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Politics In Passing: Norman Geisler’s Flawed Attempt at Endorsing Trump

Oh no, politics.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not voting for Hillary or Trump….. onto the story.

I generally have a great deal of respect for Norman Geisler and his works over the years (at least up to “Answering Islam”).

I’m finding my same level of disappointment in his argumentation level as I did 16 years ago when I saw “Chosen But Free”.

His article endorsing Trump for President over on Christianity Today is written very short and straight to the point. Unfortunately, it also ignores a lot of what Trump has DONE and SAID in the past in order to railroad through the idea that Trump is the best candidate.  His points dealt with one by one:

Geisler begins with the ‘lesser of two evils’ fallacy. “Basically, there are only two realistic alternatives in the coming presidential election: stay on the same liberal path we have been on for years or try something new.

I wouldn’t consider Trump “something new”. Up until he became candidate for president, Trump’s views have consistently aligned with the democratic party. Even his kids forgot to switch their political affiliations for voting prior to the cut off date for changes.

Second, the “there are only two realistic options” assertion assumes that everyone or the majority of people will only vote for one of those two candidates…. because that’s what they are told they have to do. This is fallacious and erroneous reasoning. Even the once radical Bernie Sanders has sold his soul to support Hillary Clinton and drag his former supporters into her corner with the same line of argumentation.

Every election cycle, we are told the same thing: now is not the time for a protest vote, hold off, work with what we have and in a few years, we’ll work on getting better candidates.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

When will be the time ? I say the time is now. Vote your conscience, not what people tell you are your only “realistic” options.

Geisler tries to get in front of  the charge that “…..Trump is that he is a flawed candidate”, but simply repeats the two-party mantra again. Further, it’s more than just Trump being a ‘flawed candidate’….Trump is simply another garden-variety politician. He’s done the usual: lied about previous stances and views, pandered to one particular group of people , generally ignored the concerns of others and (worse), refused to deal with elements in his own support base that undermine the very values he supposedly holds to.

What people need to understand is that in order to disassemble the two party system, you have to actually elect people outside of it. It may start small. The Green Party, for example, currently has a little over 130+ folks elected locally in different areas of the country. Jill Stein’s received more press this year than in the past (she’s been her party’s nominee before that). Likewise, the Libertarian Party’s stats are slightly higher (145). Gary Johnson is currently polling around 8%.

Point is, we’re not bound to a two-party system. The two major parties have conspired together to make sure that power does not leech from the two of them to others. They put in place systems which, on an individual level, are difficult to break through. Collectively, however, it is a great possibility. The only thing that individuals need to get over is their “fear of the other guy winning”.

Geisler then makes this statement: “In politics, as in life, sometimes we must choose the so-called “lesser of two evils.” So when both presidential candidates have high negatives, we must choose the one with fewer. A friend once described his dilemma to me as a choice between “a known devil and a suspected witch.” If so, then we should choose the suspected witch!

The lesser of two evils….is still evil, Dr. Geisler. Trump isn’t a suspected witch; he has a known history with the known devil, Hillary Clinton. He has a known political viewpoint history via his own words in the past which are on YouTube and other media for anyone who takes the time to look them up.

The one point Geisler makes in his introduction that is solid and biblical is the one regarding staying home and not voting.

Onto his main points:

1. A Vote for the Right to Life (followed by a short statement on how Trump is supposedly pro-life)

How many times does Trump have to contradict himself before people like Geisler will stop believing whatever his campaign says ? Trump isn’t pro-life and never has been.  If your track record doesn’t show what you suddenly hold to as a position, my bet is that you’re lying and pandering to get what you want.

2. A Vote for National Security

Geisler states: This begins with Law and Order because there is no security in an anarchy. Donald Trump promises to be “the Law and Order” candidate who will help strengthen our society and provide freedom and justice for all.

Trump can’t (or won’t) even contain or address his own people attacking minorities who attend his rallies. That’s not fairness, security, freedom and justice for all or treating all life as if it matters.  Spare me.

3. A Vote for International Respect
Geisler states: “No man is an Island” applies to our nation as well as to individuals in it. In a shrinking world, isolationism is no longer a realistic option. America is no longer feared by its enemies or even respected by its friends, chief among whom in the Middle East is Israel. Long ago, God promised (Gen. 12:3) to bless those who bless Israel. But recently, we have given support to a nation (Iran) which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Trump has pledged to reverse this self-destructive path.

Actually, Trump has proved the opposite in the international community. Several foreign diplomats have expressed deep issues with what type of presidency they will see under Trump and what kind of relations that means with the rest of the world.  While the US’s standing in the world has been weakened gradually since the 90’s under EVERY president since Clinton (though Clinton was much more adept at international issues and diplomacy), the last twelve years have shoved us over the edge. The last eight alone, primarily because of our own infighting and inability to produce a united front on the world scene, and our own home-grown hypocrisy regarding human rights issues  (how can you care about human rights abroad, yet tolerate discrimination and the murder of the unborn at home ?) have made many of the so-called American values a joke to non-Americans.

Let’s be honest.

4. A Vote for the Supreme Court

Spare me the Supreme Court mantras.  Plenty of people nominated to the court as conservatives, switched to be liberals.  I place no faith and value in the supreme court of the United States to hold the country back from its’ current downgrade.  Trump is only on record for conservative judges to get elected.

Besides, National Review already dealt with the “Trump Card” of the Supreme Court issue.

5. A Vote for Religious Freedom

Geisler states: “Recent liberal policies have separated these two things and have transformed “freedom of religion” into “freedom from religion.” 

Christianity thrived under Roman occupation and persecution.  I’m not worried about which candidate will supposedly guarantee freedom of religion. I have a feeling that both will press for freedom from religion. People forget (very quickly, I might add) that much of the downgrade in terms of religious beliefs having a place in the public square came about under the Bush presidency.  Much of it fomented in the background during the early Bush years and became full-blown during the latter years. The DaVinci Code (2006), Religulous (2007) and Zeitgeist (10/1/2008) were released during this time period, as was Christopher Hitchens’ book God is not Great (2007).  These media phenomena (and others) have helped to shape public opinion. In many cases, they simply gave an excuse for others to all the more “hold down the truth through their unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18-23).  These have been problems in the culture all along. They simply began bubbling more to the surface in recent times.

A real concern is in the media and entertainment arena. Much public policy and public opinion are being swayed by these things more than by politics and politicians.

6. A Vote of National Prosperity

Geisler opines: It seems to me that Trump’s policies on taxation, regulations, balancing the budget, and immigration will promote national prosperity better than his competitors. He is a proven job-creator, and his competitor is not.

Trump is also a proven life-destroyer. Anyone paying attention will notice that Trump’s consistent pattern with his business investments is to ride them until they are no longer profitable, abandon them, file for bankruptcy, avoid taxes and move on to the next investment. I don’t think this is a healthy pattern of doing business as each of these businesses he has dissolved cost some people their entire livelihood.  I don’t think it will promote national prosperity.

And of course, Trump shirts and suits and made in China and Mexico. NAFTA is good when it works for you….bad when it contradicts the politics you’re promoting.

7. A Vote against National Corruptions.

This line of argumentation is kinda laughable. Trump is friends with the Clintons.  Not just associates. Friends.

Trump’s foundation is currently being investigated.

He’s just as crooked as Hillary is.

*sigh*.

Sadly, I’ve actually spent time arguing these same points against Hillary, which goes to show that both candidates really are the same and propped by both parties in order to preserve the two party system.

For an alternative and much more Biblically-centered viewpoint, I highly recommend Darrell Bock’s article on Christianity Today. Give it a read. I will not choose between the tornado or the category 5 hurricane. Both cause damage, destroy property and lives.

My Uncle’s Eulogy: A Gospel Moment

Funerals are for the living. Funerals are also gospel moments. This is the text of my uncle’s eulogy that I preached on March 31, 2016.  My uncle, Lennox Minors, passed from this life on March 24, 2016 at the age of 75.

I’ve been tasked today with saying a few words. It’s been a bit difficult to gather my thoughts because my thoughts have been everywhere lately. The cares of life regarding work and career have been weighing on me, weighing on my friends and weighing on some of you. I know some of your own personal struggles because we keep in contact. I’ve had three friends or associates lose relatives in the past two weeks – two of them, a brother and sister – lost their mom and just yesterday, the insurance company informed them that insurance will not cover the cost of the funeral or cemetery fees. My friend and fraternity brother Hugh just lost his house and belongings and his downstairs roommate to a fire at his house in Gaitherburg – a few of you might have seen it on the news Tuesday night.  A friend of mine of seventeen years passed a few days before Lennox did – his funeral service is also today (right now, in fact) in Virginia and I was originally going to be there until Lennox died. A high school classmate of mine lost her twin brother the same day Lennox died.

So the troubles of this world are not unique to us individually. They are a shared part of the human collective and human experience.  We all experience loss, disappointment, death, depression, loneliness, anger and sadness, grief, and more. The real question is this – what do we do now ? What does this death – Lennox’s death – mean for us right now ?

I believe, according to scripture, it gives us an opportunity for perspective and reflection. It gives us an opportunity to consider the God of the Universe, His ways, His creation, His goodness and what He expects of us in light of this time in our lives and the moment of our being assembled together.

I want to point you Godward, first and foremost. Consider His ways. Ephesians 1:11 reminds us that God works all things according to the counsel of His will. He does not consult with angels on how the world will be run. He is in control. He does not wait until we act and then react like a chess player – the game is already set, the moves on the board are already known to Him including both what is possible and what will ACTUALLY happen. Nothing catches Him off guard or by surprise. He is not in a ‘fight’ with Satan for souls as if He and His creation are equals. That view gives Satan too much credit and power.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson in Daniel 4. After bragging in his arrogance about how he built up Babylon, God struck him so that for seven years, he crawled on all fours like an animal and ate straw. Nebuchadnezzar stated:

” 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?”

Let these words also in Ecclesiastes 3 sink in:

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God will call the past to account.

Seek to understand what has been said here by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. Every period of life is ordained by God. Every time – joy, pain, sunshine and rain. I want you to reflect for a moment on the words “He has made everything beautiful in its’ time. He has put eternity into man’s heart so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” Consider His ways. God has put a vast and unending ‘unknowing’ in the heart of man so that men cannot find out what God is doing from beginning to the end. This should remind us to be humble in the face of pain and sorrow. Too often during these times, we can be tempted – either by external pain or internal pain – to conclude that since whatever God is doing at the moment is not something we can understand or not something we would expect a loving God to do, then God is not worthy of our worship, service and devotion. It is easy to serve God when the wine is flowing, the children are laughing and the sun is shining.

Consider His ways. Solomon reminds us that these wonderful and beautiful times are indeed a gift from God. He states “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Lennox embodied much of these two verses with his life. He was definitely joyful – always with a joke, a song, a song with a joke included, always looking for opportunities to make the people around him laugh, always cooking (he loved to feed people when they came over to visit). He took the time to help relatives as he could – I remember a recent time that my mother, his sister, left her keys in a co-worker’s car and couldn’t get into her house. Len provided shelter and food for her like a good older brother should do for his baby sister. Growing up, I remember quite a few times Len did things like that for various family members. Lennox worked hard – I believe I got some of my work ethic from watching him, my grandmother, my mother and my other uncle Rupert. All of them were serious about getting work done and making sure the work was done well. Len spent many years when he first came up to the US spray painting cars in a body shop. I think I asked him about the process of painting cars somewhere around age 10, but I didn’t fully understand the process. All I remember was “that’s a lot of work!”. He enjoyed his job. He took pleasure in it – as scripture says we are to do. Many years during Thanksgiving, he invited my mother, grandmother and I and Lennox over to his long-time apartment in Parkside. Many laughs were had at that table. Many stomachs were full. Much dancing and singing also happened.

These things are a gift from God to us. They are a sign of His goodness toward us. God caused the sun to rise and fall on Len for 70+ years. During that time, countless people were shown hospitality and goodness through the gift of Lennox Minors. Reflect on them and consider His ways. He is good. He has been good to all of us.

Consider your own way in light of God’s goodness. Moses has written in Psalm 90:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
 throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
 or you brought forth the whole world,
 from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
 saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night.

Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:

In the morning it springs up new,
 but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger
 and terrified by your indignation.

You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence.

All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

10 Our days may come to seventy years,
 or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
 for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
 Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.

12 Teach us to number our days,
 that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Moses gives us a glimpse into the other side of the equation – the frailty and delicateness of life. Each of us in this room is one heartbeat away from standing in the presence of God and giving an account for the life that we have lived.

Consider your own relative goodness in light of God’s goodness mentioned in Ecclesiastes. Why does a good God say “return to death you mortals” ? Why are we consumed by His anger and indignation ? Why should we consider (v. 11) His the power of His wrath and the fear that is due to Him ? Why is there death in the first place ?

God speaking through David says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
 but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is that same fear mentioned in v. 11 that Moses says is due or owed to God. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up the entire matter: Now all has been heard;
  here is the conclusion of the matter:
 Fear God and keep his commandments,
 for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, 
including every hidden thing,
 whether it is good or evil.

To fear God is to hold Him, His ways and His Word with reverence AND to hold a healthy fearfulness of Him. It is all of these things. It is the equivalent of being stuck in a F-5 tornado and finding a place of safety where you can observe the power of the storm without being torn away by its wrath. A scary experience, but one that will instantly teach you respect and reverence for the power of a storm.

Look back at verses 8 and 9: You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

 You must understand: Death exists for two reasons. Death exists because of sin – yours and mine – and because God is good and just. What is sin ? The failure to do what God has commanded be done and the doing of what God has said not to do. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam to not eat of the fruit of the tree containing the knowledge of good and evil, Adam disobeyed, the penalty was death. He was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and work became toil. All of creation was thrown into what scripture calls “futility” – you plant a rose bush, thorns pop up in addition to the rose. Grass is here in the morning, scorched away by the hot sun later in the day – at least over in some middle eastern countries it is. Worse, that action of sin which brought about physical death also brought about spiritual death and separation from this same good, Holy God. As a result, men and women die. Animals die. Plants die and decay. So sin isn’t just an action – it’s a condition that permeates all of humanity. Death and decay taint all of creation so that, as Romans 8 says, the creation itself groans for the day it will be free from corruption and decay. This is why instead of gentle rains to fix dried out crops, we get flash floods; instead of gentle winds to carry seeds from here to there to begin life anew, we get violent storms ripping the trees from the ground.

You may say “kinda harsh of God to do ?” Understand – God is 100% good. There is no evil in Him. Because God is good, He is also completely just. JUST meaning that He, as the only true and righteous judge in the universe, will not let sin “slide” by. If He did, He would not be good or just. He would be a corrupt judge with an uneven scale for judging. Be thankful He is not a corrupt judge – He has stated repeatedly that He will judge the world. Every corrupt politician – including the ones we voted for – will all give account to God for their actions. Every unsolved murder has not escaped His eye – every murderer will stand before Him and give account. Every theft, every lie, every evil thought and intention – are all included in what God will bring into judgment. Remember: He is a GOOD judge.

In addition, consider the following – in our legal system, the penalty for a lie varies with the degree of honor and seriousness of the situation. If I lie to my mother as a child, I may get a spanking. If I lie to my teacher as a teenager, I may get a suspension. If I lie to my boss, I may get fired. If I lie to the police, I may get arrested. If I lie before a judge, I may get jail time for perjury. So what happens when I lie to the Creator of the Universe whose very essence and being is truth and truthfulness ?

In light of this, consider your own relative goodness. People often say “only God can judge me” or “God knows my heart” as if this is a source of comfort when Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. What happens when your heart, thoughts and motivations – all of them – are laid bear and open before the Creator of the Universe ?

Consider your own relative goodness in light of His perfection.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the gathered crowds that the standard of righteousness they’d been taught by tradition was not God’s standard. They’d been taught (in the righteousness system developed by the Pharisees) that to ‘look’ at a woman 2 times would not be considered lust. So they made that second look last for a little while. Jesus cuts through these external acts of righteousness and tells them “if you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart”.   Don’t be so quick to condemn the Pharisee – how many times have you heard someone say “It’s okay to look as long as you don’t do anything ?” or “I was just admiring her or his beauty ?

The Pharisees had a righteousness code that also stated that as long as you didn’t physically harm the person, you were free to call him “a son of a worthless person who deserves not to exist”. In Aramaic, there was one word that carried this meaning; RACA! Jesus attacked this too – a murderous attitude in the heart is still murder in the eyes of God. The penalty on earth may be different because the physical act hadn’t taken place, but God judges the intentions of the heart as well as the physical actions.

I taught middle school for ten years and have also taught high school for four years before that, going back to teaching high school again this year. A favorite refrain from lying students is “I swear to God I’m telling the truth”. You’ve heard it from adults as well: “Read my lips; no new taxes!” and “I did not have sex with that woman”.

Again, nothing new – the Pharisees had this same righteousness code, only they would swear by things (heaven, earth, Jerusalem, their own heads, the temple, etc….). They would make these ornate and over the top oaths in order to make themselves appear as righteous truth tellers. Jesus made the issue simple: tell the truth. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Swearing by “stuff” is placing more value and reverence in that ‘stuff’ than in the God who gives you breath to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Anything further is from the evil one.

Well, everybody lies, you might say. Everybody breaks one of these commandments at one point or another, right ? We should still be okay ? Right ?

Psalm 130:3 states “if you, Lord, kept a record of sins….Lord, who would stand ?”

Isaiah 64:6 states “All our righteousness before you is as filthy rags.” Think disposable “rags” used once a month.

Jesus sets the standard, dovetailing back to what I mentioned earlier: the Pharisees redefined what ‘neighbor’ meant and believed that your ‘neighbor’ and your ‘enemy’ could not be the same person. So you were free to ‘hate your enemy’.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Again, don’t be quick to condemn the Pharisees – it’s election season. There is a ton of ‘hate the republicans, they’re not one of us’ and ‘hate the democrats, they’re not one of us’ speech flying back and forth on social media, television and radio. People have cut off and hated family members and long time friends over political disagreements over the past 8-12 years. Nothing new. It’s the same problem.

If the standard is perfection as God is good and perfect – and it is – none of us by our own works, have a righteous standing before God. None. James reminds us in chapter 2 that if someone breaks one of the laws, they are guilty of breaking all of the laws.

God being good and just, will deal with all of these sins. I may have stepped on your toes with these words. This is a time to reflect and consider your ways before the God of the Universe. This is a moment to “take stock of your life” as my grandmother – Lennox’s mother – used to say….or as Moses has stated “number your days so that you may gain a heart of wisdom”.

The Bible also tells us that God is exceedingly gracious and patient, even toward those who continually break His laws. This perfect life of perfect law-keeping that you and I were not capable of keeping and doing was done perfectly by one. That one is the One whose perfect life, death and resurrection was celebrated last weekend.

Consider the call of God to repent.

Let me put this another way for you. Suppose you are on trial for a capital crime. The judge reads your charges to you, presents evidence of your guilt in detail, even getting into the inner thoughts of your mind that show you were guilty…. To the point where you couldn’t do anything else but plead guilty….. and then the judge declares you guilty…. Brings out HIS OWN SON to take your penalty…. His son, who was innocent of the crime you were guilty of… went off in your place to face capital punishment. And then…. The Judge comes down off of the bench, takes His robe off, places it around you, takes you home with him and calls you his SON.

This is what God did for sinners like you and I. This is what Jesus’s life – His perfectly obeying the law of God on behalf of those who place their full faith and trust in Him – death – taking the penalty of God’s wrath in full while on the cross in the place of people like you and I who deserved that instead – and His resurrection – rising from the dead to show that the sacrifice was complete AND accepted – meant last weekend, this week and every day we are alive.

Paul writing in Romans 2 warn both Jew and non-Jew alike in the church at Rome that the goodness of God leads to repentance, but for the unrepentant, you are storing up wrath for the day of judgment.

God has not given you this life to waste getting drunk, pursuing pleasure outside of God’s appointed means, and pursuing riches and ‘things’ as though they are the sum of life. He has given you gifts – Lennox – my uncle – was one of those gifts. Everyone doesn’t get to have a funny uncle who tells jokes, loves music, makes everyone laugh, cooks and likes to keep a nice house and have parties. We had that. We are better for it. But make no mistake – it was a gift from God.

But if we ignore the Giver of the gift and simply use the gift, we are being unthankful to God. And Romans 1:18 makes it clear that part of the reason the wrath of God is being poured out on the ungodly is because we do not acknowledge Him and give Him thanks.

Don’t be thankless.

All of us live one heartbeat away from death. One wrong breath. One ruptured blood vessel. One inattentive or drunk driver. One fallen building. One fire with no way to escape, as my friend Hugh’s downstairs renter perished two nights ago. One untreated cancer cell multiplying, like my friend Zach.

The Bible commands us to repent – turn from – our sins and place our full faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His perfect life, death and resurrection on our behalf. Repent means to turn from something – the same way if you were driving to Florida and you saw a sign that said “Welcome to Maine”, you would immediately turn and head in the opposite direction. Place your full faith and trust in Him the same way you would place your faith and trust in a parachute to save you from hitting the ground if you jumped out of a plane.

There is no “piggybacking” into heaven off of someone else’s faith. There’s no “friend’s list”. Your faith must be your own. You must be the one to cry out to God “Have mercy on me, a sinner! Forgive me for the sake of your Son!”

I will not speculate on the final destination of my uncle because I wasn’t here during his final days. The words I have brought are to you, the living. They come from the living God to whom all will stand before and give an account to.

Every death, sickness, moment of joy, moment of grief, time of happiness, day of beauty, every sunrise, every sunset, every storm – all of these things – are reminders from God to reflect and evaluate your life. They are reminders of the God of the Universe telling you about Himself….and about yourself.

They are calls to turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Remember that the One who gives you the wonderful gift of people – friends – relatives, food, shelter, provisions for life, also demands that you fear Him. Fear Him as a young child fears, loves and trusts their father. He’s God…. He has that right.

The one who comes to Him in faith will never be cast out and cast away. Jesus said this in John 6:37-40. As long as you breathe, remember that your sins are not bigger than God. No sin can keep you out of heaven if you turn from them and turn to Christ in faith. Jeffery Dahmer became a Christian in prison a few months before being murdered in prison. The thief on the cross trusted in Christ moments before his death.

One hundred years from now, this issue will be settled for everyone sitting in this room. You sin will either have been paid for in Christ, or you will spend eternity paying for your sins facing the wrath of God mentioned in Psalm 90…and Romans 1-3.

I implore you today – Consider His ways. He has brought you here today to hear this message. He has orchestrated your life to make it here safely today. He has put all of the necessary resources and people in your life for you to be able to stand where you are today.

Consider His goodness toward you. He has raised you up today from sleep – some didn’t wake up. He has clothed you – some are naked. He gives you good friends to walk through life with – some remain lonely. The fact that God is good is shown by the fact that all of you are here today hearing these words.

Consider Your life. Have you wasted it ? A wasted life is a CEO who goes home to his mansion, sits with his money and possessions and feels that all of it is a waste. A wasted life is one spent chasing everything else – recognition by men, acceptance, seeking the next ‘pleasure’, seeking the next dollar and never having enough….

Consider the call to repent. Scripture calls “today” the day of salvation – the acceptable time.   God is gracious and loving toward those who turn from their sin. He calls for you to do so today. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ.

Blocks, Blindness, Deafness and Bridges: Addressing James White and Rich Pierce

Update: a mutual friend of James White and Rich Pierce and I told me the following:

Just an observation:While Rich’s interaction with you deserves observation and comment, I think it’s a separate issue to what James said. Conflating the two mistakes Rich for James. They may work together but Rich goes to a different church and often has differing opinions than Dr. White.

You were blocked by Rich. And I think that does need addressing.

—–

Fair enough. I was actually blocked by both (found out that Rich controls twitter feed for both). For the reader: while I address both men in this post, be mindful of when I’m addressing one or the other. While I believe (per my observation of their postings) that both are in agreement on this topic, I could be wrong.  I thought I did a good job of separating the two, but may not have done so well enough. Feedback welcome.

———–

The Sovereignty of God is a funny thing to watch play out, especially when you’re in the middle of it.

So I decide to jump back into blogging/online discussions and interactions. I’ve literally been out of the way since about 2010 because BlackCalvinist needed to sit down, chill out and rest for a bit. 2005-2010 BlackCalvinist had a reputation for being very biblically accurate and occasionally very harsh and non-loving in his presentation. Some of that reputation is justified; I’ve been known to degenerate a conversation to talking about my opponent’s mother being so fat she’s on both sides of the family. The snark and sarcasm ran deep with me (and still does to a degree).

Fast-forward to 2016. My wife has mellowed me out. My church has done the same. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six years away from the internet – occasional discussions on FB and a few videos here and there, but generally nothing consistent. Life Doctrine Music has eTumbleweeds rolling through it and TCDC only has had 3-4 significant posts since 2010.

Long story short: no internet issues or drama. None. And I’m trying to keep it that way.

Recently, James R. White, who I’ve repeatedly said (even to him) is my favorite author , has been under fire for some comments he made about a young black teen he caught on his dash cam flipping off the police and littering. Those comments were deleted shortly afterward, but the internet never forgets.

In the interest of letting folks speak for themselves, you need to do some reading and listening to catch up:

Dr. White’s original comments (saved to a pdf file, but readily found on various websites on the internet, although I know someone has a screen shot of it….): James White – Original Comments

Ekemini Uwan (M.Div student at WTS) responds here:
https://www.raanetwork.org/where-are-our-white-allies/

Jemar Tisby and the good folk at RAAN did a first podcast on the issue: https://www.raanetwork.org/pass-mic-processing-james-white-jemar-tisby/

White responds to Ekemini’s original post here (and also on AOmin.org’s official blog): https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/gospel-lenses-and-the-search-for-allies/

I will come back to this post in a bit as the basis of White’s argumentation is found here.

White also did an entire podcast with a blurb at the end discussing what reconciliation is according to Colossians 1:
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2016/03/31/colossians-1-reconciliation/

Jemar Tisby and company over at RAAN responded with another podcast:
https://www.raanetwork.org/pass-mic-live-response-james-white/

Marcus Ortega responds to White over at Reformed Margins:
http://reformedmargins.com/reformed-world-minorities-stay/

To which White responded with:
https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/guilty-without-possibility-of-innocence/

Since then, RAAN and Reformed Margins have released additional blogposts talking directly to the issues involved.

The rest of the reformed world is noticing as well.

Dan DeWitt from Southern Seminary hit the overall issue in passing: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/dont-like-diversity-youll-hate-heaven

Tim Challies chimed in as well on a larger-but-related problem (read the articles):

The article by Marcus Ortega was shared by a friend of mine and I then decided to share it on my timeline. I agreed – the good doctor did indeed miss a good opportunity to dialogue and communicate more effectively. I’m used to seeing Doc engage those on the other side of a discussion with him, so this was very VERY out of character. I’d been warned by a few people that he’d been rebuffing brothers in Christ who approached him to discuss the issue (some were willing to fly out and talk with him in person).

A little background is in order: I came to know the works of Dr. White back in the late 90’s starting with The King James Only Controversy. Many of his other works including The Roman Catholic Controversy, Mary: Another Redeemer and The Mormon Controversy, have all benefited me much in ministry over the years. The Potter’s Freedom is actually the book (alongside of Arthur Custance’s “The Sovereignty of Grace”) that helped me to understand and see the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace back in December of 2000.

I actually had a small stint as an op in his IRC channel, #prosapologian in the early 2000’s (some of you might remember me as OS_X or Xarminian). I’ve interacted with Doc, watched him interact with others over time and always appreciated the way he would actually interact with his opponents (especially Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong). So with all of that said, I’m not some random trouble maker (or any kind of trouble maker for that matter).

Back to the present. We share multiple friends in common, so Rich Pierce (president of Alpha and Omega Ministries) pops in on my post (it was public) to comment.

From this point, you can read the entire exchange here:

http://blackcalvinist.com/tcdc/files/exchange.pdf

Caught up ? Good.

pic1Let’s focus on Rich’s interaction with me for a minute.

Now I know I’m not crazy. Several people hit me up privately thinking that threat to contact elders was a bit out of line. I’m thankful one friend spoke up immediately about the incident.

In light of everything that’s been said about Dr. White, right or wrong, I figured instead of making a public deal about the comment, I’d contact Rich privately. I wrote him the following message:

pmtorich

I’m not the only one who thought that his threat to contact elders could be read incorrectly as a strong-arm tactic. One friend commented (name withheld):

Friend: So… Is Rich saying he’d contact the elders on you? Or am I reading that incorrectly. Tell me I am… I’m re-reading….

Me: I’ve already contacted him privately and told him that his post will get read as “white man trying to silence any criticism by intimidation” and that he should remove it.

Friend: chile because that’s how I read it. that’s EXACTLY how I read it.

Friend: And that threat has been used against me too…why, man? sigh…. I don’t know if he meant it like that, but…it’s so sad…..Someone did that to me during the Trayvon Martin situation

Me: I’m really REALLY holding back. I’m even typing slow.

Friend: I say just let it be.. seriously you already know the answer to this..

(For the record, more friends contacted me privately as well.)

Last thing a white guy being accused of being racist or insensitive needs is to get perceived as racist or insensitive based on one post.

What I was expecting was “Hey, I deleted my post. I figured there was a better way to respond to this. I didn’t want to seem like I was threatening you or trying to intimidate you. Call it a flub in communication.

What I got was blocked with all comments apparently deleted. Of course, the internet never forgets (hence, the PDF file of the initial exchange).

So….of course, I mention publicly that the good Mr. Rich has deleted his posts.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one expecting a more mature response from Rich, as the responses that follow my initial post show. The post is still up – you can read it yourself from here, as none of my friends or myself have edited or deleted anything.

Speaking of which, Rich posted this immediately after (with commentary from some of his friends):

Rich Pierce’s post on his timeline

Please make sure you note the discussion and the attempts by some of our common friends to give Rich the benefit of the doubt. One of them (as you can read) ends up blocked.

As an FYI, both posts are public on FB. Google has already indexed them.

Here’s the original Post on FB, beginning with me announcing that I’d been blocked. Read onward from here.  Two of my friends attempt to respectfully engage Dr. White on Twitter…. again, you can read the convo and see their screen shots. A little further down, you’ll see two of my friends –  Mike and Dave – try to dialogue with Dr. White on Twitter.  Luke (who commented on FB) also gets blocked.

The entire experience has been more than a bit disappointing. I’ve never known JRW or Rich Pierce to not engage folks in conversation or run from conversations where people have approached them respectfully and in an irenic fashion.

Analysis

Of course, this is where the nice BlackCalvinist steps aside and the polemical BlackCalvinist steps up.

The initial issue I and others had with Dr. White’s comments were that he was completely graceless in his observations and future predictions for this boy. Ekemini and others pointed that out repeatedly. He, in effect, ignored the fact that this young teen boy was still made in the image of God and simply reduced him to a throw-away set of statistics. The fact that he continued to double-down on them and ignore/rebuff the multiple godly men who approached him privately only to argue with a female M.Div student on social media is unsettling.

(I am a complimentarian – I will not, as a grown man, skip discussions with men who approach me to go argue with a woman, regardless of their education level)

This is not the James White we’re all used to seeing.

The James White we’re used to seeing put up a careful video blog on how to talk to Muslims in a fashion that seeks to win the soul of the individual. The James White we’re used to seeing wrote words that almost moved people to tears when he described the deep spiritual darkness he encountered every year he visited Salt Lake City to witness to Mormons. Where was all of this grace and care and hope in his description of the boy in the video ? Where was his prayer for the power of Christ to step in and change this boy’s heart from authority-hating and God-hating to God-honoring ? Where were the prayers for his mother (since he is assumed by Dr. White to probably be without a father) to help point him to godly men ?

Even more disturbing (and one person posted in the comments to him on Facebook) was the Pharisee-like, rose-colored glasses description of his own time period growing up, as though the sins of littering and contempt for authority only came into existence after his childhood was complete. As a student of history and culture (it overlaps with my professional job as a music instructor), the 1962-1980 time period in the country was filled with just as much turmoil, upheaval, contempt for authority, etc…. as the present. You and I are only separated by a decade in age. What made you to differ from the unsaved masses around you, Dr. White ?

Dr. White’s initial response to the first criticisms (and Rich Pierce deciding to follow along) consisted of creating an assumption based off one sentence, creating a term (racial gnosticism) and strawman attacking those who disagreed with him as violating a ‘colorblind’ interpretation of Galatians 3:28. He (wrongly) says that his opponents are choosing to define themselves first by race/ethnicity – a charge unsubstantiated by any of the blogposts of any of the individuals involved. If I didn’t see it, I’d have thought this Dave Hunt-level of argumentation came from…well…. Dave Hunt.

You can see it for yourself here:

https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/gospel-lenses-and-the-search-for-allies/

Notice carefully:  his argumentation is based on his own faulty, non-supported assumption in the sentence “This seems to indicate a primacy of race, not a primacy of gospel.”  How he got that from Ekemini’s actual definition of what she meant by it, I have no idea.  Ekemini wrote what a “racial cost-benefit analysis” consisted of and nothing in it consisted of a “primacy of race”:

“Whenever there is a social media post, story, or an incident involving race, as a person of color, I must do a racial cost-benefit analysis.

On the cost side, I measure the psychological, emotional, and sometimes, physiological toll it would take on my well-being, depending on the magnitude of the racial event.

On the benefit side, I measure the possibility of a teachable moment, the chance to change false narratives, and show how the gospel bears practical implications for racism, always with the hope that much fruit would come as a result. After completing my analysis, I determined the benefit outweighed the cost.”

Again, no “primacy of race” in this statement, but White makes up an accusation as he goes (this is called the straw man fallacy) and runs with it, pastes it on all of his critics and then dismisses them. No, Dr. White, you have done nothing other than attack a position you created in your head. This is academically dishonest.

Rich Pierce doesn’t fare any better. On his post on my timeline, he enters the post defensive and argumentative, repeating the same fallacious application of Galatians 3:28, as if Galatians 3:28 erases ethnicity from existence or even being mentioned. He then goes on to say that anyone who defines themselves by the color of their skin is a racist (mind you, he had no problems with James defining the young boy by his skin color).

Rich says he got angry because I told him what his words may be interpreted as. Yet, at least two of own friends took it the exact same way and even encouraged him to contact my elders (to be fair, one backtracked quickly when confronted with stuff he didn’t know….be quick to read and slower to speak, Jeff). My suggestion to him privately apparently had some merit!

jeff-durbin-jumps-in

one-friend-contact-elders

No, Mr. Pierce, you don’t get to strong-arm threaten me with possible church discipline, even though you tried to backtrack with Dale. I tagged my senior pastor immediately for multiple reasons. Top among them is that as an ordained deacon in the PCA, I have large amount of responsibility (per 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1) before God to live with integrity. I am a LOT more careful with my words over the past three years, but rest assured – nothing to hide here and I don’t have a low view of the church, contra one or two of your posters. If you unblock or send one of your friends over to the original thread, you will also see where I tagged three additional elders from my church. If you’d like to contact any of them via telephone, contact me and I will put us all on conference call. I believe getting elders involved in this discussion may actually be beneficial.

You also don’t get to be offended when I tell you that others may be offended at your tone and wording. What you should do, as an ministry leader (and probably an elder, since I saw a few sermons from you online) is simply fess up that you took things wrong or that your own tone could have been better (again, that’s what I was expecting from you, which is why I contacted you and said you may want to respond differently), especially given the fact that I and everyone else in the original post approached you as brotherly as possible. You came into the post throwing around threats and accusations. You may have missed that in the midst of being angry and defensive.

You also don’t get to play the shell game with terminology. Redefining ‘racism’ to be anyone who defines themselves by their skin color is academically dishonest and poor argumentation. Dr. White wrote in his initial post: “In case anyone has not noticed, I am white. Scottish white. Like the Scots in the kilts charging the British at Stirling white.” By your own words then, Dr. White would be classified as a racist.

“Well of course he didn’t mean it that way! It’s just a descriptor!”

See last sentence and apply it. You are out of line (and engaging in a logical fallacy) in attempting to paint anyone who acknowledges that different biological ethnicities exist as a racist. Christian love does not attribute evil motives to those in the body over a disagreement like this. Christian integrity also seeks to deal truthfully (1 Cor. 13:6) with positions it disagrees with. You and Dr. White have not dealt truthfully with those you disagree with when representing their positions. You have created imaginary “racial gnostics” and attacked them.

The Root Of The Issue

While I will not assign white privilege or inherent racism to either man (I believe these ‘answers’ are too simplistic and ultimately not applicable in this case), I will point out a simple truth: we all have blind spots due to the noetic effects of the fall. Adam and Eve, when confronted by God in the garden, ran and hid themselves in Genesis 3. When confronted up close (seriously….where are you going to run from God ?), Adam blame-shifted to God….”this woman YOU gave me”, as Adam ignored his own immediate blind spots – it was he who abdicated his responsibilities as husband in taking the fruit and following the lead of his wife.

Blind spots.

The Christian life is a life-length marathon to overcome those blind spots. For some of us, it’s eschatology. It’s why you can have can sit Ken Gentry, Darrell Bock and John Piper on the same stage and they come to different conclusions on the details of the end times. For others, it’s reformed theology. John MacArthur called Wesley a “confused Calvinist”, since Wesley often wrote in his journals that he did not believe he was regenerate, even though in the same journal entries he would show signs of and the fruits of a regenerate life.

Dabney and Edwards wrote spectacular theological bodies of work that have been referenced again and again. Both men had a gift for taking the complex ideas of scripture and explaining it in a way that the layman could easily access. But Dabney stumbled at the imago dei when he supported the chattel slavery practices of Virginia (and in general). How’d he miss that ? Edwards went back and forth on the issue during the course of his life, dying still a slave owner (he did not free his slaves in his will). But his son became an abolitionist. The fog of blindness was starting to lift, apparently; enough to influence his son.

Those blind spots may hit at some uncomfortable areas – most white folks I know are quietly terrified of being called racist or even anything near to racist. They genuinely try to treat people as people and are ashamed of the segregationist past of the US.  So instead of pointing out/noticing differences, they go to the opposite extreme of ignoring/minimizing any differences between themselves and others in an effort to be egalitarian. The well-meaning refrain is “I don’t even see color!”

They run like Usain Bolt from these conversations and become instantly defensive to anyone and anything that may touch their “uncomfort” zones. They’re not familiar with the issues, the people, and what appears to them to be a whole separate ‘culture and language’. They don’t know how to talk and are afraid of what to say because it may be taken wrong. So they stay silent when they should speak up or they say things which are taken wrong because of tone or bad wording. Sometimes, they do believe and follow narratives about black people that they learn from the media (conservative or other).

Let me offer you some advice I picked up last past weekend (weekend of April 1). My wife and I spent this last weekend at the Weekend to Remember Conference at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos. Beautiful area – peaceful. One of the speakers – I believe it was Tim Downs – gave us an example of how familiarity breeds contempt and impatience. He said that years ago, there was a study done where some people asked for directions in a metropolitan area – initially with an obviously American accent from that area/region. Those people were treated a bit less friendly and with more impatience. Those same people went out and feigned different accents from different nationalities, again asking for directions. As the people appear to be more ‘alien and stranger’ to them, the study found that people were more patient, detailed and kind with the directions they gave. The exhortation was that husbands should be at least this patient with their wives.

I think there’s application here too. You came in ready to report people to elders, throwing around terms and telling us that they aren’t just buzzwords. You wouldn’t do that if you were a missionary overseas in an African country (or an Asian country). You’d be a lot more patient, kind, and loving. Maybe it’s because I live in America and you’re already familiar (via whatever narrative you’ve been following….that’ll be tackled in the post after this one) with ‘black issues’ via all those statistics you cited, so you figured nothing else was needed.

On Monday when this all took place, Rich Pierce attempted to burn a bridge over a disagreement. He and Dr. White are scared. They may hide it with anger and supposed righteous indignation, but both are scared. Anyone paying attention can see that the quality of exegetical discussion and polemical approach given by Dr. White in his responses (video and written) has been of a far lower than any of his exchanges with Muslims, Mormons and even with Jehovah’s Witness apologist, Martin Smart.

(remember this post ? This is when I contacted you because I was ‘stuck’ on John 15 as a new Calvinist – http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2013/01/11/john-15-the-vine-and-the-branches-and-an-example-of-cultic-scripture-twisting-provided-by-martin-smart-one-of-jehovahs-witnesses-vintage/)

These conversations may be new territory and they don’t know how to respond. They may be especially scared since Doc believes that his words have already been twisted. So they run, screaming at the top of their lungs so they can’t hear. They attack before they can be attacked. The problem with running, of course is that others look at you and say “if you haven’t done anything wrong, why are you running ?”

While I will call you both out on what appears to be hypocrisy in your approach, actions and dealings, I will also pray for both of you to be convicted and publicly repent of your approach, your actions and attitude. I do not believe you are both ‘racists’ (some of your supporters, not so much based on their posts…). I do believe this is simply unfamiliar territory for you and you haven’t learned how to listen, empathize and communicate yet. And because it becomes so personal when we broach this topic (can’t escape the culture we live in), you’re both the skittish equivalent of startled deer. Startled deer fight back hard and they also run.

So the same question I asked you in the post still stands.

Instead of “listening to respond”, you could listen to understand and then respond in a brotherly fashion instead of as opponents and enemies.

Are you more concerned about winning the argument or winning the brother/sister ?

This is called a bridge. Walk across it instead of trying to burn it.

That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. But it means we don’t demonize each other as you’ve sought to do. The basis of reconciliation of any kind for us is the gospel. So I appeal to you both as a brother in Christ – repent, sit at the table with your brethren and have discussions with them. You will grow and so will they.

****

Three small postscripts:

We’re all using (even you) the word “race” to describe linked/related ethnic, biological and cultural differences.  We know full well there’s only one ‘race’ – human. We’re using the word ‘race’ because it’s the word we’re stuck with. Ekemini pointed this out in her article on RAAN, so has Trillia Newbell in her book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. So has John Piper.

There’s a lot more to write here. I’ll be addressing the topic both on video on my YouTube channel in the near future as well as on my main blog at Theologically Correct dot Com.  I do have an addendum post for this that I’ll be adding shortly (it’ll be a new post) that will deal with some additional observations over the past week on this topic, especially since a few new articles (helpful ones) have come out since then.

Featured Image Photo Credit: AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Brandi Jade Thomas. Cars are strewn on the collapsed portion of the Interstate 35W bridge, which stretches between Minneapolis and St. Paul, after it collapsed Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour.

Quick update…..

http://theologicallycorrect.com/?p=454 – front page o’ the site.

Been a Minute…..

Been a while since I posted.   Year 40 of life has been very interesting.   I can say that I’ve spent the bulk of this year working on things to become more competent in my profession – Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago last year being one of the main things.

Got my highest scores at PGCPS band festival ever – straight II’s from all the judges (including sight reading).

Published my first composition – Circus Festival March.  Premiered it May 21 at Spring Concert.

Working on getting my LLC (oh yes, BluePhire is going more ‘official’ now than before!) off the ground – mainly looking to spend time composing and publishing music (trying to pay back these student loans!).

Finished my Master of Arts in Teaching June 12, 2013, officially.

There’s more stuff….always is.  God has been good to me and Danielle (seriously).  Danni had a great year too – lots of work, but her group at festival got the same scores.

A lot of this year has been seeing ‘Calvinism’, ‘Reformed Theology’, ‘Biblical Theology’ worked out in the practical and the every day.  I’m still working on part III of my intro series on reformed theology on the main page (that I started 2 years ago).

I do spend a lot (probably too much) time on Facebook, forwarding things, getting into the occasional argument and debate and so on.  I have a huge set of tasks ahead of me, so I need to be a bit more focused with my time in the coming years.

That’s all for now…. more to come.

Meditation on the Sovereignty of God: Never Abstract and Theoretical.

I can’t share all that’s been going on with me over the past 72 hours. My wife and I drove the 11 hours to Nashville and our family requires much prayer at the moment.

I may be beating the same drum again, but it needs to be said. The sound theology that so many people turn their nose up to during the days of sunshine is designed by God for the benefit of the believer when the storms come.

Sound theology doesn’t take the pain away. That’s not its’ purpose.

What it does is ground you in reality.

Romans 8:28-39, the doctrine of election, the perseverance of the saints and the rest of the doctrines of grace aren’t simply theoretical ideas that have no basis or real impact on the life of the everyday believer.  They are comfort when hard times come.

You see, every true believer defaults back to a position similar or identical to reformed theology when trials hit.

They know God is wiser than our desires (thanks for the reminder RaRa). And so when they have done all that they can do to fix the situation, they default back to trusting God in His infinite wisdom to do what seems right to Him. They may pray for deliverance and relief from the situation, but know full well that if their prayers are not answered in the affirmative, God is still good….and God is still God.

At times when most people would lose all hope, true Christians have hope. They rely and trust upon God. They acknowledge simple things about God: His goodness, His omniscience, His power and ability to rescue…and deep underneath it all, they know.

Romans 8:28-30 again. God is for me.  As a believer, I may endure all sorts of trials – even down to persecution and death at the hands of my persecutors (vv. 33-36). Think of the implications of that closely.  And the promise I have that God is for me is seen in the fact that He gave up the most valuable possession in the universe to Him – He gave Himself.

God the Father, who loves His son, gave His Son. His Son who did no wrong, took the penalty for my wrongdoing.

If God is capable of doing this, then Him choosing me, calling me to salvation, paying the penalty for my sin on the cross, preserving me, sanctifying me and eventually glorifying me is not an impossibly big deal.

And I take this promise and feed on it for comfort during times like these. I realize that God has not only called, saved, sanctified me, but also others.  And when those others are enduring their own pain, I point them to these promises as a source of comfort and hope.

No, the pain doesn’t ‘not happen’. Every day is not a Friday. Every day can’t be a Friday. Joel Osteen’s book is full of lies and is nothing more than paganism and selfishness wrapped in fake Christianese with a few misquoted scriptures tossed in. If your ‘BEST life’ is now, then your next life will be in hell.  God never designed the Christian life to be free of pain or struggle. But He did design it to be full of hope and joy even in the midst of tribulation and trial.

So I rest in the Sovereignty of God  and trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (Gen. 18:26), even when my finite, limited-understanding, easily moved and changed mind and emotions don’t understand why things have to happen the way they do when they do.

Pain, then, becomes a beacon pointing us back to the true and living God for comfort, and not simply our friends & family. It also points us away from things like alcohol, drugs and other destructive things that provide a false sense of temporary comfort. Suffering becomes an opportunity for trust, not dismay.  Nothing less than a God who is both Sovereign and in control of all human events (including, but not limited to earthquakes, death, famine, marriages, joy, celebrations, and accidents) is able to promise Romans 8:28-30.  He can be trusted. Nothing less than a God who is carries out election, calling to salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is able to promise and carry out Romans 8:38-39. We don’t serve a God who simply wishes well for us or thinks well for us like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching the game.

Never theoretical. Never abstract. Always real. Because God is real, life is real and pain is real.

What are you resting on ?

Trust God.

A few 1/1/12 reflections as I get ready for church (a few weeks late)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been jokingly telling friends (and even my wife) – I’m ‘fat, happy and content’.  There’s probably 90% truth to that statement. I do need to lose weight (takes discipline).  I am very happy right now (even with the general stresses of life and work, all things are going well).  Most of all, I am content (wife and I just purchased a house, so we’re finally apartment-free and we’re in a good area with low crime….and lots of deer….although we spent most of the month of December moving….while still working, doing concerts, etc…).  I generally have everything I need at the moment.

Food, clothing, shelter, income, possessions, companionship, fellowship at a good church, sound teaching….

1 Timothy 6:6-8 is a good place to find yourself.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Could some things be ‘better’ ? Sure. I’d love to have a more active social life with my friends, but the problem (part of it) is that I live too far away from most of them and FB is a poor substitute (indeed NO substitute) for keeping up in person.  Could my students act better and be more focused ? Absolutely. But it’s the nature of teaching middle school. The challenge every year is to reproduce and exceed the excellence from the year before. I think I’m well on my way to that point at the moment.

All of these things come with new challenges and levels of difficulty that I may not necessarily be equipped to properly handle at the moment. And that’s why I’m reflecting back to this passage again and again and considering my life as it stands at the moment.  I really do have it good. More importantly, God in His providence, has seen fit to place me in the point in life where I am right now because in His all-wise counsel, this is the absolute best for me right now (Romans 8:28).

That last point right there helps me to view life through the wisdom of God in how He deems to execute the life-plans He has for each of His elect, specifically at the moment, for me and my wife.  That, my friends, helps me to learn to trust Him more (especially when He gives me ‘glimpses’ of what I could’ve gotten myself into if I’d married someone else, taken another job, etc….).

Brain Full, Watch Empty

The commodity of time is always in short supply and even moreso this year. I’m sitting in Panera 3 days before my birthday with a clipboard full of papers to grade, concern regarding a move to a new home with my wife, a brain full of things to write on (like finishing up the gazillion series of posts I’ve done part I’s to and maybe a part 2, but never completed….) and the need to get focused and accomplish all of my present goals. I’d love to update LDM’s playlist (what….two years now ?), do some more ‘marketing’ for the board, but alas these things all escape my attention.

Fourth Friday Fundamentals is tomorrow and the topic is suffering.  Dealing with some of the things I’ve had to this year (just an enormous load of work!), I feel somehow qualified.

I really wanted to blog about the whole TD Jakes-modalism-mess that the Elephant Room Conference has stirred up (some of it good – got a lot of people studying up on the Trinity again…..). I’ve had some fruitful discussions on HCR regarding the topic (and the Trinity  in general as an essential). The cool thing is that this plays right into part II of a post I’m long overdue to put on here (regarding the Trinity and salvation).

Anyway, a few wishes, hopes and dreams….for now. Maybe after my wife and I move and get settled, and the workload levels off (I’m teaching both band and choir this year….and will probably be doing so for the foreseeable future), I can start doing some things.

And yes, I’m still writing…..and producing. Maybe in 2012.

Two Years of Marriage: Reflections

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have been married for two years to a wonderful, understanding, cute :D, loving, godly woman. Although both of us have a boatload of things to get done over the next few weeks, the most either of us is doing today are things that do not require labor….and in another hour and some change, we’ll be doing nothing other than relaxing.

Over on LDM, one person asked me about what things my wife and I got out of our two years of attending the Weekend to Remember conferences put on by Family Life Today.  One of the best things has been to serve my wife by being patient, quick to forgive and understanding.  All of these things involve a fundamental biblical truth – putting others before ourselves.  In marriage, this is probably the #1 way to keep a marriage together. If you’re thinking about your mate first, you won’t be pressed about what “I” want to do all the time…..from how to spend money to where to spend vacation to even what to wear.

Men, we have a heavier burden according to scripture. Scripture primarily meets us at the area we have the most problems with – listening and understanding.  1 Peter’s command for husbands to dwell with their wives ‘according to knowledge’ or ‘with understanding’ or ‘in an understanding way’ cuts at our tendency to want to ‘fix’ everything and reduce everything down to a simple formula.  Some women like routine – some don’t. Takes work to get to know her individually and adjust yourself accordingly.  Remember – we are servant-leaders.

There is no command in scripture for wives to dwell with their husbands according to knowledge. 🙂 Women can figure out most of our basic desires pretty quick. Those of you married – haven’t you noticed how your wife is able to pre-think some things that you might forget, have that stuff ready and all set up for you just when YOU are starting to realize “Oh no! I forgot to take care of item X or item Y” ?

Ladies, have you noticed that when you do stuff like that, your husband’s eyes light up and he just begins to gush on how awesomely terrific you are ?  There is a command for women to respect their husbands. When you do stuff like this, husbands think “wow. she respects me and appreciates me enough to make up for the areas I fall behind in.  I’d stop a bus for this woman.”

There’s a bunch of scientific data out on how women are wired for this level of attention to detail already , but science is simply finding out what the Bible has already taught on the issue.

So….

Another great thing I took away from these sessions is the need for consistent, regular time in the scriptures together. I admit freely – I’ve been lousy at this as of late. But I’m going to get ‘us’ back into it soon.  Remember Ephesians 5 – the husband who loves his wife washes her and cleanses her with the Word.  Men reading this – your leading of your wife in and through scripture is part of the means of her sanctification (as well as yours).  And you’ll also both find yourselves growing together more as you spend time in the Word together.

Be ready to forgive and not make every offense a big deal. Be ready to apologize. Ephesians 4:32 is big here.  Remember patience – the same patience you want folks to use when dealing with you and your shortcomings, failings, etc…. extend that to your mate.  The doctrine of total depravity reminds us that all humans are fallen beings, all corrupted by sin and even when we come to Christ in faith, we are still dealing with the lingering effects of the flesh for the remainder of our lives. The same grace and mercy that Christ showed us, let us be quick to show it to our mate.

All this in two years. 🙂  May the Lord give my wife and I 80-90 more (of course, we’ll be old as dirt by then…if not dirt).

I’m out for now. Off to spend the rest of the day with my wife. 🙂

It’s been a while…..

Another ‘I’m still alive and planning to start writing again’ post.  Things have been busy.  But before the end o’ the summer, all of these ‘outstanding things’ on my checklist will be addressed – including site updates, new articles, editing video and so on. A lot of things are afoot (mostly good things, but all time-consuming things)…..keep me and my wife in prayer.