Thursday, March 31, 2005

TERRI IS DEAD. Terri Schiavo has passed away. In keeping with the horror of this situation, her parents were denied the right to be with her in her final hours. She died without them there. I pray that God will give this poor family peace.
TERRORISM COMES TO TEXAS. State Rep Phil King from Weatherford has received letters that purport to contain Anthrax. The letter threatens King and his family if King continues to push his bill to deregulate the telecommunications industry in Texas. I'm guessing the writer is not a Libertarian. The letters contain a white powder and say "hope you enjoy the Anthrax".

The letters were mailed right there in Cereal City, our beloved state capitol. The sender also had some trouble figuring out where to send the letters. Another guy in Weatherford also got one of the letters. His name is also Phil King. I guess the guy just wanted to make sure he got all the possible Phil Kings.

What is it, besides mental illness, that causes someone to go from political opposition to terrorism? It is always hard to be in the minority politically, but these Little Hitlers insist on using violence to bend the will of their foes. That is a lot to invest in your feelings about your telephone bill, even in Austin.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

YOU’RE SUCH A CUT UP. Cosmetic, or plastic, surgery, has become America’s new hobby. Last year, nearly 12 million procedures were performed. That is a 44% increase from the previous year.

What is the most popular procedure, you ask? I know you did. It was liposuction, of course. Sucking the fat out of the body for instant skinny is the new rage. It is much faster than the Atkins diet. There were over 478,000 liposuctions performed last year in the United States. That was followed by over 334,000 breast augmentation procedures. (It might sound more impressive to say approximately 668,000 breast augmentations.) Only a measly 145,000 or so facelifts were performed.

Women received 90% of all the cosmetic procedures performed. My guess is they received almost 100% of the breast augmentations. Plastic surgeries actually declined 11% for men. Men are scared of knives. (And not only when women hold them.)

Among non-surgical procedures, Botox procedures are performed twice as often as the next most popular procedures.

Overall, last year Americans spent $12.5 billion on cosmetic procedures. $7.7 billion was spent for surgery and $4.7 billion for non-surgical procedures. And they griped about the cost of the war in Iraq!

That old saying that youth is wasted on the young might no longer be true. Women stay young by plastic surgery. Men stay young by taking Viagra.

If you do not want to have surgery for yourself, you can watch it on television. There are several shows that feature real plastic surgery and at least one that fakes it. You can hardly watch television with your children at night for the Viagra and Cialis commercials. Have you heard the disclaimer at the end of the Cialis commercial? I do not think I can even repeat it here. Suffice it to say, the Little Woman gives me blood tests to make sure I am not taking it.

Why are Americans getting all this cosmetic surgery? They are trying to remake the old self. Although a huge percentage of Americans identify themselves as Christian, they have a secular view of life. The human body is theology in motion. As we age, the truth of the Bible becomes more and more apparent. The Bible says that sin brought death into the world. Death comes on gradually for most. The body ages its way toward it. Hair turns gray. Muscles lose their tone. Ears lose their ability to hear tone.

We do not want to acknowledge the most apparent fact of our existence, that our existence, in this form, is finite. The Christian acknowledges this fact and prepares for eternity. The secularist denies the fact as long as possible. Now he or she can change the appearance, if not the fact. Wrinkles are removed, breasts lifted, eyelids trimmed, tummies tucked, fat removed, lips puffed, and cheeks rounded. (Yes, both kinds.) It is a conspiracy between doctor and patient to ignore and cover up the obvious. It is the ultimate cover up.

Ultimately, it does not matter. Although you can cover it up, you cannot stop it. The body will continue to decline. Then it will die. No matter what surgery you had or pills you took.

Dr. Al Mohler says “The modern worldview suggest a message of secular salvation through self-improvement, self-denial, self-gratification, self-empowerment, and self-consciousness. The Bible reveals that salvation is all of grace, and made possible and actual by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died as our substitute and the propitiation for our sin.”

Ironically, many who spent a fortune to renovate the outside will find the inside unacceptable to the One who matters.
CALVINIST QUOTE OF THE DAY. "...we must therefore take heed lest souls perish through our sloth, whose salvation God puts in a manner in our hands. Not that we can bestow salvation on them; but that God by our ministry delivers and saves those who seem otherwise to be nigh destruction." John Calvin

One accusation made against Calvinism is that it discourages or abandons evangelism. Paige Patterson, for example, has made this charge. There are at least 3 points to rebut that assertion. First, it does not matter if "Calvinism" or "Reformed Theology" is biblical. If it is biblical, it must be followed and the problems worked out. Man does not have the authority to change God's word to suit man's methods. Second, your average Arminian, or "4 Point Calvinist" for that matter, is no more evangelistic than your average Calvinist. This is proven by the overwhelming presence of Arminians in the Southern Baptist Convention, especially in leadership, presiding over a decline in evangelism and church growth. Maybe the correct conclusion is that Arminianism discourages evangelism. Third, Calvin himself shows a great concern for the lost that belies any contrary position ascribed to his name.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

RESURRECTION DAY MUSINGS II. Two religious leaders are in the hospital. The Pope has been there for some time and not doing well. Now Jerry Falwell is in critical condition with a bad case of pneumonia. God makes it rain on Catholics and Protestants alike.

The main difference is that Catholics all over the world are mourning the Pope's ill health. All over America protestants are hearing about Falwell and going "Huh."

The Pope’s doctors are considering a feeding tube for him. Terri Schiavo had a feeding tube. What do you want to bet they won’t pull out the Pope’s feeding tube as he declines. Can you imagine the outrage worldwide? How about this headine: Curia starves Pope to death by removing feeding tube. Cardinals allege Pope made oral statements that he did not want to live if he got sick. It’s just too bad Terri Schiavo doesn’t have any official status other than as a disabled person.

Madonna and her husband did what they could to keep publicity on the Pope, as they went to a party dressed as a nun (Madonna) and the Pope (Mr. Madonna). Catholics are upset. The president of the Catholic League (I thought this was a softball thing, but evidently I’m wrong about that) called Mr. Madonna “depraved”. He had this great suggestion: "I suggest that next time, Madonna dress up in something more suited to her, such as from the Wiccan religion. And the Catholic League would donate a broom to her husband — with instructions on what to do with it."

Ironically, Mr. and Mrs. Madonna wore the Catholic costumes to a Jewish celebration, Purim. It is common to come in costumes from Jewish History, especially tied to Purim. Here is news for her fellow Cabbalists: when Madonna embraces your thing, she does it Madonna Style, not your way. Look for more embarassment to come.

And further, Jews have been complaining to the Pope and others for years that the Catholics have insulted them and their religion. Now the slipper is on the other foot.

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that Easter, among Christians, celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Well, now the IRS wants to get into the act. The IRS formerly listed Toni Lausch of Pennsylvania as dead. They would not even accept her tax return. (Is there a box in the standard letter saying they don’t accept returns from dead people? Was there some dead person in that movie, Sixth Sense, telling the little boy “I’m dead. Tell them to accept my tax return”?)

Since the lady could not file a tax return, she could not receive her refund. Not only that, but she could not get a car loan because the computer showed her as dead. I guess all is well that ends well. The IRS has now notified the woman they show her to be alive.

And you thought life was tough.

Even though it was Easter weekend, my computer died and stayed dead. Mike has agreed to come look at it tonight. (Does this mean I have to clean off the desk?) It has been the worst computer ever. If I were not so cheap, I would wish it to stay dead so I could buy another brand.

Mike, by the way, is putting a new page on this web site. It is for lyrics to songs Elvis would sing if he sang Christian music. Sounds like fun to me. Check it out.

Pentecostals with love "You Ain't Nothin' But A Hinn Dog". I had a friend in college who thought Blue Christmas was a porno movie.

Well, I gotta go home and have dinner with the Baby, clean off the desk so Mike can look at the computer, and go exercise. I like to wait until the crowd thins out at the gym so I scare less people. Even when I run on the treadmill people look behind me to see what is chasing me.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

IT'S ALL OVER BUT THE CRYING. It appears that all hope for Terri Schiavo's life is extinguished. The Supreme Court will not hear the case. Almost a week has gone by. Terri is dehydrated and starving, and we can expect her to die any day.

Many will be glad. Some people are tired of hearing about it. They do not want to face the implications. It is an inconvenience. Michael Schiavo will be glad. He can take the money, marry his girl friend, legitimize his children, and know he won the battle against his inlaws. He does not care that his inlaws will forever grieve this loss and worry about how much their daughter suffered.

Many will be sad. Terri's parents must be crushed. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to watch someone starve your daughter to death. I am truly afraid I would kill someone if I were in the Schindler's shoes. I admire them for suffering without retaliating. They have evidenced Christian character.

Disabled people across America must be afraid and horrified, and they should be. If you are disabled, you should get to an attorney and execute an affidavit that says what kind of care you want in all circumstances. And anyone who values human life and respects the creator of it should wake up and realize most people in America do not do either if it is inconvenient.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

SCHINDLER'S SHORT LIST. Douglas Wilson has captured the Biblical aspect of the debate on Terri Schiavo. Read it here. He points out that the right to die has been transformed into the right to kill.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Go here to read the Lord's Prayer in Elvish. No, I don't mean "now I lay mean down to sleep".
NO HELP FOR TERRI. It is yet another disappointment in the Schiavo case, with the federal judge refusing to act to save Terri's life. Being a Clinton appointee, my fear was that he embraced the death culture common to Democrats, and he has.

It is kind of scary to think that, even if you do not execute a written directive, someone can testify you would want to starve to death rather than live. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill, but it seems to me much different for Terri than a person who cannot breath or sustain heart activity without a machine. She lives in every way, but cannot swallow food.

It reminds me of a conversation with a co-worker years ago. One of our colleagues was pregnant and well into her 30s. My co-worker wanted her to have a test so she could get an abortion if the baby had Downs Syndrome or any other defect. I did not.

My co-worker said, ultimately, that a parent should be able to terminate a child's life until the child is viable outside the womb. I said that would allow parents to kill their children anytime up to about age 18, or older in many cases.

There are many disabled people in America. Many of them cannot function without help. I think first of Joni Erickson Tada. After an accident, she became a quadriplegic. She cannot get out of her wheel chair without help. Left to her own devices, she would starve to death or suffer a fall and injury.

What if we allowed that? What if we said "Joni, if you cannot feed yourself, you must starve." She would have, and we would have never had her books and her singing and her inspiration. If you have ever heard her speak, you know what a treasure she is.

Terri is profoundly disabled. She will not speak at a meeting or write a book. But, she is a living, breathing, human being with money to live on and people who want to take care of her, and she has not executed a written request to die in this event. We should presume she would prefer to live and let her live.

Monday, March 21, 2005

HOPE REMAINS. I wanted to blog the Schiavo ordeal yesterday, but, alas, my sorry Compac computer is not working. Hope has been rekindled, as the U. S. Congress passed a bill through both houses to allow an appeal to federal court. A hearing has been set for 3 p.m. today. Terri has been without food or water since 1:00 p.m. on Friday.

This is hope, but not a sure thing. No one knows how the federal judge will rule. Pray for Terri's life. Even more so, pray that America will drop its inclination toward killing everyone who does not appear useful or convenient.

Friday, March 18, 2005

It has happened. Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed.
TORTURING TERRI. In one hour, Terri Schiavo’s husband will pull the feeding tube from her helpless body and begin the process of starving and dehydrating is wife to death. It will probably take her almost two weeks to die. She went without food or water once before for five days and was still alive.

Mr. Schiavo will kill his wife while her parents and millions of horrified Americans look on helplessly. Her parents are willing to care for her. She has money in trust for her care. She has been alive for 15 years with this condition.

Mr. Schiavo can kill his wife because a Florida judge ordered it. The judge has never been to Terri’s room or seen her in person. He has kept her a prisoner in her hospital room, ordering that no one can take her to the mall, or to a party, or just out in the Florida sunshine. He denied a request by the Department of Families and Children to delay the removal to investigate allegations that Schiavo has been abused.

Terri also gets no therapy because Mr. Schiavo prevents it. Her only problem to survival is that she cannot swallow. However, she manages her own saliva, so can be taught to swallow food.

Although court appointed doctors have said Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is a physician, has disagreed with that diagnosis after viewing videos of Terri.

There are some lawmakers who are sympathetic, but have had no success passing laws to keep Terri alive. The Florida senate previously passed a bill, but the courts struck it down. Now they cannot muster the votes. They voted 21 to 16 to reject a bill that would have prevented the removal of feeding tubes from patients whose families disagreed on whether to continue the feeding.

You have the sense they would like to see her die and go away so they can think about something else. Florida state senator Rod Smith, a Democrat, said "the last vote was a fairly emphatic statement that the Senate does not wish to go further."

The U.S. House approved legislation late Wednesday night to move the case into the federal court system. The Senate passed similar, but different, legislation yesterday, but the House adjourned before the bills were reconciled. Congress is supposed to be in recess beginning today. The recess is for 17 days. That is longer than Terri probably has.

The reality is that Terri will be tortured to death. This point was ably made by Andrew McCarthy, who led the Terrorism prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. In contrast to Terri, Mohammed Daoud al-`Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, who bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing over 240 people, were given highly experienced lawyers, audiences with the Justice Department (Terri’s judge has not ever seen her in person), a jury, and seven months of trial and sentencing proceedings. All that time they were fed, housed, and provided health care at tax payer expense. They were not tortured. Ultimately, they were allowed to live.

Terri did not kill anyone. She suffered a disability. She got in the way of her husband’s life with a new woman.

What the courts, and our society by extension, are saying is that the lives of these murderous terrorists, with 240 deaths on their heads, are more valuable than one disabled woman. We will spend millions of dollars keeping these killers alive. We will not even let Terri live when others will pay for her care and assume responsibility for it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

As we approach Resurrection Day (some of you know it as Easter), we usually focus first on the cross and its meaning to Believers. The cross comes first, the resurrection second. Before you celebrate the resurrection, you must suffer the cross.

The church for generations spent excessive energy trying to blame someone for the death of Christ. Jews were called “Christ Killers”. When that finally became impolite, the Romans became the targets.

John Stott said “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done “for” us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done “by” us (leading us to repentance). "The Cross of Christ" (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), p. 59. The death of Christ on the cross was “by” us, because our sins made it necessary. Isaiah predicted it, saying he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Paul further explained it, saying while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The writer of Hebrews tells us we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The greatest sacrifice leads to the greatest celebration.

We recognize and honor that sacrifice by repentance of the sins that made it necessary, gratitude for the love that accomplished it, and wonder that a just and mighty God would make this incomparable sacrifice in order to save us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

WHAT GOES AROUND. You probably know by now that Scott Peterson received the death penalty Wednesday for murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. California is a strange place, but people outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco still have the ability to do the righ thing.

The defense attorneys asked the judge for a new trial, but the judge upheld the jury's decision. He said the murders were "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."

Peterson is going to death row in the San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco. Ironically, and appropriately, it overlooks the bay where Mr. Peterson's dumped his wife's body.
THE GIRLS ARE HOME! They went to shows, they shopped, they ate cheesecake, they shopped, they went site seeing, they shopped, they missed their plane, and, finally, they made it home. Yea for me. People kept asking me if I was enjoying the peace and quiet. No.

Thanks to the kids at Starbucks for breaking up my evenings with friendly banter. Thanks to my Sunday School friends for eating an extended lunch with me on Sunday. Thanks to Chaz for keeping me company. But most of all, thanks to my wife for coming back home. You know, she could have made a run for it. She is a nurse. She can work anywhere. But, no, she is faithful and true and come home to you know who.

Proverbs says God places the lonely in families. Count me in.
CALVINIST QUOTE OF THE DAY. "It is important to realize that Christ does not come to improve the old self, to guide and redirect it to a better life; he comes to kill us, in order to raise us to newness of life. He is not the friend of the old self, only too happy to be of service. He is its mortal enemy, bent on replacing it with a new self." (Michael Horton in "Union With Christ". )

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

CALVINIST QUOTE OF THE DAY. "...until men really appreciate how much they owe to the mercy of God, they will never with a right feeling worship him, nor be effectually stimulated to fear and obey him." John Calvin, Commentary on Romans.

Friday, March 11, 2005

ALONE BLOGGING. The Little Woman, The Baby, and the College Daughter all took off on their trip today. It did not start too well. The Baby called from her cell phone about two and one half hours after departure time to tell me she was still sitting on the runway watching a movie on the plane.

The house is really quiet. I mean really quiet. I put on work out clothes to go to the gym. The dog does not want me to leave. He jumped up onto my lap. Sorry, Little Guy, it won't work.

I do not have much practice at the bachelor life. I went from the parent's house to the dorm, then got married. I have been married forever. With three daughters, someone was almost always around, even if some were gone on a trip.

So, I decided I needed to do something to prove myself. I walked around the house looking for something. And then, inspiration struck.

I raised the toilet seat and left it up.

Heh heh.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'D RATHER NOT. Isn't great that Dan Rather got his best ratings on his last night, when he is quitting. I did not watch him. I figure, his biggest claim to fame this year is reporting a story that did not happen, so I would not watch him and tell people I did.

So, don't tell anyone I told you I didn't watch it. Dan wouldn't admit his story was made up, so why should I?
HERE I LIE DOWN AND MEASURE OUT MY GRAVE. A Washington Post story by John Ward Anderson and Naseer Nouri today points out why Iraq needs saving. U. S. troops and Iraqi security officials found two different mass graves. The soldiers found the bodies of at least 39 people. Some of the people had been beheaded. Many of these people had been handcuffed and shot.

In the first, U.S. soldiers found the bodies of 26 Iraqis. They were all dressed in civilian clothes. They were blindfolded, handcuffed with hands behind their backs, and shot in the head and back, obviously executed.

In the second, troops found at least 13 bodies. Many of them had been beheaded. These were presumed to be members of the National Guard or Iraqi army.

An Iraqi doctor said he saw 19 bodies that were killed more than a week ago. Iraqi Capt. Sabah Yassin said 15 headless bodies were found in an abandoned army base. He said there were 10 men, 3 women and 2 children.

Islamic terrorists will kill anyone. Although they invoke the name of Allah for their deeds, the Koran forbids killing women and children. It is about power and blood lust. How do you get so jaded you can cut off a person’s head? How do you kill a child? How do you shoot a person in the head while their hands are bound behind their back. Do not call our President “Hitler” or a Nazi. Here are your Nazis. These are their tactics, straight from Hitler’s playbook.

Terror, blood, horror, and depravity are used to subdue the population. As we conquered Hitler’s Nazis, we must conquer these Arab Nazis. The Arab world, and the world in general, will benefit, even prosper.

P. S. – the title is a line from Shakespeare’s As You Like It

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, THE PARTY'S OVER. Reading a recent commentary by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I realize the Anglican Communion is not going to make it. You may as well print up announcements and plan the memorial service.

I guess my interest in the Anglicans comes from the fact that Baptists are “separated brethren” to the Anglicans. Plus, I am always happy when some denomination other than mine is in the news for fighting.

Anglicans consist of the Church of England in various places in the world, the Canadian church, the American Episcopal church and others. The head guy is the Archbishop of Canterbury, in England.

Conservatism is on the rise in the Church of England after years of liberal drift, and the explosion of the church in Africa has added many conservatives to the union. The issues in question have also served to awaken the conservatives. The Anglicans have been fighting over homosexuality for some time. The 1998 Lambeth Conference agreement seemed to settle the issue in favor of the conservatives, but that has not happened in practice. The American and Canadian churches have basically ignored their governing authority. This is pretty common for Americans, but the infection spread northward evidently. The Canadian church disobeyed by blessing same sex “unions”. The American church rebelled by ordaining an openly homosexual bishop.

The actions of the Canadian and American churches caused the Anglican Communion to react. Anglicans issued the Windsor Report telling the American and Canadian churches to repent and follow the doctrine of the communion. When the Canadians and Americans did not repent, Anglicans called meeting of the “Primates”. It appears the conservatives prevailed in that meeting also. They issued a statement that said "We request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC)."

This is analogous to your employer allowing you to resign rather than be fired.

The American bishops continue to support the ordination of Bishop Robinson even though many of their members oppose it and many churches are realigning with foreign dioceses to avoid falling under the leadership of bishops they deem to be outside the doctrine of the church. It is as if these bishops are not priests of the church, but priests of homosexuality. They are more intent on pushing the homosexual agenda than they are in protecting the flock of God.

Interestingly, the Archbishop of Canterbury supports homosexual priests and bishops. He has, however, seen the handwriting on the wall and read that the majority of his communion opposes them. He has attempted to be a peace maker between the two sides, but without success.

The debate over homosexuality is only part of the battle. Dr. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the diocese of South Carolina, says the issues are: (1) the authority and interpretation of scripture and (2) the way authority is expressed in the Church.

Liberals in the Anglican Communion are not happy, of course. They value tolerance over doctrine, as I guess liberals do everywhere. The problem is, the liberals do not discern the difference between tolerance and disobedience. We tolerate the homosexual who comes to church to find God and deliverance from sin just like the rest of us. We do not make him a bishop or pastor and glorify his sin, or decide that, since he cannot conquer his sin, we will decide it is not a sin.

This should be our position toward all sinners. The adulterer, the thief, the murderer, and the coveter are all sinners who come to seek God and are, hopefully, led to repentance and faith. We love them and we help them, but we do not make them pastor. We might elect them to be president of the country, but not the pastor.

I am glad to see Anglicans embrace the authority of scripture. I am thrilled with the explosion of the African church. I pray that the American church will repent and submit, but I do not think it will, for its leaders are more concerned with the values of the world than the values of the church.
THE SPIRIT OF AGGIELAND. There is just something different about Aggies that makes me smile. I received my newsletter from the Class of '74 yesterday. That sounds like the Dark Ages to young people, doesn't it? The newsletter has a prayer corner, where former students list prayer requests. How many secular universities sport a prayer corner in their alumni magazine? It was also recently rated the most conservative university politically. An example the College Daughter related recently bears this out. A few professors (people my age who still think every war is Vietnam in a sort of permanent flashback) refused to teach their classes and conducted an old school sit in on the lawn. I guess it should be a sit out since they were missing class. How did the students react? They heckled the professors and told them to get back to class. Gotta love it.

P.S. - my favorite small college is still Oklahoma Baptist University, alma mater of the Oldest, and the only hallowed ground in Oklahoma. Go Bisons!

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Southern Baptist Founders Conference Southwest. It will be held on September 22-24, 2005, in Mansfield, TX, right south of Fort Worth.

The topic is "Covenant Theology" and the speakers: Fred Malone and Jim Renihan.

Dr. Fred Malone is the father of Joanna Jones, Koinonia class member, friend, and reader of this blog (or at least was Crowley Independent School District blocked it).

I need to go to this conference!
THAT PESKY SECOND COMMANDMENT. From the Catechism written by John Broadus, Baptist Theologian:

Q. Why is it wrong to use images of God in worship?

A. Men would soon worship the image instead of God, and so God has positively forbidden such use of images. (Ex. 20:4, 5; Rom. 1:23, 25)
AMAZING GRACE. This is the hymn as originally written by John Newton. You’ll notice stanzas normally left out of the hymnal, and that the famous last stanza was added later.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved:
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come:
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this heart and flesh shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine:
But God who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
CALVINIST QUOTE OF THE DAY. The doctrine of election has an amazing effect to awaken people who are drifting in the river of inherited assumptions with no engagement of the mind. Suddenly they are jarred by the radical God-centeredness of the Bible and the frightening man-centeredness of their own hearts. They are put on a quest to build a way of thinking Biblically about the God and the world that may avoid the tragedy Colson warns about: namely, the world discovering, at last, that truth really matters, just when the church has decided in the name of cultural relevance that doctrine doesn't matter. The doctrine of election is good for us and for our grandchildren in ways we can't even yet imagine. John Piper


As we start Romans 11, we need to remember that this argument of Paul started in Romans 9. In Romans 8, Paul taught us that the believer has eternal security. Baptists often say “once saved always saved”. The old Reformers called it “perseverance of the saints”. Salvation is a work of God, it is a matter of grace, and, therefore, we cannot lose our salvation.

The follow up question is, if we cannot lose our salvation, and God’s people, the Jews, are not all responding to the Gospel, has God rejected Israel?

In 9:6, Paul said God’s word or promise has not failed. To support this, he proceeds with 7 arguments to prove his point. His arguments are the following.

1. God’s purpose has not failed because all whom God has elected to salvation are or will be saved (9:25-26).
2. God’s purpose has not failed because he has already revealed that not all Israel would be saved and some Gentiles would be (9:25-29).
3. God’s purpose has not failed, because the failure of the Jews to believe is their fault, not God’s (9:30-10:21).
4. God’s purpose has not failed because some Jews, such as Paul, have been saved (11:1).
5. God’s purpose has not failed because it has always been the case that, even under bad times, a remnant has believed and been saved (11:2-10).
6. God’s purpose has not failed because the salvation of the Gentiles is meant to arouse jealousy in Israel, which will be the means of saving some of them (11:11-24).
7. God’s purpose has not failed because all Israel will ultimately be saved and fulfill God’s promise to Israel nationally (11:25-32).

11:1-6 (The Salvation of Paul Proves God Did Not Reject Israel)

So Paul begins this section by asking, rhetorically, if God rejected his people, the Israelites. The NKJV uses the word “cast away”. The Greek word has the concept of violently pushing them away.

Paul responds that he is evidence God has not rejected Israel. As long as any Jews are saved, it shows God has not completely cast them aside. We know that other Jews were saved as well. Acts 2:41 tells us 3,000 or so Jews were saved at Pentecost. Acts 2:47 says the Lord added to their number daily. Since this occurred in Jerusalem, we may conclude that almost all of these were Jews. After Peter healed the man at the Beautiful gate, as told in Acts 3, Acts 4:4 tells us the number of men who believed grew to about 5 thousand. Acts 5:14 says that more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. So, there were Jews who converted, just not all of them.

Paul takes pains to identify himself as a true Jew. He probably had been disparaged as not a real Jew since he had converted. He describes himself 3 ways: an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

“Israel” is a covenant name. It is the name God gave Jacob after he wrestled with the angel. Israel means “struggles with God”. By identifying himself as a member of the covenant people, he reinforces his claim that God has not abandoned these covenant people.

Paul also identifies himself as a descendant of Abraham. This was the claim of the Jews. This is what made them special. Paul identifies with that also. Of course, Paul had a double claim. He descended from Abraham physically, as did all Jews, and he descended from Abraham spiritually, as do all believers.

Paul was also of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe, but a special one. Benjamin was the only one of Jacob’s sons born in Israel. The others were born in Paddam Aram. The territory of Benjamin included Jerusalem. Benjamin, along with Judah, remained true to the Lord when the 10 northern tribes did not.

So, Paul is a Jew among Jews, he has believed and been saved, and is, therefore, evidence that God has not abandoned Israel and has kept his covenant.

The Old Testament told us also that God would not completely abandon or reject Israel. Psalm 94:14 says the Lord will not reject his people and will never forsake his inheritance. Jeremiah 31:37 says “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done.”

11:2-5 (The Remnant)

Paul moves into his 5th argument in these verses. That is, God’s word has not failed because there is a remnant of Israel that has been saved. God has not rejected the people he foreknew. That is the same word we found in Romans 8:29. God chose them before the beginning of human history. We know that he did not do so as a matter of their works or worth, for they broke the covenant completely and repeatedly. Moses had told them this way back in Deuteronomy 7:7 when he said “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out of a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

There is some debate over who the people were that God foreknew in verse 2. Some think it refers to all of Israel. Others say it refers to the elect, or the remnant that believed. It appears to me that Paul is speaking of the whole nation here. He is answering a question as to whether the nation has been rejected. He is working toward a conclusion that the whole nation will be saved at some future time.

Paul refers to the story of Elijah to illustrate that God has always preserved a remnant faithful to himself when the rest of Israel was apostate. 1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah running from Jezebel’s threat to kill him. He told God that Israel had rejected the covenant, killed the prophets, and he was the only one left. But God told him he had reserved a remnant of 7,000 Israelites who stayed faithful to God.

In the same way, Paul said during his time, there was also a remnant chosen by grace. He was part of that remnant, the believing Jews. They were chosen by God’s grace, not by their works.

The concept of the remnant appears in the Old Testament. The word appears 62 times. We saw it several times when we studied Isaiah, such as 10:22-23. It appears first all the way back in Genesis 45:7, when Joseph tells his brothers he was sent ahead of them to preserve a remnant on earth.

Paul shows through his Old Testament reference that the whole nation never completely believed, but a remnant always believed and was saved.

We may feel at times, like Elijah, that we are the only ones who care about the things of God, or we are the only Christians around. But God has his remnant of believers. We believe his promise rather than appearances.

In verse 6, Paul tells us again that it is a matter of grace, not works. The “it” is election, or choosing, by God.

11:7-10 (The Elect vs. The Hardened)

Paul summarizes in these verses. He says that Israel as a whole sought righteousness, but did not obtain it. He previously told us Israel did not obtain it because they sought it through works rather than grace. The elect did obtain it. In contrast, the rest were hardened and did not receive Christ. Paul again resorts to the Old Testament to prove his point. First, he refers to Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10 to show that God would harden the hearts of the Jews. Matthew 13:14 quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 for this same purpose.

Some people oppose the doctrine of election because they think it is arbitrary. Arbitrary means there is no reason for the choice. This is not the case with God. God’s choice or election is not arbitrary because God is not arbitrary. He is just. The fact that we do not know God’s reasons does not mean God does not have reasons.
A TWOFER ON SUNDAY. Proverbs 23:24 says that the father of the righteous will greatly rejoice. It was true on Sunday as The Baby gave a testimony in church about her True Love Waits commitment and The Oldest sang "You Raise Me Up" with some great added high notes. If only the College Girl had been here to preach afterward, it would have been totally perfect. Sometimes God just gives you more blessing than you can imagine.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A MOVING STORY. I read recently that a laxative company once agreed to donate money to renovate the Statue of Liberty on the condition that it be allowed to hang an advertising banner on the base of the statue. It just gives a whole new meaning to "huddled masses yearning to be free" doesn't it?