The Second Day of Christmas

“Sardonic” is the word that inadequately describes the events of this year’s second day of Christmas, December 14th, 2012.  As the classic Christmas song says, true love’s gift was two turtle doves.

Historically the dove represents the peace. France, Germany, Ireland, and Australia and other nations have minted coins with the image of a dove sometimes with an olive branch. This image hearkens back to the biblical account of Noah’s Ark when Noah sent a dove to see whether the land was suitable for for life after God destroyed the whole Earth with a flood. That dove returned with a green olive branch revealing not only that the land was safe, but that new life had returned, God’s anger had subsided, and there was peace between man and God again, albeit a temporary peace.  The turtle dove (streptopelia turtur) is among the few of natures creatures that mate for life. In most cases when one dove dies, the other will live the rest of its life in solitude, and often follows in death shortly after its mate for sorrow of the loss. This attribute has been used in prose and poetry for several hundred years to tell of the longing and desire between people in love.  A pair of turtle doves thus represents the peace that the whole world groans for and love’s longing for communion between the closest of friends.  What a thing to do on a day when we should have been left to consider peace and love.

I am on the end of the curve of people who have commented on what happened last Friday, but here are a few points of though that have come out of the interactions I have had on the subject.

1. There is Rejoicing in the Sadness

Virtually no one would disagree that Friday’s events were horrific.  The most heinous crimes seem insignificant when we think of 5 and 6 year old children who have barely begun life cut off from it so quickly and mercilessly.  It is even more saddening for the parents of those children who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, because their belief systems deny even their beloved child any certainty of a better place or end of suffering. Some will hold that their children simply ceased to exist or that their fates cannot be known.  But the Bible points clearly to the salvation of these children. The implications in John 9:41 and Psalm 22:9-10 indicate God’s prenatal election, and Romans 1:20 clearly states that it is only those who have had the opportunity to see God though what has been made who are “…without excuse.”  Thus a child without the ability to trace the wonders of Creation back to the Creator do have an excuse and cannot be condemned.  This means that at this moment there are 20 children rejoicing around the throne of Christ without pain or tears.  Furthermore, they are bearing witness and giving their affirmation to the justice of God against their antagonist.  In heaven there are no tears for the punishment of what is evil, because the population of heaven is fully caught up in the glories of God Himself.  It is different for us here and now. We see “in part,” so we mourn for every lost person. But in heaven we will not morn for them.  In heaven justice is served and God is even more glorious for it.

2. We must be careful with blame.

When atrocities cause us, or those we care for, pain it is completely natural and instinctual to ask at least two questions: “how did this happen?” and “how can I make sure it never happens again?”  These questions should be asked.  The need to be asked.  But the answers we come up with will be, in large part, the determiners of our future.  Many would like to blame guns.  Many would like to blame mental illness.  Some would even like to blame school security.  All these things could make an impact. I would like to address these three issues separately, but begin with the main point: there is no one to blame except Adam Lanza.  He picked up the gun, pointed it at his mother and pulled the trigger knowing what guns do and knowing who his mother was, he pulled the trigger and committed murder.  And then he went to the school and did it 25 more times before pointing the gun at himself and pulling the trigger.  The last line of defense against this type of crime is not gun control, treatments for mental illness or school security.  The last line of defense is a person’s willingness to obey God’s 7th commandment and not commit murder because it is wrong.  Adam failed to do so.

In regards to gun control, it would be caustically insensitive to take a cavalier “just goes to show you what happens when you regulate guns!” approach and it would be just as insensitive to say “just goes to show you what happens when you let anyone have a gun!”  Regulation/deregulation of guns did not cause Adam Lanza to murder 26 people, rather his conscious decision to murder them did.  Cases have been cited… Min Yingjun in China wielded a knife in a school and severely injured 22 children and a teacher; the Pearl River, MS shooting where another disturbed young man entered a school and the gun carrying principal ended the attack before it became a catastrophe.  Guns are tools in the hands of their users, and will be used for whatever purposes their owners see fit (and when I say “owners” I mean the person holding the gun, not necessarily the person listed on its registration).  Adam Lanza could have killed without a gun.  He could have systematically stabbed 26 people to death.  He also could have killed with a bomb made from household cleaning supplies that he learned to build from a YouTube video and we might have been mourning the deaths of every student and teacher in that school.  What we do to stop this kind of attack should not begin or end with guns, because guns are not the beginning or the ending of the problem.  Human wickedness is.  We can choose to deal with human wickedness by hiding behind the police, metal detectors, aggression suppressing drugs, and legislation, or we can hope for the best (maintaining our freedoms, and not living in fear) while preparing for the worst (arming ourselves and our teachers with the tools, and maybe even the guns, to protect our kids).

I am not a mental illness professional, nor do I claim to have any special insight into the mind of Adam Lanza, his mother, his brother, or anyone at the scene the Newtown shootings.  It does strike me as inexplicable how a man with a history of violence and mental instability was not paid closer attention.  I cannot place blame on Lanza’s mother for the mental disturbance that lead him to kill, but if anyone knew his capacities for violence ought it not to have been his mother?  A popular web article titled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” does no service to the case for explaining this kind of shooting away with mental illness.  There are no solutions provided in the article to the essential problem that a child has been raised who is a violent threat to anyone with whom he interacts and no restraint has been placed upon him that would curb his behavior if the threats did become deadly.  The mother discusses the threats, admits she’s afraid for her life, even has trained her other two children to hide when her disturbed son goes on one of his rampages.  All the while she hasn’t done the things that would make herself and the larger society safe.  Discipline starts younger than 13 and can be exercised over the most unruly of children, but when all measures have been taken and a mother has to resort to police force on a regular basis, it’s time to press the charges. Do the paper work. No matter the embarrassment to yourself or your son, it is in his best interests to have the root of the problem brought to the light and addressed rather than hiding the ticking of the time bomb.

School security is another issue nation wide.  In almost every context the idea of “security” refers to rules for safety being enforced by an authority figure.  On the highway a police officer may stop someone for recklessly driving.  In the home it’s mom and dad who, in homes where biblical discipline is exercised, make the rules known and see to it that there are consequences when the rules are broken.  But there is a protective side to security.  The police officer is sworn to protect the lives of innocent bystanders.  At home parents should provide a safe, loving environment, for their children where they feel secure.  This includes defending their children from danger.  Here in Ohio, self-defense laws extend from parent to child as an extension of themselves.  In one account of the shootings in Newtown, CT a teacher, huddling her children together in a corner of her class room, told the students “There are bad guys outside and we have to hide and be quiet until the good guys come for us.”  This is not security. The problem here is that the teacher did not prepare herself or recognize that she is one of the good guys.  Had the school staff been prepared to protect the school from an armed attacker, perhaps the result would have been more similar to the attack in Pearl River, MS.

3. Our faith must not be shaken.

From the beginning of time there have been senseless killings.  It takes the Bible only 4 chapters to record the first murder.  Today conservative estimates place the world’s population over 8 billion.  The population at the time that Cain killed Abel? Four.  With only 4 people on the planet.  One still found a reason to kill another.  God punished Cain and history progressed.  Since then countless thousands have been murdered.  Some deserving of it.  Other’s seemingly innocent.  Men, women, and children have been killed for every reason under the sun and the world’s philosopher’s have rightly asked a resounding: “Why?”  Without an answer to this question we run the risk of becoming shallow, ineffective Christians.  Have you reconciled events like Sandy Hook to the goodness of God?  Can you explain the depravity of man and God’s common grace to someone if you are asked?  Individually we might all do well to read John Piper’s book, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, and seek to deepen our faith by sinking it deep in a foundation of God’s word and our local churches.

4. Hug your kids.

I was encouraged to see a number of articles and posts from various outlets depicting parents dropping off their children for school Monday morning.  The faces were somber, but the parents were walking the kids to the door, holding them tight, getting an extra hug and kiss.  We would be remiss to allow this kind of event to take place without considering the possibility that it could have been our school, it could have been our child.  In this way we share vicariously a small part of the painful burden that the parents of Sandy Hook’s students feel now.  We do not know God’s will for our children.  We can pray for safety and prosperity and health.  The most beneficial gift we can give them is to preach the gospel to them at home every day in word and deed.  But we do not have a guarantee that some tragedy will never befall them, so remember that there are a finite number of slobbery kisses and hugs, first steps and games of patty-cake.  Treasure every moment.  Take a few days off work.  Get to know your kids and develop loving, secure relationships with each of them.  Visit your school’s administrators and ask about their emergency plans.  Buy a gun and get some basic training in case you ever have to defend your home and family.


I hope this helps you think through some of these issues.  If you disagree, I’d love to discuss the topic at more length with you in the comments section!

Merry Christmas!

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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Snippets


“…and use words if necessary.”

I recently was in a casual conversation when a friend of mine, another believer in Christ, mentioned that he’d been serving somewhere and “incarnating” the gospel.  I said something to the effect of “That’s an interesting way to put it. Were you able to share the gospel with them?”  his response was a slightly back peddling “Well I only use words when necessary.”  This is a common sentiment particularly among the MacArthur termed Young Restless and Reformed and much of the evangelical youth on up to my own peers, the 20 somethings.

This, naturally sent me off into the cloud of confusion that usually results in some reading, some prayer, some contemplation and the eventual establishment of a principal I try to live by.

My friend’s reference was to words attributed to St. Francis of Asissi, the Franciscan monk, scholar, and hymn writer.  The complete alleged quote is “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”.  The Franciscans were an ascetic order which took vows of extreme poverty.  Most authorities on the matter do not consider these words likely to have been said by Francis himself.

More concerning than the validity of the quotation, however, is the upsetting set of theological implications that are to be dealt with if it is indeed possible and (it would seem) preferable to preach the gospel without using words.  Here are a few of the issues that immediately come to mind as I consider the quotation.

1. Preaching is an inherently verbal practice.

The Bible never uses the term “preaching” or “teaching” in any way except one of a verbal nature.  “And then Jesus preached to them by washing their feet.”?  I don’t think so. Our service can certainly confirm our words but I think we’d be hard pressed to express the width and breadth of the good news of Jesus Christ coming to earth only by our actions.  I wonder if Paul could have performed on his claim in Acts 20:27 if he were only given the gift of service and not of preaching or teaching.

2. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, not me.

A turn of phrase that often accompanies quotes like this is the “being” of the gospel.  “that poor old woman just needs someone to be the gospel to her.”, or “we just need to be the gospel to those starving children in Africa.”  These sentiments attempt to get at the point that we should do something about the suffering of our fellow man, but they also try to create an equality that doesn’t exist.  I am NOT the gospel. Jesus IS the gospel.  I am not good news to anyone unless I bring them to Jesus. I do not have the power to save them from sin.  Jesus does!  What I need to do is be a Christian to those in need.

Just a little food for thought….


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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Snippets


Kony 2012

A lot has been said already and I’ve waited intentionally to “jump on the bandwagon”.

It has never seemed right to me to do what everyone else is doing simply because they are doing it.

When I heard about the Kony 2012 video I had no idea who Joseph Kony is.  When I saw how excited some people are about it my gut told me not to watch it for a first impression.  The type of public reception the video has received has all the hallmarks of a successful viral video: inspirational background music, a message that purports the idea of being part of something bigger than myself, an appeal to ecumenical feelings of right and wrong (in this case, the affliction of children), and a vivid focus (I lost count of how many times Kony’s name was mentioned at 70. that was less than half way through the video).  The kind that urges viewers to do something without thinking “repost”, “like” “+1”, “retweet”, or comment.  Not that i’m saying the video is wrong or that Kony is a nice guy that is just misunderstood, but I have a personal aversion to doing things without thinking.  This blog is about using your head, so let’s go on a mental adventure and mull over a few of the ideas surrounding the Kony 2012 campaign and the global events that brought it into being. So I set out to answer a few questions for myself: Who is he? What’s he doing? Should I be involved?

The CIA World Fact Book does not have any information posted on Joseph Kony (which typically means he’s a person of interest).

Amnesty International is calling for his arrest for several years.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has a Warrant of Arrest issued for Kony and his top commanders.

The one thing I find surprising in this case is that Kony, himself, has been so shy before the cameras.  There are a handful of interviews out there and they all seem to begin the same way “in an undisclosed area of the Ugandan [or Congo] bush…”  Obviously the man is hiding from the Ugandan government and is a world-wide criminal, but why shy from the cameras?  Normally men like this can’t get enough of the cameras.  They are egotistical and need the outlet of public communication to feed their desire to feel in control.  One of the most popular Kony posters features shadows of Joseph Stalin and Osama Bin-Laden with Joseph Kony in the foreground.  But Stalin and Bin-laden used the media to propagate their cause and control their followers while seems to Kony avoid it.  This is to his disadvantage because it leaves us only with the view presented to us by the Ugandan government and a few unsubstantiated witnesses.  The one interview I did appreciate was done by ABC (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Company, not the US network).  In this interview Kony, himself claims that the rumors of rape and mutilations are propaganda used by the Ugandan government to silence him.  While Jason Russel’s video claims that Kony “has no political ideals” and “seeks only to maintain power”, Kony identifies himself as a “freedom fighter, fighting for democracy in Uganda … against the dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni”.

Too quickly we forget that while the current president of Uganda claims to be the chief of a democratic state, he achieved that status by military means that relied heavily on the thousands of child soldiers that he kidnapped from rural villages and indoctrinated for his own purposes.  His first governmental post was taken after a successful rebellion against Idi Amin in 1979.  He achieved the status of Chairman or the Presidential Comission that same year by a de facto coup and used that position to run for the presidency.  He lost the race and responded by going to war with the winning candidate.  The result was the “war in the bush” that lasted 1981-1986 with Museveni in power.  In a speech he declared that all resistance groups would be “smashed without mercy”.  In March of 1989 Amnesty International published a report entitled Uganda, the Human Rights Record 1986–1989 which detailed the vast abuses of Museveni’s regime.

It seems that hunting down Kony without going after Museveni too is like worrying about a guard dog on a leash when there’s a guy with a shot gun standing right behind it.  The violations of human rights in Uganda are heartbreaking, but in the grander scheme of things, catching, trying and sentencing Joseph Kony will not destroy the LRA.  It will not stop the 1000 displaced victims of war from dying every day from disease and malnutrition.  It will not stop the government from enlisting child fighters.  To put it succinctly, Joseph Kony is not the problem, neither is Yoweri Museveni.  Human nature is the problem.  Unregenerate people will always rise to power at the abuse of others.  That is the world of sin that we live in.

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Snippets


Roe vs. Wade

Controversial topics like these, I simply can’t resist.  This one strikes especially close to my heart, however as I became a father two months ago and I think my little girl is the most adorable thing in the world.  The mere conception that, had a potentially dangerous test result been discovered during our prenatal visits the OB would likely have given us the option of aborting my beautiful little girl (see the Photos page), kind of makes me want to vomit.

Our president commented Sunday on the anniversary of RvW. “…protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom…” and that the processes of having an abortion are “…private family matters…”

It would seem that Mr. Obama would have you believe that he is protecting both the constitutional rights of women across America as well as the the freedom of individual families to do what they want without government interference.  Both probably sound good to every even half-heartedly conservitave mind out there.  The thought system breaks down when you realize that what we’re discussing is actually murder.

What the president is really saying is that he seeks to protect the right of all American women to commit murder, and the government should protect private family murders. Sure…

Scripture is very clear that person-hood begins at conception; that God “knit [us] together in the womb”.  It could even be argued that by God’s sovereignty our existence is ordained long before birth.  The current debate over person-hood runs in circles attempting to determine when (as if there were some magical point) a new life is “viable”.  Not until a live birth is completed, 6 months, audible heart-beat, brain activity, 12 weeks… these are attempts to set a time at which we can say “now this is a human who is protected under the laws of our land” due to the fact that someday this baby/fetus/zygote will be a fully functional independently living adult and member of society.

The missing link is that none of these developmental markers determine when a human is “viable” because man does not ordain the birth of any child.  Before He laid the foundations of the Earth, each and every one of us were in the mind of God, complete and purposed human beings who at that very moment were considered “viable” by the only judgement that counts.

Consider this as you contemplate the, now 39 year old failure of our Judicial system to serve justice to 65,000 Americans who were murdered before they could speak a word in free speech or lift a finger in protest.

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Snippets


snippets (1/21/12)

Spanking – Their new stance on spanking isn’t really the issue with CT magazine’s January ’12 article (while I disagree completely with it, it’s a topic for a different time).  What’s really at stake is the interpretation of scripture as a whole.  William Webb’s so called “trajectory hermeneutic” is a not-so-thinly disguised form of interpretive liberalism, because the doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture means that there can be no higher ethic.

Sexual Transparency and Scripture – Jerry Wragg responds to some pastors and authors who tend toward the explicit, no-holds-barred type of discussions of sexuality.

Bloodlines – John Piper’s book available for PDF download for free. I read the first chapter this morning and I’m excited to dig in further.  Give it a read and comment with your thoughts!

“Believing, therefore, that there is such a thing as truth, and such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and that the gospel consists in something definite which is to be believed by men, it becomes to us decided as to what we teach, and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and he will not be honored by our delivering falsehoods. . .

Neither less nor more than God’s Word are we called to state, but that Word we are bound to declare in a spirit which convinces the sons of men that, whatever they may think of it, we believe God, and are not to be shaken in our confidence in him.”

C. H. Spurgeon

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Snippets


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snippets (1/5/11)

Wedding Pictures – I’m so glad people still celebrate weddings! Now if we could just get the news to stop celebrating divorces.

Sarah McKinley – I’d like your feedback on this one. What do you think?

Called to Ministry – My church is in the process of evaluating a man for our pastoral staff.  I found this short questionnaire helpful.  There are many more considerations, of course, but this is a good start.

Theology & Slaves? – Trevin Wax takes a look at some of the theological fathers of reformed theology and their support of slavery.  It’s an interesting and informational read.


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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Snippets


Science & Scripture

Webster’s definition of Science is as follows:

1. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena

2. Knowledge, especially that gained through experience.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed what I perceive (by observation) to be an increasing enmity between the modern evangelical protestant church and the self-named and ominous “scientific community.”  A 2008 film by Ben Stein highlights some of the more blatant clashes between titans of respected religious, philosophical and scientific trains of thought.  What grabbed my attention in reading David Mathis’ recent post on the Desiring God Blog and caused me no little annoyance was the presumptive lack of flexibility in the analysis of the “star” Matthew 2:9 coupled with some extensive literary license taken with the origins of the Magi.

He rightly recognizes the fact that the term “magi” is a derivative of the modern English “magician” (who could miss that?).  But he goes on to attribute paganism, star worship, “dark arts”, and other assumptions to their activities which we are given no historical or biblical reason to believe.  All we’re told is that they are “wise” and “from the east.”  We have no insight into their ethnicity, race, religious views or beliefs, not even a hint as to their homeland except that it is east of Bethlehem.  By their own accounts we learn that they are students of the stars, but beyond that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about other things in which they may or may not have been involved.  There are historical descriptions of wise, star studying groups from this time period anywhere from Persia (modern Iran) to China, so we can really have no particular knowledge into the theology of the traveling astronomers that visited Christ.  What we do know is that they responded in some form of faith to the observation of an astrological phenomena and were even guided by visions from God later in the Nativity story.

The star itself is a much bigger building block for the biblical account of the nativity than, I think, Mathis gives credit.  He brushes off a 400 year old mathematical proof of the confluence of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on or about March of 4 b.c. with an extreme literal view of Matthew’s statement, “And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.” (Matt 2:9)

What we know from scripture about the star we glean from Matthew.  The gospel writer did not witness the star any more than he witnessed the birth of Jesus.  His account is at best second hand.  This doesn’t discredit the account, but it gives credence to the language used to describe the natural phenomena unfolding in the sky.  To the naked eye it looked like a star, but unlike a star it moved and came to rest over Bethlehem.  In 1604 Johannes Kepler observed the confluence of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in the constellation of Pisces under the direct light of the sun.  The three planets coming together in this way created a southward shifting luminous mass that, according to Kepler, appeared  “like the most beautiful and glorious torch ever seen when driven [southward] by a strong wind.”  Matthew says it was a star because for all his intents and purposes it looked like a star.  Not because it met modern science’s definition of a star.  To a reader of Matthew’s gospel around 70 a.d. there would have been numerous coinciding accounts of some kind of strange light happening over Bethlehem that the reader could verify with surviving first hand observers for him/her -self.  Matthew’s intention was to tell the story as it had happened in a way that would irrefutably prove the Gospel of Christ’s coming to be true.  Be it a supernaturally placed mobile ball of light, or a multi-planetary alignment illuminated by the sun, to the wise men from the east it appeared to be a star and they followed in faith to Bethlehem.

What concerns me most here is the assumption that somehow natural laws or “science” and God’s super natural activities are irreconcilable or that we have to choose between being a faithful teacher of scripture and using reason and logic to interpret our observations.  We name laws of physics, mathematics, etc. usually based on the man or woman who “discovered” them. Hence we have Newton’s laws, Ohm’s Law, Coulomb’s Law.  But we need to remember as believers in a God who created all things that these men only dis-covered these laws.  They uncovered, or revealed what God had hidden everyone before them.  The laws science don’t change as science advances, our perceptions of them change as we discover more of God’s creation.  Gravity existed before we proved it.  A^2 + B^2 was equal to C^2 before Pythagoras realized it.  God knows how to move within his creation and He planned all these events before the beginning of time.  Consider the possibility that God, as he wound up the universe and before He let it start spinning, calculated the exact moment when He would need to align three planets with a constellation in order for them to outshine all the other stars and move southward from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  God could certainly accomplish that.  What need is there for a non-science employing method of explanation for a moving star when we have a perfectly good one?

Our Heavenly Father is the author of scripture and science, and in Him there is no inconsistency.

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Snippets