Zorba the Greek goes to church: I have a right to be clean

When Zorba the Greek said: “Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble” I don’t think he meant the best way to deal with a preacher who says wrong things is to whack him. I am sure that after a church service, many a preacher, when accosted by the roaming critic who ticks him off about something he said in his sermon, also wants to take off his belt and whack him one; but immediately thinks “that is not the way for a Christian to manifest the fruits of the spirit.” Guides have been written for preachers on how to deal with the post-sermon pain in the kneck.

Let me tell of one of these nuisances who attended a Methodist Church in a city he was visiting, Johannesburg.

After the sermon he introduced himself to the preacher/pastor, and after the exchange of a few sweet nothings, asked him about the line in “Bind us together,” the final song of the service, namely,

Verse 2 third line

Made for the glory of God
Purchased by His precious Son
Born with the right to be clean
For Jesus the victory has won

Pain – Surely everybody born into this world has not been born with the right to be clean.
Preacher – Perhaps it should say those who have been born again have the right to be clean. Let me see. (The song appears on the printed sheet he is holding). No, it does mean everybody without exception is born with the right to be clean. Look at the context. (He reads):

“Made for the glory of God
Purchased by his precious son
Born with the right to be clean.”

Pain(ful) – But surely not every one born into the world has been/will be “purchased by his precious son” (thinking to himself – all those God knows from eternity whom he has condemned to hell), because if Christ purchases, that is, pays with his blood to release everyone from bondage to sin, this means that everyone born into this world certainly is washed clean of sin, and will, logically, end up in heaven, whether they are born again (through grace by faith), that is, born of God or whether they are born of a husband’s will.

Preacher – I disagree with you (pointing to other people who wanted to speak to him).

Pained, I said goodbye and retreated.

Accosting a preacher-pastor straight after a church service – who is usually exhausted and sometimes, hopefully, wondering whether his sermon failed – is not exactly the most tactful or considerate thing to do. But what was I to do? Calvinists can’t help getting into a scrap, especially when so much scrap is flying around.

Remember another nugget (that could’ve come from) Zorba: no pain, no gain.

My faith, works and perseverance will get me to heaven. Amazing (grace?)

The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

Arminians maintain that the “elect” are sinners that God selected on the basis of God foreseeing from eternity that they would decide to choose to permit God to raise them from (spiritual) death. They love singing the song “Amazing grace (that saved a wretch like me).”

Would it make sense to tell the Arminian that the ultimate reason why people are not saved is because there is something bad in them (in their wills) that causes them to reject the Gospel, and so deserve damnation? Of course it would make sense; it’s clear as day. What about people who are saved? What is the final clincher in God’s decision to save them. For the Arminian – there is no escaping the logic: the clincher is their decision – something in them, something good in them.


John Girardeau (Arminianism and Evangelical Calvinism) explains Arminianism in a manner I wish I could:

“It is out of accord with Scripture in regard to the ultimate end of election. It admits that the proximate end is salvation; but it is logically bound to deny that the ultimate end is solely the praise of God’s grace. For, the praise is due to grace for the provision of the means of salvation, and it is due to the elect themselves for the free determination of their own wills to employ those means. God does not determine the sinner to use the means; the sinner determines himself. He may be grateful for the provision of the means, but gratitude for electing grace would have no ground. His faith, good works and perseverance bring him to heaven, but they are not grounded in or due to election: it is conditioned upon them. He could not sincerely praise the grace of God for bringing him to heaven: he could only praise it for affording him the means of getting there.”

Born foolish: A Hebraic view

I distinguish between the biblical (Hebraic) view and the rabbinical (Judaism) view. The rabbis do not accept that born foolish leads to the inability to please God, and to destruction. Now, to it.

We are born, we are fools, we are born fools.

Proverbs 22:15 – Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Genesis 8:21 – … the inclination (yetser) of man’s heart is evil (ra) from his youth.

And if course, the famous Jeremiah 17:19 verse: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick: who can know it?

Sick = foolish, despising instruction, despising authority.

So, how can we then blame the child! I’m stumped; but if the perfect and just God said it, then it is so, and remains, at least while we’re in this world, his secret:

Deuteronomy 29:29 (29:28 Hebrew Bible) – The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 32:4-5 – The deeds of the [Mighty] Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright. 5 Destruction (corruption) is not His; it is His children’s defect you crooked and twisted generation.

Rashi’s commentary of the above:

Destruction is not His: Heb. שִׁחֵת לוֹ לֹא, [to be understood] as the Targum renders it: חַבִּילוּ לְהוֹן לָא לֵהּ,“Destruction is theirs, not His!”

“Corruption” is perhaps more accurate than “destruction.” There is a sense in which destruction is rooted in man and thus is his responsibility; and a sense in which destruction is ordained by God:

Deut 6:14-15 – Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Deut 7:2-4 – And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy THEE suddenly.

Deut 32:21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation…Deut 32:25 The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.

Sometimes God gives up the disobedient to their own lusts:

Psalms 81 – 10 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. 11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. 12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

And sometimes God turns them away from their lusts towards Him, but only when they realize they are unable to turn to God because they are dead in their sins:

Psalms 80 – Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. 18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us (bring us life CHAYA), and we will call upon thy name. 19 Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Impending: The Supreme Court’s decision on homosexual marriage, the persecution of faithful Christians, and the doom of their persecutors.

Rick Philips writes:

“As the Supreme Court deliberates on the question of homosexual marriage, American Christians are bracing for a level of government persecution yet unknown to us. The fear is that with homosexuality declared a constitutional right, opposition will officially be akin to racism. Under such a ruling, Christian institutions who refuse to grant homosexual rights may be subjected to official oppression and lose their tax exempt status as non-profit institutions. Even churches may lose their tax-free status if they refuse to permit marriages between two men or two women. This would deal a heavy financial blow and may be a precursor to the removal of our religious freedoms, so that public speech against moral perversion becomes a crime punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Christians who know the book of Revelation will notice a striking parallel between this potential situation and that which Jesus described to the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11. This ancient city was a jewel on the Aegean Sea, the chief city of the Roman province of Asia. With over 200,000 residents, it was noted for its historical loyalty to the Roman empire. In the year 26 a.d., the city even competed for and won the honor of erecting a temple to the emperor Tiberius and was famed for its commitment to the Roman imperial cult. As such, the church there was vulnerable to the persecutions that the emperor Domitian was about to unleash on those who would not bow to his supposed deity.”
– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/will-the-american-church-be-a.php#sthash.BafpJ18d.dpuf

Deathbed memoirs: the hands and the arms of God

With so much killing going on in this wicked world, I need to remind myself that most of the more than 150 000 deaths during the last 24 hours occurred in a bed of some sort.

“Few things are more interesting than deathbed memoirs. They interest every reader, because they speak of a period at which all must arrive, and afford solid ground of encouragement to survivors to expect the same or similar support and comfort when they come to die.” (William Cowper).


How terrifying for someone to fall into the hands of God; and what unutterable sweetness to fall into His arms.

“We must be very earnest with our own hearts this morning, to discover, if possible, whether we come under the number of those whose warfare is accomplished, and whose sin is pardoned; or whether, on the other hand, we abide with the multitude on whom resteth the curse of God, and whose sins shall be discovered and punished by the right-hand of the Most High.”

A message from God to thee – Charles Spurgeon

Here is an excerpt on Adoniram Judson, the missionary to the East:

Though he grew up in a pastor’s home, Judson walked away from the truth as a young man, only to be recovered in a dramatic fashion. John Piper details this part of Judson’s life in his book Don’t Waste Your Life:

What his godly parents did not know was that Adoniram was being lured away from the faith by a fellow student named Jacob Eames who was a Deist. By the time Judson’s college career was finished, he had no Christian faith. He kept this concealed from his parents until his twentieth birthday, August 9, 1808, when he broke their hearts with his announcement that he had no faith and that he wanted to write for the theater and intended to go to New York, which he did six days later on a horse his father gave him as part of his inheritance. . . .

[Some time later, Judson] stayed in a small village inn where he had never been before. The innkeeper apologized that his sleep might be interrupted because there was a man critically ill in the next room. Through the night Judson heard comings and goings and low voices and groans and gasps. It bothered him to think that the man next to him may not be prepared to die. He wondered about himself and had terrible thoughts of his own dying. He felt foolish because good Deists weren’t supposed to have these struggles.

When he was leaving in the morning he asked if the man next door was better. “He is dead,” said the innkeeper. Judson was struck with the finality of it all. On his way out he asked, “Do you know who he was?” “Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.”

Facebook and the resurrection

None of Christ’s disciples were expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. The Jewish leaders believed more in that possibility – what irony!; they had Roman soldiers guard the tomb. If there is anything on facebook that is crucial to your life – and death, it is the fact of the Resurrection.  At the end of your life you will be faced with two books – Facebook and the Book that will show the face beneath.  Here is Richard Ganz on the Resurrection.

How a Jew makes it to heaven. Or anyone, for that matter

The history of Israel (God’s “first-born” and unique son) is something like this: He ( Israel) is self-willed and with a strong desire to be free to do as he pleases. As a result he nurtures and cherishes the desire to be his father’s enemy. The father desires to rebuke and correct his son. Alas, this affection angers the son and causes him to become more stiff-necked and distant. The son’s aversion grows so strong that he comes to see his father as a bully and a tyrant.

The son’s hatred grows so strong that the mere thought of his father makes him ill. His hatred is exacerbated by those of similar dispositions around him. No matter how much the father pleads and tries to show kindness, the son spurns this love. “Tonight, I’m going awhoring.” Suppose that this enmity continues for months, for years. Do you think the son is able, in a moment, or at any time of his choosing, to turn this ill-will into a godly sorrow and a desire to repent and be reconciled to his father? His father has been pleading with him. “Take out you heart of stone, and replace it with a heart of soft warm flesh.” Or to say it another way: “Circumcise your heart.” “After all, the father says, what I want you to do is not on Mars or under the sea; it’s as close to you as it can get.”

The son is do deep in the mire (“second nature”) of self-love and enmity towards his father that he is unable to change AND doesn’t want to change. Do we exonerate an inveterate criminal because he can’t help doing what he loves doing? No. A large part of the history of Israel is like that of an inveterate criminal. The father alternates between pleading “why won’t you turn?” and venting his hot anger by inflicting the ultimate punishment – mayhem and destruction. The son was unable to change yet was exceedingly culpable – to the point of near annihilation.

This is not the end. If it were, what a sorry tale that would be. The father decides to have mercy on a remnant, so that a stump of a stump of his son remained. And not because of anything good he saw in them.

Renewed Garden of Eden

Jossl – Issy, how did you manage to make it, you were such a schmoozer?

Issy – To you yes. But our father sees more than you can see, and so he saw that I was basically a good sort underneath.

Jossl – Shucks, you’re far better than I. I was the biggest ganef (thief) on earth, right down to my socks.

Issy – How can that be! How did you get in, then?

Jossl – Simple, for our father. He said he was going to circumcise my heart, and so here I am. You never believed the scriptures.

Issy – No, I do; you’ve got it all wrong; he said you must circumcise your own heart.

Jossl – But later father said, “I will circumcise your heart.”

Issy – Oh. So I suppose a bit of both. You circumcise a bit of your heart – the big bit? – and father will circumcise the other bit.

Jossl – Did you read that in the Talmud? The way I see it, now that father has opened my eyes, when he says he will do something he means HE will do it – ALL; especially when he goes on about it: ” I will…I will…I will…I will…” Amazing! Hey, you know what’s also amazing?

Issy – What?

Jossl – That He saved a chochem (wiseacre, idiot) like you.