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Sunday, March 31, 2019


The older group knows the classic "Onward Christian Soldiers" kind of mindset. There is the "Salvation Army" and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. We even have the phrase, "the Church Militant" portraying the Church as doing battle against the powers of evil. We get that. And some of us do it. There are those in what is termed "discernment ministry" sniffing out and calling out false teachers and others in Apologetics which is not apologizing for the faith, but defending it, often with great vigor. (It's ironic that the place we get the word "apologetics" from Scripture is 1 Peter 3:9 that tells us to "do it with gentleness and respect," not ire and sarcasm.) We even have Scripture on it.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:12-13)
There it is. We're "wrestling," we're battling cosmic powers and spiritual forces. "Take up the whole armor of God!"

Except, I notice that the language doesn't quite support the notion of "onward" for Christian soldiers. Paul here talks about spiritual wrestling and taking up the whole armor of God, but he does not talk about marching out to war. He talks about withstanding and standing. In fact, Paul talks a lot about standing. We "stand fast through faith" (Rom 11:20), "stand firm in the faith" (1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 1:24), "stand firm" in the freedom of Christ (Gal 5:1), "stand against the schemes of the devil" (Eph 6:11), "stand firm in the Lord" (Php 4:1), and "stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught" (2 Thess 2:15). A lot of standing; not a lot of marching.

It feels like we live in a more militant world. We are more easily offended and, therefore, more likely to go on the offense. The slightest perception of being slighted, whether or not such a slight exists or was intended, will produce loud and angry conflict. We are more militant against Christianity, more militant against God's Word. Think Hillary Clinton who, in 2015, assured the nation that we need to change deep seated religious beliefs, referring to Christian belief in the sanctity of life. Reference the congresswoman branded a racist islamophobe because she believes in Jesus and stated it in a public prayer. More voices within and without the Church are calling for changes to God's Word, to the doctrines of the Church, to the practices of the Church. And for all our "Onward Christian Soldiers" kind of talk, the tendency is not to march to war, but to march to peace. To pacify by appeasement. To go along to get along. Much of Christendom these days is comprised of compromise. "Yes, we know what the Church has always taught and we know what the Bible seems to say, but here in the 21st century modern science and morality are leading us to brand new conclusions." We don't march to war. We don't even stand. We fold and run.

Perhaps we need a renewed call, Christians. Forget for a moment about marching to war. Let's just see if we can stand. Forget about dueling with the culture. Our fight is against cosmic powers and spiritual forces. For that we need the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11-18). And that armor isn't to go to war. It is to stand. So, Christian, take up that armor and stand. Stand firm in the faith. Stand fast in Christ. Stand against the schemes of the devil. Stand firm in the traditions we've been taught. Stand firm in the Lord. Christians, stop giving in to the powers we face. Stand!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

News Weakly - 3/30/19

"Legacy of Anti-LGBTQ Behavior"
The San Antonio City Council has banned Chick-fil-A from its airport due a "legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior." They admitted the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, but argue that a company that requires no homosexual acts among its employees is not fit to serve food at their airport. (By the way, one of the groups Chick-fil-A donated to that is causing this "legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior" comment is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes which requires a "sexual purity" policy of their employees. "The Bible is clear," they say, "in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God." That's okay; supporting them is not.) And now the city is making it illegal to be in business with the city for holding a biblical view.

Note that the Texas AG is investigating this because he believes that Chick-fil-A's rights have been violated.

Defining Justice
A Pittsburgh jury acquitted a white police officer in the shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, touching off protests and violence. A shot was fired through the window of the lawyer that represented the officer. "One man held a sign with the names of black men killed by police around the U.S." (Oddly enough, no one held up a sign with the lists of white men killed by the police around the U.S. In 2015, 1,388 people were killed by police. 40% were white and 23% were black.)

In this case, as in so many others, "justice" is defined as "finding guilty whomever we determine is guilty."

Like when the Mueller report indicates no apparent fault from Trump and the Democrats protest.

Hostile Environment
We are told that we must not create a "hostile work environment" by our words or actions. Talk about a hostile environment. When the Georgia Senate passed its fetal heartbeat law, they did it "amid protests and a heavy police presence." The argument goes "If it's got a heartbeat, it's alive." The counter argument goes something like, "If we want to kill it, we should be allowed to kill it," as indicated by folks like Alyssa Milano who urged Hollywood to boycott Georgia because they wanted to save lives. She pitted "bodily autonomy" against a baby's life. "This is America," you can almost hear. "We will not save lives here!" Sorry, kids, for a lot of you it really is a hostile environment. Life for our world is not very valuable. Yes, I know that the governor of Utah signed a bill banning abortions after 18 weeks. Yes, that's better than nothing. No, it's not quite "pro-life" and no, we are fairly confident the Supreme Court will shoot this one down as well. Still a hostile environment for life here in the 21st century.

Unclear on the Concept
The president of Mexico has asked Spain and the pope to apologize for the conquest of Mexico 500 years ago. He wants them to "ask forgiveness of indigenous peoples for violations of what are now known as human rights." Was what Spain and the Catholic church did back then wrong? Well, of course. Can modern Spain and the pope ask for forgiveness? Not in any meaningful way. You cannot repent of that which you did not do. You cannot be forgiven for what you did not do. And "I'm sorry for what someone did 5 centuries ago" has no real point. But they'll keep trying, won't they? Hey, I know! Let's ask El Presidente to apologize for Stalin killing millions of people. Surely he'd be willing apologize for other communists, right?

What Could Go Wrong?
It's an Internet meme. "What could possibly go wrong?" accompanied by a picture of a guy peering into the barrel of a gun or signs showing a whisky tasting event next to an axe throwing event. So Colorado legalizes recreational marijuana. What could possibly go wrong? Well, now they're reporting a spike in ER visits primarily due to consumption of edible marijuana. Go figure.

Bible Courses in Public School
There is a story out that Missouri House has passed a bill that will allow public schools to teach courses on the Bible. Now, mind you, I'm not a "separation of church and state" kind of person. It's not in the Constitution. The government cannot establish a religion, but that doesn't require a complete disconnect. Still, I'm not sure at all I like the idea of a secular entity being in the business of teaching God's Word. I don't want God out of public schools, but I don't think I want public schools dispensing God, either. So I'm ambivalent on this story.

No New Green Deal for You
In an absolutely stunning vote, the Senate voted not to proceed with the Green New Deal bill. The vote was 57 to nothing. That's right. Some Democrats voted against the bill but no one at all voted for it. Not even the senator that introduced it. A ploy by the Republicans? Yes, of course. And a no-win for the Dems. You can't vote for it, or America will see you're a socialist, and you can't vote against it because your party will look bad. "Present," was the vote of 43 Democrats. Sadly, I'm still pretty sure this kind of ploy will not wake up Americans to the insanity that the philosophy of the Democratic party has become.

Theological Drift
Azusa Pacific University is a California-based Christian university. The story reads, "Azusa Pacific University again has lifted a ban on LGBTQ relationships on campus." APU made the news some time ago with its student handbook that declared that homosexual relationships weren't allowed. It made the news because that was a change -- they were allowed before. But APU applied historical, biblical, Christian rules to their college and required sexual purity (both heterosexual and homosexual). No more. Because APU doesn't require you to be a Christian to attend, they will not require Christian standards of their students. Why? Because student complaints and supporters outweigh God's Word every time. "They are stigmatizing queer people," they complained. Given this position, there can be no rules on campus because any rule stigmatizes someone. "No way! You can't make rules against plagiarism! That would stigmatize plagiarists!" Yeah, you go with that. Erin Green, who spearheaded this change, said, "This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith." Erin Green sees no conflict between "Christian faith" and activities that violate the Christian faith. APU claims to be "actively engaged in stewarding our biblical and orthodox evangelical Christian identity." They can't do it by dropping biblical and orthodox evangelical Christian values. And since Green is a graduate of APU, apparently they weren't stewarding it back then, either.

Welcome to "theological drift," where "theological drift" turns into "departure from Christianity." (See Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, etc.)

Trump Supporters Relieved
In the wake of the release of Mueller's report, the Babylon Bee put out a headline that was a bit too close to Evangelicals. The headline reads, "Evangelicals Relieved Their President Now Only Guilty Of Paying Off Porn Stars, Models." That would be funny, I guess, if it wasn't so ... pointed. "Good news! Our adulterous, lecherous, greedy, deceitful, short-tempered president isn't guilty of collusion with the Russians!" (ROm 2:24) Ouch!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Knowing God

J.I. Packer wrote a book titled Knowing God. I read it. I liked it. In that book Packer said that there is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. This is true. I can have a lot of information about George Washington, but I will never know George Washington, at least not in this life. Knowing about God means I have a lot of data (hopefully accurate data) about God. Knowing God means having a living, breathing, functioning relationship with Him. What we really need is to know Him (John 17:3).

Having said that, I think there is a false dichotomy going on here. Some people argue, "We don't need to know about God; we need to know God." In logic, a false dichotomy is where you set up two possible options as the only two options when there actually is more than two. My favorite example: The lawyer asks the husband, "Sir, yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?" No win. "Yes, I stopped beating my wife" or "No, I haven't stopped beating my wife." Of course, that's a false dichotomy because an alternative answer is "I never did beat my wife." This "knowing God" versus "knowing about God" can be an equally false dichotomy because it doesn't have to be an either-or proposition.

Consider. I have a a living, breathing, functioning relationship with my wife. A really good one. Does that mean that I don't know about my wife? On the contrary. A fundamental aspect of my excellent relationship with my wife is knowing about my wife. The more I know about her, the better I can know her.

The same is true with God. It is absolutely true that what we desperately need is to know Him. Paul says, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Php 3:8). Not "about" Him, but knowing Him. Absolutely essential. But we do that by knowing about Him -- having factual data about who He is, what He wants, His likes and dislikes, etc. that feeds our living, breathing, functioning relationship with Him.

It is my prayer, too, that I may know Him. Not just about Him. But it is also my prayer that what I know about Him will augment and enhance my relationship with Him, just as knowing about my wife improves my relationship with her. I pray "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Php 3:10-11).

Thursday, March 28, 2019


I took a vacation last week. Nice time. Visited the Grand Canyon with family and friends. Of course, it snowed on the first day of Spring where I was, but, all in all, it was a lovely vacation. I got to thinking, however, about "vacation." Other versions call it "holiday." We in America think of a holiday as a special day of recognition of something in which no work is done. At least, that's the idea. "Vacation" is simply getting away, an extended period of leisure away from work. Oh, there it is! The connection between the two. Both get us away from work. Thus, we don't see a whole lot of difference between the two.

You can see, however, the roots in both words. "Vacation" is rooted in "vacate" -- to leave the premises. As a root for "simply getting away," that's great. Reasonable. "Holiday," however, clearly has a different root. Clearly the origin of the word is "holy day," and that is indeed where it came from. It originally referred to holy days, days of special religious significance. It generally included some recreation. Oh, look! Another word with roots. "Recreation" refers to "creation again" -- "re-creation." And we're back to religious connotations.

There is, in my mind, a significant difference between a "vacation" and a "holiday" as the words originally were intended. The significant difference is in the focus. A "vacation" is our attempt to rest and relax, to "get away." The primary focus of this activity is ... me. I want to relax. I want to get away. I want to stop working for awhile and satisfy my cravings for personal gratification. It's not just girls who want to have fun. "Holiday," on the other hand, in its original sense is focused away from me. It is a focus on the holy. By definition, "holy" is that which is "other," not me. Thus, a "holiday" in its original sense would be a focus on that which is other, on that which is spiritual, on that which is God.

Now, I know ... that word changed a long time ago. No one these days uses "holiday" to refer to a day to focus on the holy. I get it. I have to communicate with the words we use as we use them. I'm not complaining about it. But I do wish we had a word for "holy day." No, not really. What I wish is that we -- nay, I -- would take time to be apart from the distractions of our world to focus on God. Away from the distractions of work. Away from the distractions of pleasure. Away from a focus on me. We don't really get much of that these days, do we?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Theology by the Book

All religions have various levels of adherents. There are the nominal -- those in name only -- all the way to the devout. There are liberal Muslims who don't take their Qur'an seriously but still classify themselves as Muslims and there are the devout Muslims who really practice what it says and ... well, we know the outcome of that group. There are the liberal Catholics who don't read the Bible -- "We leave that up to the priests" -- but call themselves "Catholics" while seeking to change the Catholic church and there are the devout Catholics who go to Mass every week and practice all that their religion tells them to. There are liberal Christians who hold loosely if at all to anything "biblical" while practicing their comfortable beliefs -- mostly "be nice and you'll be fine" -- and there are the devout Christians who structure their faith on their Bibles and live it. Even among unbelievers there are the agnostics who don't know, but don't think there is a God all the way to the anti-theists who are so sure there is no God that they feel they need to go on the offensive to eradicate any belief in a deity ... at least among Christians. And in every religion, there is everything in between.

It's not surprising, then, that theology is in such disarray. By "theology" I simply mean "the study of God" -- what we believe about the Divine. Given the gamut in every religion of the source of information about who God is, it would be surprising if there was not disunity in what we believe about God. On the other hand, there often is a unified, majority version out there. It's not because they share a common belief, a common source book. It's because they have a common core -- the nature of Man. The most common version of God we see is a God built in the image of Man.

Do we make God in our image? I'm afraid we do. Even Christians. Even devout Christians. We hold to the Book and we call it our primary authority on matters of faith and practice, but we aren't really comfortable letting God define Himself. We are most comfortable when the God we worship is the God that, well, we're comfortable with. I've seen it far too often. When Jesus says, "God loved the world in this way; He sent His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), we nod and say, "We like that God." When Jesus's disciples asked Him why the man was born blind, He told His disciples, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3). Now that couldn't have been God, right? God doesn't have children born blind so that His works might be displayed in them. No, no, that was something else.

When God says, "I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29:11), we nod and say, "We like that God." When He says, "I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things" (Isa 45:7), we aren't as happy. "Oh, no, the God I know doesn't create calamity."

When Job says, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21), we admire his courage and appreciate that the Lord gives (without thinking too much on "the Lord takes away"). When Job says, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2), we pause. "No purpose? Oh, I don't know. I think we can thwart God's plans."

We have a really, really hard time doing our theology by the Book. Our natural instinct is to have a God in our image, one we can manage, understand, grasp. A kind of "Santa Claus" God who is always kind and warm; not that "Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:38) kind of God. Not that "I create calamity" kind of God. Not that "No purpose of Yours can be thwarted" kind of God. A God who is more malleable, more conformed to our comfort zone. We will let God speak for Himself only so far, and then we'll need to ... adjust things. Even us devout Christian types.

All religions have various levels of adherents. It seems as if the largest number of adherents in most religions are the nominal, the "liberal," the ... non-devout. The actually-devout worshipers are few. I want to be among the few. The difference between the actually-devout and the rest is that they are serious about their faith rather than building their own version that makes them comfortable.

I don't want to do that. I want to worship the God who is, not the one (lowercase) that I create. Not the one that makes me comfortable. I want to worship the God who breathed the Bible and told me all I need to know about Him. Not the one I make up. In fact, if I find myself completely comfortable with the God I worship, I think perhaps I'm not taking the God of the Bible at face value because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and a God I don't fear in some sense is a God of my own making. Because a "holy God" is a God who is "other" and a God that I'm completely comfortable with is not "other." I want to do my theology -- my study of the nature of God -- from God's Book rather than from my own mind. A study like that will take a lifetime because I'm always having to correct my own mind when held against His Word. That's okay. I have a long lifetime -- an everlasting one, in fact.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Build a House

In Jeremiah 29 God sent a letter to "all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon" (Jer 29:4).

"Okay, now, hold it!" you say. "Hang on a minute! 'All the exiles whom I have sent into exile'? You're saying God sent His own people into exile?" No, no I am not. God is.

But, please, bear with me. It only gets worse.
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jer 29:5-7)
See, this is not where you might have thought this would go. I mean, right down there a few verses later we have the famous "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope'" (Jer 29:11). And God is telling them to make this exile their home? That is the "plans for welfare"? Well, yes ... and no. In the plan there is the return from exile (Jer 29:12-14), but God says it is as a result of what He told them to do in that prior passage. So, no, His plan is for their release from exile, but, yes, His plan includes them making a home of where they are.

We aren't in exile here in America today. We certainly don't experience the kind of persecution that Christians in other countries face. On the other hand, Jesus considers being reviled for our faith "persecution" (Matt 5:11-12) and Hebrews describes all believers as "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb 11:13). This world is not our home; we're just passing through. As such, we are, in a sense, exiles -- exiles from heaven awaiting our release to go home. What, then, does this passage tell us to do?

Build houses and make homes. Make families and multiply. Seek the welfare of the place we live. Pray for them. Funny thing. I don't see "Go on a campaign to stop the government from mistreating you" or "Get online to defend your right to practice your religion" or some such. I do see that we're supposed to live here while we live this life. And we're supposed to make families. Since we're talking a spiritual exile, and spiritual strangers here, that must be a spiritual family. You know, the Great Commission. Make disciples. Make brothers and sisters and children where you live. And we're supposed to seek the welfare of the "evil world" in which we find ourselves. Pray for them (1 Tim 2:1-4). Pray for their welfare. Pray for their best. "Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thess 5:13) and "so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Rom 12:18).

You Christians in exile on this earth, living in a hostile environment, being told you don't have the right to believe what God's Word says and you are hateful and bigoted if you do, what shall you do? Will you make this place your home, make spiritual families and multiply, seek the welfare of those around you and pray for them? Or not? Jeremiah's text suggests that it's the best way to get to the release we so richly desire.

Monday, March 25, 2019

What You Believe

Many of us can feel fairly confident that we have a pretty good chunk of good doctrine. We have the truth. We embrace the truth. We defend the truth. And that's all good. Those who "defend the truth" that is at odds with God's Word need help; we're happy to give it. Those who sin need help; we're happy to give it.

There is, I think, a nasty little breakdown, however, between possessing good, true doctrine and embracing it. In my opinion the church in America today suffers a lot from shallow theology -- they say, "A mile wide and an inch deep." They're being entertained, not fed. They're being soothed, not edified. All milk, no meat. But I think there is a worse problem. We aren't actually embracing the truth.

Let me explain what I mean. James wrote, "Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:21-22) That first part -- "receive with meekness the implanted word" -- is what I'm referring to when I say we have good doctrine. "Hearers only" is the part I'm calling a problem. We hear it. We get it. Good. But do we do it? Not so much.

We read "Bear one another's burdens" and we nod and say, "That's right; that's what we must do," so a fellow believer shares a burden and we say, in our most spiritual voice, "Oh, yeah, I'll pray for you," with just an echo of "Go in peace, be warmed and filled" because we might pray for them, but bear their burden? Probably not. No follow up. No "walk alongside." No checking up. Rubber, meet road. Doesn't happen. We read, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and we nod and say "Amen!" Do we do it? Jesus defined neighbor as anyone in your vicinity (Luke 10:29-37). The Samaritan in Jesus's illustration did things for his neighbor. Praying would be nice, but this guy expended energy, time, and money attempting to meet the man's needs. We give a head nod to "Love your neighbor" because we know that's right, but we don't seem to give it a ... heart nod. It doesn't seem to leave our brains and enter our actions.

Good doctrine is a good thing. Failing to live it, James says, is "deceiving yourselves." The fact is we will always act on what we actually believe. If our actions and attitudes do not reflect our doctrinal beliefs, that says something about what we actually believe. And it's not a good thing.

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Isaiah wrote, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isa 26:3).

As we all know, the Hebrew word that we translate to mean "peace" is shâlôm. Peace. We get it. I was surprised, then, to find that the word has a root. The root word is shâlam. Well, now, that's interesting. No, hang on, it really is. Because the meaning of the root word is "to be safe." And it only gets more interesting from there. The word is used to figuratively refer to being friendly, as in making amends, repaying a debt, recompense, making restitution -- redemption.

Where, then, do we find real peace ("perfect peace")? We find it when we are safe, but not just physically safe. We find it when we have a right relationship with God and stand in the security of that redeemed relationship with God. True peace is found there. When we trust in Him. Just like Isaiah said.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

News Weakly - 3/23/19

Measures to Prevent Murders
In Zaoyang, China, a man attempted to kill his wife and daughter before driving his car onto a street and ramming pedestrians. At least 6 were killed including a child. The man was shot dead at the scene by police. China is moving for stricter car control laws requiring background checks and decreased gas tank sizes. Bernie Sanders thinks we should do the same. Oh, wait ...

The Intersectionality Hierarchy
You may or may not know the term, "intersectionality." It's fairly new on the scene. It's the point at which your particular characteristics and thoughts intersect to produce discrimination and disadvantage. Say, for instance, you're a person of color. One trait that produces discrimination. But say you're homosexual and a person of color. Okay, now you have two intersecting discrimination problems. If you're a woman, it's three. If you're a transgender woman, it's four. You get the idea. There is, in our world, a hierarchy of intersectionality, where various intersectionality traits are higher rated than others. Christians, for instance, might experience discrimination these days, but, as you all know, that's meager. Very, very, very low. Undetectable to most. We're all aware that African Americans are high on the list, but not as high as they used to be. Women have skyrocketed in the last decade or so. But at the top today is the Muslim. If you are a Muslim, you can discriminate against Jews, homosexuals, black people, women ... all of them because you are at the very top of that intersectionality hierarchy. Witness Fox News's "Judge Jeanine" who said she thought that sharia law was opposed to the Constitution and has been suspended from her broadcast. You don't question the patriotism of a Somali-American (1) woman (2) Muslim (3) who makes anti-Semitic (4) statements and hates Trump (5). I mean, that's five points of intersectionality!

New Word of the Day
Given the slip of rationality in our world today, it stands to reason that we'll have to keep coming up with new terms to describe the unreasonable-yet-given positions that are driving our society. While the "B" in LGBT stands for "bisexual" means "attracted to either" (bi=2) genders, the "T" stands for "Transgender" predicated on the notion that "binary gender is a social construct" (rationally terminating the concept of "bisexual") and we've spawned all sorts of new terms -- "gender dysphoria", "gender fluidity", new pronouns to go along with it, etc. Here's the latest: "misgendering." A mother has dropped her complaint after a journalist wrongly accused her of castrating her transsexual son ... sorry, daughter (you have to go with the story if you're going to report the story). The reporter didn't falsely accuse; she just "misgendered" the woman's "daughter". It is all so confusing these days.

(Postscript: "Misgendering" is what I have done here -- referring to this biological boy as a boy instead of whatever gender he believes his is.)

Legalizing Common Sense
Who says there's no common sense anymore? We do. Texas is actually working toward passing a law to allow children to run lemonade stands in the state. Because we don't have the common sense to figure out that lemonade stands for children are not the same as other types of businesses. "It's a great day for our Texas entrepreneurs," said Rep. Matt Krause, the bill's sponsor. Maybe, but it certainly reflects badly on our inability to figure this stuff out on our own.

Democrat Voter Guide
There is a slew of Dems aiming to become the president in 2020. If you're having trouble sorting them out, this site offers some helpful hints on what they are for and against.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Livin' the Dead Life

Paul urged the Colossians, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col 2:8). Luckily for us, we know better today, right?

No, of course not. As a matter of fact we know that human traditions and standards are the best ones. We will measure right and wrong, good and bad, profitable or not, improved or not, what we should do and what we shouldn't do -- all of our standards, it seems -- on the philosophies of our world. After all, you don't want to be on "the wrong side of history." On so many things.

Is it okay for women to be in charge of churches? Well, of course it is. Why would anyone ask that? Women are of equal value and they are called to be pastors and they can do a better job than some men who try to be pastors and ... lots of reasons why it's a foolish question. Except that it's all built on human philosophy -- built on human "religion" (self) -- and without regard to Christ and His Word.

How do we -- even many Christians -- determine if homosexual behavior is wrong? Well, do you know a homosexual? Then it's okay. Do they want to do it? Then it's okay. Is it consensual sex? Then it's okay. Do they love each other? Then it's okay. Lots of reasons, all of which are from human philosophy and "the elemental spirits of the world" -- satisfying sensual demands -- and not Christ and His Word.

How should we conduct worship in the church? The current model takes a marketing approach. What do people like? What will draw them into our church? What makes them feel good? It is nothing but human tradition, human philosophy, "the elemental spirits of the world." And we -- Christians -- blithely tie ourselves to them to figure out how we will worship God.

So we disregard Paul's warning about being captivated by the world's perspective and consider those who are leaning on God's Word to be nutcases, evil "fundamentalists." We figure out that the Church has been wrong for 2,000 years on all sorts of things and the Bible is not as reliable as we once thought it was and there are a lot of corrections and improvements we can do on our church life, home life, and doctrines. Forgetting that Paul calls it "captivity." Forgetting that Christians are to be operating according to Christ. Forgetting that we have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world (Col 2:20). We end up puffed up without reason by the sensuous mind, not holding fast to the Head (Col 2:18-19). We end up deluded by plausible arguments (Col 2:4).

If your value system and your belief system is driven primarily by your own perceptions and the values you find in the world, and you call yourself a Christian, perhaps you need to reevaluate.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

No Creed But Christ

What is a creed? In general, a creed is a statement of beliefs or aims. It is most often associated with Christian or other religious beliefs. But it's fairly straightforward -- "This is what we believe." That's why it's so odd to see Christians declaring, "No creed but Christ." If a creed is "what we believe," "No creed but Christ" is a creed ... and a very odd one indeed.

We know creeds. Or, at least, we know of them. We have all likely heard the Apostles' Creed, almost universally accepted across Christendom. We've heard of the Nicene Creed and the one from Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed. Very, very few of us can quote them, but we've heard of them. And, of course, there are "confessions," extended statements about "what we believe" -- "creeds" -- like the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession or the Helvetic Confession or the Augsburg Confession. (There are, in fact, quite a few of these. I just listed a few.) These are much larger "creeds" and we're even less familiar with these as with the shorter ones.

The Apostles' Creed is normally thought of as the earliest. (Arguments are made that earlier creeds occur in Scripture. A creed in this category would be Paul's "Jesus is Lord" (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3) and his declaration in 2 Tim 2:11-13. See also 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 3:4-8.) Unlike the simplistic "No creed but Christ" that essentially declares "Christ" without any actual points to believe, the Apostles' Creed makes several concise statements.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the holy Ghost, Born of the virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into Hell, The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, The holy catholic Church, The Communion of saints, The forgiveness of sins, The resurrection of the body, And the life everlasting. Amen.
This creed believes in Christ, too, but outlines it more carefully to include God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit along with details about each and about the Church. It is a brief statement, comparatively, but rich in content and solid on the essentials.

But, no, thanks, we don't want that kind of thing. We just want "Christ." Without much definition. He is assumed. While a lot of people believe that Jesus was a real person, from there it devolves. Only 56% (in 2015) believe He was God. More likely a religious leader. Only 52% think He was sinless. Most people think Jesus is a way to heaven, but good deeds are also a way to heaven. There is the Mormon Jesus and the Jehovah's Witnesses Jesus and the Oneness Pentecostals Jesus. Not the same thing. So you see that "Christ" becomes a shifting target when that's your creed. What Christ? Who is He? What is His significance?

Paul told the Philippians "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Php 2:1-2). If we are to be of the same mind, it is absolutely necessary that we be on the same page in the essentials. It may sound more spiritual to say, "No creed but Christ," but even that is a creed and a nondescript one at that. We should be much clearer on what we believe and where we stand so we can be united, in full accord, and of one mind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

You Don't Know What You're Talking About

I write a lot about definitions. You see, words are not actual substance. They are symbols for communicating ideas and realities. So if we don't define them, we can't communicate those ideas and realities. The simple fact is if you can't define what you're talking about, you don't know what you're talking about.

One I've long complained about is the word, "marriage." I've long maintained that it has a meaning and that today's version ... does not. Certain elements of our society rallied around "marriage equality" without defining either "equality" or "marriage" and they won ... except no one these days knows what they won. Because they were undefined. All we know it they won the right to call what they were doing "marriage," the term they didn't define but are pretty sure we've been doing all along. Unfortunately it is neither "marriage" nor "equality."

Marriage is ordained by God (Gen 2:18–24; cp Matt 19:4-6; Eph 5:28-32). It's part of God's grand plan (Eph 5:31-32; Rev 19:9). It's God's idea. Not ours. We don't get to decide what it is or what to do with it. He does.

One of God's primary components of marriage is that it is for life (Rom 7:2-3). This only makes sense since it is the union of two people (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6; Eph 5:31). To take that apart is a dismemberment. "What God has joined together let no man separate" (Matt 19:6). Divorce, according to Christ, is only due to hard-heartedness, not a praiseworthy motivation (Matt 19:8).

Marriage is the only relationship allowed by God for sexual relations. That aspect is to be honored and guarded (Heb 13:4). It is heterosexual and monogamous (Gen 2:24). (Note: The original meaning of the term "monogamous" is not "having sex with only one person" let alone "only one person at a time," but "married only to one.") Marital sexual relations are to be enjoyed (1 Cor 7:3-4) and exclusive, because it is a union of bodies that creates a union of people (1 Cor 6:16-17) and illustrates the relationship between Christ and His Bride (1 Cor 6:18; Eph 5:32). Sexual relations in marriage are for mutual giving, for mimicking God's relationship with His own, and for procreation.

If properly defined, "marriage" means something, and anyone who wants to enter that "something" has been able to do so. At times for reasons outside of the definition (and, therefore, incorrectly) it has been blocked (for instance, between races) but in our day anyone who wants to marry, given the definition of marriage, has been able to do so. That's marriage equality. And not everyone who considers themselves married, given the definition of marriage, actually is. That's simply a fact. What we have today is neither marriage nor equality, and the carryover has been to eliminate both for all in the public square. If you wish to talk to me about marriage, be sure we're talking about the same thing. Words mean something. This one means a great deal.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The New Civil Rights

I've harped on words forever, I suppose. Too much, some might say. But not me. And here's an example of why.

Have you heard of the Equality Act? It is, quite literally, coming soon to a House of Representatives near you. The goal of the bill is to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to change the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation. Yeah, yeah, I know ... lots of words. Which is the beginning of the problem. And it only gets worse.

The original Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Easy. We're in favor. Good to go. Are they changing that? Well, no ... and yes. Because they are redefining "sex" to include "sex stereotype, sexual orientation or gender identity, and pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition." They are adding "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" where gender identity includes " appearance, mannerisms, or characteristics, regardless of the individual's designated sex at birth." Therefore, while we understood "sex" in the past to refer to "the gender you're born with" and, therefore, no reason to be discriminated against, now it's so much more.

They're not done. They're redefining that "places of public accommodations." It now includes exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays, and goods, services, or programs, including a store, a shopping center, an online retailer or service provider, a salon, a bank, a gas station, a food bank, a service or care center, a shelter, a travel agency, a funeral parlor, or a health care, accounting, or legal service; and transportation services. Notice "gatherings." Is your church a "gathering"? Notice "services" and "programs." Does your bakery, flower store, photography business, or the like (you can see where I'm going with this) offer "services"? Does your Christian school have "programs"? This bill will redefine your life.

They're not done. I quote, "The bill prohibits 'establishment' from being construed to be limited to a physical facility or place." Is it online, at home, at church, anywhere at all?

They're not done. They're expanding "discrimination." If an organization receives federal financial assistance, it cannot consider the factors above. If an organization has 15 or more employees -- like a Christian school or a large church might -- they cannot practice such discrimination. Written right in the bill is the requirement that "Employers must recognize individuals in accordance with their gender identity." And, as I'm sure you might have guessed, "The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity."

On the face of it they're simply "clarifying," but at its heart they are codifying the sexual values and, frankly the incoherent perceptions of sex and gender of our current society. They are not calling for tolerance; they are demanding submission. They are not offering equality; they are requiring Christian views be subservient to the current LGBTQQIA (whatever) demands for embrace and permission. (I looked. Apparently the current "correct" acronym is LGBTQQIP2SAA. Seriously.) They are not saying, "Believe what you will." They are saying, "We don't care anymore about your so-called 1st Amendment rights to free exercise of religion or the prohibition of government to impose religion. We will eliminate your freedom where it suits us and impose the religion of sexual expression and you will concur or face the consequences." They are not allowing for disagreement; they are equating "I believe that certain behaviors are sin" and "I'd rather not participate" with bigotry and hatred. (There are no exceptions whatsoever in the bill for religious practice or religious organizations.) All of this is accomplished by an etymological sleight of hand. "You all agreed about not discriminating due to sex. So, we're make adjustments to what you already agreed to, call it the same thing, and give you what we want you to have." That's the approach. Redefine terms to mean what they want them to mean and feed them back to you because you liked those terms.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Count the Cost (Again)

I recently wrote about the problem we American Christians have with Jesus's "Sell all your possessions" because of our own wealth. "Are you talking to me?" This is not that. We do need to count the cost in other areas.

You may have heard that Jesus said, "Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28). He did. Do you know the context? To what was He referring when He said it?
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)
Oh, now, hang on a moment. Is Jesus saying that the "cost" we are to count is ... hardship? Yes, yes He is.

Jesus told His disciples, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). Notice that there is no ambiguity, no question, not even a "might have." "You will." Peter told his readers, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). Notice, again the complete lack of ambiguity. Not "if it comes upon you," but "when." This is the cost Jesus told them to count. Personal loss. Public loss. Loss of family and friends and even life. Count on it.

We don't, do we? We're the "comfortable Christians." We want to "get along," to be friends with everyone, to suffer no loss, to be on the "right side of history." We encounter family and friends who "come out" as "gay" and we need to reevaluate our understanding of Scripture because "that just can't be." No, it always has been, but we aren't willing to suffer loss, to bear the pain. We are told it is hate to think biblically on some of these topics so ... we don't. Because we are not willing to suffer loss or bear the pain.

Frankly, Christianity is not our idea. We don't get to play with it, manipulate it, make it our own, update it, correct it. It is God's. And because it is God's, it will necessarily clash with our world, our world's values, our world's perceptions. Yours and mine. If you are practicing a Christianity that is comfortable and gets along with the world around you, I would argue that you're not practicing God's Christianity. If you read God's Word and find in it just those things with which you agree, I'd argue that you're not reading God's Word for what it's worth. If your Christian life is pretty comfortable and never contentious as it rubs up against the culture and society, I'd have to say you may not be living God's Christianity. On the other hand, if it is your plan to do just that -- live God's Christianity -- you had better count the cost because the founder of Christianity said it won't always be pleasant. Count on it.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ministers of Christ

I am reading Colossians and came across Epaphras whom Paul identifies as "a faithful minister of Christ" (Col 1:8). What is that?

We've come to think of a "minister" as a part of the clergy. "Clergy" refers to those ordained by the church. That's all well and good until you read
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
That's odd, isn't it? That says we are all "a royal priesthood," which we would term "clergy" or "ministers," and we are all to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you." Huh. That seems like all believers would be ministers in a sense. Not just, you know, ministers.

Are we? The word in Scripture refers to a servant of any kind. The Greek language used it for military laborers and temple workers and priests and servants of the king or state. Any kind of servant, apparently. And Paul said he was "ministering the gospel of God" (Rom 15:16), so that would be distributing the gospel to those who need it ... as a servant. Hey, we use the word that way, or, at least, we did once. A nurse might "minister to his wounds," where it would mean that she attended to the needs of the person. And that's the real idea here, isn't it?

So ... are we? Are we ministers? Are we, in fact, attending to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sometimes I wonder. Watch your typical church gathering and you'll often find an overall sense of "you first." You know, "I'll be glad to take part, but you go first. You invite me. You ask me. You first." We show up to get fed, not to feed. We show up to be served, not to serve. We show up to hear the Word, not to give it. Oh, sure, there is always that 20% who do 80% of the work, but I'm talking about the 80% that don't. Like baby birds, we sit there with our mouths open begging for food and not feeding others. We don't really act like ministers.

I'd like to see that. I'd like to see a church where people are reaching out rather than in. I'd like to see a place where the majority have a primary concern of giving, not getting. Giving time, prayer, attention, the Word, support, and, yeah, okay, money, too. But that is way down on my list. I would like to see a church where you couldn't walk in without being engaged, cared for, embraced, and not merely physically. Well, we're not there. Answering my own question, no, we are not, as a whole, ministers. We'll just leave that up to the professionals. Even though we should be "trying this at home." Even without the quotes. (I mean, seriously, ministering as servants at home and everywhere else.) Just a thought.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

News Weakly - 3/16/19

Speaking Truth to Power
I cannot fathom this story about Elizabeth Warren who seeks to break up Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon. They have "too much power." Which sounds to me a lot like, "And I want it." The plan here seems to be boldly, "I'm opposed to any corporation with big money and signficant influence and I want to make sure we in the government get both." Is no one else hearing, "We're staunchly opposed to the Free Market"? Look, maybe they are. Certainly the Socialist Democrats are; maybe it's just a Democrat thing ... with a lot of backing from today's younger generation. Maybe. Just say so. That's fine. Don't hide behind "patriotism" while you aim to dismantle the underpinnings of the nation.

Identity Crisis
I'm sure she didn't mean this, but I'm not clear on what she meant. Alyssa Milano tweeted she was transgender, a "person of color," an immigrant, lesbian and gay man, and disabled. She says she just wanted to provide empathy. She said she was identifying with and not as. Ummm, okay ... but ... "I am" is an identity term, not an "identify with" term. And clearly, no matter what you think, you don't get to be who you think you are unless you are in those very specific categories now deemed "real". Like some in Islam, they say they want peace while they continue their aggression and wonder why peace isn't accepted.

99.99% Voter Turnout
North Korea had an election this week. A 99.99% turnout, they said. Wow! Didn't know it was a democracy, did you? Of course, you'd have to put "vote" in quotes since a North Korean election has no choice of candidates and voter turnout is mandatory and anything less than complete devotion to the Kim family is outlawed. You show up to "vote" and your ballot is a piece of paper with one name on it for each office. You place that paper in the ballot box and go home. Oh, and, surprise, surprise, guess who won? Hopefully not a system coming soon to a country near you.

Taking Its Cue from the Religion of Peace
Islam is known as "the religion of peace" while many adherents seek to kill as many infidels as they can. Following their example, it seems, Russia is complaining about the demise of the treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership with the Ukraine. Apparently after Russia backed a civil war within Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula and seized three Ukrainian naval ships (they still hold the crews), Ukraine isn't interested in renewing the treaty. Imagine that! Ol' meanies. Or maybe Russia was just so impressed when the Nazis did the same thing to them that they thought the Ukraine would like to give it a go, too. "We'll completely violate the treaty and then whine about how you aren't interested in peace." Makes sense in today's world.

Ecclesiastes Illustrated
Solomon wrote, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil" (Ecc 8:11). In 1972 a group of soldiers shot protestors in an event that came to be known as Bloody Sunday. This week one of them will face charges for that shooting ... 47 years later. Sixteen other soldiers involved are not being prosecuted. Justice deferred is justice denied.

Bad Will Hunting
Connecticut's top court has ruled that the maker of the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook shooting can be liable for the actions of the nutjob that killed his mother and stole it from her to do the deed. It seems to me there are all sorts of problems with that. "If you market your car as 'the car that makes the man' and someone kills you and steals it and kills people with it, you can be held liable." Really?

But it's worse than that. According to the FBI, between 2010 and 2014 there were roughly 63,000 murders in America. Of those over two-thirds (68%) were done with firearms. And, as we all know, the leading firearm for these murders is the AR-15 or its cousins. Except that's not true. According to the FBI, the leading firearm is the handgun (70%) with rifles at 3.5% and shotguns at 3.7%. Now, to be fair, "other guns" and "type not stated" collectively make up nearly 23%, but clearly the winner (rather, loser) in this discussion is not the rifle or assault rifle, but the handgun. Of the total number of murders, knives make up nearly 13%, much more than the 2.4% that are rifles. 30% of all murders are done with knives, blunt objects, personal weapons (hands, feet, etc.), poison, explosives, fire, narcotics, drowning, strangulation, and other weapons. So why are we focusing on the 2.4%? Clearly murder is a bad thing and clearly we want to try to curtail it, so why are we pointing to such a small number? I get that we're trying to hunt down the killers and put an end to it, but it seems like we're looking in the worst possible places. (Note that New Zealand has drastically stricter gun laws than the U.S. and they have the same problems, so maybe gun laws are not the "fix all" that many seem to think they are.)

A New York court ruled that a former contestant on The Apprentice can proceed with her law suit against the president. She accuses him of sexual harassment in 2007 followed by defamation in 2016. The court ruled that a sitting president can be sued. The president, they said, is not above the law.

First, given the animosity of the entire state of New York against this president, I don't know who would have expected a different ruling. Second, I don't understand how "You can sue him when he's out of office" equates with "above the law." Finally, I can foresee a withering firestorm of lawsuits levied against this president that would so cripple him (in computers we call it "DOS" -- Denial of Service -- where the attack is so intense that nothing else can be done regardless of the effectiveness of the attacks) that he could leave office without doing another presidential thing. Any president-hater can use this new option to cause havoc without any real merit. Let's see if we can cripple America by suing its leadership.

Speaking of Universal Healthcare
Okay, the Green New Deal has been nagging at the back of our news cycles for a few weeks now. It includes government-managed healthcare. So it seems appropriate to run this story on a guy who took advantage of a 3-hour wait at the DMV to write an argument for government-managed healthcare.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Where Are You Going?

It seems to me that many of us start off on trips without keeping in mind where we're going. We don't have a clear view of the aim. We aren't at all sure what the point is. So we go to school or we go to work or we enter relationships and marriages and such with only a vague notion of where we're going with this.

Consider, for instance, the dilemma of prayer. We know that God is sovereign (I prefer the capital S, but I still think that most Christians agree that He is sovereign in some sense.) He is omniscient. He is omnipotent. He is perfect. And so ... we pray. What? Why? If God knows everything and God has the power to do whatever He wants and God is actually in charge, why do we bother? It's not like you're going to say, "Dear Lord, please help my friend Jimmy. He has cancer." And God is going to say, "Wait ... what? Jimmy has cancer?? When did that happen??!" He knows it. And He can heal it if He wants. He doesn't need you to ask. He's going to do what He's going to do. And yet, we pray. Why? Well, there are reasons, but if we're not clear on where we're going with prayer, the reasons won't be clear. We pray first and foremost because He said to. We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). Jesus taught His disciples "that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1). We pray because we're supposed to. But that doesn't answer why. Prayer is our communication path with God. In it we ask and we thank, we confess and we implore. We ask, seek, and knock. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Php 4:6). Did you catch that? We pray with supplication and thanksgiving to eliminate our worries. No, prayer doesn't change God's mind or God's information. It changes us. It makes us humble. It teaches us dependency. It directs our attention. It glorifies God. If your aim is to get God to do what you want Him to do, you're using prayer for the wrong reasons (James 4:3). Prayer is to aid your relationship with God. If that's your aim, prayer works. If your aim is to twist God's arm with it, you will be disappointed with prayer. God uses our prayers in His work and we get to participate in His work with our prayer, but informing God or changing His will is not a function of prayer. We need to know where we're going with prayer or we will find ourselves frustrated.

I think we have all sorts of misguided ideas about where we're going with what we're doing. I think this is true in all sorts of things we all face every day. What is the purpose of Christianity? Is it to make bad people into good people? Is it a fire escape, so to speak? No. What is the point of life? Is it money, sex, power, fun? Is it a chance to fulfill my desires and dreams? No. What is the point of Christian Apologetics? To make converts? To argue people into the kingdom? No. What is the point of church? Is it to get large crowds and a good band? No. We need to ask this about everything in life and we need to have a clear grasp on the right answer because if we don't know where we're going, it will be hard to get there, we won't know if we do, and we won't likely know where to go.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Count the Cost

We are Americans. Even the poorest of us has more than the majority of the world. A family of of five living at the poverty line in the U.S. is actually "the 1%" compared to the rest of the world. "Poor" is relative, and Americans -- even the "less wealthy" -- are rich.

That's why it's so tough for me to read about the rich young ruler. A seemingly sincere young man with money asked Jesus, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18). Good question! Good attitude! And you're asking the very best Person! This is great! But it wasn't. Jesus asked for perfection (Luke 18:19-20) and then pointed out his single most difficult problem -- wealth. "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" Luke 18:22). "Yeah, we hear You, Jesus," we say. "'Come, follow Me.' We got it. We'll do that. Hmmm? What's that? Nope, I didn't hear anything about too much wealth."

My all-time most-viewed entry for this blog is from 2006 on the topic of "Sell all your possessions." It's what we do. Dodge it. Jesus did not mean "Sell all your possessions," right? No, of course not. But ... and then we dodge it. We play the game. "If He didn't actually mean that Christians must own absolutely nothing, then He must have meant we don't have to do anything at all about our wealth." What kind of logic is that? Bad logic.

Jesus did not make "own nothing at all" a prerequisite to salvation despite what skeptics (anti-theist and Christian alike) claim. What we must face is that because of our wealth as American Christians, we're using that fact to suggest that Jesus said nothing at all. We are relying on our wealth to keep us safe and happy. We trust our funds to supply our needs. We promise God everything, but keep our bank accounts, televisions, and comfortable lives from the potential chopping block. Brothers, these things ought not be.

Wealth isn't a sin. Idolatrous wealth is. Who is it that we're supposed to count on to keep us safe and happy, to supply our needs? It's not that stuff. When we do, it's idolatry and we American Christians sin. I struggle with this. I suspect I'm not alone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Question Authority

The problem I mentioned before -- "patriarchy" -- is actually problem of sin. However, even that is hard to pick out of patriarchy. That is, the notion of patriarchy is that it is a system of male-led authority which is, by definition, bad. It is oppression. It is evil. No one should be in that position. Really? Is that where we are? Has our decades old "Question authority" become "Deny all authority"? Yes, yes it has.

The problem of patriarchy is the problem of authority. Oh, we don't put it that way. What we say is the problem is oppression of women by men. (No one seems to be concerned about the oppression of men by women where it occurs.) The problem of patriarchy is male supremacy. (That feminism seeks female supremacy is not an issue.) Most of us recognize that not all men are rapists or sexual abusers (although very, very few seem to think that women might be rapists or sexual abusers) (and "all men are ..." is almost always wrong). The problem is a male domination -- male-controlled, male-centered value and authority. Under this hierarchy is rape and sexual abuse, domestic violence, devaluation of women, unequal pay, all that.

The message women are sending to men these days is "We don't need you anymore." It is wrong for men to want to defend women. The "damsel in distress" idea is evil, immoral, outdated. But the problem isn't women. And the problem isn't men. The problem is authority. In our mindset today we love "freedom," by which we mean "Do whatever I want to do." It might be sexual freedom -- perform whatever acts with whoever I want. It might be the right to "follow your dream," to "be what you want to be." It might be the right to do nothing at all. But the child's rebel yell, "You're not the boss of me!" is our adult yell, too. Not the people around you or even God. "I will be like the Most High." The most basic element of sin. Even Christians do this. We nod our heads to the sovereignty of God and then assure the world that He has sovereignly surrendered His sovereignty to Man's free will and still hold that he's sovereign. We submit to Him ... if it suits us.

We're mistaken on a couple of key points here. First, we think we are the best decider of our own direction and fate. Obvious foolishness given God's Omniscience, love, and goodness. Then we think that submitting is diminishing. If we submit, we're "less" somehow. This one is understandable because sometimes it's true. But not always, and we miss that fact. Jesus was in submission to the Father, but that didn't make Him "less"; it made Him obedient and useful and, ultimately, wildly successful. And that was the Son of God. How much more should we submit, first to God and then to those whom God has set over us?

Rejection of authority for human beings begins with rejection of God's authority simply because we are sinners at heart. Hostility to God is natural (Rom 8:7). It's Satan's job to convince us that we need to be our own authority because any recognition of authority over us could very easily lead to a recognition of God's authority. So we set up alternatives pushing toward anarchy when anarchy is patently nonsense. We question authority as if it's a virtue to do so and complain when authority is present, never realizing that authority is necessary and can be highly beneficial. Especially when it's God.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel - Not Quite a Review

The Captain Marvel movie did well at the box office for its first weekend. I didn't see it, so this is not a review. However ...

If you've been disconnected and didn't know it, the title character is a woman. If you've been connected from the start, you might know that it wasn't always so. Captain Marvel was introduced to the Marvel Comic line in 1967 when an alien named Mar-Vell (I can't make this stuff up) arrived on the planet. (To tell the truth, Fawcett Comics introduced their own Captain Marvel in 1966, but you might know him better as "Shazam" today.) His assistant was Carol Danvers in the Marvel series. An Air Force pilot and love interest for Captain Marvel, they called her Ms Marvel in 1977 when they endowed her with superpowers of her own. (Note the "Ms", a hat tip to feminism in the 70's.) She wasn't actually promoted to "Captain" until 2012 "pushing to create a safer space for women inside comic fandom." So Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios head, thought it was important to have a female-driven, female-written, female-directed female superhero star to be "the most powerful Marvel superhero." Why? As one fan wrote, it is the end of "dying patriarchy."

Ah, there it is! We're not looking at defeating bad guys. Just guys. No, no, that's not accurate. Just guys in power. Patriarchy. That's the thing that's gotta go. But ... why? What's so bad about patriarchy? The truth is, nothing. It's not patriarchy that's the problem. It is the abuses of patriarchy. It is the control, abuse, inequality, the rape and sexual abuse and cruelty done in the name of patriarchy. It is the dismissal, rejection, and "foot on the neck" treatment of women done in the name of patriarchy. It is displayed in the MeToo movement and all its offshoots. So horrendous are these abuses of women in all its forms tied to men that they have simply substituted the term "patriarchy" to mean what the abuses have been perpetrated rather than, you know, what it means.

Now, I'm thinking ... whose idea do you suppose that was?

Patriarchy, you see, as an original concept, was not the idea of men. It was God's idea. He made Adam first (Gen 2:7-8) and made Adam responsible (Gen 2:15-17; 1 Tim 2:13-14). He warned that the sin condition would cause a conflict of authority and responsibility between men and women (Gen 3:16). He calls Himself "Father" (Matt 6:9; 1 Cor 8:6; etc.). He set up a hierarchy with a clear delineation: "The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). It's in there. To deny it is simply to deny Scripture. So, if we agree that patriarchy is bad and patriarchy is dying and should be finally snuffed out, to what are we agreeing?

If we concur that patriarchy is bad, in the words of Robocop, "There will be ... trouble." Since patriarchy was God's idea, we would be stating unequivocally that God was mistaken. God erred. God goofed. He may have gotten a lot of things right, but not this. He certainly is not "Father". "Mother" maybe or "Other" perhaps, but not "Father". And, of course, that would mean that Jesus was wrong. He consistently referred to God as "Father" -- 42 times in Matthew alone; 92 times in John where He repeatedly stresses His relationship with the Father where He is in subjection to the Father. He was clearly wrong, wrong, wrong. And, of course, having clearly proven that God is not Father and Jesus is wrong in His ideas about His relationship to God, we've effectively nullified anything approaching reliable Scripture which, in the end, terminates any hope of a meaningful religion at all. Christianity, with an errant God, a misguided "Savior", and an unreliable guidebook, becomes errant, misguided, and unreliable. So I ask again, whose idea do you suppose this "end of patriarchy" thing was?

Perhaps, then, there is another possibility. Perhaps we might consider that abuses of a concept don't nullify the validity of the concept. If it was God's idea and God's design and God's plan, perhaps our misuse of it does not rightly reflect what God's idea, design, and plan should be in it. Like Christianity, in whose name lots of anti-Christian things have been done, patriarchy is not the problem, but sin is. Perhaps addressing "patriarchy" as the problem produces little net gain since it doesn't address the problem. But, of course, any attempt to point this out and redirect our attention to the real problem will be shouted down today, even in the church, because genuine biblical Christianity is not on the "bestseller" list, even among many called "Christians".

Conclude what you will here. Understand, however, that the problem is sin, not patriarchy, and that the militant feminism that the Captain Marvel thinking feeds is not about equality. It's about superiority. It's another "I want what you have and I hope to take it away from you." Or ... sin ... again. The "she" of this kind of feminism will not be satisfied. There is no "enough." Because with sin there is no "enough." It's like Christ surrendering authority to His Bride; never happened. Would you want it to? To many, the answer is "Yes!" To many, they've already usurped that authority. It's called "sin."

Monday, March 11, 2019

Friends and Enemies

Paul says something I cannot imagine coming out of my mouth. "Brothers, join in imitating me" (Php 3:17). Maybe it should, but I can't imagine it. He goes on to say "and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us." So Paul is talking about examples. Where do we look to find examples of how we ought to live as believers? Paul said, "Start with me." Then Paul warns about others.
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Php 3:18-19)
There are other examples available for us. That is, there are those in among the believers who you might think could be good examples of how Christians might live. Paul warns about these bad examples.

The first thing that strikes me is Paul's lack of righteous indignation or moral outrage. He tells them with tears about these others. He's not angry; he is sorrowful. Are we?

So how do we tell a bad example? How does Paul describe an enemy of the cross of Christ? He lists 4 characteristics. "Their end is destruction," he says. They have the form of religion, but the end of it -- the direction it heads -- is eternal death. They say, "I believe in Jesus," but their actual actions and attitudes say something different. They say they follow Jesus but deny the doctrines that save. They claim to love God but reject His instructions from His Word. That cannot end well. "Their god is their belly," Paul says. They give God lipservice, but are really driven by their own immediate felt needs. They worship their own appetites. They live for self-indulgence and sensual gratification. "They glory in their shame," Paul says. Isaiah wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isa 5:20). Those are the people. Those people who claim to believe in and follow Jesus while denying the clear commands of Scripture and consider that denial a good thing, Paul says, are enemies of the cross of Christ. "Their minds are set on earthly things," Paul says. This is clear. Where are the values? Where are the standards? What is the source? If "one of us" is operating from a standard worldly perspective, then that one has their mind set on earthly things. If right and wrong are defined by what they see around them rather than by the One who made us, they have their minds set on earthly things. If their goals and values align with the world's goals and values, they have their minds set on earthly things. These people are enemies of the cross of Christ.

Examine them for yourself. You need to be able to tell what examples to avoid. You might want to see if you could be an enemy of the cross of Christ. That would be good to know, too.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Unrecognizable Love

A coworker of mine is from India. Recently he took his family back for a visit and a dual marriage. They had, you see, chosen spouses for his of-age son and daughter and they were going back for the wedding. Arranged marriages. Other coworkers were stunned. "How do you even ...?" "Where's the love?" One feebly said, "They believe that you can grow to love someone" but was met with shaking heads and disbelief. That doesn't happen.

Love just ain't what it used to be. Okay, that's not entirely accurate. There has always been romance, always been that "in love" feeling, that kind of thing. But what we appear to all recognize as "love" today hasn't always been the defining nature of "love". Consider, for instance, the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage. I say famous because even secular weddings might use the section that describes love. Very nice. Interestingly, however, the King James Bible does not use the word "love" in that text. It uses "charity" because the "love" in view in this text (and many, many others) is not "romantic love." It's something quite different. In fact, if you read that description of love in that chapter, you'll find very little that hints at "warm affection," "heart goes pitter-pat," or "falling into." It's not in there.

We've bought a lie. All of us. We've been told that "Love is all we need" and that love is that romantic, heart-pounding, all-gooey-inside, emotion we feel for "that special one" or something like it. It's chemistry. The best kind, we think, is that "love at first sight." We've been told you "fall in love" and, obviously, if you can "fall in love," you can "fall out of love." Makes sense. But we all think that this thing we call love is grand. Maybe some are disillusioned by it, but only because they don't have it. So muddled are we that we've bought into "love is sexual desire" and "love means never having to say you're sorry" and "love is accepting others for who they are." Lots of nonsensical ideas. Psychology Today says, "Love is a force of nature. However much we may want to, we can not command, demand, or take away love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims." To which we all nod and say, "Amen." All, I suppose, except God, because He commands it, and if love cannot be commanded, God is stupid.

Now, wait a minute, if God is not stupid and love can be commanded (and He certainly commands it), what can we then conclude? Love is not the unbidden, emotional link that makes us feel good. It is something else. It is something that we can choose to do. And if it is commanded, it does not depend on someone else. It's something we do at will -- that is, as a function of our will. We also know that God is love (1 John 4:8), requiring that the definition of love is determined by the nature of God. Actual love, then, is defined by and produced from God. John said, "Love is from God" (1 John 4:7). In that same verse John went on to say, "Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." You can see, then, that this is not romantic, emotional, everyday "love." Or everyone has been born of God.

This kind of love looks different. It doesn't seek anything from the loved one, but simply gives of itself. It seeks always for the best for the loved one even if that doesn't align with what they want. It is sacrificial, not sentimental. It is giving, not getting. This kind of love doesn't worry about being unrequited. Not the point at all. It is an act of the will, not a feeling of the heart. Mind you, a person who invests themselves in another person like that will certainly have feelings. You can't do that kind of love and not feel toward another as a result. But that's the result, the product, the side effect. This version of love is tied directly to a relationship with God and His provision of that love. This love is so far above the "warm affection" we accept as "love" so as to be almost completely disconnected in our minds.

Biblical love is a command. It assumes self-love (Eph 5:28-29), but goes far beyond. It is superior to the love we "fall into" and sourced by God Himself. Loving others is an act of obedience that is enabled by Him and can be given without abatement simply because "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Php 2:13). We can experience the lesser version the world offers today, but we should not miss out on this grand love that God has for us and gives to us. It is obedience, to be sure, but it is far more fulfilling, effective, and without end than anything this world has to offer. Their love is short term, emotional, and dependent on "chemistry." We have a much better gift from God.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

News Weakly - 3/9/19

Pollute Them While They're Young
At least in one community in Canada the requirement will be that all public elementary schools fly the rainbow flag for at least one week during Pride Month in June. Elementary schools. You know, the one age where you believe whatever your teacher tells you, even if it is in opposition to what your parents tell you. That age where they tell their parents helping them with math homework, "That's not how the teacher did it, Dad. You're doing it wrong." Lest you think that public schools are (or, at least, should be) ideologically neutral. They're not. They will block religion, then substitute their own humanistic materialism with all its worship and works of the flesh. That's how it works; get them while they're vulnerable.

Meet Brendan Johnston. He is a high school student in Colorado who came in fourth place in the state wrestling championships. He could have taken third place, but chose to forfeit a match rather than wrestle a girl. "I don’t want to treat a young lady like that on the mat. Or off the mat." It wasn't a lack of respect. "Wrestling is something we do, it's not who we are," he said. "I'm willing to have those priorities." Johnston has won 37 of his 43 matches his senior year. Five of those six losses were forfeits to girls -- four of them to the same girl to whom he surrendered third place. His choice ended his high school wrestling career. I would hope there is no commentary necessary, but in today's world where respecting women and where chivalry are considered sexist and hateful, comment will likely be necessary.

Lady Justice Without a Blindfold
Lady Justice is displayed with a balance, a sword, and a blindfold. We get the balance (make things even) and the sword (power to make it so), but what about the blindfold? The blindfold represents impartiality. Justice, the idea goes, can only occur if it is impartial. In some cases it is not. The House Judiciary Committee, emboldened by its majority and unified in its hatred for President Trump, has begun a sweeping probe ... because special counsel Robert Mueller hasn't found anything. They will examine his businesses, his campaign, the transition committee, Russian interference, a list of 81 names to start. The investigation is predicated on the position that "Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms" and the plan is to hold him accountable. This is not "innocent until proven guilty." It is "Mueller hasn't found him guilty, so we will" -- guilty even though he's been found innocent. I'm not a Trump fan, but surely the American people can see this has nothing to do with impartial justice. But, I don't think they will. The hate for all things "Trump" goes deep with this one -- the opposite of impartiality.

Responsibility Without Authority
Last week the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered that a 14-year-old girl receive testosterone injections without parental consent. Further, if either of her parents tried to persuade her to abandon the treatments, addressed her by her birth name, or referred to her with female pronouns, they would be guilty of family violence. Her father was concerned that other mental health issues were driving this gender dysphoria and he was troubled by the permanent ramifications of the hormone treatments, so he wanted her to wait until she was older. The court told him to start her treatments. The father has no say, but bears the responsibility to obtain the treatments he fears will harm his daughter. Parents, you should be prepared to surrender your parental rights to the governmental poison of the day ... in the name of "progress."

Intolerance Illustrated
Cynthia Nixon has declared an end to civility towards anyone who holds to biblical convictions about sexuality. While Joe Biden refers to Mike Pence as a "decent man," Nixon is outraged that anyone would argue that her particular sexual activities are a sin. It is ... her words ... "vile, hateful," "insidious and dangerous." She makes no pretense of actual tolerance -- "He's entitled to his opinion even though I disagree with him wholeheartedly." She believes she is being attacked and all should do the same to those who hold to the view that sexuality acceptable to God is limited to the traditional marriage bed. The double standard -- "You have to be tolerant but we will not!" -- is painful to watch. Christians, are you ready? We aren't edging away from persecution.

Actions Speak Louder
The New York Post did an exposé on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) ("Miss Green New Deal") regarding her "giant carbon footprint." While she pushes to save the planet in 12 years by demanding the elimination of combustion-engine vehicles and the use of public transit, she spent nearly $30,000 on Uber, Lyft, Juno, and other car services in combustion-engine vehicles even though her campaign office was less than 150 feet from a subway station. While she pushes to decrease or eliminate air travel, she spent $25,000 on airline transactions during her campaign. Her response is she was just "living in the world." The Green New Deal is about systematic change, she said, and not about personal practices. "Practice what you preach" is not a tagline for AOC ... or a lot of other people in that group.

We Have Consensus
The consensus on human-caused global climate change has long been touted as a strong reason to agree with the crisis and get a move on. Forbes is reporting that "only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis" and a strong majority believe that it will not be a very serious problem.

Now, mind you, I've never been a fan of "consensus" as a means of determining scientific fact. I'd prefer ... you know ... scientific fact to determine scientific fact. So I'm not really excited about this report. I'm just wondering how many rabid "the sky is falling and it's called anthropogenic global climate change" types will rein themselves in and admit, "Well, if we believed the consensus that it was a problem, then we'll believe the consensus that it's not a problem." I don't think that the "consensus" they threw at doubters will be allowed now that it is against them.

Friday, March 08, 2019


It is a German word used by the Nazis to describe those "inferior people" that they opted to oppress and murder. Literally, it translates to "under-person". They weren't killing people; they were killing non-persons. It was the same logic when whites enslaved blacks in the South and when the KKK killed them for sport. They weren't killing people; these were non-persons. It's the same logic used by the Supreme Court in 1973 when they opted to legalize the murder of the unborn. "They may be human," they argued (and still argue today), "but they are not persons." They are untermenschen. The Senate this last week opted not to step in and defend children born alive. It appears that undermenschen is spreading to the "born alive" as well.

The court in 1973 declared that the unborn were "human non-persons," essentially. Under that classification, they have no rights and no protection. Kill them if you want; you're not killing a person. The idea was that "viability" determined personhood. Of course, our current move is to push that limit to the 4th trimester. "They're not a person until we say they are." Nazi Germany declared, de novo, that Jews were "human non-persons," essentially. Under that classification the Nazis stripped them of all rights, goods, and, as many as possible, life. Well, Jews and others. They weren't abusing people, you see. They were working, in a sense, with something less than a person. Non-persons have no expectation or right to rights, so it wasn't wrong. We know the result.

The question, then, swirls about in the air. In 1973 the court declared the unborn as undermenschen and, under the law, they became so. In today's world they're pushing that boundary farther out, after the "magical birth canal." "If we don't want that baby, it's gone. If we intended to kill it before it left the birth canal, we should be allowed to kill it afterwards." So how long until it moves down the human chain? And how far? Peter Singer suggested up to 3 years old. That far? Why? And on what basis? Babies in the womb are killed if they aren't wanted, making them permanent undermenschen. The criterion there is "the woman's choice". What about born children? When will we leave that up to the mother? "I wasn't happy with them; I killed them. They were undermenschen." Lacking any basis to prevent such a slide, what can we now expect a little further down the road?

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Besetting Sins

You've probably heard the term. You won't find it in modern Bibles. The King James talks about "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Heb 12:1). Modern translations talk more about entanglement. Fine. The principle remains. You and I have besetting sins -- sins that seem to hang around, trip us up. We are running along and we trip over something and we say, "Oh, come on, I thought that was dealt with!" And it wasn't. What's a brother to do?

We often live in one of two extremes. One side says, "You can be a Christian and sin to your heart's content." The other says, "You can be a Christian and sin your way into hell." Both of them seem rational. Both of them are wrong. Scripture is abundantly clear that we are saved for good works (Eph 2:10) and that those who are born of God cannot make a practice of sin (1 John 3:9). On the other hand, God's Word is equally clear that those who are in His hand will remain in His hand (John 10:29). What then? We cannot make a practice of sin, but we do sin (1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:1-2).

So, here we are, genuine believers who sin and hate it. We are almost schizophrenic, hating sin and still doing it. And we seem to have our "pet sins", those "besetting sins" that entangle us again and again. We want to stop but don't. We repent and turn and declare "Never again", but apparently "never" is actually not as far off as we thought. So what are we to do?

Scripture isn't silent on the topic. We are told, for instance, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). I suspect that some of our problem sins are problem sins because we don't do that. We don't share our burdens and we don't bear one another's burdens. The mere suggestion terrifies some Christians. "Then they'll know I'm a sinner!" Which is true, but it is premised on the faulty idea that those other guys aren't. And they want to maintain the same image that you do -- "Don't let them know I struggle with sin" -- especially that sin. So we don't do it and we should (because, you know, God said so).

The reference I started with is also helpful.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us 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)
First, it contains the command. Lay aside those "besetting sins", those sins that encumber, those sins that tie us up when we're trying to run. Do it! How? "Looking to Jesus." That's what the author of Hebrews says. He started our faith. He is perfecting our faith. Look to Him. Look at what He endured to save us. Look at how little value He put in shame. The text goes on to say, "Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Heb 12:3). Jesus struggled with sin to death; we haven't (Heb 12:4). If that's not enough for you, the author goes on to warn of the discipline of the Lord (Heb 12:5-11). That ought to help.

If you don't suffer from sins, you aren't human. We all do. If it is true that all sin, then why are we so hesitant to share it? Why do we listen to the enemy who tells us to keep quiet about it? Why aren't we bearing one another's burdens? Complaining about our sin is natural -- if you don't, at least to yourself and God, you may need to examine your relationship with Him -- but we should be doing something about it. He is perfecting our faith; we should be cooperating. He is our best possible example; we should be following Him. You tend to go where you look. Are you looking to Jesus? Or, sure, I suppose it could be just me who struggles with sin. Who knows?