PUTTING THE END AT THE BEGINNING

How should a book be organized?  I just finished reading the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. When I got to the end, it occurred to me that the end should have been at the beginning.

What did the authors put up front? It was proper and perhaps the best thing. The title of the first chapter is: “The Nature, Power, & Limitations of Apologetics”. Since  most people probably don’t even know the meaning of the word apologetics, that chapter has to be up front. Still, when we don’t know where we would be headed, there is not much reason to start the trip. I suppose that is why some people check out the last chapter before they buy the book.

What is at the end of this book? The authors call that chapter “The Bottom Line”. It is about the four steps to becoming a Christian.

  1. The first step is mental belief. This is the point of apologetics. This is why Kreeft and Tacelli wrote their book.
  2. Next is repentance. Once we believe in Jesus Christ we turn from sin.
  3. After repentance, we must put our faith in Jesus. Whereas repentance involves turning from sin, faith requires us to turn toward Jesus.
  4. Finally, we must live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

How do we put all that more succinctly? I believe Pastor Randy

at Kingdom Pastor has just written a post that explains that, 3:16. Here is the verse that he writes about (for the sake of providing a different emphasis, I cited my preferred translation).

Colossians 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Once we believe in Jesus, that He is real, that He is our savior, then we must make Colossians 3:16 central to our life. Then we must accomplish what Kreeft and Tacelli call steps 2 – 4.

Want to understand Colossians 3:16 better? Read post. Read 3:16.

WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 5

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, c. 1677. (from here)
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, c. 1677. (from here)

This is the fifth installment in a review of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The previous four installments can be found by clicking on the links below.

Here we will consider chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 9 tells us how Jesus taught us to see ourselves as we are. Chapter 10 explains one reason why the Christian religion grew so rapidly.

When Jesus Held Up Mirror

Chapter 9 is about one of the most dismaying experiences we will ever have, something even those wise among the ancients had not considered. Try to imagine you are on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from Jesus. In fact, if Jesus’ first coming had been in our day, He might have been speaking of us.

Matthew 23:13-36 The Message (MSG)

Frauds!

13 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

15 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

16-22 “You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

 (continued here)

The scribes and Pharisees were among the most respected religious leaders of their day. Yet here was Jesus, castigating them. He called them hopeless. Frauds! Hypocrites! He told them that God sees through our pretenses, and God would punish them for their pretenses.

It is not enough to live what we consider a good life. God insists that we actually be good. How did Jesus’ disciples react when He castigated the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees? Did they enjoy seeing the scribes and Pharisees get their comeuppance? No. They wondered. If the Pharisees could not please God, who could? Before God, who is not a fraud, a hypocrite?

Fortunately, as John Ortberg explains, because of Jesus we can all please God if we want to, but first we must admit we need God to give us a new heart, to let our Savior change us on the inside.

There Is One God Who Loves Us All

Jesus introduced the idea that we can convert to different belief about God.

The idea of conversion itself world come into the world through Jesus. To that world, the movement of Jesus was like Churchill’s description of Russia: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Christians were actually called atheists by Romans because of their neglect of the gods. (from page 130, Chapter 9 of Who Is This Man by John Ortberg)

Before Jesus, people associated each religion with a tribe or a city. Christians, however, were something new, a people who found their unity in the salvation provided by Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What unites Christians? It is not race. It is not sex. It is not a religion.  It is not a tribe, a city, or a nationality. It is love. What unites Christians is love of God. Thus Jesus said we would be known.

John 13:31-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

The New Commandment

31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In our day, this idea hardly seems novel. So Ortberg tells this story.

I had a dinner with a missionary-anthropologist named Dan Shaw.  He knew he wanted to be an anthropologist since he was ten years old. He devoted many years of his life to translating Scriptures for a people group in Papua New Guinea. He faced a difficulty: they believed in the supernatural and saw spirits and gods in many places, but they had no word for a Big God who was ruler and creator of all.

Dan got to know them and found over the years that in extended families there was a figure called hi-yo, a father figure who would arbitrate disputes and make sure everyone was cared for and decide what was fair. Dan began his translation of Genesis: “Back before the time of the ancestors, hi-yo created the heavens and the earth.”

People said, “Wow. We had no idea. He is hi-yo over everything.”

Dan asked, “What if he’s hi-yo for everyone? Not just for you. Also for your enemies. For the cannibals across the river.”

“Oh no. We’d have to make peace with them.”

And peace happened. (from page 136, Chapter 10 of Who Is This Man by John Ortberg)

WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 1

who-is-this-manEven those who do not believe he was God must find the life of Jesus of Nazareth incongruous. Yet do they ever wonder? How did a mere man, a man unbelievers say was not God and never did anything, ever become the most famous man in history?  Well, the unbelievers are wrong. Jesus did quite a bit, and that is the point of John Ortberg‘s book, Who Is This Man?

In chapter 1, Ortberg begins his book by observing that Jesus did not become famous in any of the usual ways. He was not a conquering general of armies. He was a teacher, but not just a teacher. He was not particularly famous in His lifetime, but He left a church that grew and spread His Gospel.

Made In The Image Of God (Chapter 2)

We live in a nation — in a Christian culture — that believes that we were all made in the image of God. There was a time men did not believe any such thing. Some men, like the emperor or the king, claimed kinship with the gods, but rest of men? No. Some men were thus thought literally better than other men.

Until 2,000 years ago, when Jesus taught about the virtue of humility, the elites did not bridle their pride. In fact, except for those unfortunates at the bottom of the pecking order, most men thought it appropriate to “peck” upon those lower than themselves in the pecking order. Their justification was simple enough.

The king was divine, or semi-divine. The king was understood to be made in the image of the god who created him. Only the king was made in the image of god. This was the dividing line between the king and the rest of the human race. Peasants and slave were not made in the image of god; they were created by inferior gods. (from Chapter 2, page 25)

Jesus taught differently. He said there is only one God, and He made all of us in His image. Jesus destroyed any justification for a pecking order. In Jesus Christ we are all God’s children.

Colossians 3:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Because of Jesus, the men who wrote our Declaration of Independence added these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from here)

To be continued

THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: A WORLD CLASS MERCENARY FORCE?

 

Oregon Army National Guard, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from load onto a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2013, bound for Afghanistan from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. The flight is one of more than 500, deploying and redeploying transportation missions, that the U.S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Air Force's 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron have supported since opening the transit hub in February 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Brandon Hubbard -- from here)
Oregon Army National Guard, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from load onto a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2013, bound for Afghanistan from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. The flight is one of more than 500, deploying and redeploying transportation missions, that the U.S. Army Europe’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Air Force’s 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron have supported since opening the transit hub in February 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Brandon Hubbard — from here)

Part One Of A Book Report

I have read about half of Donald Trump’s book, Crippled America: How To Make America Great Again. Thus far, I have gotten through Chapter 5, which is about our failing education system. However, this post is mostly about Chapter 4, “Foreign Policy: Fighting for Peace.”

I did not especially like what I saw in Chapter 4. What concerns me is Trump’s determination to get the “best deal.”

There is another way to pay to modernize our military forces. If other countries are depending upon us to protect them, shouldn’t they be willing to make sure we have the capability to do it? Shouldn’t they be willing to pay for the servicemen and servicewomen and the equipment we’re providing?

Depending upon the price of oil, Saudi Arabia earns somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars every day. They wouldn’t exist, let alone have that wealth, without our protection. We get nothing from them. Nothing.

It’s time to change all that. It’s time to win again.

We’ve got 28,500 wonderful American soldiers on South Korea’s border with North Korea. They’re in harm’s way every single day. They’re the only thing that is protecting South Korea. And what do we get from South Korea for it? They sell us products — at a nice profit. They compete with us.

What Trump is suggesting is that if we are going to be the world’s policeman, the world ought to pay us. That’s a very bad idea. Do we really want our soldiers to be mercenaries?

Because they are just human beings like us, our allies will never be perfect. Therefore, when we station troops in another country or come to the defense of another nation, we must set aside our prejudices. We must objectively consider what is in our own nation’s best interests. Did Donald Trump? No.

An Aside On Immigration Policy

What is it that blinds Trump? Is he blind? I don’t know. I just see a pattern developing, and it is about silly things. Before we continue, let’s briefly consider another example, from Chapter 3, “Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.” Trump wants Mexico to pay for the wall. Why would we want Mexicans to pay for the wall? To screw them? Because their leaders have encouraged their poor and their troublemakers to go north? That’s laughable!

Our problem is that our politicians won’t enforce our immigration laws. That is our fault, not Mexico’s, but Trump does not want to pay the bill. He refuses to admit we are at fault. So in addition to passing the bill for the wall to Mexico, he wants to pass the blame. Yet it is our own corrupt politicians — American politicians — who control who crosses into the United States and who stays here, not corrupt Mexican politicians.

Working With Our Allies

Trump did not even bother to consider the contributions our allies already make. He just looked at the bill and suggested someone else ought to pay.

The Unintended Consequences

As far as I can tell, Ted Cruz has not proposed a scheme to get other nations to help pay for our military forces (see American Resolve: Rebuilding America’s Military). Why not? I can only guess, but consider what would happen if other nations actually were to give us money for the use of our soldiers, regular payments for services rendered. Consider how too many of our politicians look upon money. Are they not always ravenous for more to spend?

Currently, Congress looks upon military spending as a grim necessity. From the

Strykers teams with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regment prepare 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division armored vehicles for offloading March 18, 2015 in Poland. (from here)
Strykers teams with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regment prepare 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division armored vehicles for offloading March 18, 2015 in Poland. (from here)

perspective of corrupt politicians, military spending doesn’t have much bang for the buck. That is, there are much more efficient ways to buy votes However, if other nations suddenly realize they can pay for the use of the world’s finest…..

When so many of our leaders already believe they exist just to spend other people’s money and as much money as they can spend, do we really want to let them use our nation’s armed forces as an excuse to solicit funds from other nations?

The Grim Necessity Of War

The United States Armed Forces exist to protect the vital interests of the United States. That is, military service is supposed to be about duty, honor, and country.  Hence when we station our military forces in another nation, we should be doing so only for these three reasons:

  • Duty. We have may a valid commitment. We have a moral or legal obligation that requires our forces to be in that nation.
  • Honor. In addition to treaty obligations, there are crimes and atrocities we cannot honorably ignore. When we have the capacity to stop a mass murder, we should seriously consider doing so.
  • Country. Few Americans long to be stationed for years, especially to fight, in faraway lands. Yet our soldiers volunteer to do so. They know it is far better to fight in a faraway land than it is to watch their own people suffer in their own country.

So what is the true cost of our armed forces? Is it money? No. We must always keep at the forefront of our minds what our nation’s soldiers have signed up to do, risk life and limb for us.  Therefore, when we deploy our armed forces, we should always remember it is not about money.  It is about duty. It is about honor. It is about country. It is about our friends and neighbors going into harm’s way for our sakes.

 

130320-N-TG831-099 WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 20, 2013) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7), left, performs a replenishment-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released)
130320-N-TG831-099
WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN
PENINSULA (March 20, 2013) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7), left, performs a replenishment-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released) (from here)