Saturday, March 22, 2008

God's chosen

From the AP

JERUSALEM - Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday the U.S. has an "enduring and unshakable" commitment to Israel's security and its right to defend itself against those bent on destroying the Jewish state... "America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitment to Israel's right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction," Cheney told reporters before an evening meeting with Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

Lord, give us the grace and wisdom to remain faithful.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The violence of God

Below is an email I wrote to a pastor I know who has been blogging about the difficulty of reconciling Jesus and His message with the violence of God in the Old Testament. You can read his thoughts at:


And here are my "two bits"...


Its been a few months since I have written. We last talked about God’s purposes for ethnic Israel, and my daughter was getting ready to get married. I appreciated and enjoyed our exchange, and the wedding was absolutely awesome. The Lord blessed it in every way.

I have had some things in my heart to write to you for a couple of months, and your most recent blog posts have motivated me to take the time to put my thoughts together. As I have told you before, I listen to your messages every week. (Scorpions, Eggs, and Prayer was incredible) I was one of the original "podrishioners". Along the way though, one of the things I have felt like I sensed operating in the background was a difficulty reconciling the love of God with His role as our Judge. I understand that. Your thoughts on Psalm 137 make the difficulty pretty clear. Our human understanding of love and goodness doesn’t often include raining down fire from heaven to destroy whole cities. I don’t claim to fully understand how it all works, but I have a few thoughts I would invite you to consider. Some will sound familiar, as I learned them from you.

Let me start with a quick story. A true one. My dad worked for the power company, climbing poles and making sure we all got light when we flipped the switch on the wall. He used to work with a guy who would read his bible in the truck at lunch. To my knowledge, my dad is not a believer, and has his own struggles with the Christian faith, but he made an observation about his co-worker at dinner one night that I will never forget. It seems that this guy had an unusual highlighting system for his bible. He would be reading along quietly, and then he would say out loud, "No... I can't agree with that." And he would pull out a magic marker and black out the part he didn't like. When he told the story, my dad looked across the table at me and said, "That just doesn't seem right." I had to agree. Martin Luther wanted the book of James removed from the canon. It seemed to conflict with his understanding of the kingdom. And now you seem to be suggesting something similar to accommodate your own struggles with passages of scripture that don't fit with your understanding of God and His ways. I respect your struggle, but if you start down that road, I don't think you will be able to stop with the OT. Let me explain why.

First, I want to address an idea you repeat frequently. In establishing the basis for our understanding of what God is like, you often refer to the passages from Hebrews, and Colossians to say that God always looks like Jesus dying on the cross for His enemies.

He is the image of the invisible God,


He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature

This is a beautiful truth, but you seem to define what it means a bit narrowly. Truly, Jesus is just what these verses say. "In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." But… that doesn’t necessarily mean that God always looks like Jesus dying on the cross. Jesus doesn't even always look like Jesus dying on the cross. The NT scriptures describe several other aspects of what He is like, and therefore what God is like.

Here are a few examples:

When Peter was describing his commission from Jesus, he said this in Acts 10:42,

"And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. "

Later in Acts 17 Paul also describes Jesus as judge,

"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

And again, in chapter 24, when Paul was sharing his faith with Felix, it says he, "reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment." Its says that "Felix was alarmed," and he sent him away.

In I Thessalonians Paul tells the church about a time "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

When you look at the Revelation of Jesus, He is pictured as the one who breaks the seals that release terrible judgments on the earth.

Rev 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, ...

The next few chapters describe what happens as he opens one seal after another. It isn’t pretty. The slain Lamb is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the righteous judge of all the earth. I would guess that you probably go with a symbolic interpretation of Revelation, but that doesn't really matter in this discussion. Symbolic or not, God inspired John to describe Jesus as the one releasing these judgments on the earth.

And my point is this. The judgments described in Jesus’ teaching, Paul’s letters, and the Revelation are every bit as horrific as anything you see in the Old Testament. I am including with this email a list of about fifty passages from across the New Testament that talk about judgment. The gospels, epistles, and Revelation; Jesus, Matthew, Luke, Peter, Paul, John, and Jude… they all talk unashamedly about the judgment of God. Jesus was not embarrassed to talk about what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, the judgment of Sodom is referred to nine times in the NT. The apostles were not the least bit uncomfortable with their understanding of God and Jesus as Judge. If we believe that God is love, and we both do, then I think we have to somehow make peace with the idea that His judgments are an expression of His love.

What are some of the ideas we have to deal with?

First, regarding the scriptures, Paul wrote to Timothy,

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

Paul encourages Timothy to continue in his studies in the "Old Testament" in order to be equipped for the ministry he was called to. He doesn't warn him to skip over the parts that make God look mean or unloving. In fact, the phrase "all scripture" makes it pretty clear that he views the "bad parts" as significant to understanding the big picture.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding..."

Solomon seems to understand the pitfalls of reliance on our own reasonings to figure out what life is all about. In Repenting of Religion, there was one main point that really impacted my thinking about our judging one another. It wasn't a completely new thought, but you brought it forth in a way that permanently changed my understanding. Basically, its the idea, no, the truth, that I don't really know very much. I can only observe the behavior of the person next to me. I can't see into his heart. I can't know all the things he has experienced in life to make him the person he is today. Only God knows those things, therefore only God is qualified to judge him. Before I read that book, I always interpreted the statement, "Judge not, lest you be judged" as a thinly veiled disguise for compromise and worldliness. Now I see that I am simply not equipped for the job of judging.

I think this is a great opportunity for the application of those same principles. We can't see things as God sees them. Not completely, anyway. When He destroys a city, we naturally recoil in fear, and possibly in some level of revulsion. "What the heck was THAT all about???" From our limited human point of view, it doesn't really look much like love. But we don't have all the information and understanding that God has. Its the whole Job principle. I truly believe that our "judgments" toward God regarding those "behaviors" we find troubling would fall away if we knew what He knows.

If we can't comprehend the reason for the 8 second delay between us and the car ahead of us, how can we possibly understand all of God's dealings with His universe?

We would both agree that the overwhelming evidence of both scripture and life gives us a picture of a God of incomprehensible love. There are arguments against that idea that can be raised by those who are unwilling to put their trust in Him. Birth defects, the emergence of HIV, philosophical questions that don't lend themselves to easy answers; all of these things can create a roadblock of sorts for some people. We need something that goes beyond our best answers to intellectual questions. We need the truth of His absolute goodness revealed by the Spirit to our heart in a way that gives us an unshakable foundation to stand on. That will never come through human reasoning. I believe the truths of God are reasonable and coherent, but only when you have the foundation of that spiritual revelation of His goodness and love. That comes when we are truly "born again" of the Spirit. Paul prayed for the Ephesians, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened." We need that desperately.

I am like you. I like answers to my questions. I can sometimes struggle when I encounter ideas that create "cognitive dissonance." But then I remember what you taught in Repenting of Religion, and I seek to return my heart to a position of humble, child-like faith, acknowledging my own limited understanding.

"God, I don't really know what you are doing here, but I trust in your goodness. I know it would all make sense if I could see things as you see them. Until I can, I will simply trust in you, and not in my own understanding."

I love you my brother. You have been a great blessing to me, and many of my friends. I have great faith in the significance of your calling in our generation. I am thankful for your life.

grace and peace,


Thursday, March 20, 2008

I have a question...

Is Jesus the Lord of your life, or is He your hobby?

More to come...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thank you MSNBC !!!

Interesting story about yet another way to escape from reality. It's about an hallucinogenic drug taken from a plant originally grown in Mexico.

Here is a quote from near the end of the story,

It's hard to say how widespread the use of salvia is. National and state surveys on drug use don't include salvia, and because it is legal in most states, law enforcement officials don't compile statistics, either.

Congratulations MSNBC!

You probably just increased the use of this legal drug by a factor of ten.

Well done!