Scoffers


tangled-pathway-in-the-woodsWhen I hung out at that Facebook page intended to bring Christians and atheists into dialogue, it soon became apparent that some people were primarily there to scoff at anything related to God. I had a similar experience recently at an atheist blog.

For the most part, the host was respectful, but a few commenters were doing their best, it seemed, to set “the Christian” up to get off topic and say something stupid. Hence, Christians were lumped in with Muslims and God was likened to Donald Trump. Of course there was the usual accusation that God was genocidal, but the capper was the “ex-Christian,” who apparently had once been a pastor, making the generalization that Christians don’t know as much or study as much of the Bible as he, and if we only would, we’d come away with the same doubts and denials that he did.

All this makes me very sad.

First, I hate to read accusations against God that aren’t true. Of course, any accusation against God isn’t true because God is holy and blameless and righteous and just and good. There simply are no grounds for accusing God of anything.

In reality, Satan has to be behind accusations against God since he is a liar and the father of lies. Hard to believe that Job, in the midst of his suffering, joined in with the accuser to say that God was wronging him.

It’s a bit shocking to read Job saying things that remind me of some of those emerging church folk from a few years back—the ones who claimed they were nicer than God. Job was saying he was more righteous than God.

[God said to Job,] “Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 40:8)

Which brings me to the next thing that makes me sad. Thankfully, when Job came face to face with God, he repented. The three friends he’d been arguing with, didn’t. In God’s mercy, He told one of the men to make sacrifices for themselves and have Job pray for them. They did, and God accepted Job.

I guess their offering sacrifices indicates they repented in the end. But the sad and sorry truth is, many, many, many scoffers don’t.

Psalm 1 starts out by saying,

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (v 1)

The point of this psalm seems to be that it’s better not to hang with people who can be categorized as wicked, sinners, scoffers.

Christian parents often embrace this concept for their children. It’s better to pick your friends wisely, to steer clear of troublemakers and kids who knowingly and purposefully do what is not right.

Yet the current church trend is to paint Jesus as the guy who hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors—the dregs of the first century Jewish society. Well, the truth was, Jesus didn’t hang with them. They hung with Jesus. But the point these church leaders are making is that Christians need to break out of isolation mode so we can actually relate to people who need Jesus Christ.

But the two positions—picking good friends and hanging with people who need Jesus—raises a good question: how do non-Christians in our society ever hear the gospel? Porn stars or gang bangers or drug dealers or prostitutes or murderers are not likely to go to church, and church isn’t designed to evangelize.

So how do they hear the gospel?

Are we to refrain from walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the path of sinners, and sitting in the seat of scoffers, or not? And if we do, how do we fulfill the great commission?

There has to be a balance, I think, and it may be present in some of the word choices of Psalm 1:1. The righteous man, as he is identified as in verse 6, is firmly planted, not driven by the wind. At the same time it’s the counsel of the wicked he avoids, the path of sinners he won’t stand in, the comfortable intimacy with scoffers he disdains.

In other words, it’s not the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers he is to avoid, but their counsel, their path, their companionship.

The Internet is an interesting place. I’ve read some articles—or skimmed them—written by scoffers, even some well-known scoffers. Each time, I’m left with this same sadness. I see how horrendous their words are, but I also see how much at risk they’re putting their eternal destiny.

Honestly? I’d like to reach out and shake them: What are you saying? How blind are you? It’s hard to watch them spit on the One I love—for His sake and for theirs.

Published in: on January 13, 2016 at 7:09 pm  Comments (13)  
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God’s Best-Kept Secret


I suppose it’s inaccurate to call it God’s secret since He put it in the Bible. I mean, if God wants to keep something about Himself secret, no one is going to pry it out of Him and no one is going to sneak behind His back and discover it.

But you’d think it was a secret, seeing as how few people seem to know and understand this basic fact — God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

People think He does. Some say He’s blood-thirsty and tyrannical. Others say He repented of His Old Testament violent streak which is why He sent Jesus. Some think He rightly takes pleasure in killing off the wicked and so they gleefully announce the doom awaiting those who scorn God’s Son.

What all these people are missing is the difference between announcing something that is true and announcing it with gladness.

I don’t suppose parents say it any more, but when I was growing up, it became quite a standard joke. Before a parent spanked his child, he’d say, This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you. Ha! all the kids thought.

My dad said that line to me once, and I asked him how he could say such a thing. He explained how he did not want to spank me, how sad it made him, but how necessary it was for me to learn to obey. So my dad was willing to take the hurt of going against his true nature, inflicting temporary pain on the children he loved and only wanted to protect.

I have no way of measuring the degree of anguish spanking caused my father, or of comparing that to the physical discomfort I felt because of the swats he gave. But I certainly understood, my dad did not delight in punishing me. Yet he gave me spankings.

Undoubtedly my parents’ approach to discipline has helped me understand God’s judgment. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that He delighted in destroying the wicked. If He did, He would never have promised Noah that He would refrain from wiping out all living beings with another flood. Instead He would have been more apt to say, That was fun; let’s do it again!

He would never have gone to such an extent to send Jonah to Nineveh or Jeremiah to Jerusalem or Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar if He wasn’t more interested in repentance than in judgment.

If He took delight in the death of the wicked, why would He have sent His Son to provide a way of escape from the consequences of sin?

It’s a silly thing, really, to accuse God of delighting in killing off the wicked. But apparently the people of Ezekiel’s day were saying the same thing. God gave a clear answer to the charge:

“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? . . .

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:21-32, emphases mine)

I can only imagine that God has been maligned by those who think He shouldn’t punish people at all — or that He shouldn’t offer grace and mercy to those people.

In other words, some judge Him to be cruel because He holds people accountable for their actions, so they deny that He does. A different group judges Him to be sentimental in offering forgiveness to the most heinous sinners, so they deny that He does.

The former pass out copies of Love Wins and the latter waves signs along with the Westboro Baptist crowd. Both obscure the truth about God: He loves the world and He will not allow sin to go unpunished. That doesn’t mean He delights in the death of those who reject Him. Instead, He wants them to repent and live. That’s the secret so many are missing.

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hand The Ball To The Referee


In football some coaches are stricter than others. They teach their players to win with dignity, to respect their opponent, and to keep their emotions in check. Consequently, after their players score a touchdown, they are to hand the football to the referee, not spike it into the ground or chuck it into the stands.

Interestingly, other coaches believe the sport is physical and the players will naturally get emotional about what’s happening on the field. Why not let them have a little fun? So what if they do a little dance in the end zone or taunt the other team with an exuberant celebration over top a sacked quarterback.

Using this familiar football backdrop, President Obama told the American people yesterday we were not going to spike the football in the face of al-Qaeda.

This made me think once again about the very sobering subject of our armed forces attacking and killing Osama bin Laden a week ago. I’ve heard some of the comments wrung out of people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. In most cases it was some version of “they’re glad he’s dead.”

I have to admit, I have mixed emotions, and apparently so do many others. Essentially the man was a mass murderer and needed to be brought to justice. He also didn’t deserve the world stage his capture undoubtedly would have given him. But some are characterizing the actions of the American forces as an assassination. Others are regaling the servicemen as heroes.

My discomfort, though, is confounded by the spiritual implications. Unlike Rob Bell, I believe by killing a person steeped in idolatry we have closed the door on his last opportunity to repent. And heinous people in history have repented. Not many, to be sure, but some. Nebuchadnezzar comes to mind, as does the Jewish king, Manasseh.

God Himself says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked:

‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’
– Exekiel 33:11a

On the other hand, God is the Judge, and He will bring the consequences of the wicked man’s ways down on his own head.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy
– James 4:12a

He also says that vengeance is His:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
– Romans 12:19

All through the Old Testament the instrument of God’s wrath, if it wasn’t drought or famine, was assault by other nations. Who’s to say, then, that God did not use America as the instrument of judgment on this wicked man?

I guess this is the point where we have to trust that God does have the heart of the king in His hands, that the events of this world are under His sovereign direction.

I’m not going to rejoice that Osama bin Laden is dead. I’m more inclined to mourn that the man was deluded and did not believe Jesus Christ is the way to God.

Consequently, I’m quite happy President Obama made the decision not to spike the football. It’s the right call to hand the football to the Referee.

Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm  Comments (7)  
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