"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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Terminal Backsliding

Hebrews 6:4-6 (LITV)  For it is impossible for those once having been enlightened, and having tasted of the heavenly gift, and becoming sharers of the Holy Spirit,  (5)  and tasting the good Word of God, and the works of power of a coming age,  (6)  and having fallen away, it is impossible for them again to renew to repentance, crucifying again for themselves the Son of God, and putting Him to open shame. 

Impossible is a strong word. This passage harmonizes with Hebrews 10:18, and is the source of teachings that stress the possibility of being lopped off the vine that is Christ and thrown into the fire, without the possibility of re-repenting. What follows is the list of characteristics of those for whom this teaching applies:

  1. They have once been enlightened.
  2. They have tasted the heavenly gift, perhaps referring to the Bread of Life.
  3. They have shared in(partakers having became of) the Holy Spirit.
  4. They have tasted the goodness of the Word of God.
  5. They have tasted the powers(miracles--[Thayer]) of the (Messianic--[Strong]) age to come.
  6. They have fallen away(apostatize--[Strong]).

Their sin? Vs. 6: and having fallen away, it is impossible for them again to renew to repentance, crucifying again for themselves the Son of God, and putting Him to open shame.

Jesus' statement in Mark 3:28-29 and Matthew 12:31-32 gives rise to considerable controversy within the church, as it states that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. In context, however, we see that Jesus was referring to the Jews who accused him of performing miracles through Satan's power.

While these passages’ context obviously restrict their application to that situation, one must more closely compare them with Hebrews 6:6 due to the similar judgment associated with them. Jesus said a man may be forgiven any blasphemy, even against the Son of Man, but not against the Holy Spirit, while the Letter to the Hebrews' author specifies the sin as, "crucifying again for themselves the Son of God and putting Him to an open shame." So, what is the significance of crucifixion, that the penalty for crucifying again the Son of God should be irreversible?

Galatians 3:13 quotes Deuteronomy 21:23, ... "Cursed is everyone having been hung on a tree."

A Christ-follower who turns again to rebellion against God, returning to his unregenerate state as a dog returns to its vomit, in effect, crucifies, or curses, Jesus again by adding new sin to that for which the Savior’s blood already paid. And of course it follows that such contradiction of ones former Christian profession casts a reproach on Jesus' name and everything He did and stands for.

Though the apostate deserves his condemnation, unlike human religions, Christians leave the judgment to God alone. In fact, the most obvious distinction between Christians and Brand X religion is Christ’s love flowing through us, even for the “Infidel.”


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Cock-Crowing Controversy

What of the controversy over the number of times the rooster crowed, reminding Apostle Peter of Jesus' prophesy that he would deny him three times on the morning of his betrayal? Matthew 26:34 agrees with Luke’s account, while Mark 14:30 seems to contradict both passages. Though I hate to admit it, I must confess my past concern over what turns out to be a non-issue. A little research, a little careful thought, and this is what I came up with:
        First, this is controversy for its own sake, as those who love God's Word trust him who gave it to us. And that’s not blind trust at all, but trust in God’s perfect faithfulness, demonstrated over years of walking in his way.
        Second, "cock crowing" simply relates to a certain time of day, that is, just before dawn. Anyone who has witnessed a rooster announcing dawn realizes he will crow multiple times, not just once or twice.
        Third, Mark's specifying the rooster crowing twice changes none of the narration’s salient facts. It only serves to demonstrate Mark's proximity to the actual situation described. More or less detail simply indicates differing points of view, not a conflicting account.
        Skeptics are desperate to "debunk" God's Word. Though they claim to be the open-minded ones, if they spent as much time studying the Bible open-mindedly as they do searching for contradictions, they would soon come to faith in Jesus.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Experts Agree …

An “Elephant” is a tree!
And if someone calls it God,
He is certainly quite odd!

Okay, that’s lousy poetry, but it aptly portrays the scientific establishment’s elitist attitude. Those “Experts” who figuratively label the entire elephant as a tree are called cosmologists, who oddly enough, study the cosmos, or the universe, which is the same thing, really.

Like all experts, cosmologists join with other cosmologists whose expert opinions agree. Using the elephant as a type of the cosmos, including its Creator, the blind people typify the “experts” who focus their limited faculties on whatever elephantile features they can reach. The expert who grabs its tail tells a tale of rope … you know the drill.

Cosmologists will, no doubt, object strenuously to being compared to blind people, but on the cosmic scale humanity is indeed blind. While our observational technology constantly evolves, no one can presume to say, as did the Great Wizard of Ozz, “I see all. I know all.” So, logically, if anything is outside our observational reach, studying it experimentally is out of the question.

Of course, that’s not to say we can’t use observed phenomena to guess what might be out there beyond our reach … as long as we don’t call it God. After all, what would become of natural science if we admitted the possibility of  the divine, or the supernatural.

The science establishment insists that humanity invented “God” for two reasons: First, to explain the unexplainable. And second, to provide behavioral boundaries so the less-enlightened masses (that’s you and me) would behave civilly and enrich the religious establishment. While that rationale sounds plausible, however, its simplistic tenets fail on numerous levels.

In future posts I will attempt to deal rationally with the pseudo-science that skeptics use in their quest to prove that the Elephant is a tree, or a snake, or a rope, or a ….

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Answering Scriptural “Contradictions”

A skeptic and Bible expert I discovered online asserted that Jesus contradicted himself by claiming that He judges all things ( John 5:22 ; John 5:26-27 ; John 9:39; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ; Revelation 19:11 ), and that He judges no one (John 8:15; John 12:47). So, which is it?

      John 5:22 and 5:26-27 are but three verses excerpted from a passage comprising twenty-five verses. God's inerant Word is so only in its totality, not in a sampling of passages that seem to prove or disprove any particular point. And even then, to be received as His eternal Word it must be read according to His Spirit, by faith. Therein lies the issue with theological debates, which by definition focus on "proof passages" rather than God's whole, indivisible Word.
      As for the current issue, John 5:22 reflects Jesus' teaching from John 5:19-47

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
      As the Father's instrument of action, if the Father does nothing, neither does the Son, but if the Father judges His creation, the Son executes His judgment.
John 5:26-27
(26) For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
(27) And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
     This simply reflects the theme begun in John 5:19; Jesus doesn't judge of Himself, but only as the Father directs. As God and Man, Jesus' relationship with the Father is two-fold: Jesus the Son of Man works under His Father's authority, by the Holy Spirit's power, subject to Him in all things even as we are. Jesus the Son of God is, if identity could be separated and quantified, the trinity's second divine Being, the creative, eternal Word of God, fully identified, integrated, and united with the Father. If that leaves any ambiguity concerning the Word's unity with the Father, consider that, as God, they share the exact same divine essence, indistinguishable, indivisible.
John 9:39
(39) Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."
     If the skeptic had taken the time to consider the context of Jesus' statements in this passage he might have noticed that Jesus had just given sight to a man born blind. So when Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind," He wasn't referring to judging sin and righteousness, but one of the consequences of sin, spiritual blindness.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Revelation 19:11
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
      Nothing in these verses negates the above, Scriptural analyses; God the Father judged His creation through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Their judgments are one-and-the-same, just as the Father and the Word are.

      Now to the "contradictory" passages:
John 8:15-16
(15) You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
(16) Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.
        The skeptic listed vs. 15, but neglected to include vs. 16, which gives context to the previous verse, demonstrating that it contradicts nothing. The same is true of his last "contradictory" verse as follows.
John 12:47
(47) If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
      Once again, an isolated Bible verse can say pretty much anything the skeptic—or the believer—wishes to prove. But put it in even its immediate context and its truth becomes clear:
John 12:44-50
(44) And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
(45) And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
(46) I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
(47) If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
(48) The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
(49) For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
(50) And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."

      If we let God's Word speak for itself it never contradicts itself, for that would be God contradicting Himself, which is the one thing the almighty, all-knowing, self-existing, eternal God of the universe cannot do.


Friday, April 19, 2013


Because of this article's applicability to me, I'm reproducing it here, hoping someone else will profit from the information.


Can Christians Have Them?

Phobias and Christians to some may be an oxymoron. A questioner recently asked,“Please
share your thoughts about the control of phobias in the believer’s life. Are phobias a sign of sin, spiritual immaturity or a state of unregeneration?” He was suggesting three possible roots for phobias: sin, spiritual immaturity, or unregeneration (meaning, if I understand him correctly, that the person is unsaved, not a Christian). My answer to him was: None of the above.

There may be times when the person is in one of these three conditions, and that can become a complicating factor. But none of them is usually the cause. A phobia is an emotional problem, not a spiritual one. (Having said that, I recognize there is a spiritual component to both emotional and physical conditions, but we are talking about root causes here.) By definition, a phobia is a persistent and irrational fear. Being irrational means it is not the result of a conscious choice, which sin is.
An example. An individual may have been attacked by a vicious dog, as a very young child. Later, in adulthood, he has a strong aversion to dogs of any kind. That is not a choice he has made. And he may not even recall the original incident. The fear is not reasoned out, nor is it the result of some moral decision to hate dogs. That is why I say such things are not basically a spiritual problem. Saved people can have phobias too. And they may even be mature believers who are walking with the Lord.

Let's compare a physical example. Suppose a fellow goes to the doctor with a backache. And after examination, the doctor concludes his main problem is his posture. So he is given some physical therapy to help strengthen the appropriate muscles. And he learns, through instruction and practice, to sit, stand and walk in a more healthy way. A similar process takes place when dealing with an unhealthy emotional condition. Phobias--fear of heights, fear of open spaces, and so on--can be relieved by counseling and behaviour modification, if the person feels the phobia is a significant handicap.

Certainly, through prayer, God can give wisdom and support in dealing with a phobia. But normally there is what we might call an "emotional habit" that has to be unlearned. That may call for the assistance of a counselor or psychologist who has training in this area. To use the dog illustration again, perhaps, the counselor will begin by showing him pictures of dogs, and helping him to get comfortable talking about them. Then, he will have opportunities to observe dogs from a distance, gradually decreasing the distance as he feels more comfortable, and so on. Fear of airplane flights, and fear of using elevators, are handled in a similar way.

We are tripartite creatures, spirit, soul, and body (I Thess. 5:23). The Bible's word for "soul" in that text is the Greek word psuche [SOO-kee], from which we get our English word psychology. A phobia is usually (though I will not say absolutely always) due to a psychological condition, not a spiritual problem. We need to be careful not to condemn those who are struggling with emotional difficulties. Sometimes, in leaping to the conclusion that the problem is spiritual, we only make matters worse. There can be spiritual issues to deal with. But not always.
Suppose you visit a fellow in the hospital who has a broken leg. Would you raise the same question? ("Are broken legs a sign of sin, spiritual immaturity, or a state of unregeneration?") And would you determine to treat his broken leg by reading him Bible verses and calling upon him to repent? He may have broken his leg running from a bank hold-up. In that case, there would be a spiritual need, but you still have to set the leg and deal with that separately. Or he may be a godly man who broke his leg climbing into a burning building to rescue a child. But he still has to have the leg set and cared for.

Some quote Second Timothy 1:7 as proof that Christians should never have mental or emotional disorders. The verse says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear [timidity, cowardice], but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The conclusion reached is that any fear must therefore be a spiritual problem. But notice what the verse does not say. It does not say Christians never have mental or emotional problems, but only that spiritual boldness comes from God.

Paul is writing to a young pastor named Timothy, exhorting him to stand firm in the faith, in the face of opposition (vs. 8; cf. 2:10; 3:12; 4:5). The subject, then, is boldness in ministry, not the treatment of phobias. The text does not rule out the possibility that an emotional disorder can be caused by a physical condition or by prior experiences. For instance, child abuse leaves emotional scars that are not the outcome of personal choice. They are the result of wicked cruelty on the part of parents or others. Committed Christians can have that kind of history too. And they may need professional help dealing with it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Human Interface Device

Anyone with more than a button-pushing familiarity with computers can tell you all about human interface devices. Get them started on device driver issues, and you may regret venturing down that rocky path.
      Device drivers abound, and Internet access can put you instantly on the virtual doorsteps of dozens of sites quite willing to sell you the latest and greatest hardware drivers. Unfortunately, until you shell out the dough, you have no way of knowing it will work. The only way of knowing with certainty that you’re installing the best software for your hardware is to use its OEM divers included on its install disc, created and supplied by the hardware’s creator.
      Human interface devices aren’t exclusive to computers, though. Users and hardware come in different forms. In a cosmic sense, we are the hardware for accomplishing the universal Purpose. And who is the User? The eternal God of the universe, who provides
the correct Driver(His Holy Spirit) that works through the appropriate Software(His Holy Word) to make the hardware(you and me) work effectively for His purposes.
      That nifty, high-tech analogy, however, falls far short in one respect; despite the computer’s apparent temperamentalness, literal hardware has no choice in whether or not it will do its job, but we do. God left us free to choose His way, or ours, His Driver, or our own fallen spirit, His Word, or our own failed wisdom.
      I don’t know about you, but for me and my computer, we will serve the Lord.

Monday, April 08, 2013

To The ex-Christian Who Rejects God

Recently I posted a reply to an atheist’s comment on a YouTube video. Though I had intended to quit wasting time trying to convince atheists that their presuppositions are illogical, this woman claimed she had been a Christian, but came to her senses and rejected the possibility of God’s existence because the God that Christianity professes wouldn’t practice such heartless things as genocide, as did the Old Testament God.
      I couldn’t restrain myself.
    Her reply asserted that she had been a “real” Christian, and that my critique of her presuppositions was unkind. My claim that atheism is a religion brought her spirited denial, and her claim that she rejected faith, and not just religion. She was very nice about calling me a bigoted Christian, though. So I’m posting this reply as an open letter to any atheists who were once “Real Christians.”

First, “Christian” is a generic term

      Labeling someone a Christian is like calling them a “Jew” or a “Muslim.” Despite the internal unity all religions claim, factions exist, often in the form of blood-feuds. Many atheists grab hold of that obvious phenomena as if they’ve uncovered some kind of religious conspiracy, then use that "insight" as support for their disbelief in God, or religion of any kind.
    Personally, I agree with many atheists’ observations about religion, though some of them are seriously exaggerated. No one should be too surprised, however, that atheists often can’t get their facts straight; adherents of all religions misrepresent all other religions’ beliefs and practices. Religious folks can’t see their lies as being sinful, because, after all, those people don’t have the truth.

Second, God is not a Religion

      He’s not a faith of any kind. Denying or rejecting faith is a personal decision that has no effect on God. He/She/It (that’s a discussion for another time) doesn’t wring His hands when someone decides He doesn’t exist; nothing surprises Him.

Third, God Doesn’t Change

      The God who wreaked havoc in the Old Testament is the same One who sent His Son Jesus, the Word incarnate, to the cross with our sin-guilt on His shoulders. Neither does God change His mind. For example, a loving parent might react to their child’s stinking attitude with, “I swear, I’m going to skin you alive!” (Raise "skin" about an octave for effect) Does the parent mean that literally? Of course not; they simply hope to change their little brat’s behavior with a threat, thoughtless and overstated though it is. God, however, never reacts to our stinking attitudes. Rather, He responds, by telling us what will happen if we persist. Here again, though our rebellious course of action doesn’t surprise Him, He allows us to disobey Him because He is just, and never clobbers us because of what we will do.

Fourth, God is good

      “A good god wouldn’t punish his creation for doing only what comes naturally,” the atheist will say, and I couldn’t agree more. In a very real sense, God doesn’t “punish” us at all. Rather, He simply allows us to enjoy the consequences that He’s already promised for those who disobey Him, and for those who obey him.
    “A good god wouldn’t allow the innocent to suffer.” God “allows” two classes of “innocents” to suffer: Unborn babies, and small children, both of whom haven’t had an opportunity to reject their parents’, and thus God’s, authority. Does that make God unfair or evil? Hardly, as humanity’s blatant rejection of God’s authority removed, even for the truly innocent, the protective umbrella He promised for His obedient children. And it wasn’t just one little apple that caused all the fuss; His people Israel regularly rejected His authority by violating all of His laws and statutes, opening themselves, and us, up to the consequences He promised for those who disobey. That includes you and me.
    The good God didn’t condemn humanity to perdition without giving us an alternative.

The Alternative

      Everyone’s heard John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” What follows is also true:
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
(John 3:17-21 ESV)
    By that one sacrificial act, God fulfilled all the laws He gave Israel, and all the prophesies He gave them predicting humanity’s coming Savior.

“I Don’t Need Any Savior!”

      As always, our good God will not force us to accept His requirements, even when the primary one is His Son Jesus. Neither will He force us to take nourishment if we prefer alcohol or drugs to healthful food and drink. The choice is ours, and He will never take it away from us.
    Fact is, we are all born self-addicts, and though the solution seems extreme, it’s the same as for alcohol or drug addicts: We must kick the habit, despite all its withdrawal symptoms, and replace what doesn’t work with what does. Jesus works, and he did all the hard work for us. How we respond is up to us.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What are my odds of finding these three happy souls demonstrating for disarmament on the corner of Chicago’s South Federal and West 54th streets? After dark. On a Friday night.

Simple answer: ZERO, because I wouldn’t be there!

Or, what are the odds of these peacenicks removing all virus and malware protection from their Internet-connected computers? That too is most assuredly zero, because, as naive as they are, they know the Internet is a dangerous place to be stupid.

That begs the question: With the Internet simply reflecting humanity’s predatory nature, how can these good folks be cyber-smart while remaining socially stupid? Perhaps they’ve been spared the ordeal of actually meeting a two-legged predator. As Detective Monk would say, “It’s a jungle out there.”

I love peace more than most, but I also know that true peace in this world can be found only by trusting the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s the peace that defies human understanding. If only those three—and millions more like them—would realize that simplistic, human answers can never solve the eternal, spiritual problem. It’s the “S” word that such humanists shudder to utter: Sin.

I Dreamt I Loved a Woman

I dreamt that a woman whom I’d long loved finally declared her love for me. The new, joyful intimacy of knowing and trusting her love only deepened as the dream progressed. The unprecedented, blissful happiness lingered into my wakeful consciousness, and even when I realized its cause existed only in my dream, gratitude consumed me for having experienced it. My dream’s memories are now fading, but the long-delayed kiss we shared is still fresh and pure.

How joyful my Savior must feel when one whom He has loved with all His infinite being finally declares her love for Him. Even though Christ chose her before time began and foreknew that she would one day choose to love Him, that relationship’s final consummation gives Him such elation that all the heavenly host rejoice with Him.

While we consummate our unique, earthly love for another through the marriage bed’s privilege, our divine Husband desires only our obedience as our act of love, and consummates that eternal love by filling us with His Holy Spirit. Though we obviously cannot conceive and give birth to physical baby Christs through His Spirit’s infilling, He calls upon us to confirm our calling and election(2 Peter 1:3-11) as His new creations(2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15), by bearing the fruit of His Spirit described in Galatians 5:16-25.


Monday, April 01, 2013

Substitute Needed

Today’s Our Daily Bread is titled “No Substitute Needed,” and their point was that our heavenly Father is always available to hear and deal with our every need, and he never needs to call on a substitute prayer-answerer.

In fact, God did provide a substitute when it counted the most; my substitute, my stand-in, my scapegoat, my whipping boy, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon himself my sin’s guilt—all of it. I can never thank my Savior enough for the perfect love he demonstrated by taking my just punishment on Calvary’s cross, but I can show my gratitude in the one way that really counts, by obeying his two-fold commandment:

Matthew 22:35-40 ESV
(35)  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
(36)  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
(37)  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
(38)  This is the great and first commandment.
(39)  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(40)  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."