It had to happen

It finally happened. Though I’ve been surfing the net since it began, gotten endless solicitations, and some pretty clever trick messages, I’ve never gone into a porn site.

Until now.

Of course I have no desire to go to such places. My work with sexual addicts only enhances my strong repulsion for everything about them. I’m careful about ads and emails. I keep the search engines set on family levels. But it was almost inevitable.

In Sunday morning’s Oregonian great section on Gresham, there was a page on the diversity of churches. It talked about the Sulamite church, a Slavic evangelical church on Sandy Blvd., where the 2300 seats are typically filled with Russian speaking followers of Jesus. So I googled it, to find out more.

I quickly found the building highlighted in construction companies’ proud accomplishments. But nothing about the church itself. One link looked promising and I clicked on it. Suddenly my screen was filled with awful stuff. Almost as quickly, my Norton went nuts, screaming about virus attacks, naming them in red with high danger status. Almost immediately, I authorized Norton to stop the attack and clean my desecrated system. I was grateful for the safety of the automatic virus protection. I unplugged the network cable and wondered if the other machines on the network had been attacked already.

Then Norton asked me to authorize an Active X installation. I’d never seen it do that before. I noticed that the “do you trust” section of the notice didn’t say Symantec. Suddenly I stopped and pressed cancel. “Your system won’t be cleaned” it warned. I closed the warning, but it didn’t stop. Now I was suspicious. I couldn’t get the Norton to close. Finally I turned off the machine and restarted it, telling Norton Systemworks to run a quick scan.

Nothing. No infection at all. Extensive checking revealed no virus on any of my machines.

The porn site had deceived me by pretending to be my protector. And doing it quite well. Only my awareness of how Norton usually works kept me from allowing the Active X installation that certainly would have brought the deadly infection into my machine.

The parallel to what the devil does (2 Cor. 11:14) is evident.

As I reflected on the deception, I realize that there are all sorts of things that are not as they appear. Good people turn out to be evil doers. Pastors, like Ted Haggard, preach Jesus and righteousness only to turn up doing the very thing they preach against and then lying when they are discovered. On the other hand, godly people who live in integrity are accused of evil. Fearful people often see wrongness where it’s not. It seems the thing to do is to stop, reset, let the light shine in the darkness, test deeply, be patient with the time it takes, knowing that in the long run, truth will come out. Rushing the process may allow Active X to install devastation.

And pray a lot while the process goes on.

Jesus Prayer

The Jesus prayer. Ancient. Biblical. Catholic both in the sense of universal and in the sense of authorized. Simply profound.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” You can read about it in Wikipedia.

I am at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit today. Not in South Barrington, but at Sunset Presbyterian in Beaverton via satellite.

The worship leader just did his thing at the beginning of session 6, before Mr. Stearns talked about HIV/AIDS and Colin Powell spoke so powerfully on leadership. The leader told us we could pray or not pray, sing or not sing, whatever felt right to us. The individualism grated on me.

Then he went to the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But he had to individualize it. Be merciful to my stress, my tiredness, my . . .

So where did the sin go? Where did the unity and catholicity go? The song he lead us in was quiet in a way I like. But no sin. Only mercy. You know me, you love me, it went on.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I’m feeling the reality of my sin a lot right now. Not that I’m choosing it. I hate it. My “want to” is Jesus stuff. I love helping, ministering grace even when it requires huge investment. But there are those who won’t talk to me, people for whom the very mention of my name brings a surge of anger, because of the pain I’ve caused despite my best efforts to help, to be gracious. Oh, there are those I have gone after intentionally, people who are hurting others. There are those I just don’t like. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about good people whom I love, but whom I have hurt despite every attempt to help. Others who resonate deeply with me, who are so alone, wrestling to hope when it seems so stupid. And I can do nothing to change these situations. Or can I?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And to the extent of possibility, I’ll do good wherever I go (Acts 10:38). I’ll officiate Peter and Julia’s wedding on Sunday. I continue to do committee work on the Western Multnomah Consolidation. I’ll meet with several people in whom God is doing miraculous work and I get a piece of the action. I’ll enjoy loving Sherry. Joel & Renata Burnell, Daniel, Erik and Amelia will fill our house next week before David and Sam come up for a Monday date night, leaving the grandgirls for us to watch. Tough . . .

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Alaskan Reverie


I am here in Alaska, looking at bright glaciers, sharp mountains, including Mt. McKinley towering to the north, remembering how much God can in and do though one young person working and speaking in a chapel in Glacier National Park.

The age old question has become more real lately:

“How can a loving, omnipotent and omniscient God allow all the pain and suffering (evil) in this world.”

So why is there evil? In the simplest terms, it’s because people worship and serve other gods. Romans 1:18-2:16 says it in very straight forward terms: God made Himself known to humans and He was and is clearly seen, but they did not honor Him, rejected His love, exchanged the glory of the immortal God for other gods and followed their own lusts. The outcome is ugly! But God didn’t stop. He kept showing “the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience.” Paul’s point is that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). Verses 5-6 and 8-9 make it clear that those who reject it will find wrath and judgment. But verses 7 and 10 make it clear that those who do the good work of responding to the kindness of God that leads to repentance by repenting will get eternal life. Verse 10-11 concludes: there is “glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”

God continues to live among us with nail pierced hands, showing the depth of His care and the power of His freely available transformation. But the common response continues to be “forget You. I want my own gods, my own lusts.”

And the result is evil.

One day He will come, establish His kingdom, destroy evil. Like the disciples, on hearing the truth that the Spirit was being poured out in New Covenant ways, asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” His response basically is, “It will happen some day. In the meantime do the work of extending My grace to the world.”

So the common question “why does God allow evil” is really a blame shifting question. The real question is “Why, in the face of the freely available goodness of the LORD, do we persist in worshiping other gods, wallowing in our lusts, and provoking God’s anger rather than His blessing?” Those of us who are Jesus followers continue to make every effort to add make every effort to add to your faith to goodness to knowledge to self-control, to perseverance, to godliness, to brotherly kindness, to love.(2 Peter 1:5-7) doing His good in the world.

So the real and present question is how much good can we do in this broken world, a world we break and keep on breaking?

So we keep boundaries even when it’s frightfully difficult. We pursue gentleness even when competitiveness presses. We feel the overwhelming loneliness, knowing that it is shared. We remain quiet even when the urge to take action is intense.

And we pray for His healing power, hoping we can be a part of the grace process until He comes. But for the big picture, our prayer is just like His: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We resonate with the disciples, “Maranatha.” And like Him we hurt to see the evil and evil doers continue.


Note: This model of providence is the “ship” theory of A. W. Tozer and the “train” theory of Francis Schaeffer. Another model is the “script” theory of meticulous providence. It seems to me it is not only unbiblical (if God controls every detail to His glory, then why does He get so angry at evil?), but also without any answer for the goodness of God and the evilness of evil. The “answer” of the free will model of C. S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, etc., fails in that God sometimes does interfere in free will.


One of the biggest questions I run into is the question of hell. 20/20 did an hour show on it recently. They featured Carlton Pearson, a mega-church pastor who had made the switch from a very orthodox, if fundamentalistic, view of hell to a much more “compassionate” view where hell was what humans create in the killing fields of Rwanda and Thailand. He spoke against the burning hell where God tortures nice people who don’t say the right words before they die, preaching the “gospel of inclusion,” which states that everyone, including the most evil persons, are going to heaven.

What do we make of hell? Is it a lake of fire where gentle Buddhists suffer endless, terrible torment alongside Hitler or Robert Mugabe?

I have a traditional — which is to say biblical — view of hell. It is separation from God and punishment as summarized well in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”

The first element in this passage is punishment. No one is in hell because God wants them there. Bible is quite clear that He desires the salvation of all (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:3-6). They refuse to know God, refuse to obey His gospel. This is people who reject the universally present kindness of God that leads everyone to repentance (Rom. 2:4-11), defying His calling that goes to every creature (John 12:32), refusing relationship with Him whom they know because He made Himself known to them (Rom. 1:19-20). They worship and serve other gods, powerful spiritual beings who set themselves up against the Most High, gracious God like drug dealers in the neighborhood. These are not innocent, ignorant people, but ones who prefer other gods to the LORD. They are punished with destruction.

The destruction there is not annihilation but ruin. It is the word used of the lost sheep, coin in Luke 15 and translated “lost.” The word never means cessation of existence as a quick word study will show.

They are punished. But remember, there are levels of punishment in hell. Jesus said so in Matthew 11:20-24.

The other second element in this passage is final and complete separation from the presence of God. It’s a horror to imagine being left totally on our own resources, without any gracious support from God, given over completely to ourselves.

So is there hell on earth? There is. Unfortunately, we do create hellish things, knowingly and unknowingly. The hell of suicide bombers in schools is along side the emptiness of ruptured relationships. Children forced into the savagery of warfare coexists with anger that destroys children’s play time. The terror of attack lives with the persistent depression from missing deep friends.

Hope is in the forgiving and renewing work of the LORD. May His power is real if hidden in this broken, hellish world.