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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Divorce ... it's not a pretty word. It is most accurately defined as "disunion". It has the same root as "divert" and means the same thing ... one thing going two separate ways. It is the termination of a union, the death of a family. There is nothing pretty about it. And if you're paying attention to statistics, you might easily conclude that it is very prevalent. The most recent figures, for instance, suggest that there are 7.5 marriages per 1000 people and 3.6 divorces for the same number of people. See? Do the math! We're at just about 50%! Okay, well, that's not quite fair. Here, let me illustrate. Let's say that 1000 couples get married. Now let's say, just for the sake of this illustration, that 200 of them get divorced. We are now at 1000 marriages and 200 divorces, or a 20% divorce rate. But wait! Say that half of them remarry. Oh, now we're at 1100 marriages. And let's say that half of them divorce again. Now we're at 1100 marriages and 250 divorces. We have now hit an almost 23% divorce rate. Divorces are up!! What's happening to society? Why even get married if so many are going to get divorced??!! You see, of course, that there is a problem with statistics. As it turns out, that original 80% are still married. The rate may have gone up statistically, but that's only because of the re-marriages, not because the original successful marriages changed. So ... the moral is, watch your statistics.

So, why is divorce such an ugly thing? Why would I suggest it? Despite my rosy "80%" illustration and my statistical warning, we still have a higher divorce rate than 20%. On one hand we might ask, "How could things go so wrong?" and on the other hand they might ask, "So, if it's so prevalent, what makes you think it's bad?" I want to answer the second question.

Directed only to Christians (because, woefully, too many reports are saying that people who call themselves Christians have just as high of a divorce rate as those who don't ... and also because Christians have a standard to which they should aspire, namely, Christ), when Jesus was asked His opinion of divorce, what was His answer? "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt 19:6). Now, just like I'm sure many of you are doing right now, the Pharisees objected. "Then why is divorce in the Law?" Jesus's answer wasn't ambiguous: "Because of your hardness of heart" (Matt 19:8). Now, there is a majority of good, wise, Bible-believing Christians who are quite sure that there are one or two exceptions to the "what God has joined together let no man separate" answer. One is adultery -- an almost universal out. The other is abandonment, based primarily on 1 Cor. 7. I also know that there are those who would wish to extend these two exceptions to be more inclusive. Spousal abuse, for instance, is often listed as an exception to the "no divorce" stance Jesus took. They consider it part of "abandonment". On the other hand, I have also seen some very good examinations of these exception clauses that would likely suggest that all exceptions are a misunderstanding and ... there are no exceptions. I'm not here to examine or defend these views. I just want to point to Christ. Regardless of whether or not there might be exceptions, what is not in controversy here is that Jesus's first position was "Never, ever divorce" and His second position was "Divorce is due to hard-heartedness." Feel free to play among yourselves about the exceptions. I think these are clear enough on their own.

I've seen advertisements for divorce lawyers. They say that they'll make divorce "easy" and "affordable". They list costs as low as "$200" and assure you that it will be just fine if you go through them. Of course, they're not telling the whole story, are they? They're not telling the cost of destroying a family. They're not telling the cost of ripping apart a union. I wish we were required to see the actual cost rather than the advertised one. What does divorce actually cost? Beyond the trifling economic expense, it is a devastating event. If marriage is defined as "the union of one man and one woman to make a family", then divorce is defined as "the rending apart of what was one and the destruction of that family." I'd like to ask the one filing for divorce if they're willing to pay the price. "Here's the deal," I'd like to suggest. "We'll let you get your divorce, but it will cost you an arm and a leg ... literally. You are rending what was one into two. We'll do it. Oh, and when we do, we will also take an arm and a leg from your spouse. You'll be able to go your separate ways; you'll just be maimed for life. Oh, you have kids? Okay, well, they'll each need to sacrifice an arm or a leg ... your choice. This thing is costing the entire family ..." No, I wouldn't offer that. Not because it's not true, but because it's insufficient. The damage is deep and long lasting. Statistics suggest that children of divorce parents are more likely to divorce later in life themselves. Everyone knows that children are tramatized by divorce. It is almost a universal response, "Is it my fault Mommy and Daddy are not married anymore?" Oh, you reassure them and tell them it's not so (at best), but that doesn't fix it. No, I suspect the loss of body parts would be merciful compared to the actual cost.

It's not my opinion. It's Jesus's answer. "What therefore God has joined together let no man separate." Are you sure you want your hardness of heart to be the reason for the dismemberment of your spouse, yourself, your family? I would think that "I'm not sure I want to be married anymore" would pale in comparison to that cost. I cannot imagine weighing that kind of destruction against "He just doesn't make me happy" and calling it quits. Are we Christians really so defiant as to shake our fists in the face of God, deny Christ, and seek our own petty pleasures instead?

Let me say that I know there are situations that simply don't fall into this kind of thing. This whole "no fault divorce" thing is devastating. You might find your family cut apart without being able to do a thing about it. I know, believe me, I know. I'm not talking about those. And there very well may be an exception clause or two. I'm not arguing that. But exceptions are just that ... exceptions. They are not the norm. I am simply pleading with believers -- those who call themselves followers of Christ -- to carefully reconsider what they are about to do if they are considering divorce. It is such an ugly, painful, destructive term. I would go so far as to suggest that maybe, just maybe, you don't have a relationship with Christ if you're willing to ignore His clear instruction on the thing. I'm just asking you to count the cost, consider the reality, think about Christ, your spouse, your kids. Are your personal preferences really so important? I'm just saying ...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Promises, Promises

The promise of Law:
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish" (Deut 30:15-18).
The promise of Law, then, is this. Obey and be blessed, or disobey and be cursed.

The promise of Faith:
For by grace you have been saved through faith (Eph 2:8).

And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom 4:5).
The promise of Faith, then, is justification apart from works.

Christians are well aware of the gap between Law and faith. The Law condemns; faith justifies. That, in fact, is the basic message of the Gospel. We are guilty of violating the Law. We need to be cleansed. That is accomplished by faith in the Son of God. Faith corrects our failure to obey the Law. Faith, in fact, "is counted as righteousness".

What we miss, however, is how the promise of the Law works in our favor.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom 3:21-22).
God made a promise when He gave His people the Law. If you are righteous, you are blessed. If not, you will receive curses. Fine. That makes most of us (anyone who is vaguely aware of how badly he or she has violated righteousness) shudder. Yet, by faith we have been declared righteous. "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). Get that? It's not simply that we're forgiven. We are declared righteous. So, on the basis of Christ's righteousness imputed to us, we fall in the category of "righteous" and are given the privilege of enjoying God's promises of blessing for the righteous.

I don't know about you, but that works fine for me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Strangers in a Strange Land

I am truly a blessed fellow. I have a wonderful wife. I have good kids. I have great parents, good siblings, a really nice extended family. I have a pleasant place to live, sufficient means to survive, a job that not only pays the bills, but that I actually (mostly) enjoy. I enjoy general good health and a fairly comfortable life. Things are pretty good for me and I know it's all a gift.

These things can be dangerous. The Bible tells us that we are sojourners here, visitors to this existence. Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ. That is, we are residents of heaven on a temporary assignment here to represent Christ to the world. We are, in essence, outfitted with Earth suits to survive here while we do our job, but will finally be called home to our intended environment in the presence of God. The danger, then, is that when we get comfortable here, we tend to link ourselves more solidly to the world than to our real home.

We have a real problem with this, don't we? When things become unpleasant (you know ... like we're promised they will), we complain to God. We spend much of our lives struggling to become comfortable. Hard times make us ask hard questions, as if hard times shouldn't happen at all. We often think that difficulties in life are "unfair". We spend more time and effort looking for happiness than holiness.

The truth is that we are just passing through. There are genuine blessings here. God is good to us. He is good to us when He provides comfort and He is good to us when He provides trials. He gives us what we need. Our task is to enjoy what He gives us here without becoming too attached. We need to remember that this world is not our home. We're passing through. Enjoy what God gives and be grateful, but don't lose sight that this is the transient, and the permanent reality is up ahead ... not here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Summary of the Christian Life

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin devoted an entire chapter to the notion that the Christian life is summarized in the concept of self-denial. Like so many other "Calvinisms", this isn't Calvin's idea. It wasn't Calvin who said, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt 16:24). It wasn't Calvin who wrote things like "I discipline my body and keep it under control" (1 Cor 9:27), "I die daily" (1 Cor 15:31), or the real kicker: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). So it isn't a "Calvinist" notion; it is a biblical one. The summary of the Christian life is self-denial.

This, of course, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Why would we do that? Why would we encourage self-denial? It sounds so negative. Is there really any motivation for self-denial? Some who call themselves Christians even argue the opposite, that God is actually there to fulfill your wishes and satisfy your whims. It is counter to Scripture, but there it is. In a world where looking out for #1 (me) is the rule, why would we want to admit and encourage self-denial as the essence of Christian living?

The most obvious answer is not very helpful, I know. The most obvious answer is "because He said so." We didn't like that answer as kids. We don't like it much better now. So let's see if I can suggest other answers. How about this? Have you ever observed people who are not into self-denial? I know you have. It is the most normal human condition. People think that their entire purpose in life is to do what makes them happy. "If it feels good, do it" is the modern mantra for living. But ask yourself: Are they happy? It seems to me that the more they pursue whatever they think will satisfy themselves, the less satisfied they are. The more power they get, the more they want. The more money they accumulate, the more they want. I saw a recent news story about the effects of the economic downturn on the very rich. Some of them are struggling. They just don't know how they are going to survive on less than $10 million a year. You and I think, "Huh?!!" We survive on less than 1/100th of that. But, you see, having what "I want" doesn't seem to produce happiness. It simply seems to produce greed -- "I want more." "Enough" becomes defined as "a little bit more". It appears, then, that living a self-centered life doesn't produce happiness.

Now think of the other side. Have you known people who actually deny themselves? Sure you have. Oh, they're not as common, but they're out there. This is an unusual breed. They seem to have a ready smile. They aren't caught up in the rat race, but looking to help others around them. They seem content with life and eager to assist. For some, it seems that their generosity is limited only by their resources. And they're inexplicably happy. Maybe you've even tasted this on occasion. You know ... you helped out with nothing in return and just felt a sense of joy and contentment not because you got something out of it, but simply because you helped out. Most people know, at least occasionally, that odd happiness that occurs when you give to someone out of the goodness of your heart.

You see, it seems as if, when we deny ourselves and, instead, look out for others, it is actually more satisfying. It's a lot like what Jesus said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." This truism is known to Christians and non-Christians alike. There really is genuine joy in denying self and giving to others of our time, energy, resources, love, compassion, and self. You see, while "self-denial" sounds so negative, it appears that the Designer of human beings actually made us to do it and knew that when we did it would produce positive results in others and in us.

You've seen the commercials, I'm sure. I don't really remember what is being advertised, but someone does an act of kindness to another. Another person sees it, and does an act of kindness to another. And it creates a string of kind acts that eventually come back around to the first person. Sure, it's a commercial, but it does illustrate the idea. Jesus commanded self-denial as the prerequisite for following Him. It is commanded, so if you are to call yourself a "Christian", you should follow that command. Beyond that, refusing doesn't seem to make people happy while obeying appears to bring real joy and contentment. So, what are we waiting for? Wouldn't it be great if the world saw Christians as people who genuinely love each other? Oh ... yeah ... that was Jesus's idea, too, wasn't it (John 13:35)?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reliability of Scripture

The reliability of Scripture is constantly under attack. Of course, skeptics are happy to take you to task for believing that your Bible is the Word of God while other scriptures are not. Even "Christians" question it. A popular phrase these days is "The Bible contains the Word of God". We are constantly being asked to defend our belief that the Bible is the God-breathed Word, infallible and inerrant.

Over time I have found lots of reasons to believe it. When I say "reasons" I refer, essentially, to "evidence". Despite what you may have been told, there is evidence both for the existence of God and for the reliability of Scripture. These both fall under the broader category called "Apologetics". What kind of evidence have I found?

Well, there is the obvious. The Bible has large portions of prophecy made (and documented) long before events occurred and then perfectly fulfilled. It's not vague stuff like Nostradamus. It's quite clear. And chalking up that kind of track record to "chance" seems less logical than admitting it is inspired. One of the evidences that I personally find interesting is the fact that it was written by some 40 different authors over a couple thousand years but retains one, coherent message. I find that interesting because I am a writer. Once, I tried collaborating with a friend to write a novel. We worked closely together on it and found it extremely difficult to retain coherence. Both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their fantasy stories because they complained that single authors couldn't maintain coherence in their own stories. Now, if lone writers have difficulty with it and two authors working closely together have difficulty with it, what are the chances that widely diverse authors over a long time period could do it? A blithe "It could happen" seems more like a fairy tale than admitting Divine Inspiration.

There are lots more reasons for defending the reliability of Scripture. On the other hand, despite all the reasons (read "evidence") that are offered, there will always be detractors, skeptics who deny it. Given the large volume of disagreement, why is it that people like me (and we aren't a small number) continue to hold to the reliability of the Bible? There is a less spoken but nevertheless true reason that underlies it all. Christians (not merely those who profess it, but those who are genuine) have an extra, bottom line factor. We have the Spirit of God. The same Spirit who breathed the words of the Bible to the human authors who wrote it lives in believers. That Spirit teaches us the Word and confirms in us the truth of it. Oh, sure, we may disagree on interpretation at times. We may listen more or less to the Spirit. We may make our own mistakes. Still, in all the disagreement and variation, we still concur together that the Bible is the God-breathed Word, reliable and infallible, because we have the Spirit of God in us confirming it.

I know. That argument doesn't hold much water in an open debate. It's doesn't serve as useful evidence to the skeptical world. On the other hand, we who have the Spirit in us don't really have much choice, do we? We can either deny what is absolutely certain to us (with much or little evidence provided) in order to appease detractors or we can concur with the Spirit because we have the Spirit. To the skeptics out there, perhaps you can see that we're kind of stuck with this notion of divinely inspired writings, then. To deny it would be to deny ourselves and to fly into fantasy and lunacy. Oh, sure, we have evidence -- reasons to believe -- but the bottom line is we are quite sure that God is the one who breathed that Bible for us. We can tell that the so-called "lost books of the Bible" don't fall in the same category. We are quite confident that it wasn't the Church that gave us the Bible, but the Spirit. Absolute proof? No, we don't have it. But we don't have the option of denying what we know because you don't like our reasons, do we?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ambient Pornography

I was reading an entry by Dr. Albert Mohler entitled Pornography, Public Culture, and the New Administration, and a little phrase caught my eye. He starts out by saying that pornography is everywhere and mentions, first, this notion: "ambient pornography". Now, Dr. Mohler is talking largely about an extremist lawyer, David Ogden, who has been appointed to the President's cabinet as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and this is Dr. Mohler's concern. But the phrase, "ambient pornography", is haunting.

All good Christians know that pornography is evil. It's not like I'm raising any controversial position here. Oh, there may be a few who haven't caught on yet. "Well, what my wife and I watch in the privacy of our own bedroom is not any problem" they might assert. "We're not using it for lust, but to spur our interest in each other." Yeah, fine, you tell yourself that. Then think it through. If the couple who lived next door came over and asked you to join them in sex, you'd recoil. "No, we can't do that. That would be wrong." "Oh, okay," they say, "then why don't you just come over and watch us have sex?" "Oh, no, that's no better." You're taking the moral high ground here. You know that this is involving yourself in their bedroom activity and that's wrong. "Oh, okay," they counter, "then how about if we video what we do and let you watch that?" Perhaps now you can begin to see the fallacy of "What we watch in our own bedroom is not a problem." So we're all (or, at least, mostly all) clear that pornography is wrong.

What we generally miss is this concept of ambient pornography. It seems that the obvious hides the ambient. You know, how that works. Turn on a street light at night and it's quite effective. That same light during the day is almost invisible because the sun is so bright. In our world, pornography is so prevalent that the ambient almost disappears. Almost. Not quite. In truth, ambient pornography is everywhere. It's on the cover of magazines at the grocery store checkout. It's on billboards as you drive. It's in the commercials that punctuate the shows you watch on TV. It's in the shows you watch on TV. Essentially, pornography is that which is designed to stimulate sexual desire. It may be pictures, videos, or even text. It may be overt or covert. But our society is geared toward stimulating sexual desire, from the obvious X-rated stuff to the "ambient" car advertisement that suggests "buy this car and get this girl."

One of the most subtle of the pornographic genre is what I call "female pornography". It's the romance novel. It's your typical Harlequin romance novel. No, these aren't aimed so much at explicit. They're aimed at subverting women, offering them in fantasy that is intended to stimulate desire what they don't get in reality. It's subversive. Women think "It's only a story," but the story is telling them "What you have is second rate! This is the way it could or should be!" It is the same fantasy content for women that explicit pornography offers men, except in a form that is more suitable for women.

Here's the problem. As we work very hard to avoid that obviously evil pornography that knocks on our door on the Internet or the video store, we open ourselves up widely to the ambient pornography of everyday life. Because it's ambient, we accept it without analysis. And because we don't filter it (either by blocking it entirely or, at least, examining and recognizing it), it soaks into our thinking and subverts it. We swallow the poison without recognizing it.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. We are to be in the world but not of it, so to speak. Paul says we can't leave the world (1 Cor 5:10). There has to be some effort, then, put into filtering it. We need to guard our minds. We need to watch what we "eat and drink" in terms of print and picture. We need to recognize the problem. It may be that we need to remove overbearing influences in our lives like that television that beckons to us every day to watch the world's idea of "normal" that God would find increasingly vile. I don't know all of what we need to do. I do know that we need to be aware of this problem. Ambient pornography is everywhere, and doing nothing will continue to degrade your life.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Human or Divine?

Way back in the early days of the Church they faced the question, "Was Jesus God or Man?" The answer they agreed upon was "Yes!" So we have the formula, "fully God and fully Man". Settled. Thanks. Move on. All these centuries later it's still not settled. Although it was abundantly clear from Scripture then and remains abundantly clear now, people -- even those who call themselves "Christians" -- argue the point. They will either contend that Jesus was a man who lived and died and rose again (or worse, did not rise again), a created being just like us, or that He was God who only appeared to be a man. What is not realized is the fatal blow that the Gospel is given from either of these positions.

Looking from the position of what was accomplished, it should be abundantly clear that "fully God and fully Man" is the only right possibility and anything else is the end of Christianity. What did Jesus do at the cross? He defeated death, conquered sin, applied righteousness to all who believe, provided new life, and established His kingdom. These are "God things". You cannot defeat death if you are not greater than death. Humans cannot conquer sin. No matter how generous a person might be, they don't have the capacity to apply righteousness from one to another. To offer new life, eternal life, you have to possess it to offer it. And only God, as Sovereign, establishes rulership, so only God can establish His eternal kingdom. See? Jesus had to be God. If He wasn't, death would still reign, sin would still rule, we would have no righteousness nor new life, and there would be no kingdom. Christianity would be terminated.

On the other hand, Jesus accomplished some other things necessary to us. He lived a sinless life, paid for our debt, faced judgment, and died on our behalf. Now, if God came to Earth, living a "sinless life" would be pointless because He could do no other. But we know that Jesus was "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). God cannot be tempted. Jesus was ... and remained sinless. Without that sinlessness (which required the potential to sin -- only a human possibility), He could not have paid for our sin debt, since He would have owed His own. Further, it took a human to pay a human debt. (Note, also, that in paying that debt He also had to be God. A single human could pay the debt of a single human, but it took a human who was God to pay the debt for all.) One thing that most don't realize is that Jesus had to face judgment. If He had been run over by a chariot or killed in a robbery, there would have been no judgment involved; just tragedy. It was the fact that He was judged guilty by His accusers that made His death efficacious. And then He died. One of my favorite hymns, And Can It Be?, actually has an error in it. The line is "Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" Reasonable question. He can't. Sorry. It was Jesus the man who died on that cross, not God. Without being a man, Jesus could not have gone to that cross for us, taken our curse, and died. Thus, if Jesus had not been an actual human being, He couldn't have provided a sinless life, paid for our debt, faced judgment, or died for us. Christianity, again, would be terminated.

There are some essential doctrines that make Christianity what it is. There are some that are not so essential. The Resurrection is an essential (1 Cor 15:17). The Divinity and Humanity of Christ is an essential. It is not a peripheral question. Without a "fully God and fully Man" Savior, we would have no hope.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's a Hard-Knock Life

Recently heard: "Why??!! Why is life so hard?! Why do we come to care about people who leave us? Why is it so hard to maintain relationships??!! Why can life be so hard??!!" Of course, the list was more specific, but the feeling is more generic. We all face it. Times get tough. Maybe it's a lost job or a lost loved one. Maybe it's failed efforts or physical problems. The list of difficulties in life is indeed long, and the question "Why?" isn't hard to imagine.

When someone is in that place, answering "Why" won't likely help. When a mother first learns that the father of her two young children was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, you don't smile and say, "Oh, it's a blessing from heaven!" Yeah, that's not very helpful at all. The situation calls for condolences and empathy, not wisecracks or even truthful observations about the value of trials. No, the time to learn that stuff is outside of trials. That truth ought to be laid down in our hearts every day that we're doing well because each of us is going to need it.

I saw a video a few months ago where a stunt pilot in an airshow suddenly had a wing fall off in flight. (Okay, his plane had a wing fall off.) While we're all watching for the horrifying crash, the guy gives the engine power, rolls to one side and through means unknown to me -- a non-pilot -- manages to land the craft safely on the runway. My son, who is a pilot, told me, "That guy had a lot of experience." You see, he flew so much and was already so attuned to the process that when calamity occurred, he didn't have to think; he just acted.

Why do bad things happen? There are lots of answers: Sin, poor choices, and so on. God, however, claims first place. He causes calamity. We know this. We call many such incidents "acts of God". The Bible repeatedly speaks of trials and suffering as good for Christians. They shape us. They hone us. They prune us. They purify us. They perfect us. The reason that the saying "There are no atheists in foxholes" exists is because human beings naturally run to God when times get tough. We know "No pain, no gain." Bad things -- unpleasant things -- happen for a variety of reasons, but the underlying, common reason is that God allows or even causes them for our benefit to improve and sanctify us. It is a good thing. God uses bad for good.

Now, that typically won't help people in the midst of trials to feel better. No, we need to be like that pilot with the faulty airplane. We need to so deeply ingrain that in our minds and hearts that when trials arise we can, instead of complain, say with Paul, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10).

Friday, February 20, 2009

How Bad Is it?

In his letter to the Romans, Paul sets out to explain the gospel. The first step in explaining the gospel -- the good news -- is to explain why it is good news. The problem, it seems, is this: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (Rom 1:18). So, from Romans 1:19 through mid-Romans 3, Paul is addressing the question, essentially, of "Okay ... so how bad is this?" You know ... "How angry is God?" Now, you can and should read through his discussion, but I want to look at his summation.
9 We have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom 3:9-18).
There is more to the summation, but this is drastic enough to make my point. Summing up how much wrath God must have based on our ungodliness and unrighteousness and suppression of truth, it would appear that the answer is "a whole lot!" Assuming that Paul is accurate in his account, it is easy to see that humans are in serious trouble both in our relationship with God and in what we can expect from God. That is, natural man has zero relationship with God and can expect nothing but wrath.

Yeah, yeah, that's all well and good, but in almost every case I have known, the first response to Paul's diatribe is ... denial. The first thing (and often long beyond the first thing) I typically hear from people on this text is something to the effect that we can't take Paul at his word. Oh, no, it's not that Paul was wrong. It's just that he didn't actually literally mean what he was saying. They'll say things like, "Oh, that's just hyperbole" or "He was just quoting from the Old Testament to make a point." Now, I understand the reason for the step back. While some might be denying Paul's words for personal reasons ("I'm not as bad as all that."), I think the primary reason is, well, experience says otherwise. Paul says "No one seeks for God." Now, haven't we all heard stories of people who went to great lengths in their search for God? Paul says, "No one does good, not even one." Come on, Paul! I can list lots of nice people who are not Christians. There are even well-behaved atheists. Paul seems to suggest that there is no good in anyone, but our experience suggests otherwise. It seems, instead, that there is likely good in everyone. And so we tend to back off of Paul's harsh terminology and suggest, considering experience, that he's not really intending to convey what the words actually convey.

This concept is found elsewhere as well. We can find passages in the Bible that seem to contradict other passages in the Bible. We can find some passages, for example, that seem to say that salvation is universal. On the other hand, there are very clear references to the unavoidable fact that not everyone will be saved. So what do we do? We try to correlate one with the other. We try to examine what is being said very carefully -- supposing we may have misunderstood -- and look to see if there isn't a rational explanation. And for the most part we find them. So ... see? It's not like we're assaulting the Bible. We're just making sense of it.

Here is the problem. Comparing God's Word to God's Word and expecting it to make sense is reasonable. God cannot contradict Himself. On the other hand, comparing God's Word to my experience isn't quite so reasonable. God can certainly contradict my experience. More to the point, we recall "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9) and realize that, of the two (God's Word and my experience), the most likely error is in my perception of my experience rather than in God's Word.

If I carry this thinking back to Romans 3, I end up someplace else entirely. There is nothing in the text that contradicts anything else in the Bible. There is nothing in the text that suggests that Paul is not intending to say exactly what he says. Therefore, I can only assume that Paul is speaking plainly about the human condition. Given that, how would I explain our experience? Well, if we understand that the purpose of all creation is to glorify God, that should be a pretty big hint. If the ultimate purpose for every human being (along with all creation) is to glorify God, we can easily see that, even if natural man does "good" things, they don't qualify as good because they are not intended to glorify God. Further, if we understand that, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Rom 8:7), it would seem obvious that, in the flesh, there is none who seeks for God.

Now we find ourselves, instead of trying to explain away Paul, in agreement with him. When we see people who appear "good", we would need to acknowledge that it is due to our own shortsightedness, our own skewed comprehension of "good". The standard is God and the goal is His glory and when we allow "good" to be anything less ... our experience is in error. Once again, "Let God be true though every man a liar" (Rom 3:4).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Regurgitated Arguments

Sometimes, in the course of dialogues, it's easy to see arguments that have been bequeathed, so to speak. These arguments do not actually belong to the arguer. He (or she) hasn't actually originated them. While that can be just fine, in the cases of which I'm speaking they haven't even thought them through. Sometimes these things are "long dead" arguments, put down a long time ago, but still kicking. Sometimes they're just so painfully, obviously wrong that they didn't deserve the bullet it would require to put it down. And don't get me wrong -- these types of arguments aren't limited to detractors of Christianity. They're everywhere.

Here's one I've seen too many times. "No one can seem to agree what the Bible means." Sure, sure, it's an understandable position. There are, after all, so many people with so many views and so many denominations and all. Well, obviously no one can agree on what the Bible means. On the other hand, that's a clear fabrication, a mishandling of the truth. If you were to pick up all the genuinely Christian people and put them in a room and ask them to write down a basic construct of what the Bible teaches, I bet you'd get vast consensus. I bet you'd find that they all agree that humans are sinners, that Christ, God Incarnate, came to Earth to live a sinless life and die in the place of sinful humans. They would all agree that He was born of a virgin, did many miracles during His time on Earth, and, after being crucified, literally rose again. They would all agree that the Church is the visible representation of Christ, that Christians are commissioned to spread the Gospel, that the Bible is the Word of God. Oh, you'd find huge agreement among genuine believers. Now, if you were to ask them about details -- non-essentials -- I'm sure you'd find a variety of viewpoints. But that's not what the argument states. The argument states that "No one can seem to agree what the Bible means." It may be true that no one can seem to agree 100% with everyone else about what the Bible means. That's not the same thing. That's not even close. And I'm sure it's true that genuine Christians can't agree with non-believers about what the Bible means, but no one should be surprised about that, right?

Some of the more disheartening ones try to sound erudite by going deeper. This one I've heard more than once: "Many people believe that Mary was a virgin, while just as many others state the specific word was mistranslated and it should have read 'a young woman'." Sigh. It is absolutely clear from this argument that the person didn't read the text involved. First, no one but the skeptic would suggest that the Mary of the New Testament who is listed as Jesus's mother is portrayed in the New Testament as anything but a virgin before the birth of Jesus. It is unavoidable. The text in question says:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy -- the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:26-37).
Now, it is true that the word translated "virgin" in verses 26-27 might be translated "young maiden". The term is used to refer to an unmarried woman, much like we used to use the terms "miss" to mean an unmarried woman and "missus" to mean a married woman. (Quick trivia: Did you know that the abbreviation "Mrs." for a married woman is actually for "Mistress"? Back in the day, the wife was the Mistress of the house. "Missus" is a contraction of "Mistress".) Of course, in that culture an unmarried woman was a virgin (or in deep trouble). But let's just concede that she could just be a "young maiden". Reading on, however, eliminates the question. When the angel tells her she will have a child, she is completely baffled. "How will this be?" Now, again, the actual translation of what it was that had her baffled is more at "I have not known a man", but there can be no doubt what was troubling her. She knew that she had not done what was necessary to have a baby. She knew that she was a virgin. If she was merely a "young maiden" who had been "fooling around", there wouldn't have been any reason to be confused. There would have been no question about "How can this be?" Could the text be translated "young maiden" rather than "virgin"? Sure, I suppose, but the text still makes it painfully, unavoidably clear that Mary was a virgin before Jesus was born. If she wasn't, the entire situation (including Joseph's reaction in Matthew) would have made no sense at all. Argue about terminology if you want, but no one can sincerely doubt that the text intends to say that Mary was a virgin, regardless of the words you use.

On a less biblical topic but just as near and dear to the Christian heart, I've seen this one so many times it hurts. "People who are pro-life seem to only be pro-life when it comes to unborn babies. Many of these same people are pro-war and pro-death penalty. They seem to value life only when it has yet to be lived and not while it is being lived." I personally have yet to meet a person who is "pro-war". I supposes they're out there ... but if they are, they're "out there" mentally. They're not "pro-life" by any means. But, for me to assume that's all that was meant isn't fair. No, look at the merits of the argument all by itself. First, it already assumes that the unborn are babies. The argument from this side always seems to be "So what?! Sure they're babies, but I prefer to consider the rights of the already-born mother than the unborn baby." In other words, they admit to not being pro-life, then complain because people who call themselves "pro-life" seem to fail to meet their criteria. But ... if you're already willing to kill babies, why would you not be willing to allow for war or the death penalty? I don't get it. It's okay to kill innocents, but to use force to stop aggression or to terminate a life of capital crime is bad. Who is mixed up? The argument doesn't make sense. Oh, and there is an answer to "Why do some who are pro-life allow for war" (they're not "pro-war) "and the death penalty?" In the cases of both unjust national aggression and capital crimes, innocent lives are being lost. (See the term "lives" there?) The idea is that in some cases war is necessary to stop unjust national aggression or capital crimes for the purpose of preventing further loss of life. It is, then, pro-life. And it is fundamentally different to protect the innocent as opposed to stopping the guilty.

When Christians run up that old, "NASA has a computer that proves Joshua's missing day", I want to cringe. Please, folks, throw that one away. It just hurts too bad to hear it. It makes no sense. And do you really need a NASA computer to prove it to you? And when skeptics throw out the same nonsense views, whether "erudite" or shallow, it just makes me sigh. We've been here before. Can't we put that tired, old thing to rest? It really isn't doing any good dragging it out of its grave and trotting it around as if it's actually real. Here's all I'm asking. Look at the things you say. Suspect that they might be old, outdated, perhaps even dead. Don't just assume that because you've heard it or it agrees with you that it's actually reasonable. Do some of your own thinking too, okay? Or, to put it in terms for Christians to use, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). You see? It's not just my recommendation. It's God's command, too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Economic Stimulus

You see, this is why they don't put me in charge of the Treasury or some other financial giant. I obviously don't know how economics work.

It seems fairly simple to me. In a "free market" individuals and companies are going to have a product that they can sell to people who need their product (whether it is a service or an actual product). This product is priced in such a way that it brings income to the individual or company. And we have an economy.

In this simplified economy, there are, of course, variables. You may have something people need (or want), but they don't know it. You have to let it be known (advertising). You may have something people don't need (or want). You have to sell them on the idea (sales). You may have something people want or need, but there is competition. You are going to have to compete. You may need to produce a better product or a less expensive product.

Of course, this all gets more complicated as things interweave. You may make a product used in another product. There are safety issues and government approval and things like that. There are tariffs and taxes and other modifications externally imposed to affect business. Still, in my simple view, in a "free market" individuals and companies are going to have a product that they can sell. This produces income. And we have an economy.

The reason I say that I'm obviously wrong in my simple-minded view is that the "economic stimulus" plan I've seen doesn't seem to address any of this. There is a goal of making jobs, but these are government jobs that are designed largely to fix infrastructure. And we need infrastructure. Don't get me wrong. But maintaining infrastructure, although it is good, is not creating a product to sell. While it will give income to those who are given jobs, it won't produce income to our economy. Very little of this "economic stimulus" package is aimed at stimulating the economy. It might improve infrastructure. It might create jobs. But it won't change the economy.

Here's what it looks like to me. If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. If you teach him to fish, he'll eat for life. Or, in terms of economic stimulus, you can create jobs, or you can stimulate the economy (which will create jobs). The current package seems to me to be giving the country a fish. Out-of-work Americans will find jobs available that weren't before and they can eat ... for a day. But ... wouldn't it be better if there was a plan to increase production? That would be a lot more like teaching the man to fish. Take this whole Big 3 automaker thing going on. They need money to continue. So we're going to give them billions of our dollars. Is the reason they are struggling that they don't have enough money? Or is it that they don't have a product? Is it possible that they're in trouble because their competition is making better, cheaper products than they are? And if that's so, isn't this spending simply giving them a fish?

Oh, it's all so complicated. The economy looks so simple to me. Encourage production and you encourage economic growth. But, hey, what do I know? Obviously this is something the President knows. Of course, Wall Street isn't impressed, but, hey, who says they know economics?! Nah! Stop being such a naysayer! Surely the answer to all problems is simply to throw money at it, isn't it? Yeah, that's the ticket!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


To the believer there are certain things in life that are just "God things". They may look like "extraordinary coincidence" to others, but in them we can clearly see the hand of God.

One time (I won't give details) I was hounding God, "How could you let this happen?" when I suddenly came across something I had written. I had asked God the same question then and had listed all the events that led up to that point that proved I was in the right place. Coincidence? No. Answer.

I'll give details on a more recent one. When I was serving in the Air Force I started to wonder if I should stay in. Benefits were being threatened and they were planning on putting new limits on retirement. I got a call from a friend who offered me a job in California. I still had two years on that enlistment and told him I couldn't do it. Besides, I couldn't afford to fly from New York to California for the interview. So, they sent the vice president of the company to interview me in New York. They offered me the job for $12,000/year more than what I hoped for. Still, I couldn't get out. Then the President announced a massive force reduction. Anyone who wanted out could go. So I applied. My boss told me, "No, we're building up here and we can't lose you. We need three more like you." Fine. No problem. Still, the Air Force gave me an honorable discharge and we headed for California.

When we arrived in California the company that had offered me the job told me, "We're sorry, but we can't hire you. we're laying people off." So there I was, out of the Air Force and no job. I got the newspaper and started searching. There was an ad for a company in Anaheim that sounded interesting. They interviewed me and we liked each other. "How did you find us?" they asked. I told them it was an ad in the paper. "We didn't put an ad in the paper." Interesting.

Now, I had a wife and two kids at the time, and my military insurance was due to expire. They told me that I wouldn't have benefits for 90 days. Well, okay. But on the day they hired me (for $15,000/year more than I anticipated) they waived the probation period. As it turned out my health insurance with the new company went into effect on the day my military insurance expired.

You may choose to see extraordinary coincidence. Me? I saw the hand of God, moving me from the Air Force and New York to a new company in California. I stayed at that company through hard times and massive layoffs, getting promotions, new tasks and assignments, and acquiring new skills, until my wife and I moved to Arizona. That experience gave me the skills to do the job I have now. I don't call it coincidence because it seemed to have intelligence behind it. It was direction. It was the hand of God. This kind of stuff may not happen a lot. It doesn't for me, at least. Still, it's nice, every so often, to see that happen. It's nice to have some concrete reminders from time to time that God really does love me.

Monday, February 16, 2009


The concept of the sovereignty of God can be a difficult one, even for believers who affirm it. The Bible holds that God alone is sovereign. Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ is "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15). Jesus claimed, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt 28:18). Beyond that we know that God is omnipotent. In Rev 19:6 we are treated to the well-known chorus, "Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." Now, we think of "omnipotent" as meaning something like "able to do whatever He wants", but the real concept is "possessing all power". Do you have the power to do something (you know, like breathe or get up in the morning or make decisions at work or ...)? The reason you have that power is because it is on loan from God. And this omnipotence insures His sovereignty. ("The Lord God omnipotent reigneth," where "omnipotent" assures "reign".)

Sovereignty says that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). That is, everything that occurs happens because He either directly or indirectly causes (or allows) it to happen. Remember 9/11? The doctrine of God's sovereignty would say that when those Islamic militants ran aircraft into those buildings, it was God's intention that it happen. "Oh, no, no, no!" you might protest (perhaps even angrily). "That was a product of man's sin, not God's will." Well, okay, now think that through. If a group of extremists managed to pull off something that God never would have allowed and never intended, then there are ramifications. First, that whole "only Sovereign" thing isn't quite accurate. Second, God's promise to work all things together for good (Rom 8:28) is in serious jeopardy. Finally, Jesus wasn't quite accurate when He said that all authority was given to Him, was He? There are, apparently, those who can countermand His authority. No, if we are going to assign some things to others and not to God's divine authority, then we are going to negate God's sovereignty. If you want to remain consistent with Scripture, you need to affirm that God works all things after the counsel of His will ... even if it is something evil done by sinful people.

The interesting thing to me is that we seem to have this worked unconsciously into our language. Take, for instance, the very common phrase "act of God". When an event occurs that seems to have no human cause, we refer to it as an "act of God". Things like the devastation of a hurricane, a bird-strike on an airplane that brings it down, and some other such thing are recognized as "acts of God". We may deny it vehemently, but it's still in the language.

Or how about the term "design"? The notion is hotly contested in the Evolution vs Creation debate -- "Intelligent Design". Still, try watching a nature video on TV (premised solely on Evolution) and you'll find that it's almost impossible for them to avoid the term "design". Since random events cannot "design", it would seem that it must have been a Sovereign who did it.

One that occurred to me recently was interesting. Often you'll find a kid who has an unusual skill at math or sports or some other endeavor. We want to encourage them. We set up special classes or courses or even schools for them. And we have a standard term for them. You've probably already thought of it. We call them "gifted". What does that mean? A "gift" is not something you earn or merit. It's something given to you. "Gifted" people, then, we recognize inherently as having received (from whom?) a special gift that they didn't provide for themselves and obviously none of us provided for them. It is a gift from his or her Maker. Or, to put it another way, it is a gift from the Sovereign God.

God's Sovereignty (capital "S" intended) can be a real tough thing to work through. It takes some thought, some reading, some reasoning, and, yes, some faith. But, as I said before, if you are going to be consistent with Scripture and logic, it is unavoidable. Even our language has it worked into it. It's something we know intrinsically. I suspect it is our rebellious nature that prevents it from being an obvious certainty to many.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Common Grace

He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45).
Jesus was speaking here about loving our enemies, actually. Part of the rationale that He uses to encourage us to pray for those who persecute is is this line of reasoning. God gives good things to both evil and good people.

Something that is really easy to lose sight of, at least for me, is the basic premise. The idea glares from the sentence, actually. It doesn't merely say, "He makes the sun to rise ..." No, there is an ownership quality. "He makes HIS sun to rise ..." The statement generally makes us think, "Yeah, those evil and unjust folks ought to be glad they have sun and rain." The idea is every one of us ought to be glad we have the sun and rain. They don't belong to us. They're not a given. We are not owed them. We haven't earned them. And they don't "just happen".

In Acts 14, Paul and his group ran into a crowd of idolaters who, amazed by a miraculous healing of a crippled man, started to worship at their feet. Paul called them off. "In past generations [God] allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet He did not leave Himself without witness, for He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:16-17). God did not leave Himself without a witness. What witness? Did it rain this year? Was there a harvest? Did you get to eat today? Proof that God is God. The concept here is that rain and fruitful harvest and food and even gladness are gifts from God ... and they are given to believer and unbeliever alike.

Are you happy today? Thank God because it's a gift from Him. Did you get to eat today? Thank God because it's a gift from Him. Did you take another breath? Thank God because it's a gift from Him. In fact, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. That includes your family, your job, your health, your life.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Question of Octuplets

You know, this whole Mother of Octuplets thing is a bit confusing for me. The majority of opinions, it seems, is "Bad! Bad woman! Bad!" She's "irresponsible" and "selfish", "emotionally unstable", and a bad mom. She's obsessed with kids and not considering the cost. She's bad. Even Christians are saying she's bad because she's single and having children out of wedlock. Bad! She's so bad that she's even getting death threats. This 33-year-old woman, most people agree, is foolish at best and more likely evil.

I'm not convinced. The woman, Nadya Suleman, apparently considers herself a Christian. She is connected somehow to Calvary Chapel Golden Springs in Diamond Bar, California. And her reason for having these babies is simple. There were fertilized embryos (read " unborn babies") that she had brought about and she needed to see them through. She didn't believe in simply tossing them out. She believed that they would likely be mostly unviable, but she didn't believe that they should simply be terminated. They were life. In fact, before she started having children at all, while everyone else was out buying big screen TVs and living it up, she was working double shifts at the hospital and saving her money to have and care for her children.

Oh, there is an uproar now. Some of the things we're hearing are actually quite chilling. In a story from Mercury News, we read things like this:
On the Internet, bloggers rained insults on Suleman, calling her an "idiot," criticizing her decision to have more children when she couldn't afford the ones she had, and suggesting she be sterilized.


"It's my opinion that a woman's right to reproduce should be limited to a number which the parents can pay for," Charles Murray wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Daily News.


"You're [****] right the state should step in and seize the kids and adopt them out."


"There are 14 babies out there that for the next 20 years are probably going to need assistance from the taxpayers. There should be something in place so that this doesn't happen again," [State Sen. Sam] Aanestad said.
Maybe you're fine with that. Maybe you agree that the government should have the right to sterilize women who have had "too many" babies. Maybe you think the government should limit family sizes. Maybe you think that the government should seize the kids and give them away. Those ideas are, in my view, frightening.

It appears that the primary response of "irresponsible" and "I'm not paying for that!" is based on the notion that family sizes ought to be small and it is "irresponsible" to have a family larger than you planned to have. I wonder if Christians are aware that this is a lie, not aligned with Scripture. The Bible loves large families, and nowhere does it say, "Don't have more than you can afford." That's a "today's society" issue, not a biblical one. I think that Nadya Suleman is throwing today's "I won't have kids until I'm ready ... and maybe not then" viewpoint in their face.

Now, I do need to be clear. I am seriously disappointed by her "Why do I need a daddy for my kids?" attitude. I cannot even fathom how that works in a Christian mindset. There isn't the slightest doubt that the Bible favors father/mother/child structures for families. If a father is not available (say, he dies), then the father is replaced either with a brother of the original or the father of the mother, but father/mother/child families are what are designed. To have something "happen to you" is one thing. To intentionally set out to violate God's design is another. I understand, in fact, that the "sperm donor" for those embryos was her boyfriend who wanted to marry her, but she refused. Bad call. And she obviously doesn't care as much about how she is going to take care of her children as much as she cares about simply having them. And that whole in vitro method of having children is still a moral question mark for me.

Still, at this point I'm not entirely sure that I like the response from society better than I like what Nadya chose to do. I'm not saying it was absolutely right -- I do see problems -- but I do see a lot for which to commend her and I do see some serious problems with her detractors.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Catching Wild Pigs

It is my suspicion that a lot of you have already read this. I'm sure it has circulated by email before it got to me. Nonetheless, I also suspect that it's timely ... a good time to review:
1. You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn.

2. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again.

3. Put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again.

4. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again.

5. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.
A lot of people could come up with a lot of political commentary here, and they are certainly welcome to do so. I'm thinking that a trillion dollar stimulus package will buy a lot of corn and fencing ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The God Who Is

I've heard it before from various places. "If that's what God is like, I don't want anything to do with Him." I find the idea ... befuddling. Are you sure you want to impose on God standards to which you think He should conform? Why not just let God be God? Why not just let Him be whatever He tells us He is? Instead, we tend to misinterpret the nature of God and then run into problems.

One of the common errors we make is assigning our own terminology to God. You know how that goes. "God is love." Oh, okay, well ... "love" means to feel affection toward or to make much of someone, so God feels warmly toward everyone and wants to make much of them. Umm, okay ... but that's not the sense of the phrase. And that's not what we find in the Bible. And when we read, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated", we run into all sorts of problems because we failed to really understand what was originally intended in the phrase, "God is love." That is applying our own terminology to God. Or, "God is good." Okay, well, "good" is when you're nice to people and never do unpleasant things to them. Therefore, obviously, God is nice to people and never does unpleasant things ... You get the idea. If you limit your understanding of a "good God" to "pleasant", then you'll be completely stuck when He claims "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things" (Isa 45:7). While God is indeed "love" and "good", that doesn't mean that we've properly understood what is meant by those terms.

Another extremely common mistake we make is assuming that God is like us. You know ... we are made in His image, so He must be just like us. We can be capricious; so can He. We make mistakes; so does He. We must not be self-centered and neither should He. This error, in fact, is a biblical one. "You thought that I was one like yourself" (Psa 50:21). (If you want a chill, flip over to that passage and get the whole message, especially from verse 16 to 22.) We think that God is like us, and if He is not, there's something wrong ... with Him.

God has revealed Himself to us. He does so in nature. He does so in the written word. We would be foolish to try to apply our own standards and false understanding to His character. We would be far better off letting God be God and going from there. Whatever He is like, we would be wise to let Him be and reform our thinking to align with Him.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Error of Husbands - Part 2

I suggested yesterday that husbands have a tendency to make one of two errors. One error is to be overbearing and the other is to be underbearing. This time I want to address the error that is most near and dear to my heart -- the underbearing husband.

Many men tend toward the overbearing. They tend to the command and control side. There is another segment of male who is equally well known. There are unflattering terms for this side, but the concept isn't as bad as people tend to think. These men are "peacekeepers". They want to avoid conflict. They want to keep everyone happy. Don't push and you won't get pushed back.

Ah! See? There, now it starts to come to the surface. This kind of guy is just trying to get along. "I love my wife. I don't want to cause conflicts with her." It sounds so nice. "I just want to make my wife happy." That's it. See? So loving. "Besides, as long as I don't make her angry, she won't take it out on me." Ah, there it is! The truth. Too often the guy that holds up the "peacekeeper" sign is more likely the "self-protection" guy. That, my friends, is not loving your wife.

It can be a lot easier to be the "go along to get along" type. But "easier" is not always "better". And, in the end, this kind of "underbearing" husband is likely worse than the overbearing one. You see, he presents an air of "caring", an image of "loving". He isn't that unkind, self-centered type. No, he's much more considerate. He treats his wife with respect. That's good, right?

Husbands have a God-given role. They are to be "head of household". As such, they are given the authority and responsibility for the family. Husbands have clear commands to love their wives. They are mandated to "sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:26). They are commanded to nourish and cherish her (Eph 5:29). They are to understand their wives and grant them honor as joint heirs (1 Peter 3:7). They are to provide for their wives (I Tim 5:8). (So harsh is this command that Paul says, "If anyone does not provide for his family, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.") They determine the training and discipline of their children. There is a lot there. One thing you will find nowhere is "Husbands are to protect themselves from being threatened or hurt by their wives." Hmm, that's odd.

We who tend to be more easy-going think we are doing a good thing ... for ourselves and for our wives. We are doing no such thing. It isn't love or respect. It isn't sanctification. It isn't nourishing. It isn't understanding or honoring. It is certainly not providing for her needs. No, it is self-deception. I'm not talking here about those husbands who give up personal preferences in favor of what their wives might want. I'm talking about those who compromise principle. I'm not talking about the husband who takes into account his wife's input on a particular topic. I'm talking about the one who will not violate her input. She determines if or where they go to church. She determines who their friends will or won't be. She determines what he does for work and where they live. She may have demanded those rights or he may have simply given them. I'm talking about the husband who "goes along to get along" without regard to clear biblical principles, the commands of God, or the responsibility that God has laid on the husband.

Husbands like this are, simply put, lying to themselves. They see themselves as superior to those brutish overbearing types, all the while shortchanging their own wives with their lack of obedience to God's command to be husbands. God set up a structure for families. Christ is the head. Husbands are to follow His lead. Husbands are set as head of the wife. They have responsibility to love her, to provide for her, to sanctify her with the Word. They are to protect, nourish, cherish, and understand her. Husbands have a clear and definite role to play, and avoiding it doesn't eliminate it. In the absence of their operation in that role, the void will be filled by something other than what God intended.

It leaves no room for bullies, but neither does it leave room for doormats. Husbands who wish to follow Christ -- who call themselves "Christian" -- need to avoid both extremes. If your tendency is to dominate, learn to understand and honor, nourish and cherish. If your tendency is to avoid the role of leader that God has commanded, step into that role or suffer the consequences of your failure. Trust me, enduring her disappointment or anger is much easier than facing God. And we already know that one answer won't work: "It's that woman you gave me, Lord."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Error of Husbands - Part 1

In my observation, husbands have a tendency to make one of two errors. There are, of course, shades of error, gradations from one extreme to the other, but the errors are mostly one or the other. One error is to be overbearing and the other is to be underbearing. (Yes, I made that word up. I'm pretty sure that most of my readers will still get the gist of the word.) In this post and the next I want to address these two errors in the hopes that husbands interested in being good husbands who glorify God in their role as husbands will be aware of these possible tendencies in themselves and seek to avoid them.

The first error of being overbearing is an obvious one. It's ... typical. You know, "I'm the man of this house and you'll all obey me!" It's inherent in "A man's home is his castle." In so many husbands, it's almost built in. Men tend to be dominant by nature. They want control. And because it seems almost part of nature, it's too often viewed as "normal", "acceptable", the way it should be. You'll even find husbands in Christian circles defending the position.

"I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Cor 11:3). There you have it. Man is the head of woman. Women are to submit. End of story. We get to determine what they wear, who they talk to, where they go, what they do. After all, doesn't it say, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22)? Can't get much clearer than that!

Yes, it can.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are joint heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
Try to fit "live with your wives in an understanding way" with "My wife must bow to me as lord." Try to correlate "showing honor to the woman" with a strident "I'm the master!" Even more difficult, try to correlate the "likewise" with the overbearing husband. To what was the "likewise" referring? Well, wives are commanded earlier to show respect and purity of conduct (1 Peter 3:2). Maybe husbands ought to do the same. But it's interesting to note that the commands to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6 begin with the same term as the command to husbands in verse 7 -- "likewise". I would argue that the "likewise" for both precedes both. What are we to be like? 1 Peter 2 explains how we should all operate in the world. "Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" (2:1). "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable" (2:12). "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (2:13). And so on. Peter offers an underlying reason why -- the example of Christ (1 Peter 2:19-25), who endured sorrows while suffering unjustly. "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you" (1 Peter 2:21).

Likewise, then, wives, submit to ungodly husbands. Likewise, then, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. The call of Christ is not to indulge our natures, but to change them. It will entail difficulty, even suffering. It will not be "pleasant" in the standard sense of the word. But it is commanded.

If you are one of these "standard" husbands, I would urge you to repent. You may have mastered the "head of household" concept, but you defy the command to be understanding and honoring. You cannot defy God's commands and call it "godly". Consider this. God ordained that pastors and elders should shepherd His people. In that structure, the command is this: They must not be domineering, but must lead by example (1 Peter 5:3). Husbands, I plead with you to lead by example rather than by force, to lead with love, to live with your wives in an understanding way, showing them honor. "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them" (Col 3:19). The cost of failure is too high.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Business and Justice

It seems to me that this country is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to economics. On one hand we all know that the enemy is big business. It's those evil corporations that are sapping the life out of us, stealing money for themselves instead of sharing it with us.

Now we find that corporations are having massive layoffs. Macy's is laying off 7,000. We gasp at those kinds of numbers. Understand, however, that they couldn't lay off 7,000 if they didn't have 7,000. On the other hand, that number represents 4% of its workforce. That is, Macy's, before the layoffs, maintained jobs for 175,000 people. After the layoffs, they will employ some 168,000 people. Morgan Stanley plans to drop 1,800 positions, some 5% of their 47,000. AOL, Starbucks, Target, all these evil corporations are laying people off. Why? Well, they're losing money and have to avoid going out of business.

Now, given the standard American hatred for evil big corporations, you might think that America would be rejoicing. Finally those dirty, rotten companies are getting theirs! They're feeling the pinch! They're paying the price! It's about time! But it doesn't seem like America is responding this way to what should have been good news. Instead, Consumer Confidence is near record lows in most places and dropping in others. How odd! You'd think that we'd be delighted with the fall of the giants, but instead we're losing confidence.

I am, of course, being sarcastic. Perhaps we can begin to see a factor that no one seemed to want to address before. Yes, sure, they make large profits and have power, but they are also the primary employers of the majority of American workers. Maybe, just maybe, this could serve as a reminder that "big business" doesn't necessarily mean "evil". Or, to put it in other terms, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

World's Worst Prophet

You remember the story of Jonah. If I had to rate biblical prophets, I'd have to put Jonah as the worst ever. You recall the story. God told him, "Go to Ninevah with My message to repent." He said, "I'm on it, Lord" and jumped a freighter to someplace else. That didn't work out too well, as we all know. Fortunately, God provided "alternate transportation". Left with the choice of being either food or a prophet, Jonah got off the beach and preached the message to Ninevah. Lo and behold, they repented! And Jonah was mad. You see, at no point does it appear that Jonah had the slightest care for either what God wanted or the best interest of the Ninevites. No, Jonah was always looking out for Jonah.

I like Jonah. I like him not because I wish to emulate him. I like him because he's such a successful failure. He fought with God and lost. He didn't preach the message right. He was angry when it worked. And still God used this loser of a prophet to bring about the repentance of the Ninevites.

I like Jonah because it gives me hope. When I worry that I'm not doing it right, I can think of Jonah. When I wonder if I have the right words or the right attitude, I can think of Jonah. When I wonder if there is any hope for the people I care about, I can think of Jonah. Jonah serves as a reminder to me that God will use whom God will use in the way God wishes to use him or her. He will accomplish His ends regardless of my ability or even desire. I cannot mess up His plan.

Jonah reminds me of that. Thanks, Jonah.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Genesis Debate

I'm riding the train to work these days, so there is lots of reading time. I just finished an interesting book called The Genesis Debate. The book is an actual debate. It presents three views on the days of creation, allows the opposing views to respond to each view, and then has a response to the opposition. Interesting stuff. There are, of course, more than three views on the days of creation. The "rules" of this debate, however, eliminate most of them. First and foremost, all views presented in this debate had to agree to the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. The view "It's just a myth" was eliminated at the outset. All the views agreed with the fact of creation (that is, none favored theistic evolution). And the question at hand was very narrow: What does the Bible mean in Genesis 1-2 when it speaks of "day". The three views, then, are the 24-hour position, the "day-age" theory, and the framework view. The question, then, was not "Did God actually create the world and all that is in it?" The question was purely on the topic of "day". Ligon Duncan and David Hall defended the 24-hour view. Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer held out for the Day-Age view. Lee Irons and Meredith Kline explained the Framework view.

I'm not writing to say which is right. I've read the book, seen the arguments, and concluded ... that I have no conclusion. I think I have to reject the Framework View. In this view the primary approach about the days of Creation is "They aren't days at all." That's not entirely fair, I know. This view says that the "day" structure of Genesis 1 is a literary tool to frame certain events. They aren't actual days or even ages. They're just structures. They don't even occur in sequence. They're kind of ... parallel. I found the exegetical evidence weak and the ramifications frightening and the value low, so I'm not too high on that one. The 24-hour and day-age views were more compelling. I knew the 24-hour view at the outset. I thought I knew the day-age view as well, but I wasn't quite accurate in my understanding. In this view, the "days" of Creation are actually unknown periods of time in which God goes about creating. No, not through evolution. It's more like ... making lasagna (my analogy). God prepared certain components here, laid down other components there, stirred up certain mixtures over here, created and then eliminated certain creatures there to replace them with others. His goal was to create a habitat for His ultimate creation, Man -- you know, kind of like a good lasagna. (Okay, maybe not a good analogy.)

Now, to be honest, the 24-hour view is the most obvious. "It says 'day' so it means 'day'." Even more, "These days are numbered and bounded by 'morning and evening'." There is also the consideration of other factors, like the sense in Exodus 20:8-11 where the Sabbath is commanded based on an apparent 24-hour view of the Creation days or the fact that the bulk of Church history weighs most heavily on the 24-hour view. These are all compelling considerations. In fact, I would say that the primary reason for the day-age view at all is the conflict of the Creation story with science. Science is quite certain that the universe and the Earth are much older than 10,000 or even 100,000 years old, and no amount of twisting on the 24-hour view will get much more than that out of it despite Duncan and Hall's best efforts to disconnect the argument from the age-of-the-Earth discussion. The day-age view, then, gives a better connection to scientific evidence. According to Ross and Archer, in fact, there isn't any contradiction at all with current scientific data, and that data continues to add to that position rather than detract from it.

Okay, fine. I won't give the primary arguments for these views. Read the book. They do a decent job. I was a bit disappointed with the debate. I know that it is really difficult to separate argument/idea from arguer/person with idea. It's difficult for humans to split between intellect and emotion. Press someone on their favorite point and you'll likely not get a reasoned response; you'll get an emotional one. From my perspective, despite the intentions of this book, there were too many emotional responses from all sides, resulting in debaters talking past each other and not addressing real issues. Still, they all did a fair job. Nor will I offer my final conclusions because, as I said, I have no conclusion. What I will do is offer the questions that arose when I read it that no one seemed to answer. These questions were for all sides.

First, given that all sides reject macroevolution and all sides accept the Bible as God's Word, where did all the animals come from? There are about 1.3 million known specied of animals on Earth. We can be pretty sure that Noah didn't take 1.3 million pairs with him on the ark. Since macroevolution doesn't occur, where did they come from? The 24-hour view doesn't answer it. Neither does the day-age view. Hugh Ross argues that the Flood wasn't actually a worldwide flood, but a localized one in which God, who could have simply told Noah to move (It took Noah something like 100 years to build that ark. He could have traveled out of the flood zone in that time.), instead had Noah build a boat and store animals on it who were elsewhere as well, so there was no particular reason for the ark-and-animal approach. It's a weak argument in my view. So no one has an answer for me on that one.

To the 24-hour view (which has always been a favorite of mine because it is so obvious), how do you deal with the age of the universe? Yeah, yeah, there are all the questions about the accuracy of carbon dating and all, but the age of the universe is determined by the speed of light. Figure it this way. In 1987, a star went supernova. To be more accurate, observers on Earth saw a star go supernova. The star itself was some 168,000 light years away, so the star actually went supernova 168,000 years before. So here's the problem. If the universe is actually between 10,000 and 100,000 years old, then this event never actually happened. Apparently God put an event that never occurred into the light stream as if it had occurred, but it didn't actually occur because it didn't exist that far back. This is a problem. Saying that Adam appeared as an adult when he was created is not "misleading". To say that rocks, when they were created, appeared to be old is not "misleading". It is apparent age. I don't have a problem with that. But putting an event in the record that never actually happened -- that would appear to be misleading. So ... what's up with that?

Something that none of the views addressed is a puzzle I happened across in Genesis 2. Everyone agrees (everyone who agrees that the Bible is the Word of God) that the accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 are parallel accounts. That is, Genesis 1:1-2:4 is the "overview" account of Creation and Genesis 2:5-25 is a specific account of the creation of Man. (There are skeptics who argue that the accounts contradict simply because there are two. Leave it alone.) What I found puzzling was the statement of Gen 2:5.
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
This account appears to be about Day Six alone -- the creation of Man. Apparently on Day Six plants existed; they hust hadn't sprouted yet. But in the Genesis 1 account, that occurred on the third day. This presents a problem for the day-age theory. This would mean that plants didn't grow (to support life) over 3 eras. The animals of Day Five would have had nothing to eat. It also presents a problem to the 24-hour view since the standard view is that God spoke plants into existence on Day Three and they were there in full bloom, so to speak, at that moment. Of course, maybe I'm the one with the problem. Maybe Genesis 2:5ff is not just about Day Six. Who knows?

One question I wished I could have asked that no one addressed was to the day-age folks. No one in the history of the Church has ever suggested that the Creation account could have lasted for millions, nay, billions of years. Ross and Archer suggest (and Duncan and Hall deny) that there were those in Church history who thought perhaps the days of creation were up to a thousand years each, but no one ever suggested anything approximating billions. My question, then, is this. If Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His people into all truth ... what took Him so long? You see, I am extremely skeptical of new views. I guess I just hold a higher view of the efficiency of the Holy Spirit than that. Why did He wait nearly 2 millennia (longer if you start with Moses) to finally get across the truth He intended to get across at the beginning? Because, you see, it begs the question -- what other "new truth" is out there undiscovered awaiting science or some other new thing to edge us away from the millennia of false understanding to the right one? That makes me uneasy.

I found things in both the 24-hour view and day-age view to commend them. I did appreciate that no one was arguing for science over the Word or suggesting fantasy/myth over literal truth. The debate was not "Is this literally true?" but "What exactly was meant by the words they used?" It was not over orthodoxy but interpretation. And it gave me much to think about. I have to admit that Ross's argument did have much to commend it -- more than I had anticipated. Still ... I have no conclusion.

Friday, February 06, 2009


I've been accused in the past of having a negative view of human beings. Okay, to be completely fair, it is Christianity that bears the accusation. And it's not necessarily a false accusation. Biblically, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Deny that and you deny everything. The reason I have been accused is because I do spend time on my blog trying to explain where people might be thinking wrong or doing things wrong. Now, I don't know that I do it more than others, but it is true that I spend time trying to point people (I include myself in the category of "people") in the right direction, and the presupposition is that I would assume that some might be going in the wrong direction.

Why would I do that? Why would I spend so much time on that general effort? The reason is simple. It is my deep conviction that the normal human perspective of self is "I'm just not that bad." Now, one of the reasons for my "deep conviction" is, of course, the biblical record. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). Apparently, then, it's not merely my opinion. It's also not the only reason I think it's true that we lie to ourselves about how good we are.

Take, for instance, your typical sudden-loss-of-life scenario. The poor man was gunned down in his prime. Sure, he was a gangbanger. Sure, he had 8 kills under his belt. Sure, he beat his wife and his kids ... when he saw them. But now that he's dead, "Oh, he was such a good father and husband! We're going to miss him!" They're not telling themselves the truth. No, I wouldn't expect the truth to be "Good riddance!" But neither was he a good father and husband.

The problem, of course, is our yardstick. Here, think of it this way. If I beat my wife once a week and I know a guy that beats his wife three times a week, well, then, I'm not so bad, am I? I only take supplies from work. I know people who take equipment. See? I'm not a bad guy. Seriously, look at the numbers of people in prison, the serial killers, the child molesters, drug pushers ... can anyone really doubt that I'm a much better person that all that? I should say not! Given the proper collection of horrible people, I should be pretty close to sainthood!

The yardstick, though, isn't the other guy. It isn't our society. It isn't "the norm." The only accurate measuring stick is the perfection of our Maker. One false step is an infinite distance from the absolute excellence of God. And no one among us can claim only one false step.

It is, then, only as we look at God Himself that we can get a clear image of ourselves. This is why it is that every time someone in the Bible comes into contact with God they fall down in terror. Isaiah was undone. Peter begged Jesus to depart from him. Most come away surprised that they survived the encounter. We like to assure ourselves of our own value and our own goodness, but come face to face with God and that all changes.

Are you doing okay? Are you pretty confident you're not such a bad person? Perhaps you need a fresh look at the actual standard. Or, more to the point, perhaps it has been too long since you last encountered God.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Mark the day -- January 29, 2009. According to my records, on that day I posted my 1000th blog entry. I actually find that astounding. One thousand entries! And very, very few repeats.

I asked myself where it came from. I'm not actually much of a talker in person. Oh, I engage people in conversation, but I usually ask questions and let them answer because, well, people like to talk -- especially about themselves. A few years ago I took a business trip from California to Atlanta to Virginia and back again. On the trip out I met a nice young lady who was studying to become a detective in the LAPD. She had a brother in the military who was getting married and she was going back for his wedding. She wasn't married but had a boyfriend who might be serious. On the return trip I talked with a fellow who told me about every job he had ever had, how much he enjoyed living in Virginia, and why his last three marriages failed. Then there was the young lady feverishly trying to get back to California from South Africa where she had been teaching, studying, and working ... and all the interesting information that went along with that. Me? Well, they didn't learn a whole lot about me at all. I doubt that any one of them would remember a thing about me. I just like finding out about people and they like letting me.

As a result, there aren't too many outlets for me. A friend and I used to take breaks at work and discuss all manner of things from personal to peripheral. He stayed in California, of course, and I live in Arizona, so those discussions are at a minimum. A guy with whom I went to church -- an engineer -- once asked me, "How do you find time to think about all those things?" I was confused by the question because I'm always thinking about all those things.

All this in reflection of my 1000th blog entry. You see, I'm just putting down in "hard copy" so to speak the things I think about all the time. I read something and it made me think. I saw a verse and it got me to wondering. I talked to someone and considered the conversation afterward. But who is going to hear all this? How am I going to express it? Well, welcome to my blog. It is my heartfelt hope that some of the things I think about might be of some benefit to you, the reader. If not ... I will still continue to think about it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Where Your Treasure Is

In her excellent book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey presents an approach to life from a Christian worldview. (Remember, a "worldview" is that framework by which you interpret all of life.) In her premise she argues that your worldview is determined by your god. If your god is God, then your worldview will start with Him. If your god is something else, that will determine your framework. A popular god, for instance, is naturalism, the affirmation that all things occur by purely natural means. That becomes a starting point by which all of life is evaluated.

Now, it's possible that you (like me) might want to disagree with Pearcey's initial premise that your god determines your worldview. I had to examine that notion. As it turns out, she didn't originate it. This one comes from Christ: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:21). "No, no," you protest, "that's not the same thing." I disagree. Furthermore, when you consider the ramifications of the statement, it becomes quite expansive.

Jesus said that your heart would be there -- where your treasure was. There are many ways to reword it that expand on the idea. "You will only put your heart into that which you treasure." "You can determine what you treasure by where your heart is." "If you want to change your heart's direction, change what you treasure." "If your heart is not where it should be, it's almost certainly because you are treasuring something wrong." "You will tend to defend most ardently that which you treasure most deeply." You see, it gets some legs as you turn it over in your mind.

Consider a "light" example. You are arguing for the truth of the Gospel because you treasure the Gospel. Your heart is in it. Someone argues that you're an idiot for believing that load of garbage. You respond with something along the lines of "Your mother wears combat boots." I would suggest that it is possible that your treasure is not, in this case, the Gospel, but your self. You'll defend the Gospel just fine, but you will be respected in doing so or they will pay a price. You see? That's a faulty heart.

Here's one I've heard far too often -- one that breaks my heart to hear. "If God chooses whom He will save and whom He will not, that means that He is making some people for damnation. If that's what God is like, I don't want any part of Him." You might like to think, "That person has his heart in defending God," but the truth is that the sole purpose of that approach is to defend humans. Here's the premise: "No good God would relegate humans to damnation. Humans deserve better." Now, understand, I'm not making a case for the notion that God chooses to save some and not others or that God makes some people for damnation. That's not at issue here. What I'm addressing is the heart/treasure issue. "It would be wrong of God to do so. The Creator does not have that right." This is treasuring creature over Creator.

You see, that which you treasure will be that which you most ardently defend. That which you treasure will be the place you spend the most time. That which you treasure will be your primary focus. And ... if that which you treasure is not God, then there is a word for it: idolatry. Do you value your job over God? Idolatry. Do you value your spouse over God? Idolatry. Does God have to conform to your sense of right and wrong? Idolatry. Oh, here's an interesting test. In 1 Sam 15:1-3, the Lord commands Saul to "strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have." That includes "man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." If your response is "No, that cannot be," then I would suggest that your treasure is somewhere besides in God. Idolatry. If God cannot do with His creation whatever He wants to do, then you have something higher in your heart than God.

Humans tend toward idolatry. We tend to want to move God out of first place. We tend to want to put something, multiple things, anything in His place. If you are not aware of that tendency, you will miss the event. If you are not aware of what you treasure, you could easily put your heart into the wrong thing. If your god is not God Himself, I can assure you that this is not a place you want to stand. Check it out. I'm sure you, like me, will need at least some tweaking there.