Church Jerks

Just finished reading a biography of Isaac Newton. Newton refrained from publishing most of his works because he did not want to argue about them. In fact, most of his publishing occurred after the deaths of guys who always argued with him!

That cracks me up. Anyway, here is a quote from Newton on the manner in which people argue and what to beware of:

“What’s done before many witnesses is seldom without some further concern than that for truth: but what passes between friends in private usually deserves the name of consultation rather than contest.”

In other words: beware of guys who always argue in public.

Over my years as pastor I have seen this phenomena many times. Guys who are nice to you in private, never argue about anything, are quite pleasant even, will rip you to shreds in front of a group.

When this occurs, know that the one ripping you to shreds is not interested in truth, not interested in getting a question answered, they are up to “other things.” Newton knew it and he was one smart guy.

My pastoral advice for this situation is to not get sucked in. Let them say their piece and discreetly move on. No sense arguing when the point they are arguing has nothing to do with the point they are arguing. It’s an attempt to drag you down.

I figure, let em show their dominance, get it over with and move on. Most observers see what’s happening anyway and will grant you much greater respect for not partaking in the silliness of it all.

It’s too bad churches are filled with this sort of goofiness, but alas, they are. Even so, come quickly.

Newton’s Law Of Christian Unity

Isaac Newton once wrote, “Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.”

By this he meant that his teachers, although wrong on some things, were still his friends. He was willing to maintain friendship and even credit them with much of his learning, but he would part with them as truth did.

Seems like a great way to view our Christian growth. Many people help us grow and teach us bits and pieces of truth. They should be commended and respected for doing so. But people are people and we’re all wrong on something.

Where truth differs from your guys: go with truth. There is no need to conclude they are heretic scum. Respect them for where they brought you and continue to press toward the mark of what we have not yet apprehended. If this were heeded how much more unity would be in the church today?

Fear Not Every Day

There’s a new stupid illustration making its way around Christianity. This one is really dumb because with modern technology it takes about 12 seconds to verify its accuracy.

The new stupid illustration goes like this:

“The Bible tells us to fear not. In fact, the Bible says “fear not” 365 times. It says “fear not” 365 times because God knew we needed to hear it every day.”

I heard this one and my immediate response was, “there’s no way.” First of all, I have read the Bible enough to know it just wasn’t in there that many times.

Second, the Jewish year does not have 365 days in it! The calendar the guys who wrote the Bible used didn’t have that many days. A typical “we are the Western world and the universe revolves around us” attitude on display.

Again, verify your illustrations lest you undermine the authority and accuracy of The Message.

Spiritual Growth and Sin

I heard a lecture on spiritual growth where the speaker said that as believers grow they become increasingly aware of their sin. Along with an increasing awareness of their sin comes an increasing sorrow over that fact.

He cites the Apostle Paul as an example of this trend by pointing to statements made by Paul regarding his opinion of his sin in relation to when he wrote them. Observe.

1 Corinthians 15:9 (ad 59) “For I am the least of the apostles”
Ephesians 3:8 (ad 64) “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints”
1 Timothy 1:15 (ad 65) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

The progression goes from–the least of the apostles–to the least of all saints–to the chief of sinners. This could be coincidental or it could be a pretty cool observation.

For Such Is the What Now?

I was asked the following “theological question” today:

We are really worried that God says the kingdom of heaven is made of such as these – which would be children. Which is scaring us. Really? It’s just a mental ward up there? Please advise.

The verse causing the concern is Mark 10:14, “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

The answer to the question is what Jesus means by “the little children.” I think, based on the way Jesus uses “little children,” or “the least of these,” He is referring to true believers rather than kids.

Children demonstrate childlike faith, which is why they can sleep in the car when their mom is driving while dad is double checking his seatbelt every 15 seconds. That’s called “childlike faith.” That is the example for believers in how to trust God.

So when Jesus says it’s better to have a millstone hung around your neck than to offend a little one, He isn’t talking about offending kids, He’s talking about offending believers.

Therefore, the Kingdom of God is not made up of children actual, but children metaphorical. In Christ, we are the children of God. The verse that should truly concern you would be Matthew 19:29. Yikes. All the motivation I need to not forsake my kids.

Mary Magdalene and Love

Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. She was one of the last ones hanging around after the crucifixion to see where they laid His body. She was the first one to the tomb on resurrection day. Her love made her stick with Jesus to the end and keep hoping there was a new beginning.

Mary also demonstrated her love when she poured the costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair.

Something tremendous had happened between Jesus and Mary. Our over-sexualized culture sees this relationship and assumes it must be sexual. There’s no way a man and a woman could love each other like this without a sexual component.

I find this to be sick as well as a total misunderstanding of how great it is to have your sins forgiven. Mary had seven devils in her and Jesus healed her, set her free and Mary’s life changed.

“To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Realizing the depth of your sin and the depth of God’s grace is the impetus of a great love like Mary’s.

Miracles and Faith

One of the most appealing aspects of miracles is that they do not require any faith to observe. Anyone can see when a miracle took place.

Nicodemus in John 3 acknowledged the miracles Christ did and knew that God was working through Jesus. But he wasn’t born again, he wasn’t a true believer.

The world celebrates miracles all the time from little kids getting rescued from wells and airplanes landing on rivers. It’s amazing, anyone can see it, it requires no faith.

As soon as a miracle is equated with faith then we have false faith. Seeing a miracle is not proof you are a believer. Seeing is not believing, it’s the exact opposite, in fact.

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Shouldn’t Pastors Shut Up First?

Here’s my point so far:

I don’t like to converse or argue.
I think everyone should shut up.

Now, upon summing my point I see I come across very arrogant. Well, there’s a fine line between faith and arrogance.

The critique that would arise now would be: if talking is what causes division shouldn’t the most vocal people shut up? Since pastors are the most vocal people in the church shouldn’t they shut up first?

I will grant this point: Most pastors should indeed shut up. The only ones who should be allowed to talk are those who are gifted and qualified.

Those who are gifted and biblically qualified should preach the word in season and out. (Notice in the list of qualifications linked to above in Titus 1 that one of the jobs of a pastor is to shut people up.)

Continue reading “Shouldn’t Pastors Shut Up First?”

Volume Does Not Equal Conviction

I don’t want to fight every fight, I’ve stated that. This is an easy stance to criticize because there are issues you would fight for that I wouldn’t. In your mind, anyone with a spine and an ounce of faith would also fight about your issues. Since I don’t, I must not have a spine or an ounce of faith.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: people who increase volume often do so thinking this increases the impression of conviction. To the contrary, it usually demonstrates insecurity.

The fact that I won’t fight on various issues does not mean I don’t have a stance, nor a conviction. It just means I don’t have a conviction that I need to have you hold my same convictions. Hast thou faith? Have it to yourself before God.

I have my faith before God and I know He knows why I believe what I believe and I fully trust that where I am off God will show this unto me. I also believe that where you are off God will show that unto you.

If the Holy Spirit is real and active, seems we’d shut up more. Most of the splits and divisions in the church are because people, quite simply, won’t shut up. We cease fighting for faith and start fighting to be right.

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Not Fighting All Fights

My children like to argue. They argue about everything. My job as a father is to be routinely ticked off about this and make them knock it off. I will not let them grow up to be arguers.

At the same time, certain arguments need to happen and I let them go, I want to see who wins, I want to see their logic and their determination work. Kids who don’t fight about anything are doomed.

But we can’t die on every hill. In fact, why not die for a valley every once in awhile. What’s the big deal with a hill? Most valleys are prettier than hilltops.

Anyway, I digress.

I was talking to a guy who recently attended a funeral and he commented that the best gospel presentations he’s ever heard were at funerals. Even pastors from other denominations and “faiths” spoke good Gospel messages at funerals.

Why all the division during life then?

Continue reading “Not Fighting All Fights”

The Spirit Itself

My post the other day detailing the KJV translations of Romans 8:16 and 26 was going to draw out the KJV bashers. And, it did.

Here’s the funny thing, the KJV is actually being literal here! Greek nouns are either feminine, masculine or neuter. Pneuma, the Greek word for Spirit, is a neuter noun.

Greek pronouns take the gender of the noun, thus a neuter noun deserves a neuter pronoun, which is why the KJV does not translate it “the Spirit himself” because they are being consistent with the Greek noun.

However, the Spirit is a person of the Godhead so most translations go with “himself” there, which is fine. I just thought that was interesting. I’ll stick with my KJV, not because I have to, but because I want to, nay, I get to.

The Holy Spirit is an “It?”

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is much neglected. People who stress the Holy Spirit tend to be, uh, eccentric. One aspect of Holy Spirit doctrine I’ve heard critiqued is when Christians refer to the Spirit as “it.”

Is this a problem?

Read Romans 8:16 and 26 in the KJV (it’s linked for ya right back there).

 Hmm. What makest thou of thateth?

Personal Relationship with Jesus

In a recent survey, Christians defined “spiritual maturity.” A leading answer of both believers and their pastors was “a personal relationship with Jesus.”

The term “personal relationship with Jesus” bugs me. It’s certainly not a biblical term. Furthermore, personal relationships pretty much develop with people you hang around with and talk to. Jesus is in heaven and He doesn’t talk to you.

The fuzzy notion of a personal relationship with Jesus is primarily based on our feelings. I know people who are disobeying God’s Word left and right and yet claim to have a great relationship with Jesus. This is obviously not because they spend time with Him, it’s because they think they know him.

Osama bin Laden thinks he has a personal relationship with God. Here’s a quote from him, “I saw with my own eyes the remains of one of the pilots. Three fingers, a part of a nerve, the skin of one cheek, an ear, the neck, and the skin of the back. Some Afghan brothers came and took a photo of him as if he were a slaughtered sheep! We cheered. . .I felt closer to God than ever.”

Osama’s relationship with God is based primarily on his own feelings about his experiences in life. This notion of “closeness” with God is nearly identical to modern Christianity. We convince ourselves we’re happy, we cling to a few “victories,” and claim we’re getting along with our buddy Jesus just fine.

Continue reading “Personal Relationship with Jesus”


Repentance is a much debated issue. I have heard many opinions on repentance and many of them quite odd.

1) Repentance is an Old Testament concept. I really don’t get this one. Repentance shows up in the OT and most of the time it is done by God–repenting over decisions He made. The Law, in fact, seems very inconsistent with repentance. For example, adulterers were to be stoned, repentance aint gonna help ya there. Not to say there wasn’t repentance in the OT, there was, but it is much more common in the NT.

2) Repentance is only for unbelievers. Believers can’t repent because they are already with Christ, therefore what do they repent from? This seems highly inconsistent with how Scripture deals with repentance.

3) Repentance is only for believers. Others say that repentance is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit’s work, therefore, the only people who can truly repent are believers. This also seems inconsistent with scripture.

4) Repentance is only for Jews and their kingdom. Again, it certainly has a part in that, but it is in no way limited to that usage.

The Word Lives in You

Conquering sin is harder than quoting a verse or two. The idea behind Psalm 119:11 is that God’s Word overtakes the heart, consumes it. When we are consumed with the Word then sin will begin to be mortified.

This does not undermine memorization, it gives it special emphasis. It allows a guy to know what to memorize–not proof texts but reproof texts. Thank you, as far as you know I made that up.

Here’s the idea as stated in the second half of 1 John 2:14, “. . .young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”

The Word of God abides, or lives, in you and you have beaten the evil one.

The Word of God is alive, it gives life, and this life is the new life in Christ, which beats off the old man, who is crucified, and renews the new man, who is risen with Christ.

This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

When the Word truly lives in you sin gets beaten and righteousness enters with fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life.

Oh people! This is it. Grab it and live it.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Spiritual Gifts

Taking spiritual gift tests are a rite of passage for Believers. We pour over the spiritual gift passages and pick out the ones that sound cool or the ones we piously think we currently do. Gift test cheating is common, answering “very strongly agree” on the ones that lead you to have the gift of “ruling.” It becomes a study in self-analysis and ditches the Spirit entirely.

The first misconception of spiritual gifts is that they are natural, stuff I already do. Stuff you already do is more than likely a result of personality or upbringing and has little to do with the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are spiritual in that they have no relation to your flesh, what you normally do.

The second misconception about spiritual gifts is that they have to do with you. 1 Corinthians 13 starts off with a list of spiritual gifts and then undermines all of them by including that love bit. You can exercise your gift all day long but it’s not spiritual and thus has no spiritual benefit. It may have other benefits, but not spiritual. I am sounding brass, I am nothing, it profits me nothing.

The misconception that comes in now is that if I have to love in order to be spiritual I won’t do anything until I “love” people, whatever that means. If it doesn’t feel automatic or if I’m not driven to tears every time I think about the poor souls who need me so desperately, I won’t do it because “I don’t love yet.”

Again, the point of spiritual gifts is not you: it’s the Spirit, they are His gifts. A spiritual gift requires love. Which is why Paul ends 1 Corinthians 13 with: “the greatest of these is love” This is the “more excellent way” of 1 Corinthians 12:31: It’s better to seek love than a gift.

It’s not about you. It’s about 1) the Spirit and His gifts and 2) the others you are loving.

Cussing Around Pastors

It happened again today. I was around some “heathens” who were cussing. However, when I was around and they heard I was a pastor, they changed the swear word to a more less-sweary version and apologized to me.

Then cussed again. And again. And again.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves about being a pastor, when people find out they immediately get weird, apologizing when they cuss, explaining how they don’t usually say such words and so forth. Others get more belligerent and go out of their way to be foul mouthed.

I could do without both. I’m never quite sure how to respond. Here are several options I’ve considered, I’ve only ever used the first one. Here are my options of what to say when the next heathen apologizes for cussing around me:

1) I’m not the one you need to apologize to.
2) What? I don’t even know what that means.
3) Say three hail Mary’s, you’ll be fine.
4) 20 bucks and I’ll see what I can do for you.
5) Thank God for grace; cuss away.

I don’t know, what do you think I should say?

Checklists and Love

I was in a conversation about love and checklists.  If you need a checklist to do nice things do you really love people? In other words, you can’t make love a legalistic issue.

As we talked we began to question that notion. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts and we are to work out what Christ worked in us, with fear and trembling even. Paul brought his body under subjection to keep himself going the right way.

Keeping a calendar of birthdays for your family members is a checklist to help you show love.

Whether you have an actual written list or not you do things for people you love. You remember what they like, even if you don’t like those things, and you do them.

I am not a very socially smooth individual. I get cold sweats before making phone calls. I frequently have to force myself to make phone calls, a mental list, to make myself do it. The reason I make a list and force myself to do those things is because I do love people and I want them to know it. I will even force myself to do what I dread for their sake. And it might take a little motivation to get me to conquer my insecurities.

I suppose to some that does not sound like love. To me, love’s essence is doing for others what may not be pleasant for you, but with some motivation it’s do-able. Jesus Christ repeatedly brought up His coming crucifixion, as if He had it on His to-do list written from eternity past, and it was the greatest act of love ever.

Tolerant Trend

Lately I’ve noticed a new trend in the “heathen” world. Non-believers are increasingly bragging about how cool they are because, “although I don’t agree with Christians, I’m friends with a few of them. They’re not as bad as you’ve heard.”

It’s as if having a Christian friend is the new hip accessory. It’s like the white guy who brags because “I have friends that are black.” Or the Christian who brags that “I know some homosexuals.”

I think it’s funny that the world thinks we’re cool. If only they actually knew a real Christian, I doubt they’d be so inclined.

Judging Others

The New York Times has an article about the “holier-than-thou” syndrome. Our views of ourselves are generously higher than reality. We predict we will act with moral conviction and usually drop the ball in reality. We also predict that others will not be nearly as moral as we are.

Furthermore, people who are the worst at over-inflating their own potential to do right are fundamentalist religious types. This shocks me none.

The point I want to emphasize out of the article, which just barely made any waves in the article at all, is this brief sentence:

“In the end, their less generous predictions about peers’ behavior tend to be dead-on accurate.”

Although we over-inflate our own goodness, we are dead on at predicting the goodness of others! I find that fascinating! We’re always told that we don’t know what’s going on in other people’s hearts when, no, actually we do!

I know full well that your heart is deceitful and wicked, mine however, is doing just fine. Amen. As the article jokes, “Jesus loves you, but I”m His favorite.”

Morality, Joy, Biblical Interpretation and Church Softball Cheaters

Things I thought about blogging on today:

1) “You can’t legislate morality” is thrown around all the time. I doubt it. Seems that’s sort of the point of laws. In fact, many Christians lump part of the OT Law together and call it “the moral law” as opposed to “ceremonial law.”

2) Many Christians do not have real joy because they have never had a cross. Joy comes when you survive a cross. Most Christian’s commitment to their faith survives right up to the point of sacrificing and then stops. No cross = no joy.

3) People who use illegal bats for church softball are heathen scum on their way to hell. I mean, seriously, you can’t get much lower.

4) Seems to me all people should drop the idea that they read the Bible “literally.” None of us actually does. There’s always some part of it that we do not take literally. To maintain our supposed literalness we defend it by saying “this doesn’t apply,” “my literal interpretation is this. . .,” “this doesn’t mean that.” Or any other excuse which all but eliminates literal reading of the Scripture. In fairness to the literal definition of the word “literal,” we should not use this word anymore to describe our mode of biblical interpretation.

5) Nor should we use the typical substitute “the simple reading of Scripture” seeing as how most people’s “simple reading” takes 47 minutes of prepratory material on their exegetical foundation so you can understand their “simple reading.”

I was going to blog on these things but I decided not to.

Hiding Stuff in Your Heart

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
Psalm 119:11

The typical application of this verse goes like this, “You should memorize scripture so you can defeat sin when you are tempted, much like Jesus did in the temptation in the wilderness.”

I guess that’s OK, if it worked for Jesus there must be some credibility to this application. However, I think Psalm 119:11 is making a much larger point.

Psalm 119 uses the term “heart” often and mostly the term “whole heart.” He is talking about allowing God’s word to overtake his heart, to consume it.

The heart is deceitful, the only answer to this problem is to give it over to God who can make in you a new heart, one filled with His word, will, desires, thoughts, intents, etc.

Thinking that having a few verses rolling around in your head is going to protect you from sin is not the idea. Mentally rubbing a few verses like a lucky rabbit’s foot probably won’t carry you through.

Having God’s word overtake your heart, to live by faith, by hearing God’s word, is what allows us to overcome the world.

Reasons For Changing Faiths

Lots of news these days about survey findings that, like never before, Americans are switching faiths. Almost half of all Americans have changed faiths (religions or denominations) at least once. Much head scratching has ensued to answer “Why, oh why?”

Here are my reasons why, some of which may be a tad sarcastic.

1) In the End Times people have no clue what the Bible says and will be tossed about with every wind of doctrine.

2) The NIV.

3) Too many choices and Americans with options tend to take those options.

4) Pastors come and go so fast in churches that there is no sense of consistency, permanency, or trust in leadership.

5) Americans move so much, make a new start in greener pastures, often bringing change in many areas of life.

6) Freedom to switch since it’s now “insensitive” or something to claim that “my church is the only place where true believers are.”

7) Feminism. I don’t know why, but since Eve woman have pretty much ruined everything, might as well blame them for this one too.

8) Most churches are so biblically illiterate what difference does it make anyway?

Your Heart is Deceitful: Know It

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Apparently no one.

Jeremiah 17:9 is quoted all the time, it would seem we really know it. Until reality is examined. If we thought our heart was truly deceitful would we ever trust ourselves?

Seems we wouldn’t. Instead religious folk walk around with a half-cocked assurance bordering on arrogance about every little thing they believe. “This is my truth, I hammered it out, God revealed it to me and I know it’s true.”

I’m not picking on a religion or a denomination, I’m picking on humanity in general, I aim high. We really shouldn’t trust ourselves, especially when it comes to our understanding of Scripture and God.

Now, I know, I know, I’m wading into dangerous waters here. I am not saying that nothing can be known. I am saying what you know is more than likely wrong! Unless you are in perfect agreement with the intended meaning of Scripture.

When we read Scripture the temptation is to read it for two things: 1) to find verses that back up what we already believe. 2) To find verses that justify our sins.

The real point of scripture is to reprove, rebuke, correct, instruct, train, guide, cut to pieces who we are. Why? Why would God’s Word be so cruel to us cute little fuzzy humans?

Because our heart is deceitful. Don’t trust yourself. Stick with what God says, don’t try to argue with it, don’t justify yourself in light of it, don’t dig for loopholes. Take it. Let it shine its light into the dark closets of your heart.

Your heart is deceitful, don’t trust it. Bring it to the Light of God’s Word and clean ‘er up.

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
1 Corinthians 4:5

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