Saturday, June 30, 2007

Any man forgets his number spends a night in the box.

I'm feeling more than a bit nostalgic today and this hit the spot.

Not the top 100 movies of all time, but 100 movie quotes, from movies many will recognize, whereby a number is used, counting down from 100.

My 10 favorites were 98, 73, 68, 55, 50, 44, 43, 41, 11, and 8. Also, I would have had a different offering for 3 and 1 (Highlander, 'cause there can only be 1).

For a bonus, how about AFI's 100 Greatest Movie Quotes?

Any of these bring back any memories for you?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Look, just because we're bereaved, that doesn't make us saps!

This week I read the book Freakonomics, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I borrowed it from the library, but I would have had no buyer's remorse had I purchased a copy.

The subtitle is "A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything." I really enjoyed it because (1) it addresses the type of questions I ask and (2) it's a bit of a sociological study.

This book, then, has been written from a very specific worldview, based on a few fundamental ideas:
  • Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.
  • The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
  • Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
  • "Experts"--from criminologists to real-estate agents--use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda.
  • Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so. (pp.13-14)

"Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work--whereas economics represents how it actually does work." (p.13)

I appreciated the thoughts on incentives and how influential they are. "There are three basic flavors of incentive: economic, social, and moral." (p.21)

For example, take the anti-smoking movement of recent years.
"The addition of a $3-per-pack 'sin tax' is a strong economic incentive against buying cigarettes. The banning of cigarettes in restaurants and bars is a powerful social incentive. And when the U.S. government asserts that terrorists raise money by selling black-market cigarettes, that acts as a rather jarring moral incentive." (p.21)
The problem is that we often try to use the wrong incentive to encourage/discourage a certain behavior.

As one with an interest in sociology and wonders why people do that which they do, I found my thinking about incentives drifting from the world, to myself, and then to how I raise my children. How do I use the 3 different flavors of incentives? How do I misuse them?

The data analysis on why people cheat and how they do it was also interesting. In sports, cheating is frowned upon, but only a venial sin, presuming one is cheating to win. But cheating to lose is heinous, yet it has happened and it does happen. Why and how?

Cheating on taxes is cliche, but I never realized the justification for the jokes until I realized what happened on April 15, 1987. That day in America 7,000,000 children went missing. That year the IRS required not merely the listing of dependents for a tax break, but also a valid social security number for each child. The children were not kidnapped or murdered, but had been fabricated to cheat the government.

As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer in school. Likewise, as long as there are tests, there will be cheating in school. Yet, did you know just how prevalent cheating is ... by the teachers? Teachers have great incentives to produce good test results on standardized tests, so much so that they have resorted to various means of cheating, ranging from teaching to the tests based on previous tests or giving extra time for the exam to actually changing answers on student exams. Why do they do it? How do they do it? How can they be caught?

As an armchair sociologist mybadself, I find the laws of depravity and W.I.I.F.M. (What's in it for me?) coming to bear across social studies, as folks operate according to the incentives most effective for theirbadselves.

I said all that to say this, I don't use this venue so much for book reviews or recommendations (other than those for the Desiring God Ministries sale), especially for the "non-Christian" book, but this book really scratched where I itch.

What I think the Christian parent might find most interesting is results of empirical studies showing just what factors do and do not have any correlation with how children turn out academically.

[Aside: I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence, but we have to distinguish between a correlation and causation/causality. The first means A & B occur together. A could cause B or vice versa, or they could have independent causes. Causation means that A caused B or vice versa. Far too often statistical sin is committed by giving a correlation a cause & effect label.]

Much of what we buy into is conventional wisdom, which varies dramatically over the years and often has little to do substantiation. For example, the following 8 factors do not have a statistical correlation to a child's standardized test scores:
  1. The child's family is intact.
  2. The child's parents recently moved into a better neighborhood.
  3. The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten.
  4. The child attended Head Start.
  5. The child's parents regularly take him to the museum.
  6. The child is regularly spanked.
  7. The child frequently watches television.
  8. The child's parents read to him nearly every day.
Again, these are factors that didn't have correlation with good or bad standardized test scores. In other words, watching lots of television was not a factor, in helping or hindering.

The following factors, however, were strongly correlated with test scores:
  1. The child has highly educated parents.
  2. The child's parents have high socioeconomic status.
  3. The child's mother was 30 or older at the time of her first child's birth.
  4. The child has a low birthweight.
  5. The child's parents speak English in the home.
  6. The child is adopted.
  7. The child's parents are involved in the PTA.
  8. The child has many books in his home.
(All were a positive correlation, except for a child having a low birthweight and being adopted, both of those factors showed correlation to poor(er) scores on standardized tests.)

The authors go into some great detail with regard to each of these, particularly those that fly in the face of conventional wisdom (pp.166-76), but the difference between the 2 lists can be generalized/characterized as those things parents are (8 factors of strong correlation) versus those things parents do (8 factors without correlation).

We enter the whole nature vs. nurture conversation conversation, but the data leave one seeing things a bit deterministic. That's not a problem, if you acknowledge an omnipotent, omniscient Creator/Governor who is also omni-benevolent, but I can imagine such would give others fits.

What difference do we make as parents? Better yet, what difference can we make? Much, though a child's peers are much more influential, studies show, than his/her parent(s). This is why, I would imagine, we parents obsess about our children's friends.

There are other things in the book of great interest, like perceived risk vs. actual risk. For example, it's more likely that a conscientious parent would never let his/her child play at a neighbor's house where a gun was housed, preferring instead to allow the child to play at a neighbor's house where a pool is in the backyard. This is despite the fact that a child is 100 times more likely to be killed in a backyard swimming pool than by a neighbor's gun.

There are reasons why this is, but, according to "risk communications consultant" Peter Sandman, "The basic reality is that the risks that scare people and the risks that kill people are very different." (p.150)

Which do you think people act on? Which do you think people address with their money? What do you think industries do to make a profit off of that (e.g., car safety seats)? Risks that are scary get addressed and federal funding (e.g., terrorist attacks vs. heart disease).

Others might find interesting the way the common man or woman is taken advantage of when there is a great gap in information between the customer and the business. For example, real estate agents sell their own homes differently than they sell yours, where the financial incentive is dramatically less. They're not alone, doctors and morticians have been known to take advantage of the ignorance of the customer to their own financial gain, often using fear or guilt to their advantage.

Look, just because we're bereaved, that doesn't make us saps.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

See? And these guys are REALLY looking.

Some friends are looking to lease or sell their home and it brought to mind the subjective and thorny process involved. Some of that, I share visually, with those of you who are really looking.


How you see it.

How your buyer sees it.

How your appraiser sees it.

How your lender sees it.

How your tax assessor sees it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you?

This was interesting ...

There's a pastoral position open for a "pastor-comedian."

The new church is to be called "The Comedy Hour."
Senior Pastor
The Comedy Hour
23165 north western
Edmond, OK

Job Description: This is a newly forming church. Job duties will be to set up church from groud up. We have a 5000sf building to start off in and are planning to build a new building as we grow. We have many ideas God has put on our hearts, would like to hear about yours too and see if we feel like a match to grow God's Kingdom together.

Job Requirements: Must be very funny!! Please send copy of a cd or dvd.

Organization: Developing new age church. The idea is to use humor and comedy to bring people to Christ. With the right Pastor we plan on becoming a rapidly growing mega church soon. We are thinking the church will be called Comedy Hour and be open Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. We want to show people that being Christians does not mean we can't have fun. Would like to work with new Pastor to come up with new ideas, so please share what God has put on your heart.

Read more about this organization:

* Denomination: Non-denominational
* Organization Association: Emerging Church
* Church Size: 0-100
* Worship Style: Gen X / post-modern

I appreciate the intention to reach the lost, I really do, but I'm wondering if this is not clearly over the line in some way. Of course, I'm a bit more of a "believers church" type of guy, but something tells me that some in the "Emerging Church" would like to distance from these folks also.

Required: not only a heart for Jesus and the lost, but also a funny bone as well.

Well, I'm not a candidate.

First, I'm not willing to relocate to Edmond, OK.

Second, I'm not "very funny," but only funny.

Besides, what do you mean "funny"? Funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sure, all you can handle, bro.

As most of you probably know, Desiring God is having an online sale where every book is $5.

All Books for $5
Every book in our store will be $5 on June 27-28, Wednesday and Thursday.

No limits, so spread the word.

(This sale is online only.)

My suggestions in the categories of essentials, good to have, and pastoral resources:

If you are new to Kwan that is John Piper & Desiring God Ministries, let me recommend the following essentials:
  • Desiring God -- The essence of Desiring God ministries, where we get the tagline, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" and the tweaked chief end of man: "Man's chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."
  • The Pleasures of God -- This is my favorite book by Dr. Piper (aka "the Pipe" per Lance). In it we learn what God delights in. This was my second "Pipe" book and I've read it many times and taught it in Sunday school (as I did the above Desiring God and Future Grace).
  • Let the Nations Be Glad! -- This was the 1st book I read from the Pipe, in a missions class at seminary, and I absolutely loved it. It was the first time my conviction that we were created for Him and that we do missions for Him (HT Paris Reidhead) and not the heathen was confirmed by a contemporary author. It opens with: "Missions is not the ultimate purpose of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship does not." If you do not get this book, I will fight you, and that's not lie.
The following are some other goodies of which you might avail yourself in your life and there's no better time than now at $5 each! Hurry, as Dr. Piper might start cracking down on such stuff!

Not essential, but you should have in your library or people will look down on you:
  • What Jesus Demands of the World -- The title enough is reason to buy it, if not to remind ourselves that there are expectations of which we need to be aware.
  • Future Grace -- The tagline is "The purifying power of living by faith in future grace." God's been faithful to you in the past and he will do so in the future as well. It's our lack of faith that fuels our sin, being birthed in distrust.
  • Don't Waste Your Life -- This is my favorite book by Dr. Piper (aka "the Pipe" per Lance). In it we learn what God delights in. This was my second "Pipe" book and I've read it many times and taught it in Sunday school (as I did the above 2 also).
  • When I Don't Desire God-- Some great thoughts on Christian living and dealing with the touchy subject of our lack of desire.
Lastly, some good slooge for you pastor types:
  • Feed My Sheep -- The is required reading in the introductory expository preaching classes I teach at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and it is that good. From a variety of authors (Mohler, MacArthur, Sproul, Beeke, Piper, Ferguson, Boice, etc.) on really gets a great sampling of thought on the priority of preaching and its necessity for God's people.
  • Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood -- This is a good resource to have with regard to the touchy and always relevant issues of gender in church life.
  • Preaching the Cross -- This is a collection of the talks at Together for the Gospel last year (my synopsis). If you couldn't make it, this is gold for you.
  • The Supremacy of God in Preaching -- Lots of good Edwards slooge in here and the title is a great indication of why we should do what we do.
  • The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23-- Super work on a crucial text. You'll have a hard time sleeping at night only paying $5 for this one.
  • Brothers, We Are Not Professionals -- I got this as a gift (HT Lance) and was not offended by the accusation that I was professional, for that would have been laughable. Yet, a great reminder (hopefully) to us on why we are to do what we do and how to do it and how not to do it.
Personally, I have all of these, so I'm going to hone in on the biographical studies that were birthed from John Piper's messages in the pastors conferences (e.g.).

The mission of Desiring God Ministries: to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ.

Help them do that by buying some books ... AND reading them.

Should you take advantage of this great sale? Sure, all you can handle, bro.

Friday, June 22, 2007

when everyone's super ... no one will be.

I read randomly at times and today learned that the vast majority of people using dating personal ads (written or via the miracle of the Internet) describe themselves as "above average."

This brought to mind 2 things: First, how inappropriately grades were distributed in school when a "C" is regarded as average. Average compared to what? If its the other students, then the distribution should not be such that everybody gets a "C" or above, for some have to be "below average" by definition.

Second, it reminded me of a survey I saw of pastors in the Spring 2007 edition of Leadership Journal. Almost 90 percent rated themselves as "above average" in preaching skills. Friends, 9 out of 10 aren't above average preachers. In fact, 9 out of 10 can't be above average.

When everyone is "above average" it means the terminology is no longer valid. Just like if everyone's special, then nobody is.

When everyone's super ... no one will be
, except perhaps a bicycle repairman.

I remember in my 8th grade math class learning about the bell curve and a normal distribution. In such a scenario, one standard deviation either side of the mean (i.e., average) would give us the vast majority of the occurrences.

For example, 68.2% of whatever should be average, give or take a margin of error. So, that leaves 15.9% above average and 15.9% below average.

Consequently, you might expect a grade distribution to be such that about 60% get a "C" while about 13% get a "B" and 13% get a "D" and 2% get a grade of "F" and 2% get a grade of "A" (or some such). In other words, about 15% would be above average.

Yet, the grade distribution is whacked, because the "F" really means failure, more so than "REALLY below average." If they're going for mastery of the content, measure that, but don't use terminology that is inherently comparative in nature.

With regard to preachers ... Okay, it's one thing to understand personal ads describing themselves as above average to attract a date/mate. It's understandable that folks could be self-deluded by vanity to think they're prettier than they are.

But, wouldn't you expect preachers to be a more humble lot? Would you not expect preachers to not think of themselves more highly than they ought? Wouldn't you expect them to have a more accurate measure of their proficiency?

I did, though I may have been a bit naive. I would have expected about 60% to see themselves as average and NO MORE than @ 15% to see themselves as above average. Could it be that preachers are a bit prone to vanity as well?

As one who preaches and trains preachers, this caught my attention. I also wonder what the congregations might say. Do 90% of them think their pastors' preaching is above average? Considering that the vast majority of church goers will NOT be in a "mega" church and considering all the napping that will be going this Sunday, I think not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.

I'm excited to be able to announce the launching of a new blog, Church Matters.

It's a product of IX Marks Ministries, the chief of that tribe being Mark Dever. He's a sweet, clean Southern Baptist who has written about church health (e.g,. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church) and is a great conference speaker (e.g., T4G).

In short, he's a straight shooter with upper management written all over him.

There will be other contributors (e.g., Matt Schmucker, who is also a great guy) and for the pastor/elder who is concerned about a church being biblical and glorifying our triune God, this blog is right in your wheelhouse.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Attitude reflect leadership, captain.

On the heels of Father's Day, here is some insight and wisdom from Joe Thorn about a subject that will be convicting to many dads, including my bad self.

Joe offers 5 Reasons to have Family Worship:

1. It’s your job to train your children, not your church’s.

2. It teaches parents how to talk to their kids about spiritual things.

3. It provides a regular context in which spiritual conversations take place.

4. It allows parents to guide theological development.

5. It prepares kids for corporate worship.

Joe also gives caution with 6 Dangers to Avoid in Family Worship:

1. A Proud Heart.

2. A Legalistic Approach.

3. A Hypocritical Life.

4. A Sterile Lecture.

5. A Rigid Format.

6. A Tiring Length.

Convicting and yet encouraging stuff, for example:
"...those who do regularly gather for family worship not only have that time to discuss things, but wind up having other, more spontaneous conversations about spiritual things as well."

"... your kids are watching you, to see if the things you teach them are the things you really believe. And when they discover that what you said about God being sovereign and good impacts the way you receive suffering and affliction, their theology will begin to blossom."

"Most people do not work at being hypocrites. It tends to come about through good intentions. As we teach our children the commands of Jesus we want them to see the beauty of holiness and the value of biblical virtue. We want them to embrace Jesus’ teaching. But this requires us to be truthful with our children, not only about the who and what of the Bible, but concerning ourselves. They must hear from us that we, like they, fail to meet God’s standards, and are in desperate need of the gospel ourselves. I must not pretend to be someone else during family worship, because the dad my kids know is the dad I am everywhere else."

"Your family worship is not good enough. It does not impress God, and he graciously uses it for the sanctification of his children. Focus on what you need to do for your family, not on others, and encourage others through a gracious example."

I encourage you to read his posts in their entirety, but the greatest thought I came away with was the necessity of intentionality. Not surprisingly, I'm reminded of Deuteronomy 6 admonition with regard to children:
4"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (ESV)
It's important to live lives before our children whereby we admittedly are not perfect, but respond rightly to God and others when we sin. This is modeling and teaching by example. We look for teachable moments, but there's something powerful in also demonstrating the importance of the subject matter by having times of intentional family worship & instruction.

I'm curious as to
your own personal experiences as well. What has worked? What has not? Any advice/tips, particularly from those of you who grew up in a "Christian" home where there was intentionality with regard to instruction in godliness?

We're not just instilling information, but passing down our attitudes regarding our Heavenly Father, the Bible, and integrating our faith in every facet of our lives.

Their attitudes will reflect that of our leadership.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

The only good thing you ever did for the gals was get hit by that train!

As Father's Day approaches, I'm inclined to dwell on my role of father and wonder about how my life affects my descendants, particularly my children. I am inclined to ask the theological question, "Does God punish the children for the sins of their fathers?"

Upon examining the reasons God gives for obeying the Second Commandment, it would appear that He certainly does. In fact, we learn that our jealous God punishes the children for the sin of fathers to the 3rd and 4th generation of those that hate Him (Exodus 20:5). This appears to be an aspect of God’s activity of which He is not ashamed, but rather one of which He wants His people to be fully aware, so that it may influence their actions. The implication would be to not get involved in idolatry as it will bring punishment not only on the idolater, but also their children.

Later in Exodus we see this notion of God being generous with punishment to sinners and their children set in contrast to His goodness. He maintains His love to thousands forgiving wickedness and rebellion, but He does not leave the guilty unpunished. He punishes the children and their children, again to the 3rd & 4th generation (Ex 34:7).

As a warning against wickedness, it appears God is shown as being capable of extremes. As good as He can be to people, He can be bad to them to the same degree. We see here the potential gulf between being on His good side versus His "bad" side, which you don't want to get on. Moses cites this verse to God to remind Him that, although it is understood that God is capable of being very harsh, He can also exercise equally extreme love that forgives (Num 14:18).

Another scenario that seems to indicate God punishes children for the sin of their fathers is Korah’s rebellion (Num 16:1-35). In this situation, for the sin of primarily 3 individuals (vv. 1-2) who also incited others, many are killed. Included in the death toll are the wives, children, and little ones of the offenders (v. 27). In the passages examined previously, it was declared that God punishes children for the sins of their fathers and here is an example of that.

Conversely, it might be added that God is also prompted to love and mercy toward individuals who are wicked because of God’s past dealings with their righteous ancestors. This is seen at Sinai when God wants to exterminate the idolatrous Israelites, but Moses intercedes and appeals to God’s previous relations with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 32:13).

At this point we might speculate as to why the households perished with the fathers in Korah’s rebellion; perhaps because the father is the head and representative of the household all under his authority can reap the consequences of his decisions. This would be similar to how God will punish a nation for the sins of its leaders. In biblical history, a good ruler’s actions brought blessings from God upon the nation as a whole. Likewise, a corrupt ruler’s actions brought God’s curses on the nation and not just the leader.

A theological parallel of individuals reaping the consequences of their representative can be seen in fallen humanity’s relation to Adam (Rom 5:12-21). All reaped the consequences of their representative’s actions. (Likewise, all those in Christ reap the benefits of Christ's actions and the two imputations are seen in full force.)

Although it perplexes the human intellect, it seems irrelevant to God whether or not we vote for or necessarily endorse the action of the representative. Israel experienced a prolonged drought that was the result of the sinfulness of Ahab (1 Kings17-18). Egypt suffered the plagues due to the hard heart of their leader (Exodus 7-12). Israel suffered a 3-year famine under David’s reign because of the past sin of former king Saul (2 Samuel 21:1). If fact, in this instance we again see children killed for the sin of their father/ancestor. 7 of Saul’s descendants are killed in order to appease God so that He would restore the land (2 Sam 21:14). And the list goes on of instances where groups suffered for the actions of leaders or representatives.

Although God punishes, or rewards, people for the actions of those who have authority over them, God does not seem limited to that when dealing with people. An example of this would be Achan. Achan was not the nation’s leader, but his stealing seemed to get the whole nation in trouble. In fact, the narrator declares that the Israelites acted unfaithfully (Joshua 7:1) even though it was only one man. Because of this one man’s sin that provoked God’s anger, about 3,000 men were routed in battle and 36 were killed (7:5). Joshua, the leader is told by God why the defeat occurred; it was because Israel had sinned (7:11-12), even though really only Achan sinned (7:1, 20). When it is finally revealed that Achan was the reason for the trouble, he and his children and belongings are destroyed (7:24).

From this episode we can see again that God will punish a family for the father’s actions, which would affirm the theory that God can punish people for the actions of their representative leader; but we also see that a group can be punished for the actions of one of its members where the battle was lost and men died. We might call this guilty by association.

God can treat a group based on the actions of its leaders (e.g., nations and leaders or families and fathers) or He can treat a group based on the actions of any one of its members. It would appear that God at times operates under the assumption of corporate solidarity. God may reward or punish a group as though it is a single entity rather than a group of individuals.

This is sort of a metonymy where the part is seen as the whole (e.g., saying that Israel had sinned when it was only one individual that sinned (Joshua 7:1, 20)). We operate under the same principles when we say things like “The United States won the gold medal in the pole vault.” Really only one person from the United States won the event, but the principle of corporate solidarity identifies him with the country of which he is a part. With God, the individual that motivates His punishment can be a recognized leader, but need not be.

Thus it would appear that God can and has punished children for the sins of their fathers, but children can also be punished for the sins of their nations leaders (past or present), as was the case with the Amalekite genocide (1 Samuel 15:2-3). Also, a group can be treated as some members in that group deserve (e.g., God’s willingness to spare Sodom if there were any ten righteous people (Gen 18:32)).

However strong the case may appear that God definitely punishes the children for the sins of the fathers or that He punishes according to corporate solidarity principles, Scripture is not that unilateral. In fact, there are a number of texts that seem to indicate that God operates under principles vastly opposed to notions such as corporate solidarity.

For example, Deuteronomy notes that Fathers are not to be put to death for their children, nor vice versa, but that each is to die for his own sin (24:16). This verse is cited as the reason Amaziah puts to death those that killed his father, but spares their children (2 Kings 14:6). Apparently, it is understood that this is a rule to live by, even for kings.

There seems to be a principle prohibiting people from implementing punishment, at least the death penalty, according to ideas of corporate solidarity or representation. Although a common theme in Scripture is that a parent is responsible for his/her children’s actions (e.g., a requirement to be an elder is to rule the household well and have children that obey him (1 Timothy 3:4)), apparently there are limits placed on how much blame is allowed to be placed on a parent or child.

The problem becomes clearer when we realize that God has executed the death penalty on a child for the sins of their parents, but He does not allow His people to do such a thing. It would appear that God has a double standard. He can do it, but they can’t. Although there are negative connotations associated with that idea, I would affirm that there is some truth there.

God has given humanity authority to mete out punishment, even the death penalty
(Gen 9:6), but He has placed certain constraints and parameters on their exercising that authority. That is His divine prerogative to have different rules for how a sinful, fallen human with limited wisdom should act.

Although God at times operates according to corporate responsibility, it in no way can be inferred that one’s punishment must be a result of his ancestor’s sin. A passage that seemingly contradicts the allowance for corporate solidarity notes that everyone will die for his own sin (Jeremiah 31:30). In the context it appears that folks had begun to blame their poor circumstances on God’s judgment, but not judgment upon themselves. God was judging their ancestors and thus it wasn’t their fault. From the context it appears that the meaning is that people should no longer ascribe God’s judgment to someone else’s sin (i.e., their ancestors’), but rather individual responsibility is in order. They are wicked and are being punished because of what they have done.

However, this idea is taken up again in Ezekiel 18 and expounded upon by the Lord. Apparently the condition was similar in that people had the same saying about being punished for the sins of the fathers (see Jeremiah 31:29): “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge” (ESV). Based on God’s rebuke of this saying, one can infer it being used as a form of excuse to alleviate personal responsibility. He notes that they will no longer use this (18:3) because the soul that sins will die (18:4). God then goes into a lengthy discussion about a wicked father and a righteous son and how only the wicked father will be punished for his sin, and not the son. He again states, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (v. 20).

The chapter culminates with an exhortation to repent (v. 32) and it appears that the message God is trying to communicate is one of personal responsibility and a necessity to reform. He tells them that He will judge each one according to his ways (v. 30). God is not allowing them to have any excuse for not striving for righteousness. There is no fatalism from which they cannot overcome. The message seems clear: “I judge each based on his own actions, not on what his parents did.”

This poses an obvious difficulty. On the surface this message from God is in direct conflict with His declarations that he punishes children for the sins of the parents as well as the obvious instances where that occurs. Does God punish the children for the sins of the fathers?

Did He only in the past, but no longer? It is true that most of the evidence showing a solidarity occurs earlier in the Scripture, but Jeremiah and Ezekiel are not that far apart chronologically and even in Lamentations we see the Israelites noting that their fathers sinned and are no more, yet they bear "their iniquities" (5:7).

This is not some sort of dispensational issue where God used to do it one way and now He does it another. There appear to be certain conditions where He operates with a mind to corporate solidarity, but other times He will not. What is the difference?

How can we predict when God will punish the children for the sins of the parents and when He won’t? Part of the problem arises in that we forget God is a personal Being. He is not a robot that operates in a predictable manner. Yet, He is not a random, capricious loose canon either. God cannot be confined in a box, but operates according to His good pleasure. It seems He can choose to operate in such a way to punish children if their parents sin, but not necessarily. Parental sin does not necessitate God’s punishing the children. One could theorize that, due to depravity, even the children are guilty of sinfulness and are not, therefore, innocently persecuted individuals. However, when God chooses not to punish the children, it is an expression of His grace, love, and mercy.

It would appear from Scripture that there is an individual accountability to God for one’s actions and this is the general mode of operation. Generally, God only punishes an individual for their sins, and not the children. However, that does not preclude His doing so in certain instances where He sees fit. For example, the instances where He does project the punishment to the children seem to be uncommon occurrences or times when God wants to firmly drive home a point. Perhaps the punishment is so severe to show how severe the transgression was (e.g., king David’s judgment of the sword never leaving his family in 2 Samuel 12:10).

Unfortunately, one can only speculate as to when and why God punish children for the sins of their fathers. In the texts where it is declared that God does indeed punish children for the sins of the fathers, it is the children of those “who hate Him” (Deut 7:10; Ex. 20:5). Perhaps the sin has to be a certain degree of sinfulness, but that can be somewhat ambiguous. As helpful as that might sound, God haters could be a term to describe any sinner who does any sinful act. If love is the motivation for obedience, then hate is logically the prompting for disobedience. Though one could make some stabs at what motivates God to act in such a way, it may prove futile and frustrating. God is not as predictable as we would like, but that’s His prerogative.

In response to the initial question, “Does God punish children for the sins of their fathers?” our answer is somewhat disheartening as we long for certainty. Sometimes He does; sometimes He does not. They are not mutually exclusive categories to God, as much as they seem to us. When and if He does is up to Him and anything beyond that is mere speculation.

We can establish that God will at times treat a group based on the actions of a member (leader or not) but He is not constrained to do so. This may lead him to treat a family based on the actions of the father, but He may choose not to as well. Either way, the emphasis in God’s declarations and actions seems to bring forth a message strongly urging His people not to sin.

First, He will punish a sinner and he/she could even die (Ezek 18:4). Second, a sinner could even bring punishment on their family (Exodus 20:5) or group of which they belong (Joshua 7:1, 4-5).

One might make the plea, “Even if you don’t care what happens to you, think of what might happen to your children” This is a message many parents need to think about today when they ponder the long lasting effects of their sin on they descendants (e.g., abuse, drug use, alcoholism, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, financial mismanagement, and other harmful behavioral patterns).

In other words, what might you be doing today that will have a lasting impact on your descendants?

So, while my kids may give me something tomorrow for Father's Day, I'm hoping that I don't leave them anything behind that will be detrimental, no outstanding debts that they may have to pay.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Warriors, come out to play!

One commentator compared the typical church to a football game:

"22 players desperately in need of rest being watched by thousands of fans desperately in need of exercise."

To what extent does that illustrate your church life?

Are you a
spectator who comes to church looking to be entertained and have your needs met?

Or are you a warrior preparing for the week's spiritual battle by acts of service and development through the Word of God?

Are you willing to get "in the trenches" like a Rayfield Wright (HOF 2006) where somebody else may receive the glory and benefit of your hard work?

Sunday's coming ... Warriors, come out to play!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour.

The history buffs know June 6 to be D-Day, the day the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. That was, of course, a bright spot on the war's landscape in favor of the Allies.

I don't like to share too much of a personal nature in this venue, especially in the realm of my feelings. But, for me this has been a dark day for the past 6 years. Today is the 5 year anniversary of when we had a miscarriage back in 2002.

Sarah (age 3 at the time) named the baby "Kasha" and was quite a comfort to me the day I had to break the news.

It was a tough time for us, but an eye opening experience as we felt the love of those in the body of Christ, but also because we learned just how many others had endured the same trying experience.

I've heard that at least 1 in every 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means there's a lot of sadness out there. Even as a pastor I am not immune, in fact, such an experience better enables me to relate to my people who hurt at various times and in various ways.

Yet, most of all we're reminded that we don't have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with His people (Heb 4:15), for the Son of God was a "Man of Sorrows" well acquainted with grief and suffering (Is 53:3).

Praise be to God for His comfort and grace. I honestly don't know how folks make it otherwise.

The feed that supplies my daily Scripture verse on my blog today gave me:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)
It's so appropriate, because it reminds me that the Holy Spirit gives joy.

I'm not trading my sorrows ... for the joy of the Lord. Joy is not contingent upon the absence of sorrow. Just as Christ was acquainted with sorrow, so am I and so are many of you. Yet, through Christ we have joy in the midst of the sorrows.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Only a fool looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.

One of the questions that comes up often in discussions of the nature of conversion has to do with faith. Is faith a gift?

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
-Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
What is the gift of God? Is it faith? Is it God's grace? Is it the kwan of our salvation?

Exegetes will disagree, but many in my camp want to affirm that faith is a gift and others want to object, to strenuously object.

What if instead of seeing faith as a gift, one sees regeneration as a gift?

And if one sees regeneration as God's gracious gift of:

-giving eyes to see and ears to hear

-making them born again, before which they cannot even see the kingdom (let alone see the kingdom, like the kingdom, and choose the kingdom) (John 3:3-6)

-making those who are dead alive (Eph 2:1-3)

-opening hearts to believe (Acts 16:14)

-drawing them to Christ, because they cannot come otherwise (John 6:44)

-changing their hearts (Ezek 36:26-27) so that they no longer love the darkness and hate the light, but now they love the Light of the World (John 8:12) and believe in Him and are justified freely by His grace

Then really the gift is not so much faith, but the ability to see and thereby trust the object of faith, Jesus the Christ.

Really, I think gets more to the biblical understanding of things with regard to God's gift. It also explains the nature of the will in the process of conversion. God does not violate the will of the person, for the will of the person is such that he/she always does what he/she wants. In that sense, the will is free (cf. Edwards', Freedom of the Will). But, likewise, this faculty of choosing we call the will is such that a person must do what he/she wants. That's why the will is said to be in bondage (cf. Luther's, Bondage of the Will) for the unconverted person. That person is bound by a sinful heart to always and only do in accord with loving the darkness and hating the light (John 3:19-20).

But, after regeneration folks have new hearts and through new eyes Jesus is seen rightly and since they now have hearts disposed to love the light, they come to Him, believing on Him for salvation.

Everyone has faith in something or someone, but the unregenerate do not really have Christ available as an option because the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing and faith seems unreasonable.

Their hearts will never incline them to do what seems logically for us who are being saved, but it's foolish to look for logic in the chambers of the human heart ... before it's renewed. They don't believe because they don't want to. They will never want to until Christ appears as trustworthy to them, which cannot happen apart from divine grace. This is the gift of regeneration.
Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who brings to life the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God's free and special grace alone, apart from which humanity is powerless to positively respond to God.
-Statement of Faith, Providence Church

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Friday, June 01, 2007

I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a ...

Okay, I'm a fan of sports and all that implies, but ladies tennis is not right in my wheelhouse.

However, I have to attribute greatness where I see it. In Omaha, Nebraska, there's a young lady who just finished a stellar high school career.

I'm thumbing through my Sports Illustrated (2007/05/28) this afternoon (which I ordered to get the freebies celebrating the Cardinals' World Series victory) and came across the piece, "Local Girl Goes 117-0."

The Ohio State bound Cameron Hubbs had "never lost a set in high school," SI noted, which is pretty impressive. She won all 117 of her matches. Granted this is still at the amateur level, but I'm thinking she's pretty good, even to just never had a really bad day where the opposition could get you.

I wonder if she needs an agent?!

Cameron, if you're reading this blog ...

I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a new commercial, starring you, broadcast during Wimbledon, in a match that you are winning, and I will not sleep until that happens. I'll give you fifteen minutes to email me.

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