Robins and the Kingdom of God in 2020


What do Robins have to do with the Kingdom of God?


The 2020 War of the Robins

We have an ongoing war in our backyard. Every year, our choke cherry trees become the focus of pitched battles and outright murder.

Nature operates under a fixed law known as the survival of the fittest. God had good reasons for putting this law in place. It keeps nature from degenerating and ensures that species will survive and thrive. But its not pretty. Nature isn’t the peaceful, benign, inoffensive entity we imagine it to be as we admire a sunset, or a baby fawn. In reality, nature is cruel and selfish, destroying the weaker members of its population.

That is why we have a war in our back yard. One pair of robins has claimed it as their territory and any other bird they catch eating from “their” trees is in trouble. In fact if they were the size of eagles instead of robins, I’m not sure it would be safe for us to go out there.

I was watching this process this morning and thinking about the similarities between robins and humans. Especially unregenerate humans.

The Kingdom of God in 2020

Jesus described the kind of citizens the Kingdom of God consists of in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mat 5, 6, 7). He introduced His explanation with the Beatitudes…


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
(Mat 5:3-10 CSB)


Think about robins again for a moment. These verses describe some very “unrobin-like” characteristics. If robins fit this mold, they would have died out millenniums ago. Nature would have destroyed them.

This is one argument that some Christians try to use. You can’t live by the sermon on the mount, they say. It’s impossible. So they try to push it out into some “magic” dispensation where the laws of nature apparently are suspended.

But Jesus makes several things clear in His teaching.

  • The Kingdom is NOW (Mat 3:2; 4:17, 23; …)
  • Everyone is invited into the Kingdom (Luke 14:16)
  • Riches are a hinderance to entering the Kingdom (Luke 18:16 – 25)
  • Joining the Kingdom may cost you everything you own, and everyone you love (Luke 18:29, 30)

Read the Sermon on the Mount carefully. Read the Gospels carefully. Jesus’ teachings will turn your world upside down. We don’t hear these concepts preached in our churches very often. We don’t see them in the lives of our fellow Christians.

You will not find robins in the Kingdom of God. They don’t fit. They would destroy it. But people can become citizens of the Kingdom if they are willing to put aside the things most of us think we have a right to have. Riches, fame, self-defense, selfishness, pride, arrogance, and such like need to go.

The important question is: Are you part of the Kingdom? Or are you a robin? You can’t be both.

I took these photos through a window using a Samsung Note 10+. I had to stretch the resolution further than I like because robins don’t like photographers.

Who Are YOU to Reply Against God

A Brief Exposition of Romans 9

Romans 9 is a difficult passage—perhaps one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. In this chapter, Paul uses three illustrations to explain the sovereignty of God over judgment and mercy.

  1. In Rom 9:10 – 14 Paul referred to Jacob and Esau. Before they were born, before either of them had done good or evil, God had already decided that Jacob (the younger) would receive his mercy, rather than his older brother.
  2. In verses 15 – 18 Paul goes on to the account of Pharaoh, inferring that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that His Name would be glorified.
  3. Finally, in verses 19 – 23 Paul uses clay pottery to illustrate the foolishness of a created being trying to tell its creator what it wants to be, or how it wants to be used.  

We should note the context of this chapter. Paul is giving these illustrations to show the Jews that God had the right to decide to bring the Gentiles into His kingdom on an equal basis to the Jews. I don’t believe that he is saying that God decides our destiny in advance, and we have no choice in the matter. In the first two illustrations, God is basing his decisions on the choices He knew Pharaoh and Esau would make.

The third illustration clarifies that God has the right, as God, to call both Jews and Gentiles into His kingdom. He does not make this decision based on race or bloodline. Instead, He insists that God has the right, because He is God, to save some people and not save others, no matter who they are. [1]

This chapter clarifies that God has reserved the right to make decisions concerning mercy and judgment. He says clearly that this is His prerogative, not ours. It is hard for humans to accept that we are subject to an overarching authority in these matters, but that is the point of this chapter.

Throughout church history, people have understood the Bible in various ways. Some, like Origen, believed that hell would be empty someday. Some believed that the second death was an obliteration and that eternal torment was reserved for the devil and his angels. Many evangelicals believe in eternal torment for all sinners.

According to this chapter, I think it fair to say that God has decided this question, and we should simply submit to God’s decision. That statement is furiously disputed by some people, but I don’t see how we say anything else about it.

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Rom 9:20 NKJV)


[1] This should not be understood to mean that we are predestinated to heaven or hell before we are born, and we have no choice in the matter. We must always take difficult scriptures and interpret them considering clear scripture. The NT is clear that any person can come to Christ and be saved.

Looking to Jesus…

~ Of Men and Books ~

* * *

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of [reading] many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecc 12:12)

I’ve been off work for most of the past several weeks with an abscessed tooth and a severe infection. During this time, I read a number of books just to try to keep my mind occupied with something else than my pain. But that got me to thinking about books…

I like books with complex characters and plots. Books like Moby Dick that are an allegory if you read below the surface. That is a kind of writing that seems to be almost extinct. Ted Dekker is one of the better ones left, but he’s been straying into left field with his theology in his recent writings.

I don’t read a lot of theology or doctrine anymore. Partly because I have a harder time following the complexity of writers like NT Wright since my TIA a few years ago. I do enjoy practical books and if I write a nonfiction book, that is the course I take. Theology is isn’t a lot of value to most people unless it is made simple and applied to everyday life. For instance, a friend sent me some books about the PSA view of the atonement versus the Cristo Victor view. It was a good discussion and answered some questions I had for a long time, but for most people the discussion is not really that practical.

But, like I said, I got to thinking about all this.

Right now, I’m reading a book, Except Ye Repent, by HA Ironside. Good book with some valuable insights. But I can’t help but notice how focuses change from book to book, and author to author, and preacher to preacher. For some, grace is everything. Any kind of work, including repentance or obedience is legalism. For others, repentance paves the way for grace. For still others, grace paves the way for obedience. Some wash their hands of it all and consider God malevolent, and irrelevant.

If you are the kind of person whose thinking reflects the last book you’ve read, this can be a real problem and put you on a spiritual roller coaster. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I’ve sort of shelved many of the debates I mention in the last paragraph. I know that I came to Jesus as a teenager and gave Him my heart. Theology wasn’t any part of that decision. I was an unhappy sinner and I wanted rid of the load of guilt. Jesus gave me peace and changed my life.

But in my library I have books that emphasize repentance, grace, obedience, eternal security or it’s opposite perspective (is there a name for that?), etc. I look around and see people who claim to be Christian but who live in evident sin. I see others who seem to have caught the essence of living for Christ. But none are perfect and if you watch long enough, they disappoint you as well. I even disappoint myself. Its easy to become bewildered by it all and wonder if it wouldn’t be better doing like Dan Barker and walking away from it all.

But then I look at the alternative. And I realize that it isn’t even a consideration. So, I look back to Jesus, and suddenly life becomes so much simpler. Jesus loved me and died for me so that I could be a child of God. He forgives me when I fail and guides me through life. I can trust Him when my favorite authors disappoint me. I can trust him when my favorite preacher falls into sin. I can trust Him when my church or other Christian structure lets me down. I can leave the theology to him, and I can trust my eternal future into His hands. If I go astray, I can trust Him to gently bring me back. I can even trust my family into His care.


Keep your eyes on Jesus! It makes life much easier.


Therefore…  let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2 CSB)

Is God Fair?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do innocent children need to suffer? Why do good people get sick?

All these bad things and many more happen every day. Is that fair?

WHY DOESN’T GOD STOP THEM?

Some people will tell you that He doesn’t care enough to stop them. Others will tell you that He can’t—He doesn’t have the power to do it.

Neither of these answers are true. The Bible clearly indicates that God loves us. His heart aches when bad things happen to good people. The Bible also indicates clearly that God is all powerful. It isn’t the lack of initiative or power that stops God from wiping out evil and evil doers.

So what is it?

Sometime, before time existed, God made a momentous decision. He would allow intelligent beings to have the power of choice. The angels would have this power. Lucifer, the beautiful and powerful leader of the angels, would have the ability to turn against God.

Lucifer made this choice, and a third of the angels followed him. The first thing they tried to do was overthrow God. The Bible doesn’t give us any details about this war in the heavens, except to tell us that Lucifer and his angels lost the battle, and they were driven from heaven.

The chronology of all this is a mystery. But somewhere during all of this, God created the universe and man. He decided that even humans would have the power to choose against Him. We are not told why, but it seems that God wants all intelligent beings, whether angels or humans, to serve Him voluntarily. He has never forced anyone to serve Him and He never will.

The ability to choose led to the beginning of evil. Lucifer and his followers were the first to take advantage of it, probably soon after creation.[1] When he was turned out of heaven he came to earth, determined to take revenge on his loss by persuading Adam and Eve to also choose against God.

He persuaded Eve that having the knowledge of good and evil was worth the risk of offending God. He didn’t warn her that the only way to receive the knowledge of evil was through experience. Every human since then has lived under the curse of the knowledge of evil. That is why evil things happen.

God will judge evil. He will eliminate it. But in His own time. Until then, we must live with the choice that Adam and Eve made to allow evil to enter this world.

Is this fair? It doesn’t seem that way to us. But God will not coerce people to do His will. He only reserves the right to give them the destiny that they have chosen for themselves. God is holy and God is just. He is merciful and He is love. God is good and He is great. He is fair.

It’s a matter of perspective. And it’s a matter of trust.


[1] I suppose it could have been a little before creation as well. But it appears that Lucifer fled to earth when he was cast out of heaven.