10 Ways to Not Grow In Christ

There are many things a person can do to grow as a Christian, most are rather straight-forward and common sensical. If nothing else, read your New Testament; every page will give you insight into how it’s done. What doesn’t get as much play are the things you can do to thwart growth into Christ.

Perhaps you can look at these as the weights to be set aside in the race of faith. Stuff that just isn’t helping. Maybe others can do it, and maybe that’s fine, but honestly, if you want to grow, it would help to get rid of these things:

1) The Bubble
Only hang with people who believe exactly what you believe. Leave your church when you realize there is 4% of doctrine you disagree with. Surround yourself with people who agree with you on everything.

2) Isolation
After you’ve church-hopped a lot, trying to find the place where the pastor tells you exactly what you want to hear and nothing else (the “itching ears” syndrome), you’ll get tired. Eventually you’ll discover that church doesn’t exist. Give up. Stay home. You know everything already, who needs church anyhow?

3) Lead
One of the most terrifying aspects of “church leadership” is you begin to believe you know what you’re doing. You get a little full of yourself. You answer questions. You solve problems. People look up to you. If you change doctrinally, you’ll let down lots of people. Who knows who will leave the church if you admit your reservations about a doctrine? Better just keep repeating the same old lines. Whenever you’re with other Christians: lead them!

4) Dismissing Growth
Embrace the doctrine that growth isn’t necessary. At least conclude that you don’t have anything to do with your own growth. Let go and let God! Then it’s all His fault!

5) Hero Worship
Find one guy, make him your all in all, and dismiss all others. Amputate your favorite part of the Body of Christ and ignore all the rest. Just keep your nice little fingernail of the Body.

6) Narcissism
Make sure everything you do is about you. Don’t take any interest in anyone else. Stay distant. Dominate every conversation. Keep your money and build your barns. Tell yourself the poor are only poor because they are all on drugs or drunk. Make sure you accomplish all your goals. Wrap yourself safely in your hobbies. Remember: You’re the center of the universe. No one else matters.

7) Prioritize A Sin
Focus on one huge sin and make all of your faith about not doing that one huge sin. You will either beat it, and thus conclude you have arrived spiritually, or else continue to battle it, ignoring all other aspects of faith.

8) Elevate Experience
Make sure emotions are everything. Expect every church service to lay you low or raise you high. Always go for the chills. Go for the high. Not getting the high? Go somewhere where you get it. Keep looking. Keep searching. Try everything once. Get the feeling, keep the feeling, settle for the feeling.

9) Make it Academic
Study. Work. Read. Take notes. Don’t feel; be cerebral. Learn Hebrew and Greek and judge others faith by how well they know those languages. Get a doctorate or four. Have lots of bookshelves with huge books. Quote dead theologians ad nauseam. Argue about everything. Make sure everyone knows how smart you are.

10) Concentrate on Growth
Be so obsessed with “how you’re doing” that you rarely have time to think about Christ. Beat yourself up for mistakes; brag about successes. Dwell on the past. Remember the times you nailed it; be bitter about those who made you mess up. Stare at your navel. Make it all about your growth.

G. Campbell Morgan on Asking Questions

Do not believe any preacher, or any man who claims to be a prophet, who tells you that you have no right to ask questions. You will never find bedrock for religious faith until you have learned how to ask questions.

It is equally true that the right to ask questions involves the responsibility of considering the evidence. You have no right to ask questions and then imagine that there is no answer. You must listen to the answer. You are not bound to accept it, but you must listen to it.

That is to say, the man who asks a question does by such action indicate the fact that his mind is open, and that he desires an answer. If not, then the man who asks questions is a trickster, and we have no time for him, and no patience with him.
–G. Campbell Morgan
Has Man Anything to do With God?

8 Results of Being a Judgmental Person

The Bible tells us not to judge people. The type of judgment we’re addressing is a superior, fault-finding kind of judgment that condemns others. The Bible also tells us to be discerning and even tells us to turn people from their sin, so clearly all judgment is not thrown out.

Pride-filled judgment is what the Bible tells us not to do. Judgment that makes you feel superior and makes others inferior is out.

The Bible gives us many reasons not to judge: we ultimately judge the law, it takes over the job of the Lawgiver and Judge, it does not mix with brotherly love, you need to deal with your sin first, who do you think you are? and some other reasons.

The problem with judging is that it does weird things to the judger. Here are a few ramifications of being judgmental.

1) Keeps you dumb
As long as you see yourself as better than others, you will not learn. When people try to correct you, your immediate response will be revulsion. “Who are you to tell me?” Once you have that mindset, you become unteachable.

2) Makes you paranoid
People who judge others are constantly wondering what others are thinking of them. I really don’t know which comes first, but I do know paranoia and judging go together. Since we know what bad things we think about others, Lord knows what they think about us! And since we know they’re all jerks, we know what bad things they think about us! Judgmental people are always wondering what others think of them.

3) Insecurity
Since you know how judgmental you are, you can only assume others are judging you. This makes you insecure. What will others think? becomes your motivation for everything. The more your insecurity ramps up, the more you will ramp up your judgmentalism. You have to work even harder to belittle all the jerks thinking bad things about you!

4) Loneliness
Since you’ve concluded that you are better than others, you will have a hard time finding anyone who deserves to be with you. Your judgmentalism will show itself at some point and people get really tired of it. If you always tell people how dumb their favorite book, movie, food item, etc is, they’ll just stop saying stuff to you. No one likes a judgmental jerk.

5) Lack of charity
Your judgmentalism immediately dismisses anyone’s needs. You know they only have those needs because of their stupidity. Judgmentalism does a great job of excusing your non-helpful attitude. When you see a need, your judgmental brain immediately gives you five reasons they don’t deserve your help. You proceed not having helped, but still feeling good about yourself.

6) Worry
Since you are a lonely, uncharitable, know it all, going through life proving your superiority, you will always fear failure. You will be dreadful of people seeing a crack in your foundation. You fear failing in front of others so much you will stop doing much of anything. You can’t enjoy anything because you’ll be consumed with how reality might shatter your delusion.

7) Lies, lies, lies
You have to keep up the facade. You have to exaggerate everything to keep yourself appearing superior. Your victories are even more victorious. Your defeats can be worked into victories by coming up with excuses. No matter how much you lose, you will find some way to belittle your opponent, or the one who succeeded more than you, to give you the presumptive high ground.

8) Unrestrained sin
When we consume ourselves with other people’s sin, at the same time we give ourselves a pass. Our conscience becomes seared. We’re never responsible for our sin. We’re a victim. We can’t help it. Plus, my sin isn’t as bad as all those sinners over there, get off my back.

The list could go on. But, in my experience, this is what judgmentalism makes you. It’s not pretty. It’s why the Bible tells you to let God, the Lawgiver, the Final Judge, do all that work. He’s perfect. His pride won’t mess with His judgment, nor will His judgment mess with His pride.

If you take on God’s job, your pride will get the best of you one way or another. Stop judging everybody and everything! Lighten up. Let God sort it out.

“The Great Physician” Is Not in the Bible

Many times I have heard people call Jesus “the Great Physician.”

In fact, the reason I bring this up is because in yesterday’s post, I called Jesus that.

I consider myself someone who knows the Bible pretty well. I won’t regale you with all I’ve done to get to know the Book, but I know it pretty well.

I went over to Bible Gateway to do a search for the phrase “Great Physician,” because what an awesome way to end that post: with a fine verse about the Great Physician, our great Savior who can fix people!

Bible Gateway returned one verse for Great Physician, 2 Chronicles 16:12

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.

Hmm, that’s weird, I thought. Maybe it’s a phrase a non-KJV version uses. I looked up the English Standard Version: 0 returns. New American Standard: 0 returns. And, Lord help me, I even searched the NIV: 0 returns.

I then went to my preferred search engine and typed in “where does the phrase ‘Great Physician’ come from?” It was decidedly unhelpful. It came up with a bunch of links to pages about what Jesus thinks about doctors and people calling Jesus “the Great Physician,” but nobody would tell me where this title comes from.

Perhaps this sort of thing is not interesting to you. It fascinates me. I love how we take things and assume the Bible says it, only to find out it never does. There are verses that imply that Jesus is a physician

They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Jesus “said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.”

That’s it. Certainly Jesus is comfortable with the metaphor, so I don’t think there’s any problem using it.

I just find the absence of the title in the Bible fascinating since, no doubt, 98% of believers would swear it was in the Bible (while ignoring the verses in the Bible telling us not to swear!). Maybe I’m weird that way, I don’t know.

So, based on this, here’s a theory:

Our desire to call Jesus “the Great Physician” might have a sinister motive. Perhaps in referring to Jesus as the Great Physician, this leads us to believer we’re physicians too, just a little more minor than the Great One.

Saying He’s the GREAT physician implies there are lesser ones. But the Bible doesn’t rank physicians. Christ calls Himself, “Physician.” As in: the only one! Not just better than the others; the ONLY ONE.

I prefer to keep things the way the Bible says them. Some people think I go overboard with this, but I think the Bible uses words fantastically and uses them for a reason. He’s not the Great Physician; He’s THE Physician. I like that.

Can Christians Fix People?

Young pastors often approach their new job messianically.

Perhaps I should rephrase: As a young pastor, I approached my new job messianically.

I viewed my role as “He who fixes messed up people.”

I felt as though one should run before me at all times announcing, “Hark all ye messed up folk! Behold, he who can fix you.”

Funny thing happened on the way to fixing people: I realized I was messed up.

Fixing myself, although in my moments of sanity I’d admit was necessary, I still viewed others as more messed up. Certainly that counted for something.

I realized that my desire to fix others was nothing but an avoidance of fixing myself. If I can fix others, this proves how together I have things.

As I began to attempt fixing people, it didn’t work. In fact, it went horribly wrong. Through a series of events, I was confronted with just me and my messed upness. I had no alternative but to fix myself.

I also noted there weren’t many verses about fixing people! Yes, there were some about pulling people from the fire, about saving a soul from sin, about giving a warning, about teaching people to obey God’s Word, and a few about being edifying.

But no, not any about fixing people. It’s not my job to fix people. People are not my projects. My “ministry” is not based on how many people I deemed “fixed.” Instead I began to see that I should rejoice that my name was written in heaven. All this was freeing and good. . . but . . .

since I’m human, I took this to an erroneous extreme. I got on a big “I can’t fix people kick.” I ignored people and their problems. What do you want me to do? I can’t fix anyone anyway. Go home and work it out, pal.

But I continued to double-check my conclusion and saw some other verses. For instance, Ephesians 4 says God has gifted the church with spiritually equipped people, one of whom is the pastor teacher. When these gifts are used properly, it leads to the perfecting of the saints.

“Perfecting” is a word that can mean “to set a bone.” In other words, a pastor has been spiritually gifted to fix and mend what was broken.

Uh-oh! Now what? Do I fix people or not?

Well, here’s what I have figured out so far, and this is subject to change as time and learning continue:

Yes and no. There is a time to “fix” people. There is a time to rend and a time to sew.

But, the answer is also no. I’m not the fixer, but I know Someone who is: The Great Physician.

Any attempt to fix people is only done by bringing people to Christ. I can’t fix. And if I am credited with fixing someone, my pride will merely turn that into something gross that will warp me and eventually break me, which then will lead to me breaking others.

I am an earthen jar that can dispense living water! The credit goes to the water, not to the jar. The jar can’t fix; the contents of the jar can.

The power to fix does not lie with me, my words, my counsel, my wisdom, my charm, nor my charisma. Thank God.

The power to fix is when I bring people to Christ and allow His Spirit to work in people, including me.

In the end we need to avoid two extremes:

1) Behold the awesomeness that is me, the Great White Father who can fix you all, and
2) Hey, I can’t do nothing for ya man, I got problems of my own.

Neither are consistent with Scripture. Instead know that all Spirit-indwelt believers have become ministers of reconciliation. What a privilege! But the job is not to get people to you; the job is to help them get to Christ.

This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made! Yippee!

Our local Christian radio station plays an annoying spot every morning. It’s some happy woman saying “This is the day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!” It’s then followed by a chorus of happy women singing the annoying happy chorus this verse was put to.

It’s ridiculously happy. It makes me want to hurt people.

I have contended that the modern manifestation of Christianity is too happy. I maintain that contention.

I wonder what people do when they read James, “Let your laughter be turned into mourning.” Or Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Or Paul, “Weep with them who weep.”

Negative emotions play a part in Christianity, they really do. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with having “negative” emotions–sadness, loneliness, mourning, depression, etc.

It’s only our hyper-happy Americanized notion (a supposed God-given right to pursue happiness) of Christianity that has a problem with these emotions. Being depressed is a sign of mental disorder in our country.

If Jesus, the man of sorrow acquainted with grief, showed up in an American church, He’d be referred to counseling right quick. “He’s always talking about death.”

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” is a verse in your Bible and it’s there for a reason. I’d like to point out its context.

Psalm 118 is a song of deliverance. Psalm 118 is admittedly happy. But allow me to point out why Psalm 118 is so happy based on what Psalm 118 says.

118:5–I called on the Lord out of my distress
118:7–my enemies are going to get it!
118:10–I will destroy all the nations lined up against me
118:11–I will destroy my enemies who surround me
118:12–my bee-like enemies will be destroyed
118:13–they just about did me in, but I will prevail
118:18–all this pain is the Lord’s sore chastening, but I’m not dead yet
118:24–this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it

The Psalmist is not saying that he is rejoicing every day. The Psalmist is particularly rejoicing this day because the Lord’s chastening, brought about by stinging enemies surrounding him, is now over.

He rejoices because the misery he previously was going through has ended.

Misery. Enemies. Chastening.

Mercy. Salvation. Deliverance.

He’s happy this day because victory has finally come.

To use this as a theme to rub in the faces of those who are struggling is not the intent. The Psalms are filled with plenty of pain-filled songs too. We just like the happy ones.

Don’t be afraid of sadness, mourning, pain, heaviness, sorrow, or grief. They have much to teach us. Don’t be so quick to throw it off for happy. The Lord can do more with people who are emotionally honest.

Feel some pain. Feel the weight of sin. True joy comes from slugging through misery.

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Hey, Christian! Go! Fight! Win!

Life’s constantness is draining.

Constantly we have to watch what we eat
Constantly we have to make sure we exercise
Constantly we have to discipline our kids
Constantly we have to make sure we are clean and presentable
Constantly we have to check how we smell
Constantly we have to do our stupid hair
Constantly we have to fight sin
Constantly we have to pay the bills and balance the checkbook
Constantly we have to work out stuff in our marriage

Life is just so constant. You let up for a little while and BOOM! You’ve gained 23 pounds, lost 87% of your muscle, your beard is untamed, and your kids are selling meth.

There are so many things to keep on top of, it’s exhausting.

Rather than fight, we give up. We phone it in.

Sure, we still judge those other losers around us who gave up, but we manage, somehow, to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

We justify our lack of fighting. “Well, I’ve just decided to let go and let God.”

Ooo, that sounds lovely! So it’s God’s fault you checked out on your marriage? Nice, I’m sure you’ll enjoy explaining that to Him on Judgment Day.

“I’ve decided to rest in His grace and not try anymore.”

Ooo, how spiritually enlightened that sounds! It’s as if God never said, “Labor to enter into rest.” It’s as if Paul never said, “Fight the fight.” It’s as if you know more than the Bible! How charming.

Life is exhausting. But we’re not supposed to give up. We’re not supposed to quit fighting. We’re not supposed to lay down and be trampled by sin.

Oh no! We’re supposed to fight, run with patience, wake up, redeem the time, resist the devil, draw nigh to God, be filled with His Spirit, put off the old, put on the new, mortify the deeds of the flesh, and lay hold on eternal life.

We fight here. We battle. We exert energy and zeal.

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t invent some twisted theology to sound spiritual while being a loser.

Death is our victory. Fight to the end.

Forget what is behind. Worry not for tomorrow.

Exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Life is constant and draining. Don’t give up. Fight the fight of faith!

5 Ways to Tell if Your Pastor has no Idea What He’s Talking About

There have been a number of times when I have preached a sermon on a subject I did not fully understand.

For over 14 years I have been preaching right through the Bible. I have to tackle whatever is next. If you’ve ever read a Bible, you know there are some pretty tough things to explain in there.

Pastors don’t know everything. We’re just like you!

Some pastors don’t mind admitting they don’t know everything, others try to cover that fact and maintain the infallibility ruse. Pastors, from time to time, are just blowing smoke up there in the pulpit. Here are five indicators that your pastor has no idea what he’s talking about.

1) Quoting people
One of the best ways to sound smart while having no concept of what you’re talking about, is to quote people. Lots of people. Or just quote one person a whole bunch of times. Quoting people makes it appear as though you are well-read. In reality, you’re just quick with Google and you have no idea what you’re talking about.

2) Repetition
Although all sermons should contain some repetition, you know your pastor is in trouble if he just keeps repeating the same thing using different words the whole time. He has successfully crammed 2 minutes of content into half an hour, because he has no idea where to go next.

3) Story time
If your pastor is constantly telling stories after reading every phrase of a verse you can trust that he is attempting to keep himself interested in what he’s saying. The more these stories have nothing to do with anything in the verse, the more you know he’s lost his way.

4) Copy Cat
This one is just like #1, except this pastor doesn’t mention who he’s quoting, because then he’d have to admit where the quote stopped. This one is harder to detect, you have to know Christianity pretty well to figure this one out. Most pastors have a favorite preacher or author and will frequently copy their favorite guy’s sermons point for point. John Piper has preached many a sermon in churches he’s never been in. When you don’t know what you’re talking about, just copy a guy who thinks he does.

5) I don’t know
Saying “I don’t know” can be tough for anyone, it’s especially tough when people are looking to you for answers. When a pastor actually says “I don’t know” you can trust him. He does not know. Either that or he does and he’s afraid of you. But that’s another post.

True Christians Are Not Easily Offendable

“Personal experience and feelings aren’t just a salient touchstone of contemporary identity politics; they are the entirety of these politics. In such an environment, it’s no wonder that students are so prone to elevate minor slights to protestable offenses.”

That quote was said by a college professor who says he’s now terrified to challenge his students because they so quickly get offended. Many modern students, when shown something that challenges their beliefs, immediately get huffy, dismiss the new information, and get offended.

Challenging information is too risky for schools to present anymore. Colleges need to make their money, they can’t be ticking off their customers (students) and expect to stay in business. Professors shouldn’t expect to keep their jobs if too many kids get mad at them.

Encouraging debate, analysis, and confronting uncomfortable information is too risky!

When I was in college, I knew everything. There’s something about that late teens/early 20’s range that fills a guy with arrogant assurance. But I also had an insecure complex that continually reminded me of my dorkdom.

That was a life saver!

Human wisdom is not tolerant. Human wisdom comes from humans. If you fault human wisdom, what are you essentially finding fault with? With HUMANS!

Humans like to feel special. We like to imagine we are captaining our own vessel. When my captaincy is called into question, watch out! If my captaincy is in question, then you also must be questioning the direction of my vessel!

When you attack human wisdom you attack humans. When humans get attacked, things get ugly.

God’s wisdom, on the other hand, does not come from humans. When you attack God’s wisdom you are not attacking humans; you are attacking God.

Although this will not work out well for you in the Day when you stand before Him, you can feel like you are getting away with it now. So that’s nice.

When Christians get worked up into tizzies over people attacking God’s wisdom, this shatters our stance. It makes it appear as though this is our wisdom we must defend.

When Christians act like the world, we cease to be salt and light.

James 3 contrasts earthly wisdom with heavenly wisdom. Earthly wisdom leads to jealousy and strife and division. Heavenly wisdom leads to righteousness and peace.

One of the words James uses to describe heavenly wisdom is that it is “easy to be intreated.” I found some cool stuff about that phrase! It means it is “willing to listen, change, and learn, it hears the other side.”

Did you get that? Heavenly wisdom isn’t all hot and bothered, worried it’s going to lose face. Nor does it worry that the world’s wisdom will conquer it. It’s not worried at all. It’s peaceful and calm.

Peaceful, heavenly wisdom can listen to the other side. Heavenly wisdom isn’t afraid of alternative views, because ultimately, heavenly wisdom knows it will triumph. Thus, since it’s secure, it has no reason to be all worked up into fits of anger.

Watch yourself when you are confronted with information you disagree with. Do you immediately have to fight over it? Do you have to correct? Do you feel like “someone has to say something to stand up for the truth!”? Do you feel like you are the last line of defense for God?

When we get worked up, nothing good happens. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.

Christians should be the calmest members of any bunch. We should be the people who are so confident in our God that we don’t mind when others share their wisdom. When Christians get easily offended, this merely shows they are not working from the basis of God’s wisdom, but have fallen into worldliness.

Of course the world has wrong wisdom. Read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Man’s wisdom is foolishness with God. What’s the answer in 1 Corinthians? Bash the naysayers! Kill the infidel!

Nope. The answer is a simple trust in the Gospel wisdom of Jesus Christ. Continue to present it. Don’t be shocked at opposition. Calmly carry on being salt and light.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: stay calm, Christians. Relax. Stand confidently, yet humbly, on the ground of Jesus Christ.

Acts Church and Acts Pastors

“Man, we just need to go back and be like the Acts Church, man.”

I have heard that sentiment many times in my travels through Christianity. It’s a fine notion anytime people desire something better for the Church.

However, based on what most people think the Acts Church was like: even the Acts Church wasn’t like the Acts Church!

I think what most people mean by Acts Church is this:

*commonality of possessions, or at least minimal materialism
*miracles every couple minutes
*tongues speaking
*tremendous church growth
*Spirit-filled leaders
*energized followers

When one reads Acts, however, one will find a couple other details about the Acts Church most churches would rather not have:

*Spirit-filled leaders chased from town to town and nearly killed and some actually killed
*freaked out, terrorized followers
*people falling dead because they were dishonest about their shunning of materialism
*miracles occurred, but probably not as often as hoped
*believers had a regular fear of God

(I will also throw in a note about progressive revelation and the age of the apostles. The Apostle Paul said that “signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” were the signs of apostles. In other words, as the apostles died off, so too did the signs of apostles. So, if your primary point of having an Acts Church is to have signs, wonders, and mighty deeds, you must believe that there are still apostles today. Some people do. I would disagree based on how Scripture uses the word.)

There certainly did seem to be an excitement with the Acts Church, and I think that is the basic idea people long for. However, it appears that by about chapter 10 of Acts, most of the excitement was already gone, replaced by persecution and shipwrecks.

Never forget that the most messed up church of the New Testament was part of the Acts Church! Corinth is in Acts 18 and 19. If you long for the Acts Church and Corinth was one of them, you might want to refine your terms!

But understand, the Acts Church was already struggling even while Acts was being written! Messed up churches are no new phenomena, nor some sign of modernity. It’s what happens.

Anyway, I don’t mind people going to the Bible to define for them what should be taking place in the church. The general desire to have an Acts Church is fine, as long as it’s defined by Scripture and not just romantic notions of days of yon when more than likely if you attended an actual Acts Church back in Acts you wouldn’t have liked that one either.

One of the ironies of those who desire the Acts Church is that the pastors of said churches generally go about whipping people up with programs and ideas and plans and initiatives and meetings and councils and much other activity that smacks of busy work pretending to be spiritual.

It is interesting to me that when we get a definition of what Acts Church leaders did we get this: “we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

How many pastors today could define their job as mainly consisting of giving ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word? Very few.

I’ve met pastors who told me they have never read the whole Bible. Pastors who tell me they would never speak on certain passages. Pastors who tell me all that they do without ever mentioning prayer.

Can we have an Acts Church without Acts Pastors?

Be Not Many of You Teachers

Everybody thinks they know everything. Since there is “nothing new under the sun,” I can only conclude that everyone ever born has always believed they know everything.

The Book of Job, more than likely the earliest written book of the Bible, has suffering-Job being lectured by his friends who know everything. Job says to them, “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.

If Job’s friends die, so dies wisdom. Obviously Job is being sarcastic. How many of us are surrounded by such folk!? So many people giving so much advice about things they know nothing about.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived who was still dumb enough to fall into idolatry, says in Ecclesiastes:

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

Who knows what is good for other people? Everyone knows that Solomon! Come on, man. Get with the program!

We don’t know what’s good for other people because we don’t know what tomorrow brings, let alone the rest of time after that.

People never let ignorance interfere with certainty though. In fact, often, the more uncertain we are about something, the more vehemently we argue.

I’ve had many a theological argument with someone who eventually resorts to, “yeah, well, you should talk to my pastor/dad/husband/wife/professor/this one author guy/etc. He would set you straight.”

In other words, “I have no idea what I’m talking about, but this other guy does and I agree with him, even though I don’t know what I’m talking about to know if what he’s saying is actually true, but I feel like it is, so you should talk to him and he’ll convince you just like he convinced me.”

People often say, “I just don’t argue well.” What that means is, “I can’t explain what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, as long as you can go ahead and admit your ignorance and then go do some work to get yourself informed. The sign of a good teacher is the ability to take the complex and make it simple. If you cannot simplify your belief, then you probably don’t really understand your belief. (However, there are many non-simple concepts in the Bible, so even here we need some balance.)

Yet we continue to pontificate our ignorance. The problem with being an authority by telling others what to do, is that you become responsible for what they do to some extent. Talking with authority puts you in a place of accountability.

I believe the combination of all that I have said above is why James says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

There should not be many teachers within Christianity, yet we find a proliferation of them. Everyone and their mother pontificates about Christianity. One of the worst things churches do is put young believers in positions of teaching. Usually we start them teaching children! Then we wonder why our kids leave the church. Sheesh.

The Bible makes it clear that there are people within the Body of Christ who are spiritually gifted to teach. The difficulty arises in figuring out who that spiritually gifted teaching person is.

Jesus tells us to examine their fruit. What is the outcome of that teaching? What does it turn people into? Do people who listen to that teacher (to the point of actually applying and doing what is taught) become more like Christ, or more like the world?

Even here we must proceed with caution. Your predisposed conclusions may sway your ability to analyze fruit.

In the end, teaching and learning must be done with much prayer and seriousness. Add to your prayer and seriousness much silence for thinking. Be careful not to jump at every opportunity to teach ignoramuses around you.

Two Theories on How to Be Good

The majority of Christians believe that at some point a Christian should probably do something good. If not personally, they at least believe other Christians should be doing good!

Any common sense reading of the Bible should lead one to see that doing good is part of what being a Christian is about. The fruit of the Spirit, against which there is no law (see, cuz the fruit of the Spirit is good), should show up.

As is typical, Christians like to argue about how these good things show up. Although there are many theories about sanctification (how good stuff shows up in your life), you can boil them down to two main camps: the active and the passive.

Both camps have valid points and both camps have dangers. There are degrees of each camp as well. But again, they can be boiled down to passive and active.

Passive Sanctification:
People in this camp believe that sanctification, the appearance of good stuff in your life, is all God. “Let go and let God” is the rallying cry of this camp. Any attempt to include or encourage effort on our part is dangerously close to legalism and going back under the law. The sole responsibility of the believer is to YIELD. Anytime you see the word “yield” you are in passive camp.

There is some irony involved in this argument. Isn’t yielding doing something? What do we do while yielding? Usually waiting is a huge aspect as well. Since I can’t actively do anything, I must wait for God to do something. Waiting takes forever. I am not sure if it has ever dawned on these folks that maybe it wouldn’t take so long if you went ahead and did something! This belief is commonly referred to as Easy Believism.

Active Sanctification:
People in this camp believe that sanctification only shows up as a result of you doing something. Your growth is entirely up to you. If you are not showing the fruits of sanctification, you must not be trying hard enough. Worse case scenario, you may not even have faith. There are frequently dress codes involved. These people are primarily concerned with visible sins–adultery, divorce, homosexuality, cussing, smoking, etc.

There is some irony involved in this argument. Although God has the power to redeem my soul; He apparently has no power to help my soul in any way after salvation–It’s all your fault. This view focuses on the external, the stuff that can be easily judged/measured. Conformity is demanded by groups of these people. Most cult-like churches land in this area. This belief is commonly referred to as Legalism.

Although there are no doubt exceptions, Calvinism is usually held by those in the Passive group and Non-Calvinism is usually held be people in the Active group.

As I said, all people’s view of sanctification leans toward one of these sides. This does not mean that all on one side fall into the errors of each side. I have given a hardliners view of each side.

My view leans toward the Active side. I do think there are things we are to do to bring about growth, holiness, and sanctification.

At the same time, none of this is possible without the work of the Holy Spirit, the new birth in Christ, the active Word of God teaching us, and the chastening of our Father. But I believe all these things are working in us so that we might work with them to bring about growth.

Both camps have their favorite verses and ignore great swaths of Scripture. It is my opinion that the Passive side is the most destructive. If God is responsible for my spiritual growth, I can sin all I want because ultimately it’s God’s fault for not stopping me. This can lead to non-saved people feeling comfortably saved.

This is not to say Legalism doesn’t have its dangers. It certainly does. Many get burned out by the effort and give up and go for sin. I’ve seen it many times. But few of those who leave legalism to live in sin continue to believe they are saved! To me, that’s the big danger of the Passive side–convinced your saved whether sanctification shows up or not.

Sanctification is a huge subject. There is much debate about it. Figure it out for yourself based on God’s Word. Don’t take someone’s word for it here because a lot of someones’ words are wrong!

The Irony of Arguing Over James 2

James 2 is about faith without works being dead. Many an argument has stemmed from this chapter! We get so caught up on it that we tend to miss James’ larger point. All the words spilled on this topic are somewhat ironic based on the point James is actually making!

James 2 is about talking. A man says he has faith but he doesn’t have works. A man sees a cold, hungry poor person and says “be warm and filled.” Saying a cold, hungry guy is warm and filled is about as useless as saying you have faith if you don’t do anything with it.

James is talking about talkers. James is addressing Jews, people who have been raised in Jewish tradition. They were convinced they were saved because they were one of “God’s people.”

James is speaking a message to be taught to people brought up in a Christian home. People who say they have faith because they are with or related to the “right people.” James wants them to slow down and examine reality.

James 1 ends with James saying “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

James’ point going into chapter 2 is about “religious” people not controlling their mouths. James 2 gives a couple examples of problematic religious talk–professing faith with nothing happening and telling poor people to stop being so poor. Both are worthless, thus the profession of religion is worthless.

James 3 is all about keeping your mouth shut. James’ conclusion coming out of chapter 2–you’re all words and no action–is not “so try to do your words better.” Nope! James knows you won’t do that.

James’ point about not doing your words is: SO STOP SAYING WORDS!

Keep your mouth shut and do what God says. Stop talking about it and go do it. As the saying goes, “It’s easier said than done.” Tis true, which is why Christians prefer to talk. This aint right.

One of the Most Amazing Quotes in the Bible

“Throw this in the garbage” I said to one of my kids.

“What garbage?” I am asked as I am pointing right at the garbage can.

“Clean the windows.” I say another time to one of my kids.

“What windows?” I am asked while pointing at the windows, because typically windows are difficult to find.

“Go clean your room.” I say.

“What? My room?”

Ever notice how people are awful listeners? They are especially awful listeners when you are telling them what to do. Previously intelligent, straight-A students will momentarily lose all comprehension and sensibility to avoid doing work.

We just don’t listen well.

One of the most astounding statements made by anyone in the Bible is by Philip, a disciple of Christ. Here’s his quote

We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

That is amazing to me! Philip read the Scriptures, and by “scriptures” I mean what we call the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets. He wasn’t even reading the good parts!

Yet Philip knew the Law and the Prophets so well that when He saw Jesus Christ he thought, “Hey, that’s the guy I read about!”

That is simply amazing to me. The religious leaders, who also knew the Law and the Prophets, ended up killing Christ!

In fact, Gentiles, who never read anything in the Law and the Prophets, got Christ often before any Jewish people did! It was almost better to have not read the Law and Prophets!

But not for Philip. Oh for the reading comprehension abilities of Philip! With all our hearing and reading, are we getting the actual point?

Reconciling “Judge Not” With Punching Joel Osteen in the Face

I noticed that earlier this week I had a post about not judging people’s sins followed by a post with a picture of Batman punching Joel Osteen in the face.


If it were on your blog, then yes. But it’s on my blog, so no, no it is not.

Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s a contradiction. “Judge not” is most famously said in Matthew 7 during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. One of the major points of Matthew 7 is watching out for false teachers.

7:1–don’t judge
7:5–take beam out of your eye before dealing with specks in other people’s eyes
7:6–don’t give holy things to dogs or pearls to swine, which means you must judge who is a dog or a swine.
7:12–what you’d have done to you, do to others
7:15–beware of false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing
7:16–you know false prophets by their fruit, you are indeed a fruit inspector!
7:20–by their fruits you will know them
7:23–many act like believers but are not; Christ ultimately sorts this out

Matthew 7 is a giant warning to the Church. There are false professors among you that will destroy you if you aren’t careful. Christ warns that there are many who think they are saved who are not.

Christ is telling us this so we know why we need to be careful. The Church is a dangerous place!

Wise men build on the rock of Christ and His wisdom. Foolish people don’t listen to His warnings and will be swept away in the flood of false teaching.

Jesus seemed way more concerned about false religious people then He did about sinners sinning in the world. Sinners blatantly sinning are obviously wrong, and thus, not much of a threat.

The true threat to faith is from those who are subtly wrong, those who sound truthyish but in the end twist the truth to ruin souls left and right.

Be careful out there. Get this judging thing right. Judgment begins with yourself, then it goes to the Church, and lastly, if you have any time left over, it goes to the world.

Holy Bat-room, Pope!

I saw this headline on the internets today and couldn’t pass up the article. I wanted to pass it up, I just couldn’t. Which says more about me than the headline, no doubt.

Ecuador Built Pope Francis a Holy Bathroom

The article begins like this:

Where does the Pope poop?

In a bathroom that includes an Asian-style rug and a painting of Jesus — when he’s in Ecuador at least.

It goes on to say:

“The bathroom also includes a large toilet, a shower and a large mirror.”

No explanation as to why it contains a “large toilet.”

There are too many things a guy could say that probably shouldn’t be said, so I am just going to leave this here and move on.

You’re welcome.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the World and the Church

The following quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones was written about 55 years ago. It holds true today as well, maybe even more so:

“It seems more and more clear that the greatest enemies of the true Christian faith are not those who are right out in the world militantly persecuting Christianity, or flagrantly ignoring its teaching; but rather those who have a false and spurious Christianity.”

“It is a false and counterfeit Christianity that has always been a hindrance to, and the greatest enemy of, true spirituality. And surely the greatest trouble at this present moment is the worldly state of the Church.

“We should be much more concerned about the state of the Church herself than about the state of the world outside the Church.”

If You Can’t Forgive, You Are In Trouble

Many people sinned yesterday. Were you offended by any of these sins? Did you judge those sinners and thus become one of them?!

Yesterday’s post was about how we will be forgiven by God in accordance with how we forgive others.

Frequently this kind of statement is argued with by saying, “But Paul says we forgive as Christ has already forgiven us.”

This is an attempt to make Paul say different things than Jesus because Jesus, even though He was the Son of God, didn’t quite say everything as He should have.

I reject such nonsense because Paul himself said if anyone does not heed the words of Jesus Christ, that person is proud and knows nothing.

Forgive as Christ forgave you
Forgive others as you would have Christ forgive you

No matter how it’s stated, forgiveness is a huge deal! If you are attempting to get off the hook in forgiveness by saying Paul says it the other way, well, I don’t think it’s having the desired effect.

Remember, shortly after the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us as we forgive others,” Jesus gave the parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt, but did not show the same forgiveness to the one who borrowed much less from him (he did not forgive as he was already forgiven).

Jesus said it both ways. Does Jesus disagree with Himself? Hardly.

No matter what way you state it (forgive as you would be forgiven or forgive as you are forgiven) it’s the same principle. If you aren’t forgiving, then how can you claim to be forgiving as Christ forgave you?

The bottom line is this: forgive people. Lighten up on them. If you try to squirm out of this obligation, your soul is probably in a bad place.

How to Obtain Mercy

Subway Restaurant’s spokesman, Jared, who allegedly lost lots of weight eating subs every day, is being investigated for child porn.

This is becoming big news and is making its presence across the internets even as I type. Lots of jokes, judgments, and outrage being expressed.

Of course, nothing has been proven. No one knows any details. But there is plenty of judgment and certainty by those who already condemn him.

Although the world likes to talk about tolerance and acceptance, it is ironic to watch the world in times like these. Why no tolerance now? I guess we want people to tolerate our personal sins, not the sins of others.

We need to be careful when such things happen, refrain from Facebook outrage and high and mighty moralistic speechifying. We all fall short of the glory of God. Not only that, our forgiveness is dependent on our forgiveness of others.

That last sentence throws people off. “Not me! I am forgiven because of Christ, not how I forgive others! That is legalism!”

Obviously we are forgiven through faith in Christ and His death and resurrection. I’m not saying there are alternate means of forgiveness.

But if you believe your forgiveness is based on what Christ did, also understand that one thing Christ did is that He said your forgiveness is based on how you forgive others!

“Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus’ parable of the man who owed tons of money and was forgiven the debt and then goes out and mercilessly beats up the guy who owes him a little bit, is punished.

God shows mercy to those who are merciful. Mercy rejoices over judgment–when we are merciful; God is merciful to us.

This is not a way of earning salvation. This is proof that you understand the mercy God has extended to you. It proves you see the depth of the grossness of your sin and your tremendous need for forgiveness.

If I need it that bad, certainly other people do too. If I know how great it is to be shown mercy, I also know how great it is for others to be shown mercy. If mercy, grace, and forgiveness mean anything to me, it will become part of who I am.

Lay off Jared, whether he’s found innocent or guilty. Lay off judging Bill Cosby. Lay off condemning the gay marriage folks. Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy. Take care of your own sin before worrying about the sins of others.

Joseph’s Technicolor Bender

We have a tendency to hold people in the Bible on a high pedestal. Although there are several biblical characters that seem to be very righteous, most are admittedly tainted. They are people.

I find it somewhat amusing when Christian folk get all high and mighty about marriage with the assumption the totally Bible backs them up.

We seem to forget about the great “fathers of the faith” Abraham, who had several wives. Jacob had four. We lose track when we get to David and Solomon.

There are some pretty bad role models in your Bible. It’s best to stick with your Sunday School knowledge than have your dreams shattered by being informed!

Not really. People in the Bible sin. It’s kind of what people do, whether they’re in the Bible or not.

I came across one of these things the other day reading in Genesis about Joseph and his brothers coming to Egypt to get food. Genesis 43:34 says about the dinner the brothers ate with Joseph:

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of their’s. And they drank, and were merry with him.

So they got “merry” with Joseph. What’s interesting about that word “merry” is that this is the only time it’s translated “merry,” at least in the King James. The vast majority of the time this same Hebrews word is translated “drunk!”

That’s right, Joseph and his brothers all got drunk together. Had a little bender.

Joseph is one of those guys we hold highly. He does little wrong, other than possibly bragging a bit, but uh-oh! Here you go. Joe gets drunk.

Does this shatter your image of Joseph? It shouldn’t. Joseph is a guy. He’s noble and righteous in many ways, and he’s still a guy.

This, in no way, should lead us to excuse our sin. “Well Joseph got drunk, so can I.” “David was unfaithful to his wiveS, so I can be too.” Don’t go there. Our example is to follow Jesus Christ, to be like Him, He who was and is perfect.

What seeing the sins of those in the Bible should do, is relax you in your high and mightiness in pointing out other people’s sin. The next time you see someone “sin big” in front of you, consider they may be as virtuous as Joseph, just having an emotional roller-coaster of a day.

People sin. Get over it. Take care of you.

America and the Shining City on a Hill

America has often been described as “a shining city on a hill.” This is language borrowed from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Clearly, the context of the Sermon of the Mount has nothing to do with America. The “Ye” that are the “shining city on a hill” are the people who reflect the Beatitudes, which is, uh, not America.

But hey, it makes a good story. The first time America was promoted to Beatific standing was in 1630 when John Winthrop said:

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses.”

Although many have waxed prophetic on this quote (most notably Ronald Reagan), I find the quote to be somewhat arrogant and presumptuous. Jesus is not talking about America, to say that He is assumes and destroys a lot.

America is no Christian utopia. Never has been; never will be. If you think it was, I suggest you read some more history.

The Bible begins with a perfect place on earth (The Garden of Eden) and ends with a picture of perfect life in the New Jerusalem. Paradise was lost. To regain it a lot of things have to happen, none of which occurred when or since America was founded.

The idea that we can create a Christian heaven on earth is just terrible Bible interpretation. Only Christ, the King of Kings, has the power and authority to pull such a thing off.

When certain early Americans claimed to be able to create utopia, they merely placed themselves in the position of Jesus Christ. They were their own Messiahs. This is a bad idea. Pride goeth before the fall.

However, the idea of American Utopia still gets air time. Here’s a quote from Thomas Cahill about the word “utopia,” creating a definition that America might be able to meet:

[Thomas] More was the inventor of the word “utopia,” which he made up combining a Greek noun, topos, meaning district, and eu-, a Greek prefix meaning good–though if one pronounces the first syllable as ou-, one is using a Greek prefix that negates the noun that follows it. So “utopia” has the double meaning of good place and no place. It is, therefore, an ideal society that does not exist.

In that case, sure, America is a utopia–a fine place that only exists in the imagination of nostalgic, sentimental patriots.

Sure, it is (might have to soon go past tense here) better than any other country, and I enjoy living in it. But it’s just a large land mass inhabited by sinful people, just like all other places on the globe.

Thinking that America is, or could be, heaven on earth is merely wishful thinking. America is indeed a good place that does not exist.

“Be Still and Know That I Am God” Is A Great Philosophy

“Be still and know that I am God.”

What a beautiful phrase! One of the more precious statements of Scripture.

Because of its awesomeness, it gets quoted a lot. When we quote things a lot, we often assume we know what they mean.

I was reading in Martyn Lloyd-Jones the other day when he mentioned this verse. He said “be still” means “give up.” Really? That kind of shocked me. I made a note of it to look it up later, because, yeah, cool. I like that!

Giving up is a fair summation of my take on life! As the old Christian rocker, Steve Taylor, once said, “since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better.”

“Be still” means “give up?” Let’s see if it’s true!

“Be still” is from a Hebrews word that can be translated numerous ways. Forsake. Fail. Weaken. Down. Go. Alone. And, most beautifully mixed in there are “idle” and “slothful!”

Even better! Be lazy and know that I am God!

Now, before we get too excited, it doesn’t mean we don’t work and take care of our responsibilities. Plenty of other Scriptures make that clear.

But when it comes to personal safety, seeing culture fall apart, and the nations and kings doing their things that nations and kings have always done, yeah, give up.

This planet will always have messed up stuff going on. There is coming a day when God will take His people to a place where He will provide abundantly.

Until then, give up on your dreams of having it all here. Give up seeking refuge in other places. Run to God and let Him do your protecting.

Why the World Gets so Worked Up About Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Apparently this is no longer true.

It seems today people are more offended by names and words than by actual harmful things that happen.

For instance, Islam absolutely despises gay people. ISIS just last week threw four gay men off a roof to their death. Turkey, a heavily Muslim country, used police force (water cannons and pepper spray) to thwart a gay pride parade, yet I hear very few homosexual activists upset with anything Muslim.

Christianity, which largely just tells people we think homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so, is under constant attack by homosexual groups.

Christians say what they believe; Muslims kill gay people. Guess who is seen as more evil? Those talky Christians.

It amazes me how offended people are by words. How fearful they are of the power of a word.

Why do people fear words so much while continually normalizing sinful actions?

I wonder how much the increasing censorship of words reveals the inherent power of God’s Word.

God created with a word. Jesus Christ is called the Word. Jesus Himself said, “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

When Christ returns and wipes out all unrighteous people, we’re told He does this by a sword coming out of His mouth. This is figurative language, He’s not actually wielding a sword with his teeth.

The sword is His Word. The Word of God is called a sword in the armor of God. Hebrews says God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword.

God utilizes words very effectively. That’s why increasingly you will get in trouble for speaking God’s Word. That’s why increasingly, even though the world confidently tells us our religion is a crutch, they will be so afraid of God’s Word we preach that they’ll desire to silence it.

This is no surprise. God’s Word told us it would be this way.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Do you have faith to stick with God’s Word, or will you chuck it to keep earthly comfort and acceptance?

It’s a question we will increasingly have to consider.

Black Churches Are Burning

It’s a very poorly reported story, but six black churches have burned since the Charleston shooting. Six.

Although there may be no connection, nor do the fires show any graffiti or racist anythings, it is slightly suspicious.

Also suspicious this gets no coverage. Imagine if it were six mosques?!

You can donate some money to help these churches here.

UPDATE: It’s now up to seven churches.

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