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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Did You Expect?

"Everything happens for a reason," they like to tell you. A stupid statement, at its core. I mean, of course everything happens for a reason. It is an axiom that all effects must have a cause. But, I'm sure that's not what's in view. What is most often meant is that there is an intelligence behind all that occurs and, eventually, it will be a good thing. More and more it is intended to convey "Stuff happens and hopefully something good will come out of it."

Enter the new age. For more than a hundred years we've been working really hard to eliminate God by the careful application of science. "'God created'? Why would you think that? We have Evolution!" All well and good. Except that now we've moved from a theistic view to an atheistic view. So? Well, Christians hold that mankind is created in the image of God. This gives us intrinsic worth. That gives us overarching purpose. That gives us direction and guidance. But no. "We don't need all that. Who needs God? No intelligent person needs God anymore. In fact, the really smart people don't even believe in Him."

What's the upshot? There is no design. There is no purpose. There are no rules. Oh, you might see design, but just because it looks like design doesn't mean that it is. Try watching any nature show you wish and see if the narrator can avoid the word "design" in his or her description. Can't be done. But ... nope! ... no design. And you may generate a purpose. Your own purpose. Whatever purpose you may wish. But there is no overarching purpose. It's just what you make it. "And rules? Don't be silly. We have rules." But we have to ask why. If there is no design and purpose is just what you make it and there is no Lawgiver, on what do you base your rules? Now, to be fair, generally speaking atheists do have rules. They can be kind and caring, moral and well-behaved, generally nice people. What they cannot do is have a basis for all of this that can have any bearing on what you do. Like purpose, their rules are what they make them. They will likely suggest they apply to you. In fact, their self-made rules certainly apply to your non-existent God who fails to live up to them. They have a moral code, generally, but there can be no grounding for this morality beyond their own preferences. And many thinking atheists admit this.

Given this new paradigm, what would we expect to see? We would expect a world untethered. Christians are limited to God, His design, and His rules. Atheists, whether actual or merely practical1, are not. So while Christians hold to a God-directed sexual morality where sex is moral in marriage and not in other relationships, our world has jettisoned that idea. We would expect that sexually transmitted diseases would soar, numbers of single-parent children would climb2. While logic and science tells us that there is male and there is female, we now live in a world where there is ... not. There is so much more. There is super male and super female, male/female together, male bodies occupied by females and female bodies occupied by males, male or female bodies that are both male and female depending on how they feel at the moment -- literally dozens of possibilities ... so far3. All of history defines marriage as a family built on the basis of a female and a male united for mutual support and fit for procreation. We're well past that now. Marriage is whatever you make it. Two, three, whatever. Of course, it has to be approved by the new Marriage Lords. I mean, it is no longer "male and female", but so far they're holding the line on "two". And apparently for reasons without basis it must be "two humans". No animals or inanimate objections. But those are just arbitrary and can't long stand. This new paradigm, stripping off any "made in God's image" nonsense and, therefore, intrinsic value, would result in killing people deemed less valuable ... like babies. And purpose? Yes, that's there. The purpose of life is to "fulfill yourself", whatever that means to you. Maybe it means you are fulfilled by being a good person. Or maybe it means you're fulfilled by satisfying your urges. Whatever. In the absence of design and morality, it cannot be evaluated as good or bad. Oh, mind you, it will be, but there is no basis for it. As in the other things, then, without basis, it will eventually end up more or less random. The only commonality will be "Whatever you want ... as long as it doesn't tell me I'm wrong." In this, dear Christian, you will be outlawed, if not legally, at least culturally.

This is, indeed, what we see going on today. Based on Science as god, science is thrown out the window. Genetics, chromosomes, and all that don't count; if you think you're a girl trapped in a guy's body, you are. If you think you're a black person trapped in a white person's body, you're not. Don't be silly. Why? No one can say. Because we've pulled out the underpinnings and can't figure out where to stand anymore. "But we do know it's not where those hated Christians stand. That can't be right. We know that."

Oddly enough, Christians don't seem to understand this. We think, "This is right and that is wrong." We think, "We are made in God's image and, therefore, have value." We think that God knows what He is doing, so what He is doing is good. So when they reject God as Creator and God as authority and run down these rabbit trails, we're baffled. Don't be. "How can they do that?" we so often ask. How? By rejecting God. It is what you would logically expect. It is the result of spiritual blindness. It is the rational result of practically or consciously removing God. Don't expect a rebellious people to agree with the One against whom they are rebelling. Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is coming among you. But do remember that we have the answer to the problem and pray that God will open their hearts to it.
1 A practial atheist is a person who says he or she believes in God but acts without regard to God.

2 The article claims that "single moms account for precisely one-quarter of U.S. households. Single dads make up another 6 percent." That is, something around 1 in 3 households in the U.S. are single-parent households.

3 New York City protects 31 of them. Facebook offers 51 options.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Accepting Christ

This is the key, isn't it? We -- we Christians -- all know it. It is the event, the point, the aim. What we pray for, want, hope, and work toward is to get as many as possible to accept Christ as their personal Savior. That's the phrase. "Accept Christ as your personal Savior."

Where did that come from? You see, I find (with my tendency to examine words) that it irritates me, like a seed in my teeth. There's just ... something ... wrong. What is it? It's that word, "accept". It sounds like a condescension. It sounds like someone in a superior position deigning to allow an inferior to come into his/her presence. Further, "accepting Christ" doesn't go much farther, on its own, than mental acquiescence. I accept, for instance, that George Washington lived. I don't know him. I don't relate to him. I just believe. So is this my problem, or is there a reason to wonder?

As it turns out, you won't find that phrase in Scripture ... anywhere. What you will find is a different term: "receive". Is there a difference between "accept" and "receive"? I think so. Consider. You may receive an offer to buy something you have for sale and then accept that offer. What is the difference? One is passive; one is active. One is external; one is internal. "Receive" is a passive thing handed to you from outside of you. "Accept" is your personal effort to take it in. Thus, in this example, there are two actors. One gives and the other takes. One initiates but is dependent on the other to complete. The ultimate authority in this transaction of receiving an offer and accepting that offer is the one who receives, not the one who gives. Because "accept" comes from a superior position, while "receive" does not. The dictionary defines "receive" as "be given, presented with, or paid (something)" and "accept" as "consent to receive". There is the difference between the two.

In English, you might receive a job offer and choose whether you will accept it. In football a player receives a pass. If guests arrive, the host may receive them. That is, "receive" may have effort or choice involved, but it is choice or effort related to something presented rather than something acquired.

Biblically, you will find "receive" but not "accept" when it comes to salvation. Paul wrote, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." (Col 2:6) There is "received Christ Jesus the Lord" as the starting point as the method by which we are to live. Receive Him and walk in Him in the same way. And, of course, there is the well-known passage from John's Gospel. "He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:11-13) In this "receive" it indicates that the outcome is not of birth or effort or choice, but of God.

Mind you, the Bible does use the term "accept". We are, for instance, commanded, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." (Rom 15:7) We are told to "accept the one who is weak in faith" (Rom 14:1) because "God has accepted him." (Rom 14:3). Oh, and we are told, "The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor 2:14) On one hand, then, God accepts those who are His. On the other hand, natural man does not accept the things of God. Neither one is the "accept" we are looking for.

What is the primary term used in Scripture by which we are saved? It is not that we "accept Christ" ... ever. In a few verses it is to "receive Him" (see also John 13:20). In this term it is Christ who is given and not our effort, work, or will that is in view as it would be if the word was "accept". The primary term, however, is "to believe". John's Gospel, in fact, is full of a phrase that is most literally translated "to believe into", which suggests far more than mental acquiescence, but to immerse oneself into, to lean wholly on.

Like I said, it's an irritation to me, an aggravation. It's not "evil" or "heresy". Still, it would seem to me that if we are intending to best convey what is required of someone to be saved, I would think we might prefer the biblical words or, at the very least, the biblical concept. In the biblical presentation we are more passive, receiving salvation rather than acquiring or "accepting" it. We are to believe into Christ rather than merely allow Him access to our lives. If, indeed, words mean something, I think we should try to say what is meant rather than what we've too often heard without thinking about it. Because in my mind too many people hear "accept Christ" as a position of superiority, where they deign to allow Jesus to have a relationship with them at their behest. And that is not what is in view here.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I recently argued that we err when we claim that God owes us. He is God; He owes His creation nothing. Of course, that didn't go over well. If God punishes with eternal torment some poor fellow that only committed 3 sins, that would be unjust of God. He owes us better than that. Clearly, then, I need to examine the concept of God's justice.

Terms and Usage
First, we need to understand the words we're using. The question is justice. Just what is justice?

The Bible says multiple times, "The just shall live by faith." (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11) Of course, if you read these in a modern translation, the phrase is different. Now it's "The righteous shall live by faith." That's because "just" and "righteous" are synonyms in biblical terms. To be "just" is to be "right", morally and otherwise. When Abraham asked God, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?", he was asking, "Will not the Judge of the all the earth be just?"

Another common use of the word is "fairness" or "equitableness". Thinking in terms of a business transaction, if you buy $5 of product from me, you owe me $5. That's "fairness". Justice is a balancing of the books, so to speak. Take, for instance, human justice. We all understand that the fair evaluation of a crime does not depend on the time it takes. It is determined by its magnitude. Thus, jaywalking is not going to be treated the same as murder. Even in terms of murder, killing someone who is attempting to kill you is not the same as killing someone who is not. Or killing a homeless person is not viewed as evil as assassinating a president. Sure, both are murder and both are wrong, but not to the same degree. We often use Hitler as our epitome of evil, as an example. He killed millions. A guy that kills two isn't as bad as Hitler. It is the magnitude of the crime that determines the fair, equitable, just response.

One more thing. I've touched on what justice is. I need to point what it is not. It is not mercy. Neither is grace justice. In the negative, justice gives you the consequences coming to you; mercy withholds them. In the positive, justice gives you only the benefits you have earned; grace gives you favor you have not earned. So we'll have to be careful not to use grace and mercy to rule out justice.

Determining Justice
I don't think I've offered anything controversial ... yet. But now we have to determine just what is equitable. This isn't as easy as it seems. Some, for instance, think that capital punishment for murder is fair; others think it's barbaric. And that's just one example. People will debate almost any point of justice here. Justice demands equality, but in every human version of this, some are more equal than others. So what is justice?

There are two ways to approach this. One is from the character of God; the other is from reasoning from biblical explanations. The first is simple. As Dan T. rightly pointed out, Scripture is full of the claim that God is just. God is certainly right, righteous ... He does what is right. Taking it from that angle, what does Scripture says He does? Because if we agree that He is just, then what He does is just -- is right. Thus, looking at God as just and seeing what God does, we can determine what is just. So Scripture says that He punishes the wicked (Isa 13:11). Scripture says that all have sinned (Rom 3:23). Scripture says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Scripture says that the punishment is eternal (Matt 25:46). All these things and more. Going from "God is just" to this, therefore, says that this must be just because God says He does it. If you say, "No, He doesn't," you're going to have to explain why your version differs from the biblical accounts because Scripture agrees with itself repeatedly on this.

The other approach is from biblical explanations through human reasoning. We understand that justice means equity, equality, doing what is right, balancing the books. And we remember that justice is not mercy, grace, or forgiveness. So we cannot simply substitute mercy, for instance, for justice and still hold that God is just. Saying that He simply forgives is friendly, but it nullifies the claim of Him being just, right, or equitable. Think of the judge who gave the rapist a 6 month suspended sentence. The nation was outraged. Why? Because there was no justice, just mercy. So, what does the Bible tell us that helps us understand that eternal torment for sins committed might be considered just?

We understand, first, that sin isn't small. Scripture says, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." (Psa 58:3) Sin starts at birth. We read further, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:10-12) You can see that "none is righteous" and "no one does good" flies in the face of popular thinking, but if these accusations are accurate, sin isn't "a little white lie" or "a few transgressions." It is a way of life, an ongoing, minute-by-minute violation of God. Now, clearly this requires a realignment of our understanding of both "good" and "evil", but that is what the Bible is doing -- explaining that our perceptions of good and evil are too meager. When we are told, for instance, that "all have sinned", the very next phrase expands on the point: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) You see, "being bad" isn't in view here. Violating God is. Sin is a violation of God's Government, so to speak. He speaks, He commands, and we say, "Nope! Not gonna do it." We shake our fists in His face and say, "I will be like the Most High."

Now, remember, we've already seen that the magnitude of the crime determines the penalty. Jaywalking may be a small fine. Murder may require doing some time. What about treason? That's a capital crime as well. That's pretty big. So what about Cosmic Treason -- attempting to overthrow the God of the Universe? If a crime is against the Eternal God, it seem reasonable (equitable, fair, just) that the penalty would be eternal. It's not the time it takes to do the crime or the form it takes -- a lie or a murder or a Hitler. It's the One against whom it is done. The claim is that God would be unjust to eternally punish a "small time" sinner. This is simply a failure to grasp the magnitude of sin.

God is, by definition, just. That doesn't mean He conforms to some external standard laid on Him by ... oh, I don't know ... His creation. It means that He defines what is right. We could ask, "What is just?" and rightly answer, "Whatever God does." God says that He judges the wicked and we would assume that a just God would be just in doing so. Beyond that, it isn't irrational to consider an attempt to overthrow the God of the Universe a crime of the highest sort, deserving the highest sort of penalty. That is a balancing of the books. Interestingly, considering justice from this perspective only makes forgiveness, grace, and mercy that much bigger. It makes what Christ did at the cross -- fulfilling justice -- that much more phenomenal. Some people will surely complain that it's not fair that God would condemn a person who committed a single sin. Note, first, that no such sinner exists. Note, also, that any sin is a violation of the Eternal God, deserving eternal punishment. And we do them ... a lot. So any grace and mercy is bigger than we can imagine in view of the magnitude of the penalty we have incurred. God punishing sinners for an eternity is not unjust. It is right. God forgiving sinners is unjust, for which we can thank Christ who met the demands of justice on our behalf.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grace is Amazing

We like grace. Mercy is good. Love is pleasant. And, of course, God is gracious, merciful, and love, so that's like ... a really big grace, mercy, and love, right? Oh, that we could see more clearly.

About a hundred years after Jonah's miraculous visit to Ninevah where Ninevah heard the warnings and repented, Nahum has a message for Ninevah. It's not good. They've forgotten God. It is a proclamation of doom. But look what Nahum says about God at the outset.
A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. (Nah 1:2-3)
One might be tempted to ask, "Now, which is it? Is He jealous, avenging, and wrathful, or is He slow to anger?" And the answer from Nahum would be "Yes ... yes He is ... both."

We're really pleased with the loving, merciful, gracious God. This jealous, avenging, wrathful one isn't tops on our list. Nahum says, "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire And the rocks are broken up by Him." (Nah 1:6) Not an image we find pleasant.

Now, anyone who is aware of my normal writing would say, "Now, hang on here, Stan. It's Sunday. Don't you usually write something uplifting here? Where are you going with this?" I'm going where Nahum goes. In the very next verse he writes, "The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him." (Nah 1:7)

You see, it would be a mistake to see God as only gracious, merciful, and loving. And it would be an equal mistake to see Him as only wrathful, jealous, and avenging. Both are true. Both are necessary.

Grace, you see, is only truly amazing when we see the wrath that His grace sets aside. Mercy is only great mercy when the penalty that we have justly earned is not applied is truly great. Only a look at the wrath and jealousy of God can give a full appreciation for God's amazing grace.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

News Weakly - 11/26/2016

Thank you for your service
Sgt John Perry was killed last week by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Because Sgt Perry accosted the bomber before he reached his target, Sgt Perry saved hundreds of lives. They reported that they found him shielding a woman when he died. In gratitude for this selfless service, passengers on a flight the family was taking to get to their son's funeral booed them because the air crew was trying to get them to their destination and asked the rest to wait while they deplaned first.

In an America that is no longer much concerned about the Constitution (think 1st and 2nd Amendment rights, electoral college, etc.) or even America as a community, this isn't very surprising. As one who served, I would like to thank Sgt Perry and his family for their service to this country and apologize for a nation that often forgets what protects their freedoms.

Meet the Press
Here's an excellent example of spin. NBC News chose to headline their story about Trump's Chief of Staff's Meet the Press interview as "Reince Priebus on Muslim Registry: 'Not Going to Rule Out Anything'." Muslim groups are ready to fight the upcoming Muslim ban. CNN is moaning about how it failed in the past and it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Everyone appears to be glossing over the fact that Priebus stated, "We're not going to have a registry based on a religion." He specified a ban on people "radicalized".

Without defending or attacking such a ban, I'd like to point out that the "press" who is intent on "informing the public" is not particularly intent on doing it fairly or evenly. Let's not let truth get in the way. Spin it. Because I'm not at all sure why there would be an outcry in America demanding that people whose singular intent is to kill and destroy as many Americans as possible be allowed into this country as a matter of rights. But let's not frame it that way.

The State of the Union or the Union of the State?
So they're pressing on. They've actually filed to have a referendum put on the 2018 ballot for California to secede from the union. They're calling it a "Calexit". When the South did it, there was war. When Texas did it more recently, there was ridicule. When Californians did it, they ignored it. (Some counties in California have begged to be made their own state, since California politics do not reflect their views.) But now it's a good idea. Trump was elected. That won't do. The most diverse melting pot state in the Union is "culturally different from the rest of the country". (Um ... yeah ... what did you expect? When I was in California we were proud of that.) And some media outlets insult California. Time to go.

So, ignoring the disunity of their own state and the union of the country, they want to take their marbles and go home. Stay tuned, boys and girls. This might get interesting. (I doubt it, but it might.)

History Repeats Itself
Remember how this went?

Democrats raise outcry against Trump, concerned that his inflammatory words could cause violence.

Democrat supporters hire people to cause violence at Trump rallies.

History repeats itself.

In debate Trump says he won't accept election results if he loses. Hillary supporters ridicule him.

In election, Trump wins. Hillary supporters won't accept the results of the election and demand a recount.

Very strange, indeed.

To Its Logical Conclusion
Okay, follow this through. The Bible says that humans have a problem. We "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Rom 1:25) That is, we have a truth problem. The result of this truth problem is a failure to love the truth (2 Thess 2:10), a deceitful heart (Jer 17:9), a debased mind (Rom 1:28). We are blinded (2 Cor 4:4) and deluded (2 Thess 2:11). Following that, then, to its logical conclusion, we read that there is no such thing as a male body. The article assures us that we are "carelessly referring to women who are trans as having 'male genitals' or being 'born with a male body' or being 'anatomically male.' This language is both factually wrong and dangerous."

From their view, science is wrong, there is no male or female, and all you dopes out there that think so are "factually wrong" and dangerous. Welcome to the deceived heart, the debased mind, the blinded world.

Friday, November 25, 2016


It appears that we've shifted another word -- "hypocrisy". It is a popular accusation against many people with morals, Christians especially. But just what is it?

The word used to mean "a feigning to be what one is not : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue." The word comes from the Greek, hupokrisis, which was actually a theatrical term. It referred to the masks that actors wore when they played a part in a play. That's the idea: putting on a mask. Appearing to be what you are not. (Thus the "feigning" in the original definition.) Originally, then, a hypocrite was one who claimed to have virtue that he or she did not actually have.

It no longer means that. Current dictionaries hold that it means "behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel", "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform." There is a difference between the original definition and the current one. The original version allows someone to say, "This is right or wrong and I admit that I don't measure up" and they would not be classified as a hypocrite. The earlier definition would allow parents who did drugs as in their youth to tell their kids, "Don't do drugs. I did; it's a bad thing." The current definition would define that as hypocrisy. Today's version requires you to fully satisfy in your own behavior what you classify as right or wrong. Anyone who holds a standard of virtue but fails to meet it is a hypocrite. Or, to put it another way, all Christians are hypocrites by definition since we all agree with God's definition of right and wrong while we lean on Him for forgiveness of our admitted failure to conform to His standards.

Now tell me that's not by design.

Here's the problem. When a word means X and then, without really noticing, changes to Y, what do we do with our Bibles (for instance)? Using this word as an example, Jesus referred to the Pharisees as hypocrites. He meant that they were pretending to have virtue that they did not have. They laid requirements on others that they were unwilling to accept themselves and did not admit they did not meet (Matt 23:2-3; Matt 23:13-36; Luke 11:46). Consider, on the other hand, the father praying that Jesus would heal his son. Jesus told him that faith was required. He responded, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) This is an admission. "Yes, the standard I must meet is belief. I don't meet it. Please help me to meet it." This man, in the biblical record, was not a hypocrite. All well and good ... until you read the new definition back into the Bible. Jesus used the term and meant that they didn't meet the standards they called for. In this scenario, Jesus would also call Paul a hypocrite for admitting that he sought to know more fully Christ but had not obtained it (Phil 3:7-12). James said, "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2) which, under today's definition, is a tacit admission that all of us are hypocrites. In the end, if you hold that a there is a standard of virtue, unless you arrive at perfection you are nothing more than a hypocrite because you are not perfect.

Don't fall for it. It is Satan's ploy to get you to stop pointing to God, to stop pointing to the problem of sin -- in your own life and in others -- to stop bringing the Gospel. It is Satan's grand, "I'm okay; you're okay." It is one of the father of lies' biggest lies. If you cannot meet a standard, do not agree with it. Because hypocrites are bad. And the glorious circle here is that declaring that hypocrites are bad is hypocritical if you have ever held a standard that you've failed to meet. Well played, Satan.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving, 2016

Psalm 100
A Psalm for Thanksgiving.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
While we give thanks today, let's remember to whom we are giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Paradigm Shift

Remember the story of Job? First, he suffered the loss of all he had -- his livestock, his servants, even his children. His response, while tearing his robe and shaving his head in anguish, was, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) The author of Job says, "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." (Job 1:22) Next, it became personal. Sitting in ashes, he scraped at the "loathsome sores" that covered him from head to toe (Job 2:7-8). His wife asked, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." (Job 2:9) Hear Job's response. "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10)

We naturally and even rightly go to God for help. We ask Him to fix things, to sustain the good and put an end to the bad, to make things right, to rescue us in our troubles. All well and good, as we ought. Even Jesus did it in the garden. "Let this cup pass from Me," He prayed. But what is our response when God does the unexpected? What is our reaction when He allows the unpleasant to occur? What do we say when He does not do as we ask? I'd venture to guess that it's a rare one of us who says in that moment, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." We do not believe that we can receive evil from God and let alone that it would be right. God does not do the unpleasant. Furthermore, He would be morally unsound if He did. It would be wrong. At this point, some leave the faith. "If this is what God is like, I want nothing to do with Him." Others are sorely injured, wondering if they can trust Him again. Many are dismayed. How could God do such a thing? An extremely popular approach is to absolve God. "Well, you know, God didn't want that to happen, but ... Free Will ... you know. He couldn't do anything about it. Bad things happen. Bad people, bad circumstances, natural disasters, diseases ... all that stuff. God is not to blame." Lots of responses, but it is the extremely rare one that says, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Note that Job didn't do it cheerfully. That would be insane. He tore his clothes and mourned the losses. He even struggled with his own pain. As the book of Job progresses, Job, faced by "friends" who assure him that the only reason he is enduring such great pains is because of his great sin, begins to ... get testy with God. "Let the Almighty answer me!" he cries (Job 31:35). No, it's not mindless glee we're seeing. But Job recognizes at the core of it all two truths -- that "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away" and "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job agrees that we should expect both the pleasant and the unpleasant from God. No excuses for God. No recriminations. No moral outrage at God. No despair.

How do you get there from here? It requires a paradigm shift. A paradigm is the structure of a given discipline, the philosophical framework upon which the discipline is built. A paradigm shift would be a change in the underlying assumptions of that discipline. Getting from where we typically are to where Job was would require this kind of radical change -- a change of the basic principles, the underlying assumptions ... of life.

There is the shift from "I'm okay" to "I'm not." We call it the sin nature and most of us ignore it even though all of us have it. Instead, we assume people are innocent until proven guilty, so to speak. We assume "basically good" which is basically false.

There is the shift from "It's all about me" to "It's not." It's not about us. It's about God. But we can't seem to grasp that. Even when we think we do, we can't seem to hold it for very long at all.

There is the shift from "God owes me" to "He doesn't." Or, perhaps, the admission that "He owes me judgment." He doesn't owe us anything pleasant. I remember a recent discussion with a Christian where I pointed out the the doctrine of Election is biblical and it cannot be disputed. How we get chosen may be up for debate, but not that there is the elect. He said to me, "But, everyone gets the chance to be chosen, don't they?" Because, you see, God owes us. We have all thoroughly earned God's wrath, but we somehow think He must be gracious and merciful ... to all.

There is the shift from "I'm pretty important" to "God is Sovereign." A huge step. Because on one hand we don't wish to surrender control as sinful human beings and, on the other hand, with our sinful, self-centered, over-inflated sense of our importance, we feel the need to absolve God of any wrongdoing ... as if He was capable of wrongdoing.

There is the shift from "I know what's right and wrong" to "I don't." We find that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. We find that we are a people blinded by the god of this world. We find that He speaks truth and we're far more closely related to the father of lies. We judge Him by our own faulty standards as if we have that right or that capability. We miss that God is always good. This is a radical shift.

These are just several of the radical shifts in thinking -- in renewing our minds -- required to get us from "How dare God do that?!" to "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." How do we get from "God owes me" to "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" Clearly, since Job had that mindset, it is possible. The real question, then, is whether or not we want it. Perhaps we're perfectly happy in our sin-sick, deluded thinking.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

God Owes Me

It is not very often that I actually hear anyone, especially a Christian, voice the idea that "God owes me" something. It is, conversely, very rare that I find anyone who doesn't believe it's true. They believe that God owes them something or other even if they would never say it.

A non-Christian friend asked me the other day about a "theological dilemma" that was nagging at him. "Isn't it true," he asked me, "that the Bible has lots of places where God destroyed lots of people? You know, like Noah's Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah or the killing of the Amalekites. If it is true that we aren't supposed to kill and God does it, doesn't that make Him evil?" The root of this question is "God owes me." In this case, "God owes me life." The objection is similar when people complain about the concept of Hell -- eternal torment. "God owes me mercy at least." When someone loses a loved one it is "God owed me that loved one." When they get cancer or something dreadful, "God owes me good health." No, no one ever voices that. No one says it out loud. Almost no one. But it's there ... always there.

We tend to get things turned around in our thinking. We think that God owes us ... well ... a lot. Because we're just that valuable, just that important. After all, aren't we made in God's image?

What we fail to grasp is that we are His creation, not His masters. He owes nothing to the things He makes. Just in principle. But we've managed to make it worse. We have all sinned and transgressed the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We are not innocent bystanders. When Paul said we "fall short of the glory of God", he is saying we reflect poorly on our Maker. We diminish His glory.

It is assumed by so very many that Christ died to save us because He ought to have done it. We wrestle, in fact, with the notion that not all are saved. Paul wrestled with the opposite question. Not, "Why doesn't God save more if not everyone?" like so many of us, but "Why does God save one?" Paul understood us to be "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and God rightly intending to show His power and wrath on us (Rom 9:22). That is what God owes us. The amazing thing is not that more are not saved, but that any are saved. Because God owes us nothing.

If we grasp this, then suddenly anything God gives is a gift, a glorious act of grace, a radical kindness. If we lose our sense of entitlement, we gain a vast sense of gratitude. But our sense of entitlement is the basic problem -- worshiping the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). That is what is at stake here. Should we cling tightly to our falsely perceived "rights" -- our confidence that "God owes me" -- or should we admit our guilt and our fallenness and our inflated sense of importance and our idolatry and throw ourselves on His mercy, on His Providence? One comes to damnation, the other to extreme gratitude. You make the call.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Carnal Christian

Perhaps you've heard of "anecdotal evidence". Anecdotal evidence is evidence from anecdotes. ("Thanks, Capt. Obvious.") It is informal evidence based on personal testimony. Generally speaking, due to its limited nature, its subjective nature (we all remember things and understand things through our own lenses, not necessarily with accuracy), and its casual nature, anecdotal evidence is viewed as limited in value. Then there's Scripture. This is God's "exhaled" Word. It is truth -- God's truth. Taken as a whole, it is generally quite clear, understandable, and useful. Given these two forms of evidence, I'd like to examine the concept of the carnal Christian.

The source of the "carnal Christian" term is primarily from the King James where Paul writes, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ." (1 Cor 3:1) Of course, this is simply an older English version of today's "flesh". Paul writes to the church at Corinth that they were still suffering from "the flesh", a term referring to the "old self", the worldly ways. He lists things like "jealousy and strife" (1 Cor 3:3). In Galatians he explains,
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
That's "the flesh" -- carnal.

So what do people mean by "carnal Christian"? Well, typically, they mean that the Spirit of God does not dwell in them. They are saved, but they have no outworking of the Spirit ... because they don't have the inworking of the Spirit. He's not there. They are spiritually alive, but with nothing to show for it.

We arrive here primarily by anecdotal evidence. We all know people who claim to be Christians but exhibit no signs of it or people who once seemed to be Christians but have since ceased. Therefore, we all know that the "carnal Christian" -- a saved-but-bereft-of-the-Spirit Christian -- is a real thing. We've seen it. But, just as both science and the courts would prefer not to rely solely on anecdotal evidence, I would urge us not to come to a position based purely on our observation. What does the Bible say?

According to Scripture, at the point of repentance, "you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) This is the "indwelling". He comes to take residence in the believer. There is no suggestion that this is a "come and go" condition like it was in the Old Testament (e.g., 1 Sam 16:14). In fact, the Spirit is described for Christians as the "seal" of our inheritance (Eph 1:13). Paul says it is by the Holy Spirit that we "were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph 4:30) Now, we can grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30) and resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) and quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19), but Scripture argues that His indwelling is permanent. Scripture speaks of being filled with the Spirit (literally, "be being filled with the Spirit", an ongoing thing) (Eph 5:18), but there is no hint anywhere that one who is born anew can be without the Holy Spirit entirely. He may be more or less under the influence of the Spirit, but not without Him. It isn't the difference between a growing Christian and a not-growing Christian. It is the difference between a genuine Christian and one who is not.

One text where this is unavoidable is in 1 John. There we read,
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)
Now, the Bible has many uses of the word "seed" in reference to God's Word or the Gospel. It's in the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:3-8; Matt 13:19). In Peter's first epistle he refers to an imperishable seed by which we are born again, "the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). But the Word as seed is not the exclusive use for "seed". Paul refers to the believer's body as a seed (1 Cor 15:38) from which the glorified body is derived. As it turns out, scholars are not agreed on just what that "seed" is. But here is what we can clearly and unavoidably see. First, the reference is to those who are "born of God". The object of this verse is those people. Second, the one who is born of God does not make a practice of sinning. Not "might not" or "should not" -- does not. Third, regardless of what God's seed actually is, the verse clearly states that it is outside the power of the one born of God to "keep on sinning". "He cannot."

From Scripture, then, we know that the Holy Spirit is given at the new birth. We know that, unlike the Old Testament, there is no biblical argument that the Holy Spirit ever leaves again. There may be more influence or less, but there will be no absence. And we know that one who is born of God does not make a practice of sinning because he cannot make a practice of sinning. As such, it can only be concluded that the concept of the "carnal Christian" is a mistaken concept. Surely there are individuals who claim to be Christians but are not (1 John 2:18-20). Certainly there are genuine Christians who fall into sin (1 John 2:1), even grievous sin. But the idea of a genuine believer, born again, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who simply fails to change at all ever -- while passing the anecdotal evidence test -- fails to pass the biblical test. It would suggest we need to reconsider our "carnal Christian" concept and, more to the point, our understanding of those we think are carnal Christians.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Greater is He

We live in troubling times. Rampant immorality, the rising power of evil, the increase of people killing people, growing rejection of God and His followers ... things look bleak. Add to that what looks like the decline of the church in modern times, and it all looks like a coming disaster. So, on this Sunday, I wanted to let you know. It's not.

John warned his readers "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God." (1 John 4:1) If you're paying attention, that's rather ominous. We're not looking at angry individuals or even antagonistic governments. These are supernatural forces that oppose us. Paul said "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12)

"Now, wait, Stan. Didn't you just say we're not looking at a coming disaster?"

Yes, indeed, I did. Oh, it may look like it and it may feel like it, but I wanted to remind you of the truth.

Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." (Matt 28:18) Paul said, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31) And in that passage above where John warns about testing spirits, he assures us, "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

There are those who say, "Don't be such a ninny. There is no looming disaster!" They're not paying attention. There are those who say, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" They're ignoring the "rest of the story". I wanted you to see the balance. Things may look bleak, but "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:37-39) We're in good hands.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

News Weakly - 11/19/2016

Not All News is Bad News
The media has been smirking about how you dirty, rotten right-wing Christians all voted for Trump ... you know ... the guy known for groping women and hating Mexicans (as in "not Christian values"). The New York Times tells us that more than 80% of Evangelicals voted for Trump. As it turns out, it ain't necessarily so. Turns out that with "a more nuanced analysis we can reasonably estimate that somewhere between 35 percent and 45 percent of all evangelicals in America voted for Trump."

Of interest, also, from the New York Times story is the category, "Best description of vote". Given "I strongly favor my candidate", "I like my candidate but with reservations", and "I dislike the other candidates", 51% of those who were polled said they disliked the other candidates. I think this is for both camps, of course. Many voted for whom they voted not because they wanted to, but because the alternative was appalling. From that perspective, it would appear that more people who voted for Trump did so because they were more appalled by the specter of a Clinton presidency than a Trump presidency. That is, of course, only one perspective.

Of course, what disturbs me is why the New York Times poll has an entire category of "White evangelical or white born-again Christians" at all. No "black evangelical" or any other race. No "white Catholic" or any other religion. There is a generalized category of "Religion" without reference to race. So why this particular category? Beats me.

The New Evangelical Woman
The event is the Belong Tour. Speakers include "remarkable communicators" like "Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequist, Nichole Nordeman, Sharon Irving, Angela Davis, Patsy Clairmont." It's all about The New Evangelical Woman, "part of a larger renovation and rejuvenation of old-fashioned ideas of evangelical Christianity." This "New Evangelical Woman" is "not defining herself apart from the secular world, but very much a part of it." They're the Xvangelicals.

And there it is. Don't miss it. They are calling themselves "Christians", "followers of Christ", but are self-consciously redefining what "followers of Christ" means into something ... else. It is not an "in the world but not of it" concept (1 John 2:15-17). It is not a "transformed, not conformed" idea (Rom 12:2). It is not defined by Scripture, but by culture. "There's hardly any quoting of Bible verses or even group prayer. Instead, talks are focused on how to let go of shame, or be real with one another and truly connect, or how to stop trying to be perfect." This is feel-good theology, to be sure, but not biblical theology. It is the New Evangelical ... minus the Good News (Gal 1:6-9).

Filed under "What did you expect?"
First, there were those asking Mark Zuckerberg if the fake news on Facebook swayed the election. Then Google and Facebook began to target fake news sites with plans to ban them from their networks. One fake news writer on Facebook claims "I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me." And the Oxford Dictionaries come out with the "Word of the Year" award for ... get this ... "post-truth", an expression that, like "post-modernism" and "post-World War II", indicates that we are after the truth -- beyond it, without it, no longer using it. "It is an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.'"

Given a world, described by Paul as "always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 3:7), a world about which Jesus said, "men love the darkness rather than the light" (John 3:19), a world blinded by the god of this world and rejecting the Truth, a world that can no longer distinguish even between the fiction of books, television, and movies and reality, what did you expect? Certainly not a world that sees, recognizes, and embraces the truth. In a world tied most closely to the father of lies, it only stands to reason that "fake news" would be a big issue and "post-truth" would be a real thing.

Didn't see that coming
A 5-year academic study from the US and the UK has concluded that conservative churches that take the Bible seriously are growing in contrast to the liberal churches that do not and are declining. Despite the protests, it appears that doctrine matters and biblical truth grows churches rather than the expected opposite. Perhaps we ought to check our arsenals. Loaded with entertainment, fun, and "feel good", or with solid preaching, study, and application of the Word? A "new" church-growth paradigm.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Words Will Never Hurt Me

You know it, right? "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Of course, in our world appalled at the realization that bullying takes place with our poor 8-year-olds online, we're no longer sure of that. The CDC has a report on the relationship between bullying and suicide, where the bullying in view is often mostly just words. reports that bullying is the third leading cause of suicide in young people. In October an 11-year-old cancer survivor killed herself because she was picked on at school. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can kill.

I know people. I know someone who will not wear white socks because someone somewhere told them, "You know, white socks make you look stupid." They don't remember who, but they won't wear them. I know someone who used to sing beautifully but won't anymore because someone told them, "You know, your voice isn't that good." One person I know played the piano, but when someone complained, "Do you have to make that noise?", they stopped playing entirely. One friend suffers internally to this day because when he was in college some girl told him, "No one wants to hear about your problems", so he doesn't tell anyone.

This stuff doesn't rise to the level of "bullying". We wouldn't think of those people as bullies. Maybe rude. Maybe even right. But not bullies. And I'm absolutely certain that not one of them thought their words went any farther than the moment, if that. None of them thought they'd have a lifelong impact on their hearers. But Jesus said, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man ... The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." (Matt 15:11,18) It is not true that words don't hurt. Sometimes the damage is much worse than broken bones.

James wrote, "The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." (James 3:6) He said, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." (James 3:2) He tells us, "No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." (James 3:8-10) In the same way, Paul wrote, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29) Jesus said, "I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." (Matt 12:36)

We've been told that words don't hurt. I don't think there's a person alive who actually believes that, either when they use words in an attack or when they hear it. We don't insult people because we don't think it will hurt, and those who have been on the receiving end don't agree that it doesn't hurt. Our words can have long-lasting, even lifetime effects. We are Christians. We ought to know better.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psa 19:14)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holier Than Thou

Jessica Harris is an author and speaker specializing in sexual addiction among women. In an article about women who struggle with porn (Yes, it's not just a guy thing.), she quotes emails from women crying for help. One says, "I want to get help, I want to tell someone, but anyone I tell will never look at me the same again."

Now, I get that. I understand. I sympathize ... or is it empathize? I really do. But what I want to know is how we got here?

The skeptics have long complained that "Christianity is only a crutch." I've never denied it. My Bible says that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death. A crutch? If "spiritually dead and headed for eternal torment" is a "broken leg", Christianity is indeed a crutch. But clearly much more. Because we are all badly broken. The Church is not a collection of holy people; it is a collection of people declared holy. We aren't self-righteous; our only righteousness is imputed by Christ. We aren't reformed; we are being sanctified. "Holier than thou" doesn't fit in a biblical worldview. We are all sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ. A crutch? Oh, no. We are much, much worse than "lame" and it's much, much more than a mere crutch.

So, given that the church is a gathering of broken people without righteousness of their own, predestined by God to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), how is it that if one of us suffers from a condition of sin (as if there is one who does not) he or she can expect to be shunned for mentioning it, for reaching out for some help? How did we get here from there?

It is my suspicion that there is not a single genuine Christian out there that does not struggle with sin. No, I'll go one step further. If there is a self-identified Christian that does no struggle with sin, I would fell the need to urge him or her to reconsider whether or not they really know Jesus. James says, "We all stumble in many ways." (James 3:2) This is why we are commanded to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), to restore those caught in transgression (Gal 6:1).

Absolutely essential to supporting others is humility. Paul said in the midst of this "restore him" and "bear one another's burdens", "Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." (Gal 6:1) We're not better than one another. "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Gal 6:3) So Jesus said, "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt 7:5) I notice that Jesus did not say, "If there is a log in your own eye ...", but appears to indicate that it is there and you need to deal with it. That is, anyone wishing to bear the burden of another ought to already be in a burden-bearing position, in a position where others are helping to bear his or her burdens.

Absolutely essential to supporting others is love. Actually, Paul says that bearing one another's burdens is fulfilling "the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). What is the law of Christ? "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." (John 13:34) Paul had already laid this out to the Galatians.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal 5:13-14)
We are to bear one another's burdens, then, specifically on the basis of love. The goal is not to make an bad person good. The aim is to gain your brother (Matt 18:15). It is genuine concern for a brother or sister in Christ. After all, aren't we defined by love for one another (John 13:35)?

We are told to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Rom 12:15) I rejoice with those who have managed to find fellow believers that bear their burdens. I weep with those who cannot. And I wonder, given the fundamental nature of Christianity -- that we're all sinners saved by God's grace with a righteousness not our own and commanded to love one another and bear one another's burdens -- how it is that Christians find it more likely to be afraid to share their burdens with fellow Christians than to feel able to seek help. It seems like there is a sharp disconnect between what we are -- sinners saved by grace intended to love each other -- and what we think we are -- too good to have "those" kinds of problems.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Crazy Christians

She was having some deep emotional problems, so she sought counseling from the pastor. He, in turn, directed her to a Christian therapist trained to address such issues. So she went. The sessions went on for awhile, and then the therapist asked to see her husband. Alone with the husband, the therapist wanted to find out what kinds of emotional demands were being made at home. The husband explained things this way. "I don't really have a demand that my wife love me. I know that most people see marriage as a 50/50 proposition, but I don't. Since I am fully loved by God, I don't have to demand that my wife fulfill my need for love and I am free to love her fully. If she sees things the same, then she also is free to love me fully and we would have a 100/100 marriage. I depend on Christ to love me and it frees me to love her without demand and enjoy her love for me without reserve." The therapist was silent, stunned for a moment. Then, "That's ... crazy," she said.

The company was in trouble. Business was down and declining further. The management had shifted from a "people perspective" where their greatest asset was their workers to a "business perspective" where the bottom line was money and people didn't matter as much. The result, of course, was that the workers didn't care as much and production declined. Every year -- oddly right around Christmas time -- they had an annual layoff, so regular that employees anticipated and dreaded it. "Who's next?" Someone asked the Christian guy, "Aren't you worried about getting laid off?" He answered strangely. "Well, no, not really. You see, I don't work for them; I work for God. I figure if God wants me to have this job, they can't lay me off. And if God doesn't want me to have this job, they can't keep me. So why worry?" "Oh, man," was the reply, "that's nuts."

Paul stood in front of Festus and King Agrippa in his own defense. He told them his story, about how he sought to destroy the Christians and about how Christ met him on the road to Damascus and blinded him and spoke to him and about how he met the risen Savior there (Acts 26:1-23). Festus was not impressed. "While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, 'Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.'" (Acts 26:24)

If you are a follower of Christ, you will find yourself commanded to be crazy ... crazy in the eyes of the world. You will not focus your attention on yourself, but on God and others. You will not find ultimate truth in Science, but in God and His Word. You will not depend on Man and what he can do for you, but in God whom they cannot see. You will find peace in hardships and joy in trials. You will have a source of power they don't comprehend. You will be marked by love for the brethren and for others. It's crazy, but it's not wrong. If, on the other hand, you find you fit in nicely, I'd suggest you may be doing something wrong. You might want to check into that for your own benefit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Effective, Fruitful Christian

In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-8) Jesus tells us that the "good soil" "grew and yielded a hundredfold." (Luke 8:8) In John 15 Jesus spoke of being "the true vine" and told how the Father prunes the branches "that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:1-2) Clearly, "bearing fruit" is a necessary function of all true believers. With that concept in mind, then, it's interesting to read this from Peter.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8)
Now, if you are a Bible-believing, conscientious Christian, that ought to pique your interest. "Yes, I need to bear fruit and I want to bear fruit. What will keep me from being ineffective or unfruitful?" The answer, of course, comes from the preceding verses.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Now that's quite a list. And there are some interesting features. For instance, Peter writes that we should "make every effort to supplement your faith". Now, wait a minute! I thought the Christian life was supposed to be "rest". What's with this "work" thing? And, as it turns out, the "rest" aspect is only part of the Christian life. As it turns out, work is essential (Phil 2:12-13).

The list itself is interesting. Good pieces, most of which we should already be aware. We ought to be virtuous. We ought to be godly. That "steadfastness" there refers to patience, of which James writes, "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:4) Love, of course, is the pinnacle. The list is also interesting because it is given as a "supplement" to your faith. Faith is good, but it's a starting point, not an end point. Genuine faith is supposed to produce a genuine change in character.

And notice that Peter says that these qualities should be yours and increasing. So we don't ever arrive. It is a constant work ("every effort") to build more faith, more virtue, more knowledge, etc.

If you think about it, the task seems daunting. That's a lot of work. This is where the initial phrase comes in: "For this very reason ..." You have to ask yourself, "For what reason?" Back another sentence.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
What an astounding claim! It is not that He will provide what is needed for life and godliness. It says He "has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." How? "Through the knowledge of Him who Called us." Knowing Christ. In this knowledge -- this genuine personal relationship with Christ -- we are provided with "His precious and very great promises." (Go ahead. Take a minute to list them ... all. Oh, not enough time? Right! Precious and very great promises.) It says in that text that He makes us "partakers of the divine nature", in the sense that we are escaping "from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." That is, we don't become "little gods", but we do indeed take on the shape of Christ. We are adopted (John 1:12) and being "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29). God is forming us into Christ's brothers. That form is the escape from the corruption caused by sinful desire.

So, His divine power has granted us all we need -- a done deal -- and our aim is to be like Christ. As such, we need to make every effort to add to faith in an ever increasing climb of godly character. In this work we avoid being ineffective and unfruitful.

There is, of course, an alternative.
For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:9)
Don't be that person.

It is God's call on every follower of Christ to become like Christ. Fortunately, while this occurs because we work at it, it occurs primarily because "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) It occurs because His divine power has already supplied what we need. It occurs because knowing Christ gives us His "precious and very great promises". It is in this work -- this lifelong supplementing of our faith -- that we become effective and fruitful Christians -- by our character.

Does your character reflect a personal relationship with Christ? Note that if it does not, your knowledge of Christ is classified as ineffective and unfruitful.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Wiles of the Devil

I love that phrase, "the wiles of the devil". Sounds so devious. The word is defined as "cunning stratagems employed in manipulating or persuading someone to do what one wants." Of course, modern translations don't use it. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Eph 6:11 ESV) Okay, fine ... "schemes". But don't miss the "stratagems employed in manipulating" part.

As it turns out, an alarming number of people -- self-professed Christians and even pastors included -- do not believe in Satan. We cannot include the Bible in that list. Scripture is abundantly clear; Satan is quite real. Satan's task is to oppose God. Indeed, Satan suffers from the same issue that humans do -- "I will be like the Most High." And he'd like to inflict this on others. Of course, our world is already pretty well infected. He has done his job. So he doesn't have to do much with most people. "The devil made me do it" sounds like a reasonable excuse, but Scripture says, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." (James 1:14) Still, there are those pesky Christians. As followers of Christ, we are headed in the opposite direction. So Satan has to spend most of his time working against us. He is the adversary, the accuser, the tempter, the father of lies, the murderer, the deceiver, the enemy. I think we get the trend here.

As in most things, there are two basic approaches: the "carrot" and the "stick". Either lure them or force them to a place. In terms of Satan's work, in most cases the strategy of the "stick" only works so far. In far too many cases, martyrs make for more converts, not less. Persecution, according to Scripture, makes for better believers (1 Peter 4:12-13; James 1:2-4, etc.), not worse. If Satan aims to "deceive the very elect", he's going to have to use a different method. As it turns out, the "carrot" method works much better. Rather than beating us into submission, Satan's primary ploy is to distract us with pleasures.

Oh, he's good. He's really good at what he does. Sure, there are the temptations to evil and all that. But think about it. Most of what he does is tempt us to good. Look, we know that God gave us food to enjoy. So Satan tempts us to food ... too much food. We know that sex between a husband and a wife is a gift from God. So Satan tempts us to enjoy that gift ... in other ways. Paul wrote, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:4) So looking out for your own personal interests is a given, an expected and good thing. And Satan urges us to do that ... and more. Satan takes God's good gifts and asks us to use them and abuse them.

The first trick has worked well for him for a long, long time. Remember? He asked Eve, "Did God say ...?" And Eve "was deceived" (1 Tim 2:14). She "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise" (Gen 3:6). Aren't these good things? These, in fact, show precisely the three issues John wrote about. "For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) Eve failed to keep in mind what God said. And we run the same risk when we ignore or twist Scripture to get what looks good to us.

One of Satan's documented schemes is turning believers against believers on the basis of righteousness. Paul wrote, "Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs." (2 Cor 2:10-11) The context is the fellow that was "delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh" in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. It appears from 2 Cor. 2 that he repented. Paul said it was important "to forgive and comfort him" (2 Cor 2:7) and "to reaffirm your love for him." (2 Cor 2:8) You see, a believer who falls into sin will often find it hard to be restored because fellow believers will refuse to forgive, comfort, and reaffirm love for them. That -- "righteous indignation" and its fallout -- is one of "his designs", one of the ways that Satan outwits believers. This is one of the reasons Paul warned, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." (Gal 6:1)

We know about Satan. He is real. We know he is the father of lies, a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). We know he is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10). Peter describes him as a stealthy lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul calls him "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4) and tells us he disguises himself as "an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14). Two of his favorite schemes are to tempt us with good things in a way God never intended and to pull us away from God's Word. He tempts us with money and fun and television and worldly pleasures and all sorts of "good" that, when taken as God never intended, become sin. We know, also, that we are to "Resist him, firm in your faith," (1 Peter 5:9) remembering that "you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) So "Be sober-minded; be watchful." (1 Peter 5:8)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Famine

It was actually a pretty good church. Good worship. Good preaching. Seemed alright. But I did notice a strange thing. The offerings for things beyond church -- small groups, etc. -- were all book studies. I mean, they were studying books besides the Bible. There was a study for the ladies about the life of Esther and a study for young marrieds from a book on a biblical view of finances ... that kind of thing. So I asked the pastor. "I have enjoyed your preaching from the Word," I said, "so I'm curious. Is there anywhere the people in this church can go to learn to dig into God's Word?" "Sure," he told me, "there's the class on the life of Esther and a study on the biblical view of finances and ..." "No," I said, "I'm talking about studying the Word of God." "I don't know what you're talking about," he answered.

We seem to have a dearth of Scripture in the church these days. We surely give it lip service. We're in favor of it, we say. But what we normally get is a topical sermon with smatterings of verses. I went to a church with "expository preaching" -- preaching through the Word -- where the pastor preached Ephesians 2 as an advisory on marriage. Really? Have you read Ephesians 2? There is, in fact, a downright Bible famine these days. It sounds like something I read.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
(Amos 8:11)
We have become some of the most illiterate Christians in history even while we are the most educated. We don't really want to read God's Word. We don't really want to put it together, see the "whole counsel of God", pursue the truth of it, apply it to life. "Doctrine divides," they tell me by which they mean, "Just tickle my itching ears."

It is, of course, a generalization. I'm pretty sure an accurate one, but a generalization. So if you are in a church that expounds the Word, thank the Lord. If you are in a small group that digs into Scripture, thank the Lord. If your church pushes the Bible every chance they get, thank the Lord. If not, maybe you have some work to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

News Weakly - 11/12/2016

I didn't really want to make this news entry all about the election, but ...

Yeah, sure, there was an election this week
For those who weren't paying attention, there was an election this week. Whether you're pleased about it or not, Donald Trump won the election. Okay, whatever. I did find this a bit disturbing. This African-American CNN political commentator calls it "a 'white-lash'". You understand what he means, right? Donald Trump got elected because all you white people out there that voted for him are racists. You voted for him because you are racist "against a black president". You voted for him because, as he is a racist and a bigot and bully, so are you.

So, for Mr. Jones to prejudge you on the basis of your skin color is not racist even though the dictionary defines racism as "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race". Probably written by a white racist. Or the accusation is a product of a double standard. Or we're looking at another casualty of postmodernist redefinitions where "racism" means "whatever I say it means ... and it's not what I do."

Sad Tidings
Sadly, in the wake of Trump's victory, we will be losing several celebrities who have promised that if he won they would leave. Since these are, at heart, honest people, I suppose we'll be saying goodbye to Amy Schumer and her wit, Cher and her music (she says she's moving to Jupiter), comedian George Lopez and apparently all illegal immigrants (that's what he said), the keen political insight of Jon Stewart (going to another planet, too, apparently), the charming and insightful Raven-Symone (who said she'd move to Canada if any Republican got nominated, so I'm guessing she left several months ago), the pleasing sight and sounds of Miley Cyrus (who loudly and profanely assured us, "I don't say things I don't mean!"), Samuel L. Jackson (off to South Africa), and the religious insight of Al Sharpton who declared "He'd probably have me deported anyhow." Oh, and don't forget the state of California. They want out, too. Sure, there are certainly more and I am sadly certain that they have the integrity to carry out their threats to leave, so I say a teary-eyed farewell to them all. (I am hoping, however, that Cher and Stewart both share with us the technology they'll be using to leave the planet and live elsewhere. That could be useful.)

What do you suppose ...?
... the reaction of the Left would be if Republicans marched in protest after a Hillary win (with signs like "She's not my president", a clear failure to understand the American system of government)? The caring, liberal part of our nation have called for the assassination of Trump and other violence. "There will be casualties on both sides. There will be, because people have to die to make a change in this world," one Californian protester assured us. When right-wing whack jobs said the same against Obama, they (and I) thought it was awful. I don't see too many speaking out against it this time. (I am.)

But, then, you knew all this, didn't you?

Just for Fun
Here's one not related to politics. First we read that China launched a new rocket that, they say, could take them to the Moon someday. Just a design test. No problem. Then we hear that a 15' long metal object with Chinese writing on it fell out of the sky in Myanmar. No, no connection, I'm sure. Couldn't happen.

We have always said we need to keep looking up ... you know, for the coming of Christ. We might want to do it just in case ... you know, something falls on us as well. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, November 11, 2016


When I first moved to my area, I was driving up the freeway toward my final destination and noticed a sign. It said "Surprise" with an arrow pointing to the left. And I thought, "Well, sure, but not anymore, since you pointed it out." Of course, it was pointing to the city of Surprise, but who doesn't love a good surprise?

The Bible tells us that we shouldn't be surprised at something good God has planned for us. Do you know what it is?
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; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Oh, wait. "Fiery ordeal"? No, that isn't a good surprise ... is it?

Peter says it is. Peter says it isn't strange, that it is for a good purpose -- your testing -- and that we should "keep on rejoicing". No, not just rejoicing. "Rejoice with exultation." Hang on, Lord. Is this a good thing?

Apparently it is. "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." (1 Peter 4:14) Notice that included in the concept of "fiery ordeal" is "reviled for the name of Christ". I know, I know, we don't think of being insulted for Christ as "fiery ordeal". Apparently it is. Perhaps the lightest version, but persecution nonetheless. Not at the level of execution for your faith, but it is still an ordeal. And it is a blessing.

Peter isn't done. "If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." (1 Peter 4:16) Not bear up under ... glorify God in this name. More, "Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." (1 Peter 4:19) Did you catch that? This is not random suffering. This is not "Oops!" It doesn't come upon us just because. It comes "according to the will of God". It is God's will.

Surprised? Don't be.

Will you do this? I have no doubt that our current level of insult for faith is only the beginning. Will you be surprised, or will you rejoice with exultation? Peter says, "It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God." (1 Peter 4:17) Are you ready? Are you ready to experience the "fiery ordeal", rejoice, and give glory to God? You have been informed. Don't be surprised. Trust me; it's a good thing.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


This is a marvelous passage from Hebrews.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)
I really like it. I like the imagery of running the race. On one hand, it is work. On the other, it is of limited duration. I love the "cloud of witnesses" thing (drawing from the previous "faith chapter"). We're not alone; we are the Communion of the Saints. I love the idea of a Christ-focus. "Looking unto Jesus" it says. And I dearly love the phrase about Christ enduring the cross "for the joy that was set before Him." We could learn from Him there.

The one that struck me recently, however, was that "lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely" phrase. I guess I just thought about it as "sin" and enjoyed all that other good stuff. Now I'm giving it more thought. You see, the author lists "every weight and sin". So there are two things in view here -- sin and other things. Now, I get that sin weighs us down in our race for Christ. That's a given. But apparently there are other "weights", other things that slow us down that are not sin.

What kinds of non-sin things slow us down in our race? I can think of quite a few that we keep laying around. There is television, once referred to as a "boob tube". It doesn't provide much benefit. Studies have even shown that there is more brain activity when we sleep than when we watch TV. But we're still in front of it for hours. There is this thing in front of me right now ... my computer. How much time do we spend in front of screens? Doing what? No, maybe it's not all sinful. Maybe it's just amusement. But David wrote, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless." (Psa 101:3) Not bad; worthless. In Psalm 119, the psalm in praise of God's Word, the psalmist writes, "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in Your ways." (Psa 119:37) So, less "worthless" and more "Your ways." There is amusement, entertainment, fun. Not bad on its own, but does it weigh us down? Does it cling to us? Does it slow us in our race? I think so.

We are up in arms at times about the "evils" of our society while we blindly embrace so much that is wrong. We salute American independence when we are to be "slaves of righteousness" (Rom 6:17-18). We swallow their education with its humanism and materialism and science as god and must (but may not) strain out the garbage. We applaud their values in things like how to raise children (e.g., Prov 23:14; Prov 29:14), roles of women (e.g., 1 Tim 2:9-14; Eph 5:22-24), and authority in the home (1 Cor 11:3). How do you think we've arrived at the place where Christians no longer think contraception, abortion, sex outside of marriage, divorce, and much more are sins? We've swallowed their values without evaluating them against Scripture. They've become unconscious weights.

How much are we slowed by what we own? Or what we want to own? How much of our lives are spent "trying to get ahead" instead of running the race? How many of us, in our drive to "have", find ourselves enslaved by what we have? These things aren't sin as much as weights, slowing our run. In the Arabic version of this Hebrews verse, the "weight" is specified as "the weight of luxury". How much are we slowed in our run to Christ by what we have?

There is a big problem with both of us in our baggage of people's perceptions. We keep our mouths shut for Christ because we're afraid of what people might think. We hold ourselves back because of friends and family who may not think well of us for standing on God's Word. We drag around our concern for the displeasure of others in our race, and it doesn't help.

I'm sure I've only scratched the surface. I'm sure you can come up with your own. Are you willing to do so? Not my problem. But we have a race to run. Surrounded by a great "cloud of witnesses", we certainly need to set aside the sin that slows us and run to Jesus. If we are serious about Him, we also need to figure out what extra baggage we are carrying, even if it isn't sin, that slows us from our race to Christ. How important is that to you?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election, 2016

Did your candidate win? Congratulations! Oh, yours lost? Too bad! A couple of thoughts after the election.

First, a quick reminder.
I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. ... Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Tim 2:1-3,8)
The text doesn't say "good rulers" or "those I like". We need to pray for our leaders, whoever they are.

Second, whether your candidate one or the other one one or either one, we need to keep in mind that it is God who establishes authorities (Rom 13:1). Proverbs says you get to vote, but God makes the decision (Prov 16:33). Remember, one psalmist tells us, "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation." (Psa 146:3) Another echoes, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes." (Psa 118:8-9) So we aren't trusting in our leaders to bring about our best. We're trusting in the Lord.

Do you remember God talking about Pharaoh? You know, the pharaoh that enslaved and persecuted God's people. Do you remember what God said about him?
"For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Rom 9:17)
Scripture is clear. God establishes authorities. Beyond that, God establishes them for good purposes. Sometimes it is to bless a people, as in the case of David and Solomon. In other cases, it is to discipline a people, as in the cases of Nebuchadnezzar. Always for His glory. And, after all, as followers of Christ, isn't that our first priority, too?

Joby Martin said, "If you are more concerned about politics than saving souls, then you may be a citizen of the wrong kingdom." Good thing to keep in mind going forward. Which kingdom holds your citizenship?

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


(Yes, this is Election Day. I'm posting this today for that reason in particular.)

I have long argued from Scripture that God is Sovereign. I've also said that it's a good thing. It becomes very good, for instance, at a time like this, with the current "race to the bottom" for presidency. From a Christian materialist view, we're out of luck. There are no good choices. Can't even tell what the least bad one is. Yes, folks, it looks bad for us. But wait! God is on His throne. He is good. And He does what He pleases.

In this vein, then, I thought about what God uses. Take a walk through the pages of the Bible and you'll find some interesting stories. One of the really fun ones, of course, is the whole Balaam's donkey thing. You remember the story (Num 22). Israel's enemies came to Balaam to get him to curse Israel. God says, "No." They offer him more. Balaam says something like, "Are you sure, God?" So he goes, but God puts an angel with a sword in the way. Then Balaam's donkey runs off with him. There is this whole sequence of a talking donkey. As it turns out, God used a donkey to save Balaam's life.

Think of Joseph's brothers (Gen 37-50). These sweet fellows toss their younger brother into a pit to kill him (Gen 37:20), but end up selling him as a slave instead (Gen 37:28). To make a long story short, it turns out that Joseph's adventures in Egypt end up saving the entire family (along with most of Egypt). When Jacob died and the brothers figured it was all up for them, Joseph said, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen 50:20) God used actually evil brothers to get Joseph to where God wanted him to be in order to save all of Israel.

The prophet, Habakkuk, is an interesting study here. In the first chapter, Habakkuk complains to God about the sin in Israel that is going unpunished (Hab 1:2-4) God answers, "Good news, Hab! I'm sending the Chaldeans to bring my justice." (Hab 1:5-11) Habakkuk is not pleased. "Hang on a minute, Lord, are you aware that the Chaldeans are wicked? You're going to use an evil empire to wipe us out?" (Hab 1:12-17) And God responds, "Don't worry, man. I know they're evil, and I will punish them for their evil." And so it was. God used an evil king and an evil empire to punish Israel's sin.

This one is priceless.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.'" (2 Chron 36:22-23)
Now, hang on a minute! Who is Cyrus? Cyrus the Great was the king of Babylon. He was not an Israelite king. He was not a believer. What it says in this text is "the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation." Isaiah prophesied it in advance (Isa 45:1-4). (God says there of Cyrus that He would cause him to do it even though "You do not know Me." (Isa 45:4)) So Cyrus, the pagan king, stepped up to do God's bidding in restoring Israel to its place, rebuilding Jerusalem, and building God's Temple.

But I've saved the best for last. Look at this one.
And he said to me, "The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth." (Rev 17:15-18)
Sure, this is a symbolic representation of some event in the future. No problem there. So we aren't going to name names or something like that. Still, here's what we do know. This "harlot" whoever "she" is is "riding" this "beast" which has already been identified as the forces of Satan. And it says that "the horns" -- the leaders of the people connected with the forces of Satan -- the "anti"-Christ -- will devour and burn the "harlot". Why? "God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose." Do you see that?! God uses the forces of anti-Christ to accomplish God's purposes by putting His purpose in their hearts.

Yes, I know, our current political situation looks unpleasant. And it may be unpleasant. It just may go from bad to worse. I wouldn't venture a guess. I'm no prophet. Here's what I do know. "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Rom 13:1) And if God can use Balaam's donkey, sinful brothers, pagan kings, or satanic forces to accomplish His good will, I have no problem resting in His Sovereignty to accomplish what He intends in our times, even with our "pagan donkeys" running for office. They can be useful to God's ends even without being God's followers. And if God can use donkeys and pagans, He can use you. He can even use me.