613 Old Testament Laws

Frequently I read or hear that there are 613 laws in the Old Testament. I’ve often wondered about that, according to who? Some debate what the Ten Commandments are, how can we agree on 613?

“613 Laws” comes from Rabbi Maimonides‘ counting of the number of commandments in the Books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy). His thoughts on Jewish scriptures are esteemed highly. Hard to argue with his counting then I guess, but I’ll do my best.

Based on my reading of Deuteronomy 25, there are actually 614 commands, Maimonides is heretic scum!

Religious Tradition and Comfort

“You have to find the religious tradition that fits best with you and stick with that.”

I’ve heard that sentiment a few times in the past week. When it is said to me usually I just nod. I have no idea what to say to that! I mean, I guess. It would be hard to argue against that for me since I’ve stuck in the religious tradition I’m comfortable in.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 both tell folks to stick with their good tradition. At the same time, the Bible warns about tradition more than it approves (Colossians 2:8; Galatians 1:14; Mark 7:9 and others).

The Biblical idea is this: if your tradition comes from God: stick with it! If your tradition is the invention of man and ends up contradicting God: dump it.

Problem is that we can get subjective and judgmental. For instance, one religious tradition that bothers me is youth segregated churches, the idea that youth should have their own group even bugs me at some level.

Continue reading “Religious Tradition and Comfort”

Evangelism and Sales

A sentence from a secular source I read this morning, “I learned more about sales, marketing, and evangelism” through my first job.

Evangelism is often lumped into selling, whether by churchy-folk or not. We treat God as a commodity and we have to meet our quota, keep the Boss happy with our performance. I just need a bite. Just sign your name so I can tell the Boss I’m a good salesman.

The problem with this view of the Gospel is that it completely contradicts Scripture. Jesus Christ continually turned people away. Several times He even refused to talk to some people. The Apostles would leave if a town rejected them. Then, of course, the most amazing of all evangelism stories, we have Jonah himself who was the most reluctant yet successful apostle of all time.

The problem with treating the Gospel as a sales pitch is that we then market Truth. Hardly anyone wants Truth, so to make them take it, to sign their name, to get you closer to your quota, you have to change Truth so they’ll swallow it. Do whatever it takes to turn the No into a Yes.

Continue reading “Evangelism and Sales”

Masculine Church?

Pyromaniacs rips on the modern “seeker-sensitive” movement and how it has succeeded in turning the modern church into a feminized collection of gooey-spined weenies.

I wholeheartedly agree.

The call is to create a more masculine church, but I’m not sure that conveys the right idea. The hottest church trend now is sex themed church services.

I suppose this would qualify as “masculine,” “taking a stand,” “telling it like it is.” But the call is not for masculine themes or manly shock sermons, the call is for Godly men to take a stand for Scriptural truth.

Railing on about it does nothing, everyone knows the issue and those who disagree will always disagree. The call is not for us to rah-rah each other because we agree.

The call is for us to know our Scripture so we can tell what is real and fight for it. Very practical. You’ll show your “manliness” by whether you actually do this.

Grace is what God says it is not what you want it to be

The Bible says a lot of stuff and we all think we know what it says. The problem is we don’t agree. So, either someone is wrong (i.e.–you), or the Bible is totally contradictory and near useless.

Here’s an example of a guy talking about Grace, I debate whether to name the guy or not, I have no problem with this fellow, I have no idea who he is personally, I know I like some of his music (hint, hint).

You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff.

This is a classic example of what I’m talking about. What we think Grace is is not always the same as what God says it is. Grace does not cancel out “you reap what you sow” (2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-9–including the warning “God is not mocked you will reap what you sow.”).

Grace is our means of salvation but it is not the way this world we live in works. If you skip work next week let me know how gracious your boss is.

Here’s more of his quote on Grace:

But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

So, OK, maybe he is talking about salvation alone. A man who truly has been touched by grace, however, is probably not going to drop an S bomb in his doctrinal explanation of it.

And, as a pastor, I can’t help myself but to add that Christ didn’t just take your sins to the cross, He took them to the grave and then rose again in triumph over them. Don’t forget the triumph part. Here’s where his Catholic side shows (hint, hint).

Seems to me this is classic “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I get God’s grace” thinking. Something is off on this. It sounds good. I like certain parts of it but he’s too loose with Scripture.

I don’t know. What do you think?

On Christian Women Part 2

Couple other points on my previous post:

1) A woman being subject to her husband is totally different from all women being subject to all men. Women are accountable to listen to their own husband not every man.

2) Men are just as accountable to love their wives and this is based on the exact same things as the subjection of women to their husbands. In fact, I’d argue (and I think Scripture backs this up) that a husband’s love and a wife’s submission are severely handicapped without the other. If you know this truth, you start by going first.

3) Women can exercise gifts in the church, they are merely forbidden from teaching men.

4) In order to soften the blow of wifely submission, many have taught that the man and woman are a team and they make decisions together. As much as this might happen, the man is still the one accountable before God. It’s not a team in the judgment, the man makes the final call and will stand before the Lord with it. The woman will stand before God based on whether she submitted to her husband’s decision.

5) I’m not the one who wrote the Book, I just read it.

On Christian Women

Let me start with two points:

1) Most of the time a discussion on women given by a man is humorous. I am not trying to be funny.
2) I am not trying to promote my opinion, I am trying to handle Scripture by what it says.

Here’s my problem. I frequently hear that women being subject to men and women keeping silence in the church are cultural ideas. Things that are not applied to us because they were written to culturally backward people.

What does scripture base the silence and the subjection of women on?

1 Corinthians 14:34–Based on the Law
Ephesians 5:22,23–Based on the submission of the church to Christ
1 Corinthians 11:3–Based on the submission of Christ to the Father
1 Corinthians 11:9–Based on the order of Creation
1 Timothy 2:11-13–Based on the order of Creation
1 Timothy 2:14–Based on the character of the first woman

If women being subject to men and silent in the church is cultural so to must be the subjection of Christ to God, the church to Christ, the law, and the order of creation.

Looking at groups that ignore the submission of women you will note that they frequently have mixed up ideas on the Trinity, the church, the law and creation. It is no surprise.

The point has been repeated many times, just in Paul’s books alone. I wonder if many women who have spent their lives talking in the church will make up a great majority of those who will stand before the Lord in Matthew 7:22,23. Perhaps only pastors who aren’t qualified will outnumber them. 

Scripture says what it says. The only way to ignore these passages is to make a mockery of Scripture and eventually twist all manner of other doctrines. If you want the Word (Jesus Himself, John 1:1) you gotta take the whole thing.

“Christian” Opinions

Miss California has taken a stand against gay marriage, which is fine. I take most of my beliefs directly from beauty queens, can hardly go wrong there.

This has gotten a response from gay folks, obviously, which then generates responses from other folks responding to gay folk responding to gay marriage-opposer beauty queens.

Miley Cyrus, whom I am told by people who know these things, is “a Christian,” has a fine quote surfacing out there about not judging people and even gay people should be allowed to do what makes them happy.

(Parenthetical note: It is not judging to make a statement that is in agreement with Scripture. That is called “telling the truth,” and, if done in the right way, is the greatest expression of love a person can make.)

So, we have Christian folk cheering on Miss California and we have Christian folk formerly cheering Miley Cyrus. And, in the end, all things being what they always are, Miss California will take a tumble on something or other and Christian folk will drop her too. After she gets her book deal.

Leading me to my point: stating a Christian sounding opinion does not make one a Christian. A lifetime of fruit unto righteousness leading to eternal life is how Paul says we can determine our salvation.

Leading me to my latest theory: no one claiming to be a Christian should be allowed to express an opinion until they have been “a Christian” for at least 20 years. At that point your life speaks louder than your words and we’ll all know whether to listen or not.

The Light of the World Is Jesus

“You are the light of the world.”
“We’re delivered from the kingdom of darkness.”
“What fellowship has light with darkness?”

Visibility is key to success. There’s lots going on out there and to stand out, to grab someone’s precious attention, to be visible, you gotta act crazy.

Visibility usually means stretching the limits of decency, pushing the envelope, being outside the box. The modern church has gone after visibility in this way for years. Slice of Laodicea and A Little Leaven both chronicle the modern church’s attempts at being visible.

This form of visibility seems to work. People are attracted to the commotion. Pastors are modern PT Barnum clones. It works for a time because well, you’re just becoming dark like the rest of the world. Men love darkness, they like a show. Here we are now, entertain us.

The problem is that once you stop being exciting, cutting edge and outside the box, people leave. You’ve called them to a show. All hit television shows eventually end. People move on. They’ll drop you like last week’s TV Guide.

A light in darkness is true visibility. The world cannot duplicate Light as the Light is not of this world. Being Light is the one thing the Church has the world doesn’t. This is our key to being visible!

Continue reading “The Light of the World Is Jesus”

New Testament Church: Know Your Old Testament

Hebrew4Christians is a blog about Jewish stuff from a Christian perspective.

In one of his posts, which I couldn’t link to based on his format, he proposes that the decline of the Evangelical Church is due to our ignorance of all things Jewish. He states that if we knew our Old Testament it would clear up many of our theological debates and keep us from so much idiotic contemporary church theory.

At first this sounds like a guy who has a hobby and soon sees it as the center of the universe. But I think he’s right. Jewish festivals lay out the time-line of End Times prophecy. Jewish ceremony clarifies communion and baptism. The consistency of how faith works clears up many debates as well.

For lack of OT knowledge the NT Church is perishing. Replacement Theology, that Christianity has kicked out Judaism and replaced it with something “brand new” is drivel. Much of the NT is a quotation of OT Scripture.

This replacement mentality takes many forms: Israel won’t get a Millennial Kingdom, grace is something brand new God never thought of til He met a Gentile, the Mosaic Law is one step above the Satanic Verses, etc. There’s an OT phobia that prevents the development of our NT theology.

Brush up on your Old Testament. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. All Scripture is profitable. The NT is largely a quotation of the OT for a reason. When looking at the whole picture, clarity ensues.

Stephen Colbert vs. Bart Ehrman

I got nothing for you yesterday and nothing for you today. I put lots of mental effort into my sermon for this morning and it consumed my thought processes and now my brain is empty. It’s a fine sermon, you should listen to it and I don’t mind saying.

Here is a video of Stephen Colbert “debating” an agnostic who wrote a book about how Jesus really isn’t who He claimed to be. I found it thoroughly entertaining.

However, you have to understand Colbert’s shtick. He uses satire, pretends to be a conservative/Christian and use typical conservative/Christian spouting points to mock it. So, you know, don’t get too excited. It is a nice piece of television entertainment though!

Arguing Theology

Seth Godin, author and internet guru, wrote a post on our desire to summarize everything. The problem, says Godin, is that people take the summary as the actual deal. He says,

“At least once a week, someone emails me a lousy review someone did of a summaryof one of my books. Not the book, but what they thought the book was about based on a blog post summary of the book.”

It struck me that this is the problem we have in understanding the Bible. We’ve never actually read it, we’ve just brushed up on some guy’s summary of the Bible and drawn our conclusions.

Much of today’s theology is based on what some guy said a hundred years ago. Ironically, most people who adhere to their guy have not only never read the Bible to any point of familiarity, they’ve also rarely read what their guy said.

How much of your theology is based on some guy’s summary of the Bible? Have you actually read the guy’s summary? Does the whole version of the Bible make sense with that summary?

Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” God never said we live by every word of a summary of some guy who heard a summary from another guy based on another summary from another guy who knew a guy who once read Genesis.

God Makes My Head Hurt

I was thinking about headaches today for no particular reason. These are the top three things that give me headaches:

1) Bright light
2) Smoke
3) Loud noise

This clicked something in my brain: What are the top three things that come when God shows up?

1) Bright light
2) Smoke
3) Loud noise

Bummer. I think God would give me a headache.

Lego Jesus

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Jesus sighting, but I couldn’t pass this one up. The fine folk of Oensta Gryta Church in Vaesteras, Sweden spent a year and a half constructing a statue of Jesus with Legos. And all God’s people were sufficiently edified. Unlike most Jesus sightings, this one is not, so they say, destined for eBay.

HT: Strange Herring

The Marriage-Go-Round

The Marriage-Go-Round is a new book by sociologist Andrew Cherlin. As far as I know, he makes no claim to examine marriage based on a Biblical perspective, he’s merely comparing marriage in the US with marriage in other Western countries.

Here’s an interview with him. I found it very interesting and disturbing. Here are a few quotes.

*On why divorce is more prevelant in the US: I think the reason  is the nature of American culture, which is unlike the culture of any other country when it comes to marriage and personal life. Americans believe in two contradictory ideals. The first is the importance of marriage: we are more marriage-oriented than most other Western countries. The second is the importance of living a personally fulfilling life that allows us to grow and develop as individuals—call it individualism.

*On the effects on children of many-relationshipped parents: In other words, the lack of stability, the number of transitions they  have to adjust to, may not be good for kids. I would guess that children who live with a single parent who quickly re-partners but soon ends the partnership are often worse off than children who live with a single parent who remains single. {Jeff’s editorial comment: notice how the Bible says remarrying after divorce is adultery, best to stay single and what do you know? Facts back up the sanity of the statement as well. End of editorial comment}

*On how marriage is viewed by young Americans today: Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood, but now it is the last. It’s the capstone of personal life—the final brick put in after all the others are in place. So marriage is still important, but in a different way than in the past. It’s a symbol of personal achievement—the ultimate merit badge, the marriage badge.

The Life of Righteousness

I’m having one of those days. One of those days where pretty much all spiritual effort seems ridiculously futile. A day when a pastor wonders why he even bothers.

A day when terrible clarity reaches into the brain to show the spiritual destruction working through people’s lives along with their total lack of concern.

I hope and pray that we are near The End. I would like nothing more than deliverance. At the same time, the deliverance of believers is the destruction of the non-believer.

But I’m tired. I’m tired of excuses. I’m tired of the glib expressions made to me in regard to sin, as if it’s no big deal, should be totally acceptable because “Jesus loves me.”

Im tired of the ambivalence, the half-hearted half-committal to spiritual things. I’m tired of the world and its trappings and how easily we’re sucked in.

I’m tired of the pain in other spiritual folks who talk to me and express the same concerns. The task of bucking up others who see the futility while I’m trying to get bucked up myself.

I’m tired of every single response that could possibly be made to expressing these thoughts and I haven’t even heard them yet.

The future of righteousness is in the family. What I mean by that is: the immediate family. My wife and kids. Your immediate family. Righteousness is not in the church, nor do I think it’s possible that it can return. Righteousness is gone. It can still take shape in a guy’s life and it can spread to the immediate family but hoping for more is delusion.

When the Son of Man returns life will be as it was in the Day of Noah. What was life like in the Day of Noah? Everyone was happily pursuing worldly concerns and righteousness only lived in one guy and his family. Be that guy and create that family.

Ananias and Sapphira

Ananias and Sapphira are famous in the early church for being the couple that lied about how much money they gave to church and paid for it with their lives.

Obviously their deaths were miraculous. But here’s the thing that always amazed me about the story.

Acts 5:5: Ananias is rebuked and dies
Acts 5:6: Ananias is prepared for burial and buried.
Acts 5:7: Three hours later Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, reports in.
Acts 5:8: She is questioned about the price for the land with no clue what has recently happened to her husband.
Acts 5:10: She dies, same men come in prepare her for burial and bury her.

What has always amazed me about this is that the wife never knew the husband was dead. The death was miraculous but she remains in the dark. They didn’t tell her. They didn’t even invite her to the funeral!

For those who want to “do church” like the Early Church, be mindful that this will shift your funeral practices.

Greater Love

Apparently I am not a good judge as to what posts will get me in trouble. My post on the crucifixion obviously didn’t agree with some of you. That’s fine, I will sit corrected.

Let’s see what sort of take this post generates.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

Whenever this verse is read we are told that love is laying down your life for your friends. “Now, we might not actually have to die for anyone (insert pastorly chuckle), but we should be ready to put other’s needs above our own.”

Let me just throw this thought in here: I’m not sure this is THE definition of love. I think this is the definition of “no greater love.” There is no greater love than this. I don’t think this is some sort of, “My wife wants to watch channel 11 and I want to watch channel 7. So, I guess I’ll love her like Jesus and watch channel 11.”

No, perhaps true love would be to take the television outside and shoot it.

We get the idea that love always has to be earth shattering, pain, suffering, all the time or else it’s not love. Love is love and it doesn’t always look like it or make sense to the one “receiving the benefits.”  

Then, of course, you have to talk about the love of the Father for the Son. The Father who had His Son killed. Which reminds us of Abraham who loved his son Isaac and was told to sacrifice him (Genesis 22:2).

Then, of course, you have to define “friend.” If your definition of “friend” is the same as Christ’s, well, that’s not very loving.

The Crucifixion

Being that it’s Easter, odds are you will hear or see a graphic explanation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. People are desensitized to violence in our society, we have a morbid curiosity for the gory details. Mel Gibson’s Passion put this trend over the top with his R-rated rendition.

In order to impress upon people the horrors of Christ’s suffering many pastors and churches go overboard describing the brutal details of what Christ endured.

What is fascinating is to read the Gospel accounts and note how each author describes the crucifixion. See if you notice any difference between their description and the common one heard today.

Matthew 27:35
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,

Mark 15:24
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

Luke 23:33
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

John 19:17,18
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

Each Gospel handles the act of crucifixion with the same words, “they crucified him.” That’s it. No details about the agony, just the fact. It was too horrendous for them to describe.

The death of Jesus Christ on our behalf is no side show. It’s no car wreck for people to slow down their lives and gaze at for a moment before picking up speed to resume their hectic life.

This is God become flesh, dying on our behalf. Don’t spice it up to gross out folks for a cheap thrill. Treat it with the dignity it deserves.

What is the Life of Christ In Us?

Last night at 3:25 I awoke from a dream. It was no nightmare, it was Bill Cosby preaching a sermon and he was making really good points! I actually woke up and wrote some of it down!

Then, when I got back in bed, I kept coming up with more points to add to Bill’s sermon I cut off. Pretty weird to get a sermon from a Bill Cosby dream but hey, when the inspiration comes, it comes.

Anyway, the gist of Bill’s sermon was this: What does the life of Christ actually look like in us? Paul says, “it’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” We’re being changed into His image, etc.

Many think this means you have to become a missionary or do street evangelism or try to get persecuted for sticking up for righteousness. These things may be a result, but they do not qualify as “living the life of Christ.”

Bill was totally on a roll. I had no idea he was concerned with such issues.

The Life of Christ in the Believer looks like this:

Continue reading “What is the Life of Christ In Us?”

Passover Skepticism

Passover kicked off yesterday and this brings with it the annual critiques of how dumb Bible believers are. We’ll see ones coming out soon about resurrections not being possible and how Jesus faked his life, etc.

Well, whatever. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I have no problem admitting that I cannot explain miracles nor can I prove that they happened, nor was I there. But my God was and if I believe that my God told me what happened there and my God can’t lie, well, I’m pretty much stuck, eh?

Here’s this year’s attempt to undermine the miracles surrounding the Passover, scientfically explaining the Red Sea and the plagues. It’s interesting and, as the last line says, even if there is a perfectly natural explanation, the timing was something else!

And, if you’re interested, here is Moses parting the Red Sea done in a Lego stop-motion video. It’s as if you were there.

Fight the Fight

“Be not conformed to the world” is tough. The world’s power is very subtle, but that does not mean it’s power is weak. The power of the world is how all-pervasive it is.

Faith’s battle is allowing God’s influence to overpower the world’s influence. Satan is subtle, a deceiver, a master of confusion looking like order.

Every little bit of the world we allow into our brains affects us. It pulls us further from God’s ideal, from the things above. Most Christians overestimate their own power and underestimate the world’s.

Here’s a recent advertising scheme that is getting lots of internet pub. It’s about a package redesign that had drastic effects on product sales. We think we’re too intelligent to be fooled like this, but we are. The subtlety of a stupid orange juice carton design impacts people.

How much more does the subtle, second by second straffing of the world impact us who are “just passing through?” I hope you keep moving through and you don’t stop and settle for the world’s trappings. Lay hold of eternal life. Fight the fight.

Science Busts Religion Once Again

Well folks, a few more scientific studies like this one and I might just become an atheist. Scientists have now found the place in the brain where wisdom comes from. Here’s how they phrase this finding:

Wisdom for centuries has been a religious or philosophical concept that varies somewhat by culture. But Jeste tells ScientificAmerican.com that there is reason to believe that it’s rooted in neurobiology.”

Yup, that’s right, religious wisdom is actually evolutionary gibberish in your brain. What you thought was the wisdom of God imparted to you by the Spirit through the Word of God is actually just normal, everyday brain function.

Sort of a bummer but sort of a relief too!

Proof Christ Knows You

Many folks think they know Jesus Christ. They base this knowledge on many things, few of which are Scriptural. They’re stuff like this:

*I am happy
*I get good parking spots
*I score many a touchdown
*People like me
*I go to church and stuff
*I went on a mission trip
*I taught Sunday School
*I was friends with the pastor’s son

You know what I mean. Our salvation has been accomplished by Christ, He is our sure foundation. 2 Timothy 2:19 says, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

How cool is that? We can put our every confidence in Him. He knows those that belong to Him. The real question is not whether you know God but whether He knows you (Galatians 4:9)!

I guess we better make sure we are known of Him. How do those that are His know they are His? Allow 2 Timothy 2:19 to continue, it wasn’t done before, there are two sentences in that verse.

Continue reading “Proof Christ Knows You”

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