Today’s Signs that the End Draweth Nigh

A fun diversion to do while waiting for college football games to start, is to scan the news headlines for evidence that Christ is about to return.

I come from a dispensational, rapture before tribulation before Millennial Kingdom, eschatology. This is, by far, the best eschatology to have for finding scary evidence of Christ’s return.

According to this eschatological view, the world will slip into apathy concerning Christ, if not hostility, with many falling away. There will be a one-world government with a united religion and economy. When the antichrist enters, he will forbid people to buy or sell unless they have his mark on them.

This is rich ground for finding signs of the times. Observe, just from today’s headlines:

–“Microchip implants like the ones pet owners use to track their dogs and cats could become commonplace in humans in the next decade.” And it will all happen because they offer “several advantages” to our buying, selling, and “security.”

Henry Kissinger says we need a new call to a New World Order as he observes all the turmoil, tension, civil wars, and strife around the planet. “A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration.”

–“Ecuador is planning to create what it calls the world’s first digital currency issued by a central bank” As the dollar ceases to be the currency of value, expect to see a new currency step in to that role. Tie it in with the internet and microchips and you’ve got a antichrist buffet of opportunity.

Russia is coming back. “President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”” Dispensationalists have long believed that Russia, the bear from the north, will be a major player in End Times events, messing with Israel to the end.

Meanwhile, this is what the American government is up to–“The U.S. Forest Service on Friday published a nearly 700-word article on how to safely roast marshmallows, all in preparation for Saturday, which is National Roasted Marshmallow Day.” Although I can’t find any verses on this, surely this must be a sign of The End. Some dispensationalists have wondered why we don’t see America in End Times prophecy. I have never wondered this. We’re going down. But at least we’ll know how to roast marshmallows safely while our New Rome burns to the ground.

Three Dangers Churches Face in Falling Away from the Gospel

There are three times Paul worries that one of his churches will make his labor vain. There are three contexts for his worry. They are worth a little consideration.

Here are three things Paul says these churches need to do to not vainitize his work in them.

1) Paul worries that the church in Galatia will return to works of the law, or to the empty religion of idol worship. In both cases–OT law keeping or idolatry–they will leave the Gospel and focus on works of the flesh that have no profit.

Although few in the church need fear someone entering the church telling them to be circumcised, churches often fall into legalistic, empty, flesh-centered religious ritual. This sort of thing sucks out spiritual life, breeds conformity to group identity, and leads many astray from God to follow traditions of men. Neither is helpful in maintaining spiritual growth in a church.

2) Paul worries that the church in Philippi will become lax when he leaves their presence. The Philippian church loved Paul. They were the only church to send Paul a monetary gift. They even did this three times! This is cool, but it also worries Paul. Perhaps their devotion is more to him than to Christ. What will they do when Paul leaves?

Pastors can be cool people, trust me, I know. They can really help you out. Co-dependency is a danger in here though. Pastors become needy of attention and praise, while their parishioners become needy of answers, guidance, and someone to blame. Churches need to carefully discern whether Christ is the head of their group, or is a guy heading it?

3) Paul worries that the church in Thessalonica will be tempted into dropping out. First Thessalonians is allegedly the first book Paul wrote. It’s a young minister preaching to a young church. It’s exciting, it’s cool, and it’s also tough. Persecution surrounds them. Paul is worried for their faith to persevere. He’s been away from them, he wants Timothy to go visit and give him a report of their faith. He worries that tribulation might wear them thin and make them susceptible to temptation.

As times get tough and evil men wax worse and worse, the willpower and steadfastness of a church can wane. It is in these moments of tiredness that the Tempter can get a foothold. We are not ignorant of his devices, but we do get tired, distracted, busy, and afraid. Paul tells them to persevere, keep it up, and trust in the Lord to provide.

the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”

Every church is different. Each church has its own strengths and weaknesses. There is no need to demand cookie-cutter churches. Let them be different, but let them all be ware of their weaknesses, keep pressing on toward Christ, and looking for the return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Toronto Hates Jesus, Eh

Hey Canada, what’s up with hating Jesus, eh?

Toronto city officials have canceled the annual Jesus in the City parade.

“It is a sad day in this city when a parade for peace and love, Jesus in the City, is cancelled by city officials,” said McVety. “They would never do this to (the Caribbean Carnival) or the Pride Parade.”

“We were really upset by this,” said Dr. Charles McVety, of Canada Christian College. “We have been planning for the whole year and just weeks before the event, notice comes to cancel it. It’s shocking.”

“Christians are being slaughtered around the world and now persecuted at home,” said McVety. “Toronto used to be known as Toronto the Good, now it is Toronto the intolerant of good.”

Now, before you go hating on Toronto, the reason it was canceled is because of construction on the parade route as well as orientation day for the University located there. Too much traffic, too many roads closed, so Jesus gets the boot.

Something tells me Jesus doesn’t care too much about parades. Last time He was in one, they killed Him soon after. Eh.

Paul’s Worry About His Labor Being Vain

Several times the Apostle Paul says he fears that his labor in various churches might be in vain.

He says to the church in Galatia:

I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain

After warning or encouraging the church in Philippi to be blameless, harmless, to shine as light in the world by holding forth the word of truth, he says to do these things:

that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain

To Thessalonica he says:

I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you,
and our labour be in vain.

Paul understands that people can turn from the truth. Absence from solid teaching and counsel makes for weird results. Paul knows that evil corrupts.

If you’ve been in the church long enough, you’ve seen churches that were good and doing good things fall apart. It happens. It’s devastating to watch and greatly frustrates those who worked to build it.

There has also been many times when a pastor leaves that the church falls apart. In the end, it’s just a church. Sometimes I think we worship our institutions too much.

The sad thing is not the downfall of a church or the falling apart of some ministry that used to be great. That stuff happens and it’s OK.

The sad thing is if the truth is supplanted by error and the tempter deceives those on the way to eternal life and destroys their faith.

As every investment commercial tells you, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Stay vigilant in your faith. Don’t stop. Don’t take a break. There is no point in Christian growth where you can sit back because “you’re done.”

Press toward the mark. Don’t look back. Remember Lot’s wife.

Lower Grades for Saying “Bless You”

One professor at the College of Coastal Georgia has banned students from saying “bless you” in his class.

This is, no doubt, a sign of deep religious persecution for many. However, upon further reading, the professor’s rule goes like this:

“We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude!”

I can agree with that. I have always thought the whole “bless you” after a sneeze thing was a little weird anyway. I never respond when people say it to me. Occasionally I let out the snide “He already has.” Most don’t get it though.

“Bless you” after sneezing has more to do with superstitious voodoo than Christianity anyway, more than likely.

Death Row Jesus and Wrong Conceptions of Jesus Being a Sinner

New thing coming you should be aware of: Death Row Jesus.

From the creators of Tattoo Jesus (I could have sworn I did a thing on Tattoo Jesus but I can’t find it) comes Death Row Jesus.

“When people think about Jesus, they don’t think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that’s really the experience he had,” Miller said.

Miller said he hopes that message is clearly portrayed through this new video campaign.

“We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are all equally undeserving of God’s grace,” Miller said.

I have heard such stuff before, that Jesus became a sinner, or “the worst criminal in history.”

This isn’t true. He was the spotless, blameless sacrifice for us. Yes, God “made him to be sin for us,” but that does not mean He was made a sinner. He became a sin-bearer–He bore our sins in His own body, but that doesn’t make Him a sinner or a criminal.

Even the criminal crucified next to Him knew “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

Furthermore, the Bible differentiates between the sacrifice and the sinner. Jesus was not a sinner; He was a sin-bearer.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Saying that Jesus became a horrible, rotten sinner is a misunderstanding of what’s going on. When the lamb of the OT sacrifice was offered, the lamb didn’t become a sinner, the lamb was a representative of the sinner and bore the sin for the sinner.

If Jesus became a sinner, then He got what He deserved. The Gospel is about love and grace, a sacrifice of a sinless, righteous man laying down His life for unrighteous people, not about judging a sinner.

If that’s not true, then the Gospel ceases to be Gospely.

Cursed Italian Politician Asks for Exorcism

A senior Italian politician who compared a black minister to an orang-utan has now said he is considering asking the Pope to recommend an exorcist to fight off the curse he claims the minister’s father has placed on him.

In a rather convaluted story, the minister’s father at a prayer meeting “a prayer was said in which God was asked to free Mr Calderoli from evil thoughts.”

Since then the offending politician has had “a series of misfortunes he has incurred since then – including six hospital operations, the death of his mother, two broken fingers and two broken veterbrae,” among other things.

So, the politician now believes he is cursed and requests an exorcism to get the curse off of him.

The praying minister said, “”We are Christians like him, we have forgiven him and our prayer was only meant to encourage him to make statements befitting his role.”

No matter how things get worked out here, not sure the alleged “curse” is this man’s biggest problem.

God’s Omniscience and NSA Surveillance

Reading a book about NSA surveillance and the Edward Snowden documents. At a particular juncture, the author says this in relation to a young Jewish girl’s bat mitzvah:

“During the ceremony, the rabbi emphasized that the ‘central lesson’ for the girl to learn was that she was ‘always being watched and judged.’ He told her that God always knew what she was doing, every choice, every action, and even every thought, no matter how private. ‘You are never alone,’ he said, which meant that she should always adhere to God’s will.

“The rabbi’s point was clear: if you can never evade the watchful eyes of a supreme authority, there is no choice but to follow the dictates that authority imposes. You cannot even consider forging your own path beyond those rules: if you believe you are always being watched and judged, you are not really a free individual.”

The author’s point is that if the government can see all your communication and know just about everything about you, they can keep you under their thumb. You will become all-obedient to their will.

As much as I have sympathy for the author’s general point in the book, I’m not sure I agree with this illustration.

Plenty of people go against God’s will. As the author later says: after mandatory surveillance is gotten used to over time, people carry on as though it doesn’t exist. I find this to be true of God’s omniscience.

One would think God’s omniscience would keep us in check, but our rampant sin shows this is not the case.

Certainly the heavy-handed “God knows what you’re doing all the time and will nail you for it, so watch out” line works on many people, but I don’t see any evidence that it leads to actual true virtue.

The failure of Old Testament Judaism seems to make this point clear. God’s omniscience did not and will not cease the desire to sin.

In fact, it will more than likely lead you to excessive, who cares, fatalistic, sin-filled rebellion.

Whether this applies to NSA snooping of your Facebook page is yet to be seen.

The Gospel and the Wasp Killer

Each summer we have a wasp nest on our house somewhere. This year they chose to make their nest in a crack under a wooden ramp that leads to our patio door.

A dumber location could not possibly have been chosen.

People go in and out that door approximately 4,000 times a day.

Now, I have no problem with wasps if they leave me alone. I actually had no idea there were wasps around this year because I couldn’t see their nest, as they built it inside a crack between the porch and the house.

But one day I leaned over with my foot on the wooden ramp to tie my shoe and ZAP! One got me.

A couple days later my son got bit. Then my daughter. Then my son again.

In an effort to “protect” their nest and thus ensure a longer life, they have now made themselves so odious in our sight that they must be destroyed.

So, one evening I yanked the wooden ramp off and away from their nest in the crack. And then took off running.

The next evening I got a broom and swept junk out of the corner to better discern exactly where the nest was in the crack. And then took off running.

This evening, when it is dark and cold and all the little wasps are sleeping peacefully in their little wasp beds, I will spray a gallon of wasp killer into that crack and wipe them all out.

If the little wasps had just carried on, not been so defensive, and let us pass over their nest as many times as we liked (since we didn’t know it was there), they could have lived forever.

But nope, they went and got defensive, tried to keep themselves safe, and now they must die.

Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

As soon as we defend our lives, try to ensure self-preservation, make a stink about how awesome we are, and how you better back off, we become odious to God. Wrath will follow, after a time of patient waiting for you to come to your senses.

I gave the wasps warning. I told em they were done for if they didn’t stop. They should be seeing the “signs of the times” that bad things are coming their way. But bugs are dumb, merely instinctual, whereas humans have the ability to change instinct, to cut off self-preservation, repent, and be saved.

And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves,
but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Don’t attack Him; give your life to Him and be saved.

Not a Grammar Snob, Just a Verse-Quoter Snob

Grammar Snobs, sometimes called “Grammar Nazis,” get irritated when others use bad grammar.

The wrong use of its or it’s, and your and you’re, are perhaps the chief offenses.

I am a bit of a grammar snob. I have an eye to see errors, although will freely admit I am horrible with commas and switching tenses.

But there is another foible of human nature that irritates me more: people who quote verses in all the wrong places.

Many of the posts I have done on here over the years have pointed out bad applications of verses.

I fear that my sensitivity to how horribly people quote Scripture makes people nervous to talk about the Bible with me.

The few grammar snob friends that I have freak me out. I am hyper-sensitive about re-reading my stuff I send them so as not to have to put up with another stupid lecture about the difference between “cloth” and “clothe,” or whatever.

Sometimes I don’t even write to them. Just can’t handle the pressure today.

When I become critical of how others use Scripture, am I helping them, or merely rejoicing in my awesomeness and clear superiority?

Hard to say sometimes. Sometimes not so much.

This blog has long been an outlet for me to spout off on whatever Christian stupidity is making the rounds. I enjoy this. It helps me cope and it also helps me think.

I have tried many times not to get peeved when someone quotes “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” in yet another completely non-contextual way, or yet another awfully timed quotation of “perfect love casts out fear” or “judge not.”

I just can’t help it. I must say something. I am like Jeremiah perhaps:

Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

See, right there! I got nervous about quoting a verse knowing that someone will pounce on me since I took my arrogant stand. The judgment I use on others will be the same judgment I get judged with, or however that’s said.

So nervous now.

When I get tough on others, it helps me analyze myself. It’s a way to stay alert to how I use the Bible.

I mean no offense with my judgments, but sharp swords must be handled carefully lest someone get hurt.

Satanists Steal Communion Wafer!

“The Archbishop of Oklahoma City is dropping his lawsuit against a devil-worshiping group that had threatened to defile a consecrated communion wafer allegedly stolen from the Roman Catholic Church.”

Apparently the Satanists obtained a communion wafer so they could do a “Black Mass” ceremony. Somehow the archbishop found out and hired lawyers to prevent the Black Mass.

After the threat of a lawsuit, the Satanists backed down saying, “Once the Catholic Church has dropped the lawsuit, they can collect it from my attorney. I don’t feel like wasting thousands of dollars fighting over a cookie.”

In essence, according to Catholic doctrine, the consecrated bread actually was Christ. Satanists stole Christ. Good thing lawyers were around to protect Him.

3 Kinds of Bible Readers. Which One Are You?

In my years of observing Christians, there are three main conclusions people have about reading the Bible:

1) “I try to read it, but it’s too confusing.” Generally this means one or more of the following–

A) They are reading the King James.
B) They understand what they are reading, but it’s not consistent with what they were taught, and they know those who taught them can’t be wrong, so, yeah, that’s confusing.
C) They keep starting in Genesis, stop in Leviticus, then try it again in two years. Repeat.

2) “I’ve read it so many times, I understand just about everything in it.” Generally this means one or more of the following–

A) They are good at arguing. They haven’t lost an argument since second grade. Therefore, they are confident they know the Word
B) They are proof-text experts and excellent at disarming your proof-texts. You don’t really need the rest of the Bible anyway.
C) They are a pastor, author, professor, or some other “leader.” Hey, they wouldn’t be in that position if they didn’t know everything! If they admitted they didn’t know, they might lose their power.

3) “I keep reading it, because I know there is more there that I need to know.” Generally this means one or more of the following–

A) They don’t know stuff, they admit that, are determined to make it otherwise, and kind of get a charge out of that.
B) They ask uncomfortable questions and many people have labeled them heretics.
C) They pray. They pray a lot, asking God for wisdom, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Lessons

Well, it’s official: Prayer does NOT work.

Hours before hundreds of workers were to hold a prayer rally as three casinos are set to close, New Jersey officials issued a final closure order for another one.

I am stunned God didn’t come through on this.

I don’t know if I can go on.

Maybe if they had started praying earlier it would have worked. Yeah, that’s it. They were late. It was too late for God to act. He was teaching them what “pray without ceasing means.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Good job God!

Raising Awareness for People Whose Awareness Is Tired Of Being Raised

Significant numbers of famous people are dumping ice water over their heads lately.

I don’t know why. It is “raising awareness” for something. I don’t know what, because as soon as I see some celebrity doing anything pretentious on television, I immediately tune out.

(I believe it is pretentious because dumping ice water makes you feel special, like you are doing something, even though nothing was actually done.)

To be honest with you, I am quite tired of having my awareness raised.

We all have problems. I could raise awareness for Juvenile Retinoschisis, as this is the eye problem that I have, but I don’t.

I have problems. You have problems.

As long as people are “raising awareness” for their problem, they aren’t paying attention to other people’s problems.

Believers are following Christ, living with the mind of Christ, and will esteem others better than themselves and take an interest in others.

I don’t give money to organizations based on a particular issue. What I do is try to be helpful and encouraging to people I actually know, and be aware of what they are going through.

Having Martha Stewart pander to my awareness-raising may be cool, but I fail to see the point in what is actually accomplished.

Perhaps, and I hope I am stating this carefully, our awareness should sit down for a while and stop being raised over anonymous problems. Instead be aware of people around us we can actually help and encourage.

Often we are so concerned about multiple things we become unhelpful to all. Focus. Cut back. Help people you actually know.

Instead of sending money to some cancer awareness group, go visit a person in the hospital dying from cancer. Too much of awareness raising is symbolism over substance.

If you feel being aware and partaking in certain awareness raising activities such as dumping ice water over your head is how you should follow Jesus Christ, go for it.

Just don’t forget to love your neighbor. The one next door who probably has many problems you are unaware of because you are too busy being aware of too many other things.

Helping the Least of These

In Matthew 25 Jesus saysye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Typically, when people address this passage they isolate it from its surroundings. But check out what comes right after this passage–the woman dumps perfume on Jesus’ feet.

What is the disciples’ reaction–“what a waste! This perfume could have been sold and we could have fed so many poor people with it!”

Hey, we could have helped the least of these with that!

According to another Gospel, it was Judas who lead the way with this idea. We know how he turned out. Not only was he not nice to the least of Jesus’ brethren, he betrayed Jesus. But hey, he could have sold perfume and helped one of the leasties!

Usually when we read the Matthew 25 passage about the judgment of helping others, the point is–so go help others.

But helping others isn’t the point. The unrighteous can list all manner of times they gave drinks to people, and fed and clothed others. Jesus sees them as workers of iniquity.

What gives?

What gives is whether or not you are doing this out of love for Christ our out of selfish ambition and pride.

It’s easy to judge others and self-righteously conclude how much more gooder you would have been with their stuff than they were. Just handing out stuff to poor people isn’t the point. This is where the “Social Gospel” needs to be careful.

But that’s not the point. The point is this–are you becoming like Christ?

In the end, it’ll just be you and Jesus standing there looking at each other.

Will He recognize Himself in you, or will He declare He doesn’t know you, depart?

Judgment of Sheep and Goats

Matthew 25 contains one of, I think, the coolest, most insightful, and perhaps terrifying bits of all the Bible.

All the nations are gathered before the Lord and He separates the sheep and the goats based on how they treated “His brethren.”

As is typical with most cool parts of the Bible, there is much arguing over what it means.

As you know, Israel is in the midst of turmoil. There are many who think that this is a judgment on actual nations for how they treat Israel. This is why many believe America should side with political Israel today (even though it is easily argued that geo-political Israel may not actually be Jesus Christ’s brethren).

This interpretation has always confused me. If America sides with Israel and bombs their enemies for them, do all Americans go to heaven? Perhaps just the bombers go to heaven? The outcome of the judgment is eternity with the Lord, or weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whole nations do this for bombing Israel’s enemies or not? Really?

I believe it is best to view “all nations” as signifying “all people of all races and nationalities.” All of them will be judged by the Lord as individuals.

Judgment is based on their treatment of Christ, which is viewed by their treatment of His family on earth (Believers), which will signify their heart and genuineness of faith. Faith is demonstrated by works. Faith works by love. All judgments of God are judgments on works.

You don’t get saved by being nice and doing good works–that’s what the second group shows–“when didn’t we show love to you?” is their astounding question! They thought they had that one nailed down.

Remember the Apostle Paul in Philippians saying how he was such a good Jew he even attacked the enemy of the Jews, the followers of Christ? He thought he was serving God, until he met Christ, then it was all dung.

The righteous, meanwhile, have troubles coming up with examples of when they gave Jesus a glass of water! Backing up my point made a few weeks ago–if you did attain perfection, you’d be the last to know it.

Righteous people always seen how much more there is to be done, how much more there is in Christ. Self-righteous lost people only see their high points.

This is truly one of the most sobering passages in the Bible. Not all who say to him “Lord, Lord” will enter. This one could shake you to the core if you didn’t have to go play Candy Crush right now.

The Plus Side of Being a Heretic

Yesterday I asked the question: where is the verse that says Christ took the wrath of God for us?

More than likely, by asking the question, you have already determined that I don’t think Christ took the wrath of God for us.

All I did was ask the question where the verse was.

It isn’t there, by the way.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some verses that the idea can be extrapolated from. But to say that “Christ took the wrath of God for us” is not to speak in accordance with anything God said.

As I said earlier this week, I like to say things the way God said it in the Bible. To me, that’s the safest place to base doctrine.

If God didn’t put it that way, I hesitate to put it that way.

I’m cool with the “chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” I’m cool with the idea of “it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” I’m OK with that, because that’s what God says.

But “Christ took the wrath of God for us” is putting words in God’s mouth, which I don’t think is a good idea.

More than likely, I am now heretic scum for having even dared ask the question.

In fact, I actually wrote yesterday’s post two weeks ago. Since then I have been looking at stuff about the subject.

I have seen the statement made many times (“Christ took the wrath of God for us”) and have yet to see one Bible passage that actually says that.

But I did find a commentary on Romans 3 talk about the atonement and he said Christ took the wrath for us and then listed all kinds of verses, none of which said “Christ took the wrath of God for us.”

Immediately after saying that Christ took the wrath of God for us and listing all manner of verses (none of which said that), the author says “It has ever been the first step to heresy–the denial that divine wrath for sin fell on Christ.”

So, there ya go! Don’t disagree with me otherwise you’ll disagree with lots of other people.

Anytime someone has to use “if you deny what I believe you are on your way to being a heretic” you’ve run into “in the box” thinking.

“Heresy” is a word that means “party, sect, or disunion.” In other words, a heretic is someone who doesn’t agree with your group!

Being labeled a heretic by someone aint all bad, especially if the one calling you a heretic is a nutjob! Paul even said heresies were good because it would show who was approved.

I’m pretty sure God will be happy to see that you put some time, energy, thought, and care into what you believe, even if it puts you at odds with one group or another that thinks you’re a heretic. At least you think about what you believe.

Did God Pour Wrath on Christ? Chapter and Verse Please

It is standard Christian belief that God poured out the wrath that we deserved on Christ.

Whenever I hear “standard Christian beliefs” I get nervous.

I am of the opinion that the more people say a thing, the more likely it is that thing is false. There is a red flag attached with lockstep.

The idea is extended so that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, just can’t wait to kill people for having fun. Then Jesus came and held back the Father from killing us, so God killed Jesus instead, and is much happier now that the orgy of anger is over.

How this got to be standard Christian belief is beyond me.

I was recently thinking on this and looked up those times where “wrath” and “Christ” are brought up together in the Bible (used the default KJV).

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

That’s the only occurrence of “Christ” and “wrath” showing up together. It’s a cool verse, and says nothing about Jesus taking our wrath for us.

I searched “Jesus” and “wrath” and got the above verse plus

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

So, neither verse says anything about Christ taking our wrath, but both clearly state Christ delivers us from wrath.

I looked up “son” and “wrath” and came up with one additional verse

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Again, a cool verse that also does not say Christ took God’s wrath for us. What it does say is that belief in Christ removes wrath.

What about “blood” and “wrath,” thinking of the shed blood of Christ. One verse.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

His blood was shed to save us from God’s wrath, but again no mention of Christ taking God’s wrath.

“Cross” and “wrath” return no verses. “Crucif-(with all endings)” and “wrath” return zero verses.

Isaiah 53 would seem to be a crucial passage here. No mention of “wrath” or “anger” there.

I also skimmed all the verses with “wrath” in it in the NT. Nothing there about Christ taking God’s wrath.

Seems to me, when the cross, or crucifixion, or Jesus Christ and what He did for us, is spoken of, it is most often in reference to the love of God than the wrath of God.

I wonder why we shove wrath in there instead of Love?

Feel free to counter-argue. This is a theory I am testing, examining one more oft-repeated, seldom thought about Christian statement. One of my favorite hobbies!

The Hereticism of Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking outside the box is encouraged by most.

Until you actually do!

Christians are very particular about their beliefs, which seems like a good thing.

Except you should know that most individual’s beliefs are based on other individual’s beliefs.

Even more, they are based on specific individuals who are believed by those whom those individuals have decided to believe. And those only believe what they believe because their group believed others who believed it, and on and on.

It’s been a real long time since programized churchy institutions and their members have consciously thought about most doctrine.

Mostly we believe stuff because the people we choose to believe, believe that stuff.

To break away from that stuff, to even ask a question about that stuff, will immediately generate a negative, fearful response.

They aren’t too concerned about you seeking truth, wisdom, or what the Bible says, they are more interested in keeping you “in the box,” as it were.

If you dare to question why we have decided to be in the box to begin with, threatened people will threaten you with harm.

You might go to hell if you reject this!
You are heretic scum!
You have let down your religious forefathers!
Your forefathers are turning over in their graves!
How can you turn on us, we’ve done so much for you?

On and on it will go. Few will think with you. Most will be threatened that your thinking might make them think, and Lord knows we can’t have that.

It is funny that Christianity speaks of liberty, freedom, grace, and mercy yet we’re so filled with fear, anxiety, conformity, peer pressure, and legalism.

And by “legalism” I don’t mean not smoking and drinking, I mean adherence to human tradition over God’s Word, even by people who adamantly hate “legalism.”

People hate legalism, until you challenge their own legalism, then you find out that all believers are legalists to one extent or another.

When you find yourself in a theological argument, do you ever run to the–I wish you would talk to my pastor, or read this book, or listen to these sermons, or just shut up and let Calvin/Arminius/Luther/Piper/etc decide everything for you–line of reasoning?

You might be one of these legalists.

Do you know anything personally? Are all your beliefs in lockstep with a group? Do you believe things just because your guy said so? Do you not believe things because you know if you did your group would turn on you?

This is what Jesus meant when He said you have to hate father, mother, brother, sister , etc if you want to be His disciple.

Do you have the guts to actually live by faith? Or is the broad, crowded road more comfy for ya?

When was the last time YOU thought about what YOU believe?

Best Way to be Accused of Being a Heretic–Ask a Question

As a pastor, I am frequently asked questions about what I believe or what I think about what others believe.

My policy for answering such questions is to, as often as possible, quote scripture.

I like to say things the way God said them, not the way I would say it, not even the way my favorite theologian would say it.

God very particularly expressed Himself in the Bible. When we begin to rephrase what He said, I think we lose a lot.

Probably, upon reading this, most Christians would agree with my point.

But guess what happens when you begin to apply this point in questions to other people!

You will be branded a heretic by some, assumed to be on the path to hereticism by others, and probably just laughed off as a dope by the rest.

Don’t think so? How about the trinity?!

As you’ve heard many times, the Bible never uses the word “trinity” once.

Guess what will happen when you ask people why they keep using that word when God never did?

What, are you some kind of heretic? You don’t think Jesus is God?

Nope, just asking why we are using that word that God never used.

Didn’t even say it was wrong to use it, just asked why we use that word.

Go ahead, try it sometime! Ask people why they use the word “trinity” and observe the results.

They won’t even deal with your question, they’ll just realize you asked a question about the validity of “trinity” and they’ll immediately treat you like a moron.

This is one of many examples. I have another one coming your way on Friday!

How to Find Truth

A radio program I heard told me that eating beef was the most destructive thing a guy can do to the environment. This is allegedly based on the amount of land area it takes to raise and feed a cow.

At the end of the discussion, it turns out that three of the four people who conducted the study were vegetarians.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean their findings were wrong, but it sure does make a guy more skeptical!

I was reading a book written by economists about finding the truth.

These guys have gotten in trouble in the past because their facts often buck up against what people believe is true.

One of their tips for finding the truth is that you need to set aside your beliefs and just look at the data.

In other words, you can’t come with a hope that you’ll get a desired answer, because that will skew your objectivity. You can’t have a dog in the fight, cuz if you do, you’ll root for your dog.

Seems to me the same would hold true for finding right doctrine.

Undoubtedly it’s a horrible thing to tell Christians to “set aside your beliefs.” But I honestly believe that’s the best way to go about it.

If you already know that Once Saved Always Saved is true, when you read the Bible you will only notice verses that buck up your side. If you think OSAS is false, you will only see those verses that prove it’s false.

If a guy truly wanted to think about the issue and find out what the Bible says, his best option is to forsake all leanings and go read the Book and find out.

Easier said than done.

Setting aside a belief might terrify you. Going through the process of admitting you don’t know can be scary. You might even get labeled a heretic, or worse, for admitting you “don’t know” right now.

Personally thinking about what you personally believe is hugely important though. The more you take others word for it, or fight for your party, the less truth you are likely to hold in the end.

You Don’t Need Church Tradition

If a Holy Spirit indwelt person were stranded on a desert island with nothing but the Bible for ten years, would he come off that island with sound doctrine?

I believe he would.

Church tradition, although a helpful thing at times, is not necessary for sound doctrine.

If you have the Holy Spirit and the Bible, you’re good to go.

When Jesus spoke of the coming age–when all believers would be indwelt by the Spirit–He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

What most don’t know about that verse is the first part of it!

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

The “that day” is the age we currently live in, the age of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers. In that day, we won’t question Jesus! The Greek uses two separate words for “ask” in this verse.

Perhaps the reading is this: In that day, you won’t question me, because you’ll have everything I can give you simply by asking.

There are many such promises for us in this age in the Bible. Here are a couple of my favorites.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;”

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

Jesus also made promises to His disciples that when they receive the Spirit they will know all things and their understanding will be complete. That’s cool.

We should trust God to teach us more than other people. At the same time the Bible tells us to trust God’s Word and His Spirit, it tells us to be careful of human tradition.

Perhaps the best one is 1 Peter 1:18

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers

Agreeing with old guys doesn’t mean you’re saved!

Paul does throw in a couple verses in Thessalonians about holding “the traditions which ye have been taught” and later clarifies that these are the traditions “which he received of us”

Paul was not pointing them to church tradition, but to the teaching of the apostles, which makes up our New Testament now.

Church History and Church Tradition are fascinating subjects. They repeatedly show the error of listening to men! Knowing Church tradition can keep you from some errors, and more than likely, lead you into errors.

I’ve been to seminary. I know people who know all there is to know about church tradition. Institutions of higher learning, especially Christian ones that major on human tradition and not much on the Bible, are seldom known for sound doctrine.

You really don’t need church tradition.

I know this is a minority opinion, but alas, it’s the church who has made a church tradition of telling people they need church tradition! It’s a nice way to keep power.

I say–trust the Spirit, read the Word, and don’t be afraid to think.

Prayer Discounting Diner Gets Threatened by Sensitive Atheists

On August first I mentioned the diner that gave discounts to customers who prayed over their meals.

I mentioned that, “No doubt atheists will be threatened by this.”

Sure enough! The sensitive atheists couldn’t take this one sitting down.

“Mary’s Gourmet Diner reportedly received a letter threatening legal action from the Freedom From Religion Foundation if owner Mary Haglund did not stop awarding the discount to praying patrons.

The letter read, in part, “As a place of ‘public accommodation,’ it is illegal for Mary’s Gourmet Diner to discriminate, or show favoritism, on the basis of religion. Your restaurant’s restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray and nonbelievers the right to ‘full and equal’ enjoyment of Mary’s Gourmet Diner.”
This is why I encourage Christians to relax on stuff.Don’t protest, boycott, or sue.

Hyper-sensitivity shows insecurity and a sneaking suspicion that you’re losing.

The restaurant has removed the discount, which is probably the right business move. A lawsuit would put them out of business. Money talks.

Perfection Might Not be What You Think It Is

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

With the above verses, I don’t see how one could conclude perfection is not possible.

But, I know human nature quite well! No matter how often the Bible may say a thing, it is no guarantee that people will believe that thing.

Typically, the best run around on perfection is to say that “perfect” merely means mature. Which is fine except “be perfect [mature] as your Father in heaven is perfect [mature]” still stands!

It also puts you in the weird position of trying to prove that God “matured.”

As I said yesterday, the problem with most notions of pursuing perfection is that it turns into a morality examination. It becomes a self-centered contest of virtue, usually leading to judgmentalism.

I mean, hey, what’s the point of being perfect if I can’t rub it in your face?

Christian perfection is not about morality, it’s about Christ-likeness.

Morality is hard to produce in people.

A few months ago we were in Arizona and went to the Petrified Forest. They have problems with tourists taking petrified wood.

They did a test. On some trails they put up signs saying that 14-tons of petrified wood is taken every year, soon there won’t be any wood left to come see. On other trails they put no signs. Then they put out petrified wood in plain view!

Guess which trails had more wood stolen? The trails with the signs! “Hey, if 14-tons of wood gets stolen, it must be pretty easy to do. Everyone is doing it. I don’t want to miss out!”

As one analyst of the experiment said, “the subtext message [of the signs] is that a lot of people just like you are doing this. It legitimizes the undesirable behavior.”

Christ-like perfection is something you should strive for. You should not worry about how well others are doing in comparison. Perfect people grow in love, not in superiority complexes.

Should you encourage others to pursue perfection? Yes, the Bible does. Paul said to the Corinthian church, “and this also we wish, even your perfection.” But trying to force perfection with a focus on morality won’t work.

It’s you. It’s Christ. Grow into Him.

Jesus And His Teeth

“The statue of the Lord of Patience in the parish of San Bartolo Cuautlalpan, Mexico, has always looked ghastly.

His tortured look, blood streaming down his neck, open wounds on his face, hands and knees send shivers down your spine. But it turns out that the statue is even more realistic – and macabre – than previously thought. Specialists restoring the 18th Century artwork have discovered that the statue’s eight teeth used to belong to an adult human

jesusteeth

So, yeah, that’s creepy.

Is Sinless Perfection Possible?

I was recently asked if I thought sinless perfection were possible for a believer. Here is my answer.

The old man IS crucified with its affections and lusts.

Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds

You have been crucified with Christ, it’s no longer you who lives but Christ

All of that is past tense. What Christ has gotten rid of and has now created is done. At the same time, sin is a battle, which is why, even in the contexts of those done-deal verses, he commands us not to do evil stuff and to do good stuff. The flesh lusts against the spirit.

I think the idea is that the old man is done, Christ finished him off, but his habits live on in us. Our job is to get rid of the habits of the flesh—mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit—and this will be a battle.

However, there can be victory over these habits and every believer will show growth over time. Our failure to defeat sin is not Christ’s fault, He did everything possible to provide all we need for life and godliness. The rest is up to us and our desire to present our bodies living sacrifices to do and show his perfect and acceptable will.

The problem in giving up sin is not our inability, it’s our lack of desire to actually stop the sin. Sin is fun.

Is perfection possible? I guess I have to go with “yes,” because God doesn’t command people to do impossible things.

But I would also throw in that most holiness movement teaching seems to miss the point. They concentrate so much on their personal holiness that they miss the point of looking to Christ. Morality seems to be their end, not love, which is the true fulfilling of the law.

I have also seen in my dealings with people who think they have attained perfection, that they are quite clueless as to their own sin. Their opinion of their holiness seems quite generous, while their opinion of other people’s holiness never grants a benefit of the doubt.

So, I put it like this: Yes, I think perfection is possible, and if you attained it, you’d be the last person to know (Matthew 25:34-46).

To say it’s not possible is to say God commands the impossible and also eliminates the standard, which often leads to “Oh well, can’t do it anyway, why bother?” The goal is not to try to be a good little boy or girl, the goal is to look to Christ and grow in Him. Perfection Doctrines often miss that point.

Ultimately, your perfection is not the issue. Christ is the issue. Believers will be made like Him when we see Him as He is in eternity. Until then, our looking to Him transforms us into Him. Perfection is right around the corner. How much of that corner you turn here is up to you. We should all desire to turn it soon!

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