Monday, July 19, 2010

The Christian And Debt

There once was a member in the Church,
     who left the ministry in a lurch.
You see, because he couldn't pay, at least that's what he did say,  
     he jerked his kid from the Christian school and put him in the public school.
Refusing to pay the rest of the tuition he owed,  
     he decided the teachers could do without their pay,
but deciding that he needed a new car for the road,
     he borrowed lots of money for his Cabriolet.
But the strangest thing that I ever did see
    was when this Christian gave a testimony,
claiming that God blessed him by enabling him to borrow,
     he paid no mind to His heavenly Father's sorrow.
And why would God sorrow for being thanked for a car?
     Because such a testimony God's reputation does mar.
For the Christian worker unpaid by the selfish one's neglect,
     and the child abandoned to heathens for a more important debt.

     Do you like my little poem? It is a poem describing an amazing example of one Christian's ability to deceive himself into thinking that he can justify not paying tuition for his child to attend a Christian school, that he said God led him to enroll his child in. However, he can go out and borrow money to buy a new car, stand up in front of the whole church, and brag on how God gave him the car. What you have to borrow money to pay for God did not give you, because what God gives you God gives you.  Perhaps confusion in this area is one of the reasons so many people are actually lost who claim to be, and who actually think they are, born again people.
     Consider those people who think that God gave them their house, when they will spend the next thirty years paying for it. Consider, also, those who think God gave them their car, and who will also spend the next five years paying for it. Both "gifts" must be paid for and are financed at outrageous rates of interest. Could it be that folks who think such arrangements as these are "gifts" from God are confused about eternal life being the gift of God, as well? Perhaps they also think "the gift of God which is eternal life" must also be paid for, just as these other so-called "gifts" from God need to be paid for. Beyond this person who claims to be a Christian, but who may very well be lost because of genuine confusion about what is and what is not a gift from God, what about the child? As I have observed family after family over the years of my ministry, I always wonder about the children. Our sins always ravage the children. 
     What must the child think who is lower on his parent's priority list than a new car or a hobby? How can my daughter believe me when I tell her I love her if I spend less money on her than a new car? Do not think that people who make these kinds of self-deceiving choices are not aware of their children's scrutiny and the inquisitive thinking of their friends. That is why, almost immediately after they make such decisions as these, despite the hours of counseling, despite the investment of church member's lives in them and their welfare, despite the quality education their child has received from very competent and dedicated Christian school workers, they begin to trash ministries they had praised for so long. You see, it is the pattern of selfish people to do whatever they can to salvage their own testimonies and reputations and to justify their sinful behavior to foolish listeners. After they have done wrong and have sinned greatly against God and others, their own children included, they frequently try to distract the attention of others from their own wicked behavior by speaking against and gossiping about ministries they have benefited so much from. Never mind that the Bible says that the grievances they say they have with the church are to be redressed in private. Never mind that the cause of Christ may be harmed by such careless talk in front of spiritual babes or unsaved people.  And never mind that this behavior guarantees that their own children will never seek comfort and consolation, will never turn to Christ or Christians, in the church they so vigorously badmouth. All the ingrate cares about is the facade of righteousness he has erected and seeks to maintain to the fools who keep his company.
     Why am I speaking so strongly against this kind of behavior? Do I have some kind of vendetta? I speak on this kind of behavior because it is not all that uncommon, and because the Bible speaks to it. The illustration I used of a church member's behavior is true. The names have been omitted to protect the guilty. But since there is nothing new under the sun, the things I have described to you have happened numerous times in the past, are happening now, and will happen again, no matter what steps are taken to prevent it.
     If you have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ, if you have a healthy fear of God and love for God's people, then Romans 13.8-10, rightly understood, tells of the Christian's proper attitude toward and relationship with debt. The Apostle Paul describe the Christian's relationship with others in terms of debt, in terms of obligation. Remember, the church member in the poem felt no obligation to adhere to his word to pay tuition through the course of the school year. That church member felt no obligation or debt to provide Christian education for his child, going back on a previously stated position. But that former Church member did choose to obligate himself for the purpose of borrowing money to purchase a new car, all the while claiming that God gave it to him.
     In Romans 13.8-10, God's Word defines the Christian's proper relationship to debts of obligation. I will leave it to you to look the passage up in your Bible.  Two considerations:


     Generally speaking, what should the Christian's attitude toward debt be? What should the Christian posture toward owing things to others be?  Paul, changing from the believer's obligation toward human government, where he writes "render to all their dues" in Romans 13.7, writes these words in Romans 13.8: "Owe no man any thing." Recognizing that the word "dues" is the noun form of the same word as the verb translated "owe," we see that Paul is still dealing the concept of what a person "ought" to do, what is right to do, what there is a moral obligation to do.But the command, for it is a command, to "owe no man any thing," is couched in a cultural context that is so far removed from ours as to rightly be considered foreign.  So we have an extremely difficult time comprehending what Paul is stating so simply. To illustrate the truth of what I have said you ought to read the comments of commentators. You ought to hear the responses of pastors. So strange is the concept of owing no man anything to modern day Christians that virtually every authority you might choose to consult will maintain, without any scriptural evidence to back up his statements whatsoever, that "owe no man any thing" means to make your debt payments in a timely manner. But what did "owe no man any thing" mean to those to whom this letter from Paul was originally written? How was it taken in light of Old Testament truth? To address these issues consider this plain directive from God's Word in two ways:
     First, considered historically. Do I need to establish that Jews living during Old Testament times were forbidden to lend money to Jews at usury, which is to say they were forbidden to charge interest of any kind on a loan made to a Jewish person?  I do not think so. That truth is too well known to need establishing. Do I need to establish, or is it already understood, that God's desire for His people was for them to loan and not to borrow from Gentiles? Therefore, it should be understood by one and all here today that, since Jewish person A was not to loan money to Jewish person B, unless it was loaned interest free, Jewish person B was effectively forbidden to borrow money and thus be obligated to repay debts in the manner that is so common today. To put it another way:  It is clear that God's plan for the handling of money by Jewish people did not include borrowing money at interest and paying it back over a period of time. Loaning money to Gentiles at interest, however, and receiving payment from them over a period of time, was perfectly acceptable to God. If that establishes a precedent for us to follow today, and I rather think it does, it would be this: Christian, do not borrow from unsaved people and pay them back with interest.  Instead, loan money to unsaved people and let them pay you back with interest. After all, you are the ones with the God Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. Amen? What are you doing borrowing money from lost people when you claim your God supplies your needs? What did the Christians of Rome, with their strong Jewish background of training, understand this phrase to mean? Read Romans 1.14, and take note of the word   translated "debtor," which is the noun form of our word "owe," and is found some forty times in the New Testament. In both noun and verb forms it refers to that which is owed, to that for which obligation must be discharged, to that which one ought to do. So, the original readers of Paul's letter to the Romans recognized that when the government obligated them to pay taxes, Romans 13.7, they were to discharge that obligation. However, they were not to voluntarily obligate themselves financially of their own free will.
     Now, consider the practical consequence of this command. Do you violate this command when you obligate yourself to pay for electricity that you have already used, paying for it at the end of the month? I do not think so. Why not? Because you have no option. This is not a matter of your own will. It is the way the electric company operates under our socialist system. It would be better for you and me, and the electric company, if they let us draw on a balance that we maintained with them. That way no one would ever stiff the power company, and their additional income from our money they held would mean additional profit and in turn lower power consumption rates. Cheaper electricity. What about buying a house or a car on time, or anything on time? Is that your own choice? It sure is. No one makes you buy a car or house. It is entirely optional. Therefore, the only way you will ever buy a house or car is to intentionally obligate yourself for a considerable period of time, unless you pay cash for it. How much cheaper is a car paid for with cash, saving the interest charged over the life of the loan? This is just the concept of obligation in general.  In general, Paul commands us to "owe no man any thing." Why is Paul so adamant about being debt free?


Notice how Paul relates the Christian's relationship to obligation to love for his fellow man. One phrase or verse at a time:

"But to love one another"

Please take note of the fact that this word "but" does not carry with it the idea that Christians are to "owe no man any thing, but instead of owing any thing Christians are to love one another." That's not the idea here at all.  Understand that Paul's statement here fits perfectly with what he wrote in Romans 1.14, which we considered just a few moments ago. What Paul is declaring is this: The only debt which the Christian is supposed to have is the debt to love one another. The love debt is a real obligation. You can owe a tax bill and then pay it off. Once it's paid off you are no longer obligated. You might even find yourself owing a monthly payment for your credit card. Understand that when that card is finally paid off you have no further obligation. Those are two dischargeable obligations, one you do not and the other you do have a choice about. But they are dischargeable. The obligation to love one another, however, is a debt of obligation assigned to you by God that can never fully be discharged.  Love one guy and when you turn around there is another person you are just as obligated to show Christian love for as the first guy. Could it possibly be that the reason God doesn't want you to voluntarily enter into debts of obligation to others is because He assigned you a debt of obligation that will keep you more than busy? Could it be that although you are a great lover of men you may not be as much a lover of others as you could be if you were debt free? "I don't understand." Though God's resources are limitless, the resources He actually gives to us are carefully measured. By obligating himself to that car payment, our man in the poem could not, with the limited resources given to him by God, express his love for his child as he ought to. Who suffered? His child. But understand this as well: The "one another" in this phrase is not just your child or another Christian. It refers to another person. Your ability to love everyone is limited in some way by your indebtedness, whether or not you recognize it as being so.

"For he that loveth hath fulfilled the law"

What, precisely, the law is that is referred to here is open to question. Is it the law of the land that is fulfilled when you show love for other folks?  Is it the Law of Moses that is fulfilled when you show love for other folks? And I say "show love" because you don't actually love without showing love, do you? Love is not an attitude. Love is an activity. Love is not what you feel, but what you do. Whatever, then, this law is that Paul is referring to, it is satisfied when the child of God actively discharges the only obligation he is supposed to have, the only obligation he is authorized by God to have.

"For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

In Exodus chapter 20, we find the ten commandments given to Moses by God. Of those ten commandments, four, the first four, describe man's duty toward God. The final six describe man's duty toward his fellow man. Of those six, five are listed here by Paul, with only the command to honor your father and mother not listed. In light of this verse, I would strongly suggest that the law referred to by Paul in verse 8, while not necessarily being the entire Law of Moses, and not being the entire ten commandments, probably consists of the commandments that describe man's duty toward man. So, what Paul is instructing his readers is this: When you discharge your duty to love your fellow man you are doing what God has described your responsibilities to be toward your fellow man in the ten commandments.

"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Does God retain the right to bless and withhold blessing? Of course He does. When God withholds blessing from you, or when He tests and tries you, does He necessarily want others unnecessarily involved? In other words, could God want to take you through a financially lean time and take good old George through a financially fat time? Sure. But what happens when God tests you by laying you off when you are in debt up to your ears? If you owe no man any thing you are tested by God and you can cry out to God for a job to support your family. Period. If you owe money to George, however, when you lose your job you cannot pay George what you owe him. Even after you lose your good reputation you still owe good old George.  Thus, you have sinned against him by defaulting and not paying him. "But, I did not mean to covet when I bought what I could not afford. I did not mean to steal from George by taking his money and not paying it all back. I did not mean to bear false witness when I said I'd pay him each and every month, but couldn't because I was laid off. I love old George and wouldn't do anything in the world to harm him." When you borrowed the money to buy what you could not afford you did so because you coveted. When you could not pay off what you owed because you presumed that God would not or could not work in your life by getting you laid off or laid up injured, you stole and you bore false witness. In short, you could not love George like you might otherwise have had you not borrowed his money and gone into his debt. "No. I only borrow when I have collateral. That way George always gets more than he loaned to me if I default." That way you have literally thrown away your equity if you default. That's good stewardship?

     Christian, if you present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, then you have acknowledged in the third way God's ownership of your life. First, God owns you because He made you. No believer disputes that fact. Second, God owns you because Christ's blood was shed to purchase you from sin. No believer disputes that. And third, God owns you because you consciously and constantly give yourself to Him.
     My, what a wonderful thing it is to live in the freedom of God's will for your life . . . unless God's will conflicts with our own personal hopes and aspirations, that is. Unless God's clearly revealed will dims one's hopes of owning a nice home some day, or a nice new car.God's will is for our lives to be an instrument to express His great love for mankind.  Our usefulness as instruments to express God's great love is hindered when we obligate ourselves in any other way than to express God's love to our fellow man.
     I know from personal experience what it is like to consider this passage and to struggle for another understanding of the passage. I know what bondage to the American dream and its indebtedness is like. I have tried for years to figure out a way to interpret this passage so that I could mortgage a house or finance a car without sinning against God. I have read all the commentaries. I have considered all the options. Every single one of them. I have talked with dozens of pastors. The results are always the same.
     If the Word of God is the final authority, and if the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, then it must be admitted that God does not want His people to financially obligate themselves by going into debt. Financial indebtedness interferes with the Christian's ability to faithfully and fully discharge his obligation to love others. "But the Bible says we are to live by faith." This is most true. However, faith is not presumption. Faith is trusting God enough to live God's way, not the world's way. It is presumptuous to obligate yourself to pay tomorrow what you may not have tomorrow. It is never faith to presume that God is going to do what He has not expressly said He would do in the Bible.
     We do an injustice to the text if we do not conclude by saying this: Paul's whole thrust in these three verses is to describe for the Christian the only obligation God wants us to have toward our fellow man - love. We are not just to love the lovely. We are to love all men. And the specific way we show love to the lost, the particular way we discharge our debt, our obligation, to those who are not saved, is by preaching the Gospel to them. I wonder how bold the worker would be to witness to his boss if he had no mortgage payment and owned his car free and clear? My, how free to do right you are when you owe no man any thing. Think of how you could love on people if you were so unburdened of debt that you could actually use the money that used to go down the drain paying interest to take visitors out to lunch after church. Assuming you now have a credit card balance of $2000 at 18% APR, being out of debt would free up $360 per year to entertain people you'd like to win to Christ. At $40 a meal for four, that is nine times a year. Imagine how this man could have loved his child if he had been so committed to discharging his debt of love, to the child and to others, and shunned the temptation to obligate himself for the purchase of a car. Because his car payment was considerably more than the tuition payment.
     God help us as Christians to just do what God tells us to do in His infallible Word. Borrow money if you want to, buy a house or a car on time if you want to. Just don't tell me, and don't tell yourself, that it doesn't dramatically affect your ability to demonstrate love to others.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Really Causes Divisions

     The Corinthian Church members had slipped into a pattern of choosing up sides, forming cliques, being more concerned with their own private lives than the cause of Christ and the salvation of the lost. They were what I like to term "California Christians," emphasizing the meaningless and unimportant aspects of life, while ignoring the truly significant matters, dividing up and squabbling instead of coming together to serve God effectively. In dealing with this disunity problem, which was more damning and damaging to the cause of Christ than the shallow thinking Corinthians ever realized, Paul subjected himself and his ministry to close examination. In doing so he proved, in his own case and for thousands of spiritual leaders since Paul, that if the message and the methods of one's ministry are proper, disunity in the Church, divisiveness among the people, cannot be blamed on the spiritual leadership.
     Those same criteria must be used nowadays. If there is no unity in the body, or if unity is under siege in the body, and both the message and the methods of God's man are consistent with Biblical guidelines, then he has done his job. Therefore, if fault does not lie with spiritual leadership, we must ask whose fault is it when unity has been disrupted? Is it God's fault? No! If it is not a leadership problem then disunity, disharmony, lack of contentment, whatever you want to call it, must be a followship problem. First Corinthians 3.1-2 reveals where the fault for disunity really lies: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." In a phrase, disunity in the Corinthian Church was caused by carnality among the members. Though disunity can conceivably be the fault of the pastor, Paul's analysis of the situation has concluded that such is not the case he was dealing with. When disunity results from carnality in the lives of the members of the Church, two comments made by Paul can bring understanding of the situation that God will use to effect a genuine healing, a real repentance of sin.


"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ."

     Paul is inspired of the Holy Spirit of God to draw a parallel between the spiritual and the physical realm.  The Christian who is temporarily unspiritual or carnal, though he may have been converted for some time, is still a spiritual baby. Some of the marks which identify carnality in a Christian are as follows: #1, a period of perpetual conflict and repeated defeat. #2, a period of protracted infancy and retarded spiritual growth. #3, a period of fruitlessness and worldliness. Have you ever had periods of time in your life when these marks identified you? If so, then you have had some times of spiritual stagnation and carnality.
     Other marks identify spirituality: #1, a life of perpetual conflict and repeated victory. The Christian life is a life of spiritual conflict. The spiritual Christian is the one who realizes that whimpering does little good, so he faces the battles head on and he fights the good fight. #2, a life of progressive growth and Christ-likeness. There is only one reason why folks experience times without a significant amount of spiritual growth and maturation. That reason is sin. Christianity is an overcoming lifestyle. Only sin stunts its growth. #3, a life of fruit bearing and separation. This is making disciples, getting folks saved, then baptized, and training them to observe what Christ has commanded. It is moving from worldly things and toward the Lord God.


     Lest you think that carnality is without consequences in the life of the believer, read what Paul wrote in verse 2: "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." Consider the problems carnality causes.
     Carnality causes problems for spiritual leaders. You simply cannot pass through a season of carnality in your Christian life without it having a direct impact on a spiritual leader's life and ministry. Never mind the physical and emotional consequences in his life when you are sinful, when you are unresponsive. Frustration, feelings of despair that come from wrestling with whether or not some of his problems might be your fault, anger, resentment, and always fighting the temptation to slip into bitterness. The mature minister must set these very real matters aside. What cannot be set aside is the fact that dealing with carnal Christians takes extra time. You cannot feed carnal Christians the standard menu diet of spiritual meat. Oh no. You have to prepare milk for them. Why? Because they are so sensitive to being offended, and because they are so insensitive to spiritual illumination, they simply take longer to teach things that spiritual Christians grasp quickly. What about personal accountability to Christ? Read Hebrews 13.17: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." The carnal Christian, according to the message of this verse, can steal a spiritual leader's joy and putt grief in its place. Can the carnal Christian justifiably maintain that his or her spiritually childish behavior, refusing to faithfully attend Church, refusing to give to the cause of Christ for some drummed up lame excuse, refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in his or her life, does not affect the pastor? Absolutely not! If the Word of God is considered, that believer would have to admit that he has a considerable effect on his Church's ministry, and none of it good. You know what else? The carnal Christian oftentimes continues in that selfish sin even though he has no right to affect other people's lives that way. But then, being carnal, he does not care about other people.
     Carnality causes problems for those who are carnal, as well. Sin hinders, if it does not completely block, the consumption of rich spiritual nutrition. When a person does not receive truth from that person God chooses and has called to be the conduit through which such truth is conveyed, which is to say, when a Christian is not spiritual enough to listen to and learn from God's man, he is going to be malnourished. James 1.21: "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." According to this verse, a carnal person's ears are stopped, and we know that he can become spiritually cold, apathetic and self-centered. As Christians we need to be taught, trained and encouraged to dwell together in unity. Tragically, the carnal Christian is an unreceptive listener. So, does carnality cause problems for the carnal Christian? As we have seen, it certainly does. I have not even mentioned the consequences carnal Christians face at the judgment seat of Christ.

     Thanks be to God for personal responsibility. Without personal responsibility we would have no hope of maintaining Church unity. What hope would there be of raising your children properly, parents, without you assuming personal responsibility for raising your kids? Oh, you could always blame this, that, or the other person, but would that help your son or daughter? No. You are personally responsible for raising your children. In like manner are you, individually, held responsible by God for unity within your Church. Oh, you can always blame someone for this and someone for that, but that only creates animosity. People object to being held responsible for those things they have no power to control or correct.
     So it was when Paul was considered by some to be the reason the Corinthian Church was not experiencing unity. In fact, as we have seen, Paul's ministry was a unifying force in the Church and did not contribute to the divisions they were experiencing. Rather, it was those members themselves who were the problems. When Christians admit that disunity results from their own individual carnality, from their own personal immaturity, and that it hinders their personal growth and nourishment, then and only then is there hope for unity in that Church.
     Are you carnal? Are you the cause of difficulties in your congregation, instead of being the solution, the unifying force? Are you still a spiritual baby, when you ought to be more mature? In what ways are you enhancing your Church's spirituality and outreach effectiveness? If you are carnal you need to admit it. Admit it to God and begin to diligently strive for growth and maturity. Second Peter 1.5-11 provides guidance along that line, with diligence in the living of your Christian life being the key to enjoying great success. Do you want your Church to be a very happy family, a very harmonious congregation? Then do what the Corinthian Church members initially did not do. They were a divided congregation because of what they did not do. They did not pay close attention to the preacher, expecting God to bless and feed them through his ministry. However, when Timothy delivered Paul's first Corinthian letter they responded in a manner that pleased God.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Thoughts on the immigration issue

     Tempers are flaring as both sides debate the recent Arizona law passed and signed into law to address the kidnappings, sex slave trade, drug trafficking, and other matters spilling in from Mexico through the porous border, resulting in Phoenix having more than one kidnapping a day in 2009. Caught in the middle are the illegal immigrants who flee to the USA to escape the danger and poverty that is an unalterable way of life for those born into the permanent underclass of Mexico. Well educated and upper class Mexicans are not nearly so interested in living in the USA.
      I spent the last week of April 2010 attending a seminar I had sought to attend for a number of years, where I met and conversed with a number of veteran military, intelligence, and law enforcement operatives who had served in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo, under both the American and the United Nations flags. During the breaks between the lectures on the principles of interviewing and interrogating (not the same philosophy as tactical interrogations where lifesaving information needs to be extracted from unwilling sources quickly), I learned some things from several well-seasoned veterans of the drug wars and other conflicts. They are unanimously contemptuous of elected and appointed officials on both sides of every conflict the USA is involved in, and are convinced that the financial gains realized on both sides of the various conflicts virtually guarantees they will not be allowed to end anytime soon. Too much money, and power, is yet to be made.
     The greatest tragedy, of course, has to do with those caught in the middle. In every conflict it is the little guy, the poor, the uneducated, those who do not wield power and are not related to those who wield power. They are the ones who suffer. They are the ones who are pushed out of Mexico by danger and starvation (Why would anyone risk illegally entering the USA if it was not to escape greater danger at home?) They are the ones many of our fellow Americans, frightened that we are losing our American way of life, aim their anger at . . . mistakenly. To be sure, no nation in history has survived the penetration of its borders from unwanted outsiders, be it China when invaded by the Mongols or Rome when invaded by the Huns, Germanic tribes, etc. Therefore, the concern is a valid one, though I am persuaded anger and frustration is more properly directed somewhere else.
      The immigration issue is a political issue, unlike that of the Huns and Mongols and others. Peggy Noonan is correct, in my opinion, when she blames both American political parties for not attempting to resolve the matter, though she does not go far enough. The immigration problem is related to both the cultural push from Mexico and the cultural pull here in the United States, and no answer that ignores Mexico can be adequate. Mexico is a perpetually corrupt society, never having benefited from a culture heritage altered by the Protestant Reformation. Our country is becoming corrupt, as we left behind the effects the Protestant Reformation had on those who founded this nation. For the sake of the poor and frightened who seek safety and freedom by leaving Mexico, we must close our borders to stop the influx.
     Must we close the border because the illegals are evil, wicked, mean, and nasty? No. Though they are a drag on our society, it is not for that reason we must deny them access. Access must be denied because only when they cannot come here will their discontent result in real solutions to Mexico's perpetual corruption. Our own Revolution was the result of immigrants (Pilgrims) going where they could go (leaving England and coming here), and then finding there was nowhere else to go without pulling up roots (which they were unwilling to do a second time). They had to either revolt against unjust rule by the British crown or submit. Mexicans, on the other hand, have three choices; to submit to the corrupt government and violent criminals, to revolt and make things better, or to enter the USA. Until we deny them the third option they will not take the second option, the only option that will benefit everyone in Mexico in the long run and preserve a United States that still resembles the country our fathers founded.
     Though blame can presently be placed directly on politicians of all stripes on both sides of the border, as well as criminals both inside and outside of government on both sides of the border, it did not begin with those corrupt and wicked men. It began with common and everyday citizens of the United States. Let me explain: People my age mowed lawns to earn money as kids, and worked as bag boys in grocery stores. We washed cars and performed odd jobs in the summer. We bussed tables in local eateries and worked party time in hotels and at resorts. Such jobs are now held by immigrants. Why? Because U. S. citizens murdered so many of their unborn children that an economic vacuum developed that became the Yankee side of the push-pull immigration force. Remember, it has always been bad in Mexico. There has always been a push from south of the border, but it was not until women began aborting their children that an economic pull was created by the void of fewer and fewer young people available to bus tables, pump gas, bell hop luggage, and care for lawns.
     No country that murders her own unborn children has a right to survive. Closing our border will help Mexicans by provoking them to demand better from their politicians. However, unless our people stop killing our unborn, and start having children again, there is no hope for us as a nation. It is all about sin in the end, is it not? Americans killed and are killing their kids and are now threatened by people from the south who are not murdering their children. Our country, like most of Europe and Japan and China, has become a nation of murderers. Such countries have no right to survive. Citizens of such countries are in need of heartfelt repentance.
     What will I personally do about the immigrant issue? I will confess to God the sins of my people. I will become more and more angry at those responsible for the conditions (past and present) that made this problem. And I will both love and befriend the little guys caught in the middle, who seek only safety and security for their loved ones. If they live close enough, I will invite them to church and hope they stay.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sexual Consequences

     The cover of the May 3, 2010 issue of Time magazine reminds us that it was fifty years ago that the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new oral contraceptive, that is known today as The Pill. What did The Pill enable women to do that they had not been able to do before? The first prescription medication ever created for people who were not sick, The Pill divorced sexual activity from one of its most significant consequences . . . the possibility of pregnancy.
     There have always been consequences associated with sexual activity. I once heard an epidemiologist state on the radio that a virgin who has sex with someone who has sex with someone else who has only had sex one previous time (but with someone who is promiscuous) has effectively had sex with Los Angeles County (where I live). That opens sexual activity to a mind boggling set of consequences. However, sexually transmitted diseases are usually private concerns and typically do not result in public humiliation, as was the case with pregnancy for a girl or woman who was not married.
     The Pill made it possible for the first time for two people to know that the likelihood of public consequences for sexual activity was very unlikely. The rest is history. However, there is an aspect of this entire scenario that I have not seen anyone draw attention to, the whole matter of consequences.
     Think about it for a moment: God is a God of consequences. He created this universe to be a realm of consequences. In the physical universe, every action results in an equal and opposite reaction, the Law of the Conservation of Momentum. In the moral universe, there is the Law of Sowing and Reaping, which some people paraphrase with the words, "What goes around comes around." The Bible version, however, states, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," Galatians 6.7. Thus, God has always guaranteed consequences, with The Pill being a scientific and medical attempt to thwart the consequences of sexual conduct known as pregnancy, leading to the birth of children.
     The Pill has no effect on any of the bacterial or viral consequences associated with sexual activity. The Pill only greatly minimizes the conceptions that sometimes result from sexual activity. Thus, while God designed sexual activity to be the pleasurable communion of husbands and wives in their marriage bed, The Pill made it "safer" for people not married, as well as people who are married, to divorce sex from the most beneficial aspect so pleasurable an activity . . . children.
     Is that a good thing? Is it in mankind's long term benefit for us to convince ourselves that our decisions and subsequent actions can be divorced from consequences? An article I read some months ago bears on this discussion. It was stated that one previously unanticipated consequence of The Pill was the desensitization of a woman's sense of smell, whereby on an unconscious level she could smell the man she was close to. The article when on to say that a woman's sense of smell served to provide an olfactory analysis of male pheromones, with a man who smelled good to a woman being a man whose genetic material was different from her own, providing a measure of safety against the possibility of genetic inbreeding. Thus, a woman could marry a man she met while taking The Pill, but would find him undesirable once she stopped taking The Pill to fulfill her desire to have children by him. A woman who met and married a man she had never slept with (therefore, having not taken The Pill) would not face the possibility, since her sense of smell had not been chemically neutralized to the smell of the man she was considering for marriage.
     Does all of this make as much sense to you as it does to me? God has created a universe, both physical and moral, in which there are consequences. Try as much as you want, you will not succeed in eliminating consequences, you will only change them, sometimes with unpredictable results.
     Should a Christian consider taking The Pill? I do not think so, but that question can be dealt with on another occasion. Let me close with this: I think it is best left to God to decide when conception occurs, and I think it is impudent for anyone to think he or she is better qualified to make that determination than God. When you engage in sex (with your spouse) be ready to take what comes from the communion God has blessed you with. If you are not ready for children you are certainly not ready for marriage. And if you are not ready for marriage you are certainly not ready for sex.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spanking A Predictor of Violent Behavior?

     The May 3 issue of Time magazine reports that a multiyear study concludes that spanking kids makes them more aggressive later on. The study is wrong.
     The book of Proverbs repeatedly show the importance of spanking - Proverbs 13.24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." 14.3: "In the mouth of the foolish is the rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them." 22.8: "He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail." 22.15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." 23.13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with a rod, he shall not die." 23.14: "Thou shalt beat him with a rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."
     The rod administered by a concerned parent's hand represents authority. Spankings should be administered with a rod and not with any other instrument, certainly not with the hand. When a parent wields a rod with authority to spank a child for rebellion or foolish behavior, at least three long term benefits result when parents properly follow up such chastisement with tender love and firm instruction: First, chastisement by a parent wielding authority delegated by God reveals reveals to a child the kind of chastisement God administers to His own children, which is motivated by a loving concern for future behavior (Heb. 12.5-11). Second, spanking a child to tearful sorrow is profoundly beneficial in showing the high price of sin and as a method to bring a surrender of the child's will to the parent's wishes. Third, spanking a child shows the power of an authority figure to a youngster that will foster respect for authority as maturity and experience is gained.
     When I leave my study and observe the outside world in which few parents know how to correct their children, I have all the evidence I need in support of the Biblical approach to correcting children who refuse to respond to reason. I pity poor kids who throw tantrums at the checkout stand of the grocery store when they don't get what they want. I sincerely wish their moms and dads had the gumption and the love to swim against the current trends by giving them a good spanking. I am so thankful my parents spanked me. I needed them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


     The Apostle Paul's reply to the Corinthian's questions about matters related to sexual fulfillment and marriage categorizes Christians into two groups, those who are sexually experienced being dealt with at the beginning of First Corinthians chapter seven and those who are inexperienced (virgins) being addressed at the end. Because of their different experiences, the issues the two groups must confront are not precisely the same, something not fully grasped by many Christians. What is clear and must be accepted as God's will is that, #1, it is not wrong to marry, and, #2, it is wrong to commit fornication, always. Therefore, it is legitimate for a Christian to marry if, in his estimation of his own situation as accountable to God, he must marry to avoid committing fornication. As well, since Paul declares that "it is better to marry than burn" (1 Cor 7.9) it should also be recognized that it is appropriate for a Christian to conclude that the time to marry is now if his passions convince him that he risks falling into sin by not marrying.
     I am persuaded that there are principles found in the Bible that can be adhered to in an effort to secure a mate for life. I advocate courtship. However, I am also persuaded that someone who is sexually experienced as a result of a previous marriage or having committed fornication prior to conversion faces purity challenges a virgin does not always appreciate. Marriage is clearly stated by the Apostle to be a real solution to the temptation to commit sexual sin, and marriage is preferable to burning. That should settle the matter for some people concerning the timing and the necessity of marriage. As a Baptist pastor who embraces the Baptist distinctive of the priesthood of the believer and the competency of the Christian in his dealings with God, it is my privilege to bow to the judgment of a Christian who chooses to marry in order to avoid committing sin.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Risk Management

In Galatians 6.1, the Apostle Paul instructs church members concerning the proper way to involve themselves when they witness an event, or series of events, that suggest a serious matter is occurring or is about to occur in the life of another member:  "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."  Since every church member is already engaged in spiritual conflict at various levels of intensity, it must be considered what additional conflict will result (and at what level of intensity) should you speak to that other Christian concerning his fault.  This risk assessment is rarely performed by believers, with some so risk averse that they never speak to what they see, and others never assessing risk but always speaking boldly where no man should speak.  To be sure, we are to bear one another's burdens, Galatians 6.2.  However, some burdens are simply too great to bear considering your present maturity and spiritual strength, especially if you are not successfully bearing your own burdens, Galatians 6.5.  Much grace is needed to live this Christian life.  Thankfully, great grace is available. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Invisible God

The Bible indicates in three places that God is invisible. The Bible also records Jesus declaring that "No man hath seen God at any time." What benefits to mankind is this attribute of God, being beyond the perceptions of His creatures (at least, beyond the perceptions of His human creatures)? I can think of several: First, if the seraphim (angels) hid their eyes from the brightness of His glory (Is 6.2), it must be that we cannot see Him and live. Second, since God is not normally perceived by the senses He is dealt with by faith, which pleases Him (He 11.6). Third, God's natural revelation of Himself through creation testifies of His greatness and His glory (Ps 19.1-4), leading those with the eyes to see to seek greater knowledge of Him. Thus, the atheist would claim there is no God, though the reality is that the invisible God has not, or not yet, chosen to reveal Himself to the atheist beyond His natural revelation of Himself in the sky above or the earth beneath. What a frightening thing to ponder, that One of such majesty and glory might not choose to reveal Himself to someone, leaving him in the smug cockiness of his ignorance to suffer the fate he deserves.