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The Faith of Aaron Rodgers

If you missed it recently, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was interviewed by his girlfriend Danica Patrick for her podcast, and told his tale of leaving behind the Christian faith.

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

In the five minute segment I saw, Rodgers spoke of his upbringing in the church and delight in attending Young Life during high school, but how that early faith was pushed aside during college days as he met new folks (to include eventually the Dalai Lama) and found himself moving away from the simple “binary” faith of Christianity. You know, Christian and non-Christian, Heaven and Hell, light and dark, etc.

If the “binary” term is new to you, you should know that Rodgers (undoubtedly no intellectual slouch) was espousing postmodern theory. Postmodernists hold that binaries are exclusive (“Us four, no more”, “I’m in, you’re out”), and therefore bad…though that is a somewhat binary way to sum up their thinking, and therein lies the problem.

For all his attempts to be open and non-judgmental, it was hard to miss that Rodgers was nicely declaring his old faith passé, a fine point to make if it’s what you believe, but a little disingenuous if you are at the same time saying you are against binary thinking.

As Terry Eagleton writes in The Illusions of Postmodernism,

“For all its vaunted openness to the Other, postmodernism can be quite as exclusive and censorious as the orthodoxies it opposes…It is a thoroughly orthodox heterodoxy, which like any imaginary form of identity needs its bogeymen and straw targets in order to stay in business.”

Against being Against?

To put it plainly, there is a certain nonsense in declaring, as Rodgers did, that you are against being against things.

And Jesus (that guy who was either risen from the dead…or not) had no problem at all with binary thinking:

“Whoever believes in (Me) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:18, 19 (ESV)

The Real Reason Rodgers Left…

Uncomfortably binary, I know, yet our Lord points to what is likely the real reason Aaron left behind his faith; and so, as for me, I’m praying that his thinking off the field will become as clear and lucid as it usually is…on.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/aaron-rodgers-opens-religion-danica-200501823.html

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Swinging Through Life with Annie Grace

Photo on Aug 31, 2018 at 4_41_47 PM

(Cheering for the Brew crew at Miller Park)

Our family’s 2009 sabbatical included a mid-July trip to Oxford, England, and the famed University of Oxford; but our visit to the world’s oldest English-speaking college (circa 1096) was tinged with frustration: the hallowed halls of the once academic home of C.S. Lewis were closed to us. Maybe it was because of summer and University inactivity, but among other disappointments, we couldn’t tour the great Bodleian Library; we only stared at it from the outside.

We did, however, have one hope of getting inside the institution. There was a portico along one street, with an open doorway where passersby could see into a grassy, quad-like area, apparently the interior of an Oxford college. Just to walk about briefly through an Oxford quad would complete the visit for me.

But did I mention the English security guard at the portico…and next to him, before the doorway, a velvet rope, hanging in a U between two standing poles, and barring my entrance into history?

No problem – I thought – just a brief, friendly conversation with the security man, and I’m sure he would let such a nice American family into the area for a quick peek. I approached him with a warm greeting. But…I hadn’t considered our youngest, Annie Grace. At 8 years of age, she had a mind of her own, and I had neglected to inform her of my careful plan.

While I was beginning my entreaty, Annie came from behind, marched boldly up to the velvet rope, swung it up and over her head, and continued striding in.

The rest of the Knowlton clan could only stand behind with mouths agape. And the security guard…like any good and proper Englishman…was aghast.

As you might imagine, only Annie saw any of the interior quad that day, and not that much before we could call her back.

Boldly striding forward, our Annie Grace turned 18 last Sunday.

Life with Annie…Annie Grace

So free, so joyous. So full of life. So much of a delight to all who know her.

Diane came to bed late Sunday (birthday) night, around 1 am, (Monday morning I suppose). Turns out she and Annie had been up discussing all manner of things, including the future. Well, whatever my daughter does in years to come, she’s got a lot to offer a needy world.

For instance, her innate creativity. It’s something to behold. (Just enjoy a game of “would you rather” with her, and you will see what I mean). Or look at her drawings and paintings…where she combines a minute attention to detail with artistic vision and flair, producing works that make me (yes, yes, I know, I’m her dad) wonder.

And then there is her empathy. The second commandment shines through in Annie’s faith. The least of these are the most to her.

So as Annie spins into the future and her high school senior year, she and I are grabbing lunches on Sunday after church, a time that worked for both of us. She’s busier than me nowadays – has been working full time this summer, and this fall will only get busier with school, piano, drama, dance, and even a boy. Yes, she’s got a boyfriend as of this summer, who seems like a great guy…so far.

I’m watching you, Zach.Annie and Zach

Anyway…Happy 18th Birthday, sweet Annie Grace.

Keep swinging past the ropes.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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C.S. Lewis on Praying for Personal Peace…

Lord that made the dragon, grant me thy peace,

But say not that I should give up the gold,

Nor move, nor die. Others would have the gold.

Kill rather, Lord, the Men and the other dragons;

Then I can sleep; go when I will to drink.

– C.S. Lewis, ‘The Dragon Speaks’, Poems

I woke up this morning a tad anxious. It happens occasionally to me, and usually passes after I am fully awake. So later, I prayed for peace in my time with God.

And then, in the delightful C.S. Lewis anthology I am reading (A Mind Awake), I ran across the poem above. It was good meditation for me.

You see, Lewis’ dragon also prayed for peace, though he was unwilling to give up his stolen loot. Nor was he willing to change, to die to self. So his prayer was not that God would deal with him so that sleep would come, but rather, that God would deal with others.

Sometimes our prayer for peace should be a prayer of repentance. Not always, but sometimes.

That may or may not be the case for me. I do know that later I prayed another poem, this one from King David:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

-Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Why Followers of Jesus Believe the Bible…

A few weeks ago I was out to dinner with three other pastors, and we got to talking about how Jesus proves that there is life after death. The Lord was arguing with the Sadducees (who said there isn’t a resurrection), and Jesus brought them to that moment where Moses was at the burning bush, and God said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Then Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In other words, God didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham…” (read all about in Mark 12)

And like theological nerds, we were delighting and laughing together about how Jesus hangs the entire argument for the resurrection on a Hebrew verb tense. Not “I was” but “I am”.

To paraphrase the Lord: “There, dummies, that proves it – people are still alive after they die,”

Pastor Tim Keller beautifully sums up what this means…

Tim Keller on why followers of Christ must believe the Bible is true…

“When you pricked Jesus Christ, when you stabbed Jesus Christ, he literally bled Scripture. He knew the Scripture so well, he thought about the Scripture so pervasively, it so saturated and permeated his whole being and his imagination and his feelings and his will and his knowledge that it shaped him instinctively. The Scripture shaped every part of him. It was who he was, and that’s how he was able. He didn’t have to sit and think, ‘Well, now how should I act?’ His nobility, his courage, his peace, his faith all happened because he was just saturated with the Scripture.

“I have people constantly saying to me, ‘Well, I have problems with the Bible. You can’t take the Bible literally here.’ Some of you might know I just went to a number of college campuses over the last few days, and I had Question and Answer times on all these campuses about Christianity. That came up all the time. ‘How can you believe when the Bible says this? Aren’t there legends in the Bible? Aren’t there things you can’t take literally? Aren’t there regressive things in the Bible that really offend you now?’

“What I always want to say to people is, ‘Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe Jesus was Lord of heaven come to earth? Do you believe he was raised from the dead? Figure that out, would you? You decide whether he’s the Son of God. You decide whether he was Lord from heaven. You decide whether he was bodily raised from the dead, because if he is, there is absolutely no way to follow Christ, to admit he’s the Son of God, without accepting the authority of the Bible. Jesus Christ submitted to the Scripture. He loved the Scripture. He knew the Scripture. He bowed to the authority of it at every point. If he is the Son of God, so are you going to have to.’

“Anybody who says, ‘Well, I believe in Jesus. I love Jesus, but I have trouble with these parts of the Bible,’ then you don’t believe in Jesus. You don’t love Jesus. You don’t know who he is. You’ve created a figment of your imagination. If he’s the Son of God, you have to deal with the authority of the Scripture, or you can’t follow him. If you love the Son of God, you have to love the Scripture, because he loved the Scripture. It’s what he was made of.

“On the other hand, if he wasn’t the Son of God and he wasn’t raised from the dead, who cares whether you can take the Bible literally? Be offended all you want. Why are you struggling with it? The authority of the Scripture rises and falls with the person of Jesus Christ. If he is who he said he is and if he needed the Scripture to face everything in life, how much more do you need it?”

– Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church. (Keller’s sermon on John 19:28-37)

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Bible, Uncategorized

 

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What Rob Bell Has in Common with Jonah

pexels-photo-534204Old Testament prophet Jonah has always been a strange one to me.

First of all, if I were called to preach to the capital of a wicked kingdom like Assyria, I might be a little nervous about the reception I would receive, but I think I would be fired up. You know, the chance to be used by God, to see him move mightily, etc. Yet Jonah receives a call to preach in Nineveh, and famously turns the other way. Strange.

We find out why as we read the short book. Jonah is ticked off that God would even consider forgiving this wicked, war-faring people. Even at the end of the book, Jonah is still mad at God for being merciful. And Yahweh is still reasoning with him…

“Should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left…?” Jonah 4:11 (ESV)

Jonah’s behavior seems strange to us in the west, but I imagine many of his fellow Israelites would have patted him on the back for at least trying to get away from such a “horrible” mission.

You see, Jonah’s problem is our problem: culture. We imagine we know how God should be, but our picture of him is too easily derived from our culture. Jonah was middle-eastern, and in the culture of the Ancient Near East, forgiving your enemies was a particularly hard pill to swallow.

Rob Bell, modern day Jonah…in reverse

Which brings us to Rob Bell, a modern day Jonah…in reverse. In rejecting Hell, Mr. Bell has discerned exactly how God should be, yet his picture of God is not derived from the Scriptures, though he captures some unwitting folks by talking a lot about being a disciple of Jesus and throwing a Bible verse in here and there. But in fact, nobody spoke more about Hell in the Bible than Jesus, and Rob Bell’s picture of God is direct from modern-day western culture.

So where Jonah speaks to God of a wicked people, “I can’t believe you would forgive them,” Rob Bell says, “I can’t believe you wouldn’t.” Either way, it’s the same basic error – a refusal to accept God as he is in his word.

The Lesson

The application for us is simple: don’t trust your gut. When Scripture speaks, trust it instead. Otherwise you will end up with a god of your own making, and the relationship you think you have with the true God will be a mirage. For the Scriptures tell us that Yahweh is indeed a forgiving God; his forgiveness, however, comes at a price, which he paid for Old and New Testament saints…at Calvary.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

On Christian Athletes Giving Glory to God

ben-hershey-417746After the incredible Super Bowl game Sunday night, we watched the presentation of the Lombardi trophy to the joyous Philadelphia Eagles. And then it happened – one after another, first the Head Coach, Doug Pederson, then the player making a clutch touchdown catch, Zach Ertz, and then finally the MVP quarterback, Nick Foles…all made mention of God in their acceptance of the accolades. From their Wikipedia articles, all three seem to be Christians.

“Bringing God” into a sports win irks a lot of people.

For instance, William Baker, author of Playing with God, says, “I don’t think it’s the right place and it’s not the right gesture. It’s an athlete using a moment to sell a product, like soap.”

I see what he’s saying, but in fact, I think that Mr. Baker is misunderstanding a truth about life and Christianity that the three sports heroes all seemed to understand on Sunday night.

Of course, I don’t know Pederson, Ertz, and Foles at all and therefore can’t speak for them, but if their thinking is anything like mine, they didn’t speak up because they felt God loved and helped them more than the Patriots. I imagine they are smart men and wouldn’t be so foolish. Surely there are many Patriot players who follow Christ also.

And it may be that the winning three were trying to “witness” for Christ, to “sell soap” as Baker might crassly put it; but I kind of doubt that too.

Instead, on Sunday night, Pederson, Ertz and Foles spoke up because they realized the great truth of the universe: that everything is about God…and His Son Jesus Christ. Everything. Indeed, all of human existence revolves around Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote,

(Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17 (ESV)

Christians know that “all things were created…for him”. Therefore, he is the purpose and center of everything. And more than that, “in him all things hold together”, even frail football players.

So in their moment of victory, I doubt the three Eagles were imagining God a Philadelphia fan. And I doubt they were thinking that their testimony would cause the world to fall on its knees.

They were simply remembering that day is coming. And they were themselves…kneeling a little early…

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:10, 11 (ESV)

 

 

 

One Thing is Necessary…

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

Busy. Distracted….with a cluttered life full of activities that are not of ultimate importance. It’s easy to find ourselves in this situation, especially at Christmas, but the cluttered life happens all year round. Just ask Martha.

Jesus taught that there was one thing necessary in life, because if this one thing happens, everything else falls into place. Mary chose “the good portion”, undistracted time sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha chose…something else.

We’re always choosing in life. It’s one decision after another, and sadly, C.S. Lewis said that many people will come to the end of life and say, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”

Sitting at Jesus’ feet day after day guarantees that these mournful words will not be our last.

So, a New Year approaches to sit at his feet and hear his voice. I hope you won’t wait for January 1; enjoy him in his word today, but New Year’s Day is a fine time to begin a new Bible reading program. To that end, here are some options…

This is the classic Navigator through-the-Bible reading plan – only 25 days of each month have a reading, giving you plenty of mulligans all year long…

The Navigator’s Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

The next is very popular; it’s also for the ambitious who want to do the Old Testament once and the Psalms and New Testament twice. My old seminary professor D.A. Carson has written a couple of devotionals to go along with it…

Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan

Finally, if you’re just getting started, consider a plan that will simply take you through the New Testament next year. The Navigators come through for us again with this one…

Read the New Testament Plan

Lastly, a tried and true method is to open your Bible and work through a book at a time, marking off chapters you have read. It’s simple…but not time sensitive and it gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and study what you like.

Whatever plan you choose, you will be, like Mary, walking in the words of our Heavenly Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 
 
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