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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for his mighty deeds; praise Him according to his excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! (Psa 150)
I guess sometimes it's a good thing to get a little loud with your praise. Just a note to those of you that thing that noise and dance have no part in worship. Just a little reminder for those who think that worship must always be quiet and reserved.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Prop 8 Ain't Hate

I don't intend to make this argument. And, sure, it could be in some cases. I just wish to point out that there are those who identify themselves as "homosexual" or "gay" who were in favor of Prop 8 in California. Even I was somewhat surprised to read that Elton John argued in favor of the proposition.
"I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," John says. "The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off.

"You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."
Of course, the nasty responses are pouring forth because it is not possible for someone to think this way without hating gays. Oh, wait ... he is gay. Oh, bother!

Rest assured that there will be retribution for many who have views that differ from the anti-Prop 8 crowd. Somehow, that isn't classified as "hate."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sharing the Gospel

My wife recently watched the movie, Hawaii, based on James Michener's book. The movie from 1966 starring the likes of Julie Andrews, Max Von Sydow, Richard Harris, and Gene Hackman tells the story of Abner Hale and his wife, Jerusha, who, in 1820, are missionaries to the exotic island kingdom of Hawaii. It is an unpleasant movie, where "Christianity" is forced, stereotypically, down the throats of these islanders. They aren't taught about the Gospel. They are taught about how to act "Christian." The clash of cultures is large and tragic.

This isn't a review of the movie. It's a commentary on the folly of this type of "missionary work." It is folly because it isn't the Gospel. Christianity is not about making people act a certain way. It isn't about rules of morality. It isn't about converting savages to European cultural norms or any such thing. Still, it is this stereotype that hangs on for so many when they think "Christianity."

The Gospel isn't about behavior. The Gospel is about salvation. The Gospel is about a problem with Man's relationship with God and the remedy for that problem. It isn't about being a better person, a nicer person, a moral person. Yet, so often, that, it seems is the target. And that ... misses the target completely.

Is there morality in Christianity? Sure there is. But Christianity holds that it is a product, not a means or an aim. It is the natural result of a living faith. It is the unavoidable result of a person who has the seed of God. Believers, the regenerate, the born again, are changed people with changed lives. That's true. As such, it would seem obvious that trying to compel such behavior without the underlying change would bypass the basic problem of Man -- sin. Making people behave more morally doesn't make them better people. They don't gain God's love by being nicer. And to make that the primary message as so many have in the past and as too many do today is to completely miss the mark.

Today, missionaries mostly don't try to make natives change their culture. They try to teach them the Gospel within their culture. That's a good thing. Still, we are often confused about Christianity versus morality. We think "If we can get homosexuals to stop what they're doing, they will be more acceptable to God" somehow. Oh, maybe we don't think that "out loud," but it appears to be a motivation for some. "If we can stop drug users from using drugs, they'll be more acceptable to God." "If we can stop child abusers from abusing children, they'll be more acceptable to God." We do it all over the place ... and it completely misses the point. We are never commanded, "Go into all the world and make people more moral." We are commanded to spread the Gospel. We are commanded to make disciples. It is much easier to see changes in behavior. Maybe that's why we focus there. But it is the Gospel we are to share, not the rules. Some of us need to shift our attention in what we are aiming to share with those around us who don't know Christ.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

Well, of course, it's Thanksgiving Day, so it would be appropriate for me to list some things for which I'm grateful. In the interest of space, I plan to keep it short. That means that there is a lot more for which I'm grateful than what I'm listing here. This, then, will just be some of the highlights.

I am, of course, first and foremost grateful for my Lord. To be one called out of darkness, forgiven, loved, treasured, among the saints, blessed with every heavenly blessings is more than I can fathom. I didn't do it. I didn't earn it. I didn't merit it. Well, frankly, words elude me at how big and amazing the whole thing is. And to be an adopted son of the Most High, the Sovereign Lord, in a world that is constantly changing and constantly challenging is a comfort I cannot express.

I'm grateful for family. For me, that alone is a lot for which to be thankful. I have a wonderful wife whom I dearly love and greatly appreciate. I have four great kids, of whom I am very proud. I have three grandchildren who, being grandchildren, are just a joy. I have a brother and sisters whom I love. I even love their spouses. I have nieces and nephews who are dear to me. My parents are a real treasure. I know ... a rarity these days, but I'm blessed to have unbelievably great parents. Then there is the extended family. On my father's side alone there are, in round numbers, over 150 relatives. I'm gratified to be part of such a big family.

I'm grateful for my country. There are lots of complaints about my country, but I'm convinced it is the best one. As an example, how many others have people willing to risk life, limb, and arrest to get in? We recently had a hotly fought election, but the transition from one leader to another is smooth and without bloodshed. Just two examples that demonstrate what a wonderful country in which I live, and I'm thankful.

I have a good job that I enjoy. I have a house that I enjoy. I have my health. I have the things I need like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. Mine is a good life and to complain about it would be foolish. I am a contented fellow.

Oh, there is so much more. I am grateful for the hard times I've faced in recent times. Lost loved ones, health challenges, long work hours, and other things have tested me. Still, my Lord has been faithful and I've come through time and again the better person for it all. I've so many blessings that I can't really count them all. Yes, it is Thanksgiving Day, and I'm grateful to God for the many things He has bestowed. For each day that follows, I hope to grow in gratitude and contentment because God has been very, very good to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Insult: to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness.

"The best way to procure insults is to submit to them." William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)

Insults are a part of life. Some are intended to be rude and contemptuous. Some are not. We're all quite familiar with the unkind remarks from person to person. Most of us are equally familiar with the unkind remarks we throw at friends as a method of camaraderie and ... affection. How odd!

I'm sure I've had my fair share of insults. I remember, as a kid, trying to figure out how to avoid them. After awhile I picked up a technique that served me well. Insult myself before they can and the response will likely be positive. "Oh, don't say that!" It worked well until I found people faster than me. "You know," I might say, "I'm not as dumb as I look." They'd respond, "Couldn't be and survive." Sigh. That didn't work.

Insults have shaped my mindset over my too-many years. I've moved from being a confident singer, for instance, to a self-conscious one because I've been told too many times not to sing. I once enjoyed playing the musical keyboard until enough people complained that I stunk at it. People will find whatever it is you are proud of or confident about and tear it down.

Of course, my mistake has been to listen. A lot of insults are intended as fun. And it's unavoidably true that I've done enough of those myself. It's play between friends. It's just friendly banter. Some people, if they were to stop insulting you, might make you ask if they're well. You expect it.

Still, I have to wonder about the effectiveness of unkind words shared as friendly conversation. I suppose it's a bit like horse-play, a brief wrestle between pals. But, like those little tussles in which we might engage, you can never let it be known that you're actually hurt. It wasn't supposed to hurt. If you're hurt, it's because you're just weak. Hmmm, maybe that's not a good thing at all.

I try to avoid seriously insulting anyone, but I haven't stopped the practice of playful insults. I wonder if I ought to work at that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Intolerance of Words

Have you ever noticed? State your belief on a topic of morality and it is very likely you will be labeled "intolerant" and "judgmental." Apparently, if you have no belief on morals, you're "tolerant" and "non-judgmental." But, when you state your belief and are declared "bad" in this way, for some reason those declaring you "bad" are not being intolerant and judgmental themselves. Why is that?

Isn't that the response to those who have voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage? It's not a valid opinion. It's a hateful opinion. It's evil. Why? Why is it that people with this view are evil and the angry lashing out from the opposing viewpoint is rational, tolerant, non-judgmental?

You know, it's funny. There are churches that allow "same-sex marriage." No law prevents them. There are certainly people who recognize "same-sex marriage." There is no law that prevents them from doing so. There are businesses, large and small, who choose to extend benefits to domestic partners, heterosexual or homosexual. It's perfectly legal. Some governments recognize "same-sex marriage." It's their right to do so. On the other hand, we do not, for the most part, have laws requiring churches, individuals, businesses, or governments to do so. It's a choice. Now, there are some who are voting to retain that right. "We don't want to be required to change our definition of marriage." And that, apparently, is intolerant and judgmental. I guess the tolerant and non-judgmental thing would be to deny this majority of people who choose not to recognize "same-sex marriage" their right to do so.

The California Supreme Court, in striking down the law that Californians had voted in that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, said the following about marriage. Marriage is designed "to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children." I said the same thing and it was hateful. They said it and it was tolerant.

So, what happens when the minority forces the majority, against their will, to recognize "same-sex marriage" as a new, valid term? Despite the constant claim that it won't matter, I suspect there will be many changes. I suspect that those who continue to hold to a biblical perspective will be marginalized. I'm pretty sure that those who continue to argue that marriage is between a man and a woman will be accused of hate speech. The media will continue to shift from the traditional "man-woman" relationships to overwhelming propaganda of same sex relationships. Terms that we considered "normal" and "healthy" will become "hateful" -- you know, terms like "husband and wife." Dennis Prager suggests that "young girls will be discouraged from imagining one day marrying their prince charming—to do so would be declared 'heterosexist,' morally equivalent to racist. . . . Schoolbooks will not be allowed to describe marriage in male-female ways alone." (And if you think, "This is an over-reaction," try reading this news item. It's already happening.) Why? Because some people have an opinion that differs from others.

A majority of folks including religious and non-religious, heterosexual and homosexual, male and female have voted to retain marriage as marriage. For that they are intolerant and judgmental. There will be costs incurred if we decide to force society to recognize the relationships of same-sex couples as "marriage." I haven't seen anyone arguing to eliminate same-sex relationships. That would be intolerant and judgmental. The reverse, apparently, is not.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Biblical Hate

There has been some discussion about the propriety of Christians hating sinners. I thought I'd take a closer look.
"If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26)
There you have it ... the biblical command to hate everyone except Christ. What more do you need?

Well, of course, you need to figure out how to reconcile the command to hate everyone (including yourself) with the biblical command to love your neighbor. "Oh, that's easy! It says to love your neighbor. Your family is not your neighbor. Hate them (and yourself)!" No, that's not working. "Well, you just have to take God at His word! You are BOTH commanded to love and to hate at the same time in the same sense. Just because it's illogical to you doesn't mean that it's wrong!" Sorry. That's not working either. You're either going to have to allow that the Bible is contradictory ... or you're going to have to correlate these two things.

So, let's look at biblical hatred. In Deuteronomy 21:15-17, God forbids showing favoritism to the firstborn son of a wife who is loved over the actual firstborn son of a "hated" wife. Get that? A "hated wife." Apparently, this husband was perfectly happy to produce children with both wives. It's just that one of them is hated. That should be jarring to the thought processes. The Hebrew word is, well, written in Hebrew, so I can't duplicate it here. Grab your Strong's and look at 8130. (In English-type transliterated lettering it resembles sane, but it's not.) It occurs in various forms in the Old Testament over 140 times. It is translated as "hate" or "foe" or "enemy" or the like. It is often contrasted with "love." But is it the same "hate" that we think of today?

Perhaps we can get a hint from Genesis 29. You probably remember the story of Jacob and his wives, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel, but Jacob's father-in-law tricked him into marrying the older daughter, Leah, first. So we read, "So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren" (Gen 29:30-31). Do you see a hint here? In verse 30, we see that Jacob "loved Rachel more than Leah," but in verse 31, "the LORD saw that Leah was hated." If "hate" in this sense is the same as we think of it, this isn't reasonable. Look at it. It says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. That clearly suggests that he loved Leah some. Further, he loved her enough to have children with her. (Look, we clearly don't have sex with people we despise when we have the opportunity to do so with people we love. It just wouldn't make sense.) It looks as if the idea is not "hate" in the sense that we mean it, but "hate" in the sense of "of lesser value."

If that is the case, let's see what happens when we insert that in the Luke passage above. "If any man come to Me, and not value his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also less than Me, he cannot be My disciple." That's clear enough. It makes sense. Further, it doesn't violate "love your neighbor."

There's another thing it doesn't violate. It doesn't violate the other things going on in Scripture. Keep in mind that our version of "hate" is an intense hostility toward someone or something along with a desire for bad things to happen to them. Now compare that, for instance, with Jesus's propensity to hang out with sinners. Now, if the requirement is to despise the enemies of God, what was He doing there? Sinning, apparently. And how about Paul's comment about separating from sinners? "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world" (1 Cor 5:9-10). Paul specifically states that he is not commanding to separate from unbelievers. He even assumes that we love ourselves (Eph 5:28) and assumes it's good, which would contradict Jesus's command to hate ourselves (if that's the command). We also have Paul's word (Rom 8:5-8) that Natural Man is the enemy of God. So if we are supposed to "hate" (in our sense) those who are the enemies of God, then we are to have a strong aversion toward everyone who is not a believer ... and then some. Or how about 1 John 2:9 where we read "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness"? If we combine Luke 14 with 1 John 2, it would appear that we must hate our brethren to be Christ's disciple, but if we do, we are still in darkness.

Or ... perhaps biblical hate is not the same as English-speaking hate. Perhaps, as Strong's suggests, it means "love less" rather than our version of "hate." Perhaps we need to be careful how we understand terms like this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Love You, Mom

My mother-in-law recently passed away. The other day my sister-in-law posted a comment on her online obituary. She talked about how hard it was with her mom gone. She hadn't realized how important her mother was to her or how hard it would be without her. I understand.

We all tend to take for granted those whom we love. I know I'm not immune. We expect that spouses or parents or children or other family members will always be there. Oh, sure, if pressed, we'd say that wasn't the case, but we do in a practical sense. We operate as if the friends to which we're so accustomed will be around whenever we need them. And, in all fairness, it's part of the reason we love our family and friends -- they're always there.

I'm not trying to make some heavy statement here. I'm not trying to pull up some guilt. I'm just suggesting that today you take a moment to tell someone. Maybe you'll see them today. Maybe you can email them today. Maybe you can call or drop a letter. Tell someone that you love that you appreciate them today. You never know when it will be too late.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I sat through a mandatory lab and fire safety briefing the other day. They included a short movie. The movie started out by detailing the steps that we used to see at the standard "service station." Some of you may not know what that is. Today we call them "gas stations" because they don't "serve" anymore. They used to have someone come to your car, find out what you needed, pump your gas, check your tire pressure, check the engine fluids (and recommend anything you might need), and clean your windows. You know ... service. I was bemoaning the idea in my head that the concept of "service" has largely disappeared from American society.

Then I walked by a machine with a display. The display read, "Out of service." "Great!" I thought. "Now we have machines making social commentary ..."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Walk the Line

A local Christian talk show host has a blog. Recently he wrote about a topic which he also discussed on the air a few days later. The repetition got me thinking.

His point was that Jesus died for everyone, so we shouldn't hate anyone. His point is well taken. I cannot imagine how a Christian can be overheard saying, "I hate ___" where the blank is filled in with anything from atheists to Muslims to homosexuals to whatever pet heretics you might care to mention. How that correlates to "love your neighbor as yourself" doesn't work in my mind at all. I agreed with Andrew 100% on that thought.

But he expanded on the idea and I had difficulties with it. He used terms like "exclude" and "judge" as synonyms for "hate" -- you know, like so many others do. The truth is that these are not synonyms. The truth, in fact, is that if you use them as synonyms, you run into biblical problems.

We are commanded to love our neighbors. That is a command to love the people with whom we come in contact. Shorten that. That is a command to love ... people. There is a fundamental difference between loving people and loving what they do or what they think. There is a distinction between people themselves and their actions and thoughts. In our basic lives, we really don't have a problem with that concept. Parents, for instance, understand that they love their children, but don't love everything their children do. Parents correct what their children do and think, but love them without condition. That's how it's supposed to be. We all understand that. Husbands and wives are supposed to love each other even if there is some activity or idea that they don't like. They can address the activity or idea, but they love the spouse. We get it.

Somehow, though, when it comes to these other things, it doesn't "work." If I claim to love the guy who has a sexual preference for males but believe that his choice of sex with males is immoral, I'm contradictory, hateful, and judgmental. If I claim to love a fellow human being who happens to be a follower of Islam, but believe that his belief in Islam is misguided and wrong and, ultimately damning, I'm intolerant and judgmental. I can do it with my kids. I can do it with my wife. I just can't do it with ... people. What's up with that?

Here's the thing. I am commanded to do just that. I have already said that I am commanded by God to love my neighbor. I get that. Good. I am also commanded to hate sin. I am commanded to call sinners to repentance. I am commanded to exhort and correct Christians who are in error. I am commanded to make a defense for the truth. I am even commanded to avoid Christians who refuse to repent. In other words, I am commanded to "judge" and "exclude" ... but not "hate."

It's easy to get tied up with that. It is, in fact, easy to get confused. "Hate the sin, hate the sinner ... no, that's not quite right." We often get personal instead of separating the person from their actions and ideas. Too often we turn to attacks on people rather than examining sins and error. We are commanded to address sin and error. We are also commanded to love people who, oh, by the way, are sinners just like us. It's a difficult row to hoe, but it is commanded. We should get to work on that, shouldn't we?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Birthday

I'm going to keep this brief today. It's my father's birthday. Please re-read my Father's Day post about my father. I'm a fortunate fellow to have such a dad.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


One of the standard, commonly understood rules of parenthood is "keep your children safe." It's just one of the primary jobs of parenting, and we all pretty much know that. It doesn't take a religious viewpoint to understand that when a mother leaves her young children alone while she goes to the bar (or farther), it's bad. Keep you children safe. Yeah, we get that.

I recently overheard a conversation between parents. One parent was inviting another parent's children to a special birthday party. There would be one of those air-filled jumping things there ... you know the kind. The invited parent's first question was, "Is it safe?" You see, we get that. But I thought about it. The logical conclusion of "keep you children safe" is not, actually, a good thing. We know that term as well -- "over-protected." It's a bad thing. Still, you see it everywhere because it's very common. They sell us anti-bacterial soaps and sprays because our children need them. They warn about safety issues until we're afraid to have an adult speak to our children. They replace sand at the playground with padding to keep our children safe. Oh, yeah, and while they're at it, perhaps they'd better replace those swings and things because it's possible that our kids could get hurt. We take the mantra, "Keep your children safe," to its logical conclusion and kids become sheltered and twisted rather than simply safe.

So, obviously the answer is to not keep your children safe ... right? No, clearly that doesn't work, either. So what's a good parent to do? The good parent keeps things in balance. "Safe" doesn't simply mean "free from injury or peril of any type." It also means things like "able to handle everyday circumstances" and "exposed sufficiently to common bacteria so their bodies build immunities" and things like that. You see, we've mixed up "safe" with "danger-free" and missed the real point.

Funny thing. I think we do that a lot. "Love," for instance, shifts from "wanting the best for" to "being nice to" or something like it. Then, if you love your children, corporal punishment is evil, obviously. "Love" is "nice to," not "wanting the best for." Never mind that the best may sometimes require something that isn't so "nice." We do that with kids. We do that with spouses. We do that with God, too. You see, a "God of love" is supposed to be nice ... right?

I'd bet that if you thought about it you could come up with a whole bunch of things like that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still Explaining

I recently spoke to a friend about her view on the Prop 8 question. She had joined the "No on Prop 8" group and I simply wanted to know what she was thinking. No argument from me; just curiosity. She said that she felt bad for gays. She said, "I put myself in their shoes. If I was gay, I could never call myself a 'wife'."

I thought about the argument. Was it valid? It was, in fact, true that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman would make it impossible for two people of the same sex to marry. It would also mean that homosexuals could never be "husband" and "wife" (unless, of course, a homosexual man married a lesbian). (I had to wonder how changing "marriage" to mean something different would change that. I mean, in a same-sex couple, who is the "husband" and who is the "wife"?) She was correct. Prop 8 in California (where she was from) would preclude her from being a "wife" if she was a lesbian.

It just struck me as odd. I suppose this is a key part of the problem. The two sides are talking past each other. Too much of this debate is centered on the morality of the homosexual lifestyle. The homosexual community is quite sure that it is only because of religious bigotry that there is even a question. To me, I am just not getting it. To me, it's as if a "cats' rights" group went on the rampage. "If you define 'dog' as 'canis lupus familiaris,' a cat can never be called a dog! Where is the equality?" Now, I know, it's not about cats and dogs ... any more than it is about civil rights. It's about definitions. You can't call a cat a dog ... because of the definition of cat and dog. You can't call a same-sex couple "married" because of the definition of "married."

Look, this is simple. If you want to fix this problem, it's very easy. Eliminate the word "marriage." I don't mean to eliminate the concept. Just pick a different word. Who cares? Make one up! Define it how you want and apply that word to whatever sort of couple you wish. Now all "grouples" (as an example) are the same -- equal treatment. What's the problem?

Look, for me this isn't about "anti-gay." It's about marriage. It's not about the morality of homosexual relationships. It's about marriage. Marriage has a definition and a function. It is the fundamental structure of society. It is comprised of "husband and wife." It is aimed at raising children. It is marriage, and surrendering the term from "husband and wife" to something else will be significant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apply Label Here

You've likely heard of the Bolsheviks. They were a group of Russian Marxists that seized power in Russia in 1917. They were the ones that changed "Russia" to the "Soviet Union." They did so over the Mensheviks. What you may not know is what "Bolshevik" means in Russian. The word means "majority" (or, technically, "more") while "Menshevik" means "minority." The other thing you may not know is that the Bolsheviks were not the majority in Russia. They simply proved to be the stronger, louder party of the two groups. Further, while the Mensheviks preferred the concept of open party membership and favored cooperating with the other socialist and some non-socialist groups, the Bolsheviks generally refused to co-operate with others.

This is an example of labels that created a perception. Calling themselves "the majority party" and forcing their way into power, they eventually became the only party -- "the majority." This is a prime example of labeling that produces perception, but it isn't the only one. We're perfectly happy with this approach here in America today. Label those we don't like with a bad title and we'll make them "the enemy." Label those we do like with a good title and they'll be the good guys.

Take, for instance, the abortion question. We all know the two sides. Some are opposed to killing babies in the womb, and others don't want to interfere with a mother's right to kill her pre-born child. What labels are the popular ones to explain these two views? Well, you have the "anti-abortion" or "anti-choice" side and the "pro-choice" side. See? Plain as day who the good guy is in this debate. Whatever you do, don't examine those labels. It will only confuse you about the real issues. The popular media doesn't want to label them "pro-life" because, well, that sounds ... good. And we don't want to know that they object to killing babies anyway. No, no, we want to maintain the focus on "choice," not murder. So we don't want the "pro-life" label on that side any more than we want the "pro-abortion" label on the other side. Those labels, regardless of how accurate, are not in line with the propaganda we want to put out.

Recently we've seen the exact same process in the same-sex marriage debate. One side says, "Marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman." The other side says, "We want to redefine the word 'marriage' to fit our demands." What labels are being given in these two sides? One side is "anti-gay" and the other side is "pro-choice." Seriously! Those are the labels. And there can be no question, given these labels, who the bad guy and who the good guy is. "Anti" is bad and "choice" is good and any limitation on "choice" is clearly a bad thing. Again, whatever you do, don't examine reality here. It will simply throw things off. The fact that "same-sex" wasn't mentioned in Prop 8 in California or Prop 102 in Arizona is irrelevant. The fact that these two propositions merely retained the longstanding and traditional definition of the word doesn't really matter. The gay-rights side is attempting not to assimilate into society, but to change society's definitions. They weren't, in fact, trying to gain rights. According to the California Supreme Court, homosexuals already have all the rights and responsibilities that are included in the term "marriage" in the California laws regarding domestic partnerships. It wasn't rights that they wanted; it was a word. They wanted to wrestle a word (and its concept) away from those who were already using it. So to call it "pro-choice" or even "gay rights" is not an accurate representation of the view. Neither is it accurate to label as "anti-gay" those who wanted to keep the standard definition of the term "marriage" as it has been.

But, as the Bolsheviks have demonstrated, labels work. Don't bother me with facts. Don't worry about accuracy. It's all in the propaganda. The goal is the spin. If you can label those who are opposed to killing babies as "anti-choice" and those who wish to retain the concept of marriage as it has been as "anti-gay," then you can eliminate the opposition. And don't stop there. Let's stop calling Christians "religious" and start calling them "haters" and we'll work at pushing them out the door, too. Oh, yeah, labels are a cheap and easy way to change the arguments without even making them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Psalm 115

1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" 3 Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them (Psa 115:1-8).
Selah. Think about it. There is so much there. Tell ya what ... I'll get you started.

1. "Not to us" ... in direct opposition to the standard human view that makes us the focus of attention.

2. Why give glory to God? Because He's nice to you? Or because He is steadfastly and faithfully loving ... regardless of whether or not you or I see it?

3. The question appears to have always been "Where is their God?" There are the "New Atheists" today, but they're not new.

4. Never miss this point: "He does all that He pleases." All. No loopholes.

5. We become like that which we worship. What do you worship? Youth? Money? Power? Attention? In fact, there is a long list of possibilities way past the silver and gold types of idols. I may not likely be able to pinpoint what you worship, but it's pretty easy to know if you are worshiping God. Are you becoming more godly?

Selah. Think about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Protesting Democracy

Let's see ... you put a proposition on the ballot, you vote on it, and you let the people decide. Oh, wait, unless, of course, you're talking about Prop 8.

Barely a week after the passage of Prop 8, the fallout is hitting the fan. There are already three court filings, calls for boycotts of anyone who voted for the proposition, and a decision by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to fight the voters ... er, proposition. Then there is the story of the protest-turned-violent when anti-Prop 8 folks assaulted a 60-something woman who was disagreeing with them. But who is really catching the heat? The biggest financial contributors were the Mormons, so clearly they're at fault. Ironically, despite the constant (faulty) comparison of "gay rights" to "civil rights," it turns out that the black and hispanic votes were likely the biggest reasons for the passage of Prop 8.

It all strikes me as wrong. There are many conservatives who believed that Obama was bad for the country ... or worse. There were allegations beyond that. You don't see them rallying, protesting, or attacking people now that the election is over. The people have spoken. Move on. If you want it changed, prepare for the next election. But this strong-arm approach ignores the fact that 47 other states don't allow same-sex marriage and couldn't seem to care less that democracy was in operation. This is a militant response that includes people who hold their positions because of democracy in operation. It all seems wrong. If we are going to overthrow a majority vote and we are going to ignore the will of the people, is there any point in pretending to be a democracy?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Amending Marriage II

Back in October I commented on a couple of the prime things at stake when "marriage" is amended to mean something it doesn't. One of the key things I omitted I left out because, well, to most it isn't likely an issue. If you are not a Christian or if you don't particularly care what we believe and don't particularly mind if our beliefs are negated, this isn't something that would be of interest to you. To Christians, however, this is of paramount importance.

Marriage is a biblical concept. It is, in fact, one of the very first concepts established in the Bible. "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). Marriage, in this scenario, is the union of one man and one woman. (It is, in fact, that union that causes real difficulty with the polygamy concept. But that's not my point here.)

Marriage is interwoven throughout the Bible. It is, of course, a common and ongoing event. It is, on the other hand, very often an illustrative event. In other words, God uses it more than once to explain deeper concepts. Several times in the prophets, for instance, God compares His relationship with Israel as that of a husband and wife (e.g., Isa 54:5; Jer 3:1-14). In fact, the entire book of Hosea is written using Hosea's marriage to a prostitute as a comparison to God's marriage to Israel. When Israel follows other gods, He compares it to adultery instead of merely idolatry. He even speaks of divorcing Israel. (Note, by the way, that every parallel requires "husband" (God) and "wife". There is no other option.)

In the New Testament we have a well-known concept. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Part of the instruction set to husbands is built on this concept.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Eph 5:25-32).
The parallel is unavoidable. Husbands are to love their wives "as Christ also loved the church." Paul even speaks of the mysterious union of husband and wife as a great mystery, as it parallels the even greater mystery of the union of Christ and Church. And let's not forget the grand "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" in Revelation 19 where Christ and His Bride, the Church, are finally united.

Marriage in the Bible is delineated at the union of one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation. Further, it is a common picture instituted by God as a parallel with God's relationship with His people. When you start changing that concept in the common understanding of the people, you start changing God's picture. And when you start changing God's picture, you tread on very dangerous ground. Just ask Moses. He was told to speak to the rock to get water after it had once been struck, a perfect illustration about how Christ, our Rock, was struck once and then provides as needed living water. But Moses destroyed the image in his anger and struck the rock again. Oh, they got the water they wanted, but it was this act of destroying a God-instituted image that cost Moses entry into the Promised Land.

Those who are not believers care little about our beliefs. If what we believe becomes twisted, what do they care? I wouldn't expect this to be an argument to persuade unbelievers. Those who are believers, however, ought to take this into account. The biblical image of Church and Bride, of the union of Christ and His own and of the final Marriage Supper of the Lamb are too precious and too important to allow to be tossed aside by those who don't care. It isn't a small cost.

(As an update to my original post, some might have thought I was being too melodramatic when I warned that it was an assault on Christianity itself. If you read the responses of many rights groups, you'll find I was, if anything, understating. One homosexual atheist wrote that regardless of Prop 8, his goal was to see the annihilation of Christianity from the public square. He wasn't alone. I don't think I overstated that concern.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Dangerous Chemical

This has been a pet project of mine for years. The organization is called TIS BAD. The acronym stands for The International Society to Ban All Dihydromonoxide. The aim of this society is to work for the ban of the dangerous chemical known as Dihydromonoxide.

This chemical is found in every industrial factory in the world. It is highly dangerous and extremely common. Here are some of the facts:
• Causes thousands of deaths every year from exposure worldwide.
• In its solid form, can cause serious tissue damage. Has resulted in loss of limb and life.
• In its gaseous form, can cause serious burns to unprotected skin.
• Overexposure can cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the body and may be fatal.
• It is the 2nd leading cause of injury-related death for children aged 1-14 years. Black children ages 5 through 19 years have death rates 2.5 times the rate of whites from this substance. Death rates were at least 3 times greater for males than for females.
• It is found in many other common substances. It is the primary component of acid rain. It has been found in a large variety of cancerous tumors. It is widely used in pesticides and other equally dangerous chemicals.
• It is hazardous to most natural substances. It can erode substances as hard as rock. Worldwide, it is responsible for massive erosion of the environment.
• Many U.S. factories dump untreated Dihydromonoxide into rivers and streams without regard for its effects on the environment.
• The government is fully aware of its dangers, but continues to support its general use in a wide range of applications, in many cases subsidizing its use.
• Currently, the U.S. Navy and virtually every military organization are conducting experiments using dihydromonoxide without regard to personnel or environment.
There is a system to keep track of hazardous materials. Each material has a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Some of you may be familiar with it. Recently a chemist with whom I work pointed me to the MSDS for Dihydromonoxide. Here are a couple of entries from the MSDS, the official governmental record.

Unusual Fire and Explosion Hazard: Rapid temperature rise of liquid can result in explosive vaporization, particularly if in a sealed container.


Acute overexposure: Inhalation can result in asphyxiation and is often fatal.

Skin Contact
Acute overexposure: Prolonged but constant contact with liquid may cause a mild dermatitis.
Chronic overexposure: Mild to severe dermatitis.

Acute overexposure: Excessive ingestion of liquid form can cause gastric distress and mild diarrhea.


Hazardous decomposition products: Hydrogen - Explosive gas Oxygen - Supports rapid combustion
Despite all these dangers, the government has done nothing to curtail its use, its availability, or its dumping. We are working toward the curtailing of the widespread use of this dangerous chemical with the aim of eventually banning it altogether. We would appreciate your support of this movement. Find a petition to ban it and sign up. Contact your representatives in government and urge them to take action. Can we really afford to continue to keep this dangerous chemical on hand without any controls? Act now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Family

There are a variety of options or theories about the basic component of a society. What is the fundamental building block that makes a society? I see three primary choices. The first, most obvious, is the individual. Society, in this scenario, is constructed of individuals for individuals. The second, as has been suggested in recent times, is "the village." The basic component of society is your community.

These two both have merit. It would seem obvious, for instance, that in any case society is comprised of individuals. Therefore, the most basic part of a social structure is the individual. The overall purpose, in this view, of any given society is the fulfillment of the individual. I would think when I state it that way you would immediately see the problem. You see, societies do not primarily aim at individual fulfillment. Instead, they aim at what is best for the group. Perhaps the most obvious isn't the best choice. So, if societies primarily aim for what's best for the group, perhaps it is most logical to think of the group as the primary component. But if that's the case, what is real factor for the individual? The standard question would be, "What's in it for me?" And while I think the question is flawed, it still points to the problem.

Both views have merits, but both, I believe, are wrong, and holding to them leads you down faulty paths. If the primary component of society is the individual, then it would seem that the best method of government would be anarchy -- everyone out for themselves. Classical good like "share and share alike" or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" become mere pragmatic views that work if you like or don't if you don't. The only ultimate good is ... me. That's a problem. However, the group as the core leads to a diminishing of the individual. Communism as a government and socialism as an economic system would be the order of the day. There would be no room at all for taking care of yourself, it would seem. Instead, everything would be a function of sacrifice for the whole. History suggests that no society can actually function long under that view.

I'd like, then, to suggest a third possibility. I believe that this third option avoids the traps of the other two while retaining the strengths. In my view, the primary building block of any given society is, ideally, the family. This family is constructed of a marriage with children. It is built of both a father and mother with an eye to produce offspring and raise them to perpetuate the process.

In this process, the individual remains absolutely important. No one functions for the father as well as the father. No one fills the role of the mother as well as the mother. Other possibilities may work, but it is this combination that is ideal, and it is these individuals that function the best. In this structure, the children become the primary focus (as opposed to "self"), but the children must be taught not to make themselves the primary focus. Parents must demonstrate love for the sake of the children, which is beneficial to the parents. Children are taught respect for their parents which carries out to respect for authority which makes for a much better life. In fact, while the invidual is of absolute importance in this structure, the individual is also taught not to make itself of absolute importance.

A society built around the concept of family rather than "individual" or "group" is the most stable society. It perpetuates itself. It provides for more than itself. It carries with it values and rules that make society orderly and prosperous. It retains and values the importance of the individual without making the individual the center of the question, and, in linking small groups of families with other families, the roles, functions, and values are strengthened. It seems to be the perfect mode.

You can imagine, then, what happens when a society shifts focus from "family" to either "individual" or "group." You can imagine what happens when a society chips away at that basic societal unit of "family." You can imagine what happens when essential elements of "family" such as marriage, fidelity, integrity, and producing offspring are diminished or redefined in a society. But, in my opinion, you don't need to imagine what happens. You can look around.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Veterans

Veterans Day originated November 11, 1918 at the end of World War I. It was originally Armistice Day. Interestingly, its original intent was to honor the veterans who fought in World War I to bring about world peace. Since then, of course, the holiday has changed. Today, Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have died in service to their country. Veterans Day is the day we honor those who served honorably in the military, both living and dead, both wartime and peacetime.

So as we honor veterans today, I leave you with a few quotes from wiser folks than I ...

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." Elmer Davis

"When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?" George Canning

"It is the SOLDIER, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the SOLDIER, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the SOLDIER, not the campus organizers, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the SOLDIER, who salutes the flag, who serves the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag." General Douglas MacArthur

Monday, November 10, 2008

Politics or the Gospel

Much has been said about now President-elect Obama regarding his pro-abortion position. Many pro-lifers are concerned now that he is taking office. What can we expect in the arena of legalizing and expanding what we believe to be the killing of babies?

On the other hand, Christians are debating exatly what we should be doing in the realm of politics and legislating morality. Should we be deeply involved with reforming our culture to be more in line with biblical views or should we be focusing on the Gospel and not concerning ourselves so much with political action?

I've never fully answered this question in my own mind. I can see the arguments on both sides. I think there is a necessity for Christians to vote, for instance, as a God-given responsibility, and, in so doing, to do so with biblical principles in mind. But I still think that the ultimate answers to our problems as a nation are not found in passing good laws and electing the "right people." So I have to lean in the other direction.

I believe, as I said, that we are obligated to vote. That's my belief. I know, on the other hand, that we are obligated to preach the Gospel, to make disciples. That is no small distinction. I cannot find the command, "Thou shalt vote." ("Of course, not. When King James was around, they didn't vote!") No, that's not what I mean. I see little in the Bible about involving ourselves with government. I see much about obeying God and loving my neighbor. I see the explicit command to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19-20). (Note that the "therefore" in that verse is predicated on "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt 28:18). Another reason to question the depth to which we need to be involved politically.)

In the final analysis, I do not believe that better laws make better people. I do not believe that "the right politician" makes a better country. I do not believe that the problem of abortion is caused by a failure of government. Therefore, I do not believe that passing better laws or electing people more in tune with my values will solve these problems. What we need is not "right laws." What we need is "changed hearts." Changed hearts come about by the work of God, and the work of God uses the Gospel -- "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16).

So I would like to suggest to all those who are concerned about perhaps the most pro-abortion president to hit the scene, maybe we ought to take our eyes off the political goal and reset it to the spiritual goal. We believe that prayer changes things. That's a good place to go. We believe that changed hearts makes changed lives. Spreading the Gospel is a good place to produce that change. And I think, if we slow down enough to think about it, we would all agree that changed laws don't change minds nearly as effectively as God does when He gets hold of people. Perhaps we should spend our efforts in what we are explicitly commanded rather than ranting about the political realm about which we find very little biblical comment. We are commanded to pray for government. We are commanded to make disciples. We are commanded to preach the Word. Perhaps that is a better direction to take.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tough Times

It only takes a few moments of the news and you know we're in rough times with tougher times ahead. It can be pretty easy to end up worrying. Now, I can offer the "wisdom of the ages" my mother offered me -- "Worry must make a difference; 99% of what you worry about doesn't happen" -- or I can try to offer something more substantial.

For those of you who believe that "God is a gentleman" who doesn't interfere in Man's free will and simply operates where people let Him operate, I don't suppose I'll be of much help. For those of you who believe that God has not subjected Himself to His creation but, instead, remains sovereign, I have some reminders for you while you're watching the news or contemplating current events. Remember that it is God "who works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11). Remember that there is nothing too difficult for God (Jer. 32:37). Remember, "the king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will" (Prov. 21:1).

If times look bleak to you, remember who's really in charge, and remember that He loves you. Telling yourself the truth when you feel something else is a good thing.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I heard a comedian the other day that made me laugh. He talked about the gay marriage question. "I don't understand all the hubbub about gay marriage. My motto is 'Live and let live.' I mean, if a gay guy wants to marry a gay girl, why should I interfere? Who knows? Maybe they'll cancel each other out and have a heterosexual kid who has an eye for fashion!" He made me think about other funny things in life.

My childhood was a product of the 60's, but I didn't grow up with the "Question Authority" mantra of that era. Instead, I grew up with the "Obey Authority" advice, and I carry it through to today. You can imagine, then, how sometimes signs can cause me problems.

I was driving out of a parking lot one day and saw a sign that said "No right turn." My first thought was "That's unenforceable." Why? Well, how would an officer know? How could a police officer know what way was the right way for me to go? I tested my theory. The right way for me to go from that parking lot was left. I waited until there was a police car nearby and turned left. No ticket. See? I turned the right way even though the sign told me I wasn't allowed to and there were no negative repercussions. They shouldn't make rules they can't enforce.

The other day I walked to an intersection that I often pass through and noticed a sign on the corner: "No pedestrian crossing." Now, I have a strange way with words sometimes. My mother says it's a sign of intelligence. My kids say I'm just twisted. You can decide for yourselves. I thought, "'Pedestrian' -- lacking imagination, commonplace, ordinary." So I went across doing cartwheels. Of course, the officer writing the ticket explained to me that it actually meant "a person traveling on foot." Next time I'm going to try it on horseback.

Last week I was walking along a section of roadwork where there was a row of those traffic barriers. I noticed a sign on the back of each one. It read, "Do not steal. It is illegal to steal this barrier." What genius! I need to find out where to get signs like that! Imagine a burglar breaking into my home and picking up the television to steal it only to find a sign that warns him that he can't steal it because it's illegal. He'll put it back, frustrated. Sure, he's a thief, but that doesn't mean he is going to break the law, right?

Of course, that's nonsense. And it's no wonder. We even have the authorities breaking the law. I have seen several street light poles here with signs posted on them that say, "Do not post signs here." Now, wait! If they can, why can't I? I want to put my own sign there that says, "Okay, I won't." I don't suppose they'd be amused.

My obedience to authority, however, prevents me from doing that kind of thing. It leaves me confused when the sign on the door of the toilet stall says "Do not put anything but toilet paper in the toilet." That kind of defeats the purpose of a toilet, doesn't it? It leaves me baffled when I see a sign that says "Observe all signs." How am I even going to know where to find them all? And how am I going to get inside a building when one of the doors says "No entry"? Sure, there is another door next to it, but that one isn't marked. Am I supposed to assume something there?

It's difficult, sometimes, being me.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Have We Learned?

This will start out sounding political, but my thoughts here aren't actually on politics. I'm actually considering ramifications. I'm wondering what the election results tell us about Americans.

For quite some time now there have been fears that if America failed to elect Barack Obama there would be race riots. The feeling was that the only reason we would not elect him was that he was a black man. It was racism and racism alone that would prevent Americans from electing him. Now, I always thought that was nonsense -- my objections were never on the basis of race -- but I don't wish to discount public sentiment. So ... now that we've elected a black man for president, can we say that racism in America is dead?

Now, I know that we can't. Rules of logic don't work that way. In logic, not proving one position does not necessarily validate the opposite. So, if we can say that racism didn't cause Obama not to be elected, we cannot say that racism is dead. Still, I have to wonder. Can we say that racism is not as much a part of the fabric of America that it once was? I've talked to several people over the last several months about racism in America who claim that it's just as bad, if not worse, as it ever was. Doesn't this election suggest that it's not so? I suppose there is a feeling in me that suggests that turnabout should be fair play. If not electing Obama proved racism, it seems like electing him proves "not racism." Unfortunately, I'm suspecting that we won't get "fair play" in this case. It's a "no win" for non-racism here. If we don't elect a black man, we're racist. If we do elect a black man ... well, we're still racist. I have to wonder.

In this election there were several states that decided the outcome by shifting their previous position. There were no states that shifted from previously Democrat to currently Republican. There were several that shifted from Republican in 2004 to Democrat in 2008. Is this an indicator of American perspective? The typical Republican side is a typical conservative side. By that I mean that typically the Republican side wishes to conserve original political conditions. The typical Democrat side is typically more liberal or "progressive." As indicated by Obama's stump speeches, they don't want conditions to remain the same; they want change. Does this shift by some eight previously Republican states mean that America is turning away from original ideals and moving to new ones? While the heartland of America, literally "middle" America, is still fundamentally Republican and basically conservative, are there larger numbers of Americans that are leaning toward more change? Is, for instance, capitalism falling into more disfavor than it was previously? Is the class warfare becoming worse, where more people view "rich" as "bad" and more people think "I deserve more of what they have"? Is America headed toward a more isolationist perspective? It makes me wonder.

Then there's this whole "marriage" thing. The argument in Arizona was, "We already shot it down two years ago. Why are we doing it again?" The resounding answer, apparently, is, "We didn't vote on this two years ago. It was a different issue." It appears, in Arizona, that the majority of voters want to keep the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Is that a political statement, a commentary on running a campaign, or does that say something about the views of Arizonans? But before you answer, what about California? I think the perception has been that Californians are, generally, more liberal. They're, well, more "pro-gay." Most of America (and a loud part of California, I think) assumed that they would terminate that divisive Prop 8 with prejudice. (Sorry ... trying to have fun with words there.) Now they've passed a constitutional amendment that affirms the longstanding and traditional definition of "marriage." And you can throw in Florida with something like a 60% to 40% margin. It makes me wonder (again). Does this say what I think it says? It appears to me that a majority of Arizonans (you know, those who "already voted on this") and a majority of Californians (you know, those who are "the most liberal") along with Florida now and others before have decided that marriage should actually be defined as a union of one man and one woman. Is that a commentary on the views of Americans? Does the majority of America still think that marriage is between a man and a woman, and "same-sex marriage" is not the same thing? And I'm wondering, along the same lines, about those who believe that we should define terms as the majority does. If America still views "marriage" in the longstanding and traditional way, does this change their opinion?

I'm not really wondering so much about politics here. I'm not wondering about who got elected and what it means to America. I am wondering about what the results of the voting says about American viewpoints. I suspect that it says more than we immediately recognize. I also suspect that it says more than we're willing to admit.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Photography Break

Just thought I'd take a break today from too much politics or theology or controversy and put up some of the pictures I've taken over the past few years.

Parrots in Orange, California

A Black Phoebe

A Praying Mantis with failed camoflage

The B2 Bomber

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Bible on Politics

Too often "Christian" gets associated with "Republican" or something equally disconnected. Too often Christians get caught up in "vote for ___" instead of Christianity. The Bible doesn't endorse any American political party or political candidate. On the other hand, the Bible is also not completely silent on the topic. Now that you've voted -- now that the choice is made -- remember what the Bible does say on the topic.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience (Rom 13:1-5).
Whether you believe "My candidate didn't make it and we're all lost" or you believe "My candidate did make it and we're saved," the truth is that God allows authorities their place for His purposes. To look ahead and claim "It is God's will that ___ be elected president" is impossible, but to look back and claim that "God's will was accomplished" is certain. That's the biblical perspective.

So, regardless of whether or not your candidate was elected, what are Christians to do now?
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim 2:1-2).
Those of you who exercised your God-given obligation and voted, your task now is to pray for the leaders of our country. Those of you who did not, your task now is to pray for the leaders of our country. We may not always agree on theology and we may not always agree on politics, but we can agree that there is a need to pray for the leaders of our country. Let's agree to do that in earnest.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nothing More Than Feelings

I have felt for a long time a particular way. I know, in my head, that it isn't the right way to feel. So I have never told anyone I felt that way. Besides, it comes and goes. Why bother? Then, the other day, I told someone. I told him because he was expressing almost the same thing to me. Maybe, just maybe, he could understand this feeling I've had. And he did. In fact, it turned out that he shared a similar feeling. And I got to thinking ... how many other folks share a similar sense and just don't tell anyone because, well, we're not supposed to feel this way? And what if, just because we're not sharing it because we're not supposed to feel this way, we are missing out on help that others can give who have felt the same or have something with which to address it?

So here it is. Understand, first, that it is a feeling. I don't personally put much stock in feelings. Feelings are generally a product. Bad feelings are products of bad thinking and good feelings are products of good thinking, generally thinking. (By "bad" and "good" thinking, I don't mean "improper" and "proper" thinking. I mean the perception that things are bad or good generally produces bad or good feelings.) How I think is much more important than how I feel. Sometimes, however, I feel like I'm not God's favorite child.

I have to explain that further. I don't feel like I'm an abused little child in God's economy. I don't feel like He's being mean to me. I don't feel as if I'm mistreated or disliked or even short-changed. I just feel like ... I'm not one of His favorites. I know lots of people who have relationships with God that are extremely warm and dynamic. They have a drastic need and God meets it dramatically. They have a problem and God swoops in to fix it. You know those kind. They say, "Well, Lord, You know the need here. I don't have enough to make it to the end of the month. If I'm going to pay the bills, You'll have to provide." And then, somehow, out of nowhere, an unexpected check comes in the mail for exactly the amount they needed for that month. Oh, sure, you've heard those stories before. God supernaturally protected them or miraculously healed them. They prayed, "Lord, please make my car start" and it did. There are the kinds of Christians that you really want praying for you because whatever they pray for God seems to provide. You know those people. But it never happened to me.

Like I said, though, I don't feel like I'm being short-changed. If I got from God what I deserved, I couldn't bear it. And generally speaking my life is pretty good. I don't feel as if He's mean to me. I don't begrudge the others what He does for them. I'm sure He's perfectly free to give as He wishes to whomever He chooses however He pleases. That's perfectly fine with me. I'm not abused. He's not beating me. I'm not talking about a sense of discipline, for instance. I generally know when that happens. It's just that, well, I'm not His favorite. If I am around one of His favorites, He might do something nice for me to benefit them. And, sure, He is always doing nice things for me. I mean, I'm still living and breathing, aren't I? I have a job and food and shelter and transportation, don't I? I'm relatively healthy. I have a good wife. See? I'm not abused or short-changed or any such thing. Still, when the car gets wrecked I know He's not putting a check in the mail to pay for it. When the TV tells me, "You could win a million bucks!" I know they're not talking to me because God doesn't do that in my life. Nor am I questioning His ability to do so. I know He can do it. I just don't think He's willing when it comes to me.

As I said, it's a feeling. Generally speaking, when I stop feeling like that long enough to tell myself the truth, it goes away. It's just one of those faulty tapes I play in my head sometimes, a mistaken notion that God loves you a lot more than He loves me. But I don't put a lot of stock in feelings, so I shut off that tape whenever I think about it and play a different one, a grateful one for the kindness God has shown me over the decades. It's more reasonable, more helpful, and more ... well ... true. But I do wonder if there aren't more of us out there that sometimes feel that way but don't want to tell anyone because we're not supposed to feel that way ...

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Testing of Your Faith

It is my suspicion that if you have never questioned what you believe, you may not actually believe it. Well, perhaps that's not fully accurate, but the truth is that we always act on what we truly believe.

James has an interesting phrase that we very often hear but don't take in. He says "the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:3). If you haven't had your faith tested, there is a good chance that you lack "steadfastness."

Believing what you believe is easy when it's not challenged. The question is what do you do with what you believe when it gets difficult? Imagine, for a moment, a loved one, a dear person, who is an avowed atheist. They reject God wholly. Oh, you still love them. Maybe they're family. Maybe a friend. And, seriously, they're such nice people. But their eternal condition is in peril. And then ... they die. Now, the loss of a loved one is a difficult thing to face on its own. A loss of a loved one eternally is much, much harder. So what do you do now? Do you re-examine your theology and wonder about loopholes to "Jesus is the only way"? Do you question the wisdom or goodness of God? I'm not talking about the feelings. I'm talking about ... "the testing of your faith." Do you continue to believe what you did before or do you question it?

What about when your son declares himself a homosexual? Or your high-school daughter comes up pregnant? Or you lose a spouse? Or you are told you have cancer? Do these things change your belief in God or do they affirm it?

How about this? You read and say you believe that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Great! So ... when unpleasant things occur, do you complain or do you expect that God causes all things to work together for good? You say that you agree with the Bible. So, when meet trials of various kinds, do you "count it all joy" (James 1:2-4) or do you waver (James 1:6)? Do you expect good things from God when bad things happen?

All of us need our faith tested. All of us need our faith "tuned." All of us need times of trials so that we can find out those areas that we say we believe but, when face to face with difficulties, find that we aren't really convinced. Sometimes you'll find you were believing the wrong thing (like, perhaps, "God only allows nice things for His people"). Sometimes you'll find that you weren't actually believing what you said you were believing. Sometimes -- and these times are so precious -- you will find yourself crowded into the arms of the Only One who can ultimately comfort you. It's good for us. Trust me ...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ligonier Conference - Pg 4

You know, I never actually finished my series from the Ligonier conference here in Arizona. You can rest assured I gave you the best stuff, but the rest was pretty good as well. Ligon Duncan answered the question, "Should the Church embrace Post-Modernism?" It was a short speech. "No." Okay, he went into what it was and why we shouldn't, but we all knew the answer. And R.C. Sproul gave a good talk on "What is the Gospel?" which, sadly, appears to be a difficult question these days for too many Christians.

The one I did want to tell you about, though, was from John MacArthur. He answered one of the standard questions: "Is Jesus the Only Way?" but he didn't answer it from the standard direction. Sure, there are positive statements to the fact that Jesus is the only way. Passages like Acts 4:12, John 14:6, Acts 17:30, and 2 Thess. 1:7-9 are unavoidable, and when taken as a whole, the question is pretty much answered. MacArthur, on the other hand, approached it from the other direction. What has man-made religion produced? What happens when Man tries other approaches?

In Romans 10:1-4, Paul prays for Israel's salvation. He acknowledges their "zeal for God." They were, after all, God's covenant people. What was their approach? How would they get to God? "Not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (Rom 10:3). That, in short, is the standard human method of religion -- establish your own righteousness. Be "good enough" to get to heaven. We all know that "good people" go to heaven and "bad people" go to hell. It's the standard human approach. And it's wrong. Humans naturally lower God's righteousness and elevate their own and end up with a warped, distorted view of self and sin. In fact, we all suffer from that problem.

One of the standard approaches to alternative religions is "natural theology." The idea is that human beings can discover God naturally through the things around us. Romans 1 has an interesting passage on the topic:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Rom 1:18-20).
There, see? Says so right there. What is most often missed, though, is not simply that Man can discover God in nature, but that he misses it. The revelation of God in nature is real, to be sure, but it is not salvation; it is damnation. It removes excuses. And as Man ignores the revelation of God in nature, he declines into sin (Rom 1:21-32), not godliness. (I thought it was interesting that the very first sin that follows Man's refusal to acknowledge God -- the first thing to which God "gave them over" -- is sexual sin ... lust. Seems like the most common sin today, doesn't it?) Natural Revelation, then, leads only to depravity.

And, of course, we find that the Bible makes some pretty harsh claims about humans finding the path to God. Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth is full of tough stuff. Humans see the Gospel as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18). "The world through its wisdom did not come to know God" (1 Cor 1:21). Indeed, despite all our thinking to the contrary, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor 2:14). When you see words like "does not" and "cannot," it's not possible to come to the conclusion "but they do." Then there is the passage in 1 Cor 10:20. According to Paul, human religion is demonic.

There are plenty of statements in the Bible that require Christians to conclude that Jesus is the only way to God. Many have tried to wiggle out of them. It's not working. Even if you can get there by hook or by crook, you'll find that the Bible holds humans as naturally hostile to God, indicted by natural revelation, and worshiping only demons. Instead we have God's alternative to human religion -- "the called" (1 Cor 1:24), "the chosen" (1 Cor 1:27), and "by His doing" (1 Cor 1:30). In other words, the Bible says both that Jesus is the only way and there is no other way.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Poor You Have With You

Serious question, folks. I am, once again, a guy with more questions than answers.

There is a concept in Christianity called "the social gospel." I don't like the term, but I understand its meaning. The reference is to the things we Christians are supposed to do for the people around us. You know ... take care of widows, feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison. It's stuff like what Jesus mentioned in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46). The difference in this parable between sheep and goat is that sheep discovered that "as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Did what? That "social gospel" stuff. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." I won't even question whether we are supposed to do these things. I'll take it as a given. Genuine Christians understand that we are to lay aside self and give to others.

So, I read this in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 -- "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." Now I have a dilemma. There are, obviously, those in need who are willing to work but can't find any. I understand that. We should help them. But there are those who are not willing to work. Some of them are intentionally homeless, counting on the kindness of strangers to give them enough to get by. Some have found themselves, for whatever reasons, out of work and then find that unemployment and welfare are just about enough to get by, so why bother? In other words, there is a segment of "needy" people who will not work. So ... what is our responsibility to them? Are we violating this command in 2nd Thessalonians if we give to them? Or are we honoring Christ? Is it true that there are actually people with whom we might come in contact who should not be helped? How do you correlate this?