There has been a lot of discussion over the past week of Rick Perry’s claim that President Trump is God’s “chosen one” to be president. Obscure points of Christian theology have spilled over into mainstream media, and political commentators have felt obliged to weigh in on doctrines of predestination and election. The two most common talking positions seem to be shaping up as “God has nothing to do with politics” and “Of course God chose our president; get over it.” But the analysis has focused primarily on politics, and I think reflecting on the theology may be more helpful. In particular, what the Bible says about God’s involvement in selecting leadership may be useful for adding the nuance lacking in the public discussion, and may serve as a useful reminder of what Advent is about. (more…)
Moses gets a bit of flack sometimes for writing, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Indeed, some people even make that into an argument that Moses could not have written this verse, although the argument presumes a surprisingly narrow realm of psychological possibility. I’ve often thought that if God tells you to write something, the humble thing to do is to write it.
Humility is not often praised in American churches, not often held up as a model to emulate. And this is despite the explicit blessing of our Lord Jesus: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Most sermons I have heard on this text take great pains to assure the audience that “meek” doesn’t mean “doormat.” That is an accurate observation, but when the caveat dominates the message more than the positive meaning of the text, perhaps it is indicative of a vitamin deficiency in the churches with whom I have worshiped. Humility is a virtue that we need more of. (more…)
I do not write to you today about politics, because you know more about politics than I do. Instead I write about something much more important: your future, and where you will find yourself within thirty years.
The God who created the skies and the ground also created humans, so that they might worship him and enjoy everything good thing with him forever. This includes you.
But humanity, from our first ancestors onward, rejected God and rejected his promise of eternal enjoyment. We humans have set ourselves up as our own gods, and the result of this sin is separation from God, now and forever. Separation from God is what causes our death, both our physical death and our eternal spiritual death deprived from the source of our life. This includes you.
But God loved the world so much that he sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to become one of us, to live a sinless life in poverty, to die a blameless death on a Cross, to rise again to new life since it was impossible for death to hold him, so that everyone who puts their faith in Jesus should have eternal life, not eternal death. This is not automatic, but is an opportunity available to everyone, including you.
But do not be deceived; God is not mocked. The free gift of forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ requires only that each sinner acknowledge their sins and turn away from them to the powerful gracious love of Jesus. But it does require turning away from sins; any attempt to claim the forgiveness of Jesus without acknowledging the sins committed is doomed to failure.
I expect you know your sins better than anyone, but you said in 2016 that you do not ask for God’s forgiveness. That made me worried that you were deceiving yourself, since all of us need God’s forgiveness every day. As I have watched your presidency, it has become increasingly clear that you are in the bondage of deceit, ceaselessly peddling lies about yourself and your enemies, so that I fear you have even come to believe these baseless falsehoods yourself. To pick examples only from the last six months, your deliberate deceptions include insisting that the Mueller report exonerated you, when in fact the Mueller report explicitly stated that it did not exonerate you (vol. II, p.8). You have claimed your July 25 phone call to the Ukrainian president was “perfect” and legal, when you obviously set up the withholding of military aid for the sole purpose of pressuring him to help you in your reelection campaign, which is illegal. In order to distract the news media, you ordered a poorly considered withdrawal from Syria in order to allow the Turkish armed forces to attack the Kurds, at the cost of hundreds of lives. Just as David killed Uriah by the sword of the Ammonites (2 Sam 12:9), you have murdered Syrian Kurds by the shells of the Turkish military, all for the sake of your political benefit. You have not saved lives; you have destroyed them. No doubt you have other sins, but these sins are obvious, and they will be condemned by God who is righteous and accomplishes justice. Your only hope to escape eternal condemnation is the forgiveness offered by Jesus.
It is claimed that you are a Christian. That is a good name which I am glad to wear myself, but the label alone does not get you anything. What matters is not what men call you, but what you are in the sight of God. The benefits of Christ are not for those who call themselves Christians (Matt. 7:21-23), but for those who trust in Jesus, follow him, serve him, and love him. You must ask yourself if this is what you are doing. The Lord Jesus said, “You will know them by your fruits… Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 7:16, 19). Lying, corruption, and murder are not good fruits, but the fruits of the devil which lead to death.
Even now you have the opportunity to escape from the damnation that your sins deserve, if you will turn away from your sins to Jesus and place your trust in him for forgiveness. If you do so, he will take command of your life, fill you with his Holy Spirit, and guide you along the path to eternal joy. The Lord Jesus Christ, in command of your life, will lead you to apologize to those you have wronged and to begin to live rightly, which is better for you and for everyone.
There is no other way. You may be able to escape human punishments for your crimes, and you may be able to continue spreading lies, but you will not be able to escape God’s judgment. He cannot be tricked. He cannot be manipulated. He will not “make a deal.” God has made known the only opportunity for salvation, available to you and to everyone, in his son Jesus Christ. Be warned: Jesus himself said, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of Heaven like a child will not enter it at all” (Mark 10:15). The apostle Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Your name and your wealth will not help you on the day of judgment (Psalm 49:16-20), only humbly acknowledging your sins, renouncing them, and turning to Jesus in submission.
You may not have many more opportunities. You are already seventy-three years old, and none of us knows how long he will live. You might have a heart attack and die tomorrow, or you might live for another twenty-five years; we do not know. But we do know that when you die, whenever that might be, it will be too late then to seek forgiveness. The opportunity to renounce sin and run to Jesus is an opportunity only in this life, and your time is running short. Within thirty years, less than half of the length of time you have already lived, your eternal judgment will be determined. I encourage you, by the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, not to let this opportunity go by; you may not have another. Repent and believe in the good news! Be cleansed from your sins, and live!
I pray for you to recognize the truth, and that the truth would set you free from the deception and lies which you perpetuate, which now bind you. I pray for your repentance from sins, for you to accept the eternal well-being in the forgiveness which only Jesus Christ provides. I pray for the evil you have done to be struck down and overcome by the goodness of God, who loves truth and justice, and he is merciful to you, giving you the opportunity even now to leave behind the deceit and death you have worked, and turn to his light and his life.
There is nothing more important than this. The Lord Jesus himself said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.
May the Lord have mercy on your soul.
I have often heard Christians say that we ought to be content in Christ, and not ask for anything outside of Christ. I think they are on to something important, but I worry that they might be misunderstood. Yes, Paul “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12), and the letter to the Hebrews commands, “be content with what you have,” linking that to God’s presence: “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5). But if this is the case, why do some people hear “you should be content in Christ” as a disappointment? (more…)
Hell is a problem. It makes compassionate Christians uncomfortable. It makes hateful Christians gleeful. Some people say that hell is unfair. Others say a loving God could never create people to send them to hell. How can hell be reconciled with “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8)?
Let us be careful. Jesus, who revealed God’s love, discussed hell more than any prophet. (more…)
Christ is Risen! Happy Easter!
It’s been almost three months since I posted. The explanation is not that I gave up blogging for Lent (at least not intentionally), but I have been working on other things. Like learning a new language. (Okay, a *very* old language.) And inwardly grumbling about my work. (Not healthy.) And various other things. In time there will be new posts in a couple new directions. In the meantime I am busy repenting of my sins.
But God forgives us and saves us from even ourselves, as we see most powerfully in the death of the Son of God on a Roman cross, followed by his vindication on the third day because death could not hold him. Jesus died for our forgiveness and rose for our redemption. Because he dies, our sins our dead; because he lives, we live even if we physically die.
Christ is Risen! Happy Easter! Forever and ever, amen!
Last month’s decision by the US president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel brought out the full range of responses, as usual. Such responses always dismay me as to how poorly both sides understand what the Bible says about Israel, land, and the Church today. Here are some notes for a discussion I led on the subject, specifically for Christians; the notes have been somewhat edited since the original version. (more…)
Pope Francis made headlines recently for mandating a different translation of the Lord’s Prayer into modern languages. He is urging Roman Catholics to switch from the traditional phrasing “Lead us not into temptation” to a new version “Let us not enter into temptation.” Note that he was not suggesting changing the text of Scripture or what Jesus said; he was merely arguing that this prayer has been mistranslated into the languages with which we today are familiar. Yet casting this as a translation issue is to misrepresent the theological basis for the objection and how it functions. (more…)
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do not play very visible roles in US politics. “For God and Country” is a slogan that makes the rounds in some circles, but the nature of that God is left unspecified (perhaps beyond typically excluding Muslims). The dearth of direct appeal to Jesus even in conservative American politics, to say nothing of the silence about his mother and step-father, makes it all the more surprising that the Holy Family has been dragged into political debates twice in one month. The nature of those invocations, and their historical and theological confusion, reveals the cynical pragmatic secularism driving the use of these religious ideas at this political juncture. Christian complicity in these invocations threatens the intelligibility of the gospel message to outsiders. (more…)
Sometimes it is useful to look back to a time before the heated debates of the present were kindled, and see how cooler heads then discussed those issues. One of the heated public arguments of our time is the place of gender and gender expression in our society, and the degree to which those are God-given, naturally determined, socially constructed, or individually chosen. This past week the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) published a “Nashville Statement” outlining what they regard as necessary Christian teaching on homosexuality and transgenderism. Reactions to the statement were covered in all the major and most of the minor media outlets. And this is only the latest flurry in a discussion which already goes back several years.
I recently read Margaret Widdemer’s 1915 novel Why Not?, written long before the current cultural uproar regarding transgender identity and gender expression. It includes, solely for entertainment value, a subplot surrounding a woman who wants to be a man, and how that turns out. In doing so, it raises possibilities that our modern gender pugilists do not consider, or even wish to foreclose. Let us examine those, looking for an alternative to a renewed culture war.