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Believing Bubba Watson Wins 2012 Masters

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5 14-17).

As much as I’m dubious of “Celebrity Christianity” (and “Rock Star Preachers”), isn’t the testimony in the article linked above refreshing!? In this day of boorish, over-celebrated, above-the-law, self-absorbed, sin-glamorizing, and pathetic sports role models we see this glimmer of hope. As much as I think it can be dangerous to look at people instead of Jesus, sometimes I think it is OK to look at people who are trying to look like Jesus. As long as we don’t take our focus off of Him.

Yes, I’m a golfer (OK, I play golf). Yes, I watched the 2012 Masters (Confession time: I even taped it since I was traveling to see family and celebrate the Easter season). And, yes, I was pulling for Bubba. But I didn’t really know why until now. I love the way he plays; no lessons – all imagination and talent but with an air of calmness, grace, and class. That much I always noticed. But this completely changes things for me. Now I see Bubba for what he professes to be; a light! I should have known…he acted like someone who claimed the name of Christ.

When Bubba (he’s the kind of guy that you just want to call by his first name even though you’ve never met him), before donning the green jacket, was interviewed in the famous Butler Cabin after his historic win, commentator Jim Nance asked him, “Did you ever have this as a goal?” The winner of the world’s greatest golf tournament emotionally said, “No, no way. This is such a blessing.” From this article it appears that his goal is so much bigger than any milestone or match. Bubba, it seems, desires to show people the light of Christ more than anything else .

Part of me wishes that he wins so often that people would take greater notice of his character. But I’m afraid they would only relish his talent. They would mostly be watching to see him miraculously hook his hooded wedge off the pine needles on to a seemingly impossible-to-hit green for another major championship. That’s just the way we are bent. So the other, larger part of me hopes that, above all, golfing champion Watson achieves his goal of being a reflection of the brilliant light of Jesus. That makes him a true victor, in the most profound sense, whether he wins another golf tournament or not.

We live in a dark world and true followers of Jesus, famous or not, need to take the lid off the shining work Jesus is doing in our lives. For we are  called to be “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). So I think we would all do well to have these same priorities: Jesus first and everything below Him in its right order. God before golf…or anything else. Then will we sparkle in such a way that the only explanation is the transforming work of the One called the Light of the World. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). So let us glorify Him by being the light He has called us to be.


House churches growing along Texas-Mexico border | Believe It or Not | a blog

Believe it or not? Of course there are House Churches (HC’s) on the Mexican border. They are everywhere. George Barna, by his broad definition, claimed there were 30,000 HC’s in the US in 2009, with a possible participation of over 30,000,000. And that number most certainly has increased since then. Mainline Protestants (and Catholics) have often chosen to stick their head in the proverbial sand and act as if people aren’t in a mass exodus from traditional churches. They may claim the organic church movement is happening overseas, the 10-40 Window maybe, but not here. “No way,” they would say. But they are very, very wrong!

I’m not a missiologist but the trend is obvious. Mainline denominations were once the face of American Christianity yet we have observed their implosion and demise for some time. First, many fled (and are still fleeing) to non-denominational community or Bible churches. This is where we see the majority of mega-churches in America today. But another movement is afoot and has been for years. People hungry for intimacy, community, and a fresh, less institutionalized expression of their faith are migrating to houses, cafes, coffee houses, and other venues unlike commonly seen church buildings. In a sense, the American church is going underground.

I’m not saying this is totally good or totally bad. I’m just reporting the facts. So why this flight away from the more common forms of the visible church to small, less formal and structured gatherings? Don’t laugh, but I’m going to cite Wikipedia. Although not always accurate or unbiased, I found its description of HC’s to be helpful. You can read the entire article at House church – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Here is a section that will explain some elements of this phenomenon and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions and vote in the poll at the bottom of this post:

“Christians who meet together in homes usually do so because of a desire to return to basic Church meetings as found in the New Testament. The New Testament shows that the early Christian church exhibited a simplicity of fellowship and interactive practice that is typically not the case in conventional denominations. They believe that Christians walked closely with each other, in close fellowship, sharing their lives in Christ together. This is expressed by 50 examples of the phrase “one another” found in the New Testament. Some Bible passages that indicate the atmosphere of early church life include:


“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Participatory meetings

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Cor. 14:26 [NASB]; see also Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24–25)

Meeting in homes

“Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (1 Cor. 16:19 NASB; see also Acts 20:20, Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2).

Networking through ‘Extra-local, Itinerant Ministries’

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:36 NASB)

Occasional Large Group Meetings

“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20 NASB)

Jesus model

” For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 [NIV])


Some assemblies have a conventional leadership structure; others have none. A commonly held belief in the modern-day house church “movement” is that the Protestant Reformation did not go far enough to demonstrate a New Testament belief in the “priesthood of all believers” and that Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and the believers the body. The absence of hierarchical leadership structures in many house churches, while often viewed by the Protestant church at large as a sign of anarchy or rebelliousness to authority, is viewed by many in the house church movement to be the most viable way to come under true spiritual authority of love, relationships, and the visible dominion of Jesus Christ as Head of his own bride (i.e. the church). This does not mean that they reject all leadership, however. Many house churches develop elders and deacons who serve the members. Some house churches also accept ministry from church planters and itinerant workers whom they consider to be apostles.

Meeting format

Many house church gatherings are free, informal, and sometimes include a shared meal. Participants hope that everyone present will feel free to contribute to the gathering as and when they sense the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. Leadership structures range from no official leaders, to a plurality of appointed elders. There is a deliberate attempt within most house churches to minimize the leadership of any one person. Having a lone pastor is generally considered unscriptural and such meetings prefer an openly plural responsibility of leadership.”

So what do you think?

City banishes Bibles during ‘gay’ fest

Have you ever heard of a “biblical homicide?” You know, where someone who was bludgeoned to death by a literal, physical Bible. Although it calls itself “a sword” (Hebrews 4:12) the canon of Scripture, unless it is so convicting that one’s conscience can’t handle its truth, is not a WMD!

Is this not stereotypical intolerance? Is this not an infringement of both freedom of speech and religion? Of course it is! But that is what America is coming to. But fear not – this is exactly what God’s Word has predicted. Are we shocked? We shouldn’t be. The message of the prophets rings loud and clear and has current relevance. I’ll leave the research to you – Scripture, even Jesus’ own teachings, clearly warns us of the apostasy and twisted logic of the last days.

So why is the Bible so dangerous? Because it is “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Yes, it caresses and comforts but it also cuts. It does spiritual surgery and exposes the cancer of our rebellion and sin. It tells us the truth about who we are and the way we live. It makes us embarrassingly naked before a holy God.

But it is also called the Good News. Because it is. It offers hope and freedom and salvation from ourselves and our sin. And this is all the more reason the “love letter from God” shouldn’t be banned from any place – no matter how dark, no matter how much it pierces our conscience or conflicts with our self-absorbed tendencies.

I’m not afraid of the Koran or the Satanic bible, nor do I think they should be barred from the marketplace of free speech and the public domain. So what is the big deal? They are only a threat if they are right and what you believe is wrong. Then they become “dangerous” and worthy of expulsion.

Think about it!

This Is the Image of Jesus Christ Gracing the Cover of Newsweek |

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25).

The article above blatantly begs for some comments and questions. It is obviously a very postmodern take on Christianity. The message? If you are going to be a follower of Christ, do as He did and live as He lived…but keep it to yourself. Christianity must be confined to religious gatherings and private residences and is not to interfere with the public domain of politics, education, government, and society at large. Although it’s silly to think that following Jesus wouldn’t impact the way we engage all of life, culture, and creation, this gives us pause. Is God primarily interested in redeeming His creatures (people), our culture, or His creation?

First, let me say, I believe He is in the process of redeeming all of them. This is what Paul is saying in the passage above. God’s creation is in bondage in the same way unredeemed sinners are. This passage tells us that God’s chosen and His creation will ultimately be freed from the futility and slavery of their corruption. We live in a fallen world filled with fallen people but a day of final reconciliation and redemption is coming. God created all things. When humanity disobeyed, all things He created fell and were marred by sin. Therefore, eventually, He will redeem and restore all of His creation to its original beauty and perfection. And, according to Paul, this is a critical part of our hope and we are urged to wait patiently for it in unseeing faith.

The Apostle further elaborates in Colossians 1:15-20:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

So in both passages we see God’s purpose to redeem, restore, and reconcile “all things” to Himself is larger in scope than just personal salvation for human beings. In a broader sense, the mission of God in Christ is to reconcile everything back to Himself for His own glory. But how does this happen? By the cross and the shed blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:20). This is the means for God’s ultimate plan of restoration and reconciliation – the redemption of His children and the redemption of His creation. This is how He is doing His work. We don’t always see it but its progress is unthwarted by all the forces of evil and rebellion – all that we see that is so very wrong.
So what is our part in this mission? Clearly Christ’s followers are to engage every nook and cranny of our culture. But how? Some would argue that it is primarily through political and social activism – we should dedicate most of our efforts in cultural redemption by trying to change our world from the outside in. I would say otherwise. Although we are to be involved in all of His creation (and that includes social and political activism), I’m of the persuasion that most of our resources and energy should be committed to changing our culture from the inside out. Again, how? By the heralding of the cross and the power of His blood. By being conformed to Jesus’ image and communicating His Good News. I believe our primary calling is the living and proclaiming of the Gospel.

To state it in overly simple terms, we should be more concerned with seeing His creatures (people) transformed by the shed blood of Christ and the power of the cross than we are who is running for Congress. For in focusing on the advance of the Gospel and the building of His true spiritual kingdom (which Jesus said is “not of this world”) we will be most effective in doing our part in His redemption and reconciliation of “all things.”

So let’s be ambassadors for Jesus by engaging those outside of Christ, no matter their domain. If God is willing and enough receive His salvation and embrace the truths of His Word, Congress and culture will soon fall in line. In other words, let’s not keep it to ourselves but actively connect with our culture and watch to see how God works in redeeming and reconciling all things to Himself…for His own glory!

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

Christian Teens Tell Churches: Challenge Us, Don’t Water Down Gospel, Christian News

For years I’ve been saying that our watering down, liberalizing, and softening of the claims and demands of the kingdom of God (and the Gospel) is the problem with reaching our culture with the truth of Jesus. The false logic goes like this: “If we make receiving and following Jesus easy and palatable then more will choose to do so.” Not only is that awful theology and an inexcusable compromise but it doesn’t work either. People (youth in particular) are looking for something so extreme they are willing to “sell out” to it. Look at much of what our young people have become attracted to (such as Goth or gangs – there are a lot of ugly subcultures into which our youth are willing to submerge themselves) and see their passion once they commit to a lifestyle or “cause.”

People are looking for a radical calling to devote themselves. And there is nothing more outrageous than the claims of Christ and the demands of discipleship. Die to self, hate your life, take up your cross, sell all, lose your life that you might gain something far greater (Jesus) – these are the drastic messages of true, undiluted Christianity. And this is not only the truth but also what people or hungry for. They don’t long for some passionless, stoic, simplistic, easy, lazy, disengaged belief system. They don’t desire to just go through the motions of shallow religion. They want to live for something worth dying for!!! This article is just another reminder that our weak, fearful, faithless approach to reaching people is actually turning them off. They want the real deal, the real Jesus (the Lamb and the Lion), and His extreme calling. And the real Jesus is the real deal!

I think a personal story is in order. Several years ago at a Christian youth rally the leader of the band that was the focal point of the meeting concluded the service this way: “Please remain seated and don’t bow your heads. We are going to stop the music now. If you are interested in surrendering to Christ and following Him please stand. While everyone watches, please come forward. We would like to spend some time with you and more fully explain what receiving Jesus means.”

Out of an audience of over 2000, 3 young people stood.

The worship leader continued: “Now come to the front so that a counselor can spend some time with you. We want you to know why we are doing this. If you choose to follow Jesus tomorrow there will be no background music and all eyes will be on you to see if you meant what you said when you made this decision to give all of yourself to serve all of who He is – and rely upon Him to live the way He calls you to live.”

The 3 young people walked to the front and were greeted by counselors.

Can you imagine the uproar from pastors and youth leaders? They were livid! “The world makes it hard enough to become a Christian, we don’t need to make it any harder,” they screeched. “Last year,” one said, “we had dozens come forward.” The band leader softly and graciously replied, “I’m sure you did. And I’m also sure these 3 are more likely to continue in the faith.”

The thing that made such an impression on me, and I’ll never forget it, was what I learned when I spoke to all 3 of those kids. All had come to the front the year before. And they all said essentially the same thing: “It wasn’t real last year. It was pure emotion. It seemed like the popular thing to do. Now I have a better idea of what I’m signing up for, what it means to follow my Savior.”

And, I believe, follow they will.

For more of my commentary on the Reason Rally see – The Reason Rally: Atheists Out of the Closet

Now read this: Atheists Rally for Reason; Urged to Mock the Religious, Christian News

My response to Richard Dawkins? Bring it on! I want to be blessed and joyful! And Jesus said I will be if I’m persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on His account:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

With this in mind, I’d like to share a chapter from my yet to be edited, yet to be published devotional commentary on Colossians.

Joyful Suffering With and For Jesus

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24). 

Max Lucado says, “Please understand, [God’s] goal is not to make you happy, His goal is to make you His. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need…Earthly discomfort is a glad swap for Heavenly peace.”[i]

Joyful suffering, if you understand the message of the Gospel, is not an oxymoron – a paradox, maybe, but not a contradiction. Here is a sample of some passages that assert, despite our natural aversion to it, suffering and persecution is an inherent and beautiful part of our faithful following of Jesus: 

  • His followers rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). 
  • Suffering providentially compels us to be dependant upon God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). 
  • Spiritual maturity and character are developed through suffering (Romans 5:3-4). 
  • Suffering for Christ reminds us and others of the Treasure to come (Hebrews 11:25-26). 
  • We will be uniquely blessed if we are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10-12). 
  • “The Spirit of glory and of God” rests on those who suffer for Him (1 Peter 4:12-16). 
  • Those fully surrendered to Christ view suffering for His name as a divine gift (Philippians 1:29). 

But this suffering and persecution is not fatalistic, purposeless, or hopeless. It has a mysterious yet divine purpose in us and for a lost world: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death,to the other a fragrance from life to life.Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

So we see two potential reasons that we are called to suffer for Christ; the presentation of the Gospel and our identification with Jesus.

First we see in Colossians 1:24 that the spread of the Gospel is facilitated by the suffering of Christ’s servants. When commenting on this verse John Piper explains, “Paul suffers, and he says that in his sufferings he fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What does that mean? Here’s my answer in summary: What’s missing is the in-person presentation of Christ’s sufferings to the people for whom he died. The afflictions are lacking in the sense that they are not seen and known among the nations. They must be carried by ministers of the gospel. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. Paul sees his own suffering as the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Christ so that they will see Christ’s love for them.”[ii]

Secondly, suffering for Jesus identifies us with Him (see Acts 9:15-16). When we suffer for Him we are, due to the mystery of our spiritual union with Him, actually, in sense, suffering with Him. When Jesus accosted Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-8). So we see that Paul’s persecution of the church was a persecution of Jesus. So everything that is done to the body of Christ (us) is also done to Jesus. Paul later explained this as “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). 

But Jesus had already told us this would be so: “You will be hated for my name’s sake,” he said (Mark 13:13). And especially in John 15:18-21: 

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” 

The joy we find in suffering for and with Jesus is that we are honored to image forth His beauty and the glorious Gospel of our Lord.  In our union with Him we magnify Him by demonstrating His suffering. For it is through His cross of suffering that He has saved our souls. And what a privilege it is to point others to Him, through our temporary afflictions for His name, knowing what eternal and indescribable glories await us in Jesus: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Apply It:

Meditate on Isaiah 53 and contemplate Jesus as the “suffering servant.” Spend time considering how much He suffered for you. Thank God for the infinitely valuable sacrifice of His only son, our perfect substitute. Seek the Lord’s guidance on how that translates to following Him. Ask yourself the penetrating question: Am I willing to suffer with and for the One who suffered for me so that I might live eternally with Him?  Ask God to give you the courage to do so with joy, if given that privilege.

[i] Lucado, Max. Colossians and Philemon (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 6.

[ii] Piper, John, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 268.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Reason Rally

U.S. News – Westboro church pastor’s son to face off against dad’s picketers at atheist rally

Today, March 24th, the Reason Rally will take place in Washington, DC. I would urge you to click the first link and study this site, examine this rally’s purpose, and make special note of the speakers at this event. It is quite obvious that nontheism has become quite chic and en vogue.

Here are some excerpts from the site I would like to highlight and comment on:

When will the Rally be held?
On March 24, 2012, from 10:00AM – 6:00PM at the National Mall, nontheists from all corners of the nation will descend on Washington, D.C. en masse to deliver the good news: “We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.”

Why are we doing this?
Across America, in every city, every town, and every school, secularism is on the rise. Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (PDF), the percentage of people with no religious affiliation grew in all fifty states.
The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.

  • Let’s be clear – in America, these folks have every right to gather and exercise both freedom of speech and religion. Despite their objections, I do believe this is a religion – it is a belief system of disbelief. And I support these constitutional rights as the original authors intended them. Actually, I’m thankful that, generally speaking, we are allowed to voice our beliefs without fear of retribution, even though it seems orthodox Christianity is now more often the target of censorship than other belief systems.
  • Why do they have to come out of the closet? Actually, I thought they already were – they have had several NYT best-sellers in recent years and the news is flooded with stories about an unbeliever joining forces with the ACLU to suppress religious expression. Really, what are they hiding from? They are protected by the laws of the land and, however wrong I think they are, I support their right to believe in disbelief and live their faith openly. And, after all, it is faith; as they can no more scientifically disprove God than we can prove Him.
  • They use the phrase “the good news.” How ironic they have hijacked terminology that is most identified with the Gospel (good news) of Jesus. There is no need to elaborate on their definition of good news being vastly different from God’s. I’m terribly chagrined that our culture is embracing a worldview of meaningless living and hopeless dying, not that the Gospel has lost its power, but because on some level the church has failed to live out the principles of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5-7).
  • My view is that much of the attraction to nontheism is actually an aversion to religion. When wounded and burned by the church, nontheism is the logical place for flight. It’s not that it is an attractive belief system but many adherents so detest Christianity that they find some sort of solace in being as far away from that culture as possible. In some cases, Christians and institutional religion bear some responsibility for the violent reaction of some who have fled to a godless ideology. If we call ourselves His followers, failing to pursue a life and love like Jesus is wrong.
  • As Christ-followers we should know what we believe, why we believe it, and never compromise on Scripture as our primary source of our faith. Although reason and science can and often confirm our worldview, we must always be ready to give an answer for our hope. Are we able to defend our faith in light of the growing opposition to it? We must be able to because we are command to. We must boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word, the hope-filled message of the cross of Calvary, and the person and work of Jesus.
  • Sometimes unbelievers can’t hear us over the hate (that’s the reason for the second link). Yes, I know much of what they call hate is really the truth running against the grain of their self-destructive flesh, pride, and self-determination (it does the same to me). But sometimes it is hate, or at least hateful. We are to clearly enunciate truth but speak it through tears of love and sadness over their rejection of God as He is revealed in Jesus.

I’ve got a crazy (and probably unpopular) idea. Let’s pursue friendship with a nontheist. And let’s start today. I’m not saying we condone what they believe but let’s reach across the philosophical chasm and treat them with respect and dignity. Let’s love them like Jesus would so that we might be able, empowered by the wisdom and Word of God, to share our reason for believing and living to glorify God. And then let’s keep loving them with undeniable joy while the Holy Spirit does His work.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

My good friend Don forwarded me this article in CNN’s Belief Blog section. Although I’m immediately dubious of almost anything that CNN says about religion they have, on occasion, surprised me. This is not one of those times. This is a perfect example of the so-called “higher criticism” that has infected theological study and, therefore, the church. Read for yourself.

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

One of the finest definitions of this method of biblical interpretation is found in John Rothra’s work, Critique of Higher Criticism. He defines this school of study as “a historical approach to scripture that investigates the “composition, date, and authenticity” of scripture in order to determine its “place in history.”  In other words, higher criticism looks beyond the text and into the historical setting surrounding its construction and development. This endeavor requires the critic to accept a presupposition of doubt, meaning he must acknowledge uncertainty exists regarding the precise origins of the present-day biblical text.”

Alarmingly, higher criticism, despite its unique ability to cloak itself in semantics that cover what disbelief lies underneath, is alive and well in many mainline seminaries and denominations, secular graduate schools of theology, and pulpits. I would be curious about your pastor’s response to, “What do you believe about JEDP or the Q Source?”Although my purpose here is not to deep-dive into the intricate arguments for and against higher criticism – as the amount of literature on this subject is absolutely massive – I would like to state 4 simple but critical issues surrounding this scholarly strategy as we see it in this CNN blog.

First, it is based upon dangerous presuppositions. Although every system of thought has them, higher criticism’s starting point is doubt, presuming that the Bible is inaccurate. And, quite often, they use these “unreliable texts” to prove that Scripture is unreliable. Using doubt as a platform for any faith (See the contradiction?) or study is almost certain to pre-determine that the object of your faith or study is false. The blatantly misguided statement of this article’s author – “First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it” – reflects this logic. This is patently false – there are many erudite biblical scholars who maintain the total veracity of the Scriptures. All men, including scholars, are biased in some way. Christianity and Scripture, however, is self-authenticating when we start with the idea that it is God’s Word and, therefore, reliable.

Second, we see as another subtle and insidious problem – the notion here is that the Bible contains truth but is not THE truth. This can be then said of virtually any book ever written (even some of mine would fit into that broad category). The Bible then is not the Word of God but God does speak His truth through it. But, then, so does the Koran, Shakespeare, Keats, and Hemingway. Scripture, in higher criticism, is nearly relegated to the same standard as all great human writings (to be fair, these scholars would probably claim the Bible does contain more of God’s truth than nearly all other writings).

Third, if my second point is true, then who determines what part of Scripture is true or false, relevant or irrelevant, correct or incorrect, applicable or not? The reader (or scholar). The final authority on what has God has really said or done is not objective but subjective. It is left to the interpreter or theologian to decide. Do we see the danger in this? We, then, become the god of what we believe, because we have made ourselves the final arbiter of what is truth. Not the Bible, but us. At that point what we believe is not Christianity but “Selfianity.” We, and what we decide to be true, have become our god, deciding for ourselves what is worth believing and how we should live. And, if you are like me, I don’t trust myself or my intellect that much.

Last, the basic premise of higher criticism is the rejection of anything supernatural (creation, miracles, physical resurrection, etc,). Those parts of Scripture must be inaccurate as such events aren’t “scientifically verifiable.” This is both false and causes the definition of God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. etc.) to be invalid. And who would want to worship a God who has been stripped of His powerful attributes? Not me – because, at that point, He is no longer God.

I choose to believe Scripture of be God’s Word without error and the final source of truth and authority. This is a wonderful statement of what I believe and I pray what you believe as well – The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

So I will leave you with a quote from the Apostle Peter. He nails this issue dead on:

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 19-21).

*Please note this is not a discussion about those who believe in the plenary inspiration and authority of Scripture having different interpretations of the Bible. Those who trust in the reliability of God’s Word are in consensus that fallen man cannot fully apprehend His truth and will often disagree. These differing opinions, however, are not an argument against the validity of Scripture but, in a real sense, affirms what it says about the transcendence and holiness of God and man’s sinful nature. No, this post is about those who think themselves to be so smart that they have concluded that the Bible, in its original text, is filled with unexplainable errors, myth, and legend and its primary value comes from them discerning what is true and false (i.e. what Jesus actually said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do).

Ohio School Shooting Victim’s Mom Forgives Gunman, Christian News

Grab some Kleenex and click the link above. What an incredible testimony! One which could only be born out of genuine faith and a rich understanding of God’s grace! Doesn’t this make the Gospel look glorious and Jesus look beautiful? In the midst of suffering, here is hope…here is joy…here is peace. All coming from trusting a sovereign God who is worthy of our surrender and praise, One who is always working all things together for His own glory and our eternal good!

Let me share some biblical situations that remind me of this woman’s heart and witness:

  • Joseph, after being sold into slavery by his own brothers and then being wrongly incarcerated for 12-13 years, said to his siblings, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). 
  • Peter, who was to deny Jesus in cowardly fear, was told by the Master who eventually restored him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me” (John 21:18-19).
  • Paul and Silas’ compassion on the jailer who had shackled them in Philippi: “When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family” (Acts 16:27-33).
  • Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and eventually martyred for his missionary zeal and faithfulness to his Gospel calling, ministered to the very guards who would eventually lead him to his death: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).
  • And, of course, sinless Christ, bearing the awful weight and burden of our sins, scourged and crucified, looked at the henchmen who had just mocked him and pounded nails through his hands and feet, lovingly said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments” (Luke 23:34). 

All of this begs some seriously reflective questions. Would we react as this grieving mother has so graciously done? Would we image forth the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel with such a powerful and profound proclamation of our faith? Would we “turn the other cheek” and “love and pray for those who persecute us and spitefully use us?” 

I pray this is the case. For as tragic as this situation may seem, this woman’s grace-filled testimony trumpets all that is great about the Savior we follow and serve. The One who died that we might live such mercy-filled lives. The One who can utterly save the shooter and all who have been touched by this senseless act…and even those who haven’t been.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:13-15).

Emergent Church Members Get Tattoos of Jesus’ Death for Lent

I must say this one has me a bit baffled (see link above)…for an opinion, that is. But what about you?

I have no personal distaste for tattoos or suspicion of those who have them, even though I don’t personally have any “ink.” Many of the most devout followers of Christ that I know have some sort of body art, although most of those graphics appeared during a former way of life that was marked by rebellion and making corresponding social statements (ironically, having a tattoo used to be very counter-cultural, but with their rise in prominence it may now be more radical NOT to have a tattoo). But that isn’t the debate here. The question: Is this a viable medium for communicating one’s faith or just another trend in the contemporary Christian community’s efforts to mimic the world’s methods of communicating what we believe (the Christian culture is usually quite late to this kind of dance)? In other words, are we just blending in and thus watering down our faith or is this one more way in which followers of Jesus can engage and redeem our culture? Since I have no definitive opinion about the initiative described in the article (believing this may be more about motives than methods), I’ll let you ponder these questions.

The point I’d like to make is a theological, not necessarily a practical or spiritual, one. What do we do with many of these Levitical laws? A section of this article addresses the dilemma:

“According to Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

When asked how he and his fellow parishioners reconcile this verse with their planned art exhibit, Seay told CP that the context of the verse is important, noting that verse 27 states that a man should not cut the hair on the sides of his head or the edge of his beard.

“The problem was not with tattoos, but with the fact that getting a tattoo or cutting your hair/beard was a symbol that identified you with the worshipof pagan gods,” said Seay.”

Although I would probably not promote this kind of expression, Mr. Seay does have a point. There are many Old Covenant laws we aren’t held to today (animal sacrifice being a big one) and this particular book of the Bible is replete with such rules, as are other writings in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible which is often call the “Torah” or “The Law”). Now we have correctly kept some (earlier in Leviticus 19 we see a partial restatement of the 10 Commandments found originally in Exodus 20), conveniently kept some of them we like (take tithing, for instance), and banished others. Seay makes reference to the rule against clipping our hair and beard that we certainly don’t practice today (Leviticus 19:27). My favorite is 19:32 which tells us to “rise is the presence of the aged,” yet I see no one standing when I enter a room!

So how do we determine which of these are rules to be adopted today or just principles that help us understand God, His character, and His ways? Clearly there doesn’t seem, at least to me, to be any real consistency in many circles as to how we conclude which of these “laws” remain and which are no longer in effect in the New Covenant.

So I’d like to share my opinion. It may ruffle some feathers or it may cause some reflection – but here it is:

  • First – did Jesus affirm such practices explicitly?
  • Second – did Jesus affirm these laws implicitly? (The implication must not be forced).
  • Third – did the writers of the New Testament affirm these rules either explicitly or implicitly (again, a clear reference) and thereby confirming or elaborating on the teaching of Christ and the New Covenant?

If not, in an extremely generalistic sense, I would suggest that these Old Covenant practices are lessons and principles to help us understand Father God and be guidelines for living. They are not meant to be practiced as “rules,” but, in some cases (like the dietary laws) can be employed as positive observances, object lessons, and spiritual/physical helps. But they are not to replace the sufficiency of Christ – who is He is, what He has done, and what He taught.

So what’s my recommendation? If you feel led by God and are pure in motive, go get a tattoo for the glory of God. But don’t expect me to be standing in line…I do have an aversion to needles. Nevertheless, this side of Calvary we are not bound by the law but have the freedom of grace. As long as it is for His glory, it reflects the precepts of the New Covenant framed by Christ Himself, and is not a compromise that bows down to our culture, then go for it! But leave me to my old-fashioned ways of caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is my body.

If you are of a theological mindset, the link below might be of interest to you. As related to this post, pay particular attention to the section “Law/Gospel.” – New Covenant Theology – Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity


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