Fighting Sin Through the Power of the Flesh or the Spirit

Sin is bad; we’re not supposed to do it. How, pray tell, do we fight off sin though?

There are many Christians who think if you just faith enough God will make you not sin, or that you won’t be tempted. There’s a magic moment when you truly call out to God in surrender and the battle is forever over. Sinlessness takes over.

Others think that sin should be fought, that there are actual things we do to defeat sin.

The first option means we do nothing except surrender. God does it all; we’re just passive victors of what Christ does for us.

The second view says we have a part in our own sin battles. That the level of sin in our lives has a direct correlation to our effort to stop it.

The surrender option would be cool, I know why it has a lot of people who believe it. I do nothing and still win! Sweet gig.

The battling view seems more legit, however, both from a practical and a biblical approach.

Paul says we are to bring our bodies under subjection; there are literal physical things we can do to fight off sin. We lay aside the weight of sin, we flee youthful lust. Hebrews says we sin because we haven’t yet striven against sin to the point of shedding blood. Most of us have made peace with sin in our lives. We’re not fighting it as much as we’re covering it so we don’t get caught or look bad.

I think bringing our bodies under subjection is largely something you have to put your mind to and exercise the option. For instance, if your flesh is getting carried away with any number of sins, fasting can be a good route to practice controlling your flesh. Maybe even use it as a punishment for indulging the flesh, make a severer consequence to your actions.

Now, this is where heads explode. “That’s legalism! You’re putting yourself under a yoke of bondage! We have freedom in Christ. You’re undoing grace and trying to overcome sin with works!”

Am I though? How pray tell does sin suddenly stop by me doing nothing?

So if I’m truly tired of a sin I do, how do I get it to stop? Do I just believe more? Surrender more? What does that even mean? How do I go about believing more and surrendering more? What if I already am believing and surrendering, how do I do more of it? Wouldn’t doing more of that be me doing a work?

There is no answer really. All that camp has on their side are increasing levels of doing nothing, which seems entirely weird and hopeless as a strategy.

I’ve run into a number of people who tell me they don’t do anything and now they enjoy levels of no-sin that boggles the mind. I have hung out with these people. I have never been struck by the reality of their alleged sinlessness. Of all the people I know who take the “do nothing to beat sin” approach, they do not strike me as paragons of spiritual attainment.

Yes, there is a pitfall in legalism, just as there is a pitfall in being a lazy bum who does nothing but sit around and wait for Jesus to eliminate their sin struggles. You can attain levels of behavior through sheer will power and discipline. Paul uses the example of athletes striving for a temporal crown as an example.

But Paul’s next point isn’t “So do way less than athletes striving for mastery, in fact, just sit on the couch and do nothing until Jesus magically eliminates your sin battle.” Nope. What Paul says is be like those athletes and do everything to win.

Paul is not a passive person. He attacks. He uses discipline and strategy. I recommend the same thing. I know that’s hard and it would be nice if we could theologically eliminate personal accountability from our levels of sin, but Judgment Day looms and guess what? You will give an account for every deed done in the body whether it is good or bad.

This is a fight worth fighting. It’s why Paul calls it the “fight of faith.” He doesn’t call it the “sit on your butt and do nothing of faith.” I suggest you start fighting your sin by any means necessary, even if it involves you doing something. The entire time you are praying and listening to Scripture. This isn’t some flesh overpowering the flesh thing.

This is the flesh being mortified by the Holy Spirit, it’s having our bodies walk in the Spirit and not fulfilling the desires of the flesh nature. Your body responds either to the flesh or Spirit. Your flesh wants you to sit and do nothing and let sin reign, wait for someone else to take care of my problems. The Spirit wants you to get up and fight with what Christ has given you in the Gospel. Go. Fight. Win.

How Your Speech Keeps you From Spiritual Growth

People talk a lot. The Bible consistently tells us to keep our mouths shut. Yet we keep talking.

The Bible also lets us know that talking is not what we are solely judged on. In fact, God seems not as much concerned with what we say as much as with what we do. Jesus tells a parable where two sons are told by their dad to go work in the field. The one who says, “Yes, sir” never goes. The one who said, “No,” ends up going. Which one did the will of the father? Not the one who said the right thing, but the one who did the right thing.

Christians are confused about faith. We know we are saved by grace through faith. God showed grace through Jesus Christ; our response is faith. Unfortunately, most think faith is the doctrines we believe. We think faith is believing the right stuff. And it is, in part, but it’s way more than that. The test of faith is what you’re doing. Doing things is hard. So instead we talk.

There are three wordy crutches that hurt our faith. Three things we say that keep us from doing what is right but feeling good all the same.

1. Right doctrine
We’re good at spewing out our accepted doctrine. We get our theological camp and get indoctrinated; we say what we’re supposed to say. We quote the right theologians. We use the right proof texts. We know how our favorite commentaries interpret verses. Because we say the right stuff about doctrine we assume we have faith. We know we’re saved because we’re Calvinist, or not Calvinist, or believe in sign gifts or don’t. I don’t know what your particular “anyone who doesn’t believe this isn’t saved” doctrine is, but that’s the thing that’s keeping you from actual faith. On the other side, some delve into doubt. They have unending questions about doctrine. Since they have questions they can’t be expected to do anything until they have no more questions left. Doctrine just becomes an excuse. “How can I listen to God if I don’t understand the nuances of the Trinity fully?” You’ll never do anything, but will sound intellectual in your laziness anyway.

2. Syrupy sentimentality
We use gushy words about God and Jesus, who is our lover and friend. We say the happy lovely thing about life. Always happy, always smooth, always nice. There is lovely sentimentality all over the place, sickly sweet. Your Christian language is a perpetual Contemporary Christian song lyric. It’s not realistic. It seems to miss any depth, nuance, or perhaps pain. But you know you’re supposed to “be strong,” so you keep saying the syrupy stuff. Maybe if you say them enough your doubts will go away. If you actually started living your faith, doing the hard thing, speaking the truth, the sentimentality would fade away because faith is a fight, it’s a long run, it’s hard. We can’t afford do anything that might make me look or feel not “strong.” Therefore, it’s safer to do nothing and feel sentimental than take a chance at losing it all.

3. Christian clichés
You have no idea what you’re talking about, but you know what you’re supposed to say. “God is still on the throne!” Great, what do you think that means? Is God on the throne a replacement for you being responsible? A replacement for you confronting someone over sin? An excuse for you to not apologize? What clichés do you use and why? Do they mean anything, or are they just band aids to cover problems you’ve deemed too hard to resolve? Cliches sound nice but mean little, but we flop them out there to fit in, to say the admirable thing. “Wow, if they say ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’ when their mom dies, they must really have faith.” It’s possible, I sure hope so, but if not, woe to you when you reap the whirlwind from sowing hot air.

Words replace actions. People talk about going on diets more than they diet. People talk about exercise more than they move. People talk about reading the Bible more than they read it. We say stuff. We want our words to replace action. They don’t.

But since we sound good and fit in, we’ll leave faith at that. We’d rather fit in than do weird stuff like doing what God says and risk being the weirdo. Hebrews 11, the great chapter about faith, says at the front of each biographical sketch “By faith” and then it describes what they did. By faith Enoch walked with God. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham got up and moved. By faith Moses left the riches of Pharaoh’s house to suffer with God’s people. By faith they each did what God said.

Enoch didn’t talk about walking with God and go on about how wonderful it is to walk through the roses with his lover, Jesus. Nope, he just walked with God. Noah didn’t discuss ark building schemes and talk about blueprints and his intentions. Nope, he just built the ark. Abraham didn’t talk about the journey and make pithy self-help motivational memes. Nope, he just got up and walked. Moses didn’t say nice words about renouncing wealth and suffering with God’s people as a theory, a throwaway line. He just left the riches and moved into the desert.

Faith does what God says. Doing what God says is hard. Your flesh wants no part of it. Don’t be surprised if instead of obeying you just talk a good game.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
–Matthew 7:20-21

I’m Hoping There Are Visitor Centers in the New Earth

I recently returned from traveling 11,500+ miles across the western half of the United States. It’s a big country with lots of cool stuff in it.

On this trip we visited 35 national parks and monuments, each of which is filled with signs explaining various things about the land we were viewing.

Every national park told us that “at one time this land was covered by water.” They explained how the land features were created over billions of years by forces of erosion and whatnot.

Now there’s actually no way to know how these land features were created. The sign maker wasn’t there and neither was I. They have their theories and I have mine. Mine tend to involve world-wide floods and so forth. They admit water was over everything but certainly not world-wide flood waters!

But no one really knows how mountains and canyons actually got there. As Hebrews 11 says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Faith is the opposite of seeing. I didn’t see the Grand Canyon get made. I and the evolutionist can clearly see it was made, but how it got there is anyone’s guess (some more plausible than others).

So then my brain got thinking: what if, and this is purely speculation, the New Earth looks just like this one and you can travel around it, except at every cool spot there are signs explaining how these formations were actually made?!

There would be visitor centers and they would show movies and the voice of God would explain over video footage showing the formation of the Grand Canyon. We’d get the full scoop on how this stuff was made, get a God’s eye view of flood water draining away and forming stuff or whatever else made it.

I think that would be cool.

Whether the New Earth will have all these things in it is beyond the scope of knowledge. I have no idea. But it would be cool and satisfying if we could know for sure how the Rocky Mountains and Grand Canyons and so forth all got here.

God’s got to be sick of hearing about random chance and erosion doing all this awesome stuff. I’m willing to bet God would like some glory for His handiwork!

7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture

Christians live for the approval of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we have His approval, we don’t need anyone else’s.

It’s not bad to have people’s approval; it’s a nice thing, depending on who the people are! But ultimately we’re concerned with being approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed.

Cancel Culture is the latest manifestation of the world trying to knock everyone into conformity. Conformity is their big weapon. Their world is a giant junior high lunch room.

But the Bible tells us to not be conformed to the world. Christians should resist all intimidation and Cancel Culture power trips.

Resisting conformity only happens if you don’t need the conformer’s approval. If you can get by just fine in life without being applauded, appreciated, or praised by people who can’t stand you, then Cancel Culture will affect you much less.

Who gives a rip what the world thinks?

Continue reading “7 Ways to Resist Conformity During Cancel Culture”

How to Look Forward to Suffering

There’s stuff going on in our country right now that bodes for an unsettled future. I do think there are things moving in the direction of what Bible prophecy seems to indicate will happen.

Do I think The End is about to drop? I have no idea. No man knows the day or hour. What I do know is that the spirit of antichrist is already at work in the world. I think we are going through some trial runs for an antichrist system.

I personally think things need to get much worse on a global level. America going down is not the world going down, hard to believe for Americans, but it’s true. I also know things tend to swing back and forth. I will not be surprised if younger generations swing the other way and fix some of our mess.

I detailed some things I am doing to prepare for tough times coming. I don’t say these things to freak anyone out. I say these things to realistically look at the signs of the times and prepare. How can I best represent Christ in the coming turmoil?

I think of Joseph and the years of famine coming in Egypt. Before the trouble arrived, Joseph directed Pharaoh to take measures to be ready. Although I have not had any dreams or special revelation from God, I think the Bible and a brain can help a guy see the signs of the times.

I get why people would respond to warnings about preparing for trouble with fear. There will be things happening that will cause you to be afraid. Pain is real.

Continue reading “How to Look Forward to Suffering”

God Can Do Above What We Can Ask or Think

This is another biblical phrase that Christians throw around, typically in response to some temporal win.

–Someone loses their job, but then gets hired at an even better job.
–Someone has their house foreclosed on, but they found an even betterer house.
–Someone has a loser first kid, but God gives them a second child who is far superior (OK, probably no one has said this one, but some have thought it I bet!).

“Boom, see? God does more than we could ask or think!”

As though people who lose their jobs or house don’t ask for better ones, or people with loser first kids don’t beg God imploringly for a better next kid.

Typically all the times this verse is quoted it’s in relation to someone getting exactly what they asked or thought, just slightly better, which they kind of thought might happen!

When people ask for healing and instead their pain gets worse, how is this not God doing above what we could ask or think? You didn’t think you could handle any more pain, well, guess what? You can handle pain above what you can ask or think!

Why is the application always in one happy direction?

But the main point is: why is this verse always applied to earthly, temporal things?

Read the context. I can’t stress how much this will help you understand and use verses correctly. What is the context of “God is able to do above what we could ask or think?” So glad you asked.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
–Ephesians 3:17-20

The context is referring to us understanding the bigness of God’s love and being filled with the fullness of God! This sounds close to God’s peace “which passes understanding.” God’s attributes are eternal and very large. Our minds have trouble grasping the totality of these things.

Yet God, who is able to do above what you can ask or think, can embiggen your mind to understand His love. You have no idea what His love is like. How massively huge it is. You can’t even think about what being filled with the fullness of God is like.

But He can help you understand it more and fill you with His fullness. I can’t even begin to comprehend what that means, which is why God doing above what we can ask or think is brought up here. It has to do with enabling us to grasp the hugeness of His love and being filled with His fullness.

I think this is way cool, and definitely more than you’ve asked or thought, and way better than new jobs, new houses, or better kids.

Not Being too Friendly and the Book of Proverbs

When I was a kid I had trouble making friends. I was shy, picked on, and couldn’t see. I was routinely lectured by various family members attempting to be helpful, that I just needed to be friendlier.

“When you walk down the hall; smile at people. When you enter a room; say ‘hello’ to people. If you want to have friends, you need to be friendly. The Bible says that.”

Telling shy and petrified people to smile and say ‘hello’ to strangers is like telling my dog to build a rocket and fly to Mars. Oh sure, she might get one built, maybe even launched, but Mars? Come on, even people can’t do that!

The place where the Bible allegedly says to be friendly to get friends is in Proverbs 18:24, quoted in the KJV says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Anytime I heard this verse I became annoyed.

I remained annoyed until I read this verse in pretty much any other version. Let me focus in on the “a man that hath friends must show himself friendly” phrase in various translations:

Continue reading “Not Being too Friendly and the Book of Proverbs”

Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression

I was listening to a podcast from a professional therapist where he talked about his patients’ depression.

He said a main source of depression (it’s a complicated issue, there are many causes for it) in our day is that we’ve attempted to take away losing.

In any competitive endeavor (not just athletics but grades, finances, promotions, you know, life), there are winners and losers. Losers feel bad. The idea was: losing feels bad so obviously causes depression.

The answer must be: eliminate losing. So we stopped keeping score, we bailed out losing businesses and people, the safety net has all but erased losing.

The theory said this should lead to people walking around in happiness with all the non-losing going on. What a utopia!

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the result. Suicide, drug use, and general depression appear to be higher than ever.

Continue reading “Why Modern Christianity has so Little Joy and so Much Depression”

OK Christians, Time to Do Your Job

In our current state of rancor, arguing, shouting, rioting, and clamoring, I have an idea: how about we listen to what the Bible says a follower of Christ should do and quit following the world’s example.

If we did, we would shine like lights in the world. The good news is that what we’re told to do sounds very refreshing and lovely right about now!

Here’s the main part:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we instructed you,”
–1 Thessalonians 4:11

It’s time (actually it’s always been time) for Christians to put their heads down, shut up, and keep busy.

The world is fighting for power and domination. Let em. Your Father in heaven knows what you need. Seek first His kingdom and all those things will be added to you.

Continue reading “OK Christians, Time to Do Your Job”

Is Joe Biden the Antichrist?

Seemingly every presidential election results in people discussing if the new president is the antichrist. I heard it with Obama, Trump, and now Biden.

The answer is “no.” Here’s why:

First, this implies the antichrist will be an American, which is a typical American thing to think. America isn’t in biblical prophecy in any explicit way. Most prophecy surrounds the Middle East. America isn’t in the Middle East. My guess is that the antichrist will be from the Middle East.

Second, according to dispensational theology (which takes biblical prophecy as literal as possible and believes there will be a person called the antichrist), the antichrist shows up in the Great Tribulation Period. We aren’t in the Great Tribulation Period, so the antichrist is not in power right now. There is a chance he could be before the Tribulation and really get going during it, but I doubt it.

Allow me to make one more point.

If you think the political party that you hate is the one that the antichrist will come from, let me suggest you are already under the sway of the antichrist.

Continue reading “Is Joe Biden the Antichrist?”

Life As Of Late

In the middle of October I met with our church board and told them I was resigning. They did their part trying to convince me to stay, and I appreciate that, but I was also quite clear with them that I couldn’t do it anymore. When I was done talking, they agreed.

Being a pastor takes a toll on a guy, or it at least took a toll on me. There’s a constant wear, emotional and mental mainly, that got to me.

First, there is the burden of giving an account for the souls entrusted to my care. This burden weighed on me massively. I took my job very seriously. Maybe too serious to the point of paralyzing myself with uncertainty about what to do or say. But I couldn’t figure out how to do it any other way.

Second, not only is there a burden on me to do what I can to help, whenever any of the souls I give an account for “mess up,” I feel it is my fault to some degree. Again, many have told me I’m wrong in this and not to do it, but I couldn’t figure out how. Every failing of every person under my care got to me. Perhaps this is my own arrogance, I don’t know, I just know I couldn’t make it stop.

Third, I took so many shots as a pastor. So many people have taken time out of their busy schedules to inform me how terrible I was and how I messed them up. Everyone and their mother had an issue with me at some point. This isn’t actually true, but it felt like it. Again, maybe this is my own arrogance rearing its head. I’m not saying I was right in feeling these things, I’m just saying this is how it felt. I was a pretty insecure guy to begin with, having grown up legally blind and being picked on, the church didn’t do anything to help this insecurity. It felt like junior high all over again (this isn’t unique to the church. I’m painfully aware that the entire world is junior high).

Fourth, yes there were faithful people and I have true friends and there were some who grew in Christ, but it doesn’t really outweigh the pain and the burden. It just doesn’t. Again, people told me it should and that I’m doing it wrong. Great. Fantastic. Can’t help it though. That’s how I’m wired. I couldn’t figure out how to do it differently.

Fifth, I tend to be annoying with my preaching and approach to scripture. By annoying I mean, I like to poke around in stuff that people don’t want me to poke around in. I take what everyone says and examine it, and usually prove that most people have no idea what they are talking about, they’re just repeating stuff. I did this because I had no idea what I was talking about and was just repeating what I heard. I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I started digging around. People didn’t like this. It also fed some Us vs. Them attitudes. I tried to do it better, I tried not to get annoyed and tone it down, but I couldn’t find the button to push to make this happen.

At the end of the day, the problem wasn’t with the church or any person or persons; it was with me. I couldn’t figure out how to do the job without feeling absolutely terrible all the time. There came a point I didn’t want to preach anymore. I was just done.

I’d sit in my office on Saturday night with complete depression sinking in. Sunday morning was just dread and fear. I was not good. I had to stop.

My whole life I’ve been in a pastor’s family. The church takes on a personality in the pastor’s family; it’s like another family member. A burdensome family member who’s always finding fault and is impossible to think of what to get them for Christmas. I’m done with that. I can’t do it anymore. It was feeding things in me and I didn’t want to blow my testimony.

I resigned publicly on November 1. That same day I went to Illinois to see my mom who was having troubles with her cancer treatments. Two days later she was in the hospital. A week later she was home on hospice. A week after that she died. I spent all of November in Illinois.

Needless to say, my brain was pretty shot for quite some time. It started working again on December 16. I know this because I have a voice recording app on my phone where I say stuff I want to remember when my brain works. There is nothing on it until December 16.

I do not want to be a pastor. I have determined that I can’t be The Guy in a church. I don’t think I’m gifted or equipped to do that correctly. I am gifted enough to be one of the guys, but not The Guy. I did my best. I tried. I gave it what I had to give. It’s not something I can continue doing.

I still get ideas and believe I have some insights others may find helpful, I hope this is the case anyway. I am thinking of ways to share these ideas in the future. It won’t be anything big or spectacular, just some hopefully edifying syllables from time to time.

I’m also looking forward to being involved in a church from a non-pastoral perspective. I am looking forward to not having to put up with pastoral awkwardness and judgmentalism that is so habitually heaped upon pastors. I have completely enjoyed every Sunday so far not being a pastor. I look forward to many more to come.

I’m aware that the pastoral role stifled my true nature to an extent! Knowing I represented a group of people kept me in check from saying and doing many things, not sinful things all the time either, just my natural responses.

I no longer represent a group! I represent me before God. Again, no doubt that’s how I should have been before, I know, I know, but I was never able to do so. Much of this was ingrained in me when I was growing up in a pastor’s family with my parents’ attitudes about church and pastoral ministry. It was depressing and fearful. It did a number on me. I feel the weight even as I write this, “Should I say this? Who is going to leave the church when they read this? Don’t be you; they won’t like you. You’re not good enough. Someone will get mad.” Shush!

I don’t know what this non-pastoral life will look like, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a learning curve! I apologize in advance.

I am looking forward to being done with being affiliated with pastoring. Not a pastor’s kid anymore, and now also not a pastor. I imagine this will be cool. I will miss aspects of the job, but all in all, I’m going to enjoy being free!

Thanks for caring enough to read this. I’d appreciate your prayer. Thank you.

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.

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