Why I Am Biased–Because I Say What I Believe

Recently read a book on The Hundred Years War written by a British guy who doesn’t seem too keen on the French.

I am British by descent. There’s a museum in Cape Cod with our family tree tracing us way back to very early America coming over from England.

I enjoy British humor and grew up in it. This author had British humor. If you aren’t a fan of British humor, you wouldn’t even see the jokes, let alone think they were funny.

After reading books that I enjoy, I go on Amazon to read what others think of it. I already have my opinion, what do others say?

Several enjoyed it, others took issue with the fact that it was a British guy writing history about British people who sincerely enjoyed rooting for the Brits and the downfall of the stupid French.

I enjoyed it. Others hate it because historians are supposed to be “unbiased.”

I hear that a lot these days, people should be unbiased. Supposedly news anchors, churches, historians, and even sports announcers are not supposed to cheer for a side.

I have no problem with biased reporting. It’s not like it takes a genius to figure out someone’s bias. The people I am more afraid of are the ones too scared to share an opinion, talking smooth, flattering words to keep everyone happy.

They give me the creeps. Unbiased people have to have no dog in the fight. When it comes to spiritual things, it might even mean they don’t believe anything, which is a problem.

Yes, too much bias can be a problem when it starts to lie and twist facts so you can bash the enemy. That I don’t need, but I don’t mind throwing an opinion around here and there.

This has gotten me in trouble as a pastor. People don’t mind opinions that mock others, but when my opinions hit too close to home, it’s not funny, then they want unbiased preaching.

Well, tough. I am unbiasedly biased in my opinions. I think Covenant theology is bad. I think Calvinism is from Satan himself. I think Charismatic influences have done more to ruin Christianity than any other force other than Calvinism.

I am not going to hound these people, nor troll on their internet sites. You are free to believe as you wish. You are even free to bash Dispensationalist, non-charismatic, non-Calvinists as demon spawn if you so desire.

You know where I stand. It’s what you’ll get from me. I make no apologies for what I believe, only if I ever get carried away in personal attacks, change the truth for the sake of argument, or in any other way delve into un-Christlike activity.

You have my unbiased word on that.

Customer Reviews of Scissors and Why I Hate the World

My beard is in full bloom right now. I haven’t trimmed it yet. Thinking of going big this year.

But I hate the hairs that grow around the mouth that tickle my nose and get in my food. So I decided to go on Amazon and look for a cheap pair of little scissors to trim beards.

Little did I know there are about 300 beard trimming scissors available.

My beard trimming scissor criteria are the following, 1) they must look like scissors that can handle cutting a piece of hair, and 2) they must be cheap.

But then I discovered that people have opinions about these little pairs of scissors. One pair of scissors had 126 customer reviews!

Really? There are 126 people out there who are concerned with my scissor experience? Do scissors really inspire enough emotion to motivate someone to write an Amazon review? I had no idea.

If I were to write a bad review on scissors I would say, “Yeah, for me they didn’t really cut it.”

Even more amazing, there are no beard trimming scissors that have a cumulative five-star review! People have problems with tiny scissors! One star for scissors, really?

Again, I had no idea it was even possible to not be pleased with a pair of scissors. Did these scissors make your hair grow longer, or what?

I don’t get people. A stupid pair of scissors can garner 126 people to respond, yet my sermons go largely unheard and unremarked upon. This makes me feel poorly.

What are my sermons missing that even scissors get more response?

But then again, is the problem with scissors or with people who are too busy to get to church as they must urgently review scissors for strangers?

I am a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth. This is not my home, I’m just passing through.

And, yes, the scissors work just fine and I got the cheapest pair and they also had zero customer reviews. So, if you’ll excuse me, I must go review these cheap, non-reviewed scissors before they develop a complex.

Stealing Bread to Feed Dying Family Members

Was talking with my son about being thankful.

Before going up to “put him to bed,” I was reading a book on The Hundred Years War. After many battles, before they could go bury the dead, the local peasants had already stripped the dead of all belongings.

There was such poverty and inequality in society then, that people would steal from dead bodies for survival.

“Is that a sin to steal from dead people?” my son asked.

Well, that’s a tough one. I’d have to be in a pretty bad spot to steal off of dead bodies. But that society was so messed up I can’t really blame them. If they didn’t, someone else was going to.

“Does that make it right?” I don’t know. The whole “is it ok to steal a loaf of bread to feed your dying family” ethical question. If my wife is dying, I guess I don’t care if you think it’s wrong, I’m getting my woman some bread.

Life is tough. It’s easy to sit back and be moralistic in the midst of comfort. What is difficult is to be able to weep with those who weep. Imagine being in a spot where you need to steal from dead bodies to survive!

Is the answer to judge their morality as bankrupt, or is the answer to love people who need help and be grateful you don’t have to steal off of dead bodies?

Keep your moralism to yourself. Romans 14:22, “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

Ease up on suffering people. Rather than turning their abject poverty into your ethical question to discuss over coffee and scones, get out there and help.

No, I did not do well in Ethics class at seminary.

How to Understand a Verse in 10 Steps

Occasionally, while reading the Bible, I come across a verse that doesn’t make sense to me. Hopefully this happens to you, too. If not, you need to start paying attention while reading, or perhaps let go of some of your preconceived theological beliefs that have eliminated all wonder.

When I come across one of these verses, here is the process I use to determine its meaning.

Step 1) Find a confusing verse. It doesn’t even have to be a “doctrinally important” verse, just one that you’ve “never seen before” and you don’t know what it means. For the purpose of illustration, here’s one I recently saw “for the first time.”

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,
searching all the inward parts of the belly.

Step 2) Look at different translations. Finding mysterious verses is easier in the KJV since it uses outdated language in some cases. Using other translations can help give the sense. Never depend on just one translation, none is perfect.

Step 3) Examine where translations are different. Where translations differ is often because they are using different original texts. If the translations are all pretty close, then there is no textual dispute, just a confusing verse! Most translations say exactly what this verse says in the KJV, just substituting “belly” with  something like “inward parts.” In the verse above there is no textual difference, just a matter of English word choice.

Step 4) Look at a few commentaries. Often you will find that confusing verses aren’t just confusing to you! Many commentaries skip confusing verses. While examining what each commentary says, see if there is disagreement in application, showing that, yup, this is a confusing verse. Other times you will find pretty good commonality of comment, thus proving that you are the only idiot in the world who can’t understand this verse. Been there. Commentaries say “the spirit of man” is the conscious, the mind, or the heart.

Step 5) Look for similar phrases in the Bible. Often commentaries can point out similar verses, but it’s amazing how often they miss better cross-references. Matthew 6:22 was brought up in one to illustrate the above verse. Use alternate words to do your concordance search–“heart” or “mind” in place of “spirit” in the verse above for instance.

Step 6) Think. You may choose to think earlier, but in many cases, too much thought can hinder actually seeing the point of the verse! Think about the verse. Is your confusion just over what the words mean? Is your confusion because it goes against something you believe? For this verse above, I immediately thought it was problematic since it was the human spirit that searched the inside, not God’s Spirit. Doesn’t that refute God’s Word and Spirit being the light that illumines human thought and action?

Step 7) Context. It also helps to examine all the verses around your chosen text. Typically, most verses are part of a greater thought, not just a random nugget dropped in an alien space. Proverbs is one exception, however, and that’s where my verse is from. Context helps me not at all in this verse.

Step 8) Write something out. Explain your thought in words. Writing helps me, others like to talk it out. Writing is better. You can edit. The process of writing is slower than talking, which helps in analyzing a verse.

Step 9) Present your understanding to peer review. Ask someone else what they think about your theory of the verse. Often, while explaining your new genius thought to someone else, you will realize you have no idea. The process of explaining yourself is often enough to lend understanding. Even if you explain it to someone who has no idea what you are talking about, it’s still helpful to attempt to explain it to someone else. If they do know what you are talking about, they can often lend greater insight.

Step 10) Go with it. Find the meaning and go with it. If it doesn’t satisfy, keep a question in mind as you read the rest of the Bible. Open questions are good. Use the Bible to answer them. Never assume you have the final word on any subject. There is always more to learn. Keep what you have, apply it, see what happens, and keep going, hoping to learn more.

This whole process is for the purpose of learning. We don’t learn the Bible to bash others; we learn it to know God. Don’t fear the process. Don’t fear being wrong. The best part about being wrong is it moves you toward being right. Keep reading the Word. There is so much there. Trust me, we don’t know it all.

Your Pastor Is Not Infallible: A Confession

I was reading a theological book earlier this week and was inspired to come up with a great point. It wasn’t a point the author made, it was a point that my mind made based on what the author said.

It was genius. Brilliant. One of my better thoughts.

I developed it into a Bible study to teach and wrote it up in a blog post. Genius stuff.

So, Thursday night came, the time when I teach my Bible study. I was on a roll. I was excited. A great point, one I’d never seen before. Oh, it was good. Can’t wait to drop this nugget of genius on some folks and see their faces light up with my illumination of God’s Word.

I set it up perfectly, I was anticipating the delivery of The Point, I read the verse The Point came from and asked my leading question setting up The Point beautifully.

Although I never yelled the word “Omaha,” you could sense the touchdown pass coming.

I asked my leading question. It was met with silence. I repeated the question with glee, assuming my genius had sunk in and they were in awe.

Then came a tentative answer. Unfortunately, it was a tentative answer that was the opposite of The Point. But I paused, “Oh wait,” I thought, “I think he’s right.”

My face flushed. Someone turned the heat up in the room right then too, I think. Soon the group was nodding their heads in agreement with the tentative answer that refuted The Point. “Yeah, I agree with what he said,” they all chimed in.

Bummer. I blew it. My whole Bible study was based on a hyper-excited reading of a passage that I wanted to make my point. The very passage I based The Point on, refuted The Point.

How embarrassing. How humiliating. Pastor’s aren’t supposed to get stuff wrong. What do I do for the remaining half hour which has suddenly been freed up?

I apologized.”This explains why I’ve never seen this point before,” I said.

I deleted the blog post. I crawled into a hole in the ground and repented in dust and ashes before the Lord.

Hey, you can’t win em all.

Just another reminder: Don’t take people’s word for it; Look It Up!

How You Treat Others is How God Views You

The Bible has several verses telling us that our relationship with God is best observed by our relationship with people.

However, it even seems to go deeper than this. Your relationships with others determines God’s relationship with you.

I know this is a horrible thing to say, what with grace and everything, but alas, I didn’t say it, God who taught us grace, said it!

Here are a couple examples:

forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness. . . hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders . . . and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

It is much easier to assume that our relations with others has no impact on our faith, prayers, or whether we are saved or not. What is difficult is to deal with these startling truths.

What we do matters. Maybe not to you so much, but they sure seem to matter to God.

Love is the fulfilling of the Law. The Law is all the words that come out of the mouth of God. God is love. When we say we have faith in God, the Bible says that means we hear God’s Word. We do what God says, and God says what He is.

It’s all wrapped up in love.

If we do not love each other, it is impossible to prove in any real way that you love God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

How you treat others is a big deal when it comes to faith. Let it be a big deal in your faith.

And, just to clarify, you don’t get saved by being nice to people. You get saved by faith. By faith you are crucified, buried, and raised up with Christ to newness of life. New life in Christ fulfills the law–it loves people, as Christ loved you and gave Himself for you. If there is no evidence of that new life, there should be no assurance that you are saved.

World War I 100 Years Later and Links to Christianity

World War I began 100 years ago this year. Many notable battles will have their 100th anniversary the next few years.

I do not know much about WWI, so I got a book from the library and have begun to read about it. Have learned some stuff, and also found fodder for thoughts on Christianity.

1) WWI is marked by trench warfare. Defensive lines separated by no-man’s-land stretched for miles on multiple fronts.

This all gives me flashbacks to many moments I’ve had in churches over the years. There were times I was in one of the trenches, lobbing death to the other side, only to realize everyone is dying. Other times I was in no man’s land, wondering what do now. Fight or run?

Be entrenched in Christ. Let everything else go. Not worth the fight.

2) Germany and prisoners of war. Russia backed out of the WWI and were the first major enemy of Germany to call it quits. The Russian government was in turmoil and they were not providing adequately for their troops. The Germans were treating Russian POW’s quite well, at least feeding them. It actually made sense to many Russians to go eat with the Germans than continue to fight for a country who wasn’t feeding them.

When we do good to our enemies, they often give up. WWII was a different story. Germany was excessively hostile to POW’s. Russia didn’t give up in WWII. Germany got it handed to them. Giving a cold drink to your enemy works.

3) Non-Christian Europe. Americans like to blather on about the downfall of European Christianity. This is somewhat ironic since America aint doing so hot itself. Americans also miss the fact that Europe has been blasted to pieces two times in the last one hundred years. Almost two generations were killed, many of them men. Households with no houses, property, nor bread-winning men, struggle.

Europe went through hell a few times. They know tough times. There is no way these tough times could not effect their psyche. All the death, bloodshed, and destruction the survivors saw had to make them doubt. Is it any wonder that the fallout of all this evil is a place that doubts the existence of God? Not that this is an excuse, but it is a reason, often missed by comfortable Americans. Not to mention the evil, godless rulers that took over in the voids of confusion left by war. Very sad.

My Darling Soul

Two times the Psalmist refers to his soul as his “darling.”

I find that intriguing.

The word “darling” in the Hebrew is a word that means, “only, solitary, by implication–beloved.”

It’s the only one he has, thus it becomes beloved, precious, his darling. Sometimes lovers call each other “darling,” implying you are precious because you are my only one.

This seems out of place to say this about ourself. It sounds arrogant or selfish.

However, when you consider how many things the Bible has to say about your soul, when was the last time you thought about it?

Our body gets most of our attention. We constantly work and fight to get what it needs for health hand comfort. It has a way of consuming a life. We live as though our body were our darling.

But the Psalmist is concerned about his soul, his only one that will last for eternity.

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Don’t worry about the body as much as the soul. Yet many chuck the soul stuff and go for the stuff of the body, which is why Jesus asks, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The soul is precious. The soul is eternal. The body is precious in its own way, but it is also temporal, so not as precious as the soul.

Which is your life lived for?

Jesus said, “I Pray Not for the World”

In John 17 Jesus is praying to His Father about His disciples. In the midst of the prayer He says these intriguing words.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

Jesus does not pray for the world.

I find that fascinating.

We spend much time being concerned for the world, for our nation, and for things of this world. Jesus did not. He came to die that He might deliver us from this world.

One main difference between Jesus and us is that for us, this world is all we know, therefore, we tend to think it’s pretty awesome and worth preserving.

Jesus knows heaven. He knows creation before sin messed it up. Jesus has a low view of this world. He wants what is better than this world because He knows what that means.

Jesus does not pray to have this world preserved; He prays for His people in this world that THEY would be preserved.

I don’t think this means we can’t pray for unbelievers to be saved. Paul, after all, prayed for the salvation of Israel.

In another fascinating passage Jesus says, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

We are not praying to do the labor, nor to send laborers. We are praying that the Lord will send forth laborers. I imagine the precise wording means something.

I wonder if our view of the unsaved is skewed more by our flesh than by God’s view of things? These are issues that deserve some thought, and there are, of course, many other relevant verses.

I offer few answers but plenty of questions! Don’t be afraid to think on them.

Instead of Wondering if your Dead Dog Will be in Heaven, Maybe you Should Wonder if You Will Be In Heaven

There are times when reading the Bible where I sit back and think, “Wow, really? Is anyone making it to heaven?”

This was, in fact, the response that people had to much of Jesus’ teaching.

When Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, He was met with “Who then can be saved?”

One of His listeners asked, “Lord, are there few that be saved?His answer was, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” In other words: yup, few are saved.

Jesus said at one point, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Even Jesus doesn’t think heaven will be highly populated.

All this is ironic when each of us assumes that our kids are saved, and all our dead relatives are in heaven, and, of course, everyone in our church is good to go (although we do know those Catholics are in trouble).

Ever since we “said the prayer” we ceased to consider whether we were saved. Of course I am. If I’m not, who would be?

Rather than consider who we are in light of God’s Word, or the person of Christ, we compare ourselves to others. “Well, that guy is in heaven and he was a jerk, so I’m good.” The reality is that we have no idea who is in heaven.

When you consider seriously what God’s Word asks of us and then analyze what our lives are filled with, what expectation should we have of heaven?

However, you can just call me a legalist, or trump my case with some theological theory about the words of Christ being for first century Jews, and don’t worry about it.

But, when was the last time you actually listened to God’s Word and let it do a number on ya?

When was the last time you trembled?

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

On Bashing Legalism

Christians like to bash on legalism. “Legalism” is an interesting word, one never used in the Bible. When people call others “legalistic,” it’s hard to tell what they mean exactly.

For most, it seems that “legalism” is defined as “keeping rules.” Christians like to talk about grace and liberty, and avoid rule-talk like the plague.

However, let it be noted, avoiding rules thus becomes a rule. I have met many a grace-fanatic who had just as much legalism than those they accused of being legalistic.

Tell a grace-fanatic you read the Sermon on the Mount and you’ll find out right quick how legalistic they are! I thought we had liberty to read what we wanted?

Here’s a quote I saw on the internets the other day by a guy bashing legalism. This is said snarkily, using sarcasm.

“Do you want to be loved of Christ? Do you want to be loved of the Father? The Lord Jesus said ‘well, keep my rules.'”

The snarky point is this: we just love Christ and you can’t do that by rule following.

I will grant the point that following someone’s rules does not mean that you love them. No argument there. However, here is where many go off the deep end.

Apparently, to many “non-legalists,” since we love Jesus we don’t have to follow His rules.

Unfortunately, the Bible is a pesky book, always throwing stuff in there to keep you from goofy extremes, if you let it.

Speaking of love, Jesus once said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

So, there you go! Jesus loves us. He proved it by dying for us. The End. No rules.

Until you read the very next verse, which says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Make sure you get that one. A conclusion easily drawn from these two verses is that Jesus didn’t lay down His life for people who don’t keep His commandments. People who don’t keep His commandments show they have no interest in understanding or benefiting from the death of Christ.

I know this is inconvenient to your theories about grace and legalism, but alas, He who brought grace and truth done said it.

Jesus also said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John said that those who love God keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous.

No, you don’t get saved by works. We are saved by God’s grace when we respond through faith. Faith means hearing God’s Word, which is more than whether or not your ears work. Faith is acting on God’s Word as shown by Hebrews 11 and many other passages.

When you love God, you don’t mind obeying Him. Anyone who fights the command to obey God is revealing they lack love for Him. We know God loves us, therefore, we need not fear obeying Him.

Come alive to that, the liberty of obedience to Christ. Drop the legalism charge, there are very few legalists in the world, they aren’t the biggest problem facing us.

Faith works. Go let your faith work.

Is Ebola God’s Judgment on America? 8 Points

I was waiting for it, and now I need wait no more!

I heard a Christian propose the theory that Ebola has entered the US because of our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.

Ah yes. It used to be just weirdos made these “God is judging you” statements, but now it seems everyone must jump aboard the judgment bandwagon.

Here’s the deal, I don’t think so. Here are the main reasons why I don’t think God is judging ‘Merica with Ebola.

1) When God judged nations it was rather devastating. Thousands of people normally died, like 20,000’s of people. This was in nations that numbered over a couple million people. Percentage wise, huge swaths of the nation were wiped out. If America were going through similar judgment, you would expect a million or so people to die. As far as I know, one guy has died from Ebola in the US. And he wasn’t gay.

2) God announced His judgment. There was no guesswork when God was judging. People know. God has a way of getting His points across.

3) Guessing God’s judgment has been wrong before. One of the ways God announced His judgment is through faithful prophets who were always right because they directly spoke for God. They were never wrong. There was no guessing. No revisions of prophecies to fit reality. Typically the prophets predicted judgment was coming. God is willing to forgive. He announces judgment that people might repent so He can then not judge.

4) Judgment is God’s strange work. This is stated in Isaiah 28. God would rather pardon than judge. Judgment is rare, not something He does all the time. Katrina, tornadoes, 9/11, Ebola, and who knows how many other disasters have been attributed to God’s judgment. People who make these statements believe that judgment is God’s favorite thing to do. He can hardly stop Himself from judging in a multitude of ways. They believe judgment is God’s typical work.

5) People who feel God is judging others are people who are not effected by that particular malady. Humans are excellent at feeling superior. Pride is our worst fault. It’s fun to note others who are suffering and rejoice because we aren’t, and then conclude that we must be better, that God likes us best. This is one reason why Jesus had nothing but venom for Pharisees. Yet here we are, being more like Pharisees than Jesus.

6) Judgment is usually on sin the hopeful judger is not guilty of. Why are Katrina, 9/11, and Ebola all judgments against homosexuality and not against lying or gossip or other sins the Bible talks about a lot more? I know, Sodom and Gomorrah. But hey, read the OT. The demise of Israel was largely because they worshiped God with a wrong heart.

7) If the sufferings of others is God’s judgment, I don’t have to help them. If we spent more time loving people than judging them, we might be better off. Most Christians feel guilt over how useful they are to others. We know we’re supposed to be nice and loving, compassionate and caring, but it’s so hard and messy. We can let ourselves off the hook if we conclude that God caused their suffering. Don’t want to undo what God has done, amen?!

8) Poor understanding of Covenants on display. The large portion of people who look at disasters as being God’s judgment against homosexuals are also people who theologically don’t see a difference between Israel and the Church. They tend to look at the Church as having replaced Israel. Israel Part 2, if you will. There is also a tendency to see America as new Israel. All in all, there is very bad biblical understanding of God’s special plan for the nation of Israel and how He intervened in their history.

The Church needs to spend more time in the Book of Job. You don’t want to be Job’s friends, analyzing others and their problems.

Next time you feel like telling a sufferer that God is judging them: It is sometimes those who are suffering who are the most pleasing to God.

Christians: Stop Trying to Fix People!

I was recently asked, “How else can I encourage you?”

I felt bad because “else” implies I was previously encouraged by this individual and apparently I missed that.

There is a pompousness to many Christians. It’s the Spiritual Guru mentality.

“I have it all figured out. Allow me to fix you and point out the faults you don’t know you have but I can clearly point out in you based on the four minutes of conversation we’ve had together in all our lifetime.”

This attitude was one of the things that irritated me most about Christian college and Seminary. Around every corner lurked some spiritual guy who wanted to fix me.

Good Lord, man, I’m just walking to Intro. to Sociology class, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.

No matter how much you try to deflect their questions and send very clear signals you want nothing more to do with the psycho-analyzation process, they use your words against you.

“Oh, I see by your discomfort that my questions have revealed your inner pride that is causing Jesus to not be able to use you in a greater way.”

It is always amazing to me how these guys with all their insight can’t read body language and dismissive sarcasm.

And, woe unto you if you run into a Charismatic with the “gift of prophecy.” Talk about a sarcasm dead zone.

Pharisees always know everyone’s problems and their solutions. They are more than happy to tell you what is wrong with you, to let you know how many things you’ve done wrong. They can also let you know how you can fix them by telling you how awesomely they fixed themselves.

“Be ready always to give an answer” is in the Bible. So is, “foolish and unlearned questions avoid.”

Don’t run around the country looking for people to fix. Don’t run around asking testing questions to gain the upper hand in analyzing problems.

Jesus Christ is the Great Physician, you’re just another patient in His ward. Humble up. Let’s walk with each other, not trip each other.

Patience is a Result of a Life of Vanity

Life lasts a long time. Life is also vain. Life is just a long stretch of vain stuff.

Vain, in this context, means worthless, empty, good for nothing.

Few people find this encouraging news. I find it to be awesome.

What better way to eliminate self-conscious fear and worry?

Patience is supposed to be one of those things that marks the believer.

It is clichéd to say, “Don’t ask God for patience, because He’ll nail you with problems.”

That always sounded silly to me. Life has problems whether you ask for patience or not!

Tribulation works patience. That’s kind of how it happens.

“Tribulation” is basically life not going how you wanted it to.

Life is vain. When life doesn’t go how you wanted it to, you get taught about the vanity of life.

My dad died. That was a bummer for me. My dad was a good man. When he died I was angry. I told God I thought it was stupid that so many jerks were still alive and yet my dad was dead.

It was tribulation. It showed me that life is vain. I have grown in faith and in patience since then.

Steve Taylor, a Christian musician who wrote quirky songs that bothered a lot of Christians and who obviously I found to be enjoyable because of that (!), had a song lyric that said, “Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better.”

Once you give up on your plans for life, once you resign yourself to life in the Spirit where you don’t know where you came from or where you are going, you feel better. Patience begins to happen.

Instead of temporal hope in our plans (I hope my kids turn out right, I hope my money lasts, I hope my church grows, etc.), we begin to set our affections on things above. We put our treasure in heaven. We let go of temporal hope and replace it with eternal hope.

Struggle with patience? Suffer more. Learn to give up on your ideas and plans, they’re probably dumb anyway. Embrace the vanity of life and live for eternity instead.

Patience grows out of that.

If Ecclesiastes isn’t one of your favorite books in the Bible, I daresay you are missing the point.

Faith is Obedience

Most people define sin as “Not obeying or doing God’s will.” It’s a standard definition.

Paul tells us that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Therefore, by default, even though few will admit it, faith is doing God’s will.

Many have the idea that faith is agreeing with something in your head. You heard the facts and conclude, “Yeah, ok, I can go with that.”

But faith leads to action. The root word, in the Greek, actually includes the idea of being persuaded to the point of obedience.

Hebrews 11, all about biblical characters who had faith, all DID something–mainly, they did what God told them to do.

We all inherently know this, it just makes too much sense. Faith is not proven by saying you believe, nor by raising your hand, nor by having someone dunk you in water.

Faith is proved by works, by the new life that comes that looks like Christ and not like a sinner.

However, in recent years, Christianity has gotten wimpy and backed off this point entirely. We’re afraid of works-righteousness and sounding like we’re saying people are saved by works.

As much as I sympathize with the concern, I believe we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction. To the extent that some have said you are still saved by faith even if you grow to deny Christ and become an atheist.

That is complete idiocy.

Paul speaks in Romans of the “obedience of faith.” Disobedience is sometimes used in the Bible as the antithesis of believing.

Faith is obeying God’s Word. How do you know you are saved by faith? Because the just shall live by faith.

Christ has done everything necessary to make you right with God and to remove your sin. You believe He died on the cross, was buried and rose again.

This isn’t just a head knowledge of facts about Christ; it’s an identification (according to Romans 6 and many other passages) with His crucifixion, burial and resurrection. We are raised up to newness of life. A life that is yielded no more to sin but to righteousness.

As Paul says, “Faith which worketh by love.” Faith works. It does stuff. You know you believe when you grow in obedience to God’s Word.

On Death: Five Points

For most, death is THE enemy. For the Believer in Jesus Christ, death is victory.

That being said, one way you can tell the veracity of a person’s faith is observing their view of death. Perhaps better said: the best way to see if you have faith is to examine your view of death.

1) Death is victory; the process of dying is agony. In no way do I mean to minimize the reality of what death is and does to a person. Being concerned with how you will die, how you will bear up under pain, the slow decay of the body and its functions, is no fun. Death is the ultimate delivery from agony, for the Believer. But until death occurs, life might stink.

2) Fear of death is bondage. Being afraid to die binds us to maintain life here, keeps us in slavery to keeping ourselves alive. In many respects, it keeps us from living. If you don’t want to die, will you maintain your witness before hostile multitudes? People who obsess over healthy living to stay alive as long as possible, are in bondage to rules and regulations that frequently suck the joy out of eating, which often sucks the joy out of company. Nothing more disastrous for a party than a health-nut lecturing everyone about sugar.

3) Wanting to die aint all bad. As I’ve said before, many big-name Bible characters wanted to die (Moses, Job, Elijah). Paul had a desire to depart, which is FAR BETTER. We’re not talking about a morbid, depressed, suicidal tendency. It’s a rejoicing in what is to come, which brings a realization of how far short this life is from ultimate glory. The issue is not just that you’re tired of living, that you wish physical existence was more pleasurable, the desire is to be with the Lord and to leave sin behind.

4) Death is sad, even for believers. There are some who take a verse like “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope,” and try to make it mean that Christians can’t cry at funerals, that we have to “be strong” and “put on a happy face because of Jesus.” Most of this is hooey and a fixation on your reputation before people. Death is sad. Cry. Weep. Mourn. Weep with those who weep, don’t judge them for “not having enough hope.” Take your time. Cancel plans. Weep. Let your heart cry out to God. This is sin’s biggest weapon and it’s ugly. Yes, there is hope and there is a pressing on. But the death of others hurts. Let it hurt. Let that hurt drive you to Christ where we have hope.

5) Go to funerals. Weep with those who weep. Funerals give you perspective. Funerals teach. Funerals make you wise. Many have told me, “I don’t like funerals.” Stop it. Get over it. Go to them. Go to them as much as possible. Think long and hard about the fact that yours might be next. Especially go to them if it is family. Many regrets are had by those who skip family funerals. Do the right thing. Go. Be humble. Be quiet. Weep. Learn. Think. Ponder. Death is on its way to you. Our world is distracting you from this truth. The world covers it up. Three kids shot by their drunk dad is followed up in the news by a story about a small mouse dressed up to eat burritos.

Death. It’s real. It must be dealt with. Get ready now.

On Lies: Ten Points

The Apostle Paul tells us to put off the old man, and several times lying is the first sin listed to put off. Perhaps our ranking of sins is completely backward.

We like to bash alcohol, drugs, homosexuality, abortion, etc, yet very rarely talk about the sins that most Christians do hourly–lying, gossip, foolish jesting, etc.

Lying is bad. Here are ten thoughts about lying.

1) Satan is a liar; Jesus is The Truth. When we lie we join with Satan. When we lie, we go against Jesus Christ. Lying is a very easy, yet blatant denial of faith. It is anti-Christ. It is blasphemy against the person of Christ. Satan is the father of lies; don’t be his kid.

2) Lies compound. Once one lie gets out, more lies need to come and cover it. Lying can sink a person real fast. This is especially true if the liar begins to believe his own lies.

3) Lying is always from pride. Lies generally have to do with making you look better than you are, or making others look worse than they are. Pride is the root of most (if not all) sin, and especially of lying.

4) Lying is against truth. You lie either because you don’t know the truth and can’t admit it, or you know the truth and don’t want to deal with it. Either way, lying shows you can’t deal with truth and that is a frightening conclusion (Jesus is the Truth. God’s Word is Truth).

5) Lying destroys credibility. If you are caught in a lie, and since lies tend to compound, you will be caught in many lies, you are immediately disqualified from being a dispenser of truth. Your witness will tank. Who would go to a liar to get truth?

6) Lying is a gateway sin. Romans 1 says that changing the truth of God into a lie is what leads men to pursue gross sin. Lying is the foundation of gross sin. Changing the truth leads down a long, slippery slope to destruction.

7) God hates lies. Two people were struck dead in the early church of Acts. They weren’t struck dead for getting drunk, aborting babies, having sex out-of-wedlock. No, they were killed for lying. Think on that a minute.

8) God cannot lie. God speaks truth. All believers should have a fondness for truth. For factual information. That being said, they should have little interest in philosophy, speculation, hearsay, tradition, and any other unexamined, uninformed theory. The believer lives by faith; faith comes by hearing God’s Word. The believer lives on God’s Word, nothing else.

9) Lies reveal your heart. Lies come from within. They come out of pride, envy, and strife. Peaceful people don’t lie; argumentative, combative people lie. Truth has a way of settling a person, rather than riling them up into fighting fits. Lies show you don’t love people.

10) Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. God hates lies. That should be enough to make us stop.

On Being Right: 5 Points

Right is something I have been for quite some time. As I have often told my wife, “Hey, even when I’m wrong, I’m right.” When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

I say this mostly in jest, however. I have learned a thing or two about being right.

1) If you would like to be right, base your conclusions on facts, not on emotions, hope, half-baked knowledge, or what someone else said. Do the work. Research something before having an opinion. Look up original sources all the time. Don’t quote people, because more than likely the person who told you the quote attributed it to the wrong person. Look up quotes before quoting the quote! Especially true in regard to Scripture references. One way to increase your odds of being right is to know you are right before saying anything. If you don’t know what you’re talking about: CEASE TALKING.

2) Being right is deceptive. Truth is somewhat subjective. Everything is good in its season. Knowing when that season is can be tough. It might be right to go to war now, it might not be. It’s easy to charge politicians for  “flip-flopping” when the war they were for they are no longer for after they were for it. Things change. Give people a break, you change your mind too. Don’t be stuck on your one way of doing things in all situations. Consistency is often a sign of people who are wrong half the time.

3) Being wrong isn’t all that bad. Many have a fear of being wrong, so then they make stuff up, call people names, and use other forms of misdirection. Usually, those who fear being wrong, just end up being more wrong by defending their initial small portion of wrong. It has never hurt anyone to admit they were wrong. Being right isn’t all that big of a deal. Lighten up.

4) Feeling right might be the biggest indicator you are wrong. Many of the times I have felt the most right about something have been the times I was the most wrong. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt more than we give it to anyone else. We color our opinion of our opinions quite favorably. Some of my most confident moments have been followed by most humiliating defeats. I think that’s in the Bible, but I could be wrong. Look it up!

5) Don’t put money on it. It’s one thing to have an opinion; it’s another thing to have actual lives at stake, to have an actual cost for being wrong. Don’t voluntarily put your opinion in a position to lose actual, real stuff. UNLESS you have totally done the work and know for a fact you are right and are talking to a moron. Decisions matter. Take them seriously, and fight the urge to make unimportant decision overly important.

Jesus spent His whole life talking to people who were wrong. He was gracious with them, usually. The people He was most irritated with were the ones who knew they were right and mocked others. Knowledge puffs up. The best reason to be wrong is to increase your humility.

Being right can be the worst possible position for you to be in. Lose your fear of being wrong. Be humble. Learn. Grow. Listen. Forgive. Lighten up.

You never know, once you admit you might be wrong, you may actually learn something.

God will let you know in the end who was really right and wrong. Until then, judge not lest you be judged, for the standard you use to judge others will be used on you.

Consider Carefully Your “Relationship” With God

It has been a cool thing for a while to say that Christianity “isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”

As much as I understand the phrase and can, at times, be sympathetic to it, it still bugs me.

Add on top of that the new style of “evangelism” popular today is one of “relationship.” Again, I get it, but again, it bugs me.

I’m on a kick lately to try to say things biblically. If the Bible doesn’t say it like that, perhaps we shouldn’t either.

The Word of God is inspired, it is “God-breathed.” God said things just the way He wanted to.

Now, I will admit the point that as we translate words from the original languages into our own, things can get lost, which is why we should take advantage of the available translations.

But still, try to go with how God says things, at least make the effort.

Never once does the Bible use the word “relationship” in regard to what we have with Him (I looked it up in many translations, even the NIV).

We can love each other, we can know each other, but never once is what we have with Him called a “relationship.”

We are said to be His, the Father’s, sons, so in that way we are compared to a relationship we can understand. We are said to be His, the Master’s, slaves, so in that way we are said to have a slave/master relationship.

But the word is never used.

I find this intriguing, our desire to force our own happy notions on things rather than use God’s explicitly stated words. It’s curious to me.

Perhaps it’s just our desire to be “relational” with the world around us, like why we prefer the NIV to the Old English King James, because we can “relate” to it more.

“Relationship” is an interesting word, one I think we view as being happy, cozy, warm, friendly, and most of all totally non-demanding.

Girls talk about being “in a relationship” with a guy. Until they break up and get in a relationship with another guy, then another, and another. “Relationship” means “friend.” When we speak of “being in a relationship with God,” I think many use the same small idea.

Just waiting for the inevitable breakup.

I think the danger in our day is not religion, but over-familiarity that borders on tempting God.

Go ahead and keep using the word “relationship.” I know what you mean and, in general, it’s fine.

But I do think we should think long and hard about it. Jesus is more than your friend, He’s your God, King, Lord, Master, Father, and many other authoritarian words.

He’s not your besty, nor your lover; He’s God.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear

Heavenly Reward is not Beneath You

My son and one daughter (the other daughter is rather nonplussed with sports) are both in competitive sports. With all fatherly humility–they rock.

Our house is filling with awards. It’s cool. It’s fun. It proves once and for all that my family is way better than yours.

There have been times where my kids have not won. It’s true, I will admit it. But what is cool is that losing bothers them! They want to do better. They want the award. They want to know they won.

There are some in our world who think this is bad. Now, certainly it is something to be careful with. Winning at all costs is bad. Striving to win, however, is good.

Not keeping score in Little League is ridiculous. Giving ribbons to everyone who participated is nonsensical. Strive to win.

The Bible speaks of heaven as a reward. It even hints at degrees of reward in eternity and degrees of punishment in hell based on earthly performance. There are many who piously claim they are above this.

“I serve Jesus because I love Him. I do not stoop to compete for some crown.”

Well, hey, get over yourself. Actually, don’t, cuz then you’ll be one more person I totally defeat.

God promises us rewards for service rendered. He does this as a Father encourages His children. It’s not some sort of law principle. It isn’t something that eliminates love, or grace, or whatever.

When you do good you get good. You reap what you sow.

One reason why our world is so sports obsessed is because we inherently love the idea of competition. Even my non-sportsy daughter is very competitive in playing piano. She wants to do well and she wants reward for it.

If you are a father who never rewards good from your kids, or punishes bad from your kid, you are a messed up individual.

My Father in heaven rewards good and punishes bad. It’s one reason I love Him. There is a score. Are ya winning?

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

The Sermon on the Mount and Law Principles

The Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5-7, is one of the great portions of your Bible.

Unfortunately, there are some who don’t think it applies to us.

This assumption is based on the fact that it sounds like “law.” As in, it is based upon law principles–if you do this, then you will get this.

If Israel obeys their covenant with God–they will get to stay in the Promised Land.
If Israel disobeys the covenant–they will get kicked out of the Promised Land.

The opposite of law is grace, for most.

Grace principle is, presumably, you can do whatever you want and it won’t make one bit of difference in results.

If these are your assumptions, it is easy to see why the Sermon on the Mount would be chucked as being law principle.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Therefore, if I don’t show mercy to others, I won’t get mercy from God. I have to DO something to get mercy. This is a law principle.

I think this whole thing is completely missing the point. We are indeed told that we are not under law but under grace. We are not in the Old Covenant. I do not have to keep the laws of Israel that they were to keep to stay in the Land. The Church is not called to stay in any Land.

We are told that we no longer need to observe sabbath days, food laws, sacrifices, temples, priests, circumcision, etc. All these were particular laws for Israel as part of their land covenant with God.

To say that this means law principle is out is a stretch. As Paul said, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.”

Based on the definition above, “reaping what you sow” is a law principle. Paul says not to be deceived, what you do matters, don’t mock God by saying otherwise.

Jesus was very clear and repetitive about the idea that what you do shows what is in your heart. If you are not a forgiving person, don’t expect to be forgiven by God.

The only people who should have a problem with that statement are people who don’t want to forgive others. That’s a problem.

We have too long bought into the notion that the Gospel is just what Jesus did for me, and have all but eliminated the idea that by faith we join in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. That we’re raised up to newness of life.

If you have faith in the Gospel, your life begins to look like Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is a description of what the life of Christ looks like. It is pure grace.

The Sermon on the Mount is the best description of what grace actually looks like. Live it.

To those who still think the Sermon on the Mount is law–you will do much more for the doctrine of grace by living the Sermon on the Mount, than any explanation of grace you may attempt to argue.

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