No Room in the Inn?

I was talking before about dealing with the actual words of Scripture and adjusting our beliefs accordingly. Here’s another example of that.

Luke 2:7, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The word for further investigation today is “inn.” Inn is the Greek word kataluma. Here are the only other two uses of it in the NT:

Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14, which both say “And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?”

Translating the word as “inn” botches the true meaning of the word. In fact, Greek has a different word for an inn, a public lodging place, pandocheion, used in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:34.

Does it mean anything significant? Not really, only that whatever house Joe and his wife were going to stay at didn’t have any room in their guestroom, which makes sense because lots of people were in town. Bethlehem was not a major town nor on a major route to anywhere making it further doubtful they would have had a commercial inn.

Anyway, no big deal. Just thought it was interesting.

Who was Born in Bethlehem?

A few weeks ago I asked a series of trick questions to a group of kids to show them they don’t know as much about the birth of Christ as they thought. One question was: How old was Jesus when He was born? No one got it right.

I pointed them to Micah 5:2 where Messiah is said to come out of Bethlehem and “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Jesus was eternal when He was born!

Jesus Himself backs up these words Himself when He said things like, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He said that His Father “lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”

When Christ made these claims of eternalness, it was supposed to clue people in that Jesus was the Messiah, the one Micah 5:2 was talking about being born in Bethlehem. The one born in Bethlehem was around for quite some time.

He’s your God. You’d do well to meet Him soon.

The Radical Process of Regeneration

The title of this post is a phrase I saw. Regeneration is a moment but it begins a process. Just as a baby is born at a specific time, the birth is the necessity that leads to the process of growth. The Bible repeatedly illustrates spiritual growth with physical growth.

That being said, is it radical? A tree does not radically grow does it? It grows slowly, bit by bit. However, if a guy were to plant a seed and then return to it many years later, one would see radical growth.

I think that is an adequate way to describe spiritual growth. Unfortunately, two main ideas have distorted this process. And, of course, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

1) “Now that I’m converted I’m perfect! All temptation magically melts away. Resisting sin is no longer hard work. All problems are, poof, gone!”

2) “I was born again, what else do ya want? As long as I said the prayer I’m in. Growth is possible but I don’t really have to worry about it, it’s God’s problem not mine.”

View 1 sees regeneration as a lucky rabbit’s foot that cures all ills and struggles. This shows a total lack of understanding of why we have armor, why faith is a fight, why we run with patience. It jumps to the ends without the means. It sees the tree as full grown right after being planted.

View 2 sees regeneration as just something else we did. Like going to the store. “Yeah, I have groceries now, I might cook later.” It eliminates the power of the Spirit, it undermines the sufficiency and power of Jesus Christ, it darkens the illuminating light of the quick and powerful Word of God, it completely ignores Scriptures that tell us to wake up, change, cleanse yourself, put off the old and put on the new. It denies the active role of grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly. It squarely blames God for its lack of maturity. It views a perpetual seed as being good enough.

Both views are wrong. Allow me to present a third view.

3) “Christ has begun a good work in me, a work that He will complete. It’s a work I’m all for so I join in, using all that Christ has offered me. I now see sin for what it is and it disgusts me, so I resist the devil, put off the old man and make no provision for the flesh. I now see the great beauty in doing what is right, in loving the Lord and loving my neighbor as myself. I see life for what it is. I am departing from the world already and headed toward heaven. Bring it on!”

View 3 sees the whole deal, it sees the seed, the humble beginning, but it also sees the potential for the tree. It views Christ as the perfect man and starts moving in that direction. Regeneration is our need, ask Nicodemus, and it is also all we need. If it truly happened, it won’t keep you the same, but it won’t do it immediately either. Run with patience, finish the course, fight the fight!

Psalm 84 and Mecca

I am doing my Saturday night routine of reading commentaries on the Psalm I am teaching tomorrow. While surfing the net commentaries on Psalm 84, I saw this one that says Psalm 84 is a passage Muslims use to say that the Bible teaches us to take a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The key phrase is “the valley of Baca” (Psalm 84:6). At one point in the Koran, Mecca is given the name Bakkah. Dude.

However, no offense to my Muslim readers, but this claim cannot be carried out with any logic whatsoever. Psalm 84 clearly shows that the Valley of Baca is passed through on the way to the place of worship, the house of God, the temple, Zion.

So, anyway, don’t worry, the Bible still does not teach taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. You may all unpack now.

J. Vernon McGee on Preaching

“The old-fashioned methods of preaching were topical, textual and expository. There is a tendency to depart from all three–in fact, to depart from Scripture altogether. Sermons have become pep-talks on psychology, political speeches on the United Nations, or propaganda for some new fad. Someone has defined the modern church as a place where a mild-mannered man gets up before some mild-mannered people and urges them to be more mild-mannered.”

“[The preacher] should seek, in prayer before God, a burning heart. He should speak as Wesley said: ‘A dying man to dying men!’ McCheyne wrote, ‘Speak for eternity.’ Paul stated in the language of the Spirit, ‘Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.’ The prophet cried that the Word was a fire shut up in his bones. The preacher who does not love to preach should carefully examine his call to the ministry.”

Quotes from J. Vernon McGee, 1959

Pastor’s Books

I read this morning that a pastor should spend as much on his library as he does on his car. Well, depending on what kind of car you have that may not be much. But seriously? Do we need that many books?

The Early Church pretty much taught with the Old Testament and the new New Testament books being circulated. Other than that, they didn’t have much to go with. Yet they preached and souls were saved.

I understand the value of books and I read all the time, but I get a little tired of hearing this idea that if a pastor doesn’t read books his sermons and soul will run dry. What a charge to level against the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit!

Yet I hear it all the time in pastoral advice. Most Christian books are not worth your time. Trust me on that one. Good reference books are very helpful and have greatly added to our understanding of Scriptures over the years.

At the same time, most of these books have also hurt our spiritual growth. We quote our guys with Scriptural authority. Maybe protestants don’t think the pope is infallible, but “our guys” get pretty close.

Perhaps if we had to face Scripture on our own instead of waiting for other guys to stir us and then copy them, perhaps pastors would be springs of living water all the time.

America in Biblical Prophecy

Here are the major opinions as to America’s presence in Bible prophecy:

1) The eagle that helps out Israel in Revelation 8:13.

2) The beast with the two horns in Revelation 17.

3) The whore or giant consumer, Babylon of Revelation 17.

4) The people tall and smooth of Isaiah 18:7.

5) America will all but disappear in the Rapture.

I reject pretty much all of these, especially 5. Give me a break. How can America be viewed as either the great whore or decimated by the rapture? American Christian studiousness on display.

The two I would gravitate toward, although never give full support to, are 1 and 3. Wondering why we’re not in prophecy can be pretty easily answered: we aren’t in the Middle East region. About 98% of all nations are not mentioned in Bible prophecy. Welcome to universal mediocrity USA.