Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Interstates & Blizzards


Hours of snow streaming hypnotically at you.
Hours of unblinking focus on the lights ahead - BRAKES!
Hours of muscles tensed in readiness.
Hours of acid reflux.

Not too fast - or you will run into cars ahead.
Not too slow - or you will be overrun.
Hold your breath if you need to change lanes - (A rush of slush!)
Grit your teeth when a semi trailer swings close.

Cars off in the median...
Cars off on the side...
Taillights dimly visible in the cloud ahead...
Headlights pushing from behind...

Nothing to do, but to endure.
You have been caught out, you keep on going.
It takes as long as it takes.

Eventually you will be safely home.
(Psalms 107:28-32) Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Too Tough Love?

I have a feeling that many people will have questions about yesterday's blog on beggars. Somehow it doesn't seem quite right... Is this what Jesus would do?

The scriptures clearly say that we should not close our hearts to people who are in need. We should have compassion on the poor. Am I violating that principle by shutting off the spigot of dollars flowing from my front porch to professional beggars?
(Proverbs 14:21) He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
(Proverbs 19:17) He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.
(Proverbs 29:7) The righteous considers the cause of the poor,
I believe these verses. I need to make sure that my heart is not hardened and I am not just withholding help that I should give to people in need.

But do I have an obligation to give money to everyone who asks for it?

Not all poor people are equal. Some people are poor because they choose to live profligate lives in rebellion against God. Poverty is the natural result of ungodly and foolish living.
(Proverbs 6:9-11) How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep—
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.
(Proverbs 13:18) Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction,
(Proverbs 13:25) The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.
(Proverbs 14:23) In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter leads only to poverty.
(Proverbs 23:20-21) Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
(Proverbs 28:19) He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!
In the story of the prodigal son, the father did not continue to send money to his son to support him in his prodigal lifestyle. He let him starve a while until he "came to his senses," repented of his sin and came back to his father. (Luke 15)

Should I be part of the support system for people who are living just like the prodigal son - people who have no intention of repenting and turning to the Father?

What about Jesus? He had compassion on the 5,000 people and miraculously fed them in John chapter six, did He not? Yes He did! But the next day, when they approached him and urged Him to do it again, He refused.
(John 6:26-27) ¶ Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
In fact, Jesus went on to give them a lecture that caused many (fair weather) disciples to turn away from Him. (John 6:66) He could have made more friends by continuing the free food distribution program. Why did He stop? Wasn't it because it would have encouraged them to pursue Christ for the wrong reasons? Should we now encourage people to come to the churches because that is where the free food is to be found?

Helping the poor is good as a general principle. But some of the poor should not be helped, because you will be helping them to thumb their nose at God. Even worthwhile projects for helping the poor are not necessarily our highest priority.

What about when Jesus was anointed with the valuable perfume in John 12? The perfume was worth almost a years wages. This type of perfume was often purchased as an investment against a future need. But Mary broke the box and poured it all on Jesus. Some people complained that this was a tremendous waste.
(John 12:5) “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
Jesus' answer is interesting.
(John 12:7-8) But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

I don't want to turn my back on people in genuine need. I don't want to be hard hearted. But I also don't want to be used by ungodly people to facilitate their ungodly lifestyle.

Do I still give toward the relief of the poor? Well, I do. My wife and I are not rich - never have been and are unlikely to become so. But we give well over ten percent of our gross income to our church - part of which is used for the relief of the poor. In addition, we give extra for special offerings for special needs people have. In addition we will continue to give directly to some people in need, when we think that is right. Beyond that, the more than 25% of our income that goes to taxes provides, in large part, for government relief programs for people in need.

This morning, as I have been writing this, I received two calls from complete strangers. Will the church give them money to help buy Christmas presents for their children? Will the church give them gas money so they can travel for Christmas to visit their family?

No we won't. We reserve that kind of help for people who actually attend the church. We want to help. We are empathetic. We have been in need ourselves. But just giving out money to everyone who asks will keep us from helping the poor people we know when they are in a bind.

May God give us hearts of love and wisdom.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beggars & Bunco Artists

I get a steady stream of beggars at my house. I have heard every imaginable hard luck story. It is striking that every single homeless vagabond that shows up - all of whom reek of cigarette smoke and have alcohol on their breath -


They are all being persecuted or are under Satanic attack. None of them begs for a living. All of them have good hearts and are only looking for money to help their children. They all ask when our church has services, because they will attend next weekend, for sure. None of them drinks or smokes. They all belong to some church somewhere in North Carolina - I could call their pastor if I wanted. They just need help for tonight. The first of the month is coming and they will get their check. They will be sure to pay me back then.
(1Peter 2:19-20) For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

Persecution does happen. The Bible warns that everyone who even wants to life a godly life in Christ Jesus will certainly face persecution. (2Tim. 3:12)

But it is also true that behaving badly will bring about bad results.

These beggars at my door are certainly pitiful. Their stories are heart-rending recitals of terrible tragedy. But my honest opinion is that they have brought their miseries on themselves. They are drunken, drug dazed, immoral, promiscuous, thieves and con artists. They take advantage of every program that is offered - state, federal and local. They run the circuit of churches - approaching each one in turn to get whatever they can.

Do any of these folks want to live "godly in Christ Jesus?" I don't think so. I talk to them. They are offended that I suggest they are not already the epitome of Christian living. They offer to give me my money back - lest I think they are professional beggars or bunco artists. They are only there because they are in a real jam. They are only thinking of others - usually their children. They have pneumonia - double pneumonia. They just got out of the hospital. Their relatives have just died. They were robbed. They had to leave home because of abuse. They are willing to work!

Actually, they have rejected God and His claims on their lives. They live without restraint. They live for their own pleasures. They live for the moment and so they live from hand to mouth. Their life is hard - no doubt. But it is all because of their own evil choices.

Should I help them? I have in the past. (I'm a pushover.) But I've come to the conviction that I am only enabling them to live ungodly lives. If they can find enough money for booze and cigarettes - they have more money than they need already. Enough is enough.
(Psalms 37:25) I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can Grouchy Be Godly?

I wish I could say that I've never been grouchy.

You know what I mean. Grumpy, Touchy, Irritable, Short Tempered, Grumbling, Crabby, Prickly, Sour, Cross, Crotchety, Cranky and Cantankerous. I remember with regret that too many times these words could describe me - and sometimes in the misguided illusion that I was being "spiritual."

How so, you ask, with justified wonder?

The usual suspects. Pride. Selfishness. Self-Pity. You believe you are superior to others. You think you are "suffering for Jesus." You suppose that grouchiness is godliness and you grouse and grumble against all the faults and failings of people who don't think and act just like you.

Can you find grouchy in the fruit of the Spirit?
(Galatians 5:22-23) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Do you suppose that Jesus was grouchy? Not even when He was facing down Satan during His temptation in the Wilderness? Not even when He was driving the money changers from the temple courts? Not even when He was pronouncing severe condemnation on religious hypocrites?

I don't think so.

Jesus delivered some severe messages - but He did even that in love and compassion. He held no grudges. In every situation Jesus demonstrated mercy. Even on the cross, He did not rail against His tormentors, but prayed, "Father, forgive them..."

Grouchy is NOT godly. In fact, godliness will eliminate grouchiness.
(Ephesians 4:31-32) Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
To know Christ should imbue us with a thankful heart and a thankful person can hardly be a grouchy person.
(1Thessalonians 5:16-19) ¶ Rejoice always,
17 pray without ceasing,
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 ¶ Do not quench the Spirit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

If I Were An Atheist

It is amazing to me when I meet nice people who are atheists.

These people are pleasant and thoughtful. They live by the rules of polite society. They do kind and helpful things for people in need. They go to work and work hard to accomplish something. They color in the lines and don't use garish florescent colors.

For me, this doesn't make any sense.

Have they misplaced their inner beast? Have they no passion in their hearts? Have they never felt a rush of murderous rage or lecherous lust? Have they no rapacious avarice driving them to acquire newer, better, faster and more things than anyone else? Have they no sense of pride, no drive for domination?

My inner beast is alive and well and barely under control - and that only by the grace of God. Praise God that Christ came to save us from our sins! I know that on my own - without God's work in me through Christ - I would be consumed by my beast. I can still hear him grumbling in my breast - violently rattling his cage when someone cuts me off in traffic. My beast is always threatening to break out. It is certainly not my strength that confines him there... but the power of God's Spirit at work in me.

Even so, I struggle with grouchy, sullen and sarcastic impulses - especially when I am tired. But I fight them - by thinking about God, His gift in Christ and His will for me revealed in His word. I try to fight off the feelings because I know there is a God in Heaven Who cares how I act. I want a relationship with Him more than anything, so I work at self control by His Spirit.

If I were an atheist, I am sure I would not be a nice one.

I need to be careful even thinking about it, lest my imagination be allowed to carry me into evil fantasies of violence, greed, etc., which the Lord has said are the same essential sin as the deeds themselves.

But I am sure I would be an atheist on the order of Hitler, Stalin or Mao. What did they do? Pretty much whatever they wanted as much as they wanted. They pursued power to satisfy their own desires. And why not? Time is limited. If there was no god to whom I must answer, I would work to get as far as I could in the direction of doing whatever I pleased. No morals, no conscience, no scripture, no restraint, no limits, no fear, no doubts. Everything and everyone would be viewed with a pragmatic eye - how will this help or hinder my pursuit of world domination? (Isn't this the idea behind the survival of the fittest - i.e., natural selection?)

Check out the news headlines and you will see evidence that many many people live this way as much as they can. Some, no doubt would be worse if it were not for fear of legal prosecution. Others spend most of their free time indulging in their fantasies through TV, pornography, or role playing games. Some are pretty well controlled in public, but in private or in situations where they think they are anonymous they let their inner beast free.

That doesn't surprise me. But it does surprise me when I meet nice people who are atheists. It doesn't add up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Should I Believe Harmen Exists?

Harmen, I think I would really like you if you existed, but I've decided I don't believe Harmen exists. I have never seen him, met him or heard his voice. I have not seen anything in the world that requires his existence.

I confess that I started out with the presupposition that he did exist, because that seemed to fit the simple facts, but I've decided it was a mistake. He doesn't really exist.

True, I have communications purported to be from him. Those communications appear to be thoughtful, intelligent and kind, but that is misleading. In fact I'm sure there is a materialistic/naturalistic explanation for how these supposed communications came into being - I just don't know what it is yet.

But I am perfectly confident that given enough time, scientific analysis will come up with definitive answers about how these anomalies came into existence. Probably something to do with solar flares interrupting the electromagnetic field of the earth and creating random bits of binary data that organized themselves into apparently meaningful words through the Google spell checker with the complicity of some unknown redactor. It was bound to happen eventually by chance - and so it did.

As for the characterization of these communications as thoughtful, intelligent and kind - These are only the anthropomorphic projections of my own feelings onto these random bits of electronic jetsam. In fact they are meaningless and without significance except as an object of curiosity and scientific investigation.

Meanwhile I don't need to be at all concerned about Harmen's thoughts, feelings, values, etc. To believe in a real being named Harmen is just so much superstition - maybe even a form of mental illness (which I evidently don't have.) I don't expect to ever meet Harmen - since he doesn't exist. I can say what I want in any way I want - I'm not going to offend Harmen. (But I will be a bit careful because I don't want to cause too much offense to those who cling to their childish belief that Harmen DOES exist.) Nevertheless, I certainly should not let Harmen cramp my style. I'll do what I want and believe what I want regardless of what people think Harmen says. I'm not going to tiptoe around worried about what Harmen thinks.

I cannot have a relationship with an illusion like Harmen... but YOU can prentend he exists if it makes you feel good and makes you behave yourself. Harmen is a crutch you can lean on if you want, but I don't need such bandages for my thoroughly modern psyche. I don't believe in Harmen or in anyone like Harmen.

Now imagine how God feels about people deciding they don't believe in Him?
(Romans 1:18-23) ¶ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Response To The Atheist

My post "What is Life?" brought the following great comment:

Well, precisely because of that huge silence I'm glad that there are people willing to investigate biological life instead of declaring it "unexplained and unknowable" and leaving it at that.

As I see it, scientists do what they are supposed to do, and pastors do too ;)

- the atheist

I started to reply, but ended up deciding to blog instead. This is my response.

Dear Atheist Friend -

Thanks for your magnanimity in your comment, but you are completely missing my point. The world of science is NOT investigating or explaining biological life. The nature of "life" is evidently declared "unexplained and unknowable" by the world of science.

Please tell me if you know of any science that identifies life apart from describing its effects when it is present. I would genuinely appreciate seeing what you come up with. So far as I can find they completely skip the question.

For my part, I believe life is both explained and knowable. The Living God - Infinite, Eternal and Almighty - created it. Then, He thoughtfully revealed the basic facts about that in the Bible.

I have no grudge against genuine empirical science. I have an enormous grudge against naturalistic, materialistic, uniformitarian philosophy masquerading as science. Evolutionary philosophers have made up any number of "just so stories" about how things might have happened - but all of their accounts fly in the face of empirical science and must be accepted by faith - against all scientific evidence.

At least my faith in God's account of things squares with what can be tested by science. Life comes from life (e.g., basic biology.) Complexity takes work (e.g., 2nd law of thermodynamics.) Coded information (e.g., DNA) always comes from a source of information (e.g., information theory.)

I would hope that both scientists and pastors would be in the SAME business - discovering, explaining and applying the truth. But, alas, evolutionary philosophy, masquerading as science, is only there to obfuscate the obvious. Why does this marvelous, incredibly complex, interdependent world that's throbbing with life suggest intelligent design to so many people?

Their answer - "Anything but THAT."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Shadows

We had lunch at Taco Bell this afternoon.

By then the pale sun was already low in the winter sky. The temperature was above freezing in the sun, and the staff had applied ice melt to the walk-way. But at the end of the ramp there was a dark shadow of the building. There, in the shadow, the blue of the handicapped parking symbol gleamed wetly from the pavement.

I thought, "there is still ice here in the shadows. That could be slippery."

It is just like our lives. We tend to be safe in the sunlight. The light melts our slippery hearts and gives us firm footing.

But in the shadows - where the light doesn't reach us - where anonymity tempts us - there we are still liable to slip. We had best stay in the light.
(John 3:20-21) For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
(1John 1:6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Friday, December 11, 2009


(Genesis 3:6) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Notice the appetites that were at work here. The appetite for food. The appetite for pleasure. The appetite for "wisdom." (Wisdom here is actually the desire to experience the understanding of good and evil promised by the serpent. It is not wisdom in a positive sense, but more like the desire for novel experiences that continue to push people to do dangerous and foolish and sinful things.)

But God wants us to be hungry for Him.
(Matthew 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
We should be longing for the Living Water.
(John 7:37-38) ¶ On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
We should be seeking the true Bread of Life.
(John 6:27, 35) Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
35 ¶ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
Instead, we puddle around in pursuit of the fleeting pleasures of Vanity Fair. Here we buy up merchandise from shady characters. Does anyone really expect to get a Rolex from a scruffy guy with sixteen watches on each arm in a back alley deal? Will that satisfy your soul - or just develop your appetite for wrong things?
(Jeremiah 2:13) “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Lord help us to know the truth and to seek the things that are truly worthwhile. Let us have healthy appetites for the things that honor You. Keep us from the junk food the world has to offer.
(1John 2:15-17) ¶ Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Is Life?

What is life? Where does it come from?
(Genesis 2:7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

I am fascinated by the complete lack of scientific information about the identity of LIFE.

Science has certainly noticed that some things are living and other things are not. They can describe the things that are living and the difference that living makes in an organism. But they have no idea where LIFE comes from or what it is.

One minute something is alive. A second later it is not. All the parts are still there - they seem to be the same as before except that they are no longer alive. What makes the difference? Where did life come from? Where did it go? What is it?

And while living things do die, there is no example of inanimate things springing to life.

To me it seems audacious that some scientists (no doubt with millions of dollars of tax payer's money) are attempting to create "artificial life." They are working at trying to develop ways of creating cell walls and other parts. But they never address the fact that no matter how many parts they can make, they don't know how to make their creation live. Having the parts is not the same as having a living thing.

There is a huge silence here. It is a huge hole in the evolutionary dogma of origins... that everything happened by natural processes... that under (unexplained and unknowable) ideal circumstances life just sprang into being and then evolved over time to become more and more complex.

(John 1:1-4) 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 nothing was made that was made.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
(John 11:25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

(John 14:6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Today Is The Day

Today is the day to follow Christ.
(Hebrews 3:12-15) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
The only day we have to serve Christ is today. Let us be faithful today.

Life comes at us pretty fast and I'm not sure that "multitasking" is anything other than working faster. Yesterday I was a child. Today I am a grandfather. What happened to all of the time in between? Where will I be tomorrow?

It doesn't matter. All that matters is being faithful to Jesus today. Heart and Soul - completely sold out to Jesus in every thought, word and deed. Yesterday cannot help me. Tomorrow cannot hurt me. Today is the day to hear His voice and follow Him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Worship The Turkey

Where Is Christ At Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving images show tables groaning under their burden of food, surrounded by a happy throng of family members from multiple generations. The emphasis seems to be prosperity, family and tradition.

Should we not be thankful for prosperity and family?

Of course we should be thankful! But I think we tend to focus on the prosperity and family and tradition, while leaving Christ at the extreme fringe of our consciousness. We are thankful to God, but we are focused on the stuff. We give a nod to God, but it is the anticipation of the food and family and traditional activities that really makes our hearts race.

This is just another example of idolatry. We give the Lord a minute before the feast, but our hearts belong to the food, the fellowship and the fun.

Put Christ in His rightful place in your affections! Be thankful! Be joyful! Rejoice and praise the Lord - not because He has loaded you with good things, but because HE IS WORTHY of all our praise! Give Him glory and honor! Praise God that He is your Savior and Lord! Praise Him that your life does not consist of the stuff this world offers. Praise God that if you were suddenly bereft of your loved ones and had no home or food, you would still be rich in Christ.

In Jesus Christ we are rich regardless of the prosperity we experience in this sinful world.

I plan to have a GREAT time enjoying my family (especially my sweet grand-babies) and all of the food and fun over Thanksgiving. I am truly thankful for them all. God has graciously provided good things for me and my dear ones. But while I enjoy God's blessings, may I never allow those blessings displace God from His rightful throne at the center of my affections.
(Philippians 3:7-8) ¶ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bumper Sticker Theology

A while back I came across an F-Minus comic strip picturing two guys leaning back against a car trunk. The one is saying, "Of course I believe in stuff. I just don't bumper sticker believe in anything."

At WalMart today, I parked my "Pastr D" licensed truck next to a beat up car with Quebec plates. It was the bumper stickers that really captured my attention.

"Happy Atheist" and "Your imaginary friend is a dead Jewish carpenter."

He didn't seem so happy to me. Sounded more hostile than happy. When I came out to my truck with my purchases, the happy atheist came out to his car too. He didn't LOOK happy.

I seriously considered asking him what it is that makes him so happy.
  • Is it that he doesn't need to be concerned about answering to his Creator?
  • Is it that he likes the idea of having no consequences for his actions?
  • Is it that he has no questions about eternal destiny?
Certainly he can't be happy about some aspects of his atheism.
  • What is happy about a meaningless existence?
  • What is happy about having no purpose for living?
  • What is happy about having no hope for life beyond this broken world?
I suspect that he is not so much a happy atheist as an irritated atheist. He is probably "bumper sticking" in reaction to all the Christian bumper stickers he sees. It is his attempt to irritate the people who irritate him.

I was tempted to talk to him there in the parking lot, and I'm a bit sorry that I didn't. But I also suspect that talking to him there might have been just the kind of thing that he is reacting against. Nevertheless, I did try to look happy and smile at him.

People like that happy atheist need a good Christian friend who can live out the gospel in their relationship rather than just post (irritating) slogans on their bumpers.

There truly IS a difference between believing something and "bumper sticker believing."

Friday, November 20, 2009


I talked to a man today about eternal life. He was in the hospital with an IV in his arm and heart monitor patches glued on his chest and sides. His scar from a previous open heart surgery was clearly visible on the center of his chest as we talked.

I asked him, "Are you sure that when you die you will be accepted by God into heaven?" He said, "I won't know until I get there." "Won't that be a bit too late?" I asked.

But he is not afraid. He talked and talked. He wasn't afraid when he had his open heart surgery. He isn't afraid now. He was born and raised in the Roman Catholic church. Even though he never attends Catholic services or partakes of Catholic sacraments, his confidence is in his identity and background in the church. He wakes up in the morning and praises God for a new day. He does the best that he can do in his life. He doesn't worry about what anyone else believes - including his children. He goes to bed at night and entrusts himself to God. He reads his Bible every day, he told me.

Eventually I asked if I could borrow his Bible that he reads every day to show him something there. He graciously and tenderly handed me the two small books. One was the Catholic catechism. The other a well worn copy of the Catholic Faith Handbook For Youth.

Not a Bible at all. This explains why his long accounts of biblical history are completely out of step with what the Bible really teaches (e.g., we are all Jewish because Adam and Eve were Jewish.)

So what does he believe?
1) He believes that if he is good enough (and he is sure that he is), God will let him into heaven. As he says, he does the best he can do, and that will have to be enough.
2) He believes that it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe it with all your heart. According to him, there is no objective knowledge of God based on the Bible - there is only what resonates with you. That's why he doesn't care very much what religion his children are following.
3) He believes that he is the measure of everything... right and wrong, good and bad, true or not true. He and he alone can tell the truth, but nobody can tell him. Whatever he has picked up or thought up - no matter how contrary to the facts - is true because he believes it to be true.

I like this man. He is an interesting man. He is an articulate man. He is a vibrant, bright eyed, gregarious man.

But he is lost. He doesn't know the basic truth of the Gospel - that all have sinned - that the wages of sin is death - that the only remedy is the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ - God's gracious gift, received by faith and not by works.

But even though he is lost, he is not frightened. He has great confidence. He faces the approach of his own death with complete calm. Just like John Bunyan's character, Ignorance, he will cross the river of death without getting his feet wet because he has hired a ferryman of dubious origin. The ferryman's name is "Vainhope."

So, while this man is not afraid, I am afraid for him. He needs Christ. I pray that God will open his eyes and his heart, that the word of God might enter and give him light.
(John 3:36) He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jesus Changes Everything

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Are you thankful?

The Greek word that is often translated "give thanks" in the New Testament is related to the word Eucharist. Its roughly literal meaning is "good grace" or "good gift." It suggests an expression of gratitude for the gift that has been received. I suppose that the word came to be used of the communion service because the scripture says, "He took bread, and when He had given thanks (eucharist), He broke it..." (1Cor. 11:23-24)

When we remember Christ in the communion service, we are thankful for Christ, the indescribable gift of God. (2Corinthians 9:15)

Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we get up? Why do we get dressed and go to work? Why do we say the things we say? Why are we happy? Why are we upset? Why do we obsess about some things and ignore others? What is our motive? What is our governing principle?

It seems like there are plenty of potential answers that are not so positive: physical pleasure, personal gratification, peer pressure, guilt, joy, rage, pride, greed, sloth, etc. Truth be known, these are the answers far too often. This is our natural condition as followers of "...the course of this world." (Eph. 2:2)

But in Christ we have died to our old life and have been raised to walk in newness of life. Now we have a completely different perspective on the world and our life in it.
(Colossians 3:1-2) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Jesus changes everything. We can now see beyond the petty cares of this world. We finally have something of genuine value that will never depreciate. Everything this world offers fades into dim obscurity by comparison.

What is our motive? It is to please Jesus Christ.
What is our governing principle? It is our gratitude for God's grace.
(Colossians 3:17) And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (eucharist) to God the Father through Him.

Let us be truly thankful.
(2Corinthians 9:15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Monday, November 16, 2009

So Great Salvation!

Consider our calling as followers of Christ.
(2Peter 1:2-4) ¶ Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

In Christ we have:
  • grace & peace
  • everything pertaining to life & godliness
  • a call to glory and virtue
  • exceedingly great and precious promises
  • we are partakers of the divine nature
  • we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust
Wow! Do we advertise all these things in the gospel?

So much of what pretends to be Christianity in America today suggests that people can be followers of Christ with a few slight cosmetic changes. Their goals, their pleasures, their lives are the same as ever, but now they are "Christians" and sure of their place in heaven.

But the call to salvation is the call to follow Jesus. Any response that does not originate in a new heart and result in a new life is bogus. The confidence of the believer is that God is at work in him to make him significantly different than the slave of sin he used to be.
(2Peter 1:5-10) ¶ But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10 ¶ Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

Press on, true followers of Jesus Christ. Don't settle for some anemic imitation. Follow hard after Jesus! Give Him your whole heart. Pursue Him with your whole being! Let Him consume your whole life, for the Glory of God!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Every idle word

Think of all the words you say (or type or text) on any given day. We live in a river of communication. A flood of words washes around us like a river. We are completely submerged in words and to that deluge we add our own steady stream of words.

What do we say? We preach, teach, chide, encourage, inform, tell, gossip, question, exclaim and entreat! We use words in our most public and most intimate lives. We use words that many people might hear and words that we hope will not be overheard at all.

Do we pay enough attention to what we say?
(Matthew 12:34-37) Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Our words are important because they reveal the contents of our hearts. Are we filled with truth? Then what we speak will be truth. Half truths or lies reveal our deceitful heart. Are we full of anger? Then our words will be bitter. Are we foolish? Then our words will be silly. Are we filled with pride? Boasts or false humility will reveal it.

You get the idea. Our words are a window on our soul. Jesus was interested in "every idle word" because, in fact, every word comes from the heart and reveals the heart. It will be the testimony introduced at the judgment.

What should we do? Should we be more careful what we say? Certainly so! We should be careful to listen more and talk less.
(James 3:1-2) My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
(James 1:19) ¶ So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
(Proverbs 17:28) Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
But this is only a partial answer and not enough.

The ultimate answer is not the window to the heart, but the heart itself. We need the new heart that God gives through Christ. We need to let the Spirit of God bring forth the fruit of righteousness in our soul.
(2Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

(Galatians 5:22-23) ¶ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall Days

We have been enjoying beautiful, sunny, late fall weather. What glorious golden days these are! They make me feel rich. What a great gift from God - beautiful days and life to enjoy them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bountiful Blessings

Today I am leaving home for a training seminar near Harrisburg, PA. Consequently I am completely confused. My routine is completely out of whack. I am supposed to be getting things ready to go... and I suppose I am except for taking this time to write this blog.

What I hate is the feeling of forgetting things. I make notes and lists and lay things out. But I am still concerned about the thing that I might have forgotten to write down or list or lay out. Those are the things you remember after you have driven 5 hours. Oops!

But, praise the Lord! It is a beautiful sunshiny morning. I thought it was supposed to rain, but I am not disappointed.

Praise the Lord that I have time to get things in order and into my truck for the trip. I have time to go and vote. I have time to finish a few odds and ends of work before I hit the road.

Praise the Lord that I get to go to the training. It is sure to be stimulating. I will also have fellowship with some new people and some that I know, but rarely see.

Praise the Lord for computers and cell phones and e-mail. Even though I am out of the office for most of a week, I will be able to stay in touch and get my work done in the evenings. While I don't like everything about the proliferation of cell phones - I sure do like begin able to stay in touch with my loved ones while I am away from home.

Praise the Lord!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Pastor's Monday

I can't speak for every pastor, but for me Monday morning is always a combination of reviewing events and encounters from Sunday, and planning my work for the week ahead. I don't take Monday off. I am still energized from Sunday. I want to use that energy to get a good start on preparations for next weekend.

On Monday I always think about who attended Sunday's services and who didn't. I guess it is a shepherd thing. When sheep show up or don't show up at feeding time the shepherd wonders about it. It is not about keeping score... but about caring for the health and safety of the sheep.

Some new sheep unexpectedly appeared. Where did they come from? What are they here for? What should I do about them? How can I meet their needs?

Other sheep were missing! Where were they? Do I need to go after them? Are they physically or spiritually sick? Have they been attacked by wolves? How can I meet their needs?

People attend church in predictable patterns that are certainly related to their perspective on and their commitment to the ministry. Some people attend every service. It is a surprise when they are missing (though they usually warn you in advance.) Other people attend just one service a week - and for some that one service is in jeopardy if there is any plausible excuse.

Guess whose spiritual health the pastor worries about.

There are people to whom one hour a week is more of a burden than a blessing. There are people who consider church attendance to be like a necessary dose of an unpleasant medicine. They go, when they go, because they think they should - but not because they want too.

I think that is so sad! Here are people who have not discovered the rapturous joy that is only found in Jesus Christ - our Lord and Savior! For them Jesus cannot compete with the pleasures of sleeping in or a football game or a ride in the country or reading a novel or watching T.V. or even vacuuming the house.

Do they really know Jesus at all? How can they know Him - really know Him - and be content to live away from the gathering of the redeemed where Jesus is exalted in praise and testimony and where His word is preached and taught so that we can be further set apart to Him? How can they stand to live on such a thin soup when there is a rich and varied banquet provided?

I suppose that when anyone is "off his feed," he is sick. And so I fret. What can I do? I can pray. I can preach. I can call. I can confront. But I cannot change a person's heart.

Ah, Lord! Change people's hearts! Let them have no other gods but you - not only in their theology, but also in their affections.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5) ¶ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is It The Great Pumpkin?

On Halloween Night the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and flies through the air with gifts for all the good boys and girls!

Linus VanPelt has become part of the Great Pumpkin cult. He believes based on some shadowy group that reports on the appearance of the Great Pumpkin each year. He has not seen the GP himself - yet he believes.

He believes that as long as he sits faithfully in the most "sincere" pumpkin patch, he will be rewarded by the Great Pumpkin. He believes so sincerely that he is willing to forgo "Tricks or Treats" with the rest of the children on Halloween Night. He believes so sincerely that he is evangelistic - working to communicate his faith to Sally Brown. He believes so sincerely that he endures the ridicule of the other children and the formidable threats by his sister, Lucy, that she will pound him.

He believes even after the severe disappointment of another Halloween without a reward from the GP. He blames himself. "It must be that my pumpkin patch was not sincere enough." "Maybe it is when I slipped and said, 'If you come...'"

His faith is so important to him, he prays to the Great Pumpkin and says, "If you don't exist, don't tell me because I don't want to know."

Linus VanPelt is a true believer. He has faith in faith. "If only I am sincere in my faith, I will be rewarded."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 5

In the Old Testament, self-defense is assumed in the laws that were given for Israelite civil law. But what about the topic of self defense in the New Testament?

It is true that just before His arrest Jesus tells His disciples that they should make sure they are armed with swords - and the disciples take his words literally and show him that two of them have swords.
(Luke 22:35-38) ¶ And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” ¶ So they said, “Nothing.”
36 ¶ Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”
38 ¶ So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” ¶ And He said to them, “It is enough.”

The big question is, what did Jesus mean by this?

In context, he seems to be saying that the situation is changing for the disciples, from a time of relative ease and safety during his earthly ministry, to a time of mortal danger. In the past he had sent them out to minister without any supplies and they had been cared for through God's supernatural supply. But now that Jesus is going to be rejected and killed, the disciples will face persecution.

Does this mean that the disciples will no longer received God's supernatural provision and protection in their continued ministries? Do they now need to answer force with force in the pursuit of God's kingdom?

Evidently not.

A few hours later Jesus is arrested by the officers sent by the high priest and led by Judas. This crowd has swords and clubs, and the disciples who have swords are anxious to use them in defense of Jesus. Peter goes so far as to draw his sword and take a swing at the high priest's servant, Malchus.
(Luke 22:49-51) ¶ When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”
50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

But what does Jesus say?
(Luke 22:51) ¶ But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.
(John 18:11) ¶ So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
(Matthew 26:52-53) ¶ But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
When Jesus appears before Pilate, he also talks about the use of force.
(John 18:36) ¶ Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

So what have we observed about self defense from these scriptures? It is fair to say that Jesus did not object to his disciples arming themselves with the weapons of their day. But it is also important to point out, that force of arms was clearly NOT the means by which the disciples were to defend the cause of Christ, even when enemies came against Christ with similar weapons.

Subsequently, in the book of Acts, Peter and John would be arrested and beaten by Jewish authorities, Stephen (and others) would be stoned to death by Jews who hated his Gospel, others would be driven from their homes, arrested and imprisoned. James was executed by Herod as a political favor for the Jews and Peter was scheduled for the same fate until God miraculously released him. The apostle Paul faces stoning, beatings, imprisonments and several plots against his life because of his testimony for Jesus.

Sometimes they were delivered supernaturally. Sometimes they escaped by other means, including hiding, moving out of town, government troops rescuing them, their legal standing, etc. Sometimes they did not escape, but died at the hands of their persecutors.

But in spite of all of this violence against the Christians, there is no suggestion that they ever answered the aggressors with force.

So what is the lesson here? The right to arms for self defense still seems to be a presumption, but they are not to be used in the cause of Christ.

So, please comment with your questions and observations. I will get back to this later in the week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 4

In my last blog I explained why "turn the other cheek" is about vengeance rather than about self defense.

The Bible assumes self defense as the right and responsibility of human beings. Your life is a stewardship from God. Do you have a responsibility to preserve it from people who would steal it away? Should husbands defend their wives? Should parents defend their children?

There are certainly times and places where self defense is sacrificed to a higher cause (e.g., Jesus' death on the cross to save men from their sins, martyrs dying in witness of their faith in a resurrected Savior, etc.) But generally, in day to day living, the Bible assumes people have a right to defend themselves.

Modern law limits the use of deadly force to situations where you are facing imminent death or serious bodily harm. You cannot shoot someone just for stealing something. The Biblical assumption is similar: that killing in self defense is justified if the crime being perpetrated against you is an immediate threat that would be punishable by death.

For example:
  • The punishment for murder was death. (Numbers 35:16-21)
  • The punishment for rape was death. (Deuteronomy 22:25)
  • The punishment for kidnapping was death. (Deuteronomy 24:7)
Since death was the just punishment for the crime, a person who defended against the crime by killing his or her attacker could not be considered guilty of murder. (Imagine the judge saying, "You killed this man who was trying to murder you, so you must die, but if he had murdered you, then we would have killed him." WHAT?)

But what about the modern "Castle Doctrine" in many states? According to this modern law a person does not have a duty to retreat from his own home, but can use deadly force against an intruder even if it turns out that the intruder did not have a weapon. But if the intruder is outside your home and trying to get away, you cannot use deadly force.

The Bible has a similar law.
(Exodus 22:2-3) If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.
3 If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
If someone was in your home in the dark of night, you could use deadly force. After all, you couldn't be sure what he was there for. But in the daylight you should recognize that he was just a thief and not use deadly force. There were less severe penalties for theft, including restitution.

More later. Send me questions.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 3

I will refrain (for now) from recounting more of my boyhood experiences and try contribute to a better understanding of the biblical texts.
(Matthew 5:38-39) ¶ “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
The key to understanding this passage is what God intended by the original commandment of "An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth." The Old Testament repeated the principle several times. These were instructions to the judges who would pronounce sentence on people found guilty of harming others.
(Leviticus 24:19-20) ¶ “If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him—
20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

(Exodus 21:23-25) But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

(Deuteronomy 19:21) Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Why were these guidelines given? It seems pretty obvious that these establish a standard of justice. Since this is the rule of civil law, everyone is warned that if they injure someone they will suffer the same injury from the authorities. It is easy to see how such a law should help restrain evil behavior.

Consider the wisdom of God in this law. If justice is served by "an eye for an eye" then the matter should be dropped after the punishment is implemented. By giving such a law God is not only warning evildoers that there will be consequences for their actions, but is also saying that revenge cannot go beyond the injury suffered.

So far, so good, but by Jesus' day people took the "eye for an eye" texts to justify personal retribution for every slight. In our depravity we are likely to hold grudges and carry out vendettas. In some times and places whole families have been wiped out in feuds that were sparked by some small incident years earlier. Guess what proof text was used by the combatants to justify such a feud? "An eye for an eye," of course.

Jesus is not now giving us a conflicting ethic. His instruction is in the same direction as the original scriptures. God is still a just God. Justice should still be served. But, as God always intended, justice was not to be in the hands of the individuals involved, but in the hands of the civil authority. Jesus is not negating the Old Testament teaching. In verses 17 and 18 Jesus has just said that He did not come to destroy the law and prophets, but to fulfill them. Instead, Jesus is correcting the WRONG interpretation that had been used to justify personal revenge.

Jesus is teaching that true followers of God are not to be vengeful people who are constantly striking out at others over every perceived slight. The slap on the cheek was not a life threatening blow, but an insult.

The other examples Jesus gives reinforce the point. If the true follower of God is found guilty in a court and sentenced to relinquish his shirt, he should not be resentful, but willing to give up even more to show his regret over his own guilt. (v.40) If you were compelled to carry a Roman soldier's pack one mile, you should not be angry and hostile, but kind and thoughtful so you would carry it even farther than required by the law. (v.41)

The true believer has a different perspective on the whole of his existence. He is focused on a heavenly goal - not earthly. He has bigger fish to fry than the petty matters that occupy most men in their pride. His ethic is to always make God (his heavenly Master) look good.

So what does this teach us about self defense? Matt. 5:38-39 is not addressing self defense, but matters of justice and retribution. We certainly should not be striking back at every perceived insult or slight.

But what if our lives or the lives of our children are under immediate threat? How should we respond if confronted by a murderer, rapist or robber? What should we do then? Is self defense justifiable from the Bible?

Please write to me with your ideas and I will write some more later in the week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 2

So, back to the same question... "Do Christians have any Biblical support for self defense? How can we reconcile the idea of self defense with Jesus' teaching about "turning the other cheek" and loving our enemies?"

Our understanding changes with time. One year I was a pacifist, being rescued by my pint sized sister. The next...

In fifth grade I was in a different state and in a different school in a rural community. I was physically small. The sixth graders here were big, and Chase in particular was a bully. His mom was a teacher, so he had political protection as well as the physical assistance of the sycophants who joined him in his search for trouble.

One day early in the school year, as I was hurrying from the door of the school to the line of school buses, Chase tripped me. He and a friend were loitering there near the path. Chase would ride home with his mom later. The other guy lived in town.

So, he caught me perfectly by one ankle and sent me sprawling forward. My books and papers scattered on the ground. My hands were scraped on the little stones of the path. Chase and his bodyguard were laughing hilariously as I stood up and brushed gravel off my bleeding palms. They were so engrossed in the humor, that they didn't notice I had made a fist until I drove it hard into Chase's stomach.

This time I caught HIM perfectly and knocked the wind out of him completely. He doubled over gasping for air. I expected his friend to jump me, but he looked with wide eyed surprise at Chase, then began laughing even harder than before. It felt like an eternity when I turned my back on them to gather my books. I didn't look back while I walked slowly and deliberately to the corner of the building. I expected that they would come after me at any moment, but I didn't look.

When I got around the corner I ran like a rabbit to the safety of my bus.

Chase never bothered me again. In fact, he treated me with something like respect and good humor. But had I done the right thing? Should I have slugged him or just accepted his violence toward me?
(Romans 12:17-19) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Was it more Christian to take a beating without resistance like I believed in fourth grade or was it reasonable for me to stand up to a bully like I did in fifth grade?

Tell me what you think, and I will continue this thought in a few days.

The Bible & Self Defense

(Matthew 5:38-39) “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Do Christians have any Biblical support for self defense? How can we reconcile the idea of self defense with Jesus' teaching about "turning the other cheek" and loving our enemies?
(Matthew 5:43-44) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
When I was a child, I believed that these texts meant I should not fight back against an attacker. I was in the fourth grade and had a "friend," Greg, who was a spoiled bully. At the bus stop after school one day, Greg attacked me. My books and papers were scattered on the ground and Greg was sitting on my stomach pounding on me as I tried to protect my face from his blows.

My sister, Cindy, who was two years younger than I, did not have my religious compunction for pacifism. Coming upon this scene, she yelled like a viking warrior in curls and swung her metal lunch box like a medieval mace. Greg looked up just in time to catch the lunchbox with his nose, which began bleeding immediately.

Greg ran off. I was mortified. Taking a beating was (at least in my mind) my Christian duty, but my little sister had interfered! She came to my rescue and defended me with force. She saved my bacon, but damaged my pride and contradicted my simple Christian philosophy.

What should I have done?

Tell me what you think and I will continue this thought in a few days.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ten Shekels & A Shirt: A Review

"Ten Shekels & A Shirt" is a sermon preached by Paris Reidhead some 40 years ago. His text is Judges 17:1-18:6, the story of Micah, a man from Mt. Ephraim who built himself a worship center including a graven image and a molded image, and who ultimately hired a Levite to be his priest for the princely sum of "ten shekels and a shirt."

This is a great message that is more relevant today than when it was originally preached. Reidhead decries the humanism that marks so much of what claims to be Christianity. He points out that while liberal Christianity is humanistic because it focuses on human happiness in the present world, fundamental Christianity can be just as humanistic in the way it focuses on human happiness in the next world.

The Gospel is not about man's happiness, but God's glory. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about man's satisfaction, but God's. Reidhead says that any Gospel presentation that implies that by simple mental assent a person can avoid hell's torment and attain heaven's bliss, is as humanistic as two men planning to rob a gas station. It is a something for nothing scheme built around and motivated by the happiness of men.

The true Gospel is centered on the goodness and glory of God. The true Gospel recognizes that human beings are "Monsters of Iniquity" who love their sin and hate God. (Romans 3:10-19) The true Gospel affirms the justice of God in assigning all men to eternal hell because of their wickedness and rebellion against their great Creator.

The invitation of the true Gospel is not a cold calculation about the benefits for human beings, but a passionate call to repentance because God is worthy of all glory and we have wronged Him horribly. This is not a message of cheap grace or easy believism. As Jesus preached, those who follow Him must count the cost, deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. We follow Jesus, not for what we can get, but because He is worthy.
(Revelation 5:9) And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
(Revelation 5:12-13) saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 ¶ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
How dare we presume on God's grace by substituting humanism as the motivation for the Gospel?

The sermon, "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" can be found at http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/singlefile.php?lid=282.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proverbs 18:2

Ponderous proclamations I'm avoiding
Pride and profundity become cloying.
Pretense and pomposity are annoying.
(Proverbs 18:2) A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.

Monday, August 24, 2009

R U Grumpy?

Remember the seven dwarves? What were their names? Doc, Dopey, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Happy and Bashful.

While only one in seven of the dwarves was grumpy, it seems that about seven in ten people LOOK grumpy. Why are people so unhappy?

This morning I found myself facing a lady driving a minivan in a narrow lane in a small parking lot. It is a one way parking lot and she was facing the wrong way, but she made it abundantly clear, even without words, that I was an idiot for blocking her path to the opening marked "entrance only" where she ultimately exited.

She was SO unhappy and that was just the beginning of her problems.

She traveled the same direction down Whipple Ave. as I did. It could not have improved her mood to turn into her driveway and find that someone had run over a big skunk almost right in front of her house. The skunk was in the northbound lanes and my truck in the southbound lanes STILL picked up some of the stink. That lady's house is on the northbound side of the road. It can't be good.

We need to be careful about our countenance. Christians need to display the fruit of the Spirit lest our attitudes stink like a big dead skunk.
(Galatians 5:22-23) ¶ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
People can see our faces behind the wheel. They can discern our "body language." They can see if we are controlling our tempers or losing them. They can tell if we are being polite or not. How will our attitudes affect our testimonies?

Live for Jesus!
(Galatians 5:16) ¶ I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lessons from Job

My annual Bible reading schedule has me in the book of Job right now. This is one of the great things about reading through the Bible on a slow schedule like this. You read parts of the Bible you might be tempted to skip and you have the time to read them slowly - to meditate on them.

Job is a tough book. Job is righteous, but he gets flattened by one disaster after another. Job complains that he would rather be dead. His friends say that God wouldn't do this to a righteous man, so Job must in fact be a terrible sinner. They say, in effect, "It is simple - repent and God will restore you." Job says that as far as he knows he has nothing specific to repent for. He says that he wishes he could just bring his case directly to God. He points out that many overtly unrighteous people are terrible violent sinners, yet have relatively trouble free lives - so it doesn't necessarily follow that suffering is the result of sin.

So, what is the point?
  1. God is not giving us our just rewards in this life.
  2. God is not going to be manipulated by men.
  3. God's chastening is to refine the faith of His people.
  4. God is merciful and longsuffering toward His enemies.
(1Peter 1:3-7) ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 ¶ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
Don't worry. God has everything in hand, and He will not drop you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Send them all to Asia!

Did you hear about the interviewer who asked an older person what he thought about the issue of euthanasia? The old gentleman said, "send them all to Asia!"

I received this interesting request in a recent e-mail.
I'd be interested in reading something practical about how we should be viewing "frightening" current events (death panels, etc). There seems to be a missed balance between those Christians who are fatalistic and fear mongering (Obama is anti christ, everybody homeschool, etc.) and those who are so busy being entertained they don't even worry about the Lord's return.
This is a tall order! What is the Christian perspective and response? How do I balance my Christian faith with my rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the USA? That is the main problem raised in the question. Where is the balance?

I was reading comments on the Canton Repository web site the other morning and there was not much offered in the way of balance. The tone was shrill and the volume was loud. Personal attacks were the order of the day. People seemed to be in a panic.

I would suggest that nobody needs to panic - especially not the followers of Jesus Christ.

BALANCE POINT ONE: As citizens of Heaven, we have (or should have) our eyes fixed on heaven. No government, no leader, no party, no plan, no law - NOTHING, is going to change the final outcome. In this life we are strangers and pilgrims. Eventually our mortal bodies will die and we will be "absent from the body and present with the Lord." Our faith is in God to keep His promises. We should not have any faith in government - no matter what party is in power and no matter what form of government we have.

BALANCE POINT TWO: As citizens of the USA we are not helpless bystanders. We are part of the political process. We can (and should) communicate our opinions to our representatives and we can (and should) vote. You also have a right to express your opinions publicly, but be careful that you don't damage your ability to speak for Christ by becoming a partisan in the fight over some political issue. Presenting the gospel is far more important than ANY political or social issue. The Gospel is more important than your life or anyone's life, much less issues of taxes or deficits or even our various freedoms.

BALANCE POINT THREE: As ambassadors for Christ, we must stay engaged with our neighbors and countrymen. All Christians are ultimately engaged in a spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12). People who want to live godly lives WILL suffer persecution! (2Tim. 3:12) Jesus said, " These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

There is no biblical encouragement to disengage from the general battle and hide out until Jesus comes! When Jesus prays for the disciples in John 17 He makes this very clear.
(John 17:14-18) I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
The life of faith is not a bed of ease and prosperity. I am afraid that too many professed Christians think that any lowering of their accustomed standard of living is equivalent to the plagues of the Great Tribulation.

There are millions of Christians who are living godly lives in countries with totalitarian governments where it is illegal to be obedient to Jesus. Thousands of Christians are killed every year for Christ. Thousands more suffer deprivation and imprisonment. Yet they are faithful and reaching lost people for Christ.

Be courageous! Fight the good fight! Be faithful! Be witnesses for Jesus, Who is alive from the dead! Remember a servant is not greater than his master. If you are obedient to Jesus in this world, they will treat you in the same way as they did Him.

Live for Jesus! If necessary, die for Jesus! If only we were as excited about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we are about the economy, health care, and our own physical and financial security.
(Hebrews 11:32-12:1) ¶ And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again. ¶ Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—
38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 ¶ And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Cheap Watch

About four years ago I bought a nice Timex digital watch. It was big and had an intriguing feature - an electronic compass. But it was SO big that it wouldn't fit under my shirt sleeve. I had to push my sleeve up behind it, which I didn't like, so I didn't wear it much. When I did wear it I would push a button expecting to turn on the light and get darkness. Then when I found the light button, I would not see the time but the direction the watch had been pointing when I pushed the first button. It was a fiasco - and it cost me about $50.

When the battery died, I thought, "This is a relatively expensive watch. I will buy a battery for it." Which I did, for about $10. But when I asked the store to install the battery, they declined. These watches are too complicated, they said.

"How can putting in a watch battery be that complicated?" I asked myself. So I opened up the watch. I couldn't even get the old battery out from under the restraining spring. I tried for quite a while, but, fearing that I would damage the watch, I ultimately put it back together and put it away in a drawer with the new battery in its packaging next to it.

Several months later I saw them lying pathetically in the drawer and said to myself, "What difference does it make if I break it or not? It isn't doing any good in there." So I took them out, took the watch apart, sprang the release by brute force, put the battery in, got the retainer back in place and read the mysterious inscription about resetting the compass by crossing the contact points. I saw what I thought might be contact points and crossed them with a mini-screwdriver.

I put it all back together and it worked. I even figured out how to recalibrate the compass. "Not too bad," I told myself, smugly.

But it was still too big to go under my shirtsleeve. And soon it began to behave strangely. The display would go blank, but would come back strong if you pushed a button. Then it began resetting itself... "This is too frustrating," said I.

That's it! I've had it with complicated watches. I went to WalMart and bought a $10 digital watch to replace the Timex. I am thinking disposable. When the battery goes the watch can go too and I'll buy another $10 watch. It is just not worth the time, energy and frustration - not to mention the extra money - to buy more complicated watches.

Cheap watches are the wave of the future.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Facebook, Worms and Blogging

I just followed my daughter's example and took down my Facebook page. I had a few people that used Facebook to communicate with me, but by and large it was a weird conglomeration of wall to wall notes from people I don't even know. Then one of my friends got worms - or something like that. I decided it was time to dump it before I got worms too.

Time to get back to writing blogs more frequently. I know I have been very irregular for a long while, but I want to get back at it. Blogging is writing and writing makes me think and thinking is good. It helps if people send me questions, but if not, I will make up my own questions.

Go ahead - ask any old question and I will give it a whirl. I am thinking especially about those pastoral or theological or philosophical questions that are out there... The meaning of life, the importance of flossing, the relationship of the health care debate to the Christian Gospel... stuff like that.

So, from now on I will do at least a couple of blogs a week. I promise! Check back soon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If we confess our sins...

Someone recently wrote to me with a great question.
I'd like your take on this issue: If all sins are forgiven at the cross, why does I John 1:9 say, If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins.
While 1John 1:9 is commonly used to teach that believers can confess their sins and be right with God again, the primary meaning of the verse is that true believers are those who have confessed their sins and so have come to God for salvation.

The immediate context is a series of five "if-then" statements that are parallel to each other.
  • If we say we have fellowship with Him, but walk in darkness...
  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light...
  • If we say that we have no sin...
  • If we confess our sins...
  • If we claim that we have not sinned...
These are parallels that deal with the same basic question - Who is saved and who is not saved? Each statement alternates between people who are not saved and people who are saved. If verse nine is forced to apply to forgiveness of ongoing sins it throws the whole passage out of balance and brings up good questions.

Of course, Christians should repent, confess their sins to God and seek reconciliation with God when they sin. But that is not the primary meaning of this verse. On the other hand, verse nine points to the basis of God's forgiveness. Namely, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness because "the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin." (v.7)

One problem of using 1John 1:9 as an instruction to believers about their continuing relationship with God is that it then seems to mean sin is "no big deal." If you sin, you can just confess and God will justly forgive you. Some people think they can callously sin with the intention that they will later confess it and be forgiven.

Chapter two clearly says that the Christians should NOT sin, but that if they do sin, they have an Advocate with the Father. This makes it clear that we are not sinless, but that we should take sin very seriously. After all, Jesus Himself, is our blood sacrifice. Do we love Him or not?

Chapter three emphatically says that sin cannot characterize the life of the true believer. A person who is chronically defeated by the same sins needs to ask serious questions about his relationship with God.
(1John 3:9) No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (NASB)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Homicide & Pragmatism

The paper this morning reported the eleventh homicide in Stark County in the past two months. This one was a two year old girl - evidently shot during some sort of gang hit at her home. A few weeks ago another person killed his own 3 year old and 6 year old children and former mother-in-law, apparently to spite his ex-wife. How can humans behave in such a brutal way?

Well, many Americans live by the philosophy of pragmatism. "What works is what is right." They also like utilitarianism. "What is useful is good." So they make their choices based on what seems to "work for them" at the moment.

Moral purity or impurity? Fidelity or infidelity? Peace or violence? Honesty or dishonesty? Kindness or unkindness? Truthfulness or lies? Modesty or immodesty? Hard work or sloth? Drug addiction or clean living? Murder or tender care?

Pragmatism says that it all depends on what works for you. If it is useful to you, then it is good! So behavior varies from moment to moment and situation to situation because people's choices depend on what they think "works for them." This should not surprise us. We have been trained to think this way. We have been indoctrinated with the so called "scientific" view that we are all products of the ultimate pragmatic principle - Natural Selection (AKA "survival of the fittest.") No surprise that our society is more and more like a dangerous jungle.

But we have God's own revelation.
(2Timothy 3:16-17) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God says that we are not a cosmic accident, but His own creation. He says that although He has mercifully put up with our sinful rebellion for a while, there is a day of accounting coming. He says that no matter what you may think "works for you," the only thing that REALLY and TRULY works is submitting to God and His word.
(Proverbs 14:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
When man originally decided to rebel against God, he brought death into the world. (Romans 5:12) On the one hand death is a penalty for sin - "The wages of sin..." (Romans 6:23) But on the other hand death is God's way of limiting sin and bringing sinners to account. People can't just go on living in their sin, they will die and face their Creator.

Students who know that they have a final test coming up might be motivated to study the material. Inevitably a few students will show up and say, "I thought the test was next week. Can't I have an extension?" But the teacher gave them the syllabus at the beginning of the year. The teacher wrote the test date on the board every day and offered remedial classes for students who wanted help preparing. The other students were all preparing and talking about the upcoming test. Does it really matter now, on test day, when you say, "I didn't believe it would be today?"

The universal fact of death should put the "fear of God" into everyone and show that pragmatism and utilitarianism are a sham. No matter what you think "works for you" today, we will all someday stand before God and give an account. It is not optional and it doesn't matter what you believe about it. God has given us ample warning in His word - the Bible. He has even built into us a sort of warning system - the Conscience. We know that there is more to right and wrong than the short term utility of our actions.
(Proverbs 21:30) There is no wisdom or understanding Or counsel against the LORD.

God is holy and just. He will make everything right in the end. But, that includes EVERYONE, not just murderers. That means you and me!

Fortunately, God has - like the teacher - provided help for those who believe the test is coming. The teacher provides remediation. God provided redemption and reconciliation through the sacrifice of His Divine Son, Jesus The Christ. Through the provision of Christ by His death and resurrection, all who call on Him can be saved from their sin and have ultimate eternal life with God.
(2Corinthians 5:21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

(John 5:24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Are you ready to be examined by your Maker? Getting ready for that day is the only really pragmatic thing you can do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Proprietary Attitudes?

It must be a byproduct of our materialistic culture. Or maybe it is more universal. I am speaking of our proprietary attitude... sometimes called our greedy desire to make a buck.

Someone told me this week about a nationally known speaker who published books and materials without copyrighting them - thinking that he would let others use them freely. All was well until the day when someone ELSE copyrighted the speaker's materials and made him pay to use his own things!


I like to read books - especially books about the Bible, Christian living, and Ministry. What amazes me is the constant production of new books. Some of these are really helpful. Some are not so helpful. Many great books are written that are TRUE. They are true to the Word of God and true about the application of God's word to life. Often these books have a limited appeal. Many other books are just plain FALSE. They are a pablum of rehashed psychobabble that appeals to carnal people's pride and passion for earthly prosperity. These books are (guess what) VERY POPULAR - even best sellers.

Prosperity Theology - the teaching that God's desire is that every child of His should have health and wealth in this world - is wildly popular. No matter that its only relationship to the Bible is the misapplication of misinterpretations of misquoted proof texts.

Is this just sour grapes? Could it be that I am just jealous of the megachurch stars who preach such drivel and live in million-dollar homes and wear silk and diamonds?

My heart is certainly sinful enough, but I don't think that is the case here. I am carnal enough to envy someone for coming up with a great book that has the potential to help many people understand the truth of God's word. But not because of the money. I just wish I could be that insightful. I wish I could be that effective in ministry.

But not for the fame and fortune - and I think that is true for the authors I envy too. They are not doing what they do for fame and fortune. They are doing it because it is their ministry from God. It is the outworking of their gifts for God's glory. Praise God!

As for the flagrant frauds - the snake oil salesmen - the purveyors of false hope - I know I don't envy them. But I do pity the poor souls who are deceived by them. These false prophets will someday answer to God. At that point their earthly luxuries will seem to be a curse, rather than a blessing.
(2Corinthians 2:17) For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weird Science Humor

One of my favorite comics - Non Sequitur - is running a series suggesting that people who believe in creation are dismissing proven science whenever it contradicts their beliefs. Today's strip has Danae suspending her belief in gravity... ha, ha, ha.

What is REALLY funny is that the evolutionists are the ones who dismiss proven science when it contradicts their beliefs about evolution. One obvious example is the second law of thermodynamics - the well established fact that all systems tend toward entropy. According to this law, no system could become more complex apart from a huge input of energy.

My second example: A day or so ago, I heard a radio program interviewing an ivy league scientist who has observed that humans "have evolved" to need high quality prepared food. He points out that "other animals" live on raw foods - plants or meats. They find it and they eat it. Humans, on the other hand, need to have foods that are chopped or ground up and cooked.

This is weird and funny because it contradicts the basic concept of natural selection. Natural selection says that those who have characteristics that make them more likely to survive and thrive are the ones who will pass on their genes. Wouldn't it be easier to survive and thrive if you could just go out in the back yard and eat grass? But no! We need higher quality food to begin with and then we need to grind it and chop it and cook it to get the good out of it.

My last recent example is a professor, John Long, at Vassar College, who creates robots with fins and tails, etc. He and his students make these robots to represent early life forms, and to test theories about what effect different evolutionary changes (e.g., stiffer backbones, etc.) would have had.

What? Did these robots evolve or were they created by design? Do these changes evolve, or are they design changes? What could these robots possibly prove about evolution? At the most, they are a way to "act out" the proposed theories about how subsequent changes would have affected the descendents.

These robots are infinitely more simple than real animals. How ironic that it takes so much intelligent design just to act out a theory that denies the need for intelligent design!

This is science? Ha, ha, ha!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Should Be Our Stand On War?

Another great question came by e-mail:
If 3 'Bible Scholars' are for war and 3 'Bible Scholars' are against war and all 6 cite specific Bible passages to support their stand, who is correct? What should be OUR stand on the subject of war?

This question suggests to me that the person asking it does not really respect Bible scholarship. It suggests that 1) you can make the Bible say anything and 2) that "scholarship" consists of coming up with a number of proof texts. Who are these scholars? What is their approach to Bible study? Why should I believe ANY of them? What war are they talking about and what exactly are they saying?

The real question is, "What does the Bible say about war?" The answer is pretty complicated because there are many things the Bible says about different wars in different situations, but let's assume that we are talking about modern wars like Iraq or Afghanistan.

This reminds me of an old joke. The husband is talking to a friend and says, "I make all the big decisions in our family... what political party we will support and what our foreign policy should be. My wife makes the little decisions... what we will eat, what we will wear, and what car we will drive."

War is the prerogative of the state, not the individual. Romans 13 says that the state "bears the sword." The state is ordained by God to punish "evildoers." There are international evildoers and certainly a state can and should act to protect its citizens. If it doesn't do this, the state will soon disappear.
(Romans 13:1-4) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Will you call 911 when burglars break into your house and threaten you and your family? Assuming that you will, does that mean that you are "for war?" International wars are the same thing on a different scale. The state is acting to protect the lives, freedoms and possessions of its citizens.

If a state is engaged in stealing the resources of others or of bullying its international neighborhood, obviously we should be opposed to that. To be opposed to that behavior generally means being in favor of some sort of war. (Even economic or diplomatic sanctions are an aspect of warfare - isolation, blockade, siege.)

Should we be "for" war? Wars lead to all kinds of tragedy and human suffering. Generally speaking I am opposed to war. On the other hand, should I be happy if our government refuses to protect us from a nuclear Iran, or from Taliban terrorists, or from N. Korea on the basis that I am against war? I don't think so. I think that our government is supposed to protect us and our interests in the world just like the police are supposed to protect our interests locally - and sometimes that requires the force of arms. Will there be collateral damage? Yes - and I'm against it. Will there be errors of judgment? Yes - and I'm against that too. And while I'm at it, I am against strategic and tactical errors as well.

But, it boils down to this - governments are ordained by God specifically to enforce the peace by violence. We wish it never had to come to that, but obviously it does.