Suicidal Friend

LISTENING TO MY FRIEND I was stunned in silence. While his eyes leaked, and his soul gasped for breath I was still. He gushed out the emptiness which filled him to the brim. It was overflowing and spilling out. Words crashed one on top of another as he blurted out his depressive state.

“I don’t wanna die but I don’t wanna live either!”

Immense suffering had overtaken him. Apathy was his new home and black darkness the color of his rainbow. He went on to tell me that ending his life was constantly on his mind.
A day earlier his family left the house and he was alone. He was overwhelmed with grief as he thought about his life. His failures capsized the boat of hope. His thoughts turned toward self-harm, that of the most heinous kind—suicide.

He begged God for relief, but in that moment none came. Instead he found a pistol and a pen. Wailing on the floor of his living room his heart pounded. In rhythm he mimicked the drum beat of his heart by punching the couch until he was exhausted. He said it was an, “acting out of the fight inside.” As I listened, I was filling up with throat griping emotion. He continued and said, “the first time I thought about doing this I was between eight to ten years old. It has never been a single moment for me but a way of living.” Having heard that confession I was exhausted. My boys at the time were eight and ten years old. I grabbed a tissue and wiped away the tears which had escaped my grip. That was too much for me to dam up. He went on to explain that he had to choose between a gun or a pen. Of course, he was sitting across from me, so I knew which option he chose. He then handed me a poem. He said, “Here, take it. Read it if you like.”

A Moment
In the pale blue haze of clear non-existent white veils the hideousness of gross meanderings. Calling out of the shadows deep within, shattering all the frozen years of emotion. Waging a war by the reappearance of apathy and waste. From the belt loops of yesteryears balanced needlessly on a foundation of shaky steel, stir deep groans of wounded heel.

Not for all, yet all for not. Climbing and dancing and sheading all that traps and ensnares.
Dreaming awhile of lavish lights and suns and moons and rings of Jupiter stare in a cosmic speck of dust on my soul.

Oh, my soul! This gut-wrenching soul filled with all that I am and all I will ever be.
Ever be because of nothing less than a challis full of bitterness and pain.
Pain like that of a cold titanium tip of a chiseled edge piercing that which is hidden, and then gone.

Gone again, fleeting and drifting back into the long halls of sadness.
Impregnated upon the broken pieces of shattered visage.
Contained in this moment is the elation of euphoria, pure bliss like that of an exhilarating ride.
A ride that lasts but for a moment, yet a ride that cannot and should not ever be forgotten.

Until…Until…Until..

That moment where once again there is a knock on the door.
A tug on the rope wrapped around my neck.
That moment that just left but is back again fighting and wasting away like a bag of rotten potatoes in the missing eyes of a dead corpse.
And I wonder, will it ever be back?
Ya know, that day when all was good?

After reading it I wiped yet another tear away. Now composed he said, “See, God did show up.”
With eyes full of life, he pierced my soul with these words,

“God gave me strength to pick up a pen, not a gun. At the end of the night I spilled ink, not blood. What I wrote was devastating to my case thinking I wanted to die. From the depths of my soul I penned that poem. What stunned me was I wrote the words, this was a moment. This wasn’t my life. Life is moment upon moment. And the next moment might be different than this one, unless I make this moment my permanent future. I realized no one would ever say one moment should define someone’s life, yet if I do this, that is exactly what I would be saying.”

He went on to tell of how hope everlasting is found in Jesus Christ.

My friend and I haven’t spoken since that day. I am confident in Christ he and I will never speak again, after all, it was only a moment.

If you or anyone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, please give life a chance:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline— 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)— Open 24-hours and its confidential.

A Dying Dream was God’s Grace

Have you had a life-long dream? Aspirations of, you can become anything, fed by the encouragement of family, school and all the rest? Have you relished the day when the world will take notice? The day when history pages will be filled with the advancements made by your efforts? Did you find as time passed your dream seemed a certainty? Then it happened, like a ravenous wolf tracking and taking down its prey, the dream was devoured. It’s rotting carcass lay in a pile of steaming stench, either due to unexpected job loss, a health loss or simply realizing it couldn’t be done. The dream died the death of a thousand deaths. The death of a salary. The death of fame. The death of world change. Gone like a whisper with no recognition, no statesmanship, and no powerful influence. Only the realization of a normal, everyday human existence remains. Now what?

A Dreams Death is God’s Grace
In the darkness of that reality is where I found myself. As I began to recover from the tyranny of what seemed like life’s cruel decree, God showed up. He used the death of a dream to birth the life of another. What seemed to me a horror, played out in a night terror, turned out to be a new script. The author and finisher of my faith brought forth a sanctification revelation. He exposed my sinister heart’s desire. It longed for significance, not in Christ, but in my dream. My longing for living the dream was to be noticed; to be thought of as a life well spent. Blurred reality became clear, realizing the power of God’s grace superintended the entire process. My loss wasn’t lucks deficiency, it was God’s supremacy. As hope in self-significance took its final breath I mourned in self-pity. I threw a childish fit. “I could have been something… I could have made a difference… I could have had what I always wanted, significance.”

Strong pride says I am better than you. Weak pride sulks because it didn’t get its way. Weak pride becomes strong when the pity for oneself is made into an identity—its idolatry. Paul tells us God did not create our work to identify who we are. God created who we are to identify his work (Ephesians 2:10).

Many times, I have wallowed in the prideful pig sties of the prodigal, scavenging for my idol of significance. Feeding on the slop of what will never be always starves the present moment and hinders future grace. But grace wouldn’t be grace if it could be so easily thwarted. By grace in him, Jesus offers us an everlasting significance. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

My hunger and thirst for significance is always satisfied when in Christ. Knowing he gave me eyes to see this truth reveals he is doing what he promised—making me into his likeness; conforming me to his image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Glory of God in the Simple
I am reminded of so many in Scripture who, by worldly standards, failed the significance test. Ruth, a Moabite widow. David, a simple shepherd. Peter a feisty fisherman. And one I often identify with, Balaam’s donkey.

Paul’s words echo here:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26).

In summary, not many were significant.
God uses the worlds standard of insignificance, in significant ways (1 Corinthians 1:27). God has made clear his power is perfect in [our] weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because we are in him and his Spirit is in us we can rejoice! We are heirs of the world and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 4:13) (Romans 8:17). That is the good news of the Gospel. Not the here and now significance, but the imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance of him (1 Peter 1:4).

Hope-Filled Joy
Often, we are cut when we pick up the splintered pieces of broken dreams. The tiny slivers are painful. The effort required to remove the soul piercing fragments, seems at times, hopeless. But hopelessness is dead. We serve a God who hung death on a cross and birthed hope. And this hope found in the risen Christ calls out to all who hear his voice. So those who have ears, let them hear. Arise! Let us awake from sedated apathy (Isaiah 60:1). We cannot afford to sleep in the place God has called us. It may seem our current occupation is of little regard, but this too is a lie. We must meditate on the blood bought promises of God (Joshua 1:8). To work as unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23). Serve people with the love of God in the strength he supplies (1 Peter 4:11). Realizing when we do something for one of the least of these, we did it for the Lord (Matthew 25:40). Giving all glory to him, even in the simple, like eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is what significance looks like for the redeemed. Serving the Lord with gladness and loving others as yourself. What could be more hope-filled than that?

Fuel for the Battle
Remember, we are in war. We make war against our sin by putting it to death, by the Spirit. Our fuel for the battle is the sword of the Spirit. Therefore, never forget, it isn’t the number of pages written about you or me which bring significance, it’s the words found in the pages written about him. Our life long significance can only be real, if Christ’s real significance is in us. Run the race. Press toward the mark. It’s reality, it isn’t a dream, and its significance rests in him.

The Will of God and the Subtle Seduction of Divination

After months of looking, pondering, evaluating, and praying you find yourself staring at your computer screen looking at two different cars. Narrowed down from twenty, it now comes down to a choice. Which car to buy? Have you ever been faced with a big decision like this—a new car, home, job or perhaps a cross country move? All believers strive to do what God wants, but what does God want? That is often not so clear, so how do we know God’s will for our future?

WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY?
The way we know God’s will is by our interacting with the Spirit with our mind.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Knowing the will of God involves mind transformation. That transformation, only occurs by the Holy Spirit, which lives in us and makes us new (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Through the new birth the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This interaction of mind and Spirit involves prayer. The Spirit therefore prays on our behalf the will of God (Romans 8:27-28).
Since we have the mind of Christ, because the Spirt of God dwells in us, as indicated in 1 Corinthians 2:16, and since faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ, as stated in Romans 10:17, we conclude this with confidence: The way we come to know the will of God is by his Word transforming our thinking by building our faith through the Spirit’s leading in prayer.

WHY THE CONFUSION?
Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
In episode 807 of Ask Pastor John, titled “Should We Flip a Coin to Find God’s Will,” Dr. Vern Poythress says this: “Every flip of the coin is under God’s control. There are many passages, I think, that indicate God’s control over all is comprehensive — even the hairs of your head are numbered. If a sparrow falls to the ground, it is not apart from the will of God… (Matthew 10:26–33) moral approval is quite distinct from saying God sovereignly planned it. And when the coin flips, what we know from Scripture teaching is that God sovereignly planned how it would come to. But that gives us no information about his moral will. It is quite different.” Dr. Poythress highlights the difference between God superintending the outcome of a coin flip and God’s desire of his moral will for you and me. They are not the same.

WHAT IS CASTING LOTS?
Today casting lots takes the form of choosing random numbers, flipping a coin, bibliomancy, and other tattered mediums of divining God’s will. When asked, “Does anyone know what casting lots looked like? Was this a two-sided stone?” Dr. Poythress replies, “We don’t know all the details, but it is something like rolling dice. Our modern dice have six sides. And it may have been, as you say, two-sided. We don’t know the details.” Did you catch that? We don’t know what casting lots is. Why would anyone consider major life decisions, like buying a car, purchasing a home, moving, or perhaps taking a new job, based on something that is not clearly defined or understood? Isn’t that guessing?

HOW DO WE DO WHAT WE DON’T KNOW?
Part of the issue is muddled thinking. Because chance is involved and Proverbs 16:33 is true, there is a fail-safe way to always know God’s will, says those in favor of casting lots. But as Dr. Poythress points out this is immature thinking: “And people make a mistake. I know there are immature people out there who think, “I’m not sure what God’s moral will for me is. I will find out by flipping a coin.” That is a misunderstanding of how God reveals his moral will.” It is akin to saying because a Go-Kart and a Ferrari both have engines, transmissions, and wheels they are the same. Obviously, because two things share certain qualities doesn’t mean they are equivalent. Furthermore, if one was to flip a coin or roll two dice, on what authority does one decide the odds? After all, we do not know what casting lots is so how does one begin to set it up? There is no basis to know what odds God desires us to use. It then goes without saying that when you choose the odds arbitrarily, it poisons the well before lots are cast. But it gets worse as we think this through.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
If casting lots is supposed to be normative practice, then should we consider casting lots to see if God desires us to cast lots? Casting lots does not have special privilege excluding itself from the reality of what God wants. After all, God might not want us to cast lots in certain choices, but how to know? Moreover, an infinite regress would seem to ensue. For every time the lot was cast, yet another lot could be cast to see if that lot should have been cast. Stopping this regress would be on your terms, just on a whim.

WHAT WILL YOU DECIDE?
It is clear no one can ever know they are casting lots in the biblical sense. Rather, all that can be said is that they are self-constructing a way to divine the will of God. In other situations, outside the church, those devices mediating between random outcomes are known as gambling; no Christ glorifying believer would willingly gamble on knowing the will of God. Doing so would be a thoughtless endeavor which places mindless stones in between mindful people, created by an all-knowing God. Don’t turn God into a mechanistic magical Genie. Turn yourself over to the glorious all-encompassing king.
There is but one mediator between us and God: Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). One can know that, no betting required, and well, that is saying a lot.

Saved or Not Saved? Article X Nashville Statement

Now that the Nashville Statement has had time to settle I want to address article X (10). I write to help clarify some misunderstandings. The first, as I see it,  is a non-biblical understanding of the way salvation is attained and applied. The second misunderstanding is a lack of biblical knowledge to show article X (10) is correct. But first here are two examples of the misconceptions I saw on Twitter.

This from a well-known progressive author:

“Stating that sexual purity is necessary for salvation is legalism, plain and simple.”

Then this criticism sent to one of the co-signers of the Nashville Statement:

“Unless you misinterpret whether homosexuality is sinful right? Then it’s obviously not a miracle cuz you’re not saved. Right? Am I close?

Article X

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes and essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

This is how I would restate article X (10). A person may not be truly saved if they are an “approver of homosexual immorality or transgenderism.” The word approve here is more than a simple nod of agreement but rather an endorser, that is a true belief that “approval” isn’t just OK, but rather right. If right then it is True. If True then God ordained because after all, all truth is God’s truth.

False Beliefs About Salvation

Many churches have done a great disservice to people. They have said “Once saved always saved.” Although this is true, the lack of explanation of why it’s true has produced false beliefs. Because nature abhors a vacuum people fill the knowledge gap with experience. Our experience tells us that if I do (A) Then (B) occurs. If I say the sinner’s prayer when I am six I am always saved because I performed (A). When seen like this we turn salvation into something it was never meant to be, a mechanical action. This view of salvation allows for no checks and balances to see if one is truly saved. Yet repeatedly the Bible calls upon all of us to test ourselves.

Test Yourself

The apostle Paul says this: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2Cor. 13:5).

One can immediately see this verse makes no sense if a wooden, mechanistic view of salvation is true. Why would we need to test ourselves when we can point to (A)? We would say, “Paul, don’t you know we “performed” the sinner’s prayer at age six so no test needed? We did it!”. One of the reasons Paul says instructs us this way is because, “Our heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Paul knows one can be deceived and not experience true salvation and so does Jesus.

Root Then Fruit

Matthew 7:22-23 explains what happens to those who are not saved but think they are and never tested themselves. Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Notice the people are shocked and surprised. They plead and point to “actions” in the past. Just like pointing to salvation at age six they say Lord, but we performed (A). Yet, Jesus said, “I never knew you.”

This illustrates that Salvation is not an if-then statement intellectually assented to, but a personal ongoing sanctification by the Spirit. This personal, daily and dynamic walk called the Christian life is a constant exchange of oneself for more of Christ, also called taking up your cross. Paul says we need to make sure we are putting to death the deeds of the body because we are not our own and have been bought with a price. The gift of salvation is the only free gift that will cost you everything. I am not sure who wrote that, but it’ true.

Salvation is On Going

I suggest an obstacle in having proper understanding of article X (10) is due to many having this view of salvation. Salvation is a process through death to self on going every day. Many walked a church aisle and said the prayer and filled out the salvation card, concluding salvation was finished and they simply needed to move on. But this isn’t the biblical understanding of how salvation works through sanctification. If one is not progressing to be more like Christ or denies what the Bible explicitly says, Paul says test yourself. Proclaiming salvation is the prerequisite for testing to see if you are in the faith.

If one is saved, truly saved, there is a new root system and from it over time, through sanctification by the Spirit, good fruit will grow. Part of that good fruit is approving of God’s written word. That is believing its rightful place in the life of every true believer is above our thinking. That means God’s Word through logical entailments and explicit examples remains the final authority.

But where in scripture does it show “approving”, like article X(10) suggests, is demonstrating one may not be saved?
That brings me to the second contributing factor to misconceptions about article X(10).

Biblical Warrant for Article X(10)

In Mark 9:38-49 John told Jesus someone was casting out demons in His name. John goes on to explain to Jesus that he tried to stop this man because he was not following them. Jesus responds by telling John, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.” Jesus then gives a warning to John specifically but to all of us. Jesus said,

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Jesus goes on and says, if your hand, foot or eye causes you to sin cut it off or pluck it out! And it is here where the biblical text provides a foundation on which article X(10) can be built.

Someone who advocates and promotes something that is false causes one to sin. Jesus said those who cause little ones to sin would be better off killed by drowning; compared to what will happen to them in eternity. Notice Jesus equates how the hand makes the body stumble to how John may have made this man, casting out demons, stumble.

We know the mind causes the hand to perform an action. The hand doesn’t make the decisions yet Jesus punishes the hand, why? Jesus says the hand must suffer and be cut off, why? Because it illustrates his point in the responsibility one bares in approving of evil. No man is an island when community is the law of the Kingdom.

The one who causes a little one to sin parallels the hand. Like the hand this person didn’t make the decision for the one who sinned. They were after all just a hand. Much akin to a drug dealer who only sells the drugs. The dealer didn’t make anyone buy the pills, yet Jesus said causing someone to sin will result in judgement.

This applies to those who are advocating and “approving”. The reason I say this is because the hand, foot and eye all performed actions; it was an on-purpose event. That implies knowing full well what they were doing and saying. This shows Jesus is speaking about deliberate attempts to cause an action, which “makes” one who is unsure, or a “little one”, to sin.

Are we Saved or Not?

As Paul says we must test ourselves to see if we are saved, daily. We must do this so we do not become a castaway. In 1 John 2:19 the philosophical idea called the law of identity is used to see one’s faith state.

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

Peter says if you are saved you will remain faithful to what has been taught. That entails if one is truly saved they will repent from any false belief, however, how long that takes is unknown. That is why I refrain from telling someone who holds false believes, but proclaim Christ, they are not saved. However, we should call people to repentance who claim to be a Christ follower yet deny what Christ said. We should not say they are not saved but we should also not provide full affirmation as brother or sister. Rather we say what scripture teaches. We love them while following Matthew 18 and perhaps I Cor. 5 all the while calling them to repentance. Eventually they will prove the law of identity, as John says, if they are saved they will come to repentance and remain. If they are not truly saved they will leave and by leaving identify as a non-believer. Pray for repentance for it is by Grace any of us have be saved.

The Glorious Beard of Christ

Abundant Life is Never Meaningless

Have you ever experienced devastating circumstances that upon first reflection you thought, “This is so senseless and meaningless”? Part of the reason we fight the temptation to give in to hopelessness is because of what we see—or rather do not see. We are blind to many of the purposes God prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). Yet we know the very essence of faith is not believing what we now see, but rather believing what we will see. In Romans 8:28, the apostle Paul tells us that all things work for our good. Paul goes on to tell us that situations often appear to have no purpose, but those things which seem insignificant are doing something. We may not see it now, but we will one day see, and it will be joyfully glorious
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

The Suffering Servant

Jesus was predicted to suffer in three ways (Isaiah 50:6). He gave his back to be struck, his face to be spit on, his cheeks so his beard could be yanked upon. In the words of John Piper,
“We see the intentionality of Jesus to suffer for us. I have to work hard in my imagination to keep before me what iron will this required. Humans recoil from suffering. We recoil a hundred times more from suffering that is caused by unjust, ugly, sniveling, low-down, arrogant people. He gave his back to the smiter. He gave his cheek to slapping. He gave his beard to plucking. He offered his face to spitting. And he was doing it for the very ones causing the pain.” Desiring God

There is something profound in the beard of Christ. Jesus, let it grow knowing it would be torn out of his flesh. Allowing evil hands to rip each follicle with hate. At this, I thought, “Why didn’t he simply shave it?” He could have spared himself significant suffering on his way to the cross. Historically we know he could have shaved, as people of that time did have a method to do so, but he didn’t. This was an intentional act.

The Intentional Meaning in Moments

We have a Savior who goes out of his way to intentionally demonstrate what it looks like to embrace suffering. No word, no action, no thought was ever wasted to triviality. Jesus did everything for a reason. every detail of his life had eternal purpose.

Knowing Jesus chose not to shave his beard and offered it for a purpose gives my heart flight. Shaving or not shaving seems rather insignificant, but knowing Jesus did everything with purpose, it must be for you and me to see glory in it. This action taken by our Lord shows us that nothing we face, even as small as facial hair, is insignificant in God’s sovereign work.

We can be certain Christ’s beard has a message of meaning and hope. It is what the beard represents. Jesus showed that power belongs to God over every event big and small, even the hairy ones (2 Corinthians 4:7). God knew we would struggle to find meaning in moments that seem as insignificant as a grooming decision. He intentionally shows us significance in the fact that Christ had a beard. Growing a beard, which seems inconsequential, shows how obedience in all things is paramount. There are no infinitesimal events in your life. All things are ordained by God to glorify Christ. Jesus demonstrates the light of the Gospel in his face through the growing of his beard. Signifying the glory of God, in everything, is never pointless (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Everything for a reason and a reason for everything

It is by this example of suffering that we can rest in the hope that the steps of the redeemed are established by God with great intentionality (Psalms 37:23). There are no mistakes of haphazard insignificance on the pathway to finding joy in him. There aren’t times of accidental oversight on the part of your life, for even the hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:30).

Never give in to the hopeless sight of your darkened eyes, but rather fix your eyes on the light of his bearded face (2 Corinthians 4:6). Soak in the reality that God chose to have the hairs of Christ’s face extracted with human hands. Through excruciating pain God showed us, his people, that he weaves the tapestry of our lives together. In all areas of life none are small none are wasted.
It is no little thing to bring glory to God in everything. Never meaningless. Never insignificant. Always designed toward glory in God by grace. Giving us a freedom of rest in all we ever face. Because we know God is the designer of the big and small. We also know his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30).
If you struggle to find meaning in a difficult situation gaze on the face of Christ. See him, love him, embrace him and give God glory that Jesus had a beard.

Why All Christians Should Vote No Matter Who The Options Are

trump/hillary

Why All Christians Should Vote No Matter Who The Options Are

“It just cannot be! How did this happen? I cannot believe I may not even vote in this presidential election!” Those are the words I heard over lunch a few weeks ago from my good friend Dan. Fast forward to last night after Super Tuesday in Texas and Dan sends me these texts: “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things.” And “Trump has won. It’s over! Build your bomb shelter and buy your guns and canned foods.” The words of Frodo did make me smile and Dan’s overly facetious second text actually made me laugh. However, Dan is really upset about all that is happening on the political scene. But what concerns me most is not that Dan think’s Trump would be an awful choice for America. That is Dan’s point of view and that may well be true, however, what is really disturbing is Dan for the first time in his life is thinking of not voting. A follower of Christ and a really smart guy is contemplating not casting a vote! Now when I say smart guy I really mean it. You ever met that guy in high school who was thoroughly irritated when he received his ACT score? Only to find out that the reason he was so angry was not because he bombed it, no rather because he was a few points shy of a perfect score. As you may have guessed Dan is that guy, literally. And as with most smart guys he cares about how our government conducts itself; so here is the situation. We have a guy who has the Spirit of the living God inside of him and is high in intellectual quotient and he is seriously thinking of not voting. To borrow a Pauline phrase, “Brothers that ought not to be!”

I have had lengthy conversations with Dan and at this point I am not sure where Dan will land. But I thought I would lay out my best Biblical argument for what I have been advocating and beg and plead to all believers of Christ to get out and vote no matter who the candidates turn out to be.

IT’S NOT IN THE BIBLE

In the Bible we find kings and appointed men who govern and they are not elected in some democratic manner. In fact, part of my appeal is to point out when the Bible was written this idea of an elected king was simply not a thought. What we have then is a political system in which the Bible has things to say about how believers should conduct themselves; in response to the governing authorities, Romans 13. We also have the assurance to know that all kings and presidents are in office because God placed them there, again Romans 13 and Daniel 4. But we do not have an exact one to one correspondence outlining how believers should respond in casting votes for that governing authority. Again, this simply was not an option in the first century. So the question Dan and so many of us are wrestling with is this: What is the Godly action that would bring God the most glory? What do followers of Christ do when faced with two political options that neither seem to be God’s choice? Should we not vote? Should we vote, but throw that vote away on a candidate that has no real chance of winning? As if to say, “I did my civic duty, however, I am dissenting.” Or should we vote for a lessor of two evils as it were? I am going to argue the lessor of two evils though I am not a fan of the picture that phrase paints.

POLITICS AND GOD:

In Mark 12:13-17 we see an amazing statement by Jesus: “And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.”

Now I know what you are thinking, “Don’t go there! This has nothing to do with me voting or not.” I plead with you to hear me out.

I want you to notice something very interesting about the statement Jesus made. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” Notice he didn’t simply leave it to taxes. Jesus is speaking in a broad context of “things” pertaining to the government. My argument is the voting process would indeed be a “thing” in which belongs to Caesar. And Jesus said, “Give to Caesar” that is the government, what is due the government. And it just so happens that we find ourselves in a country in which voting is a part of the government and our role told to us by Christ is, give the government their due.

Also notice that Jesus then says, “Render to God the things that are God’s.” This is a statement about God’s sovereignty. There are things that are God’s and we give that to Him by prayer and supplication. There are things that are God’s and we need to not try and control those things. There are things that are God’s and we need to remember they are His. But we need to remember we have a role and we are to render to God, because that is the role He gave us. There are things which we are commanded to be a part of and they are on God’s to do list. It is no coincidence that we are asked to play a part in both the giving the government their due and giving God His due. Jesus giving us a command to play a part is extremely important and one we must consider.

TAKE OUR BALL AND GO HOME

In Philosophy there is something called the law of identity. What the law of identity says is this: Whatever a thing is, is indeed what it is, and it is not something else. For example snow is white if and only if snow is white. Identifying snow that is white would require the property of white being a part of snow, if it is true that snow is white. If it is true that snow is white then it is the case that indeed snow is white. Which means white snow cannot be blue snow or the dreaded yellow snow. If snow is white, it is only true that it is white if indeed it is white. And I appeal to the law of identity in part when answering the question, “ What brings God more glory, voting or not voting? ” Answer? Voting!

Now the reason I believe that to be so is partly due to the law of identity. Now this is only to be borrowed as a philosophical construct not an academic observation. Had God not wanted you and me to vote, we would not find ourselves in a country in which we can vote. We can vote if and only if we can vote, and indeed we can vote. And because it is the case we can vote then God ordained that we vote! Of course simply having the right to do something does not mean we ought to do it. It is possible God placed us here not to vote, however, voting seems to be a privilege ordained by God as a means to elect men and women to govern the United States of America. And if that is true then it seems God is calling me and you to render to the government what is the governments, and that of course is our vote!
So we see Jesus commanding us to participate in giving the government what is due them. And the idea that we do not like the two choices that God has given us does not give us the right to take our ball and go home. We cannot forget that we have the Spirit of God living inside us. And we must not forget that God cannot accomplish His will on earth without us. And it is not because God is not powerful enough to do it by Himself, obviously that is false. But it is the fact that for whatever reason God chose to set it up that He uses mankind to bring about His will on earth. I see our plight analogous with the questions, “Why Pray?” and “Why Witness?” If God is sovereign then he doesn’t need me to tell others about Him, I mean they are His right? WRONG! If God knows what I need before I ask, then I don’t need to pray right? WRONG! If there are two choices for president and I don’t like either, then God doesn’t need my vote right? WRONG!

God shows us in the Markian passage that man’s participation and God’s participation are both needed. My knowing my role as a follower of Christ is in part because I know the role of God. I am rendering to God what is His and what is His is a state of affairs in which He has ordained for me to participate. Who am I to try and tell God He has the wrong two options before me? He being sovereign gives me assurance that those options are ordained by Him.

“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” Daniel 4:17

Therefore, for me to refuse that which He has set before me to participate; is me not rendering to God what is God’s. Rather it is me saying to God, “You got this wrong! I will not vote! You cannot make me! I am Godly God! I have the Holy Spirit! I will not vote for either of the options you have set before me! I will not affect your will on this earth! I will not listen to your prayer, “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done!” I will not render to the government a vote nor will I render to you your sovereign will to place before me two candidates of your choosing!

DON’T VOTE YOUR FEELINGS VOTE HIS WILL

I know this is not an easy thing to navigate. This vote can only be cast with much prayer. God wants us to render to Him our prayers and He in turn will guide us to the president which will bring Him the most glory. It may be the case that God uses His people to place in office a horrible president; because God’s glory shines brightest in the darkness.

To be clear on my position try a hypothetical like, “If Stalin and Hitler were running for president are you telling me I should vote for one of them?” I am answering yes! And the reason is because of the massive truth that God has told us which is; He places every president in office. If we did not have that knowledge, I could not and should not say what I have. I believe the biblical answer is not to vote your conscience when God tells us otherwise. Many are advocating to “not vote” or waste it on a “third party”, but rather I think the biblical answer is by faith vote God’s will! We are in the middle of what Jesus sandwiches together in His statement and that is government on one side ready to receive from us its due and God on the other side ready to receive His due. And God’s due is enabling us to enact His will in the giving to the government that which God has enabled us to give, which is our vote! And yes we are in the middle, but that is because that is how God made it to be. Fight for Godly principled candidates in the primaries and perhaps all the way to the voting booth. However, if in the end there are only two who are viable for president, that is to say, one of the two will be president then remember this going to the polls. God placed those two viable choices there for you to choose! Therefore, by Faith, do it! Don’t throw your vote away on an option God never presented as viable. For if God places the kings of this world then He is willing one of the two be our choice. I know this because if He didn’t will one of the two to be president, then they would not be viable options!

Final Thought From John Piper

I want to end with a quote from John Piper. This was taken from his sermon, “The Sovereignty of God: “My Counsel Shall Stand, and I Will Accomplish All My Purpose” November 3rd 2012.

Piper is speaking of God’s ultimate control of everything. He then addresses the issue of voting from those that make up the body of Christ.

“Vote on Tuesday. That’s a pastoral exhortation. Not a demand from God but pretty strongly felt sense that that’s God’s will as I discern our role in a democratic order, that you should do that. I know many of you, including myself, are not excited about the options in front of us. I don’t care about whether or not they are ideal options. I just know somebody is going to be president and you should not abdicate the impossibility of discerning who over the next four years would incrementally bring the greater blessing to this nation. Who can know? Well God can know, alone. But humans are being called upon to make that choice and if all the people who pray most and think most biblically bow out of that decision making process then, we have less cause to think that the best will come. So, I say to you vote on the candidates and vote on the amendments and let there be no man exalting illusion that you will be decisive in who becomes president. Nobody on the planet will be decisive in who becomes president! God will be decisive in who becomes president! Daniel Chapter two verse twenty-one “He changes times and seasons. He removes Kings and sets up Kings.” “The most high rules the kingdom of man gives it to whom He will.” God will reign on Tuesday. As He has reigned every Tuesday and in all generations….

So to all the Dan’s in the world I plead with you to consider your call as a follower of Christ and as November approaches keep these wise words from C.S.Lewis in mind…

“Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Follow me on Twitter: Michael Goff

The Glory of God Through Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Same-Sex Marriage (SSM), is now legal in all 50 states. Which I might add is a term equal to a square circle, neither of which exist as a real thing. Marriage is between men and women established by God not man. So to say SSM exists is just a conflation of words that describe a fictional entity just like a square circle; something I felt needed to be pointed out.

This decision marks in a national way the brokenness of man by reveling an exchange of the glory of God for an image that is not God. That image is seen as equality and love which again are made up fictions if God does not exist. There is no way to ground those things if He has not ordained them pleasures of Himself. Of course all humans have been guilty of that exchange even those redeemed by the glory of the Grace of God.

Let us who are born again not think for one minute we would conclude any different than those celebrating today had God not removed the heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. We will not boast that those who celebrate the depravity of man is in anyway different than those who are not celebrating, except for the Grace of God. The apostle Paul said,

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1Cor. 2:14

I have a caution for all believers; to all those who are born again of the Spirit. Do not put on the garment of US vs THEM, it isn’t that at all. It is US vs. Spiritual wickedness in high places. It is US vs. mortification of our own sin. It is US vs. beating our own flesh into submission. We do all those things unto the praise of His glorious GRACE. It is His glory that will be acknowledged though all this. It is His glory that will be put on display for all to see. It will be His glory that is demanded by all of those called according to His purpose to demonstrate boldly in real love. This decision happened SO THAT THE WORKS OF GOD WOULD BE DISPLAYED.

The believers in Christ must pray for our nation and those who stand in opposition to God being made much of. We pray that their eyes may be open by the Spirit that extends saving Grace to all whom the Spirit draws unto Himself. This exchange, the exchange for images meant to be replacements for God’s glory described in Romans 1, has now become a pillar in the ethos of this nation. Remember that God judges a nation by the leaders He puts into office. This is the beginning of the plan of God, foreordained before the world was created that in His sovereignty, through the sins of man, He would use this decision to be made much of. For He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!

In fact as I type they are airing the funeral of the pastor shot in South Carolina. Make no mistake that God will not share His glory with anything or anyone. In God’s foresight He allows this decision of SSM to be overshadowed with His glorious praise being spread among the newsrooms across this nation singing “It is Well with My Soul”! God is being glorified above and beyond the SSM decision through the life of his servant. The SSM decision is second hat to the glory of God being put on display across this globe; celebrating the life of the sacrifice of this pastor for the suffering of the Gospel. To God be the glory! In fact God is using the leader of this nation, president Obama, through both events!

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1

In closing, do not be dismayed. These things must come in order that the Son of man can be lifted up and be glorified. Remember that Paul told us to rejoice in suffering. So, when the natural outworking’s of this sinful position the nation has taken begins to take root be certain death will follow; but take heart, I have overcome the world Jesus shouts!

It is the rejoicing in our suffering now and what sufferings are ahead to which He has called us to. In those sufferings we will give Him glory. Future suffering with the knowledge that God has ordained ALL things, including this wretched exchange, will be used to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And this apex of the glory of the knowledge of the Grace found in Christ Jesus is a declaration that gives all of us hope.

The darker the darkness the brighter the light shines! It will get dark and you will be tried and that struggle starts within yourself. If we have not poured ourselves out to kill violently the sins of our hearts then that is where we start. Do not be left in the dark because the darkness inside a man is where all the exchanges of the glory of God takes place. Exposing the darkness in each one of us though the light of Christ is the power in which we change our nation.

“ For God, who Said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ 2 Cor. 4:6

This is how love will really win~

Mirrored Image: A Good Friday Thought!

Have you ever thought about what a mirror does? I know it may seem an odd question. But think about it for just a moment. A mirror stands or hangs in a particular location and simply reflects that which is placed in front of it. The mirror is not a moral agent so it has no processing to do nor does it have any thoughts as to what it may or may not reflect. It simply is in a position to reveal whatever is placed in its path. If a beautiful object is placed in front of the mirror then the mirror reflects that. If something hideous is placed in front of the mirror of course it will reflect that. We all are very aware of how a mirror works.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
John 15:13

Now, the amount of light around the mirror will determine how vivid the image that is reflected back is seen. If there is little light present the image is still there it is just not very bright and hard to see; to use words that the apostle Paul used we see in a mirror dimly at times. Now I ask this question and hope you will reflect on it this Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. If an image is present but unseen does it really matter that the image is there at all? Or in other words, what does it matter if you are standing in front of a mirror and it is pitch black? The image reflected back can neither be seen by you or anyone else.

I know for me personally I strive to be a mirror. I am a moral agent created in the image of God how can I be compared to a mirror which neither thinks nor cares? Metaphorically speaking I mean that part of a mirror that takes what image is on me and simply reflects it back to those around me. I want to take that which the Holy Spirit has given me and not qualify it, not rank it, nor decipher who should or should not see it. I want to simply walk in the Spirit of reflection. I want that image of Christ that has been pressed upon me to simply be a reflection for all to see. It is my daily dying to self that allows the amount of light to illuminate that reflection. For if I choose not to crucify my flesh daily then the amount of reflection that is seen by others is that which is seen dimly.

So on this Good Friday I simply charge all of us to reflect on both mentally and physically that which Christ choose willingly to do. He chose to reflect the will of the Father by laying down His life. Jesus never once tried to alter the image that the Father was providing, but Jesus was simply a mirror. He reflected in every way that which the Father gave Him. With the brightest light known to man He projected the image of Love that all may partake. What will you do with that image? Will you reflect it and let others see it or will you alter the image before you project it? Or perhaps there are those that do not believe and therefore decide the image has no effect because like a mirror in a dark room, if there is no light to illuminate what is standing in front of the mirror, there might as well not be a mirror.

If you do not know Christ He wants to provide the light that will allow you to see the image of the beauty that is captured only in the holiness and splendor of a bloody and beaten Lord. That image bears all the light a mirror would ever need. Come to Him and rest in this final thought.

“He drained the cup of God’s wrath bone dry, leaving not a drop for us to drink.” – Richard Allen Bodey

God and Genocide, A Response to Brian Zahnd!

    A few weeks ago, a friend tweeted a link to a blog post from Pastor Brian Zahnd. My journey to Pastor Zahnd’s blog ultimately sparked a twitter dialogue between Pastor Brian Zahnd, my friend and myself.

    Part of our twitter conversation surrounded Pastor Zahnd’s blog titled, “John Piper and Allahu Akbar” where he was terse with Piper, calling him to following an “ism”, via Calvinism. He has a video of Piper explaining how God could command the killing of the Canaanites, for example, and still be just. In his blog, he states,   

 “I understand that the disciples of John Calvin feel obligated to defend their ism at all costs, but my, what a cost it is when it requires impugning the character of God!”

    As our twitter exchange persisted, Pastor Zahnd pointed me to another one of his blog posts, “God and Genocide” http://brianzahnd.com/2013/04/god-and-genocide/ where he writes that God would have never issued such a command. Our conversation then shifted to his belief that God does not ultimately have control over all life and death matters. He asserted via twitter, “If God controlled all life and death then why the prohibition on murder?” And later, “People die all the time that God does not want to die…”

   My friend, who was also part of our twitter dialogue, suggested I not use twitter as a form of rebuttal, but perhaps write a counter-blog. This was sound twitter advice, which Pastor Zahnd favorited, so I took that as his permission to do so.

   Let me state in advance, I do not know Pastor Zahnd and in no way am I attacking him personally. My basis for this blog post is his views, supported by his blog posts and our conversation over twitter, for which I stand in stark contrast. As Proverbs 27:17 states, iron sharpens iron. It is my hope, in light of both pastor Zahnd and me chasing after Jesus the Christ, we can come to that foundation and still have meaningful discourse, born out of a search for truth and not a belittling of character or person. I recently read an interview, where Pastor Zahnd speaks of his spiritual pilgrimage. He explains how he changed his view on deep issues within his belief system. My hope is he will perhaps be willing to also change course in regards to this issue.

What Is The Issue?

   The crux of the issue at hand stems from Pastor Zahnd’s blog post, “God and Genocide,” where he dislikes and or does not believe that God would instruct a man to take the life of another human. Pastor Zahnd begins his blog post by asking the reader to engage in a “game”. For such a troublesome subject, I find this method bizarre. It reminds me of the movie Scream. Sydney, a main character in the movie, answers a ringing phone and at the other end, she hears this very scruffy, evil-intentioned voice that shouts, “Do you want to play a game, Sydney?” The tactic of beginning his blog post in this manner really calls into question if he is interested in serious dialogue.

   This is one of the hardest, if not the hardest issue to reconcile with Jesus the Christ. However, hard does not mean impossible. Succinctly stated, how can the God of the Old Testament be the same God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth? That is the question he raises. His solution is logically lacking substance and facts, but rather based on an emotive expression.

   The blog post manufactures this “game” in the form of an interrogation, which in my view, only questions the inerrancy of Scripture. However, Pastor Zahnd does not see it quite the same. First, he questions if God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac. He then asks, did God tell Joshua and Saul to kill children as part of an “ethnic cleansing” of Canaan. Next, he questions the reader, “If God told you to kill your children, would you?” He continues on, creating what philosophy deems a false dilemma, or in this case a false trilemma. A false dilemma is where the questioner creates a dilemma or quandary, which leads the listener to believe the options provided by the questioner are the only options available. In short, to use Pastor Zahnd’s terminology, “You have been painted into a corner and something has to give.”

   In light of these three questions, he proceeds with three options to reconcile the Scriptures highlighted in his “game”. First option, he offers we can question God’s morality. Second, he proposes we can question the immutability of God. Third, he advocates we can question our understanding of Scripture. In this last option, he carefully navigates the wording in regards to Scripture as an “understanding”. He explains why he discounts options one and two, which leaves us with only our “understanding” aka interpretation of Scripture. However, to state the obvious, there could be another option; the Scriptures are correct and God did tell Moses to commit such acts. Pastor Zahnd clearly does not see this as a valid option, thus why he created the false trilemma.

   Pastor Zahnd’s “understanding” is that God never really told Moses or Joshua to kill other humans. They merely “thought” God had told them to do this, or perhaps, they just flat out lied to the people. Pastor Zahnd’s position is that God would never tell humans to kill another human.

   The blog ends citing there are no good reasons to enact violence in promoting the kingdom of God. This is something all believers and non-believers can and should believe. Jesus himself said this in John 18:36,  

 “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

   Although the ending to Pastor Zahnd’s blog is noble and one I agree with, he misses a critical point. The Old Testament examples utilized to bolster his position are not “committing genocide” nor were they used to further the Gospel.

What is Good? What is Evil?

   It is evident throughout Pastor Zahnd’s blog, he sees Moses actions, claiming that God instructed him to kill other men, as an evil. When the issue of good and evil is raised, the assumptions within should first be explored. Ravi Zacharias often uses the following syllogism for good and evil.

   If there is such a thing as evil, then there must be such a thing as good. If there is such a thing as good, then there must be a moral law on which one differentiates between good and evil. If there is a moral law, then there must be a moral law giver. If there is no moral law giver, then there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, then there is no good. If there is no good, then there is no evil. The question self-destructs.

   Why does there have to be a moral law giver? Quite simply, Dr. Zacharias explains, any time the problem of evil is raised; it is either raised about a person or by a person. Therefore, personhood must be part of the paradigm. That person is God. Pastor Zahnd wants to evict God from actually telling Moses & Joshua in the Old Testament to kill, as it doesn’t fit within his “Z-ism.” Rather, his only option is to question how we “understand” Scripture.

   Applying Pastor Zahnd’s logic, David is also suspect. When David said to Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord,” was that true? Did God place David there to kill Goliath? Did David just mistakenly believe or lie about being sent there by God? Did God ask David to be the one chosen to kill another human? I raise the point because in killing Goliath, possible hundreds, if not thousands of Philistines died. There are many more stories in Scripture that would need to be unhinged if we are to believe what he is espousing. With that in mind, on what logical basis does he come to believe the Scriptures are false? Another option is Moses was a liar, which is really untenable.

Genocide

 First, what is the meaning and origin of the word Genocide?

 “The term “genocide” did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group…In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word “genocide” by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, derived from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

   It is almost enough to insist, based on this definition, all of Pastor Zahnd’s arguments are false. The erroneousness of his blog title, “God and Genocide”, violates his entire discourse. The word genocide was not in existence until 1944; therefore to call what happened in the Old Testament genocide is logically impossible. Applying what we know today about the word genocide to those past events in the Old Testament is imprudent. It is egregiously inaccurate to think ancient people of that time would call those acts genocide. They would not have done so, and I propose neither should we.

   To illustrate this point, I will use another uncomfortable subject, Pedophilia. According to the definition, pedophilia is the “Sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object.” If an ancient culture had within their ethos a common practice of allowing adult males to marry nine year old females, per the definition we would call that today, pedophilia. However, that is not how it was viewed in the ancient cultures and therefore, in context or in the hermeneutics of reading such a passage, we would be unjust to call it pedophilia. The same applies to the word genocide. This is so simple an idea that it occasionally gets dismissed as sophistry. We are to read Scripture how the author intended it and also how the original audience would have understood it. The word genocide did not exist, therefore it was not genocide from the ancient cultures perspective and it ought not to be from ours.

   I’ll go a step further, using Moses and the Canaanites as an illustration. In the meaning and origin of the word genocide previously cited, there must be “violent crimes” with the idea of “systematic murder” committed in order to be genocide. If the Bible is true and means what it says, then the Lord commanded the killing of the Canaanites to Moses. It is impossible for God to commit violent crimes with the backdrop being that of systematic murder; therefore, “violent crimes” and “systematic murder” were not committed by God. That leaves only Moses to perpetrate such evil. So in order for genocide to be committed we are left asking, did Moses commit violent crimes and systematic murder? If both God and Moses are found not guilty, then one can conclude, genocide was not committed since the two key elements are missing.

   At this point, we now have to find another word to describe what happened. That is not something I will address at this time, but should immediately cause every reader of this posting to take pause.

 I will offer another syllogism.

 1. To destroy a group of people via genocide, violent  crimes and systematic murder must exist.
 2. In the killing of the Canaanites, violent crimes and systematic murder did not exist.
 3. Therefore, in regards to the Canaanites, genocide also does not exist.

   If the premises are true then the conclusion necessarily follows. Once again, putting away all doubt that genocide, at least in the way Pastor Zahnd described, was not committed.

   I hope all who are followers of Christ can agree; “Violent crimes” are an evil, not a good. Murder is, of course, wrong. Let us not forget the 10 commandments, Thou shall not Murder! However, and I’m not sure Pastor Zahnd recognizes the difference, murder and killing are not the same. If you consider killing the same as murder, please reference this blog post  http://www.einsteinslight.com/relativity-of-god-2

   One final thought. Is it not interesting that Moses, the person who delivered the 10 commandments, is the same person Pastor Zahnd impugns? Pastor Zahnd borrows this moral standard to indict and condemn the actions of the very person he received the moral standard from, which is Moses. As a side note, if Moses did not hear from God correctly and God never did command such an action, then would not the moral standard of not committing murder also become suspect? In other words, if Moses didn’t hear correctly about the killing of the Canaanites then why should we think that he heard correctly in regards to the moral standard of not murdering? Perhaps he didn’t get that correct either. This, in essence, does not prove anything. However, it begs the question, who really has this wrong, Moses or Pastor Zahnd?

   In summary, through simply the title of the blog, two things can be exposed. First, the word genocide was not known by anyone that was part of the act recorded by Moses. Therefore, because genocide was unknown until 1944, those in ancient times never thought of it as genocide. If we are trying to apply a sound hermeneutic to the text, this point is extremely important to grasp. The act may be called something else, however genocide it is not! Second, in order to commit genocide, violent crimes with systematic murder as its backdrop must be committed. Since God is not capable of doing such an evil, genocide was not perpetrated by God. That only leaves Moses to take the fall. Does one think Moses committed violent crimes with the backdrop of murder? If so, I am not sure how one could trust the words of such a person, thus calling into question everything Moses penned or is thought to have penned.

Why Should We Believe Him?

   I find no arguments in Pastor Zahnd’s blog post to offer sustenance of not believing that God actually told these men to do this. There is no thoughtful case presented based on logic and reason. Conversely, his only angle is a text book case of existential appeal with no logically sound arguments to defend why he concludes Moses got it all wrong. Rather, he merely appeals to the “feelings” of his readers.

   One more point, which cannot be ignored, Pastor Zahnd’s question, “would you kill your child if God told you to?” which goes back to the existential pull on the objective morality found in all of human kind. Through the proposition, he wants you to retort, are you kidding? No way! But not so fast, wait a minute. You will find yourself in a quandary and a paradox if you answer how he wishes.

   Pastor Zahnd’s question declares, “God said!” and in doing so conveys you should willfully disobey God. The question does not say, “If you “thought” God told you to kill, would you?” Rather, he emphatically screams, God said to do this, disobey him and do not kill your child! Let me make it clear, my intention is to expose Pastor Zahnd’s philosophical blunders, not to justify the killing of anyone. Pastor Zahnd delivers several false dilemmas/trilemma throughout his blog post with this being yet another, kill your child or disobey God. Wow! What great options are those? It is this type of emotive expression that we must not base our exegesis of the Scriptures on, but rather on sound reason and logic.

   It is my position that Pastor Zahnd is counting on feelings to guide the heart, rather than your mind guiding your feelings, which guide the heart. No worthy arguments are presented to justify his easy dismissal that Moses got this wrong and God indeed never said. Instead, the argument appears to have a desperate strategy of exploiting the truth of Scripture, buy stating our understanding is inept. I dub this a “Pastor Zahnd-ism”, or “Z-ism”.

   Furthermore, on what basis does Pastor Zahnd get a choice of what is deemed as truly articulated by God? In the third chapter of Genesis, it says:

 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

   In this situation or any other, we should use extreme caution when questioning, “Did God really say,” Particularly as it concerns the legitimacy, rationality and the validity of Scriptures.

Conclusion

   In this blog post, I have torn down Pastor Zahnd’s existential appeal with philosophical arguments, logic, and reason. On the other hand, I have not erected another way in which one could view these acts as that would require another blog response. However, I do assert there are other logical, more thoughtful solutions to this paradox than the one Pastor Zahnd has offered.

   I’ve included several links to William Lane Craig’s blog where he addresses some of these arguments. I am not presenting his arguments as the end all be all, however, Dr. Craig’s responses are based on logic, and are indeed plausible. I have attempted to demonstrate that Pastor Zahnd’s position feeds on feelings of existential nonsense, rather than a well thought out argument. To say it is an understanding or interpretation issue, as Pastor Zahnd would like us to believe, is simply not the case. He may push us in that direction because he holds to Open Theism, however I do not know if that is true.

   As we reflect on his blog and my response, let us not forget what Pastor Zahnd is proposing. He wants us to believe that Moses, the baby boy whose life was sustained by being placed in the Nile, the young man who encountered a burning bush and heard the voice of God calling him to be the leader of the Israelites, the one God used to deliver the 10 plagues on Egypt, the one commanding the parting of the Red sea, the one called by God to deliver the 10 commandments, the one who heard exactly how to build the temple, the one who led the people of Israel through the desert, the author of the first five books of the bible, who intimately knew the voice of Yahweh, it was this man who did not hear from God, or got it wrong, or lied.

   How can one read all I have presented and take the Pastor’s position? The weight of the evidence that this is not genocide is so overwhelming, one may want to chuckle after considering what Zahnd wants us to believe. However, this is no laughing matter. Rather, it is something many in the church are beginning to believe and serious dialogue needs to take place. The word of God and its explanation is not something any in the church should take lightly.

   To use Pastor Brian Zahnd’s earlier statement to John Piper, with a slight tweak, I will leave you with this final statement.  

 “I understand that disciples of Brian Zahnd feel obligated to defend their Z-ism at all costs, but my, what a cost it is when it requires impugning the character of God or Moses!”

 Please use the links below to see other reasonable and logical views regarding this issue.

 http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-re-visited
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/Once-More-The-Slaughter-of-the-Canaanites

 1“Genocide” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)