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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Basis

When I write I often refer to "biblical Christians" -- real Christians -- as a differentiation from "nominal Christians" -- Christians in name only. (Maybe I should use "CINO" instead?) That's because of the importance of the Word of God. Now, of course, there are lot of nominal Christians -- Christians in name only -- who will tell you they're biblical. They follow the Bible. "Well, of course, not the Bible you follow, perhaps. I mean, you know Genesis is myth, that the Flood never happened, that God never ordered Israel to attack the Amalekites," and so on. "But we follow the Bible; we just don't interpret it as you do."

Now, the truth is all of us -- "real Christians" -- will find, at some point or another, a difference in interpretation. Hopefully not big ones. Certainly not critical ones. But we all have differences, even among those who have a high degree of agreement. So when the one Christian says, "We just don't interpret it as you do" and I don't call that one a "biblical Christian", what do I mean? That is the critical question. If genuine "biblical Christians" can disagree on points and "nominal Christians" claim to simply "disagree on points" (so to speak), what do I see as the difference? Let me explain what I mean.

The fundamental difference between these two is the basis for the interpretation. When the CINO says, for instance, "The Flood never happened," you have to ask them why they say that. The types of answers you will get will be things like, "Science doesn't support it" or "The God I believe in wouldn't do that" or things like that. The biblical Christian would start with, "Well, it says it, so it must be." It might turn out that a further analysis will result in a different answer, but if the basis is "the Word of God as truth", then the first response is, well, "The Word of God is true." Everything else shifts around that.

Let me illustrate. Years ago I was discussing this passage:
Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness -- with good works. (1 Tim 2:9-10)
I said, "I don't see this as a prohibition of women wearing braided hair. I see it as Paul describing what 'respectable apparel' is for women -- modesty and self control. I don't understand the phrase to indicate a prohibition, but more of a 'I'm not talking about braided hair or jewelry or clothing; I'm talking about godliness.'" "See," someone retorted, "you don't take Scripture as written!" Someone else pointed out the difference. "The difference between him and you," this other commenter said, "is that if Stan was to be convinced that what was actually intended here was a prohibition of braids and jewelry for women, he would encourage the prohibition of braids and jewelry for women. You will refuse to prohibit braids and jewelry for women and, therefore, refuse to allow this text to mean that." Do you see the difference here? In one case Scripture interprets Scripture and the reader will follow whatever Scripture says, even though we don't all agree with what it means by what it says; in the other case, Scripture is interpreted by people whose original basis is their own point of view.

Take, for instance, the story of God commanding the deaths of the Amalekites. If your basis is "God's Word is true," (Rom 3:4) then you're approach will be along the lines of "How do I make sense of this from Scripture?" If your basis is "my point of view", your approach will be "How does this line up with what I already know to be true?" CINOs will argue that the event didn't occur as written because "That's not the God I know" or "that's not what Jesus was like" or something like it. If your predetermined basis produces a contradiction in Scripture, then your predetermined basis is not Scripture. And that is not a "biblical Christian" as I am using the term.

It is certainly possible, even valuable, to compare Scripture with Scripture. In doing that, you might conclude, "This text doesn't mean what it appears to imply because that text says the opposite." In this case, Scripture is still the basis for the interpretation. That's perfectly acceptable. That's the point. But if you're basis is "me" first -- your views, your outlook, your preferences, your ideas, your science, your philosophy, your morals, etc. -- then you have a basis for your interpretation, just not a biblical one. When I offer arguments that go something like, "God's Word says ..." and the response is to explain that I'm wrong without offering any biblical basis for it, it's not a biblical argument. Telling me, "That's not what it means" because it doesn't align with your predispositions doesn't make it biblical. Telling me, "I don't have to explain from Scripture why you're wrong because that's not the bottom line" simply makes my point. Basis, you see, is important. And "differences of interpretation" aren't always on the same basis.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Jude

Jude is a short book. One chapter. We don't know specifically who he was writing to. We're not entirely sure who he was. He says he's the brother of James, so we're pretty sure he was one of Jesus's brothers, but some argue for Judas (not Iscariot). Fine. One thing is clear, though. Jude was deeply concerned about false teachers in the church.

Not a big surprise, actually. Paul wrote Galatians to the church in Galatia because of the heresy of legalism, and his epistle to the Colossians addressed the error of Gnosticism. John warned of "antichrists" coming out from among us (1 John 2:18-19). Much of the New Testament was aimed at error cropping out right and left. Jesus Himself said, "Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Matt 7:15) Jesus's description was "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name ..." (Matt 7:22-23) Big problem. So Jude's concern was neither trivial nor surprising.

Jude argued that the faith we were to defend was "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 1:3) Not something new. Not something developing. Not a faith that was yet to come. It matured, as shown by Paul's expansion to the Gentiles, but it was "once for all handed down to the saints" -- the end.

It was this faith, then, that was under attack. Jude said these teachers were "long beforehand marked out for this condemnation (Jude 1:4) and goes on to describe them. You might want to know what to look for. These try to turn God's grace into sensuality -- unbridled lust (Jude 1:4). These are the ones that will tell you, "It's okay; indulge your desires. God made you that way. Don't worry; He's a forgiving God." Jude links them to the sin of Sodom, indulging in gross immorality, pursuing strange flesh, rejecting authority, reviling angelic majesties, and defiling the flesh (Jude 1:7-8). "These men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct." (Jude 1:10) They are among us, part of our group; they are "hidden reefs in your love feasts" (Jude 1:12). They care for themselves and offer nothing -- "clouds without water." (Jude 1:12) "There will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit." (Jude 1:18-19)

They were there in Jesus's day, there in the day of the Apostles, there in Jude's day, and they're with us now. They attack the faith given once for all and replace it with their own passions. "Sure, that's what your Bible says, but I just don't feel that's right." They deny God's authority and common-sense morality. They serve themselves most of all and offer nothing to God's people but more of themselves. Oh, you stand on God's Word? They will mock you. They will cause divisions. Their worldview is a worldly one. You know them. You've seen them. You've talked to them.

Be ready. Stand in the love of God (Jude 1:21). Show mercy to the doubters (Jude 1:22) and snatch who you can from the fire (Jude 1:23). Remember, it is God who "is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy." (Jude 1:24) Don't get distracted with the error. Don't get lost in the new. Don't go down the path of self-service. We serve a mighty God. Count on Him. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fix It Now!

On the news radio the other day I listened to the talking head expounding on the Houston shooting. He said this was the 41st school shooting this year. (He defined "school shooting" as any discharge of a firearm at a school.) He complained about the whole problem and declared, "No one is doing anything!" Really? No one? Anything?

Dan Patrick, Texas's Lieutenant Governor, made himself the laughingstock of the Internet by suggesting that the solution to school shootings was to decrease the number of entrances and exits. "There aren't enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit," he said. "Maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at the people coming in through one or two entrances."

That's stupid, right? Everyone knows that the real answer is gun control. Silly Lt Governor. Except that almost no one seems to be noticing that the loud and angry gun-control advocates are advocating the very same thing that they are mocking the Lt Governor for -- control. He's saying control access; they're saying control access. He's saying control access to schools; they're saying control access to guns. And although it was clear that the Florida shooter in February and this most recent shooter didn't have legal gun access, it's still all about access. And the lt. governor is a buffoon but the gun control crowd is brilliant. Nonsense!

In my work in the area of technology, I've had to find out "What went wrong??" a lot of times. The way you typically do that is to ask, "What changed?" That is, "Technology X has been working up until now ... and now it isn't." So the question has to be "What changed?" Did a part give out? (Time has changed.) Did a user do something different? (Use has changed.) Did we get a different part? (Content has changed.) If something has been operating one way and now it's different, what changed?

There have been students and there have been guns and there have been loose gun laws or loose gun law enforcement for a long, long time. We haven't seen this many school shootings ... ever. What changed? It is not guns. It is not gun laws. If anything they've been made tighter. It is not (sorry, Lt. Gov.) doors. What has changed is something in people. More and more people, often young people, are much more willing to use deadly force than ever before. That's not because guns exist or gun laws are lax. It's because they're much more willing to kill than ever before.

Until we allow a hard look at what's gone wrong with people, we will not find a meaningful solution to this problem. I'm fairly confident, however, that 1) we won't allow that discussion, 2) we won't like the outcome (Gen 8:21; Psa 51:5; Psa 58:3; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:23; Rom 8:7; etc.), and 3) we won't tolerate the fix. Because it won't be "those dirty, rotten guns" or "too many doors"; it will be us.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

One of the most difficult things for pastors to speak on these days seems to be the subject of giving. I cannot tell you how many Christians have told me that the only reason preachers urge giving is to line their pockets -- simple greed. That's Christians, mind you. Acknowledging that there are pastors who do so for that reason, I don't think that 1) it's fair to say all or even most do, and 2) if our worldview is a biblical one, it is abundantly clear that the Bible thinks that giving is important.

In the Old Testament, God calls those who didn't give their tithes robbers (Mal 3:8). God built giving into His original sacrificial structure. In the New Testament, the tithe isn't mentioned but giving certainly is. We know, for instance, beyond a doubt that "God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor 9:7) Say what you want about giving, it is absolutely clear that God loves people who give cheerfully.

I've heard people use this as an excuse. "Hey, I'm not cheerful about giving, so I won't give." Like that's what is in view here. Like the intention of the God who inspired it and Paul who wrote it was "Look, here's an out for you; if you aren't cheerful about it, don't give. Don't worry about it. It's all good." I find this kind of thinking ... mindless.

Look, we're supposed to be Christians, lovers of God. We're supposed to want to do those things that please God because of the "indescribable gift" (2 Cor 9:15) of His Son and His grace in His Son and all that goes into that. Jesus said that those who are forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47), and the basic principle of Christianity is that we have been forgiven sin that earned us Hell. That is "much". If this is true, it would stand to reason that the moment we read "God loves ..." we would sit up and take notice. "What does God love???" And when we get the end of the thought -- "... a cheerful giver" -- we would not go, "Oh, that? No thanks. Not interested."

So, if the aim is to love God and be loved by Him and if it is true that God loves a cheerful giver and we are, at this moment, not so cheerful about giving, how are we to fix that? Give up giving? No. Paul lists in the passage exactly why we should be cheerful about giving. He says that if we sow bountifully, we will reap bountifully (2 Cor 9:6). He says that "God is able to make all grace abound to you" and goes on to promise "all sufficiency in everything" (2 Cor 9:8). He says, "You will be enriched in everything for all liberality" (2 Cor 9:11). Beyond all this, though, he says that the outcome of your giving is the "producing of thanksgiving to God" (2 Cor 9:11) and multiplication of the Gospel (2 Cor 9:10). Now surely you can see how these are all good reasons to give cheerfully, right?

The point of the famous "cheerful giver" text is not that we would have that as an excuse. The point is that we should be concerned if we are not cheerful about giving to the needs of the saints, to the ministry of the gospel, to the glory of God. If God's "indescribable gift" is not sufficient to produce cheerful giving, perhaps you don't have it yet. We can talk about that.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

News Weakly - 5/19/2018

The New "Religious Bigot"
Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, was asked to give the prayer that opened the new United States Embassy in Jerusalem this week. Mitt Romney protested. Jeffress, a "Christian Zionist" who is a strong supporter of Israel, has stated that neither Judaism nor Islam saves -- Jesus does -- and Mormonism was wrong. In other words, Jeffress is a religious bigot because he believes what his Bible tells him -- he believes his religion. By that standard Jesus was a "religious bigot" when He said, "No man comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6) and Peter was a "religious bigot" when he declared, "There is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) And I suppose that either Mitt Romney is a religious bigot ... or he doesn't believe his religion.

(Side note: When I read that Jeffress is "an adviser to President Trump", it was the first time I had any hope that Trump might have some good input.)

You Asked for it, You got it
We need to fight homelessness. We need to help people with nowhere to live and no money to change that. We need to do it "without jeopardizing critical jobs." Seattle figured out how. Raise $48 million a year by taxing big companies like Amazon and Starbucks $275 per employee. "Wait ... what??!!" say Amazon and Starbucks. Seattle, who has led the way on forcing new laws about "$15/hr minimum wage" for a living wage is now going to ... wait for it ... tax the rich. We'll see how that works out for Seattle. I think their claim that they address the problem "without jeopardizing critical jobs" might be accurate, but a prime insult to all the Amazon/Starbucks-type employees who could lose their jobs. "We want to help the poor; just not on our backs." Don't push back too hard, big business. The original proposal was $500 per employee and they still might ask for it.

Found in Passing
I came across this story while reading another story that I was sent to by another story. You may not know the name -- Scot Peterson -- but you know the guy. He was the armed sheriff's deputy on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the shooting started. He stayed outside and warned other arriving police to do the same. Well, he took this "opportunity" to resign and, subsequently, retire and, since there were no criminal charges filed against him for failing to do his job, he's now collecting a pension of $8,702.35 a month. Show up, don't do your job, get well paid. Good work if you can get it.

Headed for the End of the World
We're headed in the right direction ... if the right direction is the end of the human race. At least, here in the U.S. The lowest recorded number of births in 30 years was recorded in the U.S. in 2017. The birthrate is now 1.76. Logically, 2.0 would be a replacement birthrate (since normally 2 people produce a child so 2 children would ... well, you get the math). Practically, taking into account infant deaths and such, they tell us that a birthrate like 2.1-2.2 would be required to keep the human population going. Fortunately, both the U.S. and Europe have all managed to drop that rate to allow us to aim for zero population. "Good going, people. I hope Jesus comes back before you succeed in erasing humanity," he said (with tongue firmly in cheek).

California Concealed Carry Violation
A San Francisco resident was arrested recently for violating Conceal Carry laws. Californians can't carry concealed material that contradicts the far-left Californian agendas, and this guy was caught with a Bible in his pocket. "'We have been able to confirm that the Bible he was carrying contained dangerously bigoted passages, and was not properly stored and secured in a fingerprint-locked Bible cover,' San Francisco Police Chief William 'Bill' Scott said." Bail was set at $250,000.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Onward Christian Soldiers

It was a popular tune when I was a kid. "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war ..." The "Christian fight song", so to speak. And, look, it's understandable. Isn't this kind of language in Scripture?
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:11-12)
Well, sure enough, there it is. We are to "put on the whole armor of God" because we're not in a mere "flesh and blood" battle, but an entire "cosmic powers" fight. The whole "onward Christian soldiers" idea right there.

Or is it?

I notice something interesting in this clear call to war.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:13)
Do you see it? The text doesn't say we're supposed to "march". It doesn't appear to be an offensive. It appears to be a purely defensive war. With the armor of God, we're supposed to "be able to withstand in the evil day" and "to stand firm." Stand. Oh, stand firm, sure, but this doesn't seem to be a "take ground" battle.

It makes sense, actually. Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Paul wrote, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:37-39) This is a done deal. It's all over but the shouting.

The story is told about when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah (2 Chron 20:1-30). A great army amassed and it looked bad. Jehoshaphat was scared. So he called up the people and they gathered for a prayer meeting. He told God the problem. "We are powerless," he ended and told God, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (2 Chron 20:12) And God answered, "The battle is not yours, but God's." (2 Chron 20:15) The rest of the story is great fun. "Here's our battle plan," Jehoshaphat (essentially) tells his people. "We don't have to fight, so we'll put the choir up front and the rest of us will come along to praise God." (2 Chron 20:20-21) And God proved reliable.

Solomon wrote, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD." (Prov 21:31) We are told to make ready, no to take ground or overcome, but to stand firm in the power of His strength (Eph 6:10). Yes, we are at war, but it is a done deal and we're just supposed to stand. All we have to do is praise God while He works.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Me? Submit??

We hate that word, "submit." Especially we 21st-century Americans. "Submit? Who, me?? Make me!" The response is common, if only just in our minds, even among Christians. I was talking to some regular church-going, Bible-believing, long-time Christians once about Romans 1 where Paul addresses them as "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ ..." (Rom 1:1), and they stopped me, offended. "We're not slaves." "Submit? Who, me?! No way!"

So it is understandable that Paul's instructions to wives in his epistle to the church at Ephesus is so offensive to so many.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Eph 5:22)
"Submit? Who, me?! To him?!! He doesn't even know enough to come in out of the rain!" So we either blatantly ignore the clear command or we come up with clever dodges to explain why it just isn't there. "Pay no attention to that verse behind 'submit'." They'll argue that it is no longer applicable today (without either the textual backing to do it or the recognition of the dangerous ramifications that follow that kind of thinking) or they'll argue that "It doesn't mean that at all; Paul is talking about mutual submission!" Now, try to put "mutual submission" into "submit to your own husbands as to the Lord" as if that would make sense. "Why, yes, of course! Because the Lord submits to me and I submit to Him." Nope, not making sense.

The truth is, however, that the text preceding verse 22 says, "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:21) "See? There it is! "Submitting to one another." Yes, there it is. But you will note that it isn't even a complete sentence. It is the end of a sentence that, in the ESV, began in verse 18. And, in fact, this sentence is in the context of a concept that began in verse 1 of that chapter.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Eph 5:1)
And any astute observer will note that that concept begins with a "therefore", which means that a larger concept precedes it. That concept is at the start of the 4th chapter:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. (Eph 4:1)
And, of course, the "therefore" there is the first three chapters of Paul's letter to Ephesus which explains the magnitude of "the calling to which you have been called" to which we are to walk in a worthy manner. Big, big concepts. (I read not too long ago that we should never read a Bible verse. We should always include context. This passage illustrates the point.)

So, here we are, back at the question of submission. Let's follow it through the other way. Because of the magnitude of the calling, we should live in a worthy manner. That would largely include being imitators of God since we are His beloved children. Part of that imitation includes submission."

Wait ... how? Well, Paul told the Philippians, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4) That's submission. He goes on to round that thought out with "Have this mind in you which is in Christ Jesus ..." and goes on to explain how Christ "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death." (Phil 2:5-8) That looks a lot like God (the Son) submitting to God (the Father) just like Jesus said He did (John 14:28; Luke 22:27; John 6:38; John 7:16; 1 Cor 11:3; 1 Cor 15:28). And now we're looking at a huge "submission" issue, where God the Son is in submission while we say, "Me submit?! No way!"

Submission is a biblical concept commanded for all of us as a matter of godliness. We mistakenly think that "submit" means "lesser value" or "lesser power" or "less" somehow at all. Jesus was surely not "less" because He submitted to His Father. We mistakenly think that "submit" means "the same for everyone in every way." That's not right, either. Submission in the Bible is simply what Jesus did, elevating others over Himself in order to meet the needs of others. Christ submitted His equality with God and His own life in order to meet our need for salvation. A wife submits her control to her husband to meet his need for respect and support. A husband submits his personal preferences to his wife in order to love her "as Christ loved the church." None of this requires "less than," but all of it is required by God of us who believe. "Me, a slave?" I'd better be.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Intersectionality

I just heard this term for the first time recently. Intersectionality is the idea that your value, your worth, who you are is determined by how many victim statuses you can claim. White? 0. Black? 1. Male? 0. Female? 1. Straight? 0. Gay? 1. Are you the same gender you were born (called "cisgender")? 0. Transgender? 1. And, oh, trust me, there are more -- lots more. But if you are a black female lesbian transgender based on that list I just started, you have 4 points of intersectionality that the white male straight guy has (who, by the way, at this point is a big, fat zero).

Deriving your value from your victim status seems ludicrous, but it's popular today. On the other hand, the rest of us typically derive our value from other equally ridiculous things. It is our fame or success, our power or our privilege, our wealth or our abilities, or other things that the Bible calls "temporal" (2 Cor 4:18). We derive our sense of well-being and personal worth from the transient. And by "we" I mean the world, certainly, but also believers. We get confused about our purpose here as ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) on a mission (2 Cor 5:18) which is not about us (2 Cor 5:14-15) and is powered by God (2 Cor 4:7; Phil 2:13). Not the same thing.

Some of us are "building a portfolio" on our intersectionality -- how many victim statuses we can claim. Most of us are "building a portfolio" on our own efforts. Either of these are ludicrous and entirely about both the here and now and about us. None of this stands up in the light of the eternal -- God's eternal power and eternal purpose that we are to be a part of. We need the long view, and being a victim or a worldly success of some sort is not that view. "We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor 5:7)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sinking Sand

See, this is why I prefer to stand on solid rock than sinking sand.

They will tell you that Science is clear, that we are the product of a lengthy process of Evolution and everything essentially came into being out of nothing and if you don't believe Science you're a dark-ages idiot. Unless, of course, if he thinks he's a she or she's a he or, better yet, they think they're a "something else" -- a "non-binary gender" -- even though science tells us quite clearly that males have "this" body part and females have "that" body part and females lack the capacity to impregnate and males lack the capacity to ovulate and there can be no doubt what sex he or she is. If you doubt his/her or her/his feelings, then you're just a dark-ages, idiotic hater.

They will tell you that the solid basis for any moral code is the concept of "harm", that if it causes harm it's bad and if not it's okay and you're just a religious nut if you offer some fancy Divine Lawmaker. Unless, of course, you factor in "consent", where she can consent to be beaten for sexual pleasure or he can consent to be executed because he's tired of living and the obvious harm it causes becomes irrelevant because "consent" trumps "harm".

The Beatles assured us that "Love is all you need" and we are almost universally certain that love is the best of all possible reasons for anything at all. But we've modified the word and changed the rules and "love" becomes the sure rationale for redefining marriage because "Why should I not be allowed to marry the person I love?" but is not an acceptable rationale for "But I want to marry my mother" or "my dog" or "my fence.") (Yes, someone has done that.) In this "Love is the reason" mindset they hold on tightly to ensure he can "marry" him or she can "marry" her, but set it aside flippantly when he wants to "marry" them or when "Those two can't marry" is arbitrarily applied. Because in these cases (where "these cases" is a moving standard) love is all you need but in those cases we do not allow it. Why? Because love is irrelevant in those, but paramount in these.

It just goes on and on. We, as a society, continue to stand firmly on sinking sand. "Life is precious" unless it's an unwanted baby, then it's literally disposable. "Stealing is wrong" unless it's office supplies they'll never miss or taxes they won't catch you at or something else I can get away with. "There is no God!" they like to yell because "God is evil!" without realizing that there is no actual basic standard of evil available without the existence of God. Sinking sand. Even the religious types are sinking into it when they discard any solid standard, like God's Word. I prefer the Solid Rock -- God and His Word -- myself.

Monday, May 14, 2018

God Commanded Killings

One of the most disturbing stories in Scripture is found in 1 Samuel where God tells Saul:
I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. (1 Sam 15:2-3)
You have to admit; that sounds ... over the top. "Kill 'em all. Men, women, children, babies. Even their animals." It's a popular point of attack from skeptics and a careful dodge from the Christian Left who are quite sure it never happened or, at the very least, didn't happen like that. "I mean, God would never command such a thing." That, I suppose is what we might expect when Scripture loses its weight, but if we are going to take God's Word seriously (2 Tim 3:16-17), what are we going to do with this literally bloody mess? Well, let's look at the facts.

1. God told Israel before the fact that "you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven" (Exo 17:14; Deut 25:19). We still have records of Amalek, but only in the Bible. So obscure are they that historians question their existence. Wikipedia reports that "no specific artifacts or sites have been linked to Amalek with any certainty."

2. God always does what is right, what is just (Gen 18:25).

3. It was commanded by God. It was not a product of a group of angry Israelites (as evidenced by the fact that they refused to carry it out).

4. It was not arbitrary. It was purposeful (1 Sam 15:2; Exo 17:8-16).

5. It highlights:
a) God uses ungodly people to accomplish His purposes. In this case, sinful Israel is required to carry out God's judgment. (Later it would be sinful Babylon and Assyria who would carry out God's judgment on Israel and Judah.)
b) The immensity of sin. God cites their assault on Israel (1 Sam 15:2), but these people were also known for their particular idolatry. They worshiped Moloch, a god who demanded throwing babies into the arms of a burning idol to burn to death. Archaeologist William F. Albright described their religion as "perhaps the most depraved religion known to man."

But why do you suppose He included women, children, and animals? It makes sense that the animals had to go. This wasn't a "get rich" plan for Israel. They weren't to benefit from the deed. But women and children? God already had said that Israel wouldn't go to Canaan until the people of the land had "completed" their evil (Gen 15:16). Their religion was an offense to God. Their assaults on Israel were an offense to God. "But ... innocent children?" That would be a valid concern if we don't accept God at His Word. He claims, "The intent of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21) David claims he was sinful since his conception (Psa 51:5). He claimed, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth." (Psa 58:3) Now, we can debate whether or not those little ones were counted as redeemed after their deaths. That is the common view and I won't haggle over it now. What we can be sure of is that God didn't unjustly punish anyone. (#2 above.)

"But an entire genocide?" It should be noted that this destruction did not result in the entire annihilation of the Amalekites. It was local. We know this because the Amalekites continued to plague Israel (1 Sam 30:1-2). In fact, Saul failed to kill them all as it was (1 Sam 15:9) and it was an Amalekite that later killed King Saul in his final battle (2 Sam 1:5-10). Haman, who sought to eliminate the Jews entirely, was an Amalekite (Est 3:1). (He was an offspring of Agag, whom Saul refused to kill when commanded.)

There is one other important aspect of this story. It is abundantly clear that the point in this story is God's command to Israel at that time for His purpose. The command was clear, concise, and complete. It was not a blanket "kill 'em all" command in the sense that we might carry it over to an Islamic "kill all unbelievers" kind of thing. Some have tried to use this story as justification for killing. It cannot be used thus. It was a specific command 1) by God 2) to Saul 3) at that time 4) for God's purpose. Drumming up our own enemies for us to kill violates all of that. When people warn that we're going to teach kids to kill, I will point out that those who do are not following Scripture and that I agree with the alarmists that this is not right for us today. Those who use this as justification for killing anyone today do so in opposition to Scripture, not in accordance with it.

What it boils down to, you see, is what God you have in your Bible and in your life. If you have a Sovereign, Just, Righteous God who always does what is right and always does what is best, then this is a non-question. If you have a god that must submit to your version of "good" and could potentially fail at that standard, then it's not the God of the Bible. In that case, you're on your own.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I Remember Mom

I've written on more than one occasion about my mother. I've told how blessed I am to have her, how grateful to God for giving me this woman as my mother. Perhaps I'll share, on this Mother's Day, some of my memories that so brightly illustrate what a joy it is to have Mom as my mom.

Mom has a song for everything. She has a reputation for that. Her grandkids have asked, "Grandma, do you have a song for everything?" Okay, maybe not everything, but pretty near. They come from sources like hymns and songs she sang in her choir years all the way through old commercials. I often find odd word connections -- puns and otherwise -- in casual conversation; she finds song connections.

She and I share a special bond. I don't think it's very common, actually. We love to discuss theology, doctrine, Scripture ... all that good stuff. One thing that struck me from my youth was her devotion to the Word. We would talk about a concept or principle and she would pull out her Bible which she had had for as long as I could remember and tell me, "I just read about this recently." She would indicate, "It's in ..." and tell me the book of the Bible that she had been reading and then indicate, "It's on this side of the page ... about halfway down." Because she knew it. She really knew it. Her relationship with Christ is important, and the things He wrote to her are integral to that relationship.

Mom spends time with the Lord every day. Most of them include reading the Word and taking notes. But Sunday is different. To her, it's her "Grateful Day". She will make lists of what she's grateful for. Sure, there are things like "health" and "family" and the like, but she is intent on going deeper. She's grateful for air, for running water, for hot water, for toothpaste. She asks, "If God were to take away tomorrow the things for which you didn't thank Him today, what would you lose?" Giving thanks to God is extremely important to her. If you ask her how she is, she'll say, "Grateful."

Mom would never be admitted into the ranks of Feminism, not because she's not feminine and not because she's not pro-women, but because she derives her views on women -- who they are and what is in their best interests -- from Scripture. She actually appreciates (recognizes the worth of) the texts that say that the husband is head of the wife, seeing it as a good thing that she has God's protection by means of the husband He gave her. She is a teacher, but refuses to teach men because Scripture says that's not a good thing for men or for women and she draws her views and values from what God says. I really like that in my mother.

This may strike you as odd, but one of the things about my mother that I have always found most endearing is her repentance. I don't know if I said that right. She will catch herself in a mistake, an error, even a sin. Maybe it's a moment of pride or an improper attitude. Her response to herself is not self-defense or "shrug it off". Her response is dismay. Because, you see, being pleasing to the Lord is what she really cares about. If that means that she doesn't get to control a situation or it doesn't come out the way she hoped, that's okay as long as God is honored.

Mom is diligent about prayer. She has triggers. When she brushes her teeth she prays about these people and when she showers she prays about those people and when she eats she prays about these things and when she walks she prays about those others. "There is so much to pray about," she says, "that it helps to build patterns." I think she is the closest person I know to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess 5:17)

This is just a small sample. There is a lot I remember about my mother, from when I was quite young (I've known her most my life, you know) to just last week when we visited. My mother makes it difficult to empathize with people who had bad mothers simply because I've had a great mother. And I will be quick, as she would, to say that it isn't her; it's God. God has been gracious to me in His choice for my mother and gracious to her in shaping her into the mother she is and I am grateful.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

News Weakly - 5/12/18

Through the Fire
I know ... young people won't know what I'm talking about ... but that picture from Vietnam (1973) that depicts the little girl in the center running naked, screaming, with a group of children and some soldiers behind her and a napalm plume billowing in the background is not something you forget. The tragedy of a group of children running from a fire-bombing is awful. Which only goes to make this story all the more amazing. The little girl in the picture is all grown up now and sharing her story of how those bombs -- the pain of which she still feels today -- brought her to Christ. Really remarkable.

(Not) In It to Win?
You remember Bradley Manning, right? Maybe you know him now as Chelsea. He was a U.S. Army soldier convicted of leaking more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. While in prison, he got the Army (read "you and me") to pay for his "sex change," got President Obama to commute his sentence, and is now running for senate in Maryland. At the top of his agenda? "Close prisons and free inmates; eliminate national borders; restructure the criminal justice system; provide universal health care and basic income." What makes him qualified for the job? He offers the time he was homeless in Chicago, his treason in Iraq, and his 7 years in prison. I just hope that the political analysts are right; "the convicted felon is not running to win." Given his "cult of personality" status and the breakdown in the thinking processes of American voters these days, I am not certain he won't.

Online Dating
Paradise Valley police in Arizona say that the victim met her online and they went out on a date. That's when "things quickly went awry." She sent him 65,000 text messages, up to 500 a day, including heart-warming messages like, "Don't ever try to leave me ... I'll kill you ... I don't wanna be a murderer!", "I'd wear your fascia 'n the top of your skull 'n your hands 'n feet", and "Oh, what I would do w/your blood ... I'd wanna bathe in it." She really had an endearing way with words. She would get into his residence when he wasn't home, show up at his workplace claiming to be his wife, and kept a large butcher knife on the passenger seat of her car. Quite an advertisement for eHarmony.

The Value of Human Life
David Goodall was an English-born Australian botanist and ecologist. He died this week at the age of 104. By suicide. By traveling to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal. With a trip paid for by Exit International, the group that helps kill people who want to die. Because he regretted living so long. Clearly a man who knew plants, but had no idea of the value of human life. Paid for by people who have no idea of the value of human life. In a society that demands the right to kill babies at will. There is something really wrong here. (Not to suggest I'm opposed to euthenasia; I think young people should visit all the continents they can, including Asia.)

Contrast David Goodall with Delphine Gibson in Mount Union, PA. She died this week at the age of 114. She was the oldest living American. Blind and deaf at the end, she loved to sing "Amazing Grace". "She always singing to us or sharing the gospel," said the hursing home unit manager. "She is a treasure to the nation." She "attributed her long life to good food, her faith in God and her church." Quite a different story.

I Just ... Wait ... What? Seriously?!
A sex education expert and the CEO of youth relationship service Body Safety Australia, said during a segment on ABC News that parents should ask their babies' permission before changing diapers in order to foster a 'culture of consent' in homes from the earliest."

Now, think it through, folks. We know that kids these days are considered the wisest beings, so this makes sense. We know that today's entire moral code is constructed almost exclusively on "consent". "Is it okay for me to kill you now?" "Sure." "Okay, then it's moral." Besides, children are the highest priority and parents shouldn't think that there is some sort of "parental authority structure" at work here. So this makes sense. It all ... no, can't do it ... no sense at all.

"Lady, your little girl is running around in dripping diapers." "Yeah, I know, she wouldn't give me permission to change her." "Ma'am, your son is running around the front yard naked." "I know; I'm sorry. He wouldn't give me permission to put clothes on him." "Sir, your son has been shot and killed by the police for robbing a neighbor." "What??! I mean, I know he wouldn't give me permission to prevent him from breaking and entering, but did they have his permission to shoot him?" And now that we're becoming a "culture of consent" by asking the consent of infants about their nappy change, do we eliminate statutory rape laws if the 10-year-old gave her consent to have sex with her 22-year-old boyfriend? No sense. No sense at all.

Bigotry in America
Those bigoted Boy Scouts are changing their name because they allow girls to join, but they still exclude the other 49,247 genders. Losers. Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fantasy Reading List

Okay, maybe not, but seems like these might be fun reading even if they aren't yet.

Losing My Mind by Kent Kope
Writing Big Books by Warren Peace
The Lion Attacked by Claude Miarmoff
Archery 101 by Beau N. Aero
Songs for Children by Barbara Black-Sheep
Irish Heart Surgery by Angie O'Plasty
Crossing the Desert by I. Rhoda Camel
The Constant Truants by Marcus Absent
Falling Off Buildings by Eileen Dover and I. Phil Down
Positive Reinforcement by Wade Ago
Speaking Softly by Danielle Saloud
Italian Fog by Big Amyst
Snail Mail by Imelda Letter
Don't Argue With Me by Xavier Breth
Under the Bleachers by Seymour Butz
Lawn Maintenance by Elmo
New Math by Cal Q. Later
Living with Apathy by Don Kare
Private Security by Ren T. Cawp
Dash for the Outhouse written by Willy Makit, illustrated by Betty Woant, published by Andy Dint
Proctologist Handbook by Ben Dover
The Making of Monsters by Frank N. Stine
Government Economics by Owen A. Lott
Global Warming by Lotta Heat
RAM by Megha Bite
Safe Meal Practices by Hans R. Dirty, Goan, Wash.
A Matter of Opinion by R. U. Wright
Lost in the Woods by Werram Eye
The Next Robot by Anne Droid
Fear of Parachuting by Hugo First
Perfect Pasta by Al Dente
Puzzles by N. Igma
Military Discipline by Corporal Punishment
Watching Trees Grow by I. M. Board
How to Have the Ideal House by Bill Jerome Holm
Jail Break by Freida Convict
The Happy Vampire by Gladys Knight
Quick Cash by Robin Banks
Backyard Cooking by Barbie Cue
The Nudist Colony by Seymour Scin
The Road to Obesity by Ben Eaton
The Wrong Kind of Skinny by Bo Leemic and Ann O'Rexick
Modern Dance by Sheik Yabouti
Safe Hitchhiking by Rin Tackar

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Wrong God

God is wrong. He's wrong a lot of the time. Unbelievers obviously think so, but so do believers.

Take, for instance, the account where God ordered the annihilation of the Amalekites -- men, women, and children, and even animals. He was wrong. That couldn't have been right. It didn't happen. It didn't happen as written. Maybe the Israelites made it up. Maybe it was just a myth written by a misguided people. Or maybe it was an angry God and we no longer have that angry God. Because that was wrong.

The Bible says God required blood sacrifices. Come on, blood sacrifices? Killing animals to appease an angry deity? What kind of prehistoric mumbo jumbo is that? It makes God out to be petty, senseless. Killing animals to appease Him? That can't be. He was wrong.

A sizable number of Christians actually believe that God was wrong in the Old Testament but corrected Himself in the New. They might not put it that way, but the idea is there. The God of the Old Testament was an angry God but the God of the New Testament is a loving Father. I've actually heard Christians tell me that Jesus had a different view in the New Testament than His Father did in the Old Testament, and those things that we find unconscionable in the Old are renounced by Christ in the New. Clearly, God was wrong.

Maybe it's not grand biblical concepts. Maybe it's everyday living. When God took that child to be with Him, He was wrong. When God let me lose that job or that spouse or that loved one, He was wrong. God could have healed or saved or rescued, but He didn't. He was wrong. I've asked and begged and beat the throne of God and He hasn't answered my prayer. He was wrong. If He would only listen to me, He could avoid being wrong like that.

When we think like that -- that God apparently is wrong on this point or that action -- we have the wrong god. We have the lesser god, the god of our own making, the god who isn't there. The God of the Bible doesn't need our help or advice. He doesn't bend to our wills or fail because of our shortcomings. The God of the Bible is always right, always good, always successful, always perfect. He didn't make a mistake with the Amalekites; we do when we accuse Him of it. He didn't err in requiring sacrifices for sin; we do when we think sin is so mild. He didn't correct Himself in the New Testament; we are wrong when we think the Old Testament God was mistaken. And in everyday living, God doesn't deviate from being God -- always right, always good, always successful, always perfect. That's us, again, who are wrong when we think otherwise. Now if only we could get on board with that God. It would certainly shift our perspective on all of life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Mechanism of Faith

I've been mulling over just what it takes to believe ... anything. My primary concern, of course, is what it takes to come to faith in Christ, but what is the mechanism that causes a person to change from "unbelief" -- be it a scientific theory or a belief in Christ or a biblical doctrine or whatever -- to "belief"?

I've seen and heard calls for people to "choose to believe." Christians urge unbelievers to "choose to believe" in Christ. Is belief a function of the will? This seems to me to be obvious nonsense. If I can simply choose to believe something, I can end up in some interesting places. I don't believe in unicorns, but apparently I can if I just choose to. "Nope ... don't believe in them. Oh ... wait ... I choose to. Oh, yeah! Now I believe in unicorns." Doesn't happen. I don't think that faith is a matter of blind will. I suppose the will plays a part, but it isn't the singular factor.

"No, no," they tell me, "you need to provide evidence." This is the old "proof" discussion. The dictionary defines "proof" as "evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth." I played that game when I was young. "Prove it!" I'd say. It didn't matter what it was. "My name is Bob." "Prove it!" Because as long as I demand "proof", it can't be proven. That is, as long as I don't accept the evidence, it is not "proof" -- sufficient to produce belief. (As a junior higher, that worked right up until my mom was driving our carpool and I used it on the female member of our carpool when she said, "I'm a girl" and I said "Prove it." That was the end of that smart alec game.) The truth is evidence may exist, even in abundance, but if people don't accept it, proof doesn't exist and belief doesn't happen. So evidence -- empirical, logical, historical, whatever -- is a good thing, but it doesn't ultimately decide.

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people listen to an argument (like the kind of argument presented in court) and respond, "I don't know ... that just doesn't feel right." Is belief just an emotional substance? I certainly don't think so. I've come to believe lots of things that I didn't like. Some of these things only became pleasant to me -- "felt right" -- long after I came to believe them. Most of what I believe I didn't arrive at because "it felt right". I doubt if I'm alone in this.

I begin to think that the answer for the mechanism of belief is not a monolith, not just one thing. Perhaps it's more like a safe where you get the right combination and unlock it. Unfortunately, I don't think it's quite as easy as that, either. The "right combination" changes, sometimes often -- a moving target. I've heard Christians speak of how diligent they are in sharing the Gospel because they didn't want to feel like they missed the opportunity that would have saved someone. I've heard others speak with concern that they didn't know the right things to say or perhaps failed to say it at the right time or in the right way and perhaps someone didn't meet Christ because of that. These are suggesting that there is a "right combination", like they could say this and do that and provide this other information and that other argument and, bingo, you've got a new convert. I don't think so. I don't think the mechanism of faith is that kind of mechanism.

The Bible says that saving faith has a variety of obstacles. If we agree that the mechanism of faith is a complex combination of the will, the evidence, the emotions, and more, we will find that God's Word has something to say about this. For instance, "The mind that is set on the flesh, Paul writes, "is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Rom 8:7) "Cannot"?! There is an emotion (hostility) that prevents submission. Jesus, explaining why it is that some did not believe, stated unequivocally, "No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65) There, again, is that abundantly clear "cannot" concept. It is an unavoidable blockage to a simple combination to unlock faith. Paul wrote to Corinth, "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." (1 Cor 1:18) That's a logical roadblock. It's not that it doesn't make sense; it just doesn't make sense to them. Worse, "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 4:4) That's a kind of spiritual blindness. He expresses the same idea when he says, "The Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14) Another "cannot" -- "unable". All of this despite the certainty that God has made Himself evident to them (Rom 1:19-20). It isn't lack of evidence. There is another problem. A spiritual one (Eph 2:1-3).

And there's where the problem lies. There might be a complex mechanism, weighted in various ways -- emotional, mental, physical, social, familial, historical, evidential, all that -- but in the end the blockage is spiritual and the remedy for that isn't something we have available to us. That belongs only to God. So we have a job to do here and it might not be what you originally had in mind. It is not our job to make converts. It is our job to give the best witness. That witness is in our behavior as much as our words. That witness is in providing evidence, reasons, a "body of proof", even though we know that "proof" is not ultimately in our ability. That witness addresses the emotional conflicts and the mental conflicts and the conflicts of the will and all the rest. In the end, the exercise is that of a messenger without regard for how the message is received. We don't determine that. It takes an act of God to overcome the ultimate spiritual problem. We'll have to count on Him for that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Words Have Meaning

I often (too often?) complain about words and their meanings. More precisely, I complain about words and their sliding meanings. Today it means "X" and tomorrow it means "Y" or, worse, "Not X". It means something quite different or even the exact opposite. In some cases these are merely amusing. "Egregious" used to mean "rising above the flock", as in being extraordinary or exceptional; now it's being particularly bad. "Awful" originally meant "filled with awe", now it means something really bad. In the other direction, "terrific" once meant something worthy of terror but now means something really good. "Artificial" once referenced being artful or skillful but now means "fake". A "moot" point was once an idea worthy of discussion and now means something not worth discussing. Strange, but mostly just amusing.

Sometimes, though, it becomes a real problem. Look with me for a moment at the biblical concept of divorce. The Bible is clear that marriage is for life. "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matt 19:6) That is the default. That was Jesus's answer to the question, "Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?" (Matt 19:3) "No." They pushed it, though, and Jesus ended up telling them, "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." (Matt 19:9) So, apparently "sexual immorality" is an exception to that default. Elsewhere we read, "But if the unbelieving partner deserts, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace." (1 Cor 7:15) Oh, okay, so desertion is the other exception, right?

I'm not discussing here the possible interpretations of the biblical texts here. I'm pointing to the change of words. So if you take these two as exceptions to the principle of the lifelong marriage, it would appear that there are only two and that they are very limited ... until you begin to let these words slide. Most people, for instance, will agree that "adultery" is in view when Jesus said "sexual immorality" so that's a good reason to divorce. But we've started moving that. What about Jesus's statement "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt 5:28)? So the wife who says, "Yeah, he was looking at women with lust so I divorced him" based on Jesus's "sexual immorality" clause would be fully justified, right? What about the husband caught looking at porn? "Sexual immorality"? What about the guy who asks his wife to perform sexual acts that she finds morally offensive? "Sexual immorality"? Now we've started moving that line from simple adultery to a longer list.

Then there's "desertion". What does that entail? We get "They left and never came back." What about the husband that "checks out", that isn't engaged, that is more involved with his work than his wife? What about the wife that is more involved with other things than her husband? What about the husband that is emotionally distant? Isn't that "desertion"? I've read Christians who have suggested that the abusive spouse is causing the abused one to leave, making the abuser a deserter. Is that there, too? Eventually you arrive at "He just wasn't meeting my needs" and that could be construed as "desertion".

You see, then, how the sliding meanings of words can end up in places that, I would hope, you clearly see as a problem. When we start to use words, even biblical terms, to mean things contrary to biblical principles, we should be able to see that we're heading down the wrong path. We're already doing this quite a bit. When we substitute "homosexual" as in "a lifestyle where a person is oriented toward sex with the same gender" instead of "homosexual" as in "sexual relations between two people of the same gender", we will end up completely confused about every mention of the concept in Scripture. When we substitute "love" as in "a warm affection" or even "sex" for biblical love as in "the choice of seeking the best for others", we'll find bizarre conclusions about what it means to "love one another." And don't even start trying to apply today's "marriage" term to biblical passages since today's version has no relation to the Bible version. We need to be careful that we're defining our terms in Scripture the same way that Scripture defines them rather than vice versa. If not, those sliding terms end up removing all meaning from the pages of your Bible.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Not of this World

We Christians can be schizophrenic at times. "Oh, really?" Yes, I think so.

Consider. We know -- most of us can quote word for word -- that "God works all things together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28) Yeah, we like that one. And we should. And, yet, when something unpleasant arises, we're pretty sure it's the end of the world, that nothing good can come out of this, and that God has forgotten us.

We do that. It's strange, if you think about it, but we do.

One that really baffles me -- and don't be misled ... it baffles me about me, too -- is this whole concept of "comfortable." This whole idea that God should make our lives comfortable, better, more peaceful here. It sounds nice. There are preachers who claim it's even biblical. But here's something we all know: we are "fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household." (Eph 2:19) Conversely, we are "strangers and exiles on the earth." (Heb 11:13) We have songs about it. "This world is not my home; I'm just a-passin' through ..." Jesus said we are "not of the world." (John 15:19) Paul tells us we are "ambassadors for Christ." (2 Cor 5:20) We know this. So why is it that we who know better spend so very much time getting as anchored, as comfortable, as dug in, as cozy as we can in this world when we know we're not staying? Why do we beat our chests and cry out to God, "Why don't you make me happier here on earth?" when we know this world is not our home? We are living in a brief and meager existence with eternity in view and all we can think about is ... this brief and meager existence. That's crazy!

Really, we don't need this. We get so caught up in the extraneous. We want so little when God has such big things in mind for us. We want "comfy" and "cozy" and "here and now" when God has an eternity waiting for us. We are working hard to build on a foundation of hay and straw rather than the foundation of Christ and, trust me, that will not end well (1 Cor 3:10-13).

Hebrews talks about the hardships believers have endured.
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. (Heb 10:32-33)
These people came to Christ ("enlightened") and endured suffering themselves and in sharing with others who were enduring suffering. They "endured a great conflict of sufferings." How? "Knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one." (Heb 10:34) If we could get our silly thinking out of the here and now and realize the reality that we are not home here, so much would be better for us. We would understand how it is that this world thinks so much different than those who know Christ. We would see that the pains and sufferings we endure are short-term problems with a long-term and wonderful outcome. We wouldn't work so hard at being "at home" here and wouldn't hurt so bad when the temporary suffering is so temporary and wouldn't miss out on the immense blessings available to those who despise the pain to gain God's glory. This world is not our home. Shouldn't we be working toward something better, something more eternal than a new car or to be better liked?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Does Anyone Give a Damn?

I know ... that sounds bad. Good Christians aren't supposed to use that term. But there is a meaning that isn't intended as foul language, isn't there? Merriam-Webster says that it might be a curse word, but that's Option 4. Option 1 is "to condemn to a punishment or fate; especially : to condemn to Hell." That's actually my question. Does anyone actually condemn to Hell?

I will first of all point out that we don't get that option. This condemnation is not in our purview. If such a thing does occur, we don't have the authority to make that call. So let's be clear; the question I'm asking is "Does God actually condemn anyone to Hell?" Which really boils down to the question, "Is there a Hell?" John Lennon asked us "Imagine there's no heaven -- It's easy if you try -- No Hell below us; Above us only sky." Is he right? Should we jettison the concept?

The idea of Hell doesn't spring from human logic; it comes from the Bible. Jesus spoke about it (e.g., Mark 9:43-48). Hell is described as eternal, conscious torture (Matt 25:46; Rev 14:10-11), a place where "the fire is not quenched" (Isa 66:24; Mark 9:48), the result of not being written in the Book of Life (Rev 20:15), of not knowing Christ (Matt 7:21-23). It is, biblically, a given.

But ... why? I mean, the whole concept of eternal torment is repulsive to us. It sounds harsh, mean, unbearable. Isn't that "inhumane treatment"? So difficult is it for us these days that the left has decided to jettison the idea and even biblical Christians prefer to put it by the side and not talk about it. I mean, even Bible-believing Christians don't care for "hellfire and brimstone" preachers, right? Leave that for past times. We like a less awful story.

So, why is it even there? What is the importance of Hell? Paul gives us the beginnings of a clear answer when he says that God's will is to "show His wrath and to make known His power" on "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." (Rom 9:22) So there is a point here that, like everything else, brings God's glory to the front. So, how does that work?

The just punishment for a crime should be an indicator of the magnitude of the crime. You don't say, "It only took two minutes to commit the murder, so I shouldn't get more than two minutes in prison." Murder is a crime of great magnitude not because of the time it took, but because of the life it took. (Our society, by the way, is dancing dangerously close to losing this, having rejected the notion that we are made in God's image and, therefore, have value from God. If we're simply biochemical bags, of what real consequence is it that one of us was terminated?) If it is true, then, that the magnitude of the punishment fits the magnitude of the crime, and if it is true that Hell as eternal, conscious torture away from God is the punishment for sin, how big does that make sin? Clearly sin is not a "faux pas," a "social blunder," a "boo-boo," a mistake. It is a crime worthy of eternal torture. If, on the other hand, no Hell exists, sin isn't so bad. In fact, it's really inconsequential.

If there is no Hell, then the worst we get for sin is a slap on the wrist. Some argue that it isn't eternal torment; it is instantaneous annihilation. A slap on the wrist. Over and done. But Paul says that Christ "gave Himself for our sins" (Gal 1:4), that "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor 15:3). That makes sin something bigger than "Poof! You are no more." Someone had to die for it. If there is a Hell, someone has to die eternally for it. Eternal death, eternal torment, eternal payment. If there is no Hell, the cost of sin is minimal; if there is, it is huge.

Really at question here is the justice of God. I spoke of "The just punishment for a crime." Is God just if He prescribes Hell for sin? Or is He just if He does not? That question is answered, again, by the magnitude of the crime. If sin is an assault on God, a violation of His glory, open rebellion against His rule, some sort of Cosmic Treason, then sin is much bigger than a false step. It is as big as the God it violates. If sin is that bad, then the just punishment requires a penalty as big as the God it violates. That is, if God does not assign Hell as a response to sin, God is not just.

There is, then, one more consequence to the existence of Hell. If the just response to sin is eternal torment and God accepts the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, how big is God's mercy? If no Hell, it's not so much. You deserve ... a slap on the wrist. God does not give you that slap on the wrist. No big deal. But if you have diligently and fully earned the sentence of eternal, conscious torture and God then does not give you that sentence, that is MERCY with capital letters and flashing lights and fireworks and all. That is bigger mercy than we can grasp, mercy magnified by ... Hell.

The Bible isn't ambiguous. God does give a damn -- the assignment to Hell for those who refuse Him, for those who claim Hell as their own. People earn it and He pays it out. Without it, sin isn't so bad, the price for sin isn't so high, Christ's death isn't so important, God isn't so just, and mercy isn't so big. But the Bible isn't ambiguous, and the result is that sin is horrendous, the price is high, Christ's death on our behalf is everything, God is absolutely just, and mercy is magnificent. I think that's kind of important.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

News Weakly - 5/5/18

Banning the Bible
California Assembly Bill 2943 passed the state house on April 19 and is now in the state senate. Snopes jumped into the fray assuring us that it wouldn't result in banning the Bible. Robert Gagnon explains why that ain't necessarily so. It may not result in a Bible ban, but it could result in a partial ban. It must certainly result in banning these kinds of books. It could result in prosecution for a pastor who teaches a seminar on how Christ can free you from sexual sin such as homosexual practices. It could even place a pastor in court for suggesting his congregation buy a Bible in the bookstore to see what Scripture says about homosexual sin. "A Christian bookstore could be sued for carrying a book such as Ryan T. Anderson's latest, When Harry Became Sally, solely because the message is in conflict with the LGBT agenda."

The government makes no differentiation between "conversion therapy" and "conversion". It refuses to recognize that lives can be changed by Christ. And the bill offers no religious exemptions. As a consequence, these kinds of things could result. Will they? Given the aggressive LGBT efforts to wipe out opposition, I think it would be foolish to consider the possibility a long shot.

More Judicial Legislation?
Last week I brought you the story of how the court has decided to make DACA law, clearly judicial legislation -- making laws from the bench. It's not new. Redefining "marriage" and making "gay marriage" a thing that the entire nation is required to recognize was similar. Now they're trying for another. Reuters reports, "California and a group of 16 other states on Tuesday challenged the Trump administration’s decision to revise strict U.S. vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency rules put in place under former President Barack Obama." Because these 17 states get to decide for everyone in the nation what vehicle emissions should be and they will do so by force of law ... oh, wait ... no, not law ... by force of judicial legislation. "We don't need no stinkin' Constitution. We'll force it through with our courts and tell the whole country what they will do ... because we're the liberal states. As in 'we share liberally with all our personal requirements for you to submit to.'"

Double Standard?
Big news. They tell me that the Boy Scouts will be changing their name because they allow girls to join. It started with Cub Scouts where girls wanted to do the cool things that Cub Scouts did, but now it's going on up the levels. So they'll be dropping "boy" from their name. Girls complained long enough ("I just want to see a change," [Sydney Ireland] said. "Right now they're discriminating against girls, and I'm just calling it as it is.")

Interestingly, 1) the Girl Scouts object ("We're all girls should ever need") and 2) they do not allow boys (unless, of course, they identify as girls). Now, why is no one protesting that?

The Infidel
Meet Luis Ruiz. Luis is one of the worst things to come on the scene -- a deconverted gay man. That's right. Luis Ruiz was a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre where a young man chose at random (not because it was a gay hangout) to shoot up the place and kill a bunch of people. (He originally intended to do it at Disney World; this wasn't an "anti-gay" thing.) Ruiz now says he has become a Christian and is no longer gay ... GASP! "Oh, no, that will never do. We applaud people who say they are gay or who say they are a different gender than all of science says they are, but we abhor those who change their minds on that. We are not that kind of tolerant. We do not embrace them."

Please note: Ruiz is being held up as an example of the evil "conversion therapy" that California has outlawed and most everyone else (including organizations that once practiced it) has denied. Please note: Luis Ruiz is not a story of "conversion therapy". His is a story of conversion. Not the same thing. (I should also note that I do not know the veracity of his conversion. That is not the point of my bringing this up here. The point is that a life changed by knowing Christ is not the same as a person changed by undergoing "conversion therapy". And my point is that the "tolerant" folks aren't so tolerant if one that they once embraced no longer is what they embrace.)

Disunifying Unity
Andy Stanley, son of Charles Stanley (senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta and president of In Touch Ministries), made news when he spoke at the Orange Conference and declared that Christian unity was more important than theological corectness. Basing his words on John 17 and Jesus's prayer that His followers would be one as the Father and the Son were one, Stanley argued that being on the same page was mor important than "doctrinal peculiarities".

So, I have questions:
+ When the Bible speaks of unity, what does it mean? Uniformity? Same thinking? Same clothing? Same actions? Same purpose? For instance, if we are united in a cause but do different tasks, is that unity? If we are united in purpose but have different perspectives is that unity? What unity is in view?

+ Does unity negate the possibility of theological correctness? If we are to be one as the Son and the Father are one, do we assume that they might both be wrong? Are the Father and Son as one because they agree or because they are both in complete truth? Is unity around falsehood better? That is, is it better to be united than to have a correct view of God?

+ Wouldn't it be best to be unified around the truth?

Sometimes I get too easily confused, I suppose.

Faulty Reporting
The headline for the Newsweek story reads (in all caps), "LGBT COUPLES COULD BE DENIED ADOPTION ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS IN KANSAS AND OKLAHOMA." For reasons I don't quite understand it does not read, "The 1st Amendment Rights of Religious Organizations Upheld." The story is that Kansas and Oklahoma have passed laws that grant "legal protection to faith-based agencies that refuse adoptions to LGBT families on religious grounds." (That the states would "grant legal protection" is horrendous on its own. Really? States need to pass laws affirmed in our Constitution?) What the laws in question do not do is "deny adoption to LGBT couples." That is, if they don't go to a "faith-based agency" they are free to adopt. "Faith-based agencies" are not the sole providers for adoptions.

The Human Rights Campaign complains these laws give "license to discriminate." They don't explain why it's okay for a restaurant to state, "No shirt, no shoes, no service," but unacceptable for a faith-based agency to "be granted" its religious freedom. I will also point out that the Bill of Rights does not insist that we have the right to adoption, but does claim we have the right to the free exercise of religion. The aim is to undercut the latter for the former, to take down the right that exists in our constitution to exert a right that does not.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Hospitality

Liberals have argued that Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of homosexual practices; they were destroyed because of inhospitality. Now, you may wonder why "homosexual practices" are not that bad, but "inhospitality" is so horrible that a death by fire and brimstone is warranted, at least in the minds of these liberals, but that's not my point. It is true that Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped out for homosexual behaviors (among other things), at least according to the texts (Gen 18:20; Gen 19:4-11). And it is also true that one of the "other things" I just mentioned was, in fact, inhospitality. (Genesis 18:20 says, "Their sin is very grave." It wasn't just homosexual behavior.)

Why do I say inhospitality with such assurance? In Ezekiel God describes Sodom as a sister to Samaria (Ezek 16:46). God says, "They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it." (Ezek 16:50) That "abomination" included "pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezek 16:49). They had more than they needed and they failed to use it to help those who didn't.

There are those who argue that inhospitality is the only issue. There are those who are not linking Scripture to Scripture and, therefore, missing the whole picture. These people generally agree that there was an attempted gang rape of angels, but argue that this isn't "homosexuality". That's terminology, where "homosexual" is defined (to them) as a sexual orientation. Jude says it was because they "indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire" (Jude 1:7). Paul explains "unnatural desire" as exchanging the natural desire of men for women or women for men with men for men and women for women (Rom 1:26-27). Homosexual behavior. "Which is it; inhospitality or homosexual behavior?" "Yes ... both."

But this is not my point here. My point is two-fold. First, we tend to think that hospitality is a "nice to have", not a big thing. So we (more conservative Christians) tend to think that it's not a big deal. Second, I don't think we see hospitality in the same way that the Bible does.

Paul says, "Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Rom 12:13) Now, that appears to be a parallel statement. "Share with those who are in need" and "Practice hospitality" seem to say the same thing. Peter links hospitality to the basic command for all Christians:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9)
The author of Hebrews warns us not to "neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Heb 13:2) It is this idea of hospitality that Jesus speaks of in His parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:34-46). Paul says that this kind of hospitality should be rendering service to the Lord (Eph 6:7). Biblical hospitality includes helping those around us in need, but it isn't isolated to that. The primary point is to welcome the stranger, the "sojourner", to embrace them and get them close enough to give them the Lord's blessing, either the Gospel to the unbeliever or the comfort of God to the believer.

Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) Scripture repeatedly links "love" and "hospitality". We often think of hospitality as entertaining guests; the Bible doesn't. The Bible sees hospitality as sharing love where you use what God has provided for you in order to help others, in order to draw them near, in order to share Christ and what you have with them. Hospitality, then, would be basic to Christians.

The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn't singular. It included homosexual behavior. It also included failure to love others by sharing what they had with those in need. We might be careful to point fingers at homosexual behavior. We should be equally careful that we, at the same time, are not guilty of the same second reason for God's condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are commanded to be hospitable. Are we?

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A Pauline Dispensationalist Speaks

You probably haven't noticed. I've been having a conversation with "Anonymous" (because giving your name makes you too accountable?) about Pauline Dispensationalism. He (she?) is in favor of it.

In case you missed that one (back in July of 2010), I explained there the concepts of "Pauline Dispensationalism" where the idea is that Paul offered a "new Gospel" that the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament didn't see. Only Paul. Not John. Not the writers of the Gospels. Not James or Peter or the author of Hebrews. Not even Jesus. Just Paul. Of the 66 books of the Bible, only 13 apply today. Oh, they suppose you can pull up some interesting background information and such, but with the exception of Paul's epistles, nothing else in the Bible is applicable today.

The principles of Pauline Dispensationalism are of interest themselves. They argue that the entire Old Testament (which would, in essence, include Matthew through Acts and Hebrews through Revelation, not being written by the New Gospel writer, Paul) teaches "saved by works", that everyone prior to Paul was saved by ... wait ... Anonymous's words ... a "performance-based acceptance program." In this early, rejected model, apparently, there were people who proved good enough to get to heaven using this "program," but the good news is that we no longer need it. Paul came up with a better plan. (We know this because he claimed it was his gospel (Rom 2:16; 16:25; etc.)) They preach "saved by grace through faith apart from works" (Eph 2:8-9) alone with heavy emphasis on the "alone", completely ignoring Ephesians 2:10 which says that we are saved "for good works" or Philippians 2:12-13 which insists that we "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." They assure us that it is entirely possible to "get saved" and have not one, single, solitary result from it, like a changed life, a changed heart, anything at all. "All I'm saying," Anonymous tells us, "[is] if a person who never wants to live for the Lord but still wants to be saved and go to heaven they can be saved and go to heaven." They carefully and correctly avoid the Roman Catholic error of "saved by works" and horribly and sadly miss the "saved for good works." They wholly reject James's "dead faith" concept (James 2:17) or Jesus's "If you love Me you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15) claim. (Note that it is a claim, not a command -- "If you ... you will ...") They jettison entirely Paul's concept of the "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) and suppose that you can be "born again" (although that was Jesus's Gospel ... which Jesus said was indispensable (John 3:3, 5)) and filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) and it has no effect. Paul claimed that God works all things together for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28) and explains what that good is -- "in order to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29) -- but apparently it doesn't necessarily happen.

I am most disturbed by these kinds of people. Having the initial true Gospel -- "saved by grace through faith apart from works" -- they immediately set out to combat the true Gospel. You can't trust God's Word even though God's Word says repeatedly that you can. You can't pay attention to Christ Himself even though we are called "Christians." They believe that the historic Church got this wrong all along and they, by some means, managed to arrive at this new truth in the last 150 years or so. What does that say about the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13)? They claim to be tied so closely to Paul while rejecting Paul's own words (2 Tim 3:16-17). They argue that they're doing what Paul says -- "rightly dividing the Word of truth" -- instead of doing what Paul intended -- correctly handling God's Word. And they claim that if you disagree on this -- that works has any role in the life of a Christian -- then you aren't saved. You are an "enemy of the cross."

I believe there are Christians in all sorts of "wrong places". I think there are actual Christians in the Roman Catholic church, not saved by Roman Catholic theology, but in spite of it. I am confident that liberal churches have true believers sitting in their pews not because of the doctrines they are being taught, but in spite of them. And I'm pretty sure that these Pauline Dispensationalists have genuine Christians in their midst who are indeed "saved by grace through faith apart from works" but misguided beyond that by false teachers who are eager to mishandle God's Word, strip off Jesus, and leave them without a Lord. "You can come to Jesus and you can be the Master" is a pleasant-sounding line of preaching; it's just not biblical. It is not "rightly dividing the word of truth." I would hope that you, dear readers, would be aware of this kind of misguided teaching, be able to handle God's Word as a whole, and pray for these people who have pursued this wrong course.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Bear One Another's Burdens

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:1-5)
The New Testament is full of "one anothers". We are to love one another (John 13:34-35), be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50), outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:10), serve one another (Gal 5:13), and on and on. Lots of them. One of those "one anothers" is right here in this passage. "Bear one another's burdens." (Gal 6:2) What is he talking about?

The command is not in a vacuum. He starts with the primary "burden" in view -- transgression. "If anyone is caught in any transgression ..." (Gal 6:1). So the idea is that the burden we need to bear for each other is avoiding or recovering from transgression -- sin.

How are we at doing that? We seem to be pretty good at pointing it out, but is that "bearing one another's burdens"? Seems more like piling them on. Paul specifies restoration rather than accusation and "a spirit of gentleness" rather than arrogance or "righteous indignation". Paul includes the caution to "Keep watch on yourself, less you too be tempted." We all share in the problem of temptations. Sometimes we can easily see a brother caught in a transgression because it's the very temptation we suffer from ourselves. Is Paul's approach our approach in bearing one another's burdens?

Paul ends the thought with something that appears contradictory. He told us to "Bear one another's burdens", but ends with "Each will have to bear his own load." Now, hang on, aren't those opposites? No. Paul suggests that your job is to bear their burden of sin and your own. Now, that may sound like a lot, but if we're doing this right, it is also the responsibility of every other believer to bear the burdens of others as well as their own, so we end up in a situation where we plan to do it by ourselves but find ourselves supported on all sides. And that's a good thing.

Frankly, I don't think we're very good at this. Specifically, I don't think we're very good at bearing one another's sin burden. We are too judgmental when we ought to be supportive. We are too self-righteous when we ought to be empathetic. We are too concerned about our own sin when we ought to be seeking help from others on it. We are too concerned about what others think of us and not concerned enough about following Christ. As a result, we are too often beaten in our battle with sin. We are called to outnumber and overpower the enemy, but instead we are isolated and alone.

How's that working for you? Rather than "Do It Yourself" (DIY), have you tried Paul's solution?

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

What Do You Want?

There is no doubt about it. We live in difficult times in a difficult world. There is poverty and pain, loss and sorrow, crime and sin. This isn't news. It is, in fact, an opportunity for God's enemies to point out that God isn't doing what He ought -- ending pain -- and, therefore, is either not to be trusted or, more likely, nonexistent. Christians know better. We look forward to a blessed hope, a "by and by" where all tears are washed away and eternal joy reigns. But, if we're honest, Christians suffer just as much in this world and Christians wrestle just as much with the question. Perhaps more so, since "He doesn't exist" isn't a possible answer. He does ... so how do we make sense of this? So Christians who love God will weep in trials and tribulations and understandably and reasonably ask "Why, God?" and wonder how they will make it through. If you have not experienced this, you're probably not paying attention.

Well-meaning Christians will tell those in pain "It'll be alright" and we hope for the "peace for today and bright hope for tomorrow." If it goes on too long, we likely become discouraged, but we still hang on. So I have a question. What do you want? What is it you're hoping for?

It is my suspicion that what we want is comfort. Not "comfort" as in "to be comforted", but "comfort" as in "to be comfortable". Especially Americans. We like our comfort. All we really want from God is to be comfortable. Whether that's physical or mental or emotional or social or spiritual, we just want to be comfortable. Avoid pain, steer clear of trials, and just be okay. Is that what you want? Because, if it is, you can be sure that you won't get it. Trials and tribulations aren't likely; they're promised.

To help us think about this, ask "What did people in the Bible do in similar troubles?" Well, Job (a universal image of trials) said, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21) and "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10) Paul prayed for the removal of the trial and, when it wasn't done, learned, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness," so that He "most gladly" would boast in His weakness "so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Cor 12:9) And Jesus, the epitome of suffering, asked, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me," but concluded, "yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matt 26:39) These people wanted what God wanted. They wanted nothing more and nothing less than God's perfect will. If that was loss, they wanted loss. Whatever God wanted was all they wanted.

So what do you want? Are you looking forward to heaven because there will be no more tears and no more pain and no more sadness and no more sin? That's fine. It's true. But is that what you want? Or are you looking forward to heaven because there you will finally "be at home with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8)? The question carries back, then, into today. What do you want? Is it comfort? Or is it Christ? Because in trials and pain His grace is shown to be sufficient and His power is perfected. Is that what you want? Or will you just settle for comfortable?

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Plan

Before there was "Frito/Lays", the Frito company was making corn chips called, appropriately, "Fritos". In the late 60's/early 70's they had a cartoon mascot, the Frito Bandito. He was a "bad guy" whose only desire was to get some Fritos. So, with his trusty sidekick, he'd go through a commercial trying to steal Fritos, always without success. In one of these he and his helper end up in a heap outside the factory, beaten and bruised. The Frito Bandito says, "This didn't go like I planned it." His side kick says, "You planned this?"

In his letter to Titus, Paul starts out speaking of "eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began." (Titus 1:2) Isn't that odd? If it was "before ages began", to whom did He promise it? Well, obviously to the Godhead. I imagine something like this. "Hey, Son, I have an idea. Let's make a Bride for you." "Sounds good!" "Now, of course, when we do it they'll turn on us and sin." "What then?" "Well, Someone will have to take their just punishment." "Me?" "Yep!" "Sounds good. Let's do it!" (That was imagination, not suggestion of anything actual.) The point is that God planned eternal life before ages began. And if you look at it, you might just ask, "You planned this?"

Did He? Scripture says that "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) That, dear readers, is premeditation. Before we earned, deserved, improved, accomplished anything "Christ died for us." We know that "He gave His only Son." (John 3:16) Not an accidental event. Not a mistake. Not a fortuitous event. There is premeditation and intent here.

It gets worse. Peter said that Jesus was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." (Acts 2:23) It wasn't even Plan B. "Foreknowledge" means He chose this route in advance.

It gets worse. We learn later that "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel", in executing the sinless Son of God, did "whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place." (Acts 4:27-28)

God planned it before the ages began. He did it without regard to our merit. He gave His Son. He did it by definite plan and foreknowledge. It was accomplished in every detail by His hand and plan. "You planned this?" Yes ... yes He did. And executed it perfectly to the last detail. He accomplished all that was necessary to create a Bride for His Son, to be both Just and Justifyer, to save those He wished to save, to bring ultimate glory to Himself. Good plan!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:33-36)