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.