He Hardeneth

Scripture teaches God controls us all, even deciding our eternal fate, having mercy on a few of us and hardening the rest. (Ro 9:18) Is God then unfair to condemn us, since He controls us? (Ro 9:19)

This seems so obviously wrong, even asking the question is embarrassing. But obviousness is often the enemy of correctness; in the end, how can any complaint against the goodness of God be rational? (Ro 9:14) Perhaps an illustration will help.

Single block ice sculpture, World Ice Art Championship, Fairbanks AK

Suppose we dwell in a frigid climate where we enjoy three things: lounging in a hot tub under crisp, starlit heavens; ice water bathing; and competing in the annual ice sculpture festival. Being thrifty and innovative, we design special panels we can assemble into water-tight tubs of various shapes and sizes. When we want a steamy evening outside, we put one together, fill it with water and drop in a heating element. When we want our ice bath, we back off the heat to just above freezing and take the plunge; and at sculpture time we pull the heater, let it freeze, pull the panels and put our genius to work.

With a reliable water heater we can control the state of the water in our tub as we please, from steamy to frozen solid, by precisely controlling the heat we supply. In making ice we could say we’re “hardening” the water, but we’re really just withdrawing heat and leaving the water alone; where we live, water hardens naturally all by itself, and very predictably.

In the same way, God controls us by resisting our fallen, sinful nature (Ps 19:13), either reining in our depravity (De 18:14) (i.e. heating the water), or giving us up to pursue our own evil ways as He sees fit (Ps 81:12) (i.e. letting the water freeze). God never actively causes anyone to sin (Ja 1:13-14), or forcefully hardens anyone; we do that all on our own whenever He lets us.

God’s hardening is passive, simply letting us go our own way (Pr 1:31), not forcing us; when left to ourselves, we obey the law of sin operating within us (Ro 7:23), so we’re as predictable as the law of gravity. God knows exactly what we’ll do in every circumstance if He withdraws His grace from us.  Just as we can control an object‘s elevation by only pushing it upward, never causing it to fall, God can precisely control us by restraining our evil nature without causing us to sin. (Pr 16:9)

God isn’t unjust or unloving in letting us sin; it’s the essence of free will; and we’re no less guilty because we always want to sin as much as He will allow us to. (Ro 3:19) Neither is God ever unjust or unloving in restraining us, some much more than others: it’s all His mercy. (Ro 9:23)

God’s purpose in all this is ultimately to glorify Himself by revealing His amazing nature. (Ro 9:22) He could do it all differently and save everyone from themselves, but the end result would evidently not be as glorious. He’s doing it all perfectly.

The key to resolving one of the deepest spiritual mysteries, reconciling God’s sovereignty with Man’s free will, evidently lies in the depravity of Man, the puzzle piece most of us overlook. God isn’t unloving or unjust to let us do our own thing, and nothing obligates Him to override everyone’s natural will. His choice to intervene and only quicken and transform some of us isn’t unfair, it’s pure mercy. (Ro 9:16) Fairness is letting us all go to Hell.

God has an awesome plan in allowing sin (Mt 11:25-26), and He’s always in perfect control of it. (Ep 1:11) Exactly what it will all look like in the end remains to be seen, but I expect it will be amazing, like everything else He does. In seeing all of life from God’s perspective, we can give thanks always for all things with joy(Ep 5:20)

articles    blog

Him Will I Confess

Christ says whoever confesses Him before others, He will also confess before His Father in Heaven (Mt 10:32); and whoever denies Him before others, He will also deny before His Father. (Mt 10:33) We either belong to both God the Father and the Son, or to neither; we cannot have one without the other. (Jn 17:10)

The word confess is from the Greek homologeo, meaning to speak the same thing, to be in agreement. Christ claims as His own those who agree with what He did and said, who are willing to stand with Him against the world; He’s ashamed of (Mk 8:38) and disowns everyone else. (Mt 7:23) Our eternal welfare hinges on what we think of Christ: there’s no middle ground.

Confessing Christ, agreeing with Him, is thus to find Christ, to belong to Him and obey Him. To know Him is to love Him supremely, to cling to Him above all else (Mt 13:45-46), to esteem Him exceedingly precious (1Pe 2:7), and to agree with Him that this world’s system is evil. (Jn 7:7) This implies a willingness to give up everything for Him. (Lk 14:33) We cannot have Christ and hold on to the world: He doesn’t give us this option. (Mt 10:39)

It’s a lie that we can be safe in God while loving this world (1Jn 2:15); to have Him we must let go of the world (Mk 10:21-22), we must be willing to count all things but loss for Christ. (Php 3:8) If we’re still focused on this life, if the temporal is our constant preoccupation rather than the eternal, if we’re denying His name as a manner of life for earthly benefits, then we haven’t found Him yet (Lk 14:26); we’re still His enemies, headed for destruction (Php 3:18-19), accursed. (1Co 16:22)

The world so hates Christ and His way (Jn 15:18) it moves them to despise those who know Him. (1Co 4:10) But my question to the world is this: What do you have that’s better than Christ? What fault do you find in Him? (Jn 18:38) Based on what standard? Don’t you mock because you’ve no rational defense for your hatred?

Though God’s given us all assurance in the historical fact of Christ’s Resurrection, the world blindly rejects its only treasure, the only One Who can satisfy our longing for perfection, beauty, significance, and purpose. (Col 2:3) Apart from Christ, the world has nothing worth having; of this I’m absolutely certain.

Being friends with the world makes us God’s enemy (Ja 4:4); yet from that darkness we can’t help it find the light. When knowing God is the most important thing to us, when we’re crying after knowledge, then we’ll find Him (Je 29:13) and be able to help others do so. (Ac 26:18) He rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

articles    blog

Assurance Unto All

God has given us proof of His existence, showing us the way to Himself. He’s done this so openly and plainly that anyone can see for themselves, and find assurance of eternal life.  (Ac 17:31)

Tomb Chamber, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

According to the biblical account, Christianity began as twelve poor, uneducated Jews, who knew Jesus personally and followed Him, suddenly began testifying of Christ’s resurrection(Ac 3:15) After Christ was crucified, dead and buried, these disciples claimed He rose from the dead. They said they saw Him, spoke with Him, touched Him, ate with Him, and that He continued teaching them for forty days. (Ac 1:3) Eventually, over five hundred people claimed they saw the risen Christ at once; many lived for decades afterwards confirming this firsthand witness to all who would listen. (1Co 15:6)

Proclaiming a risen Christ was unpopular, counter-cultural, and consistently got the disciples in trouble with Jewish authorities. (Ac 5:17) The apostles weren’t trying to start a new religion; they remained observant Jews their entire lives. They never sought power or wealth, and though they were persecuted and tortured for their witness, they all died proclaiming the truth of the risen Christ.

If these early disciples of Christ were not telling the truth, they knew they were lying and trying to deceive people, and it was causing them unspeakable suffering to do this. (1Co 4:9-10) Yet none of them ever recanted, or were even willing to keep silent regarding this unusual claim. (Ac 4:18-20) Rather, they rejoiced in their suffering (Ac 5:41), and went to their graves in confidence and hope. (Ac 7:59)

People sane enough to fabricate new religions don’t behave like this. There’s no reasonable explanation for their behavior if they weren’t telling the truth. So, the foundation of this faith is an empty tomb, and the original historical witness of this fact is extremely credible.

For hundreds of years afterward, Christianity remained unpopular, flourishing under both Roman and Jewish persecution. At no point in this early history could a resurrected Christ have been invented without Christians hearing about it for the first time and recognizing this as a false myth.

Sane people don’t suffer and die for what they know is a lie, and there is zero evidence that any Christian ever complained about the cornerstone of their faith being changed, or newly introduced and strange to them. So, the entire early history of Christianity, well before it was popularized and adopted by Constantine, further verifies the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

All of Christianity, as broken as it is today, continues to uphold this testimony as its very foundation: without the resurrection of Christ, Christianity cannot stand. It has never been otherwise.

This is proof, as solid as any historical proof can be, that God has revealed Himself to all of us. There’s no reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He is Who He says He is, and He can be trusted to reveal Himself to us as the Way to God. (Jn 14:6)

Amidst the chaos of world religion, the resurrection of Christ stands out as a remarkable singularity: there’s nothing comparable to it. What do you think of Christ? If we want to know God, enter into His rest and walk with Him, our journey begins here(Ro 10:9)

articles    blog

One Spirit

Belonging. Being part of something bigger than myself. It gives me a sense of connection, safety, acceptance, significance, purpose, intimacy, dignity. (Ep 1:6) It’s what I long for; I think we all do.

Crescent Nebula

It’s why we join clubs, societies, communities, churches, gangs, even get married and have families. It’s our instinct to give up freedom, independence and autonomy, to be connected with something larger than ourselves.

When rightly done, we don’t lose ourselves in giving up separateness, we discover ourselves in communion. In union with something above and beyond us, we become more uniquely and fully what God’s designed us to be. It’s a mysterious thing, this passion to belong.

It’s an instinct for a reason: we’re made to be one with Jehovah God (Jn 17:21), so joined with Him that we’re one spirit together (1Co 6:17), inseparable, indistinguishable in a sense.

We’re not identical in every respect with God, obviously, yet no line can be clearly drawn between God and those who are one with Him. Though He’s separate from and above us, He’s also in and through us (Ep 4:6), part of our very own spirit (Ga 2:20), closer than our breath. (Re 3:20)

In being one spirit with God, we’re still uniquely ourselves, and also connected through Him to all who are so joined with Him (1Co 12:13), members one of another, in eternal metaphysical communion (2Co 13:14), enjoying infinite intimacy, perfect family (Ep 3:15), ultimate brotherhood, divine marriage(Ep 5:32)

Longing to belong drives us to seek fulfillment outside ourselves; we aren’t designed to go it alone. (Ge 2:18) But if we don’t recognize this instinct for what it is, to lead us to God, to be one spirit with Him, the craving destroys us, and those around us. There’s no satisfying it outside the Divine embrace. (Ep 4:18)

As disciples of Christ we each belong to God, Who made us, crafted and fashioned us (Ps 119:73), not merely physically – but more importantly, metaphysically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, to be unique expressions of Christ. He reveals His nature and glorifies Himself uniquely through each one of us (2Th 1:10), through our story (1Pe 1:7), His story in us. (Re 3:12)

In uniqueness He’s joined us with Himself, and with all who are in Him, eternally one, yet not lost in our oneness. We cannot possibly be, and belong, any more than this.

articles    blog

As Though they Were

JEHOVAH inhabits eternity (Is 57:15), dwelling beyond space and time; He knows everything about everything (Ac 15:18), all possible outcomes of all possibile events. He acts on the future as if it’s past (Ro 4:17); there’s no searching of His understanding. (Is 40:28)

As God created space and time, framing the world with His hands (Ps 95:5), He created it with the appearance of age, as if it had already been here a long time. The first man and woman weren’t infants, Eden’s trees weren’t sprouts, and starlight illuminated the world on Day 4. (Ge 1:16)

We know this of the stars because God made them, along with the sun and moon, to light the earth (Ge 1:15,17-18), even though He made them very far away. Since fulfilling His purpose in creating stars requires God to create starlight between Heaven and Earth as though it had been traveling for millions of years, we can be sure He did.

Yet we observe supernova’s exploding millions of light years away, moving some to reason that if God created starlight between us and the cosmos only 6 thousand years ago then He’s playing tricks on us, since these observable events never actually occurred — only existing in photons streaming to Earth, the exploding stars themselves a fiction. They insist God doesn’t play tricks or write fiction: if we see light carrying information about an event, they insist the event must have physically occurred.

But this is like claiming mature trees in Eden, having rings on Day 6 … which isn’t unreasonable … require decades of actual weather patterns before Creation, or that smooth stones in a brook on Day 3 require years of water erosion. God creating a world in motion, with the appearance of age, as if it had already been in existence for a while, isn’t a trick or fiction: it’s genius. How else should He have created the universe? Why is this such a problem?

How is it inconsistent with God’s nature to create light containing information about things that would have been? God knows how the universe would have played itself out had He made it billions of years ago; He can create the cosmos as He pleases anywhere along any space-time continuum. If He gives us a glimpse into a past that exists only in His own mind, this is no lie, but a window into another dimension as God knows it to be. (Mt 11:21)

God speaks of what will be as if it’s already been, and reveals what would have been as if it was. If something exists in the mind of God, what presumption calls this fiction?

articles    blog

After Their Kind

In 1859 Charles Darwin published his claim that life evolved from a single original life form, without the aid of intelligence. Evolution in itself was not a novel idea, but Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection explained how species might have arisen by random chance, without a god. Since that time, atheists have managed to redefine science itself, asserting that intelligence may not be considered in any scientific explanation, no matter what the data implies.

But the actual scientific evidence available to Darwin troubled him; he never could explain the Cambrian Explosion: the sudden appearance of all known life forms (phyla), all at once in the fossil record, with no evidence of evolutionary history.

Darwin hoped subsequent discoveries would vindicate him, but after 150 years of intense research, they haven’t; the problem is worse than Darwin suspected. His theory is therefore presently in crisis. In other words, hardened atheists are finally being forced to concede that Darwin’s theory is inconsistent with the fossil record, and they’ve nothing to replace it with.

Scientifically speaking, trying to explain the origins of life without intelligence is a dead end: life does not come from non-life, and it’s inconceivable that any part of the complex biological mechanism comprising the building blocks of life formed by chance: it’s much easier to randomly select, on our very first attempt, a single marked atom from among all the atoms in our galaxy.

When it comes to spiritual things, expecting anyone to concede a position based merely on reason and evidence is also a dead end; unless God mercifully intervenes, we continue to hope in the hopeless, even in the face of such mathematical improbability. This is scientific evidence that Man is desperately wicked, driven by a freely chosen disdain for God, and that atheism itself is especially foolish. (Ro 1:21)

God says He created all living things to reproduce after their kind(Ge 1:25) This is exactly what the scientific record reveals, and we now know this conclusively.

We ought not to be intimidated by irrational, unscientific claims, even when very smart people make them: there can be no real contradiction between science and metaphysical reality. (1Ti 6:20)

articles    blog

Choose the Fear

As an instinct, fear can be a good thing, keeping us out of harm’s way. It helps us avoid things like, well, provoking gangsters and thugs – fearing what they might do to us encourages a basic kind of wisdom.

Christ reasons, by way of contrast, that there’s only one to be afraid of: God. (Lk 12:4-5) God is capable of inflicting so much damage and harm, truly an infinite amount of pain and suffering, that all other fears should pale in comparison; the very thought of offending Him should move us to trembling (Php 2:12), even as we’re rejoicing in Him. (Ps 2:11)

Many prefer to focus on respect or reverence rather than fear, perhaps to encourage us to be more comfortable with God. But that’s like telling us to relax when our clothes might be catching fire.

The potential danger we’re all in with God is incredibly real, and there’s no point in playing it down: He’s a consuming fire (He 12:29), and most of us are chaff. (Mt 3:12) Even for the best of us, it’s a fearful thing to fall into His hands (He 10:31), and all of us will: evading Him isn’t an option. The slightest uncertainty here should terrify us. (2Co 5:11)

Firstly, a healthy fear of God keeps us from presumptuous sin, from carelessly offending Him (Pr 16:6), and that’s just plain smart – like not poking a gorilla in the eye, even if he seems friendly.

Godly fear also motivates us to ensure our election (2Pe 1:10)striving to enter the narrow gate (Lk 13:24) and pass fully into His rest. (He 4:11) In light of the second death, living for even a moment without absolute assurance of eternal life is unthinkable. (2Co 13:5)

Fear in itself, rational fear of any kind, would never encourage us to run or hide from God: thinking we can avoid omnipresence is like trying to escape from space and time itself; the thought is unintelligent at best. Only an insane dislike, a relentless distaste for the divine, would seek to escape from One who inhabits eternity.

Perhaps this is partly why “the fear of JEHOVAH is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pr 9:10) Try to fathom a soul with any sense of propriety or understanding that willfully chooses to neglect or offend omnipotence. How can anyone with a grain of sense not “kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little?” (Ps 2:12)

A lack of reverence for God, any willingness to sin against Him deliberately, on purpose, not choosing to fear Him in every healthy sense of the word (Pr 1:29), is essentially a failure to grasp the fundamental nature of God; it’s either rank unbelief in who God says He is, or exceedingly irrational.

The fear of God is our friend (Ps 19:9a): choose it and be wise. Learn to fear Him rightly (Ps 34:11)God’s children don’t take Him lightly, casually; we fear Him unto joy. All else is unbelief, enmity, no matter how we slice it.

articles    blog

Male and Female

When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, life was a bit simpler. We understood gay/lesbian/bi, and I instinctively sensed it was all unnatural. But I never dreamed of something like gender self-identification. I don’t think it’s a confusion about the biological definition of male and female, but a claim that gender is independent of biology, that one can be in the wrong kind of body.

Yet claiming we belong in a different body implies we’re distinct from our body, that we’re more than flesh and bone. This is in fact a profound step: it’s admitting we’re spiritual beings, implying we’re created by God, formed in His image.

It’s also an assertion that God’s made a grand mistake in our case, that our unnatural passions (Ro 1:26) aren’t perverse, but God’s fault for putting us in the wrong body. (Jud 1:15)

Yet God doesn’t make mistakes. How could He? He’s made us as sexual beings, male and female (Mk 10:6), amazing and beautiful. (Ps 139:14) Perversion is what it is: a twisting of God’s design, and our inclination to harm ourselves and others is particularly visible here. Our desires aren’t king, God is king, and He knows best. As difficult as this may be to accept, it’s in our best interest to submit to His one-flesh design, tame our passions, and channel our energies in healthy ways.

Being indignant and offended when anyone dares call perversion what it actually is (Ge 19:9) is admitting we’ve nothing but raw presumption to support our claims. It’s demanding freedom to make up Moral Law as we go, while forbidding others to do the same, a blatant inconsistency. Yet giving ourselves to sin like this leaves us no other choice: the sting of our shame is simply too painful for most of us to bear.

Silencing those who oppose us isn’t going to heal us, nor make it any easier to face God in the end. This will only sear our conscience and harden our hearts, which can’t end well.

articles    blog

What Think Ye of Christ?

Christ asked a simple question about Himself which might be helpful in evangelism: “What do you think of Christ?” (Mt 22:41-42) Most people don’t feel threatened when asked their opinion, and very few seem to have a negative opinion of Christ Himself, so it may be a great way to broach the subject of spirituality without being awkward.

Christ is unarguably the greatest figure in human history, standing far above all others; He may also be the most controversial, so healthy discussion about Him has the potential to be energizing and enlightening. Most everyone seems to have an opinion, but very few appear to ground their opinions in fact.

Thinking honestly about Christ requires knowing what He’s like, studying the Gospels, and carefully considering what Jesus said and did.

Those to whom Christ asked this singular question didn’t think carefully about Him, so they didn’t understand Him and they missed Him, the greatest human being who ever lived, though He stood in their midst, and taught in their streets.

People outside Christianity generally think Christ was a great teacher, and no more, but this is the one thing He can’t be.

Christ didn’t just claim to know the way to God, He also claimed to be the Way (Jn 14:6), and to actually be God Himself in human form (Jn 14:9) … these are claims no reasonable mortal would ever make, especially a devout Jew.

If Christ’s testimony about Himself is true, then He isn’t just a good teacher — He is God Himself; if Christ’s witness of His own nature isn’t true then Christ isn’t even good, this would make Him out to be a profound liar, an impostor … or worse.

Christ’s unique claims require each soul to make a decision about Him; He leaves us no other choice.

Christ publicly predicted His crucifixion well before it happened, and proclaimed that He was going to raise Himself from the dead. (Mt 27:62-63) Then it happened as He said: the Jews did crucify Him … and then Christ did raise Himself from the dead.

The apostles, who knew Christ personally and followed Him, gave up all worldly comforts to testify of this, of the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection — something they’d have known was a lie if it wasn’t true. This was at a time when the very thought of resurrection was mocked in common culture (Ac 17:32), not merely as impossible, but also undesirable. Yet the apostles all died martyr’s deaths, never seeking wealth, fame, pleasure or power, never wavering in their zeal or testimony.

People don’t deliberately sacrifice all, suffer and die for what they know is a lie.

It is undisputed, universally accepted historical fact that Christianity was born of this apostolic witness in the first century C.E, and grew miraculously despite vicious persecution. No one can explain how Christianity came to exist if Christ isn’t authentic, if He didn’t actually raise Himself from the dead. This is historically proven, if anything is, and it’s unique, giving assurance unto all that Christ is the Way to God: there’s nothing else like this in world religions. (Ac 17:31)

Let’s gently appeal to souls to ground their views of Christ in facts, and then to serve Him and enter into His rest. Moving people to carefully ponder Christ, challenging their neglect of Him, might be a powerful tool in the hands of the Spirit as we encounter each eternal soul.

articles    blog

Wonderfully Made

At the core of every living cell is an extremely complex, self-replicating machine; billions of perfectly interconnected parts forming a network of living computer programs which read each other bidirectionally: forwards to do one thing, and the same exact piece of code read in reverse to accomplish something entirely different. Genius computer geeks can’t even begin to touch this kind of complexity.

Electron Microscope image of DNA

Each plant and animal species has its own version of this peculiar machine. Three amazingly complicated, interdependent macromolecules comprise it; any two can combine to construct the third, and it’s the only way any of the three is ever made.

Scientists call the three parts DNA, RNA and protein; the building blocks of life, a trinity both encoding and replicating the unique genetic code of each species, constantly configuring themselves in various ways to build the complex network of  tissues and organs within every life form. We don’t know what makes them tick or how they could possibly have evolved.

What we do know is that the entire biological system breaks down if we remove any one of the three components of these incredible machines, each one being perfectly designed to work only with the other two. We call this irreducible complexity, and it’s evidence of Intelligent Design in Creation.

Though some dismiss ID as pseudoscience, they must do so irrationally: not only do we remain at a loss to explain how this kind of machine could ever appear apart from Intelligent Design, it’s inconceivable that anything this complex could ever could do so by chance. When studying wrist watches, it’s not pseudoscience to claim a watchmaker exists; in fact, toying with any alternative is patently absurd. Only hopeless ideologues persist in such mindlessness.

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”  Charles Darwin

Darwin and his contemporaries had no idea of the complexity of a living cell, each like a city in itself, a vast network of thousands of intricate components working seamlessly together, or of the incredible design embedded in each and every molecule within each cell. If it is theoretically possible to demonstrate that evolution breaks down with a set of facts, then this has indeed been shown with the facts presented here.

The truth is, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), created in the image of God, to fellowship with Him.

articles    blog