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.