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Saturday, February 29, 2020

News Weakly - 2/29/20

Down with Math
Bernie is doing well in the campaign. Last week he won in Nevada. I suppose it's partially because Sanders has a plan to take wealth from the rich and give to the poor. Sanders has a problem, though; he can't do math. He wants to add to the multi-trillion dollar national debt by adding additional debt for his multi-trillion dollar "Medicare for all" proposal (and more). His plan is to tax those above $32 million net worth so that their wealth is cut by half over 15 years. Why $32 million? Because, while he is a millionaire himself many times over, he's not that rich, so such a plan won't cost him anything. Just the ones that are employing the most people. Whether or not the Supreme Court will allow a wealth tax, the math will tell you that he won't raise the estimated $14 trillion over 10 years required for his universal healthcare plans, but that never stopped a wealthy socialist (this website defines "wealthy" as anything over $2.4 million) from trying a money grab, right?

Hear, Hear
No pithy statements or snarky comments on this one. The Catholic Church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. Thus, for a Catholic foster care agency to exclude same-sex couples from serving as foster parents would simply be a matter of religious belief. Philadelphia disagrees and canceled its contract for foster care. Philadelphia apparently doesn't believe that religious beliefs ought to have any effect on practices. The Catholic group and some of the foster parents sued, and now the Supreme Court will hear the arguments regarding First Amendment rights. We'll see what happens. (I don't have high hopes for the Constitution or Bill of Rights.)

Paying for "Family Planning"
In a surprising decision, the U.S. appeals court upheld rules that prohibit taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions. Depending on your position, one of the best/worst things the Trump administration has done is this distancing of taxpayer funding from killing babies -- best if you're in favor of human beings and worst if you're not. If you think killing a baby is a suitable method of "family planning," this is a bad thing.

Negotiating Justice
A video surfaced about a school resource officer arresting a 6-year-old girl who assaulted a teacher who was trying to calm her down. Of course, outrage followed. She was pleading and begging. She didn't want to go to the police car. She begged for help. The officer was fired for failing to get permission to arrest someone under the age of 12 and the State Attorney dropped the charges against the girl. "When it comes to little elementary-aged children, we will not negotiate justice, ever."

I am not suggesting the 6-year-old should have been arrested or that the officer did the right thing. But let's not be unclear here. By dismissing it, justice was negotiated. With no legal consequences for assaulting her teacher, that 6-year-old received mercy, not justice.

News to Confuse
Back in December of 2018 the Senate unanimously approved legislation making lynching a federal crime. Now the House is trying to pass the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Keep in mind, lynching (defined as "to put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority") is bad. (Understatement) It is illegal. It is murder. The bill passed by the Senate and now the bill before the House both make it a civil rights violation. Now, that's interesting. Is murder a matter of civil rights? And why is the Senate's bill that was passed unanimously in 2018 and sent to the House still not a law? Why two separate bills? Is this "one-upmanship" of the House over the Senate? I'm so confused.

Fair Play
Barack Obama is demanding that a super PAC anti-Biden ad be pulled. It uses his voice. It takes his words out of context. It is "twisting his words to mislead viewers." Obama wants it removed "In the interest of truth in advertising." This may surprise you, but I agree. However, I agree much broader than he does. I would love it if political ads had a "truth in advertising" rule to meet. Generally speaking, they don't. I'd love it if attack ads were banned. I'd love it if all we heard from the media -- television, Internet, whatever -- was the truth rather than the tortured, emotional tantrums we're fed all the time. But, of course, what I'd love is not their (Democrat or Republican) concern. So I'm delighted not to have television, especially during election seasons.

Kill It
Michael Bloomberg hit the news again this week when a saleswoman that sold the Bloomberg Terminal complained that he had told her "Kill it" when she told him she was happily married and pregnant. Planned Parenthood has now endorsed Bloomberg for president. (Okay, pay attention there. That last sentence was satire from the Babylon Bee. The "Kill it" accusation, however, was not.)

We Tried to Warn You
When the nation began changing the definition of marriage to mean "no longer a man and a woman" (without actually substituting a new definition), we warned, "Where does it stop?" Our opponents and other talking heads laughed at us. "It's a stupid 'slippery slope' fallacy." It's not a fallacy if it happens.

Friday, February 28, 2020

That's Not Love

I've seen and heard too many of these stories. The guy beats his wife or girlfriend and, when she threatens to leave, comes to her in tears. "But ... I love you!" And I think, "That's a weird definition of love." I've seen people who "love their kids" while they abuse them or ignore them (I'm not sure which is worse) or spoil them. They "love their kids" while they destroy their lives. Seems like a strange concept of love.

I've seen it too many times, even in myself, where we say, "I love Jesus" and then we blatantly ignore Him. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15), but apparently we know better. We can love Him and ignore His commands and wishes. And I think, "That's a weird definition of love." I've heard people say, "I love Jesus" who don't spend time with His people, don't spend time in His Word, don't spend any effort talking to or for Him, and don't do anything for Him.

To me -- mind you, to me, because, after all, you might think differently -- that's not love. But, hey, that's just me.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

No Judgment?

We live in a society today that opposes being "judgmental." I put it in quotes because this current society appears to be completely schizophrenic about being "judgmental." They will scream judgment at people they deem "judgmental." What's that all about? But we're a society that likes to proclaim "Only God can judge me" by which they mean "I'll do what I want and God won't say a thing," not that God will judge anyone. They mean, "You may not." They even pull out a verse to throw at those they deem judgmental. "Judge not that you be not judged," they will offer (Matt 7:1). Even a cursory reading of the text and the context and the casual reader will have to conclude it doesn't mean "Don't ever have a judgment regarding sin or evil ever," but it doesn't stop them from complaining.

So if that's not the idea, what is? If the message of the Cross is not "only grace" — you can't ever call attention to evil — what is it? I think we've got it turned around.

Grace is central to Christianity. It is central to salvation. We are, indeed, saved by grace through faith apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). God told Jeremiah, "I will remember their sins no more." (Jer 31:34; Heb 10:17). No doubt; no question. Saved by grace. That's grace -- divine memory loss, right? "See? So it is grace." Yes, we're saved by grace, but does that mean that we can no longer recognize sin and warn against it? Did Jesus do the right thing with the woman "caught in adultery" (John 8:2-11) by getting them not to throw stones (John 8:7) only to fail when He told her "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11)? No, of course not. Every biblical writer under the inspiration of the Spirit wrote about sin. Jesus talked about it. The Old Testament is full of it. The New Testament is full of it. Using "grace" to mean "ignore sin" misses the point entirely.

Jesus makes the point elsewhere to Simon the Pharisee. The sinful woman washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair and anointed them with ointment and Jesus told Simon, "I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:47) That is, sins forgiven don't make us ignore sins; they make us love. Forgiven sins don't make us forget about sin; they make us grateful for forgiveness.

"Well, now," you might ask, "doesn't that make us non-judgmental?" No. It makes us loving. It makes us love God which, like Jesus, would give us a zeal for His name (John 2:17). Sin violates that. It makes us love our neighbor which gives us compassion for them. Sin harms them. So it does not eliminate the capacity to recognize and warn against sin. It simply changes our motivation for doing so. It substitutes love for self-righteousness, concern for ego, compassion for harshness. It is in this setting that you can catch a brother in a transgression and seek to restore him rather than condemn him (Gal 6:1). God's grace towards us should cause us to have grace towards others, but it doesn't follow that grace ignores sin. That wouldn't be loving.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

It's Okay to be Wrong

The other day I warned that we Christians need to be careful not to simply interpret Scripture by what we believe, but instead to be willing to reinterpret what we believe by the Scriptures. I came across this text.

In his epistle to Rome Paul rounds out his "bad news" section (Rom 1:18-3:20) with this scathing summary.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:9-12)
In terms of the topic of Scripture over personal beliefs, this is what I call a "target-rich environment." This thing is full of Truth claims that make us think "I've got to rewrite this to match my thinking." And I think most of us, me included, do it without even thinking.

"None is righteous, no, not one." "Wait, wait," my mind says, "I know people that are somewhat righteous, so ... yeah, okay, I can see that no one is fully righteous. Okay, I see that." Nice dodge, Stan, but why not let the Scriptures speak for themselves? Paul talks in Philippians about "having a righteousness" but he says it is "not my own." (Php 3:9) Isaiah said our righteousness is like "filthy rags" (in the polite KJV because "filthy" in Hebrew is literally "the menstrual flow" ... you get the idea). Paul tells us to work out our salvation (Php 2:12) but specifies that this only happens by God working in us (Php 2:13). So, Stan, no! We do not have a modicum of righteousness. The righteousness humans have is only the righteousness applied by Christ.

"No one understands." Again, no one understands completely, right? No! "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14) No room for "partially."

"No one seeks for God." Now, wait. We all know people who seek for God. Some of the people we know may be ourselves. Before we came to Christ, some of us were seeking for God ... right? So what else might this mean? And that's the point. We are taking our experience first and interpreting Scripture in light of that rather than vice versa. Scripture says we don't get it at all (1 Cor 2:14). Scripture says, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God." (Rom 8:7) Scripture says that before we come to Christ we are "dead in sin." (Eph 2:1). In this context how or why would anyone "seek for God"? Could it be that we're seeking the benefits God offers without actually seeking for God? Because Scripture is equally clear that God is not hidden (Psa 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). There are abundant biblical reasons to argue that this text means exactly what it says.

"No one does good, not even one." "Okay," some will say, "now we have you. We know that people do good. Clearly this cannot mean what it says ... so completely ('no, not one')." Really? Do we plan to explain to God why His Word is in error? He says "No one does good" and states for emphasis, "No, not one." Any 2nd-grade teacher could ask her class, "If no one does good, how many people do good?" and the class would say, "None!" And they'd be right. The problem here is not that we have degrees of bad; the problem is that humans are "rotten to the core."

These are mere examples. I chose the text because it was so rich in examples. I chose it because most of us have problems with taking God's Word at face value. What we tend to do is present God's Word to our preconceptions and figure out how it matches, reinterpreting it where it doesn't. That's not the right or even reasonable approach. What we need to do is ask, "What does God's Word say?" (keeping in mind that God's Word interprets God's Word) followed by "So how do I need to reinterpret my understanding of things?" and not the other way around. It's okay to be wrong. We can get past this ... with God's help.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Just wondering out loud here.

Why is it that we find it easier to complain than to compliment? Why is it easier to see what's wrong with something or someone than what's right? Why is it that, even among friends, much of the banter is insults rather than edification?

I know a lot of people who are "sourpusses." You know the kind. People whom my former pastor would describe as having Limburger cheese in their mustaches. I also know the "pollyanna" types. Everything is just wonderful. But I know far more of the former than of the latter. Why is that? Is it nature or nurture ... or both? Is it something we've learned or something we demonstrate for others? Which are you?

I don't want to be that way myself. I don't want to be dour or negative. I don't want to use unkindness as humor among friends. I suppose I do sometimes. And I want to say, "But they started it!" No excuse. I'm not looking for excuses. I'm looking for explanations. Why are people like this?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Language Barrier

It's that time again. We have a major election in November and accompanying minor ones in between. That means that people who watch TV will need to endure hours of screeching political ads, and it also means that there will be people everywhere trying to get you to sign their petition. It has started already.

So I'm walking down the street and a woman asks me to sign a petition for Planned Parenthood. Of course, she couldn't have known that I couldn't have considered signing anything in support of a murder organization that has killed more than Hitler, so I politely declined. Another one asked if I'd sign their petition to outlaw "dirty money." And the whole thing came home to roost.

I did look at what they put in front of me to sign. Neither had anything more than a title. "For Planned Parenthood" on one and "Outlaw Dirty Money 2020" on the other. They wanted me to support their causes based solely on that. But I had no idea what their causes were. Perhaps the Planned Parenthoood proposition was to defund it. Or fund it. Or maybe to make it a government office? Nothing would tell me. The "dirty money" one was worse. Outlaw what dirty money? Money with excessive dirt and grime? Should we test it for germs? No, of course not. So when a candidate (I'm assuming it was "political dirty money") was offered money, the bill would require an extensive check to find out where the money came from? "Did you earn this legally or did you steal a computer from work, sell it, and give us the proceeds?" It was all far too vague.

That's where we've come in this dissolution-of-language culture. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, it prohibited discrimination on the basis of a variety of personal factors including religion and sex. By "sex" they certainly meant male or female, because any other alternative wasn't in view. Today they are working to invest "sex" with modern meaning rather than its original intent, where "sex" is anything at all "on the spectrum." So calling "him" a "her" when "it" wants to be called a "phhht" would be a crime because that would be discrimination on the basis of this new definition (or undefinition) of "sex." The Equal Rights Amendment, brought up in the early 70's and only now achieving enough states to make it an amendment, suffers from the same malady. "Equal rights" meant something different back then and we have vastly expanded the term today and now want to smuggle our new definitions into the Constitution.

I admit it. I complain a lot about language. You'd think it was perhaps too much wrangling over words like this. Just let it go, right? But the loose use of language yesterday has fueled the abuse of language today which will, today and beyond, have real-world ramifications. We are indeed witnessing a modern day "tower of Babel" event where we all think we're talking the same language -- English to English, male to female, Christian to Christian -- and we're not. This will surely come back to bite us.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Be Exalted

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psa 108:5)
This particular sentence appears 3 times in Scripture (Psa 57:5, 11; Psa 108:5). In Psa 97:9 it says that He is most high over all the earth, that He is exalted "far above all gods." This begins to look like a theme. Even God says, "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psa 46:10) Apparently "exalted" is the biblical position for God.

That's good. We like that. We even sing (or, at least, sang) that song, "Be Exalted, O God." Lift God up! Let God be over all!

How is it then that church is so hard on Sundays for so many? How is it that listening to God via His Word is so hard to do on a daily basis? Why do we push back, then, when God seeks to "intrude" in our daily lives? "What do you mean, 'Love your neighbor'? Have you met my neighbor?" We are commanded to love God with our whole being. Do we? Really? Our whole being? If God is most high -- if God is lifted above everyone and everything else -- I would suggest that we have a hard time demonstrating that in our daily lives. I would think that our habits, our choices, our routines, our way of life would look a lot different.

It's Sunday, a great day to join other believers at church wherever you are to focus on God and His glory. It's a great day to remind ourselves to lift Him up above all else. It's a great day to confess our failure to do so, too.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

News Weakly - 2/22/20

Healthcare for Most!
The UK already has "universal healthcare" for its people. It turns out, however, that "universal" is misleading. New rules coming out in April will allow medical care providers to refuse non-critical care for people who are "racist," "sexist," "homophobic," or ... get this ... "otherwise insulting and aggressive towards hospital staff." The new rules include no tests for "racist" etc. And heaven help the mentally ill who might be aggressive by nature. Apparently any hospital worker that feels harassed will be allowed to refuse care. If they don't like your view, apparently, your healthcare will not be guaranteed.

The Gall
Scientists from Penn State and the University of Manchester have lost their minds. They are suggesting that human beings are born as one of only two distinct sexes: male and female. They claim ... get this ... that it is incontrovertible medical fact that sex is binary and there is no sort of "spectrum." The say, "If male and female are merely arbitrary groupings, it follows that everyone, regardless of genetics or anatomy should be free to choose to identify as male or female, or to reject sex entirely in favor of a new bespoke 'gender identity.' To characterize this line of reasoning as having no basis in reality would be an egregious understatement. It is false at every conceivable scale of resolution." How dare they bring facts and science to an emotional gunfight?

Fired for being Happy
Kennedy Catholic High School: "Two teachers voluntarily resigned. They were great and their loss will be felt deeply."
Public: "You guys forced them out because they're gay and you hate gays!"
City counsel: "Forcing them out says that being LGBTQ is wrong!"
Catholic Church: "Being LGBTQ is a sin."
Me: The question is were they forced out or was it voluntary. Isn't the answer "Yes" if they refused to uphold the conditions of employment in a Catholic school? "You agreed to this standard when you came to work for us. Do you wish to abide by it, or do you wish to resign?" "I will resign."

Why is it that the general sentiment is "We want to take advantage of the good things that Christianity provides (like the better education of the Catholic high school or a moral basis that makes democracy and the free enterprise system work) but not allow Christianity to stand as it is"? Did the parents, teachers, students, City Counsel, etc. not know that the church considers LGBTQ to be a sin? Is it time to dismember the Constitution and rip out the 1st Amendment?

When Do My Values Get to Tell You What to Do?
For reasons I don't fully grasp, Harvard University has a $40 billion investment in companies that profit from the prison industry. Okay. Whatever. So the students are suing the school to force them to withdraw the investment. Now, that people might oppose for-profit prison stuff isn't odd. That students might urge a school to lean toward their personal values isn't strange. But I am baffled by this effort at legal action to force a school to comply with student values, as if they own the school and it must bow to their demands. If you don't like the school's investments (or other values), don't go there. (We call that "market forces.") Use of the law to force a values-change is quite intolerant and judgmental, isn't it? (Note: Students tried this in the past. They filed a lawsuit to force Harvard to divest from fossil fuel investments. The judge threw it out. They failed to show that they "have been accorded a personal right in the management or administration of Harvard's endowment." My point exactly.)

It's similar to the "evangelical Christian" who refuses to work on Sundays and was "forced to quit" because of it. He's suing. It is the same question for me. Do we, as believers, get to impose our values on others by force of law? Or are we called to rejoice when we suffer for righteousness' sake? (Since such a suggestion doesn't appear to be in the repertoire of this "evangelical Christian," I question his grasp of biblical principles.) (I note that not one on the Left is outraged by the attack on this guy's rights simply because of his religious beliefs. Substitute "forced to quit because he was gay" and you'd see a firestorm.)

Save the Baby Whales!
"No, no, no, no, no! A thousand times no! We refuse -- absolutely refuse -- to protect the most defenseless humans on the planet! And it's hateful of you to keep trying," said a panel of federal judges to Mississippi this week. No one is particularly surprised.

A Parody (read "Commentary") on Our Times

Friday, February 21, 2020

The End

We who have placed our faith in Christ are saved. That's what Scripture tells us (e.g., Acts 16:31). Let's just all agree with and start with that premise. But for what purpose? We understand what we are saved from -- wrath, hell, eternal torment, etc. -- but what are we saved for? I suspect we have an idea, but I'm not entirely sure that it's the same idea that God has.

We like to think that God saved us because He likes us. Okay, too simplistic. But certainly because He loves us. I mean, isn't that straight out of John 3:16? And that's it, right? Saved so we can spend eternity with Him. Wonderful! Sure, it might sound a bit ... narcissistic. "God saved us in order to have a group of people around to praise Him." But, really, that's okay. Maybe, but it's not biblical. Sure, He saved us for heaven, but is that the answer?

Scripture tells us God's purpose in salvation. In Ezekiel God explains what His plan is in saving Israel.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules. (Ezek 36:25-27)
Here God lays out His method -- clean from sin, spiritually revive, and install His Spirit. (Note the interesting parallel to what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5.) Then explains His purpose -- "to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules." That is not method. We are not saved by works. But it is purpose. Paul echoes this in Ephesians when he explains that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Eph 2:8-9) (method) for good works (Eph 2:10) (purpose). Salvation is not in a vacuum. We don't just "get saved" end of story. We get saved for good works.

Another purpose (or, perhaps more accurately, the purpose of that purpose) is found in one of our favorite passages.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:28-29)
We love that "all things work together for good" thing, but what good? We don't have to guess; he tells us. We are "predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." The aim of salvation is to create "many brothers" who are conformed to the image of His Son.

I'm not suggesting that the purpose of salvation is to work, work, work. Clearly Scripture teaches that God is "not served by human hands, as though He needed anything." (Acts 17:27) God doesn't need our help (Psa 50:12). But God does plan to use us in His work (Eph 2:10) where He gets the glory (Matt 5:16). We work because God causes it (Ezek 36:27; Eph 2:10). But it is His purpose in salvation in order to conform us to the image of His Son so that, in the end, we may know Him (John 17:3). That is, in the end, salvation is marvelous for us, but it's not about us. It's about Him. And what He can do with us for His glory.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


I've had to turn off Comments to my blog temporarily. So far I've received 32 robot comments (even though robot comments are supposed to be blocked). When the glitch is repaired or the attack ends, I will turn Comments back on. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Update (8:52 AM)
Apparently the robo-comments have stopped. I've reopened the comments. Thank you for your patience.


On the bus the other day someone in front of me was using a tablet to amuse themselves as we road. Very common. This one caught my eye, however, because I noticed a simplified version of the Kalam cosmological argument1 at the top of the screen. So I looked a little closer. It appeared to be a quiz app that gave "standard" arguments for God and then gave the user options on how to reply. You know, "pick the best retort." It was painful to look at. The arguments offered for God were poorly structured, loosely built, and woefully incomplete. But the options for response were almost as horrible. This argument and response didn't appear, but it might have: "Argument: God exists." "Response: No he doesn't." It wasn't much better than that. It was clear to me that this was not a helpful exercise. The app builder wrote a set of minor claims and strawman arguments -- a complete misrepresentation of genuine Apologetics -- and then offered the user soothing comebacks that would feed their predispositions without bothering to question their own beliefs or ideas.

I bring it up not because I found it to be a healthy discussion around theism nor because I wish to point fingers at skeptics. I bring it up because it seems so ... normal. I bring it up because it seems like this is what most of us do -- take a position and then agree with arguments that support it and disagree with arguments that don't. It can be the double standards of the Left. "We demand inclusivity, and we will exclude anyone who doesn't include others!" It can be Christian apologists that reject scientific facts that disagree with their view because the fact claims appear to disagree with their view. We generally start with a premise and defend it rather than go for the Truth (I use a capital "T" there because I'm referring to Absolute Truth) even if it means we're wrong.

In this normal mode, we come to Scripture. By "we" there I mean "we Christians." We've got our beliefs. Now let's interpret Scripture in their light. We typically do not interpret our beliefs in the light of Scripture. "I've been told that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation, so I will reinterpret any passages that say otherwise to mean exactly that, or I will ignore them." "I believe in Absolute Human Free Will, so if some Scripture suggests otherwise I will mediate it to agree with me." As a couple of examples. Just like that unbelieving bus rider, we select our beliefs and then justify them rather than laying our beliefs out under the blazing light of God's Truth and find out where we're wrong.

This is the kind of thinking we expect from the world. No surprise. No recriminations. It's what you would anticipate from one whose mind is blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). But we should know better. We should be transformed by renewal of the mind (Rom 12:2). We should grasp that we have been deceived (Jer 17:9) and in need of change and long for the light in the darkness (1 Peter 2:9; Eph 5:8). Now, certainly the Truth will produce better arguments for God, but I'm not thinking in that direction. I'm thinking that it will make us better reflections of Christ, and that would certainly be a good thing for any follower of Christ.
1 The Kalam cosmological argument goes something like this:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
2. The universe began to exist;
3. The universe has a cause. (Ending conclusion: That cause can only be God.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Out of Context

Peter was in favor of Apologetics.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
Right there where it says "make a defense" the Greek word is ἀπολογία -- apologia -- the origin of our word, Apologetics. That word is not "apology" as in "I'm sorry." It refers to a verbal defense or a reasoned argument. It was basically a courtroom term, the way your lawyer would argue for you. Thus, to Christians "Apologetics" refers to the reasoned defense of the faith, and we like it because, after all, it's in the Bible.

There are a few, of course, who aren't sold on the idea. Mostly not that they don't like it; it's just that they don't seem to get the hang of it. You have to know too much. You have to sift together philosophy and rules of logic with archaeology, history, science ... the whole gamut of this stuff. "Can't we just preach Jesus?"

I think, however, that this is a misunderstanding ... on both sides. If you were paying attention, my quote above started without a capital letter and ended with a comma; it's not a complete sentence. That should be a warning that we are not getting the context.

Peter is listing a whole bunch of instructions to "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) Instructions include everything from "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (1 Peter 2:13) to suffering for righteousness' sake (1 Peter 3:8-20). That last section, verses 8-20, starts with "Finally" and it is in that final set of instructions that we find verse 15. It includes commands for unity, brotherly love, not repaying evil for evil and seeking peace. Peter says, "Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed." (1 Peter 3:13-14) It is here that we pick up the sentence in question.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14-16)
I know it's a lot, but I hope you can begin to see the context so that you can begin to understand the text. The context is suffering. Our job, here, is to honor Christ the Lord as holy. Our job is to retain a good conscience. Our job is to be holy ourselves. Our primary aim is to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The direction of the text is inward -- we need to be a reflection of Christ and to be prepared to suffer and to know that we are blessed for it -- and outward in the sense of being good witnesses for Christ. In that we should know why we believe. Why? Well, if we are examples of all that is good and we suffer for it, people are going to want to know why we're maintaining such a good attitude. We need to be able to tell them why. That is the concept.

I'm not saying that the formal field of Apologetics is a bad thing. Not at all. But the formal field is not for everybody. We are called to suffer for Christ and rejoice. We are called to be prepared to tell others why we rejoice in suffering. And, oh, by the way, we're supposed to do all that "with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience." When Apologetics advocates do it with fierceness and glee at defeating their enemies, it just doesn't seem like "gentleness and respect." When we fight for our cause, is that "gentleness and respect"?

We are supposed to be holy as God is holy. We are supposed to live godly lives as ambassadors for Christ. We are supposed to be ready to give an answer as to why we have hope in Christ. That may include a philosophical discussion, a logical train of thought, or a robust argument (or arguments). In all cases, though, we are ambassadors for Christ, His representatives, where our deeds and our words glorify Him. We are to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." When Apologetics supersedes that, we're not doing what Peter was talking about. When are not giving a reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect, it's called sin. Obviously defending the faith by sinning makes no sense at all.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Socialism vs Capitalism

Back in 2015 Investor's Business Daily reported that the U.N.'s executive secretary of Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, admitted that the real reason for environmental activism -- the furor over global climate change -- was not to save the world, but to destroy capitalism.
This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.
There is a growing clamor for replacing our current capitalism with socialism. Last year the Gallup organization reported that more than 40% of Americans believe that socialism would be a good thing for the country. That is partly because the definition of socialism has changed. More and more associate "socialism" with "social justice" or "social equality." Among young Democrats, 57% support socialism. Part of that, I suspect, is due to the fact that 40% view the American economy as currently controlled by the government rather than the free market, as opposed to the 34% who said it was free-market controlled.

I'm concerned. Bernie has been doing awfully well at the polls. He's quite popular among the millennials. But I'm not concerned about Bernie's showing. I'm concerned about the attitudes behind it. And I'm concerned about another demographic that loves him. They're from my generation of hippies. They lived through the 60's and 70's with their Cold War era and saw the rottenness that was the Soviet Union and communist China. They understood the horrors of socialism and somehow they've forgotten. They've even thrived under the "evils" of capitalism, living comfortable lives because of capitalism, but now they'd like to strip it away. Their parents taught them patriotism and gave them a work ethic, but they think America would be better served by undercutting the whole thing. They still consider themselves patriots, but they do it while denying the basis of the American experiment.

Millennials seem (largely) to say, "Work for it? No way! Let someone else pay our way." They are generations-removed from the blight of the Soviet Union. They aren't aware of the demise of socialism in Russia and China who still hold to to a form of socialism while denying the power of it. These countries are surviving by using capitalism to prop them up. Millennials don't know that. But the older generations should. I'm concerned because so many I've seen lately seem to have forgotten.

First, let me be clear. Capitalism is not biblical. But, then, no economic system is. And, let me clarify further. Capitalism is not perfect. Not being spawned by God, it is a human endeavor and will, therefore, be subject to abuse. So, capitalism is neither "God's choice" nor is it perfect.

So, what is capitalism? The dictionary defines it as "an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth." This version puts it squarely in the hands of private individuals and out of the hands of government. We don't have that version. We have a kind of hybrid where mostly market forces control prices and production is in the hands of private individuals ... but the government will interfere where it deems it necessary. So price controls, rent control, tariffs, Truth-in-advertising laws, and the like are government intervening in the perceived abuse of individuals of capitalistic approaches. The basic concept of capitalism is "market forces," the idea of supply and demand. If supply goes up and demand goes down, prices drop. If supply goes down and demand goes up, prices rise. So when oil, for instance, got really expensive because the demand was high and the supply short, natural market forces kicked in to push people to drive less, decreasing the demand and lowering prices. That's the idea. But capitalism in the hands of angry sinners can turn nasty. The "Greed is good" kind of capitalism replaces "Work hard and get ahead" with "Me first." It replaces "Anyone who is willing to work for it can succeed" with "Looking out for #1."

This table outlines some of the key distinctives between capitalism and socialism.

Capitalism Socialism
Ownership of Assets Means of production owned by private individuals Means of production owned by government or cooperatives
Income Equality Income determined by free market forces Income equally distributed according to need
Consumer Prices Prices determined by supply and demand Prices set by the government
Efficiency and Innovation Free market competition encourages efficiency and innovation Government-owned businesses have less incentive for efficiency and innovation
Healthcare Healthcare provided by private sector Healthcare provided free or subsidized by the government
Taxation Limited taxes based on individual income High taxes necessary to pay for public services

But, of course, that's all opinion, philosophy, a matter of preference. What does the Bible say?

Scripture Capitalism Socialism
If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2 Thess 3:10) You need to earn your way. No one should go hungry.
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil — this is the gift of God. (Ecc 5:19) Work is a good thing. Work is optional; everyone should contribute as they may.
Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thess 4:11-12) You should receive what you earn and learn to be independent. We should all depend on us all.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Prov 13:4) The sluggard won’t earn much; the diligent will earn more. A sluggard and the diligent should get the same.

I think it's clear that capitalism is not God's divine order for the proper economic system. Some argue that it is God's mandate; I wouldn't make that argument. I would say that capitalism takes into account the biblical concept of the sinfulness of Man more than socialism does, and capitalism has more points of agreement with biblical principles on the topic than socialism does. Clearly capitalism is not a perfect system; humans are sinful. But there is no support in Scripture for a government-controlled system that eliminates the motivation to work, the requirement to work, and the rewards of work, or that makes "social justice" a government mandate rather than a personal point of obedience. But here's the bottom line. No system -- not democracy or monarchy, capitalism or socialism, any human endeavor at all -- can survive and thrive without a moral foundation. Both capitalism and socialism relieved of moral constraints will strangle those who indulge them. And I'm concerned about the folks, younger and especially older, that think socialism is an improvement. I'm concerned that the current trend is pushing my grandchildren's America away from God and into socialism.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Faith That Does Not Save

There is a strange passage in John's gospel. It happens right after Jesus cleanses the Temple the first time. (He did it a second time at the end of His ministry.) The Jewish leaders weren't pleased, of course, but Jesus wasn't deterred. He went on with the Passover. The text says,
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (Joh 2:23-25)
Kind of strange. It says they believed in His name. Good! But Jesus didn't celebrate. He held back. He "did not entrust Himself to them." In fact, the word there in the first sentence that says "many believed" is the exact same word in the second where He "did not entrust Himself to them." He didn't trust them. He didn't believe in them. Why? "Because He knew all people," because "He Himself knew what was in man."

But does that answer the question. Why didn't He trust Himself to them? Doesn't it say they believed? Isn't it faith that saves? What's the problem?

In John 6 Jesus was explaining to the Jews that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-58). He was, of course, speaking metaphorically. He was "the bread that came down from heaven" (John 6:58) and He was, therefore, life. But the response was interesting. "When many of His disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this?'" (John 6:60-61) These are disciples. Not the 12 (John 6:67), but disciples who, when He finished talking, "turned back and no longer walked with Him." (John 6:66) They were "believers." What happened? Why didn't their faith save them?

We use the term "saving faith." Perhaps we do it without thinking. The suggestion there is that there is faith that saves and there is faith that does not. It doesn't mean there is faith that saves and there is no faith. James refers to dead faith. Faith without works, he says, is dead (James 2:17). Dead faith cannot save (James 2:14).

I think we make a mistake sometimes thinking that all faith saves. It doesn't. Only living faith saves. Jesus talked about tares among the wheat (Matt 13:24-30), people who looked like "wheat" -- true believers -- but were not. John wrote about those false teachers who "came out from us." "But," he went on to say, "they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us." (1 John 2:19)

Fake faith is easy, even prevalent. Dead faith is common. And, in all honesty, we have a really, really hard time distinguishing. Jesus didn't trust Himself to these believers because He knew what was in their hearts. They had a faith of a kind. Only He knew if it was saving faith or not. We, too, need to be aware that faith can be dead. We have a hard time telling it in others, but we ought to be diligent. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith," Paul wrote (2 Cor 13:5). You will want to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10) before you face the final judgment.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord is mentioned 27 times in Scripture. Add to that another 10 references to the fear of God, and we have a bit of a crowd here. On one hand, the Bible is full of the good things revolving around the fear of the Lord. It is the beginning of wisdom (Psa 111:10; Prov 9:10) and the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7). It prolongs life (Prov 10:27), hates evil (Prov 8:13) and gives confidence (Prov 14:26). And more. On the other hand, David warned that "there is no fear of God before their eyes" (Psa 36:1) and Paul felt the need to repeat it (Rom 3:18). Not a good thing. But what is it?

Most people will try to tell you it's "reverential awe." Apparently it can't be ... you know ... fear. No, no, that will never do. So it's something ... else. Part of this comes from a misunderstanding of a verse in 1 John.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
So, if perfect love casts out fear, and God's love is perfect, well, then, we can't fear God, right? Logical, except that wasn't what the verse was talking about. God's love was not in view; ours was. When we love perfectly, we have no need for fear. Why? Fear has to do with punishment, but if we love perfectly ("Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself") we will have no fear of punishment because we will be perfected in love. Paul said that the whole law is fulfilled in one word: love (Gal 5:14).

So what is the fear of the Lord? The word in that Psalm 36 passage is פַּחַד -- pachad. It means to be startled or alarmed. It refers to fear, dread, or terror. The parallel word in Greek in Romans 3 is φόβος -- phobos -- the source of our word, "phobia." It means ... wait for it ... alarm, fright, fear. So fear is involved. But what form? Now, we know that fear can paralyze people. Clearly this is not the fear in view. Other fears are simply irrational. This isn't it, either. In English, the word "awe" used to mean, "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful," but it included "accompanied with fear or dread." Ah, now that is closer to the fear of the Lord. That kind of "reverential awe" works.

Any rational person who encounters God is overwhelmed by Him. There is reverence and there is admiration and it would be senseless to have no fear. But it's not the fear that paralyzes, nor is it irrational. It is a fear built on the realization of who God is, who we are, and the gap that stands between. It is the xenophobia that we all have, the fear of that which is other. It doesn't stop us; it motivates us. It keeps us safe, prevents us from straying, keeps us in line. It crowds us to Him.

We are quite proud of the fact that we have no fear of God. Scripture considers that a bad thing. Perhaps we should reconsider. There is a wise and healthy fear that accompanies a personal, up-close look at God. If we actually have no fear, I would submit we have never had that personal, up-close look.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

News Weakly - 2/15/20

Unicorn Sighted
Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards made the news in Northern Ireland. They became the first couple to engage in gay mirage. No, I didn't misspell that. Oh, the news didn't say it. They called it the first same-sex marriage. But since "marriage" has an actual, traditional, even biblical definition, and "same-sex" doesn't fall within that definition, you can't really call it "marriage." "Same-sex marriage" doesn't exist any more than unicorns do. Pretty soon it will be a scant few who even realize this.

Correcting God
There were high hopes for a little while that Pope Francis might change the rules and allow married men to become priests. Well, at least in the Amazon ... where most men are married and there is a priest shortage. But, no. Francis declined to approve the ordination of married men. Scripture calls for elders/pastors/overseers/bishops to be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6) and to manage their children/household well (1 Tim 3:3-4; Titus 1:6), but that's apparently irrelevant; the pope gets to countermand the Word in their religion.

Go With The Flow
In America all states have laws that criminalize polygamy. In view of the court's decision to redefine marriage in 2015 to include same-sex couples, these laws are not rational. Utah may be the first state to figure this out and go along with the current trends opposing marriage. Republican state Sen. Deidre Henderson has sponsored a bill that would make polygamy an infraction in order to ... you know ... make it safer for potential victims of abuse. Next up? Polyamory (explicit non-monogamy) ought to be recognized and approved next, right? And, look, if we're going to be "sex positive" ("embrace your sexuality"), surely pedophilia is not far behind. Come on, people, you've got to keep up with the natural flow of things.

Nudging Out the Constitution
I know. We don't really care anymore. Who cares what some old guys back at the beginning of our country -- you know, "founding fathers" -- think? They didn't want the capital of the United States to be a state because it would then have competing political interests. So concerned were they that they wrote it into the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17). But not to worry. Since the Democrats don't care about your 2nd Amendment rights or your 1st Amendment free exercise of religion rights (for example), they won't be deterred by the Constitution, either. They're trying to grant statehood to Washington D.C. Good to know they know better than anyone else.

Radicalized, sure, but in a good way
A driver in Florida ran his van into a GOP voter registration tent. According to police, it wasn't an accident. He told police he opposed Trump and showed them videos on his phone that he took of himself driving into the tent. The Left is outraged and are looking into who radicalized this young man against Trump. Oh, wait, no. This one will get swept under the rug. You know it.

Missing the Point
Matty Healy made the news. "Who's that?" you ask? I admit I've never heard of the band, The 1975, or their frontman, but there it is. He has agreed to only play at music festivals that are "gender balanced." The idea is 50%. If a festival books 50% males and 50% females, he'll be one of those. If not, he won't. Whether the festival tried to book more females is irrelevant. Whether the festival did not try because they believed they could satisfy more fans or make more money with the balance they chose is beside the point. As we all know, the whole reason that there are music festivals (and movies and movie awards and all that) is so that there will be at least as many women (and minorities and LGBT folk, I suppose) as not. That's the point. Right?

Getting On God's Bad Side
The U.N. human rights office doesn't much care what God thinks of Israel (Gen 12:1-3). They're blackmailing Israel along with more than 100 companies that they say are "complicit in violating Palestinian human rights" by operating in Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Now, I don't believe that Israel should get a pass on whatever they do. I'm just saying that the first response to curse Israel because they don't like what they're doing (occupying their ancient territory given to them by God) is a potentially dangerous one.

"Normal Sensibilities"
They buried over 2,000 dead babies this week in South Bend, IN. The remains were discovered last year in the home and one of the vehicles of the most prolific abortion doctor in the Midwest between 2000 and 2002. He died last September. They estimate he personally killed "tens of thousands" of babies. Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said, "The shocking discovery ... was horrifying to anyone with normal sensibilities." Unfortunately, Mr. Hill, to a large number of Americans (and the world), "normal sensibilities" are not normal. Perhaps one of the most touching remarks came from a woman who had had an abortion at the hands of this abortion doctor after she was raped. "As post-abortive men and women, sometimes we think we shouldn’t be able to mourn the loss of our children, but it was a loss of life." Abortion is the loss of a child, and anyone with "normal sensibilities" would know that.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Loud Voices

I've been in Proverbs lately. The first chapter includes,
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?" (Prov 1:20-22)
Proverbs is all about wisdom. Proverbs is, in fact, the quintessential example of "wisdom literature." In more than one place, Solomon personifies wisdom as a woman urging listeners to come to her, sometimes in direct contrast to the adulterous woman luring fools to her bed.

So here she is -- Wisdom -- crying out in the street. Why is she crying out? Because the streets are noisy. Because the call of wisdom is drowned out by the call of the world around. For us, it would most likely be said that Wisdom is drowned out by the media, from television and movies to Internet and smartphones. You'll have to listen carefully to hear Wisdom calling in all that din.

In 2018 Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-Fil-A, was castigated for contributing some $1.8 million to "anti-LGBT causes." That would never do. But no one bats an eye when Jon Stryker of the Stryker Corporation forms a foundation that contributed $58.4 million to LGBT programs and organizations and added another $30 million himself. Nor do they care about the conglomerate of billionaires that are funding the movement. We don't care. You can tell, given the "yawn" offered by America at the Super Bowl ads touting LGBT as normal and, perhaps, preferable. You can tell by the fact that most don't much care that drag queens are invited into libraries and schools to give "story hour" to children. You can tell by the reality that "gender fluidity" advocacy is reaching a fever pitch despite science's certainty that there are only two sexes. You can tell by the fact that even Christians are losing sight of the fact that "marriage" has a definition ... and it's not the one we're seeing in common use today.

Wisdom cries in the street. The streets seek to drown her out. Instead, they'd ask you to listen to lust, to personal preference, to moral anarchy. The "adulteress" is much more compelling than wisdom ... and much more devastating in her outcomes. So Wisdom says,
"Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster." (Prov 1:24-33)
We will get what we ask for.

Thursday, February 13, 2020


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) Now that's a bit scary, isn't it? The forgiveness we receive from God is predicated on the forgiveness we give to others?

On the face of it, it looks ominous. No forgiveness given; no forgiveness received. It's not uniquely here, either. Jesus warns that calling Christ "Lord" doesn't ensure salvation (Matt 7:21-23). He warns that failure to pluck out your eye to prevent sin will result in hell (Matt 5:29). James says that you won't receive mercy from God if you don't show mercy to others (James 2:13). Yikes! Looks bad.

Of course, we know that's not quite right, right? We're saved by faith apart from works; it's not our works that get us forgiveness, secures us from hell, or applies God's mercy. So what's going on here?

If that certainty (saved by grace through faith apart from works) is accurate, something else is at work here. What could it be? You'll find the answer in Paul's "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Cor 5:17) It's found in John's "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9) Those who are in Christ experience a radical change of nature which produces a changed life. A fruit of that change is to long to cease from sinning ("pluck out your eye"). Given the measure of forgiveness we are given, a fruit of that change is to love (Luke 7:47). The changed life produces forgiveness for others. Perfection in all these (and more) is achieved over time and, ultimately, not in this life, but it is certainly the direction that all who have been saved by Christ and are being conformed into His image (Rom 8:29) will take. thus, forgiving others is a sign of a changed heart and if we don't, we need to check that out.

I consider, then, in view of today's society where refusing to forgive is the rule, how different we ought to be. You can't make an off-hand remark or an observation about sin, for instance, without encountering the wrath of the public. For so many, "No justice, no peace" means essentially "You've got to die." In today's world, forgiveness is considered a weakness. So, how about you, Christian? Do you stand out as someone who forgives? Or are you, more in tune with today's standards, not so likely to forgive? If the latter, does that cause you concern about your eternal condition? Jesus thought it should.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Work Out Your Salvation

Paul told the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Php 2:12) That seems to be confusing to some people. "Hang on a minute," I've heard people say, "works have nothing to do with salvation." Well, yes ... and no. We know we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Eph 2:8-9), but it goes on to say that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works for good works (Eph 2:10). Works are not the cause of salvation but they are definitely the effect.

So Paul is not saying that they need to work for salvation with fear and trembling. He was saying they (and, by extension, we) need to work out salvation. What does that mean? There are lots of ideas available, but it's best to let Scripture speak for itself here first. The verse itself begins with a "therefore" (or "wherefore," depending on translation) that requires something that came before. What came before? "Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus ..." (Php 2:5-11) It ends with God elevating Christ above all others so that every knee would bow and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:9-11) On that basis, work out your salvation. Because God exalts Him, work out your salvation. Because it is to the glory of God, work out your salvation. Considering others as more important than yourself is working out your salvation (Php 2:3). Looking out for the interests of others is working out your salvation (Php 2:4). Having Christ's mind in yourself is working out your salvation. Obedience publicly and privately is working out your salvation (Php 2:12).

The Greek word behind "work out" means "to work fully." In the end, then, it looks as if "work out" your salvation is the same as our "workout." Exercise it. Strengthen it. Put it to use. Hard labor, even. "No pain, no gain," they say. Bring it to its full capacity, so to speak. You've got it; now work it. That's the idea.

So, you have that salvation. Now work that salvation into every corner of your life. Extend it beyond yourself. Share it with others. You're already looked after in Christ; look after others. You're already loved in Christ; love others. Do it without grumbling or complaining (Php 2:14). Work out the blemishes (Php 2:15). "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:16)

Two last points. First, this is best accomplished if we have the proper sense of fear. Trembling, even. For those of us who see Christ as exalted, we ought to maintain a sense of fear to fail at working out our salvation. Second, along with that fear and trembling is the confidence of success. Why? Because we're not doing this work all on our own. "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Php 2:13) What is required to succeed in anything? You need the will and you need the ability. God is supplying that. We can't fail. He is supplying it for His good pleasure. We cannot fail.

So, time to hit the gym, so to speak. While they're working on their six-pack, we need to work out our salvation. It's a bit frightening, but we cannot fail.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Wrong Direction

The Bible doesn't stutter when it states its opinion of Natural Man's heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
The aim of the Christian life is largely a removal of the old self and a putting on of the new (Eph 4:22-24). We are, as believers, in a constant process of change because we need it. So why is it, as a general rule, when we examine what we ought to think and do -- how things really are -- we usually start with ourselves? "I think this" and "I feel that" are the forerunners of our conclusions. It is perfectly normal, but completely nonsensical in view of what Scripture says we are at our cores. We can't start with us -- our normal thoughts and feelings. We have to start with the truth -- with what we know to be true -- instead of our own deceitful hearts.

The Bible is all about God and our relationship to Him. If we wanted to start with the truth that is outside of us -- not of human manufacture -- and work from there, it would seem that the best place to go would be God as He presents Himself in His Word. Anyone who has spent time in His Word has experienced this collision of "what I think" and "what I feel" with what the Bible says about God and about ourselves. "That's not what I think; that's not what I feel." And this argues for a truth that is outside of us, that is not limited to our deceitful hearts.

We might start with us. We're basically good, you see. I mean, sure there are bad people, but I'm not as bad as they are, so I'm not really that bad. So why do bad things happen to me? Well, either God is either not loving enough or not powerful enough to do something about it. So we end up with a faulty conclusion because we went the wrong direction, premised on a faulty premise.

If we start with "God is love" and "the Almighty," then questions about whether He is loving enough or powerful enough go away and we're forced to come to a different conclusion. Because our usual approach is the elevation of Man and the depreciation of God, and that can never be a good approach. That's the wrong direction.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Be Holy

Last week I wrote about lust of ignorance, the fact that lust is driven by ignorance and that we ought to know better. I noticed, in the meantime, a couple other features of the passage I referenced.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16)
So, we got that former ignorance thing down now. But then I found something else interesting. It says, "Do not be conformed to ..." That's accurate, but ambiguous. It could be read to suggest that there is no will involved, like a lump of clay sitting on a bench that gets picked up and shoved into a mold and comes out shaped like the mold. It was "conformed to" the image of the mold, but not by choice. And in terms of the world and its lusts, we might feel that way ourselves. We don't want to be conformed to it, but it just seems to press us into the mold. That, however, is not the best way to understand the text. The King James says, "not fashioning yourselves according to ..." The actual language is that "fashioning alike" idea. So the actual sense of the text is not, "This could happen to you." It is "Don't do it yourself." "Do not conform yourself to the passions of your former ignorance." This is a choice, a conscious effort. It's not something that happens to you; it's something you do. Do you make efforts to conform to the world and its lusts? That's what Peter is saying not to do.

The other interesting thing that came up was the scope of the command. He says we are to be holy, and you're aware of how far that might go in view of the term "holy," but he says you are to be holy "in all your conduct." Really? All your conduct? I mean, we all know that there is the sacred and the secular. And we get that we might want to be holy in our sacred conduct. But the secular? Of course, as it turns out, the divide between sacred and secular is artificial. We see this in Paul's command, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31) Eat or drink? That's not sacred. "Whatever you do"? That's not sacred. But all of it is to be done to the glory of God. And that makes all of it sacred, all of it a matter of God's glory. That means that how we dress or how we drive to work, how we relate to coworkers and family members, what we eat and drink (because that's exactly what Paul said) ... all of it is a matter of God's glory, a matter of holiness. So we are supposed to eat holy. We are supposed to be holy in our treatment of others. We are supposed to worship holy and converse with others holy. We're supposed to pray holy and drink holy. All of our conduct is to be holy, is to glorify God (Matt 5:16).

We have a big command here, but it is predicated on the One who is "holy, holy, holy." That means we derive our will and power to do so from Him (Php 2:13). The only question will be if you're willing to do it or not.

Sunday, February 09, 2020


It's not a common term. To "whelm" means "to submerge or engulf," thus, "to overcome utterly." As such, "overwhelm" seems like an overstatement. Like "to really, really whelm" or something. But we get it. Like massive waves rolling over a small boat in a storm, we can experience being overwhelmed.

One place we rarely do is in relation to God. Most of the time we're fairly ... underwhelmed. No, no, He's good and all that, but ... not necessarily overly impressive. He's kind of in the background, so to speak. Not like some of the biblical stories we read.

Jacob slept and dreamed of angels on a ladder and God speaking from above, and he woke up terrified (Gen 28:10-19). "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." He was overwhelmed by God.

Isaiah "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." (Isa 6:1) His response was "Woe is me! For I am lost" (Isa 6:5 ESV), except the word there for "lost" is used to refer to being destroyed, annihilated, silenced forever. Isaiah was overwhelmed by God.

Job demanded that God answer him as to why he was being treated the way he was. God did, but not as Job intended. "Why, God?" "Job, where were you when I made the universe?" (Job 38-41). "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?" he answered. "I lay my hand on my mouth." (Job 40:4) And, "I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6) Job was overwhelmed by God.

Jesus stood at the edge of the lake and told the fishermen who had caught nothing all night to cast out again. They caught so many fish that their nets were breaking. Simon Peter fell on his knees and cried, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5:8) Peter was overwhelmed by Jesus.

Jesus went to dinner with Simon the Pharisee and a woman "who was a sinner" washed His feet with her tears and her hair and kissed His feet and anointed them with oil. She was overwhelmed by Christ.

The disciples encountered a bad storm on the sea of Galilee while Jesus slept and they were scared (literally overwhelmed, I think, at least with water). They woke Jesus, He spoke, and the storm ceased instantly ... and "they were filled with great fear." (Mark 4:35-41) They were overwhelmed by Christ.

Consistently in Scripture those who come into close contact with God are overwhelmed by God. Great fear, repentance, prostration -- common responses. Not us. God's our buddy, our pal, our good friend. Is it because we're better than those folks? Or is it because we haven't had a close encounter with God? Or is it because God is just not that overwhelming? None of those are good answers, are they.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

News Weakly Supplement

I've added this story to the News Weakly this week, but I've put it in a standalone place because 1) it's a lot to read on its own, 2) it's only one story, and 3) I have more to say about it than usual.

The story goes that a "Christian activist" is considering suing the NFL for its Super Bowl halftime show because, he said, "Viewing what you put on that screen put me in danger of hellfire." He wants to sue them for "pandering pornography to minors." He clarified that he wasn't concerned about it damaging his personal salvation; he was upset about "innocent children who are viewing it without the approval of their parents." He's thinking maybe "$867 trillion" in damages ought to do it.

I'm so disappointed by this. I want to know what "Christian" has to do with it. Nothing in Scripture suggests, "Go out and coerce your society to bend to biblical standards." Christianity is not about that. It is about sharing Christ, and simply labeling him "Christian activist" will likely serve to block that possibility. I'm sad that he would be so naive. I knew that they would not be glorifying God in that performance before it came on. I knew they would be injecting sex in their show before they did it. I didn't watch it myself because I don't need that. He couldn't figure that out in advance? I'm further disheartened that his kids are watching television without the approval of their parents. Isn't it the job of the parents to teach their children to guard their hearts and minds? Isn't that accomplished by carefully controlling what entertainment is brought into their living rooms? Isn't it abundantly clear that nearly all television is of the world and subject to sinful suggestions? The minute he plopped those kids down in front of that screen he started feeding them the world's version of what's good and right and he gave tacit approval for them to be there. It isn't the job of a God-hating world (Rom 8:7) to keep his kids from that; it's his. (Hey, did he not notice that there were 8 ads during the game linked to the LGBT world? Drag queens, "married" homosexual couples, self-declared "out and proud" gays and lesbians ... messages slipped right under his nose that this is okay. GLAAD was rejoicing while this "Christian activist," apparently, slept.)

Christians, it is not our job to force the world to be godly. It's not even God's plan. Guard yourselves. Teach your kids. Obey God. (And if that means you need to get rid of your television because it causes you to stumble, cut it off.) But don't complain because the world hates Christ and you for it (John 15:18; 17:14). It won't help you or anyone else.

News Weakly - 2/8/20

It appears that an entire church entity has decided to jettison Christianity in favor of the world (1 John 2:15). Archbishops for the Church of England released a statement apologizing for their ridiculous earlier claim that sex was only for heterosexual married couples ... you know, like the Bible says ... you know, repeatedly. That statement, they said, "jeopardised trust." This one, on the other hand, crushes any trust in the Word of God. Good luck with your new religion, whatever it might be.

What's Right is Right
At an elementary school "parent's night out" fundraiser, a dad brought The Lion King to show the kids while the parents played. Disney apparently objects. They've demanded their $250 fee for illegally screening the movie. Lessons learned. Be careful about the laws around screening movies ... and don't expect Disney to care in the least about your kids or their education. Certainly not in the way you are. (Remember when "Disney" was synonymous with "family values"? No more.)

A heart-warming story about an 8-year-old boy selling keychains to raise $4,000 to pay off lunch debt for other students has drawn criticism, it seems. While we're not paying teachers enough and while we're funding excessive educational administration without sufficient ... anything else for schools, people are miffed that the school system isn't paying for all kids to eat for free. We were taught "There's no free lunch," by which we were to understand that you need to earn your way. The twittersphere finds that concept appalling.

The State of the Union
Trump gave his State of the Union address which was a self-congratulatory event ... no news there. Nancy Pelosi gave hers by ripping up his speech afterwards. In other words, I'm not at all sure that "union" is an apt description of this country. (And, please, Congressman Gaetz, don't get all huffy because Pelosi has "some real impulse control problems." That is a double standard when you look at the president's Twitter feed.)

Big Brother IS Watching
This is a bit of a disturbing story to me. An artist in Berlin took a wagon full of cellphones on a walk and convinced Google Maps that there was a terrible traffic jam because, "Look, there are 99 phones moving slowly on the city streets!" On the surface it's mildly amusing, but then you consider that Google is tracking individual phones so carefully that they can tell where they are and how fast they're moving. Do we really want Google to have that information on each human on the planet with a phone?

The News That Isn't?
It was a foregone conclusion. The House would impeach the president. Done. The Senate would acquit the president. Done. So here's what we know ... not much. Neither side made a convincing case. That is, neither side made a case that made the opposing side change their minds. So you're likely still convinced ... that he's guilty ... or he's not. That's what we know, thank you very much. Now, when O.J. was declared innocent by a jury, we were cautioned not to question it further. In the eyes of the law it was done. I'm pretty sure that won't be the case here.

And so Trump was acquitted and he thinks the right response is to rant about it at the National Prayer Breakfast ... you know, instead of praying. The Babylon Bee hit the nail on the head with their headline, "Trump Irritated As Some Jesus Guy Hogs All The Attention At Prayer Breakfast." And this troubling Trump quote: "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong." Way too close to some pot making a remark about some kettle. And it is ironic that the wife of the former president who was one of only three that have faced impeachment and who, herself, appears to have violated federal laws in her own service to the country, decided that she would take the moral high ground on this and assure us that any Republican lawmaker who believed Trump shouldn't be removed from office betrayed the Constitution. Even closer to that pot-and-kettle concept.

Friday, February 07, 2020

A Little Word Play

So, a little word thing here. No deep evaluation or anything. Someone asked me recently what the word would be to describe someone as having integrity -- the adjective form of "integrity." I worked that over and over in my brain and decided we don't have that word. The internet gives "integrous" as a possibility, but classifies it as "rare" and observes that it's not even accepted as a term in most English circles. "Use a different word," they all say, "like 'honest' or 'virtuous'."

So I hunted down the differences between integrity, honesty, and virtue. Honesty is obviously in regard to truthfulness. No lying. Virtue is a bit farther along. To be virtuous is to do good deeds and follow moral values. Now, if you look up "integrity," you'll see something like this: "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." Well, then, okay ... there you have it. But ... not.

There is a different component to "integrity" that is neither "honesty" nor "virtue." It is found in the root of the word. Certainly you can see that the word origin is in the idea of "integer." In math that's a whole number. In every other use it is a complete entity -- no fractions or decimal points, so to speak. There is, buried in the word, "integrity," the concept of being whole. Thus, integrity carries more of a sense of being united in one's actions and attitudes to a unified set of principles. It is internal and external consistency.

You can see in this version of the word that it may or may not be virtuous. Peter Singer, for instance, is a bioethicist and an atheist. His philosophy of bioethics, then, reflects consistently his atheist principles. Humans are no more valuable than animals. Apes should have the same rights as humans. Children should be able to be killed as animals are killed. All rather horrible, but consistent. He could then be said to be a man of integrity simply because he is internally and externally consistent in his principles and views.

In the conversation I mentioned at the beginning my friend was saying that someone lacked integrity. I said, "So, he's not honest?" "Oh, no," my friend responded, "that's not what I'm saying." Because, although the language recognizes "honesty" and "virtue" as synonyms for "integrity," there is a distinction. Isn't it odd, then, that we have no adjective or adverb for "integrity"? Perhaps it's because we rarely need to describe someone as actually being "integrous"?

Thursday, February 06, 2020

My Little God

We human beings have a common and prevalent set of equal and opposite temptations that we encounter. One side is to elevate Man and the other is to diminish God. So we regularly think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom 12:3) while bringing God down to our level (Psa 50:21) even while believing we're honoring Him (Luke 18:11-12). We try to keep a biblical view of our nature and a biblical view of who God is and we still trip and fall all over these two points. We struggle with the notion that we're as bad as the Scriptures tell us we are and are constantly working to correct the idea that God is much more like us than His Word says He is.

You can see this most clearly when we question God in times of trouble. This generally hinges on both the elevation of Man and the demotion of God. On the human side, clearly we are worth much, much more than God is giving us credit for or He would be working much harder to make us more comfortable. And we're wise enough to know what's best. On the God side, we are passing judgment on His choice of actions (or inaction) and questioning His wisdom, His power, and His love for not doing what we think is best.

Another place we see this is in church. Seriously. We go there to agree with others that we are sinners saved by grace and to worship the Most High God ... and we look to be entertained, fed (spiritually if not physically), and catered to. If it's not up to our standards, we're bored. Bored? Bored in the presence of God? It's not entertaining enough? It's not exciting enough? And that sermon. I mean, come on. Does he have to preach so long? Because hearing the Word of God for more than 15 minutes can get ... well ... boring, can't it? Remember, even Paul preached a young man to death once (Acts 20:7-9). Let's face it. Being in the presence of God surrounded by angels and God's people glorifying God and listening to His Word preached only goes so far. Because, you see, our time and attention is much more valuable than that and, frankly, God is only so exciting and then He's just boring.

We all object to such a depiction. We all likely know inside it's at least somewhat true. We don't generally have an issue with viewing ourselves as too evil; we're confident we're better than that. We aren't concerned with a view of God that is too big; our problem is that God is too small. And we are listening to the lie from the father of lies offered at the beginning of the race that elevates humans ("When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God" (Gen 3:5)) and diminishes God ("You will not surely die, for God knows that ..." (Gen 3:4-5)). And we -- you and I -- need to recognize this and repent. Often. Repeatedly. As necessary. Because any god we worship that is not God is an idol, and a god of diminished capacity and character that is merely based on the God of the Bible is still not God.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

Wednesday, February 05, 2020


Peter wrote,
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16)
At first blush, this is a stunning command. Be holy as He is holy?? You mean the "holy, holy, holy" God? That holy? And, of course, it's impossible. Here. In this life. But the Christian life is about direction and all believers are being sanctified -- made holy (Rom 6:22; 1 Thess 4:3). So it is the arc of every true believer to be becoming holy as He is holy. We just don't get there until heaven.

The part that struck me was that crack about "the passions of your former ignorance." What is that? The word is ἐπιθυμία -- epithumia. It refers literally to "heat," to any kind of longing, but it is used almost exclusively in terms of longing for what is forbidden. Here, let's see if I can be clearer. Most translations call it "lust." Ah! Now you understand. On this John wrote, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) It's not merely "passions" or "desires" -- it's the passions and desires of the world. It's sinful desires.

So it's interesting that Peter describes them as passions of ignorance. Think about that. We have passions, desires, lusts if you will. They are for things that we should not have them for. They are "from the world," not from the Father. And Peter says they're ignorant. We lust after things that don't satisfy, desperately grasp for that which doesn't give us what we want, pant for pleasures that don't please. We experience that brief moment of "ahhh" and it's gone and we need more because it's ignorant to think that what God forbids is what will please us most.

It puts a different spin on lust. We try to mitigate it. It's bad, but not that bad. It's okay to lust after your spouse. It's not bad to lust after just about anything as long as we don't actually pursue it. You know? As long as we control our passions, it's fine. And Peter says, "It's ignorant. You should know better" as we live out James's story about looking into God's Word and forget about what we look like (James 1:22-25). "Lust is okay as long as I control it." No, lust is ignorant. We ought to know better.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Point O-8

Peter wrote,
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
It's all pretty good. That "therefore" is about all that Christ has done for us (1 Peter 1:1-12). Based on what He has done, prepare your minds. Be sober-minded. Set your hope on grace revealed by Christ. All very good stuff.

What struck me, though, was that "be sober-minded" thing. So, let's see. "Sober" -- "not intoxicated or drunk." Of course, we also have the "marked by seriousness, gravity, solemnity" definition, but, as it turns out, the Greek word used in this text is precisely "abstain from wine." Obviously Peter is using it in the sense of more than being a teetotaler. It's the second definition, to be sure. But he's using the "not intoxicated" imagery to get the "be serious" idea. Like Paul did when he wrote, "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." (Eph 5:18) It's not about drink; it's about being "under the influence" of the Spirit. And this one is about not being "intoxicated," but keeping your mind straight.

I was thinking about that -- "under the influence" as opposed to "sober." Where can we find ourselves "under the influence" rather than "sober"? What difficulties do we have with "be sober-minded"? I think it's pretty clear. It is premised on what we allow to influence us. Is our primary influence the world or the Lord? Do we grab our standards, our values, our perspectives, our goals from the world or from the Word? Do we spend our time imbibing the media in all its forms -- TV, movies, internet, social media, etc. -- or pursuing the things of God? How do we prepare our minds for action? How can we be sober-minded? If .08 is a legal definition of drunk, what percentage of our lives belong to the world rather than God? Are we spiritually drunk?

Paul wrote, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Php 4:8) Is that you? It's not me. I clearly have some sobering up to do.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Authority Structures

"Question authority" became a slogan in the '60's and a principle ever since. What is authority? Authority is defined as "the right to control," essentially. That's plain enough, but who is in authority?

I'm sure you can see quite clearly that we are surrounded by authority. There is the authority of the policeman who derives his authority from the legal system which derives its authority from, in our case, the Constitution which derives ... well, you get the idea. There are hierarchies of authority. There are also spheres of authority. A parent has authority over their kids that others don't have, even while the parents are under authority as well. Scripture talks about wives submitting to their husbands, putting the husband in a sphere of authority that no other man has. Your boss has authority in your life, but that sphere only extends as far as your work goes. Everybody has authority in something and everyone is under authority.

These authority structures, of course, can cause problems. When Authority A tells you to do X and Authority B tells you to do Y, which will you do? When God tells you to preach the gospel and human authorities tell you not to, which will you choose? These structures have spheres of influence and levels of hierarchy that need to be defined and observed. We Christians understand God to be the ultimate authority -- the one exception to the "everyone is under authority" rule, but humans as a group typically regard themselves as the ultimate authority and it never fails that the commands from God will certainly clash with the commands from self.

We are all under authority -- multiple authorities. To determine which to follow, we need to determine if they hold authority in the sphere they are exercising. For instance, a boss has no authority in your home; a president has no authority in your church. We need to determine the hierarchy in that authority. Does this command violate a higher one? And at the bottom, we need to realize that our standard hierarchy begins with "me" as ultimate authority, and that's upside down. We can question authority. We can and should certainly question our own. We can question authorities like teachers or police officers or mayors or governors. But I hope you felt, as I listed those, an ascending caution where, as they fell higher in the hierarchy of authority, they demanded more respect, both in terms of the threat doing so might bring as well as the weight of their office. At the top, then, it becomes rather unwise to question God's authority. Like we do almost every day.