Modern Idolatry

Idolatry seems to be the least of our concerns in modern time. Idolatry is something weird guys did back in Bible times, sticking idols under menstruating women’s saddles et al. Weird stuff like that.

We don’t have idols and the closest your pastor gets to talking about idols is mentioning your television viewing habits. However, a proper definition of idolatry will bring this sin into perspective.

Idolatry is imagining things about God and acting as if they were true. It’s inventing a god that suits your understanding, inclinations, and doesn’t bug your happy thoughts. In other words: idolatry is making a God just like you, or at least what you think you are just like.

Idolatry is believing things about God that are not biblical, things that are not consistent with God’s revelation of Himself. Every verse in the Bible that you ignore, explain away, find loopholes for because they just don’t feel right, if left undealt with will lead to idolatry.

People don’t like the God that makes hell–welcome an idol.
People don’t like a God that destroys cities–welcome an idol.
People don’t like a God that lets injustice exist–welcome an idol.
People don’t like a God that condemns their favorite fleshly activity–welcome an idol.
People don’t like a God that lets sinners get away with sin for a season– welcome an idol.

Anything you believe about God that is not consistent with who He says He is, brings on idolatry. Many believe in God; few believe in the God of the Bible. Idols are all over our churches. You may not see them, you may not think you are praying to them, but they are there and the God of the Bible is not too thrilled about this.

These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.
Psalm 50:21

Kings Who Steal Wives

Abraham had a babe for a wife, he knew it and so did his wife. Their knowledge was not a secret either, seemingly every king they ran into thought Sarah was a total babe, even at 99 years of age!

Abraham was not an entirely chivalrous man, he made up the half-truth that Sarah was his sister not his wife and King Abimelech took Sarah.

God decided to stop Abimelech, did not allow him to touch her. God stops a king from taking another man’s wife.

Then we have King David seeing and wanting Bathsheba. David, a king, went and took her and God did absolutely nothing to stop him. Why did God stop one king from taking a wife and not another king?

Furthermore, it’s the opposite, he stops a Gentile king and lets the Jewish king steal a wife. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I have an answer, wondering what yours would be?

Proud Bible Teachers

It’s a tendency for a teacher to feel proud. When you write something good or have a nice sermon, man it feels good. God is pretty lucky to have us and our wit on His side, amen.

The Bible is a wonderful tool at undermining pride. Pride is the central human failure that gets us all the time. God rails against it. I imagine there are some things in Scripture that would eliminate pride in teachers of the Bible. Ah yes.

1) Balaam’s dear donkey. Yup, gotta start here. If a donkey can do your job, you shouldn’t be proud.

2) Fish-gut smelling Jonah. Jonah wanted nothing to do with his mission and demonstrated it with a horrible attitude, his message was seven short words. And he converted an entire city.

3) Idiot Judas Iscariot. Judas was with the disciples, took part in all their missions, presumably even did miracles, the disciples had no idea who the betrayer would be, making you think there was no difference. Yet look at the outcome.

I’ll stop there. I think that’s plenty. I’m sure you can think of more. If God does indeed work through anything that we do or say it is vital to remember that it is indeed His work. We plant and water, He grants the increase. Relax, do your job and let God do His.

The Age of Grace?

“The age of grace” has been used to label the current age. The main reason for this title is that God does not appear to be judging sin. The ground hasn’t opened up and swallowed people, fiery serpents are hibernating, multitudes of frogs have not shown up on heathen lands, nor have there been any world-wide floods.

We take this to mean that God isn’t bugged by sin as much anymore. Things changed after the cross. “Before the cross sin was punished; after the cross God doesn’t punish sin because Christ took the punishment,” so goes the argument. So we have the notion that we’re “getting away with sin” due to Christ’s intercession. Thus, we are in “the age of grace.”

Allow me to present an argument against this label.

Continue reading “The Age of Grace?”

Disciples Are Not Necessarily Saved

Frequently I hear people say that the major, serious commands in the Bible are directed at higher Christians, people who are disciples. They have made an extra commitment and have put off Clark Kent faith and are now in Superman faith.

This is a handy excuse for the “nominal” or “carnal” Christian who is looking for a loophole out of doing anything. “Oh, I don’t have to study (pray, love, give money, etc), that’s for disciples, I’m just a believer.”

What is immensely ironic is that the NT uses the term disciple several times to refer to people who are unbelievers (John 6:66; Matthew 10:1-4  for example). Being a disciple does not imply salvation. A disciple is a learner and some learners quit learning and leave.

This is especially juicy when you consider Matthew 28:19, the Great Commission. The KJV says we are to “teach all nations.” Teach has the root word disciple in it in Greek. Which is why the NAS says “make disciples of all nations.”

Oh the juiciness! Seems to me the idea would be this: teach people to learn. Many interpret the Great Commission as a command to save people. However, we all know salvation is from the Lord, it’s His deal. We plant and water, God gives the increase.

We teach, that’s our job. What do we teach? The Word, which is able to make thee wise unto salvation. Our job is to teach, not to get people to believe or be saved. We love to see that outcome, but we cannot manufacture it. Be ready to teach, in season and out.

Sincere Readers of My Blog

I have detected a way to quickly identify what Christian books are written in an argumentative manner. Whatever the argumentative topic may be (Arminianism/Calvinism, dispensational/covenant, etc) arguers from both sides will say something like this in their introduction:

Sincere readers of the Bible will know what I am about to tell you.” Or, “It is obvious to those who have diligently studied God’s Word.. . .”

This sort of phrase cracks me up. Basically, the author is saying, “If you’re not a complete idiot you will agree with me.”

Now, I get why they say it, and in some cases it may even be true. But it’s the tone, the implication, the underlying snippiness that ruins credibility.

If you see a line like this in your theological book, just know that you are getting a one-sided view written from someone who is arguing.

Sincere readers of my blog know this already, you other idiots don’t.

Bad to Good

Redemption is usually seen as a doctrinal subject referring to Christ’s payment on the cross for our sins. Redemption includes that but God redeems a whole lot more than that.

God redeems some sin as well. Here are a few examples:

1) The curse on the earth caused death. Death can be beautiful in creation. Fall colors, dead trees can look cool, not to mention that death provides fertilizer to create life.

2) Abram had a bunch of stuff when he parted company with Lot. A good portion of the stuff Abram had was given to him by Pharaoh when Abram lied about Sara!

3) David’s sin with Bathsheba lead to the birth of Solomon, the wisest man ever.

There are other examples as well. None of these things excuse sin. Fall colors do not make up for Adam’s sin, lies are not OK as long as you get stuff to use for God, and good kids do not eliminate adultery.

But it’s still cool how God can use our idiocy to create something good. Ultimate example:

4) A bunch of guys crucified the Son of God and it worked out to our eternal redemption.

It doesn’t get any better than that! It also does not excuse the guys who crucified Christ. Woe to him who took part in that. Imagine what good God could do with all good!? That will be the believer’s eternity.

God and Steak

As I read the Bible I find more and more reason to love God. He’s great, He really is. He’s even great all the time.

Here’s my latest observation about how great God is and how much I can’t wait to see Him and spend eternity near Him: steak.


Steak is great. One of the best parts about steak is how good it smells on the grill. One of my favorite parts of grilling steak is how I smell like a grilled steak for hours after. I don’t shower for days, until the last vestiges of steak aroma are covered up with, uh, other aromas.

Noah got off the ark and he sacrificed some of the clean animals, of which he brought spares. It says that God smelled the cooking meat and was pleased. I know, I know, He was pleased because Noah was righteous, yeah, yeah, yeah.

He was also pleased because animals on fire smell really good. The theme is consistent throughout Scripture: God likes the smell of burning meat. I do too. I’m just like Him in that way. I wonder if heaven will smell like steak on the grill?

Is God Good All the Time?

One of my joys in life is to take commonly said statements and refute them. Makes me feel superior. Here’s one that has bugged me for a long time, the dumb song that repeats endlessly that “God is good all the time.”

I understand the sentiment, I know all things work together for good, but do we really experience God being good to us all the time? I think not. God can be pretty downright bad at times, has been so many times.

Ask all the folks in hell. “All things work together for good” is a great phrase, but it aint the whole verse. It works together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose. In other words, not all things work together for everyone. As in, not all the time.

Even Job admitted the bad stuff happening to him was from God. God was good to Israel and those that love Him, not everyone, not all the time. God our Father disciplines us, and no discipline for the moment seems enjoyable.

Get this one. Psalm 18:25, 26, “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.”

I’m sure you think I’m picking lint with this. That’s fine. I think the song is sung by many for whom it is not true. I think we should be careful the message we are sending with the eighteen bazillion repetitions in our songs.

He Shall Never See Death

Again trying to get more value out of my seminary Greek.

People have wondered about John 8:51 many times, including the guys who first heard it. Here’s what is said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, if a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.”

Greek point 1: Verily is sometimes translated truly and is the Greek word “amen.”

Greek point 2: The final phrase in the Greek verse is “into the ages,” a phrase that is often translated “forever.” In other words, in the Greek the verse ends like this, “If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death, forever.” Notice this makes it into zero popular translations.

Greek point 3: When Jesus says people won’t see death, what does he mean? Many believers have died, seen death. The key to finding out what he meant is to examine the word “see.” There are at least six Greek words that can be translated “see.”

This one is an academic kind of see, to ponder, consider carefully. In other words, one who observes the words of Jesus Christ will never have to worry about death! The believer is an indifferent spectator of death. The unbeliever is forced to examine death, see it, fear it, worry over it. Keeping the words of Christ frees you from that worry.


I Will Never Leave You

Hebrews 13:5 is quoted by many. It’s thrown around all over the place, even by people who it doesn’t apply to. Saw it in a new way the other day.

I took Greek in seminary, lots of it. I sometimes feel I wasted my time and money on it. Occasionally I will delve into it, try to find something cool to make me think I got my money’s worth. Hebrews 13:5 in Greek gives my tuition expenses some value.

I will never leave you” is the first phrase. Leave does not mean “leave.” The word “leave” actually means uphold or sustain. The KJV translators tried to convey the double negative of the Greek into the verb.

Double negatives in Greek do not make a positive, they make a doubly strong negative. The double negative should say “I will not, I will not leave you” Or, even better, “I will not, I will not cease sustaining you.”

Some Greek tuition value right there. But the last phrase, “nor forsake you” is different in the Greek too. When we read Hebrews 13:5 we think he’s saying the same thing twice: he won’t leave or forsake. In reality he’s saying two different things. God won’t fail to sustain us nor will He leave us.

The second part, “nor forsake you” actually has a triple negative in the Greek! Triply negative. In other words, a guy could legitimately translate Hebrews 13:5 this way:

For He Himself has said, I will not, I will not cease to sustain thee, I will not, I will not, I will not forsake thee.”


Literally Annoyed

There is entirely too much arguing in my house. The main cause of arguing is due to children taking things too literally. This conversation will serve as my for instance:

KID: “Dad, what time is it?”
ME: “Five o’clock.”
KID: “Nuh-uh, it’s 4:58.”

That, right there, is the main content of much of the childish conversation in our home. It is unnecessary and stupid. First of all, 4:58 might as well be 5. Second, if you can tell me it’s 4:58 and not 5, why did you ask me?

I recently lectured my children, with many other timely examples, on this issue and told them that I was helping them put away a childish attribute, which will serve them well.

I then proceeded to tell them that the church is made up of stupid conversations like this. As a pastor I get much of this sort of thing every day. Work with me people.

–When I say that dispensationalism went off the deep end: this does not mean that I am not a dispensationalist or that dispensationalists are heretic scum.

–When I say that all believers will experience a process of growth and victory over sin: this does not mean I believe in perfectionism, cessationism, Pharisaism, legalism, etc.

–When I say that grace is overblown to the expense of holiness: this does not mean that I think grace is less valuable, worthless, antinomian, worm infested rot, etc.

People who jump to conclusions based on their hyper-literalness are acting like 7-year olds. This does not mean I have anything against 7-year olds. It means that 35-year olds should be more mature.

Rather than getting hyper-literal, just be literal and listen to what was just said.

Why I Don’t Blog About Evangelism

The Internet Monk had a post critiquing the spirituality of the blogosphere. Although I could take or leave most of his critique, one did get me and it’s one I’ve thought on before.  It’s his number two criticism and I was somewhat surprised that someone else had the same observation, it goes like this:

With all the Facebook, Twitter and blog feeds that report on every mundane detail of life, how come so few reports include something about evangelism? Why don’t we read Twits like, “I talked to someone about faith in Christ today. They cussed me out.” Or, “I struck up a conversation with a guy about not being drunk with wine but filled with the spirit.”

I imagine the Christian defensive response is what mine was, “Well, that’s just arrogant. When we do good we’re not supposed to tell people.” Apparently when we do bad or irrelevant we should tell everyone though.

One glaring problem with blogging and Twitting and Facebooking is that it reveals the inane lives we live. It reveals the level of narcissism we all live in. It reveals just how little we care about others and how much we care about others knowing about us.

Anyway, I know why my Facebook, Twitter and blog don’t bring up evangelism sessions: I don’t have many. I speak this to my shame.

Lutherans and “Amazing Grace”

I have observed in my time around Christian types that Lutherans drop a verse out of Amazing Grace. The verse that begins “when we’ve been there ten thousand years. . .” is not sung by Lutherans.

One Lutheran told me it was because they don’t believe in the Millennial Kingdom. This struck me as a very dumb answer. I know Lutherans can be weird but that’s a complete misunderstanding of everything. I assume that Lutheran stands alone on that opinion.

I have yet to find an explanation. The closest I’ve come is that this verse was not an original John Newton verse. perhaps that’s the end of the story right there.

I also found a grammatical examination of the verse that points out that the verse is not grammatically correct. “We’ve no less days” should grammatically be stated, “We’ve no fewer days.”

Can any non-weird Lutherans help me out?

Me Worry?

The Bible contains several verses telling people not to worry, don’t think about tomorrow, today is tough enough.

This always strikes me as impossible. Perhaps we don’t quite follow the idea properly. Here’s why:

“But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Luke 12:50

This is Jesus speaking and He claims to be straitened by his coming death. If there was ever a time to worry it would be right around then. According to Strong’s definitions, the KJV straitened means, among other things, “arrest, preoccupy, lie sick of, afflict, or be taken with.”

Sounds pretty similar to worry! In fact, the normal word used for worry means “be anxious, take thought of.” This seems much more mild than what Jesus was doing in Luke 12:50.

Perhaps the difference is you can dread tomorrow, but you should not contemplate how you can avoid it, solve it, take care of stuff yourself.

What think ye?

Jesus Wants to Burn this World

The modern notion of Jesus is that He’s all about love. And by “love” people mean “smiling at everyone, thinking everyone is special and He’s just a big giant teddy bear of a guy.”

Then comes reality. Luke 12:49 is a fine dose of reality.

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

Oh yes! This is the kind of God I can serve with my whole heart! Jesus is the judge of all on earth and He really wishes He could start now, now being about 2,000 years ago. How much more does He yearn for it today?!

While you’re out busy saving the world from cow burps, Jesus would like to toast it all. While you’re out making peace with the world, Jesus wants to get the judgment rolling. While you’re out celebrating the world’s entertainment and ideals, Jesus wants to kindle the fires of destruction.

Be careful claiming friendship with Jesus when you may not know who He is.

Pastor Prayers

I listen to a fair amount of sermons via the internet. I am greatly troubled by one area of these sermons that no one else seems to mind, certainly not the majority of sermonizers I hear. The way they pray is creepy.

Creep factor #1: They use a different, breathy, “I’m being very serious right now” voice. I want to strangle John Piper when he prays. When the prayer voice is different from the regular voice, that bugs me.

Creep factor #2: Oh the lengthy prayer. Wrap it up guys. I always wonder if these prayers are written. How do they seamlessly keep going and going like that? I know the Spirit intercedes and He is eternal, but He probably enjoys doing other things with His eternity than interceding on your one prayer.

Creep factor #3: The obligatory, “Get me out of the way so that You may speak through me” request. Although this sounds humble and terrific to say, it sure seems like the guy is bragging about the power He has to allow God to speak and how, since I just asked God to speak through me, whatever I say now is God, not me, so don’t argue with me about it.

I’m sure I am in the “wrong spirit” as I listen to guys praying, how dare I critique their prayer life. Well, I consider myself to be in good company.

Seasoned with Salt

The Bible talks about salt as a metaphor for Christian living. We are the salt of the world but if the salt has lost it’s saltiness it is cast out. The question that should enter our minds is: How do we stay salty?

This got me thinking about salt in the Bible. Observe, eh.

Genesis 19:26–Lot’s wife becomes salt
Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19–salt is added to burnt offerings
Deuteronomy 29:22,23–salt is used to describe a judged land
Joshua 9:45–sowing enemy land with salt
References to the Salt Sea–aka: the Dead Sea where nothing can live.

Seems to me the OT references to salt have to do with judgment. Does this fit in with the NT usage? Observe the brilliance, eh:

“For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
Mark 9:49,50

Fire obviously refers to judgment. Salt and judgment linked together!

So what does this mean for people who desire to stay salty? They submit themselves to the judgment of God in light of the time of judgment to come. They listen to what God says now, to avoid the judgment later. Salty people are people who apply God’s judgment to their life.

Note the context of the two other usages of “you are salt,” in Matthew 5:13 and Luke 14:34. The context of Matthew 5 is enduring persecution for Christ. The context of Luke 14 is denying self and cutting off offending members of the body.

Something to think about I dare say.

Proverbs 4-8

My sermon last Sunday talked about the wise woman in contrast with the foolish harlot of Proverbs. Folly needs marketing; wisdom just presents the facts, no marketing at all.

Obviously we know which one appeals to our flesh. Interestingly enough, the apostate church of Revelation is called the great harlot. Hmm, I bet a guy could make a fine sermon out of that fact.

Go here and take a listen.

Adam, Cain, You and Sin

The first sin committed in our world was unique. Sin had not yet entered the human realm. It wasn’t until Satan showed up that man even considered the option of not listening to God. Satan had to go out of his way to convince people to sin.

The next “sin of the Bible” is Cain. After God rejected his grain offering Cain got pouty. God shows up to talk to Cain, tells him that the issue is that he didn’t do what was right. It had nothing to do with his brother.

God attempts to talk Cain out of more sin, to rule over the sin that was lying at his door. We know the end, even after visiting with God Cain went out and killed his brother. But note the huge shift!

Satan tried to talk Adam and Eve INTO sinning; God tried to talk Cain OUT OF sinning!

This is evidence of original sin, of sin being natural to all sons of Adam. We don’t need much help anymore in convincing ourselves to sin. Now we need God, through the Spirit, to talk us out of it!

Let My People Go, Sometime

The Old Testament account of Israel’s redemption out of Egyptian bondage is a great allegory for salvation. Romans 6 says we were bought out of slavery to sin so that we may now bind ourselves to God as servants of righteousness.

What a great example and illustration to understand our freedom in Christ!

Unfortunately, the modern gospel has changed the facts. The modern gospel tells us that Christ merely changed our judicial standing; He didn’t really give us power over sin.

“We are justified but hey, we’re just like everyone else. We’re just heathen scum saved by grace so we’ll continue being heathen scum. In fact, our dedication to heathen scuminess actually shows our great faith in God’s grace.”

If this modern gospel message were true here is how the Exodus would have gone.

God hears the crying of Israel and has compassion on them. He meets Moses in a burning bush and tells Moses, “I want you to go and tell Israel that they are now free! Tell them they are no longer under bondage.”

Moses, a bit confused says, “Are you going to free them before I tell them this?”

“Oh no, Moses! I’m just going to tell them they are free. They will be free as long as they think they are free and yield to the mind games I’m playing.”

“So, you’re not really going to free them?”

“Well, when they are dead they’ll be free, but no, for now, still have to serve the Egyptians. BUT, and get this, this is the cool part, let them know I think they are free!”

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