Revenge Psalms


Afghan fighter

I don’t think any commentary on the book of Psalms will actually have a section entitled Revenge Psalms, but they exist. I decided to memorize a while back. Mind you, I didn’t realize at the time that it was a revenge Psalm. It starts out so innocently, so sweetly: “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

Yes, I thought, that’s a Psalm for me. I had underlined a few other verses further down such as “He makes my feet like hinds feet/And sets me upon my high places.” Well, who wouldn’t want to memorize that verse? Or how about “The LORD lives and blessed be my rock/And exalted be the God of my salvation.”

Great! So I settled down to memorize Psalm 18. Except, the strength David was talking about and the salvation he was referring to were quite literal. He wanted physical strength to overcome his enemies and he wanted God’s intervention to save him from people who wanted to kill him. If I’d read the intro, I would have realized this.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said…

I think verse 3 encapsulates the Psalm: “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,/And I am saved from my enemies.”

No doubt about it. David had enemies and he needed to be saved from them. But the Psalm gets pretty graphic later on:

I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed.
I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise;
They fell under my feet.
For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
They cried for help, but there was none to save,
Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
Then I beat them fine as the dust before the wind;
I emptied them out as the mire of the streets.

I don’t know about you, but I confess to having problems with the not turning-back-until-they-were-consumed part, the shattering-so-they-were-not-able-to-rise, the destroying-those-who-hated-me, the beating-them-fine-as-the-dust-before-the-wind, and the emptying-them-out-as-the-mire-of-the-streets. It’s all so vengeful.

It reminds me of the modern Middle East with the ongoing battles between Jews and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, insurgents and government forces. People are hating and fighting and praying for rescue, only to turn around and destroy those who were trying to destroy them.

I get that, when we’re talking about peoples who haven’t heard of the love of God, I ought not expect them to act according to the grace and mercy God gives. But when the same kind of attitude crops up in the Bible, it throws me. It’s one thing for God to exercise His just judgment against sinners, but when David talks in such unforgiving tones, I feel a little shocked.

But then I remember the short verse tucked in the midst of all the shattering and destroying: “They cried for help, but there was none to save,/Even to the LORD but He did not answer them.”

I find that verse shocking on a different level. People cried to God for help, but He turned away from them! The Psalm starts out with David being the one who called for help. God didn’t turn a deaf ear to David:

In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

The next verses describe God acting, as a result, on behalf of David to rescue him. But those enemies who later cried for help, God didn’t answer.

I’ve got this impression of God that He’s always there for us, that He’ll always answer the cry of the needy, but apparently there are needy wicked who He will ignore. I mean, how could he hear and answer David and at the same time hear and answer those who were trying to kill him? Apparently God takes sides.

David, in this same Psalm, credits his righteousness with bringing God on his side:

The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.

I emphasized the phrase “in His eyes” because that’s what I think is significant for today. In God’s eyes, those of us covered by the blood of Jesus Christ are righteous. It seems then, that we can call upon the Lord to save us from our enemies.

Except, Paul says our enemies are not flesh and blood:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

So I’m thinking, maybe a revenge Psalm for the Christian wouldn’t be so shocking if we had a clear idea of who the enemy is. What if we prayed for God to rescue us, our families, churches, communities, states, countries, from Satan and his schemes, in the same way that David prayed for physical rescue? I think that would necessitate us viewing God in the same way David did:

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.
My God, my rock in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

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Published in: on January 22, 2019 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mistakes Of Job’s Friends


The story of Job in the Old Testament is so poignant. It’s hard to read about this godly man who Satan went after in his effort to tear down the worshipers of God. Although I know some think this is controversial, I believe that Satan achieved his goal, but in doing so he opened the door to God reveling Himself more clearly and showing His great mercy, as a foreshadowing of His gift of mercy through Christ. In that respect, Satan failed miserably.

But poor Job! Not only did he lose everything, not only did his kids die and his wife turn against him, not only did his physical health deteriorate horribly so that he had to endure pain and discomfort like he’d never known, but he had a handful of friends who had no understanding of what coming to console the grieving actually should entail.

First, the friends talked. That was their initial mistake. They started well, siting with Job for a long time in utter silence. But when Job verbalized his thoughts, the friends felt the need to correct him. They couldn’t simply let him vent.

What’s more, in speaking, they took it upon themselves to correct Job’s theology. No, Job, they said in their various ways, God would only allow these horrible things to happen to you if you deserved them. You must have done something horrible, or thought something horrible, or perhaps left something good undone. It’s really just your fault that you’re poor now, that all your kids died, and your body is covered with painful sores.

As if this position was not bad enough, there are several places in the text that make me think the friends had some financial stake in the advice they were giving Job. Sacrifice, one said at one point, and God will forgive you. But the way he said it sounds as if somehow the friends would get a share of whatever Job would sacrifice.

Of course telling a man who has lost all his flocks to sacrifice, is a little pointless. Unless they were offering to sell him some of their flock. In chapter 22 one friend says,

If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored;
If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,
And place your gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks,

Well, that might be thin, but earlier Job had said

He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil,
The eyes of his children also will languish. (17:5)

Was he accusing them of “informing” on him, of pointing a finger at him and saying he’d done something wrong in order to get a share of whatever of his possessions remained? Perhaps. Again, earlier he said of the friends,

You would even cast lots for the orphans
And barter over your friend. (6:27)

Seems as if they were at least conducting business while he was in his misery—and business without compassion. At one point he tells them what they ought to be doing, which is a great piece of advice for us, too, I think:

For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend;
So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.

The greatest thing a friend can do is point someone who is hurting to God Almighty. But the friends could only tell Job what he must have done wrong or what he had not done right.

On top of this, they misconstrued God’s work in the world. They may have done so because they honestly didn’t know God, didn’t understand His true nature. Basically they told Job it was up to him to manipulate God so that He had to bless Job. This precursor to today’s “health-and-wealthers” ignores God’s sovereignty and mankind’s dependency on His justice and righteousness and mercy.

Job understood that God could do what God wanted to do. The friends painted Him as irrevocably tied to what Man did or did not do. If you do A, they said, God will bless; but if you do B, God will curse.

That’s not altogether wrong. But it’s too simplistic. It doesn’t take into account the bigger picture that includes the spiritual and the eternal. The friends were sort of like people today who can’t see past the here and now, as if this life is all there is, as if what happens physically in this life is all that’s important.

One last thing I think the friends got wrong: when Job lashed out at them (and at God), they got defensive. As I recall, one of the “steps” of grief involves anger. Job does seem angry at times, but who wouldn’t be? A bunch of guys had just robbed him, killed a lot of his servants, and a storm had taken the lives of his children. He himself fell into depression and experienced physical pain because of his health problems. I’d be more surprised if he didn’t have some anger connected with all this.

But the response of the friends seems inexcusable. They kind of gave Job a dose of their own anger.

Scripture says they came to console Job, but they ended up saying things that had to be hurtful. Take for example what one of the friends said about the wicked:

He has no offspring or posterity among his people,
Nor any survivor where he sojourned. (18:19)

The whole speech seems pretty pointed, but these lines take on a mean quality when you think about the fact that this guy is talking to someone who had just lost all his children.

No wonder God stepped in. The defensive nature of the friends’ responses to Job was anything but helpful. They weren’t even truthful, though there was an element of truth in what they said. Just enough to make their ideas sound pious. But they lost sight of the fact that comforting someone else wasn’t all about them.

Actually it started with representing God truthfully, and that’s something Job knew, but they did not.

Published in: on January 21, 2019 at 5:10 pm  Comments (4)  
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Not A Religion


Christians are apt to tell others outside the faith that we do no have a religion; we have a relationship. It’s really true.

When I consider what is different between the beliefs of, say, my cousin who is a Buddhist or my cousin who believes in some form of Hinduism, and my faith, I come to this religion/relationship issue.

I thought perhaps our understanding of heaven and what happens after death might be a key component in our differences. After all, Christians have the hope of heaven. We don’t see eternal life as an endless merry-go-round of incarnated lives, hopefully getting better and better until we lose ourselves completely.

No, Christianity is vastly different. We have the same sad parting from a loved one who passes away, but we have the hope of a future with that person if they embrace the good news of Jesus. Our parting is temporary. Not a good-bye but a see you later, as blogger friend Wally so beautifully reminded us in his post about his father-in-law.

Certainly that is different. Different from atheists who think death ends life completely. Different from people who have no idea what happens when we die, or from ones who think we all end up in the same place, whatever that place might be.

Christians have a knowledge that leads to assurance and hope, despite the grief of parting. It’s unique, but it isn’t the only thing we have.

In truth, we only have the hope of everlasting life, which we will enjoy with our loved ones who also believe, because first and foremost we have a relationship. We have a unique connection with the God of the universe, made possible because of what Jesus Christ was willing to endure on our behalf. So here and now, in this present world, we enjoy this kinship with Jesus.

The Bible introduces all kinds of metaphors to help us picture what would otherwise be so mysterious we’d have a hard time grasping the significance and truth about our being reconciled with God.

Jesus describes Himself as a Good Shepherd, a Mediator, a Friend, a vine, and more. But most significantly, He calls Himself our brother while at the same time identifying us as children. In other words, there’s an element of kinship involved, which is really just another way of saying relationship.

I suppose the most obvious aspect of this relationship is the love of God which is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love is behind His taking care of our sin problem, and that’s something we enjoy now. The weight of guilt, gone; the fear of judgment, dealt with. Hebrews 2 says we’re set free from the slavery of the fear of death.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this relationship is that we Christians are growing up, spiritually speaking. We’re starting to want the things God says He wants. Sure, it would be nice to be rich and famous, but how much better to live in such a way that God receives glory and honor! How much better to love our neighbors, to see unbelieving people become the committed followers of Christ?

Why would we do that?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” — Jim Elliot

We cannot lose the love of Christ.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

We cannot lose the joy and peace and patience and kindness and self-control that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Those things will only grow and fill our lives more fully as we get to know our Savoir more and more.

We cannot lose our forgiveness, our justification, our right standing before God.

We cannot lose the privilege of prayer.

We cannot lose God as our “victorious warrior.”

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I could go on. There is so much that our relationship with God through Christ gives us. Christianity is about as far from “religion” with its cold ritual and self-help efforts as imaginable. But friendship? Sonship (and daughtership)? Brotherhood (and sisterhood)? Those are the things that define our faith. And they are things we will enjoy without end!

Quarrels And Conflict


I know I don’t always see things the way others do—it’s a quirk, I guess, which I’m pretty sure I got from my dad. If there was a well-traveled road, that’s the one he wanted to avoid. I don’t think I go that far, but there’s a part of me that is just ornery enough, I’ll avoid band wagons and take a hard, hard look at what “everyone else is doing” and in the end, I’ll probably do something else.

I say all this so that you can be forewarned: you may wish to take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. Just chalk it up to Becky being quirky again.

Here’s the thing. There are some passages of the Bible that seem to me to be ripped out of context and forced into places they weren’t intended to go.

One of my favorite verses is like that:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Great verse, but in context it’s clearly addressing the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Still, all Scripture is profitable, and so there is something for us today. However, the verse clearly is not a blanket promise for all people. Who can take this verse as a promise and as a promise of what, needs to be thought through.

But that’s not the one I want to look at today. Rather, it’s Philippians 4:8. To a greater degree than the Jeremiah verse, this one has been made to say things I don’t think God ever intended.

First, as a reminder, here’s the verse:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Next we need to realize that “dwelling on these things” 24/7 is certainly not possible (because we’re asleep a part of that time, if nothing else). If all our thoughts were only to dwell on the things Paul listed, we could never comfort the grieving, speak encouragement to the depressed or hope to the lost. We’d have to confine our conversation to only the lovely, and there are a lot of unlovely things that a Christian should speak to: racism, abortion, homosexuality, gossip, complaining, lying, to name only a few.

The Bible itself clearly shines light on subjects that would not make the cut if Paul’s list was exhaustive for the believer.

So what does Philippians 4:8 refer to?

Remember, I’m in a minority of one, as far as I know, but I believe it is connected to the theme of the book—unity, and particularly the situation Paul addressed in verses 2 and 3:

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Many people assume Paul dropped this admonition in and then did a little Proverbs-style skipping around from point to point in the next six verses. I don’t think so. It doesn’t fit the style of this letter.

Rather, I think what follows are the points Paul wants his true companion to help Euodia and Syntyche with:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(Phil. 4:4-8)

Rejoicing, showing a gentle spirit, being anxious for nothing which will yield inner peace. And then the things upon which to put our minds. All for the sake of helping these women to get along.

Think about it. How much easier would it be for them to live in harmony if they are rejoicing in the Lord? How much easier if they showed gentle spirits? How much easier if they weren’t worried about what others say or whether they’ll get the work done or if she’s doing her share, or any of the other things people worry about when they work together.

And then the key verse: how could Euodia and Syntyche fight with each other if they were thinking only about what was true of the other woman, or honorable, or right, or pure, or lovely, or—now get this—of good repute! That is, what good things the other was known for.

Then the capper:

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:9)

“The God of peace will get you past the quarrels and conflict, Euodia and Syntyche, so that you can live in harmony. This is what I want my true companion to help you figure out.”

So there’s my quirky understanding of Philippians 4:8. It’s not a catch-all command. Rather, it’s part of the recipe for unity, the way we as brothers and sisters in Christ can have harmony as we work side by side.

Time to bring this article back. It first appeared here in January, 2015, so it may be familiar.

Published in: on January 16, 2019 at 5:54 pm  Comments (5)  
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Angst And Worry


Western culture seems to revolve around angst and worry, to the point that we do everything in our power to deal with it. Except the one thing that is needed.

More and more we are diagnosing teens and preteens with anxiety disorder. We wring our hands because the suicide rate of young people is on the rise. At first this fact was laid at the feet of “homophobia,” but with the spreading acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle, that excuse no longer seems accurate.

The fact is, kids worry. Adults worry. Everybody worries. Or tries to escape worry. Drug addiction seems to be unchecked, including prescription drugs given to “calm” these anxious teens down. And no one talks about the use of alcohol, unless it’s coupled with driving or abuse. So an untold number of adults are fleeing their worries inside a bottle. There are even jokes about following a stressful event by finding a potent drink. Because clearly we can’t deal with worry in any other way. We simply must numb it or forget it.

The problem is, when the drugs wear off, when the hangover is all that’s left of the drink, the cause of stress, worry, anxiety remains.

Trouble at work? Chances are, that trouble will still be there in the morning when the “calm” wears off. Relationship problems? Drugs and alcohol don’t see to actually repair relationships. How about financial woes? No, substance abuse definitely doesn’t make money problems better. Probably the opposite is true.

Of course not everyone who feels stressed out or distressed about their marriage or their job or about their wayward kid or health concern runs to some addictive beverage or pharmaceutical. There are other ways of escaping stress. We can live for thrill; we can bury ourselves in entertainment; we can become workaholics. Anything to take our minds off that which causes us to worry.

But none of those things makes the thing behind our worry better. None of them. When we get back from the ski trip, the problems at work will still be there. After we finish bing-watching Lord of the Rings the money problems will be no different. We can go to Disneyland every day, and we won’t change the medical diagnosis of the person we love so much.

In truth, there is only one solution to angst. The Bible gives it to us clearly in 1 Peter 5:7—“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

God wants to take our worry off our hands.

The problem is, we either think He can’t or He won’t fix whatever is troubling us. So we have to do what we can’t trust Him to do.

Part of that thinking is actually right: God might not fix our problems the way we think they should be fixed. Our loved one might not recover from cancer, our wayward child might walk away from us, our church might split, our boss might promote someone else instead of us, our washing machine might need to be replaced, our baby might have Down Syndrome.

But in and through all the hard things of life, God walks with us. He “fixes” our problems in ways we could not imagine before hand. Chances are, the “fixes” are spiritual and occur because of the difficulties. If I had not lost my spouse, I would never have learned to depend on God instead. If I had not had the accident, I would not have had the opportunity to witness to that nurse. If I had not lost my job, I would not have had the courage to start the ministry God has led me into.

Above all, when we do not cast our cares on God, we remain ignorant of how much He cares for us. Oh, sure, we might say, God loves me. I mean, He loves the world, right, so that includes me.

But actually, God’s love is much more personal. If there were no other people on earth, Jesus Christ would have died for my sins. Because His love is not some sort of generic thing that He’ll withdraw if there aren’t enough people involved. Really, He loves me.

His caring for the things we hand over to Him, is one way we can come to understand how personal His love is for us. He’s not too busy or too preoccupied or too overwhelmed to pay attention to the cares and worries I lay at His feet.

The thing that is perhaps the best here is that this caring that I can see so clearly as I give God my problems, creates a relationship that overshadows any of the problems I’ve been so concerned about. The love and peace and comfort and mercy and forgiveness and wisdom and joy that comes from a caring God, dwarfs the stuff that would drag us to the pit of despair.

Why? Because we’ve put the problem in hands more capable than our own. We’ve called in the Good Physician, the omniscient and omnipotent God who “upholds all things by the word of His power.” How can I not trust Him to know what’s best in my circumstance?

Published in: on January 15, 2019 at 5:33 pm  Comments (6)  
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Looking For Water


According to Wikimedia “a cistern is a tank for storing water, usually covered. It may be as small as a toilet cistern or large enough to be essentially a covered reservoir.”

God, through the prophet Jeremiah used cisterns as a metaphor to show His people’s relationship with Him.

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

696415_mountain_waterfallI don’t know about you, but if I were in need of water and had to choose between “living water”–the kind that flows freely, abundantly, cleanly–and water stored in a cistern, I’d take the former every time.

But God didn’t just accuse His people of choosing cistern water over living water. They were making for themselves broken cisterns—ones that couldn’t hold water at all. In other words, since we need water to live, they were abandoning the source of life in favor of their own empty effort.

What a great picture of Humankind’s attempts to make it without God. We dig and work and build and produce and save, but in the end we go out like we came in—alone.

Our own efforts to provide the love, security, purpose, sense of belonging that we all need, net us muddy ground. Furthermore, one person’s attempt to do religion is no better than another person’s rejection of religion.

Water isn’t found in man-made activities. We can’t give up enough for Lent or fast often enough or serve in homeless shelters frequently enough to get the water we need.

The Jews who Jeremiah was talking to had left worship of the LORD their God and were serving false gods, made with their own hands. They couldn’t see how silly it was for them to pray to a statue that they had carved from a block of wood, one that could not walk or talk, and certainly could not give them Living Water.

But people in contemporary Western society aren’t any smarter. We think happiness will come if we just have enough money, just get the right job, just marry the right person, just have freedom or protection or safety or health. We go all in on things that are temporary, ephemeral, over which we have little control.

God tells us that He’ll provide. But like little children we say, No, no, let me, I want to do it myself. So we’re hacking away to dig out these systems we think will make life make sense or fill up our loneliness or at least get us through to the weekend. It’s a sad way to live, trying to squeeze water out of the muddy mess we make.

Especially when we can turn and enjoy Living Water in abundance.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in April, 2013.

Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Can Grasshoppers Judge Humans?


At one point in his prophecy, Isaiah compared people and God, concluding that we are like grasshoppers in His eyes. That got me thinking about the vast disparity there is between humans and grasshoppers.

Let’s pretend, for the moment, that grasshoppers are thinking, reasoning beings. Would that change their ability to judge humans or even determine our existence? How could it? They are simply too small. They could never apprehend an entire human, let alone our plans for one hour or one day. They wouldn’t understand why we charge cell phones, for example. They wouldn’t know what happened to us, if they could conceive of us at all, when we get into our cars and go to work. They wouldn’t understand about building houses or putting money into a bank or reading a book or spending time on the internet.

In fact, grasshoppers would be in no position whatever to judge humans. Is that human good? I mean he’s cutting back our habitat so that predators can more easily see us. Or something is. Because it’s only rumored that humans exist.

But what if a human captured a grasshopper, placed it in a secure place away from birds and other predators, fed it, and then one day released it. Perhaps that grasshopper could go back to his fellow grasshoppers and report his experience with this mysterious, massive being who cared for him. Would the other grasshoppers believe him?

No, they might say, we have never seen such a being—even though humans walk by the flower bed where they live every day.

The point is, the grasshoppers would be too small to identify the many humans in their world. Unless a human “appeared” to the grasshopper. Unless he revealed himself.

What if a human went one step further. What if he had the power to become a grasshopper so that he could let all the other grasshoppers know about humans. What if he wanted to steer them away from flowers in formal gardens so that they wouldn’t be in danger of insecticide that gardeners often use? What if he wanted to inform them about the habits of birds so that they would know how to keep themselves safe?

Would the other grasshoppers believe him?

Some might. But a lot of others could easily say, there’s no evidence for these humans. We’ve never seen a human. Your experience is no more valid than the experiences of all these other grasshoppers. But what if the human-turned-grasshopper could point to places and ways that the garden had been cared for, to things like sprinklers that had been provided to produce water? What if he would tell them about the shadow humans make when they pass by? Surely some would believe the truth.

Why not all?

Probably some would trust their own senses more than they trust the experience of the grasshopper who claimed to have been a human, who in fact said he would become a human again, who said he’d only become a grasshopper because he wanted to tell them ways to care for themselves. What if he said he loved them?

Loved a grasshopper?

How could a grasshopper ever know a human loved him unless the human told him and showed him?

And what if the grasshopper didn’t believe what that human said or did?

What if the grasshopper persisted in believing that humans didn’t even exist?

I’d suggest, the grasshopper would not avoid the places the gardener would spray with insecticide. They would not stay out of sight when birds were searching for food. In other words, they’d put themselves at risk in the very ways the human wanted to save them from.

Yes, Isaiah, we are very much like grasshoppers in God’s eyes. Too bad more people don’t see how crazy it is for a grasshopper to judge a human, let alone, to judge God.

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Photo by Tudsaput Eusawas from Pexels

Published in: on January 11, 2019 at 5:44 pm  Comments (6)  
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Suffering And God: The Refiner’s Fire


He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire. (excerpt from Desiring God, “He Is Like a Refiner’s Fire” by John Piper)

One of the reasons I loved coaching so much was because I understand team sports as a microcosm of life. Teamwork, conflict, response to authority, hard work, patience—these are just some of the areas that confront athletes. Another is keeping the big picture in mind—winning isn’t everything; in fact, the game isn’t everything.

Then there is the key ingredient—a successful team suffers. Of course, we coaches don’t call it suffering—we call it training or conditioning. But the truth is, we put players through workouts we know will leave them weak and exhausted and hurting. Why? Because I hated my players? Hardly. The more potential I saw, the more I required of them. I pushed so they would be ready to face the opposition and overcome, but also so they would learn discipline and the necessity of preparation—in other words, things they could take with them long after they stopped playing team sports.

If I had hated my players, in fact, I would have pretty much ignored them. I saw a coach who treated his kids that way once. He would bring a lounge chair along to whatever game he was coaching, plop down, and pretty much let the kids do whatever they wanted to do. Like recess, some kids might think, How cool. But come game time, when that team was getting their clocks cleaned in a big way, none of those kids was having such a good time. I don’t know any of them, so can’t be sure, but I have to believe their experience in team sports at that level didn’t contribute in a positive way to their building traits they would need in life.

The point is clear. Just as coaches put their players through training, at times God takes His children through suffering. He wants to form us into the image of His Son. It’s one purpose of suffering, though certainly not the only one.

Someone with a different worldview that doesn’t account for eternal life may think God is cruel. Look at Joni Eareckson Tada—confined to a wheelchair since the age of 17 (she’s in her late 60’s now). How could she not become bitter and resentful toward God? I can only answer from what I’ve heard and read her saying, and one component is that she is looking forward to unending health once this life is over. Another is that her relationship with Jesus has become so sweet, she says she would never trade it for the use of her arms and legs.

My, what an impact that woman has had on thousands, maybe millions, not in spite of her disability but because of it. She is a living and breathing example of what the Apostle Paul said: “Power is perfected in weakness.”

He went on to add, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 10)

Easy for me to say, sitting comfortably in the land of the free and home of the brave, but what about that hypothetical girl in Sudan that I referenced in an earlier post? There are many people who have actually lived through the kind of abuse in the description. From Daughters of Hope by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett (InterVarsity Press)—a book composed of real life stories of women around the world:

The villagers said that government forces were capturing women and asking them whether they were Christian or Muslim. If the … response was “Christian,” the women were raped, mutilated, and left to die where others could see them as a warning.

“This woman was supposed to be an example to others who would dare to remain Christians,” Dr. Lidu said. “But I wish they could have heard her as she was recovering. She spent her time praising the name of Jesus!”

These women strengthen my faith. God doesn’t hate them. And while I might think the best is for Him to rescue those who are suffering out of the hands of evil men, God has a bigger, eternal, perspective. He knows that these women, though they may never leave that refugee camp or be free from the abuse, can impact thousands because of their faith. I, for one, can hardly wait to see the rewards stacking up for them in heaven.

This article is a revised version of one that first appeared here in November, 2008.

Countering False Assumptions


A member of the humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse waits to board a UH-1Y Venom, with Joint Task Force 505, for transportation to the Villages of Chilangka and Worang, Nepal, May, 11, during Operation Sahayogi Haat. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Staff Sgt. Jeffrey D. Anderson/Released)

I never knew there were so many false ideas out in the world until I got on the internet. I knew there were false ideas about Americans—I’ve lived in various other places such as Africa or Latin America. But the internet has shown me the false ideas about politics, and Christians, and God, and the Bible—things I was not as aware of.

According to some on the internet, of the atheist stripe, Christians have no basis for their religious beliefs other than wishful thinking. The idea is, Christianity is a myth but we refuse to accept the truth and believe anyway.

Bong! Wrong answer.

I’m not sure what this group of atheists thinks about the hundreds of thousands of theologians who study the Bible and history and archaeology and science and psychology and on and on. One possibility is they simply are unaware of the depth of scholarship, the number of universities, of books, of seminars, of debates, or of university lectures.

The other possibility, of course, is that no contradictory ideas are tolerated, no matter how studied the view. I got such a response concerning a scientist, the head of the human Genome project, who became a Christian. Gave up his atheism. But in doing so, in the eyes of some he is no longer qualified to speak.

But God’s existence is only one position targeted with false assumptions. Even within Christianity I’ve discovered there are false assumptions, such as “Christians who believe the Bible are Pharisees.” Or those who are into “easy believism” aren’t really saved. Or evangelicals are all hateful. Or fundamentalists are all judgmental.

So many of these false assumptions are so far from my personal experience, it’s really hard to understand how these exaggerated and generalized ideas came to be accepted as the true—by anybody.

Here’s one in the political realm that I’ve heard on TV not the internet, but I’m sure it is there because the sponsors of this campaign post their website. It’s a movement to impeach President Trump. Frankly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a more rigorous and intentional attempt to remove him from the Presidency sooner, but the point for this post is that this group claims President Trump is the acknowledged “most corrupt President in history.”

I guess these people have never heard of Richard Nixon who would have been impeached and ousted from office had he not resigned. Or what about Warren Harding? One site says this about President Harding: “He loved playing poker and womanising, but was less interested in running the country. His cabinet and official appointments included a large coterie of old pals from Marion, Ohio, including several of his relatives. Many of these people made personal fortunes from taking bribes.”

Then there was James Buchanan who pulled all kinds of shenanigans that exacerbated the brewing conflict over slavery. Or how about Andrew Johnson who actually was impeached, though never convicted, because of his mismanagement of reconstruction after the Civil War which enabled the Carpetbaggers to sow havoc in the South.

I could go on, but the point for this article is how false the statement is that President Trump is the most corrupt President ever.

I guess what surprises me most about all the false assumptions is how easily a little online research can expose the false assumptions. Without half trying someone can find out that Evangelicals are not hateful but actually have been behind a host of projects and organizations that promote the welfare of peoples of all stripes, in all places.

For example, several years ago CNBC reported “The top 10 charities changing the world in 2016” which included the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (number 7), Samaritan’s Purse (number 4), MAP International (number 2).

But those are only the large international organizations that get noticed the most. There are everyday things that go on under the radar, such as the $100,000.00 raised by my church in the Thanksgiving offering that went to help those in need in our local community—with things like laptops for moms who were volunteering to replace a discontinued after-school program that helps students with their homework.

There are so many examples I could give that simply blows apart the idea that “evangelicals” are hateful and narrow-minded and bigoted and judgmental. Never mind programs for the disabled like Joni and Friends or outreaches in local universities to international students. Or inner city shelters. Or missionaries and the hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Christians who support them as they provide means for needy people to access clean water or give needed medicine or teach literacy.

I have no doubt that some people identifying as evangelical Christians are not generous. I mean, Christians are people and therefore sinners, and we are capable of falling into error ourselves. But certainly all evangelical Christians are not legalistic and bigoted and fear mongers.

So many of the false assumptions, like the “most corrupt President” line, are just completely false, but whether there is an element of truth or the idea is an out and out lie, they ought not stand unchallenged.

Of all the things that matter these days, one matters above all others: TRUTH, which, by the way, points to Jesus, since He is the way, the truth, and the life—the only Way we can come to God.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Atheist Arguments: God Is A Delusion


Years ago I watched a PBS Masterpiece Contemporary movie called God on Trial. In essence it was the story of a group of Jewish Auschwitz prisoners who decided to put God on trial because He broke His covenant with Israel by not protecting and blessing the nation as He said He would.

If it weren’t for the death-camp setting, the story would have seemed rather silly to me. Here were several rabbis, one who supposedly had memorized the Torah, discussing God, and yet they didn’t get the fact that Israel broke the covenant and God fulfilled the clear warnings He gave.

At one point, one of the men brought up that possibility, but the discussion turned to why “good Jews” were suffering for the sins of the “bad ones,” defined as those who no longer had faith in the Torah. As it turned out, they found God guilty, yet as the German guards hauled off the group designated for the gas chamber, the man who instigated the trial said something like, Now that God is guilty, what are we supposed to do? And the answer was, Pray and believe in the Torah. They then began quoting a passage from it, and continued to do so as they marched to their deaths.

Some time after seeing the PBS movie, I started reading a book called The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Cullicut McGrath (InterVarsity Press). Apparently atheist Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion, which the McGrath book is clearly answering, is most critical of what I’ll call the Faith Factor.

God is a delusion—a “psychotic delinquent” invented by mad, deluded people. That’s the take-home message of The God Delusion. Although Dawkins does not offer a rigorous definition of a delusion, he clearly means a belief that is not grounded in evidence—or, worse, that flies in the face of the evidence.

Dawkins would seem to be describing a “faith” such the Jews of Auschwitz had, as depicted in God On Trial.

The McGraths make an essential point:

Dawkins is right [about this point]—beliefs are critical. We base our lives on them; they shape our decisions about the most fundamental things. I can still remember the turbulence that I found myself experiencing on making the intellectually painful (yet rewarding) transition from atheism to Christianity. Every part of my mental furniture had to be rearranged. Dawkins is correct—unquestionably correct—when he demands that we should not base our lives on delusions. We all need to examine our beliefs—especially if we are naive enough to think that we don’t have any in the first place. But who, I wonder, is really deluded about God?

Well, I already know the answer, because I read the Book—the one written by the All-Knowing Creator God. Anyone who puts God on trial and finds Him guilty, or absent, or dead is deluded. I could have said, anyone who puts God on trial is deluded. The idea that we can judge God shows our delusion.

How much worse, when those who judge God and find Him wanting, then turn around and profess faith in Him or in His Word. It is the biggest delusion of all. This “belief despite the evidence” position is not unique to the Jews of the movie. I’ve had some contact with individuals who identify as progressive Christians or agnostic Christians, and I can’t help but wonder why they cling to this delusion. They say straight out, they don’t believe in the Bible. One person said he thought Jesus was a sinner. Others say we simply can’t know, but they believe anyway.

Sadly, these positions give weight to the atheist arguments about Christianity and faith. But they are not representative of Christianity.

From the beginning, our beliefs were grounded by the early Church fathers in the revealed word of God. Of course many of those same people had the advantage of having walked and talked with Jesus and of seeing Him alive after His resurrection. They experienced the confirming “signs and wonders” and the “various miracles” and “gifts of the Holy Spirit” the writer to the Hebrews mentioned in his letter.

No, the thought that Christianity was built on a delusion was a false idea countered by the New Testament writers from the start, and the idea that God Himself was a delusion was never something they considered (or didn’t find credible enough to address). I come back to my earlier statement, reworded: only those who think they are worthy to judge God are delusional.

Much of this article is a revised version of one that appeared here in November, 2008.

Published in: on January 7, 2019 at 5:19 pm  Comments (22)  
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