Easter Weekend Update

I have a very exciting post planned for Sunday or Monday called “Reflections on Being Jesus.”

Until then, I pray your Easter Weekend is full of thoughtful meditation and passionate worship!


“How Great Thou Art” – Sam Robson, Acapella

Last week I shared with you my favorite Sam Robson hymn arrangement.

Here’s another!

I firmly believe in the deliberate, providential, overseeing of our God. There are people out there that need to hear this today.

May it be a blessing to you!

Check out Sam’s other work here.


Can Facebook be Redemptive?

facebook

My analytics tell me that if you’re reading this blog, you likely linked to it from Facebook. Thank you, by the way, for clicking!

Therefore, I’m going to begin with the a priori assumption that you have a Facebook account (or some other social media account). Therefore I can assume that you generally find value in the medium (minus the stupid videos “everyone else” posts). I’ve found that the degree to which people find value in Facebook is directly related to the quality of everyone else’s posts.

Still, you have one, and you probably don’t think it’s a tool of Satan. But have you considered whether or not it can (or should) be used for intentionally redemptive purposes?

What is Facebook?

Simply put, Facebook is a medium of communication.

Before social media, communication was limited to conversations, printed materials, letter writing, and smoke signals. But as technology has blossomed, we’ve created a hybrid form of communication that synthesizes real time talk with publishing.

What is Communication?

Merriam-Webster defines communication as,

“The act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.”

Thank you, Webster.

But for those of us interested in reclaiming biblical truth for everyday life, we must ask the next necessary question . . .

What is God’s Purpose for Communication?

All of the verses in the Bible that deal with our communication center around one glorious motive . . . to glorify God. But what brings Him glory in communication? I believe the answer is simpler than we realize.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

The greatest goal for any of our communication is to communicate God’s truth for the purpose of redemption. The unbeliever is “bought back” from sin and death in justification; the believer is “made better” through the power of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.

All of our communication needs to bring God glory, and though that doesn’t mean we always have to be quoting verses, it does mean we can’t glorify Him if we never acknowledge His truth in our communication. And I would argue that the more we reprove, rebuke, exhort, admonish, remind, encourage, bless, and edify using God’s truth . . . the more He will be glorified.

So, what about Facebook?

How Can my Facebook  be Redemptive?

This linked article is a sad one indeed. A teacher chose to leave her substitute teaching job of 35 years because she refused to “unfriend” her students on Facebook. Being an educator, I’ve studied this trend a lot. As a counselor, I’m intimately aware of the pit-falls associated with “more-than-friending” students on Facebook. But what I want to point out in this article is what one of her former students said:

“One of Thebarge’s former students told WMUR that if she didn’t have ‘Ms. T’ in her life, and as a friend on Facebook, she wouldn’t have graduated high school last year. ‘Facebook is a great way to communicate with people when you’re going through stuff at home.’”

I don’t know if Mrs. Thebarge is a Christian, but I know that she used Facebook in an encouraging way.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again with more than just my students. Facebook is digital meeting place where people interact in many of the same ways they would at the mall. And when Christians talk, redemption can happen. What’s interesting about social media is that some people actually feel freer to say and ask things online they wouldn’t normally say to your face. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s an insightful observation.

Our Facebook pages will become redemptive only when our daily communication becomes redemptive. We need to start there. When God’s glory becomes our chief goal, it will bleed over into every facet of our lives from physical to digital.

In the meantime, as we strive to become more like God in all we say and do, here’re some helpful tips for making Face-time, growth-time. We’ll be using the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and Paul David Tripp’s 10 communication questions from War of Words for guidance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

  1. Your Facebook should lead to biblical problem solving. Stop complaining and offer solutions. When someone else complains, offer them solutions.
  2. Your posts should have a “stand together” instead of a “me against him/her/them” posture. The world is to know that we’re followers of Christ because of our love. During the high priestly prayer, Jesus prays that His followers would be united as Jesus and the Father were one! It’s completely acceptable to stand against sin, but too often we drive a wedge where God has commanded us to be linked.
  3. Your online demeanor should encourage others to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings. Are you harsh and critical? Who would want to talk about their problems to someone like that?
  4. Your updates should show that you are approachable and teachable instead of defensive and self-protective. When your friend private messaged you and admonished you about that inappropriate movie quote or meme, how did you respond? Do you think they’re likely to keep you accountable in the future based off of the response you gave them?
  5. Your online relationships should all be as equally healthy: parents/children, husband/wife, extended family, siblings, employer/employee, friend/friend, body of Christ. Do you avoid posting things because you’re “friends” with your boss? Are your posts to peers nice, but your interactions with people younger than you are condescending?
  6. Your comments should encourage faith and personal spiritual growth. You don’t have to post a verse a day, but I cannot recount how many times a friend has shared a verse on Facebook, and God used it to meet a specific need in my life. God’s Word is the only Facebook post that carries the divine promise to never return void. Talk about a viral post!
  7. Your private messages should develop relationships, instead of only communicating with someone to cause or solve problems. So one of your students posted something inappropriate. Is this the first time you’re going to connect with them online? That just makes you come off like the Facebook police. But, if you build a relationship of love and understanding, they will accept your admonishment that much better.
  8. Your Facebook updates should be humble and honest. Stop exaggerating. Stop bragging. Period.
  9. Your posts should reflect a willingness to serve others, instead of demanding that everyone serve you. And all of a sudden the complaints about the weather, the government, and the news suddenly disappear!
  10. Your comments should show a recognition of the gospel in salvation and sanctification. Do you communicate biblical truth? You can use Facebook to disciple, encourage, evangelize, and rebuke just as easily as a phone call or a chat over hot chocolate.

Conclusion

You better believe Facebook (Twitter/Instagram/etc.) can be redemptive! But whether or not you “[Facebook] to the glory of God” is up to you.

Imagine a social network where just logging in built up your relationship with God.

Start by sharing this post with your friends. Just click the Facebook icon below. The more of us who choose to use social media as a tool for good, the faster we’ll make an impact.


A Conversation with @Atheist_Deity

It was during a back-and-forth with some guys on Twitter that I had the idea to write”Is God a Jerk?”

After Part 3 was published, one of the gentlemen I debated with chimed in with his response to my conclusions. I’ve really appreciated his and my interactions as they’ve lacked the vitriol that so often accompany God-debates.

Unfortunately, social media may be a great place for passionate arguing where neither party is really interested in hearing what the other has to say, but stinks for discourse and conversation. @Atheist_Deity lives in Great Britain (as far as I can tell), so I highly doubt he and I will have the opportunity to talk for a few hours in a café.

So, I decided to write this post to answer his questions and reflect a more conversational feel. I’ve taken @Atheist_Deity ‘s comments from Part 3, and I’m going to format it as a discussion as I answer his questions. The only changes I’ll make to his original comments are formatting, grammatical (if needed :-)), and I may add a few words in italics that give the discourse a more conversational feel.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Why is he wasting his time?” I just want to be faithful to the command we have to be salt and light and to the example given to us by Paul. In Acts 17, “Paul was waiting for [Timothy and Silas] at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’ because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”

Beginning of Conversation

@Atheist_Deity: Sorry Aaron, I’ve read your articles, but you didn’t prove anything, not even from a logical fallacy perspective. You’re now claiming evolution isn’t true, that many scientists agree (which they don’t) and that the bible is completely consistent through its history. You also point a veiled insult in my direction regarding my use of a dull blade against your expert swordsmanship yet, you again failed to address almost any of the points I made regarding the bible being written by men.

@AMBrewster: I’m very sorry it came across that way. I was definitely not calling myself an expert swordsman. I know many men who would qualify as brilliant apologists in all matters theological, scientific, and the like, but I am not one. I wish to be, and daily train to be, but I have a long way to go. Please know that I in no way was trying to compare the two of us. But you are right about my previous assertions; I know that evolution is a false theory, I know that many scientists agree with me in that, and I know that the Bible is completely consistent. In regard to answering your observations about the Bible being written by men, let’s tackle that when we talk about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus .

@Atheist_DeityOkay, but first let’s talk about Russell’s Teapot. The Bertrand tea-pot is the perfect argument, but not one I would have used myself since it’s a little obvious, and I knew you would have a response thereto.

@AMBrewster: I agree with you for two reasons: It’s a good argument, and I did have a response. :-) You’re right to acknowledge that the burden of proof always falls in the affirmative. With that said, I’m curious if you would mind explaining why you think the Bible doesn’t teach what I say it teaches.

@Atheist_DeityI was being generic rather than specific regarding the teachings of Jesus, but if you are going to claim that he did not preach tolerance and respect then I think we read different teachings. “Let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone,” “Suffer the little children,” “Happy are the meek,” etc., etc. Yes, there are counterpoints, but that is the very reason why I chose to avoid bible quotes wherever possible since they are open to interpretation and can be easily taken out of context.

@AMBrewster: Once again, I’m sorry if I miscommunicated. I tried to point out that those teachings are not what you claimed them to be in your comments from Part 2. You stated they were the “aim” of the Jesus narrative. That I disagree with completely. They are merely a small part of a much more important whole. Let me illustrate it this way. In professional baseball the players throw, run, and hit. Children do the same things at the park every day. But if an adult is tasked by the manager of professional baseball team to play for them, the manager should expect him to show up at the games with the intention of helping the team win. But if the baseball player never goes to the game because “Everyday I play catch, hit balls, and run around with kids at the park! Why do I have to play now?” he’d be fired.

My point is simple. It doesn’t matter how respectful someone is if they reject the God who wants them to be respectful. It’s not enough to just be respectful.

In regard to “taking things out of context,” I believe the best hermeneutic to approach the scripture with is the same one we would approach any form of communication with – a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation. The Bible literally means what it literally means – it’s only metaphorical when it claims to be. The Bible uses real grammar to communicate real ideas. Historically, words were occasionally used differently and should be understood as such. That’s how you want people to understand your writing, and that’s how God wants people to understand His.

@Atheist_Deity: I genuinely think you have failed to address many of the key points I made in my comments from Part 2, and indeed you introduce a new, interesting one. How can you be so sure that Allah is fake and unreal? If you accept that god exists and that Jesus was real, the Muslims believe both of these but attribute the role of prophet to Jesus, not supernatural being. So why is their model of god any less valid than yours?

@AMBrewster: Well, as we both know, the burden of proof really falls on them, but I did make the claim, so I’ll back it up. First, I personally have to accept the Bible’s claims that there is only one God, and that He has communicated through the Bible, not the Quran. Given the perfect nature of the Bible’s truth, I can’t doubt it on that point any more than I can on any other point. If its wrong, my God clearly isn’t who He says He is. Second, you mentioned that the Quran and the Bible talk a lot about the same people. In fact, Moses is one which both books speak equally as high of. But the problem is in the five books he wrote, Moses communicated to us very clearly who God claimed to be. God introduced Himself as Yahweh, not Allah. Saying that Moses was a prophet of Allah and a good man makes no sense for a Muslim, because the five books Moses wrote show that Allah cannot be who he claims to be.

There are many more things I could say, but I don’t want to hog the conversation.

@Atheist_Deity:  The last thing I want to comment on right now is if the perfect nature of the bible is your evidence for a god, I invite you to research the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanicus. This site contains links, quotes and a reference to the book Revision Revised by a Christian scholar. I would be interested to hear your response. But I would also say that it is disingenuous to say that those who do not believe in god should be unable to use the bible as any kind of evidence or battle ground. If a believer is going to use the book to prove their point, we should be able to point out the inconsistencies.

@AMBrewster: You’ve just brought up a HUGE question with that one. I wish my friends, Alan Benson and Mark Minnick were here as they are far better “swordsmen” than I on the specific scholarly details of this discussion. But I will admit, to my own credit, that I do have a seminary degree and have spent quite a bit of time studying textual criticism/translation/etc. But before I attempt to offer a short answer, I want to address your final thought.

If the Bible appears to have contradictions, those should be called out. Unfortunately, what happens is someone will address what appears to be an inconsistency, then a highly qualified individual will explain in very clear, logical, and scholarly ways how the apparent contradiction is, in fact, not one at all . . . but then people ignore the data and continue to propone the falsehood! That’s what I was arguing needs to stop. Though I may not have all of the answers myself, I am not aware of a single biblical critique that actually reveals a flaw in the Bible. So, 1. If there’s an issue, address it. But 2. If the issue is put to bed, drop it. And since there are no attacks that have been levied against the Scriptures that are actually, verifiably legitimate, I wonder when people will finally get tired of losing that battle and try to argue God’s inexistence some other way.

So, I suppose I have to ask the question, “If I were able to prove to you that the apparent issues with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not what they seem and have no bearing whatsoever on the doctrines of inspiration and preservation, would you believe me?” Given the track record of other people who attack the Bible, I’d have to say you probably won’t. But, I believe the most loving thing I can do is give you the benefit of the doubt. So here goes . . .

  1. The doctrine of inspiration has no effect on the doctrine of preservation. The Bible says that God breathed out His Word as the original authors were borne along like ships on a sea. They weren’t in a trance or being dictated to, they wrote, and God imbued their writing with divine truth. I agree that this is the most vulgar description of inspiration ever given, but inspiration isn’t the focus here. I mention this merely to point out that directed inspiration applies only to the original authors of the original autographs. The doctrine of preservation is never said to work the same way. There is no perfect, unbroken line of word-for-word manuscripts . . . and God never said there would be.
  2. The doctrine of preservation is not proven wrong by the existence of textual variants. This is true for two reasons: A. The unique textual variants are soooooo few and far between. I realize your author made it sound like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are two completely different books, but he’s not a textual critic and he has an axe to grind. Let me quote a very well known textual critic, Fenton John Anthony Hort, who worked for over thirty years with all of the extant texts. It’s a little lengthy, but it has significant bearing on the discussion.

“With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament, as of most other ancient writings, there is no variation or other grounds of doubt, and therefore no room for textual criticism; and here therefore an editor is merely a transcriber . . . The proportion of words virtually accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great, not less, on a rough computation, then seven eighths of the whole. The remaining eighth therefore, formed in great part by changes of order and other comparative trivialities, constitutes the whole area of criticism. If the principles followed in the present edition are sound, this area may be greatly reduced. Recognising to the full the duty of abstinence from peremptory decision in cases where the evidence leaves the judgment in suspense between two or more readings, we find that, setting aside differences of orthography, the words in our opinion sill subject to doubt only make up about one sixtieth of the whole New Testament. In this second estimate the proportion of comparatively trivial variations is beyond measure larger than in the former; so that the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text [emphasis mine].”

So, all of the variants between all of the texts of New Testament Scripture that require true textual criticism make up less than one tenth of one percent! This leads me to my second observation, B. The textual variants in question have no bearing whatsoever on any doctrinal system or truth claim in the Bible. In McDowell’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, he reminds us that Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars has only 10 manuscripts extant, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph. Pliny the Younger’s Natural History has only 7 manuscripts with 750 years elapsed. Thucydides’ History has 8 manuscripts with a stunning 1,300 years elapsed. Herodotus’ History has 8 manuscripts with an equally astonishing 1,350 years elapsed. We accept Plato’s works with only 7 manuscripts and 1,300 years between them, and Tacitus’ Annals have a comparatively remarkable 20 manuscripts, but there’re still about 1,000 years between the autograph and the copies we have. But when it comes to the Bible we have over 25,000 manuscripts, of which over 5,000 are fragments that are written in the original Greek! In fact, some of the manuscripts we have were written only 40-60 years after the writing of the autograph. We have more textual evidence for the Bible than we do any other ancient book, and the disagreements are negligible.

When you take these two points together, it’s easy to see that God has kept His word concerning the preserving of His Word, especially in light of the fact He never detailed for us exactly how He would do it.

You make the observation that men wrote the Bible. But once again I have to use Bibliologic here. Logically speaking, if God is who He says He is, then it’s completely understandable that an omnipotent, promise-keeping God could keep man from messing up His revelation. And if He’s too impotent to do that . . . then He’s not worthy of our worship.

What do you think?

Here the conversation ends . . . for now. 


Not Unlike Church

GlobalGathering 2009

Today is Palm Sunday!

It’s today we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

I assume we’ve studied the Passion Week enough to know what this symbolizes. I also assume that we’ve spent the majority of our study on Jesus and His crosswork.

But have we given much thought to the crowd?

Even deeper still, have we found our place in the crowd?

In my study last week I was drawn to the observation that the crowd that surrounded Jesus that Sunday so many years ago is Not Unlike the constituents of the modern Church.

Let’s see if we can gain some life-altering clarity.

The Believers

The Worshipper

“Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.” John 12:3

True, costly, extravagant, intimate worship. She didn’t care about anyone else. All she wanted was to show in a small way her deep, undying devotion to her God!

The Hiders

“Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:42-43

This group of men believed in Jesus, but were afraid of losing their position.

The Unbelievers

The Betrayer

“‘Why was the perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?’ Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” John 5-6

This man was no more than a thieving, lying, self-worshipper.

The People of the Palm

“[They] took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” John 12:13

This is probably one of the most exciting parts of of the Passion Week. Finally, all of the people in Jerusalem saw Jesus for who He was and were welcoming Him into the City to take His rightful place as Lord of their lives!

But that’s not what this was. The Palm Branch was the political symbol for a group of religious extremists called the Zealots. This group may well be compared with our modern day terrorists. In fact, many believe the Barabbas who had been recently imprisoned had been the zealots’ leader.

Their belief system saw Jesus as the man who would overthrow the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. Hosanna means “save, we pray.”

The Sight-Seekers

“For this reason [they heard about Lazarus being raised from the dead] also the people went and met him, because they heard he performed this sign.” John 12:18

This Jesus guy sounds like something we should check out! This will be cool!

The Pharisees

“You see that are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” John 12:19

We’re all to familiar with this group. These popularity-seeking religious leaders who saw their own laws as more holy than than Torah could not abide Jesus undermining their “righteousness.”

The Greeks

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21

These Greeks had come to Jerusalem to participate in the passover. They were clearly proselytes, seeking salvation through Judaism.

The Religious Rejecters

“Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered.” John 12:28-29a

God the Father audibly spoke from Heaven to confirm the words of Jesus, and there were those who explained away the supernatural with a natural solution.

The Spiritists

“Others were saying, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.” John 12:29b

This group denied the direct revelation of God in their own way by making it fit into their own spiritual-system.

The Confused

“We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?”

This is the group that likes to the throw the spiritual leaders under the bus. “Yeah, but this other guy said . . . .” This is also the same group of whom it is said,

“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet there were not believing Him.” John 12:37

What About Our Churches?

Mary – We all like to think we’re Mary, but of the ten groups mentioned in John 12, only 1/5th were believers, and only 1/10th glorified God through her worship and service. They had God incarnate physically present! What makes us think the statistics are any better today? I believe all true believers have moments like this, but are we consistent? This group is generally the 10% that gets he work done.

Camo-Christians - These Christians see the significance of worshipping God at church, but living out that faith at work is something completely different. They lack the faith in God to do the extravagant.

Judas – We would be foolish to believe there aren’t scoffers in the church. Of course, they talk a good talk, but their motivations are anything but sanctified. For this group, church is a place to get, get, get. They’re the pretenders.

Zealots - This group is passionate . . . but they’re passionate about all the wrong things. Social injustice, grass-fed beef, and free-trade coffee beans are wonderful and all, but do those siren calls drown out the real truth of the gospel? There are whole congregations who’s real bond is their shared belief in feeding the poor, not serving the Savior. People in this group can be saved, but often they accomplish little eternal good.

Sight-Seekers – Pick a church at random, and you will find it filled with people drawn for the party, the spectacle, the adrenaline, or maybe even the miracle! Church is better than 6 Flags, man! If this is the only goal for church attendance, there’s legitimate concern that real spiritual life may not be there,

Pharisees - This group is passionate too, but their fervor is rooted in standards designed to quantify spirituality. Their self-worth and others-judgementalism is born from a personal code of religious conduct, not God’s truth. These people like church because it gives them a forum to work out and parade their own “goodness.” Legalism is a spiritually dead religion.

Greeks - Though the historical narrative focuses on their race (non-Jewish), the group they symbolize for us are those trying to find salvation by the wrong means. Many today go to church to follow the dead traditions created by the legalist. Some have a half-knowledge that tells them “church is good,” but never drives them to understand what they’re supposed to be doing at church. They too, are unsaved.

Rejecters - These like to see a spectacle, but like a heckler at a magic show, they always seem to have a scientific/philosophical/anthropological explanation for everything. This groups is very similar to the self-professing atheist who attends church because they were invited or because they were tricked into thinking this group was just meeting to play basketball, but a preacher showed up!

Spiritists - This group loves believing in the supernatural, but the clearly revealed truth of God through the Word of God isn’t fantastical enough for them. Revelation must be miraculous! Tongues, visions, angels, and demons are far more interesting than doctrine! The Bible doesn’t say anything good about people who miss the truth of God for a “spiritual experience.”

Confused - “But the last guy said . . . .” This group defines the majority of pew-sitters these days. They listen and take notes, but personal study and real understanding are asking a little too much. That’s why we have a pastor, right?

What About You?

No one’s around. It’s just the two of us. Which one are you . . . really?

What’s your motivation for going to church? Is it really because God is the sole-center of your entire existence? Is church a place for service, corporate sanctification, one-anothers, praise offered for an audience of one, and learning more about your God who is all and in all?

Or are there other motivations? Is church a social club, an entertainment hot-spot, or supernatural spectacle? Does church represent a place to get, get, get for self or to give, give, give to the wrong cause?

Does church seem like a “good idea,” but you’re not really sure why? Is it too confusing to really give deep thought to?

Are you go just hoping to see the “magician” mess up, so you can continue on in life without having to believe in God?

1/5th will stand before God and be ushered into glory.

1/10th will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

No one’s perfect, but may this glimpse into the Triumphal Throng shake us out of the mindset that just because we’re gathered with a bunch of other people who seem really excited/interested in this Jesus guy, that doesn’t mean we have a saving relationship with the Messiah.


“I Need Thee Every Hour” – Sam Robson, Acapella

Music is a strange and wonderful thing. It was created by God and functions best when used to glorify Him directly.

The lyrics and performance of this song have been a soothing balm to my soul since I found it last year. Numerous times over the past months I’ve returned to it for encouragement, and often it has led me to a time of robust prayer in thanksgiving to my God.

I hope it’s just what you needed.

Check out Sam’s other songs on his YouTube channel. I specifically love his hymn arrangements.


Is God a Jerk? (Part 3)

Is God a Jerk

In Part 1 and Part 2 we looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and compared it with our common experience. Through that study we saw some of the necessary (and logical) conclusions do not allow us to view God as a jerk (or whatever word you fancy most).

But I stated at the end of Part 2 that we had not yet mined all of the necessary observations from this discussion. I would like to tackle two of those today and start by saying . . .

Don’t Fight Allah With the Allah

Two or three times in my life I’ve heard people (who say they believe in God) judge God as being unfair. Once I heard someone (who claimed to be a Christian!) call God a very inappropriate name which can be loosely interpreted as “jerk.”

But most of the time I hear people refer to God in less than favorable ways, it’s coming from self-professing atheists. They’re the ones who will frequently cite the four life experiences we discussed earlier as evidence that the God of the Bible isn’t everything Christians say He is. The four experiences I’m referring to are:

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.
  3. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  4. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

But the thing that stupefies me the most is that they even bother. Let me explain.

A Poor Choice of Weapon

I’ve never wasted a moment of my life being mad at Allah. I’ve never blamed him for anything. And when I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people about the fact that Allah doesn’t exist, I didn’t waste my time quoting passages from the Quran to point out its inconsistencies (of which there are plenty).

Allah isn’t real. He has no effect whatsoever on my life, and though I think belief in Allah is wrong and destructive, I’ll probably never try to argue away his inexistence with the Quran. I have better weapons at my disposal.

My point it this . . . if you say you don’t believe in God, don’t use His Word to argue He doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense because any and all of the potential doctrinal, textual, and/or logical inconsistencies of the Scriptures have been repeatedly shown to be erroneous by professionals in every field. Every word of the Bible is consistent with who God reveals Himself to be in Scripture, and there isn’t a shred of verifiable evidence that the world isn’t functioning exactly how He said it did and would.

An Inaccurate Handling of the Weapon

If two people are dueling with swords, and one of them has no idea what he’s doing, is it possible that he may wound his attacker? Yes. But that neither means he’s any good at what he’s doing or that he’s going to win. Furthermore, the more competent his attacker, the more impotent his own defense will be. To the same degree, if someone’s going to argue against God using the Bible, they had better use it correctly.

It would be completely inappropriate for me to argue that the U.S. government is flawed because the constitution celebrates anarchy. Why? Because the constitution doesn’t make that claim.

The Bible also doesn’t say what many of its detractors attribute to it. @Atheist_Deity commented on Part 2 by saying that . . .

“If the aim of the Jesus story is to preach tolerance, respect and being good to thy neighbour then someone who lives by those values without believing in god would be more worthy of entering heaven than a sinner who believed and repented before death. A god who rewards those who love him but act against him more than those who live well despite not believing is not an entity capable of creating a universe or guiding billions of years of evolution. That creature would be jealous, insecure, demanding of attention and petty.”

I would agree with his observations about God if, in fact, the Bible taught what he claims. But nowhere is it the ultimate aim of any part of Scripture to teach tolerance, respect, or even merely being good to your neighbor. If that were true, then God would be unjust to condemn tolerant, respectful people who are kind to their neighbors. But, that’s not what the Bible says.

So, why do atheists choose to wield a rusty weapon they’ve had no legitimate success with?

Don’t Fight Teapots with Negativity

Prove that God doesn’t exist.

Every debater knows it’s a rookie mistake to be tricked into trying to prove a negative.

Russell’s Teapot addresses this issue. Bertrand Russell wrote in an unpublished article that . . .

“Many people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

On the surface, this quote may seem to be working at cross-purposes to me, but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is that no person in the cosmos can prove that God doesn’t exist. Oh, some try, but atheists much smarter than they know it’s impossible. Yet despite this insurmountable task, the ones dead-set on proving God never existed still grab at any weapon they can to swing around. And the only weapon they have to discredit God is the one marked “Proof the Bible’s Wrong.”

You will find that every argument against God’s existence is a direct attack against the validity of Scripture. Sometimes it takes the form of, “The Bible says people were created, but we know scientifically that people evolved. See, the Bible is wrong.” Or sometimes it’s, “The Bible says you shouldn’t kill, but then God commands the Israelites to kill a bunch of people. See, God’s a jerk, and that type of God isn’t worthy of our worship.” A little harder to recognize is the, I’ve-just-used-a-reasoned-argument-to-disprove-his-existence-weapon. Nevertheless, like its dented cousins, this blade attempts to clang away at the foundational precept that reality is what the Bible says.

Unfortunately for its wielder, these weapons are quite dull and ineffective against a skilled swordsman. There isn’t a single claim made by atheists that legitimately contradicts the Bible. Even the evolution argument falls flat, since there are many atheistic scientists who argue that the theory of Darwinian evolution is “spurious” at best.

In Conclusion

If Russell were right, it’s my responsibility to prove that God exists instead of demanding the atheist to prove He doesn’t.

And that is what all of this has been about.

  1. When you take the Bible for what it actually says and actually means (use the proper hermeneutic), and
  2. Compare what it says to life and the experiences in it,
  3. You find that it is 100% reliable and consistent.

But that would be impossible for a book written . . .

over a period of roughly 2,000 years by 40 different authors from three continents, who wrote in three different languages.”

So, if it did happen that one Book could be written that would stand in the face of whatever attack was brought to bear on its pages - and which is completely unified, consistent, cohesive, and accurate – one may start to think that such a thing is impossible. In fact, there would be no other legitimate, logical explanation than the Bible is exactly what it claims to be . . . the infallible words of an infinitely perfect God.

Well, we’ve just found our proof that God exists.

And He’s not a jerk.


“The Irony of the Overprotected Child” – Jeffrey S. Dill

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How late were you allowed to stay out as a child?
How far away from home did mom and dad let you ride your bike?
How many hours of the day did you play outside?

Will you let your children do the same?

This article does a wonderful job addressing the type of “sheltering” that everyone is prone to; not just Christians. But is there validity to this overprotectiveness? Are we helping or hurting our children by keeping them from the otherwise moral endeavors that riddled our childhood? Is our world too dangerous?

Regardless of your answer to the above questions, please read Jeffrey Dill’s “The Irony of the Overprotected Child.”


Is God a Jerk? (Part 2)

Is God a Jerk

In an effort to decide whether or not God is a jerk, we’ve looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and observed some of the world events that lead us to believe God isn’t who He said He is (a.k.a.: Jerk).

You should probably catch up with all of that from Part 1 if you didn’t already read it.

So, continuing on, let’s see if we can reconcile God’s truth-claims with our experiences.

What Do His Claims Mean?

Let us start by assuming that everything listed in Part 1 is completely true. Does it logically follow that . . .

. . . a holy being would not be able to tolerate anything that is not in line with His character (sin)?

. . . an immutable being would never change His mind concerning His stance on sin?

. . . a righteous being could not simply overlook the sin He’s cast judgment on?

. . . a loving being would only ever want what’s truly best for us; a.k.a. not to sin (whether we understand His design or not), and would be able to provide a perfect substitutionary sacrifice to simultaneously appease His righteousness and proclaim us justified?

. . . an omnipotent being is 100% capable of accomplishing exactly what we need for life and meting out judgment when we reject Him?

. . . an omniscient being would know exactly what needs to be done to accomplish His perfect will and our best interest?

. . . a sovereign being must needs be involved in our lives?

If we put it all together, doesn’t it logically follow that a holy, immutable, righteous, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, & sovereign being would forever hate sin, and not only be compelled to judge it in perfect wisdom but also be capable of judging it as He is all powerful and in control of everything, and yet simultaneously provide the perfect way to be justly forgiven for our sins in a way we could never earn because He loves us?

If you remove any one of these truth-claims about God, then we can easily see how He may accidentally or purposefully let the ball drop. But assuming He is who He says He is, some of the things we think are out of line with His character are actually a necessity of His character.

What About His Exclusivity?

Let’s use yesterday’s first two critiques of God. Some say He’s a jerk because . . .

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.

If everything we saw above is true, God by necessity must be consumed with His own will and jealously passionate about it being accomplished above everything else (man’s plan and aspirations included). This is necessarily true because . . .

. . . if God chose to tolerate sin because man thought He should, He would cease to be holy.

. . . if God changed His mind about sin to accept a person into heaven who rejected Him as savior, He would cease to be immutable.

. . . if God simply overlooked our sin because He loves us, He would cease to be just.

. . . if God allowed things to happen that were not in our best interest because we didn’t think losing our house in a tornado could possibly be good, He would cease to be loving.

. . . if God were unable to bring about His will, He would cease to be all powerful.

. . . if God didn’t know what was best to accomplish His plans, He would cease to be all knowing.

. . . if God walked away from His creation, He would cease to be preeminent.

If any of that happened, or if God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan, for it is His plan alone that matters. He can be angry when He does not receive the worship that is due Him because man has no higher calling than to worship God. He is the only one who can rightfully define terms as they are His to define. It really is all about God. If God were all about anything other than Himself, He could not biblically nor logically be God. Whatever God makes more important that His own will becomes God.

Let’s test this premise: If someone lives a moral life, constantly doing good for his fellow man, but dies without believing in God, is God a jerk for sending him to hell?

Logically, no. It would be inconsistent with His holy, just, immutable character to simply give someone a pass because they weren’t as bad as someone else. The subjectivity of that scenario would actually be extremely jerkish to those of us who disagree with his criteria. He’s especially not a jerk in this situation because He clearly stated the guidelines for a relationship with Him, and did the humanly-impossible to provide us a way to have that relationship with Him (the sacrificial death of Jesus).

Conclusion: If God is who He says He is, He cannot be considered a jerk for requiring faith in Him alone as the only way to a relationship with Him (salvation).

But what about that issue of evil and pain in the world? That’s still pretty lame, right?

What About Sin and Suffering?

  1. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  2. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

Again, assuming that God is who He says He is, is the “problem of sin and suffering” really a problem? The people who invented football designed rules for how it would be played. They paid referees to enforce the rules. When players broke the rules, there were consequences. No one struggles with this illustration.

The very first rule laid out in Scripture is that Adam and Eve not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happened? They ate. Evil is now in the world by hereditary right. So, how many of you would be happy if the ref decided to let the other team keep the touchdown they scored while their player was clearly out of bounds? How’s that sitting with you?

Evil is a consequence of sin. Suffering and death are consequences of sin. Both of these realities are explained in the first few chapters of Genesis.

Once again,

“If God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan for it is His plan alone that matters.”

His justice requires that the consequence of sin stand, but His love allows that He provide a righteous substitute for the punishment we deserve.

Let me quickly address the concept of bad things happening to “good” people. Given God’s definitions of sin/holiness/evil/good, can someone who rejects God’s perfect truth be good? The biblical answer is, “No.” Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our best good is the same as soiled menstrual rags. Eww. Philippians 2:13 tells us we need God Himself to do (and even desire to do) good as He’s defined it. Furthermore, if I reject and rebel against the only perfectly good being in the universe . . . can I really say I’m good?

Conclusion: God is not a jerk because He allows sin and suffering in the world. It is an unfortunate reality that is consistent with His nature. We are not good, and therefore deserve the consequences of our sin. And if we are going to critique His truth claims, we cannot conveniently neglect how extremely loving He is to make provision for our salvation even though we have done nothing to deserve it!

We men mess-up every day. We selfishly work all day to fulfill our own desire, all the while ignoring God’ truth and love, and then we get mad at Him when bad things happen to us, or we’re incensed when someone suggests we’re making bad choices by rejecting God. How dare He give us the punishment we deserve for rebelling against His revealed truth?!

Is God a jerk?

No.

When we take Him at His Word we see that His expectations and our experiences are both perfectly consistent with His nature.

But have we truly concluded this mined this question for all of its worth?

I’m going to publish Part 3 tomorrow where I hope to address any comments you may leave which challenge my conclusions. I’d love to have you join tomorrow!

Is God a jerk?

Continue to Part 3


Is God a Jerk? (Part 1)

Is God a Jerk

A few days ago I shared that someone tweeted that God must be a complete jerk if He would send “good” people to hell just because those people don’t believe in Him. Other’s have made the same statements concerning the presence of evil and pain in this world.

Is that true? Is God a jerk? Is He selfish, is He jealous? Is @Atheist_Deity right to question the thought,

“so you live a good life, look after your fellow man & never act in an evil manner but don’t believe, god will send you to hell?”

kill everyoneI’d like to look at this question from a bibliological perspective. I want to do this because someone who reads this but does not believe in God will not take anything the Bible has to say as truth. But they do hold their own reasoning skills in very high regard. This, of course, make sense if absolute truth doesn’t exist.

So we will evermind the biblical data concerning God’s supremacy, rule, and reign of the universe, and then we will use logic and human reasoning to see if His truth makes sense given what He’s disclosed and how He’s acted (if at all) in this world.

Please note: While I encourage conversation and debate, I would ask that it be done in a spirit of mutual-respect. This does not mean that we have to agree, it simply means that we do not stoop to name-calling.

Who Does God Say He Is?

I believe this is an incredibly important first step because if we’re going to judge God, we should do it by two things: 1. What He says about Himself, & 2. What He does as compared to what He said He’d do. At this point, it really doesn’t matter what other people say about Him.

Of course, I  don’t desire to be exhaustive in answering the question “Who is God?” because the whole of nature and Scripture is a testament to His person. But I do want to highlight a few key attributes and passages that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve turned to Ryrie’s Basic Theology for concision.

  1. Holy – God is not only separate from all that is unclean and evil, but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others (Leviticus 11:44; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; Isaiah 40:25; Habakkuk 1:12; John 17:11; I Peter 1:15; I John 1:5; Revelation 4:8).
  2. Immutable – God is unchangeable and thus unchanging (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). A Twitter acquaintance of mine brought up the common rebuttal that if God doesn’t change, why does the Bible say He “repents.” Ryrie explains, “Most understand these verse as employing anthropomorphism; i.e., interpreting what is not human in human terms. However, this can only be said to be so only from the human standpoint, for His eternal plan is unchanging.”
  3. Loving – God seeks the perfection of holiness and all that the concept implies for the object loved (I John 4:8).
  4. Omnipotent – God is all powerful and able to do anything consistent with His nature (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; II Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8 7 19:6).
  5. Omniscient – God knows everything, things actual and possible, effortlessly and equally well (Acts 15:18; Psalm 147:4; Matthew 11:21; Psalm 139:16).
  6. Righteous – God is just; there is no law, either within His own being or of His own making, that is violated by anything in His nature (Psalm 11:7, 19:9; Daniel 9:7; Acts 17:31).
  7. Sovereign – God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural law He has ordained (Psalm 135:6; Proverbs 16:4; Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11, 1:14).

What Does God Say He’ll Do?

Again, this question is one that can only be fully answered by the completed cannon, but I believe these are the three most important considerations:

  1. He promises to provide everything we need for life and godliness in His Word (II Peter 1:3).
  2. He promises to do everything for our greatest good if we love Him and follow His Word (Romans 8:28).
  3. He promises to save us if we ask, and punish us if we don’t (Romans 10:13).

What Does It Look Like God is Doing?

Now isn’t this the stinger? It’s one thing for someone to tell us they love us, but if they don’t act like it . . . we won’t believe them. Why do so many people believe that God is a jerk? Here are a few reasons (I’m sure some of you could easily add to this list):

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.
  3. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  4. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

In partial conclusion, if God is to be judged, we must first understand what He claims to be, what He claims to do, and then we need to compare that to what He’s actually doing (or allowing to be done).

Tomorrow we will see what His claims necessitate, and we’ll discuss the logical and reasonable end of these attributes. Therefore, I ask of you two things:

  1. Be thinking about this today. Does what God says about Himself line up with our experiences in this world?
  2. Come back tomorrow as we continue to consider whether or not God is a jerk.

Continue to Part 2.


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