The Tithingman

Church services are not always the most thrilling events. Everyone knows this, especially pastors who are in charge of such events. You can’t be on your A Game all the time.

You all have it pretty easy today. Most periods of church history had much longer church services. Marathon sermons and prayers that took up a large portion of your Sunday.

What’s a pastor to do if church services are boring and they last a long time?

Invent a new church office: The Tithingman.

The Tithingman’s job was two-fold.

First, he made sure people actually showed up to church. If he caught you somewhere other than church on a Sunday, or saw you walking through town, he’d jump out and drag you into church. How he did this while being in church himself is still beyond my mental capacities.

Secondly, he made sure people in church were behaving, or as was more likely the case, not sleeping. He was given a long stick. One end was sharp and the other had a softer thing on it, like a feather or rabbit’s foot.

A Tithingman and his stick of discipline. Amen.

The Tithingman would go ahead and whack a sleeping man or an unruly child. Women got the soft end and a little nudge. Either way, they woke up. If you persisted in your disrespect to the church, the Tithingman had the right to punish you, often with time in the public stocks.

Although we often look back at history as darker times and people who were backward, the Tithingman seems like a really good idea. I’m all for it.

Careful Outraged Christians; Your Lack of Faith is Showing

Some of the most freeing verses in the Bible speak of living for a better country, having our conversation/citizenship in heaven, setting affections on things above, and putting our treasure in heavenly places.

These ideas are all over the Bible. The Book of Ecclesiastes has no other theme.

These verses speak of true freedom and liberation from all that entangles people. You cannot break away from sin unless you reject conformity to the world. You cannot overcome by faith if you are walking by sight.

Although this concept is stated in so many ways on so many pages of Holy Writ, and even though so much freedom and peace is promised for those who obey, we sure seem to hate it.

At every opportunity we chuck this concept and go back to minding things of this earth and living for this country.

I’m amazed at how many Christians are upset over NFL anthem protests. Except I’m not, because this is what we always do.

We pay lip-service to Biblical Truth, but when the next earthly distraction comes along (elections, boycotts, protests, presidential tweets, etc.), we’re fighting for our things in this world.

The only way protests would upset you is if your treasure was on earth.

The only way elections would rile you up is if you were minding earthly things.

Boycotts are not only having a problem with an earthly institution, but also using an earthly means to make the point!

I would not kneel during the anthem, but I also wouldn’t get upset if someone did. The anthem is a song (and not a very good one either). It’s about a hunk of land organized by some people.

None of this is eternal.

Yet Christians are taking a stand (no pun intended) on one side or the other about an anthem in a football game.

We’re letting our particular point of contention (politics in football, trampling the flag, disrespecting veterans, etc) trump our concern for individual souls.

Why do we take stands on general issues that will put up hurdles to the Gospel? The Gospel is hard enough for people to like, why do we insist upon making it harder?

If you have to be upset, be upset in the quiet of your own home. Don’t go public with your tirades. It’s not coming across well.

If you’re concerned about the treatment of veterans, then go help them. If you’re concerned about the treatment of blacks, then go help them. Outrage is the lazy person’s uniform.

For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
–James 1:20

If seeing someone kneel during a song gets you upset, you may want to get some of that peace that passes understanding.

It’s peace because it guards your heart. It keeps you thinking on what is good and right and eternal. The more you think on what is good and right and eternal, the more your heart is guarded, and the more peace you have.

(A possible side bonus is that you will actually start caring about things that actually matter, like the spiritual condition of your own family and church.)

Want peace? Want release from the bondage to anger and worry?

Then let go of this world and lay hold on eternal life.

Always Doubt “Prominent” Theologians You’ve Never Heard Of

I’m reading a book written to show that Muslims, Jews, and Christians should all be able to get along since we all hold Abraham highly. We just need to agree on Jesus and everything will be fine.

The book is written by a Muslim, so the majority of the book is written to disprove the idea that Jesus Christ was actually God in the flesh.

If Christians would stop saying Jesus was God, then Jews and Muslims and Christians would be at peace.

One slight problem: if Christians did that there would be no Christianity. Christ being God is kind of our thing.

While attempting to disprove the deity of Christ, the author pulls up many texts and theological books to cast doubts on the person of Christ.

This is not my first theological book I’ve ever read. I’ve been around a while now. I’m adept at spotting signs that a guy is puffing up a weak point.

One tactic he uses frequently is in quoting a theologian (always one who is doubting the divinity of Christ) he says “noted theologian” or “prominent theologian.”

I’m a well-read Christian. I am familiar with all prominent and noted theologians. I’ve heard of just about everyone. If I haven’t heard of them, trust me, they aren’t noted or prominent.

In fact, those are superfluous words. If a theologian is prominent or noted, people would already know them. “Prominent” means “immediately noticeable, widely known.” If you have to inform us he’s prominent, then he isn’t prominent.

This is by no means unique to this particular author. I’m sure the reason he does this is because he’s writing primarily to a non-Christian audience who wouldn’t know a Christian theologian if he smacked them in the face (not that a Christian theologian would ever do that). But I’ve seen this many times, and never once have I read it about a theologian I’ve heard of.

There are a lot of bad theologians out there and a ton of false information. Be skeptical of quotes from “prominent” and “noted” people.

–Written by Jeff Weddle, prominent moron

Sunday Sabbath and Letters From Jesus

The Catholic Church, like many churches, have invented their fair share of new doctrines. Convincing people to buy into these new doctrines was not always easy.

One of the ways employed several times to convince people was to suddenly find or receive a letter from Jesus Christ telling people to do exactly what it was the Catholic Church had been telling people to do! Pretty handy.

There was one letter, received from heaven, telling people that Sunday was the Sabbath day and should be a day of rest.

Although Constantine had made Sunday the official day for Christian worship (although it was hard to tell who he was actually telling people to worship), tying in Jewish rules of rest into Sunday’s was a much later idea.

Initially, Sunday Sabbath didn’t catch on too well. Until, lo and behold, Jesus done wrote us a letter!

Here are the contents of Jesus’ letter from heaven telling people to not work on Sundays.

                 A LETTER OF JESUS CHRIST.

WHOSOEVER worketh on the Sabbath-day shall be cursed, I command you to go to church, and keep the Lord’s Day Holy, without doing any manner of work. You shall not idly spend your time for bedecking yourself with superfluities of costly apparel, and vain dresses for I have ordained a day of rest.  I will have that day kept holy that your sins be forgiven you.  You shall not break my commandments, but observe and keep them, write them in your heart, and steadfastly observe that it was written with my own hand and spoken with my own mouth.  You shall not only go to church yourself, but also send your men-servants and your maid-servants, and observe my words and learn my commandments; you shall finish your labour every Saturday in the afternoon by six o’clock, at which hour is the preparation of the Sabbath.  I advise you to fast five Fridays every year, beginning with Good Friday and continuing the four Fridays immediately following, in remembrance of the five bloody wounds which I received for all mankind.  You shall diligently and peaceably labour in your respective callings, where in it hath pleased God to call you.  You shall love one another with brotherly love; and cause them that are baptised to come to church and receive the Sacrament, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and to be made members of the Church, in so doing I will give you a long life and many blessing; and your land will flourish and your cattle bring forth in abundance; and I will give unto you many blessing and comforts in the greatest temptations, and he that doth to the contrary shall be unprofitable. I will also send hardness of heart upon them till I see them, but especialy upon the impertinent and unbelievers. He that hath giving to the poor shall not be unprofitable, remember to keep holy the Sabbath day, for the seventh day I have taken to rest myself.  And he that hath a copy of this my own letter, written with my own hand, and spoken with my own mouth, and keepeth it without publishing it to others shall not prosper; but he that publisheth it to others, shall be blessed of me, and though his sins be in number as the stars of the sky, and he believe in this he shall be pardoned; and if he believe not in this writing, and this commandment, I will send my own plagues upon him, and consume both him and his children, and his cattle. And whosoever shall have a copy of this letter, written with my own hand, and keep it in their houses nothing shall hurt them, neither lightning, pestilence, nor thunder, shall do them any hurt, and if a woman be with child, and in labour, and a copy of this letter be about her, and she firmly put her trust in me, she shall safely be delivered of her birth.

The letter didn’t go over too well. But it does show the growth of the idea that Sunday was the Sabbath and that Jewish laws must be kept on that day.

Anytime someone has to get “new revelation” to prove their point, you can rest assured they are making stuff up. Don’t fall for it.

For more information on the subject of Sunday, check out this book I am currently reading.

The Apostle Paul’s Use of “Faith”

The Apostle uses the word “faith” in his own peculiar and pregnant sense. But this is naturally led up to by the way in which it was used by Habakkuk. The intense personal trust and reliance which the Jew felt in the God of his fathers is directed by the Christian to Christ, and is further developed into an active energy of devotion.

“Faith,” as understood by St. Paul, is not merely head-belief, a purely intellectual process such as that of which St. James spoke when he said “the devils also believe and tremble”;

neither is it merely “trust,” a passive dependence upon an Unseen Power; but it is a further stage of feeling developed out of these, a current of emotion setting strongly in the direction of its object, an ardent and vital apprehension of that object, and a firm and loyal attachment to it.

Ellicott’s Commentary on Romans 1:17

Idolatry, Money, and Justification by Faith

The Old Testament is filled with warnings about idol worship and falling into false religion. Story after story tells about Israel going after false gods to their destruction and how stupid this is.

The New Testament does not seem to be nearly as concerned with this. Ever wonder why?

The big threat to us today is not Baal, or Molech, or Dagon, the big threat is money.

Colossians 3:5 says:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Wanting more stuff is the idolatry we have to look out for. Wanting money is the big threat today.

When Israel came out of Egypt, they were at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses was taking forever up there talking to God. They got bored. They brought together their precious metals, their money, and threw them in the fire and “out came this calf.” They worshiped the calf, being told, “Behold your gods which brought you out of Egypt.”

The odds that you’re going to melt down your jewelry and make an idol to worship are pretty slim. The odds you’re going to want more shiny stuff is pretty high.

Covetousness is idolatry.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6 that while people pursue riches, they err from the faith. Going after riches means you won’t be going after faith. You can’t have faith and money.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Just in case you’re still resisting the idea that money and faith are direct opposites, read Hebrews 11, the great chapter on people who had faith.

Every single example shows faithful people turning on earthly things to follow God and obey Him. They turned their backs on this world and lived for the Better Country.

Every single person in Hebrews 11 turned on something earthly: wealth, power, prestige, family, loyalty to country, etc, for the sake of faith in God.

If you are living for the things of this world, you will not be living for God. If you love money, you won’t have faith, you will be doing all evil. Money is a snare and a trap. While pursuing money, faith gets choked out.

People love hearing about how we’re justified by faith, because in our minds faith is easy. “Cool, I believe Jesus rose from the dead, just like I believe Santa Claus will bring me presents Christmas morn.”

We think faith is merely agreeing about something. But faith in the Bible is very active, very practical, and very hard.

Paul tells us to “fight the fight of faith.” Most are confused as to what’s so fighty about it? You just say the prayer and then carry on.

Paul says this phrase in the midst of 1 Timothy 6, an entire chapter devoted to the dangers of money. The immediate phrase is this, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”

You can’t lay hold on eternal life while grabbing all you can in this life. Your hand will hold one or the other.

Your eternity is based on whether you want this world or the one to come. Live now as though you wanted the next world more than this one.

That is justifying faith.

Money and Justification By Faith

Romans 4 is the essential passage to understand justification by faith. The main character of Romans 4 is Abraham. In fact, when the Bible talks about justification by faith, Abraham is The Guy the Bible uses as Prime Illustration.

“Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Paul and James, who many imagine disagree on justification by faith, both use Abraham as their prime example of justification.

Seems to me we should understand the character of Abraham’s faith, since it’s an example for justifying faith.

There are four main tests of Abraham’s faith, four big times when Abraham showed faith.

Move—Abraham had riches and social position. Then God showed up and told him to move. Leaving was a turning of the back on what he had attained to follow God. He didn’t know where he was going, or even why. God just said “move,” and Abraham moved.

Settling in—Abraham took his possessions and flocks, but he was detached from them and didn’t let them cause friction. This was shown when Abraham let Lot choose land first. Lot picks the best land. Abraham moves into a land that is not suitable for flocks and herds rather than fight for the good land. Abraham’s faith is detached from worldly means of success.

Promise—Since Abraham renounced the better land on his own, he receives the promise that his inheritors would possess the good land. Abraham trusts God for provision, to expand his family and inheritance, not by common sense, human means, but by faith in God. Abraham will only take substance from God, not anyone else. When he is offered reward by nearby kings, Abraham refuses lest they think they made Abraham rich.

Inheritor—Abraham, despite a little bit of weakness and goofiness, finally gets an heir. So then God asks Abraham to sacrifice his heir! Abraham shows ultimate faith when offering his son, his heir, the one who would possess the land Abraham was promised. Abraham is turning his back on all earthly means, all possessions, in his demonstration of faith.

Each major area of Abraham’s faith has to do with earthly things.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Earthly things are the opposite of faith.

Faith means turning on earthly things, instead setting your affections on things above and laying up treasure in heaven.

Faith is the opposite of living for this world and this life.

The sooner you understand this point, the more sense justification by faith will make to you based on everything the Bible says.

James hits the rich hard. He hits respecting persons because of their appearance hard. He hits this stuff hard right in the same passages he talks about justification by faith, which certainly includes the work of letting the things of this world go–like Abraham did when he went to sacrifice his heir.

Faith or riches. You can only live for one.