Friday, December 21, 2012

Keeping Our Eyes On The Ball

There is a lot of talk about increasing gun control. This naturally makes people who own, buy and sell guns nervous. Many of us think the second amendment is part of our right to self defense and ultimately a way of preventing government oppression. We suspect that the revolutionary fathers were concerned that the government needed to be kept in check by an armed populace.

But if the government declares marshall law and marches the army down the street to collect the guns, I will turn mine in.

We need to keep our eyes on the ball.

I like living in freedom. I like being able to own and use firearms. But neither of those is my purpose in life.

I am here to bring glory to God through the teaching and preaching of His word. I am here to reach people with the glorious gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The things God has called me to do are far more important than the second amendment, self protection or freedom from oppression. People need to know about the truth of the gospel. People need to be ready for their existence AFTER this life.

That is what we need to focus on.

Where Do They Get Their Numbers?

I am wondering where people get their numbers about gun related deaths. Any ideas? I heard someone on the news claiming there were 80,000 people killed per year... but it certainly wasn't here in the USA.

The CDC web-site has all the official statistics. Looking at the most recent data - which is from 2011 - here's all I can find. (Check for yourself - http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_06.pdf)

Total deaths by all causes for the year - 2,512,873

Total accidental deaths - 122,777
Accidental deaths by firearms - 851 (lowest of all accidental causes)

Total suicidal deaths - 38,285
Suicides by firearms - 19,766 (slightly more than half)

Total homicides - 15,953
Homicides by firearm - 11,101

Legal intervention - 258 (I'm guessing these are by firearms...)
Discharge of firearms for undetermined reasons - 222

So add all the firearm deaths together - 851+19,766+11,101+258+222 = 32,198

That is 1.2% of deaths in America.
It is less than the total of accidental deaths by poisoning (33,554)
It is only slightly more than accidental deaths from falls (26,631)

The murder of children is horrific. If I could really be convinced that giving up my guns would keep people from being killed by maniacs, I would turn them in immediately.

But the fact is that the numbers don't add up. Even the "homicides by firearm" number may well include people who were shot in self defense. My guns might contribute to the death of someone who attacks me, but save my life and the lives of my family.

But to say this is the biggest problem in America is silly. Therefore you have to wonder what the real motive is for pushing gun control. It cannot possibly stop homicidal maniacs - but it might make some people more vulnerable to homicidal maniacs.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where Was God?


Where was God during yesterday’s terrible slaughter of innocent children and teachers?

Some will be asking this with a raging hatred in their hearts. They despise the idea that there could be a loving and all-powerful God who would allow such terrible things to happen. They shake their fists at the heavens and say, “God – you are the one who is ultimately guilty for this horror. You are not good and I reject you!”

But what is their alternative? A world without God - just the continuing natural processes guided by the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. A world where human beings are just another animal and are not guided by real choices – only by biochemical/genetic determination.

If they were right, any particular behavior would be pre-programmed by the natural processes of nature. It is not a moral evil, only another messy step in the impersonal evolutionary process that determines who passes on genetic information to succeeding generations. Male bears will kill and eat cubs. A mother mouse might cannibalize her naked nursing pups.

So why the rage? Why not shrug and say, “How unpleasant, but that is the way nature works?” Why would you expect there to be anything different? Life has no ultimate purpose. It exists. It ends. There is nothing more.

But some of us ask the question with pain and sorrow in our hearts. We believe that there is a loving and all-powerful God, and that he has allowed this terrible thing to happen.

But we also believe that it is because God is infinitely good that such human actions are truly evil. It is God who has said, “You shall not murder.” It is Jesus who promised eternal punishment for those who harm little children (Luke 17:1-2).

We believe that this life is not the whole story – that conscious existence continues after physical death – that God can and will execute perfect justice. He will sort out the guilty and the innocent. He will render eternal punishment to those who deserve it, and provide comfort and eternal life for those who accept it from him.

Where was God during yesterday’s terrible slaughter? He was comforting terrified and dying children. He was preparing wrath against another evil rebel. God is still on the throne and God will prevail.

Those who are raging are not really offended by a lack of God’s goodness. They are offended by the repeated proofs that man is not good without God.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Good News of God's Wrath


"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness..." (Romans 1:18) 

This verse is wonderfully good news.

Yesterday I was reminded of the various attacks of atheistic cynics against the claims of Christ. In particular I heard (again) about the supposed parallels between the Egyptian mythology regarding Osiris and the biblical account of Jesus Christ. According to the cynics, the New Testament account is just a reworked version of the story of Osiris. They find this argument very satisfying since it appears to justify their rejection of the New Testament claims of Jesus Christ to be God and Savior.

In fact, however, their claims about this are just an exercise in misdirection.

You can look up the Osiris myths for yourself and I will save a more detailed analysis for another post. Both the Osiris myth(s) and the Christian gospel deal with themes of life, death and afterlife. As such, there are incidental parallels between some elements.

But to focus on that completely misses the point. All it does is makes you look in the wrong direction. You have taken your eye off the ball, sad cynic.

The real question is this, "What is the answer to the problem of evil in the world?" This is the question that both the Egyptians and the Christians and various other religious groups are addressing.

The atheistic cynics (like Sam Harris) get all excited about the presence of evil in the world. They ask, "How could there be a God who is good if He allows such evil to exist in the world?" They admit that some things are evil - but they claim that it proves there is no God.

But if there is no God who has imparted moral reality to the universe, then why do you believe some things are evil? Without God, there is no moral absolute. Nothing is really good or evil. Every action of man is equally amoral. The question "Why" has not answer.  There is no ultimate meaning or purpose to life. There is no ultimate destination. There is no judgment or justice. We are but biochemical bubbles floating along until we pop. Then there is nothing.

Why should anyone be outraged by anyone else's behavior? We are only the product of our biochemical make-up and our actions are predetermined by the meaningless operations of those chemicals in our being. One person's "goodness" is another person's "evil." It is meaningless.

But most people (including Sam Harris) find this to be a very unsatisfying perspective. We recognize some things to be genuinely evil. We know it when we see it. We feel it in our innermost being - and it upsets us. (Usually we are more upset by other people's evil than we are by our own.)

The good news in the Bible is that evil is real and that God's wrath against evil will resolve the problem of evil once and for all. Life has meaning and purpose, there are moral absolutes, justice will prevail.


Monday, November 19, 2012

A Three Day Work Week?

I read a friend's post and she was thankful that this was a three day work-week. I can understand that.

But the situation is kind of backwards for a pastor. For me there are just as many messages and lessons to prepare (actually a bit more), but because of extra events there is less time to give to the work of preparing them. :-)

That's perfectly good. I like the holiday celebrations. Getting together with people for meals and celebrations far better than being sequestered away in my study like a hermit in a cave. Instead of being thankful for less work, I am thankful for extra opportunities to be with people.

After all, ministry is about people, not about paper. Better to prepare less and spend time with people than to prepare more, and miss the opportunities for sharing life with people.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good Nagging

This is my new coaster...

My talented daughter made me this cup rug for Christmas! She knows I love to make a nice cup of coffee and sit here - particularly while I have my morning devotions.

But it is also possible to sit here and do unproductive things, like read all the articles about the political race that is over today. For that reason, this cup rug has a couple of features that help me out. For one thing, the yellow fabric has all sorts of clocks on it. The brown fabric on the back has a big cuckoo clock too. And the panel at the bottom has an important Bible verse that reminds me to be careful how I spend my time.

Can you read it? A prize to the first who can!

Now I need to get to work!



Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

Friday, October 26, 2012

Leaves aplenty

My leaf pile is 30 feet long, 9 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep.  How many 39 gallon leaf bags will it take?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Leaves are falling

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

Fall Is My Favorite Season

I love the Fall!

The leaves are turning. There is a brisk snap to the morning air.

It reminds me of picking apples in the Denny orchard with a small wire basket on the end of a long bamboo pole. It reminds me of pumpkins, pies, cider and hayrides. The trees would explode with color on the mountains like leafy fireworks!

Fall season triggers the memories - of sights, of scents, of sounds, of events.

Leaves to rake - they have a special smell of their own.
Puddles with the first frosty ice forming in them.
The horses blowing steamy clouds of breath - white with frost on their backs.
Gathering everything from the garden with a wheelbarrow and hoe.
Preparing equipment - snowplows and snowblowers and snow shovels for the winter.
Rolling out and putting up the snow fence.
Picking up hickory nuts along the hedgerows.

School and band and football games.
Shorter days - dark mornings in the barn.
Family dinners with dozens of rowdy cousins.

Get the boat out of the icy lake and store the oars.
Prepare equipment and buy licenses for hunting.
Break out the jackets, hats and gloves.
Walk the fields, check the fences, breath deeply.

Hear the geese honking - very high up in V formation - little dots - heading south.  (In those days Canada geese were a mystery - you rarely saw them up close in New York State! But every Fall they were headed south.)

These are the memories of my childhood - and they are GREAT memories.
I am so blessed!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Knowing God Personally

In one of my recent conversations someone expressed his belief that the God of the Bible is a myth - the attempt of non-scientific people of ancient times to explain natural phenomena. In his view, in modern times science has supplied answers that make religious belief obsolete. In his view, continuing to believe and teach the Bible (or other religious scriptures) is to perpetuate lies and superstition.

He made a comment to the effect that Christians only have an ancient (and to him nonsensical) book, but no direct ability to receive communication from the God we claim to believe in.

I disagreed. I said that I know God and that I have daily communication with God.

I don't believe that we are still receiving direct revelation from God through prophecy or special gifts of knowledge. I believe that those forms of revelation ceased after the death of the apostles. So how can I have communication with God?

First of all, I have the Bible. The Bible claims to be the very word of God. I believe that to be true and have studied it continuously for over 50 years. Having studied it, I am more convinced than ever that it is truly and objectively the word of God. (My friend has many objections that I will not go into here, but suffice to say that the objections are only convincing to people who do not know the Bible very well.) We know what God has said.

Secondly, I have prayer. The Bible teaches that we who have accepted God's gift of life through the death and resurrection of Christ have access to God in prayer (Hebrews 10:19-22). This is not magic (as my friend claims) but a reconciled relationship in which I as a creature can communicate with my Creator. We know that God hears us.

Thirdly, I have the Holy Spirit of God. The Bible teaches that God's Spirit lives in believers and opens their eyes, hearts and minds to God's truth (1 Corinthians 2:12). The Holy Spirit does not give me new objective truth, but He applies the objective statements of the Bible to the circumstances of my life so that my conscience is informed about how I ought to live. We "hear" God's directions in God's Word, applied by God's Spirit to our current circumstances.

My sense that this is "God's will" is subjective and may be reinforced or corrected by further study, prayer or consultation with godly people. The Bible warns that we should "...not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).  It is all too easy for me to hear other voices - pride, personal interests, misunderstanding of scripture or even misunderstanding of the circumstances I am facing.

But the direction of God is available if I care to humble myself and listen carefully and prayerfully. So we can say, "We know God and we have daily communication with Him."

Are there modern scientific explanations of these experiences? The communication theorist would point to the fact that there are many channels for communication - some overt and others very subtle. She would say that people can sometimes communicate without words - essentially "reading each other's minds." A psychologist would say that the subjective mind works on questions invisibly in the background. He might say that the conscience is revealing what the subconscious mind has put together about possible courses of action.

Does their scientific explanation mean that God is not really communicating with me?

Not at all. The scientific explanations about how communication and the conscience function are perfectly compatible with what we believe about communication with God. That they function with other data and experience too - even in unbelievers - is no surprise.

  • The Bible is the objective word from God, but there is communication on other channels as well.
  • Prayer is our expressive communication to God, in which we are actively thinking about our circumstances and what we know about God's will and God's power.
  • The Conscience is the interface used by God's Spirit through subconscious channels, in which we perceive how God's word is to be applied to our life situations.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Presuppositions

Why is it that one person can not believe in God or the biblical account of creation, the fall, judgment and salvation, while another person believes it all to be literally true?

The unbeliever derisively accuses the believer of "bronze age" beliefs and superstitions. The unbeliever may mock accounts of miracles as impossible and biblical beliefs as unscientific. He may say religious beliefs are illogical, irrational and inconsistent with truths discovered by modern science. He may say that primitive people needed religious theories to explain life and death before modern science was able to show the truth about how things work. He accuses the believer of resorting to the "god of the gaps" to explain things that will eventually be explained naturally by science.

The believer, on the other hand, notes that the unbeliever has faith in "naturalistic miracles" - things that are not observed in nature, but that people who reject supernaturalism believe must have happened. How did everything come from nothing? How did life come from non-life? How did incredible complexity and interdependency found in the world of living things develop without design or creation by an intelligent being? (This complexity is continually being discovered, but is so advanced that it cannot even be reverse engineered by humans with all their technology.) He accuses the unbeliever of resorting to "evolution of the gaps" to explain things that cannot be explained or tested by science.

So what is the difference? There are very intelligent people on both sides. There are highly educated people on both sides. There are scientists, philosophers, intellectuals on both sides. What is the dividing line?

As a Christian believer I am tempted to say the difference is "spiritual" and begins with a spiritual experience. But that would be a form of circular reasoning. "Why do I believe in spiritual things? Because of something spiritual!" I am aiming at something deeper than the difference between Christianity and any other religious view. I am aiming at the what makes one person reject all religion, versus what makes another person open to religion.

The fundamental answer is the differences in the presuppositions that lie at the heart of your worldview. These presuppositions are your assumptions about the true nature of reality. Is the world you observe actual or illusion? Does reality include both natural and supernatural realities or not? Is matter in its various forms the  only reality, or is there also an immaterial/spiritual reality?

Presuppositions are initially learned through enculturation - children learn from their parents, teachers, friends and broader community. But in a pluralistic societies people are exposed to various worldviews and may eventually choose presuppositions that are different from their parent's or friend's. And this makes all the difference in what they will consider as possible.

If a person assumes naturalism and materialism as their presupposition about the nature of reality, they cannot rationally consider a supernatural or spiritual cause for various observations about things that happen. They must explain the universe without resorting to supernatural beings - like gods. They must explain everything - the existence of the universe, apparent design, life, meaning, purpose, moral feelings of good and bad without resorting to spiritual categories.

If a person's worldview allows for supernatural and spiritual realities, then it is no problem for them to believe in supernatural beings and supernatural causes. They don't necessarily reject the material reality, but have both material/natural and spiritual/supernatural realms to consider. If a person's worldview allows for spiritual reality that is separate from the material reality, they can believe that they are more than their physical body and might live beyond the boundaries of physical life and death in this world.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nobody is Gay

The LGBT lobby claims that some people are "Gay" because they are sexually attracted to people of the same sex. I have argued that if you use the standard of sexual arousal as the basis of identity, everyone is Gay - or at least no different than Gay.

But as a matter of fact, I don't believe there is such a thing as Gay.

The LGBT groups argue that sexual identity is part of a person's essential being and is not a choice. If this were so, it would be in the same class as skin color, ethnicity or (ironically) gender, as a basis for civil rights protection. They try to argue that homosexual tendencies are genetically determined though this is far from obvious in genetic studies.

They ignore (deny) the fact that people change their sexual orientation and identity. Some people who were never attracted to the same sex eventually become attracted to the same sex. Some people who once identified themselves as homosexuals later identify themselves as heterosexuals. Their own class of "bisexual" tells the tale. How can this be a genetically determined trait if a person is attracted to both genders? And what about people who are sexually aroused by even more extreme behaviors - sadism? masochism? pedophilia? bestiality? Are these also to be considered genetically determined and protected by civil rights laws? If sexual arousal is what the LGBT lobby claims, then these should be protected classes too.

People are people. They are sexual beings. Sexual arousal is not just a physical event, it involves the person's whole being... psychological, intellectual, sociological, cultural, etc. Memories, experiences, relationships - everything is involved. As a result a person can be aroused by or repulsed by different things (and people) at different times. But this cannot be the basis for a person's essential identity.

Sexual arousal is complex. We feel sexual attraction and we interpret that arousal according to our worldview. In some cases we choose to suppress our feelings for moral or pragmatic reasons. In other cases we choose to act on our feelings. A cultural or religious taboo is not necessarily a good predictor of the choices a person will make because violating a taboo might even add to the person's sense of arousal. A sense of secrecy or anonymity might also contribute to the choices the person makes since they feel safe to act on their feelings without fear of unpleasant social or relational consequences. It makes no difference at this level whether the object of your attraction is heterosexual, homosexual, etc. A man chooses whether or not to look closely at pretty women on the street, to watch revealing love scenes in movies, to fantasize about a woman at work, to view pornography on the internet, or to approach a prostitute while attending a conference out of town.

These are all moral choices. They are not aspects of essential identity.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Everyone is gay...

I was reflecting on the American preoccupation with whether or not people are gay (or lesbian, bisexual or straight). The LGBT lobby has control of the debate by insisting that sexual identity is an essential aspect of a person's being. It is who they are and so it is on a par with skin color or gender.

So I concluded that everyone is gay.

According to LGBT thought, if a person is sexually attracted only to the opposite sex he/she is heterosexual. If the person is sexually attracted to both the opposite sex and the same sex he/she is bisexual. If the person is sexually attracted only to the same sex he/she is homosexual (i.e., gay/lesbian).

To summarize this bluntly, people are defined by what they are aroused by. Erotic fantasies are orientation and that leads to action and that is the basis for sexual identity. The libido leads the ego, with more or less struggle from the superego. One person is heterosexual. Another is homosexual. What is the difference?

Well, that is my point exactly! What is the difference? If your sexual identity is determined by your erotic feelings, how could it make any difference if you are heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual? The basic guideline for all is, "Do what you feel like doing!"

Indeed: "If it feels good do it. It is who you are! Why should you care what anyone else thinks? Hold up your head and show your pride!"


This started by equating sexual stimulation with love. If you were sexually attracted to someone you said you loved them. But if those feelings faded and you had more sexual attraction to another person, you must have fallen out of love with the first person and into love with the next. If this is the basis of love, what difference does it make what or who is the object of that "love?"

Our culture tells us what physical characteristics are attractive and what relationships and behaviors are permissible. Our contrarian anti-authority nature might then find even more stimulation in going beyond the taboos to find stimulation outside the culture's "normal" boundaries. Various kinds of visual and literary pornography cater to virtually every sexual fantasy that can be imagined.


There is no real difference between someone who is identified by his heterosexual attractions and a person who is identified by his homosexual attractions. If a person really lives by and identifies himself by his erotic feelings, one identity is no better or worse than another. In that sense EVERYONE (that is defined by his or her erotic feelings) IS GAY.

But the biblical perspective is quite different. From a biblical perspective, nobody is "gay."

More on this later.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is Everybody GAY?

I was doing some online research about a particular modern religion. Along the way I found some people who were claiming that one of the famous adherents to that religion is "gay." That made me pause to consider the fascination of our society with the "sexual identity" of people. Who is gay? Who is straight? Who is lesbian, transgendered, or bisexual? Someone "comes out of the closet" and someone else is "outed." Rumors fly about this person or that person.

Why is this so entertaining? Is it truly important?

Sex is different than "sexual identity." In humans males have X and Y chromosomes, while females have two X chromosomes. Generally speaking adult males and females have certain physical characteristics that are more or less obvious.

But sexual identity and sexual orientation are not limited by XX or XY chromosome combinations or any other physical characteristics. Some people identify themselves as gay or lesbian. By this, they are saying that they are sexually attracted to people of the same physical gender as themselves. Bisexuals are sexually attracted to both men and women. Transgendered persons say that they identify with whatever gender they are not.

Now the LGBT lobby has won the day in their march to define the debate over homosexuality. They have portrayed sexual orientation as a matter of essential being rather than as a choice that people make. As such, they claim that sexual orientation should be recognized as a civil right. After all, their sexual orientation is just as much a part of their being as is their ethnic identity (or, ironically, their gender.)

I say they have won on the strength of the fact that more and more people are supportive of same-sex marriages. Several state supreme courts have accepted the LGBT framework as the basis for approving same-sex marriages and even for vacating California's referendum against same-sex marriages. People who "come out" as LGBT are often portrayed in media as courageous heroes, while people who oppose even some aspect of the LGBT agenda (like gay marriage) are accused of hate speech and face threats, protests and boycotts. (It is an interesting to note who behaves hatefully and and who behaves civilly in these disagreements.)

I think it is fair to say, "Everyone Is Gay."  I'll explain that statement in another post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Unfolding Story

Films are not very long. What - maybe two hours?
Television shows are even shorter - a half hour with many commercial breaks.

My thought is that we get used to having stories told in a pretty short period of time. The plot unfolds quickly. Some conflict or problem is confronted, then resolved more or less neatly.

Even so, I don't handle the tension well. When the situation gets tense in the program, I cover my eyes or get up and pace or go to the kitchen. While I am gone the story moves along. I can't even stand the few seconds of tension. I take a break and come back when we are closer to the resolution. (Much to her chagrin, I also have to ask my wife, "What happened while I was gone?")

This is, of course, bad training for life. We get used to quick resolution of the stories and we kind of expect a quick resolution of the stories of our lives.

My baby sister, Cindy, has just started a life and death battle with breast cancer. Two weeks ago she had surgery. Now she is healing up from that, learning what pathology discovered about her cancer and planning for the next steps of chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction. Today she was talking about three years down the road...

I would like to cover my eyes, pace around or go to the kitchen for a snack...

But this is real life. It isn't going to be resolved quickly. I can't take a break and I'm not sure what the resolution will be. The pain is not fictional pain portrayed by actors. It is real pain - suffered by my sister, by her husband and sons, by our parents... by me.

There is no fast forward - and since I don't know where this story will go - I'm not sure I want to hurry past the present. The time - even with the pain - is precious. The future is always uncertain, but now we feel it intensely.

But here is what I DO know.

God is faithful. All the pain will be worthwhile in the eternal story that is unfolding. The present difficulties provide the canvas on which God will paint the beautiful truth of His sufficiency - His goodness and grace.

We didn't get to choose the circumstances, but we do get to choose how we will respond. So we will pray and hope and call and encourage and pray some more. And we will watch the WHOLE story to see how God will use these things for His good purposes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jesus Is Unchanging!

The scripture says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

This assertion comes in the middle of general instructions to the believers toward the end of the book of Hebrews. These people were experiencing difficult times of persecution, and the fact that Jesus is unchanging is a source or reassurance.
"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6) 

Jesus can fulfill his promises to us because he is eternally unchanged and unchanging. His love, his power, his purposes, his provision are rock solid. We are secure in him!

Did you ever wonder how Jesus could become a man without changing? And how could he grow from infancy to adulthood without changing? And how could he die, be resurrected and then glorified at the Father's right hand without changing?

The answer is that you are not your body. The changes to your body are not changes to the essential you! The same person who preexisted as God the Son took on human flesh through the virgin birth... and continued to be himself, but now in human flesh.

Another point is that neither material things in general, nor human beings in particular are essentially evil (as the Gnostics taught.) The virgin birth is important because Jesus was a new beginning in humanity - a second Adam - and sinless. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus did not succumb to temptation, but lived sinlessly so that he could pay the penalty for our sin.

Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever!

It is a wonderful truth!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Congratulations

Wow!

David & Jess are married and beginning their happily ever after.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stubbed Toes

My dear wife laughs at me because I tend to trip over furniture or stub a toe whenever I try to walk across a room in the dark. She doesn't think it is "ha ha" funny. She thinks I should be able to remember what is out there in the room and not kick it in the dark.

Maybe I should wait until my eyes are better adjusted to the dark before I start moving, but it seems to me that anyone will get off course if they try to walk around in true darkness. When it is really dark you cannot see anything. (Profound, I know.)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  People who are not following Jesus are wandering about in the dark - and it is dangerous. They can't see to avoid the hazards. They are about to trip over the edge of the cliff to their deaths - and they don't even know it.

The way to keep from tripping in the dark is to turn on the light. (I'm just SO profound today!)

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5–7) 
I don't turn on the light at night because I don't want to disturb my wife. (Of course she is disturbed if I crash into some piece of furniture.) Other people stay in the dark for more sinister reasons.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19–21) 
On the basis of my rich experience of stubbing my toes and tripping over things in the dark, let me urge everyone to WALK IN THE LIGHT!
(Ephesians 5:8–14 NKJV) 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Mr. Fix-it Strikes Again

Did you know that there are four contacts inside a phone jack?

I knew that...

Did you know that if you hook the CAT-5 wire to the wrong combination of contacts, it will still (mostly) work when you plug in your modem?

I didn't know that!

But I did wonder why the direct line I put in from the terminal to the phone jack only provided a mediocre and temperamental internet connection. Hmmm... Where did I put those directions from the technician who told me how to do this?

Well, I couldn't find the paper. It must be around here somewhere... But I finally got fed up with the mediocrity and decided to try a change.

Bingo!

The switched wire almost doubled my upload speed... everything seems to be working much better. No more mediocrity - no more temperamental faults.

So, Mr. Fixit did a great job... except that it took a month for me to get it right.

Hmm....

I'm off to rewire an electrical outlet.  Hope this works the first time.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Divorce & Remarriage Revisited

I was happy to get a response to my last blog on divorce and remarriage. Every blog is better with interaction from the readers. (Please consider commenting.) Here is a slightly edited version of the response I received.
I was wondering...you only sort of glanced off it in Four...but aren't you going to make a clearer stand against divorce in leadership? Is it just Pastors or deacons too?? Why don't all your other reasoning apply to them. What if those things happened in their lives before they were Christians or called to ministry? AND...I still, after reading all this, have trouble pulling out rebuttals to the nastiness of those who disagree with this view. The issue that I've had trouble discussing recently is...that people who were divorced before salvation are okayed (accepted)... while those who divorce and remarry afterwards aren't.And what about where one partner has been divorced and the other hasn't?I guess...this is really academic....and I'm having trouble making it practical to my real life situations.
My seven blogs on divorce and remarriage were written in response to requests for a thorough treatment of the Bible's teaching for people who have been divorced and now want to know what they should do about remarriage. I hope that those blogs gave them some practical help.

But what about divorce in the lives of church leadership - pastors and deacons?

On the one hand, everything we looked at before DOES apply to people who are in church leadership. They should not be getting divorced. In the case of sexual immorality they have a biblical ground for divorce and a freedom to remarry after that divorce. But they certainly should not be using divorce as a cloak for adultery.

That said, if a man finds himself divorced he is disqualified from service as a pastor or deacon.

This is not because divorce is a sin. (In some situations it is not a sin, and sins are forgiven in Christ.) It doesn't matter if it happened before someone was saved or after they were saved. (Christ saves us from all of our sins.) It doesn't matter if the person is remarried or not.

The disqualification from these ministries is because of the high biblical requirements:

(1 Timothy 3:2) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
(1 Timothy 3:4–5) ...one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
(1 Timothy 3:7) Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
(1 Timothy 3:11–12) Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 

Some argue that "the husband of one wife" does not refer to divorce - although divorce was very common in the Roman world while polygamy was very rare. 

But even setting that aside, it is clear that the pastors and deacons were supposed to be role models in family leadership. This would definitely be ruined by unfaithfulness on his part, but it could be spoiled by things that were not necessarily his fault.  His ability to be a role model is spoiled by having children who are incorrigible. It is spoiled by having a rebellious or unfaithful wife. It is spoiled by divorce. Even where someone could prove beyond a doubt that the divorce was not his fault, the divorce still destroys his ability to be the role model in family leadership that is required in the Bible.

I think this tends to offend the American sense of "fair play." If it is not his fault, why should he be disqualified? An airline pilot might suffer the loss of his sight or hearing through no fault of his own. Even though it is not his fault and even though he might be a talented and experienced pilot, he is now disqualified. In the case of pastors and deacons:
  • We don't set these qualifications - God does.
  • These things matter in the ministries of pastors and deacons who are examples to the flock and who must often minister to families in crisis.
  • It is not as if the divorced person cannot serve the church in many other important ways.




Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bible On Divorce & Remarriage - Seven (and final)

God's ideal for marriage is one man and one woman living in complete faithfulness to each other for life.

In the Old Testament Law God set up regulations for divorce, evidently as a substitute for the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21). It is clear that the divorced man and divorced woman could then marry other people, with a few restrictions. They couldn't marry each other again after being married to someone else, and priests could not marry a divorced woman or a woman who had been a prostitute. The divorced woman is considered defiled in the Old Testament because the assumed grounds for divorce was sexual immorality.

When Jesus is teaching about divorce and remarriage in Matthew, he makes several new points.
  1. "Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" (Matt. 19:9). In this case the man has no legitimate reason to divorce his wife, so he is committing adultery against her.
  2. "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery" (Matt. 5:32). This woman has been divorced without legitimate cause. The verse assumes she will remarry, but says that in doing so she has been pushed into the arms of another man.
  3. "Whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9) This applies to the woman who was unjustly divorced by her first husband. In this case, the next man who marries her is committing adultery with her in the sense that they are breaking the sanctity of the first marriage.
  4. "So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"(Mark 10:11–12). This presupposes the "except for sexual immorality" clause. In this verse we see that both husband and wife can be the instigator of the adultery.
These teachings are a very serious matter indeed. Jesus is not replacing the Old Testament law, but clarifying it. Divorce that is for any reason other than sexual immorality grows out of and into adultery. "No fault divorce" is completely foreign to God's original design for marriage. The hypocritical Pharisees thought that by divorcing a wife before getting another wife they were obeying the seventh commandment - "You shall not commit adultery." But Jesus says they are still committing adultery - first by looking at another woman with lust, and then by divorcing in order to marry another.

But what about where a divorce IS the result of "sexual immorality?" Divorce that results from one partner's adultery leaves the innocent person as free to remarry as if the adulterer had died. If this were not the case, Jesus' words, "except for sexual immorality," have no meaning. The adulterer is defiled, but the other person is not.

Life is complicated. Marriage is hard work. Adultery is a terrible betrayal. Divorce is allowed, but not required. Reconciliation might be possible. A marriage is worth fighting to preserve! But when you have done all you can do, you might still find yourself divorced and your former spouse lost to you in an adulterous relationship.

Remarriage is not required, but it is allowed. You should definitely not date until your divorce is final. You should probably wait until all possibility of reconciliation is past. Even then, you might be better off to remain single, if you can. But it was our Creator who said, "It is not good for man to be alone," and who designed marriage as the answer to that problem.

The secret to a successful marriage is that our commitments to each other grow out of our absolute commitment to the Lord Jesus. We are all sinners. We let each other down. We are weak willed. We are easily flattered, discouraged, angered, or embittered. Jesus taught that adultery is only a glance away. Pursue Jesus Christ with all of your heart and obey Him in your treatment of your spouse.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Six

So what is the answer to our questions about divorce and remarriage?


  • Can divorce and remarriage be free from adultery, or not?
  • Is a divorced and remarried person committing perpetual adultery?
  • Should divorce and remarriage result in some sort of sanction from the church?

On the one hand, God has given us a simple ideal for sex and marriage: One man with one woman for life.

On the other hand, our lives are complicated by sin and weakness. So God addresses penalties and remedies for all kinds of complications. There is defilement. There is adultery. There is selfishness and sinfulness. There are people who find themselves divorced. Someone might say there should not be divorce because the penalty for adultery was death, but the OT recognizes divorce as an alternative to the death penalty (Deut. 24:1).

The OT also addresses several other situations that do not square with God's idea for sex and marriage. If a man seduces a virgin he is forced to pay the bride price and marry her - without the possibility of ever divorcing her (Deut. 22:28-29). If a man has two wives and loves one wife but not the other, he must not deny the birthright of his children by the unloved wife (Deut. 21:15). If a man divorces his wife and she marries another man, but that second husband dies, the first husband cannot take her as his wife again because she has become defiled (Deut. 24:2-4).

When Jesus addresses issues of divorce and remarriage in the New Testament, He is not prescribing new laws. He is explaining God's perspective on the hearts of the people who are involved in these situations. Jesus is addressing people who feel pretty good about their level of success at achieving an acceptable level of righteousness. They had not violated the written law - the letter of the law. But Jesus says, "You have still violated the spirit of the law by committing adultery in your hearts." In fact, Jesus says, "You are using the law to commit adultery."

A man may not have ever committed adultery physically, but still have committed adultery by looking at a woman with lust in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

A man may have not been unfaithful to his wife while married to her, but then he divorces her to marry another woman. Jesus says that is adultery on his part (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18). He also says that the man who marries the divorced woman is committing adultery (same verses). He even says that when a man divorces his wife causes HER to commit adultery!

Jesus is not saying that the remarriages are not legitimate marriages. Both the law (Deut 24:1-4) and the language Jesus uses acknowledges that the remarried people are really married. The second husband might die or divorce the remarried wife, making her available again to be married - but not to her first husband. When Jesus talks to the woman at the well he says, "... have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband" (John 4:18)

So what is Jesus saying? That the people who practice these things are falling short of God's ideal. Lust in the heart violates God's ideal and pollutes (adulterates) what ought to be kept pure. Divorce and remarriage spoil God's ideal and may well be just a socially/legally acceptable way of committing adultery. God knows the hearts and all have sinned, even if they have kept the letter of the law.




Friday, April 6, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Five

In the Old Testament divorce was legal and remarriage was expected in most cases. The priest and high priest could not marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21) and a man could not remarry the wife he had divorced after she had been married to another man (Deut. 24:1-4).

This was the Law of Moses, so it came as a shock to many people when Jesus suggested that in God's view, you might live according to this law and still be sinning against God and against your spouse.

Consider Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5.
(Matthew 5:17 NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Jesus goes on to say that not even the smallest stroke of the Law will pass away until it has all been fulfilled (v.18). But in his exposition of various commandments from the law (e.g., murder, adultery, vows, love for neighbors, etc.) he teaches that even if we have obeyed the letter of the law (like the scribes and Pharisees in verse 20) we may still have violated the spirit of the law and practiced unrighteousness in God's sight.

We might be tempted to say, "I'm right with God because I have not murdered anyone." But God, looking at our hearts sees our selfish disregard for the people around us. Our biting sarcasm, character assassination, ranting verbal attacks and revenge fantasies are all the same kind of sin to God as murder is. We may have not technically committed murder, but we are murderers.

In the same way, adultery is defined as having a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse - or with someone who is married to someone else - not you. You are polluting (adulterating) someones' marriage relationship. 

Since they had the legal recourse of divorce, it seemed to people that they could avoid violating the letter of the commandment against adultery by divorcing their current husband/wife before having a relationship with a new husband/wife. But Jesus says: 
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27–28)
and

"...it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.  (Matthew 5:31–32)
Jesus is not here rewriting the letter of the law and invalidating legal divorces and remarriages. Jesus is saying that the widespread practice of divorce and remarriage is a testimony to the adultery brewing in people's hearts. A man divorces his wife because he is already committing adultery against her in his heart.
So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11–12)
A man may look at a woman without committing adultery with her in his heart. There is a legitimate situation where divorce is allowed and is not based on adulterous motives. (Joseph's plan to divorce pregnant Mary was evidence of his righteousness in Matthew 1:19.) But the eyes and the provisions of the law can be (and often are) used for sin.
(Proverbs 4:23)  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Four

Divorce is a fact of life.

God's design for marriage is a lifetime union of a man and woman in absolute fidelity and covenant loyalty. This design suggests the unity between the persons of the godhead and pictures the relationship of Christ with the Church.

Nevertheless, human beings are sinful and only imperfectly follow God's design even in the best case. Husbands fail their wives, wives fail their husbands and both of them fail God even if they never divorce. In the Old Testament Law, God acknowledges the fact of divorce, gives some regulations for divorce and stipulates some limits on the practice of divorce. In prophecies against the idolatrous practices of Israel and Judah God portrays himself as a husband divorcing his adulterous wives. In Ezra, men who have married pagan wives are ordered to divorce them, and this is portrayed as a good thing - a matter of faithfulness to God.

What does all of this mean to us?

Old Testament Law lays down a principle (e.g., a commandment or a regulation) and then illustrates the limits of the rule by giving exceptional examples. In principle marriage was a lifetime commitment - not just to your spouse, but also to God because of your vow before Him. In principle adultery would be punished by the death penalty. But God allowed a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away (Deut. 24:1). The divorced woman was still part of the community and could remarry in most cases. She was not punished for being divorced.

The examples of exceptions regarding divorce define the boundaries and imply the normal practices inside those boundaries.

A divorced woman could be remarried.
Exceptions:
Lev. 21:7 - A priest could not marry a divorced woman. He also could not marry a prostitute or "defiled woman." / This prohibition has to do with the special status of the priest as "holy to his God." / It suggests that the woman might have been divorced because of infidelity to her husband. / But this prohibition also implies that men who were not priests could marry a divorced woman.
Lev. 21:14 - A high priest is also prohibited from marrying a divorced woman. In fact, a high priest could not marry a widow either. He is restricted to marrying a virgin of his own people. / The inclusion of widows into this list is very interesting. Is he suggesting that widows are somehow defiled? / In any case, the implication is that other men could marry women from these categories if they so choose, but a high priest, because of his special role in religious society, could not.
Deut. 24:1-4 - A man who divorces his wife is forbidden from remarrying her after she has been the wife of another man. / Verse two indicates that she freely becomes the wife of another man and implies that this is an expected course of action. / But after that, should she lose her second husband, the first husband cannot marry her again because she is has been defiled. / While it says she has been defiled, it is evidently only with regard to marrying her previous husband again. He forced her into another relationship, now he cannot say that his grounds for divorce were inconsequential now that she has had a marriage relationship with another man.



Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Three

What is the proper basis of marriage?

It is important to remember that our existence is not about us. We are not the center of the universe. We did not create the universe. We do not give meaning to the universe. We are not the measure of all things.

Man was created and we have come into existence at the pleasure of God and for His purposes. In Him we live and move and have our being. God is the Creator and the ultimate purpose for everything.

(Romans 11:36) For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. 
Jesus is God in flesh and is to be the focus of everything in our lives.
(Colossians 1:15–19 NKJV) 15 ¶ He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
19 ¶ For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 
Everything we do should be done for the glory of God - that He might be exalted for Who He is and What He has done and What He will do...
(1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV) ¶ Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(Colossians 3:17 NKJV) And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 
The glory of God should be the basis of everything we do - and certainly the basis of our marriages and our behavior in our marriages.

Why should you get married? Why should you stay married? Why should you be a good husband or wife? Why should you keep the vows you made before God? Why should you refrain from sin and pursue righteousness? Why should you cope with difficulties and remain faithful? Why should you avoid sexual immorality?

The short answer is, "For the glory of God."

In the ancient world marriages were often arranged for financial gain (dowery & bride price) or political alliances (families and nations). Many saw the purpose of marriage as a means to having children who would help in the family business and care for their parents in their old age. Barrenness was the worst thing that could happen to someone.

In the modern world marriages are often seen as a partnership for mutual pleasure. Physical attraction, sexual satisfaction, personality, companionship, and affection are all considered as sufficient bases for marriage. Romantic love is usually related to these motivations.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these goals for marriage, but they cannot be the basis for marriage, or the marriage will be at the mercy of these things. Affections change. Health declines. Personalities change.

But the biblical basis for marriage is still the glory of God. The biblical marriage honors God and points to God and God's kind of gracious love. The husband loves his wife like Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her... (Ephesians 5:25). The wife follows her husband's lead like the Church follows the leadership of Christ (Ephesians 5:22).

The proper basis for marriage (grounds for marriage) is important because it is fundamental to the question of divorce and remarriage. If a person gets married to have children, but then finds his spouse cannot have children, that may seem like grounds for divorce and remarriage. But in God's view this is not an adequate ground for divorce and remarriage because having children is not the right reason for marriage anyway. If a person gets married on the basis of sexual attraction, but then finds that he is bored with his spouse and finds another woman more stimulating he may think he has grounds for divorce and remarriage. But he doesn't.

The proper basis for marriage and our faithfulness to our marriages is the glory of God. The marriage vows are explicit - "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until we are parted by death." In every circumstance and season of life, marriage is for the glory of God. The core commitment of marriage is properly our mutual commitment to Christ Jesus. 

We are committed to our marriages because we are first of all committed to Christ. Any betrayal of our marriage is a betrayal of Christ. By being a good husband or wife we bring glory to God in Christ.

Do all to the glory of God.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage - Two

A discussion of divorce and remarriage must begin with the biblical significance of marriage. If marriage is highly valued, then divorce will be rare. If marriage is devalued, then divorce will be common.

A quick scan of internet sites reveals the following: In any given year there are about 50 divorces for every 100 marriages in America. The divorce rate is between 40% and 50% for first marriages, between 60%-67% for second marriages and 73%-74% for third marriages. Meanwhile, many couples choose not to marry at all, creating a vast tangle of relationships and legal interventions over child custody and support. For one reason or another, in America about 26% of children under 21 live in single parent homes.

So what does the Bible say about marriage?

1) Marriage was established by God by creation (Genesis 1:27-28). God made man. God made woman from man. God brought them together as husband and wife (Genesis 2:21-22). The Bible's commentary on these events says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 NKJV).

2) Marriage in God's design involved perfect unity between the man and woman. Adam identified the woman as "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). This statement of solidarity is echoed in (Ephesians 5:28–29 NKJV) "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." 


In this design there was no idea of the possibility of divorce. As Jesus said, "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate”(Matthew 19:6 NKJV). Regarding divorce, Jesus said, “...from the beginning it was not so."(Matthew 19:8 NKJV)


3) The gender conflict that is evident in every culture involves a struggle for domination or control. This was not part of the design, but became a reality when the original man and woman chose to rebel against God. They were immediately alienated from each other and blaming each other (Genesis 3:12). While their original relationship was cooperative unity, the curse on the earth after sin brought friction, sorrow and competition. (Genesis 3:16 NKJV) To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” 


4) The sinful hearts of man led to all kinds of selfishness and conflict. God included legal provisions for divorce in the Old Testament Law - not as a prescription of something good, but as a provision to deal with the wickedness of man. (Matthew 19:7–8 NKJV) They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

This is true of much of the law. There are laws about property disputes, inheritance rights, injuries from fights, seduction, rape, murder and manslaughter. None of these suggests that the circumstances are good. They only provide a way to resolve the conflicts that result from sin.

5) God consistently and unequivocally says that He hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16 NIV)  “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (Matthew 19:6 NKJV) So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Marriage is designed by God to last a lifetime. But we sinful humans fall far short of God's ideal - even if we are never divorced.

For the next post: What is the proper basis for marriage?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bible on Divorce & Remarriage

I am writing on this subject with some reluctance.

The standard Fundamentalist teaching used to be that there could never be legitimate remarriage after divorce until the spouse you divorced had died. I grew up in Fundamentalism when this view was just beginning to be challenged and I remember that the challengers were considered "liberals."

In those days we had the comfort of a high contrast, black and white, straightforward, easy to understand truth. Marriage is forever. Divorce is wrong. Remarriage after divorce compounds the wrong, removes the disincentives and starts us down the slippery slope toward debauchery. The train wreck of modern immorality in America might tempt people to think the old view was correct. Surely someone opened pandora's box and released waves of immorality in America that people in the 1950's would have blushed to imagine.

In my view the exponential growth in divorce over the past fifty years is the RESULT of ungodliness and immorality, not the CAUSE of them.

Back in the old days we could hold our simplistic views on divorce and remarriage with few qualms - after all - hardly anybody we knew was divorced. But in modern times almost every family and every church is touched by divorce. Now, more than ever, we need to know, "What is the Bible Truth about divorce and remarriage?" What do the Scriptures say?

Reluctant or not, I will begin to unpack this in the days ahead.

The Things You See

Last week on Tuesday morning I looked east on 2nd Street and saw this beautiful sunrise!  It was amazing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Amazing Worlds of Books

This is an excellent short film that communicates much of what I have loved about books. Watch it when you have 15 minutes to spend...



Books affect your life and broaden your horizons and change your thinking.



Monday, March 19, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened...

A funny thing happened on my way to church...

Seriously! I was about to run out the door to church for my regular Saturday evening preparations when Lola said, "What is that sound?"

Me: "What sound?"
Lola: "It sounds like dripping. Come here and listen!"

Sure enough! LOTS of dripping. It turns out that the old drain pipes under the kitchen sink rusted to the point where they fell off. Everything under the sink was soaked and the water ran down through the floor into the laundry room.

It was a mess. It took two hours and three trips to the hardware store. (The cute narrow doors in the front of sink cabinet are not so attractive when you have your arm in past your elbow and you discover you are stuck!)

I got to church very late. I got home very late. When I got home I flooded things again because I ran a sink full of water down the drain - but found the drain was plugged below my repairs! It was a circus!!!

Oh, well. It is a good reminder that we don't know what is going to happen to disrupt our plans. By God's grace I handled this a bit more calmly than I might have done at one time. It is good to grow in grace. It is necessary to be tested from time to time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Rough Day!

Poor Tiny! Today, at long last, I had the time and energy to groom him.

He was a mess! His nails, his ears, his hair were all too long. The hair was matted on his legs. He was dirty. He smelled bad.

He was in such bad shape that I thought about taking him to a groomer, but figured they would want $100 for all the work he needed. Besides that, I was ashamed that I let him get so bad! (Poor baby...)

So... we began at about 2:30 and finished up at 4:30. A scissor trim of his coat. Close clipping on his face and feed and undercarriage. Working with a de-matting tool and using the scissors some more. That took an hour and at the end he looked like he had been attacked by the moths.

Then he went into the tub. Lathered and scrubbed and lathered and rinsed. Gradually the rinse water ran clear again - instead of looking like he had been used as a paint roller. Another half hour had passed.

Then the towel drying. Then the blow drying and working over him with a brush and comb. Then scissors again to get rid of still more mats. Then the clippers again to even things out on his back. Then scissors to even out the hair his legs. Then combing and clipping and trimming his ears. The final half hour was over.

We were both tired of it all by this time.

That evening we were in the family room with a friend. It was only 8:30 but Tiny was ready for bed! So he turned his back on us, stuck his face in the crack between the pillow and the bolster and he went to sleep.

Poor, tired baby... He had a rough day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gratitude

It is a beautiful Spring morning! The temperatures are mild, the wind is brisk, the sun is trying to get through the clouds.

As I drove to work today through my neighborhood, I saw two people on the sidewalk, waiting at an intersection. As I approached from behind them I thought, "It looks like a mother and daughter." The "daughter" was slightly ahead. I saw the "mom" step closer to the "daughter's" shoulder. Their posture was erect as if they were looking off down the street. Two cars were waiting at the intersection - what was going on?

When I finally came to them, I saw the long white cane in the girl's hand. She has some visual impairment and the "mom" is really an instructor. They were making good use of the nice weather to practice navigation skills. They must have hit a snag there at the corner. As I watched in my rearview mirror the two cars proceeded through as the girl and her teacher continued to wait.

This scene that I viewed for only a few minutes struck me right in the heart!

On the one hand, I admire the girl for working to overcome her disability. I don't know her or the level of her vision, but to learn to navigate the neighborhood with a cane is difficult and potentially dangerous. In her I see courage and a spirit I admire.

On the other hand, I admire the work of the instructor. Teaching this kind of skill is special. She must have developed a good trusting relationship with her student. She must be firm, encouraging and yet patient while her student gradually gains confidence.

Finally, in this scene I am reminded again of how blessed I am to be free from such daunting problems in my own life. It is too easy for me to take things like my vision, hearing and physical wholeness for granted. It is good to be reminded that these are not a birthright. They are a blessing that I should use for God's glory.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Still Small Voice

Elijah was discouraged.

He had triumphed at the showdown with the prophets of Baal. God had sent fire from heaven. The people confessed that the LORD (YHWH) was God and had killed the prophets of Baal! Elijah had prayed and God had sent rain to end the 3 1/2 year drought. Elijah had been so invigorated that he outran the king's chariot!

But it had not been enough. Even this great victory - this great show of God's power - this decimation of the false prophets and false gods and false worship - it had not been enough. Wicked Queen Jezebel was as evil as ever and was still working in opposition!

If this great demonstration of God's power couldn't wipe the slate clean and get things going in the right direction, what was the use of continuing the struggle?  Elijah ran away.

And he ran, and he ran, and he ran. And God graciously listened to Elijah's complaint. ("Blah, blah, blah - I quit!")

Then there was a wind so strong it broke the rocks in pieces.  That was followed by an earthquake. The earthquake was followed by a fire.

Each of these was a demonstration of God's great power! Surely God could send a wind strong enough to blow Jezebel away! God could send an earthquake that would shake her city down and crush her in the rubble! God could send a great fire that would burn wicked Jezebel up!  But in each of these demonstrations of power - wind, earthquake and fire - the scriptures say, "but the LORD was not in..." the wind, the earthquake or the fire.

After the fire, however, there was a "still small voice." The ESV translates this, "a low whisper." And at this point, Elijah recognizes that the LORD is there. And God graciously listens to Elijah's complaint a second time... ("Blah, blah, blah - I quit.")

Not so fast, Elijah!

  • God has the power.
  • God has a plan.
  • God will accomplish His plan by His power in His way and His time - Maybe by a still small voice.

Get over yourself - wait on the Lord!
(See 1 Kings 18-19)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Be Afraid


The synagoge ruler was with Jesus when they got the word that his daughter had died. 
Talk about a discouraging word! 
I'm sure he was instantly crushed. 
Pain pierced his heart. 
Tears formed in his eyes. 
A wail caught in his throat. 
His knees began to give way...

(Mark 5:36 NKJV) As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

Life is hard. Difficulties abound. Disappointment weighs us down. Sorrow floods our hearts.

But Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. There is nothing that Jesus cannot take care of, so there is nothing to fear. Trust Jesus. Walk with Jesus. Wait to see what Jesus will do to turn a terrible situation into a miraculous deliverance.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Love & Giving

Valentines Day is coming up fast and the theme aisle at Wal-Mart is loaded with red and pink packages with hearts (and chocolates) in abundance. Candy and Jewelry stores are promoting their products as the best expressions of romantic appreciation.

But where does love fit into all of this holiday fervor?
Is it fair to say that romance is not necessarily related to love?

Love is not attraction - physical or otherwise. 
Love is not a sense of pleasure derived from the object of your love. 
Love is not infatuation.

True love is a decision to give yourself for the good of the other.
True love is a willing sacrifice of self for the other.
True love is finds its joy in the delight of the loved one.

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...
(1 John 4:10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son...
(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Ephesians 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 

Let your love run deep and strong. Give yourself - heart and soul - for life - no matter what.  

Then enjoy the holiday. Give gifts. Be romantic.




Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Exercise

I've been trying to get back into a routine of exercise.

You know the old saying, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? The same truth can be applied to exercise. A "routine" of exercise implies that it is something I will do with regularity. But before I can have a routine I must exercise the first day.

Getting started is hard. Since I was out of the habit of exercising, I needed to reorganize my morning schedule to fit in time for exercise. Since we have moved to a new home since I last had a habit of exercise, I also had to put together my equipment and find my exercise clothes.

Finally, I had no more excuses for procrastination and I got started, but had to start at a lower level than I had left off... And that's discouraging. But I did get started one morning last month.

My goal is to exercise three days a week.  That is the routine I desire.  But I have had interruptions. Special errands to run, meetings to attend, work to finish... So far, some weeks I only exercised one morning and others I exercised two. I have yet to exercise three in one week.

But this is how it starts. I am on my way. Eventually I will exercise three days in one week.  After that I will string several of those weeks together. Finally I will be in a routine of exercise.

It is the same with diets and devotions and memorization and pretty much everything else.

Waiting until everything is perfect is a sure way to keep from starting.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!

Thank you, everyone, for your kind birthday greetings!

I am treating myself to a second cup of coffee and pondering the significance of my birthday.

My first thought was about the difference between how the Americans and Chinese calculate a birthday.

We Americans say, "How old are you?"  We mean, "How long has it been since you were born?" The answer for me on this day is, "Fifty-Six Years."

When the Chinese think about someone's age, they are thinking about what year of life are you currently living.  A newborn baby is in its first year of life.  Yesterday was my last day in my 56th year of life.  Today is my first day in my 57th year of life. So from that perspective, I am in my 57th year.

On the one hand, a birthday is just a day. On any given day I am one day older than I was at this point a year ago - so what's the fuss?  I am only one day older than I was yesterday! Nothing has really changed, has it?

On the other hand, a birthday is like a mile marker showing you how far you have traveled down the road of life. But in the case of age we don't know how long the road will be, so the information has limited value for trip planning. It is unlikely that I will make it another 56 years - though some people have done so in the past. I might be tempted to think that I would CERTAINLY have another 20 years - or even 30 - but it is hard to say for sure.

The only sure thing is that I have lived through 56 years. Have I learned anything along the way? Certainly. Have I learned everything I should have? Certainly not!
(James 4:14) For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 
The days are fleeting. We barely get up and get started and the day is over - it's time for bed again. Our opportunities to apply ourselves to work for the glory of God are brief and we are beset with distractions. We say we will apply ourselves better tomorrow - but we are not sure we will have a tomorrow.

Questions to ask myself:
"How will you use THIS day for the glory of God?"
"To what will you apply yourself today?"
"Are you still learning, everyday?"
"Which of your goals are truly worthwhile?"
"How have you expressed your gratitude to God today?"
"How have you expressed your love to your dear ones today?"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peace & Tranquility

Do you long for peace and tranquility?

Birds singing (not too loudly.) Gentle breezes blowing (warm, but not too hot.)  Sunshine (filtered through nice big trees.) Nothing urgent on your calendar. No cell phone. No traffic. No work to be completed. No sales pitches confronting you. No danger.

A hammock would be nice too - rocking gently.

Sweet peace!

Does this describe your life?

No?

Mine either!

But, I do have peace!


Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) 

In Jesus I've found rest for my soul. In spite of the fact that I could never do enough to be right with God, I have peace with God through my Lord, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).  I can rest in the finished work of Jesus.  In Him I have complete peace and safety.

What other kinds of peace do I have?

Well, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22–23).

As I learn to put down the works of the flesh, I find that my relationships with others are much more peaceful as the Holy Spirit guides me into these universal virtues.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are the source of all kinds of turmoil - especially interpersonal turmoil, but the fruit of the Spirit brings peace.

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

I have the peace of knowing that Jesus has everything under control. He knows where I am. I am under his protection. He is coming back for me. Nobody can thwart his purposes. I am safe and sound in his care.

Peace, sweet peace!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money & The 99%

I heard an "Occupy" person being interviewed on the radio this evening.  He was disgusted that the Occupy organization was accepting donations of money.  He thinks that they should only accept donations of food, clothes and other necessities.  He said that he agrees with the saying "Money is the root of all evil."

Isn't that interesting?  Here is a truly clueless young man!  There are many relatively clueless people in the world, but this guy is world class in his cluelessness.

He will accept food donations, but not money.  Where does he think the food came from?  Doesn't he realize it has been purchased with money?  Does he think that money is something that literally grows on trees?  Does he think money is a category of things occurring in nature - like fruits and nuts?

He agrees that money is the root of all evil, does he?  Well, that is NOT the saying.  The old King James Bible says, "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil..." (1Timothy 6:10).  Newer translations say, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

The Occupy folks seem to me to be just as enamored with money as the people they are protesting.  It may be that 1% of the people have the vast majority of the wealth, but the occupy people (who may be only .01% of the 99%) love money just as much.  Isn't one of their objectives a redistribution of the wealth away from the 1%?  What is that, if not an affection for money (and the things it can buy.)

What is the basis of their claim on the money of the 1%?

It may be that some people are paid amazing amounts of money for their work.  But they are working and being paid. This is not inherited wealth.  If they go to work and get paid - why should someone else have a claim on their wages?  What is fair about that?  Do you want to get paid?  Go to work and earn a paycheck - don't camp in the park and protest what other people are earning at their jobs.

Who is greedier - the person that works for a paycheck or the people who protest that the worker should share his wages with them?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Godly Sorrow


(2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 

People can be very sorry for their sin without being repentant.
  • They are sorry they failed.
  • They are sorry they disappointed people.
  • They are sorry they got caught.
  • They are sorry they feel embarrassed.
  • They are sorry they face the consequences.

They are seriously sorry, too.  They are weeping, depressed and ashamed.  Some are even self-destructive. They are "really tore up."

But it doesn't matter a snap unless it is godly sorrow that produces repentance that leads to salvation.

Godliness is proper reverence for God.  If you love God it will change the way you live - not just make you feel bad about continuing to live the same old way.

Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God in obedience.  Repentance is the flip side of Faith.  To have faith in God is to repent of my sin against God.

Salvation is not a single narrow dimension of life.  Salvation is all encompassing.  We are saved from our sins.  Not just the penalty for our sins, but also from the power of sin in our lives.  Too many people would like to be saved from the ultimate penalty for their sin, but they don't want to give up the enjoyment of the sin in their present life.  So they are not repentant - just pensive.

We are saved to be dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6).

God, grant us godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation.  Cleanse us for your own glory!  Bring yourself praise through delivering us from our sins!