No Visioned People Perish

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This verse is thrown around by guys making vision statements for their courageous life plans.

Here’s a funny thing, the word “perish” actually means “be made naked,” seriously, look it up. The next time a guy guilts you into brainstorming for the mission statement of your churchy group, help him out by sharing with the group that anyone who does not participate will be forced to strip naked in accordance with Scripture.

You might also want to add this tidbit: Proverbs 29:18 has a whole other phrase in it after the vision phrase. Here’s the whole verse, “where there is no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

The “vision” in mind is God’s Law, it’s not your mission statement.

So, anyway, this post is a lot shorter because I was going to lay out for you my purpose driven mission statement for my life and a way for you to form your own life-vision, but alas, my unfortunate biblical exposition practices stop me short once again.

Peculiar People

Titus 2:14 and 1 Peter 2:9 both talk about Christians being “peculiar people.” Some have taken this to mean that Christians should be weird.

The word has to do with possession and nothing to do with being odd. Believers are a people that belong to God as we have been purchased.

I’d love to turn this post into a checklist of things to do to be peculiar, but I can’t because that’s not the idea at all. It is describing the reality of the believers situation.

Yup. So, this post is a lot shorter than it could have been if I did Bible exposition the typical way, which is 1) get a point, followed by 2) find a verse that you think says your point.

Does The Church Want God’s Word?

The other day I received an email from an excellent Christian thinker and good friend who said the following:

There are many infections in the church.

*One is the Catholic exaltation of church leadership and authority at the expense of the scripture.
*Another is the Pentecostal exaltation of human experience at the expense of the scripture.
*Another is the exaltation of pagan determinism (Calvinism or Augustinianism–More properly Augustinianism for it was Augustine that, by his reaction against Pelagius, (and his {Pelagius’s} determination to show that man can save himself), threw out the baby of human responsibility with the bathwater of human effort.) ) at the expense of the scripture.

All of these undermine faith and the faith. All of these are growing. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. When the Son of Man cometh will he find faith on the earth?”

I told him I really liked that statement and I was going to borrow it. So, now I’ve borrowed it.

Church History is full of attempts to replace the Bible as our Authority. Every heresy attempts to undermine confidence in God’s Word, to pull people from the Words of Life and toward some form of human co-dependency.

Continue reading “Does The Church Want God’s Word?”

Sin is Bad

The best article on the Internet so far today is over at Pyromaniacs. It deals with sin and the various ways we avoid having to deal with it, all with a supposed biblical perspective.

In all of our doctrinal theorizing and attempts to be acceptable to the world, we’ve lost sight of a very simple fact: sin is bad.

Sunday’s Forecast for Pastors

Here’s a little word from Ezekiel for all you pastors getting ready to “preach it” tomorrow.

“So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.

“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”

Has God Forsaken the U.S.?

Bottled water might be a sign of God’s judgment. I mention that mostly in jest, I don’t honestly believe that. It’s a thing called “humor,” which I possess to varying degrees depending on time of day, diet, audience and behavioral characteristics of any children who happen to be around me.

I still think the prophets can tell us what a nation looks like when God gives up on it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Isaiah 3 shows a judgment of God, a sign that God has turned a nation over to its own way. It’s also a characteristic of our nation that continually drives me nuts.

I’ll let Isaiah say it, “as for my people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them.”

In other words, a nation that God has forsaken does not have healthy men leading the way. Instead it has kids and women taking over everything. Every television show or commercial portrays dad’s as idiots, mom’s as the true leader and children as the smartest, most logical people in any given situation.

I could go on, but I doubt I can convey my point accurately enough so I’ll let it sit there. The more I talk the more I’ll say something dumb that will make you ignore my point and not consider it.

Has God Forsaken the U.S.?

Reading the prophets gives you a good idea into the mind of God and what He’ll allow in a place He has given up on. It’s also interesting to note how many of these judgments are currently thriving in America.

Now, I’m not saying that America is God’s nation, or under the covenant that Israel had or getting Israel’s judgments, I’m merely saying that when God gives up on a place pretty consistent things happen.

Lamentations 5:4 gives a good one.

Biblical Reasons to Stop Arguing

Arguing is entertaining to many. I’m the kind of guy who starts an argument but then gets very tired of it soon after and sort of drifts off.

This is pretty rude of me, but I don’t have the attention span to win an argument. At a certain point arguments all strike me the same and I hit a point where I think “who cares?”

The Bible throws some needed light on the subject. Here are the top reasons for not arguing with Bible references:

1) It’s not my job or responsibility to convince you of anything, God does that. Philippians 3:15, “if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”

2)  I’m not supposed to care how dumb you are. 1 Corinthians 14:38, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

3) It causes listeners to stumble. 2 Timothy 2:14, “charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.”

4) If you’re really that wrong, I’m not supposed to get you to talk more, I’m supposed to shut you up. Titus 1:11, “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not.”

5) I’m supposed to avoid arguments as they are pointless. Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”

6) Life speaks louder than words, if you’re living right people won’t argue with you, if you’re always arguing, well, draw your own conclusion. 1 Peter 2:15, “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

7) God is in control, don’t act so desperate. Revelation 22:11, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.”

So, there ya go. Arguing is for heathens. Deal with it.

Deceitfully Working for the Lord

Jeremiah is not a happy book but it’s a great book. One of his prophecies is against Moab. The Lord calls on various nations to rise up and go smash em and adds this beautiful warning:

“Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”

If God has called on you to go judge bad guys with the sword, you better not walk through the battle swinging aimlessly, trying to avoid conflict, you better go find some blood quick.

Reminds me of watching my middlest child when mom says to clean up. Lots of moving; very little productivity. Go to the bathroom, ask questions about God, trip, tie the shoe, anything but clean.

What a cool verse for a pastor to take waaaayyyyy out of context. What are ways that we deceitfully look like we are doing the Lord’s work?

1) We volunteer, i.e.–love, but only when it’s convenient or we’re forced to do “community service.”
2) We pray but never actively help.
3) We promise to pray and don’t.
4) We read the Bible but only when we are arguing or trying to write a blog post.
5) We do “ministry” but only when we’re getting paid for it.
6) We fellowship with others as long as there’s free food.
7) We attend church but only if it’s all entertaining and completely agreeable to our sensibilities.
8) We say we’ll be at the next Bible study, church service, work day, volunteer activity but then never show up.
9) We endlessly bring up and take credit for the one thing we actually did that one time back in ’03.
10) Our ministry takes place among friends and never among heathen, Gentile, sinning scum.

Apologies to Calvinists

A few weeks back I wrote a post on reasons why I thought Calvinism was coming back. For some reason that post was picked up by several web sites and soon became my top visited post of all time.

People reading my post thought either 1) I was a supportive Calvinist or 2) I was a raving Arminian. In the following week I decided to do a couple posts on Calvinism to try and clarify. This lead people to believe that I was 1) a supportive Calvinist or 2) I was a raving Arminian.

Here’s the deal. I basically dismiss Arminian thought as a trite way to view salvation. It takes salvation out of the hands of God and that makes no sense to me. At the same time, Calvinists talk too much, they answer questions the Bible doesn’t answer.

Continue reading “Apologies to Calvinists”

Sermon Illustration Gone Wrong

A pastor and parishioner have been cited by police for shooting an arrow during a church service.

The pastor asked a guy to shoot an arrow as a sermon illustration. Another parishioner stood up and said that was illegal and dangerous. The pastor told him to be quiet and sit down. He objected again and at this point the pastor told him to leave!

So he left and called the police! Both the pastor and the guy who shot the arrow were fined over $100. Oh people. He told the guy to leave so he could do his illustration! Unbelievable.

The Branch

One of the terms the OT uses to address Messiah is, “the Branch.” (See Psalm 80:15; Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zecheriah 3:8; 6:12.)

Now, get this, this is cool.

Matthew 2:23 says that Jesus lived in Nazareth, this was done to fulfill the scripture that said Messiah would come out of Nazareth. However, most Jews missed this point and said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Yup! Here’s what’s cool my friends. In Hebrew the word “branch” is the Hebrew “netser.” Nazareth (Netsereth) can mean “city of the branch.” Id’nt that fun?

Jesus Was Ugly

jesuscatA few years back a guy decided to have a problem with me and jumped on me for having made the statement in a sermon that Jesus was ugly. He came from a Catholic background and I don’t think he could quite wrap his head around this concept.

I tried explaining to him that my statement was based on Isaiah 53 but he would not budge and never quite saw my point.

Isaiah 53:2 says there is no beauty that we should desire Messiah. “No beauty” means there is nothing attractive about him. Nothing attractive can be loosely translated as: he’s ugly.

Furthermore, Isaiah 53:3 says we hid our faces from him. The expression, according to Keil and Delitzsch, prominent Hebrew scholars, means “like one whose repulsive face it is impossible to endure.”

Now, I understand why this is offensive to some, it shatters our romantic notions. But I do believe scripture must triumph over romance.

Continue reading “Jesus Was Ugly”

John Calvin, Calvinism and Job’s Friends

Here’s the biggest problem I have with Calvinism: it answers a question I don’t think should be asked.

Predestination, election and foreknowledge are biblical words and doctrines, no denying that. Calvinism and its five points seem to go beyond what the Bible says. Calvin knows more about it than the Bible teaches.

The essential point in the debate between free-will and predestination camps centers on the justification of God. Calvinism attempts to explain why God can do what He does in predestination.

How can God choose some and not others? Calvin gives you five points to get God off the hook, to explain why God does what He does. The Apostle Paul deals with this question, how can God find fault? How can God get away with this?

Paul’s answer: who are you to ask God such a question. In other words, don’t ask, God can do what He wants. Deal.

Job’s friends made the same mistake John Calvin and Calvinists do: it’s not that what they say is necessarily wrong, they all have some scripture in support, it’s that they had no right speaking for God, explaining what God was doing, trying to justify His actions.

The debate about predestination and free-will annoys me primarily because we are explaining things that the Bible doesn’t explain. We’re venturing onto thin ice. Don’t get carried away in asking and answering questions to no profit, because while some go after these, they err from the faith.

Praying for Others

Determining what will make you happy is not an easy thing. In fact, studies show that others can better determine what will make you happy than you can.

I find this interesting in light of Scripture’s persistent rewarding of those who intercede on behalf of others. Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and men, is the ultimate example.

Pray for others and have others pray for you. You know better what they need and they know better what you need!

The Burden of Grace

It seems as though Old Testament guys had a bum deal, if you made God mad you might well be killed. God stepped in and stopped the insanity with spectacular judgments.

In our day of grace we “get away with it.” No spectacular judgments, ground doesn’t open up and swallow people. We assume God must be cool with us, thinks we’re OK.

Here’s the burden of grace: you might just be storing up for yourself wrath. Paul talks about this in Romans 1 and 2. God gives up on people, lets them go their own way. They think they are getting away with it. Maybe God even approves, He’s not doing anything to stop me.

In reality, what might look like grace could very well be God’s indifference to your condition. He’s allowing you to sin to store up wrath against the day of judgment.

How do you know if God has “given up” on you or if you are in His grace? Is there a difference? Yup.

If you’re in God’s grace it will teach you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly. God’s indifference to your plight is no sign of grace. A loving Father chastens the son He loves. If you’re getting away with sin, seems as if God is nowhere near, be afraid.

Kevin Roose on Liberty University

Mental Floss blog has a few posts by Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. Seems like an interesting read.

Here’s their post on his attempts at converting sinners. Conclusion being: most evangelism is wasted effort that merely makes Christians feel better cuz they’re off the hook. Modern evangelism is about as fruitful as our garden in January.

Here’s a post on some facts about Jerry Falwell, president of Liberty University where this guy attended. Some interesting stuff.

I’d read the book if I got a free copy. Maybe our library will get it. Can’t imagine he’ll tell me anything more than I know and I suspect we will have similar opinions but for completely different reasons.

Jesus and Old Testament Prophecy

Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest prophecies in the OT about the suffering Messiah. Unfortunately, many Jewish folk see the suffering servant as being the people of Israel. This is based on the fact that some of Isaiah’s other prophecies refer to Israel as a servant (like Isaiah 52).

However, things switch in 53. He’s obviously talking about a person as he never mentions the nation as the subject. Furthermore, verse 8 says that he was stricken for the “transgression of my people.” Isaiah is obviously not saying my people were smitten for my people.

Another awesome Old Testament prophecy is in Daniel 9 and his prophecy of the 70 weeks. In the 69th week of years after the decree given to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem the Messiah would show up. Guess who shows up entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey 483 years later?! Amazing. What a Book.

Faith and Questions

Philosophy is the way people think and how their thoughts help them make sense out of life. Much of philosophy is based on asking questions. We’re told that asking questions is the key to knowledge.

Really? Ha, that was funny.

Anyway, I read a quote today on faith by Martyn Lloyd Jones where he said faith begins when our questions stop. Many do not come to faith because they keep asking questions. Certain questions don’t have answers, God has not revealed everything. This is when faith enters.

Our objective is to find out what the Bible says. Once we do that, we are to be content and not continue to ask questions about what the Bible does not reveal.

Continue reading “Faith and Questions”

Gender Based Confessions

The Vatican has put out a new study talking about the confessions of men and women. These are based on a priest who recorded what people confessed over the years by gender.

“Often the most difficult [sin] men face is lust, and then comes gluttony, sloth, wrath, pride, envy, and greed,” Monsignor Giertych told L’Osservatore Romano. “For women, the most dangerous is pride, followed by envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and lastly, sloth,” he said.”

There is much discussion as to why men and women confess different sins. Do men confess lust because they are conditioned to do so? Do women confess pride because they have insecurity issues? Do drag queens confess lusting after pride?

My question is this: should priests really be writing down what people confess?

I’m no Billy Graham. . .

But I did see him at the Metrodome once.

Today he is asked the question, “ I’m about to give up on God. I’ve prayed and prayed for Him to take away my problems, but nothing has changed. Why doesn’t God do something?”

I read Billy’s answer, it’s not bad, but it’s not my answer.

Here’s my answer: God doesn’t work that way, nor does He give the impression in the Bible that He does. God, although He cares for us and loves us, seldom seems to care about people’s problems; He cares about their faith. God cares about you more than your problem; that’s the foundation of grace and mercy.

Continue reading “I’m no Billy Graham. . .”

Why is Calvinism Returning?

Time magazine thinks that Neo-Calvinism is the third most influential thought in America. First off, what? Seriously?

Secondly, I know it is spreading widely, I’ve seen it myself. View the most popular “Christian” blogs and they are mostly Calvinist, Reformed/Covenant Theology authors.

I doubt it’s the third influential thought (just behind recycling suburbs) but here are my reasons why it is gaining popularity.

1. Christians are worn out from emotionally charged pentecostal influences where anything and everything goes, as the Spirit leads. That’s tiring. Calvinism is harsh, cold, intellectual and sounds solid, a nice place to rest for a few years. Until it gets boring.

2. Dispensationalism, love it or hate it, is made up largely of fools. The popular notion of dispensational theology is Left Behind and Pat Robertson. Calvinism and Reformed theology look more studious and respectable.

3. Relying on free-will, everything is your own dumb fault, sure isn’t a fun way to look at life.

4. Calvinism has little to do with what Calvin actually said. If a person were truly a Calvinist they would view joking and skipping church as punishable offences, infants should be baptized, spiritual energy is received through Communion, pastors should stay at their churches their whole lives and should work toward having only one church per town, and various other things you would only know by actually reading what the guy wrote.

5. Old stuff is coming back in vogue. Calvin is old. Calvin is vogue.

6. Might as well. it worked the first time.

7. God caused the rise of Neo-Calvinism and there’s nothing you can do about it so shut up!

Jonah’s Bad Attitude

Jesus told unbelieving Jews that they would see the sign of Jonah. It’s odd that Jesus would point to a guy like Jonah as a type of Himself. Jonah? A whiner?

Maybe we’re too hard on Jonah. Jonah gets a bad rap because he doesn’t want Nineveh to repent, he’d rather see them fry. is that all bad? Aren’t people who seek after righteousness blessed?

Proverbs says it is an abomination to justify wicked people. Jonah just saw reality. Assyria was a cruel enemy and Nineveh was its capital. Why save dorks? Why not stick with good Jewish guys?

The Psalms are full of verses desiring the destruction of the wicked. Isaiah was given a job to keep people’s eyes blind and ears shut so they wouldn’t hear the message. Look at the life of Jesus. He spoke in parables so that people wouldn’t know what he was talking about. When Jews tried to make Him king, He ran and hid!

Is Jonah worse than that? Oh sure, God wasn’t impressed with his attitude at the end with his gourd shelter, but still, Jonah was his guy. So much so that Jesus used him as an example.

Makes you wonder: how much should we desire the destruction of the wicked?

William Tyndale Biographies

William Tyndale was quite the character. His claim to fame is translating the Bible into English. What’s amazing is that he translated it while on the run from people trying to burn him at the stake. What a time to live in and what a work to pursue. Here is a list of biographies I have read on William.

The Life and Work of William Tindale
W. B. Cooper
55 pages
Synopsis: Short recap of Tindale’s life and work, obviously.
Comment: Rated it a 6 out of 10. Too short and the writing was weird. Tyndale seems like an interesting guy but hard to tell from this book.

The Work of William Tyndale
S. L. Greenslade
68 pages
Synopsis: Short biography of Tyndale. Much on Tyndale and Luther on justification by faith. Also much on his mode of translation and his phraseology.
Comment: 7 out of 10. Enjoyable little read. I know more about the translations and Tyndale’s effects on it, not so much more about Tyndale.

William Tyndale
Bruce Fish
202 pages
Synopsis: William Tyndale translated the Greek NT and parts of the Hebrew OT into English so that a ploughman could know more Bible than a Catholic dude. He was burned at the stake for his efforts.
Comment: 9 out of 10. Enjoyed the biography. New, well written, informative, in-depth but not tedious. Fine job.

William Tyndale
J. F. Mozley
342 pages
Synopsis: William Tyndale’s life with more detail. More info and quotes from the arguing he did with the Catholic Guys.
Comment: 7 out of 10. Detailed but didn’t drag too much. A good in-depth biography of a guy we just don’t know much about.

God’s Bestseller
Brian Moynahan
390 pages
Synopsis:Very detailed account of Tyndale but also more on his antagonist Thomas More as well as Henry VIII and his marriage as well as other deals going on against the new-fangled Lutheranism and Evangelicalism.
Comment: 8 out of 10. Very interesting life pretty well told. Does drag in spots and tends to get off subject. Is more of a history of the time and the importance of Tyndale and his work in it.

The Word Comforts

The Word of God is powerful and sharp, cutting to the dividing of soul and spirit. It is the sword in the armor of God. It can hurt when used properly!

At the same time, the cutting is there to prune so that fruit and strength may be produced. If all you get from God’s Word is cutting, guilt, pain, burden and despair you are wavering from its intent. Those things may be part of the Word’s working, but it never ends there. Scripture comforts, gives patience and ultimately leads to hope.

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Much Bible teaching tends toward either all cutting (legalism) or all comforting (license). Both ignore the other half of the Bible’s function.

You get knocked down but then you get raised up! The seed dies then the plant grows. Old things pass away all things become new. That’s what the Word does!

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