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Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Joseph Goebbels was Hitler's Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. He was the head of the Nazi propaganda machine. When the Allies bombed Dresden late in World War II, killing 25,000 civilians, Goebbels added a zero and reported loudly that the evil Allies had killed a quarter of a million German civilians without cause. Because, you see, Goebbels had no vested interest in the truth; he only cared about the message. Goebbels was known for a technique known as "the big lie." The idea was that people didn't care about the truth, so "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." It was this principle of Goebbels' propaganda that enabled Nazi Germany to accept willingly the slaughter of 6 million Jews and 11 million other "undesirables." Tell them long and loud and often that these are horrible sub-humans and they won't mind if you eliminate that problem for them.

Goebbels was not alone. The principle -- people suppress the truth -- predates him (Rom 1:18) and the practice continues. Tell people something they want to hear, whether or not it corresponds to reality, and they'll jettison the facts in order to embrace the lie. Claiming to be wise, they become fools. Today. In our modern world of instant information and "civilized society." So we will see two accounts of the same event, one slanted negative and the other positive, and select the one that feels better to us and declare it "truth." It's called "propaganda." And propaganda can actually kill. (Ask the Jews.)

This concept is not a Joseph Goebbels concept. It's not a Nazi concept. It's a human concept driven by the father of lies (John 8:44). Scripture indicates that underneath it all, humans are liars (Rom 1:18; Psa 58:3; Jer 17:9; etc.). The truth is that humans do have a difficult time with the truth. That's why Jesus's statement, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32), is so stunning. And this is why it's so important to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). The good news is that in a world of lies you can know the truth and you can test everything.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Balaam's Donkey

One of the most ludicrous stories in the Bible is the one about Balaam and his talking donkey (Num 22:1-25). I mean, come on, guys. A talking donkey? Really?

Well, of course, if you're not really a believer in miracles, this one would serve as proof. Of what? Well, either that you can't trust the Bible or you can't trust religions. Depends on how far you want to take it. Maybe it was just a "mistake" -- shouldn't be there at all. Or maybe it's just one clear proof that people that believe in some sort of flying spaghetti monster will buy anything. Because, as we all know, donkeys don't talk.

On the other hand, if you believe in a supernatural God who can actually contravene the normal laws of the universe whenever He wants, then a talking donkey is no big deal. The text does say, "The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey ..." (Num 22:28). That is, the author doesn't assume donkeys that talk are normal. And if you believe in a God who is Sovereign with a capital "S," you have no trouble believing that He could get His Word written accurately and maintain it over time, so there is no problem with this text at all.

So, let's start with that. There is a God who is capable of contravening the laws of nature and is capable of transmitting a reliable Scripture through the ages. Let's say that the Bible is that Scripture. That means that this "ludicrous" story of a donkey talking is funny, perhaps, but, in fact, an actual event. So ... what?

Well, here's where we learn that God can use anything He wishes -- even a dumb beast. We learn that God knows the heart of people, so He used this dumb beast to sharply remind Balaam that he was only supposed to say what God said to say (Num 22:35). Apparently in the time between when God said to go and the time he got on the donkey to go, he had forgotten or changed his mind or something. We learned that while Man is sinful and will constantly transgress God's instructions the rest of God's creation is not and will always do what God says to do. (Note: We find out that after Balaam does do what God told him to -- blesses Israel rather than cursing them like Balak wanted -- he went on to teach the Moabites how to lead Israel into God-hating sin (Num 31:16). Balaam forgot anyway.)

God is in the habit of not acting in ways we expect. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8-9). I can't think of a better illustration than this story of a talking donkey to demonstrate that fact. I can think of no better opportunity to show that God will do what He will do and will use what (or who) He will use and will always do it right. And, of course, this is an excellent measure of whether or not the reader is willing to let God speak rather than tell God what He can say. That's a common problem, is it not? So I like this story.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Holy God

When we want to emphasize something these days, we have a variety of ways. Maybe it's an exclamation mark or even marks. Maybe it's bold print or italicized print or underlining or any combination thereof. Often we'll go with "er" and "est" to give intensity. "This house is nice, but that one is nicer. That one at the end of the block is nicest." And, we all know, writing in all capitals is "shouting" in print. Of course, the ancient Hebrews didn't have these tools. When they wanted to emphasize something, they often repeated it. One example of this in Scripture is in Genesis. There is a great battle in the 14th chapter. At one point the author points out that there were "pits" in the Valley of Siddim and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into them (Gen 14:10). The problem is that various translations give various translations. ESV says "bitumen pits" and the King James calls them "slime pits." Others call them "tar pits" or just "great pits." Why the confusion? Well, the Hebrew behind it simply says "pit pits." That is, these weren't just pits; they were emphasized pits. They were not your everyday pits; these were really bad pits. It happens elsewhere, too. In Ezekiel the Lord says of Israel, "A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it" (Ezek 21:27). A really bad ruin. In Jeremiah we read, "O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD!" (Jer 22:29). God is really trying to get their attention. In Revelation an eagle flies overhead crying, "Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth" (Rev 8:13). Not just "woe" -- really big woe. It's a not-uncommon Hebraism.

One thing we know well is repeated thrice ... twice. In Isaiah the prophet "saw the Lord" and the angels attending Him cried, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa 6:3). Then again, in Revelation, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" (Rev 4:8). That is holiness raised to the highest level ... twice. No other attribute of God is given such prominence. He is love, but He is not "love, love" let alone "love, love, love." This elevation of God's holiness is only compounded by the repeated description of God as holy everywhere else. When Aaron's sons were consumed by fire from God, Moses warned Aaron not to grieve based on this single point: "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy'" (Lev 10:3). God said repeatedly, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (Lev 11:45; Lev 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16.) God has a host of magnificent characteristics, but holiness is arguably the highest.

We don't really grasp holiness. It means most literally "other." We think of it primarily as "sinless" which would be a reasonable facsimile of "other than sin." And He is. But that's just the beginning. He is not like us. His thinking is not like us. His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:8-9). He is Transcendent. He is out of time and out of space (read "supernatural"). We are made in His image, but only in a limited fashion. He is really "other." Using the Hebraism, He is "other, other, other."

So what? I mean, that's interesting and all, but what are the practical ramifications?

This single fact of His absolute holiness answers the question, "How could a loving God send people to eternal punishment?" It explains why justice is so important to Him and why sin is so massive instead of a mere faux pas as we think of it. We'll call them "mistakes" or "errors" not realizing that transgressing a Holy, Holy, Holy God is a monumental violation. It isn't merely treason; it is Cosmic Treason. The highest of high crimes deserves the highest of the claims of justice. On the other hand, we aren't merely forgiven our minor errors. We are forgiven Cosmic Treason, our repeated assaults on a Holy, Holy, Holy God. Jesus said that those who are forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47). Not one of us is forgiven little. We are hugely forgiven. We may feel bad about some of the "really bad" things we've done, and rightly so, but we still miss the true import of even the smallest thing because we miss God's holiness. When we love little, it is telling us that we don't get it. We just don't get it.

God's holiness exceeds our imagination. When humans encounter His holiness, they universally collapse in fear and trembling. A God of this level of holiness can only be "boring" ("I don't like to go to church; it's boring.") if He is not recognized. When we recognize a Holy, Holy, Holy God who forgives, who loves, who gives grace and mercy -- who is the God we know -- His traits are vastly magnified. We need this Holy, Holy, Holy God. Like Moses we should plead, "Please show me your glory" (Exo 33:18).

Saturday, December 28, 2019

News Weakly - 12/28/19

Doin' What Comes Natur'ly
In Eagle Rock, California, a church raised enough money to pay off $5 million in medical debt for 5,555 families. In Virginia three pastors paid off more than $17,000 in school meal debt in two local school systems. To the Left, anything Trump does is wrong. Similarly, anything Christianity does is viewed as wrong by many. Like the notion that all police are evil killers ... like in Boise, Idaho where police gave out candy rather than tickets for minor infractions. This sounds like a vast right-wing conspiracy to me.

Not Christianity Today
After Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, published his "late hit" piece ("late hit" because he waited to say anything until the play was finished) on Christians and Trump (I don't recall "The Bible says to pray for leaders" in that "Christian" piece.), people responded ... by subscribing at three times the rate as those who unsubscribed. It is fashionable and vogue in America today to pass judgment on those we don't like without all the evidence at hand, but it gets subscribers, apparently. (Clearly Christianity Today is not a 501c3 organization or they'd never have been allowed to comment on politics ... or would they?)

Not Just Cats and Dogs
No snark or sarcasm here. Just a funny story. A woman in North Carolina reported that a catfish fell out of the sky and shattered her windshield. It wasn't raining cats and dogs. It was raining catfish? Actually, she said a bird dropped it. Yeah, try that one out on your insurance company.

More Double Standards
The story was that Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was "disturbed" by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that he would work in "total coordination" with the White House during the Senate impeachment trial. It disturbed more than Murkowski. Chuck Schumer released a statement reminding colleagues about the oath they must take before the trial to "render impartial justice," much like the one-sided, completely political, thoroughly partial justice the House offered in their impeachment hearing. Got it. I think the Senate can do that ... except, of course, they don't offer the same side in their "one-sided" hearing, so ...

The Truth Will Out
The rector of Notre Dame Cathedral says that even after the work being done the cathedral might not be saved. Well, a lot of Protestants wondered that about Catholics, but ... oh ... wait ... not that kind of "saved." Sorry. Moving on.

Another Inconvenient Truth
Homelessness in America is down ... in 29 states and Washington DC. As it turns out, though, the increase in homelessness in California was so sharp that overall it "caused a nationwide rise in overall homeless." The Right would like to point to California's policies of embracing illegal immigrants and a generally "socialist" agenda, but I'm not one of those. Clearly California is one of those "go to" states for people in crisis. California's climate, wealth, big cities, social programs, transportation options and the like simply attract more people. Still, it doesn't seem to be a glowing commendation of a state that prides itself on being the most socially aware and progressive.

From the Bee
The Babylon Bee headline reads, "Magazine Takes Bold Stance that Trump is Bad." Speaking, of course, about Christianity Today, they do make a point. Christianity is controversial, even offensive, according Scripture. When a "Christian" magazine embraces popular politics as its theme, you have to wonder.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Off the Rails

In the "enlightened" UK a researcher was fired because she tweeted that "transgender women cannot change their biological sex." What??!! They can't??!! No, people, they can't. Not even in the transgender world. Biological sex is determined at birth and does not ever change. No biological male grows a uterus and no biological female produces semen or sperm. It doesn't happen. No one changes their sex chromosomes. It's a scientific impossibility. It's not hate; it's fact. That some people self-identify as the opposite gender does not mean that they change biological sex. Nor does the claim that they don't change biological sex preclude the possibility that they self-identify as the opposite gender.

We have gone off the rails. It was a decade ago that the media cheerfully reported on the "world's first man to get pregnant." Of course he did; just ask the Guinness World Records 2010. Huffpost assured us this last year that "Women aren't the only people who get abortions." The ACLU is outraged that anyone would think that only women have menstrual cycles. "Men," these people tell us, "have abortions and periods." I think, "You keep using that word; I don't think it means what you think it means." We've embraced Humpty Dumpty lunacy.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all." (1871 Through the Looking-Glass, ch.6, "Humpty Dumpty")
That is the question, isn't it? Who will be master? Not God, certainly. Not science, it appears. Not logic or reason, it seems. It's simply "I will." So we each, as our own masters, define the meaning of things and expect everyone else to bend to our wills.

Completely off the rails. That is, we can stop now and quit talking, quit reasoning, quit exchanging ideas. These kinds of things require symbols that mean something to all parties involved, and we have by definition undefined ... just about everything. "Judgmental," "inclusivity," "tolerance," "hate," "Christianity," "marriage" -- the list goes on and on. "Male" is defined as "a person bearing an X and Y chromosome pair in the cell nuclei and normally having a penis, scrotum, and testicles, and developing hair on the face at adolescence; a boy or man." "Female" is defined as "a person bearing two X chromosomes in the cell nuclei and normally having a vagina, a uterus and ovaries, and developing at puberty a relatively rounded body and enlarged breasts, and retaining a beardless face; a girl or woman." No longer! When I say "man" and think "a male" I am not speaking the same language as the rest who say "man" and think "whatever you think it is ... except not that." And we're done. Humpty Dumpty wins. Nonsense rules ... by force of law in some nations. Very possibly coming soon to a nation near you.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Did You Get What You Asked For?

I've heard it often. "What do you want for Christmas?" It's the theme song, it seems, for Christmas. And yesterday you found out if you got it.

I was reading this text recently and it just ... struck me wrong. You know ... in view of the season.
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:2-3)
I wonder if we're any different at Christmas. The singular most common response to the question, "What do you want for Christmas?", has always been to detail what you want ... for yourself. Rarely is it what you want for others. You ask primarily "to spend it on your passions."

I wonder what it would look like if we asked for what we wanted for others.

Some time ago we had a guy from China living with us for awhile. Nice guy. But he didn't get American mentality. We took him with us to our big family Christmas gathering. That year it was more of a "white elephant" exchange. Bring something, grab a gift, hope you get something you like. There are chances to steal and all that sort of thing. But my friend didn't get it. When he picked up his gift and opened it, he realized it was a gift my dad would have liked. So, instead of waiting to see if Dad would "steal" it, he walked over and gave it to him. Just gave it to him. Just because he thought Dad would like it. As if that's how Christmas is supposed to work. As if giving is in the spirit of Christmas.

I guess I'm just dreaming. I think it sounds like it would be nice. Ask for something that you think someone else would like. So you can give it to them. Without any real regard for "your passions" or "what do I want?" It sounds nice. I'm just not a particularly practical guy, I guess.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Reason for the Season

We know the phrase. "Jesus is the reason for the season." We say it like it's unusual. We say it like there's another reason and we need to remind people. And I get why. Our culture has largely kicked Christ out of Christmas. Look, I'm not complaining. I mean, Jesus said they hated Him. We get it. But I got to thinking. If Jesus is not the reason for the season ... what is?

So let's actually run this through and see how it comes out. Let's take Christ out of Christmas. What does that look like? Well, obviously, now it's just "Mas." But, of course, it's not even that, since "mas" refers to the church. Nope, right out. So we don't have the term anymore. We might try the "less offensive" "Holiday," but the origin of "holiday" is "holy day" and we're not going there, either. So, we're left with ... a day. But, it's a day of joy and cheer! Right? Not really. The origins of the joy and cheer are biblical -- Christian. There's really no reason that December 25th should be any cheerier than any other day if there's no Christ to celebrate. Unless, I suppose, you really like cold weather or something. (Which doesn't really work because it's summer in Australia and because some of us live in less than frigid climates anyway.)

So, let's see ... what have we got? We have an event operated for commercial ventures that try to get you to buy exorbitant amounts of gifts (and shame you if you don't) for no discernible reason. Buy, buy, buy. Decorations, cards, food, gifts, trees, ornaments, lights ... on and on and on. Oh, joy. We've got nothing.

I've always wanted to find an atheist with integrity who would say, "I don't believe in any of this stuff, so I'm not going to take advantage of the gifts and the time off and all that. I'll just treat it like any other day." Not that they're not out there; I just haven't met one yet. But the truth is this season of joy and love and giving and generosity really is predicated on the astounding gift God gave in the form of His only Son who became a human being for us. "Good news of great joy that will be for all the people," the angel said. Phenomenally good news. So why wouldn't we celebrate it? (Did you know there was a time when Christmas celebrations were illegal? Here in this country?) Christmas -- the Advent, the coming of Christ, God with us -- is one of the best possible moments in all of history to celebrate. On the other hand, without that event, we've got nothing. We're dupes, tricked by commerce to pay money and feel warm for no actual reason. I'll stick with my reason for the season, thank you very much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

We've Done This to Ourselves

"Merry Christmas!" he said to me as we parted to go to our prospective workplaces. "I can say that out here," he concluded, "but I'd have to face HR if I did it at work." I got to thinking about it. I think we might have done this to ourselves.

When I was growing up the perceived idea of parenting was "Prepare your kids to be adults," not "Be your kids best friend." If you got in trouble at school, you'd be facing multiple "threats." The school authorities (teacher, principal, that sort of thing) would deal with you and you'd expect to be in trouble when your parents found out, too. At the dinner table (we ate dinner as a family back then) we were told to have table manners and I was told, "You can't tell me you don't like something if you've never tried it." If we had dinner with others, I was warned in advance, "Eat what's put in front of you and don't complain." Dads back then tried to teach their kids to be "tough." Oh, sure, sometimes it wasn't the right kind. No, Dad, don't teach them to fight. But they tried to teach us to be brave, to be strong, to try not to complain or cry too much. You get the idea. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you get the idea and are appalled by it.

Today, you see, it's a different world. Kids should not have to suffer. Pain is bad. (Our school coaches told us, "No pain, no gain.") "You are the most important thing in the world" is the message both implied and preached. Parents defend their kids against teachers who suggest they should have done their homework and, since they didn't, there should be a penalty. In our world the school authorities are loaded with all the responsibility of teaching kids with none of the authority or tools to maintain the discipline required. We no longer require our kids to eat what is put in front of them or bear up under difficulties. No more "please" and "thank you" -- once called ... get this ... "common courtesy." Yeah, right. The latest generations have been taught to be selfish and shallow.

Is this how we've arrived where we're at? No one should be offended. No one should be perturbed. We ban "Merry Christmas" because someone somewhere doesn't like the term, so no one is allowed to use it in public. We ask police officers to leave Starbucks because a customer is feeling uncomfortable. We fire people for suggesting that science holds only two sexes. We are required to go to the least common denominator -- the place where no one is offended -- putting an end to dialog, discussion, or meaningful disagreement. If you are offended by this, well, that's too bad. Get over it.

I think we've done this to ourselves.

Well, Merry Christmas to all! If you're offended, I apologize ... but I don't withdraw the wish for you.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Good Husband

There was a television series not too long ago called The Good Wife. Okay, fine, but sometimes I wonder if I'm a good husband. How would I go about finding out? Well, an obvious way would be to compare myself against other husbands. Yea, that's good. Except it's entirely subjective. Am I comparing myself against good husbands? Not clear at all. Besides, we know "when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding" (2 Cor 10:12). So let's try something else. Oh, I know! I should ask my wife. Now, that seems to be a better idea. She seems like she'd be the one best able to answer the question since I'm trying to be a good husband to her. But, again, it's relative. It's subjective. I need a better standard, a more sure way to find out. Why not go to the Designer of the role of husband? What does He say? That would be the most objective, wouldn't it?
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph 5:25-30)

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself .... (Eph 5:33)

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Col 3:19)

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
That's a good start. What do these instructions from God tell us about what a good husband looks like? It is, after all, His opinion that really counts. Husbands, do you want to know if you're being a good husband? Consider these (not in any particular order).

1. Do you love your wife? No, not "Are you emotionally involved?" or "Do you feel warmly toward her?" Do you love her as you love yourself? Do you seek to nourish and cherish her, to meet all her needs? Do you love your wife as Christ loved the church? That is, do you love her sacrificially? Is your love for her marked by self-sacrifice? And not based on how she treats you?

2. Are you providing for you wife in a spiritual way? Are you seeking her spiritual best? Are you washing her in the water of the word? Are you working toward her sanctification?

3. Husbands are the head of the home, but that doesn't include being harsh. Are you lording it over her? Are you being harsh with her? Or is yours a pastoral relationship, ministering to her and caring for her?

4. Are you living with your wife in an understanding way? Is understanding your wife a characteristic of your life with your wife?

5. Do you honor your wife? Do you recognize her as equal in value, a co-heir in Christ? (Note: If your prayers are hindered, this might be a reason why.)

There is more, of course. In the bedroom, the rule is "the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Cor 7:4) and not "the wife should be giving the husband whatever he wants in the bedroom." In finances the rule is "if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim 5:8). Little things, you know.

So there are some of the things in Scripture that we can use to determine an answer to the question, "Am I a good husband?" I suspect that it's not necessarily what you expected, not quite the questions you'd ask yourself. I doubt that these are the things you'd look for in other husbands to which you'd compare yourself. I don't even think it's what your wife would necessarily say. It is the biblical standard, though. How do you measure up? I think I have some work to do.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Offense of the Cross

In his letter to the church in Galatia Paul talks about "the offense of the cross" (Gal 5:11). He says that if he still preached circumcision, he wouldn't be persecuted. "In that case the offense of the cross has been removed." In his first letter to the church in Corinth he says something similar. "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18). What, exactly, is this offense, this folly?

We celebrate this week the Savior's birth. We celebrate the Incarnation -- God become flesh. We celebrate the King who left His throne and put on humanity to walk among us and die for us. We celebrate the essence of Christianity -- God with us. I say "we celebrate," but you know it's not strictly true. Most are celebrating giving and getting gifts, having parties, family and friends, and this "most wonderful time of the year" without any thought of Christ. Why is that? Because of the offense that is Christ.

We believe that God sent His Son to save us. We lacked the ability to save ourselves and He sent His Son to do it. We lacked the ability to work our way up sufficiently to make it and we required Him to do it. We don't even have the capacity to contribute to this effort; it's Christ alone. And that is the offense of the cross. "Are you saying I'm not good enough, not strong enough, not capable enough??!!" Yes, that's what God is saying.

In Galatia it was "Just do the required rituals and you'll make it." Not true. In Corinth it was "Just follow our logic and our wisdom and you'll make it." Not true. "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:22-23). The offense of the cross is grace. The offense of the cross is "saved by grace through faith apart from works" (Eph 2:8-9). Paul asked the "foolish Galatians," "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:2-3). That's the offense. We don't earn it. We don't merit it. We don't even maintain it. The offense of the cross is that we are not saved by our own efforts. And we just can't handle that truth.

We have a lot of snappy answers. "We're not that bad." "We have free will and we can use that to get to heaven." "God's not that harsh." "God doesn't require payment for sin!" And so on. But it's just not true. The cross is offensive because we are saved by Christ's work on the cross and not by we ourselves. We are beholden to God for the precious gift of His Son. And we celebrate that gift at this time of year ... as long as we are not offended by God's plan to save us by His Son's willing death on our behalf. Which, as it turns out, is really, really "good news of great joy" (Luke 2:10).

Saturday, December 21, 2019

News Weakly - 12/21/19

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
The Reuters story is about "Tireless teenage activist Greta Thunberg" and goes on to say she ... needs a break. That she needs a break is fine. But "tireless" means "doesn't get tired" and, thus, wouldn't need a break. Oh well. She needs a break because she has been crisscrossing the globe in trains and cars and ... hey, wait a minute! Cars? Those fossil-fuel driven modes of conveyance? Sigh. She won't fly, it says, I guess because everyone knows that one of the major contributors to our environmental crisis is aircraft. I was also interested at the bottom of the story where Elena Costa from Turin said, "We are very excited to have Greta protesting side-by-side with us. We want to explain our goals to everyone ..." Oh, okay, goals. Good ... I'm waiting. Because "Stop it!" doesn't constitute "goals." And "cut back emissions" doesn't constitute a solution. Nor does skipping school every Friday ... unless the problem they're seeking to solve is "too many days a week at school," I guess.

A Double Standard on Rights?
Mississippi (like several other states) tried to save lives by limiting abortions to "pre-life", so to speak -- before viability. A federal appeals court shot it down. "In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability," the judges wrote. That is, "The courts have affirmed the right to abortion." No surprise there. I just got to wondering. If the Bill of Rights (which does not guarantee the right to kill babies) guarantees the right to bear arms and the anti-gun folks' efforts to limit access to guns doesn't constitute a breach of those rights, why is an attempt to limit (but not exclude) abortion different? The judges said, "They may not ban abortions," and "up to 16 weeks" is not a ban on abortions -- it's a limitation. The rule for killing babies is "We don't allow limits" but for bearing arms it is "Only what we say it is." (The same goes for free exercise of religion, doesn't it?)

A Climate of Hate
For the third time in 6 months Starbucks is in trouble with police. Once again they've decided they don't like police officers in their store. This time they just ignored the officers. In November they gave an officer his coffee in a cup with the name "PIG" on it. And in Arizona they asked the officers to leave because they made a customer "feel unsafe." Does this mean that Starbucks has an atmosphere of hate for police? No, of course not. But it is a disturbing trend and it does seem to keep coming up and it's not a Starbucks problem; it's a national one. Now, when someone does something racist these days, people clamor that it's Trump's fault, that he's creating a climate of hate. I wonder if the media bias against police isn't doing the same thing. I don't expect the media to fess up to it.

When Did This Happen?
In an ideal world we would be given candidates for office and we'd examine their positions and character and capabilities and say, "That one is the one I want." No more. Now we're in a world of "Never _____" where you fill in the person you don't want to get elected. Then you go for the "other guy" regardless of how good the other guy is or is not. That, in fact, is how Trump got elected. "Never Hillary!" Now conservatives are aiming to shoot down Trump in 2020. "Never Trump!" Which means that conservatives will be voting for a socialist candidate to run the country. It looks like there will be no end of cutting off noses to spite faces.

No News is No News
They say this like it's news, and since they say it's news, I'll put it in the News Weakly, but you and I both know this is not news. President Trump has become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House. It's not news because they've been trying to impeach him since he got elected. It's not news because they've declared from the start that it was their goal to undo the election. It's not news because it is no secret that Democrats don't merely oppose the president; they despise him. So, keep in mind that no president has ever been removed from office by impeachment. Not one. No president has been impeached by both the House and the Senate. And Trump will not be the first. The Trump-hating Democrats would have to control the Senate to do that ... and they don't. I would love to see Pence as president and I would dearly love to have a better offering for a candidate for president for next year, but Trump won't be kicked out of office and this whole charade will come to a whimpering end. (And as for the American public, less than half support the impeachment and a nearly equal amount oppose it. You may also be surprised to know that 82% of Democrats support his impeachment while 10% of Republicans do. If you are surprised, of course, then maybe this whole impeachment thing is news to you.)

In the meantime, having impeached the president in the House, they are refusing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate to proceed with the next step. They want the promise of a fair trial, because, as we all know, the Senate thus far has promised an unfair trial. Pelosi said, "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us. Hopefully it will be fair, and when we see what that is, we'll send [the articles of impeachment]." I thought it was ironic because many of us have said the same thing about the House proceedings. "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us." And I guess "what looks fair to us" is the promise that they will do what the House tells them to. At least, that's what "justice" looks like in America today. "'No justice, no peace,' by which we mean if you don't give us the verdict we demand, we will call it 'no justice'."

Spin Class
This is how it works. Report the news by all means, but do it with a spin so that your view gets accepted. So the headline says that Israel Strikes Gaza, and there you have it. Dirty, rotten Israel. Just picking on those poor Palestinians. Except that's not accurate. "Oh, wait," the news outlets will say, "that's not what we said. If you read on you'll see that Israel was responding to a rocket attack from Gaza. See? Fair and balanced." And, in the end, it might be, but most people start with "Israel strikes Gaza" and that's all they walk away with. If the story was to be "fair and balanced" the headline would be more like, "Gaza Strikes Israel ... Again" followed by "and Israel responded by hitting a Hamas weapons manufacturing site." You can see the spin in the former, right?

The End of the World as We Know It
In the 1950 movie version of Annie Get Your Gun Betty Hutton sang,
My tiny baby brother
Who's never read a book
Knows one sex from the other
All he had to do was look
Who'd have thought it would be a matter of a court case today? Because the ACLU is planning to sue over the ridiculous notion that men don't have menstrual periods and women do. "Menstrual equity," they call it. You can't look anymore and tell. "The constitutional argument is straightforward. Any law that targets one sex — or one race, or one religion — is inherently discriminatory." That's their argument and they're sticking by it. They are, of course, planning to sue to have urinals put in all women's bathrooms, too, just for equity sake. Oh, no? I wonder why? So we should understand them to say "Any law that targets one sex (women) — or one race (except whites), or one religion (except Christianity) — is inherently discriminatory."

Thanks for that, postmodernism. We can know nothing anymore. Except, of course, that someone is hating someone right this very minute.

Just for Laughs
Overheard: "I looked in the mirror one day and thought, 'I really must be God's gift to women.'" "You mean, like how Santa gives coal to bad children?" "Yeah, and I can only imagine how bad those women must have been."

And I really loved this one: "House Officially Votes To Make Mike Pence President." Too true to be funny?

Friday, December 20, 2019

They All Look Alike

There seems to be a lot of diet plans on the market. You can pay a lot or pay a little. You can get help or you can do it yourself. You can take pills or not. But, when it comes down to it, it turns out that they all look alike. At least, the ones that work. Eat right and exercise. That's it. That's the grand secret. Not much else to it. Oh, sure, there are variations and suggestions. Like "Just what does 'eat right' look like?" Maybe it's no carbs or maybe it's high protein or maybe it's a "balanced diet" or ... lots of ideas. But it's all the same at the core.

There seems to be a lot of religions on the market. You can go with Buddhism or Sikhism or Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. You can do the Zen way or the Hindu path or all sorts of others. Each is individual. Each is unique. But, when it comes down to it, it turns out that they all look alike. Be good and you'll make it fine. That's about it. Not much else to it. Oh, sure, there are variations. What is "good" in one religion might be "slightly" different than in another. In Buddhism, for instance, they tend toward radical passivity and in Islam they tend toward killing infidels; that sort of thing. But it's all the same at the core. Be good and you'll make it fine.

As it turns out, of course, this isn't exactly true. It's true for all ... but one. All roads lead to Rome ... but one. Christianity is not just like every other religion. Christianity alone offers justification by faith alone. "But," some will protest, "you Christians are so concerned about morality like all the other religions. Same thing, right?" All religions are concerned about morality, true enough, but Christianity alone views morality as a result of justification by faith and not a means. Christianity sees good works as the outcome of "saved by grace through faith" rather than a cause. Christianity alone offers a new life (read "born again") for people dead in sin; every other religion offers dead people a more moral life. Not the same thing.

"But you said all roads lead to Rome." Yes, I did, but Rome isn't heaven. Rome isn't righteousness before God. All roads lead to a Rome that has the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power (2 Tim 3:5). Its power is God alone obtained by faith in Christ alone. They may look alike, but there is certainly one religion that is not like the others. Hey, maybe Sesame Street should have tried that one out, eh?

Thursday, December 19, 2019


It's amazing the number of "facts" we know about the birth of Christ that, as it turns out, are not facts. I mean, we know these things, don't we? Maybe not.

What do we know? Well, we know that there was a star at His birth. That's a given. We know there was a choir of angels. That's for sure. We know that the mean old innkeeper wouldn't let them stay there. Everyone knows that. So He was born in a stable. Just look at the Nativity scenes. Oh, and there were wise men there, too -- three of them. We know this.

So would it disturb you to find out that none of that is true?

In the story of Christ's birth, there is no mention of a star that night. The angels didn't tell the shepherds to follow a star; he told them to "find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). The star was for the wise men and wasn't necessarily visible at all to the people of Bethlehem.

There were angels at the announcement to the shepherds, but the text doesn't say it was a choir. It doesn't say they sang. It says, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!' (Luke 2:13-14).

It's interesting to note that, while we're all sure about that innkeeper thing, there weren't actually very many "inns" in Bethlehem and, in fact, the text doesn't require it. "Wait a minute," I can hear you say, "it clearly says 'there was no place for them in the inn'." That word there for "inn," however, doesn't require what we think of as an "inn." It wasn't like a Motel 6 or something. The word refers to a guest chamber (which, by the way, is the precise word used in Young's Literal Translation). (Note: The same word is used to describe the place where Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper (Luke 22:11). On the other hand, the actual word for "inn" was used by Luke in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34).) Joseph had family there and they likely stayed with family. The problem was when the baby was born; there was no room for a newborn in that lodging. No "inn."

"So they went to the stable, right?" Not likely. In Jesus's day livestock was often kept "in the house." Okay, not right in the rooms with the rest of the people, but connected to the house. They kept some of the vulnerable animals there, essentially, in the house for warmth and protection. (Remember Jephthah in Judges? He promised God that he would sacrifice "whatever comes out from the doors of my house" (Judg 11:30-31). He was dismayed when it turned out to be his daughter. But what else was he thinking? Was there someone else in there he wanted to sacrifice? Or did he expect an animal to come out because it was a common practice to keep animals in the house?) And they had a manger for them -- a feeding trough with hay. Lacking the room for the baby in the room they were in, then, they went down to the "living room" -- the larger room -- and made use of the manger.

Oh, and the wise men? Yes, they were there, but not that night. They arrived some time later. Up to two years later. (This is clear because Herod "ascertained from them what time the star had appeared" (Matt 2:7) and, when they didn't return, ordered the deaths of "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men" (Matt 2:16). And there may or may not have been three. The only reason we get three out of the text is because three gifts are listed (Matt 2:11). Nothing more.

"So, Killjoy," I can hear you say, "we're wrong all over the place. What's your point?" My point is that we shouldn't be too deeply invested in the details -- details we aren't given. My point is that we should pay attention to the Scripture rather than stories we've been told. Like Paul said, "Test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). We seem, at times, to be more deeply attached to the stories than the truth in things like this. I've talked with people who are angry when others suggest that December 25th was not Jesus's birthday. "How dare they insult the King of kings?!" Well, that day isn't in Scripture. But when someone questions the exclusivity of Christ or the "saved apart from works" part of the gospel or biblical morality, we get all wishy-washy. I'm saying that the truth is out there, that the facts are given, and that the story is much, much bigger and better than stars and innkeepers and singing angels. I'm suggesting that we -- you and I -- know our Bibles. That's all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Season of Joy

They call Christmas time a season of joy. And why not? At this time of year people seem to go out of their way to do nice things for people, like the story of the mom and her five kids in Charlotte, NC, who are being helped out this year with donations. We're joyful about anticipated gifts. We're joyful about cheery decorations and songs. It makes sense to call it a season of joy, even if not all are joyful at this time of year.

The thing is, it really should be a season of joy. A season that lasts the year and beyond. A joy that embraces even those who aren't so joyful. It should be, but sometimes we lose sight by looking at the short-term items and miss the bigger one.

Christmas is the beginning of the story of God's salvation for mankind. The beginning of that story is ... God Incarnate. It is a Savior who relinquished His throne to become a human being with an eye to the cross (Php 2:5-8). It was localized in the birth of a baby (Luke 2:7). The shepherds were given "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). Wise men traveled far to worship Him (Matt 2:1-11). Simeon found his life's fulfillment in holding Him (Luke 2:25-32). Eighty-four-year-old Anna gave thanks to God for Him (Luke 2:36-38). Think of it. God the Father sent God the Son to be "God with us" -- Emmanuel. "Good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

There can be no better news. God sent His Son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16). No better possible news. News of great joy. So we are commanded "Rejoice evermore" (1 Thess 5:16), "Rejoice in the Lord" (Php 3:1; 4:4), to "Make a joyful noise to the LORD" (Psa 98:4) and even to "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2-4). Joy, you see, is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and, as such, ought to mark our lives, not just the season.

We -- everyone -- encounter times when we lose our joy. I think it's a case of looking at the storm rather than at Christ. When the wise men were on their way to see Him, they were overwhelmed with joy (Matt 2:10). We get to see Him every day. We, too, ought to be overwhelmed with joy. Indeed, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8:10). We have every reason to rejoice in the Lord always. Our season of joy ought to be lifelong. And we have "good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hallelujah Christmas

If you ever saw Shrek, you'll surely remember Leonard Cohen's song, Hallelujah. It talks about King David and the Lord and "hallelujah" -- all that good Christian stuff. A few years ago the a cappella group, Pentatonix, put it in their Christmas album. Billboard Magazine listed it as one of their 10 best Christmas songs.

My wife loves Christmas songs. This year she found a Christian Christmas channel, so it was great. And, of course, there were Christian groups on that Christian channel singing Cohen's Hallelujah for Christmas.

But ...

... Hallelujah, as it turns out, is not a Christmas song. It's not even Christian. The song starts out talking about some "secret chord" that David could play to please the Lord. He didn't. The song says David was baffled. He wasn't. The song focuses on the adultery including when Bathseba apparently tied him to a kitchen chair and cut his hair. She didn't. The song rambles on about love. It looks good, but
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
In the end, what do we learn about Leonard Cohen's religious views?
Well, maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
It's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
This is what passes, even among Christians, as a sweet Christmas song. Clearly it's not.

On the other hand, maybe. You see, it has the trappings of "Christian." It talks vaguely biblical about David, the Lord, hallelujah, that kind of stuff. It repeats over and over "Hallelujah" -- literally "God be praised." It's very ... Christiany. But it's not. In its calling attention to Christian things it denies the existence of God and denigrates love.

Maybe, then, it is a Christmas song. Because in today's version of Christmas we use the trappings and language of Christ and Christmas while denying the substance. Just like song. Hallelujah is definitely not a Christmas song or a Christian song, but I'm afraid it is an accurate example of today's Christmas and too much of Christianity, like in Jesus's time. "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me" (Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8). Too much like today's Christmas observances.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Bible on Life

For a long time I've argued that I'm pro-life. By that I mean human life. And in that I'm opposed to unwarranted taking of human life. Also for a long time I've argued that science claims that life begins at conception. Only two types oppose that scientific view: the rabid "we're going to let women kill their babies when they want and you can't say anything about it" types and "we're in favor of abortion so we'll reinterpret science to agree" types. Basic biology holds that life begins at conception. Having said all that, I have also said that I don't base my beliefs on science; I base my beliefs on Scripture. Does the Bible say when life begins?

There are those who would say, "Yes, it does. Life begins at birth." They largely base that on Genesis where "the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature" (Gen 2:7). "See," they say, "Adam didn't become a 'living creature' until God breathed into his nostrils the 'breath of life'." Well, now, that's interesting. Oh, and it's not just there. There are multiple places where "the breath of life" is used to describe the living (man and animal) (e.g., Gen 1:30; Gen 6:17; Gen 7:15; Isa 57:16). So apparently this "breath of life" defines "life" whether it's human or animal. That is, anything that breathes is in view here. Thus, life begins at birth -- at first breath.

That all seems fine until you examine the rest of Scripture, and it's always best to interpret Scripture with Scripture. We read, for instance, in the Christmas passages that when pregnant Mary visited Elizabeth, "when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb" (Luke 1:41). If the fetus named John wasn't alive, how did this happen? If it wasn't human, what made him leap? We're saying that a non-living human reacted to the presence of the non-living Savior? There seems to be something wrong with that. So we look back at the Genesis 2 passage and discover something interesting. Adam didn't become a living creature when he breathed; he became a living creature when God breathed. And if you look back at the other texts, you find this same theme. In Job, for instance, we read, "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 33:4). It does not say "My breath gives me life." It specifically references breath "of the Almighty." In Ezekiel's "dry bones" vision, God says to the bones, "Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live" (Ezek 37:5). It appears, then, that this "breath of life" isn't our breathing in and out -- our human respiratory system at work -- but life bestowed by God. It's interesting in view of this, then, that the Hebrew word for the Spirit of God is rûach -- literally "wind" or "breath" -- and the Greek word is pneuma -- literally "a current of air" or "breath." (You may notice that we get words like "pneumatic" from that root, based on "air pressure".)

I would suggest, then, that the breath that made Adam a living creature was not his own breath, but the spirit that God endowed him with. If this is not true, we have a very weird case with John in his mother's womb -- John whom the Bible calls a "child" or "infant." (It's interesting, too, that most of the people that make this argument from Scripture don't believe in Scripture. In that second link above from the Dailykos, the author making the argument stresses, "I do not believe that scripture is holy. I don't believe that it is perfect. I do not believe that it is free from errors." "Stresses" as in all bold type. Instead, he holds, "It's very, very important to note that the bible is not meant to be the center of the Christian faith. Jesus, and his teachings, are meant to be the center of the Christian faith." He misses entirely the fact that we would have no Jesus and no teachings, certainly with any reliability at all, if we have no Scripture -- Word of God. And he argues that the Bible argues that it is metaphor, not perfect or literal ... although he is trying to take the Genesis 2 passage literally.)

If you're going to interpret Scripture with Scripture, "Life begins at first breath" doesn't hold water. Life -- the human spirit -- is given by God, but that doesn't equate to "first breath" as in the example of the infant-in-the-womb, John. If you're going to interpret "human life" with science, life begins at conception. Either way, abortion is the termination of a human life. The dictionary defines "murder" as "the unlawful killing of one human being by another," so the only way in which this isn't "murder" is in the fact that our society has made it legal for one human being to kill another human being. Maybe that's okay with you. God certainly forbids it. I'm pro-life.
(Note: There are also those who argue that the Bible is okay with abortion based on Exodus 21:22. I've addressed that here. Basically, while some translations say that if hitting a woman causes a "miscarriage" and nothing worse, the guy pays a fine. Don't fall for it. It doesn't say that. It says that if it causes the child (it uses that word) to "come out" and there is no other "harm" -- the child isn't injured -- then he is fined. "Miscarriage" isn't in there, nor is "abortion.")

Sunday, December 15, 2019

I Played My Best for Him

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. So you might imagine my confusion. Think about you being young fellow going to his own birthday party. You're impressed with all the decorations. Very festive. Over there is a depiction of what it was like on the night of your birth. Okay, sort of. But those trees. "What's that about?" you ask someone. "Well, it used to be symbolic of something. We just don't remember anymore." "What's with all the lights? What do they have to do with my birthday?" "Yes, those, too, once had a purpose. I can't recall." "And this mistletoe thing?" "Umm ... nope, I got nothing." But the gift-giving has arrived and you're ready for that. Except no one is giving you gifts. The guests are exchanging gifts with each other. Huh?

Of course, the truth is that gift giving was actually part of the first Christmas. There was the gift of God's Son Incarnate. There were the gifts of the magi given to Jesus and His parents. That's biblical. In fact, the Bible goes on to talk about God's children being given gifts -- the gifts of the Spirit. Gift giving is actually integral to the celebration of Christ. Still, it's not gifts given to each other. Like the symbolism of the tree and the lights and the rest of it, gift-giving has lost its meaning for us in relation to the Advent. At some point they all served as meaningful reminders of Christ. Today, not so much. Now they're nice things we enjoy without any sense of the reality we are recognizing at this time of year -- the Savior has come.

So I think of The Little Drummer Boy. I know. At first blush it's almost not connected, either. I mean, there was no little drummer boy in the story. So where does this come in? Well, the gist of the song is that this kid gave to Jesus what he had to give, and he gave Him the best he had. It's easy to get distracted from that. "There was no little drummer boy in the Christmas story!" But, in fact, there are several facets of this that are perfectly connected to the real Christmas. There is the fact that all of our gifts to Christ are, on their face, menial. There is the fact that the talent the boy had was a gift from God, and that was what he had to give. And, unlike what we do today, there is the fact that the kid in the story gave a birthday gift to the Birthday Boy, not everyone else. So this mythical little boy gave his best -- that which had been given to him, in fact -- to the Son of God as a gift for His birthday. And that's significant.

Maybe we can give that a try. We've been gifted by the Spirit. How about using those gifts to serve Him? We've been given talents and skills. Why not put them to use as a service to Christ? We have food and clothing and shelter and resources. Can't we offer them to God for His use? We have good works to do. Can't we do them in such a way that others "may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16)? Wouldn't it be interesting and even fulfilling to make a substantive effort to give our best to Him, at least at this time when recognizing His coming is the main point? Just thinking out loud here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

News Weakly - 12/14/19

Offensive Compliment
Michael Bloomberg last week felt he had to apologize for complimenting Senator Cory Booker. He called him "well spoken." So sorry. He's not well spoken, and only a racist would think that Cory Booker was well spoken. Come on, people. You must begin with "'Well spoken' can only mean that you're a racist" to conclude, even from the context, that it was intended as a racist remark. And I don't even like Bloomberg.

Murder Ads
Planned Parenthood is running out of time. They're about to lose $60 million in federal funding because of the Trump administration's "gag order" that prevents clinics that use federal dollars to refer women to kill their babies from getting federal dollars. They're outraged and plan to start a million dollar ad campaign to urge people in Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina to contact their senators and get them to change it. Apparently they need your money to keep on killing those babies and it's up to you to get it done.

Try China
A Frenchman in China who plays for a Chinese basketball team was formally warned and fined for failing to look at the flag of China during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. The rule is that the players are supposed to stare at the flag for the duration of the song. He bowed his head instead. I'd bet that they don't have any Colin Kaepernicks there, eh? It always amazes me when people use the unique rights and privileges of this country to protest the unique rights and privileges of this country.

Christmas in California
A church in California decided that they wanted a different sort of nativity scene, so they put Joseph in a chain link cage topped with barbed wire and Mary in another and the baby in the manger in another. Because, as we all know, Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were illegal immigrants trying to find asylum in Egypt. "We thought about the most famous refugee family in the world, the family of Jesus," lead pastor Karen Ristine said. Oh ... hang on ... I see the problem ... what we have here is a failure to read the Bible. They fled to Egypt, but there is no hint of problems in that story and no suggestion of illegal activity and not even the remote idea of being separated, caged, breaking laws, mistreated ... but using misrepresentations of Jesus to make a political point is fine at this church.

Mutable God
Recently the Religion News Service published a piece by David P. Gushee titled "Christian higher ed can't win the LGBTQ debate unless it transforms." Guess what his argument was. "Gushee received his Ph.D. in Christian ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 1993, having earned his M.Phil. from Union Theological Seminary in 1990. Gushee earned his M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1987." You'd think he'd know better. His argument is that in order to "win," Christian higher education needs to convert from a traditional, historical, biblical perspective to a modern, cultural, generational perspective. They need to understand that truth is not objective, that Christianity is not set, and that "winning" means "Do whatever the culture tells you." Apparently, then, God changes His mind all the time. At least, that's the only conclusion I can come to. Most disturbing given his level of education (and he's passing it on as an educator). What does it say about most seminaries today?

That's Just Impeachy
So, in its immense sense of hatred justice and without any actual evidence political motives, the House has released its articles of impeachment with which they hope to sweep Vice President Pence into office to replace President Trump. Mind you, it's a long way off. I mean, they still have to vote on it (it is a foregone conclusion) and then it has to go to the Senate and they have to repeat the process and vote on it (it's also a foregone conclusion; ain't gonna happen). Shouldn't take more than, oh, 6-8 more months ... to not impeach him. Too bad, too. I was really hoping to get Pence as president.

Lessons Not Learned
Meet Laurent Simons, a 9-year-old Belgian prodigy who was due to graduate college in mid-2020 with a bachelors degree in electrical engineering. His parents wanted him to graduate in December, before he turned 10. His university said it couldn't be done and he should be happy to graduate in the spring of 2020. So, in an effort to educate their child properly, his parents pulled him out of school. No graduation at all. Lesson learned. Education is not important; getting your way is. If you don't get your way, cut your nose off to spite your face. Got it. Now, they tell me that it was actually was the 9-year-old that chose to drop out because he couldn't graduate before 10. Which only says that he was not ready for college in maturity and his parents let him down by letting him cut off his nose to spite his face. Much better.

Babylon Bee Headlines
I'll leave you with a few headlines from the Babylon Bee:

'You Have Stolen My Dreams And My Childhood,' Says Girl Currently Gracing Cover Of Time Magazine

Trump's Popularity Surges After Nation Learns He May Have Obstructed Congress

Oh, and a follow up to that Nativity display at that church in California, Report: Jesus, Mary, Joseph Were Actually Detained Under Obama Administration.

Always good for a few laughs.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Fatal Compromise

"You're on the wrong side of history," they tell Bible-believing Christians. These days it's typically on the matter of homosexual and transsexual morality, but it's been there before. When the likes of John Newton and William Lloyd Garrison and Theodore Weld and more opposed slavery in a land dominated by slavery, they were "on the wrong side of history." When the Reformers called the Church back to biblical Christianity, they were "on the wrong side of history." When the Apostles preached Jesus as Lord and Savior, they were on the "on the wrong side of history." We're not new today. If you oppose the current trends, you're "on the wrong side of history" even if you're right.

The current trend in churches and, therefore, their congregations is compromise. They've largely surrendered "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim 2:12) in favor of female pastors. Mainstream denominations have given in on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 to embrace the concept of the "gay Christian." There are even some that have rejected "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6) in favor of a more ecumenical, inclusive "There are lots of ways to get to heaven" approach. "Thus saith the Lord" is replaced with "Can't we all just get along?"

So how do we know when compromise is possible and, just as importantly, when it is not? For instance, the concept of a democratic church polity is foreign to Scripture, but it's common in many churches. Is that compromise acceptable? The Bible recognizes no need to hold back our message wherever that might lead, but modern tax laws require churches to avoid political dialog. Is that compromise one we can manage? If there is room for compromise on these things, why not things like "gay marriage" or women as pastors? How do we know?

For most people, "I" am the final decider. Sure, the Bible says without any reservation that homosexual behavior is sin, but if "I" decide that it's acceptable, then it's acceptable and the Bible is simply wrong on that point. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe everyone in history has gotten it wrong. Maybe no one prior to the 20th century (or so) properly understood it. But "I" decide what's right or wrong, so "I" can compromise when "I" want to. That's all well and good, I guess, if "I" am the only one involved, but it's never that way. That "I" is telling others to do the same, informing the rest that their position is wrong, nay, evil. That "I" campaigns to change minds without recognizing that they're seeking to change minds to "my" perspective without any foundation. For the few, then, there is Scripture. God's Word tells us where we can and cannot compromise. Jesus said, "No man can come to the Father except through Me," so we have no room for compromise on that. The Bible says that homosexual behavior is sin, so we have no way to give ground on that. And so forth. On the other hand, the Bible does not command a particular polity that excludes some democratic church government or require that we share our political views from the pulpit, so there is certainly room for compromise on those things.

When people have differences, there are two options: compromise or no compromise. For the sake of people, compromise is typically a good thing. For the sake of God, compromise is unwise. So we need to decide when it is God or "I" talking. If we assume that the Word of God is not authoritative -- that compromise on the sin du jour is fine because we don't want to be on the wrong side of history -- then we have a bigger problem. If God's Word is not authoritative, then God is not authoritative and anything that we deem "Christianity" is an undefined mass of personal opinion, right or wrong in places, perhaps, but certainly not the truth. That's when compromise becomes fatal -- when we compromise God by compromising His Word.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Double Standards

In 2016 Trump famously called Mexicans rapists and drug addicts, and his detractors went wild. "He's a racist. He hates Hispanics." In truth, Trump said no such thing. What he said was that many of the people illegally crossing the southern border do illegal things. But because the sound bytes linked "Mexico" to "people crossing the border," it became a racism problem. So recently a Saudi gunman training at a Florida navy base killed three people before being shot to death, and Trump is in trouble again for defending Saudis. Apparently, then, we are supposed to hate the race of the people who have one person that commits a crime. Okay, maybe not the race; just the country.

I'm not writing about Trump. I'm not writing about racism or illegal immigration or the Saudis. I'm writing about how incredibly comfortable we seem to be these days with double standards. And I think that "these days" may be generous. I think there has always been a "double standard" tendency. We're just seeing it mainstreamed and out front these days. We're seeing it practiced loud and proud. The Left is obvious in it. For example, it's bad to be intolerant unless it's something or someone they choose to be intolerant about. It's evil to be exclusive and they choose to exclude any who don't meet their standard of inclusivity. Hate is wrong and they'll hate anyone they classify as hateful. "You're not supposed to be judgmental, and we will harshly judge anyone who is." Just some examples. But it's not just the Left. Just compare the Right in Obama's era with the Left in Trump's era. The Right was just as irate with Obama, but it was justified then, right? When the Right stands on political ground, it's principle; when the Left does it it's politics. "You need to give Christians religious freedom in this country," they will cry, but they aren't too keen in giving, say, Muslims the same. Double standards.

But, look, people are people. The majority of people are not believers. As such, they are subject to "the god of this world," the "prince of the power of the air." Without trying to be unkind in any way, it's pretty clear that natural human beings are operating with deceitful hearts and cannot be expected to be good by God's standards. It's just the nature of the beast, so to speak. So the double standard there is not good, but it's not surprising, either. On the other hand, what about believers? I'd suggest that too many of us are subject to the same error. It is a standing joke, for instance, that "All sins are bad, but yours are worse than mine." We decry the Pharisee -- "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." -- and practice the same, considering ourselves better people because we're believers. We are outraged at the sins of fellow Christians and seek to correct them and then we're outraged if a fellow believer calls us on a sin we've committed and seeks to correct us. We complain about the poor thinking that others do -- the poor arguments or theology or the like -- not realizing that too often we're not thinking straight ourselves. It's not just the Left or the Right or the unbeliever who happily carries a double standard.

Jesus said we should take the log out of our own eye before we deal with the speck in another's eye (Matt 7:3-5). Maybe we should try that out on this topic as well. We can easily see the double standards around us. Are we aware of our own? Are we checking ourselves for the same? Do we realize our own tendency to condemn others and excuse ourselves? Conversely, do we extend the same grace and mercy that we do for ourselves or expect from others? Do we apply to ourselves the same standards that we apply to others? It might be worth keeping in mind.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Biblical Marriage

I was reading some of the Christmas story passages and came across this little ditty.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matt 1:18-19)
Nothing new there, really. But notice, first, the relationship of Joseph to Mary. She "had been betrothed" to Joseph. Not married. So it might strike you as odd that, when he found out she was pregnant, he "resolved to divorce her quietly." Now, hang on. They weren't married yet. Why divorce? Why not just "break up," end the engagement, whatever we would do today? Apparently, then, marriage was different then than now. So, if marriage in Scripture is a picture of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32), maybe we should get a more robust idea of what that picture looks like ... or would look like if we understood it from the perspective of those who wrote the Bible.

Generally speaking, in biblical times marriages were arranged. Who would marry who, what the bride price would be, and so on would all be determined by the families or their representatives with the consent of the prospective bride. Once the agreement was made, it was binding on bride and groom who would be considered husband and wife without living together. (To end that agreement required a divorce.) The betrothal would include gifts that the groom would send to the bride-to-be beyond the "bride price." (Interestingly, it was also customary for friends of the groom to send gifts -- generally money -- as well.) The groom (or his family), then, pays the "bride price" and he would set about preparing for the bride. Typically he had 12 months. After he prepared for her, he would return to take her home to be his wife. In Israel, the wife was regarded as property (which is bad), but extremely valuable property (which isn't all bad). She was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen 2:23). Subservient, then, to her husband, still she wasn't isolated like the women of surrounding cultures and would often have considerable influence and freedom. Add to all of this the things we learn from Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7, and we get a more robust version of the relationship between husband and wife than we do in today's society.

It's interesting then, thinking of it as an image of Christ and the Church. It was the Father that sent the Son and the Father that chose the Bride (Eph 1:3-4). The Son visited the Bride and paid the price (Eph 1:7), then returned home to prepare a place for her (John 14:3). He left her with gifts -- the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) and the gifts He gives to each one (1 Cor 12:7). The day is coming when He will return with a shout (1 Thess 4:16; cp Matt 25:6) to take her home with Him to one with Him (John 17:21) to be part of the family (John 1:12) for eternity.

That's just a survey, a quick glance. I think, though, that the picture just got larger. The way in which marriage from betrothal to home-bringing to eternity together paints a much richer image of the relationship of Christ and the Church as His bride. Nice picture. And I know the Artist.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

What Could Go Wrong?

Watch most television these days and you'll discover the changing roles of husbands and wives. It used to be the husband was the "man of the house," the "head of household." A largely patriarchal kind of thing. The husband was the bread-winner and the wife was the homemaker. It was the sad woman who was forced to go to work outside of the home because the husband, apparently, was a poor provider. That perception was so deeply entrenched that to this day the concept of a "stay-at-home dad" is a really odd concept. Sure, we'll think about it for a moment and then let it go, but at first blush it seems strange. But marriage roles have evolved in the last half century or so. Marriage itself has declined, to be sure, and the constant and expected threat of divorce looms always in the background, but even within working marriages things are different. The media will tell you that wives are now the primary decision makers, followed, it appears, by the children, with husbands coming in third place. Where before men were the workers, now they're the problem. When before women were the anchors for a solid home, now they're the bread-winners. More and more marriages end in childlessness, too. Couples are so focused on their careers and personal pursuits that "kids" just don't factor in like they used to. Yes, we've come a long way.

Biblical marriage is something else entirely. Of course, no one these days really wants to hear that. It's not surprising that the world doesn't want to hear it, but even Christians oppose it to its face. Mention that Paul wrote, "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3), and you get pushback. "What? Oh, no. He doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain." So they push it around. The feminist approach: "Paul was clearly a sexist and a misogynist." The "modern Christian" approach: "That was then; this is now." Or the scholarly approach: "You see, 'head' there doesn't mean 'head' as in authority or leadership. It only means 'protection'." (Or the very clever, "Actually, the word means 'origin' and it's just referring to how Adam was the origin of Eve in Gen 2:21-23.") Point out that Paul wrote, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22) and they'll stand their ground. They'll take it as mutual submission ("Look at verse 21!") or they'll simply push it aside ("Fine, but we just don't care what that says."). What they will not do is take it at face value. Why? "Well, what about the abusive husband? What about the husband who isn't in Christ? What about the domineering husband?"

Interesting, then, that almost all objections to biblical marriage are predicated on perceived biblical roles in marriage that aren't in there. The thought is, "The Bible is commanding wives to be doormats." No. The fear is, "The Bible makes men domineering and overbearing." Really no. The common belief is, "Taking a biblical view of marriage in this way demeans women and elevates men." Absolutely not. That is, all of the objections to doing what God says in His Word are based on what happens when people don't do what's in His Word.

So we read, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" and we fire up the concern. "What about bad husbands?" (as if the only husbands that exist are bad husbands). The biblical husband looks like this. He loves his wife sacrificially. As Christ "gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). Biblical husbands are not domineering; they are self-sacrificing. They aren't lording it over their wives; they have her best interests at heart. They don't predicate this love based on her response to them. Theirs is not a control concept; it's an honor principle (1 Peter 3:7). The biblical role of a husband in the marriage is to be a depiction of Christ. Look to Christ to see how a husband should treat his wife (e.g., Php 2:3-8).

Included in that command to women is that the submission should be "as to the Lord." It assumes God is in charge and is premised on trusting God, not the husband. Peter even specified, "even if some do not obey the word" (1 Peter 3:1). God made Eve as a "helper" (Gen 2:18), the compliment to her husband. (The text says she was a "helper fit for him." That means she was designed to be his counterpart, to fill in his gaps as he filled in hers.) That's not inferior. Inferior has nothing to do with it. A wife is not called to be a doormat, unless you believe that she is called to be the Lord's doormat. Biblically, the wife in a marriage is designed to be the depiction of the church in the "Bride and Groom" relationship between Christ and the Church.

There is a lot more going on here, but I wanted to point out the problem. We're are shaking our fists in God's face saying, "No! Your idea of husband and wife roles is wrong! We will not do it!" We are doing it because of sin, not because of design. That is, we are protesting God's instructions in this because too many have failed to follow God's instructions in this. If we followed the design rather than our own sinful preferences, it would work marvelously. Divorce would be absent in a relationship where a wife faithfully submits and completes her husband and a husband self-sacrificially loves his wife and seeks only her best. Christian marriages would operate as a loving team rather than like self-interested adversaries that they often do. The world would have a clearer image of the relationship of Christ and His Bride if we followed His instructions on marital roles. Christians would be thought of as strange, of course, but only because of the natural hostility to God that unbelievers have. "They're strange," they'd think, "but they sure know how to do marriage." Or, you could keep telling God, "No! I won't do it! I won't submit to my husband. I won't love my wife that way. You can't make me." What could go wrong?

Monday, December 09, 2019

The Bible You Can't Trust

One of the fundamental pieces of the Christian religion is the Bible. Sure, on its face, the fundamental piece is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I mean, what else would "Christ-ian" mean? But if you take away the Bible, what do you know about Christ? Practically zero. Thus the Bible is key to Christianity. It is so key that for most of church history the Bible has been understood to be "God-breathed." That is, the Bible is the Word of God and, as such, should be taken with God's authority. Just a basic fact.

Of course, we're long beyond that now. We in the modern era have figured it out. The Bible is a nice book, as far as it goes, sure, but you can't take it too literally, of course. Jesus said He was "the door," but we don't understand that to mean that He had hinges and a door knob, right? So why would we understand, for instance, that when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6) He actually meant some kind of narrow-minded exclusivity like so many conservative Christians do today? No, of course He didn't. We don't take literally that God commanded the Israelites to annihilate the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:2-3) or that God actually struck Uzza dead (2 Sam 6:7) or the like. We know better today. The Bible isn't "that kind of book." It's ... spiritual. You can't read it like any regular book. You certainly can't assume your understanding of it is either correct or, worse, authoritative. It's a good book, but, look, can't we all just get along?

Under the guise of humility and acceptance, then, we gut God's Word. While we "embrace" the Bible, we deny its truthfulness, sufficiency, applicability, and reliability. By naming as truth the claim, "You cannot know for sure that you can correctly understand what the Bible is saying," we undercut all of God's Word and, with it, all of Christianity. The ever popular "That book was written by men and is not completely reliable" or "What answers does a book written 2,000 years ago have for 21st century questions?" notions leave us without ... Christ. When we call it immoral to say, "The Bible is God's Word and God's Word says ...," we are declaring God unreliable, the Holy Spirit incompetent, and Jesus a liar. "There's the truly humble Christian viewpoint."

Here's what they're telling you. You cannot know for absolute certainty, so, therefore, you cannot know. This is, of course, nonsense because, as any philosopher will tell you, you cannot know with absolute certainty anything. Some uncertainty about something doesn't negate knowing. It's also nonsense because while you cannot know for absolute certainty, they apparently do. "Oh, you say that the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin? You cannot know that for certain. We, therefore, affirm with confidence that it is not." Something like that. They affirm with certainty that "The Bible doesn't mean what you think it means" while affirming that you cannot know. They will argue, "Well, if Christians throughout the ages have never been able to figure it out, you surely can't." This is utter nonsense. Christians throughout the ages have figured these questions out. It's not that they didn't; it's that they haven't gotten unanimous agreement ... from the world. Which is, of course, what you would expect. The existence of a dispute doesn't mean the answer isn't present; it simply means that not all sides accept it. So anti-Christian forces often bearing pro-Christian names are at war with the Bible, God's Word.

Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Modern "thinkers" say, "Well, no, you won't. We can't actually know the truth." And not knowing will certainly not set you free. Interestingly, Jesus specified the truth they would know that would set them free. "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples" (John 8:31). Well-meaning folks have opted to deny that God's Word can be known or trusted, thus denying Christ Himself ... all while calling themselves "Christians" -- so-called followers of Christ who have no problem standing against God's written word and campaigning to get others to toss out the reliable and authoritative word of the Omniscient God. Doesn't even make sense. So don't let that be you.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The Miracle of Christmas

We know the phrase, "the miracle of Christmas." Do we know what it is? Well, sure we do. It's about how everyone loves everyone at this particular time of year.

Well, of course, that's simply not true. There is no small number of people that get grumpier at this time of year. Or sadder. It's not miraculous for some people.

So, what is the miracle of Christmas? Santa Clause? Well, of course, if he was real, that might be a miracle, but that "if" is a problem, isn't it? Nope. Not Santa.

What, then?

You might think of the miracle of the Virgin Birth. That miracle has been "Christian" from the beginning. That was miraculous. There is the whole "angels and the shepherds" story. That was miraculous. The magi that traveled to visit, complete with a warning from God to go another way home was miraculous. There is a lot to Christmas that was miraculous. But which of them constituted "the miracle of Christmas"?

Well, of course, one answer is "All of them." Together they form a large miracle. But the real miracle is Christ Himself. The real miracle is that "He was in the form of God," but didn't consider that something to be held onto. Instead, He "emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Php 2:6-7). God Incarnate. That was the miracle of Christmas. That He came at all. That was the miracle. That "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Php 2:8). That was the real miracle.

We wonder sometimes, "If God is so good and so loving and so powerful, why aren't more saved? Why aren't all saved?" In the face of "God taking on the form of man," the question isn't "Why not more?" The question is "Why is there any? Why is there one?" That He came at all and came to save some of those who have rebelled against Him -- that is the miracle of Christmas. Joy to the world!

Saturday, December 07, 2019

News Weakly - 12/7/19

Youth With A Mission
I've been concerned for some time with our culture's headlong plunge into "Don't trust people with education and experience; trust the children." Now Rachel Junck has crystallized that concern for me. She is a 20-year-old college student who was elected to the Ames City Council. I'm sure Ames will benefit from her experience and education or, rather, her lack thereof, as she works hard on her #1 priorty -- fighting climate change in Ames, Iowa.

And Now for Something Completely Different
I don't know if you remember transgender activist Jessica Yaniv. He (claiming to be a she) made the news some time ago when he sued some salon workers who refused to wax "her man parts" (I put that there so you can see how lunatic it is) because ... they were man parts. He lost that case, but he's back. Now he's complaining about illegal discrimination because a gynecologist refused to give him an appointment. Remember, he has "man parts" -- he's not post-operative. What, exactly, did he expect a gynecologist to do? And whatever that is, why must all gynecologists do it? Yaniv is "shocked" and "confused" and "hurt." Well, the "confused" part is obviously correct. Even Ricky Gervais considers Yaniv a "sex-pest troll."

The Hero Actor
Actor Mark Ruffalo, who played Hulk for the Avengers movie series, attacked capitalism this week. "It’s time for an economic revolution. Capitalism today is failing us, killing us, and robbing from our children’s future," said the actor who reportedly made $13 million from the movies. To back his position, he voiced support for Bernie Sanders and offered to surrender his millions so that the less fortunate and the children could benefit. Only half of that last sentence was true.

Fruits and Vegetables
Okay, maybe that's not a kind title here, but "impeachment" makes me think of peaches (fruit) and a lot of what's going on appears to be mindless (vegetables), so ...

Nancy Pelosi claimed, "This isn’t about politics at all. This is about patriotism. It’s not about partisanship." Al Green said, "I'm concerned if we don't impeach this president he will get re-elected." Jerry Nadler said, "An impeachment of a president is an doing of a national election." I can't repeat what Adam Schiff said about Trump. Not about politics, right? Luckily the media remains unbiased. Newsweek assured us that Trump is "America's anti-president." Business Insider ridiculed Republicans for using "massive signs to defend Trump" by, get this, using Democrats' own words. The fools.

No one really believes this is not political, do they? No one really believes that the Democrat-controlled House is conducting a "fair and impartial" hearing, do they? No one actually thinks that the House will hear evidence against and for Trump, do they? I don't think so. But "thinking" isn't really part of this, is it?

Many a Truth is Said in Jest
Sure, it's the Babylon Bee, but the headline was just too close to the truth: "Kamala Harris Fulfills Campaign Promise To Improve America By Dropping Out Of Race." Right?

Friday, December 06, 2019


In an article from Michael Haykin addresses "5 Myths about John Calvin." You learn there that the story that Calvin had Servetus burned at the stake is false. He testified in Servetus's trial but Calvin wasn't a citizen at the time, had no political power, and pleaded for the authorities not to burn him. The authorities burned Servetus to demonstrate their independence from Calvin.

A lot of people think that Calvin's theology is summed up in what today is called "Calvinism" -- those "5 Points of Calvinism," or TULIP. In truth, Calvin never included those 5 points in his writing. It could likely be shown that he supported the ideas, but he never articulated them. The "5 Points of Calvinism" didn't become "Calvinism" until long after his death at the Synod of Dordt.

You learn that Calvin was not an antinomian. He did not believe that works had no connection to our faith. He did not believe that we are saved by works, but he also was convinced that no true believer does no good works. Calvin believed that the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit produced a definite result in the human being that was steadily moving him/her toward Christ-likeness.

You learn that, despite all this "Sovereignty of God" and "Election" stuff, Calvin was a firm believer in missions. Calvin understood the Reformation in general and his calling in particular was to plant true Christian churches. He argued that Scripture taught "that it is our duty to proclaim the goodness of God to every nation."

I am not of Calvin; I am of Christ. I am not suggesting that Calvin was infallible or even that you should listen to him. (To be fair, I've never read a complete work of his.) I'm suggesting that 1) we are often fed lies about people that God has used, 2) we often dismiss the good stuff from people because of something else we don't like (referred to as "throwing the baby out with the bathwater"), and 3) we can be really vicious and vindictive against fellow believers without just cause. We ought to concern ourselves with Scripture and rejoice when someone else concurs with it rather than doing battle with people we don't like because they don't concur with our personal perceptions. Especially when we realize that both our personal perceptions of those with whom we do battle and of the truth may be faulty.