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Thursday, January 31, 2019

I've Heard It Said

I've heard it said:
The Bible is not a "holy rule book." Concluding that "God wants us to behave certain ways" based on Bible passages is not being faithful to what the Bible teaches. The Bible was written to a specific people at a specific time and we mustn't fit prehistoric rules into modern living. We come to our position on right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral based on our understanding by engaging the culture, current conditions, and rational thinking, not some "biblical rules." The Bible does not tell us what God wants or thinks.
This is, of course, a view. What it is not is a view that actually believes that the Bible is God's Word. It is not a view that allows for a biblical basis of Christian doctrines and practice. Now, there can be lots of bases (plural for "basis") that might be in play here. It can be "however I see it" or "what my world tells me" or "what we come to by consensus" or lots of other things. But it necessarily excludes "what God says." Therefore, whatever basis or bases are in play, it is not applicable to all since it is individual and, therefore, lacks authority on anyone but the one who holds it. That makes it a man-made religion and not the historic, traditional, orthodox (or, obviously, biblical) Christianity.

That should come as no surprise, though, since the premise is that the Bible is not the foundational "source code" for this religion and it is, therefore, immoral to actually believe those things. It is no insult to someone who thinks that way to tell them that theirs is not historical, traditional orthodoxy. I just think it should be said ... for those who don't think that way, lest you be confused.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Courage of Convictions

Let me start out by saying this is not aimed at you, the reader. I'm trying to sort out thoughts here and you get the privilege (?) of watching it happen.

I recently talked to a fellow believer who was convinced from Scripture that it was God's will that every Christian speak in tongues and prophesy. Every Christian. Both gifts. In fact, he was pretty sure that it was God's will that all Christians have all the spiritual gifts. Now "convinced" refers to "the state of being convinced" or "to be convicted." So it begs the question. If this friend is under the conviction that God wants all believers to have all spiritual gifts and quite clearly not only do not all Christians have all gifts, but many run from some of them, what is keeping this friend from standing on the courage of his convictions? Why is he not on a personal crusade to get all Christians to have these gifts?

Here's the idea. I'm not talking about the particulars of his convictions. It goes more like this. "I believe that God wants A." Okay, so far. But God is the authority in this existence (as if there's another one, right?), so if God wants A, it would seem best if we would pursue A. Now if A is something that God wants for everyone and if we are convinced that what God wants for everyone (or anyone) is good and right and best, what does it say about us if we don't pursue it? It seems as if we could reasonably conclude that either we don't actually believe God wants A for everyone or we don't really care about everyone.

There are some pretty straightforward things that we might be able to fill in for that "A". I'll just pick an easy one. Does God desire that everyone be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4)? (I provided the reference for you there so you could easily answer the question.) Since God clearly desires that, it would seem as if every believer who 1) believes in God and 2) loves his neighbor would be doing everything in their power to see to it that everyone hears, that everyone is told, that everyone gets the opportunity -- preferably multiple opportunities -- to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Do we? I'll be honest. I don't. And that doesn't speak well of me. So the question is what holds us back from the acting confidently on what it is that we are convinced God wants?

I think there are several things. Obvious ones include the blatant "Apparently we're not as convinced as we think we are" and "Apparently we don't love others as we should." In fact, at the top of the list one or both of those would have to be the case. But I think this fellow I talked to really is convinced and he does seem to care about others, so what else is going on here (on top of one or the other or both of the first two)? He expressed a concern when I asked him. "What will people think? How will they receive it?" Oh, yes, that's a big one. But why? I ask why because we're not talking here about your convictions regarding a border wall or taxing the rich or gun legislation. We're talking here about what God wants. It is on one hand of utmost importance (since God is of utmost importance) and on the other hand it is wanted by God so it is supported by God. Shouldn't that empower and encourage us to stand and act on our convictions? Or is "God is sovereign" not one of the convictions we hold?

I have to think about this. If I am truly convinced that God wants A, either for me or for others, and I love me and/or others, what is preventing me from pursuing A for me or for others? Is it a lack of conviction or a lack of love? Am I questioning God? Is God not able? There are very few answers here that do not reflect badly on me. I just thought I'd share the pain. Because frankly I know very, very few believers who hold such convictions and act on them without regard for the consequences. You may be the exception, I suppose. I'm not.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Didn't Get the Memo

Recently the Gillette company put out that offensive ad that warned of "toxic masculinity." The ad was buttressed by a new document put out by the APA that assures us that masculinity is bad for everyone, men included. We have it on good authority -- in the news media, in the entertainment industrial complex, in the social media, in the psychology sciences, in the shaving ads -- that it is bad to act like a man. indeed, if you're woke, you know that men are the problem.

That's why it's so jarring to read Paul's instructions to the Corinthians.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor 16:13-14)
Most of that, I suppose is ... tolerable. But right there in the middle is a specific command to "act like men." Clearly Paul didn't get the memo.

In the Greek it is a single word, ἀνδρίζομαι -- andrizomai. It occurs exactly once in the Bible -- here. If you have any hint of Greek knowledge, you would see immediately the root word, andro, in there. We even use that prefix in our language. "Androgynous" references appearing both male ("andro") and female ("gyn"). We call them "androids" because they look like humans. An androcracy is a government ruled by men. Well, this is the Greek verb form for "man." We have our own version: "Man up." Be strong, be courageous, don't be weak.

Oh, but those are things that the APA are quite sure are toxic. Those are things to avoid. Maybe Paul didn't get the memo, but surely God who was providing the inspiration for this should have known. And they (God and Paul) have the audacity to link "act like a man" and "Let all that you do be done in love" when we know that masculinity is the exact opposite of love.

So we have a dilemma. Modern science (assuming you accept psychology and cultural opinion as science) says that masculinity is toxic. God, speaking through Paul, commands Christians to "man up." Which will it be? Ignore the culture as mistaken or assign blame to God as misguided? You'll have to answer that one for yourself.

Monday, January 28, 2019


There is a group called HiHo that produces various short educational videos for kids tagged "Kids Meet." The idea is for them to get to meet someone that can give them a perspective on something they can learn. The "who" of that includes everything from a ventriloquist and a bounty hunter to a suicide survivor or a "gender non-conforming person." There is one of these videos currently making the rounds that is stunning and painful to watch. It is an attempt to get kids to understand that abortion is good and right and normal by having them interact with an adult who has had an abortion and who tells them that their concerns (like "life" and "personal responsibility") are groundless.

It was sickening to watch. They produced a "reasonable adult" figure -- not some wild child or crazed woman -- to present a calm and reasonable explanation. When one of the kids suggested that it wouldn't be right to kill the baby if the mother had been irresponsible, the "reasonable adult" assured him he was wrong. What? Would he force her to create life? (No one seemed to realize that she had already done that.) She pressed upon this growing mind that the one, the only possible virtue in this situation would be "what I want to do with my body." They didn't equip any of these kids. They didn't provide them with alternate perspectives (like, "You know, abortion takes a life") or even the information or skills to think it through. At the age where "Teacher said it so it's true," they fed them lies hoping that this younger generation wouldn't come up thinking or making trouble for their license to murder. They did this with their "Kids Meet a Drag Queen," "Kids Meet a gender non-conforming person," and others. Do not evaluate right and wrong, good and bad, on any tangible standard. "Think about the humanity," is the woeful cry, always tinged with "I should always be allowed to do what I want to do."

It made me angry and sad at the same time. They were clearly not merely educating, but informing values; what values were demonstrated by their choices. They, for instance, didn't offer any pedophiles the chance to explain to these children why it's good and right. Killing babies was good if the mother wanted to, but not pedophiles. (And, interestingly, no Christians were represented there, either.) And I can only imagine what we end up with in that next generation when "what I want to do" is the highest "good." But I did learn something. I always wondered why the prevailing thought is "If the mother wants it, it's a baby; if she doesn't, it's a blob of tissue." How does that make sense? It makes perfect sense if "It's my body and I do what I want with it" is the supreme value. Not "people." Not "love." Not "morality." No higher authority than "me." So of course the "me" that is bearing the child gets to determine the value of the child. It's wrong, but I see it now. I do have to wonder who subjected their children to this kind of indoctrination. I suppose it would be parents who would never subject their kids to Christian indoctrination or the like. No way!

Sunday, January 27, 2019


My wife left me. And, yes, it's tragic. Oh, no, she didn't leave me for good. She's tending to a family emergency in another state. So I'm a virtual bachelor for a couple of weeks.

For the most part that means little. I mean, I'm not being the stereotypical bachelor -- cruising bars, looking for chicks, "on the hunt", so to speak. I'm not changing habits, altering lifestyle, making new choices. Pretty much the same routine, except, of course, without the love of my life. That, of course, is for the most part. As you know, when only one person is in a house, only one person is responsible for all the stuff that needs to be done -- shopping, laundry, housecleaning, etc. My wife has been a "stay at home" wife for quite a few years now and she has always taken care of all that stuff. Now it's my task alone.

I'm very grateful for my wife. I'm very grateful all the time, in fact, but this is a new level of grateful. I've always been pleased with my wife and all that she does, but I'm delighted now that I realize (make real to me) all that that entails. I knew it was a lot before; now I know that by experience.


Aren't we like that in Christ, in salvation? We come to Christ and we are grateful. All that grace and mercy is really, really good. And we're grateful. As we should be. But if you're like me, as you grow in Christ, you become more and more acutely ("acutelier" Naw!) aware of just what that entails. You become more aware of the depths of your sin, more conscious of His glory, and more astounded at the massive gap between my sinful self and His absolute perfection. It's not that we weren't grateful before, but the closer we get to the reality of it, the bigger it becomes.

I miss my wife, and I'm more grateful today than I was yesterday for all she does. I love my Savior, and I'm more grateful today than I was yesterday for His glory, love, grace, and mercy. They aren't getting larger; I'm just getting a better understanding, a greater appreciation ... of both my wife and my Savior. And, like a telescope that looks at that small white dot at night and shows it to be a massive, burning star, I find my wife and my Savior greatly magnified. Not bigger -- bigger to me.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

News Weakly - 1/26/19

No Bias
Perhaps you've not heard of the BDS movement. It is a movement aimed at forcing Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory and to "stop being so mean to those poor Palestinians." It is a growing movement, even in the U.S. Congress. It is fed by stories like this one headlined "Israel kills Hamas militant" accompanied by a picture of a relative of a Palestinian militant weeping at the hospital. The story is that a riot occurred "during a violent Palestinian border protest" and an Israeli officer was wounded, so they fired back and killed a militant and wounded four other militants. But we're not supposed to think about the fact that they attacked Israelis or that Israel responded in self-defense. We're supposed to weep about the fact that someone bore the consequences of shooting at Israeli soldiers. Does the media have a bias? You'd better believe they do.

No Bias Here, Either
If you are a reasonable, fair-minded person and you see the potential need to investigate someone in case there is wrongdoing, who do you choose to do that? Do you choose disinterested but capable people or do you choose those declaring that they are dedicated to the erasure of the person to be investigated? Do you hope for an unbiased (as possible) investigation or do you hire the "hate squad" to look into it? The Democrats hired the "hate squad." They selected the self-declared "We intend to impeach Trump" (using much more colorful language) folk. Which appears as if the message is "We don't care about justice; we just want to be sure to take down our selected target."

The Ever-Changing Constitution
In this story, the constitution in question is the Iowa State Constitution, but the concept appears to prevail with all U.S. constitutions, state or federal. Last year Iowa's governor signed a fetal heartbeat law that defended the lives of living babies based on whether they had a heartbeat or not. Now, you know that wouldn't fly. "You don't own us!" the women protested. "We won't go back (to thinking that babies were of any value)," they declared. This week, the Iowa appellate court ruled that babies have no state constitutional right to be protected and that requiring that women who get pregnant are being forced to be mothers under this law. I was not aware of a constitutional "right to kill babies if I want to" law. I suppose that's why I'm not a constitutional law expert. We have very strange ideas about rights and laws, don't we? It is what you would expect when "rights endowed by the Creator" are replaced with "whatever rights I think I should have."

In Defense of Murder
In the state of New York, teens don't need to get their parent's permission to have an abortion. There is no waiting period and no state approval required. New York Medicaid covers abortion for women with low income. Now they've passed a "landmark abortion rights bill" assuring New York that their mothers can kill their babies if they want and even do it past the second trimester. Paid for by the state if necessary. Baby killing is constitutionally protected in the state of New York.

Mind you, New York isn't the first or the worst. Washington D.C. and seven other states allow mothers to execute their babies all the way up to and including the 9th month for any reason. But, hey, it gives New York room to improve, right? I'm just wondering why they haven't come out with permission for post-partum abortions. When will they allow moms to say and mean, "I brought you into this world; I'll take you out." (The Babylon Bee has a story to show what Satan thinks of this story.)

(Side note: The United States is one of only seven countries that allow abortion after the 20th week. Among them are Vietnam, China, and North Korea. We're in good company, I guess. Only 59 countries allow abortion on demand at all. Most that allow abortion allow it on the basis of specific reasons such as health of the mother, etc. Seventy-five percent of those that allow abortion on demand do not allow it past 12 weeks.)

(Joe Carter has some really good information about the intent and application of this new law, including the fact that it's not as revolutionary as we'd like to think.)

If This Global Warming Keeps Up ...
... we'll all freeze to death. At least, that how it appears. The New York Times is blaming this polar vortex we're facing on global warming. Not everyone agrees. In fact, a 2018 study suggests that these events are decreasing, not increasing. But, hey, who are you going to trust? Science or Al Gore? (Hard question since Science doesn't trust Science ... and I'm not sure who trusts Al Gore.)

The Slippery Slope in Action
You remember the Netherlands. They're the ones with legalized drugs and prostitution, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and criminalized belief in biblical principles. It's not hard to figure with only 15% of their country claiming to believe in God. But reports are out now that 25% of the deaths in the Netherlands are induced rather than by illness or other causes. In 2017 they had 1,900 suicides and 32,000 victims of "palliative sedation," their approach to physician-assisted killing.

"Let's see ... remove God, replace human value with personal preference, legalize murder of babies and then the killing of whoever wants to go ... sure! What could go wrong?"
News Weakly Postscript: I note that two of the six stories this week are about abortion and one about euthanasia. I also note that last Sunday was the "Sanctity of Life" Sunday. I don't suppose it's scientific, but it certainly looks like our world is headed more and more away from any sense of the sanctity of life. I guarantee we won't like the unintended consequences of that course.

Side Question: I'm just wondering. I read that Trump has agreed to have Congress restart the shutdown for three weeks while Congress works on a bipartisan agreement for border security. Sounds good, but who actually thinks that can be done? The GOP (largely) considers the wall an absolute necessity; the Dems consider it "immoral" (their word). What bipartisan position is there where "essential" and "immoral" meet?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Two Kinds of Faith

There is a chilling phrase tucked away in a well-known passage in Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. You know the passage. He gives "the gospel I preached to you," how Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again and appeared to lots and lots of witnesses (1 Cor 15:1-9). Good stuff. And really important.

Almost buried in that text is this interesting and ominous comment. He says that he is reminding them of the gospel they were taught and by which they were being saved "unless you believed in vain" (1 Cor 15:2). Wait, what? Is it possible to believe ... in vain? Paul refers to it like it is a thing.

Paul gives an example of vain faith. He says later in this same chapter, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17). That would be a faith with no effect. Vain. James speaks of dead faith (James 2:7). Vain faith. It exists and its a bad thing. If you have vain faith, "you are still in your sins."

You know this doesn't sit well with us. You know that it smacks of heresy with us. The common concept is "If he/she said he/she was a Christian, he/she is a Christian." Not "but they might have believed in vain." Frankly, we don't even know how to think about this. James talks about the hearer but not a doer of the Word (James 1:23-25), but that would suggest that salvation is oriented around works, and we know that's not right (Eph 2:8-9). But Jesus talked in the Parable of the Sower about "rocky soil" in which "they hear the word" and "receive it with joy," but they have no root and fall away (Luke 8:13). Received the Word with joy, but they die without being saved. How does that work?

Paul actually explains it. He says that the gospel is what saves "if you hold fast to the word I preached to you" (1 Cor 15:2). That's a big "if". Now, remember, we're walking a tight line here. We must not violate Scripture by suggesting that we're saved by works, but apparently there is an ongoing requirement of some sort ("hold fast") which is echoed in other places that we must not ignore. So it is apparently possible to "believe" in some sense that is not "saving faith" but, as James puts it, "dead faith." This dead faith is marked by the failure to hold fast. But again, that cannot be a premise -- a cause -- of salvation. If Paul was certain that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Php 1:6) and Jesus was confident that "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28), then salvation is not something gained and lost, something acquired and then given up. So holding fast to the word must be an indicator of a reality rather than a cause, like good works are an indicator of a new nature, not a cause. If we are to "work out your salvation" (Php 2:12) on the basis of "it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure" (Php 2:13), then this "hold fast" concept is something that God does in us and the absence of "hold fast" indicates (not causes) the absence of God's work and, therefore, saving faith.

We -- I -- don't like this. We would prefer to think that the profession of faith is all that is required to save. We'd prefer to think that if they say they're a believer, they're a believer. If they say they have saving faith, they have saving faith. We prefer to be generous rather than "fruit inspectors." And for good reason. But what we prefer is not always what is best. And if you have someone who has professed a saving faith that they don't actually have, it is not best that you don't notice and you don't assist. I'm sure you've come across people who you thought were saved -- they were in the church, ministering, participating, doing and saying all the right things -- and then bailed entirely. They don't hold fast the Word. Paul would classify that as vain faith. And if we are to be loving believers, we should, I think, be vigilant about this rather than dismayed and dismissive. Paul thought it was important enough to warn about. We should likely keep it in mind ... for others and for ourselves. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves" (2 Cor 13:5).

Thursday, January 24, 2019

New Words

I picked up a couple of new words this week. I know, I know ... "What??? There are words Stan doesn't know?" Yes, indeed! But I'm willing to admit that I don't know them and to share them with you now that I have them.

You've seen the outrage in the media and public over the horrendous story of Karen Pence, the Christian wife of the vice president, going to work for a homophobic Christian school, I assume. CNN compared it to "The Handmaid's Tale" which, as I understand it, is a novel and TV series about a near-future New England that is a dystopian, totalitarian theonomy (where laws are made by God) and women are subjected to men in the extreme. (I'm missing the connection between that story and the Christian school, but, hey, what do I know?) The Pence story is that the school, Immanuel Christian School, has a statement of faith from its parent, Immanuel Bible Church, which requires that staff and students abide by their rules. Actually, all schools require faculty and students to abide by their rules, so that's not unusual in the least. Included in their list of prohibited behavior (because they're a Bible church school) are things like "participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity" (and they include Bible references), which is what has the media in such an uproar. That the world would be shocked that a Bible church and its school would stand on Bible principles -- on standard, historical, traditional, 2,000-year-old values -- is baffling to me. That they would disagree? Fine. That they are shocked? I'm not getting it.

Also included in their list of banned behavior is ... wait for it ... "contumacious behavior." That is without a doubt the first time I've seen the word, "contumacious." According to my trusty dictionary, contumacious means "stubbornly perverse or rebellious; willfully and obstinately disobedient." It comes from Latin meaning "to swell with wrath." Interesting. It is the haughty, the insolent, the obstinate. It is ... oh, hang on, it is most of America today. Ok, maybe not most, but a whole lot of what I see in the world around me these days on the road, in the stores, in people interacting with police, in the media and the loudest voices regarding the president, just about everywhere. Maybe I'm overstating, but it seems to me like we should be well aware of this term because we live in it.

In a conversation between two well-known atheists, Richard Dawkins admitted that He didn't care anymore about evidence. The question was "What would it take for you to believe?" and the answer essentially was "Nothing at all." Admitting that science usually goes with evidence, Dawkins also admitted that in the case of theism no evidence would do. That, dear reader, is a very clear "I don't care about the existence of God." An old story tells about a teacher who asks Johnny, "What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?" Johnny says, "I don't know and I don't care." The teacher says, "Right!" Apathy is "I don't care." Enter the second new word this week: "apatheism." It is a collision of two words -- apathy and theism. There is the belief (theism) or non-belief (atheism) in God, and the new, rising position is apatheism. "Is there a God? I don't care." It is, in fact, an absolutely stunning position. There can be no more important reality than the existence of God. The fact changes everything. If He exists, obviously we need to know Him, to have a relationship with Him, to acknowledge Him. He would be the Creator, the Lawgiver, the Sovereign. And so much more. If He does not exist, nothing else matters. There is no higher purpose, no point, no defensible morality, no reason for being. Do what you want; it doesn't matter. Not fact is as important and impactful than that one. "Meh. I don't care," isn't a rational response. But it is a growing one. They have their own church. Worse, it is often a default of believers. We affirm we believe in God and then act like we don't care. Practical atheism. Do your actions and attitudes look like you believe in God? If not, that's a good look at apatheism.

There you go. "Contumacious" and "apatheism". Just spreading the new words. You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rendered Inoperative

Jesus made several statements in His time on earth as to His reason for being there. "I have come that ..." kind of statements. Famously, for instance, He said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). Purpose statements. "Why are you here, Jesus?" "Here's why I came."

Here's one:
"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28)
One of Jesus's purpose statements for His being on this earth was that -- to give His life as a ransom for many. "Ransom?"

Paul wrote:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim 2:5-6)
There's that word again. "Ransom?" The Greek is λύτρον -- lutron. It is the redemption price, what is given in exchange for another as the price of his redemption. Ransom. Just like we understand the word to mean. A ransom is a payment made to free someone -- slaves, captives, kidnap victims, whatever. Jesus said that one of the primary reasons He even came to this planet was to "give His life as a ransom for many."

Well, now, this is problematic. We know that Jesus did not die to pay for sin. That would be wrong. He died to "bring about positive change to humanity" (Moral Influence Theory) or to defeat the power of Satan without paying a price (Christus Victor Theory) or to undo what Adam did (Recapitulation Theory) or to show us how much God hates sin (Governmental Theory), but not to pay for sin. Never happened. Couldn't have. That would be sick and wrong. It makes God out to be a hater, a monster. Maybe, if you want to think that way, but if Christ did not pay the price for sin, then it makes Him out to be a failure, a loser who came for that purpose and didn't achieve it. It makes God out to be wishy-washy, hating sin but not requiring any "balancing of the books", any payment, any ... ransom. If Christ did not pay the ransom for sin, His mission failed and we are without hope.

It's like the whole "You can come to Christ and be saved and never change a thing" argument I've heard so many times. It is underpinned by the "we are saved by grace apart from works" thing but it runs on the "Human Free Will" train. God doesn't actually cause us to do anything. It's a nice theory, I suppose, if you don't think it through. But it doesn't line up with Scripture. Paul wrote,
The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
There's that "ransom" thing again. In this case it is "redeem" which, if you're paying attention, is exactly the same Greek word -- lutron. He gave Himself to pay the price to free us. But notice the point. He gave Himself for us to redeem us "to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works." "Oh, no," a certain segment of Christianity demands, "not good works. No good works. Good works have nothing to do with it." Well, okay, but, once again, you've managed to make God out to be a failure. He intended to make a people "who are zealous for good works" but, oh, look, He failed. They're not. They're ... whatever they want to be. Saved? Yeah, sure, but they may or may not be zealous for good works. That's entirely up to them. And God failed ... again.

They often seem like little things. "Ransom" is clear in Scripture and even a specific purpose of Christ, but we know better and "ransom" isn't a good word here. It's just a poor choice of words. Except that's the word that Jesus used and Paul used and that's the word that makes sense if God is to be just and justifier (Rom 3:26). "Works" are clearly not a means of salvation, but we err when we say that works have no bearing on God's plan and purpose for His people. A small word, right? But He saved us "for good works" (Eph 2:10). If a person can come to Christ and fail to grow zealous for good works, it is clear that God failed and we're without hope. We should be careful to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) lest we damage more than our understanding of His Word.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


"Inscrutable" means "impossible to understand or interpret." To me, the mind of the liberal Christian is inscrutable. I will never understand.

What does the Bible require of believers regarding immigration? I'm told that God's Word requires open borders. I know that the Old Testament requires that you do not oppress strangers (Exo 22:21; Exo 23:9; Lev 19:33-34) and that we love them (Deut 10:19), but I don't see where it says we have to openly admit all of them without regard. Hospitality is a good thing (Heb 13:2), but I don't see where it is required on a national level. I know that we are regarded as strangers in this world (Eph 2:19; 1 Peter 2:11) and should expect not to be well treated. I don't see anything in my Bible that says or suggests, "You shall not do anything that blocks the free flow of refugees from other countries to your own." But the liberal Christian would like to make it a law that we open our borders and embrace all who come at whatever cost because it's there in the Bible.

Almost everyone is clear that the Bible is not ambiguous about the sin of homosexual behavior. All of history -- Jewish and Christian -- has understood God's Word to teach that such behavior is a sin. (There were times in history that it was punishable by death.) Beyond homosexual sex, it is absolutely clear that adultery is a sin. There is no room for doubt there. It's clearer than the "abomination" of homosexual behavior and certainly clearer than immigration thinking. The liberal Christian is concerned that some might try to pass laws that would try to forbid sexual sin. "Oh, no," they argue, "you can't make your laws based on your religious views." Now, hang on a minute! Didn't you just say that we should make immigration laws based on your religious views? But not this? I don't get it.

One of the serious problems brought to light by liberal Christians is the problem of poverty and the opposing problem of excessive wealth. The solution to this problem, they say, is to pass laws that will tax the rich and give to the poor. Heavy taxes. It's a good thing, so it ought to be a law. Generosity is biblical, so we ought to make it the law. The rest of the Christian world believes that doing what is good is not accomplished by making it civil law; it is accomplished by being personally responsible and obedient. If you do what is right under force of law, there is no benefit to you. If you do it voluntarily, there are blessings and rewards. I don't get it.

Contrasting "conservative" and "liberal" in Christian terms means generally, first and foremost, a worldview based on Scripture versus a worldview based on the world. Still, it seems completely irrational that liberal Christians would conclude that it is ungodly to have a biblical worldview and argue that Scripture should be interpreted through a cultural, current-world filter. Really? It is "ungodly" to take God at His Word? It is more godly to reinterpret God through a worldly screen? How does this make sense?

I really don't understand. To me, on one hand I see clear instructions for people in general and Christians in particular on how to live. (Note: I see more instructions for Christians than for non-Christians.) It is my responsibility to follow those instructions. It is not the job of the government to make me. (Trust me; God is much better at that than the government is.) I have no need to pass laws to force people to give to the poor, admit immigrants, or stop sexual sin. There are clear biblical mandates on these, but making them the law of the land is not one of those clear biblical mandates. So when I see the so-called liberal Christian arguing on one hand that my "stop sexual sin" laws (which I just said I don't advocate) shouldn't be on the books but their charity and hospitality laws should, it just seems like a double standard -- an irrational double standard. But it seems as if these kinds of double standards abound with them. Judgmental anti-judgmentalism. Intolerant tolerance. Exclude those who we deem not inclusive. "Can't we just get along? Oh, no, not you." "I hate haters." "Some of us are more equal than others." I really don't get it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Against Suffering

We debate and discuss a variety of issues in the faith, but one thing we are all agreed upon: suffering is not God's will. It's something bad that happens and God helps us through it, but He doesn't will it, because that would just be cruel. We all know that.

Well ... mostly all.

I would suggest that we're mostly mistaken on that point. I would argue that the Bible says something different.

The Bible doesn't hold that God is cruel or even capricious. We do agree on that. But neither does it argue that suffering, especially for those who belong to Him, is never His will. I think, if you look, you'll find the opposite. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8), and we know that love always seeks the best for the loved one. We know that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces proven character and proven character produces hope (Rom 5:1-5), and hope is good (1 Cor 13:13). We know that, in fact, trials produce completion (James 1:2-4). So logically it would make sense that God would want good things for us and if suffering is the way to produce them, then suffering would be His will.

Logically. But what about biblically? As it turns out, it isn't merely implicit. It is explicit. God said, "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things" (Isa 45:6-7). Peter wrote, "It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil" (1 Peter 3:17) and went on to add "Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:19). In the first case, suffering might be God's will ("if") and in the second, in some cases it is God's will. An excellent example of one suffering according to God's will would be Paul with his "thorn in the flesh." He asked God to remove it and God didn't. Paul wrote,
He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)
He concluded, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10). In fact, Paul said that suffering was a grant from God (Php 1:29).

But, look, this is pretty simple to prove. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Now, we know that Jesus met all the criteria to get His prayers answered every time, and this would be no exception. His prayer? "Not My will, but Yours be done." And since it obviously was not God's will to remove the cup from Him (because He didn't), then it had to be true that it was God's will that Christ would suffer on the cross as He did. Again, logically. But we don't have to simply use logic. We can find the explicit statement. Disciples in Acts, praying for boldness, prayed,
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)
Pretty clear. The Crucifixion of the Son of God was planned and orchestrated by God. No greater suffering has ever been recorded, and it was God's will.

If God claims to "create calamity" and if suffering produces good things and if we have Christ Himself as an example of suffering according to the will of God as a good thing, perhaps it's time to revise our certainty that suffering is never God's will. I don't suggest it's pleasant, but I would argue that we can rejoice in it (Rom 5:3) -- that we can "count it all joy" when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Perhaps it is our perception of just how bad suffering really is that we should revise. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons I question the standard "Harm Principle" for determining morality. We don't really know very well what is and is not "harm". God does (Gen 50:20). And I'm good with that.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Purpose-Driven Life

Rick Warren wrote The Purpose-Driven Life. This is not that. This is something else.

We are told that we need to find our purpose in life. We are told that we each have a special purpose and if we can find it and fulfill it our lives will be so much better. So we go on searches; we look thither and yon. We take personality tests and life inventories. We try to find ourselves. Because we know if we can find what our purpose is, life will be so much better. Good news! I'm here to help.

Scripture says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). We know that first phrase just fine, mostly, but the second? "Fall short of the glory of God"? What's that all about? Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). He wrote, "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory" (Eph 1:11-12). We were saved "so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory." Would you like to know what your purpose is? "Do all to the glory of God." Scripture says, "All things were created through Him and for Him" (Col 1:16). You and I were made for Him.

What is your purpose in life? The exact same as mine. You and I were created with the express purpose of glorifying God. You can begin to see, then, why "all have sinned" becomes such a horrendous thing -- why all sin is such a tragedy. We were made to glorify God. Our default condition is not to glorify God. We fall short of the glory of God. So our lives are lived in constant desperation, aiming away from that for which we were made.

We tend to think of "sin" as "evil" or "bad things" or "ewwww" (the technical term), and perhaps it is all that. But more than that, it is a tragedy. It is a horrible loss. It is worse than cutting off your nose to spite your face. We long to find our purpose in life while we pursue the opposite of just what that purpose is. This is why Paul says, "There is none who does good; no, not one" (Rom 3:12). Good is magnifying God; we don't naturally do that. The only ones that can are the ones who are justified, who are sanctified, who are set apart and empowered by the Spirit of God. You, Christians. You can live a purpose-driven life, a life aimed at "the praise of His glory." "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." That is a purpose worth pursuing, an endless pursuit with ultimate satisfaction.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

News Weakly - 1/16/19

Expanding Mission Fields
In 2017 the Nashville Statement presented a biblical view on gender and sexuality. Nashville's mayor complained both about the statement and the use of their name (it was written there ... get over it). Now it could be illegal to agree with it, at least in the Netherlands. After some 200+ signed it there, the Dutch public prosecutor has begun investigating if it violates the Dutch anti-discrimination laws. A Dutch lawmaker has faced criticism for his signature. A Christian university censured a professor who signed it. A Christian newspaper lampooned it. All this does not speak well for the Netherlands (where only 15% of the population believes in God) or the "Christians" there. I think I see 1) a new mission field opening up and 2) additional persecution coming.

Making Defending the Most Vulnerable Illegal
A federal judge blocked new government rules that allow businesses to opt out of providing free birth control. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who filed the injunction said, "Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care."

Now, mind you, I wasn't aware of any constitutional right to women's free access to basic reproductive care. I missed that one. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said, "It is a good day when a court stops this administration from sanctioning discrimination under the guise of religion or morality." I did think that there was a constitutional protection for the free exercise of religion. In fact, didn't the Supreme Court hold that privately held companies with religious exemptions could refuse to offer contraceptive coverage? That right I'm aware of. The right to kill babies at the expense of businesses or even the government I was not aware of. The right of employees or the government to dictate what religious beliefs one may hold was another I didn't know about. Strange set of rights in this country that was predicated on rights from the Creator.

No Winners Nere
Out of their demonstrable respect for Christian icons, the Haifa Museum of Art in Israel had an art exhibit featuring such delightful works as "McJesus," a parody of Jesus on the cross but replacing Jesus with Ronald McDonald. Other items included a Barbie doll version of a bloodied Jesus and the Virgin Mary. When I say "demonstrable respect," I clearly mean "complete lack thereof." In their visible wise and Christian response, local church leaders went to court to have it removed and rioters tossed rocks and a firebomb at the museum, injuring three police officers. By "visible wise and Christian response," I clearly mean "neither wise nor Christian."

The exhibit was intended to denounce the worship of Capitalism, and if you look at it that way, I think you can see it. It's sad that people decide to display such disregard for others when they put up what they know will be inflammatory. I'm disappointed that people who call themselves Christians can get so animated over possibly irreverent but ultimately meaningless images. I think it is ominous that the artist behind it has asked that it be taken down. He is in favor of the BDS movement which works to end support for Israel. No win.

Pastor Justin Hoke put up a sign at his church in Weed, California. "Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not." Bad choice, pastor. In response his congregation asked him to leave. He was told that only one family would remain at the church if he didn't step down. He stepped down.

There is no safe place to publicly call sin sin. One commenter quipped, "If there are any Bibles at his church, he should probably take them with him. They won't be needing them." Too true. The ultimate irony? The church is called "Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church." I'm thinking "false advertising" here.

Let Someone Else Check for Intruders
The American Psychological Association has issued a new "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men." Fine. As it turns out, masculinity is a harmful ideology and it has got to go. Included in the list of character traits we need to lose are competitiveness, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, adventure, and risk. It's all "psychologically harmful."

So, ladies, if you would like a man to check for whatever it was that went bump in the night, we apologize. Turns out our masculinity is harmful, our sense of adventure a problem, and our willingness to take a risk to confront a home invader is best left to someone else. But it shouldn't be a problem. After all, gender is just a social construct, so it doesn't actually mean anything at all ... right?

Breaking News: Christian School has Christian Values! Film at Eleven
Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, is going back to teaching art at a private elementary school she used to teach at -- Immanuel Christian School -- that asks its employees to "live a personal life of moral purity" and bars them from engaging in or condoning "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity" and "transgender identity" ... kind of like what you find in the Bible. The horror of it all ... a Christian school that maintains Christian standards! Next you'll be telling me that churches are refusing to hire atheists as their pastors! What nonsense!

Other People's Money
The Democrats introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $15/hr by 2024. What's that you say? You're a small business owner and can't afford to pay that rate? Too bad. What's that you say? You're a customer and can already see prices going up and passed on to you? Too bad. Where is that additional pay going to come from? Businesses and customers? Too bad. They have no problem making sure other people get your money. (Hey, a thought just occurred to me. I work for a salary, not an hourly wage. If you pay people a salary, do you have to meet some "$15/hr" target? Just wondering.)

Friday, January 18, 2019


This may come as a shock to you, but Christians aren't perfect. We make mistakes. We err. We sin ... sometimes grossly. Hey, some of us are not even Christians, even though we bear the name. But for reasons I don't quite understand, it seems as if people think that we don't sin, we don't make mistakes. Where does that come from?

From 11th to the 13th century, the Latin Church engaged in what we have come to know as the Crusades. Now, the truth is that most people don't have a clue what was going on there. It wasn't expansionism or imperialism or the like. It was defensive warfare intended to stop the military expansion of Islam and to recapture taken territories. It has become a sticking point for a lot of people. "Look what Christians did!" And I would agree that it was awful. But I would disagree that it was "what Christians did." I would argue that "Christian" had nothing to do with it. Because Christians are imperfect and there was nothing Christian about what went on there.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, America and other nations practiced a breed of slavery that was shockingly horrible by today's standards. They went to Africa and kidnapped people for the purpose of selling them into forced labor. The practice was worsened by the fact that Christians tried to defend it. Preachers declared from their pulpits that it was good and right based primarily on racism. They argued that the black race was a cursed race because of the sin of their father, Ham (Gen 9:25). It was nonsense and foolishness, but they did it in the name of Christianity, so Christ took the hit.

History is full of this kind of stuff. The Roman Catholic Church was in the business of killing heretics. John Calvin is famous for the execution of the heretic, Michael Servetus. Misguided folk in Europe and in Salem, Massachusetts, burned people at the stake for being witches. The Spanish Inquisition is legendary. All done in the name of Christ. All without biblical backing, without any support in Scripture.

We haven't learned from this historic error. Yesterday we shunned the woman pregnant out of wedlock and her child. Today we are outraged at the homosexual or the transsexual. Like the heretics before, Scripture tells us that sexual sin and the like is just that, sin, but like the erroneous Christians of yesteryear, we too often ignore the biblical injunctions to stand for the truth and to pray and to love and we rise up in our own modern version of war, hating and fearing the sinner rather than desiring their best. Yesterday we segregated our churches racially, an error we still haven't well-recovered from; today we segregate them by sin. "You're not welcome here; go somewhere else." We mistakenly believe that if the Bible says X is sin we ought to hate those who do X rather than fear for them and pray for them and seek their redemption rather than their expulsion.

They tell me Christianity is a racist religion because some Christians have been racist. They tell me that Christianity is a faith opposed to reason and science because some Christians have been opposed to reason and science. They tell me that Christianity is homophobic because some Christians have been hateful or fearful of homosexuals. They tell me that Christianity is a sexist religion because some Christians have been sexist. None of these accurately reflect a biblical view of Christian values or beliefs. They reflect imperfect Christians who are just wrong.

Christians aren't perfect. We won't be in this life. Christians -- real or imagined -- have made lots of bad moves throughout the history of Christianity. It is not right to point to the errors of Christians and Christendom and say, "That is Christianity." What is true (like "Homosexual behavior is a sin") or false is not determined by improper attitudes of some Christians. Christianity is based on the premise that we're all sinners, that we all fall short of the glory of God. What we Christians need to do is stop ignoring the lessons of history and stop ignoring the instructions of Scripture and start being good representatives of the Savior in whose image we are being shaped. That's not done by hating gays or fearing sinners. It's done by calling them to Christ and bearing one another's burdens. We can and must discern between "sin" and "not sin", but that doesn't make us judge and executioner. That's up to Christ. Let it not be said of us, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Rom 2:24).

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Amen. The word is an Old English word from Late Latin from Ecclesiastical Greek from Hebrew amen meaning "truth." (That's a long way to go with the same word in each of those languages.) It is defined as "so be it" or "it is." So when you hear it shouted out during a sermon, you're likely hearing "It is -- truth!" And when it is spoken at the end of a prayer, it is likely "So be it -- let it be so." (Or it is just used as a period to say, "I'm done praying now." But that's just being lazy.)

The word is used 56 times in the ESV version of the Bible -- 27 times in the Old and 29 times in the New. It is used both ways in Scripture -- "It is so" or "Let it be so." The Bible ends with that word (Rev 22:21). And the previous verse says, "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20). "He who testifies to these things" is Christ Himself. And John adds, "Amen. Come Lord Jesus!" Let it be so.

I'm looking forward to my last amen. I'm looking forward to the day that His kingdom comes in fullness and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. I'm looking forward to the day when All tears are dried and all sadness banished and we will be forever in His presence in perfect relationship with Him. No need to say "Let it be so" anymore because it will be so. No longer any need to declare what is true anymore ("It is so") because truth will be manifest. No more denominations or deviations, no more slips or slides, no more "not yet perfect." "When He appears we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Representative Government

Arizona elected a bisexual, atheist (she classifies herself as "religiously unaffiliated") member of the Communist Party that favors open borders. How does that happen in Arizona, a big "close our borders" state? Kyrsten Sinema opted to swear in on a copy of the Constitution rather than the Bible. Not to be outdone, Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, planned to use Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Quran, stating ""Islam has been part of American history for a long time.." She ignored the fact that Jefferson had the Quran because he wanted to understand the Islamic pirates he intended to fight on the Barbary Coast. She's the one that cursed about the president and also plans to boycott and sanction Israel. New York put a Democratic Socialist into office. Just this year.


In countries like China, their government does not reflect their people. Their government is imposed on them and it is what it is apart from who the people are. In America we have a representative government. We vote them in. In general, the person elected represents a majority of the people who vote. As such, our government reflects who we are. And the trend continues. More and more radical people make it into our government by popular vote from your Donald Trumps to your "We're just here to disrupt your American values" types. We put them there. They aren't foisted on us. Arizona elected an open-borders type. What does that say about Arizona? New York elected a socialist. What does that say about New York? What do California's elected representatives say about California? You get the idea. And it's not looking good.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We Rejoice in our Sufferings

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:1-6)
This is an amazing passage. First, Paul alludes to the fact that we are not justified by works, but by faith. That flies in the face of every other religion wherein you get to heaven (or whatever) by being good and in Christianity alone we are justified by faith.

Second, this justification results in peace with God. I don't suppose that this would be particularly exciting if you didn't know that the original condition was wrath (Rom 1:18). Given our universal rejection of God and His glory (Rom 3:23), there can be no peace between us and God. Once that is realized, the suggestion that we can have peace with God is astounding. On that basis -- on the basis of the grace in which we stand -- we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, the very glory we've fallen short of.

And then it gets really bizarre. Paul argues the ridiculous position that "we rejoice in our sufferings." How can he say such a thing? On what possible basis could we rejoice in our sufferings? Here's why. We know that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Now, this is truly stunning. First, what is the process that you have to do in this list that causes it to occur? If you notice, there is nothing. "Suffering," Paul says, "produces endurance." Not "If you do X, then suffering will produce endurance." "Endurance produces character." Not something you do; something that happens. "Character produces hope." And again, the natural product of A (character) is B (hope). You simply experience the suffering; that's your job. You can rejoice in it because of what it is producing. Second, "suffering produces." In the production process, you gain endurance, patience, steadfastness, fortitude, the ability to keep on going. In the production process you gain character. The word, in fact, indicates "proven character." You have been tested and proven and you are, in that, of greater value. And in the production process you gain hope. If you weren't paying attention, that's exactly where you started. "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). Full circle, then, but to an elevated condition with added endurance, character, and hope. A hope that does not disappoint "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). From bizarre to magnificent.

Are you a sinner without hope of "arriving," of earning heaven? Good news! We are justified by faith, not works. Are you aware of the wrath that you've earned from God? Good news! We can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and we can have hope. Are you suffering? Good news! That suffering produces qualities you need -- endurance and character -- that improve your value to God and enhance your hope. Are you convinced that you can just sit there, a believer going nowhere, doing nothing? Oh, trust me, that can't happen. Suffering will come and you will be changed and it's all the work of God. So rejoice! Not rejoicing in your sufferings? Well, that's just silly. You must not be aware of the vast benefits. Step up to the Good News!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Why I Don't Want a Wall

I'm treading on dangerous ground here with a lot of conservatives, so let me start by saying 1) it's not a biblical question, and 2) it is as always my opinion, so 3) I don't intend to argue it with anyone. Despite the amazingly large numbers of people I know who are in favor of Trump's border wall, I'm not one of them. Here's why.

I'm concerned about environmental issues that would occur because of a 2,000 mile wall across the North American continent. I'm not talking about decaying walls or stuff like that. I'm talking about animal migration and such. We've often put in large obstructions out in nature -- superhighways, dams, etc. -- without taking into account the affect they have on animals that live there or pass through there and it has often been bad.

False Security
We are all aware that there is an open border. We are all aware that there are illegal crossings of that open border. And we're scared. So we hire people to watch that border. If, on the other hand, we could simply put up a wall, well, then, we'd by happy, safe, and secure. Except you know that wouldn't be the case. We are constantly seeing stories of tunnels dug under walls, of new breaches, of other ways that such safety measures are circumvented. So the problem in my mind is that we'd be satisfied with "Whew! We've got a wall" and we'd neglect to be as vigilant because of it.

Cost/Benefit Ratio
A wall of that magnitude is a huge cost. Obviously that's true since the huge cost is the sticking point in the current government shutdown. So what will offset that huge cost? Included in "count the cost" is the question of what it will take to make it work. If you're willing to admit the danger of a false sense of security, it will require that we maintain the current cost of border security, making the wall an extra cost rather than a replacement cost. So this will get really expensive. How do we prevent tunneling or other breaches? More cost. How do we maintain such a structure? More cost. How much will it cost to remove the Statue of Liberty? Oh, didn't think about that one? That's next on my list.

What It Stands For
A wall says something. An open yard between you and your next door neighbor says, "Welcome!" A picket fence says, "We'll be friends, but you stay on your side." A wall says, "I don't want anything to do with you. Stay away!" A wall declares fear on one hand and rejection on the other. It begs for isolationism from one side and enclosure from the other side. While we work toward better trade relations with our southern neighbors, we say, "Stay away!" The Statue of Liberty says
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
A wall says, "Not in my backyard." And it looks like that's exactly what more and more Americans are saying. This dynamic of border defenses and debates about illegal immigration seems to make us lose track of the issues and head toward nuclear options ... like a wall. Is that really what we want to say?

I am not an "open borders" person. I think there needs to be controls to immigration. I think that making immigration legal but impassable is just as "anti-immigration" as the extremists actually opposed to all immigration are today. I think that America became great on the backs of floods of immigrants, so making America great again by excluding what made her great in the first place makes no sense. I think that there are other methods of border protection -- drones, surveillance, sensors, etc. -- that would assist in the task without all the negatives. I get that I'm not the "normal conservative" on this. But, then, I don't seem to fall into the "normal conservative" category on other things as well. And I'm pretty sure that the Left and the Right doesn't much care what I think, so I'll just sit over here with my opinion and watch things unfold.
(As a postscript, there is something that I've been considering. Look at the northern border. It is as open as any border can be. I read about a visitor that accidentally crossed the border illegally because it was so open. Why is that border not an issue? Why is the southern border such a huge issue? Is it possible that the problem is not an open border, but what drives people to cross it illegally? Is it possible that we -- the world community -- should be looking more into that than pushing for American Isolationism? Just musing here.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

God Can

Paul begins a prayer in his letter to the church at Ephesus with "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us ..." (Eph 3:20). That is some phrase. He is able. He is able to do far more. He is able to do far more abundantly. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond what we ask or think. That's big; really big.

We know God can save. As a popular song says today He is "mighty to save" (Isa 63:1). And I'm pretty sure we often downplay the fact. We have a pretty mellow idea of what sin is. If we had a clear picture of sin, we'd be stunned that He can save. But He can even do far more.

God can make broken bones rejoice (Psa 51:8).

God will provide what you need (Matt 6:25-30).

God turns hopelessness into hope (Lam 3:18-23).

God can actually prevent sin (Gen 20:6).

God gives you the will and power to serve Him (Php 2:13).

And, you know something? I can ask and think all that. How much, then, do you think He's able to do -- "far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think." God can.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

News Weakly - 1/12/19

The Antichrist is Coming!
That's the story, at least. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has stated that "the data-gathering capacity of devices such as smartphones risks bringing humanity closer to the arrival of the Antichrist." Of course, the media isn't being entirely fair. What he actually said was that all the information that can be gathered about us through smartphones would make it easier for a centralized world government to exist. That world government would be run by the Antichrist.

Let's be clear. We don't make these things happen. "You know, if only we hadn't made smartphones, the Antichrist never would have happened." Doesn't work that way. That being said, anyone who is not concerned about the amount of personal data that we're handing out while we demand greater privacy is not aware of the situation.

The Death of Civility
I and others have long been concerned about the apparent death of civility in this country. Disagreements have always abounded, but it was not impossible to differ without going to war. A Republican, for instance, could disagree strongly with the positions of a Democrat while still showing respect to the Democrat. We used to be able to respect the office even if we didn't respect the person that was in it. Gone are the days. It wasn't Hillary who started it, but she was the one who voiced it last year, cheering the end of civility. Now a newly-elected Muslim congresswoman has made the news by a use of a term she applied to President Trump that I can't even print here (being interpreted literally "he has sex with his mother") and she assured the world that her goal in getting into Congress was to impeach the president. Not everyone was happy about it (that's putting it mildly) and she has apologized, not for the language, but for the "distraction." Democrats are downplaying it, defending it, or applauding it. What would we expect? They complain (and I would say rightly) about Trump and his crudity but then follow suit. I would suggest that when we take the gloves of civility off, the fight is going to get ugly. The Left is applauding, but you can bet they'll complain when they take one in the jaw.

Lese Majeste Law
The term refers to insulting the monarch, but is used to refer to insulting the government as well. Thailand and Cambodia have laws like that. A Cambodian man got 3 years in jail for it along with a $1250 fine. They take their "respect authority" to the next level. Not commending the law, but clearly we Americans take ours to the lowest levels.

The Least of These ... Don't Count
The Kentucky Senate is considering a bill that will ban abortion. That, of course, is a lie. The Kentucky Senate is considering a bill that will protect lives. You just won't see that written in many media outlets. The bill would prevent the intentional murder of children with a heartbeat in the womb. The ACLU says, "It's blatantly unconstitutional." I'm waiting to see which component of the Constitution assures the right to murder babies. I'm also wondering when the ACLU is going to change its name to rightly reflect the fact that the "American civil liberties" they are protecting do not include the most vulnerable Americans.

Dangerous Migrants
In the latest news a new migrant caravan is headed to the border with the intention of walking around the U.S. seven times and then blowing trumpets. They're fairly sure any wall there would come tumbling down.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Where's the Love?

You can read about it in any number of news items, psychology/psychiatry papers, or medical sites. You'll even see it in "diversity and inclusiveness" literature. They will consistently use the phrase "diagnosed with gender dysphoria." I saw it the other day and wondered about it.

The first term, "diagnosis," refers to "the process of determining by examination the nature and circumstances of a diseased condition." That is, something is broken and a diagnosis determines what it is. So, in the cases we're talking about, someone determined that there was a problem, a malady, a dysfunction. Something is broken. They diagnose the problem and discover the second term: gender dysphoria. According to WebMD, "People who have gender dysphoria feel strongly that their gender does not match their biology." Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria and refers to unease or dissatisfaction with life. In this case, the person diagnosed with this condition feels unease or dissatisfaction with their feelings of gender versus their physical biology. Got it. Clear and straightforward.

Here's where I ran into difficulty. "Gender dysphoria," WebMD says, "used to be called 'gender identity disorder.' But the mismatch between body and internal sense of gender is not a mental illness." Well, if it's not a mental illness, what kind of disorder is it? Worse, the website says of the treatment, "The goal is not to change how the person feels about his or her gender. Instead, the goal is to deal with the distress that may come with those feelings" and they go on to explain ways they try to change the physical nature of their bodies to match their misguided feelings. Now, hang on a minute. The treatment for this malfunction is to encourage it?

I know. Anyone these days who opposes "transgender" in any way is a hater. That's the popular position. And, to be completely honest, some might hate over it. But to me, I don't get it at all. We agree that there is a "disorder" and we agree that it requires a "diagnosis" and we agree that there needs to be treatment. Yet, the notion in today's popular culture is that the proper treatment when someone says "My gender doesn't match my biology" is to ignore the insanity of such a statement and encourage it. That's like saying, "We've diagnosed you with cancer, so we're going to start treatments to induce the growth of those cancer cells." I don't call it "insanity" to be mean; I call it what it is -- an outright denial of reality. We don't encourage the guy who thinks he's Napoleon to continue thinking he's Napoleon. We don't encourage the person with memory loss to "forget about it." We do encourage people who incorrectly understand their own sex to continue in it and even lie to them about changing their bodies to match. (Note: It's a lie because no male body can become a female body or vice versa.) What kind of crazy are we?

Where's the love, people? Why don't we care about their suffering? Why don't we help them? It has to be hard to be so confused that simple biology escapes them. It only makes it harder when you encourage them on down that path. Why don't we care about the "T" of LGBT? They're in trouble and we should be helping them. Instead, we're pushing them on down the road. "Be warm and fed" without giving them what it takes. How is that love?

At some point we decided that "love" meant "Encourage them to do and be whatever they feel like" even though we know that very likely won't end well. They feel like being lazy, so encourage it? They feel like being selfish, so encourage it? They feel like they're losers, so encourage it? No! We need to encourage people to be better than that. But when someone does it in this case, that person is the hater? I don't see it. Seems to me that genuine love would want to help rather than encourage the denial of reality. Where's the love?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Church Polity

I wonder sometimes. If, say, Paul or Peter were to show up in the 21st century (with the capacity to speak English), would they recognize our churches? I'm not talking about the buildings; I'm talking about church polity, about the way we run our churches, their government and their services and way of operating. I ask because what I see in Scripture doesn't seem to correlate very well with what I see in our churches.

There is the obvious discrepancy between the first church and today. Luke describes them in Acts. They "were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). "All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people" (Acts 2:44-47). That is not a description of today's churches, at least not in my experience. But, hang on. Luke's descriptions are just that -- descriptions. There is nothing prescriptive about it. Nothing there says, "This is how it should be." That's just how it was.

After that, however, it doesn't get better. Take, for instance, church government. The biblical description is "elders" or "overseers" or "bishops" (pick your favorite translation). Always plural. (I've been in a lot of churches run by a single pastor.) "Elders" (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and "deacons" (1 Tim 3:8-13). Many, even most churches seem to have deacons, but there are quite a few that don't have "elders". At best, they classify their staff as elders (even if not all the staff qualifies biblically). The problem is this seems to be a prescription, not a description in Scripture.

Many (most?) churches these days have a professional pastor. A pastor as a central figure in a church is almost inescapable today. In Scripture, on the other hand, pastors are almost never mentioned. There are pastor/teachers (Eph 4:11) and shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4) (synonymous with "elders"), but not the singular office that we currently associate with "pastor". No professional clergy. In a lot of churches these days Peter and Paul would not qualify as church leadership, lacking the proper seminary or bible college training. Scripture does allow for paying church leadership (1 Tim 5:17-18), but nothing at all about a clergy sort of arrangement.

Most puzzling, however, is Paul's description in his letter to the church at Corinth.
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Cor 14:26-33)
We can discuss all of the previous stuff and that's all fine, but this passage looks nothing at all like the churches I've seen and been a part of. This description (actually, prescription) is 180° out of sync with our normal mode of going to church. We show up to be fed. This passage says we show up with something -- a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, whatever. This text seems to say that every member comes with something to share. "Let all things be done for edification," Paul says. Let's face it; we don't show up for edification. We show up to be edified. We show up to be fed. We don't go to give. We can disagree or negotiate over the whole "tongues" issue. Not the point. The bottom line notion in that text is that Paul commands the Corinthians to assemble with something ready to give to each other. We don't do that. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't even tolerate that. We're supposed to sing when we're told to and not speak when we're not supposed to and primarily get fed. Scripture, on the other hand, looks completely different.

I don't know. I can't even imagine what that would look like. Included in that thought is "God is not a God of confusion but of peace," and imagining a service where everyone contributes doesn't seem very ... peaceful. Nonetheless, there is a radical disconnect between what we have and what Scripture describes and I'm not at all sure what to do with that.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Assigned Gender

A few years back Slate warned that new parents shouldn't "let your doctor do this to your newborn." What horror was doctors perpetrating on these newborns? "The doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It's a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring's genitals." Damnable binary gender.

We know better now. New York is coming out with a gender-neutral option for a baby's birth certificate. "Let the child decide. Don't assign gender." That's the term you will frequently find -- "assigned gender."

I used to despise that term. Look, no doctor looks at a baby and arbitrarily says, "This is a goose!" Nor do they simply decide, randomly, to give you the gender. They do it scientifically. They can look at the chromosomes -- the DNA -- or the genitals or the bone structure or ... lots of things. They don't pull out a blank baby, make a couple of adjustments based on what they decide, and tell you what it is. They tell you what it is based on what is before them. "Assigned"?

I've since decided I like it much better than I thought.
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27)
If you want to talk about gender assignment, that is it. "Male and female He created them." Not a spectrum. Not a social construct. Binary gender. Assigned by God.

I want to point out that there is a particularly important point embedded here that our world has jettisoned and a lot of Christians seem to miss. Included in this concept of God assigning gender (binary) is the concept of being created in the image of God. It is this singular concept that gives us value that no other created thing has. It is this singular notion on which we oppose killing babies and adults and anyone else. It is this one idea on which we base our idea of human rights. Throw that out? Throw out all that other stuff, too. Throw out "male and female"? You can forget about "in the image of God," too.

Is gender "assigned"? Yes, it is. By God. We can play with it, deny it, waffle about, but it is assigned by the Maker. Anything else is a denial ... of reality.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Day God Died

One objection to the deity of Christ is that He died. We even sing about it in our hymns. The first lines from At the Cross say, "Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?" A favorite, And Can it Be?, asks, "How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" It's right there. A basic theme of Christianity is that Christ died for our sins. I mean, come on! How can He be the eternal God if He died. That puts an end to "eternal" and, therefore, to Christ as God. End of story.

This is problematic. For the Trinitarian, we're standing there declaring that Jesus is God Incarnate. He is God. So we have to say that God died ... right? But that's a serious issue. If Christ, as God, died, nothing would exist. "In Him," Paul wrote, "all things hold together" (Col 1:17). If God died, nothing would hold together. If "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28) is true, then without Him there would be no being. Everything would cease to exist. Poof! End of all that is!

"No, no," they assure me, "It wasn't God who died. It was just the Son -- the second person in the Trinity." That seems to solve the problem. Except that it creates a new one. If God is immutable and God -- at least part of God -- died, then we have a change, a mutation. And God is no longer immutable. And He is no longer God.

For the non-Trinitarian, it's a different problem. "Yes, Jesus died, but he wasn't God, so it had no effect on the universe." Sure, but it also had no effect on sin. Without a divine offering for sin, the sacrifice could cover only one person. Taking $5 as final payment on a quadrillion dollar tax bill is generous, but it's not just. If God is just, only a payment sufficient to cover the debt would be suitable. So in denying the deity of Christ, they either deny salvation for anyone or the deity ... of God.

So what do we do? We can deny the deity of Christ and end up dismantling everything, or we can affirm the deity of Christ and end up dismantling everything. Those seem to be our options. But there is one other -- the truth. We can properly understand the nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a human with a divine nature. He was what the creeds describe as "fully God and fully Man." It's important, however, to remember that the two didn't mix. The deity of Christ did not become human and the humanity of Christ did not become divine. When Christ died on the cross (as He most certainly did), He did not cease to exist. He did not cease to be God. What ended was the Man, Jesus. What ceased to operate was the physical nature of Christ.

This shouldn't be hard to grasp. We expect it, in fact. We do not believe that when we die we cease to exist. When we die our spirits are with God (2 Cor 5:8). We are, as it were, trinitarian beings ourselves, consisting of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess 5:23). So death isn't a "cease to be" even for us; it's a separation of body and the rest of us. And if Christ was God Incarnate -- God in a body -- then dying would be the separation of body and the rest of Him. In a way, then, God died when Jesus died on the cross. He just didn't cease to be in the same way that humans do. But God didn't end when Christ died on the cross. Christ didn't cease to be. That would be a misunderstanding of Christ, of the cross, of God Himself. So we retain the deity of Christ and salvation for all. God wins.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Reliable Sources

My dad once told me, "What's really important is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made." Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 21st century.

We've arrived at a place in our world where we trust certain sources, so we believe them without reason, question, or examination. Maybe it's you're favorite news source. Maybe it's the Internet. Maybe it's another source or a conglomerate of sources.

What has happened over the years is that the media -- news or television or Internet -- has acted pretty sincere. They want you to trust them. They have earned your trust. Right? So when they say that a child was kidnapped from the park by your house, you believe them. And you make sure your kid never goes to that park. Or any park. Even if it wasn't a park near you. The news carries a story of an airplane crash and air travel drops. Why? Because it's unsafe? No. Because we heard it from a reliable source. And it must be a problem. We hear a truly horrifying story of some kids getting shot at school and we're tempted to keep our kids home. Why? Schools are unsafe! Really? Did you know that, statistically, a child at a public school has a 0.0017% of being shot in school? But we heard it on the news and it is bad and we will trust them without question or examination.

It has become an Internet joke now. "I know it's true; I heard it on the Internet." One commercial played that whole game of a girl who met a guy online who was a wonderful French guy ... except he was neither French nor wonderful, but because it was in the Internet, it had to be true. It's there; we trust it. Whatever it says must be true. So we buy this whole "gender is a social construct" thing because "I heard it on the Internet" or "9/11 was a government conspiracy" because "I heard it on the Internet." Don't ask. Don't examine. Don't question. Just believe. Question authority, sure. But not our favorite media or Internet sources.

Then we have, in our hot little hands, the God-breathed Word. Now that is an unimpeachable source. No faking of sincerity there. No blind trust. It's God's Word. God's Word invites scrutiny, expects examination, and holds out the promise of truth from God Himself. A reliable source. Would that we were as diligent in our study, use, and embracing of His Word as we are at the news media and Internet.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

A Thousand Tongues

Peter Böhler (1712-1775) was a German-English Moravian bishop and missionary. Talking to Charles Wesley, he said, "If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all." Wesley liked the line, and put it in his hymn written to commemorate the first year of his new birth that begins,
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
I get it, but, to me, a thousand tongues isn't enough.

One of my little pet peeves about modern worship music is what is jokingly referred to as 7-11 songs -- repeat the same 7 words 11 times. That's silly, of course. They repeat stuff much more than that. There seems to be some value in repeating simple phrases over and over again in worship. Feels good? I don't know.

A favorite hymn is Frederick M. Lehman's The Love of God. The third verse, he says, was found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
John wrote, "There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). If what Jesus said and did in His ministry would exceed out ability to express, how much more "the glories of my God and King"?

So we worship. We worship in church on Sunday. We worship with others. We worship in song, in giving, in the preaching of the Word. We worship by presenting our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom 12:1). We declare the glories of God in word and deed (Matt 5:16). Let's not stop at 7 or 11 words; let's make it a lifelong, daily effort.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

News Weakly - 1/5/19

Welcome to 2019.

Mixed Messages
In recent times we've seen a bunch of "Women's Marches." They're angry about stuff. Like Trump getting elected. Or their right to killing their babies being threatened. They were going to march in California but canceled it because it would have been "overwhelmingly white." You see, there are women's issues, but they have to be carefully defined. Like if you're conservative and pro-life women, you can't be part of a Women's March. And if it's too white, it's not allowed. Because Women's Lives Matter ... sometimes.

All Sorts of Bad
British counter-terrorism police are investigating a multiple stabbing at Manchester Victoria station New Year's Eve. According to a witness, Sam Clack, a BBC radio producer, a suspect reportedly shouted "Allah" and declared, "As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of s**t is going to keep happening." The government is instituting more stringent knife control legislation and the BBC producer was fired for religious profiling. Oh, wait ...

Global Warming Update
Arizona made the news this week with seriously cold temperatures. While New York City enjoyed relatively balmy highs in the upper 50's, temperatures in the Sonoran desert fell below 30°F. If this global warming keeps up, we're all going to freeze to death.

Important Legislation
Congress has a pretty important job. They are the legislative branch. They make the laws. Now, they can't seem to make a budget and they can't seem to improve immigration laws. They can't pass gun legislation or reasonable economic policies. But, hey, at least they're hard at work at making sure that President Trump discloses 10 years of tax returns. Now that is important legislation. Oh, the Constitution doesn't require it and no president has ever been called on to do it, but we demand it. Why? Well, because we hate Trump, of course. Sheesh! Try to keep up.

All We Are Saying ...
... the song says, "is give peace a chance." So China's president this week said that Taiwan's unification with China must be the ultimate goal of any talks over its future. Taiwan's president urged China to peacefully settle disputes over the island and to allow them to retain self-rule. China's President Xi indicated that Taiwan's break with China was not legitimate, that unification was unstoppable, and that they'd be willing to use force if necessary. China has already demanded that the Taiwanese government not be recognized and has blocked access to all who do. "China would respect the Taiwanese people's religious and legal freedoms in a unified 'one country, two systems' framework, Mr. Xi said." This from a country that is already shutting down Christian churches. "We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures," the president said. I mean, who could resist such a friendly request? "Give peace a chance! Surrender or die." Look for good times for Taiwan in 2019.