Post-Flood Church Services

August 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, The Flood | 3 Comments
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It didn’t take long. The good feelings and perceived unity generated when people of various skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and economic classes put their differences aside and came together to help each other survive and rebuild after a catastrophic flood, started eroding faster than the banks of the tributaries and bayous around the Amite River – beginning on the following Sunday morning.

It seems that some local churches, despite doing everything they could to help their church members (our first obligation) and neighbors, and despite devastation to their own buildings, managed to clean out enough debris, and to dry out the mold-producing moisture just enough, to have a worship service to thank the Lord for sparing us from what we truly deserved (greater damage and destruction) and to praise Him for Who He is.

Some of the complaints sounded like this:
“I can’t believe they are having a church service while people are hurting and need help!”
“People need their homes cleaned out, while these so-called ‘Christians’ are singing and praying!”
“Jesus would be helping people. He wouldn’t be attending church after a disaster!”

I will admit that the church I attend was one of the ones that did have a Sunday morning church service on the Sunday after the flood. We did not have one on the Sunday of the flood, because on that Sunday our church building was in the middle of a newly-formed lake roughly the size of our whole parish, and because our church building had several feet of water inside it! Before the flood waters had even finished rising our church members were out rescuing people and trying to help. Two of our pastors and our church secretary lost their homes and most of their possessions, along with about 75% of the residents in our parish, including many of our church members and families. Those of us who barely stayed dry began to provide shelter, food, and clothing, and began the time-consuming and costly process of debris removal and salvage for those without flood insurance. A huge percentage of the homes affected were in “non-flood” zones, and therefore did not have flood insurance. And, yes, many of us worked hard on our church building, too, since it is our ministry headquarters, and since we believe that, as good stewards of the property that God has given us to manage, we owe a duty to protect it so it can be used for future ministry – including the most important part of ministry: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also needed the property to be a staging area for the distribution of food, clothing, and other necessities.

That Sunday morning service was special. People with dire physical needs came and were helped. They also received comfort and were helped spiritually. For this we do not apologize.

Many of our church members went right back to work that same day, helping each other and others in our community. Anyone who would begrudge us ninety minutes of prayer, singing, preaching, and worship after one of the busiest and most traumatic weeks of our lives, has greatly misunderstood what the Bible teaches about the purpose of the Church.

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:10-12

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

As for this idea that, by trying to preserve our church building and by having a church service while others were working on their homes, we were doing what Jesus would not have done, let me remind you to be very careful playing the “WWJD” card that has become so fashionable in “Pop Christianity.” People tend to be very selective and biased in claiming to know what Jesus “would” do, when, in reality, we are far better off looking in the Bible and seeing what Jesus actually did do.

No offense, but the family who lost literally every worldly possession they had in the flood, but who live in 21st Century Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is still far better off than a Jewish family, under Roman occupation, in 1st Century Nazareth on their very best day. Yet:

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Luke 2:43-36

He was “in the temple.” Not helping other families carry their belongings, not providing food and water. In the temple.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Matthew 26:6-11

Jesus did not condemn those who gave their resources to be used in worshiping Him, even though there were always poor people who could be helped with material and physical needs.

People read about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and going about the countryside helping and miraculously feeding people, and they somehow get the idea that Jesus would be opposed to church attendance, but:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:23

Jesus did both. He attended worship services and He ministered throughout the land. Do you think there were people who were not hungry, who did not need help, while He was teaching and preaching? Of course there were! It is a peculiar brand of legalism which condemns Christians for focusing on church when a disaster strikes, but gives the critics a pass when things are normal. If you are tempted to criticize our church for having worship services during a flood recovery effort, you also need to be just as hard on yourself for preparing for a Spartan race or taking a family vacation while there are homeless people living under bridges in Baton Rouge and beggars on every street corner in New Orleans. Self-righteous hypocrisy can cut both ways, can’t it? I would not condemn those who skipped church that Sunday morning, under these exceptional circumstances, so they could bless people in need, but neither would I criticize those who assembled to worship.

Finally, as our Pastor pointed out on that first Sunday morning after the flood, we do have something of a Biblical precedent. Noah, upon exiting the ark with his family and the surviving animals – before he began rebuilding and even before they began repopulating – made a point of stopping to worship:

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:18-21

Authority vs. Empathy

October 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Question: People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin. Is that the only place that addresses the topic? What is the context of it? Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality. I don’t think homosexuality should be called sinful because I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone. I understand that for a gay man the thought of being with a woman is disgusting, and that, for him, being with a man feels normal. So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?

Response: You say: “People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin.” I’m not sure what people you’re referring to who always use the same verse. There tends to be a big difference between real-life face-to-face discussion and internet polemics, but I’m assuming you mean Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. I’m only assuming that because you listed some of the other things that Leviticus elsewhere prohibits, which have to do with clothing and unclean foods and tattoos and beard-grooming and so forth. As I stated before, dietary, grooming, clothing, and things having to do with hygiene and tabernacle worship were specific as to time and place and location. The moral laws – against things like lying and stealing and cheating and adultery and fornication (including homosexual activity) and bestiality and incest and dishonoring your parents and murder – were of a different nature, and are reiterated as being sinful in the New Testament. Romans 1:20-32 are especially graphic and clear on this topic, along with I Corinthians 6:9-10. Anyway, those are some, but not all, of the passages that address the topic – which was one of your questions – so I hope that helps. But I can elaborate more if you’d like.

You say: “Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality.” Actually the 7th Commandment (prohibiting adultery) does. The Bible’s definition of adultery would include having sex with anyone outside of your own marriage, and the Bible’s definition of marriage is what people are now calling “traditional marriage.” In other words, people of opposite genders – you know, male husband and female wife (readers are free to hurl epithets such as bigot and Bible-thumper at me for saying that, but that is what the Bible teaches). Your Catholic school teachers – sorry to be critical of them when they’re not here to defend themselves – may have taught the 10 Commandments merely as a list of rules to follow, which is a common mistake, rather than as a mirror in which we can look and see how truly wicked we are, despite our smug feelings about our own goodness, so that we can then humble ourselves before our kind and loving Maker and admit we need His Son. And that is a great segue into another one of your questions!

You say: “So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?” That question is begging me to be all “preachy,” which people typically can’t stand, especially when I’m not in their shoes, but, since you asked, I’ll tell what the Bible says about it. A gay person who truly repents and trusts and receives the Savior, is “born again” (John 3:3-7). The Bible describes this in different ways. It means an “ontological” change – a change in the essence of who you are on the inside. You get a new “heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). It makes you a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). You no longer love sin more than God. The sinful stuff you used to love, you begin to hate. You still struggle with desires and sinful tendencies but now God’s Spirit will live in you, and will remind you of the love of Jesus who shed His blood for your soul, and you will want to please Him more than satisfy those desires and tendencies, and they will be replaced by new passions. Some people fake it for money or parental approval or whatever, but Jesus – the only One ever to get up from the dead by His Own power – certainly has the power to transform a kleptomaniac, a heroin addict, a compulsive liar, a prideful jerk, a Satan-worshiper, a womanizing sleazebag, a person who likes to have gay sex, someone who self-righteously thinks he’s a good person – even IRS agents, lawyers, and those awful Westboro fake-Baptists!

One more thing. You say: “I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone.” I think by this you mean that your own personal moral compass points to murderers and thieves as being “bad” because their sins hurt others, but that gay people aren’t hurting anyone by having gay sex, so your personal moral compass departs from God’s right around that point? Tell me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I hear that line of thinking a lot. It sounds good – except: all sinners – all those who break God’s moral laws – are hurting someone. They are hurting the very God who is causing their hearts to beat, Who gave them life, Who is giving us air and food and water and children and families and friends and jobs and homes and brains that could be used to glorify Him rather than defy Him, and Who proved His love by giving up His Son for the people who hated Him. I know it sounds mean, and I know that few people will want to hear it, but no one has ever been kinder to us than Jesus. If He forbids us some things, even if we don’t fully understand why, and if He promises to change us so that we don’t want those things any more anyway, and if He’s really in charge of eternity – which He demonstrated by rising from the grave – then it is perfectly reasonable and right to do what He says.

Bible Verses Don’t Always Feel Good

October 1, 2015 at 11:44 am | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Question: Why would you throw Bible verses at gay people? It doesn’t feel good to be accused of something you can’t help. You need to research how many “ex-gay Christians” struggled to be heterosexual, but then returned to a gay lifestyle because that’s who they really are.

Response: If you want to state that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual practices must be wrong because some professing Christians are hypocritical, or because it just doesn’t feel good to hear the Bible verses that you don’t happen to like “thrown at you,” then I would like to point out that such an opinion makes no logical sense. The existence of hypocritical professing Christians doesn’t change the truthfulness of the Bible any more than the hypocrisy of some gay people changes the fact that gay people do exist. And as far as our “feelings” being the barometer for truth, think about it this way: It never “feels right” to your toddler when you tell her that she can’t have as much candy as she wants, but, let’s face it, the occasional denial of candy-all-the-time is good – objectively good – for a toddler, despite her strong feelings. In other words, nobody likes being told what to do when we are told we can’t have something we want really badly, or when it’s something we feel like we have to do, or something that we think we were born to do. We live in a culture deeply affected by what is known as “postmodernism” and it has become very common for people to horribly confuse “preferences” with “truth.” However, there is such a thing as absolute truth. If you love someone who is in danger, you warn him or her of the danger. If you don’t really care for the person, you just let him do what he wants, or, worse, encourage and celebrate his “right” to do it.

Yeah, but You Let Women Talk in Church!

September 10, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 3 Comments
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Here’s one of the most common attempts to silence Christians who speak out against gay fake-marriage on the grounds that it is condemned in the Bible: “Oh, so you’re against gay marriage because the Bible says so? Doesn’t that book also say you can’t eat pork or wear clothes that have a blend of fabric. Doesn’t it say that women can’t braid their hair or wear gold or pearls or expensive clothes? Isn’t there something about not rounding off your beard? Doesn’t it say you can’t eat shellfish? And don’t you go to church with women? Are they allowed to speak? Why are you picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to follow?”

In response, let’s put aside for now the logical fallacy implied by the questions, because, obviously, if the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexual marriage is a nonsense term describing a sinful relationship, then it is irrelevant how Christians are deciding to enforce or follow or obey selective parts of the Bible. If it really was sinful for my wife to braid her hair, but she did it anyway, that would not change God’s verdict on homosexuality one iota. Instead, though, let me deal with the false understanding of hermeneutics and Biblical application that underlies these “gotcha” questions so often posed by those who hate hearing that the Bible condemns homosexuality.

First of all, yes, my wife does speak in church, and quite often! What she doesn’t do is usurp the authority of the men who are ordained as Bible teachers and pastors in our church, which is what is being prohibited in the full-context reading of I Timothy Chapter 2. If you somehow think that the Bible condemns homosexuality in the same way it condemns eating crawfish or wearing poly-cotton blends, then you are making an error common in amateurish and disingenuous attempts to discredit the Bible. The Old Testament dietary, ceremonial, and many of the covenantal laws were for the Jewish people at a specific time and place. They are no longer binding on New Testament Christians, as the Bible itself makes clear (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15). God’s moral laws, however (such as the Ten Commandments), are different. They are for all people at all times and places.

If you actually looked up I Timothy Chapter 2 to read about how women, in certain circumstances, are commanded to be silent in church, then I wish you would back up one chapter and read I Timothy Chapter 1, especially verses 14-17. “Chief of sinners” was how the Apostle Paul described himself, but it is also a good description of me and of you and of everyone who reads this. Because of our sin – our lying, our pride, our hypocrisy, our thievery, our disobedience toward our parents, our blasphemy, our idolatry, our coveting, our adultery, our fornication, our hypocrisy, our failure to love the God Who gives us the air we breathe with our whole heart – because of those sins and many more – we need the one and only Savior there is: the Lord Jesus Christ – so that we can be forgiven. What a shame it would be to go through this life rejecting Him because of some hypocrites who brought shame to His name, or because He loved us enough to tell us the truth about our sin.

Show Me Where

August 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Are you a Christian who was outspoken in your opposition to the government’s and the Supreme Court’s celebration and legalization of gay fake-marriage? If you were, and if your circle of friends and acquaintances and co-workers is much bigger than 10, then I would be surprised if you haven’t encountered all sorts of nonsensical, irrational, just plain lame, and downright dumb arguments trying to point out just how wrong you are.

I saw this one recently: “Oh it says gay marriage is a sin in the Bible? Wonderful, now show me where it says so in the Constitution.”

Clever, huh? Whoever made that one up probably sat back smugly and thought, “Ha! Now I’ve got those Christian bigots! Let’s see them get around this one!”

Okay, I’ll give it a try. First, the Bible doesn’t mention the term “gay marriage.” That’s because marriage is specifically defined as a union and a covenant between people of different genders. It is definitionally impossible for two people of the same gender to be “married.” However, it does state plainly that all homosexual activity and thoughts are sinful. And, no, the Constitution doesn’t specifically talk about homosexuality or gay fake-marriage, but the Constitution omits a long and varied list of things that are wrong. The Constitution doesn’t mention shin-kicking or purse-snatching or playing Yahtzee in the middle of the interstate. The first two of those are really bad, and the third is really dumb and dangerous, but the Constitution is just not that kind of document.

The place you go to determine the “right-or-wrongness” of things having to do with marriage and sexual sin is the Bible. And, remember, since the Bible is the Word of God, it would trump the Constitution even if the Constitution condoned gay fake-marriage.

Stop Hating Homosexuals

July 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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If you are doing one of the following, there is no denying it, you hate gay people:

-using a rainbow to show your support of gay mirage
-hashtagging #LoveWins to show your support of gay mirage
-teaching your kids that it’s okay, or even a good thing, to be a homosexual
-openly celebrating a court decision announced in a legal opinion that was so illogical, absurd, poorly written, and blatantly hypocritical that it would have earned an F-minus on any of my law school exams, and would have probably lead to expulsion on the grounds of general incompetence and stupdity

So, if you are rainbowing, love-wins-ing, or celebrating homosexual sin and the attempt to change the meaning of the word “marriage,” just stop it. You are being mean and hateful. And if you are inclined at this point to call me a “bigot,” a “bad person,” or (my favorite) a “buffoon,” then you are being intolerant and judgmental, and you need to stop that, too.

Because the most hateful thing you can do to a group of people who are proud of their sin is to encourage them to sin more. The absolute worst, diabolical, evil thing you can do to homosexuals is to hide the truth from them, when the lies they are pretending to believe are destroying them.

If you really want to love homosexuals, tell them the truth about sin:

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Jude v. 7

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

Psalm 92:7

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:15

People don’t like the truth when it makes them unpopular or when it makes them feel bad, but telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do. A toddler might be having a fine old time with a container of rat poison, and might wail like a banshee when you take it away. It certainly won’t seem loving or kind or tolerant. But it will save his life. A warning sign in the middle of the highway that says “Bridge Out Ahead” is certainly inconvenient. It might add hours to your trip and make you mad and frustrated, but, when you pause to think of the consequences of ignoring it, you should be very grateful someone took the time to put it there. The U.S. court that everyone calls “supreme” has already proven itself to be an instrument of death and destruction. They have authorized the brutal murders of millions of babies everyday, as long as they are murdered just inside of, instead of just outside of, their mothers’ wombs. Now they have turned their callous hatred toward homosexuals by giving them a legal covering for their deadly and destructive behavior. It’s an old tactic. Adam and Eve tried to do it with fig leaves, but God wasn’t fooled. He killed an animal and covered their shame so that they would always remember that they needed the Truth of a bloody sacrifice to pay for their sins. This was a type of Jesus Christ Who Himself is the perfect reality of that bloody sacrifice. It you really want to love homosexuals, exhort and command them to repent and surrender to Jesus.

When Is It Good to be Proud? (Spoiler Alert: Never)

June 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 15 Comments
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I have written about this before, but – and this is hardly surprising – I apparently managed to influence exactly no one. In fact, I have either gotten more sensitive to the problem, or it has actually become an even worse epidemic.

“Here is a photo of my kids’ report cards, honor roll certificates, dance trophies, and character medals. I’m !!!!SO PROUD!!!! of them!”

“Junior got his driver’s license today. I’m one proud mama!”

“Sissy was baptized last Sunday at church! #BeyondProud!!!!”

“I don’t care what those liberals say, I’m PROUD of what this country stands for!”

“Tough loss for State U last night, but proud of those boys for giving it their all!”

“I’m proud to be a dad.”
“I’m proud to be an alumni.”
“I’m proud of my heritage.”
“I’m proud to be a Christian.” (duck, lightning warning!)
“I’m proud to call you my spouse.”
“I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee.”

Good grief! Where will it end? As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “What’s the deal with pride?”
https://i0.wp.com/www.focusst.org/forum/attachments/focus-st-discussions/70094d1412979162-what-s-deal-hatch-release-downloadfile.jpeg

Look, if you don’t believe the Bible, or if you’re pretending that you don’t believe in God (even though you and God both know that you really do), or if you’re not a Christian, then I understand. Being proud of all kinds of stuff is sort of your thing, and that’s to be expected. You’re not only proud, you’re obsessed with announcing your pride, and compelled to put it out there for eveyone to see. In fact, you are proud of being proud. You should read this, and then come back here.

And I know I’m not the Christian language police, but, if you’re a Christian, you should be concerned about things like truth and obedience and righteousness and specifically what the Bible says about our attitudes and expressions. Good news! I did the research for you. Here’s a list of all the Bible verses that mention pride. Here are the ones that use the word “proud.”

Did you see anything good? I didn’t. I saw stuff like pride leading to destruction, and pride exciting God’s wrath, and proud people grouped in with people classified as liars and murderers and evil-doers and the wicked. The word “abomination” was used at least once. Ouch.

Let me anticipate the argument, because I have heard this before. When Christians say, “I’m proud” or they talk about having “pride” in such and such, they don’t really mean the sinful kind of pride. They mean they’re happy for someone or happy about something. Sometimes they’re really lifting up another person’s accomplishments, or they just want someone to acknowledge their own hard work or sense of worth.

Okay, fair enough. I know people mean different things, but let’s examine this more closely. When you say, “I’m proud of my kids,” why exactly are you saying it? Are you saying it because you want people to see you taking the credit for what they’ve accomplished? That’s called bragging, and it’s certainly a form of sinful pride. Are you saying it because you want other people to be impressed with what your kids have done on their own? That’s taking credit and glory away from God, Who enabled, and sovereignly caused, your kids to have success at something. Why would you want to do that? That will bless neither you, your kids, nor the people who read or hear it.

If you say, “When I say I’m proud, I really mean I’m pleased with them. Or they’ve brought me joy. Or they’ve encouraged me by their hard work. Or I’m grateful and thankful for what they’ve accomplished. Or I want to give honor where honor is due.” There, you’ve solved your own problem! Say those things instead of saying you’re proud. Because here’s the deal with what we say:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Matthew 15:18-19

And if you say, “What we think and do is more important than what we say,” then consider:

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 12:35-37

The bottom line is, what’s coming out of my mouth is a really good indicator of what’s in my heart. So, I’m going to admit it: I have four wonderful daughters and I’m proud of them. But I’m sinfully proud, and I’m asking the Lord to deliver me and change my heart and to forgive me for my pride. It’s not a good thing for me to be proud, and I shouldn’t want to announce it and show it off.

Or, for example, when the Houston Astros, a team that has suffered three straight horrible seasons, finally get the season off to a great start, the way they have this year, I do want to retweet all the game updates that are hashtagged #HTownPride, but I’m not going to – (1) because it makes no sense for me to be proud of something which is not my own personal accomplishment; (2) it’s sinful to be proud, and; (3) even if I’m feeling sinfully proud, I don’t want to brag about my pride and compound the sin even more.

I’ve been told repeatedly that I must tell my children that I’m proud of them. The Lord knows I’m not a good father. Many if not most of the problems that my daughters have (and they certainly have their fair share) are my fault. They sometimes evoke a gasp when they tell people, “My parents told me they’re not proud of me and they never will be.” They say this because we have tried to stop using that terminology. We love our daughters very much. We are thankful for them. They bring us unbounded joy. We are pleased with them. They work hard, and they have been gifted by God in amazing ways. We praise Him for them. We want them to feel loved, secure, and encouraged. If they don’t know those things, then I must take the blame for not telling them often enough, or making my feelings evident enough in my actions and attitudes. But if you tell me, “You have to tell your kids you are proud of them,” I’ll say, “Show it to me in the Bible.” When you show me a Bible verse commanding me to be proud, and then to truthfully express that pride verbally, I’ll confess, repent, and ask God to help me obey His Word. Until then, though, I’m going to battle against my pride and encourage my family, friends, and loved ones to do the same. And if I manage it, God will get all the praise and glory for it, not me.

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Why Some People Just Don’t Get all that Jesus/Church/Religion/Christianity/Gospel Stuff

August 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Salvation, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 4 Comments
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albino alligator

Here in the South (U.S.A.), it can sometimes seem more likely to encounter an albino alligator than somebody who freely admits that he or she is not a Christian (although here in Louisiana many of my Roman Catholic friends say, “No, I’m a Catholic,” when someone asks them if they are Christians). Here are the most common responses I get when I ask people, “Are you a Christian?”

-“Yes, I’ve been a Christian my whole life.” (This is actually an impossibility. No one is born as a Christian, which is why the Bible says you have to be “born again.” By the way, no one will become a Christian after they die, either.)

– “Yes, I was baptized when I was ____ years old.” (This is actually irrelevant. Getting baptized does not make anyone a Christian.)

-“Yes, I go to such-and-such church.” (Again, this is irrelevant. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than – as the common cliche’ goes – going into a garage makes you a car.)

-Yes, I pray every day. (Still irrelevant. Many people become Christians during a prayer, but praying itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I read my Bible every day. (Okay, I admit it. Almost no one ever says this to me any more, but if they did, they would be wrong. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I ‘just know’ I’m a Christian. (While I don’t see how anyone could be a Christian and not know it, this response only begs the question. “Just knowing” something doesn’t make the something true. A true Christian would be able to state why, how, when, where, and upon what authority he or she became a Christian.)

Every once in a while, I run into somebody who pretends to be an atheist, but that is much more common on the internet than in real life. By far the most common type of non-Christian that I know is the person who “just doesn’t get it.” And even this category breaks down into sub-types.

There’s the “I don’t get it because it makes me uncomfortable” type. These folks were taught that it’s bad manners to talk about religion or politics because the topics are too volatile, or because it’s their own personal business, or because it makes them feel guilty or “judged.”

Then there’s the “someone religious hurt my feelings one time” group. They were mistreated at church, or somebody told them they were going to hell without first explaining why, or somebody told them something untrue about Christianity or the Bible.

Then there’s the “it’s all a hoax” crew. Their main experience of so-called Christianity has been the lying and greedy prosperity preachers on TV. They think anybody religious is secretly trying to swindle them out of their money. Somebody coerced them into coming to church on Easter Sunday one time, and, at the end of the service, the ushers passed an offering plate around, and they were highly offended that anybody would talk about Jesus and then give them the opportunity to contribute money to His Church.

There are some other categories, too, and some of these bleed into each other, and somebody is going to read this and say, “Ha! I don’t want to hear about Jesus for a whole different reason that you haven’t even thought of, you stereotyping bigot!” I know, I know, everybody has their own story and their own bruised little inner child that’s crying out for understanding, but I can make the whole thing really simple. Because, underneath it all, at the real crux of the matter, there is only one big foundational reason whey people aren’t Christians. They are rejecting the Truth.

We think sympathetically of blind people, and we should. They can’t help it. I doubt we would feel sorry, though, for people who are blind simply because they refuse to take off their blindfolds. Spiritual blindness is a whole different thing. People who “just don’t get it” when it comes to Christ and His Gospel are not people with blinded eyes. They are people with blinded minds.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:3-4

If a person with a blindfold on his eyes says to me, “Sorry, but I just don’t get this whole ‘vision thing,'” I’ll just reach up and snatch off his blindfold. No sympathy. When a person says the same thing about Jesus’s Gospel, though, I can’t snatch it away. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can do it. The “method” that He has chosen for this procedure, though, is the proclamation of the Word of God: The Truth about our sin, God’s Son, and and His salvation.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

The spiritually blind person is 100% at fault for his own blindness, but God still has to do something miraculous and supernatural to give him sight. That’s why real Christians keep preaching to non-Christians who don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and don’t even want to hear about it. Not because we like to annoy people. Not because we get a sick thrill out of telling people they are damned and under the wrath of God (although they are), and not because we think we’re better than them. It’s because Jesus is amazing and wonderful and absolutely deserves to have His story told. It’s because He commanded us to do it. And it’s because we love the people who “just don’t get it” enough to tell them the only Truth that can save them, even when they don’t want to hear it.

Don’t Love Yourself

July 31, 2014 at 11:43 am | Posted in Galatians, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 4 Comments
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For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galatians 5:14

Contrary to the inane “Christian” song I heard my daughter listening to the other day, this verse does NOT command us to love ourselves, nor does it tell us that we can’t love if we don’t love ourselves. Our natural default setting is to love ourselves, which is sinful. God made an extreme correction to that perverse way of thinking when He commanded us to love Him with everything we have, and to love our neighbors in the way we are accustomed to loving ourselves when we are in the flesh. That’s the summation of the moral law of God in all its specific expressions.

For example, how can I idolize anything while loving others? For, if I love them, I must want what’s good for them, and the only true good for them is to point them to the One True God. How can I steal from my neighbor, kill my neighbor, lie about my neighbor, take his belongings, sleep with his wife, if I love him “as myself?”

Look at how practical and realistic this is. Don’t say, “I can’t attain it. It just seems ‘right’ for me to love myself. What about my self-esteem?” Forget about your self-esteem. The last thing in the world you need is a boost to your self-esteem. When you “love yourself” you are stealing what God has entrusted you to give back to Him and others. If we surrender to the Spirit, He takes our self-love and redirects it off of self, and onto God and others. What freedom! No more “I’ve got to get mine;” “I’ve got to get at least as good as him or her;” “I’ve got to get ‘my’ share.”

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:15

When we believe the lie that we have to love ourselves before we can love anyone else, we will become like a pack of wild animals. We’ll bite each other to bits, and we won’t even see the destruction in it – just as long as we get our fair share of bites.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16

Almost all Christians say that walking in the Spirit is a good idea, but hardly anybody does it. I suspect that few of us even know how. First, admit that your flesh is not redeemed, and it is very, very strong – stronger than your will.

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Galatians 5:17

God is not going to share His glory with you – at least not in the battle against sin. If you’re going to fight your own battle, He knows you’re looking for a chance to boast, and He’s not going to come in and fight for you. So admit it. You don’t have anything in you that’s going to win the battle against the flesh. That’s a job for the Holy Spirit.

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Galatians 5:18

Two, let Him lead. Go where He goes. How do you know if you are going where the Spirit goes? He does not go into sin, and He does not lead you close to sin. If you were going to hire a delivery driver, would you hire the applicant who interviewed for the job by showing off his skill in skidding to a stop inches from the edge of a cliff? Or the the applicant who parked 500 yards away because he didn’t want to risk the owner’s property? God is not interested in how close we can get to temptation and avoid it. He has given us His Spirit to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil.

How Many Sermons about Purity Do Boys Need to Hear?

July 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 3 Comments
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If you’ve been in or around much church “youth group” type ministry, you’ve probably heard these types of sniveling complaints once or twice from junior high or high school age boys:
I’m tired of hearing about ‘purity’ all the time.
I’m tired of being told that I’m a monster that only thinks about sex.
Why don’t they preach to the girls instead? It’s their fault for being immodest.

So, do they have a point? Is there overkill going on when it comes to preaching about purity? Where would we look in the Bible to find out the right emphasis to place on the issue of avoiding sexual immorality for boys? I think Proverbs Chapters 5 – 7 would be a good place to start. Proverbs 5 starts off with a father imparting wisdom to his son. And what is the very first thing he addresses? The temptation and danger of sexual immorality. In Chapter 6 the father admonishes the son about the trap of laziness (vv.6-11), and stresses the importance of remaining focused on God’s Word (vv.20-23). But focused on God’s Word as a remedy against what? Sexual immorality (vv.24-35)! What about this kid’s self-esteem? What about his pride and honor and dignity? Why does his dad have to keep harping on the danger of sexual lust and temptation? Surely that’s enough! Not quite. Chapter 7 is a detailed and provocative account of the jeopardy that lurks for “youths” and “young men” who are “void of understanding.”

Now, that’s three whole chapters of God’s Word specifically aimed at boys, forcefully and repeatedly telling them what the Bible frequently makes clear:

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22

Now, someone might object and say that the chapters in Proverbs are a father’s instructions to a son, not a youth pastor’s or conference speaker’s sermons to other men’s sons. In response, I would say, if you are a father who Biblically teaches his son in the way outlined in Proverbs, good for you. I’m no huge fan of youth group ministry. Take your boy out of there and take the full responsibility for this type of teaching on yourself. But if you decide you want him in there, he needs to keep his mouth shut when the youth teacher or pastor is instructing the other boys whose fathers aren’t doing such a stellar job.

If you are a youth group aged boy, and you have been taught that immodesty on the part of women and girls is the real source of your sin, you need to go back to the Bible and think again. Nobody in his or right right mind would deny that one of the reasons for modesty among females is to assist men in avoiding temptation, but that is by no means an excuse for your own lust. And if you don’t like being told that – in your flesh, apart from Christ – you are a monster and a sexual deviant at heart, too bad. That’s what the Bible says you are.

I recently saw a post by a boy who complained that he had grown up in church and youth group and had heard untold numbers of sermons about purity. He said there was “one good one” out all those, and that was all he needed. Such a statement highlights the self-centeredness which lurks in the human heart. For how are preachers and Bible teachers, who preach countless messages to countless boys over the years, supposed to discern which one is the “right one” that does the trick? The Bible is where we learn what is to be preached, re-preached, and emphasized. Until you come up with a Bible reason as to why boys should not be told the truth about lust, temptation, and sexual immorality, keep your ears open, your mouth shut, your eyes guarded, and your pants on.

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