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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Sin and the Sinner

People have famously said we should "Hate the sin; love the sinner." Whether or not that's true, we can all understand the concept, I believe. I mean, we can understand that there is a distinction between an idea and an "idea-er" (yes, I just made that up). In easy terms, a 12-year-old boy may delight in the idea of slaying dragons, but offer him the opportunity to try his hand at it and he'd likely (if he had any sense) refuse. That's an easy concept. There are ideas, and there are people, and we ought not confuse the two.

Now, I do this, even regularly. I oppose what I call "gay mirage" because I think it doesn't exist regardless of what the crowd says, but that doesn't tell you how I will respond to those who are in it. I believe that the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is a sin, but that doesn't tell you how I relate to those who practice it. There is a clear distinction to me between an idea and those who carry it out. So it seems obvious to me that we can "Hate the idea; love the idea-er." (You know, using that word more often doesn't make it any prettier, does it?)

This is why I am surprised at the seemingly large and certainly loud number of people who think otherwise. They appear to think that if I oppose an idea or an activity I hate the person engaging in it. Opposition to so-called "same-sex marriage" is declared "hate". If you believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, you are "homophobic" and "bigoted." If I consider it wrong to jettison God's Word in favor of Man's Reason, they think I am "intolerant" of those who do it. It seems to me, from the prevalent furor on this kind of thing, that I may be rarer than I think I am. It looks like the majority cannot distinguish between the idea and the idea-er. If you hate the idea, you must hate the one who carries it out. I know I don't, but my objections generally fall on deaf ears.

It seems to me, then, that there are logical ramifications if what looks to be true actually is. If the majority of people cannot distinguish between a view on a concept and a view on the people that engage in that concept, then I can expect other things. They are hostile to God (Rom 8:7), so I should expect that they would be hostile to God's people. They hate Christ (John 15:18), so I should expect they will hate those who belong to Christ. They despise Christianity, so I should anticipate they will be hateful and bigoted toward Christians. And I think, if you look around, that's what you see.

It isn't a big deal. This isn't a "martyr complex". It was promised by Christ and we shouldn't be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). We aren't at the mercy of those who would victimize us; we're in the hands of the Master. Jesus said it would happen. I'm just pointing out that it likely will. And I'm hoping that you won't be among those who hate the sin and, therefore, hate the sinner. Our call, regardless of what the rest of the world does, is to love our neighbor. Let's just keep doing that. We should "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:16) Even if -- especially if -- they don't like you (Matt 5:43-47).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Now, this is interesting. Isaiah the prophet passed on to his people what God told him to -- all about how the Assyrians were going to come in and wipe them out. Judgment. That sort of thing. But in chapter 10, God says, "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation." (Isa 10:5) Now, wait a minute. Assyria is "the rod of My anger." Assyria is the nation God sent to annihilate Israel. So ... why is He saying "Woe" to them?

It's not like it's the only time. Habakkuk complained to God that He wasn't doing anything about Israel's sin. God replied, essentially, "Don't worry about it. I'm bringing down the Chaldeans to judge My people." "Hang on," Habakkuk replied, "the Chaldeans are worse than we are!" (Hab 1) God tells him not to concern himself about them, and Habakkuk 2 is a litany of the woes God will visit on the Chaldeans ... for carrying out the judgment on Israel that God ordained them to do.

We find the same thing in the New Testament. Jesus said, "For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" (Luke 22:22) That is, Judas was ordained ("it has been determined") for this task of betraying Him and Judas would be held responsible for it. And not just Judas. In Acts we read, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28) That whole "killing the Son of God" thing? That was carried out by evil men performing evil acts that God predestined to occur.

We (mistakenly) think -- quite often, I think -- that God only does "nice things". God only arranges the pleasant events in life. If bad things happen, it wasn't His doing. He had no part, no intent. We are wrong to think that. Scripture says, "The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil." (Prov 16:4) Just like the story of Joseph, where his brothers meant it for evil, God was there intending it for good (Gen 50:20). So bad people do bad things that God allows for God's purposes. They are still culpable for their evil even when God uses it for good. He allows that which He hates in order to accomplish that which He loves. He holds those people responsible for the wrong they do while working it together for good (Rom 8:28).

Some Christians don't like that. Some don't want a God who doesn't only do nice things. Some balk -- sometimes vehemently -- at the idea that God allows, even causes calamity (Isa 45:7). I rest in it. If I can be confident that everything that happens occurs within the realm of His control, I can relax in the toughest of circumstances knowing that He -- not they nor I -- is going to bring it to good even when they intend otherwise. The alternative, to me, is terrifying.

Monday, January 29, 2018


I saw a friend the other day. He was limping. "Oh, that looks painful. What is it?" "I hurt my ankle." "Too bad. How long ago?" "A month ago." "Really? Have you seen the doctor?" "No, no, it's minor, I'm sure. Costs too much to see a doctor." Now, this friend has good insurance and good income; it was not a case of insufficient funds. "Oh, I see," I replied. "You're fine with a permanent limp as long as you die with a few extra dollars in the bank." "Well," he answered, "yeah, I guess."

Generally speaking, "economics" is the management of limited resources. You have Y dollars on hand and Y x 2 dollars in bills; you need to decide where that Y will go. And the resources are not merely in terms of money. They would include all resources -- time, talent, effort, etc. We all engage in this form of "economics", where we weigh the "cost" (in terms of whatever resource we're considering) and decide if we'll spend it on "this" or on "that" since we can't do both. Limited resources.

Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21) Have you thought about that? It is easy to tell where your treasure lies (and, therefore, where your heart is) by observing your choices -- how you manage your resources. Does he buy cigarettes and beer before necessary medication? You know his priorities. Does she shop for clothing before she shops for food? You know her priorities. If "my reason" supersedes God's Word, you know your priorities. Do you decide to sleep later rather than get up early and spend time with God? Then you know your priorities. If it's just too much trouble to involve yourself in the lives of God's people at church, you know your priorities.

We all do it. Every day. What do your daily choices tell you about what you treasure? Is that what you intended?

Sunday, January 28, 2018


In Nehemiah 8, after the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, the people gathered to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses (Neh 8:1). While he read it (for half of the day!), the people stood (Neh 8:5) and worshiped (Neh 8:9), and when they heard it, they wept (Neh 8:9). Nehemiah, the governor, told them "Do not mourn or weep," (Neh 8:9) and told them to go home and eat. "And do not be grieved," he added, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh 8:10)

Think about that for a minute. What did that mean? "The joy of the Lord is your strength." It could mean, "The joy that God has should strengthen you." That is, "God is joyful that we've done this today and that should give you strength." It could mean, "The joy that God gives should strengthen you." Clearly Nehemiah was differentiating between regular joy and what they were experiencing that day. That is, it was not "Let's party because we feel good!" This joy was "of the Lord", not fleshly. Given the context -- the reading of God's Word -- it would appear that this joy was a holy joy in the goodness and grace of God. The answer to my question, then, would be the "joy of the Lord" is the joy that the Lord gives, but we must remember that this joy that the Lord gives comes from the joy that God has. In a sense, then, the answer is "Yes."

In what sense does the joy that God gives (from the joy that God has) provide strength? To me, it is the key. If we have joy in God, it is the best possible motivation for serving Him. We can do it out of duty, but that's more work. We can do it out of fear, but that's not strength. But if we find joy in the Lord, then serving Him is great, not just duty or fear. If the thing that really makes you happy is serving God, then it is the strongest position to have.

Often we are perceived as dour. People think of us as killjoys -- no joy for them and no joy for us. They think we're stern, no fun. I would suggest that people think of that because, honestly, too often it is accurate. But, brothers and sisters, these things ought not be. We serve the Risen Savior, the Creator of all. We serve the God of love, the Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Jehovah. We are in the service of the King of kings. Why? Because He saved us and replaced our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Because it is our joy to do so. When we represent the Christian life as a life of duty and drudgery, we misrepresent the joy that the Lord gives and miss out on the strength we can gain from it. Sometimes, I think, we need a realignment in our thinking and feelings because, in fact, "the joy of the Lord is your strength." And that's certainly something we can offer to others.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

News Weakly - 1/27/2018

In Case You Hadn't Heard
A porn star is confirming that Donald Trump cheated on Melania with her. And the people are wondering why conservative Christians are being so quiet.

Now, to me this is not news. Christians (and the rest of the world) knew he was a philanderer before they voted him in. They knew about his "locker room talk" to which he admitted in his crude discussions of women and his views on them. One of the reasons I couldn't vote for the man was because we were all reasonably certain that he was an adulterer, and a man who will cheat on his wife will easily cheat on his nation as well. Why it is that other Christians who are actual Trump supporters are being silent on this is not something I grasp. Is it right to say, "Well, look, he's acting in our best interest in 'these' issues, so we'll keep silent in 'those'"? I think not, but that's between you and your God to decide.

Religious Freedom
A group called the Satanic Temple is suing Missouri because the state's informed consent law requires women to see an ultrasound of her fetus and pledge to read a booklet that states that the "life of every human being begins at conception." Since she does not believe that a non-viable fetus is a human being, her religious freedom was violated and the informed consent law "has essentially established a religious indoctrination program intended to push a single ideological viewpoint."

A couple of thoughts. First, the fact that the life of every human being begins at conception is not a religious ideology; it is medical fact. Second, if anyone is going to win a "religious freedom" argument in court these days, I'd bet it would be this "nontheistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights." (Notice how, when it suits them, they can argue that a religion does not have to have any basis in a belief in deity.)

Speaking in a Sound Bite World
Erykah Badu is a singer/actor/activist. She is under fire because she had the audacity to say, "I saw something good in Hitler" and "I love Bill Cosby." Bad ... really bad. Oh, of course, she has explanations for it all. The "good" she saw in Hitler she says is that he could paint well. And she loved Bill Cosby for "what he's done for the world." Her point was to think for yourself, not be driven by loud public voices (like, she explained, the crowd that called for Barabbas to be freed instead of Jesus).

I read some of the interview. She was asked, "Is anything being lost in how younger people absorb music?" She answered, "You can’t roll a joint on the cover of a digital download." I was amused that they're angry about her finding something good in some people but they didn't mind at all that she was bemoaning the loss of a place to prepare illegal drugs. But the real problem is this outrage over her Hitler and Bill Cosby comments. Don't find out what she said. Don't consider the ideas she's trying to put out, like "Don't get caught up in the public furor" and "Think for yourself." Oh, no. She didn't castigate these two hated characters as per the public furor and group-think crowd, so they're mad.

A Gospel Moment
Rachael Denhollander is one of Larry Nassar's victims. Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison after more than 150 women said in court that he sexually abused them. Rachael was one of them, but her impact statement was phenomenal. In the middle of her statement, she began, "In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you." She went on to tell him, "The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me -- though I extend that to you as well."

Now that is a woman who has experienced the grace, mercy, and empowering of God and that is a powerful statement for the Gospel.

The Latest Baby Craze
In recent times the classical "baby shower" has been replaced with or augmented by a "gender reveal party", where friends and family gather to learn the gender of the nearly-arrived newborn. There is sure to be a new trend coming, now that we no longer believe in a "binary gender" paradigm. A "progressive OB/GYN ultrasound tech" refuses to tell her patients the gender of the baby. Instead, she suggests parents "do the responsible, loving thing and wait five or six years and then ask my child how they would like to identify." Then you can do the gender reveal party.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet

Friday, January 26, 2018

Who are you going to believe?

I don't know where I saw it. A wife catches her husband in some sort of compromising position (whether or not he was actually compromised). She is irate. "Now, honey," he tries to say, "who are you going to believe? Me or your eyes?" Of course, we all know the answer ... and it wasn't the one he was hoping for. Because we much more easily believe the obvious.

And, yet ...

Paul wrote, "Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." (Rom 3:4) Who are you going to believe? God or your eyes?

So we believe our eyes, at least figuratively. Which is true? "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." (1 Cor 11:3)? Or, "Men and women hold equal authority in marriage."? Depends on where you're looking, doesn't it? Are you going with the standard worldview or with God's Wordview? Which will it be? "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17)? Or, "The Bible has some good things to say, but it's silly to think that it is completely reliable, authoritative, or sufficient."?

Just a couple of examples.

The truth is Scripture is full of stuff that is not patently obvious to us. Nay, it flies in the face of "logic" -- logic driven by fallen minds without regard to what God says. And, if you think about it, isn't that what you would expect? Would you really think that a book "breathed out by God" would be "quite human"? I don't think so. It would be divine and, as such, not in line with the thinking of fallen Man.

We are constantly changing, constantly being shaped. We can either be conformed to what we see around us or we can be transformed by the renewal of the mind (Rom 12:2). Who are you going to believe: your eyes or what God says? Paul already told us what he recommends.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Standards by Comparison

When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding." (2 Cor 10:12)
Paul here addresses a fundamental problem that, I think, is a the core of a majority of our difficulties with perspective, both as humans and as Christians. The problem, basically, is the standard. The problem of the standard we use to measure is that it is us. The problem is that this is not a viable standard.

We do this all the time. Am I pretty enough, smart enough, capable enough, good enough? Am I a good person, a good parent, a good spouse, a good child, a good sibling? We answer these kinds of questions by looking around at others. "How do I compare to them? Do I stand up to their standards?" But it goes way beyond that. We will typically answer the question, "Is God good?", on the basis of us. Do people feel like He is? Do I like what He does? Does He meet our expectations, conform to our standards? We compare God to us to see if He stands up to our scrutiny. Often He doesn't. That's why we have theodicy (the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil). "It doesn't look good for God; we're going to have to get Him out from under this pile of a problem. We're going to have to explain away His deficiencies. Because if He was more like we expect He should be, He'd be okay."

In all of this we demonstrate, as Paul said, that we are "without understanding."

If we started from the right place, it would change rapidly. If we start with "God has revealed Himself as ..." and work from there, it changes dramatically. We know, for instance, that God is good. No question. It's part of His nature, part of His character, one of His attributes. So why do we feel the need to vindicate His goodness? Instead, what we would really need to do is point out that 1) God is good, so 2) whatever He does is good and 3) we need to realign our understanding of "good" with the God who defines "good". But ... we don't seem to want to do that. We are unwilling to budge. Even Christians. Especially Christians (who should know better).

We know, for instance, that God claims, "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things." (Isa 45:7) One respected fellow believer told me, "If I believed that God did that to me, I'd have a hard time with God." That is, "God would have failed to conform to my standards of what I consider good." We are comparing God's standard of good against our own and He is in danger of being found wanting.

God's Omniscience requires that He knows everything, including who will and who will not be saved. Jude writes of people who were designated before time for condemnation (Jude 1:4). And a dear church lady told me, "If that's true, then God is making people who He knows will not come to Him!" In other words, "God would have failed to conform to my standards of what I consider good." We are comparing God's standard of good against our own and He is in danger of being found wanting.

Scripture repeatedly says things like, "The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." (Prov 16:4) We know that He "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11), "does all that He pleases" (Psa 115:3), and that "none is able to withstand You." (2 Chron 20:6) Clearly "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Prov 16:9) And, yet, the objection always arises, "But ... what about Free Will???" Or, to put it another way, "God would have failed to conform to my standards of what I consider good." We are comparing God's standard of good against our own and He is in danger of being found wanting.

It is bad enough when we compare ourselves with ourselves as our measure of what is good and right, demonstrating that we are "without understanding". We have a tendency, however, to compare God with ourselves as a measure of what is good and right. We need to strike that, reverse it, and look again. We need to start with what God says about Himself in His Word and work back down to correct our misguided ideas.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Doctrinal Disarray

The teacher for our small group was absent Sunday and asked me to fill in. Who would have thought it would be so disheartening to teach a group of older church people? I suppose it was my fault. I dropped the "bomb" in the room. It did not go well.

The topic was "Sanctity of Human Life Sunday". The texts were Acts 16:16-19 (the freeing of the fortune-telling slave girl) and Psa 139:13-16. (I figured we could skip that one since it was the text for the sermon. I should have followed through with the idea.) The Acts stuff went mostly okay. Then we got to Psalm 139. A short passage, fairly straightforward, but, I guess, not. One person pointed out how verse 15 proves that God made us all at the same time -- Creation. "How?" you ask? It says he was "woven in the depths of the earth." See? At the beginning. It only degenerated from there. The lesson and I both pointed out how "my unformed substance" (v 16) was considered by all commentators as a reference to the embryo, which, I thought, was important -- demonstrating life, biblically, begins at conception. But our "verse 15" person pointed out that God has a sort of "spirit box" where all human spirits already reside and God just puts them in when each is conceived. See? "Unformed".

That was just the prelude. The real event was all on me. Verse 16 says, "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." I asked a "simple" question. "If that phrase is true, is it possible to conclude that things happen in your life that God did not plan?" I'm thinking, "If we can see that God plans everything, we can have confidence in Him in any situation." Wow! What a mistake! The "Free Will" argument (I capitalize those words because most who lean on the concept emphasize it as superior to God's will) was tossed out there. "If God plans everything, then we don't have Free Will." The problem of "double predestination" was targeted. "If God plans everything, then God plans for some people NOT to be saved." The problem of "bad things happen to good people" was thrown in for good measure. "If GOD caused those unpleasant events in my life, I would find it unacceptable." The number of faulty, unbiblical-yet-firmly-entrenched doctrines was sad. Really sad.

What are we doing wrong? (By "we" I mean "we" as a local body of believers, "we" as Christians, "we" who are to make disciples, "we" who care about God, His truth, and each other -- all of us.) How can the absolutely basic and fundamental concept of the Sovereignty of God be in such disarray and disuse in what would seem to be a Bible-based church, even among lifelong church folk? There was no way to handle all the various arguments and stray concepts that were thrown out there, chase down the logical catastrophe each would cause, and demonstrate from Scripture where they should go. On one hand there were too many to handle in the time available and on the other they were so far away from Scripture that they would require quite some time to walk through. Even if that was possible, it would have been offensive to a good third of the class, so strong were their convictions.

I find myself in a dilemma. Is there a solution to this? Or is this "just the way it is; get used to it"? And, beyond that, is it even "safe" to address this? To take people from their current, comfortable version of their faith to a biblical version is often traumatic. It often produces more heat than light, so to speak. Do we really want to allow for that? Isn't that how churches get split? Which is more important here -- right thinking (orthodoxy) or people in the pews?

Rhetorical questions, I suppose, because I don't think, when you're looking in the eyes of the people you're addressing, there are easy answers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Good and Bad

I read this in Isaiah and had to think.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)
God: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27)

Us: "Oh, no, we are not gender binary. There is an array of genders out there."

God: "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5-6; Eph 5:31-32)

Us: "Marriage is not man and woman, but whoever and whoever ... and that whole 'one flesh' thing is bunk."

God: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image." (Gen 9:6)

Us: "The death penalty is evil ... except in cases where the unborn child is not wanted."

God: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Us: "There are lots of good, even Christian homosexuals, sexually immoral, idolaters, and, hey, even the greedy and the drunkards. It's you Christians who are evil."

God: "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Cor 11:3)

Us: "It is wrong to suggest that a wife should allow her husband to be head over her. It is the result of sexist males."

God: "You should obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

Us: "You should follow the dictates of social norms rather than your religious beliefs."

Just a few "off the top of my head" examples. It is a bit chilling when you realize that "woe" is not a good thing, coming from God. It is also disturbing when you realize that this chapter in Isaiah is speaking about why God was going to dismantle their land.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Perfect Hero

Doesn't exist.

End of story.

It's not hard to find these days. A Baltimore memorial honoring the Star-Spangled Banner was defaced recently with the accusation "Racist anthem" spray-painted on it. "Racist anthem?" you ask. So they tell us. You see, Francis Scott Key, a slave owner in his day, included a third verse we don't see that included the lines
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave
There you have it; clearly a celebration of slavery and exultation in their terror and death.

Now, we can debate it if you want. The story goes that the British had hired mercenaries and black slaves to fight against the Americans, and Key was rejoicing that these opponents of his country were not prevailing. Racism or just nationalism where "slave" merely references a group of people attacking his country? You can decide. My point, however, is that Francis Scott Key was not a perfect human being. He had faults. I said, "It's not hard to find these days," and I was referring to that -- heroes who have faults.

Thomas Kidd wrote an article entitled, "When Our Heroes Don't Live Up to Their Theology" about this topic. We find out that Christopher Columbus wasn't always a good guy and we decide to remove all monuments. They have actually removed George Washington markings because he owned slaves. In the Christian realm, it turns out that influential theologians like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards owned slaves, and suddenly anything they had to say is no longer worth examining. Martin Luther is almost as famous for his horrendous anti-Jewish statements as his Reformation work, and maybe we should ignore his Reformation work. John Calvin famously had Servitus executed, so nothing Calvin has to offer is of any value. Is this the way it is? Rather, is this the way it should be?

I'd like to point out that, just on the face of it, those that think this way are committing the classic logical fallacy, the ad hominem error. That is, "Don't listen to what he says because he's a bad guy." This is a standard (perhaps the most common?) error because it assaults the source without evaluating the content. This is not a valid way to evaluate content (as if that needs to be said). "Ignore everything they said and did" is not a valid (in terms of logic) response.

So what do we do? "This pastor we liked did that??! Now what?!" Do we ignore it? "He's done so much good that we should ignore the bad." Should we discard it? "It doesn't matter how much good he has done; if there is bad, it's all bad." Or should we manage it? "There is bad (and we don't call it good) and there is good (and we don't call it bad)."

Taking a cue from Scripture, as it turns out "all have sinned" (Rom 3:23). That would require that no one we admire or learn from is free from error or sin (with the obvious exception of Christ ... but I'm pretty sure none of us are reading books written by Jesus or are in a church pastored by Jesus). Paul classified himself as "foremost" among sinners (1 Tim 1:15). You will not find a single person that is error-free in orthodoxy (right doctrine) or orthopraxy (right living). Further, Scripture doesn't make any attempt to "deify" its heroes. David is a "man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22) who committed murder and adultery. Abraham lied about his wife because he was afraid they'd kill him (twice!) (Gen 12:14-17; Gen 20:1-9) to get her even after God had promised offspring, but is listed as an example of faith (Heb 11:8-10). The Bible doesn't hide the fact that some of our best examples were not good people. Neither should we.

So, we look to positive points from positive examples with positive things to say and benefit from them. And we see that these positive people have negative aspects that are, indeed, negative, which helps us avoid the danger of pride and the danger of worshiping men rather than God. We thank God for the good that He gives through these and we thank God that He can save sinners ... like us. If you're looking for the perfect hero, save your efforts. No such person exists. You can find the positives and mark the negatives and benefit from both. Or there are the other alternatives -- ignore the negatives or reject the positives. Your call.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the catastrophic Roe v Wade ruling that has, ever since, codified, legalized, and normalized the murder of babies on the basis of whether or not they are wanted. In 1984, President Reagan designated the Sunday closest to the original January 22nd date as the National Sanctity of Human Life Day. George H.W. Bush continued the practice while Bill Clinton did not. George W Bush reinstated it and President Obama did not. The pro-life side agree with it and the "reproductive rights" side oppose it. "It's a desire to roll back the rights of women." Clearly, not everyone agrees with the principle of the sanctity of human life.

There is, at the outset, a problem -- using the term "sanctity". In order for there to be such a thing as "sanctity", there must be something holy, the meaning of the term. It refers to holiness, to godliness. Carrying "holiness" to its logical conclusion, if it is a "God thing", then it is inviolable (the second definition of the word "sanctity"). That's all well and good, but if we have rejected God, then nothing is sacred -- there is no sanctity. In fact, the whole notion of the sanctity of life has its basis in the Bible.

In Genesis we read, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27) It is that image of God that makes "male and female" -- Man -- sanctified, set apart, holy, inviolable. It is God's reasoning for the death penalty (Gen 9:6). We do not enjoy the sanctity of human life simply because we exist or because we're good or valuable; it is on the basis of the Holiness of the Maker and us as images of Him.

On that basis, murdering babies at any age is unconscionable. But it goes beyond that. Euthanasia for humans is an assault on God. Human trafficking is an assault on God. These are true. But go further. Every human regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religioun, language, gender, level of ability, social status, income, social status, level of intelligence, character and so on is in the image of God and deserves on the basis of that image to be treated with dignity and value. Most people find their worth in these things, in fact, but God says their worth is in Him. As such, their worth is unassailable and for us to diminish it is a violation of God.

In a world where God has been sidelined at best, the concept of the sanctity of life is logically pointless. I don't think those who have pushed God out of the public arena recognize that doing so eliminates any inviolability of their own existence. I don't think that people realize that disconnecting human beings from their Creator voids the inherent value of humans.

Followers of Christ are not among those who discard God from everyday existence. Today we celebrate another "Sanctity of Life Sunday". We should remember that the phrase means more (not less) than "It is wrong to kill babies in the womb." It is a call for each of us to celebrate each other, to see the worth and dignity of human beings as provided by the infinite worth of the God who made them. We should speak against murdering unborn images of God. At the same time, we should stand just as firmly against assaults on all humans everywhere, not because they're all so wonderful, but because the God who made them and in whose image they were made is so absolutely valuable Himself. We celebrate the sanctity of human life not merely to protest, but to worship the One whose image gives it sanctity.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

News Weakly - 1/20/2018

Tasty Feet
Trump put his foot in his mouth (again) by insulting all people from Haiti and Africa and applauding Norwegians, looking a lot like a racist and bigot. No news there, except for the additional evidence the event offers to the fact, but what was interesting to me was the story that "conservative Christians remain as polarized as ever over his leadership." The story quotes multiple black conservative Christian leaders but complains about "the white evangelical vote." I have never understood the distinction of race and religion, especially in terms of "Evangelicals", since nothing in the definition of evangelicalism includes the race of the person who holds to it. Seems to me that these kinds of stories are, themselves, race-baiting -- aimed at pitting races against each other and, in this case, especially Christians.

Trump denies he said it. Other voices affirm he did. Whatever. It was not right for a president or for someone who calls himself a Christian.

Heartbreak of Illegal Immigration
For 30 years Jorge Garcia lived illegally in Michigan until he was arrested and deported this week. "An undocumented family member brought Jorge Garcia to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. Today he has a wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens." His supporters are saying it's "another example of immigrants being unfairly targeted under the Trump administration."

Stories like this are heartbreaking. He has a wife who is an America citizen. He has been in this country for 30 years. He had every opportunity to do what was required to become a legal resident. Why didn't he? From all indications Jorge was a good man. No criminal record, pays taxes, good family man, hard worker ... all that good stuff. It's sad that he has to leave -- that his wife and children will be without a father, at least for awhile. Is it sad that the law caught up with him? I have to wonder why he didn't do what was necessary to prevent that from happening.

Color Me Surprised
Well, isn't that amazing? A major portion of California is hoping to declare independence ... from California. No, they don't want out of the country; they want out of the state. I get it; I really do.

The story said, "Ava DuVernay was named entertainer of the year at an NAACP Image Awards ceremony." No one seemed to notice that white people were sorely under-represented. (That's a joke.)

Regulating Friendship
This is beyond my comprehension. Apparently there is a move in Europe and now in American schools to ... get this ... ban friendships in school. Now, why would anyone think this was a good idea? "Well," they tell us, "we're encouraging inclusion rather than friendships." The notion that everyone feels excluded at some point in life and now is the time to teach the little tykes how to deal with it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

See? Risk averse.

The notion that we can legislate inclusion by banning friendships is simply ludicrous, a complete absence of any idea of how the human being operates. You don't combat loneliness by legislating associations.

Sanity Check
Apparently Brad Manning (aka Chelsea Manning) has filed to run for U.S. Senate in Maryland. You remember this guy. Convicted of leaking secret documents to Wikileaks, his sex change was paid for by you and me while in prison and President Obama commuted his 35-year sentence in 2017.

This will be an excellent sanity check ... for voters. If this guy who cannot figure out that girls are girls and guys are guys and "f--k police" is not an appropriate message to broadcast on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, if this convicted felon can get voted into office, then we can be pretty sure that "office" is a relatively useless component of the U.S. government, requiring neither moral virtue nor rational thinking of its members.

Government Shutdown
As of the writing of this entry, the government shutdown is still pending. The outcome is unknown. I particularly appreciated, then, the headline from the Babylon Bee: "Sense Of Relief Washes Over Nation As Government Shutdown Grows Increasingly Likely"

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Bill has a drinking problem. I mean a real one. Greg is his friend and suggests Bill should do something about it. Bill agrees and sets out to stop drinking. What does Bill need in order to solve this problem? Simple. Self-control. So he's working the problem and doing well. One day Greg invites him over to a party. "Come on, Bill," Greg says, "one beer can't hurt." So Bill gives in ... and has to start all over. Who is to blame here? If you're thinking it's Greg, think again. Remember, what Bill needed to solve this problem was self-control, not "Greg"-control. Greg didn't help, but Bill bears his own blame.

Betty and Terri are great friends. Betty loves to bake -- cookies, cakes, pies, all sorts of sweets -- and Terri loves to eat them. So Terri decides she is desperately in need of weight loss. Betty is proud of her and Terri sets out to lose a few pounds. At some point, Terri drops by to visit her friend. As they chat, Terri is looking at those fresh-baked cinnamon rolls that just came out of the oven. She can smell the cinnamon. She can see the icing. She can imagine the goodness. "Oh, sure, just one," she tells her friend. Becky gives her one, two, three and Terri is back at the beginning of her diet. Whose fault is that? Not Betty. What Terri needed was self-control, not "Betty"-control. Betty didn't help, but Terri bears her own blame.

As is clearly evident in today's climate, guys suffer from multiple forces that push them to say and do things they shouldn't. No doubt. Just look at all those sexual harassment charges out there. So our fictional "Ted" decides he's not going to fall prey to this. Sure, there are hormones and peer pressure and culture and all, but he's not going to do it. He's not. He's not. It's all about self-control. But when Jan shows up in that low-cut blouse and short skirt, he just can't help making that remark that gets him fired and sued. Whose fault is that? It is not Jan's fault. The issue is self-control, and Ted failed to exercise it.

Two observations, then. First, I've already claimed that the people with the problem are the problem and not their associates. Still, what about those "helpers"? We can't blame them, but we can note that they were not helpful. And why were they not helpful? Because their only concern was "me". Greg was enjoying his beer, Betty her baking, and Jan her fashion. Our constant claim is "I can do what I want." That's fine, but you realize, I hope, that far too often "what I want" is pure, unadulterated self-centeredness. And that is your fault, not theirs1.

Second, what is needed so very often for the problem folk (which, by the way, includes all of us) is self-control. What is lacking in the vast majority of us is ... you guessed it ... self-control. So isn't it grand that one fruit of the Spirit is ... self-control (Gal 5:22-23)? Isn't it nice that God has provided the answer to our problem and all we have to do is accept it? Well, accept it repeatedly, sure, but ...
1Paul speaks in multiple places about "freedom in Christ", in which we are free in regards to those things which God has not mentioned. However, instead of a focus on our freedom, Paul focuses on the other guy. "Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer," he writes, "but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." (Rom 14:13) "Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do," he says about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Then, "But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." (1 Cor 8:8-9) "Am I not free?" (1 Cor 9:1) he asks and then says, "Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them." (1 Cor 9:19) Are you free to do what you please? Paul argues that believers should surrender their freedom in order to serve others.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What has changed?

What are the modern assaults on the concept of marriage? Well, in the latter half of the 20th century there was a concerted effort to strip "procreation" from "marriage" with the careful insertion of contraception as a norm. The Sexual Revolution came right on its heals urging "Make love, not war" and calling for "free love". Powered even further today by the ubiquity of porn and the mistaken idea that sex is recreational and "for my pleasure", the obvious result was to strip sexual morality from its moorings in marriage and leave that to your choice. Sex is no longer a union and marriage is no longer linked to procreation, and an unprecedented number of children are the products of unmarried mothers these days.

Soon after the embrace of contraception, it became unwise to make marriage permanent. We call it "no-fault divorce," and the purpose was to make available the easy termination of what was intended to be a lifelong relationship. The result of that was higher divorce rates. In the early 20th century, divorce rates in America were down in the teens -- 8 to 16%. There was a peak at the end of World War II up around 43%, but that dropped off again to something in the twenties. In 1950 it was 26% and in 1967 it was 26%. But as the divorce laws changed, it went to 33% in 1970, 48% in 1975, and up to 52% in 1980. Beyond that, in 1980 the ratio of men divorcing their wives to wives divorcing their husbands was about 600 to 1; for every 1 woman who sought divorce from her husband, 600 men divorced their wives. In 1990, that ratio was 12:1 ... in reverse. For every 1 man who divorced his wife, 12 women divorced their husbands -- in a decade. It remains the same today; women initiate divorce more often than men. Today, divorce has moved from "disaster" to "celebration".

The current "go to" position is to be expected from these first two factors; overall less marriage and more fornication. (They call it "cohabitation.") "Two become one"? No, not really.

In the 21st century the hits keep coming. First, was the conscious redefinition of marriage as "a man and a woman" to any gender. You know it as "same-sex marriage". I call it "same-sex mirage" simply because there is no definition in that redefinition. "Man and woman" (Eph 5:31)? No, not really. And to further convolute this we have the whole "gender dysphoria" issue where "man and woman" lose all definition all on their own. Where God clearly discriminates against "same-sex marriage" (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6), our society has tossed out His ideas in favor of their irrational versions.

So what? I mean, we have sin going on everywhere, don't we? Why is this particularly significant?

Consider. The fundamental basis of our relationship with God is "in Christ." We are told that our hope is predicated on "Christ in you" (Col 1:27). "If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (Rom 8:10) We are secure from God's wrath when we are clothed in righteousness (Isa 61:10), and that righteousness is His (2 Cor 5:21). It is this vast, mysterious union of Christ and His people that is illustrated by God in marriage (Eph 5:31-32).

Then consider communication. How does that work? Well, you take something -- a word, a phrase, a picture, a symbol, a concept -- that is common to two people and you use that something to connect those two people. That's how communication works. I use terms or concepts you understand and you grasp what I'm trying to communicate by that common understanding.

Now, if you wanted to undermine God, to undercut His relationship with us and God's salvation for us, where exactly would you make the first cut? Well, it seems me you'd remove the possibility of communication. Oh, wait, isn't that what Scripture says? "If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 4:3-4) Yes, that. Then, cut loose the moorings of the Gospel -- in Christ -- by cutting loose marriage as a symbol of that Gospel. Now "The Gospel is like a marriage" has no real meaning.

You and I are no longer free to maintain our convictions regarding God, His Word, or His definition of marriage. Ask the Christian shop owners who tried to do so. It is no longer an issue of religious freedom. It is no longer tolerated. It is called "hate" and will cost you. But I urge you, believers, if you are concerned at all about the Gospel, don't give it up. The cost of redefining marriage is too high. It is the very Gospel -- your very salvation -- that is at stake. Communicate as God has about marriage as the union of a man and a woman as an understandable illustration of the mystery of Christ's union with His own that is the hinge pin of our salvation, and you'll be speaking nonsense to a world that has rejected that version of marriage. It is not trivial.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Problem of the Will

We've examined the concept of "free will" before, not always with agreement, but I'd like to discuss the problem of the will. You see, if a will is to be considered free, it goes without saying that it must be allowed to choose what it wants. Sounds silly, perhaps, but surely we can all agree that a will that chooses what it does not want is the actual opposite of a "free will."

And this is where we run into the problem of "free will". You see, we think that humans have "free will" by which we mean to convey that humans are able to choose anything at all. Now, of course, this is manifestly false. I mean, you can't simply choose to sprout wings by your own will and fly. So we can't actually choose anything at all. Besides, if it is to be "free will," it must be that which we want to choose. If you're choosing that which you don't want to choose, that can't be considered free will. And therein lies our basic limitation. The primary block to a free will that chooses "anything at all" is the limitation of our own desires.

What does Scripture say about humans and their desires? We know "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9), so we know from the outset that our desires are skewed at best. We know that "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Rom 8:7), so we know that whatever we desire it isn't God and His ways. We know that without God we are slaves to sin (Rom 6:6, 17, 20) and that "the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen 8:21), so our desires, by virtue of our natures, are not virtuous. This is what Paul suggests when he says, "'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'" (Rom 3:10-12).

Do you see the problem, now, with our free will? It is free -- we can choose what we want -- but our "want to" is broken and what we want is not good. As a result, our free will cannot choose what is good because that would be the opposite of what we want.

This is why there is more than a "self-help program" required. More than a reform school training program. Our problem isn't a lack of discipline; it's a lack of "want to". God calls us to obey, and we don't want to, so we cannot. This is why what we need is a new birth, what we need is a new heart, what we need is an entire transformation.

Fortunately, that's exactly what God has in mind for us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Worlds Collide

Back in the 1940's America went to war. Not just any war -- a world war. We sent armament and supplies and men to two fronts. There was rationing and volunteering and an entire sense of pulling together for the common good. Fast forward just two decades and America was spitting on troops coming home from an "unpopular war". Something changed. Something shifted. In a very short time America went from a focus on family over self and community over family and society over community to self as the primary focus.

Today we are faced with what the general public refers to the "Me" generation, a generation focused almost entirely on self. But this isn't about America. As it turns out, Christians in America are in almost exactly the same place. We shop for a church for what we can get out of it. We go to church not to minister, but to be ministered to. America's primary focus is the individual, and Christians are, for the large part, going right along with it. "As it should be," most would say.

Square that with Scripture. Do a rundown on the loads of "one anothers" in the Bible. How does "What do I get out of it?" line up with all the "one another" commands? Look at Paul's command, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4) Think about the collision of "A good church is one that feeds me well" with "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Cor 12:7)

We Christians have largely accepted the American worldview that it's all about the individual. It hasn't always been this way. German sociologist Max Weber wrote a book in 1905 that argued that the success of American Capitalism was due largely to Calvinism. Apparently it's true. How? Well, the Reformers believed in a notion called a "vocation", not in the Catholic sense or even in today's sense. They believed that we are called by God ("vocation" literally means "calling") to do the work of Christ in this world by working. Our work is Christ's work. The shoemaker and the CEO and the trash collector are all doing God's work when they serve others in the jobs that they do. To these guys, work was considered "good" and "rewarding" insofar as it was good and rewarding for those whom it was done. You see? Not "What benefits me most?" Instead, "What is best for them?" It's called the "Protestant work ethic". And it stems not from a "What's in it for me?" perspective, but a "What can I do for you today?" point of view.

Now, you have to admit, this is not a common perspective in our modern world. And I think, if you're honest, it's not particularly common even among Christians. I think, however, that it's clearly a biblical perspective. So what about you? Is it possible that you are more caught up in the current idol of self than in the biblical model of worshiping God by sacrificing self (Rom 12:1)? Is it possible that you, like me, might have some changes to make here in your thinking? Perhaps?

Monday, January 15, 2018


One of the disagreements between the Protestants and the Catholics was the issue of assurance. The Reformers believed that God cannot lose any of His own, that He sustains them all to the end. The Catholics were appalled. In the Council of Trent they said, "If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema." (The Council of Trent, Session 6, CANON XVI) Do you believe that it is possible to know that you have eternal life? They consider that worthy of damnation.

Now, on one hand, as it turns out, the Roman Catholic Church has officially, with this statement from the Council of Trent, managed to anathematize Saint John. It was he who wrote, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13) You have to admit it takes real courage for a Church Council to damn one of their own official saints, let alone one of Christ's prime Apostles. Or, maybe it's not courage at all ...

But what strikes me is the problem of the basis of the concern. Why did they respond with such angst over the concept of the assurance of salvation? It's a concern shared by most who oppose the idea. Basically, it's this. "If you say that you can know that you have salvation, then you give license to people who will receive that assurance and then go and sin to their heart's content." They warn (even rightly) about false assurance, but their primary concern is that the certainty that you're saved gives you the freedom to sin.

So what is at the root of this line of thinking? It seems to me that it's premised on the notion that good works are self-propelled. We know that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works." (Eph 2:10) We know we are called to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil 2:12) If anybody tells you that we're not expected to do good works, point them to James. "Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." (James 2:17) "So," they think (I suspect without thinking), "we're expected to do good works and if you have this 'assurance', it will short-circuit you from doing good works." I'd guess that this is a fairly common line of thinking, actually, even among those who believe in the believer's eternal security. Works are something we do, something we generate, something we ... well ... work. But this misses entirely the concept of salvation.

When we are saved, we aren't "helped out" by God. We aren't "encouraged to do good." We are in Christ. We have God "who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) Those good works for which we are designed and created for are "His workmanship" (Eph 2:10). We are "predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29) with the certainty that "these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Rom 8:30) Yes, we have work to do, but it isn't powered or predicated on ourselves. It is all of God. "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9)

Lots of people see the confidence that Christ will not lose one of those God has given Him (John 6:39) as a recipe for disaster. It's a license to sin. I suppose they'd be right if not sinning was within our realm of possibility. It isn't. We are baptized into Christ's death (Rom 6:3) in order to be freed from sin (Rom 6:6-7). We are God's workmanship under God's influence powered by God. I guess I just think that there is much more power there than in the human propensity for good works.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hearing God's Voice

So, I'm walking through the Christian bookstore and I run across the "trending" section. And what's "trending"? Well, the section is full of stuff by Priscilla Shirer. Now, if you ever saw the movie, War Room, you've seen Priscilla Shirer. She was the younger (not the older) black lady who was seeking to repair her family and get in touch with God, so to speak. And she's a popular writer now. One of the big ones from her is this book entitled, Discerning the Voice of God. It's a book to tell you "How to Recognize When God is Speaking." And it's so big that, even though it was written a decade ago, she has released a revised and expanded edition. Because we all want to hear the voice of God, don't we?

Allow me to offer some helpful advice on this, because I do agree that we should be seeking to hear the voice of God and we do need to be able to discern when it's Him and not someone else. Very important.

So, first, may I suggest that you begin and end with His Word. Now, perhaps, since we've referred to the Bible as "God's Word" for so long, especially with that "Word" with a capital "W", we've lost sight of what we're saying. What we're saying is that the Bible is the very word of God. The Bible is God speaking. Sometimes it is Him literally speaking -- direct quotes from God. But even when it's not direct quotes, it is still God speaking through those He has chosen to use to speak (2 Peter 1:20-21). And while the words used are those of the human writer, the message in its entirety is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17). Do you want to hear God speak? Read your Bible. Read it all the way through. Read it cover to cover. Examine it closely. Listen to it. You're hearing the voice of God.

"But how can I know if I'm actually hearing the voice of God or my own?" Examine it more closely. Compare it with itself. Think about it, pray about it, pay attention to it. What does the Bible say about itself? What is the explicit? What type of text is it? Historical narrative? Poetry? Wisdom? What? Read it for that. How does it line up with the rest? And is there consensus over church history that agrees on it? There should be if Jesus's promise that the Holy Spirit would lead His own into the truth is actually true. If this is consistent, you're hearing the voice of God.

"But I'm not, really, am I? I mean, I'm not hearing God's voice." Of course, it would be easy to say, "Well, read aloud!", but I'll offer another possibility. Insofar as the Word is preached, the preacher is speaking the words of God. As long as the pastor or teacher is accurately expressing Scripture, he or she is actually speaking the words of God. Go to church. When you hear them preached, you're hearing the voice of God.

"You don't seem to understand. I want to hear God's voice about my everyday things." Yes, I understand. We want to know who to marry, where to work, should I do this or that? The truth is if we have a firm grasp on God's Word, most of those questions go away. The truth is that most of our demands to "hear God's voice" are because we're not willing to do the work ... to hear His voice in His Word.

Not good enough? Beyond this I would advise extreme caution. The popular idea today is that "God can talk directly to me," that we can get special revelation from God Himself. I'll give you a hint. When "God speaks directly to me" in a way that directly contradicts His Word, you can be quite certain it is not God's voice you're hearing. But, then, you'll need to know His Word to know that, won't you? So we're right back in the same place again. We have God's Word. Listen to it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

News Weakly - 1/13/2018

No Win
So, as the Golden Globe Awards became a political arena to address racism and sexism and female empowerment instead of, say, excellence in film and television (you know, like the Golden Globe Awards were intended to be), Oprah Winfrey did a speech about female empowerment and sexual harassment. Hailed as inspirational by many, Ivanka Trump weighed in on Twitter. "Just saw @Oprah's empowering & inspiring speech at last night's #GoldenGlobes. Let's all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP!" Oh, that was a mistake. Bashed by the likes of Alyssa Milano and Chrissy Teigen, it is clearly a mistake for a Trump to say anything, in agreement or in opposition. (You know that's how it works. Hey, Ivanka's the one that got in trouble for wearing her own line of clothing.)

Speaking of "No-Win"
Drexel University's George Ciccariello-Maher has resigned from his position as a professor there. He says his personal situation there is "unsustainable." You may not remember him; he's the one that tweeted in 2016 "All I want for Christmas is white genocide." Said the white guy in Florida. Go figure. He's been harassed and smeared and can't take it anymore. That a university would retain a professor advocating the murder of himself and hiss white students is a bit surprising to me, but, hey, who knows these days what universities will and will not do?

How Should This Go?
The pastor of a Memphis megachurch has admitted to a sexual assault on a 17-year-old girl 20 years ago. The pastors over him apparently knew about it and "dealt with it", but she doesn't think so. He asked for forgiveness (but apparently will not receive it). It was 20 years ago and no further allegations.

It is what we would refer to as "unforgivable", except in the context of Christianity it isn't. Or is it? Is a pastor who commits an act like this permanently out of office? Is it good and right for God to forgive but we do not? I ask because I don't know.

Misplaced Affections
This is what happens when we forget Who's in charge. I will just copy the first sentence from this amazing story. "The Swiss government has ordered an end to the common culinary practice of throwing lobsters into boiling water while they are still alive, ruling that they must be knocked out before they are killed." That's right. It is inhumane to throw it in hot water; if you're going to kill it, do it nicely.

"Oh, Stan, you're just being silly." Am I? They banned those devices that teach dogs not to bark. They required that lobsters being transported live to be eaten must "always be held in their natural environment", no ice or cold water. Seriously. You can't make this stuff up. If you're going to boil a lobster alive, you must first stun it so it doesn't feel it. It is against the law to boil a conscious lobster. Because, as we all know, lobsters are people, too.

I'm sorry. Yes, there is more news of the week, but that lobster thing just got me. When we live in a world that demands that we keep it legal to murder babies but cries for the pain of a lobster, there's just so little sanity left that ... well, this will do for this week's entry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

In Christ

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)
Picture the sequence. Two people meet ... maybe at a cafe or in an alley or wherever. One says, "Did you bring the stuff?" The other nods. "Did you?" Yes. So they hand each other the bag or the attache or whatever they're carrying. Each takes a look at the new one they acquired. "Yep, it's all there." So one walks away with Christ's righteousness having successfully exchanged it for his sin. Silly? Sure. But I think sometimes that's how we unconsciously see this little exchange. Our sin is "something" and Christ's righteousness is "something" and we've made the exchange.

That, of course, makes no sense. So how does it work?

In Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus he describes something that Paul says is a great mystery.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is great, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32)
We're familiar with the concept, right? "The two shall become one flesh." It has been this way from the beginning (Gen 2:24). Even when it is illicit sex, there is a unifying (1 Cor 6:15-16). This is mysterious and powerful.

So, what happens when two people marry? This is an exchange, but not. It is a mutual sharing. You've heard of "mail-order brides" from other countries that seek American husbands primarily in order to become American citizens. That is, if she marries an American, she becomes an American. Or consider Diana Spencer. "Who?" Oh, you know her as Diana, Princess of Wales. She was born a commoner, but when she married Charles, Prince of Wales, she became a princess, through no merit or effort of her own. She exchanged her common classification for a royal one on the basis of the husband she married. We get that, don't we? A rich person marries a poor, and the poor is no longer poor. Marriage merges people. And Paul says that's a picture of "Christ and the church."

How is it that we became the righteousness of God? We did it by being "in Him" -- in Christ. It wasn't some exchange of stuff. It was a union. It isn't "outside" -- it's inside, the "marriage" with Christ. Just look at the many things that Scripture says about being "in Christ".
[We] are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom 3:23-24)

The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 8:2)

[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:39)

We, who are many, are one body in Christ. (Rom 12:5)

By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Cor 1:30)
And that's just a smattering. "In Christ" is not a location; it's an existence. It is a union, a mysterious union. It is the source of our salvation, the reason we are seen by God as righteous (Phil 3:8-9). "In Christ", in fact, is the definition of our salvation. We don't have some external righteousness handed to us. We "become the righteousness of God in Him." In Christ we are free from condemnation. In Christ all the promises are sure (2 Cor 1:20).

If you think salvation is something handed to you, you're not seeing the scope of it. We become united with Christ. The whole purpose is "to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:28-29). Marriage is important, but this union of Christ and His Bride is vital for every aspect of your spiritual life.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Saved by Grace through Faith

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
Those two verses are phenomenal. They provide the clearest and sharpest difference between Christianity and every other religion on the planet. All other religions are works-based; Christianity alone is "not as a result of works." Every other religion must earn heaven; Christianity is the only one that gets salvation as "the gift of God." Christianity alone offers salvation by grace through faith.

Have you ever taken the time to notice the prepositions in that phrase? They're important. The phrase has three pieces: 1) saved, 2) grace, and 3) faith. What is their relationship? How do we get that first piece -- "saved"? Follow the prepositional logic.

Paul says we are saved "by grace." Paul does not say we are saved "by faith". We often do, but he doesn't say that here. He says we are saved by grace. So what does he say about faith? He says we are saved "through faith." No, that's not even accurate. He says we are saved by grace that comes through faith. So what's my point?'

Let's try a few human illustrations. Consider the importance of water to human life. We live on water. We cannot survive without water. We can live longer without food than we can live without water. We need it. So, there is a reservoir near me with life-giving water, but, you know what? I don't drink at that reservoir. The water comes to my house. It comes through a canal to a water purification plant and then through pipes to my house. In other words, I live by life-giving water which comes to me through pipes. I do not live on pipes; I live on water. Or consider food. There is the hand that feeds, and there is the food that the hand feeds. Do you live on the hand, or do you live on the food? You live on the food which comes through the hand that feeds.

What we have here is a salvation system. Faith does not save. Grace saves. It is all of grace. Going back to those illustrations, faith without grace doesn't provide salvation any more than those pipes without water or a hand without food sustain life. Grace -- God free, unmerited favor -- alone saves. Faith is necessary, however. It is the conduit, the connection, the link to that grace. Like that reservoir near me, God could have vast reserves of grace available, but it is faith that provides the pathway, the access, the spigot, so to speak.

Now, since the two are irreducibly connected, it's easy to see how "saved by grace" and "saved by faith" have become irreducibly connected. You don't get grace without faith and faith does you no good without God's grace. It is true, then, in a general sense that we are saved by faith; since both are required, it can be thought of as both being that which produces salvation. So don't hurt yourself too much over this. Just keep in mind that your salvation is a gift. It is a gift predicated on the grace of God ... which is a gift. That grace comes via the conduit of faith -- your faith -- which is a gift (Eph 2:8; John 6:65; Rom 12:3; Phil 1:29). You exercise it, providing the pathway for God's grace, resulting in salvation. And do you want to know why?
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
So ... works are not out of the picture, eh?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What did Simon Believe?

In Acts 8 we are introduced to a character named Simon. He is a magician (however that is meant) (Acts 8:9). Up until Philip arrived preaching the gospel, Simon was regarded as "the Great Power of God" (Acts 8:10), but when Philip showed up it says, "Even Simon himself believed" and was baptized (Acts 8:13). Well, now, this is good stuff. An evil "magician" repents and comes to Christ, baptism and all. So it's a bit strange how the story plays out.

Some time later Peter and John arrived and started praying over new converts. They laid hands on them and they received the Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Simon thought this was great! He offered the Apostles money: "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:18-19) Peter's response was amazing.
"May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." (Act 8:20-23)
Hey, Pete, back off, man! Haven't you heard? "Once saved, always saved!" Well, of course he was aware of the eternal security of the believer, so what was going on here? It says Simon believed. It also says that he was "in the bondage of iniquity." How do we put these two together?

The Greek doesn't give us any help. The text says Simon πιστεύω -- pisteuō -- the same basic word found in Ephesians 2:8-9. "For by grace you have been saved through faith." So that's not helping. So what else does the text tell us?

We know he believed the "signs and great miracles" (Acts 8:13). Clearly Simon the "magician" had met his better. His were tricks; these were real miracles. We know that he heard about "the kingdom of God" and "the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12), so that's likely something he "believed". So what are we missing? Isn't that "saving faith"? Given Peter's response -- "You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." -- we would have to assume that it wasn't. So what went wrong? Where was the disconnect?

This isn't the first time believers didn't believe. In the 6th chapter of John we encounter disciples who didn't believe. Jesus had said that to have eternal life you had to eat His flesh (John 6:53-58). Some of His own were not impressed. And Jesus, knowing who did not believe (John 6:64), said, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." (John 6:65)

So there is something else beyond "believe", apparently. What is that? I think we can see it in Simon quite clearly. To "believe" requires, first, to know something. You can't believe what you don't know. On the other hand, knowing something doesn't mean you agree. I know what a unicorn is, but I don't believe in them. So there is that second component -- belief. Mental acquiescence. "I agree." That's about as far as Simon got. It qualified him to be a demon (James 2:19). There is one more component; that is what I will refer to as "trust". It is placing your confidence in Christ. It produces change. Belief without resulting change is dead faith (James 2:17, 26), and Simon demonstrated dead faith. He figured Christ wasn't entirely sufficient and he could buy what he needed. He believed, but only as far as mental agreement. His confidence was elsewhere.

We all face this question. What do you believe? Do you simply know about Christ? That isn't "believe". Do you agree that Christ is who He says He is? That's "believe", but it's not saving faith. There must be one more component; trust ... a reliance on Christ that produces a changed life. Without it, all you have is dead faith, as demonstrated by Simon the magician. If that's you, that's not where you need to be. "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you."

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


I have made it clear that I believe in the Bible. I believe it is, for the most part, clear and understandable. I believe that it should be read and understood as written. I believe it is God's Word, breathed out by God, authoritative, and sufficient to equip believers for every good work. Of course, I believe this in direct conflict with the vast majority of the world and even of those who call themselves Christians.

The problem with all that is that no one seems to understand why. They think I'm arrogant, that I'm over-confident, that I'm overbearing. The problem, you see, is a misconception on their part.

I believe in the reliability of Scripture because I believe in God. I trust Him for His Word, for His promises, for His truth claims. I trust Christ who promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to lead His own into the truth. I trust the Holy Spirit to have accomplished this through the millennia. I don't believe in the Bible because I trust my advanced training or superior reasoning skills or my special insights (I have none of those things.). I don't believe the Bible is God's Word because I think I'm such a wise fellow. I believe it because I trust God.

Trusting God means that He did breathe out His Word, superintending it and protecting it, getting it right. Trusting God means that His Son was and is perfect -- no mistakes, no sin, no errors. When He promises, He delivers. He promised the Spirit; He delivered. Trusting God means trusting the Holy Spirit. Christ promised the Spirit would lead us into the truth; the Spirit delivered. Trusting God, then, would mean that God's Word is reliable and Christ is reliable and the Spirit is reliable. Trusting God would mean that the Spirit has always led His own in the truth.

Now, I know there are a lot of self-identified Christians that claim to trust God as well, but do not have that kind of confidence in His Word. They believe it's hard to understand. They believe there are errors and mistakes, myths and legends. They believe that it's all a matter of opinion. To me, that is not trusting God. But, hey, if you can have confidence in God without trusting His Word, His Son's promise, or His Spirit's work, I suppose they have a different understanding of the word, "trust".

I believe all that, but it is a misconception to think I believe it because of something in me. It's not me. I know me better than that. On the other hand, I think God has well-earned my confidence in Him, so any suggestion that I just chalk this stuff up to "opinion" is just plain foolish to me. "God is trustworthy; I just don't trust Him to that extent" is far more arrogant than what I believe.

Monday, January 08, 2018

But ... Why?

We are, by nature, anthropocentric. (Sorry. I like the word. Rolls off the tongue. Okay, maybe not.) It means "centered on Man". We are, by virtue of the Fall, centered on us rather than on God. We are so ensconced in this way of thinking that we -- even believers -- often don't notice. So we will take things we see and view them from a "me as the center" perspective. We ask, "Why would God allow evil?" without regard to why God might want evil to exist because "It doesn't do us any good." We wonder, "Why would God allow bad things to happen to me?" without considering His perspective on it. And we are certain -- quite certain -- that God saves us because He loves us. We are that special, you see?

Did you know that God disagrees? No, not with the fact that He loves us (John 3:16). He loves us, but that's not why He saves us. God didn't save us for us. He tells us why.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. (2 Tim 1:8-11)
Now, I don't know if you were paying attention, but Paul, in this (way too long) sentence to Timothy, tells us exactly why God saved us -- "not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace." Imagine that!

In his epistle to Rome, Paul wrote about God's calling to salvation -- the "elect". He says that God chose Jacob over Esau "so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." (Rom 9:11) There it is again. God's purpose.

We are delighted that God has saved us and we understand that it's not according to our works, but we are, at our core, anthropocentric. He didn't save us because of our works, but surely because He loves us. He does love us, but according to Paul that's not why He saved us. According to Paul He saved us for His purpose. He saved us for His glory (Eph 1:3-12). Let's not be confused on that. It is to our benefit that He loves us and that He saves us, but He did it for Himself. Let's keep that in mind.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

All of Grace

I've recently finished Spurgeon's book, All of Grace. Good book. I commend it to you all. But I'm not going to talk about it. I just want to consider the idea suggested by the title.

We know our salvation is "all of grace" (Eph 2:8). Clear enough. And magnificent, too. But if that's all you think of when you think of God's grace, you're missing a lot.

We know that God is complete in Himself. He has no lack, no need, no shortcoming. Thus, when we read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1), we understand that He did so out of His grace -- His unmerited kindness. He didn't have to create us; we exist because He is gracious.

In the 19th century it was common to hear people referring to "Providence". It was a general reference to God, of course, but it highlighted His providing. The point was that all our needs are provided for by God. He gives us air to breathe, food to eat, a roof over our heads, friends and family -- all we need. He doesn't do it out of compulsion; He does it out of grace.

We know that we are saved by grace through faith, but did you know that faith is something God gives? The faith you needed to come to Christ was granted to you (Phil 1:29). Thus, in that phrase, "saved", "grace", and "faith", all are gifts -- God's grace. In fact, Paul says that the other aspect we need to bring -- repentance -- is also granted to us by God (2 Tim 2:25). In other words, all that you need to be saved is a product of God's grace.

Once we are saved, there is a need to persevere, to endure (2 Tim 2:12). As it turns out, God also provides that. You must "work out your salvation", even with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), but, lest you think that's all on your shoulders, it turns out that it's just not true. Your very perseverance is a product of God "who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) Your assurance of salvation is by the grace of God.

Well, the truth is, Spurgeon was right. It is all of grace. Existence, life, movement, breath, faith, repentance, salvation, assurance, endurance, eternity ... all of grace. He owed us nothing. He needs nothing. He lacked nothing. It is all of grace, favor given without merit. Paul said that it is God in whom "we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28) "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." (Rom 11:36) "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17) All that is is of His grace, from your salvation by grace through faith to your perseverance to the end to your every breath and every bite of food to the simple fact that you and I exist at all. That, dear reader, is a lot of grace.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

News Weakly - 1/6/2018

A Law for Breaking the Law
On January 1st California officially became a "sanctuary state." This new law prevents law enforcement from detaining illegal immigrants except for other crimes and from honoring hold requests from ICE. It creates "safe zones" where schools, libraries, courthouses, and such are not allowed to enforce immigration law. State and local law enforcement can work alongside federal immigration officers "as long as their main purpose is not immigration enforcement." (Question: What do federal immigration officers do besides immigration enforcement?) Federal immigration officials will not be notified when an illegal immigrant felon with a violent or serious conviction is released. California has essentially declared, "We do not care what your immigration laws are; we will not honor them. Oh, of course, we will require the federal government to support us in every way we deem necessary; just don't expect us to reciprocate."

Why? It "strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear everyday." That is, there are 2.3 million illegal immigrants in California that are afraid they'll get caught. I feel their pain, but what about all the other illegals who are afraid they'll get caught? What about the speeders, the single mom of three who just hasn't had time in the last 6 months to renew her auto registration, or that poor college student with 47 unpaid parking tickets, who are all afraid they'll get caught? Shouldn't California provide "a measure of comfort" to them, too?

I suppose this "sanctuary state" thing is a good thing, since California also just became the largest state to legalize (against federal law) recreational marijuana. I mean, if you're going to open up that kind of a market, it's probably a good idea to protect those who come into their state illegally to deliver the product, right?

Actors or Actresses?
Just wondering. Why is it that when females in the acting profession are fighting for "equality", they demand that they be called "actors", not "actresses", but when they're fighting against sexual harassment it is "300 actresses, female agents, writers, directors, and more women in Hollywood banding together"? Mind you, I'm in favor of opposing sexual harassment (although I no longer know the definition or the direction that will take) (I mean, is "He didn't like my idea" "sexual harassment"?); I'm just wondering about the duplicity of "In this case we're just people, but in that case we're women."

Too Much Work?
Oregon changed its the law, leaving New Jersey as the last state. What law? The law that prevents Oregonians from pumping their own gas. Horror of horrors! Some people may now be pumping their own gas in Oregon? Will the state survive? One 62-year-old native Oregonian said she didn't even know how to pump gas. Another woman worried about getting out of the car and pumping her own gas "with transients around and not feeling safe." Others were concerned about pumping gas in the cold. Perhaps Oregon isn't as liberal as we thought. At least California was concerned about people who break the law not feeling safe; apparently Oregon has no similar concern for drivers who have to ... as crazy as this sounds ... have to pump their own gas.

Global Warming
Have you heard that Al Gore canceled a speech he was supposed to give in Indianapolis, citing cold weather? Seriously, snow in Florida? I tell you what; if this global warming keeps up, we're all going to freeze to death.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 05, 2018

The Marriage Bed

Now, this is interesting.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb 13:4)
So? Oh, of course, you may not have noticed. It's an interesting thought process. Look, we all get "Let marriage be held in honor" and we all get "let the marriage be be undefiled." Clear enough. No adultery. Spouses ... be faithful. Those outside, don't insinuate yourself into the marriage bed of anyone else. That's all clear ... but it isn't quite what was written.

In Scripture, there is the general "sexual immorality" and there is the specific "adultery". Adultery falls in the category of sexual immorality, but is a specific aspect. It refers to illicit sexual relations within marriage. A married man who has sexual relations with someone not his wife is an adulterer. An unmarried man who has sexual relations with someone else's spouse is an adulterer. The defining component of adultery is that one of the parties involved is married. So we clearly understand that to "let the marriage bed be undefiled", adultery would be right out. Then ... why did the author include the general "sexual immorality"?

I think it's clear. God wanted to warn against defiling the marriage bed during (adultery) and before (sexual immorality) marriage. Sexual immorality that is not adultery would be sex outside of marriage. But sex outside of marriage will eventually defile a marriage bed ... a future marriage bed.

God thinks sex is pretty important. It's for procreation (requiring marriage). It's for mutual satisfaction of married couples (requiring marriage). It is a graphic illustration of the union of Christ and Church (requiring marriage). So any time those who are married violate that structure, it is serious to God. And any time those who are not married violate that structure, it is serious to God. Is it as serious to you? If you are a Christian, it should be.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Risk Averse

The term "the Lost Generation" used to refer to the generation that came of age after World War 1 or, perhaps, those who died in World War 1. A new meaning has been suggested. Today it might refer to Gen Y, the latest generation. Why? Because their prospects look so dim.

Why is that? Well, aspects include a "very inflated sense of self", "unrealistic expectation", increased cynicism, a dislike for hard work, decreased empathy, and fragile egos. They are described as "a pampered and nurtured generation ... with a very high sense of self-worth." Statistics include the fact that 34% of 25 to 29-year-olds have moved back home with Mom and Dad and the fact that only 12% of 18 to 34-year-olds think that owning a home is one of the most important things in life. Statistically this generation is putting off adulthood until much, much later.

Assuming all this is true, what, do they say, is the cause? Well, there is the whole "Generation Me" sense given to them. There is the "self-esteem" emphasis in which they've lived. Everyone knows that this generation is coming out of college loaded with debt but without a lot of employment opportunities. There is the rift that technology has offered between individuals and actual, personal interaction and the damage that technology has wrought by separating them from basic learning like math and spelling by doing it for them.

One of the main factors, they say, is the "risk-averse" concept they've grown up with. They've been protected from imagined kidnappers that may or may not have been there, defended from "harsh treatment from teachers" that might include things like discipline or "too much homework" ... that sort of thing. They've been the wards of "helicopter parents." They're 3rd and 4th generation "I want my kids to have a better life" folk who have been given much without being required to do much. "Risk averse."

Let's face it. We all tend to be risk-averse. "Burn me once; shame on you. Burn me twice; shame on me." And we've been burned. So we try to avoid it and that's somewhat rational. The error occurs when we think it is mandatory, compulsory, always "the best". Today's kids shouldn't only be protected from physical harm; they should also be protected from "bad feelings." It is becoming the right of every individual (at least, every individual that is approved for this right) to not have their feelings hurt or threatened. The notion that they might need to toughen up is horrendous. In the realm of physical fitness we grasp the idea of "no pain, no gain", but can't seem to carry it over to other areas of life. And it's not helping our kids.

We have some optional approaches here. We could take a hands-off approach and hope they don't crash and burn. We could take a hands-on approach and hope against hope that, having never actually stood on their own two feet before, they actually will in a reasonable amount of time. Two extremes that would appear, at least to me, to be bad choices. Common, perhaps, but bad. Or we could take the biblical route where we train our kids, with Scripture and loving, godly discipline with a variety of methods, and trust, in the end, to a Sovereign God to actually do what's best for our kids. But I suppose a prerequisite for that option would require ... you know ... an actually Sovereign God.