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.

King of Kings Plus at Least One Other King

My man Nate has a good post on Obama, abortion and the need for Christians to stop screaming and start saving people. Indeed, it’s the only answer to all life’s problems.

At the same time, I see an article about the Rev. Ed Dobson who spent this past year emulating Christ in diet, dress, and attempting to carry out Jesus’ teachings. The article details some of his struggles with trying to be Jesus including this here:

“Jesus’ troubling teachings influenced him to vote for Barack Obama — his first vote for a Democrat for president. Though disagreeing with Obama on abortion, he said, “I felt, as an individual, he was closer to the spirit of Jesus’ teachings than anyone else. (Obama) was a community organizer, so he was into the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, which Jesus is very much into.”

Now, OK, that’s fine, trying to be Christ, won’t begrudge a man for that. But I don’t get this paragraph at all.

How can you read the Gospels and come away thinking you should vote for anyone? Jesus lived during one of the most corrupt and evil governments ever. A government that was instrumental in killing Him.

Never once did He voice any opinion about going to them for help, giving a rip what they were up to, or anything else. His only opinion was that we should love everyone.

He’s either the King of Kings or He aint. If He is, no other king matters.

Don’t Forget. . .

. . . the real reason for the season is that you are a horrible, pathetic, rotten, miserable sinner.

“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”
1 John 3:5

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
1 John 3:8

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
1 Timothy 1:15

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:”
Romans 8:3

Curing Neuroses

From William Ayer

“True Christians help others and forget themselves, which is one of the best ways of getting rid of neuroses.”

“Get out of your home, forget your personal troubles, and start helping others who are in real trouble, and you will soon forget about your own problems. Remember Christ; He had many troubles but He forgot Himself into immortality.”

Samson as Example

I found an old book in my basement that was one of my dad’s text books from college. In the front cover was his book review he wrote.

It made me laugh because all he did was reword the introduction of the book with many superfluous words. That’s exactly how I got through college!

Anyway, I found a fun quote by William Ayer

“There are times when the preacher should feel like I think Samson felt when the power of God came upon him and he grabbed the ass’s jawbone, backed into a corner and yelled for the Philistines to come on.”


D. L. Moody on Spiritual Leadership

My father in law once removed, or something, gave me a book on D. L. Moody and spiritual leadership. It’s a short little book, 180 pages, put out by Moody Press, written by Steve Miller, fly like an eagle, man.

What a cool little book. I found it to be very encouraging and great reminders. Moody always said, “Consecrate then concentrate.” Find your thing to do for the Lord and then do it. Dedicate your life to it.

Love people. Serve people. Study the Word. Pray. Follow the Spirit and resist the flesh. Be humble. Be holy as your message won’t get past your life. Have a passion to save souls.

Good stuff. Get this book!

Furthermore. . .

My earlier post told you about a new pet peeve of mine, one of many. Here is a further thought that came to me while writing it.

Which of the following options sounds more like giving with love?

1) I will not buy Christmas presents for my family so I can give to the poor.

2) I will stop buying anything for me at all times of the year because I am going to buy things for others at all times of the year.

It’s always easier to not buy things for your kids than it is to stop buying things for yourself. Make the kids sacrifice for your good deeds. Nice.

Quit playing games.

Christmas Giving

You would be hard pressed to find a Christian guy who hates Christmas more than I do, you really would. But I’ll have to say there is a new trend that kind of bothers me.

This new trend asks people not to buy stuff for their family but rather to give the money to a worthy cause. Now, don’t get me wrong, your kids really don’t need more junk to play with, I understand. Poor kids in Africa need your money more than your own kids need more Polly Pockets, that’s not my problem.

My problem is this: Why is giving to charity only an option when it means I don’t give to someone else? In other words, you’re saving money from one thing to give to another. Is that really charitable giving or is that just a slick way to not feel so guilty?

Guilt levels drop because 1) you didn’t give in to consumerism (even though you’ll just be guilted into buying them a bigger birthday present, you know, because you didn’t really get them anything for Christmas) and 2) you helped poor kids.

Scripture tends to recommend giving out of your lack, not out of your abundance. Furthermore, Scripture does say to provide for your own family or else you are worse than an infidel.

It reminds me of churches who cancel Sunday services to help the neighbors. What happened to the other 6 days and 23 hours of the week? Why can’t people sacrifice to give stupid Christmas presents and charitable giving? Why is it one or the other?

Mass for Cash

Some senior German politicians have caused a stir by suggesting that only citizens who pay church tax should be allowed to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Worried that regular churchgoers cannot find a seat due to the popularity of the traditional Christmas service, Thomas Volk, a top member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Baden-Wuerttemberg, said the church should be selective.

Your Biggest Problem

We are in day 4 of 16 of Christmas Break. This break is annually spent reminding my children what it is like to live with their father as opposed to a bunch of liberal whacko teachers who think they’re special.

One of my children got a treat taken away from them today. A treat they have been waiting to eat all day. A treat they got as a gift. A treat that is now in the garbage because certain children don’t listen very well.

I had a talk with this child explaining to them their biggest problem. Their biggest problem in life is not their brother, or their sister, or their propensity to argue, or anything else. Their biggest problem is ME. When I become a bigger problem to you than your brother, we know we’ve arrived!

If you don’t listen to dad all manner of horrible thing will happen to you.

Got me to thinking about life. Many people think they’re biggest problem in life is sin, temptation, other people, Satan, their flesh, etc. It’s not true. Your biggest problem in life is God. How will you stand before Him?

If we feared God more than we fear anyone or anything else then we are overcomers. Our problem is a lack of God-fearing. I believe that’s why Paul said, “Perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Indeed.

Assurance is no Guarantee

Words mean things.


But sometimes they mean what they don’t mean. Sometimes we make them mean other things. Two words in theology that do that are “assurance” and “security.”

Since the Bible teaches the eternal security of the believer, we assume that all who have it have assurance. This is not true.

Some who have assurance do not have eternal security and some who have eternal security may not have assurance.

Allow an illustration. Jesus couldn’t stand the Pharisees, they were children of their father the Devil. The Pharisees probably had more assurance than anyone else in the time of Christ.

When most people are waffling around with doubt, our attempt is to usually say something like, “Oh, don’t worry. You’re in. Put away all doubt, don’t even think about it.”

I doubt that’s as safe advice as we might hope it is. I don’t know the eternal security of a person and the Bible certainly seems to point out that assurance is no guarantee of security. We probably shouldn’t confuse the two either.

Literal Til it Hurts

My problem with many of my fellow brethren who interpret the Bible literally is that usually their literalness stops at a point where being literal is inconvenient to maintain a pet doctrine.

(By the way, “literal” to me means finding out the literal usage of the words the Bible is using. If the Bible is using the words figuratively, I literally interpret them figuratively. You can determine when the Bible is being literal by the context, usually.)

Many of my literal brethren will balk at being literal with certain passages. Allow me to illustrate with 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

When looking this verse up in my literal brethren’s commentaries (including the Scofield notes, John Walvoord, and others), they all interpret this word “castaway” to refer to Paul losing reward for service.

However, if a fellar were to look up the Greek word for “castaway” and how it is used in the rest of the NT (allowing Scripture to tell us what Paul meant with this word) you will notice that every other time the word is used it refers to a nonbeliever. (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:7,8). It is never used to merely describe losing a reward.

If a guy were interpreting Scripture with Scripture one would have to conclude that Paul is worried about being called an unbeliever. The obvious problems with this arise. Is Paul saying he could lose his salvation? Is eternal security out the window?

These are questions I’m not responsible to answer for you! My responsibility is to tell you exactly what the Bible says. Your job is to figure out the implications. Have fun!

Psalm 82 and Being Literal

I am very much a literalist when it comes to reading the Bible. Scripture should interpret Scripture. One of the best ways to do this is to observe how the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. Jesus was great at this.

I am preaching on Psalm 82, which Jesus quotes a part of in John 10:34. He is being threatened with death because He is claiming to be God. He counters with Psalm 82 where it says rulers are gods. If it’s OK for the Scripture to call rulers gods, how is it wrong for Him, God’s actual ruler, to claim to be God?

This is startling! After Jesus said this, the Jews still wanted to kill Him. I’m sure this is not a well known Bible verse, that people are called gods. However, that’s exactly how Jesus interprets it and He leaves it at that.

Since that’s the way the Scriptures have it, and God means everything He says, these guys must have been gods (elohims). God’s Word cannot be broken! Again, startling stuff.

This probably gets too close to threatening our “God is one” idea. It doesn’t really, but it makes us uncomfortable. We’d rather not discuss it. Jesus seems to find these passages we’d rather ignore and make a major point with them.

The Bible is tough, it makes you face your theology and sometimes it threatens the borders. This is why most people don’t really read it. We’re safer that way. I’ll bet God is not impressed with that approach.

Silent Night

Police investigating a fatal church accident are looking at the possibility that a safety harness worn by a Christmas pageant performer failed during an aerial rope act.

Results of a preliminary police investigation released Friday conclude that the death of Keri Shryock, 23, of suburban Toledo, was an accident.

The NIV and 1 Corinthians 5:5

I was reading in 1 Corinthians in the NIV, (I know, I know) and came across 1 Corinthians 5:5, which the NIV has as, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”

I just about jumped out of my chair, and would have if I weren’t so stinking cold in my basement and hadn’a had a blanket wrapped around me. What a butchery to the text on that one! Here is the KJV rendering of the verse.

“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

The NIV interprets the word “flesh” for us, one of many reasons I detest the NIV. Using your doctrinal ideas to interpret words rather than translate them is dangerous, fairly close to adding things to the Bible.

More than that, it doesn’t even make sense. How is Satan, and why would Satan, destroy the sin nature? Your sin nature is his biggest buddy. The verse seems to be saying that if this sinner keeps sinning their body, their flesh, is going to get hurt and hopefully this will lead them to salvation.

To me that makes sense. However, this does not mean that I would translate the word flesh as “the physical body.” It’s safest to let it sit as the simple word itself.

Anyway, carry on. Burn your NIV.

Rick Warren on the Social Gospel

The Social Gospel is a concept rolling around in Christianity for some time. It’s the idea that Christians are here to reform society not so much to save people for eternity. Here is Warren’s criticism of it:

“Really in many ways it was just Marxism in Christian clothing,” he criticized. “[I]t was in vogue at that time that if we redeem society then man will automatically get better. It didn’t deal with the heart.”

Warren sees that Christianity deals both with the body and the soul. He also criticizes much of Christianity for being coldly all about the soul with little love shown for physical needs.

Expert Christians

Facebook has a Tetris application. The first time I played it I finished in the 91st percentile. I am currently in the 96th percentile of 1.4 million users.

My Tetris skills date back to college where I bought the first Game Boy Nintendo made and couldn’t afford any other games besides Tetris, which came with it. So, instead of doing homework for five years in college, I played Tetris. I rock. It’s true, it’s true.

Being an expert at something requires at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, or so I’m told. That’s 416 straight 24 hour days. 1,250 8 hour days (3 1/2 years with no day off). I think I have come pretty close to that number over the years in my Tetris skills.

What a waste of perfectly good time. It is fun though! Anyway, I was sent a link about Wesley’s guidelines for pastors and it got me to thinking. What exactly would an expert Christian look like? What would you do for 10,000 hours to qualify? Is it even possible?

Wesley sure seemed to think so. Here are a few tidbits:

“Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.”

“Be ashamed of nothing but sin ; no, not of cleaning your own shoes, when necessary.”

“Be punctual. Do every thing exactly at the time. And do not mend our Rules, but keep them, and that for conscience sake.”

“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.”

“Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel, and in union with your brethren. As such, it is your part to employ your time as our Rules direct ; partly in preaching and visiting from house to house, partly in reading, medi- tation, and prayer.”

“as often as possible, rise at four o’clock. From four to five in the morning, and from six to seven in the evening, meditate, pray, and read, partly the holy Scriptures, and partly the most close and practical parts of what Mr. Wesley has published. From six in the morning till twelve (allowing an hour for breakfast) read in order, with much prayer, the Christian Library, and all our other books, whether in prose or in verse, and especially all Mr. Wesley’s Sermons.”

“In the afternoon visit as many of the sick, and those who want your help, as you can ; and you will have work enough for all your time. Then no Preacher will stay with us who is as salt that hath lost its savour ; for to such this employment would be mere drudgery. And in order to it, you will have need of all the useful knowledge you can procure.”

I would totally kick Wesley’s butt at Tetris.

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