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Thursday, November 30, 2017


The big question these days seems to be identity. "Am I gay or straight?" "Am I a male or a female?" "Am I the job I do or am I more?" "Am I like my parents or am I something else?" We're always trying to "find myself." "I don't even know who I am anymore!" So we have sexual identity and gender identity and work identity and family identity and on and on. What's right? What's true? How will we know and how will we know when we do find ourselves if it's the right self? So very confusing.

How you determine your identity is a direct result of how you view the world -- your worldview. If you're a materialist, we're a biochemical bag and "Who am I?" is a mostly pointless question. You are either nothing of consequence, really, or you are anything at all you convince yourself you are. Either way, it doesn't really matter. Maybe you are looking for your identity in your emotions. "What makes me feel right?" That's sure to be vague and fleeting, since emotions are vague and fleeting. If you take a Christian worldview, you're going to have to look elsewhere. Not in nature and not in feelings. If yours is a Christian worldview, you must draw your true identity from the One who made you.

What do we know? We know that part of our identity is found in the fact that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26; Gen 9:6). That gives every human being God-designated worth. We know that God created us male and female (Gen 1:27); our gender identity is not in question. We know that believers are adopted into the family of God (John 1:12; Rom 8:15), providing a more sure and eternal family identity. We know that the Spirit gives gifts to every believer -- no exceptions (1 Cor 12:4-7). Each of us has a God-given role in the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13-27). We know that we are identified in Christ as righteous (2 Cor 5:21). That's just for starters.

You might struggle with identity. I would argue that it is a lie from Satan. The best place to find your identity is in the eyes of the Maker. His Word is not unclear. His intentions are not vague. His goodness is not in question. His accuracy is perfect. And the identity that God has created for each of us really is a good identity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Love and Hate

When a Christian says, "The Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin," it's hate, they tell us. They counter with something like, "Why is love wrong?" And we have this odd dichotomy where it appears that we are saying that the Bible is says love is a sin. So, where did we go wrong?

Let me start by answering the second question. "What's wrong with a man loving a man?" My answer? Nothing; nothing at all. Men should love men. I can't even fathom why someone would think it's wrong or someone would think that someone would think it's wrong. As a Christian, we are commanded to love the brethren, and while that's actually including the "sistren" (Is there no term for a group of sisters?), clearly Christian men are called by God to love men.

I would hope, by that answer, that you might already have a glimmer of an idea about the problem, then. You see, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Because just as I do not oppose men loving men or women loving women and, in fact, I'm strongly in favor of that, I do not hate those who commit sins. How could I? I'm one of them. And, yet, if I call out a sin, it's hate? Not rational.

When the anti-biblical view asks, "What's wrong with a man loving a man?", they're not asking about love. They're asking about sex. And when they say that it's hate to call it sin, they're not talking about hate. They're talking about a failure to embrace their desires ... for sex as they want it. The problem for them, of course, is that they aren't consistent in this position where calling something bad is hate because they call the biblical view bad and it's not hate, right?

Look, I'm not going to change their minds here. They've opted for their redefinition of both love and hate and their rejection of God, His values, and His views. It's not like it's hard to see. I'm not even sure they'd deny it. I'm talking to you who are faced with this strange dichotomy of being against sin and being called a hater when you're just standing with God. Think clearly. Love is not sex. Hate is not a refusal to embrace the sin of others. Scripture calls us to love and not to hate. But when God's Word says that bad things will result for those who don't repent of their sin, it is hate to ignore that and it is love to care enough to point out the error and offer them the solution of God's Son. Don't let them confuse you with the misuse of your own terms.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

You keep using that word

There are lots of movie quotes out there, but perhaps the most quoted movie of all time is The Princess Bride. And, of course, my favorite quote from that movie is Inigo Montoya's line, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." It's my favorite because it seems to be everywhere around us these days. "Love", "marriage", "gender", "Christian", and on and on. We all use these words but they don't seem to be used these days as they actually mean.

Today's word is "egalitarianism". Truth be told, I am an egalitarian. But that's because I'm referring to the definition of egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism - the doctrine that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status
How can you disagree with that? I mean, sure, some lunatics do. Racists, sexists, anti-Christians, that sort of thing, but any right thinking Christian ought to agree that all people are of equal value. It's a given. All humans are made in the image of God, so all people have God-given worth. We don't get to assign worth on race, sex, age, or the like. That's egalitarianism. I'm an egalitarian.

So how did it become such a divisive concept in Christianity? Of all places?! (Hint: Think Inigo Montoya.) Turns out that someone decided to keep using that word in a way that it wasn't defined. They took "equal worth" to the next (false) step and required "equality" in an absolute sense. No differences. For instance, no hierarchy (as opposed to 1 Cor 11:3, for instance), no differences in marriage roles (as opposed to Eph 5:22-33, for instance), no differences in roles in church (as opposed to, say, 1 Cor 12:4-27 or 1 Tim 2:12-14). Anyone can do anything and it is "unequal" to say otherwise. For instance, if someone submits to someone else, the one who submits is obviously the lesser (as opposed to, as the clearest example, Christ who submitted to the Father -- John 14:28 -- and even to His disciples -- Luke 22:27). So while the Bible supports differences in roles and authority and such, the Christian egalitarian opposes such differences.

To be fair, the primary argument here is not general; it is specific. It is in the arena of male vs female. Husbands are not head over their wives. Wives need not submit to their husbands. Women can do any role in the church that they want. A male/female thing. So where do they get this argument? Straight from the Bible, of course.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
(Isn't it ironic? As many times as people complain that I take Scripture too literally, they make this their "You have to take this literally!" argument.)

So there it is in black and white. "All are one in Christ Jesus." And on one point I agree -- we need to take this as written. So what is Paul saying here?

Paul offered a list of terms by which the people of his day applied worth. Jew? To the Jew, they're the only valued human being. Greek? Not at all. Slave? Not much worth. Free? Valued. Male? Valued. Female? Not so much. Paul then is carefully arguing precisely the egalitarian view -- in Christ all are of equal value. The Greek is the same value as the Jew, slave the same value as the free, the female the same value as the male. These distinctions do not change the value of those who are in Christ. What this text does not do is erase differences. Why? Well, I've offered multiple reasons from Scripture. The Bible does suggest an authority hierarchy, a marital hierarchy of responsibility, a distinction in roles in the Body. We can discuss what those distinctions are, but we cannot eliminate them on the basis that Paul wrote that there are no distinctions for those in Christ. That would simply be insanity, Paul contradicting Paul. So Paul is saying there is no distinction in Christ in terms of worth -- standard egalitarianism -- not there is no distinction at all -- the new "egalitarianism".

They keep using that word. I'm quite sure it doesn't mean what they think it means. I'm absolutely sure that, taking the Bible at its word, God's Word doesn't agree. It didn't end well for Vizzini; I fear it won't end well for the modern egalitarians.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Wanderer

Scripture talks about different kinds of people in the "Christian" spectrum. There is the blatant "false teacher", about whom John says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19) Christian in appearance, at least at first ("from us"), but not actually Christian and not remaining in the flock. There is what the New American Standard refers to as "the factious man", or the King James refers to as "the heretic", or what the ESV calls "a person who stirs up division" (Titus 3:10). This one is in our midst, obviously, but not "getting along". He doesn't "play well with other children." He's a trouble-maker. Of this one Paul says, "After warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." (Titus 3:10-11) There is the blatant sinner. Paul says on this one, "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler -- not even to eat with such a one." (1 Cor 5:11) The unrepentant sinner, marked by immorality without any apparent qualms. The author of Hebrews refers to another one called "apostate." This one has had all the right input, all the right experiences, all the right appearance, and has jettisoned it all. Of this one the author of Hebrews says, "It is impossible ... to restore them again to repentance." (Heb 6:4-6) There are, then, people who are in the realm of Christianity but demonstrate in various ways that they are not Christian who Scripture says should be let go, rejected, avoided. You might think that's harsh, but your issue would be with Scripture because it's in there.

There is, however, another category. Paul refers to a brother "caught in a transgression" who becomes the responsibility of other believers to restore in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1). James speaks of a similar concept. The NASB says they "stray from the truth", but the ESV says this:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
Interesting group. They "wander from the truth". These aren't the false teachers, the divisive types, the unrepentant "so-called brother", or the apostate. No, these sin, sure, but they are not lost causes. They aren't unrepentant. They aren't crusading for the lie. They're straying. They're wandering.

You know these types, I'm sure. They see a problem, like "Why aren't there many people in our church?", and they pursue it ... down the wrong path. Better marketing, more worldly methods, catchier programs, and they find themselves pursuing "more people" on their own without regard for God. They wandered. Unchecked, they end up in some really bad places like Robert Schuller's "positive thinking" Christianity where "sin" is defined as "feeling bad about yourself" and redemption is in a positive self-image. Yeah, it brings in more people, but without the Gospel behind it. I'm sure the Joel Osteen followers might come to mind in the same way. You see, it wasn't malice or being spiritually dead or the like. They wandered. They strayed.

God's Word gives guidance on how to deal with these people. For the malicious types, the answer is distance. Not so for the wanderer. The wanderer needs restoring. The one who strays needs to be brought back to the truth.

How do you know what you're dealing with? Sometimes it's not clear. But it's not too hard to find out. If the primary difference is "unrepentant" and "repentant", you just have to ask, right? If the person who stirs up dissension is warned twice and continues, you know what he is. Not a wanderer. If the false teacher leaves rather than being restored, you know what he is. If the blatant sinner is confronted with his sin and refuses to repent (Matt 18:15-20), you have your answer.

The hard question, then, is not what kind they are. Just do what you're commanded. Seek to restore, with a close eye on yourself, in the process Christ commanded. When it works out, it's a great thing. When it doesn't, you have your marching orders: Don't even eat with such a one. The hard question, then, is whether you will obey. (You and I.) But I suppose if we, knowing what God's Word says, refuse, we know what we are, right?

Sunday, November 26, 2017


In Paul's epistle to the churches of Galatia he has a tough message to deliver. In order to do this, he starts out strongly.
Paul, an apostle -- not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead ... (Gal 1:1)
In other words, "I am God's messenger and I was chosen by God to be that messenger, not some mere mortal."

And what is that tough message? There is no other gospel. "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:6-9) No other gospel. Not works. Not universalism. Not "love and flowers". Not any other gospel than a faith in Christ that produces a changed life.

He goes on to say, "You think this is easy?" Okay, not quite. What he actually says is,
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10)
It is that last statement that really struck me. It struck me because isn't that where we live? Do we not aim to please others?

It is in our nature to seek to please others. Oh, sure, that's generally self-centered. That is, practical altruism is predicated on the idea that "the best thing I can do for myself is to help others." That way they'll like me and want to be nice to me and ... all those good things. Genuine altruism -- looking out for the welfare of others without regard for my own benefit -- is practically nonexistent. Even if it's "Doing good for others just makes me feel better about myself," it's still about self in the end. Still, the best of us still seek to please others. It's only the sociopath that has no interest in pleasing others. Paul says, "If it is my aim to please others, I am not qualified to be a servant of Christ."

Why is that? Well, it should be readily apparent. If I am to be a servant of ____ -- whatever that may be -- my primary concern would be to please ____ -- whatever that may be. Obviously. If I am a servant of self, I would seek to please self. If I am to be a servant of men, I would with so please men. If I am to be a servant of Christ, I would wish to please Christ. Not hard to figure out. If it is not the the goal of a servant of Christ to please Christ, then that is not a qualified servant of Christ.

And, yet, this is often typical among Christians. Christians, mind you; people with the name of Christ attached to them. We are so concerned about pleasing those around us that we are willing to jettison the things that please our Lord and Savior. It is true on a personal level. It is true on a corporate level. Churches have largely shifted their structures -- their appearance and their processes, their programs and even their message -- to please people. When they go to big screen projection and updated lighting and music and more contemporary programs like "book studies" rather than Bible studies, it is not generally with the primary aim to please Christ. He is not the main goal. They figure that the goal is to please people, ostensibly so they will come in and hear the message. It is not generally with the primary question, "What would please Christ?" And when we do those things, we disqualify ourselves as servants of Christ.

We need to be careful. The songs we sing, the messages we bring, and the lives that we live need to be aimed first at pleasing our Master. Anything else disqualifies us. That's definitely a bad thing (1 Cor 9:27; 2 Tim 3:8).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

News Weakly - 11/25/17

Of Course
Last year Starbucks drew the ire of Christians because they seemed to be be eager to celebrate Christmas without, you know, Christmas. This year, it's a new twist. Apparently they want to celebrate Christmas with an LGBT message. Way to go, Starbucks. To all the Christians out there who are getting ready to leap onto the boycott wagon, relax. You can't expect a non-Christian corporation to be Christian. Be real.

Assault Weapons
Another case of deaths by assault weapons. One border patrol agent was killed and his partner was injured by rocks thrown by undocumented aliens (who are not criminals or illegal, they tell us). Of course, no one used the term "assault weapons", but surely if someone uses rocks to kill someone that would qualify as a weapon for assault, right?

People who cross the border illegally are criminals by definition. People who kill others are criminals by definition. We should honor those who risk their lives to keep our country safe, especially those who die to do it, like Agent Rogelio Martinez.

A Strange "Abrahamic Religion"
Convicted killer Cecil Koger is suing Ohio for cutting his dreadlocks. It is a violation of his constitutional rights. Because, you see, he's Rastafarian and Rastafarianism requires dreadlocks. The funny thing is they term Rastafarianism (which came about in the 1930's) as an "Abrahamic religion" because, as everyone knows, Abraham also had to wear dreadlocks.

I'm guessing that he'll win his "right to the free exercise of religion" suit even though Christians can't. Go figure.

Somebody's Gonna Pay
What happened in Las Vegas that awful October 1st night was a crime and a tragedy. Fifty-eight people dead and 546 injured. But justice was served when the killer killed himself. Or not. Now, apparently, somebody's going to pay. A lawsuit "on behalf of 450 people injured or present" -- because being present at something like that is enough to require payment -- is aimed at the deep pockets of the MGM Resorts and Mandalay Corporation for failing to anticipate and eliminate the threat. Apparently it is the job of the hotel to closely monitor guest activities. We'll see how that goes ... for the lawyers, the plaintiffs, the hotel industry in Vegas and everywhere else, and the guests who find themselves being closely monitored.

Read it on the Internet
Breaking news: Mike Pence admits to an addiction to marital faithfulness. Calls for impeachment sure to follow.

Friday, November 24, 2017


In the 5th chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans he says,
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)
Now that's interesting, isn't it? We get the "justified by faith." We get the "peace with God." We get the "exult in hope." But did we miss the point of the hope? Paul here says that the hope in which we exult is the hope of the glory of God.

Step back a moment to a prior passage. You remember that all have sinned, but do you remember the "and"? "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) The problem, you see, isn't merely sin. Oh, that's big enough, but the real problem is that sin falls short of the glory of God. The problem, then, is that God's glory is diminished. That's why sin is such a big problem. Sin isn't just "bad things"; it's an assault on the glory of the Most High. It's the same problem we see at the outset of the epistle.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:21)
I would suggest that this is the main theme, the primary heartbeat of the problem of sin. It started in the Garden when Satan asked, "Did God really say ...?" It continues every time we opt to do things our own way without regard for God's glory.

It's hard, too. It is easily possible to do "good things". Your typical atheist will do "good things". We know what constitutes good things. Be nice. Help people out. Don't lie, cheat, or steal. Lots of those things. But the Bible says that among Natural Man "there is none who does good; no, not one." (Rom 3:12) How is that? Because the only good that can be done that is really good is that which is done by God for His glory. Christians are commanded to let their good works shine in such a way that the Father is glorified (Matt 5:16). Good works done for any other reason are not good works.

I'm convinced that we get lost and confused many times because we're not thinking of why we are doing what we do. We don't understand the purpose. Since all things are to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), the correct "why" is actually quite easy -- that God may be glorified. Good works, compassion, how we run our worship service, what job you choose, what spouse you choose, how you raise your kids, and on and on ... the "why" of all that we do must be that God be glorified. Anything else, no matter how good it seems, is sin.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving, 2017

In everything, give thanks. Like ...

... the standards:
- Wife
- Parents
- Kids
- Family
- Employment
- Living in America
- Health
- Wealth
- Comfort
- All the good things

... the less noticed:
- Running water
- A hot shower
- A roof over my head
- Transportation
- Feet on which to put shoes
- Eyes with which to see
- Functioning body parts
- Air to breathe

... the unexpected:
- "Unanswered prayers"
- Missed opportunities
- Red lights
- A dead battery
- That horribly-timed flu
- The lost job
- The death of a loved one
- Bad news from the doctor

In everything give thanks. Everything. Try making your own list. I have a lot more to go.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Too Big 'a Eat

Rodney Allen Rippy was a kid in the '70's known for his Jack in the Box commercials. This cute little kid looks at one of those big hamburgers (because he is, after all, a little kid) and says, "Too big 'a eat."

I look at Romans and sometimes think the very same thing. Take, for instance, Romans 3. This passage is huge. Look at the 19th through the 26th verses and you will find just three sentences. Just three. And the second sentence begins with "But", so, in essence, we are really looking at one ... long ... run-on sentence. Way to go, Paul. To be fair, Greek didn't follow English rules for spelling, punctuation, or sentence structure, but, still, this really seems to be "too big 'a eat."
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:19-26)
In the first part of the chapter (Rom 3:1-18), Paul rounds out the whole last two chapters of the intense accusation of sin against all mankind -- the "bad news" that began back in Romans 1:18. Here he turns the corner and starts the Gospel, the good news introduced in Romans 1:16 -- the power of God for salvation. So he starts with "Now", clearly a change of direction.

First he makes it clear that the law won't save anyone. Law doesn't save; it condemns. In verse 21 he begins, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law." A change -- "but". The change? The righteousness of God made plain in a different way. In what way? "Through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." Okay, now we're getting somewhere. Because the problem is clear -- "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

I know you've heard that before. Were you aware that it's not a complete sentence? Were you aware it's in the middle of a sentence? See? "Too big 'a eat."

So we have the universality of sin and the righteousness of God manifested through faith in Christ for all who believe. That is, all who believe have their sin problem fixed. (That does not mean that all have their sin problem fixed; just those who believe.) Paul concludes, "This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed." So between the sin problem and this conclusion, something shows God's righteousness in passing over former sins. What is that?

God showed His righteousness by putting His Son forward as a propitiation -- an appeasement -- by His blood. That's the "what". In that blood appeasement of His righteous wrath He demonstrated His amazing righteousness by being both just and justifier. God did not have to wink at sin. He didn't have to cease to be Just. Nor did He have to surrender either grace or mercy. In the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf God demonstrated Himself to be both just and gracious and merciful.

All this from three sentences. You see, if you don't chew carefully, it really might seem too big 'a eat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

American Idol

You know what idolatry is, right? It's anything we substitute for God. It's anything that we put in God's place. The most obvious is a wooden image or a statue or something, but that's not us. We're too sophisticated for that nonsense. No, we've moved on. So the 21st century idols include Science, money, power, fame, sex, "stuff", and on and on. No silly brass bust for us, eh? Humans are born idolaters, beginning with self.

The sad thing is that Christians are not immune even if we're sometimes oblivious.

There is politics. "Wait ... what? How would politics be an idol?" Well, if we understand that all authority is established by God (Rom 13:1-4) and that it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), then it would be contrary to God (read "idolatry") to then lean on politics as our means to obtain a better world. And, yet, lots of Christians view politics in just that way. If we can get the right guy in office, the right party, the right judge, the right people, then we can "make America great again", and not in that silly Donald Trump way. Except that this is not our aim in life, and politics are not the answer. So when we look to politics to be the answer, we're making an idol in place of God.

There is morality. Many Christians believe that if we can just make this world a more moral place, it will be a good world. Now, God's Word says that there is none who does good (Rom 3:12). God's Word says the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth (Gen 8:21). Morality is not the answer, and, yet, many believers think it is.

There is economics. Money is the problem; more of it will solve the problem. If we could get more from the government or more from the rich, the world would be a better place and the problems -- problems of poverty, hunger, education, crime, etc. -- would go away. There are Christians who think this way. There are Christians that think that we can solve church money problems by proper investment techniques. There are Christians that give a nod to "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" and still think that money is the answer. Even though the truth is that the answers are found in Jesus, not in money.

There is apologetics. "Oh, now, hang on a minute! How can the defense of God be classified as an idol?" Consider. How many well-meaning, enthusiastic Christians these days are eagerly pursuing apologetics as a means to win souls? The idea appears to be that if we can present the right argument, the right facts, the right evidence, then we can make converts. They're not yet believers simply because we've not yet given the argument they need to hear. But is that what Scripture says? Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." (John 6:65) Paul wrote, "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) Conversely, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). Paul said that faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom 10:17).

Now, don't go away thinking that I'm saying all those things are bad. They're not. We should be involved in politics -- voting, etc. (1 Tim 2:1-2). We should be moral (Matt 5:16). We should care for the poor Luke 14:12-14). We must defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:3). These are good things. We should be involved. My only concern is when we make them the endpoint, the answer, thethings in which we place our confidence, that is idolatry. "Little children, flee idolatry." (1 John 5:21).

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Lousy Pray-er

I'm sure you've been there. In a group or with a friend. "Will you pray for me?" they ask and then give you a reason, a crisis, a decision, something that they need prayer for. All well and good ... the kind of thing we're supposed to do. It's just that ... well ... I'm a lousy pray-er.

Oh, it's not that I don't know how to pray. Nor is it that I don't pray much. No, it's that I don't pray like I'm supposed to. You know. We're supposed to pray for health and wealth and comfort and protection and all that good stuff. "Dear God, heal" or "protect" or "give" or "speak to" or some such. I don't do that very well.

I never pray for comfort when discomfort might be better. I never ask for healing when pain might be preferred. I don't ask for shielding when exposure might be the best thing. What I want is God's will, and we know that God's will includes suffering. We know that God uses the sin of others for good (Gen 50:19-21). We know that trials produce completeness (James 1:1-5). We know that suffering for Christ is God's will (1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:17-19).

So when I pray, I don't ask for "pleasant". I ask for the best. If that's healing, good enough. If not, bring it on. If that's comfort and protection, that's good. If not, I want what's better. Health and wealth and socially secure is all fine and good, and I'd thank Him if He gave it, but my deepest longing is for His will. And when I pray for others, I want what's best for them, too.

So, if you ask me to pray for you and don't like it if I might pray for something other than what you're hoping for, don't ask me. Sorry. I want what's best. Best for me and best for you. Unfortunately that may not always be the most pleasant. Fair warning.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


I know ... it's not Thanksgiving Day. However ...

In Paul's epistle to Rome, he starts out with a claim: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom 1:18) In what way have we suppressed the truth? Well, we've ignored what God tells us about Himself (Rom 1:19-20). And then we read this:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:21)
The way, then, that we've suppressed the truth in unrighteousness is that we've failed to honor God as God or give thanks.

Really? "Give thanks"? Is that so bad? I mean, look, isn't that what we expect from people? You buy your child a gift and do you expect thanks? No. So why does God expect it of us? Because He's God. Because it's right.

The fact is that this results in "the wrath of God" -- the big, big problem for sinful mankind. It's why sin results in death. It's why Christ had to die. A failure to honor God (Rom 3:23) and thank Him meant that our only hope lies in His propitiation -- His appeasement of the righteous wrath of God toward us.

But, look, I write primarily to Christians. So that's not us, right? I mean, it was but no longer ... right?

So we're heading into a holiday aimed at giving thanks. As if that's enough. As if that's all that is required. Instead of "In everything give thanks" (1 Thess 5:18), we're tempted to think we're okay with a hearty day of giving thanks. But if we know who God is, if we honor Him as God, it would seem to me that "in everything" would be much, much bigger than the last Thursday in November.

So, how about this? Let's give thanks. Today. Tomorrow. All week. Then do it again. And again. Over and over. I guarantee it is not possible to actually run out of things for which to give thanks ... since that's supposed to be "in everything", right? Starting now.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

News Weakly - 11/18/17

This Day in History
On November 13, 1998, then-President Bill Clinton agreed to pay Paula Jones $850,000 to drop her lawsuit claiming that he espoxed himself to her in a hotel room in 1991. He admitted no wrongdoing and offered no apology. Of course, Clinton finished out his term. He was impeached for perjury, but Democrats defended him on the sexual abuse charges. His affair with Gennifer Flowers was completely ignored.

Compare that with the current GOP push to eliminate Roy Moore from completing his senate race amidst the strangely-timed accusations of sexual abuse 38 years ago. Now, there is no defense for sexually abusing anyone. Ever. On the other hand, it is not unheard of for someone to falsely accuse another person. So, I'm not defending Moore. I'm contrasting the GOP's response to questionable suspicions of wrongdoing in their midst as opposed to denial of and defense by Democrats of more reliable accusations of those in their own camp.

Protesting Life
Actress Mila Kunis admitted to Conan O'Brien that she has "a monthly, reoccurring donation to Planned Parenthood set up in Mike Pence's name." The article says it is a "'peaceful protest' to express her disagreement with Pence's pro-life platform." Planned Parenthood applauds her opposition to life.

Rainbows and Unicorns
This week Australians voted to legalize same-sex "marriage". In other news, PETA, the animal rights group, has started the campaign to have unicorns declared an endangered species.

(In case I'm being too obscure, there are no unicorns, and there is no "marriage" that can be called "same-sex". Australians, like so many others, have voted in a nonexistent thing ... to the detriment of the real thing.)

Strange Business Plan
The media is reporting that an "anti-Trump hotel is coming to DC." A "we hate the president so we're going to make a hotel" hotel is going to be opened in Washington D.C.? What does that look like? No frills? No comfort? Certainly no foolishness. (Hey, maybe they could have a Twitter block?) A hotel built on "merging hospitality with progressive social change." Now just what does "progressive social change" have to do with a hotel?

I don't have to support Trump to find this idea completely ... silly.

Another Great Story
Sure, it's the Babylon Bee, but this is a great story. An atheist missionary goes to Papua New Guinea to teach the heathens there that there is no God and their existence is meaningless. They break out in joy ...

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Problem of Polls

As everyone knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, "81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump." How do we know that? Exit polls. There ya go!

Here's the problem. Polls in and of themselves are problematic. They take a sample, not a whole picture. And they ask questions. In today's world, that is a problem. In a society that cannot grasp "male and female", the idea that "marriage" means something, or that a thousand other terms that are commonly understood are not commonly understood, how would we expect a poll to be accurate? Worse, since most polls are "opinion polls" and we know that the world is blinded (2 Cor 4:4) and deceived (Jer 17:9), why would we expect good, valid opinions?

Consider. How many Americans are in favor of banning assault weapons? Well, I'd argue that it is impossible to tell because there is no definition of "assault weapons" available to ask about. The dictionary says "a weapon designed for use in warfare", but that would include knives by that definition. One set of definitions includes rifles with telescoping stock and pistol grip. That's an assault weapon definition? Another says that if a handgun weighs 50 ounces when unloaded, it's an assault weapon. What about baseball bats? Can't they be used for assaulting people? What about knives? On the same day of the terrible Sandy Hook shooting, a man in China attacked 27 school children with a knife. That's certainly assault. But, we have no clear lines, so when we seek to ban "assault weapons", thinking we're all in agreement, we're not.

We know this is the case in these polls about religious beliefs and such. The Pew Research Center recently reported that less than 50% of Protestants believe in Protestant beliefs. Yikes! Except my very next question would be, "So ... how did you determine 'Protestant'?" Because if we're going to determine Christian beliefs, won't we have to ask Christians? And we know there is a large number of "Christians" who are not Christian. I remember one poll at the turn of the century (the 21st century) said that some 95% of Americans believed in God and some 75% of us were Christians. Wow! Some revival, eh? Because, if you followed the line down, you'd have found that only 15% of them went to church and only 5% said it made a difference in how they lived. Now James says, "Faith, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:17) So James would suggest that "Christians" without a change in how they live are not Christians. But, hey, they self-identify as Christians and they self-identify as Protestants and they self-identify as Evangelicals, so they must be, right?

In a world that allows a guy to self-identify as a girl or even something in between but refuses to allow a white woman to self-identify as a black woman, I think viewing "self-identify" as a valid statement of truth is a dangerous thing. And when "I'm a Christian" is claimed in defiance of everything Christian, I think the validity of that claim should be questioned. So when I read polls or even self-identifying statements, I have to wonder. "Do you know what those terms mean?" It used to be that words mean something, but we're way beyond that now.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Flickering Candle

The longest chapter in the Bible is the 119th Psalm. This is an entire psalm dedicated to the praise of God's Word. It includes such memorable lines as "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word" (Psa 119:9) and the quite famous, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psa 119:105) That idea is repeated in Peter's first epistle. "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) God's Word is a light in a dark place. It provides clarity, guidance, and truth. Got it.

Or ... at least it did. Does it still?

If the loud voices these days have their say, not so much. The Bible, they tell us, is a good book and all that, but you can't really be sure what it means. It is dangerous to be too confident. It isn't to be taken as written; it should be held loosely. It has a lot of myth and legend, a lot of metaphor where it looks like history and allegory where it looks like plain language. And, let's be honest, it's not easy at all to understand, so we shouldn't really say "It means this" with any serious conviction.

Let's feed that back into the psalms, then. What we have here is a dim light -- not well lit, not too bright, not clear at all. How can a young man keep his way pure? Not that way, that's for sure. I mean, if God's Word says that those who indulge in homosexual behavior (among other things) won't inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) and we can't say for sure that this means what it says, what good is it for keeping a young man pure? If we can't take the plain statements of God's Word as plain statements, to what possible degree is it "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path"?

It's simple. "Did God really say ...?" can be a question asked to seek for the genuine understanding, or it can be a question intended to deny what God really said. When we relegate His Word to myth and unfathomable possibilities, it is not a question for understanding. And we cannot say, with the psalmist, that God's Word provides any real light at all. Just a flickering candle that is being replaced by electric light of science these days. God's Word may be true (2 Sam 22:31; Psa 18:30; Prov 30:5; 2 Tim 3:16-17), but if it is as uncertain as they say it is, it is not reliable, useful, or even remotely sufficient. Which, I think, is their point. Is it yours, too?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Theology of Adultery

On more than one occasion, the Bible connects idolatry and adultery (e.g., Hos 4:12-14; Isa 57:1-3; Ezek 6:9; Jer 2:23-24; etc.). Interesting connection. And you can see why. In the Old Testament Israel was referred to as God's wife and in the New Testament the Church is the Bride of Christ. So when the "wife" or the "bride" is unfaithful to the "husband", it is called "adultery". We get that.

But what does adultery say about God? Adultery says the same thing about God that it says abour marriage. In adultery the adulterer says, "This mate you gave me is inadequate. I need something more. You shortchanged me." It demeans the character of God and diminishes His ability to give us what is best for us ... which is the definition of love.

Now, if we say, "Oh, no, it just says that we made a bad choice early on," there is another message here. That message is that God is not Sovereign. That message is that God does not work all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11), that God does not work all things for good to those who love God (Rom 8:28).

Either way, we end up with a god of diminished capacity.

Paul says, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom 2:24) He is speaking there about God's people who ignore God's instructions, those who affirm the law while dishonoring God by breaking the law. Our sin is not merely a poor reflection on us. It is a poor reflection on the character of the God we say we love. It is much, much bigger than a moral faux pas. It tarnishes His glory. This is why I daily plead the blood of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Crush of Culture

We were in a group looking at Leviticus (of all places). We were looking at the sacrifices made. Lots of sacrifices. Daily. Very bloody. A whole lot of work. And one of the women in the group asked, "Why does it say that the men did it? Why not the women?"

Fifty years ago no one would of have likely asked. No one would have likely thought about it. Fifty years ago respectable young men were taught to protect women, to care for women, to respect them and be kind to them. Send them out to slaughter and cut up a cow? Not likely. But we've come a long way. In 1967 nearly half of all mothers were stay-at-home moms. In 2012 the Pew Research Center reported that number was down to 29% after a low of 23% in 1999. Even those in the church are pretty sure, even if they don't say it, that women in the Bible had a pretty poor time of it. Fifty years ago female pastors were frowned upon. Only 30% of households had both parents working full time. In 2000 that number was above 50%. Let's face it; you've come a long way, baby. No longer do you expect to be cared for, pampered, looked after. That's sexist. Submit to your husband? No way! Not allow women to be pastors? What kind of backwards nonsense is that? Even deep in the church we find that the decades of cultural feminism has invaded our thinking until we're pretty sure that when God's Word says something contrary, God is wrong.

Let's talk about child-rearing. The Bible is not vague about the use of corporal punishment. When Solomon (repeatedly) refers to the use of the "rod", he's certainly talking about corporal punishment. You will find the argument that "the rod of discipline" refers to a measuring tool. "They used it to verify the length of things." So "the rod of discipline" was intended just to provide guidance, create boundaries, and track progress. This is all well and good, except that it doesn't fit either the historical understanding of the concept or the texts or contexts (Prov 10:13; Prov 13:24; Prov 22:15; Prov 23:13-14; Prov 26:3; Isa 30:31; Lam 3:1; etc.) (cp Heb 12:3-11). Jewish rabbis always understood the "rod" in these texts to be corporal punishment and Solomon's admonitions to be a warning against abusing one's children by neglecting sufficient discipline. The Church, as well, has historically understood the Bible to teach that corporal punishment, applied carefully and with love, was the right thing to do. No longer! Our culture has decided that God was wrong. More "Christianized" versions still have to argue that the Holy Spirit failed for 4,000 years to get this across and they (meaning modern science) have finally figured out the truth. And, either by twisting the sense of the texts or overriding them with "science" and "data" and "irrefutable proofs" that all of Judaism and Christianity has failed1, they've managed to convince Christian parents that the Jews, the Church, and the Scriptures were all mistaken on this point. Essentially, the culture has fixed another biblical error.

Those are just two examples. Over and over the culture has sought to invade the Church. It is not uncommon to hear people say, "The Church has to change" and mean that biblical beliefs must change. Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a book about Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told her audience "religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." In the wake of the LGBT sexual revolution, modern Christianity is told that the Church must change or die. Individuals -- divorced, gay, pro-abortion folk, whatever their particular axe to grind is -- insist that the Church must alter its theology to embrace their sore spot. We're not talking about adapting to technology or adjusting worship styles. We're not talking about correct correction, like embracing sin that should be rejected or being judgmental toward fellow believers. We're talking about doctrine, biblical beliefs, historical orthodoxy. Despite the clear biblical instructions and explanations we are given, modern society and modern Christians actually think that the culture has the right and capacity to change what God has said all along is right or wrong. And we, so often, fail to see that in ourselves. Why is that?
1 Something that surprises me (perhaps it shouldn't) is that the loudest voices in opposition to a biblical perspective of corporal punishment applied in love are often the same voices that oppose restricting the murder of babies in the womb. That seems totally contradictory.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Not in There

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard the claim, "That's not in the Bible." Often I've heard it because I'm making it. "Cleanliness is next to godliness" is not in there. It's not in there in words or in spirit. "The Lord helps those who help themselves." Not in there. Not only is it not in there; it is actually refuted. Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) "If we pray, God will heal our land." That's actually sort of in there (2 Chron 7:14), but it's not quite correct. It's a promise to Israel at the time and, while we can count on God always taking care of His people, "our land" is not part of that certainty. How about the ubiquitous "Money is the root of all evil"? Nope, not in there. Oh, you may think you can point to the verse, but what that one actually says is, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." (1 Tim 6:10) That is, it is not money that is the problem, but loving it, and it is not all evil, but all kinds of evil.

Amid all of these fallacies offered as biblical and are not, you might think that it doesn't go the other way. It does. Routinely people tell me, "That's not in the Bible" when it actually is. "That homosexual behavior is a sin is not in the Bible." Yes, yes it is. You may not accept it, but it's there. "But there are only 6 references" which, by the way, means that it's there. "But they don't mean that." So, you may disagree with the interpretation (despite the fact that the language says it and that all of history has believed it), but at this point you cannot say it's not in there. One of the most popular ones? "The Trinity is not in the Bible." While it is true that the word "trinity" is not in there, it is unavoidable that the doctrine is. (I gave that last sentence with that link because there is far too much Scripture on the subject to list here.) They say it's not in there, but that is blatantly false. Ever popular is the idea that "The doctrine of election is not in the Bible." I would suggest that it is unavoidably in the Bible. Pick up any concordance. Look for "elect" or "election", and don't forget "chosen". It was no less than Jesus who said, "Many are called but few are chosen." (Matt 22:14) We may differ about the mechanism of election, but the doctrine that the saved are chosen is absolutely certain.

It was this very argument I heard the other day. "You know, you're Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not in the Bible." This is fascinating to me because the entire entry was from the Bible. I took a passage (Rom 5:8-10) and pointed out how every single component of the principle was in those verses. Now, more than one person objected to the doctrine and more than one suggested that wasn't what the text meant, but not one said what it did mean that was not what I said it meant. Beyond that, there was no acknowledgement of the multitude of passages (not merely verses) from Genesis through Revelation on the subject. That is, it is in the Bible. Scripture is full of the penalty of sin ("penal"), that Christ died for us ("substitutionary"), and that His death provided the propitiation of the wrath we earned and brought us into a right relationship with God ("atonement"). The claim cannot be made that "It's not in there." It can be said that this is possibly the primary message of the Bible. A failure to acknowledge this does not constitute proof that it's not in there. The claim might be made that "It's in there, but that's not what it means." Doing so defies the language, but it could be attempted. But the flag was thrown -- "It's not in the Bible" -- and the penalty called and, therefore, we're supposed to assume it's not in the Bible. End of argument.

My point here is not that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is in the Bible. It is, but that's not my point. My point is not that the Trinity or Election are in there, or even that the Bible is clear on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. All that is true, but that's not my point. My point here is that we need to know our Bibles. We need to know the texts and the contexts. We need to know the cross references, the underlying biblical principles, the overarching concepts. We need to know, as an example, that "the blood" is not the issue, but that "the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." (Lev 17:11) That is, it is the life that is the issue, not some "blood sacrifice". We are woefully biblically illiterate these days. We are exactly what the author of Hebrews bemoaned.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:12-14)
We have had so much opportunity for good Bible teaching and good Bible study and access to good Bible tools that we ought to be teachers. Instead, we cannot tell that homosexual behavior is a sin or that cleanliness is not next to godliness. As James said, "My brothers, these things ought not to be." If the Bible is God's Word and if the Word of God proves true (Psa 18:30; Prov 30:5), then we ought to be wholly dedicated to this instead of playing at the edges.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Agony and Victory

As we are all aware, this last Sunday a crazed gunman walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed 26 churchgoers. The youngest victim was 18 months old; the eldest was 77. The pastor and his wife were not there that day, but their youngest daughter was among those killed. One family, the Holcombes, lost eight family members across three generations. Joann Ward attempted to shield her children with her own body. She and two of her daughters died, but two of her children survived. One couple, the Marshalls, had just retired to the area and were attending the church for the first time to try it out. Both were killed. Robert and Shani Corrigan were dedicated to God and ministry. Recently they suffered the suicide death of their oldest son. Last Sunday they went home to be with the Lord. The pastor's wife said that a quarter of their congregation was dead and the church building itself was likely beyond repair.

It is tragic. It is horrific. It is agonizing. It is only made worse by the perpetrator. Court-martialed for assaulting his wife and step child in 2012 and dishonorably discharged from the Air Force in 2014, he was a known problem. He escaped a mental health facility in 2012 after being sent in there for attempting to carry out death threats against his military superiors. He shouldn't have even been able to buy a gun. He had attended the church but was asked not to come because the pastor considered him dangerous. And then there was his rage at his ex-mother-in-law who attended the church but was not there that day. It's all disturbing because it's so crazy. President Trump said it was a mental problem; I would argue that it is a sin problem.

And yet ...

It is only in Christ that we find any sense of hope in tragedy like this. Christ was perfected in suffering (Heb 2:10). He was despised and rejected (Isa 53:3). The author of Hebrews said, "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." (Heb 2:18) That is, in our trials, we know we have one who suffered as much as we do. Peter wrote,
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
Elsewhere he wrote,
This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:19-25)
In Christ we find true comfort and even purpose in the things we suffer, finding both first in His own suffering.

Really high on the list of things to consider as believers is the justice of God. For a moral system to make any real sense, there must be justice. If there is no expectation of justice, there can be no meaningful moral system. And we know that in this life justice is not a given. But God is a just God, and we can be absolutely certain that justice will be served. There is no chance that justice in this and every other situation will not be served.

Another consideration is the claim from Paul that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph 1:11) This means that nothing happens by chance, that nothing happens without a reason, more so that nothing happens without a good reason. Alongside the promise that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Rom 8:28), His Sovereignty provides the greatest of comfort when we struggle with why it looks like bad things happen to good people. That is, they don't. Only good. Despite what it might look like. And always to His glory. As Spurgeon said, "When we cannot trace God’s hand, we are simply to trust his heart."

Death is the ultimate horror to most people. Paul wrote,
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)
Death, for believers, is not the end. Christ was victorious over death and He gives us the victory.

Ultimately, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, 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 8:35-39) Ultimately, even in death, we are more than conquerors, Christ is victorious, and good will come of it all. We have the promises of God on that.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

News Weakly - 11/11/17

How Does That Work?
For a long, long time environmentalists have been warning about, first, that dreaded ozone hole that we have been causing and, subsequently, the whole global climate change issue. We're doomed, I tell you, doomed. So how does that work when the news comes out that "Higher temperatures over Antarctica this year shrank the hole in the ozone layer to the smallest it's been since 1988"? Doesn't that appear to say that "global climate change" is fixing a problem? I'm not sure I can follow this.

(Note: This is not climate change denial. This is the statement that we don't know how all this stuff works and what is good or bad.)

Spike of 1
"Spike in US gun death rate for second straight year," the headline reads. We should all just stop there. We have what we need to know. Guns can kill people and people are using them to do it. Got it. Get rid of guns. Except the actual story is a little different than that. The CDC reported that in 2015 the deaths from guns was 11 per 100,000 people and now it "spiked" to 12 per 100,000 in 2016. That's down from as high as 15 per 100,000 people in the 90's. So 1 is a spike? Or is this less-than-honest reporting? In the military they have a term: "Fire for effect." Is this "reporting for effect" rather than expressing the truth?

"If we do it, it's not playing politics."
In the Obama era, any time the GOP "played hardball", threatening filibuster or obstruction or ... whatever, the president and the media was quick to call it "partisan politics". It was not "principles" or the like. It was pure politics. But now that the Democrats are threatening to shut down the government if they don't get their way on DACA, it's not partisan politics, right? Or is this just more of the long and lengthening list of double standards being paraded in front of the public?

Legally-Mandated Insanity
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that there are two genders -- male and female. It isn't some social construct; it is biology. In every other possible aspect we are not unclear. A white person is not a black person, even sort of. A tall person is not a short person. You won't find a 7'2" black basketball player trapped in a 5'4" Asian body. We know this. But gender is another question, apparently. This is unclear. New York declared 30 genders. Facebook offered 50. And Germany's top court has ordered that lawmakers must legally recognize a "third gender" from birth. They ruled that the "male or female" system ... get this ... is unconstitutional. Materialists, where is your god (Science) now?

In a similar vein, Virginia has elected the first openly transgender state legislator in history. That is, "He doesn't know what male or female is -- or, at least, what he is -- but we are pretty sure he'll be able to make reasonable decisions in the legislature. And don't call him 'him'. Wrong pronouns will get you into legal trouble."

Didn't See That Coming
A real hot button these days is Social Justice. You know, issues of poverty, social well-being, justice, that sort of thing. Well, the research is in. Apparently the #1 social justice imperative -- the thing that goes the farthest in preventing poverty and improving social welfare -- is ... wait for it ... marriage. Didn't see that coming. From better income, education, and life opportunities to decreased child poverty, improved graduation rates, and greater overall success rates, marriage appears to be the single biggest factor. The report says that marriage boosts every measure of human well-being. Now if only we could recover exactly what "marriage" means, perhaps we could make a stand for Social Justice.

The point of the Reformation -- what has become known as "Protestantism" -- was to return the Church to the original plan found in God's Word. You know ... those five solas and such. It was what differentiated the Roman Catholics and the Protestants ("Protestants" = those who protested the Roman Catholic position). And we were proud to do it. That is, we were. Now, some 500 years later, it seems that Protestants are more Catholic than Protestant. Pew Research Center found that less than half of Protestants believe that faith alone is sufficent to get you into heaven or that the Bible is our sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Some 52% say that faith and good deeds are needed to get into heaven (like the Catholics do) and 52% believe that the Bible, the church's official teachings, and tradition form the structure of our faith (like the Catholics do). When putting the two together -- sola scriptura and sola fide -- only 30% of Protestants believe in both. Evangelicals scored highest, but even there it was only 44%. An amazing 30% of Protestants claimed belief in purgatory.

The Reformation occurred some 500 years ago, but the move back to biblical Christianity needs to recur. Apparently often.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rights and Wrong

No, this one is not about who is right or wrong. And, no, I didn't misspell "rights" in the title. I'm wondering about what we've declared to be our "rights" and whether or not they might be wrong. I'm thinking, first and most obvious, about that whole 2nd Amendment thing. Do we really want to keep that in our "Bill of Rights"? I mean, do we really want to keep the right to bear arms as a right in today's society?

Look, the situation is ... not good. How many ... 58 people killed in Las Vegas and a staggering 546 wounded because of a gunman? And there is the worst mass killing in Texas where 26 people, ranging in age from 18 months to 77 years old, were gunned down by an angry son-in-law. The CDC says gun deaths were up by 4,000 in 2016 over 2015. To call it "not good" is an understatement. So maybe ... just maybe ... it's time to delete that amendment and take the guns out of the hands of the people. All of them. They've done it in other countries and gun deaths plummet every time. (Please tell me you're paying attention here. If you take away guns, gun deaths plummet. If you take away automobiles, automobile deaths plummet. None of this means that deaths plummet.) Maybe it's time.

But, since we're considering one right that might be wrong, maybe there are a few more to look at? I mean, we have been on a rampage redefining the language and their resulting concepts over the last few decades -- think "marriage" or "male and female" for instance. Why not the rights? And we've already tinkered with the Amendments to the Constitution; why stop now? Take the obvious one -- the 14th Amendment. It guarantees the "the equal protection of the laws" to all persons. Except when it comes to the unborn, they decided to define them as not persons. By arbitrary standards. I mean, in the womb they are not, but after birth they are, and when exactly that transition occurs from "not" to "person" is not defined. So, look, if we can tinker with that, why not others?

How about that "free speech" nonsense? Everyone knows that free speech is good as long as it's the speech we allow. It's not good when it's not. So we shout for "free speech" and then seek to prosecute those who use certain terms or whatever we deem to be "hate speech" (regardless of whether or not it really is hate speech). Ask around and I think you'll find the younger generation is no longer on board with the whole "free speech" thing. They want to limit it, to protect people from feeling bad, to stop you from using certain speech.

And we're all pretty sure the "free exercise of religion" clause has got to go. No one wants that if you really think about it. We do not want to let the jihadist who believes that murder is the "free exercise of religion" to go ahead and practice it. And most of us are quite sure that religion needs to stay out of the public square -- by force of law if necessary -- even though religion by definition infiltrates the lives of those who hold to it and, therefore, the public part of that life. That is, a religion that can be compartmentalized is not a valid religion. Still, if a religion believes or practices things we don't accept, shouldn't we be free to block that? Sure, we can be generous, but dangerous things like suicide vests and belief in Creation should surely be eliminated for safety sake, shouldn't they?

You know, I bet if we think about it carefully enough, we could probably solve a lot of problems if we could just eliminate a lot of what have been called "rights" but make us ... uncomfortable. Sure, sure, we may not like the results. And it should be obvious that when we start down this road of stripping off rights that we don't accept it will very likely lead to stripping off rights we do, but that hasn't stopped us thus far, has it?

Thursday, November 09, 2017


So, I'm reading along in my Bible -- just happen to be going through Proverbs -- and I come across this:
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. (Prov 29:15)
And I found myself wondering. If a child who gets his own way "brings shame to his mother", what does it look like when a nation of children get their own way? Conversely, if we have ruled out the option of "the rod and reproof", what option do we get?

Anyone who is willing to look can see that common sense in our culture is waning. That is, it's not common. But if wisdom comes from the proper discipline and training of children and we have ruled them out, I don't know what else we should expect.
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Harm Principle

David Benatar is a professor of philosophy and head of the department of philosophy at the University of Cape Town, where he is also the director of the Bioethics Centre. He published a book in 2006 that argued that "coming into existence is always a serious harm." Benatar believes that "People should never, under any circumstance, procreate." Benatar even appeals to Ecclesiastes for support. He argues that "all lives contain more bad than good, and that they are deprived of more good than they contain." Benatar's argument is that it is immoral to have children. (You may be thinking, "What ... is he advocating the end of the human race???" Yes ... yes he is. His concluding statement at the end of this "anti-natalist" essay is, "The question is not whether humans will become extinct, but rather when they will. If the anti-natalist arguments are correct, it would be better, all things being equal, if this happened sooner rather than later for, the sooner it happens, the more suffering and misfortune will be avoided.")

I gave the link; feel free to read it for yourselves. He gives a lengthy argument about the harm done to and by human beings. He spends a significant portion detailing the harm to the planet done by humans. His argument against the existence of human beings at all is an argument from harm. And we all know that's the best way to determine morality -- "Does it cause harm?" I wondered, when I read the article, how a professor that advocated the end of the human race could possibly be the director of bioethics. That's how. And this is the same "high road" taken by many childless people today. "It is impossible to choose to procreate from anything but a selfish and/or irrational reason." Another (interestingly Hindu) source argues, "Let me start by stating three principles that I think you would agree with. One: We should not cause suffering to others. Two: We should not kill anyone. Three: Consent is all-important, and we should do nothing to others without their consent." And since procreation violates all three -- "you are basically bringing a person into this world without their consent, where they are guaranteed to a) suffer, and b) die." -- well, you can see the conclusion.

I've asked this question before. No one seems to have an answer. What makes us humans think that we know what "harm" is? Why do we assume we are clear on what "good" is? We are so sure of this stuff that we are even willing to blame God for not being good. And when Paul claims "No one does good, not even one," (Rom 3:12) we're quite sure he's wrong. It doesn't matter that we've made a practice of declaring "good" that which God says is not and finding that harm results where we never saw it coming.

Solomon wrote, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked" (Prov 28:4), where "the law" is a reference to "God's Word" (as opposed to "civil law" or some such). Clearly without God's Word we will end up calling "good" bad and vice versa. We can be quite clear that "good" is defined not by our preferences or opinions, but by God. Similarly, we can be equally sure that "harm" is defined not by our ideas, but by God who made us. The "harm principle" as a method of determining morality is a failed system primarily because humans are sinners who are deceived and blind. Followers of Christ and His Word ought to know better.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Thinking about Free Will

One thing we all know for sure; humans have free will. Or ... do we? I mean, do we all know it? As it turns out, the question can get quite difficult. At one end of the spectrum are those who argue, "No, in no real sense do humans have free will at all." Of course, the most ardent on that end are the atheists, the materialists that believe we are biochemical machines and, therefore, all emotions and all choices are mechanical -- hormones, mechanical triggers, chemicals, whatever -- but not "free". On the other end there is the "Absolute Free Will" side. At the very extreme they even argue that we can do anything we choose to do, as if that's even reasonable.

And then there is the problem of defining free will. defines it as "free and independent choice", with a philosophical definition of "the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces." After that it gets sticky. Characterize "free" and "independent", for instance. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has multiple definitions. There is choosing on the basis of desires, but is that "independent" or is it dependent on one's desires? Another is deliberately choosing on the basis of desires and values. Is that "free" and "independent"? The third is "self-mastery, rightly ordered appetite". Now is that "free" and "independent"? One study suggested that we decide to do something shortly before we will to do it. Now that's strange. And there are different kinds of free will. There is Libertarian Free Will, the idea that we can choose without coercion, cause, or interference, internal or external. There is Compatibilist Free Will, the notion that humans freely choose what God has determined they will choose. And, of course, from there it just gets more and more confusing.

Good news! I'm not going to solve the question! What I am going to do is lay down the structures we have to work with and then you can decide what is and is not the case. Do we have free will? If so, in what sense? And various other questions. So let's look briefly on what we know to be true and you can work from there.

We know from Scripture that God is Sovereign (1 Tim 6:15; Eph 1:11) -- He does whatever He chooses. The same cannot be said about us. We have limitations, from the inability to flap our arms and fly away to the inherent problem of sin and the inability to please God without faith (Heb 11:6). God has no such limitations. We also know that God is perfect (Matt 5:48). In that perfection the Bible is clear that God is Omniscient. He knows all things (John 16:30; 1 John 3:20). No exceptions. No contingencies. And He knows it all perfectly -- no errors.

"So, then, apparently we do not have free will." Not so fast.

On the other side of the ledger there is the certainty that we are culpable for sin. Now, no one who is forced to commit an act can be legally liable for that act. So clearly from our side of the picture we have some sort of capability to choose or not choose sin. We know that God does not tempt anyone to evil (James 1:13). We know that sin is the product of our own desires (James 1:14-15). We are not coerced into sin, and certainly not by God. In fact, Scripture is full of references to commanding us to make choices (e.g., Psa 25:12). If no free will existed, these would be manifestly pointless. So there is something that is "free will" in human beings.

It seems, then, that on the topic of free will we run into a conundrum. On one hand, it is impossible for God to not know all things and not know them perfectly. As such, it is not possible for any of us to choose that which God did not foresee we would choose. On the other hand, we are culpable for our choices and make them, so it is not possible that there is no free will. We have this collision, then, of God's view and Man's view. As a prime biblical example, consider Judas Iscariot. Scripture is not unclear; Judas was predestined to betray Christ. Scripture is also not unclear; Judas was responsible for his choice. These two ideas collide in a single verse (Luke 22:22).

If free will is defined as autonomy, the ability to choose to do anything at all without coercion by others, God or self, then I have to say that this is manifestly nonexistent. All choices have limitations, even without factoring in God. We do not get to choose anything at all ... ever. As such, free will, as it exists, is limited. On the face of it, it is limited to the possible. We cannot choose the impossible. After that, the question of what is possible becomes the issue, starting with both the question of our capabilities as spiritually dead sinful people (Eph 2:1-3; Rom 3:12; etc.) and the influence and Sovereignty of God (Prov. 21:1; Prov 16:4; Prov 16:9; Prov 20:24; etc.). But we can know for sure that some form of free will exists. In the end, then, we have to eliminate the two extremes -- "There is no free will" and "It's all about our own free will." -- and find that middle ground that keeps God as Sovereign and Man as culpable and making choices. When your definition of free will allows for that, you're closer to the truth.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

One of the most "offensive" concepts in biblical theology is the concept that theologians refer to as Penal Substitionary Atonement. Some call it cosmic child abuse. Some call it a narrow-minded view of God -- "Why does God need a blood sacrifice to forgive?" Others just think of it as too barbaric -- blood sacrifices and all that. All of this is, quite frankly, irrelevant. The only relevant question is does the Bible teach it? I think that much is indisputable.

Look at one place, one passage.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:8-10)
Okay, now let's examine the words of the concept against the words of the text.

Atonement is the process of making "at one", of removing the walls between two parties, of bringing about reconciliation by repairing the wrong. Now, let's see ... it says in the text that we have been "justified" and "we were reconciled to God". How do these occur? The first is "by His blood" and the second "through the death of His Son." That is atonement -- reconciliation. It's in the text.

"Substitutionary" means "in place of something or someone else". What does the text say? "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." "For us" means "in our place", "on our behalf", or, "as a substitute for us". It's in the text.

"Penal" refers to paying a penalty, of paying the just price for a violation of a law. Is this one there, too? Yes. There is a penalty for sin. It is "wrath", being "enemies". When it says "we shall be saved" it means there is a price -- the need to be saved. And it says that "we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." That's paying the penalty. That is satisfying the debt, paying the price.

The question is not, first, "How does that feel?" "Oh," they complain, "it sounds so barbaric, so brutal, so unkind, so primitive." Fine. But is it right? If God's Word teaches it, then how it feels is irrelevant. If it feels wrong, it could be because we have deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). The trick, then, is to take God at face value and stop trying to make God make us feel good. Accept as truth what God's Word says is true and, once there, you'll find it actually feels pretty good.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Drops in the Ocean

Hawk Nelson sings a popular song, Drops in the Ocean, that starts with "I want you as you are, not as you ought to be." I, of course, question that. I mean, sure, we come to Him as we are, but is it not a given that He wants us as we ought to be? Even Nelson sings, "I'm the only love that changes you." So He does want us as we ought to be. And my point is that we are not as we ought to be ... and He wants to bring us there.

That stuff, however, is not my ultimate reason for mentioning the song. My point is this phrase in the chorus (the title phrase):
If you could count the times I'd say you are forgiven
It's more than the drops in the ocean
The drops in the ocean.
Really? That's a lot of drops. Or, rather, it speaks of a lot of sin to be forgiven ... and a lot of forgiveness dispensed. And it speaks of the immensity and perfection of the price paid by my Savior. Now, I don't really know Hawk Nelson, his theology, or his doctrine. What I do know is that, given the wages of sin (Rom 6:23), we've sinned much. And those who are forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47).

Most of us think that we're bad, but not all that bad. Scripture appears to disagree. I think that the magnitude of our sin -- my sin -- as suggested in the song is accurate. I think that we don't normally think so, but I think it is. And it is because of the magnitude of my sin, bigger than I imagine, that my view of His grace and mercy is so large. Forgive a slight? Human. Forgive a grievous sin? Noble. Forgive what I've done against my God? Astounding. Incomprehensible. I don't have the adjectives to express it. It makes me want to shout praises to the glory of God.

Some people complain that it seems like an eternity in heaven praising God will be boring. I'm only concerned that it won't be enough time.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

News Weakly - 11/4/17

Prepare for the Cleansing
A 40-foot tall cross that is a World War I memorial from 1925 could be ordered to be removed almost a century after it was put in place. Why? It's on public land. And everyone knows that a 40-foot tall cross is a government establishment of a religion. Oh, it's not? Well, try to tell that to the general public. The article refers to "a 'cleansing'". Picture, as an example, the fields of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery wiped clean. That's how the anti-theist (and their inadvertent lackeys) will paint it. "We're doing you a favor, America. We're 'cleansing' things." As if an anti-God country is "clean" in any sense. As if they'll stop at a WWI memorial.

I am opposed to sexual harassment. I'm opposed to sexual abuse. All bad things. I am in favor of definitions, however, and I'm really, really not clear. The story says, "Women protested sexual abuse and harassment Sunday in 11 French cities under the #MeToo banner." The sign says, "Feminism is the new sexy." Now, if a man says that a woman is sexy, is that harassment? (Hint: It very well could be.) If a woman tells a woman she is sexy, is that harassment? (Possible, but far less likely. See Ellen DeGeneres ogling Katy Perry.) If a woman calls a man sexy, is that sexual harassment? Very unlikely. So when is it okay to call someone "sexy". And if a man agrees with the sign, is that sexual harassment?? And isn't "seeing women as sexy" something they wanted to protest? Oh, it's really confusing.

Casting the First Stone
The church that George Washington helped to found is removing the plaque that honored him. As Trump suggested they would. (AKA "It's not a slippery slope fallacy if it actually happens.") Washington, you see, owned slaves. The article says, "Critics say there is no place in modern America for symbols associated with racism and slavery." So, I'm wondering ... how about any symbol of the Democrats? (Note: According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Republican Party was formed in the 1850's on the basis of an anti-slavery platform, bitterly opposed by the Democratic Party.)

In Answer to the Question
Since the November election of last year multiple people have asked me, "Why did so many Evangelicals vote for that man?" In answer to the question, may I submit Exhibit B. Apparently Hillary's campaign took over the DNC. "Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile writes in a new book that it 'broke [her] heart' when she discovered evidence that she said showed Hillary Clinton’s campaign fixed the Democratic nomination system in her favor." I didn't vote for the man, but clearly Trump was not the only less-than-scrupulous candidate in the race.

In Celebration of the Reformation
Apparently the pope was celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this week. He was offering "offering thousands of hot deals on indulgences for the forgiveness of the temporal punishments for sin in purgatory." Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, November 03, 2017


There is a group of people in the Christian realm that call themselves cessationists. If you haven't heard the term or don't know the concept, let me fill you in. Cessationism is the principle that the miraculous gifts (usually referred to as the "sign gifts") of the Spirit were only conferred in the New Testament time period, solely for the purpose of establishing the early church, and ended when the Scripture was in place. The view is in contrast with continuationism which holds the opposite -- these gifts continue today.

Back in 2013 John MacArthur had a conference titled Strange Fire. The title is a reference to the "strange fire" offered by Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for which God killed them (Lev 10:1-3). MacArthur's conference included names like R.C. Sproul and Joni Eareckson Tada, to name a couple. You can find a thorough argument for the case of the cessationists there. (You can still hear the messages on that link I included.) Thomas Schreiner offers his own explanation of "Why I am a Cessationist" on the Gospel Coalition website. The arguments are there.

Of course, there are many (read "all pentecostals and charismatics for starters") who vehemently protest the position. "Of course those gifts haven't stopped. Just look at folks like Benny Hinn and the like." Probably not the best argument. Others are less reactionary. John Piper refused to agree with the cessationists. He characterized himself as open to the gifts, but not advocating them. On the same day that Schreiner's piece on being a cessationist came out, Sam Storm gave his Why I am a Continuationist article.

Me? I would say, "Yes and no." Am I a continuationist? Yes. That is, I do not find the biblical arguments that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased to be a convincing argument. Too vague. Not clear enough. "Oh, then you believe that the miraculous gifts continue?" No ... not really. "Er ... how's that?" Look, I don't find the biblical arguments convincing. I don't really see a clear indication that the miraculous gifts have ended. And what are miraculous gifts? Who gets to decide? On the other hand, I have never seen those kinds of gifts exercised in my lifetime. Not once. Ever. I've looked. I've asked. I've tried. But when I look at what tongues or healing or the like look like in Scripture and then compare that to what I've seen, it has never been like what it looks like in God's Word. As a simple example, at no time have I ever been in a church where "If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God." (1 Cor 14:27-28) Not ever. So while I see no biblical principle that will convince me that tongues have ended, I also see no modern practices that tell me they haven't.

I'm not hard over on this. I haven't been everywhere and seen everything. I'm still open to biblical positions one way or the other. But I'm in this middle ground where I can't see that they've ended and I can't see that they've continued. So what does that make me? Bicessational? Both? Neither? I don't know.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Bait and Switch

You've heard of the ol' bait-and-switch routine. The easiest example is those car ads in the paper or on the Internet. "Come see this brand new Ford/Chevy/Whatever, regularly $45,000, but we have one today for just $20,000" or the like. And, of course, people flock to the dealer to find, oh darn it!, they sold that one just before you got there. But, hey, you can still buy one like it, only it's $42,000. Such a deal! In the consumer market, it's actually illegal. But it happens in lots of other places.

That first example would be in business where it's illegal (but that doesn't stop it from happening, does it?). It happens in politics. You remember the story of Representative Tim Murphy who got himself elected on an anti-abortion platform only to be caught urging his mistress to abort her unborn child. Bait and switch. It happens on social media all the time, where that "really cool guy" on that dating website turns out to be a 55-year-old pedophile. And it happens in churches.

"Wait ... what? How so?"

Glad you asked. Here's the current popular model. We've changed the name from "seeker sensitive" to "attractional church" because, well, that "seeker sensitive" term wasn't very sensitive. But it's the same corpse flower by another name. Here's the idea. Make the church to be so attractive that sinners will want to come in and then we can give them the gospel and -- boom -- we've fulfilled the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). And that, dear reader, is what is known as "bait and switch". You give them the bait -- "Come on in! We have friendly people, music just like you like on itunes, fun programs for the kids, helpful therapeutic programs for adults ... it's all good!" -- and then the switch -- "Oh, and while you're here, you'll need to pay with a few minutes of the gospel." Just like the "Come in and listen to our spiel and we'll give you a free car!"

There are a few problems with this approach. First, the obvious assumption is that what was going on before wasn't working. You know, all that Bible teaching and stuff. "Preaching the 'Word', hymns, that kind of thing. Who wants to hear that? That'll never bring in the crowds." Because apparently the goal is to "bring in the crowds." Which, of course, you won't find in the pages of Scripture. Not that crowds are bad; it's just that there is no command to bring them. Second, when the goal becomes bringing in people, then the tendency is to eliminate things that get in the way of meeting that goal. One obvious thing would be making people feel uncomfortable about, say, their sin. And, oh, by the way, the gospel is one of those things (1 Cor 1:18, 22-24). So what often happens is that "here's the gospel" moment gets moved farther and farther out until it's no longer visible. I cannot tell you how many youth events I went to growing up where we were encouraged to come and enjoy (and we did) but never actually heard anything like "the gospel". When we did, the unbelievers mostly just turned off anyway. Third and, most importantly, there is a presumption that God is insufficient. The suggestion is that only sufficient means are the tools of the world. "Yeah, yeah, the Bible says there is power in the Word (Rom 1:16; Rom 10:17; Heb 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Tim 3:16-1; 1 Thess 2:13; Isa 55:11; etc.), but we know they're not paying attention. We need to get their attention in other ways." The work of the Spirit (John 16:7-11) is insufficient. We have to woo them!

And so we lapse into this "bait and switch" technique thinking we're doing God favors. His Spirit is nice, but there aren't a lot who are listening. His Word has power, but it isn't drawing in the people. It isn't ... attractional. Fortunately we've figured out the techniques that God never had available in His day. Making mature Christians (Eph 4:11-16)? Naw. That's not the aim. Making disciples? Surely not! Too much work! So we settle for marketing techniques that are illegal in the marketing world. Bait and switch.