Mary, Joseph, Faith, and Uncertainty

Faith needs uncertainty to thrive.

Faith is based on hearing God’s Word. Many of us have a desire to have things in the Bible explained a little bit more. Can’t we drop one of those chapters about mildew on walls for some more information about foreknowledge?

But alas, we have the Bible we have. Unless you want to become a Mormon, there are no other books of the Bible to fill in the gaps.

What’s fascinating is how many people in the Bible are in the same predicament as us. Although we like to think Abraham, Noah, Moses, Elijah, and others had more information, most of them were acting on very little.

It was enough that God had said a few things to them. That was all they needed.

Mary and Joseph strike me as two perfect representations of this. Mary was told she would have a kid. There was very little explanation of how. The Spirit would come upon her. Well, like, how? What does that mean?

The baby was apparently the Messiah. What about His education? Do we spank Him? Do we feed Him? Can’t we just sit here and let the baby do whatever He wants; we know He’s going to grow up to be the Messiah. Do we do anything?

There had to be a ton of questions. Joseph not only had questions about his son, but also about his wife. What a tumultuous situation they were thrust into. No room at the inn. Wise men from the East drop by. Flight to Egypt comes with Herod killing babies all because of you, and an eventual move back home.

I can’t even imagine the uncertainty. According to the Bible, there was no further revelation given to them other than around Christ’s birth. The few glimpses we get certainly seems to show Mary not quite getting what was really going on. “Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”

Uncertainty. Lack of information. This is where faith is real.

It’s easy to say you have faith when you have no reason to have any! Uncertainty is a requirement for faith. Learn to enjoy uncertainty. This is the proving grounds and strengthening of faith.

Mary and Joseph were thrown into the deep end. We have this great cloud of witnesses who have come before, who moved on uncertain and inadequate information. They were flesh and blood like we are. In many ways, we have more information than any of them ever had.

Take courage from the long list of faithful people in Hebrews 11 who were as uncertain, confused, and questioning as we are. If they could do it, so can you.

Comfortable With Uncertainty

There are many things in life I do not know. There are many things in life you do not know. There are many things in life no one knows.

You would never guess this by listening to people!

Everyone knows everything. The younger you are, the more certain of your all-knowingness you seem to be. “I know” flops out of every kid’s mouth when you tell them how to do something.

We are drawn to certainty. We want to prove things, have no questions, no hesitations, no reservations. We want to speak with authority.

When people heard Jesus, the Son of God, speak, they were amazed because he “taught them as one having authority.” He was not like their normal teachers. People ate this up. Except their teachers, of course!

We all want to be in the shoes of Jesus. We want to know all and speak like we know it all. We crave that power and authority over others. Bow before your master! Sit at my feet and learn of me, for I am awesomeness personified!

The modern atheism/scientism crowd falls for this just as religious folk do. The stated reason most turn to scientism is because it deals with facts, provable, testable conclusions that are right. It feels so secure, so sound, so authoritative. It is amusing that they become what they reportedly despise–religious fundamentalists!

Certainly science can lend a hand in finding truth, any rational human being would admit this. What science has accomplished over the years is stunning, most of it was only possible because of discovering facts and laws. You reading this on a screen right now is a mind-blowing conglomeration of scientific discovery.

At the same time, science can’t answer all questions. Science has a hard time telling us the weather sometimes. Whether eggs are good for you or not. How to cure cancer. Whether you should stretch before or after working out. Science has changed its mind on how old the earth is many, many times.

Adherents to the modern atheism/scientism are religious fundamentalists extraordinaire.

Religious fundamentalists are people who know the truth. They are the authority. Bow, or else! Whether this fundamentalism is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist, it’s very angry. It’s angry because it can’t figure out why you don’t agree with them! They are so certain, so convinced of their own infallibility, it boggles their mind why you are not equally enamored with their awesomeness!

Can science prove facts that are irrefutable? Yes.

Can Christianity have irrefutable truths? Yes.

Can science explain all things? No.

Can Christianity explain all things? No.

Deal with it!

You can’t know everything. You can’t. The Bible tells us that God knows everything. You are not God. Faith is the word that bridges this gap.

I know I don’t know all things. I believe that God knows all things. Therefore, I listen to Him. I make sure I follow what it is I know from Him. I also rest confidently that if He didn’t say anything about it, I’m not going to worry about it.

He didn’t want me to know all the answers. Faith is the process of becoming cool with that.

You don’t know everything. If you did, you’d be impossible to live with (remember what they did to Christ who did know all things!). Humility, trust, faith. These are large words in Christianity. They are large for a reason. Keep them large. God is the one who knows all things. Keep Him as God.

Confidently listen to The One who knows all. He knows what He’s doing. You don’t!

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Muslims Don’t Worship the Same God as Christians. Even Christians Don’t Worship the Same God.

Wheaton College suspended a professor this week for saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, as well as saying and doing some other pro-Muslimesque things.

The argument is that both Christianity and Islam borrow from the Old Testament, both trace themselves back to Abraham. Both hold Jesus Christ as special. But here is where they veer.

Islam sees Jesus as a prophet, like Muhammad was. Christianity says Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (see John 1).

If Jesus is God in the flesh, and Islam says Jesus is a prophet, then clearly we don’t worship the same God.

The same could be asked of Judaism: Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? Because of our common holding of Old Testament Scriptures, many would conclude that we do. However, Judaism rejects Jesus Christ, and Jesus was God in the flesh. So, in one sense, yes we worship the same God, and yet actually, no we don’t.

The question could also then be asked: Do all Christians worship the same God?!

John’s Epistles tell us plainly that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is come in the flesh, is not saved. Some who believe they are Christians reject that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, often referred to as Christians because they use some of the Bible, reject the divinity of Christ. Therefore, although some think we worship the same God, we don’t.

You could take it beyond Christ in the flesh as the issue as well. When you examine Calvinist and non-Calvinist opinions of God, it certainly does not appear as though they are worshiping the same God. John Wesley once opined that the God of Calvinism has more in common with the Devil.

Christians who feel they are on earth to tell God what to do, to name it and claim it, clearly have trouble with the revelation of the character of the God of the Bible. Therefore, it seems we do not worship the same God.

Joel Osteen and his ilk don’t think we should talk about sin and that God will honor all attempts, even false attempts, at worshiping Him.

Rob Bell, along with Universalist Christians, don’t think there is a hell and that God will let all comers into heaven. A God who sends some people to hell and a God who doesn’t send anyone to hell seem to be fundamentally different gods.

Many Christians think God exists to help them follow their dreams, to make them self-actualized, and to be a guru leading you to ultimate success, while the God of the Bible tells us to deny self. Clearly these are not the same gods.

A God who needs people to do mindless ritual and repeat prayers to work off sin, and the God of the Bible certainly do not seem to be the same.

Perhaps I shall stop here before stepping on more toes.

All religions worship god in some form. We know there is a God behind it all, it is all an effort to find the One God. In a very loose sense, I suppose it could be maintained that we worship the same God.

But if doctrinal integrity has anything to do with it, which I believe it does, it is very difficult to claim that all Christians worship the same God, let alone Muslims and Christians.

Maturity and Smashing Idols

I read a quote today about iconoclasm that intrigued me. The author was looking back at his atheist teenage years and how he enjoyed his atheism because it was intellectually daring. To which he then said that “iconoclasm is fun.” What is difficult is to supply an adequate alternative.

What is iconoclasm?

Iconoclasts were originally people who hated icons. Back in the 8th and 9th centuries, people began rebelling against the Orthodox church by smashing their icons, the statues in the churches.

Over the years, the term iconoclast has taken on a more general meaning and is now defined as “One who attacks cherished beliefs.”

It is my opinion that everyone should go through an iconoclast stage in life. Many teenagers do already. It’s OK. Let them sprout their wings and test out their ability to fly. When they hit the ground, they will begin to learn.

iconoclastUnfortunately, many people never achieve a point of iconoclasm in their lives. They go on believing what other people have told them without one scrutinizing glimpse into those beliefs. I find this to be very sad. If you still and only believe everything you learned in Sunday School, you have work to do.

Being an iconoclast can be fun, but it can also be pointless if you don’t arrive at an alternative. Once your idols are smashed, you’re left with nothing.

So, which should come first–smashing idols or having a better alternative? It depends.

Certainly it’s good to have a better alternative than unexamined beliefs that may or may not be true. But sometimes it takes the breaking of idols to be at a point where you begin to search for the truth.

Iconoclasm should never be the end though. Simply destroying stuff is no answer. The true point, the actual benefit of iconoclasm, is to get on the right path. This was the author’s disillusionment with atheism: Although it did a fine job bashing and eliminating religion, it provided zero answers to life’s big questions.

Destruction is easy (see: professional wrestling). Anyone can tear apart. The difficult work comes in building up.

Sometimes when you break stuff you were surrounded by all your life, you find you really shouldn’t have broken it. Testing beliefs is fine. Your test will prove the purity of your beliefs. Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, however (throwing out everything simply because of the association with a person, group, object, etc).

In some cases, you don’t even have to smash idols: false ones tend to crack on their own. This can be devastating. Seeing your teachers, your heroes, your beliefs and cherished opinions come crashing down of their own accord, is iconoclasm without the middleman! You have no alternative but to seek truth.

In the end, don’t just be against stuff. Be for something. Being for something will inevitably put you in a position to be against things. But, make sure you’re for something, or else you’re just wasting everyone’s time, and, in the end, no one will take you seriously.

Feelings of Inadequacy and Grace

There are moments I feel completely inadequate as a Christian. I get done with a conversation and think, “It was right there, I could have said something, and I didn’t.” Or someone rams into my leg with a shopping cart and I let the wrong look pop up on my face. I lose my patience with my kids. I make one too many jokes at someone’s expense.

The list could go on.

I blow it. I feel guilty. I feel like a complete waste of space. Worse yet, one false move may turn someone away from the Gospel for eternity.

Good Lord, how do we even breathe with this pressure?

I know two camps in Christianity that attempt to deal with this inadequacy:

Thrive on Inadequacy
These tend to be what we call “legalistic” people. Inadequacy is what drives their entire Christian faith. If you aren’t feeling inadequate, you aren’t doing it right. Feel the pain! Beat yourself up. And, of course, don’t forget to make sure everyone else feels horrible about themselves too. This has at least two unfortunate results: A) This wears people out and they quit Christianity or B) it makes people insensitive to others, entirely consumed on their own performance, and often leads to a hardened conscience, no longer dealing with reality but revels in their own perceived perfections. Pharisees are the poster children of this view.

Ignore Inadequacy
This view goes to the opposite extreme and pretends there is no such thing as inadequacy, guilt, or responsibility. They emphasize grace and love so much, it’s as if there are no expectations at all, no commands, no judgment, no obligation, no nothing except license and living it up. Although people describe coming to this view as “liberating,” I have rarely seen this way of thinking lead to anything approaching Christlikeness, nor does it appear as though they truly are free. This view also leads to an arrogance: everything is about them. They can hurt you, it doesn’t matter, you have to forgive them because Christ already has. They honestly believe they are free to be jerks, the more jerkish they are, the more this proves their dependence on grace. It’s as if the existence of grace nullifies any need for the Bible at all.

Obviously you can see I have problems with both views. I’ve tried both. Neither works.

The bottom line is this:
1) The New Testament is filled with commands. In all honesty, there are more commands given in the NT than in the OT. We are also told that everyone will give an account for the deeds done in the body, for every word that comes out of the mouth. We are told to be salt and light, which is very hard to do if you are darkness. We are to come out and be separate and touch not the unclean thing. The Bible is there for our reproof, correction, and training, which sure seems to imply we will blow it and need discipline.

2) At the same time, true believers are accepted in the beloved, we have been declared righteous. There is grace, there is mercy, there is love, and these are real, honest-to-goodness ways that God deals with His people. We are in Christ and have been made the righteousness of God. There is freedom in Christ and ALL THINGS are lawful for me. We are no longer under law, and where there is no law there is no transgression. Christ has made us free. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

The first paragraph touches on a number of NT passages held up by those who thrive on inadequacy. The second paragraph refers to a number of NT passages upheld by those who ignore inadequacy. They both have a point. They both have verses. They both use the same NT.

I’ve heard the attempts by both groups justifying why it’s OK to ignore the passages that disagree with their extreme positions. I don’t buy the arguments from either camp.

As is the case with many Biblical subjects: there are two sides that must both be held. This is the place where faith thrives.

I do not live up to the high standard of perfection in Christ Jesus. I don’t. Yet this is the standard we are called to.

The fact that I haven’t met it, doesn’t mean the standard should be lowered or ignored. It’s still the standard. I must also acknowledge my failure to meet it and rely upon the mercy and grace available in the Gospel to meet my needs of forgiveness, and also for the edification needed to equip me to every good work.

Grace doesn’t just make past sins OK; grace teaches us to avoid sin in the future and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. In one sense, sin is necessary for grace to do its work. That’s why Paul asked several times, “Should we sin that grace may abound? In no way!”

Without sin, I’d have no idea I needed a Savior. I’d have no idea I needed grace. But now that I know grace is real, I can depend on Christ (the giver of this grace) to equip me to overcome sin in the future.

Inadequacy is a perfectly healthy thing to feel. If you never feel inadequate, trust me, you’re not hearing the word of God, or you at least have a very poor sense of what you are doing. You are no Christ, you continually fall short of the glory of God.

But God knows this. He’s worked that truth into His plan. He knows our frame, He understands that we are dust. But when we see our inadequacy along with the supremely Adequate Christ, this is where growth occurs. This is where faith becomes real. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the Christian life happens.

Hold both sides of the issue because they are both legitimate. This is a battle. Fight the fight.

The Church Is Not The Main Voice Talking About The End of The World Any More

I am currently preaching through the Book of Revelation. It has been interesting to note how many people who hear the messages, or hear that I am preaching through Revelation, say they have never heard it preached on before.

This is somewhat weird to me. I can remember going through Revelation three different times in my church where I grew up. Undoubtedly it was more than that, I only remember three.

Studying the End Times used to be big business in the American Church. In recent years this has trailed off. Here are a few reasons why I think that is:

  1. It’s too confusing. People want practical sermons–7 ways to get out of debt; 10 ways to strengthen your marriage. No one has time for confusing, irrelevant future stuff.
  2. It’s too divisive. No one can agree on what it’s about. All it does is cause arguments. Better to avoid it and talk about things we all agree on.
  3. It’s too dorky. Unfortunately the Church has made End Times stuff way too cheesy. Revelation is the book we’re all embarrassed is in the Bible. Left Behind books and movies have trivialized it all.
  4. It’s too unpredictable. There have been way too many attempts to guess the date of the Lord’s return. He hasn’t returned. We feel and look stupid when we talk about this stuff. We don’t want to come across as some crazed fundamentalist holding picket signs.
  5. It’s too academic. In order to fully treat the Book of Revelation, you kind of have to know the Old Testament prophets, Psalms, the Gospels, the writings of Paul, the whole Bible really. That’s too hard and too academic. It requires too much thinking and study. Better not do it.

What’s fascinating to me is that, while the Church is avoiding taking End Times stuff seriously, the atheist/agnostic/humanist/non-Christian world seems to be taking over for us!

If you mention the world ending to a random person off the street, they probably won’t think about crazed religionists; they’ll think about some doomsday prepper who recently saw Bigfoot. They’ll think about Global Warming fanatics. They’ll think about environmentalist whackos and free-range cow defenders. Perhaps they’ll think about peace protesters thinking wars will end us.

All these secular groups have some sort of End Times scenario as a major piece of their propaganda. As the Church stops talking about The End, the world is filling in. Al Gore is the new Hal Lindsey.

I find this fascinating.

Perhaps one of the main reasons all groups talk about The End of the world is because it creates fear, and fear is a great tool to raise money.

But at its root it shows us that we all know The End is coming. Worldly groups think humanity can do things to stave it off. The Bible says we can’t. The Bible also says judgment follows. I suppose that’s the one relief the world can offer about their End Times charts: there’s no judgment in their scenarios.

People know the world will end. Will we try to save the earth, or will we attempt to get our souls saved? It depends on what you think happens after The End.

The Difference Between Contentment and Comfort

Today’s prosperous American Christianity is confused about contentment.

Our view of contentment is being satisfied, pleased with what we have or with what is going on around us. If you aren’t content, do something to add to your surroundings so you are content. Buy some more stuff, get a different, less stupid husband, move to greener pastures, or focus on “finding yourself.” A life focused on me seems to be the best way I can be content! I get what I want when I want it. Sweet!

Biblical contentment has nothing to do with physical satisfaction. Here are the most popular New Testament usages of contentment:

Philippians 4:11–I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
1 Timothy 6:6–godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:8–having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Hebrews 13:5–be content with such things as ye have

In each case, a single Greek word is at play. It’s a word that literally means self-sufficient.

So, what’s the difference between Biblical self-sufficiency and worldly fleshly-satisfaction?

Fleshly satisfaction needs stuff outside of self to keep the self happy. It needs its appetites fed, its lusts fulfilled, and its desires granted.

Biblical self-sufficiency needs nothing, it is independent of external circumstance. Self-sufficiency is based on something inside you, something that no physical thing can fulfill nor steal.

If you break the Greek word in two, you get the two halves self and sufficient. The word sufficient is used by Paul in another context (2 Corinthians 12), a context where he is asking God to remove his thorn in the flesh. In other words, something was happening physically that was destroying Paul’s comfort–remove it please!

God did not. Instead God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” There’s our word sufficient.

Because we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness. Because we have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, nothing physical should destroy our sufficiency. We have been given everything we need by God’s grace to be self-sufficient.

Contentment has little to do with physical things. If you have food and clothes, be content, be self-sufficient. God has you. He takes care of His people.

Worldly comfort that makes you satisfied has nothing to do with biblical contentment.

This whole concept is easier said than done. But this only shows the degree to which our priorities are out of whack with God’s. I imagine having proper expectations about contentment is a good place to start though.

C. S. Lewis Was No James Bond, But He Did Know His Christianity

Big news came out that C. S. Lewis was once a “secret government agent” for Britain’s MI6 in the early years of WWII.

This sounds much more exciting than the reality. It boils down that Lewis did a lecture on Norse literature broadcast to the inhabitants of Iceland to win over the Icelanders to the British cause of knocking out Germany.

So yeah, not exactly James Bond, and, quite frankly, rather click-baitish headlining.

Anyhoo, in the excitement over Lewis, his quotes are popping up around the internets. A great one of which I was reminded of:

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable,
I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

This claim seems rather silly in our day. Christianity has become all too comfortable. Our most famous preachers bask in the glow of celebrity, whereas the famous preachers of the past sometimes basked in the glow of the burning stake they were tied to.

Evangelical believers think the best proof of a Christian testimony is how suburban looking we are. How well our kids are doing. How “smoking hot” our wife is. How big our church is. How many cups of coffee we drink before church. How we use our phone to read the Bible, etc.

I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong about any of those things, but when we make material success proof of spiritual success, we do miss the boat.

When Christianity is done right, the spiritual takes priority over the physical. This often shows itself through physical cost.

As the believer learns more about new life in Christ, he disentangles himself from the cares of the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. What man esteems, God despises.

Yet we continue to kid ourselves that the American Dream is also Jesus’ dream for us. We continue to find justifications for our carnal, flesh-focused minds as we drift into lukewarm apathy.

We use our apathy as proof of our supposed contentment. What we have is not actually biblical contentment, but rather worldly comfort.

C. S. Lewis, the definer of mere Christianity, knew Christianity had a cost, that it messed with life, that it was the great destroyer of comfort.

I wonder what we’ve lost in the last 50 years that he saw?

Morality and the Gospel

There is a danger within Christianity to boil everything down to morals.

Moral behavior is an outflow of Spirit-directed faith, but it is by no means an operative part of Christianity. Being good does not win points with God, nor does it clean up the old man, nor does it cause salvation.

However, most “Christians” use morality as THE MAIN ISSUE. Therefore, we get hot and bothered about threats to our “Judaeo-Christian” morality.

Thus we freak out about Caitlyn Jenner’s escapades and same-sex marriage and whatever other moral issue hits our hot button. Meanwhile, Christians think Mormons are on our side because they are good people and vote Republican.

Mormons believe Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. They believe God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are three separate gods. They believe people can become gods. They don’t believe the Gospel is sufficient to save. Yet Christians nearly helped vote a Mormon into the presidency because of his morals.

So, according to Jesus, which is worse: someone with strange sexual proclivities (say like, a prostitute) or people who blaspheme God (scribes and Pharisees)? Matthew 23 rails on religious false teachers. There is no equivalent chapter-long diatribe against sexual perverts.

Certainly He views them both as sinners (Romans 1 is close to a diatribe against sexual perversion!), but He certainly made more of an issue over those who were leading people astray spiritually than He ever did over sexual problems.

Again, sexual perversions are sin, He did address them at times, but spiritual perversion got a bigger rise out of Jesus.

Morality never seemed to be THE big issue with Jesus. He knew if people got spiritually right, morality would take care of itself.

In fact, this is how Christianity works= Morality flows out of the character of God. Sexual sin, for example, is nothing more than a misunderstanding of who God is.

Ephesians 5 says marriage is the picture of the relationship of Christ with His people made available through the Gospel. If a man marries a man, this causes problems for the metaphor.

If a man wants to marry a man, Christ didn’t tell His followers to pass a constitutional amendment to stop him. He told His followers to teach people right stuff about His Father. Knowing right stuff about the Father, which comes through the Gospel where the Son reveals the Father, will show the misguided man his error and strengthen him in doing what is right.

This is why I think Jesus had a bigger problem with spiritual perversion. If you don’t have a right view of God, you won’t ever have right morality. Wrong morality is a symptom, it’s not the disease.

When the Church focuses on the symptoms, we lose a never-ending battle. At the same time, we actively keep people from the healing of the disease–we join the Pharisees and make our followers twice the children of hell. We chase them off with our moral fixation often expressed by anger, and never get far enough to get the Gospel to them.

Once a person gets the Gospel, truly understands what’s going on in it and grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, morality will take care of itself. Bad morals means a bad knowledge of God.

Sin is bad. We’re not supposed to do it. Rampant sin in the world should bother us. But if it truly bothered you, railing against it is not the answer. The answer is proclaiming the Gospel so people understand it. Try it for yourself first, then go forth and teach all nations.

I Have No Idea What Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, Or Augustine Are Talking About Half the Time

There, I said it. Seriously, I don’t understand these guys.

I am currently reading Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m about 70 pages in. I have very little concept of what he’s talking about.

I have read other stuff by Bonhoeffer and liked the parts I understood and the parts that weren’t crazy Lutheran.

But, in all honesty, I have a hard time tracking with Mr. Bonhoeffer. I have analyzed myself in this issue: Why do I not follow him?

My answer is the same as when I ask myself why I don’t follow other famous theologians that everyone says they like: he is a philosopher and thinks like one. I am not and I do not think like a philosopher.

Augustine thinks like a philosopher. I do not like Augustine. G. K. Chesterton is a philosopher. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

I feel bad that I don’t understand them. I wish I did, I just don’t. People keep telling me how great these guys are and I’m not seeing it.

I used to think it’s because I was too stupid. These authors are smarter than me and anyone who likes them must be smarter than me.

But I’ve read a lot of books and gone to seminary and I know a thing or two. I still don’t get these guys. It’s possible I’m still a moron, that door will never be closed.

But the genius in me decided no, it must be the authors who are morons. If you understand something you should be able to communicate it so a kid can understand you. If these guys can’t make me understand their point, they must be bloviating.

I also believed (and kind of still do), that most people who like these authors just say they do because they know it makes them look smart. I’m guessing I’ve read more of these authors than most people who say they like them! Maybe the reason I don’t like them while others do, is because I’ve actually read them!

Kind of like Shakespeare. People think it’s awesome to read Shakespeare because it makes you look intellectual. However, I’ve read Shakespeare. A lot of Shakespeare. I took a college class on Shakesperean Literature. Everyone dies. He might be good with words, but he’s as creative as a brick.

But now I have a new theory.

My mind is different from other people’s minds. Chesterton, Bonhoeffer, and Augustine think in a different way than I do. They like to pontificate about how things stick together. They like to try to explain things that aren’t explained right out in the Bible.

I don’t! I figure, if God doesn’t explain it, I don’t care. I can think about it all day long, I can develop theories, but even after all that, I will have no way of knowing if I’m right. So, hey, why bother?

Therefore, when Augustine tries to explain original sin and the Bible makes no effort to explain this, I just have no interest in reading some guys idea about how it happens. I don’t care because I have no way of knowing if he’s right or not.

When Chesterton bloviates on whatever it is he’s bloviating on, or when Bonhoeffer parses the nature of Christ as God and Man as consistent with the difference between the nature of the Church and the World, and how ethics come out of that, I just, my mind, just, glazes over.

Some people’s minds like to ponder the unanswerable problems of life. Mine doesn’t. If there’s no solid basis for an answer, I’d rather skip it.

Therefore, I have no interest in reading your theory about the timeline of how salvation occurs in an individual. The Bible doesn’t explain it, so I don’t care.

I have no interest in knowing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Can’t be answered, so I don’t care.

I don’t know why God allowed sin, or why He created the world, or how God relates to time. The Bible doesn’t explain it. There’s no way of knowing. So, I don’t care.

I used to think all this proved that either people who think about this stuff or I were stupid. In the end, I don’t think it has anything to do with anyone’s stupidity, it just has to do with different kinds of intellects.

I’m glad there are philosophical types. I can appreciate their sincere efforts to know things, their concentration abilities, their obvious time and energy put into these issues. I get it. I just don’t get it to the point I want to do it!

So, in the end, think about whatever you want, just know that when my eyes glaze over and I give a short, stunted answer to your philosophical question you think needs a 637 page explanation (with footnotes), it’s not that I’m being rude, it’s that I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s not you; it’s me.

Pastor Says Polygamy is a Christian Lifestyle

Apparently we have too many churches. This is the only explanation for why the church stoops as low as it does to hire guys as pastors.

A 60-year-old Ohio mob enforcer-turned-pastor married his teenage bride and got her pregnant, all with the blessing of the other lady in his life — his 44-year-old wife.

Thom Miller is a pastor in Mansfield, Ohio. Apparently his church is not too keen on his marriage situation. Good for them. “Pastor” Miller is apparently very keen on his marriage situation.

“I don’t preach about polygamy, but I feel it’s a very Christian lifestyle,” he said. “This is America and my wives and I have a right to live any way we please, providing we’re not hurting anybody.”

Yes, exercising a right to “live any way we please” is certainly the bedrock of a Christian lifestyle.

No word as to whether he is still employed by his church. One would think randomly picking a guy off the street would lead to getting a better pastor than this guy.

Are there polygamist marriages in the Bible? Yes there are, and God wasn’t happy with any of them. You don’t find any in the New Testament, incidentally. You also find a verse saying that one of the qualifications of a pastor is that they be “the husband of one wife.” A-hem.

The Stupidization of the Christian

It is commonplace that the mind of modern man has been secularized. For instance, it has been deprived of any orientation towards the supernatural. Tragic as this fact is, it would not be so desperately tragic had the Christian mind held out against the secular drift.

But unfortunately the Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history. It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth-century Church.

One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic. There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. . . But as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization.
–Harry Blamires

This quote was originally stated in 1963. One can only imagine his take on modern Christianity 50 years after this observation.

If we were merely dumb in the 60’s, we may be brain-dead today.

“Secular” means you focus on the world, there is nothing outside the physical, there is nothing spiritual. This has become the growing intellectual trend in our world. The modern crop of atheists who hold Science as their Almighty, are fully based on a secular, physical, observable philosophy.

This makes sense for the unbeliever, but why is this secular obsession so popular in the Church?

–Prayer requests are 98% for physical things. These things can be prayed for, but where are the requests for spiritual things? It has been forever since someone asked me to pray for someone’s salvation.

–Church success is based on largeness of buildings, acres of land, how many remote campuses, attendance, budget, salary of pastor, number of employees, etc.

–Christian growth (which used to be called “sanctification”) is increasingly proved by how easily it was to find a job, buy a house, get a raise, have kids who go to college, etc.

While basing our Christian success on material things, we have left off talking about heaven and hell, God creating the heavens and the earth, final judgment, the work of the Holy Spirit, fruit of the Spirit, self-denial, taking up the cross, being a living sacrifice, setting affections on things above, having the mind of Christ, etc.

What gives? So a bunch of Bill Nye the Science Guy fans belittle the Bible, we cave for that? We feel it necessary to chuck the word of God because some atheist philosopher makes fun of the virgin birth of Christ?

Do we believe the Holy Spirit is powerful and can do things? Do we have any confidence in God whatsoever? Or do we need physical things to buck us up? Do we need the world to accept us in order to prove the truth of Christianity?

What are we afraid of? Persecution? Tribulation? Christ told us to expect these things. Paul told us any one who lives godly in Christ will get persecution. Yet we view persecution as something to be ashamed of. We moan about opposition because our life isn’t comfy anymore. Because they are hurting our feelings. Because they are causing us to have to pay a physical, tangible price for our faith.

“I glory in my infirmities” says Paul. Tribulation works patience, experience, and hope. Stuff not going well on earth is exactly what we need in order to grow, to think above this world. Yet we’ve chucked it. We’ve traded the birthright for the bowl of pottage.

I think we’ve bought into the secular mindset simply because we don’t believe in the heavenly reality.

But this world is not our home. Let the secular minded folks fight over it. Seek first the Kingdom of God, don’t worry about the rest. If God, Jesus, the Gospel, heaven and hell are real, it would help if we thought and lived like it.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life,
whereunto thou art also called

Man Killed By Pastor for Trying to Leave Church

The pastor of an insular New York church where a young man was beaten to death and his younger brother seriously injured was among seven people charged Tuesday with murder.

The pastor, along with his mom and two brothers who were also leaders in the church, beat to death a guy during “spiritual counseling” he was getting for wanting to leave their Word of Life Christian Church.

The victim’s brother was also beaten, but he survived. The session he “estimated was six or more hours, the teen said he was pummeled with fists and whipped with a 4-foot, folded electrical cord on the back and elsewhere, suffering injuries to his torso and genitals.”

I have been aware of several churches in my life that had brothers as leaders. In each case they were legalistic and abusive churches. This is anecdotal evidence, of course, but still, there seems to be a remarkable consistency.

If you have to beat people to keep them from leaving your church, it’s a good indicator your church is worth leaving.

Why God Is Not Using You In A “Mighty Way” Part 2

Yesterday I said God isn’t using you in a mighty way because God uses very few people in a mighty way. My definition of “mighty way” was–impressive to man/measurable success.

I imagine yesterday’s post was enjoyable to those who just want to do their own thing and don’t need any of that God stuff guilting them. “It’s good to be a worthless Christian, amen!”

God does use people, maybe not in a mighty way that will be seen and adored by thousands of fans, but He does use people. Furthermore, His people should always have a desire to be of more use.

One reason I know what books about being used by God say, is because I read them. I read them because I have a desire to be used by God more. Unfortunately, they all focus on outward success, noticeable, attention grabbing, out in front, flashy ways of being used that can be achieved by following steps that are nowhere listed in the Bible.

When the Bible speaks of being used by God, it has more to do with humble service that often has a cost, and necessitates a vital understanding of you being crucified with Christ.

In that case, the main reason why God is not using you in this way is because you don’t want Him to.

I shall quote the Great Apostle Paul,

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Ah yes, perhaps your sin is keeping you from being used.

Although I don’t like being told God will change the world through me if I do some author’s cutely contrived list of things, it is still biblically true that there are things we can do to be used by God.

Those things are succinctly summed up thusly:

STOP SINNING!

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

This is the next verse after the one quoted above. Faith, love, and peace. Walk in those. Sin doesn’t fit with that.

Many Christians have no desire to be used by God because sin is alluring. Following God doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t pay well, it hurts, it gets in the way of our plans. It does many things we don’t value. That being the case, why bother getting rid of the flesh’s fun stuff?

Church History has many examples of people who cut ties with the world, gave up wealth, family, opportunities, and other worldly enticements to go serve. In order to be of use, you have to be willing to serve. In order to serve, you have to be willing to kill off what your flesh wants.

We need more Christians who want to be used by God. Not just in word, not just to buy books that talk about being used. But people who are willing to sacrifice, to cleanse themselves, to be identified with Christ, and follow Him.

When this happens, God will use you. You may get a book deal, a following, and bigger opportunities. Getting those things is not necessarily a sign you are doing things wrong (although I would be skeptical). But if those things are why you want to be “used” by God, then I’d suggest you go back to the wilderness.

Then again, you may not get recognition, praise, followers, or anything else good. You might, in fact, just get trouble and persecution. This is, in fact, the normal experience of believers through the years. It’s what you should expect.

But we serve a God who sees all things and rewards those who seek Him. The reward may not be until heaven, but there will be reward. Simply knowing you were of use to the Creator of the Universe is reward in itself.

I hope you do have a desire to be used by God more. I also hope you have a desire to put off sin and conquer the lusts of your flesh. Your flesh will fight you the whole way. Is it worth it? If not, get a bigger and better view of who God is.

Why God Isn’t Using You In A “Mighty Way”

Most Christians have a desire to be used by God in a “mighty way.” We look upon Elijah, Moses, Daniel, Paul, and others, as people to aspire to.

Then we go about life being, you know, just you. I’m no Paul. I’m no Moses or Daniel. I’m a long way from being Elijah. I’m just Jeff.

Although the Bible tells us to be content in whatever state we are in, I hear many Christians discontent with their less than spectacular Christian life. Maybe we’re missing something?

Hundreds of books have been written to tell you just what it is you are missing! If you only had this MAGIC KEY, you too could be like Moses, Daniel, Elijah, or even Paul! And for only $19.95 I’ll tell you what the MAGIC KEY is!

Simon once asked the apostles if he could pay them to be able to do miracles. If Christian bookstores were around back then, they would have resoundingly said “YES!” Peter said Simon was about one step removed from hell.

But the books keep coming.

You need to be fearless, like Elijah, then God will use you. I recently read. Fearless like Elijah? Like the guy who ran away from Jezebel and hid in the desert? That Elijah?

You need to have an expectancy, like Moses, for God to use you. I recently read. Moses was expecting to be used by God? Really? The guy who, even after he was called, didn’t expect anything to work?

You need to be totally committed to God, like Abraham was, in order to be used by God. I recently read. Like when Abraham completely doubted God’s promise and had a kid on the side, just in case God’s plan didn’t go right?

The books keep coming. The MAGIC KEYS keep being listed. Very little of it has anything to do with the Bible.

If you want to be used by God like Paul, should you not go out and start imprisoning Christians? Most people who God “used” had no expectation, desire, or any manifestation of taking their faith to another level. They were just people, and then God showed up.

I think we hate that idea. We hate that God is in control of this and you might just be a giant schlub your whole life.

When we beg God to “use us,” perhaps what we mean is “I want God to make me famous. I want more blog readers. More followers. More book deals. More invites to speak at huge conferences. More people recognizing what I’m doing for God.”

I think we want the crown without the cross.

Jesus did not call people to change the world, to be leaders of vast multitudes. Jesus called us to die with Him. To renounce self and love our neighbor. Jesus called us to follow Him, not to sell books and have huge followings.

The way of the cross is tough, and often lonely. It’s not as glamorous as being an apostle or a leader of a nation out of slavery. Few were called to these jobs, some blew it, most of them said they’d rather die than keep doing what God called them to do.

Selectively reading the Bible to get MAGIC KEYS for bulking up your self-worth is a bad idea.

We are to be humble servants. We are not to mind high things, but to condescend to men of low estate. That’s tough to do while looking for God to make you an awesome leader of multitudes.

Following Christ. It’s not that exciting. It’s rather mundane and often hurts. Few will notice. But we live for an audience of One. One who suffered and died for you. God despises what man esteems. Don’t worry about being awesome by man’s standards. Be like Christ.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

A Cynical Observation About “Demon Oppression”

A little observation about Christians and demon oppression:

Why is it that the only Christians who find/feel demon oppression are the Christians who believe in demon oppression? Christians that categorize demons as Things Triumphed Over Through The Cross, don’t seem to have any problems with demons whatsoever.

Doesn’t this show that the best way to escape demon oppression is to simply believe it’s not possible?

This seems similar to bleeding statues and images of Christ on toast. These things are only found by those who think bleeding statues and toasty Jesuses have significance. If you don’t look for these things, alas, you do not find them. It’s been a while since a bleeding statue of Mary was found in a Baptist church, eh.

I suppose the answer given by those who believe in demon oppression is that those who don’t believe in demon oppression are oppressed without knowing it. Only those who know the problem can solve it.

I guess that is a possibility. But still, if that’s true, at least not believing in demon oppression makes people capable of functioning free from demon oppression angst. That has to be worth something.

Those who fear demon oppression seem to live in a state of constant turmoil.

Do we create personal turmoil simply because we grant the possibility of these things turmoiling us? If we stopped fearing demon oppression, wouldn’t we be free from the turmoil of demons?

If a Christian is given peace that passes understanding, how can a Christian at the same time believe in something that causes him to live in turmoil?

It’s just something I think about. Wondering your thoughts.