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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Do You Believe?

They made the news in Greenville, SC, when the historic First Baptist Church opted to allow ordination and marriage of homosexuals (sorry, "LGBT"). The South Carolina Baptist Convention has asked the church to either recant or withdraw from the denomination. "But ... why?" some will ask. "They're baptists, aren't they?" Oh, it gets stickier than that. In their Report from the LGBT Discernment Team (yes, they had an "LGBT Discernment Team"), they affirmed, "In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist Greenville will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity." Ironically, their footer is a mission statement which includes, "We believe in the authority of the Bible."

I'm not writing here about the particulars of that case. I'm writing about the problem of belief. Go to almost any church website, look up their "statement of faith" or whatever they might call it, and you will likely find a mostly orthodox statement of beliefs. This used to be a helpful method of determining whether or not you wanted to go to that church. I mean, if you concur with their statement of faith, go; if not, don't. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way anymore.

Using the example of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, their mission statement affirms the authority of the Bible, but their beliefs ignore it. No Scripture includes "not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity". All Scripture on subjects of "sexual orientation" classify anything other than sex between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage as the only righteous "sexual orientation", and in terms of "gender identity, only those specific gender roles for males and females that correspond to their sex are correct. But it didn't matter to the "LGBT Discernment Team". Or to the congregation (whose "consensus" was a factor in this decision). Or to the leadership of the church. So much for the Bible as authority. It was only authority if it coincides with "consensus" and how we feel about it. Otherwise, not so much.

I see this a lot ... churches with a commendable list of beliefs who apparently don't actually believe them. More than that, it is individuals who claim to believe things they don't actually believe. Baptists that believe in the authority of Scripture while denying Scripture in their policies. Open theists who believe that God doesn't know the future and still affirm the Omniscience of God. A Presbyterian church that "believes in God" whose pastor is a self-declared atheist. Even well-meaning, genuine Christians who affirm the Sovereignty of God but worry about tomorrow.

What do you believe? What you truly believe will always be demonstrated in what you do and not necessarily in what you say. Jesus recognized that when He said, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matt 7:20) And it might be a helpful tool to for you to "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith." (2 Cor 13:5) And for those of you who think it's wrong to question the beliefs of others, please consider the Scriptures on the matter. The Bible disagrees with you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Doin' What Comes Natur'lly

It was a song from the 1946 Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun. It assumed things no longer in evidence. Like "My little baby brother, who's never read a book, Knows one sex from the other, All he had to do was look." Yeah, back then. No longer.

Seems to me the title has become the theme of modern life. We have welcomed a new standard into our world: "what comes naturally." That, it seems, is what is real, what is good, what is right. So Bruce Jenner "naturally" feels like he's a girl and is counted as "brave" and "heroic" for acting out on what any other society prior to this one would have classified as insane. You know, "All he had to do was look." For our times, "born that way" means "good" and "good" in this sense means "unassailable" and everyone who acts on this "good" is a wonderful person for it and anyone who questions it is evil.

This, of course, is not sustainable. I mean, if a person claims to be "born that way" and that makes it "natural" and, therefore, good, what do we do with the people who are "born to kill"? The kleptomaniac says, "I just can't help it." We don't consider that good, even if it is "natural". If we were to operate on a "doing what comes naturally" basis for our societal morality, we would in no time be in anarchy. So how does that work? Well, they tell me, it's not merely a matter of "what comes naturally". You also have to factor in "harm". If you do what comes naturally and it does no harm, it is indeed good.

This sounds good, and a lot of people would nod and agree ... except, perhaps, God. You see, much of what passes as "doing what comes naturally" without doing "harm" is sin. And the Bible assures us that your fleshly passions "wage war against the soul." (1 Peter 2:11) Now, you might argue that it does no "harm" and you might point to whatever measurable values you might choose, but measuring the results of war with the soul isn't really possible today. And if God believes that they are at war against your soul, I think we would have to qualify that as "harm" even if we can't measure it. You know, take God's Word for it.

I'm just concerned that our modern version of "doin' what comes natur'lly" might just kill the soul. Indeed, I suspect it already has in many cases. At least, that's what Paul suggests (1 Cor 6:9-10). Could it be possible that self-control -- that choosing not to always do what comes naturally -- could be a viable, beneficial option? The Bible thinks so (Gal 5:22-23) Of course, I'm sure that won't carry much weight in a world hostile to God. I'm not surprised. But it is sad that many who call themselves Christians disagree as well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Big Concept in a Little Verse

Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)
Just 35 words. Not much. And still, encapsulated in that single sentence, is the entire concept of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

What's that? In its words, it refers to the penalty of sin ("penal") and a substitution ("substitutionary") that paid that penalty in order to reconnect us ("atonement") with God. I know, I know, it's not always the most popular idea. But I'm not looking for the most popular. I'm not even looking for the uncontested. (Good luck with that.) I'm looking for what the text says. So ...

"Christ also died for sins ..." That, dear readers, is paying the penalty of sin ("penal").

"... the just for the unjust ..." That is substitution ("substitutionary").

"... so that He might bring us to God ..." And that is atonement.

Sure, there have been other theories of the Atonement. Some agree and some disagree. The Ransom Theory, for instance, is not in conflict with this position. Nor is the Christus Victor notion. Other theories specifically and explicitly deny any such thing. So be it. I haven't argued that it is correct. I've simply pointed out an explicit concept in a single verse for all to see.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Justice or Mercy?

I've already staked out my position on the Atonement Christ accomplished on the cross. I'm going with the version known as "Penal Substitutionary Atonement". That is, sin has a penalty that justice requires. Christ paid that penalty. He did not pay it on His own behalf, but as a substitute for me. This payment of the penalty for sin on my behalf is the means by which I can now be reconciled to God. That's the idea.

There are objections, of course, to this view. I'll dismiss out of hand, "You know, modern scholars say ..." or the like because they're irrelevant. What does Scripture say? And I'll also throw out, "I don't like the way that feels" and its siblings. You know, "It's barbaric for a God to require blood to satisfy His wrath." Or, "My God is just forgiving and merciful, unlike you're mean version." Because how you feel about it is also irrelevant. What does Scripture say? There is an objection worth noting, however.

"If Christ satisfied God's justice by dying in our place, in what sense is it forgiveness? How can it be both justice and mercy?" Reasonable question.

I heard an illustration once that made sense to me. Imagine you're at your favorite bakery. (If you don't have one, imagine you do ... and you're there.) You're picking out your favorite goody when a boy comes in, asks for a cupcake, and when he receives it says, "I don't have the money." You kindly offer to pay for his cupcake. Question: Is the proprietor required to accept your payment? The answer is yes. No crime has been committed. No harm is done. There is no reason not to accept your money on the boy's behalf. Okay so far. Now, imagine instead that the boy comes in, sneaks behind the counter, snatches a cupcake, and heads for the door. The owner nabs him before he gets out. You, again, kindly offer to pay for the cupcake. Again, is the proprietor required to accept your payment? In this case, no, he is not. You see, in this case a crime has been committed. Justice must be served. Now, in the case of a boy stealing a cupcake, the proprietor may feel that justice is served if he gets paid, or he may opt for some punishment for the boy to teach him not to steal, but it isn't your call. It's his. Because a crime was committed.

In the same way, a crime has been committed by each of us. It is a crime against our Maker. We have stolen His glory. And there is justice to pay. Christ comes along and offers to pay for your crime. Is the Maker obligated to accept the payment on your behalf? No. He is not. Justice makes no such demand. Thus, if God chooses to accept as payment the sacrifice of Christ on my behalf, He does so 1) as a satisfaction of His justice and as an act of mercy (and grace).

Is the forgiveness we receive because of Christ's payment for sin on our behalf a matter of justice or a matter of mercy? The answer is "Yes". Both. And that is an wonderful, amazing thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The New Sins

President Obama defined sin as "Being out of alignment with my values." "To thine own self be true" may be good Shakespeare, but not good theology. Still, to many this is now classed as a sin over against, you know, all those things the Bible seems to list. Instead of the standard ones supplied by God, we have a new list of no-no's to avoid.

"Thou shalt not be boring" is high on the list. Boredom isn't unfortunate. It's evil. I know someone whose spouse left them because they were boring. Dirty, rotten scoundrel.

"Thou shalt not be sure." Certainty is always considered wrong, at least in others. I mean, you can be sure they're wrong, but their certitude that you are wrong isn't a mistake; it's evil. It is, of course, much worse if they're sure about, say, what the Bible says or what is orthodox Christian doctrine or that kind of thing. Because the ultimate good in those matters is "I'm not sure" ... and, "above all else, I'm sure of that."

Sister to the sin of certainty is the sin of faith. Confidence in God (and especially His Word) is not only unwise; it will likely brand you as a whacko. And I'm pretty sure that if "whacko" isn't a sin, it ought to be.

In today's world there are very few evils foisted upon anyone worse than the sin of discrimination. Now, be careful here. When you look for this sin, do not consider the actual definition of the word. That could just get confusing. Because "discrimination" is defined as "recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another." In fact, recognizing right and wrong (whether you are right or wrong in doing so) is discrimination. The other definition of "discrimination" is "prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things", which you would be doing by pointing out that you think it is evil for someone to discriminate. Not to say that it's right to treat people unjustly on the basis of certain factors, but we seem to forget that castigating people for doing so is ... discrimination. A circular sin, then? No, it's simply one of those sins that "you can commit but I don't when I do it myself."

Perhaps at the top of the list is "telling me what I like to do is wrong". To be truthful, no one has ever liked being told that what they like to do is wrong. It's just that in our day and age it has been reclassified as evil. Of course, the only way that could be so is if "what I want to do" is classified as "good", regardless of what it is. And while no one is actually verbally doing this (because it would clearly end up in insanity), society still treats it as darn close to "good". No one ever seems to ask, "Is it good?" or the corollary, "If I affirm what is not good, is that good?" They simply know that if you say it's not, you're a bad person.

Bottom line, of course, this whole article would be "sin" in today's version. Which simply illustrates that while Christianity offers a biblical version of "sin" based on God's Word, our world is not opposed to sin. It's just opposed to God's idea of sin. I wonder what will make the list next? Biblical Christianity? Probably already on some lists.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Over at his website Russell Moore asks, "Is Pro-Life Winning?" and urges cautious optimism. Sure, we haven't seen such furor over the topic prior to the release of these 10 (so far) Planned Parenthood videos and, sure, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year and ban most abortions after 20 weeks. That all sounds good. But ...

It's not all rosy, you know. The Senate blocked the bill on their end and we can't find 60 senators willing to defend the lives of the most vulnerable. Beyond that, banning killing babies after 20 weeks isn't much different than banning killing adults before the age of 45. I mean, "Hey! What about the rest of us??!!" Yes, what about all those other children without protection?

Worse, the question was "Is pro-life winning?" I'm pretty sure that most people -- even those opposed to abortion -- don't know what "pro-life" means. Consider the outcry with that dentist who killed a lion in Zimbabwe. Loud voices called for his execution. Same with the death of Yongki, the Sumatran elephant, killed by poachers in his pen for his ivory. The public sentiment swings toward, "They need to catch these poachers, treat them the same way." "Death to all poachers!" is the common cry.

You see, pro-life does not mean pro-all-life. That would just be stupid. Consider. Take the avid vegan, the guy who wouldn't hurt a fly and wouldn't consume any animal products because he cannot abide harming animals. Yet he's perfectly willing to (in fact, absolutely must) kill plants for his own sustenance. Plants are "life". It is not all "life" in view. Even the conscientious fellow who isn't willing to mistreat children or pets but enjoys a hamburger now and then is agreeing that it is not all "life" in view. "Pro-life" has a specific life in view -- human life. That is, there is a hierarchy in view here, with those made in the image of God at the top of the list of life we wish to protect.

I don't think a lot of people who are pro-life really get that. They often stumble, for instance, when faced with the counter, "Oh, yeah, then why do you favor the death penalty?" Well, it's because we are made in the image of God and because the lives of others who are made in the image of God require defending from those willing to take the lives of those made in His image that it makes sense. But many don't get it. Many want to defend the unborn, sure, but they also want to defend the baby seals and the rights of monkeys to their selfies. (Seriously, people, how can an outrageously "animal rights"-oriented organization like PETA be so concerned for the welfare of animals -- they once took President Obama to task for killing a fly -- with no concern for the welfare of humans?)

There is a disconnect here. It begins with "In the beginning, God ..." God made people in His image. This endows them -- us -- with special value from God. That special value from God is what makes it evil to kill babies. But as long as we're going to debate whether it's okay to kill babies prior to 20 weeks or in the cases of rape or incest or the like, we are not getting it. And "pro-life" isn't winning. Without God at the beginning, life loses its value. It's arbitrary. And removing value from human life is not a good place to start.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Qualified Success

There is a phrase, sometimes referred to as a logical fallacy, that you may have heard. It is "death by a thousand qualifications". Here's the idea. You may say you believe in X, but if you have to qualify X too much, you will render it meaningless and, therefore, nullify it. Seems reasonable on the surface. I mean, just say what you mean and don't bother with all those qualifications. You believe in "the inerrancy of Scripture"? Then you shouldn't have to explain that by this you mean that you're speaking about the original manuscripts and what you mean by "error" and in what context you are speaking and ... well, there shouldn't have to be all this talk. Inerrant or not? Make up your mind.

Given our day and our problem with simple English words like "marriage" and "love" and "the Gospel" and "Omnipotent" and "Sovereign" and ... oh, the list would be too long ... I'm afraid we've made it impossible to be simple. In a day when "love" can be defined as being hateful and "non-judgmental" is demonstrated by being judgmental and so on, "Just say it" doesn't really work anymore. For instance, I might be classified in my theology as a "Calvinist", but immediately there are errors associated with the term. No, I don't follow Calvin's teachings. No, I'm not a hyper-Calvinist. No, I'm not a fatalist. And so on ... almost ad infinitum. Words, they say, mean something, but we're just not so sure anymore what.

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor wrote a piece titled What does "Inerrancy" Mean? That's because it requires explanation. In the piece, Taylor quotes from John Frame's book The Doctrine of the Word of God, which includes an entire chapter on the doctrine of inerrancy. Because it requires explanation. Take, for instance, the problem of precision. Here's prime example. In 1 Kings Solomon built a fountain for his house. The text says "It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference." (1 Kings 7:23) Well, now, see? That's an error. "Everyone knows that the circumference of a circle 10 cubits in diameter is 31.41592653589793 cubits. Clearly God doesn't know the value of π." So, does that make it erroneous? The term needs qualification. (Oh, and do you think anyone else would be called "erroneous" if they said "30" rather than "31.41592653589793" ... which, by the way, is not fully accurate?) Or take the problem of language itself. In Mark's gospel he claims at one point that "The whole city was gathered together at the door." (Mark 1:33) Now, does that require that every person (and non-person?) was actually standing at the door? Or is this a language tool (we call it "hyperbole") to simply indicate that there was a large crowd? I suspect that the anti-inerrancy folks would require of Mark what they would never require of themselves, and this would clearly be an error because surely not every single man, woman, child, goat, or horse cart was actually gathered at that door. Error? The term requires qualification.

The general definition is of biblical inerrancy is "The Bible can be trusted in what it teaches and affirms." But just how far do we take that definition? If it is reliable in what it affirms, does that mean there can be no errors of any kind? Or does it mean that it is trustworthy in all matters of faith and practice, but not necessarily in science, geography, that kind of stuff? (Called "limited inerrancy".) For instance, if the Bible accurately records something that someone says, but what they said was not accurate, is that an error? Some affirm that the Bible contains the Word of God without error, but is not itself in its entirety inerrant. You see, it gets ... sticky. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy says, on infallibility, "that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses." On inerrancy it says "that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit." They qualify that in the negative.
We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.
That's "qualification". We're not talking about technical precision. We're not talking about grammar. We're not talking about hyperbole. We're not talking about what they term "free citations". (For instance, quotes in the New Testament from Old Testament are not always perfect quotes.)

The premise of the position is the inspiration of the Scriptures -- God breathed it (1 Tim 3:16). If God breathed it, it cannot be wrong. Conversely, if God breathed it and it is wrong, what God exhaled was in error. Unacceptable. Does that mean that the texts we have today cannot contain any errors of any sort at all? No. First is the qualification of "original manuscripts". Subsequent copies could make transcription errors. Subsequent translations could make translations errors. Now, we can have a pretty high level of confidence that 1) the texts we do possess are nearly exactly the same as the original manuscripts, and 2) none of the very few remaining questions ultimately change anything of doctrinal consequence. After the "original manuscripts" concept, there are all those other qualifying concepts.

Does "inerrant" suffer the "death by a thousand qualifications"? Perhaps the word does. But I actually know of very few words today that don't require qualifications. But this doesn't mean that the doctrine is dead. First, "qualifications" are necessary for any complex concept. If "qualifications" kill concepts, we don't have many today. Second, premised on the "God-breathed" nature of Scripture, if you affirm error in any certain sense, you affirm that God was mistaken. Or you deny that God breathed it and it is nothing more than a nice book. Your choice. Third, the question isn't "error-free". The question is its trustworthiness in what it teaches and affirms. Without that, you have no basis for Christian doctrine. The whole trick at this point is to determine what it teaches and affirms. But, then, that has always been the case, hasn't it? Do I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture? Depends on what you mean. And, in fact, I suspect that you can't tell me what you mean ... without qualification.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

In Luke 10 a lawyer asks Jesus how to get eternal life. Jesus answers with a question, the answer to which is "Love God and love your neighbor." Jesus agrees. And the lawyer asks a lawyer question. "Ummm, well, see, here's the thing. Who is my neighbor?" Typical. Mincing words. It's here that we get Jesus's famous "Parable of the Good Samaritan". You remember that one. A guy is beat up by robbers. His "good friends" a priest and a Levite pass by, but a "hated" Samaritan helps him out. "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer got it. "Love your neighbor" does not refer to "the folks that live on either side of me." So, we have a much better defined explanation of "neighbor". It would appear to mean "anyone with whom you come in contact." Got it.

It strikes me that we are often "lawyers" when it comes to questions of obedience. We read, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10) and end up asking, "Yes, but what do you mean by arsenokoitēs? Maybe it's not men who lie with a male as with a female. Maybe it's ... oh, I don't know ... an obscure reference to pedophiles. Or temple prostitutes. Or something else rather than what it says." Lawyer talk. We read, "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy." (Luke 12:33) "Oh," the lawyer in us says, "that doesn't mean we shouldn't own stuff. It means we should be generous ... while we accumulate as much wealth and possessions we can for ourselves ... oh, and our families, of course, to be sure. But not actually give anything up because, after all, that wouldn't make sense." Even while Jesus is saying, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15) So we debate about whether 10% is too much to ask and whether or not it's okay to be rich as long as we give something away and "just how rich is rich?". Lawyer talk.

On the question of "Love your neighbor", though, it seems to me that these days there is one question that is rarely asked. Do you know your neighbor? Let's just start with the "folks that live next to you" neighbors. I'm amazed how distant we've become in our communities from our very next door neighbors, let alone the whole "whoever you come in contact with" types. We might debate, as the lawyer did, what constitutes "neighbor", but I think it's pretty clear that "I don't even know them" doesn't qualify as "love your neighbor". On this question many of us have never arrived at the "lawyer talk" phase. We've just ignored the question. That doesn't bode well for us.

It should be noted that among those who are your neighbors you must always include your spouse, your children, your family ... you know, that group of people. The ones you are supposed to love.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The War Against the Soul

Peter writes, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." (1 Peter 2:11) A nice, solid, straightforward beginning to a rather large set of instructions (1 Peter 2:12-3:22).

Who is Peter talking to? Well, clearly it is Christians, but he describes them (us) as "aliens and strangers". Interesting description. We are not part of this world anymore (Gal 6:14). As aliens and strangers to this world, he has a simple instruction: "Abstain from fleshly lusts."

It's funny. I know lots of Christians that try to tell me or, at least, try to live as if "fleshly lusts" aren't all that bad. They're bad if you do the "wrong thing" with them, but not if it's not so bad. Lusting after your own wife, for instance, is perfectly okay. But Peter appears to disagree. Strongly. Indeed, so dangerous are these fleshly lusts that Peter warns that they "war against the soul." I would hope at this point that he would have your attention. This isn't minor. It's serious.

What kinds of "fleshly lusts" is he talking about? That's what the rest of the book is about.There is the temptation not to be a shining example of a Christian (1 Peter 2:12). There is the misconception that we don't have to submit to human authority (1 Peter 2:13-14). There is the false notion that our freedom makes us free to do whatever we want instead of bless people as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16). Servants think they don't have to submit to masters. Servants, abstaining from fleshly lusts will cause you to serve even bad ones (1 Peter 2:18). Our "fleshly lusts" might make us think we deserve to be well treated. Abstain from that lust; it will enable you to endure being treated unfairly with patience (1 Peter 2:19-21). The "fleshly lusts" of wives would make them wish to control their husbands, at least if they're bad ones. Wives, abstain from that fleshly lust; it will make you more concerned about their own submissive character (1 Peter 3:1-5). Husbands' "fleshly lusts" cause them to believe they can lord it over their wives. Husbands, abstain from that fleshly lust; it will push you to be understanding, to honor her (1 Peter 3:7). When operating in our lusts, we think we should treat others badly when they treat us badly; we shouldn't (1 Peter 3:8-9). Our lusts cause us to rule our own lives, but when we abstain we set Christ apart as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). The lusts of the flesh would even lead us to believe that bad things shouldn't happen to us, but the truth is that we may indeed "suffer for doing what is right" and it would be God's will (1 Peter 3:17).

One little command. We are not of this world. We are aliens and strangers. Therefore, "Abstain from fleshly lusts." Doesn't seem that bad. We must because we are commanded to. We must because these things "wage war against the soul." And when you start to delve into what they are, I'm pretty sure we all have a lot to work on.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gender Equality

The Marine Corp did a study where they determined that all-male combat squads were faster, stronger, and more lethal than mixed gender squads. Further, women suffered higher injury rates in training. Now, I suppose to some that's a surprise. That's because they believe in "gender equality".

My wife and I had this discussion some time ago. Oh, no, not "gender equality", but the meaning of equality. The conversation was about giving gifts to the kids at Christmas. Her idea was "We should spend the same amount on each of them. That's equality." And it cannot be argued that this isn't equality. It can be argued, however, that it isn't the only equality. I argued that we needed to supply them with the same amount of enjoyment. That is, if the teenage daughter and the 8-year-old son were going to get the same amount of enjoyment out of their gifts, it would not require the same amount of money. Equality again.

But here we are working hard toward "gender equality" by which we mean "same jobs" and "same pay" and, essentially, "no differences between genders." This is ludicrous on the face of it, but, then, I'm thinking about it, not feeling. I would suggest, again, that "same" doesn't have to be in terms of pay or job, but in other ways. What about fulfillment? What about satisfaction? What about equal utilization of skills? Given a man and a woman, each facing a closed door that they have to enter, does it them the same satisfaction to power through that door? Probably not. So why do it? "Gender equality." And what about skills? The Marine study said that untrained men hit targets with M4's 44% of the time, but trained women only hit 28%. Is that really the best utilization of skills? In the name of "gender equality"? Does equality mean "abuse them all the same even if women are injured at twice the rate as men"?

I'm not opposed to "gender equality". But, of course, as is apparently so often the case, I don't appear to be using the words in the same way that so many others are ... without any apparent thought.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Be Filled

Almost every Christian knows that we are supposed to be filled with the Spirit. Somehow that phrase seems to get lost. Some think "That happens at conversion, so I'm done." Others think, "Oh, no, you need a special work of filling for that to occur." In Ephesians we read, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." (Eph 5:18) Yes, we get it. We're supposed to be filled with the Spirit. Note, however, what it says. We think we can be full of the Spirit. You know, "Been there, done that." Either we did it at our rebirth or we did it at our "baptism of the Holy Spirit." But the verb tense in that verse is present imperative -- an ongoing, present tense command. That is, "Don't stop now." You see, we're leaky containers and this is going to be a task in which you must engage for the rest of your life.

Being filled with the Spirit is important. "Walk by the Spirit," Paul says, "and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Gal 5:16) Further, "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." (Gal 5:18) Good stuff. We know that "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23) Being filled with the Spirit is essential to Christian living. And it is not a one-time or even two-time deal. It is ongoing and imperative.

The question remains. How? How do you get filled with the Spirit ... on an ongoing basis?

Here's what we can see in the Word.

The Holy Spirit is a gift. Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17) That is first and foremost. You can't earn Him or grasp for Him and obtain Him. He is given. But there is more in Scripture. Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) Seems silly to have to say it, but it's right there. Ask. In one of Peter's sermons he says, "We are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:32) It doesn't happen to people unwilling to submit, unwilling to obey. Obey. In his epistle to the church at Galatia, Paul asks, "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" (Gal 3:2) Seems simple, but it does require active faith. Believe.

I noted one other interesting reference on the subject. It is the rest of the sentence I started with from Ephesians 5. Look at the whole sentence.
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:18-21)
Well, now, that's more content than before, isn't it? "Be filled with the Spirit," he says. How? One aspect is in our interaction with each other -- "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Another is our constant self-talk -- "making melody with your heart to the Lord." How do you talk to yourself when you're alone? That way? A critical aspect is an attitude of gratitude. Don't let the rhyme throw you. The point isn't to be catchy. The point is to say that it isn't being grateful, but to be grateful "for all things" ... in the name of the Lord. Then there is that final one, one many of us find distasteful. "Be subject to one another." It is predicated on "the fear of Christ" (which seems to be another thing many of us find distasteful). That is, "I fear Christ, so I am willing to submit to my brothers and sisters in Christ." All of these are elements for exercising the process of being filled with the Spirit.

It is a command. It is important. And it is continuous. Leaky vessels can't afford to quit being filled, and we leak like sieves. If you are going to experience victory over "fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11), it will be key. If you're going to please God, it will be essential (Rom 8:6-9). And it will be ongoing. Here, think of it this way. If you're busy spending your time doing all that we've seen here from Scripture in order to continuously be filled with the Spirit, you won't have time to be sinning.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What is this thing called "Christian"?

CNN recently released a story about Obama's faith. The title was Misperceptions persist about Obama's faith. Then came bruhaha over Donald Trump (who, for the record, I in no way support) for is in trouble ... get this ... for not saying something. At a rally in New Hampshire a questioner asked him about what he would do as president about terrorist training camps. He answered (with a typical politician's non-answer -- "We're going to do plenty of things."). He's not in trouble for that. He's in trouble because before the question the questioner included, in his preface, the claims that Obama was a Muslim and was not born in this country. Trump didn't take him to task over these. Trump was wrong. The two-faced Hillary Clinton (whose campaign in 2008 released photos of Obama in a burka and questioned his birthplace) said that his failure to denounce the false statements is "disturbing & just plain wrong." Bernie Sanders said, "I think that's a disgrace, to again question whether or not the president of the United States was born in this country and whether he's a Christian." Chris Christie said he was certain that Obama was not a Muslim because he was certain that he was a Christian. What would Christie have done? "I would correct them and say, 'No, the president is a Christian and he was born in this country. I mean, those two things are self-evident."

I'm not defending Trump. (I can't believe anyone like him remains in the race, let alone leads any polls at all. Says a lot about the state of the nation, and it's not good.) I'm not suggesting either that the president wasn't born in this country or that he's a Muslim. I'm fairly certain, however, that politicians and most of the rest of America hasn't a clue what "Christian" means anymore.


When asked his definition of sin, Obama defined sin as "Being out of alignment with my values." When asked if he was "born again", he answered, "Yeah ... [but] I retain ... a suspicion of dogma ... I think that religion at its best comes with a big dose of doubt ... I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die."

Perhaps this kind of thing doesn't disturb you. But if "Christian" has any connection to Christ, this ought to.

Obama Jesus Christ
"I believe that there are many paths to the same place. All people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone knows the same God." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)
"I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize." "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)
"I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup." "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matt 7:13-14)

I don't think the president is a Muslim. I think he's a universalist. All religions are equally valid. And that may not disturb anyone else, but when Christ disagreed with it, I'd think it would have to suggest that there is a good reason to question whether he is a Christian. Unfortunately, that word, like so many others, has so little meaning anymore that it's not an easy argument to make.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Attitude Indicator

I spent a few years in the Air Force (10, actually) in my younger days. My job was Avionic Navigation Systems. I remember one night when they asked me to do a "ride along" to see if one of our systems was working. It was a KC-135 out of Rapid City, SD. We started making runs between Memphis and Albuquerque refueling C-5's, at the time the world's largest aircraft. We had a pilot-in-training at the helm and a pilot-in-training in the C-5 and I was riding in a flying fuel tank with a refueler-in-training trying to stick a jet-fuel-filled stick into a small hole above the windshield of this plane while we flew at 400 mph. I was thinking, "That thing could suck us into one engine and probably not notice." Ah, yes, good times.
KC-135 refueling C-5

Well, that done (the thunderstorms stopped us early) (think about that for a moment ... fuel plane in the air, lightning, that kind of thing), we headed back home and I got to watch the ILS (Instrument Landing Systems) stuff I worked on in action. I sat in the jump seat behind the pilots watching the instruments (because, to be honest, there aren't many lights to see in South Dakota at midnight). It was odd. I could have sworn that I was sitting precisely perpendicular to the earth in my seat. I mean, I wasn't leaning or anything and the plane wasn't leaning as far as I could tell. Everything appeared to be parallel and perpendicular. But then I looked at the attitude indicator.
Aircraft Attitude Indicator

Yeah, that's right. Airplanes have an indicator that tells you the attitude of the aircraft. No, not how the airplane is feeling. For aircraft the "attitude" is the orientation with respect to the horizon. Seems dumb, doesn't it? As it turns out, it's not. Forces of which you're not aware -- forces like inertia and all -- will tell your brain that you are in one particular horizontal plane when, as it turns out, you're not. So there I am, perfectly perpendicular to the earth, as I said, and the artificial horizon on the attitude indicator is telling me that I'm tilted over almost 20° from perpendicular. Well, that can't be right! And then the runway lights came into view and, sure enough, we were banking. And I couldn't tell.

How does the attitude indicator know what I couldn't tell? It uses a gyro that gives it a fixed orientation to the earth. Turn the plane any direction you want and this thing won't be fooled. It knows what's up and what's down ... better than you do. Your internal sensors will tell you lies about the attitude of the aircraft. You need reliable, external sensors to get this right.

I think of that attitude indicator in a lot of conversations these days. I think it's interesting the parallel between an aircraft's "attitude indicator" and the attitudes of people that have shifted from "perpendicular". I recently saw a website with "hundreds of reasons" that Christianity is wrong. (I'm waiting for the sequel, "hundreds of reasons" why every other religion is wrong. Probably shouldn't hold my breath.) They listed some amazing arguments. Like, "The Bible assumes there are demons and everyone knows there are not." That is, this argument is based on the internal sensors without any external support. "It's true because I know it" without any other reason. In fact, a large number of the arguments on that site were based on this approach. One that amused me and saddened me at the same time was "Christianity is false because the 10 commandments didn't list a law against discriminating against LGBTQ persons." Wow. The Bible does list the behavior as sin (which, in the view of most people and in the normal definition of the term, is discrimination), but it's wrong for not making a rule against discriminating on that issue? And why is the Bible wrong on that point? Because everyone knows that such moral discrimination is wrong. The same issue. An internal attitude sensor without any external verification. It's the same approach you'll get on moral issues. Some people refer to a "moral compass" (had an interesting conversation with a few family members just the other day over that concept). Only it seems as if most people have their own "true north". The same issue. Internal measurements without any valid, reliable source.

I prefer to use a valid, verified source for this kind of stuff. I do this because I've been in an airplane and I know how screwy my internal attitude sensing can be. Now, let's see ... where can I find a good, reliable source for what is best for the human being? Oh, I know! Shouldn't the Manufacturer provide a user's manual for that? Oh, wait! He did! We call it "the Bible." I need that kind of gyro, always oriented to true perpendicular, always reliable, always right. That gives me a good attitude indication.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The End of the World as We Know It

We are commanded in Scripture, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) Pretty harsh. Okay. Fine. And then we read, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Okay, now wait! On one hand we must not love the world, but on the other hand the Father loves the world. Now, how is this making any sense?

As it turns out, the term "world" is not as simple as you might think. The word is κόσμος -- kosmos. It means literally any orderly arrangement. There, now, see? We're in trouble. No, not real trouble, but surely you can see how the term can have a broad set of meanings. Biblically it has several different uses. In John 1:9, for instance, it references the physical world, the universe, creation, our plane of existence. This is not in mind when John says we shouldn't love the world or Jesus says that God loved the world. Another sense is the world of humans. That might include government (as an orderly arrangement, you see) or the inhabited parts of our physical world. That was in mind when Satan showed Jesus "the kingdoms of the world" (Luke 4:5). When Caesar Augustus took a census of "all the world" (Luke 2:1), it was a reference to the Roman world. In this sense, then, it could refer to the world (the system) of men. All humans. Or it could refer to a group of people within the whole of the human realm. We know, for instance, that the world hated Jesus (John 15:18-19), but that doesn't mean every single human being on the planet (since His disciples were not numbered among those who hated Him, but among those who were hated by them). There is the moral world. This is a very common meaning in Scripture. It refers to the world of sinners, the world hostile to God, the corrupt world (2 Peter 1:4). This is the world that is blinded by its god (2 Cor 4:4). This is the world you cannot love and love God at the same time (James 4:4). This is the world that must be overcome (1 John 5:4-5).

Now, of course, you have to learn to differentiate meanings. When you read, for instance, about "the wisdom of the world" (1 Cor 1:20-21), you can be relatively sure this is not talking about the physical realm. That is a reference to the world as a fallen system. Or when Jesus's brothers recommended He should "show yourself to the world" (John 7:4), you can be confident they weren't talking about creation. That is a reference to the realm of mankind (in fact, a limited component of that realm). So you need to pay attention to context to avoid mistakes here.

The one that struck me recently was in Galatians. "Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal 6:14) What a statement! Nothing to boast about but Christ crucified. (That flies in the face of many who would prefer to forget about Christ crucified.) But he says that, being crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20), "the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." What world? In what sense? Clearly this isn't the physical universe. He was still there. He was still alive. Nor did it reference the realm of humans. No, this was a reference to the moral world, the world hostile to God, the world we are commanded not to love (1 John 2:15). We've heard the phrase "dead to the world", but that normally just means fast asleep. This is not that.

To be crucified to the world and have the world crucified to you in this context means that the world's systems are of no consequence anymore. Paul specifically references legalism here (Gal 6:12-13), but it doesn't stop there. It is a life lived by the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) where "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). It stands in opposition to "the works of the flesh" (Gal 5:19-21). It is a different plane of existence altogether.

So how is it that so many of us are still muddling about in this world? You know, this moral world? We draw our values from it. We find our passions in it. We use it as our standard of success, of right and wrong, of pleasant and unpleasant. Remember the warning. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) If your primary input for values, standards, and even pleasure are provided by the world -- the fallen moral system around us, experiences, the world's teaching systems, all of that -- then it has monumental consequences in terms of your relationship with God. And they are not good consequences. For Christians, the cross is the end of the world as we know it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Scandalous Gospel

Jesus assures us that the world will hate us (John 15:19). Given. Paul says that our Gospel -- our good news -- is offensive (1 Cor 1:18). Why is that?

I can't make sense of it based on the gospel I hear in so many places. There's the "Jesus loves you, so come" gospel. That is warm and friendly and inviting. Why would it be offensive? There is the therapeutic gospel, the "God has a solution to all your problems" gospel. How can that be a bad thing? There is the "God has a wonderful plan for your life" gospel. Okay, maybe that might edge a few the wrong way since it may hint that God's plan is better than yours, but it's not really that bad, is it? So what is it that makes the Gospel an offense? Or, to ask another way, are we offering THE Gospel when we offer these oh-so-comfortable versions?

The "offensive Gospel" has edges no one likes. No one, hearing the Gospel, wants to hear, "Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." (Rom 1:32) They aren't pleased with well-known passages that say things like "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10) Conversely, the world gets upset when a Jeffrey Dahmer repents and we say he's forgiven. That, too, is offensive. Jesus's Gospel would certainly be offensive. He offered "Repent" (Matt 4:17) and "Allow the dead to bury the dead" (Luke 9:60) and "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23) and "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) This is a scandalous Gospel.

I'm not sure we're doing people any favors by offering them a "friendly gospel". It may be true that "Jesus loves you" and "God has a wonderful plan for your life" and even "God has the solution to your problems" (as long as we admit that "love" may not look like they think it does, God's "wonderful plan" may not be the warm and fuzzy they're expecting, and His solutions to life's problems may not be the kind of solutions most people would think of), but that isn't the Gospel. The Gospel includes "repent" and "surrender" and the warning of Hell. Anything else seems to me to be "another gospel", and you know what the Bible says about that (Gal 1:6-9).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Modern Card Games

It was some time ago now, but one of the first (of, perhaps, three?) people I had to ask not to comment here anymore was a guy who made it a practice of accusing me of "playing the victim card". I tried to explain I wasn't. He disagreed ... in a less than friendly manner. I explained that repeated accusations like that made conversations difficult. And after awhile, we parted ways.

We know what it means to "play the race card". It might be something like, "She gets away with it because she's white." Or "You wouldn't treat me that way if I wasn't black." It's applying "race" as the reason (generally instead of every other possible rational reason). That kind of thing. "If I can't get you to go my way by force of logic, I'll do it by shaming you into appearing racist." But what does it mean to "play the victim card"?

There are similarities, I'm sure. In one case it's "feel bad for me because of my race" and in the other it's "feel bad for me because I'm a victim." There is generally, in both cases, the attempt to manipulate by way of feelings. In one it's "You're not a racist, are you?" In the other it's "You're not so cold-hearted that you can't see I'm suffering here, are you?" Same idea. In both cases the aim is to manipulate your responses in order to get you to agree or go along.

Here's the difficulty. In too many cases the accusation can be made -- "Don't go playing the race card" or "You're just playing the victim card" -- when no such card has been played. That is, in genuine cases of racism or victim-hood, it isn't necessarily true that the aim is to manipulate. Sometimes it is intended to speak the truth.

So, say, in the case of an actual victim, in what sense could a person point to their condition as a victim and not be "playing the victim card"? That, I think, would be the case if they were not trying to use it to persuade you to go along with them. Let's try an extreme example. "I was a victim of Auschwitz" would be a genuine victim, but if it was followed by, "and I forgave my captors," you couldn't call it "playing the victim card". It is not capitalizing on the victim status to get you to go along.

In recent times I have complained about the loss of religious liberty we see in America today. Some may disagree that any such thing is occurring. So be it. Most are aware of it and some I've talked to are glad about it. "'Bout time religion got pushed down." Many of those complaining about these facts are doing so to try to reverse the trend. It could easily be argued that they're playing the victim card. "Oh, poor us, we're being mistreated and you need to stop." I get it. But in my case I actually don't believe that this is my intent. What I have tried to do is call Christians not to trust in a court system or religious liberty laws or our society to defend our rights. I've tried to suggest that it is expected, even beneficial to have these so-called rights removed. Many (most?) who see the problem are up in arms over it. I'm suggesting that we try the biblical approach.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:40-41)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
John wrote, "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:13) That's not a victim card. That's "Be ready for it." Remember, it was Jesus who said, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:10-12)

Now, we are certainly not "persecuted" like others around the globe are. Using that term is a bit difficult because it does sound like the victim card is being played, and not when it refers to a real victim. But Jesus referred to persecution in terms of insults and false accusations of evil. And it cannot be doubted that we're seeing this today. What I'm saying is not "Stand up and fight for your rights" or even "Do your best to convince people to change." I'm saying, "Expect it. And rejoice!" I'm not saying, "They need to change!" It's us. I'm hoping to stir Christians to biblical thinking and response. And I don't think that qualifies as "playing the victim card".

Monday, September 14, 2015

No God, No Peace

The headline reads, "LGBT Group Burns Kim Davis With Billboard in her Hometown." "Dear Kim Davis," the sign reads, "The fact that you can't sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we've already redefined marriage." Then the ultimate irony: "Paid for by Planting Peace." Yes, that's right. The LGBT group paid for the sign and considers this kind of attempt at public humiliation "planting peace". Nice.

Just in case you might be confused ... like the writers of the piece ... you have to know this makes no sense, right? Let's make it clear. At no time in all of history was marriage defined as selling your daughter for three goats and a cow. Never. If this is a definition, it requires that anything else (a daughter not sold for some amount) could not be considered "marriage". The fact that someone in the past might or might not have offered a dowry for a daughter does not define marriage. The fact that some married more than one wife did not define marriage. (If multiple wives defined marriage, then the man with only one was not married. That's how a definition works.)

In various times and various places and various societies marriage practices have varied. No doubt. No question. But practices are not a definition. You (I hope) are in the practice of wearing clothes, but you are not defined by wearing clothes. A naked human being is still a human being. On the other hand, in all times and all places and all societies the fundamental definition of marriage has never changed (despite the article's audacious claim that the definition is "ancient"). Never changed until the 21st century. And make no mistake, the Supreme Court was consciously aware that they were changing the definition.

You may disagree with Kim Davis. You may disagree with defining marriage as it always has been defined. You may favor tossing out that "longstanding, traditional definition" (in the words of the court case in California in 2008) and maybe even tossing out marriage entirely. But do not buy the absolute lie that the definition of marriage has been changed for a long time. Not much more than a half century, I'd guess.

Oh, and "You're stupid and we're hoping to shame you in public" isn't actually a valid way to "plant peace". Labeling hate and bullying as "planting peace" doesn't make it so.

On a related note
Only on a related note, Kim Davis is back at work today. She declares she won't interfere with her clerks issuing gay mirage licenses. Her objection was not that they would be issued, but that she would be issuing them. So much for the "She doesn't want to allow other people their legal rights!" argument. She was simply not willing to have her own Constitutionally-guaranteed right to the free practice of her religion violated. (I am not saying she was right or wrong. I'm saying that all those haters out there that claim that she was trying to impose her beliefs on them were wrong.)

On a related note
On an only sort-of related note, I just came across this story. Where was the moral outrage over this? Why weren't the "marriage equality" folks up in arms about this judge refusing to do marriages? Why weren't the Christians making death threats? Why is it that most of us didn't hear about it until now? (I'm saying it's "only sort-of related" because it is not as connected to Kim Davis as to the judge in Oregon.) (Note: The reason the Christians weren't making death threats is because genuine Christians don't.)

I have to do this because of the slander and lies being thrown at me regarding what is written here. "Snopes says that story of the judge in Texas is not true, you dirty rotten liar!" Okay, let's see.

Question: Is the Tonya Parker story similar to the Kim Davis story?

Snopes answer: "Mostly False"


The Facts:
Tonya Parker, a female judge in Texas (before the Supreme Court redefined marriage and it was still marriage in Texas) refused to perform marriages. Her position: "I don't perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn't apply to another group of people."

So, is it false that the Tonya Parker story is the same as the Kim Davis story. Yes, yes it is false.


1. Tonya Parker was a judge refusing to practice legal marriage ceremonies in her state. Kim Davis was not a judge, but refused to issue "legal" marriage licenses in her state (actually, county). (I put "legal" in quotes there because the Kentucky Constitution still had marriage defined as the union of a man and a woman.)

2. Tonya Parker was refusing on the basis of "marriage equality"; Kim Davis was refusing on the basis of the First Amendment.

3. Tonya Parker ensured the legal marriages could take place by sending them to other judges; Kim Davis did not (could not). (That is, Kim Davis had no one else to send them to.)

3. Tonya Parker was not reprimanded, cited, or treated badly in any way; Kim Davis went to jail.

There, see? Mostly false. As long as you keep in mind the question. It is nearly identical to the story of the judge in Oregon who is facing discipline for refusing to perform marriage ceremonies because of his religious beliefs even though he was not obligated under law to do so and he ensured that his clerks referred any requesting such a ceremony to other available judges.

And are the two, the judge in Texas and the judge in Oregon, the same stories? Similar, but not the same. The judge in Oregon was practicing his constitutionally guaranteed 1st Amendment right; the judge in Texas was not. The judge in Oregon faces consequences; the judge in Texas did not. (Please note that I indicated that the judge in Texas story paralleled the judge in Oregon, not Kim Davis.) So, dear reader, you decide. Have I indicated something false, or am I being falsely accused?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Simple, But Not Simple

As we know, God has many attributes. There are the "omni's", you know, like omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent. There are the obvious like holy, sovereign, and love. There are the more obscure like the aseity of God. "What's that?" That refers to the truth that God is self-existent. He wasn't made or created. He had no beginning and has no end. He ... is. (It was the attribute in mind when He told Moses, "I AM THAT I AM.") And He doesn't need you or me or anything else to be. Or you might hear of the immutability of God which is a fancy way of saying that He doesn't change. The list isn't short and it sometimes isn't obvious. But the strangest one, given the magnitude of His character traits, is the Simplicity of God.

"Okay, now, that doesn't make any sense," I can hear some say. "God is a lot of things, but simple isn't one of them." True. But the idea behind this attribute is not "easily understood" or "easily done". It isn't "slow or dim-witted" as in "simple-minded". It is intended to convey "not compound". And, to be honest, explaining the Simplicity of God ... isn't simple. Here's the idea. God has many attributes and traits, but God is not a conglomeration of those attributes and traits. He is "one". Just as the doctrine of the Trinity is three in one, so is this concept. The idea is that God is not comprised of His attributes; He is His attributes.

There is a problem, you see, in human thinking when we say that on one hand God is just and on the other that God is mercy. Seems contradictory. So we might try to suggest that He's somewhat just, but He can set that aside at some point to be merciful. To say "God is love" is not more right than "God is a consuming fire." His attributes aren't ranked or prioritized. He is His attributes. All of them. All the time. God is fully loving in His wrath, fully merciful in His justice, fully omnipotent in His grace. He is what He is.

Truth be told, I think that one is a hard one to wrap your mind around. That's okay. A really big, not fully comprehensible God is what you would expect, isn't it? Well, I would. This is when simple isn't simple.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

When Defense is Opposition

Meet Marion County Judge Vance Day. He's in some hot water. You might think it's because he allegedly once hung a framed picture of Hitler in his courtroom or is accused of insulting veterans or is blamed for bullying employees. All bad things, I'm sure. But none of this rose to the level of "hot water" for Judge Day. Not until he committed the ultimate sin. He asked his clerk not to schedule him for performing marriages. He asked the clerk to send them to other judges. Why? "Day said same-sex marriage violates his religious beliefs." Oh, now, see? Clearly that makes him unfit for office. That other stuff? Not so much. Clearly it is his position on marriage that makes him a problem.

I first read this story the other day. The headline was "New Marriage Opponent". I saw the headline and wondered, "Is it another polygamist suit or perhaps a polyamory suit?" No, it was a guy who believed in marriage that is now classified as a "marriage opponent". How did we get here? So quickly? New York Magazine wants to know if we should shun "gay-marriage opponents". (Note: That "shunning" was in terms of a story about a Quaker school. That kind of "shun", as in "a formal decision to cease interaction with an individual or a group".) And, of course, the crowd is suggesting that we should. Shun those who disagree. And even though Marion County (Oregon) judges are not mandated by law to perform marriages at all, this guy has got to go.

Years ago I expressed concern for the decay of the legal rights (Constitutional rights) of Christians. Someone opposed to my views told me that it was hogwash and they would surely defend my civil rights. I'm pretty sure it would be foolish of me to put my trust in that kind of assurance as society rushes at break-neck speed away from anything Christian. When we've arrived at logically hating haters and judging judgers, why would we expect common sense or civil rights? Now, I'm not saying it's actually happening. I'm not even saying it's a bad thing if it does. I'm just suggesting that in a world where a person who stands for marriage is classified as an opponent to marriage, there isn't much reason to expect reasonable treatment anywhere. Thank God I have a Better One to trust to take care of me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Slavery and Freedom

We know these terms, right? "Slavery" is not freedom and "freedom" is not slavery. We get it. Or ... do we?

There is a perception that rules make us not free and a lack of them make us free. Rules are slavery and we want freedom. As it turns out, this isn't entirely true. I'd suggest, in fact, that it isn't true at all, at least not biblically.

The one with the least rules and, therefore, the most freedom was Adam. Just a couple of rules, really. You know, be fruitful and multiply, subdue the earth, and, oh, don't eat from that tree. Not much else. Easy. Do anything you want ... with those three provisos. And we all know how well that worked out. The result of Adam's decision to violate one little item on the list of only three was ... death for all (Rom 5:12). Paul, quoting Deuteronomy, assures us "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." (Gal 3:10)

We think that "no restraints" equals "freedom". The Bible sees freedom differently. In Galatians we read, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1) Freedom, then, is work. In fact, "You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Gal 5:13) Freedom can be used to fail or to serve. But failing to use your freedom to serve one another results in submitting again to slavery ... lack of freedom.

Freedom, then, is found in serving one another through love. Does that sound right? It is right, but it doesn't actually sound right because we've been fed a bill of goods on service, love, and freedom. And lest you think I'm pointing my fingers at the "liberal Christians", relax. Who would give you a faulty view of freedom and slavery? That would be the one who wishes to enslave you.

Somehow we've bought the lie that true freedom is found in doing whatever we want. Oddly enough, when we try that, it doesn't feel very free. It is not particularly satisfying. That, of course, is because it is slavery. True freedom is found in service. True freedom is found in exercising genuine, selfless love. However, that isn't found outside of Christ (1 John 4:7). So true freedom is found in submission to Christ, dying to self and serving others. Now, is that the kind of liberty you're seeking? Maybe not, but it should be.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Chastity Error

While much of today's society would like to provide condoms to high schoolers (or earlier?), there is still a segment that preaches chastity. Oh, sorry ... abstinence. Sounds right. You know, "No sex before marriage; no sex outside of marriage." Because, you know, it's biblical. Oh, and it's right. So it's "Abstain!"

The success of this message appears to be failing miserably. Pastors and even chastity preachers seem to be collapsing in a puddle of sexual sin. How can someone like a Josh Duggar who has been raised in a "don't touch before betrothal and don't kiss before marriage" home and made his "ministry" a largely "avoid sexual sin" ministry end up on the horribly losing side of this approach? I suggest that the approach is wrong.

"Oh, good," some will say, "he's finally seen the light that abstinence is wrong." Not what I said. I said the approach was wrong. What is the standard approach? "You should avoid sex before marriage because it's bad for you." Here's from the Abstinence Works website:
Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Abstinence Education realizes that "having sex" can potentially affect teens not only physically (STDs and pregnancy) but also, as research shows, can have emotional, psychological, social, economic, and educational consequences.
Indeed, that's the name they give it -- "Sexual Risk Avoidance". So the idea is "avoid sex before marriage because it could hurt you." And they'll tell you about sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, socioeconomic risks, psychological dangers, harm to the children, all that good stuff. The message? "Be afraid; be very afraid."

In Scripture, this is the message as well. Or, at least, part. "Flee from youthful lusts," Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim 2:22). "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Rom 13:14) Sexual sin, in fact, appears to have a unique position in the hierarchy of sin. It alone is listed as a sin against your own body. "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." (1 Cor 6:18) So, yes, run from this one; it is dangerous. But that's only half the story, and it seems as if the abstinence-only side is missing this other half.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Prov 5:15-19)
How often do you hear that message? Is it wrong to be drunk? Well, apparently not if it's drunk on the love of a wife. You see, one half of the warning is "That sin is dangerous; avoid it", but the other half is, "There is so much better available." The sin calls for you to satisfy an itch, but God offers a lifelong satisfaction. Are you really going to be satisfied with a momentary pleasure when you can have a life of blessing?

Eve's approach didn't work. She put up hedges around the problem. "God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" (Gen 3:3) No, He didn't. No mention of "don't touch it". Warnings are not sufficient. They're helpful, but incomplete. Moses in the Psalms prays, "O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (Psa 90:14) Yes, there is real danger in violating God's instructions. He should know; He's the Maker. But there are real joys in following His commands. Miss that aspect and you lose half the story. Like so many are today.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Pros and Cons

I'm having more and more trouble figuring out terminology. With all these Planned Parenthood videos out (nine, at last count), we are having more discussions on "anti-abortion" and "pro-choice". Of course, there are other terms to be applied. The "anti-abortion" side would normally prefer "pro-life" and would prefer to call the other side "pro-abortion". Both sides object to the characterization of their positions in these terms. But what is right?

I am not, in fact, anti-abortion. If "abortion" is the termination of a pregnancy, it would include "miscarriage" (also called "spontaneous abortion"). I don't object. It is not that a pregnancy is sacred. It is the life that is in the image of God. No, my objection is to the intentional death of the baby involved. Now, of course, given our level of technology, the two are inexorably linked. We cannot, today, remove a baby from a womb and have it survive. But the removal is not the problem that concerns me; it is the life. Thus, I cannot rightly be termed "anti-abortion", only "pro-life". If there are those who think that pregnancy is sacrosanct, then they would be classified as "anti-abortion". (And don't fall for that false line about "anti-choice". Everyone is "anti-choice" in some area or another because everyone believes that your choices and mine should be limited in some area or another.)

So is it fair to classify those who favor the procedure as "pro-abortion"? They generally object. "We're not pro-abortion; we're pro-choice." Applying the same thinking to this as I did to my own "pro-life" position, I'm not sure that many are actually "pro-abortion". That is, they aren't suggesting, "Every woman should kill a baby or two in their lifetime." They are "pro-abortion" in the sense that it should be available, but only that it would be an available choice. To be fair, then, I don't think you'll find very many "anti-abortion" types or "pro-abortion" types either.

So, not many "pro-abortion" and not many "anti-abortion". And, of course, I've established "pro-life" as a viable term. Here's the difficulty I'm having. Let's say that we did accrue the technology -- the artificial uterus or whatever -- that would allow a fetus to be removed from its mother's womb and maintained until it can be self-sustaining. Would mothers wishing to terminate their pregnancies opt for this? Would Planned Parenthood switch over to recommending this choice? The sad fact is that I don't think they would. Choosing between "terminating this pregnancy without residual" and "terminating this pregnancy knowing that somewhere out there a baby that was mine will live on", I don't think that most would select the latter. So, if this is true, what term can we fairly apply? If many of us are "pro-life" and many others would prefer to terminate the life of their baby rather than allow it to live on elsewhere1, what term would rightly be applied? This isn't simply "pro-choice". Isn't this "pro-death"? If someone prefers killing a child to letting it live, isn't that the right term to apply?

Like I said, I'm having trouble. This term disturbs even me. Unfortunately, I can't seem to escape it. When we've arrived at the point that mothers would rather terminate the life of their babies -- made in the image of God -- than let them live, can it be deemed anything but "pro-death"? And if pro-death is as prevalent today as it appears to be, is there any wonder that human life is so much cheaper today, considering all the murders and killings? I mean, if a man kills his 1-year-old so he could play a video game or a woman kills another woman because she wasn't upset enough when their football team lost a game, what value is human life? Is that not pro-death? And why would we expect anything other than murder and mayhem from a society that embraces this position?
1 Lest you think this is a silly position for me to take, ask yourself a question. If most women would gladly let the child live if they could, why don't they? There are no laws against giving a baby up for adoption. There is no shortage of people who wish to adopt newborns. There are plenty of places available for mothers to have babies without excessive cost where they can give them up for adoption. Given this obvious, easy, readily available, non-lethal option, why are there so many babies still being killed in the womb?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Model of Good Works

According to the statistics, that "adultery online" site whose name I prefer not to name had something like 37 million subscribers. Of those, something like 5.5 million were women. Tough going for guys, but ripe picking for the women, right? Think again. An analysis of the data indicated that a vast majority of the women were fake entries, largely generated by the company itself. One estimate put it at perhaps 12,000 actual women subscribers out of the 5.5 million reported. Now, I don't know if that's good or bad. Does that mean that less women were interested in cheating on their husbands? I doubt it. Stunningly, though, that 37 million number, assuming some sort of accuracy, would represent 1 out of 10 people in the United States. Of course, not everyone on that list was an American and, as we've already seen, some of them aren't even real, but the number is certainly large. And the news is reporting that the numbers of users are increasing since the hack occurred. Most disturbing, of course, is the numbers of Christians involved. Beyond Josh Duggar, reports are that pastors and others are likely going to have to resign when their names come to light, and that's just the "name" Christians. How many other Christians will be on those lists?

Writing about "You who boast in the law" but dishonor God by breaking it, Paul writes, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom 2:23-24) On the other hand, writing about how God had transformed Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the faithful, into Paul, the preacher of the Gospel, he says, "And they glorified God because of me." (Gal 1:24) We have before us two options. Will people blaspheme the name of God because of us, or will they glorify God because of us?

The problem, of course, is in the privacy. Somehow we get the sense, "If I don't get caught, it's not wrong." You see, while the adultery site was public, they gave you a sense of privacy. Apparently a false sense. And it wasn't just the security breach that made it a false sense. Jesus said, "Nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light." (Mark 4:22) We have our own truism. "Be sure your sins will find you out." It was sure to happen, either now or later (and later isn't necessarily better).

Perhaps the magnitude of the problem should be a wake up call. Perhaps the vast reach of the problem should be a warning bell. More like a klaxon or a call to arms. You see, Christian men, (and women), we are not at peace. We are at war. And, guys, you are the primary target of this problem of sexual sin. To the church at Rome Paul wrote, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy." (Rom 13:13) To the church at Corinth, "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." (1 Cor 6:18) To the church at Ephesus, "Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." (Eph 5:3) To the church at Thessalonica, "This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality." (1 Thess 4:3) Get that? Guys (especially), this is the will of God for you. To Timothy it was, "Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Tim 2:22) and to Titus, "Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us." (Titus 2:6-8)

The married are especially addressed. "'The man who does not love his wife but divorces her,' says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'covers his garment with violence,' says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless." (Mal 2:16) Conversely, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." (Prov 5:18-19)

Look, what is the problem? Jesus told us what it was. "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." (Matt 15:19) While the world around us tries to find methods to fix our problems -- gun control and laws and positive thinking and self-esteem and such -- the problem is the heart. The problem of adultery and sexual immorality is not a problem of opportunity. It is a problem of the heart. So serious is this problem that Paul said, "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler -- not even to eat with such a one." (1 Cor 5:11) Do not associate with them.

I cannot say that I know of any other sin in Scripture that gets as much press as sexual sin. From lust to fornication (sex between the unmarried) to adultery (sex while married with someone with whom you are not married), it's always and repeatedly addressed and condemned. Opposite sex, same sex, it doesn't matter. Sex outside of marriage, whether in real life or in you head, whether public or private, is regarded by God as a sin against your own body, an assault on the glory of God (1 Cor 6:20). While we should be shining examples (Matt 5:16) of self-control (Gal 5:22-23) and self-sacrificing husbands (Eph 5:25-28), we are succumbing instead to the basest of instincts, the "works of the flesh" (Gal 5:19-20). Brothers, these things ought not be!

Look, guys, it's your call. Which do you want to be? Do you wish to be one of whom it is said that God's name is blasphemed because of you? Or do you want it said that they glorified God because of you? And remember, "Nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light." Now is not the time to be muddling about in sexual sin, from porn to adultery and beyond. No matter what the rest of the world tells you.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day, 2015

Today is America's Labor Day in which we celebrate those whose hard work have brought strength and prosperity to our country. Sadly, it was originally established as a celebration of labor unions. Suggested by Matthew Maguire, secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists, in 1882, it became a national holiday in 1887. But we've forgotten that for the most part and just celebrate those who have jobs.

It's interesting, though. Many -- even Christians -- regard work as a curse. The dream of just sitting back and doing nothing is regarded as a wonderful thing. Christians see Genesis 3 as proof that it was a curse, a result of sin (Gen 3:17-18). As it turns out, the text doesn't say that. In fact, Adam was "gainfully employed" before sin ever showed up on the scene. His first job was to name the animals (Gen 2:19). After Eve joined him, he was promoted to "multiply and fill the earth and subdue it", the biggest gardening job ever. Sin, then, didn't bring about a curse of work. Work was already in the garden and already classified by God as "very good" (Gen 1:31). No, sin brought about hard labor.

So work is a good thing. Paul wrote, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim 5:8) He urged the Thessalonians, "Work with your hands, as we instructed you" (1 Thess 4:11). Christians are commanded to "do their work quietly and to earn their own living." (2 Thess 3:12) Indeed, we read this striking statement, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." (2 Thess 3:10) God's plan is for work. In fact, we are to "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Col 3:23)

You see, Christians don't have jobs or careers. We have vocations. We have callings. We aren't working for others. "You are serving the Lord Christ." (Col 3:24) Our task is to serve God where we are. We are to be ministers as repairmen or secretaries, managers or janitors, researchers or pastors. We are to lose that "sacred" versus "secular" line and operate as ministers all the time. Ministers of the gospel. Ministers to the needs of others. Even ministers to the families we are supporting.

You know, when it is no longer just "work" or "labor", but ministry, somehow it doesn't seem right calling it a curse. And it would seem to me those who do their work for the Lord ought to be celebrated. I would think today would be a good day for that.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Work of God

The phrase is ambiguous, like other similar phrases. Is "the love of God" our love for God or His love for us? It's the same with this one. When we refer to "the work of God", are we referring to "the work we do for God" or "the work that God does"? In view of the Labor Day weekend and, specifically, Sunday, the Lord's Day, I'd like to take a minute to look at the work that God does. I don't think He gets enough attention there.

The Bible actually begins with the work of God. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1) For two chapters, in fact, we read about God working -- creating, making, forming, commanding -- until we come to "the seventh day" (Gen 2:2-3). Some have suggested that this text indicates God is no longer working. It takes the briefest of moments to realize this simply isn't true. God told Israel in the desert, "Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you." (Exo 34:10) Today we see people who "were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Col 2:12) If God is not working today, no one is saved. Jesus said that He did the works of His Father (John 10:37-38). Jesus said, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." (John 5:17) Rest assured. God is still at work.

What are the works of God? In Job we read, "But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth and sends water on the fields." (Job 5:8-10) Did you ever stop to think that rain is the work of God? Eliphaz here lists this among the "great and unsearchable things, wonders without number" that God does. Indeed, "In Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17) The first, most obvious work of God is the existence of every physical thing about you. He didn't merely make it; it exists by His active work.

Of course, when we speak of the work of God we tend to think of more spiritual things. Jesus spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit.
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." (John 16:7-11)
That's the work of God.

Jesus said He came "to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) Seeking and saving ... that's the work of God.

John wrote, "If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) Cleansing from sin ... that's the work of God.

Here's one I'm sure didn't spring to your mind. In John 6 after Jesus had fed the 5,000 (John 6:1-14), the people pursued Him for what Jesus knew to be more bread. But they apparently just wanted to see more miracles.
They said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." (John 6:28-29)
Interesting. They spoke of working "the works of God" and Jesus said that believing was God's work. So, which is it? Is believing the work we do for God, or is it the work that God does? To which I would answer, "Yes." Just as we sustain life and God sustains life, we believe because it is the work God is doing. Paul wrote, "God has allotted to each a measure of faith." (Rom 12:3) God's work, then, is giving you faith and your work on behalf of God is exercising that faith ... which God gave and God maintains as He maintains everything.

As we look to a celebration of work, it seems only fitting to begin with a celebration of God's work. As Creator and Sustainer of all things, He works even now. He gives rain and He gives life. The Spirit convicts of sin. God calls people to Himself. The blood of Christ cleanses from sin. Even our faith is a work of God. And that's just a smattering of the work of God. His is a labor to be celebrated.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Please Don't Love Me

This is what we call love.

Earlier this year a woman made the Internet hit parade with her letter to her aborted baby. It was a warm, moving letter about how much she loved her baby and so she would be killing this one because she couldn't afford right now to give her a good home but the next one, surely, would benefit from her ... choice. People were all smiles and congratulations on her bravery and honesty. And I'm thinking, "If killing someone is love to you, please ... don't love me."

In Leon Russell's famous A Song for You, he says this. "I've treated you unkindly but darlin' can't you see / There's no one more important to me / so darlin' can't you please see through me." If treating someone unkindly is love to you, please ... don't love me.

A young mother just down the road from here was arrested yesterday for drowning her twin 2-year-old sons. She said she thought they were being bullied and loved them too much to let that happen, so she killed them. If killing someone is love to you, please ... don't love me.

Miley Cyrus is in the news ... again. She has announced that she is "pansexual." Fairly new term, I know. It is a sexual attraction toward people of no particular sex or gender identity. Sex with anyone. For her role at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night they called her "the most narcissistic award-show host ever," with "more drug references than a Snoop Dogg song" and "With her naughty bits barely covered, she turned the entire event into a spectacle." Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, (known as a Christian) "advised his daughter to be what she likes to be." On her sexual orientation (which, from the description, appears to be either "everything" or "none at all"), Dad said, "The world needs positive influences." If self-destructive behavior and any form of Christian morality is your version of love, please ... don't love me.

This is what our world classifies as love today. Embrace everything. Do anything. Use, misuse, abuse ... as long as we call it "love", it's love. Please ... don't love me like that.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
That kind of love I'll take.