Church Growth

“Consider the first Pentecost. If the church in Jerusalem had “cast a vision” of doubling in size that year, they would have been short by almost eight thousand souls.

So what should we do? Trust in the Lord and serve him with gladness and singleness of heart. He’ll provide the growth when it’s time.”

From Milton Stanley

Religion is for Stupid People and I am a Stupid Person

The other night I watched a documentary, Kumare, with some folks from church about a guy who was raised Hindu. He had many questions about his faith, first and foremost being: isn’t religion a racket?

He decided to see if he could become a guru and invented his own form of Eastern religion and presented himself as a guru from India with the secrets to life. In reality he’s a guy from New Jersey seeing if he can fool people into following him.

Lo and behold, he finds it quite easy to get followers. The documentary is disturbingly fascinating, funny and well done. It is also frightening just how easy it is to find gullible people to believe anything.

You will be left wondering if he will reveal his secret and how his followers will take it until the very end, and I won’t spoil it for you.

All religion has the element of the ridiculous. Christians believe God became flesh and died and rose again and we now have Him living in us. This sounds ridiculous and isn’t far removed from much of the “god is in you” stuff of Eastern religion.

Now, Christians, since we’re right, think people of all other religions are stupid, but alas, much of what we believe is stupid as well (read 1 Corinthians 1-3–the wisdom of God is foolishness with man–Christianity has built into it the fact that people will think it’s stupid!).

People are wired to believe. We are wired for religion. We like ritual, secret power, lighting candles, singing together and jumping through religious hoops. It all makes us feel swell.

The fact that we are so gullible in this area (even atheist Richard Dawkins said it is possible aliens created our world), proves that there must be something here. The problem is to decipher through it all what religion is the true one.

For me, I go with Christianity and the Bible. I do so because the Bible is unique. When you read what is in it (not reading it once, but like 25 times), you see that no man would come up with this. At every popular human notion the Bible goes 180 degrees opposite.

I love that. The down side is most humans think I’m an idiot. I’m OK with this. Judgment Day will reveal the morons for what they are.

Everyone is a fool; might as well be a fool for Christ.

God’s Judgment of Sodom had Little to do With Homosexuality

1) Homosexuality is a sin, the Bible is clear on that.
2) Homosexuality is not worse than any other sin.

Although most Christians understand point one (although the numbers are decreasing as more decide words don’t mean what they say), few seem to get point two.

The destruction of Sodom is pointed at to show just how bad homosexuality is. However, never once in the Bible will you find homosexuality listed as the reason God destroyed Sodom.

What you will note, is that the reasons given for the destruction of Sodom sound a lot like the sins of Christians! Allow me to illustrate with two verses.

“They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.”

A major point against Sodom is how public their sin was. Their nerve in demanding a guy hand over his guests to they can have their way with them, THAT is what got to God! The sheer lack of shame instead replaced with proud, maniacal, unbridled, put on display lust.

Here’s another verse that makes Sodom’s sin very clear.

“This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

I would like you to note that in this list of Sodom’s sins, homosexuality is not listed! Not even hinted at. Instead, what is listed is:

1) Pride
2) Fulness of bread
3) Abundance of idleness
4) Not helping the poor and needy

Those were the sins Sodom was punished for! They were proud, fat, lazy people who didn’t help the poor.

I’m just curious how the church has decided this wasn’t God’s point in judging Sodom when this is what God said His point was, and instead the church chose homosexuality.

Curious, no?

There is Not a Just Man on Earth: So Now What?

“For there is not a just man upon earth,
that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

I remember memorizing this verse in fourth grade. It’s a good verse to memorize, has a way of humbling a guy.

As much as I am for memorizing verses, one problem I see now in my “old age,” looking back at a youth spent being made to memorize verses, is that most of these verses are memorized completely out of context.

Now, just because I learned Romans 6:23 and Romans 3:23 out of context doesn’t mean the verses don’t mean what they say. They do, I just wish I had some context.

Perhaps a new term I will invent instead of memorizing verses is “memorizing context.” I will ban all learning of verses without context. If the context is a chapter long, well, memorize the chapter then!

Again, it’s not that a single verse can’t necessarily be understood by itself or used by itself, but we miss so much when we blow the context. Take the verse that began this post from Ecclesiastes.

OK, great, everyone sins. Now what? What was his point in bringing that up? The point I always heard is this proves how much people need the Gospel because everyone sins.

That point is valid, but it wasn’t the point in Ecclesiastes! Here is the context of the verse in Ecclesiastes. Allow the context to give you an application. Go ahead, click here and read it.

Seems to me the context is like this:

Everyone sins, so don’t get too high and mighty about how righteous you are.
Everyone sins, but don’t go crazy into ridiculous amounts of it.
Everyone sins, so don’t listen to everything people say about you.

I wonder how comes when I was in fourth grade memorizing “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” no one taught me the context?!

The Bible has a lot of editors; very few followers.

The Printing Press, The Internet and the Rise of Hate

If you’ve ever done any reading in Church History, you will note that the guys writing around the time of the printing press debut were really nasty!

Luther is famous for his foul-mouthed diatribes against rival theologians, Jews or anyone else who stepped on his foot. Many of the theologians of that time were unbelievably harsh with each other.

This article points to a similarity in the ease of publication, the rise of hate and the eventual cooling off with a new communication device. They propose that the internet is one nasty place, but steps are being taken to make it more civil.

We are a people set upon being inventors of evil things, or at least inventing things we can be evil with. Self-control is the watchword for a day of sinning with ease.

The Two Adams and Love

Jesus said the two greatest commands were to love God and love your neighbor. Paul says love is the fulfilling of the law. Love is like a big deal and stuff.

But why? Why is love the greatest commandment? How does it fulfill the Law?

If you go back to the beginning when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were told not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They had a perfect relationship with each other and with God. Love ruled.

Then they ate from The Tree, sin entered and death by sin. Everything changed.

Adam and Eve hid from God, showing that their love of God had taken a hit

Adam, when called upon by God to account for his sin, said, “Hey, the woman you gave me made me do it!” He blamed his wife, showing there was now trouble between them. Their love for each other had taken a hit.

Sin was in and love was gone. In order for there to be true love there must be a reckoning with sin. In order to love God your sin must be dealt with since no unrighteous person will see God. In order to love others, sin must be removed–you must be willing to forgive and be willing to stop being annoying.

Love covers a multitude of sin. Love and sin are enemies of each other. They can’t both be there. The First Adam and his bride Eve illustrate the down side of sin and love. The second Adam Christ and His Bride the Church illustrate the upside of sin and love.

Which Adam do you prefer? Then live in that one!

Bring Back Boring Churches! NOW!

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although I did not understand anything that occurred during physics class in high school, I know what this means.

It means we are a people constantly swaying from one stupid extreme to another!

The American church got stuck in a rut. We became dry and changeless, like how most people view God.

So along came some folks who decided to spice things up. They chucked preaching, chucked hymns, chucked buildings that looked like churches, chucked names of churches that sounded like churches and various other things creating our modern hip church.

Well, guess what? Seems there is increasing push-back! Go figure! Who would have guessed that?

Well, I, for one, did. Glad to see I am part of a growing movement by having not moved anywhere!

“But I want a church where I know and feel that the adults are in charge, where wisdom trumps enthusiasm, where historical perspective is considered, where depth is valued as much as breadth, where stories have shaped us for generations.”

God’s Will and Being a Benchwarmer

When I was in junior high I got a basketball hoop for my birthday. My dad put it on the garage and, after that, most afternoons were spent shooting hoops. I became quite good. I even mastered the “Shoot and roll along the telephone wire into the hoop 3-pointer.”

Problem was, when I had to shoot with a person defending me, I had no idea. I tried out for the basketball team in high school for three years, none of which saw me get much varsity playing time. My JV games were entertaining if not pathetic.

The bottom line was: I couldn’t play basketball with defenders on me. However, at the time that assessment was too harsh.

I began to find people to blame for my lack of playing time. I blamed the coach. I blamed the next coach and the next one. For some reason, each of the different coaches I had deemed me inept. Did this mean something? Yeah! Hello? Can you say “conspiracy?”

I knew that the coaches fraternized with certain players’ parents making it all but impossible for me to get any playing time. I even knew of one instance where a mother went and told the coach to play her son, AND HE DID! Proving my conspiracy and allowing me to maintain my basketball awesomeness being thwarted by conspiratorial jerks.

Looking back 20 years later, there was no conspiracy. There was no one at fault. There was just me and my inability to make a jump shot unless I was left completely wide open.

This has particularly dawned on me now that I have kids and I see them using the same conspiratorial logic. “It’s not fair!” Is the rallying cry of all losers.

Sometimes things aren’t fair and sometimes they are brutally fair. Regardless of the fairness (which you might not be equipped to judge anyway), your results rest firmly in your own hands.

Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow. This is a law of nature God has built into His system. You can deny it, ridicule it and beat your head against it, or you can deal with it and make adjustments as needed.

This conspiratorial logic exists in evangelical Christianity. We whine that we don’t get what we want/need. God isn’t blessing me how He should. We chalk it up to a spiritual sounding “It’s just God’s will” fatalism and trudge along.

I wonder how much of our ineffectiveness is actually our fault rather than God’s unfair will? I’m guessing at Judgment Day we will discover the truth when we give an account for every deed done in the body.

As our forefather Adam once said when called on about his sin, “The woman you gave me made me do it.” He blamed God. He blamed the woman. It certainly wasn’t his fault.

Except in God’s eyes, it totally was. I imagine this means something.

Scientology, Al-Qaeda, Christianity and Legalism

Going Clear is a new book covering the life of L. Ron Hubbard and the growth of Scientology. I enjoyed the book so looked up other books at the library by the author, Lawrence Wright. I got another book by him, The Looming Tower, about the start of Al-Qaeda and the lead up to the bombing of the World Trade Center.

Both books deal with a religion I consider to be false. Both books show unbelievable dedication to The Cause by their adherents. Osama bin Laden, although living in caves and in a house that looked rather dumpy compared with our American housing, was a millionaire many times over.

He chose to go without stuff so he could give more money to his cause. Scientology, which is mostly known because of a few actors, is a brutal religion for the common man, leading to slave labor and severe chastening for those inside it.

It is amazing to me what people will go through for a lie. At the same time, it amazes me that Christianity, possessors of The Truth (not facts specifically but the person of Christ) is best known for license and materialism.

Now, I need to be careful here. I am not saying the Christian life should look like the life of an Al-Qaeda member, nor are Al-Qaeda members our example. There is a reason why Al-Qaeda kills people it hates and Tom Cruise goes crazy on Oprah’s couch.

Externally driven legalism results in people going crazy.

The practical, regular consequence of Christian faith will mess with your physical life. All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We do see that we cannot serve God and mammon, so we depart from the lusts of the flesh and spend our money on showing love to others rather than selfishly on our desires.

False religion takes a shortcut. They begin with self-inflicted torment and call it “spiritual.” Christianity begins with spiritual rebirth and then grows you into Christ where indeed you lay down your life as a living sacrifice as Christ did for you.

Living in poverty while donating money to a religious cause might just mean you are a moron. If you burn your body or sell all you have to feed the poor, and yet have no love, it profits you nothing in God’s eyes.

Beware the trappings of false religion that puts the focus on the external.
Beware the trappings of false Christianity that never once makes you change the external.

Why I Care That No One Cares About You

I was made fun of a lot as a kid. I am cross-eyed and can’t see real well. Kids pointed this out to me regularly. Looking back, however, I bet the times I was made fun of were a lot less than I think.

When you are ridiculed enough, you begin to act in a ridiculed manner, you feel made fun of whether anyone is making fun of you or not. You take innocent statements or looks and imagine what was really meant, and it is all bad.

I remember being told, “Jeff, no one is really paying attention to you, don’t worry about it. Everyone is thinking about their own insecurities.”

Yeah, right.

Now that I’m middle-aged, with three kids of my own, I realize that yeah, actually, no one is paying attention! There are times I wish I could go back and do things over, then I remember the stuff I had to do and am glad I can’t!

But seriously, I changed as a person because of my internal battles with what I thought others thought of me when all along very few were thinking about me at all.

Unfortunately, this tendency to not think about others is carried on into adulthood. People just don’t care. This is good in that negative people can be ignored. This is bad in that we lose out on opportunities to show love and compassion.

The Bible reveals that God knows our thoughts, our standing up and our sitting down. He cares. If believers are transformed into the image of Christ, and Christ is God who showed compassion and many, how much more should we care for others?

I know today has a lot of stuff going on in it. You have many concerns, perhaps you are sulking in, “Yeah, he’s right, no one cares about me.” But that’s not my point.

The fact that no one cares about you, and you are so awesome, imagine how little others not so awesome are cared for!?

Rather than letting this delve into a pity party, learn how nice it is to have someone care. Ask a question of someone. Not just, “Hey, how’s it going?” But listen, find the concerns and ask about them. Ask a follow-up question two days later. Give em a little something to encourage and help.

Perhaps you think you’re the only one alive whom no one cares about. Nope, take the most popular person you know, the most outgoing and friendly person, and I guarantee they’d admit how few people seem to care about them.

How am I doing? Well, I’m doing fine. What do I care about right now? That awesome post I wrote yesterday that cracked me up and yet it seems as though no one cares how awesome it was. Feel free to share it with others! Thanks!

Top Ten Ways to Deal With Verses You Don’t Like

One of the problems with the Bible is that it was written by God. Now, I know, having a book written by God is supposed to be a good thing, and it would be, if God agreed with us more.

But God’s wisdom is the opposite of man’s wisdom, therefore, when you read the Bible you will encounter many a verse that might inconvenience your beliefs and actions.

Rather than going through the inconvenience of changing beliefs or actions, it is easier to convince yourself the verse actually doesn’t mean what it says. I have been a Christian and been around Christians for a long time now, and I know the best ways to loophole your way out of inconvenient verses.

So, for the laymen out there, for those who haven’t yet learned the secrets to avoiding anything in the Bible that remotely causes you pain, inconvenience, bloating or any other mild reaction, here, as a service to you, are the top ten ways to avoid biblical conviction.

1) Start messing with Greek and Hebrew. Sure, you never took any classes on it, but one time you watched Fiddler on the Roof and you used to belong to a sorority with those Greek letter names so, you’re good. Just act like you know what you’re doing and say, “Well, according to the Greek this word actually means. . .” and off you go.

2) Bludgeon your verse with all the verses that can remotely be taken to mean the opposite and thus convince yourself that God only meant this side of the story, not the one that causes you trouble.

3) Forget the Bible and just quote some white guy you agree with who lived a long time ago.

4) Allegorize, allegorize, allegorize! Remember, any word can be the right word if any word can mean anything. Marrying a divorced woman is adultery seems problematic, until you understand that this was an allegory for God’s relationship with fig trees and how fig trees with no fruit are cursed and therefore we can know that cursed fig trees are what He is talking about with divorce. I know, on the surface this makes no sense, but don’t worry about it, it’s just an allegory, which means you can just keep changing it over and over.

5) Invent new definitions. After a while the new definition will be the old definition! For instance, grace used to mean “favor,” until the definition was changed to “undeserved favor.” Now, “undeserved favor” is actually the definition!

6) Read verses really quickly so that you “accidentally” replace inconvenient words with better ones. Keep saying it that way without looking it up so that eventually you memorize your words rather than God’s and then things are cool.

7) Whatever verse you don’t like was actually not written to you. You live in America in the 21st century, there is no way, some camel riding Jews from 4,000 years ago knew anything about you or what you need.

8) Bash men. As you may know, no woman had any part in the writing of Scripture. Now, as we all know, men are complete idiots. You’re going to trust a bunch of men to tell you what’s up? I think not. Men don’t even ask for directions. Ask Moses! It took him 40 years to walk a few hundred miles, and I have to listen to his ideas? I think not.

9) Cut and Paste. Remove verses you don’t like from the Bible. Stay away from all expositional, verse by verse preaching. Follow the example of one of our Founding Fathers and actually cut verses out you don’t like. Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter, baby!

10) Stop reading the Bible! No one reads that dusty, old book any more. Get off your high horse, exit the ivory tower and come live with the rest of us. You will soon find out that the Bible loses all power over you when you stop paying attention to it.

Do Jews Believe in Original Sin? Nope

I am preaching on Romans 5 tomorrow and the bit about Adam and Christ. I’ve been doing some reading in church history in preparation, including the debates between Augustine and Pelagius.

Augustine is the first “Church Father” to discuss the concept of original sin, which is mostly based on Romans 5. Their debate took place in the early 400’s. Up to that point no one really mentioned it.

Which got me to thinking: what is the Jewish view of original sin? Based on my extensive research (Typing “what is the rabbinical view of original sin” into Google), Jews do not believe in original sin.

here are a couple links:

****”Judaism believes that each person is born innocent. Jews believe that individuals are responsible for their own actions and that “sinning” occurs when someone does something wrong.”

****”The term “original sin” is unknown to the Jewish Scriptures, and the Church’s teachings on this doctrine are antithetical to the core principles of the Torah and its prophets.”

****”The concept of original sin is rejected, and every person has the ability to choose good or evil.”

Not that this necessarily means anything, I was merely curious. I am no longer curious.

Why Religious People Kill

The Boston Bombers have been dealt with now. I found an interesting tidbit on the older guy’s bio. He did an interview at some point in which the following was said,

“A devout Muslim, he said that he quit drinking and smoking. “God said no alcohol,” he said to Hirn. “There are no values anymore.” He added that he worried about people who couldn’t control themselves.”

This caught my attention. Rather odd having a guy who tried to blow up a marathon have a problem with other people’s morals. Later in the day I was reading a thing about a formative member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb.

One of the formative things in his extreme Islamic views was spending some time in America where there were no morals. He was outraged by the looseness of American women and the general lack of virtue in American culture and at the same time, self-satisfied with his abilities to resist it.

So, he responded by trying to kill people.

Self-righteousness kills. When we see our own virtue we have a heightened sense of others failings. This contrast, my superiority mixed with your inferiority, leads the superior one to get angry with the inferior.

As you may recall, Jesus once said being angry with someone without cause is right in line with murder. There is a short step between self-righteous superiority and killing people.

Religion does indeed have a nasty history of harboring violent people, and most of this violence comes from riders of high-horses. It was the self-righteous who crucified Jesus.

This is not a shocking revelation to anyone, we all know the dangers of self-righteous people. We talk about them all the time and how evil they are and how un-self-righteous we are in turn.


How much anger is nothing more than comparing perceived righteousness? Jesus says you don’t even have to blow up a pressure cooker for you to be guilty of murder, just have the feeling. Self-righteousness is no fun without the feeling and it’s the feeling that condemns.

Fight it before you end up on the nightly news being shot in a boat.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”

Nothing Really Matters, Anyone Can See, Nothing Really Matters Except Everything

So, if God didn’t curse your disobedience nor bless your obedience, would you listen anyway?

Seems to me that’s sort of how God is currently working. Yeah, we get our come’upins, we reap what we sow, natural consequences for actions, but we don’t experience the ground opening and swallowing the guys who challenge us. Nor do we get the blessings of prosperous gardens for going to church.

God’s judgment in this age seems to be on delay, stored up for future judgment (Romans 2:5). Bad guys get away with being bad and good guys seem to just get more junk dropped on them. And life goes on.

God’s silence has lead many to believe He just doesn’t care, nothing really matters, so do whatever. But I don’t think that is the case.

I am a firm believer in “nothing matters” as far as how Solomon meant it in Ecclesiastes. Life is filled with one vain activity after another. Don’t get too hot and bothered by any of it, because it won’t last and it’s all smoke anyway.

But at the same time, what we do matters! Virtue matters. Love matters. We will be judged on all the deeds done in our body, therefore, one has to conclude that everything our body does matters.

The sticking point comes in figuring out what exactly makes stuff matter. How can it not matter and yet matter?

Everything on this planet will pass, therefore, nothing matters.
Everything a person does will impact his/her eternity, therefore, everything matters.

Physically speaking–nothing matters.
Spiritually speaking–everything matters.

The fact that God has declared all physical things of secondary value–set your mind on things above, not on things of this earth, the soldier of Christ does not entangle himself with the affairs of this world, etc–means He is not intervening physically to get our attention as much.

Our spiritual successes or failures do not determine our physical state. If you look at your physical state as being the most important thing to you, then you’ll think spiritual things don’t matter because they don’t influence what you think is important.

But spiritual things do matter and you will find this out on Judgment Day very clearly, when all physical things have passed beyond your senses.

God is currently testing our faith–If listening to God doesn’t matter to your physical existence, do you still love God and value what He values enough to listen anyway? “No man can serve two masters” means something.

Oromo Bible Project

Frontline Missions is a cool organization. There intent is to get missionaries into the most hostile places possible. They have put out a series of DVD’s that show some of their work, all of which are excellent. They have a new one coming out in a couple weeks.

One of their current projects is the Oromo Bible Project endeavoring to get the Bible to the Oromo people of Ethiopia. If you’re looking for a solid organization to give money to, this is a good one.

Oromo Bible Project from Frontline Missions International on Vimeo.

Other Bombs in the World

While America mourns its latest bombing by singing Sweet Caroline at baseball games, this sort of stuff is rather typical in other countries. Here are just a couple other bombings that happened this week that you did not mourn nor sing Neil Diamond songs about.


Iraq’s Bloody Monday: 75 Killed, 356 Wounded
by Margaret Griffis.
April 15, 2013


Officials: Car bombs in Iraq kill 9 people,
Associated Press  Monday, Apr. 15, 2013


Taliban Kill Seven Afghan Civilians, Four Soldiers
by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 April 2013, 06:12

 Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have killed seven civilians with a roadside bomb and cut the throats of four Afghan soldiers kidnapped while traveling home on leave, officials said Wednesday.


Officials: Attacks across Afghanistan kill 24
By AMIR SHAH Associated Press
Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013

Roadside bombs and insurgent attacks killed dozens of people in five separate attacks across Afghanistan as violence steadily rises during this year’s spring fighting season, officials said Wednesday.

KABUL, Afghanistan Roadside bombs and insurgent attacks killed at least 24 people in five separate attacks across Afghanistan

Thanks to Onesimus Files for the info and perspective.

Laughing in the Face of Tragedy

About three years ago I ran a marathon. I did all the training and things were going great. I felt totally prepared to run the 26.2 miles.

When race day came I was so excited I hardly slept the night before. As the race began I kept telling myself to go slow, don’t overdo it. But I couldn’t! I was flying! My time at the halfway point was excellent.

Then it all fell apart. It was devastating. I cried. I moaned. I hyper-ventilated. I was in a pit of despair as my legs had nothing for the end of the race. By the time the race was over I had nothing. It was awful. Oprah Winfrey ran her only marathon faster than mine.

As I sat watching the bombing footage at the Boston Marathon with my wife on Monday night, I couldn’t help but utter, “Well, at least I’m not the only guy whose legs blew up at the end of a marathon.”

Why do we laugh at tragedy? When a person makes a joke about something like this, someone inevitably says, “It’s too early,” as though time makes it OK to joke about dead people. But apparently it does.

I remember when the space shuttle blew up with the teacher on board and the jokes at school about the last words of the teacher asking the astronaut, “Hey, what does this button do?”

Is humor wrong at these times? Probably. We weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Rejoicing with those who weep is wrong. Making the comment about my legs blowing up to my wife might be OK, but if I go public with that, particularly to people who did have their legs blown up, that would be wrong any way you look at it.

Probably the horror expressed at others who laugh in the face of tragedy is just righteous indignation at the incident foisted on someone closer we can be indignant at.

There is something about death and tragedy that makes for good humor. “Time heals all wounds” they say, and healed wounds make good jokes. No doubt, one of those runners who got his leg blown off will make jokes about it in the future. Maybe even now. But that doesn’t mean I should.

Humor is a tricky thing. I can laugh about aspects of my dad’s death almost 7 years later, but if you joked about my dad’s death? Not funny. I believe God gave us humor to deal with tragedy, it has gotten many a person through the time that heals.

At the same time, misplaced humor can devastate and make matters worse.

“If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.”

Arminian Problem With Calvinism

“I have seen a few posts lately from Calvinist blogs about why people reject Calvinism. One Calvinist blogger stated that the real reason that people reject Calvinism is because we are prideful and want credit for our own salvation.

“The real reason that we Arminians reject Calvinism is the character of God. It is not our pride. It is not our love of free will or any other mockery. It is simply that we find the character of God to be loving and good in the Bible (as Calvinists would agree) and from that we believe that He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

“Further, free will flows not from man being prideful or the center of our theology but from our view that God created us with the capacity to be free moral agents who, through His grace, choose to love Him and worship Him. A forced relationship is not a loving relationship.”

Read the rest here.

Brennan Manning on Faith

“Perhaps we are all in the position of the man in Morton Kelsey’s story who came to the edge of an abyss. As he stood there, wondering what to do next, he was amazed to discover a tightrope stretched across the abyss. And slowly, surely, across the rope came an acrobat pushing before him a wheelbarrow with another performer in it. When they finally reached the safety of solid ground, the acrobat smiled at the man’s amazement. ‘Don’t you think I can do it again?’ he asked.

And the man replied, ‘Why yes, I certainly believe you can.’

The acrobat put his question again, and when the owner was the same, he pointed to the wheelbarrow and said, ‘Good! Then get in and I will take you across.’

What did the traveler do? This is just the question we have to ask ourselves about Jesus Christ. Do we state our belief in Him in no uncertain terms, even in briefly articulated creeds, and then refuse to get into the wheelbarrow?”

What we do about the lordship of Jesus is a better indication of our faith than what we think. This is what the world wants from our rhetoric, what the man of God longs for in shepherds -daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burnt in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony we are.”

–Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 171

When Will the Madness Stop?

It seems nearly every week there is another tragedy with people being killed senselessly. There are two questions the media repeats over and over as they report the same thing for 48 hours:

1) Why did this happen?
2) What can we do stop tragedies like this in the future?

These questions are not that difficult to answer.

1) Because people are sinners and do dumb stuff.
2) Nothing.

But I understand these answers are not at all consoling. They don’t feed enough of our conspiratorial brains and are too bluntly true and obvious, which no one wants. Instead, we seem to like these answers best:

1) Because that group you hate (Muslims, right-wingers, environmentalists, Yankees fans, etc) is filled with hateful people and they, no doubt, did it because they are so hateful, which makes your hate virtuous. What we do know is that the people who did this are evil and we are not and we’d like you to go along with that.

2) If people ban together, educate themselves, get on the right drugs, pass the right laws, prosecute all groups that we hate, vote for my candidate for president, or any other number of proposed solutions to all societies evils, we can indeed undo death and sin.

Seems to me, based on my observance of media, this is how we want these questions answered. We truly want to believe there are innocent people and if we enforce laws right we can completely obliterate sin.

The only answer to eliminating death and tragedy is for Jesus Christ to return, let His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is no other answer.

I don’t mean this as in–people need to go to Church. Nope, even if all America went to church there would still be tragedy and death.

What I mean is actually residing in the Kingdom of God, where there is no more curse, where man’s sin has been eliminated and dealt with fully.

Until then, there will be death and tragedy, as much of a bummer as that is, this is our world, the one we’ve devolved into.

I know this is hopeless and all good Christians reform the world, but hey, call me a bad Christian if you want, but it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.

I can’t eliminate tragedy, death or sin, but I can help you get ready for your own death and judgment. That should be our main concern–readying ourselves and others to stand before God.

Cliched answer? Probably, but it’s the only one that makes sense to me. This world stinks; it’s why we need a new one. I can’t wait.

The Old Testament Exists so We Can Know God

The first 39 books of the Bible, referred to as “the Old Testament,” record God’s dealing with the beginnings of humanity and mainly His dealings with the Nation of Israel.

Adam and Eve knew God well, but when they sinned their relationship with God changed. Then they had kids, one of whom killed the other. Presumably, they had never been told not to kill. There is no record that Cain had any dealings with God before killing his brother.

Thus begins God’s progressive revelation of Himself to a people who did not know Him. The OT shows that God is a person with feelings, actions, thoughts and desires. There is no doubt that God takes what we do very seriously.

At the same time, there is no doubt that God is willing to forgive and be patient, merciful and gracious. If He wants to be with people, He kind of has to be!

Many today relegate the OT into oblivion. It has nice stories, we can gain principles, but mostly it’s just there for illustrating lessons for kids. Cain and Abel–be nice to your siblings. Abram and Lot–let old people choose land first lest God turn your wife into salt. David kills Goliath–with God you can do anything, even defeat giants, and other trivial, non-sensicals we pass off to kids as “Bible lessons.”

But the New Testament (everything between Matthew and Revelation) tells us that the Old Testament was written for us.

Romans 4:23-24–“it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;But for us also,”

Romans 15:4–“whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,”

1 Corinthians 10:11-“all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition,”

When wilderness Israel whined about God’s menu choices, many were killed. They weren’t killed for their instruction, they were dead! Dead people can’t learn. They are dead for us to learn.

Are we to sacrifice animals then lest God kill us? Should we build a temple? Should we take over Jerusalem? Should we build an ark?

The answer is “no.” God’s progressive revelation involves shifting programs and different groups of people He’s dealing with. This seems fairly evident and is admitted by all believers, if not in word then certainly in deed.

So what’s the point of reading Leviticus? What’s the point of reading Jonah? What’s the point of reading genealogies in Chronicles? Why bother reading the wackiness of Judges?

If you’re looking for tell me how to pay off my mortgage quicker, or how can I have better sex in marriage, or surefire ways to raise good kids, you will see no point in reading the OT (except Proverbs for the raising kids bit).

In other words, if you’re looking for how the OT makes you a better you, there won’t be much point in reading much of the OT and I think that’s why it gets neglected–we just don’t see what this has to do with me, me, me like everything else in my life.

But if you want to know God, if that’s your desire, the OT is a treasure trove! And you will very quickly learn that God desires our obedience, no matter what age we are in or what people group we belong to.

The God of the OT is pretty straightforward, and He’s the same God we have today.

The Gospel Exists so We Can Know God

God reveals Himself so that we might know Him. The Gospel, a primary aspect of His revelation, was given so we might know Him.

Before Adam and Eve blew it, they knew God perfectly. They enjoyed close, personal fellowship with God. After the Fall not so much–they hid and eventually were kicked out of the Garden.

Adam and Eve then had kids who, presumably, did not know God the way their parents once did. So, God began revealing Himself progressively.

Alongside Creation and Scripture, the Gospel of Jesus Christ–His life, death and resurrection–reveals God the most.

Unfortunately, most view The Gospel as that thing that saves me and that’s it. The Gospel shows up and then I believe it, get out of hell and then the Gospel fades away as a nice thing Jesus did for me once.

The main point of the Gospel, however, is not merely getting you out of hell, but getting you into the presence of God. The Gospel is here so that we might know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.

It is unfortunate that we leave the Gospel once we’re saved and don’t see that it’s true power is in bringing us to God where we can fully know Him.

Yes, you do get saved and you do get out of hell, but the essence of the Gospel, it’s true reward, is that we will be with God and know God for eternity!

We will be like Him for we will see Him as He is! Your desire for that kind of salvation will be revealed even before your physical death as you begin to put to death the deeds of the flesh by His Spirit and come alive to the new creation in Christ that you are.

This is Gospel Life. Life that doesn’t begin after death but begins at conversion. We are placed in Christ and God takes residence in us! The Gospel is so you can know God.

The Responsibility of Being Graciously Forgiven

Paul explains our basis for forgiving others in Ephesians 4:32, “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

How does Christ forgive?

If you owe someone a debt, there are two ways this debt can be forgiven:

1) You can pay it off.
2) You can be released from your indebtedness by the grace of the loan holder.

If Christ forgives us after we have worked off our debt to Him, we would then only be responsible to forgive those who have worked off their debt to us. Forgiveness is straightforward and not that difficult.

If, however, Christ forgives by having mercy and compassion on us, seeing our inability mixed with our acknowledgment of that inability and looking to Him for mercy, we are forgiven.

Christ’s forgiveness of us is based on grace. God gives grace to the humble. Humility acknowledges inability and puts complete confidence in another to help. To deny this point is to miss one major theme of Scripture.

Christ’s died for the sins of the world. The potential for all to be saved is available to all who come to His grace through faith. If this is the way Christ forgives us, this then must be the way we forgive others.

We are ready to forgive all, and as much as it’s up to us, our forgiveness is sitting right there and is our outlook on others. This forgiveness is only received by those who want to be forgiven, however. I can’t forgive someone who refuses to be forgiven even if I am totally ready to forgive.

The fact that Christ forgives us in this gracious way puts a heavy responsibility on us in how we forgive others. Being forgiven due to working off debt is much easier to apply to others! But if I am to forgive as Christ forgives, wow, that’s rough–I have to do all I can to forgive all offense, even to personal injury.

One more reason why we need the indwelling Spirit and the transformative power of the Gospel!

Walking Away in a Marital Argument Aint Always Bad

“Never walk away when you are in an argument” is not one of the worst bits of marital advice I’ve ever heard, but it is close to the top.

Walking away is better than saying really dumb things. I have found this out through some degree of trial and error.

Walking away can be therapeutic, but make sure the walking away is ended at some point.

Yesterday I mentioned that “forgive” is from a Greek word often translated “leave.” An example is in Matthew 18:12, “if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?”

That word “leave” is the word also translated forgive.

Recently my wife and I were “discussing” something and although we were not arguing, we were not effectively communicating. I was not getting what she was saying and we were both getting frustrated at my inability to follow her train of thought.

Because her thoughts were on a taxi at the time.

I was getting frustrated after finally thinking I had understood what she was saying, only to discover I was nowhere near. I stood there with lots of thoughts running around my head, none of which my brain deemed helpful to share.

Instead of a multitude of things I could have said, I went with, “I’m going to go run now.”

As I ran I processed what happened, realized I was at fault, realized what odd emotion in me caused me to miss her point and formulated a three point outline to resolve the issue and/or beg for mercy.

It worked fantastically. I have used this strategy in the past and found it to be quite effective. Remove yourself, go talk it out in your brain, pray, admit your fault, devise a plea for leniency and move forward.

Just walking away won’t help. The walking away has to be for a purpose, to discern truth and to get true with your emotions and thoughts, bringing them under captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Forgiveness is leaving something for a walk in the mountains, so says Matthew 18:12 (sort of). Go for a walk with God, get yourself right with Him and then with the one you need to forgive and/or the one who you want to be forgiven by.

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