Tag Archives: church

Pro Choice Vs. Pro Life Logic


Disclaimer: This isn’t a comprehensive rebuke of the pro-choice position:

I got into a conversation this evening with someone taking up the dubious “pro-choice but personally opposed position.”  I thought I would share with you a bit of my reply.

The person I was dialoguing with said, “I don’t think you can label abortion right or wrong—it is merely unfortunate.”

It isn’t often that you get a softball when dialoging with abortion apologists, but this was a hanging curve.   Why would abortion be unfortunate?  Why exactly?  There must be a reason—and that must be a reason that the person thinks to be worthwhile, or they would have just said, “I wouldn’t have one, but I don’t care what others do.”  Notice, the person said it IS unfortunate.

I replied, “Your first point is noted; however, I could easily say, Eichmann and Goebbels didn’t enjoy killing Jews—that isn’t why they did it. They just worked for Hitler.”  Its not like it was their fault. They were just “following orders.”  How unfortunate for them!  I went on to say, “You would rightly note that such thinking is reckless and irrelevant.  They were guilty of actual crimes against humanity.”  But, what If I replied, “What crimes?  Nah, it was just unfortunate that they did that.”  How would they reply to that?  To what absolute would they point?  How do they know what is right or wrong?  By preference? By feeling?  In some countries, they love their neighbors.  In others, they eat them.  Do you have a preference?  Or is the latter just unfortunate?  This coincides with my friends previous statement that “Abortion is unfortunate.”  This is nothing more than relativism.

If things are just fortunate or unfortunate, there is no right, no wrong…No evil. Things just are.  Things are just unfortunate or not.

But here is the rub:  Why would a thing be unfortunate in the first place? In calling someont unfortunate, isn’t a person making a truth claim or a judgement by saying this? Why is abortion unfortunate, rather than just something that happens—arbitrarily in nature? I can think of no other reason to call it unfortunate except for the fact that the developing fetus might just in fact be a person—and we know that killing persons is wrong—whether on purpose or by accident. Can you think of another reason why an abortion would be unfortunate?  This is the problem with the “I’m pro-choice but personally opposed” fallacy.  Why would a person be personally opposed?  For what reason?  I can only think of one.

I noted that, “You go on to state that an abortion is between a woman and God.”  That is a VERY interesting line. In fact, I haven’t heard that phrase uttered by anyone on the pro-abortion side…EVER.  I commended them for it. What I often hear is, “It’s between a woman and her doctor.”

The truth is, when we bring God into the equation, we subject ourselves the world of absolutes. “It’s unfortunate” goes out the window when it comes to moral questions.  Therefore, the apologists for abortion cleverly remove the word God from the decision process.  When we enter this paradigm, what we personally believe about the morality of an issue doesn’t matter. Under a theistic paradigm, things are either right or wrong, regardless our relationship toward them.  Right exists whether we acknowledge it or not.  The same goes for wrong.  They are ontological categories.  If a thing is right, it is right even if we do not acknowledge that it is right.

But back, to the initial issue,  my friend was basically saying, “Just because you have a religious qualm with abortion, that doesn’t mean that the federal government should be able to legislate.” So, I applied the same logic to another issue: “Just because you have a religious qualm with slavery doesn’t mean that the federal government should legislate against it.” Do you see the problem? If our religious convictions can be pushed aside, then what are we left with?  If God is taken away, all we have left is man and the State.  That is a precarious position to be in.

And even at that, the use of the word “shouldn’t” invokes the absolue.  Why?  Is slavery wrong or is it just something that we “shouldn’t” do?  Why “should” the federal government legislate against slavery?  Who says?

In a relativistic framework, one could say, “I’d personally rather they didn’t keep slaves,” but they cannot say “shouldn’t.” Why?

Could it be because we know that things are either good or evil?  If that is so, how long will we continue to call abortion unfortunate?

Here are the basic questions of abortion:

Does abortion take a life?  I’d argue, yes.  Some might reply, “But we don’t know that a fetus is a life.”

In this case, there are only have 4 possibilities:

  1. The fetus is a life and you know it
  2. The fetus is not a life and you know it.
  3. The fetus is a life and you do not know it.
  4. The fetus is not a life and you do not know it.

Only one of those justifies an abortion.  The problem is, no embryology text supports #2.  So you are left with 1, 3, and 4.

How many potential babies will we allow to be murdered based on an agnostic (1, 3, or 4) position?

If a baby might just be under a haystack/or not—would you feel comfortable jabbing a pitchfork into it to find out?

Not a chance.

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GK Chesterton, TRUMP, CLINTON, the 2016 election, and the Medical Fallacy

TRUMP and CLINTON (hey, it was in the title).

Throughout the presidential campaign of 2016 we have heard a recurring theme:

“Our country is sick.  It needs to be made well.  Vote for me and I will provide the remedy it needs.  I will bring the healing that our country needs.”

There has been no shortage of rhetoric like this on either side of the political divide.

According to the inimitable G.K. Chesterton, however, this is a fallacy.  He terms this the Medical Fallacy.  How can politicians pontificate about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is of the most disputed issues in all of academia?  One side of the ideological divide defines well in one way, while the other defines it differently.

What is seen as a remedy by one side of the political spectrum will be seen as an exasperation of the original problem to the other.  This whole business of talking about “well” and “sick” is patently absurd.  It is play on emotions.  It is like invoking balls and strikes when talking about football.  Only in medicine and science can this terminology be used.

Why you might ask?  In medicine, we agree on what a well body looks like.  We agree on what good is.  The disagreement comes when it concerns malady.  In politics and social science, we agree on what bad looks like—we disagree on what constitutes the good.

That is a profound problem.

To give you an analogy, Chesterton makes this grand point:   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less.


Never will that man find himself under the scalpel of a doctor, and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Don’t fall for fallacies.  Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense just because it is uttered by an “intellect” or a “smart” politician.

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Worship: Spirit and Truth. What it is and isn’t.

Ravi Zacharias is absolutely correct when he says of worship, “It is the sense and service of God.”  What does that mean?  I want to address today an issue that has become quite controversial in the church.  What is that issue?  Worship.

You hear countless sermons today on music—whether it be contemporary or traditional. Organs or guitars, choirs or praise teams—and how Christians are tearing each other’s eyes out over their particular tastes.  The truth is, music isn’t worship.  Anyone who tells you it is wants you to believe a lie.  Music can be used in worship, it can be a vehicle of worship—but it isn’t worship itself.
In Chapter 4 of the book of John, Jesus gives us an incredible picture of worship though the way he deals with a prostitute.  This is a very loose woman—basically—she wouldn’t be welcomed into most of our churches today (that’s for another day).  It is in this context that Jesus tells us about worship.  Present in the dialogue are a few issues:  First there is Hunger.  Jesus is hungry and the disciples have left to get food.  Jesus is thirsty.  He is at the well looking for something to drink.  We see racial tensions.  A Jew isn’t supposed to talk to a Samaritan.  We see sexual tension.  A man shouldn’t talk to this woman, and this woman shouldn’t be a prostitute.  It is in the midst of this madness that Jesus teaches us about what worship is. Why?  Quite simply, if we ever get God right, the stuff we spend so much time trying to fix, will take a whole lot less time fixing.
Jesus has confronted this woman with her sin.  He tells her in verse 16, “Go call your husband,” and in verse 17, she says, “I have no husband,” and then Jesus replies in verse 18 (my paraphrase), “You got that right—you have 5!”  So what does she do when confronted with her sin?  She does what nearly anyone does when confronted with their sin and the holiness of God:  She skirts the issue.  She dances around it.  She obfuscates.

She wants to move on to the subject of religion.

We need to look at a number of things that are important to realize when it comes to worship:

The first issue to understand is the importance of worship.  At the end of verse 23, Jesus says, “For such people, the father seeks to be His worshippers.”  Why is worship important?  It’s simple:  God is looking for it.  He is looking for authentic worship and sincere worshippers.  It is implied here that these worshippers that God is looking for are hard to find.  We have to realize this though:  Just because God is looking for them doesn’t mean he needs them.  He doesn’t need worshippers, he deserves worshippers.

Psalm 148 says:

]Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens,
And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord…

When it comes to human beings, worship is a conscious choice.  When it comes to nature, worship is automatic.  God created you to be a worshipper, but he seeks you to see if you will fulfil the reason for which you were created—to worship God.  What is worship?

Tony Evans says, “Worship is the celebration of God for who God is and what God has done.”  It is all that I am paying supreme homage to all that God is.  The implication is that worship is recognizing above all, who God is.  We must recognize God as God.  When people worship, but don’t recognize God as God, he isn’t being worshipped.  Worship isn’t taking place.

What is the object of worship?  Verses 23 and 24 say: 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is [e]spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God is the object of our worship—but not a God you make up.  He is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many groups who say they are worshipping, but the God they are worshipping isn’t the father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This isn’t worship.  God is the father of all creation.  Even nonbelievers recognize that.  He is the Father of the saints.  We recognize that as Christians.  But it is the fact that He is the father of Jesus Christ that makes him unique.

If we miss Christ, we miss the Father.

God is also sprit.  You can’t worship God first with your body.  His essence is not corporeal.  This means his is not material.  He is a person, but he has no visible body.  He is an invisible person.  If you are going to worship him, you must begin in the invisible part of you.  It is possible to be physically in the place of worship, but not have the requisite heart of worship.  God is spirit, and he is dealing with the invisible realm, not the visible.

To put it simply, you may have the look of worship.  You may have the smell of worship.  You may have the right clothes on.  You may have the hand movements of worship.  You may even have the right hairstyle or clap on the right beat.  Get this right though:  If all God gets is your body, you are not worshipping God in spirit.  If you aren’t worshipping God in spirit, you aren’t worshipping at all.

Some people will tell you that they don’t feel that they have worshipped unless their body moves.  Ultimately, they are saying, “Worship is about how I feel.”  This is wrong.  Worship is about how God feels when we are done.   Unless your spirit moved, it doesn’t matter what your body did.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the physical can and should be an important part of our worship to God, but it isn’t the most important.  The most important is the spirit.

I see people all the time:  They stand up but don’t sing.  “I don’t like that song,” or “I don’t like that type of music.” When I see this, I want to remind them that God would say, “Hey!  I thought you were singing to me!”  To refuse to sing because you don’t like the song dismisses the fact that God may like to have that song sung to Him!  Who are you or I to choose?  Is the role of the choir to sing to you?  No!  Its purpose is to sing to God.  If you are only coming for you and to sing the songs you like, and to see things that you want to see—you aren’t worshipping God.  You are asking God to worship you.

The barometer is this:  At the end of the benediction, if God doesn’t applaud—something has gone wrong.  God is to be glorified, not us.

You see, God has intrinsic glory.  What does this mean?  Well, if you put a robe on a guy, he becomes a judge.  If you put a white coat on him, he is a doctor.  If you put dress blues on a man, he becomes a marine.  This is ascribed glory. If you take any of those men, and strip him down and put rags on him—he becomes a bum.  Ascribed glory is only given based on a set of circumstances—and it is temporary.  This is not what God is.  God is intrinsically glorious.  This means that His glory is and cannot be taken.  As wet is to water or blue is to sky, Glory is to God.  It is intrinsic.

The next issue is what could be called, the spheres of worship.  In verse 20 we see the woman say, 21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

What Jesus says is that first of all, worship is not a place.  Worship is a state.  It isn’t first about where you are, it is about who you are.  If your life isn’t a continuous act of worship, showing up on Sunday at a building with a steeple is worth nothing.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul says that “your body is a temple,” the church of the living God.  Put it this way, you don’t go to church—you are church!  If the spirit of God is in you, you couldn’t leave church if you wanted to. The question isn’t about what is happening at the local church house, the questioning is what is going on in your internal church—the one that is open for business 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  If you think that church is only on Sunday and ends at noon, then you are missing the point in a major way.  Worship is a way of life, not a place you go to.  Why wasn’t Daniel fazed when the edict was sent out that he couldn’t pray?  Today we would gather together and have a prayer service if our religious rights were challenged like that.  Daniel didn’t have to have a prayer meeting.  His life was a prayer meeting.

The reason many of us are messed up is because the only time we are in church is on Sunday.  If we could learn that being in church and worshipping really means us being the people God wants us to be, then we would always be worshipping.  We wouldn’t necessarily need a pastor or a choir—we would be the pastor and the choir.  When worship is real, you become alive.  It becomes like the engine or the car that drives your life!  It becomes your oxygen source.

If the only time we break into praise through song is on Sunday, or if the only time we open His word is on Sunday—or if the only time we fellowship with other believers is on Sunday—why is it any wonder that we are anemic Christians?   Worship isn’t a mountain or Jerusalem.  Worship is you!   It has to be you.  The spirit of God dwells in you!

What about the problems in church when it comes to worship styles?  I will tell you this:  Anyone who has no problem worshipping in private, will have no problem worshipping corporately.    Why?  You haven’t defined worship by a once a week meeting.  You have defined it by John 4—your relationship with God.  Daniel worshipped in private, that is why he could stand boldly and face the consequences of his actions—and beat them.

This is why the Psalmist says, “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same.  The name of the Lord deserves praise.”  Your life is worship.

It isn’t about reading a verse day.  It isn’t about a prayer you recite before a meal that you could say backwards and still not mean what you are saying.  No.  It is about saying, “God, I fall down at your feet and I adore you.  I sense your presence and I devote my life to serving you!”

When we understand that the meat we cut on our plate was derived from an animal that God made, or when we realize the tea in our glass was made from water and leaves that God made—when we realize the table our food and tea sit on was cut from a tree that god fashioned—we will be able to say, “God, I adore you.  You are worthy of all praise.”

The final issue is the essence of worship.  Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  To put it clearly, if we are going to worship God corporately and privately, then our worship must be both authentic and accurate.  What do I mean?  It must be authentic in your spirit and accurate in his truth. Spirit refers to our attitude, and truth refers to information.

God is spirit.  What this means is that God is both an invisible, immaterial reality.  You can’t see him because there is no matter.  There is no matter because he is invisible.  Reality doesn’t require matter.  Because God is spirit, for us to link our spirits to his, there must be a person with a spirit who is pursuing his.  It doesn’t stop there.  The person pursuing him must be pursuing him as truth—as the truth revealed in scripture and in the flesh as Jesus.  What I am saying is that we cannot make God in our image and expect him to cooperate with our idea of worship.  We are made in his image, and we must worship God as truth.

The implication is:  The better you know God, the better you worship.  Truth exists.  There is the true One—God, and there is the true Word—the Bible.  We know God because we have relationship with him and because he has revealed himself in his word.  Unless we know God personally through the truth of his being, and know about God through the truth of his word, we cannot know him.  If we don’t know him, we can’t worship him.

This is why we see so many churches in America today—doing nothing.  Some people want an exciting service of worship, but they don’t want truth.  Some want all the truth, but they want no excitement in worship.  One is emotionalism and the other is dead orthodoxy. Both are wrong.

We are to worship God and serve him out of desire.  It is what we are made to do, and when we begin to know God, it becomes what we want to do.

If my anniversary came around and I bought my wife flowers and when I presented them to her I said, “Because you expect this, and because it is my obligation as your current husband, I got you these,” I guarantee you that they would be thrown back in your face.  We give gifts because we want to.  It is the nature of love to delight one’s self in the other.

This is a desired duty.

If we sense God without serving him, it isn’t worship.  If we serve God without sensing Him, it is drudgery.  God wants your heart and your hands.  Not just one or the other.

Many of us don’t get this.   This is why you see church members who are sanctimonious in the church building but snakes in the parking lot.  Many of these people act as if there is some magic spell in the walls of the church or some magic balm that has been applied to the pulpit.  No.  If we don’t start to worship outside of the church, we will never be able to worship him inside it.  If in the church we sing, “Have thine own way,” and then out in the parking lot we hear, “Get outta my way,” we have just witnessed a religious show that is neither based in spirit or truth.

As Tony Evans notes, “The fuel of worship is God, the furnace of worship is man, but the fire of worship is the Holy Ghost.”

Some of us may not be there yet.  That is ok—so long as we are willing to go there.

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Ferguson and Injustice

A reportedly unarmed male is killed.  The killing took place at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.  That is all we know.  We don’t know if there was a confrontation, or if the young man provoked the officer in a threatening manner—or if the police officer is a card carrying racist targeting young black men—or anything.  All we know is a young man is dead and he was killed by a police officer.

The first issue that seems fairly obvious as controversial is the hidden identity of this police officer.  It is strange that the name of this officer hasn’t been released, along with any pictures of his injuries.  Surely if things happened in the way that some reports have suggested, this cop would have some signs of a struggle or a beating.  We have yet to see any.

On the other hand, people are quick to assume that the deceased was innocent and the perpetrator is guilty.  I don’t know if we have all the information in place to make such an inference.  Correlation as they say, doesn’t equal causation.  We are basically told by the media that the white guy is guilty, and the black guy is innocent.  This same media tells us that there are no white and black issues…well except when it comes to race.

What facts do we know?  Well, for starters, we know that peaceful protests have turned into all out riots.  This place has been demolished, not only by the citizens of Ferguson, but by people from out of town as well.  This has become an excuse for an orgy of theft, vandalism, the use of Molotov cocktails, and general mayhem.  The reason, they would tell you—is that someone was killed unjustly.  They are protesting for justice sake.  Very well.

The other fact that we know is that the Ferguson police have arrived on the scene as if they were taking on ISIS—well, except we don’t and supposedly won’t have boots on the ground in Iraq.  It looks like a Marine Corps assault unit.  We have tanks, riot gear, short barreled M-16’s, gas, and armored personnel carriers—oh you know—the usual stuff you see on a foreign battlefield.   Since when are police allowed to carry on in a manner that mirrors an elite fighting force—aimed at civilians?  I mean, in what universe do the police justify unleashing gas on a news crew?  What about the arrest of 2 reporters inside a Ferguson McDonalds?

Those are the facts—non peaceful protests and an over militarized and unnecessarily forceful police force.  Trust me when I say, there is enough blame to go around here for such a reaction.

The first question we must ask is about the nature of justice itself.  Consider: 

If you have never read the remarkable letter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail, I urge you to read it. He wrote this letter from memory, with no resources to use. It is incredibly profound. One of the most emotional moments of the letter to me is when he says toward the end of the letter:

 “There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.”

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

The church is failing in the culture—indeed. We expect the culture to live a certain way—and measure up to a certain standard (God’s standard)—but how can they? They don’t know him. Why would we expect them to be good, if they are incapable of being good? You and I are incapable of it apart from Christ.

Here is the problem—Jesus said:

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [1]

 So, in this exchange, Jesus says, “Who do you (plural) say that I am?”  Notice that the response comes from the spokesman of the group, Peter.  He is not speaking only for himself, but for the group.  He correctly identifies him as the Christ.  When Jesus responds to Peter, he isn’t only talking to Peter, he is speaking to the group.  He calls him Peter or “petros,” which means single stone.  He then says upon this rock (petra), “I will build my church…”  A “petra” is a large mass of stones—like a slab or a very large rock.  A “petra” is greater than a “petros.”  No matter how good a leader one is, God always designs to use a collective group of believers to accomplish his will.  It takes a community of believers to fix injustices run amuck like this. 

 Now—the point I want to make in regard to this situation in Missouri is that, the passage says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Basically, what Jesus is saying it, “If you are doing my work, hell will be losing.  If you aren’t doing my work, hell will be winning.”

If you look at the state of the church and the state of society, what would be accurate?  That hell is winning or that heaven is winning?  If we have tons of churches in every town, all these pastors, millions of deacons, lots of choirs, tons of programs—and hell is still winning—what does that tell you?  As Tony Evans says, “There must be a dead monkey on the line somewhere.”

We have become so conditioned in our society to look to government to solve our problems.  We are kind of like Humpty Dumpty.  He had a great fall.  This implies that he was resourceful enough to make it to the top of the wall.  But, what happens?  All the kings horses and all the kings men are called in.  There is no way that broken men can fix broken men.

The solution comes by way of Christ. We are guilty—we have indeed sinned. We are separated from God, and we are guilty. God is completely just, yet he is completely merciful. Now—if you think about it—this is a challenge for God: To be completely just and also completely merciful. As humans we extend mercy at the expense of justice, and we extend justice at the expense of mercy. We cannot have it both ways. We are guilty before a just God. What does he do? Well, he exercises both his mercy and justice. How? Through His son Jesus on the cross. He inflicts justice through Christ, therefore, giving us mercy. The debt must be paid. When justice is removed from a civilization, all hope is lost. God is fully just. He is fully merciful. God does not extend mercy to you and me at the expense of justice—but rather—through it—on the cross—through his son Jesus Christ.

As I think about the voluminous cry for equality—I can’t help but notice that we are already equal. We are sinful—and we need saving.

Consider what Oliver Sacks says in the book Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness- and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost.”

So how is our world responding?

We have reports that say that the Pentagon has fueled this escalation.  St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013, a Missouri public safety official confirmed Thursday.  Want more?  Why don’t you take a look at this.  You could accurately say that the Obama doctrine of “No boots on the ground” is being followed.  Instead, they are putting “wheels on the ground,” and “gas in the air.”  This program called the 1033 program, was created by Congress in the 1990’s.  the motto?  “From warfighter to crimefighter.”  That sounds like some kind of a horror movie involving cyborgs.  Since the creation of the 1033 program by Congress in the early 1990s, the program has distributed $4.3 billion of excess equipment, ranging from innocuous office supplies to bomb-disposing robots and other advanced technology. The flood of military supplies — along with the continuing drug war and grant programs from other federal agencies that provide military-style equipment — has pushed the culture of police forces far from its law-enforcement roots. 

Feel good now?

What is most frightening is that until this incident, many on the left have been giving a full throated support for such armament by the police.  In fact, any American who argued that their constitutional right to carry weapons was indeed needed for occasions like this, or worse—were called conspiracy theorists.  Now, it seems all the left is doing is quoting the constitution!  The Atlantic, a left wing rag is incensed at this action by the police.  Newsweek, a left leaning publication, is now detailing the history on how “American police became an Army.”  The left wing’s venerable New Yorker is decrying the violation of innocent civilian constitutional rights by a militarized police force.

I hate to point this out, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Do you remember a junior Senator from Illinois—who in 2008 promised that as president:  “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” 

Doesn’t sound familiar?  How about the video?  Obama’s civilian security force.   Now, granted, up until this point—in terms of fulfilling his lofty “hope and changey” campaign promises, this may be his first telling of the truth. 

Obama’s delayed response to this matter, amidst his vacationing while the world is burning has many people upset.  It is a fact that by years end, Barack “Eldrick” Obama will have overtaken the amount of golf rounds that Tiger woods has played since 2009.  All this while the economy is virtually dead, Obamacare is flopping, millions are out of the work force, and Islam is gaining a stranglehold on world politics.

To further confound and add fuel to this literal fire, there are also accusations of racial profiling by Ferguson police even before this shooting. While black residents accounted for 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, black drivers accounted for more than 86 percent of the traffic stops made last year by the Ferguson Police Department, according to a report produced by the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.  And the majority of the traffic stops (92 percent) that ended with arrests involved black drivers.

While this seems to be unfortunate—in nearly every other situation in society, the left argues that there should be proportional representation of all minorities!  Why is it when crime rates are released, suddenly proportional representation is not a virtue?  Despite the cries of racism—which have mainly been forwarded by the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the perpetual race merchants have shown up on the scene; and, rather than receive a warm welcome, they have been all but attacked themselves.  It seems that the black community, who rightly decries injustice—at the same time—decries this faux sympathy for their community by those who are more concerned with their television persona than they are with really tackling issues head on. 

  To make matters worse, the NEW Black Panther Party is in the area and encouraging violence.  I think the black community at large—though we may differ on a variety of issues—are genuinely opposed to the inflammatory and continuous urging of the Black Panthers to enter into violence.  While they surely are making these decisions to riot on their own, it cannot help when those who have been ‘propped up’ as leaders in the black community are urging violence. 

What are the solutions?  This is  a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.  That cop didn’t wake up that morning thinking to himself, “I want to kill a black man.”  The victim of this violence didn’t wake up saying, “I want to challenge the police today.”  Until we know the facts we cannot know exactly what happened.  What we do know is that one life is over, and an entire community is affected.  On the other side, a police officer will forever have his life changed by this situation. 

I think one solution for now would be to end this over armament of the police.  Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senator, says to “demilitarize the cops.”  I think he is right.  I also think that the black community at large should refrain from looting.  It is a completely justifiable and rational position to be abhorred at both the rioting and looting, but at the same time be abhorred by the actions and methods employed by the police in Ferguson. 

I think the real solution is going to be a systematic and intentional move by the church writ large to invest in these communities.  We need to change men from the inside out, not from the outside in.  We can put all the structures in place, and all the laws in the world—but man will still be sinful.  Until we decide to take these matters seriously, we will only treat symptoms—we will never treat the root cause.

I understand that in saying this, I am forwarding what some would call a “constrained” view of humanity.  We are constrained by our fallen nature.  No matter what is done, our fallen nature cannot be fixed by man himself.  This is in contrast with the “unconstrained” view of humanity.  Man is inherently good here—and it is the society at large that contributes to his downfall.  If we fix the society, we can fix man.  If we can produce heaven on earth, man will be perfect.

When I stop and think about the statement:  “Why did an innocent kid die,.” My answer is, “no one is innocent.”  God alone is good.  We are fallen.  Since we live in a fallen world, we should expect to see things like this.  Be this as it may, it never quite prepares us for it, and we all notice that such a thing is evil.  Evil has three dimensions.  There is the fact of evil, the face of evil, and the feeling of evil.  No matter what side of this situation you fall on, we all recognize that evil has taken place.  A life is over. 

I understand that this is utterly depressing.  I truly feel that we are constrained by our sin.  The only solution comes by way of Christ.  Until we are ready to share that with a fallen man—the kind of things we see in Missouri from both the police and the rioters—and in terms of innocent victims being slain—will only get worse.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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Faith or Repentance? Which one should we proclaim?

I have a serious question that I want to put forth. Here goes: Can the gospel be effectively presented without any reference to repentance? What is repentance? It has been defined by one theologian in this way: “Literally a change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a sinful course of action to God…Such a change is the fruit of Christ’s victory over death.”

I think from that definition we can see that a true and genuine salvific faith will be accompanied by genuine repentance (Acts 20:21). I don’t see how it could be consistent to proclaim a salvation that preaches faith in God without repentance. Even in other parts of the Gospel, repentance is given such importance that it is stressed over saving faith itself—“there is joy in Heaven among the angels over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7).” Even the apostles talked about the conversion of Gentiles to Christ as God giving them “repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).” I think it is safe to say that repentance and faith in Christ are inseparable, even though a new convert may be more aware of one aspect or the other.

The question: Can you truly repent without putting faith in Christ? Can you truly put faith in Christ without repenting?

We must keep in mind that this repentance is not the same wrongheaded repentance that we see with Pharaoh in Exodus, Saul in 1 Samuel, or Judas in Matthew. Perhaps the best example of faulty repentance is found in the story of the “Prodigal Son.” You know the story; the young man goes to the far country after having demanded his inheritance. When he gets there, he spends it all and finds himself poor in the middle of a regional economic depression. He hires himself out to a pig farmer in hopes of being able to eat the pig feed. No such luck. He finds himself in quite a predicament. He is hungry. Now, what is the most basic need we must meet in life? Simply put: the quenching of thirst and hunger. It is hunger that makes the boy begin to think. He even begins to contrive a story that he decides he will tell his father—in hopes of ingratiating himself with Dad and becoming a servant so he can repay his debt. This is referred to in Luke as “coming to his senses.” Literally, this means, “he got smart.” Now—what has he gotten smart about? I submit that he hasn’t gotten smart, and realized he wronged his Dad. He is driven by the desire to have one thing: Food! He wants to cure the pain in his stomach. He knows that if he becomes a slave or servant he WILL be fed. This repentance is nothing more than his realization that he can get paid and have food if he will go home. This repentance is driven by his hunger. It is driven by what the boy wants. We don’t see REAL repentance until after the humble act of the father running to meet the boy, and giving him a kiss of reconciliation. Until then, the boy’s repentance is just driven by food.

Is this the kind of repentance we need to preach? I argue emphatically, NO! I fear it IS what we preach, however. Have you heard this before: I know there is a lot of pain in your life…come to Christ and it will be remedied? Or how about: I know life is tough, finances are low, and you have nothing…Come to Christ and be filled? What do both of these appeals rest on? Our happiness—our satisfaction—our repose. It is as if; to some people, Christ is seen as the way to get happy. I submit that Christ is not in the business of making us happy. If he was, and God is perfectly just, if we ever experienced sadness or pain as a Christian, it would be proof of his non-existence! I agree with C.S. Lewis who in his inimitable fashion proclaimed: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.” If our coming to Christ is to find happiness, we will be let down. At the first sign of unhappiness, we will lose faith.

So, what should we proclaim? I think it is simple. Jesus is God, He died on the Cross for OUR sins, and he rose again on the 3rd day. Now, what do we have to do to take advantage of this provision? Well, I will tell you this: Contrary to popular opinion, Christ demands more than just our availability. He demands a metamorphous of life. He demands that we become infected by his “good infection.” He demands that our very spiritual DNA be altered. He demands a new creature with a new mind.

This concerns how we think, what we feel, and what we do. The problem is, Christ doesn’t command us to think a certain way, feel a certain thing, or do anything specifically. This is the error of many of the world religions—and many versions of the Gospel, for that matter. They focus on the epistemological, the existential, or the pragmatic. It isn’t about what we think, what we feel, or what we do.

Yet, then again, it is.

Look—our repentance isn’t an isolated act that spurs a type of predictable behavior. It isn’t like when I repent, my repentance culminates in my going to the Philippines to perform free circumcisions on poor infants. No! I don’t automatically begin reciting doctrinal statements and thinking up new philosophical proofs for God’s existence. No! And, I most certainly will not begin to stretch out with my feelings and encounter the force, as if I were a Jedi Knight. No!

While it is true that knowing Christ is the most intellectually stimulating knowledge that there is, I am not commanded to think anything. While there is no more exhilarating feeling than the feeling we experience in Christ’s presence, I am not commanded to ‘feel’ anything. And most certainly, even though Jesus said, “You will know the true Christians by what they DO,” I am not commanded to do anything.

Our repentance is a change of “stuff.” Our mind changes. Our wants change. Our actions change. Our spiritual DNA is altered. We become infected by the “good infection.” Do you get it? Whatever happens after our change is prompted by God’s work in our lives—not by us. Our change affects what we WANT to do—it affects what we think about—and if affects why we do things. It even affects our interpretation of the word “happy”—it redefines our idea of self, being, or autonomy.

An example: If someone is healthy and then all of a sudden they find out they have—AIDS. What happens? Well, to begin with, they take stock of things they have never thought of before. They think about T-Cells, White Blood Cells, pay more attention to hygiene, and become a part of a community who is infected by AIDS. Now—when a person gets AIDS, do they really become interested in epidemiology, biology, people, hygiene, or health care? No. It is the infection that changes their priorities. Their ‘want’ to live drives what they view as important. It isn’t that they just grow interested in those things. Are they any different than they were 1 minute before their diagnosis? No! It is the knowledge of their change that prompts a new life.

In the same way, when we come to Christ, we aren’t necessarily any more interested in doctrinal statements than we were before, but because we love God, some of us see a change in mind—or growth in desire in that area. Some of us begin to have a calling toward missions. Does that mean that we necessarily want to go to remote parts of the world where our life may be demanded of us any more than we used to? No. What it means is, when our mind changes, we become interested in pleasing God—no matter the area—and no matter the risk.

We are driven by love.

What does it mean to love? To love is to bind one’s self to another. What is the point of love? Well, simply put: it is to delight one’s self in the other.

Let’s supposing, I was on my way home from a long trip. When I get home, I knock on the door and my wife answers. From behind my back I produce a boquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. When my wife says, “Oh John, you shouldn’t have,” I say, “It was my duty to bring you these!” How would she respond?

Now, what if the same situation happened; and in addition to the flowers and chocolates, I have now arranged a babysitter for the night. I tell her, “I have been away, and there is nothing more that would make me happy than to see you smile. I have bought tickets to the movie you wanted to see, and secured reservations at your favorite restaurant. There is no one I would rather spend tonight with than you!” Would it or would it not be weird if she responded: “Make you happy? Why does everything always have to be about you? Why are you always thinking about yourself? Why can’t you ever think about me?” It would be weird because it is the nature of love to delight ourselves in the other. Because I love my wife, I make decisions that are driven by that love. It isn’t that I want to go to a movie, or eat out—on the contrary—it is because I love her and know she likes those things, that I like them too—because I want her to be happy.

It is the same with God.

Our repentance prompts a change in our lives that recalibrates our idea of “happiness,” what we think about, what we feel, and what we want to do. They are all driven by a desire to please God—or to delight ourselves in Him. You could call this Christian hedonism. A desire for pleasure in making God happy.

Now—here is another question: Will we look different than the rest of culture? Answer: absolutely! If we are infected by the “good infection,” would it be questionable if our lives mirrored that of the culture? If we dressed the same, talked the same, thought the same, and invested in the same things: What would this imply? It would imply that we were delighting ourselves not in God—but elsewhere. What is that elsewhere? It is the idol of self. It is humanism. If our drive to pleasure and happiness is based in ourselves, our ideas, our wants, or even in our ‘faith,’ it is faulty.
I bet I caught you off guard with ‘faith.’ Look—if I preach a gospel that says, all you have to do to gain eternal life is have faith in God—you don’t have to do anything—just believe in God. Just trust that God is there. What am I elevating? Not God. I am elevating faith itself. Does God call us to be faithians? Does he call us to give our lives to our faith? No!

Why would we be so ignorant as to have faith in our faith? It sounds silly but it happens all around us.

Consider:  “Faith is believing what you want to believe, yet cannot prove.”

The truth is, many Christians think that is the definition of the word faith. For some it feels liberating. It means being able to believe in anything you want to believe. No explanation is required, indeed, no explanation can be given; it is just a matter of faith. For others, such a definition is sickening. Embracing faith means you stop thinking. As faith increases, reason and meaning eventually disappear. No explanations can be given, and none can be expected. Thus, living in faith is living in the dark.

If you look at both groups, they are experiencing the same problem. By using a wrongheaded definition of faith, they ask the wrong questions, deal with the wrong questions—and ultimately, end up with the wrong answer. Faith isn’t wishful thinking. It isn’t about believing myths or untruths. It neither makes all things believable—nor does it make meaning impossible.

What is the right definition of “faith?” “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” writes the author of Hebrews. A few verses later faith is similarly defined as knowing that God exists and that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Maybe the best word we can use to translate “pistis” (the greek word) is the word “trust” or “trustworthy.” Suppose you say you have faith in the government. What does that mean? It means two things. First, you are sure the government actually exists. And second, you are convinced the government is trustworthy; you can believe what it says and trust it will do right.

It is in this way that the writer of Hebrews talks about faith in God. Faith is knowing that God is real and that you can trust in God’s promises. You cannot trust someone who isn’t there, nor can you rely on someone whose promises are not reliable. This is why faith is talked about as the substance of things hoped for and as the evidence of things not seen. Both words carry with them a sense of reality. Our hope is not wishful thinking.

Get this straight: Faith does not make God real. On the contrary, faith is the response to a real God who wants to be known to us:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5-6).

So, we are changed because of faith and repentance. Because of our faith, we are changed when we repent. Because we repent, and God changes us, our faith is secured. Because of our faith, we are willing to repent and then we are changed. Do you see? They are both necessary.

If we separate faith from repentance or vice versa, we are not preaching the gospel. We are in danger of what Paul talks about in Galatians: Preaching a gospel that is no gospel at all.

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