Thursday, March 31, 2011

Being Honest

"I'm just being honest." When was the last time you said that? What did you mean when you said it?

This phrase usually finds its way across my lips when I'm giving full, unfiltered vent to emotional frustration. It's a way of justifying the extreme language I'm using and the acute emotions I'm feeling. "You can't fault me, I'm just being honest."

But just how honest am I being when I give full, unfiltered vent to my emotions, particularly my emotional frustrations? Is what I feel necessarily an accurate representation of what is real?

Let's say that someone is going 35mph in a 45mph zone directly in front of me, and the road is constructed such that I cannot pass them. (Not that this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time on freaking Maxtown Road!) Is it necessarily true that that person is an idiot? When I exclaim, from the safety of my own car, "You're an idiot!", am I being honest? Or am I just being subjective?

Of course I'm being subjective. But in that moment I truly believe that person to be a blithering moron who is a clear danger to themselves and everyone around them and has no business being on the road because they don't know how to drive the speed limit. My angry exclamation may be an accurate reflection of my emotional state, but it is not an accurate reflection of reality.

I find that "being honest" often leads to greater deception. When I give full vent to my emotional frustrations I am crafting a world that fits my emotional state, rather than letting reality influence my emotions. I become angrier and angrier, but I also become more detached from reality. In fact, by "being honest" I become less honest.

Rather than giving full, unfiltered vent to my emotional frustrations, I need to learn to see the world, and the people in it, from God's perspective. He, not my emotions, is the definer of reality. This is not to say that we ought not to be emotional, but rather that our emotions ought to be in congruence with God's emotions. Our perception of reality ought to be in line with God's perception of reality. That's what it means to be honest.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taxing Churches

Karen Spears Zacharias wrote a piece at Patheos called Time to Tax America's Churches. She looks at Ed Young, Jr. as the archetype of a new breed of CEOs, people who are leading vast and wealthy churches that function as corporations. She has some harsh words for these "celebrity" and "rock star" megachurch pastors, and she concludes her post with these statements:
We are facing hard economic times. A lot of much-needed revenue could be generated by taxing the Church.
If we are really interested in living out a life of faith, instead of just preaching about it, isn’t it about time the Church picked up its cross and carried it instead of pushing the tax burden off on everyone else?
I encourage you to read the article, but I have several responses.

1) Church employees are taxed like everyone else, with the exception of two benefits for ministers--a tax free housing allowance and the option to withdraw from social security. But if you claim the housing allowance, you better opt out of social security, otherwise that portion of your income will be considered self-employment, and you'll have to pay both sides of the social security and medicare taxes. Other than these benefits, church employees pay the same tax as everyone else.

2) There is no distinction, in the state of Ohio at least, between a church and any other nonprofit organization. If the government were to implement income taxation on churches, it must also tax every nonprofit organization, otherwise it would likely face a lawsuit of religious discrimination.

3) It may be flat out illegal to tax churches and nonprofits because the income they generate is not recompense for goods or services, but is rather given of the free will of the givers. In other words, despite Zacharias's depiction of megachurches as corporations, there is no commercial transaction taking place.

4) We live in a society where we constantly let one person ruin it for everyone. One person bends the rules and suddenly the masses have to bear the consequences. Freedom is impinged every time some idiot decides to do something stupid because we immediately run to the government to fix our problems and keep us safe. Let's not do that with churches and nonprofits. Their work, which cannot be duplicated by any government, would be crippled by taxation. Sure, Ed Young would get his comeuppance, but thousands of churches and nonprofits would be forced to close their doors.

5) Charitable giving pales in comparison to consumer spending. The benefit from taxing churches and nonprofits would likely not even cover the cost of government services required to fill in the gaps of those now defunct organizations. It would be the law of diminishing returns proven true on a grand scale of social deconstruction.

6) Finally, a commenter on Zachrias's post says it best when talking about the purpose of the church and the love of Christ:
Government can never embrace such love, will never live out such reality, can never love the enemy without regard to self, will never embrace the street person rather than the CEO, won’t ever hold up to be emulated the one who is most despised by society, and is not ever going to reject power for meekness, vengeance for grace, and violent action for forgiveness. Government, and indeed our American society itself, will always look at such claims as either nonsense, sheer naivety or both. And yet, Jesus does exactly these things, over and over, and calls us to do the same.

So, where I constantly struggle with my own collusion with and participation in denominational systems that too often look contrary to gospel relationship and being, I do believe that ultimately only the church has any possibility of congruence with life in Christ and, at its best, must be a counter to the state’s systems of power, privilege, and possession.
The Church and the Government--whether it's Rome, Nazi Germany, or the USA--are not after the same thing. The Church, at its best, is a woman with warm embrace, comforting those who mourn, feeding those who hunger, and seeking first the kingdom of God. The Government, at its best, is a bureaucratic system of cold and distant departments, assigning numbers instead of names, rubber-stamping applications, and seeking first the security of the State.

So, I say, don't tax the churches and nonprofits. Don't let a few abusers ruin a system that works. The Government has more than enough money. Maybe we should begin our audits with them, and then we can move out to the churches and nonprofits.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Ecstasy of Crowds"

I'm reading Eugene Peterson's memoir, "The Pastor" these days. It's an excellent book, and quite timely for my own soul. There is so much that I would like to share, but what I just read struck me as especially poignant.

In a letter to a pastor friend who was pursuing a career in the megachurch world, Eugene wrote,
Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence [God meaning]...apart from God as revealed in the cross of Jesus: through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, through the ecstasy of recreational sex, through the ecstasy of crowds. Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but, at least in America, almost never against the crowds. ...But a crowd destroys the spirit as thoroughly as excessive drink and depersonalized sex.
What do you think of his diagnosis? Are crowds really as bad for the soul as drunkenness and fornication? He continued in the same letter,
I really do feel that crowds are a worse danger, far worse, than drink or sex, and pastors may be the only people on the planet who are in a position to encourage an imagination that conceives of congregation strategically not in terms of its size but as a congenial setting for becoming mature in Christ in a community, not a crowd.
What is the difference between a community and a crowd? Can a person become mature in Christ in a crowd?

Friday, March 25, 2011

After One Night of Exercise, Area Man Suddenly World's Foremost Expert on Exercise

After walking on his home treadmill for nearly a half hour, local man Andrew Holt suddenly became the world's foremost expert on exercise. Though he has performed nothing even remotely related to exercise in the last several months, Mr. Holt reported that, due to this one evening of extended and intentional physical exertion, he now knows exactly what he's talking about when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

"It's all about consistency," he reportedly told his wife while breathing heavily and desperately trying to lower his heart rate. "You have to go for it every day. And you can't get discouraged. Sheesh, is it hot in here? Man, it's really, really hot up here."

Mr. Holt decided to get on the treadmill that night while driving his family home from the mall, where he was spotted consuming a mushroom and swiss cheese burger, garlic fries, and a large coca-cola in the food court. Later, while his three children played in the designated play area, Mr. Holt also reportedly ingested half of the cookies 'n' cream milk shake he had purchased for his children from Chick Fil A.

According to his wife, the real motivation for Mr. Holt's night of exercise came when he was trying on a pair of 32W jeans at Express. "He really struggled to get those things buttoned. And when he finally stepped out of the dressing room, all I could see was that man-muffin top. Gross." Sources at Express confirmed that Mr. Holt wasn't fooling anybody with those 32W jeans, and that he should just deal with the fact that he's not 21 anymore.

"Sure, the jeans were a motivation," Mr. Holt, 31, confessed. "But I just need to get in shape in general. You know, I've done p90x before. For five whole weeks! I used to be in great shape. I don't think it'll take that long to get back there." One anonymous source confirmed that Mr. Holt had, in fact, done p90x before, but that the last time he tried it he nearly passed out, spending more than an hour lying on the couch moaning like a diseased cow.

"I'm really going to get after it this time," a motivated Mr. Holt told reporters. "This isn't like all those other times in my life when I gave up after a couple days. I'm really going to stick with it this time. And I'm going to drink less pop, too."

At press time, Mr. Holt was spotted rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, wondering who the crap ate all the Gummi Bears.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Word for the Day

I've been working my way through a Bible reading plan this year, and for the first time in my life I've actually stuck with it for longer than 3 days! The plan has you read four chapters from four different books--two in the NT and two in the OT--as you work your way through each book. There have been several days where the themes of the various chapters have been remarkably consistent, and today was one of those days.

This morning, two of the chapters that I read were Exodus 33 and John 12. I'll quote a selection from each:
And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Ex. 33:19)

"If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)
Isn't it amazing what God says in that Exodus quote? "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy..."; and then we probably expect him to say something like, "...and I will condemn whom I will condemn." But he doesn't say that. Instead, he says, "...and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." God speaks of himself in terms of mercy and compassion, and the verbiage of condemnation is absent.

Then you have the verse in John where Jesus says, "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." Jesus didn't picture his mission as one of judgment or condemnation, but rather as one of salvation. (See also, John 3:17) Truly remarkable, isn't it?

Now, we know that judgment is coming for all of us, but it's important to see that the Bible testifies that the first word is mercy, compassion, and salvation. That is the first word. That is the loudest word. That is the strongest word. Judgment is coming, of course, but not until God's mercy, compassion, and salvation have run their course. Jesus goes on to say in John 12 that all who reject his words (i.e., the gospel message) will be judged by those words, and ultimately condemned by them. Sadly, there can be no salvation for those who reject Jesus' word of salvation. If you reject the word of salvation, then all that is left is the word of condemnation.

But Jesus is committed to saving you; he is not committed to condemning you. Maybe you need to hear that today because it sure doesn't seem true. All you've ever heard is that Jesus is coming and he's going to throw all the unbelievers into hell. Jesus' mission is not condemnation. It's salvation. It's grace. We Christians don't often live that truth out. Maybe we need to hear that today, too. Jesus doesn't want to crush you, destroy you, or throw you into the pit of eternal hellfire. What he wants--what he really, really wants--is to save you. He wants that so bad that he was willing to lay down his divine rights, become a homeless peasant, and suffer death on a cruel Roman cross so that he could live life as you live it, and speak to you that word of mercy, compassion, and salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God; condemnation is the end result of your rejection of God, who has exhausted every avenue in his relentless love for you.

Salvation is the word for today. I hope you hear him speaking to you. I hope you can come to terms with your sin and rebellion, set that aside, and trust in Jesus rather than in your own goodness, success, or intelligence. Jesus desperately wants to save you from sin, evil, and death. I hope that you can receive today's word.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Predestination and Free Will

If you've been a Christian for a decent amount of time, you've probably engaged in, or at least been around people who are talking about, the ubiquitous discussion of predestination versus free will. This may seem like an arcane point of theology that has no bearing in real life, but, as a friend of mine said last night, it profoundly shapes your view of God. Let me briefly lay out the two sides of the argument.


This is often called the "Reformed" view, or "Calvinist" perspective. Basically, people who hold this view believe that God has predetermined those people who will be saved. In other words, he has elected some to spend eternity with him in heaven. This election has no basis on the individual's behavior or morality, but is wholly based on the grace of God. Because God is completely holy, and because we are utterly sinful (totally depraved), we cannot choose to follow God or believe in him of our own will. That is to say, we are too sinful to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and place our faith in Christ. This faith must be a gift from God, flowing out of his grace. The elect are those to whom this faith has been given.


This is often called the "Arminian" perspective. People who believe in free will understand humans to have a choice in whether they repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ. God's will is for all people to be saved, but, out of his gracious humility, he has left the choice of faith to us. He calls us to follow him, and we can freely embrace him or reject him. God compels no one to choose him against their will; rather, he honors human beings as free moral agents created in his image. God's grace comes as both a gift and an offer, the intended response to which is faith. Everyone who accepts this offer will be saved.

These are two very brief sketches, and I hope that I've done justice to each perspective. I fall into the free will camp, but have often felt the weakness of the Arminian position in its poor explanation (or total lack thereof) of election. In what follows I'd like to begin an attempt at explaining what election means.

In order to understand biblical election, we have to set aside the medieval notion of the subject, namely that God has elected certain individuals for salvation and others for damnation. This is unhelpful and anachronistic. Understanding election means going back to the source, and discovering in the Scriptures what is meant by this controversial term.

What did election mean for Jesus? In fact, election was a core tenant of Jesus' faith. As N.T. Wright has shown, Jesus fully believed in election, though not in the same way in which we define it today. Jesus believed that the creator God has intended, from the very beginning, to address and deal with the problems of creation through Israel. When everything went wrong in Adam--when sin and death entered the world through him--God intended to set everything aright through Abraham and his descendants.

Israel was chosen by God to be the instrument by which sin and death would be undone, and everything in creation would be set to rights. Israel was The Elect. Unfortunately, Israel failed to live up to their high calling. They failed to be The Elect. In steps Jesus, to be the Israel that Israel could never be, and to do what Israel was always meant to do--set the world to rights by atoning for sin and conquering death. In other words, Jesus is The Elect. He has done what The Elect were elected to do.

Any understanding of election must begin with Israel and move then to Jesus. This, rather than individualistic predestination, is the biblical view of election.

Because Jesus is The Elect, all who have faith in him are The Elect in him. Election is not an arbitrary divine choice, but rather a new reality and identity bestowed on all who obey Jesus' command to believe in him. Salvation is the gift of God, and election is the new reality brought about by the reception of that gift.

God has not, as some would contend, elected some for salvation and, therefore, others for damnation. Instead, God has elected his Son to right the wrongs of the world by atoning for sin and conquering death through his own crucifixion and resurrection. All who confess Jesus as King are saved and become a part of The Elect in Christ because they have become a part of Christ through faith. Their task becomes the task of The Elect: Announcing to the world that Jesus Christ has atoned for sin through his death and conquered death through his resurrection.

Biblical election, therefore, is a new reality that comes with a very old mission. Live, then, as The Elect, announcing and enacting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Authorized to Build

If you've ever been a leader, then you've probably had somebody question your leadership. "Why do you get to choose? What makes you better than us? You can't tell me what to do! You're a hypocrite!" More often than not, this goes on behind your back, and you may never even hear about it. Truth is, if you've ever been led, you've done this to your leaders.

I asked my wife a few years ago what kind of emotions the word authority stirred up in her, and she said, "Only bad". Authority is a bad word. We don't want other people to have authority over us. We relentlessly look for hypocrisy in our leaders and immediately call them on the carpet for it. We instinctively distrust anyone in a position of authority.

What do you do when someone questions your leadership? Your character? Your motives? It's the easiest thing in the world to abuse the power you've been given as a leader. One way we do this is to silence opposition, to crush those who question you and tear them to pieces.

When you feel tempted to use your authority in destructive ways, remember that any authority or leadership you have over others has been given to you by God. When speaking of his authority in the church at Corinth, Paul described it this way: The authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. Paul understood that God granted him authority in the churches so that he would build them up, not tear them down. God intends for power to be used constructively. He has authorized you to build others, not to destroy them.

Leaders (and that includes pastors, business leaders, parents, teachers, etc.), you may want to unleash the full power of your fury on someone under your leadership, but you must not. You may be tempted to defend yourself at the expense of someone else's reputation, but you must resist. It's up to you to show those under your leadership what it means to lay down your life, to refuse your rights, and to build up others at the expense of your own reputation and vindication. God has only authorized you to build.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm Proud of You, Jim Tressel

I'm sad today. Rain is pouring down on central Ohio right now, the weather a reflection of the emotion many Buckeyes are feeling in their hearts. As you may have heard, our beloved football coach Jim Tressel failed to report that he received information about the tattoo scandal long before it came to light through a federal investigation. This is a major NCAA violation, and the school has suspended him for 2 games and fined him $250,000. While Ohio State will most certainly win those games (against Akron and Toledo), the suspension is a major blemish on an otherwise stellar career.

Jim Tressel is being suspended. This is sinking in. And it hurts. The national media, of course, is happy as can be. Mark Schlabach, writing on the Big Ten blog at ESPN, said this:
In 10 years as the Buckeyes' coach, Tressel has often showed us his teams can't win big games.

On Tuesday night, Tressel showed us he can't win the big news conferences, either.

Tressel, who has guided the Buckeyes to seven Big Ten titles and the 2002 BCS national championship, wanted us to believe that he was different from other successful head coaches.

From his character-based books to his conservative sweater vests, Tressel wanted us to believe that he's a straight shooter who follows the rules.

On Tuesday night, we learned Tressel isn't any different from a lot of coaches in college football. He's apparently more concerned about winning games and championships than following rules and doing things the right way.

In fact, Tressel might be even worse than other coaches who are corrupting college athletics. He won't admit he's wrong even after he has been caught.
Which coaches, exactly, is Jim Tressel worse than? Pete Carrol? Or Lane Kiffin? Who, Mr. Schlabach, are these coaches who stood in front of the media and said "I was wrong." Who took Because Tressel did that. So you can put down your stones and arrows.

Tressel didn't pass along some information. He broke the rules. He said he was scared for the safety of his players and didn't want to interfere in a federal investigation into the obviously dangerous man with whom these players were getting connected. I believe him. This is why:

Jim Tressel didn't throw Maurice Clarett into the garbage pile, like the national media would have liked him to. Instead, he stuck with him, long after his playing career was over. Maurice Clarett has been through hell and back, and the man who went there with him was Jim Tressel.

A friend of mine, an OSU alum, is dealing with some severe chronic pain. The other day she received a hand-written note from Jim Tressel (who doesn't know her at all) wishing her well in the midst of her pain. The joy this note brought was overwhelming.

Jim Tressel consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty. But no human being is perfectly consistent. He failed here, but he's not a failure; he's a man. And if, for that reason, he is deserving of the stones being flung at him today, then I suppose that those of you who have never sinned have every right to throw the first stone.

Tressel is being held accountable for what he did, more accountable than you or I. As an Ohio State fan, I sense that justice must be served, and that it is. I hope we are held to a higher standard than schools in other parts of the country. My football coach stood in front of the cameras and took his punishment. He didn't bolt for the NFL, he didn't leave his school in the lurch. He didn't deny it or downplay it. He owned it.

So I'm sad today, but I'm also proud. I'm proud of Jim Tressel. I'm proud of my school. I'm proud to be a Buckeye. Let's give the haters even more to whine about by going undefeated next year! Go Bucks!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review: Pure Scum

I must have been 12 years old. Maybe 13. Either way, I was deeply entrenched in the most awkward phase of my life when my giant Greek youth pastor, Mike Sares, asked me and a friend to appear with him on television. Our task was to prerecord a series of introductions for Christian music videos that would play at 4:00 in the morning on the local NBC affiliate. I was extremely nervous. It was the ‘90s. We didn’t get multiple takes. It was bad. “That was great,” Mike lied.

Shortly after that, Mike left Toledo for Denver. I hope it wasn’t because he realized that nobody in the youth group had the potential to become an on-air personality. If I had told him then that I would go on to graduate from Ohio State with a degree in Theatre and become a preacher, he probably would have looked at me askance and said in his deep voice, “Hmmm.”

Mike’s new book, Pure Scum, is the story of Scum of the Earth Church, which he started with a small gathering of young adults (including the late ska band Five Iron Frenzy) in downtown Denver. On the back cover of the book, the bio says that Mike “was hoodwinked by the Holy Spirit into pastoring the folks who became Scum of the Earth Church in Denver”. Hoodwinked by the Holy Spirit. That sounds about right.

They call it “church for the left-out and the right brained”. They reach out to Goths, punks, skaters and the homeless in the heart of Denver. They share a meal in the middle of their church service every Sunday night. They sent out my friend Joshua and his new bride Liann in a converted veggie-oil bus/mobile home to share the love of Jesus all over the country. This is how they do church; and it’s beautiful, authentic, and life-changing.

In many places in American Evangelicalism, we see the Gospel of Power, Glory, and Magnificence. At Scum of the Earth Church, we see the magnificence, glory, and power of the gospel. Mike’s not trying to chart a new course for Evangelicalism. He’s not trying to change the world. He doesn’t consider himself a prophet, crying out from the desert, “Do it this way! This is the future of the kingdom!” He’s just pastoring those who can’t find a pastor anywhere else; he’s fathering those who desperately need a good dad.

This book is a story, a true story of a small group of people who gave their church a crazy name and dared to believe that all of their outsider friends could become insiders in the kingdom of God. It’s the story of 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 coming true at the edge of the Rockies.
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
Pure Scum is written by a pastor, and every pastor or lay minister should read it. You will be challenged, not because he preaches down at you for being caught in the rut of your suburban conservatism—no, you will be challenged simply by the beautiful and gut-wrenching stories of callous-footed grace walking around downtown Denver, moving in and out of dance clubs, carrying the addicts home, and feeding the homeless. You will be challenged by the way they welcome in the nonstrategic people of the world, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the weak, the hurting, and the skeptics.

More than that, you will be set free from the siren call of church growth strategies and pastoral celebrity. You will be captured again by the gospel as you see it work its way through a community of broken people, bringing healing, restoration, and joy. Pure Scum is a breath of fresh air in an arrogant, self-aggrandizing, book-selling culture of church. Take it and read. Be set free in the knowledge that you are, after all, the scum of the earth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Those Who've Never Heard of Jesus

I always enjoy getting comments on my blog entries, but most especially from Preston, who always thoughtfully and winsomely pushes back when he sees the need. Yesterday, he left a comment on my post Jesus > Heaven, part of which said:
I can almost accept sending Gandhi to Hell for not taking the step of putting his faith in Christ, a figure with whom he was obviously familiar. But what of the child in a third world country who simply never heard? This question is a tired cliche, but I'm curious where you stand. Is that why we are called to make disciples if the nations? If so, the blame for the eternal fiery torture of all the unevangelized people groups I haven't yet personally reached is on my head, making me deserve Hell more than any sin I could ever imagine committing. I can't imagine there being no tears in heaven knowing that I had been such a tragic failure yet got in because I knew the owner.
This is a great reflection on that ever-pressing question, "What happens to everybody who hasn't heard the gospel? Do they go to hell?" I'd like to tie together three passages from the New Testament that will help us on the way toward an answer to this question.

The first is John 15:22. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Because Jesus only preached the gospel to the Jewish residents of Israel (with a few exceptions), he is clearly talking about the Jewish people that rejected him--namely, the religious authorities. But there is a principle at work here: Those to whom Jesus has not spoken are not held accountable for their sin. As we stretch that out across space and time, I think it's safe to say that, those to whom Jesus has not spoken through the Church (which is his body on earth) will not be judged as those to whom he has spoken. It's common sense, really. If you haven't heard of Jesus or the gospel, then God won't hold that against you.

The second is Romans 3:25-26. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Paul seems to be saying that God has not meted out judgment upon those who lived before Jesus, which implies that, somehow, there must still be hope for them. But how?

This brings me to the third verse, 1 Peter 3:18-20. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. This is definitely one of those, "What the heck does that mean?" verses. I don't want to speculate too much, but it seems to imply that Jesus, after resurrecting from the dead, was somehow able to preach the gospel to those who lived and died before he came.

Tying these verses together, I think we can draw some conclusions:
  1. God is just.
  2. No one will be condemned to hell because they never had the opportunity to hear the gospel.
  3. Everyone will have the opportunity to hear the gospel eventually.
This is a mystery to me. What happens to the poor child in the third-world country who has never even heard of Jesus? Well, we should do everything we can to tell him about Jesus. But, if we can't reach him in time, perhaps, sometime between death and resurrection, Jesus himself will preach the good news to him. Maybe this life isn't our only opportunity to repent and turn to Jesus. It clearly wasn't for those imprisoned souls to whom Jesus preached.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Morning Devotions

Like every morning for the past who-knows-how-long, we were awakened by the sounds of a crying baby well before 6:00 am today. For whatever reason, Zeke's body clock has decided that anywhere between 5:00 and 5:15am is wake-up time, and there shall be no other wake-up time. There are, obviously, many things not to like about this situation, but there is one thing that I do enjoy about it: more time with the family in the morning.

This morning, Breena was reading the Bible before breakfast (honestly, it could have been after; it's all a blur) and set it down on the couch. Sometime later, Cyrus came over, picked it up and started reading it. After a couple minutes of this my brain kicked in and said, "Record this!" So, here's a cute little video of Cyrus and Eisley reading the Bible.