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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What We Know about God

Over history there have been a lot of bizarre ideas about what God was like. Some thought He was in a volcano. Some thought He was the sun. Some thought He was in plants and trees. Some thought He was a group of capricious inbred miscreants with a variety of powers and each with its own individual following. Of course, that one was really popular for a long time. The Greeks, the Romans, and the Norse liked that version. In fact, our days of the week are named after that version. Eventually, of course, reason won out. Whether it was the Jewish YHWH or Islam's Allah or the Christian God, we finally figured out that it was one being. And here in the 21st century, we figured out a lot more than that.

We figured out, for instance, that God is not that "evil volcano God", some cruel being wishing to consume His creation. He's not angry at all. No, no, that's some early version. No, God's a nice fellow with only good intentions. Those old "fire and brimstone" types loved to scare their listeners into repentance, but we know better (John 3:36; Rom 1:18; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Rev 19:15; Rom 9:22-23).

We figured out that God is good. Of course, that's not nearly as vague as it sounds. We figured out that God is good to us. He is ... what's the popular term ... "omnibenevolent". I don't merely mean that God is righteous. I mean that He's nice. God doesn't do what we would classify as "bad things". He doesn't ordain harsh or unpleasant events to happen to people. He doesn't cause hurricanes or earthquakes or the like. He's a nice God who, apparently, is a victim of a sin-ridden planet just as we are. It is we who have evicted Him from schools and then wonder why there are school shootings, who have evicted Him from government and wonder why there's such corruption, who have evicted Him from the public square and then wonder why there's so many problems. It's not His fault, you see, because one thing we know is that God is good and wouldn't do anything unpleasant to us (Job 21:30; Isa 45:7; Jer 16:10-11; Jer 18:11; Amos 3:6).

And one thing we know beyond dispute. God loves us. Oh, how He loves us. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us and only wants the best for us. You see, that's why He's not that "God of wrath" or some God who brings about some divine smiting or some such nonsense. How could He? He loves us. He loves us universally and equally. He loves us endlessly and without reserve (Psa 5:5; Psa 73:18-20; Jer 12:8; Lam 2:6; Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:13; Psa 51:17).

Of course, if you bothered to look up any of the references I've offered so far, you'd also discover something else. If these seem to you to be accurate descriptions of God, it turns out that you may not know God nearly as well as you thought, because these oh-so-popular ideas about God are not biblical ideas. They are contrary to the biblical descriptions. And, although we think we're quite advanced, I suspect that many don't know God much better in the 21st century than they did in the days of Roman mythology. And, bottom line, knowing God makes all the difference.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Murphy's Law

We know Murphy's Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy, as it turns out, was an Air Force captain. He was working on a project testing the amount of acceleration a human body could take. But a technician with a 50/50 chance of getting the accelerometers glued on correctly got them all wrong and the test was a bust.

It's Memorial Day, a day we honor those fallen in fighting for our country. So I thought you'd like to meet another Murphy or two.

Take, for instance, Lieutenant Michael Murphy. Lt. Murphy was a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan in 2005. He was leading a four-man team searching for a key Taliban leader in the mountains of Afghanistan. The team encountered three Afghan goat herders. Now they had a dilemma. Do they let them go and risk discovery or do they shoot them and be safe? The team let them go. As a result, they found themselves facing 30 to 40 Taliban fighters. The four put up a fight although each was injured. Murphy decided that they needed to call for help, but their location provided no signal, so he had to move away from the protection and out into the open. Without hesitating, and bleeding from a stomach wound, he went out to make the call. He was shot in the back and dropped the handset, but retrieved it and contacted his superiors to get help. Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, a witness to his bravery, said, "I looked back up at Mikey and he took two rounds to the back and sat back up, hung up the phone." Murphy continued to fire until three of the four were killed. Luttrell alone survived the attack after being blown off the edge of the ridge by a grenade and captured, but the Army reconnaissance team sent to recover the SEAL team rescued him, and Lt. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger." "By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service." At the presentation of the medal President Bush said, "With this medal, we acknowledge a debt that will not diminish with time and can never be repaid."

Another Murphy you might like to hear about is Frederick C. Murphy. PFC Murphy was a medic at the Siegfried Line in 1945. During the fighting, Murphy was shot in the shoulder. Refusing treatment, he continued to treat injured soldiers amid machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. The company ran into a minefield, but Murphy moved in to help those injured in the field. Eventually, of course, it got the best of him and he stepped on a mine that blew off one of his feet. Refusing to be evacuated, he crawled from man to man giving aid until he crawled across another mine and was killed. At the cost of his own life, PFC Frederick Murphy saved the lives of many soldiers.

Or how about a famous Murphy? Audie Murphy tried to join the military in 1941 at the age of 17. Turned down because he was too young and too small, he finally got into the Army. He had to fight the system to get into combat, but he eventually took part in the invasion of Italy where he distinguished himself repeatedly. Despite bouts of malaria, he fought hard and earned promotions and decorations. Then his division was moved to southern France. Murphy earned the Distinguished Service Cross one day when his good friend was fooled by a German soldier pretending to surrender and was killed. Murphy was so mad he killed everyone in the machine-gun nest that had killed his friend, then took their machine gun and destroyed several other enemy locations. But Murphy wasn't done there. The next day his unit fought in 2 feet of snow against overwhelming odds. With more than 100 of his 128-man unit killed, he ordered the remaining 18 to safety while he covered their retreat. Alone and surrounded on three sides, he faced 6 German tanks and an entire German company. He called in artillery fire and, when he ran out of ammunition, got onto a burning tank destroyer to use its .50 caliber machine gun. He continued to call in artillery and fight off enemy troops while being wounded himself for almost an hour until the phone line was cut by enemy fire. Then the 18 returned and he organized them into a counter attack which drove the remaining Germans from the battle. His citation concluded, "2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective."

We have a rich heritage of people who have fought and fought bravely for freedom. And although Murphy's Law may be that what can go wrong will go wrong, sometimes "Murphy" might just mean that someone was extraordinarily brave in the face of great hardship for the sake of his country.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Demands of Mercy

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared (Psa 130:3-4).
We understand the demands of justice. Justice demands that evil is repaid. Justice demands that wrong is righted. Justice demands that the right is vindicated and the wrong is dealt with. Justice demands these things.

What about mercy? What are the demands of mercy? Mercy demands ... nothing. No, I'm not talking about the fact that mercy demands nothing of us. I mean that there are no demands on mercy. Mercy has no obligations. It is not required to do anything. It is a free gift, not a required one.

The psalmist wrote, "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" Justice, you see, demands that we would all be repaid for our sins. Mercy has nothing to say about it. If God were to simply damn all humans He would be acting with complete and perfect justice and there would be no one to complain. It would be ... good.

So when Christ paid the price on our behalf ... when God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21), the sheer act of mercy was not required. There was no such obligation. There was no demand for mercy. It was a free gift.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me! (And, whatever you do, don't ask for "fair" from God.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Don't Believe in Hell

Rob Bell is the author of Love Wins, a recent book that set off its own firestorm even before it was released. In it, the well-known, very popular, "evangelical" pastor explained that no one goes to Hell. Love, you see, wins. And those who understand Scripture and recognize the clear teachings of the Church and the Word throughout the history of Christianity were up in arms. There is no question. Hell isn't a fabrication of a few mean guys a couple thousand years ago. It's right there in the pages of the Bible as clear as it gets.

I've written a few things about Hell in general and an entire series on the Bell incident in particular. It's pretty clear from what I've written that Hell is real. On the other hand, I would suspect that the truth is that I don't much believe in Hell ... and neither do you.

It has been (rightly) said that we are activated by what we believe. Do you want to know what you truly believe? Look at what you do. When Al Gore, for instance, preaches the end of the world from human-caused global warming and doesn't do a thing to change his own high-carbon lifestyle, you have to ask, "Does he really believe that?" When a smoker takes a drag on his cigarette and tells his young charge, "Don't smoke, kid. It will kill you," it's reasonable to ask, "Does he really believe that?" Conversely, when a guy tells his friends, "I'm not afraid of them" while whipping his head around to see if they're coming (assuming "them" is some sort of threat), you can be pretty sure that, despite what he says, he is afraid.

So when I walk into a sin with eyes wide open and claim, "I believe in Hell," I'm not telling the truth. At that moment, I'm not really conscious of the reality and threat of Hell. I'm not admitting to the cost of my sin and the quantity of the mercy provided. When I get mad at God for failing to come through on what I thought He owed me, I'm not really believing in Hell. When I can work with people that I care about and not say a word about their need for Christ, I am not really believing in Hell. It's not a real place to me at that moment.

How about you? What do you do that says clearly by your deeds, "I don't believe in Hell"? Do you recognize the justice that would call for you to face judgment, or do you live as if salvation is owed? Are you a vessel of wrath who has been shown mercy or a child of God who has been shown the mercy you deserve? Are you living and speaking Christ to those around you -- your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, fellow humans -- who are condemned already? If any of this gets close to you, perhaps you, too, don't believe in Hell. Moving what's in your head to your heart can be a difficult thing, can't it?

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Public Opinion Defines Reality ...

The Atlantic reports that "For the first time, Gallup finds majority in favor of flying pigs."
A Gallup poll released today found that 53 percent of respondents believed "flying pigs" are real, "with the same rights as other animals." It's an all-time high--that question has never gotten more than 50 percent support in Gallup poll.

In one sense, this isn't quite news; Politico points out that other surveys have generated similar results in the past few months. In April, a CNN poll found 51 percent support for flying pigs, and in March, a Washington Post/ABC poll also found 53 percent support. Another CNN poll, last August, found 52 percent in favor of flying pigs.

Still, the Gallup poll is further evidence that support for flying pigs is climbing. Last year, Gallup found only 44 percent in favor of flying pigs, meaning there was a nine-point jump in support this year--the largest year-to-year change since Gallup began conducting annual polls about flying pigs in 2004. In April, Nate Silver at The New York Times noted that a similar jump was evident in the greater body of polling data.

Some other takeaways from the Gallup poll: In the past year, 13 percent more Democrats said that flying pigs should be considered real, compared with 10 percent more independents. Meanwhile, Republicans had a zero percent change in opinion--according to Gallup, they don't believe in flying pigs any more now than they did a year ago.

Gallup finds that among people age 18 to 34, 70 percent support flying pigs; among people 55 and older, only 39 percent support it. "More broadly," the poll notes, "support is highest among younger women and lowest among older men." It's also higher "among those who attend church less frequently, among Catholics than among Protestants, and among those who are unmarried."
Okay, perhaps I altered the story, but, in fact, only slightly. Substitute "gay marriage" for "flying pigs" and you'll likely get the gist of the actual story. Understand that "flying pigs" are nonsensical, make-believe, non-existent animals, and you'll likely get the gist of this post. And choosing "flying pigs" as my non-existent example has an added benefit. When will public opinion determine God's reality? Well, you fill in that answer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:8b-13

Okay, so we've seen that love is essential. No matter what "good" we may think we have accomplished, if it is not motivated by love, it is worse than useless. Seeing that, we've looked at what the Bible considers genuine love (as opposed to what our world thinks is love). It will likely produce the feelings we've come to associate with the concept of love, but these feelings don't define love. Instead, love is a choice we make to seek the best for the other, look always in that direction, and stand always for that aim.

So, what about all that good stuff? What about the ability to tell God's truth or the special gift of speaking foreign languages or having that special keen insight? The fact is that all this "stuff" that we consider important today will eventually end. It's temporal, temporary, impermanent. It's on its way out. The best we can do these days is to imperfectly prophesy and partially know. But the day is coming when that goes away and the perfect and complete replaces it. So why get so wrapped up in it?

We're like children. We think we're pretty smart, pretty eloquent, pretty reasonable. But when a child grows up and looks back, he finds he was ... childish. Well, we're still childish. We see things, perhaps, but we see them dimly. It's like trying to comb your hair with a steamed up mirror. We know we're in there ... but we're just not clear where. No, the day is coming when we will know the truth and we will be face to face with God. Today we know partial truth; then we'll know the full truth. Today we know God somewhat; then we'll know Him fully, like He has known us.

There are lots of "good" things in this world. There are spiritual gifts and moral activities and all. Just keep in mind that this world is temporary. Don't get so tied up in the temporary that you miss the things that last. What lasts? Well, faith is lasting and hope goes on and love just keeps going and going better than any Energizer bunny (never fails, remember?). Given that love is the proper basis for all that we do, it must be that love is the most important of these. That, therefore, should be our aim, our goal, our primary attention. And not that silly, man-made version. No, biblical love. It's big, it's lasting, and it's essential. So, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Since love is the singularly necessary basis for Christian morality, we need to know what that is. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a gives a depiction of the biblical concept of love.

Love has a huge capacity to endure patiently. It is a "slow burn fuse", a bearing of offenses and injuries without retaliation. Instead of vengeance, love seeks to be kind. In this it is virtuous and benevolent, always seeking to be useful rather than using, beneficial rather than benefited, pleasant and mild rather than heard.

Love may have zeal, but one thing it has no zeal for is the desire to possess. It doesn't wish it had what others had. It doesn't envy others their good fortune. It doesn't covet. Love, instead, is content. Nor is love boastful. One who loves doesn't put himself on display. No, when you love, you put the loved one on display. The primary concern is the well-being of the one who is loved. The one who loves is not the primary issue nor the focus.

Love is not arrogant. The one who loves doesn't present himself or herself as something worthy of attention. It is not lofty or proud. It's not full of hot air. Instead, love knows how to behave. Love isn't rude or inappropriate. It isn't indecent. No, in fact it is presentable, appropriate, respectful, even polite.

Love has an unusual aim. While the most natural human characteristic is self-interest, love does not seek that. Instead, love aims for the interest of others. In this, then, love is perhaps one of the most foreign concepts to Natural Man. Self-interest is secondary in love. It considers the one loved as more important than the one who loves and the best interest of the loved one is the primary aim of love.

Love is not irritable or resentful. No, that's too mild. Love is not scornful or easily provoked or prone to exasperation. (Remember that patient endurance.) And being not easily upset, love doesn't keep score. Everyone suffers loss at the hands of others. Love, however, doesn't keep a record book. It lets those losses go. It doesn't track debits, so to speak. There is no reckoning of the bad things that have been done to the one who loves. Those just don't count.

Love includes the concept of joy. Love makes you happy. Be careful, though. Love doesn't make you rejoice at just anything. Love thrives on truth. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love shouts hallelujah to good doctrine, good morality, a proper reflection of reality, to all things true. At the same time, love has the opposite response to sin, to injustice, to unrighteousness of heart and life, to violations of God's law. Love doesn't support evil, but rejoices in truth.

Love holds up some tremendous "alls". Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. In bearing all things, love provides a covering, a protection. It is like a good roof, concealing the loved one from errors, faults, trouble. On the other hand, love stands up to perceived slights, unkindnesses, unpleasantry aimed at the one who loves. Love believes the best of the loved one. It believes the best even against the evidence. It believes the best even against much evidence. Love stands with joyful confidence and expectation for the best for the loved one. Even when spurned, love keeps coming back seeking what's best for the one who is loved. And love stands. It stands patiently. It stands bravely. It stands calmly. It stands as it covers and protects, stands as it believes the best even when it may be hard, stands when things look hopeless. It endures all of the worst in search of all of the best.

Perhaps the most lost component of love today is its endurance. Love never ends. It doesn't cease. It doesn't perish. It doesn't fall away. It cannot be cast off or run aground. It cannot be powerless or ineffectual. It never fails.

I want you to notice something in this descriptive pile. Notice that there is nothing in this explanation that suggests "Love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. Love is often sexual passion or desire." That's what our dictionaries tell us. That's not what this passage tells us. Now, let me be clear. I am not suggesting that tenderness, affection, warm personal attachment, or possibly even sexual passion are not or cannot be a natural by-product of love. By that I mean that genuine love ought to produce some of this. Nonetheless, none of it is "love", which means that none of it is the proper definition of love from a biblical perspective. Since we are commanded to love, love is a choice we make. The feelings associated with love will likely follow the choice to love, but love, as defined here, is something we choose regardless of feelings. Conversely, that which we do out of warm feelings may or may not be love. Let's not get confused.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

My friend, Danny, wrote an insightful piece about how we've managed to mess up the entire concept of love in our society today, and the ramifications of that mess. In one of his own comments in that essay he wrote, "Love must be gotten right lest we end up loving the world to death." Of course, the best source for an accurate depiction of the love that Christians are supposed to have is found in 1 Corinthians 13. So I thought I'd reexamine that passage. And I thought that perhaps I'd reexamine it by rewording it. No, this isn't Scripture; it's a paraphrase. But perhaps it will help expand my understanding ... and yours. So, here are the first three verses my way.

Imagine, if you will, that I have a truly miraculous capacity for languages. I can speak any language ever spoken, whether human or otherwise. Imagine, then, that I use this capacity for all sorts of good things, with the single lack that I don't do it motivated by love. Do you know what that's called? It's called "noise". That's right. Worse than useless, it is irritating.

Imagine again that I have the brain of a demigod. I don't simply understand the normal things around us. I understand vast concepts beyond your comprehension. I can predict the future and explain mysteries that no one has figured out. I know all that stuff you don't even know you don't know. So brilliant am I that I can believe far more than you can believe. So stunning is this faith of mine that I can even do what Jesus suggested -- believe enough to move mountains. So, here I am with this tremendous mental capacity tied to this monumental faith capacity, and all I lack is love. The sum total? Nothing, zero, zip, zilch. A useless brain and a useless faith.

Here's an ever popular idea. Let's say that I'm the epitome of generosity. Surely there's nothing bad about that! The generous man is the most cherished and coveted man of all time. And I am that man. I have billions and I don't hold back. It's all out there for the sake of charity. Not only do I donate all my goods, I donate all my self. I'm daily working on volunteer tasks helping this person or that group or whomever I can find until I'm sick for lack of taking care of myself in order to give all that I have and am to others. There's just one thing I'm missing. It's the motivation of love. But, hey, that can't be all bad, right? I mean, no one is more generous than I, so what difference does it make? The difference is that this single absent component makes all that I do less than zero.

It doesn't matter who you imagine. I am the finest orator of all time, able to persuade people to great deeds. I am the best pastor you've ever heard, with a depth of knowledge and the finest skills of presentation and just the right touch of humor and application. I am your favorite politician with all the people skills and leadership ability. I'm the guy that runs the local soup kitchen for the homeless, the congressman who works hard to raise taxes on the rich so we can pay for healthcare for all, the lawyer that defends the weak and helpless against all odds and wins. But if any of this is performed without the motivation of love at its core, all of it is less than useless. It is simply noise, a net loss. All this "good" is pointless without love.

Perhaps, then, you can begin to see how important it is to find out exactly what this thing is that we call "love". I mean, if all that "good stuff" that I've described isn't, by definition, love, what is? We'd better get this straight if we're going to do anything good.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kids in Church

I come from an older generation. When we were kids, we went to church with our parents. We sat quietly and listened or doodled or something, but we sat there. I remember when I was ten or eleven I complained to my parents that I didn't understand what the preacher was saying. The answer was not "You know, I think they need a special service for kids." It was "Why don't you write down the things you don't understand and we can talk about them after." Think about that. Now I had to really listen to put something down that was coherent or I'd be admitting that I had either lied or wasn't paying attention. Clever.

Today, of course, it's not an issue. I find it rare that churches expect children to remain in the service. Some don't let them in at all. More often they let them in for the singing portion but have them leave before the preaching begins. To me it's an interruption. In the midst of setting the stage, of focusing the attention, of tuning the heart and mind, suddenly we hear something like, "Let's greet one another while the kids are dismissed to their classrooms" or the like. Wait, weren't we building to something here? And why are these kids asked to leave?

I don't believe it's because the kids won't understand the preaching. I think it's because the kids will disrupt the preaching. I don't think it's because the children aren't mature enough to understand. Nor do I think it is less than valuable for them to remain. It's my conviction that the primary reason children are dismissed from church services at the edge of the sermon is that they lack the discipline not to be a distraction to the people around them. It's not a maturity problem or even that kids are better taught at their own age level. It's a parenting problem.

I'm not suggesting that we stop the practice. I am suggesting that clearly something has changed in the past 30 years that wasn't the case before that, and I am suggesting that parents are not being taught how to train up their children. Maybe, just maybe, if we started working on that problem we could move toward a church service where kids are taught to the same depth that their parents are taught. Of course, that's an entirely different problem, isn't it?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Glory of God

The Purpose of God's Glory

"I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed" (John 17:5).

To our God and Father be glory forever and ever (Phil 4:20).

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Rev 4:11).

Unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (1 Tim 1:17).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:1-2).

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:22-23).

... waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).

Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11).

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places ... 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved
... 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:3-14).

The Problem of God's Glory

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 1:22-23).

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

The Power of God's Glory

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Eph 3:14-17).

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).

And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19).

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).


The sum total of the Creation is found in the glory of God. The whole point is an expression of God's glory. The aim of all things is to, in everything, express and expound upon the glory of God. The problem, of course, is that sin falls short of that purpose. The primary problem of sin is the failure to glorify God.

God's glory is not without recourse. The failure of His creation to properly glorify Him is not the end of the story. To further His glory, God sent His Son to die on our behalf, a remedy for sin. It was that glory that raised Christ from the dead. It is that glory that strengthens us. It is that glory that transforms us. It is that glory that supplies us. It is that glory that sustains us in suffering. It is His glory that is our blessed hope, our future.

To many, God's glory is a bad thing. To believers, it is a good thing, but it is too often a side issue. Oh, sure, we're interested and all, but it is not central. But Scripture paints the glory of God as the primary issue. We glorify Him in good deeds. His glory is the point of all our blessings in Christ. We receive mercy for His glory. It is the only real thing of consequence. All of His nature is wrapped up in His glory. All of our purpose is aimed at His glory. There is no other point. His glory is all there is. As is repeated over and over in Scripture, "To our God and Father be glory forever and ever" (Phil 4:20).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guessing the Motive

The question of motives is a key question. Just take an easy example. A young wife loses her husband in a tragic accident. A man who comforts her for her benefit is a nice guy. A man who comforts her in the hopes of seducing her is a "player", a not-nice-guy-at-all. The act is the same -- comfort. The motive determines whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. Unfortunately, common sense would tell us that guessing motives can be a very difficult thing to do. Fortunately, it appears that very, very few people are aware of that common sense.

Take, for instance, this whole "birther" thing. Now, the facts are simple. A group of disgruntled Hillary Clinton enthusiasts started the "Was Obama born in the United States?" question thing. It was fed by comments from people like the president's grandmother who said he was born in Kenya and Michelle Obama who referred to Kenya as his "home country". It wasn't helpful when the ambassador from Kenya said that the president was born there. All of this fed the "birther" idea. Now, let me say up front that I am not a "birther". To me it's a moot point. I just don't care. But what has fascinated me in this whole discussion has been the claims of motivation from the president's supporters. You see, even though it was people from his Secretary of State that started the question and even though it was people like his wife, grandmother, and the Kenyan ambassador that fueled it, it appears that the only possible motivation for "birthers" is racism. That's right. No one could suggest this stuff if they weren't racists at heart. And without even batting an eye, the secret motivations of the heart have been easily and cleanly extracted and shown for all to view.

Or how about this whole homosexual thing? Now, lots of people who call themselves Christians have read their Bibles and concluded that homosexual behavior is against God's moral law. They look at history and have concluded that homosexual behavior is against God's moral law. Further, they examine the history of the Church and the world and find that the only functioning definition of marriage throughout history has been the union of male and female. So, they take that position. And all of the sudden the world is certain what the motivation is ... and they even have a word for it -- "homophobic". That's right! The only way that anyone could actually conclude that homosexual behavior is sin and marriage is between a man and a woman is if they have this irrational fear and hatred for people who perform that particular behavior. Again, without the slightest difficulty at all, the secret motivations of the heart have been easily and cleanly extracted and shown for all to view.

It's all around us, it seems. A man or a woman who holds that life begins at conception and that murder is wrong is not a moral person. He or she is a sexist, anti-choice person. That's their motivation. It isn't a stand for right or a defense of the weak. It is a power struggle, an attempt to force their own opinions on others. And, as in the other cases, any attempt to explain the rationale for their position is simply seen as a cagey dodge, an attempt to exonerate themselves of the charge of being a religious right-wing radical intent on ruling the world with their outdated sense of morality, their disregard for the health of women, and their fake concern for right and wrong. Evil people! Nor is it just the one side of the question, either. The conservatives are quite sure that the liberals "hate America" (motivation) because they act in ways contrary to the conservative agenda, as an example. They know their motives, and they're evil!

I'd like to make a suggestion. I would like to suggest that it's not quite so easy as many think to determine motives. I would like to suggest that before we leap to a group decision that lumps everyone doing "A" with motive "B", we pause and step back. It's not fair. It's not real. And I would have to question your motives in doing so.

Unrelated Post Script:
Today is Harold Camping's "end of the world". If Camping is right and the Rapture occurs and pigs can fly and we all get rainbow unicorns for pets, this will be the end of this blog. Of course, so convinced am I that he's right that ... I have posts ready for the rest of the month. Yeah, not gonna happen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Mile Wide

It's an old description. "It's a mile wide and an inch deep." It is meant to describe something that appears huge and significant, but turns out to be shallow and pointless. It's an apropos characterization of a lot of things these days. America's public education system would fall into this category. I suppose the effectiveness of our government might, too. But what disturbs me most is the perception I have that the church in America would also fit in this depiction.

I was talking to someone about it the other day. "Perhaps," I offered, "it's just that the pastor doesn't feel like his congregation can handle anything deeper at this point." My cohort found that doubtful. "I don't know," he said. "Seems like if there is depth then it would leak out. If there is depth in a pastor, then he couldn't help but try to share it with his congregation. He wouldn't want to preach to the lowest common denominator, but would want to try to raise that lowest to a higher level."

Sadly, he made sense. It would be easy to suggest that it's a problem of American church-goers, not necessarily their leadership. It would be hard, if not impossible, to support. Finding a preacher who dispenses more than milk from the pulpit is hard to do. It speaks poorly of the spiritual leadership in our churches. It speaks just as poorly of the spiritual condition of those who endure it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mostly Good

Do you remember the part in The Princess Bride when the main character, Wesley, was "mostly dead"?

I was talking to a skeptic the other day about Christianity. I don't do it very well, I'm quite sure. I tend to ask questions rather than smack them with a cross and have an altar call. But, hey, we all have our ways. Anyway, he voiced the big opposition. "How is it right for God to send people to Hell for one little thing?" What one little thing? Well, it varies, of course, but in this case it was "not accepting Christ". I tried to explain that no one goes to Hell for not accepting Christ. It is for their sin. But, as you can imagine, that doesn't cut it.

"I'm not so bad."

By what measure?

"I don't kill anyone. I pay my taxes. I'm a nice guy. I treat people the way I wish to be treated." (Echoes of the rich young ruler.)

So what's so bad? I mean, seriously, what has this guy done to deserve Hell? Let's set aside the silly notion that a temporal crime deserves a temporary punishment. Makes no sense at all. You don't pay for the time you spent doing the crime; you pay for the depravity of the crime. Okay, so what is so depraved? Well, let's take this guy as an example. No, really, a nice guy -- pays his bills, takes care of his kids when they visit, treats his live-in girlfriend well, even takes care of her kids when they visit, gets along with her husband just fine, and on it goes. A really nice guy. Of course, the fact that he has determined that adultery and fornication (for starters) are not issues of morality speaks volumes. Not that he's horribly immoral for this. It's the entire concept. "I don't really much care what God thinks about what is right and wrong. I will do what I believe to be right and then measure myself by that." Or, to put it another way, "I will be like the Most High." And there is the depravity of the crime.

In The Princess Bride, Wesley was mostly dead, but he recovered. We, on the other hand, see ourselves as mostly good, from which there is no recovery because, after all, if we are not wholly good, we are not at all good. And there is no one good but God. "Mostly good" is neither mostly good nor good enough. Without a righteousness transplant we're doomed. Of course, getting that across to someone who is mostly good is just as easy as getting it across to someone who is mostly dead (perhaps because the one is the other). Fortunately, that is the function of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Church is Like

This is not intended as a position statement or a harangue. This is a request for input.
11 And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph 4:11-16).

26 When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:26-33).

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).

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Heb 10:23-25).
These are a few of the clearest, most explicit passages on what church is like, or, rather, what it is supposed to be like. It is the building up of the saints. It is maturing, speaking the truth in love, growing, working together. The Corinthians passage describes what Paul thought a church gathering should be like, with everyone taking part rather than a few up front and everyone else listening. The Hebrews passage commands that we "hold fast the confession" (in a world of Christianity that largely despises confessions today) and "consider how to stir up one another to love" and "encouraging one another". It's "church". It's how it's supposed to be. But I have to be honest. It is, for the largest part, not my experience.

So this is, as I said, a request for input. In light of passages like these (feel free to pick more), what is your church like? How does your church do with this stuff? How well does your church line up with the biblical ideal? How is the fellowship? How does your church do at building up Christians? How does your local gathering of believers spur you to love and good works? What is your church doing that works ... or doesn't work? I would like to think that some of you out there are part of churches about which you could warmly share. Share! Some others might think, "I think I'm alone in this, in that I haven't found a church that is like this." These would like to know that they're not alone. So ... share!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jesus on the Law

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18).

"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh" (Matt 19:4-6).

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others" (Matt 23:23).

But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void (Luke 16:17).

And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother'" (Mark 10:17-19).

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20).
Jesus seems to have held the Law in pretty high regard ... perhaps higher than modern Gentile Christians do. He seemed to think, for instance, that the passage in Genesis 2 was real, that the Pharisees weren't suffering from a failing of legalism, but a failure to sufficiently follow the Law, and that the Law would not pass away in this existence. Somehow, in light of this, "Jesus never said ..." seems to be a weak argument when considering matters of the Old Testament Law since Jesus did appear to view that Law as completely relevant.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Lie of Security

In a recent article from, their "Ask the Pilot" columnist ranted about the farce of airport security. He was bemoaning the nonsense of making sure his liquids were in the proper ziplock bag and recounts "the story of a test in which TSA screeners are presented with a suitcase containing a mock explosive device with a water bottle nestled next to it. They ferret out the water, of course, while the bomb goes sailing through." Airport security, you see, is a farce.

Don't get your knickers in a twist, though. The truth is that security is a farce. We spend billions of dollars on security and spend billions of hours worrying about safety, and you have to wonder just how effective it really is. With all that they do to protect us from identity theft, people are still having their identities stolen. Automobiles with five-star safety ratings still end up with dead passengers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "There were about 661,500 police officers, sheriffs, and detectives in 2008", and still there is crime being perpetrated every day. I remember the story of a woman who was killed by lightning in her bedroom. Or how about a more recent event we all know? A well-known criminal in a well-protected compound with razor wire, high walls, security cameras, and armed guards was shot to death in his bedroom. It doesn't get much more secure than that.

We tend to worship comfort and security, it seems. We don't want to take risks, whether it be physical or emotional or relational or financial. (Sometimes I think physical risk is our least concern. Consider extreme sports, bungee jumping, and the other "fun" things people do that entail physical risk.) We think that we can find a place where there is no risk. So without saying it we think that old widow in the temple who gave her last pennies to God was just a bit crazy. I mean, good for her and all, but don't expect us to put ourselves out on that edge. Or maybe it's not financial risk. Maybe it's relational risk we avoid. For shy people that's a serious problem, but it's not just theirs. You know, it would just be a lot easier if you didn't broadcast to all your coworkers that you are a Christian. Worse, they don't need to know that you think that self-identified "gay guy" over in the other cubicle is sinning for his actions. No, no, let's just get along. That's unnecessary risk to tell the truth there.

We don't even think about the spiritual risks we take every day. We hang on tightly to visions of safety and security and comfort as if they're actually attainable and sacrifice basic spiritual health in doing so. We know "it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake," but we still try to avoid it. We are plainly aware that Jesus said, "woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation", and still we cling desperately to our riches thinking that we are safer managing our own money (as if it is our own money) than following Christ in how we handle our finances. You know, "woe" is not a good term in Scripture. "Woe" is a bad thing. But we think that a "woe" from the lips of Christ is less risky than the possibility of running out of money. And it's clearly more important that we have our cable TV and cellphone data plan than that we take the risks with that which we have as Christ would demand.

But ... I'm meddling. Here's my point. When we think that we can achieve comfort and security in this world, we've bought the lie. It is a farce, an illusion. We should, of course, take precautions to be safe. That's called stewardship. But when safety and security becomes our god, that's called idolatry. On the other hand, when we take reasonable precautions, then step out to obey Christ in a risky world and place our trust in the Sovereign of the Universe, that's called wisdom. Remember, we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37). As such, don't you think that too much effort spent on safety and security is a waste of time? Remember Job. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pillars of the Church

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, "When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men." ... 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph 4:7-8, 11-16).
Interesting passage. To me, this is the clearest explanation there is for the aim and function of the Church. Let's look at it for a moment.

The passage talks about "gifts", and we're well aware of "the gifts of the Spirit". However, this passage on gifts doesn't refer to things like "tongues" and "service". Instead, there are four (or five, depending on how you read it) gifts given by Christ to the Church. These gifts are found in verse 11: "He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." Some refer to these as "the five-fold ministry". There are apostles. Notice I use a lowercase "a" for that. The role of Apostle (uppercase) refers to the original twelve and Paul. Paul was the last of the Apostles. But we still have apostles (lowercase). An apostle is simply a messenger, a delegate of Christ commissioned by God to bring His message. A prophet is a forth-teller. Thus, the two are messengers of Christ, speaking God's Word. Their roles are slightly different. The apostle, as a commissioned messenger, carries a different level of authority than the prophet. The prophet has the gift of clearly interpreting the Scriptures -- "Thus saith the Lord." Apostles are church planters. Prophets speak the Word. Now, some would argue that the role of apostle is ended, and some would do it convincingly. Certainly the Apostle -- defined as those commissioned directly by Christ, witnesses of the Resurrection, under special inspiration, and given ultimate authority in the Church for doctrine -- is no more. (I mean, there is no one currently who witnessed the Resurrection, right?) But I would argue that the modern apostle is fairly close to the modern "pastor" (although I would also argue that the modern "pastor" is not the same as the biblical one mentioned here). Then there are evangelists, people gifted to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and preach the Gospel. Finally, there are "pastors and teachers". Greek scholars tell me that this term differs from the others in that it seems to be a single concept, a "pastor/teacher", rather than two. This person given by God, then, would shepherd and teach. This person would disciple others.

Given the rest of the passage, these gifts seem to me to be the basic pillars of the Church. Since the primary function of the Church here is "the equipping of the saints", "the building up of the body of Christ", "a mature man", "to grow up in all aspects into Him", "the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love", it would seem that this purpose is built on the structures of these four primary gifts from God. The apostle plants churches and preaches the Word with authority. The prophet expounds the Word from God. The evangelist brings people to Christ. The pastor/teacher disciples fellow believers, "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Indeed, I would suggest that each of us fall in at least one of these categories.

Now, I've never heard this anywhere else before, so I'm out on a limb here. However, it seems to me that if you have all four of these primary gifts functioning in your local gathering of believers, you will have a successful church. It will have the truth of the Word preached. It will have the Word with authority and with insight. It will have people being brought to Christ. (That is the function of believers, not the church.) And those in the church will be constantly moving in personal relationships and interactions with other mature believers toward a deeper, more profound maturity. That, to me at least, seems like the ideal, healthy church.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Smith

My surname is Smith. That's me. Part of the grand family of Smiths. On my father's side of the family tree we have hundreds of siblings, cousins, uncles, second cousins, and so on because the Smiths are a big family.

Of course, it would have to be, wouldn't it? I mean, what other family did God make? "Behold," God Himself said, "I Myself have created the Smith" (Isa 54:16). You may be a Miller or a Jones, a Wang or a Petrovich, or even a Hodson, but none of those other names are listed by God as specifically created by God.

My mother used to tell me a fanciful story about how Adam and Eve were named Smith and that everyone who sinned after that had to change their names. Funny. But, of course, silly, as well. You see, Adam and Eve sinned, so there would be no Smiths. But that's okay, because it was a joke. In truth, Adam and Eve were the Smiths. I mean, they were the ones that God made, right? It wasn't sin that made anyone change their name. It was apparently a drift from God's one, God-given, God-designed name of Smith. As sin had its sway and people drifted from the truth, they took on other names. Today there are over 24 million surnames in the world.

But, I'm still a Smith. My sons are Smiths. All the rest of you may lay about in your godless surnames and think you're okay, but I rest confident in knowing that God Himself made the Smith. Deal with it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Where Your Heart Is

I got to thinking the other day about people who don't know Christ. You find them all around you. They're at work and in your neighborhoods and likely even in your family. They're friends and acquaintances and strangers. They're nice people and not-so-nice people and some downright wicked folk. So, the first question is, are you telling them about Christ? Are you living the Gospel in front of them? Are you concerned about their eternal well-being?

Specifically what I got to thinking about was unbelievers you or I may know who are in obvious sin. You know that guy in the next cubicle is openly gay or the entire office pool is unmarried and living with people to whom they are not married. He's doing drugs. She has a drinking problem. And those two who are, oddly enough (it seems sometimes), married are horrible parents. Whether these are friends or family or just people that God has put in your path, you know that they need Jesus. "Well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? I mean, they're sinners." Of course they are, but that's all of us. What they need beyond anything else is Jesus, and that is all of us as well. But is that your primary concern for them?

I don't know. I just got to thinking about it and I began to wonder. Is your biggest concern for them that they be more moral or that they find Christ? If an office acquaintance asks you about the hope that lies within you, are you going to warn him that he needs to repent from his sexual sin or are you going to warn him that he needs Jesus? That is, where is your heart? Is it that you want people to be more moral, or do you want them to know Christ and then let Christ deal with them?

I ask because sometimes it seems like we're more concerned about morality than salvation. It seems we're more concerned that the world (which Scripture guarantees will hate Christ) is opposed to virtue more than we are that they're going to Hell. We are more outraged by their sinful antics than the fact that they are deluded and headed for damnation. And I have to wonder because that sounds more like judgmentalism than genuine concern, more like legalism than love. So if you had the chance to either alter someone's particular sinful behavior or give them the Gospel without commenting on their behavior, which would you prefer? I don't know for sure, but the answer might tell you where your heart is.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Bible on Homosexuality

There are some basic arguments that like to be floated against the view that homosexual behavior is a sin. They deserve a response.

1. "Jesus never said it."

The argument from absence is a stunning argument. What Jesus said, according to Scripture, was more than could be recorded (John 21:25). But "Jesus never said" is a horrible argument. Patently clear, for instance, Jesus never said that it was wrong to rape and murder little children for sport. No one would dream of arguing, "Well, Jesus never said it, so it must be okay." But the fact that no one makes such an argument is simply an indication that this whole objection is a "pick and choose" approach. They will hold to what "Jesus never said" if they agree and discard what "Jesus never said" if they disagree ... which makes their own agreement or disagreement the final arbiter of what is and isn't right.

2. "It's not clear."

This takes various forms. Similar to #1, it suggests that Jesus never said it and it's just not very clear in the Bible. "You know," they will say, "the Bible only talks about it in a very few places." The "very few" varies, depending on what they will accept. There is no doubt that Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 discuss the behavior. And Romans 1:26-27 seem abundantly clear. All of these have the good grace to avoid the term, "homosexual". Why "good grace"? Well, because the term has come to mean something different in the last 50 years or so. Since the 1970's the push has been on to make "homosexual" a definition of a person -- "sexual orientation" -- rather than a particular interest, something that doesn't define a person. "Homosexual" has become something you are rather than something you do. Despite the glaring lack of scientific evidence, "homosexual" has moved from an act (which the Bible and I are referencing) to a way of life, a birth condition, indeed, an entire culture of its own. So the three passages avoid that pitfall by not even using the word. They reference the act -- two people of the same gender lying together as two people of opposite gender normally would. And they are not unclear.

As for the other references, most modern Bibles use the translation, "homosexual" (in its various forms). So right off the bat, 1 Cor 6:9-10 is in trouble because of the use of the term, as is 1 Tim 1:10. These reference the arsenokoites. The word comes from two Greek words. The first is arsen, meaning "male", and the second is koites. On the face of it, the term means "a bed", but it is seldom used in that sense alone. Instead, it references the marriage bed, a place of cohabitation (either sinful or not). Examples would include Rom 9:10, Rom 13:13, and Heb 13:4. As such, the Greek dictionaries define arsenokoites as "one who lies with a male as with a female." So, however you want to slice it, there is more than one reference to the practice, and no matter how you want to define it, they aren't unclear.

"Oh," some will then say, "it's clear, but it isn't referencing all homosexual behavior. It's referencing ritual cult behaviors -- the pagan practices of cult prostitutes." While this seems to be an affirmation that it's clear, it is accomplished by claiming that all of Christendom from the beginning until now failed to comprehend the clear meaning of the passage. That's a problem. Still, is that what it means? That's really hard to hold if you read the texts in context. Look, for instance, at the context of Lev 20. What we have is a whole series of relational rules, not religious rules. These cover adultery, all manner of incest, "if a man lies with a male as with a woman", and bestiality. If we are going to take verse 13 where it lies and say, "Well, that is talking about ritual pagan practices", then we're going to have to do the same with the rest of the text. Nothing in the context of the passage references anything pagan at all. Indeed, it seems a huge leap from "adultery" and "incest" and "bestiality" to "ritual pagan practices". It just doesn't fit. Now, Lev 18 might allow this little dance since verse 21 references sacrificing children to Molech (obviously a ritual pagan practice), but it is still not in comfortable context there and it has no such context in chapter 20. Of course, the passage on the topic in Romans 1 completely ignores anything pagan or ritual. The context is the decline of mankind into deeper depravity, not simply ritual pagan practices. The context ends with a rather lengthy description of the depths of the evil:
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless (Rom 1:29-31).
Feel free to tack on "in terms of ritual pagan practices", but do so with the admission that neither the text nor the context supports it. No, it references all types of sin and is not in any way limited or connected to pagan practices. Instead, Paul is talking about mainstream sin.

I skipped right over the other problem here. The claim that it's not as clear as it appears to be has a basic requirement built into it: "All of Christendom from the beginning until now failed to comprehend the clear meaning of the passage." The accusation is not small, nor is it minor. It isn't even merely an accusation against Christendom. Jesus said His Spirit would lead His disciples into all truth. While Church history has had some twists and turns in various interpretations and translations of various texts and doctrines, this one has never been in question. The accusation, then, is that the Church has failed until the glorious end of the 20th century to figure this stuff out, and the Holy Spirit is the main culprit because He just never could get through to His people what was meant despite all their efforts to properly understand the intent of Scripture. So either we're talking about a colossal failure on the part of God and His people, or we're talking about a massive arrogance on the part of those who claim, "You've never got it right for 2000 years, but we have finally figured it out!"

3. "That's Old Testament. Are you going to favor other Old Testament laws?"

Since two of the primary references against "men who lies with a male as with a female" come from the Old Testament, this particular argument is choice. "Well, it says, that eating shellfish is an abomination. So are you going to hold to that?" "You know," they will argue, "it says you're not supposed to look at your wife naked when she's on her period (Lev 18:19). So are you going to hold to that?" It even seems to baffle those who hold that homosexual behavior in all its forms is sin. The reason this seems to cause problems is that many Christians have decided to scuttle the Old Testament. It's only here, in these last few moments as the Old Testament Law ship sinks beneath the waves, that they realize they left something they wanted on the deck. The problem is made worse because of the Old Testament penal system. "Hey, the verse you're looking at is Lev 20:13. Well, look at Lev 20:9. It says 'Anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.' How many of us would survive under that rule?" Or, "Yeah, and it says that adultery carries the death penalty. Are you going with that, too?" So, with the willing discard of the Law and the apparent harshness of the Old Testament, many Christians end up with nowhere to stand. "Well, I still think it's a sin; I suppose I'll just have to be inconsistent here." Oh, no, they never say it ... that's just where they end up.

So let's take a look. First, this "It says this over here ... what are you going to do about it?" is an argument with a name. It's called "red herring". It does not address the basic discussion; it seeks to mislead. It doesn't offer a principle or a counter to the argument. It just seeks to take you down a rabbit trail. Don't go there.

Now, I need to point out that they're right in one aspect. Christians who want to claim that homosexual behavior (or incest or adultery or sexual immorality or bestiality or the rest) are sin while discarding the Old Testament are treading on stormy waters. It is inconsistent to say, "Well, I think that this stuff that I think is sin is still sin, but that stuff that I no longer think is sin is not." Indeed, it should sound familiar. It's the same argument as the "Jesus never said" folk, but from your own side. You have become the final arbiter of morality. So be careful in what you pick and choose.

I hold that the moral law of the Old Testament is still in effect. Clearly, we are not under a theocracy, so the civil requirements (the punishments) are not in our hands. I am not going to suggest the death penalty for either homosexual behavior or adultery ... or cursing one's mother and father. On the other hand, I would hold that the moral values the Old Testament encompassed are still God's view on morality. Thus, He is still opposed to adultery, bestiality, rape, murder ... and "men who lie with a man as with a woman." So I would hold that nothing has changed in the area of morality, and that, to God, men who lie with men are an abomination. (I mean, seriously, do you figure God changed on that? "Yeah, I used to hate it, but it's kind of growing on Me now. Hmm! I guess I was homophobic." Let's get real.)

There are other opposing arguments, but most either don't address the question (as in emotional responses) or they do not address Scripture. The most popular I've seen is the one that allows the world to define right and wrong and then forces that on the pages of the Bible. "Well," they seem to say, "since it's okay with a majority of folk today, the Bible can't be opposed to it." And, to be consistent, they do this with other matters. Did you know that there are websites devoted to arguing that fornication, adultery, wife-swapping, and such are all acceptable Christian behaviors? Well, of course they are ... if your measure is "What we deem acceptable today." I mean, I've actually heard it argued that "Bestiality is still a sin because it violates the animal's free will." What??!! So ... if an animal is willing, it's okay? No, these are not biblical arguments. As such, they deserve to be addressed, but not here. The Bible isn't unclear. Anyone with any clarity knows this. It takes real work to move off that mark. And then, having shifted off the clear and unequivocal, they will say, "Well, it's your responsibility to prove your point!" No, we didn't move. Unfortunately for people engaged in homosexual activities, there seems to be no shortage of hard working people who are willing to take on God and His clear Word in order to convince them and the world that this sin that God called an abomination is really okay. Really, that's not doing anyone any favors.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Death of Marriage

Is marriage a dying institution? Cameron Diaz thinks so. Who would know better than her? Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox News thinks so, and he's a doctor ... and a self-proclaimed healer. He should know. "It’s only a matter of time now," he concludes in his recent article. "Marriage will fade away. We should be thinking about what might replace it. We should come up with something that improves the quality of our lives and those of our children. And we should keep government out of it, if we know what’s good for us." Well, that settles it, then. Marriage is dead. Long live ... wait, who replaces marriage?

Dr. Ablow is sure that marriage is on its way out for four reasons. He believes that "the involvement of the state in marriage has been a colossal mistake." He believes that oral contraception put an end to the need for commitment because it eliminated the threat of offspring. Third is the problem of the loss of "the joy of being 'chosen'." And, of course, there is the entire problem of so many failed marriages that says that marriage is a failing institution. Proof positive. See? So, what shall take its place?

Wait! Before we scuttle the ship, can we check it first? I'm not so sure that either Ablow or Diaz are the voices of reason on this question. Take, for instance, the doctor's claim that marriage makes people miserable. Is that true? Well, while I've no doubt that his practice brings him a host of miserable people, to use his practice as a measure is like using a police officer's experience as a measure of criminality. Since a police officer deals almost exclusively with criminal behavior, it would be easy to conclude that all of society is criminal to some degree, but that would be a jaded view. As it turns out, in fact, it's not the case.

This view misses entirely the advantages that marriages offer. For instance, marriage tends to provide better health, longevity, safety, security, financial conditions, societal stability, security and stability for children, healthier and happier children, and even happier people. And that, dear readers, is just the empirical data. The other, weightier piece of data is that God commands and commends marriage.

Then there are the lies we've heard. Well, let's be honest. To "lie" is to attempt to deceive. I am not making that accusation. I just don't think we've been given the straight dope. We all know, for instance, that more marriages end in divorce than do not, right? Did you know this isn't true? According to the government statistics, there is an overall probability of 64% that a first marriage will last beyond 10 years. Beyond the bare statistic, there are other factors that increase those odds. People who grew up living with their two biological or adoptive parents are much more likely to remain married. Couples who have children are much more likely to remain married. (That one pushes the likelihood to nearly 80%.) Here's one you may find surprising. Couples who have never lived together before (with anyone, even each other) are more likely to remain married longer than those who have not. (So much for "testing the waters".) It seems as if the bleak "most marriages end in divorce" kind of mindset we perceive today isn't actually accurate. Nor is the "people who live together are happier than people who marry" perception.

Odd thing. It would appear that God's design produces happier, healthier people and children while the approaches that choose to violate God's design seem to have problems. It may be that Dr. Ablow is right in one aspect, though. Today's fouled up view of marriage may be at an end. I'm pretty sure, though, that the original one is still working quite well. Perhaps the replacement for "marriage" that the good doctor suggests we look for would be the recovery of marriage that God intended.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Living in Captivity

In March I got a couple weeks off work to go on a nice vacation with my parents. We meandered from Arizona to Florida, visiting relatives and friends here and there that I'd ordinarily never get to see. In Louisiana we stopped for a few days to visit my aging grandmother. She's in her 90's now and understandably not the spry thing she was at 89. Like so many, her memory tended to be spotty at times. Oh, she knew who we were and all, but she might forget an answer you just gave her or an event she explained happened to her last week and then didn't know at all or the like. The one thing I noticed most, however, was that her filters were off.

You know about filters. We all have them. We filter what comes from our brains to our mouths. It's quite normal. There are things that are appropriate to tell your spouse that you shouldn't tell your friends. There are things that you can say in the company of these people but not those people. There are things that you can say when you're all alone and there are likely things in your head that should never be spoken out loud. Filters. We all have them. Hopefully, before the thought in our head makes it to our lips, we've evaluated whether or not it was appropriate for the moment and blocked or allowed it as we deem suitable.

Well, my grandmother had a bit of a problem with her filters. She would say things that you know she had heard from other people and shouldn't have repeated. She said things that were just there in the forefront of her mind and probably shouldn't have been spoken at all. Her filters appeared to be completely offline.

It made me think about my filters. Paul told the Ephesians, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving" (Eph 5:4). Instead we should be "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 5:19-20). David wrote, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Psa 19:14).

Notice that both Paul and David addressed the subject of what comes out of your mouth. "Let the words of my mouth ... be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD." But David went further. "Let ... the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD." Of course, Paul was also concerned about our thought life. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8). In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul writes about the war being waged. "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" he writes in verse 4. What strongholds does he have in mind? "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). Those are the strongholds. They are arguments, opinions, and thoughts. The need, according to Paul, was to "take every thought captive to obey Christ".

I got to thinking about my filters. Frankly, the idea that I would simply say what was on my mind all the time was frightening. There are indeed things that shouldn't be said. It's easy to think, "Yes, but I'm not saying them so it's okay." And for the moment that's certainly much better than saying them. But Scripture has still a better way. Take every thought captive. If there are things worthy of praise, excellent things, commendable things, things worth thinking about, let your mind dwell there. We are to have renewed minds, not filtered speech. Wouldn't it be grand to be able to be confident that whatever might come out of your mouth would be pleasant? How about this radical idea -- what if your thoughts were so captivated by Christ that the only thing that would come out of your mouth would be "good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29)? Now there's a crazy thought, eh? Well, obviously I'm not there yet, but I have a direction to go now.

Monday, May 09, 2011

No Theolog

I was discussing some questions regarding the Church Constitution the other day at the church where we've been attending for the past six months or so. I wanted to ask the pastor about some particular points. Now, mind you, this was not the senior pastor. This guy was the one in charge of visitation and that sort of thing. But he was the one to whom I was referred with my questions.

Most of it was fairly benign. "Your constitution holds to a pretribulational, premillenial return of Christ and I'm frankly not completely convinced. I'm not convinced of another view either, but is that a problem?" "No, not a problem." "I'm just curious why the constitution calls for church leadership of a board of deacons with the pastor being the top leader while Scripture seems to indicate that elders should lead the church." "Oh, that's just the way most Baptist churches do it." You know, mostly small stuff. And then I got to a theological catch.

"Your constitution says that the new birth is a result of faith and repentance. From what I read in Scripture, faith and repentance are the result of the new birth." I went on for a few moments longer, explaining my rationale and all, but he stopped me. "Oh, that's okay. I understand what you're saying. I'm not a theolog, but I don't think it matters."

I was, in all honesty, stunned. I get that everyday Christians are not theologs. A theolog is someone who is a student of or specialist in theology. Lots of Christians don't want to get bogged down in theology. It think it's a shame and I even think it's an embarrassment (seriously, people who call themselves followers of Christ who have no interest in knowing God?), but I know that it's the case. But this was a pastor. Indeed, he wasn't the first. I have known many pastors that just didn't want to talk about theology with me. And, while I can imagine pastors not interested in arguing or debating the subject, I'm not talking about debate. I'm simply talking about ... talking. Asking questions. Digging into issues. Just ... asking.

It really makes me wonder. Do so many Christians have so little interest in digging deeper into the things of God because they're not interested, or is it because they're not being led down that road by those who are leading them? And what does it take to receive the calling to be a pastor without any interest in the field of study and analysis of God, His attributes, and His doctrine? Frankly, I just don't get it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day, 2011

It's Mother's Day here, and I would be remiss if I didn't write a word about my mother. I've mentioned her before, but she deserves far more than "honorable mention". The problem, of course, is that I don't know how to give her proper credit ... because she deserves so much credit.

Now, to be fair to my mother, she would likely disagree. The person that she is has been shaped by her relationship with Christ. Her delight is in the Lord. Her deepest desire is to spend time with Him. Whether she is reading the Word or teaching other women or sharing with family and friends or whatever she does, she seeks to do all for the glory of God. The work of Christ in her life -- evident to anyone who knows her -- would be the that which should be credited. If she has anything about which to boast, let it be the cross of Christ. I'm sure that would be her position.

Here's the thing, though. When you run into someone who so loves the Lord that they allow Him to shape their thoughts, their actions, their lives, their entire reality, you cannot help but be impacted by such a person. So it is with my mother. Whether she is aiming to express to you what God says or simply living the Christian life in front of you, the present example of someone glorifying God on a daily basis cannot go unnoticed and will not be ineffective. Imagine, then, my experience of growing up with that kind of mother and you might begin to see how blessed I've been.

Someone told me the other day that my blogs in April were some of the best I've done for awhile. Want to know a secret? That's largely because of my mother. I had the privilege of spending a couple of weeks with my parents in March and the conversations we enjoyed sparked new life and new thoughts in my writing. You see, my mother encourages me in word and deed to be closer to Christ than ever before. I know of no one with more passion for Him, no one with more focus on Him. And the chance to share in that is motivation itself. What better could be said of any mother than "She makes me want to live closer to Christ"?

Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Fairly Good Commission

Most of you, I'm sure, have heard of the "Great Commission". You know, that whole "preach the Gospel" thing. I suspect, however, that many of us only got the Fairly Good Commission rather than the Great Commission.

"Wait ... what's the Fairly Good Commission?" you may ask. Well, first let's look at the Great Commission and see if you have it.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28:18-20).
Okay, that's the standard "Great Commission". Got it? So let's check your commission against this one.

1. "All authority in heaven and on earth." Have you been commissioned by the Master of the Universe? Further, are you carrying out your commission by His authority? That concept has two sides. First is the level to which you obey. If He has all authority and you don't follow it, that's not good. Second is your level of difficulty, so to speak. If you think that you're facing insurmountable obstacles, then it cannot be that you've been commissioned by the one who has all authority, right? I mean, if He had all authority, then no obstacle would be insurmountable.

2. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." (Note the "therefore". That is, "Based on the fact that all authority has been given unto Me, I'm sending you.") Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, as you are going, you should be making disciples. Are you? Note that it is "disciples" that are to be made, not just "converts". We are to preach the Gospel, but that's just the start. We are to "make disciples" (which is a major investment of time) as well as teach them "to observe all that I have commanded you." That's not quite the same as "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). I mean, that's a start, but that's not the Great Commission.

So what kind of commission did you get? Did it come by way of the authority of Christ? If so, are you obeying it? Are you running into insurmountable obstacles or is the One to whom all authority has been given in charge? Is the commission to make converts or to make disciples? Does that include the necessary involvement to actually teach what Christ taught, or is that the job of someone else? You see, it's pretty easy to nod and point to the "Great Commission", but it is my sad suspicion that most of us only got a "Fairly Good Commission" and are missing out on some pieces of the actual command Christ gave. Some, I suspect, even got a "Pretty Poor Commission" that had little authority, offered little authority, didn't call on you do to much, and is generally passed off to others. So which are you?

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Bible is Silent

"You know," I've been told, "the Bible is completely silent on gay marriage." (You know I've been told that because I would never use the term "gay marriage" myself as it is a massacre of the English language.) "Why are you so hard over against 'same-sex marriage' (see, I can't even use that phrase without the quotes) when the Bible says nothing at all about it?"

Well, let's look at that. The Bible is indeed silent on the subject of whether or not people who practice homosexual behavior should be allowed to marry. So that means ... what? Do we conclude that it is meaningless? That is, if the Bible says nothing on a subject, does that mean that the subject is approved? And how do we define the phrase "says nothing on the subject"? Does that require that the subject in question must be mentioned specifically? The Bible, for instance, says nothing about handling an automobile in traffic, so there must be nothing that we can learn from the Bible on the subject, right? Two questions, then. If the subject at hand is not specifically mentioned, are there conclusions possible? And does the absence of a specific mention mean that the subject is, therefore, approved by God?

One approach to these questions it to find an agreeable subject -- something on which we can all agree -- and examine it from the perspective that the Bible says nothing about it. In so doing, I need to point out that such a subject need not be an "equivalent". This is a common mistake in this effort. I am not drawing an equivalence between the subject I choose to examine and "same-sex marriage", so don't go there. I say that because the one that I'm using as an agreeable subject is thoroughly agreeable. The Bible, if you examine it with any sort of care, is completely silent on the topic of child molestation. Not a word. It doesn't mention it in exact terminology nor even in similar terminology. Not one word. So, since we have no word from the Bible on the morality of molesting children, what can we conclude? Well it must be that it is not forbidden and, in fact, that it is approved by God ... right? (See, a thoroughly agreeable subject, in that we are all agreed that God does not approve of child molesting. And this is also why I stressed that "same-sex marriage" is not connected to "child molesting" ... because so many do make that connection. "You know, all homosexuals are child molesters." I'm not making that connection.) I think you can see with this topic that it would be horribly wrong to assume that 1) for the Bible to say something on a subject, it must mention it verbatim, and 2) the lack of mention of a topic must indicate God's approval. That should be clear.

So what about "same-sex marriage"? What can we figure from the pages of Scripture if the topic is not mentioned? Well, the topic isn't mentioned, but there are things we can glean from Scripture on the topic. This is a viable path to take. What are the biblical principles underlying the topic? These principles can lead you to a proper conclusion even without the specific mention of the subject in question. So what can we find?

Well, first, the Bible is not circumspect on the question of marriage. First defined in Genesis 2, the Bible assumes man and woman. "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). That this definition is still in effect is indicated by Jesus's use of the very same definition in Matthew 19 when He was asked about divorce. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Further, God indicated the two fundamental purposes of marriage in Genesis. The first (chronologically) is a "shared mission". Eve was made as a "helper" to Adam. It was "not good" for Man to be alone. Secondly, then, the primary "shared mission" of a married couple is to "be fruitful and multiply." So, marriage, according to the Bible, is the union of a man and a woman whereby the two share in companionship and mission to generally face life as a couple in their endeavors and specifically to bear offspring. So we have definition and direction.

Then there is the whole "same-sex" question. Is the Bible silent there? No, not at all. Even advocates of homosexual relations recognize that the Bible is universally opposed to homosexual relations. The advocates will either deny the viability of the Bible to make such statements or attempt to alter the understanding of the texts. They don't do this because it is unclear, but because it is crystal clear. In discussions about everyday sexual relations in the Old Testament (as opposed to, say, religious events as some claim), God said, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death" (Lev 20:13). This is not in amongst any religious stuff like sexual deviations in pagan temple settings, but among the rulings on adultery, incest, and bestiality. If we're going to say, "Oh, no, this is just a reference to pagan temple practices" as some do, then we'll also need to eliminate any biblical morality on bestiality, adultery, and incest if we are to be consistent. And don't try to pass off that it is an Old Testament reference. First, God calls it "an abomination" and it's not as if He has changed His mind on what He finds abominable. "You know, I used to be disgusted by it, but I'm kind of getting used to it now." Not happening. Besides, it is repeated in the New Testament, especially in Romans 1 where Paul describes sexual relations "contrary to nature" where women and men indulged in same-sex relations -- something called "dishonorable passions" and the ultimate rejection of God. Some might try to tell you, "It just means that they went against their own natures -- 'contrary to nature'," but that doesn't even make the slightest sense since it is described as "consumed with passion" and since violating one's own nature is not natural or feasible, let alone "passionate". No, the Bible may not mention "gay marriage", but it is not silent on the morality of homosexual behavior ... or any sort of sexual relations outside of marriage (regardless of any so-called "sexual orientation").

Now, how does that work in the "same-sex marriage" realm? All of the biblical references to marriage are in terms of "husband and wife", where wives are given specific instructions and husbands are given specific instructions and they are not identical instructions. Further, no record in history includes "same-sex marriage" at any time, either during the biblical period or after. Thus, all of biblical writing and all of history conclude that "marriage" is the union of a man and a woman and nothing else. Beyond this, the Bible is not even remotely silent on the topic of homosexual behavior. It's wrong without the slightest doubt. Acknowledging these, then, we would say, "Okay, the Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman and aimed at least partly at procreation, and the Bible is clear that homosexual behavior is sinful. That's not the question. The question is 'Is it wrong for two people of the same gender to get married?'" I would hope that, at this point, the question would appear as foolish as it is. Of course the Bible is silent on the subject. It already covered the component parts. Why would there be a question about the joining of those two parts?

The Bible is silent on many current subjects. There is nothing in there about child pornography, child molestation, abortion, or many other topics we are facing in our society today. It is not, however, silent on the underlying principles. Murder is wrong, so why even discuss "abortion"? Children are to be defended and sexual relations outside of marriage are sin, so why even entertain the topic of "child molestation"? And since children are to be protected and lust is to be avoided, where's the question about "child pornography"? Indeed, the Bible may be silent on current subjects like these, but it's not mute. They may not be specifically mentioned, but God didn't leave us without clear and sufficient principles on which to face these types of questions. Indeed, it speaks of the eternal wisdom of God that He would provide such principles in a book written so long ago.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Magic of the Internet

I'm pretty sure that most of you have read the timely quote from Martin Luther King Jr. in the wake of Bin Laden's death:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nice sentiment. Certainly vintage Martin Luther King stuff. A sentiment that Christians should heartily endorse.

Only one problem. It's a lie. Martin Luther King Jr. never said it.

The story is in a variety of places, but The Atlantic does an excellent job of explaining what transpired. A well-meaning Facebook user put the statement as part of her Facebook status followed by a quote from King's book, Strength to Love. People liked it, but to Tweet it was impossible since the quote had too many characters. So they just took the top line, failed to see that the quotation marks started after this statement, and attributed it all to Dr. King. Poof! Due to the magic of the Internet (and Twitter and Facebook and social networking), a classic quotation was born.

It was that birthing and maturing process that amazed me. In the Internet terms, it went "viral". Penn Jillete (from Penn and Teller) passed it on to his million-and-a-half followers and it was no longer one woman's thought handed on by mistake as Martin Luther King's ideas, but a genuine quote from the man himself. How dare you question it? Even though Jillete later apologized, it was too late. If it's on the Internet, it's fact. The only reason you would question such a reality is if you were a racist or a hater of some type. What's wrong with you?!

Some people think I'm strange because I allow Scripture to form my understanding of reality. I'm willing to take the Word of God over my own perceptions and say, "Well, I didn't see it that way before, but if God says it's so, it's so." Strange, I know. But I don't think I'm any stranger than the vast numbers of Internet users who allow the Internet to define reality for them. Many are doubting whether or not Bin Laden is dead. There are many who think that the government caused 9/11. There are more than a few who believe Jesus never rose from the dead. And, of course, there is the entire field of atheists who seem to enjoy their own online presence (I'm not complaining, just noting). How many times have I heard objections to Christianity spouted that have long been clearly and cleanly refuted, but remain alive not because they're valid, but because "it's on the Internet"?

So, yes, maybe I'm strange, but I'm certainly not alone. I reason, "God said it, so I'll believe it" (and God saying it settled it). So I think that God knows reality best and allow Him to shape mine. The larger numbers of folks believe that the random thoughts and ideas and comments on the Internet are the best source of truth and the clearest definition of reality, so they let that define their world and are offended if I question it. So be it. But remember, it was Abraham Lincoln who said, "Believe little of what you see, less of what you hear, and none of what you read on the Internet."