What Does This Passage Mean to You? Is a Quick Way to Be Blasphemous

I was working on a lesson about The Four Lepers from Samaria (2 Kings 6:26-7:20). These are the guys who decided to go to the Syrian camp to get food, as they were going to die in Syrian-besieged Samaria anyway.

Upon reaching the Syrian camp, they discovered tons of supplies and no Syrians! God had provided, just like the prophet Elisha said He would.

I find it interesting to search Sunday School lessons to see what applications they get out of these stories. While looking for applications, I came across an article about “Three Business Lessons we can learn from the Four Lepers from Samaria.”

Here are the three lessons. Are you ready? Your life is about to change. And, if you’re in business, your business life is about to be radically revolutionized:

Lesson One:
Strategize. In order to succeed, you have to plan. This lesson is learned from the lepers who drew up a strategic plan to survive. They carried the plan out and thrived!

Lesson Two:
Take Risks. The one who goes outside of his comfort zone is the one who will succeed. The lepers left what they knew for the uncertainty of what they didn’t know. It paid off big time!

Lesson Three:
Acquire Useful Information. Once the lepers discovered the Syrians were gone, they shared what they learned for the profit of many people.

If your life is not already changed, here is the conclusion of the matter, and I quote:

“The take away from this story is that as a Christian, there is need for you to update yourself with the latest trends in your field and not only that, there is need to keep abreast of the latest policy changes in government.”


The idea that the Four Lepers of Samaria account was written so that 21st Century businessmen would learn to adapt new trends and change with government policy is borderline blasphemous.

This is the problem with the “what does this passage mean to you?” drivel.

It does not matter what a passage means to you! What matters is what the passage means!

If it’s up to my meaning, then I will change it according to my circumstances, rip it out of context, and more than likely, give me a conclusion that reaffirms what I’m already doing.

I’m quite sure the businessmen who wrote these applications are already doing these things. That’s why they saw them in this story.

The real point of the Four Lepers of Samaria account is that when God says stuff, He means what He says, don’t doubt it. Doubting God’s Word generally leads to bad things. Stop it.

A clear reading of the text will show you that’s what it means and it doesn’t mean anything else.

Don’t get cute with God’s word. We need less cute and more of God’s Word.


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!

5 Points About Football’s Impact on Holiness

In case you missed it, yesterday there was one of the greatest endings to a NFL football game ever. And it happened to the Minnesota Vikings, a team that has been mercilessly beaten by many amazing game ending plays.

If there was any team that deserved a miraculous game ending play to win, it’s the Vikings.

I went on Twitter afterwards to partake in the social media frenzy surrounding the ending. I came across this from a Christian:

“Over the years I’ve noticed that a Christian’s holiness is directly proportionate to the number of football games he or she has never seen.”

Ah yes, leave it to the Christian to poop on the party.

I hate stuff like that. Here are a couple reasons why.

  1. If I were a betting man, I’d put all my money on the fact that the author of this quote did not watch the game. Therefore, he’s putting himself in the holiness camp. One of the aspects of righteousness, sanctification, spiritual growth, and holiness is that humility develops. The kind of humility that keeps a person from vocalizing such a sanctimonious point.
  2. More than likely, if football fans were to examine the author’s life they could find something equally stupid he does that they don’t, and make a similar observation. I could say the same thing about watching movies, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, reading fiction, having a 40+ hour a week job, etc. The list is endless and thus it’s really stupid to go where he goes.
  3. If a guy knows how to operate a DVR, you can watch a four-hour football game in about 45-minutes. I doubt this spending of 45 minutes a week will be a determinative factor in a person’s holiness.
  4. It might be true for some, but not necessarily for all. I do know some fanatical football fans that should probably cut back. I was one myself in the past. I cut ties. I backed off. There are, no doubt, many football fans who take football too seriously to the detriment of their spiritual health. I can also tell you some of the most helpful people to me spiritually partook in watching football. The idea that there’s something particular about football to ruin your sanctification is absurd.
  5. Finding a thing you don’t like and then making that thing that you don’t like the focal point of judging someone’s spiritual growth is a dangerous place to be. Perhaps this guy, or some who read his quote, will assume “I don’t watch football, therefore I am holy.” It puts the wrong emphasis on things.

In the end, this is a Romans 14 kind of thing. The author finds football to be a problem. Fine. Don’t watch football. Keep your non-watching of football to yourself.

I would be more impressed if the guy said he watched the game and has a problem with football addiction and said this quote.

But he didn’t. He just said the quote, bashing all who like that thing he doesn’t like.

He’s judging and he’s being divisive. He’s taking an insignificant thing and putting spiritual weight on it, tipping the scales toward legalism.

This is not just a screed against him or his anti-footballness. This is a warning to us all.

I’ve heard myself and others use Sci-Fi shows, coffee, health food, homeschooling, and any number of other issues the same way. Making an enjoyable thing of others into the antichrist.

It’s not helpful. It’s not edifying. It’s merely being a Pharisee and a High Horse Riding Judgmental Know-It-All.

Knock it off.

Wearing Hats in Chapel and Romans 14

I attended a Christian college with mandatory chapel every day in the auditorium. One of my goals in life at the time, was to see how I could miss as many chapels as possible and not get in trouble.

I wanted to miss chapel for two main reasons:

  1. Most of the chapels were really stupid. There was a lot of singing and a lot of very bad theology.
  2. I had a bad attitude.

Chapel was around 10am. I worked until 2 in the morning. I tried to arrange my classes so I didn’t have to go to class until at least late morning if not afternoon. I moved off campus to save money and also cuz then I could petition to miss more chapels.

I was frequently unkempt in college. I worked late, had to bike to school, I ran cross country and track, and worked as a janitor. Lots of opportunity to be dirty and smelly with that combination.

Instead of frequent showers, I wore deodorant and a hat.

One day I was sitting in one of the back sections of chapel, barely awake, unkempt, and having a bad attitude.

A chipper young fellow with a couple chipper little pixie college chics walks by me and taps me on the leg and says, “Hey bud, no hats in chapel, kay?”

I tipped my cap to him, which he interpreted as me dutifully listening to him. I then un-tipped my cap and put it back on as he walked past. I did this all with a super-abundance of bad attitude.

About a year later, this guy was in one of my classes. I did not recognize him or know him. But he came up to me one day and said, “Remember that day I told you to take your hat off in chapel and you immediately took it off but right back on? That really bugged me. Every time I’ve seen you since, I’ve thought about that and judged you.”

We had a nice conversation. I explained my schedule and my attitude. He apologized and I apologized.

I have often thought of this experience.

Both of us had our own lives going. I don’t know why hats had to be removed in a college auditorium. I thought that was dumb. But he thought hats should be off.

This was a classic Romans 14 issue. He that esteemeth chapel and he who esteemeth not chapel. He who regardeth hats and he who regardeth not hats.

Let each be persuaded in his own mind.

The guy didn’t think I should wear a hat. I had no problem wearing a hat, and, in fact, had, what I thought, were good reasons to wear a hat.

But as soon as the guy said something to me about the hat, it became a mutual issue.

Who relents? Whose opinion will rule?

Looking back, I consider myself to be wrong in my response. I should have removed the hat because the guy made it an issue. It’s better to keep the peace than to wear a hat.

I sincerely did apologize to him, and he sincerely apologized to me. Water under the bridge, no big deal. But isn’t it amazing how many of these smaller issues make us hate each other? How many of these issues cause divisions and fighting?

“Why not rather take the wrong?” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6. Why fight? Peace comes by giving in to others.

No one likes that, which is why there’s so little peace. But it’s the way of peace as spelled out in God’s Word.

No, I do not remember what was talked about at chapel that day, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t as instructive as this little episode has been for me.

A Morning in the Life

6:45–woke up to the sounds of my children banging around the house.

7:01–read my Bible, prayed, and said good-bye to my wife and kids.

7:45–checked email accounts, Twitter, and Facebook. Left a couple unsolicited doctrinal comments on some Facebook posts and imagined all those who would be converted by my wisdom.

8:12–I began creating song sheets for new songs for Wednesday night. Tried to get guitar chords put in the right place. Copied and pasted lyrics to songs from internet. Corrected all the wrong lyrics. Hopefully. Printed out guitar music.

9:45–Ran three miles and listened to Dan Carlin’s podcast on the Celtic Genocide. Learned about Caesar doing battle with German hordes. Cooled down and stretched.

10:35–Continued working on music. Disappointed to see no one on Facebook converted to my doctrine, but at least got to see how immediately I was dismissed as being irrelevant.

11:15–Watched a DVR’d episode of American Pickers while making and eating lunch. Ham and cheese sandwich, pretzels, banana, and leftover Christmas cookies.

12:03–Walked around the house talking to myself about doctrinal things and annoying things and annoying doctrinal things.

12:37–Still no converts on Facebook.

1:15–Figured I should write something so I did this post. Can’t wait to see how many people will convert due to the writing of this.

1:35–Checked Facebook again. No converts. Posted this post.

Genetics, Sin, and the Gospel

There are genetic predispositions to disease. Cancer, among other diseases, runs in families.

If you find out young enough that there is a genetic predisposition to cancer, there are things you can do to stave it off: don’t consume tons of alcohol, don’t smoke, eat right, exercise, etc.

These things are no guarantee, but you would be frowned upon for smoking and drinking if there is a genetic predisposition to cancer. Your doctors and family would all tell you to stop it.

Even when a person gets cancer, what do we tell them? “Oh well, guess you just submit to it and die.”

There may be some who say that, but for the most part, people tell you to “fight it.” Even those who lose to cancer, we celebrate for their courageous fight against it.

We live in a world that increasingly tells us that “sin” is actually just a genetic predisposition.

The classic example, in our faces seemingly every day, is homosexuality. Scientists are trying their hardest to tell us there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality.

So, for sake of argument, we’ll grant the point.

Is our genetic makeup inherently good? If so, what’s the whole deal with fighting a genetic predisposition to cancer? Is cancer good? Heart disease good? Are doctors the bad people for trying to thwart these genetic things?

I think we can agree that just because something is genetic doesn’t mean it’s good.

So, when it comes to genetic predispositions toward anger, sexual aggression, homosexuality, or any other behavior, could it not also be possible that even if there is a genetic predisposition, couldn’t it be fought? Couldn’t it be staved off by modifying behavior?

Or put it the other way: what if there’s a genetic predisposition to be homophobic! Do you think homophobic people would be told to fight that?!

One thing you’ll notice is that I am linking cancer with homosexuality in this argument. I assure you this is not my doing.

This is the doing of the age we live in. If all behavior and illness is purely genetic, then there is no difference between “bad” behavior and illness.

Our modern culture is encouraging, and in some countries implementing, the abortion of genetically diseased babies. In other words, diseases are becoming morally unacceptable. (This will increase the more governments have control of health care, by the way).

Morality, in the modern world, is based on societal effects, whether my actions hurt others. If I have to pay everyone’s health care, then I get a say in how it is spent. If your MS costs society, we will eventually decide to kill people with MS.

So, our diseases are becoming sins, and our sins are becoming diseases. This is not my opinion, this is what happened in the past and is happening today.

This puts society in weird moral positions. Our current moral landscape looks absolutely ridiculous. Society celebrates Hugh Hefner while firing all the men who acted on what Hefner promoted.

In some areas we are told to fight genetic predispositions, and in others we are told to give in to them. I’m baffled to know which is for when.

Except I’m not.

People want to sin and they want to feel good about their sin. If we conclude “I can’t help it, I was born this way,” then responsibility is gone, sin is no longer a problem, and I can do what I want.

There is a way out of the confusion. God has revealed what morality is. You may be genetically predisposed to certain sins (anger, lust, homosexuality), but by no means does this mean we don’t fight destructive urges.

Jesus Christ told us we must be born again. That in Christ our old nature is crucified with its affections and lusts. There is help through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the flesh with all its “genetic predispositions.”

It remains our only hope.

Tools of Faithful Titans

A couple weeks ago I finished reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

It’s a massive book, 600+ pages, comprised of snippets of interviews Tim did with, what Tim considers to be, successful people.

Much of it was weird. Many push doing hallucinogenics. Many are overly obsessed with diet and exercise to the extent it consumes most of their waking hours, or at least it would if I were to do all that. Most also pushed transcendental meditation.

Many of their heroes and recommended resources were religious in nature, but mostly Buddhist, Taoist, of Gandhi type things.

Not a single one mentioned Jesus Christ. Six hundred plus pages and not one mention of Jesus Christ, not even in a sloppy way. No mention whatsoever.

At first this bugged me, “are you suggesting that no successful people follow Jesus? I mean, seriously?”

But as I thought about it more, this is actually a good thing!

What Tim Ferriss respects are people who are dominant, those who have followers, and material success.

Buddhism allows you methods by which you can attain material success. Meditation is a “spiritual” thing you do to get better physical results.

If a person followed Jesus Christ, they would never be on Tim Ferriss’ show, nor in his books.

Jesus Christ will not lead you to be materially successful.

Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who manipulate His teachings to arrive at material success, there are, and they are called false teachers–their god is their belly.

But an honest following of Jesus will leave you disrespected by Tim Ferriss and other self-help gurus. Even if you did achieve financial success, following Christ would make you get rid of that money in a non-flashy, not gonna make it on Tim’s show, kind of way.

Hebrews 11 is God’s version of Tools of Titans.

All these people were massive losers in the world’s eyes. But in God’s eyes, they were eminently successful.

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

The world has no respect for no-name poor people who suffer and then die. Tim Ferriss has no use for such folks. They provide no value to him or his worldview.

Even the great people of faith we do know did not have great material success.

Abraham never saw any of the promises he was given fulfilled, he died still wondering where the fruit was.

Moses couldn’t get anyone to listen to him ever.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were largely ignored and then killed by the people they were sent to help.

Paul died alone, no man stood with him.

Peter was crucified.

And, of course, our Leader, Jesus Christ, was rejected and even forsaken by His own disciples.

He asks you to follow Him in this rejection, in this lowliness and humility. Lose your life to find it.

This is all insane on an earthly level.

Tim Ferriss wrote a 600+ page book about how to be successful on this earth and Jesus was not mentioned once.

I like that.