Monday, September 19, 2011


9 out of 10 days I find myself behind the same vehicle trying to leave base. Apparently we get out of work at roughly the same time most days, but they get away form the parking lot moments before I do. I have no idea what the make and model or license plate number is because my attention always goes to this bumper sticker:
I get lost in thought every time I see this piece of graphic design. Where are they coming from? Are they simply suggesting that all different religions, races and beliefs should learn to live in peace? Does the star of David really work as an "X"? Are they saying that people should stop waging so called “holy wars” when peace and love are central tenants of most belief systems? If that is the case then I can get behind it.
But what I fear is that this will be interpreted down the line and across the board as a call for tolerance and universalism. It is advisable as a Christian to say, “I’m going to treat everyone well regardless of who they are and what they believe.” But it is something entirely different to say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, let’s just get along!”
All paths do not lead to the same place. It may show compassion and tolerance to be kind to non-believers, but if you are a Christian it shows hatred toward that person if you are willing to stand aside and let them go on without hearing the Gospel. Failing to evangelize is in essence allowing them to walk the path to Hell.
Unconditional love reflects the cross, unconditional tolerance reflects apathy.
I am no proponent for aggressive “soul winning” tactics or attempts to cram the Gospel down someone’s throat. This accomplishes nothing but to raise discord and give people a story of how those “intolerant Christians” attacked me.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 says:
24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Note the way we are called to teach and instruct. With gentleness, kindness, patiently. We are supposed to be the bigger man. At the end of the conversation, we have to be the one who takes the high road. Verse 26 says that if you lead them to a knowledge of the truth they will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. It says that they have been captured by the devil to do his will.

So you can figure that anyone outside the faith is not in their right mind. They may not be clinically insane, but spiritually they are not right in the head or the heart. How expedient is it to yell at a crazy person?

If they are in fact in the snare of the devil and doing his will, they need to woken up to the fact, because I think if most atheists saw the truth that by not being in the service of God they were in the service of the evil one, and not neutral as they claim to be, that truth would shake them.

It doesn’t feel right to make a statement that suggests a non-Christian is so far outside the will of God that they are serving Satan, but consider this from the mouth of Jesus:
Matthew 12:30
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
No, we should not act as judges against those with different belief systems, but we should seek ways to help them wake up to the truth. We must do so in a loving way, yes, but not in a weak way. For our God is certainly not weak, and His children need not be afraid to confess Him to the world.

 2 Timothy 1:7

7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
Luke 12:8
“And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hard to swallow

The “Spoonful of Sugar” principle works for some things. You have some bad news to give; you have a hard or tedious task to do. Yeah, why not throw in something fun to take out the sting? Sadly in an attempt to make the harder parts of the bible go down easy, we dilute the Word with a sugary sweetness that confuses both believers and non believers alike.
I mean it is not so surprising to hear a non-Christian misunderstand a verse or a principle. But when a Christian doesn’t understand the why Jesus died (they are simply outraged at the injustice) or tells you something superstitious like, “Always pray at 3 O’clock because this was the hour Jesus was crucified.” Well, then you know there was a miscommunication out there somewhere.
I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out. But I believe I have a least a fair ability to discern truth from lies when the need arises.  Everything should check out with scripture. Before I share with anyone on biblical matters I pray that I will not be the one confusing others, but that God will speak clearly through me.
Someone tried to casually approach me once and explain where I was failing in his eyes. “All that really matters is if a person lives a good life you know? They can believe in God or not, but God can be anything and they just need to be a good person.”
I politely disagreed. He wasn’t trying to fight me so why fight him? But the conversation bothered me. We want the world to run by a human standard instead of God’s. We make faith about what we choose to accept when in reality it is about what God expects. “Good” is subjective. It is possible to be a good person outside of Christ when you make up your own rules and standards (and isn’t that what we do as humans?). But it is not possible to be truly good in the eyes of The Creator without surrendering your life to Christ.
John 11:25 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
John 14:5-7 (ESV)
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
When people tell me they believe in God, but aren’t living a life that reflects Christ, my next question is to specify whether or not they believe in the God of the Bible.  If they say yes (and so far most of them do) I have to point out verses like the ones above. If this is the God you believe in, you might want to pay attention to what He says about Jesus.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Preaching Gold Candlesticks

September means the end of my Naval contract and the beginning of life as a pastor. This time last year I was excitedly awaiting my R&R leave to begin so I could meet my newborn daughter. Now I am anxiously awaiting the beginning of a vocation that will allow me to spread God’s word throughout a community and minister to the needs of my church and the lost in our area. I’m not going to claim a lot of prophetic stuff and say that God sent down a word to me and I have had visions…none of that, but in my prayer and quiet time with the Lord I have come to believe that God is ready to do big things in Miller, SD. Our church just needs to be open and willing to be His vessels. And I believe that willingness is there.
I pray for a lack of distraction to what isn’t important. Questions have come up among people I know who are saved most of them are about peripheral issues that ultimately won’t matter to anyone’s salvation. One today that stood out, “What translation will you preach from?”
I skirted around the issue because I really didn’t want to get into a KJV only argument first thing in the morning after a three day weekend. I really like the KJV, but to say that a translation is inerrant is to miss the point entirely. I was raised reading the NIV and while it is not currently my translation of choice I would have to say it was sufficient to teach me about Jesus.
There are KJV-only advocates running around asking us to bow to a translation. They want us to translate the KJV into other languages rather than translating from Greek and Hebrew into those languages. This rides the fence of idolatry to put a translation of the Word above the Word itself.
I do think we need to be careful not to take certain translations as authoritative. As nice and popular as some paraphrases are, they are really more like commentaries than objective translations. A paraphrase will undoubtedly reveal the opinion of the person paraphrasing. A translation should utilize formal and dynamic equivalence in a way that ensures clarity of the gospel and optimal accuracy. Perfection is impossible in translation, but if we properly pray and discern as we study God’s word, He won’t fail us.
For myself? I probably find myself in the NASB and ESV more than anything else as of late. But if something in one of those translations doesn’t make sense or isn’t clear, I am happy to jump over to the KJV, NIV or HCSB to gain some clarity or a different perspective. I suppose I will settle into preaching from one specific translation eventually, but I will always compare translations, and once I have a little bit of Greek and Hebrew know-how I will undoubtedly take it deeper.
Most of all though, we can’t let an issue like this divide the church. We can’t sit around and make arguments about whether or not a painting of Adam and Eve should have belly buttons or what color the carpet should be in the sanctuary.
Mar 3:24-26 (KJV) "And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. [25] And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. [26] And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end."
In “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is asked why he has not been attending church. Proctor says that Reverend Parris preached nothing but “Gold candlesticks” until the pewter ones on the altar were replaced. I pray that as followers of Christ we can move past things like this and remain faithful to the body of believers and support our leadership. But more than that I pray that I never “preach gold candlesticks” when the Gospel will suffice for eternity.