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Sunday, July 31, 2011

He Stayed

I've been reading in John recently and was struck by this:
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was (John 11:1-6).
We know the story. It's all quite clear. Lazarus, according to Jesus, was sick and, ultimately, dying "for the glory of God." And we, with the "aerial" view we have now, know exactly how that worked. Lazarus died and Jesus raised him from the dead and it became impossible to deny that Jesus was from God without flying into irrationality. Good. But look at the text and the language.

Notice, first, that Lazarus's sisters knew that Jesus loved Lazarus. "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." No question. No doubt. Nor did John doubt it. Lest you think that, possibly, they were mistaken, John states without equivocation, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." No question. No doubt.

The thing that struck me, then, was the word "so" and the text that followed. We have it clear that He loved them, "so ... He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was." Do you see the "cause and effect" here? Jesus stayed where He was because He loved them. He wasn't ambivalent. He wasn't tied up. He wasn't confused. He knowingly and intentionally stayed where He was for the purpose of loving them.

Well, of course, neither Martha nor Mary got that. Both said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32). They didn't see it as a kindness. It was no act of love from their perspective. But that's what the text says. "So ... He stayed." Nor was Jesus "warmed" by the act. He knew what He was doing. He knew it was for God's glory. He knew it was out of love. He knew that Lazarus would live again. All of that He knew. And, yet, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled" (John 11:33). He wept (John 11:35). He felt their pain. Of course He did; it was out of love that He inflicted it.

I come away with something important here. How many times have you prayed "Lord, I'm in trouble here"? How many times has there been a cry to God for help, a plea for rescue, a request for relief, only to have Him withdraw His hand? To conclude, as Mary and Martha did, that He failed would be a mistake. To think for a moment that He didn't feel your pain would be an error. The thing to keep in mind when troubles strike and God seems far away is "He loved them, so He stayed two days longer." He cares. Because He cares about God's glory first and foremost and about you, He may choose to stay away. In the end, however, He will be there to do what is needed. He cares, even when -- especially when -- He "stays away".

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heart Condition

And He called the people to Him again and said to them, "Hear Me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." And when He had entered the house and left the people, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person" (Mark 7:14-23)
Sin is a product of the heart. Sin doesn't defile the heart, but comes from a defiled heart. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It's a heart condition. It's called "Original Sin."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Biblical "Cannots"

The Bible is full of "cannot". Now, this is an interesting concept because it is absolute. It isn't a "might not" or "may not", but "cannot". Well, let's look at some examples:
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

"Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot hear My word" (John 8:43).

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:5-8).
You get the idea. "Cannot", not "unwilling" or "maybe won't". But what exactly is this "cannot"? The Greek phrase is a two-word construct: ou dunamai. The first, ou, is an absolute negative (not merely "not", but emphatically not). The second is dunamai, from which we get "dynamic" or "dynamo" or "dynamite". It means "having the power to". Thus, ou dunamai is "has absolutely no power to". This same sequence appears in every one of the "cannots" above except one. That is in Rom 8:7 -- "indeed, it cannot." That one is oude dunamai ... which means but ou, or "neither does it have any capacity to (submit to God's law)." So all of these examples are not merely "not able", but "absolutely lacking in power to".

Now, when you look at the things that are being referenced as "absolutely outside the realm of capability", I don't think they would typically be viewed as "cannot". We tend not to think that a person who is not born again is lacking the ability to "see the kingdom of God". He or she can see it; they just refuse to acknowledge it or appreciate it. Why didn't people understand what Jesus said? Well, because they weren't paying attention or didn't care to understand or were hostile. No, that's a "cannot". Why is it that unbelievers do not please God? It's because they don't want to. No, that's a "cannot".

If you let that sink in, it will likely shift your thinking a bit. People aren't saved because they cannot be. We tend to think of it as a lack of will; the Bible calls it a lack of power. Thus, your kind endeavors and skillful arguments and careful presentations also lack the capacity to change this condition. There is a wall of inability. You're asking a man with no legs to walk or, to be more biblical, a dead man to come forward and pray the prayer. In order to alter that condition, God has to do something miraculous first, and it's not merely a "call". It's a literal empowerment.

There's one more that you should notice:
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).
And that last one is a little unnerving. The one born of God does not make a practice of sinning because he cannot. He absolutely lacks the ability sin continuously. The wording doesn't allow for "he might not" or "if he's willing". It isn't a matter of his agreement with God. The text says that the one born of God absolutely lacks the power to make a practice of sinning. He can sin. He can violate God's law. But in an ongoing, continuous sense, John says that the ability of the one born of God to go on sinning is lacking. It's not there. It doesn't exist. Something to think about.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Youth Ministry

It doesn't take a lot of intelligence to see that the marriage of the Bible (the lifelong union of a man and a woman for the purposes of procreation and complementing) is not the marriage of today. Nor is it any great insight to see the erosion of this position over the past century. It wasn't big steps, of course, but it wasn't invisible. There was the feminist movement that sought to free wives from the biblical construct of "wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord". There was the "free love" movement of the 60's that sought to free couples from the biblical construct of sex within marriage. There was the "no fault divorce" concept that sought to free married couples from the biblical requirement of a lifelong union. There was the romance of the media that sought to eliminate the biblical concept that husbands and wives were meant to complement one another rather than warm each other's hearts. And, of course, we're now at the "marriage equity" stage where, having stripped off all the components that made marriage marriage, they seek to eliminate the biblical concept of "husband and wife" and leave it at "spouses", whatever the gender. And children? Children are a nuisance or, at best, a rare and prized possession. So far have we drifted in such a short time from the original concept that to even suggest my biblical definition (the lifelong union of a man and a woman for the purposes of procreation and complementing) is generally regarded as ludicrous. "No one thinks that anymore."

What has this to do with youth ministry? I fear that I see the same thing happening in the church.

A couple hundred years ago families went to church together. The notion of "Sunday School" didn't start until the late 18th century, and they were started as schools, an opportunity to give poor kids an education. They spent their weeks working in factories, so folks like Robert Raikes promoted the idea of teaching them to read on their day off -- Sunday. The Bible was their reading primer, so that worked out well. When state education was established in the late 19th century, Sunday school became a solely religious endeavor. Prior to this, all families who went to church went together. The religious instruction they received was either from the pastor or the parents.

Now, of course, we live in a different world. Most conscientious Christian parents looking for a church will choose that church with a keen eye on the ministry afforded their children. What kind of youth ministry is there and does it reach my kids' age group? Lots of families elect to go to larger churches precisely because they provide the best age-distinct groups. (It seems obvious that to have age-distinct youth ministries you would need to have the numbers for it.) Churches of practically any size include a "youth pastor". Typically, a "youth pastor" is not a real pastor. He's more of a pastor in training, a youth himself to some degree. He wouldn't be the senior pastor of a church; he's too young. In fact, he may not even be a "he". But he's fun and he knows how to interact with kids. He knows how to entertain them and to speak at their level and to hold their interest. So a good youth group would have the music of the day and games and fun with, hopefully, a little truth snuck in there for good measure. And this is a good thing.

I see some serious problems here. We see all around us the disintegration of families (as we see in the simple decline in "marriage" itself), yet we are encouraging dis-integration of families in church. "Youth ministry" is designed to provide something separate from the parents and even, preferably, stripping out each age group from any other, separating parents from children and siblings from siblings. Yet we affirm the family as a unit. Isn't that a little problematic?

Sunday school in general and "youth ministry" as a whole serves to remove parents from the equation. Parents don't work with their kids; they drop them off. The content is not up to the parents; it's up to the youth leadership. The progress is not monitored by parents if it's monitored at all. But the Bible holds parents in general and fathers in particular responsible for the spiritual education of their children. Isn't that somewhat problematic?

Indeed, by taking children out of church services and removing youth from their families, parents are relieved of a lot of what should have been their responsibilities. They are no longer required to teach their kids how to behave in church. They don't have to provide spiritual instruction or disciple their children. (When was the last time you heard of parents discipling their children?) They don't really have to involve themselves in their kids' lives hardly at all because, after all, they're going to church! What could be better? And at this point the biblical concept of parental responsibility has eroded in the same direction that "marriage" has. Isn't that a little problematic?

Most of all, family cohesion is cancelled. We've all heard, "The family that prays together stays together." Seriously, how many families today pray together? They don't even eat together. The model of a "good Christian family" would have the kids going to AWANA on Wednesday night and the teens off to their "teen club" (that's probably dated now, too, isn't it?) on Thursday night and Mom is off to Women's Bible Study on Tuesday and Dad does the Men's Breakfast on Saturday and we've got everyone neatly ministered to ... completely separated from each other. That is not cohesion. That's incoherent. Isn't that a little problematic?

I grew up with "youth ministries". My parents changed churches when they saw indications that their kids were losing interest in church. I know the importance of conscientious parents in finding good ministries for their kids and I know the values of youth ministries. I just wonder if, like marriage, we've been sliding this direction so long that we've become accustomed to a dangerous condition and now would find a biblical approach a bad thing. Woe to Christians when we decide that a biblical approach is a bad thing! And woe to the church when our "ministries" encourage the dissolution of God's key component of all society. This seems a bit problematic to me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I'm sure you've heard the phrase before: "Unwanted children." In India it is a problem of "gender selection" where girl babies are unwanted and, so, aborted. In China it is a population control problem where anything over one child is eliminated. In America, of course, we're much more civilized. "Unwanted" isn't as crass as that. No, for us they're "unwanted" if they have the potential to be abnormal or if they could possibly harm the mother or if they are just not very convenient.

"Unwanted children" -- the phrase -- is gaining in popularity. Oh, not put that way (mostly), but we see the advantage to making "every child a wanted child". It was at the root of Margaret Sanger's birth control movement in the 1920's. Today our society has begun to look askance at people with "too many kids", where most often "too many" seems to be "more than one ... or two at the most".

Margaret Sanger started out as a nurse in New York. She saw too many poor women dying from self-induced abortions and set out to ease their pain by encouraging birth control (her term). She published a magazine called Woman Rebel with the motto, "No Gods, No Masters." She flaunted the law and custom in both her personal life and her crusade to "secure the freedom of the individual woman" whom she viewed as "a brood animal for the masculine civilizations of the world". Eventually others heralded her for providing a way of "coping with the world's staggering population problem." (This is a stunning phrase, since the article I've referenced was written in 1966 and we've still not actually run into "the world's staggering population problem" in the 21st century.) Yet with all her effort it still wasn't until 1965 that the last U.S. state removed its ban of "birth control clinics". The PPLM (Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts) tried to get contraception legalized in that state as late as 1942 (because public opinion agreed with contraception) and failed. It wasn't until 1966 that doctors in Massachusetts were allowed to prescribe contraceptives. (Note: I notice a discrepancy here. The Time story says that the last state to lift the ban on birth control clinics was Connecticut in 1965. The PPLM article says that Massachusetts didn't allow contraceptives until 1966. You figure it out. The point is that it wasn't until the mid-'60's that this became "the norm".)

So what? Isn't "every child a wanted child" a good plan? I personally find it staggering in its significance. In this scenario, what is the fundamental basis upon which a child would be born? Clearly, if Sanger and the vast majority of birth control advocates had their way, the basic factor that must be present in order for a child to come into the world would be "wanted". Unwanted children, you see, are not a good idea. They should be prevented from ever being conceived if possible, and, failing that, from ever coming into the world. In contrast to the biblical concept that Man is created in the image of God and, as such, has inherent value, this idea reduces humans to the level of "wantedness". If they are wanted, they are valuable; if not, well, too bad. They're expendable.

Where does that stop? If an unborn child isn't wanted and can, either by abortifacient contraceptives or by actual abortion, be killed, why not a child who has been born? What about "birth" eliminates the primary value of "wanted"? If a family should encounter difficulties and the children become a burden, why shouldn't they be allowed to eliminate them as no longer "wanted"? For that matter, when aging parents become a problem, why not let their children declare them "unwanted" and remove them? No, I'm not making the slippery slope argument. I'm simply wondering, having surrendered the ground of "made in the image of God" that makes all humans valuable to "making every child a wanted child", on what basis do we prevent this slide? Worse, since Christians have bought into the "unwanted child" concept by accepting blindly the use of abortifacient contraception, who will hold the line? Without argument or army, it doesn't seem like the fight over human value has a lot of hope, does it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The "Christian" Oslo Killer

I know ... this is two posts in one day, something I don't do very often. However, it is driven by current events, so it needs to be now.

Michael Horton does an excellent job of stripping down the rampant media certainty that the Oslo killer, Anders Behring Breivik, is a "rightwing Christian fundamentalist." As an example:
In an on-line manifesto, Breivik makes it clear that he is not a “fundamentalist Christian.” He prefaces one comment with, “If there is a God…” and says that science should always trump religion. So in terms of religious convictions, he sounds more like Richard Dawkins than Jerry Falwell. Yet, unlike Dawkins, Breivik pines for the “good ‘ol days” of Christendom, especially the crusades. “Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe…”
Good stuff from the mouth of the killer. You ought to read it to be informed.

The Sower

You all know the parable of the sower. You know ... the one where the sower sows seeds and some fall on the road and the birds eat them and some fall on the rocky soil and they fry when the sun comes out and some fall on the shallow soil and they are choked by weeds and some fall on good soil and they bear fruit. Easy enough. So easy that Jesus had to explain it.
The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. (Mark 4:14-20)
Now, I've heard lots of sermons on this passage. They tell us to be careful to have hearts that are cultivated. Okay, good, I suppose. They tell us to sow. Seems obvious, but if a farmer doesn't sow, he cannot expect to harvest. Included in the text is the necessary lesson that you will be wasting "seed" if you sow. Yes, some will end up producing "thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold", but there is only one of four types of soil that produce and the rest is "wasted". There is certainly a sense in which the sower doesn't try to take into account the soil type; he just throws the seed out there. So should we. We shouldn't try to figure out of the field is ready or not; just sow.

These are all valid lessons from this parable. One, however, I've never heard is on the seed itself. In this day and age it has been suggested that we need to be good apologists, defenders of the faith. I, of course, am in favor of defending the faith (since we're commanded to do so), but the perception for many today is that this is "sowing". You need to give it your best shot, present the most persuasive argument, provide the best reason and evidence, give the most cogent and coherent presentation. I'm sure all of those are nice, but when I read the parable of the sower, I don't see anything of the elegance of a rational defense of the Gospel. The seed, it seems, that produces fruit is not a rational defense of the faith. According to Jesus, "the seed" is the word. It is the word that produces fruit. It is the word that is planted and grows. Some tell us today that we ought to avoid the Bible in our presentations of the Gospel because it's not compelling, because people just don't want to hear it. But the "seed" that Jesus wants sown is precisely the Word, that powerful, supernatural source product without which faith is not found.

We need to sow. We will be "wasting" seed, but we need to sow. We shouldn't be evaluating the ground; just sow. But let's not forget in all of our offerings of the Gospel that the word is the primary and powerful point. Best arguments and coherent logic is all well and good, but it's really the power of God that we want in this enterprise. We want to be like the farmer who sows and then wonders in the morning where the fruit came from (Mark 4:26-27). We want to experience the power of God's Word.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The More You Know

The proverbial fact is that knowledge is power, that "the more you know, the better off you are." I have heard from multiple parents multiple times, "Kids these days know so much more than we did when we were their age." But I'm beginning to think that, as in too many other places, we're suffering from a loose definition here, too. What is knowledge?

Knowledge (thanks to our ever so helpful dictionaries) is defined as "that which is known". Okay, so it suggests a familiarity with facts. There are data, points of information. There are lots and lots of data. But until some point is known, it is only information. So knowing it is apprehending it, making it "mine", so to speak. Knowledge is not, then, merely information, but ownership of information.

So a Columbia University study comes out suggesting that "memory works differently in the age of Google." The study indicates that we are no longer putting things to memory if we're confident we can find it on the Internet. We no longer lodge information in our own memory banks; we simply remember how to go about finding the information again. Thus, while more data may be available, knowledge is decreasing because we aren't storing it. We aren't making it ours.

Now, in all honesty, given the glut of information available -- what is commonly referred to as "information overload" -- storing all that is available is not either possible or preferential. I mean, I get it. Why should we memorize the capitals of the 50 states if, with a few deft keystrokes, we can find them all online without error? I'm not suggesting necessarily that this is bad.

I think, though, by the shuffling I'm doing ("I get it", "not suggesting necessarily"), that you might be getting the idea that I do have a concern. And you'd be right. I'm raising my hand here. I'm a bit concerned. You see, there is a fundamental difference between having data available and knowing things. In purely human terms, you have to know things before you can understand them, and you must understand them before you can properly use them. That's some distance. Beyond that, who is not aware that, well, the Internet isn't exactly 100% reliable in its information? I'm sure that there are a few, but we mostly all know that it's a good idea to get a few sources rather than simply trusting the first thing we read online.

Take, for instance, the movie, Loose Change. Started by a film school student setting out to produce a fictional movie about a government conspiracy to blow up the World Trade Center and blame it on terrorists, his movie went viral online and spawned a living conspiracy theory including its own website that it actually was the government that did the job by doing a demolition on the WTC and launching a missile into the Pentagon. Oh, and Flight 93? Yeah, that didn't even crash. It landed safely in Cleveland. How did you guys miss that? The video went up on You Tube and became a sensation. The fact that the government as well as independent researchers, engineers, scientists, and another organization started to combat this mess have pointed out a whole host of errors and impossibilities offered, there are still those who know that it was a government conspiracy. "Don't bother me with facts. I know what I know."

My point? The best way to combat error is to know the truth. Unfortunately, if we are shuffling off our knowledge to what we can find on the Internet, what do we know anymore? Already we've decided that our favorite news network is our best source for political news, regardless of its accuracy (because we all know that "those other guys" are slanted, but "our" side is balanced). So if we don't know the truth, we cannot combat error.

There is a spiritual danger to relegating knowledge to outside sources as well. First, Jesus told us that knowing the truth sets you free. Not knowing it, then ... well, you can figure that out. Proverbs warns of a time when "Then they will call on me [Wisdom], but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD" (Prov 1:28-29). Indeed, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov 1:7). Biblically, then, failing to know is classified as foolishness, and failing to know results in a failure to choose the fear of the Lord. A failure of knowledge results in a failure of wisdom. Beyond that, we are told "Your word I have hid in my heart, that I may not sin against You" (Psa 119:11). We are to be memorizing God's Word, meditating on it, ruminating on it, chewing it over. That doesn't happen by calling it up easily from your favorite Bible website. It needs to be "in my heart".

There is indeed too much data out there for us to hold in our heads. There are, however, some truths that we would be wise to retain, to know. Some things need to be known. Some needs to be understood. Some needs to be properly applied. Without knowledge we are walking targets for foolishness, easy prey for those who would deceive. The fear of the Lord, on the other hand, is the first thing you should know and it is only knowledge that produces wisdom, something we should treasure.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For a Friend

When I was young I had a whole book on Medal of Honor winners. I have always enjoyed reading the stories of their bravery, made all the better because they were true. These people did heroic acts of selflessness that saved lives and reflected honor themselves. The largest number of Medal of Honor winners did not survive their medal-earning exploits -- most of these medals were awarded posthumously. On those rare occasions when someone survived their ordeal, they were, at times, asked why they did it. Twice that I know of the answer was something like, "I did it for my friends." And that's heartwarming all by itself. I mean, we know "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

It is, however, stunning to think about if you were to ask One who, like the majority of those honored soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, gave His life in the effort why He did it. Why did He throw Himself on the deadly fury that was intended for others? He could have saved Himself, but didn't. Instead, He stood in the gap and took all of it Himself, dying for His efforts, but saving untold numbers. "Jesus, why'd you do it?"

"I did it for My enemies, the people that scorned Me. I did it for those who hated Me."

Amazing grace!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Threat

When I was growing up, the whole McCarthyism of the 1950's was over -- before my time -- but the Communist threat was not. We had monthly drills where the sirens would go off and we'd have to get under our desks and cover our eyes and necks in the hopes that the nuclear weapons of the Soviets wouldn't kill us. (What you can't see won't hurt you, right?) I served in the military in the '80's and learned about the Soviet war machine, their weaponry, their danger to us. I was around when the wall fell. You know, the Berlin Wall. Good times. I remember when Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" And two years later they did. I remember the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early '90's when so many republics under their thumb were released and gained their independence. The Soviet Union is no more. The Communist threat is at an end!

Or is it?

Keith Green was a Christian musician. He died in an airplane crash in 1982. One of the songs he wrote was No One Believes In Me Anymore, a song about how Satan is able to get around so much easier now that he has convinced everyone that he no longer exists. I wonder if Communism has taken the same tack. Is Communism really dead? While most of popular thought might say it is, Revolution USA doesn't think so. They still promote the violent overthrow of democracy and capitalism, saying that "Communism is ... necessary." Since Communism stands staunchly and violently opposed to democracy, capitalism, and religion (specifically Christianity) (Leslie Mason, a British Communist, wrote, "No one can be consistently both a Christian and a Communist."), it would be wise not to be lulled into a false sense of peace. Communism is not dead.

When I was growing up, we actually had a different "Communist scare" in mind, however. We were warned that the commies would attack us from within. We were concerned that they would eat us away from the inside and let us fall on our own. It probably sounds paranoid, but it did not originate from us:
America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within. - Joseph Stalin.
Well, Stalin died in 1953, but his legacy lives on. His successor, Nikita Crushchev, said, "We can't expect the American People to jump from Capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of Socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have Communism." "Small doses of socialism."

Now, of course it's mere paranoia, but one has to wonder anyway. For 50 years now we've seen an erosion of patriotism in America. In the 1940's, no one blinked an eye when they were called to send troops and make sacrifices for the country. Today, it's considered almost immoral. Lindsey Williams was appalled at the decline in patriotism in the '60's. But where the Americans of the 1950's were proud patriots, so many Americans today view their country with shame. Look what we did to the slaves! Look what we did to the native Americans! Look what we did to Iraq! Oh, we're awful! (Note that recognizing mistakes of the past does not require that we have no patriotism in the present, a fact that seems to escape a lot of people.)

Nor can it really be denied that there has been an erosion of morality in this country. We all know the quaint world of the '50's where housewives took care of their homes and kids listened to their parents, where divorce was rare and ugly and sex was clearly a function of marriage. Today the television assures us that "There's no reason to get married to have a family" and it is the norm in "The Secret Life of The American Teenager" to have sex with whomever and get pregnant and maybe even kill that baby before its birth becomes a problem. What was shameful to the adults of the 60's is recommended by the adults of our time.

The decline of America's spiritual life has been interesting. In some ways, Americans are just as spiritual as ever. "Spiritualism" is everywhere. People like spiritualism. Religion? No, not so much. "I just feel like I'm one with the universe." Christianity? No, certainly not. And while the numbers still hold that some 75% of Americans classify themselves in some sense as "Christian", since only 5% of them claim it makes any difference in their lives, I'd have to question that claim to Christianity. No, we've surrendered any sort of "Christian America" to a warm feeling about spirituality and a large animosity to anything genuinely Christian.

In other words, the threats of Stalin long since dead are working their way through America as we speak. We largely just nod and think, "Hey, change is a good thing. At least we're not racists anymore." And while I can certainly agree that this is a good thing (even if it's not entirely true), I have to wonder how long before Revolution has their way and America goes down for good. To me the parallels of American direction with Stalin's suggestion is chilling. One thing I know for sure. If it does happen, it will be when the Lord commands.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gays and the Military

Okay, the title is intentionally (and playfully) misleading. I will discuss, though, homosexual behavior and the military, so it's not entirely misleading ... right?

In some of these posts and in discussions with folks I've registered my concern that people who continue in sin (specifically the sin of homosexual behavior) (specifically not "same-sex marriage", a different issue) are very likely hell-bound and in need of salvation. One person questioned that and brought up a similar concern (that is, one that wasn't mine, but was his). "What if a Christian was a general in the Army and it turned out that serving in the military was a sin?" Of course, the dialog broke down before long and I don't intend to use this space to continue it, but I did think it might be helpful to compare the two ideas, not so much for their ideas as much as the approaches by which we might determine what is and isn't "sin".

First, I conclude that homosexual behavior is a sin because of what I read in the Bible. The passages are unavoidable. In chronological order, they would be things like "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Lev 18:22) and "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination" (Lev 20:13) and "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error" (Rom 1:26-27). These are explicit texts that say explicit things. They make no exceptions or offer any variations. Further, their contexts seems to require precisely the meaning that the texts seem to indicate. The first, for instance, is followed immediately by "And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion" (Lev 18:23). So if Lev 18:22 has exceptions or conditions not obvious, so should Lev 18:23. And we'd have to conclude that, like homosexual behavior, bestiality is only a "perversion" (the text's word) under certain circumstances, not necessarily all circumstances. For instance, "If a cult of zoophiles wanted to involve you in idolatry by means of bestiality, then, by all means it's sin. Otherwise, why not?" Nope, not seeing that. Further, there is no contradiction from the rest of Scripture. There isn't a single passage that references same-sex relations in a positive light. Nothing in Scripture offers any support for the notion. The text, the context, and the entirety of Scripture agree. So people who read the texts for what they are saying come to the same conclusion that I do.

"But," the anti-Christians-in-the-military crowd would object, "we get our view from Scripture as well." Okay, let's look. Lew Rockwell argues that being in the military violates each of the 10 Commandments. Of course, in his piece on the subject he does point out that "If it limited itself to controlling our borders, patrolling our coasts, and protecting our citizens instead of intervening around the globe and leaving death and destruction in its wake then perhaps it might be a noble occupation for a Christian." Thus, apparently from his perspective it's wrong to be in the military now, but not as a matter of principle. Greg Boyd argues that the command is to "love your enemies" and "do good to them", not kill them. There is, according to Boyd, only one reason that we think otherwise. "Universal 'common sense' tells us that people ought to kill, if necessary, to protect themselves, their families, and their country." And that's not a good reason. Plow Creek Mennonite Church offers a piece that assures us that "Christian Pacifism is the Scriptural Position". While many of the references are not in support of the argument per se, there are several offered in direct connection. We have Jesus's words, "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44), "Do not use force against an evil man" (Matt 5:39), "Forgive and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37), "Do not be anxious about your life" (Luke 12:22), "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword" (Matt 26:52), "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matt 7:12), "Do not return evil for evil" (1 Peter 3:9), "Never avenge yourselves" (Rom 12:19), and "Overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21). (I'm trying to offer a fair listing.) Plenty of Scripture there.

So, using the same rationale as the first paragraph, how does this work? Well, first, there isn't one explicit text that says that serving in the military is sin. Not one. Okay, so perhaps the explicit text doesn't work, but the context does, right? Well, nothing about the context coincides with "military". So maybe not. Still, the entire sense of it is there, right? Well, there is reason to see the entire sense of it. However, when compared with all of Scripture, there's a problem. Assuming that there is a universal biblical principle that says that "use of force is evil" or some such, we have lots of problems, in fact. Jesus made a whip to use in the Temple. He told His disciples to take their swords. The suggestion (that some make) that He didn't use the whip on people and He certainly prevented them from using their swords is a good thing or we'd have a sinning Savior. But the problems don't stop there. Why, when dealing with the centurion, did Jesus remain silent about his sin? Well, that could be a matter of context. Certainly it's an argument from silence. We don't know all that He said to the centurion. On the other hand, we have explicit texts elsewhere. We know, for instance, that God commanded warfare of His people. Regardless of your views on the incident of the Amalekites and such, we all agree that God promised the land of Canaan to Israel, took them to it from Egypt, and punished them for failing to take it. Now, what have we here? We have a "righteous God" commanding His people to violate His commandments (see Lew Rockwell) against using force and punishing them (40 years in the desert) for failing to obey His command to violate His commands. Now that is a problem. And then there's the whole return of Christ thing where Jesus returns with a sword in His mouth killing all unbelievers. You may see that as "nonviolent", but I can't begin to see it as such.

So let's look at how the two stack up. The first has explicit texts. The immediate context agrees with the plain reading. There is nothing in all of Scripture to counter that straightforward reading. All indications are that homosexual behavior is a sin, and changing that conclusion requires altering texts, contexts, and the entirety of Scripture. As for "Christian pacifism", there are some texts that suggest it. However, there isn't one that is explicit. Further, the context is never about "Christian pacifism". Worse, if we conclude that the universal biblical principle is pacifism, we make God the Father and God the Son out to be sinners, violators of their own principles.

I am not here trying to dismiss the concerns raised by the passages on Christian pacifism. We must wrestle with those texts. Is is possible to "love your enemy" and be in the military? Is it possible to "not use force against an evil man" and defend your home against intruders? Is it possible to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and still be part of the armed forces? It's something we ought to think through. I'm not saying there is no question here. All I'm trying to point out is that on some issues there is apparent certainty and on some there is not. So be sure you're not questioning the obvious and standing for the unclear -- or upbraiding those who do the opposite.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marriage Equity

A parable from history. (Cue cute "birds singing, tra-la-la music")

Before the first European arrived on the North American continent, there were those to whom we now refer as "native Americans". (Generally, the term refers to the people indigenous to the United States.) These people groups lived here a long time before anyone arrived from the "old world". They had tribes, communities, property, their own civilization. They hunted and farmed and even had their own kind of industries.

The Spanish settled here in 1519 and the English arrived and established Jamestown and Plymouth while the French set up their first settlements in what is now Canada in the early 17th century. At first, we all got along pretty well. We had our small colonies and they had ... the rest of the continent. Then the European settlers got it in their heads that they needed to educate the natives, to "civilize" them. When frictions arose from this effort, it became a war. Some of the fighting was in self-defense -- the settlers were defending themselves. Some was in aggression for expansion and pacification.

When the European settlers pushed into the plains hunting buffalo and beavers, the Great Plains tribes took offense. Now, all these settlers wanted was "hunting equity", to share the land, to simply have what was theirs. But these unreasonable, backward, traditionalist native Americans felt that they had lived there all this time and that the plains had always been theirs. The settlers used a variety of tactics, from open war to "education" to "improving the lives of the natives" via things like the railroad. It was all with the best of intentions, and while I'm sure the indigenous people didn't understand, being too narrow-minded and all, the settlers eventually achieved their "equity" by simply stripping from the tribes what had always been theirs and taking it for themselves. Of course, by the time they got done with it, the hunting and the territories didn't look anything at all like it used to, but it's okay because equity was what was important, and those old, right-wing native Americans ended up in a much better place, I'm sure.

Moral of the Story: Taking what isn't yours to convert it to what you want it to be does not fall in the category of "equity".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good for Nothing

I have, for most of my life, suffered from the delusion that I'm good for nothing. Okay, so most of the time it wasn't "good for nothing", but certainly inferior. I've never been "best" at anything. At those rare moments when I started to think I wasn't completely worthless, something would happen to remind me that I was ... inferior. Fed by a faulty measure of "worth", I have often had to fight a tendency to think little of myself. It's an ongoing thing for me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in it.

God has some interesting things to say about folks like me.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor 1:26-29).

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another (1 Cor 12:25).
I find these two passages interesting and helpful. First, note that they do not say, "Oh, stop thinking of yourself that way. It's not true!" On the contrary, the claim is that we are indeed the "foolish", the "weak", the "low". Even in the Body of Christ there are "unpresentable parts", parts that are "less honorable". I am fascinated by this because there are many times in my struggles with this problem that I think, "But ... I'm not being unreasonable. Much of how I view myself is wholly accurate." And God, here, is saying, "Yes, I have certainly called many foolish, weak, despicable, unpresentable people." Because telling a pig that he's a dove doesn't help the pig.

The other thing, though, is the conclusions God comes to regarding these "inferior" people. God uses them. He doesn't use them in spite of their inferiority. He uses them because of it. He uses the foolish to shame the wise, the powerless to shame the powerful, the weak to shame the strong. He uses parts of the Body of Christ deemed "less honorable" with greater honor. As Paul writes elsewhere, "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor 12:9). It is not simply in spite of weakness, but because of weakness that God is glorified in us. Therefore, it is not in spite of weakness, but because of weakness that Paul boasts, recognizing that the power of Christ is at work.

The fact is that many people are "inferior" by human standards. Denying it doesn't make it go away. Thanks be to God that this isn't the final conclusion. The next fact is that God uses the weak, the foolish, the powerless, the unpresentable for His greater glory. It's not about us. It's about Him. In these people God's greater work can be seen and, in these, God's greater glory is shown. And that's always a good thing, not "good for nothing".

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Enemy at the Gates

We are all aware of the enemy all around us. We see that evil "head banging music" and know that can't be right. We hear the rappers who glorify killing and abusing women and we know that can't be right. And there's that whole "porn industry" thing that no moral person really doubts is evil at its core. We hear the voices of the far left telling us to exterminate humans and give animals human rights and to steal from the rich and give to the poor and we know that can't be right. The enemy is quite clear. Or is it?

My suspicion is that the most intrusive and destructive messages are coming to us unfiltered. We let them in our homes, our heads, our hearts. We don't evaluate them or examine them because they're coming to us from either friendly or at least non-hostile sources. How could they be bad?

Pop music teaches us that sex is fun and commitment and marriage are irrelevant.

Pop TV asks, "Why do you need to get married to have a family?"

Pop media rephrases the question from "What is marriage?" to "Marriage Equality".

Pop politics teaches us that the real solution to our problems is found in voting their way.

Pop education holds that education is king, that science is God, and that anyone who thinks differently ought not be heard at all.

Pop culture suggests that fathers are the most stupid, most evil, most redundant creatures on the planet and if we could figure out how to do without their sperm, we would do well to lose them entirely.

Unfiltered messages provided to us via our sitcoms and cop dramas, our entertainment, our musical friends and our political allies. We take them in because we don't see the threat. We don't really agree with David who wrote, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psa 101:3). We think Paul was a bit extreme when he suggested that we "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). Satan a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8)? Too over the top, Peter. We're in favor of our "angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14). Nor do we see the damage.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Limited Exchange

Just about anyone who is a Christian has read about the exchange between Nicodemus and Christ in the Gospel of John. It starts out like this:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:1).
Does that opening conversation strike anyone as a bit odd? It does me.

Here's Nicodemus saying "We know you're from God because of the miracles you've done" and Jesus replies "You can't see the kingdom of God unless you're born again." Where's the connection? Where's the continuity? Was Jesus merely being obscure and random, or was there a reason that He answered Nicodemus's opening statement with that particular remark? I think that Jesus was not random or illogical, so I would want to look for that reason. I would want to make that connection because it indicates the meaning behind Jesus's words.

In this exchange, Nicodemus claims to know something: "You are a teacher come from God." It appears, then, that Jesus is letting him know at the outset that he's missing the point. "You think you see something in me, but, in truth, you're blind." It seems to me that Jesus was saying, "You're looking at things from a physical world, a world of flesh, but in order to actually see what's going on here, you need to come from the spiritual world, the world of the Spirit." Jesus says a moment later, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6). He is saying, "Nicodemus, you are a teacher of the Jews and you think you understand what's going on, but you can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. You can't recognize it nor arrive at it. You're lacking a key event -- spiritual birth."

While there is no indication in this exchange that Nicodemus ever caught on, there are indications later that he did receive that "born again" event, that he did "see the kingdom of God." But the statement from Christ begs the question. If we are giving people today less than signs from heaven, if we are giving them good arguments and ardent calls and good presentations of the Gospel, and they're not yet born again, on what would we base the idea that our arguments and calls and presentations would succeed in making them see the kingdom and come to Christ? Doesn't Jesus's statement require that "born again" must precede "see the kingdom"? It seems to me that Jesus here is clearly saying that in order to truly recognize the truth of who Christ is, you must first be born again, that regeneration precedes faith.

If not, what else is Jesus saying?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quotes on Worship

Worship is the highest act of which man is capable. It not only stretches him beyond all the limits of his finite self to affirm the divine depth of mystery and holiness in the living and eternal God, but it opens him at the deepest level of his being to an act which unites him most realistically with his fellow man. - Samuel H. Miller

The heart of the issue in worship is this: My life needs God's presence to work God's purpose in my life. - Jack Hayford

Worship is not about us and how we feel; it is about giving God the honour due to His Name. His Word, not our feelings, define that 'honour', which is due to Him. - Dean G. Thomas

Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped. - Jack Hayford

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A couple of weeks ago my son lost his wallet. He immediately set about canceling cards and ordering new ones. He had to wait for replacements, so he went to the bank to deposit his latest check and get cash. They wouldn't give it to him. You see, he had no picture ID. They wouldn't give him cash if he didn't prove who he was. Getting picture ID was a week-long wait, so the suggestion was that he'd have to go without any money at all for a week. And that wasn't going to work for him. He had no ID. He was lost. It all worked out for him, but he found out that identification is important.

In the movie, Surrogates, people live in the future in surrogate bodies, automatons controlled by the individuals. The individuals don't actually go out in the world; they live out their lives through the robots they have out there. The movie starts out with a murder of two of these surrogates, a guy and a girl making out in a back alley. When the police seek out the actual users to find out what they know, it turns out that the voluptuous blonde victim was actually an oversize male user. His surrogate identity didn't come close to matching his real identity.

A quite common concept is the notion of self-identification. We self-identify in a myriad of ways. We identify ourselves as citizens of our nation and residents of the place we live. We identify ourselves as Christians or atheists as part of our own definition. We are what we do for a living or what we like. Popular today is the self-identification of sexual attraction, as if that defines who we are. (Oddly enough, I don't know too many heterosexuals who define themselves as heterosexuals except in contradistinction to homosexuals, but there is a "gay community" of self-identified folk defined by their attraction to others of the same gender.) We have lots of ways we identify ourselves.

Like my son without picture ID, however, these identities also seem suspect. We say we are X, but does that actually define who we are? And is it accurate? Does saying, "I'm a Christian", for instance, actually mean that you are? We know that Internet identifications are highly suspect. Like the fat man in Surrogates, you never really know if the person with whom you are interacting online is a female or a male, young or old, attractive or homely. And we seem to be slipping down this path with vigor. The social network has made it perfectly acceptable to be anonymous online. Role-playing games are designed to let you self-identify as something you are not. The fantasy self of gaming and chat rooms and the popularity of the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) playgrounds have allowed us to set aside who we really are and identify ourselves as something we are not. Perhaps its something we want to be. Perhaps it's something we wish we were. Perhaps, in the anonymity of the environment, we can indulge things we'd never do in real life. And so it goes with so much of our own self-identification.

Whatever the cause, we are in the process today of losing our wallets. We've bought the notion that you are what you desire. We've embraced the idea that you can be whatever you dream. The distance between reality and fantasy is widening thanks to the digital world in which we live. Pretty soon we will lose all sense of a real identity. Then where will we get the funds on which to live?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Truth by Consensus

Remember that little "global warming" thing? You know, the one that today drives policies and politics around the world as we seek to save the planet from mankind. The original (audible) alarm was sounded by the well-known expert, Al Gore. Yes, Al Gore ... politician, Harvard graduate with a bachelor's degree in government, didn't do well in science or math, oh, and invented the Internet. Okay, let's not get hostile. Still, the question remains, "Now how did Al Gore earn the right to warn us all about global warming?" Well, it's simple. Al Gore had a consensus of scientists, and, as everyone knows, a consensus is the same thing as the truth.

You might protest that last statement. I mean, there was a consensus among many white people that black people were inferior, and that wasn't the truth. There have been lots of consensus on things that turned out to be false. Yet, do a search on "global warming consensus" and you'll find lots of folks arguing that consensus makes it true.

The global warming controversy is not my point here. Truth by consensus is. Take, for instance, the story about the Gallup poll finding that 53% of Americans think that "same-sex marriage" is a good idea. I pointed out then that a consensus does not make a fact. Still, most people will tell you that if the majority want it, it must be. That is, "Don't bother me with truth; we're all in agreement here."

It is, I believe, an understandable position. The Internet phenomenon called "the wiki" is all the rage. A wiki is a piece of web-based software that allows users of all sorts to edit web content. The most famous is Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia that boasts over 3.5 million articles from 8,000 editors. "Editors" is misleading. Wikis operate on the concept of truth by consensus. If I see what I believe to be a mistake in an article, I can edit it. If someone else thinks my correction is wrong, they can edit it. Eventually articles settle into a consensus and that, in the wiki mind, constitutes truth. Truth by consensus.

By democratizing information and then using that vote as a measure of truth, we've managed to create "truth by consensus". In so doing, we've countered such values as "authority" or "expert" and bypassed such safeguards as "fact checking" and editorial control. We've created a world where "Facebook said it so it must be true." In a society whose primary reference for political perceptions is the sound bite, whose best information is derived from the commercial, and whose best source of reality is "how I feel", it is little wonder that we would surrender "truth" to "consensus". I need to point out, however, that consensus can be wrong, and I think I can get a consensus on that.

Pilate asked, "What is truth?" He asked it of the Son of God who said, "I am ... the Truth." Truth, to Christians, is God. That is, truth is defined as that which conforms to reality, and reality is defined as "How God sees things". It is not a function of consensus. Truth issues from the nature of God. It is a "top-down" truth rather than that which drifts up out of the masses. But try to put that in a wiki. Still, if you're a Christian, you would do well to keep it in mind. God's truth is all truth. Settle that and you'll be much better off; according to Jesus, you'll be free.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

All that I've written over the past 5 years (yes, last month I had my 5th blog anniversary) regarding sin in general and things like divorce and homosexual behavior and "same-sex marriage" and the like in particular are out there for you to see. I don't think I have felt the need to withdraw any of it. I still stand by it because it's what I see as plainly written in Scripture.

Having said that, I do think that we (those of us who believe that Scripture is plain on these subjects and authoritative as well) have a problem. You see, there is a stark difference between "That behavior is a sin" and "Meet Tom, the one doing the sin." The constant claim on the subject of the sin of homosexuality is that "You who claim it is a sin are really all just haters, homophobes, bigots." This notion is fed by people who admit, "I used to think it was a sin and then I realized I just thought it was icky" or the like. (In other words, it is fed by those about whom it is true.) On the other hand, it is not true in all cases. And these cases are the ones with the problem.

Take the divorced guy at your local church, for instance. Assuming your church hasn't been consumed by the liberalism that says, "Ah, don't worry, divorce is fine. No reason to care about that", your church's position would have to be "What God has put together let no man separate" (because, of course, it's Christ's position). So you stand on "Divorce is bad." But what do you do with the divorced guy? Is he bad? Is he ostracized? Is he put away? Unfortunately in many conservative churches that would be the case.

How about that woman who confesses she had an abortion? Now, the Bible is abundantly clear that murder is a sin and no one can really dispute that a baby is a person and killing that person with malice and forethought is murder, so, again, unless your church is poisoned by "Let the woman decide (if she is going to maliciously murder her baby)", you're going to stand on the principle that abortion is murder and, therefore, sin. But what about the sinner? What about the woman who did it? Is she, then, cut off? Is she abandoned, ignored, rejected?

The big one today is the homosexual. Male or female, if a person admits that they have sexual urges toward the same gender, any biblical church will have to tell them, "It's sin." What do you do now with that person who admitted it?

Many families have run into serious problems with this concept. They've believed that X was a sin, wrong, evil. And then they find that their son or their brother or their mother suffers from X, and the natural family affection collides with their moral principles ... and the wreck leaves a mess. What often happens is the error of changing moral principles. "Well, if my loved one is guilty of X, maybe X isn't so bad." We can't seem to separate X from the person or consider that the practice may be sin while loving the sinner.

This is a real problem for principled people. We must not surrender our principles. On the other hand, we dare not fail to love. So we must "speak the truth in love." Truth without love becomes cold, and love without truth becomes mushy. The need is to do both. We need to warn believers that divorce is wrong and then love the sinner who divorces. We need to assure women that abortion is murder and then love the murderer. We need to caution the homosexual that those activities are sin and then love the homosexual. Indeed, standing on the principle -- warning against sin -- is a part of genuine love. We just need to be careful to avoid confusing the sin with the sinner.

Two final thoughts here. First, if we cut off everyone who sinned, we'd cut off everyone. Keep that in mind. Second, if the one committing the sin is in need of correction or repentance or accountability and support, that won't be accomplished if we remove them from us, now, will it? If we are to love people to Christ, to bear one another's burdens, to bandage the wounded and heal the hurting, it's going to have to be done not by abandoning God's view of sin, but by appropriating God's method of loving the sinner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Words Have Meaning

I've written quite a lot on the whole "same-sex marriage" debate. This will not be another one. The position I have always taken is that "same-sex" and "marriage" don't go together. I'm not saying "Same-sex relations are sinful, so they shouldn't marry." I'm saying, "Marriage means something specific, and 'same-sex' doesn't fit into that definition." At that point, morality is irrelevant. Words mean something. "Marriage" is no exception. And that's it.

Many have complained about this approach. Why is it not acceptable to change definitions? We do it all the time. English is a living language. According to Derek Haines, there are approximately 4,000 new words added to the dictionary every year. Beyond that, words get redefined all the time, either in "official" dictionary form or in common usage. And that's all without considering the words that change definition based on context. So what's the big deal about words and their definitions? Go with the flow!

The problem is that words express ideas. If the words that express a given idea change, then expressing that idea becomes difficult. Add to that the fact that we (those of us who cherish the Bible) are reading words whose meanings do not change. So, for instance, if the meaning of a word used in the 1971 publication of the New American Standard changes, the comprehension of the 2011 version of the reader will miss it.

You know this to be the case. The King James Version speaks of "charity" in 1 Corinthians 13. We don't think of "charity" in the same sense that they did in 1611. For us, "charity" is giving to someone in need. So when the KJV describes "charity" as it does in that chapter, it's confusing. The word changed its meaning out from under the text. And now communication slows down while we try to translate the English translation into our understanding.

I chose "charity" as the example because it is the perfect illustrator of the problem. The term "charity" in the 17th century is now expressed with the term "love" in 21st century America. However, that word has taken on a different meaning today than it had a century ago. Today it means "tender affection" and very often associated with "sexual passion", concepts entirely missing from 1 Corinthians 13. So if we work our way backward, what word would we use to identify what was called in Greek agape, in King James English, "charity", and in mid-20th century English, "love"?

This problem illustrates my concern with other words. You see, today "love" means "tender affection". Try, then, to connect discipline or punishment with "tender affection". Try to explain how it is possible to "love your enemy" while defending your home. Make some sense out of "love your neighbor" and the justice system. How can you feel warm affection for and even sexual passion for someone and sentence them to life in prison? Or try to find any way possible to make sense out of the biblical statement, "The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives" (Heb 12:6). With today's cushy "love is a warm feeling" definition, "love" and "scourge" (the word used in Heb 12:6 translated "chastises") won't go together. The problem there is that this makes God ... well ... crazy. He scourges the children for whom He feels warm affection. No, that makes no sense! But the problem here isn't that God is crazy or that the text makes no sense. None of these are contradictory to biblical love. The problem is the language changed.

It's a little bit disturbing, in fact, when you start to think about it. Many of the words expressing main biblical themes have eroded. Who even knows what "propitiation" means anymore? How many people understand that what Americans think of when they hear "freedom" and what the Bible is expressing with that term are two different things. We despise the concept of "slaves", but the Bible assures us that we are all slaves, either to sin or to righteousness. Atonement, justification, love -- the biblical concepts that these words and more express have eroded to the point that we're losing the words to express the concepts and end up fighting instead over words that mean something different. So now the world would have us add "marriage" to that pile. What, then, will be the understanding of "the Marriage Feast of the Lamb", of Paul's profound mystery (Eph 5:32), of all those outdated references to husband and wife? With opposition to Scripture being what it already is, having to reclaim words that once meant something is just that much more difficult. Brothers, these things ought not be.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Was Solomon Wrong?

Solomon wrote, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecc 12:12). I wonder if Solomon was wrong.

I know. It has been predicted in the past. And it was wrong. But it just seems like ... well, let me explain.

For decades now we've been living in a new world. Where the primary means of communication used to be face to face and a key means of passing on information and ideas was the printed word, we moved back in the 60's to the world of images. Television introduced us to an entirely different means of communication, a means in which we have been fed video rather than text. And it has altered our reality.

Text, you see, is managed by a different part of the brain than audio and video. Text requires analysis. You need to recognize the character as a letter and understand how that letter fits with the string of other letters to form a word. That word needs to connect in your mind with an idea that has meaning. Then you have to figure out what that string of words means in its entirety (with all the nuances of grammar, spelling, and punctuation). Finally you have to sew together the sentences to form a complete message, including the thoughts and the images that the message includes. In a video world, however, you are fed completed messages without the need for words. They can bypass the analytical portion of your brain entirely. Like music, they can go straight into your intuitive portion and feed off your emotions without the need for critical examination. Studies have shown, for instance, that your brain is more active when you are asleep than when you watch television.

Of course, the progress of the digital age hasn't minimized that condition; it has exacerbated it. It has so aggravated it that many people don't even know what "exacerbate" means. Science tells us that the image-based medium is a primary cause of Attention Deficit Disorder. But we don't need science to get that the video world operates at a much higher speed than a text-based world. And so we push the limits of text, of books, in our digital world.

That alone wouldn't spell the end of books. I don't see a fundamental difference between reading a book on paper and reading a book on a Kindle, for instance. But to me the biggest threat to books is the video medium we've come to know and expect. The blogging experts will tell you that your blogs should not exceed 250 words. Why? Because people won't read much more than that. Most Internet users know the acronym, "TL/DR" -- "too long/didn't read". It's an axiom of modern living. Skimming is the new reading. Videos are the new writing. We are so driven by screens and images that we barely have the time or patience to actually read a book, either on paper or the screen. How long, then, will it be before our vastly shortened attention spans can no longer absorb a book?

Solomon wrote that there was no end of making books. Solomon may have been mistaken. Our modern, fast-paced, video-driven, ultra-shallow world today threatens to remove books, to eliminate lengthy dialog, to silence thinking in favor of the immediate and short-term momentary pleasure of seeing and hearing and feeling. And while many may think, "Yeah, so?", this would be a problem for those who take God seriously when He commands us "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37). Some will respond, "TL/DR" and others will skim it and say, "Mind? No, not at all, thanks."

(And this post of 631 words is a fail among today’s blogs.)

Monday, July 11, 2011


A given is an established fact, something on which we agree, a starting point for a discussion. Sometimes I wonder about the givens we miss.

In John's gospel we find the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The account, to me, is somewhat baffling. Here's why. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, witnesses went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. That's right, people who saw it happen went to Jesus's enemies to report the incident. As a result of the evidence of hostile witnesses, the Pharisees finally succumbed to the unavoidable conclusion that Jesus really was the Son of God with power over life and death and repented in dust and ashes. No, wait, that's not what it says. It says that "from that day on they made plans to put Him to death" (John 11:53). Beyond that, "The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well" (John 12:10). What?!

You see, there were some givens here. There were some established facts, some points that no one was disputing. Given #1: Jesus did miracles. Given #2: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Given #3: Lazarus represented living proof of Jesus's power. No one was disputing any of these points. No, it was the result of these demonstrated facts that produced the plans to kill both of them.

You'll find something very similar in an exchange with the Jews at an earlier time. Jesus expressed, "I and the Father are one" and the Jews picked up stones to stone Him (John 10:30-31). Jesus asked an interesting question. "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" (John 10:33). Now, the proper response logically would be, "You did no such thing! You're a blasphemer!" That was not their response. Instead, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God" (John 10:34).

Again, we're looking at givens. What givens are here? Apparently no one questioned whether or not Jesus had done "many good works from the Father". No one doubted that. There were lots of eye witnesses, lots of living people who could testify to these things. There were no challenges to the fact that Jesus was performing miracles. Do you see that? No challenges to the fact that Jesus was performing miracles. And, still, the response is hostility.

In the biblical accounts, there is absolutely no question that the evidence for the existence of God and the deity of Christ were plain, present, undeniable. No one stood by and asked, "Where's your proof?" No one remarked, "If only you had some evidence for me, I'd believe." The evidence was a given. No, the problem wasn't the facts; the problem was the hearts of those who rejected Him.

The problem is the same today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Philosopher's End

One of the key questions for philosophers is the "ultimate question" -- What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Assuming (as I certainly do) that there is a God, why did He make us?

Despite the obvious problem with it, most of our answers revolve around us. Plato thought it was so we could gather as much knowledge as possible. Epicurus thought it was to seek pleasure. Existentialism holds that it is simply that we exist. Pragmatism argues that it is to experience life. Nihilists and absurdists suggest there is no meaning. And then there is the everyday human who will answer simpler things like to accumulate money or power or fame or love. Much of society today would argue that the meaning of life is found in sex. In all cases we are the ultimate arbiter and the ultimate reason for our own existence.

Christians don't often fare much better. While we sometimes recognize that the reason for being is found in God, we often tend to think that His primary thoughts are about us ... and we're right back to the same place. Our existence is primarily about us.

What does God have to say about it?
Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made" (Isa 43:6-7).
Apparently, from God's perspective, God made humans for His own glory. Apparently God's primary concern is that He would be most glorified. We were made in His image to reflect His glory. All that we do is to be done to His glory (1 Cor 10:31). According to Isa 48:9-11, even our salvation is for His glory.

Things exist for a reason, a purpose. If you understand the purpose, then you are better able to make the best use of it. We are created for the glory of God. If all that we do is done for the glory of God, that would be the best use of our time and effort, the matching of our existence to God's purpose for us. All glory to God!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Stupid Quotes

We have a lot of stupid "wise sayings" out there. The ones I'm talking about are the ones that everyone knows, that everyone thinks, "Oh, so true", but that are still stupid.

The classic line from the Zen Master is to say that something is "like the sound of one hand clapping." "Deep," we seem to think, "very deep." No it's not. It's stupid. There is no sound of one hand clapping. This "master" isn't getting to some higher plane. He's leaving behind rationality and reality. Clapping is the sound of two hands being struck together. One hand cannot clap. It's not deep; it's nonsense.

I saw this one recently in two different places: "You can't win if you don't play." That's right. If you don't buy a lottery ticket, you can't win the lottery. (That was one of the two.) And it is, at face value, true enough. The assumption, however, is that winning is a good thing. If winning is not a good thing (and looking through various stories and reports, it would be easy to come to that conclusion), then one might think the opposite truth would be equally good: "You can't lose if you don't play." So, is "winning" better than "not losing"? Or, better yet, since the vast majority of lottery players are losers, is "likely losing" better than "certainly not losing"? No one is asking that question (but me, I guess).

One that has bothered me as long as I've heard it: "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" This one just irritates me on several levels. Are you comparing the girl in question to a cow? Are sexual relations "milk"? Beyond that, is the best and primary reason to marry that you can have sex? If "You'll have to buy the cow if you can't get the milk for free" is the motive for marriage, I'm likely looking at a doomed marriage. Many see this as a warning to young women ("Don't 'give it away'.") and an indictment of modern sex-outside-marriage society. I see it as a clear representation of why marriage is in such trouble today. You see, marriage is not about recreational sex. Marriage has traditionally been defined as "the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of complementing each other and propagating the species". If we're going to change it to "getting milk", then I'm going to have to get a new word, obviously, for that original definition, but we're going to have no leg to stand on when we argue against marriage outside that original definition.

How about you? Do you have "wise sayings" that just get to you? What are they? And why?

Friday, July 08, 2011

The End of the Iraq War

The war in Afghanistan (I don't like that term, but it's the common one, so there it is) has been in the news lately. The president is promising to decrease troop strength there. The Mainstream Media is still sending in live reporters in the midst of live firefights to give us live reports. That's still there.

It struck me recently that I haven't heard a peep out of Iraq for quite awhile. I thought that perhaps I was just not a diligent news follower. I toyed with the idea that it was a media conspiracy. You know, "We like the president, so we will keep our mouths shut about Iraq." That kind of thing. Sounded all too ... conspiratorial. So I thought I'd take a look and see what was out there.

I noticed that the Associated Press is reporting that there have been 4,466 deaths in the Iraq war so far. (Oddly, the number is down from the number originally reported.) They also say that roughly 3,500 of those were due to hostile action, and that another 32,000 plus were injured in that time. Um, okay. But what's going on? Is there fighting? Are they coming home? What's happening out there? Not much news coming out of Iraq. Maybe it's all over?

According to, 59% of the military fatalities in Afghanistan have occurred in the last two years, while the initial 41% took place in the prior 7 years of the conflict. Now that isn't a statistic I've heard on the news. The majority of deaths in Afghanistan have occurred in the last 20% of the time that the conflict has been going on, and that is all on the president's watch. It's also interesting that, according to a study by Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas, since President Obama has taken office, the anti-war movement has almost entirely vanished. As part of a partisan political force, it had momentum from 2001 to 2008, but dropped off the map when the Democrats took the White House. It appears, then, that the Left is not so much "anti-war" as much as partisan politics. This is further demonstrated in the president's promise to end these wars while engaging in an unapproved and seemingly illegal engagement in Libya. And, as Nick Croucher points out, as it turns out, WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were all fought under Democrats. Are they "anti-war" or simply partisan politics?

So now I've slid back to my original thought. I know that the media is not the best source for news. I know that the media will report what they want us to hear, not what is necessarily news. We aren't likely to find that the majority of deaths in Afghanistan have taken place under Obama. We don't hear much out of Iraq, likely because the president has decided it was over and if the news keeps quiet on it, it is. We don't see anymore protests because it isn't about war; it's about politics. Or, to put it another way, I've slid back to my original conspiracy fear, and I'm afraid I just might be stuck with it.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Love Must Be Free

"God wants us to choose Him of our own free will because it's not love if it's not our own free choice." Have you ever heard that? If you believe in the Sovereignty of God you likely have. Or, another popular phrase, often accompanying that one, "God doesn't want robots." That's the idea, you see. Free Will is its own reward. It is inherently valuable. It is, I suppose, of ultimate value since love is the first and, essentially, only command and, by definition, results from Free Will. Must be. I've heard it enough times.

So I have to ask, where does that come from? I know you won't find it in the Bible. (Obviously there isn't a single mention of robots in the Bible.) It's difficult to find a definition of "love" that mandates "free will". That's not in the Bible, either. There is certainly the command to love God and love your fellow man, but if God can prevent someone from sinning (Gen 20:6) and lay it at his credit, He can certainly cause someone to love and lay it at his credit.

While most everyone takes it as a given, the whole thing seems suspect to me. According to Paul, the only means by which I accomplish anything is the power of God in me. I have the power to do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13). The reason I can work out my salvation is that God is at work in me giving me both the will (See that?) and the power to do so (Phil 2:12-13). Indeed, according to Jesus, even believing is the work of God (John 6:29). If everything that I accomplish for God is motivated and empowered by God, then where precisely is the much-vaunted power of my "free will"? In fact, according to Paul, no one is free. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness (Rom 6:17-18).

I am not suggesting that God would drag people, kicking and screaming, into the kingdom. I am not even saying that we have no kind of "free will". In point of fact, I don't believe that God needs to coerce anyone to choose Him. All that needs to happen is for God to alter the tilt, so to speak. If Natural Man is inclined away from God, all God needs to do is incline him toward God and he will naturally choose God -- freely. No, I'm not suggesting anything other that people do choose God. It's just these preconceptions regarding the glorious "Free Will" that I'm doubting, simply because they don't seem to align with Scripture.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Problem Solving

I was reading up on the problem of homelessness. Despite all the concentrated efforts over all the years, it appears that homelessness is not going away. In fact, it's getting worse. Some cities have launched massive 10-year plans to eradicate the problem only to find that there were more homeless when they ended than when they started. So I wondered what the fix was. This is what I found. According to the organizations working full time to fix this problem, the solution to the problem is ... wait for it ... affordable housing. That's right. If you give a homeless person a house, he or she will no longer be homeless and the problem is fixed. So let's get right on that!

Of course, this doesn't take into account the massiveness nor the complexity of the problem. There is certainly a component of the homeless who are mentally ill. Giving them a place to sleep doesn't solve their problem. Others are drug or alcohol-addicted. A house doesn't fix that. There are unexpectedly large numbers of homeless who are homeless by choice. They wouldn't even want your affordable housing. And, of course, a major contributor to homelessness is simply low income -- they can't afford it. A house would solve the "homeless" problem, but not necessarily the lack of income.

Now, look, I'm not saying that affordable housing or assisting the homeless is a bad thing. I'm certainly not saying that there is no problem. My point here is that "provide affordable housing" is a vastly understated, hopelessly myopic remedy for a real issue.

But homelessness is not the only thing here. I had a conversation recently with a friend who was bemoaning the state of public schools. In California recently an elementary school was teaching kids that "there are all kinds of genders". There are boys and there are girls; there are both and there are neither. (You really need to watch the video; it's stunning.) My friend was saying that this is the result of voting Democrat. Now, we had a friendly discussion about that view, but, again, we see a problem and then I have serious doubts about our ability to think through a solution. Just as the solution for homelessness as "affordable housing" is far too shortsighted, "vote Republican" is not going to solve the dissolution of moral values in government, education, or society. The remedy for this kind of insanity is not a political one. But if you talk to a large number of people these days, I'm sure they'd agree that it is.

So, it seems, I've arrived at a new problem. That problem is the inability to solve problems. We have an apparently limitless capacity to see problems and a vast ability to complain about them (as just about any blog will demonstrate), but solving problems is a bit out of our reach, it appears. Take the riots in Greece as an example. The government is trying to cut spending and increase taxes to solve a monumental crisis. The people are rioting in opposition to spending cuts and tax increases, but offer not one single suggestion as to what to do to prevent their country from collapsing. That's not a solution. It seems as if problems are plentiful but solutions are elusive. Hmmm, I wonder how we can solve this problem?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


If you're not very familiar with the Internet, you may have never seen that term: "pwned". Typically you'll see "You got pwned!" It is a product of technology. Apparently a while back in the midst of a multiplayer video game a player intended to say that his opponent was "owned" and hit the "p" key (next to the "o" key) by mistake. The typo caught on and it is a common term on the Internet today. So, what does it mean? It means that "You are owned", that you are in submission, you were bested, you are of no consequence, that the other person who "owns" you rules and you don't. Welcome to the 21st century.

I am interested in the purely technological product here because it is such an image of technology itself. I would suggest that in a vast majority of people today we are "pwned" by our technology. Do you doubt it? Imagine life without it and see how far you get.

Just 20 years ago a cell phone was unheard of. Very few had "mobile phones". It wasn't an issue. Today, how long would the average 12-year-old survive without his or her cell phone? Parents have protested when schools tried to ban them from classrooms. They are mandatory! Why not just ban water and bathroom breaks? No cell phones?! Don't be ridiculous!

Personal computers have been around since the mid-80's (essentially), but only in real use since the '90's. That's right, just 20 years. Prior to that a computer in your home was science fiction and, seriously, what real need did your average citizen have for a computer? Try to remove computers from homes today and you'll likely handicap people. You would certainly disable their cars, since all vehicles today have computers in them. It's not that they're helpful; it's that they're necessary. Life could not continue without them.

Go further back. Television has been around since the '50's (basically). It was before my time. It has, for all intents and purposes, been part of our lives since the beginning of time, so to speak. How many of us would be willing to go without a TV? How many of us can imagine a life without the television? It's necessary! There's one in the main room of your house, I'm pretty sure, and in all likelihood one in other rooms as well. You may even have cable or satellite TV because everyone knows watching one or two or three local transmissions is insufficient. We need thousands. "Need!"

Every time a cell phone rings in church or a driver texts on the road, every time the theater has to tell patrons to silence their phones, every time that you rush off to watch your favorite TV show, you form your opinions from the current entertainment field we refer to as "news", you skip a family gathering to play your favorite video game, every time your technology drives your life, you got pwned. We don't own our technology; it owns us. Our technology is supposed to serve us, but who gets served now? No, technology isn't evil on its own, but we sure are making it look that way by our worship of it, aren't we?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

It's 235 years today, America. Two hundred thirty-five years ago the United states was born. It was birthed on the premise of "inalienable rights", born on the bedrock of a Creator. It has been an experiment in a government system requiring individual morality. And it has done remarkably well.

Carried on the wings of patriots who gave their lives in her defense and sustained on the prayers of the churches that used to be the center of her every township, America has scaled unheard of heights. She has been the flagship of freedom, the incubator of innovation, the fortress of the downtrodden. She has tripped in places, fallen in others, sullied her clothes at times, but still stood like the lady liberty in New York Harbor as a beacon of light.

Nothing lasts forever. We live in a world that decays, and nations are no exception. I love my country. America has been a symbol for good for a long time and I pray that she will be again. Humans have a Day of Judgment, a final reckoning, but nations do not. Theirs is a temporal judgment. As long as she brings glory to God, she will remain. When more glory is displayed at her judgment, she will not. So happy birthday, America. Enjoy it while you can.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I wanted to look at a passage of Scripture I seem to come to quite often:
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; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Eph 4:14-15).
First, "as a result" ... of what? Well, the previous text tells us the purpose of the Church. She is designed to equip the saints, to build up the Body, to unify and mature believers. If this is done correctly, the result will follow.

What result? We are mature, not easily fooled by whatever doctrine comes along. As opposed to much of Christendom today, when the church does its job, we are primarily in agreement about truth, about doctrine, about God's real views. We won't fall prey to men who deceive and scheme, but will align ourselves with Christ.

Now, I'm sure you would admit that this sounds, well, really wonderful. Imagine a unified Christianity. Imagine not having to answer the challenge, "If your beliefs are true, why are there so many different ones?" We even have to answer the problem within Christianity when the Roman Catholics say, "See? If you would only submit to the Pope and drop all that 'sola scriptura' stuff, we could all be in agreement" (as if the Roman Catholic Church is all in agreement). Yes, I'd say it would be a good thing.

What, then, does Paul say is the outcome of being spiritually mature and being unified as a body of believers? He says that we would be "speaking the truth in love" as we grow deeper into Christ. That's what it says. Or is it? Did you know that it's not actually what it says? As it turns out, the phrase, "speaking the truth", is a single Greek word -- aletheuo. It is the verb form of alethes, "truth". Now, we primarily think of "truth" solely as a noun and essentially as an intellectual exercise, the recognition of that which conforms to reality. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). But He also said, "I am ... the Truth ..." (John 14:6). Here He constructs an image of truth that is not merely that which conforms to reality, but a person. In this sense, knowing the truth is not as much having knowledge of, but having a relationship with the truth.

In this way, When Paul writes that we are to be "speaking the truth in love", there is a much broader sense than "speaking" conveys. Sure, we are to be telling the truth. Beyond that, we are to be doing truth. We are to be living truth. We are to image truth in our lives. Paul says "I urge you, then, be imitators of me" (1 Cor 4:16). That is, "I have been 'truthing', and now I want you to do the same -- live out truth." The author of Hebrews says, " Remember your leaders ... and imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7). You see, they were "truthing" -- doing truth. You do it, too.

Biblically, truth isn't an idea or mere knowledge. It is something we do. And, returning to the beautiful idea of what it would be like if Christians were united, imagine the effect of Christians living truth rather than merely stating it and living something else. That would have a marvelous impact.