Like Button

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Nothing You Desire Can Compare

Now, check me on this.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. (Prov 3:13-17)
Now, maybe I'm being a bit too far out, but it strikes me that Solomon (who wrote this) thinks that wisdom is a good thing. Too much? No, I don't think so.

Solomon says that wisdom is very beneficial to us. Better than gold. More precious than jewels. Wisdom, he says, gives long life, riches, and honor. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace." I don't mind saying it. That sounds great to me.

So, how do we get this marvelous stuff, wisdom? Job said, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). The psalmist wrote, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding" (Psa 111:10). Solomon wrote, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" (Prov 9:10). I'm detecting a pattern here. I wonder ...

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Rules

We don't, by nature, like rules. We don't like being told "Do this" and "Don't do that." We like to be free spirits, doing what we think is best. We believe that lines are not our friends, so to speak. So even some who call themselves followers of Christ will tell themselves that "the Bible is not a book of rules. It's a book of grace!"

Interestingly, they're right, but they're wrong. They're right in that the Bible is a book of unmerited favor -- grace -- but the error occurs in the notion that rules are bad and, therefore, God's book isn't full of rules. It is. You can't actually read it without seeing that. Even Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "But," some will protest, "that's not grace!" The Bible disagrees.

James writes about the person who looks into the law and fails to practice it.
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
Kind of silly, isn't it? He looks in the mirror and promptly forgets what he is like. We do that, of course. We look in the word and promptly forget what it tells us ... about God, about ourselves, about sin, about ... well, most of it. But James uses a perhaps jarring term there. He is saying, "But the one who looks into the perfect law ..." and then describes the law -- "the law of liberty." Liberty? That's what it says.

The commands of Scripture, then, are indeed grace. They are liberty. They set us free from the error of the flesh. They give us clear directions -- God's directions. Liberty given by God is grace.

It would seem incumbent upon us, then, to be careful to see His commands and practice them, not to deny and avoid them. After all, we're Americans, right? Aren't we all about freedom? Don't we admire, "Give me liberty or give me death"? How about this liberty? As Christ-followers, this liberty ought to be our fondest desire.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Psalmist's Perspective

From the Psalms.
Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. (Psa 147:1)
I won't try to improve on that today.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

News Weakly - 1/25/20

Truth in Advertising
The Washington Post offered a critique of a Christian school in Kentucky that has spread throughout the media. (I don't link to it because I can't read it because the Washington Post requires a subscription to read.) So Yahoo news, for instance, echoes the horror of a Christian school that expelled a girl for "lifestyle violations after wearing rainbow." Now, let's be clear. She was not expelled for wearing rainbow (or for the rainbow cake she had at her birthday). The school met with the girl and her parents in the fall after she failed to adhere to the school's code of conduct. She was not expelled because her mother posted a picture; she was expelled because the school has rules, she refused to abide by the rules, so they exercised the rules. Her mother said, "I just feel like those religious beliefs they are imposing now are very judgmental." That's fine; why do you have your daughter in a religious school if you disagree with their religious values? But, no, that's not the question to ask, is it? The question to ask is "How soon will the government prevent institutions (and people) from having religious views that we do not approve of?" That would be truth in advertising, so to speak.

Educational News
This is news. A Michigan man noticed a box on the ground by an ATM. It was labeled "$40,000." He picked it up and took it with him. That's not the news. He took it with him to the credit union of the ATM and returned the money. It was left by a negligent armored security guard and it was "only" $27,000, but the fact that he returned it is news. Now, news is not the ordinary; news is the unusual. The fact that this is news tells us that we don't actually expect humans to be so honest. Which tells us something basic about humans beings.

New Church Growth Strategy
A United Methodist church in Cottage Grove, MN, came up with a new scheme to help their church grow. They wanted to attract young families, but most of their members were over 60. So the church invited their older members to worship somewhere else ... for a minimum of 2 years, according to a memo from the pastor. Okay, it's not that stark. As long as the older members agree to go with a youthful new identity for the church, they can attend. It was all explained to the members in a service on Jan. 12. According to the account, "The 35 people in the pews listened, their faces grim. The service continued with a 6-year-old recorded sermon, and a puppet show by church founder Baker." Ah! Now there's something to reconsider. So, once again, in order to grow the church they must eliminate a particular age group. Got it. Inclusivity. We're with you. Oh, no, sorry, my mistake. Some of us aren't included.

The End is Near
The Great God, Science, has spoken. We all have 100 seconds to live. Say your goodbyes quickly. Okay, not actual seconds. But the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock was updated to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been. Why? There are fears of nuclear options from Iran and North Korea, cyber-enabled information warfare, and the threat of total annihilation via human-caused climate change, and such. Mind you, the clock is so reliable that the furthest it has ever been from midnight is 17 minutes, so keep that in mind while you contemplate the possibility of nuclear war or climate change as an extinction event (which, by the way, science says is not the case).

Unfair Comparison
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared abortion to slavery at a Colorado Christian University event in Washington, D.C. Stupid, I know. "[Lincoln], too, contended with the 'pro-choice' arguments of his day," she said. "They suggested that a state’s 'choice' to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it." Don't be silly, Nancy. You can't compare abortion with slavery. In slavery people get owned, but if they die it's a loss. In abortion killing babies is considered a good thing. Slavery is much better than abortion.

Toxic Masculinity
It was gratifying to read about the woke man in Illinois who struck a blow against toxic masculinity by allowing his wife to shovel the driveway.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Unconditional/Conditional Promises

We find the promises of God to be precious promises. He is faithful. He keeps them. But are they conditional or are they unconditional? Of course, the right answer to that is "Yes." Some are conditional and some are not. I think, however, that it's more complicated than that.

I'm thinking about the story in Acts. You remember. They were sending Paul to Rome for trial. They were on a ship and it wasn't going well. They were in a storm throwing stuff overboard to try to save themselves and not eating for days. Then Paul tells them some encouraging news.
"I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.'" (Acts 27:22-24)
If you examine the statement, you'll see a promise without condition. "God has granted you all those who sail with you." Great!

But the story takes an odd turn. They neared land and they dropped anchors to keep from dying on the rocks. The sailors knew this was a dead-end course of action (pun intended), so they planned to get in the life raft and sneak off. "Uh ... we're just going to check the anchors." And Paul tells the centurion in charge, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31). Now, hang on, Paul. You didn't mention any conditions before. You didn't say anything about conditions at all. And, yet, here it is. If the sailors leave, everyone dies.

Well, of course, as it turns out Paul was convincing, the centurion pulled them in, threw out the life raft, and everyone was saved. That is, God's promise was fulfilled. As he said.

How does that work? No conditions were given on the promise, but when they tried to do something other than the plan, there was a threat that the promise was null and void? That's problematic. I mean, if God is omniscient (hint: He is) then He would know about this upcoming little attempt to sneak out and could have said something up front. Maybe it was a ploy on God's part? That doesn't seem right. It appears that God made a promise and He kept it without fail, but there was necessary behavior on their part. His unconditional promise didn't include it, but it was there just the same.

Is it possible then, going with this example, that God makes promises that He keeps but still expects us to avoid certain things or to do certain things. In His "line of sight" He already knows if we will, so the promise is not in question. In our "line of sight" we are an "unknown" and could upset the cart, so to speak, but we don't. The outcome is not in question even though it appears to us that we are and, therefore, the outcome is. I can think of other ways that this kind of thing might show itself in Christian living. Can you?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

If You Know What's Good For You

I've been reading through the Psalms of late. Not a short read (150 chapters, including the longest chapter in the Bible — Psa 119). I came across this interesting prayer from David.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. (Psa 141:3-5)
David considered it important to guard his mouth. In today's world "free speech" means, "I can say whatever I want." David asks God to prevent him from doing that.

He goes on to ask for protection of the heart. Now, we know we're supposed to resist temptation (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9), but David understands the problem of self-effort. We don't sin because we're tempted; we're tempted because we're sinners. Sin isn't external, something that falls on us. It's a heart problem, and David asks for God's assistance there. He also recognizes that we are more inclined to sin when we busy ourselves with the wicked. Like Paul said, "Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor 15:33).

The one that really caught my attention, though, was that last request. "Let a righteous man strike me." What? "It is a kindness." What?! In our current "Don't judge" and "Be tolerant" (whatever they mean by those terms) world, this is the polar opposite of what we'd expect anyone to say. Where "Only God can judge me" is a popular bold claim, David prays for correction, even painful correction. He calls it a kindness. He says it's oil for his head.

It is true; we need that. Oh, no, we don't need a line of "helpful" people with fists and bats ready to "beat" on us about our sin. David asked for one — "a righteous man." And David recognized it wouldn't be pleasant — "Let my head not refuse it." But we are commanded to "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). Part of that is restoring fellow believers who sin (Gal 6:1). And we would be less than honest if we held that the "believer who sinned" was always somebody else and not us at times. Each of us needs loving, righteous believers to correct us when we're wrong as an act of kindness. Each of us also likely needs to pray that we take it well, because correction is rarely pleasant.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

In His Image

KFC had to apologize for their sexist ad. The ad had a young woman in a low-cut outfit using a nearby reflective car window to check herself out. The window rolls down and a mom with a couple of teenage boys are looking back from inside the car. Mom as not pleased; the boys are agape. Embarrassed, the woman recovers with, "Did someone say KFC?"

Never mind that the commercial is stupid. What does one have to do with the other? What did they tell me about KFC that would ... advertise KFC to me? Makes no sense. But the ruckus isn't over that. They're upset because it was a "regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure." You see, in real life you don't find women with low-cut clothing displaying too much to all who look merely to get attention, nor do teenage boys actually care to look. What nonsense! See?

I don't. The mother was not pleased. She was not in "boys will be boys" mode. Beyond that, however, those who are outraged don't seem to realize that this is how it works. Women don't display as much flesh as is legal because it doesn't work that way. And, yet, so many seem surprised that guys look. Strange.

I also find the double standard disappointing, even if it's expected. Women are perfectly capable and even permitted to return the favor. They can objectify men for income, weight, "size," "sexual satisfaction ratings," manliness, dress, etc. Men must not (and they really must not) objectify women, but women are permitted, indulged, and applauded for doing it to men.

The world has a double standard these days between women and men. Where men once ruled, women are working hard to push them out. It's everywhere. Well, almost. In the early days of Christianity women flocked to the faith. Why? Some of it was simply because of the power of the Gospel, but on top of that the view of women in Christianity was radically different than that in their world. Women were diminished in the culture, but Christianity held them in high regard. In the Church they were respected, important, "joint heirs." They were deaconesses, hosted churches, and were commended by Apostles. They were so far propelled in the churches over their cultures that Paul had to ask them to tone it down (e.g., 1 Cor 14:34-35).

Scripture is clear. Men and women are made by God in His image (Gen 1:26-27). (I would argue that the language of that text implies that "in His image" includes "male and female," that the two as complementary (Gen 2:18) together form a more complete image of God than either one alone.) Our world seems to only be able to manage either "Men are supreme" or "Women are supreme" where God says, "I value both as My image bearers and you ought to do the same."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Heretical

The word, "heretical," refers to an "opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine." We get that. The word comes from the Greek, "aihretikos." So in Titus in the King James Bible we read, "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject" (Titus 3:10). Now, if you look at your modern versions, that word doesn't appear there. Young's Literal Translation says "sectarian." Others use "divisive" or "stirs up division." That's because the Greek word does not mean "doctrine at variance with orthodoxy." It means "schismatic." It means "causing schisms or division."

We are keenly aware of division. Obviously there is much division in culture, politics, nations, etc., but I'm talking here about Christian division. We are supposed to be one (John 17:20-21), united (Eph 4:13), like-minded (Php 2:2). And, yet, we have denominations, divisions, even schisms. We should wish to heal those divisions, but how to go about it?

The first thing we're told to do is to simply drop that word, "heretical." There is not "heresy" in the standard definition of the word. That's because there is no "orthodoxy." Orthodoxy is "accepted doctrine" and we just don't have such a thing, so let's just drop both as valid terms. Nice in theory, but not in practice. The second thing is to stop judging. Don't tell them they're wrong; just love them. Show them grace. Embrace them regardless of what you deem to be their errors. Because, after all, you only have your own opinion on which to call it "their errors." And -- poof! -- division is gone.

There is a problem here. It's not biblical. In the Old Testament God and His prophets repeatedly address divisions, heresies, straying from God's truth. It makes them (and God) very unpopular. But they did it. In the New Testament much of Paul's writings were aimed at addressing error, from immorality (1 Corinthians) to legalism (Galatians) to Gnosticism (Colossians) and more. And so did Peter. And John. And James. And Jude. And ... well, you get the idea. Some of the New Testament was intended to explain more fully the principles of the faith, but most of that is accomplished by addressing the errors -- straying from orthodoxy. Jesus did it often, from "You have heard that it was said ... but I say unto you ..." to the cleansing of the Temple (Matt 21:12-13) to the seven woes to the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:1-26) and so on. Jesus certainly taught truth, but He also spent a great deal of time correcting error. The Bible urges us to correct, not ignore error.

We've got it turned around these days. We seem to think that the correct response to error is acceptance. "If you don't accept it, you're being divisive. Stop it." Not true. The division is in the error, not the one who notices or attempts to correct it. If Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and God's Word is truth (John 17:17), then isn't it important to help those who deviate from it to return? The Bible says that Scripture is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). Wouldn't it be good to use Scripture to teach, to reprove error, to offer correction, and to train in righteousness? Is it not wise, caring, and loving to follow the examples of Christ, the prophets, and the Apostles and seek to address rather than ignore division? At least, that's how it would appear to me.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Startling Truth about Troubles

Peter's first epistle was largely written on the topic of suffering. It's interesting because the actual major persecution of Christians didn't occur until later -- maybe a decade or more. Peter wasn't writing it because people were burning under Nero. Thus, the suffering isn't merely persecution; it's all of it. But what Peter says is a bit surprising.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Peter says some wonderful things here about suffering. 1) He agrees that suffering is grievous. When you are told, "Buck up," like that makes it okay, don't listen. Scripture recognizes that suffering is not pleasant. 2) Peter assures us that it's "for a little while," which certainly is good to know. Suffering often seems interminable. It's not. Now, "for a little while" is relative and, in view of eternity, could easily encompass "for the rest of your life," but it is still a little while, not forever. 3) Suffering has a purpose for believers. It tests faith, because faith untested is faith unsure. Suffering verifies the genuineness of faith, more precious than gold. Suffering has a good purpose.

There is a phrase there that I skipped. Did you notice? Peter writes about trials "if necessary." Now that's a bit strange, isn't it? Necessary? Peter explained here that they're necessary for testing your faith. Peter says they result in praise and glory and honor. That, I guess, makes it necessary. But do you understand the connotation here? God considers suffering necessary. That's a bit startling, isn't it?

Peter says, Not to be surprised at fiery trials, "But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:13). Rejoice? That's odd. He goes on to confirm what he implied in that text from the 1st chapter. "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Peter 4:19). There he offers no ambiguity. We suffer "according to God's will." Put it another way: God wills that we suffer. It is necessary.

The Bible isn't ambiguous about this. We suffer by God's will. We endure by God's power. We rejoice in His presence during hard times. When Jesus was on Earth, Peter tried out two options on what to do in troubled waters (Matt 14:28-32). His first strategy was to look at Christ, and he walked on water. His second was to look at the storm and he sank. Our best strategy in troubled times is to keep our eyes on Christ, not the problems. But we can be confident that these things don't happen apart from God, that they are for our benefit, that they are necessary, and that they produce good for us. A little odd from the normal human thinking, but it doesn't seem like normal human thinking has a better strategy than "trust God."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Life Matters

Sanctity of Life Sunday is the day we remind each other that human life matters. I don't know how we got to the point that we have to remind ourselves, but we're there. Human life is no longer that significant to our culture. Even Christians struggle with it. What does God think?

Humans are unique in creation. God created humans in His own image (Gen 1:26-27). According to God, this demands that humans value humans as God's image bearers (Gen 9:6). Human life matters.

You can find this all over Scripture, but one place that lays it out clearly is the 139th Psalm. The simple starting line, "O LORD, you have searched me and known me!", is astounding on its own. Why? Why does God know me? You see, when it says He knows me, it doesn't mean, "He has data points on me." It doesn't mean He has all the information. It means He knows me in an intimate and loving fashion. God knows me that way. Life matters.

David says, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa 139:16). This is intimacy. And it is from the beginning, before we take form. "How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!" (Psa 139:17). Life matters.

We live in a crazy mixed up world that can't tell one sex from another, that doesn't know the meaning of marriage, that prefers women's careers to babies' lives. It is tragic, to be sure. We know the source of this confusion, and it's not "the Left." The truth is, however, that it doesn't matter if our world doesn't get it. Life matters. It matters to God. It ought to matter to us. When more people die of abortion than the combined total of the next four leading causes of death, it is too much. But don't think this is a political issue. It's not. It's a spiritual issue. Killing those made in the image of God is a delight to those who hate God, initiated first by the father of lies. So political action may be useful, but prayer is essential because good laws won't change hearts. Only God can do that.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

News Weakly - 1/18/20

Insanity in the Public Square
NBC did a helpful piece helping us to understand that the pain of menstruation is more than just physical ... for transgender men. Now, "do the math" here. We're talking about biological females who identify as males. The article begins, "When transgender model and activist Kenny Ethan Jones experienced his first period, he faced both physical and psychological pain. Initially, Jones, who had not yet come out as trans at the time, felt like he was losing control and didn’t understand what was happening to his body. However, one thing was clear: He didn’t feel like himself." Does anyone else experience the mental collisions and confusions over such a paragraph? Why would a biological female be surprised at a period? Why wouldn't the fact that "He didn't feel like himself" be a clue that he's not a 'he'? Why is it that clear medicine and science doesn't scream "This just isn't right, folks"? How does removing the female symbol from sanitary product packaging help at all?

In other news, Michigan is considering adding a "non-binary option" to their driver's licenses. If you identify as a different gender, they'll allow it. In addition, in order to be completely equitable, they will allow for optional names, addresses, races, and birth dates just in case the driver wishes to identify as someone else. Oh ... no? Huh. I wonder why not? Why are they so rigid?

True Colors
Elizabeth Warren offered a new plan to eliminate student loan debt if she is elected president. While most presidents have to deal with Congress -- you know, the rule of law -- Warren plans to bypass Congress because clearly she is not concerned with the rule of law. There is, reportedly, a real problem with student debt in America. More than $1.5 trillion, apparently. Nobody knows how that happened. It looks like unscrupulous forces just assigned debt to people merely because they went to college. We'll get to the bottom of this economic travesty as soon as we replace Trump, I'm sure.

Art-Diversity
Writer Stephen King was blasted this week for tweeting that he didn't consider diversity when determining the quality of art. When it came to the gender or racial make up of a movie, he didn't consider it. He merely consider whether or not he thought it was good art. Loser. Doesn't he know that art can't be good if it doesn't include diversity. Doesn't he know that Michelangelo painted with black people and sculpted with Asians to make such great art? Doesn't he know that the quality of a piece is determined by whether or not a proper mix of race and gender is included? What's wrong with that guy?

Change That Matters
Virginia has become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment to our Constitution. This amendment has been around a long time. (It was introduced to Congress in 1923 and offered to the States in 1972.) The rule is if 38 states (75%) approve an amendment, then it becomes part of the Constitution. There is still a question of the timeline. The window for state action is long past. We'll see how this goes.

Note that we're in a bit of a crisis here. The amendment is designed to guarantee that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." Sounds good. But between 1972 and 2020 things have changed. "Sex" used to mean "male" and "female" and it no longer does. "Rights" used to be limited to some sort of law, but they no longer are. (Think, "right to a living wage," for instance. Or consider that "Art-Diversity" story above.) So the ERA, once intended to hand normal rights to both genders, will now hand extraordinary rights to nonexistent genders ... and, in all likelihood, remove existing legal rights from some that currently have them. (Imagine going to jail -- loss of the right to freedom -- for not using the "proper pronoun." It has happened elsewhere based on "gender" and "rights.") Given the current insanity of American thinking on matters of gender and rights, this does not bode well for us.

The End is Near
So, the House has sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Pelosi told the trial managers, "This is about the Constitution of the United States and it's important for the president to know and Putin to know that American voters — voters in America — should decide who our president is." Now I'm confused. The House impeached Trump for trying to get the Ukraine to sully Biden's name before the election and for obstruction of Congress. Where is Putin in all of this? Didn't Mueller clear that whole thing up? This isn't about collusion with Russia. Why is she talking about Putin? Jerry Nadler said, "If the Senate doesn’t permit the introduction of all relevant witnesses and of all documents that the House wants to introduce because the House is the prosecutor here, then the Senate is engaging in an unconstitutional and disgusting cover-up." You mean like the House which didn't allow Republicans or the president or any of the possible testimony that might have disagreed with their findings? Sounds a lot like a double standard to me.

(Please keep in mind that I am not opposed to the Senate impeaching the president. To tell the truth, I'd be happy with that. "President Pence" has a nice ring to it. I'm just calling shenanigans as I see them.)

Unclear on the Concept
The story begins, "An abandoned baby rescued from a bin in Singapore has aroused widespread sympathy, drawing several offers of adoption." While I, of course, applaud those who step forward to help this child, I don't know why it's a story. I mean, everyone knows that you don't toss a baby into a bin if you want it, and aren't we all agreed that a baby that is not wanted is not a person? What's up with that?

What Is Wrong With You People?
The headline reads, "Tennessee governor says he will sign anti-gay adoption bill." First, I'm pretty sure that he did not say that. "Yes, I will sign this anti-gay adoption bill." Second, a bill that allows faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to receive funding even if they exclude LGBTQ families is not an "anti-gay" bill; it is a religious freedom bill. If the bill restricted adoptions to heterosexual couples only, they might have a case. It doesn't. But we know the current media positions and we know that American sheeple will follow their lead.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Love and Sovereignty

God has an image problem. While some Christians try to point out that Scripture says God is Sovereign, that God hates sin, that God is just, that God is, in fact, wrathful over sin, others tell them to back off. "Hey, hey, God is not like that. He's loving. He's gracious. He's merciful. The God you're describing is not the God we know." So, which is it?

There is a problem at the outset. We have two groups that appear to be pitting God ... against God. We have certain attributes of God -- Sovereignty, Justice, hating sin, etc. -- at odds with other certain attributes of God -- love, grace, mercy, etc. So, clearly, one (or the other) is wrong. And that just can't be. We get our best, most detailed, most reliable information about God from His Word. We get some from nature (Rom 1:19-20) and that's fine, but it's only some and open to discussion. "I see power." "Well, I see a world that is red in tooth and claw, and that seems evil." The Bible isn't as ambiguous or open to opinion. God is love (1 John 4:8). He is also Sovereign (1 Tim 6:15). He is gracious (John 1:14) and merciful (Psa 69:16). He is just (Gen 18:25). God does have wrath (Rom 1:18). This isn't a God Restaurant; we don't get a menu to pick two things from Column A and two from Column B to form a DIY God. He is God -- the God He says He is. We have to take Him at His Word and go from there.

So how do we put together a God who condemns unrepentant sinners to eternal torment with a God of mercy? How do we reconcile a God who loves with a God who judges? How do we harmonize wrath and mercy? (Hint: It is not by eliminating one over the other.)

There are ways to put these together. I suspect that it begins with "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD" (Isa 55:8). We will need to be ready to see "love" and "Sovereign," for instance, in a different light than our "warm affection" versus "tyrant" mode so popular today. We will have to see how hell can be love and how mercy doesn't nullify justice. We will have to grasp that God sees things we don't in ways we don't for purposes we don't necessarily or fully understand. We will have to hold tightly to God's self-revelation as we go. That's because anything we worship other than the God we see in the Bible is an idol, not God.

I'm not aiming to go through God's attributes and traits here and explain how Column A aligns with Column B. I'm just urging you to do it. Don't let the outrage of those who, as it turns out, don't know God to sway you to a god who is not God. He is all that He says He is in His Word. Put that together and you'll find a more robust grasp of the God we love as well as a new understanding of our own mistaken views.

(For a little nudge in that direction, try reading Romans 3:21-26 and see if you can figure out how God can be both just and merciful simultaneously.)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Not to Us

What a remarkable statement!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
This isn't rocket science. There's a lot embedded in there, but it's all clear. There is our being born again, the hope we have through the resurrection of Christ, the imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance we have coming, the security we have for salvation based on the power of God. This is just wonderful stuff. I suspect, in fact, that it's so wonderful that sometimes we miss just how wonderful it is.

The thing that struck me most in this, though, was not all that stuff. It is a lot of great gifts, but what really struck me was the emphasis, the point, the direction. It is not "I've been born again" and so on. It is "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Everything -- everything -- that follows that sentence is not about me; it's about God. It's about "His great mercy" and the resurrection of His Son and the inheritance He is holding and His power to guard us. It's not about us.

Imagine a whiteboard. You know, the modern replacement of the blackboard. Only with multiple colors. So, you go to the meeting and set out on your presentation to the committee. You draw on the board with words and pictures and explain the business plan in all its glory. When you're done, you stop and wait for comments. If you heard, "My, my, isn't that whiteboard special? And look at all the colors. Marvelous!", you'd know something went wrong. We are the whiteboard and dry erase markers. We are God's message writ large. We are not the point; we're the tools. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). That's the idea. The point -- of your salvation, your inheritance, your security, your forgiveness, God's grace and mercy, the Holy Spirit given ... on and on -- is God. The point is His glory.

Let's not be glory hogs. Let's not be prideful whiteboards. God has absolutely done magnificently good things for us. Keep in mind it's not about us. It's about Him.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psa 115:1)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Death in the Family

Last week friends at church went to the funeral of a family member. "It's okay," they said. "He is with the Lord." This week we were notified of the passing of one of the oldest members in my father's considerably large family, memorial services to be held ... well, you get the idea.

Death is a touchy subject. There is the fundamental fear of death common to all creatures. There is the question of eternity -- in heaven or ... oh, no, don't ask that. There is the question of response. Do we weep or celebrate or ...? Some are pushing toward "celebrations of life" rather than funerals or the like. That addresses both our fear of death and the response, doesn't it? Distract ourselves from "death" and "celebrate" and we've got both problems answered. In fact, if we're just "celebrating a life," we don't have to ask that other question, either -- the one about eternity. But is this good? I get the idea and I'm not hard over on this, but I'm not sure it's the best idea. Celebrating the life of a loved one who passed on might ease some of the pain for the family and friends, but there will still be pain in the passing. It seems like there should be a better answer.

I know faithful believers who say, "When I go, I want you to celebrate because I'll be in the best possible place; I'll be with Jesus." Truly good news, but it misses the point. I won't mourn loved ones who pass on because I'm mourning for them. I'll mourn them for my loss. Neither the fear of death nor their eternal destination are part of that equation. I can and will rejoice for loved ones I know are with Christ; that doesn't address my own pain. But Scripture says we should not grieve as others do (1 Thess 4:13). Note that this is is not "Do not grieve." Just "not like them." How is it different? They "have no hope." So we grieve for fellow believers who "fall asleep" (the biblical euphemism) but not without hope. We "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17). Note the point there. "With the Lord" together. To those who are in Christ, there can be nothing better than to "always be with the Lord." That's hope. And that should inform my pain at the passing of a loved one. Grieve, just not like the others without hope do, because there is ultimate hope. My loss is temporary. "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thess 4:18).

I don't fear death. I look forward to it. I do fear dying. The process can be painful and frightening, but the actual end is marvelous. For me, to die is gain. But that doesn't address others who might be touched when I depart. I'll be in a better place (I don't think I can imagine a larger understatement), but at my passing I hope that those who are grieving are comforted with the hope that we will always be together with the Lord someday. A celebration of life is fine, but it shouldn't be all there is. That only counts if this life is all there is. It's not. And that gives me hope.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Clarification

I have, on many occasions on my blog over the years talked about issues around "Reformed Theology" or what is popularly called "Calvinism." I wrote Why I Am A Calvinist and more than once about why I am not a Calvinist. It's pretty clear, though, that I am convinced by Scripture of the basic theology that most people recognize as "Calvinism" (keeping in mind my distaste for that label and those who abuse it).

I don't beat that drum as much anymore. I haven't flagged in my convictions. I've just realized my concerns. There are far too many angry Calvinists out there, intent on convincing others to their position -- making "converts." I realized I wasn't interested in converts. You see, I don't think "Calvinist" defines "Christian" and I'm absolutely certain that there are genuine, born-again believers going to heaven from all sorts of other Christian lines of thinking. We are not to believe on the Lord Calvin to be saved. What, then?

Rachel Held Evans once wrote about how Calvinism makes her cry. She said it was not because she didn't think it was true, but because she was afraid it was. Of course the "Calvinism" she feared wasn't Calvinism -- not an accurate representation of the beliefs or views. She did express the most common objection I've found. "If that's what God is like, I don't want any part of Him." Her conviction was that if God is like "that" (her distorted version of Calvinism) He is not love and we are, above all, most to be pitied.

It's not that I want to convince brothers and sisters of my view. It's not that I think I'm smarter or better, or that those that disagree are less -- less faithful, diligent, loving, whatever. It's just that I think that the firm conviction of and confidence in the Sovereignty of God is the most comforting, satisfying thing I know. The Rachel Held Evans of this world look at pain, suffering, disasters, crimes, and all the bad stuff as "Oops!", something that got over on God, something that He couldn't or wouldn't handle, and that makes them feel better. I cannot fathom a God like that or why the thought would make me feel better. If I can show people (from Scripture -- always from Scripture) that God is Sovereign, that Man has a sin problem, that God cannot fail to save whom He intends, that God does all that is necessary to overcome the problems we have in getting to Him, that we "by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5) -- all that -- then I believe that those who come to believe it will be in a better place in life, in practice, in spirit.

That is, I think I have something wonderful to share. I think it is biblically and historically sound, consistent and rational. And I think it makes life far, far better. Why wouldn't I want to share that? You may not want it. It doesn't offend me that you don't. It's not my job to make converts on this. I just want you to have "nice things," even in your theology (which defines your practice). There are indeed angry Calvinists. I'm not one of them.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Denominations

One attack on Christianity comes from its denominations. "There are Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and a vast number of divisions within each. Which one (if any) is true?" That's the complaint. It's a mistaken complaint.

Denominations are not new. They aren't a "Protestant" process. Paul addressed them in 1 Corinthians. "What I mean is that each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.'" (1 Cor 1:12). Divisions. And it only got worse from there. But he rightly asks, "Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor 1:13). Obviously not.

Answers.com says that there are 41,000 different Christian denominations (including "non-denominational" denominations). (You may have heard a number like 33,000, but I think that's just Protestant denominations.) There are problems with this. First, these numbers separate out the same denomination in a different country. There are, for instance, African Methodists versus American Methodists. The same denomination is now two simply because of the country in which it is located. On the other hand, Roman Catholic churches practice different rites (using Roman Catholic -- one denomination -- as an example). They vary by location, but they're considered one denomination because they have one pope. If they were measured by the same standards as Protestant denominations, they'd be different denominations. Already the numbering has become a problem.

So what makes a "denomination"? Well, most think it's practice and belief. Often it's style of worship, style of services, locality, and language. It could be just a name or the way the church is organized. Sometimes it is differences in theology. However, if you define "Christian" (you know, as in "Christian denominations"), most of that either goes away or is largely irrelevant. Here, let me illustrate. We all know that there are "Calvinists" and "Arminians." Division, right? Yes. But what division? The "Arminians" came about when followers of Jacobus Arminius raised some questions regarding the central tenets from their textbooks that came largely from Calvin. To what did they object? Out of all the information in their textbooks, they had five points ... only five. To tell the truth, scholars think that Calvin himself would have likely agreed with the ruling of the Synod of Dordt that said they were wrong on those five objections, but you can't actually find the specific texts from Calvin that states the five things to which they objected. So, yes, there was a difference in theology, but 1) only on five of hundreds or even thousands of points and 2) not in anything essential to Christianity. That is, Arminians and Calvinists are still all Christians even though they differ on these few points. In the same way, there are variations and differences in small areas about theology or practice between various denominations, but not in essential Christianity. So the National Catholic Register disputes the "33,000 Protestant denominations" saying that number is vastly overblown. It includes things that aren't Christian, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Universal Unitarians, and even "Arab radio/TV network" (19 denominations). If they aren't Christian, they aren't "Christian denominations."

The numbers, then, are wrong. Not 41,000 and not 33,000. Something far, far less. But the bottom line is the numbers are not my primary concern. My primary concern is the concept. We're talking about Christian denominations here, but we also use the term, "denominations," for money, for instance. You can get bills in denominations of ones or fives or tens or ... well, you get the idea. Let me ask you: which of these are not money? Obviously they are all money. The fact that they are different denominations does not change the fact that they are all the same essence -- money. The same is true for Christian denominations. There are variations in practice or preference, how services are performed or fine points of doctrine that differ, a whole range of differences. But if they are Christian, they are all the same essence. Put that another way. If they are all the same essence, then they are all Christian despite their denomination. And at this point "denomination" becomes essentially irrelevant (literally) and we can get to Jesus's prayer:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)
We can arrive at Paul's claim:
There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:4-6)
It is nonsense to deny that there are differences in the Christian church. There are. But let's be clear. In the essence of what is "Christian," there is no difference or it is not "Christian." As such, "denomination" is not a problem and when we make it a problem we're failing to understand the situation. We're causing division where it need not be. Scripture says, "God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor 12:24-25). Scripture warns, "As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11). Let's not be "that guy." Is Christ divided? No. Let us not us be divided on matters that don't deserve it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Worship?

"Worship," they tell me, "is that part of the church service when you sing songs to God." Well, of course, they don't really mean that. When you sing, I guess, but sometimes they're songs to yourself about God. Okay. Songs to or about God. Or thereabouts. "No, no," others tell me, "it includes the offering, where you give of what God has given you back to God." Okay, fine, so we have singing and giving. A pastor told me, "Yes, those are components, but the real worship takes place in the preaching of the Word." And then they'll argue back and forth about that. So ... what is it?

The dictionary defines it as "reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred." Worship in its simplest form is when you apply "worth-ship" to someone (or something). In fact, the Middle English from which we get our word, worship, is worthssipe. You can see, then, that worship can involve God or it can involve anything or anyone to whom you apply worth. For instance, Scripture clearly condemns false worship. It is worship, but it's wrong.

Jesus told the woman at the well, "The God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). So true worship involves spiritual worship. And it involves truth. Paul says that to be a living sacrifice is our spiritual service of worship (Rom 12:1). In Scripture, the Hebrew word refers to prostrating yourself. The Greek word refers to kissing the hand, prostrating yourself, or kneeling. From the language in both cases, then, you would understand that the proper attitude of worship is submission.

With this view of worship it becomes hard to think of it as that which pleases me, but we do. We want something that appeals to us, that makes us feel good. Oh, feel good toward God, sure, but it's about us and our feelings. That's why most of us are taken aback a little when the pastor says "It's in the preaching of the Word." But if you understand worship to be our prostrating ourselves before God in spirit and in truth, then you come to a completely different place. It's not about us. It isn't limited to singing or even giving. It isn't even limited to Sunday. You come to the place that worship, properly understood, would be aimed at that which pleases the Master, not us. That is a line of thinking, even an attitude, worth pursuing.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

News Weakly - 1/11/20

How Soon We Forget
In 2001 terrorists killed over 3,000 Americans. We were outraged. "Never forget" became a meme of sorts. But, I guess we forgot. In 2011 President Obama sent U.S. forces into an allied nation to capture and kill the mastermind of that attack in 2001. He wasn't captured and brought back for trial; he was killed, his body taken to sea and thrown overboard. America applauded. But I guess we forgot. Last week President Trump ordered a drone strike on a cell of terrorists who had been attacking the American embassy in Iraq. Clearly we forgot, because the response has not been "Thank you for keeping us safe, Mr. President." The response has been outrage and protests. One celebrity apologized to Iran on behalf of the U.S. for "disrespecting their flag and people" and asked for help in escaping our "terrorist regime." The U.N. thinks it's cruel to prosecute crimes by putting people in jail. I guess the American people think that defending American people is equally evil. Because apparently we've already forgotten 9/11.

Taking a Cue from California
You may recall the story about the increase in shoplifting that California experienced after passing a law that said they wouldn't arrest people for shoplifting less than $950 worth of merchandise. Seeing the success of California's criminal justice reform, New York tried the same thing. So when they arrested a man for a burglary spree, they released him without requiring bail, and he went out and ... you guessed it ... committed another burglary less than 24 hours of his release. Little hint here, folks. Decreasing crime laws doesn't decrease crime. California demonstrated it. New York demonstrated it. Seems like a no-brainer.

Human-Caused
Russell Crowe gave a Golden Globes acceptance speech via message to Jennifer Aniston in which he begged for people to take global climate change seriously since human-caused global climate change is the cause of the devastating fires in Australia. Search the Internet; you'll see he's right. Except, he's not. An Australian government website has a graphic showing rainfall in Australia for the past 120 years. While 2019 was a spectacularly bad year for rainfall in Australia, some of the highest years for rainfall have been in the past 20 years. You know, as the problem has been increasing. More importantly, Australian law enforcement have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses since November. Some are arson, but more are cases of discarded cigarettes or lit matches or disregarding no-fire rules. Authorities estimate that 85% of the fires in Australia are human-caused -- either arson or negligence -- not climate caused. The bad rain year would contribute to the problem, but climate change is not the cause; humans are.

[A moment of reflection. What did you just read? "Stan doesn't care about the fires in Australia." No, I consider them "devastating" and urge all efforts to help Australia in this crisis. "Stan denied global climate change." No. You just read that 85% of the fires in Australia are human-caused, not climate-caused. Please don't take this to mean something that isn't there.]

Double Standards
(See? I told you I might need a "Double Standards" category as a regular feature.)

A Mormon woman in Oregon encouraged her husband to confess his sins in front of the clergy. (His sins were multiple sexual interactions with a girl under the age of 16.) He did ... and the church reported him to the authorities. So she's suing the church. You know this is a no-win, right? If they report it they've violated their (nonexistent) confessional confidentiality. (That's a Catholic thing, not an LDS thing.) If they don't report it ... well, ask Paige Patterson. The evil LDS church says its priority is protecting victims. The wife isn't concerned about victims, so she's suing. Because she and her family are the victims now, I guess, and that's all that matters. Not truth or justice.

Unequal Equality
Back in February of 2019 a federal judge ruled that a male-only draft violated the Constitution. So it's a bit odd that the recent rush on the Selective Service caused problems. Many people were worrying about their daughters getting drafted to join "Trump's war" (my term, no one else's) with Iran. As it turns out "Women cannot be drafted as current legislation governing the Selective Service only refers to 'male persons,' so the drafting of women would require new legislation," according to the Selective Service. Now, I'd much rather that we didn't send the finest of human kind into the worst that human kind can do, but what's up with equality? They want to be allowed into combat, but not drafted. I saw similar double standards when I was in the service. Females I worked with wanted to be "treated as equals" until the treatment meant that they'd be made uncomfortable ... like the males might be. I offered to treat them with equality -- "Here, you carry this 80 lb transmitter and I'll get the toolbox." -- and they demurred. No male coworker suggested he shouldn't do the work. But the point is that it's not about equality. It's about power. They want the power to choose (Sound familiar?), a choice that others sometimes don't get. They want equal privilege without equal responsibility. Beware of the "equality" plea. It's not always "equal treatment" that they seek. (Please note: This is a generalization. It is not true of all "equality" seekers. Just generally true.)

The False Dilemma
The House (read "Nancy Pelosi") has been holding on to those articles of impeachment since last year when the House (not the Senate and not all of Congress, despite what you think you've heard) impeached Trump. The Senate needs to do the same procedure of examining the evidence and coming to a conclusion now, but Pelosi has been waiting for indications of a "fair trial." What does that mean? Not what it sounds like. She told Democrats that she is getting ready to send them up, perhaps next week. But she added this. "In an impeachment trial, every senator takes an oath to 'do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.' Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution." This is a classic logical fallacy, the false dilemma. You can either impeach Trump or deny the Constitution. There is no option to disagree with the House regarding the president's culpability. In this version, "fair trial" can only be "impeach Trump" and anything else is "against the Constitution" -- not fair. We've seen this before. We'll see it again. It doesn't bode well for a bipartisan cooperation when the only "fair" thing is "my way."

Pray
I got an email from Ligonier the other day. They asked for prayer. The email said that they had translated R.C. Sproul's sermon, What did Christ do?, into Farsi and were transmitting it Thursday night into Iran. Pray for Iran to receive the Gospel, because "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16).

For Humor Sake
The Babylon Bee had a string of excellent headlines this week. The Bee links to current events and offers a bit of satire for your enjoyment (or not). For instance, the Bee released a headline "Democrats Call for Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death of Soleimani," and a CNN reporter complained that the satirical story was watched read more than CNN's. So the Bee followed up with "CNN Attacks Babylon Bee: 'The Internet Is Only Big Enough For One Fake News Site'." At the Golden Globe Awards Michelle Williams gave an impassioned speech about keeping abortion legal, suggesting that she is the success she is today because of abortion. The Bee offered, "Michelle Williams: 'Sometimes You Just Have To Ask Yourself, 'How Many People Do I Have To Kill To Get An Acting Career?'." And I just laughed at the headline, "Democrats Grasping At Straws To Impeach Trump Now Regret Banning Straws." To name a few.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A Lamp Unto My Feet

In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:17). That sounds like Jesus is praying that we would be sanctified by the Word. Indeed, that principle is repeated elsewhere. Telling husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, Paul explains that He "gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:25-26). And there it is again. Sanctified by "the washing of the water of the word." So apparently God's Word is important. Critical, in fact. Is it any wonder, then, that the Word is under attack?

"It's not reliable," they argue. "It's man-made," they contend. "It's just a book." The Bible disagrees. Being "breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16), it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). In God's word we discover what is true ("teaching"), what is in error ("reproof"), how to fix error ("correction"), and how to live godly ("training in righteousness"). So effective is this tool (versus "unreliable," "man-made," or "just a book") that it can complete God's people and equip them for every good work.

Still the critics seethe. Both without and within the church, they doubt the content and effectiveness of Scripture. It's unreliable, unknowable, and largely irrelevant. To which I say that the Bible, apparently, doesn't know that.

The 119th Psalm is the longest chapter of the Bible. It is a celebration of God's word. Structured around the Hebrew alphabet, it has 22 sections, each beginning with its corresponding Hebrew letter. The text employs the widest ranges of synonyms for God's word that you'll find anywhere ... repeatedly. Despite the skeptic's claim that "the Bible isn't a book of rules," the author of the psalm includes descriptions like "promise" (Psa 119:41), "word" (Psa 119:42), "rules" (Psa 119:43); "law" (Psa 119:44), "precepts" (Psa 119:45), "testimonies" (Psa 119:46), "commandments" (Psa 119:47), and "statutes" (Psa 119:48). (If you were paying attention, those all occurred successively under one Hebrew letter.) In this list you can find the bulk of the content of Scripture. There are, from God, promises, information, rules, laws, precepts, testimonies, commandments, and statutes -- all that is required to equip God's people for every good work.

The author of the psalm has more to say on the subject. Those who keep God's testimonies are blessed (Psa 119:2). God's word will keep a young man's way pure (Psa 119:9). He repeatedly speaks of his delight (not apathy or ambivalence or loathing) for God's word. Love for His word produces joy, comfort, protection, direction, hope, and delight among other things. There are almost unbelievable things in there, like, "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction" (Psa 119:92). Delighting in God's law kept him from perishing in trials. Not God's promises, God's support, or God's strength; God's law. One of the best known verses is this.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105)
The best direction in life comes from God's word.

Jesus taught that we are sanctified -- set apart and made holy -- by God's word. The Bible says that the Scriptures are effective enough to complete and equip God's people for every good work. The psalmist delights in every aspect of God's word, from laws and commands to precepts and testimonies. God's word is protection, direction, even elation. I know that continuing loud voices outside and inside the church assure you that the Bible isn't all that -- not all that important, reliable, relevant, readable, or useful. It's a lie. And we know the father of lies.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Where Science is Not Allowed

For much of modern culture Science is the new god. Forget God. We don't need Him anymore. I mean, we're alright with the whole "be kind" kind of thing, but nothing really religious. Science can explain where the universe came from. Science can tell you what causes weather and disasters. Science knows the origins of human beings. Science rejects your puny God. You anti-Science "faith" types can go now. We have a new god.

Well, almost.

We've replaced God with Science unless something else is preferred. For instance, we will not allow Science to deter us from affirming that there is such a thing as "non-binary gender." It is absolutely foreign to Science. There is no measure of "gender fluidity." You can't test for "He was born a male, but he's actually a female." But Science is not allowed in this question. We will do what we want.

Another clear no-go zone for Science is the question of human life. Oh, sure, Science can tell us that human life begins at conception, but don't you dare ask Science for a definition of "personhood." Not gonna happen. So while Science has no possibility of "human person" and "human non-person," we do. Do not point out that this kind of "non-person human" is right out of 18-19th century slavery, eugenics, and Nazi Germany. The "untermenschen" -- the "under men" -- the concept of the non-person people is precisely how slavery and the Holocaust got their power to exist. That is the current modus operandi of modern abortion theory. So, no, Science is not welcome here. We will do what we want.

These types of things are obvious. Don't tell us that Science says that transgenders commit suicide at an alarmingly higher rate than others and that it isn't a product of not being accepted. Don't point out the Scientific proof that "marriage" used in terms of "same-sex" is not the same thing as "marriage" in terms of opposite sex. In these kinds of situations, we do not want facts. But there are others. In other cases we "welcome" Science because it backs our current norm which defines our current morality. One example of that is the question of corporal punishment. "Studies" have "proven" that spanking "is linked to aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, low self-esteem, and a whole host of other negative outcomes." (Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A. Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology. 2016.) There! We like Science. Except that we have a problem. Science here disagrees with ... Science. Did the studies differentiate between illegal abuse or enraged spankings and spankings done calmly? No. Turns out that the latter do not have the same negative outcomes. Do the studies figure out causation? That is, there is correlation, perhaps, but what makes them think that it is a cause? Did the studies ask what happens in the case of loving parents that use spanking as a careful and limited tool to teach their children proper behavior? No. But, that's okay. The findings of the other studies are fine with us, regardless of whether or not they are reliable, well-formed, or reasonable. Or, whatever you do, don't ask Science about the actual origins of the species ... or anything else. In the end they admit they don't know. Or, worse, they jettison rationality and go with "Everything that exists came from nothing at all." In the end Science denies Science because nothing can come from nothing and there are too many Scientific problems with the Science of the origin of the species. No, no, not that Science. In cases like this the Science we admit is the Science we like.

I guess, then, there is some sort of consistency. Religion is okay when it says what we want. Science is allowed when it agrees with us. That which does not agree with what we want is not allowed. In the end, then, we are god and we'll happily admit anything that bows the knee to us. Done!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Canteen Parable

We who are in Christ love forgiveness. It's a marvelous thing. Truly. Being forgiven of all unrighteousness is grand. But did you know it is not enough? I thought up this little story to illustrate.

Corporal Ted is part of a group that has a list of requirements because they are tasked with special duties. At any moment they can be sent anywhere in the world. So Ted's group is required to have certain things on hand at all times, including a packed duffel bag, personal equipment, and, oh, yeah, a canteen full of drinking water. At all times. So at some point Ted's group gets inspected. The sergeant comes through and inspects bags, equipment, even canteens. And Ted's canteen is full of something foul. Horrible. Offensive. "Clean that out, soldier!" his sergeant orders, and Ted complies. Ted returns to the group with a cleaned and sterilized canteen ready to be inspected. And he fails the inspection ... again. Why? He cleaned out the offensive content. What's left? Ted's instructions were to have a canteen filled with drinking water. He no longer had a dirty canteen, but neither did he have a canteen filled with drinking water.

Forgiveness is like that first step. We come to "inspection" and find out that our lives (canteens) are filled with sludge. Horrible, offensive, even toxic sludge. And we take it to Christ and it is cleaned. Problem solved, right? No, it's not. The offense is removed, but the canteen is still empty. It is supposed to be full. You are to be holy as your Father in heaven is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). Clean is important, even essential, but more is needed. Complete righteousness. Perfection (Matt 5:48). Not merely empty.

If we stop at the marvel of forgiveness, as marvelous as that is, we miss the full story. Not only are we forgiven -- made clean. We are made the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). Imagine that! We are cleaned and filled with God's righteousness. Forgiveness is great, but there is so much more. That we are filled by God with His righteousness because of Christ is a story that is truly good news.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Judgmental

We have a knee jerk reaction these days to the word, "judgmental." We do not want to be judgmental. After all, didn't Jesus say, "Judge not"? So ... we should "judge not."

There is a problem here, however. If you actually read the text where Jesus said, "Judge not," you find out He said much more.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt 7:1-5)
So, He's not actually saying, "Never evaluate another person's life (sin, etc.)." We know this because He goes on to say that you should remove the log from your own eye so "you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." That is, if you're removing a speck, it's judging, isn't it? Thus, Jesus's command about "Judge not" was not "Never examine another person's life" because He said we should. (See also, for instance, Matt 7:15-16).

So what does He mean? Luke's version gives it a different "color." He starts with "judge not" but reiterates it with "condemn not" (Luke 6:37). Okay, that's a different idea. One is simply to analyze and evaluate and the other is to pass judgment complete with sentencing. One is to be a judge and the other is to be a judge and jury, so to speak. One is to discern and the other is to correct ... forcibly if necessary.

So what does the Bible say? It says, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:39). It says that this is in the sense of "nourishing and cherishing" (Eph 5:29). It says, "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life" (1 John 5:16). It says, "If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness" (Gal 6:1). See, those last two are tough to do if "Judge not" means "Never notice someone else's sin." They're the opposite, in fact.

So, we aren't supposed to be condemning, but we are supposed to recognize sin and address it. In what sense? In the context of loving your neighbor. For what purpose? For believers, it's to restore them. For unbelievers, it's to turn them to Christ. In both cases, it's in the context of loving your neighbor. You see, it is possible to recognize sin in others and be disdainful or self-righteous in it, and that would be wrong. It is also possible to recognize sin in others and care enough to help them through it. That's love. And we are commanded to love. Unfortunately, we tend to do the other version too often. Sounds like we need our own corrective action. You know, "log in your eye," that sort of thing.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Adultery

We know what adultery is. It is a specific "sexual immorality" aimed at the married. It would be sex between two people where one or both are married and not to each other. Not too difficult.

So Jesus came along and threw a wrench into the works.
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:27-28)
"Oh, that's nice, so ... wait ... what? 'Lustful intent' constitutes adultery??" Yep, that's what Jesus said. So now we have sex between two people or intent for sex. Yikes.

I want to make you aware of another biblical version. In Jeremiah God talks to the prophet about "that faithless one" and "all the adulteries of that faithless one" and about how He "sent her away with a decree of divorce" (Jer 3:6-10). Who was "that faithless one"? Israel. According to God, He divorced Israel because of her "whoredom." The warning to Jeremiah was that Judah hadn't learned from Israel and it didn't look any better for Judah.

This is neither the "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse" or lustful intent for the same. This is something else. This is spiritual adultery. And it appears to me that God is not happy about it. (Let's just say that "sent her away with a decree of divorce" doesn't sound like He was pleased.) So in what sense is this "adultery"?

In the Old Testament God describes Israel as His bride (Ezek 16:8-14, 32-34; Isa 54:5; Jer 31:32; etc.). The New Testament describes the Church as the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-27, 31-32; etc.). When a wife seeks satisfaction in another not her husband, it's called "adultery." Applying, then, the original definitions, when those who belong to God engage in intimate relations -- idolatry, covetousness, apostasy, etc. -- in place of God either by actual action or by "lustful intent," it is considered spiritual adultery. When we are spiritually unfaithful, we commit spiritual adultery. "You adulteresses," James warns, "do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Even in our current "sexual morality is defined by whatever I want" culture, adultery is still frowned upon. How embarrassing is it, then, when in the church we're a bit flippant about spiritual adultery? We think that friendship with the world is a virtue. We excuse our reverence for comfort, power, wealth, health, popularity, and more. We are a bit miffed when someone suggests we need to "save ourselves" for Jesus. You and I, brothers and sisters, really ought to rethink our cavalier approach to our spiritual adultery against our Bridegroom. Think of it this way. If your spouse gave you the same love and respect and attention that you give Christ in comparison to what you give to the world and all that in it is, would you be happy about it? For your consideration.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Enough

Solomon wrote, "Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it" (Prov 15:16). The sons of Korah wrote, "A day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa 84:10). David wrote, "One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple" (Psa 27:4).

There is a common theme here and elsewhere. I'll call it one word: "enough." The running principle here is that God is enough. There is nothing higher, nothing better, nothing more satisfying, nothing else worth Him. In Exodus God told His people, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exo 20:2-3). Now it might be thought that God was saying, "There are other gods, but you need to rank Me as #1." That wasn't the intent. This "before" means "In My presence." "You will be aware of other mighty entities," He is saying, "but they will not be regarded as gods in My presence." Oh, and let's not forget; He is omnipresent. So, nowhere. No other gods. At all. Anywhere. Why? because He is jealous (Exo 20:5). You know, that thing you experience when someone attempts to take something that is rightly yours and you ardently protect it. The feeling you have when you diligently and passionately seek the best for those you love in the face of the threat that they won't get it.

Given what we know about God, "enough" ought to be enough. He defines love, drastically demonstrated in the death of Christ. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and Sovereign. The only one. He always does what is right and defines "good." I'm sorry ... what more was it that you wanted? Because I can't think of a thing. Taking into account all that God is and all that He gives and all that He offers, there really isn't room for anything more. All we need is Him.

Paul wrote, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Php 4:11). How is that? Because "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Php 4:13). I want that contentment. I want to be satisfied in Christ. I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength (Neh 8:10). The only obstacle I face in that kind of utter contentment is my own flesh. I suppose a death is in order (Matt 16:24; Rom 8:13; Col 3:5; 1 Peter 3:18). Christ is enough.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

News Weakly - 1/4/2020

Another Double Standard
It feels like I need to have "Double Standard" as a regular feature for this News Weakly thing, because it seems to come up a lot. During the House impeachment hearings, folks from Trump's side attempted to refuse to comply with subpoenas for their testimonies. The Dems were outraged. "They're just trying to keep us from getting at the truth," they suggested. But when the possibility of a subpoena from the Senate for Joe Biden came up, he said he wouldn't comply. Why? Because it will let Trump off. How? Oh, no, you're not trying to keep the Senate (and the rest of the nation) from finding out the truth. That's only the Republicans that do that ... right? Yes, he walked that refusal back the next day. His turnaround wasn't less of a double standard. "I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial." But ... Mr. Biden ... isn't the question all about you?

Bad News
You probably heard about it. On Sunday a gunman stood up in a church in White Settlement, Texas, and opened fire. He killed two but was killed himself by a member of the church who was armed just for that reason. It's bad news for gun control fanatics. (I say "fanatics" to differentiate between the "Maybe we need some sort of regulations" and the "Take all the guns!" types.) There would have been far more dead if this man hadn't been armed. The police said the shooting ended in 6 seconds, far sooner than arriving police could have accomplished. On the side, I'm wondering. Is it significant that CNN thought an important element to this story was where White Settlement got its name? If you're curious, it was named that by indigenous people when white settlers moved into the area, so put aside any instant "White Supremacists!" knee-jerk reaction.

Safe Renewable Energy
A massive wind turbine installed in New York City fell down, destroying a billboard, a car, and other property. No one was injured. I know, bad things can happen, but there are those that argue that "wind energy is safe," thinking that it actually is. Not entirely.

The Latest in Law Enforcement -- Don't
A top U.N. official is complaining that Bradley Manning -- you might know him as Chelsea Manning -- is being tortured by the U.S. government. How? By jailing and fining him for contempt of court -- refusing to submit to a subpoena to testify in the WikiLeaks case. It's wrong, they're sure. Her lawyers have argued that being fined and jailed for refusing to comply with a grand jury is pointless, punitive, and cruel. The U.N. official calls it "deprivation of liberty." Got it. The right thing to do is not to fine or jail people who refuse to obey the law. We're clear now. Thanks, U.N.

Inclusive by Some Definition
American Girl makes dolls. Now they're making the first doll with a disability. This one will be hearing impaired. Because most dolls can hear just fine. They want to make dolls "more inclusive." (I'm fine with the concept, but couldn't anyone at all do that by simply telling the owner that the doll is disabled?)

In other "inclusive" news, Marvel is currently making a movie with a transgender character because they want Marvel to be more inclusive and diverse.

And in still other inclusive news, Netflix is producing a documentary to show what real Christians are like. Okay, just kidding. Let's not get carried away. The general public doesn't want to be that inclusive.

Heartwarming
Not all my News Weakly is aimed at the outrageous. In multiple stories this week, kindness made the news. In Ohio a Waffle House server and single mother of five was the recipient of a "flash tip" (my term). Multiple people gave her $100 tips, adding up to $800. One participant, Alan, said, "I just really prayed before I came ... that it would be a blessing for her." In Michigan a server was left with a $2,020 tip for a $23 meal. Recovering from recent homelessness, the woman was thoroughly grateful. And in one other story science is reporting that good deeds reduce pain and improve your health. And you always thought that God wanted us to do good just because He was a Cosmic Killjoy. Here's to your health.

Leading Cause of Death
According to Worldometers, an organization that keeps track of a whole bunch of worldwide statistics, as of December 31, 2019, more than 42 million babies had been killed by abortion in 2019. That is more than twice the worldwide deaths from cancer, smoking, alcohol, traffic accidents, malaria, and HIV/AIDS combined. It's not just about "women's choice."

All Very Confusing
So, the UK keeps making news because they couldn't care less about your religious freedoms. You will knuckle under to their popular thinking even if it savages your religious beliefs. Unless, apparently, you fall under "ethical veganism." A vegan who claims that his veganism is, essentially, a religion (a "philosophical belief"), complained because he believed he was fired for his "religious beliefs." His employer claimed it was for gross misconduct. The court ruled that ethical veganism is protected by the Equality Act (but, say, Christian beliefs are not). "'Religion or belief' is one of nine 'protected characteristics' covered by the Equality Act 2010," the story says. As long as your "religion or belief" doesn't cause you to use the wrong pronoun or suggest that biological sex cannot be changed, I guess.

Distraction
So, the president ordered a drone strike that killed the Iranian general leading attacks against Americans in Iraq. The Democrats are miffed. Trump shouldn't be killing terrorist leaders, apparently. Most interesting was Ilhan Omar's take. Trump is probably trying to distract us from the impeachment proceedings. Really? The proceedings that the House has blocked because they aren't confident that the Senate will rule the same way the House did? The proceedings that Pelosi has held up until she's confident the Senate will be "fair"? The proceedings ... that aren't happening because of the House? Maybe the House needs the distraction. Maybe Omar's tweet was a "thank you."

Many a Truth is Said in Jest
The Babylon Bee is a Christian satire site, but sometimes its headlines are pointed at Christians. Like this headline in the wake of the Trump impeachment proceedings: "Nation's Christians Wish God Had Given Them Some Kind Of Unimpeachable, Incorruptible Leader To Follow." In case you missed it, Christians, He did. If your faith is in Trump (or Bernie or ...), you're missing it.