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Monday, October 18, 2021

Vaccination Ruminations

I've got this issue right now and I'm just going to lay it out here with my own ruminations on the topic because it's weighing heavily. Back in January my wife and I both had COVID. It was really pointless in our case. She had a fever for a day and lost her sense of taste and smell for a few months and nothing more. In my case I was completely and totally asymptomatic. I was tested afterward and had the antibodies, but that was the only effect. So she and I are both immune to COVID ... the natural way. Get the vaccine? Why? We already know how it works. Our bodies already have better immunity than the vaccine could provide. Why? No thanks.

Well, you've been watching things progress, I'm sure. The prevailing winds are that you either get vaccinated or just plan to die. No work, no food, no medical care, nothing. Loser. No, not all, but it is not a small number and it is not declining. People are outraged that Texas Governor Abbott said we should all get vaccinated, but it shouldn't be forced. "Shouldn't be forced??!! Yes, it should!" The president's plan is to do an end-around on the law and get OSHA to require all companies with at least 100 employees to require vaccinations. He's already mandated that all federally connected employers vaccinate 100%. But I live in Arizona and Governor Ducey outlawed mandating masks or vaccines, so I was fine here. Or so I thought.

It came down last week that since I work for an organization that has some contracts with the federal government, everyone connected with this organization can either get vaccinated or go find a job elsewhere, thank you very much. "But, I'm already immune!" Nope, we'll have none of that. "But, what about exemptions?" Yes, they are allowing exemptions. If you can show (with doctor's proof) that you physically cannot tolerate the vaccine or can give a religious reason you shouldn't have to take it, there will be unnamed "accommodations."

Here's my problem. I have no medical reasons and I don't have a religious reason not to get vaccinated. I've looked in my Bible and it's not there. I've seen others' arguments and they fall woefully short of "biblical." Now, I could use one of theirs, perhaps, but then I'd violate several biblical principles (like honesty, integrity, etc.), so that makes no sense. And my sharp misgivings about the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine compared to its potential harm is not allowed. "We don't care what facts you bring or what convictions you have. You either bow the knee or go hungry." And that's a problem for me on its own. I know some who are "bravely" saying, "Well, if that's the way it is, then I'll go hungry." They're counting on the kindness of others to get them through. But wouldn't that put me in the "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thess 3:10) category? Great! Violating another biblical principle.

Now, I could retire from this job (at about 2/3rds of what I'm currently making) and hope to find another that doesn't require vaccines, but that's a hope, not a certainty. "God will protect you." Well, maybe, except that I can't point to anything that says, "God doesn't want you to get vaccinated," so I can't conclude that God will protect me for obeying Him rather than men since He didn't tell me not to get vaccinated.

Scripture doesn't help. Nothing tells me anything about this vaccine. Science doesn't help. Science tells us, "It's our best hope" even though only about 10% of the population have gotten sick and less than 2% of those have died and science indicates that immunity from having recovered from COVID lasts potentially years while the vaccine offers maybe 6 months before you get your next booster. (What's the plan - biannual boosters for life?) We don't know the long term effects and the whole thing is a grand new experiment on how to vaccinate and we all know that you can still get COVID and you can still spread COVID and you can still die from COVID, but all of that means nothing. Shut up and take this shot ... or else.

Well, I'm still not settled. I don't know what to do. I've been considering retirement for a couple of years. Maybe God is telling me, "Now!" I've had difficulties with this job for years and maybe God is telling me, "I've got something better for you. Go!" I'm tired of asking questions like "Why?" and "What about these concerns and those studies and all the disclaimers?" and "Why can't Big Pharma be held responsible?" and so on. There are legal questions and science questions and questions of liberty and ... but, I may just have to get used to questions in life that won't be answered and realize that I no longer live in a free country. Get over it. I don't know. I just don't know.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

When I was young, my parents thought it was important for their children to memorize Scripture. They tried all sorts of things. One that worked was to actually pay us. So they paid us a dollar to memorize. Okay, well, it wasn't that liberal. We would get a dollar to memorize a chapter, and the chapters that were available were of their choosing. So I memorized texts like Psalm 1 and James 1 and the like. And they have served me well. I found, later in life, that memorizing Scripture gives God a vocabulary, so to speak. On many occasions He has answered a question or prayer of mine by bringing to mind this passage or that verse.

One of my favorite chapters was Psalm 139, and, given my problems with self-image, I suspect my mother chose that one specifically for that purpose. There are important themes in this psalm. There is the absolute confidence that God is present and personal (Psa 139:1, 3-5). There is a broad assertion of God's Omnipresence (Psa 139:7-12). There is the very personal "O LORD, you have searched me and known me!" (Psa 139:1). This is bolstered by the reminder that God thinks of you (Psa 139:17-18) and the prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psa 139:23-24).

In the middle is this glorious concept, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psa 139:13-18). David claims that God Himself "knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psa 139:13). (Why that doesn't give self-identified Christians pause regarding abortion eludes me.) Perhaps you can see why this chapter would have something to say about self-image. David claims, "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) Think about that for a moment. Before you were born, God already had your days written down. He already knew what your life would look like. He already knew your choices, your successes, your failures, your idiosyncrasies, your strengths and weaknesses, your talents and shortcomings. He knew who your spouse would be and if you would have kids and ... it was already all written down.

For some people that's not helpful. They don't believe it or they don't like it. They don't want to think that God, like a Divine Author, wrote it all down before I ever made a single choice. They think it's a violation of my free will. Maybe it's infringement on my right to privacy or something? Me? I love it. In a world like ours when things look bad or things go bad, I love it. When a president I like or a president I don't like gets elected, I want to know that God wasn't left out of the loop. When a daughter comes down with cancer or a loved one dies suddenly, I want to know that it wasn't a surprise to my God. When I'm facing a challenge, I want to know that God isn't puzzled about the situation or the outcome. I want to know that a good God is there all the time and nothing eludes Him. We are indeed complex creations -- fearfully and wonderfully made -- and I am delighted to know that even though my doctors can't tell me what's causing this problem or that effect, God knows intimately and will always do what's best. Some may not like this; I find it immensely comforting.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

News Weakly - 10/16/2021

Only in California
California is requiring insanity from all large department stores. The law now dictates what stores can sell and how. They must sell toys and toothbrushes and the like in "gender-neutral ways." They must sell these items with "a reasonable selection." Why? Because the daughter of a staffer of the guy who authored the bill asked why certain items in the store were "off limits" to her because she was a girl. The proper, parental answer should have been, "They're not." Instead, the answer is, "Let's dictate what stores believe and can sell." The problem is, of course, that California is not Vegas. What happens in California doesn't stay in California.

Who Determines "Misinformation"?
On Face the Nation, foreign affairs and national security expert Fiona Hill is warning that the January 6 debacle was a "dress rehearsal" for a government takeover. Never mind that the FBI informant said there was no plan at all. She knows, so we need to be afraid. And if you disagree, you're just a conspiracy theorist ... or something.

RIP
I'm sorry to report the death of humor. I grew up in a different era. Perhaps a different nation. The one I grew up in loved the union of a man and a woman, sought to tolerate differences among people, and even laughed at itself. We had humor like Polish jokes and "dead baby" jokes and "Your mama" jokes. Comedian Dave Chappelle got himself in trouble recently by making jokes about transgender (that I can't repeat here). Labeled "anti-trans," "homophobic," and "mysogynistic." Without addressing anything he said (because I know very little of what he said), let me just say, if joking about something equates with hate, then we were in a lot of trouble in my earlier era (as in "anti-mama," for instance) and we will need to apply the same standard to everyone who ever tells any joke. I'll wait ...

The New America
Texas Governor Abbott took a bold step issuing an executive order banning all COVID vaccine mandates. "No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19." (I particularly appreciate that "including prior recovery from COVID" line which is something I've been asking for months and months.) He says, "The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced." He isn't anti-vax; he's just standing squarely on the principle of American freedom. I'm pretty sure the government won't let that stand. "This is America! We do not 'freedom' here!"

File Under "Misrepresentation"
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson is being asked to resign after a June video in a speech at a church surfaced showing him calling transgenderism and homosexuality "filth." Oh, no, I'm sorry, that's not the story. He was "likening gay and transgender people" to "filth." Now, without even trying to justify the man -- I have no information about his character or the background of his story (or why someone decided to broadcast in public a speech made in church) -- I have to point out that Mr. Robinson did not liken gay and transgender people to "filth." The quote was regarding the "isms," the concepts of transgender and homosexuality. He wasn't opposing people; he was opposing concepts. And, if you're paying attention, his real concern was teaching it to children. If you don't see the difference, I'm not sure I can be more helpful. But what we have here is a man -- a black man -- being asked to step down for his beliefs. The message is clear. "If you believe what we deem unacceptable, you should not work." Like, "If Paul believed that homosexual behavior was a sin (1 Cor 6:9-10), then Paul should have had to cease being a tentmaker and Apostle."

Long Term
A new study suggests that exposure to phthalates may lead to over 100,000 premature deaths per year among older Americans. Phthalates are synthetic chemicals found in lots of stuff from plastics to soap, and they may be killing you. Mind you, these things have been around a long time and it's only now that they're starting to think they might be bad for us. Why, then, do people hate it when I ask, "What are the long term effects of the COVID vaccine?" as if that's a pointless question?

Equity Issues
The story goes that Mt. Bachelor near Bend, Oregon, is instituting a new "fast pass" where skiers can pay extra to bypass certain chairlift lines and get up quicker and down faster and have so much more fun than those ... who don't. Well, we'll have none of that if you please. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is asking them to delay it until they can look at "equity issues." People with money should not be allowed to spend that money for better conditions than those who don't have so much. Expect more shenanigans to follow as some have discovered that people with more money can, for instance, stay in nicer hotels than those with less money, a clear equity issue.

Equality Fail
A school administrator in Fort Worth suggested that if a classroom has a book about the Holocaust, it would have to have a book with "opposing views." A Texas law "requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing 'widely debated and currently controversial' issues.'" Now, if a school has a book on Evolution, there is no need to have an "opposing view" on that, and if a school has a book on gender or LGBT issues, any books with "opposing views" would be banned, but this one ... settled historic fact (not controversial) ... should have "opposing views" offered to students. You know, for the sake of equality.

In Other News
Perhaps you've heard that they are planning to make a Superman movie with a bisexual Superman. (No joke.) Well, for the sake of diversity, DC comics is introducing a straight Christian Robin. (In your dreams.) In another story, a boy who tweeted that the emperor had no clothes was banned from Twitter for misinformation.

Must be true; I read it on the internet.

Friday, October 15, 2021

No, Lord

In Acts we have the story of Peter praying on the roof (Acts 10:9-16). God shows him some food he was not supposed to eat and told him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." (Acts 10:13). In Peter-fashion we hear Peter saying, "By no means, Lord." (Acts 10:14). "No, Lord"? Really, Peter? But it's what we do. We see a command with which we do not concur and we say, with great love for God, "No, Lord."

There is simple stuff like, "Love your enemies." "No, Lord." There is the obvious "erroneous" stuff like, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." "No, Lord." Or, to be equitable, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church." "No, Lord." There is obvious stuff like "Flee sexual immorality." "No, Lord."

Sometimes they are "current event" kinds of things. The one I'm seeing a lot these days is, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Rom 13:1) "Oh, Lord, no," we say. "Have you seen who the authority is?" God answers back, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." (1 Peter 2:13-14). "Seriously, Lord, take a look. We should not be subject to this government." How about "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." (Rom 13:7)? "We owe them no respect, no honor. No, Lord." And we hear again from on high, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Tim 2:1-2). "Me? Pray for them? They don't even know how to come in out of the rain!!" Our own ongoing versions of "No, Lord." A genuine oxymoron.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Made For?

Paul makes a provocative statement in his first epistle to Corinth.
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Cor 6:12)
Really, Paul? "All things are lawful for me"? ("Sure," Paul answers, and repeats it in 1 Cor 10:23.) No, really ... in what sense are all things lawful? Well, first, most commentators understand him to be quoting the words or at least thoughts of those who have argued for a more "embracing" kind of morality. You know, "We're forgiven, so why not sin?" Clearly, for instance, Paul does not believe "all things are lawful for me" because he just got done saying that those who are unrighteous won't inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). Further, he goes on to address the problem of sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:15-16). So, no, he is not stating that all things are lawful. So, what is he saying here?

Paul is pointing to a bigger picture. We typically get caught up in the moral questions. "Is this right or wrong?" "How far can I go?" Paul is offering different questions. Is this helpful? Does this rule me? How many of us routinely ask those questions? I'd suggest it is precious few. Because "Is it helpful?" just doesn't seem to come naturally to us as humans. Because addiction is a common problem among Christians, whether it's the typical "drugs" or "alcohol" or "gambling" or "sex" kinds of things or perhaps the less obvious but very real "comfort" and "self-centeredness" and the like that we all seem to indulge.

After asking those questions, he makes a purpose statement. "The body," he says, "is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." (1 Cor 6:13) Well, sure, the body is not made for sexual immorality. We knew that. Well, we claim to know that. Sometimes our lives don't reflect it. Sometimes our secret sins say otherwise. But, in principle, we know that, even if not always in practice. (Back to that "helpful" and "dominated" stuff.) We will at least agree that the body is not meant for sexual immorality. But did you know that the body is meant for the Lord? Did you know that your body is not your own??

Paul says, "You were bought with a price." (1 Cor 6:20). Paul is merely echoing the broader narrative of Scripture. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." (Psa 24:1). "The world and its fullness are Mine." (Psa 50:12). "Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth ..." (Deut 8:17-18). A sampling. God made everything, so it stands to reason that God owns everything. Thus everything was made for the Lord. Everything.

Somehow, it seems, we miss that. We think that this little corner of creation belongs to me. "My body, my choice." We think that how we dress and what we eat and what we do with our lives is our affair. Sexual immorality? Of course! At least, for far too many of us, including us Christians. The body, according to Scripture, was made for a purpose. That purpose is not "my satisfaction." That purpose is to glorify God (1 Cor 6:20). And God is concerned about that (1 Cor 6:13). Are we? Your body was made for the Lord. Are you fulfilling your purpose?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Stewardship

Paul's epistle to the church at Corinth (the one we refer to as 1 Corinthians ... even though it wasn't his first epistle to Corinth) addresses several problems in that church. The first and foremost problem is division in the church. Paul takes 4 chapters to tackle that problem. One of his points was this:
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor 4:7)
Think about that for a moment. Think about that in the comfort of your home. Think about that in your relative wealth. Think about that while you enjoy your family and friends. Think about that in terms of the skills and talents you possess. Some of you have a lot more than others. Some have more comfort or more talent, more skill or more friends. Some have outstanding family while others do not. Some have good jobs and good things. What do you have that you did not receive?

Those of us with more ... more anything ... ought to feel that poke more intensely. "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" We feel it because we do often boast as if we didn't receive it. We feel it because we are sometimes proud of what we've earned, failing to recognize that we've received it. We feel it because sometimes we are possessive of what we've received as if it is our right, and God help the person that tries to take it away. We feel it because sometimes we worry about what we've received because we forget that we received it.

How would that change your thinking if you had the constant attitude that you are a steward rather than an owner? How would that alter your perceptions if you understood you were just watching God's stuff for Him for awhile? How would it make you feel if you had always in your mind the realization that your gifts and your talents and your skills and your possessions and your friends and family and all were gifts, not rewards? Not earned. Not obtained by your diligent hard work. Gifted by God. For a time. Would that make it easier to give to the needs of others (1 John 3:17)? Would that make you more willing to take a loss for Christ's sake (1 Cor 6:7)? Would it make you any more grateful to have what you have? Here's a thought. How would that make you feel about the things in your life that you don't like very much? Because God has given you those, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Anti-Racism Problem

It takes an idiot to fail to see that there are racists in 21st century America. It takes a redefinition to say that it's only white people. It takes an idiotic redefiner to determine that all white people and only white people are racists. But here we are, and simply writing that intro in America today will get me labeled as a racist just for disagreeing with the concept. My point, though, is that racism is a problem that we must address. We address it, they tell us, with antiracism. No, not just "not racist" -- antiracism. You need to oppose racism. Well, now, I suppose I'm fine with that. I am oposed to racists. Unfortunately, it appears these days that the solution is becoming the problem. It looks as if antiracism is making antiracism impossible.

Sounds silly, I know, but think about it. When antiracism meant "We need to oppose racism," just about anyone with any sense could get on board. It doesn't mean that anymore. Take, for instance, Ibram X. Kendi's book, How to Be an Antiracist. He says that the solution to racism is the elimination of democracy, capitalism, and traditional, biblical Christianity (among other things). He says that the answer to discrimination is discrimination and the answer to systemic racism is systemic racism. Take the recent example of the Libs of Tik Tok. They are a Twitter group with over 300,000 followers in less than a year and their position is if we are going to solve the racism in America, the only solution is ... the complete elimination of America. Take, for instance, the rewrite of the definition of racism. The dictionary says it means, "a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." Do white people believe that? Some, to be sure. Do people of color believe that? Undoubtedly the same answer. So why have we redefined it to eliminate the problem on one side and not the other?

In response, of course, those people who may or may not be racist but are certainly seeing their lives, their families, their very existence being threatened feel the need to fight back. Some of those people are people of color. They believe the current "racism" definition is nonsense and the white hatred and America-hatred it breeds is nonsense and they say so. And they get categorized as racists. (Seriously, didn't we just decide that "white" was the only "racist"? And now we have people of color who are racist because they are opposed to "whites only" racism?) So the war heats up. People are forced to take positions and they end up being intractable positions. If "he" can't agree with "you," then "he" is now labeled "the enemy." If "she" doesn't say what "you" want her to, she is a traitor. If this group simply wants to defend their country, they are categorized as racist haters. These labels and their emotional baggage make it impossible to meet, to come to a conversation, to seek common ground. And the new "antiracism" becomes the killing field for anyone on either side seeking to address the real problem of racism. "No, black people cannot be racist." So that kind of hate and vitriol is good ... from that side. "Yes, all white people are racist." So those who have no racial bias can't address the problem and any attempt to do so merely confirms their racism ... which they didn't actually have. And so it goes.

I oppose racism. I am sickened when I hear of how people treat people of a different race solely because of race. I hate it when the pre-judgment is "You're evil" simply because "You're of 'that' race." And I don't care who is doing it; I hate it. But it doesn't matter. I'm a white guy, so I'm a racist and the only option for many under the current "antiracist" banner is simply that I should cease to exist. No cure. Just die. Surely you can see how that kind of thinking would be an impediment to any work on solving the problem.

Monday, October 11, 2021

From His Lips to Your Ears

Vice magazine (which, it appears, is an ironically accurate name) did a hit piece on a pastor and his church in Idaho. The problem, ostensibly, was that they taught that wives need to be led with a firm hand. The piece was horrendous to read. There was premarital sexual abuse by an elder's son and marital rape. There was cover up by church leadership (multiple churches). There was lots of undeniably horrible stuff. But you weren't expected to come away thinking, "That was undeniably horrible stuff." You were intended to come away thinking, "That church is evil ... because that biblical belief is evil ... and, therefore, the Bible is evil ... and so is anyone who believes it ... which certainly covers all Christians ..." Well, you see where this is going.

I read it. I came away thinking, "This is exactly what I have been mulling over lately." I wrote recently how we are happily discarding biblical principles because of sinful abuse of biblical principles. Your Honor, I'd like to submit this article as Exhibit A. The reader in this case is not allowed to think, "That's a biblical principle being abused by unbiblical people." They are mandated to think, "That stuff is clearly wrong. Since it is clearly wrong and it is attributed to Christ and His biblical principles, then Christ and the Bible are clearly wrong." Now, of course, this has been going on for millennia. Think "the Crusades." Without even attempting to defend the Crusades (because I wouldn't), we have been told over and over, "Look what was done in the name of Christ. Christianity is evil." A fundamental failure to think. You see, just because it is done in the name of Christ doesn't mean that it has any connection to Christ. And if, in fact, Christ taught against such things, then you will need to assume that the accuser is lying and not the Christ-follower.

That's where we find ourselves in this hit piece. If it is true, ungodly men in positions in the church where they should not have been (1 Tim 3:2,4; Titus 1:6) did things they should not have done (1 Cor 7:4; Eph 5:25-27; 1 Peter 3:7) all falsely in the name of Christ and His Word. The fault here is not Christ and His Word. The fault is the ungodly men (and women who perpetuated it; I want to be fair here). The principles weren't wrong; the practices were. The Scriptures weren't wrong; the people that failed to practice them were. You can't "love your wives" (Eph 5:25) by abusing them. You can't "live with your wife in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7) by ignoring their thoughts and feelings. You can't assert your sexual desires thinking, "My body is my own." (1 Cor 7:6). Church leadership that ignores all this cannot be said to be shepherding the flock (1 Peter 5:2) while remaining "above reproach" (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). An elder who covers up this kind of activity for his children cannot be said to have children who "are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery" (Titus 1:6) or who manages "his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive." (1 Tim 3:4). In that text, Paul says, "If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" (1 Tim 3:5). Excellent question!

The article, as I said, described horrible stuff done in the name of church leadership with the protection of church leadership and a protective mantle of "thus saith the Lord." I offer no defense for the behaviors or abuses in that story. I might question the veracity of the accusations and I would certainly want to know what those accused have to say before passing judgment (Prov 18:13). Scripture requires "two or three witnesses" against church leadership and does not allow for "trial by public opinion" (1 Tim 5:19-21), but I'm pretty sure the public and the Christians that follow them will call for public hangings here. The truth is, despite the wisdom and reliability of a report from Vice from people who already hate the church, we don't actually know how much of this story was true. However, we need to avoid perpetuating the error from Vice by assigning those behaviors and abuses to biblical principles and, therefore, throw out God's Word as reliable or authoritative. That is the primary aim of the story. There is no excuse from a biblical perspective for what is described in that article, but we must not make the mistake of assigning that sin to God's account or to His Word. That would be the aim of the father of lies and his followers. We all choose to listen to voices from others. Whose voice will you listen to? The god of this world or the God whose word is truth? If the latter, my prayer is "From His lips to your ears."

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Not Fast Enough

There are things in each of our lives that we need to toss. No, eradicate. Burn out. Kill. Sins, you know? Pet sins. Things we run to and then regret. Things we do then repent and then we do again and can't figure out, "How did I end up here again?" Those things are obvious. You know what you have to do. Kill it. Cut it off. Tear it out.

There are other things that don't fall in that category. There are things that aren't evil on the face, but they distract. Facebook is not listed in Scripture as a sin, for instance, but you know you can become addicted, overcome, distracted. When you could be praying or reading God's Word or meeting with a brother or sister in need, you're ... distracted. Maybe your distraction isn't Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. Or whatever other social media distraction we might list. Maybe it's television. Maybe it's games. Entertainment in general. You know, the root of the word "amuse" is "muse," meaning "to think," coupled with "a," meaning not. Amusement is intended to make us not think. And while a brief rest from thinking might be okay, sometimes we can, as Neil Postman put it, amuse ourselves to death. Distractions. Things that aren't bad in and of themselves, but can be made to be that way.

Scripture lists "the fruit of the Spirit," things you would expect to see if you are filled with the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). We like the "love, joy, peace" start, but it feels like Paul listed "self-control" last because that's not really a joy for many of us. God appears to think it ought to be. So how do we apply "self-control" to the things that distract to come up with a helpful approach to those things which keep us from paying attention to the things Christ would have us attend to?

Scripture also talks about fasting. We all know that's about not eating for a period of time. Why not other things? Fasting is voluntarily going without food or other good things from God for some spiritual purpose. Fasting exercises self-control. It removes distractions for a period of time -- distractions of food or whatever else you're fasting from -- and focuses your attention elsewhere. God's Word recommends fasting. So, why not put these two concepts together? Why not do a fast ... from Facebook or television or computers? Why not set your phone aside for a day and use it for only necessary phone calls and nothing else? Or maybe it is food that distracts you. Stop that for a day. Use the time you would have spent on whatever it is you're fasting from to pray, to read God's Word, to minister to someone else -- something that would glorify God.

I'm not suggesting that you eliminate Facebook (or whatever) from your life because it's a sin. I'm suggesting that each one of us has distractions in life that are not sin but can become sin if they take us away from God. So why not exercise self-control (something recommended by God) and learn to control those things that take our attention from Christ? Like Paul's suggestion that a married couple might "fast" from sex "for a limited time that you may devote yourselves to prayer." (1 Cor 7:5). Surely exercising self-control to focus attention on Christ would be a good thing. Surely you can think of some things in your life that aren't sin on the face of it but can, indeed, divert your attention from your Lord. Maybe you might try a fast of this. Maybe you might make it a practice. Maybe we don't fast enough. Maybe.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

News Weakly - 10/9/2021

Democrat Economy
"If you don’t want to help save the country," President Biden berated Republicans, "get out of the way so you don't destroy it." What destructive evil are Republicans doing in Congress? They aren't willing to allow the government -- already way beyond any sort of financially reasonable debt -- to raise their debt ceiling. You see, if you want to "save the country," you need to do all you can to bankrupt it or, at least, make sure our kids will never be able to survive the debt we lay on them. Get on it, Republicans!

Earning a Voice
You've heard about Senator Krysten Sinema being confronted in the bathroom for standing for what she believes is right. They demanded she vote for Biden's "Build Back Better" plan that would push the nation closer to bankruptcy. Why would she do that? "We knocked on doors for you to get you elected," they said, "and just how we got you elected, we can get you out of office if don't support what you promised us." Got it? Special interest groups saying, "We made you; you need to do what we say. If you don't, we'll take you out." But it's okay, I guess. President Biden called it "part of the process." Nice. And, of course, top democrats made one more plea to Sinema to knuckle under while she was in her shower. At least, so says the Bee.

Thou Shalt Not
Senator Grassley put his foot in his mouth. He said nice things about judicial nominee Lucy Koh, of Korean descent. "Korean people," he suggested, "have a hard work ethic and can make a lot out of nothing." Evil man. Never say nice things. Avoid stereotypes of any sort ... well ... of course ... unless it's "all whites are racist" or "all men are sexist"... you know, the approved, hateful stereotypes. But never think nicely of someone just because of some questionable stereotypes.

Loud and Clear
You may have thought that Democrats were a freedom-loving people. You may have been mistaken. President Biden continues to push for vaccine and testing mandates. Why? Because everyone knows that the COVID vaccine doesn't necessarily prevent you from getting COVID and it doesn't prevent you from spreading COVID and it doesn't necessarily keep you from dying of COVID and it doesn't last much more than 6 months, but it is our one and only glorious salvation from the evil COVID virus in our midst. And while abortion is a constitutional right (I'm still looking for that one), your freedom of choice is not. Thank you, Mr. President. We hear you loud and clear.

Meanwhile ...
California's governor -- he who shall not be named -- is requiring all school children to be vaccinated for COVID before they can come to school. Of course, the vaccine is not yet approved for 12-15 year olds except on a emergency basis and Pfizer has submitted approval for 5-12 year olds. but it's not yet done. And all the data says that people ages 0-18 have the least effects from COVID, including the lowest risk of death, but, hey, we don't care. Let's protect our children from the remote risk of death ... unless, of course, if the mother chooses otherwise. The Babylon Bee sees it as a ploy to promote homeschooling. Not sure how much of a joke that will turn out to be. Could be absolutely true.

Congratulations!
Women in America are rejoicing. "We can go back to killing our babies now!" A judge has blocked the Texas pro-life law as expected. Children are not to be protected by the courts. What kind of crazy constitutional right would that be? Fortunately, Target is launching a new "clump of cells" registry for the distressed bearer of cells on their way to the birth canal. Nice.

(A postscript for my regular readers. If you're looking for the humor at the end, you'll have to go back and read. I sprinkled it in the stories themselves. Kind of like an Easter egg hunt, you know?)

Friday, October 08, 2021

The Other Cheek

It's kind of sad ... okay, no, very sad ... the way we who call ourselves Christians have been working so hard to be indistinguishable from those who are not. In 1 Corinthians Paul took on a sin in the church that he said "is not tolerated even among pagans." (1 Cor 5:1). Well, we're doing better, I guess. We're indulging a lot of the evils tolerated by the pagans. So, for instance, statisticians tell us that divorce rates in the church are practically the same as out of the church. That is not quite true, but it is certainly higher numbers than there should be and, more importantly, more acceptable than it should be. The same with extramarital sex including adultery, premarital sex, and homosexual practices. Many, many young Christians are shacking up with their "significant other" as if it is normal and acceptable. It is not. But we've decided to import the world's sins -- "sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Gal 5:19-21) -- into our lives as Christians and call it good.

I wrote last week about how some good things have been dismissed because sinful abuse has made us reject them rather than embrace them as God intended. I came across this one the other day. Paul says that Christians should not sue Christians. Really, Paul? I mean, litigation sometimes appears to be our national pasttime. Don't sue Christians? Well, that's what he says. "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?" (1 Cor 6:1). Now, he explains why. Why should we let unbelievers judge (1 Cor 6:1)? We're going to judge the world (1 Cor 6:2). We're going to judge angels (1 Cor 6:3). I'm not digging into this stuff; I'm just offering Paul's reasons. We are supposed to handle this stuff alone. Lawsuits between Christians should be an internal affair. (Note: We're talking about civil matters. A Christian who violates another Christian and breaks the law in doing so still needs to face the law. Marriage and divorce are not just civil matters; they also have roots in the law, so those have to be faced in courts. Those kinds of things are not in view. The other thing that is not in view is believer versus unbeliever. That is not addressed here. You can conclude what you see fit, but it isn't stated here.)

The prohibition of Christian suing Christian is quite clear and unambiguous. Of course, we still see it, don't we? Why? Well, it's like I said. We've imported the world's "normal" into the church and consider it a good thing. We will obey "this far and no farther." "We know better than God ever did. Studies have shown ..." and whatever other nonsense we might tell ourselves. But here's the real question, the bottom-line objection. "But ... what if the other Christian doesn't abide by the ruling?" You get that, right? The church has no legal recourse. It relies on the two parties to act with integrity. "If that's how our fellow believers rule on this, we will abide by it." Oh, you don't? Well, who's going to do anything about it? The prohibition of suing believers leaves no redress in the case of a fellow believer who simply refuses to abide by it. So ... that's it, right? That's sufficient reason to jettison the idea.

Paul actually anticipated this response. "Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (1 Cor 6:7). Oh, now, that's just crazy! I mean, just be wronged? Just ... what ... turn the other cheek? Oh, wait. We've heard that before. Our relationship with Christ, you see, changes things. Radically. Where everyone else operates on "me" because "I am my only reliable source of all that is good," we operate on an entirely different basis. "My God shall supply your needs." (Php 4:19). No, not every wish or want or desire. We take it on faith that He supplies every need. We don't earn it. We don't work for it. We don't merit it. He is, however, our source. So we can be wronged and suffer no real harm because God is our Provider, our Savior, our Justice. We can take that loss and keep going because we aren't counting on us or others; we're counting on Him.

Now, think about that. Do you believe that? Do you believe that you're the one doing it, or do you believe that He is? If He is, how would that change your perspective? If God was supplying your needs, what would that say, for instance, about your marriage? In the normal scenario, you're in a 50-50 marriage where he supplies her need for love while she supplies his need for love. In the biblical scenario, it is God supplying the need for love. In this scenario a spouse can offer self fully without need for return because the return supply comes from God. In this scenario Christ is our power, our food, our energy, our everything. Oh, you've been wronged? No big deal! He will supply! "Turn the other cheek" becomes not only expected, but most reasonable. "Love your neighbor" makes sense. "Consider others as more important than yourself" is sensible.

But, no, most of us aren't too interested. We won't be wronged. We won't take the loss. (Taking the loss is what defines forgiveness.) Perhaps God is not reliable enough. Perhaps God is not enough. Perhaps we lack the faith. Perhaps we never thought about it. Perhaps we ought to. Given what He paid to secure our salvation, it would seem only prudent to seek to please Him to our utmost ability, if only out of sheer gratitude. "No, I won't" probably won't go far toward that end.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Commune-ism

I was looking at the texts in Acts regarding the early church and I came across a thought. There are certainly those today who call themselves Christians (I don't say that to question their status, but simply to distinguish between those who do and those who do not.) who say that communism is the divine mandate because the early church was a communist society. Now, why would they say that? Well, look for yourself. "All who believed were together and had all things in common." (Acts 2:44). That's communism, right? Merriam-Webster defines communism as "a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed." There you have it. That's what they had going on in the early church. (To be fair, Communism is technically a Marxian socialism, but you get the idea.) So why would we American Christians deny it?
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. ... There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
How is that not communism?

I see one, critical distinction. No one told them to do it. Go ahead. Read the passages for yourself. Look around and see if you can find somewhere that the Apostles said, "Now, if you're going to be part of us, you have to give up ownership of everything and share." Find one place that is a command to do this. In fact, at one point two people tried to pretend as if they were doing it when they weren't and Peter said, "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?" (Acts 5:4). That is, it was definitely not a requirement. They didn't even want gifts from people who didn't wish to give them. Lacking a coherent command, then, it can't really be called "a system" as Merriam-Webster terms it. It just seems to be ... a reality. A knee-jerk reaction. Just what happened.

So ... what happened? What caused this difference? Well, According to the text it was unity. They were "together." They were "of one heart and soul." They were not "all about me." They were dying to self. In Jesus's words, they had love for one another (John 13:35). It was what Jesus prayed for. "... 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." (John 17:21). It was the same unity Paul begged for. "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Php 2:2). What mind? "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Php 2:3-4). What mind? The mind of Christ who humbled Himself (Php 2:5-8).

How was the early church different from communism? Communism is a mandate; the early church was the natural product of changed hearts. Communism demands everything you own; the early church offered it freely. Communism is a government; the early church was selfless love, a spontaneous response from the heart. As such, there is no personal benefit -- no "thanks," no "atta-boy," no "well done" -- for the communist who gives all because it is mandatory. It doesn't speak well of your heart or your attitude or your selflessness. It is a mandate. Not so with Christian love displayed the way they did in Acts.

One question remains. It is not "How was the early church different from modern communism?" It is "Why is the modern church so different from the early church?" If the truth is that they "had everything in common" because "It's not about me," I would suggest that too many of us lack that "It's not about me" perspective. I would argue that we ought to be people changed from within, more concerned with the welfare of fellow believers than our own. If we are not, we have a problem, don't we?

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Condemn What Jesus Condemned

Clearly Jesus approved of adultery. How do we know? Well, He told the woman caught in the act, "Neither do I condemn you." See? He was on board with that.

Of course, that's nonsense. Jesus did not affirm adultery. In fact, he was harsher on adultery than Moses was. "You have heard that it was said," He 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). As if that wasn't harsh enough (adultery based on intent?), He went on to talk about tearing off body parts if they cause you to sin in that way (Matt 5:29-30). So if Jesus condemned adultery, what else did He condemn? I mean, if we are to be followers of Christ, we should embrace what He embraced and condemn what He condemned. What did Jesus condemn? (Hint: The right answer is not "Nothing.")

Jesus was famous for His opposition to the Pharisees. He applauded their devotion to Scripture (John 5:39) and their purity (Matt 5:20). Their religious core wasn't His problem. It was the rest. It was pride (Luke 18:10-14). It was hypocrisy (Matt 23:13-31). It was false religion (Mark 7:6-13). And it wasn't just the Pharisees.

Jesus warned His disciples to "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15). How many of us think that possessions make life good? Jesus said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt 6:14-15). How many of us refuse to forgive? Jesus classified hatred as murder (Matt 5:21-22). How many of us thrive on hatred? Jesus had harsh words for those who lacked faith (Matt 6:30; Matt 8:26; Mark 6:5-6; John 10:25-26). How constant is your faith?

There are those who would like you to think that Jesus was nonjudgmental. "Jesus never condemned anyone." It only takes a cursory reading of the Gospels to find out that's not true. It doesn't take a deep thinker or clever philosophy to see that Jesus did use a whip in the Temple to drive out the money lenders ... and no matter what you think of that, it is unavoidable that it was not another "neither do I condemn you" moment. In fact, Jesus said, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son." (John 5:22). That sounds a lot like Jesus is the Judge, doesn't it? Besides, it's really difficult to keep up this pale version of some "nice-guy Jesus" who winks at sin and forgives everyone everything when Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. That nonjudgmental Jesus is popular among some, but it is not the biblical Jesus. It is a Jesus of their own making.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Without Justice

Justice and righteousness are two interlinked terms. Dictionary.com defines justice as "righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness." When Paul writes, "The just shall live by faith," (Rom 1:17), he uses the word, δίκαιος -- dikaios -- meaning "righteous." To "justify" is "to declare righteous." The two are not identical, but they are inseparable. You can't have justice without righteousness. You can't have righteousness without justice.

Considered by many the philosophical friend of atheism, Immanuel Kant wrote Critique of Pure Reason in which he questioned the viability of reasoning out the existence of God. He later wrote Critique of Practical Reason in which he argued that if morality was to have any basis, then there must be a God. He said that in order for morality to exist, there had to be justice. Since we don't see justice in this world, there would have to be ultimate justice. For there to be ultimate justice, there would have to be an Ultimate Judge. This Judge would have to be holy -- not guilty of any violation Himself -- omniscient to know all the facts, omnipotent to be able to carry out judgment, immutable in order not to vary in His judgment, and so on. If there is to be any basis for morality, there must be a "Judge of all the earth" (Gen 18:25). And this Judge must necessarily do what is just.

Having established all this, it is important to note that mercy and grace are not justice. Mercy is withholding just punishment and grace is undeserved favor. Similarly, forgiveness on its own is not justice. In all three of these, on their own, we see kindness but we do not see justice.

I hope you can see the problem, then. We worship a merciful and gracious God. He shows mercy and grace to the undeserving. He forgives sin. He does all this to our great relief and appreciation. The problem? If that is how it stands, God is a lot of nice things, but one thing He is not is just. If His mercy, grace, and forgiveness are alone, Abraham was wrong about God (Gen 18:25). The Judge of all the earth does not do what is just. He does what is nice, but not what is just. Now, many would like to say, "Well, then, that's okay. A forgiving God is better than an angry God. We prefer a forgiving God to a just God." What we forget is that if there is no ultimate justice -- if God is not ultimately just -- then there is no foundation for morality. There is no right. Righteousness is meaningless and morality is vain. Dostoevsky said, "If there is no God, everything is permitted." The same holds true if there is a God, but He is not just. If God simply forgives on a whim, then the Hitlers and murderers and child-rapists and right-wing anti-vaxxers are free to proceed with all manner of evil because there are no consequences for doing so and no reason not to. Go ahead; God will forgive you. Don't worry about it.

We really cannot bear the justice of God. If we were given justice for our choices in life, it would be intolerable. Now, let's see ... what word do we use for "intolerable" ... oh, yeah ... it would be Hell. But we know that God is just and we know that God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving. So is it possible to put those two facts together coherently? Can we have both a just God and a forgiving God? There is only one way, and, for a variety of reasons, this way is the one rejected by unbelievers and self-proclaimed Christians alike. Of this way Paul writes, "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). Scripture describes Jesus as having paid for our sin with His blood (e.g., Rom 3:23-25; 1 John 1:7). Without that payment (Col 2:14; 1 Cor 6:20; 1 Cor 7:23; Gal 3:13), we are without hope. With that payment God can be both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Rom 3:26). By receiving the just payment for our sin from Christ, He can justly extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us. If Christ did not pay that price, we cannot have forgiveness. Never let them tell you otherwise. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are the kind gifts God gives to those who place their faith in Christ's payment on our behalf. If Christ did not die for our sin, either justice and morality is dead or there is no God. And we are of all people most to be pitied.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Sex in the City of Man

Most of us live in the current society. That means that most of us are immersed in the current world-think. Some of us try not to "drink the kool-aid," so to speak. We try to weed out the thinking of the world by keeping in view the thinking of the Word of God. It is, in fact, a command (Rom 12:2). But it's an uphill struggle. And slowly, but surely, we are likely to find ourselves slipping at times into worldly perspectives never intended by God and not be aware of it.

One of those common slippages occurs in the area of sex. This particular topic seems to splinter us. On one hand we see sexual sin around every corner and on the other hand we miss some sexual sin right in front of us -- in our own hearts. So difficult is this concept that some have jettisoned the whole idea of sex as "evil" or, at best, a "necessary evil." One of the Church Fathers, Origen (184-253 AD), came to believe that all sexual desire was sin and castrated himself. Two ends of the spectrum. So let's take a look at sex from a biblical rather than worldly perspective.

First, the plus side. Sex was not Satan's idea; it was God's idea. The first recorded command in Scripture was for Adam and Eve to "Be fruitful and multiply." (Gen 1:28). The only available mechanism for that was ... sex. So that command and that gift was from God. More than that, Scripture is clear that sex in marriage is good. By that I mean not only "a good and right thing," but even pleasurable and fulfilling. Solomon told his son, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." (Prov 5:18-19). Paul said, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband." (1 Cor 7:3). Sex in marriage was God's command and God's gift. It was designed to be practical (reproduction), fulfilling, satisfying, and a right. Sex in marriage serves as imagery (Eph 5:31-32) and an actual union of two people. Some of us are confused by that. Scripture is clear.

After that, however, we are easily misled. What's the easiest way to tell that we're being misled? It's the oh-so-common question, "How far can I go?" It's when we wish to press the boundaries. One possible misdirection would be, "Well, then, whatever I desire must be good." But you know that's not true. Scripture is full of warnings about sexual immorality. It was the big problem in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 5:1-5). Paul warned not even to eat a meal with a self-professed Christian involved in sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:11). Paul told them to "flee from sexual immorality" (1 Cor 6:18). Timothy was told to "flee youthful passions" (2 Tim 2:22). When Paul listed the "works of the flesh" in contrast to the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22-23), he started with "sexual immorality" (Gal 5:19-21). So, yes, sex is a gift from God, but not all sex.

First and foremost, then, sex is a gift to the married. Anything outside of that is considered sexual immorality. The term encompasses premarital sex and extramarital sex and "private" sex. "Private" sex would be fantasy or personal desire (e.g., Matt 5:27-30). Beyond that, there are further considerations in married sex. For instance, Peter tells husbands to "live with your wives in an understanding way." (1 Peter 3:7). As we know, that's often a problem in the bedroom. If sex between husband and wife is going to be engaged in God's way, that needs to be considered. Another important point is Paul's very clear command (on the topic of sexual immorality), "Glorify God in your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20). How many of us ask, "Do our sexual practices glorify God?"? In the bedroom, we need to remember that our bodies are not our own (1 Cor 7:3-4) and that we are to "Outdo one another in showing honor." (Rom 12:10). Just as in general, in the bedroom we are to "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Php 2:3-4). All of these biblical principles ought to inform our sexual principles and practices in our marriages. Questions like "Is it okay to role-play in the marriage bed?" (Matt 5:27-30) or "Can we watch porn together?" (Matt 5:27-30; 1 Cor 6:18) or "Is it okay if I withhold sex from my husband?" (1 Cor 7:5) or "How can I get my wife to do what I want in our sexual relationship?" (1 Cor 7:4) all have answers from biblical principles.

There is another consideration to keep in mind. Paul said, "Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead." (Rom 7:8). His topic there was covetousness, but he was explaining a broader principle. There is something in the (sinful) human heart that causes us to desire that which is forbidden. Because of this, we are often drawn to "the taboo," things we know are "naughty" but desire because we know it. We need to be on the lookout for this in our sexual activities with our spouses.

The world tells us that sex is fun and sex is pleasure and sex is "all about me." Scripture tells us that sex is God's gift, but it is to the married only. For the married, it offers a physical union and a spiritual union. For the married, it represents the image of God in us in reproduction. For the married it is intended to be pleasurable and fulfilling and giving and satisfying ... to the spouse first (rather than me). Sexual fulfillment for one's spouse is their right and ought to be our aim. Introducing sin in the marriage bed -- fantasy, "taboo," adultery, etc. -- is not God's idea of a good time (Heb 13:5). God has built married sex to be a wonderful giving of self to my literal "other half." We -- Christians -- ought not let the world's sinful ideas sully that beautiful gift from God.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

God's Will

Years ago my high school son asked me, "How can I know the will of God?" Good question. Any follower of Christ would certainly want an answer. And any human being would have to admit that it's not always an easy one. That's because the concept of "the will" in general and "the will of God" in particular is elusive because the term "will" is multifaceted.

This sounds crazy, perhaps, but when you think about it you know it's true. We all have more than one sense of "will." There is "what I wish" and "what I want" and "what I need," for instance. In a general sense, all of those would be "my will." In a practical sense, we understand that we won't get all of those, and that's okay. In God, too, there are a variety of senses that are "God's will." We can say with absolute certainty, for instance, that it is not God's will that anyone should commit adultery. How do we know that? Well, He said it (Exo 20:14). So that is a statement of God's will. We also know, with equal certainty, that He doesn't always get that. The Bible is full of statements -- we call them "commands" -- of God's will. The Bible is equally full of clear statements that God's creation frequently violates His will in these areas. God gives us precepts -- commands -- and those are His will. Since we are all sinners, He frequently doesn't get His preceptive will. God also has preferences. Preferences are a form of will in humans, too. What I want. What I like. What I would prefer. We know we don't always get that, either, and neither does God. He says, for instance, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Eze 18:23; Eze 33:11). Clear as day. Equally clear is the declaration from the beginning that the penalty of sin is death (Gen 2:16-17; Eze 18:4, 20; Rom 6:23). (Take note of that second reference. It was in the same context as the "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.") So we know that the death of the wicked is not God's preference ... but He still carries it out. That people not die for sin is God's preference -- God's will -- but this preferential will is not always achieved. So we come to a third version of "will." You see it referenced in Ephesians -- God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." (Eph 1:11) -- but Scripture is full of these references (2 Chron 20:6; Job 42:2; Psa 115:3; Psa 135:6; Dan 4:35; Isa 45:7; Isa 46:10; Prov 19:21; Prov 21:1; Rom 8:28). (There are many more, but that's a quick smattering.) This "will of God" is never in question. It never fails. It is absolute. It is God's Sovereign will and it always happens.

You can see, now, that my son's question isn't an easy one. "Which will of God are you asking about?" We know a lot of God's will simply by reading God's Word. All those commands. All those principles. "Is it God's will if I sleep with this person who is not my spouse?" is an easy question. No! For reasons that elude me, we (including me) seem to be hazy about "God's will" when so often it is offered in plain print in front of us. "How can I know the will of God?" Read and know His Word. What about events in life? Those are generally not in my Bible. Again, the first answer is easy. If God's absolute will is real (as Scripture contends), then whatever happened yesterday -- anything from present backward -- was God's will. Thus Joseph can tell his brothers, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." (Gen 50:20) and we can have confidence because "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28) Thus, much of God's will is not unknown or even vague to us.

The remaining question, then, is the unknown. God doesn't say "Take this job" or "Marry that person" or "Move to this town." And, obviously, that was the question my son was asking. What about these things? Are they "guesses," mere "hunches"? I think Scripture offers something a better than that.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
Paul here offers a way to "discern what is the will of God" -- our original question. In fact, he offers a way to test and determine "what is good and acceptable and perfect." That's what we want, right? What is that way? Step One: "Do not be conformed to this world." Don't take on the world's forms and structures. Don't think like the world. Don't shape yourself to the world. John warns us not to "love the world or the things in the world" because "all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:15-16). That's a pretty broad palette. Are my desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride of life the world's version? Don't go there. Instead, go to Step Two: "be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Now how do we do that? Well, first and foremost, we use brainwashing. No, not that kind. Paul talks about "the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:26). If the problem is a truth problem (Rom 1:18) and God's Word is truth (John 17:17), then the principle way to renew the mind is a constant washing of the Word. Now, if this is true, is it any wonder we have such problems with Christians and the Word? Is it any surprise that the father of lies would seek to distract us from God's truth? Is there any surprise that folks calling themselves Christians take little stock in God's Word? It is the best method of renewing the mind and discovering God's will for our lives, and we neglect it.

A critical question for each of us is "What is God's will for my life?" We ought to seek that with fervor. Keep in mind that the term is variable and know which version you're asking about. If you want to know, "Has my life gone as God has willed?", rest assured that God's hand is not too short. His Sovereign will always occurs and you haven't missed it. If you want to know, "What will be most pleasing to the Lord?", you have an abundant resource in His Word. He is not short in providing answers. If you want to know "What should I do in situations that aren't covered?", you are still not left without answers. The answer is in a renewed mind -- knowing how God thinks. He tells us that in His Word. Become Bible-immersed and you'll find fewer and fewer of those types of questions and more and more answers.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

News Weakly - 10/2/2021

Not Fitting the Narrative
According to this story, the FBI had an informant in with the Proud Boys in the crowd at the Capitol riot on January 6. The informant was "texting an FBI agent throughout the day." Interesting. But here was the kicker. "The informant seems to suggest there was no plot to storm the Capitol prior to the riot." Well, that puts a kink in the "Trump-instigated insurrection" storyline, doesn't it? Don't worry. No facts that don't fit the narrative will be allowed in this witchhunt ... er ... investigation.

Crazy with a Gun
General Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified before Congress this week about "the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan." They went home afterwards. Marine officer Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller asked similar questions and has been imprisoned for it. The military is insane.

Your Honor, We Object
This was a strange one. An Arizona abortion law set to go into effect last Wednesday was halted by a judge at the last minute. So says the report, but what the judge threw out was only two provisions of the law that brought charges against doctors who aborted on the basis of genetic issues. The provisions required that the doctor tell the patient that abortion for genetic abnormality was prohibited. That was "unconstitutionally vague." The judge let stand a provision that classified fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as people. Governor Ducey claimed there is "immeasurable value" in all life, and, apparently, folks like the Center for Reproductive Rights heartily disagree.

Let Freedom Ring
Los Angeles appears to be headed for a much more "Australian" kind of utopia to live under COVID, requiring vaccine passports for restaurants, gyms, malls, and other more common places. Calls to mind, "so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark" (Rev 13:17). (No, I'm not saying that the vaccine is the mark of the beast, but it's starting to bear a resemblance.)

Here's my question. We are moving more and more toward "Take this vaccine or suffer the consequences." At the same time, we're demanding that the Supreme Court overturn laws that block the "Divine Right" that says, "My body; my choice!" Why does one (a vaccine which may not prevent you from getting or transmitting the disease) require loss of freedom while the other (a procedure that kills a child every time) does not?

1984
If you recall your 1984, Orwell wrote of a society that aimed to control how you think. YouTube would have fit nicely in that Orwellian world. They are banning all content that questions vaccines. All vaccines. Similar to the "Big Pharma will not be liable for anything" approach with this vaccine, YouTube is taking a "No one can voice questions about this vaccine" tactic. "Misinformation" they call it, although technically "not the information we allow" isn't necessarily "misinformation."

Time Off for Good Beehavior
The Babylon Bee was in good form this week. Most recently was the sad news of a nation in mourning as the government averted a shutdown. In the ongoing "consensus" argument, the CDC reminds people to listen to all medical profesionals ... except for the tens of thousands who refuse the vaccine. On the vaccine, still, New York atheists are seeking a religious exemption from the vaccine after New York Governor Hochul said the vaccine was from God. In entertainment news, now that Daniel Craig is ending his James Bond role and conjecture that a woman could be the next Bond, we learn that Bond will remain a male played by Elliot Page. Just a sampling.

Of course, actual news was funny, too. Like the report out of Stanford that says that students are more likely to wear masks than helmets when riding bikes. (Note: Stanford is 99% vaccinated.) So the real danger is the virus for which they are vaccinated and not losing their brains in an accident. Oh, wait ... you know, I've noted that there are no reports of zombies in that area. Could it be a lack of food source? Like the Turkish fellow who got drunk one night and didn't go home so his is wife reported him missing. In the morning, he noticed a search party, so he joined them ... to find him. He didn't figure out who they were looking for until he heard them calling his name. An actual story about a guy trying to find himself. And I laughed at the story about the president stating straight-faced that his $3.5 trillion plan would cost nothing. Democrat economics?

Friday, October 01, 2021

Dismantled by Sin

There are lots of things in Scripture -- things made and endorsed by God -- that are no longer valued. Take, for instance, gender. The Bible says, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27) Male and female were not -- never were -- a social construct. They were a divine design. In their distinctiveness we see the need for a "helpmeet" (Gen 2:18), the need for community and for unity and for togetherness and support in our own distinct strengths and weaknesses. In their union we see the image of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32). In their varied roles we see strengths displayed and need shared, a practical "bear one anothers burdens" (Gal 6:2). But we've abused them. We've minimized one gender over another. Sin put male and female at odds (Gen 3:16). Sinful men marginalized women. Sinful desires objectified the sexes. (If you think it is just men objectifying women, you are shortsighted.) And today "gender" is a problem. It is an individual thing determined not by God but by each individual "feeler" based on "how I feel." And in some places in this world you can go to jail for using the "wrong pronoun."

Take, for instance, marriage. Originally intended as the union of the genders, a merging of two equal but complementary beings into a united entity that provides procreation -- a human-sized image of a divine act of creation -- and mutual support, it is now ... well ... mostly undefined. There is no "union." There is no "complementary beings." God has been cut out of God's own program instituted in the Garden of Eden. Why? Because of sin. We abused sex and we abused fidelity. We abused the unity of marriage and we jettisoned the lifelong aspect that the union demands. We drained the ocean of significance of marriage -- not the least of which was the clearest picture of the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church -- and left it high and dry. Today, marriage continues to decline, sexual fidelity is considered a fossil from a bygone era, and marriage hasn't merely lost its savor; it has lost its meaning. It is most popular on the comedy stages where they will ridicule it and those wishing to take part in it or in the LGBTQ+ communities where they have no sense that marrriage means anything at all.

Take, for instance, having children. It wasn't that long ago that the expectation was that you would grow up, get married, have children, and perpetuate the family. They tell me now that the birthrate in America is the lowest it has ever been. We are no longer having children at a "replacement rate" (something like 2.1) (partly obscured, of course, because that "2" was predicated on a couple and parentage is not nearly as much of a case of "2" anymore as it once was). Beyond that, there are actual movements to urge people to be childless. Not merely personal choices, but recommendations for all. Some place childlessness as a morally superior position. Why? Because of sin. Because sex outside of marriage has become the norm. Because self has become the god of this age and having children really cramps their style. There is no small number that argue "Who would want to bring a child into this world?" Sin. For many today, doing the First Commandment -- "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28) -- is a moral evil. Because of sin.

Take, for instance, corporal punishment. From the beginning discipline was a primary function of parenthood. It was "Job One." The goal was to teach your offspring that choices had consequences and to teach them to choose those things that didn't give negative consequences. The Bible calls it love (Prov 13:24; Prov 23:13-14; Heb 12:6). But parents failed to see it as love and opted to make it about themselves. They saw disobedience as a personal affront and sought to hurt the child over it. They saw misbehavior as a slight to their reputation and sought to make their children pay for it. Guided not by love, but by anger, they made the loving discipline ordained by God into child abuse driven by Man. Today, it is evil in most "civilized" societies and illegal in some. And parents who love their children will not abide by what Scripture says is love in the form of discipline.

Take, for instance, patriarchy. Scripture is full of references to God as Father and Jesus as Son, establishing at the end (the New Testament) what was begun at the beginning -- the principle of patriarchy. Paul lays it out clearly. "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). No question. And, yet, this will not fly today. It won't even fly among Christians. I've heard reliable, Bible-believing Christians tell me that patriarchy is evil. Really? Why is that? I mean, it was established, promoted, and defended by God. Why is it viewed as evil? Simply put, it's because of sin. God established as early as Adam and Eve that the male was the primary one responsible and then He made Eve. It was Adam that God held responsible for that first sin even though it was Eve who was deceived. Since sin came into the world, males have failed to properly meet their God-given responsibilities (e.g., Eph 5:25-30; Eph 6:4; Col 3:19, 21; 1 Peter 3:7). Worse, they've denegrated their responsibilities. Failing to love their wives, die to self, properly raise their children, etc., they've given God's instructions a bad name. Now God is the bad guy because He commands what we consider today to be evil.

In all these examples and more, the admonition from the Lord is "Do this" and we have said "No" so long and so badly that the command has been shifted to the category of "evil" and even believers consider these commands to be sinful. Now we can no longer see as good what God has commanded. Attempting to obey God in these things, you are viewed as an evil person. Doing it the way God commanded seems utterly impossible. And God is blasphemed because of us. You see, if God created and commanded all these things that we have now, in our greater wisdom, determined to be wrong, wrong, wrong, then it is God who has been wrong all this time. It is God who created all this evil and called it good and we were fools for buying any of it. You can see, then, the source of this dichotomy, right? It isn't God. It's His opponent. It is Satan, starting in the Garden -- "Did God really say ..." -- and pushing his agenda from the start to undercut God. He has, by our sinfulness, managed to dismantle much of the good that God intended and that we now spurn ... even while we call ourselves believers.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Abortion in the News

Last week over 500 female athletes filed a brief against the Mississippi abortion law because, apparently, irresponsible sex is the only approach for any good female athlete. This week the tiny nation of San Marino legalized abortion over the pope's protest that it is murder. Of course, the big abortion news is the Texas law. Chicago activists are protesting the Texas pro-life law. Texas anti-life advocates petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene. Law enforcement warns of a "credible threat" against Texas legislators who voted for life. The House passed abortion legislation challenging Texas's law. Uma Thurman spoke out about how her abortion and how it made her the wonderful person she is today. In short, there is a lot of thrashing about over whether or not a baby has any right to live, and they're leaning heavily toward a resounding "No!"

The pro-life side says life begins at conception. Science says life begins as conception. (That is, what exists at conception is life and is human and, if it goes through its normal growth processes will continue to be human until it dies of old age ... as a human. There is no artificial "at this point it is not human and then, as it passes through the birth canal, it is" kind of thing.) The pope says life begins at conception. But, of course, the rest all argue against it. Well, no, not so much. They discard the argument out of hand and argue for "a woman's right to choose" without regard to the life of the child. "You're not pro-life," they like to argue, "because you don't adopt every unwanted child." Like that's a meaningful argument? Makes no sense. (And if that is a rational argument, doesn't the fact that pro-choicers don't adopt every unwanted child prove they are also anti-life? Did they "prove" too much?)

Here's my simple position. I'm pro-life. I believe that we should not kill innocent humans. So I oppose killing innocent old humans, innocent mid-life humans, innocent young adult humans, innocent teenage humans, innocent ... humans at any age from conception through death. You might note that at no time did I say I was "anti-abortion." That's because I'm not. I'm pro-life. If we had the technology to terminate a pregnancy for a woman for whatever reason and continue the life of that embryo, I wouldn't protest that abortion. If abortion didn't kill an innocent human, I wouldn't protest it. I'm not anti-abortion; I'm anti-killing-innocent-people.

The opposite side has a problem, however. While they like to hang the "anti-abortion" and even "anti-choice" sign on people like me, they refuse the obvious "pro-abortion" or even "pro-murder" tags for themselves. Now, I just pointed out why mine is not an anti-abortion, but a pro-life view. It is my deep fear that the same doesn't work in reverse. I fear that a disproportionately large number of women, finding themselves pregnant at an inopportune time and given the option to terminate the pregnancy without terminating the life, would reject that option. One reason I think that is the relatively small number of such women who opt to have their baby adopted at birth rather than kill it before birth. But in conversations with others, it seems as if many could not tolerate the idea that a baby of theirs was "out there someplace" and would choose, instead, to make sure ... it wasn't.

I favor life. I don't demand pregnancy; if you could terminate a pregnancy without terminating a life, I'd have little to say. You can't rightly label me "anti-abortion." I'm afraid that today's culture so overtly and blatantly embraces a "me above all else" philosophy that most on the other side would not be able to make the same claim. They would rightly be "anti-life" in these cases. But, then, in a society governed by "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4), we should expect that the only labels allowed will be the ones that favor the sin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

No One is Safe

"No one is safe," Johnny Depp complained as he bemoaned the cancel culture prevalent in our day. Oh, make no mistake, it is prevalent. Transgress the line in your personal life and they will come for you and they will end you. That line is variable and moving, but it is no less real. Depp complained about it when he was about to receive a lifetime achievement award for his acting roles. He was convicted in the UK of being violent with his ex-wife, and he hasn't worked much since. Even this award was protested by women's rights groups even though the award was not for his character, but his work.

It is, however, trivial in the broader view. The psalmist wrote, "If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psa 130:3). Who indeed? Consider. "If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities ..." the psalmist begins. And God does. He knows everything. He doesn't merely know the violation. He knows the motive, the actions, the actual fault, the severity of the crime. Further, the claim of the Depps of this world is, "I didn't do it!" Maybe. Maybe not. Lacking omniscience, we can't know for sure. We can just remove "reasonable doubt." God has no such problem. He knows everything (Psa 139:3-7). Our sin is not hidden from Him (Jer 16:17-18). There is no question, no evasion, no mitigation. He knows our iniquities; we cannot hide our guilt from Him. What He offers is perfect justice ... and that's not something we can stand.

It is, then, a matter of immense importance that we find a solution to this intolerable condition. We cannot simply go back and apologize. The requirement is "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:48). The requirement is that everything we do is for God's glory (1 Cor 10:31). We all fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23). Johnny Depp is convinced that "no one is safe" from this cancel culture. It is much, much worse to consider this sin condition we face.

In the face of this horribly bad news, the good news becomes huge. Left to ourselves, the just response to our sin condition would make the cancel culture look like a play date. So when Jesus comes on the scene and becomes sin (2 Cor 5:21) in order that we might become righteousness, it is phenomenal. It isn't achieved by being good. It isn't obtained by hiding the "bad marks" against us. We don't get a pass on justice. He paid the price -- the just price we owed. The good news, then, is that we who trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness can stand in Christ's righteousness before a just Judge. In fact, it's an option that cancel culture does not provide.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Jesus and Salvation

We all know "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9). Good news. Saved by grace through faith, not by works. Good stuff. It's good because there aren't enough "good works" that we could perform to make up for our failures to obey God. So that's all good stuff. Still, for reasons that elude me, there are those who call themselves "Christians" who choose to opt out of this kind of "silliness" and go with a different approach. Some say they go with Jesus's approach. What did Jesus preach on salvation?

We first hear about "the gospel" in Matthew 4. Jesus came out of His temptation in the desert and "began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matt 4:17). Mark refers to it as "proclaiming the gospel of God" (Mark 1:14) and expands His message to "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). So, Jesus's original teaching on salvation was "repent" and "believe." Almost immediately after, Jesus follows that up with "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17). So, repent, believe in Christ, and follow Christ. That seems fairly straightforward ... until Jesus starts to flesh it out. First, what was this "gospel" that is required to believe? "God loved the world in this way; He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). Faith in Christ as the payment for our sins is the fundamental gospel that needs to be believed. Then, He told the Jews, "You do not believe because you are not among My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:26-27). Apparently, then, to accomplish that original "repent, believe, and follow" plan, you must be one of His sheep. Clearly you can't even believe if you're not one of His sheep. You can't "see the kingdom of God" if you're not "born again." (John 3:3). In fact, Jesus said, "The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matt 7:13-14). Not exactly an encouraging perspective. The fear is not that you won't find the road to heaven. The fear is that the road you think takes you to heaven is the wrong road ... and much more popular than the right one (cp Matt 7:21-23).

Looking further, what does Jesus say about following Him? He told a scribe who sought to follow Him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matt 8:20). He told a disciple who wished to bury his father, "Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." (Matt 8:22). He told His disciples, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matt 10:34). He went on to explain, "Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." (Matt 10:37-38). Following Christ, then, has a high cost. The first cost is self.

So, according to Jesus, the cost is high and those who go are few. Does Jesus offer any insight to help us tell if we are among the "few"? He does. In that Matthew 7 text He talks about false prophets. "You will recognize them by their fruits," He says (Matt 7:16). He also says, "Every healthy tree bears good fruit." (Matt 7:17). In Matthew 13 He tells the parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9) and explains it to His disciples. The difference between the "good soil" and the rest of the soils is that the good soil "bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Matt 13:23). Bad fruit or even no fruit, then, puts one in the category of those outside of Christ. (What is fruit? See Gal 5:22-23; Php 1:22; Rom 1:13. See also Eph 2:10.)

We like that Ephesians 2 version of how we get saved. Just believe, right? Seems pretty simple. Let's go with that. Turns out Jesus's version isn't so simple. It is hard to find. It is not mainstream. It requires repentance. It costs everything. It requires divine intervention ("born again"). And even if you think you have all that, there must be real evidence. Jesus doesn't offer a "gentler, kinder" version for us to follow. He demands everything. Jesus isn't looking for the arrogant and self-satisfied. He's looking for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5:2-12). Interestingly, He's looking for those whom only He can make. We don't get there on our own.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Arrogant

In Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth (the first one we have), he addresses various problems in a troubled church. The first problem he addresses is the problem of division. For four chapters he talks about this problem and how to address it. A major cause of division appears to be arrogance. He warns them not to "go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another." (1 Cor 4:6). "Puffed up." That is a pretty picture, isn't it? Looking large, but in reality just a lot of hot air. He asks them, "What do you have that you did not receive?" and then drills in further with, "If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor 4:7). Paul is deeply concerned with this arrogance.

It might seem like a surprise, then, when Paul tells them, "I urge you, then, be imitators of me." (1 Cor 4:16). "Whoa, now, Paul," we're tempted to say, "that is arrogant." Is it? It is if you take it out of context. What is the context?

Paul has been urging them to have a more realistic view of themselves. They thought they were rich. They thought they were kings (1 Cor 4:8). Instead, he said, "God has exhibited us apostles as last of all." (1 Cor 4:9). He says the Apostles were "a spectacle to the world" (1 Cor 4:9), "fools for Christ's sake," "weak," "in disrepute." (1 Cor 4:10). He says they are hungry and thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, working with their hands, reviled, persecuted, slandered, the "scum of the world" (his words, not mine), the "refuse of all things." (1 Cor 4:10-13). His aim is "You think you're so good and so well off and so important? Look at those of us you call 'Apostles'. We're not."

It is, then, in this context that Paul tells his "beloved children" (1 Cor 4:14), "Be imitators of me." Not, "I'm so wonderful and strong and spiritual and you should try to be like me." No. It is a call to recognize that in and of themselves they are weak, foolish, disreputable, poor, hungry, reviled. "Be imitators of me." Grasp the reality of who we are and then walk in the gift of the power of God.

This doesn't sit well with us, of course. We know we're better. We know we're wiser, richer, stronger. We know we're more honorable, more commendable, more spiritual. And Paul's message to Corinth in order to fight division is, "No, you're not. Recognize that God didn't call the wise, the strong, the exalted. He called the opposite. (1 Cor 1:26-29) He called you. He called me." Because only from this basis can we properly appreciate God's work in and through us that gives glory to God in and through us.