A Biblical Defense For Name Calling

The internets are filled with arguments. Many of these arguments turn nasty and devolve into name calling.

As enlightened people, we know that name calling is baaaaadddd. Don’t call people names. We are encouraged to keep on point, not go into character assaults, and be “loving,” whatever that means.

If you want to sound smart, you will even refer to name calling as ad hominem arguments. Ooo, look at Mr. smartypants breaking out the Latin. Oops, I just used name calling.

Here’s the deal, name calling and pointing out character flaws has always been a part of arguing. In fact, it’s often what keeps arguments fun, entertaining, and memorable. Is name calling really that bad?

As a Christian, I get my answers from the Bible. Ha, that’s funny, as if Christians are known for getting their answers from the Bible.

As a guy who actually believes the Bible contains God’s Wisdom, I get my answers from the Bible. Guess what? There are a number of occasions where God’s people used name calling and character assaults during arguments.

Here are a few classic examples

Matthew 23
Jesus Christ has had it up to hear with the religious leaders of His day. Jesus calls them hypocrites, fools, whitened sepulchers, and various other creative metaphors.

Matthew 16:23
Jesus calls Peter Satan.

Matthew 15
Calls a woman wanting healing for her daughter a dog.

Matthew 15
Calls religious leaders blind leaders of the blind. Note that this also takes handicap people as a bad thing. How insensitive.

John 8
Jesus says all manner of mean things to a group of people who said they believed in Him. He calls them servants of sin, deaf (picking on handicapped people again), and then tells them their father is the devil and they are all murderers.

Even the Apostle Paul gets in on the act:

Acts 23
Paul says to the high priest, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.”

Galatians 3
Paul says to his readers, “O Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” That’s not very nice.

I could go on, but I have things to do today.

Here’s the deal, I’m not telling you to go around calling people names, or comparing people to handicapped folks. I’m merely pointing out the reality of life as portrayed in the Bible.

God’s people occasionally call people names and even mock others. Remember Elijah and the prophets of Baal? We even teach our kids about this in Sunday School, and then tell them to be nice to others.

As with most things in life, things are more complicated than they seem. It’s too easy to flip to one side or the other and claim your side to be always right. What’s difficult is to know that for everything there is a season.

Some people deserve to be called out for what they are. There is a time for referencing people’s messed up character. There is a time to sum up that charge with a well-turned phrase that sounds an awful lot like name calling.

We shouldn’t trust ourselves to do this right all the time. You should think before speaking. But a well-thought out portrayal of reality is a more than fine thing, even if it sounds offensive to our over-sensitive ears.

On the flip side, when people bring up your character and maybe fling a name at you, perhaps lighten up a bit. Maybe they have a point. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Humility is the first step to learning.

As Paul said, “when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Let people slander you. You’ll survive. View yourself as the scum of the earth and there’s very little anyone can say to you that will disturb you.

And yes, note that Paul says we should entreat those who slander us, not call them names back. Paul apologized for calling the high priest a whited wall. Jesus spoke to the true condition of people’s hearts. He was not involved in name calling for name calling’s sake, nor was He exchanging barbs. He had a point and He was trying to make it to a group who wasn’t hearing Him.

Again, in the end, nothing is as simple as it appears. This is an area where we should use caution. It’s also an area where we will misapply easily. Do we have the guts to confront sinners? Or do we just call people names because they vote different from us?

Speak the truth in love. If well placed name-calling fits with that over-riding principle, then go for it.

Some Recent Thoughts About Prayer

Most Christians admit that they don’t pray enough. This is mostly because it seems weird, people don’t know how to do it, and there is a plethora of conflicting advice about it.

The Bible actually never details how much time a person should pray, other than “Pray without ceasing.” When we are told to do something without ceasing, this can’t help but make us feel like a failure when we inevitably cease.

The Church has not done much to help people feel more comfortable with prayer. In fact, the Church seems to only hurt.

I know one pastor who repeatedly brags about how much he prays and how great he is because one night his son came into the kitchen at 3 a.m. and found him praying. “Do your kids catch you praying?”

Unfortunately, this makes people feel like the only good prayer is a prayer at an inconvenient hour when someone is watching.

The Church has also taken up the tactic that prayer is a tool to manipulate God. You have to put the time in, the sincerity, the emotion, the energy and zeal to convince God enough to hear you.

Certainly there are instances in the Bible where people used emotion, zeal, and passion in prayer and were heard–Hannah’s prayer for a son at the temple, for instance. There were many times they were not heard despite emotion–David mourning to God when his son was going to die, for instance.

Every believer should have prayers of emotion from time to time. But to think you have to be worked up in order for God to hear you is not a biblical notion.

Yes, persistence is noted as a way to be heard–parable of the persistent widow. At the same time we are warned not to use vain repetition. Repetition is no guarantee of being heard.

You can repeat things in prayer if you mean it every time. But repeating words for the sake of repeating words is vain.

Many believe that if they don’t pray before an event, something horrible will happen in that event. If I don’t pray before leaving for work, something horrible will happen at work kind of thing.

As a pastor, I will confess to feeling I should pray more on Saturdays so my message on Sunday goes better. I don’t pray on Sundays for my Mondays as much as I pray for my Sundays on a Saturday.

This is not prayer to God as much as it is hoping I rub the bottle enough to get the genie to do my bidding. This turns prayer into a lucky rabbit’s foot.

I have also wondered, when the Bible says not to take any thought for tomorrow, if I should even pray for tomorrow! Lately I have just prayed for today. On Saturdays I pray that I use my Saturdays well enough to be ready for Sunday instead of worrying about Sunday.

I don’t know if this theory is correct, but I’ve been doing this for a while now and have found it to be a releasing relief! It’s been working for me.

In the end, pray. That’s it. Just pray. God wants to hear from you. Your Creator and Savior wants you to talk to Him. This is a mind-blowing concept. I suggest we find the coolness in this and enjoy it.

No guilt. No superstition. No manipulation. No testing. Just talk to God.

The Church’s Collective Amnesia that Occurs Every Election Cycle

There was an article floating around the internet recently claiming that Ted Cruz wanted us to “fight for Christ.”

Although I saw the phrase “fight for Christ” on any number of headlines, I never saw the actual quote from Cruz himself.

However, being a student of the internet, I’ve learned to always let headlines outrage me and never pursue further facts.

Although I can’t find his exact quote, knowing what I know about Cruz, it seems to make sense. As I showed yesterday, Cruz’s dad, a pastor, believes in Dominionism and the Seven Mountains Mandate.

The Seven Mountains Mandate “seeks to place Christians in control over the seven forces that shape and control our culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.”

This movement has been related back to Bill Bright and Campus Crusade and Youth With a Mission. Francis Schaeffer is also mentioned as instrumental in the development of this idea. They put together the idea of these seven areas Christians need to get control of.

The Seven Mountains movement came along and taught that “if you can have those seven areas, you can shape and control whatever takes place in nations, continents, and even the world.”

That being the case, Ted Cruz wants America to go back to its “founding principles.” America was hoped to be a shining city on a hill, which is always code word for Postmillennial teaching.

Postmillennialism believes that the church rescues society, making society good enough for Christ to come back. Most people ditched this belief during the World War I and II time of our country. But smaller groups, such as Seven Mountains, still believe the world is redeemable by people. This view is very similar to the Mormon take on life that drove Mitt Romney to almost be our president, whom many Christians were somehow cool with voting for.

Their objective is pretty clear, you can find it in the quote above: if you get control of these seven areas you can then “control whatever takes place in nations, continents, and even the world.”

As H. L. Mencken once said, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.”

People, in general, don’t want Christ to control and rule the world. No, they’d rather do that themselves. What more ego-satisfying belief is there than knowing Christ is depending on you to save the world!

Cruz and his family want to rule the world. Mr. Cruz’s father believes his son has been anointed by God to bring about this rule.

Mr. Cruz believes he has to fight to take control of these seven mountains of culture, he believes he has to fight to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.

This is all very fighty. It is also very contradictory to Jesus Christ who once said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight,

Believers are supposed to fight off the lust of the flesh and the world. We’re supposed to fight the fight of faith, to lay hold on eternal life. We are supposed to put on spiritual armor and stand firm.

But there is no call, at all, in the New Testament for Christians to fight for God’s Kingdom. People don’t bring it in; Christ does. That’s kind of why it’s HIS KINGDOM.

Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. We don’t fight for it. If we did, then we should celebrate the Crusades. Most Christians are content to blame the Crusades on folks who didn’t understand the Bible.

James says fighting happens when we look after the flesh. I agree with James. Unbelievers go after the things of this earth. Believers look to things above.

Why The Church collectively forgets this every election cycle is beyond me.

Trump, Cruz, and Playing Christians for Votes

The presidential races are heating up going into the caucus season.

As I’ve said before, I have not voted for quite some time now, and am currently not even registered to vote. This is a decision I made for myself, to keep me calm, to eliminate ruffling feathers unnecessarily, and various other things. I am not telling you to follow my lead.

One of the struggles I had with voting (Other than the typical fear, panic, anxiety, and stress when the political winds blow against my guys), is figuring out how I could have a love for people who I can’t stand politically.

I struggled with maintaining Christian principles in the face of political weirdness. Even the guys I voted for ended up doing things I thought were inconsistent with my Christian principles, yet I put my name on them.

Christians are pandered to in elections. Politicians know they need votes. They will say next to anything to get Christians to vote for them.

Donald Trump, for instance. This guy has no Christian sense at all. I mean, seriously. He doesn’t. The most recent example is his quote of a verse in “Two Corinthians” at Liberty University. During his speech to Liberty University (Jerry Falwell’s baby), Trump used the word “hell” several times in a not so Christian way. A way that is, incidentally, a violation of the code of conduct for Liberty University students!

Even when he’s trying to sound Christian he can’t pull it off.

The closest Republican to Trump is Ted Cruz. His father was a pastor, so he at least has some background. He has also been, whether you agree with what he says or not, consistent in his Christianesque message.

I’m not sure I like where he goes with Christianity though. Allow me to quote an article on him:

Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign for president has featured strong references to faith and Christianity, which he says will help restore the country to greatness.

I hate it when people use the Bible, Christ, or the Gospel as a means to turning earthly gain. A simple reading of the New Testament will clearly demonstrate that Christianity doesn’t really care much about your earthly success or your “greatness.”

Yet Cruz thinks Christianity is the tool to fix America. This will backfire. Cruz belongs to a camp called Dominionism. They believe that Christians should get in power and enforce Christian morals by force of law.

This is not good. Cruz’s father, a pastor, appears to be slightly crazy with his doctrine.

In a sermon last year at an Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, Cruz’ father Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as “kings” to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the “Seven Mountains” mandate, and “bring the spoils of war to the priests”, thus helping to bring about a prophesied “great transfer of wealth”, from the “wicked” to righteous gentile believers.

Dominionism apparently believes that Christians can usher in the Kingdom of God. Once we turn the tide, Christ will come back and put down all opposition and then we live happily ever after.

I disagree with this theology and I wouldn’t entrust power to anyone who believes such things.

I think the separation of Church and State is a fine thing both ways. Let the church be the church and let the state be the state. Whenever the two are mixed, people get hurt, and sound-doctrine always takes a hit.

So, the two front-runners of the Republican party are both loony in their attempts at Christianity. At least the Democrats, who at their last presidential convention allegedly “booed God,” pretty much avoid the subject. Although Hillary can’t resist quoting a verse or two when convenient.

The bottom line is that politicians pander to Christians and Christians get excited when this happens and assume there are politicians who care about Christ.

They don’t. They care about votes.

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

***If this post bothers you, just be glad I don’t talk politics more. I do this as a favor to me and you.

Your Faith Should Believe Things You Don’t Like or Understand

The Bible, by its own admission, contains many things hard to be understood. This is a good thing.

The Bible, after all, is about the infinite God. One would expect to run into some things that would be hard to understand. I would worry about a Bible that read like Louis L’Amour.

The Bible also contains things that are easy to understand, but still hard to deal with: God’s Judgment. Divorce. Remarriage. Covetousness. Anger.

I would label these issues as fairly straightforward in the Bible, not too difficult to discern what they mean. Yet their straightforwardness does not in any means diminish the difficulties in their application.

If you are a person who “believes the Bible,” you should then believe things that cause you problems. You should believe things that make life harder. Beliefs that are difficult for you to explain, difficult to apply, and difficult to be consistent with.

It is my opinion that if your faith does not include things you don’t like, you’re doing it wrong.

People who have a simple faith that causes them no problems, difficulties, inconsistencies, or struggle, are people who are believing their own opinions rather than God.

Some might contend that spiritual maturity would do away with our difficulties. To an extent it may lessen some. But in my experience, as well as listening to the experiences of others, the more you know about the Bible, the more questions you get.

You can invent your own God that you are comfortable with. You can edit God’s Word and justify all the verses out of it that you don’t like. You can do this.

I don’t think things will turn out well for you, but you can do it.

If your faith is just peace, joy, and comfort to you all the time, you might want to reread the Book. A faith that is too pleasant is a faith that smacks of insincerity.

The Bible deals with large issues from God’s perspective. It is not human wisdom. Therefore, you can expect it to rile your human mind from time to time.

Yes, the Spirit can teach you and decrease your angst in many areas. But all the great men of faith had confusions about God and what He was doing.

Job was confused.
David was beside himself when God struck Uzzah.
Elijah wanted to die.
Moses struggled the whole time.
Jesus Himself wanted His cup to pass.

All these men had faith. They all knew what God said and did, yet they all had problems processing it. This is not unusual. In fact, I’d dare say it’s what faith consists of–doing what God says whether you fully understand it or not. Whether you think you can do it or not. Whether it makes any sense or not.

Faith isn’t easy; that’s why most people don’t do it.

The Bible isn’t an easy book to read; that’s why most don’t read it.

Make sure your faith includes tough stuff for you to grasp. If it doesn’t, you might just be clinging to your imagination rather than God.

Blamires on The Church’s Hardest Task

“Here is perhaps one of the church’s hardest tasks in the pseudo-Christian climate of our country today. It has to deal with people who are quite ready to admit that there may be a God, but who have never felt the slightest impulse to abase themselves before Him.

“There are men and women who feel positively virtuous in having mentally allowed for a God in the scheme of things. One may well ask how the church can stir them to that sense of dependence, creatureliness, gratitude, and unworthiness without which, christianly considered, their pretense to reckon with God is a mockery–a living rebellion.

“For the Christian God is something much more than the author of the answer-book to that volume of problems we call ‘The Mystery of Life.’ God is not the bolsterer of our human wisdom, the buttress of our self-sufficiency.

“He is the despoiler of our human self-reliance.

“His Name does not head the list of contributors to the fund for extending our empire of mastery, rather His Signature seals the death-warrant of our egotism.”
–Harry Blamires

Can a Christian Work in Sales? Part 2

Yesterday I asked whether Christians could work in sales.

My point was not to get people to quit sales. You won’t get very far in life without buying stuff, which means someone has to sell it. As with many things you won’t get far in life not doing, often we never stop to think about what it is we’re doing.

The Bible repeatedly talks about the dangers of money and covetousness. This leads me to think we should be careful in getting people to spend money, especially since the Bible also warns about causing your brother to stumble.

Any profession can be abused. Sales certainly can be abused. I have seen it. I have talked to many believers in sales who shared their struggle with it, and I empathize with them. I also know others who did it their entire life and seemed to do it with integrity.

I’ve met and heard about plenty of scummy pastors. I could dare ask the question: Can a true Christian be pastor of a church belonging to (place denominational name here)? I’m not feeling jerkish enough to be any more specific with that question.

It must be admitted that in sales, there is personality involved. I have always been a person who does not want to talk to strangers. Being a cross-eyed, blind guy will do that to you.

My aversion to sales has more to do with shyness than anything spiritual. Others can sell their entire inventory merely by burping in public.

Mundane details of life, like work and buying groceries, can be a source of sin. The Bible warns more about coveting than it does homosexuality. This doesn’t mean homosexuality is no big deal; it means that covetousness is a really big deal, in that it effects more people more often.

Every trip to the store, every viewing of a commercial, every observation of what others have, are potential pitfalls. We do these things so often, we rarely consider their dangers.

I’m not Mr. Immune over here either.

Christians are supposed to be separate from the world. We’re supposed to have the mind of Christ, not being conformed to this world. This has to lead to different choices, and ultimately different lifestyles.

Can a Christian work in sales? Yes they can, even if I can’t, but they need to be aware of the dangers. The Bible says stuff about sales, which obviously implies sales is something a Bible-believer can do.

We’re told not to use unjust weights. Israel was commanded not to charge interest to fellow Jews. They had rules about not ripping people off due to the coming Sabbath year. They were told not to sell food at a profit to the poor.

For a Christian to be in sales, I believe they must have faith in their product, that it is good, worth the price, and something that is helpful. If they need to lie to make a sale, something is off.

Covetousness is a huge deal in God’s eyes; He equates it with idolatry. That being the case, any Christian salesman must avoid the coveting angle.

So, think it over. If you need more help thinking over the issue of money, I wrote a book on it! It’s for sale on Amazon for the price of printing, since I hate sales so much I couldn’t bring myself to charge any money for it.

So, there you go: can a Christian sell stuff? I just tried. Now I will go repent in dust and ashes.

Can a Christian Work In Sales?

The Bible presents a view of life that, in all humility and honesty, I don’t see many Christians honestly grappling with, let alone applying.

In more honest humility, I do not grapple and apply nearly as often as I should. But even in my pathetic efforts to grapple and apply, I feel awful lonely and misunderstood, letting me know that either

  1. I’m totally wrong-headed, or
  2. Most others are missing the point

I used to be willing to admit either, but I am also humbly and honestly leaning toward point 2. I’ve been around the church a while now and I’ve studied the Bible for quite some time. I think the majority of professed Christians have no clue what the New Testament is actually driving at.

Here is one example.

Most Christians would agree that there are certain professions that are not consistent with Christian principles. However, even in trying to make a list of these professions, I know professed Christians who are thus occupied.

I was going to say Bartender, but alas, few Christians have a problem with alcohol, slightly more have a problem with frequenting bars, and slightly more think bar tending is wrong.

I could use doctors-who-perform-abortions as a profession Christians would agree was wrong. But alas, even here, more professed Christians have no problem with abortion.

So, Crack Whore seems like solid ground. I have yet to meet a Christian who thinks being a Crack Whore is a godly profession (although I’m sure there are one or two who would prove me wrong).

Crack Whoredom is right out.

But let me throw out a profession that bothers me. It’s a profession I tried. It’s a profession that many pastors think defines their job. It is the profession of salesman.

Anything to do with trying to sell people stuff seems problematic if you get a whiff of New Testament morality. Salesmen, marketers, advertisers, etc. They are all in the boat of getting people to spend money.

Most of this involves convincing people who don’t need something that they do indeed need it. Most marketing plays on covetousness, which is idolatry. Commercials try to convince you of your NEED for the object for sale.

Neighbors will look longingly at your possession. Hot women will wrap their arms about you. Your sad face is replaced by happy face. All you have to do is buy our product and life will be full!

Marketing is lies. We don’t even pay attention to most ads any more because we know they aren’t telling the truth. We know we’re not really getting what is advertised.

Marketing is largely lying in an effort to get people to covet. Causing your brother to stumble, to make him get something he previously didn’t think he needed to get, has to be a sin.

I tried sales for a while and I couldn’t do it. I made no money and quit after a month. I wrote a book. I can’t sell it. I will never be a best-selling author because I can’t sell. I don’t advertise my church. This is an area of my life where I cannot see how I can pull it off and still provide things honest in the sight of all men.

I can’t. Maybe you can. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I see very few, if any, Christians even thinking about this. Most upon reading this, will think I am being stupid. But alas, if you soak yourself in New Testament thinking, many irrelevant areas of life will suddenly take on new relevancy. Many previously OK activities will now cause you a problem.

I am not telling you to quit your marketing or sales job. I am suggesting that we examine our faith in light of the dangers of money, possessions, and mammon that the New Testament so clearly points out.

I have a feeling there are many professions that are impossible for a true Christian to do besides Crack Whore.

Taking Shots at the “Virtue” of Loyalty

“Loyalty is always evil”

This was allegedly said by Bertrand Russell. I don’t know the context, nor can I find anything more on the quote on the internet. I read it in a book that quoted the quote. It is clearly using overstatement to inspire thought.

Most people assume loyalty is a good thing. Any time a Cub fan opens their mouth, they will blather on about their loyalty to one of the most dysfunctional, moronic human institutions ever invented in such a high-horsed way as to make you feel horrible for not being as loyal as they are.

Loyalty, to many, is a virtue. Yet you will not find verses in the Bible talking about loyalty. “Faithfulness,” yes, but not loyalty.

What’s the difference? Faithfulness is being trustworthy. You do what you say. It is also used in the Bible as doing what God says–one who has faith–one who listens to God.

Loyalty is sticking with someone no matter what.

One exception to the rule: loyalty to God is good. God, who is always right, is trustworthy, and we are told to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. That sounds like loyalty to me. Russell is wrong on at least one count.

What Russell, as far as I can tell, was addressing, was loyalty to people. Loyalty, when placed above all else, is evil.

Nazi Germany is a fine example. Loyalty without question lead many to follow orders that should not have been followed.

The book which drew me to Russell’s quote went on to say this:

“One can therefore say fairly that whenever the virtue of loyalty is quoted as a prime motive or basis for action, one has the strongest reasons for suspecting that support is being sought for a bad cause.”

Even today, while holding up loyalty, we think it is a virtue to swim against the current, not to follow all the lemmings over the cliff, take the road less traveled, etc. One of many inconsistencies in modern human thought.

Loyalty to a man or an institution is a surefire way to ruin your faith. Yet many church leaders and churches make loyalty their basis of motivation.

–do this or we kick you out of our group
–do this because this is “God’s man” speaking for God
–do not question our statements
–march in lockstep to our drum (although many of these churches don’t allow drums. . .)

Perhaps that’s why many people gag on these words of Jesus:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

This makes no sense to our loyalty celebrating culture. Yet loyalty to Christ means no loyalty to any other man or human institution. He even cancels out loyalty to your own self!

This is where politics gets people in trouble. They get loyal to their party, which means loyalty to the party line. There is no party line that is loyal to Christ. Therefore, party loyalty will make you believe things that are inconsistent with Christ.

This is where denominational allegiance gets people in trouble. No denomination, no matter how often they claim it, has a monopoly on the truth. Loyalty to a denominational statement will make you believe things that are inconsistent with Christ.

This is where family loyalties can get people in trouble. No family is perfect. Adhering to your family’s beliefs, traditions, cynicisms, and opinions will make you adhere to things inconsistent with Christ.

This is where loyalty to self gets you in trouble. As soon as you have a reputation to protect, your adherence to Christ will go out the window. If you think you’ve arrived, you have all the answers, you know everything, you will then on the road to becoming a moron.

Loyalty to anyone or anything other than Christ will get you in trouble. Certain things in your life need to be dropped when it is shown to be inconsistent with Christ. Will your loyalty to your political party, your church, your family, yourself, or anyone else end up shipwrecking your faith?

Stick with Christ.

Americans, Christians, and Refugees: A Response to All the Responses

America is allegedly being overrun by refugees of all stripes. Well, based on most rhetoric, they’re not of “all stripes,” they are of one stripe: evil people who want to kill you, take your job, and rape your daughters.

Candidates from both parties continue to back themselves further into their parties’ corners, doing all they can to inflame their people to get votes.

This will not result in wise decision making.

During this “refugee crisis,” many Bible verses have been employed bolstering either side. Some say Jesus welcomes all-comers, so America should to. Others say we need to defend the faith and keep certain evil influences out, lest they leaven our American lump.

I have listened to arguments on both sides. I have heard the politicians’ sound bites. I have observed the various Christian voices pontificating.

I must say, it all leaves me rather depressed.

The Bible is not going to solve this national issue. I know this sounds like heresy to most. “The Bible is our final authority for faith and practice! Are you suggesting it isn’t?”

I do believe the Bible is my final authority. Thus, if a refugee from the evilest of all refugean countries refugeed into a house next door, my job is to love them. In fact, the more they hate me, the more they despitefully use me, the more I am to love them. Jesus Himself said there is no thanks for loving people who love you.

That’s what the Bible tells me to do. Therefore, I know what I would do if a refugee came to my door. “Come on in. Let me get you some food and a glass of water.”

However, the Bible was not written as a manual on governing a nation. I do not think the President, or any other national leader, is mandated to make a nation do what the Bible says to individuals. The Bible was not written for nations; it was written for people.

The Bible tells me, an individual believer, to honor the king, to pray for my leaders, to submit to all government authority, and do this with thanks, honor, and respect. Therefore, the leaders of our nation will make the call on what to do with refugees, and I will honor their decision.

I do not know what to do with refugees. I don’t know what to do with many issues that confront our nation’s leaders. I have no idea. The Bible tells me not to entangle myself with the affairs of this life. Preach the Gospel and love people.

What does the Bible tell America to do with the nation’s refugee crisis? Nothing. Be very wary of applying the Bible’s commands intended for individual believers to a secular nation. It wasn’t written for that.

What does the Bible tell me to do with the nation’s refugee crisis? It tells me to pray for my leaders, submit to their decision, and love my neighbor.

If the nation refuses to let them in: so be it. I continue to pray for and honor my leaders and love my neighbor. If the nation lets them all in and ISIS moves in next door. I continue to pray for and honor my leaders, and love my neighbor.

It’s quite simple really.

The Bible Was Not Written So You Could Accomplish Your Goals

It’s the start of a new year, which brings along talk of New Year’s Resolutions and goals to do for the New Year.

This is all fine and dandy. I have goals I want to do in the new year.

Problems comes when Christians try to pull a Bible verse out of context to buck up their self-help efforts. A classic verse for New Year’s Resolutioning is Ephesians 5:16, particularly the phrase, “Redeeming the time.”

Or, as the English Standard Version puts it, “making the best use of the time.

So, once we plaster a Biblical phrase on our goals, we can convince ourselves that our self-help goals are actually fulfillment of Scriptural command!

Verses have contexts and contexts are very important for determining what a biblical author is talking about.

When Paul tells you to make “the best use of the time,” he’s not referring to you being busy, doing goals, keeping resolutions, or anything like that. The immediate context refers to doing righteousness.

Ephesians 5:11 says we should have no fellowship with works of darkness
Ephesians 5:13 the light of God reproves evil works
Ephesians 5:14–so wake up and Christ will give you light
Ephesians 5:15–be careful, walk wisely
Ephesians 5:16–redeem the time for the days are evil
Ephesians 5:17–don’t be stupid: know what God’s will is
Ephesians 5:18–don’t get drunk, be filled with the Spirit
Ephesians 5:19-20–sing and give thanks to God
Ephesians 5:21–submit to one another in the fear of God
Ephesians 5:22–wives submit to your husbands
Ephesians 5:25–husbands love your wives
. . . and so on

Paul is not talking about your precious little goals to make your flesh look better and make more money to achieve more materially.

Paul is talking about becoming righteous, cleaning up your life, and, lest we forget, the main thrust is submission. The exact same context, and many of the same words, are repeated in Colossians 3:16-4:5–give thanks, be wise, submit, redeem the time, etc. He’s consistent on what he means by “redeeming the time.”

So, unless your New Year’s Resolutions consist of: don’t get drunk, sing and give thanks to God, submit to everyone, submit to your husband or love your wife, then Paul is not talking about your goals.

Don’t turn the Bible into a self-help manual. The Bible was not written so you could attain earthly success in all its temporal glory. The Bible is not a self-help book; it is a mortify the flesh by the Spirit book.

2 Errors to Avoid While Giving Your Testimony

One of the most difficult things about being a Christian is explaining what Jesus Christ has done in your life without sounding like a holier-than-thou, know it all, jerk.

I recently heard that more church time should be granted to people giving testimonies. I’m hesitant to agree with that.

Most testimonies I’ve heard go one of two ways:

  1. They celebrate past sin and brag about how evil their past life was.
  2. They celebrate how wonderful their current life is and launch into, “So be more like me and you will be happy like me” lecturing.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll hear testimonies that include both. Oi. Both tendencies are based on pride.

Those who blather on about their past awesomely sinful life, don’t really sound all that repentant. Rarely are tears included. Instead, one gets the idea this is a self-absorbed brag session with hints of the Jerry Springer show.

I have heard many testimonies glorying in the current spiritual awesomeness of the testator, only to have the testator take a fall soon after. Be careful for pride in your testimony.

Now, my cynicism about testimonies may say more about me than those testifying. One reason people don’t like testimonies is because it makes us feel ashamed or at least lazy or ineffective. I am more than willing to include this as an option.

One of the worst things people can do in giving a testimony is to lecture people about doing what they did.

I’m glad you have experienced growth, that’s tremendous. But the way your growth occurs may not be the way another person’s growth occurs. Yet 90% of “Let me tell you how I’ve grown” testimonies go on to say, “so you should do it just like me.”

I grew because I adopted a kid. You should adopt a kid too.
I grew because I went to Honduras. You should go to Honduras too.
I grew because I moved to the inner city. You should move to the inner city too.
I grew because my wife had an affair. Your wife should have an affair too.

OK, I’ve heard all of those except the last one, but it proves my point on the ridiculousness of such statements.

Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith, our great cloud of witnesses who had real faith. Their faith wasn’t just their opinion about their faith either! This is who God thinks had great faith.

Note that each person had completely different things happen to them. Note that each person’s faith was demonstrated differently.

God knows each of us as individuals. Conformity is what the world does. Anytime you hear a “Christian” telling you to do everything they do, know you are hearing the spirit of the world rather than the Spirit of Christ.

We’re all different. Different is OK. Many members having different gifts. The goal is spiritual transformation, not conformity to other people.

I’m glad you grew spiritually, just don’t shove your experience down someone else’s throat and potentially block the role of the Holy Spirit.

When it comes to testimonies, I lean toward forgetting those things that are behind until I can figure out how to share my experience without veering into danger. You can do as you choose, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Testimonies should ultimately be about Christ. Make sure yours is.