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Saturday, October 20, 2018

News Weakly - 10/20/18

This Will Not Look Good on a Résumé
Being an Air Force veteran, I just found this story amusing/amazing. A Belgian mechanic accidentally fired the Vulcan cannon on the F-16 he was working on, sending a hail of armor-piercing rounds into another F-16 down range. That one, just fueled for a training mission, blew up, damaging the other F-16 next to it. "That $24 million isn't coming out of my check, right?" No one was seriously injured, but this will not go well for his next review.

Alienable Rights
You've heard the phrase, "inalienable rights," right? The word is actually connected to the idea of "alien," where "inalienable" means "it can't become alien to you" so to speak. Well, now there are "alienable" rights, or, perhaps, more at "alien" rights. Apparently we have a constitutional right to the end of global climate change. At least that's what the lawyer for 21 children and young adults is claiming. The suit brought by kids from 8 to 19 years old (first in 2015) argues that we (our government, not just "mankind") are responsible for the extreme weather events that traumatize and endangers them. Figuring out how the U.S. government is responsible for this given the claim by science that every world nation is to blame seems problematic, but, hey, you never know what our courts will decide. I was just unaware of the "end to global climate change" right in our constitution. Learn something new every day.

When News Stuns
I don't even know what to do with this. The report is that a biological male has won the world chamlpionship in women's cycling. Rachel McKinnon, a professor at the College of Charleston, won in the 35-39 age bracket in Los Angeles. He identifies as a she and protested being required to take testosterone suppression. He can't figure out why people are miffed, arguing that it's just haters, bigots, and transphobic people. "Focusing on performance advantage is largely irrelevant because this is a rights issue. We shouldn't be worried about trans people taking over the Olympics." Um, okay, except for the fact that men and women are different.

Another Pleasant Surprise
Last week I told you about the Christian bakers in the U.K. who were exonerated for refusing to make a cake for a wedding they did not support. Now we hear of another pleasant surprise here in America where a former Atlanta fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, had reached a $1.2 million settlement in his case brought against the city for firing him because he wrote a book that was an orthodox Christian view of sex and marriage. These surprise rulings seem to be on the increase.

On Good Authority
Well, there you have it. We can now say definitively -- from the lips of Stephen Hawking, no less -- that there is no God. So says the scientist in his last book published by his family after his death. What is his reasoning? The complexity of the universe. "If there were such a God," Hawking wrote, "I would like to ask, however did he think of anything as complicated as M-theory in eleven dimensions." Because clearly no Supreme Being could be that smart, right?

I don't know. I don't get it. It is precisely the vast intricacy and complexity of the universe that convinces me (apart from Scripture) that there is a God. Further, if no such God exists, there is no real purpose, no real morality, no real hope. But, hey, at least we can rest in the certainty that, even though there's no God, no purpose, no morality, and no hope, there is intelligent life in the universe. Hawking says so. I wonder if Stephen Hawking has changed his position after death.

Filed Under the "Duh" Heading
This comes as a shock, apparently. New reports link legalized recreational marijuana use with increased auto accidents. In the four states that have legalized it, accidents are up 6%. In 14% of those accidents involving marijuana use, they had children in the car. Surely we cannot believe that people seeking solely to get high (Note: This isn't strictly true of all alcohol use.) could possibly be less concerned about their kids or their ability to control their vehicle, could we? To which I say, "Duh!" Did they really not see that coming?

From the "Easily Offended" Crowd
Kleenex had to re-brand their "Mansize" tissues because the public was complaining that the terms, "mansize", "confidently strong", and "comfortingly soft," were endorsing gender inequality. Of course, I think of "mansize" as "large" and not as "gender specific" (let alone "gender inequality"), but, I suppose, that's because I'm not generally one of our ever-growing "easily offended" crowd. Oh, my! I hope that doesn't offend someone!

Sad State of Affairs
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 40% of all births in the United States occur outside of marriage. That's up from the approximately 10% in 1970. (Note that in Spain it is closer to 45%, in Sweden closer to 55%, and in France it is more like 60%. Stunning numbers.)

So, what can we conclude? Marriage is on the decline. But, what would you expect, since the Supreme Court ordered the decline of marriage? And Scripture considers marriage the defining image of Christ's relationship with the Church, so, of course, those hostile to God would want that. What else? Sexual morality is not what it used to be. I mean, it's never been quite biblical, but today's version is no longer quite ... moral. Just about anything goes. And God's dire warnings against sexual immorality are being tossed overboard wholesale. And, of course, as a matter of course, our rejection of marriage and males makes biblical families no longer the normal or necessarily desirable family. The biblical responsibility of husbands and fathers (mirroring the responsibility of God) is right out. And who will pay for that particular sin? The children ... and the generations that follow. None of this is good news.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Whose Side Are You On?

Judge John Roberts warned that the bitter partisan battles over Judge Kavanaugh need to cease. He said that the job of the Supreme Court was to interpret the Constituion and "obviously requires independence from the political branches." Of course, the Left media will have none of that. If the Court keeps making pro-GOP decisions, clearly it is a partisan Court and Roberts is a liar. Roberts clearly needs to "stem the torrent of 73 partisan 5-4 decisions benefiting big Republican interests."

To me, this is similar to the "too many black people in prison" argument. Clearly the fact that there are black people in prison means that the entire nation is racist. Or it could be that black people are doing crimes. Now, it could still be that there is racism in play here. I'm not denying that (as some do). Is it the suggestion of the "anti-racist" folk regarding the disproportionate number of black people in prison that a disproportionate number of innocent black people are in prison? Or is it just that a disproportionate number of white criminals are not being caught? It would be a grand injustice if the vast majority of black people in prison were innocent. But if they're guilty, then the problem isn't that they're too many in prison; it's that there aren't enough white people in prison. That's a different problem. Which is it? Do we need bigger prisons and more arrests and convictions of white criminals, or do we need to overturn the entire judicial system of "a jury of your peers" and start over ... with whatever the black community would deem "just"?

In the SCOTUS question, then, I have a similar question. The Court, numerically it seems, has been handing down a lot of "pro-GOP" decisions. Is that because the Court is pro-GOP, or is it because the standard GOP positions on these questions are in line with the Constitution? Here, let me ask this another way. If we were to grab the founding fathers of our nation -- the ones that laid down our constitution -- and brought them in today and asked them, "What did you have in mind?", would they have a predominantly Left or Right-leaning view? Would they be more in line with modern Democrats or the GOP? Because if it is clear that they were more of the view that the modern Republican party is, it would make perfect sense for an independent Court, reviewing constitutional questions, to come to more modern Republican conclusions. That wouldn't be because they were partisan; it would be because they were following the Constitution.

Well, don't worry. No one will ask these types of questions. We are no longer capable of thinking through things like this. We can only evaluate in terms of "what suits me best," "how I feel about it," and "where my group stands" than by any reasoned perspective. I'm pretty sure that all sides will respond to each other in a partisan fashion with heat and fight because, after all, reason and common sense appear to be dead in our current culture.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Did God Really Say ...?

It was the opening shot to the war that was begun way back in the Garden and still rages today. The serpent asked Eve, "Did God really say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?” (Gen 3;1) Eve's answer was ... weak. And it was all downhill from there. The next step was obvious. 1) Question God. 2) Deny God. Deny His faithfulness, His integrity, His goodness. "He's holding out on you!" (Gen 3:2-5) So I was wondering. What would have been a better answer. I mean, you know Satan will come stomping around your doorstep slyly asking, "Did God really say ...:?" and you're going to have to give a better answer than Eve did. (Note: Just as Satan's question was partially right, Her answer was partially wrong. God never said "neither shall you touch it," revealing an underlying concern that God was being overly harsh already.) So let's try out a few you might hear and see what we can do to improve on Eve's answer.

"Did God really say what is in the Bible?" Yes, He did. Paul claims that all Scripture is "God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16-17). "Inspired" is the word a lot of versions use, but what is intended in the language is "breathed out" -- the "exhaled" Word of God. When we trust God's Word to be reliable, we aren't trusting humans or history or tradition; we're trusting God. When we do not trust God's Word to be reliable, we are not distrusting humans or tradition; we are distrusting God.

"Did God really say there is only one way to heaven?" Yes, He did. Explicitly. Jesus said, "No man comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Peter stated, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). No other way but one.

"Did God really say we would suffer?" Yes, He did. Indeed, we were promised it, not merely warned about it. James said we should be joyful about it (James 1:2-4). Peter said that suffering was God's will (1 Peter 3:17), so don't be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Paul said we were granted suffering for Christ (Phil 1:29). A gift! And we know without doubt that if and when it happens, it is for our good (Rom 8:28).

"Did God really say to forgive others or not expect to be forgiven myself?" Yes, indeed, He did. Jesus said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15).

"Did God really say there is a Hell?" Yes, He did. Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. He described it as "the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43-48; Matt 18:8), "eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29), "a place of torment" (Luke 16:28), "outer darkness" (Matt 8:12) and "everlasting punishment" (Matt 25:46). It is not fictional, trivial, or temporary. It is not a place you want to go to be with your friends, nor is it a place you can rule despite all the trite claims to the contrary.

"Did God really say that homosexual behavior was sin?" Yes, yes He did. Without doubt or question. He said those who make a practice of such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). Our concern, then, is for the eternal welfare of those who practice things like sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness, and, yes, homosexual behavior.

"Did God really say that women are not permitted to lead men in the church?" Yes, He did (1 Tim 2:12-14). "Did He really say that wives must submit to husbands, even husbands who aren't faithful?" Indeed He did (Eph 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1). "Okay, then God really demeans women, doesn't He?" No! He considers them "joint heirs" (1 Peter 3:7), equal in value (Gal 3:28). God holds Adam, not Eve, responsible for the first sin (1 Tim 2:13-14). Women are to be protected and cared for, not demeaned.

This can go on and on and on. Scripture is not vague. Our problem is not that what God said isn't clear. Our problem is our willingness to question God, His Word, His faithfulness, His integrity, His goodness. And when we do, we cannot be said to be loving God, no matter what name (like "Christian") we apply to ourselves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bearing Burdens

There is an interesting apparent contradiction built into Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia (a region, not a city). The passages, in fact, occur within a few verses of each other. Paul urges them to restore a brother who is caught in a transgression. Then he says,
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)
And, of course, we ought to do that. But barely three verses later he adds in the thoughts about verse 2:
Each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:5)
Um, okay, uh, Paul? Which is it? Do we bear one another's burdens or do we bear our own?

Now, lots of people have entered into interesting efforts to clear up this problem. They've pointed out that the two words for "burden" (v 2) and "load" (v 5) are different, so they're talking about different things, right? The second verse comes after an explanation that we each need to test our own work. Maybe that's the "load" we each have to bear and not the same as "another's burdens." In context, in fact, this makes some sense. Paul warned, in seeking to restore the sinning brother (or sister), that we should "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal 6:1). His words in verses 3 and 4 talk of the problem of us trying to help someone else when our own view of ourselves is too high. "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Gal 6:3). So Paul is calling us to attention about the sin for which we are, indeed, responsible. Or, the load of sin we need to bear is our own.

I think this all misses the point. I mean, it's true, I think, but if our own sin is the load we bear and Paul was trying to urge us to bear one another's "transgression," it seems as if we're back at the original point. We're supposed to help others bear their burden of sin and we're responsible for our own load of sin. Aren't we back at that same contradiction?

Maybe. I don't think so.

Paul has written from your perspective, so to speak. His commands are to you (and me). He isn't speaking from the view of the sinning Christian; he's talking about what "you who are spiritual" (Gal 6:1) should do. And he's talking to the same ones who are going to have to bear their own load. To me, then, he's quite clear. If I read this from my perspective -- from my outlook -- I'm supposed to bear those burdens of others and I'm supposed to see myself as responsible for my own. I don't expect others to carry their own, but I do expect me to carry my own. But, you see, if the Christian next to me is seeing things this way, too, then I won't be bearing my own burden. This other believer will be reaching out to bear my burden with me. And the next will be reaching out to bear his burden with him. And so on. The positive part is I will be grateful for the help because I was expecting to bear my own load. I am not owed the help; it's a gift from an obedient brother in Christ.

I've seen too many times where "godly" husbands look in Scripture and read, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22), for instance, and then demand that their wives submit to them. Notice, however, that the command is to wives, not to husbands. There is no command that says, "Husbands, make sure your wife submits to you." It's not in there. And they miss entirely "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). The spiritual man (the one following the Spirit) will see the command to husbands long before he looks for a command to wives because that one is addressed to him. In the same way, the command to "Bear one another's burdens" is directed to me and I'm told to bear my own load. That should about cover everything. Others are helped. My load is covered. I'm good to go. Oh, and look! Someone else is doing the same and my load has twice as many people helping. Even better! But as long as I'm requiring of others that they bear my burdens, I will never be as grateful as I should be when they do because, "Hey, I got it coming!" And that's just not the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Getting Credit

We Christians have a dilemma. We understand that we're saved by grace -- unmerited favor -- and we have no room for boasting. No merit; no boasting. Still, we are supposed to do good and we are promised rewards for doing so. So how does that work? We are without merit, but we will receive merit.

In Judges 4 there is the famous story of Deborah and Barak (to be distinguished from a modern day Barack). Deborah was a prophetess who reminded Barak that God had told him to take an army and God would eliminate the enemy general for them. Barak balked. "If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go" (Judg 4:8). As a result, Deborah said, "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Judg 4:9). So they did what God said and it happened as God said and, in the end, the enemy army was destroyed and a woman killed Sisera, their commander (Judg 4:10-24).

So, there's that concept again. If Barak had simply done what God had told him, it would have resulted in glory to Barak. He didn't, and it wouldn't. But the interesting thing is that in the text the victor is never unclear. God had told him "I will draw out Sisera" (Judg 4:6). In the battle Deborah told him, "The LORD has given Sisera into your hand" and "Does not the LORD go out before you?" (Judg 4:14). And in the end, "On that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel" (Judg 4:23). So, God did it, but Barak would have received glory for it. Just like the Christian life.

That's how it works, you see. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) but it's not like we do it. "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). So we do it because God works in us. Or, in the terms of the story from Judges, we do it because God gives us the victory. Isn't it amazing, then, that there are blessings and rewards from God when we obey? We are able to work for God's good pleasure simply because He supplies the will and the ability to do so, and, in that, none of us have room to boast. And, still, He credits us for doing what He empowered. That's some marvelous deal!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Social Engineering

In the mid-20th century we had some scary folks out there. We had the Soviet Communists. On the face of it they were really nice people who just wanted everybody to be equal and have an equal share, but the way they went about it was so terrifying that socialists like George Orwell desperately sounded the alarm. In Soviet Russia your friends could report you for a thought-infraction and you could end up in Siberia for the rest of your life. How's that for social engineering? "Go along or die."

Mind you, it wasn't just the Soviets. In response to the "Red Scare," Senator Joseph McCarthy fired up the House Un-American Activities Committee. (It actually started back in 1938.) Blacklists were built and arrests were made and hundreds were imprisoned while thousands lost their jobs. Suspected communists and all sorts of sexual perverts were targeted. If you didn't "think right" (however they defined that), you could be in trouble.

Well, of course, all that is in the past. Soviet Russia is gone. McCarthyism is nothing but a blot on our history. It's over. But that's not entirely true, is it?

Reports are out about China's new invasive social engineering program. They've been incorporating advances in technology to monitor their people and create a social-credit system. It punishes "undesirable behavior" and rewards those who "do the right thing," where "do the right thing" is defined by the State. If you're "good," there can be benefits. If you are not, there will be consequences like restricted travel and poor credit ratings. What constitutes "bad"? Canceling a dinner reservation or jaywalking can cost you. If your best friend's dad says something negative about the government, you could lose points. Seriously.

Thank goodness we don't have anything like that in America. Right? Of course, we don't have anything like it in the American government. Surely not, but we've managed to accomplish it in our current mob rule. We call it "social media," but it often is not very sociable. Like Soviet Russia, if a friend reports you for something regardless of the veracity, you could pay, and you could pay dearly. If you quote someone who is on the "We hate him right now" list, it could go very poorly for you. People are being sanctioned, suspended, even fired for infractions, real or imagined. Sometimes an abject apology might help, but quite often it doesn't matter. Kiss it all goodbye. The Mob has spoken.

The problem, of course, is that governments can be removed. The Soviets came to an end. McCarthyism was brought down. China may not be able to sustain that kind of intrusion. But what do you do when the problem is the masses? They won't be going away anytime soon. You can't vote them out or overthrow them. They have the backing of our basic Constitutional rights behind them all while they intentionally undercut our basic Constitutional rights. They decry judgmentalism and intolerance and hate all while they practice each of those things.

China is trying out facial-recognition toilet paper dispensers in public bathrooms, for pity sake. They plan to track everyone everywhere and repay them for going along or not. Not to be outdone, our current technology encourages us to surrender our privacy and display our hate and bad thinking in order to properly and thoroughly thrash it ... with hate and bad thinking. This does not bode well for us.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Worthy

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Eph 4:1). What did he mean by "worthy"? It's not some super-secret. He just meant "equivalent," "appropriate" -- walk in a way that corresponds to the calling you've received. We understand that. It's an important word in Christianity because we are not worthy. It is the essence of grace. And for that we're grateful.

The word is used elsewhere, too. Scripture talks about "the LORD, who is worthy to be praised" (2 Sam 22:4). The most famous, I suppose are the ones in Revelation.
"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (Rev 4:11)

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev 5:12)
What these texts are saying is that God receiving glory and honor and power and riches and wisdom and ... well, you can see the lists ... are all a matter of "worthy."

Worthy: equivalent, appropriate, equal in value. Why do we praise God? Because it's right; because He's worthy. Why does God deserve all the glory? Because He's worthy; because it's appropriate. Why is God the ultimate point, the highest being, the focus of all things? Because that is equal in value to Him; He is worthy. What is sin? Falling short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Or, to put it another way, failing to recognize and acknowledge and revel in His worthiness. Megalomaniac? Not at all. He's worthy. We don't worship Him because we ought; we worship Him because He above all is absolutely worthy. It corresponds to who He is.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

News Weakly - 10/13/18

"Islam" Means "Peace"
Tell that to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Politicians that tried to assist her were assassinated. Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, was shot by his own bodyguards for it. The headline reads, "Pakistan Islamists warn of 'terrible consequences' of blasphemy appeal." Oh, the blasphemy? She drank water from a neighbor's glass. They said she made disparaging remarks about Islam; she denies it and their witnesses have contradicted themselves. But, what can you expect in a nation that makes blasphemy punishable by death but doesn't define it and where evidence of it might be considered blasphemy? Tell me again about this "religion of peace." "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means."

The Surprise Bigot
He's barely even there yet and the Left is talking about impeachment. Who? Justice Kavanaugh, of course. Duly selected, twice examined by the FBI, dressed and redressed, the likes of "We're not about impeachment" Nancy Pelosi and the "always fair and reasonable" online Left are busy signing petitions and urging the immediate removal of the new Justice. Then there is the Minnesota teacher who tweeted for someone to kill Kavanaugh. When did the Left become what they hate so much -- hateful, judgmental, intolerant bigots?

Like I Said
I mentioned before how we are a society of the offended. Here's a prime example. Astronaut Scott Kelly was commenting on the deep divisions in American politics. He quoted Winston Churchill who said, "in victory, magnanimity." Winners need to show grace. And the public went wild. How dare he quote a fiend like Churchill??? What's wrong with Kelly? And, Scott quickly apologized. "My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support." And the public went wild. How dare he call Churchill a racist??? What's wrong with Kelly?

The land of the easily offended.

Protesters or Mob?
When President Trump decried Democrats' "mob rule", the media responded in scorn. "It's ridiculous. It's politics. The Republicans are simply trying to amp up the voters for the midterm elections. Don't be silly. These are just protesters. Peaceful protesters. Like Hillary said, you can't be civil as long as Republicans are in power. Oh, wait, strike that." "Protesters" brings up images of a group of people expressing strong objection; a "mob" suggests the same crowd, only disorderly and violent. Thus, semantically, when a "protest" turns violent, it is classified as a "mob" or even a "riot." So when "peaceful protesters" stage an assault on the doors of the Supreme Court or come to blows with their opposition or tear up signs for ideas they hate, that would be classified as "a mob" since it cannot be termed "peaceful."

In recent news Israel killed 6 Palestinian protesters. Tragic. Really. Except we have a problem with terminology. These "protesters" were burning tires and hurling rocks, firebombs, and grenades at the Israeli soldiers. Hamas doesn't even call them "protesters"; they call it a "siege." That, dear readers, is not "protesters." What we have here is a failure to communicate ... or, to be more accurate, an attempt to lie about the events in question.

There Really is a God
In the UK this week the unthinkable happened. Daniel and Amy McArthur, Christian bakers sued for ... well, you know ... were exonerated by their Supreme Court. "Announcing the ruling, Supreme Court president, Lady Hale, said: 'It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person's race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics.' 'But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope,' she continued. She said that freedom of expression includes the right to 'not to express an opinion which one does not hold'. 'This court has held that "nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe”', she said."

Amazing! Common sense from a liberal land with a liberal court. The only possible explanation is Divine Intervention.

When Humor Imitates Life
The Babylon Bee is at it again, spoofing real news with humorous fake stuff, like the one where Hillary Clinton urges the crowd to "Let the hate flow through you." Sure, it's all fun and giggles until you hear the real story. Not as flashy, but just as disturbing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Wrong Right Answers

I was listening to a mother concerned about her teenage daughter. The age-old problem: the girl was interested in a "bad boy", a fellow with a less-than-savory character. Now, mind you, both mother and daughter were Christians. It's just that they were butting heads about this guy, and it wasn't going well. Mom was at her wits end.

I had a flood of thoughts on the matter, likely none of which would be helpful in the current emotional climate. Still ...

I wanted to know. Scripture is not unclear on the assignment from God for children and their parents. There are two primary commands. Neither is in question. First, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12). This one is sprinkled throughout Scripture. God repeated it (Deut 5:16). Jesus repeated it (Matt 15:4; Matt 19:19; Luke 18:20). Paul repeated it (Eph 6:2). Pretty comprehensive. Second, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20). Clear enough. Honor and obey. So, what I wanted to know is why is this an issue to this mother and her daughter? The daughter does claim to love Jesus. Jesus did say, "If you love Me you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). So ... why is the daughter refusing to honor and obey her mother? I might expect something like, "My mother doesn't know what's best here." And I would be happy to stipulate that parents don't always know what's best in every situation. But I have to point out that the commands do not include "as long as you agree with their judgment." So if this daughter is going to be obedient to God, she would need to honor and obey her mother (trusting God in that) regardless of the quality of this guy.

I would want to know what happened to God's Sovereignty. We know that "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will." We know that God has set up a hierarchy (1 Cor 11:3) which, if it is true, puts God (not Dad, Mom, or child) at the top of the hierarchy. We know that God works all things together for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28). So it is not possible for Daughter to miss out on God's best because Mom blocked her from it. Apparently, though, it is. What happened to God's Sovereignty?

And, to be completely fair, I'd want to know about that same question from the mother. What happened to God's Sovereignty? Mom has the job of being the mother to Daughter. Got it. She needs to do so responsibly, to the best of her ability. Clear enough. She is not, however, alone nor ultimately responsible here. Wives are supposed to "be subject to your own husbands," even to those who don't obey the Word (1 Peter 3:1). In that hierarchy that God set up where parents are over children, He also set up that "the head of a wife is her husband" (1 Cor 11:3) ... under God. If God is Sovereign and Husband is not supporting Mom in her directions for Daughter, I would think that trusting God and obeying Husband would be a safe course to take under God.

Here's the problem, of course. Our entire society has gone to war against all of this. Kids are not to be under their parents. Parents are there to serve their kids. Wives are not to be submitting to their husbands. He doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain. Besides, that whole "biblical hierarchy" thing is a bunch of bunk. Ultimately, just like the serpent in the garden, what we know above all else is that God cannot be trusted. He's holding out on us. Like Daughter, we know better than anyone above us. And if we don't defy those above us, we'll be missing out.

You see, I hope, that there are lots of reasons that none of this should be a problem. I see, of course, that none of this really helps. These two leading characters are in the throes of a conflict where serious and real feelings are in play and serious and real dangers exist. "Trust and obey" is a good answer, but from the position of "taking fire," it's just not very "safe." So we have to work up another approach.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Not What You Know

Go ahead. You can finish that, right? "It's not what you know; it's who you know." And in a lot of things these days, that may be true. In one very important item, however, it's not quite accurate, even if most of us think it is. That item is our salvation.

"Now, hang on," I can already hear you saying. "It is about knowing Jesus." You'd think so. That's why it's interesting what Paul writes. "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" (Gal 4:9) Notice that Paul corrects himself in this statement. He first says that the Galatian Christians changed because "you have come to know God." Then he says, "or rather" -- a correction -- "to be known by God." Paul is saying here that the change from dead to life, from sinner to saved, from the former life to the new life is a product of being known by God.

Now, that has to sound weird. We know that God is Omniscient. We know that God knows everyone. But here there is some different element. What is it?

In Jeremiah God speaks about Israel's sin of worshiping Baal and throwing their daughters to burn with Molech. "I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination" (Jer 32:35). Is God saying, "I didn't see that coming"? If He is, He is admitting ignorance and denying Omniscience. Or is He saying, "It wasn't My plan. That's wasn't what was on My mind"? He's saying, "I didn't come up with that idea and I didn't command it." We also know that Scripture speaks often about a husband "knowing" his wife. For instance, in the 4th chapter of Genesis we read, "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain" (Gen 4:1). Now, wait a minute! Adam has been hanging around Eve for several chapters. What's up with this? Well, of course, this is speaking about intimate knowing, not simple mental awareness. So we understand that knowing has various levels and meanings.

Jesus used the same kind of phrase. In the Sermon on the Mount He spoke about the false believers who will come to Him.
"On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matt 7:22-23)
There it is again. What does Jesus mean by "I never knew you"? Jesus knows everything and everyone. How could He not know them? They claimed to act on His behalf, but "The Lord knows who are His" (2 Tim 2:19). Jesus was saying that He didn't command it. They thought they were doing it for Him, but they weren't. They were, instead, "workers of lawlessness."

So what is it, then, that provides us with salvation? Is it our knowing Christ? Yes ... but that's not comprehensive enough because "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). Knowledge of God is insufficient. What is required is a relationship with God, and the point Paul and Jesus are trying to make is that God initiates that relationship. God begins that intimacy with us. Paul says that we start out "dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked" (Eph 2:1-2), and the solution is "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us" (Eph 2:4), "made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:5). "Now, wait!" you might be tempted to argue. "God loves everyone." True, but, again, not in the same way, because if that was the love Paul was referring then that love made us all alive together with Christ ... and you've arrived at universalism.

We are called "the church", but the real translation is "the called-out ones." We are "the elect." Not on our own, not from our own efforts, not because we're special, but because of God's choice for His purposes (Rom 9:11) so that none can boast. We didn't choose Him; He chose us (John 15:16). That started with a special love applied to us by God. It started by God knowing us in a special way. That "being known by God" is what initiates our salvation. So it's not what you know or even who you know when it comes to salvation; it's Who knows you ... in a deep and personal way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fundamentalists

I have tried to allow God's Word to shape my knowledge, understanding, and worldview. If God's Word says "X" and I have believed "Y" (or even "B"), I conclude, "Well, B must be wrong and I need to embrace X." In this way, the Bible is fundamental to my faith, my doctrines, my belief structures, my life principles, and my worldview. It is the foundation.

Others don't think like this. There is, in fact, quite a gamut, obviously. On the other end, the Bible is fairly worthless. It's a man-made, wholly fallible, fairly useless gathering of ideas, myths, and lies that provides no real value at all. That's the other end. In between, of course, there is a wide range of possibilities. There are those who highly value the Bible in word, but when you look at their position they "highly value" it only as far as they will allow. If it says that God commanded Israel to eradicate a particular group of people at a particular time, that obviously didn't happen. If it says that God can override human free will, that clearly doesn't happen. It can't mean that. They do genuinely highly regard the Bible, but, in essence, only as far as they can throw it. Then there are those who have great respect for the Bible, but only in so far as it "contains" the Word of God, not the whole thing. That would be silly. To them, some of the Bible is God's Word and valuable, but just what that part is varies. Well, you get the idea.

I'm amazed at the number of self-professed Christians who regard God's Word as sort of supplemental. They have their beliefs and they have their faith and they have, almost as an addendum -- an appendix -- the Bible. It's a sort of questionable reference book. "I believe X and Y and Z," they will tell you and when the Bible agrees they'll say, "See? Says so right here." When it doesn't, they'll explain why it's wrong. Generally it's wrong because it doesn't agree with their views. To this crowd, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so" is a wrong approach. That's because their premise starts somewhere else. Maybe it's popular opinion. Maybe it's their basic philosophy. Maybe it's their own minds. "Look," they tell me, "I know the Bible says that this is sin, but, clearly, it isn't because we know better." These will tell you they highly regard Scripture and then tell you, "Consensual sex between adults is never evil." Really? What Bible are you reading? But it's easy to understand because they are not basing their views and values on God and His Word; they're basing it somewhere else. Primarily on themselves.

Everything has a basis. Your views and my views have fundamentals. I am accused of being a "fundamentalist" (one of those words whose meaning has migrated from the original definition to a new, emotionally-charged insult) because I believe in the basics of the Bible. The truth is all of us are fundamentalists in the original intent of the word. We all have fundamentals. We all adhere to them. We all make our thoughts, conclusions, views, values, and actions from them. There are some who use God's Word as the core values from which to think and act. Most don't, including many who claim to highly regard God's Word.

I found out something interesting recently. In the Bible there are New Testament references to "heresies." At least, that's the King James version. More modern versions translate them as the "factions," or "division." The Greek word is indeed the origin of our word, "heresy." In his epistle to the Galatians Paul warns that the flesh produces lots of bad things including "heresies" (Gal 5:20). Translated elsewhere as "divisions," "sects," or "factions", the word is αἵρεσις -- hairesis. Thus, "heresies." Paul used the word when he told the Corinthians "There must be no heresies (or factions or divisions) among you" (1 Cor 11:19). Peter used it when he referred to the "damnable heresies" brought by false prophets (2 Peter 2:1). Same word. Paul told Timothy to reject a "factious man" ("heretick" -- KJV) after admonishing him a first and second time (Titus 3:10). That word is αἱρετικός -- aihretikos. That's the same basic word. The root word for these is αἱρέομαι -- aihreomai. This word means "to take for oneself." And that makes a lot of sense. When "take for ourselves" becomes the fundamental that we serve, it produces all kinds of heresy, division, factions, and lies. So when we take the Bible as supplementary to our fundamentals "as far as that goes," we operate primarily from ... aihreomai -- taking for ourselves. And that is a wholly different kind of fundamentalism -- the heretical kind.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Word of the Day

Here's a word for you: "syncretism." The dictionary defines it as "the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion." Notice that it has particular reference to religion. Think, for instance, of Santeria. Practiced in Cuba and parts of the Caribbean (and in the U.S. when brought by people from those places), Santeria is a religion that merged Roman Catholicism with the local worship of Yoruba deities -- basically, voodoo practices. Santeria is classic syncretism.

Syncretism is an art that many Christians and many churches have indulged, embraced, and skillfully advanced. From practices and strategies to actual beliefs, we've become quite adept and incorporating the world in the church. On the face of it that doesn't really seem too bad, except that Jesus calls it "My church" so it would seem unwise to mix the systems of the god of this world with the Bride of Christ.

Still, we've really dipped into it, and not just today. There is the syncretism of philosophies, where we adapt God's Word to the perspective of the day. In earlier times it was Gnosticism and legalism addressed as early as the first century in Scripture itself. Others incorporated the "evils of the flesh" in the sense that "physical is evil," a view from Plato, not God. That's carried over into the Victorian era and even floats about in the Roman Catholic world today. And, of course, we've got our own modern versions. "The Bible never said anything about homosexuality," they tell us today. "What makes you think that the world was created in seven literal days," you're sure to hear. None of these are because the texts support them. They are pure syncretism.

In Paul's day there was a syncretism of salvation. He wrote his epistle to the church at Galatia over that. We're beyond it; we know we're saved by grace apart from works ... but we keep wanting to sneak in that whole "saved by works" thing to one extent or another. We're pretty sure that there are things we need to do in order to be saved. Surely you can't drive a beer truck and be a Christian, right? So we buy into the world's "mode of salvation" -- salvation by works -- and build unbiblical standards which, amazingly, genuine Christians often don't meet.

Very popular in more recent decades is the syncretism of marketing practices. Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matt 16:18), but we're here to fill in the gaps that He has. So we treat the church like a business. We run the numbers, employ the marketing techniques that grow a business, and build churches with cool, worldly components to draw people in. Of course, that's not the purpose of the church (Eph 4:11-16) or even our job, but, hey, we're going to run with it.

One I've seen in growing numbers is the syncretism of feminism. Feminism on the face of it was to simply seek for the equality of women. All well and good. But in the hands of sinful humans, it couldn't go well. Much of it turned anti-male. It's the fault of men that women aren't seen as equal. While men edged out of churches, women surged in, and much of our common practices these days are directed by and aimed at women, excluding men. It doesn't take a super-genius to read the Bible and see God's handprint of patriarchy in there (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3), but our perspective today is that patriarchy is evil. Women will tell women, "Ladies, we run the church." And by no means should you suggest that women shouldn't be pastors ... you know ... like it says in the Bible (1 Tim 2:12-14). Why? Because we've managed to incorporate the world's version of feminism instead of God's version (e.g., 1 Peter 3:7; Gal 3:28).

We think we're doing okay. We call it "progress" and think we're coming up with new ideas, improvements, better plans. We don't even notice we're doing it because we're too immersed in the world's views to realize that these are coming from there, not God's Word. So we need to remind ourselves that we are called to be different. We are called to be separate, to be holy, to be renewed in our minds rather than conformed to the world, to be something new, not something old. If you think about it, dragging stinking carcasses from the world into our churches as if they're an improvement really makes no sense, does it? So we need to be aware, conscious, and careful. We should be "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11) rather than aligning our views and our churches with a world that is the enemy of God.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Friends and Enemies

We are sometimes confused by what seems to be common terms these days. We use the word "love" to mean "deep affection" or "casual sex." We use the word "marriage" to mean "lifelong commitment" or "partnership of convenience ... until something better comes along." We use the word "friend" to mean "someone who has your best interests in mind" or "someone who doesn't care about what's best for you, but pats you on the back no matter what."

Paul wrote to the Galatians,
Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Gal 4:16)
Paul's was a rhetorical question. The assumption was that telling someone the truth (especially, as Paul was, in their best interest) did not make you their enemy. Today? Not so much. Telling the truth today may be regarded as friendly or may be regarded as an assault. Why? Because we don't know what a "friend" is anymore. We think it's someone who pats you on the back and tells you to just be yourself. "It's all good."

This is, of course, an oversimplification and a generalization. We know, for instance, that a friend doesn't tell her poor friend, "Embrace your poverty." She tries to help. It isn't a good friend who sees you about to step on a rattlesnake and does nothing to help. If there's a problem, a good friend steps in to support you. That's what friends are for. It's just that we've largely relinquished the right to say, "This is good and that is bad."

If we have a reliable truth source, then, and that source says things like, "The sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God," I think we can safely say, "That's a bad thing." And a good person would want to warn a friend about something bad like that. If that source says that preaching a gospel contrary to the one we were given is accursed, I think it's reasonable to say, "I wouldn't want my friends to be accursed," and attempt to dissuade them from doing so.

We've all heard "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" and we've all said, "Not so!" (or something to that effect). In this day and age of politically correct speech and a backlash against "hate speech" and all, we know that words can hurt. No doubt. But here's the question. If the words are true, even if they hurt, "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Or does "truth" get nullified by "hurt"? Yes, by all means, we need to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Speaking the truth hatefully is not friendship. But truth spoken in love should not be considered a contradiction to being a friend. It's just our culture that sees it that way.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Other Omni

I've talked about God's Omnipotence (possessing all power) and God's Omniscience (knowing everything), so I should probably touch on that last "omni" -- God's Omnipresence.

So, first the easy part. "Omni" means "all" and "presence" means "presence." Thus, "omnipresence" means "present everywhere." Okay, that was simple. But, is it true? Is it a tradition or a biblical fact?

Solomon wrote, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good" (Prov 15:3), so we know He sees every place. Paul wrote, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col 1:17), so we know that all matter is contained in Him. Jeremiah says, "'Am I a God who is near,' declares the LORD, 'And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?' declares the LORD. 'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the LORD" (Jer 23:23-24). Perhaps Psalm 139 gives us the most explicit and expansive text on the subject.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Psa 139:7-10)
Well, that's about everywhere, isn't it? Pretty clear. Heaven, hell, here, there, wherever ... God is there. Not tradition; Scripture.

We need to be careful here. There are those that argue that Hell is simply the absence of God. If God is Omnipresent, that simply can't be. It could be the absence of the knowledge of the presence of God, but God's Omnipresence requires that He be everywhere at the same time and if He is not He is not Omnipresent. Another key point we need to dodge is the growing popularity of pantheism. "God is in everything." It doesn't simply say God is everywhere; it says God is everything. that's called idolatry. Conversely, deism as a formal belief is not common, but as a practice is everywhere. They think that God is "there", perhaps, but He's "hands off." You'll find it in strange cultic views or in everyday Christian perspectives where nature and sin occur outside of God's control and His hands are tied. It's just not so.

So what? God's Omnipresence has many ramifications. It means that He is accessible because He is present. It means that He is aware ("The eyes of the LORD are in every place") because He is present. It means that God doesn't miss your pain or problems. He is there. It means you can't hide from God. He's there. And we look forward to the day when we realize His presence, when we "make real" the presence that is real even when we're not aware of it. Every time we go to church, we worship, we pray, we delve into His Word, we share Him with others either in fellowship or in evangelism, we declare His presence. And I declare, with David, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it" (Psa 139:6).

Saturday, October 06, 2018

News Weakly - 10/6/18

The Beginning of the End?
California has passed the law. Publicly listed companies with headquarters in the state will be required to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019.

California lawmakers: "We don't actually believe in a system where merit is in play. We don't care about your ability to earn or to do a job. We don't care about your company and whether or not you can make it work. We care about gender equality. Except, of course, we'll do that halfway. Only one. But no more of that evil 'free enterprise' nonsense here. We will regulate you to meet our own arbitrary social standards. We do not believe in hiring on the basis of ability or talent. If we did, we wouldn't be in charge here, would we?"

This is what I am talking about
You remember Garrison Keillor, right? Prairie Home Companion. "Down home" kind of guy. Claimed to be a Christian. Accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. He denies it and it hasn't gone to trial, but he has been fired. His house is for sale. And he can't sell books. Guilty until proven innocent. "And, oh, by the way, you will not be given a chance to prove your innocence." There is no coming back from this. No redemption. No forgiveness. No recovery. This kind of accusation, today, is the end. And a large and loud part of America is no longer interested in justice. "Vengeance is mine," saith the public. "No thanks. Not really interested in discovering the truth." In today's climate, appearing to be friends with someone accused of these things produces outrage. Apparently you can be "guilty until proven innocent by association." I'm not defending the man or approving "inappropriate sexual behavior." I'm talking about the principle of justice that once prevailed in America.

The Society of the Offended
Some of you may not know who Ruby Rose is. She is an actress (sorry, I still call female actors "actresses") who has been tagged as "the most dangerous woman on the Internet." That's because malicious people are using her as a lure to get Internet users to unknowingly go to dangerous websites searching for info about her. Fine. Don't do that.

The other thing about Ruby, however, is that she was picked to be Batwoman in the new Batwoman series slated for the near future. Now, according to the new series, Batwoman is a gender-fluid Jewish lesbian. (Yeah, I know ... seriously?) And there has been "online uproar" primarily from the LGBTQ side about her being in that role. Why? Batwoman is gender-fluid; Rose is gender-fluid. Batwoman is a lesbian; Rose is a lesbian. Batwoman is "out"; Rose is "out". Oh, I see. Rose isn't Jewish, so she can't play a gender-fluid Jewish lesbian. Next they'll demand that only the real Batwoman can play Batwoman on TV. One complaint I read was "They case Ruby Rose because she's the only LGBT person that straight people like." Ah! Okay. So if you cast a gender-fluid lesbian who straight people don't like, then it's okay. The executive producer is homosexual and the writer is homosexual and the lead actor is homosexual, but they are "systematically ignoring the voices of the LGBTTIQ+ community." Seems to me that we've arrived at a society intent on being offended no matter what.

Coming Soon to a Country Near You
Alberta's Deputy Minister of Education has notified private Christian schools that they will lose funding if they do not remove biblical language from their "Safe and Caring" school policies. What kind of language do they find offensive? Things like "We believe men and women were created in the image of God, after His likeness, and therefore have transcendent, intrinsic worth" or "Upon receipt of a request for a club or activity, the principal shall determine whether the requested club or activities would create a safe, caring, welcoming and respectful environment and is consistent with the vision and mission of the school." Failure to remove this kind of content could result in loss of funding and "the suspension or cancellation of accreditation."

Here's the plan. Remove the real, solid backing for anti-bullying, mutual respect, successful parenting and families, and such, and everything will be peachy. God? We'll have none of that, even in your private schools. The claim that there is "truth" that precludes alternative views as truth is incoherent, right? (Hint: No. It is the only reasonable thing. For instance, arguing that "2 + 2 = 4" is not made better if we say, "But your alternative truth on what 2 + 2 equals is equally valid, too.") And don't expect that we here in America are immune to this nonsense.

Science "Wins"
The modern god is the god of Science. You can't trust people and you can't trust religion, but you know you can trust Science. Like this recent story. Researchers say that light alcohol use does not have health benefits. They say that even light drinking increases your chance of a premature death. "Now, hang on a minute," a savvy person might point out. "Didn't Science tell us that a little alcohol is beneficial for my health??" Yes, yes it did. That's why you know you can trust Science. It corrects itself.

Of course, Science corrects itself endlessly. "That study was wrong; ours says the opposite." "Oh, yeah? Well your study is wrong and ours says something else." It looks like it in the news. It looks like it in the studies of false claims. It looks like the evidence shows that "a lot of published research is false." Where's your god now?

Speaking of Science
On another scientific issue, we have the ultimate prediction of global warming. "A panel of climate change scientists from around the world issued updated prediction models Wednesday, confirming that global warming is expected to see a 'dramatic and deadly' increase the moment Jesus Christ returns in glory" based on scientific data and "a historical-grammatical reading of 2 Peter 3:10."

I'm convinced science has figured it out; it's right there on the Internet.

Friday, October 05, 2018

I do the very thing I hate

Paul wrote, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (Rom 7:15). I know what he means. Take, for instance, dieting.

I've been on a diet most of my life. My doctor put me on a diet in junior high. The military kept me thin by force of regulation for 10 years. Of course, age doesn't help, so I've been watching my intake for years now to slim down. It's not working. I track my eating daily and I have one of those handy-dandy Fitbit devices that tracks my exercise. Now I can see how many calories I'm taking in and how many I'm burning. According to these two systems, I'm taking in an average of 1500 calories a day and burning an average of 2500 calories a day. I'm not losing weight. "Exercise!" they tell me. So I exercise. Desert sun or desert monsoon, I walk an hour a day (minimum). I'm not losing weight. I make sure I'm not eating fats and sweets, cut out diet sodas because those are bad for you, increase fruits and vegetables, and I'm not losing weight. So we go to a weight loss clinic and they tell me, "You're not eating enough." Ummm, okay, that makes no sense, but ... okay. "You need to eat more ... but only what we tell you." And what they tell me is "Do you like these foods?" "Yes." "Cut them out. Do you like these foods?" "Can't stand them." "Double those." And they continue to whittle this down. "Eat more fruits and vegetables! Oh, not those fruits. Not those vegetables. These. They have no flavor and no content. These will work fine." I'm convinced now that the aim of any working diet is to find out what you like to eat and eliminate it. Oh, you've gotten used to that? There are a few things you still like? Eliminate them! Until I'm chewing on cardboard and rusty nails. That ought to do it. I hate not being able to eat what I like. I hate being told that whatever I like is likely bad for me. I hate doing all this dieting and exercise without results. And still I diet and exercise. See? "I do the very thing I hate."

Okay, that's not what Paul meant. But I'm not sure that isn't an accurate statement about how diets work. "Find what you like and eliminate it." Nor am I sure that it makes sense to keep doing it. And, yet, here I am, dieting ... still. Don't go telling me about your favorite foods. I'd just have to eliminate them.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Sin Red Line

No, that wasn't a typo. I've heard (most of my life) people -- Christians, largely -- talk about sins that indicate loss of salvation or, at the very least, that salvation was never given. "That guy is cheating on his wife. I don't think he's saved." "Do you see how she's dressed? Can a real Christian dress like that?" "No true Christian can drive a beer truck for a living." (I actually heard that last one verbatim.) There appears to be this concept of a "sin red line," a line of sin drawn in the sand beyond which salvation does not lie.

Is this possible? You might think at the outset that it isn't. We know, for instance, that all believers sin. No one arrives at sinless perfection. John assured us that "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). He wrote 1 John "so that you may not sin" but went on immediately to add, "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). No one, not even believers, not even the godliest believer (Phil 3:12-13), is without sin. So, no, there is no "sin red line."

On the other hand, there is evidence in Scripture that sin is a valid indicator of sorts. Jesus told us, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt 7:16). James assured us, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17) and warned, "Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14). John said, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9). John's first epistle starts with the contrast of those who walk in the light and those who walk in darkness. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:6). How we live is an indicator of our spiritual condition.

So, what is that "sin too far," that "sin red line"? I think we need to be careful here. I don't think that Scripture supports the idea of a sin that removes you from salvation. On the other hand, there is a sin that goes beyond forgiveness. "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29). There is no coming back from that (whatever it is) according to Jesus. (John speaks about sin "leading to death" (1 John 5:16), but there's no reason to assume that is spiritual, eternal death.)

We need to be cautious. We need to be sure we're standing on God's Word and not our own version of morality. "That guy smokes" is not a good measure since there is no prohibition of smoking in the Bible. "She is living a sexually immoral lifestyle and defending it to anyone who asks" might well be a reason to ask the question because Scripture says that the one born of God cannot make a practice of sin. We need to keep in mind that every Christian (including you and me) sins. Single sins are not a good indicator. And we need to beware of personal "righteous indignation," of a "holier-than-thou" attitude where we thank God we are not like that beer truck driver. In other words, there are more warnings and cautions against this kind of "sin red line" thinking than for it. Jesus's bottom line was, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matt 7:5). A good place to start.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Becoming Myself

Today's society largely worships "self" as the ultimate. "Oh, yeah," some will counter, "we've heard that, too. Don't be ridiculous. You're just overstating things." Maybe, but I'm talking about clear and present language you hear every day. "You've got to be yourself," they tell us. "Embrace yourself." "The greatest love of all us learning to love yourself." I mean, "self" is at the very core of the whole "self-esteem" push. It's also at the bottom of every encouragement we receive to "pursue your dreams," "if it feels good, do it," and "don't let anything get in the way of your goals." "Be all you can be."

Now, if I'm honest, I do not think this is new, a product of "modern society" as opposed to prior times. I'm not arguing that it's moreso than before. I'm saying it's more open than before, but not more present. The fundamental sin of the human being is "Me!" "I will be like the Most High!" Self-centeredness is our core problem.

Now, we would all agree that in much of life we're trying to control self. It is okay in this venue, but not in that. When Madonna gave a eulogy for Aretha Franklin and it was all about Madonna, people weren't impressed. We need to control ourselves in our interactions with people to get along. And we're all pretty aware of the fact that there are certain conditions in which individuals lose that control. One is obviously drunkeness. Another is commonly old age. Well, perhaps better put, dementia. As the mind starts to lose its memory and thinking skills, the inherent inhibitions that accompany those things are dropped. Studies indicate that it is brain shrinkage. Fine. But what we see is ... who they are. When the inhibitions are down, the real person comes out.

I don't want to be like that when I get old. Well, okay, I'm already old, but when I get to that condition. How do I avoid it? I do not avoid it by "becoming myself," by "embracing self," by "loving myself." Self is the problem. What I need is to be a "self" that is not like that. And that only comes by the work of the Spirit in a sinful heart to be more closely conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29). Maybe I'd better get on the stick and cooperate more with Him in His work, because I don't want to be that grumpy old man who expresses a self that would embarrass the "me" who is now if I was aware of it. Worse, I don't want to bring embarrassment to my Savior. I don't want to become myself. I want to become more like Him.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Grace Problem

We love grace. We really do. We sing about how amazing it is. We preach it. We extol it. Getting good that we didn't earn is a real good thing.

For reasons that don't seem readily apparent, grace, like so many other things, gets to be problematic when humans get hold of it.

How is that? Well, we are strange creatures. When we first encounter grace -- favor given without merit -- we are indeed grateful. We did not see that coming. It is so good. It is so wonderful. As time goes by and the grace keeps coming, we become used to it. We expect it. It's just ... there. Eventually -- and not entirely sanely -- we begin to demand it. It is not entirely sane because the definition is that we are not due the favor, but we begin to see it as our just reward. It is ours. And if God doesn't deliver, we're miffed.

Think of a kid's evolution at Christmas. That first realization of getting a good thing out of the blue is a delight. He or she is so happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It isn't too many years before they expect it. It's no longer a surprise. It is normal. It is coming. It is theirs. Now, imagine (assuming there is a parent brave enough to test this out ... and I doubt there is) what would happen if a Christmas came around and you said, "Nope, not this year. No presents this Christmas." The reaction would not be, "Oh, but we're so grateful for what you've given us before." No, no. It would be outrage. You are not going to be their favorite parent this year. Because Christmas gifts are now required.

The trick, then, is to try to remember grace. Grace and mercy. It might help if you remember mercy first. The fact that we are not getting what we deserve is truly astounding. If we can remember how much we're forgiven, what is it that Jesus said about love and forgiveness (Luke 7:47)? The realization of how much we've been given makes grace all the greater. We didn't earn anything that God gives. And He gives. And gives. And gives.

One of the primary problems Paul mentions in his dissertation on basic human sin, along with "ungodliness and unrighteousness" and the suppression of truth by unrighteousness (Rom 1:18) is a simple and very common problem. "Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks" (Rom 1:21). Ungrateful. That's one of our common problems. Even for the amazing grace that He imparts. As for me, I don't ask God for "fair." If God were to give me what I deserve, I couldn't stand. I'll take mercy and grace any day, neither of which I have earned.

Monday, October 01, 2018

People with Ears

Jesus repeatedly told His listeners, "He who has ears to hear, let him ear." Notice that there are three kinds of people in that phrase. The first kind is "He who does not have ears." That one can't hear, obviously. The other two, then, would consist of people with ears, divided into those who hear and those who don't. Of course, everyone has ears, so what was He saying? He was obviously speaking of spiritual ears. Paul wrote, "The natural person 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). That actually seems rather harsh, but I didn't say it; Paul did. The natural, unregenerate person lacks the ability to understand the things of the Spirit of God. They don't "have ears." That means that there are two types of people who don't "hear" -- who don't listen and understand: the unregenerate and those who can hear but just won't.

I find some interesting examples of people who seem to be unable to "hear" when we look at how they read Scripture. Take, for instance, the famous story of then President Obama quoting Scripture that said that Jesus was "the friend of sinners."1 As it turns out, the text doesn't say that He was. The context is Jesus complaining that the crowd made no sense. John came neither eating nor drinking and they said he had a demon. Jesus came eating and drinking and they said He was a glutton, a friend of sinners (Matt 11:17-19) You can see that Jesus was saying what they said, not that what they said was true. If we conclude that Jesus was saying it was true, then Jesus was also claiming that John had a demon. We know that wasn't true. So Jesus truthfully stated what they were claiming, but that's not His admission that they were right. Was Jesus a friend of sinners? He was, but not the "Embrace your sin and be happy as you are" type of friend (which, in the final analysis, is no friend at all) like Obama and others think. He was the "Repent and believe in the gospel" type of friend (Mark 1:15). So when people quote Scripture to tell us that Jesus was the friend of sinners, meaning He did not condemn sin, they do it without hearing.

Recently I wrote about the gospel versus the Social Gospel. I offered 1 Cor 15:1-11 as a basic text for what the gospel was. I pointed out that we do need to take care of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the needy, the oppressed -- all that -- but that this is not the gospel; that is a product of loving your neighbor. Well, of course, people took offense. "What about this? Didn't Jesus say, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor' (Luke 4:18-19)? Didn't He include all that in the gospel?" Another example of people who don't hear. No, it doesn't mean that all of that is included in the gospel. Jesus said, "He has anointed Me to proclaim the good news to the poor." He also listed freed captives, seeing blind, and liberated oppressed. In the parallel passage (Matt 11:5) there is another list of good things that are happening to needy people. The text is simply saying that Jesus had come to bring good things to needy people -- healing, liberty (without requiring physical liberty; there is no record of Jesus releasing any prisoners), vision for the blind, release for the oppressed (again, without actually requiring physical release), and the gospel for those who need it. The requirement for blanket equivalence would mean that the gospel is all of those things. That kind of blind equivalence would require that Jesus's "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15) would command that we take all those miracles with us in the basic command to "proclaim the gospel." Those things are "good news," but they are not "the gospel" that we are commanded to proclaim. Look, if that was what "the gospel" entails and you haven't freed a single prisoner or healed a single blind person, you haven't obeyed the command. Or ... that's not the gospel, and some aren't listening.

I've heard people pit Jesus against Jesus. In Matthew's version of the Beatitudes, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:3). In Luke's version Luke writes, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). Clearly Jesus said two different things, right? In one He referenced the "poor in spirit" and in the other it was just "the poor." So, they tell me, the poor -- those who are lacking the basic subsistence requirements of life -- are blessed with the kingdom of God. They completely ignore the Matthew version and it makes no sense. If it is true that those who suffer in poverty are blessed with the kingdom of God, here's what we know. These people should be left alone. They don't need a Savior. They don't need more money or help. They don't need the gospel. They're blessed, and they already have the kingdom of God. What more could they ask? Or Luke's abbreviated version was intended to parallel Matthew's version and Luke's "poor" was a reference to "poor in spirit." "He who has ears to hear, let him ear."

We can be really too free and easy with our understanding of Scripture. We read a verse and make it a soundbite and make it our guiding principle when, as it turns out, the content and context and all of Scripture says something quite different. It is entirely possible for people "without ears" to think they "hear" but don't. It is equally possible that people "with ears" might think they hear but don't. I'm quite sure that all of us "with ears" fail to hear at times. We need to practice (Heb 5:14). We need to pay attention. We need to read. We need to heed. Because not hearing is not a good thing.
________
1 Isn't it interesting that no one protested the president when he told us that Jesus was the friend of sinners, so we should be also? If Pat Robertson or Albert Mohler or the like had said it, the anti-religious Left would have been outraged. (By "anti-religious Left," I do not mean to imply "All the Left is anti-religious," but that there is a segment, large but not all, that is anti-religious.) "Keep your religion to yourself!" they would have bellowed. Why not when the president said it? Seems odd ... or does it?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What Does God Know?

The claim of Christendom and Judaism before it has been that God knows ... everything. He knows all possibilities -- all contingencies -- but knows nothing contingently. That is, He knows all the "what ifs" but there are no questions about "what will be." He knows what was, what is, what will be. Without error. Without question. "Yeah, yeah, sure ... but why would you make such a claim?" Let's see if it's tradition or Scripture.

John wrote that "God is greater than our heart and knows all things" (1 John 3:20). That means ... all things. That's not just a whole lot of things or even most things. All things. In the book of Job we read that God is "perfect in knowledge" (Job 37:16). Perfect. Thus, God knows all things and He knows them perfectly. The psalmist says, "His understanding is infinite" (Psa 147:5).

It sounds comprehensive, sure, but what about humans? How well does He know us? Can He know what we will do (as the Open Theists deny)? In Acts we read that God "knows the heart" (Acts 15:8). Pretty clear, but Psalm 139 is full of answers here. Before you speak He knows it completely (Psa 139:4). He knows your ways (Psa 139:3). He knows your thoughts (Psa 139:2). "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa 139:16). All the days. All the days that were formed for me. Prior to their occurrence. Complete and total knowledge of each and every human in advance.

God's Omniscience, then, is purely biblical and it is absolute and complete. Past, present, future, our world, ourselves, everything ... perfectly. Don't let anyone argue that away. Why? First, because it is clear in Scripture, but, second, because it's important.

If God is not Omniscient (I use the capital there because there are those who argue that God is omniscient while denying that He actually knows anything perfectly.) then we have a lot to fear. He promises, but will He deliver? If He is Omniscient He will. If not, you can't be sure. He gives us eternal life, but will we get it? If He is Omniscient we will. If not, you can't be sure. Here's an interesting thought. Kant argued that the basis for morality is found in the existence of an Absolute, Perfect Judge. Part of being that Judge entails Absolute, Perfect Knowledge. If God is not Omniscient, Justice is in question. In our lives as believers we are told that if we love Christ we will obey His commands (John 14:15). Obedience is a result of loving Him, but we can have absolute confidence in obeying Him because we have absolute confidence that He knows what is best ... because He is Omniscient. Nothing happens to us that He didn't see in advance. The world intends evil for us, but if God is Omniscient, we can be supremely confident that anything that happens to us occurs because God intends good (Gen 50:20).

What is Omniscience? Simply put, "God knows." But that's a big "knows." And we, His people, can delight in that every day in multiple ways. 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

News Weakly - 9/29/18

The Ambiguous "Dehumanizing Speech" Category
Twitter has announced a new policy. The policy will prohibit "content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target." Expanding on their "hateful conduct policy," it ought to make a big difference. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale ...

What is "dehumanizing speech"? It is speech that denies or diminishes their humanity, like "comparing them to insects, demons, or bacteria." Pretty sure there is a wide swath of people who will be freely and acceptably "diminished" even with this new rule, just like the hateful conduct policy. As long as you're in the "it's okay to hate them" category, it won't apply. But you can be fairly confident that "This particular behavior is a sin" will be banned if that behavior is in the "approved" group. Just my guess. (Do you think I'm somewhat cynical?)

Good News, Bad News
Good news! Chelsea Clinton is a "deeply religious person." Bad news! Whatever it is, it isn't Christianity. Chelsea delcared that eliminating the legalized murder of children would be "unchristian to me." Clearly she's bought the line that "our ability to participate fully in our society, including economically, hinges on our ability to make choices for our bodies and our families" even if that means executing family members. But her "deeply religious" thinking encourages her to make the "moral choice" every day ... to be optimistic. Pray for Chelsea.

A French Surprise
A drunk man in Paris received the first fine from the new "anti-catcalling" law in France. He slapped a woman's behind and insulted her appearance. He got three months in jail and €300 (about $350 USD) fine. The new law can get you fined up to €750 (about $870 USD) for a wolf whistle.

The surprising part is not that the law was instigated by a woman, the "Gender Equality Minister," or that the judge that laid out the penalties was a woman. It is slightly surprising that France would have such a law, given their reputation as being so sexually immoral. What's really surprising is that they prosecuted someone for it. Here in the U.S. we're content to execute a man's reputation, career, possible future income, and worse without a trial. (How is it possible, given all the #MeToo activity in the last year, that Bill Cosby is the only one to have been tried?) The surprise in France is that they actually put the man in the courtroom. Bravo.

Another One Bites the Dust
Azusa Pacific University calls itself "a comprehensive, evangelical, Christian university." They made the news back in 2013 when a female professor who decided her true identity was as a man had to part company with them because she couldn't get transgender-related medical care. Well, it looks like "comprehensive, evangelical, [and] Christian" means something different to them than it does, say, to Scripture. They are now altering their Student Standards of Conduct to say that the Bible is wrong to prohibit same-sex relationships. And they created "a special LGBTI program"! Isn't that fabulous? They're still banning sex outside of marriage and retaining their "one man, one woman" definition of marriage, but if you want to fall in love with someone of the same gender, by all means, go right ahead!

My title above is my commentary. Of course, it's a California institution. I don't think it will be long before all "comprehensive, evangelical, Christian" institutions will be forced to give in or face the consequences. It's just too bad that this one gave in before there were consequences. They gave in on the biblical principle rather than under the duress of an anti-theist State.

Update: APU has come out with a statement that says that they are reinstating the original language of the Standards of Conduct and forbidding homosexual romantic relationships on campus. Good to know. And thanks for that update, Glenn.

Say Goodnight, Brett
Well, I'm sure you've all heard. Brett Kavanaugh is on hold. The president agreed to a week-long FBI investigation. That ought to fix it. The truth is an allegation made these days equates to guilty without being proven and the protest of innocence, even with corroboration of others, is simply proof of guilt.

I think the outcome is obvious. "No thanks, man. We don't need you. You have failed to meet our standard of living the perfect life." Now, of course, that's not fair ... at least, not entirely. Perfection isn't the standard; just perfect to the standard that they demand. If you're a president and have adulterous sex with an intern, that's okay. If you lie to Congress about it, people shouldn't judge. "Judge not!" is their cry. Mind you, it's not that they're opposed to sexual abuse. It's that they're against sexual abuse in certain situations. And the fact that this particular event, if it is true, took place 35 years ago (which doesn't make it better; just a long, long time ago) and no allegations since then have indicated a trend or constant condition doesn't mean we should forgive or allow for reform. "He did it (even if no court has proven him guilty) and he's out, out, out! We'll have no such sexual immorality on our watch (except, as we've already said, the sexual immorality we approve and embrace)." I don't know. It seems somewhat ... intolerant and judgmental for a crowd that decries intolerance and judgment.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Drills

Technically, the term "military drill" refers specifically to the mass marching of soldiers, but we know there is more to it than that. The military has "drills" and "exercises" all the time. They send their troops -- sailors, soldiers, airmen, marines -- through simulated events to practice, practice, practice. Why?

The idea is simple. If you can get them used to doing certain things in certain situations, when the real situations arise, they will do them without having to think about it. It's like "muscle memory." Muscle memory is not actual memory stored in muscle. It is a set of tasks that your body has done so frequently that you no longer have to think about it. Like touch typing or playing an instrument. Your brain stores these things in a different place than normal memory and they've discovered that people who lack memory can still retain these muscle responses without even knowing how or why.

This principle is important in the Christian life. In general terms, it's what we need when we encounter life's trials. If you repeatedly remind yourself of the truth that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord" (Rom 8:28), for instance, then when something not so pleasant occurs, you will have this automatic response built in. That kind of thing. It's actually biblical.
Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14)
That's spiritual muscle memory. When our "powers of discernment" are "trained by constant practice," we are headed toward "mature." We are growing. We can much better "distinguish good from evil." Spiritual muscle memory. So when that true-sounding-but-not claim comes to your attention, you will know that it's not true before you're even sure why. Like the claim, "That was painful, so it must be bad." Seems plausible ... until you evaluate it in the light of God's Word. The idea, biblically, is that you will be fed the truth (Eph 4:11-16) and be given exercises to practice the truth so that, in the end, you will be perfected (James 1:2-4).

So I keep bringing up important biblical doctrines like the Sovereignty of God and the problem of sin and the glory of the Gospel. The day will come when I (and you) will need this information in a crisis. I want to have my "muscle memory" response to be God's rather than a failed sinful response. I want to build up those muscles in advance so when I need them I won't have to think about it so much. A different kind of body building. In my view, a much more useful drill than marching soldiers.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Proclaim Justice

In Matthew 12 Jesus is faced with a dilemma (Matt 12:9-14). He was in the synagogue on the Sabbath and a man with a withered hand came in. The accusers asked Him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Jesus told them they thought it was. They would pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn't they? Aren't people more valuable? So He healed the man. And the Pharisees "went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him." Nice.

Jesus knew it and withdrew. He continued to heal but warned them to keep quiet about it. He did it "to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah" (Matt 12:17). What was spoken by Isaiah?
Behold, My servant whom I have chosen,
My beloved with whom My soul is well pleased.
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets;
A bruised reed He will not break,
And a smoldering wick He will not quench,
Until He brings justice to victory;
And in His name the Gentiles will hope. (Matt 12:18-21)
The quote/prophecy seems a little strange. Wasn't Jesus sent to be Israel's Messiah? What's all this about Gentiles? But pause for a moment and I think you'll find it's a little more unexpected. This text tells us at least one reason Christ came, and it isn't quite what we expected. Sure, to save people and to proclaim the good news and things like that, but look at what this text says. He came to "proclaim justice to the Gentiles." Wait ... justice? It says that His "endgame" so to speak was to bring justice to victory. There it is again. Justice? Because of this "In His name the Gentiles will hope." Because of justice.

Jesus came for many reasons. We get most of them. This one isn't as obvious to us. Jesus came to bring justice to victory. How? God is just. Justice must be served or God is not God. Jesus came, then, to serve justice. He didn't come to kindly let us off the hook. He didn't come to simply drop the charges against us. He didn't come (first) to give us grace (being given good that which we didn't earn) and mercy (not receiving the punishment we have earned) because both are antithetical to justice. In order to give grace and mercy, Christ had to first bring justice to victory. He did it by living a sinless life and dying for our sins.
Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:21-26)
Christ came to demonstrate God's righteousness by appeasing His wrath ("propitiation") against our sin by paying the price ("redemption") Himself. As a result of bringing justice to victory, we are allowed faith in Jesus Christ, justification, and God's righteousness. Amazing grace!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Woe? Whoa!

I'm sure you've all read the texts from Matthew where Jesus pronounces "woe" on towns in Israel like Chorazin and Capernaum (Matt 11:21-24). They had His miracles performed in them and spurned Him. It was going to be worse for them than for other well-known sinful cities in the judgment.

The text brings up an interesting principle. "It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you," He told them (Matt 11:22). "More tolerable"? It will be hell for both; what is "more tolerable"? It would appear, then, that there is lesser and greater sin that will receive lesser or greater punishment. All sin earns hell, but there will be more or less torment depending on the nature of the sin. Interesting principle. Our aim, of course, is salvation -- forgiveness based on faith in Christ. No hell. But Jesus considered it worthwhile to warn them that there is greater and lesser torment, so I suppose we should concur.

There is, in here, another point almost always missed. The previous paragraph referenced Jesus's words to Chorazin, but Jesus says something similar Capernaum. He assures them "You will descend to Hades," but goes on to say, "if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day" (Matt 11:23). Okay, we got it. Capernaum had the Son of God in their midst doing miracles in their faces and they missed it. Bad ... really bad. Got it. But what about Sodom? Did you see what He said? "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you," they wouldn't have been so harshly judged. They wouldn't have been so spectacularly annihilated by God. They would have repented. "Yes, okay," I can hear you saying, "so?" If God knew (and He did) that if Jesus had come to Sodom as He did to Capernaum and Sodom would have repented (and it would have), why didn't He do it?

To be honest, here, He doesn't say, so we cannot know. We can only surmise. It wasn't the right time for the Messiah. God had other plans. Things like this seem likely. But one thing ought to be clear. For whatever reasons (and whatever they are they are God's, so they are good), God did not intend to bring Sodom to repentance, or He would have. This kind of thing sounds really wrong, I know, but it's not unbiblical. John wrote that Jesus told Israel to believe and then "departed and hid Himself" (John 12:36). John said that He did it "so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled" (John 12:38). John says that only those to whom the arm of the Lord as been revealed can believe (John 12:38-39). John wrote "They could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them'" (John 12:39-40). John clearly has no problem suggesting that God blinds eyes and hardens hearts to prevent understanding.

The truth is no one can come to Christ unless it is granted him by the Father (John 6:65). The truth is God is willing to demonstrate His wrath and power on vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). And the truth is that God is not obligated to save anyone ... at all. All of us have judiciously and carefully earned nothing but wrath, have personally earned the status of "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." If God saved not one, He would have been perfectly just. Saving any is remarkable. Woe to Chorazin and Capernaum for failing to see His Son at work? Yes. Woe to Sodom for refusing to repent with lesser input? Yes. It serves to magnify God's grace and mercy to the "few" who are shown the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt 7:14). Bottom line -- is it okay with you of God does what He pleases with His creation?