Saturday, April 30, 2016

I became insane, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources.

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." -- Edgar Allan Poe

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

"The world is still groaning, and we with it; but God is with us in the groaning, and will bring it out for good." -- N. T. Wright

"The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance from your knees to the floor. -- copied

"The only worthwhile humor is that which laughs with, not at others." -- W. G. Plaut

"God in his sovereignty is free to act as he chooses." -- James L. Morrisson

"Love is the golden thread upon which all the beads of Christian faith and practice must be strung." -- Joel McDurmon

"God wants the intimacy of sons, not just the service of slaves." -- J. D. Greear

Friday, April 29, 2016

Good point

Acts 2...was not the only “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” recorded in Acts. Similar events occurred with each of the geographic people groups Christ included in Acts 1:8. An outpouring occurred in Jerusalem and Judea with Jewish believers. (See Acts 2) It also occurred for the Samaritans and “God fearers.” (See Acts 8:14-17; Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:13). Finally, it came to the Gentiles, notably under the ministry of the Apostle Paul. (See Acts 19:1-7). 
-- Bud Ahlheim

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Always Reforming, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Troublesome times are here

I read quite a few Baptist blog posts. I'm interested in what contemporary Baptists are saying. Sometimes I comment and engage in discussion.

A troublesome trend manifests in frequent spouting of suppositions void of biblical reference or groundwork. There may be vague references to "what the Bible says about [cue topic]" -- but usually without any mention of what the Bible actually says. This protects the turtle commentator in his or her shell. With no specific scriptures used, the context and meaning cannot be discussed -- just take their word that what they say is right. Not content with this runaround tactic, those who actually bring up what the Bible actually says are chided for proof-texting. The scriptures they present are derided as "popcorn passages" (i.e., taken out of context; apparently this is the latest cool lingo for "proof-texting").

Recently a Baptist bunch discussed whether is it okay for Christians to pulls pranks on people. What is the clear moral standard for these things? Is there a line we cannot or should not cross? Rather than good biblical discussion and advice, the thread was filled with "I thinks" and joking around, with only two commenters seeming to suggest the Scriptures should actually be consulted! Another discussion found a member of the "Oracle of Delphi church" admonishing folks that scriptures must be taken in context -- while never providing any contextual discussion on the scriptures presented and never presenting any scriptures for contextual discussion! Such is subterfuge and misdirection.

Don't accept this. Let's discuss the Bible. It is our sole rule of faith and practice!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oracles and Interpretation

Writing When Women Ruled the World from the Oracle of Delphi, Wade Burleson audaciously asserts, "Portions of the Bible can only be understood when one has a working knowledge of ancient Greece and the importance and influence of women at the Oracle of Delphi."

After referencing history of the the Oracle of Delphi, the assertion focuses particularly on the incident recorded in Acts 16:16-18, with Burleson adding, "The only way you can understand why Paul did what he did is to realize the biblical description of this young girl." He goes on to write, "The English versions of the Bible say she had "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The literal Greek word used to describe this woman is Pythia. She could have served in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, or she could have been a lesser oracle. What we do know is she had the spirit of divination." Rather than reveal some particularly pithy perception, Burleson concludes that what we do know is exactly what the English Bibles tell us -- that she had the spirit of divination!

I do not point to this to focus on Wade Burleson's exegesis and interpretation of this text (though I think he possibly falls for a root fallacy here); but rather to focus on the grand need to study what the Bible says rather than interpret it based on "inaccessible" extraneous material. If we doggedly believe that "portions of the Bible can only be understood when [cue the hermeneutical soup of the day]," then we must maintain the corollary that those to whom this material is inaccessible cannot possibly understand the Bible, or are at the least seriously defective in their attempt. On the other hand, Paul indicates that in the inspired text itself we have sufficient matter for all our doctrine, our reproof, our instruction in righteousness. Let's learn to think this way rather than think about the need to access some obscure bit of history by which to interpret the Bible. We are a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom that needs mystical priests to mediate God's word to those of us who don't know the Oracles of Delphi!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Proof-texting: pushing back

proof text, noun: a Scriptural passage adduced as proof for a theological doctrine, belief, or principle (Merriam-Webster Online)

Sometimes verses of the Bible are misused as proof of something they do not prove. On the other hand, “proof-texting” has become a new “whipping-boy” for those who do not want to discuss the Scriptures specifically. Though Merriam-Webster defines “proof text” in neutral terms, most Christians have come to use it negatively. Zack Hunt claims, “Proof-texting is an intentionally deceptive practice that offers out of context proof while ignoring the greater witness of scripture...” Grant Osborne (The Hermeneutical Spiral) describes proof-texting as “that process whereby a person ‘proves’ a doctrine or practice merely by alluding to a text without considering its original inspired meaning.” Another writes, “Proof-texting is when you start with a point you want to prove and then cherry-pick verses to support the point, regardless of the context and original meaning of those verses.” If we accept these kinds of definitions, then proof-texting becomes an unredeemably bad thing. But is it?

Proof-texting can be a problem
The classic humorous proof-texting tale is as follows: 
John was dissatisfied with the way things were going in his life. He decided to consult the Bible for guidance. John closed his eyes and flipped the Bible open, touching a finger to a spot on the page. He opened his eyes and read the verse under his finger, Matthew 27:5: “Then Judas went and hanged himself.” Thinking these words seemed unhelpful, John randomly selected another verse using the same process, finding Luke 10:37: “Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Desperate, he tried again. This time he found John 13:27: “Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.”
The above caricature aside, proof-texting actually comes in both positive and negative forms. Yes, taking random verses out of context is a bad thing – whether as life guidance or doctrinal “proof texts”. We’ve all no doubt been guilty of it at times. Let us repent and seek to study the Bible in toto and in context. We should not embrace all that comes under the umbrella of “proof-texting”. We should not dismiss the legitimate criticisms. But...

Proof-texting has a place
R. M. Allen and S. R. Swain wisely call for a more judicious approach, writing, “All of the charges brought against the use of proof-texts in Christian theology could be lodged against the Bible’s own use of the Bible.” (“In Defense of Proof-texting,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 54, No. 3, 589-606) For example, “With respect to the first charge: 2 Cor 6:16-18 cites and/or alludes to a litany of OT passages (including Lev 26:12; Isa 52:11; 2 Sam 7:14) in support of the claim that ‘we are the temple of the living God,’ but gives no indication of the distinct literary and historical contexts within which those passages are found.”

Allen and Swain advise us to “not commit the fallacy of confusing a method of citation with a hermeneutical procedure. Indeed, if there is an immediate lesson to be drawn, it is this: proof-texting (as a citation technique) has biblical precedent and therefore should not be too hastily dismissed.” Amen.

Serious debate, not caricature
Someone memorably said, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” But that really isn’t what a true proof text is. It is a caricature of the basic meaning. All of scripture matters. Exegete and expound on each verse/statement in its context; understand and show how various scriptures are connected; listen to others who introduce scriptures that might give an alternate meaning; refine your views in light of all the Bible. But...

Don’t ever discredit the use of Scripture as “proof texts”. Don’t chide people who produce texts of Scriptures to back up their doctrine and theology. We must first present texts so we know where we’re coming from, and then we have a basis to discuss what these Scripture texts teach. Absent bringing the Scriptures into the equation we are tossed to and fro, adrift to be carried about with every wind of doctrine.

Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

*    You may run across dicta probanta as a theological term meaning “proof text”.
**  The common and combative way of referencing proof texts is inequitable and insufficient. Be sure you realize the following, and do not be bullied into submission – many objections to “proof-texting” come from those who do not hold the Scriptures as authoritative and therefore really disagree with the theology taught in the “proof text” more than they disagree with “proof-texting”. It is a form of misdirection.
*** Proof texts are properly used as a form of shorthand. They are not intended as the last word on a topic, but as a beginning. This kind of use of proof texts can be seen in confessions of faith that point to texts believed to support the individual points made. See, for example, the First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1644/1646.
In this divine and infinite Being there is the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; each having the whole divine Essence, yet the Essence undivided; all infinite without any beginning, therefore but one God; who is not to be divided in nature, and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties.
1 Cor. 1:3; John 1:1, 15:26, Exod. 3:14; 1 Cor. 8:6
**** “Many years ago, I was warned by a teacher of theology, that to appeal to the direct statements of Scripture as the foundation of a theological treatise was to be less than modern.” (Joe Nesom in The Omniscience of God: Does the Lord Really Know Everything?) May we, by God’s grace, be less than modern!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Two links of interest

Not that I altogether agree with these, interesting nevertheless. 

  • Ancient letters reveal Bible bombshell --"In other words, these texts show parts of the Old Testament — including the Books of Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea, and parts of Genesis and Deuteronomy—could have been written earlier than previously thought. 

Not at all surprising to some of us, and clearly not all scholarship has held to Bible to be at late as these folks assume. They are confounded by presuppositional evolutionary thinking. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Too Warlike? and other music links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, April 22, 2016

This Flag

Americans seem to stand ever at the ready for a good controversy over "the" Confederate flag (and other Confederate memorabilia). Statues honoring Southern soldiers and statesmen have recently been on the chopping block.[1] Into this atmosphere steps Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He is proposing to the Southern Baptist Convention a Resolution on the Elimination of the Confederate Flag from Public Life. If it makes it out of committee the resolution will be presented for vote to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in June in St. Louis, Missouri. The resolution calls the Confederate Battle Flag a "controversial and necessarily divisive symbol of racism conveyed by [its] ongoing public display" and asks "all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag and work diligently to remove vestigial symbols of racism..."

Tempers flared over the discussion of the resolution at SBC Voices, with one commenter suggesting that any discussion or questioning of the resolution should not be taking place. It is hard to progress along these lines when any "non-pc" comment will be labeled as racism (not that there never is racial reasoning, but that any perceived misstep is automatically so labeled). It is clear that some people do not want an honest and open discussion, but simple acquiesence to the obligatory socially acceptable groupthink. If history proves anything, it proves that the division of the Northern and Southern United States does not quite fit the simplistic framework imposed on it by revisionists. There is discussion to be had.

When speaking of offense by and/or banning the Confederate flag, the "Southern Cross" is usually what is meant -- seen in either the square Army of Northern Virginia or rectangular Army of Tennessee flags.[2]

Liberty for all
As an American citizen I hate to see "scorched-earth" campaigns driven by the perpetually offended.[3] They will be neither satisfied nor pacified, regardless of how many victories they win. No matter how many statues and flags come down, no matter how many graves are moved. Though some mistakenly think otherwise, in the United States you do not always have the right to not be offended! I stand for the liberty and rights of those Americans who wish to fly the Confederate flag. While some are doubtless relieved by the removal of certain symbols, it is questionable to what extent that combats real racism.

Give none offense
This flag does not offend me. It is part of my ancestral heritage. Both of these admissions will quickly get one labeled a racist if said in the wrong audience. I stand for the right of those who wish to fly the Confederate flag. But just because you have a right to fly it, does not mean you should. I will not dictate what others do; I do not want dictate what others do in this matter. As for me, I choose as both a Christian duty and courtesy to not display a flag that I know offends my Christian brothers and sisters.[4] Should it offend them? I don't know. Does it offend them? Yes. Why would I let a regional, political and cultural symbol take precedence my Christian responsibility to another? Aren’t all Christians brothers and sisters, and ultimately citizens of a more important spiritual and heavenly kingdom? Jesus said we should seek first the kingdom of God -- a kingdom not of this world. Surely for a Christian that should take precedence over an earthly kingdom that God has raised up and torn down. Paul wrote, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32)."

Pass over a transgression
Solomon advised, "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression (Proverbs 19:11)." Commenting on that verse and another Tim Challies wrote, "We are not required by God to confront a person every time he or she offends us." It is a glory to pass over the perceived transgressions of others. We can choose to not count one offenses against them, turn the other cheek where seeking our rights are concerned, and as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it.

Christians who see nothing wrong with the Confederate flag can offer kindness towards those who are offended by it. Christians who see something wrong with the Confederate flag can offer grace towards those who display it. In that atmosphere we can make both Christian and racial progress. IF brethren would do as the Lord says, the one offending and the one offended would meet in the way, each going to the other to do the right thing.

[1] A few Baptists have chafed that the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gave Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore a prized oil painting of John Broadus (a seminary founder and supporter of the Confederate cause) -- which now adorns Moore's office in Washington, D.C.
[2] Sometimes wrongly identified as the Stars and Bars.
[3] A general statement not directed at Pastor McKissick.
[4] I will display it for historical or educational purposes, such as posting it here to signify which flag is under discussion.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. 
Acts 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. 
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 
1 Corinthians 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. 
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 
1 Thessalonians 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Higher standard for reporting sexual abuse, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Submissive to Thy will, my God

Submissive to Thy will, my God,
I all to Thee resign;
Bowing beneath Thy chastening rod--
I mourn, but not repine.

Why should my foolish heart complain,
When wisdom, truth, and love
Direct the stroke, inflict the pain,
And point to joys above?

How short are all my sufferings here
How needful every cross;
Away, my unbelieving fear 
Nor call my gain my loss. 

Then give, dear Lord, or take away, 
I'll bless thy sacred name; 
My Jesus, yesterday, to-day, 
Forever is the same!

Thomas Haweis

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Gems from J.D.

J. D. Hall is widely appreciated and unappreciated by a lot of people (both to a large degree because he is blunt and says what he thinks). I don't always agree with him, but appreciate his unique way of putting the point on things. Here are a few "gems".

"Another kid woke up in Heaven and came back with a best-seller. No, another kid. No. Another kid. Just shoot me in the face already." -- J. D. Hall

"Joel Osteen’s latest sermon was identical to the fortune cookie I got from the Great Wall of China restaurant last Tuesday." -- J. D. Hall

"There are a plethora of spiritual charlatans and doctrinal snake oil salesmen who really will ravage your friends, spiritually molest your family, theologically wound your coworkers and maim your loved ones. The fact is, if you love them and you see something, you should say something." -- J. D. Hall

"Be “that guy” who doesn’t feel the need to sit at the cool table." -- J. D. Hall

From Hall's blog post If You See Something Say Something

Three from another J. D., J. D. Greear in his book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart:

"Only the security of knowing God has accepted you can free you to seek God for His own sake." -- J. D. Greear

"In Christ, there is nothing I could do that could make God love me more; nothing I have done that makes Him love me less." -- J. D. Greear

"A desire to desire God is the first echo of a heart awakened to God." -- J. D. Greear

Friday, April 15, 2016

Quick review of 'Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart'

In Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart, J. D. Greear tackles the thorny problem of surface evangelism that gives false hope, or sometimes no hope at all. Greear tells us that "Placing an overemphasis on phrases like 'ask Jesus into your heart' gives assurance to some who shouldn't have it and keeps it from some who should."

There are a lot of good "one liners" in the books -- that is, sentences that easily stand alone to use as good quotes. Here are two:

  • "You didn't start to sin because you hung around the wrong crowd; you were the wrong crowd."
  • "The sinner's prayer is not a magic incantation or a recipe you follow to get a salvation cake."

I appreciate that the book tackles the often sacrosanct ideas of "asking Jesus into your heart" and "praying the sinner's prayer". At times Greear seems tentative in the matter, perhaps fearing to alienate a large Southern Baptist constituency (it is printed by Broadman & Holman, btw, and Greear is a rising star in the Convention). According to your viewpoint you may think J. D. Greear addressed the topic expertly (and tactfully) enough to gain the endorsement of Southern Baptist Calvinists and Traditionalists alike (see statements on unnumbered pages before the title page); or, that he deliberately compromised enough to do so. A "grace approach" should expect that he believes what he has written.

Though I agree with the premise, and broadly with much of what he has written, I found that book a little off-putting. Some of that I can dismiss as his style of communicating and our generational differences (one is the overuse of exaggeration to make points). But there were a few hurdles I couldn’t get over. Here are a few examples.  At times he seems to confuse security and assurance (p. 19), which are not the same thing. He named himself as the participant in a story that actually is someone else’s (this is discovered by comparing a footnote, pp. 31,124). Preachers do this all too often, and while possibly acceptable in some fields of discourse, should not be acceptable among ministers of the gospel. He loved what a particular old hymn said so much that he conflates two completely different hymns as one? The words of Edward Mote's "The Solid Rock" and Robert Lowry's "Nothing But the Blood" are not the same hymn. Some might pass this by as a minor mistake, but that just seems off to me (pp.36,124).

Ultimately the book is about assurance rather than just these "man-made" phrases, as the subtitle "How to Know for Sure You are Saved" tells the reader. It is 5.2 X 7.3 inches in size and 144 pages in length, so it is a fairly quick read and is not overpriced. One could do much worse than reading it, but for the overall topic (not just assurance) I recommend Salvation...When? by Conrad Murrell. Though the author is not as well-known as Greear and the book not readily available (a major sticking point), I think the reader would be better served finding and choosing it if he or she could own only own of the two.

* I think the popularity of a book like Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart is often driven by the "celebrity factor". This is the readers' fault rather than the author's.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What If God - a brief soteriological statement

The discussion of the biblical doctrine of salvation has been dominated for about 400 years by considering a person’s beliefs as either Calvinism or Arminianism. Within Baptist circles there are these views and those along a line between the two. The most prominent with Baptists in the U.S. today is one that roughly takes the first and last points of Calvinism merged with the second, third and fourth points of Arminianism (roughly, I say!).

Start with the idea “What if God” -- “What if God” saves people however he wants to? If we don’t find how he saves to our liking, remember these words: “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” We all come to our study of biblical salvation with presuppositions. It is especially difficult if we have a well-devised theological system. We often find it “necessary” to whittle difficult verses to fit into the presupposed (vacuum-sealed) system.

In trying to kick against the traces of systematic soteriologies, “color outside the lines,” and find the truth of the biblical text, I have come to believe the following. My understanding of the biblical doctrine of salvation flows from twin truths:

  1. God is absolutely sovereign in salvation. Salvation begins and ends with God.
  2. Man suffers absolute impairment in salvation. Man cannot save himself; he is unwilling and unable to come to God by himself.

Meaning, God moves toward man and not man toward God. There is no salvation otherwise.

Here are my “5 points” (which are actually seven):

  • Eternal preparation (Revelation 13:8; Acts 2:23)
  • Complete satisfaction (John 1:29; Romans 3:26)
  • Distinct application (John 1:12; Galatians 3:22)
  • Effective persuasion (John 6:29; John 6:37)
  • Responsible cooperation (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:15)
  • Spiritual procreation (John 1:13; John 3:7)
  • Utmost preservation (Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 1:5)

God undertook from eternity to deliver man from sin, and in time Jesus died as a sacrifice to save all who believe. The Spirit draws men to Christ, and under that state of conviction one can become both willing and able to believe in Christ. All those who believe are born again, are justified through faith, and are kept by the power of God unto salvation.

*   Soteriology – the doctrine of salvation in Christian dogma
** I’ve been meaning to make a brief soteriological statement for some time and haven’t gotten the way to state the post exactly to my liking. Due to questions, I’ve posted it anyway and may need to make revisions and clarifications shortly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ashes to ashes, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On the Day My Baby Died

Please take the time to read this post:

On the Day My Baby Died -- "While I only knew my child in the womb for a few weeks, the Lord had already firmly planted him or her in my heart. I prayed for that child. I loved that child."

Baptist church polity

Yesterday I read A Few Polity Questions, an interesting blog piece on Baptist church polity. By the time I found it, comments were closed. So I offer the following comment here. 

In comparing Article XXXVI of the 1644 and 1646 London Confessions it is interesting to see that the wording was pared down from "Pastors, Teachers, Elders, Deacons" to "elders and deacons" -- suggesting that they may have thought "elders" comprehended the whole of "Pastors, Teachers, Elders". Also in chaapter 26.11 of the 1689 London Confession, "bishops or pastors" seem to be used as the same office (as "bishops or elders" is in 26.8 and 26.9). If so, bishops, elders and pastors would all be one word for the same office. To me it seems that the 1689 statements are not as confusing on the surface, but made more confusing by our own practice and our use of terminology.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bully pulpit, bully hypocrite

Several days ago, PayPal released a statement on their website over the name of President and CEO Dan Schulman regarding scuttling their plans for an operations center in North Carolina:
"Two weeks ago, PayPal announced plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte and employ over 400 people in skilled jobs.  In the short time since then, legislation has been abruptly enacted by the State of North Carolina that invalidates protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and denies these members of our community equal rights under the law.
"The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.  As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte."
According to Schulman, "This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination."

Sincere minds must question the sincerity of "PayPal’s deepest values" and "action to oppose discrimination." Their deepest values seem to only operate in the United States, where the movement of the bandwagon is in the same direction of their decision in North Carolina. If these are their "deepest values" and not just measures of expediency why not boycott "discrimination" across the globe -- much of it quite unlike a bathroom bill?

Congressman Robert Pittenger, a House of Representatives member from North Carolina, stated, "PayPal does business in 25 countries where homosexual [and transgender] behavior is illegal, including 5 countries where the penalty is death..." PayPal has offices or headquarters in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates; Istanbul, Turkey; Chennai, India; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Moscow, Russia and so on. Check their policies on homosexuality and transgender. I haven't tried to verify Pittenger's exact number, but anyone who wants to have a go at it can find where PayPal does business HERE on their own web site.

Prison? PayPal doesn't pull out. Death? PayPal doesn't pull out. Must use a certain bathroom? Oh, we can't have that! The difference is probably this. PayPal can have success bullying individuals, states & other governmental bodies, and politicians in the United States. That's not a workable business solution across the globe, so "PayPal’s deepest values" must stay close to home. With Congressman Pittenger, I too must say "Perhaps PayPal would like to try and clarify this seemingly very hypocritical position."

At least that's how I see it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This I know - My Saviour knows

This I know/My Saviour knows by E. Margaret Clarkson

I do not know what next may come 
Across my pilgrim way; 
I do not know tomorrow's road, 
Nor see beyond today. 
But this I know -- my Saviour knows 
The path I cannot see; 
And I can trust His wounded hand 
To guide and care for me. 

I do not know what may befall, 
Of sunshine or of rain; 
I do not know what may be mine, 
Of pleasure and of pain; 
But this I know -- my Saviour knows 
And whatsoe'er it be 
Still I can trust his love to give 
What will be best for me. 

I do not know what may await, 
Or what the morrow brings; 
But with the glad salute of faith, 
I hail its opening wings; 
For this I know -- that in my Lord 
Shall all my needs be met; 
And I can trust the heart of Him, 
Who has not failed me yet.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

All God's children

"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord." Isaiah 54:13 

"God's teaching does not leave a man where it found him, dead, stupefied, worldly, unfeeling, and carnal. If he is in distress, it does not leave him in distress; if he feels guilty, it does not leave him guilty; if he is in darkness, it does not leave him in darkness; but it lifts him out of these evils." -- J. C. Philpot

Friday, April 08, 2016

For God so loved (a lesson from John 11:1-46)

The Bible plainly declares that God is love (1 John 4:8). How true! But this truth is governed by God and his word rather than our vain imaginations and unbridled expectations. God is love in the way he means rather than the way we think. The sickness and death of Lazarus recorded in John chapter 11 is an apt illustration of God and his love, and how he deigns to operate in that love. 

The Bible plainly declares that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5). How true! But the behaviour of that love is deliberate and startling. This behavior should inform our expectations and overhaul our presumptions. Lazarus fell deathly sick. Martha and Mary sent Jesus a message to let him know. Jesus did nothing.* Lazarus died. If Jesus really loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did he not respond to their message and let Lazarus die of the sickness he had?

1. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that He stayed where He was and tarried even longer. When Jesus received the message of Lazarus’s sickness “he abode two days still in the same place where he was”(John 11:6), tarrying so that by the time he arrived in Bethany Lazarus was buried and “had lain in the grave four days already” (John 11:17).

Our time is not God’s time. God exists outside of time and is unencumbered by it. Time is man’s master, not God’s.  “…be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) Though God exists outside of time he manages it, operates within its events, and interacts with man who is servant of it. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), even “a time to die” with which Lazarus would soon met. Because “therefore will the Lord wait…blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18) The day that Jesus received the message from Martha and Mary was not “when the fulness of the time was come” according to God’s calendar to hasten to Bethany.

2. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that he didn’t fulfill their desire. The message sent to Jesus was “he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3), and it was a desire of Lazarus’s sisters that he be healed. They could hope for it and believed that “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11: 21,32). Not only did the sisters believe, but others thought this man Jesus could “have caused that even this man should not have died” (John 11:37). Though we are taught to believe we will receive what we ask God for (Mark 11:22-25), God’s will is the decisive factor. Prayer is no blank check to purchase every man’s whim. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Lazarus’s sickness was not about sickness and death, but about the glory of God. And, frankly, often our expectations are too low when dealing with “him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

3. For God so loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus that He raised Lazarus from the dead. Glory! This sickness of Lazarus was “not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). Clearly there is something much larger operating than the mere sickness and death of Lazarus – an event designed for the glory of God and “to the intent ye may believe” (John 11:15). But wait! While focusing on the glory of a resurrection from the dead, we might forget to consider some practical ramifications. To raise Lazarus from the dead means he had to return from a better place – a place where he gained relief from all present sickness and absence of any future pain. This raising meant Lazarus became something of a “side show”, with people trekking to Bethany “that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9). Further this miraculous event put a target on Lazarus’s back so that “the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death” (John 12:10) because he was a visible testimony of the glory of God and power of Jesus Christ and “by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” (John 12:11)

“Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39).
“he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44).

“For God is love” and “for God so loved” are wonderful words, but words of love interpreted “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). By man’s reckoning of time, Jesus seemed to be four days late. By God’s schedule he was right on time!

* We cannot mean to say or believe that Jesus actually “did nothing” – but that from the human perception of the initial events, he appeared to be doing nothing to rectify the problem.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

A terrible evil, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A blank check?

When Jesus said that we shall receive all things, whatever we ask in prayer if we believe, did he in effect sign a blank check for Christians to consume on whatever their hearts desire? Is "all" and unlimited adjective? Is "whatsoever" an indefinite pronoun? What direction does the context point us?

Words have a varying range of meaning (semantic range), which meaning is determined by usage. It's not uncommon for someone to assert "all means all and that’s all it means." And that is true -- but in common (and scriptural) usage "all" rarely (if ever) means "all without any restriction or limitation." The context defines the meaning of all.

The Text
Mark 11:22-26 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

There is a clear and obvious statement in the very context of the passage that one does not have a blank check to cash in any manner the believer might suppose. That one asking for forgiveness, who does not himself forgive, will not have "have whatsoever he saith" but Jesus declares the Father will not "forgive your trespasses." So, thought it might at first seem otherwise, the very word Jesus is speaking defines and details that these are not universal "alls" and "whatsovers". Jesus own contextual statements demand that the promise of verse 24 be limited rather than unlimited.

In the broader context of inspired scripture we also find teaching that corrects those who would presume to get whatsoever they want -- whatever their hearts are set on -- regardless of what God "wants".

Consider, for example, Bible instructions that teach we don't get all our prayers answered in whatever way our little hearts desire.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
Consider, also, Bible examples that show we don't get all our prayers answered in whatever way our little hearts desire.
In John 11 Martha and Mary, two people Jesus dearly loved, did not receive the desire of their hearts. They wanted they brother Lazarus to be healed of his sickness. Jesus did not do it, but in fact waited until Lazarus died before he ever came to their side. In the end they received something beyond their expectations, but they did not receive what they expected.
Other scriptures throughout the word support this teaching. We must not be presumptuous. We must not think that we are calling the shots. We must not believe that we can use Jesus's words to make God do whatever we want. (See also, Psalm 66:18–19; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15; Luke 11:2; John 15:7; James 5:16; 1 John 3:22). But we can come boldly before the throne of grace to received help in time of need.

[Preliminary to "For God so loved". Check back in a couple of days.]