Sunday, October 02, 2005

Joshua's Dirty Jawbone

Joshua, the son of Nun, had been chosen from among the millions of his people to succeed the great Moses in leading them in the conquest of the lands of Canaan. He was at the top of his game. Some say that he had a favorite song that he would sing often throughout the day. My Hebrew is weak, but his lyrics roughly translate, "Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I have this wonderful feeling, everything's going my way." He had found favor with both God and man, and was feeling pretty good about himself and his prospects.

Here are a few excerpts concerning Joshua's status:

So the Lord said to Moses, "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him." Numbers 27:18 (ESV)

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. Deut. 34:9 (ESV)

And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you." Deut. 31:23 (ESV)

The Lord said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you." Joshua 3:7 (ESV)

And they answered Joshua, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous." Joshua 1:16-18 (ESV)

Whoa! Joshua, dude, you may need a bigger hat size! Just then, of course, God stepped in to assure that things were put into distinct perspective.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" And he said, "No!!" Joshua 5:13-14a (ESV)

No?? How could you possibly say that to Joshua, the esteemed leader of the Israelite horde, who was just about to conquer several strong, established nations?

The stranger continued, "...but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come." Joshua 5:14b (ESV)

Joshua was sharp enough to understand what he meant, "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." Isaiah 48:11 (ESV) By grace Joshua was given his place through providence, just as others had, even, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show MY power in you, and that MY NAME might be proclaimed in all the earth."" Romans 9:17 (ESV)

" And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, "What does my lord say to his servant?" Joshua 5:14c (ESV)

Out of the corner of his eye, Joshua saw and heard Job lying face down next to him, having a similar conversation, "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:2-6 (ESV)

Joshua also heard the commander, the Christ, saying to those who relied on their own righteous acts and expected favor from God, "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham." Luke 3:8 (ESV)

What does my Lord say to his servant? The proper perspective from which to go forward.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mephibosheth's Jawbone

If you are anything like me, you might often spend time daydreaming about living the lives and having the talents and disciplines of certain other people. I can become Michael Jordan, Hank Aaron, Brett Favre, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan in an instant. In my ‘spiritual’ dreams, I become Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, Peter, or Paul. Heroes all. Of course, I have never demonstrated the talents in sports or leadership that these men have exhibited. But in my more reality based dreams, I realize that I have a great deal of basic commonality with all these men. Each of us have someone that we can look to as a role model in our lives. That, of course, is the famous Biblical super-hero, Mephibosheth. Particulars of his biography can be found in 2 Samuel, chapters 4, 9, 16, 19, and 21. I know I don’t have to tell the Biblical specifics since everyone is so familiar with the details of the life of this great man of God. I will, however, convey the rendition of another.

According to Jawbone’s Shorter Biographies, "Mephibosheth was the grandson of Israel’s first king, Saul. After the deaths of King Saul and Jonathan, M’sheth’s father, in battle, the young lad Mephibosheth was hidden from danger by his nanny. In his flight Mephibosheth’s feet were accidentally crippled."

"As a direct descendant of the king, Mephibosheth had a legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. His ‘disappearance’ kept him safely away from the cut-throat battle for rule of the kingdom. As he grew, he may have entertained the expectations of returning to the rule of his kingdom by means of his natural, genetic rights. Like all men, he chose to believe in his own rule over that of God’s chosen king. He could talk the talk, but, due to his crippling, he couldn’t walk the walk."

"One day, the King had Mephibosheth located and forcibly brought before him. Custom in that culture required a brutal death to all rivals to the throne. In facing his condemnation, Mephibosheth realized his fate and prepared himself for his just reward. He fell down before the King in the manner of a servant. To his surprise, the King not only comforted him and spared his life, but also restored land and possessions to him and even allowed him to be seated at the King’s own table as one of his sons. Instead of puffing up in pride, Mephibosheth asked why the King had ‘noticed a dead dog like me?’ The King stated that it was because of a promise to another. Mephibosheth was spared death by the work of another."

"While the King left his kingdom through rebellious threats, Mephibosheth was tricked into remaining behind. During his King’s absence, he suffered the loss of all things, but cared nothing for it. He did not even care for himself, but only for the safe return of his King. When it came to pass, he rejoiced. We aren’t told about his later life, but can assume he faithfully served as a son until his death."

Mephibosheth portrays an accurate picture of all of us– crippled and weak, but still foolishly seeking autonomy from God our King. By grace he was forcibly brought to his senses and reality, and was enabled to reject his own specious claims and fully accept subservience to God’s chosen King. In the King’s absence, his life was consumed with His return. Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, Peter, and Paul all followed in Mephibosheth’s footsteps. I don’t know about Jordan, Favre, Aaron, Churchill, or Reagan. I can only speculate and hope.

Mephibosheth is a hero among heroes. None of the ‘greats’ ever strayed from their attitudinal kinship to him.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Lot of Jawbone

“... if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (2 Peter 2: 6-9, NIV)

He rescued Lot, a righteous man,...tormented in his righteous soul... These two phrases have long puzzled me. Lot, a righteous man?

According to Jawbone’s Shorter Biography, "Lot was the nephew of Abram and traveled with him after Abram’s call by God to leave his father’s native land. On Abram’s (Abraham’s) coattails, Lot became wealthy. Because of the subsequent crowding, these two were forced to separate. Lot, given first choice, greedily chose the plains area of rich pasture lands and abundant water. Lot was captured during a war and taken away. He was rescued by and freed through Abraham’s courage. Lot willingly returned to live in Sodom within the ‘modern, hip culture’. When warned of impending destruction, he, his wife, and two daughters had to be forcibly removed to escape the disaster. (The prospective sons-in-law refused to go.) Lot’s wife turned back toward Sodom as her heart lusted to return. While hiding in a mountain cave, Lot became drunk on successive nights and impregnated both of his daughters, whose progeny rose to become thorns in the side of God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel."

If I were to hang around someone like Lot, I would be apt to judge him a scumbag and not ‘touch him with a ten foot pole’. Then how is it that the Apostle Peter calls him righteous?
Along came the prophet Nathan. (Nathan was the prophet who came to King David to ask an opinion. He related a story of two men. One was very rich in flocks and herds. The second was very poor, having only one lamb that was loved as a member of the family. As a distinguished visitor came to stay with the rich man, he wanted to throw a feast in the visitor’s honor. Instead of taking a fatted lamb from his own flocks, the rich man forcibly took the family lamb from the poor, butchered it, and held his feast of 'Kobe Lamb'. Nathan asked David what ought to be done to this man. David exclaimed that he deserved to be killed. The story was just a cover for David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, a faithful soldier in David’s army. Nathan’s response to David’s decree of capital punishment was, “David, thou art the man!)

I told Nathan about Lot and asked him whether Lot was a scumbag or righteous. So Nathan began to relate to me many details about Lot’s life that were not commonly known. It was pathetic. In the end, Nathan asked me the same question I had asked him. I was certain and proclaimed to him that Lot was most assuredly a certifiable scumbag. Nathan gazed at me with a look that bared my soul and said, “Jawbone, thou art the man!”

If it weren’t for God’s own gracious choosing and his gift of faith in the incarnation, life, death, descension, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ, Lot and I, as well as all humanity would receive the eternal justice that we earned by our own efforts.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Temporomandibular Dysfunction

I often wonder about the state of our culture and nation. Without a doubt we are the richest and most powerful country that the world has ever seen. Favorable geographic and geologic circumstances imbued with 19th, 20th and 21st century technology have assisted the U.S. in producing wealth, health, growth, and military might beyond anything ever before produced. A computer projecting our future from a statistical model programmed with data back to 1776 might blow its processor in predicting forecasted expectations.

Even under these circumstances much of our population is afflicted by a serious case of angst. Since few of us have experienced life a hundred years ago or have lived in present day third-world situations, this amorphous anxiety seems irrational. After all, how many of us have gone without food or water for days or had absolutely no place to shelter us?

The modernist promises of utopia via science and technology have not been fulfilled. Health, wealth, growth, and military strength have not alleviated human fears. In attempting to flip the coin, post-modern, relativist promotions have done little but deconstruct the trembling foundations laid by tradition and, in their places, have left man in self-created solitary confinement.

Despite the cornucopia of ‘stuff and things’ as well as amusements, far too many still vociferously proclaim that life sucks and America sucks. Actually, the correct translation is, ‘God sucks.’ "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15, NIV)

There actually is a very good reason for extreme angst. Man, created by God and in His image, must eventually give account to Him for every thought, word, and deed. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:21-32, NIV)

So, in spite of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon this nation, there remains an insecurity that manifests in numerous ways. Many gifts do not prove the established favor of or quality relationship with the giver. “Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?'” (Proverbs 30:9a, NIV)

This nation was established by men who regularly sought God through prayer, fasting, and incredible steps of faith. However, along with the decades of amassed wealth came the disowning of the God who blessed us. Today, it is the official doctrine of our government that God and his requirements are unwelcomed and even denied.

Often the description of a nation under God’s judgment seems to depict a society of a similar nature to that of Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin. Undoubtedly, that is sometimes the case, but not always. Persons living within these societies seldom recognized themselves within the prophet’s pronouncements of condemnation. They were deceived in thinking that they were a good people and deserved God’s blessing.

“Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says'--when the LORD has not spoken. The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” (Ezek. 22:26-29) What might these circumstances look like? Could this be a present description of our nation? Since we live within it, it may sound ludicrous to even question it since it seems so normal to us. However, with the official national decree that God is unconstitutional in public affairs...

It may be argued that the Scripture above deals with Israel and doesn’t apply to the U.S. Israel had a covenant relationship with God; they witnessed His many miracles; they were given the Law; God spoke through their prophets; they had His temple. Small potatoes. This nation was founded by believers in the crucified and risen Messiah and has a Bible in every hotel room. What excuse have we?

Even a casual outside observer could see that this society is awash with and revels in rejection of God and His absolute truth, illicit sexual behaviors, glorification of violence, and rabid pursuit of all things material. Even much of the verbiage from modern pulpits in the name of Christ comes from a heart of unbelief.

More and more, Christians are speaking out in opposition to many of the tortuous turns taken in our culture. The election of 2004 has received countless assessments as to the weight thrown by traditional, family-valued Christians.

Although there is nothing wrong with Christian political action per se, it is only a short term, stop-gap tactic and doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17, NIV) There is no successful substitute for the pure devotion to Christ and faithful obedience to His word. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mat. 6:33, NIV) “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6b, ESV)

While considering political action or public outcry, members of the Body of Christ, the Church, need to contemplate its own worship, prayer life, Scripture study, and love for fellow believers.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Heb. 13:15, NIV) “But you say, 'What a weariness this is,' and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13, ESV) “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 1:8 (ESV)

If the Church pursues its prescription for life, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6, NIV), perhaps God will forestall any possible destructive judgment that He may have planned. But even if He doesn’t...
"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
(Hab. 3:17, 18, NIV)

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jawbones Agape

Out of the several hundred million spermatozoa entering the female reproductive tract, under the right circumstances only one is enabled to penetrate the secondary oocyte. The processes preceding fertilization are extremely complex. It requires approximately ten hours to complete the chemical processes necessary for the spermatozoon to become capable to enter the oocyte. This same process weakens the membrane around the acrosome of the sperm cell. As the male cell contacts the corona radiata of the female cell the enzymes released by the deteriorating acrosome ‘eats’ through the outer layer of the egg as well as the underlying glycoprotein layer, the zona pellucida, allowing the spermatozoon to enter the oocyte. The oocyte then undergoes a change that causes its outer layers to block entry of other spermatozoa. The male undergoes more changes in conjunction with the female changes to make way for the two haploids to combine into one diploid cell, the zygote. The single celled zygote has the full genetic complement. He or she now begins intricate physical developmental stages.

Visible, microscopic changes begin in about a day and a half. The single cell cleaves into two. After two days there are four cells, then after three days there are sixteen ‘blastomeres’. Shortly afterwards, the individual is termed a morula. At this point its total size is the same as the original zygote. The morula develops into a blastocyst. After six days the blastocyst implants into the uterine endometrium. Surprisingly the embryo’s antigens do not cause attack and rejection by the mother’s antibodies.

The embryo develops three germ layers that each eventually become the different systems and organs that we recognize in human anatomy. Neither the baby nor the mother participates in the completion of these processes.

After the birth of the child, growth and other kinds of developments occur naturally without human assistance. Food, medicine, and other cares are done, but they only provide an environment for development.

As far as the child is able to understand, the whole universe revolves around him. Hunger, elimination mush, or other discomforts elicit a demand for action. ‘Hop to it, my servants!’

Hopefully after a period of time the child must learn that the universe and all that it contains do not bow to his wishes. What a disappointing shock. Needs are still taken care of at another’s expense, but his desires are regularly subject to frustration.

As growth continues, intellectual and cultural education is given by the hand and at the expense of others. The child learns to use technology produced by others and is dependent on others for a multitude of life’s benefits.

His physiological processes also continue without his direction. His heart pumps, he breathes, his cells undergo all metabolic mechanisms without his conscious effort.

In spite of all these facts, man continues to hold and increase in faith that he is the ‘captain of his own soul, the master of his own fate’. In conjunction, many even metamorphose into the ‘captain of other souls, the master of other fates’. ‘I shall be as God, choosing what is good and what is evil.’

“There is no greater fool than he that says, ‘There is no God,’ unless it be the one who says he does not know whether there is one or not.”– Bismarck

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Corrupt Jawbones

It has been written, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As exhilaratingly heady as this may make its champions feel, it makes a common fundamental mistake. In modernist/post-modernist thought, this sentiment misleads from its presuppositions. It assumes that the environment is the corruptor of the man; in this case, an environment of power corrupts.

With this, the statement can be used as a double-edged sword. Those determined to be corrupted can be blugeoned from a philosophical/political standpoint, while allies stand upon their inherent birthright of righteousness. Also, of great political benefit, is the assertion that the wise and uncorrupted can defend the 'weak-minded' inferiors that are constantly under threat from corrupted powers that be. A further corollary is that there exist those who are above the evil allures of environmental influences and can direct society into their utopian promised land.

The egregious error committed here is denial that power is only a conduit from which pre-existing corruption can manifest. Mankind is born corrupt and brings that into all his dealings.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, NIV)
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. (John 2:24-25, NIV)

Our nation's founders did not attempt to limit power because it corrupts. They knew that corrupt man abused power. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were meant to limit federal power and within itself to provide a check-and-balance system to protect freedom further.

Despite his massive popularity, George Washington refused a third term as president. He refused the temptation to coalesce power in his own hands because he knew, in his humility, that he could not be trusted with it. Unfortunately, none too few since have had this same humility of understanding.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Recycled Jawbones

There's nothing new under the sun.

With regularity, God just cracks me up. Often He does so with personal pranks-- situations of the genre of a dropped dollar bill being blown just out of reach as I attempt to pick it up or, when grumbling to myself about some unrelated circumstance, as I open a door, it hits my foot and I whack my forehead into its corner while trying to enter the portal. Incidents like that would anger me at an earlier point in my life, but now cause me to laugh as I pull a mock shake-of-the-fist toward God while rubbing my forehead. (He just did it again! It took me 13 tries to spell 'while' correctly.) I had feared that as I became more faithful in life's little irritants that He would give me bigger ones to help train me. He just smiles and reminds me that after 46 years of bachelorhood, he allowed me to marry. Oh, yeah, I have some distance to go on that one. (He who finds a wife finds what is good, He who finds a wife finds what is good, He who finds a wife finds the backside of the desert, huh?)

It is more rare, however, that I laugh unto incontinence while reading Scripture. Ezekiel? I guess that I have never read the whole NIV. For years I read King James, now the New American Standard. Presently, I'm reading through the English Standard. A verse in Ezekiel 23 caught my attention as it appeared to be describing something unusual. Comparisons to the NAS and KJV weren't quite so direct so it never dawned on me before. But the NIV... As a portion of the listed transgressions of Oholibah (Jerusalem) for which they were overrun by Nebachadnezzar... "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." Ezekiel 23:20 (NIV) I thought I was going to die! Preview blurbs for many modern TV shows and movies. (Desperate Housewives comes to mind, although I've only seen commercials for it and the Monday Night Football intro. So please forgive me if I have mischaracterized it.) I will never look at an Enzyte commercial in quite the same way again, either. (And, no, I will not rename my blog, 'Genitals of an Ass'!)

There is NOTHING NEW under the sun. Therefore, as both Oholibah and the modern housewives may be desperate, they could never be termed 'disparate'.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Jawbones Set Like Flint

In 1621, the English settlers in the Plymouth Colony held an observation of Thanksgiving. Awesome.

"A few quotations will throw more light upon the spirit of these pious adventurers than all we can say of them. Nathaniel Morton, the historian of the first years of the settlement, thus opens his subject:

"Gentle Reader, - I have for some length of time looked upon it as a duty incumbent, especially on the immediate successors of those that have had so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations of God's goodness, viz., the first beginners of this Plantation in New England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not onely otherwise but so plentifully in the Sacred Scriptures: that so, what we have seen, and what our fathers have told us (Psalm lxxviii. 3, 4), we may not hide from our children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord; that especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children of Jacob his chosen (Psalm cv. 5, 6), may remember his marvellous works in the beginning and progress of the planting of New England, his wonders and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into this wilderness; that he cast out the heathen, and planted it; that he made room for it and caused it to take deep root; and it filled the land (Psalm lxxx, 8, 9). And not onely so, but also that he hath guided his people by his strength to his holy habitation and planted them in the mountain of his inheritance in respect of precious Gospel enjoyments: and that as especially God may have the glory of all unto whom it is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those blessed Saints that were the main instruments and the beginning of this happy enterprise."

It is impossible to read this opening paragraph without an involuntary feeling of religious awe; it breathes the very savor of Gospel antiquity. The sincerity of the author heightens his power of language. The band which to his eyes was a mere party of adventurers gone forth to seek their fortune beyond seas appears to the reader as the germ of a great nation wafted by Providence to a predestined shore.

The author thus continues his narrative of the departure of the first pilgrims:

"So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years; but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. xi. 16), and therein quieted their spirits... But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loth to depart, their Reverend Pastor falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with most fervent prayers unto the Lord and his blessing; and then, with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them."

The emigrants were about 150 in number, including the women and the children. Their object was to plant a colony on the shores of the Hudson; but after having been driven about for some time in the Atlantic Ocean, they were forced to land on that arid coast of New England which is now the site of the town of Plymouth.

"But before we pass on," continues our historian, "let the reader with me make a pause and seriously consider this poor people's present condition, the more to be raised up to admiration of God's goodness towards them in their preservation: for being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectation, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns to repair unto to seek for succour: and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts, and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew; if they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.""
(Democracy In America, Volume 1, de Tocqueville, Alexis, New York: The Colonial Press, 1899, Chapter II - Origin Of The Anglo-Americans, And Its Importance In Relation To Their Future Condition)

Before disembarking from the Mayflower, 41 of the Pilgrims wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact:

"In the name of God. Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, etc., etc., Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and the honour of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; Do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid: and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience," etc. (United States History 1600-1987, Immigration and Naturalization Service U.S. Department of Justice, 1987, I - Discovery And Colonization)

"The Pilgrims, fleeing from religious persecution in Europe, set sail for North America on their ship the Mayflower in 1620 using Captain Smith's 'A Description of New England' as a guide. Later that year they established a colony at Plymouth and set up a democratic government in accordance with the terms of the "Mayflower Compact," which was an agreement binding all to conform to the will of the majority. During the first harsh winter at Plymouth, more than half of the Pilgrim Colonists died, but in spite the weather and other hardships, including Indian attacks, the settlement soon began to prosper. A friendly local tribe known as the Wampanoag Indians were very helpful to the new settlers, teaching them special techniques for effectively farming the land and preparing for the long cold winters. These good relations resulted in the first Thanksgiving in 1621." (America: Past And Present, Divine, Robert A.; Breen, T.H.; Fredrickson, George M.; Williams, R. Hal, HarperCollins College Publishers, Inc., 1995, Chapter 2 - Competing Visions: English Colonization In The Seventeenth Century)

To sum up, the Pilgrims left their homes in England under persecution. They endured a lay-over in Leyden, Holland, for 11 years before crossing the Atlantic in setting out for The New World. (I've been on replicas of ships built in that era and can barely imagine spending months crowded on one while crossing an ocean.) They were blown off course and anchored at what was to become Plymouth, Massachussetts. They disembarked into an unknown wilderness with extremely harsh winters while having few survival skills. Long before the onset of the trip they sought the will of God, prayed for His blessing, and praised His goodness and continued to do so throughout. During the first winter half of them slowly suffered and died; wives, husbands, children, and friends. As the following winter approached, what did they do? They celebrated in Thanksgiving.

I suspect that these Pilgrims had more than just a 'mental, intellectual assent' to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had indeed lived the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2-- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Friday, April 08, 2005

Out of the Jawbones of Ovines

"Sheep are basically timid animals who tend to graze in flocks and are almost totally lacking in protection from predators." ('Sheep', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2003)

Here is a politically correct statement made by the Encyclopaedia Britannica concerning the Ovine genus. Perhaps the writer feared accusations of being a 'speciesist' by the good professor Peter Singer or others of his ilk. Nevertheless, the meaning is still clear-- sheep are stupid and helpless.

"When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36, NIV)

Jesus has struck a serious blow to the self-esteem movement. Yet His statements are not said with malice, but as an assertion of fact. Within the sphere of the created universe, seen as well as unseen, Mankind's wisdom and abilities are far from topping the All-Star list. Furthermore, in comparison to the omniscience and omnipotence of God, sheep are an apt description, if not an overestimation of man's power and ability. In this knowledge, Israel's King David referred to himself both as a worm and a dead dog.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)

A little child, like the sheep, is weak and dependent. Again, there is no place here for heightened self-esteem. Such esteem is properly reserved for God and His purposes.

To exacerbate matters, since Adam's sin, the sheep naturally flee from the protective shepherd, and the little child fights his introduction to Jesus in a way resembling the expectation of a vaccination or a session beneath the dentist's high pitched drill. They have not gotten any more intelligent nor have they the experience or strength to better thrive in the world, but somehow they 'know' better. It paints the picture of a bratty child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or a 13 year old projecting his superior wisdom in rebellion against his parents and their rules while, at the same time, having his entire lifestyle subsidized by them.

In effect, Man is that pouty, red-faced, akimbo adolescent standing in rebellion before the Creator of the universe exclaiming, "My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts!" Of course, at the same time, every atom of his being as well as his 'breath of life' is dependent upon God's sustaining power. This is the unadulterated wisdom of a sheep. “God, you must change to suit me. You must follow the flock, become relevant, be hip, be cool.”

The impudent, acne-laden adolescent is having much of his way in our society. His tantrums, immature assertions, and post-modern ‘logical’ blather have been received with overly respectful reverence. Much of the ill-prepared church has succumbed to the modern allure of the odd amalgam of relativism, evolutionary naturalism, misdefined diversity, and selective tolerance.

As the unchanging, but supposedly prescientific Word of God is supplanted by modern philosophical and psychological ideas and methods in the daily life of the church, the Bible’s authority is usurped by a faddish ‘spirit of the age’. The sheep stray.

There are but two shepherds. Matthew and Luke render accounts of the display of the differences between their essences:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" `He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'
" (Matthew 4:1-10, NIV)

The Devil creates modern physical, philosophical, and psychological suppositions of needs and desires while warping the Scripture to attract and drive his flock for his purposes.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NIV)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV)

The Good Shepherd, Jesus, on the other hand, accurately handles the Scripture (as well as fulfilling it) and attracts and leads his flock for his purposes.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28, NIV)

Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve got to serve somebody. It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord...” Being fleeced by Satan may ‘feel’ good for a time, you inexorably are driven to a barbecue

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13, NIV)

I am on the narrow road, not by my own discovery, wisdom, or strength. I do not deserve to be there. Jesus came and found me, took me through the narrow gate, and continually carries me along the narrow road.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
(Psalm 23, NIV)


Friday, April 01, 2005

Itching Jawbones

Often in conversations with folks, one may hear the interjected phrase, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ The content of the subject might be starving villagers in Africa, a serial killer sentenced to recline on ‘Ol’ Sparky’, or a friend experiencing marital or financial difficulties. Most certainly, in these cases, the phrase is legitimately apt. However, I strongly suspect that this ‘spiritually’ descriptive phrase is greatly misunderstood.

I have never heard anyone proclaim in a discussion of Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Britney Spears, or Julia Roberts, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ It would be equally apt. A young woman, bedridden by Multiple Sclerosis, peers out of her window on a beautiful spring day and watches a family frolic in the nearby park. ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ She understands the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28, NIV)

But by the grace of God I am what I am,...” (1 Cor. 15:10a, NIV)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)

Peter, along with other Apostles in Jerusalem:

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5: 40b-41, NIV)

God’s grace, His love, and His righteousness do not conform to fit the zeitgeist of our post-modern, relative culture. Even much of the modern American church has been influenced by these half-truths.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2TI 4:1-4, NIV)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Jawbones Created Equal

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence, approved July 4, 1776)

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863)

"...all men are created equal..." This phrase seems to inspire many high-minded thoughts and discussions, both concerning the intrinsic worth of all men and rationalization for the more enlightened to enforce politically correct religion upon society.

As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. (Eccles. 5:15, ESV)

"...all men are created equal..." Zero. Some philosophize... a blank slate.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
(Psalm 51:5, ESV)

Or... somewhat less than zero. The slate is badly smudged.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it
? (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)

The slate is mired in its inherent entropy.

You felt secure in your wickedness,
you said, "No one sees me";
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
"I am, and there is no one besides me."
(Isaiah 47:10, ESV)

Man is not only born with a fallen nature, but also chooses sin willingly.

"Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'
(Isaiah 58:1-3a, ESV)

Man-made religion in attempt to assuage his latent guilt before God.

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
(Isaiah 58: 3b-4, ESV)

Man's works of self-righteousness only serve to multiply sin, "yet you refuse to come to me that you might have life." (Jesus, in John 5:40, ESV)

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58: 5-8, ESV)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Of Jesus, Acts 4:12, ESV)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Jesus, in John 15:4-5, ESV)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5, ESV)

After receiving salvation by grace through faith and beginning to live more and more in this grace, one cannot expect his life to be anywhere near heaven on earth. One does not hope for what he already has, but only for that which he is waiting. While living this life we pass through as pilgrims in that portion of creation subject to decay, among a mass of humanity that are in total rebellion to God's authority, among Satan and his minions that hate God and his people, and even in constant battle with our own old natures as they continue convulsing in their death throes. Often circumstances will seem to the natural eye and mind that there exists no reasonable expectation for which to hope. But, God...

"Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, "The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, "The Lord will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?' " (Rabshakeh on behalf of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, in Isaiah 36:15-20, ESV)

There are countless situations such as this by which the only obvious hope of deliverance was not by the wisdom, strength, and works of man, but by special providence. It is no difference for each of us. Our earthly life is constantly surrounded by powerful enemies that boastfully predict our doom, in circumstances large and small. But, God...

Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
(Isaiah 38:17, ESV)

For the glory of His own Name.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sneering Jawbones

Adam exhaled as life surged through his being. He opened his eyes, sat up and surveyed his surroundings. Although the garden was idyllic, it paled in comparison to the glorious presence of another being. Adam could only bow and fall on his face in awe, worship, and praise before the indescribable glory of God.

God commanded Adam to take care of the surrounding garden; to work it and to till it. For Adam, this work in service to God proved altogether pleasant and joyous.

God permitted Adam to eat of the fruit of any of the trees with which he worked, save one. Adam was specifically commanded not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the joy of being in God’s great light, in the satisfaction of his work, in the total sufficiency of the permissible food, and in the ominous threat of death for disobedience, Adam unquestioningly complied with this simple edict.

The Lord God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. While Adam was classifying them, his sense of humor began to develop. In remembering the forbidden fruit, he chuckled, “If I were to eat from that tree, there would be two sure things in life– Death and taxa.”

Since there was no helper suitable for the man, God put Adam in a semi-comatose state, removed one of his ribs, and formed a woman from it that was suitable for him. (Etymology intimates that the name Eve is not an abbreviation for evil, but, rather, a combining form of Evel, meaning a cause of men doing crazy things. cf. Kneivel.)

Late one morning while Adam and Eve were tilling near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve became hungry and began to decide which fruit she would eat. The serpent, seeing his opportunity, spoke to her and questioned whether God really did forbid the fruit from this particular tree. Eve stated that, indeed, God did prohibit this action and added that they was not even to touch it. The serpent, seeing that the woman’s knowledge of God’s word was somewhat inaccurate, attacked with a frontal assault. He exclaimed with a sneer that if the fruit was eaten they would not die, but instead they would be like God and be able to exert the authority that He had usurped. Eve saw that the tree’s fruit was good for food, very pleasant to the eye, and desirable to gain wisdom. She took it and ate, then gave some to Adam who was with her.

When the time came to settle accounts with God and answer for their disobedience to His single command, Adam blamed Eve (and God since He gave Eve to him), Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent sneered.

In His condemnation, God paints a picture of mankind’s fate instead of the delivering the expected lethal bolt of lightning. God bloodily butchers an animal to make clothing for the naked pair. He proclaims agony in childbirth for women while living under the rule of men. The man’s labor will retain little of the pleasantness and fruitfulness with which he has become accustomed. The creation will operate under the principles of entropy, requiring pain, sweat, and thorns and thistles. As Adam and Eve are evicted from The Garden and separated from fellowship with God, they also understand that they too will return to the dust in suffering and death. Man’s nature had become one of sinfulness, replacing the original righteousness.

Man’s inclinations now have become twisted beyond recognition. Whereas, at the first, Eve saw that a thing and perceived that it would ‘be good for food, very pleasant to the eye, and desirable to gain wisdom’ under the auspices of God, it had now become ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ under the auspices of a sinful nature and corrupt world. At first, God was seen as the provider of all things. Now He is viewed as the enemy, who, if acknowledged at all, must be defined as something much different that He actually is; an imaginary creation of the hands or mind of man.

Mankind did now possess the knowledge of good and evil. He experienced the good in the Garden of Eden, and in fact, to this day, they still know of Him. But, man’s heart has chosen to neither give God glory nor give Him thanks. As a result of deeming God as worthless, and desiring, rather, to partake in ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life’ God gives what is so heartily coveted and with it gives leanness in their souls.

Men’s superficial souls enable them to willingly take blind leaps of faith and swallow any foolish idea that comes down the pike. The modern rational man replaces logic within the framework of God’s word with an illogic that is free to capriciously imagine any vain thing. If man is the measure of all things there are billions of inequitable standards informing men’s measurements and drawing fantastic conclusions from their amorphous data. He can irrationally call evil, ‘good’, and good, ‘evil’ and feel justified, ethical, and superior.

One can imagine the fiery darts that the serpent flung through Eve’s mind as he successfully deceived her to choose sin over obedience. When you first awoke, how do you know that Adam and God didn’t awake at the same time and God aggressively, albeit illegitimately took charge? Have you seen any miracles other than His ‘Wizard of Oz’ pomp and flash? Why does He want hold you down in your growth as a person? Why does He think He’s the ‘boss of you’? And Adam... couldn’t do his work by himself so needed your help? Pah-leez! Anything sound familiar?

After the deed was done and the accounting took place, so did the finger pointing. ‘It was that woman YOU gave me.’ ‘The serpent, he...’ Anything sound familiar?

Back in the time of Isaiah, a few thousand years ago, the situation was thus:

People will oppress each other–
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the base against the honorable.”

The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves

Youths oppress my people,
women rule over them.
O my people, your guides lead you astray;
they turn you from the path.”

The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornament jingling on their ankles
(Isaiah 3:5, 9, 12, 16, NIV)

Anything sound familiar? There is nothing new under the sun. ‘Question Authority' did not originate in the '60's.

At any rate, since Man’s fall into sin, men have not been able to think logically. During the wilderness travellings, the Israelites directly experienced the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the daily manna, the quail, water from the rock, clothing and sandals that did not wear out... And yet they chose to always rebel and ‘question authority’. Jesus’ disciples saw all His works and miracles and heard all His words. Yet they were as dull as a box of rocks when it came to understanding, at least until the Holy Spirit enlightened them well after the crucifixion of Christ.

Even as believers, we must echo Paul’s statements:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25, NIV)

The Lord is our only boast. In and of ourselves, we are nothing.

And what, then, of the unbelievers that pursue life on their own terms, choose to be the measure of all things, the masters of their fate, the captains of their own souls? Unless they, too, are graciously given life and repentance from the Lord, they will suffer the death promised to Adam and Eve for their sin, eternal death. “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...” and will suffer the just consequences.

And the serpent sneered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jawbones Chomping at the Goads

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

Any fans of C.S. Lewis, especially of The Screwtape Letters, will really enjoy this modern 'addendum' to his book by Meghan Cox Gurdon published in The National Review Online. Here are four short excerpts of the conversation between Screwtape and Mildew.

"Screwtape presses on. "What does Man want? He wants sex, he wants comfort, he wants to be young. He does not want to be told he can't have what he wants, or to be inconvenienced, or, worse, to be told his desires are wrong. This is where the Enemy's agents end up doing our work for us, Mildew, countless times!" Screwtape chortles. "Man is a creature of appetites, Mildew. Remember that."

"It is true," Screwtape continues with a shrug, "that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of "blastocysts," and "clumps of cells" and "surplus embryos." My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy "the moral high ground." Oh, the profits for us — "

"Do you think," says the uncle witheringly, "that people who believe that life on earth is the only one they have, that once they die there is nothing, that there are no consequences to their choices — one of Our Father Below's most successful slogans, by the way, choice — do you think, my boy, that they will hesitate if we give them the chance to cut and sew their medical destinies for the mere price of another's life? As Our Father pointed out to the Enemy during that unfortunate incident involving the man Job, "A person will give up everything in order to stay alive."

"The wonderful thing for us? It is increasingly easy to take that Enemy-given sense of intrinsic worth and twist it into cruel self-interest. With man's vanity, and a little medical breakthrough here and there, we can tempt them the prospect of a life without illness, inconvenience, or parasitical relatives. It will, for humans, be heaven on earth.""

Take time to read the whole piece.

(A Tip of the Hat to The Anchoress).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sinking Jawbones

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

One program on TV that I often enjoy watching is CSI. It is a modern ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys’ scenario using modern criminal forensic technology along with old-fashioned policework to solve crimes. The plots are generally well done and very dramatic with regularly scheduled twists. The script writers, however, can seldom resist insertion of gratuitous worldly philosophical assertions.

In one segment, a particular divorced female criminalist, a good guy, confesses with incredulity that it had been eight months since she had had sex. Of course, later in the show, she plays the co-seduction game with a male witness. At the end of the program she leaves the office ‘dressed to kill’ in route to a date with this man and, apparently, on the road to personal, nirvanic fulfillment. The tenor of the circumstance is that the viewing audience should be happy for her. Just groovy.

Even aside from what the Scriptures command concerning fornication and adultery–‘ Simpletons, turn in here, the road to Sheol’– this selfish action strains a few other less religious wisdoms. Perhaps I could write the remaining script. This hot-to-trot young gal contracts AIDS. She becomes a ‘Rocky Training Facility’ by this young man who cannot respect his newly acquired piece of meat. Her adolescent daughter becomes pregnant by a Las Vegas casino dealer who asserts that having sex will bring her total personal fulfillment– no zits.

Humans are indeed rational creatures. They can cleverly rationalize anything they want. There’s an old adage of the open-minded– ‘Whatever floats your boat.’ Just don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out. Although all boats definitely float, only one boat floats indefinitely; Noah’s Ark, floating for eternity upon the grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Smart Ass, Dumb Ass

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

“Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.

Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again.

Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"

Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."

The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"
"No," he said.

Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."”
(Numbers 22:21-32, NIV)

Balaam was a man of high repute in this area of the Middle East. He had been summoned by the king of a neighboring nation for assistance. The messengers sent would be akin to President Bush sending Condoleeza Rice to request someone for a tete-a-tete with the President of The United States. And there was a potential for a large monetary reward.

Balaam was a gifted, rational human. But, in his anger, it didn’t phase him that his donkey spoke to him in rebuke. Comically, Balaam was angered at this impudent upstart and argued with her. The donkey’s logic was soundly outwitting that of Balaam. Then as the angel was ‘uncloaked’, Balaam began to see that a common donkey saved his life.

We, too, are rational human beings, each gifted in some way. But, like Balaam, we generally become angry at the ‘donkeys’ in life that seem to be impeding our own narrow, self-serving ways. If the Lord, by His grace, opens our eyes in those times to see His mercy in sending those donkeys, we, too, would bow low and fall face down in gratitude.

Jawbones Askew

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

Regularly, in conversations with people one will hear questions (commonly resembling accusations) concerning God’s omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, justice, or love. Why do good people suffer or experience tragedy? How could God let catastrophic occurrences like the recent tsunami take place? Why would a God of love condemn someone to Hell’s torment for eternity?

In most cases, these questions are prime examples of the mind set of relativity. With this world view we erroneously subject life in this universe to our own created orthodoxy. When you live in a pig pen few things stink.

That which is conveniently absent from the relativist’s pattern of thought is sin. Euphemistically, sin’s edge is dulled by terms and phrases such as ‘mistakes’, ‘I’m only human’, and ‘to err is human’. Such a methodology is like assessing the catastrophic tsunami results as equal to the discomfort caused by flatulent bathtub bubbles. Sin kills. The virulent fruit of mankind’s sin include war, poverty, disease, crime, and death.

According to God’s standard, sin must be viewed in a somewhat different light. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NIV) Humanity’s status within this standard; “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV) Man’s unaided destiny; “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23a, NIV)

God paints a picture of our just deserts in His command to King Saul. “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15:3, NIV)

One cannot expect that any who suffer and die are more worthy of such judgment than anyone else. “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them– do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5, NIV)

From this world view, the questions asked in regular conversation would differ from those asked earlier. Why don’t all people suffer or experience the tragedy we deserve? Why don’t catastrophes happen more often? Why would a God of justice and love ever let any human into heaven?

God, Himself, has provided a way for unrighteous, worthless human beings to go to heaven and worship and enjoy Him forever. God, Himself, provided the sole means. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Open Mandible, Insert Metatarsals

We humans are interesting critters. It is said that we are rational creatures. (I’d better move along, ‘cause I feel an inspired spawning of jokes and anecdotes acomin’ on. And the first million of those are just on me.) Our thinking and planning rely quite heavily on probabilities and odds. This appears reasonable since few of us will claim prescience.

The reality of our condition, however, is that odds and probabilities are just guesses. Actually, there are only two accurate odds or probabilities, 100% and 0%. Although our limited knowledge, understanding, and wisdom cause us to propose shades of gray, the verity is of black or white. Yes, Virginia, there is an Absolute.

The foundations of this country were laid by a culture that acquiesced to the Absolute. It was also understood that no man or group could act as or stand in place of that Absolute. As a colony, this land served under a king. That monarch and his bureaucracy assumed authority as an absolute. This usurpation of Another’s power ultimately lead to a war of revolution. The colonist’s thoughts were stated in ‘The Declaration of Independence’. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

In effect, the Colonists’ Revolt was the antithesis of Israel’s demand to the prophet Samuel thousands of years before.

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."
But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."” (1 Samuel 8: 4-9, NIV)

The forthcoming warning about the desire and acceptance of an earthly absolute undergirds the reasoning of the colonists to reject such an absolute.

“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."” (1 Samuel 8: 10-20, NIV)

Now that’s taxation with willful forfeiture of representation.

The American revolutionaries cast off faith in a human absolute to turn and trust in the higher Absolute. The ensuing prosperity and growth parallels Israel’s growth and prosperity when they properly acknowledged the Absolute above themselves.

It is of some interest to note that it is not the type of government that is responsible for cultural decline. Death and decline follow the hearts of the people. When Israel asked for a king, their hearts were rejecting God in favor of a king. But when Israel’s, and their king’s, heart turned in repentance toward God, they prospered as a nation. America’s founders had this same heart and for this reason chose to reject a mortal king. These men understood that although the type of government chosen wasn’t the ultimate issue, but that great power given to imperfect humans opened the door to abuses through a multitude of temptations.

Nevertheless, the progress and success of a constitutional republic also depends upon the heart of its people. As the people, in accordance with incomplete knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, begin to exalt the gray of mankind over the black and white of the Absolute, things begin to drastically change.

Modernism arose with a decision that the grays could be eliminated and absolutes could be could be discovered by human rationality, logic, and effort in a closed universe. In this, not only did technology flourish, but also the grays in ethics and morality since the universe is as dumb as any box of rocks in discerning them.

Post-modernism and relativity rejected modernism’s supposed ability to eradicate the gray. By some means this religion expects man and society to successfully evolve through an amorphous mix of science, intuition, and emotion. Post-modernism attempts to eradicate the Absolute, forcing the black and white to be dissolved into the totally gray universe.

As the heart of the people chooses to place its faith in its own feelings, guesses, calculated odds, and mathematical probabilities, even a constitutional republic tends toward an absolute monarchy (or oligarchy) in that the vacuum created by rejection of the Absolute creates that ‘giant sucking sound’ as the inrushing struggles for raw power ensue.

America is undoubtedly the greatest nation on earth, maybe even of all time. As is every day, today is the day that our hearts must choose or reject the Absolute as king. To reject is to be like King Nebuchadnezzar of millennia past.

“All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"” (Daniel 4: 28-30, NIV)

“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” (Daniel 4: 33, NIV) (I aver that this pasture was also well manured, so Neb’s diet consisted of grass and....)

Then Nebuchadnezzar changed his choice of King.

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: "What have you done?"

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4: 34-37, NIV)

Our science has shown success since God created an orderly universe. Our advancements in medicine, communication, agriculture, transportation, and civil engineering have been truly remarkable. But science is neither the Absolute nor has it improved the fallen human nature.

Post-modernism has shown us that human logic and science haven’t been able to answer any of man’s most important questions such as the meaning of life. But post-modernism has succeeded in little but deconstructionism in religion, culture, tradition, knowledge, and history. It has, however, tended to produce a world full of competing worldviews by petty little gods creating their own truths and universes.

Yes, California, there is an Absolute– One more sure than gravity and more inevitable than death or taxes. So ya makes yer bets and takes yer chances, presumed odds and probabilities notwithstanding.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Fractured Jawbones

In the words of that great theologian, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" In John 17:22b, the Lord prayed, "that they may be one as we are one." Throughout the broader Christian community, within specific churches, and between individuals it seems as though Jesus' prayer has fallen upon deaf ears. The Body of Christ appears to be self-mutilating.

How can it possibly be that persons who are brought from death into life, saved from this present evil age, spared from the wrath to come, and by no merit of their own will spend eternity glorifying God and enjoying Him forever have so much trouble 'getting along'? Folks that only have one thing in common such as a favorite sports team seem to get on happily together for greater periods than Christians. How is this so? Two contributing factors could be listed. 1) Satan, his cohorts, and his implanted human tares have no pressing need to attack sports fans, but their hatred for Christ and His Church is immense. 2) Christians most often don't know the Word of God or are not as ‘spiritual’ as they may think. Since sanctification is ongoing, the old human nature lifts it ugly, religious head in thoughts, words, and actions.

Divisions within the Church fall into two main categories: 1) Those encompassing life and death issues and 2) those involving the growing pains of sanctification among the immature. In the epistle to the Galations, the Apostle Paul addresses a division of the former variety. Here he states that anyone that preaches a false Gospel of salvation, either by adding to or taking away from the Gospel which the Lord revealed to him, (salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ), deserves to go to Hell. In a cultural environment that is steeped in relativism and post-modernism, Paul's assertion doesn't go over well. In Paul's day, a major variation from his Gospel included circumcision in order to be saved. He refused all attempts to require Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised to 'get along' with those teaching the false gospel of faith and works for salvation. In our time and culture the works 'required' for salvation may include baptism, church attendance, giving, or even voting Republican. Although most of these actions will be done by one who is saved, they are not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The disunity involving this truth is a matter of eternal life or eternal damnation.

The second category of division, involving our incomplete sanctification while here on Earth, is addressed by Paul in the epistle to the Romans in chapter 14. Verse one states, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters." (NIV) Many divisions in churches and between individual believers abrogate the command in verse one. Either one 'strong' in faith demands his way, or the one 'weak' in faith demands his way concerning some disputable matter. (These demands, however, prove that both are 'weak' in faith.) In Paul's day some of these disputables included the eating of meat (it may have been sacrificed to idols) and considering one day more sacred than another. In our day these matters might include any of the multitude of cultural preferences; modes of dress, worship styles, child rearing techniques, socially acceptable activities, etc. The only requirement in participating in these nonessentials is that one does them for the Lord and gives Him thanks. Alternately, if one refrains from participating in them, he also refrains for the Lord and gives Him thanks. Meddling in these affairs of another in the name of spirituality is sinful. (This meddling smacks of irony within a culture of relativity and post-modernism!)

Paul appears to act in contradictory ways in reference to circumcision, but in reality he is battling both categories of division. As stated in Galations, he refused to require Titus to be circumcised to 'get along' with preachers of a false gospel in Jerusalem. In Acts chapter 16, Paul had Timothy circumcised 'because of the Jews who lived in that area.' With Titus, it was forbidden in order to deny that circumcision was required in order to be saved. With Timothy, it was allowed in order to become acceptable to those to whom the Gospel was to be preached-- to become all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some. "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts." 1 Cor. 7:19 (NIV)

The Lord is building His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it, our apparent disunity notwithstanding. We must give due diligence to keep the Gospel pure and pray to be able to discern our words and actions concerning disputable matters. We ultimately can be confident in this, "That he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6 (NIV)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In the Fiery Furnace

It is my prayer that my postings on this blog will bring glory to my God and Savior, my Lord Jesus Christ. I desire to accurately handle his Word and project it into this community of conversation. I would also wish to be used to build up His church and edify fellow believers.

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16b-18.(NIV)

May I join these three young men in their standard.