The Fraud Running for President

celebrity-986838_1280There I was, watching the Donald Trump rally (not really by choice, but I was watching CNN and they cut to the rally). At the rally, The Donald was kicking out protesters left and right. Then he said something odd. He said that the people protesting were infringing on his freedom of speech, and that he was going to say what he had to say.

That was odd to me because, while the Bill of Rights does talk about the freedom of speech, it does NOT do it in the way Mr. Trump was using it. The 1st Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

revolution-30590_1280Did you see the part about the freedom of speech there in the middle? The words are there, yes, but they have nothing to do with Donald forcibly removing dissenters from his rallies. What the 1st Amendment is talking about is how the GOVERNMENT cannot censor someone (and even then there are some places where freedom of speech is not an absolute). What Donald Trump is doing falls under the line about right to peaceably assemble (although that’s debatable, as his rallies more and more resemble gathering from dark days in our world’s past and not some peaceable assembly) and NOT about the freedom of speech. The government is not abridging his freedom of speech – individual dissenters are voicing opposition.

I recognize that The Donald is not a Constitutional scholar, but this misunderstanding of a basic freedom granted by the 1st Amendment just goes to show one glaring truth: Donald Trump is a fraud. He’s a poser. He’s a huckster. He’s a con man.

He has no real grasp of the Constitution or American freedoms. He has no real policy or position on any issues. There is no depth or substance. There is only hollow rhetoric. It fires up the masses, to be sure, but that’s all it does. To use a common catchphrase, Mr. Trump is just going to “fake it til he makes it.”

He does it with the Constitution. He does it with the Bible. He does it with every.single.issue of substance people ask him about. He’s a political cheerleader. And there is nothing Xian about any of it, so don’t play the Evangelical/Conservative Xian card here. It’s not about faith. Not one bit. Jesus isn’t in any of it.

Make America Great Again!
Build a wall!
Kick out illegal immigrants!
Make America Great Again! (wait, did I already say that one? Yep, The Donald is repeating himself again.)

Empty rhetoric to stir the base nature within us.

God have mercy on us all if we don’t wake up.

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America Embarrasses Jesus

Okay, you’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t seen SOME of the hullabaloo about Mr. Obama suggesting that America open its doors to some 10,000 Syrian refugees. And, in great American fashion, American Christians have rallied to PREVENT refugees from coming within our sacred, God-ordained borders.

We have to protect ourselves, you see, and welcoming Syrian refugees would be allowing the terrorists free access to our country.
You wouldn’t invite a murderer in through the front door of your house, would you?

Yes, that’s actually an argument I’ve seen a LOT over the last few days. Never mind the fact that we’re not talking about hypothetical people in need – we’re talking about REAL people who are displaced by war and violence. Where are the Xians who care to take care of those who can’t help themselves?

Oh, those poor refugees! I wish there was something we could do. And by “we” I mean someone not me. And by “do” I mean nothing that will cost me anything. Oh, those poor refugees! ~ Murica

You see, we like the IDEA of helping people, but not when it’s actually going to cost us anything. We like the IDEA of helping, but we must have our priorities in order.

PRIORITY #1 – American Safety

If you let in thousands of refugees you’ll welcome who knows how many who want to do us harm! When I pointed out that America was founded by refugees who were seeking freedom from persecution, I was told:

“And the natives welcomed them with open arms and now we have this great Navajo nation! Oh wait! Great analogy. Exactly why we can’t take them.”

That’s the spirit, Xian people! Look how we screwed others. We gotta make sure nobody treats us the way we treat them! I read in the Bible somewhere:

And Jesus saith unto them, “Mess people over before they have a chance to mess with you.”

At least I’m pretty sure it went something like that. But forget about safety for a minute. Even if the refugees were vetted (which they WOULD be), we’ve got so many other problems here in America. That brings us to:

PRIORITY #2 – Our own people

I was told:

“We MUST take care of our own widows, orphans, elderly, ill, Veterans, etc, etc, first, and foremost, at this time…..NO more refugees from anywhere is my personal opinion”

Sure, I acknowledge that we’ve got a problem with poverty, homelessness, and myriad other issues in our nation. Focusing on those issues IS important. Those are things we should address and people we should be helping. But think about it in terms of trauma and an emergency room. It’s a basic case of triage. When you look at all the people you can help/save, those with a greater urgency get handled first. That doesn’t mean the others aren’t important. It means we understand that the others can hold off a little while longer while we take care of the crisis now.

And let’s not kid ourselves – we’d rather help our own people than help people of another ethnic background and another nation. Today I actually saw a Xian woman (wife of a church elder) share this:

Inbred Savages

That brings us to:

PRIORITY #3 – The Practical Considerations

This priority comes from Xians who want to seem like they care about the issue but want you to know that you haven’t really considered all of the ramifications of allowing refugees into the country. For example, I was told:

“Where are they going to live? Who is paying for this? Are they going to work? Who is going to give them a job? Do they speak English? How can you find out who they are if they don’t have papers or any info on them?”

Um…do they speak English?

Since when is that a requirement for being A REFUGEE?!? No, they probably DON’T speak English. Are we now holding back our Xian compassion for those who speak the same language?

HOLD EVERYTHING! WE GET TO CANCEL OUR FOREIGN MISSIONS BUDGET NOW, FOLKS. WE’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING THAT BENEFITS PEOPLE WHO DON’T SPEAK OUR LANGUAGE!

Ridiculous.

Let’s be real. I’m not saying that allowing all Syrian refugees access to America is the best policy. It’s not a black-and-white deal – it’s highly nuanced. What I AM saying is that Christians ought to be the first to seek out helping people rather than outright turning them away because of the FEAR of possibilities and potential outcomes.

It SEEMS (that means my perspective, folks) that conservative Christians are jumping on the “don’t trust Muslims” bandwagon and are quick to say, “Our nation won’t help displaced people” without even giving a THOUGHT about the issue and the real people involved.

Yes, America –

You embarrass Jesus.

 

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If you want to share a thought, it’s okay to disagree. Just keep it civil. And share the post with all your friends 😉

Calvinist Heretics and Their Heretical Heresies

Burn her

Now that all of my Reformed friends are up in arms, let’s talk.

This post is the result of a conversation I saw the other day in which a group of Calvinists (I presume, at any rate) were discussing the false teaching and heresy of Arminianism.

Not being a Calvinist I took umbrage at the conversation. There is much to be said for Reformed theology. I very much appreciate its view of the supremacy and sovereignty of God. Too often Xians have such a small view of God and try to live life as though we ourselves are sovereign. We aren’t.

While I wouldn’t call myself a hard-core Arminian, I do believe that God’s initial action towards humanity requires a human response. In that sense, we are free to decide to respond positively towards God in faith or we can choose to reject the Gospel.

The biggest problem I had with the conversation I saw was the fact that these Xian brothers were labeling a position contrary to theirs as false teaching and possibly heresy. This was disheartening, for I have never thought of my Reformed friends as heretics or false teachers – simply people who disagree on some points of Xian theology.

We can still join together as Credal Xians and proclaim:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
The third day he rose again from the dead:
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting.
Amen.

But labeling me, a pastor who leans towards Arminianism, a false teacher and heretic, removes me from the shared faith we proclaim in our creeds. It creates a barrier between good Xians who share a common core belief. I still preach Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected. I still preach Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

We are often too quick to label anything that disagrees with us as heresy. We then quickly set up walls to separate ourselves from those who disagree with us. What I find humorous is that the Greek word for heresy (hairesis) developed in the Bible to mean schism or faction. Thus the Apostle Paul seems to suggest that a heretic is a person who is divisive or factious (see Titus 3:10).

So the Calvinists who seek to be divisive are being heretics…in the Pauline sense, of course. 😉

All said and done, I have no beef with Reformed Xians. I have found them to be good people who take faith seriously. But, while some people fear the word ecumenical, to some degree there needs to be leeway for us to disagree on elements of faith and theology while still holding to the essential core of Christian doctrine.

Because, to someone else, we’re all heretics in one way or another.

Do You Struggle With Misplaced Guilt?

I’m happy to be bringing you a three-part series from my buddy Preachers Kid Probs.

Originally when I wrote this I had written a post that was around five pages. While I don’t mind reading, I do mind reading my writing because- at least to me- it proves John Calvin’s thoughts on reprobation correct. So in order to save you the perpetual boredom of having to read bad writing I thought it best to break this all up into 3 parts and look at misplaced guilt, misplaced blame, and how we should deal with those things. Today, though, I wanted to talk about the original focus of this article: misplaced guilt.

If you’re anything like me, there are some nights that you lay awake in bed, unable to sleep, and find yourself mulling over the day and feeling guilty about something that you had witnessed or heard. Recently a close friend told me about a situation in her life that she felt guilty about and in the course of our conversation we both came to the realization that her guilt had been misplaced. Even more than her, though, I realized that I had a lot of misplaced guilt in my own life. I’m talking about walking in guilt for something that happened to you that you had little- if any- control of.

My senior year of High School I chose to hang out with a friend who I shouldn’t have been hanging out with in the first place. I had gone over to her apartment after baseball practice with the wrong intentions and she and I ended up watching Saved By The Bell until close to midnight. Nothing bad happened between her and I, but my heart wasn’t in the right place. I got a call from my dad telling me that I needed to come home sooner than later because our next-door neighbor had killed himself earlier that evening. The police and coroner were still in our cul-de-sac when I got home and had been taking statements and what not from various neighbors. As I was talking to an officer, I asked what time they thought he had taken his life and I found out that it would have been after I had gotten home from practice on a normal day.

My heart sank; I thought that if I had been at home I might have been able to keep him from killing himself. Had my heart been in the right place, I would have not been some place I shouldn’t have been and legitimately there might have been something I could have done. Whether that was his wife not finding him in the backyard or being able to save his life- I won’t ever know. Until the other night, I had lived with the guilt that I was somehow involved in that man’s suicide. As I talked with my friend, I told her that you couldn’t feel guilty for someone else’s actions. You can grieve for them or with them, but you cannot take on guilt that you do not have.

For a while I had blamed the girl for that night. For a while I even blamed the man who took his own life for putting me in the situation where I felt guilty. I realized that I was placing the blame on everyone but me. Do I blame myself for the situation? In some ways I still do. I’ve come not to blame myself for not being there, but rather I’ve come to blame myself for allowing my heart and thoughts of indiscretions consume my actions to the point that when this unfortunate and heartbreaking event happened, I was taking guilt upon myself for what happened.

You want to talk about misplaced guilt? The man that was blind from birth knew all about that. The Pharisees and all the townsfolk said that either he had committed some sin or that his parents had committed a sin so egregious that God struck this man with blindness. When Christ passed by him, “His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3) The guilt this man had carried his entire life was misplaced. Later on in this story, Christ heals the man of course, and though others try to remind him of his guilt the man chooses to follow and worship Christ entirely guilt free.

When you live with guilt that isn’t yours it weighs you down. Think of it like this: all of the sudden you take on responsibility for a transgression that you didn’t commit and have no way to get it off your chest because it was never yours to begin with. It’s like taking someone else’s shift in addition to your own and only getting paid for your own shift.

Christ tells us “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Christ came into the world so that we could walk in his grace unburdened by guilt- both our own and others.

Take a second to make a mental inventory of the guilt that you have in your life, if it is truly your own, make amends where amends need to be made and sing in repentance to Jesus Christ. Should you find that you’re carrying someone else’s yoke, take it off. Cast off the shackles that bound you to stones that were never yours to begin with. Christ died so that you may be free and not a slave to misplaced guilt. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

 

Related Post:
Do You Struggle With Misplaced Blame?

Are Atheist Activists Just Plain Mean?

Today’s post comes from a Twitter guest, @Ninja_Noise. Take it away, my man!

atheist-baby

I will start by saying that we are Americans and live in a free country. Everyone has the right to choose what they believe in or do not believe in. Every person must make their own choice about the existence of God. However, this does not give them the right to try to remove God or religion from everyone else’s life. I believe in God. I do not hate anyone because they do not believe in God. I feel sorry for those who do not believe, but I do not hate them. I do take offense when others try to hinder my ability to express my belief in the way I choose. Most non-believers and people of faith can get along. They can agree to disagree and even have friendly but lively discussions about faith. Neither side needs the government to hinder our way of life.

But why the title question, “Are Atheist Activists Just Plain Mean?” It separates atheists into two groups:

1. Atheists – People who choose to live a life of non-belief.

2. Atheist Activists (AA) – Non-believers who want to change the way others live their life.

Being an Atheist does not make you mean. An Atheist trying to remove God and religion from everything should ask themselves, “Am I just being mean?”.

Why should atheist care if others believe in God? According to atheists, God does not exist. Why does something that does not exist cause them so much trouble? Why does belief in God bother an activist, especially when they think believers are ignorant, superstitious, or unenlightened? The atheist activists should just shake their heads, feel sorry for the believer, and then go on with their lives. We all know people who do or believe ignorant things. How does someone believing in God affect non-believers any more than believing Elvis is still alive, flying around on a spaceship with Bigfoot. According to Atheist Activists they are both equally ridiculous to believe in.

Atheist Activists argue, “What about children? Believers are forcing their values on their children.” Yet Atheist Activists are forcing THEIR values on believer’s children when they do not allow others to talk about God. Activists may ask, “How do I explain to my child why she shouldn’t bow her head when other kids pray?” Atheists have to teach their child their own beliefs or non-beliefs.

I have to try to teach my children why I believe the way I do. I have to show the reasons I believe what I believe. I have to trust that I have taught them well enough to follow in my beliefs. Atheist parents should do the same. All children are subject to outside influences. I would rather have my child influenced to think that there may be a God than influenced to take drugs, skip school, or steal. These negative influences are aimed at our children whether we are Christian or Atheist.

Do Atheist Activists tell their children that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real? Wait, they probably do. That seems a little mean. By the way, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have nothing to do with the religious celebration of these holidays. So please leave them alone. Singing Frosty the Snowman will not make your child a Christian. How about the Tooth Fairy? Is it ok for the child of an Atheist Activist to believe that this person exists? Remember, you’re an atheist. To you God is not real either.

And what is wrong with prayer? According to the Atheist Activists it is a waste of time. No one is there to hear. Christians may be superstitious or ignorant for believing in it but how does this hurt atheist. What is wrong with prayer if it brings me comfort, if it helps me through hard times in my life, if it helps me to make sense of things when it seems the world has gone crazy? Why do activists want to take this away from believers? That just seems mean. Would you take a placebo pill away from a patient and tell them, “It’s just made of sugar it can’t help you?” Even if it doesn’t really work, it is making them feel better. Why don’t you want others to be happy?

If Atheist Activists do not want to believe in God that is their right. But, the next time they see a cross, or the Ten Commandments, or a Star of David they should ask themselves why these things bother them so. They are only symbols. Symbols of things they don’t even think are real. Do they feel this way when they see the Tooth Fairy or Bigfoot? Are they just mean people who don’t want others to find happiness where they can? Maybe the trouble is that these symbols stir a little something inside of them? Do they start to hear that little voice in the back of their mind or heart say, “What if God does exist?” There’s no need to fight these things because they are not real.

ARE THEY?

 

I Can’t Come to Church

© Michael Jastremski for openphoto.net

The other day some of us were involved in a hashtag game called #ICantComeToChurch.

It was highlighting some of the excuses we have heard (or used) to avoid going to church. Here are just a few of my faves:

#ICantComeToChurch because of all those hypocrites

— Doctor.Donna (@DonnaGeee) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because the youth pastor is filling in while the senior pastor is on vacation (not a joke, heard this one)

— Anon Parishioner (@AParishioner) February 27, 2014

Pastor, #ICantComeToChurch because my husband’s ex-wife always shoots me dirty looks (yup, you guessed it – real)

— Xian Satirist (@TheXianSatirist) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because last time I skipped, no one noticed, so now I’m too offended to come back.

— Back Row Baptist (@BackRowBaptist) February 27, 2014

#ICantComeToChurch because <insert lame excuse here>

— Tamster Too (@chattytamster) February 27, 2014

There were a lot more, some were plain silly and fictitious, but it highlights the fact that we’ve all heard and used examples on why we can’t be in church.

I’ve frequently heard people argue that you don’t have to be in church to be a Xian – that being in church doesn’t make you a Xian any more than being in a garage makes you a car. And that’s true. But church isn’t about you and what you get out of it.

In his book, “The Good and Beautiful Community” James Bryan Smith points out that  how you feel about church and the feeling you get from church isn’t the point. It’s not about your inspiration, but “rather the ‘transformation of the person within, by, and for the community.”

Being part of the community of faith transforms us. It teaches us. It holds us accountable. It allows us to participate in God’s story, other Xian’s stories, and to share our story with others. When all is said and done, while salvation is by faith in Jesus and not dependent on your church attendance record, we are missing out on the chance to grow and mature into the kind of person we could be if we would participate in the life of God’s Community.

So when Sunday rolls around next week try something different. Don’t look for excuses why you CAN’T go. Look for reasons why you SHOULD go. Engage. Plug in. Start participating in the story. Let others influence you. Influence others.

We all get better because of it.

And together we start to look like the Community God designed us to be.

The Best Way for Xians to Cuss, Dad Gummit!

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

If you have a sensitivity to coarse language you may want to skip this post…

So the other day I played a game with some friends. I asked people to help me come up with as many Xian swear alternatives as we could (those are words Xians use when we feel a need to swear but don’t feel comfortable using any of the words the world uses). Keep in mind that Xians have different standards of what is or is not acceptable. But here is the list we came up with.

  1. **#%%#*#&#*
  2. Fahrvergnügen
  3. mother frito
  4. Shazbot!
  5. CHEEZ IT!
  6.  Jeepers!
  7. Jinkies!
  8. Zoinks!
  9. cheese and crackers.
  10. “crumb” instead of “crap”, for the very conservative 🙂
  11. oh my word, oh my stars
  12. Gadzooks!
  13. crappydoodle
  14. Holy Canoli!
  15. Horse feathers!!
  16. Crapola
  17. oh my Gosh!
  18. Cat Hair
  19. Shut the front door!
  20. Well I’ll be dipped in buttermilk
  21. Ticked Off!
  22. Razz ma-tazz!
  23. Freak
  24. Frickin’
  25. Frickin’ A.
  26. Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!
  27. Good gravy
  28. D’OH!
  29. fudge ripple
  30. GOOD GOSH!
  31. FUZZY MUFFINS!
  32. son of a biscuit
  33. He’s full of shiitake mushrooms!
  34. Goshdarnit
  35. What the frick?
  36. sugar
  37. shoot.
  38. Crap
  39. fudge
  40. snap
  41. darn it
  42. good grief
  43. Goshdarnit
  44. Holy Schnike
  45. oy vey
  46. garbanzo
  47. crud
  48. durn
  49. darn
  50. poodledoo
  51. shut the front door
  52. fiddlesticks
  53. fiddledeedee
  54. Bob Saggett
  55. What in the blue bless?!
  56. Oh. My. Cow
  57. Jeez Louise
  58. Jesus, Mary & Joseph.
  59. Poodle-fruiter!
  60. dad-gummit!
  61. SUGAR MONKEY FUNKY BUTTS!
  62. gee whiz…
  63. ska-douche!
  64. Sugary pops
  65. Peas and Rice!
  66. Dag nab it!
  67. Fudge Buckets!
  68. That sucks!

Goodness! That’s a long list. Every once in a while I’ll get someone who asks me a question about what the Bible says about swearing/cursing/profanity. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about it.

There are two verses in the Bible that most Xians use to justify a no-profanity position.

a)      Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…

b)      Ephesians 4:29 – let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.

While these are great verses, neither one is talking about profanity. In Exodus God is commanding the Israelites not to use his name lightly. There is a little bit of ambiguity here, because the Bible never says exactly what it means to take God’s name lightly. It could mean not to use the name casually. It could mean not to use the name to back up your promises (swear to God…). There is no general prohibition here on profanity.

The Ephesians verse seems compelling at a cursory look, but Paul isn’t talking about profanity. In Ephesians he’s talking about not lying, speaking truth, not sinning in our anger, and building people up. In the context of the passage it would seem that “unwholesome talk” is not profanity but is language that seeks to hurt or damage others. The Greek word can literally be translated as “trash.” It’s like Paul is saying, “Don’t engage in trash talk against each other. Use your words to build each other up.”

On top of the lack of biblical direction against foul language we run into the problem of the fluidity of language. That is to say, language changes. What words mean now could be very different from what they meant 300 years ago. So which culture and era do we use as the standard for acceptable and non-acceptable words?

I grew up in a conservative home, where there were very few acceptable alternatives for swearing. I have a very clear memory of the first time I EVER used the expression, “Man, that’s screwed up!” I felt like such a rebel. In our home “sucks” was not an acceptable word. But I remember the first time my mother was so upset about something she declared, “Well that…that just SUCKS!” She doesn’t use it regularly, but she needed to express the depth of her emotion and used that phrase to do it.

In the end it is another case of Xian liberty. If God’s Spirit is convicting you and telling you not to use certain words – DON’T! If you have freedom in Christ to use certain words – FEEL FREE! We just need to make sure that we’re not imposing our freedom (or lack of freedom) on others.

In the end, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Even if I’m free to use words it doesn’t mean that I should flaunt my freedom in front of others. Out of respect for people I can choose to change my language to fit the circumstance.

That’s the Xian thing to do.

And it doesn’t suck.

Leave Your Bible On the Shelf

In a very short span I had a disagreement with a friend (yes, we’re still friends) about the importance of the Bible as text as opposed to the Gospel message. I also recently read a blog post admonishing pastors to bring their physical Bibles to church and to stop using electronic media instead. You can read that blog here.

I’ve don’t usually write posts directly responding to other bloggers, but I really felt that I had to this time. You see, I think that Dr. Barrett couldn’t be more wrong in his assessment of Scripture, technology, and culture – and the idea of reprimanding Christians based on his faulty assessment drives me up the wall.

Just so that you don’t think I’m some crazy, anti-Bible nut-job, let me write a couple sentences about myself. My first graduate degree was in Biblical Studies, where my Master’s work was on the authority of Scripture. My second graduate degree was in Pastoral Preaching. I am FULLY committed to the authority of Scripture in shaping the life, thought, and action of Christians. I am FULLY committed to preaching the truth of Scripture from the pulpit and not watering down the message and removing Jesus and his exclusive claims from God’s story. I have a deep love for the Bible. On my desk right now I have two Bibles (one English and one Greek New Testament). On my shelves I have 3-4 different translations, a Hebrew Old Testament, and two collector’s Bibles (a 1942 Bible produced for the Army and an 1895 printing of a Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament).

I love my Bibles. But the idea that using tech in the pulpit instead of one of my physical Bibles is doing damage is erroneous teaching and needs to be corrected. Dr. Barrett lists 5 “dangers” of using tech Bibles instead of print Bibles:

1. A Different Message: the tablet represents many things besides a Bible. It represents apps, magazines, games, and much more. “A print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people….”

2. Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew: the tablet may…encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. People won’t know where things are in their Bibles because no one is asking them to “turn to chapter such-and-such.” They fail to see the big picture of God’s story.

3. Flesh and Blood: reading from a tablet removes the reality of having something “there”. As physical beings who gather in a tangible place, God is really with us as Lord of space and time. “This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.”

4. Visual Reminder: We risk the Word of God becoming lifeless when we take away the physical book. “And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?”

5. Nonverbal Communication: Carrying your Bible around with you communicates to others that you are a Christ follower. Forget the physical Bible and we lose our witness to the world.

Now let me tell you why he’s flat wrong:

1. You cannot reduce the Living God to a symbol: If you believe that you need a visual symbol of God speaking to talk about God’s story then your god is too small. Yahweh cannot be contained or limited to a mere symbol. No matter what the delivery method, the power of the Gospel is not the literal word but in how the WORD of God pierces our hearts and souls. God can do that through a preacher who uses a print Bible, a Bible app, or an audio Bible while you listen to the Bible on CD.

2. Biblical illiteracy goes far beyond what happens on a Sunday morning: There are many people who love God dearly and live their lives to conform with the desire and will of God but don’t know that Lamentations is somewhere after Leviticus. The Gospel is not about knowing the order of the books of the Bible. It’s not about being able to find a particular passage whenever asked. The Gospel is about surrendering our story to God’s story. In the history of the world illiterate people have usually outnumbered the literate. For the first1600 years of Christianity most people did not even own their own Bibles. It was only after the advent of the printing press and Reformation that it gradually became commonplace for families to own Bibles. Dr. Barrett’s accusations create a false superiority of literate Christians over illiterate Christians. It says that Christians in underdeveloped nations are lesser Christians because they can’t read the Bible or know the order of the books. This mindset actually does DAMAGE to the Gospel.

3. A flesh and blood Savior does not necessitate a “flesh and blood” book: Jesus is the center of our faith – not the book. The Gospel is his story, not the black (or red) words printed on a page. The only flesh and blood that matters are HIS. Whether I am reading from the Bible or simply telling someone the story of Jesus, HE is all that matters, not the book. Books deteriorate, get torn, fall apart – but the Gospel will go on eternally.

4. No visual necessary: as stated above, the hard-text is not necessary for telling God’s story. In fact, holding TOO tightly to being “people of the book” places too much emphasis on the printed word – it elevates the book to the status of idol! It creates two Bibles: the “real” Bible that is printed and the “faux” Bible that comes in other media. It does damage to the Gospel to create this dichotomy.

5. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that people would know them because they carried Bibles: he said that people would know they are followers of Jesus by their love. Behavior is more important than outward symbols. We’ve all seen people who wear crosses around their necks or tattoo a cross or fish on their bodies. It doesn’t make them Christian. I once heard a pastor state that wearing a cross doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car. Outward symbols do not mean anything about the condition of our hearts. I would rather people see Jesus in my character and behavior rather than because I lug around a book.

There is a real function to the sacred text. As Paul writes:

For everything that was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that we might have hope through the endurance and encouragement that the Scriptures give us. ~ Romans 15:4

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There is a real purpose to Scripture, and that purpose involves shaping and forming the believer. There is a relationship between the text and our life. There is nothing neutral in claiming the Bible as Scripture. The Bible must be “normative and life-shaping” because the writers were commissioned by God (whatever your view of inspiration). The divine voice demands response.

I do not impugn the authority of the text for Christian life and thought. We must not, however, substitute true authority, i.e. the story of God’s redemptive actions through human history, for cheap bibliolatry. The printing press was revolutionary technology in its day, giving the common person access to words never dreamed possible. Technology today is no different, giving us the Bible in new ways. But it isn’t really a new Bible, is it? It’s still God’s story – unchanged. And when we learn this then we can access HIS story through any means.

The Bible doesn’t change. We do.

Are You Saved Enough?

In the beginning

Salvation is a funny word that Xians like to throw around. Sometimes it feels like we use it so much that we’ve lost the sense of what it really means. Put simply, salvation is the idea that this world is not the end but that there is an eternal afterlife. Those who are “saved” spend eternity in the presence of God. Those who are “unsaved” spend eternity outside the presence of God.

In honor of this week’s debate on the question of the origin of the world (creation vs. evolution) here’s a little reminder:

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Apostle Paul also writes in Romans 10:13

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Did you catch what the Bible lists as the requirements for salvation? It’s faith. Those who call on Jesus as savior are those who are saved.

Did you catch what the Bible DOESN’T list as a requirement for salvation? Your view of how the universe began. Or your view of how the universe will end. Or your view on what church should look like, sound like, feel like, etc.

That means that even evolutionists can go to heaven. GASP! I know this is really gonna tweak some people, but the Bible is clear that salvation is offered to those who believe. There is no benchmark of belief that says, “You start at saved level ALPHA but don’t have access to heaven until you reach saved level FOXTROT.”

If we understand what the Bible is saying then we see that there will be people in heaven who disagree with some of our most dearly held ideologies.

In the big picture, we need to be okay with that. It’s all about Jesus. I happen to believe that the cosmos has a divine foundation – that YAHWEH was the creative force driving the car. If someone else who calls on the name of Jesus says he believes that God started the evolutionary ball rolling, my disagreement with that issue should not prevent me from worshipping alongside him as a fellow disciple of Jesus.

Difficult as it may be, we are called to do better. It’s time to lay down our pet issues for the sake of the kingdom. The only real issue is Jesus Christ. If you’re with him, then you’re with me.

And one day we’ll be worshipping him together for eternity.

Come, Lord Jesus!

How Bad Can I Be and Still Be a Xian?

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We are masters at justifying our behavior. If we REALLY want something then we will find a way to convince our brains and our hearts that it is okay to do it. Those of us who are really slick and have a little bit of the Bible tucked away in our heads will bring up Scripture to justify our behavior.

The Apostle Paul once heard a report from the church in the city of Corinth that blew his mind. It seems that one of the church members had an affair with his father’s wife. The church was so proud of their liberty and freedom and openness. Paul was not proud. Instead, he wrote:

Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1 Corinthians 5:2)

I would guess that a good many of us have never tried to get frisky with our step mothers, there are other areas in our lives where we do what we want to do even when we know we shouldn’t be doing it.

Someone once talked to me about the two types of Xians: law-driven people and grace-driven people. When it comes to justifying our behavior we all suddenly turn into grace-driven Xians, promoting God’s grace above all else.

“God’s grace covers all.”

Paul had to fight this mentality from the church in Rome. His response:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in God’s grace. If God were not gracious with us we’d all be toast. But we must walk that line between receiving grace and abusing grace.

Grace does not give us carte blanche to sin and willfully make unrighteous decisions. Grace does offer to catch us when we fall. Grace helps us get back on track. But as we grow in our faith and in our relationship with God, our new life should pull us away from the old behavior into a new way of doing things. It’s spiritual maturity. Paul continues:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires….For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

Remember when you fell in love for the first time? Most of us will go through a lot in order to change ourselves so that we can be the perfect partner for the one we love (many young people foolishly pretend to be something other than what they really are, and that will blow up later). The point is this – grace isn’t about abusing the freedom God has given us. It’s not a get out of jail free card to continue making evil choices. Grace should be drawing us in a closer relationship with God to the point where we WANT to be different.

It’s not about “How bad can I be and still be a Xian?”

It’s about “How much do I love Jesus, and what am I willing to do to belong to him?”