Two People, One Saved, One Unsaved: What Made the Difference?

Differences in theology often come down to articulation. Take the mechanics of salvation and damnation as an example. To reduce the number of variables, let’s imagine twin brothers. Of course, being twins, they both have basically the same upbringing, they both have the same parents, they attend the same schools, they go to the same church, have a lot of the same friends. They have, as much as is practical, the same life.  Of course, to talk about them, they’ll need names, so let’s call them Angel and Cretin.  Perhaps you see where I am going with this.

Angel, believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by grace through faith, is received into the family of God. Cretin does not. They each die in their respective states.

Now here is my question for you: What caused the difference between these two people? What is it that made the one accept Christ and the other to reject him? Was it environment? Was it genetic? Do you deny that such a scenario could even occur?

Answering questions like this will tell you quite a bit about your faith.

Give it a shot.

Who Are You?

There is a song by The Brothers Frantzich called Abraham that purports to answer this very question. I first heard it a few weeks ago on the Prairie Home Companion, and I remember thinking initially that it was a very cool song. Then I paid closer attention to the lyrics:

I am not what I do,
I am not the house I live in,
I am not my dead end job,
I’m not real, I’m just beginning,
I am not the words I speak,
I am not the clothes I wear,
I’m not war and I’m not peace,
My advice you shouldn’t care

But there’s a mountain range that runs
from Alaska to Mexico,
During the hottest days of summer,
its peaks are blessed with snow
Repeat after me,
in the words of Abraham,
those mountains are a part of who I am.

I still like the idea of the song. The idea of self-identification, of claiming separation from certain things and declaring an affinity for others is an idea I can identify with, but in the end, they go too far. There is a kernel of Manicheanism in the song, an over-separation of the physical and the spiritual. If you are not any of these things, if I cannot begin to know you by anything I observe about you, then who are you? Are you anything at all?

If the song has accomplished anything, it has encouraged me to think about my actual identity, as a man, a husband, a father, a Christian. It has encouraged me to ask who I tell myself and others that I am, by the millions of decisions I make each and every day. And since I have been thinking about these things, I thought I would ask you as well.

Who are you? Have you stopped and asked the question lately?

As always, comments are appreciated.

Why You Cannot Afford to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Eventually, all things come to blood. If a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, good men will die. Here’s the thing though: how can you expect a nation to turn around if you do not pursue that which is great, rather than that which is barely acceptable? How can you expect goodness to come forth by choosing between the lesser of two evils?

Let’s take it a step further: If you believe that America is heading in the wrong direction but you are not willing to fight for what is good nor willing to look the part of a fool for the sake of righteousness; if you continue to be complacent and hope that tomorrow will be no different than today, then let me congratulate you on the murder of your children1.

For if you truly believe that all things come to blood, and you do not fight today, then you are leaving that fight to your children. You are leaving them to live in a world made worse by your inaction and to either become corrupted by that world, or to be killed by it.

You are leaving them to death.

And if you are that sort of man; if America is a nation composed of men who are willing to make that choice, then we will deserve the death that comes. We will deserve it, because day by day, in a million tiny ways, we will have chosen it.

1Let me be clear here: if you are fighting for good as well as you know how, I cannot accuse you. But there are those of you who are and have been compromising. Who know it, and need to be confronted with it. You have made easy choices for the very reason that they are easy. I have been one of you. I say, let it end today.

A Little More About Good Books

John’s comment made me realize that I might need to be a little clearer about the gauntlet I threw down statement I made last week.

I love reading a good book for the first time. I absolutely love it. There is nothing quite like the excitement that builds as you are masterfully forced to consider new ideas or pulled along in the exploration of some new world or brought face-to-face with a fascinating new character. It is breathtaking and wonderful, and I find it hard to pass up the chance.

It is also overrated.

You see, a good book is an intimate thing. It is a secret conversation with a man or woman of genius, it is a world unto itself, it is Odin’s eye plucked out and traded for magic and secrets, it is a pearl-white drop of wisdom poured out from someone’s soul. And it is deserving of more than just your passing notice.

You might think to say that I am taking this too seriously. I promise you, I’m not. I have and will continue to read almost anything and everything1 that comes my way with even an ounce of story and an even tinier amount of wit. I will read it, and I will enjoy it.

But given the opportunity, I will delve back into my bookshelves before I will grace the door of the library or allow my shadow to fall across the rack of new releases. To me, reading only new books is like meeting many fascinating people, but only getting to do so once. It is like dating for pleasure. I mean, come on, get married already. Settle down. Have some kids. Commit for crying out loud. To me, a book I’ve read five or six or seven times, is like an old familiar friend. A good book is, without belittling her or it, a little like my wife: well known, somewhat comfortable, but still chock full of secrets.

And I find that it changes the way I read. No longer do I merely read from line to line or page to page, but rather from chapter to chapter, theme to theme, thought to thought. I float atop these books. I swim through them. I know them.

Seriously, you should try it.

1 Case in point, I remember back when I was seven or eight, Cheez Doodles® started printing a story on the back of each their bags. It was about a castle or something and I think Cheez Doodles® were involved, but the point is, I read it, and liked it, and was disappointed when they stopped. To be even more honest: to this day, I still find myself occasionally checking the back of the bags just in case they’ve started up. Sir Cheez-a-lot was in trouble when they left him, and I’d like to see how things turned out…

You Have Misunderstood the Nature of the Law

In Romans 3:19-20 Paul says the following:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Now, I had absorbed the fact that no man has been saved by the works of the law, but there was still a part of me that thought the law technically could  justify someone. You know, if some “hypothetical” man was somehow able to keep the law then he would be saved by the law. But what Paul is telling the us here is that this is not true. Instead, he is saying something along these lines:

To those of you who are trusting in the works of the law, you have completely misunderstood its nature. You are like a carpenter who has a too-short board, and who believes that if he measures it over and over again it will somehow get longer.  Jesus Christ was not made perfect by the Law, but rather, was perfect all along. All the Law did was allow you to contrast His perfection with your gross unrighteousness. The law, to those who are in sin, is nothing more than a tape measure, but you have been trying to use it as a ladder to God.

What do you think?

Breakfast on the beach

Somehow a subscription passed into my wife’s possession to the ever-relevant Today’s Christian Woman, a magazine that answers the really pressing questions, like “Christians and Cosmetic Surgery”.  The resources-you-can-buy-to-tickle-your-soul page, titled ‘enGaGe!’ (except that the letters are all the same size, and not the same color), has advertisements for a sentimental Christmas DVD, some way-too-hip-looking guy hawking coffee-break long “thought-provoking reflections” on “relevant issues,” instructions on proper IM etiquette when communicating via that medium with your busy teenager, and ideas for spiritually scrapbooking your personal faith journey.  The real jewel of the lot is an ad for Come Closer, described as a “beautifully worded invitation to accept Christ’s call to life, love, and breakfast on the beach.”

Ah, there is a time when the great satirist must lay down his quill and roll up his parchments.  He must sigh, slowly shake his head and realize that the world itself has surpassed his even his abilities of producing the bizarre.   Following the (retired!) Dave Barry, each satirist realized that they could not go about lampooning some modern silliness without the necessary disclaimer that he was not making this up.  His services are no longer needed.  The age of the great satirists has surely passed.