Why Isn’t the Bible Against Slavery?

William Wilberforce got attention a few years back when Eric Metaxas wrote a biography of him that then came out in movie form. It was an excellent book, and an OK movie.

My favorite tidbit about Wilberforce is that every day as he walked to Parliament he recited Psalm 119. That’s a long Psalm with much similarity between all 172 verses!

Wilberforce is remembered as the guy who was instrumental in getting Britain to end the slave trade, even though it wasn’t abolished until after his death. No one can fault him there.

But how come Jesus or Paul didn’t end slavery in their day? The book of Philemon troubles people because Paul returns a fugitive slave to his master and tells the master to receive him back. Wouldn’t the Christian thing be to set the slave free? Perhaps send a letter of castigation toward the master?

The Bible not only tells slaves to remain submissive to their masters, it uses slavery as an illustration for our relationship to Christ! Why doesn’t the Bible speak against this horrible system?

One weeny answer is that slavery then was not like slavery in America. There is somewhat of a point there, but still, slavery means slavery, I don’t think this answer is sufficient.

The answer I give, which no one else finds sufficient either because of its implications, is that the Bible really isn’t overly concerned with these sorts of things. Whether bond or free, all need faith in Christ. Faith in Christ revolutionizes freedom and slavery.

The Bible is heavenly oriented, much to the chagrin of earthly minded folk everywhere. It speaks very little about government other than teaching submission, it speaks little against slavery, other than submission, it speaks out very little against most of what we’re most upset about in our day.

Christ was primarily upset about religion and religious leaders muddying the waters of truth. That’s pretty much the only thing Christ or Paul get worked up over.

Slavery is minor in their minds in comparison. This is a tough pill for us to swallow, yet I’ve yet to hear a better answer. Feel free to share one if you have one.

Christ the Slave Master

Slavery was a bad deal, especially in America. At best it involved indentured servants who worked off a debt until freedom was bought. But for most, slavery was a life sentence with no freedoms, rights or much of any hope.

Slavery is not a term to be thrown around loosely, it is an all or nothing word. When Paul speaks in Romans 6 about a servant of sin or a servant of righteousness, the Greek word is not the word “servant” but rather the word “slave.” It could be English translators are afraid of the word “slave?”

Whatever the reason for the softening of the word (servants had it much better than slaves), Paul means a slave, one bound with no hope of release, a life-consuming role and obligation with all the trappings of slavery.

We’re fairly comfortable talking about sin that way! It is an evil master, attempting to kill you while granting the false face of pleasure. But righteousness is a slave-master?

Many read Romans 6 as some sort of suggestion, “Well, yeah, we should serve righteousness, but you know, grace and everything, we don’t really have to.”

You can’t really do that with the understanding that Paul is referring to slavery. Guess what happens when slaves decide not to do their work? There are no choices.

Now, I don’t think Christ is an evil slave-master, using us for His bidding by means of whip and chains. But I do believe Paul sees himself as bound to Christ in this sort of relationship where he gives his all to do his master’s will.

That’s what a slave is. Sin is an evil master that does beat us; Christ is a good Master, but will also chasten when needed, but always for our instruction not our destruction. We are His property, we’re bought with a price, we are not debtors to the flesh, but to the One who owns us.

Slavery to Christ, there is no better slavery to be in.

When New Testament Books Were Written

Here is a chronological list of when New Testament books were written. Dates are based on rational scholarship not whacko, conspiracy theory, Bible-denying heretical wishful thinking.

James — A.D. 49
1 and 2 Thessalonians — A.D. 52
1 Corinthians — A.D. 55
2 Corinthians — A.D. 56
Galatians — A.D. 57
Romans — A.D. 58
Luke — A.D. 59
Acts — A.D. 60
Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon — A.D. 61,62
Matthew — A.D. 63
Mark — A.D. 63
Hebrews — A.D. 64
1 Timothy — A.D. 65
1 Peter — A.D. 65
2 Peter — A.D. 66
Titus — A.D. 66
Jude — A.D. 67
2 Timothy — A.D. 67
John — A.D. 85-90
1 John — A.D. 90-95
2 and 3 John — A.D. 90-95
Revelation — A.D. 90-95

You’re Welcome.

Shedding Blood to Strive Against Sin

Church History has a tradition of guys who would flog themselves for their sin. Their depravity drove them to despise themselves and beat or torment their flesh.

I’m of the general opinion that this is not a good idea. It must also strongly be stated that beating yourself for sins does not make up for the sin. Much of this tradition seems to have attached to it the idea of penance, or paying a price for your guilt. It will not avail in God’s court.

At the same time, I wonder if our soft Christianity could gain something from a little flagellation.

Jesus Christ said in order to avoid sin it would be better to cut your hands and feet off and gouge your eyes out. His view of sin seems much more severe than ours. Was He speaking metaphorically? Just another outrageous statement to get attention, or should we all be maimed?

Furthermore, there’s Hebrews 12:4, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Are we supposed to be striving against sin to the point of shedding our own blood?

Again, this shedding of blood does not make up for our sins and never could. But I wonder if we took sin seriously and fought it like a true enemy, disciplined ourselves severely over it, if we might not have more victory over it.

The Apostle Paul said he didn’t beat the air, but disciplined (literally means to hit under the eye, to buffet) his body, brought it under subjection (to be a slave driver), which seems to imply he used some sort of physical pain to keep himself from sin.

In our fear of undermining Christ’s suffering, or avoiding legalism or Catholic weirdness, perhaps we’ve also thrown in the towel against sin.

This is an issue between you and God and I’d encourage you to think on it.

Don’t Blame the Church for Your Pathetic Faith. Grow Up!

There is a growing hostility toward church over the last 20 years or so. People are frustrated by the Church not producing growth in them or some even blaming the Church for destroying their faith.

I’m aware of corrupt churches and the damage they can do and I in no way endeavor to belittle the sincere damage bad churches can do to good people.

At the same time, most churches are actually quite fine and perhaps the larger issue is a lack of responsibility by the individual believer. The incessant moaning I hear from people who “can’t find a church” or from people who claim “we aren’t getting fed” grows stale.

It smacks of the 35-year old guy blaming his mom and dad for all the problems he has in life. Yeah, it’s time to get over it and grow up.

Humanity loves to blame. Surely there is nothing I did wrong that was actually my fault. If my faith explodes it’s more fun to blame my idiot pastor than it is to take responsibility. When you see no spiritual growth over 25 years, it makes you feel better to condemn the fuddy-duddies in your church congregation for keeping you down, man, if I just had more contemporary music I would have flourished.

Grow up.

Get over it.

Scripture lays the blame for your spiritual health on you and you alone. Many cool, hip guys stay home on Sunday mornings bragging about how “we all have the Spirit and the Bible. I don’t need the Church.” You might be right, but the test of your rightness is whether you grow, not whether or not you feel cool.

The Church is described as the Bride of Christ. Ephesians 4 says it’s there to help build us into the perfect man Christ Jesus and keep us from being blown about by every wind of doctrine. That’s what the Bride does.

When you stand before God and He asks why your faith is so ineffectual, why you did so little, why you made shipwreck of your faith, I hope you have a better answer than, “The woman you gave me, made me do it.”

John Wesley on Revival and Riches

“Wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible in the nature of things for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”
–John Wesley

Rendering To Caesar and the Defense of Marriage

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s,
and unto God the things which be God’s.”

Typically this verse is brought up in sermons about the Christian’s duty toward civil authority–pay your taxes. That is certainly a fine application, one Romans 13 agrees with swimmingly.

But rarely do you hear any exposition on the other side–render unto God the things that are God’s. When you do, generally it goes like this–“Just as a coin has the image of Caesar on it, humans are made in the image of God. Christ is calling men to render their whole selves to Him.”

Again, fine point, one Romans 6 agrees with swimmingly. I imagine there is a lifetime of work to be done based on that application alone, and perhaps that’s why applications never go any further. But here is one more application to consider.

Christ is telling people to give Caesar Caesar’s stuff, pay your taxes, and following it up by telling people to give God God’s stuff. How often do we, as God’s people, give what is God’s to our civil leaders?

The defense of marriage, as an example. The Church, who is admitting it has no power whatsoever to defend marriage, is asking, nay, begging the government to enforce the Church’s view of marriage. I’m all for the defense of marriage being between a man and a woman, I am not all for the Church throwing their hands in the air in exasperation crying out to temporal, fallen leaders to enforce it.

Are we not rendering unto Caesar what the Church has been given by God? Do we sell out when we turn to government for the answers to our problems? I think we are rendering unto Caesar what is God’s and I believe we’ll get our comeupins as we continue to plod down this path begun by the Moral Majority and continuing to sink not only our culture but the Church.

The Church is the voice of righteousness, let’s not render this to Caesar.

Australia is Filled With Heathen Scum

New study out says the non-religious are taking over Australia. Apparently it’s because Australia is a swell place to live.

““We’re a nation that is very comfortably off and one that managed to ride out the global financial crisis,” said Carole Cusack, associate professor of religion at Sydney University. “Why would you need God here?”

Wondering what the Anti-Itch’s resident Australian thinks of this? Are Australians really that stinking content?

God Did Not Save You to do Great Things

The modern Gospel is a self-help pill enabling you to do great things.

The Modern Gospel saves your marriage, makes your kids grow up smart, keeps you rich and wealthy and oh yeah, after all this blessing you get to go to heaven! The Gospel guarantees you nothing but good times now and forever, just like Walt Disney dreamed.

In the end, this is no Gospel at all. When you can have Christ all else is dung, yet the Church continually tosses Christ out and offers the world piles of dung as the answer to their longings.

Christ did not save your soul so that you might “do great things,” Joel Osteen and Rick Warren not withstanding.

Christ saved your soul that you might bring forth fruit unto God. Fruit comes by doing good and doing good is what we are equipped to do in Christ and what we’ve been redeemed to do.

When we tell the world God has a wonderful plan for your life and wants you to do great things, the world hears “God wants me to be awesome! Which is awesome, cuz I also want me to be awesome!” God wants us all to be rock stars, living rich, standing before packed audiences of eager fans, and rolling in power, wealth and luxury.

The Gospel is about dying. We die with Christ and are raised up to a new life, a new life that has no interest in the old life or the old life’s affections and lusts. The world can never satisfy a man who wants Christ. Never.

The Gospel is not about doing great things; it’s about doing the only thing worth doing–serving God. This rarely looks like a great thing and typically looks like mundane plodding. We run with patience because it’s a long, hard race with little payoff until the finish line.

Criminals Believe In Heaven

There’s a study to prove everything.

That being said, a new study “finds that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime while people who believe in heaven more likely are to get in trouble with the law.”

I wonder if this has any impact on parents who believe positive reinforcement is the only method of discipline a child needs?

I also wonder when Rob Bell will get arrested.


Complexifying The Simplicitous

God is very complex and His ways are past finding out. We know this because He made females after His own image.

God is also quite simple and straightforward, fairly easy to generally understand. We know this because He made man after His own image.

We should be content to leave the complex parts of God complex, admit “I don’t know” from time to time and revel in God’s infinite majesty. At the same time, God revealed things so we could understand and we should be able from time to time to give a definitive answer about who He is and how He operates.

The problem is that most of the simple things simply revealed, are hard to swallow! The unrighteous go to hell. The righteous go to heaven. You reap what you sow. Every man is rewarded according to the deeds done in his body.

“OK wait, so what you’re saying is that I can be unrighteous and still go to heaven because of grace right? I know that’s what you really mean!”

Humans tend to complicate the simple and simplify the complex. Pretty much everything the Church is confident about is an over simplification of a complex issue. Pretty much everything the Church is wishy-washy about is fairly straightforward in Scripture.

Be aware of this tendency next time you hear a Christian definitively state a fact with a judgmental flair. Also beware anytime someone seems to be using too large of words and complex sentence structure to talk about any doctrine.

Stingy Christians

Charitable giving by professed Christians hovers around 2% of income. This is pathetic in so many ways.

I understand that for a majority, tithing is a law deed, a work of righteousness more than likely condemning you to hell for forsaking grace, but 2%?

My favorite line about tithe-rejecters is the one that goes–“Tithing is from the Law and they gave out of fear; we give out of love, not fear.” Which is real great because what does your 2% say about your love for God?

People who don’t give their money to help others are rejecting grace, since grace is giving help to others. If 98% of your income goes to you, it is very difficult to proclaim that you love your neighbor. Our money is one of the best barometers of how our faith is doing. Someone should write a book about this.

Evolution, Personal Responsibility, Economics and God

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

This is Paul’s way of explaining the concept of personal accountability. God won’t let you get away with stuff, He’s watching and what we do matters. Many try to deceive us and give us false hope based on notions of love or grace that God doesn’t care much about what we do, but don’t buy it.

The process of reaping what you sow is based on the creation account in Genesis–plants create other plants after their own kind. Apple trees bring forth apple trees. In the natural state of things you reap what you sow, no exceptions.

Which brings us to evolution, which says aspects of matter can somehow or another bring forth stuff not after its own kind–monkeys now make humans and amoebas bring forth frogs and fish bring forth alligators, etc.

The concept of reaping what you sow has been tossed out the window. One never knows what one will get with evolution, maybe an apple tree can bring forth a Cub’s World Series win, who knows?

As evolution has taken over our collective mind, is it coincidental that we are increasingly stupid and unaware of consequences? If we continue to hand out money we don’t have, isn’t there a chance we will still maintain an economy? If we don’t reap what we sow, if there’s a chance I can continue to be stupid and yet still end with smart results, can’t I just be stupid?

In the end, no, this is just a dumb theory I thought up, people have always looked for ways to avoid personal responsibility–look no further than Adam–the woman you gave me made me do it–and Eve–the serpent tricked me and made me do it. Evolution is not the cause of a lack of personal responsibility but rather a result, a handy way to help people feel better about their inherent idiocy.

Indeed, people are dumb, but be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will be called to account for your idiocy.

You Don’t NEED Your Pastor, John Piper, or Me

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
and ye need not that any man teach you

With the prevalence of sermon podcasts, Christian books and conferences with celebrity preachers, the verse above gets very little play. I’d like to give it equal time.

If you were stranded on a desert island with a Bible, knowing nothing about Christianity, what would you believe about God?

How much of what we believe we only know because someone told us? What do we assume about God based on what we’ve heard rather than on what we’ve seen in the Bible? Would there be any Calvinists or Arminians? Catholics or Lutherans?

The Bible is the completed Word of God that is able to fully equip us and provide all we need for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. You don’t need John Piper or me. You need the Bible and the Spirit.

Preachers don’t like to talk about this because then you won’t come to church or buy our books or read our blogs and then our self-esteem would take a major hit. We don’t need that. We’d rather convince you that we are the only ones with a grasp of truth and you really honestly need us, maybe even more than the Spirit, even though we’d never actually say that.

At the same time, Ephesians 4 says there are spiritually gifted men in the church who can bring you to maturity in Christ. The Spirit is the one who gifts these men, these gifts are not inherent to these men nor do they imply superiority or dependence.

What you need most is the Spirit, and never forget that. You don’t need all the books and conferences, although books and conferences can help, but also know that the Word of God is the only book you need, Not Calvin’s Institutes or Chafer’s Theology or Owen’s voluminous writings or anyone else’s.

In fact, the case might be made that we’d all have a purer knowledge of God without the influence of preachers. It’s a possibility. Many are more faithful to their guys than they are to the Word, to the extent they don’t even read the Word, they just rely on their guys. This is certainly a foreign concept to Scripture.

Only listen to preachers who labor in the word and doctrine, but don’t do this to the neglect of your own labor in the Word and in doctrine. Let em help, but don’t let em replace your own effort. There is a time and a need for isolation from outside voices and being still and hearing God.

The Spirit and the Word, that’s what you need. The End.

God Keeps Score

My son is nearing the end of his first season of Little League. Unfortunately for him, his team doesn’t think you should keep score. This is highly irritating. After each game, both teams go to the Snack Shack to get treats. While standing in line the entire time the teams argue about what the score was and who won.

Everyone goes home upset and angry at the other team because the other team said they won.  This is highly unjust.

Keeping score is a good thing. The reason I know it’s good is because increasingly, over-feminized wusses don’t want to keep score. Not keeping score is supposed to make things fair, but in the end ticks everyone off and leaves everyone feeling robbed.

God keeps score. God rewards people for their efforts. He pays people for their work.

No doubt, those three short sentences above have inflamed many a heart. “But, God is a God of grace! Everyone wins! There’s no difference! We’re all one in Christ! Grace means I can fail and still get an A!”

This is true in one sense–justification. In justification there is no reward or payment made. Salvation is not earned and God owes it to no one.

In everything else, God keeps score.

Reward is one of those biblical words many like to ignore in light of God’s grace. But the Bible, and Jesus in particular, talk about reward frequently. Reward is the Greek word misthos, which is defined as “dues paid for work, wages or reward.” It is always based on what a person does.

Matthew 5:12 those persecuted for righteousness sake will receive a wage for it

Luke 6:35 lend to others, particularly enemies, and you’ll get a wage from God

1 Corinthians 3:14 says that every deed done in service to the Church will receive a reward a misthos, a wage.

1 Corinthians 9:17-18 Paul talks about the reward, wages he’ll get from Christ for carrying out his apostleship

2 John 8 encourages us to keep going in the faith so we get our wages

Revelation 11:18 while God is bestowing punishment on the unrighteous He is paying the righteous

Revelation 22:12 says Christ is coming to reward/pay every man for his deeds.

Judgment Day is the ultimate score keeping. Judgment Day will declare definitively who won and who lost. There will be no arguing on the way to the Great Wedding Feast. Oh no! The Losers will know they lost and the winners will know they won.

Want to hear “well done good and faithful servant?” Better get busy now.

Does God Glorify You?

It’s a given that we are to glorify God, but as I’ve expressed in the past, much of what passes for glorifying God probably doesn’t.

The scene that appears in my mind is the singer who blasts out their praise chorus with the trilly singy stuff, putting on quite the show and then gets done and receives applause and breathily says, “All glory to God.” They may be sincere, I don’t know for sure, but it appears fake.

A guy walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope a couple of days ago and was miked up while doing so. He repeatedly gave glory to Jesus while doing this stunt. Was Jesus glorified by this?

Jesus says in John 5:41, “I do not receive glory from people.” He then says a few verses later, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and  do not seek the glory that comes from  the only God?”

Jesus does not receive glory from people even if you think you’re giving it to Him. I think we assume God needs us to glorify Him, that His godly self-esteem will take a hit if we don’t give Him credit for the power bestowed upon us to sing repetitive songs.

The bigger point, the one Jesus is concerned with in John 5, is whether we are concerned with doing things that receive glory from God. Why God would glorify us is one of those ponderable aspects of grace, yet the Bible is clear we are to shoot for doing things that God glorifies.

You may think your singing or writing or speaking or cooking or whatever, is you bringing glory to God. But have you ever considered whether God is glorifying you for what you’ve done? This seems the bigger question to Jesus and perhaps should be bigger for us too.

The Student is Not Above His Teacher

Everyone knows that Jesus said “the student is not above his teacher” and we’re all good with this. We don’t mind Jesus being better than us, in fact, we might even revel in it. “I don’t want to be too good, I might infringe upon my teacher’s place.”

Perhaps we even use such a statement to defend sin and our mediocre Christian life. “Jesus didn’t expect much out of me anyway, He’s better than me and that’s the way it has to be. He has low expectations and I don’t mind meeting them.”

Perhaps we should read the rest of the verse beyond this phrase. Allow me to quote:

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained
will be like his teacher.”

Oh wait, I can’t use this as a copout for lazy living?

None of us will ever get close to being greater than our Teacher, but there is a chance you can be like your Teacher. The purpose of the Spirit’s work is to grow us into the perfect man Christ Jesus.

We too often gravitate toward the biblical phrases that seem to give a pass to our mediocrity while skipping those that call us to perfection. Jesus wants us to be like Him, it’s pretty much the main point of all He has done and provided for us.

Why we don’t want to be like Him is another story.

The Continuum of Faith

Faith is a real happy thing to talk about until it comes to practical application. One of my children attended a kid’s ministry thing at another church a while ago and came home and told me what the application was of each day.

Goodness. I shudder. I tremble. I worry. I rejoice my child sees through it for now.

“Faith means trusting God. With God all things are possible. If you’re scared to walk down a dark street, pray and God will protect you.” I cringe. Last Monday a guy prayed before our church softball game that God would prevent injuries. I hate it when people pray that. Inevitably someone gets hurt in those games. Indeed, one of our best players is out for a couple of weeks.

Sigh. Does anyone think about these things? I think there is a continuum of living out faith and it goes something like this:

Faith—————————–Common Sense————————Testing God

Faith at its best defies logic. Israel, the smallest nation with hardly any weapons repeatedly defeated stronger enemies. Makes no sense and they looked dumb for trusting God. Until they won.

Common Sense is acting on applied logic and predictable laws governing our world. Want to reap? Then you gotta sow.

Testing God is the extreme and almost goes full circle back to faith, as all continuums are really circles. Testing God also defies logic, but acts out of accord with God’s character.

So, let’s apply faith–leave your doors unlocked. Is this common sense? It might be depending on where you live and what’s going on. Or it might be a matter of faith. Then again, you might just be testing God and relying on Him to supernaturally protect your house when He gave you locks.

There are so many issues this applies to and is really where faith becomes fleshed out. I can’t answer all the scenarios, this is just what I’ve observed to this point. I know we should avoid testing God and I know God gave us brains and predictable laws that govern our universe, and yet, at what point do we step out on faith?

One man’s act of faith is another man’s common sense. One man’s act of common sense is testing God for another. We’re all in different spots in our faith and we need to remember to treat each other with grace as we figure out what the life of faith looks like. If God wanted my life to look just like yours, He would have made me you.

I can’t answer the questions, but I can ask em quite well!

The Idiocy of “The Spirit Told Me” Defense

I have read a couple of books by two guys who diverged into a new theology of the rapture. What they believe is not important enough to get into, nor is it the point. When the one guy started believing this new thing he was fired from the ministry he was on and it caused waves.

Both men write books with the same tone–passive aggressive, in your face while behind your back, backed into a corner look how cool and lone rangerish we are while being so humble, and maintaining the ever so sweet “the Holy Spirit gave me this light while you wallow in darkness and I only pray that He sheds His light on you too so you can join us in our angsty coolness.”

It’s really quite irritating.

Doctrinal divisions are necessary and yet generally always look stupid because the people involved have this assurance of rightness while maintaining an assurance of fallibility, but mostly in others. The timing of the rapture has some implications, but it smacks of guys arguing calls in church softball–honestly, does it matter that much?

Apparently one of the positive points of arguing is that both sides get to feel important and embroiled in vital controversial matters. Each side stays up all night studying and praying and feeling godly, and then they smash each other with their take on how God came through for them.

I don’t mind doctrinal disagreements, but I do mind when people take a high road with their opinions. The claims that “the Spirit showed me this” are used way too much. If the Spirit truly showed all these people all these things then everyone would be in agreement.

That’s not to say the Spirit doesn’t teach people doctrines, He does. Doctrines are also “taught” by misreading the Bible, using poor translations, applying sloppy reasoning, not having enough information, having bad teachers, and various and numerous other causes.

How does one know if the Spirit has taught you something? That’s a tough one to answer. Seems to me all that the Spirit does is to grow the believer into the perfect man Christ Jesus. Any doctrine that leads to ungodly living is not from the Spirit and, even more mildly, any doctrine that does not lead to growth in Christ is wrong.

But we will disagree even on what this means. That being the case, everyone should drop this “I prayed and the Spirit taught me so shut up and listen to me” stuff. It smacks of papal infallibility. Stay humble, admit you have been wrong in the past and quite possibly may be again. In the end, drive yourself and others to fellowship and growth and even more so as we see the day approaching.

The Economics of Demons

Economics is founded on supply and demand. If someone is making a killing selling Chicago style hotdogs, look for more Chicago style hotdog vendors to pop up. If someone is offering sauerkraut coated chicken liver croissants that never sell, don’t expect much competition. People compete when there is a market.

The Jews seek a sign, evidence that their Messiah has come. Jesus came doing the prophesied signs. There was much demand for these signs and people followed Jesus everywhere to see Him heal and multiply food. Signs were making a killing in 1st century Israel.

That being the case, you better believe there will be competition: enter the demons. Satan cannot create or heal, but he can destroy and kill and do so in fantastic ways. Want signs? Satan can give you some signs.

Demons and their signs have fallen off in our age just as the miracle signs of the King and His Kingdom have fallen off. Towards the end of the age miracle signs will come back. Revelation talks about fantastic miracles taking place and lo and behold, Satan and his demons come back to compete for attention.

During the intervening time between Christ’s departure and His almost return, our age is marked by the fruit of the Spirit and love, things that are not honestly in demand. Satan has little to compete with and so is not putting on any shows.

When the church is incompetent Satan’s job is easier. Wouldn’t it be fun to be in a church that Satan had to compete with? I dare say it would be more exciting than the average Sunday now.

Economics of Preaching

God has ordained preaching as the means by which people will be saved.

“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe”

Preaching is a foolish thing. No one likes to just sit and listen to someone talk at them. Who are they to be up there talking, all know-it-all like while I sit and say nothing? I have valid opinions, why don’t I get equal time?

To exacerbate the problem, the content of the preaching, the cross, is also foolishness.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness”

This is a double whammy against Christian preaching–the method and the message are both foolish to the world.

Economics is driven by supply and demand. If people don’t want anything (no demand) they won’t pay for it. Christian preaching is not in demand since preaching is boring and the cross is foolish. Therefore, Christian preachers struggle to make money.

Shouldn’t preachers get other jobs then? Consider the words of Paul the Apostle, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” This is in a larger context of paying your minister. Preachers of the Gospel should be dependent upon the Gospel for a living.

Now Jesus, this just isn’t fair! You demand that those who preach the Gospel should get paid for it while also establishing that preaching and the message preached are both foolish and things that no one really wants! Thanks a lot!

Enter Church History. In order to get people to go to church to hear preaching that they don’t want, churches have outlawed church skipping, used peer pressure, guilt and coercion to get the seats filled. Modern churches have all but eliminated preaching and replaced it with entertainment.

We have more people in church today than ever before and yet never before has there been so little preaching. The economics of preaching don’t make worldly sense. Becoming like the world is not the answer; living by faith is.

Do we really have faith?

The Economics of Forgiveness

Economics is based on supply and demand. During our current world-wide financial meltdown, it is on display that government economics tries to bypass supply and demand, causing untold misery for many.

When it comes to forgiveness of sin there is wide demand. All are sinners, therefore all need forgiveness.

When it comes to the source of forgiveness, the Bible tells us Jesus is the only Way. Therefore, the supply of forgiveness is relatively small when compared to the many outlets seeming to offer forgiveness.

The economics of forgiveness are:

Forgiveness is high in demand–everyone needs it
Forgiveness is low in supply–only One offers it

That being the case, forgiveness should be terribly expensive.

There are two ways to think right now:

1) It was expensive, it cost Jesus His life
2) It is cheap, salvation is a free gift

Economically considered, the cost the forgiver goes through to provide forgiveness would raise the cost of forgiveness the sinner should have to pay! The cost to make the product should be reflected in the price. So now forgiveness, being high in demand and costly to produce, should be even more terribly expensive to the one who needs it.

But grace throws economics into turmoil at this point. The limited, highly expensive to produce Forgiveness is a free gift to all who need it, which is everyone.

This makes no sense. This is also why the Protestant Reformation had a conniption over the abuses of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, knowing they had the market cornered on forgiveness, sought to charge lots of money for people to purchase it.

Luther’s pronouncement that justification was free, not bought, moved us back in the right direction. Yet still today churches are getting rich off God’s short-sighted financial sense–How can we buy bigger buildings and better video technology when God’s program inherently does not involve money?

Grace makes no sense and costs no cents. Grace will continue to blow your mind no matter how long you look at it. We should tremble at the giant, free gift ready to be lavished on us.

He is a good God. Fear the Lord and His goodness.

People Are Dumber Than Rocks

Stones have an interesting role in the Gospels. Seriously, they do.

–God can get children from stones
–Satan tempts Christ to turn stones into bread
–Stones would praise Christ if people didn’t
–Christ prophesies that not one stone will be left on another in Jerusalem
–Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected
–First thing the resurrected Christ did was roll the stone out of the way

Amazing what a central role stones play in the story! Who knew inanimate objects could do so much? Perhaps the only other inanimate object that outdoes them are trees–Jesus was a carpenter’s son, Zaccheus climbed one, Christ was crucified on one, etc.

The amazing thing about stones is that they always do what their Creator tells them. They topple, they roll, they would even praise God if and when God tells them to. Rocks always do God’s will.

Don’t be dumber than a rock.

Praising God for Human Effort

We are to be thankful for everything. All good things come from God.

With these foundational assumptions, I want to look at this a bit more.

There was a hotly contestant election in my state last week. The candidate who outspent the other candidate by seven times won the election. During his acceptance speech he thanked God for his win.

I often wonder, when people chalk up their wins to God, if God really had much to do with it? I know, sovereignty and all that, but that’s not my point. We also reap what we sow. A guy who works 120 hours a week to buy a fancy house, car, pool, and everything else, if he gives God credit for all his stuff, is that right?

When the Bible shows God providing, giving a win, it always occurs in a fashion that makes obvious it wasn’t by human means. Gideon takes an overly small army, Hezekiah didn’t do anything but pray and thousands of Assyrians fell over.

David was made king and didn’t even get his dad’s vote. Abraham refused payment from others so they couldn’t take credit for his coming wealth. Prophets are despised guys who picked fruit or watched sheep. Moses couldn’t talk.

By using these weak guys through weak means, God shows His provision. When we focus our entire life on making money to get stuff and then give God credit for our stuff, I think we perhaps are using His name in vain.

If a guy won an election by spending no money, making no ads, and doing very little at all in the way of human wisdom and won, then, perhaps, God had something to do with it. Then again, Jesse Ventura got elected governor of MN and I’m quite sure God had nothing to do with that.

Anyway, something to think about.

Are All Parts of the Bible Good for Kids?

“For by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

“I had not known sin, but by the law.”

I’ve been reading the Bible with my son for several years now, starting when he was about four. We read more today than we did back then as his reading ability and attention span have increased. We’re up to about a chapter a day.

I will admit that certain portions of the Bible I make sure I read out loud and I do skip some things. Human grossness is on display in the Bible, certain sins are described in fairly good detail that I don’t want him hearing.

Am I horrible for editing God’s Word? Isn’t all Scripture profitable for him?

I don’t know.

Do I really want to have a discussion with my boy about bestiality? Do I really need to explain rape? I imagine some day I will, but at nine?

The law stirs up sin. Kids generally don’t think of evil stuff until their mom says, “Don’t start the cat on fire.” Wow, starting the cat on fire! Who would think of that? But now that we’ve been informed what sin is, boy howdy, where are those matches?

Parents need to use discretion when it comes to reading disturbing portions of Scripture. Use your own judgment as to what your kid is ready for. Those who are careful about letting kids watch television should be just as careful when it comes to reading about the very same acts taking place in scripture!

At the same time, if your kid is nearing adulthood and still doesn’t know how babies are made, Scripture will provide fairly good sex-ed. It’s one thing to be careful and wait for when you think your kid is ready to be educated, it’s another thing to keep your kid’s head buried in the sand.

Sin is gross, but it’s also the reality they will face. No sense forcing them into all sinful realities too early, but there’s also no sense in pretending sin doesn’t exist.

If you are facing this issue, pray about it. Be honest about sin and our fallen condition with kids. Apologize to them when they see you sin. Don’t just lecture them about sin, do they hear you ask for forgiveness? Read the Bible with them. Let them ask questions. Be as Job and intercede for your kids, they’re not as innocent as they can look. Use the Bible as though it were a two-edged sword in the hands of a child. They need your help, that’s why you have them.

(If you like this post, you may also enjoy my previous endeavor into the earth shaking question: is it OK to read the Bible in the bathroom?)

%d bloggers like this: