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Thursday, January 31, 2008


Heroism. What is it? The dictionary is extremely helpful. Heroism is defined as "heroic conduct." Great. Thanks. So what is a hero? A hero is someone who goes above and beyond. A hero is someone who gives of himself or herself. Heroism is when someone gives up what the ordinary person would not for another person.

Heroes are people like Edith Evans. Aboard the Titanic when it was sinking, Miss Evans, already safely on a lifeboat, volunteered to get off so it wouldn't be overloaded. No one ever saw her again. Edith Evans acted heroically, giving her life so others could live.

Heroes are people like Gerrit Kobes. Sgt. Kobes is a medic from Kettle Falls, Washington. In the middle of RPG's, heavy machine-gun, and small arms fire, Sgt. Kobes ran 500 meters "through a storm of enemy fire" to help injured Iraqi soldiers.

Heroes are fire fighters that run into burning buildings to save others. Heroes are people who surrender a kidney so someone who needs one will survive. Heroes are police officers who put themselves in harm's way so that ordinary citizens will be safe. Heroism is when someone lays down their own life, in one way or another, for someone else.

And there are everyday heroes. There are wives who give to a husband who doesn't love them. There are husbands who serve wives who hate them. There are parents who love children who do all they can to drive them away. There are employees who willingly give up their rightly deserved credit so that others above them can take the glory. There are heroes every day.

I'll tell you where the heroes are not. They are not there by force. When the government takes your taxes to give to the poor, it's not heroic. Heroism requires that it be voluntary. A good deed requires that it be done by choice, not by coercion.

Here, try this illustration. There is a "bad dog". This dog has attacked five people in the last week. So I take this dog and put it on a short chain and put it on that chain in a cage. Lo and behold, that dog stops attacking people! It goes an entire month without a single attack! It's a "good dog" now, right? Of course not.

It is a virtue for people to voluntarily surrender their time, energy, and resources to assist others. These folks are heroic. They are going above and beyond. The minute we take it from being voluntary to being mandatory, we remove the heroism. It becomes theft. A person who has been robbed of their goods is not more noble if that robber gives it to the poor. Do we really want to give the government the option of removing "good" for the "greater good"?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To Tell the Truth

One of the fundamental problems with the sin nature is "the suppression of the truth" (Rom. 1:18). Yeah, nice phrase, but what does it mean? It means we lie. We lie in what we say. We lie in what we don't say. We know the truth and we don't tell it. We attempt to deceive others in what we say and in what we withhold. Worse, we deceive ourselves. Of course, that's not just my opinion. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9).

The thing I find most disturbing is that part about deceiving ourselves. We are often conscious of the deceit we feed others, and if we are conscious of it, we can work on it. We can repent of it. We can stop it. We can correct it. It is the deceiving of self that is the problem. We often aren't aware of it. Being unaware means we can't do anything to fix it.

We lie to ourselves in all sorts of ways. We lie about how we feel. We lie about what we believe. We lie about how we see ourselves. This one is a big problem. We lie about ourselves to ourselves all the time. We lie in both directions. We tell ourselves that we are better than we really are ... and we tell ourselves that we are worse than we really are. It's as if we do all we can to avoid the truth about who we really are.

We are encouraged to lie to ourselves positively. The "Self-Esteem movement" tells us, "You need to tell yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to." Have you heard that one? Have you told others that? Have you told yourself that? Do you know it's a lie? I can demonstrate it so that it is undeniable. If I am stuck in traffic (like I was this morning) and I set my mind to turning myself and my car into a dragon to fly over this mess and get where I'm going, no amount of positive thinking will accomplish it. That's simply a lie. It is not true that I can do or be anything that I set my mind to do or be.

Why do we encourage one another to tell ourselves this lie? Well, it's to counteract another lie. The other lie says, "I cannot ..." when no such impossibility exists. My junior high coach told me, "'Can't' means 'didn't try'." My junior high coach was wrong, but his intent was to motivate me to try. I still can't jump 10 feet into the air and slam dunk the basketball, even though I've tried. But the coach wanted me to try, so he lied to me. We don't want people to put artificial barriers in their way, so we lie to them. "You can be whatever you want to be." You see, one of the most common lies people tell themselves is that they cannot do what they actually can do.

According to Paul, the opposite is also true. Perhaps the most common lie people tell themselves is that they are better than they really are. Paul never warned about low self-esteem, but he did say, "I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Rom. 12:3). You see, we often tell ourselves lies about how good we are. We tell ourselves we're good wives and it's that rotten husband who is the problem. We tell ourselves we're good fathers when we're not. We tell ourselves we're good spouses, good parents, good students, good Christians ... when we're not. You know these lies. There are those folks who tell themselves, "I'm a great singer" and try out for shows like American Idol only to demonstrate that they can't locate a musical note twice on the same day. There are those folks who tell themselves, "I'm too sexy for my shirt" while not a single person of the opposite sex can tolerate their presence. I am thoroughly convinced that we lie to ourselves in the positive far more than we lie to ourselves in the negative. "That doesn't bother me." "I don't have a problem with that." "I have that sin under control." Lies, all lies.

The answer to self-deceit is not another lie. We don't solve the problem of telling ourselves we are better than we are by telling ourselves that we're no good at anything. We don't solve the problem of lying to ourselves about being awful by telling ourselves the lie that we can do anything. Paul's answer was this: "Think with sober judgment." That's what we really need. We don't need "self-esteem training." We don't need to get pumped up. We need a dose of truth. We need it now. And we need it far more often than any of us likely realize.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Puzzled as Usual

There are things in the Bible that I don't understand. Now, if you are saying, "What? I understand everything!", you're lying. But some of the things I'm unclear on don't seem like they should be so unclear.

Here's one:
Children , obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth (Eph. 6:1-3).
Simple, right? All good parents quote that to their children. All good Sunday School teachers tell the kids this. No problem. Well, not for you, maybe, but I'm not clear.

Look, I get that children are to obey their parents (and honor them). But here's the question: When does that end? Since it's tied to "honor your father and mother," maybe you can stop obeying them when you can stop honoring them? No, that doesn't seem right. I think you should always honor your parents. So, since it's not when you stop honoring them and it's clearly not when they stop being your parents, it must be when you stop being their child. That's the common answer. But I can't find a biblical definition of when someone stops being the child of their parents. Americans immediately think "at 18", but no such biblical definition exists. Scholars tell me that Joseph and Mary were likely in their early teens, but no parent today is going to buy that a 14-year-old doesn't have to obey anymore. Some try, "As long as they're in your house," but since a lot of these kids are part of the boomerang generation -- you know, the one that keeps coming back -- they'd be children for a long time. Or is it simply that we must always obey our parents? I feel like I'm the only one asking these questions, but it's not entirely clear to me.

Or try this one:
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).
Paul had some troubles with this one, I think. About this he said, "This mystery is great" (Eph. 5:32). In a conversation I was having with multiple people about homeschooling and the responsibility of the father to teach the children, I asked, "If it's the father's responsibility, then he can't hand it to others (like the mother, the teacher, or the pastor)?" Part of the response was, "Mom is one flesh with me." Now, wait. I understand that biblically it says that, but what exactly does that mean? If they are actually one flesh, then when he eats, she is fed. When he sleeps, she is rested. Parents can't share the load of watching the children because there is only one. And all that stuff about "wives submit to your husbands" is nonsense because they are their husbands! I am, of course, being silly, but I'm trying to illustrate my confusion. To what extent and in what sense are the husband and wife "one flesh"? I'm quite certain it is much more than mere sexual union, but I also know there is still a separation of the two. Oh, I don't know. I'm with Paul.

Sure, there are lots of things many of us don't understand. Despite Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye's certainty regarding the Revelation, I'm quite confident that I'm not the only one that is not clear on that book. Parts of Hebrews are elusive to me. Ecclesiastes is a bit tough in places. And, seriously, what is all that "begat" thing doing in the Bible? No, I'm quite sure I'm not the only one who finds some passages more difficult than others. I'm just disappointed that I can't seem to get these "easy" passages down while everyone else is crystal clear on what they mean. Yeah, I know, "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." I've been told that before. Or maybe it's just, "Dude, you think way too much." Who knows?

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union

Sometimes my government scares me. One would think that some of the things that were said in the Stat of the Union address were universally accepted, yet too often I saw "the other side" sitting stoically by while the rest stood in applause.

Two were striking to me. The first was when the president said that it's best to trust the people with their money. It's best to keep taxes low. It's best not to take more money from Americans. One side rose and applauded; the other side stayed seated. What am I to conclude? "No, we don't think Americans should keep their money. We think that we should take their money from them and spend it as we see fit. Oh, we'll do it in ways that we think are best for them ... but we don't intend to let them keep it. Taking their money and spending it is our job."

I wasn't the least bit surprised when the president urged that health care reform leave health care in the private sector rather than government control, and the likes of Obama refused to respond. Of course he plans to fix our health care problems. He and those like him plant to do it by taking our money and taking over the health care system of America. We don't know what we're doing. The health care system isn't doing its job. Who better to fix it than the government? No surprise there.

The other one that was striking, though, was when President Bush spoke of how adult skin cells had been modified to act as embryonic stem cells. The president spoke of the need to make medical advances to save lives while respecting life and moral values. The Republican side stood and applauded, and the Democrat side sat silent. What can I conclude? "No, we don't care about moral values. We don't need to respect life."

Maybe my assumptions are wrong. Maybe the majority factor of my government isn't intending to take away my money at higher rates. Maybe they don't plan to increase my taxes. Maybe they don't think that it's better to take control of the health care system than it is to assist the market in managing it. Maybe they really do care about life and morality. Maybe. But I'm afraid that there are too many -- some of them are running for president -- who are of the opinion that government is the answer and we need to set aside our life, our liberty, our freedoms for their better interests.

A Common Word

A Common Word is an attempt by a group of Muslim scholars to find common ground between Islam and Christianity. The basis for this common ground is the mutually agreed "first law", "Love God with all your heart." Islam agrees. Judaism agrees. Christianity agrees. VoilĂ ! We're all in agreement! Oh, and since Jesus said, "He who is not against us is on our side" (Luke 9:50), well, hey, the Muslims aren't against us, so they're on our side! It's all good. Can't we all just get along?

It is a nice attempt to avoid conflict with Christians. It is, in fact, in their view, a vital attempt:
... we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony.
What they are trying to avoid is "hatred and strife." The fact that someone feels the need to try to avoid "hatred and strife" on the part of Christians is indeed distressing. We have lots of room for standing for the truth, defending the faith, exhorting, reproving, and other such things, but "hatred and strife" shouldn't be in that list. I'm in favor of avoiding hatred and strife with Jews, Muslims, atheists ... anyone you care to mention. And, bottom line, it is absolutely true that Christians ought to be concerned about exactly what this document calls for -- loving God and loving our neighbor. Absolutely!

So am I endorsing the document? No, I really cannot. Here's the problem. When they say, "Love God with all your heart," they mean something quite different than Christianity does. That's because "God" has a different definition to them than He does to us. You'll find the first hint of it where they say:
Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s nature), but in the following way: the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast unto Mary and a Spirit from Him.... (Al-Nisa’, 4:171).
This Jesus they call "Messiah" is not the Jesus of the New Testament. He is a messenger -- a prophet. He is a messenger of a lesser type than Mohammed. And Jesus did not die or rise again. Absolutely, Jesus is not God. Islam doesn't leave that up for question. Islam specifically denies it. In the document itself they reiterated the phrase "He hath no associate" as part of the basic teaching of Islam. There is one God. "He begetteth not, nor is He begotten" is a statement straight from the Qur'an (Surah Al-Ikhlas (112)). Islam at its core denies the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Since Christianity absolutely affirms that Jesus is God Incarnate, for us the command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" is a command to love Jesus with all our hearts as well since He is God. In Islam, that would be blasphemy. It's really difficult to call one thing "obedience" or "blasphemy" and say, "We see things basically the same."

I find the website thoroughly depressing for multiple reasons. Part of the argument for peace between Christians and Muslims is "Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s nature." We gave them that ammunition. The early church put the question to rest and it was over, but today we're much more tolerant. "If you want to call yourself a Christian and deny the fundamental nature of God consisting in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who am I to suggest you're not a Christian?" Today we're much nicer than they were in days gone by. In the past, heretics were burned at the stake. Today we define "Christian" as "anyone who chooses to define themselves as such." I don't wish to go back to the burnings, but we've clearly come too far away from "contend for the faith." That's sad.

It's sad to see the list of folks that have endorsed the document. I'm not at all surprised to see the applause from the Yale Divinity School or its 300 other signatories. I'm not the least bit taken aback to see that the World Council of Churches or the Disciples of Christ (whose main premise seems to be "Can't we all just get along?") have endorsed it. I am deeply saddened to see hearty approval from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Saddest for me, then, is that those who would call themselves Christians and affirm this document and its intent -- that we need to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors -- would do so at the peril of the Muslims and Jews it calls on for unity. If we deny who God is -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- in the name of peace, we nullify the first premise that we are to love God with all our hearts. If we surrender in the name of peace the only means by which peace with God can be obtained -- faith in His Son -- we deny the second premise of loving our neighbor. I'm against hatred and strife. I love my fellow humans too much, however, to lay down their only hope for salvation in an effort to be at peace with them. That, indeed, would be a violation of both of the top two commandments. In my deep desire for their peace, it is mandatory that I continue to share the truth with them in love. They are afraid that their very eternal souls are at stake if they fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace. I am sure that their very eternal souls are at stake if we give up these fundamental truths in the name of peace.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Simple Sunday

I thought a brief entry today would be helpful because the verse carries all the message I intend to convey:
Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple (Psa. 65:4)!
Savor that one ...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

How Do I Look?

How do I look? This question is likely one of the most asked questions, in its various forms, that we ask. We ask it verbally and non-verbally. We ask it of others and we ask it, more often, of ourselves. Men have hated the question from women when they ask, "Does this outfit make me look fat?", a no-win question most of the time. But we ask the question when we stop in front of the mirror to check ourselves out. We ask the question when we consider our responses to people. We ask the question when we are deciding what we will wear, what we will say, what we will do. "How does this make me look?" It was the question the Pharisees asked when they were considering their response to Jesus's question.
When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?" And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From man,' we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things" (Matt. 21:23-27).
Wrong question: "How will our response make us look?" The real question was "What is the truth?" which was sadly jettisoned.

The reason this has come to mind of late is not because I've seen it in folks around me. The reason this is on my mind is that I've seen it in myself ... and it's not pretty. I've noticed, as an example, that when my step-son is doing something well, I refer to him as "my son" to others, but when he's doing something wrong, he's "my step-son." I don't do it consciously. It's an automatic event. You see, when he does well, it reflects well on me. When he does poorly, it doesn't reflect well on me. So when he does well, I'd like to enjoy looking better, but when he does poorly, I'd prefer to distance myself. "I didn't raise the boy ... he's my step-son." How ugly! I caught it the other day. Another son is getting married this year. His in-laws-to-be asked if we might be able to help out with wedding expenses. The truth is that we have very little extra at the end of the paycheck. The truth is that, while we are getting by okay, we're not really able to provide much more. But I was in a dilemma. If I said, "Yes," I'd have to figure out how that was even remotely possible, but if I said, "No," it would look like I didn't care ... or worse, I wasn't rich. The only possible answer was "No," but it was hard for me because it would make me look bad. Sometimes I don't need a mirror to see how ugly I can be.

On very rare occasion it is okay to ask, "How will this make me look?" Solomon wrote, "A soft answer turns away wrath." In other words, I want to continue to engage this person in their best interest, so perhaps I had better make for a softer answer, making me look less strident, so that I can continue to be of help to them. A pastor does well to ask his wife "How do I look?" before he stands up in front of the church on Sunday because if he has a rip in his pants or hair sticking out all the wrong ways it will be a distraction to his hearers and he needs to be careful not to distract them. In other words, on those very rare occasions where "How do I look?" is motivated by "What's in their best interest?", it works.

There are so many better questions we need to ask long before we get to "How do I look?" We need to ask, "Will God be glorified?" We need to ask, "What is in their best interest?" We need to ask, "What can I do for you?" We need to ask, "What is the best I can give?" It would be helpful for all of us -- me in particular -- if we could push "How do I look?" way down toward the bottom of our question lists. In the final examination, it's just not that important compared to so many other things we should be considering.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Biblical Music

One of the hottest topics these days in churches is the topic of music. All sides are deeply entrenched. "God doesn't like that kind of music." "God is glorified in music regardless of the style." "We need to use music in church that is respectful of God." "We need to use music that reaches people." And the argument, unspoken generally, is that the Bible doesn't really say. So ... is that true? I took a survey of biblical music and here is what I found.

The main goal of music in Scripture is to express a response to God, not generate a response to God. Biblical music is more than anything else a response to God's grace. It is most often a response of gratitude for what God has done. Exodus 15 is the song of Moses, praising God for saving Israel from Pharaoh. Judges 5 is the song of Deborah and Barak, where they praise God for saving Israel from Jabin, the king of Canaan. Over and over people of God break out into song to thank Him for His goodness, grace, and mercy.

The Bible records other purposes in music, such as prayer (supplication), teaching (Col. 3:16), a language between believers (Eph. 5:19), and even mourning. Music is used throughout Scripture. Sometimes it is a celebration. Sometimes it is a sin (when they celebrate something they shouldn't.) God often threatens to remove it as a consequence of sin. Solomon warns that it is foolish to sing joyful songs to someone who isn't joyful (Prov. 25:20).

You'll find, in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, that music will be a very real part of heaven. It appears that, despite the arguments to the contrary, that God is a real music fan.
And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." (Rev. 5:8-10)

And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. And they sang the song of Moses the bond-servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before Thee, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed." (Rev. 15:2-4)
Music has been around, biblically, as early as Jubal (Gen. 4:21), an inventor of musical instruments. There are a host of instruments listed, including the harp, lyre, timbrel, trumpet, and horn. The most common instrument, of course, is the human voice. All of these and more are mentioned as musical methods of communication.

So what kind of music does God prefer? "Obviously it's organ music. Everyone knows that" ... except that organs weren't invented until somewhere around 3 BC and not put into use in the Church until somewhere around the 15th century. "Vocal music, of course; the church is no place for instruments." That's problematic when Scripture lists so many instruments in use to praise God. "Well, whatever it is, it has to be melodious." Maybe ... but Psalm 150 really doesn't make it sound melodious.
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!
With all due respect to the older generation, that really doesn't sound like subdued, melodic music. It sounds like a cacophony of praise to me.

I'm not sure you'll be able to find a style of music that the Bible deems acceptable. I think you can find unacceptable forms of music. Music that draws attention away from the God to whom it is offered is obviously not going to make it. Music that breeds attitudes and emotions that is contrary to the biblical purpose of music shouldn't be in church. Music that is intended to cause a response rather than be one shouldn't be part of our worship. These forms of music aren't inherently evil; they just have no place in church worship. And maybe, just maybe, those who decide what music is going to be used ought to take into account what the Bible says music should be used for. "Making people feel good toward God" is not on the list. Perhaps there are things here to think about?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Abstinence-Only Education

Our governor, Janet Napolitano, plans to turn down federal money for abstinence-only education. She believes that teaching only abstinence in high school is a mistake. She believes that, since abstinence education doesn't seem to be working, teaching only abstinence would be a disservice to the kids. Since they are going to engage in sexual activity, we also need to teach them how to do that safely.

This isn't new thinking. It was the line of reasoning that pushed schools into handing out condoms to kids and clinics into handing out needles to addicts. We can't stop them -- why not teach them to do it safely? No one really seems to question the wisdom of teaching the right thing. Abstinence until marriage is better. Not having sex while you're in school is better. Not doing drugs is better. No one doubts any of this. The question, however, steps off the theoretical ("We know these things are better") to the practical ("But they will do them anyway"). Encouraging the right thing is good, but the truth is that it doesn't always work. And it is irrefutable that abstinence-only education isn't working. Kids are still having sex.

And why would we expect that teaching high school kids to avoid sex before marriage would work? Picture that lone voice on the street corner: "The end is near!" You're surrounded by a myriad of voices that say, "Oh, shut up! The end isn't near." Which do you believe ... the lone voice or the myriad? Even if that lone voice is right, which will people believe? Kids today (and I mean kids of all ages) are inundated with a myriad of voices telling them to have sex. It's on their televisions. It's playing on their iPods. It's on the radio. It's coming from their peers. Much of the time it's coming from their families ... maybe even their own homes. A lone teacher will stand up in front of them and say, "It's best to abstain from sex until you get married" and someone will say, "But, what does the guy (or girl) you're living with think of that?" Is it any wonder that abstinence-only education isn't working?

There is a problem with the logic, however. "It doesn't work" is the logic that demands that we give them ways to have sex safely. Try that line of reasoning on other things. Try the known: "Drug addicts still take drugs, so let's give them clean needles. That way when they fry their brains, drain their cash, and kill themselves, they can do it safely." Yeah, that works. Try the unconsidered: "It's best if gang members didn't drive by and shoot people (especially innocent bystanders), but they will do it anyway. Let's give them classes in safe driving and teach them to shoot from moving vehicles so they'll hit fewer innocent bystanders." See? That's not working.

"Oh," you say, "sex outside of marriage isn't the same as drug use or drive-by shooting. Those things kill you; sex doesn't." And now we're back to the reason why abstinence-only education doesn't work. It's a failure to comprehend. It's a lack of understanding about the significance of the effects and purpose of sexual relations. Our culture -- in fact most of our world -- has moved "sex" from a beautiful joining of two married people for the purpose of procreation to the dull, base world of "recreational activity." It's just something we do to have fun. Why make a big deal about it? And my suggestion that it's something more is marginalized as being "Puritanical" and "overly religious." "Hey," they'll tell me, "this isn't Sunday School, you know." Unfortunately, just because they don't believe in the consequences of illicit abuse of sex doesn't mean they won't suffer the long-term consequences.

I have to be honest here. We don't need abstinence-only sex education in schools. It's a band aid on a slashed throat. If our society doesn't wake up and recognize the glory and beauty of the sexual relationship in marriage as God intended it, we will continue to reap the consequences. The consequences of unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases are certainly consequences to be considered, but the larger consequences are suffered in declining marriage, damaged marriages, and an inability to comprehend or enjoy the union that God intended marriage to be. We don't need education; we need a fundamental change. The only way that change will occur is if we who know the truth preach the Gospel and let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven. Better education, better rules, and finger wagging aren't going to help this one. This problem requires an act of God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rabbit Psychology

Okay, this is just a story about my experience the other day. It's not life changing. It's not political. It won't help your marriage or improve your theology. But it has me baffled, so maybe, just maybe, someone out there can suggest an explanation for what I saw.

The other day I was in the back yard getting ready to fill the birdfeeders. Now, my yard here in the desert is completely fenced in with a minimum of 6' high fencing, and my yard has no grass. It is a desert landscape, which means dirt covered by rocks. So as I was going to the side yard to get the birdseed, I noticed a hole had been dug in the side yard along the wall. I took a closer look. It was a brand new hole -- the dirt was still damp -- and it was maybe 3" in diameter. I couldn't see the end of the hole.

My wife, my neighbor, and I all puzzled about what it could be. A coyote could make the hole, but couldn't get into the yard. A rabbit could make the hole, but would likely have to travel a ways from the only possible entrance. A squirrel could make the hole and could get into the yard easily, so that's what I figured it was. I was wrong.

Just before bed, I took a peek out the window with a flashlight and caught the culprit at work. It was a small cottontail rabbit. It was busily digging away at the hole. Mystery solved. How it got into the yard I wasn't sure, but it was definitely a rabbit.

The next morning I looked again and it was still working the hole. I could see little bursts of dirt shooting out from behind as it tunneled further in. I went about my business. At lunch time I took another look ... and the hole was gone. I don't mean somewhat gone. I mean there was no hint that the hole had ever been there. The spot where the hole had been was completely filled and the rock that had been over it was back over it. There was no sign of turned earth, no bare spots, nothing that would indicate that there had been anything there at all. And the rabbit was still there working on it. The little thing was picking up rocks in its mouth and moving them around. I went outside to see where it would go from there, and it was gone, teaching me that rabbits can fit through much smaller spaces than I realized.

So, I'm stuck with this mystery. A wild cottontail rabbit came into my yard and dug a hole which it then covered so perfectly that it was as if it had never been there. Why? If it had been a squirrel, I would figure it was hiding food. Rabbits don't do that. If it had been a turtle, I would figure it had laid eggs. Rabbits don't do that. If the rabbit had just decided that the hole wasn't going to work (what with running into the wall and all the rock in the soil), he might abandon it, but I can't figure out why he would fill it in. I can imagine an anthropomorphic rabbit who thought, "Well, this hole won't work for me. If I leave it the way it is, the owner might be mad, so I'd better put it back the way I found it." But rabbits don't do that. I cannot think of any sort of logical explanation why a rabbit would do what this one did.

As I said, it's just a funny little story. It won't change your life. It won't change mine. But I'm naturally curious and cannot figure out a reason for the behavior. If any of you have an idea, let me know. I'm puzzled.


Have you ever heard this one? NASA was running their computer simulations of objects in space and, amazingly, discovered a lost day that, of all things, corresponds to the day that the sun stood still in Joshua's time.

It's a fun notion. NASA has these computers that map the locations of heavenly bodies so they know where and when to put their space ships. The idea that science finally validated a miracle is a nice one, and this one sounds so lovely that it has been repeated over and over as fact ... even though it is manifestly nonsense. No amount of math or science can trace backward to find a missing day. It's just not possible without sufficient data points, and we don't have the required data points.

How about this one? Have you heard about the time that Albert Einstein confounded the atheist professor who was proving that if evil exists, there is no God? He demonstrated that, just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good and, therefore, evil does not exist and God does. How nice to have such a brilliant man on our side, eh? Of course, the story isn't true. There is no evidence anywhere that Einstein was involved in this type of brilliant maneuvering of a hapless atheist professor. It's an urban legend.

The truth is that we are often told things that aren't true. Hillary Clinton, for instance, was told that she was named for Sir Edmund Hillary. Of course, that's not possible, since she was born 6 years before anyone had ever heard of Sir Edmund Hillary. Still, that's what Senator Clinton was told, and that was what she believed for a long time. We are all told things that aren't true and we all believe things that aren't true. The trick of it is 1) recognizing the possibility that something we believe may be false, and 2) figuring out when that is the case.

Have you considered the possibility that you might have some false beliefs? I have. In fact, the beliefs of which I am most sure are the ones that fought their way into my life tooth and nail. Some things I hold dear came to me contrary to my own positions. I defended my beliefs against them. I pushed them away. I went to war. Eventually, the sheer bulk of evidence and logic overwhelmed me and I was forced to surrender to a truth I hadn't expected. You see, those are the most sure to me because, well, I didn't want them. Today, of course, those are some of the most blessed beliefs I hold, offering me the most comfort and solace and strength. Do you hold false beliefs? Do you look for them? Do you expect them? Do you know how to recognize them? Or will you hold to them regardless? Something to think about ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

All the Wrong Reasons

Identity politics ... that's what they call it. According to Wikipedia, the term is defined as "political action to advance the interests of members of a group supposed to be oppressed by virtue of a shared and marginalized identity." According to David Brooks's op ed piece in the The New York Times, both Clinton and Obama are playing the identity politics card ... and doing it poorly.

It's not just the Democrats. Vote for Obama because he's black. Vote for Hillary because she's a woman. Vote for Huckabee because he's an Evangelical Christian. They said Mitt Romney won in Michigan because he was the hometown boy. And it's not all the candidates' fault. There are just as many blacks, women, and Christians calling for the election of their candidate solely on the basis of this identity. Looking at the Republicans in the upcoming Florida primary, we find that Rudy has a lead in southern Florida because there are lot of snowbirds from New York there and he's from New York. We find that McCain has a large following because of the large numbers of retirees that identify with them. We find that Huckabee has a large following because of the large numbers of Evangelical Christians in the state. And currently there is no forerunner.

There are a couple of real problems here. First, none of these groups fall in the category of "oppressed". To be accurate, we'd have to say that they fall in the category of feeling oppressed, I suppose, but anyone who doesn't have everything their own way feels, at times, oppressed. The other problem is that none of these candidates with whom folks are identifying are suggesting anything on behalf of the "oppressed". Obama isn't offering to make things better for black people. Clinton isn't going to make things better for women. Huckabee isn't suggesting any steps to make Christians better off. And so it goes.

It's tempting. We might think that electing Obama will say, "We're no longer a racist country." It won't. It's tempting to think that a vote for Hillary proves that women have no limits. It doesn't. And Mike Huckabee's Christianity is no guarantee that he'll be what Christians want or need in office.

I think we need to step off a bit. It is just as wrong to vote for a candidate simply because he's a Christian like me as it is to vote for one who is black like me, old like me, or a woman like me. Stop looking for identity and try to find ideas. Do you want someone who will increase our taxes enough to give universal health care? Find that person. Are you hoping to get a president who will withdraw the troops from Iraq? Find that person. Do you think there is a candidate who will make a difference to our economy? Vote for that person.

Vote for ideas, not identity. The minute we begin to vote for someone because we identify them with our oppressed group, we verify that we haven't gotten passed the petty differences like race, gender, religion, or age. We simply demonstrate our refusal to think rather than feel. Think!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Free at Last

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. His dream, basically, was that someday people "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." He dreamed of racial freedom, where "all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"

It would be foolish of me to claim that Dr. King's dream has been fulfilled. Racism still exists. But to those who would suggest that no progress has been made, I would have to say, "Open your eyes! Look around you!" It's difficult for some to admit it, but racism really is in a serious downward spiral.

Why has it taken so long? Why has it been so hard? When you deal with racism or sexism, you're dealing with something in human beings that is hard-wired. It's called xenophobia, the fear of anything alien. Humans naturally want to stick with what they know instead of that with which they are unfamiliar. If you're raised in a white neighborhood, you'll naturally be likely to be more comfortable with white people. If you're raised in a black neighborhood, the reverse would be true. The fact that there are "white neighborhoods" and "black neighborhoods" is evidence that this is true. Look around. You'll find cultural clusters, groups of people who are Arabic, Hispanic, Chinese, American Indian, Korean ... the list goes on and on. Culture tends to gather with like culture. And it's not merely races or cultures. It extends to gender, economic conditions, just about any classifying category you can think of. It is a basic and generally unexamined aspect of the human being.

Some groups, usually those not in power, will try to tell you it's a function of Caucasian (or whoever is in power). It's a lie. It's a function of being human. Just look at the Louis Farrakhans, Jesse Jacksons, and the Dr. Jeremiah Wrights of our world. There is just as much racism on that side as anything you'll find on the white side of America. Some will tell you that it's just the same as it ever was and it will never change. You can get this from the black separatists and the white separatists. You can get this from disenfranchised folks who have experienced racism ... whatever their race. And you might conclude it from the fact that this problem is a basic human problem.

Xenophobia, the fear of anything different, is a natural human condition. It is a normal response to anything different. But we err if we think that because it's natural, it's good, right, or inevitable. We spend years teaching our children not to do what's natural, but to be civilized. We don't assume that whatever comes naturally to them is good. And Christians understand that human beings are fallen, sinners by nature. That's not good because it's natural. Neither does the natural have to be accepted.

I share Dr. King's dream. I also think that we've come a long way toward achieving it. In my world I see very little racism. People are hired where I work for their qualifications, not their color. I work with people from a wide variety of racial origins without it being a factor. It is illegal in my neighborhood to disqualify someone from living here because of their race or skin color. Human nature can be addressed. Today there is a rise in the concern about racial profiling based both on the events of 9/11 and the current problem of illegal immigration. We need to deal with these very real problems without surrendering to the dark side of human nature. I share Dr. King's dream. Unfortunately, humans being what they are, I suspect that we won't join hands and sing, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" until that great day when we sit in the presence of our Savior and share the same focus -- Him. Until then, great strides have been made and there is work yet to do. So today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Be exalted above the heavens, O God

Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth (Psa. 57:5).
It's a glorious verse. It focuses our attention where it needs to be -- God's glory. It recognizes God's primary concern -- His glory. This is a prayer that God will answer.

It's a bit of an odd prayer, however, when you look at it in context.
My soul is among lions. I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down. They dug a pit before me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it (Psa. 57:4-6).
There it is, tucked neatly between "My soul is among lions" and "My soul is bowed down." The psalm was written by David when he was running from Saul. He was hiding in a cave. The king was out to kill him. It wasn't a friendly camping trip; it was a hunting party -- with David as the quarry.

In this passage David sees things as they are. He has enemies, dangerous enemies, who are out to kill him. He is in trouble. And there, in the midst of the very real trouble, David looks in the right direction. "Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth."

Most of the time when bad things happen to people, the question is "Where is God?" David had his own answer to the question: "Right here, in the middle of everything. He's my reliable place to stand, and He will be glorified."

I can't think of a better place to stand -- in good times and in bad -- than in the gracious hands of God.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Discerning and Mean

Tim Challies asks "Why are so many discerning people so mean?" I think it's a reasonable question. Have you ever noticed it? There are those people, apparently self-appointed, whose job it is to go about pointing fingers at the wolves in sheep's clothing hiding in our midst. As far as I can tell there is never any claim to being a prophet or called by God. It's just something they do. And while I can appreciate the need to contend for the truth and the need to exhort and reprove, I have to wonder why it has to be so ... mean?

Challies suggests that one reason is that the longer we are immersed in the muck, the more mucky we get, so to speak. I don't doubt that this is the case. But there seems to be more than enough "righteous indignation" going around out there for mucky people, and it really seems that there are more angry Christians shouting about the evils of this or that than Christians who have actually examined this or that.

Why do I think this is the case? Well, I've been labeled a "Calvinist" because I believe in the doctrines of grace. As such, my beliefs have often been the target of some of these angry ravings. (Please don't misunderstand. I understand that many who call themselves "Calvinists" are equally guilty of angry ravings. Don't miss the point.) The problem I have seen likely some 95% of the time is that the things about which they are raving are not the things I believe. They hold up a viewpoint, call it "Calvinist", and rant about how evil it is. It's not "Calvinist", but because it is labeled that way, that's what is being attacked. They are not an accurate representation of the doctrines of grace, but they are still considered an attack on the doctrines of grace.

This is simply my example. It is, in fact, the norm. So many people who rant about the evils of this view or that view don't actually understand the view about which they are ranting. What I have seen, in fact, is that most of the time while the people who are angrily decrying the views they oppose without actually understanding them, the people who actually understand the views they oppose are discussing them calmly and carefully. It seems that when we really know what the view is that we oppose, there is less of a need to get riled up about it. (And here is a side question: Why is it that all these words I'm using such as "rant", "rave", and "riled up" all seem to start with "r"? But I digress.)

I know that right-thinking, godly, God-called people in history and particularly in Scripture did some loud ranting about the truth. I am not suggesting that all ranting is evil. I'm not saying that there is no room for righteous indignation. What I am suggesting is that far too often our attempts at "defending the truth" with anger and mean-spiritedness are not informed by knowledge, formed by wisdom, or motivated with purity. It is too often not a deep personal love for the truth of God that motivates our ravings, but too many other sinful things. Just understand that when you descend into unkind comments, it tends to take away from your arguments rather than giving them credence. Generally there are better approaches as you try to discern the truth from the lie than a lot of shouting.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Do We Really Need Fathers?

Have you seen this website? It's called Single Mothers By Choice. It is a website dedicated to providing "support and information to single women who are considering, or who have chosen, single motherhood." The site isn't too overbearing. It admits, "In general, our members feel that it is preferable to raise a child with two loving parents." The world around us, on the other hand, isn't so convinced, it seems.

Folks like Jennifer Aniston, Rosy O'Donnell, and a host of other celebrities have moved publicly to single parenthood by choice. The argument is that dads are optional ... often even a poor option. Societies in developed countries have marginalized men, either implying or stating outright that fathers are optional. The statistics are in, and it's not pretty. Since 2004, 31% of babies born in Australia have been born to single mothers. In the UK, 23% of the families with children are single mothers. The US is similar, with more than 22% of children living with mothers only.

The arguments are many. Men are scum. Lots of women are raising their families without husbands just fine. Besides, women are better suited to parenting than men. Too many men are just sperm donors. Why do they need to be in the picture at all?

The easy answer, of course, is the biblical one. The Bible considers fathers as having ultimate authority in all matters of the family. They are to teach their kids, discipline their kids, train their kids, nurture their kids. Even if they aren't the ones doing all this, they are the ones that God holds as responsible. If you were to put the question to the Bible, "Are fathers necessary?" the answer would be a loud, "YES!!" Of course, many people don't buy into the Bible's arguments, so are there other reasons to suggest that fathers are necessary?

What is it like for kids who grow up without their fathers in their lives? The statistics in this area are staggering. Kids (male and female) tend to engage in sexual activity at a much younger age. Insurance companies will tell you that children who live at home with their mothers and birth fathers have a much lower rate of illness or injury than those who don't. Drug and alcohol use in kids without fathers is highly increased. Children without fathers have a much higher tendency toward suicide, psychological and emotional problems, and problems at school. Contrary to what one might think, boys without fathers have a higher tendency to violent behavior. Without fathers there is greater likelihood of rape, criminal behavior, lack of achievement, divorce, and poverty. And there is much more:
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God's Children.)
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)
Biblically, fathers are necessary. Statistically, fathers are necessary. And still the question gets asked, "Why are fathers necessary?"

It seems patently obvious, but one of the first things to consider in the question is the sharing of labor. No one could rationally question the fact that it's easier for two people to take care of a child than it is for one. It's a no-brainer. That, of course, simply calls for two people. Why does one of them have to be the father? Well, one of the arguments is that it is necessary for fathers to be around to teach boys how to be men. This seems like a given. Perhaps it is a silly illustration, but when you ask, "What can men do that women can't?", one of the answers is "Men can throw a ball like a man." Who teaches that boy to throw a ball like a boy instead of like a girl? Not a woman. This principle carries over into all facets of life. But, while it is accurate to say that fathers teach boys to be men, it is incomplete. It also takes mothers to teach boys how to be men. It takes mothers to teach girls how to be women and it takes fathers to teach girls how to be women. Fathers teach their sons on issues of manliness, but mothers teach their sons on issues of relating to women. Fathers "ruggedize" their sons while mothers "civilize" them. Both are necessary. Conversely, mothers teach their daughters to be ladies, but fathers teach them how to relate to men. It is a common perception that women tend to marry men like their fathers. Kids need both parents.

Here's the bottom line. (Hold on to your hats; this may be bumpy.) A home comprised of father and mother is better than a home with a single parent (or even a home with a parent and step-parent). We don't like to voice that. It seems like a slap in the face to all those single mothers out there working so hard to raise their families. (Why is it that no one seems concerned about all those single fathers out there ... who are not a small number and who are a growing demographic?) I think you'll find that the first ones to agree with my bottom-line statement are single mothers. Most aren't single mothers because they think it's best. Most are single mothers because they either had no alternative (he died or left) or felt they had no alternative. The failure of some men to be fathers is not relevant to the discussion. It is always the case that a home comprised of a good father and a good mother is always better than a home with a good single parent. Kids need both parents. Dad, Mom, let's keep that in mind as we relate to each other and our kids. And parents, don't let society tell you anything different. It's a lie.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Optional Marriage

Dr. Mohler wrote an entry titled, Does Marriage Matter? about an article in Newsweek. The author of that piece said "Yes To Love, No To Marriage." I don't want to repeat what he says. He does a good job. I recommend you read it.

I have been struck lately, however, with this apparently absolute presumption that fornication and cohabitation is the standard forerunner of marriage. According to a recent survey, a growing number of Americans believe that "love doesn't necessarily mean marriage." That is, 44% said "they didn't need marriage to validate their relationships." A large majority of 30-somethings (73%) preferred to live together before getting married. I remember hearing a conversation between two coworkers some time ago. He said, "I'm getting married." She said, "When?" He said, "Soon. We're still virgins and we're somewhat anxious." She said (with loud incredulity), "Who gets married without sleeping with the person first??!!" While the fellow in the conversation expressed the norm of my day, it is the exception today. Beyond that, more and more are opting out entirely of marriage, choosing cohabitation instead. "We don't need a piece of paper to prove our love." And so it goes.

Without marriage, how does one show a life-long commitment? Or is "life-long commitment" another casualty of "progress"? In the Newsweek article, Bonnie Eslinger writes, "Last year Jeff asked me to marry him, and I willingly gave my heart to the intent of his question." She didn't say "Yes" to marriage. She agreed with "the intent". What does that mean? If she refused to marry but agreed with the intent, what is the intent of "Will you marry me?" It says, "Will you surrender who you are to me while I surrender who I am to you?" It asks, "Will you commit the rest of your life to me while I commit the rest of my life to you?" It seems to me that minimizing or discarding marriage in no way agrees with "the intent of his question."

One of the things that "Will you marry me?" asks is "Will you join me in forming a new family?" Family ... what a concept. In the article, Eslinger talks of family. Unfortunately for her, family is defined. It includes blood and marriage relationships. It includes blood-line and legal bindings such as marriage, and adoption. It doesn't include "well-loved friends" ... by definition. But there are many other reasons for marriage. One of the most obvious is the legal ramifications. Our society places a value on "family" that does not include "good buddy" in matters of health issues, financial issues, property ownership, and so on and so on. We give honor to that overt commitment called "marriage" when it comes to matters of legal issues in a way that "lover and friend" doesn't get. Death benefits, Social Security benefits, health insurance, it goes on and on.

"Well, we should change the laws then," someone might argue. Maybe ... but there are so many other issues at stake in marriage. We Christians are aware of the moral ramifications. I almost wrote "acutely aware", but society has so invaded the Church that too many Christians are succumbing to the dumbing down of society in this issue. Still, there is no doubt that the Bible recognizes marriage as the only valid venue for sexual relationships and sees marriage as not merely "a piece of paper" or "a ring and a white dress," but a life-long union of two beings. "Union," perhaps, has become too weak a term. The joining of two people in marriage includes "the two shall become one," an idea that many have side-lined. But the moral ramifications of that union, the need for it, and the breaking of it are huge, so huge that in the Old Testament adultery was punishable by death. God thought very highly of marriage ... and still does.

Of course, what we Christians think isn't of real importance to many people, and the decline of Christian morality among people who call themselves Christians isn't helping matters. Still, setting aside the moral issues, besides family and the legal reasons there are the emotional reasons for marriage. In her article, Eslinger writes, "I don't need a ring as a daily reminder to myself or others that I am loved." It appears she has completely missed the point of the ring. The circle symbolizes eternity. It is not saying "You are loved." It is saying, "I promise so much more than love. I promise to love you for the rest of my life. I promise to give myself to you and no one else. We will be family, a unit, a 'forever' commitment to each other that we proudly display to anyone around us." There is so much more in marriage than "you are loved." I can't even begin to express how much more "husband and wife" means than "you are loved."

The fact that marriages fail is not a valid argument against marriage. Cars fail ... therefore it's better not to have a car, right? Because some people fail to do marriage correctly doesn't invalidate marriage. It may be a popular argument, but it is pitifully wrong. So many people trot out this, "Marriages fail" argument. In the Newsweek piece, Eslinger has a foster daughter. She hasn't adopted her; she is a foster daughter. Doesn't this say much the same thing as saying "No" to marriage? "Because marriages fail, I won't marry." "Because kids grow up and leave home, I won't be your legal parent. I'll just be your temporary guardian." Both say, "I will not commit myself wholly to you because of the potential for my pain. Bottom line: I will not give up my self." (Note: I'm not commenting on foster parenting as a whole; just in this specific situation.)

Eslinger says, "I am Jeff's partner, his friend and his lover, and he is mine. The terms 'husband' and 'wife' wouldn't even begin to describe our relationship." What an incredible statement. The suggestion is that "husband" and "wife" do not include the concepts of "friend" and "lover." She is saying that "friend and lover" is so much more than "husband and wife." Jeff, her boyfriend, worried that his family wouldn't be willing to come to some sort of "commitment ceremony". Imagine that! The couple isn't interested in marriage, isn't concerned about the legal, moral, or emotional ramifications of a marriage, and is so much more than "husband and wife", but is dismayed that his parents might not be interested in attending a "commitment ceremony." I think this hints at the truth, doesn't it?

Marriage in our society is in trouble. There is no question. People are refusing to do it right, and marriages are failing at a high rate. The definition of marriage is blurred because of our societal distance from the truth and too many voices between society and the truth. The value and necessity of marriage is not clear anymore because of the noise. Still, with or without the voice of truth, people know intuitively that marriage is important. But, to tell the truth, I can't fix the problem. Neither can you. So if you are married, consider this approach. When it comes to your marriage (as in all else), "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Protect or Shelter?

Like some of my other entries, this is going to be more of a question than a position. (Hmmm, maybe if I were more opinionated I'd get a bigger readership? Naw!) In a recent exchange (about home schooling), the idea was offered that good parents should keep their kids from bad teaching. I'm not responding directly to that here. I'm simply taking the notion, expanding it to its natural place, and asking questions.

It is abundantly clear -- no one that I know disputes it, including me -- that parents need to shelter their children from certain things. No 3-year-old needs to see a brutally murdered body. Young children don't need to see sexual activities. We know that if developing little minds hear a constant barrage of expletives, they will assume it to be normal and use it regularly themselves. All of this is a given. What I'm wondering, however, is at what point "protected" changes to "sheltered"? At what point does "good parenting" become "bad parenting" in that the parents, in their efforts to protect the child, have failed to teach him or her to think and evaluate and understand? There is, of course, the concept of age-appropriate (although "age-appropriate" is better defined as "maturity-appropriate"). But at what point is it that our efforts to protect our children become damaging?

The notion expressed in the exchange I mentioned was that parents wanted to keep their children from being told things that "they [the parents] found offensive" or were "counter to their belief". Again, please be aware up front that I am not addressing that exchange. I am addressing the question I've asked in the previous paragraph using the exchange as an example. Now, we know that regardless of our vigilance and hard work, unless we sequester our children in a tower away from newspapers, books, TV, and all outside communication, at some point they will come into contact with offensive positions that are counter to our beliefs. It is simply unavoidable. Even if you locked them in that sealed tower, at some point they would have to enter the world and be subjected to all manner of offensive, false beliefs and ideas. The question, then, is how to deal with it.

When my boys were young, I started preparing them. I told them (for instance), "Son, at some point someone is going to tell you that God didn't create the universe. They will give you other ideas. And they won't be 'crazy people'. They will be people who seem rational and trustworthy. You need to know how to deal with it." As they grew, we'd discuss varying ideas. When they got to be high schoolers, I would actually "joust" with them. I would present to them a false idea, defended as well as anyone who actually held the idea could defend it. We would "debate" the notion in a friendly, controlled environment where they could learn to analyze and evaluate ideas, recognize falsehood, and defend the truth. Before we finished the "match", either they would have figured out what was wrong with the idea I offered or I would have helped them through the reasoning process to the truth. My idea was that I was raising young "knights" who were, at this stage, "squires" in need of training. As such, I subjected them to all manner of offensive, false beliefs and ideas for the purpose of training them to recognize it.

You see, we all have a variety of beliefs. Some of them are true; some are not. Some of what you believe and some of what I believe right now is wrong ... and we don't know it. And there is a large body of beliefs out there that is wrong ... and we do know it. The trick is to tell which is which, and the most difficult part is to tell when we are holding positions that are wrong. It seems to me that if all we are ever offered is our parents' perspective of what is true (and we parents, if we are good and honest, believe we are always giving our kids what is true), how will they learn to 1) evaluate whether or not their parents were 100% accurate (no parent is 100% accurate) and 2) evaluate whether or not the ideas they are offered outside of the home are accurate?

When it comes to kids, there is "protected" and there is "sheltered". One is good and one is bad. One is vital and one is fatal. How do we draw that line? Are we doing our kids a favor by blocking all ideas that are opposed to our beliefs? I realize that monitoring what our kids are told, discussing it with them, and teaching them to handle this stuff is a lot of time and work. Isn't it what they need? Or am I mistaken? Do kids need just the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Human beings are complex creatures. One person can do the exact same thing that another person does ... for an entirely different reason. It's really interesting if you think about it. The problem, of course, is that the thing that is done, in God's opinion, isn't nearly as important as the motivation behind it. In the Old Testament, for instance, He turned up His nose at their burnt offerings when they did them for the wrong reason even though burnt offerings were part of His commands to Israel.

One of the interesting things I've seen is the debates that go on among various groups of believers. It doesn't seem to matter what the debate is about. In most cases you will find those who are debating the issue at hand because they are deeply concerned about defending God's glory or the truth or an important matter. Then you will find those who are debating the issue because they aren't actually sure of where they stand. One of our standard responses to being challenged when we're not sure is a sharp defense rather than laying down our arms, so to speak, and examining the question. You will also find those with purely ulterior motives in these debates. They reason, maybe not even consciously, that if A is true, then that would mean that B is true. If B is true, then they would have to change. The argument about A is the issue at hand, but their primary concern is B. And far too often you'll find people arguing about issues because they don't want to surrender. They don't want to give in because it will damage their pride. They don't want to give in because it is an admission that they are wrong. They don't want to give in because they would have to change ... a viewpoint or an activity or maybe even a lifestyle.

Of course, deciding which motivation is at work in the debate at hand with the participants at hand is often difficult. There are clues. Does someone parrot old arguments long since answered? It is likely that they aren't as sure about their position as you might think because they haven't thought it through for themselves. Are there moral issues involved? That might suggest that "I don't want to change", so they defend their right to do the questionably immoral activity by questioning its immoral status. But, likely, it's best not to try to divine motivations. We just don't know. Frankly, it is often the case that some people don't know their own motivation. It's just difficult to figure out, even for ourselves.

So here's the deal. You have to ask yourself because I'm not going to be able to figure it out for you. In the areas with which you debate with people of differing views, are you debating because you have a burning desire to stand for God and His glory? When you differ from "orthodoxy", do you differ because you have been convinced against your will that this is the truth, or are you differing because of other reasons? As an example, the Church has held for centuries that homosexual behavior is sin. To those who argue against that, are you arguing because the arguments are so compelling that you can conclude no other? Humans have a tendency to desire "freedom," by which I mean "no restraints." We don't want to be told what to do, especially when it's something we want to do. We will explain away all sorts of things to allow us to operate without constraints. It's called "sin nature." If you're thinking, even in the back of your head, you know, not quite at the conscious level, that you shouldn't have to do all that much to be a Christian, maybe it's time to reconsider. It is not possible to "do too much for God." Maybe you're taking a position contrary to orthodoxy because you aren't really in the mood to submit to God. That's not a wise position.

But, like I said, I'm not going to be able to figure it out for you. Ask yourself.

Monday, January 14, 2008


There is, in current Protestantism as well as our society, a tendency to discard the traditional. We question the need for tradition. We think that "the traditional" is simply a reference to "the old and worn out", stuff that only those nice but somewhat frumpy older folks prefer, but of little real use to the contemporary.

Part of this is part of Protestantism. The Roman Catholic Church (of which the Protestants protest) hold tradition as one of the basic components of orthodoxy. Scripture, the Church, and tradition are the three parts they contend that provide insight and instruction in how we should think and live. The Reformers protested, calling on sola scriptura instead. Only Scripture had the position as the source for matters of faith and practice. So there was a built in objection, at least to some extent, to tradition. But neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Reformers actually rejected tradition outright. The question at the time was the authority of tradition, not the value. Protestants, however, have questioned the value to the point that there is in many cases an automatic rejection of anything that bears the tag "tradition".

The other part, of course, is sin. It is in the sin nature. We want to be independent. We want to be without authority at all. It's part of our nature. We are rebels from the start. Factor in the modern culture of youth that says that young is good and old is bad and we're ready to toss tradition at the face of it. Never mind that tradition has value. Don't think about the fact that we all have traditions and, if we don't, we're making our own. Don't even consider the possibility that these traditions actually have roots in truth and value in content. We're young and we're free and we don't want no stinkin' traditions. Those are for old folks.

I have learned a respect for tradition. Some people look aghast at me when I use the term or the concept, as if I'm trying to become a Roman Catholic or something. So, before you question my integrity, let me tell you my thinking. I'm speaking here of Christian tradition. I'm speaking of "orthodoxy", the long-standing views of Scripture that have been held through the centuries. These are particularly in the crosshairs of modern Christianity. We need to take them apart and likely discard them. But I wonder, and here's why. Jesus told His disciples, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). It seems to me that one of the primary functions of the Holy Spirit throughout the ages has been to "guide you into all truth". If this is accurate, then it would seem to me that one would be able to trace orthodoxy from the first century to today. It might be obscure at times. It might not be in the forefront. There might be gaps, at least in the documentation. But it seems that, assuming the Holy Spirit has been doing His job all this time, the truth must always have been in the hands of Christ's true disciples.

If this is true, then it would seem that tradition has value. We find so many "givens" from orthodoxy being questioned today. Look at some examples, and I'm sure you'll think of your own. The Church has always held that women cannot be in positions of leadership in the Church. That is not the sole perception today. Homosexual behavior has always been viewed as sin. Many today are arguing that the idea is archaic. The Bible has been considered inspired by God for nearly 2000 years. Many loud voices are scoffing at the idea today. Then there is the myriads of doctrines that are being questioned or discussed today that were settled in the Church so long ago. Old heresies are back, claiming that their perception is just as biblical as anyone else's.

What to do? One position would say, "Discard tradition. We need to re-evaluate all positions all the time." Well, they might not use the second sentence, but that's the requirement of the first. All Scripture is open to all interpretation all the time. You are not allowed to call on historic interpretation because tradition is out. I would suggest that if the Holy Spirit has been doing His job over the centuries, then we should be able to trace a long line of coherent truth on the concept in question that 1) agrees with Scripture (most important) and 2) has a history of agreement among the people of God. The alternative is a bit too difficult for me to tolerate -- that the Holy Spirit tried His best, but only recently has been able to get up enough momentum to get people to the truth.

I won't go over the arguments that traditional Christianity would settle today. You can do that for yourself. I would just like to offer a recommendation. If you are offered two positions on a particular biblical topic, both of which might seem to be well supported by the Word, perhaps you can try asking what saints through the ages held on that question. I think you'll often find that the question was asked and answered over and over in Church history, and we would do well to trust the Spirit to have been at work all that time. Tradition may have its problems, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Water Gate

Remember Watergate? Maybe not. Lots of people are too young for that. Did you know that the Water Gate is mentioned in the Bible?

You'll find it in Nehemiah. After they had rebuilt Jerusalem's defenses, they gathered before the Water Gate (Neh. 8:1) so Ezra could read the Law of Moses to them. Ezra, of course, didn't benefit from the "seeker sensitive" training of today. He kept them standing from early morning until midday reading and explaining (Neh. 8:8) the Law to everyone who could understand (Neh. 8:3). The response was interesting.
All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law (Neh. 8:9).
What a concept! They didn't nod in agreement. They didn't shout their approval. They didn't glaze over like so many of us tend to do (even with those short sermons that are so popular today). Faced with the Law of God, clearly explained, they wept.

The leaders sent the crowd home. "Go eat. Don't weep." The outcome was an impromptu 7-day seminar of in-depth study of the Law (Neh. 8:13-18). But there, at the beginning, when all was explained, the response was weeping.

It is here that the Nehemiah uses the famous phrase, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). Think about that in context. The natural response for the people of God when faced with the stark realization of their obvious sin is sorrow. How could we have so transgressed the will of the God we love? Given the depth of sin and the holiness of God, the question becomes "How can we recover from this sorrow?" Nehemiah's answer is, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Rejoicing in God and His greatness isn't merely pleasant -- it provides strength. It fortifies you. Rejoicing in the Lord fits us for God's work.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." Rejoice in His presence. Rejoice in His love and mercy and grace. Rejoice in His forgiveness. Rejoice in His holiness. That joy will provide you inner strength that will sustain you when you are faced with difficulties in life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Guest of Honor

"Dear Mr. Petersen," the letter began, "we would like to extend to you an invitation to join us as our guest at a dinner being given in your honor. Because of your outstanding personal integrity, your impressive list of accomplishments, and your constant reliability, we wish to have an evening with you in which we can celebrate you and all that you stand for ..."

There were, of course, the rest of the required blah-blah. When, where, what to wear, all that stuff. And my wife assured me that they were serious and I should go. So we RSVP'd and, on the appointed evening, showed up for the affair.

I was amused at first at the appearance of the place. I'm a farmer by trade, accustomed to barns and wood buildings and rustic places and all, and they had this place all made up in modern architecture, fancy lighting schemes, and other displays of modern technology. Obviously the place wasn't chosen with me in mind. "But, hey," I thought, "a place is a place." So we went inside.

The music was a bit harsh for my taste. I guess "harsh" isn't the right term. I'm a good ol' boy, and one might have thought that they would have played "good ol' boy" music because, after all, I was the guest of honor. Instead, this was some pretty heavy rock music with, I guess, some hip-hop stuff mixed in for good measure. It would not have been my choice of music.

We were greeted by the guy in charge who thanked us for coming and showed us to the table where we would eat. Funny thing. It wasn't in front. There was a table in front, and all the big wigs who were throwing this thing were there shaking hands and smiling, but we weren't shown there. We had a nice table, though, so I wasn't complaining.

I was complaining when they brought out the food. It was a vegan meal. A vegan meal! In my honor? I'm a rancher. I raise and sell cattle ... you know ... so people can eat them. I am a carnivore! "No," my wife assured me calmly, "you're an omnivore." So I kept my mouth shut and chewed on the rabbit food.

The evening wore on in the same way. They mentioned my name a lot. People applauded from time to time. Very few actually noticed that we were there. They took up a collection to support more of these dinners and more of my work. Of course, what exactly was my work wasn't really discussed, but I suppose that's not my concern. I was able to slip out unnoticed and we went on home. I wasn't exactly sure, when it was all said and done, why I was invited or what it had to do with me except to mention me and my work. Oh well, on to what I'm doing ...

Do you ever wonder if God feels that way when He comes into our houses of worship? We tailor our music to suit the people who come. We tailor our gatherings to appeal to visitors. How much attention do we pay, in our planning or our operation, to the One about whom the whole thing is supposed to be? Just wondering ...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Home Schooling in Germany

Home schooling in Germany is illegal. I didn't realize that before, but why would I? I don't live in Germany. Yet, the HSLDA, the Home Schooling Legal Defense Association wants that changed. They want to go to court to force the government to allow home schooling. It's deemed "government oppression" to disallow home schooling. WorldNetDaily decries their "Nazi-era law" and pictures the mean ol' government dragging "crying children" to class. People in Germany have gone to prison for defying the laws. Blogs are written supporting the poor oppressed folk of Germany who don't have the freedom to home school their kids.

Now, if you detected a bias in that last paragraph, I would be lying if I said you were mistaken. Don't get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for people who home school their kids. For the large part, home schooled kids get the best education under the best conditions with the best outcome. No doubt. What could be better than having a loving teacher who is also your parent personally teach you all you need to know in life? It's a great concept. I'm in favor of it.

The part that I don't get is the demand for it. I'm speaking here of Christians. When secular people demand whatever they demand, that's their prerogative. But on what basis do Christians make such a demand? Notice that I'm speaking here of demand, which is different than request. A demand says, "You are keeping us from that which is rightly ours" while a request says, "We would appreciate it if you would give us what we ask." Fundamentally different.

In America, we have "God-given" rights which are Constitutionally ours. We have the right to freedom of speech, religion, and so on. Based on the Constitution, if a government entity attempts to remove those rights, we (Americans) have the right, nay, the obligation to demand that those rights be returned. On the other hand, as Christians, we have certain obligations. We must, for instance, preach the Gospel. We are not given the option of not preaching the Gospel. If the government forbids it, we don't have the option to stop. As in previous days in Church history, we might face penalties for obeying God rather than men, but we have to do it.

I'm having trouble, however, figuring out where "home schooling" falls under any of this. I don't see it as a Constitutional or God-given right. I don't see it as a command of Scripture. So on what basis do we make it an issue of such magnitude? On what basis do we as Christians feel the need to "go to war with Germany", so to speak, over this issue?

Someone suggested that it was due to God-given parental responsibility. I had to think that one through. If it is due to God-given parental responsibility, then what can we determine from this? Well, apparently it would require that public schools (and private schools) violate the God-given responsibility to parents. That would require that such a position hold that any Christian parent who sends their kids to public or private school does so in violation of God's command to be good parents. It is biblical child abuse of sorts. I'm not sure that anyone actually wants to go there, but perhaps. But if we take it to its logical conclusion, then there is another parallel that is affected. Say that I am a parent and live in a country where providing for my family is difficult or impossible. If the rule of law prevents me from doing what I'm required to do, then it is required that I violate the law. So I take my family to a nearby country illegally for the sole purpose of meeting the demands of being a good parent. I violate that country's laws about such entry so that I can provide for my family, and that's okay because the God-given law of being a good parent supersedes human laws that prevent it.

That, of course, won't work either. So while I admire home schoolers and I feel badly for those who are not allowed to do so, I can't figure out what makes it so evil or "oppressive" of the German government that they must be forced to change their laws to allow it. What makes home schooling that important?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Advantage of Differences

Okay, I plan this to be an uplifting entry, so before you get your knickers in a twist, read to the end, okay?

A short time ago I was signing up my family for a new phone plan. I commented to the lady who was assisting me that the holder for the phone I was getting was very well designed. She responded, "A woman likely designed it." And, of course, she made me think. (If my sons are reading this, they'll say, "Yeah, so what's new?)

Stereotypically, it seems as if women tend toward the pretty and men toward the practical. ("Stereotypically" means "in many cases", so please don't offer the exceptions and please go back to the first sentence.) Buy a guy a power tool (practical) and he's happy. Buy a woman a vacuum cleaner (practical) and she's miffed. Buy a woman a ring (pretty) and she's happy. Buy a guy a sweater (pretty) and he's miffed. I see it over and over. Men tend toward the practical, and women tend toward the decorative.

It seems, in fact, that there are many such differences between men and women. One of the most obvious is in how they relate to children. Women are the ones who nurture; men are the ones who discipline. (Now, before you jump on that, realize that my own mother is an exception. Go back to the first sentence.) Generally speaking, women are the comforters, and men are the disciplinarians.

We could go on and on about these differences. You, of course, could likely throw up a barrage of exceptions. I suspect, however, that you know as well as I do that God made men and women different. Here's my suggestion: Maybe that was a good thing.

Think about it. Let's say a man and a woman got together to do something simple like design a purse. A man would design it practical, and a woman would design it pretty. If they worked together on it, you would have a purse that was both practical and pretty. Is that a bad thing? Too often, you see, we think it's "either/or", when more often than we care to realize, it's "both". Do children need nurture or discipline? The answer is, "Yes!" Thus this odd design by "nature" (known to us theists as "God") of a two-parent (male and female) family. Children need both nurture and admonition. Hey, wait, maybe that's not an original concept on my part:
Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
Interesting. So children need both nurture and admonition.

Too much time, in my opinion, is spent trying to dispel the differences between men and women. I say, "Why not embrace the differences?" I would venture to guess that the Designer knew what He was doing when He made Man and Woman. I would further venture to guess that if we worked with our differences, the products of that work would be far superior to anything we try to turn out in conflict.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Saying What It Says

I have to say I've never actually seen this argument before. Frankly, when I first saw it I was baffled that anyone was actually trying to make this argument. Still, the hits keep coming, so, being the person I am, I had to examine the line of reasoning to see if it made sense. I mean, where would I be if I only allowed that which I agreed with and never considered the arguments with which I disagree? Oh, yeah ... I'd be a non-believer.

So, here's the argument. When Paul argues in 1 Timothy 2 that women should not teach or exercise authority over men, he is not speaking merely about church authority; he is speaking of all authority, including the church. The argument holds that women must not teach men. The argument holds that women must not exercise authority over men. The argument holds that this is the case whether you are discussing senior pastor roles or the President of the United States (which, by the way, is the reason this argument first popped up -- Hillary running for President). Women cannot have authority over men in government, at work, or anywhere else you might care to imagine. They cannot be university professors because they would be teaching men. They cannot be safety coordinators because they would be teaching men. "The passage is clearly speaking of all women in all cases because it is based on the creation order. This passage is speaking to God's perspective of women in authority for all cases, not merely for the Church. Why would you think otherwise?"

Now, I believe the Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. I believe that we need to submit to the Bible regardless of how it might feel. If we are commanded to love our enemies, we must love our enemies. If we are commanded to forgive, we must forgive. On the other hand, I think it is a serious mistake to take Scripture out of context and use it to make "matters of faith and practice" where the Bible never intended them to be. This, I believe, is one of those instances.

Consider the context of the epistle. First Timothy is a letter written by Paul to a young pastor. Timothy isn't a young politician or farmer or teacher or any other profession you might come up with. He's a pastor. And Paul is writing to Timothy about pastoring, not about farming, teaching, or politics. Is there any reason that I might consider this to be true? Sure. In 1 Tim. 3, Paul writes, "I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God" (1 Tim. 3:15). Paul is pretty clear in that passage. "I'm on my way to see you personally, Timothy, but I'm writing to tell you what to do in the meantime." Would it be reasonable that "Make sure that women aren't in government" would be on that list? Indeed, if you look at the variety of instructions in the letter, it seems unavoidable that they are to believers, not to "the world". He starts with warnings about "strange doctrines", which are irrelevant outside the Church. He instructs that people pray (1 Tim. 2), something done by believers, not unbelievers. He says that women should dress modestly, "as befits women making a claim to godliness" (1 Tim 2:9-10). Now, what woman outside the Church would be interested in making a claim to godliness? He gives instructions on qualifications of overseers and deacons (1 Tim. 3), specifically Church roles, not world roles. I could go on, but it seems abundantly clear that Paul is writing to Timothy about how church is done, not how everything is supposed to be.

In the passage itself there is a problem of specificity. "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man ..." Does that mean any man? Does that mean that all women are required to be under submission to all men? Is Paul's call back to the Created Order an indication that all men rule over all women? Or are there specific men in view? For instance, the Bible says, "Wives, submit to your husbands." There is a special relationship there that requires submission just as there is a special relationship with husbands to wives that requires a special kind of love. What about familial relationships? The Bible commands that we are to obey their parents. Does a son no longer need to obey his mother when he is "a man"? Is she, then, under his dominion? And what defines that change from "child" to "man"? It's all too vague.

Then there's the problem of Created Order. Paul uses the order of creation as his reason for saying that women can't teach or exercise authority over men. But if we use the Created Order as our standard, then it would also require that, since animals were created first, they would be over people. Now, of course we know that's not the case. Paul uses a specific reference to Adam over Eve for a reason, and he uses it in a specific application. I believe it would be wrong to try to drag "Created Order" out beyond its indicated usage just as it would be wrong to use "Created Order" to prove that animals are people, too.

Indeed, we don't find much in Scripture about how the world's government ought to operate. We don't find an endorsement by God of democracy or any other form of government. He doesn't warn against Communism or Socialism. He doesn't seem to bother with the dangers of fascism or totalitarianism. God appears singularly disinterested in how the world does government. He is concerned about how His chosen people operate. In the Old Testament, that was Israel. God never comments on the governmental operations of other countries. In the New Testament, it is all believers. You don't see Jesus or Paul suggesting how governments should operate. Apart from blanket commands to individuals like "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt not steal," precious little is written about how government should be. It's as if God assumes that they're sinners (as demonstrated by their failure to obey those blanket commands) and doesn't expect them to do education or government or economics His way, so He doesn't bother with commands along those lines for the world.

There are some who are arguing for Christians to take control of the government. They have a variety of names. Some are called Theonomists. Some are called Christian Reconstructionists. Some are called Dominionists. And they've been around for a long time. They're not new. The truth is, however, that the Bible doesn't seem to support this idea. Instead we read, "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's." Jesus never takes on Rome. Paul never complains about slavery. Christian morality, while certainly preferable to alternative moral perspectives, are never put forth in Scripture as something we ought to enforce by civil means. This is just inconsistent with Scripture. God isn't in the business of making good people out of bad people. He's not concerned about making a moral country run by moral leaders. He's in the business of changing hearts that produce "fruit", good works suitable to repentance. The Bible doesn't seem to speak to the question of whether or not women should be in secular roles as CEO's or working in Congress. I fear that making that argument belies a works-based view that doesn't take into account the need for changed hearts rather than "being good". Nor does it take into account the certainty that the world will hate us.