Monday, July 31, 2017


I am scheduled to teach at a pastor’s retreat and several other venues. A few nights ago, I awoke paralyzed by fear. Would I become fearful during my presentations? Would I flop and make a fool out of myself? Would I spiral out-of-control into depression?

This is the materialistic perspective, the perspective from below. It can be overwhelming, especially as we come to see that we do not have what it takes to ensure positive pleasure/pain outcomes. We are inadequate, limited beings, little more than passing vapors. We are self-absorbed and self-affirming.

I know what it is like to only live with this perspective from below. It is a stifling prison cell, a terror from which there is no escape. It is shark, which will not let go, pulling me deeper under water, as I grasp for a breath of fresh air.

In my fear, I cried out to the Lord like the Psalmist:

·       I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  (Psalm 34:4-6; ESV)

The Lord is my escape from the prison of my fears. He reminds me that I belong to Him, that I am serving Him, that it is no longer about me and my adequacies, but Him alone. He has taken me by the hand. He surrounds me with His love and assurances of His provisions.

How can I continue to breathe without this Divine perspective? How can I get out of bed if my only hope is in myself? Without Him, I am battered by the waves of life, thrust against the rocks.

I no longer want to be the captain of my own ship. I cannot navigate it without a rudder. It is out of my control. Instead, I delight to know that He is at the helm. I gladly go where He wants me to go, to speak when He would have me speak.

My teachings are no longer mine. I serve Him alone. If I fall, it is for Him. When I am crushed, I am confident that my Savior will restore me, teaching and guiding me in the process. I trust in Him alone – what freedom from myself:

·       Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)

Saturday, July 29, 2017


As socialism grows in popularity, the socialist has become more strident about claiming Jesus as one of their own:

  • Jesus, if viewed politically, was definately a socialist, possibly an anarchist:

In support, the socialist offered this "evidence":

  • “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23) The capitalist society we live in now is far from Jesus teaching.

However, this verse says nothing in favor of socialism. Instead, rather than equalizing wealth, it seems that Jesus was ready to increase the disparity:

  • “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭25:29;‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Jesus found no problem that some would be left with nothing, while others would have everything:

  • “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭13:41-43‬)

Jesus' teachings were based on those of the OT, where we find that God had often blessed His servants with riches, as He had done with Abraham and Job. 

Besides, it also taught that the diligent would be blessed by their labors while the slothful would justly suffer need:

  • A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. ‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭10:4-5‬)

Although the Mosaic Law made provisions for the poor, it's law would not dis-empower them by providing for the lazy. Instead, it was acceptable that both the lazy and the diligent would reap the just fruits of their own labors:

  • The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor...Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth. ‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭12:24, 26)

In many ways, the OT taught that we will reap what we sow, and this principle had been carried over into the NT (Galatians 6:9).

Were Jesus' Apostles socialists? They had been commissioned to carry abroad Jesus' teachings. Although they often wrote about the need to voluntarily contribute to the needs of the poor, they didn't enforce income equality. Nor did they teach that the Church should support every needy person among them (2 Thess. 3:10). Instead, widows were singled out for support but only if they met certain criteria (1 Timothy 5).

Jesus too emphasized voluntary alms giving. However, this was often to be given as a loan and not as an entitlement (Matthew 5:42).

It seemed that Jesus was in favor of the economic status quo. No one ever accused Him of overturning the Mosaic system in favor of income redistribution. Instead, His remedy for the human malaise was our reconciliation to God through the Cross and not through a new economic vision.


We have labored to trust in ourselves, to inflate our self-estimation and moral entitlement. In doing this, we have proudly exalted ourselves above others and have alienated ourselves from them and even from authentic self-acceptance. To maintain our inflated status, we have reacted defensively and offensively in a state of perpetual warfare.

Where then can we find peace? From the most distasteful teaching of Jesus:

  • “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (Luke 17:10; ESV)

However, the belief that we are unworthy is the last thing we want. It feels so humiliating that we can barely look at ourselves in the mirror. Although we might realize that it is liberating to accept our unworthiness and to relinquish the battle of trying to prove ourselves, it is just too painful to endure.

But in order to face life, don't we need to believe in ourselves? Not really! Instead, I have learned to believe in Christ - in His love, forgiveness, and in His daily provisions. 

As Jesus had promised, such a trust is liberating:

  • "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)

Lacking this truth of Christ, I had been enslaved to psychological demands that had been far more powerful than I. While they are still embedded deep within, I can now look them in the face and laugh at them.


Scripture can be confusing. For one thing, it seems to teach contradictory messages. Almost in the same breathe, it seems that Jesus also had contradicted Himself. On the one hand, He taught that we are responsible for rejecting God. On the other hand, He also taught that God alone determines who can come to Him:

  • Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes....But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." At that season Jesus answered and said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes: yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight. All things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:20-21, 24-27 ASV)

On the one hand, Jesus blamed the Israelites of Chorazin and Bethsaida for rejecting Him. On the other hand, He "blamed" the Father for excluding the "wise and understanding." (Also see Matthew 23:  37 and John 6:40, 45.)

We tend to think that coming to God has to be a responsibility of either God or us, that it can't be a matter of both. Therefore, let me suggest a model that might incorporate both sets of scriptural truths:

  1. We have the ability to come to God but not the will. Therefore, we freely and culpably reject Him and deserve our just condemnation. We also become hardened to the point where we cannot come to God.
  2. Consequently, we will only come to Him by the elective mercy of God.

I hope that it has become clear how we are responsible for our damnation, but also how God is utterly responsible for our salvation.

Is God unjust? Certainly not! By justice, God would have destroyed the entire human race (Romans 6:23). That's just what His justice requires. He has given us the ability to choose Him, but instead, we have freely chose rebellion. However, mercy is free. It can discriminate and extend mercy to whomever He chooses to reveal Himself.

But why would God exclude the "wise and understanding?" Evidently, these are those who are "wise" in their own eyes, those who have become hardened to the appeals of God. Therefore, God will give them exactly what they want - hardness of conscience to pursue their own ways.

In view of this, is God unjust? Hardly!


God asks us to trust in Him in all situations, but we find this difficult. Why? I think that our main problem is that we trust too much in ourselves:

  • Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, And lean not upon thine own understanding: In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; Fear Jehovah, and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7; ASV)

We are too "wise in our eyes." We are convinced that we know how to navigate our lives quite well. However, when we have such confidence, we will not learn confidence-in-God.

Instead, when life beats me up and shows me how inadequate I am, I'm  forced to cry out to God. 

Therefore, here is my suggestion - ask God to show us how inadequate we are. Jesus taught, "Without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Let's ask our Lord to teach us this lesson (2 Cor. 1:8-9), continuously.


When we have Christ's forgiveness and His gift of righteousness, we have peace. We are no longer obsessed with having to prove ourselves to the world. Instead, we grow in the assurance of our significance.

If we don't have this peace and assurance that comes through Jesus, we are forced to find it from another source such as becoming a crusader for the good of the world. When this idealism is driven by inner compulsion inside of wisdom, the results are often costly.

Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis has observed that such idealism is often more costly than purposeful criminality:

  • Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

The idealism of a desperate conscience is oppressive. Why? Because its primarily focus is not on the needs of others but on the needs of the self.

In contrast, when we are confident about God's love for us, we are freed up to love others.