Their Strength is to Sit Still

When Judah was about to fall into the hands of the Babylonians, the prophets warned Judah not to fight them, not to run from them, and don’t even think about getting Egypt to step in and help.

To survive the captivity as an individual, just give up. Surrender. Daniel and his three friends did that. Jeremiah did that. They were all taken care of just fine. In fact, under Babylonian rulers, many Jewish people were allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Isaiah warned Israel about getting Egypt to intervene by saying these words:

For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.

Now, I have my interpretation of these words. It’s an interpretation which isn’t correct, but I like it better than the right one!

The right interpretation of, “Their strength is to sit still” means that Egypt’s strength and might will be powerless to stop Babylon. Their strength will be nothing to you. Their strength will be ineffectual and inactive.

Yeah, yeah, so that’s the right interpretation, how boring.

If I’ve learned anything from my Reformed Friends, it’s that you can make the Bible say anything you want through an allegorical interpretation of Scripture.

Therefore, the interpretation I prefer of “Their strength is to sit still” is this:

Hey, Judah, you aint gonna make it. Stop thinking, stop planning, stop conniving, stop plotting. Just sit still. Give up. Listen to what God said and give up. Their strength is to sit still.

Wow, how fun! No wonder Reformed people like the allegorical interpretation of Scripture!

I have also learned from my Modern Evangelical Friends that any phrase from the Bible can be mercilessly ripped out of context to mean whatever you want it to mean.

Therefore, I’m sticking with this interpretation.

Starting to get worried and panicked?

Your strength is to sit still.

Starting to plot and get carried away with your human notions and plans?

Your strength is to sit still.

Worried about how to pay the bills and whether God will provide?

Your strength is to sit still.

Go with what God said. Be still and know that I am God. That is your strength.

Or, it would be anyway, if that’s what the verse meant.

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God Tells People What To Do, Not You!

The degree that you desire to dictate another person’s beliefs and actions is the degree to which you do not trust God.

Telling other people what to do, then punishing them if they don’t do it, which can be as subtle as getting mad at them, is dangerous.

If you are telling other people what to do and believe, then you have put yourself in the place of God.

Furthermore, you have become responsible for their actions. If they do what you say, it’s kind of your fault!

Cults and man-made religion are heavy on telling people what to do and believe. They use peer-pressure, intimidation, punishment, conformity, and shame to get obedience.

They do not allow any thinking or diverting from the path. The leader of the cult or man-made religion will become god-like. They may even tell you they are infallible, or speak for God.

Because telling people what to do and then judging what is done is God’s job. People who get used to doing this view themselves as God.

Alas, I’m not just warning you about Jim Jones and L. Ron Hubbard. I’m talking about you and me.

When you get mad because people don’t vote like you, dress like you, eat like you, identify with every little weird thing you identify with, you are getting close to Jim Jones status.

In fact, the difference between you and Jim Jones is only the number of people who listen to you. It always starts with just one listener though!

You better watch out!

Then again, I aint telling you to do anything. Do whatever you want. But what I can do is quote God:

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
–Romans 14:10-12

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
–Philippians 3:14-15

Irresponsibility Warps Doctrine

Being responsible is hard. Immature people blame others for their problems and look to others to bail them out. Mature people take responsibility for their problems and go fix them as much as possible.

Maturity is hard, which is why most stay in immaturity. It’s easier to let someone else pick up the pieces than it is to 1) stop breaking stuff or 2) fix your own mess.

We want other people to pay for our health coverage so we can continue to be overweight and lazy and yet not have to pay. We want other people to pay for our college education lest we have to like, work. On and on it goes.

Unfortunately, we take this same idea into our spiritual lives.

Remember what happened when Adam got busted? What did he say? “The woman you gave me made me eat the fruit.” Adam blames God and his wife. Never once does he consider his own culpability.

Eve says the serpent made her do it. The serpent, the liar from the beginning, says nothing, which, wow. When Satan performs better than you, that’s not good.

People’s response to sin has been the same ever since. We don’t think our sin is that bad, but if forced to face it, we immediately blame our parents, or the pastor, or the Liberals, or Donald Trump, or the media, or the government, or Big Business, or whatever thing we think is determining our lives.

The real problem with shirking responsibility is that it makes you believe bad things. Getting out of responsibility is the source of much heresy.

The modern warping of “grace” makes people think that fixing your problems is legalism, or works righteousness, or some such thing. Grace makes it OK anyway, why worry?

Calvinism says all things happen by God’s will from eternity past and they all work for His glory. So it makes no sense to beat yourself up too bad, or find fault with anything, nor should you concern yourself with fixing anything since it’s all giving God glory anyway.

Legalism tells you to do some unrelated penance type thing that never really takes care of the problem, but makes you feel better about yourself while continuing to have the problem.

Health and wealth tells us God is happy with us when we get stuff. As long as I have stuff, I can console myself that I’m doing good, never mind the fact that most of my stuff was gotten by my sinful life.

Atheism is structured on this whole idea as well. They deny God simply to eliminate any sort of responsibility or future judgment. They conclude that all things are genetically determined, you can’t help it.

Our fear of responsibility drives much of our doctrine. There is no such thing as secret sin, or a sin that won’t have an effect. If nothing else, it makes us feel guilty, which will warp our doctrine.

Take responsibility for who you are and what you are doing. Understand that every one of us will give an account before God.

He knows what you’re doing and He sees how you handle the results of your actions. He will bring it up some day. Don’t let any warped doctrine eliminate that awareness from your mind.

What I Do With My Sin

For many years I struggled with what to do with my sin.

In an effort to not implicate my teachers entirely, I will at least say that what I heard was that my sin should largely be ignored.

Yeah, you shouldn’t sin, but if you do, move on.

I believed that my old, sin nature has to sin, there’s nothing you can do about it. My new nature can occasionally do good, but any effort to do good was bordering on, or crossing over into, legalism.

I believed that my old nature sins but can’t confess, because the flesh can’t do anything good. My new nature, which can talk to God and could potentially confess, has nothing to confess because my new nature doesn’t sin.

Therefore, sin should be avoided as long as I don’t apply any effort. Effort might just be the flesh doing self-righteous works that are actually bad. When I did sin, I should forget it, claim grace, and move on without guilt or remorse.

I believed that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” meant that I shouldn’t feel guilt.

The problem that always crept up though is that I did feel guilt for my sin! Then, since I wasn’t supposed to feel guilt, I then felt guilty about feeling guilt!

I was left in a constant state of tension:

1) I knew I wasn’t supposed to sin, but I also knew I wasn’t supposed to do anything to stop my sin for fear of being legalistic.

2) When I did sin I felt guilty, which I wasn’t supposed to do because of grace, which made me feel more guilty.

Again, I don’t know if this is what I was taught, or if this is just what I believed I heard, but it’s where I was for many years.

It was not fulfilling. It was annoying, confusing, and frustrating. It also prevented any sort of sanctification, growth, or victory over sin. It merely left me feeling helpless, pointless, and defeated.

Then I decided to drop my understanding and start over.

I decided that if I sinned I would confess. I decided that if I were tempted I should do things to resist the devil and stand in the armor of God. I even began fasting to bring my body under subjection.

Guess what? It’s working! It also helped me feel better about the whole situation and set me free from many fears I had invented.

There was a clarity and it led to growth. I looked at the verses that talked about the Gospel’s power at work in me, about the Spirit’s provision, and the crucifixion of the flesh.

I didn’t approach this through legalism or trying to impress God. I approached it as a guy who was tired of sin, guilt, confusion, and turmoil.

I’m not perfect. I can say with Paul, “I have not yet apprehended.” But I am growing and I am overcoming many sins that have long tripped me up.

By no means is battling sin easy. There’s never a time where it’s automatic. But there is patience, experience, and hope that increases through the years.

This is my personal experience and should not be taken as authoritative, infallible advice from on high. But my approach is based on Scripture and seems to be working.

So I shall continue to fight the fight!

Church Is Largely a Sham

Many Christians would rather feel holy/spiritual/righteous/good than actually be holy/spiritual/righteous/good.

Church becomes a place that makes sinners feel better about themselves without addressing their sin.

Since sin isn’t addressed, people go home and sin. Then they feel bad because deep down they know sin is bad. They feel guilty.

What shall we do with the guilt?

Ooo, ooo! I know: Let’s get together and sing happy songs and exchange happy thoughts until we all feel holy/spiritual/righteous/good again!

Awesome! All the guilt goes away. We all feel loved and fulfilled. All ready for a new week of sinning!

This goes on week after week until finally the person just gives up. They know the whole thing is a sham. Church practice shows that sin isn’t that big of a deal anyway. I did my time. God loves me, the church has told me that for years, so, I’m out.

On the flip side, there is a minority of churches out there that actually address sin and tell people to knock it off. They preach Scriptural sermons that talk about the Holy Spirit’s work in the power of the Gospel to set people free from sin’s bondage.

Most people leave those churches because that’s legalism don’t ya know?!

People want to feel good about being bad. The Bible is too real for such an approach though.

When a person is supposed to feel bad; Scripture makes them feel bad. When a person is supposed to feel good; Scripture makes them feel good.

Church largely makes people who are bad feel good, and people who are good feel bad. It tells people “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Satan is a deceiver. His job is to make people who are not saved feel like they are, and make people who are saved feel like they aren’t.

If you put 2 and 2 together here, you’ll perhaps think I am saying that Satan is running the majority of churches in the world.

You would be correct.

The Boring Option Is More Than Likely The Right Option

While running the other day I listened to a podcast from Freakonomics about the guy who invented Index Funds.

Mutual Funds are operated by active managers–guys who buy and sell stocks for you. Each time they buy and sell there is a cost. In order to pick stocks that will earn enough to overcome the costs, one has to be incredibly lucky.

Approximately 2-3% of all mutual funds get enough profit to cover cost!

So a very smart guy came along and invented the Index Fund. Index Funds do very little buying and selling of stocks. They buy successful companies listed in Stock Indexes like the S&P 500.

They buy and hold. They let the stock market take over and, on average, they outperform mutual fund managers’ abilities to pick stocks. They also, because they don’t buy and sell much, have very low cost.

Why don’t more people invest in Index Funds then?

Because active, aggressive Mutual Funds are more exciting. You’re doing something! You’re going place! Your betting big!

Index Funds are boring. Nothing happens. They just sit there and wait for forever. Boring.

One thing I’ve notices in life is that the long, boring solution is usually the right one.

Keep this in mind when the Bible repeatedly tells us to be patient, wait on the Lord, and be eternally minded.

No one does this because it’s boring. Nothing happens. It’s more cool to talk about your plans and your machinations and your X-treme, Radical, Revolutionary, Awesomest Faith Everness.

Think of the OT people who got impatient and how it cost them: Abraham not getting his son on time, Jacob and Rachel not getting their son, and Saul not waiting for Samuel.

God is eternal. He takes a long time. Be patient. Wait for Him. Watch out for the itch to DO SOMETHING! More than likely, you’ll just lose.

Wait. Be patient. Slow down. Do the right, boring thing. In the end, you’ll reap a huge harvest.

Confusion Breeds Dependency

The US tax code is a mess. It’s one of the more complicated things on the planet, even more than DNA at this point.

Efforts to simplify the tax code have repeatedly been shot down. Leading the resistance are accountants!

The US legal code is increasingly complicated. Lawyers don’t seem to mind.

Professional investors want you to be confused by the markets and dividends and bonds and stocks. It’s too much, just give me your money and I’ll invest for you (for a fee).

Football rules are becoming more complicates. We can’t even tell what a catch is anymore. Outcomes of games are determined more and more by referees.

“Keep It Simple, Stupid” is one of those phrases you hear in life that makes sense, yet why do so many do the exact opposite?

The more complicated a thing becomes, the more people in authority get power. Confusion breeds dependency.

Kids are largely confused by life, so they hold tight to mom and dad. As soon as kids start learning and thinking they know everything, kids push away.

To thwart kids leaving, lots of parents freak their kids out and make life confusing. This keeps the kids home and over-protective parents happy.

Theology does the same thing. The Church has routinely made theology complex. We’re told the Bible is too hard for us to understand.

You would think the Church would get busy teaching people how to use the Bible. You would be wrong.

The Church wants you confused, because your confusion means their job security.

I have read many catechisms and doctrinal statements that are way more confusing than anything I’ve read in the Bible!

Anytime you see confusing doctrine come out of a place, or the promotion of a secret key that unlocks the mysteries of the Bible, know that you’re about to enter an authoritarian religious structure.

Cults are notoriously confusing. They confuse and keep their people infantile. Cult leaders need your dependence. They need you to think you need their secret insights.

The best teaching makes the complex simple. That should be the job of every pastor. Instead, the church is overrun with leaders who make the confusion worse.

Unfortunately, the church doesn’t mind: that’s how they make money.