Just Because You’ve Found Happiness, Doesn’t Mean You’ve Found Truth

Americans are told that we have the RIGHT to pursue happiness. American citizens can do whatever makes them happy. It’s our right.

Oh sure, it’s entirely not true, but still, it makes us feel happy to say we have the RIGHT to pursue happiness.

My pursuit of happiness, if fully acted upon, would lead me to no longer pay taxes. Try it. See what happens to your “right to pursue happiness.”

You have the RIGHT to pursue happiness, unless your happiness breaks our laws, is what the Founders meant. They attempt to blame this right on our Creator, but there is no common-sensical reading of the Bible that would lead someone to believe that God made us to pursue our notions of happiness.

Happiness largely depends on lust. Our body wants to feed one appetite or another, and is not happy until that lust is met. Happiness then, can be one of the most destructive forces in your life.

Your body will pursue its happiness until it kills itself. When fleshly cravings go unchecked–when happiness is never set aside–your body will narcissistically destroy itself.

It’s a five-year old after Trick-or-Treating. If there’s no mom or dad around, that candy will be gone, only to make a disgusting reappearance a few minutes later.

I have heard many Christians explain to me that their new theological views have transformed their lives. “I’ve never been happier since seeing this truth.” I’ve heard this phrase from many people in relation to many theological camps.

These theological camps don’t agree with each other, which more than likely means at least one of them are wrong, yet both reportedly make people happy.

–I’ve never been happier since coming to believe the doctrines of Calvinism.
–I’ve never been happier since believing Arminianism.

–Being saved from legalism has made me so happy.
–Being saved from hyper-grace license has made me so happy.

–My life is so much happier now that I’ve left ritualistic religion.
–My life is so much happier now that I’ve found the safety of ages old ritual.

On and on it goes. I’ve heard it all. It all leads me to this conclusion:

Happiness is an unstable foundation for doctrine.

Happiness may be a result of finding true doctrine, but true biblical doctrine has a cost. When Truth enters, the flesh gets pruned and it hurts. The end of the chastening pruning is joy, no doubt about it. The joy will come.

And, yes, there is joy from having come to the truth after living with it clouded over for so long, I’m not denying that.

My point is that happiness better not be your main instigator of doctrinal truth. Just because it “makes you happy,” doesn’t mean it’s true.

It very well could be that you are happier with your new theology because your flesh gets away with more stuff. Your conscience is eased because what were issues before, are no longer issues now.

It’s like the youth who grows up in stodgy Christianity going off to college and becoming an atheist! There is no happier man on the earth than this guy! His flesh can run free! Free as a bird now!

Of course he’s happier.

Happiness is not a bad thing, please don’t take me there. My question is: why does it make you happy?

Is your happiness based on your flesh spreading its wings? Is your happiness based on finding a group your flesh now feels safe in? Is your happiness based on the break your brain can now take from thinking? Is your happiness based on the liberating Truth of Jesus Christ?

Happiness is a poor judge of whether you have found truth. At the same time, if there is no happiness, you probably haven’t found the truth. But just because you are happy, doesn’t mean you’ve found the truth! Just examine the happy is all.

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty

If Jesus Were a Slumping Major League Hitter. . .

Baseball playoffs are about to begin. It should be an interesting playoff season with some new teams involved and traditional contenders eliminated.

One of the peculiarities of baseball is interpreting batting statistics. Announcers will talk about hitters being in slumps. “He’s 0 for his last 18 at bats.” This is then spun, depending on who the announcers are cheering for, in one of two ways

  1. He’s 0 for his last 18, so you definitely want to pitch to this struggling batter, or
  2. He’s 0 for his last 18, so he’s due for a hit.

So, which is it? Is 0 for your last 18 a predictor of what he’ll do this time or not?

The problem with predictions is that none of us knows the future, therefore, past performance is no indicator of future results.


Peter talks about scoffers in the last days mocking the Bible’s teaching about the return of the Lord.

Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

The scoffer’s logic looks like this

A. The Bible says the Lord will return to judge the earth
B. The Lord has not returned, nor judged
C. Therefore, the Bible is wrong in saying the Lord will return to judge the earth.

It’s simple logic, and somewhat self-refuting. If the Lord has returned to judge the earth we would not be here to wonder if the Lord is returning. The only person who can wonder if the Lord will return, is a person who is living prior to the Lord’s return.

Someone else can use similar logic yet come to a different conclusion:

A. The Bible says the Lord will return to judge the earth
B. The Lord has not returned, nor judged
C. Therefore, the Lord must be coming back sooner now than ever before!

I have no way to predict when the Lord will return. I do, however, have confidence that the Bible knows what it’s talking about when it comes to prophecy. Since the Bible has been right before in predicting the future, I’m confident to stick with it again.

Therefore, the Lord’s seeming delay, to me, just means He’s due!

Sharing Your Opinions May Keep You Stupid

The internet has about fried me.

I had so many dreams when I first hooked up to the World Wide Web back in 1995. I had web pages on GeoCities and blogs and all sorts of stuff. I was going to win the world in the relative comfort of my desk chair!

Then along came 1996 when I got my first internet troll. People are the same on the internet as they are in real life. Except worse, since there is relative anonymity.

The internet has now become a place to badger people and tell everyone every single thought that enters your head. The internet, rather than becoming a place of infinite resources to discover knowledge, has become a place of offended, knee-jerk diatribing.

I must pause. My knee is jerking me into an anti-internet diatribe.

I apologize.

Anyway, people have been expressing opinions for a long time. I imagine the first cave painting was actually a diagram in an argument about the best way to kill a woolly mammoth.

mammoth“See you keep sticking the spear in his rear end. That won’t work, you have to go on the side.”

One of the things I’ve noticed about people who share umpteen opinions a day is that they rarely make sense.

In fact, there seems to be a connection between not knowing what you’re talking about and sharing your opinions.

The less you know; the more opinions you share. The more opinions you share; the less you will know.

This happens because, once you’ve shared your opinion, you don’t really care about facts. All you care about is defending your opinion. Learning facts will only get in the way. When you’re talking; you’re not listening.

Perhaps you think I am showing my own ignorance by expressing my opinion on opinion-sharing fools. But alas, this is not my opinion, this is God’s Word:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.

Next time you have the urge to share an opinion, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Is being more stupid an OK result for having shared your opinion? Are you more interested in defending your opinion than knowing the facts?

It’s OK to keep a thought to yourself. Try it some time. You might find it to be very freeing.

The Mechanical Turk and God

Back in the late 18th century, a magical machine traveled the world, beating people at chess. It was called The Mechanical Turk. It was able to beat such people as Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin over the course of about 100 years.

But due to the sleuthing of such people as Edgar Allen Poe, it was discovered that the Mechanical Turk was a hoax.

turkInside the box under the chess board, was hiding one of a number of chess masters. By pushing levers, they were able to manipulate pieces on the board to win.

It was not a machine; it was a person making the decisions, much to the chagrin of an admiring public.

Mechanical Turks are now a reality. Deep Blue, the chess computer, famously knocked of chess Master Kasparov and everything changed. I can’t even beat the free Kindle chess app that often.

Mechanical Turks also have a home in Christian theology. Many people view the chess board as their life. They are seated with the turban on their head, doling out loss after loss to the world.

But, in the end, we know it’s God who is really pulling the levers. Although, to all appearances, I am making the choices, God is really the genius behind the scenes making me do everything I do.

This Mechanical Turk is the God of Calvinism/Fatalism/Predeterminism.

Others see God in the chair, making the moves, yet behind the scenes it’s just a person. We make the calls down here, behind the scenes, and God does our bidding.

This Mechanical Turk God takes many forms: from those who see God as a figment of our imagination, to Name it and Claim it Charismatics, to God owes me because of what I do legalists.

In reality, life isn’t at all like a Mechanical Turk. You are making the calls in your life, while God does what God said He would do. We are to listen to Him and make our choices.

You are responsible for what you do. The Bible says every person will be judged by their works. It says this a lot, it’s only a matter of looking it up in the Bible and accepting it.

If we are all judged for our works, this means we are the ones who did them and we are the ones responsible for them. God does not judge Himself for your works. God judges us for our works and He will do this.

As much as people would like to eliminate personal responsibility and blame God for everything we do, or assume God approves of all we do and makes it all work for our material benefit, neither approach will cut it on Judgment Day.

You will give an account for every deed done in the body. I’m pretty sure this means we should be careful what our bodies do. Don’t blame God. Don’t blame Satan. Don’t blame your parents. Deal with reality. Take responsibility.

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.

Sermon: 2 Peter 3

For some reason, the program I use to change my file to an MP3 for listening to it on the internet, has decided not to cooperate today. Therefore, you will have to use your own savvy to figure out how to listen to this! Hopefully the program will go back to normalcy next week.

You can subscribe to the Rhinelander Bible Church podcast on iTunes here.

God, the Ultimate Authority, Says Not to Despise All Authorities

When is your birthday?

June 27th.

How do you know that?

My birth certificate says so.

Have there ever been errors on birth certificates before?

Yes, I believe there have been, especially for Cuban-born baseball players.

Is it possible that your birth certificate could be in error?

I suppose so, but I’m not from Cuba, and my curve ball isn’t that good.

So, how do you know your birth certificate is right?

Well, my mom and dad were both there when I was born.

Have your mom and dad ever said something that wasn’t true?

Not on a regular basis, but yes, I believe they have said untruth.

So, how do you know they aren’t lying about your date of birth?

I guess I don’t, except it doesn’t seem like that would be worth the trouble.

Perhaps not. What else makes you think you were born on June 27th?

It was in the newspaper.

Are you suggesting that newspapers always tell the truth?

No, of course not.


The interrogation could go on and on, trying to prove that I can’t even trust my own birth date. Since we can make someone doubt their own date of birth, can’t we make someone doubt just about anything?

Yes, and many people try to do so.

One of the signs of a false teacher is that they turn you against authority. 2 Peter 2, all about the dangers of false teachers, says that false teachers “despise government.” The word “government” is a very general word that means authority, lordship.

False teachers will turn you against authority. They will get you to distrust them. They will shake your foundation.

Why would they do this? Why would a false teacher want you to despise authority?

Quite simply because they want to be your authority! If they can get you to think down on authority, that’s the first step in getting you to think highly of them. You now become dependent on the one who taught you to despise all other untrustworthy authorities.

It’s OK to question authority, to test them to make sure you’re being led properly, but this should be done with humility and for an honest testing to make sure you’re not being scammed. Nothing wrong with discernment.

But to despise authority, to reject them as stupid, is a first step to being taken for a ride by an authority, ironically enough.

Colleges are good at this. They know if they turn you against the authorities of your youth, then they can take the top spot. They aren’t doing this to help you; nope, as 2 Peter 2 says, they do this to make merchandise of you.

They want your allegiance so they can make money off of you.

I hope you do use discernment in checking whom you listen to. But I also hope you respect authority. I hope this for two main reasons:

  1. It protects you from being hoodwinked by a false teacher, and
  2. It protects me as someone who has set himself up to be a church leader from getting carried away.

The church has abused authority over the years in many ways, some more than others. But this does not mean the church is all bad, nor does it mean church authority is all bad. It means there are bad authorities in the church.

Pay attention. Keep your head on a swivel. But understand that you shouldn’t trust you any more than you trust any authority. Be humble as you test the spirits. Your heart is deceitful and so is mine. We need each other to keep ourselves in check. Let’s work on that together.

You Can Take God’s Word for it, Except When I Say Otherwise

I was listening to a theology class on inerrancy the other day while jogging. I know, I live an exciting life.

It was a 45-minute lecture on the credibility of God’s Word. Many have attacked the Bible for being historically inaccurate, yet as time goes on, more and more archaeological evidence soundly backs up the Bible.

For instance, when this professor was in seminary, an archaeologist who did work at Jericho said that yes, while there was proof that the walls did fall down suddenly, based on the pottery, the date of the fall was several hundred years earlier than Joshua says it was. Therefore, Israel didn’t do the wall knocking, they just borrowed the story, and thus the Bible is in error.

Therefore, since the Bible is clearly wrong, we cannot hold to the innerancy of Scripture. Yes, it may be good for spiritual insight, maybe even trustworthy for finding out how to be saved, but as for history, it’s no good.

Until years later when another archaeologist did some work at Jericho and found that the previous archaeologist didn’t do thorough enough work. The previous one did work in the poor part of town where they had old pottery. But the richer part of town had newer pottery, and thus the date was consistent with Joshua’s testimony.

He gave several other examples where time came through on the side of the Bible as more information was gathered. He spoke in very certain terms that you had better take the Bible’s word for it. Trust what it says. Don’t change the words. Even if the words haven’t been proven right yet, stick with them, they will be.

Very adamant and clear on the point about trusting Scripture, taking its word for it. It was very nicely done.

He then quoted Mathew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” He bucked up the point further: people can be wrong; God will not be. Stick with what God says, not with what people make up, as people will pass away but not God’s word.

He then tried to explain what heaven and earth passing away meant.

Again, let me set the scene: he has just spent 30+ minutes talking about the credibility of God’s Word, how we should trust what it says, take it for what it says and not trust people’s opinions about what it says. Again, 30+ minutes on that.

“Heaven and earth passing away can’t actually refer to the heaven and earth passing away,” he loosely said. “What will happen is that some of the bad works on the earth will be burned away, but this earth will remain.”

I busted out laughing while running down a hill on Forest Lane. “You gotta be kidding me!” I said out loud.

Again, 30+ minutes of “the Bible said the walls of Jericho fell over, and they did. Always take the Bible for what it says, don’t listen to those who change what it says.” 30+ minutes of that followed by, “well, it doesn’t really mean what it says here.”

Now, granted, there is always debate about how biblical prophecy will be fulfilled. There is even some wiggle room on translating the phrase “shall pass away” (which is all one Greek word), but still, based on the context, Jesus is talking about something (the heaven and earth) that ceases to be with something (God’s words) that will never cease to be.

He’s clearly not saying “Yes heaven and earth will slightly be altered, but God’s word will not slightly be altered.” He’s speaking in absolutes. Creation will disappear; God’s Word is eternal.

Why can’t the professor just say that? Because the theological camp he belongs to does not believe there will be a 1,000 year kingdom on this earth (even though Revelation clearly says it about 8 times) before the destruction of the heavens and the earth and the creation of a new heaven and earth. Therefore, when the Bible describes life in the Kingdom, the professor and his camp mix that with life in the “new heavens and the new earth.”

His camp has taught him their theory, which I don’t think is consistent with Scripture. Since he has to stay in his camp, he can’t teach what the Bible says here. That’s his call. He can do that if he wants, but if he does, he can’t really teach the previous 30+ minutes of his lecture with a straight face.

Everyone Lies to His Neighbor

Every once in a while you come across a snippet of Scripture that makes you pause for a second. I came across one this morning in the ESV

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor

There is a larger context, which is all about how everyone is full of lies except for God’s Word which is filled with words that “are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”

To establish the awesome purity of God’s words, the Psalmist compares it with our words, which are often times lies. Or exaggerations. Or hyperbole. Or any number of other words that mean “lies.”

I like that. I like that the Bible just cuts to the chase, “Hey, you people, just know that pretty much everything you hear from others is a lie.” I like how God backs up my assumption!

I know, “love believes all things,” and yadda, yadda, yadda, but seriously, everyone lies to their neighbor.

As we lie to our neighbors, Jesus tells us to love them. Love. Lie. What’s the difference, right?

We’ve all caught ourselves in lies to our neighbors. Sometimes they just sneak out as we try to one up our neighbor’s story about cutting down trees. We lie to give compliments, “Oh, I really like what you’ve done with your hair.” So we guarantee ourselves compliments back, even though we know those are as truthful as the compliment we gave!

Our ability to open our mouth and let lies come out is astounding. The more we talk, the higher the odds of a lie coming out.

I know, this is probably just Jeff being cynical again, and clearly the Psalmist is speaking in generalities, which are of course dangerous and wrong. I know the Bible didn’t really mean everyone lies to their neighbor, when it says everyone does.

But wait. God’s word is pure and refined seven times in the fire. It’s all good. No lies. It’s truth. It says everyone lies to his neighbor. Is a person cynical for pointing this out, or is he just quoting Scripture?

7 Thoughts on 2 Peter 2:21: Turning From the Way of Righteousness

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

The “holy commandment,” according to the previous verse, is “the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is not talking about turning from your mom’s doctrine, or your pastor’s, or your church’s teachings. It’s talking about knowing the facts of Jesus Christ and the Gospel and then rejecting them.

I find this verse to be very intriguing. What all is meant by this? What are the practical implications? I don’t know what all to do with it, but here are a smattering of thoughts on the passage:

  1. It seems to be saying that ignorance of the Gospel is better than knowing it and rejecting it.  If that is the case, should we be teaching all these kids about Jesus? Many statistics say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of kids who grow up around Christianity reject their faith as adults. As we force feed kids Jesus, are we just making their rebellion worse? I don’t know. I just wonder what our children’s ministry would look like if we believed this verse
  2. What about missions? Should we take the Gospel to places no one knows it? Isn’t it better for them to be ignorant than to be given the Gospel and then reject it? Or perhaps it’s the very rejection of knowing the Gospel that makes hell necessary. I doubt highly excusing our non-evangelism with “well I didn’t want them to reject it” would fly on Judgment Day.
  3. Perhaps this verse is one of the reasons why Jesus seemed to shew people away when they came to Him with questions. When a guy says, “What must I do to be saved?” One would think is a prime opening for a Gospel presentation. Instead, Jesus tells him to give all his stuff to the poor! Perhaps, by getting the guy to reject charitable giving, Jesus kept him from rejecting the Messiah.
  4. Perhaps this verse is also why, when someone proclaimed clearly who Christ was, Jesus told them to be quiet. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to keep spectacular proofs of who He was quiet. Why so much secrecy? Was this simply to keep the Jews hardened to bring about the crucifixion, or was He thinking of the principle in this verse?
  5. Jesus often spoke in parables, even explaining in Matthew 13 that this was to purposely keep the plain truth hidden. Again, was this to keep them ignorant, knowing they wouldn’t believe in Him anyway? Knowing this, by not clearly explaining the Gospel, perhaps they wouldn’t respond so harshly to the clearer Gospel presentation to come after His resurrection, or at least maybe their judgment would be lighter.
  6. Acts 17:30 says about the pre-Gospel live out days, “the times of this ignorance God winked at.” God lets people who are ignorant get away with more stuff!
  7. I doubt ignorance of the Gospel equals salvation. Paul, in Romans 1, says there remains no excuse to miss God simply by observing creation. Perhaps more the idea is that a guy who knows the Gospel and then completely rejects it is going to go more hog wild into sin than someone who just moved along never considering it in the first place. There is a determination to prove a point of rejecting a Gospel that has been force-fed, rather than one that was sought out. Along the lines of casting pearls to swine.

In the end, don’t burn me at the stake for any of these thoughts. I’m merely thinking out loud. Wondering what the implications are of this verse for us. It’s not a verse that gets much air time in the church. Mostly because it brings up the uncomfortable subject of possibly losing your salvation.

These are just thoughts in my head. Theories developed on this verse. I am not stating anything one way or another! This verse creates questions for me that have, so far, produced very few answers.

Becoming Like Christ Doesn’t Mean Becoming More Like You

We are told to be Christ-like, which as far as I can tell, means to most Christians, “Be like the Jesus of your imagination.”

Jesus is a complex guy. When humans deal with complex subjects, they like to simplify. Simplify usually means “skip the parts I don’t know what to do with.”

Jesus is known for being loving and kind. He compassionately heals the blind and the lame and feeds the hungry. To be like this Christ we assume we should become Mr. Rogers and happily live with all those in our neighborhood.

But then there’s angry Jesus who curses fig trees, flips over tables, and calls Pharisees blind leaders of the blind, which not only is rude to them, but what about the poor blind people being insulted as well? Jesus just seems ticked off.

But then, just when you think Jesus is some angry, tyrannical jerk, He doesn’t judge the woman caught in adultery, He patiently explains things to His dense disciples, and then submits quietly to death on the cross. He’s a pushover.

But then, just when you think you have Jesus pegged as Oprah, He asks the woman at the well how many men she has, tells the rich young ruler to give away all his possessions, and then tells some guys to eat His flesh and drink His blood! How annoying!

So, which Jesus do we become like? Mr Rogers Jesus? Oprah Jesus? Ticked Off Jesus? Annoying Jesus?

Usually we answer that by becoming who we are! If you’re a Mr Rogers type individual, you’ll be more like Mr Rogers with a few Bible verses thrown in. If you’re a ticked off guy, you’ll tick off people with a few Bible verses.

But is that the answer? Is becoming like Christ just being like you with more verses?

I don’t think so. I think it means becoming like Christ. Christ is complex. He is the embodiment of God’s Word. He is the righteousness of God revealed from heaven. He is love.

You are not those things!

Yes, we each have personal characteristics that make us different from each other, but there is also a unity at the core of Christians that binds us together. The core is Christ.

The Church should not consist of cookie-cutter people, all looking and acting the same. We’re different and that’s not just OK, that’s good.

Some of you Mr Rogers types should probably get a little more judgmentalism going in your life. Be a little more ticked off every once in a while, life is not as cheery as you think it is. Feel some pain. Deal with reality. Face injustice.

Some of you ticked off people need to chill some. Get some more compassion, keep some of your judgments on everyone’s sin to yourself. Maybe just accept a couple people. Life is not as bad as you think it is.

Being like Christ is a complex issue because Christ is complex. Keep Him complex. This will also keep you in dependence upon His Holy Spirit to transform you into Christ. The fact that we need God’s power working in us to do the transforming, is enough to let me know that this is no simple task.

Get to know Christ. Know all parts of Him. Especially note His actions and words that you don’t like. That’s pointing out something about you. Believers have the mind of Christ. Use it!

Sorry I Say Dumb Things

The church I pastor at meets in our junior high school. We have no control of the building, chairs, podiums, heating or cooling, or anything else. Just a key and then deal with what you get.

This is usually fine, but this last Sunday was near the end of a string of hot and humid days. I was hoping, since school started the previous week, that the air conditioning would be on.

It was not. It was hot. I walked in and my heart dropped. I hate hot, which is why I live in Northern Wisconsin. I hate humid hot the mostest.

I was sweating before I even got up front to speak. As I finished the announcements and went into my opening prayer, I made a joke about there being no air conditioning and then I said, “It’s hot in here. So, let’s get this over with.” Then I launched into my prayer.

It was an off-hand comment. I did not think about it, it just came out. “Let’s get this over with” is a statement I tell myself when I have to do something that I know will be uncomfortable. It was in relation to being hot and sweaty while preaching. I knew I would be miserable.

But the comment probably wasn’t the best thing to say right before beginning a church service. It is highly doubtful that this sets the right mood for worship!

I felt bad right after I said it, but then I prayed and on we went. It bothered me later that afternoon and is still bugging me.

I remember once getting ready to hear someone teach a Bible lesson and their opening line was, “Here’s what I came up with to bore you with tonight.” I heard another person say, “Lectures are boring. I hate lectures. But oh well, this is what we do. Here’s my lecture for you.”

Those kinds of statements are spoken more out of insecurity. I understand. I get it. There is a self-consciousness involved with such statements. Kind of like my dread of preaching in a hot humid airless room.

Our words come out quicker than we can think sometimes, especially when we’re nervous or preoccupied. One poorly spoken word can destroy. One of the downfalls of being the “guy who speaks,” is that I have to speak.

I don’t have the best track record of saying the right thing. Sometimes I wonder why I have this job. At least with writing I can edit! Even there though, things slip through. People take things wrong or I say them wrong.

It happens. We need grace. I need your grace. I hope to extend my own. I’m working on both sides of that issue. Sorry I say dumb things some times. Thanks for your patience.

Why You Should Not Express an Opinion About Kim Davis’ Choices in Life

There have been many stories written about Kentucky’s Kim Davis who refused to give a marriage license to a gay couple.

Christians and non-Christians pontificate as experts, bashing her character one way or another, even though 99.9% of all people pontificating do not even know this woman, nor the authors of these articles they pontificate on.

Non-Christians bash Christians as homophobic, and mock her looks and her beliefs. Christians support her as George Washington Part II, or find her to be embarrassing.

I will dismiss the non-Christians’ opinions on the subject simply because it’s irrelevant. My point is about Christians’ opinions of this woman.

Based on passages like Romans 14, the Bible says that there is a certain amount of freedom in how we apply our doctrine. The Bible does not give instructions on 100% of life decisions.

Romans 14 uses the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. There are two camps 1) eat and 2) don’t eat. Each side has verses. Each side has conscience. Each side has thought out reasons. Each side, more than likely, has emotions tied up in their side.

Whether a court employee should give out a marriage license to a gay couple is probably one of these issues. It seems, from the vast split in Christians, that you can support each side.

–Christians are to submit to the government; yet there are exceptions throughout the Bible where they do not.
–Christians are to submit to their boss/master; yet the Lord is our ultimate master and His Word is firmly against homosexuality.
–Christians are to love; yet there are times Christians are to pass judgment.

I’ve seen Christians defend either side. Paul’s advice in Romans 14 is: don’t worry about it. Let each person make up their mind and do their thing.

Kim Davis made up her mind. That’s what her conscience told her to do. Based on Romans 14, that’s what she’s supposed to do. If I talk her into violating her conscience, I now become the person in the wrong.

Kim Davis will stand before God and give an account for her stance. I have no idea what God’s judgment will be on the subject. I do not know all that He knows. Nor do you.

Which is why Paul tells us to chill and let people do their thing. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

What would I do in the situation? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that I will do what I think I’m supposed to do, and I would hope for support from fellow Christians in doing so, whether they agreed with my decision or not (although I would be completely shocked if I got it).

You don’t have to have an opinion about everything other people are doing. In the end, your opinion doesn’t matter in relation to God’s Judgment. Your opinion only matters to you; you need to keep your conscience clear.

When the Bible speaks out against being a busybody (which it does about as much as it speaks against homosexuality incidentally), it’s referring to stuff like this. A busybody is a person who is “especially busy about other folks’ affairs,” according to Thayer’s Definitions. It’s being an authority in other people’s matters, most of which you know very little about.

We should not make Kim Davis a hero or a villain. She is neither. As far as we know, by giving her the benefit of the doubt (which is what we’d like to have from others), she is doing what her conscience told her to do. She is a human being making decisions before God. We don’t have to despise her, nor judge her for choosing to act differently than we would

I trust that God will work in her life whether I pontificate about her life or not. We have decisions to make in life. Stop worrying about everyone else’s and take care of your own. When you make those decisions, make them quietly, stand by them, and deal with the consequences.

At the same time, there is irony all throughout this post! If your conscience tells you to pontificate about Kim’s choices in life, I guess you need to pontificate!

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

What is Sin? 5 Answers, Only 1 Is Right

Sin is a big word in Christian thought.

Sin, being so important, should be very carefully defined. There are many definitions of sin, some trite and some profound. But each definition carries theological consequences.

Sin is the disease we all need healed. Your mode of healing your sin depends on what you think sin is. Here are a few definitions of sin with their accompanying supposed mode of healing.

Definition of Sin: a violation of human decency
This is morality by vote. Social norms change as people change. Those who believe in evolution believe any change is an upward change. You do things to the extent society is OK with you doing it.
Salvation from this sin is achieved by:
Education. If you really want to do your thing but society doesn’t like it, you need to “raise awareness” for your particular proclivity until society agrees. When they agree with you, then sin is no longer sin and you no longer need healing.

Definition of Sin: Conformity to your group
Society is so big and diverse and changey, it’s better to hole up with a group of people you like and simply become like them. Whatever your group thinks sin is, that’s what sin is.
Salvation from this sin is achieved by:
Conformity. Judging. Legalism. Do what we say and you’ll be fine.

Definition of Sin: being human
Many philosophic and religious traditions have seen human existence as sin itself. Sin is self, the physical, the body. Sin is what we are. If my body were eliminated, so too would sin be eliminated.
Salvation from this sin is achieved by:
Eliminate self. Melt into nothingness. Stress spiritual sentimentalism. This is shown in two ways 1) ignore reality by dropping out, man, or 2) living it up in sin, because, seriously, only what’s on the inside counts, man.

Definition of Sin: violating the Law
By “Law” I mean God’s Law, His revealed will (Violating the laws of your country fits under the first definition–violating human decency). Although this definition is close to being right, it still misses the key aspect of Law. Instead it makes you focus entirely on the checklist and typically results in you ignoring many sins to focus on the visible violations of law you’ll get in trouble for. You become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
Salvation from this sin is achieved by:
Keeping the Law! Good luck with that.

Definition of Sin: the opposite of love
Although the previous definition is close, take it to the next step. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Whatever does not demonstrate love is sin. It’s not merely keeping the letter of the law, the list of don’ts, but doing the true heart and spirit of the Law.
Salvation from this sin is achieved by:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the great demonstration of God’s love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. After seeing the love of God, the goodness of God that leads people to repentance, that same love takes root in our heart, raising us up to newness of life in which we show the love of Christ to those around us.

If sin is not understood to be the opposite of love, you will look in all the wrong places for a solution to it. You’ll try every church, every book, every counselor, every path, and get whipped about by every wind of doctrine, always learning yet never coming to the truth.

Love. It’s what The Gospel is all about. For God so loved the world. Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. Sin, unlove, is what we need deliverance from. When love takes root, sin dies out. The Gospel does this.

The Gospel is the answer to your problem of sin. See the right problem and get the right answer!

The Danger of Putting Faith Over Love

If a person sees that the Bible puts love above faith, this will get that person off several hangups:

  1. You will stop obsessing about whether you believe all the “right things”
  2. You will then stop trying to argue people into submission to your beliefs
  3. You will then take an actual interest in helping them, not just forcing them to submit
  4. You will look outward to love God and others, no longer obsessing over your own righteousness or sinfulness
  5. You will no longer view your spiritual growth as merely marked by “stuff I don’t do any more”
  6. You will see that the call to love is hard
  7. You will be humbled rather than puffed up with self-righteousness

The Reformers, the first people in Church History to put faith over love (not that all the rest had love first), became very academic. They put philosophy into their religion, which then caused them to philosophize about original sin and total depravity and other things the Bible doesn’t say.

As they made everything academic, faith became known as “agreeing with what we say.” Spiritual growth was about conforming to your group and avoiding your group’s pet-peeve sins.

This made for very angry people. Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake for not agreeing with his doctrine. The only way a guy could do that is if he put faith above love! (I believe this is also why the Roman Catholic Church torched people as well. Although they did not put faith over love, they put their church over love.)

Faith became an intellectual pursuit. We judge whether people are believers by whether they agree with my doctrine. God judges whether we love Him.

Luther once said, “Faith, therefore, is a certain obscure knowledge.” Augustine said, “To believe means simply to affirm in thought.” And, “The certitude of faith is a kind of beginning of knowledge.”

Faith is then academics. Faith is knowing the right stuff. The problem is that the “right stuff” is different depending on whom you ask! Bring in burning stakes and church splits!

When we put faith first, we will put “agreeing with me” as our standard. When we put love first, well, then how you love others shows whether you love God.

Which is easier:

  1. To feel smugly satisfied in your understanding of God, or
  2. To love your neighbor as yourself

The Reformers thought the Catholic Church eliminated faith by works (religious ritual), and they were right in revolting against that.

Unfortunately, their answer was to repeat “Faith! Faith! Faith!” By doing so, they wanted to eliminate works. Although a fine attempt, it leads into the other problem, known as antinomianism–I can do what I want because I believe.

Certainly Luther, Calvin, and Augustine never went to antinomianism, but that’s only because they were horribly inconsistent. They knew works had to be in there somewhere, but they couldn’t figure out where. So, they simply told people to do good works, without ever explaining why, other than to stay humble or a vague appeal to “God’s glory.”

James did a fine job explaining faith and works. So did Paul. If you stick with them, you see that good works always equal love. Love is always the root of faith, the stuff by which faith works.

Love is Greater Than Faith: OR: Here’s Another Chance to Call Me A Heretic

Most Christians claim to be saved by “faith alone.” This mantra has been said so many times that if you don’t say it, you are labeled a heretic.

Certainly faith is a large issue in the Bible. But the Bible does not put faith first. Yes, the Reformers did, primarily Luther and Calvin, but the Bible does not. The only time the Bible talks about faith alone is when James says, “NOT by faith only.” So, what does the Bible put first?

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love is not just greater than faith, it’s THE GREATEST of any other word.

Putting faith first and making love subordinate to it, does damage to what we think faith is.

We place our faith in Jesus Christ, primarily in the Gospel of Jesus Christ: His death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel is the great demonstration of God’s love. We love Him because He first loved us.

When asked what the greatest command was, Jesus did not reply, “Believe the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” Why not? Because people believe all sorts of insane things with their whole heart and soul and strength!

God is not solely interested in whether you “believe in Him.” Even the demons believe and tremble. God is more interested in whether you love Him.

I believe that the chair I’m sitting on will continue to hold me up. This does not mean I love this chair, nor does it mean I love the laws of physics that uphold the whole system. It just means I believe I can sit here without falling over.

Believing things is not the main issue. Nor is believing God. Read Paul’s words from the famous Chapter of Love, 1 Corinthians 13:

though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

But Jeff, the Bible says “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” It’s all about whether I believe!

Indeed it does, and that’s why it’s important that we understand what the Bible means by faith.

Galatians 5:6 tells us that faith works by love. According to Vincent’s Word Studies, this phrase means “faith which is wrought by love.” In other words, you can’t have this faith outside of love. Love is what brings about this faith. Without this love, faith will never be “worked.”

This is why James said, “faith without works is dead.” James knew that true saving and biblical faith includes works.

Everyone has a conniption here and ignores the context, which says the work he is talking about is fulfilling the royal law.

What is the royal law, oh James? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the work that shows that faith is genuine.

There’s lots of confusion on this issue. The confusion does not arise from the Bible; the confusion arises because people have been listening to people for too long! The Reformers, just like any other human, got some stuff right and some stuff wrong.

Our faith is in God’s Word, summed up in the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Lots of people claim to believe Him because they understand some facts about Him and His Word. But the true test is whether you love Him.

Your life will reveal that.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

7 Reasons Why I Believe Dead Babies Go To Heaven

Last week I posted 7 thoughts about abortion. In that post I mentioned that I believe that babies who die go to heaven. There is some debate on the issue. The main reason for the debate is that there is no flat-out clear statement of Scripture. In other words, there is no verse that says “all babies who die go to heaven.”

Therefore, since the Bible does not directly state the case one way or another, a person needs to analyze the whole counsel of God and make a theory. My theory is that babies who die go to heaven. Here are 7 points on the subject.

  1. David’s dead baby
    I think this is the closest the Bible gets to saying dead babies go to heaven. David fasts and prays while his son is dying. Once the baby dies, David says, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David expects to see his kid again. This isn’t just wishful thinking recorded in Scripture, I don’t think. There is no counterpoint given in the Bible to disprove David’s statement, so I’d go with it.
  2. Original Sin
    Most of this debate circles around the issue of Original Sin. The Calvinist concept of Original Sin is that all humans are guilty by fault of being a human. All humans are guilty because of Adam’s sin, not because of personal sin, according to this view. Consistent Calvinists (of which there are few, thank God) believe only elect babies go to heaven, just as they believe only elect anybodies go to heaven. If you believe that simply being conceived places you under God’s judgment, you should deny that babies go to heaven. I don’t agree with the Calvinist notion of Original Sin. I believe babies are born morally innocent.
  3. Age of Accountability
    Based on verses like Isaiah 7:16, “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good,” there is a testimony of Scripture that talks about a time of moral ignorance. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. Babies can’t hear God’s Word in any true sense of biblical hearing. Therefore, I do not see how they could be guilty of sin.
  4. Babies are innocent
    According to Ecclesiastes 7:29, “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” We hear all the time that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as well as told we are “made in the image of God.” Yet many inconsistent people will, at the same time, believe we are born sinners, guilty and deserving of hell. Therefore, we are not made upright nor wonderfully, nor in the image of God! Unless you believe God is a sinner who thinks being born sinful is wonderful.
  5. Kids enter the Kingdom
    Jesus once said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus had many fine things to say about small kids. It seems hard to believe He would use small kids as an example for entering the Kingdom if small kids didn’t actually enter the Kingdom. “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
  6. God is just
    Based on the revelation of God’s character as revealed to us in the Bible, I don’t see how the God of the Bible would throw babies into hell. This is based on hours of reading God’s Word, not just some hopeful, sentimental feeling within me. It does not fit God’s revealed character. God is love. Yes, there are reasons why God sends people to hell. Being a dead baby is never on that list.
  7. God’s outrage at infant sacrifice
    Part of some of the wicked idolatry around Israel involved sacrificing babies. These worshipers would “burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” Killing babies is not even a concept that entered God’s mind. I can’t imagine then that He would throw dead babies into hell-fire.

The main reason people even bother to ask whether dead babies go to heaven is due to Calvinist philosophy. If you just stick with the Bible, I think a pretty good case is made for believing dead babies go to heaven.

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