Friday, May 30, 2014

Forgiveness or Forgetfulness?

There was once a little girl. She was an Israelite. Little is known of her family, but she remembers them even if noone else does. She was taken from her family, her friends, her people, and everything she knew in the world to become a servant girl in the house of Naaman.

When one is placed in this position, one would expect much anger to be directed at those around them. Certainly if I was in this position, I would be looking at Naaman's situation and consistently holding a grudge hoping that my masters would find suffering. That the Lord might reward them according to the harm he has afflicted me.

This is a natural reaction. Whenever anyone hurts us, no matter how small, we tend to become angry at them. Now imagine if that were escalated to the point where everything you hold dear was taken away from you.

That is where this little girl is. We know that she has a memory of her life in Israel. We know that she might not ever attain to find her way back there again, yet here we are seeing her without wishing that her masters will have some harm fall upon them.

Instead, this little servant girl has a fervent care and compassion for her masters. When she sees that Naaman has leprosy, her thought isn't, "About time! You really thought the Lord would let you get away with taking one of His people to be your slave?!?"

But her thought as told to us in 2 Kings 5:3,
"Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy."

What an example! I must confess I don't follow this example. Whenever anyone hurts me, even in the small way of keeping me from sitting where I wanted to, I start to get angry and it becomes difficult for me to forgive and forget so that I can begin to actually care about the other person.

I can't help but think that I am not alone. Can you imagine that you could forgive someone who had only ever wronged you? The Lord says that we are to forgive up to seven times seventy times. We are to love our enemies. Here we have the ultimate example. Having compassion on those who have harmed us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trials and Persecution 5: Surviving the Suffering

The Christian walk isn't always easy. We will have suffering and persecution within our life. This fact is guaranteed in Scripture. When we are faced with such trials, we always want to blame someone. We want to be able to take it to the man.

This is especially true when we undergo these difficulties while serving the Lord wholly, perhaps only because we are serving the Lord wholly. Far from our reactions is the admonition in 1 Peter 2: 19-23
"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."

Jesus is our ultimate example in the midst of crises. (Actually, Jesus is our ultimate example in everything!) Jesus when He suffered wrongfully, didn't lash out - He didn't try to attack those who were harming Him. He took it patiently.

Now this isn't necessarily to say that we have to sit and watch as people destroy us. If someone is beating us up in an alley, we have a right to use any available resources to ensure we live. What it does mean is that we should not be holding grudgeful vendettas against those who have wronged us in the past.

There could be many different reasons that can be given for this fact: that the Lord will be judging them in eternity, that we are only better than them by the grace of God, and that they need that grace themselves. All of these are wonderful reasons, but the one that the Lord has been showing me in the last few months (and further in the last day; I'm glad the Lord had me schedule this blog post to be written precisely when I needed the truths therein), has been one slightly peripheral to these issues.

In John 16, the Lord spends time preparing the disciples for what lies ahead of them. He prepares them for their suffering. Before he begins to express the aspects of their lives that will be troubling, He tells them that those who persecute them may not have such impure motivations as they might think. John 16:2 proclaims,
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."

To me, once I can understand the motivations behind someone's actions, I have a hard time condemning that person. Instead I want to concentrate my time on helping them to see the flaw in their application of such things.

This is a key glue that holds families together. Let's be honest, when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you will often have a few conflicts. You might even be buffeted for your faults or when you do well. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that will happen.

But due to love and a simple understanding of the underlying motivations in their heart, you are able to forgive them, and though you are probably still saddened by their words and actions, you are not likely to be so angry.

This same principle can and should be true of everyone that hurts us, whether they be of God's people or not. We ought to try to look at things from their perspective. Not only might it help us to not become angry at each other, but it might even show us our own flaws in how we interacted with others.

But beyond just being an example in suffering, Jesus does so much more to help us in our daily walk with him. As I previously quoted, Sarah Arthur explains,
"Jesus fought the war and came back to help us win the battles."

The Lord has provided many different ways in which to help us through the suffering that we have in our life. You see, when He saved us, He didn't leave us to our own devices to figure out how to serve Him and how to survive the suffering without a guide. Rather He promises us that if we seek Him, we will find Him, that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will send us another Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit.

And that is a blessing beyond which anyone of us deserves, and one that will ease the pain of our suffering and perhaps allow us to sing in prison like Paul and Silas, or just to show joy regardless of our circumstances.

We know that He is able to carry us through our struggles. We know that this omnipotent God has the power to comfort us within our crises. The power of this world and the suffering it inflicts upon us are of no consequence. Whenever you feel that it does, remind yourself of John 16:32-33,
"Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Surviving the suffering requires no special effort from ourselves. It requires nothing but a surrender to the will of God, to His strength and to His protection in our lives. It is best that we not hold grudges in this situation, but simply wait on the Lord and let Him guide us through. It is by His strength alone that we can take struggles patiently and find contentment in even the most depressing circumstances.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13,
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Official Kickoff to Summer! Oh Wait, that's Not Right

Don't worry, I'm not about to start a cliched rant against celebrating Memorial Day with grill-outs and forgetting the sacrifices that are made for us. I believe a substantial amount of time has been spent on this subject already, and if you don't understand it, there is nothing I could possibly say to cause you to comprehend that hasn't already been said much better than I could.

So we start this dialogue with the assumption that everyone already properly knows that today we are supposed to be remembering the sacrifice our military makes for our... for our...

Um... yeah, that part hasn't exactly been beaten like a dead horse like the rest of the narrative surrounding Memorial Day. At least not on Memorial Day. So why exactly do we consider this day special?

You see, a sacrifice in and of itself is not a reason for celebration. Sometimes, people's sacrifices come from such impure motivations or just to show off, that we dare not applaud them in any way.

This has been ingrained in our very psyche through literature, movies, and our very own upbringing;

In my own upbringing it was books. For example, in a book I much beloved as a child, The Bronze Bow, set in the time of Jesus, the narrative depicts a lot of sacrifice from Daniel bar Jamin for a number of different causes.

At the beginning, we learn that Daniel is an aspiring Blacksmith and is extremely talented. He has the capability to become a rather successful Blacksmith. But he gives all this up to look for revenge against the Roman Empire for the death of his father. In this quest, he sacrifices rather foolishly relationships with his mother and his sister and any attempt to find true friendship.

This quest is self-destroying. Eventually his mother is met with sickness and dies, and Daniel is forced to sacrifice his vengeance to care for his sister. But still this sacrifice is out of obligation and not out of love and is thus still invalid.

Daniel doesn't truly learn noble sacrifice until the end of the book when his every self is dedicated to the interests of others. All other sacrifices are purely selfish.

The answer to what makes a sacrifice truly noble is hinted at in that tale. Sacrifices are only truly sacrifices when they are directly for the benefit of others. The Bible states more directly.
"No greater love hath any man than this, that he give up his life for a friend."

And that is why the military is so special, and why we would celebrate this very occasion because in most instances, that is the mindset of a soldier. Sacrificing himself for the freedom and security of others.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Reexamining the Water Hose: Why Obedience May Not Please the Lord

In Christian churches today, we often hear an emphasis that our actions need to be pleasing to the Lord. We are told that we need to obey the Lord in all that He says, no matter the consequences, and the Lord will be satisfied with our works.

Only that's not entirely accurate. You see, obeying the Lord is only one half of pleasing the Lord. As you can see in a study of the book of Haggai, obedience at great risk means nothing if we don't also have the proper heart.

Remember the analogy I mentioned in Doctrines of the Christian Faith 3: Nature of Man,
"Imagine a water hose. When you turn on the water, water flows through that water hose. If you put clean water through a dirty water hose, the water is not going to come out clean. Rather all the impurities and filth of the hose are going to pass into the water.
Similarly, in our everyday life, the good works we do are contaminated because they have to pass through us, our dirty water hose."

Our hearts are the water hoses through which all our actions must pass through. The nature of our heart is adequate to change our actions from good to bad and from pleasing the Lord to displeasing the Lord.

Thus, we must make sure our hearts are focused upon the Lord. As aforementioned, in Haggai, the children of Israel err in this particular way.

Here's the background: the children of Israel have been in captivity for seventy years, but the Lord has recently granted them the grace to go repair His temple.

But the king of Persia has been misled regarding their intentions in this rask. Due to this, he forbids them from completing their work.

At this time, instead of continuing to obey the commandment of the Lord, the Israelites obey the earthly king.

Now let's not jump to judge them here. After all, this was their easiest option. Being in the king's good graces can always come in handy, and they don't have to wonder when the axe will fall on their heads. At least not from that king anyway.

The Israelites turn their attention from the Lord and from his house, and direct it to their own homes, neglecting the house of God.

That's where the book of Haggai begins. Because of the neglect of the temple, the Lord has withheld his blessings from the Israelites. Indeed, Haggai 1 explains,
"In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying,... Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."

The Lord has been gracious again to send Haggai to rebuke the people and bring them back to obedience. Make no mistake -  obeying THE King meant directly disobeying the Persian king. This could have brought any number of punishments onto the Jewish people. The Lord was requiring of them quite a big risk.

Yet when the Israelites resume their work on the temple, the Lord was not pleased with their actions and with their sacrifice.

Yes, they are obeying the Lord, but throughout this time of outward obedience, the Israelites never turned back their hearts to the Lord.  As Haggai 2:11-14 indicates,
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean."

The Lord uses this analogy of Levitical law to indicate that the heart's unclean nature makes the work unclean. Because they turned not to the Lord, the Lord's blessings are still being withheld, and their works are not pleasing to the Lord.

In our Christian walks then, we must be careful not to just attack the visible effects of a sinful heart. Showing outward obedience may make us look good to other Christians, but it ultimately may not please the Lord.

At any rate, it alone is insufficient. The Lord doesn't want begrudging servants to His calling, He wants willing servants, with a desire to serve Him with their efforts. It's not enough that their efforts may align for that particular time. The water hose affects the water, my friend.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trials and Persecution 4: Proper Focus

Last Thursday night, I heard an elementary-age child preach a short sermon to our church's congregation. If you can believe it, he actually presented a truth that I think many Christians desperately need to hear. As he preached on faith, he proclaimed simply,
"Does faith have a reward? Yes you can please God." 

It is not everyday that we consider the very act of pleasing God a reward in and of itself. Typically we think of pleasing the Lord as a means to an end. We consider it a prerequisite for receiving blessings in this life and the next.

Now indeed there is nothing wrong with desiring blessings in your lives, but why is that the sole reason we serve God? Shouldn't pleasing the Lord truly be a reward unto itself?

After all, when we make our friends or spouses laugh, we accept that smile as a reward for our efforts. We take joy in pleasing those that we care about and that are important to us. Indeed we will go to great lengths to ensure that we please those close to us, not for some ulterior motive, but just for the purpose of seeing them happy.

But who in our lives should we care about the most or be the closest to, but the Lord? We all know that the Lord has made many wonderful provisions for us whether in suffering or not. He with no obligation to whatsoever, has gone out of his way to make our lives worthwhile while we are basically nothing in comparison to him.

I John 4:10 states simply,
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

God loving us is not a trivial matter. It's not what one would expect in such a situation. It's not the norm for someone so magnificent to condescend to love someone so below his station.

At risk of belittling this love, look at class divisions today. It can be hard for a pastor to respect a prostitute, but it is usually not difficult for a prostitute to respect a pastor. Amplify that by infinity, and you have Jesus and us.

It should be very easy for us to love the Lord for what he has done for us. In so doing, we would have no other purpose than to sit and think about living entirely for him. As the banner I've mentioned previously states,
"He died for me. The least I can do is live for Him." 

If we truly understand these principles when we are in a trial in our lives, the trial begins to be inconsequential. It becomes rather light in comparison to the goal that is dominating our lives to serve and please the Lord, no matter the cost.

And that should be our focus, whether we're in a trial or not.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Needle in a Haystack: Privacy

Secrets. We all tend to have them. Why we have them varies from person to person. Some people keep secrets because they are afraid that people will be hurt by the truth. Some people like myself just really like to keep their lives private.

Of course, there are also the people who keep secrets because they have impure motivations. Perhaps even motivations to take down the government. 

It was precisely for these secrets that the National Security Administration (hereafter NSA) was created. Through their much publicized efforts, the NSA has created its own databases of all telephone calls in the United States. 

I know that this topic area has pretty much dropped from main coverage. However, I believe that to be an injustice. The NSA is still operating today, and it is not anymore respectful of our rights than when it first came out. We should be just as concerned now as we were then. 

With this organization, the government has access to the sensitive secrets they desire, but at the same time, all of the innocuous secrets that you and I keep and decide to share only with one another are known. 

Our plans for courtship/dating, our job situation, our greatest fears. None of these things may seem harmful for the government to have, but the question shouldn't be why not. The question we ask when we give power to the government needs to be why. 

So why should arbitrarily selected bureaucrats being given access to these areas of our private life? We only entrust certain trusted friends with them as a whole, so why would strangers have this information stored where they can reach it? 

Before we even consider the real fact of abuse within the NSA, we should question the logistics behind the situation completely. We have a right to keep our information private. From anyone we choose. 

But of course, one could argue that to get the national security information, it is necessary to make this sacrifice of this innocuous privacy. If you don't have anything to hide, don't worry about it. 

But to what extent would we carry this anyway? Is every part of our lives just commodities to be used in the government in the name of national security? God forbid. 

That though ignores the point that this database actually isn't helping national security at all. 

I'm not joking. The database that is violating all of our privacy is helping national security nary a bit. 

I am aware that such a huge claim requires some support. As such I am prepared to provide some. 

Looking for sensitive information for national security in private telephone records is like looking for a needle in a haystack. By adding in more innocent people's conversations into the mix, you are simply piling more hay into that stack, making it that much more difficult to find the needle. As Adrienne Kinne who worked with the NSa for 3 years and was recognized with a NSA Joint Service Achievement Medal explains,
"By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it's almost like they're making the haystack bigger and it's harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody. You're actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security."

So really, all our secrets are being taken only to hinder national security. We are sacrificing our rights and getting nothing in return.

And this has all been under the assumption that the government would always seek our best interests. Nevermind the fact that should they ever turn truly tyrannical, they will have at their disposal everything they could possibly need to manipulate us. Our desires, our dreams, our decision-making processes, our very fears, all that makes us tick as individuals - all there to coerce us to their will should they so desire.

At least we have a relief in knowing that they have a large haystack to sort through to find our needle of information. That's something I guess.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You are Not Alone

There is a point of focus in the Christian community today that people are going to persecute you for your actions if you defend God. Due to a desire to remain ignorant of God's wisdom, rebukes tend to fall on deaf ears.

Many Christians have allowed this to discourage them -to convince them that no one cares for God anymore. This is not just a recent phenomena.

In the Bible, Elijah famously begins to follow this same course of discouragement. He feels as if he is all alone and simply requests that the Lord takes his life. His reasoning is explained in 1 Kings 19:10,
"And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

 Elijah becomes discouraged because he believes that all his service has been for naught. In his eyes, despite his best efforts to revive the spirit of the children of Israel to the Lord, all have now gone and served other gods.

But the Lord corrects him in I Kings 19:18,
"Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him."

Elijah is told that he is not alone. The simple fact is that although many may dispute and punish you for spreading God's wisdom, there is almost always someone looking for it without knowing where he could find it. So continue spreading God's wisdom and know that you are not alone, no matter how you may feel.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trials and Persecution 3: The Purpose of Suffering

When anyone goes through times of suffering, the thing they really want to know is why. This is the question they might shout out to God, ask their Pastor, or beg to know from all their friends. There really is no direct answer to why suffering is in this world.

Of course, we know that all suffering came as a result of Adam's sin in the garden. But this does not follow then that all suffering happens from a direct cause and effect relationship between sin and its consequences. However, it is definitely true that some suffering is a direct result of sin in our lives.

So where does that leave us? Truthfully, it leaves us with little ability to ascertain which reasons our individual trials are in place to pursue. But we do have from Scripture some clear indication of a few purposes behind suffering in specific circumstances. That is what we will look at today.

To Avoid Stronger Suffering

It may seem to be an interesting thought to you, but sometimes the struggle that you are in is actually the lesser of two evils when it comes to your life. There are times when the Lord clearly puts His people through a lesser trial to avoid a stronger one or to end one that could not be finished otherwise. 

Take for instance, the Exodus and the Red Sea. In the geography of the day, there were much easier ways to travel than that which the Lord presented them to go on. They could have travelled completely without having to cross the Red Sea at all. 

But the Lord didn't lead them those other ways, and they experienced some inconvenience along this road. And then the Egyptians cornered them at the Red Sea, and they felt discouraged as there was nowhere possibly for them to go! The Lord of course delivered them from this trial, and they were able to see His power greater. But why did he allow them to go through this process in the first place? Well, Exodus 13:17 declares, 
"And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt."

The Israelites' faith was not strong enough for them to persist when they found themselves at war with the Philistines. So the Lord directed them the long way around, to show himself mighty, increase their faith, and to avoid the suffering that would have been the end of their journey to the Promised Land.

But this is not the only example I have seen. In the days of Nehemiah, there was great suffering in Jerusalem. The walls had broken down, and the people were not protected from any assault by their enemies. Nehemiah became burdened with this situation, and he took and cast that burden upon the Lord.

Ultimately, the Lord allowed Nehemiah to gain permission from King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. But rebuilding the wall is not the only thing that Nehemiah did when he returned to Jerusalem. Indeed in chapter 5, Nehemiah learns that the children of Israel's affliction goes beyond the lack of protection from the wall.

There was a famine in the land, and in order to pay their tribute and be able to eat, the Israelites have been forced to mortgage their lands, houses, and the rest of their property. In many families, their children were being sold into slavery just to survive. To make matters worse, the rulers of the city had neglected their brethren the Jews and seemed much more insistent on keeping their own luxuries.

Nehemiah would have none of that! Nehemiah 5:6-12 tells the rest of the story,
"And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them. And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise."

This had been a time of great suffering in the Israelites. It ended here because Nehemiah wouldn't stand for this type of behaviour. But had the wall not been broken down and that suffering not have occurred, it is very unlikely that Nehemiah would have ever made it to Jerusalem to see this travail of the people.

Time does not allow me to speak of Joseph and how his suffering allowed him to save his brothers from famine, nor Jesus and how his suffering freed those who would believe from eternal suffering.

Correction of Sin

Yes as I mentioned in the first place there are obvious times when the Lord used suffering as punishment for the sin that they have committed. The book of Judges for instance is entirely dedicated to the Lord putting the Israelites into captivity and thus suffering because of sin that they have committed. 

But I think that the direct cause to effect relationship between sin and some suffering goes beyond just a simple punishment to a correction of error. We do learn simply in Hebrews 12:5-11
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

The best example of this chastening purpose of suffering is the life of Jonah. Jonah went through much hardship (swallowed by a whale, I mean...) because he disobeyed the Lord's command to go to Nineveh to preach and tried instead to travel the opposite direction.  The Lord put him in this travail so that by the end of the book, Jonah was again obeying the Lord to rebuke the people of Nineveh for their sins.


Occasionally, the affliction that we find ourselves in is simply Satan looking for an opportunity to cause you to err. Indeed it's not always the sin that causes the suffering. Sometimes it's the other way around. 

Such a situation is the life of Job. Job is a very rich man and a servant of the Lord. The Devil wonders about whether Job would have such a strong commitment to the Lord should he undergo a trial in his life. He assumes that if he just had his family and his possessions taken away, he would certainly curse God. In fact in Job 1:9-12, we read, 
"Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord."

But Satan is mistaken. Despite the loss of his family and the loss of his goods, he does not curse God. Even when Satan is later given the opportunity to hurt Job's health, and cause all of Job's friends to turn against him -  not even then did Job turn from following his Lord.

Now that is an example that we should all be willing to follow. Perhaps too often in our prayers, we ask that we or someone we know be saved from having any trials or difficulties in our lives when we really just need to pray that the Lord will give us the strength to persevere through this suffering without any error and sin, and that the Lord will use it to teach us and cause our faith to be increased. But that latter option is the next - and final -  reason for suffering.

The Testing of our Faith

We are told throughout the Scriptures that the affliction we face can have a purpose of teaching us (I Peter 1:7 , Romans 5:3-4 for instance). Nowhere is this fact clearer than in James 1:2-4
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

To illustrate the fact that our trials can lead us to have an increased faith by allowing us to be patient in waiting for the hand of God in our life, we need only look to the lives of the disciples. The disciples went through much persecution in their latter days on earth. As we examined in the first post, the disciples found themselves beheaded, tortured, and afflicted on all sides. But what prepared them to be able to withstand such trials? What gave them that faith?

I suggest to you that it had something to do with another struggle in their lives. If you think about the greatest suffering that the disciples went through, it wouldn't be what happened in the book of Acts. There were lots of trials in the book of Acts yes, but the greatest persecution in their lives would have had to have been when they all thought that Jesus was dead.

They were without hope because the one they knew as Lord was simply no longer living. A dead saviour has never been able to help, serve, or save anyone.

They at this point lacked the faith on God's sovereign power over all things, including life and death, and had effectively hit rock bottom. Peter denied Christ's existence, Thomas wouldn't believe any reports of his resurrection until he could put his finger through Jesus' wounded hand, and all the disciples started going back to the positions in their life that they had before Jesus came into his life.

It was a trial beyond which anyone would ever experience (except of course, Jesus), but when it was over, when Jesus did rise again, the disciples were renewed with faith, and suddenly they were able to preach the word with all boldness.

Now of course I have been assuming throughout this whole post and especially in this last section that we as Christians have a desire to serve the Lord. Unfortunately that's not always true, but it should be. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; that's next week's post!

Monday, May 12, 2014


I haven't completely forgotten Mother's Day, nor to those of you who know me a bit more personally, am I going to completely ignore the fact that one of my sisters just got married this Saturday. I'm still not one to post about the things that happen to me upon the whole wide internet, but I thought I should spend some time today examining marriage and the state in honor of these two events (as marriage is necessary for motherhood, or you know should be).

Ok fine, you got me. When I was planning out blog posts two weeks ago, I forgot about Mother's Day, but at least I can sort of make this applicable, right?

I take offense with a part of the traditional marriage ceremony. It is in every wedding ceremony. It was in my sister's ceremony. Unfortunately, it will be in mine. It is simply a sentence or two spoken by the preacher officiating the wedding, and that sentence is as follows,
"By the power vested in me by the state of Ohio (this part admittedly does change), I now pronounce you husband and wife!"

Yes, I know it's odd to take offense of such a thing, but I may lean slightly more to the anarchist side of politics than I care to admit. From where I'm sitting though, marriage is an issue between man, woman, and God, and the state has no part in it whatsoever.

Few Christians would challenge the notion that marriage is indeed ordained by God. We hear about how marriage was first ordained in the book of Genesis with Adam and Eve. In fact, Jesus Himself supports this belief when He says in Mark 10:6-9,
"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Now before you just write me off as radical because I believe in the separation of marriage and state, I ask you simply, what reason has the state to be involved in marriage?

It's not as if the state is necessary to validate a union that God has established. And it's not as if they could put asunder what the Lord has joined together. The state's approval or rejection of a marriage doesn't change whether the Lord would accept it or reject it.

It certainly wouldn't have changed the Lord's acceptance of my older sister and her husband.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why is Thy Countenance Sad?

Christians will often find themselves with burdens for the things of God. They feel as if a problem needs solving and feel God working in their heart to provide them with a solution. These burdens can be simply looking to adopt a child from a third-world country, or going into that third-world country permanently as a missionary to help all the little orphans that are there. Either way, these burdens are always truly a great blessing to have placed in your life.

The beginning of the book of Nehemiah tells us a lot about how to handle our burdens. In it, we learn that Nehemiah hears of the plight of the Jews that had returned to Jerusalem during the Persian captivity. He learns that,
"The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the walls of Jerusalem is also broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire."

Upon hearing these words, Nehemiah immediately is burdened by the needs of his brethren the Jews. He wants to be able to do something about it. Wisely, he prays, confessing the sins of the children of Israel, committing the problem to the Lord, and asking,
"Oh, Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." 

You see, Nehemiah was the King Artaxerxes' cupbearer, and as such, was in a prime position to be used of God to help the struggling Jews in Jerusalem. And that is exactly what Nehemiah wanted to do. So as we all so well know, in the next chapter, Nehemiah finds himself in the presence of the king with the opportunity to actually present the king with his burden and do something about it! In fact, Nehemiah is so obviously burdened that he doesn't have to broach the subject with the king! Artaxerxes asks him,
"Why is thy countenance sad seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart."

And then just a short amount of time after being burdened, Nehemiah is given the opportunity by God to go to Jerusalem to help the people there rebuild the walls, regain their lands, and reestablish their relationship with the Lord. That's how it goes right?

Well, not exactly. This image that most people receive upon reading the book of Nehemiah (myself included, and I memorized it!) is not actually quite the case. Sure all the events, and quotations that I just gave to you come directly from the book of Nehemiah, but what we all fail to realize is the amount of time between Nehemiah's burden and when he was able to act upon it.

In Nehemiah 1:1, we learn that we are in the twentieth year. We further know that it is the month Chisleu. When we research out the Jewish/Babylonian calendar, we learn that this is the first month of the civil year, and would take place during November or December of the Gregorian calendar we use today. This is when Nehemiah learns of the wall being torn down. It is just beginning to cool down for the winter months, Hanukkah is happening, or since I'm not Jewish, it's Christmas season! Nehemiah is now burdened with the news of the Jewish people at Jerusalem.

However, he would have to carry that burden until an opportunity comes to come before the king (remember how in Esther, we learn that it is dangerous to enter into the king's presence uninvited; this is the self-same kingdom). We tend to assume since there is no verse between 1:11, where Nehemiah prays for mercy in the sight of Artaxerxes and 2:1 where he comes into the presence of the king, that there is only a short amount of time between them. But you have probably figured out by now that this blog post would be written in a completely different way should that actually have been the case.

In Nehemiah 2:1, we see that it is still the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, but now it is the month Nisan. The month Nisan also goes by the Hebrew name, Aviv, which means "Spring." It matches with our Gregorian calendar during the months of March or April, and is famous for celebrations like Passover and Easter. This is then when Nehemiah is given the opportunity to do something about his burden for the remnant of the captivity.

A far cry from the week or so we typically imagine, Nehemiah sat festering with his burden for 4-5 months (depending on whether the twentieth year of Artaxerxes was a leap year).

This certainly makes the fact that Nehemiah was still so burdened by the situation that it could still be noticed by the king all the more impressive. Here we have someone who would have had other difficulties of his own throughout this entire situation, and would have had ample reason to forget about this burden, still with a sad countenance over the plight of the Jewish people.

I don't know about you, but I tend to forget my burdens much more easily than that. I mean how often do we give up on our New Year's Resolutions after only one week? But Nehemiah's example shows us that it is possible (and probably should happen all the time) to have a burden so lasting that 4-5 months later, people still wonder what has changed in our countenance. Now I wouldn't advise that you go around all the time with a frown on your face, so people ask you what's wrong. But there ought to be something in your life that makes you so burdened you can't forget about it, even if you tried.

And that something shouldn't be a death in a book, it shouldn't be the destruction of a tv series, it shouldn't be anything of this world. Instead it should be something of the things of God.

Furthermore, the 4-5 month period of time that Nehemiah waited teaches us that the Lord's timing might not always be as quick as we would like it to be.

The Lord most certainly did not work right away in the life of Nehemiah, but Nehemiah stayed patient and trusted in the Lord fully. It could have been easy for Nehemiah to find his own way in the crisis - to just enter the presence of the king without being called. What would have happened should Nehemiah actually did try his own timing is uncertain.

I'm sure though that Nehemiah grappled with the notion - that he prayed about the possibility. We see later on in the chapter that he is a man of action when the Lord wants him to be, but here he decides to wait on the Lord. He trusts that the Lord will give him the opportunity to work with his burden at some point and patiently waits for the Lord's timing.

I think we could truly learn from the man Nehemiah here. I think too often we think that when the Lord gives us a burden, we HAVE to do something about it right NOW! We don't want to carry it around for a while; we want to get our tasks done. There is just something magical about being able to strike tasks off your to-do list. That's our mentality. But perhaps we should consider whether the Lord is telling us to be patient - to put that on the backburner and trust in his timing as he works through this situation.

I urge you to look to the words of Psalm 27:14,
"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trials and Persecutions 2: It's Just not Fair!

When faced with trials and suffering, our first thought is often, "Why, Lord, why would you do this? It's just not fair!"

Perhaps though we are applying the blame in the wrong place here. It would be wise for us to examine the history of suffering. Let us start at the very beginning.

In 6 days, God created the world, and all that is therein. As he created it, he saw that it was good. Indeed it was perfect - with no tears, no suffering, and no persecution. But alas, that state of blissful perfection wouldn't last.

The Lord put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with one rule, and of course, they broke that rule. They were now sinners who were no longer worthy of being in the land of perfection. They were shown out of the garden and would soon find themselves in a life of travail.

In Genesis 3:17-19, we hear more specific details about the curse that fell upon all of mankind because of the sin of Adam.
"Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

R.C. Sproul further explains,
"God's immediate response to the transgression of the human race against his rule and authority was to curse the earth and human life. Death and suffering entered the world as a direct result of sin. We see the concrete manifestation of this in the realm of nature, where thorns become part of the garden and human life is now characterized by the sweat of the brow and the pain that attends even the birth of the baby."

Thus, if you want to be angry at someone when you are in the midst of a trial, your anger should be directed at Adam and Eve and not the Lord.

Indeed the Lord has been nothing but gracious throughout this situation. He would have had every right to just give up on humanity right then, to destroy us, or just to leave us to handle the struggles on our own, knowing the end would only cause us eternal suffering.

As such, every breath we take is a blessing from the Lord. We deserve nothing of this life! But the Lord has granted it to us anyway.

Even further, the Lord decided to save us from our eternal suffering by coming down to die on the cross! To go through physical and emotional agony just to allow us an opportunity to come into His presence eternally.

And just as if He hadn't done enough, he promises to strengthen us in our struggles in this world if we just cast our cares upon Him. As Christians, we don't have to go through this life alone. As Sarah Arthur explains,
"Jesus fought the war and came back to help us win the battles."

With these three great gifts from the Lord, it is so easy to see why James 1:17 declares,
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights."

I know that you might not want to listen to me. After all, I am just an 18 year-old man, who has probably never experienced true suffering in my life. Perhaps this is why at the moment, I only understand these things in my mind, but not yet the heart. But if we examine the words of Scripture as they come, we know that this is true, despite the fact that you are reading from a man with limited experience.

That which we have received of the Lord, we simply don't deserve. We are certainly right in this regard when we would sit and ask, "Why, Lord, why would you do this? It's just not fair!"

But when He takes material blessings from us, we feel hurt, even betrayed. But since we are not entitled to these blessings, why can't we be content with the blessings the Lord promises to never take away: walking in the presence of the Lord on this Earth and the next.

I pray that as I do find more trials in my life, I am able to believe the words of Job 1:21,
"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Splendid Samaritan: A Response to Judith Jarvis Thomson

"Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception.... The prospects for "drawing a line" in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth.... How, precisely, are we supposed to get from there to the conclusion that abortion is morally impermissible? Opponents of abortion commonly spend most of their time establishing that the fetus is a person, and hardly anytime explaining the step from there to the impermissibility of abortion.... I suggest that the step they take is neither easy nor obvious, that it calls for closer examination than it is commonly given, and that when we do give it this closer examination we shall feel inclined to reject it."

Thus begins one of the most disgusting defenses of abortion ever written. Judith Jarvis Thomson sets out to establish that abortion is justified not because it's not the killing of a innocent life, but rather that it is a justified killing of a human life in her highly published article, "A Defense of Abortion."

Well, I have been sitting on responding to this moral argument for a while now and it's high time that I actually write up a response. While I understand that Thomson was arguing from the perspective of an atheist, as a Christian, I cannot truly discuss an issue of morality such as this without appealing to the one true standard for morality - God. Thus, I write this post more to Christians who would support abortion. Thankfully, these are rare at the moment. I do hope that that will continue.

Fetus or Baby?

Although definitely not the focus of Thomson's point, she does point out that she does not believe an unborn baby to be strictly speaking a human being. She argues against the case simply that because this "fetus" will become a human being at some point, doesn't mean that it is a human being now. She presents the argument of an acorn. Just because an acorn will one day become an oak tree does not make the acorn an oak tree. 

This indeed is an admirable refutation of an argument for why a fetus is actually human. Thankfully, I have never actually used that argument! While I could spend time defending this argument, I find it much more valuable to just look at the Lord's word in Jeremiah 1:5
"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."

To prove that a fetus is truly human and has these rights, I need not do anything more than appealing to those words and the final authority on this world. It is thus unnecessary for me to mention that Thomson herself admits,
"I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for "drawing a line" in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth." 

The Violinist Analogy

The crown and jewel of Thomson's argument to defend abortion seems to be her use of the violinist analogy. Since most of the rest of her arguments are built upon this one, it is important that we properly understand her point. She writes,
"You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, 'Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you--we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.'" 

I think the very nature of this analogy is abominable. She tries to simply separate the act of abortion from the consequences by saying that we are just unplugging someone from access to our own body (obviously not mine, I'm male).

 But let's just take some time to point out the obvious difference between the violinist mentioned here, and the unborn baby at risk of abortion. In the first place, there was a conscious move of the violinist or those representing the violinist to put you in this position. They committed violence to cause this to happen. Those representing his interests caused violence.

But in no situation does a baby or anyone representing a baby consciously commit violence to put you in pregnancy. Yes, there can be rape, which is a violent act, but the rapist is no more a representative of the child than Barney is. It would be unjust indeed to kill the baby for the act of the father.

Rape is a horrible act of violence, but that does not condone another act of violence against the unborn baby. Unlike in the analogy of the violinist, the violence was not made on behalf of that child.

Second, the use of the organs for the violinist is an unnatural process. It is one that requires being plugged into a machine to do it for you. When a baby is conceived, however, it is the specific purpose of those organs. As Matthew Lu, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas, writes,
"We may begin by noticing that although it might be possible for one person’s kidneys to 'extract poisons' from another person’s blood, there is no sense in which that is a normal part of the operation of those organs.... However, there is a clear and obvious sense in which a woman’s reproductive organs are for the gestation and protection of a child.... A related difference between the two cases is revealed when we reflect on Thomson’s description of the act of 'unplugging.' It is precisely because the violinist case involves the extrinsic use of the victim’s kidneys in a non-natural way that the intuitive notion of 'unplugging' applies.... Consider how this differs from pregnancy. While it is true that pregnancy is impermanent, the end of pregnancy is built into the nature of the process itself.... In other words, the embedding of the early embryo into the uterine lining is not a 'plugging in'—there is no equivalent external agent that does the plugging... In the violinist case, the restoration is both conceptually and imaginatively clear—just pull the plug."

If we really want to examine these two points, we must acknowledge that the violinist's actions are against the proper function of the body, while the "actions" of the baby are within the natural functions of the body and it is abortion that violates that standard.

Right to My Body

The meat of the rest of Thomson's argument goes hand and hand with the meat of almost every pro-abortion argument since this article was first posted. It's my body; thus, I have a right to do with it whatever it is that I desire, even if that means death to a child. 

As Christians, we can already tell that this argument fails to hold much water. It is not strictly speaking our body at all. It is the Lord's. Indeed, the Bible goes to great lengths to show us this in I Corinthians 6:19-20 
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

I guess this means I won't be mentioning that ownership doesn't give full liberty anyway (for instance, I own this pan, but I have no right to use it to kill you).

Rights vs. Obligations

Thomson's final argument presents the case that simply because I have an obligation to help you, it does not follow that you have a right to my help. Thomson specifically uses an analogy of a boy who is given chocolates and refuses to share with his brother. In Thomson's view, the boy has an obligation to share his chocolate, but his brother does not actually have a right to them.

She thus wants to distinguish between the obligation of a parent to protecting a child and the right of that child to that protection. I actually follow her logic here to a degree. This only raises the question then, what is the obligation of a parent in relation to an unborn child?

It seems very fitting that Thomson follows up the argument of the distinction of rights and obligations with the story of the Good Samaritan, as the Good Samaritan actually provides a solid obligation for Christians to not commit abortion.

Thomson writes,
"We have in fact to distinguish between the two kinds of Samaritan: the Good Samaritan and what we call the Minimally Decent Samaritan.... The Good Samaritan went out of his way, at some cost to himself, to help one in need of it. We are not told what the options were, that is, whether or not the priest and the Levite could have helped by doing less than the Good Samaritan did, but assuming they could have, then the fact that they did nothing at all shows they were not even Minimally Decent Samaritans, not because they were not Samaritans, but because they were not even minimally decent." 

Thomson then goes on a very odd distinction of different levels of Samaritans that I don't find quite worthy of discussing here. The point I would simply like to make is that we should not desire to just be minimally decent Samaritans here. We might even want to be what Thomson calls, "Splendid Samaritans." Jesus did clearly tell us to,
"Go and do thou likewise."

So we are called to help people at cost to ourselves. I don't want to ever be accused of doing too little when it comes to serving others, especially the defenseless unborn children in the womb.

There is another obligation that most people would accept -  that parents have an obligation to protect their young children from danger when they are too young to protect themselves. Sometimes this means staying up late at night and forfeiting certain functions of their body (namely, sleep) to protect the baby.

Why then do we not expect the same obligation before the child is born? As Doris Gordon, National Coordinator for Libertarians for Life, wrote,
"Most abortion-choicers accept, in principle at least, the obligation of parents to protect immature children. Not many would say that leaving one's infant unattended in hazardous situations is a matter of the parent's choice. When their children get very sick in the middle of the night and need help, most abortion choicers don't go back to sleep saying, 'So what if my kid might die? I have the right to control my own body, don't I?' What difference does it make for a woman's rights whether her kid is in the crib or in her womb? It's her self-same body after, as well as before, birth. And it's her self-same child."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reverence in Prayer

This post is a little less formal than usual. It also will not be me sharing something I have specifically seen or learned in my Bible reading in a manner easily applicable to the reader's life. Instead, I would like to simply share my admiration for Ezra's prayer in Ezra 9.

Here's the background: Ezra has just arrived at Jerusalem and is learning of the plight of the Jews that were rebuilding the wall. But he finds that the people (and the leaders especially) have sinned against the Lord. He is devastated that the Israelites have done this, and rents his clothes in the tradition of his fathers (I'm glad we no longer have that tradition).

Listen to his words, recorded for us in Ezra 9:6-15, 
"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this."

A few random thoughts:
1.  "Oh my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee." Ezra felt so guilty about sin that he didn't commit that he couldn't quite bear to bring himself into the presence of God to ask forgiveness on behalf of the children of Israel.

2. Furthermore, Ezra has completely taken upon himself the sin of the children of Israel at Jerusalem, even though he was a 5 months journey away from the city when it happened!

3. "And now for a little space grace." Ezra realizes that the Jews have been punished for their sins. Instead of focusing upon that, he decided to spend his time focusing on the fact that God has allowed the Israelites a slight reprieve from that suffering to build His temple.

4. "Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve." Ezra acknowledges that even the punishment that the Lord has given to them (namely, the captivity) was far less than what they deserved. The Israelites had time and time again neglected the commandment of their Lord, so to be peaceably taken captive and even given high positions in the conquering kingdom wasn't too bad at all. Or at least that's what Ezra's attitude is. Not sure I would say the same in his position.

5. Finally, Ezra acknowledges that the Israelites can't stare at a God who has given them so much unwarranted grace and continue to sin and displease Him. "Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" One is reminded of Romans 6:1-2,
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

On a somewhat related note, "Astonied" is a much snazzier way of saying astonished.