Sports Blog

One of my new ventures is doing a sports blog with my sister. It has nothing to do with theology, or at least very little. It’s a nice change for me! Arguing theology does get old, whereas arguing sports is just fun because it doesn’t matter.

My sister is a hilarious person who destroys teams by cheering for them. I’m just a loser who understands how to lose, why it happens, and how to enjoy it. Feel free to check it out.

And, no, I am not interested in any theological musings about how pastors shouldn’t participate in or enjoy sports. Romans 14. Peace.

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

Anti-Itch Meditation Final Exam

Thanks for the kind words guys. I appreciate it. Makes me feel gooey inside.

Frank asked for a final exam to test whether you’ve graduated from my school. It’s a one question final, answered with one word. Here it is:

When it comes to verifying what the Bible says, don’t forget the _________. (The answer is not the Holy Spirit, as I assume that answer)

Happy Birthday

Today is the “birthday” of the Anti-Itch Meditation blog, January 17, 2004. Eight years I’ve been doing this.

I am going to take a break.

It’s been eight years of think out loud theology, weighing peer review, and the daily discipline of writing, some writing more theological than others.

I’ve enjoyed the time, but I might be done with this venue. My viewership is higher now than ever, which means this is the stupidest time to do this. But being stupid has never prevented my actions in the past, why start now.

The blog format is enjoyable but also limited. I am considering other ventures and will keep you posted if any evolve. Don’t hold your breath.

Thank you.

Test the spirits. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;
but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Christ Coming in Clouds

Eschatology, like most -ologies in Christianity, is a debate filled subject. The Book of Revelation is key to the debate. Three main ways of reading it have taken over:

1) Interpret it as literally as possible
2) Spiritualize the text
3) Read it as fulfilled history, written by guys who feared the Roman government so cloak their meaning in allegory

I go with number one here. When we look through Bible prophecy concerning Christ’s first coming they are fulfilled literally. He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He rode in on a donkey. He was wounded, hands and feet pierced, buried with transgressors, etc.

This is a sufficient enough key for me to read other prophecies as literally as possible as well.

Scholarly types like to bash this form of interpretation. It’s too simplistic, you have to be a dolt to believe that. Fine with me (see 1 Corinthians 1-3).

Recently I heard one of these scholarly types bashing the literal interpretation of Revelation 1:7, which says in part, “7Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” The “scholar” proceeded to say something along these lines with the accompanying guffaws:

“Some morons actually think Jesus is going to drop out of the sky! He’s going to hover down on a cloud elevator.” Oh, hahahaha, that’s so funny! Stop it man, you’re killing me!

My words will not change his mind, nor your mind if you agree with his take, but allow me to quote some Scripture to aid the understanding. If you have a problem with Scripture, you can take that up with God. I didn’t write the Book, I just read it.

Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Doubts and the Doubting Doubters who Doubt Them

“We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ,
the Son of the living God.”

My LORD and my God.”

These are two of the greatest declarations of who Jesus Christ is.  These declarations were given by Peter and Thomas.

What do Peter and Thomas have in common?

Both of them have tainted testimonies of doubt. Bashing on doubters is great fun for those who are secure in their security. Weakness loves it when strong people trip.

Their ability to state who Christ is so powerfully and succinctly may just be due to their doubts. People who doubt say some dumb things, ask some stupid questions, and struggle where most others push through without pause.

But doubters often get their questions answered and once the doubt is removed, a strong, enduring faith takes its place. Granted weakness may come back, as Peter demonstrates, but Peter learns through it all.

Doubt should not be something the Church is afraid of. Doubt should be taken as opportunity to point people to God’s Word, the strong bearing the infirmities of the weak. At some point you might be the weak or the strong.

Doubters often have different experiences in life than you do, so their doubt lies in different areas. Those who cast off doubt immediately often end up in lethargic, ignorance, too afraid to know where to go.

John the Baptist doubts in Luke 7, but he has the faith to go to Christ with his doubt and Christ graciously relieves the doubts. Let us be likeminded. Have the faith to doubt, but take care of the doubt, don’t wallow in it. Ask a question. Seek the Lord. Be gracious to others who have doubts, too.

Hating Sin = Loving Grace

Grace is favor from God. Some take this favor as license to sin. Since they think God’s grace has forgiven them, actions diminish in light of abounding grace. I appreciate the applause for grace, but cringe at the application.

Shall we sin that grace may abound? No. Turning grace into lasciviousness is equal with denying the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

If you like sin, being taught to not sin doesn’t seem like much of a favor!

It is not until one grows in understanding of the offense of sin that one can truly see grace abounding.

Once grace is grasped, sin loses its lustre. Sin’s slow death in our actions creates rejoicing in God’s grace.

Those who speak of sin lightly because of grace merely show their ignorance, lack of faith, and trample under foot the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have no desire to stop sinning, then you have no desire for God’s grace.

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Lion of Judah is a Metaphor, He’s Not a Real Lion

Was reading a book written in 1692 talking about Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. He was speaking primarily in regards to the intercession of Christ for believers and he says,

“They say, lions are insomnes, they have little or no sleep; it is true of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he never slumbers nor sleeps, but watches over his church to defend it.”

I certainly agree about the assertions of Christ, but lions never sleep? Pastors are notorious for using false sermon illustrations, even pastors from the 17th century.

I’m willing to give him a pass on this one, the information available about lions in the 17th century is not what we have available today. A quick internet search tells us lions sleep up to 20 hours a day, which is about as far from insomne as you can get.

I will also give him a pass because he begins his statement with “they say.” Passes the buck to “they,” which is also a good pastor move.

Anyway, be careful out there. I’ve also discovered this guy’s verse references don’t always say what he says they say. When in doubt: check!

The Coolness of the Elder Serving the Younger

The elder shall serve the younger is a common theme in the Old Testament (that big section you have to skip to get to “the good stuff”).

One of the best examples is young Joseph being chosen to save his older brothers resulting in their worship of him. Amazing turn of events that makes no human sense. David, the youngest, was chosen over his older brothers to be king. Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau wrap up the Top Four examples.

I always thought it was just God messing with people, showing that His wisdom is the opposite of man’s wisdom. Keeping people on their toes so they don’t take things for granted.

But I recently came across an idea I think has some weight to it, see if you agree.

We are all born in the flesh and then we are called to be born again, or to be spiritually reborn. Our spirit is thus the younger and the flesh will always be the older. But by the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness and by the Spirit that puts to death the deeds of the flesh, the older flesh will be in submission to the younger spirit!

I like that. I’m sure this is not original with me, I sort of kind of saw it in the writings of Thomas Watson, but he did not elaborate, sort of just mentioned it in passing. That’s a cool deal though!

7 Reactions to Love Wins

I finally read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. Here are my thoughts.

1) He doesn’t say there is no hell. “Hell is a refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.” Here is what he means (I think): heaven and hell are both present in God’s party. We either choose to join in the party and have fun, or else be mad about the party and be miserable (based on the prodigal son parable).

2) He doesn’t say no one goes to hell. “Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t.”

3) As far as I can tell he believes God will continue to show His goodness to people indefinitely and more than likely everyone will respond to it and receive it, even if the offer is after death.

4) Bell does a good job ignoring about 9/10 of the Bible in inventing his theories.

5) His main motive seems to be to have a good story, to have a respectable gospel that doesn’t make God look angry or like a consuming fire. He is hyper-concerned with impressions and what people think of Christians and our gospel, which is fine, but his answer falls flat.

6) Seeing that some go to heaven while others burn for eternity does “not make a good story.” Whereas eventually seeing everyone saved because God is so loving is “a better story,” according to Bell. Hollywood would disagree. Most movies contain the good guy wiping out the bad guys.

7) The odd, disjointed, confused Gospel that exists today is the main reason he wrote this book. His introductory chapter is all about the various contadictory and unbiblical gospel appeals that are made. I agree with his objections, but not his answer.

In the end, I don’t like this book. He ignores any scripture that would even remotely conflict with his point. His doctrines are humanistic in nature rather than Bible driven. I think he misses the boat on many an issue and spending less time trying to impress people would do him well, as it would all of us.

Christians and Good Works

Three prevailing opinions about Christians and works exist:

1) Do, do, do! If you aren’t doing, doing, doing you aren’t a good Christian
2) Relax man, nothing really matters, it’s all grace, chill out and just be, man.
3) An awkward middle ground where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to do stuff or not, or if Jesus i,s or what do I do to let Jesus do things if I can’t do things because Jesus is mad when I do, but if I don’t do when He’s doing then I mess it up, but if I don’t do anything then is it Jesus not doing anything and on and on.

There is a fourth way.

4) Humbly acknowledge that Christ knows more than you so consent unto the Words of Christ and faithfully and humbly obey.

If you’re a believer this will be your joy, peace and liberty. If you’re an unbeliever and you try to do what Jesus says you’ll just get frustrated, give up because frankly, righteousness aint worth it.

Grace does not mean an absence of works. Grace teaches us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. Because of grace Paul says he labored more abundantly than anyone.

In the end, Paul acknowledges it was grace working in him, but he also claimed that he was indeed the one doing the stuff and that all will give an account for what they do in the body.

Obeying Christ, to the born again believer, is no chore and is certainly not legalism. To the unbeliever it is a chore and legalism. The difference is whether Christ is in you, whether you’re a spiritual creation.

This is inadequate but it’s an effort on my part to explain the reality of Christian living. It’s a great thing. There is no greater feeling than knowing you’ve served your Lord. Being resistant to serving Him, to find a theological loophole for lethargic, sinful living, is a danger sign.

Christ’s Sufferings Aint Done Yet

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

It’s a fine thing to say that Christ took all the sufferings for believers. Except if this were the case the Church would not have persecution, either that or the Church really is not the Body of Christ.

Paul suffered in the Body and claimed to be filling up the sufferings of Christ. Commentators are quick to tell us these sufferings are not meritorious or expiating sins, which I’d more than likely agree with.

But I think we throw this out without thinking on it. The literal translation is that Paul’s sufferings filled up the “deficiencies” of Christ’s sufferings. Christ’s sufferings were not complete in His physical, flesh body, He has more to endure.

Believers, being in the Body of Christ, suffer with Him. In fact, if we do not suffer with Him we won’t reign with Him, it’s akin to denying Him. If you’re in the Body you will suffer.

I’ve heard many well-meaning believers claim that Christ suffered so we don’t have to. I fear this goes too far. I fear it eliminates the realities of being in the Body of Christ. I fear it leads to Joel Osteenesque false doctrines.

Let us be careful and correct in our pontificating about Christ’s sufferings. We die daily, we take up our cross, we mortify the deeds of the flesh, and this leads to suffering and it’s necessary for all members of the Body.

Is it worth it to you?

Hearing God’s Word–Doctrinal Beliefs

There are two camps that many doctrinal people fall into:

1) Mob Mentality
2) Lone Rangerism

The comfort of both is that it frees you from accountability, at least it feels that way.

When you believe what everyone around you believes and you isolate yourself into a pack of like-minded exclusivists you lose accountability because you’re just going with the crowd. You get lost, individuals are gone as they all quote their guys and no one has had an original thought for eons.

Lone Rangers are on their own, no one can keep them accountable because they’ve so isolated themselves from others they can’t hear anyone. They’re only interested in being alone and being right in their own mind.

Both lead to insulation and, frankly, heresy.

There are verses in the Bible that floor me, probably not as much as they should, but still, think on these and see if you and your church line up with this mentality.

Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Unfortunately, this verse sums up Christianity. What’s more important–the glory of Christ or the glory of solo/mob rightness?

Hearing God’s Word–Believe It

I’m reading a book that tries to figure out why some people survive and others die in life-threatening situations. His basic premise is that emotions rule our intellect.

As an example he refers to scuba divers found dead with their air masks off but air in their tanks. This happens frequently. When people panic and can’t  breath, emotional experiences in the past tell them to rip off things that cover their mouths.

This is normally good, but not when the thing covering your mouth is an air mask and you’re in water. Everyone knows you can’t breath underwater, but emotions overpower logic.

The key to surviving these life-threatening situations is to overpower emotion with what you know. Unfortunately, in crunch time, your emotions are strong, leading to this sentence, “We think we believe what we know, but we only truly believe what we feel.”

Emotional experiences concretize our beliefs. That’s why people think household remedies work–my emotions tell me they do, and for me, it worked, I felt better, so I believe orange juice in abundance cures sore throats.

Doctrinal beliefs are no different. We gravitate toward doctrines that solved emotional issues for us. It matters little if the Bible actually says it, it only matters if I feel it matters.

We gravitate toward the feeling we got when our mentor told us “the key” to solving an emotionally taxing dilemma. We stick with his answer no matter how many people point out its error.

This is a dangerous thing. It can be life-threatening in survival situations. It may also be eternally life threatening when emotional beliefs trump God’s Word.

Hearing God’s Word–Act on It

Christians are deathly afraid of doing stuff.

First of all, what we do might be sin and we know enough to know we shouldn’t sin. Christians try to convince ourselves that sin isn’t a big deal, what with grace and everything, but we can’t avoid it, we know it’s wrong, and we feel guilty.

But secondly, we also know works of righteousness can be deceiving. When we do good we might just be acting “in our own strength.” Perhaps we are becoming self-righteous and presumptuous. Next thing you know, we’ll rest on our good deeds and think we deserve salvation.

This puts us in a real bind. Christians are fully convinced that not only should we not do bad, we shouldn’t do good either, and in fact, doing good might be worse! At least if you do bad you might come under conviction! Remember the Pharisees!

Sin is a much safer bet than doing “good works” of the flesh that might lead to pride, assurance, and yet lead to hell.

Listening to God has now become infinitely perplexing. We know we should listen to God, but what part of me is listening? What if it’s my flesh that’s listening and not my spirit? What if it’s just me working and not Christ working in me? What if I’m becoming a legalist? What if the Bible just turns into a list of rules to follow then? Am I Catholic? Am I earning my way to heaven? Oh, light a candle for me world, light a candle!

Ok, let it out. You’ll be aw-wight. Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s quite simple really. Do what God says. Doing what God says is never wrong. When your doing is wrong, God will show this to you, correct you, and get you going right again.

Avoid stagnation and the fear that keeps you from the simplicity that is in Christ. James 1 says to listen to the word of God how a man uses a mirror. Don’t just glance in the mirror to see boogers, use the mirror to eliminate the boogers.

Knowing what God says and not doing it is sin. It’s wrong. Don’t over think it. Read the word, hear the word, and do the word.

Hearing God’s Word–If at First You Don’t Succeed

Abraham is the Bible’s classic example of what it means to have faith. Faith means listening to God. James makes it clear that faith means doing what God says. Paul does too, just with more doctrinally, floaty words.

Guess who we like better?

Abraham takes flack for impregnating another woman in trying to get the son God promised. His wife can’t conceive, so wife suggests Abraham try with another woman. “Oh, fine idear, hon,” Abraham says and gets to work.

Lo and behold, it works! Abraham gets his son that God promised! Ishmael is a big kid, practically an adult, when God shows up and tells Abraham that’s not the deal, the real son comes by Sarah.

God never mentioned how the promised son would get there. Abraham, if anything, shows great pluckiness in acting on what God told him–how else are sons made?

Abraham knew he needed a son so he went about getting one. Sure he didn’t do it right, sure Ishmael is trouble, sure Abraham probably shouldn’t have done that, but at least he was listening.

What has God told you to do that you haven’t even messed up trying to do?

Two Quotes on Calvinism

Here are two quotes about Calvinism I share just for the sake of stirring things up again and then moving on as if I said nothing, because I said nothing, I merely quoted, although I wish I had said them because I heartily agree with the sentiment in both quotes.

1) Calvinists are the only people proud of total depravity.

2) “They who believe most in total depravity seem to think it has influenced their [theological] system the least.”

7 Thoughts on Reading the Bible in a Year

The beginning of a new year brings with it the talk of Christians planning on reading their Bible in one year. This makes me think:

1) I can’t believe how many Christians have never read the Bible. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God and few Christians have actually read the Word of God, hmmm.

2) It amazes me that usually during this conversation about reading the Bible in a year it is mentioned that they didn’t read it last year even though they started.

3) The Bible is clear that making vows to God and not keeping them is risky business.

4) How can a person who wants to read the Bible in a year not do it when it requires you to read 4 pages a day (based on a very large print Bible)? Four pages a day is too rough for us?

5) I know many people who have read the Bible many times who seemingly never heard anything those words said. Just reading the book doesn’t mean God was heard.

6) There is no magic in reading the Bible in a year. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us to read the Bible in a year. Most of Biblical History covers a time of illiteracy.

7) If you have never read the Bible cover to cover when it is so readily available, you are mentally capable of doing so, and you do so much other junk with your time, you should not call yourself a Christian. How can you call yourself something when you don’t know what it even means?