Some Thoughts on Fatherhood…


I read an article early this morning that got me thinking about something that I’ve kinda looked at off and on since finding out my wife and I were going to have a child. (this is the article: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/do-christian-parents-flirt-with-the-idol-of-safety — I found it very thought-provoking and would encourage anyone to take the time to read it and think on the topic)

Primarily, what I’m referring to is this: ever since starting to tell people that I was going to be (or, technically and essentially, already was) a father, I have at random gotten questions like “are you nervous?” “got the jitters yet?” and other such questions along those lines. I have usually responded to such questions with some form of a shrug or mumbled answer because I am well aware of how abrasive I can be when I answer questions with blunt honesty – especially when the answer has to do with my preference/opinion and/or my understanding of the Bible’s instruction about something (which is, of course, almost always the case)

Anyway, that to preface the fact that the article above caused me to look at my thoughts and emotions on being a dad and what I ‘want for my child’ in the light of what God desires and demands of me…

So here is one of the places my brain went, I have never really responded to the “are you nervous?” questions because they translate in my head as “are you worried/afraid?” (because I view ‘nervousness’ as just another expression of anxiety and/or fear) – and my gut response to that question is an emphatic “No, of course not, why would I be?” Here’s why: 1 John 4:18, Philippians 4:4-7, Matthew 6:25-34, and there are a plethora of other passages that have developed my conviction, but these are sufficient for sharing my thought.

(NOTE: I just did a ‘word search’ on blueletterbible.org for “love fear” and I found it very interesting the passages that were given to me)

I don’t wish to be offensive to those who have asked me questions like this, which is why I have found it so difficult to give the simple, 8-word response above, because I know I would have immediately followed it with something like “why would a Christian even ask me that?” Because, and this is what’s weird, the unbelievers I interact with have never asked anything of the kind (as far as I can recall – and it’s pretty easy to do so because I can remember all of the occasions on which and by whom I was asked these questions because they were so odd to me)… And the other thing I have found so bizarre, is that my wife never gets these types of questions, they have always been directed at me as the dad – as if fatherhood were scarier than motherhood (which puts a woman in an extremely close brush with death, at least in the process of giving birth).

But to continue, I have not once, to my honest self-examining recollection felt what might be categorized as even ‘concern’ in any of my thoughts about being a father before or since becoming one. And I primarily thank God for that because it is only by His gracious work in my heart in helping me to trust and love Him that such a thing is possible. But I also look at how He did that in the way He has helped me to view things. And I will list those things as such:
1) Ultimately, as with my wife, my daughter is not really mine to begin with; she is God’s first and foremost – I have merely been granted the privilege of caregiver to her. Matthew 6:25-34
2) My love for my child is not dependent on anything, and this is how that love can keep me from ever feeling any form of worry or fear about anything that would involve her. 1 John 4:18
3) God is ready to listen to me and help me with any concerns or needs that might develop over time, and thus I can trust Him for today, and have no need to think (except within reasonable bounds of good stewardship/servant-hood) about the future. Philippians 4:4-7

And I believe these to be appropriate and natural applications to life that any Christian could make with the broader parts of the concepts being taught in these portions of Scripture…

Obviously, if I were trying to teach these concepts to a group of people, I’d include a lot more Scripture and go off on several other very necessary ‘side-tracks’ – but at this point I am merely sharing my thoughts for those who might find them interesting and/or helpful… So if you’ve gotten to this point, thank you for reading, and I pray the LORD has blessed you in doing so)

Only by His grace – in Christ,

~ J D White

Originally written as a G+ post on 2/15/2016

“War Room” & Satan

PART TWO

Keeping along the lines of the Name of Jesus and the proper ways to address and relate to God, I’ll now address the many “prayers,” if you will, that were addressed to Satan in the War Room.

…Yes, I did just say that prayers were offered to Satan in War Room – in fact, I would argue that nearly 40% of the actual “prayers” in the film are addressed to the devil. (NOTE: “prayer” in the sense of “talking to an invisible spirit-being”)

After the Name of Jesus is finally introduced into the film as a way to get what you want, Clara begins to hammer into Elizabeth about how ‘the devil is the real enemy.’ (after a brief outlining of the Gospel – which is utterly ruined by Miss Clara then ‘preaching’ about the Power of Satan) … Side NOTE: Satan is NOT the “thief” who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10)- the context does not in anyway imply that Jesus would have us think of the devil when we quote that passage.

So, to summarize, we have a massively over emphasized – if not overdeveloped – demonology presented to us just after a brief, outline of the Gospel, which all follows on the heels of finally introducing Jesus as a magic-word formula.

But it gets weirder. After this the first prayer we actually hear from the lips of Elizabeth is in beseeching God to stop her husband from committing the physical act of adultery(her husband has clearly been shown to be an adulterer-at-heart already in the film). This is followed by her reading a few verses on her wall, ending with James 4:7 – repeating and emphasizing the line “resist the devil, and he will flee.” At which point she gets up and walks through her house talking/”praying” to the devil – a practice that is nowhere taught in Scripture. The passage from James is primarily about repentance and the devil is referenced as a “tempter” not some enemy that is out to “steal your joy, kill your faith, and destroy your family.” The moment you resist temptation and refuse to sin, you have “resisted” and are un-influenceable by demons.

NOTE: 1: Satan is not omnipresent, and thus is incapable of being in more than one place – and with the mess Elizabeth and her family got themselves into, I highly doubt they’d be worth his time. 2: Elizabeth makes a silly statement by telling the devil to ‘go back to hell’ after her rant against him – the Bible nowhere suggests hell is a realm from/over which Satan rules.

After this, one of the only four “prayers” we are actually “in on” is that of Miss Clara after she hears the news of Tony’s repentance. Her response is a brief statement of thanks and then she moves immediately into talking to the devil! Telling him he “got his butt whooped” as if he could hear her or had anything to do with the situation, or (heaven forbid) it wasn’t already a guaranty that he would be beaten in the first place… And then she shuffles off camera singing some sort of old gospel song.

My chief concern here – and I’ll wrap it up with this – is that Satan is nowhere in Scripture ascribed as the Christian’s primary enemy (if there is such a thing). To suggest that is the case (that he is in any way ultimately responsible for Tony’s sin), downplays the utter evil and rebelliousness of mankind’s own sinfulness – which is presented regularly and often as man’s primary problem in the Bible.

FINAL NOTE: Because I decided to only address the two subjects that I have, I thought I’d share a few articles that I thought had some good points on the film: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/who-does-screenwriter-say-that-i-am.html & http://www.thewrap.com/critics-destroy-war-room-7-worst-reviews-crushing-christian-drama/ <on these ones I’m just offering some food for thought as to the “negative” responses that people might not have heard unless they went looking for them… I don’t agree with every aspect of every article (but it should go without saying that I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything I share 😉

”War Room” & the Name of Jesus

PART ONE

Let me start by saying that I have very much enjoyed many of the films the Kendrick brothers have produced in the past. I have appreciated their God glorifying emphasis and careful, balanced presentation of Biblical concepts and the Gospel (particularly in Fireproof).

However, I must admit that the things I am addressing about their most recent film have caused me to come to a rather strong opinion: I hope that either they get to work on a new movie to make up for the heresy/unbalanced half-truth spewing, disaster of a film that is War Room, or they stop making “Christian” themed movies altogether.

Why is that?

Well, let’s start with one of the primary problems with the movie, War Roomthe use of Jesus’ Name.

Ignoring the fact that “Miss Clara” basically establishes that “Elizabeth” is a “Christian” in name only upon their first encounter(and subsequently ignores that fact and starts to “teach her to pray” anyway), there is absolutely no specific mention of Jesus in their conversation; just vague references to “the Lord.” Now, this would be okay if they did not persist in every encounter to only refer to this nameless “Lord” & “God” for nearly half an hour into the film until we find them on the way to their car after having spent time at a park. It is at this point that one of the most offensive things in the film takes place.

Once they enter a parking garage a man jumps out from behind a car and brandishes a knife, demanding their money. Elizabeth tries to calm the man down as she reaches for her purse, but Miss Clara takes on this strange (somewhat hypnotic) stare and says: “no, you put that knife down… In the name of Jesus!” At which the man pauses, Miss Clara continues her disconcerting stare, and the man runs off – or that is at least what is implied in the sudden change of scene.

Why is this offensive? For the same reason any blasphemy or “taking of the LORD’s name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 & Deuteronomy 5:11) is offensive: it mocks the Name of our glorious Savior by misusing it.

Although we have a plethora of examples(primarily in Acts) of disciples(primarily the Apostles) “commanding” things in the name of Jesus, the only actual teaching we have on the disciple’s privilege of calling on the Name of the Son comes from Jesus himself(John 14-16). And – if not for the accounts in Acts – the passages given us from Jesus’ teaching on the subject would imply that only in making a request(I.e. Asking) of the Father in the Name of Jesus is what He is referring to. Never once does Jesus imply that His followers are to demand anything in His name, let alone use His name to bark orders at other people. (Mathew 21 {Matthew 20:255-28, Mark 10:42-45, Matthew  5:38-48}, James 4)

Now, the “Pentecostal” / “charismatic” / “Word of Faith” types will instantly be jumping on the topic of demons: “aren’t the disciples given authority over demons in the gospels and the apostles command demons in Acts?” This is true, disciples of Jesus have the privilege of commanding the flight of demons(that are possessing individuals) by calling on His Name. But where is it implied that this extends to other human beings? And where did one of the Apostles use Jesus’ Name to keep possession of their own material objects or to protect themselves from physical harm? I ask those questions and the phrase “turn the other cheek” comes to mind.

To keep from going too long on the topic: to hear someone irreverently use the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as if it were some magic catch-phrase to keep you from getting hurt or lose some material possession should offend any God fearing disciple of Jesus.

Now, some may be offended by my statements up to this point. May I ask you to pause and consider why that may be? Do you not care about the Glory of Christ? Do you not care that the Father is worthy of praise and honor in His holiness? Because I do, and that is why this scene offended me…

Am I accusing anyone of not caring about those thing if they don’t agree with me? No. But I would ask that they think about this topic deeply, because the way you think about the privilege of prayer and calling upon the name of God will effect the way you think about God and yourself – and thus the way you live out your life…

Voting…

… It accomplishes nothing of meaningful, lasting value – at least it does not anymore – as far as the moral/ethical, religious person in the U.S. today is concerned. Our country and government are set up in such a way as to give the majority (or the loudest minority, as it seems to have turned to in some cases) what they want. Obviously there are lots of complicated details that could be gone into on that point about whether it actually works that way, but my point is; there are not enough Christians in this country to legitimately call it a “Christian nation.” If there were, the nation would not be the way it is now.

Anyway, to reword what I stated above, no matter how much legislation is voted for, no matter how many appeals are signed and sent to the governors that succeed in getting a result, eventually the evil, God-hating majority in this country will find a way to destroy and or get around those legislations (just as they have done for the last half century).

What this country needs is NOT a “Godly president” – though that would be nice especially where it regards foreign policy – what it needs is a Gospel preaching Church that goes out to the highways and byways to proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That teaches the Glory and Worth of God and his righteous wrath against evil, rebellious mankind. And that pray for the conversion of hearts for the glory and pleasure of God, as they (the Church) love and serve God by feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans, and preaching repentance to every man, woman, and child they encounter.

Now, do not take me the wrong way; I believe the majority of the Church is already doing this (and has been doing this all along). And I know and believe God is being glorified in their efforts and is drawing people to Himself through them.

I am throwing this out there because too much of the “face” of “American Christianity” is not the True Church. All of these people who are only political activists and care more about their economy and power (I.e. The same silly Trump agenda of “we aren’t winning, they’re laughing at us, they don’t respect us, they’re stealing our jobs, etc.) than they do the glory and honor of God.

In short and closing: no, I will not vote for a bigoted, rude, immoral, unethical, flip-flopping, and greedy narcissist. And no, I will not vote for an irreverent, apathetic, careless, immoral, unethical, and two-faced liar. There is no “lesser evil” to choose from among Clinton and Trump.

I will continue to pray for the country I live in and strive to serve and love God better and more regularly and consistently share the Gospel and the glory of God with those I encounter. And I will pray for the Church, the Bride of Christ, that she continue to proclaim her wonderful Savior, and persevere in the midst of trial and tribulation (as she has always done), and I will pray in particular for the disciples of Jesus in the U.S. who are going to soon experience the real kind of persecution that they have been spared from for nearly two hundred years.

May God get for Himself the praise, honor, and glory that He is worthy of in the days to come, and may Christ receive the fullness of the reward for which He died.

Amen.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – Observations

The context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 goes all the way back to (and further than) the beginning of chapter 6. The account is the finishing and dedication of Solomon’s temple to God: and God’s statement to Solomon after the fact is this-

“Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice.

If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times.

As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man ruling in Israel.

However, if you turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them, and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence; I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples.

As for this temple, which was exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will say: Why did the LORD do this to this land and this temple? Then they will say: Because they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, He brought all this ruin on them.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:12-22 (HCSB)

Notice, how incredibly specific to the physical nation of Israel that this passage is. Also notice exactly what it is in verse 13 that God will “heal” their land from: drought, famine, and rampant, life threatening disease (that God Himself placed upon them for their sin).

When God moves to speaking of idolatry and the people utterly forsaking God’s ways – the punishment becomes far more severe; and “enduring,” if you will.

If the “spiritual” people (or self professed Christians) of the United States want to try and use this as a “banner text,” as it were, for their call to their fellow “believers” to pray for healing in America, there are a few things that should be pointed out:

1: Verse 14 is not a promise to the U.S. in particular or to “Christians” in general.

2: Even if it was a promise to Christians, America as a nation doesn’t belong to Christians. And a Christian, by definition, is already a repentant servant of God, so is practically incapable of following the “if” in verse 14 because they have, and are(and will be) already doing that.

3: Which leads us to a final point: you cannot repent for someone else’s sin(although you CAN suffer the consequences of it).

Religion vs Relationship

“It’s a relationship, not a religion.”


This line of reasoning seems to be fairly pervasive in what calls itself Christianity in our day (be it nominal, heretical, or authentic). I say pervasive because it seems to me that the mindset that wants to use this phrase of their “faith” – another word used to avoid and/or mask “religion” – is generally also somewhat or VERY reluctant to touch such terms as “doctrine” or “theology” . . . Perhaps this is just within the range of my experience, but there seems to be a connection to me.

Allow me to first debunk the juvenile “it is a relationship” phrase.

1) I saw a quote on Instagram by Jeff Durbin on this very phrase that has a pungent point to it – it goes something like this: ‘…here’s the problem, according to Romans, everybody is already IN a relationship with God!  And that relationship is either in hostility with God or at peace with God…’ I’ll leave that thought alone for now to let you chew on it and just move on to my main problem – which is the etymology/semantic of the phrase.

2) has several points to it – a: Christianity, by definition, is a religion. Just because there are many nominals and legalists that try to claim the religion as their own does not mean true followers of Jesus need to remove the word as if it were inherently bad. If you must, make the distinction between “false religion” and the “One True Religion of God.” b: “relationship” at least in our day and country, could mean anything, and thus has no meaningful usefulness in trying to describe Christianity as a whole (although ONE aspect of it IS a relationship of peace with God instead of the original hostility). Also, a relationship – at least what is viewed as a good one in our day – generally does not demand things of you(on the level of personal being). Religions, in many ways, demand your very life(on the level of very thought patterns and attitudes/beliefs).

There’s plenty more merely within those two areas that could be discussed as to the appropriateness and/or accuracy of the phrase, but I would like to move into the other consideration I mentioned above; the thinking that produces this phrase, in my experience, is pervasive and dangerous because it reinforces and flows from(often times, not always) those individuals and groups or movements that view doctrine and theology as nothing but dry, dead portions of “religion”(the terms always being negative and incapable of carrying a positive connotation).

Obviously it’ll be hard here for me to write anything novel, because many great theologians have addressed these ideas – so I gladly acknowledge those men of God that I will mostly be parroting here.

THEOLOGY: a simple quip which I believe I first heard from R C Sproul, will be an easy way to get across the point that those who reject the word(let alone it’s meaning) “theology,” are not only being silly, but inconsistent: “Everyone is a theologian.”

The idea of the quip is to point out that no one can make a statement about God without making a “theological” statement, for the very reason that the meaning of the word “theology” is “the study of God.” Thus, especially when speaking of those who profess to be Christian, their is no sense to be had in those people trying to reject “the theology of religion.”

DOCTRINE: the same can be said of doctrine – though the subject is not quite as simple as theology – so I’ll go ahead and place the Webster’s 1828 definition here for consideration:

1. In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. The doctrines of Plato are the principles which he taught. Hence a doctrine may be true or false; it may be a mere tenet or opinion.

2. The act of teaching. “He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine Mark 4:2.”

3. Learning; knowledge. “Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Isaiah 28:9.”

4. The truths of the gospel in general. “That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Titus 2:1.”

5. Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:10.

Note: I appreciate the 1828 dictionary by Webster because he often uses Scripture as a help to the definitions.

As we can see from the definition above, there is not much reason for serious Christians to continue the the degradation of the word into a constant negative.

Now, I am aware that this degradation primarily STARTED as a pushback against false or “dead” religion. But I do not believe that where it has come is a very tenable place for Christians to be in their thinking.

James 1:27 (HCSB)

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I put out this quote to point out that even the writers of Scripture understood that, as followers of Jesus, we are participants in the one True religion of God. (To those of you who read Greek – I do not just yet – I would love to hear any thoughts on this passage that you may have.)

What am I getting at? I’ve heard too many people (including those in positions of leadership) who say things like “I don’t want any of your doctrine, I just want Jesus” who then go on to talk about a “Jesus” that is nowhere to be found in Scripture and preach about a god of their own making… And I believe part of that problem is fed by the ignorance and false assumptions that come with the mindset that I have tried to address above.

Thank you for your time. I hope this post has been interesting if not thought provoking for you.

May the LORD bless you.

Some Thoughts on Hebrews 2 & Psalm 8

I was reading Hebrews to my wife and daughter the other day when a section of chapter 2 jumped out at me… Before I get into that, though, I want to point out how easy it is to miss so much in Scripture when you don’t have at least a fair amount of portions of Scripture memorized (or at least concepts and summaries of those portions). I realized I’d done that with Hebrews when I read it that morning… There are so many quotations from the Old Testament used in explaining the gloriousness of who Jesus is. And I’m sure, from further reading, there is still so much more I’m missing from not recognizing so many of the other quotations permeating the book…

The reason I recognized the quote in chapter 2, is that I’d recently spent some time in Psalm 8 because I’d read several people using it as an argument for the ‘great value of mankind to God.’ I was somewhat repulsed from the man-centered emphasis of this concept of the “value” that we supposedly have as a basic ‘essence,’ so to speak. They mostly were arguing from Psalm 8:4-6, as if David’s thought was focused on some idea of God having done this for the human race because He so “valued” them…

The problem with this emphasis and/or interpretation of the Psalm is primarily that it ignores the entire thrust of the Psalm. And the second problem is that it ignores the interpretation of the author of Hebrews.

According to the interpretation of the author of Hebrews, the ultimate meaning of this section of the Psalm is a reference to the Lordship of the Son of Man, Jesus, the Messiah/Christ.

The wonder of what the Father has done for us in His Son, is the central theme of the beginning of Hebrews (if not the entire book). The humiliation of Christ is expounded upon in chapter 2, explaining that He did this so that He may better sympathize with and mediate for us through suffering…

And in the whole of the book the author gives quote after quote from sections of the “Scriptures” of his day (namely, the ‘Torah’ and whatever the Jews called the collections of the Prophets; in other words – our “Old Testament”), to prove the worth and glory and Lordship and priesthood of our great God and Savior, Jesus.

May we all learn to cherish every portion of the Scriptures that have been preserved for us, and seek the guidance of His Spirit in taking to heart the meaning of these precious words!