America’s Dumbest Criminals, Part 197,814

Time for the newest entry in our series of utterly stupid wrongdoers!

Setting: A cell phone store near Pueblo, Colorado.

A 60-something man with a felony record sees a younger man talking to the clerk. He apparently decides he’s got an easy score, so he identifies himself as a cop, and asks the man in front of the desk if he’s a drug dealer because he has so many phones. He then demands that the younger man give him the drugs. The younger man asks for his credentials, and the older man demands the drugs again.

That’s when the younger man ID’s himself as a real cop and arrests the older man for impersonating a cop.

 

Wisdom

Wisdom intrigues me.

The Bible says there is a wisdom that is not from Him: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness” I Corinthians 3:19.

The Bible also says there is Wisdom from God: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

I pray for Wisdom from God, and He answers. My Husband is a simple man in many ways, but he prays for Wisdom from God, and there are times when he speaks that I know those words are directly from God.

Do you ever have moments in time when God reveals something to you, and you know this is from Holy God? I do. They are powerful, so powerful that I often feel like I’m standing on Holy Ground. Yesterday I had one of those moments.

God showed me how He has been in control in my Oldest Daughter’s life all these years. He showed me that pulling her out of public school to Home school her at this specific time was His timing. He showed me again that often, simply because we live in a fallen world, we cannot have what is best when we want it. He showed me again that there is often much pain in birthing something that we desire that is good for us, even when that something is from God. There have been many painful years of public school for my daughter. We both longed for her to be home schooled, but my hands were tied. God showed me that it is no coincidence that the chains that bound her to public school were released at the very moment they were. God is Sovereign.

As her Momma, it has been excruciating to watch her experience so.much.pain and not be able to remove the source of that pain. But God has plans for her, as He showed me again yesterday, and He has never stopped loving her, or protecting her, or caring for her, or being there for her.

This is always hard for me to wrap my mind around, but God also always gives me a peace about it, too. Life is hard, painful, difficult, fraught with strife … and often simply because we live in a fallen world. I do not buy into the theory that God does these things to us to make us stronger, to purify us, to whatever. He can, but I do not think we can or should attribute every painful experience in life to that. I do believe that He uses everything to purify us, to bring glory to Him, if we allow Him to, but I don’t think He looks down on us and says, “Ame’s daughter is 7 and needs to be purified! I’m going to send her through hell on earth to purify that kid before she becomes a heathen!” I think that we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen – sometimes they are by our own choices; sometimes they aren’t. And it would be terrible to even imply to my daughter that she deserved the hell she’s been through and/or that she needed it, so God gave it to her.

I think it’s more accurate to reveal God’s love for her, to her. I think it’s more accurate to let her know that, despite how terrible it’s been, God is going to use this for her good in her life. I think it’s more accurate to help her see and hear and know the One who loves her more than we can ever imagine, the One who will never leave her nor forsake her, the One who is more powerful than any other force anywhere, and that this One, the Great I Am, her Creator, finds her precious and beautiful and valuable beyond measure, and He has incredible plans for her life.

Life is hard, but God is not cruel. We live in a fallen world where even the earth groans and longs for the return of Christ, and He will come again. In the meantime, the battle rages. May we daily put on the armor of God and ask Him to open our eyes to see and our ears to hear, Him.

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12

Step-by-Step

Through a series of multi-faceted circumstances, I have recently begun homeschooling my Oldest daughter.

Being new to homeschooling, I decided to pick up from where she was in public school and begin with, among other things, World History. As I looked at curriculum both faith-based and not, I decided it would be good for her to develop a biblical view through which to learn World History. The first assignment I gave her was to research Old Earth and Young Earth, define them, understand them, and then decide what she believes. I gave a little bit more instruction than this, but not much. She’s a sophomore in high school, a veracious reader, loves to write, has done research before, and knows how to cite her findings. I thought this would be a breeze for her. Then she asked me, “Ummm, do I have a form to follow? They usually give me a sheet in school to follow.”

After a few days of her accomplishing nothing and kinda evading the topic, I talked to my friend who is a teacher. She told me that schools do not teach kids how to write because they don’t have time. They teach them how to fill in the blanks and move onto the next topic so they can prepare the kids to do well on standardized exams. Sheesh!

I’ve been a bit torn between being frustrated that a school district with excessive bragging rights on their consistently high test scores has taught so little to such a bright kid, and being extremely grateful I am now able to homeschool her and actually teach her how to take a topic and do something with it.

Naturally, I have back-tracked with her, am giving her more guidance, and am more thoroughly explaining things as we go along. She will learn, and she’ll do great. And she’ll be able to take an idea, create something out of it, research it, learn from it, and present it. I’m so excited we’re homeschooling!

God’s Will?

“God’s Will” is certainly a hot topic. How do we discern what is God’s will? Did God will the bad things in our lives?

I just read a post stating that if times are difficult, God must know we need them to be for our benefit. I’ve heard it stated that difficult times are God’s way of sharpening us – you know, the iron- sharpening-iron-thing … the purifying-us-in-the-fire thing.

I’m not saying these might be the reason God allows some bad things to happen, but I cannot say that God willed my dad to abuse me to make me stronger, to purify me. I can’t say that about a LOT of things. And I won’t.

I will say that God, having given us the freedom to make our own choices in this world, allows us the freedom to make and carry out those choices, even when they affect and hurt innocent people, and they always hurt innocent people.

Can God, then, take those bad things and use them for our benefit? Absolutely. But I cannot believe that God wills a dad to abuse his daughter … a man to brutalize another human being … millions of Jews to be incinerated with months of terrible atrocities and violence … a child to be kidnapped and brutally abused and mutilated and murdered … and the list goes on. No one can convince me that these, and things like them, are God’s will to make us stronger.

There comes a place when the religious “words of comfort” are flat out wrong. The reality is … Satan and his demons rebelled against God. The reality is … Satan is the prince of this world. The reality is … we live in a fallen world. The reality is … Satan is a deceiver and comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and will use any means to deceive us to steal our joy, kill our spirit, and destroy our hearts. The reality is … Jesus has come to give us LIFE, and more abundant life at that. The reality is … we have a choice: we can choose God, or not. And the reality is … choosing God does not take the bad out of our lives … nor does it remove Satan from using everything he can to defile us.

However, I believe with every fiber of my being that God has drawn a line over which Satan can NOT cross. And I believe with every fiber of my being that Satan and his demons do not go over that line without God’s permission. I believe with every fiber of my being that, while God does allow freedom of choice, He protects us from the full assault of Satan and evil … because I do not believe we are capable of sustaining and surviving such an attack.

I believe with every fiber of my being that God is Good, Just, Sovereign. And I believe that our choices in this life directly affect where and how we spend eternity in the next life.

Economic Recovery…FEEL THE RECOVERY!!!

A FB friend of mine says,

I feel so stuck right now. I have a useless college degree & very little work experience. I can’t seem to find a job because I’m almost 25 with no experience. I can’t afford a car because I can’t find a job. I’m automatically disqualified from a lot of jobs because I don’t have a car. Bills just keep piling up & I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

She’s got a degree from a state university, majoring in General Studies. She’s got student loan debt of about $35K. She lives in the Midwest.

Draw the Line; Make the Choice.

In Amir’s comment here, he wrote:

I’m not saying I don’t empathize with a husband (wife) who gets frustrated with certain things about his (her) wife (husband); truth be told, everyone does at various points in a marriage.

Still, marriage vows mean things, and it behooves the Christian–especially one who serves in an office of oversight described in the pastoral epistles–to take that marriage covenant seriously.

This leads me to write about something I’ve been mulling around for quite some time: Life is a Choice.

When we’re single and desire marriage, we long to get married. When we’re married and desire children, we long to conceive or adopt. When we’re without a job and want to work, we long for employment.When we see that new opportunity and want to go for it, we long for it to become real.

When we get that spouse, when we get that kid/those kids, when we get that job, when we get whatever it is we’re desiring or whatever it is we get by default in this life, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s not all balloons and roses and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Sometimes we even wonder why the heck we longed for this in the first place … or why God allowed it.

My Oldest daughter, who will be 16 in a few weeks, is going through some very difficult times due to circumstances she had no part in. As we were driving home from a doctor’s appointment, she shared how thankful she is for the Mom I am to her and how other parents don’t do the same. She listed many things. I told her, “It’s a choice. It’s my choice to stay in and be your Mom.” We talked about that for a long time.

There were a few who criticized me for staying in my first marriage as long as I did … that I should have bailed out long before he ended it, long before I knew what had been going on, but I had made a choice to be married: for better and for worse.

In my marriage to my wonderful husband now, it is still a choice, albeit an easier one. But there are times he’s not so fun to be around … there are times I’m very grouchy and irritable (my girls think he’s a saint for putting up with me sometimes – I think he’s a gutsy man to marry a perimenopausal woman!). There are times we don’t feel so loving toward each other. But we continue to choose to love each other. It is a choice.

Having had two babies in diapers, both with allergies, one with special needs, a husband who was presenting serious, negative emotional behavior, and no family support, created many a time when I made a choice in my extremely exhausted state: a choice to smile, a choice to care for my babies with kindness and gentleness, a choice to love. My special needs daughter is an enormous amount of work. It is my choice to continue to remain in her life as the Momma I long to be for her. My Oldest specifically pointed that one out – how I choose to positively take care of her sister.

The cold truth is … life is a choice. Remaining pure is a choice. Our attitude is our choice. Being a good parent is a choice.

And staying faithful in our marriage is a choice. It is a choice to not entertain thoughts about another man or woman who, at the time, appears better than the one you’ve got. It is a choice not to dwell on the negative of our spouse when it seems to be blasted in neon paint all over our life at that moment. It is a choice to let go of the things that really don’t matter and not wallow in them, not allow them to grow roots of bitterness. It is a choice to pull roots of bitterness rather than water them and allow them to grow. It is a choice to humble ourselves, heed wisdom, ask for accountability, and stay true to the vows we made.

These choices are often hard. They must be deliberate and proactive. When we fall, we need to catch ourselves quickly, get rid of what tripped us, and choose to walk-it-straight, again.

How hard is this to maintain making positive choices over a life time? Read about the kings in the Old Testament. So many who started out honoring God fell by the wayside … tempted by a woman, or pride, or simply tired of staying true and just giving up. When I was younger I couldn’t figure that out … how one could live their lives honoring God only to fail so miserably later in life. Now that I’m a bit later in life and have gone through a lot, I get it. I’m tired. Tired of the trials. Tired of the things that never seem to end. Tired of being knocked down and having to pull myself back up, for the umpteen-thousandth time. I don’t want to pray for the strength to get back up. I don’t want to wait on God, again, and again, and again. But I choose to do so. It’s a choice – a choice often against what would be so much easier to do, often against our momentary desires and passions.

James 1:13-15 says:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

I heard Ravi Zacharias speak about Daniel on the radio many years ago – here’s a recording where Ravi talks about Daniel – either what I heard or similar (Ravi begins at 3:02). At 26:45 Ravi talks about training our appetites, and it’s very powerful. He continues to quote Billy Graham and his concern for living his live in his senior years so as not to destroy what he’d spent a life-time building. Daniel stayed the course because, at the very beginning, when they asked him to eat the king’s food, he refused. Daniel 1:8: But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Sometimes that first choice doesn’t seem so evil, it doesn’t seem as though we’re being dragged away by, ahem, our own, evil desire. It doesn’t even seem like we’re being enticed. It seems, well, normal. Sometimes it even seems good and can be categorized as an answer to prayer.

We need to check ourselves and pray for, and use, God’s wisdom. We need to do whatever it takes, even to the extreme, to make the right choice in the seemingly benign and small matters. Those choices determine the projectory of our lives.

Draw the line. Make the Choice.

Answering Snoop, Part 3

Snoop:

Let’s just get down to business here, shall we?

So you jump from life is complex to that the Bible is true? I completely agree. I mean all these incredible advancements in science, engineering, and technology clearly reflect a biblical world view.

What I did was provide a rational case for (a) the premise of a higher intelligence, and (b) the premise that Man is created in the image of that higher intelligence. The Bible happens to fit that model. I also challenged you to come up with a better model. While you have asserted a naturalistic model–which is definitely a start–you have not developed that model intellectually.

I mean we now have undeniable proof to back up biblical claims such as: the world is flat, donkeys and snakes can speak, giants existed, morality was originated from fruit, men used to live to be almost a thousand years old, a man built a huge ship and collected every animal in pairs so as to avoid a coming flood that we also have proof of, the world is only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs are a myth, prayer is just as effective as medicine, pi equals three, true believers cannot be bitten by snakes, shellfish and pig are dangerous to eat or touch, men can die and came back to life, that a woman’s menstruation is both unclean and sinful, man has the biology to not die if he were perfectly moral and sinless, there is a heaven and hell as well as a second hell that everyone seems to forget about, that angels and demons interfere with political and personal matters, people can become possessed by demons and have them live inside their body controlling them, that a man could walk on water, a woman can be spontaneously turned into a pillar of salt, that above our hell and flat world we also have a ocean heaven and regular heaven, and on and on! How can anyone be so BLIND to these biblical TRUTHS.

Dude, your sarcasm borders on entertaining and makes for a nice sound bite on occasion, even if that occasional sound bite embodies more sizzle than steak.

The Bible makes no assertion that the earth is flat. Does your house have only 4 walls? One need not believe in a flat earth when speaking of the “4 corners of the earth” or “the ends of the earth”. (Certainly you understand the difference between literal and metaphorical, so quit insulting your own intelligence.)

Moreover, the Bible does not require that the earth and universe be only 6,000 years old. In fact, if you’d bother to read the narrative of Genesis 1, you might notice that—between verses 1 and 2—there is significant room for latitude in understanding in terms of time frames.

Complicating matters is the issue of frame of reference. It is no small matter, because in one frame of reference a small time—one second—can be thousands of years in a different frame of reference.

(It is science, Snoop. Not mere speculation, either: this has been verified empirically. Go back and study relativity. Pay particular attention to issues of time dilation. Then get back to me.)

Nor does the Bible suggest that dinosaurs are a myth. Entire species go extinct every day, Snoop. As I said, there is plenty of latitude within the corpus of Scripture regarding the age of the earth. The same is true regarding what happened to various animal groups.

Now don’t get me wrong, Snoop. I understand your anti-supernatural suppositions. At the same time, if one accepts the premise of a great intelligence that designed intricate systems to regulate processes for every manner of organism—from single-cell bacteria to human beings with many different systems, all of which are well-integrated—then it is quite rational to accept that such an intelligence can operate outside the natural zone. Ergo, interruptions of the natural order—where a donkey may speak, people may be cured of catastrophic diseases or conditions, people may rise from the dead (or in the cases of Enoch or Elijah, not die at all), water may become wine, etc.—indeed become quite plausible.

As for various Old Testament laws regarding dietary standards, menstruation, etc., you seem to be missing the larger issue: in the Old Testament, God gives us a portrait of His character against the backdrop of our fallenness.—and it is not a pretty backdrop—all while pointing to the eventuality of the Messiah. But more on that on another day.

In response to your seven biblical observations; you need to slow down. You are making WAY too many assumptions here.

Actually, you are missing my point. You are the one who has suggested that if God exists, then you are more compassionate than He is. You are the one who has spewed rhetorical questions suggesting that the God of the Bible is cruel, unjust, and lacking compassion.

I am simply pointing out that if the God of the Bible is indeed the Creator, then He is under no obligation to act according to your—or my—arbitrary definitions of justice and compassion. If He is the Creator and We are the Creation, then we are subject to His demands, not the other way around.

First off why even analyze the Bible as something true if you have no reason to? Couldn’t you analyze any book as absolute truth if you wanted to using the same process? “Something in this book makes sense so I’m going to analyze that and ignore everything else herp derp.”

I could, but for such a book to be a candidate, it would be a question of how well it fits the data. What I am saying is that the Biblical model fits the data better than any other model. You are more than welcome to attempt to produce a better model.

You’re also basically saying that anything God omits or does not explain falls under the umbrella of being unnecessary? How incredibly convenient for him and you. Really doesn’t require you to think too much on that one. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

The issue is where we set our respective bars. I accept that the preponderance of evidence is in favor of the God of the Bible, and that other frameworks–including the secularist model–don’t come close. Does that mean that every every question I have is answered to my satisfaction? Of course not. But that raises the question: Does God have to answer every question I have—to my satisfaction—in order for me to accept what is already a preponderance of evidence in His favor? Of course not. And that is my point: what I have given you is my assessment based on a preponderance of evidence based on what we tangibly know to be true in science, engineering, and technology.

I have lots of questions for God. But the answers to those questions are hardly deal-breakers. This is because the case for God is already “close enough” in my book. I’m an engineer; I’m all about “close enough”.

You want a perfect God who is the ultimate standard of good, yet when he displays characteristics that he himself declare sinful in others, you also want to look the other way at his own transgressions. Now, God can not just be excused while he holds his creation to the same standard. Does Jesus not constantly condemn hypocrisy? Therefore God cannot be excused of his own sin. By excusing him and not expecting an answer to his own faults, you are having it both ways.

You tend to forget something, Snoop. I’ll sum it up in one sentence: “It’s good to be king!

You see, Snoop, if God is the Creator, then what He does with His own Creation is His own prerogative, and He is under no obligation to act according to your expectations of fairness.

If He is the only God, then it is His prerogative to demand of Creation what He wishes to demand.

Yes, that fact can be very disconcerting, given that if He is God, then we are not.

At the same time, if He is God—and if He made you—then who are you to judge Him? After all, it would be the height of arrogance for the creation to judge the Creator.

Let’s use some logic here. God is moral and does not sin. God is the ultimate example of living correctly and without sin. God murdered babies in Egypt by putting a plague that kills the first born of every house within Egypt. Murdering infants is therefore not wrong because if it is then God has sinned, but we know that God does not sin. Therefore abortion is permitted through God’s example. How is killing an embryo any worse than killing a baby? I mean if you think about it, embryos are the size of a peanut and do not contain nervous systems. Don’t you think killing babies is much more extreme? That being said, according to God it is still moral to kill even babies. So you’re down with abortion, right Amir? I mean, you don’t disagree with God do you? That’s my problem; God is not held to his own standard. So your argument is dismissed completely. Let’s say I’m wrong, then why allow such a thing to even be concluded from the Bible. Why is God such a terrible communicator of his own message?

Again, you are completely missing the point. For one thing, if God is the Creator, then He has the right to deal with Creation as He sees fit. As they say in the military: rank has its privileges. And ya can’t outrank the King of Kings.

Morality is an evolutionary trait. Not killing each other benefits the survival of a tribe. I mean, that’s step number one isn’t it? Killing people outside that tribe who threaten it is in benefit of the tribe. Morality is a social contract that we have come up with to make survival more likely. Doesn’t this also explain why killing in itself is not right or wrong? So if you think about it, God and morality can’t coincide because there are no absolutes or ultimate standard. Consider the golden rule as an example of survival of the fittest. I mean come on Amir it’s 2013. Go to Barnes and Noble and pick up a book to see what you’ve been missing out on since the bronze age.

The problem with your case is that it is based entirely on relativism. Not killing each other may or may not strengthen a tribe. The tribal leadership may, however, decide that–based on the metrics of their own choosing–killing entire segments within the tribe, even if those segments have not posed a threat to anyone else in the tribe, may be within the best interests of the survival of that tribe. Others within the tribe may disagree. But the morality of such a move is totally dependent on who has the superior firepower.

And let’s not confine the discussion to tribes. If humans are mere animals–and there is no God–then there is no objective case against the use of eugenics–or even genocide–in order to purify the human race. After all, it is scientific fact that some races are more intelligent than others, and it is scientific fact that some races are more civilized than others, just as it is scientific fact that some tribes are more productive than others.

A major issue you seem to be overlooking is that atheism hardly requires civilization. If there is no God and if John wants Fred’s wife, then there is no objective case for why it would be wrong for John to kill Fred and then take the widow–possibly by force–to be his wife. And if John gives her a clitorectomy to mitigate the chances of any other man wanting her, then that is his prerogative. After all, because there is otherwise no objective case for her equality, she’s between a rock and a hard place. After all, minus God, you are left with the law of the jungle. He’s stronger, therefore he wins.

Nor do we have an objective case that you have any intrinsic rights–to include property rights–as an individual in any atheist framework. This is because you have no objective means to suggest that the fruits of your labor actually belong to you. The State may decide that you belong to them. Ditto for your wife, kids, and property. In fact, Atheist governments are prone to such power grabs. Mao (China), Pol Pot (Cambodia), Stalin (USSR), and the Kim dynasty (North Korea) are proof of that. Fundamental rights become a question of which side has the better firepower.

Even in the less-collectivist West, we cannot be so sure of fundamental rights in any Atheistic paradigm, as freedom is–in historical terms–a very recent development, a Christian one no less. It was the Christian–not the Atheist–after all, who led the charge to free the slave. What is often overlooked is that the modern Civil Rights movement is the product of the Christian. When you venture outside the Christianized West–especially in Africa, the Middle East, and even the Far East–slavery continues to be a very ugly mess. Oh, and slavery is re-emerging in post-Christian Europe. Evolving morality? Not hardly…

But hey…in an Atheistic framework, there is no objective reason why we should bother with such issues. This is because those who are trafficking in persons–who tend to have deep pockets–are higher on the totem pole than those being trafficked. If Natural Selection is the law, then it is no less valid to cynically forget the victims and say, “It sucks to be them” than it is to send SEAL Team 6 to rescue those so enslaved.

Also, don’t give me that crap about “Oh, well you never really understood God in the first place”. Please. Do you? You’re saying that God can’t let us have a perfect existence without giving us free will? So what else can God not do? I thought he was omnipotent but I guess not. I was wrong to have such a big view of God.

My observation is that this loss of faith–while rare–is a process, and that usually involves one or more adverse experiences in which a person has certain expectations about God that don’t play out the way he or she expects. And it is a lot more than an intellectual exercise. Perhaps you may wish to articulate how your experiences came into such conflict with your understanding of God.

As for God’s omnipotence, I’d say your problem is that He does not exercise it the way you wish He would. Usually, the argument goes, “If God is so powerful, then why does He not intervene to stop [insert tragic event] from happening?”

Open Theists would say that God is not capable of stopping certain things. Hard Calvinists would say that God ordained for all these hardships to happen.

Rachael–and yourself–seem to pride yourselves on freedom. Rachael even says, “Freedom is my god.” The allure of freedom is quite huge, and I can empathize with it, being a libertarian myself.

Did God permit “evil” or merely “choice”? Assuming that the Bible is giving us the truth here, then that means Adam and Eve had only one hard command, and that command came with a very specific warning. It was a simple command, and the stated consequences were succinct.

As for your contentions about God, I cannot help but ask that if you drank a bottle of drain cleaner even though you understood the posted warning, is it the manufacturer’s fault that you ended up having your stomach removed?

If you were pregnant and knew that drinking alcohol is harmful to your baby–these are posted warnings, after all–and you get drunk anyway and your child is born with defects, is it the beverage company’s fault even though they posted a warning and you knew better?

Still, reading the Biblical text, it is fair to ask where the temptation originated.

Did the serpent call them over to the tree and tell them the great benefits of eating from it? No.

In fact, Eve was gazing at the tree, and Adam was with her at the time. The serpent entered a dialogue with her and convinced her to eat of the fruit.

But did God cause that to happen? No. She and Adam were at the tree by their own choice. They were under no compulsion to be where they were at the time. She was admiring what she was forbidden to have. She allowed the serpent to convince her to eat the fruit of that tree, even though she knew better. Adam–who also knew better–did nothing to object.

Eve was deceived, but she was deceived into partaking of something she already wanted: she (and Adam) were clearly lusting after that fruit. Adam openly rebelled. Both disobeyed. No one forced it on them; they freely chose to do what they did.

As a result, God cursed the earth, Man was driven from the garden, Man was stricken with the curse of death, Man was stricken with hardship (thorns and thistles), and childbearing became very risky and painful. (Even then, God gave a promise of eventual defeat of the serpent.)

So from that passage, it is not God’s fault that Man chose to disobey. As with Rachael, freedom was the god for Adam and Eve, and here we are with the consequences.

My point is that God permitted choice–freedom. That the outcome of the choice–that God warned against making–has worked out disastrously isn’t God’s fault. That it has played out so severely in our frame of reference is quite likely due to the fact that rebellion–in God’s frame of reference–is a very big cosmic deal.

In Scripture, we get occasional glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes, and the antics of Lucifer/Satan are indeed quite ugly and far-reaching. That we experience some of that ugliness in our frame of reference should give us pause about the gravity of rebellion in God’s frame of reference, because believers will end up there one day, and will be like the angels. And a large sector of said angels once rebelled…

In fact, that God has provided a way of redemption for Man is nothing short of amazing, given what we see in the Biblical text. After all, none of the angels who rebelled–to include Lucifer/Satan–are given such a path.

Amir, how many abortion clinics have you stood in front of offering to adopt if the mothers would consider giving birth? How many homeless people do you allow to live in your house? Do you tell your wife to cover her head and remain silent in church? I know you probably tithe or donate money to charity, but you know you will have mansions in Heaven, right? You should be given in proportion to that. So I think your view of God is very limited. You love him because he first loved you? He must not love you very much then because I truly doubt you have taken up your cross and lived a selfless life. Is there more you can do? Then do it. Didn’t your Christ suffer and die? Why is it that your sitting at a computer when you could be off ministering in other countries? That being said, you don’t even need to leave your city to do God’s work. Do you witness to people as Jesus did? Do you baptize others as Jesus did? Do you humbly serve sinners as Jesus did? If your knowledge and love for Jesus reflects your life, then it should be in incredible life. Can you truly say that of yourself? You know damn well that you’re just as selfish as I am.

No question about it. One of the main reasons I am a Christian is that the Biblical model provides the most accurate assessment of the human condition: one of corruption and fallenness. And that is on everyone, which includes you and me.

You see, every other religion–to include Atheism–presupposes that Man is either (a) inherently good or (b) self-redeemable or (c) self-perfectable.

And yet the annals of history reveal no such truth about humanity. The more advanced we become technologically, the more efficient we become at doing harm. In the last century, more people have been killed in war–and acts of peacetime atrocity–than in the previous centuries combined. Technology has given us the capacity to kill people in masses that Ghengis Khan wished he had.

I could even boil it down to the individual level: no one has to teach a child how to be bad. In all my experience at teaching children, I’ve never once had to teach bad behavior to a child. Lying comes naturally. Temper tantrums come naturally. Selfishness comes naturally. The desire to steal comes naturally. That is because the tendency to do those things is a matter of the heart. Parenting is difficult for this very reason: simply coaching the right behavior doesn’t cut it, because programming a behavior doesn’t guarantee character.

Left to ourselves, humanity is on a collision course with extinction. Our character–combined with our advancements in technology–guarantees it. Even setting aside nuclear weapons–of which we have enough to destroy civilization–conventional weapons are themselves becoming increasingly lethal on a mass scale. To argue against me is to argue against human “progress.”

But which worldview properly assesses the human condition and provides an answer?

My contention is that the Biblical model provides the most accurate answer. You are more than welcome to provide an intellectually-developed model for your naturalistic, secular case, and I will be more than happy to publish it here for debate.

Also, what if your wrong? Don’t you see how much hate you’ve spread? I’m not too familiar with your blog (even though I did see it on the cover of TIME and Rolling Stone) but what I’ve already skimmed through shows a irrational conservative mind that fears atheism, homosexuality, and anything else it doesn’t understand. True prejudice is the hatred of what we do not understand. You can believe whatever stupid thing you want, but when you start voting against progress and forcing your delusion into other peoples lives then you’ve crossed a line. Let’s just say God doesn’t exist, what would you have done differently in your life? If you respond to anything just answer me that one question.

To answer that one question: if there was no God, I would have been a lot more self-indulgent and materialistic. I probably would have become a lawyer–at a time when it still had an economic tradeoff–and would have been quite shrewd and aggressive in that practice. I would have been more hedonistic in my personal life, and would not have had even close to the regard for my fellow human that I have had as a Christian. My family was raised to be fairly materialistic, and that would have been my mindset, only on proverbial steroids.

Back to your other contentions, though. I must admit I had quite the chuckle. I don’t “fear” atheists, homosexuals, or anything else of this world. Heck, I have had many co-workers over the years who were atheists, homosexuals, as well as Hindu, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist, and Pagan. I have eaten and drank with them, and many of them are even my friends. MrsLarijani will even vouch for the fact that–while I loathe feminism–I am very good buddies with many a feminist. Fear them? Bah! I do loathe their ideas, and I understand them a lot better than you think I do.

Like you, I deal with the real world. I write about that, as it pertains to this country: that our country is heading toward a post-Christian society that will last at least one generation. Do I “fear” that? Hardly. Quite the contrary, I look forward to it. The Church in America is long overdue for a housecleaning, and this is probably a catalyst toward that end.

To be honest, I already know for absolute certainty that your God does not exist. Listen, I’m convinced I’m right and you know you’re not going to change my mind with arguments I’ve already heard. I also know that you know for absolute certainty that your God does exist and any argument I give you isn’t going to change your mind. Trust me, I was in your shoes once. Nothing that you have said is something I also wouldn’t have said. It blows my mind talking to you because I’m talking to my 15 year old self. The difference is that I’m on the side of the fence that you will never be on.

I will never be on your side of the fence because–unlike you–my studies (and experiences) have convinced me exactly the opposite: that not only does God exist, but that the God that does exist is indeed the God of the Bible.

I have called upon that God for numbers of things in life. I didn’t always get the answer I wanted, and sometimes I received the answer I wanted, but not on the timetable for which I was hoping. But God has provided for all my needs, even if not my wants. Yes, I have suffered adversities in various forms, and many of those adversities were not the result of any choice on my part. I haven’t always received what I earned, or received the breaks that I deserved. I have had to deal with medical issues that the average bear doesn’t have to face. I have had family-related strife that was no fault of my own. I even stumbled and created some baggage of my own at times.

But you know what? None of those things makes God bad; it simply means I live in a cursed world as a member of a race that is fallen and corrupted, for which God has provided a means of eventual deliverance, even if this life isn’t always fair.

You can reject that if you wish; I’m all for your freedom to do that.

At the same time, I’ve made my case. I made it on the basis of science, technology, and engineering, and have concluded that the Biblical model is more accurate than any other religious model, to include Atheism.

I’m all for the free market of ideas, and the ball is in your court to (a) show that my case is anything other than rational, and/or (b) come up with a more rational, intellectually-developed model.

Book Review: A Twisted Faith

During my days in seminary, some friends of mine and I were discussing the Doctrine of Sin. Most were trying to articulate their position in highly academic terms. They tossed terms like “Original sin” and “sin nature” around, dissected them, attempted to contrast them, and so forth. In the process, the forest was getting lost in the trees.

Finally, I chimed in grinning from ear to ear: “If God leaves us to ourselves, there is no limit to the evil we can accomplish together!”

If ever an author provided a snapshot of how that can work out in a church, Gregg Olsen does this in A Twisted Faith (ATF), which reads like a modern version of Elmer Gantry.

Unfortunately, whereas Elmer Gantry is a fictional character whose indiscretions and crimes were imaginary, Nick Hacheney is a real-life former pastor who engaged in multiple affairs and is now doing time for the murder of his wife.

Had that been all there was to the story, it would be bad enough.

But Olsen does a wonderful job piecing the dynamics together, and what emerges is a portrait of the deceitfulness of the human heart, and how–left unrestrained–sin can destroy entire families, and even a church Body.

This is because Nick Hacheney is far from the only bad actor here. In fact, in Christ Community Church, we get a confluence of factors that produce the perfect storm:

(1) One pastor–Bob Smith, also known as “PB” (Pastor Bob)–who is a good and decent man, but who was way too idealistic and, due to various factors, lost all situational awareness of what was going on right under his nose;

(2) One pastor–Robert Bily–who was controlling and manipulative, and who had an inflated sense of his own importance (he called himself an “apostle”);

(3) One pastor–Nick Hacheney–who came off as likeable, but who had a shoddy understanding of Scripture, was inexperienced as a counselor, clearly had a fixation on sex, and was given the wherewithal to do a mother lode of damage;

(4) A married woman–Sandy Glass–who was given a role (prophetess) for which she clearly did not meet the Biblical criteria, and who issued “prophecies” that were no more than her own self-interests cross-dressed as God’s Word;

(5) A married woman–Annette Anderson–who eventually caved to Nick’s brazen sexual advances;

(6) A single mom–Nicole Matheson–who was coming off a very bad marriage, and who had a history of picking bad men, who ended up in Nick’s crosshairs;

(7) PB’s younger daughter–Lindsey–became the target of Nick’s advances. He exchanged steamy e-mails and engaged in cyber-sex with her, although–due to geography–he was not able to add her to his list of conquests;

(8) A series of minor conflicts that became major thorns. These would foster discord among key people in the church–even leading to a church split–whereas a more unified church would have been better-equipped to confront Nick.

(9) A devastating lack of sound doctrine. The church is rife with health-wealth-prosperity (possibly even Word of Faith) theology.

(10) In one of the most disgusting things I have ever read, Nick even has a 1 Corinthians exchange with his own former mother-in-law. (And I don’t mean 1 Corinthians 13.)

Anyone who reads ATF and dismisses it, does so at one’s own peril.

First, a few words about the people involved…

I know women like Sandy Glass. These types come off as very sweet and nice people, and even have the appearance of great Christian maturity. Others in the church will bestow great respect on them. In many cases, they have bad marriages, but everyone assumes it’s the husband’s fault. She might even weave it into a tale of abuse. There’s always a few men drawn to such women. Without accountability, those will descend into affairs. I’m friends with a private investigator who blew the lid on such a relationship.

Sandy, however, is even more insidious. She wanted out of her marriage, and she concocted escape strategies that had her husband dying and even Nick’s wife dying, all so she could get the man she wanted. Oh, and she did this and called it a word from God.

But here’s the thing. While one can read this and feel disgust and outrage at Sandy, we must also understand that one of the best men in the Bible–King David–carried out exactly that strategy. Bottom line: I don’t care how “good” someone appears. NOTHING IS PAST ANYONE!

I also know women like Annette Anderson. Annette comes across as a very likeable person who, through a combination of Nick’s persistent and blatant advances and her caving to his charm, enters a sexual relationship that nearly drove her to suicide. As I read her downslide–and her recovery–I recalled the words of David in Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

I was also reminded of Solomon’s words in Proverbs: “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Was Annette innocent? Of course not. I say none of this to pile onto Annette, but when Nick started coming on to her, she should have gone straight to her husband (Craig), and had him deal with the situation. (Any husband worth ten cents would take care of business.)

While Annette would not have been able to prevent Dawn’s murder–Nick’s advances to her began after that–she could have blown the lid on him without getting tangled in his sexual web. That would have spared her a lot of heartache.

Other than Dawn Hacheney–who was murdered–I felt really bad for Annette. That is because most of the married women I know in the church are like Annette. (I say that as a compliment, not a put-down.) If Annette were a blogger here, I have no doubt that she would fit in with myself, my bride (MrsLarijani) and Ame and Cubbie. Most folks in the Church today would probably identify with Annette and her husband.

And THAT, my friends, is why her story is very important here.

I know women like Nicole Matheson. They often had a poor home life growing up. They may have struggled with drugs and/or alcohol at various points in their lives. They may have had a failed marriage. They may be single moms, and in fact they usually are. They lack a circle of friends with discernment, and that exacerbates the problem: they end up in bad relationship after bad relationship. And if they end up in the same office with a white-knighting pastor who himself is thinking with the wrong part of his body, it’s all downhill from there…

I have known ministers like Robert Bily. These types are very intelligent, often dynamic speakers. They have a better-than-average knowledge of Scripture. As counselors, they know their stuff. Sadly, however, they have a couple of fundamental problems:

(1) Their styles are very controlling and manipulative. If you confess a past sin or weakness to them, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will bring it back up at a future date for the purpose of keeping you in line.

(2) They are well-versed in the longstanding Pharisaical practice of straining out gnats and swallowing camels. They get their panties in a twist if you watch a questionable movie or drink a beer or wear shorts (even if they come down to your knees). They are too busy majoring in the minors to take decisive action to confront the 9,000 pound elephant that is crapping all over the floor.

(3) They have a nine-foot log in their own eye. It is not uncommon for such ministers to end up divorced, as Bily did.

After the truth about Nick came out–and he was eventually arrested and convicted of murder–Olsen said that Bily “felt vindicated by the outcome”. Sadly, Bily was a large part of the problem here, and vindication is the last thing he needs to be feeling. He alienated the Klovens; he alienated Bob “PB” Smith; he helped foment a strife that hindered the ability of the church to see and deal with the most insidious problems.

Shame on Bily for calling himself an “apostle”.

I personally know ministers like Bob “PB” Smith. I’m very good friends with one of them. They are very amiable, otherwise good men. They are usually happily-married and–by most indicators–are good fathers. They are fair and honest in their public affairs, they have very few enemies, and are exactly the kind of people you would want for neighbors.

The trouble is, while they are decent men, they sometimes forget about the Biblical admonition to be “wise as serpents”. This Achilles heel often fails them at the worst possible time. Because of this flaw, they fail to see what they see, and when they finally figure out what is going on, they have a nasty scandal on their hands and are wondering, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

Having said that, I was impressed with PB’s contrition in this. He does not duck the blame, and seems quite honest about what went wrong on his end. I don’t know PB, but I would hazard a guess and say that he’s a good man who has developed a healthy cynicism as a result of these matters.

Now here’s a wrinkle that Olsen included that does not get a lot of attention: the case of Jimmy Glass. He was the estranged husband of Sandy Glass. Until the knowledge of Sandy’s affair with Nick came to light–and until her potential complicity in Dawn Hacheney’s death came to light–the church assumed that Sandy was the sweet, innocent Christian woman who was married to a no-good, abusive man who–GASP!–once used the F-word! Few people in the church would give Jimmy the time of day, as even his own parents blamed him for his marital problems.

I know a few men like Jimmy Glass. Ministers often blame men like Jimmy Glass whenever a marriage in the Church goes bad. She can talk all kinds of gossip about him–and in some churches even pass it as a “word from the Lord”–and she gets a pass. If she divorces him, she concocts any tale of abuse she wants, and the church sanctifies it, and even celebrates when she remarries. But if he so much as drops an expletive, then he’s a son of Belial at best or Satan incarnate at worst! And we wonder why men are so cynical about the Church today?

What about Nick? While I have known a few ministers who have cheated on their wives, I know of no one who killed his wife. Still, it was Nick’s sexual fixations (and probably financial malfeasance) that–left unrestrained–led him to commit murder.

Nick’s track into ministry is not unlike that of many pastors today: they graduate high school, they go to Bible college–and perhaps even seminary–and they start out as a youth minister. They may–as Nick did–meet their wives while in Bible school.

While this track for ministerial development is common, I have to question its efficacy.

When I look at the New Testament requirements for a pastor, I see a portrait of someone who has some spiritual mileage. There are no shortcuts to sanctification, as sanctification is a process. It includes a lot of study, a lot of life, and a heck of a lot of falling down and getting back up. It includes unpacking old baggage, handling new baggage, dealing with success and failure. If you get married, it means dealing with your sins while being gracious with hers. If you have kids it means striving to succeed where the best people in the Bible often failed.

Nick had none of that.

He was a wet-behind-the-ears kid straight out of Bible school. (RED FLAG!).

His father was on the leadership team of the church. (RED FLAG!)

His wife worked for a living; he did not. (RED FLAG!)

He was poor with money, and left her with the checkbook. (RED FLAG!)

In spite of his lack of experience in life, they gave him the responsibility of providing counsel to married couples. (RED FLAG!)

In his counseling roles, he pushed the men out and met exclusively with the wives. (RED FLAG!)

He had unproven knowledge of Scripture and yet they entrusted him with teaching the youth. (RED FLAG!)

He once suggested, “I think when you go to heaven…you can have sex with whoever you want to.” (RED FLAG!)

I’m sure Nick came off with a certain charm and charisma. But charisma is not character. Hitler had charisma. Stalin had charisma. Che Guevara had charisma. Jim Jones had charisma.

The problem is, in Scripture, there are particular requirements for an elder/overseer/pastor. You will search the Scriptures in vain for a requirement that a minister have charisma. Character, on the other hand, is paramount, and Nick Hacheney had a character gap so wide that a blind man could have flown a jet through it.

While ATF is a work of non-fiction, there is a significant parallelism in the narrative. Nicole Matheson–who would end up marrying Nick–is widely presented as a hardworking gal who has had a rough life, and lacks in the discernment department in picking her men. She’s looking for particular qualities that have the appearance of what a man ought to be, but she is not well-versed in what a godly man is supposed to be.

It would be easy to dismiss Nicole for her multiple failures.

Here’s the problem with that: most of the Church in the United States is just like Nicole! Just as Nicole had trouble picking a good man; churches have trouble picking a good pastor, and for the same reasons!

Churches tend to pick pastors the way Israel picked their first king: they went with someone who looked the part. Churches invest in ministers who “look the part”. They go for a guy with a Bible school or seminary degree, preferably one who is married. If he can preach a good sermon, and talk a good game about church growth and evangelism, he’s in. If he manages to preach a good game without pissing off the wrong people, he’ll move up the corporate ladder. If he has enough charisma, he’ll write books and get published, and even end up with a radio and/or television ministry.

When churches pick youth ministers, they tend to go for men who are likeable and fun, with teaching and counseling skills taking a backseat.

Nick was “likeable” and “fun”. He was also connected–by family ties–to leaders in that church. But nothing in his pedigree indicated the slightest evidence that he knew the first thing about rightly dividing the word of truth. He had very little spiritual mileage in his adult life. He had no business being in a pastoral role, as he was totally unproven.

That also leads me to a very serious admonition: NEVER BE AFRAID TO SEE WHAT YOU SEE!

If the pastor is spending too much time with members of the opposite sex, INVESTIGATE IMMEDIATELY!

If the pastor is doing marital counseling, and often leaves out the husband, INVESTIGATE IMMEDIATELY!

BEWARE of people who have the label “prophet”, “prophetess”, or “apostle”.

BEWARE of “deliverance sessions”. While I’m not saying demonic influence is nonexistent, we must also remember that there is no shortcut to sanctification!

BEWARE of control tactics! Accountability is one thing, but when people are getting into your business about watching an R-rated movie–or imposing dietary restrictions on you–then you need to cut tail and run.

BEWARE of the pastor who is overly affectionate. I realize that–in the charismatic ranks–there’s a lot of touchy-feely that goes on. (Truth be told, some of that also goes on in the Baptist ranks.) I’m not saying that’s wrong–and I certainly don’t seek to be legalistic or micromanagy–but some discretion is in order, too. We’re adults here, and I trust you to know how to set your own boundaries. If not, I highly recommend that you see a counselor about that.

And ladies: if a man–who is not your husband–ever propositions you, that is a proper time to throw niceties out the window. Annette Anderson–as she was ending her relationship with Nick–told him to “f*** off”. I’ll bet she found that liberating. She probably wishes she had told him that the first time he propositioned her.

And no, I’m not saying you need to drop the F-bomb every time a man does something you think is improper, but think of it this way: Nick was committing an act of war against Annette’s marriage, husband, and children. This was not a time for pleasantries. If it pisses you off, then good!

As for you pastors out there, ATF is a wakeup call for you to get sober about what is really going on around you. Love your wives as Christ loved the Church. And I don’t mean for show either. Get serious about your Bible study, preaching and counsel. Cut the BS power games and settle matters with your adversaries in the church. Don’t be an arrogant twit like Biley was. Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Don’t duck from conflict like PB did, but DO major in the majors. Promote a healthy atmosphere of freedom while nurturing sanctification.

And yes, be on the lookout for wolves, because there are plenty of Nick Hacheneys out there. They may not kill their wives like Nick did, but they’ll still do plenty of damage to children, teens, husbands, wives, and church leaders, all while stoking cynicism among outsiders.

Class dismissed.