Thursday, August 21, 2014

Are we Really This Foolish?

  The preceding photo was  brought to my attention amidst great praise for the  expressed  sentiment. Reportedly taken in a doctors office somewhere and posted to social media,  this photo was accompanied by comments of 'Amen ' and 'Great idea!'.   Other commentators, mostly young women, made statements to the effect that, if this  already wasn't the law, then it should be and expressed great admiration and approval for the  doctor's office and this policy.
  Let me  start out by saying that I understand the initial, visceral reaction to this.  Most people understand, even if they don't use these exact words, that the state steals from them every payday and gives that money, in the form of subsidies housing, food stamps et al, to people who  can work, but do not.  This moocher class has a reputation  for sitting around on the public dole and cranking out babies in order to increase their share of the dole.  Illicit drug use is  also rampant  among the moocher class, and so when  most people see this sign, they get the idea that it's intended target is the  drugged-up perpetually-pregnant welfare mooch. The thievery, the  financially-prompted pregnancies, and the  drug use  are all horrible  problems, but I submit to you that this is not the solution.
  Out of all the evils conceived in the warped bosom of the nanny state, the idea that it's the governments job to protect children from the misdeeds of the  parents is  probably one of the most diabolical. For starters, the definition of a misdeed is a floating standard, subject to  change with or without  notice.  I do my best to  provide not only the essentials  to my children, but some of the perks.  My children enjoy an appropriate amount of the benefits of growing up in 21st century America.  We have running water, and we have air-conditioning. My children go to the doctor, and my children go to the dentist.  Having said all that, if I  grew weary of paying my  light bill and decided we were going to  squat in the dark for a month or so, some well-meaning  busybody would declare that I was abusing my children or not providing for them.  Think about this for  a moment.  As I sit here and type this, literally  billions of people are without electricity, running water  or air conditioning, yet they survive.  If that is abuse, then we really should start  shipping them over here as fast as we can.  We as a society should organize some sort of epic move to  get central heat and air installed in every  hut in Kenya.  Of course we realize the silliness of that, even as we realize that not being  offered every technological convenience is hardly abuse.  We realize that, but at the same time, try raising  three or four kids in a house without electricity and see what sort of  government thug shows up at your door. The fact that billions of people already live that way will not sway the  governmental child-snatcher; you must comply to their definition of misdeeds or suffer the potential loss of your children.
  This puts me, as a parent, at the mercy of the subjective standards of some sort of bureaucratic representative. This also assumes that the  faceless government agency  somehow owns my children, and I that I am only raising them in a stewardship role. If I do a good job, I  get to keep  feeding and providing for them, but if I fail, the 'real parents' will show up and whisk them away.  At the very least, the state is assumed to  know the 'right way' to raise children, and  are somehow granted the authority to peer into my home at the slightest whiff of malfeasance with judgement in their wake, and the full backing of the court system at their fingertips.
  Even if the CPS folks had a good track record this would be a horrifically warped idea.  But they don't even have a good track record to  fall back on. Their track record is an  amazing  history of false confessions, drummed up charges,  and  mishandling so monstrous it certainly must be on purpose.  In my life, I have known people  in the midst of a bitter divorce who surprisingly, had CPS show up at their door from an 'anonymous tip'. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that the departing spouse was using the  club of the state to  hit where it hurts, but regardless, in matters of child welfare you are  guilty until proven innocent.  We knew a family in California who lost their kids because due to the false charges brought upon them by an attendee of the day care they ran from their home. They were eventually vindicated, but their children spent 6 months in foster care and the parents  spent thousands of dollars all because a 4 year old didn't want to take a nap, and dropped a dime on them to the state.  The very existence of CPS allows people to use the power of the state to punish , harass, intimidate and bully, all while remaining anonymous.
   CPS regularly misplaces kids, and kids die in their care. They retaliate against parents who highlight their misdeeds. They are one more revenue generator for the state.  If you really love children, it would  be better to leave them with a  parent that may  not have it all figured out but is trying than to entrust them to a soulless bureaucracy that gets paid whether the child  sinks or swims.
  So back to our little sign at the doctors office. You may say "Yes, that's all well and true, Michael, but abuses do happen and if a woman is doing drugs while pregnant somebody ought to step in.  Her doctor could be the early warning detection system that saves that child's life!"   If that sort of vigilance is a good idea, why stop there?  What if the doctor doesn't think you're getting enough sleep or eating the right foods? What if you have expressed reservations about vaccines? What if the  doctor just thinks you're weird?  What if the nurse disagrees with your homeschooling?  what if the admin temp filing your medical record   sees something that she disagrees with?  Once you open the door for a  snitch to snitch, all they need is  a reason.  It doesn't  even have to be a good reason.  Signs and practices like the one above not only  destroy the doctor-patient relationship by turning  your health care provider into just another arm of the snitch apparatus, but it empowers busybodies to use the  strong arm of the  courts to wreak havoc in your life while remaining unscathed. It is a monstrous idea, and I for one would refuse to do business with someone who had such a policy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Islam Isn't the Problem....

 Islam isn't the problem, dead churches are.

  In my circles, there has been a great amount of fervor  and hand-wringing about the coming Islamic threat in recent years.  We have watched the demographic  shift in Europe over the last couple of decades, and we have watched the increasing boldness of  radical Islam in those places as their  population has swelled with immigration and conversions.  We know by their own statements that the Islamic world is full of  ambitious men who see themselves as the chosen instruments by which the the re-institution of the caliphs and Islamic dictatorships of  centuries past will be accomplished.  These men see in these demographic shifts and political vacuums the means to  fulfill what they view as Islam's great mandate; the subjugation of all other faiths and peoples.  People  in my circles look around them and they see the same thing happening in America, and they are  probably right.  Through immigration and proselytization, the  Muslim population in America  is exploding.  People in my circles in hushed tones talk about potential solutions, including deportation and  anti-Muslim legislation, lest we  become like Europe.  Throw into the mix rabble-rousing politicians who refuse to let a good crisis go to waste, and who  promise to stand for 'American values' (whatever those are nowadays) .  These politicians  feed off an  'us vs them' mentality, and will gladly contribute to the xenophobia if it gives them a chance to wrap themselves in a flag and claim to be the good guys.
   There certainly seems to be cause for alarm. In Europe, the Muslim population increased from 30 million in 1990 to  44 million in  2010.  Some of this is from immigration, and higher birth rates, but not all. Over 100,000 of the Muslims in Britain are adult converts. France reportedly has an adult convert population of   almost 100,000 , most of them men under 40 in their prime child -rearing years.  The United Nation  claims that  Islam in Europe has grown 142% since 1989. This population of immigrants and converts are  reshaping whole neighborhoods as has been  called a 'demographic time bomb'
  Let's say it's all true.  Let's go ahead and indulge all of our  worst blue-eyed nightmares.  Let's say that there exists, at some level , a concerted, almost conspiratorial effort  to flood the western world with Muslims.  Let's say the caliph-wanna-bes see our civilization  as rife with moral decay, and  ripe for the picking.  Let's say that their  intent is to establish a significant enough presence in the West to eventually, either thorough vote or conquest, propel themselves into power and  subjugate everybody else.  Let's say they all sit around in their caves at night  and stroke their beards with glee at the prospect of a Muslim President in America, and the institution of Shirai law over the rest of us.
  Is the solution borders and walls and  barbed wire fences and lines drawn in the sand and anti-Muslim laws?  Is the solution  suspicion of everybody wearing a headdress and an stiffening of our natural  dislike of everybody different from us?  I submit to you that the solution is something much more intangible, yet incomparably more powerful; the solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  You see, the  rise of  Islam in Europe has been attended by the decline of something else; real evangelical Biblical Christianity.  For centuries  Europe lead the way in having a vibrant, living church presence in which the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it's life-changing power was  tirelessly proclaimed  publicly. Though   huge swathes of Europe lived under the domination of  popish superstition, there was always  in existence an aggressive, confrontational Christianity, particularly in England which  gave us such spiritual giants as  Tyndale , John Wesley,  George Whitefield and C.H. Spurgeon. Islam existed side by side with these men, but could never get a foothold because the red-hot preaching and fervent spiritual lives of these men and those that followed them held it at bay.  Truth was so openly  and shamelessly  promoted that error could scarcely get a word in edgewise.
  As the centuries wore on though, for a whole host of reasons, the church in Europe lost its fire.    There are no lack of villains to blame. For whatever reason, there was a cultural shift in European Christianity. People were no longer Christians because they had put their faith in the  saving work of Jesus Christ. they were Christians because their parents or grandparents had been Christians.  But these are  just symptoms of a much larger cause.  The lifeblood of  Biblical Christianity has always been  evangelism, and once that ceased to  be the focus of the  churches in Europe, their numbers dwindled, and the great cathedrals built by fervent men of years gone by became places to hold weddings and funerals.  Nobody was taking the gospel  to the lost, and  as the population got older, and birth rates  plummeted, the numbers  began to decline. By the time  two World Wars rocked Europe to  its core, the  voices that  could provide hope in the face of unspeakable tragedy were fewer and fewer. Young Europeans grew up in a post-Bible society, and lived their whole lives in a dry liturgy that could no more impart life than a  wooden plank can  sprout leaves.  Their children rejected the liturgy and believed in rationalism, and their children's children rejected the emptiness of rationalism and believed in nothing.  Their great grandchildren, dissatisfied with the  vacuum,  are embracing Islam. In Britain, there are, according to the Pew foundation, 4 times as many Muslims attending  mosque on Friday than there are  Anglicans attending church on Sunday.  Though biblical,  living Christianity exists in Europe, it is literally  being shouted out and legislated into obscurity by opponents ranging from atheists to  Muslims.  There simply isn't the manpower to reach the lost, and Islam has the manpower.

  Here in America, the churches are dying, but our apostasy takes a different from; we are  obsessed with entertainment and pleasure.  In America, the mentality is  that for a church to be relevant and effective, church services should be some sort of amalgam between a  rock  concert and a love -fest.  The militant, purposeful Christianity of generations past  has been replaced by  beach balls and cream puffs. The church doesn't take the gospel out in public. The church doesn't go door to  door telling people about Jesus.  The church in America wants to be your friend and not offend. The church in America wants to show you how cool and hip they can be. The American church is trying to catch up with the world as fast as they can in  an attempt to win the world. That has never been the biblical model.  Those few churches that still hold to the truths of the word of God too often  get caught up in the idea that  simply inviting lost people to a church service is sufficient  evangelism. This watered-down, pleasure-obsessed, invitational-not-confrontational  Christianity will most likely be followed up by a generation of  belief in  nothing, a vacuum which Islam will gladly fill.  The idea that Islam  will punish people for standing up for Jesus is  a bit  disingenuous; by the time it gets that far, nobody is standing up for Jesus anyway. 
  The solution is for the churches of Jesus Christ to  become vibrant and relevant again.  This isn't accomplished by hayrides and coffee shops; this is accomplished by the bold proclamation of the gospel to every creature.  This work is under girded and empowered by fasting, prayer, and belief in the Bible.  If that happens, the Muslim world can have babies till they are blue in the face, and  jump the borders until their legs get tired. When they get here, we'll preach to them, and even if they reject the  gospel, our light will hold their darkness at bay. This  is more conducive to the mission given the church than the 'can't we all just get along' philosophy of the political left or the 'bomb the brown people' philosophy of the political right. These immigrants are not the enemy, they are souls, and the last time I checked souls were our business.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ephesians 2 -The Essay

  (The following came out of a series of in-person and email discussions with a friend of mine. It is our habit to  discuss, probably to each other's mutual exasperation,  our understandings and misunderstandings of different sections of scripture.  This habit in itself has been  very helpful to me in a couple of areas. It has helped me to clarify what I believe, and why I believe it, also it has  made it even more clear to me that  some of our doctrines are fed and sustained by other doctrines.  What you believe on Issue A will influence and color what you  think about  Issues B, C and D.  Often an explanation of a belief will involve the discussion of a handful of other beliefs that are the underpinnings and foundations of the issue at hand.
  My friend takes the position (and I will proceed carefully lest I misrepresent his thoughts) that the physical  seed of Abraham , by rejecting their Messiah has a group, lost as a group all claims to the promises made to their ancestors. The y lost, among other things, the exclusive relationship they had enjoyed with God. Those promises, according to  his belief, were then re-assigned to all those who would put their faith in Christ regardless of their ethnic  background.   He asked me for my thoughts on a passage in Ephesians 2  that seemed to him to bolster his belief on this issue.  I asked him for some time to think it over in an attempt to not say something off the cuff and stupid.  Not long after that, I made available to him my thoughts, and now make an edited version of these thoughts available to you.)

  I’m certain that there are  scores of folks who could  give you  much better thoughts on this passage, and I am  sure I’ll miss a bunch of important stuff because it’s one of those parts of the Bible where every phrase is just jam-packed with far-reaching implications. The book of Ephesians, like the rest of the Bible is built brick by brick upon other passages and  clarity on other passages will give you clarity on the text in question. Having said all that  , I want to go  through verses 11-22 because they seem to be the crux of the matter. 

Wherefore remember , that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: “ (Vs 11-12)

  There appear to be three separate groups in scripture; the Jew, the church, and the Gentile (1 Cor 10:32).  The Jew would be the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Gentiles are everybody else, and the church is this relatively new thing, which is why Jesus mentioned the building of his church in the future tense in Matt 16:18.    According to verse 11, the people being addressed were Gentiles in the past, but were not Gentiles any more.  They had become part of something else, something new.
  It really looks to me like here is the rough progression of God’s revelation to mankind.  In Genesis 3, God speaks to all of mankind (everybody who was there) and promises them that the seed of the woman is going to come and fix what went wrong in Genesis 3.  Later on, God speaks to mankind through the preaching of Noah that a flood is coming.  After the flood, God speaks to all of mankind (once again, everybody that was there) and promises that he will never flood the world again.  Then the next time God speaks, he speaks to one man, (Gen 12) and that man’s descendants and  lays out a series of promises that, for the most part,  have to do with the inheritance and habitation of a certain piece of land.  For the next several centuries, he only speaks to  that man’s descendants (I’m sure there’s an exception or two thrown in there like Job and Balaam, but  you could probably count them on one hand) and every promise he makes he makes to that man’s descendants until   roughly somewhere in the book of Acts.  The emperor of China ( if there was one) in Moses's day  did not get a copy of the Ten commandments, only Abraham descendants did.  There wasn't an ark and a temple set up among the Franks or the Gauls; those were always the exclusive revelations given to  Abraham descendants.
  If my understanding is correct, then if you’re a Mongolian or a Cherokee or a Saxon back in the day, this is all God has revealed to you; God created the place,  God flooded the place, God promised not to  flood the place again , and the seed of the woman is coming.  You had the law of God written on your heart ( Rom 1);you had the evidence of nature ( Rom 1)  and somewhere back in time your ancestors had been told that the seed of the woman was coming.
  In the absence of any further revelation from God, the Gentiles got busy making stuff up.  They made up gods, and legends, and what not, winding up with  twisted or occluded versions of the truths shown to their ancestors.
 According to verse 11 and 12, prior to their salvation, these Gentiles were excluded from all these promises God made to Abraham's seed.  Jesus Christ shows up, dies on a cross and  the disciples go out into the Gentile world (eventually) telling everybody that the seed of the woman has come, and that he died, was buried and rose again. They tell everybody that he will give eternal life and the forgiveness of sins to whoever will call upon his name. That is the first step in the promised  cure for what went wrong in Genesis 3. When these Gentiles do that, God takes them out of the family and nation they were born into and makes them part of his church; part of his body. 
  That happens to be the same offer he made to the Jews of the day.  A Jew that gets saved stops being a Jew and instead of the promises God made to the Jews (including the land grant), he gets the promises made to all who are ‘in Christ’.

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  (Vs 13-15)

  God takes two very separate groups of people who didn’t particularly get along, and makes them one.  He abolished not only the enmity God had towards man, but the enmity that a Jew would have towards a Samaritan. Or  a Yankee towards a Confederate.  In fact, even among  Jesus's  early disciples you see zealots and tax collectors, who should have hated each other.Remarkable stuff.  Outside of Christ they still fuss and fight (Tituts 3:3), but in Christ, they are one. 
  Having made this new thing, God spends a great deal of the New Testament laying out the promises that are made ‘in Christ’.  These include redemption (Rom 3:24), atonement and  joy (Rom 5:11), no condemnation ( Rom 8:1), the law of life (Rom 8:2), one body (Rom 12:5), approval (Rom 16:10), sanctification ( 1 Cor 1:2), wisdom and righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), wisdom (1 Cor 4:10), instructors and fathers ( 1 Cor 4:17), a bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:18), hope (1 Cor 15:19), being made alive ( 1 Cor 15:22) , rejoicing (1 Cor 15:31), being stablished and annointed (2 Cor 1:21), triumph (2 Cor 2:14), and  being made a new creature (2 Cor 5:17).  The list goes on to encompass promises of an ability to understand the Bible (2 Cor 3:14), simplicity (2 Cor 11:3), being  made a child of God (Gal 3:26), being all one with other believers (Gal 3:28), a spiritual circumcison (Col 6:15, a  closeness oto God (Eph 2:13), the fullness of the mystery (Eph 3:19), a high calling (Phil 3:14), a purpose in grace (2 Tim 1:9), persecution (2 Tim 3:12) balanced by a promise of peace ( 1 Peter 5:14), all spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3), being wrought in Christ ( Eph 1:20) while being his workmanship ( Eph 2:10) and fellow heirs (Eph 3:6).  The believer is promised steadfastness (Col 2:5), faith and love (1 Tim 1:4), salvation (2 Tim 2:10)  and boldness   (Phi 1:8). It's quite the package.

  Each of these promises can be expounded upon at length, but that’s way off topic. Suffice to say that they are all  intangible, non-physical, and completely impossible outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ. God promises in Christ, things the Gentiles could never have had on their own.  The seed of the woman has come, and boy did he ever deliver!  A physical descendant of Abraham who receives Christ gets this same package deal, and can leave behind all the traditions of his ancestors and live a new life as a new creature and enjoy a one-ness with the God of his fathers. Or, to put it  much  much better :

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby :  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Vs 16-18)

  Once again, two separate groups that became a third group. Two separate groups of physical people from physical families that are become a spiritual people and a spiritual family.  The Jew did not become a Gentile and the Gentile did not become a Jew. We both became ‘in Christ’.  Moving on….

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (V19-22)

  If I understand you correctly, the question is, if we are fellow citizens with the saints (and by saints you mean the Old Testament crowd) then why wouldn’t we inherit all their promises?  The short answer is that we aren’t fellow citizens with the OT crowd, we are fellow citizens with other believers.  We were strangers and foreigners (including from each other), but now we’re not. We were children of wrath and disobedience, now we are children of God. When you build a building, you put the corner stone down first, and the ‘house’ wasn’t established until Jesus Christ himself was laid.  The Old Testament crowd were never referred to as God’s temple; we are.
  If the church is simply Judaism part 2 or some sort of extension or reworking of the Abrahamic covenant, or even a ‘spiritification’ ( I think I just made that word up) of the nation of Israel, then at some point you have to come up with a workable answer to this question; what happens to the land?  The promise of a  physical homeland where God would be their king and they would be safe from all their enemies is the key promise of the Old Testament.  The rest of the  Bible doesn't make a whole lot of sense without it.  They would be scattered, as God promised, but they would be regathered, and taken back to the land that God  gave to their fathers. That land would be doled out according to  tribe. Simply put, God never gave any land to my fathers; there is no single  place to regather  the church  back to.
   Furthermore if we inherited all of Israel’s promises PLUS the promises made ‘in Christ’ then what about the promises of material prosperity and physical healing (Is 42:6-7, Is 35:4-6) made to the  nation of Israel when they were obedient? What about the promise of protection from our enemies, (Zech 14:3, Ex 14:25, Neh 4:20, Josh 23:10, Deut 20:4, Ex 14:14) or the promised regathering unto the land? (Jer 31:10, Ezek 20:34-38, Isa 2:1-4, Jer 3:17-18, Isa 10:20-21, Is 11:11-12).  What about the promise that a fountain will be opened up for the cleansing of sin ( Zech 13) or one chapter earlier, the promise of future  mercies and supplication to be poured out on the house of David after they look upon him whom they have pierced? 
  It looks to me like it is nigh impossible to put those promises on the mutts that make up the church.  If we inherit all those then  good godly people among us ought never be sick or broke or blind. The church  would never have gone through the Inquisition because we  would have been promised protection from our enemies.  The fact is that the promises made to Israel were physical in nature, and the promises made  to the church are spiritual in nature.

  That leaves the modern Messiah-rejecting descendant of Abraham with a promise on the books that someday somehow somebody in their family tree will dwell in the land in peace.  I actually think the future fulfillment of this  promise, as outlined in scripture is a fascinating study in itself. This promise however does nothing to  abate their sin debt to God as an individual, and in the meantime if they die as individuals they drop off into hell.  The only way for them to  have a relationship with the God of their fathers is to accept his Son.  The Gentiles are in a similar predicament; they  have a promise that Christ will redeem them, but short of Christ’s redemption they remain  the same place they were in in Gen 11; without hope and without God.

  Hope this helps.