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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Seeing But Not Seeing

This morning I was reading a familiar story from John chapter 9. Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind. The reaction of his neighbors is predictable: "This man looks just like our friend the blind man! Wait, is this the blind man? No, it can't be!" The blind man was like, "Yep, I'm him!" Then he told them that Jesus had healed him, which is probably what got him into trouble. Don't ever forget: your witness for Jesus may get you into hot water from time to time. That's no reason not to do it!

Anyway, his "friends" took him to the Pharisees, a group of very influential religious leaders of the day, and the Pharisees questioned him. According to their rules (not God's rules!), Jesus was breaking religious law by essentially practicing medicine on the Sabbath. (Basically, if you've ever heard a Christian berating another Christian for having a job that has them working on a Sunday, that's the same idea.) It was clear to everyone around that someone could not perform this miracle of healing unless God sent him, but this flew in the face of the Pharisees' belief system. Instead of looking at the plain fact that Jesus' actions proved that He was from God and that their belief system was flawed, they chose to try to preserve their belief system by refusing to believe that the event had even taken place. They brought in the man's parents and asked them if this was the blind guy - they were afraid of being excommunicated, so they confirmed the facts of the situation (yes, he's our son, yes, he was blind when he was born) without ever saying whether they believed Jesus was from God. They just threw their poor son under the bus: "He's a grown-up, ask him what happened!"

They brought the man back in and questioned him again about Jesus. The man stuck to his guns - "I don't know if your rules are true, but I know I can see!" Then they asked him to tell them again how Jesus had done it, and the guy finally lost his patience. Basically, he said "I told you my story already. Why are you so interested in Jesus anyway?" Then he tossed some waterproof theology their way, and in return they threw him out of the church (the thing his parents were afraid was going to happen to them).

Now, the Pharisees knew Jesus had come from God. In John 3:1-2 one of them actually came to Jesus and told him as much. These guys weren't looking for knowledge or truth... they were looking for a way to force the truth to fit their flawed belief system.

As I was reading this, I was reminded of the controversy several years ago about "gender" - political and even scientific leadership were (and are) arguing that gender is somehow a mental or emotional state, or equivalent to the sexual activities in which one chooses to engage. When I was growing up, it was obvious to everyone that "gender" referred to the plumbing in one's body, not the state of one's mind. There were and are clearly two distinct configurations. Now, there have always been people who have the same configuration of body parts who were attracted to one another - I don't think anyone denies that fact. Many people of faith believe, based on things they read in the Bible, that sexual activity between persons with the same plumbing is contrary to Scripture, and thus sinful. But even people who thinks it is sinful do not deny that the attraction sometimes exists or that the activity happens.

The new thing in the past five years or so is that people with various sexual orientations (and well-meaning people who want them to feel included in society) are choosing to redefine the word "gender" and the noun "sex" to mean a whole host of things related to emotional states and sexual desires, leaving no word in the English language that means "I have a this and you have a that, so our bodies are different." It seems to me that this amounts to the same thing as "You can see and that would mean that Jesus is from God, but he can't be from God because he broke our rule." It seems like this attack on the English language is there to support preconceived ideas about sexuality and make it impossible to argue that certain behaviors are inherently wrong. Those that argue against it are "thrown out of the temple" by being censored or removed from social media, ridiculed by broadcast and published media, and basically shamed for their beliefs.

Now, you might argue that the people who think gender=body configuration at birth are the equivalent of the old-school Pharisees, wanting to keep things the same while a new progressive person challenges their belief system. I would argue that Jesus and His truth predated the Pharisees, who were seeking to add their own rules to God's reality - and the fact that the word "gender" historically referred to the physical state of one's body predates the idea that "gender" is how you feel at any given moment. The Pharisees were the ones trying to twist reality for their own gain; Jesus was just expressing the truth that had always been.

I don't deny anyone's right to engage in any kind of sexual activity that they want to, barring of course things that would bring harm to another. I don't even deny the right of a man to dress like a woman or a woman to dress like a man if they want to. As Americans, we believe people can do and say what they please, within the bounds of the law. But I do think it's not right to force people to change their very language to fit an ideological agenda in which they do not believe.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We human beings are so prone to trying to justify our actions in any way possible, particularly if we are told that they are sinful - instead of humbly coming to God and saying, "We know Jesus is from You, so we're asking for Your truth in this situation. We're not trying to manipulate facts to suit an agenda. We are seeking to manipulate our agenda to conform to Your truth."

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Leave and Forsake

This post is something I wrote years ago on the topic of God never "leaving" us or "forsaking" us. When I learned this, it changed the way I think of God's attitude toward me. Enjoy!

There are a number of places in Scripture where God tells someone, seemingly redundantly, that He will not “leave” them or “forsake” them. For example:
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
    “The Lord is my helper;
        I will not fear;
    what can man do to me?” -Hebrews 13:5-6
That verse quotes from two passages in the Old Testament. The first quote (the one we are concerned with at the moment) is from Deuteronomy 31:6:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Here is a breakdown from Strong's Concordance of what those words mean:

Greek: to send back, relax, loosen; to give up, omit, calm; to leave, not to uphold, to let sink [often translated to mean an act of releasing something]
Hebrew: to sink, relax, sink down, let drop, be disheartened; to sink down; to sink, drop; to sink, relax, abate; to relax, withdraw; to let drop, abandon, relax, refrain, forsake; to let go; to refrain, let alone; to be quiet; to show oneself slack [contexts imply relinquishing control]

Greek: abandon, desert; leave in straits, leave helpless; totally abandoned, utterly forsaken; to leave behind among, to leave surviving [most contexts imply abandonment]
Hebrew: to leave, loose, forsake; to leave; to depart from, leave behind, leave, let alone; to leave, abandon, forsake, neglect, apostatise; to let loose, set free, let go, free [to walk away from something]

To “leave” something means to accidentally relax your grip, to forget to take it with you when you go. To “forsake” means to intentionally abandon something, to turn your back on it and walk away on purpose. God has promised to do NEITHER to His people!

Do you think there is a time when God does chose to leave or forsake someone? Do you have a testimony of a time when God showed you He was there right when you needed Him? Sound off below by clicking the "comment" link and join the discussion!

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Police and Fire

Every morning (and by "every morning" I mean "every morning that I don't accidentally oversleep"!) I get up early to listen to the Word, pray, read, and basically prepare myself for the day. This is something I've been doing for two years or so, and I highly recommend it. I pray for my family, for our leaders in government, and I pray for myself that I will follow God's leading. One topic that almost always comes to my heart in those times is our local fire and police departments. These are people who have dedicated their lives to protecting others, and from my point of view, since they are protectors of the people of God, they have a mantle of ministry on them, whether they have put their trust in Jesus or not. That's certainly not to say that they shouldn't serve people who aren't Christians... of course they should and do! But I believe that because that mantle of service includes God's people, first responders are entitled to God's protection, and even God's anointing to do their jobs.

I was thinking about how police officers confront dangerous situations all the time – there will always be crazy people doing crazy things. But I believe that the mere existence of a police force discourages a lot of stuff that would happen if there were no consequences. Every time a police officer has to face down someone who is trying to shoot people, there are a dozen more people who would try to shoot someone if they weren't afraid of being captured and punished by the police. Even in days when all they are doing is sitting on the side of the road waiting to catch someone speeding, by their very existence they are protecting you and me. 

First responders wake up every morning with the potential of having to do or see something that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. They know this, and yet they get out of bed anyway. There's a nonzero chance that today, a police officer or fireman in my town may not come home because of something that happened to them as part of their duties. Still, they get out of bed, suit up, and head out into whatever awaits them. So my prayer for them every morning is that their lives and their minds will be protected by God. I pray that their training and best practices are at the forefront and followed perfectly, because those things are in place because they have been found to de-escalate situations effectively. I pray that they will have wisdom when it is time to make a decision, and that they will make the right choice quickly. I thank God for the mantle of protection He places on them as the protectors of the people of God.

Pray for your local police and firemen. They don't have to do what they do. They could work in an office, or open an auto repair shop, or start a business, or teach school, or any other job, but they have chosen to protect you. That's a God thing. They're in your corner and my corner, and you and I should be in their corner too.