How to Have Joy

Although the Bible usually speaks of laughter as being bad, or associated with God’s judgment, it does say a lot about rejoicing and joy.

Laughter, according to the Bible anyway, is not necessary to rejoicing or joy.

One thing I noticed while looking at many verses about joy and rejoicing is how often it is tied in directly with righteousness. Here are some examples:

Proverbs 21:15– It is joy to the just to do judgment
Psalm 32:11– Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Psalm 68:3– But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
Proverbs 29:6– In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.
1 Corinthians 13:6—love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth
1 Thessalonians 5:15-16– See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore.

If you are not righteous and are not doing righteousness you have no reason to rejoice.

One of the greatest sources of joy, based on these verses, is doing what is right. People who do what is wrong may appear to have more fun. They may laugh a lot. But true joy comes from being and doing what is right.

In our excitement to tell people to be happy and have joy, we often skip the basis of that joy. Our true message should be: Be made righteous in Christ and then go do what is right. Joy flows from that. Joy is the end, not the means.

The modern American message of happy-happy all the time pulls the rug out from under the joy it promises. The church today bases joy on temporal happiness, not on righteousness.

Our flesh will tell us this is a lie. Truly happy people live in sin and let it rip.

Sorry, not true. Not true from the Bible nor from experience. I know lots of people who lived in sin, bragging about how happy and fun life is. It’s lies. You can’t live in sin and have joy. You can’t.

Joy is based on righteousness. Don’t forget it. Want joy? Be righteous.

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

Crying is the physical manifestation of sadness; laughing is the physical manifestation of happy.

However, in the Bible, the vast majority of the mentions of laughing have to do with laughing at the destruction of others.

Often times, “laugh” in the Bible is followed by scorn, as in “they laughed him to scorn.”

David wonders why the evil laugh at the righteous. God laughs at the plans of the wicked. The righteous will laugh when the evil are punished.

One exception is Sara laughing when the angel tells her she will have a son in her old age. She thought that was a joke.

Laughing in the Bible isn’t about jokes, it’s about seeing bad stuff happen to your enemies.

So, what’s that do for ya?

Does it bug you the Bible is so vindictive to laugh at the downfall of enemies? How does this fit with love?

I personally am not bothered by that. I love the fact my God laughs at wicked people who think they are so superior. I like that the righteous are described as laughing when the evil get their come-upins.

I don’t mind that, but I know others do. Others who are all touchy-feely and about being “fair.” I laugh at you.

What does it do to humor? Should Christians be funny?

One problem with humor is that it easily crosses a line. Every little kid who gets people to laugh will eventually run out of jokes and resort to poop and fart jokes. Happens every time.

Comedy shows and movies always cross the line into innuendo and scatological references.

Humor is dangerous. God does not come across as a funny guy, nor do His apostles and prophets. In fact, Jesus is a man of sorrow acquainted with grief.

Although I don’t think this means humor is out, I do think we should let these facts temper our comedic impulses.

Laughter doesn’t get much air time in the Bible. We are truly amusing ourselves to death. It might be time to sober up a bit.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Other People’s Sin

Although we judge ourselves rather lightly, we are pretty good at judging others. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, while not giving anyone else a break.

Although we don’t think our sin is that bad, we know for a fact the sins other people do are really, really bad.

But I wonder, in all our moral superiority, if we cry over the sins of others?

Not crying because other people’s sin hurt me. I mean actually feeling pain that others are sinning.

Crying because others are lost, crying because they are living in sin, is a very consistent example of tears in the New Testament.

*Jesus cries over Jerusalem, the city that rejected the prophets is now rejecting their Messiah. It was the will of God that they be gathered to the Messiah, yet their will was different. Jesus cries over their hard rebellion.

*In Luke 23:28 Jesus tells some women who are crying for Him to stop. Rather they should cry for themselves and their children, they are the ones in trouble heading for God’s judgment.

*Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 and weeps while telling them there will be false teachers who will come out of them to mess up the Church.

*In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul says he wrote the first letter to Corinth, that corrected them for all their sinful ways, with tears. He’s glad he made them feel sorrow (guilt) for their sin because that led them to fix them. Paul is happy they felt guilt, let me just repeat that in light of yesterday’s post. Godly sorrow leads to repentance which leads to eternal life.

*In Philippians 3 Paul weeps when he thinks of false teachers who are enemies of the cross.

Paul seems particularly moved to tears when he thinks about the sin and false teaching going on in the church. Just as Jesus Christ had zeal for His Father’s House, the Temple, Paul has zeal for Jesus Christ’s house, the church.

Everyone and their mother has a problem with some church. I just wonder if we’re offended, or if we actually cry over the false teaching and sin running rampant. It’s fun to mock Joel Osteen and our other false teacher of the moment fads, but have we cried over it?

Do we have any zeal for the House of Jesus Christ? Does it bother you that sin is killing people all around you?

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Personal Sin

Fallen people sin. We are all fallen people. We all sin. The one who says they don’t sin is lying and the truth is not in him.

When a person with the truth in him pays attention, he sees his own sin. This can’t help but bum you out.

Now, I know, I know, “But Jeff, there’s now no condemnation! Sin shouldn’t bug you!”

That’s stupid. Of course it should bug me, I just violated God’s will. The fact that I won’t be condemned to hell for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t bother me.

“But Jeff, but Jeff! It’s all grace! Only those under Law need feel guilt over sin.”

I beg to differ. I don’t even beg really, I just differ. If your sin does not bother you, I find it hard to believe you have the Holy Spirit, or that you are a new creation in Christ.

The flesh lusts against the Spirit. We mortify, kill off, the deeds of the flesh. I fail to see how this battle, this wrestling, does not come with feelings of remorse, guilt, and regret.

We should look to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ in all this. There is an answer to the guilt, remorse, and regret, but I do believe you are in a very bad place if your sin never gets you down.

Here are a number of New Testament examples of people being bummed out by their sin.

*Luke 7 has a woman who is a known sinner crying tears on the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair. The Pharisee standing by had no remorse over his sin and cried none at all, thus making him the recipient of a lecture from Jesus.

*After Jesus betrayal and Peter’s thrice denial, Peter is reminded of Jesus’ words about him and immediately busts out crying knowing he had just denied Christ.

*There are a number of times when Jesus talks about a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth by people who failed in life. If you aren’t weeping over your sin on earth, you’ll be weeping over them for eternity.

*Hebrews 12:16,17 relates people doing sin and then feeling like the weeping Esau after selling his birthright. He can’t get it back no matter what he does. Sin can back you into irreversible corners you will regret.

Sin is a bummer. We’re not supposed to do it. When we do, we’re supposed to feel bad. Any doctrine that says otherwise is of the devil, the only one who is happy about your sin.

Again, there is a looking to Christ for forgiveness and future victory, but I fail to see how this eliminates the necessity to weep over our sin, especially when it has real world, painful consequences.

If it’s been a while since your sins have caused you tears, you’re in a very bad place.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Life Stinks

There are some who maintain that everything that happens on earth is God’s will. Not like His will will but His will. Some have gone so far as to say that things like the Holocaust and child rape are done by God’s divine decree.

I find this to be the height of blasphemy.

Yet the teaching somehow prevails despite my opinion.

Jesus Christ told His followers to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” which clearly shows that God’s will is not being done here.

Adam and Eve brought in sin, and with sin came death. Death entered and creation is groaning and travailing, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God.

This earth is filled with pain and misery. This is not God’s will for humanity; this is the result of humanity’s sin. God does not enjoy watching people suffer. Suffering is the result of our choices. Choices God warns us not to make.

We live in a world where even if you make all the right choices, sin and corruption have taken root so much you will still suffer. Ask Jesus Christ.

In fact, the New Testament says if you do Christianity right, you will suffer persecution. Sinners hate light. If you reflect light you will be hated. You’ll also have to fix your septic tank and unclog drains and pay out the nose for health insurance, etc.

Life stinks, especially while fixing your septic tank. It’s why we are to have a desire to depart.

The New Testament shows people weeping over the sad stuff of life. These are things the Bible thinks are fine to cry about.

*Acts 20:19 tells us that Paul cried many tears while being persecuted and beat up on.

*A few verses later the elders of Ephesus cry upon Paul’s departure knowing they will probably never see him again, as he was going to Jerusalem to be arrested.

*In 2 Timothy 1 Paul remembers Timothy’s tears over him, probably also knowing he wouldn’t see Paul, his mentor and father figure, ever again.

*Hebrews 5:7, not an easy verse to interpret, says that priests cry while making intercession.

Life is filled with bad stuff. It hurts. We groan. We cry. This is not our home. It’s OK to feel hurt and cry. Yes, we need to look to the future and the author and finisher of our faith, but a little bit of crying never hurt anyone.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Death

Crying can be a good thing and it can also be self-pity, wha-wha poor me, I’m not getting my way, wounded pride.

Since it can be a bad thing, perhaps if we look to the Bible (imagine that) to get a sense of what people in there cried about, we can see what it is we should cry about. I limited my look to the New Testament, just because.

The first thing the Bible makes clear is that we should cry about death.

–The shortest verse in the New Testament simply says, “Jesus wept” and it was at a funeral.

–A young girl dies and, as Jesus approaches, many people are crying because it’s sad to see kids die. But Jesus tells them to stop as He raises her back to life.

–Mary cried at the tomb when she found it empty not knowing what happened with the body of Jesus.

–Women gather when Dorcas dies, sharing all the stuff she sewed for them, and they weep after losing such a great saint.

These are some of the examples of crying about death.

Many believers use “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” to convince themselves that crying over the dead is wrong. It isn’t.

The context shows that Paul is not saying to stifle tears at funerals, he’s talking about resurrection. The context shows that the sorrow relates to what will happen to the dead, will they be with God or not? Don’t worry about the dead, God has them under His care too. Being dead cannot separate them from the love of God.

The verse doesn’t mean we aren’t sad when others die. It means we aren’t sad that the dead are out there somewhere floating around aimlessly with no future.

Some Christians have been quite rude with this, telling mourning people to “get over it.” “Move on.” Etc. Not good.

The Old Testament seems to show that a good month should be taken to mourn, and many Jews believe there should be a year of mourning for the death of one close to you, like a parent.

There is plenty of crying in the Bible over loved ones dying. It’s a good thing. Don’t buy the argument that believers should be all smiles at funerals. Weep. Weep with those who weep. It’s good for you.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Blessed Are You Who Weep Now

Just as laughter is the physical manifestation of happiness, tears manifest sadness.

Many of the tears we have shed in life are pure selfishness.

When you were born you cried all the time. You cried when you were hungry, when you were tired, when you were “over tired,” and whenever you wanted something different.

As you grew up you began to hurt yourself. You cried when you were in pain and continued to cry over your selfish desires not being met.

Eventually you reached (hopefully) an age where sympathy comes in. Perhaps, maybe a couple times you cried because someone else was, or because someone else was sad, or maybe a movie made you cry.

Crying is sometimes nothing more than self-pity because we didn’t get our way.

Tears are mentioned in the Bible quite a bit. The Bible is a book about reality and reality is sad. This world is not what it was supposed to be. Sin brings in nasty effects and those effects are sad.

Jesus Christ, the man of sorrow acquainted with grief, once said, “blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.”

We’re supposed to be weeping now. Our laughter comes in eternity.

A. W. Tozer said it best,

The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back to his loved ones. There he may enjoy himself to the full; but while the war is on, his most pressing job is to be a good soldier, to acquit himself like a man, regardless of how he feels.

The world we live in now is a battlefield. It’s a grueling race to be run. You don’t laugh through that.

But, when it’s over, watch out! That is when our true joy will be experienced in its fullness and laughter will mark our eternity.

Knowing and Feeling

Although we were created as rational beings, we also are emotional beings. Emotions are not always rational.

There is a battle in you between what you know and what you feel.

Although you may know you are eternally secure, you may not feel like it.

Although you may know God loves you, you may not always feel like it.

Although you know you are not alone in the faith, you may feel alone.

What do we do when what we know doesn’t match what we feel?

The first step is to examine yourself. It could be your feelings are warning you. Maybe they are pointing out that you are fooling yourself. The reason you don’t feel secure is because you know the truth about who you are.

The second step would be to find a resolution to the conflict. Find out which one is wrong. Do you know wrong things, or perhaps not really know things and you’ve just been lying to yourself? Or are your feelings distracting you from truth due to some temporal experience? Are you feeling wrong things or knowing wrong things?

Feelings are fleeting whereas truth is eternal. Although current life may not be good, this does not mean God does not love you.

We get in trouble when we assume feelings = knowing. Many religious gatherings are primarily based on feeling. They want to fill you with an emotion whether you know anything or not. As long as you experience the desired feeling, you call it good, til next time you “need a hit.”

I believe the church should focus on teaching so that people might know things. When we know right things, our feelings will follow. Feelings and knowing are not mutually exclusive.

Feelings can often spur you to right knowledge. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” No doubt that fear of God feels like something!

But at the same time, why do you fear God? Probably because you know something about Him. “Our God is a consuming fire.” This we know and this should create an emotional response.

It is easier to demonstrate your feelings than it is to demonstrate your knowledge. Knowledge usually requires work. Feelings require being alive. I think we lose when we make emotions our primary concern.

It doesn’t matter what you feel really, but it does matter what you know.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints

Surely, if you knew these things, you’d feel pretty good! But, no doubt, life will make you feel bad even though you still know these things. Grab on to knowing the truth that lasts, and don’t settle for the pottage of feeling right while being wrong.

Prince of the Prince of Peace?

The artist formerly known as Prince is one of the creepiest music guys I’ve ever come across. I don’t like his music, nor do I think he’s a musical genius. But that’s mostly because I just absolutely don’t care for his “music.”

I don’t care for organic food either, but apparently many others do. If you like the artist formerly known as Prince, great. Keep him to yourself before God.

Anyway, the artist formerly known as Prince enjoys being weird and his latest weirdness is doing a cover of a song by  “Christian artist,” Nichole Nordeman, formerly known as Nichole Nordeman.

Part of the lyrics go like so:

What if you pick apart the logic and begin to poke the holes
What if the crown of thorns is no more than folklore that must be told and retold

But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?

I don’t think the artist formerly known as Prince is going through a “Christian phase” like many aging rockers do, I think he’s just making waves.

Nichole Nordeman is thrilled that the artist formerly known as Prince is covering her song and considers it to be an honor. Also larger checks.

There is a rumor that the artist formerly known as Prince converted to Jehovah’s Witness a number of years ago after being raised in a Seventh Day Adventist home.

The guy seems fairly confused, but I hope he does indeed come to the truth and repent of his sins and his style of music.

Big Ol’ Jet Airliner Has Carried Creflo Too Far Away

Creflo Dollar, a prosperity “gospel” preacher, recently asked his supporters to give him $60 million to buy a new private jet for “ministry.”

For some reason, this ask was a bit too big. Apparently it’s OK to weasel people out of smaller sums of money, but not $60 million.

Good to know people have limits.

Since the hubbub began, Mr. Dollar has removed all trace of his big ask from his website, but due to the miracles of the Internets, some of the text from the site remains. Here’s a snippet:

“”Heavenly Father, as the righteousness of God by faith we come boldly, confidently, and fearlessly to Your throne of great grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us obtain this Gulfstream G650.

This G650 will serve as a ministry tool for Pastor Creflo Dollar to carry the Good News—too good to be true—revelation of Your love and grace around the world.””

If that doesn’t make your skin crawl and your antichrist meter ring, I don’t know what would. I’ll quote some Apostle Paul to leave you with a better taste in your mouth:

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.

Free Showers for the Homeless! or Something

KCBS has learned that Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.”

This church refers homeless people to several denominationally affiliated services for the homeless and doesn’t want a bunch of drunk people sitting on their porches.

Although I can understand their plight and it is easy to judge them since no drunk homeless people are sleeping at our doorstep every night, it does seem a bit weird.

“Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.””

Perhaps it’s an application of giving a cold glass of water to your enemies? Perhaps it’s an offer of living water in metaphorical terms? Perhaps they believe in baptismal regeneration and believe they are adding souls to heaven?

Then again, it sounds more like people with vested interests in earthly things and in order to protect earthly things one must drive off those who mess up earthly things.

What Does “A Merry Heart Does Good Like A Medicine” Mean?

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

I have heard this verse quoted many times. I’ve seen it on cheesy Christian plaques and cross-stitch.

Usually what people mean with the quote is, “Hey, I know everything in life is falling apart right now, but cheer up! Be happy! Turn that frown upside down and you’ll feel better.”

It’s the biblical equivalent of “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Solomon apparently wrote the verse to give Joel Osteen sermon content.

Proverbs is a tough book because not all the verses have a context. Many times they are seemingly random thoughts thrown together with one verse having no connection to the next.

But that’s not always the case. I don’t think it’s the case with the above verse. Here is, what I believe to be, the context of this verse:

He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

I think these two verses were meant to be written next to each other.

If your kid turns out to be a moron you have no joy. Your rotten kid then crushes your soul and this rots your bones. A wise kid brings joy.

Something that makes the link even stronger is that in the Hebrew the word “joy” and “merry” are the same word just a different form.

Solomon is saying, “The father of a fool has no joy, and a joyful heart does good.” It’s the same word, the same context.

Solomon is not advocating happiness at all times, a determination to be happy no matter what. In fact, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon specifically states that seeking happiness all the time is a waste.

Solomon is more specifically saying to raise good kids to have joy, which will help you stay healthy too.

Before taking a phrase and making it mean whatever we want it to, it’s best to stick with the context. Failing to do so makes God say many things He never intended.

Grace is Great Because People Are Stupid

Ever notice that never once was Jesus described as laughing, yet was said to be crying several times?

Our Savior was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Several times Our Lord showed Himself to be fed up with people. “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?

People are tiresome. I tire you. You tire me. We tire each other. Everyone is tired.

I get tired of being tired.

Jesus was not at home here. Any follower of His won’t be at home here either.

Jesus spoke the truth, not what people wanted to hear. When people addressed him with “Good Master,” He was immediately skeptical of what would come next. Usually He’d correct their compliment before tackling their issue.

Jesus didn’t believe compliments either.

Jesus spoke the truth, He didn’t speak out of sentimentalism. He didn’t speak to evoke a positive happy response all the time. He just spoke the truth.

I wish I could speak the truth as consistently. But I don’t. I get swayed by emotion, by peer pressure, by people-pleasing desires, and various things. I am stupid.

What I love about Jesus is that He already knows we’re stupid, yet loves us anyway. He understands our frame. Yes, it’s tiresome, but it also provides Him a great opportunity to show love and grace.

Jesus knows we’re stupid. “There is none who understands” the Bible says about us. We’re dumb. We are not what we ought to be.

While we were His enemies, Christ died for us. He showed us grace.

To clarify, God is gracious whether there are any dumb people or not. Also, in no way does grace make stupid something good. Just like sin, grace doesn’t make sin OK, even though sin needs grace. Stupid is stupid and has no redeeming qualities in itself.

That being said, if I were always right and always smart, you’d never get to show me grace. If you were always smart and right, I’d never get to show you grace.

No human can show grace to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never did anything that needed grace. He is full of grace and truth already.

Grace can only be shown to someone who is broken.

I am broken and I thank God through Jesus Christ that grace is freely given. Oh that we’d be more like Him and give each other some grace.

Why I Don’t Trust You: Because People Are Stupid

Whenever people find out I’m a pastor they tell me either

1) How awesome their church and pastor are in ways that make me feel like vomiting, or
2) They unload on me all their issues they have with the church.

I don’t believe you either way. Although I care for you, I really don’t care to hear about your church. I cannot possibly stress this point enough.

I know what churches are. I’ve been a pastor for 15 years. My dad and grandpa were pastors. There is nothing new under the sun. I’ve heard the stories and lived a fair share of them.

Church people enjoy ripping apart pastors. Everyone knows how to do this job except those trying to do it.

Many people have stories about how some pastor did some thing that hurt them or ruined them. I know there are bad pastors. I also know there are good pastors who teach wrong things. I know there are good pastors who make mistakes.

The thing that most people don’t understand is that pastors forgive people many, many times. You have no idea how many. But the pastor says or does ONE THING that doesn’t sit well, and BOOM! People get mad and leave.

So you don’t trust pastors? Well, I’ve got some new for you. Pastors don’t trust you either.

Pastors and church members are both people and people are stupid. Patience, love, and submitting to one another in the fear of God, are the only ways we will make it together. In other words: Divine intervention.

When you give me a compliment–I don’t believe you. I’ve heard em all. Not that I don’t appreciate a compliment, I need approval like anyone else. I just don’t really believe you. Everyone who ever told me I was “the best preacher” no longer goes to my church. And, yes, there was more than one. I also don’t believe your compliments because I don’t want to be dependent on them, for my own safety.

When you criticize me–I don’t believe you then either. I listen and check myself, but no, I don’t believe what you say is true unless there is actual proof of your words. I apologize when shown my error. There are many errors I have been accused of that I have not apologized for, because in my book, they weren’t errors.

When you give me a gift–the first thought in my head is, “what do you want?” The reason I think this is because that’s how gifts go. My house is filled with gifts people who left my church “graciously” gave me. I doubt your sincerity. I am not bought off. I have turned down money from some questionable sources to avoid such compromise.

I don’t think these things on purpose, I do these things out of conditioning. Church-going people have trained me to think this way. It is only by grace I can still function in the church.

I know many pastors. There are probably more pastors abused by their churches than churches abused by their pastors. Pastors are often hurt people. We’re about four minutes from resigning at any given moment.

The main reason most pastors are still at their church is because they can’t find another job. This isn’t my opinion, this has been studied.

Some pastors give in and play the game. They give the people what they want so the people will give the pastors what he wants, which is usually more money, more power, or more ego-stroking something or other.

Other pastors quit. It’s just not worth the cost any more.

I decided to fight it out. To not let the stupid ruin me, or get me mad and bitter at the church. I resolved this over a long time, and continually renew that resolve.

I have not sold out. I have not given in. I assume you’ll get ticked off and stab me in the back. Since that’s my basic assumption about you, it helps me graciously deal with you in actual love. I’ve already given up! I’ve got nothing to lose!

This frees me up to tell you the truth. It frees me up to do what I think is right, not what will keep you happy so you don’t get mad and leave on me, which is manipulation, not love.

There is a fine group of people in my church now who appear to like me and appear to desire the truth. This is very cool to me. It wasn’t always this way. My church is much smaller now and I get paid less than ever, but I enjoy it more than ever.

I’m not a perfect man, nor a perfect pastor. But I’ve learned many things. One of those things is how to love people. This wasn’t easy. I had to get rid of me and my desires. I nearly quit so many times it’s not funny. But I’m glad I stayed and resolved these issues.

Church people: don’t play games. Don’t toy with your pastor. He knows what you’re doing. He’s not stupid; he’s being gracious. He doesn’t like your games, but he’s trying to put up with it. But you’re killing him.

Most pastors have been conditioned not to trust words. Love the people in your church. Grow spiritually. Stay calm. Be faithful. Love your pastor, not in words but in deeds, deeds that look like you are becoming Christ.

The best thing you can do for your pastor is tell him how you are applying something he taught, and then tell him about all the people you shared the Gospel with this week. There is no greater compliment than souls saved. He doesn’t believe other compliments anyway.

Why I Don’t Trust the church: Because People Are Stupid

One of my underlying assumptions about life is: People are stupid.

People being stupid is a main reason why I trust the Bible, and it’s also the main reason why I don’t trust the church.

When I say “the church” I want to be clear what I mean.

By “the church” I mean the institutional church. What is sometimes called “the visible church.” The thing that people go to on Sunday mornings. The people, the official offices, the place, the money, etc.

When it comes to the institutional church, unfortunately, you shouldn’t trust it any more than you trust other human institutions. Human institutions are made up of people and people are stupid.

The church has true believers sprinkled throughout and there are many in the visible church who truly love you and care for your soul. But the church institution has shown over the years that it is messed up.

I, a church-going fellow, won’t apologize to you for the Crusades. I wasn’t in the Crusades. I have read a number of books on the Crusades, and all I can say is, “wow, those people were really stupid.”

Based on what I’ve seen in the Bible, there has always been a remnant of true believers. It’s never been a large number. When we look at Old Testament Israel, that numbered as the sand on the seashore, there was only a remnant of true believers. The same is true of the church today.

Jesus, in the parables of Matthew 13, said the same thing would exist in this age. This age will have a religious looking thing that will look huge, yet will have very few true believers in it.

Jesus said, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Jesus is not expecting this Christianity thing to work. Yup, Jesus thought people were stupid, too.

The visible church has spent much time and money on much foolishness. I do not trust the church.

The institutional church is largely more interested in your money and in doing what it wants you to do so it can feel special about itself, than it is concerned for your soul.

I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Many young people walk away from the church because, although young people are stupid, even they can see the church is corrupt. I can’t blame them.

The worst thing you can do is take the church’s word for it. The church rarely gives what God’s Word says. They have other interests in mind than God does.

Following church tradition is a really good way to end up in hell.

When Jesus was on earth, He spent little time railing on prostitutes and sinners, and plenty of time railing on religious types concerned with prolonging their religious institution. He railed on people who blindly followed human tradition.

You won’t get in heaven by being with the “right group.” You won’t get in heaven because you jumped through some church’s hoops.

You get in heaven by personally believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After that, you begin to try to help individuals in the church to become The Church, the Body of Christ.

I was close to walking out on the church. Didn’t go to church for several years in college. But it was then that I grounded my personal faith and knew I needed to do my part to help the church.

I ask you to join me in that. The church needs your help. God does not need any more people playing games with His stuff. He needs people to live by faith and make the church the most trustworthy institution on earth, which is done by making Christ ALL and us nothing.

One day it will be you and Him standing there looking at each other. No church will intervene. How will that meeting go?

Why I Believe the Bible is God’s Word: Because People Are Stupid

People believe all sorts of stupid things. If people didn’t believe stupid things, we wouldn’t have arguments. We do argue, therefore someone is believing stupid stuff.

The Bible claims to be The Truth. “Thy word is truth” says John 17:17.

Of course, if you don’t believe the Bible, you won’t believe the Bible’s claim to be truth. Some call this circular reasoning: I believe the Bible because the Bible says it is true, which is why I believe it.

It is circular reasoning, which is why you’ll get nowhere arguing “the Bible is trustworthy” to someone who doesn’t think it’s trustworthy.

The main reason I believe the Bible is true, and should be trusted when it claims to be true, is because I’ve spent a lot of time with people.

I have an overriding assumption about life: People are stupid.

This is a key point to grasp about life. It’s also key to remember you and I are people. I am stupid. You are stupid. We’re all stupid.

That being the case, I don’t trust people. I find people hard to believe. My brain seeks someone to believe who is trustworthy. People are not trustworthy. Therefore, I must believe someone who isn’t a people.

God is not a people, therefore, God seems like a good person to trust. So, how do I know the Bible is the trustworthy-God’s book? Why not the Koran?

This has a long answer. I’ll summarize: I’ve read the other books claiming to be God’s words. They sound too much like people.

Now the fact that I find the Bible to be a giant exception to people writing should not convince you to believe the Bible. Remember, I’m a people and therefore I am stupid.

I can’t even elaborate on what I mean by saying “the Bible doesn’t sound like people.” But it doesn’t to me. There are too many things in there that no person would say. Too many predictions that people could never make. Too much sense that I know people can’t possibly attempt to make.

The Bible stands out by itself. I have read many books. I know what people write. The Bible is no humanly written book. (Yes, human authors did the job of picking up pen and paper, but I believe the words are God-breathed words that the human writers wrote down. Yes, I’m one of those whacky Fundamentalists who believes in inspiration.)

Again, you have to make that call to trust the Bible or not for yourself.

Very few people who reject the Bible have ever read it. (Many who supposedly “believe” it have also not read it, which is frightening.) Even fewer have taken the time to understand it. Most are rejecting the Cliff Notes version they heard by some biblically illiterate old woman in Sunday School 37 years ago.

In conclusion, I believe the Bible is the Word of God and is trustworthy. I base this on the following facts:

1) People are stupid.
2) I don’t trust people.
3) The Bible is all together different from what people write.
4) The Bible is not written by people and is therefore trustworthy.

Don’t take my word for it, I’m stupid. But before rejecting God’s Word, have you even endeavored to understand it? Have you read it? Are you rejecting what people say about the Bible, or what the Bible actually says?

I believe the Bible is trustworthy. I believe God’s Word is right. If you disagree, I’m not shocked, because my underlying assumption is that you’re stupid. I also assume you think I’m stupid, which is why we both must take God’s Word seriously.

5 Reasons I Don’t Argue When You Might Want Me To

I don’t enjoy arguing. Not even with my wife.

Although I love the truth and have attempted to make it a big part of who I am, I’m not that threatened by people who disagree.

You might call it apathy; I’d call it wisdom.

Apathy equals not caring. Apathy doesn’t care about truth, nor about others. Apathetic people don’t argue because they’ve abandoned all concern for anything and anyone.

That’s not me. I care. I care a lot. It’s because I care that I often don’t argue.

I care about people’s souls and I care about the truth. I want to know the truth and I want to rescue those who are drowning in lies.

But many who are drowning in lies consider themselves to be out for a nice swim. They don’t think they are drowning at all. In fact, they think I am the one in trouble because I won’t jump in the water with them.

There are non-apathetic people on the other side of the issues. They care just as much as I do. And we disagree.

I don’t like to argue with those who are 100% convinced in their belief. I consider it to be a waste of time. Atheists and Calvinists are frequently 100% convinced they are right. I see no point and get no enjoyment out of arguing with them.

Quite honestly, I don’t believe I am 100% right. I believe I am 87% right, I leave enough caution to make me hesitate before launching into others.

I think this is where wisdom comes in. I’ve lived with me for many years. I’ve been wrong before. I will be wrong again. I have been humbled many times. I’d like to avoid further humiliation, which is most easily done by being quiet.

Wise people pick their battles. They also know who to battle, not just what to battle over. There is a time to be all things to all men so that by all means I might win some.

If we have people’s souls in mind, proving ourselves intellectually right might drop down a peg or two.

In the end, I might be completely wrong on this, but it at least explains why I do not seek out arguments, nor do I enjoy them, nor desire to prolong them.

If I do argue with you, it’s hopefully because there is an important issue being discussed and I think you are intellectually curious enough to listen, or that I might be able to learn something.

If I do not argue with you, it’s because

1) I don’t know what you’re talking about
2) I honestly have no opinion
3) I don’t see an edifying point in proving I am right. I am concerned for your soul, therefore other things are more important than bashing you into intellectual submission
4) I think we actually agree (very rare, but it happens)
5) I’ve determined you are a lost cause. Enjoy your ride!

4 Problems in the Church “The Fear of God” Would Solve

Not only are we supposed to fear God, fearing God is actually helpful! Here are a few reasons why:

1) A healthy fear of God eliminates all other fears.
If you fear God rightly, you won’t fear what man can do to you. You won’t fear your reputation before man, as who you are before God will trump all. The fear of God eliminates the fear of death. When we see God for who he is, understand that He means what He says, we will live our life in accord with Him, and will fully understand that we have been set free from the bondage of the fear of death. People who teach that you don’t have to fear God are usually very worried people.

2) The fear of God makes us wise.
Solomon tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Those who say there is no God are fools. Those who say there is a God and FEAR HIM become wise. If you don’t fear God, you probably have an elevated view of yourself. Pride keeps people very dumb. You cannot have the fear of God and pride at the same time. You can’t. Not possible.

3) The fear of God leads to spiritual growth.
Paul tells us to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” If you don’t fear God you won’t bother to do what He says. If you don’t do what He says, you won’t have fruit. If you don’t have fruit then you aren’t growing. Most of those who maintain that believers don’t have to fear God also tell believers they don’t have to do anything. They go together, like the Chicago Cubs and losing.

4) The fear of God leads to unity among God’s people.
Everyone clamors for peace and unity, yet no one can seem to create it. The reason why is because we tend to base unity on human ideals. The Bible tells us the fear of God will unify people. The fear of God destroys your inflated view of yourself. We are, according to Paul again, “to submit to one another in the fear of God.” If you have no fear of God, you won’t submit to anyone. You’ll be concerned about you and your needs. People who teach that believers don’t need to fear God are not submissive people, in my experience. Rather they tend to flaunt their liberty and trample on people’s feet.

The fact that “you don’t have to fear God” has become standard Christian doctrine has led to many of the problems the church has with itself.

The fear of God puts everything into perspective. Without this perspective shift, you will remain dumb, unfruitful, immature, dis-unified, and anxious about everything. In other words: a modern American Christian.

The fear of God solves many problems. Try it sometime. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up.

The Fear of God is a Good Thing

The fear of God is a frequent subject in the Bible, you wouldn’t know it by listening to American Christians, however.

I recently read a book that said, “Fear has no place in the life of a believer.” And the fear addressed was specifically the fear of God.

The “logic” goes like this: since we are saved by grace and God loves us, we don’t need to fear God and shouldn’t fear Him. Fear is the opposite of love and faith.

This is all very cute and charming and quite lovely in the Spring time, but it’s not true.

“But Jeff, what about 1 John ‘perfect love casts out fear?’ There’s no fear in love, Jeff.”

Well, that particular passage is talking about boldness in the day of Christ. The believer need not fear when it comes to Judgment Day. John is not saying “Perfect love casts out the fear of God,” John is saying that since I love the Judge and the Judge loves me, and I’ve spent my life living like Christ, I can have confidence on Judgment Day. (Look at it, that’s what it says.)

But Jeff, what about when Paul says God ‘has not given us the spirit of fear?'”

Again, look at the context. Paul is telling young Timothy not to be ashamed of Christ who suffered, nor of Paul who is suffering. Paul is encouraging Timothy to buck up and partake in the sufferings of the Gospel. Paul didn’t say, “God has not given us the spirit of the fear of God.” Paul is telling Timothy not to fear the sufferings of the Gospel.

In both passages, which are always used to say we don’t need to fear God, the context shows this isn’t the point. Of course we’re supposed to fear God: He’s God! We’re breathing piles of dirt! What’s the point of having a God who isn’t worthy of our fear?!

Furthermore, the only people in the Bible described as “having no fear of God,” are unbelievers! Go ahead, look it up!

Faith is impossible without fear. Faith implies a need for someone greater, more powerful, someone who is in charge, unlike us.

The fear of God is a good thing! The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. If you don’t fear God, and if you teach others not to fear God, you merely show you dumb you are, and according to Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, you will remain dumb.

Fear God.

Faith is Rewarded. Have a Rewardable Faith.

Last time I ran a marathon I had a time goal in mind. I did this even though Hal Higdon, the marathon guru of all time, said not to think about time. Just think about finishing.

Nope, not me. I had a goal and I obsessed over my time while training and during the marathon. Constantly I was doing the math, finding out my miles per hour, figuring out to the second how much time I could walk and still maintain my average.

I put so much pressure on myself to run that race in that time I nearly gave myself a heart attack. Once I realized in the marathon I wouldn’t hit my goal, my whole soul and body collapsed under me. I have never felt what I felt that dreadful day. It was very sad. You should be weeping.

I know you’re not weeping. Old ladies were consoling me, patting me on the back while I sobbed on the side of the road. It was humility and defeat as I had never experienced it before. Soul crushing. You should be weeping.

You’re probably still not weeping, but that only demonstrates the hardness of your own heart. Amen.

Anyway, running to win is tough. It’s easier not to. More fun. More relaxed.

But running to win is kind of what a runner is trying to do. The reason Hal Higdon said not to worry about time is because he was assuming you’d run more marathons later. Don’t burden yourself for the first one, finish one first to get that experience and then build on that to do better next time.

Hal Higdon runs to win in the long run, not just one day. He was trying to give me that advice and I blew him off. “How can a guy who has run 50 more marathons than me know more about running marathons? Idiot.”

Hal Higdon was dreadfully right. I have now learned my lesson. I am in a much better place to run to win, building off the poor performance of the past.

Lots of people think running for reward is somehow contradictory to faith. “I serve Jesus out of love, not out of some self-centered desire to be rewarded” pious people piously pontificate.

Moses chose suffering because he “had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Moses obeyed God by faith because he would get a reward!

In fact, the whole chapter of faith (Hebrews 11) says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Reward is what drives faith. All our pompous notions about being “above that” are clouds without rain. They sound fantastic and result in nothing.

As we undermine the motivation of reward, we undermine faith itself. The same people who downgrade reward are typically the same ones who downgrade good works, discipline, self-denial, etc. They go together.

God rewards people who run to win. It’s a long race, it’s more than one day, but run that race to win it, and grab your crown!

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.

Obama, Netanyahu, and God’s Throne

The just shall live by faith, and that aint easy.

Perhaps some are confused why faith isn’t easy. “I believe Jesus died and rose again, what’s the big deal? It’s not like some days I don’t believe that.”

Well, living by faith goes beyond assenting to the facts of the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

The word of God tells us many things about the Gospel. Christ is the center of the Gospel, and at the center of Christ and the Gospel is the mindset of Christ. He humbled Himself in the form of a servant. He became obedient unto death.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Living by faith means a humble, service in obedience to the person of Christ. To esteem others better than yourself. To fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one anothers burdens. Meekness. Gentleness. Patience.

Again, sounds nice. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that life is filled with things that challenge your humility, gentleness, meekness, and patience! Sitting in a chair thinking about being like Jesus and going to Wal-Mart and dealing with people is completely different.

Take the president for instance. Right now Christians are up in arms over President Obama’s treatment of Israel and Netanyahu. He’s turning on Israel, this is an affront to the Bible and God’s plan for the nations! Outrage! Uproar!

The New Testament repeatedly tells believers (those who live by faith) to submit to the government and honor them. Pray for them. Humility and meekness in the midst of disagreeing, is still humble enough to recognize what God said about Government.

Many, at such times, flop out the old “God is still on the throne” line and carry on ripping apart the President.

But no really, God is on the throne and, according to the Bible, all rulers are on their throne because God put them there! (Romans 13).

Not only is God on the throne, all rulers were put on their throne by God. You do know these go together, right?

Furthermore, Proverbs says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

As we rant and rave over our stupid politicians, we demonstrate a remarkable lack of faith in the integrity of God’s Word!

The Bible shows several Gentile kings coming to their senses under conviction by God (king of Nineveh, Nebuchadnezzar, the Queen of Sheba).

The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. No amount of you fuming is going to help.

People of faith, people who live by faith, trust God and His word, which is a giant calming influence. All the tension you feel in politics, the anger for the other side, is not helping you nor them. You can let it go.

Again, living by faith is moment by moment. It’s hard. Bringing every thought captive to Christ is tough. Paul knows–much of what I talked of above was said by him while awaiting his death under his government’s power.

And Politics is just one minor part of what “living by faith” is about.

The Bible actually means what it says. Do we have the faith to go with it?

Marathon Training in the Snow and Faith in the World

I am training for a marathon.

Again.

I began training for a marathon 7 years ago and I got hurt bad half-way through the training. I tried again the following year, and was so scared I’d get hurt again, I took it really easy.

I didn’t get hurt, but then my marathon didn’t go well either. I didn’t run again for about a year, I was so discouraged with my performance.

Running and I have had a mixed relationship. I began running because I could. Being legally blind prevented me from excelling at other sports, whereas running required little sight and plenty of energy. I got that.

But I resented running because I really wanted to play baseball and other sports where I could see. I didn’t do running because I wanted to, I kind of just had to if I wanted to do any sport.

I hated running. I ran track and cross country in college and did ok. Not great, but then again, I hated running, so I got the results I should have gotten.

Except once, I ran our 5-mile race in 29:32, which is awesome and I did not deserve that. I still maintain they measured the course wrong.

However, over the years I have gotten the running bug from time to time. Now, I just kind of feel like I need to do it.

I wouldn’t say I love running, but I will say I enjoy it more now than ever before.

It’s easy to talk about running. Easy to plan on running. Easy to dream about doing well in races. But you need to run to make that happen.

The Gospel of Running goes like this: The runner shall live by running. If you don’t run, you won’t finish the race.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ says: The just shall live by faith. Faith is the constant. It’s easy to talk about faith. It’s easy to plan on doing faithful things. Easy to imagine standing before Jesus and getting your rewards.

What’s hard is day by day living by faith. There is a reason Paul uses running as a metaphor for Christian living.

Just as it’s hard to day by day go run, it’s hard to actually do faith day by day.

I ran today. It was hard. I didn’t want to really. 20 degrees. Windy. One inch of snow on the ground on ice-covered roads, with more snow coming. Ran seven miles. Here’s the proof:

006

Did my flesh really want to go do that? Nope. Even while I was running, I kept thinking, “You can walk now. You ran three miles already, just walk now.” But I didn’t.

It’s a battle and a fight. It’s not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. There are really no tangible results of running today. In other words, if I had taken the day off, I doubt I’d feel any worse tomorrow. Odds are I’d feel better!

But I know, come marathon day, I’ll be glad I did my running today.

Faith isn’t a one-time, now you’re in so coast, deal. Faith is living. Faith is life. Continue in the faith. Run all the way through to the end.

Is My Answering Machine a Sign From God?

Every time I put a new greeting on our answering machine and set the correct date and time, we have a storm that knocks out our power within a week. When the power goes out, my answering message and the date and time get blanked out. I reset it again. Power goes out again.

I have done this many times. Often I just won’t reset it and let the machine play that weird voice thing. But then it tells me people who called today called three days ago at 1:35am.

Eventually I get sick of not knowing when people called and will reset it. Inevitably, within a week or so, the power will go out.

Now, you may tell me this is coincidence, or that it can’t possibly go the way I say it does. But it does. The last time our power went out was in December. I haven’t reset the answering machine, and lo and behold, our power has not gone off.

I know, if I reset the machine today, the power will go out soon. I don’t want that, so I don’t reset the machine.

Yup, that’s right, my answering machine controls our local weather. Hard to believe, but it’s true. There’s a chance that if we all reset our answering machines the same day we might end global warming, or start global warming, or whatever is different from what it is now.

So, my answering machine controls the local weather, or does it? Perhaps I am under Satanic attack?! Maybe Satan is messing with me. Maybe I should do an exorcism of my answering machine.

Perhaps it’s the sovereignty of God and He is testing my patience, seeing how temporally minded I am. Maybe I should pray about it more, ask God to spare my electricity going out for the sake of a proper working answering machine.

Should I fast and pray? Is this chastening from God for secret sins?

Then again, there are other people in my house. Maybe they are weak in faith and God is judging them. Perhaps it’s their secret sins that are messing with our electrical consistencies.

However, since I’m not a Calvinist, maybe I can just say that it’s dumb luck. Time and chance happen to them all. The electricity goes out on the righteous and the unrighteous. Suck it up, wuss boy.

Odds are you are not quite sure what I’m driving at here. Why am I even talking about this and making it into a spiritual issue?

For the same reason you make all your ridiculous problems into hyper-sensitive, self-centered, narcissistic, spiritual issues.

Stop it. Do the stuff God revealed, stop trying to interpret what He hasn’t.

I’m going to go set my answering machine now and wait for the electricity to go off.