Thursday, February 24, 2005

THE FOREVER LOST. In case you thought the suffering resulting from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers had ceased, you should know that there are still 1,161 victims whose remains have not been identified. They may be the Forever Lost.

The New York City medical examiner's office announced that it has stopped trying to identify the remains. They have been working since September 2001, but forty-two percent of the 2,749 victims remain unidentified. This is not due to lack of effort on the part of the ME, but to the difficulty of the task.

The catastrophic nature of the event produced body parts and bone and tissue fragments rather than bodies in many cases. The ME has resorted to DNA testing in an attempt to identify the lost. The ME has basically reached the limit of existing technology and cannot do any more with the 9,720 body parts in its custody.

I cannot imagine calling people to tell them you cannot identify their missing family member.

Sally Regenhard, who lost her son, a firefighter, said "For me, the chance to find out what exactly happened to my son is over. For so many families of firefighters, our sons and husbands have disappeared into death."

Never forget.
BANNED IN CROWLEY! Friends tell me the Crowley Independent School District now filters out my blog. I wonder what offended the Administration? Was it the Calvinism, the Conservatism, or the big words? It is a shame. If you have much experience with the administation of the school district, you know the employees need some diversion. Already the employees have to have regular neck massages. They get sore from shaking their heads over administration policies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

SCHIAVO UPDATE. A Florida court issued a stay order yesterday keeping Terri alive for one more day. Her "husband" affirms he will pull out her feeding tube as soon as a court allows him. Remember he did this in 2003. She lived 6 days with no food and water before the governor intervened and got her hooked up again. Can you imagine going 6 days with no food or water. The fact that she lived shows her body is very strong.

If you read this blog, please pray for Terri. Her husband is determined to kill her. The judge of the original court is determined to kill her.

What comes next? What about old people, especially that have a little dementia or Alzheimer's Disease? Do we cut off their Social Security checks so they must starve? Do we refuse to allow them to buy food so they will starve to death? After all, what are they doing for the rest of us?

What about people disabled from accidents? If you are in a wheel chair, there are some things you cannot do for yourself. If you have Cerebral Palsey, you have limitations. Maybe Florida judges will take turns standing at the grocery store check out making sure they are not allowed to buy food. Starve them all, let God sort them out.

Every disabled person is Florida should cram the court room today. Every parent in Florida should surround the hospital. If you are a parent, you can imagine the horror and pain these parents are feeling.

At the very minimum, the Judge should have to sit in the room from the moment he orders feeding to stop until this poor woman's body gives in to starvation and dehydration. And maybe he should go without food and drink the whole time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

NO ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT HARVARD. Although college professors often whine about academic freedom and freedom of expression, they really only want freedom of expression that is politically correct. A perfect example is the reaction of Harvard University faculty members to the comments of their president, Lawrence H. Summers, about women in science and engineering. Summers spoke at the January 14 meeting of the National Bureau of Economic Research and commented on the differences of "intrinsic aptitude" for science between men and women.

Harvard touts itself as having a tradition of allowing wide-ranging freedom of expression. Now we see it has limits if it counters popular feminist dogma. The faculty are complaining bittely about Summers' comments.

Summers said that men more often excel on science and engineering tests, though median scores are comparable, because of their "innate aptitude" and the fact that women are more likely to honor family commitment over long work hours. Summers also said research shows societal factors, discrimination and discouragement, seem to play a lesser role, although he hoped to be proved wrong.

Summers cited the writings of University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie and University of California-Davis colleague Kimberlee A. Shauman, whose analysis of achievement test results shows a higher degree of variance in scores among men than women. Men and women had average scores, but men were more likely to score at both the higher and lower ends.

People got upset. Some are calling for his resignation. One woman, obviously not caring if she nurtured the stereotype, said the speech made her physically ill and she had to leave before the speech was over. She said “it was just too upsetting” for her to stay. She then e-mailed a reporter and started the current media frenzy. I guess it was too emotionally draining to stay to the end and argue with him.

Summers has bowed to pressure and apologized on several occasions. I think he should have done the Clinton thing. I did not upset that woman!

Summers earned his doctorate in economics at Harvard in 1982. One year later he became one of the youngest tenured faculty members in Harvard's history. He is no dummy. He is also a former secretary of the treasury.

He is also in the faculty doghouse. There is no room at Harvard for disagreement. You must tow the liberal line. Whether Summers is right or wrong, he should be allowed his opinion, and opposition should be not just hysterical whining, but proving he is wrong by reference to solid research.
PAUL'S BONES. Giorgio Filippi, a archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums, reports that a Vatican team has found a sarcophagus containing the remains of the apostle Paul. They found it in the basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls).

The odd thing about this pronouncement is that the Catholic Church has claimed for years that Paul was buried there. Did they claim that without really knowing until now?

This exact site was presented by Emperor Theodosius as the site of Paul’s burial in the late 4th Century. There is some suspicion that the Emperor and others just picked sites and named them, but it is not impossible that the memory of important sites could be preserved. The Emperor and the Roman church build a basilica on the site in the 4th century. There is an altar over what is supposed to be the exact burial spot. Under the altar is a marble plaque that dates back to the 4th century. The plaque bears an inscription: PAULO APOST MART or Apostle Paul, martyr.

Filippi said "Nobody ever thought to look behind that plaque." That sort of makes the church look bad, doesn’t it?

As a reminder, note that The New Testament does not say when Paul died, or how, or where he was buried or if he was buried. The Book of Acts ends with Paul imprisoned under house arrest in Rome.

Early Christian writers tell us that Paul was killed in Rome. Clement, the Bishop of Rome at the time, wrote a letter to the Corinthians in 96 A.D. (you can read it on the Web) mentioning Paul's execution in Rome. Later, a fellow named Gaius, who lived and went to church in Rome in the second century, wrote that he knew the grave sites of Paul and Peter. Of course, that could mean he could point them out due to stories he had heard which may not have been true. Tourists to Israel find out, for example, that there are tour guides who know the sites of many things archeologists do not.

Where was Paul supposedly buried? On the Via Ostiensis, or Ostian Way, about two miles from the center or Rome. Pope Gregory XVI, 1765-1846, rediscovered the sarcophagus of St. Paul. He did not open it.

My real concern is what the Roman church will do with Paul's bones when they find them. They call the bones of the saints "relics" and keep them and even parade them around. You might remember the Orthodox Church fighting to retrieve the bones of two of their favorite saints from the Roman Church. I am afraid they will parade them around and claim they confer special benefits or have special powers.
PRAY FOR TERRY SCHIAVO. Under the court orders, her husband can start starving her to death again today. Despite the fact that she has money from a settlement for care, despite the fact that her parents have agreed to care for her, her husband (who is living with another woman and is spending the settlement money) and the judge are determined to kill her. As a father, I am just beside myself. God help Terry and God help us all.

Friday, February 18, 2005

CRIME PREVENTION. Shiite Muslims observing a religious holiday thought they saw a suicide bomber in the crowd. So they beat the man to death, according to Iraqi police in western Baghdad, a Shiite. Talk about your neighborhood watch.
SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN. A United Methodist Bishop, Timothy Whitaker, has publicly condemned abortion and criticized Methodist bodies that belong to pro-abortion advocacy groups. Go here to read his comments. Welcome to the battle, Bishop Whitaker.
CUT IT OUT. Douglas Wilson at Blog and Mablog has a good post on purity here.
WRONGLY DIVIDING THE WORD. My church as been presenting a series of talks on other religions. No, this is not to offer an alternative to Southern Baptist Life, but to understand them. We have had several good ones, but the one Wednesday night has me concerned.

The topic was Judaism. The fellow who spoke is the rabbi of a Messianic Jewish Congregation in town. I have previously observed him demonstrate the Passover meal.

The man came in wearing a yarmulke and a tie with the Star of David on it. He introduced himself as Rabbi So and So. However, as he rambled through his talk, he told his life story and, guess what. HE ISN'T JEWISH! He was not born into a Jewish family and did not have a Jewish mother. He never converted to Judaism. He only felt empathy for Jews and attended a synagogue for a while. He was baptized in a Baptist church and ordained as a Baptist minister.

How do you justify wearing the yarmulke if you are not Jewish? Even more so, how can you call yourself Rabbi if you are not Jewish? I really felt that the guys is misrepresenting himself, to himself and others.

There were also a few things he said that disturbed me. To be honest, he spoke without notes and was a very excitable guy, and those people often say stuff they don't really mean to say. The "ad lib" has gotten many preachers and teachers in trouble. But, he said Jesus is not your personal savior, so don't use that term when speaking to Jews. He quoted the first part of John 3:16 in justification: For God so loved the world he gave his only Son..." without finishing with "whoever believes shall not perish" which makes it personal.

At the end, he started talking about Bible Codes. Bible Codes freak me out totally. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us to look for hidden meanings or count the words. It is the Christian equivalent of playing Beatles' records backwards in the '70s to supposedly hear "I buried Paul". It is just another distractions from studying the revealed message of the word of God.

I spoke to one of the staff about it and he was surprised I was concerned. So, I feel one of my famous e-mails to the Pastor coming on.

Christian teachers have a duty to make sure all they say is Biblical and correct. The Bible even tells us that teachers are held to a higher standard than non-teachers. Churches need to make sure guest speakers speak the truth. If they don't, someone should instruct the congregation about the error.

Suddenly I feel like Jeremiah.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE NEWS. Take It Or Leave It correspondent, Mike Pullin, reports that Michael Jackson has gone to the hospital with the flu. (Didn't he do this the last time he was on trial? Maybe it is really an allergy - he is allergic to court.) Where do you think they put him? He is on the same floor as the pediatrics ward! It gives a whole new meaning to "kid in a candy store".

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A DOOR NOT FOUND. On Sunday, our pastor told the sad story of a young, Christian woman who visited the pregnancy center supported by our church. After counseling, she went and had the abortion anyway, and nearly died from complications untreated by the abortion clinic. The clinic, by the way, would not help her with the complications. She called back to the pregnancy clinic and the staff there made arrangements for her to get emergency medical care. The path of convenience once again proved inconvenient in the end. In addition, she is emotionally distraught over the abortion. The clinic did not prepare her for the thought that comes later: the baby is dead. Fortunately, the pregnancy center staff is working with her for emotional recovery. That is as it should be.

As a tribute to the child who did not quite make it into the sunshine, I offer this poem from G. K. Chesterton.

By The Babe Unborn

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie: dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm-clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within that world to stand,
I would be good through all the dayI spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

Monday, February 14, 2005

PURITAN QUOTE OF THE DAY. "Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night, but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the sould for glory." Richard Sibbes.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY. (No, I'm not writing anything derogatory about celebrating VD.) Happy Valentine's to the Little Woman, the love of my life, who has kept me company for over 30 years and seems to want to continue. She works tonight, so we celebrated early, going to a Texas Cuisine restaurant named Bonnell's for upscale Texana. It was a great feed. I gave her a new outfit from Anne Taylor and a mushy card that made her cry. (I rate them by that factor, btw.) I also sent her flowers. It was fun.

Today she surprised me by sending me flowers to the office. I came back from a 2 hour meeting to find them. It was a nice surprise. Now I have them and they poinsettia plant I have kept alive since Christmas. She also gave me low carb chocolate. Hoo Wa.

Tonight, restaurants will be full as couples flock to celebrate love. The women will wear red and hope for flowers and presents and the attention of their significant other. Most men will hope they get it right and do not disappoint and, probably, that they get rewarded for it. Most men are very practical about love.

Yes, I made it to Starbucks after dinner.

However, you'll be shocked to know, I did not get to Starbucks on Saturday or Sunday, because we had people over for dinner who stayed late.

Special note to the College Daughter: Rock came over Sunday night wearing a "do rag". It seems that his young son sent to the dollar store to buy Christmas presents. He bought his father the do rag and his mother a bobble head doll of a well endowed woman with a place to put a picture of his mother on the head. I kiddeth not.

In the best picture of appropriate gifts, the Baby gave Tall Boy books and Tall Boy gave the Baby chocolate.

So, love it up, folks. It's the day for it. While you're standing in line at the restaurant, I'll be watching "24", drinking the largest Starbucks latte available, and eating low carb chocolate. We all celebrate in our own way.

Friday, February 11, 2005

DEATH OF A PLAYWRIGHT. Arthur Miller died today. Miller was a genius as a playwright, winning the Pulitzer Prize for the classic, Death of a Salesman, when he was only 33. He wrote it in 6 weeks. He is known to many for marrying Marilyn Monroe, but he was truly a great writer. He also penned The Crucible and many other plays. (He wrote the screen play for "The Misfits", Monroe's last movie, oddly enough. To further complicate their history, she committed suicide the year he remarried.)

Miller had the power. You can feel it when you read his work. He was one of the great ones. You always felt the emotions of is characters, especially desperation.

The great thing about being a great writer is you leave great work behind. While the rest of us fade from memory, the Millers, the Salingers, and the Updikes all leave behind at least one great book for the following generations.

I'm not going to leave behind a great book. I don't really think I will ever get a book written, although I have waned to. I am happy to know I am leaving behind three great works, however: three great daughters. I cannot take credit for all they are, but my work is in them and they are my legacy. They are all smart, beautiful, talented and spiritual. That is a pretty good life's work, if I say so myself.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

YOU JUST CAN'T KEEP A MAN DOWN GOOD. At my church, he is the "former pastor who is not named". Joel Gregory left us for 1st Dallas, sort of like leaving your wife for her older sister. Then he left them. Then he left the ministry. Troubled times came and went. I don't know if any Fort Worth preacher except J. Frank Norris has cut a wider swath through Cowtown.

But, my old friend Joel is on the comeback trail. He has been preaching around town in African- American churches. They are a bit more forgiving and tolerant of the foibles of preachers than Anglo churches. That seems to have paid off for him. The sawdust trail has become the comeback trail.

An article in Associated Baptist Press by Trennis Henderson says that Dr. Gregory was named a "distinguished fellow" at Kentucky's Georgetown College. I think "distinguished fellow" is a term of art. His job is to leading a preaching seminar. Since Baptists are currently into having cute names for every activity, they call this one "Proclaimer's Place". (Rumor has it that "Bible Beat" was a close second, and "Gas Lite" was rejected for obvious reasons.)

Dr. G will also go on trips and take folks to England for "study tours" about "Great Preachers of Great Britain". So you can see where Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones pounded the pulpit, where C. S. Lewis drank with the Hobbit Master, and where Bunyan was incarcerated. (Lots of preachers put together trips. Usually, they get a deal where they use their name to sell the trip for the travel company and get tickets form themselves and their wives for free.)

But, best of all, he will be a liaison to African-American churches. The SBC needs this. There is still some lingering suspicion about our inclusiveness. (I don't know why that is. We believe everyone is a sinner.)

Dr. Gregory has credentials for all these. If he can stomach working somewhere called "Proclaimer's Place", he will be a great teacher. (Oh, oh, here is another one: The Happenin' Herald.) He is one of the best pulpiteers in America. When he preached at our church, I did not know anyone who could compare with him either in delivery or preparation. I used to go visiting prospects with him and we discussed sermon delivery and preparation frequently. He spends hours on sermon preparation. He has a sonorous voice and a great delivery. I have long said I could rent a vacant grocery store, fill it with rented chairs, and have 1,000 members in a few months if he would preach there.

I can still mimic all his hand motions. Seriously. And, I have a moving box full of his old outlines and my notes from his sermons. Sigh.

He has experience in the England tour as well, having taken several over the years. He is also a fan of Spurgeon, so will impart much knowledge in that realm. He actually has a large painting of Spurgeon he used to display behind his desk.

Dr. Gregory even has the good sense to continue living in Fort Worth, his home town. I'm always suspicious of people who want to leave. He will also continue intinerate preaching. I think that is what he does best.

"Gregory's star is rising again in many quarters of the Baptist world." This gushing quote is from Eric Fruge, director of church relations at the school, according to the article. Eric, you aren't doing the man any favors. Read his book about the seduction of pride in the ministry. Hopefully, Dr. G will not listen to the gushers this time, but will realize and confess that God gives the increase. Instead of gushing about his "star", Eric should stand at the good doctor's ear and whisper "Sic Transit Gloria" repeatedly, or maybe "soli Deo gloria". I'm sure Dr. Gregory knows some Latin.

Interestingly, Dr. Gregory told me many times that he believed a pastor could not regain the pulpit once he fell. That has caused me to be conflicted about his return to ministry. Romans 11:29 says that God's gifts and his call are irrevocable, however. I hope repentance and restoration have occurred rather than simply a Nixonian resurgence as public memory fades. Maybe this modern day Jonah has shaken off the seaweed and headed toward Ninevah. Is so, look for revival in Assyria.

Godspeed, Old Friend.

W - STILL THE PRESIDENT. Go to: if you just can't resist gloating. You'll love this billboard.

Sunday, February 06, 2005



9:1-5 (Paul’s Sorrow Over The Jews)

Although Paul had been persecuted by the Jews, he felt “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for them. It is a sign of deep spiritual maturity that you can hurt for your persecutors and enemies. This is the ability to realize that their persecution follows from their “lostness” and inability to comprehend the grace of God. Your concern is not so much that they have hurt you, but that they are without God and without hope in the world.

Moses expressed this feeling to God after he came down off the mountain where he received the Ten Commandments. He found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. In Exodus 32:32 he said “but now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. (Note the past tense.)”

Jesus demonstrated this on the cross. He said, as is recorded in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, cried out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” See Acts 7:60.

Now Paul, despite his sufferings, feels real anguish over the Jews, because they have rejected Christ. He even says he would trade his salvation for theirs, if they would come to Christ. When he says he wish he himself were “cursed”, he uses the Greek word “anathema”, which means given over to the wrath of God for eternal destruction.

Paul recites, in verse 4, all the special things they had from God. Yet, all those things did not bring them all to Christ.

9:5-9 (The Real Israel)

Paul goes on to say that the failure of the Jews to come to Christ was not a failure of God’s word (his promise to Abraham). Then he explains a great truth to us: not all of the physical descendants of Abraham are the real “Israel”. Rather, it is the children of the promise, those who have believed.

Paul had already broached this subject in Romans 2:28-29. There, he said “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

In verse 8, he tells us it is not the natural children of Abraham who are God’s children. If they were, it would be the descendants of Ishmael who were God’s children, for he was the first-born. But Ishmael was born of a sinful desire to accomplish God’s will or purpose in way other than the way God intended. He was a child of human will, but it did not change God’s will. (After Sarah’s death, Abraham also had children by Keturah, but they were not children of the promise, either.)

God’s promise and will was for Abraham to have a child by Sarah, a child of the promise, for God promised they would have a child, and only by the intervention of God could they have that child, for Sarah was barren. God kept that promise by giving them Isaac.

This is a picture of election. God chose Isaac as the one who would be Abraham’s son according to the covenant promise. He did not choose Ishmael. Abraham even asked God for Ishmael to be the promised child. In Genesis 17:18, he said to God “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing”. But God told him he would have a son with Sarah, call him Isaac, and God would establish his covenant with him and his descendants. Ishmael was there, Abraham loved him, he would have been very convenient. But God had chosen Isaac and his choice would stand. It reminds me of John 1:12-13: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Therefore, we know that there are those who are physical descendants of Abraham who will not believe and be saved. But we, who are not physical descendants of Abraham, are his spiritual descendants because we believe and are adopted as sons into God’s family, and are, therefore, part of Israel, the true, spiritual Israel.

Now Paul will go on to tell us that this is a matter of God’s election, or choice, also.

9:10-13 (An Example Of Election)

The next example of God’s election comes in the very next generation. Isaac, the son of promise, had two sons. They were twins, so they were as close to equal as they could be. They had the same father, who was of the line of promise, yet only one inherited the promise. That one was not the first-born, but the second, breaking the human pattern of choice. Paul quotes Malachi 1:2, where God said he loved Jacob, but hated Esau and turned his mountains into a wasteland. There is a sense of actual rejection of Esau.

Why did God do this? Paul said it was “in order that God’s purpose in election might stand (or continue)”.

It was not because of anything they did. Verse 12 says it was not by works, and verse 11 said they had not done anything good or bad. In fact, the choice was made before they were born. So, it was not that God looked into the future and saw that Jacob would be a better person than Esau, or do better things, that he chose him. Rather, God chose Jacob so that his purposes might stand.

I think Paul is giving us an analogy to salvation. He is saying God did not elect us to believe because he looked into the future and saw we would believe or that we would do good works. Rather, he chose us to believe in order to continue his purposes, the accomplishment of his will. It is about Him, not about us.

This is why there is no room for boasting or pride in the Christian life. God did not bring us to salvation because of anything we would do. He did so out of his own purposes, as an expression of his mercy and grace, and our only response is gratitude and praise.

9:14-16 (God’s Will vs. Man’s Will)

So, what is the first thing we will say in response to this idea of election? We say “it’s not fair!” Paul phrases it this way in verse 14: “is God unjust?” He answers the question, or the accusation, but saying “not at all”, or “by no means”.

As proof of his assertion that God is just, Paul offers a quote of Exodus 33:19, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”. Let’s look at Exodus 33.

God told Moses to take the Israelites to Canaan. Moses asked God for a deeper relationship between them, and with the Israelites also. In verse 13, Moses asked God to teach him God’s ways so he could know God and continue to find favor. God promised his presence would be with them.

Moses wanted more assurance. He asked God to show him God’s glory. God responded in verse 19 that he would cause his goodness to pass in front of Moses and would proclaim his name in Moses’ presence. Then he makes the statement Paul quoted: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So, in this process of deepening their relationship, God gave Moses a taste of his presence and proclaimed his name. Then, he told Moses, in effect, that he (God) is sovereign. He chooses those on whom he will have mercy. He chooses those he will save. He chooses those who will minister for him. He has the right to choose.

The book of Job has a lot to say about God’s sovereignty. God allowed Satan to take everything from Job: his health, his wealth, and his children. When that happened, Job 1:20-21 says that Job fell to the ground in worship and said “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised”. He recognized God’s sovereign right to deal with him as God pleased.

But, as things progressed, Job could not resist questioning God about everything that happened. In Job 30:20, he said “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.” He goes on to recite to God how righteous he, Job, is and asks God to answer him. Turn to Job 38-41 and you read God’s answer. He tells Job nothing about Job’s righteousness, or his complaints, but talks instead of God’s creation of the earth and his sustaining of it, and his knowledge of all things. In other words, he reminded Job that he is God and he is sovereign. In Job 40:8, he said “Would you discredit my justice?” This is the same question Paul raised in Romans 9.

By the way, Job responded in acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and repentance. In Job 42:1-2, he said “I know that you can do all things; no plan of your can be thwarted.” In verse 6, he said “therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

So, God is sovereign. He makes his choices according to his will. Those choices and actions of God are just. If we do not think they are just, or unfair, we need to adjust our thinking to God’s. We should acknowledge his sovereignty and repent if we have questioned it.

9:17-18 (The Example of Pharaoh)

Jonathan Edwards described God’s sovereignty as “his absolute, independent right of disposing of all creatures according to his own pleasure.” (sermon on Romans 9) As an example of God’s sovereignty and his right to deal with men and women as he pleases, Paul cites a scriptural example: the Pharaoh of Egypt. Paul is a great preacher\theologian. He always resorts to scripture, not to philosophy to prove his point.

You can read about Pharaoh in the early chapters of Exodus. He was the ruler of Egypt. He kept the Israelites in slavery. When God spoke to him through Moses and commanded him to let the Israelites leave Egypt, Pharaoh said no.

In Exodus 9:15-16, the Lord told Pharaoh this: I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague tat would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up (or spared you) for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

The Lord inflicted a series of plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh would relent during the plague, but, as soon as it was over, he would refuse again to release the Israelites. Repeatedly, the scripture says the Lord hardened his heart.

Paul says in verse 18 that God will have mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and harden whom he wants to harden. This is a summary of his dealings with Esau and Pharaoh. It is also called the doctrine of reprobation, the counterpart to the doctrine of election.

How did the Lord harden Pharaoh’s heart? In a sense, he did it by revealing his mercy, his power, and his will. Pharaoh rejected them all. The Lord told him he was merciful by not destroying him, but Pharaoh did not love him for it. The Lord displayed his power through the plagues, but Pharaoh did not bow to him. The Lord revealed his will by communicating it clearly through Moses, but Pharaoh did not obey it.

Pharaoh followed his own sinful, prideful, un-regenerated heart and refused to obey God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
God could have changed Pharaoh’s heart, but God used him to display his glory, by defeating him and freeing the Israelites. In 1 Samuel 4:8, the Philistines said “Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert.”

Pharaoh lived out Proverbs 16:4, which says the Lord works out everything for his own ends, even the wicked for the day of disaster.

Why is it important that God acted in election? It is the answer to Paul’s original question in this chapter: did the word of God fail since all Jews did not come to faith in Christ? Paul’s answer, then, is no, God’s word did not fail, God chose, or elected, for it to come out this way.

It is important to you, for you may ask: will God fail me. The answer is: no, God is saving you and working in you according to his will and election.

It is important to the church, for we ask: what of those who came and seemed to be part of us then left us? 1 John 2:19 says: they went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

It is important to God, for it shows that salvation is not by our works so that we may boast, but is solely a function of God’s grace, to his glorious praise. The doctrine of election glorifies God, for it shows that God is absolutely sovereign and we have no power over him. We live in his mercy and love.

9:19-21 (ARE WE OFF THE HOOK?)

Paul anticipates the next question: since we cannot resist God’s will, how can God blame us for what we choose?

The assumption here is that we cannot resist God’s will. Job 42:2 says “I know you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

Knowing that God’s will is irresistible, so, some would complain that God holds us accountable even though he did not choose us for regeneration. Paul replied that God, as the sovereign, could do as he liked with his creation. He used the analogy of potter and clay. The clay does not get to complain about the way the potter made it. Isaiah acknowledged this in Isaiah 64:8, saying “O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” Proverbs 16:4 says “The Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.”

Although the emphasis of Paul’s answer is God’s sovereignty and ability to do what he will, remember that the question was “why does God still blame us?” So, the assumption here, with which Paul does not argue, is that God still blames us despite his sovereignty in election. That is, God holds us accountable for our choices.

There is a tension, then, in the Bible between man’s ability to choose and God’s election. Man has the ability to choose, and is accountable for his choice for Christ or against him. But man’s ability to choose Christ is corrupted by sin. He cannot choose Christ unless Christ calls him and regenerates his corrupt spirit so that he can choose Christ. Jesus said, in John 6:65, “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (NIV) The ESV says “unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Why is it this way? Because it is the way God made it. He does not tell us more than that.

9:22-23 (Paul’s Proposition)

Paul proposed reasons God might act in election. First, he said God might bear with great patience the objects of his wrath in order to show his wrath and power. Paul calls them the objects of his wrath, prepared for destruction.

This is a hard concept for us. Two examples occur to me.

God prepared Pharaoh for destruction. He gave him multiple chances to do what God commanded. He “bore him with great patience”. Finally, though, God demonstrated this power and wrath when he acted. God told Pharaoh, through Moses, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

God prepared Judas for destruction. Jesus said, in John 17:12, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” That Scripture is Psalm 41:9, that says “even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Peter told the disciples, after the death of Jesus, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas…”

Paul went on to say that God did this to reveal the riches of his glory to the objects of his mercy, the Believers. We see the riches of his glory when we see him act in judgment, and we respond in worship and thanksgiving.

Notice that we, as the objects of his mercy are also those he prepared in advance for glory. We are also the ones he called.

9:24-29 (Calling All Gentiles [at least the elect ones])

Paul again points out that God called people from among the Gentiles to become part of his people. We once were not his people, but, when we received him, we became his people. 2 Peter 2:9 says we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to god, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

John 1:11-12 says he came to that which was his own [the Jews], but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him [mostly Gentiles], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

9:30-33 (The Stumbling Stone)

Just in case you did not get it the first several times, Paul says here that Gentiles have obtained a righteousness that is by faith. He said the Gentiles did not pursue it, but they obtained it. Why is that? It is because God made it so.

In contrast, the Jews pursued righteousness, but did not attain it. Why did they not? They did not because they pursued it by works rather than by faith.

The Jews stumbled over the stumbling stone, which is Christ. Isaiah 8:13-14 says “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary.” We fear God and revere him as holy, but we also come to him and he is our sanctuary. He protects us, shelters us, and keeps us for all eternity. No one can separate us from his love.

But the passage goes on to say “for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”

Many who want to come to God on their own terms stumble on the stone that is Christ. Men and women want to justify themselves and say accept me on my own merits. But God says repent and believe and you will be saved. 1 Peter 2:7-8 points out that, to those who believe, the stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, the stone is a stumbling stone.

Today, do not stumble, but believe. Lay down your works of righteousness. God sees them only as filthy rags. Lay down your pride, stubbornness, reluctance, and fear. Believe in Christ and receive eternal life and eternal joy.

Romans 9 is a difficult passage. Regardless of how you feel about it, or how you interpret it, one thing is clear and we can all agree upon it. You must come to Christ in faith. If you do, he will accept you and save you and hold you forever. If you have not come to Christ, come today.

Friday, February 04, 2005

BODY TALK. Here is my favorite line from a news story today: "Most of this illicit trade in body parts is done by bad guys." This gem is from a fellow at the University of California. I'm not sure if he said that because he has a talent for stating the obvious, or if he knows something we don't. For example, does he mean some of the good people at the university occasionally take a body part and sell it for walking around money?

Some professor and his wife are sitting around their house in Irvine and the wife says "Honey, I don't think we have enough money to pay all the bills this month." The Prof says, "Hey, don't worry, I'll clip a cadaver at work and sell it on the black market just this once, and it'll tide us over. After all, they wanted to donate their bodies to science, and I'm a scientist."

It's so bad at UC they are putting bar codes and transmitters on the cadavers. I guess they have one of those self check out things like at the grocery store. You go up and punch in your university i.d. number. It says "place your cadaver on the platform". You do. It says "scan your cadaver". You fumble around trying to find where they put the bar code, oh no, it's on the rear end, turn this thing over, oops I dropped it, ok here go."

"Put your cadaver on the cart and proceed to the lab." Whew, finally. Wait, the detector at the door is going off. You have to wait while this bored looking gal with a red apron comes over with a hand held and scans the body. Then, finally, you are on your way to work.

"Hey, you forgot your receipt!"
THE ANTI-CHRIST RETHINKS HIS POSITION. President Massey of the Indian River Community College (see previous post on the Anti-Christ) has reconsidered his treatment of a Christian group on campus and the movie The Passion of the Christ. He did this after consulting an attorney on constitutional law. Massey has concocted a new policy for reviewing student requests and, guess what, the kids can show the movie. Thank you, Dr. Adams, for bringing this to light: another liberal learns that the Constitution applies even to Christians.
NO WINING. Just so you'll know, I decided to pass on the wine tasting. Although the ChelleBelle is right that there is nothing wrong with it, I have staked out this new job territory as a Christian and people already remark that I do not drink, so I do not think I want to confuse anyone. I wrote a nice note to the inviter declining, but thanking her for the invitation.

On the way to work today, I had the radio on, as usual, to Christian radio. However, I switched from my normal channel to another and caught Charles Stanley. I do not listen to him often, although he is a good teacher, for he has this annoying habit of saying "listen" about every five words. For example, listen, I have a message, listen, and, listen, I want you to hear it. It might be a Georgia thing, because I heard Mac Bruson at 1st Baptist Dallas doing it also.

Anyway, Stanley spoke about doing things as a Christian and their impact on yourself and others. That made me think the wine tasting party would not do.

Maybe Baptists will re-think the wine thing some day. After all, Jesus made barrels of it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

UPDATE ON THE RELIGION OF PEACE. An interesting article by Keith B. Richburg appeared in the Washington Post yesterday concerning the problems in The Netherlands with Islamic immigrants. You might remember the execution in November of Theo van Gogh by Muslims in Amsterdam. Then there was the discovery of an Islamic extremist cell. The cell had a death list.

That death list included Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. What did Wilders do to get on the Death List? He insulted Muslims in the Netherlands.

Wilders has said "Islam and democracy are fully incompatible. They will never be compatible -- not today, and not in a million years." The Death List proves him right.

Wilders also gets direct death threats. He gets them by e-mail, on Internet chat sites, and even video clips playing Arabic music punctuated with gunfire and showing his picture.

In a democracy, as everyone but Muslims know, we argue, we vote, we might even do some name calling, then we all go home to supper. We do not kill each other, even if we really disagree vehemently. If we disagree vehemently, we might even start a blog to call them names. (Like Ketchup Kerry, for example)

But, Wilders Muslim opponents, after claiming to be insulted by this comments that they are un-democratic, said "He is an enemy of Islam and he should be beheaded. Behead him, and you will earn a place in paradise." This was posted on the Internet.

Others in The Netherlands have received threats according to the article, including the mayor of Amsterdam, a Somali-born member of parliament who collaborated with van Gogh on a controversial film about Islam's treatment of women, and a Moroccan-born alderman in Amsterdam who has “talked about tolerance and the need for Muslims to adapt to the Dutch way of life.”

Wilders is not backing down. He said "We are in an undeclared war. These people are motivated by one thing: to kill everything that we stand for." He states that the concept of multiculturalism is a failure in the Netherlands. I agree. I have often said, you cannot have multiculturalism with a culture that wants to eradicate you, take over your country, and turn it back to the 6th century. Even John Kerry could not do that with the help of the French. It would be like Picard preaching multiculturalism to the Borg. Actually, it would be a lot like that, except Muslims don't have those cool mechanical arms.

Other countries likewise have problems. Germany recently conducted raids, arresting several suspected of “financially supporting radical Islamic activities abroad by collecting donations and procuring further money". Two of the suspects trained in Afghanistan terrorist camps.
In Ulm, a city on the Danube, a mosque in an old factory draws Islamic extremists from all over Germany. It is called The Multicultural House, which must be an expression of Muslim Exremists' humor.

The mosque is know to have contacts with major terrororists in Germany, including one man close to Usama bin Laden. Police have arrested 15 people suspected of belonging to an extremist network there.

This is something for us to think about in America as mosques spring up everywhere, where a New Jersey family was evidently murdered for being Egyptian Coptic Christians, where money is raised and sent to Muslim extremists overseas, and where speeches are given regularly calling for eradication of the enemies of Islam. To paraphrase Pogo, they have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Freedom House, an organization founded in 1941 to promote democracy and freedom has spent some time researching the brand of Islam imported by Saudi Arabia to America. FH has published a study called “Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques”. If it tells you anything about the way the world is today, they published it without any author’s name on it.

The leg work was done by Muslim volunteers. They visited mosques across the country and obtained 200 books and other publications that are published by Saudi Arabia.

Here is what these books teach. First, that Christianity is not a valid faith. I think this is hilarious. All over America preachers and politicians are trying to tell us that Muslims worship the same God we do. Guess what. Muslims do not think they worship the same God we do. They declare Muslims who think so to be “infidels”. (Notice you hear the word “infidel” from Radical Muslims almost as much as the word “kill”, and often in the same sentence.)

Second, the mosques teach that America should be subject to Sharia, the law of Islam. Yes, that is the law where people get their hands cut off, women must wear veils, and everyone who is not Muslim (infidels) should be killed. There are those words again.

Here are some good quotes from the religion of peace: "Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.” Or this little gem: "To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah's way."

Saudi Arabia pretends to be an ally of the United States, but they are fomenting trouble. Unfortunately, one of the President’s blind spots is his affection for the House of Saud and his insistence that Islam is compatible with our way of life. Will our government wake up to this threat, or will we slide into oblivion?

Another outfit that promotes Islam’s effort to subjugate America is CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This group is also funded by Saudi Arabia. Their goal is to bring America under Islam’s sandal. They have said Islam is not in America to be equal to other religions, but to dominate.

I THINK I FOUND THE ANTI-CHRIST. He may be Edwin R. Massey, who is the President of the Indian River Community College.

The Christian Student Fellowship wanted to show Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ on campus. However, Massey would not let them post fliers on campus. Then, he prevented them from showing the film. You remember this was a very popular movie around the country, one of the highest grossing movies of the year.

After the CSF protested to the college board, college administrators pulled them out of class and demanded that they apologize in writing.

Dr. Mike S. Adams ( is trying to bring this matter to light and encourage people to register their protest to these anti-democratic and anti-Christian actions. In my small way, I would like to help.

You can call President Massey at 772.462.4701 or Vice President Johnny Moore at 772.462.7788 or email him at

SAILING INTO THE SUNSET. I know what I am doing in retirement. Harper's Index reports that the average total cost for an 80-year-old American to live out the rest of his days on a luxury cruise ship is $230,497. The average average cost for the same thing in an assisted-living facility is $228,075.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

ADVICE NEEDED. What do you do when you get invited to a wine tasting party and you do not drink?
YET ANOTHER JOHN STOTT QUOTE. Instinctively we know that we cannot box God up in any conceptual framework of our own devising, and that if we think we have succeeded in doing so, then what we have in our box is not God. Our little minds cannot conceive him, let alone contain him. '"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts"' (Is. 55:8-9). From "Life in Christ" (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1991), p. 10.

We haven't had a John Stott quote in a while and I just felt we needed one. Don't try to make God too small. He might feel the need to show you how great He is.