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Thursday, February 28, 2019

What Is It?

We all know and love Ephesians 2:8-9.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So awesome. "It is a gift of God ... so that no one may boast." And we really, really love "not a result of works" because, let's face it, if it was a result of works, none of us would make it. Really good news. Oh, hey ... the Gospel, right?

But there has been a large amount of discussion on a rather a rather small word -- "it." Paul says, "It is a gift of God." So ... what is? The first answer people will give me almost by reflex is "Salvation!" And, of course, salvation is a gift from God. But is that the "it" in view? I ask because I would think it would be patently obvious that "grace" is equally a gift from God. I mean, by definition, grace is unmerited favor, so that's a gift, isn't it? So then we come to the crux of the matter. Why is there even a discussion? Because if salvation is a gift and grace is a gift, wouldn't it seem logical that Paul's "it" was also in reference to "faith"? Wouldn't it make sense that Paul is saying, "The whole package -- saved by grace through faith -- is a gift"?

We typically balk at the notion that faith is a gift. We think of faith as the ingredient we bring to the party. When they say, "God does 99.99% of our salvation," they're referring to the 0.01% that is faith. We bring that to the table. That's our contribution. I mean, God doesn't produce faith in us, does He? If He did, wouldn't that eliminate our input, our choice, our trusting Him? Wouldn't that make us robots of a sort? Worse, if He did that and did not do it for everyone, wouldn't that make Him a monster of some sort? All things to consider.

Scripture does say that God gives faith. He grants that you believe (Php 1:29). Those who don't believe don't believe because it is not granted (John 6:64-65). He assigns a measure of faith to each believer (Rom 12:3). We may not like it, but it's in there. Further, if we do supply the catalyst, the final agent that makes salvation work, why would there not be room for boasting? It wouldn't work if you didn't set it off. If it is "not of your own doing" and faith is your own doing, wouldn't that make Paul wrong? So there is that.

To me it is evident that the "it" in view is not "faith" specifically (as some argue), but rather the whole package. That we are saved by grace through faith is a gift from God. I don't think the argument that faith is a gift can be made from this passage. Conversely, I think that those who argue that it is not a gift are not engaging with the Scriptures that say it is or the ramifications that would result from the position that we complete God's work for Him ... even if it's just "0.01%." Conversely, I would really hope that those who do believe that faith is a gift have answers for the dilemmas caused by such a position. How is our choice not eliminated? (Clearly we have to choose.) How does this not make us robots? Do we not have to place our faith in Christ to be saved? And if God provides faith for some and not for others, how does that not make God a monster? You have to answer those kinds of things if you hold that God gives faith. And if you hold that He doesn't, you have to answer why Scripture says He does. There is no easy way out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Question of Intent

There are a lot of good biblical texts to dwell on, to stand by, to live on. "God loved the world in this way; He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Always popular. "But God, rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:4-7). See? You could dwell on a passage like that for a long, long time. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:17-19). So many wonderful components -- the old is passed, being new, that God reconciles us to Himself, being forgiven, sharing that with others -- so much good stuff.

One that "leads the pack" for me is not likely one that comes up often in your mind. I practically live here.
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen 50:20)
"Really," I can hear some say, "there? Why?"

We can all likely agree that one of the very best is Romans 8:28. The comfort that God causes all things to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose is hard to overstate. But ... we often seem to handle this one with care. We qualify it. "God works it for good for those who are called, not for those who are not called." Or something like it. Often if we're handed this verse in the midst of a difficulty, we will simply set it aside until we can feel better. We also seem to think of it as God's "Plan B". "Well, God had good plans for good things for me, but people or something else got in the way and now God has to figure out how to use this for good because He didn't originally intend this."

That's why I live on Genesis 50:20. This text takes into account the bad and the good. In this passage Joseph's unkind brothers who intended to kill him but relented and "merely" sold him into slavery are begging him not to do them harm (the harm they clearly think they deserve). Joseph calms their fears. "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." Notice how this does two things. On one hand, it clearly acknowledges and affirms evil. It isn't a rosy, "God will work everything out" kind of theme. There is no question; they intended evil. It doesn't let them off the hook. It doesn't say, "That's okay; you didn't mean to be bad." It says they actually did. On the other hand, it clearly acknowledges God. He knew of their plan. He superintended their plan. He used their evil to produce His good. Think about that! He used their evil to produce His good! He could have prevented them from doing it at all. I'm quite certain that the reason they did not kill him in the first place was God's intervention. He could have prevented it all. He did in the case of Abimelech (Gen 20:6). So this wasn't God's "Plan B." This was God's intent. And His intent was for good.

I need to know that. Always. When people intend evil against me, I need to know that God intends good. When bad things happen, I need to know that God isn't "mopping up", but that He always had this in hand. When unpleasant times come -- and they always will -- I need to know that God is planning good in it -- always. No Plan B. No cleaning up a mess. No quick action on God's part where He manages to pull success from the jaws of defeat. It is always in His plan even while there are always evil intentions. Evil is not absolved. But God is not surprised. That's the kind of God that provides me hope in difficult times.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Destined for Greatness

For reasons that, frankly, elude me somewhat, the topic of predestination is often a hot one, and not in terms of popularity. It is often a point of heated contention. I'm not at all sure why. Perhaps it's the suggestion that it eliminates free will (which it does not). I would prefer to think that it wasn't simply from the old "I will be like the Most High" problem that all sinners face. I don't think it is. But the principle is undeniably biblical. Jeremiah said he was appointed as a prophet "from the womb" (Jer 1:5). Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14). Paul assured us that God causes all things to work together for good according to His purpose that "those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:28-30). Paul assured the Ephesians that "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4) and "He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:5). According to Peter, Jesus was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) and the early Christians understood that Herod and Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews were acting according to "whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place" when they crucified Jesus (Acts 4:27-28). It is an unavoidable, recurring biblical theme. Even the word that we translate "the church" -- ekklēsia -- means literally "the called out ones" because we are the called and chosen.

It isn't popular among Christians and I'm not at all sure why. Perhaps it's because we're not sure why we are predestined. The popular position is that it's speaking of salvation, and that is clearly a part of it, but not the only part. Scripture is clear that predestination is the beginning, the middle, and the end. The plan "before the ages began" (Titus 1:1-3) (predestination) was for Christ to live a perfect life, be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:22), and be executed for our sins (Acts 4:27-28) so that those whose names were written in the book before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) could be reconciled to Him through adoption to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph 1:5-6). His work is to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), where our being "predestined" is the forerunner to our eventually being glorified (Rom 8:29-30).

This is too magnificent for me to minimize. In this scenario God plans from before time that He will save, chooses in advance who that will be, provides the ways and means to accomplish it, and finally justifies and glorifies those whom He chose from before the foundation of the world. Where's the boasting? Where's the room for pride? Where's the possibility of "Look what I did!"? It doesn't exist. No place for "I'm someone special." All we have is "I'm someone chosen" through nothing in ourselves. And what He chose us for! To be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). To be holy and blameless (Eph 1:4). To be adopted as sons (Eph 1:5). To be to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph 1:5)! "We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Cor 4:7). We have been predestined for greatness not because of anything in us, but because of Him who calls and Him who saves and Him who transforms and keeps us. Why would that not be a popular Christian topic?

Monday, February 25, 2019


It was "Sanctity of Life Sunday" and we touched on abortion and such at church. You know, mention it, pray about it, that sort of thing. One guy in the small group session prayed about it. In his prayer he spoke of the possibility that one of those children killed before they were born could have been the person that God would have used to change the world.

I had to think about that. I know people who are burdened with guilt because they had an opportunity to share Christ with so-and-so and they didn't and they were afraid that so-and-so could end up in Hell because they didn't share. Is that the case? Is God counting on me to share the Gospel with "that" person and if I don't they won't be saved?

The question goes beyond that, then. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). We are told, "You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2). Prayer is important. So ... what if I don't? What if, say, I fail to pray for the salvation of a loved one or for the healing of a brother in Christ or for a particular gift (1 Cor 14:1)? Is God not able to save that person or heal that brother or provide that gift because I failed to pray?

Is that how God works? "Oh, my," He might end up saying, "I would have saved that person if only Bill had done his task of sharing the Gospel with them. He didn't. They aren't." Is He limited by our obedience (or lack thereof)? Is He blocked from acting if we don't pray, especially as He intends? We know Scripture says that Jesus couldn't heal where He wasn't recognized.
Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household." And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:4-6)
Doesn't that say that He couldn't heal because they lacked the faith?

You call it as you see it. I don't read that text that way. I understand it to say that it would not have been the best thing to do miracles in that place when they were skeptics. I understand the "could not" to mean "because He always did what was best and that would not have been best." Why? I am convinced that "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps" (Psa 135:6). That means that if He intends to save Jill and the believer nearest to her fails to tell her about Jesus, He can still get the job done. That means that if He wants to heal Jim, He can heal Jim even if no one asks for it. That means that if the Spirit wants to give Emily the gift of encouragement, He can do so even if she never asks. I believe I am commanded to share the Gospel and pray and obey and all that and if I fail to do so I am sinning, but I don't believe that it follows that I am blocking God from accomplishing His will by doing so. He will do what He will do. To me, the sheer arrogance required to think that the Master of the Universe is dependent on me to accomplish His grand plans seems completely ludicrous.

If that's the case, why do it? Why witness, pray, or obey? Not because of consequences, for sure. We are saved by grace and forgiven, so I'm not going to Hell for failing to do what I'm told to do. But the question seems silly. Why do those things? If I am a Christ-follower, indwelt by the Spirit, with God at work in me to will and to do His good pleasure, how could I not aim to do those things? If I love God, how could I not pursue that which pleases Him? I mean, there is the trivial "loss of rewards" to consider. And there is the magnificent opportunity to be the tool that God uses at this point in time to accomplish His work. Who wouldn't want that?

There are very good reasons to share the Gospel, to pray, to obey. I do not believe that "If you don't you will obstruct God's work" is one of them. Conversely, believers who have no interest in obeying Christ by sharing the Gospel, making disciples, praying, or the rest might have a bigger problem than preventing God from accomplishing His will. They may have a heart problem -- not much concerned about Christ -- and maybe even a health problem -- dead in sin. I still don't believe that God is in submission to Man.

Sunday, February 24, 2019


Jesus told the woman at the well, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24). Jesus didn't speak in capitals, but my Bible doesn't capitalize "spirit" in that sentence, suggesting that the translators did not understand Jesus to be talking about the Spirit. The language, then, leads us to believe that Jesus is talking about the human spirit, not the divine. True worship, according to Christ, is not geographically located. (That was the woman's question. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship" (John 4:20).) True worship, then, is not located at church or, as some would argue, in the midst of nature. True worship has two components, neither of which is location. These are "spirit" and "truth."

"Truth" is pretty self-explanatory. False worship doesn't work. Moreover, worship must contain truth. A worship song that encourages us because when Jesus died He "thought of me above all" is not "truth." It's not like that's limited to contemporary worship. When Alfred Ackley answered how we can know He Lives, he said, "He lives within my heart." As if that's the final arbiter of truth. When the hymn asks how it can be "that Thou my God shouldst die for me?", we must reply "It can't be" because if God died He would cease to be God and we would cease to be ... at all. Some of these can be fixed. "How can it be that Thou my Lord didst die for me?" is fine, for instance. The point is that truth is what needs to be present. It is a critical element of worship.

What about "spirit"? Jesus said, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). We can see the two -- God's Spirit and the human spirit. The text argues that this is referring to the human spirit, but we also know that we only have a fully functioning human spirit if it is made alive by the Spirit, so they are linked but distinct. The human spirit is in view here, then, and that refers to our deepest part -- the heart. Those who worship God must do so from the heart. That would include love and it would include emotion. True worship would include a passion for Christ because of His infinite worth and because of our great love for God.

The thing is we often tend toward one or the other of these two. Some of us tend toward the "truth" side, yearning for theological accuracy and doctrinal clarity. More, of course, tend toward the "spirit" side, seeing worship as an emotional experience between me and God. Both actually make sense, but both are actually short-sighted. Jesus said both were required. Jesus said it's a matter of heart and head. The version of worship that Jesus addresses here is an emotional response to the truth of the worthiness of God. "Because these things are true about God, we must respond this way." Both.

Music is a form of magic, in a sense. It has the capacity to move you emotionally without engaging the mind. It's easy, then, to use music to produce an emotional response in people without regard to truth. Jesus warns against it. On the other hand, it's easy to call on "truth" as the final arbiter of "worship." Seems ... reasonable. It is reasonable, but it is incomplete. We need, as followers of Christ, to worship Him in spirit and to worship Him in truth -- heart and head. A warm response to God without truth is not what Jesus calls for. Right thinking about God without a heart response is not what Jesus calls for. Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

News Weakly - 2/23/19

This Is What It Comes To
Colin Kaepernick et. al. still protests the American flag and the national anthem because of racism in America. Fine. Whatever. So what, right? Well, here's "so what". An 11-year-old boy in Florida was arrested after becoming disruptive and resisting arrest after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Why did he refuse? Because the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance are racist. And so are all the school staff. Thanks, Colin.

Almost as upsetting to me is the media approach. Every story I saw on this said something like, "Florida boy arrested after refusing to stand for Pledge of Allegiance." Really? Well, perhaps literally, but not actually. The school does not require participation in the pledge and the student was not arrested for refusing to participate. "This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom." The disruption followed the refusal, so "after refusing" is correct, but it would have been just as correct to say, "The Florida boy was arrested after crossing the street to come to school." The public will make this about overbearing Americans (who are obviously racist because this boy is black), not about the illegal activities of the boy. Thanks, news media.

Well Played, Mitch
You've heard about the Democrats' "Green New Deal" plan offered up by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) in the House and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts in the Senate. The goal is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, create millions of good jobs in the process, alter infrastructure to meet sustainability goals, secure "clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment," and promote justice by stopping oppression (past, present, and future) of indigenous, minority, and migrant communities along with the poor, women, and youth. (What that last item has to do with "green" eludes me.) AOC has suggested the termination of air travel, but her bill doesn't mention it and calls for high-speed rail and zero-emission vehicles. The bill would eliminate 80% of the existing power production to be replaced with 100% renewable energy. There are questions about cows, since about a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture including cows, but they took that out of their documentation. The plan guarantees "a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States." (Again, "green"?) The bill doesn't include it, but the party would like to cut military spending by at least half and close overseas military bases. Reports are that most of the Democratic candidates for president in 2020 are in favor of the plan.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she won't bring it to a vote in its current form but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will bring the plan to a vote on the Senate floor. So it's utterly ironic that Senator Markey is complaining that they hope to bring the bill to a vote. It will certainly require those Democrats who lean to the Socialism side to raise their hands or disqualify themselves from being regarded as honest. We'll see what happens.

We Need a New Word
John Wayne, as it turns out, was racist and homophobic. This according to a 1971 Playboy interview in which he stated his belief in "white supremacy" and his belief that homosexual behavior was "perverted." And, of course, the Twitterverse goes wild, oddly enough spewing massive hate about what they consider massive hate.

I need a new word. I'm tired of "homophobic" that is used every time someone expresses the belief that homosexual behavior is wrong. The term means either the fear ("phobic") of homosexuals (or, perhaps, fear of being one yourself) or the hatred of homosexuals (although nothing in the word works that way). John Wayne expressing the same moral belief that the vast majority of Americans would have expressed at that time is neither fear of nor hatred for those who commit the acts. You'll need to come up with a new term ... like, maybe, "anti-sin" or something. I'll take that.

A Crimp In Their Style
Apparently the Trump administration is going to launch a "worldwide effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality." Given the current position of the media and other left that simply assumes, "If Trump did it, it's bad," this has got to be tough. "Yes! We favor the decriminalization of homosexuality. Oh, wait! Trump's administration is pushing for it? No! We're against it because he's for it. No, hang on ..." I would guess that the conservative Christians still holding out hope that Trump is a Christian might face a similar dilemma. "Yeah! Trump's a Christian, so decriminalizing homosexuality is good! Oh, hang on. No ... oh, boy."

Not the Bee
It's my own fault. I like to give out an occasional "fake news" story from the Babylon Bee. Pretty sure you'll think this is one of those. It's not. The First Annual Christian Witches Convention is taking place in April in Salem, Massachusetts. No kidding. Declaring that Jesus was a sorcerer and the Bible is a book of magic, a "born witch" who runs "the Covenant of Christian Witches Mystery School" hopes to encourage more Christians to practice witchcraft and other practices forbidden by Scripture (e.g. Gal 5:18-21). No kidding. And not very funny.

Sorry, CNN, Your Bias is Showing
"Don't get your news from Fox; they're biased." That's what they tell me. I respond, "And you think CNN is not?" Turns out, CNN is ... big time. This was exposed this week when CNN hired a political conservative to head the network's coverage of the 2020 Presidential Campaign. CNN staffers were "demoralized" by it. Why? Because she's conservative ... and they're not. A blatant admission of bias. Mind you, I don't believe any media outlet is unbiased. I am just amazed that there are those who think such an outlet exists.

Vermont Ups the Ante
Not to be outdone by New York's new "kill the babies" law, Vermont has passed their own version. In an effort to make sure that women for perpetuity can kill their babies if they want, they've voted to pass H57 which gives the right to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. Specifically in the text in order to remove all doubt, the bill explicitly says, "A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law." Federal law says that anyone who causes the death of a child in utero is guilty of murder (called the "Laci and Conner's Law"). Most states will charge someone with murder if they kill a mother and double homicide if her unborn child dies, too. Not Vermont. Not New York. They hold to the "magical birth canal" theory in which the transit through the birth canal endows rights not previously given ... although some are arguing for post-partum abortion as well. "Let it be born and then we'll decide if we're going to kill it or not." Followed immediately with "Let's see what they do in life and then decide if we're going to kill it or not." No? Why not?

Friday, February 22, 2019


If you are a Christian and if you live in this world, I guarantee you will likely have a struggle with what the Bible refers to as "the desires of the flesh." The concept is explained in Galatians where Paul writes, "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh" (Gal 5:17) We typically think of "the desires of the flesh" in terms of sexual sin; Paul defines it as anything that is against the Spirit. In fact, Paul gives a list of examples:
Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Gal 5:19-21).
Clearly, sexual immorality leads the list, but the rest are far broader. Thinks like "enmity" and "fits of anger" and "envy." Or, "everyday things." Things we all deal with. If you are a human being living in this world, you deal with these issues. If you are a Christian living in this world, you deal with these issues and are concerned about it. What's a believer to do?

Paul makes this straightforward, unambiguous statement:
"I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal 5:16).
Assuming that the Bible is "God-breathed", accurate, even authoritative, then we can assume that those who walk by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (They don't call me "Captain Obvious" for nothing.) Notice, however, the reverse conclusion. If we are gratifying the desires of the flesh -- if Christians are sinning -- what can we tell about our current mode of operation? If the statement is true, at that moment we can conclude that we are not walking by the Spirit.

Any genuine follower of Christ will be appalled at sin. Often we are appalled after the sin, but there is, built into every believer, the "seed of God" (1 John 3:9) and we may (will) sin, but we won't be happy about it. So we look for solutions. We read self-help books on how to be better and we seek biblical advice and we pray and we look for accountability partners and all sorts of nifty ideas. These aren't bad ideas, but the Bible suggests that there is an underlying issue and we need to address that underlying issue: we aren't walking by the Spirit. Because if we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Perhaps, before we get to work on that long list of things to do to be better Christians, we should start there.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Work It Out

Paul's letter to the churches of the region of Galatia had a clear intent. He was aiming at legalism, wrought by what we call "judaizers" who came from Jerusalem and tried to sell the notion to the Galatian churches that in order to be truly saved, they had to believe in Christ, sure, but they also had to follow the Law. Paul responded, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8-9). (He repeated it for emphasis.) When Peter visited and started falling into that faulty pattern, Paul actually berated him in public (Gal 2:11-14). This was no small issue to Paul.

In the third chapter we read,
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal 3:1-5)
Now, most of us -- especially Protestants (I think there is lingering "saved by works" in the Roman Catholic theology) -- are pretty keen on this. We are not saved by works of the law; we are saved by "hearing with faith." But I think that we might actually have trouble with Paul's second question. "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Oh, we would likely nod and agree that the answer is that we are not perfected by the flesh, but I suspect our actions betray our beliefs. We actually do believe that we are saved by faith but are perfected by works.

"Look," we might tell each other, "do you want to 'be perfect'? Do you want to grow in Christ and grow in sanctification? Well, then, it's quite clear, what you need to do is ..." And we'll have a list. Go to church, read your Bible, pray, do good works, be a good Christian, on and on. These are the common means we aim at to "arrive", so to speak. There are special means, to be sure. Maybe special empowerment (Eph 5:18), special gifting (1 Cor 12:1-7), that sort of thing. But we all need to participate in these common means to be perfected in Christ. But isn't that "perfected by the flesh"?

We get confused, you see? It's easy to do. We read, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12) and think, "I've got to do something" and we're right. We look at the world around us and hear, "Nothing comes from nothing; you have to work for what you get" and we go from there ... and we're wrong. We forget that the "do" we have to accomplish is accomplished by "God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Php 2:13). We forget that the will and the power to do what we ought comes from God. So we do because we are supposed to do, but we don't do it by the flesh -- by accomplishing it ourselves. We do it by His power and will.

So we are perfected -- the process we call "sanctification" -- by doing. The mistake we make is in thinking that we do it. We go with the flow. We don't do it "by the flesh." We are, then, perfected by the Spirit working in us to do what He wants us to do. It's quite remarkable, actually. We get to cooperate with God while He works in us to do what He wants us to do and we get rewarded for doing what He's doing in us. That's quite a deal!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Answering Nebuchadnezzar

King Nebuchadnezzar made a really bad choice. He looked at his kingdom of Babylon and attributed its might to himself (Dan 4:30). "While the words were still in the king's mouth" (Dan 4:31) God spoke from heaven and told him he'd be eating grass for seven periods of time ... and he did (Dan 4:31-33). When he came out of it, he praised God (Dan 4:34) and issues a challenge.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" (Dan 4:35)
At last we have an answer for the king. Who can stay His hand? We can. Any one of us. By our own choices. By our lack of faith. By our disobedience. God may will for you to receive something good, but if you don't go along with Him, you can actually "stay His hand" -- stop Him from giving it to you. He may actually will for people to be saved, but we all know that His will is at the mercy of the people He wills to be saved and any one of them can stop Him from doing what He wills.

I know. You don't actually believe that. But when I argue that God is Sovereign, Christians disagree, assuring me that God cannot violate Human Free Will. "No, no," I'm told, "He can, but He chooses not to." Same thing. If God has laid aside actual Sovereignty and taken up co-sovereignty contingent on Human Free Will, how is that not staying His hand?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pie in the Sky By and By

I'm going to give you some lyrics and you name that tune:
When we've been there
Ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days
To sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.
Easy, right? Amazing Grace. It's interesting to me, however, how many hymns have that same theme in their final verse. It's an anticipation of heaven, that final place of peace and joy where we'll all sit on clouds and play harps ...

We used to have songs about "heaven is a wonderful place." We all knew what "the Pearly Gates" referred to and dreamed of "streets of gold". It seems as if heaven has lost its luster, even for many Christians. We don't hear much about it these days.

For awhile Christianity was ridiculed as a "pie in the sky by and by" religion. You know, something somewhat good someday, but not now and, honestly, not that good when it came. When John Newton wrote of the 10,000 year beginning to an eternity, he was thinking it was grand. Today many think, "Boring!" "What are we gonna do all day? Sit on clouds and play harps?" And if there is a sin of the day, it might just be the sin of being boring. There's nothing worse than being boring. We crave excitement, thrills, entertainment, distraction, amusement ... now and all the time. So, John, what's so good about your heaven?

Obviously we've missed the point. Even Christians, I suspect. We think of heaven as a place of escape, perhaps, where we'll have no more pain and no more tears, a relief from the miseries of this current world. A kind of suicide, I suppose, to get out of this sad place we're in now and "go to a better place." It's true that there will be no more tears, but is that the point of heaven? Is that the wonderful reason for a mere 10,000 year start? Others like to think about the end of sin. That's noble enough. Some of us are sick and tired of sinning -- of violating God's glory -- and we long for the day when we cannot sin anymore. All we can do is glorify God. That sounds good. Good enough for an eternity? I would argue that, in our minds, it's not, given the decline of the allure of heaven for so many Christians. That "pie in the sky by and by" is too remote and too elusive and too bland to really hold our attention.

We are, of course, missing the point. We're looking at the fringe benefits and missing the whole point. Yes, there will be no more weeping in heaven. Yes, there will be peace. Yes, we will be no longer able to sin. Yes, we'll be there for an eternity. A long, long, long time. But why? Why no tears, no unhappiness, no pain, no sin? It's because we'll be with Jesus. It's because we'll be like Jesus (1 John 3:2). We will be the loving, sanctified Bride and He the Eternal, Glorious Bridegroom and that Union had better last an eternity because it is the most perfect union ever. We sing gladly of His "love so amazing"; this will be an eternity of bathing in that "love of Christ that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:19).

So here's what it boils down to. Heaven isn't about us. It is, like everything else, about Him. However, He is so magnificent in all His glory and so infinite in all His attributes that an eternity won't be sufficient to enjoy all of Him. And that won't be boring. Now, maybe you still wonder if it will be boring. Maybe you're still thinking, "I don't know; still doesn't sound that wonderful to me." If so, the real question is not about how marvelous heaven will be. The question is whether or not you know Him. I would suggest you should check into that before the question gets answered for you.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Judging a Cover by its Book

To "judge a book by its cover" is to determine the quality of a book (inside) by evaluating the book sleeve, that "marketing" method where the publisher puts "cool pictures" and fancy lettering on the front and maybe a picture of the author and reviews or a bio on the back to get you to buy the book. "I don't care much for that drawing on the front" is not a good way to determine if the content of the book is any good. We use the phrase, of course, not generally in terms of books. We use it in terms of people. "She doesn't dress very well," we might say, "but you'll love her once you get to know her. Don't judge a book by its cover."

But we do it all the time, don't we? There are nearly a million police officers in the United States. Watching the news accounts, 10 or maybe even 20 of them have been caught doing bad things. A phenomenally tiny percentage. Still we have parents teaching their kids not to trust a cop because all cops (apparently even the minority ones) are racist and we have businesses refusing to serve police officers because all cops are corrupt. Judging a book by its cover. We read about cases, even quite a few, where Catholic priests et. al. are molesting children and we conclude that the Roman Catholic Church produces nothing but child molesters. Judging a book by its cover. We see people calling themselves Christians speaking and acting hatefully -- genuinely hatefully, not just in our perception -- toward people they deem sinful and we conclude that Christians and their church and their religion are the most hateful things on the planet. Judging a book by its cover.

The concept, judging a book by its cover, is that doing so is wrong. You can't determine the quality of what's inside until you actually look inside. But the concept does not preclude actually discovering what's inside and determining the quality of that. It actually is the argument to do just that. It isn't a plea for being nonjudgmental; it's a plea to actually examine the facts rather than the perceptions on the surface. Are police all corrupt? The news media accounts might make it look that way, but dig in and you find it's not necessarily so. There are lots of good officers on the job. Does the RCC actually produce pedophiles? The public perception argues for it, but if you dig into it, you'll find that it's not so. Oh, they may have more than their share, but it isn't a correct blanket statement. You see, then, that I've offered judgment on police and priests -- police not so bad and priests not so good -- just not by their "cover."

As it turns out, when it comes to evaluating Christians, Christianity, and the Church, it actually is easier than either police or priests. What defines a "good police officer" or a "good priest"? That's somewhat relative. What defines a good Christian? Ah, now, we have a Book for that. We have a standard. We have a description of the Christ of Christians and a lengthy explanation of all that goes into Christianity and the Church and we can compare what the standard is with what we have in front of us to make a judgment. We can say, "This person acts hatefully toward homosexuals. How does that stack up?" And we can read, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and conclude, "Nope, that is not a valid Christian behavior." On the other hand we can see a story about someone who stands on the position that homosexuals need Christ because homosexual behavior excludes them from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) and compare that position to the Book and discover that it is so ... and it is not hate.

But that's not really the approach for most, is it? To a seemingly large number, Christians are hateful and churches are corrupt and Christianity is meaningless not because they don't line up with the Book, but because they don't line up with personal, arbitrary, emotional, ill-defined guidelines. And because some who claim to be Christians violate them. Very, very few -- even Christians -- seem to ask, "But, how does that line up with the Book?"

If "the Book" in this case is God's Word and Christians are "the cover" -- the outward representation of Christ and His Word -- then we actually ought to be judging the cover by the Book. Embrace that which aligns with the standard and discard that which does not. We have a valid standard. We ought to use it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Providence. It's a term used often from earlier times. Not so much these days. It was often used as a reference to God. Because, as we all know, God provides.

It's interesting, though, if you look at the ways it was used in earlier times. The term was a term of faith. It was a term that left the user of the term hanging onto God's provide-ance. "I'm in tough times ... but God will provide." Or, "I trust to Providence ..."

Indeed, it is this aspect of God that was behind one of the early names God offers for Himself. Your Bible will likely translate it as "God Almighty" (Gen 17:1), but the term -- El Shaddai -- speaks more of God's providence. He is almighty, true, but in this sense He is almighty in His ability to provide all that is needed. "All Sufficient" is the idea. Because He is the Provider.

We forget it sometimes. We forget that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We forget that in Him we live and move and have our very existence (Acts 17:28). We forget that in Him all things consist -- hold together (Col 1:17). We forget that our very service to Him is accomplished by His will and His power (Php 2:13). Paul asks, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Cor 4:7). Not earn. Not merit. Not obtain. Given. He grants suffering and faith (Php 1:29), repentance (2 Tim 2:25), everything we have and are. He gifts us with grace and mercy when we deserve wrath and justice. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)

Providence is a good descriptor of God. He provides everything. Good things, difficult things, life and breath. Always good (Rom 8:28). The trick, then, is to keep that in mind at all times. Even the hard times.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

News Weakly - 2/16/19

It had to happen. If our version of "right and wrong" is predicated on consent, this was a sure thing. A 27-year-old man from Mumbai is suing his parents for having him. For his being born. He was born, it turns out, without his consent. Lousy parents. They should have asked first.

Raphael Samuel is an antinatalist. He believes that it's wrong to bring children into the world, that human life has any value at all, and that the solution to all life's problems is the total absence of life. You may laugh and you may disagree, but, given our nearly worldwide certainty that children in the womb have no value and a growing sense in "civilized nations" that God is irrelevant and our current attitude that morality is primarily determined by consent, I would argue that Mr. Samuel is simply following the rational rabbit trail into oblivion and you who think he's loony without addressing those three issues are less than rational.

A Different Question
Harrison Ford gave a passionate speech to the World Government Summit in Dubai declaring how awful his country's government is and how important science is and how we need to save the world. You can't deny human-caused global climate change without being anti-science, driven purely by self-interest, and essentially immoral. Denying climate change is isolationalism and nationalism and a failure to address it is "the greatest moral crisis of our time."

Thank you, Harrison. My only real question is why? Why did the World Government Summit ask actor Harrison Ford for his opinion on how bad his country is and how morality is defined? I mean, I'd get asking a scientist about the science, for instance, but what qualification does an actor have to do this? I'm really only wondering.

Racists Around Every Corner
In our ultra-hyped, ultra-sensitive current environment it appears we can find racism in everything. While the Virginia governor classifies black slaves as "indentured servants" with hardly the bat of an eye, Katy Perry is in trouble because a line of shoes she offered for sale had a face on them. Of course, if the pair you were looking at were black shoes, then you were looking at "blackface" and it was racist. Esquire is in trouble for doing a cover story on a white American kid. Wrong thing for Black History Month!! Except it's their March issue. No one wants to know about a white, male, middle class American.

Now, there really is racism everywhere. It's not always clear. Like shoes or a story about someone who's not black. Elizabeth Warren apologized for a DNA test to show she had Native American blood -- pure racism. Sometimes the tide of public opinion defends racism ... like the current mode of public hate for white males, especially if they wear a MAGA hat. That kind of racism is okay. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is a Muslim who believes that those who support Israel only do so because they're paid to. That kind of racism is okay. Only unapproved racism (like shoes with blackface) won't fly.

An "Historic" Case
In Iowa a jury ruled that a prison warden had violated the rights of a transgender employee. "Rights" plural. On the surface, the warden offered Jesse Vroegh the use of two gender-neutral bathrooms, but Jesse, a female nurse who identified as male, wanted to use the men's bathrooms because they were more convenient. That's a violation of the right to be able to use the bathroom you choose. Check it -- Amendment 28: "No one may impinge on the individual freedom to choose the bathroom they prefer ... unless it's a dirty old man who wants to peep on young girls ... unless, of course, that dirty old man identifies as a girl." In black and white. Worse, the Iowa Prison system offered medical benefits that would not cover Jesse's gender reassignment surgery. That's covered under Amendment 30 where we're guaranteed the right to medical coverage for whatever elective medical procedure -- abortion, gender change, whatever -- we want. But the worst violation, according to the story, was "that his male gender identity wasn't accepted." Worst violation of rights ever -- "not thinking the way I think you should." "If you do not embrace my lunacy, you are violating my rights. Unless, of course, you think you're a race you are not or whatever other arbitrary rules we choose to put on that right."

You see, it is not about individual freedoms. It is about forcing others to comply with her own version of individual freedoms. First and foremost, "You will surrender any science or religion or reason or personal preferences to my feelings about my gender or you will pay the consequences." An historic case indeed.

Social-ism - In the Business of Social Engineering
Ivanka Trump is on the campaign trail. Oh, no, not for an office; for an idea. She wants the government to mandate paid family leave. Not just Ivanka, I guess. It's part of the president's "American Working Families" portfolio which would also include vocational education and workforce development.

Now, I think that it's a good thing if a company can provide paid family leave for its employees. And vocational education. And workforce development. And higher wages (read "a living wage") to employees. And more benefits. And ... well, lots of things. My difficulty is that when the government mandates these things, two things occur. First, there is a benefit lost in the mandating of benefits -- the benefit of being benevolent. Being compliant is one thing; being benevolent is something else. A "good company" would do good things; a compliant company complies. The other is that the government has now closed the door to the free enterprise system and opened the door to social engineering by law. Maybe today's government will socially engineer nice things. What will tomorrow's government deem mandatory? I know. We're already there. Minimum wage, mandatory safety rules, legal protections for employees ... we have all that. It just seems like every time we insert one more rule, we kick out one more freedom. It's not that I'm opposed to these things; I just wonder how much freedom we're willing to surrender to make them happen.

Another New Right
The ACLU (remember, "American Civil Liberties Union") is suing the Department of Homeland SEcurity (DHS) for the "MIgrant Protection Protocols" implemented by the Trump administration. The complaint: Immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. must wait outside the U.S. until they get their court dates. Clearly immigrants have the right to stay inside the country while they see if they can remain inside the country, right? I mean, why not? What could go wrong? I think the Constitution maintains ... oh, wait, no, not the Constitution ... well, American jurisprudence ... no, I guess not that, either ... well, at least in accord with our rights endowed by our Creator ... nope, nope, nope ... okay, so who is determining this "civil liberty" and why is the American Civil Liberties Union suing on behalf of non-Americans? I'm not asking if immigrants seeking asylum should or should not be kept in Mexico -- whether or not the Trump is administration is right. I'm asking for the grounding of this right they seem to be defending.

Without Comment
A mother was arrested in front of her children and locked up for seven hours after referring to a transgender woman as a man online. "I was arrested for harassment and malicious communications because I called someone out and misgendered them on Twitter." The police department verified her statement. "We take all reports of malicious communication seriously."

Also, USA Today actually published this story. That they would do so is surprising. That they did is gratifying.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Exam Time

I just finished my study of 2 Corinthians. Paul says this in the last chapter.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor 13:5)
I would rank this among the "verses to ignore" in Scripture in the minds of many Christians these days. We live more in an age of "don't ask, don't tell" when it comes to self-examination and salvation. "Am I in the faith?" Oh, no, don't ask that. And don't tell anyone you thought of it.

Paul told them to do it. If you read what he said, it looks as if he told them to do it as a matter of encouragement, not warning. It reads like, "Test yourselves. Why wouldn't you? You know that Jesus Christ is in you, right?" His approach came from the positive side. "We're Christians -- Christ-followers. We have Christ in us. That should be pretty easy to verify. We ought to do that."

We don't. We don't examine ourselves. We don't test to see if we're "in the faith." And we don't, probably, because we don't have that positive approach that Paul has. "Test myself? Why would I do that? I might find out I'm not in the faith." We come from a "if it feels good do it" society with a free-wheeling "whatever I think is real is real" mentality, so we don't want to upset the apple cart, so to speak, and, after all, what is "the faith" that we're supposed to be "in"? It's whatever we believe ... right?

Paul is not asking us to examine others. "Examine yourselves." So let's not go looking around (at this moment), okay. Just yourself. And he's not suggesting a breast exam, a colon cancer screening, or some other examination -- just "see whether you are in the faith." Very narrow. He uses the term "the faith" as opposed to simply "faith." He's not saying, "Examine yourselves to see if you have faith." He says to see if you are "in the faith." That is, there is this thing called "the faith" that defines what "Christian" or "Christ-follower" is and what Christ-followers believe and, therefore, do. So you ask yourself, "Do I align with that thing called 'the faith'?" Paul expects those who actually are in the faith to "test well," so to speak. It's a done deal. You have Christ in you; you can't fail. But he also expects us to do the test. And the language suggests often.

Do you do that? Do you examine yourself? Do you see whether or not you are "in the faith"? Is yours a "personal thing", where "the faith" is defined however you define it, or is it "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3)? You might find that you are "in the faith", and that's great. You can see that it is because Christ is in you and you can be grateful and glorify God. On the other hand, if you "fail to meet the test," you can remedy the problem, correct your error, and become "in the faith." Win-win! We shouldn't blow it off because our laissez-faire, lackadaisical, individualistic, "nonjudgmental" world won't let us. It's not a trivial question. The answers, whether positive or negative, can provide great benefit. On the other hand, failing to "do the test" can potentially have a horrendous outcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


I have a question.

Jesus speaks of "false prophets" (where "prophet" refers to those who speak for God) "who come to you in sheep's clothing" (Matt 7:15). Now, what's that about "sheep's clothing"? Clearly, they come among us looking like us. Jesus says, "You will recognize them by their fruits" (Matt 7:16, 20). So, there will be those who claim to speak for God and look just like one of us. The way you can tell that they are not is by their fruits.

Paul speaks of "false apostles" (where "apostles" refers to those who are God's messengers) as "deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor 11:13). He says that "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14), "so it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Cor 11:15). He concludes, "Their end will correspond to their deeds" (2 Cor 11:15). So, there will be those who come to us as messengers from God. They are deceitful. They look just like apostles of Christ. They are not. They are apostles of Satan in disguise. How can we tell which is which? We can tell by their deeds.

John writes about "antichrists" (plural, opponent of the Messiah) (1 John 2:18-20). He says, "They went out from us," which is interesting because the suggestion is they were with us. John says, "They were not of us." John says, "If they had been of us, they would have continued with us." John concludes that they went out "that it might become plain that they all were not of us." So, there will be those who oppose the Messiah among us. We won't notice at first. But we will be able to tell. How? They leave. They desert us. Their departure from the truth (1 John 2:20) will be a clear indication that they are not Christ-followers, but Christ-opponents.

Three biblical examples. One question. Why are we not allowed to actually use any of this information? We are not supposed to question whether a person is saved or not. The criterion (the single reference point to evaluate a claim) is "Did they say they were?" If they live flagrantly sinful lives, it doesn't matter. If they deny the truth, it doesn't matter. (Note: There is a fundamental difference between not knowing the truth or even being misguided and denying the truth.) If they defend sin, it doesn't matter. If their deeds don't line up with their claims, it doesn't matter. We aren't allowed to go there. "Be gracious. Don't be judgmental, especially among the saved." Why? Why can't we engage the claims from Jesus, Paul, and John in these matters? Is it not important for the person in question to know if they're saved or in trouble? Is it not important for God's people to know that these people are genuine or falsies -- false prophets, apostles, teachers? I'm just wondering.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Meet the Socialists

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC for short) is the new face for the new Socialism (their term, not mine) pushing into what used to be a democratic government. She's the face; she's not the lone person. Bernie Sanders, for instance, did disturbingly well in his run for president on that platform. Their version of socialism is take from the rich and give to the government. Oh, hang on, don't get your knickers in a twist. The government will give it back to us. Well, not us. The poor, mostly. Well, the government mostly. Overhead, you know. But they're benevolent and will take care of us all. Free healthcare, free education, a unicorn in every pot, that sort of thing. They'll see that you get what they think you need and they'll see that you don't get what they don't think you need. Like earnings for work. You don't need that kind of thing. They'll simplify the tax forms. "Line 1: What did you earn? Line 2: Send it in."

AOC has proposed her "Green New Deal" aimed mainly at "green" -- saving the planet. She has a popular following in that -- more than I care to imagine. She wants to tax the very rich at a maximum 70% in order to pay for things like a "100% renewable energy" mandate for the nation in 12 years and revamping the nation's buildings to be eco-friendly. Eliminate fossil fuels entirely. It sounds extreme -- 70%. Turns out, not so much.

In 1944-1945, the richest Americans faced a 94% tax rate. Make $200,000 (in 1944-45 money) and take home $12,000. But that was wartime and everyone was working hard at winning and recovering from a war. But between 1917 and 2012 the average max income tax rate has been 61%. For a long time (1965-1981) it held at 70%. Sure, typically when the Democrats were in charge the tax rates went up or held high and when the Republicans were in charge it went the other way, but not always. From 1946-1963 it held at around 91%. That's 17 years of taking home $18,000 on a $200,000 income. (Always remember: those figures are from those times, not adjusted to today's equivalent.) If you look at 17 years of 91% and 16 years of 70% with an overall average for nearly 100 years of 61%, maybe 70% isn't outlandish.

You have to figure, though, that today we're talking about a maximum tax rate of 37% for $600,000 or more. So what AOC wants to do is to effectively double those rates, and not for a war effort. She wants to put the toothpaste back in the tube, confident that the wealthy will gladly double their tax rates without complaint. It's for the somewhat silly notion that we can save the planet. The fact is that other countries like China, India, and more are producing as much or more greenhouse gases as we are. The truth is that we have other clean energy sources we are using that do not qualify in the Green New Deal plan because they're not renewable. But she's planning on producing millions of good paying jobs on the backs of America's biggest earners (and the rest of us) by requiring the elimination of 83% of the existing power infrastructure. The truth is we currently lack the technology to safely, efficiently power the entire United States on renewable energy, so new technologies would have to be designed. Further, the other fact is that renewable energy sources are not the panacea they tout them to be. Solar panels, for instance, produce significant hazardous waste in their production, and they give out in 10 years and need to be produced again. Wind generators are nice, but it is estimated that up to 328,000 birds (without regard for their endangered status or not) are killed every year by these devices. Hydroelectric power seems like a good option (where it is available), but it, too, impacts land use, wildlife, and life-cycle global warming emissions. That is, nothing is absolutely clean. AOC would like us to take from the rich to fix something we can't fix with things that don't actually fix it.

Does that make me a climate change denier? Not really. Does it make me a partisan bigot? Not at all. Does that mean that I'm opposed to a Socialist government? Absolutely. But I may not get to choose otherwise as younger Americans who haven't learned from history begin to make choices for the rest of us without regard for history, science, or a grasp of human nature. This could get ugly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

It's a song title. It's a sentiment. As a sentiment, it's very common. It's even biblical. Well, not in a good way.

Remember the story of the Exodus? There is that amazing moment where they're trapped against the Red Sea and God parts the waters so they can cross on dry land. Then He releases the waters and their enemies are wiped out in one fell swoop (Exodus 14). Absolutely remarkable! So it has always amazed me that three days later they're complaining (Exo 15:22-24). Three days. A classic taunt in the face of God. "Sure, You did that really cool thing with the Red Sea and Pharaoh and all that, but what have You done for us lately?" Worse, I suspect that we're all that way. God will do the remarkable one day and we'll complain the next. "What have You done for me lately?"

I think we're asking the wrong question. We all ask it, but I think it belies our underlying problem: "Me." It's all about "me." We ask it of our parents and friends and spouses and family and bosses and ... everyone, including God. Maybe not in words, but the underlying question remains. "Sure, you may have done something for me in the past, but what have you done for me lately?" The wrong question.

If Paul is right and we should "regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Php 2:3), we've got the wrong approach. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. Why is it that we never seem to ask, "What have I done for you lately?" We don't ask our parents and friends and spouses and family and bosses and ... anyone, including God. We're looking out for the wrong #1.

Imagine what that would look like. Instead of brooding about not getting what we each feel we deserve, we'd be competing with each other to give those in our sphere of influence what they need. We'd be loving God and loving our neighbor with no time to complain. You see, we would find far fewer obstacles in trying to do good for others than we do in trying to get good from others. I think it would be wonderful.

We were designed for this purpose. We were built to glorify God and to love our neighbors. By design. Instead we rush about making sure that everyone, God included, keeps up to date on giving us good things. Exactly the opposite of our purpose. No wonder it's hard to be happy in life. We're doing it wrong. Have you ever asked someone you care about "What have I done for you lately?" Maybe we should.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Exegesis is the careful examination and interpretation of a text. What does it say? What does it mean? Eisegesis is reading a meaning into a text; not good. So we should be careful in Scripture to find out what it means rather than what we want it to mean. Usually it's pretty straightforward, but not always. "No man comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6) is pretty clear and we should stand on that. Some others aren't as clear.

One, however, that appears to be quite clear ends up not being as clear as we might think. There are a couple of ways to take it. What we tend to do, however, is discard it rather than take it either of the ways you might read it. I wonder why that is.
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)
Pretty clear at first reading, but if you examine the text and context it gets less so. It looks like it is saying that the one who is born of God cannot sin. Well, okay, but ... is that so? The first tendency here is eisegesis. "Hey, I don't know anyone who doesn't sin, so it can't mean that." Let's not go there. But in the context of 1 John we read, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). So, denying that we do sin is a mistake. Further, John goes on to write, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). Apparently, then, John does not believe that Christians cannot sin at all. Some still hold to that. It's termed "perfectionism" or "sinless perfection." It comes largely from 1 John 3:9 and you can even see why, but when the context is examined, that can't be the case. We all sin.

So what else can it mean? Well, the verb in that text where it says "No one who is born of God sins" is in an ongoing, present tense. That's why the King James translates it to what I just wrote but more modern versions translate it to "practices sin" -- an ongoing, present tense. Well, now, that changes it a bit. If we take 1 John 1:8-2:2 into account -- we do sin -- then this might mean that we sin, but we can't make an "ongoing, present tense" of it. We can't practice it. We do sin, but we don't like it and we repent (change directions) and we intend to go away from it. We don't defend it or indulge it or embrace it. We don't want to sin. Now, that makes sense taking into account the text (ongoing, present tense) and the context (1 John 1:8-2:2) and the language -- "he cannot sin, because he is born of God." So maybe that's the correct exegesis.

Why is it, then, that we tend not to go with that? I mean, sure, most of us won't go with the "sinless perfection" thing, but the Bible doesn't really support it, so we shouldn't. So why don't we go with the idea that one who is born of God actually lacks the ability ("cannot") to continue in sin without remorse and repentance? I know we do because when I point the text out to believers (especially when we're talking about a fellow believer who appears to be immersed in unrepentant sin) they deny that's what it means.

What do we do with stuff like this? "No, it doesn't mean that. Yes, it appears to mean that. But ... we're going to ignore it." How can we, as followers of Christ (the Word of God) ignore the Word of God? In fact, doing that as a practice would be making a practice of sin, wouldn't it? I'm confused.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Word of Christ

I like this verse.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16)
I used to refer to it back in the day (long time ago) when I was leading worship at church. That "teaching and admonishing" by "singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" was something I tried to keep in mind. Nice tunes? Fine. But what was important was that we teach and admonish with our songs. What are we saying when we sing? Are we even paying attention? This passage says we should.

What has come home to roost more recently, however, is that first part: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." That is a thought full of ramifications. "Let." You get a choice. Choose to do this. "The word of Christ." Christ is the Word (John 1:1), but this is referring to something else. It would be the expression of Christ, starting first and foremost with Scripture that is all about Christ. So many who call themselves "Christian" do so while ignoring the Bible, the book breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16-17) about the "Christ" referred to in the term "Christian". They are happy to hold views in direct opposition to the word of Christ and call themselves followers of Christ. Instead, we are to "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Then there's "dwell in you." Take up living. Make itself at home. Start housekeeping. Not just visit; live there. And finally, "richly." To be rich in the word of Christ. Copious amounts. An overabundance. Not just a sampling, a "toe in the water" kind of thing. Engulfed.

I will admit that I'm not there. I don't talk to Him enough. I don't read His Word enough. I don't live there enough. To be fair, I don't even know what "enough" is in this application. The text sounds like there is no such thing. Instead, it is a constant "more" -- more of His Word, more of His presence, more of His character, more. But I want it. I want it badly. I suspect that the more I let the word of Christ dwell in me richly, the more I'll be teaching and admonishing others in all wisdom, including in music, with thankfulness to God in my heart. A lifelong aim worked out on a daily basis. But it starts with "the word of Christ."

Saturday, February 09, 2019

News Weakly - 2/9/19

Racism Run Amok
A local "opinion contributor" to the Arizona Central news outlet offered the opinion that an historic photo in a Phoenix restaurant of coal miners was offensive because he thought it looked like they were in blackface and, as we all know, blackface is evil. He was offended and that picture had to come down even after he knew that it was not blackface. Not to be outdone, Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner (apparently an Associate Professor of English at Linfield College in McMinnville, OR) wrote a piece in the New York Times about how that whole Mary Poppins "chimney sweep" "Step in Time" piece was racist because the characters were in blackface ... you know, as chimney sweeps would be.

The first opinion piece was written by an African American. The New York Times piece was a white guy. We'll allow that the African American has a right to be miffed about racist miners covered in coal dust, but doesn't that New York Times writer know that he's part of the problem of racism simply because he's white? Apparently he ain't woke yet. But, seriously, do we really need to dig into the obscure, innocuous stuff to find racism where it isn't? Don't we have enough real racism to deal with? Hey, we can't even agree on the definition of the term. (Current society argues that a minority who hates a white person for being white is not racist because the minority is not in power. A whole new version of "racism.")

Kill 'Em All
Americans live in a republic, not a democracy. We have a representative government, not a one-to-one vote. So our government reflects our people. This is one of the reasons I am so disturbed at the current trend in Democratic candidates for president in 2020. Virginia's new abortion bill allows for abortion "all the way up to 40 weeks" according to its instigator, Kathy Tran. Most Democratic candidates favor the right of women to kill their babies unrestricted. Most states have a "viability" cutoff -- typically about 24 weeks. If science can keep that baby alive outside the womb, it shouldn't be killed. The Democrats support the attempt to kill babies up to and even beyond birth. And the Democratic party would like to mandate via the Women's Health Protection Act that all states be required to invalidate their fetal viability laws in favor of "the pregnant woman's life or health" where "life or health" can be loosely translated as "if she feels okay about it." (After all, it is harmful to her "life or health" if she is sad about having the child, isn't it?)

So we have a significant portion of Americans who would like to kill babies if the mom feels like it. I'm wondering if there is any public servant willing to put out a bill to protect the lives of babies. The logical progression of this "women's choice" issue is looks like "They should be allowed to kill 'em before viability" ... "Oh, they should be allowed to kill 'em before birth" ... "Oh, why not allow them to kill 'em after birth?" ... "Hey, what kind of age limit should we put on this?" People are up in arms over states requiring voters to prove their residency in their state. Less are up in arms over this concept of the non-person human being. Maybe we can erase these kids until they can prove they're persons?

As an aside, the rising tide of "We need to be allowed to kill our babies whenever we want!!!" is really disturbing. The "conservative" Supreme Court struck down provisions that could curb it. While we tend to refer to people who defend abortion as "pro-choice" or "pro-abortion", the public in general and the media in particular refuses to acknowledge that we are "pro-life" and wrongly demands that we are "anti-abortion" like there is something sacred about a woman maintaining a pregnancy or something. The quantity of those who think that murdering babies is no big deal and the fact that they don't realize the "unintended consequences" of such a position makes me deeply concerned for our country. The growing spread of "We have the right to kill them if we want" to more and more places around the world makes me deeply concerned for the world. The number of pro-life people that don't understand what's at stake doesn't ease those concerns. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

The Green New Deal
The darling of the Socialists ... oh, sorry, Democratic Socialists ... Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has released her Green New Deal on the 116th Congress. Things like converting to 100% renewable (not clean) energy within 10 years to prevent losing out on our "last-chance opportunity" of saving the world from human-caused end-of-the-universe global climate change. A lofty goal of "Decarbonizing electricity, transportation, and industry, restoring natural ecosystems, and upgrading buildings and electricity grids within a 10-year timeframe." Eliminate fossil fuels. Refit or rebuild all structures to be eco-friendly. (Still curious ... why solely "renewable" and not "clean"? Odd.) How do we pay for it? (Because, trust me, this is really going to suck someone's pocket book dry.) Tax billionaires at 70%. That ought to do it. Right? (Hint: No.) What should concern you is the popularity of this kind of plan (take the money from the rich and ... well, you too ... to force their social agenda). If "popular" wins votes and votes make laws, we could be in for trouble.

Defining Evil
Breaking news. If you hold to biblical morality, you are evil and need to leave. At least that's what Richard Cohen of the Washington Post believes. Follow the Bible? You're the purest form of bigotry. Blaming biblical morality for the murder of Matthew Shepard and the attack on Jussie Smollett and the like, he made it clear that those with a biblical worldview are not welcome here. Starting with the Pences. You think the top three in Virginia's government are bad? They don't even hold a candle the evil that is Christianity. You think you have the right moral code just because you believe God's instructions? Think again. Genuine good is only defined by the elitists of modern society. They know what's right. On what basis? Well ... because they know. Come on! You have to see that!

Just 10 People
God has issued a stunning statement that if they can find just 10 Democrats in Virginia who haven't worn blackface or a KKK costume or harbored racist thoughts, He will spare the state.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet

Friday, February 08, 2019

A Super Bowl Question

After the fact, of course. Super Bowl can be a problem for many Christians if it occurs before church is out. This year it didn't. No problem, right? Well, I met with other Christians and we watched and it was a problem. Oh, no, not a Christian problem. That was just an incredibly boring game with incredibly boring commercials.

Still, I've got to wonder. Is it a Christian problem?

Isaiah wrote, quoting God,
"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isa 58:13-14)
Now, I know we'd like to say that "That's the Old Testament and doesn't pertain to us," but that's a really dangerous position to take. Didn't Jesus say His Word would not pass away (Matt 5:18)? Most Christians agree that the Sabbath is still in effect, just moved for Christians to "the Lord's Day", the Sunday that commemorates Christ's Resurrection. Most of us are happy with that. (There are rare exceptions.) Still, do we actually honor the Sabbath? Not generally. We used to a lot in earlier times. Most businesses were closed on Sundays. Most of society didn't work on Sundays. You know, "Honor the Sabbath." As a society we at least didn't work. That shifted and even the conservative Christians shifted with it until we give mere lip service to "Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy" these days. On what basis? We're not clear.

In the text from Isaiah, God says that His people should not seek their own pleasure or talk idly on the Sabbath. Really? I don't know very many Christians today, regardless of how serious a student of Scripture or how devout a follower of Christ, who would say that was necessary. Maybe in the Reformation time, but not today. No, no, we're much more enlightened. Aren't we? Well, we are, but I'm not at all sure on what basis we're "enlightened." Because society doesn't honor God? Not a particularly good argument, is it?

You have to ask yourself, "Why don't I honor the Sabbath like Scripture says to?" Maybe there is an answer. I'm trying to figure it out. And if we're supposed to avoid seeking our own pleasure and idle talk on Sundays, what are we supposed to do? What is permitted? You see, I don't have all the answers here. Hey, I told you I watched the Super Bowl with some fellow believers. I just find myself disturbed by the questions.

Thursday, February 07, 2019


In Genesis we get the story of Joseph. His father, Jacob (aka Israel) loved him more than any of his other sons. (Think folks like Reuben, who slept with Jacob's concubine and Simon and Levi who made the family move after they killed an entire town.) He made Joseph his famous "coat of many colors." He made his preference for Joseph so obvious that his brothers "hated him and could not speak peacefully to him" (Gen 37:4).

I was interested in that phrase -- "could not speak peacefully to him." The word there is שָׁלוֹם -- shâlôm. You know that word. It was (is) the standard Jewish greeting. "Peace." It is a prayer for peace for those to whom it is given. What was interesting to me, however, was the root of the word. The root word for the Hebrew word for "peace" is shâlam. "Yeah, sure, we can see that. So?" The root word of the Hebrew concept of peace is safety. Now, that makes sense. We can find peace when we are safe. Carried in that root concept of "safety" is the idea of making amends, because we can find safety when we are in right relationship with others. So the word is used to express completion, to making payment, to recompense and restitution. All of these are included in the Hebrew notion of safety, and the Hebrew notion of peace is predicated on that kind of safety.

I was interested in all of that because I was reading in Romans where Paul writes, "Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1). Now, how do we have peace with God? It is because, justified by faith, we are now safe with God, complete, the payment is made, the recompense complete, the right relationship restored. You see, peace with God (with anybody) is not achieved by a mere cessation of hostilities. Genuine peace only occurs when safety is achieved. When payment is made. When the relationship is restored. Only then is there peace.

We see this in reverse in Romans 8 where Paul says, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" (Rom 8:7). Of course it is. The mind in opposition to God cannot be at peace with God. There is no right relationship, no restitution, no safety. The need there is that things would be made right, and we lack the ability to do that ourselves, so "In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor 5:19). No reconciliation; no peace. In Christ we have reconciliation with God.

Lots of people think that we can just flip a switch and be at peace. It doesn't happen that way. Peace is not an option when safety is not present. Peace with God is not an option when reconciliation is not there. It's possible to fake it, but genuine peace doesn't exist when we are not in a right relationship with God because genuine safety doesn't exist when we're not in a right relationship with God. In the end, then, if you want peace, you must be safe in God's hands. That's why Paul says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (Col 3:15). "Be in right relationship with Christ and you will be at peace. Let that rule." How are you doing with peace? All I am saying is give that peace a chance.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019


I was mulling over that story last week of the DC private school that refused to play sports at the Immanuel Christian School -- the school that Mike Pence's wife, Karen, teaches at part time -- because they have a policy regarding sexual sin for their students and staff and the students at the DC school were scared. They would play home games against them but planned to wear "gay rights" colors to protest the Virginia school's policies.

I thought, "How is that different than, say, the Greensboro Four sit ins in the early '60's when four black men sat at a 'whites only' Woolworth's lunch counter to protest their segregation policies?" Well, clearly it was offensive to the bigoted whites, and the DC school hopes to be offensive to the "bigoted Christians," but was it the same? Not quite. The message in Greensboro was "It is our right to be here." The message in the school protest is "It's not your right to think the way you do." No one in the Christian school says, "It's wrong to wear rainbow colors," so it's not like they're saying, "It's our right to wear things that might offend you." It is a protest of Christian values.

It struck me as odd, since the "message of the Left" is tolerance. But the message is never really about tolerance, is it? While they carry a continuous cry of "Tolerance!", they don't actually mean "allow to exist that with which you disagree" (the actual definition of tolerance). They mean, "Agree! Embrace our view!" In the same manner, the DC school wasn't looking to teach their students tolerance -- "Learn how to get along with people who hold different beliefs than you do." No, they were looking to teach them "Fight against ideas you oppose!"

And then I thought, "What would I want to teach my kids given similar circumstances?" That Christian school is supposed to play the DC school at the DC school's site. What would I hope they're telling their students to do? I've always argued for ... well ... tolerance. If you think you have a disagreement, find out what it is. Find out what they actually think. Engage them, not to fight, but to learn. How well can you learn to see things from their perspective? I would urge my kids to love those with whom they disagree. Stand on the truth, absolutely. Speak the truth, absolutely. But always in love. Always with the best interest of others in mind. And always let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).

The goal of Christianity has never been to make the world a moral place, to coerce agreement. Jesus didn't come to make bad people better. He wasn't about force, about protest, about making others think like He did. He spoke the truth in love and let God do the rest. Sometimes "the rest" is repentance and faith and sometimes it's damnation, but that's God's job, not ours. I have no need to get in the face of sinners and tell them to change. That's not my assignment. Tell them they need Jesus? Sure. Nor is it my job to make the Left agree with God or the Muslims convert to Christ. Tell them the truth in love? Absolutely. But I can still "play sports" with them or whatever without having to protest. That's not my job. I don't have to get angry because sinners are sinning. I just have to love my God and love my neighbor enough to tell them about Jesus. It's called tolerance.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


We all know that word, right? It's when you are unable to concentrate because something else is drawing your attention. It is a two-part word from Latin where "dis" refers to "away" (like "disconnect" or "disable") and "tract" refers to drawing (as in drawing water, not drawing pictures). ("Intractable" refers to something that cannot be "drawn" so it is unable to be controlled.) (I know, I know, "Get on with it, Stan; no one cares about this.") We know, for instance, about "distracted driving" where your car radio or your phone's texts or calls or the kids screaming in the back seat produce a distraction -- you can't concentrate on your driving because something has drawn away your attention. Not good.

I would submit that "distracted" is the primary mode of operation in modern society, even the primary goal, and certainly a primary aim of Satan. And I think it comes so naturally to us. Like the dog intent on ... "Squirrel!" ... we so easily get our attention drawn away from what we're doing or need to be doing or ought to be doing. It happens on the road. It happens at home -- in marriage and family. It happens when you read your Bible or pray. It happens to the Christian guy surfing the Internet to locate a new domwoggle to replace the one that broke all while intentionally avoiding any of "those sites" because those would be sinful ... and those darn scantily clad models in the ads on the side of the page show up and distract him from his domwoggle search and his intent to avoid sexual temptation. It happens in church. You're singing worship songs and wondering how you sound to the person in front of you or listening to the sermon and the mistake on the overhead display draws your attention or ... you know. It is a fabled operation of Satan on Sunday mornings as you prepare to head to church, isn't it? Something always comes up to upset the apple cart and distract you from worship.

Distracted. That's us. Most of the time most of us go to the Internet it is to find distraction. We play video games or watch TV or whatever else entertains to provide distraction. In fact, the word "amusement" comes from the Greek for "muse" -- to think -- with a negative prefix, rendering it "not to think." Amusement is literally "not to think," and that's what distraction does. We don't want to think. We don't want to think about our issues, our problems, our responsibilities, the demands on our time and energy and resources, what's right and what's wrong, etc. At the top of the list, if the single most important thing we need to do is to enjoy God and glorify Him, we really, really want to be distracted from that. So we distract ourselves with amusement or entertainment or responsibilities or "the urgent" over "the important" and all sorts of other things so we don't deal with what we need to deal with.

Distracted driving is a real problem these days. Even distracted walking. Our cars and our smartphones and our lifestyles and our attention spans seem to conspire against us to pay attention to our driving, and we're all aware of the disasters this can cause. Distracted living is a real problem these days. We just don't see the downside of that problem as clearly. The author of Hebrews said we should "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2). Looking to Jesus without distraction. Without the distraction that Satan and the world would love to throw in our path. And, if we're honest, we're ready to accept. But shouldn't be.

Monday, February 04, 2019

The Problem with Rights

Back in 1776 or so the colony of Great Britain that resided in the Americas declared its independence. They did so with an oddly named "Declaration of Independence" in which they alluded to God-given rights and the failure of the government to be for the people. It would have been nice if the government had said, "Oh, my, we didn't realize it. We'll fix it." Or "Well, okay, you're on your own." Neither happened and the government that was oppressive and opposed to the people went to war with the colonialists. After defeating the British, America went about establishing their own government, always with this oppressive government in the back of their minds. So the new government was designed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. But the people were still concerned. In 1787 they set out to rewrite the Articles of Confederation they were working from at that time and worked toward a Constitution. Ratified in September of 1787, there was still this problem with that old oppressive government. The new government was laid out ... but who was going to protect our rights? So, as a safety measure, they required along with the Constitution a ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many thought it was unnecessary; the Constitution provided for limited government. Others were still concerned, so they pushed it through. By 1790 all 13 original colonies-now-states had ratified the Constitution with the proviso that a Bill of Rights would be added. Most of the states ratified the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution by 1791. (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia did not. They didn't ratify them until 1939.) So the majority won their protection from an oppressive government as amendments to the original Constitution.

It's an interesting thing about those 10 amendments. Most of them are "do nothing" rules. "Congress shall make no law ..." "... shall not be infringed." "... shall not be violated ..." "... shall not be required ..." There is the right to a speedy trial and there is the limit of $20 over which a jury trial is prescribed. Most, however, are blocks to the government doing anything, not demands that the government (or the people or States) do something. I find that interesting. The original idea of freedom in this country and the original concept of human rights endowed by a Creator simply meant "hands off." "These are not your rights," they were saying to the government. "You didn't bestow them and you can't take them away. Just leave us alone."

We no longer operate on those kinds of rights. On one hand, the government (at the behest of a lot of loud voices in the nation) keeps impinging on those freedoms. "No, you can't do that." "But ... it's part of my promised freedoms." "Too bad." On the other hand, they're coming up with new rights that require the government to act and impinge on everyone else's freedoms. Take, for instance, the new right to think you're a different gender than your biology says you are. If it was the kind of right of the old style, it would be, "I'm free to believe this about myself and you can just leave me alone." No longer. Now it's "And you will submit your thoughts, your language, and your support to embrace my belief." The same with "sexual orientation." It's not merely "this is my orientation", but "You must celebrate it." They are piling up new ones every day, it seems. "You have the right to free college education." Really? Who's going to pay for that? "The government, of course." Really? Where's the government going to get the money? "You, of course." So now there is a new requirement that you do something rather than simply leaving them alone. "You have a right to a living wage." Really? Who's paying for that? "Oh, you are." Again. We keep wanting to pile up rights -- free healthcare, free admission to the country, a unicorn in every pot, whatever -- that are not merely "do nothing" rights where the government keeps hands off. They are ... burdensome. These rights require that everyone pay and pay dearly. Sometimes with our rights. "Oh, you thought you had a God-given, constitutionally-protected right to the free exercise of your religious beliefs? Think again. If you offend the wrong class of people, you will pay dearly, not because of any requirements you've laid on them, but because their new rights override your God-given rights."

It's inevitable, then. If rights are bestowed by a Creator, then the government and the people have nothing to say about it except "Okay, we'll keep our hands off." But when the Creator concept is ejected and the nation becomes increasingly secular, rights become a matter of government and personal opinion. The loudest voices win. Too bad for the rest of you. Rights you thought you had may no longer be yours. Rights you never had before, never knew you had, never even wanted become yours at great cost. Historically this approach has not worked out well for people, governments, or rights. But, hey, what do we care? If you can assure me I have the right to take money from your wallets, why complain? (I hope you have an actual answer to that question.)