Joseph’s Technicolor Bender

We have a tendency to hold people in the Bible on a high pedestal. Although there are several biblical characters that seem to be very righteous, most are admittedly tainted. They are people.

I find it somewhat amusing when Christian folk get all high and mighty about marriage with the assumption the totally Bible backs them up.

We seem to forget about the great “fathers of the faith” Abraham, who had several wives. Jacob had four. We lose track when we get to David and Solomon.

There are some pretty bad role models in your Bible. It’s best to stick with your Sunday School knowledge than have your dreams shattered by being informed!

Not really. People in the Bible sin. It’s kind of what people do, whether they’re in the Bible or not.

I came across one of these things the other day reading in Genesis about Joseph and his brothers coming to Egypt to get food. Genesis 43:34 says about the dinner the brothers ate with Joseph:

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of their’s. And they drank, and were merry with him.

So they got “merry” with Joseph. What’s interesting about that word “merry” is that this is the only time it’s translated “merry,” at least in the King James. The vast majority of the time this same Hebrews word is translated “drunk!”

That’s right, Joseph and his brothers all got drunk together. Had a little bender.

Joseph is one of those guys we hold highly. He does little wrong, other than possibly bragging a bit, but uh-oh! Here you go. Joe gets drunk.

Does this shatter your image of Joseph? It shouldn’t. Joseph is a guy. He’s noble and righteous in many ways, and he’s still a guy.

This, in no way, should lead us to excuse our sin. “Well Joseph got drunk, so can I.” “David was unfaithful to his wiveS, so I can be too.” Don’t go there. Our example is to follow Jesus Christ, to be like Him, He who was and is perfect.

What seeing the sins of those in the Bible should do, is relax you in your high and mightiness in pointing out other people’s sin. The next time you see someone “sin big” in front of you, consider they may be as virtuous as Joseph, just having an emotional roller-coaster of a day.

People sin. Get over it. Take care of you.

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Church, Irrelevance and 10 Reasons Why I Did NOT Become a Pastor

I know why I became a pastor and I also know why I did not become a pastor.

1) I did not become a pastor so I could ruin people’s lives. It is never my intent to hurt people or make people’s lives worse. My intent is to help. I know a lot of pastors, and the vast, vast majority of them are just trying to help, yet repeatedly pastors are blamed for ruining people’s lives. There are exceptions, there are wolves leading churches who are ruining lives, but the vast majority of pastors are just trying to help.

2) I did not become a pastor to fight the never-ending battle of keeping people happy. I used to. I tried. I really did. I gave up. I’ve seen pastors nearly kill themselves trying to keep people happy. I will probably not change the start time of church, start singing your niche of music, build a building to your liking, or any other whimsical ideal you invent just to keep you coming to church. I’m all for suggestions; I am not for power play politics.

3) I did not become a pastor to raise your kids. Training your kids is your job, not mine. Yes, I can help. I can be their friend. I can be a good example and teacher. But the primary way I can help is to equip you to know the Scripture better so you can raise your kids. It’s your job. If God wanted me to raise your kids, He would have made my wife give birth to them.

4) I did not become a pastor to entertain you. Yes, I am to effectively communicate the Word, but the effective communication method is not to trump the substance of the communication. I am not here to keep people interested–you either want the Word or you don’t. I have yet to find a way to make people want it other than seeing them saved and indwelt with the Spirit. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make em drink.

5) I did not become a pastor to get respect. I do not wear a clerical collar or any special clothing that sets me apart. I do not make people address me with any title. I always try to be last in line at potlucks. I was a janitor before I was a pastor and it was great training–cleaning up people’s messes for little pay, no respect and the occasional complaint as to how I should have cleaned the mess better. I do not want your respect; I want you to know Christ.

6) I did not become a pastor to argue your pet issue. I will discuss anything at any time of day, but when it becomes clear your interest in church is to argue your issue, I will stop playing. I refuse to argue with people who are itching for an argument.

7) I did not become a pastor to make money. I do not look at church as a tool to better my personal financial situation. We don’t even pass an offering plate at my church. I do not do this for your money: I want you to know Christ.

8) I did not become a pastor to make you a better you. Joel Osteen I am not. I do not want you to have your best life now: I want you to know Christ so you can have your best life for eternity. This life stinks. The only person who can honestly say they are having their best life now are people who are going to hell. It’s true, think about it.

9) I did not become a pastor to make friends. I do not view church as a social club where I can make professional contacts and expand my network. I am here to preach the Truth, and I hope this results in our friendship, but if one has to go, I’m sticking with truth.

10) I did not become a pastor to be your daddy. I am not your boss. I am not the guy who tells you what to do. You are to follow Christ to your Heavenly Father and I am to help you get to Him. The road does not end with me. I am merely a minister, a servant, a guy trying to help. I must decrease; He must increase.

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When I was in seminary I was told by a counselor viewing my personality test results, “Um, you do not have the personality of a pastor.” Word up. I have received few compliments better than this one.

I may be in the wrong line of work, God will let me know, but this is what I do and this is why I do it.

Reformed Theology and Heaven

One thing that bothers me about the Reformed/Calvinist downplaying of eschatology is that it has a tendency then to downplay heaven. I do not mean that Calvinists don’t believe in heaven, or that heaven isn’t a desire of theirs, again it’s a matter of emphasis practically speaking.

“Hell” shows up in the index to Calvin’s Institutes, “heaven” does not. Calvin has one chapter on eternal life “Meditating on the Future Life.” It’s five pages long and the first section has the subtitle “The design of God in afflicting his people.” The Institutes is over 1,400 pages. He does mention heaven in it, but not enough for the index I guess.

William Shedd’s (main theologian of the American Presbyterian church and a Calvinist) Dogmatic Theology, over 900 pages long, has two pages on heaven and 87 pages on eternal punishment!

John Blunt’s Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology doesn’t even have “heaven” as a subject in it.

When eschatology is a minor part of your theology, heaven diminishes. Not only is this logical, it seems to play out in reality.

I won’t mind being proven wrong that Reformed/Calvinist theologians emphasize heaven, I hope they do, I just don’t see it. Again, not saying Calvinists don’t have a desire for heaven, I’m just making observations.

What’s the best Calvinist/Reformed book on heaven? I’d like to read it.

Who wrote the “law of sin and death?”

Romans 7 and 8 speak of two laws–the law of God and the law of sin and death. This is not one law acted on in two ways–fleshly or spiritually–but two different laws. It’s another law.

Question: who is the author of these two laws, particularly at issue is who is the author of the law of sin and death?

Wouldn’t you know it, Christians argue over this point too! I’m stunned. Here are some of the theories:

1) Satan–since he’s the murderer from the beginning and has the power of death he must be the author of the law of sin and death.

2) Self–it’s an invention of our sinful natures.

3) God–James 4 says there’s only one lawgiver, so God must be the author.

I’m a fan of theory three. I think James 4:12 is the definitive verse on this issue. If Satan were a lawgiver, Satan would also be a judge, and there’s only one judge. Same thing applies to the self. If I invent my own law I become my own judge.

God gave the law to Moses written on stone and yet God never intended people to externally follow this external law because it was impossible, as He told them when He gave it to them.

God has always looked for an internal, spiritual law keeping. A new heart, the law converts the soul, a circumcision of the heart. The law is spiritual and must be followed in and by the Spirit.

Limited illustration–It’s the difference between me writing a list of chores for my kids to do on a Saturday that they trudge through over 9 hours and having them wake up and immediately do chores. I shouldn’t have to say it and a humble child shouldn’t have to hear it, but becomes internally motivated to be helpful out of love, gratitude or respect for the parents.

Indeed. God has as much success with that plan as I do.

Ignoring the Wrong Words

There are words we should ignore in life, pretty much any word that proceeds out of the mouth of man. OK, not quite, but pretty close.

However, what generally happens is that we ignore every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth and we hold to words some guy told us.

This is a devastating sin. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. If we are not hearing God’s Word, we have no faith.

Yet repeatedly the Bible shows us that man listens to men more than they listen to God. They teach the traditions of man rather than the commands of God. I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ.

In the end, you can listen to whomever you desire, but only one person’s word abides forever, and it aint yo momma’s.

“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”

Go for it, listen to who you want, but remember it is God’s Word that judges us. If this were a reality in our lives, how much time would we be spending in God’s Word? In simple quantity we hear men way more than God.

The first rule of propaganda: if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth. We hear people so much and God so little, we think hearing people is hearing God. Would we know God’s voice? You’ll know it in the end, will it be too late?

I Am The Way

I was reading about John 14 the other day about how Jesus was going to the Father. Thomas didn’t know where Jesus was going or how He would get there, thus how can we follow?

Got me to thinking, I wonder, if I used the ubiquitous Google Maps, if Google knew the way to the Father. I typed in my address in Box A of the driving directions app, and “The Father” into Box B.

Amazingly enough, it had a suggested location for the Father. Apparently, and I did not know this, Google thinks The Father is in Mount Ulawun in Papua New Guinea, 7,861 miles from my house. I had no idea.

Jesus said He was going away to build a place for His people. He said they knew where and how to get there to follow Him. Thomas, who did not have Google Maps, had no idea Jesus meant Papua New Guinea.

“Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” Jesus, as He frequently does, answers with a more confusing statement. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

I doubt Thomas got it. We assume we do, but listen to the answer–Jesus is going to the Father by way of Himself. We use this verse to refer to salvation, the way to get saved is through Christ, which is true.

But I wonder if we stop short on this one. The way to the Father is not following a map, not following step by step driving directions, it’s by being in Christ. No longer I but Christ. And as John 3 says, he who is born of the Spirit knows not where he came from or where he is going.

There is depth here. Much more than the usual treatment gives.