Thursday, December 30, 2010

God's Government Part 3: God's Kingship

God’s Kingship
Random Bible Chapter for the Day – courtesy of

This is the third part of a series I started in June, and honestly the executive side of God’s government, i.e. God as king, is so pronounced in scriptures that it was difficult to boil it all down as to why God’s kingship brings salvation. In the overwhelming amount of information, I sort of gave up. However, I’m going to try finishing what I started with this post despite not getting close to covering everything.
The executive branch of any government has basically two functions, it is charged with defending the nation and enforcing the laws.
The scriptures are literally full of God bringing salvation through the defense of His people:
If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the Lord, who is my refuge--
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Defense seems like an easy answer when it comes to the executive branch of God’s government, and we all like that part, but how does salvation come from the enforcement of His laws?
God’s enforcement of His laws comes in two forms, blessings and cursings. Deuteronomy 28 lays out all the blessings and cursings of obeying and disobeying God’s law. The blessings are all the wonderful things we’d hope to get from God all the time, and they embody the very definition of salvation that I think we would all give. However, the curses which are the exact opposite of the blessings are also meant to be a means to salvation.
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
So even the when God enforces His law, He is using the blessings or the cursings as a means to bring salvation to His people.
As I alluded to before this study on God’s government is a huge one, and I’m just barely scratching at the surface of it, but it has been a lot of fun to study, and I hope that you continue looking into for yourself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It's been a long time since God has spoken to me in my dreams, but last night, I had a dream in which I saw many of the action movies I have watched replayed in high speed: Rambo, James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Jason Stratham, Jet Li, etc. flipping, fighting, shooting.

And God said, "Why do they call these sinful men heroes?"

"I don't know, why?"

And rather than answer my question, He said the most profound statement I've ever heard, well at least since the last time He spoke to me. It's still rattling in my brain with all its implications. He said, "Your sin is like gravity; it keeps you tied to the Earth."

I woke pondering repentantly. Sin is like gravity. It makes you fall. It keep you tied to Earthly things rather than eternal things. The only way to overcome gravity is with a force external to ourselves. It's impossible for us to do it on our own. And Jesus who never sinned ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives--just up and floated away.

My explanations do little to bring justice to the profundity of the statement, so I'll just leave it as He said it:

Your sin is like gravity; it keeps you tied to the Earth.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Paradoxical Love

The Stoics pictured two parallel lines, each starting from its own finite point and moving infinitely in the same direction, say left. But one line starts further to the left of the other, so the one "infinity" is shorter. It's a paradox: true, demonstrable, yet incomprehensible.

My sin feels infinite, but the love of God is infinite both within me and outside me, going in every imaginable direction, like the light of the sun compared to the beam of a laser pointer with which I play with the cat. I sit on the edge of the bed and grouse and daydream, but eventually I get up and go where I am called.

--Sarah Ruden (Paul Among the People)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Can't God Lie?

In an interesting discussion during our small group today, I posed the question, “why can’t God lie?”
There are a couple of verses that this notion stems from:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. (Hebrews 6:18)

As near as I can tell from the research I’ve done, there are a couple of different positions on why God can’t lie: ethical and ontological.

The ethical argument would run along the lines of God is good. Lying is evil. Because God is good and does nothing evil, then God will not lie. The main problem in the ethical approach to this concept is that God is capable of lying, and He just chooses out of His goodness not to.

Also this approach rejects some interesting things God does in the Bible that are deceitful in nature. He sends a lying spirit to Ahab to convince him to go and get himself killed (1 Kings 22:22-23, 2 Chron 18:21-22), and at some point God will “send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe a lie” (2 Tim 2:11). These acts are not lies per se, but in the ethical conversation, one would think that God would not be able to bring Himself to use such unethical tactics because of His goodness.

In the ontological way of looking at it, God cannot lie because He is perfect. In being perfect, He cannot do something that is imperfect. Lying is a false, hence imperfect, representation of reality. Therefore God cannot lie.

I do think this viewpoint does deal with the problems of God allowing/sending deception to influence events, in that His perfection works these things for His purposes. However, I think the ontological viewpoint is limited in its view of God’s being. While God is perfect, I do not think that perfection fully explains God’s inability to lie, as you could just as easily say, a perfect God could tell a perfect lie.

Neither of these explanations offers much surety in the honesty of God. He tells us that He chooses not to lie or that He’s perfect and thus can’t lie, but those could just be divine lies. And then what hope do we have in anything He has said?

I would posit a new theory for why God cannot lie. It is neither ontological nor ethical in nature. Rather it is cosmological, and I think it reflects the nature of God and why we can trust Him in His truthfulness better than the first two I presented. I think God cannot tell a lie because of His relationship to the cosmos in which we exist.

Our cosmos/reality is composed completely of the spoken Word of God. “And God said, Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) Anything God says must inherently come to be in reality. A lie is a deception that does not represent reality as it is. If God were to utter a lie, it would become reality, and then His statement would also become an accurate representation of that reality. Or if He lied it would instantly become true. Thus, in accordance with the statement in Hebrews, it is impossible for God to lie, at least in the sense that man lies as the verse in Numbers points out.

The question then becomes, does God change our reality like this? Maybe. What else are miracles other than a divine intervention in our cosmos/reality? We wouldn’t consider a miracle a lie, but they do not conform to reality as we perceive it either, but it might very well be that a miracle is a creative moment on God’s part in which He speaks something new into His creation. If God’s decrees in these moments did not occur in reality, He would have lied. However, God’s sovereignty negates this possibility, and He can only be, say, and enact truth.

In this cosmological viewpoint of God’s relationship with the cosmos as Creator, one could wholeheartedly accept that God’s word to them is true because His Word affects the cosmos’s very essence of being. Everything God said--every promise, every blessing, and every curse—has to come to pass. It would be impossible for it not to. And this is the foundation of hope that is offered to us so that we may be greatly encouraged (to paraphrase the Hebrews verse above).

To God be the glory forever and ever.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Even Close

Even Close

You know, I've got a lot to say and a little time to say it in
'Cause everybody thinks you've got a 3-minute attention span.
Been up all night, trying to condense the story
From pre-time-existent splendor to post-revelation glory.
See the earth's creation ain't the prologue to this drama
Long before Mohammad, Krishna, Buddha, Baba, Dalai Lama
Was three Persons in a Trinity content to be
Basking in the Love of One Another, reveling in Unity
He never had a need, but He longed to have a Bride,
A perfectly-yoked partner, someone He could fully let inside

There were two trees in the garden, and without slightest correlation
We chose good and evil over Life; that was our perpetration.
And those who think the Lord was startled by our situation
Must recall the Lamb was slain before the earth had its foundation.
He didn't trip at that gross miscalculation.
The beat goes on without syncopation.
For thousands of years He pointed to the One a 'comin.
And when the time came, overjoyed He came a 'runnin for you.
He hit the ground runnin for you.

When He came here, and He gave Himself away.
The people liked Him at first, but they changed when they began
To understand the things that He would say.
He said, "Your life's not good enough, is it?
Why now take a chance and just lay it down?
You know I want to come for more than a visit.
The plan has always been for me to stick around... around in you,
To Make my life abound in you"

He did more than just conceded.
No, He pleaded and pleaded
To take the things that I did, they did, he did, she did, and we did,
And how we needed Him to save us from the terrors of hell.
It was freedom that He gave us from the jail-cell called self-consciousness.
Common sense tells you wear your confidence in Providence.
You want to stake your claim in that domain
Of the One who came to claim your blame and shame
And to remain in the Slain, Who overcame pain
And to proclaim the fame of Jesus' name,

And I wonder, "Who could have loved me
Even Close to how You do
No greater love has this,
Than a man would lay down his life for his friend
And take what he's due."
And I wonder, "How can I show You, all the gratitude inside?
Maybe just to care to prepare the fair one
To make herself ready to be Your Bride.

Maybe just to care to prepare the fair one
To make herself ready to be Your Bride

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Count the Cost

I love this song by Cory Asbury; listen to it after the reading the lyrics at the bottom.  It may not be your style of music, but the message is solid:

I peal my hands away from earthly things.
I got to turn away my eyes
From all these worthless things.
I lay down honor and fame.
I’m sick of building my own name.
Know that everything I do
Is for Your glory and for Your fame.
Don’t want to be building castles out of sand
Cause I know they won’t stand
In the wake of the judgment
That will come from your hand.
What would raise self will be burned away
Cause our flesh is fading fast.
Only your Word remains.

I say “goodbye” to my father, my mother.
I cling to You and You alone.
I have no other.
There’s one thing I do.
I leave it all behind
Cause you said if I search
Then it’s you that I would find.
I fight the fight of faith.
I run the race.
Just give me grace to seek your face
Until the day I die.
I’ll be living my life,
So the day you return I’ll attain the prize.

I count the cost.
I count it all as lost
For the sake of knowing you,
So until that day
When I see you face to face,
I’ll be taking up my cross.
I lay it all down
That I would be found
A pleasing sacrifice.
Cause I’m living for another day.
I’m living for another age.
Your kingdom come on Earth.

One day, He’s going to split the sky.
And one day, He’s going to come for His bride.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

God's Government Part 2: God's Laws

Random Bible Chapter for the Day – courtesy of
I started writing this, and it turned into a longer study than I anticipated, so I’ll post it in three parts.
Part 2 God’s Laws
Yesterday I talked about why God’s judgments are a means to salvation; today’s topic is “Why are His laws a means to salvation?”
This particular subject can lead to some hot debates about grace and works, but I think it’s pretty simple. Let’s take a look at the argument:
God’s laws are perfect; man is not, so we sin (or break the law), which is where condemnation and punishment come in. In God’s grace, He sent Christ to die and take the punishment we might otherwise have received. However, does this grace mean we have get to ignore the law and call it obsolete?
This argument is as old as the New Testament itself. Paul and James clearly butted heads about this issue, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the whole spat Paul has with Peter is about in Galatians 2:11-19.
Paul says,
So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith" The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:9-14)
And James says,
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:17-24)
Clearly the two were at odds and arguing somewhat bitterly via their letters about whether it’s faith or the works that brings salvation. You just have to do a quick Internet search on grace and salvation to see that this argument still rages on 2,000 years later.
My take on the issue starts with a few questions:
Number one: Why did God save us? Was it just to go to heaven instead of hell? Paul answers this question:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Number two: How can we do these good works “aka follow the law” having now been saved by grace? God answers this question:
"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Number three: Why should we even worry about obeying God’s commandments if we are saved by grace? Jesus answers this question:
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:21-26)
So, my take on the whole argument is that if you aren’t following God’s commands, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God, you don’t know His salvation, and if you don’t know His salvation, you can’t follow His commands, and if you aren’t following His commands, etc. It’s grace that breaks this cycle of sin and condemnation, and starts a new one. When we know salvation through grace, we come to know the love of God, and when we know the love of God, we are enabled to return that love by following His commands, and when we follow His commands, we know salvation, etc.

Friday, June 18, 2010

God's Government

Random Bible Chapter for the Day – courtesy of

I started writing this, and it turned into a longer study than I anticipated, so I’ll post it in three parts.

Part1: God’s Judgments

The chapter starts out prophesying the fall of the Assyrians (the destroyer destroyed, the betrayer betrayed), and exalting the power of the Lord to do it at His leisure. It goes on to talk about the restoration of Jerusalem and eventually the reign of our King. Praise God!

The part of this chapter that caught my attention and got me thinking was verse 22: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.”
In the U.S. we have the executive, legislative, and judicial branches complete with checks and balances in order that no one branch would become so powerful as to overshadow the other branches. Historically, one branch or the other certainly overstepped their respective areas and took a little more power than allotted, usually to the detriment of the populace, but such is the nature of our fallen human government.

However, Isaiah assures us that God’s system of government is a means to salvation. So, let’s look at that a little more closely.

Why are his judgments a means to salvation? Reverlations 19:1-2 answers that question: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” Truth and justice are the two ways that God’s judgments lead to salvation:

The truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God's Discipline

In Job 33, young Elihu is weighing in on the conversation between Job and his three friends. While Job has been defending his own righteousness from his three accusing friends, and his friends have been trying to find fault in him, Elihu defends God against the accusations on both sides, and when God speaks to Job, He speaks in a continuation of Elihu’s words.

In chapter 33 specifically, Elihu talks about God’s discipline, which in his description is sometimes kind and gentle like a warning in a dream or a vision, but most of the examples that Elihu lists are not so pleasant: sickness, pain, terror, etc. And God uses all of these to turn us away from destruction.

And then in verse 26, Elihu says that if a man turns from the path of destruction, “He prays to God and finds favor with him; he sees God's face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. Then he comes to men and says, 'I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.’”

While reading this chapter, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:4-11:

4. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6. because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8. If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live. 10. Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Most of the times when these verses are quoted, verse 4 is left out, but when was the last time our struggle against sin resulted in us having our blood shed? I can honestly say I’ve never struggled against sin that much in my Christian walk. In fact, I can’t say that I would right now if the option was presented.

I’m not talking about forsaking Christ under duress; I’d like to think I could be brave and die a martyr’s death in that situation; rather I mean giving up little sins under duress. For example if someone said “watch this movie with violence and sex in it or I’ll kill you,” I’d watch the movie. No question. If someone hijacked my car and said “drive 5 miles over the speed limit or I’ll cut your fingers off,” you could bet I would. Why would I? Well, I do those things anyway, and I don’t struggle against them without the threat of violence. And I don’t think anyone reading this can point an accusing finger when it comes to the little sins either.

But if sin is sin, how is denying Christ in these little sins any different than pointedly denying Christ in a moment of duress? And if we are engaging in these little sins so readily without even the threat of bloodshed, how can we hope to avoid the discipline of God in our lives or call it anything less?

I pray that we, and by “we”, I mostly mean “I”, can accept God’s discipline and turn from our ways quickly not for God’s sake but for our sakes and for the sakes of those we come into contact with since as Elihu so succinctly puts it: “If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men.” (Job 35:6-8).

Lord, in your justice, remember mercy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stephen's Stroganoff

I made this up on the fly last night, and it was amazing, so I thought I'd share:

Stephen’s Stroganoff

1 lb sirloin or stew meat

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

½ onion chopped

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can sliced mushrooms drained

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 teaspoons brown sugar

½ cup cream

1 cup sour cream

Slice sirloin into bite sized strips. Sprinkle steak with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Put in large skillet and sear. Remove from skillet, and add chopped onion. Brown onion until soft (about 5 minutes or just before caramelized). Return the meat to the onions. Then add the cream of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Then add cream and sour cream. Simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over egg noodles.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christian Elephants

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 19:12)

I think vengeance is an aspect of God's character that we don't think of very much, and when we do, it is often in the wrong context: namely that we think he should avenge someone who has wronged us.

And yet, God is in the business of revenge. There's a story from this year that backs up this truth, in which a herd of wild elephants have been rampaging in cities in India attacking those that have persecuted Christians. You can read more here:

I was skeptical, so I looked at Indian papers to see if anything was printed about the attacks, and sure enough there were quite a few stories about the elephant attacks. Apparently yesterday, a pack of jackals attacked as well. However, there was no mention of the segregation of only the persecutors of Christians except on Christian sites.

However, there was one really interesting store that seems to collaborate the elephants mission. There was a report of an elderly Christian woman, Sapari Pradhan, who stepped in front of the elephants to stop them from attacking her persecutors. One elephant lifted her from the way, kept her at a distance and the other elephants continued with their mission, which was reported from an eyewitness and is not in the all of the Christian accounts. However, it is reported in an Indian paper, though they do not mention that the woman was a Christian: (

Crazy! I'm sold.

Praise the God who avenges and protects!


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