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America, Politics, and Morality

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There’s a lot to be said about the relationship between politics and morality in America. Hopefully we have a lot of time to say it. But before we try, I want to offer a framework for thinking about the issues.

Most of us agree that we must get our fiscal house in order or face national bankruptcy. What we disagree on is how to do that. This isn’t a political blog, we don’t need to wade into policy questions. I’ll leave that to the politicos. I’d rather make a more fundamental point.

The government isn’t the problem. We are.

In other words, we have a moral, not political, problem. We elect people to take care of us. We empower them to take people’s money and give it to others (often, ourselves), and we justify this by saying that “those people” don’t need that much, or they can accord to sacrifice that bit for the good of all. And lest anyone think I only have liberals in mind, let me say that conservatives seem to be just as guilty of this mentality. Almost all of us get some type of subsidy from the government, whether our pet tax-break or that needed entitlement.

Think of it this way: would you vote for someone who promised to take away your tax break, your subsidy, your entitlement?

Just as people say they hate Congress, but their congressman is good, so the thought process is, “All entitlements except mine are bad.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting help from Uncle Sam when things get desperate. But we must recognize that every dime we get, we got from someone else—from our friends and neighbors.

We have a remarkable capacity for generosity. We help each other. But to the extent that that we use the power of government to take from others what they would not willingly give, we engage in theft. Until each of us decides to stand on our own and be responsible for ourselves, no political answer is possible. No politician will be able to do the right thing, because it’s too easy for us to elect someone who will cater to our demands.

But someone may argue that they won’t survive without government help. And just here, the moral problem becomes most obvious. Who do we trust to take care of us? It’s easy to ask others to give up their entitlements, but Christians should be the first lay down their claims to other people’s money, because we recognize neither our necessities nor our abundance comes from the Oval Office, but  from the Throne of Heaven (James 1:16-18). In that, we declare others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-5). In putting others first, we seek the Kingdom of God by making ourselves the last and putting all others first (Matt. 6:33; 20:16). Maybe then our politicians could do the right thing. More importantly, perhaps God could use our faith to demonstrate His power to provide for His own. What kind of witness would that be for Christ?

I’m not looking for a savior. I found Him in 1987. I’m looking for Christians to trust Jesus with more than just their soul, to lead by example, and show America what it means to be free. And if that’ is true, then watever we say about morality and culture, we should always keep in mind that it starts with us.

Written by acts172

January 31, 2011 at 11:05 PM

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A Plea for Sanity

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At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11, NIV)

There is no doubt she was guilty. There was no doubt that, according to the Law, she deserved to die (Lev. 20:10). She had no defense. She could offer no excuses. What is more, there is no indication that the woman caught in adultery even so much as asked for mercy or forgiveness.

It is easy to get caught up in all the theology and scholarship surrounding the text. Why wasn’t the man brought with her? What was Jesus writing on the ground? What exactly was going on in the Pharisees’ mind? How were they trying to trap Jesus? What about the relationship of this passage to the rest of the Gospel of John? Is it part of the original writing? Who wrote it? Does it belong in the Bible? How does it fit into the context?

All of these are important questions, and I think we should be sure to offer answers to each of them. We should not, though, get so caught up in those questions that we miss the force of the story. For whatever value those questions have, there is one far more important we should be asking ourselves:

How is it that, if the one and only man who ever had a right to condemn anyone chose not to condemn this obviously guilty woman, we are so comfortable condemning others? Put differently, if the perfect Person didn’t condemn an imperfect person, why do imperfect people confidently condemn other imperfect people every day?

I ask this of myself just as I ask it of you. And as I ask it, I’m reminded of Alice’s conversation with the Cheshire Cat:

Alice didn’t think that proved it at all; however, she went on `And how do you know that you’re mad?’
`To begin with,’ said the Cat, `a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’
`I suppose so,’ said Alice.
`Well, then,’ the Cat went on, `you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.’”

If only we were as insightful as that old Cat. It is certainly mad to do precisely the opposite of what the sane person does. If Christ, then, does not condemn; indeed, if He does not even require our defenses and excuses, but simply looks at us in all our miserable guilt and does not condemn; still more, if far from condemning, He takes our condemnation on Himself in an act of pure love; then is it not pure insanity for me to think for one moment that I should, or even could, judge someone just as sinful as myself? To issue such a judgment seems to me to stand in the very place of God. More, it is to judge God Himself, for it is to tell Him that our judgment is more just than His. So yes, perhaps we’re all a little mad.

Written by acts172

January 27, 2011 at 12:18 AM

Contradiction #8: How Many Horses Did Solomon Have?

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1 Kings 4:26 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.

2 Chron. 9:25 And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.

Quite a few of the supposed contradictions people point out have to do with numbers. Some of these are copyist errors (the original texts may have been inerrant, but that doesn’t mean that they were necessarily copied perfectly every single time). There is a different answer for this one, but before we do, it’s worth pointing out that differences in numbers hardly have any bearing on the essential message of Scripture or theological history. In my own mind, this kind of nitpicking says more about the objector than anything else in that it points to a type of negative fundamentalism. In other words, just like many Christians believe the Bible is maximally perfect, having no errors, some critics take the opposite extreme and rather than focusing on substantive issues choose to major in the minors, promoting the concept the Bible is actually maximally corrupted. The chances, sadly, are better than not when we encounter these types of people that their objections are little more than talking points. Real discussion is rarely their interest.

Be that as it may, the answer to this particular contradiction isn’t too difficult. It appears that the Chronicler simply had a different numbering system than the author Kings. Specifically, Kings counts the total horsemen, whereas Chronicles counts the teams of horses. Each chariot had ten horses, and thus, there were four thousand teams or forty thousand individual horses.

Another example of this “multiple of ten” can be found here:

2 Sam. 8:4: And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.

1 Chron. 18:4: And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them an hundred chariots.

Again, notice that one verse says ten thousand chariots and the other a thousand. And again, 2 Samuel counts each team of horsemen (ten each) whereas 1 Chronicles counts each individual horse, so the numbers match up.

So not surprisingly, we find the text stands confirmed, even in the smallest details. We have a Bible that can be trusted and that easily withstands even the pettiest of attacks against its veracity.

Written by acts172

September 16, 2010 at 8:37 PM

Ministry Endorsement! Christ Alive Care Ministries

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Acts 17:2 Ministries is very proud to endorse Christ Alive Care Ministries. First, in their own words:

Welcome to Christ Alive Care Ministry’s Website. We hope the information available to you will be helpful and that you will be motivated to keep us in your prayers as we circle the communities with the Love of Jesus Christ. Founded by Rev. Wilson Varkey and Pastor V.U. Varghese, the ministry has been consistently dedicated to sharing the Good News of the Gospel in the Indian villages and exerting valuble services to the orphans and poor in the community.

The goal of the organization is to do its part in fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Also the ministry is dedicated to serve the poor in the community by rendering their requirements and fostering the helpless. We are registered in India as a non-profit, charitable organization and are now partners with Touch The World Ministries based out of Morganton, North Carolina in our child sponsorship program. Our main focus is building partnerships with local and international churches for the recruitment of faithful brothers and sisters who have a desire to reach the unreached and come work with us in village outreach where we do open air evangelism. We wish to offer you and your church the oppurtunity to be a part of these Great Commission works and invite you to contact us regarding how you can show Christ to others and share with them the love and plan of salvation.

I discovered the ministry through my friendship with Adam McNutt, who serves as their director of North American operations. I have always believed in the importance of missions, even if God has not called me to personally go and serve in another nation. Yet I am convinced, if not by anything more than my own experience, that people are more effective at sharing their faith in their own cultures. I am certainly in favor of sending missionaries to foreign lands! Yet over and over again, we have found native missionaries can do in a few weeks or months what foreign missionaries may have to spend years, or even a lifetime, accomplishing. If you don’t think so, just imagine how much more uncomfortable you would be around, say, a Buddhist from another country, dressed in traditional Buddhist garb, trying to tell you about the benefits of Buddhism, as opposed to if someone from your own town were to have that same conversation with you!

When you support CACM, you are supporting local, native missions. These are people who have a deep desire to reach their own, and if Western Christians can provide them the financial means to do so, I think God expects no less!

But further, please specifically pray about sponsoring a child. Before we say anymore about that, take a few minutes and watch this brief video (not produced by CACM) that presents, I think, a fantastic strategy to fulfilling the Great Commission:

Why has the Church spent so little time on child evangelism? If we can reach children for Christ in areas that are not Christian, they can tell their friends about Him, and a whole generation can grow up to become native evangelists!

You can sponsor a child for as little as $15 per month. Further, because we believe in the ministry of CACM so much, we are offering a free copy of our twelve week course (complete with twelve MP3 commentaries!) To Give A Reason For Our Hope to anyone who sponsors a child, PLUS two free months of membership in our private correspondence program (normally $30 per month).

Please go to their website now and consider sponsoring a child. Tell a friend (or two), and share some of the blessings God has given you with the “least” of His children.

Main Site: http://www.cacmindia.org

Sponsor a child: http://www.cacmindia.org/sponsor.php

Written by acts172

September 15, 2010 at 11:58 PM

Contradiction #7: How Many Animals On the Ark?

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Gen. 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

Gen. 7:8-9 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

I’ve often wondered at people who try to use this as a contradiction. Usually, people will cite Gen. 6:19-21, in which God commands Noah to take two of each animal, and contrast it with 7:2, in which God commands Noah to take seven of the clean animals. There is, of course, no contradiction in saying “Take two of all types of animals and seven of the clean ones.” The latter is simply a special instruction.

This version of the contradiction is no different. Gen. 7:8-9 says that pairs of each kind went into the ark, just as God commanded in Gen. 6, yet 7:2 includes a command to bring seven of the clean animals. Again, 7:2 is simply a matter of special instruction. Further, just because Gen. 7:8-9 says that the animals went into the ark in pairs, it does not follow that they only went in in pairs. By way of example, John 3:16 says that everyone who believes in Jesus is saved. In and of itself, however, that does not mean that everyone who does not believe in Jesus is not saved. It only says that if a person does believe in Jesus, they are one of the saved (whether or not there are any other saved people is another question entirely!). That is exactly why the verse goes on to say, “whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18). We must, then, be careful to avoid reading implications into verses that are not there. Logically, there is no basis for saying that because the animals went in by twos, they therefore only went in by twos, and any other description is thus a contradiction.

So, how many animals did God tell Noah to take on the ark? Exactly what the text says: two of all kinds, and concerning the clean animals specifically, seven.

Written by acts172

September 15, 2010 at 11:27 PM

Contradiction #6: Did God Make Animals or Man First?

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Gen. 1:25-26: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Gen. 2:18-19: And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

As much as we may hate it, sometimes, a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew grammar is important when studying Scripture

Gen. 1:25-26 says that God created animals before man, and yet Gen. 2:19 seems to say that God created men before animals. How are Christians to respond?

Very simply, that the phrase “God formed every beast” should be translated “God had formed every beast.” This, by the way, is precisely how modern translations such as the NIV and ESV render the passage. For those who want to know why this is the case, read on.

The Hebrew word for “God formed . . .” is wayyitser. To be technical, this is the Qal Imperfect of the verb yatsar. When the wa- is attached to the front of the word, the imperfect is reversed to a perfect, which means wayyitser is a Qal Perfect (for those who want to see this themselves, click here and check the tense of the word).

So if you don’t read Hebrew, what does all this mean? Rather than try to explain it myself, let me quote from the very easy to read and understand Basics of Biblical Hebrew:

The Perfect conjugation is used to express a completed action or a state of being. When used to describe a completed action (either in reality or in the mind of the speaker), the Hebrew Perfect may be translated by the English past tense (he studied), present perfect (he has studied), past perfect (he had studied), or future perfect (he will have studied). . . . It must be emphasized that the Hebrew Perfect does not have a tense (time of action) apart from context and issues of syntax. Rather, it primarily signifies aspect (type of action). The Perfect aspect designates a verbal action with its conclusion envisioned in the mind of the speaker or writer. To state it differently, the Perfect aspect denotes completed action, whether in the past, present, or future. (130, emphasis original)

The bottom line is that those who assert a contradiction here are simply ignorant of the most basic Hebrew grammar. They assume that the Hebrew words here have a particular tense when it is a well known fact that they do not. And, again, we don’t have to be scholars to recognize this. Simply by checking out other translations, those who cite this as a “contradiction” would quickly and easily see that it is absolutely nothing of the sort.

As an aside, I know reading about Hebrew grammar is the most exciting thing in the world. That’s probably why critics get this issue exactly wrong–they haven’t taken the time to read up on it either. This does, however, give us a pretty good tip to keep in mind when we study our Bibles: use multiple translations! We all have our favorite, but many translations treat each word a little differently. Studying those differences can often be  just as enlightening as studying the similarities. Beyond the Greek and Hebrew studies I do, I still rely mostly on the KJV and NASB, and I always check them against the NIV and ESV. And you don’t have to go to the store to pick up a copy of each of these. You can find them all, for free, at http://www.biblegateway.com.

Written by acts172

September 12, 2010 at 8:34 PM

Contradiction #5: Is Jesus Equal to or Less Than the Father?

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John 10:30: I and my Father are one.

John 14:28: Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

Misunderstandings about the Trinity usually provide good fodder for arguing that the Bible contains contradictions. Is Jesus equal to God, as John 10:30 states, or is God greater than Jesus, as John 14:28 states? Certainly this is a clear cut contradiction, right?

It doesn’t take much theological training to see through this one. President Barack Obama and I are both human beings. We are absolutely equal in that sense. He is, however, greater than I am in terms of authority. The comparison works quite well here. Jesus is God, and in that sense, He is absolutely equal with the Father who is also God. Yet the Father is greater than the Son in terms of authority.

Looking a bit deeper, the Bible teaches that the Son submitted Himself to the Father (Phil 2:5-11) and in doing s became the model for proper relationships for the entire human race. Jesus as God is the last being who should be expected to humble Himself, and yet He did so for us. When Jesus humbled Himself, He made Himself a minister and servant to both the Father and mankind. If God, then, chose to lower Himself on our account and serve us, how much more should we do just the same, not only for one another, but all the more for Him?

Yet still further, notice that Jesus does not say in John 10:30, “I and my Father are equal.” No, He says they are “one.” This is a far more significant phrase, because it moves far beyond mere equality. There are at least ways that Jesus and the Father could be one. The first is to be one in substance. In other words, what God is, Jesus also is, and this is certainly true (John 1:1). No other person who has ever lived or ever will live can make such a claim. Second, they can be one in purpose and will. In other words, they both have the same goal. While I think the first type of unity is implied in the statement, this second kind is specifically what Jesus had in mind. Jesus’ desire was to do the Father’s will (John 6:38). Since His will became only the Father’s, the Father is greater than the Son. Again, we see in this an example for our own lives, for if the Son, who is God, submitted Himself to the Father, how much more should we, who are infinitely below God, submit ourselves to Him? Perhaps amazingly to some, it turns out that God, in demanding we submit ourselves to Him, is not asking anything He has not already required of Himself.

Like all “contradictions,” these verses turn out to teach us a great deal about our faith when we take the time to understand them properly. They point to the need for humility and submission to our God and Savior, not because He lords His sovereignty over us, but because He Himself has already done so on our behalf.

Written by acts172

September 11, 2010 at 10:19 PM

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