God Has a Problem With Much of What We Don’t Have a Problem With

So much accepted behavior in our day is actually wrong. Not wrong because I or someone else has a problem with it, but because the Bible says it’s wrong.

I’m not talking about the latest efforts of the Liberal Church in making some deviant behavior more acceptable either.

I’m talking about stuff that everyone does. Stuff that no one has a problem with. Stuff that everyone around you is doing.

Saving for retirement, for instance.

Bet you didn’t think I was going there did ya? Who in their right mind would?

Well, Jesus Christ would.

There was a man who had a bumper crop and built bigger barns to store it all in. He said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

He had his money. He had his plan. He was going to enjoy life. He earned it after all. He deserves a break, a nice retirement.

Then he dies that night.

I’ve known many people who are now dead. Many of them had great plans and left behind great stores of goods they can’t use anymore. While saving it for their own consumption, they were not rich toward God.

Saving money for your future enjoyment is a problem with God.

I know, I know, everyone is doing it and only a moron wouldn’t plan ahead for the future.

I’m aware of that.

I’m just telling you what God thinks.

That’s all.

That’s what He thinks about saving for future enjoyment and ease.

That’s what God thinks. The very God you’ll stand in front of some day.

Carry on.

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Identity Politics and Unity in Christ

Our divided and angry populace is obsessed with identifying with a group based on an external criterion.

People identify by race, political party, gender, sexual orientation, handicap, income level, and who knows what else.

The more we eliminate higher things, spiritual things that call us to live for something better, we are left to identify with ourselves. No God? Fine, I’ll make it all about me. No focus on God leaves to focus on self.

We focus on our unique identifying trait and gang up with those like us, resulting in an Us vs. Them mentality. Eventually your group wants money and power, which must be taken from another group.

Being a legally blind person, I know blind people that want handouts from the government, so they petition for funding and recognition. Who cares what your needs are, we’re blind, we need stuff cuz we’re blind.

Every group lobbies for their rights. Thus we fight, cuz when others get their rights, they take money we otherwise could have had!

So blacks hate whites. Straights hate gays. Women hate men. And vice versa. They threaten our group identification and are seen as the enemy because they aren’t US.

Christianity, which speaks of unity all the time, is the only alternative. It’s vital for us to know the meaning of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:16:

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, because He’s not just a flesh guy we’re identifying with but a possessor of a resurrected, spiritual body, He gives us a new identity. We’re born again. We’re born of the Spirit.

Since we’re new spiritual creations, as Christ is, fleshly identifications are done away with. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile.

Our main identity is with Christ. That’s it! And Christ is now risen and has an incorruptible, spiritual body. We’re viewing ourselves in Him as spiritual creations.

Therefore, no Christian should fight over identity politics. We shouldn’t belong to groups that divide over externals.

This would be easier if everyone else weren’t so stuck on their identities! Identities are constantly being shoved down our throats, people don’t drop them easily.

But Paul doesn’t tell us to make other people stop doing that. Paul says to see people in Christ. Whether you are black or white, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, gay or straight, I primarily see you in, or potentially in, Christ, and will refuse to fight you.

My primary concern for you is not for you to leave your group, or to defeat your group, or defund you; my primary goal is to see you come to Christ. To get you to a place, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where you no longer identify yourself with some external criterion, but instead see yourself and all others in the Spirit.

If you’re in Christ, you won’t fight over externals because there are no externals worth fighting for. We wrestle not against flesh and blood.

This is the only hope for human unity. As long as we view ourselves after the flesh we will be fighting. So, stop it! See yourself in Christ, as alive from the dead, and as new spiritual creations in Christ.

Praying for Geographical Regions

Every time there is a natural disaster, and there is a new one at least once a day, we are told to pray for the place where it happened.

Pray for Houston
Pray for Texas
Pray for Florida

It just got me thinking: Why? What does this mean? Where does praying for a geographical region come from?

I’m honestly not trying to be snide here. I’m trying to understand something. Getting to the root. In no way am I trying to encourage people to pray less!

The closest thing I can see from Scripture is Psalm 122:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Mixed in with this psalm is a longing for The Kingdom and the Davidic promises fulfilled. “Peace in Jerusalem” means the Messiah came. It’s a longing for Messiah, not some sort of generic prayer for a geographic region.

Every other usage of “pray for” in the Bible is directed at people. No doubt “Pray for Houston” means pray for people in Houston. But then again, I don’t pretend to know what any Christian means by any of the words they use.

There is an idea within Christianity that the more people who pray for something, the more likely it is to occur. People assume that if so many people pray the same thing, God will hear the prayer and act.

I have no idea where this is from Biblically. The closest I can come is that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, so your odds of getting one of those to pray increases with the more people who pray!

Other than that, I see nothing in the Bible that if Christians all agreed to pray really hard for some geographical location that disasters would go extinct there.

The Bible is pretty clear that disasters happen to the righteous and the unrighteous. Time and chance happens to them all.

Again, I’m not telling you not to pray! We don’t pray enough as it is. I’m rather encouraging people to pray more specifically. Pray for the church in Houston, for specific believers there, to show the love of Christ. Pray for people you actually know who are affected.

Quite frankly, I don’t normally pray for places where I don’t know anyone. I’m not telling you to follow my example, I just have a hard time throwing out a general request for a general group of people that I’ll never know if it was answered because I’m not even sure what I actually requested!

More than likely, if you don’t know anyone in the affected area, you’ve moved on to the next geographical location and the latest disaster the news decides to cover, leaving last week’s disaster survivors on their own.

It is ironic that the only disasters we pray for are the ones the news tells us about. There are disasters happening on your street, few of which will be on the news. Why not pray locally more?

Remember James’ warning that saying nice things for someone without doing anything to help is worthless. How can you be doing this for every geographical region the news tells you a disaster happened in?

Also wondering how plastering #PrayForSomeplace all over the internet is consistent with that whole pray in your closet and don’t let others know what you’re up to command. When you post this, are you actually praying, or are you virtue signalling? But alas, I imagine I’ve stepped in it enough for one day.

Anyway, not trying to be obnoxious. Just thinking a thing through. Pray. Pray more. Then pray some more. At some point it’s helpful to pray for something you actually know about and can help. Don’t let your prayers be driven by the news; let it be driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

I’m willing to be wrong. Any verses I’m missing on the issue?

Manic-Depressive Christianity

Over my years as a pastor I have worked with several people who were bi-polar. This is sometimes referred to as being Manic Depressive.

The Manic phase refers to ideas of superiority, taking over the world, on top of it all, and looking down on all the losers around you.

The Depressive state refers to, well, being depressed. The world has stomped me, there is no hope, no reason to continue, I will go enjoy my favorite reality drowning sin.

The Depressed state is replaced with the Manic state, the Manic replaced with the Depressed, and around and around it goes. Each stage is an over-reaction followed by another over-reaction in the opposite direction. It’s one thing to observe it from the outside, it’s another thing to be stuck in the cycle.

There’s another brand of Manic Depressive out there too, beyond human psychology: Manic Depressive Christianity.

When people are down, the Church shoves happy verses at them: all things work together for good, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, all things are possible with God.

The depressed person goes away chanting these out of context phrases, bucked up by the happy sentiments, they go out in the power of the Spirit to conquer the world. We are more than conquerors after all! Rah-Rah, go get em, boys!

After a couple weeks of exhausting one’s self in uber-happy Christian out of context mantra chanting that has not made any difference or taken over any world, depression sets in.

The Church hands the depressed girl the happy verses. The happy verses are repeated. The depressed girl is bucked up. Rah-rah! Go win one for the Gipper! Only to find out the Gipper died a long time ago and everything stinks.

It’s a discouraging to watch people stuck in this cycle. Facebook is the greatest venue for watching this cycle in action. People post way too much stuff, revealing way too many personal things.

If you have many Christians on your Facebook page, you probably have two or three of these people. One day everything is awesome, and them and God are doing it all! Next week everything is horrible, struggling, pain, failure. Nest week, posting pictures of sunsets with out of context biblical phrases. Next week, on top of the world with Jesus! Repeat.

I get depressed for what the Church does to people. Instead of chanting out of context phrases from verses, rest on the solid rock of God’s Word.

Teaching the Bible is not easy. The Bible is very long. There are many things “hard to be understood,” says the Apostle Peter.

Most churches skip the hard work and settle for self-improvement and bucking up people with happy thoughts torn out of context.

All things do work together for good–and the good, according to the context, includes suffering and being counted as sheep for the slaughter. The good is conformity to Christ; not worldly achievements.

We are more than conquerors, because one day we will be dead and we will have lost our lives, but we will have gained Christ.

All things are possible with God. And, based on the context of this verse, the impossible that will be made possible is rich people will give away their money to the poor, not you getting the girl, or the job, or the new car.

You can do all things through Christ, but the all things don’t mean overcoming obstacles to worldly pleasure and enjoyment. The all things, based on the context, means being content in whatever state you are in regardless of your present state of worldly pleasure and enjoyment.

But the Church doesn’t teach this any more. Too depressing. Not happy enough. Who would come and listen to that? Well, not too many people, but preaching a false message of hope to hopeless people only leads to hopelessness.

Many may not listen to the Bible’s message, but those who do will at least be helped. Changing the Bible’s message so more will hear you, only makes you accountable for destroying those souls by your false, incomplete message.

I pray for the Church. I pray for those stuck in the Manic-Depressive cycle and those stuck in the Christian version of it, too.

Does the Bible Answer All Our Questions? Hardly

There has been another Bible-based controversy in the Republican Campaign season.

Apparently a video was spread by the Cruz Campaign showing Marco Rubio disparaging the Bible. Upon further review, Rubio did no such thing. The video was removed and the staffer who posted it was fired.

The video was about Rubio commenting on the Bible’s ability to answer our questions. Although I don’t care about the presidential race too much, I found Rubio’s quote of interest.

“I know exactly what I said to that young man. I said, ‘The answer to every question you’ll ever have is in that book,’ and then I pointed to the Book of Proverbs, which he was reading, and then I said ‘Particularly that one,'” Rubio told reporters in Nevada.

I find this statement interesting. “The answer to every question you’ll ever have is in that book.”

What am I having for lunch? What shirt should I wear? Why is the sky blue? On the most basic level the statement is wrong. But it’s even wrong on “deeper” questions. Why am I suffering? Why do I have cancer? What happens the second after I die?

I think this statement comes from a sincere effort to uphold the Bible, which is fine, but why we have to use hyperbole, and/or lies to do so is unnecessary.

The Bible itself tells us that God has not revealed everything to us. This clearly has to mean there will be many questions the Bible will not answer.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever

“Things” is plural. There are many things that are secret, things we don’t know, things God didn’t tell us. Part of faith is knowing we don’t know it all, but we trust the One who says He does.

Job had many questions. Note how God did not answer them!

There are questions all over the Bible, many of which are not answered. Some are answered with “Who are you to ask that?” The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions; it even throws questions back at us!

To say that it does answer all our questions just sets us up for ridicule. It is also evidence of self-righteousness. What Rubio probably meant was, “I can answer all your questions.”

In the book of Job, the guy with the questions didn’t get in trouble; the guys with all the answers did.

This is not some sort of anti-Rubio campaign statement. This is merely a call for some integrity and care when we make such statements that are so easily falsifiable.

God does not need our hyperbolic defenses. He just needs us to trust Him. Go and do that.

Why Do Creatonists and Evolutionists Fear Each Other?

My daughter had a discussion in class yesterday about Creation and Evolution and whether both should be taught in school.

First off, Creationism means something different from Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is a non-religious, scientifically analyzed theory of how stuff got here, concluding that something Intelligent is behind it.

Creationism has more to do with Biblical Creationism. It is my opinion that schools should not teach religion of any sort. Thus, I don’t want the schools to teach Biblical Creationism. This makes me a horrible person among some Christians, but alas, schools will butcher the Bible, so I’d assume they stay away from it (not that the church does much better, but alas).

However, there is an increasing scientific rejection of Darwinian Evolution and an increasing scientific acceptance of Intelligent Design. I believe these facts should be presented in schools. Science is based on problem solving. Presenting problems with Evolution may actually inspire science to do better work. As soon as science rests on ideology, discovery stops, which is especially why Evolutionist’s antagonism toward questioning their theory is so odd to me.

Secondly, it is amusing how both sides are so terrified of each other. Evolutionists are afraid of Creationism or Intelligent Design, presumably because a Creator implies morality, judgment, accountability to something larger than self or society, or any number of other reasons.

They fear establishing religion. Their disdain for religion and religious people is so violently angry, it does make a guy wonder why so much anger. Me thinkest thou protesteth too loudly.

Before we get all rah-rah bashing Evolutionists, I’m also intrigued by the fear so many Creationists have about Evolution. If you believe God created the world because His infallible Word you supposedly believe says so, why are you afraid of some guy’s theory?

I imagine many an uptight Christian parent believes that exposing their kids to contrary opinions will possibly destroy their carefully crafted faith they laid out for them. If we keep little Johnny isolated, little Johnny will believe all we want him to believe.

I imagine there is some truth to that logic, but I doubt Johnny’s faith will ever become personal. Agreeing with the only option you know is not faith, however. Little Johnny might agree with mommy and daddy all the way to hell.

I believe God created the world, and I’m even one of those weirdos who thinks God created the world in six literal days. I believe that because that’s what the Bible says. Both Evolution and Creationism are based on faith. No Evolutionist was there at the beginning, nor was any Creationist.

As Hebrews 11 says, it is by “faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” It is also by faith the Evolutionist believes the world was framed by chance. The Evolutionist holds Science as his word of authority; the Creationist relies on the Bible. In both cases, you are taking another person’s word for it–both are based on faith.

I am not afraid of Evolution. I have quite a lot of confidence in the Bible. I believe that if a person truly analyzes Evolution they will find significant problems. I believe the Bible, although not answering all our questions, presents an outlook on life that makes way more sense in many ways. I understand why Evolutionists disagree with that, but I do not understand why they fear it.

Fear is a sign of insecurity. If you fear the other side, you are merely admitting your insecurity in defending your side or disproving the other side. Fear and ignorance go hand in hand.

Most who fear competing ideas (whether Evolutionists or Creationists), are admitting they don’t know what they are talking about. If you are one of these people, I suggest you learn a little more about your view and then learn more about the other side (by reading the other side, not reading what your side says about the other side). There is nothing to fear in being informed, other than hard work. But isolating, being afraid, demanding silence to the other side, will do very little and will keep you ignorant and terrified.

The Bible can take care of itself. God is a big boy, He can defend Himself just fine. We can Trust Him. Let your kids know that. Let them know we don’t have to fear alternative views of life. If we truly believe we have Truth on our side, what is there to fear?

A Few Thoughts on Ambition

One of my areas of confusion as a father is how much do I push my children to do stuff, to excel, to dominate, and have ambition.

It seems our world is consumed with ambition. We celebrate people who work 90 hours a week and make a ton of money and buy fancy things and go on nice vacations and post happiness constantly on Facebook.

As a pastor, I know many behind the scenes things about people. I know their debt. I know their family problems. I know their internal turmoil. I know their emptiness that sets in when ambition is realized, or if it is always out of grasp.

I wonder how much of our touting of ambition and excellence is nothing more than selfishness that destroys the soul?

When Jesus told His followers to take up their cross, deny self, and follow Him, He can’t possibly have meant “At all cost, get on the A honor roll, get into the best college, excel at all you do, and take over the world.”

When Paul said, “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me,” I can’t imagine his intended point was, “Be all you can be. Be the best. Live for respect, honor, and awards. Do all you can to make money.”

The New Testament has so many warnings about money and the dangers of pursuing it, yet most Evangelical preaching tells people to go get it and get it better than others get it. Joel Osteen is no longer an outlier.

I want my kids to do well. I want my daughter to destroy people on the tennis court. I want my daughter to make other piano players give up after hearing her. I want my son to turn awesome double plays, or strike out the side in baseball.

I want my kids to do well in school. Yet I also know that school, sports, instruments, and most other activities are vanity, vanity, because I don’t know if you know this or not, but all is vanity.

Ambition is talked about in the Bible. At least in the English Standard Version. The KJV translates it “strife.” Ambition is putting yourself first, which inevitably leads to fighting and division. Selfish-ambition ruins individuals and relationships.

Yet selfish-ambition is the underlying application of most modern sermons.

One of the greatest uses of this word usually translated “strife” or “ambition,” is in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

If you’re going to aspire to anything in life, according to the Bible (that book we say is our authority for life and doctrine), it is to aspire to calm down and mind your own business.

Yes, what you do, do it well as to the Lord. We have responsibilities to care for our biological and church families. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. Work to fulfill those basic obligations.

Don’t do it for the love of money. Don’t do it for rewards. Don’t do it for recognition and praise. Just find your thing and go do it. Let the results take care of themselves.

Any other ambition will ruin you and your relationships, primarily your relationship to Jesus Christ.

As a believer, it’s no longer you who lives. I imagine that means something very practical.