Saturday, October 25, 2008


I am actually laughing as I begin this blog, laughing at Barack Obama, and laughing at the Democratic Party.

If you haven't heard, yesterday the Obama campaign "leaked" the information that, if elected President, Barack Hussein Obama will appoint a certain woman as Ambassador to Great Britain.

I'm laughing again, really.

Only a dimwit would entertain such an idea, and only a dimwit would fail to see just how manipulatively calculating is the timing of such an announcement. Having forfeited the opportunity to wrap up the gender vote by the selection of Hillary as his running mate and, instead, choosing the most cynical and sarcastic Senator Joseph Biden (who, by the way, hails from that state most notorious for its courtship of exploitative credit card companies - just look for "Delaware" on the address of your plastic), Obama now migrates from the ridiculous to the absurd - "Oprah Winfrey, Ambassador to Great Britain."

I'm not just laughing; I'm fighting myself not to use an expletive intensifier to emphasize just how funny that is.

What is Obama thinking? Surely he does not not think that Winfrey would seriously consider such an offer; she'd be eaten alive and the laughing stock of intellectually astute and cultured Britons. "Out of her league" would be the understatement of the year in such a scenario, and what an embarrassing development for any thinking American. Besides, Winfrey herself would consider such an appointment a "step down" -

I thank President Obama for his confidence in me, and I'm honored that he would consider me for such a high responsibility to our nation, but I think that I can do more good for the American people in my current role.

Yeah, right.

While Barack's at it, and since I know he reads and cares greatly about this blog, I have other recommendations for him:

  • Joint Ambassadors to Zimbabwe - Angelina Jolee and Brad Pitt
  • Ambassador to Iran - Barbara Streisand
  • Ambassador to Germany - Steve Spielberg
  • Ambassador to Saudi Arabia - Bill Maher
  • Ambassador to Syria - Michael Moore
  • Ambassador to Space - Johnny Depp
  • Secretary of State - Susan Sarandon
  • Secretary of Labor - Willie Nelson
  • Secretary of Education - Howard Stern
  • Secretary of Defense - Martin Short
  • Secretary of Commerce - Fi'ty Cent
  • Secretary of the Interior - Martha Stewart
  • Director of Food and Drug Administration - Robert Downey, Jr.
  • Presidential Press Secretary - Chris Rock

It gets funnier, doesn't it?

Frankly, I am not just laughing, I would be in a state of nauseated embarrassment if Oprah Winfrey became Ambassador to Great Britain. How could that nation take such an appointment seriously? They would be laughing, too, at us, and rightly so.

No, on second thought, I don't think the Brits would be laughing; I think they would be insulted, probably even angered, by such political tomfoolery and diplomatic impropriety

Maybe I shouldn't be laughing either.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Black Friday, Bloody Friday

Seventy Nine years ago to the day, October 24, 1929, men committed suicide. Some shot themselves, some jumped out of windows. Others just sat down, buried their hands in their faces, and wept. Some went mad. News media shouted, nations reeled, families suffered.

Today is also October 24, and we shall remember it all our lives as Bloody Friday. Will anyone take his life today? Certainly, many will shudder in fear and weep in dismay.

The World Markets have crashed. Some national markets, gripped by fear, have even closed in a vain attempt to stem the epidemic of economic panic. Will U. S. Markets close? Perhaps. The Nasdaq and Standards & Poor's indexes reached their "limit down" in the wee hours of the morning, and will not trade again until after the stock market opens. "Limit down" means that, at some point in the fall, the powers that be just say, "enough, too far, too fast, too much, no more," an arbitrary attempt to stop the hemorrhaging. It changes nothing and has little value other than psychological, an arbitrary and temporary effort to make things appear as if they cannot get any worse.

No one knows what will happen when the stock market opens this morning, except that it will plummet. How far? How hard? No one knows.

Our bitter response to this horrific dilemma is to castigate the greedy and the unwise, those culpable for the crash. But the reality is worse. Not just bad men, but good men, good men who have worked honestly and hard all their lives, good men and women who have toiled with integrity and sweated blood for their families' livelihood and their own retirement, good people suffer today as they watch with disbelief and dismay the material measure of their honest labor evaporate before their eyes.

Black Friday, Bloody Friday.

Today, on Black Friday, Bloody Friday, I weep for good people and mourn for their monetary losses, but I am also thankful on this day. I am thankful for
  • My wife's health
  • My children's integrity and wellbeing
  • My daily bread
  • The abiding comfort of the Holy Spirit and the tangible fruit of His Presence
  • Life
  • Laughter
  • Truth
  • Providence
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Eternal Life
  • Heaven

What are you thankful for today?

Today I am thankful for Black Friday, Bloody Friday; not that Black Friday or this Bloody Friday, but that other Friday, both black and bloody; that black and bloody Friday 2000 years ago when something, that is, Someone, darkly blackened the golden sun and stained the emerald earth with crimson, Someone who became poor that I might become rich, rich with untarnishable, imperishable treasure.

Black Friday, Bloody Friday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good Night, Good Job, and Goodbye

Of course I could be wrong--that's the necessary disclaimer at the onset of this brief blurb, but I do not see how an objective person could possibly think that John McCain will win the Presidency of the United States, especially after last night's debate, er', . . . debacle. For those of you too young to remember the first televised Presidential debate--Kennedy/Nixon--not only did style win out over substance, but Nixon's negative persona glared and stared at the national television audience just as John McCain's angry-man act no doubt moved "the undecideds" toward the cool, charismatic, Kennedy-esque Obama.

Good night, John McCain.

John McCain, fighter pilot, prisoner of war, not just any prisoner of war, but one who wouldn't cut a deal for his release, who instead chose to stay and suffer with his fellow soldiers; John McCain, "the maverick of the Senate" who, right or wrong, had the guts to stand up to his own party; John McCain, "the comeback kid," out of money and out of the Presidential primaries according to all the pundits, but who showed both them and his opponents the meaning of dogged perseverance. John McCain, war hero, maverick, and underdog--

Good job, John McCain.

John McCain, your history is written. Perhaps the last chapter would have read quite differently had it not been for your predecessor, to whom we also say "goodnight," and to whom you also can say "thank you" for paving the way for Barack Obama to be the next President of the "United" States of America.

Goodbye, John McCain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


My friend Jonathan and I got into a discussion the other night over whether or not the "commands" of scripture are really commands, or suggestions. I say commands, he says suggestions. Now, the truth of the matter, as usual, is that he and I are saying the same thing from different angles, but I tend to be a little bit more particular about how something is said; that's just my nature. Calling the instruction of scripture a "suggestion" is problematic because it hints or indicates that these precepts are not necessities for humanity, but merely accessories.

Why do people question scripture? Simple: because we love ourselves more than we love God. If the Bible commanded that people breathe and eat when their bodies were hungry, people would still question it. Our natures are such that we don't like, no, we despise, being told what to do. The commands of scripture are not suggestions, and they are not because God is a control freak or because He likes making rules. The commands of God are not just God telling us what He requires of us, but He is also telling us what we need.

We find ourselves in a fallen state, dead in sin, but Christ came "that [we] might have life, and have it more abundantly". Sin = death; Christ = life. Part of Christ's work on earth was the fulfillment of the law, not the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, what the law was truly saying. Sin is the opposite of holiness; Christ is our holy example, our holy sacrifice, and our holiness. so when the Pharisees, the most "righteous" men (according to the letter of the law) asked Jesus, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law", Jesus replied, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Love is not a suggestion; love is a command. why? Why does God command us to love? Pay close attention here.....say the words to yourself: "people need to be loved." Like breath, like sustenance, people need to be loved. It is part of the way we were created. Now i'm sure most, if not all, of you have thought of this before....sure, it's almost common sense....people need love. But here is the second reason God gives us this command; pay even closer attention, and say these words to yourself until the words turn into involuntary actions: "PEOPLE NEED TO LOVE!" You, yes you, need to love. If you don't, you will die a death worse than physical death, and your time on this earth will be nothing close to what life is supposed to be. You, yes you, need to love. What an amazing God we serve! How incredible is He to have created us in a way so that the thing we need to receive most, love, is the one thing that we need to give most. God commands holiness, God commands love. and God provides love. Christ is our holiness, Christ is our love, and because we have Him, not only do we abundantly possess all we need, but we are also free to give abundantly to the needs of others.

You, yes you, are free to love so, please, love freely.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Would you like to play a game?

What are your favorite hobbies? My top three are playing basketball, reading, and ascertaining whether total strangers are charismatics. This weekend, I successfully played two of the three.

Saturdays I routinely go to a local coffee shop to finalize my Sunday School lesson and to engage in some casual reading. This particular Saturday I found myself having completed my lesson on Jesus’ link between love and obedience found in John 14. Wanting to relax, I pulled two books out of my bag: Martin Lloyd Jones’s lectures on biblical doctrine, and Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.

After wending my way through The Gay Science for an hour or so, I put it down to pick up Jones’s tome. As I was taking notes on a passage about our condition of original guilt, I noticed a young man, in his mid-twenties it appeared, walk in. He was well built, dressed in the requisite Birckenstocks, khaki shorts, and grey T-shirt, toting a backpack and a smile. He approached the barista and, in an effete manner, with a wide smile, and a voice dripping with fulsome sweetness, he ordered a latte.

"Charismatic—tongue-speaker," I said to myself. He had a penumbra of glossolalia as he walked about the cafĂ©.

Plainly, the most difficult aspect of the game, "pick the charismatic," lies in the scoring. The only way to chalk up a point is to ascertain certain religious beliefs held by the subject. It seems poor form to sidle up to someone and ask him whether he’s been slain by the Spirit, although that could be fun, in and of itself. Another option would be to walk up to the person and say, "‘Twas brilling, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe,’" and see whether he tries to translate Lewis Carroll into English. Still, a third option would be to simply ask what church the person attends. Although the last manner of determination seems a quick and easy way to score my game, it turns out to be not that useful as most people have no clue what their church believes.

Therefore, as a steady-headed Calvinist I let Providence be my guide. I continued reading, and I waited. A student of human psyche, I decided to bait the trap. I continued reading my Jones and placed Nietzsche coyly on my table. Our friend walked by once or twice, and I was certain he would take notice of the scandalous philosopher in front of me. I was partly correct. What he noticed was not the author, but the title of the little book, and, like most charismatics, didn’t actually read what he thought he’d read.

He stopped and said, "Interesting reading. You have the Reformation Study Bible (which was by my side) and The Gay Scene." He had misread the title, and apparently thought I was a homosexual engaged in reading the Bible. I must say, if that’s what he believed, I do respect him actually approaching me, probably to witness, rather than keeping such a thought a mere velleity.

Nevertheless, I explained that I was reading some philosophy for fun and education. This seemed to mollify him, as I think he was a bit embarrassed for having been cullied by his eyes with regard to my book title.

Still, though, I couldn’t bring myself to ask the question at hand. His demeanor and mannerisms continued to confirm my suspicions. However, I knew that if I asked the question I’d do so tactlessly, and I figured discretion is the better part of valor.

The conversation ended, but hope was not gone. As my new friend was leaving, he saw a fellow charismaticish person, walked up to him and said, "Hey, glad to see you here. I didn’t realize that you worked at Teen Mania too!" Booya!

Chalk another point up for Shane in the "pick the charismatic" contest.

I only wish that my skill was communicable. Perhaps all heresy could be driven out. Hal, is the ability to pick out a charismatic by looking a spiritual gift? I’m going with yes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Free Will

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev 22:17

Walk into nearly any evangelical Sunday School class on a given Sunday morning and before too long, some well-intentioned lady will answer a question with the phrase “because we are created with a free will to choose.” (Incidentally, that answer has just surpassed “because He loves us” and “I know in the Bible it says...” topping the “Most Common Sunday School Answer” charts at #1 of all time). At that point, most everyone else will nod in agreement with their arms folded in a satisfied and even somewhat smug look on their faces. If the argument were articulated from their side, it would go something like this: “God is Sovereign; yet, in His Sovereignty he has allowed for a small window that belongs to the creature exclusive of the Creator called man’s free will; in this small window, man can either choose God or reject Him; God has done this so that men are not human robots controlled at all times by the will of God.”

The teacher, although he might have skimmed through enough of Luther’s Bondage of the Will to disagree, doesn’t really have a good answer as to why this isn’t true. So, rather than confront what he knows deep down to be shaky reasoning and risk being thrown to the ravenous wolves of the free will majority for the remainder of the class time, he quickly moves on to the next topic. You get the picture...

The idea of free will is perhaps the most misunderstood and misused idea in the contemporary church today.

The purpose of this essay is not to provide a comprehensive discussion on the subject, nor a biblical exposition (although verses can be provided if queried). Rather, the purpose is to address the subject practically and simply; hopefully, some of the content will provide a way to more effectively love those who claim a wrongful notion of free will into a deeper consideration of truth.

The Human Will

In order to understand the freedom of the human will, we must first establish terms that will enable us to know what is meant by will and then what is meant by free.

By will we mean man’s disposition to act according to principles or ends. Simply stated, will is the power of choice.

For a moment, we should consider the place of will within man.

According to scripture, man is a created, dichotomous being of body and soul. He was created from the dust of the earth and was given life by the breath of his Creator. As dirt is to the body, the breath of God is to the soul.

While the substance of the human body is flesh, the substance of the human soul is spirit. In fact, according to the Bible the characteristics (what it is) that describe the soul are:
  • spirit (substance),
  • life (effect),
  • heart (position-center of man), and
  • self (person-the personality).
It is important when considering the abilities of man to always consider what man is and how man works, since man, just as any other created being, will never exceed the limits of what he was created to be.

As the characteristics (what it is) of the soul are spirit, life, heart and self, the faculties (how it works) of the soul are:
  • understanding,
  • affections,
  • will and
  • conscience.
As the explanation of these terms will hopefully attest, the order of the terms is very significant. It is the progression of how the soul governs the body. Ultimately, when your body takes action, the understanding, affections, will and conscience have already been at work in sequence to determine the action that will transpire. You cannot and will not act unless the sequential process of the faculties of the soul has first run its course. In other words, you must understand (whether fully or partially, truly or falsely) in order to desire; you must desire in order to will; you must will in order to act; and the conscience must either excuse or accuse an idea into action.

Understanding is the power to distinguish between truth and falsehood; it is the power of comprehending. To know is to understand. How someone comes to understand principally occurs through 5 ways.
  • Thinking is the mental concentration of ideas.
  • Reasoning is logical thinking resulting in a conclusion.
  • Perception means to take notice of, observe or detect. Our ability to discern comes from this ability to perceive.
  • Purposing is intending to do something; it is determining to act in a certain way. In order to eventually act, one must initially purpose, intend, devise and plan.
  • Imagining is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses. To imagine is to think of an idea never before wholly received in reality.
Affections are feelings or emotions. The power or ability to love, hate, joy, sorrow, etc. comes from our affections. Desire is based on affections. You will not want until you desire. You will not desire until you like. Desire is the conscious impulse towards something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.

Will has already been defined.

Conscience is the sense of moral goodness or blameworthiness of ones own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good. It is the judge within you, reviewing your intended or actual actions, and will condemn or condone accordingly either accusing or excusing.

What Does Free Mean?

In our context, free means might + right.

Might = Ability. Right = Permission.

In order for a moral being to freely do something, it must always have the ability and permission to do so.

For example, are you free to jump to the moon? There is no moral law that prohibits you to jump to the moon; however, the physical law of gravity obviously prohibits you from jumping much higher than your table, much less out of the atmosphere. Thus, you are no more free to jump to the moon than you are to fly, since you have no ability to do so.

Are you free to take a gun into another’s house and commit murder? As long as you are able to break in and have the appropriate means, there is no physical law prohibiting you; however, the moral (and in this case, federal or state) law prohibits you from breaking and entering and taking another life. You are not free to murder, since you have no permission to do so.

Is the Human Will Free?

Worded another way: To what extent is man capable of exercising the power of choice freely? Answer: To the extent that he has both the ability and permission to do so.

Is it possible for man to exercise the power of choice successfully and not be free to do so? Yes.

Consider sin. Is any man free to sin? Answer: the wages of sin is death, and if you are dead then you are not free. Man may be able to exercise the power of choice in sinning, but he is not free to do so since the consequence of death awaits him both spiritually and physically. Too often, paraphrasing Luther, men mistake freedom for familiarity.

Consider man in creation. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Was man created as a moral agent with an ability to exercise power of choice? In an absolute sense, no; man was never free to do absolutely whatever he pleased. But as long as he was responsible to obey the law set before him, he was free to eat of any tree in the garden. When man sinned, he lost that ability or free power of choice without losing the subsequent responsibility to obey perfectly the law set before him or the consequential punishment (death) for not being able to do so.

And this is why the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation--Man is responsible for that which he has no ability to do.

But this is also why Jesus became incarnate, lived perfectly, put sin and its wages to death, as One whose will was free--that his people might also live as ones whose wills have been set free.

Consider the words of the Savior:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abideth ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:32-36.

The human will is only free when Jesus makes it so, and whosoever will may freely come only when the Son has freed his will indeed.

As many today are confounded by a mistaken idea of free will, most of Jesus’ Jewish audience did not understand what free will meant as well. They failed to see that only the Son could set them free from the wrath of God, free from the curse of sin, free from being a slave to the law. Instead, they mistakenly thought their will gave them an ability to be justified through their own obedience to the law.

They also failed to know that freedom from is always freedom to, that being free from sin is also always being free to walk in the Spirit; these freedoms cannot be separated. As such, they nullified the grace of God causing Christ’s death to have no purpose (Gal 2:21).

Dear reader, if you will be free there is only one way. Come to Jesus--the way, the truth and the life.

For the only men who will be fit to stand before the Father are free men and men only fitly made free by the Son.