Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sort of Interesting -- Nm 21

The OT reading for the upcoming Sunday is Numbers 21.4-9 (naturally linked with John 3.14-21).

I just noticed the difference between what the people asked for, and what God provided. To wit, the people asked:

"We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us" (Nm 21.7, emphasis added).

Here's how God responded: "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live" (v. 8, emphasis added).

So the peopled asked God to take the snakes away from them, God responded by continuing to allow the snakes to bite the people, but preserving those bitten from death.

I would guess that the serpents would be most likely to strike at the heel of Israel, as God told the serpent in Gen 3.15. I presume that a snake bite would bruise a person's heel. Nonetheless, the bite of the serpents in Numbers 21 would no longer kill.

So, too, today, we are all bruised by sin. In this life, at least, we experience the pain of the serpent's bite. We do live, however. And in the Age to Come, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes" (Rev 21.4).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Principles of Church Growth -- Growing Church Budgets & Membership

Here are a couple of church-growth principles that I'd suggest:

● If you want giving at your church to grow, then give away more of your church's budget. (To missionaries and to people who need clothes, food, or shelter).

● If you want your membership to grow, then serve people who are confined to hospitals and prisons.

I'll post more principles as I think of them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Doctrines of General and Special Election as Marriage Proposals

It's always mystified me that (some) folks think that God's love is more consistent with a doctrine of general election (where God elects salvation for those "in Christ," but does not elect any particular individual to be in that group) rather than a doctrine of particular election (in which God elects specific individuals to salvation).

What woman would not be taken by this profession of love and proposal for marriage:

"I love all women equally, and am happy to marry one woman or another equally. The particular woman whom I marry is a matter of indifference to me, because I have no special love for you relative to any other woman. If you choose to marry another man, that is entirely fine with me; I'm not the jealous sort at all. I do not desire your love any more than I desire the love of any other woman in general. If you choose to marry another man, then so be it. I'm not the jealous sort. I love all women equally, and do not love you any more particularly than I love every other woman."

Contrast that affirmation with this one:

"I love you above all women. You are so very special to me. I want to grow old with you as my lover. There is no other woman in the world whom I would compare with you. Ask of me and I will give you the sun, the moon. I would gladly lay down my life for you. Anything to love you, and to demonstrate my love for you. You are the love of my life. Marry me, my beloved."

The first seems to me to be a "general election" affirmation of love. The second seems to me to be a "particular election" affirmation of love.

To be sure, I understand the thrust of the the general-election complaint about particular election to be one of fairness. But fairness is a different issue than love. (Of course, I don't think that God is unfair, either.)