Monks and Other Wasted Lives

Our library is open again. Couldn’t wait to check out the New Non-Fiction section to get my latest fill of leftist politician hagiographies, weird diet cookbooks, and various other books no one in their right mind would ever possibly check out.

But tucked in the couple hundred books are at least two books that seem like they’d be worth reading.

I picked up four. I made it through ten pages of one before returning it. So I started another one I hesitated getting, I walked past it twice, but eventually picked it up because I really didn’t want to read Madeleine Albreight’s thrilling autobiography.

It’s about a guy who lived his life as a Buddhist monk in India. Buddhists are full of themselves. Buddhist monks are like, overflowing with themselves. He is massively impressed with himself.

However, from my reading, all monks are full of themselves, at least the ones who write books about their monking. He mentions what a great guy St. Francis of Assisi was. Goodness. Francis drives me nuts. He’s a spoiled rich kid who leaves home to talk to birds and make up rules for people to obey. Nice life.

Well, Mr. Buddhist Monk was also a spoiled rich kid who left his home and spent time feeding ants and not making rules because, “whatever, man.”

On Judgment Day there’s going to a lot of massively disappointed monks.

All that effort. All that discipline. All that rule keeping. “Hey, I never even told anyone to do that,” I imagine God telling them. “Yeah, but, look how impressed we were with ourselves. Surely that must count for something?”

“You have your reward.”

I also note how many famous people endorse his book on the back cover. Everyone likes Buddhists. All the cool self-helpy people in our world just love them. Their meditation, their peace and tranquility, and their pseudo-intellectual agnostic, nirvanaing. They are no threat, primarily because no one has a clue what they are talking about.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Buddhist Monk:

Every one of the sutras–the accounts of the Buddha’s teaching that have come down to us–begins with the phrase, “Thus have I heard.” That opening, hedged as one listener’s experience, implies that this is just one possible account of what happened, filtered by a human mind and the limitations of memory. As scripture goes, it’s a rather tentative beginning

So, Buddha heard some stuff and is like, “Hey man, this is cool. Do you think it’s cool? I think it’d be cool if you thought it was cool. But whatever, man.”

He says later:

They are not divine revelation, absolute and incontrovertible, but communication skillfully framed for a particular audience. It was emphasized again and again that each listener heard those words differently, according to their own capacity and their own concerns.

Well that’s enough to make a guy vomit.

If their scriptures are just things that mean whatever to whoever hears it in whatever context, then why bother with scripture?

Buddha says, “Here’s some stuff I heard.” The Bible says, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Guess which one the world prefers?

Ultimately Buddhism is about the furtherance of the individual. Thus it becomes a self-serving religion. Christians start hospitals; Buddhists sit on mountains feeling superior to sick people. Christianity wants you to get your hands dirty, helping those who are hurting, loving your enemy, sticking with truth despite opposition, and generally living life with hope. Buddhism wants you to sink into yourself and not let anyone mess with your buzz, man.

Selah.

OK, I’m done.

Coronavirus and The End

Let me begin by saying very clearly I do not think the coronavirus is The End, nor is it fulfilling any prophecies or anything like that. It’s not. Because, like, hardly anything is actually happening.

Let me also say I am not an infectious disease expert so my opinion that this is entirely overblown should carry little weight with you.

All that being said, here are a couple thoughts to consider.

–I believe that the next event in biblical prophecy is the rapture, when the Church will be taken to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). After that is a seven-year Tribulation period where the Antichrist will fool people and take over. He will begin by promising health and wealth to everyone and causing a semblance of peace (2 Thessalonians 2:8-11). You will note in this current crisis the following things:

A. Everyone wants health and wealth.
B. Everyone is looking to the government to give them both, or at least blaming the government for the absence of them.

This is setting the stage for an Antichrist figure to waltz right in and take over. He will promise, and apparently for a time, deliver on such expectations. If you are blaming a politician or looking to a politician to save you from disease, you are falling for the trap. The spirit of Antichrist is already at work right now setting this all up (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

–A stunning amount of Christians are falling for this. I am amazed at how many Christians are completely fixated on politicians. Jesus warns about false christs (the Antichrist is obviously the big, finale false christ–“christ” means anointed one and sums up the prophet, priest, and king roles) and the trend for people to fall for human leadership and not God’s leadership as the age goes on. He says the deception will be so great, that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). It’s happening right in front of you and possibly to you.

–I’m also aware that, thanks to the terrible writing in The Left Behind series, hardly any Christians uphold this view of The End anymore. It’s pretty much a joke and if you believe in a rapture and an antichrist and a tribulation you are an ignorant dork. In other words, the deception is almost complete! Even the Church doesn’t expect any of this anymore. Incidentally, whether you expect it or not changes nothing that God has planned.

–The more of these “crisis” things we go through, the more people will give up their freedoms to the government. We’re even doing it now when there is no discernible crisis. The more we do this, the more the government will take over the economy. Revelation 13:16-17 talks about the Antichrist’s reign on this earth and how he will control buying and selling, limiting it to people with his mark. Again, this 666 thing has been turned into a joke, yet you see the reality of this already at work. Would you follow the Antichrist to buy food, medicine, and more toilet paper?! Careful how you answer, because most will.

–All of these things are steps in that direction, each crisis bumps us closer. I’m not saying the coronavirus is the antichrist or fulfilling prophecy. I’m just saying to watch. All of this stuff is happening before any coronavirus arrived, it’s just pushing the trend along nicely. Notice how smoothly it’s happening, how people are asking for it to happen, practically demanding it. It’s happening in a way that makes complete common sense and I’m the stupid one for questioning it. The Antichrist will step right in to a situation already set up for him. He hardly has to do anything. We’re doing fine work down here for him.

–You don’t have to believe me. I really don’t care if you agree. I’m just sitting back and watching it happen and it’s stunning how it seems to be fulfilling everything the Bible said would happen (if you actually read the words on the page for what they say). I’m not trying to freak anyone out about the coronavirus. I am not freaked out about it. I’m just watching the slow slide of our response that will set up everything. The coronavirus will pass, but human stupidity will remain and continue us down the slope.

I am happy about Jesus returning, but not about the suffering, stupidity, and deception that will ruin souls along the way. Don’t be one of them.

Even so, come quickly.

Cain and Abel and Who Can You Listen To?

The point of Cain and Abel is that we don’t like people who make us look bad. Instead of reforming our ways, we’ll eliminate those who look better. People who look better than you, show that it’s possible to be better. How annoying.

Therefore, humanity decides not to listen to people who are better than us.

Here’s the funny thing though: we don’t listen to people who are worse than us either!

Why would I listen to someone beneath me? Humans ignore people who are beneath us.

This leaves humanity in an odd place of only listening to people who we deem to be on our level, which is about four people. Maybe. Depends on what day it is. Probably only two on average.

Humans don’t listen. That’s why faith is hard. Faith comes by hearing. We don’t hear.

God is infinitely better than us. When God became flesh and dwelt among us; we killed Him.

At the same time, people constantly judge God for all His wrath and why He does things the way He does and “if I were God” I would certainly run things differently.

God is simultaneously above us and beneath us, bottom line then is that we don’t listen to Him. Not a chance. We can’t figure out what level He’s on, but we know it aint ours.

Learn to listen. This doesn’t mean you agree with everything, but be careful of dismissing people. If they annoy you with their smarts, chill. You can learn from people who are smarter than you. If they annoy you with their lack of hygiene and mental insight, chill. Knowledge puffs up, there are a lot of dumb smart people out there. Sometimes getting a fresh, uneducated opinion is refreshing and insightful.

Don’t cross people off your list because of how they look, think, or smell.

This is very difficult. I’m not saying I’m the expert at this, but I do think it’s true. As Paul said, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.”

Doing that is hard. It takes study and thought. That’s why your brain makes assumptions about people based on their appearance and intellectual attainments. It’s easier to dismiss someone for who they are than it is to think about what they are saying.

In the end, listening is the backbone of faith. Faith is a big deal in Christianity. Learn to listen, and above all, learn to listen to God. He has the words of eternal life. Everything God says is good, you can let down your guard with Him.

For people, test the spirits. Hold fast to that which is good. Every person says stupid stuff. Be discerning, do the work and be gentle with those you deem are wrong, cuz it might be you.

Suffering is Not Optional

American Christianity is ridiculously happy.

We are living in the most prosperous nation in the most prosperous time of history. We revel in our abundance, comfort, and ease.

Rather than chalking it up to fortune for being born in this time and an amazing amount of hard work by those who came before us, we instead convince ourselves our abundance is a result of our faith.

We show our faith by pointing to all our stuff. “See how much God has blessed me? I must be doing it right.”

Christians are not allowed to mourn these days. If you do, you’ll get a lecture, “Hey, we don’t mourn like the world does. Knock it off, you’re making us uncomfortable while we sing our happy songs.”

The most amazing thing about this embrace of happiness, comfort, and ease is that the New Testament is pretty much against happiness, comfort, and ease!

There are several verses neglected by our modern happy Christianity.

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
–Romans 8:17

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
–2 Timothy 2:12

There are many verses in the NT about suffering, trials, tribulations, and testing. We are following Jesus Christ, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. We’re following a crucified Savior.

How this gets interpreted as happy, happy I have no idea. Notice these verses are saying you won’t reign with Christ, nor will you be glorified with Him, if you don’t suffer. Suffering is like a big thing, a determiner of your salvation.

The Bible does talk about joy and rejoicing frequently. Typically they come up in weird places though. Take 1 Peter 4:13 for instance:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

We rejoice when we are suffering. We tend to think rejoicing and joy show up when I am comfortable and everything is going great. The NT puts joy in the opposite experience.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials
–James 1:2

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,
–1 Peter 3:14

And, of course, don’t forget the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Blessed are you when terrible, rotten, nasty things happen to you.

It takes no spiritual strength to be happy when everything is happy. But you know the Spirit is working in you when you can have true joy when all earthly things are falling apart.

Suffering is good for us. People don’t get nearly as depressed in suffering as they do in overloaded comfort and ease. Just observe our culture.

I once heard it said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”

Indeed. If you follow Christ, you will suffer. If you suffer for following Christ then you know you are a child of God. If you are a child of God then you know you have an inheritance that is undefiled and fadeth not away.

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Suffering teaches. Tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.

I could go on and on, because the NT is all over this issue. Modern American Christianity pretends it doesn’t exist and carries on ignoring page after page of God-breathed writing.

Read the Book. Follow Christ. You will suffer if you do this. But He promises it’ll be worth it in the end.

6 Things to Do When You Have a Bad Day

My family recently adopted a dog. She is precious. She is adjusting well to life in our family.

Today, however, was a little rough. She was a bit hyped up today. She was jumping on people and yelping and just all-around getting carried away. Then she peed on the kitchen floor.

This wasn’t one of her best days.

As I put her in her kennel for the night, I patted her precious little head and said, “Do better tomorrow there little dog.”

As I walked into the house I thought, “You know, that’s not bad advice.”

Sometimes you just have a bad day. You fall into laziness. You give in to temptation. You snap at someone. You regret what you did or didn’t do. You had a bad day.

What should you do when you have a bad day?

  1. Review the day. Analyze what went wrong. Why do you feel crummy? What led you to fall? If any glaring sins pop into your mind, agree that they were bad and talk to the Lord about them. Learn from what you did.
  2. Look forward. Nearly every day before nodding off, I sigh a prayer that says, “Well, Lord, one day closer to being with you.” Look forward to the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
  3. Resolve for tomorrow. One thing to do before nodding off at night is to make a list of things to do tomorrow. Put things on there that keep you busy and address the errors of today.
  4. Wipe the slate. Another good thing is to apologize before sleep. If you hurt, lost your patience with, or wronged anyone, address the hurt and apologize. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath or anyone elses!
  5. Read the Word. A great thing to do before bed and right when you wake up is to read a couple pages of Scripture. Put some living word in your brain before bed. Can’t go wrong there.
  6. Do better tomorrow. Remember the crummy feeling you have when you mess up a day. Whatever fleshly lust you indulged that momentarily felt good; the gross feeling removes any joy. Learn from the sorrow and do better tomorrow!

The Downfall of Institutions and Pride

The central point of Romans 9-11 that is missed because of our fixation on Calvinism, is the warnings about rejoicing at the fall of the “others.”

Paul explains the interaction between Jews and Gentiles in those chapters. The Jews were chosen to bring forth the Messiah. Through them, by way of the Messiah, all nations would be blessed.

Unfortunately (if that’s the right word), the Jews rejected their own Messiah. In so doing, they were cast aside for a time. But also, fortunately (if that’s the right word), through the rejection of the Messiah salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection is fully revealed, so much so that Gentiles will be drawn to The Light.

Paul warns Gentiles not to get arrogant. Gentiles will think Jews were set aside because Gentiles are better. Paul says not to go there!

“Don’t get a big head, Gentiles, if God cut out the original people, you better believe He’ll cut out new rebellious people.”

This issue has implications for other contexts as well.

Last week the Catholic Church got busted and I saw many a Protestant Evangelical proudly preening. “What’d you expect from them? You don’t see that problem in our churches.”

Willow Creek is falling apart and many with small churches like to point out the megachurches and the flashy suburban Christian stuff. “What’d you expect from them? You don’t see that problem in our churches?”

Republicans and Democrats trade these shots on a daily basis, pointing out the fault in the other side. “What’d you expect from them? You don’t see that problem on our side.”

Here’s the thing: Is is on your side, you just forget it or justify it more easily.

When we point out the failures of others, our own ego gets a boost. When our egos get boosted, we soon fall into our own pits.

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Pride comes not only through your own success, but also by observing other people’s failures.

Pride will knock you down. Legitimate wrong should be addressed and punished. But gloating over sin, over destructive behavior in others, is not helping; it will only foster the same arrogance that produces sin to begin with.

Pursue righteousness. Other people being sinners does not make you or your side righteous. Doing righteousness is what pursuing righteousness is. Do that.

How to Un-vain Your Vain Life

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” is the cry of Ecclesiastes.

This was written by a man who experienced everything, so he knew what he was talking about.

One of the reasons his life was vain is because he focused it on himself. The pronoun “I” shows up about 50 times. “My” shows up 17 times and “mine” appears 8. “Me” shows up a lot too.

Ecclesiastes is not a long book!

I gave my heart to know wisdom. . .
I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure. . .
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine. . .
I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards. . .
I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees. . .
I got me servants and maidens. . .
I gathered me also silver and gold. . .

Solomon gave himself to various pursuits, all fine things, nothing wrong with any of them. But he went all in for these things. He experienced each to its full.

When he was done, the thrill was gone and he concludes:

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

The world thinks we only have one life. That being the case, you better live it to its fullest. Grab all you can. YOLO!

Solomon did and it was empty.

If you go after life, act as if this is the only life you’ll get, you will live a selfish, narcissistic lifestyle. It will be all about you. And there is nothing more empty than that.

Solomon’s conclusion goes like this:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Solomon’s conclusion is that temporal things are empty, but we can live for something higher. Fear God, which means keep God’s commandments.

Here’s the cool thing: God’s commandments are called “the law.” There is one word out there that fulfills the law: LOVE!

Love is something you do FOR OTHER PEOPLE!

When Solomon lived for himself, his life was empty. Nothing lasted, nothing brought true pleasure and there was zero eternal fruit.

You can take Solomon’s word for it and learn young to stop living for yourself. Instead, live in the fear of God by doing what God says, which is summed up with love.

Give yourself for others. Spend your money on others. Use your time and energy to help and encourage others.

If nothing else you will get eternal reward. But on top of that, you can live in such a way as to not feel entirely pointless, fruitless, and vain.

Love is what you do to un-vain your vain life. Give it a try.

When the Bible Interferes With Your Doctrine

Occasionally, when you read the Bible, it will become apparent that what you were taught is not what the Bible says.

What to do when the Bible disagrees with your doctrine?

Usually you start by asking your teacher, “Hey, how comes this here verse don’t say what you done told me?”

Your teacher will more than likely explain the verse away, or list 14 other verses that distract the issue, and let you know that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. They will tell you that the problem, of course, lies with you and your uneducatedness. Good thing you have such a wise teacher!

You will then go back and read the Bible some more and you will come across the same question. You will remember what your teacher told you. You will look up the 14 verses that were listed, which you are now also more familiar with. Sometimes your understanding really was off and the teacher was right.

But other times you will figure out that the answers you were given don’t quite seem to jive with Scripture. In fact, often times, they conflict with verse after verse.

For many years I, along with just about every evangelical, was taught that we are saved by faith alone. I assumed the Bible said this. There are 14 verses people will list to prove that we are saved by faith alone. None of those 14 verses says we are saved by faith alone.

In fact, the only time the Bible mentions being justified by faith only is in James 2, where it clearly says we ARE NOT justified by faith only.

There are volumes written to explain why we are justified by faith alone and how you just don’t understand James, or you don’t understand why you don’t have to listen to James, or some other explanation you don’t understand.

You can hear the answers and have it explained to you 4,000 times and still not be able to get around James saying we are not justified by faith only.

So, at a certain point you have to decide: will I go with the doctrinal gymnastics of my group, or will I simply take the plain language of the Bible and go with that?

Most go with the group.

Some go with the Bible. I recommend going with the Bible.

Take the simplest explanation of each passage, which can only be seen by the context. Pretend that every verse means exactly what it says, stop trying to cancel out one verse with another one, and you’ll be amazed at how much more easy the Bible is to understand.

Stick with that simple message and act as though it were true.

If the simple message of the verses disagrees with your doctrine, make appropriate adjustments to your doctrine. Do not adjust the verses to your doctrine!

Everyone knew what James was talking about until Martin Luther invented justification by faith alone. Ever since then people have been trying to reconcile man’s ideas with James’ inspired message. And this is one example of about 5,000 where our man-made doctrine disagrees with Scripture.

Everything is simplified if you just drop man’s ideas and stick with the God-breathed words of Scripture.

You will be amazed at how consistent and simple the Bible is once you decide to stop defending your doctrinal camp. It’s truly beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Act as though the Bible is true. Do the work to find out what it means based on the context. Put those words into action. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. If you are following man’s doctrine and not God’s Word, then faith is not what you are doing.

God’s Word is what has life. Don’t let man’s ideas keep you from the living Word of God.

Two Challenges to Learning Doctrine

Learning doctrine is pretty straightforward:

Learn the doctrine!

That’s it! Pretty easy, eh?!

Doctrine is just a fancy word for teachings. Learning doctrine means to learn what the Bible teaches. Note it does not mean learning what people say the Bible teaches, but what the actual Bible actually teaches.

Learning what the Bible teaches is pretty straightforward:

Learn what the Bible teaches.

That’s it! Pretty easy, eh?!

One would think so. It seems all a person would have to do is read the Bible and learn what it says.

If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Hardly anyone is. I think there are two hurdles that prevent us from learning what the Bible teaches. Two thing we must clear first in order to be taught from the Scriptures.

1. You can’t be afraid to leave wrong teaching.
All of us have learned poor doctrine. All of us have gone along with a teacher or a group because we didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t fully understand the Bible, how could we? We just started learning what we were taught! While trying to learn it for ourselves, we trust other people who’ve been around longer to steer us in the right direction. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those who teach you haven’t learned themselves. They are merely teaching what they were taught with little personal examination in between.

You can’t be afraid to leave old, bad teaching. If something is bad, it seems it would be easy to drop it. You would be wrong! There is reputation: I’ve staked things on this teaching; if I leave it now I’ll look like a fool. There is peer-pressure: this is what my group thinks; if I reject it they will turn on me. There is respect: just because your teachers were wrong, doesn’t mean they are bad people, but if you disagree with them they might interpret that disagreement as disrespect. There is safety: it’s easier to stick with what you’ve got than to let go of the safety line and swim out into the deep alone.

Your desire to learn truth needs to get to a place where your desire overcomes your fear. Where regardless of the cost or inconvenience or sheer terror, I must get to the truth. Paul reached a place where he counted all his life as dung for the excellency of gaining Christ. That’s the moment; that’s the feeling; that right there is faith. Faith is scary.

Do you have the guts to let go of those things that are behind in order to grab hold of what lies before you in Christ?

2. You can’t be afraid to adapt to new teaching.
Once you’ve convinced yourself to let go of the old, faulty teaching (and not everything you learned before is faulty necessarily. Don’t throw out the good old baby with the dirty old bathwater!), you now have the challenge of learning and adapting to new teaching.

Learning means getting more information. When you get new information it will change what you do. You now know more and this new knowledge will bring added insights and perspective. You can’t keep doing the old things with the new information.

When you learn biblical doctrine, your new life in Christ will be radically different from your old life in the flesh. Old things are passed away, all things have become new. There is a new training and a new discipline to bring about a new life. Getting yourself to act on that new information is scary. You’ll feel stupid, self-conscious, foolish, and tentative. Does this really work? Is this worth it?

Remember when Israel left Egypt? They hated enslavement in Egypt. They got the guts to leave it and immediately started complaining about their new free life. “Can’t we go back to Egypt where we at least had good food to eat?”

This is the struggle of faith. That’s why the OT was written for our learning! Israel struggled to believe that God knew what He was doing. We laugh at them and mock their wimpiness while we run from new freedom in Christ today!

We’re doing the same thing.

Living with God, learning His ways, is terrifying to your flesh. Your flesh wants no part of it; it still wants to be in bondage where at least decisions were taken care of for you.

Learning aint easy because learning changes things and change is tough. Learning aint easy; but it’s totally worth it. When you become a man, put away childish things. Adulthood is freaky, but totally worth it. Grow in Christ. Learn. Live with confident hope that what Christ calls you for will indeed set you free. The just shall live by faith. Live by faith.

Force-Feeding Doctrine and 10 Signs That You’ve Been Indoctrinated

“Doctrine” in the Greek is simply a word that means “teaching.” When the Bible speaks of sound doctrine, it’s talking about what the Bible teaches. When the Bible speaks of bad doctrine, it’s referring to doctrines that people invented.

We are supposed to maintain and hold to sound doctrine–what God said in His Word–and we are to avoid bad doctrine–stuff that people make up.

The only way you know you are hearing sound doctrine is if it lines up with Scripture.

Doctrine can be good or bad; it depends what it’s based on.

But even if a teacher has good doctrine, that doctrine can be taught in a bad way.

“Doctrine” is the root word of “indoctrinate.”

Indoctrinate has two meanings according to Websters:

to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments: to teach.

This seems like a fine thing. It simply means to teach something, usually foundational, basic stuff. No problem there that I can see. But here’s definition number 2:

to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

OK, here’s where trouble comes!

To indoctrinate in a bad way means to get people fired up about your particular brand of teaching. It becomes less about what is taught and more about defending what was taught. It gets rabid, hostile, partisan, and fighty.

The attempt is no longer to teach, as much as it is to defeat the other side and win members to your party.

The quote I riffed on last week was this:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

To me, this sounds remarkably like indoctrination! People who think their doctrine is the Gospel, that their doctrine must be believed in order for you to be saved, are in the indoctrination camp.

Coming to Christ is secondary to adhering to their theories and their group. If you dare veer from their group you will feel the wrath of the group upon your tiny-brained little head!

What is more important to you: bringing people to Christ, or adding adherents to a doctrinal camp?

Preach the word. Do this in season and out. You will preach doctrine if you do this, as doctrine is in the Bible.

But if promoting a particular brand of doctrine overpowers the proclamation of God’s Word, then you are indoctrinating people.

Here are ten signs you’ve been indoctrinated: (perhaps a couple by themselves don’t mean anything, but if a number of them match, watch out!)

–You have no idea how to defend what you believe, so you tell people to read This Guy or talk to This Pastor, you rely upon something someone else said or wrote to defend your stance.

–You see your pet doctrine on every page of Scripture, to the extent you can no longer actually read the Bible without seeing your camp’s fight cry on every page, and that’s not because your doctrine is actually on every page either; you just can’t see the Scriptures anymore because your doctrinal branding has clouded your vision.

–Your doctrine can be immediately labeled because it sounds exactly like all those people in that group.

–You feel pressure to conform to everything everyone in your group is saying and doing. There is no room for questions, doubts, or any freedom to do anything outside of the approved norms.

–You quote people as much as or more than Scripture.

–You frequently, like every time you open your mouth, get corrected by the Gurus of your group until you only say the party line.

–Your faith is not leading to joy but to guilt-ridden pressure to  keep up with The Group and make sure you measure up at all times, along with judgment on those beneath you.

–You begin every attempt to teach God’s Word with a detailed explanation of Your System that people “need to understand first.”

–You believe that only people who agree with your doctrine are saved.

–You honestly think that bringing people to Christ is exactly what bringing people to your doctrinal camp is.

Entrance into heaven is not granted because you agree with a group. You get in because you love, believe, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t let your doctrine overpower the Word of God.

Doctrine and the Gospel

I saw this quote on the internet the other day:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

I fully agree that you are saved by the work of Christ on the cross or not at all (as long as the resurrection is included). No problem there.

But the idea that my belief in the Gospel equals my belief in a man-made attempt to explain what Christ did, crosses the line.

Substitutionary atonement is not the Gospel. It’s the Calvinist/Reformed understanding of the Gospel.

If this quote is true, then only Calvinist/Reformed people can be saved.

This is one example of many I have seen and heard over the years. This is not an issue with substitutionary atonement; it’s an issue with overstating your case.

The fact that you can read your doctrine into the Gospel does not mean that your doctrine IS the Gospel.

One of the main problems Jesus Christ had with the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day was the demand to adhere to their ideas rather than adhering, by faith, to God Himself.

Believing what people say is not believing the Gospel! Believing a person’s summation of the Gospel is not believing the Gospel!

You do not have to have 100% agreement in doctrine with some elite group in order to get into heaven.

Furthermore, substitutionary atonement was not codified until about 600 years ago. Are we to believe that no one was saved before the Reformers showed us what the Gospel was?

Your job is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. To grow in your love for Him and all He has done and will do for you.

All of this is based upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. It is not based on adherence or conformity to a group’s doctrine.

The temptation to say “Only people who agree with me are saved because I’m the only one who knows what the Gospel is” ruins people, leads to self-righteousness, and divides the Church.

Stop doing that.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

That’s a direct quote from the Bible and there are other verses like it. None of these verses say “believe what some guy theorized about what Jesus did and you will be saved.”

Know Christ yourself. Know His Gospel. Pray and talk with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. People can help you understand the Gospel (Ephesians 4 makes that clear), but nowhere is salvation promised to those who agree in totality with some random group.

Deal with God. He’s your Judge. Deal with the Word of God, for by His Word you will be judged.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
–Matthew 15:8-9

The Pitfall of Success

There’s a lot of talk about success. As my kids get older and leave the house for college, they are surrounded by success talk and how they need to take over the world and be the best.

I heard a good phrase the other day, went something like, “there should be less talk about success and more talk about excellence.”

I think that’s spot-on. Do a good job; don’t worry about definers of success.

For most, “success” means money, followers, recognition, and other physical measurements of accomplishment. None of which necessarily mean anything. One of the Kardashians has over 100 million Twitter followers.

To most, 100 million Twitter followers is success. I would not accuse any Kardashian of being successful! That’s not success in my book.

I don’t want my kids to succeed if succeed means selling your soul to get money, fame, and celebrity. That stuff ruins people.

One of the pitfalls, the inherent weaknesses, of the Old Covenant was that success would be the result of listening to God.

If Israel kept their law they would dwell in their land and defeat enemies and have material success. God knew from the outset this would be devastating to them.

For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant.
–Deuteronomy 31:20

Remember this is said before they even got in the Land! God knew what was going to happen. Sure enough Israel gets success under Solomon and he gets arrogant, disobeys God, and the nation is divided.

The New Covenant is altogether different. We’re told repeatedly in the New Testament that if we listen to God bad things will happen to us!

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
–2 Timothy 3:12

Following Christ results in Christlike results. Christ was crucified. That’s why following Christ is referred to as “taking up the cross.”

We are counted as sheep for the slaughter. We are killed all the day long. Mortify your members on the earth. Present your body a living sacrifice.

No one likes this message. The popular Christian message is “follow Christ and you’ll get health and wealth.” What’s the difference between that and the Old Covenant’s “follow the law and you’ll get health and wealth?”

The Old Covenant didn’t work. The New Covenant, which is better according to the Book of Hebrews, keeps us from the trap of material success.

The New Covenant begins with us humbly receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then leads to humbly having the mind of Christ, who was a servant who laid down His life for others.

The New Covenant keeps us humble and keeps us from the trap of material success. We’re told that you can’t serve God and mammon–mammon represents material success.

Watch out for success and even for the lustful desire to accomplish material success. It destroys the soul.

Backfiring Prayers

I prayed something this morning that I rarely, if ever pray.

Recently I have heard about several people having accidents and health complications. Bad stuff. Hospital involving stuff. No fun. Gross. Yuck. Painful. I feel so bad for people who have to suffer in hospitals.

So, one of the things that made it into my morning prayer was praying for my physical health and that I wouldn’t get hurt today!

As soon as I prayed it my brain thought, “Uh-oh! You know what’s going to happen today don’t you?”

A little bit later I was out on a 4-mile run, something I do four or five times a week. Sure enough, at the mile and three-quarters mark, this unbelievable pain entered my lower back over my left hip.

It actually made me pull up and limp to a stop. It was excruciating pain! “I knew it,” my brain said. “That’s what you get for praying for physical health!”

I went off the side of the road and stretched and walked and slowly got back to a jog and then began running again. The pain mostly went away. Who knows if there will be lingering effects.

I’m sure I’m fine. It’s several hours later that I’m writing this and there’s no pain.

Well, maybe because I prayed that pain went away! Maybe that was my lesson: what would have happened if I hadn’t prayed that?! Or, maybe it was a lesson that when I pray for physical health God reminds me to pray about higher things by giving me physical pain on that very day.

Such things are open for interpretation. This is probably an area where praying Christians have more confusion than the non-praying person.

I believe that prayer changes things. I have no idea what things, nor what changes. But I know it does something.

I also think most of our prayers are on a surface level that becomes somewhat discouraging to God, or not, maybe “discouraging” isn’t the right word. He wants to hear from us; I just bet He wishes we’d ask for better things besides physical comforts.

Anyway, I have no point.

This is just one experience in one day of one believer. Thinking about prayer and life. Pray more. We should all pray more. Go pray. Just be careful what you pray for! Or not, I don’t know! Just pray!

Sin and Living Documents

President Trump is about to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court. Depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, this is either great news or devastatingly evil news.

The fact that there is so much emotion about a new justice in the Supreme Court should, if nothing else, let you know that the legislative branch has taken upon itself way too much power.

One of the fundamental issues about deciding who a new justice will be, is their take on the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States is our founding document. All law is supposed to be reviewed to see if it is consistent with the guidelines established by the Constitution.

No surprise to anyone, people fight over this issue.

Some are literalists and try to interpret the Constitution in a manner consistent with the authors of it. By reading their writings, like The Federalist Papers, and reading the Constitution, you can get a good idea where they would stand on most issues. Literalists believe that the authors literally wrote what they literally meant.

Opposite of Literalists are the Living Constitution people, or Loose Constructionists. These people think the Constitution can change with the times and should be adjusted to contemporary ideas. Therefore, it does not matter what the Founders literally meant; instead what matters is if the Founders lived today, what would they say today?

These two views are not compatible and have served to exacerbate the political rancor in our nation.

This argument is very similar to how people interpret the Bible. Some believe the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and is to be taken simply and literally, that the authors meant exactly what they said.

Others think the Bible is shifting, that there are societal things in there that can shift with the shifting development of culture. The authors were not inspired, they just did the best they could with what they knew. Our job is to interpret what they would have meant if they lived with us.

Just as these two views lead to widely divergent views of the Constitution, they also lead to divergent interpretations of Scripture.

If you know me at all, you know I am a literalist. I would be when it comes to the Bible and also in regards to the Constitution. Words mean things. We should find out what they mean as they were intended and adjust accordingly.

It is no surprise to me that loose views of the Bible and loose views of the Constitution lead to liberal takes on life. This looseness is a desire to justify sin and make sin a shifting thing for the purpose of making sin something different that what I do!

Keeping yourself bound to an unchanging standard limits your fleshly desires, which is the point of both the Bible and the Constitution. To assume that your fleshly desires trump standards is to eventually destroy yourself.

The Church and America are currently destroying themselves and this interpretation issue is one of the destroying factors.

I do not much care about the downfall of America, it is inevitable. Yes, it is sad, but it’s what happens to human institutions.

I do care about the destruction of the Church and the trampling under foot of God’s word to accommodate our sin. This is not, and will not, work out well.

Words mean things. We should endeavor to keep those meanings and adjust accordingly. This is especially true of God’s inspired words.

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
–John 12:48

Social Media, Faith and Freaking Out

I am writing this on June 21. The big hubbub is the kids being separated from their illegally immigrating parents.

This is all over the internet and everyone and their mother has an opinion on it. People, including politicians, are using the Bible to “prove” their side of the argument.

This is one of the problems I have with the modern social media culture we live in: the media completely controls what people are aware of and what people momentarily care about.

This exact immigration policy has been enforced for several presidents now. One must ask one’s self why this is an issue only with this president.

I am not a fan of any of our presidents, to be honest, so I have no axe to grind in that battle. But it is intriguing watching what people get fired up about and when.

I’m curious what the new item everyone is freaked out about now when this posts (Supreme Court Justices happens to be the issue!). Social media is just one freak out to the next. It’s exhausting and pointless.

I find it very sad that people use other people’s kids as tools for their political agendas, whether school shooting victims or immigration issues. Most don’t care about these kids; they care about their side winning elections.

The Bible was not written to tell governments how to run a country. The Bible was written so that people of faith would know how to live.

One of the things the Bible repeatedly says is to not freak out, to be patient, self-controlled, and to remain humbly at peace.

You can’t do this if your mind is wrapped up in scare mongering and political rancor.

If you care about kids who are suffering, go out and find one and help him and keep it to yourself before God. No need to post about it or make a political movement. No need to work up others to your cause. Love your neighbor. You don’t need an institution or government authority behind such a thing. Just go do it.

Here’s a tip: The noisier a group is, the less they are actually doing. Busy people don’t have time to talk; they are out doing things. The empty wagon is the loudest wagon. Social media hubbub is a substitute for action.

Helpful people rarely get attention because helpful people are not doing anything for attention.

Serve the Lord. Be at peace. If you’re not at peace, you’re not minding the things of God, but rather the things of this earth, and you’re probably not actively doing anything helpful for anyone.

Serve the Lord not as eye-pleasers hoping to get attention from adoring crowds, but in simplicity of heart, showing the love of Christ to people who need it.

It’s not complicated and it requires no degrees, voters, nor fans. You simply present your body as a living sacrifice and go do God’s will. I beseech you to go for it.

For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men
–1 Peter 2:15

Talking does not silence foolish people; doing good does. Lots of fools need silencing. It sure seems obvious we need more doing of good!

Oh, Grow Up!

The modern irresponsibility in the church is a reflection on society. Being irresponsible is not something you would learn from reading the Bible.

Therefore, we must conclude, that any doctrine encouraging people to be irresponsible must be man-made, a result of philosophy.

Our society is currently bemoaning the number of 30-year olds who live in their parents basements. Just recently there was a man in his 30’s whose parents took him to court to get him out of their house.

What laundry list of things has gone wrong in that family?

Work ethic has taken a massive hit. People take every excuse to stay home from work. The number of people who could be in the workforce but are not is higher than ever.

Our society is massively sensitive to the words of others. Sticks and stones break bones and names never used to hurt anyone. Now apparently, names practically kill people, or so they’d have you believe.

These things actually go together. The only people who are sensitive to what people say about them are people who have lots of time on their hands. Busy people generally don’t care what others think about them. They have things to do.

All of humanity needs to hear one phrase very loudly in their ears: Oh, grow up!

This same mentality has taken root in the church. The church also is filled with people who need to hear: Oh, grow up!

The amount of Christians who tell me they don’t have to do God’s commands, or that it’s not what we do; it’s who we are, and let go and let God, and all other sanctimonious, quasi-theological sounding blather that means: Don’t tell me what to do, is ridiculous. We’re human beings; not human doings. Doing commands is Old Covenant bondage, be free, man!

I’m tired of the conversation. I’m tired of arguing whether commands are suggestions or not. I’m tired of arguing about whether grace means no work or not. I’m tired of the lazy people telling me God only sees Christ, He doesn’t see me, so it doesn’t matter what I do.

Oh, grow up!

Stand up straight and pick up the cross and follow the Man who laid down His life for you and loves you fiercely and has provided everything you need to please your Creator.

Christianity never used to preach such lazy things. Christians used to be industrious and used to preach constantly that we were to pursue holiness, without which no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:4). But not any more. That qualifies as legalism in our day.

So, why is it that Church History is empty of such thinking until society started teaching such things? Curious, no?

If we put as much energy into justifying our sin and trying to circumvent commands, as we did into doing what God said, you’d have a ton of crowns waiting for you on Judgment Day.

I know I have to continue to defend biblical truth. I know I am to be patient with people even if I’m entirely impatient with their brand of stupid. I know I’m to be gentle and not willing to readily fight with people. I also know that people who hold to these responsibility-denying doctrines generally have tough lives. I also know they will stand before God some day and I genuinely want them to be ready.

I’m also aware that I need to grow up too. We all do. We have not yet apprehended.

Our job is to grow into Christ Jesus; not to find all the reasons why we don’t have to.

So, again I say, grow up!

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith,
act like men, be strong.
–1 Corinthians 16:13

Justification and Inspiration of Scripture

Everyone and their mother says we are justified by faith alone. If you step out of line with this, you will get whacked.

I have gotten whacked over this many times. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have left my church over this issue. It’s a large number, much larger than the number who currently attend my church.

My life would be easier and my church would be larger if I told people they were justified by faith alone. That good works are optional at best. That sin isn’t that bad because God only sees Christ in you, not what you do.

People like that message and I can see why. I’d like that message too!

I’ve gotten lots of blowback on this issue. I’ve questioned my take on the issue each time someone argued against it.

As far as I can tell, the main thing that shifted me from being a guy who happily taught justification by faith alone to what I teach now is one main thing: I began reading the Bible regularly and repeatedly.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard, none have shaken me from my conviction that justification by faith alone is wrong.

The results have shaken me. The consequences have shaken me. But I can’t ignore these two huge points:

There is no verse in the Bible that says we are justified by faith alone
and
There is a verse in the Bible that says we are not justified by faith alone.

For me, that’s enough. I don’t know where else to go with that.

If you believe that justification is by faith alone then I am left to conclude that you do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture.

I know, there are many neat theological gymnastics attempting to resolve James and Paul. But all of them boil down to whether the words on the page mean what they say or not. If they don’t, then why listen to the Bible at all? If your theological opinion carries more weight than the Bible, then why mess with the Bible? Just make stuff up.

If James is just making things up, what else is just made up in there? The Bible is either God’s Word or it isn’t.

The Bible clearly says we are not justified by faith only. I know not what else to say.

Here I stand. I can do no other.

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.”

Unbelievable.

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.

Eternal Morality and Being on the Right Side of History

Biblical morality is at odds with culture. This is not new. People have always viewed God’s wisdom as foolishness. What man esteems, God despises.

Societies base morality on majority vote. Morals change because the majority of people today have different morality from the majority of people hundreds of years ago.

Tie this in with our evolutionary mindset and our rampant self-flattery, and we conclude that morality is evolving. Modern morals are superior to ancient morality.

Even the church has bought into this evolutionary idea. We’re embarrassed to maintain biblical morality written thousands of years ago. Many who claim to be Christian promote moral evolution.

Today we talk about changing your morals to be “on the right side of history.” When people look back on this day, you don’t want to be viewed as being on the wrong side.

Typically, and ironically, this statement is said by people who despise history as a record of oppression written by the winners.

To be honest, I do not care what side of history I am on. People’s opinions of my morality bothers me very little.

I believe my morals are correct because, as best I can, I base them on God’s Word. The only side I’m worried about being on is God’s side. His judgment is the only one that matters.

God’s moral standards are eternal. They don’t change. Right will always be right and wrong will always be wrong. God’s truth is not evolving. God’s truth does not change by majority vote.

In the end, the old, out-dated biblical morality will shine through. People who maintain biblical morality will avoid the ailments that come from immoral living. The fruit reveals the wisdom.

In the end, this world will be melted and dissolved. What a melted planet thinks about my morals bothers me none. Use eternal morality to guide your temporal living. You’ll shine in the end.

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Preferred Pronoun Confusion and God

One of the central tenets of Christianity is our aloofness to the idiocy of the world. We’re not to be conformed to the world. We’re to come out from among them and be separate. We’re to be on guard for the deceptions and lies of human philosophy.

If a person does this and has no “dog in the fight,” it’s fascinating to behold what sin makes people do. The irony of sin is inherent to itself–you desire to do what kills you–and the fruit of sin is equally ironic.

Here are two separate news items from our current sin-filled culture.

There is a new law in California about making people use transgender people’s preferred pronouns.

Among the unlawful actions are “willfully and repeatedly” failing to use a transgender person’s “preferred name or pronouns” after he or she is “clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.”

The law states that if provisions are violated, the violator could be punished by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both.

Near the same time that this comes out, we also have this news item:

The Church of England should stop using male pronouns when referring to God in order to counter the erroneous belief that the Almighty has a gender, the first female bishop to sit in the House of Lords has said.

Speaking before the event, the bishop raised the issue of God’s gender, saying: “We’re told that God created human beings in God’s likeness… If I am made in the image of God, then God is not to be seen as male. God is God.”

Instead of using either “He” or “She” to describe God, Bishop Treweek said she  prefers simply to use the word “God”.

Am I the only one who sees the irony?

Clearly the Bible, which Christians believe was authored by God, addresses God with male pronouns. Male pronouns, like “He” and “Him,” are God’s preferred pronouns. That’s how He wants to be addressed. He is our Father in heaven.

I thought we were supposed to use people’s preferred pronouns and that willfully not doing so was wrong? What gives?

I am so confused.

Yet I’m not.

Our world is insane.

If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you will notice the insane everywhere. It becomes rather entertaining.

There is nothing new under the sun. The world has always had crazy people because sin makes people crazy.

We’re told that being rational is a result of having a materialistic, scientific view of the world.

The Bible tells us being wise/rational comes from the fear of God and listening to His Word, which is truth.

Stick with God’s Word, it abides forever. Humanity’s words are far sillier and far more temporal. Act accordingly.

7 Thoughts on the Numerous Recent Moral Failings of Public Figures

When Bill Clinton was elected president, I was cleaning floors in the Northwestern College cafeteria. My roommate’s girlfriend came in and told me, with tears in her eyes, that Clinton won.

“Oh,” I said, and went back mopping.

The Clinton years were a fascinating time to be a Christian. I will admit I got caught up in the hysteria. Monica Lewinski, rape allegations, “at least Nixon resigned” t-shirts, etc.

The moral outrage amongst Christians was astounding. Clinton was the devil incarnate.

Oh how far we’ve come, dear church.

“a new PRRI/Brookings poll says. In 2011, 30 percent of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” Now, 72 percent say so — a far bigger swing than other religious groups the poll studied.

Evangelicals no longer think moral failings are that big of a deal in our politicians. The “other side” apparently has no monopoly on moral failing, so our morals have adjusted accordingly.

The recent election is one possible reason white evangelicals don’t think moral failings are that big of a deal.

Hillary Clinton potentially has played into it, as well. Many Republicans find her unacceptable, and it may be that some dislike her so much that they have stretched their conceptions of who it’s OK to vote for.

Hillary Clinton carries with her all the baggage of her husband. Christians, as I recall, absolutely hated Bill Clinton. His wife is lumped in with him. We’ll vote for any louse as long as it’s not a Clinton louse.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Christians think they vote for the lesser of two evils. If we have to vote for someone who degrades women, so be it, at least he’s not for abortion. Although I understand the desire to protect the unborn, tying our boat to the dock of immoral, immature leadership seems tenuous.
  2. Voting typically makes Christians look stupid. Vote if you think it matters, but perhaps consider keeping it private, along with all your political views. A vote is putting a stamp of approval on a person. When the Church is seen doing that, the Church gets lumped in with the politician. This has never worked out well for the Church.
  3. Our government in America is by the people. We get what we deserve. Politicians are not going to morally reform America. They are not going to get rid of abortion. They will, in fact, continue to flush our morals down the toilet, because that’s what human nature wants to have happen. America needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If America came alive to the Gospel, politics would follow. It doesn’t work the other way. Never has; never will.
  4. Moral lapses in our leaders should be expected occasionally. Leaders are people. People are sinners. But that’s why the Bible says the people we follow should be tested and proved to have character. People make mistakes and grace should be shown to both sides of the political spectrum. Currently, however, we appear to be in a time where the majority of leaders are failing regularly. I’m not sure this is a new thing, or if it’s a result of invasive, incessant media coverage. I don’t know, but none of this makes it right.
  5. The typical way to deal with the moral failings of a person on “our side” is to bring up moral failings of a person on the “other side.” We’re in a battle now of ignoring moral failures while also comparing and contrasting them indefinitely. Moral failings are moral failings. Apologies don’t cut it in leadership. If a leader fails they’re supposed to step down. The fact that our leaders fail and don’t step down, but instead point out how other leaders do it too so leave me alone, is not a good sign.
  6. Men are disgusting. If there’s no other point to take out of the recent headlines, it’s that men are out of control animals. Good grief, men. Get a grip. It’s time to personally fight against pornography, sexual perversion in all forms, and dealing with dignity toward women. Women should also wear more clothing. But still, even if women walked around buck naked, grow up men! Get control.
  7. We are more loyal to our party than we are to our God. We’d, apparently, degrade moral standards for the sake of staying loyal to our guys. When we are in a spot like this, it’s time for an examination: Do we have our trust in God who established morals, or rulers who wield temporal power? The obvious answer here is troubling.

However, this is just a poll and polls are easily manipulated. Polls also show what the majority wants, and a majority of human nature is always going to side with sin.

Actual believers in Jesus Christ are not selling out godliness for the sake of political power. Followers of Jesus Christ are not entangling themselves with the affairs of this life. Jesus paid next to no attention to politics. What He did say is that we seek first the Kingdom of God, He’ll take care of the rest of what we need. He tells His people to let the heathen fight for power; the meek will inherit the earth in the end.

I do wish the Church were more interested in the better country to come than we are in this tottering republic. America has been good to me. I mean no disrespect. But this is not my home. I will not let go of godliness for a bowl of pottage, even if the bowl has the Stars and Stripes on 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.

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.