Friday, 29 December 2006

Criticisms of God's Character

In my discussions with atheists, several have referred to God as “arrogant, paranoid, egomaniacal, egotistical, schizophrenic”, or as possessing some other disparaging characteristics. This is an interesting point of view that I would like to examine.

The first thing we must assume, of course, for purposes of this discussion, is that God does indeed exist, for how can something non-existent possess the attributes these people ascribe to Him. If the belief of people applying such personality traits to Him is that He does not exist, the argument stops there. There is no point in continuing. However, if this is the case, there is still the question of what kind of delusional people consign even negative traits to something they don’t believe exists. On the other hand, if He’s not real, but just a nice thought, a human invention, something to keep us comfortable and about whom believers are deluded, then why do people become so angry at Him.
When people object to God, I think what they are really objecting to is the idea of God, not God Himself. Either they do not believe He exists, or they do not know Him. If they do not know Him, how can they object to Him so passionately. If they did know Him, they would not carry on as vehemently as they do.

Now, either a Supreme Being exists or doesn’t. Merely for traditional purposes will I refer to God as ‘He’. In fact, God in His true existence is surely beyond gender, or even beyond pronouns, at least any pronoun ever conceived by the mind of man. But let’s assume, hypothetically, for the sake of argument that the God of the Bible does exist.

So let’s say this God is sovereign and all-powerful (which He would have to be, or else what would be the point in having Him at all). He wouldn’t be much of a Supreme Being if He weren’t. The Creator must, after all, be greater than His creation. If He created the universe, the world, and everything in it, then He would get to set the rules. We could not apply our puny human standards to Him. He would answer to no one. He would be accountable to no other person or being. We cannot measure God by our standards, because His are infinitely greater than ours. If He created the world and set every one of us in it, and if He then said, “Do as I say”, surely we would have no just cause for complaint if we refused to do as He said and then suffered the consequences of our refusal. God’s standards apply to us, not the other way around. If God declares that a person or people must be punished because of their rejection of Him or His principles, so be it. It’s not as if He’s being unfair about it; everyone has had plenty of warning. Everyone has been made aware of the rules. Everybody has made his or her own choice. All are without excuse (Rom 1:20). The trouble these critics have is that they are attempting to apply their standards to Him. A god who was compelled to live by our standards would be a wimp, and completely irrelevant.

I hear someone saying, ”What about all the children, and other innocent people who died in the OT?” First of all, I happen to believe in an age of accountability and I think there’s a good biblical argument for it. I don’t believe God will allow anyone unjustly to endure an eternity of suffering who has not the opportunity or ability to make a choice for or against Him. What about the children then? Well, if they are in heaven with Him, they are in a far better place than if they had stayed here on earth. Who knows what kind of a life of suffering was spared those children who were taken in their childhood. If God is the God we believe in, He knows what is best and humans don’t. Again, if there is a Heaven, anyone who dies and goes there is in a better place. And because existence in Heaven continues for eternity, what little suffering occurs here on earth is minuscule and pales in comparison with what awaits. On the other hand, if there is no Heaven, if death is the end of all existence, then what does it matter whether we live here for ten or twenty or thirty or even a hundred years. When it’s over, it’s over and that’s that. The death to birth ratio is and always has been, one to one. Nobody gets out of here alive. If heaven exists it is a far more wonderful place than here. If it doesn’t, what does it matter? If you don’t believe that, then you don’t have that same hope I do. In fact, you don’t have any hope at all.

What about other innocents, someone may ask? Believe me, no one “innocent” will perish. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25b) Many of us see goodness, morality and proper behaviour in our relations one to another. God sees these things in relation to Himself. Murder, theft, adultery, et al are wrong, not because people thought them not nice, or even because they go against the “Golden Rule”, which, after all, came from Him in the first place. They are wrong because He said they are wrong. No one is truly innocent.

I wonder, do these diagnoses of a god with various psychological disorders arise out of a professional examination, or are they merely ‘verbal flailing’ out of a sense of anger for whatever reason; perceived injustice, personal disappointment, or just thinking it unfair to have to be accountable to any thing greater or higher than oneself? Every true law carries consequences for non-compliance, even, indeed especially, the laws of God.

Like an ant shaking its fist defiantly in the face of an elephant; like a person standing on a railway track, daring a speeding train to run him down, convinced it would be very unfair of the train to do so; like a person convinced that the law of gravity is unfair, and so assuming the right to step off the top of a high building with impunity, and cursing the law when it makes no exemption for him, these critics are merely spitting into the face of a hurricane. One can only shake one’s head at the futility and foolishness of it all.

Even God Himself is probably amused, in fact, I’m sure He is. (Ps 2:4)

Take Care

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

On a Lighter Note - The Blues

I'm afraid I can't take credit for this. I found it somewhere. I wish I could remember so I could give the author credit.

HOW TO SING THE BLUES -- A Primer
1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning ..."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes ... sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch - ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the runnin'. Walkin' plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don't get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg because you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg because a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can't have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. highway b. jailhouse c. empty bed d. bottom of a whiskey glass.
Bad places for the Blues: a. Nordstrom's b. gallery openings c. Ivy League institutions d. golf courses.

11. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be a old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if: a. you older than dirt b. you blind c. you shot a man in Memphis d. you can't be satisfied.
No, if: a. you have all your teeth b. you were once blind but now can see c. the man in Memphis lived d. you have a 401K or trust fund.

13. Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.

14. If you ask for water and your darlinĂ¢ give you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: a. cheap wine b. whiskey or bourbon c. muddy water d. nasty black coffee.
The following are NOT Blues beverages: a. Perrier b. Chardonnay c. Snapple d. Slim Fast e. Diet Coke.

15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely on a broken-down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

16. Some Blues names for women: Sadie , Big Mama, Bessie, Fat River Dumpling, Caldonia.

17. Some Blues names for men: Joe, Willie, Little Willie, Big Willie, Leroy.

18. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Tiffany, Brooke, Brittany, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19. Make your own Blues name Starter Kit:
a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of a President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

20. Oh, by the way. I don't care how tragic your life: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

When Science and Scripture Collide (and happen to agree)

It is the day after Christmas. The gifts have all been opened and sit by the door ready to be returned. The food has all been eaten and the bathroom scales are assumed to be in error. And I find, as I often do at times like this, that my mind turns, as perhaps do some of yours, to thoughts of Mitochondrial Eve. (ME)

Well, OK, I’m kidding, but the subject did come to mind as I remembered a discussion on the subject on a website devoted to debunking the Christian faith. At the risk of contravening online etiquette, I will not give the source because I don’t want to publicize it here (not, again, that I have great volumes of readers), but such discussions are easy enough to find.

The theory is that all people living on the earth today are descended from a single common female ancestor. The title of ME is given to our most recent common female ancestor. In fact, it is not really a theory, but a mathematical fact.

From the website:
“The proof for the existence of a Mitochondrial Eve is as follows (based on an argument in a book by Daniel Dennett).Consider all the humans alive today on Earth. Put them into a set S.Next, consider the set of all those women who were the mothers of the people in the set S. Call this set S'. A few observations about this new set S'. It consists of only women (while set S consists of both men and women)---this is because we chose to follow only the mother-of relationship in going from set S to set S'. Also note that not every member of set S' needs to be in set S---set S consists of all people living today, while some of the mothers of living people could have died, they would be in set S' but not in set S. Third, the size of set S' is never larger than the size of set S. Why? This is because of the simple fact that each of us has only one mother. It is however overwhelmingly more likely that the size of set S' is much smaller than that of set S---this is because each woman usually has more than one child.Repeat the process of following the mother-of relationship with set S' to generate a new set S''. This set will consist of only women, and will be no larger (and very likely smaller) than set S'.Continue this process. There will come a point when the set will consist of smaller and smaller number of women, until we finally come to a single woman who is related to all members in our original set via the transitive-closure of the mother-of relation. There is nothing special about her. Had we chosen to follow the father-of relation, we would have hit the Y-chromosome Adam (more on him later).”

Where the term “mitochondrial” comes in is that this theory has been scientifically verified by the tracking of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on only by our mothers. It does indeed confirm that all people living on earth today can be traced to a single female ancestor. Many skeptics quote a figure of about 200,000 years ago; somewhere, they say, in Africa. Some Creation Scientists have come up with a figure of 6500 years ago. I really don’t care. I think the Bible can support a young earth or an old earth. What it does state unequivocally is that it was all created by God.

Now, I do not at all pretend to be an expert in this area. Sometimes people who consider themselves "experts" are too close to a thing, focusing so much on the details that they have difficulty seeing the whole picture. What I want to do is to examine what evidence we have in light of common sense, and not to go beyond said evidence into assumptions based on worldview presuppositions.

What do I mean by presuppositions? Well, in any discussion of this theory, the skeptic will say, as this one does, “…she was by no means the only living woman on Earth during her lifetime. Many other women lived with her…” (emphasis mine, JK).
Well, excuse me, but where did that bit of speculation come from? Apparently the time for evidence is past and the skeptic hopes he can just slip in an assumption and hope the reader won’t notice. I have read this assumption many times in relation to this matter, but have never seen anyone back it up with any evidence at all. All that is said is, “There must have been…” or, “There certainly were…”, other women alive at the time.

Here’s more from the site:
“I mentioned the Y-chromosome Adam (YcA for short) earlier in discussing patrilineal descent. The YcA has also been identified (by the careful sequencing of a small region of the Y-chromosome that all men carry) and has been dated considerably more recent than the ME (yet another slap-in-the-face for bibliolaters---their Adam and Eve lived many tens of thousands of years apart).” (emphasis mine, JK)

Here again, the skeptic shows his ignorance. Obviously the names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ in this subject are not really meant to be the actual names of the persons involved. I believe, of course that this most recent common female ancestor to us all actually was named Eve. But who is the most recent male ancestor of everyone alive today? It’s not Adam! If we were playing Jeopardy, the answer would be, “Our most recent common male ancestor.” The question would be,… Are you ready for this? “Who is Noah?”

Yes, the human race began anew after the flood. The only humans to survive were Noah and his three sons (Noah being their father and therefore our most recent common male ancestor), and all their wives (each of which would have had different fathers and different mothers and would trace their matrilineal lineage back to Eve). Once again, the Bible is not proven wrong. Noah did indeed live many years after Eve. Just exactly how many years need not concern us.

The skeptic's article concludes with this:
“The existence of the Mitochondrial Eve and the Y-chromosome Adam are no longer in any doubt (remember, both are mathematical necessities)---what is still being discussed is the estimation of how long ago they lived.”

As I have said, I am no expert in this or, dare I say, anything else. But I’m just a guy who observes the world, asks questions and gives a few of my thoughts. And one of my favourite questions, when someone makes a statement and claims it to be fact is, “OK, show me!”

When it comes to attempts to debunk the Bible, we have an unfair advantage over the skeptic: it happens to be true. And the truth, by definition, cannot be successfully refuted.

Take Care

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Flogging a Dead Horse (or reindeer as the case may be)

This is not really another rant on how Christmas has become so secular. It is the way it is and what will be will be, I suppose. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. There are always some Christians who get up in arms about the secularization of Christmas and, for example, the removal of a Christmas tree from a courthouse so non-Christians will not be offended. Mine is more a feeling of sadness for a world that desperately needs the good news of Jesus Christ but just doesn’t seem to get it. But here are a couple of the latest examples I’ve seen.

I just watched the beginning of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). Gordon Pinsent is a celebrity of sorts here in Canada (although I suppose I should say he is a ‘personality’. We in Canada are either not big enough or American enough or think enough of ourselves to have celebrities; we have personalities instead). Mr Pinsent did a HNIC related poem based on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Frankly, I don’t know whether he used the term, “Christmas” in his poem, because I didn’t pay much attention until I heard him recite at the end…

“I heard him say, as he rode out of sight, Happy Holidays to all…etc, etc.” I can only shake my head and smile resignedly at this attempt at political correctness, even at the expense of the rhythm and metre of the poem.

The other night I saw the movie “Santa Clause II” on TV. It was an entertaining enough film, a bit silly, but not really offensive at all. The interesting thing was that, near the end of the movie, a TV reporter reported how a crowd of people were singing Christmas carols, coming together in the true spirit of Christmas. The “carol” they were singing? “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Another head-shaker.

Years ago there used to be a Dial soap commercial that I sometimes paraphrase: “Aren’t you glad you know the Lord? Don’t you wish everybody did?”
But they just don’t get it, do they?

This is the season when we celebrate that portion of John 3:19, “…Light has come into the world…”
But how does the world react? “…but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

I believe that we as Christians do need to be salt and light in the world and in our communities, being prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that we have. Some will have ears to hear, some won’t. But in the end how should we take it?

“Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." (Rev 22:11)

Have a blessed Christmas as we celebrate our Saviour’s birth.

Take Care

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Ask The Next Question II

One of the things which led me to the opinion that belief in God was a reasonable position was this, from Dr Walter Martin.

Simply put, either something in the universe is eternal, or something came from nothing. Science and reason will tell us that to think that something can come from nothing is absurd. So we are left with the idea that something has been here forever. In that case, there are two possibilities: this “something” must be either matter or the Creator of matter.

One might look at the world around us and ask, “How did all this get here?” Now, we might start by thinking the question means, “How did the world get to be the way it is?” but that is not what must be asked. There are many theories of how it came to be the way it is as we know it today. There are natural and supernatural explanations, secular and religious, but that is not the point. Whether a supernatural Being created it much as it is now, or whether it is the result of billions of years of random and undirected evolution and development is, for the moment, beside the point. The question we must ask is this; “Where did the original atoms and molecules come from to begin the whole process?” Have they been here forever, or were they created. We are faced with two possibilities; one physical, one Divine. Something is eternal. What is more reasonable to believe; that matter is eternal, or that there is an eternal Creator of matter? Ultimately it comes down to the question, “Is there a spiritual realm aside from what we know in the physical scheme of things?” Mulling this question over and over, I began to come to the conclusion that it was at least as reasonable to believe on the one hand that God existed as that, on the other, either matter has existed forever without cause or that it somehow sprang into being, uncaused, from nothing. The more I thought about it, the more reasonable it appeared. Physically, science will tell us, one cannot have an effect without a cause. In other words, for everything that now exists, there was a cause. I became convinced that this ultimate “Cause” was God.

Another point to consider is this: most scientists agree that the universe had a beginning. It is popularly known as the “Big Bang Theory.” There is no conflict here with the Bible, which also states this theory in its very first verse. They will also tell us that the universe is winding down. If in fact the universe is eternal, yet it can be demonstrated that it will eventually end, then it must, by necessity, already have ended. That is, if it has existed from infinity past, and began deteriorating from that point at a measurable rate, then it would have disappeared, in theory, an infinity of time ago. Infinity minus one is still infinity. Infinity minus any number is still infinity. If it is not, it wasn’t infinity to begin with.

God exists! If you want to get closer to finding the answers, keep asking questions.

Take Care

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Most Sadly Ironic Song Lyric Ever

What brought this subject to mind was a sermon preached by our pastor some weeks ago on portions of Matthew chapters 24-25. The focus of the sermon, if I may be so presumptuous as to give my own interpretation, was summed up in 25:13

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

I found it an extremely memorable sermon, and I told him at the time I wanted it preached at my funeral. (In fact, Terry, if you see this, I think you should post it online)

But, back to the title of this post. Here is the lyric:

From the Lennon/McCartney song, “Across the Universe”

“Nothing’s gonna change my world.”

Lyric written by John Lennon:
Born Oct 9, 1940
Shot to death Dec 8, 1980

No one knows the day or the hour.
Take Care

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Ask the Next Question

I have entitled this “Ask the next Question” because it is what I think so many, especially those professing a disbelief in God, neglect to do.

One of the things that led me toward faith was my tendency, as I have just put it, to ask the next question. Notice that I said it led me toward faith, not to faith. But one of the problems of atheism is that it never answers all the questions. It never answers that last question. It stops short. An atheist may think he has found all the answers, but that is only because he has not asked enough questions.

This concept applies to any number of areas; morality, for example.
I once asked the question of a number of skeptics: “Is it wrong to hurt someone emotionally or physically?” and received some very interesting replies. Those who profess not to believe in God replied in a number of different ways.

Some said that it was wrong to hurt someone if it was deliberately and maliciously. The next question, of course, is, “Why?” If motivation governs the rightness or wrongness of an action, why? Who says so? If it is permissible to do something by accident, yet evil to do it deliberately, who says it is wrong? Agree as one may with this position, by what, or whose, authority is it the case?

Some people said words to the effect that, “This is my moral code.” or “This is what I live by.” The next question, then, is this: if this is the case, is it up to each individual to set his or her own moral code. What about someone who may have a different moral code, whereby they don’t see anything wrong with assault or murder? Is it then OK for them to murder but not for you?
Some said it was all relative; that there were times when it was alright to hurt someone for their own good, as in an emergency rescue, or pleasure, as in a physical sport. This answer implies that there are times when it is alright, but other times when it is wrong. The next question, then, is; “ On those occasions when it is wrong, why is it wrong?”

Some may say, as is commonly heard, “You can do anything you want as long as you don’t hurt somebody else.” But the next question I would ask is, “Why limit it there? Why do you draw the line at hurting others? Why the restriction? What authority do you claim for making it?”
Some may say that it is wrong because society says it is wrong. It is a consensus of the people. It is the law of the land. But then comes the next question. There have been societies throughout history who have practised human sacrifice. Was it right in that case? Or wrong. There have been societies in the past, including our own, who have practised slavery. Was it right then merely because society viewed it as right? Or was it wrong even then? And if it was wrong, what made it wrong.

Some might say that it is wrong because civilization has been built on rules that protect its members. Without these rules society could not stand. It is for the protection of the individuals within the society and therefore of the society itself. But that would make it a matter of practicality, rather than morality. The next question then is, “Does right or wrong depend then on the practicality of a situation? Is the murder of dissidents and protesters within a society right, for instance, if it is for the protection of that society?” If it is wrong, what makes it wrong?

Perhaps it’s a sort of stand-off for mutual benefit. Maybe there’s no morality in it at all. Perhaps the rule, “If you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you” has been merely a rule of convenience, which has allowed humans to avoid anarchy and build civilized societies. But that is nothing more than, “Might makes right”, or survival of the fittest. This would make murder acceptable as long as you could get away with it, or assault permissible as long as the weaker could not retaliate. Stronger nations throughout history have invaded weaker ones. Stronger peoples have subjugated weaker ones. Have they been right?

Tell me what you think, but first, ask the next question, and keep asking. I believe that every question, carried through to its true and logical end, leads to God.

Take Care

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Why This Blog?

You probably don’t know this, but I am world’s worst evangelist. It’s not every day one has the opportunity to be in the presence, so to speak, of the world’s best or the world’s worst of something, but today you have that distinction. I have great difficulty communicating my faith to others I meet, whether socially, at work, in my neighbourhood or even in my own family. When I am by myself I can always think of exactly what I will say, and the cleverest way to say it, to anyone I know or meet who needs to know the LORD. But when the time comes, when I actually have the opportunity to tell someone about the good news of Jesus Christ, I spend so much time waiting for exactly the right moment to say exactly the right thing that the opportunity passes, or so I convince myself.

I have spent most of my working life in sales of one kind or another, but I’ve never been comfortable making cold calls, or selling something that I don’t think people really want. I always say I would make a lousy insurance salesman. My way of selling has always been to have a product I believe is the best on the market and represent it enthusiastically to people who approach me to find out about it. At the risk of mixing the profane with the Holy, this is almost how it is with me and my Christian faith. I like, first, to consider well what I am trying to express, and to be well rehearsed in my presentation.

One of the opportunities for evangelism I particularly enjoyed has been my involvement in the Alpha Course. I participated in this course in both church and prison settings for ten years, and it gave me the opportunity to discuss matters of faith with people who were there specifically to hear. I also feel more confident writing at a keyboard than in a face-to-face situation. It gives me the opportunity to consider, reconsider and edit what I want to say.

So that brings me back to the title of this post and the purpose for this blog site. I have many thoughts to express (they are always bouncing around in my head looking to get out), and the best way I can express them is in writing. In a sense, I am writing to an audience of no one in particular, or even an audience of no one at all. I may be talking to myself, but anyone who happens by is welcome to eavesdrop. Perhaps, Lord willing, someone will stumble in here and be blessed by what they read.

Take Care,

Monday, 18 December 2006

So This is Christmas... So What?

"And so this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over,
A new one just begun...
"...War is over, if you want it,
War is over, now..."

First verse and childrens' chorus from Happy Christmas (War is Over)
Words and music by John Lennon

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4,5. NKJV)

Some of you may be old enough to remember those idealistic days of John and Yoko and “Give peace a chance." They seem so distant now... a part of our youth, viewed like a photograph shot through a hazy filter. How idealistic, how honourable a cause it was... world peace. And all we had to do is get enough people to want it badly enough. We were so sure we could do it. But all one has to do is look at intervening history to see that these thoughts were naive at best. Yes, the war in question of that day, Viet Nam, is over, but wars still rage around the globe. Whether it's the same "evil" Americans, now in Iraq, suicide bombers or various tribal or religious wars, civil and otherwise, in Africa, man's violence against man has not ceased. And, of course, it won’t. Why? Because, as the Bible says, man's heart is evil continually.

When our first ancestor deliberately disobeyed God, he invited sin into the human race, and every human being since has inherited what, in Christian jargon is known as a "sin nature”. What it means is that we, as human beings, do not have a natural propensity to do good, but to do what is wrong. We all do wrong things. We all know that we do wrong things. And we do them even knowing they are wrong. In other words, we know the things we do are wrong, but we do them anyway.

This tells us two things. First, we humans really have an innate sense of what IS right. We KNOW the difference between right and wrong. But our natural propensity is to do what is wrong anyway. For example, our natural tendency is to be selfish, even though we know it is better to be generous. Without being taught that it is wrong to steal, or without fear of punishment or the disapproval of others if we are caught, our natural tendency would be to take anything we wanted.

If someone angers us, our natural tendency is to strike out at them, either verbally or physically. If someone angers us enough, our primary urge is to use violence. Often the thing that stops us is either the fear of our adversary using violence back, or the realization that society has laws against such action, and we could suffer punishment if we assault someone. And, of course, we think it wrong for anyone to use violence against us. Our natural tendency is not only to excuse our urge to use violence against others who anger us as justifiable, but at the same time to justify our own behaviour at which others might feel the same urge toward us as reasonable: we had a good reason for behaving the way we did. In the end, although we might try to convince ourselves and others that we really are good people, deep down we know we are not.

People know there is a God. We have all been given enough evidence (Psalm 19, Romans 1) so that there is no excuse not to acknowledge the fact of His existence. But in our natural condition, we are intimidated by Him. So, although He invites us to seek Him, our natural inclination is to avoid Him (John 3:19) or even to deny that He exists. We are afraid of judgment. We realize that, the way we are, we will be condemned by such a Being.

Which brings me to the Scripture passage quoted above.

“…when the fullness of time had come…”

Jesus came into this world at a particular time in history. He was born exactly when he was supposed to be born; exactly when God had decided he would be born. Jesus was not a great man who just happened to be born when he was. His birth was no fluke of history. God is not the victim of coincidence, He is the author of all circumstance. To put it frivolously, “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

“…God sent forth His Son …”

God indeed came Himself, in the person of His Son, to make a way possible for Mankind, even with his “sinful” heart, to be reconciled to Him.

“…born of a woman, born under the law…”

Jesus was not only fully God from eternity past, he was fully human, born in the flesh, with an obligation to keep the law. In fact, he is the only person who ever lived who kept God’s entire law faithfully, without exception. He is the only person never to have done anything wrong, even though he was tempted in every way we are.

“ …to redeem those who were under the law…”

On the cross, Jesus took upon himself, everything ever done wrong by anyone who puts their faith in him, and at the same time, placed on each of us who trust in him, in God’s eyes, his own righteousness.

“…that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

We no longer have to cower in fear in of judgment in God’s presence, but we can now stand confidently, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can now know God personally and have the same relationship with Him of a loving father and his children. We can be adopted as His children through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is what we celebrate at Christmastime! What better gift could there possibly be?

Take Care