Weekly roundup

lasso.jpgVideos on how to perform magic tricks

 

Give me an F!  NARAL Pro-Choice America gives grades to each state based on their abortion policies.   I’m happy to say Texas received an F. 

As you might expect, their site is rife with euphemisms like “anti-choice” and “opposes a woman’s right to choose,” but of course they never finish the sentences.  Choose what?  School choice?  Education choices? 

They also use “reproductive rights” as a catch phrase, but of course that is about birth control, not abortion.  Once there is a pregnancy reproduction has already taken place.

Who’s to blame when aborting women die?  As Jill Stanek points out, it is supposedly the fault of the pro-lifers if abortion is illegal but the fault of the dead women if abortion is legal

No duh: It hurts kids to purposely deprive them of a mom or a dad – this reminds me of when Rosie O’Donnell mentioned how one of her kids would wish for a dad and how she would shut down the conversation.  On a separate occassion she pointed out how her she told her partner to stop breast feeding their child because the baby was bonding too much with her instead of Rosie.  But it’s all about the kids, right?

The movie Evan Almighty appears to be flopping.   Hollywood thinks they can just throw “God” in a movie and Christians will flock to it.  That is true for some, as I’ve heard of churches sending their kids to see it as if it were sound doctrine.  But many people see through the thinly disguised insults and bad theology.  I have nothing against people who see it; I just think it is interesting how little Hollywood types know about what it means to be a Christian.  Even a non-Christian recognized their pandering.

Stem cells: The end does not justify the means.

2 Samuel 7-8

Greetings!

Also see Psalm 60 for David’s perspective on this section.

2 Samuel 7-8 (NIV)

God’s Promise to David

7     After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

4 That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

17 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

God didn’t want a warrior to build the temple, so He promised David that his son would build it.  David’s earthly dynasty would end in about 400 years, but Jesus would come from the line of David as promised. 

David’s Prayer

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O Lord, have become their God.

25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

27 “O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

Notice David’s incredibly humble response.  Gratitude is a “parent” virtue in that many other virtues flow from that.  If you have children, think about how much their genuine gratitude means. 

David’s Victories

8     In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Metheg Ammah from the control of the Philistines.

2 David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought tribute.

3 Moreover, David fought Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when he went to restore his control along the Euphrates River. 4 David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.

5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. 6 He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

7 David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Tebah and Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze.

9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, 10 he sent his son Joram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought with him articles of silver and gold and bronze.

11 King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued: 12 Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. He also dedicated the plunder taken from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah.

13 And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.

14 He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

As God had promised in 7:11, David was given rest from his enemies. 

David’s Officials

15 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. 16 Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 17 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; 18 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were royal advisers.

Verse 15 is simple but crucial: David did “what was just and right for all his people.”  He did this by obeying God first.  God loves justice and doesn’t want favoritism for either the rich or the poor.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Exploring Christianity – Part 8 – God’s rules

cross1.jpg

Here’s the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity.

Nicholas wrote: In response to a post on my blog, you once stated that “whether you like God’s plan or not, He gets to set the rules.” This in mind, are there any aspects of “God’s rules” which you reluctantly follow or wish were different? As an example, even when I considered myself a Christian, I ridiculed the notion that according to strict Christian beliefs, a Muslim who spends his life clothing the naked, feeding the poor and healing the sick will burn in hell while a mass murderer can gain entrance to heaven by accepting Christ and repenting on his death-bed.

The more I’ve learned about God the more I realize that two sayings of James MacDonald’s are true: 1) Choose to sin, choose to suffer and 2) When God says, “Don’t,” He means, “Don’t hurt yourself.”  Of course we should avoid hurting others, but by sinning against God we are also hurting ourselves.  

God wired us a certain way and told us the best and wisest way to live, and He offers to give us wisdom if we ask for it.  When we violate his rules bad things happen, just as if I ignored my car’s owners manual and put water in the gas tank.  That would be my fault, not the designer’s.

What rules do I follow reluctantly or wish were different?  When I think of that I tend to go in a circle: I think of something I’d want to be different, but when I take it to its logical conclusion it typically results in God having to take away or override our free will. 

But I actually wrestle with the same major issue you do: People going to Hell.  I don’t want anyone to go to Hell, which is one reason I’m passionate about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone who cares to listen.  I have Hindu, Muslim, Mormon, New Age, agnostic and atheist friends, among others, and it grieves me that if they died today that they would go to Hell.   

But let’s dig deeper into your example – which at first glance makes God out to be profoundly unfair – and see how the Biblical worldview applies to it.  The truth is that no sin goes unpunished and no one is punished more than they deserve, though some may accept God’s free gift of grace to avoid eternal punishment.

So could “a Muslim who spends his life clothing the naked, feeding the poor and healing the sick will burn in hell while a mass murderer can gain entrance to heaven by accepting Christ?”  Yes.  We already discussed the question of what happens to those who haven’t heard the Gospel, so to keep things simple I’m assuming that the hypothetical Muslim heard and rejected the Gospel.  I’ll also assume that the murderer’s death bed conversion was authentic, meaning that he truly repented and believed in Jesus. 

The seeds of this answer are actually sown in the question itself.  The question is a common one, where an extremely good and an extremely bad person are juxtaposed, only with the “good” person going to Hell and the “bad” person going to Heaven. 

One nice thing about the question is that it is one no postmodern would ask, unless in a truly hypothetical sense.  After all, it clearly presupposes that there are “good” acts that deserve rewards, not punishment and “bad” acts that deserve punishment, not rewards, and that to punish good and reward evil would be grossly unjust.

In a serious way, the presuppositions are in line with God’s nature.  The Bible teaches that there are rewards in Heaven for doing the right things and that punishment in Hell is commensurate with bad deeds committed. 

However, God’s demand for goodness is far above the man-made standards we inject into the question.  If the Muslim followed 100% of God’s laws 100% of the time, then he would indeed go to Heaven and would not need Jesus.  But, as Romans 3:23 and other passages point out (not to mention countless experiences we all have had), “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

I have found that the closer I get to God the farther I realize I was away from him.  I thought I was fairly good (by my own lame definition of “good”), but the more I learn of his holiness the more sinful I realize I was (and am).  Consider Isaiah’s reaction when he was in the Lord’s presence, and keep in mind that he was a prophet of God (one of the “good” guys):

Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

That’s where Jesus comes in, with the grace of God.  God loves us and wants to reconcile our broken relationships with him.  But his perfect justice demands punishment.  Unlike other religions, God leaves no sin unpunished. 

Jesus took that punishment in your place – if you accept it.  If you reject it, as the Muslim in question did, then you get to stand before him with your own righteousness.  Your “good deeds” will be as filthy rags to him, as Isaiah 64:6 points out:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

And if any of you are like me, many of your good deeds weren’t really all that good.  Many good things I have done were for my glory and self-interest, not God’s. 

So is God inconsistent or unjust?  Not at all.  He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful and gracious.  The Muslim will pay for her sins, whatever they were – no more, no less. 

But what about the murderer?  He opted to let Jesus pay for his sins.  He’ll still encounter the consequences in this life (guilt, jail and possibly the death penalty), but his eternal consequences are completely gone.  In God’s eyes he is as white as snow:

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

I’ve met murderers and other criminals in prison ministry who, by all appearances, are truly redeemed and forgiven.   

So God is perfectly just: He punished the Muslim in perfect proportion for his sins, and He inflicted the punishment for the murderer on Jesus.  No sin went unpunished, and no sin received a harsher punishment than was necessary.  Of course, Jesus took the punishment for the Muslim as well, in a sense, but he opted to ignore God’s free pardon (even though he was under no obligation to offer the pardon).  But he can’t accuse him of being unjust or even unmerciful.

Some might cry that it is unfair that God didn’t provide other options.  But He gave his only Son (and himself, in the Divine sense, because Jesus is God) to provide a way back.  Why should God have to provide another way if people reject the sacrifice He didn’t have to offer in the first place? 

How is it just that someone could do whatever they wanted in life and have a death-bed conversion and go to Heaven?   I did a Q&A on death bed conversions that addresses that.  It seems unfair at first glance, as if the bad guy got to have a fun life and then still went to Heaven.  But the truth is that less sin = less problems in life.  Satan wants us to think sin = fun.  How much more evidence do we need that he’s wrong? 

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

So while I have thought of things from time to time where I think God could have done a better job, a little reflection usually brings me back to reality.  He is perfectly just, merciful and gracious.  We reject that graciousness at our own peril.

Previous installments

2 Samuel 5-6

Greetings!

Finally, after all these years David officially became king. 

2 Samuel 5-6 (NIV)

David Becomes King Over Israel

5     All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David Conquers Jerusalem

6 The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.

8 On that day, David said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”

9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.

11 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. 12 And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

13 After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet.

David trusted God and God delivered Jerusalem and protected him.  David made bad decisions with his wives and concubines, though.  As we’ll see, he did a horrible job of parenting.

Daivd Defeats the Philistines

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you.”

Notice how David always checked with God first.  It is only when the Israelites did things their way that they lost out.

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. 21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25 So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

6     David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. 2 He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

Uzzah’s death seems puzzling, but that may be because we don’t have all the facts.  What is clear is that he was being irreverent, and God took that seriously. 

8 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

9 David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

King David’s bold praise puts mine to shame.  He rejoiced and “danced with all his might” in an authentic display of praise and worship.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offeringsf before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Guilt by Association

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about blogging is learning more about reasoning and how to avoid logical fallacies (flawed patterns of reasoning).  Most of us are guilty of using them at times, but with effort they can be avoided.  The results are better arguments and a more winsome approach. 

When people use these fallacies, deliberately or not, they are not only being unfair but it makes them look insecure.  After all, if your view is correct then why would you need to demonize people or use tricks? 

The guilt by association logical fallacy goes like this:

Guilt by Association is a fallacy in which a person rejects a claim simply because it is pointed out that people she dislikes accept the claim. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

  1. It is pointed out that people person A does not like accept claim P.
  2. Therefore P is false.

I encountered an example of this fallacy when reading a column on a theologically liberal pastor’s blog.  The author has some catch phrases he usually tags on to describe people.  We’re used to people using “liberal” or “conservative” as shortcuts, and many aren’t offended by that.  But this fellow is not too fond of the IRD and its representatives, so he writes things like:

“Tooley, who also writes for the radical right website FrontPage Magazine, is such an extremist that a couple of years ago the KKK republished one of his articles attacking minorities.”

Here’s the comment thread where I point out why that bit of information is a bad argument.  I had a little fun with him in the last comment.

Reverend, I’m not sure why you add the KKK bit when referring to Tooley. Just because they agreed with his opinion that homosexual behavior doesn’t confer civil rights doesn’t mean that he supports their broader agenda, as you clearly imply.

This “guilt by association” trick could work the other way. How would you like it if people wrote this every time they quoted you: “The Reverend is such an extremist that he agrees with the KKK that it should be legal to crush and dismember innocent human African Americans in the womb.”

After all, that is technically true, isn’t it? You are pro-legalized-abortion, and the abortion rate in African American communities is 3x that of whites. I could be mistaken, though . . . perhaps the KKK members – even with their reprehensible broader views – might not all be pro-legalized-abortion, even for African Americans.

I thought we were supposed to be lifting people up, not tearing them down.

The KKK is a hate group. They don’t republish a material that reflects anything but hate. Mark Tooley preaches hate. No surprise the KKK is a fan of his work. If you want to associate yourself with his writings go ahead. But my advice is to find a nicer crowd to hang with.

Dear Reverend,

You missed my point and have even tried to add me to your guilt by association mix.

I think we all agree that the KKK is hateful. And I know you don’t like the IRD. That wasn’t the point. (I think people are capable of reading their website and determining whether they support their church reform movements.)

Even if I didn’t support the IRD I would still take issue with your superfluous attack on Tooley. You seem to find it easier to attack the person with an alleged association to the KKK than to deal with his arguments. And your mention that Tooley was “attacking minorities” implies that he was anti-black, not anti-civil rights for homosexuals. How’s that for bearing a truthful witness?

“No surprise the KKK is a fan of his work.”

The KKK is probably a fan of your pro-legalized-abortion views, since that keeps the murder of roughly 2,000 African Americans per day nice and legal. But I ask again, would it be fair for me to associate you with them?

My question was whether a pastor of the extra-tolerant, lift people up instead of tearing them down, we-welcome-everyone denomination would continue such rhetoric (this KKK example is just one of many). Thanks for the answer.

P.S. “Mark Tooley preaches hate.”

Indeed. But I can really feel the love coming from your writing.

Actually, the KKK has published statements about how much they dislike my site. They don’t republish my material because I don’t walk the path they do. Tooley hates people. His wants to deny people their basic civil rights. No surprise the Klan likes his views. Wouldn’t it have been nice is you had taken this opportunity to repudiate their views on the treatment of gays and lesbians in or society instead of defending Tooley… Did you not condemn their hated-based rhetoric and public policy stances because you agree with them? Or did you just forget to express your support for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into our society? You don’t agree with Tooley and the Klan, do you?

Once again you have ignored my point, changed the subject and made a personal attack by implying that anyone who doesn’t agree with your views is hateful. I appreciate you publishing my comments, though, because I think people can see through this.

Since you don’t appear to be interested in real dialogue and your main method of communication is to employ logical fallacies (straw man arguments, guilt by association, ad hominem attacks), I’m going to focus my commentary on this topic on my blog instead. You are welcome there, though. I try to stay on topic and deal with the arguments themselves.

In fact, I think I’ll do a series on logical fallacies, passive-aggressiveness, hypocrisy and the intellectual bankruptcy of liberal theology. I’ll never run out of material. Thanks!

Regards,
Neil (who disagrees with the KKK and The Reverend that it should be legal to murder African Americans in the womb)

Ezekiel and the sin of silence

ez-33.jpgGod gave the prophet Ezekiel a strong message to take to the Israelites.  Ezekiel was not accountable if they rejected the message, but he was accountable if he didn’t deliver the message. 

Ezekiel 33:6-9 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.

But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.

Does this apply to Christians with respect to the Great Commission?  I don’t think so.  If we are Christians then all of our sins are forgiven -all of them, including the sin of silence. 

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t missed opportunities for the joy of sharing the Gospel and that we won’t have regrets about it later.  As Philemon 6 says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

There is an application for the hearers as well.  They will be accountable for accepting or rejecting the Gospel.

2 Samuel 3-4

Greetings!

The Bible has a clear and consistent message that God’s ideal for marriage is one man and one woman to unite as one flesh.  And Deuteronomy 17:14-17 specifically warns against their king taking multiple wives. 

David’s and Solomon’s wives, as well as those of other kings, caused serious problems. 

2 Samuel 3-4 (NIV)

3     The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

2 Sons were born to David in Hebron:

His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;

3 his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

5 and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.

Abner Goes Over to David

6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said and he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

David had been promised by Saul that he could marry Michal, Saul’s daughter.  Now he wanted her – possibly for romantic reasons or possibly to consolidate his power.  Paltiel was the innocent victim here.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a compact with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

Joab Murders Abner

 The Bible teaches to leave revenge to God (Romans 12:19 – 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.), but Joab wanted to murder Abner because he had killed Joab’s brother in battle.  David grieved for the loss of Abner and distanced himself from Joab’s action.  Joab’s deed was doubly bad because it took place in Hebron, a “city of refuge” where the accused could go for justice.

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the gateway, as though to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house! May Joab’s house never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner: “Should Abner have died as the lawless die?

34 Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before wicked men.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a prince and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

Ish-Bosheth Murdered

4     When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Recab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have lived there as aliens to this day.

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became crippled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

5 Now Recab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Recab and his brother Baanah slipped away.

7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to take your life. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

9 David answered Recab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of all trouble, 10 when a man told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.

Even though Ish-Bosheth was David’s enemy, he did not want him to be murdered.  He was still trusting in God’s timing. 

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Secret is not a secret

The best selling book The Secret is not a secret – it’s the same old “man is god” nonsense.  

According to this review, one of the keys to The Secret is the law of attraction, which demands only this:

  1. Know what you want and ask the universe for it.
  2. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.
  3. Be open to receiving it.

There are many flaws with this philosophy.  But one is completely fatal to its premise and nearly self-evident: What if two people want the same thing, such as marrying the same person, or opposite things, such as the farmer wanting rain and the family wanting a sunny picnic?

This flawed worldview is really tragic.  I know a person who is consistently miserable but holds tenaciously to the view that he creates his own reality.  Without me even having to ask, “So, uh, how’s that working out for you?,” he’ll concede that it isn’t working well at all.  He thinks he just has to try harder. 

I’ll stick with the Gospel.  It isn’t a secret, but it is true and it has the power to save and transform lives, now and for eternity. 

Put on your (stolen?) yarmulke

yarmulke.jpgThe mystery of the lost stolen yarmulke has been solved (A yarmulke is a skullcap sometimes worn by Jewish males.  The pronunciation sounds like “yamaka.”). 

As part of my oldest daughter’s confirmation class we went to a Jewish synagogue service.  They happened to be having a Bar Mitzvah as part of the service.  I went to a couple Bar Mitzvah parties as a teen but never to an actual service.

Anyway, as we entered the synagogue we were given yarmulkes to wear.  I didn’t notice anyone collecting them when we left, so I assumed I was supposed to keep it.  It had the name of the boy stamped inside.

We found out later that I was supposed to have turned it in when we left.  Oops. 

We couldn’t find it for years and assumed it was lost, but it just turned up during some serious cleaning.  Anytime the subject of a yarmulke comes up my family reminds me of my transgression.  Thanks to Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song this happens more often than one might expect.

Stealing a yarmulke has got to be a pretty serious sin.  Really, I thought it was a souvenir.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

2 Samuel 1-2

Greetings!  Today we start 2 Samuel (1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were originally one book, so we are just picking up where we left off with 1 Samuel.)

It appears that the man below was lying to win David’s favor, as his account differs from that of 1 Samuel 31.  He assumed that since Saul had tried to kill David that David would reward someone who finished Saul off.  He was wrong.  Despite being chased and threatened by Saul for roughly a decade, David was still loyal to God’s annointed King.

2 Samuel

David Hears of Saul’s Death

1     After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.

He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”

4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”

He said, “The men fled from the battle. Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost upon him. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

“‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me and kill me! I am in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

10 “So I stood over him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”

“I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite,” he answered.

14 David asked him, “Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan

This section is where the phrase, “Oh how the mighty have fallen” comes from.  Note how open David was in his grief. 

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.

How the mighty have fallen!

20 “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

21 “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

22 From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.

23 “Saul and Jonathan— in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!

Jonathan lies slain on your heights.

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”

David and Jonathan were best friends.  Some people try to say that they were gay lovers because David described their loving friendship as being more wonderful than that of women.  Those people are pretty sick and are bad at reading things in context.  In the event that they make it to Heaven, I’m sure King David and Jonathan will be glad to clear that up with them.

David Anointed King Over Judah

2     In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The Lord said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.

2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men of Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, 5 he sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead to say to them, “The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 6 May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 7 Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

War Between the Houses of David and Saul

The followers of Saul did not give up easily.  They still wanted to be in charge.  David ruled over Judah (the southern half of Israel) for 7 years before the kingdom was united.

8 Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9 He made him king over Gilead, Ashuria and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13 Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David’s men.

18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

Persistence isn’t always a good thing.  Asahel was warned to turn back and he didn’t.

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued the pursuit of their brothers until morning.c

28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the whole Bithrond and came to Mahanaim.

30 Then Joab returned from pursuing Abner and assembled all his men. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1 Samuel 31

Greetings!

Why did Saul commit suicide?  He might have recalled what happened to Samson when the Philistines captured him (torture and humiliation). 

Saul had everything most people would want: An imposing physical presence, strength, power and wealth.  But he was miserable without God, just like Solomon was a few decades later when he abandoned God for a time. 

Matthew 6:33 (NIV) says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  That isn’t marketing spin or some inane advice.  If we don’t put God first we won’t truly enjoy the other good things in life as much.  Think about how many other rich and famous people have committed suicide because life seemed so empty to them.

Saul Takes His Life

31     Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.

4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”

But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.

We will all face moral dilemmas.  The armor-bearer had to decide whether to obey his king or his God.  He chose wisely.  Drawing a line ahead of time with respect to what we will or won’t do is crucial.  Waiting until temptation comes is a bad idea.  As Joshua 24:15 says, “but if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.

8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.

11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Real men don’t . . .

baby1.jpgWhen counseling guys who would come into CareNet Pregnancy Center with their wives / girlfriends, around 20% would come across as abortion-minded.  After talking with them I would find an interesting distinction, though.

One group was very hard-hearted.  This pregnancy was in the way and had to be ended, and the sooner the better.  If you offered up the possibility of adoption he would say something like, “There’s no way someone else is going to raise my kid!” 

You never get completely used to the juxtoposition of that faux macho response against his desire to pay a perfect stranger to crush and dismember his kid.  Somehow that was lost on him.

Sometimes you could eventually get through to him.  If that didn’t work, you prayed that the girls would be strong enough to tell him, “No.”

The other group was quite different.  They started off resigned to the fact that abortion was their only “choice” because of economic circumstances, parental issues, etc.  But it just took a friendly chat to get them to change their minds.  They wanted someone to talk them out of abortion and were relieved when someone did.   

If you know someone considering abortion or suffering from post-abortion trauma, please refer them to a Crisis Pregnancy Center where they can get free help and guidance.  There is a better way.

Twelve tests of love

heart.gifToo many people mistake infatuation for love and suffer life-long consequences.  But how can you tell the difference?

I highly encourage singles to consider these Twelve tests of love to help determine if you are in love or if it is just infatuation. 

Chip Ingram was the author.  He did several shows on Family Life Today last month. 

If my wife is reading this, then rest assured that all the answers were L’s (really).

Seriously, save a link to the site and consider the questions for any relationships you have. 

Exploring Christianity – Part 7 – Prayer

prayer2.jpg

See below to see the latest installment of my friend Nicholas’ interview with me about Christianity or click here for the whole thing.  

Nicholas wrote: In my experience, most prayers fall into one of two general categories – prayers of thanks and prayers of request. I understand the first quite well, and I understand that prayers of the second type help one to feel as though they are helping – but do they really? Does praying to God with a request make Him more likely to pay attention to that request, or is it purely a symbolic act? After all, if you believe God is all-knowing, then He is already aware of your request before you make it.

Hi Nicholas – good questions.  The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us and prayer is the primary way we speak to him.  The more time you spend with someone the more you act like them.  In our “Santa Claus God” culture we tend to only think of praying for things that benefit us.  But prayer is a huge opportunity and blessing for us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence” and do so much more than that.

There are prayer paradoxes (or “prayeradoxes,” as I call them) – seemingly contradictory statements that are still true.  Here are a few things I do know about prayer.

Jesus said to pray, to pray often and to pray fervently.  He followed his own advice and set an example for the Disciples.  Let me know if you want verses for any of those (there are plenty).

You are right that we believe that God is omniscient and knows our requests before we ask him.  Jesus said that very thing just before teaching the Disciples the Lord’s prayer:

Matthew 6:8-9 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .

So the paradox of God knowing what we’ll ask and God telling us to pray anyway was not lost on Jesus.  He noted as such in successive sentences.  There are obviously still reasons to pray.

Prayer is definitely not just symbolic.  But I don’t think the effectiveness is as formulaic as God saying, “Well, 999 people prayed, but I’ll only answer this prayer if 1,000 pray.”  There is a little mystery there.

I have come across many examples of answered prayers.  Will they convince a skeptic?  Usually not, but sometimes they do.  But that isn’t the purpose of prayer according to the Bible.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that Satan’s desire would be a heads he wins / tails we lose scenario: If prayers aren’t answered, people will assume God doesn’t exist or at least doesn’t answer prayers.  If prayers are answered, we’ll rationalize that they could how they could have been answered anyway. 

Prayer does so much more than just offer thanks and requests.  You are conversing with the one true God and your Creator.  He knows everything you’ve said and done, so you don’t have to be fearful in confessing to him.  And confession literally means to say what God says.  You aren’t telling him anything He didn’t know.  You are saying that you agree with him now and plan to do things his way.

One key, of course, is to pray in line with what Jesus would want.  When we often say, “In Jesus’ name,” that isn’t some type of superstition.  It is a recognition that we think we’re praying for the same things He would want and that we’re praying with the power of his name.

While we’re on the topic, here’s an acrostic that spells out A-C-T-S.  It is a prayer primer that some people use.  It covers some of the basic attributes of prayer.

A – Adoration / Praise

C – Confession

T – Thanksgiving

S – Supplication (a fancy church word for requests)

For anyone wanting a more thorough discussion on prayer, I recommend Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.  We just studied it in our Sunday School class. 

Previous installments

Introduction

Part 1 – The Bible

Part 2 – Credibility of the Author(s) – A

Part 3 – Credibility of the Author(s) – B

Part 4 – Hell and More on Hell

Part 5 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – A

Part 6 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – B

Exploring Christianity – previous installments

cross1.jpg

This is the list of a series of posts I did with a friend. 

Introduction

Part 1 – The Bible

Part 2 – Credibility of the Author(s) – A

Part 3 – Credibility of the Author(s) – B

Part 4 – Hell and More on Hell

Part 5 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – A

Part 6 – Interpreting the Bible or abusing it? – B

Part 7 – Prayer

Part 8 -God’s rules

Part 9 – Open-mindedness