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Faith

The Righteous Mind

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The Righteous Mind

I want to tell you about a book I’m reading. This book had been on my radar for a while. I had heard it referenced on a number of podcasts I listen to, a couple of blogs that I read. People were highly recommending it - that not strange, but what was strange was who was recommending it. People on the left. People on the right. Pastors. Academics. I saw an interview with the author sitting down with pastor Tim Keller, and a review by the Gospel Coalition. Russel Moore of the Southern Baptists called it “the most important book in years.”

The book is called “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathon Haidt. Haidt, a social psychologist at the NYU-Sterm School of Business, is interested in how people think. More specifically, Haidt, a ethnically Jewish, politically left-leaning, and religiously atheist democrat, was interested in why people on the right politically were so irrational. The book is centred around the question of why people on the left and people on the right talk past one another, misrepresent one another, and think that each other irrational. It’s a pretty amazing book. Haidt’s major conclusion after undertaking major anthropological studies across continents, age groups and social classes, is that people think differently - process facts differently, reason differently, and argue differently, not because they are irrational, but because thinking is first and primarily an expression of one’s deeper moral inclination - what Haidt called intuition. How the heart is inclined influences what the mind accepts as rational. The reason Haidt’s book is so influential is that it basically argues against the way that we in the West have been thinking about thinking. Since the enlightenment, we’ve come to think that we are primarily rational creatures - like computers. Data comes in, is processed by reason, and adjustments to our thinking are made. Haidt proves that is not the case. Haidt provides scores of evidence that one’s moral inclination precedes reason, that we use reason not to come to justify the beliefs we are morally inclined to accept. How the heart is inclined influences what the mind accepts as rational.

I was thinking of Haidt’s book as I reflected on this last passage in this book of all books, Ecclesiastes. For Solomon, or since Solomon is referred to in the third person here some people think a later compiler of Solomon’s writings, in any case, this final passage also speaks to our thinking, and the relationship between our thinking and our moral inclinations

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Living Life in Light of Eternity

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Living Life in Light of Eternity

Resolved, I will live so, as I wish I had done when I come to die.” 

These words were penned by nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards, who in 1722, kept a diary and wrote seventy guidelines which he called “Resolutions”. In his article, “The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards”, Dr. Stephen Nichols writes that Jonathan Edwards resolved to live a life that counts, not through legalistic grit and determination, but with God’s help and grace in accordance to His will.

Edwards’ seventy resolutions deal with various topics and themes. One such theme is the reality of his death and living before God with an eternal perspective. In his youth, Edwards knew all too well about the brevity of life. His life and preaching demonstrated that he took seriously that life is a breath, a mist, “that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). Just as life in Edward’s 18th century was frail and fragile, life continues to be frail and fragile today.

One theme that Solomon has addressed in Ecclesiastes is the sober reality of death. The brevity of life is a reality we just as soon forget, escape from, ignore and not talk about. In his sermon “The Bad Days are Better”, pastor Dan spoke of how a sober look at the reality of death actually helps us to put life into proper perspective and order.

We know that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die;” (Ecc.3:1-2). We are all going to die yet none of us know the day and hour when death shall overtake us. Though life is hebel - a vapor - a breath - Scripture actually teaches us that the fleeting, transient, breathiness of life can actually teach us how to live with eternity in view.

In Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8, Solomon deals with the reality of death and the afterlife in such a way to help prepare us, I believe, for eternity. From the context, it seems to me that the main idea of this passage is the call to live life in light of eternity.

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Searching for "The One"

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Searching for "The One"

Some preachers seem embarrassed by this passage, that it would be this superfluous love story in the middle of such a serious theological work, and so the labour hard to imagine that this text is some sort of allegory for evangelism - and such it might be! However, it is first and foremost the story of Abraham securing a wife for his son. So before we get into any more fanciful interpretation, let’s not despise this passage as it speaks of marriage. As John Calvin writes in his commentary on this text, it is precisely because we do not hold marriage in honour, that Moses would insist on giving us a detailed picture of the marriage of Issac. 

Now when we say this is a text about marriage, and an important text about marriage, and we can take some principles from this text without getting absorbed into the details and say, this is the key to finding a wife - first, get a really rich dad; second, have him send his servant back to his people and find a wife for you; third, there’s a lot of camels involved for some reason. Right, so we want to listen to the text, and what it might teach about marriage, but not get overwhelmed by the particulars. 

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Worshipping El Olam

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Worshipping El Olam

At the end of Genesis 21 Abraham plants a tree, calls on the name of the Lord, and gives the Lord a new nickname. He does these things as an act of worship in response to the events of the chapter, which contains three seemingly loosely related stories of the life of Abraham. At first glance the stories don’t seem to have all that much of a common theme to them, except that the first two deal with two women and two sons and the last two stories deal with two wells, tying the stories together in theme. And to get at that theme this morning I want to tell you these three stories in full, so that you can appreciate what drive Abraham to worship in such a curious way of planting a tree and giving God a new name. 

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A Shocking Encounter

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A Shocking Encounter

Have you ever had such a shock that you fell over? Fainted perhaps? Or ever been overcome with fear or anxiety that you collapsed? Or laughed so hard that you fell over? In this chapter, Genesis 17, Abram has an encounter with God that knocks him off his feet, not once, but twice. And it is a shocking encounter. In this encounter Abraham is shocked 1. That God reveals himself after 13 years, 2. That he will be a father of many nations, 3. That he will be assigned an awkward mark, 4. That Sarah will give birth to a son, and, 5. that Sarah’s son, Issac, will supplant Ishmael as the son of the promise.

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Abram Believed God

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Abram Believed God

We all have people that make promises but never come through. Maybe you’ve got that group of friends and that one guys says he’ll show up but never does, and pretty soon you just stop waiting on him. Now, what if that person is God? 

It has been several years since Abram received the promises of God in Genesis 12. He has set out from Ur and Abram had travelled hundreds of miles, lost his father, survived famines, seen his relationship with his wife preserved when he should have lost her, separated from his his nephew who had been like a son to him, and watched that nephew drift further and further away until it was necessary to go after him with a small band of men and rescue him from the clutches of an army. At the same time he’s seen his household grow in wealth and in servants, set up alters to God in the land of promise, and made some key allies. God’s not been silent, but neither has life turned out the way Abram possibly expected it to. God’s been speaking to him for several years at this point, but really, what has God done? These years of God’s promises have produced no heir. Sarai is still barren. She was 65 when God called to Abram in Ur and she is not getting any younger. Abram has watched other children born to the servants in his household, yet he - the one to whom God has made the promise - remained childless. And it doesn’t really matter that God has blessed him with possessions and material goods, and allies and friends, for God has kept from him the one thing that he has promised, the one thing that Abram has desired, and it seems that Abram has nearly given up waiting on God.

And one night, while Abram settles into his tent outside of Hebron, Abram is visited by the Lord in a vision. While such visions are not unheard of to we who believe in God who reveals himself in such manner, what makes this vision unique is that Abram speaks back. And Abram does not just speak back to God, he pushes back, he presses God, calls Him out, saying in effect, God, I’m getting a little tired of you saying these things to me, but not really coming through on those promises. What are you actually doing here?

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Yours is the Kingdom

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Yours is the Kingdom

First time hearing prayer in a Bible Church like ours I was taken aback. You can pray not from a book? i had only heard group prayer in the Catholic Church I had gone to sporadically as a kid. So I was like, who are these people who freely talk to God?  how do they know what to say? And especially, they must really know God to talk to Him so freely. 

And I stuck around, and I became a Christian. Like, a real Christian. And a proud Christian. I looked down on churches that had formalized prayers. After all, I had been in a church with formalized prayers and never once heard the gospel. So I cam to believe that there was a difference between religion - stuffy, formalized, ritualized prayers, and churches that taught that you needed a relationship with God - which meant spontaneous, informal, personal prayers. And I hated recited religion-y prayers. 

There was probably a lot of factors in my mindset changing a bit. Probably maturity helped. A lot. In many areas. But I really had a bit of a mindset change on Japan. Let me tell you about our church in Japan. The recited literacy was the only way to participate in the service. Gave me a language to pray.

That’s exactly what recited prayers are supposed to do - give us a language to pray, to literally teach us to pray. Not to become ritualistic, but to teach us how to do something that to be honest, many of us are not good at. How do we speak to God? 

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Through Faith Alone

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Through Faith Alone

How can God be just while justifying sinners? this is the question of the reformation. Remember the misery Martin Luther experienced as a monk trying to attain a righteousness greater than the scribes and pharisees. 

Luther found his answer as he studied the book of Romans. The book of Romans is basically an extended sermon, in which the apostle Paul unpacks for his readers that phrase in the prophets, “The Just Shall Live By Faith

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