. We need to feed ourselves with spiritual nourishment that can only be found when our minds are focused on the person of Jesus found in the Scriptures. If we do not know how to prepare that meal, then we are spiritually malnourished. If we do not know the rich textures of the Bible and the depth of art contained in them, then we may satisfy ourselves by only reading our favorite passage or psalm. We tend to avoid those parts/ genres of the Bible that we do not understand, instead of seeking the intricate beauty of God's Word. Failure to know the Scriptures can easily open us up to false teaching. Lastly, the purpose of studying the Scriptures never ends with our own spiritual "belly" being full; we are to pass on the truth in both word and deed. Studying the Scriptures will change our life so that we can be used to change the lives of those around us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sinful sinners sinning sins.

For sinners, sin is a touchy subject... and we are all sinners.

Everyone at some time or another has not only committed a sin, but has also excused wrong behavior as a mere weakness or slight violation. Left unchecked, this becomes a pervasive environment which diminishes moral wrongdoing and cheapens our understanding of the cost of sin to ourselves and to our society. As Christians, we need to stand firm on the wrongness of sin as a violation of natural and Biblical law.

Many people mine the Scriptures to support opinions as to how Christians must act with regard to sin. For some, the commandment to love overrides all judgment about wrongdoing, saying something like: “Christians are called to be a loving presence in the world.” While this is a true statement, it isn’t a complete statement, nor is it a full understanding of what God wants from us. The first part of the greatest commandment is that we love God beyond all else.

This is the great and foremost commandment.” (Mat 22:37-38 NASB)

One simple misunderstanding of this passage stems from the word ‘love.’ In our modern cultural context, we view love as an emotional attachment, reading the passage as an admonition to be passionately attached to the divine Person. Do you love God? Of course you do; even if you have no idea of whom I am speaking. But love is much more in Biblical context. This passage wants more than your emotional attachment to a Deity that lives in a far away happy place where everyone gets to go when they die. This passage is about absolute commitment to the Judeo-Christian God and His standards for life.

When we understand love as commitment, our first responsibility is toward the person of God: to know who He is and what He has spoken in His word, the Bible. When we commit ourselves to Him, then we start the journey of understanding Him more and more and representing Him to other people. This ambassadorship has at least two aspects: compassion and honesty. Without either of these, we are not truly caring for others. Without compassion, our honesty smacks of hypocrisy and unjust judgment. Without honesty, our compassion is hollow and lacks substance.

Perhaps no issue raises the ire of sinners, Christian and non-Christian alike, more than the issue of homosexuality. The pro-homosexual community has done an effective job of pushing the debate into the realm of genetics, claiming that sexual orientation is determined at birth and, as such, an issue which is not subject to moral rules. Objectors are admonished to ‘just love’ the homosexual person, because that’s what Jesus would do. The fallacy here is that genetic orientation never justifies moral behavior. If someone is born with a tendency toward alcoholism or racism or hatred this does not excuse drunkenness, acts of discrimination or violence. In fact, we commend people who overcome accidents of birth or environment and become functional persons. We recognize good behavior and bad behavior in our common humanity as either sinners who have become Christians or as sinners who haven’t. The Bible clearly condemns homosexual practice (and a whole host of other things), but that isn’t the only standard by which the practice can be judged. The standards of the natural world demonstrate that male and female partners produce offspring. This natural law communicates a standard; the normal, productive relationship is between male and female.

Sinners who have become Christians would do well to seek a balance between loving all people and condemning all sins.