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.

Although It’s Been Said Many Times and Many Ways, You Are Not Saved By Faith Alone

I have been talking about Church History on Wednesday nights to our church group. Last night I dealt with Martin Luther and his claim of justification by faith alone.

Justification by faith alone has come to be called Sola Fide. That’s the Latin for “faith alone.”

Generally speaking, people who hold to Sola Fide also hold to Sola Scriptura–Scripture is our only basis for doctrine, it is our only authority.

I find this somewhat ironic since the only time Scripture says “by faith alone,” it says “NOT by faith alone.”

James 2:24, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Luther, who held to Sola Scirptura, knew that James didn’t believe in Sola Fide. Therefore, as all good theologians do to maintain their pet point, Luther decided James shouldn’t be in the Bible.

I am going to go with James over Luther. The work that James is talking about in James 2 is love. The beginning of his talk about faith and works surrounds the Royal Law–love your neighbor as yourself. They were not doing this in the church based on their treatment of rich and poor people.

God gives promises to those who love Him (James 2:5). Note he didn’t say promises are given to those who believe Him.

Faith and love go together. Paul says in Galatians that faith works by love. John says we love Him because He first loved us.

Faith without love is not acceptable faith to God. Love is kind of a clinching matter. When push comes to shove, love is the determining factor. It would be nice if there were a verse that clearly stated that faith without love didn’t cut it.

Oh wait! 1 Corinthians 13 to the rescue

“If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Faith without love won’t cut it. Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 13 with “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The greatest is love; not faith.

You are not saved by faith alone. Faith must have love. Loveless faith is not what God is looking for. Loveless faith does not save. Love is what God desires from us. Love is greater than faith.

A doctrine that separates faith from love is a doctrine that is going to lead to problems. It will make you look more like a Pharisee than like Christ.

Love is a huge deal with God. To miss that is to miss God Himself–God is love. Faith in God who is love, results in love to Him and love to others. Therefore, if there is no love, then you don’t really know or believe God, because God is love.

Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love.

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

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.

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.