Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Follow Your Dream

That's what we're told, isn't it? "You've got to follow your dream." "Don't let anyone get in your way of pursuing your dream." That's ... valuable. That's a noble and worthy thing. Right?

It is an everyday thing, it seems. We are each encouraged to "follow your dream". And that's about it. You can find articles on it, instructions on it, courses on it. It is the fantasy-come-true in so many movies, stories, and books. We all know that we all are selling ourselves short if we don't follow our dreams.

Why is it, though, that no one seems to ask, "Why?" Take, for instance, Clyde Barrow, of "Bonnie and Clyde" fame. Clyde had a dream. He wanted to seek revenge for the abuses he suffered. There ya' go, Clyde! Don't ever let anyone tell you that you shouldn't follow your dreams! And perhaps I'm being outlandish, but I don't think it's unbelievable that there really are people who dream of being the best ... at serial killing, murder, mayhem, selling drugs, a host of things that we are all agreed ought not be dreams to follow. But "Never let them tell you not to follow your dream!"

Those are easy. What about the ones that aren't so easy? He wants to be a professional soccer player. Never mind that professional soccer players contribute almost nothing to society. Forget about the fact that he has mad skills in other productive, valuable things. What he really wants is to play ball, so no one should stand in his way! Really? She dreams of being a professional dancer. The fact that she has the intelligence and inclination to be a doctor is irrelevant. The reality that she could actually provide something for people that they need is beside the point. She wants to be a professional dancer, and no one should stand in her way! Really?

It's just a symptom of our times, actually. We have shifted. The peak, the pinnacle of all things, is "what I want". It's the thing that children thrive on and have to be taught to set aside. It's the thing that differentiates between a community and an individual, moving from a community-minded outlook to a self-centered outlook. It is the result of "If it feels good, do it", the product of unchecked passions. It is the final outcome of a culture that demands that "you keep your views and values off my life!" And it's where we've arrived. Fortunately, there are those still "hampered" by a silly sense of concern for others. Hopefully you and I fall in that category. I'm not saying that it's wrong to follow your dream. I'm simply asking you to evaluate it first. Dreams are stuff of nothing. Is the substance of your dream something of genuine value? Okay. But if it's simply "I want" because "I want", maybe you might aspire to dream of other things.

Monday, August 30, 2010


"How was work today?" Not an uncommon question. Clear enough. We all know what it means. But ... what is this thing called "work"? To some it is whatever you do to get by. That's it. A necessary evil. To men (for the large part) it's part of your definition. "What do you do?" Very common question near the beginning of "Hi, my name is ____. What's yours?" Because what you do defines you. To Christians there is "full-time ministry" and then there are the rest of us. To us there are generally pastors who have "a calling" and then the rest of us who do a job, that necessary evil to get by. The Bible, of course, will have none of this.

Work predates sin. Did you know that? The first thing that Adam did before he had a wife was to name all the animals. A job. A calling. "Now, wait," you might object, "that wasn't 'a calling'. It was just a task to perform." Well, he was called by God to do it, wasn't he? It was an assignment by His Maker. But, okay, let's call it a "task". Certainly his primary job wasn't "a task". "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Gen 2:15) That's a calling. And after Eve was created, they were given assignments. "Be fruitful and multiply." And, of course, they were co-workers in the task of keeping the garden. "Fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen 1:28). Adam and Eve, then, had a calling, a vocation. It was not a punishment. It was not a product of sin. And it was good ... no, very good.

We know the word "vocation". You know ... "vocation school". It's where folks who can't really do the jobs that require a higher education go to learn their occupations. That kind of thing. But surely, if you pause, you can see where it comes from. It comes from the same Latin root as "vocal". The root means "to call". Obviously, then, a vocation is ... a calling. We like to think of it as a job for which we have a strong inclination, but originally it simply meant a job to which one was called by God. We see a sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular. It is, however, a fabricated distinction. We know this because God made both and it was very good. And since God demands control of every aspect of our existence, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that this would include the "good" thing He created called "work"?

Surely we Christians know that we do, in fact, have a vocation -- a calling from God. We are to "let your light so shine before men" and "make disciples of all nations". We are to be ambassadors for Christ. We are to be living sacrifices. We know all this. But ... isn't this all part of the same task given Adam? Isn't this all part of "tending the garden", of "being fruitful"? Adam and Eve were tasked with being God's representatives on Earth ... and so are we.

Without making the formal and lengthy argument, let me ask you a question. How would it change your daily life if you actually believed that the job you were doing was a calling from God in your ministry to the world? If you actually believed that tending to the children and washing the floors or flipping burgers or designing new technology or writing software or ... if you actually believed that the work you currently have before you was a divine ministry whose source and for whom you performed it was God, how would your daily, hour-by-hour, minute-to-minute attitudes change? If you understood that your job and the way that you did it was a direct reflection of the character of Christ, how would it change your view and how you do your job? If all this is true, maybe we should make some changes, eh?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where is Love?

One of my friendly neighborhood commenters and I were having a discussion over at this post on Monergism. She asked, "So, if this is true, no young mother in her 'natural' and unregenerate state can ever lovingly care for her sweet little baby with unselfish love?" I tried to draw a distinction in types of love. I suggested that often this particular type of love "is predicated on self-fulfillment, how good it makes her feel, the hope for returned love, even familial affection." She responded, "Unfortunately I guess you're correct when you say that a mother loving her sweet little baby is probably based on how good her baby makes her feel. If that baby were to turn green with red eyes, begin growling, scratching, and spitting in her face, I would imagine those feelings of unselfish love would become hard to hold onto for very long."

Now, this post is not about our friendly dialog. That discussion was simply the catalyst for this thought: What is love? The truth is that love comes in different varieties. We all know that. We can love our pet, love our food, and love our spouse, all with different gradations. We know that there is self-serving love and selfless love. There is romance and passion and there is that long-term, hard-core, mental commitment to another's well-being. There are all sorts of "loves". This isn't anything revolutionary.

What is it, then, that signifies that ultimate version? What shows us the highest form of love? This, too, isn't revolutionary. We all know this. It's just that we haven't thought about it. Everyone knows someone (singular or plural) that promised "'til death do us part" and ended up with "'til discomfort do us part." We all know people who, when the going got tough, they got going. We all understand that when a spouse gets sick or turns mean or fails to return love, it's hard to continue to love that person. So whose love is it that we genuinely admire? What is the ultimate love? We all recognize that pinnacle of love when we see someone do it ... in the terms that my commenter described. That mother who would love her little baby "if that baby were to turn green with red eyes, begin growling, scratching, and spitting in her face." That husband who stands by his wife as she goes through disabling disease or personality-altering conditions like alzheimer's disease. Loving when things are pleasant and rewarding is fine, but we all recognize true love when it is practiced through the hardest of times with no observable reward for the giver of that love. That is supreme love.

That (and here is where I'm really going with this post) brings me to this amazing passage:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-8).
We are often challenged to answer, "Why does God allow evil in the world?" We can do fancy steps and we can try to explain it away, but the only plausible, rational, biblical answer is "God intended for evil to exist." And why would He do that? It is because without evil, we cannot know good. Without contrasts, we cannot know both sides. The Bible has lots of references to God demonstrating various aspects of His nature that, without evil, could not be seen at all. You can't know justice without evil. You can't know wrath and power without the need for them. You can't know amazing things like grace and mercy without evil. Because of evil, we have a demonstration of God's righteousness (Rom 3:25), His power (Rom 9:17), His wrath (Rom 9:22), His mercy (Rom 9:23), His patience (1 Tim 1:16), and on it goes. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, takes no joy in pain, suffering, or sin, but He valued the display of His character over the removal of evil.

So here in Romans 5, we see something quite astounding. We know that genuine love is truly demonstrated when it is most difficult. Romans 5 says that God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were in full rebellion, Christ died for us. We were at war with Him and He sent the remedy. We were engaged in hostilities and He arranged the fix. We were committing Cosmic Treason against Him and He set up the means of forgiveness. Now that, dear readers, is love. That's no downstream, self-serving, fickle love. That's the ultimate love. That is a prize of great value.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unreasonable Expectations

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." I can only hope. I remember once, in my youth, I invited my best friend over. He couldn't come, he said, because he had plans to spend the day with another friend. I was beside myself. Wasn't I his best friend? Didn't he want to come over and play? Boo hoo! Yeah, yeah, silly. Or, rather, childish. A case of unreasonable expectations. As a child I had these bizarre notions of what a friend was like and what a best friend was like and what to expect from a friendship. Unreasonable expectations.

"When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." At least, you'd think, right? We like to think that we've matured and we've grown up and we're not childish anymore. So why is it that we routinely seem to suffer from these ongoing unreasonable expectations?

This last week a local coach, a favorite among parents and students alike, was fired because of a tragic but accidental drowning this last year. (Strangely, the other teacher on the scene was not fired.) You see, it appears that the school district believes that there should be no accidents, especially no deaths. They've remedied this problem, then, by eliminating one of the teachers on the scene and eliminating swim classes. There you go! All fixed! It doesn't help, of course, that the coach is suing the school district for emotional distress brought on by this drowning. Apparently it's the school district's fault that the young man died and the coach feels bad about it. Unrealistic expectations.

Or how about the whole BP Oil thing? An accident occurred. People died. A huge problem ensued. All bad things. The response, however, included an end to oil drilling in the Gulf. Why? Because, apparently, accidents should never happen. We should be able to do what we need to do without anything bad happening, whether it be drilling for oil or driving a car. If something bad happens, there will be consequences, blame, outrage, penalties. Because accidents should never happen. If they do, it isn't simply "an accident"; it's criminal negligence. It's a conspiracy! Unrealistic expectations.

Of course, the biggest version of unrealistic expectations for human beings is when it comes to God. "God," we think, "should conform to our standards." Oh, we'd not likely put it that way. Still, that's how it works out. If a loved one dies, we accuse God. "She died before her time! Why, God?" If God doesn't answer our prayers, we're upset. "Why aren't you giving me what I asked for, God?" And, of course, we tend to think that there is a higher form of "good and evil", a system of "justice" that God needs to meet and when He fails (as He always does), well, that's just wrong! I mean, if you say that God is good and God is just and He doesn't do what I consider good and just, then He's obviously a bad God. In fact, we have a real tendency to immerse God in our unrealistic expectations. There's really not much He can do to achieve our expectations because our expectations, in the final analysis, make no sense. Unrealistic expectations.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." I can only wish, it seems, because we all succumb to unreasonable expectations at times ... just like any child would.

Friday, August 27, 2010

In the Name of Christ

If you haven't heard something to this effect, you're not likely paying attention: "I don't believe in Christianity because of all the evil that has been done in the name of Christ." It comes in a variety of tones and flavors and bears a variety of evidence, but that's the general idea. Maybe they'll point to one of the favorites, the Crusades. Maybe they'll point out the numbers of people calling themselves "Christian" who favored American slavery and its attendant racism in the name of Christ. It's not hard to point out those killed for heresy, witchcraft, and wars between Christian sects, like the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics or the France's War of Religion which was a fight over "Une foi, un loi, un roi," (one faith, one law, one king). More often than this, however, you'll hear complaints about Christians in general. "You claim that the command is to love your neighbor, but the Christians I know aren't very loving." That kind of thing.

I wouldn't even begin to set about justifying these things. I think we're all pretty clear that they were and are wrong. Any attempt to explain "No, they're good things" would be foolhardy. However, there are two considerations I'd like to offer for you to think about.

First, to those who complain, I'd like to point out the problem of consistency. In the common complaints you hear you'll likely get something like "You're supposed to be about love, but ..." and they'll go on to tell you how Christians they know are not loving. Note the truth claim at the start. Jesus did indeed command His followers to love their neighbors. The truth claim is accurate. This shows up in lots of places. For instance, the Bible does not favor hypocrites. Jesus saved His harshest words for hypocrites. So here's the problem. If one is to be classified as a Christian -- a disciple of Christ -- and he or she does not do what Jesus said, you can claim that they are inconsistent, but you cannot classify their actions as "Christian". I'm not trying to say that these aren't Christians. I'm simply pointing out that actions outside of Christ's instructions cannot be classified as Christianity. (I'm being narrow here. I would include the teachings of Scripture, but I'm trying to make a point.) Christians are human beings and have the capacity to violate Christian beliefs. Those violations cannot be classified as "Christian" when they are opposed to Christian beliefs. Here's the bottom line. If you're going to complain about Christianity, be sure you are complaining about genuine Christianity. Just because someone wears a "Christian name tag" doesn't mean that their actions or attitudes are Christian. If you're going to evaluate the truth of Christianity, do so on what is written as Christianity, not on what some do in the name of Christianity. You see, we were promised at the outset that there would be large numbers of false "Christians" in amongst the real ones. The famous phrase, "a wolf in sheep's clothing", is a biblical phrase describing "false prophets" among us. Jesus warned about the tares (weeds) in the wheat that would certainly be there. John wrote that antichrists would come from the Church. Surely it's obvious that "antichrists" cannot be Christians -- followers of Christ. So set aside what you've heard and read from the deeds of Christians, either genuine or falsely claimed. I agree that they can be appalling. Evaluate the truth claims of Christianity for what it claims, not for what its so-called adherents do.

Second, to those of you who call yourself Christians, in the words of James, "My brothers, these things ought not to be." We are called "ambassadors for Christ". We are commanded to love our neighbors. We are commanded to "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." We are commanded to avoid hypocrisy (in case you missed it, that's in 1 Peter 2:1). Sure, we are called on to contend for the faith, to make a defense. Sure, that won't always be pretty or pleasant, even though we are required to do it with gentleness and respect. But we are commanded to be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). I know, I know -- there will always be bad apples, bad examples, even bad days. But we ought to be checking ourselves, examining ourselves. Paul said, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor 13:5). We are the authorized representatives (the definition of "ambassador") of Christ here. Shouldn't we reflect that properly by imitating Him, by following the Word, by living it out?

Look, there's nothing we can do, bottom line, about being offensive. The Bible assures us that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing" (1 Cor 1:18). It's unrealistic to carry the news "You're a sinner in danger of eternal damnation" and expect a warm reception. But that's the beginning of the Gospel. So shouldn't we be doing it on the basis of love and genuine concern for our fellow beings? Shouldn't we be shining examples of the work of Christ in a fallen person? We cannot avoid the fact that much evil has been done in the name of Christ. Let's not make our own actions something that can be added to that problem, okay?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


DIY -- Do It Yourself. It's all the rage. Well, in these tough economic times, it makes sense. I mean, if you can figure out how to do it yourself, it's just less expensive to pay someone else to do it, right? So where does that plan break down? It's when you can't figure out how to do it yourself. So now you're breaking things you were supposed to be fixing and often end up paying far more than what you would have because there's so much more damage.

This works itself out -- hugely magnified -- in one of the most common DIY projects humans of all varieties undertake: The Making of God. Now, we don't really mean to do this. It's just part of the sin nature. You see, if God is who He says He is, then we're in trouble. So it becomes important that we remake Him in our image. I'll point out some of the ways we do this, and you see if you recognize any of them.

Among the skeptics we find many complaints about the God of the Bible. He seems to act outside of what they deem appropriate. I mean, what's all this about ordering the killing Amorites and all that? What's the thing with the bears that killed those boys (2 Kings 2 if you're curious)? "No, no, that's not a good God. God owes His creation something. He owes them peace and well-being. He owes them comfort and health. Bad things shouldn't happen. God should not allow it. He ought to conform to our perceptions of right and wrong, good and bad." And, of course, it turns out that this god doesn't exist, so they feel secure in their argument that there is no God.

Okay, so maybe an example of a God who doesn't exist isn't the best example. How about one that is much more likely? So very popular today is the "God-to-me" God. In this creation, we form an opinion of God based on what we like. We like a God who is nice, so God must be nice. We don't like a God who is angry, so surely God isn't angry. We are particularly fond of our own freedoms, so we much prefer a God who doesn't interfere with our choices. And the longer we retain that particular view, the less He seems to interfere. It used to be that we had the freedom of choice in matters of eternal significance, but understood that in matters of everyday living, we were supposed to choose in favor of what He commands. Not so much these days. God doesn't care anymore if we're sexually immoral, hypocritical, unloving, and so on. As an example, I was visiting a church where they were trying to encourage young people to go on a mission trip for the summer. The pastor asked us to pray for two of the girls whose parents wouldn't let them go. We were later informed that they had managed to raise the money without their parents' help and would be going after all! You see, God certainly doesn't care if we're disobedient to parents, right? That's the God we like. The one that lets us do what we want. So we form God into the image that we like and tag this "God-to-me" addendum onto Him because we realize surely that not everyone likes the same kind of God that we do, and that's okay. So "God to me" is _____, where you fill in the blank with what you like best.

It is the simplest thing in the world to form an image of God that is informed by our own conditions. For instance, we commonly think of God the Father as an old man with white beard and all. He's human, after all, right? Well, no, of course not. But He's very similar. He has to deal with time. He has to deal with frustrations and difficulties. He's often blocked from achieving what He intends, just like we are. Sure, He'd like it if there were not tragedies in life, but, well, you know, it's a harsh world out there. And He'd really love it if everyone were to be saved, but He isn't willing to transgress anyone's free will. Here, take, for instance, the terrible school shootings in the last decades. God wouldn't want that, but what is a God to do? We've kicked Him out of our schools! He's a gentleman, after all, and won't interfere. Why do we think that? Because that's how we are. We face these frustrations and inabilities and we're pretty sure that He does, too.

One of the quickest ways to see this DIY God thing is in the realm of the Theodicy -- the defense of God's justice. "If the God of the Bible is kind and loving and all-powerful and all-knowing, how is it possible that there is evil in the world?" That's the challenge. The answer seems like it would be simple -- go with what the Bible says. But we're not happy with that. That's not the God we want to have around. God must be exonerated from this! So we remake God. We say, for instance, that it's not God's fault, but Adam and Eve's fault. They sinned! Of course, it begs the question of why God would make Adam and Eve knowing they would sin. "No, no," the next ones assure us, "it's Satan's fault!" It's a step away from Adam and Eve, but no closer to a solution. Why God would make Lucifer knowing he would sin? "Well, evil certainly wasn't part of God's plan!" And so we remake God in our image.

These versions and more are much more popular with us humans than the actual God is. We find things that are unpleasant like wrath or judgment or His personal claim that He makes "the wicked for the day of evil" and we say, "No, no, that's not the God we like." And we shape Him into the image we do like. There is a biblical term for it. It's called "idolatry". And the Bible is not in favor of it. Just like the over-sized cost of DIY when you get it wrong, this one will really get you in the end. I'd recommend letting God be God. I'd recommend aligning your own thinking with the God of the Bible rather than the other way around. A Do-It-Yourself God is just not the best option. In fact, it's the most expensive one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


In an article in RELEVANT Magazine (a "Christian" magazine on "God. Life. Progressive Culture.", there is an article on Why Our Generation Doesn't Care about Prop 8. Now, I find it odd that "our generation" would need a magazine to make Christianity "relevant", and I find it more bizarre looking at the main index to find that "relevant" to "our generation" would be things like an interview with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman on their new movie, The Switch (about a single woman who wants to be artificially inseminated, and her male friend who drunkenly switches his own sample as a replacement for her intended donor) and a news item about a woman in the UK who says she has an abnormally high electromagnetic field that makes metal objects stick to her. But, this isn't about the relevance of a Christian magazine called RELEVANT. It's about the article.

So what's going on? According to a Pew Forum poll, only 45 percent of "religious Americans" ages 18-29 oppose gay marriage. A 2008 poll told us that 52% of "young evangelicals" support either gay marriage or civil unions. These numbers are vastly different in the older population. What's up with that? The author, Jonathan Merritt, cites several reasons:
1) Young people have gay friends and now ask, "Aren’t they still the neighbors that Jesus asked us to love?"
2) The rhetoric is hateful, without respect, not Christlike.
3) Aren't heterosexuals just as bad at denigrating marriage as homosexuals? Isn't that hypocritical?
4) Just because it's immoral is no reason to say it should be illegal.

One commenter writes, "We need to stop letting our dogmas interfere with our ability to love others."

Another commenter says, "I think the source of shifting opinions is the questioning of how we interpret Scripture."

If this is truly indicative of the upcoming generation, we're in trouble, folks. Here are the essential components of this kind of thinking. First, it is not possible to believe that an act is immoral and still love the person. Apparently it's not possible to pass a law on something and still love those who would violate it. Indeed, taking a stand on an issue like this can only be construed as hateful and un-Christlike. Look, since there is hypocrisy in the church, we should simply allow people to do as they please. If we can't get it right, we have no right to suggest what is right at all. Besides, you can't legislate morality. Just because it's wrong doesn't mean it should be illegal. Laws should not be based on moral values.

Some might think that I'm complaining about today's younger Christians. That would be a mistake. No, I'm complaining about today's Christians. I'm complaining about the parents that have failed to teach their children, the churches that have failed to train their disciples. I'm complaining ... about us. We have failed to teach them to think any better than "If you call something 'wrong', it's hate speech." We've failed to help them make the connection between morality and law. We've failed to show them what real marriage looks like and assured them there is no such thing. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Relativism of the Adulterous Mind

Pilate famously asked, "What is truth?" Poor guy. He didn't have the benefit of Webster's dictionary or the Internet. Today we can look it up. Truth is defined as that which conforms to reality. There. Any questions?

Of course, the problem becomes "What reality?" You see, for the most part, all truth statements are relative. Yes, it's true. Truth statements are true or false as they relate to the standard being applied. Here, let me illustrate. We have a wonderful basketball player here in Phoenix -- Steve Nash. Now, if you've ever seen him on the basketball court, he's pretty short (truth claim). According to WikiAnswers, the average basketball player is 6'6", and Steve Nash is only 6'3". See? Short! Of course, you only have to think about that for a moment to find out that I could equally have claimed that Steve Nash is pretty tall because according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average height for males in America is 5'9" (or so), and Nash is much taller than that. You see? Relative. The veracity of the truth claim, then, is determined by the standard by which it is being measured. And that is not "relativism". Relativism claims, in essence, that there is no useful standard by which to measure the veracity of the claim. Either the standard doesn't exist, is not able to be known, or cannot be applied for some other reason (for instance, that the standard is variable with the times and culture). In the standard verification of a truth claim, we may disagree about whether or not something conforms to the standard at hand, and that would be disagreement, not relativism. But relativism goes a different direction by removing that standard.

In Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign. You remember this passage. Jesus affirms that they are thinking individuals -- "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky" -- but tells them there is something wrong with their brains when it comes to interpreting the signs about Him. What was wrong? "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." What was wrong with them? They were an "adulterous generation". Now, of course, Jesus wasn't saying that they were cheating on their wives. He was talking about their divine "husband", God. The Bible often speaks of Israel as "married" to God ... and cheating on Him. So what was wrong with the Pharisees and Sadducees? They had the capacity to examine the signs of the weather without a problem, but they lacked the capacity to examine with any accuracy the signs of Christ because they were cheaters. They had adulterous minds. They had the perfect "spouse" who provided all they could need and more, but their passions led them to other "mates". They sought pleasures elsewhere. Consider, for instance, the story from Matthew 21. Starting in verse 23, they asked Jesus by what authority He did His miracles. He responded by asking them by the origin of John's baptism -- heaven or men? Look at their deliberations (verses 25-26). They never once asked, "What is the truth?" They only asked, "What works? What will provide us with the result we would like?"

Of course, the Pharisees and Sadducees are quite like most of us. They're not unique. This is the common standard of measurement for what is true: "What works? What will provide me with the result I would like?" Most humans have suppressed the truth in favor of our passions. This is the relativism of the adulterous mind. We set aside that which conforms to reality (truth) in favor of that which produces what we want. We use the standard "What do I want?" and then suppress whatever truth violates that desire. People ruled by their passions.

It is a command. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." It is a command. "Love the Lord your God with all ... your mind ..." The first thing that needs to move out of the way is the adulterous mind -- the one that wants other things than what God is. That is the first step to moving away from the debased mind that sin causes. It's the first step toward reality.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Problem of Apologetics

I've said it before. We are commanded to contend for the faith, to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. (The phrase in 1 Peter 3:15 -- "give an answer" -- is pros apologia in Greek. See that "apologia"? That's our origin of "Apologetics" in this context.) And so we, if we are to be obedient children, engage in the defense of the faith. The defense is a reasoned defense. Although we are defending faith, it is the mind that is doing the defending. Biblically, the two are interlinked. We are to learn, to examine, to understand, to renew the mind, to "think on these things". We are required to engage the brain in our walk with Christ, and we are required to engage the brain in our defense of the faith.

Therein, it seems, lies the problem. The Bible presents a pretty grim view of the thinking processes of Natural Man. I've already beat to death (perhaps) the claim that "Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). That doesn't bode well for the logical discussion of the truth. And it only gets worse from there. Paul says "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor 4:4). That's Man's natural condition -- blinded minds. In his explanation of the Gospel, Paul tells the problem that the Gospel addresses: "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). The "bad news" that the "good news" addresses is that Man is under wrath. Why? Because he has decided that unrighteousness is preferable to righteousness and, to maintain that unrighteousness, he must suppress the truth. The effect of this little piece of insanity is cumulative.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Rom 1:21-23).
Natural Man, then, is quite sure of his own wisdom ... but is quite futile in his thinking. That's God's evaluation, not mine.

You should see, then, the dilemma we face. We are commanded to make a rational defense of the faith. We are obligated to stand for the truth, to argue our case, to contend for the faith. And at the same time, we are absolutely assured that the ones to whom we are presenting our defense are blind, incapable of understanding, futile in their thinking. We are to present this reasonable argument to those who, when it comes to this particular topic, cannot be reasonable. That's the primary problem of Apologetics.

Is there no hope, then? Not at all! I gave you 2 Corinthians 4:4 a moment ago. Look at the rest of the passage.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6).
Do you see the solution? Yes, indeed, they are blinded in the mind. No doubt. They cannot see "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." But we're talking here about God at work now. Remember Him? He's the one who said, "Let there be light" and there was light.

We are faced with the impossible task of presenting a rational defense to an irrational audience. We do so because we are commanded to do so. God requires it of us. That's the problem. The good news is that while we are responsible to present the best possible defense, we are not responsible for the results. That is God's job. And while we might have no means of overcoming futile thinking and blinded minds, God isn't limited like we are. Thus, when we engage in this necessary practice of contending for the faith and making our defense, we are participating in the work of God with certainty that when God wills He cannot fail. When He chooses to turn the lights on, they will see ... and you get to participate.*
* Little hint here. As it turns out, this is the way we all get to understand. Paul told Timothy, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything" (2 Tim 2:7). See how that works? He says to think things over because in the process "the Lord will give you understanding". Just so you didn't think you figured it out all by yourself ... or that you don't need to think.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Glory of God

What is glory? Glory is something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration. When it comes to God, it is all that He is. When we glorify God, we aren't making Him out to be something new. We are appreciating Him for what He is. The glory of God is the sum of His nature.

So when we read about the Gospel, it is described this way: "the gospel of the glory of Christ." The good news isn't about salvation or prosperity or security or forgiveness. It is about all that Christ is. That, in fact, is what saving faith is. Saving faith is the embracing of all that Christ is. Faith is sometimes described with the illustration of a chair. You aren't actually placing your faith in that chair until you're sitting in it. This is true, but it's short of the whole picture. If that chair is ugly and uncomfortable and you'd rather sit anywhere at all except that you're pretty sure it's the only place you can be safe (or saved or forgiven or whatever benefit you might gain), that's not the picture of saving faith. Saving faith is an embracing of the glory of Christ. In terms of that chair, it isn't "a safe place to sit". It's the most beautiful, comfortable, best-seat-in-the-house chair. You're not placing your weight in it because it works. You are placing all your weight there because it is so ... glorious.

We often approach God with a pragmatic style. "What can you give me?" He can offer a lot, to be sure. But that's not the right approach. It is the overwhelming wonder of His glory, the beauty of His character, the awesomeness of His being that draws us. That is what it means to have saving faith. That is the abiding place of every true believer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I heard this term the other day and wondered about it. "Bible-saturated" refers to someone who has been immersed for a great deal of time in the entirety of Scripture. It doesn't mean someone who has memorized John 3:16 and can quote it without thinking about it. The term refers to a saturation of Scripture. It means "full immersion" Bible living, where one is exposed over a long period of time to all facets of the Word.

One of the key rules in interpreting the words of the Bible is that Scripture interprets Scripture. It is imperative, if we hold that the Bible is the Word of God, that the Bible doesn't contradict itself. Of course, if all you see is a small piece of the Word, then it would be possible to hold to a false notion of that piece if you were not aware that another component of Scripture said something different. It is only in overlaying the two that you come to the right conclusion. So this idea of "Bible-saturated" becomes important.

There are various ways to become "Bible-saturated". The most obvious is to spend a great deal of time in the Bible. It is not a short-term, part time process. It takes dedication and commitment. It requires reading the book in its entirety, of covering entire books in the Bible and then examining words and meanings and pieces of the whole. The Bible itself recommends teachers. They would be indispensable. And, of course, we have the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to the meaning as well. All of this is done over time and with great care. Another method is to grow up that way. In this approach, a child becomes the beneficiary of a "Bible-saturated" home with godly parents who immerse their young in the Word. The Bible is inculcated into the person as they grow up. This is a marvelous time-saving process. The one who comes to Christ later in life has to play catch-up to this blessed individual who was injected with the Word in daily life. Parents, I highly recommend raising kids in a Bible-saturated home.

There are some wonderful advantages to being Bible saturated. Hebrews says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:12-14). The truth is that when you have been thoroughly immersed into the Word for awhile, this kind of thing becomes almost second nature. You will hear someone make some sort of claim and you may not even know what's wrong with it ... but you know there's something wrong. It's part of having your powers of discernment trained. Bible-saturated people are far less likely to fall into doctrinal error or stray to some new thing as if it is from God. And when you read your Bible, you're far better able to understand what you read because you have a whole catalog of Scripture stored in your mind assisting you, even unconsciously, as you read through the Word. It works like a translation guide to avoid errors and see straight.

Bible-saturated. It's a good thing. I would recommend it for everyone serious about being a follower of Christ.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Right to Lie

So I'm driving to work just the other morning and I hear on the news the story about Xavier Alvarez. He's the guy who was running for a public office who made the claim that he had won the Congressional Medal of Honor ... which he hadn't. He was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act, the law that made it a crime to claim a military medal you didn't deserve. He appealed ... and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has come through again. The law is clearly unconstitutional. Yes, unconstitutional! What constitutional component does it violate? The right to free speech. Yes, folks, Mr. Alvarez got his conviction overturned on the basis of his right to lie. Remember my post on Do No Harm? That was exactly the reasoning. "Lying does no one any harm."

Now I'm stuck. Here I am, trying hard to work at maintaining the truth. I think truth is important. I think lies are not merely a bad choice, but harmful and dangerous. I don't even like to classify them as "white lies" or otherwise. The intent to deceive is harmful on every level. These days it is expected. And now it is a constitutional right!

I suppose they'll be repealing all those stupid "truth in advertising" laws and such, right? I mean, political ads are already exempt. Why should a company lose its freedom of speech just because you people feel you have the right to know the truth about their product? I mean, haven't we already got that whole "buyer beware" thing going? Is it really fair to devalue genuine valor on the basis of free speech and then say that companies can't have that same free speech? Politicians get the right to lie at will. Why shouldn't everyone else? And how about this whole stupid perjury thing? Isn't it a breech of that right to require someone to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth"? Come on! Be reasonable!

Look, things like heroism, integrity, even confidence are all on their way out. We should just stop all this nonsense and give it up. Postmodernism tells us that the user makes up his own meaning anyway, so let's relax, give everyone their constitutional freedom of speech, and stop all this nonsense of trying to have morals ... at all.

Sorry, end of sarcastic rant. I just can't imagine what goes through the minds of the people we have as judges these days.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who is Jesus?

Meet Jesus. He visits often and speaks to me. Sometimes I don't fully understand what he's saying, but that's my problem, not his. He's friendly, caring, and hard-working. He's my neighbor's Latino gardener.

Yeah, that's not quite right, is it? It's just a bit of humor. But when we start really asking the question, "Who is Jesus?", we can start to run into real problems if we're not careful.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God, one of God's spirit children. He is brother to Lucifer, the brother who went bad. God, of course, is one of innumerable Gods, and it is only natural that He would have multiple children, including Jesus. Jesus's death on the cross was not sufficient to actually save completely, but His ultimate goal is to save us through that death and our good works so that we, too, can become gods by our own right. Now, I realize that this is not in accordance with everything you find in your Bible, but that's because your Bible has been influenced over the centuries to stray from the truth, so obviously this truth about who Jesus is will not align with the errors in your Bible. We believe in Jesus and trust Him for our salvation. How could you possibly say that Mormons are not saved?

Who is Jesus? Jesus is a man born over 2,000 years ago. He is the best man ever born. He is not only the son of God; he is a god himself. Now, be careful with that, because he also identified himself as the son of Man. The conclusion that he was God's son was not his own; other people said it. Some have claimed that he was God Himself, but that isn't true. He prayed to God, so he cannot be God and pray to God. He is at the right hand of God, so clearly he cannot be God. In John 1 it identifies him as "the Word" and says he was with God, so He can't be God. When the rich young ruler referred to him as "good", he denied that he was God by saying, "Only God is good." No, no, he was not God in the sense of "God Almighty". He was a god in the sense like Satan is called "the god of this world" or powerful people were referred to as "gods". Jesus was the best man ever born, a powerful man, blessed by God, and a god in that sense. We hold that salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice along with repentance and good works in the name of Jehovah. We believe in Jesus and trust Him for our salvation. How could you possibly say that Jehovah's Witnesses are not saved?

Who is Jesus? Jesus came to show us the way. He is our savior. He is the spiritual God who took on human flesh to show us true Christ Consciousness. Through this consciousness we are saved. Now, we know that you have this quaint story about Him "dying on the cross" and all, but since Jesus was actually God in the flesh, He couldn't actually die, now, could He? He simply released Himself from the lie of "death" as He did from the lie of sickness and all other sin-based errors. He didn't "die on the cross" to "pay for your sin" because sin is simply a false understanding of the Divine Mind (which Jesus came to correct) and doesn't actually exist. We believe in Jesus and trust Him for our salvation. How could you possibly say that Christian Scientists are not saved?

I could go on, but perhaps you're getting the point. It's actually fairly easy to say, "We believe in Jesus and trust Him for our salvation." It's fairly easy to even mean it wholeheartedly. And it's pretty easy to then claim "We believe what you believe; we're saved by grace through faith in Christ!" Of course, if you try to start asking questions like "What do you mean by 'grace'?" or "How would you define 'faith'?" or "Who is Jesus to you?" ... well, now you're just being narrow-minded and judgmental! In fact, you're probably one of those pharisaical fundies, aren't you? So, really, what makes you think you're saved, you're so smart?!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conversely ...

Last week I wrote about another "unpardonable sin", the sin of questioning another person's salvation. It's just not done, you see. We're not allowed to ask. How dare you??!! In the conversation that ensued within and around that post, another question occurred to me. If someone was to question your salvation, how would you respond?

I'm not actually focusing on that question itself. Any criticism will do. When you're taking a salvo of corrective inputs, how do you respond? Most of us, I'm quite sure, respond with self-defense. It's the first thing we tend to pick up -- a shield. And a sword, likely. "Oh, yeah? Take that!" Fight or flight. That's the norm. But what we never seem to pick up first is ... a mirror. "Is this input accurate?"

I'm no super-saint. My typical first response to an attack is defense. Sometimes it's fight and sometimes it's flight, but it's not often, "Are they right?" I suppose my personality also tends me toward surrender. "Yeah, you're right ... I'm a loser." That's the first response ... but not necessarily what comes out. What comes out is, more and more, an attempt at reasoned response. Here's what I want my response to be. "Thanks for the input. I'll consider what you say. If it has merit, I'll benefit from the change. If not, thanks for caring enough to tell me." You see, I lose nothing in that response. If I am wrong, I gain correction. If I am right, I still have someone who cared enough to express a concern ... something hard to find these days.

Of course, in this I'm being generous. More often than not the volleys of attacks do not come from friends seeking my best interest. No. Too often, when you take up a position that isn't pleasant for others, the return fire isn't aimed at remedying your error, but in shooting you down. And, truth be told, that "Thanks for caring enough to share with me" response isn't quite appropriate in that case, is it? Because it wasn't care that made them share. It was animosity.

The trick, then, is telling the difference. And I have precious little wisdom to share on that angle. How do we tell the difference between the wounds of a friend and the assault of an enemy? Perhaps it's best to err on the side of charity? I don't know.

What I do conclude, though, is that I should take special care to be clear on which I am doing. If I am attacking because I am offended, I need to stop it. I am not the issue. If I am speaking harsh reality from the motivation of love, I need to express it that way. They are the issue. Although I can never control the response and never insure success, I should make it my goal to be, at a minimum, obedient to the command to love my neighbor and to speak the truth in love. I may not always be able to ascertain the motives of those who disagree with me, but at least guarding my own motivations is a good place to start.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Winning Isn't Everything

I am very interested in the process of Apologetics, the rational defense of the faith. The Bible commands it. Reason demands it. I'm in favor. There are a lot of areas in which I find myself engaged in this defense. There is the defense from without -- defending the faith against skeptical unbelievers. There is the defense from within -- defending orthodoxy against skeptical believers. On any given day I may have to explain why I believe there is a God at all or why I am quite certain that the Trinity is basic Christian doctrine. Beyond that, I find myself defending against other assaults, like this whole "same-sex marriage" concept. They are not, technically attacking my faith, but they are indeed making threats. (For a very good explanation of what the issues are and why we need to engage in that debate, see Prop 8: Why Engage the Issue? from Stand to Reason.) And so I find myself often engaged in debates with dissenters, friendly and hostile, over a wide range of positions and concerns. I believe that my positions are rational and biblically and rationally defensible. So I do it and even enjoy it.

This whole thing is not without its problems, however. When it comes to Atheists and liberal Christians and outliers like the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses or "gay" rights activists or any other group who may be hostile to the faith (as opposed to those with friendly disagreement), defending the faith has its down side. These types will have run into a host of others who have poorly represented both Christianity and good reasoning. They will have heard all sorts of things that I don't believe and experienced a variety of responses that I don't offer. They will arrive with preconceptions about their positions, to be sure, but also with preconceptions about mine. And most of the time I'll end up defending myself from positions I never have had. Guilty by association. "Oh, yeah," they'll think (or say), "I know your type. You believe _____" ... and I don't, but by now the entire conversation has derailed.

The other major problem is the animosity it creates. You see, the concept of a "debate" includes the concept of "win or lose". And now we're no longer comparing evidence and rationale; we're competing. In this situation, there are winners and losers, and no one wants to be the loser. Of course, there is no "set of rules", no judge who rules on the outcome -- "I declare this side the winner!" No, the judges are the individuals making the arguments and the observers listening to them, and their conclusions may not be based on merits of the arguments, but on the presumptions they brought in with them (especially in terms of the previous paragraph).

So we end up with a question. Of what value is it to defend the faith, to hold your ground against lies? You see, providing the best possible argument (typically the intent of the word "win") isn't the only concern. Are we representing Christ well? Is there the possibility of a good outcome (like someone might change their mind), or is it more likely that the whole thing will result in negativity regardless of the quality of the argument? Factor in the reality that many attacks are smoke screens, not actually thrown up to "win", but simply to avoid the question. Here, think about it through an example. It is abundantly clear that the Bible defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Scripture and human history undeniably affirm this. Beyond that, there is no doubt that the Bible considers homosexual activities as sin. The facts are indisputable. The arguments are seamless. The only problem is this: If you make those arguments, you will be perceived as a hater, a bigot, narrow-minded, a "fundamentalist" (which is intended as an insult). Prove that marriage is defined as an exclusively heterosexual relationship and homosexual relationships are sinful, and you won't be winning over the homosexual community; you'll be making enemies of them. Stand your ground on marriage and sin and then try to share Christ with a "gay" coworker and see how that goes. See the problem?

It is true. Winning isn't everything. I think, perhaps, it is in that win/lose mindset that we run into problems. The goal is not winning. We are commanded "always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15). The goal is not to win, but to "give an account". And there is, in this very command, another hint. We are to make a defense "with gentleness and reverence". You see, as in all things, the goal is love. From that perspective it is important, if we love God, to stand for what He stands for for His sake. It is important, if God knows what's best for His creation, to stand for what He stands for for the sake of His creation. Conversely, if we love God and others, failing to stand for the truth is failing God and failing others. Using a simple illustration, refusing to warn a loved one that they are about to swallow poison because they are enthusiastic about drinking it is not love, even if you will be perceived negatively. It's not about us. It's not about winning or losing. It's about God and our neighbors. We must stand for the truth. We must do it with gentleness and respect. We must do it for others. Because, indeed, winning isn't everything. In this situation, it actually isn't anything. Love is.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Counting the Cost

"Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28)
Jesus's words. Count the cost. It's important. Do you know what His conclusion was in asking that question?
"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
As our society moves further and further away from anything resembling "a Christian nation", we are going to have to face new questions. "What does it cost?" Before the societal perceptions migrated, it was easy to say, "I believe adultery should be illegal" because society was pretty much in agreement. It didn't cost anything. Before this culture shift, it didn't cost anything to say, "I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin" because the culture agreed. Today, however, we find that the 35-and-under crowd thinks that "same-sex marriage" is no big deal. What's the question, anyway? The same is true on other matters of values, ethics, and morality. As society evolves away from Christian ethics and more toward secular, humanistic ethics, those who wish to continue with Christian ethics are going to have to ... count the cost.

What does it cost today to stand up and say, just as an example, "I believe homosexual behavior is a sin"? Come on! What can it cost? Today it means you are labeled a bigot, a narrow-minded, irrational "fundamentalist". It isn't morality for which you stand; it's hate. You are, in short, a homophobe. And that's the start. Last May a street preacher in the UK spent 7 hours in jail. "Dale McAlpine was charged with causing 'harassment, alarm or distress' after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of 'sins' referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships." My point is not to argue the sin of homosexuality. My point is this. If you are convinced that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, you will need to count the cost when deciding to take that stand. You will be labeled a homophobe, a bigot, a hater, a throwback to an earlier era. You will be dismissed as irrational and discarded as evil. It is entirely possible -- voices are already being raised to this and laws being passed -- that you could be arrested for it. Count the cost.

Another example is this whole California Prop 8 thing. You may wish to stand your ground and claim to defend marriage. You may think that the Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. You may argue that all of Scripture and all of history hold that marriage has always been defined as "the union of a man and a woman". But you will need to count the cost if you plan to hold that position. Like the prior example, you will be labeled a bigot, a dinosaur, a hater. Your stand on marriage is a throwback and only based, regardless of your actual arguments, on your homophobia. Are you entirely sure you don't secretly want to be a homosexual like all those others who hate homosexuals? Well, I'm sorry, but we just don't need your kind in our neighborhood, circle of friends, workplace. Yes, it could get there in the not-too-distant future. We already have a term for it: "hostile work environment." This concept, already accepted as valid, is based entirely on "how I feel about what you're doing" and "what you're saying is making me feel bad". So, the requirement, again, is this: If you want to hold that position, be sure to count the cost.

Some are suggesting that maybe, just maybe, it's time to withdraw. Maybe, to defend marriage, Christians should withdraw from the concept of "civil marriage" -- that which the government manages -- and return to marriages blessed by God without regard to the government. It's an idea that may have its merits, but you will need to count the cost. Start with the "hate" tag you'll get. That's fine. But the cost of that move will be much more substantial. Taxes, legal rights, financial considerations (credit, loans, etc.), estate planning, shared benefits (such as Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, etc.), employment benefits such as shared insurance, bereavement leave, family leave, and so on, and on it goes. These are all part of the government's package on "marriage", and the cost of taking a stand against the redefinition of government-approved marriage. Count the cost.

It goes on and on. Do you favor enforcing immigration laws? You're just hateful, a racist, anti-family. Your arguments are irrelevant and you have no place in civilized society. Do you think that religion has a place in society? Clearly you're an outdated "fundy" that shouldn't be allowed to speak in public. Are you actually suggesting that the Bible is the "Word of God"? No one buys that one anymore. Go home. You're not wanted here. More and more, standing for what used to be a given among a Christian society is being dismissed and heading toward criminalized.

I don't think I'm very surprised that things are shifting like this. If I sound like I'm complaining, don't conclude that. I expect morality to decline. I expect Christian values to be on the outside, not the mainstream. I would say that the fact that America was so much of a "Christian nation" for so long was more surprising than that it is no longer so. No, I'm not longing for the good ol' days. I'm warning genuine Christians that it can and will likely get expensive. And I'm asking you to ask yourself the question. "What will it cost?" If you believe that it is too expensive for you to agree with God, then you will also need to ask yourself if you are actually a follower of Christ. A genuine evaluation is necessary. Hesitation is expected. But you can tell the true believers by their fruit, and if you're willing to jettison God's perspective in favor of greater comfort, well, that tells you who your real god is, doesn't it? We need to be counting the cost, because the way things are going it could get real expensive real fast and it's time to figure out what you really believe. Remember, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Work of God

In John 6 we read the story of the feeding of the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish. Great story. Good stuff. At the end of the story, the people decided to take Jesus by force and crown Him king, so Jesus headed off for some alone time and the disciples headed off across the Sea of Galilee. There is the classic story of Jesus walking on the water in there, and then they arrived at the other side. The next day, the crowd caught up with Jesus again. They were converts now. They wanted to know, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus, of course, wasn't fooled. He knew they were there to get fed, not to learn from Him. So He answered, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

It's a mind-boggling statement. We're all pretty sure that it is our effort of believing in God. Jesus says that belief is God's work. Think of that! Paul says that God has assigned to each of us a "measure of faith". That is, if you have faith, it's because it was given to you, not because you mustered it up. He told the Philippians that their believing in Christ was a gift granted to them. He tells young Pastor Timothy that he should correct opponents with gentleness because "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth."

I like to reflect on worship on Sundays. I like to examine reasons to ascribe worth to God, the basic definition of "worship" (actually the origin of the word). There are lots of reasons to see God as of extreme value, but I can think of none today more amazing than this single notion. I am saved because He saved me. I didn't supply the righteousness required. I didn't supply the payment for failing to provide the required righteousness. I didn't supply the effort, the will, even the faith required. I am forgiven because He did it all. Or, as Augustus Toplady put it, "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling."

It may do damage to my pride, standing here helpless and all. But I'll agree with Paul on this. "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." That's "worth-ship".

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It's a simple word, one we've all heard, and one we all associate with evil. It's wrong, wrong, wrong to discriminate! Or ... is it?

Discrimination is defined as "the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit." That's how it is generally used. More generally it means "to make or constitute a distinction in or between; differentiate".

Discrimination has to have a reference. You have to either express or at least imply what the discrimination is in terms of. For instance, there is "discrimination on the basis of age" or "discrimination on the basis of race" or "discrimination on the basis of money". That last one is probably not the first one that comes to mind, but when you're paying for something, you had better be able to distinguish between a ten dollar bill and a twenty dollar bill, or you won't know if the cashier gives you the proper change. That's a good thing.

Our employer just notified us that there are "new federal race and ethnicity categories". Both my employer and every employer my son (who is currently job-seeking) has come across has this very odd thing going on. But it was also in the Census, so you may have seen it as well. As it turns out, it's a federal requirement. There is the question of ethnicity, and what they want to know is "Are you Hispanic/Latino or Not Hispanic/Latino?" This baffles me and I can't figure out why the question is asked. But what I can tell you is that this is discrimination at its very basic level, surrounding one, single, solitary ethnicity.

Interestingly, while the definition specifies "making a distinction in favor of or against", that never seems to come up. For instance, affirmative action was explicitly discrimination. In affirmative action, the one making the distinction was required to discriminate on the basis of race in favor of minority races. Somehow that didn't seem to upset any minority races. I never heard, "Wait! That's discrimination!"

Discrimination is actually required every day. Yes, required. We applaud someone with "discriminating taste". That could mean that they were very classy, or, in the case of a food connoisseur, they had the ability to distinguish between flavors in a dish. "I detect a hint of nutmeg and ... is that cumin?" Impressive, not evil. You need to discriminate to wear proper attire to work or play. You need to determine if someone is a good friend or just a pretender. You ought to be able to discriminate between an email from a friend and a scam email. And, of course, it is important to be able to discriminate between the truth and lies.

Discrimination for the purpose of injuring another is a bad thing. Sometimes discrimination to give preferential treatment is a bad thing. But discrimination is not by definition a bad thing. It may be wrong to prevent entrance into the country based on race (discrimination), but it is not wrong to tell the difference (discrimination) between legal and illegal immigrants. It might be wrong to deny the rights of people based on "sexual orientation", but it's not wrong to be able to discriminate between meanings of words like marriage and "civil unions". There is discrimination that shouldn't occur, but don't let anyone tell you that discrimination is always bad. The claim itself is discriminatory, differentiating between "those who see things like I do" and "those who don't". It just suggests ignorance, not wisdom.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do No Harm

Ready? Here's a new word (at least for me): "Nonmaleficence". Nice! Okay, you remember omnibenevolence, right? (Don't worry; we're not going there again.) Well, surely you can see the connection here ... right? Okay, maybe not. Nonmaleficence is the idea of doing no harm. It's a basic component of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors (as opposed to the Hypocratic Oath for others). (That last was a bit of humor.) Do no harm.

Seems to me that a lot of people see this concept as the key element in defining ethics, even if they don't know the word. They ask, "What harm does it do?" This idea is included in the notion of the "victimless crime". "What harm does it do?" The conclusion is "If it does no harm, it shouldn't be immoral." And, of course, that has its own name: Consequentialism. That is, the morality of the act is determined by the outcome (consequences) of the act. "What harm does it do?" If it has a good outcome, it's moral. If not, it's immoral. Simple as that. And, to be fair, if we are going to summarily dismiss religion from the public arena, then this is probably all we have left.

I have a tough time with this because it seems as if we are as incredibly bad at determining "harm" as we are at determining "good". Oh, some things are pretty obvious. Most of us would classify the murder of 6 million Jews as "bad" -- immoral. Child abuse: Bad. Giving to the poor: Good. Saving lives: Good. There, see? That's not so tough. But it's rarely as simple as that in real life.

Take, for instance, the issue of sex outside marriage. In determining the morality of such an act, a young person might ask, "What harm does it do?" And a conscientious parent will offer the standard problems. "It could result in pregnancy or STDs." Those are the big ones, after all, aren't they? Of course, if that's so, then we're at the mercy of the savvy teen who says, "Well, safe sex will prevent those!" and now you have to admit that there is no reason to say that sex outside marriage is immoral. I mean, "What harm does it do?" Well, God (you know, the One whose opinion counts) says that it is wrong (in God's case, "Because I said so" is sufficient) and God gives us a little insight we would surely have missed without His guidance. Paul says, "Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh'" (1 Cor 6:16). The principle? Engaging in sex is somewhat of a mystery. It actually produces an unseen but very real union. Paul's proof of principle? "It is written, 'The two will become one flesh'." God is warning us about something that most parents don't tell their kids (because most parents don't know). Sex creates a union. That's good in marriage, but bad in life. (After all, you end up quite torn when you unite and disconnect from multiple people.) So you see, there is harm in sex outside marriage; you just didn't know it.

And, when you think about it, this idea isn't too hard to see outside of any special revelation from God. We know, for instance, about the law of unintended consequences. For anything you do in a complex system there will potentially be outcomes that are unanticipated and undesirable. We know that the long-term results of some choices are hard to anticipate. Do cell phones cause brain cancer? We don't know. Maybe. We haven't been using cell phones long enough to find out. Is it harmful to marriage in general if we allow no-fault divorce? Well, forty years after the fact, it looks like we can say it surely does.

With that last example, then, if the criterion for "moral" is "What harm does it do?", society would have been calling "moral" something that actually does harm and not knowing it. And therein lies the problem. We like the idea that "moral" is that which does no harm and "immoral" is that which does harm, but we don't seem to be able to tell what harm is until it's too late. What harm does it do if a child's father divorces his or her mother and leaves? For years we would have said, "None!", but the damage is done and it isn't trivial. What harm does it do if we engage in sex outside marriage? Since the '60's we've said, "None!", but the long term, unintended consequences have done serious damage to marriage, to individuals, to sex itself, and we're now left with a society bleeding from its sexual impulses and unaware that we're even in trouble. It seems as if what parents allow in moderation children indulge in excess, and we've reached "sexcess" as the norm.

These are just two examples. They are by no means the only examples. Both are explicitly condemned by God. Both appear to "do no harm". Both are doing extensive harm. I would suggest that, if we want to avoid the law of unintended consequences, it might be wiser to consult with the Maker of this complex system and see what He thinks is moral. He knows the construction. He knows the interactions. He knows what works and what doesn't. And ... He isn't shy about telling us. We seem to think that we're much smarter in today's society and we don't need to pay attention to what He has said. Even self-identified Christians suggest that. I would suggest choosing what's moral based on personal preference and our pitifully poor ability to determine what "good" and "harm" is foolish. This kind of arrogance will get us killed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Jesus said that there was one unpardonable sin. "Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt 12:32). One: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In fact He said that every other sin can be forgiven. Only one was unpardonable.

Of course, that was then. This is now. Over time we've developed, and there are now new sins on the market that are equally unforgivable. Being boring is a sin that cannot be overlooked. People who are confident must be shunned as evil. And, of course, that whole exclusivity thing will never fly.

People hate it when someone claims "This way is the only way." They'll say foolish things like, "That is what caused the Holocaust." Never mind that there is nothing logically wrong with the claim that one religion is correct, or that when you have competing claims of exclusivity, logic demands that not all can be true. It's ironic that so many like the words of Jesus but reject His claim "No man comes to the Father but by Me." So being the only way is another unpardonable sin these days.

Related to the exclusivity error is the sin of questioning someone else's salvation. That, too, is unacceptable, it seems. You may be free to believe what you want, but never question whether someone else is saved. If he or she calls himself a Christian, then don't look a gift Christian in the mouth. It's not a social faux pas, like asking a woman her age. It's wrong.

That bothers me. You see, there are people I know, people I dearly love, whose eternal destiny is unclear to me. I don't know where they will go once they die. And since they are people I dearly love, that's important to me. But I'm told that if they tell me that they are saved, I'm supposed to back off and leave them alone. It's morally wrong to ask more questions. It's unkind and unwarranted and downright mean.

Here's the problem. The Bible is quite clear that the unsaved would mix in with the saved. Israel, God's chosen people, was full of folks under God's wrath. Jesus told more than one parable about the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, and so on. These are the look-alikes, those who are hard to distinguish from the real thing. But they're wrong. He warned of false prophets who appear to do miracles in Jesus's name. The source of John's so-called "antichrists" is the Church.
Children, ... many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 John 2:18-19).
If Jesus felt it was such an important concern about false brethren in our midst that He repeated the warning over and over, shouldn't we be equally concerned? If the Bible is quite clear that many will think they are among the elect who are not, shouldn't we be concerned? If we care about the condition of others around us, shouldn't we care about this?

The problem, of course, is the test. How do you know? We aren't saved by perfect doctrine, so we can't (and it would be dangerous to do so) say, "Your doctrine is imperfect, so you might not be saved." People will protest when we suggest "essential Christian doctrines", doctrines the denial of which might suggest that someone isn't a believer, but perhaps that has some validity. Jesus suggested, "You will recognize them by their fruits" (Matt 7:16), but people really hate it when you suggest that. And, let's be honest, it becomes very easy to become Pharisaical (or at least to sound Pharisaical) in this endeavor, as if we are determining who is in and who is not because we are the wise ones and the rest of you ... not so much.

So I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I don't want to be unnecessarily judgmental. I don't want to be passing judgment -- deciding "You're in and you're out". I'm not entirely clear on good tests for the question. But, as I said, when there are people about whom I care and their eternal destiny is in the balance, is it right for me to simply wink and nod and say, "Whatever you think is okay with me. If you're damned for it, it's not my concern."? Do I tempt this "unpardonable sin" of questioning the salvation of others, or do I keep my mouth shut and let them go to Hell without a word because it would be rude to do otherwise? Seems wrong to me somehow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Marriage and Religion

"All you need is love." That's what they tell us. I did a search on the question of marrying someone of a different religion and found piles of commenters who assured us, "All you need is love." Really?

A guy I know is planning to get married, perhaps this year. She: A Roman Catholic. He: A "Hindu" who believes that religions are primarily a function of power and control and no religion is real. But she (and her mother) have stated categorically that she cannot marry him if he doesn't convert. His solution? Well, he loves her, so he'll go through the necessary Catholic steps to marry her. Does he believe any of that stuff? Don't be silly. What's belief got to do with it?

Earlier this year a couple hit the news because of a battle over religion. She was Jewish and he was Catholic, but they agreed when they got married to raise the kids Jewish. After the birth of their daughter, however, he became concerned that she wasn't baptized. He was worried. Naomi Riley of The Washington Post reported that he told her, "If, God forbid, something happened to her, she wouldn't be in heaven."

Come on, folks! All we need is love! Can't we all just get along? Maybe not. Between 1988 and 2006, the number of mixed-faith marriages went from 15% to 25%. The rest of the statistics are, well, frightening. We used to hear, "The family that prays together stays together." Turns out it's a truism. One study reported that "if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40 percent chance of being divorced in five years." Mixed-faith marriages have a much higher chance of divorce than others. And that's a bad thing. Apparently love is not all we need.

What's all the hubbub about, bub? Well, I'm sure there are several issues. People who actually believe in their professed religion will actually believe in their professed religion. People who merely profess a religion but not actually believe it won't. So there's a factor. It seems that conservative Christian denominations have a more powerful draw on the belief system, giving them both a higher likelihood of remaining married if they are in agreement and a higher likelihood of divorce if they are not. So the strength of the faith is an issue. I would think, also, that questions of eternal condition, like the guy in the news item above, would have an impact. "We love each other so nothing else matters" may go okay for a while, but what about when there are children and their eternal condition is in question? That could be a problem.

The question that never seems to be asked in the question, "Is it okay to marry outside of ones faith?" is the question of truth. It appears as if the idea is that love trumps truth. If "all you need is love", then truth is irrelevant. You see, if there is a God and if there is valid religion, then there is truth here to be considered. The whole "all religions are valid" thing won't fly. Christianity at the least will be null and void if that is true because Christ (the root word for "Christianity") claimed "No man comes to the Father but by Me." Either He was right (nullifying all other religions) or He was wrong (affirming the exclusivity of Christianity). Beyond that, logic dictates that two or more claims to being the exclusive religion of truth cannot be valid. It may be that all such claims are wrong (and no religion is, therefore, right), but it cannot be that all (or more than one) are right. That just won't work.

To me the biggest question is the question of truth. "How we feel about each other" is only vaguely relevant because feelings change. "How we think about each other" may be more relevant, but it doesn't even come close to the issue of truth. "What does he/she see as true?" becomes vitally important in small ways and in large ways. If she believes that 2+2=4 and he believes that 2+2 is an unknown quantity that varies, he had better not be keeping the checkbook. That is a small thing that could quickly escalate to disaster. But the eternal condition of my spouse or my children ... that's a really big thing. Eternity matters. And no amount of "love" is going to alter that. No, the answer is not "All we need is love." The answer is "What do you believe is true?" If you cannot agree on basic truths about what constitutes morality and what determines where you spend eternity, there will be trouble. The larger the truth issue, the larger the trouble. And the truth about God and your relationship with Him is the largest truth to consider.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It's an odd word, not one you'll likely find in your dictionary. Of course, who uses dictionaries anymore? So you can google it and come up with all sorts of information. Let me see if I can condense it. Monergism is a term used solely by theologians. It won't likely come into play anywhere else. It is used specifically in response to the concept of "synergism", but, as a theological term, it is a specific type of synergism -- synergistic regeneration. You see? I'm making this much simpler, right?

Okay, let's see if we can break this down. Synergy is defined as the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual. The word comes from a combination of two Greek words -- sun (with) and ergon. Today we use "erg" as a measure of work. "Synergy", then, is work in combination -- to "work with". In contrast, "monergy" would substitute "mono" for "syn" ... "one" for "with". Synergy is two or more forces working together; monergy is one force at work.

But remember ... we're talking theology here. There is a specific concept in view: Regeneration. The question being asked is this. Does regeneration occur by the combined efforts of God and Man, or does God unilaterally regenerate? The predominant perspective is, of course, synergistic regeneration. "What? No! No, we don't say that!" Well, yes, most do. God does most of the work, but, well, that final trigger action is Man's. God makes salvation available, but Man is the ultimate chooser.

What is disturbing to me is ramifications of this position. There are a few serious conclusions if this synergistic regeneration concept is, in fact, true. First, what, exactly is God doing? You see, if God has only made salvation available, then He isn't actually in the business of saving anybody. He's just making them savable. When they concur, then together God and Man can produce something of value, but until they concur, God is stuck with a great plan and nowhere to go. Second, is salvation truly solely a work of God? Everyone would likely shout, "Yes!", but if God's work of salvation is dependent on ... well, anything at all ... then salvation is not solely a work of God. In fact, it is ... synergistic -- God and Man working together to produce something that God alone could not. Indeed, although God did all the work (almost), in the final analysis the final responsibility for salvation is ... you. God's work makes salvation possible; your choice makes it real.

Truly, the idea that it is my choice in the matter that determines whether or not I am saved has stark ramifications for God. He wants to save everyone ... but can't. He claims to be all-sufficient ... but isn't. He is called "Sovereign" ... but really isn't. If, on the other hand, God saves by regenerating people unilaterally who then are enabled to choose Him, then salvation becomes a work of God solely, not dependent upon Human Will. Interestingly, this is exactly what both John and Paul wrote.
But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Rom 9:16).
So ... monergistic regeneration would be both a logical fact and a biblical one. How convenient!

Monday, August 09, 2010

He is not a Man

It feels like one of the stupidest lines ever written in Scripture. The prophet, Samuel, is telling King Saul that God was stripping him of his kingdom for his sin. In the midst of this, Samuel says of God, "The Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind" (1 Sam 15:29). While this is a clear statement of God's immutability, that little line in there, "He is not a man", just cracks me up. Like, "Wow, Samuel, thanks for clearing that up. We kinda thought God was just a guy over in the next valley, but you've sure straightened us out!" "He is not a man."

Oh, sure, it's all fun and jokes ... until it occurs to me that this isn't as outlandish as it first seems. Talking to people day in and day out, it looks to me like a lot of them don't seem to realize that God is not a man. Oh, sure, no one makes that mistake consciously, but turn the corner of consciousness and suddenly they're saying things that convince me that's exactly what they're thinking.

Take, for instance, the anthropocentrism so absolutely prevalent today, even in the Church. We tend to start with Man as the key issue ... as if God (who, if you recall, is not a man) is somehow beholden to Man, somehow obligated to Man, must somehow see Man in the same light that we see Man. We are told, for instance, that "Whoever sheds a man's blood, by Man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made Man" (Gen 9:6). So, see? God is not allowed to shed human blood because we're far too valuable, being made in the image of God. But, wait ... the Bible is full of God doing just that. So ... okay, hold on ... now I'm confused. Doesn't that make God immoral? Of course, if God is a man, then He must follow the same rules as Man. But ... God is not a man. So while humans are obligated to recognize in one another the image of God and respect life on that basis, God is not so obligated.

Consider the problem of self-centeredness. Among humans, it is both normal and a problem. We all suffer from it, and we all recognize that we shouldn't. Well, when faced with it we recognize it. You see, humans tend to see themselves (individually and as a whole) as the center of the universe. We are the important ones. Well, to be most precise, I am the important one, but you are all important as well. You know, more important than, say, animals or fish or bugs or trees. And God must see that as well, right? Of course, it is nonsense. We are not the center of the universe. And that kind of thinking spawns every form of evil you can think of, from discourtesy to murder. It starts with a simple error and ends up in all error. Who, then, is the center of the universe? Well, according to Paul, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Rom 11:36). So, I guess it's reasonable to say that God is the center of all things. As such, if God was not self-centered, then He would be wrong. He would be an idolater, putting other things before the Creator. He would be insane, thinking of other things that are not the center of the universe as the center. He would not be God. You see, we should not be self-centered (both because it's incorrect and because it is immoral) and God must be self-centered (because it is both true and morally correct).

These are just a couple of examples. You'll find this running throughout our thinking processes. "God," we tend to think, "must conform to all the same rules that we do." It's not true, and you know it. You know, for instance, that He is omnipresent and we must be in only one place at any given time. ("Oh, sure, be obvious, Stan.") It's not true in other ways. We have a higher rule of morality and justice imposed on us to which we must conform. God is that higher rule, defining morality and justice by what He is and does. As Creator, He makes His own standards; as creature, we conform to His standards. And despite all of our protests, He doesn't actually have to conform to His own standards.

Now, before you get your knickers in a twist there, think about it. Parents make standards for their children. "You cannot drive before you're ___" (fill in the blank yourself because I've heard some parents tell their teenagers numbers like "16, "18", or "32", depending on the kid). "You have to be in bed by 8." "No, you're only 4; you can't cross the street by yourself." But ... parents drive, go to bed when they please, and cross the street all by themselves! Immoral, hypocritical parents! Right? No, of course not. "Parent" is a different order of being than "child". And what is true in small, human terms is much more true in God-versus-Man terms. So it is unreasonable to impose human rules on God.

God (unlike parents) will always do what is right. He is the standard. "Justice" is defined as "whatever God does". Be very careful not to confuse yourself with that. While it may sound somewhat silly, God is not a man. He doesn't conform to the same rules to which we are supposed to conform. He is God. Be careful not to trip yourself up with that. He is not a man.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Modern Magic

Who doesn't like music? Okay, I'm sure there are a few, but the love of music is almost universal. I would guess that most people can't actually give a reason for this. They just like music. Maybe it's because of the way it makes them feel. Maybe it's because "it moves me". There are other vague reasons, but I suspect that the real reason is much deeper. I think it's because music is magic.

I'm not trying to get fantastic here. I'm not actually suggesting genuine magic. But I believe that music has effects on us of which we aren't really aware. You get a hint of this in the Bible. Music is one of the early inventions mentioned in Scripture, even before the forgers of bronze and iron. One of the more interesting stories is the one about King Saul who was tormented by an evil spirit. He hired David to help him. "Whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him" (1 Sam 16:23). King David was known for designing musical instruments. Solomon ordered the use of music in the Temple. Several places in Revelation speak of music in heaven. The entire book of Psalms is a hymn book. And Dr. Bruce Leafblad holds that, as much of the Old Testament books are written in poetry form, it follows that most of their messages were sung. Music is a part of the Bible.

Modern studies have much to suggest about the effects of music. According to eMedExpert.com, music can assist in pain management, blood pressure management, regulation of the heart, post-stroke recovery, headaches, the immune system, the IQ, memory, athletic performance, coordination, fatigue, productivity, sleep, and depression. (If you've never tried it, try putting Bible verses to music and see how easily you can memorize them. Really amazing.) Music is powerful stuff ... nearly magic. (For another interesting article on the amazing effects of music, try this one by Laurence O'Donnell.)

Think about it. Music has the ability to make your body move in ways that are not natural. I mean, when else do you tap your foot except to a lively beat in music? Certain rhythms seem to sneak in and make your body want to move even without you being conscious of it. Or how about the first time you heard the theme music from Jaws? Did you really need to know that there was something dangerous coming to feel the ominous danger just from that music? Music can directly bypass the brain and go directly to the emotions, lifting spirits or creating tension. William Congreve wrote, "Music has charms to soothe the savage breast." (Okay, he spelled it with a "k" -- musick -- and, indeed it was "savage breast", not "beast" like so many suppose, but you know you've heard it.) Mickey Hart, the well-known drummer from the Grateful Dead wrote that music has such a capacity to influence without conscious recognition that the musician has a solemn duty to use that tool with great care.

We tend these days to take music lightly. It's ... fun. It's entertainment. It's just fine. What's the big deal? But the Bible says something quite amazing about music: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col 3:16). Now when was the last time you heard anyone "teach and admonish" using music? When was the last time a worship leader in church used the music to teach? Have you ever heard anyone "reprove gently but earnestly" (the definition of "admonish") with song? You see, music really is, in a sense, magic. It has the capacity to engage your whole being. It can make you move. It can affect your heart rhythms and your blood pressure. It can slip into your emotions unawares and make you feel things. It can turn a crowd of carefree teenagers into an angry mob or turn an angry mob into a peaceful gathering. It can recall lost memories. It can also engage your brain to teach and admonish. This is the powerful device that God designed for us. He even commanded its use. In a world of materialism and humanism ruled by the god of science, wouldn't it be a wonderful idea to remember and engage this magical marvel called "music" as God intended -- to teach and admonish?