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Friday, November 30, 2018


In the Old Testament if you wanted to be among the "saved", among the chosen, among "God's people", you had to be circumcised. In the New Testament there is a specific time when they quit demanding it (Acts 15). After that, Paul indicated that "Circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit" (Rom 2:29).

So what was that whole thing about? The Old Testament isn't clear. It was God's idea. Abraham was the first and it marked him as God's chosen. Israel didn't do it consistently; they went through periods of none at all. God threatened to kill Moses because he failed to have his son circumcised (Exo 4:24-26). All Jewish males were supposed to be circumcised 8 days after they were born (Lev 12:3). The Jewish leadership was pretty sure it was necessary for salvation in the early church period (Acts 15:1). But what was it for? Paul answers the question. He said that Abraham "received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith" (Rom 4:11). Circumcision for the Jews was God's "seal of righteousness."

Okay, so what about us? Don't we need a "seal of righteousness"? Don't we want an authentication that verifies that we are declared righteous? Seems like that would be nice.

Well, of course, circumcision for the Jews didn't actually declare their righteousness, but God conferred it for that purpose. And, as it turns out, we have a similar authentication.
In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col 2:11-14)
Paul here draws a parallel between Jewish circumcision and Christian baptism. This baptism is a "circumcision made without hands" that represents "putting off the body of the flesh" -- dying with Christ -- and rising again. It is this connection with Christ that results in our forgiveness and salvation. In this way, baptism serves as a "seal of righteousness," the indicator that we have been identified with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom 6:3-5).

This, of course, produces some questions. "Does baptism produce salvation?" Certainly not, any more than circumcision did for the Jews. If it was a "seal of righteousness" for believing Jews, it was nothing at all for the unbelieving Jew. The same is true for baptism. "Since Jewish babies were circumcised, shouldn't we baptize babies, too?" No, that doesn't follow, either. Children were circumcised when they were born; believers should be baptized when they're born ... again. Jewish babies were circumcised when they became part of the family; Christians should be baptized when they become part of God's family. Even in the Jewish world, if you converted to Judaism you were circumcised after the conversion; baptism is a sign of a conversion, not a nationality. Believers should be baptized. "What value is baptism if it doesn't produce salvation and might be a seal of false righteousness?" The answer to that one is less satisfying, I suppose. God thought circumcision for the Jews was important enough to threaten to kill Moses when he failed to do it. It didn't confer salvation. It didn't guarantee faith. Lots of the circumcised are in hell. But God thought it was important as a symbol of imputed righteousness. Since baptism is our symbol of imputed righteousness, our image of our identification with death to the flesh and resurrection to new life, perhaps we also ought to consider it as important as God does.

Common baptism thinking considers it a "sign"-- not really that important. We should do it, but, really, it's just a sign. I think that's a mistake. God is kind of serious about His signs. Moses struck the rock in the desert instead of speaking to it -- intended to be a sign that the rock (Christ) had to be struck (killed) once, and after that we could just talk to Him -- and it cost Moses his entry into the Promised Land (Num 20:10-11). Our society (under the prince of the power of the air) has minimized God's version of marriage which is intended to be a symbol of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32) and too many Christians are buying the lie that it's not that important. God considered circumcision to the Jews as a seal of righteousness and baptism to all as the same. I would suggest that it's likely more important than we're giving it credit for. Baptism is of considerable, biblical importance. It probably should be to us, too.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Born Again?

I recently heard a woman complaining about "those darn Christians" (of course, I cleaned that up) and their "born again" thing. "What makes them think you have to be born again to go to heaven? What about Mother Theresa? What about the good people of this world? What about me? How ridiculous!" So ... just what is this thing?

I should make it abundantly clear that "born again" is not a made-up thing. It isn't some secret rite, some cult belief, some unknown entity. The Protestants didn't make it up. The entire concept of "born again" came from the lips of none other than Jesus Christ Himself. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Don't miss that. It's huge. You can't get there unless you're "born again." You can't even see it.

Well, that's very rude of Him, isn't it? You may think so, but if you are going to be a Christian, it is not rational to deny Christ's words while claiming to be a follower of Christ. Makes no sense.

So just what is this "born again" thing? Let's look first at what Jesus says. He followed up that stunning statement to Nicodemus with, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). So "born again" is a spiritual thing, a "born of the Spirit" thing. Jesus differentiates between physical birth and spiritual birth, this "born again" (John 3:6). There is "born of water" ("born of the flesh" in v 6) and "born of the Spirit" which is not the same as "born of the flesh." The first concept, the whole idea, is Jesus's idea.

Jesus isn't the only one in the Bible to use the term. Peter does, too. He writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5). There it is again. Note of first importance the cause. "He has caused us to be born again." He -- God. This "born again" isn't our choice, our effort, or our accomplishment. It is "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (And it would be good for you to examine the results in the rest of the text -- the inheritance.) We don't earn it. We don't get it by being in the right group. We don't get it by rite, by study, by agreeing with our particular sect of Christianity, or by living right. It isn't a "Protestant" thing; it's a God thing. Peter goes on to say, "You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23).

It's a spiritual thing. It's a God thing. It's connected to "the living and abiding word of God."

The term, "born again", doesn't appear elsewhere in Scripture. The concept does. Paul says we are "a new creation" if we are in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). He says it's not by works but by "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). John refers to believers as being "born of Him" (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7 1 John 5:1-4). John says we "become children of God" (John 1:12) and calls that being "born ... of God" (John 1:13).

The problem, you see, is the human condition. Dead in sin (Eph 2:1-3), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), unable to comprehend the things of God (1 Cor 2:14), spiritually blind (2 Cor 4:4), and deceived (Jer 17:9), we're just in bad shape, too bad off to "see the kingdom of God" let alone get there. We are not in need of therapy, a good moral code, or healthy living. We're in need of a new being. That being comes into effect when we believe (John 3:16), when we agree with God about (called "confess") our sin problem (1 John 1:9) and repent (called "turn around") by first placing our only hope of positive outcome in Christ. God gives a new heart (Ezek 36:26) which is what we're calling "born again."

That is "born again." It's not the idea of that annoying guy on the corner or the Internet who keeps telling you, "Unless you're born again you can't go to heaven!" It's Jesus's idea. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, then, would need to concur. Anyone who does not, according to Jesus, "cannot see the kingdom of God." It's required because of our sin condition and is remedied by agreeing with God about our sin condition and trusting Christ to change us. And He does! No magic. No special incantation. No secret society. It's an act of God. A necessary one if you're planning to go to heaven. And the alternative is rather grim.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Hill to Die On

You know that phrase, right? "This isn't a hill to die on" means "Let's not fight about this." It means, "I believe a certain way about this and you don't, but I don't believe it is important enough to fight about." So, when it comes to Christian living, what constitutes "a hill to die on"? What does that look like to us? How do we determine, for instance, "This is a sin" when so many others are saying it's not? How do we decide, generally against the flow, that this is the right thing to do and that is not?

I grew up in a time when there were still Christians who declared that smoking, drinking, dancing, and even movies were sinful. Almost no one believes that anymore; at least, not all of it. (I suspect smoking and even drinking still show up on some lists.) What changed? These weren't, as it turned out, "a hill to die on." Why?

Meet Isabella Chow. She was at UC Berkeley, a student senator. She was asked to vote on a resolution that she felt endorsed and encouraged the LGBT identity and lifestyle. After prayer and counseling from other believers, she abstained from the vote. While she opposed "discrimination against or harassment of any person or people group" and declared LGBT folk "significant, valid, wanted, and loved," she was assaulted from all sides. Her own party rejected her. She was subjected to abusive language, false accusations, demands for resignation, and more. She felt this was "a hill to die on." Why?

There are things almost all Christians stand on and there are things that are up for grabs. Do we stand on Penal Substitutionary Atonement or do we negate God's Word about Christ paying for our sin with His blood? Do we stand on the Divine Breath of Scripture or do we waffle on the Bible containing God's Word but not actually being God's Word? Do we stand on the very narrow "Christ is the only way" or give in to a more inclusive version? Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Do we? Or do we suggest that there are other means by which to get to the kingdom?

I'll tell you where I stand and you can decide for yourself. I stand where it is absolutely clear from God's Word what God said. I submit that this is much more frequent than many people give the Bible credit for. When it's clear, I have no reason not to stand there. Some is less clear; I'll be less firm. I'm not as hard over on eschatology as so many others are, for instance, but I'm certain Christ will return. When every biblical reference to homosexual behavior declares it a sin, I have no problem standing there. Smoking? Not in there. Women leading the church? No, that's straightforward in there. Eating at a restaurant on Sunday? (I actually had someone ask.) Not clear enough to nail down a position. Wives subject to husbands who are subject to Christ? It's absolutely clear. Politics? Not much in there. The kind of music to play in church? Not much in there (although I will point out that Psalm 150:5 calls for "sounding cymbals" and "loud clashing cymbals"). Drinking alcohol? The Bible does not forbid it, but it does forbid drunkenness, which, as it turns out, is the primary reason people smoke marijuana. Home schooling? I'm in favor of it ... but it doesn't appear to be a biblical command; I won't be standing there. This means that I will stand on very unpopular places and, as it turns out, waffle on some other very popular positions. At least I know the basis, and it's not merely my opinion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


You know all the Beatitudes, right? No? Well, I'm sure you're familiar with this one. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt 5:6) Note the quote marks; I'm quoting Jesus. So Jesus said that those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" will be "blessed" because "they shall be satisfied." I don't think I've said anything tricky, shifty, or controversial here. But ... do you?

We have lots of plans in life. We want a better car, better job, better relationships. We want to be successful, fulfilled. We may want to contribute to society or to be useful or to make our family and friends happy. We may want to help the poor or share the gospel or ... all sorts of fine and decent goals. Is "righteousness" one of them? Because Jesus said it ought to be.

It's coming up on December. "What do you want for Christmas?" is a popular question. What about you? Do you want righteousness? I think it's a good question for Christmas because Christmas is the celebration of the only source of righteousness available to us.

Paul really wanted this. "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord," he wrote (Php 3:8). He longed to "be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Php 3:9). Paul said he had not arrived. He had not attained perfect righteousness. "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (Php 3:12). Paul understood "applied righteousness" -- being declared righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness (Rom 4:1-5; 2 Cor 5:21). Paul, then, was talking about a personal righteousness, a living righteousness that reflected the imputed righteousness. He said, "Let us hold true to what we have attained" (Php 3:16). That is, "You've been declared righteous on the basis of faith in Christ; now live it."

What about you? Are you more concerned about "stuff," earthly success, "keeping up with the Joneses," personal satisfaction? Or do you hunger for righteousness, a living righteousness that reflects the righteousness applied by God from Christ? Do you long to work out your salvation so that God may be glorified? Do you wish to be blessed for thirsting for righteousness? That's what I want ... from Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sinner or Saint?

So, let's think this through.

I'm sure you heard. American missionary, John Allen Chau, apparently hired some fishermen to take him illegally to North Sentinel Island off the coast of India. (I've found only one outlet that references his Christian mission there. Most refer to him as an "adventurer".) The island is "home to one of the last undiluted hunter-gatherer societies." They are being protected from all outsiders. The authorities arrested the fishermen that took him out there. They don't know if they can recover his body.

So, here's the question. This is for Christians only. The rest of the world will have its own ideas. I'm looking for Christian thinking. I had thoughts about "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God" (Rom 13:1) conflicting with the disciples who answered, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge" (Acts 4:19). So the question is did Mr. Chau violate Romans 13 or did he comply with Acts 4? Was John sinning by disobeying the government or was he bravely following God's directions by taking the gospel to them?

I've gone both ways on this, but I think I've come down on an answer. I suspect he was following God's biblical leading (Matt 28:19-20) and, therefore, bravely gave his life for His Lord. What do you think?

Interesting inputs from this blog on the question.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Prayer That Got Away

Have you ever prayed a prayer so big it got away from you? You know, you're talking to God about something and the magnitude of it overwhelms you. Paul has such a prayer in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus.

He talked about his mission of taking the gospel to the Gentiles (Eph 3:1-13). "For this reason," he goes on to say, "I bow my knees before the Father ..." (Eph 3:14) and he begins to tell them about his prayer for them. He prays that they would be strengthened (Eph 3:16). They would need the Spirit's strength for Christ to dwell in them (Eph 3:17). They would need His strength to be rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17). They would need His strength to know the love of Christ (Eph 3:18-19).

Here Paul starts his climb -- this love of Christ he prayed they'd know. It "surpasses knowledge," he says (Eph 3:19). Thus, clearly, knowing that which surpasses knowledge definitely requires the Spirit's strength. But that's okay because He is "able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Eph 3:20). Paul's language here loses something in the translation. He is using words that pile superlatives upon superlatives. We get "far more abundantly," but Paul is speaking of "super-abundance" and "hyper-beyond," and that's what the Spirit can do. What is stunning here is that He does it "according to the power at work within us" (Eph 3:20). This isn't some new thing He brings in; He's already using it. The power of the Spirit to do beyond what you could ask or even think is already at work in you.

As Paul mulls this over, there is only one direction he can head. "To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Eph 3:21) Where else can you go? All the power you need to know the love of Christ which exceeds knowing, and it's already at work in you. Isn't He amazingly wonderful? Those are the kind of prayers -- the examination and exultation in our glorious God -- that can really get away from you sometimes. In the best possible way.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

News Weakly - 11/24/18

The Rule of the Day
An Argentine submarine went down a year ago with 44 hands aboard. They found it this week. The government said they do not have the technology to raise the submarine. Following our current position of "If I want it you must give it," families of the lost sailors are demanding that the government raise the submarine.

In like form, recognizing that cancer is a leading cause of death, families of those lost to cancer are demanding that cancer be cured immediately. Why? Because we want it. Hey, while you're at it, how about world peace, too? Just because we want it, even if it's good, doesn't mean others are required to deliver it, especially when they can't.

Abortion in the News
Mississippi passed a law back in March that required that a child older than 15 weeks was free from being murdered. The judge threw it out. Of course, the headline indicates that an "abortion ban" was struck down, but that doesn't make sense. 1) Abortion prior to 15 weeks was still allowed. 2) We know that children in the womb are children. We know it. Read the news where a 14-year-old girl and her "unborn baby" were killed by random gunfire. Hear the heartwarming outcome of an unsolved murder of a woman and her "unborn baby" 21 years after the fact. See where "'Bachelor' couple's unborn baby already has 11k Instagram followers." How can a non-human wad of cells have followers? In Ohio the legislature is considering a law that defines "person" to include "unborn humans." Oh, that will never do. That would turn abortion into murder, and murder of unborn humans is a right in our country. You can be pretty sure that, while the government has no standardized definition of "person" or "human" or even "viability", the judiciary will certainly not defend the lives of children of which mothers and other women do not approve.

Make up your mind. Was Mississippi "banning abortion" or protecting babies? Is Ohio "redefining person" or just applying it as it should be? (On what basis did Roe v Wade not define "unborn child" as "person"? They don't know. Seriously, they did not have a reason or criterion.) Should we allow the sexual revolution define human life, or should we let God and Science (who agree)? I think we know the answers, and I think we will ignore them.

(On a side note, in that story about the Ohio law, why, do you suppose, the story goes to lengths to tell us the political party and genders of the sponsors of this bill? They are Republican and are made up of 14 men and 2 women. Why do they think that is significant? Any guesses? I think I know. And it's not due to "unbiased reporting".)

Global Warming
It seems that this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade was the coldest parade on record. The parade started at 19 degrees F. If this global warming keeps up, we're going to freeze to death. (Don't argue about it; just laugh with me at the joke.)

Michael Avenatti is the lawyer that represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump. "Citing his deeply held conviction that we should 'believe all women,' lawyer and advocate for oppressed females Michael Avenatti immediately plead guilty to domestic violence charges after being arrested by the LAPD" for sexual abuse. Now, I know that's not what you heard in the latest news, but it must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Doubting John

We all remember the story of Doubting Thomas. Doubting John isn't as prevalent.

In Matthew we read, "Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'" (Matt 11:2-3) Now, if you know anything about John the Baptist, you know this. He was the guy. He was the prophet. Jesus said there was no greater prophet than John (Matt 11:11). He was the one predicted (Matt 11:10), the latest "Elijah" (Matt 11:14). John, when he saw Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, pointed Him out as "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John knew Who his cousin was (John 1:26-27). So how is it that John had to ask, "Are You the one?"

John, one of the greatest mouthpieces of God ("prophet") to have ever lived, had doubts in prison. I would suspect that if he did, so might we. What did John do about it? He did what we ought to do; he asked Jesus.

And what was Jesus's response? He told John, "O ye of little faith! Buck up, buddy! Walk by faith, not by sight. Faith in Me is opposed to reason and you just need to trust and obey." Well, of course, you can read the answer for yourself. That's not what Jesus said. He gave reasons for John to set aside his doubts.
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me. (Matt 11:4-6)
Jesus spoke of what could be seen and reasoned and what made sense. He spoke of truth -- that which corresponds to reality. He laid out the evidence and gave assurances. He gave a reason for hope (1 Peter 3:15). (Note: If you were paying attention, you would notice that Jesus's affirmations of John the Baptist that I gave up in the second paragraph occurred immediately after this exchange around John's doubts. Doubting doesn't necessarily disqualify you.)

I think we have some difficulties with all of this. "How could a prophet of God doubt? We surely shouldn't." The truth is it happens. The truth is there are answers. "Jesus always told them they had too little faith." He didn't. They had too little faith when they stood in the midst of the clear evidence and didn't trust. "Isn't faith in opposition to reason?" No, indeed. At least, Jesus didn't think so.

So, what can we learn here? Even the best can doubt. Don't worry about it; take it to Jesus. Ours is not a faith without evidence no matter what the world tells you. There are reasons and there is evidence and we should seek them. Faith is not opposed to reason; ours is a reasonable faith. Contend for it (Jude 1:3). Sometimes this "apologia" -- the defense of the faith -- is best used for believers. At least Jesus thought so. I think we should be "Christians" -- Christ-followers -- even in this.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving, 2018

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. (1 Chron 16:34)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:18)

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col 3:17)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Php 4:6)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psa 100:4)

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psa 106:1)
Now, hang on a minute. I seem to see a trend here. In fact, I seem to see a lot of this "give thanks" stuff in the Bible. Why?

Here's a great reason:
You were dead in your sins and trespasses ... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:1-9)
You come up with some more. It's a good day for it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

New Translations

I read, "The intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen 8:21). I read, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psa 51:5). I read, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). I read, "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one"(Rom 3:12). I read, "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 4:4). I read, "You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Eph 2:1-3). I read, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). I read, "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Rom 8:5-7). All this and more leads me to conclude that human beings in their natural state are what is termed "depraved." They are sinners from birth without exception. Humans are blinded, dead in sin, incapable of accepting the things of God, and hostile to God. Others read the very same texts and conclude, "People are basically good. Everyone does some good. This 'total depravity' concept is overblown and out of touch with reality."

How do we get there from here? How do Christians read the Bible and see the plain words and grasp the simple meaning and conclude almost exactly the opposite?

This "total depravity" (using a common term) thing is a mere example. The Scriptures are abundantly clear that we're saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from works, and readers of the Bible conclude that grace and faith and all that is really nice, but we are definitely saved by works. It is undeniable that multiple passages attest to the fact that Christ paid our ransom, died for our sin, satisfied God's justice, and propitiated His wrath, but Christians argue, "Yes, He did no such thing." "What do you mean, 'Yes?' You just disagreed." "Did I?" Time and time again fundamental, crystal-clear concepts and texts are viewed and understood to mean that which contradicts what the fundamental, crystal-clear concepts and texts are saying.

How do we get there from here? How do Christians read the Bible and see the plain words and grasp the simple meaning and conclude almost exactly the opposite? I'm wondering if we're reading the same Bible. Mine 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). Are we reading the same Bible? Or do we have a different source of authority?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"What Do You Want Me To Do For You?"

On two different occasions Jesus asked, "What do you want Me to do for you?" One of those times it was of the blind man, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51). Seems like a "duh" moment. He's a blind guy. He's calling to the Son of David, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:47). Like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda whom Jesus asked, "Do you wish to get well?" (John 5:6), did You really have to ask? But He did ask, so it was just sitting out there. "Rabboni," he answered, "I want to regain my sight!" (Mark 10:51). Jesus responded, "Go; your faith has made you well." (Mark 10:52). Happy ending.

Funny thing. It wasn't 16 verses earlier that Jesus was asking the very same question. Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed and James and John tell Jesus, "We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you" (Mark 10:35). Jesus asked that same question: "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Mark 10:36). Nice. "They said to Him, 'Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.'" (Mark 10:37). Jesus rightly shuts them down. "You do not know what you are asking" (Mark 10:38).

Not the same response. Bartimaeus got an "Ok" from Christ and James and John were told they were asking for the wrong thing. What was the difference? What made one a good request and the other not? I ask because maybe we can learn something about prayer. Are we asking for the wrong thing?

I think it's pretty clear. James and John came from the position, "Jesus, give us the good stuff we deserve. We've been good. We've been Your disciples. We ought to be given special rewards for our above-average work." It's the same thing you hear in the "health and wealth" kind of thinking. "I deserve better." It comes from an elevated view of self. Bartimaeus, on the other hand, came from the reverse. He brought to Jesus his biggest problem. He brought his largest downfall. He brought his disability. He didn't ask out of confidence or because he thought he had it coming. He asked for help with a problem he had no notion of solving.

What about us? Do we come in desperation or in confidence? Do we ask for what we deserve or what we don't but need? Do we demand from Christ or come in humility? Are we superior to others in our requests, or are we at the bottom of the heap? Jesus is happy to ask, "What do you want Me to do for you?" He doesn't always give what's asked. Our attitude is important. How is yours?

Monday, November 19, 2018


We know that the heart is an organ that pumps blood. With a quick look you can also discover that the Bible uses the term "heart" over 1,000 times. Now you may be surprised to find that they were so aware of the inner workings of the human body, and you'd be right because that was not the intent of the authors of Scripture. In our day we understand "heart" to be in contrast with "mind." You know, "Follow your heart, not your head." The heart, in this context, is primarily your inner emotions and desires. That is not what the Bible means when it uses the term. So perhaps, since we're supposed to love God with all our hearts (for instance), we ought to discover just what God's Word means when it talks to us about the heart.

In Scripture the heart is not a reference to the pump that keeps your blood moving; it is a reference to your innermost being. It isn't a reference to your feelings, except as so far as your feelings are part of your innermost being. "Man looks on the outside appearance, but God looks on the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). The heart is the deepest "you," whether it is talking about your heart or God's heart. You are what you are in your heart (Prov 23:7). We know that the heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9). "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders" (Matt 15:19). The heart contains the intellectual functions, the emotional operations, the volitional components (2 Cor 9:7), the moral code. Since the human heart is sinful, we need a new heart (Jer 31:33). When we are made new, that is exactly where Christ dwells (Eph 3:17) -- not the organ that pumps blood; the core of "you."

"Follow your heart" is popular, but given the problem of sin that resides in the heart, perhaps that isn't the best option. If the heart is the innermost being, infected with deceit and sin, we would obviously need a heart transplant. A heart indwelt by Christ would be much better, but that one is much, much more than "how I feel." It is the soul -- mind, will, and emotions -- under the influence of Christ. Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What's In It For Me?

We can hardly operate without this fundamental question: "What's in it for me?" Sometimes it's blatant; sometimes it's subtle. Even when we're being "selfless" we're most often operating under an underlying, "I'll feel better when I do this for them than if I hadn't." The problem, of course, is that we're such poor judges of what's in it for us. We think "A" would be so marvelous and find out we would have been better off with "B". Joseph certainly didn't start out thinking that being tossed into a well and then sold into slavery was a good thing for him, but at the other end of that nightmare road he declared, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20).

One of the most common objections to God -- from skeptics and believers alike -- is the problem of evil. Why do bad things happen to good people? If we're not succumbing to it, we try to solve it with little tricks like, "It'll work out in the end" or "I must have done something wrong." Our approach is generally "I'll tell myself it's not that bad." And we hold out for ourselves the promise that things will get better. "Every cloud has its silver lining." "What's in it for me?" at its core.

The prophet Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He had it really bad. He was commissioned by God to tell Judah they needed to repent or be punished. You can imagine he wasn't well received. He was threatened by his own, locked up, and tormented. They didn't repent and Jerusalem was destroyed. How did Jeremiah deal with it? "I must have done something wrong." No. "It'll get better." No. "Things aren't that bad." No.

Jeremiah saw himself as oppressed by God (Lam 3:1) without hope (Lam 3:7-9). "My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is" (Lam 3:17). So where did he go to ease this genuine burden?
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." (Lam 3:22-24)
Relief wasn't sufficient for Jeremiah. "Things will get better" didn't help. Jeremiah's confidence and, therefore, hope was not in what he would get out of it. He simply wanted the Lord. That was sufficient.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Great is His faithfulness. Is that sufficient?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

News Weakly - 11/17/18

The New Reality (Hint: It ain't actually connected to reality.)
The chief marketing officer for Victoria's Secret had to apologize for remarks he made in a Vogue interview. He said that he didn't want to include transgender models in their show because "the show is a fantasy." He said they considered it, but "No one had any interest in it, still don't." He has backpedaled and said he would of course include any qualifying transgender model and he's sorry for the offense.

The takeaway. 1) Do not have an opinion of the dysphoria du jour that does not embrace it fully. 2) Society at large is not interested in viewing biological men as women. Society at large still sees "male" and "female" as body parts ... you know, like biology requires. 3) Free enterprise means "As free as we let you be and no more." What does the market bear? Doesn't matter. What do your customers want? Doesn't matter. What is your product about? Doesn't matter. We control the vertical; we control the horizontal. (Sorry, line from an old TV series. You get the idea. They get to control reality.)

The New Centrist
Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner of Arizona's hotly contested Senate seat. She beat out a former Air Force pilot with her "solidly centrist positions, according to The Associated Press."

What constitutes "solidly centrist positions"? She favors killing babies in the womb "if mom wants to." She favors increased taxes, which is good because she favors increased federal spending to improve economic growth, but not decreasing corporate taxes if that improves economic growth. She favors gun control, standard "global warming" positions, open borders, and marijuana for recreational purposes. She opposes stay-at-home moms. She has been tied to the Communist Party USA. I am disappointed in Arizona for voting her in, but more of a concern is that these are considered "solidly centrist positions." Good thing I'm not counting on her support.

A report is out that archaeologists "can determine a person's sex by analyzing a single tooth." Well, maybe, but not their gender, right? Because the tooth can't tell us if it feels like a certain sex; just that it is ... one of only two. "On the wrong side of history," bigoted, binary tooth.

The New Satanic Verses
A pastor of an Assemblies of God megachurch decided to tell his 10,000+ congregation members about a dangerous, nay, demonic activity -- yoga. That's right. If you practice yoga, connected to any religion or not connected to religion at all, you are opening yourself up, merely by taking those exercise positions, to demonic power. How does he know this? Apparently the Bible tells him so. "As a church," he said, "our heart is to provide people with Biblical insight and teaching that will strengthen their faith and their daily walk with God." If you stop the practice, you have nothing to worry about, he says. If not, you do.

I'd just like to point out that my Bible says nothing about yoga and nothing about exercise positions that open you up to demonic powers. My Bible says things like, "If one of the unbelievers invites you to [yoga] and you are disposed to go, [exercise] without raising any question on the ground of conscience" because "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (1 Cor 10:27). My Bible says, "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). My Bible says, "We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18). So I'm not sure at all what "biblical insight and teaching" he's talking about; it's not in my Bible.

The media is outraged. "You can't do that!" CNN is suing President Trump for removing the credentials of their guy after he appeared to battle with in the briefing room. You will note that they didn't ban CNN; they merely removed Jim Acosta's White House press credentials. That is, the press (CNN in this case) still has its freedom to be there; just not that guy.

I suppose I'm a little baffled by this. "This is a threat to our democracy," they say. "He's entitled to his 5th Amendment rights," they say. "It's retaliation for Acosta's challenges," they say. I don't understand at what point the president lost the ability to choose to whom he gives his information as long as it is to someone. I don't understand how "He took away my press credentials" falls under any sort of crime covered under the 5th Amendment. I don't understand why Disney can do it but the White House can't. The juxtaposition of the two stories is telling. I am not defending Trump; I'm trying to follow the logic. But, hey, that's just me. I see things in "legal" or "logical" terms and think "X." I see "The president removed Acosta's pass and he can because it's his house" while the judicial system determines "He can't because it causes 'irreparable harm.'" Looks bad for CNN, FOX (who backed the notion that the press should be allowed to be wherever they want whenever they want at their whim under the protection of free speech, free press, and the 5th amendment) and American freedom.

Is This Even Legal?
Socialists and Democrats have decided to try to force companies like Amazon and WalMart (by name) to pay their employees $15 because that's a "living wage" and those with the money should give it up. So Bernie has floated a bill (he calls the "Stop Walmart bill") to prevent them from buying back their own stock until they raise their employees pay to his minimum requirement. Why would a company buy back its own stock? That's how they give back dividends to their shareholders. So the plan is to increase the cost of living for everyone by forcing companies to pay their workers a "living wage" (by which they mean "today ... but not tomorrow") at the cost of the company and its shareholders and, ultimately all of America. That sounds fair. That sounds Socialist.

Friday, November 16, 2018


He is 15 years old and declares to the world, "My parents don't understand me!" Like, I suspect, just about every teenager at some point since there were teenagers. I said to him (in the imaginary conversation in my head), "Let's consider that. Do you suppose your parents were never teenagers? If they were, do you think it is possible that they do understand you? On the other hand, have you yet been an adult or, more, a parent? Do you think it is remotely possible that it is you who don't understand?"

Of course, that wouldn't help and you and I know it. The problem is not that this kid's parents don't understand him. This phrase, "My parents don't understand me," is code for "They won't let me do what I want to do." He could tell if his parents understood him by the fact that they let him do what he wants. That is understanding. Because what he wants, regardless of what it is, is definitely good and certainly better than the alternative.

We sage adults smile and shake our heads at the naive teenagers. Sorry, kid, you just don't get it. Adults are supposed to be wiser than children; we're supposed to be filling in the gaps of where they haven't yet learned, arrived, matured. That's what we're here for.

And God smiles and shakes His head at us naive humans. You see, that's all of us. Isn't it? Oh, maybe it's not, "God doesn't understand me!" Certainly we're often upset that He didn't let us do what we wanted to do, didn't give us what we asked for, didn't understand that our way was best. The sheer arrogance is staggering. We're sure that He made a mistake because obviously the request we made or the thing we wanted was far better than what He actually gave us. We asked for a healing, a rescue, a gift, a kindness, a necessary item, something really good. And He answered ... "No." And we cry out, "Why, God?!"

I say to me, "Do you suppose that God might actually understand things better than you? Do you think it is possible that He is a good God and always does what's best? Perhaps, just perhaps, maybe He knows better than you?" Because I want to realign my thinking with His, not vice versa; never the other way around. "I'm sorry, Lord. I don't know what came over me. I need a transformed mind, a clean heart, a renewed spirit." Would that we could see it His way more often and much sooner, instead of being like the teenagers we adults shake our heads at who clearly don't understand.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The New Sex Project

When the Creator built the system that included all existence, He included humans -- male and female (Gen 1:27) (stupid binary God) -- and He included marriage -- male and female become one flesh (Gen 2:24) (stupid God on the wrong side of history) -- and He included sex. Yes, God included sex in this universe. He had a purpose for it. And it was very good (Gen 1:31).

What was God's idea? He meant sex as the union of a man and a woman -- one man and one woman. Every biblical reference to sex outside of marriage is classified as sexual immorality. He meant it for reproduction (Gen 1:28). "Be fruitful and multiply." A key purpose in marriage and accomplished by sex. And, clearly, he meant it for mutual pleasure, but not for self-gratification (1 Cor 7:3-4). Sex was to be the ultimate intimacy. Marriage makes two into one in many ways; one of those ways is physically through sex. But the physical act makes two into one in more than physical ways (1 Cor 6:15-16). Ultimately, sex is a physical representation of a deeper, even unfathomable mystery of the union of Christ and His Bride (1 Cor 6:17; Eph 5:31-32).

Enter the 21st century and you'll find we have a new plan. We have a new "good." God had all these incredible plans for sex between married couples from mutual satisfaction to procreation all the way to soul-unity. Today? We have a better idea. Let's make it about dominance and self. Yeah! Much better! Oh, you don't see it. Take a look.

In the midst of a society that is (rightly) outraged by women being abused we have bestsellers and blockbusters about ... bondage and sadomasochism. How is that? Because our society has moved from intimacy to power. Most of what our modern society considers "hot" is more about power than union. Oral sex, anal sex, group sex, sex-on-demand, sex for recreation, "friends with benefits," all of this and more is not about mutual satisfaction or shared intimacy; it's about dominance and submission, about power. They tell us that rape isn't about sex; it's about power. Well, most of our sexual thinking these days is exactly self, wrapped up often in power and submission, sadism and masochism, humiliation and dominance.

Still disagree? Consider. The most pervasive element of sexual expression in our society today is pornography. While our fathers' fathers might have indulged (not too often, given the limited access) in such things, they would always hide it; it wasn't acceptable. Now we brag about it in public. We have "pastors" declaring that it's perfectly fine as long as it's "ethically sourced." Go ahead and enjoy! Except that pornography, by definition, is a non-human-interface procedure. You do it alone. You aren't with anyone who is in the porn; you're an observer. Any sex that takes place is alone, primarily in the mind. No real people were joined in this event. No intimacy was exchanged. It is pure self. And it is applauded today as a good thing.

This idea of sex today is so prevalent that even Christians seem to miss it. Sex is about my pleasure, isn't it? No, it's not. They think, "It's wrong to be looking at porn" but miss entirely why. Sure, there is the problem of lust, but, worse, it is a distortion of God's plans, God's commands, and God's glory.

So we end up like some Victorian throwbacks, unable to come into the 21st century, join the "new-and-improved." Except that I submit that it is neither new nor improved. And the prevalence of this kind of thinking makes us miss it entirely until we no longer see that sex is about procreation and intimacy because we are supposed to procreate (make disciples) and be one (with Christ), a much bigger picture than the silly nonsense they call "sex" today. It's not sex in the crosshairs; it is God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Reality Check

In Canada a guy simply identified as "JY" claims to be a woman in male body and is suing 16 female estheticians for refusing to give him a "manzilian." For those of you unclear on the concept, it is a male "Brazilian" bikini wax. This "transgender" wanted them to remove the hair from his male body part. He could go to all sorts of places to have it done, but he chose 16 females who served women only and is suing because they refused. His British Columbia Human Rights have been violated by discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

A Christian women's shelter in Alaska is being sued after a man who identifies as a woman was refused admittance to the shelter. The Hope Center is a private shelter, not a business or professional activity that is open to, accepts or solicits the patronage of, or caters or offers goods or services to the general public. They turned down the man because they weren't accepting new guests at the time. He is suing because of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Her church includes a "Minister of Fabulousness." She refuses to be outraged at porn and assures her people that it's perfectly okay to look at pornography as long as it is "ethically sourced." For reference, she says "ethically sourced" means that the people in it are not being exploited. I guess "consent" is the definition of "moral." You shouldn't shame people for their sexual immorality, she argues. "If the teachings of the church are harming people, then we need to rethink those teachings." Yeah, I remember Jesus saying the same thing. Oh, wait ...

Paul said that sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28). The further down the path of sin we go, the more depraved the mind becomes. For those who are intent on suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), the aim is ignoring reality (Rom 1:19-25). That is illustrated in our society more and more. The remedy is to be transformed rather than conformed (Rom 12:2), and that transformation is by the renewing of the mind (Matt 22:37; 1 Cor 2:16; Php 2:5) (Paul parallels "depraved in mind" with "deprived of the truth" -- 1 Tim 6:5). It's really as simple as that -- in Christ to reality or out of Christ to insanity.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Paul on Works

The Pauline Dispensationalists (PDs) will tell you that Paul's writings are valid for today -- for the Church -- as opposed to the Gospels, James, John, the Old Testament, Hebrews ... well, any other author in Scripture. They are not valid for today. They don't give the gospel for today. The primary difference? "They taught," they will tell you, "salvation by faith plus works. Paul teaches salvation apart from works." The rest of us hear this and scratch our heads. Peter said that salvation was by Christ alone (Acts 4:12) and we've maintained all along that it has always been thus. Beyond that, we've also maintained that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from works. At least that is something on which we seem to agree. So where is the difference? The real difference is that James said that faith without works is dead faith (James 2:17) and Jesus said that those who love Him will obey Him (John 14:15). So we maintain that works don't save, but are the necessary result of the changed life, the "born again." Works don't save, but they will result (1 John 3:9). Jesus said it. James said it. All the New Testament authors attested to it. We maintain it. PDs don't. "No, no," they will argue (vehemently, even angrily), "works have absolutely nothing to do with the Christian. You may or you may not have any results from being saved beyond avoiding Hell."

Now, they will only go so far as Paul, so I have to ask, what does Paul say? Does Paul say what they say or not? I believe that Paul disagrees with them.

We are all in agreement that by grace we have been saved through faith. And this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9). Let us be absolutely clear that works are not a cause in any sense for that salvation we receive as a gift. However, this is not the end of Paul's thoughts on the subject. He goes on to say, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Paul is not unclear. Saved apart from works. Paul is equally clear on works -- they are one of the primary purposes for which we are saved, one of the primary works of God in the saved. He doesn't produce good works in the unsaved, but He necessarily produces good works in the saved.

We see something similar in Paul's letter to the Philippian church. He warns them, "My beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). Works have no bearing on obtaining salvation, but Paul seems to believe that they are beneficial for "working it out." Before you jump to conclusions that this means salvation is maintained by our good works, be sure to read the rest of Paul's thought. (Verse 12 is not the end of the sentence.) "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Php 2:13). We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we are not doing this on our own. We aren't doing it by our own efforts and our own power. Two things are required to do God's work: the will and the way. We need to will to do it and have the power to do it. God gives both. So we aren't producing the works; God is. We merely participate. But there are works.

Does Paul think works may not happen? Not at all. He argues that regeneration and salvation produces an entirely new being (2 Cor 5:17) (much like Jesus did -- John 3:3, 5-6). We don't merely become "good people." We are new creations. Paul warns that we need to examine ourselves "to see whether you are in the faith," and that it is possible to fail that examination (2 Cor 13:5). The examination is a warning because those who call themselves saved are profligate sinners (2 Cor 13:2), a sign that they're not in the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) but in the flesh (Gal 5:19-20). Those who are in the flesh "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:20). He distinguishes between those whose lives are defined by sin (1 Cor 6:9-10) and those who were but no longer (1 Cor 9:11). Believers, he says, are washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor 6:11) ... not "the same as you always were."

Did Paul teach that people used to be saved by works? No. Paul said, "No human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:20). Did Paul teach a different gospel than Jesus? No. Paul calls his gospel "the gospel of Christ" 8 times (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12, 9:13, 10:14; Gal 1:7; Php 1:27; 1 Thess 3:2). (Note: In that Galatians 1 reference Paul is in the midst of warning them about "another gospel" (Gal 1:6-10) which he says is the distortion of the gospel of Christ.) Did Paul say that there were no good works in the Christian life? No. Paul taught that they were expected, powered by God, produced as a natural result of a new life, and a valid demonstration of being in the faith. Did Paul teach salvation by faith plus works? No. He taught Christian behavior was the result, not the cause of being saved. Paul taught what was later stated clearly. He taught salvation by faith alone, but not a faith that was alone. He echoed Christ and all the other Apostles. If you believe something ("faith"), you will act on it. If you don't act on it, you never truly believed it ("dead faith"). Simple as that.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Veteran's Day

Yes, yesterday was Veterans Day, but today is the holiday, so I'll talk about it today.

Veterans Day was such a cool idea. It was instituted in 1919 following the end of "The Great War." November 11, 1918, was Armistice Day. Considered "the war to end all wars," Armistice Day was intended to commemorate those who had served -- ostensibly the last who would need to. Nice, right? Of course, that "Great War" later became "World War I," requiring "World War II" -- another world war. So it was not the war to end all wars. Thus Veterans Day was inaugurated. Still, a nice idea. It is still a "celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good."

Americans get a bit confused about the day. We have Veterans Day in November and Memorial Day in May. And then there's Armed Forces Day What's up with that? Memorial Day is intended to honor those who died for the country. Armed Forces Day recognizes those currently serving. Veterans Day is intended to honor all veterans, past and present, including those who did not die. And since some 80% of those who serve are in non-combat positions, that's quite a few. What is it, then, that we honor?

We honor those who served. We're all reasonably (although not completely) aware of the service of those risking their lives on the front lines. We dearly want to thank those who are literally fighting for our freedom. But no such fight is carried out by one man let alone the few. The one man requires his team, and the team requires their support. Time and again you will hear those who have served say something like this. "It's not for glory or for hate or because we're bloodthirsty. We serve because of love. Love for the ones next to us, for love of family and home, for love of country." They don't serve to get rich. They don't serve to get recognition. They don't normally get either. This isn't a career advancement. These people make grand sacrifices for others. Veterans represent a nearly lost attitude that America once had, the attitude of selflessness and sacrifice. That's what we recognize on Veterans Day.

Thanks, then, to those who served. May we return the favor and serve as well. Like so many veterans, it doesn't have to be in combat. But we ought to be serving others rather than ourselves and we ought to be thankful for those who demonstrate that kind of service.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Blessed are the WHO?

We know those "Beatitudes," right? Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. All that good stuff. Well, not so good really, but we're blessed if we're in those what most people consider not-so-good conditions, so that is good. How about this one? Blessed are the peacemakers.

Now, that one actually seems like a nice one and we're good with that. Or ... are we? We currently live in a world growing more openly hostile to God and to Christianity. Be that as it may, what is really obvious is that we're living in a world with a hair-trigger on our hate guns. "Cotton-pickin'" used to just be a phrase, but now it's a racist insult, as if only black people have ever picked cotton and the only reason to use the phrase is to insult them. We have "cultural appropriation" which sneaks up on many who are simply trying to imitate what they like in other cultures. And "microagression" which by its very name tells you its really small ("micro") but really bad ("aggression"). You can do it without even knowing it ... or having it. "So, what country are your ancestors from?" will get you in big trouble. Are you white? You're in trouble. Are you male? You're really in trouble. Are you Republican? Same. If you're all three, you are the biggest terrorist threat on the planet. I know people who make your choice in food a matter of moral outrage. "Oh, you like coffee? What kind of monster are you?" And don't get me started on religious wars. "What's that? You believe that rock music is acceptable in church??!! Infidel!!!"

Blessed are the peacemakers.

See? All of the sudden that is a lot harder than it sounded. How do we maintain our solid lines, our biblical lines, our defense of the faith, our obedience to God rather than men and still work at producing peace with others? How do we strive to prevent dissension and strife in a world that seems to breathe dissension and strife? "Peacemakers," Jesus said, "are blessed." Well, I want to be blessed. How do we, faced with constant opposition, animosity, and conflict, be peacemakers?

I would suggest we do it by ... well, you know ... being biblical. We are commanded to love God, so we can't shade the truth or pull back on His commands or compromise what He says. We are commanded to love our neighbors, so we shouldn't be obeying God by being aggressive, argumentative, or hostile to our neighbors. If God's truth and God's commands are for our good, then it makes no sense to defend them by going to war. "You will take this good thing if I have to tie you down and shove it down your throat and you will like it!" Makes no sense at all. So if we love God, we stand on His Word, but we do it with love. And when fellow believers take up arms, we love them enough to encourage them to love their enemies. We are commanded to "stand firm" (1 Cor 16:13; Eph 6:14; Php 4:1; 2 Thess 2:15), not "go to war", and we are told to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), to make a defense, but with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Yes, this world seems to delight in taking offense and going to war over almost anything. They complain about "Trump rhetoric" and then feed the same rhetoric back for everything they don't like. They are offended at the least hint of a possible slight, real or imagined. Brothers and sisters, that shouldn't be us. We should be peacemakers, not backing down on the truth, but not taking up arms to attack, either. We're supposed to love our enemies. That is, if you want to be blessed.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

News Weakly - 11/10/18

Praise Be
Well, it's about time. The silly God we worship has included instructions like "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him" (Prov 22:15) and "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol" (Prov 23:13-14). Indeed, our God is so whacky that He says, "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives" (Heb 12:6). What kind of crazy is that? Fortunately the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come out with some real corrections for God, assuring us that "positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits and setting expectations" are "healthy forms of discipline" while any kind of corporal punishment like God recommended will make them aggressive, depressive, and stupid ("less gray matter in children's brains"). Thank you, modern science. We are now free to ignore God's instructions on this. You know better than He anyway, I'm sure. And when I look around at the current younger generation, I can see your methods are working. Oh, wait ...

This isn't new, of course. They've been beating this drum for years and years. The nearly total lack of discipline among children these days speaks poorly of this approach. And the complete inability of most people to understand how the kind of discipline God commends can -- must -- be administered with love makes it impossible for these anti-God types to evaluate. Let's just say that their conclusions ain't necessarily the case. God appears to disagree with them. Our society, of course, doesn't much care what He thinks.

Don't Put Your Trust in Princes
This just goes to show, don't put your trust in princes. Nevada managed to vote in a dead candidate. "A Nevada brothel owner and reality TV star who died last month after fashioning himself as a Donald Trump-style Republican candidate has won a heavily GOP state legislative district." It's funny and sad. Funny because the dead Republican beat all other comers. Sad because 1) he was a candidate for office as a Republican and 2) voters voted him in. I'm guessing this is the Democrats' fault. They argue, "The only good Republican is a dead Republican," so they voted in the dead Republican.

This should go without saying, but don't trust the dead guy to do the job you want.

What Means You Never Have to Say You're Sorry?
Last week Don Lemon, CNN commentator, brought calm to the country by encouraging people to stop demonizing people.
We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.
CNN immediately required that Lemon apologize for his racist (and irrational) (You can't "stop demonizing" by demonizing.) remarks, which he ... oh, wait ... no, they didn't. He clarified his statements. No, no, it's not white men. It's white men who have been "radicalized to the right." Much better.

Just so we're clear, if someone makes a racist or sexist remark, the public expects an apology ... at the very least. (They may expect an execution.) If that racist or sexist remark is against a white male, it is perfectly suitable. If it is against a white male who leans right, it appears to be completely defensible. We only need to wait to find out what "We have to start doing something about them" means. I don't expect it to be pleasant.

(Note: I haven't asked any of them for apologies. I've complained that we require it in a country where free speech is supposed to be a constitutional right. I'm just concerned about the obvious double standard.)

What Did You Expect?
Bruce Jenner is a men's Olympic gold medal winner who identified as a woman and they call him "Cait." Why? Because he identifies as a woman, so he is. A 52-year-old father of seven identifies as a 6-year-old girl living with parents of a biological girl who have adopted him as their daughter to be their daughter's sister. Why? Because he identifies as a 6-year-old girl, so he is. Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who identified as a black woman and was a NAACP leader until they figured out she was actually white. "Oh, now wait!" they said. "That's too far." She still does; they still don't. Why? Because they're drawing an arbitrary line. Not to be outdone, Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old, is suing Tinder to get his age changed to 49 because he identifies 20 years younger and ought to be allowed to be recognized as such.

If the logical arguments for "transgender" are to be maintained as valid, there is no basis to deny Dolezal her leadership role in the NAACP or Mr. Ratelband his new birthdate. I'm pretty sure the "trans" supporters will not be that consistent.

As I Figured
I thought it would go this way. The court has legislated from the bench again by requiring the current president to continue a temporary executive branch memorandum issued by the previous president in 2012. When multiple states sued the government over that memorandum, the Supreme Court barely blocked their suit by simply declaring that it was legal for that president to make such a memorandum that was intended to fill a gap until Congress could do it legislatively. Congress didn't. Now the court finds that it is legal for a president to make a temporary situation -- DACA -- but it is illegal for his successor to end the temporary situation. The three-member panel said that requiring Congress to handle the situation was "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." This is making sense to someone, I'm sure, but not to me. It looks to me that our "rights" and our "law" have become arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with anything much at all.

Election Results
The Babylon Bee is a satire site, and this was satirical ... but not. I mean, sure, no news outlet called the election in favor of Christ, but the fact remains, Christ is still on His throne. Don't let any political discussion move you from that confidence.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Eyes on the Prize

Years ago Budweiser had a campaign built on the catchphrase, "Why ask why?" It seems as if it has become the motto of many. Whatever you do, do not ask, "Why?"

It often appears that people on diverging paths are arguing about ways things should be done without considering what they're trying to do. A current example. In this most recent election, Nevada voted down their "tampon tax." Wait ... what? Yes, they campaigned to remove the sexist tax on feminine sanitary products and won. No, wait ... there was a tax on feminine sanitary products? No, there wasn't. There was a tax on all non-food items, including those products. "Okay, so they removed a tax on a particular item based on the argument that it was sexist?" No, that's not true either. You see, the FDA classifies feminine hygiene products as medical devices and Nevada exempts medical devices from state taxes, so Nevadans voted to recognize the fact that some medical devices were being taxed when they shouldn't be. Nothing here about "sexism." Did Nevadans know what they were voting on? No. Everything about "sexism." The legal outcome was correct, but they didn't know why.

In Arizona we voted down a constitutional amendment that would require that in a decade we would be using 50% renewable energy. Very few seemed to notice that the second largest power company in the state was exempt. No one seemed to pay attention to the fact that the largest provider is already at 50% clean energy. The push was for renewable energy and we were never told why. We were told it would lower our bills (because building and maintaining an entire new power infrastructure is cheaper than the current one, right?) and improve our environment (oh, wait ... we already had clean energy), but no one was clear on the goal and we put an end to that game.

Just two examples. Examine much of life and you'll find a flurry of effort thrown into unclear aims. Politics, economics, business, education, marriage, family ... everywhere. We don't seem to know where we're going or why, but we are running hard after it, whatever it is.

We do this all the time. Think "church." People begin to ask, "Are we incorporating projects and processes and programs that bring people in?" They start looking at marketing schemes and adopt catchy mantras and run the numbers to see if their attendance and income is up -- "Yeah!" -- or down -- "Oh, no!" They do not ask, "Why?" Why are we here? What is our goal? What are we supposed to be doing? Because I don't find any metric in my Bible that says, "Take attendance, count the money, and see if you're a successful church." I see things in Scripture like "make disciples" (Matt 28:19-20) -- "Well, sure, we would but it takes too much time and effort, frankly, we don't see how that will improve our numbers" -- and "equipping of the saints to maturity" (Eph 4:11-16) -- "Um ... no, we're more interested in filling the space than making mature believers" -- and we mostly ignore them and move on to "better things" like "more people." Except in the final analysis these techniques largely fail and God's commands are ignored, damaging God's people.

Why ask why? Because if we don't know the reason or the aim or the actual goal, we don't know where we're going and we won't likely get there. Not in marriage, family, church, work, even in fun. "Hey, I came out here to play a game; why is everyone in swimsuits?" We really ought to examine what we're trying to do before trying to do it. It would make much better sense.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Even If

You all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Dan 3). They're the Jewish exiles held in Babylon who refused to bow to the king's idol. Their enemies tattled on them and they ended up in the king's court for failure to yield. The punishment was to be a fiery death.

You all know the outcome. Given the option to bow or die (Dan 3:14-15), they told the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter" (Dan 3:16). Nice start. They assured him that God could deliver them from the fire. Brave. And then they said this: "Even if He doesn't, we will not serve your gods" (Dan 3:18). "Okay, guys," some might counsel, "that's really brave and all, but don't you think it's over the top? I mean, if God doesn't save you, you'll die."

You know the rest. The king had them thrown into a fire so hot it killed the men that threw them in, but the three didn't die. They weren't singed. And they weren't alone (Dan 3:24-27). Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune ... happy ending.

A couple of applications here. The original problem was not God; it was idols. They had two alternatives -- worship the idol of their day or follow God even if He didn't save them from the consequences. They chose the latter. We face the same question today. We have "the idol du jour," so to speak, all around us. The top one these days appears to be "If it feels good, do it." That is the ultimate good, the ultimate god. If you comment on it, question it, or deny it, you can expect to face the fire. "You're supposed to be affirming, embracing, encouraging!" You're supposed to bow. Maybe it's the modern "given" -- "same-sex marriage." Just as real as the king's golden idol -- not real at all -- we're still supposed to bow and worship. Or maybe you're running up against the tyrannical god, gender dysphoria. In this one, you need to, much like those ancients at the feet of a hunk of metal treated as a god, surrender your sanity to believe that male and female are only figments of your imagination. Unless, of course, you collide with the she-idol of the day, feminism. Surrender or die. There are lots and lots of these idols around. Sexual immorality, money, power, entertainment, the current value system (whatever it might be today), marketing schemes, the ever-present "fit in with the crowd" -- lots and lots of idols. You have two options -- worship the idol at hand or follow God even if He doesn't save you from the consequences.

There is a second application here, like unto the first. These three guys held their ground. They went into the furnace. If we are to be what God's wants, we need to go into the furnace. If we are to be witnesses for Christ, we need to go into the furnace. If we are to see God's miraculous hand at work, we need to go into the furnace. If we want to be completed, perfected, we need to go into the furnace (James 1:2-4). Avoiding the furnace won't help. Trusting in courts or kings or the world to save us won't do. We need to go with God on this, and even if He doesn't spare us from painful consequences, we need to stand with Him against a world rife with sacrosanct, cultural idols. We need to tell our culture, "If it is so that our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, then He will deliver out of your hand. And if not, let it be known to you that we will not serve your gods or worship the idol which you have set up" (Dan 3:17-18). Because the worst thing that can happen to us is not pain and death. The worst thing that can happen is that God is not glorified in us. At all costs.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Extrovert

We know the two terms, introvert and extrovert, and we know they are opposites. An introvert is a shy person; an extrovert is an outgoing person. This isn't secret or controversial. What is more interesting, however, is the origin of the words and the ramifications.

Both words come from a compound, related concept. "Intro" is a prefix from the Latin that means "within" or "internal." "Extro" is a prefix that comes from the Latin "extrā" meaning "outside" or "without" (as opposed to "within"). Okay, good, we can all see that these two prefixes are opposites. So what about the root word? The suffix, "vert," as it turns out, is the same one used in other familiar words. You can "revert," "convert," "invert," "subvert," "avert," or "divert." "Pervert" comes from the same term as does "advertise." ("Advertise" comes from "advert" which means "to pay attention" -- ad + vert.) Lots of "verting" going on. So what does that suffix mean? It means "to turn." (Now, if you want to play, go back into that list I just gave you and see if you can see where the "turn" term takes those words based on their prefixes.)

Okay, I know, boring, at least to anyone who isn't a wordsmith. Let's make it significant now. If you look at the original two words, "introvert" and "extrovert", you'll find that their actual meanings now shift. An introvert is shy because he or she is "turned-inward" and an extrovert is gregarious because he or she is "turned-outward." Now, I suppose, that's not necessarily true in fact, but those are the ideas behind the words.

If we step back one more step, then, let me ask you two questions. In terms of human beings, are we naturally introverts -- turned inwards -- or extroverts -- turned outward? The answer, biblically, is that we are introverts. We have our eyes on ourselves. It's the nature of our sin nature. You can see this in much of society today. Millennials are castigated for being the "Me" generation, but that's just because they're doing openly what all of us have done secretly most of the time. "What's good for me?" is the natural concern of the human being. Introverts. If that's true, here's the second question. What should Christians be? If Jesus is to be believed, our primary aim is two-fold. First, love God with all of our being. Second, love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-39). These are by definition "turned outward." Paul puts it this way. "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" (Php 2:3-4). Turned outward, not inward.

We don't all have to be social butterflies, gregarious, that kind of thing. However, the defining characteristic of those who follow Christ is to "love one another" (John 13:35). That is turning outward, not inward. The functional position of any genuine believer ought to be as an extrovert, turned outward toward God and others.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Rightly Dividing

There is a segment of Christianity that terms itself as a particular type. They might call themselves "Pauline Dispensationalists" or they might call themselves "Mid-Acts Dispensationalists or the like. They particularly like the moniker "the Grace Movement," as if they have a corner on the market. Not to be confused with your run-of-the-mill Dispensationalists, these are a specific version that teaches that no one prior to Paul got the gospel right. Read that again. No one. Not the Old Testament (obviously), not Peter, not James, not John, not Jesus. They all had "pre-mid-Acts" gospels that just weren't right. If Jesus had preached His gospel in Paul's day, Paul would have called Him anathema -- cursed because He taught "another gospel" (Gal 1:6-9).

A major portion of their position begins exactly on this verse:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
Of course, they don't use that version. They use the King James version, where we are to be "rightly dividing the word of truth." "Your problem," they will tell all of the rest of Christendom, "is that you don't rightly divide the word of truth." So we mix up Israel and the Church, pre-Pauline salvation and post, all of Scripture with Paul's writings. "You need to divide them," they assure us.

I've written on this more than once. You can look at those for arguments, both biblical and logical. Here's what astounds me. It's so new.

Dispensationalism at its roots is a means of breaking biblical history up in eras, so to speak. This isn't odd or exclusive. Some use "dispensations;" others prefer "covenants." Similar ideas. "During this time period God was dealing with humans this way and in that time period He did it that way." So we have the way God dealt with sinless Man in the garden and then Man without Law then Man with Law and so on. That's all fine as long as we're just talking time periods and not a different message or a different God. This version of time distinctions we call "Dispensationalism" came up in the mid-1800's with John Darby. It was incorporated into Scofield's Bible. Included in this approach was a brand new eschatology that included a "pre-Trib rapture." (Before Darby the standard view is now called "historic premillenialism" which argued for a post-Trib rapture.) So, new on the scene, this Dispensationalism gained traction thanks to the likes of Scofield and others.

Pauline Dispensationalism didn't come until much later. It is almost exclusively an American innovation brought about largely by E. W. Bullinger (1837-1913) who influenced folks like Cornelius Stam (1908-2003) to this further "dividing". Classical Dispensationalism didn't stray too much from historic orthodoxy (and I'm not sure there is any such classification of folks that doesn't stray in one place or another from historic orthodoxy), but this new version really put the brakes on the Bible. Now, to be fair, they did not argue that the Bible is wrong or should be tossed out. What they did (and still do) argue was that all of Scripture outside of Paul's writings is currently not applicable. Paul alone has the gospel to teach. Everyone else is no longer correct. They are perfectly happy to hold all of Scripture except for Paul in one hand and Paul's writings in the other and say, "Yes, they contradict each other, but it's all true and it's all God's Word." They emphasis "inerrancy" and "infallibility" while arguing that all Christians prior to John Darby got saved-by-grace-apart-from-works wrong. They make no effort to harmonize God's Word but point to Paul and say, "Saved by grace apart from works" but "Jesus taught works-based salvation" and that's okay with them. They argue "No one prior to Christ was saved by works" and then argue that "Salvation prior to Paul was always on the basis of works." They don't have to make sense of Paul's "saved by grace apart from works" versus James's "faith without works is dead" because they simply say, "James is wrong" ... and still hold that Scripture is inerrant and infallible.

One of the things that, in my mind, makes this position so questionable (besides all the biblical and logical arguments) is the fact that every single Pauline Dispensationalist I've talked to is really angry about this. Look, I believe in Divine Election. I will point it out in Scripture. I will tell you why I believe it. But if you don't agree, that's fine. I won't accuse you of holding to "another gospel" and declare you "anathema" and unsaved. They will. Disagree, even nuanced, with what they hold and you are an infidel, a heretic, in need of salvation. Methinks they doth protest too much.

I guess I have too much faith. Too simple faith? I think that when Christ saves He actually changes people (e.g., 2 Cor 5:17). I believe that we are saved for good works (Eph 2:10). I believe that all Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17). I believe that when Jesus promised to send His Spirit to lead us into all truth (John 16:13), He did. So if someone shows up tomorrow and says, "I get it, finally! No one else has, but I got it!", I'm going to be skeptical. Very skeptical. And this brand new theology that blithely holds Scripture in two hands contradicting itself is wrongly dividing the word of truth, handling it wrongly. Be aware of it. It's out there. And it's insidious. (Who doesn't want to hear, "Hey, it doesn't matter what you do ... ever"? License to sin is a popular incentive.) Don't fall for it.

Monday, November 05, 2018

"You planned this?"

When I was young we had a politically incorrect character from Frito Lay that was in a lot of their commercials. He was the Frito Bandito. He was a bumbling thief with a Hispanic accent trying to steal Fritos. He had a large buddy with him who was apparently much brighter than he was except for the fact that he was following the Frito Bandito around. In one "episode" the Bandito tried to break into the Fritos factory only to find himself, through a series of errors, piled in a heap outside the door with aches and pains but no Fritos. The last lines of the commercial went like this.

Bandito: "That didn't go like I planned it."

Sidekick: "You planned this?"

Perhaps you heard about the tragic death of Charles Wesco, a missionary from Indiana to Cameroon. The family moved their 12 days before his death. Charles was in a car with his wife and son and another missionary who was driving. They were caught in crossfire between two forces. Two bullets went through the windshield and killed Wesco. No one else in the car was injured. Charles's brother, Timothy, believes they were targeted as "white, English-speaking Americans." The government believes it was random, a case of wrong place, wrong time. What we want to know is "Why?" Why would God allow this? How does this kind of thing happen? Couldn't God have prevented it?

We don't get the answer to the "Why" question. That's God's pervue, and generally speaking He doesn't share that with us. But the rest we can know. God allows "bad things" to happen even to His own dear children for a good reason (Gen 50:20). No, let me shorten that. God allows "bad things" to happen even to His own dear children for good. How can we be sure of that? Scripture tells us that God planned the worst of all possible "bad things" for a good outcome.
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 plan had predestined to take place." (Acts 4:27-28)
That ultimate bad was the murder of His Son. That genuine good was the salvation of His people. The text tells us that the leadership and the people were doing not merely what they planned, but "whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place." Not always pleasant, but always good.

The murder of this father on the mission field to serve the Lord is sad and tragic, but if it is true that "God causes all things to work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28), then this sad tragedy is for good. We can weep with those who weep and still rejoice that God will bring good out of it, a pre-planned good that cannot fail to be accomplished. The same is true for every event in our lives.

We might be tempted to ask, "You planned this?" Consider the alternative. Is God either unable to protect those He wishes to protect or just unwilling, or both? Or ... is Scripture absolutely right about God working all things according to the purpose of His will? You choose which you think is right. I find far more comfort in the latter.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Wholly Holy

We know and love lots of attributes of God. That whole "God is love" thing is great. We sing of His mercy and grace. We generally like His "omnis" -- His Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. That He knows everything, can do anything that He intends, and is always present everywhere is really a good thing for us. There is one particular attribute, however, that trips us up a little, especially when we find out just what it really means. That would be His holiness.

Now, if "holy" means "apart from sin," we're all for that. Good stuff. And "apart from sin" is included in "holy" ... but there is so much more. The word in the Hebrew is qâdôsh. It means to be clean, but, more literally, to be "other, apart." Thus, to be "qâdôsh" is to be other than dirty, other than defiled, other than sin. We get that. But it goes farther. It means to be other than everything. He is God alone and He is not us. There is none like Him (1 Sam 2:2). He is totally unique. In a very real sense, He is "wholly other" so far that we will never be able to grasp Him. He is "other." Add to all this the interesting fact that "holy" is the only attribute of God that is raised to the third power, so to speak. We read that God is love or that God is Sovereign or that God is good, but when it comes to "holy," we read that God is "holy, holy, holy" -- and not only once, but twice. (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). This kind of repetition isn't "vain repetition" like Jesus warned against. It's significant. It is the Hebrew equivalent of underline, italicize, bold print. It is raising this concept to its highest level. Holiness is God's defining attribute, enfolding all the rest in its content and intent.

So, we have a God who is "other" -- other than sin, other than defilement, other than everything. That all by itself can be terrifying. We are naturally xenophobic -- afraid of that which is different. It is the root cause of our innate racism, sexism, ageism, or any other "ism." It makes Jews hate Gentiles and makes Gentiles into anti-Semites. It makes Americans "gaijin" to Japanese ... and not in a good way. It makes the rich separate themselves from the poor and the poor from the rich. "Other" is questionable to us. Absolutely other is really distressing. We change; He does not. We have incomplete power; He does not. We don't know things; He knows everything. We are becoming; He is. We are complex; He is simple. In all that He is He is not like us.

Then we throw in this tidbit. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:14-16). Because God is holy, we are to be holy, also. It is God's calling. "Come out from among them and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17; 2 Cor 7:1; 1 Peter 2:9). We are called to be other -- other than sin, other than the sinful world around us, other than those who are spiritually dead. We are to be separate.

God's holiness is huge, bigger than most of us realize. It is also our calling. When you find yourself syncing up to the world, watch out. We are to be separate, set apart, sanctified -- holy. By His grace and mercy and power we can be. It is our calling, our purpose, our direction (Rom 8:28-30). Praise God!

Saturday, November 03, 2018

News Weakly - 11/3/18

Positive Testimony from a Hostile Source
Apparently there is a huge rush in Silicon Valley (Cupertino to San Francisco, give or take) to seriously and completely eliminate any screen exposure from the lives of their children. They appear to have decided -- those who make this stuff -- that screen time is bad for kids. So they're hiring nannies with "no-phone-use" contracts and strict instructions to keep all screens off for the kids. Their standard: No screen time at all. I've written in times past about the danger of screens -- not just the message, but the media itself. It appears that people who ought to know and even who make their living in providing this stuff agree. Something to consider, parents?

A Change of Heart
The World Wildlife Federation has issued a report that warns that the planet's vertbrates have dropped by 60% since 1970. That's overall. In places like Central and South America it is as high as 89%. On an individual basis, like the African grey parrot in Ghana, the population is down 98%. According to the story, "The report highlighted how humans have negatively affected the general health of the planet."

As a result, they've declared school shooters, mass murderers, people like Niels Hoegel accused of killing over 100 patients, and perpetrators of genocide to be heroes of the planet and urge more people to either kill or to die because clearly the worst thing to ever happen to the Planet Earth (in caps because of its sublime value over against human life) is humans. Now, I'm not being serious, but I am coming to the only possible reasonable conclusion. They said that "a shift to green energy and environmentally friendly food production" ought to fix things. Really? On what planet?

Hate Speech
The other day in my city there was police activity on a major freeway downtown. Three officers were injured and the suspect was dead in a shooting that traversed the freeway and caused a shutdown for something like 18 hours, including the morning rush. A coworker arrived half an hour late grousing because "Trump must be in town; there's a traffic jam." I attempted to inform him that not all traffic jams were caused by Trump. He was dubious.

This week they buried victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Tragic. Reprehensible. Unfortunately, President Trump showed up to pay his respects. He was met by hundreds of protesters declaring "It's your fault." Because everyone knows that the only reason this monster walked into a synagogue and started shooting worshipers was because of Donald Trump.

I'm no fan of the president, but I don't understand this mentality. If something bad happens, it's his fault. If he does something, it's bad. There is nothing he can do that is good and the only good Donald Trump is a dead Donald Trump. At what point does this kind of vitriol qualify as hate speech?

Gun Control
Sonny "Tex" Gilligan is lucky to be alive after going hunting with his Rottweiler-mix, Charlie. You see, while they were out, Charlie shot Sonny. No joke. He survived being shot in the back and even forgave him. "Poor Charlie," he said, "He's a good dog."

Clearly it's time to incorporate better background checks. Let's keep guns out of the paws of dogs.