The Argument Culture And God’s Word


wonderful-words-of-life-119318-mToday Phil Vischer and his podcast cronies hosted Dr. Ed Stetzer to discuss “What The Election Says About The Church.”

At one point the conclusion seemed to be that the Evangelical leadership understands the importance of diversity, pastors have a fifty-fifty understanding, and the people in the pew lag far behind.

Their conclusion? Either the leadership has to do a better job of leading or the people in the pew have to stop listening to the counter voices that give a message in contradiction to Jesus and His life and ministry.

Nowhere did they say, the people in the pew need to be reading their Bible everyday.

When I was a kid, we sang a couple songs that made an impact. One was, “Read Your Bible.”

I don’t remember the shrink verse, but the point is, from a very young age, I heard the need to read my Bible every day. It took years to build the habit, but the grow part of that song is very true.

As in any other relationship, when we spend time with someone else, we get to know them. Spending time with God in His word, where He reveals His person, plan, and will, makes a difference in the life of someone who wants to know God and be like Him.

The man who is preaching at my church right now (while our search for a pastor continues), Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, is doing a mini-series entitled “After The Election.” In his sermon from Romans 12 Sunday, he made a great application—well several. The one that stuck with me most was about believing what God said. In this passage at the end of the chapter, He says we are not to take revenge against someone who behaves as our enemy. Rather, God says He will act on our behalf to bring justice.

It’s up to us to believe what God says, or not.

But before we get to that point, we have to actually know what God says!

We ought not rely on what the preacher tells us during a thirty minute sermon once a week. That’s not sufficient. For one thing, unless the pastor is preaching faithfully through a text of Scripture, he’s picking and choosing topics he thinks we need to hear. There might be a lot of topics that he never addresses that we desperately need God’s instruction for.

Second, a half hour a week? What if we said we could eat for only a half hour a week? Our bodies would become steadily weaker. We need daily nourishment for our bodies, How can that not also be true for our spirit?

I am so thankful for God’s word. I’m so thankful for those who encouraged me, as a child, a young person, and as an adult, to spend time reading God’s word everyday.

Scripture, above all else, will instruct us in the way we should go, even in the argument culture. Maybe I should rephrase that: especially in the argument culture. When everything is going peachy-keen, we are less aware of our need to do things better. That’s why some athletes and coaches realize that losing a game can actually be a good thing. It sharpens your resolve and shows you where you need to be better.

genie_lamps_007The argument culture can do that for us Christians. We can see that if we are to be a light to this darkness, we have to be above the fray. We have to share the light that brightens our path. But we can’t share what we don’t have.

We need to be in the Bible everyday if it is to be a lamp to our footsteps and a light to our paths.

Published in: on November 22, 2016 at 6:05 pm  Comments Off on The Argument Culture And God’s Word  
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The Church Is Not Perfect


Wolds_Way_Stile_-_geograph.org.uk_-_285429I’m sensitive about church bashing which seemed to be in vogue not so long ago. When someone started talking about the Church it was almost always to tell readers or listeners what the traditional church had done wrong. Sometimes the tone was quite snarky. It’s those old people, the grannies in their denim dresses and the old codgers with their belts up around their chests. They keep the church from growing, from being alive and vibrant.

Ugh!

The Church is not perfect, and never has been. Even in the first century, Paul and Peter and Titus were writing about false teachers and false doctrines and how believers were to go about sorting truth from error.

From what I understand, our first line of defense against false teaching is the Bible. Surprise, surprise. Truth is the best weapon against error. Paul even calls the word of God, the Sword of the Spirit in Ephesians when he lists off the armor the Christian is to put on in our fight against spiritual forces.

Part of using Scripture against error is our discernment—our ability to check to see if “these things are so” as the Bereans did.

Now these [Berean believers] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

The other part is to hold each other accountable as Paul did Peter when the latter started treating Gentile believers differently once the Jewish Christians showed up. Suddenly it wasn’t OK for Peter to eat with the uncircumcised as he had been. Paul called him on his hypocrisy.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all . . . (Galatians 2:11-14a)

The rest of the chapter records Paul’s argument against what Peter was doing.

Paul also stood up against the Corinthian church, confronting them on various issues in his first letter. In Phil. 4 he openly urged two women who weren’t getting along to solve their dispute, and he asked another member of the church to help them.

Not only are we to troubleshoot for each other, we have responsibilities, older women to teach the younger and older men to teach younger men.

Then there is the leadership. Peter says clearly, elders are to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). But even they have requirements.

No one in the church is above God’s standard. He’s given us means by which we can continue to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects. Not following the way of the world, not believing “a different gospel,” not following the lure of deceivers who John warns us about (2 John 1:7), not getting caught up in visions or beliefs someone with an inflated ego invents and foists on the church (Col. 2:18).

Holding people in the church accountable is not Church bashing, and it isn’t an attack on our unity.

If it were, Paul would have torn the Church apart instead of building it up.

In fact, he did what a good overseer is supposed to do—he taught the people what Scripture meant. And he challenged them to live what they knew. His reprimands, as he made clear in 2 Corinthians were because he cared for the people he regarded as his children in the faith.

Perhaps that’s the point of greatest difference between the first century Church and today’s western church. We are distracted by what worship style we like, how many people we have signing up as members, how much money we’re getting in, how many people have the church app on their phones, and on and on. But who cares enough to step up and say, Stop sinning! It’s wrong for you to sleep with someone you aren’t married to. Or to get drunk (even at college). Or to cheat on your income taxes.

We aren’t perfect, so I guess we think we have no ground to stand on when it comes to confronting someone else about sin. I understand that. The key is to deal with our own logs before we do anything else, but Scripture doesn’t imply that we should all ignore the splinters and logs everyone else is walking around with because we once upon a time had our own log. If we still have a log of our own, then that’s the first thing we need to take before the throne of grace.

But how can we stand silently by and watch wolves come climbing over the walls of the sheepfold? We ought not!

Published in: on July 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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Faith That Moves Mountains


Brown_Mustard_SeedJesus talked about faith that moves mountains. A couple times. Matthew records one instance in chapter 17 and then a bit later, in chapter 21.

The first time Jesus mentions it, He says, somewhat surprisingly, that the size of our faith is unimportant. Maybe even immaterial. The point He’s making that the very smallest amount of faith, the size of a mustard seed, is able to move mountains. Except, He couples their mustard seed-sized faith and what it can do with a chastisement—that their faith was too small.

I can only surmise that any faith smaller than a mustard seed had to be no faith at all. This idea seems consistent with the second instance in which Jesus challenged His disciples to have faith the size of a mustard seed. On that occasion, He added an important caveat: “if you have faith and do not doubt” (Matt 21:21b).

So I’m wondering if faith that moves mountains is pure faith, no matter the size or the amount, not gobs and gobs of faith with just a little doubt.

We’re big on doubt these days. We applaud people who are “honest” about how they feel concerning God and how He’s “let them down.”

Certainly we have examples in the Bible of people who didn’t have the kind of faith that moved mountains. If fact, in the first instance Matthew recorded, when Jesus talked about mustard-seed faith, He was answering why the disciples couldn’t cast out a demon during the time He was up on the mount of transfiguration.

Peter, right after he’d declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, showed his ignorance and doubt in what Jesus said. No, no, Peter declared, you aren’t going to be killed like you just said. That can’t happen!

Jesus’s response is very telling, I think: “Get behind me, Satan.”

He wasn’t sympathetic or compassionate. He didn’t say, I know how shocking this must be for you to hear, and I understand why you doubt my word, but trust me on this.

I kind of wish Jesus had responded that way. I mean, I think Peter’s response was understandable, given what he believed about the Messiah. He was expecting a victorious king to come and defeat the Romans. But he let what he thought was going to happen affect what he believed about what Jesus told him would happen.

It sounds like such a little thing, this crack in the faith statement Peter had just delivered, but it obviously wasn’t a little thing to Jesus. He wants faith that’s untainted with doubt.

George-MuellerI’m reading a biography of George Muëller right now. When he was a young man, he became convinced that he was to live simply, and completely dependent upon God’s provision. He was a young pastor, and he gave up his salary. At the time, in the early 1830s, the church received payment from the richer congregants for pew rental, and that’s where they got money to pay their pastor.

Muëller believed none of the church members should be treated in a better manner than any other. And he believed God would supply all he needed. So he stopped the practice of renting the pews and he refused a salary.

His trust in God to provide for his needs extended to his ministry. First he started an institute that supported foreign missions, funded six Christian day schools, two Sunday schools, and an adult school, along with various outreaches to the poor. Later he added an orphan’s home, then a second, and a third. Even when he had over 100 orphans under his care, his method for raising money was to pray. He would tell God, and God alone, about their needs.

People gave generously to his work even though they didn’t know what his specific needs were. But the cool thing about what Muëller did was that he was intentionally walking by faith so that other Christians would see and believe that God meant what He said in His word.

His faith was contagious, and it continues to inspire people even to this day. It inspires me. I want to believe that God means what He says, without any doubting. He’s proved Himself faithful in the lives of so many others, in the Bible and throughout history. Why would I think He’s grow tired of caring for His children.

He who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is certainly not going to change His mind when I bring my needs before Him. He’s not going to give me a scorpion when I ask for bread because He loves me with a Father’s love.

The thing God asks of us is to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. A la George Muëller. He wasn’t seeking for his own aggrandizement or comfort or ease. He was seeking to tell others about the love of Jesus Christ and the good news that He covered our sins with His robe of righteousness.

As a result, God expanded Muëller’s opportunities to reach people with truth. The mountain that Muëller moved was the piles of provisions needed for his ministries. When some of his workers asked, what do we do if we have no bread in the morning, he never offered a plan B. His plan A was for God to provide through the generosity of His people, and He never wavered from that plan.

The result was that his orphans were always properly fed and clothed. And that more and more people understood just how faithful God is.

Published in: on June 28, 2016 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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What I Don’t Like Regarding Church


Mars_Hill_Church,_Ballard_location,_worship_band_stageChurches are nothing but a collection of people—sinners saved by grace who sometimes listen to God and follow Him, but who sometimes rebel and go their own way, though they may repent and come back to a place of obedience. Sometimes, without realizing it, we let stuff creep into our churches that is really harmful, stuff that acts like a little leaven. Sometimes we let in wolves that masquerade like shepherds. Sometimes we tolerate what amounts to cotton candy.

When I was in Tanzania, the average person lived hand to mouth. One of the staples in their diet was ugali, a dough-like substance made from the cassava plant. Cassava is a root, similar to the potato. In Tanzania, the farming techniques at that time often depleted the soil of nutrients. Hence, cassava, and ultimately ugali, had little nutritional value. People could eat their meals which would assuage their appetite, but they were not receiving the vitamins and minerals they needed.

Some churches can be like ugali, or like cotton candy—on the surface it seems as if the people are being fed, but they end up nearly starving.

I don’t like the things that hurt our churches!

Here, in no specific order, are some of the things I think hurt our churches:

Copying. Or jumping on bandwagons, if you will. We seem too eager, in my opinion, to jump to the next trend, as if church is all about keeping up with the trendy, the pacesetters, the megachurches who seem to have find the right formula to bring people in.

Jesus attracted big crowds, so there’s obviously nothing inherently wrong with a large congregation. But Jesus didn’t do market studies to see how to bring people in. His crowds also included a group out to catch Him in some kind of error—either morally or theologically.

The crowds also included those who were there just for a free lunch or to be wowed by the next dead-man-walking event. Some may have been there for the cool stories.

But at one point, Jesus laid out what He expected of people who followed Him, and the crowds dissipated. Rapidly. Jesus didn’t revamp His style or technique. He didn’t soften His message or steer away from the truth. He didn’t open up coffee shops or promise to provide lunch from only ONE loaf of bread if they’d just come back next week.

Which brings me to the second thing I think hurts churches: counting the number of people who attend. We’ve got this idea that more is better.

More can be exciting and encouraging when a ministry starts out. That people come to a house church in the Arab world at peril of their lives is an awesome sign that God is moving. But here in the western world? The biggest crowds are in sports arenas. In other words, great numbers aren’t necessarily a sign of great spirituality. So why do we count?

Maybe the leadership needs to know attendance as part of their planning, but a fixation on numbers can derail a ministry in short order. We start relying on the techniques of the world, we start taking credit for the “success” of a large congregation. We stop trusting God to bring the people He wants to come.

A third thing that hurts churches is performance. Ministers perform more than they preach.

They’re preceded by the opening act—the worship band. Lights go dim in the “house” as spotlights illuminate the performers. Sound equipment is turned up to loud or loudest so all that the people in the “audience” hear is the lead and backup singers and instruments. Some churches include special effects.

The point of all this performing is to entertain the people to keep them coming back. If they get an emotional kick from the concert or from the speaker, then church has been “worshipful.”

Well, no it hasn’t. Such a service puts the focus first on the performers and then on the people in the audience who are responding emotionally. Where is the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ? Putting the spotlight on Him is worship!

Number four naturally follows. Churches are hurt—crippled, really—when ministers preach the topics of their choice rather than what the Bible says. Oh, sure, lots of ministers who pick their topic use the Bible, but it’s more by way of reinforcing the point they already want to make.

How about if we opened up the Bible and looked at a passage, verse by verse and chapter by chapter, to see what it says? In other words, how about having a minister preach from the Bible—whether it addresses one of the hot, trendy topics, or something really uncomfortable—as opposed to using the Bible for our own purposes.

The thing is, some pastors who use the Bible are in sync with it, but the model of preaching that way is flawed. Therefore, someone can come along behind them who is not Biblically minded and follow the “use the Bible” model, only to lead the congregants away from the truth.

The health-and-wealth preachers fall into this latter category. Those who want to “name it and claim it” use the Bible to reinforce their beliefs about God’s blessing and prosperity while ignoring passage after passage after passage that talks about suffering and being in need and sacrificing.

I haven’t exhausted the things I don’t like, but I’m going to stop. I’ll end with this short video of a musician who understands about worship. It’s encouraging to know that there are people out there who are working to enhance corporate worship. It gives me hope.

My Cry Ascends | Greg Wilbur from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.

Published in: on May 3, 2016 at 6:25 pm  Comments (3)  
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Dogma And Snark


Preacher_(3558380993)False teaching has existed for as long as the Christian church has existed. Paul, Jude, and Peter all addressed the topic. In fact, Jesus Himself warned of the same thing: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Today false teaching seems to be as strong and healthy as ever, but now it comes with two sidekicks: dogma and snark. Dogma is a set of principles laid down by someone claiming authority—such as a false teacher—as if these are undeniably true. Snark, as used in the vernacular, refers to opinions rendered with a bite, often humorous, but at the expense of someone holding a different view.

The astounding thing is that false teaching often comes about as a criticism of dogma. Progressives want to stand against “those dogmatic fundamentalists,” for example. But the result simply is new dogma, repeated over and over, without supportive evidence, as if it is a known truth.

Snark has also become the false teacher’s friend. Make people laugh a little, or more accurately laugh at the person with whom they disagree, and the point, whatever point that may be, has been made.

Discernment, then, has become that much harder. First we have to get past such things as bombast and political correctness and categorical statements (“Fundamentalists are all legalists” or “Porn stars all hate themselves” or “a person who says homosexuality is sin is a homophobe.”)

Second, we have to get past the brash, often condescending tone of so much rhetoric. People’s opinions now come with barbs, and at any time that sharp point might swing about and take aim on you. On the other hand, the attack might be pointed at a person or set of beliefs that you want to see taken down. However, the humor masks the vapid support for that position. At best it serves as a springboard for more mockery.

Dogma and snark are an unhealthy mix, but add them to false teaching and you have a deadly cocktail.

The only sure counter to false teaching, to dogma dressed up as politically correct tolerance, to snarky but baseless opinions is God’s sure word.

This week some comment has arisen because of an article at Pathos—an excerpt from a Frank Schaeffer book—that vilifies the writers of the New Testament on its way to saying that Jesus was not a Bible-believer.

Dogma. Snark. And false teaching.

I fear this may be trending.

But God’s word, no matter what the false teachers like to say, is sure. It will stand firm forever. It is tried and it stands.

Peter has much to say about these matters in both his letters. First, he makes a clear statement about God’s Word (and in 2 Peter he gave Paul’s letters equal status to other Scripture):

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)

Then at the end of his second letter, he gives an admonition and a prayer.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

I can’t think of a better response to false teaching, even that married to dogma and snark.

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm  Comments Off on Dogma And Snark  
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The Bible Reading Challenge


256px-Northwest_Crown_Fire_ExperimentI started reading Scripture regularly when I was an adult. I taught at a Christian school which required each of us to teach Bible. During one of our morning faculty devotions our principal made a clear statement: we could not be giving to our students what we ourselves were not taking in. In other words, to be good at teaching the Bible, we actually had to read the Bible.

Imagine!

You’d think that would be self-evident, that we’d all know instinctively the truth of that statement, but I, for one, needed his push. Not that I proceeded perfectly. In fact, I didn’t know precisely how to go from there.

I’m not sure if it was because of his directive to us or not, but I talked with a teacher friend who was ten years my senior, and she told me that she read from Genesis through Revelation each year. I forget when she started, but she’d already racked up an impressive number of times through the Bible.

I’d read it once, for a class in college (except for the parts I skimmed). And of course there were the parts I’d memorized as a kid and the ones I’d read in church. But on my own? I’d made a couple stabs at it when I was younger. I remember being quite impressed with how interesting Genesis was, and even the beginning of Exodus. But inevitably, I’d stall out.

At last I had extrinsic motivation to read it through—my principal’s clear direction that I needed to know the Bible if I was to teach the Bible. And I had an example of someone who read the Bible in a year and kept coming back to do it over and over. In other words, for the first time, I wanted to do this and believed it was doable.

I admit, I didn’t find establishing a routine of reading the Bible to be easy. I tried my friend’s method—three chapters a day on week days, and five on weekends, I thought. (I don’t have that right, but that’s what I remembered when I was starting out).

Eventually, after some struggles, I decided, I was not my friend, who is an incredibly disciplined woman. I decided I needed a plan that worked for me, and whether I finished in a year or a year and a half or two years, was immaterial. This was not a race. What was important was that I read the Bible.

Slowly things got better. I understood more, but also asked more questions. I began to see how one passage echoed another, how one writer quoted from others, and how all pointed to Jesus Christ.

I also had incredibly great Bible teaching at my church, and I learned a lot about what goes into studying Scripture.

All that to say, I needed someone to tell me reading the Bible was vital. So, I want to do that for you, whoever you are, reading this post.

Reading the Bible is vital. No, you may not be formally teaching Bible as I was, but you are informally teaching with your life. If you have kids, you’re teaching them. If you have neighbors, you’re teaching them. If you have colleagues, you’re teaching them. If you have friends, you’re teaching them. What we teach is made up of what we know and believe to be true. But to know something, we have to learn it.

When the people of Israel were told they should teach the Law to the next generation whenever they stood up, lay down, walked along the road—in other words, at all times—it was a given that they knew the Law.

Sadly, they didn’t follow through, and when one of the last kings of Judah determined he would fix up the temple, the priests discovered a copy of the Law. The king read it and learned that the people of Israel had broken their covenant with God, that He would bring on them the curses written in the Law. As a result, this young king humbled himself and went about changing the idolatrous culture of his nation.

The point here is that at some time, the generation who knew the Law stopped passing it on until it fell into obscurity. Perhaps they stopped passing it on because they stopped knowing what the Law said or believing that God’s word mattered.

Christians who declare the Bible to be true, can just as easily slide away from it if we don’t read it, study it, and pass it on.

The choice is ours, then. Will we decide to read the Bible or not?

Yes, we’re busy. And it’s nearly impossible to find a quiet place to read. And parts are hard to understand. Or are quite frankly boring. I mean, who wants to turn to a chapter of unpronounceable names for their source of inspiration?

But here’s the thing. We all find time for what we want to do. Have a favorite TV program? Play golf? Go shopping? And today, with smart phones and iPads and Kindle Fires and laptops, we have the Bible a click away. We can read Scripture any time.

The parts about temple measurements and sacrifices and dietary laws, skip until you want to read them. The key is to come up with a plan that will keep you reading. And eventually, sooner than you thought possible, you’ll be through the Bible and ready to start over again. Next time you might add in some of those chapters you skipped, and eventually you might find yourself studying them.

But not if you don’t start.

So here’s the challenge. Take a month and read a chapter a day, or two if you want, even three. Whatever you think you will actually follow through with and do. Start with Genesis. If you make it through one month, then maybe you’ll want to re-up and commit to a second month.

But not if you don’t start.

Reading God’s word regularly will only happen if you read God’s word on day one.

For those who already do read God’s word regularly, here’s a challenge for you as well. Repeat this challenge for at least two people, then pray for them.

Do you know how quickly the number multiplies if we pass on what we know to two people, and they in turn pass it on to two others? Imagine the power of God’s word multiplying like wild fire.

Published in: on July 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm  Comments (5)  
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Quiz – The First Christmas According To The Bible


christmas-1412789-mOver the years, a popular post during the Christmas season, has been this quiz. Consequently, I’m dusting it off and bringing it front and center once again.

We know all about the first Christmas, right? I mean we hear about the details in Christmas carols and programs and sermons, see them depicted on cards and church bulletins and manger scenes. But do we know the Biblical version? Here’s a fun little quiz to find out. (Feel free to print it out and pass it along if you’re interested). Answers at the bottom.

Directions: based on what the Bible says, decide if the following statements are true or false. (Hint: for the sake of this quiz, if the Bible is silent on the matter, it should be considered false).

1. Jesus’s birth was predicted to Joseph by an angel in a dream.

2. Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’s birth.

3. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph’s place of residence.

4. The innkeeper told Joseph there was no room in the inn

5. Jesus was born on a cold winter’s night.

6. The stable was a wooden structure.

7. There were kings from the east who visited Jesus after he was born.

8. There were three of these visitors.

9. These visitors followed a star from the East to Jerusalem in search of the Christ child.

10. The star which the visitors saw was an especially bright star.

11. The visitors arrived on camels.

12. Herod told the visitors to go to Bethlehem.

13. These visitors came to Jesus and saw Him in the manger where he had been placed after birth.

14. These visitors were joined by shepherds who came to worship Jesus.

15. The shepherds also saw the star which had guided the other visitors.

16. A host of angels appeared to the shepherds and sang praised to God.

17. In a dream God warned Mary that Jesus’s life was in danger.

18. Mary and Joseph took Jesus back to Nazareth to escape the danger.

19. Mary remained a virgin and never had any other children.

20. God can do the impossible, which makes belief in the Christmas miracles possible.

Answers alert!

– – –

Answers:
1. true – though His birth was also predicted to Mary
2. true – see Matthew 1:24-25
3. false – they were from Nazareth and only went to Bethlehem because it was required by the government
4. false – the innkeeper doesn’t make an appearance in the Biblical account
5. false – the Bible doesn’t say what kind of a night it was
6. false – the Bible doesn’t describe the stable
7. false – the eastern visitors were magi or wisemen specializing in such studies as astrology
8. false – the Bible doesn’t specify how many magi there were—only that they presented three types of gifts
9. false – they saw a star in the East and went to Jerusalem where they would expect to find a king; they then followed the star from Jerusalem to Bethlehem
10. false – the Bible never refers to the star as bright
11. false – the Bible doesn’t mention camels
12. true – after learning from the scribes where Messiah was to be born, Herod told the magi
13. false – the magi came to a house.
14. false – the magi didn’t arrive the night Jesus was born; the shepherds who were already in Judea went immediately after they heard the birth announcement
15. false – the Bible doesn’t mention that the shepherds saw the star
16. false – Scripture doesn’t say these angels sang
17. false – God warned Joseph, not Mary
18. false – they went to Egypt, not Nazareth
19. false – Mary had a number of other children, among them James who wrote the book of the Bible that bears his name.
20. true – Gabriel stated this to Mary when she asked how she being a virgin could give birth to a son (Luke 1:37)

Questions? Read Matthew 1:18-2:15; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20. Or feel free to ask them here.

Published in: on December 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm  Comments Off on Quiz – The First Christmas According To The Bible  
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Christians Also Know . . .


The_Holy_BibleBesides knowing that God is, that Jesus shows us God, that we are saved by grace, Christians also know God’s Word is trustworthy. It makes sense. If God is trustworthy, and He says His Word is trustworthy, then it’s logical that we bank that.

Some people struggle with accepting God’s Word, much the way the apostle Thomas had a hard time grasping that Jesus was actually and truly raised from the dead. Show me, he said. Only if he could see Jesus for himself and touch his scars would he believe the impossible had happened. He wasn’t taking anyone else’s word for it.

Jesus commended all who would come after Thomas and believe without seeing. He put a premium on faith–trusting that God meant what He said, that He wouldn’t lie, wouldn’t trick us.

It seems to be the test of relationship from the beginning. In the garden where Satan confronted Eve, his question to her was, Has God said . . . When she told him that yes, God said they weren’t to eat of one particular tree or they’d die, Satan countered with, You won’t die! In other words, you don’t have to listen to God. He isn’t telling you the truth.

Ever since then people have had to decide if they would listen to God and believe Him, or not. Abraham listened and acted accordingly, which is why, from what James says, he was considered righteous, even called the friend of God.

Noah, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Paul . . . people throughout history have had to decide if they would listen to God, or not.

Some, of course, question whether the Bible is God’s Word. To determine whether it is or not, a person must decide if he or she finds God trustworthy or not. If so, then His Word should be as well.

The Bible can be tested in any number of ways—for internal consistency, agreement with history and archaeology, fulfillment of prophecy, and others. Fundamental is the fact that the Bible itself declares all scripture to be God-breathed. In other words, God is the author regardless of the human who composed the sentences and ideas or who wrote the words down.

Christians know this, not because we understand it or can say we’ve seen it done before or since. We know it because omniscient God passed the information on. Knowledge like this is not something arrived at independently. It comes from “revelation.” God Himself had to tell us. But since He did, it’s as true and sure a fact as if it could be proved in the ways Thomas wanted to prove Christ’s resurrection.

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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There’s A Reason The Old Testament Is In The Bible


The_Holy_BibleI heard a part of a sermon today emphasizing that the whole Bible is about Christ, not just the New Testament.

This theme is something my not-so-new-any-more pastor Mike Err has reiterated throughout his first year with us.

I admit, I’m always a little taken aback. For a moment. I have been blessed to sit under some outstanding preaching as an adult, and I forget that isn’t the case for everyone.

Over at Spec Faith the issue came up in a tangential way. Regular contributor Yvonne Anderson had occasion in her article to give Wikipedia’s description of “Christianity”

a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament.

Yvonne pointed out two things she disagreed with in that brief sketch, but my mind was drawn to that last phrase: “presented in the New Testament.” The statement directly contradicted the sermon I’d heard . . . and all the sermons I’ve heard this year from Mike Erre, and practically all the sermons I’ve heard over the years preached in my church.

And then something dawned on me. If Christianity was presented in the New Testament only, why did our Bible continue to include the Old Testament? What did the Old Testament have to say about Christianity if Christ wasn’t part of the Old Testament?

Some people accuse the Apostle Paul of making up a new religion, which is how Christianity came into being. But only someone who doesn’t know the Bible would come to such a conclusion.

All throughout Jesus’s ministry on earth, He made the connection between the Old Testament and Himself.

    * He compared Himself to the bronze snake Moses lifted up to cure the people stricken by disease brought on because of their disobedience.
    * He declared His existence before Abraham.
    * In the Sermon on the Mount, He expanded commands God gave His people from of old.
    * He connected Himself to a statement David made about the Christ.
    * Upon reading a scripture about the Messiah, He declared it’s fulfillment that very day.

Further, when He was talking with the two disciples on the road to the town of Emmaus, He scolded them for not believing what the prophets taught about the Messiah:

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

“Moses” refers to the first five books of the Bible, and all the prophets would likely mean, all the prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi.

In fact, throughout the forty days Jesus remained on earth after His resurrection, He apparently spent His time, or at least some of it, teaching His followers from the Old Testament.

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44-47)

Then the apostles preached about Jesus by declaring His Messiahship, based on the Old Testament. Peter’s first sermon is a good example. After quoting a prophetic passage about the Messiah which David wrote, Peter drew this conclusion (words in all caps are quotes from the Old Testament):

Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32(

All throughout the letters, Paul, Peter, James, the author of Hebrews, Jude, John continue to refer to the Old Testament to clarify, support, or illustrate their points.

It’s apparent Jesus didn’t see Himself as starting something new and His followers didn’t see themselves as starting something new. Rather, Jesus is the completion of what God has been doing from before the foundations of the world. And we know about His work with mankind from the beginning because of the Old Testament.

Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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What Is Truth?


Nearly two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea serving under Emperor Tiberius, asked Jesus, What is truth? The problem was, he didn’t stick around for the answer but headed outside to tell the Jews Jesus wasn’t guilty of the crimes of which they were accusing him.

Jesus, you see, had just said that He came into the world to testify to the truth and that everyone “who is of the truth” hears His voice.

In light of the context, Pilate’s question seems disingenuous. It was more dismissive than it was searching, as if truth was an ephemeral will-o’-the-wisp, impossible to grasp.

In that regard, Pilate would have made a good postmodern thinker.

Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp binary classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on who the interested parties are and the nature of these interests. It claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective. (excerpt from “Postmodernism”emphasis mine)

What a contrast to Jesus’s testimony. He not only told Pilate He came to communicate truth, He told His disciples He is truth.

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

Of course, to believe Jesus’s statement, of necessity we must believe that the Bible faithfully recorded it.

Back in the eighteenth century, a scholar named Hermann Samuel Reimarus, using the methodology employed to study Greek and Latin texts, concluded that very little of the New Testament could be considered as indisputably true. That is to say, he had no proof that anything recorded in the Bible was untrue, but it lacked the supporting evidences from extra-Biblical sources.

Of course a good number of extra Biblical sources confirming Biblical truth have since been discovered, but the horse was already out of the barn, and higher criticism or “historical criticism,” the new term now favored, had already begun to sift through the Bible for the “historical Jesus.”

Similar efforts were being made regarding the Old Testament and scholars were concluding that it was nothing more than a human document. Apparently everything came under question, including authorship.

No longer was it sufficient for the book of Isaiah, for example, to state in the first chapter that these were the prophecies of Isaiah the son of Amoz.

The point is, a set of scholars came to believe that, despite internal evidence to the contrary, they could determine, thousands of years after the fact, what was true and what wasn’t.

The internal evidence I’m speaking of includes the clear declaration in various verses that these things are so. It also includes the evidence that the New Testament writers quoted the Old as proof of what they were saying. It also includes writers like Paul referencing Old Testament individuals like Adam in a parallel argument to explain what Christ means to people who believe in Him. (Why would Paul compare Jesus to a myth if he wanted people to believe in Him?)

In addition, there is a collection of methods such as what the leaders of the church wrote in the years following the writing of the last book of the Bible, that scholars use to verify the veracity of Scripture.

Other scholars will rely of methods such as socio-scientific criticism:

A typical study will draw on studies of contemporary nomadism, shamanism, tribalism, spirit-possession, millinarianism, etc. to illuminate similar passages described in biblical texts. (excerpt from “Biblical Criticism“)

With all the voices saying this or that, I can see a Pilate throwing up his hands and saying, What is truth?

As I think about this subject, I come to a central point — does the Bible depict truth as I know it, starting with the existence of God. Does He exist and is He the person the Bible describes?

Oddly enough many people make that determination without having ever read the Bible. I suspect such a decision says more about the person than it does about Truth. I heard, for example, Christopher Hitchens in a debate, and he said, for all practical purposes, that he didn’t believe in God because he couldn’t stand the thought of a “tyrant” telling him what to do.

The bottom line for me is this: if the God of the Bible exists, then He is all powerful. Could an all powerful God communicate through people to reveal Himself? Could He preserve and protect that communication down through the ages? Could He be sure that those writers who contributed to it gave a unified message? Could He verify the truth of that communication to individuals through His own Spirit?

If He could not do those things, then it would seem He is not all powerful, calling into question all the key components of the Christian faith — specifically the Son of God come down in the form of Man, dying for the redemption of sinners, rising on the third day to be seated at God’s right hand until He returns again in glory.

None of those things could be true unless God is all powerful. And an all powerful God can do all those things, He can let people know He did them, and He can let them know why He did them by producing a reliable, authoritative written record.

It seems to me unless a person believes in a “different God,” the Bible is His authoritative word. If Truth exists, if God exists as an all powerful person, what couldn’t He do to make Himself known?

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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