Friday, July 24, 2015

Words mean things

I spent the last post focusing on a proclamation of the biblical definition of love and a proclamation of the Gospel.  Today, that will serve as a foundation for responding to someone making yet another claim that homosexuality is something Christians should not simply tolerate, but accept and celebrate.  This, of course, is not a new claim, as anyone who has spent more than five minutes on the Internet will quickly ascertain.

There have been many attempts made to make the case for homosexuality in Christianity, but probably the most well-known in popular culture at this time is the Matthew Vines video, as he gives his testimony of sorts and makes various claims about what the Bible "really says" about homosexuality.  Naturally, this apologetic mashup resulted in him making conflicting defenses, and was roundly shredded, most notably by Dr. James White, who dissected the video almost down to the syllabic level in exposing Vines' chicanery.  Vines now spends his days secluded from anyone who might possibly challenge his worldview.

But that dead horse will rest for the moment, as a new contender enters the ring and brings what is at least a somewhat novel argument for why Christians should welcome the new order of things: namely, that Jesus was just wrong, and Christians shouldn't just take His word for it.  Brandon Ambrosino has today's example of blatant eisegesis on the Pacific Standard website.  In an article titled "The Best Christian Argument for Marriage Equality is that the Bible Got it Wrong," Ambrosino proceeds to suggest that Christians can remain Christians, while simultaneously jettisoning entire foundational aspects of their faith, and thus proves the Apostle Paul true in 1 Corinthians 1:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.--1 Corinthians 1:22-25
There are a host of problems with Ambrosino's claims in this article, many of which are refuted by similar responses to revisionism like Dr. White's above.  I will focus on my response on his most blatant claim: namely, that Jesus basically didn't know what he was talking about.
Though referring to the Torah with the shorthand “Moses” is hardly proof positive that Jesus was wrong about the books' provenance (many scholars refer to the books metonymically), it’s safe to say that Jesus probably assumed Moses wrote the Pentateuch.
And if he did think that, then he was wrong.
This is a point the Evangelical bible scholar Peter Enns makes in a footnote in his book The Evolution of Adam: “Jesus here reflects the tradition that he himself inherited as a first-century Jew and that his hearers assumed to be the case.”
Calling Peter Enns "evangelical" is, to put it lightly, inaccurate.  "Evangelical" implies a belief in an "evangel," in the Gospel.  Enns has long since left any semblance of a belief in the sufficiency, clarity, or inerrancy of Scripture that would testify to this Gospel, and if you can't hold to those one wonders exactly why you would bother being considered a Christian at all if you reject the foundation of its fundamental beliefs.  Dr. Michael Kruger shredded his most recent work in an article a few months back, and which I highly recommend.

But I digress.  Ambrosino makes it clear that he does not look to the text as having any measure of truth in it, and he is free to declare that Jesus, the incarnation of the Son of God, has no idea about the true authorship of the Pentateuch.  This is exactly the sort of historical bias so common to modern popular scholarship, epitomized by the likes of Bart Ehrman and others who pursue the (long refuted) Bauer hypothesis, that takes Scripture and reduces it into a pile of disconnected phrases that can be pulled apart and set against one another in the pursuit of human autonomy.

Therefore, Ambrosino is under no obligation, in the eyes of the modern scholar, to recognize that by declaring Jesus as an ignorant no-nothing who assumes that things are how he's always been told rather than being the One who tells, he is completely ignoring the multitude of texts in which Jesus identifies Himself with Yahweh and sets out the idea that the Scriptures are not simply true because Moses wrote them.  They are true because they are about Him.
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.--John 5:37-40
Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, people who believe that they have righteousness within themselves and within their own acts and are offended by Jesus' statements that they are, in fact, sinners in need of repentance.  And like Ambrosino, they use the Scriptures however they wish in order to prop up their own desires, rather than submit to the full testimony of the Scriptures which point unyieldingly to Jesus Christ.

The bottom line error of Ambrosino's hermeneutic is the same error found in the works of Ehrman, Enns and the like: it rejects any idea of God actually being able to reveal His will to His creation.  God, if there is a God, becomes an unfathomable mystery, and we all get to stand around looking smart as we stroke our chins and ponder the universe.  All the while, we scoff at the thought that God actually is fully capable of speaking into creation and has done so clearly.

And so, having begun with the rejection of the supernatural, we then get to take God's revelation and reduce it down into a million pieces, which we can take apart and reconstruct as we will.  Ambrosino is not doing anything new, he's just being a lot more blunt about it: don't like what the Bible says about a topic?  Well, clearly the writer just wasn't as progressive as you are, so you can reject it.  Sin?  So offensive.  Just look to the nice parts about loving people (without making any effort to understand the full argument being made or any definitions) and we have reduced the text to a mishmash of words that, at this point, mean virtually nothing.

Of course, even as we post-moderns live by this idea that we get to define our own reality, we would never treat our own words like that.  I suspect very much that if I were to take Ambrosino's column and read it the way he reads the Bible--ignoring what I don't like, "reimagining" concepts to fit my framework, and completely ignoring contexts for my own benefit--I daresay he would take issue with that.

I want to close by taking a look at a couple sections that display exactly why this style of cafeteria Christianity is utterly untenable:
What the bible most decidedly is not is some type of handbook for navigating the 21st century. It is not God, nor should it be awarded godlike status. (To treat it as such is to break the second commandment.)
Of course, exactly how we can know what the second commandment is, or why we should listen to any of God's commandments given that Ambrosino's contention is "well, the Bible is just wrong some places" is left unexplained.
Are there universal truths contained with the pages of the bible? Absolutely! Are many of those truths relevant in every age and culture, and binding to Christians everywhere? Definitely—loving your neighbor, forgiving your enemies, and looking out for the weak are obligations that Christ has put upon each person who that claims to follow him. Are there passages of Scripture that should be read as if they are describing historical events that actually transpired in this world? Of course—the physical resurrection of Jesus is a non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith.
The inconsistencies abound: if Jesus is not who He says he is, on what grounds exactly does He have the right or ability to make anything binding to anyone.  Furthermore, why did Jesus die, and rise again?  I've heard pastors in mainline liberal churches that had little other interest in a solid, grammatically and historically accurate exegesis of the text that could stand up and say "I believe Jesus was a real person, that he died on the cross, and that he rose again."  But that statement had precisely zero impact on anything else they did, on the way they lived their lives, or on the theology that informed any other preaching to their congregations.  As far as anyone can tell, Jesus rose again because He was just such a nice guy, and you can't keep a good guy down.

I would simply ask Brandon: who exactly does he believe Jesus is?  He's an ignorant peasant walking around just parroting the Torah...and He rose from the dead?  There is no consistency, no real desire to see Jesus as a real person here, let alone as who He said that He was.  The consistent and harmonious testimony of Scripture is rejected, and instead the text is pitted against itself as passages, stripped of context and any meaning beyond the surface, are set at odds the original writers would never have agreed with.

So quite simply, the idea that this would be a "Christian argument" is a non-starter.  To embrace it requires rejecting Scripture's clear testimony about Jesus as the monogenes huios, the one and unique Son of God.  If you do that, there is no foundation to believe in anything Scripture says about Jesus, which renders Ambrosino's statements about Christ's resurrection head-scratchingly odd.  Just as John made it clear that those who denied Christ's having come in the flesh (as opposed to the docetists who believed that Jesus only appeared to be human but was really spirit) were not true Christians but in fact were deceivers and false teachers, likewise you cannot claim that Christ was merely a man who said silly baseless things without abandoning your bona fides of the faith.

But this is why the Bible says that "salvation belongs to the Lord."  Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit no one would believe, because on our own we do not look for God but instead we seek after our own selfish desires.  But thanks be to God for His mercy, in calling His people to Himself in the person and work of Christ.  His mercy is everlasting and His grace is to be desired by all men.  I would say to Brandon Ambrosino: repent of your unbelief, and turn to the real Jesus, the one to which Scripture testifies, not your imagined one who can provide no atonement, cannot testify to the truth of the living God, and certainly cannot bring conviction of or repentance from sin.  Your Jesus cannot heal, cannot find the lost (because he is lost himself), and has utterly no value.  This is not the Christ of Scripture or history.  I would call you to repent, and to know Him as Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I have pondered exactly how to write on the issue of gay marriage in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize it.  I am torn--not on my position on the subject, because that is firm opposition.  Rather, I am torn in exactly how to approach it.  I have friends near and far and coworkers who consider themselves to be homosexual or to be "allies."  My goal here is not to write an angry rant, because I'm not angry and it would accomplish nothing.  Certainly there is a measure of disappointment but that is tempered by the knowledge that God is God, and while man foolishly believes in his own autonomy, God will ultimately be glorified in all things.
The heart of man plans his way,
   but the Lord establishes his steps.

--Proverbs 16:9
However, I have come to face the fact that no matter what I say, no matter how calmly or reasonably I seek to discuss this, at this point there is little room for such things in the eyes of many.  The behavior of so many in recent months has made this abundantly clear: anything short of full-throated endorsement of homosexuality and its partners bisexuality and transgenderism will not be tolerated.  I don't say all this to set myself up as a potential victim; rather, I simply want to lay groundwork for this discussion, and pray that those who disagree with me will 1) actually read through this and allow me to speak for myself, rather than inserting thoughts and claims into my words that I do not actually make, and 2) understand this to be written in a spirit of love.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pardon my tone

I have a long blog post in the works that I may or may not get finished today that will discuss issues related to the gay marriage decision and its fallout, but in the aftermath of the release of the Planned Parenthood video revealing that abortions are often performed in such a way so as to maximize the ability of the doctors to harvest organs from the dead child, I couldn't let this story pass by without comment:

Reuters: Planned Parenthood head sorry for tone in video on fetal tissue use

Let's start with just the headline.  Firstly, as the good Dr. White remarked on Twitter yesterday, "tone" seems to have become the most dastardly crime one can commit--you can say the most heinous thing imaginable, but if you say it in a nice way or in such a way that it seems like you are trying to be sensitive to others, that excuses the actual content of the statement.  Of course, given that our culture today seems to be rapidly fleeing from the idea that language has any firm meaning, I suppose this shouldn't be terribly surprising, but it is still head-smackingly inane.

Secondly, I realize that Reuters is probably using the phrase "fetal tissue" because it is considered by the bulk of the media to be the most "neutral" phrase, but I believe this is a sign that the idea of the secular worldview being completely on board with all things proven true scientifically is complete nonsense.  I still find it fascinating that in this day and age, far advanced beyond the then-rudimentary prenatal knowledge of 1973, we still continue to pretend that we haven't had it established beyond any reasonable doubt that a fetus* is a child, a separate and new life.  The only thing that could possibly make it more clear at this point would be a literally transparent womb, and we virtually have that with the incredible advances in ultrasound imaging now available.

Just a few parts of the story I wanted to comment on:
Planned Parenthood's president apologized on Thursday for the "tone and statements" of a senior staff member who was secretly recorded in a video that critics say suggests the U.S. reproductive health organization sells aborted fetal tissue. Despite Planned Parenthood's denials of the allegation, the video's release earlier this week has rapidly spurred investigations in the Republican-led U.S. Congress. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a new video statement that the nonprofit organization does not profit from fetal tissue donation.
The verbal sleight-of-hand I have been seeing by PP defenders on Facebook is ever-present: "selling" versus "profiting."  We'll let slide the fact that they absolutely do profit from providing the abortions themselves.  I'm sure once the various governors and attorneys general investigating this are done, we'll have a very clear count of exactly what sort of margin Planned Parenthood is pulling down on baby livers.
She also apologized for the remarks of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, its senior director of medical services, recorded discussing fetal body parts over lunch and wine in a restaurant. She was meeting with actors posing as buyers from a biological company. "Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion," said Richards, whose statement did not name Nucatola.
This concept continues from the above defense being used by many right now: talk about Planned Parenthood as though it's a poor put-upon woman's clinic that just happens to have some detractors.  Don't allow anyone to bring up what is actually being discussed in the video: the murder of unborn children, and that murder being done in a particular way so as to preserve certain organs for use by others.  This is being acclaimed by the defenders, appallingly enough, as some sort of act akin to organ donation (I even saw one person, without the slightest sense of self-awareness, say "You must be against organ donation" to someone writing about this in a similar vein to me right now.)  This goes along with the longtime claim of abortion rights supporters: unborn children are just tissue, their disposal is the right of the mother and is without consequence.

The conscience-scarring act of adopting this viewpoint vexes me to the core, and demands a cry of "Repent!" from every believer.  Not because we are morally superior, but precisely because the only reason we have any different perspective on our own humanity beyond "It's there for me to do as I please" is by the grace of God.  That we have come to encourage mothers to regard their unborn offspring, the most helpless state of human life one could imagine, as simply a clump of tissue to be disposed of is wicked, and surely it is just as wicked as those who labored to defend the institution of slavery in the United States by claiming that an institution which debased and degraded its victims to the level of animal was, in fact, for their benefit.  George Orwell certainly did not invent doublespeak, but he codified very well the thought process of humanity when it rejects its Creator and chooses slavery and death.

And so it is with "compassionate care."  I fully acknowledge that Planned Parenthood does do many good things in providing needed healthcare for women, especially women without a great deal of means.  That does not excuse the wickedness of calling the act of killing an unborn child "compassionate care."

Finally, there's this:
Richards said Planned Parenthood stood by its work helping women to donate tissue for "lifesaving" research. "We know the real agenda of organizations behind videos like this," she said. "Their mission is to ban abortion completely and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood and other health centers."
If I may be so bold: you are bloody right it is.  Just like it was the goal of abolitionists like William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman to see the practice of slavery abolished and to see an end to the treatment of African-Americans as subhuman, so today those who have been set free from bondage to sin by the power of the Holy Spirit must raise their voice in protest against those who would degrade the imago Dei through this assault on motherhood and on our most helpless.

And I choose to do this by pointing out the evil in this practice, and by calling all who consider this act to be acceptable to have their eyes opened, to see the truth of what abortion really is before them, and to repent and know true forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ.  I do this because eliminating abortion is not the true end: the true end is in our work as ministers of reconciliation, calling our fellow imagebearers of God around us to the foot of the cross of Christ and to the true life only found in the Spirit.

*And I don't say "fetus" derogatorily, it's a legitimate word to describe a particular point in life just like "zygote" or "child" or "adolescent" is, or like "larva" is for an insect.  The issue comes in when the word is loaded down with the implication that "fetus" means "clump of random cells that are totally not at all anything you should worry about until they magically turn into a baby on the way down the birth canal."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Keeping our balance

It's that time again, and for at least the time being it's the last time.  C3 Academy has ended and so to commemorate I present my last paper for the systematic theology class, this one on the ever-popular subject of eschatology.  For the record, I don't necessarily consider myself firmly set in any of the camps, as I can see the arguments for and against the various positions, and would like to study the issue more.  But the paper isn't necessarily about any particular position, but rather it's about an issue that's been on my mind lately as I've seen one inane internet debate after another over issues that distract from Gospel centrality: what's really most important to our theology as Christians?  Read on:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Book review: The Heresy of Orthodoxy

Recently I linked a review of Peter Enns' book by Michael Kruger of Reformed Theological Seminary.  Well, recent by this blog's standards, which is "roughly within the last six months."  I have been meaning to get around to reviewing a book that he and Andreas Kostenburg wrote, The Heresy of Orthodoxy.  I can't recommend this book enough for anyone wanting to deal with the common secular claims about Scripture.  Whether you're dealing with someone who just got done reading a Bart Ehrman book or watching the latest horrible CNN "documentary" attempting to undermine the testimony of Scripture, this book will be an excellent and helpful work to go through because it exposes and examines the root of all those writings: the Bauer hypothesis which is essentially a rejection of any idea of a supernatural establishment of the church, and instead proposes warring groups of Christians with different beliefs that were eventually all subdued under one "orthodoxy" through the power of one of those groups. (You may recognize this as the plot to The DaVinci Code, except with fewer church ninjas.  Not none...just fewer.)

In all seriousness, there are three main reasons this book is a great investment for a believer wanting to understand the history of the church and defend the faith from these sort of attacks:

  1. It discusses at length not just the evidence, but the presuppositions that drive the way all evidence is examined by those who follow in the footsteps of Walter Bauer.  The general method of attacking Christianity and establishing a notion of society as a religion-less, secular entity is rooted in the ideas discussed here, that Scripture did not come from men inspired by God and the church does not teach what it does because those men taught the consistent revelation given to them, but rather they just happened to be "the winners" in a battle of differing beliefs.  However, their claims are rooted not in an unbiased examination of historical data, but rather filtering all that data through a worldview that says "there is nothing beyond immediate physical human experience, therefore, it couldn't have happened in the way claimed."  In doing so, those promoting this position make a series of assumptions that reveal that they are not "doing unbiased history," but rather are in fact making theological claims of their own.  
  2. It examines the evidence given in support of these claims, and as noted above, shows how the conclusions drawn from their evidential claims require one to start from a position not actually drawn from that evidence, but from a presupposition of secular humanism.  
  3. It is written in a way that a lay believer will be able to engage with and understand without having to gain a scholastic vocabulary, and it also has extensive notation allowing those wanting to dig deeper to find many resources to learn more about the subjects being discussed.  
Easter weekend is a time that media outlets love to trot out the latest attempt to undermine the truth of the Gospel, whether it's the latest "Tomb of Jesus" or "Did Jesus really exist?" or "FOUND: The Gospel of ____" nonsense.  This is a time that can be trying for us as we try to evangelize those around us as well as engage in worship with our brothers and sisters: how do we respond to this while still displaying our love for God and our fellow man?  How can we defeat lies with the truth without becoming angry jerks?  Preparing ourselves with what is true, being in Scripture consistently is key, and a book like this only helps to buttress a well-laid foundation with further context.

This is also an excellent opportunity for believers to brush up on their church history, a subject about which many of us are woefully ignorant, which exposes us to this sort of attack.  This book exposes the Christian to and prepares the Christian for that attack with the knowledge needed to engage the thinking behind it, and most importantly, to preach the Gospel meaningfully in response to it.  Not in the "You're a liar and you need Jesus" way I see used so often and so pointlessly on the Internet, but in a way that shows we are listening to what our opponents are saying, and we do have a real response that continues to focus on our need for Christ.  There is another book that focuses on the other common point of attack during this time, but I will review that later...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pressures of church and state

Apologies for the long delay again.  But: I have a good reason!  I have started a podcast with the help from a friend at church, and I would direct you all to check it out.  It's called Spurgeon Audio, and I am reading through the sermons and writings of Charles Spurgeon, works that have served as great inspirations to me in my walk as a believer.  I hope you will all be edified and share it as you see fit.  It is on iTunes, and the link to subscribe is at the website.

This is another entry publishing a paper I've written for the still-ongoing C3 Academy, the classes my church is putting on to help raise up leaders within the laity.  This paper is on the subject of the relationship between the church and the state.  If you are a theonomist, you may not care for this paper, but then I am not trying to please theonomists.  Read on:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The common grace of tragedy

The wickedness of men is on full display as per usual, and tonight's edition comes in the form of the latest atrocity perpetrated by ISIS.  The radical Islamist group has released video of them beheading a group of Christians, features quotes from the Qu'ran and accusing the Copts (the particular Christian group to which these victims of ISIS' murderous deeds belonged) of evil deeds against Muslims and Islam.   Naturally the response online has been vocal and strident, condemning ISIS and many calling for further action to be taken against them.  It is not my intention to weigh in on that issue, because I think the answer is a clear: Romans 13 gives the sword to governments to wield in the name of pursuing justice and defending the weak.  No, the issue here is: how should believers, seeing their brothers being murdered for their faith, react to this?  Anger is natural, but blinding and too often destructive to what we are called to do even in the face of such oppression.  There are many passages that come to mind when these events occur, and the first one that I thought of is one that I've used previously:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”-Luke 13:1-5
I always come back to Jesus' response in times of great tragedy: He doesn't rant against Roman oppression, nor express helpless sadness at the seemingly meaningless loss of life in either example He discusses.  Rather, He turns the issue right back on those who came to Him: tragedy is not a sign that the sufferer was a greater sinner, but rather it is a warning that judgment is coming to everyone.
To be sure, there is a link between sin and suffering.  Were it not for the presence of sin in the world, there would be no suffering.  Sin brought death, pain and suffering into the world, and because the world is under the power of sin, suffering is a daily reality within it.  But the fact that a person suffers, does not indicate a direct relationship to his particular sin.--R.C. Sproul, Walking with God: Luke, p.276  
But what do we say in the face of such wicked actions?  Why shouldn't Christians just do the same thing any other seemingly reasonable person would do and arm up to go to war?  Because we do not have the same relationship with death that the natural man does, both in our understanding of what death truly is--a display of the brokenness brought into the world by sin--and in what death truly means to us as an end to this mortal life:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.-Philippians 1:21
But the fact is, most people don't see death this way, certainly not such a death as this.  It shocks, angers, saddens, and so it should.  Because outside of Christ, we simply stand in Adam and we stand to gain nothing but what we have earned through a lifetime of rebellion against God.  Death is the result of sin.  But at the same time, death can also be seen as a common grace--for observers.  Certainly, those who came to Jesus were called to heed that grace and repent, and that is the call believers must make in all tragedy: not a simplistic fear-mongering, but a sincere and loving Gospel call to repent and turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But what of the brothers who died?  So many have died and will die, before the end, before Christ returns and sets all things right.  How do we face that?  Not recklessly, because we are called to be wise and winsome in how we live and deal with those around us.  But we can be bold, we can face danger bravely, and it is because of this that I turn to the truth expressed in the simple phrase "perseverance of the saints": God saves His people perfectly, leads them through paths He has laid to strengthen them, and there is nothing that will prevent Him from accomplishing His purposes.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.-Romans 8:31-39
I think Christians need to be wise about how we discuss this, as our Muslim neighbors are watching.  I'm not talking about AK47-wielding radicals, I'm talking about our literal physical neighbors, many of whom came here because they wanted to get away from groups like ISIS and the deadly influence they have on them and their families, wanting to worship in peace.  Yet at the same time, we know that simply escaping that is not sufficient, for apart from the saving grace of Christ they will perish in their sin just as much as the murderous radical.  There is no amount of good work that will ever balance out the scales in one's own favor, no amount of prayers, alms, service, or pilgrimage will ever put you in good standing before a holy and just God.  Only by His grace and by the atonement of His Son in your place can you have righteousness, freedom, and right standing with God.

This doesn't mean that we don't speak out against such wicked behavior, but we need to exercise wisdom, and remember that even in this God provides avenues for His Word to go forth, that nothing stops the Holy Spirit from His work.  Love your neighbors.  Do good to those that persecute you.  Our freedom even in the face of death to obey means that we ought to love well even those who wish to stand in our way.

"Easy for you to say, from your comfortable not-being-threatened-by-soldiers home in America!"  Yes, it is.  And this is something even I have to take to heart--after all, this blog is more about me preaching to myself than to anyone else.  But even here there is great need for the Gospel to go forward in the face of danger and threats, and for people to be bold in the way they love.  My prayer is that the way I live, and the way I die, are not just a common grace exercised for the momentary comfort of a rebel awaiting judgment, but that they would be used in His saving grace, in removing hard stony, sin-loving hearts and replacing them with hearts of flesh, desiring to glorify God through giving up selfishness and turning to worship the true Lord of all.