Friday, March 23, 2018

Is There A Connection Between Humility and Freedom?

ON TUESDAY JANUARY 30, 1649, in London, an event occurred that changed the course of history. Charles I, King of England, was tried and executed by his subjects. The crime? Treason! 

As Charles climbed the steps to the scaffold, a crowd, estimated at 10,000, gathered to watch. The King spoke quietly to his chaplain, Bishop Juxon. He forgave the executioner, turned his thoughts to God, knelt and laid his head on the chopping block. The axe fell, and  following the tradition of the time, the executioner lifted the bloody head by its hair and proclaimed, "Behold the head of a traitor!" The crowd did not respond with the usual raucous cheer. Instead, "up from the people went a great deep groan, a groan, said an eye-witness, 'as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again.'" 

Charles last words were "a subject and a sovereign are clean different things." Antonia Fraser sums up his attitude this way. "A sovereign went to his death at the hands of his subjects, proud and unrepentant on that interpretation of government whose inflexibility had brought about his downfall." (Cromwell, pg 291). 

The rule of law is the foundation of our freedoms. It replaces an ancient concept known as the Divine Right of Kings. The two are incompatible. A nation not ruled by laws will be ruled by kings. (Think President, Dictator, Fuhrer, Prime Minister, etc. The title is irrelevant). Therefore, protecting the rule of law is vital. But, we are not doing that. The rule of law is collapsing, and to the degree that it does, we will revert to the Divine Right of Kings, the conviction about government for which Charles died. 

The Divine Right of Kings exalts the king above the law. Under this system everyone must obey the law except the king . His accounting is to God, not the people. Needless to say, this privilege is usually abused. For example, the king might impose a new tax which everyone must obey except the King. He might create a law against land theft, which applies to everyone except himself. According to "the Divine Right" the king is above the law. 

This concept began to die with the beheading of Charles in 1649. It was a great historical turning point, and like most historical turning points, no one understood it at the time. 

Charles fervently believed in the Divine Right of Kings. The Puritans, impacted by the Bible, fervently believed in the Rule of Law. The Puritans and Charles fought a Civil War to decide the issue. The Puritans, and the Rule of Law emerged victorious. Their conquest cost Charles his head. Inspired by this Puritan precedent, our founding fathers revolted against Britain in 1776. They wanted a nation ruled by law, not kings. 

To the degree that men are ruled by laws they are free. Our founders understood this. That is why the United States is a nation of laws. Everyone, homelesss or mighty, must obey the law. No one can agree with Charles that "a sovereign and his subject are clean different things." No one is free to disobey or ignore a law because they don't like or believe in it. Instead, we obey the law, even laws like Rowe V. Wade that we abhor. In the meantime, we work to change them through the legal mechanism provided by the constitution. 

In recent years the Rule of Law has been increasingly ignored. Leaders, acting like Charles I, place themselves above the law. This is a prescription for tyranny. For example, President Obama refused to enforce laws because he didn't agree with them. He refused to enforce RFRA, (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), because it conflicted with his drive for same sex marriage. The States of Washington and Colorado recently passed laws legalizing Marijuana, despite the fact that it contradicts Federal Statutes criminalizing Marijuana usage. Now California refuses to enforce federal laws restricting Hispanic immigration. The examples are numerous and ominous. 

Unlike Charles, humility confesses that the political leader and his subjects are not different things. They are both human, both fallible, and both subject to God's law and God's final judgment. Therefore, humility submits to the law whether it likes it or not. By contrast, arrogance ignores laws it doesn't like. It lifts itself up above the law. 

This should concern us because the general thrust of the left is lawlessness. Although it would never confess it, it is sympathetic with the "Diving Right" of some (uniquely gifted) to coerce others. It tends to ignore the constitution and the laws it produces. (Think of the leftist courts willingness to usurp the judicial and legislative functions). The general thrust of the right is to honor the constitution and the laws it has produced. It is not unfair to say that political pride characterizes liberalism, whereas political humility characterizes conservatism. 

We are engaged in a great war of ideas, a war of World Views. Who will win, the Rule of Law or the Divine Right of Kings? That is the crucial question. Upon the culmination of this contest our freedoms rest. 

As always, your comments are greatly apprecitated. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

How To Be A Church that Offends People Effectively!

JUDY AND I ARE in southern Arizona enjoying the dessert sun.  Last weekend we attended a Gospel Coalition/9Marks church in the local area. The people were sincere and kind. We were graciously and effectively greeted several times.

But the church exhibited an all-too-common problem. The church culture offended us, but there was nothing in the message that would have offended an unbeliever. God wants the local church to do the opposite. God wants the gospel to offend the pride of Believers and unbelievers, but he doesn't want the church culture to offend. In the case of this church, the result was predictable. There was no sense of gospel joy. The congregation was elderly. There were few young families. It was a dying church.

By church culture I mean its music, website, demographic, bulletin, PowerPoint slides, etc. Had I been a non-Christian visiting for the first time, I would have never gone back, and not because it lacked the "cool factor." I am sixty nine! So, what was so offensive?

First, the music. The songs were from a by-gone era. Old songs are not necessarily bad. Many are still relevant, but not these. The lyrics were saccharine, sweet, and sentimental. Of greatest concern, they had little to do with the biblical God or the gospel.

The musicians were not especially talented, but that was not a problem either. Many relevant worship teams are not especially talented. It was the choice of songs, and the lack of congregational engagement.

One of the songs was the the theme from the movie, The Shack. The congregation wasn't liberal, nor would they have agreed with the theology of The Shack, but by using this song the leadership implied empathy with the movie and its message. At best it was confusing.

The second offense was the PowerPoint slides. Faded out behind the lyrics was the iconic picture of Jesus, with long wavy hair and a robe falling to the floor. He was knocking on the door. The whole experience said irrelevant, never mind the second commandment prohibition of images.

The last offense was the preaching. It was not offensive, and it should have been. Good preaching makes God big and people small. It confronts us with our sin and God's awesome mercy. It reminds us of our unworthiness and God's grace. We leave humbled, hopeful, and longing to worship the God who is now bigger than when we walked in the door. In biblical language, the sermon fills us with the fear of God, and where the fear of God is there is joy.

But that is not what happened. The preacher was organized and articulate, and, I am sure, very sincere. But the content was morality. The text was Micah chapter six. "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (6:8). The preacher exhorted us to try harder, to be moral. He missed an opportunity to remind us that God commands justice, mercy, and humility, but we can't do it consistently. We must look at Jesus! He did it, and now, because we believe the gospel, his perfections are imputed to us. Therefore, throw we can seek to obey. We can seek to do justice. We can love kindness, and walk humbly with God. And, when we fail, there is a river of mercy and grace flowing from the throne of God.

I longed for him to turn my attention from myself, and my failures, to Christ and his all sufficiency. I didn't want to leave discouraged by my inadequacy, but encouraged by God's grace trying even harder to lead a life pleasing to him.

So, how about you and your church? What offends, the gospel, or your culture? God wants it to be the former, and when it is, God's joy will permeate your congregation. People will spontaneously give. They will reach out to the lost in the pew next to them. Your church will gain a reputation for friendliness, joy, and cheerfulness.

That is how God wants us to offend, not with our culture, but with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Who Is Responsible for the Mass Shootings?

TRAGICALLY SEVENTEEN TEENS died in a Florida High School shooting last week. Mass shootings in High Schools are happening so consistently that the nation is approaching a state of panic. 

What is the solution? Gun control? Weaponizing teachers? The solution to any problem is usually dependent on a thorough analysis of the cause. So, if we can isolate the cause of the mass murders we can provide an appropriate solution. 

We know there is a cause because in the last two decades something has changed. Mass shootings were almost non-existent in the fifties and sixties, but in the late sixties they began to occur, and since then with increasing frequency. 

What changed during those decades was the family. It has increasingly broken down. The retreat of fatherhood is the seismic shift of greatest significance. About 35% of our youth now grow up away from their biological father. The causes of this change are multiple, but I want to focus on the two most prominent, the sexual revolution and the emergence of an aggressive, militant feminism. 

In 1960, before neither the sexual revolution or feminism existed, only 5% of live births were to unwed mothers, and since many of those mothers eventually married their child's father, fewer than 5% grew up apart from their dad. 

The sexual revolution changed all of this. It decoupled sex from marriage and family. Sex became just another "recreational activity." In his book, Cheap Sex, sociologist Mark Regnerus makes the point that women are the "gate keepers" of sex. They decide when, or if, a man can have sex. In previous generations, men had to give something up to gain access to this privelege. They had to make a life commitment. It inevitably followed that men were motivated to marry. Not today! Sex is easy and free. It requires no commitment. Therefore, men are reluctant to marry. As my father used to say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" 

In addition, because it prioritized career over marriage and family, feminism decreased the motive for female marriage. With the advent of the pill, women could now enjoy casual sex with no constraints on their career. Thus feminism also added fuel to the sexual revolution. 

In the mid-seventies, as these two movements were gathering steam, George Gilder predicted the decline in marriage that is now occurring. Why marry a woman who brings home the bacon, serves in the National Guard, and rules the household? What does a man have to offer? What is his function? He is just a useless appendage. The result is predictable. Men are fleeing marriage. 

Fifty years later the familial foundations have crumbled. In a recent Fox News article, Suzanne Venker pointed out that every mass killer in recent years, with one exception, grew up without the influence of his biological father. Here is the problem. Fathers are desperately needed. Fathers socialize boys. They tame and channel the testosterone-induced aggression that every young man feels at puberty. Fathers transform that God-given aggression into a socially productive force. 

But when fathers are absent the opposite happens. As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: "Nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”[1]

Fatherlessness is the root of many of our other social problems. "70% of juvenile offenders came from single mother homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988). 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Center for Disease Control). 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools).”[1]

In light of these facts, is it unfair to blame the mass shootings on feminism and the sexual revolution? I don't think so. And, if these two movements are the cause, then the only solution is national repentance. If the problem is moral and spiritual, so is the solution. 

Of course, this analysis is problematic. Feminism and the Sexual Revolution are two holy grails of contemporary culture. We will never put the blame where it belongs. Without some unforeseen catastrophe, or a great outpouring of God's Spirit, feminism and the sexual revolution will not be repented of. 

As always your comments are greatly valued. 

[1] Adams, Steven (2013-12-05). Women First, Men Last: Feminism's War On Men and Its Devastating Effects (Kindle Locations 2592-2594). Steven Adams. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why Two Funerals Precede Every Happy Marriage!

SINCE VALENTINE'S DAY is right around the corner, a few words about the secret to marital happiness are appropriate. 

God has hardwired each of us to pursue our happiness, and we will ruthlessly and single-mindedly pursue it in whatever we really believe will get us there. 

That is one of the fruits of New Birth. It convinces us that our ultimate happiness is in God and eternal things. To the degree that we really believe this we will push self, and even suffer, to acquire that happiness. 

That is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, 16:25). Jesus practiced what he taught. “For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

We can restate it in modern vernacular like this. Those willing to die to their selfish, self-centered pride will maximize their joy. That especially applies to marriage. 

These words are counter intuitive. Obeying them is not easy. Everything in our fallen nature screams the opposite. 

You gain your life by protecting it.

Happiness comes through self-promotion.

Happy people protect their reputations. They don’t lose them.

Happy people take care of number one. They don’t volunteer to be number two. 

Here is how these assumptions express themselves in marriage. 

“I’m not going to let you use me. I have my rights, you know.”

“I will do my part for this marriage if you do yours.” 

“After what you have done to me, you really expect me to forgive?”

“How could anyone ever thank God for a spouse like you? God knows I deserve better.”

These are the ruminations of death not life. So, here is the question. Do we believe Jesus? We say “yes” when we pursue our joy in the happiness of our spouse. Here is a simple, but profound, truth:  if a husband and wife truly understand, and apply the ethic of the cross to their marriage, they can’t help but become increasingly happy. As someone once said, two funerals precede every happy and successful marriage.

The ethic of the cross stands at the center of all truly fulfilling Christian marriages. The cross does three things. It teaches husband and wife how to love each other—first as spouses, and then as brothers and sisters. Second, it motivates that love. Third, because it lavishes us with buckets of grace when we fail, it encourages us to keep walking down the steady path of self-denial. 

This  blog is an except from Bill's upcoming book, Marriage In Paradise, How to have a Genesis two Marriage in a Genesis three world. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Would God Handle A Rebellious Child?

WE WERE IN A MCDONALDS PLAY AREA for lunch after church. Next to me was a young mother with two sons, about age four and six. The four year-old was in trouble. "Sit on this chair," his mother said. "Your punishment is time-out for ten minutes." She put out her hand to restrain him, but her son cocked his fist and took a viscous swing at his mother's arm. Then he looked her in the eye and said with vehemence, "I hate you!"

What amazed me was not the child's sinful reaction, but his mother's. She did nothing. She did not get angry. She did not scold him. She just ignored him. She acted as if this was normal acceptable behavior, the kind of thing any mother would normally excuse, just childish immaturity.

She was the one with the problem, and her son reflected it. She did not see sin through God's eyes. She did not feel about it as does God. She tolerated rebellion and disrespect.

We can probably excuse her. Hopefully she was not a Christian. She didn't know better. But how about you? How about most professing evangelicals? Many in the church would react like this mother, but  in doing so they unintentionally scandalize the gospel. That's a strong statement, so let me explain.

Parents represent God to their children. "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1).  This means that God has put every parent in their child's life to represent his authority to that child. Parents need to be firm where God is firm, gracious where God is gracious, and decisive where God is decisive.

God hates sin, especially disrespect for authority. We should hate it also because authority is the ultimate issue. On the Day of Final Judgment our children will give an accounting to God for their response to his authority. Did they embrace it, love it, and submit to it? Or, did they hate it, flaunt it, or rebel against it? How they related to God's authority will determine their eternal destiny, either eternal conscious torment, or joy "inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).

The Old Testament shows us how God feels about authority. “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:15). “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:17).  “Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother" (Deuteronomy 27:16).  Proverbs 30:17 sums it up with graphic language. "The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey its mother will be plucked out by the Ravens of the Valley, and eaten by the vultures." God has designed these words to get our attention. Although capital punishment for these sins does not apply in the New Covenant, it shows us how God feels about child rebellion and the eternal consequences that could follow.

As we have seen, God gives parents to children to teach them what God is like, to help them internalize God's feelings about sin. God is slow to anger. He is patient with the weak. He shows grace to the undisciplined. But it is a colossal mistake to presume upon his goodness. God is never tolerant of evil. He hates it. The cross is the measure of that hatred. When Jesus died he took the capital punishment that each of us deserve for these sins against our parents. The cross shouts this message. "God hates rebellion. It deserves crucifixion, and God must justly punish it." Either your children will put their faith in Christ and he will absorb God's wrath for them, or they will receive it themselves through eternal damnation.

So, what should this mother have done? She should have reacted decisively. God is not patient with these sins, therefore, no parent should be either. She should have said something like this. "Do you have any idea how serious your sin is? In the Old Testament this rebellion would have provoked the death penalty. God is angry, and so am I. I am not going to discipline you in public. But when we get home I am going to spank you. I am going to do this because I love you. God disciplines the sons that he loves, and so do I."

How about you? Do you see it this clearly? This is how an understanding of the gospel affects parenting. It provokes us to act. And our action produces happy, contented, respectful adults that bring praise, honor, and glory to our Father in heaven. For more on age appropriate corporal punishment that does not hurt your child but connects pain to disobedience go to  Biblical Discipline That Makes Children Fun. 

Would love to hear your comments...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Seven Reasons to Be Really Happy

UNHAPPY PEOPLE take their blessings for granted. They assume they deserve them. Happy people take nothing for granted. They understand that everything is God's gift. The decade of birth, place of birth, parents, IQ, talents, etc. are all God's gracious gifts. They "overflow with thanksgiving"for the things that most take for granted.  Here are seven facts that this kind of person celebrates daily. I start with the least important.

SEVENTH is technology. I can call or Skype my daughter in England for free. Just twenty years ago skyping did not exist, and calling was from a land line at $2-$5.00 per minute. When missionaries Adoniram and Anne Judson left New England in 1812, it took six months for a letter to travel home from India. What used to require a 400 volume encyclopedia in 1980 is now available instantly through Google. A 1971 computer the size of my two story house would not do what my smart phone does instantly with a Siri command today. Ninety nine percent of human beings have never enjoyed these technologies, let alone smart phones. Are you grateful?

SIXTH is indoor plumbing. My father-in-law was born in 1913. He used an outhouse until he was in his twenties. Imagine an outhouse in the middle of the night on the plains of North Dakota with the temperature at minus 10? Not  a pleasant thought. But outhouses, or worse, have been the norm for 99% of those who have lived. But we have indoor plumbing in heated homes. Do you ever thank God for this incredible blessing, or do you just take it for granted?

FIFTH is central heating and air conditioning. Up until the last hundred years the world's wealthiest people only enjoyed radiant heat from a fireplace situated in one corner of the room. Since most rooms lacked fireplaces, the ambient temperature in most winter dwellings was 40-50 degrees . Everyone dressed inside like we dress outside on a cold day. How about Summer? Humid heat with no relief. Since screens weren't invented until recently, bugs permeated everything, even the houses of kings and queens. Are you grateful?

FOURTH is amazing Medical Care. One of my grandchildren was born without an anus. One hundred years ago within 48 hours he would have died in great agony. Today in Africa or S. E. Asia that is still the case. But nine years ago several operations re-plumbed him, and he is now a healthy third grader. How about ibuprofen and acetaminophen? 99% of those who have lived have never experienced the gift of a pain killer. In 1960 C.S. Lewis suffered from an enlarged prostate. He wore a catheter and urinated into a bag. Once at a Cambridge faculty meeting the bag leaked urine. Lewis was profoundly embarrassed. Today, a simple operation would fix this. Are you grateful?

THIRD is political and religious freedom. Historically, both have been almost non-existent . Even today only 25% of the worlds population enjoys both. This means we Americans are spoiled. We can move anywhere, work anywhere, and go to church anywhere, without government permission. Why is it that so many millennials don't value these blessings? If history is any teacher, they won't continue. So, are  you grateful?

% Living on less than $1/Day
SECOND, all the food you can eat! Only in the West, and in the last fifty years, have people not had to worry about where their next meal would come from. So great is our abundance, that we don't complain about the quantity of food, but the variety. But most that have lived on this planet have eaten monotonously. Usually boiled grain three meals a day, i.e. wheat, rice, oats, etc. (when they could get it). By contrast, our national problems is obesity. We have such an abundance that most have trouble keeping the pounds off. Are you grateful, or do you take all of this for granted?

FIRST, the gospel has solved your biggest problem, the wrath of God. Sin separates us from God, our source of greatest good, and taking his rich gifts for granted is one of the sins that most provokes his anger.  Grumbling and complaining are the fruits. Our unwillingness to be thankful makes God angry. Wouldn't it you? But, here is the measure of God's infinite goodness. Our Father wanted reconciliation. He wanted his anger abated. So, he sent his Son to die on the cross. In our place, Jesus exhausted his Father's wrath for our grumbling, complaining, and lack of gratitude.

Look at all these blessings. You didn't earn them. God could have birthed you into a medieval serf's family. No heat, indoor plumbing, medical care, food, or political rights. These are all the result of God's AMAZING GRACE to us. Grace is unmerited favor. If God gives gifts that we could never merit, how is it possible to take them for granted? We should be jumping up and down, shouting "thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus!"

Guilt is not the proper response. Thanksgiving is. God wants us to overflow with heart-felt thanksgiving. You and I have it good. In this regard, the will of God is clear. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving" (Ps. 100:4). "Giving thanks always and in everything to God" (Eph. 5:20). "Walk in him, rooted and built up in him... overflowing with thanksgiving."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How Can You Tell A Conservative From a Liberal?

PEOPLE OFTEN ASK, what is the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative? When all the vehemence is boiled down, how are their worldviews different? It is a good question, and the answer might surprise you. 

It is not their belief, or lack of belief, in God. Many conservatives are atheists, and many liberals are theists. Nancy Pelosi is a professing Roman Catholic, but atheist George Will, noted columnist, is a well-respected conservative.  

The difference between a political conservative and a political liberal is not their belief about God. It is their conviction about human nature, what theologians call our anthropologyAre people basically good, or basically selfish, acquisitive, and narcissistic? That is the question. In his book, A Conflict in Vision, economist Thomas Sowell, not a Christian, argues this point persuasively. So does a recent YouTube video by Prager University. 

Here is the great irony. The more confidence we have in the goodness of human nature the more evil we will become. The opposite is also true. The less confidence we have in human nature, the more virtuous we will generally become. Think about these examples. 

Your belief on human nature will govern your approach to child rearing. If you think children are inherently selfish and self-centered, you will discipline them. If not, you will despise corporeal punishment. Your parenting style will be permissive. Your children will mature with their narcissism in full flower. The evidence of their sinful nature is overwhelming. Children don't need to be taught to be evil. They are naturally evil. They need to be taught virtue, and if they are not taught virtue, they won't be virtuous. 

Personal Responsibility
Your belief about human nature will determine your approach to personal responsibility. Are people fundamentally responsible for the choices they make in life? If the heart is fundamentally self-centered, then I am responsible for the bad choices I make.  But, if I am fundamentally good my problems and successes cannot be the result of my heart disposition. My environment, something outside of me, i.e. parenting, education, social status, neighborhood, etc., must be the problem. The latter view is called "Environmentalism." I am not responsible. My environment is. 

If our environment is the problem then government intervention is the solution. Billions will be spent on anti-poverty programs, education, etc. 

But, if you believe that people are basically self-centered and selfish, then no amount of environmental change will help. A change of heart is the only solution, and hearts only change through strong families, religion, and parenting. This is why conservatives generally push for strong families and limited government. 

Police and Military
Your belief about human nature will shape your convictions about the role of military and law enforcement. If people are basically good, we need limited law enforcement. If people are basically good we don't need to fear China or Iran. Their attitude towards us will surely be benevolent. We can trust them to keep their agreements.  We do not need a strong military. 

But, if people are basically covetous, dishonest, and selfish, we need a strong military. Our foes cannot be trusted. We know from history that the best way to preserve peace is to convince our potential foes that an attack on the U.S. will be their undoing. That is why "Peace through Strength" is the conservative motto. 

Your belief about human nature will determine your economic theory. Capitalism is the economic system for sinners. It harnesses the human lust for material gain and makes it serve the common good. Because people are basically lazy and dishonest, the capitalist realizes that it cannot help those who will not try to help themselves. Even Jesus said, the poor you will always have with you.

Socialism is the economic system for idealists. Believing that people are basically good, the liberal believes it can pass out government checks and people will not abuse the system. Believing that people are basically good ,the liberal believes government can penalize the productive with onerous taxes and they will still produce. 

Bottom Line 
Because of their belief in the goodness of human nature, liberals tend to be Utopian. They believe that, if we just try hard enough, we can create the perfect society. Communism was Utopian. The last century alone should convince us that utopianism is a terrible error. With this view of human nature Stalin slaughtered somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million Russians. "You need to break a few eggs to make an omlette" was his famous rationalization. 

Similarly  Mao Zedong, attempting to create a social utopia in China, butchered somewhere between 60 and 80 million Chinese. 

Isn't it amazing that these men could be so patently evil themselves, and still believe that people are basically good?  "The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand it?" Our capacity for self-deception is astounding. 

The Bible is realistic . It does not flatter us. This is why most conservatives are Believers. "And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5). "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (Romans 3:12). The less confidence we have in human nature the more virtuous we will become. The ultimate change of heart that brings true virtue is conversion to Christ. For our good and the good of our children, let us humble ourselves, and confess our sins, so that we can grow in moral goodness. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Idolatry Is the Mother of Addiction

A PHYSICAL PLEASURE, pursued for ultimate satisfaction, will almost always morph into an addiction. Why? Because worldly pleasures cannot provide ultimate satisfaction. In vain, we squeeze them for just a little bit more, but they increasingly disappoint.

Only God can provide ultimate satisfaction, ultimate meaning, and ultimate happiness.  When we ascribe "ultimacy" to anything created (a relationship, asset, experience, accomplishment) we deify it. If we fail to repent, God may give us up to the idol. Then, convinced that the material blessing can do what only God can do. we become addicted.God wants us addicted to himself, not one of his legitimate earthly pleasures.

This is the case with sex. When practiced within marriage, as a way to serve our spouse, it can be a great source of joy. It is fulfilling the purpose for which God created it. But when pursued as an end in itself, its failure to satisfy will cause us to squeeze it for greater and greater thrills.  Sexual addiction is the result. Sex as God intended it has now morphed into sado-masochism, wife swapping, etc.. Because sex can never satisfy, no sexual pleasure is ever good enough. This is why pornography is so addicting. It might start with a Playboy centerfold, progress to total nudity, then heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, rape scenes, then bestiality, etc. etc. The joy and satisfaction that God intended for sex in marriage is gone. We are in bondage. We are miserable. We are addicted and we don't know the way out.

This is also true of material things. Food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and cell phones are God's good gifts, but when we expect something material to give ultimate security, or meaning, nothing is ever "enough." "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

John Rockefeller was, in today's currency, worth 500 billion. The richest man in the world today is only worth 100 billion. When Rockefeller was asked, "How much is enough?" His answer was predictable. "Just a little  more."

The same principle applies to fame and success. By age 30 Tom Brady had already won three super-bowls. In a Sixty Minutes interview he transparently asked, "Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me?" We admire Brady for his transparent honesty. However, the answer is simple. Only God can satisfy! Three Super Bowl rings will only satisfy one who understands that only God can provide ultimate satisfaction.

If you are addicted to sex, money, fame or whatever, there will be a deep, gnawing restlessness. The way to freedom is simple. Repent and look to the proper Source of all happiness and fulfillment. The restlessness will die. Heart-contentment will increasingly reign. You will discover the truth of Augustine's famous statement. "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you."

Here is the bottom line. Sex, fame, food, and worldly glory only satisfy when we don't expect them to. Therefore, terminate the pain of addiction with repentance. Addict yourself to God. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

ABORTION Has A Long History

THIS MONTH IS THE 45th ANNIVERSARY of the Supreme Court decision, Roe V Wade, that "found" a "right" to abortion in the constitution. Since the decision approximately 60 million babies have been aborted in the U.S. As we mourn  this event, it is important to remember that abortion is a sin with a long history. It is an earthly manifestation of the spiritual warfare that rages about us daily.

Jesus told his disciples that the Devil "was a murderer from the beginning" (Jn. 8:44).
Satan hates humanity, and he aims his hatred at the most vulnerable amongst us, our children. This has been his pattern for millennia.

Think of Deuteronomy 12:31 written over 3,000 years ago. Moses warned Israel not to worship the god's of the other nations. "They even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods." The Moabites, Ammonites, Canaanites, and Phoenicians all engaged in the abhorrent practice of infant sacrifice. They sacrificed their children to their gods. Since these people were unknowing members of Satan's Kingdom (Jn. 12:31), the Devil was the ultimate author of this practice. He was the god to whom they sacrificed.

The Canaanites worshiped Baal, and infant sacrifice was its cornerstone  In The Expositors Bible, F. W. Farrar quotes an ancient eyewitness. "Children were sacrificed by being put in a leather bag and flung down from the top of the temple, with the shocking expression that ‘they were calves, not children." Another eyewitness in 8th century B.C. Carthage watched in horror as mothers threw their infants into a gigantic bonfire built to receive this, their most costly offering. 

An infant offered to Baal 
The contrast is astounding. Our father in heaven is about protecting and nurturing children at all stages of development.  "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech [or Baal]...I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 18:21). In addition, the sixth commandment prohibits murder. This includes the murder of infants at any stage of development. Because the practice of infanticide was murder, it was a capital crime. The penalty was death by stoning (Lev. 20:1).

The same dark spirit behind the ancient practice of infanticide motivates today's practice of abortion. Abortion is just the modern version of the Devil's ancient work. Like the Canaanites,we also sacrifice our children  to our gods, but the ,motives are selfish. The pregnant mother doesn't want the bother and hassle. Or she is determined to let nothing obstruct her career ambition, so she just eliminates the "obstruction." In the modern world, it's all about me.

In addition, Satan works through the massive abortion industrial complex, ready and willing to provide the abortion, motivated by nothing but money.

However, there is Good News. The ultimate expression of this unseen spiritual war against children occurred in the New Testament. The Devil manipulated the Jews and the Romans to slaughter the ultimate Child of the ultimate Parent, Jesus Christ. Meanwhile God proved that he was wiser than Satan. Through death God's child destroyed the Devil and his work. Jesus took  the capital punishment that every Believing parent,who once engaged in abortion, deserves. Here is the most amazing love. Jesus took the death penalty in our place.

How should we respond? First, we should hate infanticide, and its modern expression, abortion, as God hates it. Second, if you have been involved in an abortion, God wants you to run to the gospel. Receive God's free love and forgiveness. God offers it to you at Christ's infinite expense. God loves you so much that his Son took the death penalty in your place. Third, "keep yourself in the love of God" (Jude 21). Wash away the guilt and stain of this sin with God's inexhaustible love. Do it regularly. Do it daily. God will be delighted.