Assume everything you say will be made public–because it will be

The lesson of Lance Baxter’s dumb voice mail left on the Freedom Works system is this:

Whenever you send an e-mail, whenever you leave a voice mail, whenever you sit in a cubicle and speak loudly on the phone, whenever you have a conversation in a hallway at work, even when you and your spouse have a conversation in the car with the kids in the back seat, assume that everything you’re saying might end up on the front page of the newspaper or on … because it might. Tailor your conversation according to that possibility.

That lesson was drilled into us when I worked at a daily newspaper. It helps avoid a lot of libel problems, to begin with. Plus, it keeps things civil and keeps you from saying something you’ll regret later.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23, ESV)

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (James 3:5, ESV, my itals)

Even more important are the eternal implications. Saved or not, we’ll answer for everything we’ve done, which includes every word we’ve spoken. Everything, even done in secret, will be brought into the light.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12, ESV)

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17, ESV)

Health care vote on ‘Sabbath’?

Rep. Steve King of Iowa and talker Glenn Beck are upset the health care vote apparently will take place on Sunday, which King calls the “Sabbath.”

“They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God,” King said on Beck’s radio program Thursday, the Hill reports.

Beck chimed in, “Here is a group of people that have so perverted our faith and our hope and our charity, that is a — this is an affront to God.”

Yeah, well, not really. The Sabbath is the seventh day. Nowhere in the Bible–although Beck’s a Mormon, meaning he has extra scripture–does it say the first day is the Sabbath. And not all Christians observe a pre-Easter season called “Lent.” And if the people calling for this Sunday session aren’t believers, then why should they care, anyway? So of all the procedural objections, this is perhaps the lamest conservatives have come up with. They would have gotten more sympathy by pointing out that the session will conflict with NCAA basketball tournament games.

Ensign’s downplay of his adultery

It’s beyond obnoxious for Republican Sen. John Ensign to downplay his adultery with his friend’s wife by saying that at least he didn’t do anything “legally wrong.”

  1. He broke God’s Law in several ways, including adultery, bribery and deception.
  2. He has negatively affected many lives.
  3. He has, like so many others, embarrassed the Church.

There’s probably a lot more to be said. But it goes to show that gross sin isn’t the sole province of any political party or movement.

Ensign should, just as any of us do when we sin, admit our sin without downplaying it and humbly seek forgiveness.

By the same token, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The whole situation also shows how easy it is to live a Christian veneer while justifying sin in the rest of your life. Let each of us beware.

WCIC, should we help the ungodly?

A verse my pastor brought up during his sermon on Sabbath jumped out at me as being applicable to WCIC’s call for volunteers to staff School District 150’s registration this week.

The context is the return of Jeshoshaphat, king of Judah, from a battle in which he had joined with Ahab, king of Israel (2 Chronicles 18). Jehu, son of the prophet Hanani, confronts him:

But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. (2 Chronicles 19:2 ESV)

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. (2 Chronicles 19:2 KJV)

Should we love those who hate the Lord? Should we help the ungodly?

That’s hard to hear. It doesn’t sit well with our culture. Yet we are also told by Messiah that we should love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. The question is, do we go looking for a way to help them achieve their purpose if their purpose is ungodly? I don’t think the Master was suggesting that we enable drug users to further their habit by buying drugs for them. Or burglars by serving as lookouts. Or government schools that undermine biblical values by helping make sure children are able to attend them.

Lashon Hara

I strongly recommend listening to Daniel Lancaster’s three sermons on Lashon Hara, or the evil tongue. The messianic teacher explains how Scripture looks at gossip and the roles it plays in our lives and communities. You can find the mp3s here.

Committing murder is not trusting in God

This from the health blog about the man accused of killing abortionist George Tiller:

Morris Wilson, a past member of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia who has since renounced his ties to the group, told the WSJ that (Scott) Roeder had been a fellow member. He spoke strongly against abortion and “felt he needed to do something,” Wilson said.

There is a frustration that comes with being pro-life, frustration that very little seems to change as babies are slaughtered in the womb every day.

Murder is not the answer to that frustration.

If we believe in the sanctity of life, we also need to believe in the God who gives that life sanctity. And if we believe in that God, the God of the Bible, then we need to trust that He is working in the perfect way to bring this tragedy to an end. “For we know Him Who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people'” (Hebrews 10:30).

He will judge us on how we address this situation. Do we murder, like our opponents do everyday in abortion clinics, or do we sacrifice and extend love through crisis pregnancy centers, adoption? Will we “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27)?

Justice will ultimately out. If we believe in God, we have to believe that. Our job is to keep at it in peaceful ways.

George Tiller’s life, as reprehensible as his actions were, was just as precious to God as everyone else’s life. Up to his very last breath, the possibility of repentance and salvation was there for Tiller. No one had the right to take his life without the due process of law. Unfortunately, the law does not at this time consider abortion to be murder. What Tiller did was legal. Our entire nation will be judged for that. And Scott Roeder will be judged for murder.

‘New Heavens, New Earth’

This entry is an essay I wrote on the concepts presented by Father John Spencer of St. Francis Anglican Church, Dunlap, Ill., in his 2002 book New Heavens, New Earth. All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version.


By Michael Miller

Christian believers won’t go “to heaven” when they die, the Rev. John Spencer claims.

Heaven will — eventually — come to them.

In his book New Heavens, New Earth (Writers Club Press, 2002), the Anglican vicar from central Illinois says that Christianity has allowed its understanding of eternity to be changed from a Biblical one to one based in pagan philosophy.

Rather than understanding that everyone will have a physical existence, either on a newly restored Earth in a restored relationship with God or in eternal torment in a very real hell, Spencer says, common Christian conceptions have tended toward a disembodied spiritual existence. Think spaced-out angels strumming harps in a 1950s cartoon.

But what difference does it make what we believe about our eternal existence?

A lot, Spencer says.

“I can’t state this strongly enough: if we don’t correctly understand the unity of ‘the heavens and the earth,’ God’s relationship to His world, and our proper place in it, we will never understand what ‘redemption’ is all about,” Spencer writes.

That redemption through the price paid by Christ on the cross leads to, Spencer says, “new life in a regenerated world, a world restored to the kind of place He always intended it to be.”

“We enter that new life and world only by God’s own redemption, not by our own efforts.”

How we view physical existence can also affect how we conduct our life, Spencer argues. Believing that our physical existence is of little consequence or is evil can lead:

— To gnostic heresy, which denies that Christ was present on earth in a human body.

— To a failure to take care of those in physical need in this life.

— To a spiritualization of the Gospel, rather than regarding it as grounded in everyday life.

— And to a misunderstanding of Scripture. For instance, if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection, then how can we argue for the bodily resurrection of Christ? According to Paul, if there was no bodily resurrection of Christ, then we have no hope (1 Corinthians 15:17).

A simple question

Spencer says his book was inspired by a question asked by a young niece, a question which we all ask at some point: “What will it be like when I die?”

That question hasn’t been satisfactorily answered by Christian teachers, according to Spencer. This doesn’t help when one is trying to comfort grieving people who are asking difficult questions.

“Sadly, much preaching I have heard about death, and our life after death, is shrouded in a wilderness of language that few people understand,” he writes.

God’s Word, on the other hand, is quite clear on these matters.

What Scripture actually says on the topic, according to Spencer, is that:

— God is present in heaven and on Earth. He doesn’t live “far off in heaven.”

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

— Heaven isn’t a place that has been immune from trouble.  Satan has stirred things up there (Job 1-2). War broke out there at one point and may yet again (Jude 6, Revelation 12:7-12), depending on how one reads Revelation.

— The Kingdom of God is not just in heaven, it’s here, too.

“No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

However, we’ll experience the kingdom’s fullness only “in the coming ages.”

— The world is good as created.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:31, emphasis added).

“Evil only came into our world as a result of our own rebellion against God’s rule (Genesis 3),” Spencer writes.

Man also was created, Spencer writes, to live in a material world in fellowship with the Father.

“It was only after they sinned that the realms of heaven and earth become sectioned, and the barriers went up.”

— We don’t have to leave this world in order to experience goodness. Goodness, rather, is determined by whether we are in a “right relationship” with our Creator (Hebrews 12:14).

— Jesus came to save the world (John 3:17), not to help us escape from it.

— Paradise is not our eternal home, but a temporary place of comfort between death and the Resurrection. Jesus, for instance, told the crucified thief that he would be  “with Me today in Paradise.” But Jesus then rose three days later in His glorified body and ascended 40 days later.

But Spencer is not teaching “soul sleep.” “In some way,” Spencer told me in an e-mail, “the individual human spirit remains alive and conscious, though in a kind of ‘dream-like’ state during death, being disembodied.” He also pointed out that when the spirits of Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in the Transfiguration, they were so “real and ‘present’ that Peter wants to make a tent for each of them.’” Also, in Revelation 6, the “‘souls’ under the altar are alert, aware, and impatient.”

To think Paradise is our permanent home and disembodiment is our permanent state “is one of the greatest misconceptions held by many modern Christians,” Spencer writes. He believes that the spirits of believers at the time of their deaths will go to the “Bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22) and then be raised to an eternal, glorified physical life at the final Resurrection.

This last point is the focus of the book. We were created as material beings and have a material future, which is “why the scriptural truth of a real Resurrection is absolutely central to authentic Christian faith.”

Our final destiny

“Many Christians today believe — they truly believe — their final destiny is simply to die and go to Heaven,” Spencer writes.

That causes problems of understanding Scriptures such as Matthew 5:5, which says that the meek “shall inherit the Earth.” There needs to be an Earth to inherit.

Spencer says that these misunderstandings are caused by New Age teachings, which are really just new versions of old philosophies and belief systems such as animism, pantheism and Platonism. The last, he says, is the chief problem in church theology. It emphasizes, much like Hinduism and Buddhism do, the need to escape our physical existence.

This influence sabotages “biblical cosmology,” which Spencer says is the understanding that material creation is good, albeit in need of redemption. But that redemption, Scripture promises us, will come.

The first fulfillment of that promise was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scripture goes to pains to make it clear that the resurrected Messiah was not some ghost or immaterial spirit, but that He rose in a real body: Thomas touches Him (John 20:27); He cooks for and eats with the Apostles (John 21:9-13, Luke 24:41-43).

The final fulfillment is described in Revelation 21 and 22. There, John describes “a new heaven and a new earth.” Spencer says the new world “will be tangible (touchable).”

“So will you. Christ gave us many hints, but not many specifics. Why? Because he didn’t need to. We know a world when we see one. We are promised, as St. John assures us, that when we get there ‘we will be like him’ (1 John 3:2).”

It’s also possible, Spencer writes, that there will be animals there, since God saw fit to make them a part of His first creation, and possibly clouds and rain. Sun and moon? No need for it. Scripture says, “for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” It also appears that we’ll be drinking and eating (Revelation 22:1-2). After all, “Scripture describes the everlasting kingdom of God as a great feast, a glorious wedding banquet celebrating the final ‘wedding’ of the Lamb of God and His Bride, the Church (Matthew 22:1-10, Revelation 19:9).

What is happening in these passages, Spencer says, is a restoration of God’s original intention. He created Adam and Eve with the intent of fellowshipping with them. Their fall from grace ruined that. Now, all will be made new through Christ (Revelation 21:5).  

“What some wrongly think of a purely spiritual existence in heaven will in fact be a glorious return to the original beauty of the world as God made it, and to human nature as God first created it,” Spencer writes.

Then God will dwell with His people again.


Blago insane or just sinful?

John Kass has a column in the Chicago Tribune this morning ridiculing the notion that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Pekin Federal Correctional Center) is insane. That’s the push in the news media lately as stories begin to dry up and editors try to figure out how to feed the 24-hour news-cycle monster.

 Kass’ take is that Blago isn’t insane, he’s just a typical, corrupt Chicago-machine politician.

But something the media hasn’t considered in Blago’s actions is man’s sinful condition. Take a look at Psalm 14:

To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

I’m not saying, “Let’s turn a blind eye to what he’s accused of doing because we’re all sinful, too.” Society couldn’t function in that way. God didn’t intend it to; He commanded justice for injustice. Rather, let’s not be surprised at what the governor has done, not because there’s something mentally wrong with him, but because he simply has been given over to his sin (Romans 1:28). That’s something that can happen to any single one of us.

Blago’s downfall should be a warning of what each of us is capable of.

Michael Miller

Yount: Bible tells stories. Bible: Yount tells stories

David Yount, Scripps-Howard News Service religion columnist, has a problem with facts.

In his Nov. 25 column (the link likely will be dead after 12/8/08), Yount tries to convince readers that the strength of the Bible is in its stories.

A reader recently complained that religion is based on “just a bunch of stories.” I replied that the stories happen to be true — not necessarily as science, history, or journalism — but as an indication of how things are and how people are meant to be.

That alone is evidence that Yount has the type of liberal Christian faith that likes an escape hatch. He wants to take the Bible seriously, but as soon as someone calls him on it, he has the escape that the stories in the Bible don’t have to be true “necessarily as science, history or journalism.” That way he can’t be accused of taking the Bible too seriously. If that’s the case, then what’s the point at giving the Bible any credence? Why give the Bible any moral heft or importance at all?

A passage in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians reminds them not to regard important events as “stories.”

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV)

At least, though, it appears that Yount believes that Jesus existed and wasn’t just a story. But it doesn’t appear that Yount believes what the Bible says about Jesus.

Jesus of Nazareth was a master storyteller, and the faith of his followers rests on the wisdom behind his simple parables. There was no fire and brimstone in Jesus’ preaching. He neither harangued nor moralized. Instead of issuing commands about how to live a faithful life, he chose to tell stories, leaving it to his listeners to conclude how the tales applied in their lives.

Jesus was a master storyteller and relied on stories to transmit much of His teaching. But that’s not all He did.

These are just a few examples I could find in the Gospels through a simple search. More study would likely yield more examples.

Yount and other Christians like him refuse to see Jesus as He was and is. They re-create Him to come across as a wimp, someone they’re more comfortable with. By compromising Scripture, they don’t have to be held accountable to it or by it.

The Bible isn’t the one with the stories. Yount is the one who likes to tell stories.

Michael Miller