No! Non! Nein! Nyet! NO!

You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

Pope Francis

I have a serious problem with this statement.  God is Just.  God MUST be just or He is not completely perfectly righteous.  If someone doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t seek the walk of faith, then they have no part in heaven.  It seems completely unfair since not everyone has a chance to hear the Gospel, but God is just.  His law is not negotiable, nor does it make special exceptions or exemptions for acts of good conscience.  You can not work your way into God’s grace and mercy because we are unrighteous, unholy beings and everything we do on our own is tainted by our sin-state.

This thinking that we have any say in our salvation aside from acceptance of and adoration for the Savior Himself is the essence of sin itself – it is selfish pride – that we can be good enough!

Ha!  If it came from someone lesser, it wouldn’t offend me as much… but still… I’m sorry if you like Pope Francis, but on this HE. IS. WRONG.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

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Symptoms and Birthpains

I have struggled with speaking up on this issue.  My struggle was not one where I thought my positions were contrary to the Word of God.  It wasn’t because it was a difficult topic to address because if you have read this for any length of time, you’ll know that I am willing to say the harsh truth if necessary.  My struggle wasn’t with any person or group.  My struggle was with my own guilt – I am a sinner, and as I have written before, if you have broken God’s law once, you have broken all of it.

I hesitated to wade into this issue because I was clouded with anger over it, but I have recently realized that my angry was misplaced.  My anger was not wrong or sinful and I believe it was and is still a righteous anger.

What issue could have me so hesitant and angry all at once?

What issue would the world tell me I’m not allowed to have a valid opinion about because I lack the necessary anatomy to fully understand it from the right perspective?

Abortion.

Don’t stop reading now though. I am not going to wax for pages on this as others have already well-worn the Biblical arguments against it. I just want to ask a few simple questions.

Has abortion-on-demand had a cultural impact since it’s nationwide legalization and inception in the 1970s?

Has that impact been a cheapening of the value of life within our society?

Could that lessened value have a negative impact as the generation that is in the thirties or below have not known a country without such “convenience” at terminating life that does not fit into one’s “plans?”

Could that very loss of value that life has historically had within Western Civilization be the causal reason why men like Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen feel that they can get away with the wholesale slaughter of viable infants, including those born alive, not in an act of surgical birth control, but of mass murder of the worst degree – infanticide?

How can the world say that I cannot take a stand against evil – against murder?

How can I not burn with righteous anger as the horrors of the Gosnell abortion case came to light?

Now what should we do about it?

There are some that believe we should picket outside of abortion providers’ offices.

Some believe that we should fight this battle in the legislature and judiciary.

Some believe that we should fight this battle in the court of public opinion.

I believe that while those tactics have their valid places, they will not succeed in the face of one simple fact.  The houses of horror that they are designed to counter will not be swayed by such temporal, human weakness.

Are you ready for the answer?

I wasn’t.

Love.

Not human love though as our love is tainted with selfishness, pride, and jealousy.

We must ask God to pour into us His love.  We must shine the light of Christ, the infinite, forgiving, all-consuming love of our Creator and our Savior on these clinics, on these men and women corrupted by the pervasive evils that they perform day in and out at the behest of women that are afraid.  They fear the consequences of past actions. They fear future encumbrances because they believe that they are entitled to something, whatever it may be.

You cannot fight evil with evil. You can only fight it with love, specifically the pure love of God.  You cannot fight evil with man’s laws, man’s protests, man alone cannot stand against evil.  If man tries to fight evil by himself, he will be undone because you cannot fight evil without exposing it to good.  The only source of good is God.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:7-12

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?”They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:3-11

Why We Have Guns

Why would politicians attempt to take away arms and surround themselves with armies of guards? To protect themselves against the crazy people, who have no fear for their lives and usually make it through, or to protect themselves against the sane people, who hope to keep their liberty and their lives? Image how much better our country would be if politicians still had to worry about getting shot, in addition to loosing elections, every time they consider a new flaming hoop for us to jump through; they might not make the hoop.”

Why We Have Guns.

 

 

Walk by the Light

Have you ever tried to navigate your house when it is pitch black inside?  I have and am able to do so by memory if I go slow enough, but I have grown reluctant since my children have begun to leave toys out.  Have you ever stepped on a die-cast car in bare feet?  Even if you don’t fall to the ground and hurt yourself that way, you stand a good chance of hurting your foot just from the little sharp corners pricking and cutting into your skin.  Imagine trying to move through your darkened house in a hurry – perhaps you heard the crash of glass, or the scream of one of your children.

In my haste, I try to rely on my memory, my good low light vision and my senses to keep me safe, but often find myself bumping into things, stepping on things that I had either failed to notice on the ground or had forgotten, or otherwise misjudging distances.  It is not that I don’t have flashlights or the ability to turn on the room lights or hall lights in order to see better, it’s that I choose not to do so either as a courtesy to my wife who is still asleep or to avoid waking up my other son.

There’s something else there as well though.  It’s a reliance on my own senses and recollection.  It’s an innate confidence that I can handle whatever I come across even in the dark of night.   It is in the many times I have slammed my head into something in the dark, stepped on a toy car, or kicked a door frame and broken a toe as I tried to pass through it that I have come to realize how foolish I am for trying to navigate the dark on my own.

Light and dark as an interplay within the Bible have been exhaustively examined.  My reliance on myself in navigating my house is a great example of how easy it is for us to trip up in life.  In the past, I have tried to navigate by faith, not in the Light, but in my own human senses and memory.  It would be much easier and less painful if I just reached over and grabbed my flashlight before I took the first step.

light-in-the-dark

The dark can be a frightening thing without a way to guide you through it.  It hides, conceals, dulls the senses in one aspect while elevating others to the point of hysteria even.  The imagination runs wild with all of the possibilities that can happen under cover of night.  It is no wonder to me that night is used as the metaphor for evil in the Bible as evil is easily recognized when exposed to the Light, but when darkness falls, it becomes much harder.  Psychologically, we all fear the night at some level and for good reason, danger lurks in the shadows at every turn waiting to trip us up and ruin us.

What are we to do?

Firstly, have faith in the Light of Christ.  Second, own the night.

So, a question to ponder – how can we come to own the night?

Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.

John 11:9-10

You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.

John 12:35-36

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 12:46

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
    and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.

Job 33:28

The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Isaiah 60:19

Put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Thirst

Are you thirsty today?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:2

My oldest son is being used by God to show me something and it’s not subtle.  Everyone is born with fundamental questions within their soul that need to be answered.

Where do I come from?

Why I am I here?

Where am I going?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is the world like this?

Is there a God?

What is good?

What is evil?

What is truth?

How can I be happy?

When you boil down every world religion and philosophy, they are all attempting to answer these questions.  There is a thirst for knowledge and truth within us all and the driving element in our life is our attempt to answer these questions.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

My oldest son has an intense focus on books and puzzles. Being four years old, he studies things incredibly and remembers the smallest details about these things that capture his interest.  He will spend hours in his room quietly playing with a single puzzle, memorizing every single piece to the point where I believe he could assemble it in the dark if he really wished to do so.  My son’s thirst is well-developed and he is attempting to quench it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

For Christmas, my son received a gift to help quench this thirst and encourage it to grow within him.  He received a bible for Christmas (mind you, he is not quite four years old yet).  Most kids would put the bible aside and attack the toys still waiting under the tree or already unwrapped.  He on the other hand promptly sat down and started to read.  It has only been a few short weeks since he received this gift, but he is addicted.  If this is the addiction (and we all have one) he suffers from in his life, praise be to God.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

John 7:37-38

My son truly clings to the Word.  He wants to know where it is always.  He wants to bring it with him to everything we do (eating dinner, playing with cars on the floor, to the gym, or to Nana’s house).  He wants the Word close to him as often as possible.

Shouldn’t we all feel that way?  When the trials of life hit us, we may turn to the Word for reassurance, but do we do it daily?  Do we cling to it?  I thought I understood what Christ meant when he said the following.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Matthew 19:14

Children are able to put such amazing faith into things.  They believe them fully – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, and untold numbers of other completely fictional creations, but there is something else… children are not yet corrupted by pride or personal success, they have a thirst that seems so unquenchable that when they are exposed to the Wellspring, they fear to leave it behind as it is exactly what their souls need – knowledge, truth, strength, courage, faith, righteousness, perfection.

My son CLINGS to the Word at just shy of four years old.  Do I?

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.

Isaiah 55:1

Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:14

spring-water

 

Happy Thanksgiving

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

Thomas Jefferson

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
    Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
    It will last for all time to come.

Psalm 100:4-5

Harden

I love to work out.  In fact, in the course of twelve hours over the weekend I did a heavy near-maximum effort chest and back workout and chased it with a heavy near-maximum effort leg and abdominal workout.  There isn’t a single muscle group that felt good after I finished the last set of that second workout.

There is something stress-relieving and purifying about the burn and exhaustion of a great workout.  It is all at once gratifying, satisfying, agonizing, and tiring.  The next day, I ache in all the right places and have stiffness and soreness where I worked the hardest.  My wife would even say that sometimes I downright complain about the pain – yet, there is something about it that keeps bringing me back to push myself harder, to add just a few more plates to the bar, or run that mile just a few seconds faster.

Why in the world do I torture myself?

Improvement.

Strength.

Stamina.

Fortitude.

Confidence.

To harden my body and mind.

That last part is what is so interesting about exercise.  It really isn’t all that different than the trials of life.  The little things in life that test your patience or push you beyond your comfort zone are there to harden your spirit.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Hebrews 12:11-12

There is an oft-quoted phrase that the reason you sweat in peacetime is so that you bleed less in war.  There is some serious truth to this statement. God pushes you to improve yourself.  He allows roadblocks to be put in your path, obstacles which you have to fight through, around, or over, not because he enjoys watching you suffer, but because perseverance and faithfulness in light of those smaller problems in life will build strength and character in order that you are more ready to take on the serious problems in life.  The writer of Hebrews addressed that latter point very effectively.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

Hebrews 12:7-10

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:4

Do you look at the trials in your life as nuisances?  Or do you approach them like a workout laid out by your personal trainer to harden your spirit, mind, and body?

Enjoy the burn.  He’s building you up by tearing you down just a little…

 

 

Death

What is death?

Medically speaking it is the end of life.  The heart stops beating.  The lungs stop drawing in life-sustaining oxygen.  The autonomic functions of the body turn off permanently.  After a few moments, the electrical impulses within your brain and between the various nerve endings in your body cease.

Death has been around for an incredibly long time. It has been studied and documented. The causes of it are well known.  In some circles it is mourned. In some it is celebrated. In others, it is seen as part of the natural way of life.  Death is part of our culture in interesting ways – it is seen in movies, television, talked about in music, in books, and portrayed in stage.  It would seem that we have a bit of an obsession about death.  Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.

Euripedes

What if I told you that death is alien to God’s creation?  Death was not a part of the original design that the Majesty of the universe laid out when he generated the foundations of everything from the vacuum of nonexistence.

As the lion to the herds of the plain, as the scythe to the sowers of the field, as the wind to the sere leaves of the forest, such is Death to the sons of men. They fear him by an inward instinct because their conscience tells them that he is the child of their sin.

Rev. C.H. Spurgeon

Death is frightening because of everything in the world that can afflict us the one that is truly inescapable or incurable is death.  You and I will one day die, unless the Lord returns beforehand.  You can put it off, you can escape it temporarily, but eventually it will have it’s victory.  It will desecrate what was made in the image of God and return it to the dust from where it came.  That is the purpose and goal of Death – to defy God and to erect a giant middle finger at Him by ruining His creation.

I have written before of bondage.  We are born in bondage to sin and as a result we are destined to die one day.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

Romans 5:12

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James 1:15

As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death.

Ecclesiastes 8:8

I do not celebrate death.  Death is a terrible, vicious thing.  At the same time, I do not fear it.  As terrible as death is as it destroys and dismantles the Lord’s work, it’s victories are short-lived.  Death has already been defeated, and while it continues it’s unholy quest to destroy that which God has created, death itself will be one day destroyed and thrown into oblivion.

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[a] because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10

through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:4

What do you fear?  Do you fear death?  Or do you fear what follows?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Christ died for all that all might live in His resurrection. Christ took on the sins of all that proclaim His name and profess His Holiness as God Incarnate.  He did that in order to reclaim you personally and mankind corporately to Him, to restore us to the state of creation before sin entered the world.   That is true freedom – to be able to say “I AM REDEEMED” and then to stare at death and know without any doubt that it’s victory is truly short-lived and that the final victory belongs to Christ alone.

If you doubt that Christ literally rose from the dead, I simply leave you with one thought.  Why would the Apostles elect to die the most painful deaths imaginable for a lie?

Peter, Andrew, and Philip were crucified; James the Greater and Thaddaeus fell to the sword; James the Lesser was beaten to death while praying for his attackers; Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified; Thomas and Matthew were speared; Matthias was stoned to death; and Simon was either crucified or sawed in half.

National Geographic

Do you fear death?

Do you fear what follows death?

Declaration – Part Three (Pursuit of Happiness)

What did the Founders intend when they included the pursuit of happiness as one of the three named rights endowed by God on mankind?

The phrase itself has been perverted over time to mean something akin to the American Dream, which has been perverted itself to mean everything from achievements in life, family, wealth, home-ownership, and anything else a politician can dream up that sounds good in a sound byte or a newspaper byline.  It has been used to justify social programs that alleviate personal responsibility from the individual.  It has been used to justify progressive taxation where wealthier individuals are taxed more intensely than less wealthy ones.  I imagine the Founders would be incensed were they still alive to find out how this phrase had been bent, twisted, and misused over time.

What is happiness?

the quality or state of being happy.
good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Happiness and joy differ from person to person.  I might find great happiness in watching my sons grow up and watching my wife catching up with an old friend, while someone else might find great happiness in reading a new book, or taking a hike through the wilderness, but is that joy?  Joy is the source of happiness.  What is your joy?
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Why did the Founders specify the pursuit though?  Were they acknowledging that they sought to establish an earthly government, not a heavenly one? Were they acknowledging that true joy on earth is only found in Christ?
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Joy transcends happiness.  Happiness is temporary and can be blotted out when times get tough.  Time and time again, Americans have proven to have extremely thick skin.  We suffered through a terrible civil war that decimated the country, we fought two world wars were millions perished, suffered economic recessions and depressions that had the potential to be just as deadly, and we persevered against totalitarian socialism when we stared down the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Were any of those happy times?  No.
Can we look back and find moments of joy sprinkled throughout? Yes.
Happiness is externally dependent.  It relies on pleasure from the fulfillment of desires and wants.  Joy is internally dependent.  It is found in the love in your heart.  It is found through the Spirit of God and the hope we have in Christ alone.
The Founders may have even intended for these rights to be recognizable as follows:  life (in Christ), liberty (from sin through Christ), and the pursuit of happiness (or joy, which is found in Christ).
Tell me again that we are not a Christian nation, all I have to do is point to the Declaration and show you that it is divinely inspired.  Thomas Jefferson may have been a deist and believed that it was impossible to know God, but it seems to me that God greatly influenced Jefferson’s text and blessed this country through and because of it.

Declaration – Part One (Life)

Do we live in a Christian nation?  Does the Declaration of Independence even matter any more or is it just a letter addressed to the King of England back in the latter half of the 18th century and relegated to the dustbin of history?

For the next few writings, I want to explore the Declaration of Independence and what it means.  The first section is the most recognizable.

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 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.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

The very first sentence of this section speaks of where our rights come from, our Creator – God, and specifically identifies some of them: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The simple fact that these rights originate from God, a power above and beyond any assembly of men, that means that they are inalienable or untouchable.  They are beyond reproach and can not be repealed or revoked.

What is life?  Why is that listed as a right?  Doesn’t the concept of being alive constitute having a life?

Medically and scientifically, sure.

Consider these definitions of life:

the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual: to risk one’s life; a short life and a merry one.
a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul: eternal life.
Could the Founders have been considering that the right to life that we have been endowed with by God be spiritual rather than physical?  How does the Declaration’s meaning change if you look at our right to life through the lens of Christ rather than the temporary lens of man?
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