"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Answers In God’s Time

ODB Capture

“… the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played (the harp) with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.” (1 Samuel 18: 10,11)

      That, and other Scripture passages, beg a question that’s puzzled me for years, How could an “evil” spirit could come from God?

      Today’s Our Daily Bread meditation by Julie Ackerman Link suggested an answer:

“Sometimes when I want to start a fire, the wind puts it out. But when I try to keep a fire burning, wind keeps it going. So, in the first situation, I label wind “bad” because it thwarts my plans; in the other, I label it “good” because it helps me accomplish what I want to get done. where What’s the difference between an “ill wind,” and a “fair wind,” or “a destructive fire,” and “a productive fire?” One works against you, and the other works for you, but both are simply natural functions, with no agenda of their own.”

      For further insight, I consulted some classic commentaries in eSword ,* discovering that actual theologians agree with me about God unleashing anything bad on his people. Characterizing phenomena as “good” or “evil” is the human perception, but in God’s economy all is ultimately good for those who follow Jesus. So many Scripture passages support that idea that laying them all out here would defeat the purpose of a blog post. Those who want to study it out can find many excellent tools such as the one I mentioned. When we study out answers to our own questions we’ll have them ready for anyone who asks us about it. Being prepared could pay eternal dividends.

*   The free Bible-study program from Rick Meyers, whose life work is making Bible-study tools freely available to all who want to wield God’s sword more effectively.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Taking Out the Trash

458220_184213571719926_854969215_oGood theology. Politicians, as well as every one of us, need to carefully consider our attitudes and positions on life's issues. This is as true for pro-lifers as for Pro-abortionists. How many "pro-lifers," in lockstep with conservative doctrine, staunchly defend capital punishment?

      The "Justice" System’s fundamental injustice, including its decisions about who receives the death penalty, never really dawned on me until I heard Paul Harvey deliver a special program clarifying the issue. Research continues to show that capital punishment kills people, irrespective of their guilt.

      We conservatives glibly demand capital punishment for the “really bad” people, saying this world will be better without them. Will our enthusiasm for “taking out the trash” continue when we, because of our conservative activism, become the trash?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Is BONES Going Pro-Life? Episode 4-2


     Dr. Brennan’s pregnancy creates a sub-plot where she has an ultrasound and doesn’t see the need to mention it to baby’s daddy, agent Booth. Well, daddy gets upset at being left out, which creates an opportunity for some Hollywood-style reconciliation. Surprisingly enough, this crime drama somehow manages to inject sound relationship advice into the script when Bones suggests that she walk for a while in Booth’s shoes—which surprised the heck out of me, considering the program’s track record of liberal claptrap.

     When Bones finally produces a still image taken from the ultrasound video, Booth grabs it under the pretense of wanting to study the baby’s development, and it winds up just inside one of his desk drawers where he can “study” it often. By the final scene, Booth and Bones watch the video together, completely in awe of the fetal work-in-progress. In all this, they never refer to the baby as a fetus, but as a baby or a little girl.

     So, what makes this baby so special that she is a little girl, and not a fetus? Just one thing: She is wanted! Biologically and anatomically identical to millions of terminated fetuses, her value lies in her parents’ intention, and not in her budding human life. If the show’s plot had involved a bald eagle’s egg, a fetal grizzly bear, or any other endangered species’ progeny, its ultimate value would have been assumed, but this was a human, pre-born baby, and everyone knows they’re expendable at a whim.

This Is Only a Test

The same could be said for life … This is only a test! The true reason for which I was born, my destiny, is to glorify my God and Savior for eternity. Worldly people will read those words with a quizzical smile, thinking it’s just a bunch of religious bunkum. But I know whom I’ve believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep me safe in him for the day that I will enter his presence to praise him in person. What a wonderful day that will be!

Monday, December 24, 2012


Sci-Fi dramas have one thing right: Aliens are out there. But they’re also here, among us. In fact, they are us.

Need proof? How did you react last time you encountered someone who looked, acted or talked fundamentally different from you, especially if they were on your turf? Suspicion is the entry-level attitude, even if one considers him/her-self an egalitarian. And if you’re on their turf … fear.

Don’t believe me? Drive your Lexus to the other side of the tracks, slowly, with the doors unlocked and the windows down. Fight your impulse to panic when Lexus Link asks, “Are you insane,” or when you spot a half-dozen youngish guys with bulges under their hoodies, sauntering toward you, and all you can see of their faces is grinning, white teeth. If you’re as liberal as you think, just offer them jobs; that’ll win them over.

Name any subculture, race, or religion, and if you’re not one of them you don’t understand them. Even if you’ve “converted” from one group to another, you may think you’re objective toward them, but you wouldn’t have switched if you really had nothing against something about them.

My frame of reference takes me to religion, or to anti-religion. In my early-twenties I jumped tracks from Catholicism to what they call Protestantism, even though I’d never admit to being a Protestant. As a Christ-follower, I won’t hate Catholics, even though their religion has done some awful things throughout history. Even if the Romanist church were to officially deny those blemishes on history, they couldn’t deny what evil people have done in the church’s name.

But the Catholic Church isn’t the only sect that’s blasphemed Christ by pillaging and plundering in his name. The long and bloody war between Catholics and Protestants still rages, though not as publicly as it once did. And yes, they both claim Christ as their Savior.

Think that’s bad. What about the wars between Eastern, Middle-eastern, and pagan religions? No wonder secularists, including atheists, point condemnatory fingers at religion as the bane of humanity or the people’s opiate. But blame isn’t the only thing they’ve pointed at religious people throughout history. Does the name Lenin strike a sour chord? How about Stalin? But we don’t have to scrutinize atheism, or even, Communism, to find oceans of blood outside of historical religion. Hitler embraced, or at least winked at, most any religion but Judaism and Biblical Christianity, if he thought it would advance the Reich and glorify the Fatherland.

I would say Biblical Christianity is the only religion not to have engaged in hatred and murder throughout history, but that wouldn’t be true—Biblical Christianity is not a religion in any traditional, human sense. Rather, it is the spiritual way of life espoused by the eternal, self-existent God, through his living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. And Christ-followers pursue that way religiously, but not as a religion.

To those blinded by materialism and other naturalistic beliefs, we are indeed aliens.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shooting At Newtown Connecticut School

Tragically, shock, but not surprise, reflect my reaction to this morning's wanton, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Predictably, our government will blame this calamity on America's failure to control guns, screen unbalanced people and detect their reprehensible intentions, and monitor dissident groups such as Evangelical Bible-believers. But oddly, accusations aimed at Christians and patriots will at once, be 180° off, and right on target.

God's church may not have physically pulled the fatal triggers during this carnage, but the fundamental responsibility for those terrible events falls squarely on our apathetic, Christian shoulders. If Christ-followers were truly obeying their Savior, tragedies such as mass-murders and bombings would be rare, rather than the stuff of daily headlines. Christ's Great Commission should have been all the instruction we needed to minister His redeeming love and grace to fallen mankind. Instead, grass-fires of error and disobedience began consuming the young churches, as they still do today.

We American evangelicals pride ourselves in our patriotism, clinging to our Constitutional rights as if they were holy writ. When we see those rights threatened, as they are today, we get irate, even hateful, toward those "accursed" liberals who want to rain on our 200 year old parade. So we spend far more time finger-pointing and name-calling than searching out our own responsibility in society's moral decline.

Church, we've not only dropped the ball, but we've picked it up and begun running toward the wrong goal line(Ephesians 6:12). So we must not simply wring our hands in despair over today's horrible events, but rather, fall to our knees in prayer, getting to know the lovely Savior who died to redeem us, and our sinful, broken world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

They Tremble ...

... at the mention of His name—demons, that is.

    In America, “Holy warriors” are scary, but tolerable, as long as they’re Muslims. Those Christ-following holy warriors? “Fundamentalists! Bigots! Homophobes! Haters! Skinheads!”

    As long as Christians stay in their churches like good religious eunuchs, America has no problem with them. But demonstrate proactive, fired-up, Spirit-filled Christianity, and you discover a whole new level of panic. Better hope the secularists don't see this video; they'll wet themselves.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Open-Handed Help

I'm posting Our Daily Bread for December 4 partly because of the good message, but mostly because of the "punchline" at the end, which is one of the best non-Scriptural summations of love that I've seen. If you've already read it, enjoy it again.

Open-Handed Help

December 4, 2012 — by Jennifer Benson Schuldt

A homeless man spends time in our local library. One afternoon, while I was writing there, I took a lunch break. After I finished the first half of a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich, an image of the man’s face came to mind. A few minutes later, I offered him the untouched part of my lunch. He accepted.

This brief encounter made me realize that with all that God has given me, I needed to do more to help those who are less fortunate. Later, as I thought about this, I read Moses’ instructions on providing for the poor. He told the Israelites: Do not “shut your hand from your poor brother, but . . . open your hand wide to him” (Deut. 15:7-8). An open hand symbolizes the way God wanted His nation to provide for impoverished people—willingly and freely. No excuses, no holding back (v.9). God had given to them, and He wanted them to give generously enough to supply whatever was “sufficient” for the need (v.8).

When we offer open-handed help to the poor, God blesses us for our kindness (Ps. 41:1-3; Prov. 19:17). With His leading, consider how you might “extend your soul to the hungry” (Isa. 58:10) and freely give to help others in Jesus’ name.

Grant us, then, the grace for giving
With a spirit large and free,
That our life and all our living
We may consecrate to Thee. —Murray

You may give without loving,
but you can’t love without giving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hollywood's Mission: Enlightenment

Detective Murdoch(the handsome one in the photo above) is a conservative Catholic. The beautiful coroner(the beautiful one with blood running down her arm) with whom he works is a liberated woman. The cases on which they work often involve controversial social issues to which he approaches—initially, at least—as a dogmatic “Christian,” and she approaches with an open mind.
       Ideological content asideMurdoch Mysteries, is an entertaining, steam-punk-style police procedural drama that keeps viewers coming back, at least those viewers who enjoy period pseudo-science and semi-British drama.

Worldview Analysis

       The program serves as an apologetic for liberal views, but refreshingly, portrays the religious guy as a highly intelligent, reasonable sort. But as a reasonable man, he regularly reexamines his religious convictions in light of new “evidence” to the contrary.
       The program assigns to Catholicism the role of religion’s archetype, the “spanking boy” for the humanist worldview. Admittedly, Murdoch Mysteries handles the gutting of religion gently, which, I suppose, is a relatively good thing. Such a gentle assault, however, makes enlightenment’s poison far easier for the audience to swallow.
       Problem is, enlightenment seems so … enlightened … with precious little logical examination of the process.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Zombies Are Real

In my Internet travels I've discovered firearms enthusiasts who instruct viewers in the best weapons and strategies for killing zombies. At first, I wondered if they knew something I didn't  Then I became convinced that the term “zombies” is simply a code word for “bad guys” or “intruders” in ones home.

While that may be partly true, I've discovered a sense in which “the living dead” do literally exist—and it ain't pretty.

Human beings are born with an incomplete spirit that can’t counteract basic human badness. We learn to function in our world through trial-and-error, correcting our behavior when it earns us enough pain to quit touching that figurative, hot burner. “Ouch! So that’s why they call it a figurative, hot burner.”

Most zombies learn to function fairly well in life, even with an incomplete spirit. Unlike movie zombies, though, real zombies look like regular folks. Most of them go to work every day, support their families well, and a lot of them even go to church. And also, unlike movie zombies, most real zombies are okay with consuming cooked, dead meat, and won’t try to take a bite out of your throat.

Movie zombies and real zombies are alike in only one way: Neither realize they’re zombies. We human beings share one common trait; all those who are just like us are okay in our book, while those who seem different, aren't quite right. So if they were real, the stumbling, slathering, decomposing, movie zombies would likely see the rest of us as terminally weird, while the normal-looking, spiritually dead, everyday real zombies think those Spirit-filled Christians are terminally weird, likely ‘cause they were bitten by Religiosus Arachnida domesticus, or the dreaded, religious house spider.

You've probably noticed movie heroes have a hard time stopping movie zombies when they’re hungry—which is all the time. They don’t stop, first, because it’s not in the script, and if they did, the director would get all red-faced and yell, “Cut! Zombies don’t stop until their heads are blown off. Are your heads blown off? I didn't think so. Shoot the scene again!”

Their second reason for not stopping, as I mentioned above, would be they’re always hungry, and a living human being would be dinner’s main course. That’s the biggest reason I’m glad they’re fake, which is probably why I mentioned it twice.

Third, because they would feel no pain. We know that because they stumble after their intended victims with broken arms and legs flopping around, and if they were regular, living folks, they’d be rolling around on the ground in agony from their injuries.

Fourth, you couldn’t kill them because they’d already be physically dead.

Unlike the real, spiritually dead zombies, the fake, movie zombies are supposedly born alive. Then, when they can’t outrun a staggering, stumbling zombie and it bites them, they die and turn into new zombies, who somehow look just as badly decomposed as the old zombies.

If You Like Scary Movies

Then you’ll love what real life has in store for us, as it makes the worst monster movies seem like a picnic. When spiritual zombies are born, and that’s all of us, shaking our tiny fists and squalling our heads off, we have only our human spirit. At that point we aren't hopeless, though, because we haven’t yet learned how to sin, and our loving God makes allowances for innocent babies. Once we decide to sin on purpose, though, our innocence dies, and sin keeps looking better all the time.

Remember how we don’t know we’re spiritual zombies because we seem right in our own eyes? Now comes the really bad part: If that situation doesn't change before we die, we’re all doomed to an eternity in hell, because anyone who has sinned—and that’s all of us—can’t face the holy God.

All that leads us to some of the hardest questions we could ever ask: Did God create us with free will just so we would sin and spend eternity in hell? Did our choosing to sin take God by surprise? If God is all-powerful and loving, why didn’t he just prevent sin, and all the evil it’s caused?

Despite what spiritual zombies say, God is not like Doctor Frankenstein, playing with his creation just for giggles. I never try to second-guess his eternal knowledge, wisdom and motives, but after hearing lots of skeptical allegations about his purposes, I've come up with some ideas based on studying his Word and thinking a lot about who he is.

First, the Bible says the eternal, self-existent One is the very embodiment of love: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16 ESV) That would also explain why we see so little love in human, religious, political and international relations. You won’t find God-lovers where there’s strife.

My second thought isn't based on such strong Biblical ground, but it combines a number of Biblical ideas: Because God is love, he created mankind in his own image(Genesis 1:27), so we could love him because he first loved us(1 John 4:19). Making us in his own image doesn't mean we’re identical to him. It just means he breathed his Holy Spirit into us and gave us similar strengths, like free will, knowledge, creativity, and the ability to love. But he didn't make us spiritual zombies; they came later.

Nobody knows how long our first parents—the only people without bellybuttons—lived peacefully in the garden of Eden. We know they lived peacefully because God gave them only one rule: Don’t eat the fruit of a certain tree, or they would surely die(Genesis 3:3)! Well, things went along swingingly, you know, like Tarzan and Jane, until Jane—I mean, Eve—happened by the tree of forbidden fruit when this smooth-talking snake hissed at her. Meet the very first spiritual zombie, as he most certainly didn't have God’s Spirit living in him. Long-story-short, he talked Eve into biting into that forbidden fruit, and Adam soon followed suit. Meet the very first poison Kool-Aid drinking lemming, and he wasn't even a Democrat.

Because of that tragic moment of human weakness, God was forced to withdraw his Holy Spirit from them—the second and third spiritual zombies—kick them out of Eden, limit their life-spans, and make them work for a living. But don’t be too hard on Adam and Eve; if they hadn’t sinned, you and I most certainly would have.

Surprise, Or Not

We tend to think all this took God by surprise, and that his Plan B was to enlist his Son to come to our rescue. But that idea fails in one important way: Nothing takes God by surprise. From time’s first tick, God’s eternal Word knew he would, though innocent of all sin, one day take the form and sin-guilt of man, be spat upon, scourged, crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross. It wasn't Plan B, but all part of God’s original plan of salvation. Because of his love, God allowed us to abuse his wonderful gift of free will, then provide us with the means to be reconciled with him, not through compulsion, but through love, because he first loved us.

We were all born spiritual zombies. To become a whole person, fully alive, we must be born again of God’s Spirit, and reunited with our creator God. If you see sin in your life and want to change, God’s Holy Spirit is already talking to you. Just say yes to the new life God prepared for you from the beginning of time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One year alone, has it been just that?
Since she happily gave back her tent.
Not that she was ever ungrateful,
Though, if anyone, she might've had that right.

Betrayed by body and temperament,
By family and man, but never by God.
To those who cared, she was Bounceback Queen,
But Jesus named her, daughter of I Am.

Unloved, unwanted by the woman who bore her,
A new family waited to give her God's love.
Earthly father and mother, thanked God for small blessing,
Furnished the love she needed to grow.

God gave and took away to shape little Nancy,
Into the daughter He made her to be.
Strong, some say willful, but in God's timeless view,
Not more than she needed to meet life's trials.

Further abandonment by the one God gave
To be with her one flesh, and Christ’s head.
Left Nancy to prove faithful, unaided, but able,
To fill the role, single mother of two.

Empty nest nearly killed her; adrift and sick,
She made her mistakes, believing grief’s lies.
Needy, defenseless, relationships came.
Selfish men took advantage, and left but a shell.

Through all of this, God’s perfect plan moved;
He showed His ways strange indeed,
Taking two needy people, and changing them both,
To one He gave trust, to the other, taught love.

One year has now passed since God took what He gave,
A solitary year of reflection and trust.
A year to learn who I am without Nancy
Depending on me to help lighten her load.

As Nancy once sought her Rudder when left
Adrift on life's undulating sea,
Even now, sailing through dense fog of night,
I search for the Bright, Morning Star.

As Captain directs my way through the mist,
Bidding me sail not by sight, but faith,
My way seems elusive, my circumstance strange,
Green water fights headway as I steer on the Light.

Though my course is unsteady, and I'm shipping water,
My sail tattered by ever present gale,
Yet, my Savior comes to me as to disciples of old,
And will utter his blessing, "Peace, be still."

Friday, November 09, 2012

Marching Orders

War isn't a popular subject among those who've really been there. But when the sounds and smells of battle are in the air, and they're headed your way, you need to be prepared.

Marching Orders

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Great Idea

Again, T. M. Moore of The Colson Center made several important observations in his article, Resist the Spirit of the Age.

He began with an understatement of amusing magnitude: To their contemporaries, the first Christians were a most peculiar breed. Then, throughout the rest of the article he presses the issue of how such peculiarity must also characterize today’s Christ-followers.

As in their day, so in ours, the Kingdom of God, by the Light of the Gospel, is making headway against the darkness of unbelief and sin (1 Jn. 2:8, 17). I must confess that Moore’s analysis seems, on the surface, quite optimistic. Yet, he supports his observation with Scripture.

All our ethical behavior will be grounded in “This is what the Lord says” and not whatever the temper of the times dictates or allows. And we will fill our minds only with what is holy and pure and decent and good. Today’s seductive, popular culture conspires against Christ-followers who see the need for such careful thought and appetite control, yet, Finally, brothers, 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. (Philippians 4:8) That's a command, not a suggestion. Such an elevated thought-pattern forms our strongest defense against creeping worldliness, which is one of the enemy’s most well-honed weapons.

Romans 12:1-2 is one of the best-known Scripture passages for those who long to live the Biblical worldview: I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c] 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. That, in itself, is material for a whole series of messages.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Education Misdirection

This is why America's schools lag so badly behind all other developed nations:

We worry about Internet connection speed in our schools, rather than giving kids the fundamental tools to grasp the math and science that enables us to compete in the global marketplace.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

More Hollywood Bias

    Subject: Bones, Season 5 Episode 4. Investigating a suburban murder, agent Booth and Dr. Brennan question a gay couple who demonstrate conventional marriage affection, and conventional marriage bickering, after one of the neighbors justifies gay marriage in answer to an obviously conservative neighbor’s challenge. Then a church lady refuses spiked punch, but later admits an affair with the gardener. Finally, a devout Muslim intern demonstrates how peaceful and reasonable Islam really is.

      In the same program, the producers justify gay marriage as a reasonable alternative lifestyle, then reveal a Christian’s hypocrisy and a Muslim’s sincerity. What’s wrong with this Hollywood picture?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Calvinism: Sovereignty, or Sophistry?

Calvin contended that not a wind blows, not a drop of rain falls, without the express command of God. "He so regulates all things," Calvin wrote, "that nothing takes place without His deliberation."
      Calvinism teaches, among other things, absolute divine sovereignty, as John Calvin expressed in the above quote. All else that Calvinism contends flows from this teaching.
      Without getting deeply into the Calvinist TULIP, (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints), one fault of that teaching stands out conspicuously: Without maintaining a precarious, logical balance, one can too easily tip over the edge into a fatalistic conclusion. I can’t say how many times I’ve allowed the enemy to use Calvinistic teaching to trap me into self-condemnation, even though the Bible says, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV)
      Problem is, Satan counters even that wonderful truth with a spurious argument (Imagine it spoken with a pronounced hiss): “But how do you know you are in him? Are you acting like a Christian? Thinking like a Christian? Admit it, you are full of doubts!” The solution is to respond to him like Jesus did: Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10 ESV)

Real Assurance of Salvation

Apostle Paul answered the enemy’s challenge: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)
      So, how do we suffer with Jesus? First, by fighting the temptation to doubt. Everyone, even Jesus, had doubts. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV) And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42 ESV)
      Second, by standing with Christ in spite of social disapproval. As long as our religion is loving, and not dogmatic or sanctimonious, no one has valid reason for putting us down. And if it is those things, we will likely be so self-assured that we won’t entertain doubts to begin with.
      Third, by keeping our personal priorities in line with Christ’s. So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ESV) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)
      Fourth, by dying to self. And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) To Jesus, his cross was both his curse and his means of death. To obey Jesus’ command, we will have to endure the curses of the world and die to ourselves. Apostle Paul dealt with this principle in his letter to the Roman church:
Romans 6:1-11 ESV
(1) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
(2) By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
(3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
(4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
(6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
(7) For one who has died has been set free from sin.
(8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
(9) We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
(10) For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
(11) So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This passage is hard to grasp. With our natural view of death as being something final and corrupt, it obstructs our grasp of Christ’s substitutional death for us, and our proper response of dying to sin that we might live with him. Romans chapter six is one of those Scripture passages that, if we truly want to live for Christ, we must study and meditate on until we make its truth an integral part of ourselves.

Giving Calvin His Due

Calvinists, by and large, handle Scripture with tender loving care, with no attempt at deception as I've implied in this writing’s title. If not delivered with the same TLC, though, its message can lead sophomoric believers to one of two tragically wrong conclusions: They can fall prey to Satan’s condemnation, or they can gain an unwarranted assurance of salvation despite continuing in sin. John Calvin would come out of his grave screaming bloody murder if he could see the number of people captured by either deception.
      Well-meant deception, however, can’t be laid exclusively at Calvinism’s doorstep. The other side of the theological coin, Arminianism, can be misapplied just as badly. But that’s grist for another grind.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pentecostal Snake-Handlers

But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous gener-ation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (Matthew 12:39 ESV)
  I lump religious snake-handlers into the vast subset of Christ-followers who covet sign gifts, as if simple faith and trust aren't enough. While Jesus and his followers produced signs to verify their authority, the signs he commanded us to produce are spiritual fruit, not spiritual gifts. Preoccupation with "sign gifts" smacks of carnal pride.
   When I realized the apostate nature of my native, Catholic church, I became skeptical of everything that claimed to be "Christian," and found an alarming body of evangelical teachings that hearkened back to Romanist roots. Even our cherished, Trinitarian teachings originated in Rome, which has caused my reexamination of God's fundamental nature.
   That said, I absolutely believe the eternal, self-existent Word of God, who spoke the universe into existence and established the means of communicating with his creation, is willing and able to provide us with the portion of his truth that is relevant to our temporal frame of reference. His willingness and ability to convey his truth to us, however, does not guarantee our willingness and ability to receive it. As saturation of toxic elements in our bodies blocks absorption of essential nutrients, so intellectual and spiritual error blocks our absorption of the eternal, self-existent One's truth.

   "Reason" has suffered a bum rap from Evangelical Christianity, as a rash reaction to the arbitrarily skeptical brand of reasoning employed by atheists. Carefully choosing the right words to communicate and defend God's good news requires the highest level of reasoning, and indeed, striving to do those works without careful reasoning produces the kind of childish dogmatism that invites attack by free thinkers.

   Personally, I must maintain a critical overview of my own interpretations of God's word. Even if I were qualified to exegete Scripture, I would have no authority to stand dogmatically upon my own conclusions as if they were holy writ.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Entitlements and Other Hogslop

      I haven't given up yet. I still plan to watch the rest of the Presidential Debate, even if I have to hold my nose through it. For these few months, we can forget about trivial issues such as our Constitutional Freedoms and truth in the public arena, as that's all consumed by political rhetoric.
      Both sides of the political aisle placate whatever interest groups they think will benefit them the most come November, remembering, of course, to give lip service to their voter base. Politicians and lawyers share one character trait: We know they are lying when we see their lips are moving. And when the politicians are lawyers?
      Despite all that political hogslop, we need to attend to the business of protecting our Constitution from the powers of self-interest. Pseudo-constitutional hot-buttons such as "reproductive rights," "jobs," "gay rights," "freedom from religion," "gun control," and, "income redistribution" are little more than entitlements that politicians promise with crossed fingers, simply to perpetuate, their lucrative reign of power.
      Our Founding Fathers never intended for the United States to be run by professional politicians, and predicted exactly the sort of abuses that are common today if the Biblical morality they cherished were to be abandoned. Yes, they were idealists, but their ideals made America great, and denying that fact is nothing less than rewriting our history.

More Thoughts About Atheism

      Lately I've found Facebook and YouTube comments dominated by vehement atheistic sentiment focused not at deists, theists, Jews or Muslims, but directly and hatefully at Christians, and I find that curious. Theocracy paranoia peppers these public forums with demands for “Freedom from religion,” and worries about Christian fundamentalist terrorism perpetrated on poor, innocent children who are indoctrinated with Biblical values in Christian homes. Given their way, these secularists would outlaw all religious expression, public or private, and establish their own atheocracy. Thing is, they needn’t go to all that trouble, when they can just move to Communist China and enjoy their atheistic society.

      Atheist claims of openness, free and rational thinking, etc., dissolve like Styrofoam in acetone when they flame Christians with labels ranging from “stupid” to “inbred” to “retard” to “terrorist.” If they are all that passionate, why do they not invest more time in reasonably refuting the opposition, than name-calling? Even those few who offer some rationale for their non-belief seem to be stuck on clichés, rather than concentrating on original thought. Lord knows, atheists have a perfect right to express their thoughts in the public forum, as well as to bear the consequences should they be wrong.

      My personal faith in Christ began as a skeptic's honest inquiry, tempered by an absolute confidence in the Bible as God’s only revealed word, a highly unusual conviction for a Catholic. Because of my confidence in God’s word, I could no sooner blindly accept Catholic, or any other religious dogma—dictated by corrupt ecclesiastical systems—than buy into atheistic dogma—dictated by flawed human reason.

      Upon beholding nature's spectacular beauty and precise order, both creationist and evolutionist explanations seemed markedly hollow and patently dogmatic. The evangelical in-crowd insists on 24-hour creation days, while savvy evolutionists believe the universe created itself. Both propositions require incredible faith, and adherents cling to them with religious fervor. For creationists, that's understandable, but for atheists?

      By their behavior, both sides have eliminated any question as to which has the truth. Their mutual mudslinging tells me both are deceived. The only alternative I have found worthy of pursuing is the only Jewish messiah who fully satisfied all Scriptural prophesy concerning himself, having performed historically verified, unique signs and wonders, proving to unbiased inquirers that he is God’s only Son after his own kind. Jesus of Nazareth lived perfectly, died cruelly, and rose from the dead, not to establish a religion. He did all that to buy back from the enemy of our souls, a faithful remnant, willing to accept God’s love and to love him in return, through their conformity to his righteous example. In contrast to all human religions, in Jesus there is no hatred, bigotry, or cruelty, but only love for his entire creation.

      In view of religion’s track record, I cannot fault atheists for their skepticism, but I do fault them, and human religion’s followers, for their imperious belief that they know all, and that anything outside of their understanding is patently false.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Is Good?

 John 1:1-3 ESV
  1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  2. He was in the beginning with God.
  3. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
      One might wonder what all that has to do with good. That’s an easy one: And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 (ESV) And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone, Mark 10:18 (ESV) which is why his creation is good.
      As Mankind was the culmination of God’s creation, we were naturally included when God said, “It’s all good.” And as long as his creation was intact, it remained good. So, from God’s perspective, we are good when we live the way he created us to live.
      Oh, how the standard for “good” has declined. Now, when something pleases us for any reason, we declare it “good,” and we’re not at all discriminating.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
      But living any other way is sin. That’s why apostle Paul wrote, Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That idea wasn’t original with him, though. Paul simply summed up the body of Scripture, as human depravity is one of its major themes, as are God’s mercy and justice.
      An observant farmer might say, “Wait a dad-burned minute. That stool don’t stand!” Human reason balks at those three principles when we try to understand how they can coexist. How can God deal justly with disobedient mankind, and still show mercy? Does he sentence us to community service, as do today’s judges? Hardly, as that’s neither justice nor mercy. If God is indeed both just and merciful, he seems to have painted himself into a corner by creating humanity so we could sin.
What in the world was God thinking?
      Discerning God’s ways is indeed a hard thing. Again, we look to apostle Paul for insight: 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB) But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. And where did he get that idea? Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
      From the outset, God planned for all these eventualities. Some folks think of God’s Plan of Salvation as a Jesus thing, or just a gospel tract, but that’s selling God way short. In fact, all of history is his plan of salvation, from creation to humanity’s fall, from the horrible things mankind does to one another to his church’s work today; nothing takes God by surprise! If we can’t see a connection between mankind’s cruelty and God’s mercy, so what? We don’t even know which heartbeat will be our last, but God does. As movie spies say, “We’re on a need to know basis,” and all we need to know is what he tells us through his word. Oh, sure, some people claim special knowledge or a new revelation and get folks all riled up, but they’re full of it, and “it” isn’t God.

What in the world is God doing?
      Short of studying, in depth, all of God’s word and all of human history, there are a few things we can take to the bank: Remember the apparent conflict between God’s mercy and justice, and Man’s depravity? As God made us for fellowship with himself, he necessarily shared with us some of his divine attributes so we could relate to him, and he to us. One of those attributes is free will.
      God’s eternal Word knew, when he began creation, that Man would abuse that divine gift of free will to sell out to the lowest bidder. God even knew that he, in Christ Jesus, would have to pay the ultimate price to buy us back from Satan.
      Admittedly, this seems like a roundabout process when God could have just prevented the whole sin thing, but as his incredible gift of free will made sin inevitable, eliminating it simply wasn’t an option. Instead, by refusing to coerce us into obedience, but allowing us to sin, all the while knowing how he would deal both justly and mercifully with us, God proves to us how wonderful is his love for us.

Old Testament Law—Spiritual Nanny
      The most misunderstood concept in the Bible is the relationship between law and grace. On one side of the issue are believers who insist that we must obey at least part of Old Testament law, and then God will love us, and Jesus will give us his grace-pass into heaven. Then there are the believers who embrace God’s loving grace as the cure for all but humanity’s worst transgressions. The one side says, “God’s Ten Commandments are not Ten Suggestions.” The other says, “Just believe in God and be nice to your neighbors, and St. Peter will open wide those pearly gates.”
      Both of those persuasions ignore God’s truth, revealed in his word. God’s law is both the Old Testament and the New Testament, even if they seem to proclaim contradictory messages.
Apostle Paul distilled this complex truth into just four Bible verses:
Galatians 3:23-26 (ESV) Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. (24) So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (25) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
      That’s a nutshell that encloses a big part of God’s infinite truth. It tells us why God instituted his law, who(Christ Jesus) and what(faith) fulfills the law, and who we become through faith in Christ Jesus. It’s not simply a “That was then, this is now” type of thing, because God’s law still applies to those who are not yet sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Let’s backtrack for perspective
Galatians 3:5-14 (ESV) Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- (6) just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? (7) Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. (8) And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." (9) So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (10) For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." (11) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." (12) But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." (13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"-- (14) so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
      In verse five we can see the apostle wrote this to a group of believers who were a bit confused about the law-versus-faith issue. So we shouldn’t feel slow if we can’t seem to grasp the concept.
      Verse six gives us a role-model for faith. Apostle Paul quoted Genesis 15:6 to establish faith’s part in Abraham’s righteousness before God.
      Verse seven takes the idea one step further. The author establishes our identity as “sons of Abraham,” or honorary Hebrews, through faith.
      Verse eight takes a flying leap, at least where the Jews are concerned. He uses Genesis 12:3 as the basis for his claim that all peoples, not just God’s chosen Hebrews, are qualified for justification by faith.
      As verse nine just restates that fact, let’s jump to verse ten, where he wades into even deeper water. Here he slaps the religious Jews—and all who depend on the law for justification—sharply on their pride, by openly declaring they are under a curse because they can’t keep the whole law.
      Verse eleven brings in another Old Testament passage, Habakkuk 2:4, and yes, there was such a prophet. Using that passage, Paul says the fact that the law cannot justify anyone is evident, meaning anyone who has half a brain should see it.
      Verse twelve pushes the two-edged sword even deeper, with a quote from Leviticus 18:5. Now we see that “the law is not of faith,” explaining why those who lived by the law could never be fully justified by it.
      Till now, Paul has talked a lot about faith, but he wasn’t specific as to that faith’s object. With verse thirteen he ties up that loose end by saying plainly, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” (Deuteronomy 21:23) What a powerful declaration!
      Verse fourteen continues that thought, tying up the faith-gift of God with a beautiful bow.
      So, to answer the title question, we are good when we live as God originally intended.