Martin Luther Told the Pope to S.W.I.M. out of the Sea of Flattery

June 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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For since I know that Your Blessedness [sic] is driven and tossed by the waves at Rome, so that the depths of the sea press on you with infinite perils, and that you are labouring under such a condition of misery that you need even the least help from any the least brother [sic], I do not seem to myself to be acting unsuitably if I forget your majesty [sic] til I shall have fulfilled the office of charity. I will not flatter in so serious and perilous a matter; and if in this you do not see that I am your friend and most thoroughly your subject, there is One to see and judge.

Martin Luther, writing to Pope Leo X in the prefatory remarks of On Christian Liberty

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Psalm 5:9

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

Proverbs 29:5

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.

Psalm 107:23-27

Faithful Wounds Part 2

October 6, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In response to my post called “Faithful Wounds,” which you can read by clicking here, I received the following comments on another forum, and gave the following responses:

Commenter: If the ignorant boy knows the man, and has an ongoing trusting relationship, it’s more likely that he will heed the warning without much incident. What I think you have argued is the fallacy of incongruent analogy.

And, would not God be the one doing the chasing, or “tackling”, anyway? If the Spirit is not working in the heart of that person, it matters not what variety of message we use. It will be to no avail. So, why not build a bridge?

Me: The boy in the analogy wasn’t just ignorant – he was dangerously ignorant. And, being completely oblivious to the danger and running out of space before he met an ugly end, there wasn’t time to build a bridge of relationship. We could argue, I suppose, that the man should have built a relationship with the boy a long time ago, but the (made-up-for analogy) “fact” that he didn’t build one before, doesn’t make the analogy incongruent.

I agree that God’s Spirit does the chasing and the tackling in one sense, but I also believe He uses loving Christians as His instruments many times. God is powerful enough to supernaturally implant the Gospel message into a person’s brain, and He is powerful enough drop a blockade from the sky that would keep everyone from racing into traffic, but the fact is, for some reason, it pleases Him to use redeemed sinners to declare His Gospel, and to form relationships, and even to, once in while, roughly shake someone we love into his senses before he hurts himself.

Commenter: You are saying that God’s Kingdom is built by hateful and rash behavior.

Me: That’s not what I said. I said the man who tackled the boy “appeared” hateful and rash, but that he actually acted out of true active love. I do not believe the Bible condones rash hatred, and did not mean to imply it.

Commenter: You are crazy. Someone needs to tackle you, mate.

Me: I’m sorry you think I’m “crazy.” Hopefully you are just joking and not being mean-spirited. Name calling is purportedly not helpful to building a bridge of relationship.

If you truly do think I’m crazy though, I guess I’ll have to live with the label. They said the same thing about Jesus (Mark 3:21) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:24). Anyway, “crazy” can be pretty subjective. Older Christian men will tell you that, several decades ago, it was pretty common for people to tell people right to their face that they God loved them, and that they could be saved from the consequences of their sin by trusting Jesus. They say that these people weren’t considered “crazy” at all. However, I admit that the standard has changed. These days, forcefully confronting someone with the Gospel when they don’t want to hear it is often described as “crazy,” while it is considered not only sane, but worthy of adoration, to wear a “meat dress” or to dance around in underwear on a stage while people scream out that they would die for you. “Crazy” can be sort of a relative term.

As far as someone tackling me, you’re a little too late – it’s already happened both in the literal (when I tried to stop a bigger person from beating up a smaller person, and his friends didn’t like it!) and in the figurative sense – many years ago – when a stranger who loved me enough to tell me the truth told me that, according to the Bible, I had sinned against God and needed His loving Son to save me. The Holy Spirit also “tackled” me at that point, opened my willfully blind and oblivious eyes, and showed me it was true. That Truth is something wonderful that I want everyone to know – even the ones who think they don’t want to hear it. That might appear hateful and rash, but it is not being hateful or rash.

Commenter: The primary flaw with your analogy is that anyone can by force save the boy from his path of destruction – in fact against his own will. Your analogy seems very similar to the comedian-magician Penn Gillette’s words, that “If you see someone about to get hit by a truck, there comes a point when you tackle them.” But what we are dealing with here is a soul’s choice to accept or reject the Gospel. It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy. The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.

Me: You might believe that the analogy makes a point that you do not happen to like, believe, or agree with, but I respectfully submit that, in the scenario of the analogy itself, the point was not that anyone could stop the boy by force – the point was that only one person was willing to stop the boy by force. Someone had already tried more polite methods and they didn’t appear to be working.

I don’t know much about Penn Gillette, and I can’t really tell if you are agreeing with his statement or not, but on the surface (without knowing the context and without agreeing with him on other things) it appears to make sense. If I’m about to get hit by a truck, I would like someone (even someone who doesn’t particularly like me) to tackle me. As stated above, someone did that to me, spiritually speaking, several years ago, and I love him for it. Even more, I love the God Who I believe authorized and empowered him to do it. I have done it to others, and they have testified that they are grateful for it, too. I would argue that there is evidence in the Bible of evangelistic “tackling in love” and that it is portrayed in Scripture as the God-ordained thing to do in certain circumstances.

You state, “It would be more accurate to say that one man prayed and pleaded and begged the boy to turn aside, and that the second, more forceful man, shouted and harangued and yelled at the boy to turn aside. But neither of them could do anything other than speak to the boy.” Well, you are free to make up your own analogy I suppose, but to say that mine is less “accurate” kind of misses the point. The boy and his tackler landed just shy of the path of a speeding truck! Are you suggesting that the haranguing and yelling would have been worth the risk considering the magnitude of the harm averted? Everyone is free to dislike the analogy, but I would hope it wouldn’t be judged internally inconsistent, just like I would hope the tackler’s motives wouldn’t be mischaracterized as hateful and rash, when they are clearly stated to be otherwise.

You state: “The path of his own life or destruction – of any soul’s – is ultimately their own decision.” I want to give you credit (and I’m not being sarcastic) for the boldness of your convictions on this point. I would agree that each soul’s decision plays a part, but I would also argue (I think I can support it from Scripture) that other people who encounter a person also play a part in determining that person’s path, and that certainly God Himself plays a part in determining our path. To say that the person himself is the “ultimate” determiner, instead of God, is where we disagree.

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 2)

November 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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The is the second part of a lesson on Christian friendship. In Part 1 I wrote that Christian friends should be:

F.orgiving
R.esponsive
I.insighful

They should also be:

E.arnest

Being earnest means telling the truth – being honest – being real. This can be one of the hardest parts of friendship, because sometimes the truth hurts. “How do I look?” I ask my friend (with ketchup on my face, mustard on my tie, and my pants unzipped). “Oh, you look fine,” he replies (immediately calling into question whether he is really my friend after all). Friends don’t enjoy hurting each other’s feelings, but:

Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A fake friend stabs you in the back; a true friend stabs you in the front. Remember the “F” of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip – forgiveness – when you are on the receiving end of “earnest” friendship.

N.ice

This is a funny verse:

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

One of the easiest things to forget about friendship, especially when you have a really, really good friend – someone to whom you can say anything – someone who knows all your secrets – someone with whom you’re comfortable joking around – is to be nice. In other words, it’s easy to become presumptuous. Christian friendship is about serving, not being served. You can joke around and be relaxed, and yet still be polite. The Bible says evil communication corrupts good manners. Don’t make the mistake of being a funny friend who turns into an obnoxious friend. People act like giving compliments and building up other people with words is corny, but don’t you be deceived. People still like and respond to kindness, so be as nice (or nicer) to your friends as you are to strangers.

D.ependable

How do you gain someone’s trust? By being trustworthy. By being loyal. A good friend is there through thick and thin.

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man [is] a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Plenty of people will want to be your friend when you can do things for them, or give them things.

All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth [them with] words, [yet] they [are] wanting [to him].

Proverbs 19:7

But fake friends hit the road when you are having a hard time.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Adversity is when everything is going wrong – when you are not popular – when it’s not considered cool to be around you. That’s when you find out who your real friend is – the one who’s there for you at all times.

S.acrificing

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

How does iron sharpen iron? By scraping against it – by friction. It costs the iron something to sharpen another piece of iron. Sacrifice is when you give up something for your friend, when you do what is hard, or what is costly to yourself, for the sake of your friend. It’s when you give up your own comfort and go the extra mile. The things that are valuable in this world are things that are costly. If you have a friend, ask yourself, “What is this friendship costing me?” If it’s costing you nothing, it may be because you’re not being the best friend you can be.

Ultimately, Jesus is by far the best friend you will ever have.

F.orgiving: Apart from the forgiveness of your sins you could have no part with God, no place in Heaven, no pardon from hell. Jesus arranged your forgiveness on the Cross.

R.esponsive: Jesus left Heaven and came to seek and to save the lost (you and me) in response to our greatest need – salvation – and He still responds to every prayer we pray.

I.nsightful: There is nothing about you that Jesus does not know, so there is nothing about which you cannot talk to Him. And there is nothing you need to know that is not written down in His Bible.

E.arnest: Jesus cannot lie. “Verily verily” was one of His favorite expressions. He said you can believe in Heaven because if it were not so, He would have told you. He tells the truth about Himself and the truth about us.

N.ice: Can you think of anything kinder, more loving, more giving than Jesus coming to our world to lay down His life for us? People can say many things about Jesus, but no one could ever say He wasn’t nice.

D.ependable: He will never leave you nor forsake you. When young people use the expression “BFF” (best friends forever) the “forever” is a youthful exaggeration. But not with Jesus. He keeps His promises completely.

S.acrificing: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 1)

November 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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The Bible has much to say about friends, and friendship is encouraged in Scripture, but choosing the wrong friend can be dangerous.

But Amnon had a friend, whose name [was] Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab [was] a very subtil man.

II Samuel 13:3 (emphasis added)

Christians are supposed to have friends and we are supposed to be friends. Did you know there is a difference between being friends with someone and being a friend to someone?

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

II Corinthians 6:14

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James 4:4

As Christians, we are not supposed to get involved in the sinful activities of non-Christians, which means you really shouldn’t be friends with non-Christians, but you definitely should be a friend to all sorts of non-Christians. Therefore, we serve and love them, but we shouldn’t compromise our stand for Jesus, and we should make sure they know that our loyalty to Christ comes before our loyalty to them. So, if a lost person falls down, you help him up – that’s being a friend to him; but if he fell down because he was doing something wrong, you don’t start doing it too, because that would make you friends with him.

Let’s look at what it takes to be friends with another Christian.

F.orgiving

One of the most important things to remember about being a Christian is that you are a forgiven sinner. You can’t be a Christian without acknowledging your sinfulness. Therefore, when two Christians are friends, that means two sinners have become friends. And sinners sometimes sin against each other. Friends make mistakes, they hurt each other’s feelings, they say the wrong thing, they let each other down sometimes. But if they are truly friends they respond to the sin of their friend the way that Jesus responds to our sins.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

If your friend is a Christian, then that means God punished Jesus on the Cross for what your friend has done wrong to you. Would it be right for you to punish your friend for something for which God has already punished Jesus? No. Be a good friend. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be merciful.

R.esponsive

Being a good friend doesn’t mean you always do what your friend wants you to do, but it does mean that you respond when your friend has a real need.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

A good friend listens; he doesn’t just wait for his turn to talk. Even though listening is important, “doing” is usually the most significant part of service in Christian friendship, but not just “doing something.” They key is in doing what’s right for your friend in each situation – which means listening closely when your friend has something to say. Anybody can talk; it takes skill and patience to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth – some of us need to take the hint.

I.nsightful

A good friend is someone who gives good advice. That means he evaluates what’s going on, and then finds out what the Bible has to say about something before he just blurts out whatever comes to mind.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so [doth] the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Things that smell good are attractive – and they make people happy. The insight of a friend is the same way. “Hearty counsel” means insight or advice that turns out to be right. A good friend will pray about it, seek God’s will about it, look in the Bible, talk to someone wise about it, then carefully give good counsel. A bad friend says let’s just do the first thing that seems right, or let’s just do what everyone else does in this situation.

You can probably tell by now that I’m using an acrostic – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. – to list some qualifications of Christian friendship. Next time, we will look at the E.N.D.S.

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical Marriage | 6 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

The Trap of Loose Liaisons

July 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Traps of Lawless Living | Leave a comment
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In the last lesson on Samson’s pattern of lawless living, I advocated banishing the term “luck” from our vocabulary as we think about God’s sovereign and providential control of the circumstances in which we find ourselves day by day. Another example is the way in which Samson only appears to have been “unlucky in love.”

From his marriage to the girl from Timnath, who ended up with the fellow who had been the “best man” in his wedding (Judges 14:20), to the harlot from Gaza, who was nothing more than a one-night-stand (Judges 16:1-3), finally to Delilah, who had to manipulate him repeatedly to get the secret of his super strength out of him (Judges 16:15), Samson does not seem to have been the type of man who was big on emotional or spiritual intimacy. (Physical intimacy was obviously another story!)

Even in the area of non-sexual friendship, though, Samson appears to have been very aloof. Over the four chapters which recount his life, there are no close friendships, no male camaraderie, no sharing of his thoughts or feelings with any sort of trusted “confidant” (aside from Delilah). When his own countrymen came to see him, they found him sitting alone on top of a rock, and he made no special attempt to reason or fellowship with them. Rather, he sulkily told them he was a man motivated by a personal grudge, and asked them not to attack him personally as they handed him over to the Philistines (Judges 15:11-12).

One of the lessons we may learn from Samson’s life is the danger of trusting those who are not trustworthy, but another valuable lesson is the danger that lies when we fall into the trap of being a “lone ranger” in the Christian life. God does not command his people to live a life of monkish isolation. Instead, His Word often extols the benefits of healthy companionship.

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

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

Maybe it’s overly simplistic, but I like to wonder what would have happened if Samson had made a couple of trusted friends during his time as a Judge over Israel. Perhaps, if there was someone in which to confide, someone to give wise counsel, Samson could have rallied his kinsmen against the Philistines in a concerted God-honoring effort and ended the cycle of wrath and repentance sooner. Judges 14:20 is the only mention of Samson even having a friend, and it says that Samson only “used” him as a friend. As Christians today, we certainly need to be wary of placing our trust in those who have yet to demonstrate a Godly character, but, at the same time, God has placed us into a “family” of brothers and sisters, and Christian friendship can be a terrific asset as we invest our lives in serving our Lord and our fellow human beings.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:15

Excessive Celebration

April 29, 2013 at 11:55 am | Posted in Esther | 3 Comments
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One of the meanings of faith is believing the promises of God even when they don’t seem to be supported by observable evidence. But another definition of faith is obeying God in spite of what seem to be the obvious consequences.

The name of God is not mentioned once in the Book of Esther, yet it is full of His Words. The same is true for Song of Solomon. There are different theories on why God is not named in Esther. It may be to illustrate how little His people thought about Him at that time.

The events in the Book of Esther took place between 483 and 473 B.C. Chronologically, they would fit right between Chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra. During this time, the rebuilding of Jerusalem had halted. Zechariah and Haggai preached and prophesied about the people putting roofs on their own homes while the house of God had no roof.

The king of the Medo-Persian empire at that time was Ahasuerus (Khshayarshan in Persian, Artaxerxes or Xerxes in Greek). Ahasuerus was really into putting on spectacular banquets.

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

Esther 1:1-9

The particular feasts described here were the result of the failure of Ahasuerus’s father to successfully invade Greece. Ahasuerus was probably excited at the prospect of revenge and greater glory for himself as he prepared to give it a try. As an aside, the defeat of Darius (Ahasuerus’s father) happened at a place called Marathon in 490 B.C. 25,000 Persians were met by 10,000 Greeks. Some of the Persians left to go attack Athens, and a runner ran 26 miles without stopping to warn them – upon which he probably died from a heat stroke or exhaustion. That’s where we get the name of the 26-mile-long race.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,

Esther 1:10

There seems to be a great deal of drinking, partying, and extravagant celebrating going on in the Book of Esther. One of the king’s chamberlains was named “Mehuman,” and I might jokingly suggest that his parents gave him this name so that, no matter how drunk he got with the king, he wouldn’t forget he was still a human and not a wild beast. (You have to imagine him talking like Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan for this to be funny: “Me human, you Jane.”)

To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Esther 1:11-12

It is very common for anger to follow drunkenness. Ahasuerus’s heart was merry (after seven days of drinking, we can only imagine!), but look how quickly it swung form merriment to wrath. Drunk driving is a huge problem in our society, but it may surprise you to learn that more drunks are still arrested for fighting than for driving while intoxicated. Ahasurerus mastered his whole kingdom, but he couldn’t even master himself.

Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:

Esther 1:13 (emphasis added)

This is probably a reference to astrology, but these “wise” men also knew the times in which they lived, and they knew they had a king who was susceptible to flattery. They gave foolish counsel, and the king listened, because they flattered him with words.

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

Flattery should make us cautious.

What Kind of a Friend Are You?

April 4, 2013 at 10:27 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 3 Comments
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Here we go again. Another well-intentioned burst of drivel has been making the rounds on Facebook. And, once again, there is no surprise that the average person would find a statement like this to be perfectly wonderful. But a professing Christian? Someone who actually claims to believe the Bible? As they say on Monday Night Football: C’mon, man!!”

I don’t care what you earn, where you live, what you drive, whether you’re gay or straight, fat or thin, tall or short, beautiful or average, rich or poor, smart or not. If you’re my friend, you’re my friend – I accept you for who you are and that’s ALL that matters.

Christian Facebook Fail

There is a classic logical fallacy known as a “category mistake.” Or, as they used to call it on Sesame Street back when I was in preschool: “Which one of these is not like the others?” You know the one: They show you three farm animals and a vine-ripened tomato, and you put down your cup of grape juice, hitch up your underoos, point at the TV screen and shout, “Tomato!” Or they put the number 4 into a group of letters: A,L,Q,4. You clap your hands, somersault out of your blankie, and proclaim, “Hey, you can’t fool me. Get that numeral outta there!” Easy enough, right? So, let’s play the game with the above statement, shall we?

The idea of the quote is that “if you’re my friend, you’re my friend.” When you click “share” or post it to your wall, it’s your way of bragging to the world what a loyal, non-judgmental friend you are. Now, let’s stand it beside the Bible and see how it measures up.

“I don’t care what you earn, where you live, what you drive.” Does Jesus want me to base my loyalty on the robustness of my friends’ bank accounts, how prestigious a neighborhood they live in, or how expensive their car is? Nope. See James 2:2-5. So far, so good.

“I don’t care whether you’re fat or thin, tall or short, beautiful or average, smart or not.” How about this one? Does the Bible support discriminating against people in an unkind way based on their physical appearance or their IQ? Certainly not. See I Corinthians 4:7 and Galatians 3:28. Again, nothing to see here, move along folks. Just a harmless quote about how we should treat our friends kindly despite our circumstantial differences. After all, the Bible says that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).

But hold on a minute, I left one out, didn’t I? Remember, we’re trying to spot the category mistake. The “one that’s not like the others.”

“I don’t care whether you’re gay or straight.” Ah-ha, you found it! Maybe it took a little while, but we’re talking about “Christians” posting this on their Facebook page, remember? Christians? Those people that believe that Jesus died to pay the price for their SINS? See, social standing, wealth, height, and home- and car-ownership are not sinful. Identifying yourself as “gay” is. So for me to have a friend who is “gay,” and for me to then say, “I accept you for who you are and that’s ALL that matters,” is completely unbiblical – not to mention cruel and unloving – and certainly nothing to be proud of. Because if I am truly your friend, then what matters most to me is your relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I want you to know what the Bible says, and I want to tell you, in a kind but serious way, that Jesus paid the price so that we can be set free from our selfish, sinful desires. I want to lovingly expose the deadly lie that we should proudly identify ourselves with our sin, and seek to be accepted and approved in it. Christians are not supposed to just “have friends” or even “accept their friends.” We are supposed to love our friends. Real love deals in honesty.

Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:5-6

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)

January 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 7 Comments
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Eutychus was the young man in Acts Chapter 20 who literally fell out of church. This is not a lesson about staying away from window ledges at the local church where you attend, but there are some practical applications to be learned about the dangers that await us if we ever fall into the trap of becoming unfaithful in our church attendance.

1. If you fall out of church, you will fall into ignorance.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:41-42 (emphasis added)

“Stedfastly” means doing something regularly. If possible, Christians should attend church every week – hopefully three times per week if that is how often the church you belong to has services. “Doctrine” means a systematic study of God’s Word: “Bible study.” You can study the Bible on your own – and you should – but God’s plan is for believers to meet together for the reading and teaching of his Word. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When the flow of water was cut off from a city in Bible times, the inhabitants would get thirsty, dirty, and sick. Eventually they would die. The Bible talks about the washing of water by the Word.

2. If you fall out of church, you will fall into isolation.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (emphasis added)

Another main function of the local church in edifying believers is fellowship. In the Book of Acts the early Christian church “broke bread” – they ate together. They also observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed together. You can certainly eat alone, and you can pray alone, but God designed the local church so that believers could meet together. One of the reasons that God designed it this way is so that we can comfort one another in trials, temptations, and troubles. The local church is also designed for accountability.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

People in general might ask you, “How was the game?” or “How’s your job?” but in church hopefully someone is asking you, “How’s your walk with the Lord?” God created a desire in us to want to be together with others. It is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

More than just being together, things really get accomplished when people come together in “one accord.” Christians should be unified – of one mind in Christ. The Apostle Paul was on a journey – a missionary journey – and the church at Troas didn’t hinder him. They could have said, “You need to stay here, you’re focusing too much energy on missions. We’ve got disputes that need to be settled.” Instead, they supported him, fed him, gave him a place to sleep, and helped him on his way.

3. If you fall out of church, you will fall into impotence.

[Disclaimer: Despite the vulgar connotation brought to mind by the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials on television these days, “impotence” is not a dirty word. “Impotent” is the opposite of “potent.” When something is powerful, we say, “Whew, that is some potent stuff!”]

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

The Holy Spirit used Luke to write this portion of Scripture, and Luke was a medical doctor, so when Luke writes that “Eutychus was taken up dead” we may safely assume that he was actually dead, and that the Holy Ghost used the Apostle Paul to bring him back to life. Then they went back upstairs to continue having church. These were some powerful – some empowered – believers. There are some charismatic churches today which would say it’s okay if you fall asleep in church, fall down, and get hurt. They have modern-day apostles on standby, just waiting for the opportunity to heal you, but my advice is to stay awake in church. (As much coffee as folks drink at church these days, I don’t see how anyone could fall asleep anyway.)

Babies are not very powerful when they’re first born. They need help just to eat and wash. Someone has to take care of them. They have to be taught how to walk and talk and read and write, but eventually they learn how to feed themselves and and take care of themselves. You can be a Christian and not be faithful to church, but why would you not want to be involved in helping new believers survive and grow in the Lord? Where do you give your tithe? How do you know those who labor among you in the Lord, and obey those who have the rule over you? Some people “attend” church by watching church services on television or listening on the radio or internet, but a TV doesn’t pray with you when you have a death in the family. A radio doesn’t come visit you when you’re sick in the hospital.

A common objection to faithful church participation is the hypocrisy of current church members, but, if you feel like your local church if full of hypocrites, don’t let that stop you from coming – they always have room for one more! Besides, there are hypocrites present when you go to work, school, and the grocery store, and I doubt that stops you from going to those places.

Eutychus made a mistake when he fell out of church literally, but he didn’t make the mistake of falling out of church figuratively. He was injured when he fell, but, because he was living in the center of God’s will, his mistake wasn’t ultimately fatal. The local church is there to strengthen, build up, edify the believers, and to get unified so that evangelists and missionaries can be sent forth.

Don’t fall into ignorance, isolation, or impotence by falling out of church. You might be considered an outcast by some if you become actively involved in the local church to the point where you have less time to participate in all the vain and frivolous amusements of this world, but God will in no wise cast out His children.

Fortifying the Fulcrum

January 24, 2013 at 10:20 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 4 Comments
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Sometimes the key to wisdom is balancing competing interests. Good leaders place themselves at the fulcrum.

If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

Ecclesiastes 10:4 (emphasis added)

On one side is pride.

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7

Pliability is on the other side. Rulers must not be too proud, nor too pliable. They must be willing to listen to counsel, but not to be overcome by pressure.

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:5-6

Likewise, those who work under leaders must be balanced.

He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

Ecclesiastes 10:8-9

On the one hand, workers must be aware of their position. When you work it is important to consider where you “stand.” When we dig ditches or break through hedges or chop wood or pick up and move heavy rocks, we need to watch our step, but the same principle applies to the work of the ministry, which can be as dangerous spiritually as theses types of physical labor are dangerous literally. The work of the ministry does require some “heavy lifting” and “getting down into ditches” and poking around in people’s lives even though they might bite you like a serpent. But the Lord empowers us to do these things while we watch where we stand.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Psalm 1:1 (emphasis added)

We deal with sinners and with scorners, but we don’t “stand” in their “way” and we don’t sit in their “seat.”

If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

Ecclesiastes 10:10-11

Workers balance position on one side and preparation on the other. Cutting wood with a dull ax is a problem of preparation, and so is trying to handle a snake that hasn’t yet been charmed. Talking to a babbler is like dealing with a deadly snake when it comes to spiritual matters. It requires preparation. Both of these dangers for workers can be balanced with precaution.

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Proverbs 21:5

At work and in your Christian walk, take precautions. Be diligent. Think it through. Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. Precaution will balance out your positioning and your preparation.

Another thing that must be balanced is our communication.

The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

Ecclesiastes 10:12

Communication can be destructive. Foolish words can hurt others, but here we learn that we can destroy ourselves with our own foolish words.

The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.

Ecclesiastes 10:13

In addition to being destructive, some communication is just downright dumb. In the Bible foolishness is often described as deadly, and “mischievous madness” is just dumb. Once you’ve talked yourself into a hole it’s better to shut your mouth than to try to talk your way out.

A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Ecclesiastes 10:14

Balanced on the other side of destructive and dumb communication is determined communication. Determination is a good thing, but it can also be a dangerous thing because sometimes it attracts pride. It is not bad to use words, but it is foolish to be “full of words,” especially when it comes to making bold assertions about the future.

The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

Ecclesiastes 10:15

“He knoweth not how to go to the city” was an ancient proverb for someone who was demanding – someone who was so busy bossing everybody around that he wore everyone out and missed the obvious signs about how to get to the city.

The balancing principle for dumb and destructive communication on the one hand, and determined and demanding communication on the other hand, is learning to be delicate. We want to be somewhat determined and demanding about truth, but we don’t want to tip over into being destructive or dumb.

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Colossians 4:6

Salt is a little bit delicate. Too little, and the food will be bland; too much, and the food will be inedible.

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