Thursday, June 22, 2017

Are you stuck in the cosmic machine?

Have you ever felt that life was essentially unjust? That you were being ground to dust between the gears of a cosmic machine that was deaf to your cries of pain? Are you approaching a point at which your only shred of control in a personal world spinning out of control is to rebel against life itself, to hate life?

Oddly enough, you might come to this conclusion whether you are immersed in pleasure or drowning in suffering, soaked in sin or walking in righteousness. The world’s wisest fool (Solomon), and the world’s most righteous sinner (Job) both came to the same conclusion: they hated life.

King Solomon is described in Ecclesiastes chapters one and two as a man with such immense wealth that Bill Gates looks impoverished by comparison. In his own words, Solomon withheld no pleasure from himself: All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure . . . (Eccl 2:10). Solomon pursued meaning in accomplishments, buildings, agriculture, sex, alcohol, various pleasures, fame, wealth, wisdom and knowledge—in other words, in virtually every arena of human endeavor. To top it all off, he had power untold as the king of Israel’s golden age. And what did it all produce? Despair. In his own words: So I hated life. . . (Eccl 2:17).

Job is described as a wealthy man, the greatest of all the men in the east (Job 1:3). God’s own valuation of His servant is remarkable: Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil (Job 1:8). And yet when great suffering descended upon Job, his steps faltered and he expresses despair very similar to Solomon’s: I loathe my own life; (Job 10:1).

What gives? How is it these two very different men with very different experiences wind up in despair expressed in very similar ways?

In essence, Solomon was living “under the sun.” In other words he was not denying God’s existence but was denying that God makes a difference. The fact that God exists was to Solomon irrelevant to life in a fallen world. God was to Solomon a transcendent distant judge who would render final verdicts, but not an immanent Shepherd who cares for our souls. Life was a cosmic machine in which it doesn’t really matter what we do, because all that we accomplish would be left to the one who follows us, and who knows whether that one will be wise or foolish? God was there, Solomon acknowledged, but his goodness was in question.

Job was utterly convinced of God’s sovereignty: “With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding. Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt; He imprisons a man, and there can be no release. Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth” (Job 12:13–15).

But he had lost confidence in God’s goodness. Job felt that God was being unjust, “What did I do to deserve this?” How then can I answer Him, And choose my words before Him? For though I were right, I could not answer; I would have to implore the mercy of my judge. If I called and He answered me, I could not believe that He was listening to my voice. For He bruises me with a tempest And multiplies my wounds without cause. He will not allow me to get my breath, But saturates me with bitterness. If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one! And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him? Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me; Though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty. I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I despise my life. It is all one; therefore I say,He destroys the guiltless and the wicked’ (Job 9:14–22).

The similarity between the wise fool and the righteous sinner that led them both to despair in such different circumstances lies in the fact that they had lost touch with the nearness of God, the immanent care of God, the love of God, the overwhelming goodness of God. Solomon couldn’t see it because he was living as if the existence of God bore little significance to life other than ultimate judgment. Job couldn’t see it because he assumed his suffering was unjust: he had no category in his theology of suffering that would encompass suffering not because of personal sin but for the glory of God (a theology that waited upon the coming of Christ). Indeed, the challenges Job hurls at God are answered in Christ: Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees? Are Your days as the days of a mortal, Or Your years as man’s years, That You should seek for my guilt And search after my sin? According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, Yet there is no deliverance from Your hand (Job 10:4–7). Christ indeed was not guilty, yet there was no deliverance for Him because redemption for Solomon, Job, you and I was hinging upon the death of the sinless Lamb of God.

There was a time that David was caught up in despair too, as he relates in Psalm 73: But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2–3). But after working through his anger, bitterness, and his sneaking suspicion that God was unjust, David comes to a conclusion that is helpful for you and I when we feel hopelessly and helplessly tied to the rails of God’s sovereignty: Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:25–28).

If you know Christ, you are not stuck in a cosmic machine. Rather, you are an actor on the stage of a cosmic contest in which God’s righteous judgment is being vindicated, and His mercy and grace are being revealed. The most fundamental piece of your faith to cling to when life is tumbling down around your ears is also the simplest piece of theology: God is good. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes (Psalm 119:68).

His infinite worth is best proclaimed by those who are satisfied in Him, even in times of great suffering. Your life is not devoid of meaning, as Solomon thought, nor is it empty or futile. Because of Christ, all that you do, all that you suffer, all that you attempt in Christ’s name has significance, whether or not you see the result in this life. That's part of what it means to walk by faith.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are your politics and your faith at war with each other?

Although there is much in the article outlining Tim Farron’s withdrawal from political life I would want to disagree with, it certainly exposes a modern-day truth: there is tension between contemporary political liberalism and Christianity. Here is the salient paragraph:

Tim Farron just resigned as leader of the U.K.’s Liberal Democratic party, and his statement explaining why should enter the history books: “To be a political leader — especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 — and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me,” Farron said.
The religious left will invoke Scripture when it appears to support their chosen pieties (such as social justice) and will condemn Scripture when it affronts their moral choices (chiefly revolving around sex). In other words, their invocation of Scripture is wholly opportunistic.

Setting aside the even greater and more fundamental problem for the religious left (regarding the identity, nature, and character of God Himself), there is a massive problem for the religious left as they seek to hitch their faith to their politics, a problem that has immediate and far reaching political implications. And that problem is the nature of man.

Three definitive biblical propositions expose the tension for the religious left. First, man is created in the image of God (a proposition having huge implications on how human life is treated, abortion, euthanasia, personal liberties, etc.). Second, man is by nature a hopelessly corrupt sinner—a violator of God’s law (a proposition which reaches into the foundations of political/economic systems and determines whether they will, or will not, result in human flourishing). Third, man is a morally responsible creature that must be held accountable for his choices in this life, and will be held accountable by God for his choices when this life ends (a proposition touching on civil and criminal law, social justice, and far more).

All three of these most basic biblical assertions are rejected out of hand by the philosophic underpinnings of leftist politics. For the thoughtful religious liberal this causes tension, a cognitive dissonance that will hopefully reach a crescendo demanding a personal reevaluation, as it has apparently done with Farron.

How do religious liberals handle the tension? Some are simply unaware of either the foundations of their politics or their faith, or both. Some choose to look the other way, pretending not to see the problem. For others, I suppose, their politics are more ultimate than their faith. But some, those who are committed to their faith, will awaken to the problem—and do something about it.

We all live with some degree of cognitive dissonance. I personally find Christ-less conservatism far more stinky than political liberalism. This short essay is not a sales job for conservatism, nor a screed against liberalism. What it is, is a challenge. Are the foundations of the political system you support irreconcilably opposed to the foundations of the faith you profess? 

It’s a question worth asking.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Looking for some Summertime Reading?

Are you looking for some fun summertime reading?

Would you like some action-packed page-turners that don’t require you to wash the filth out of your brain when you’re done with ‘em? Maybe something with a little more substance than your average pulp fiction? Let me suggest a few ideas. . .

MILITARY/ESPIONAGE THRILLER: The Falcon Trilogy: Falcon Down, Falcon Rising, Falcon Strike.

Major Jacob “Falcon” Kelly is shot down by the Soviet Union and captured in a hi-tech kidnapping during the Cold War. He is the chief test pilot for a new, super-secret F16 weapons package, and the Soviets intend to interrogate him to learn its secrets. They’ve detained him at a secret GRU facility in Siberia, but whether or not they’ll be able to hold on to him is another matter. He has some skills of which they are unaware.

K irkus Reviews said:
“Cobb has clearly done his research on multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters . . . .”

Henry Marshall is a principled Christian conservative blogger who is convinced that both major parties have abandoned the Constitution. His intention is to be nothing more than a political gadfly, but his friends won’t allow him to stay on the sidelines, and his enemies don’t intend to allow him to live.

Journalist and author TJ Martinell said:
“Penned before the 2016 election cycle and the Trump phenomenon, The Candidate is a political thriller that unwittingly earns a place within the alternative history genre for its exploration of how far a man can go armed only with a message – and how far those within the establishment will go to stop him. . . . [M]any of the aspects of the plot seem prophetic, rather than slightly fanciful.
A pastor by trade, Cobb’s writing reflects extensive background knowledge of mainstream media, political strategy, the military, and of course constitutional history; each chapter begins either with a Bible verse or a passage from the Federalist Papers. The technical preciseness gives vital story subplots a sense of authenticity and realism.”

The year is 2120, but life in the USA—and around the globe—has been reduced to primitive survival. Eighty years earlier, a biological weapon of mass destruction caused a global smallpox pandemic, leaving only eight million survivors scattered around the entire globe. Jacen Chester, living near the ruins of Philadelphia, PA, decides that there must be more to life than mere survival. He determines to restart civilization and culture. He is aided by a mysterious stranger, and opposed by murderous groups. [I am currently working on Book 2]

Psalm 90 is studied paying particular attention to the backdrop of the remarkable life of its author, Moses. Two themes in the psalm create a dramatic tension: divine wrath and grace. Jesus Christ is shown to be the necessary answer to Moses’ prayer. Suitable for groups or individuals.

All the books above can be purchased in print or Kindle format on Amazon, or can be ordered at your local bookstore. You can order signed print copies from me at They are also available at the Greenville Public Library for checkout.