Monday, May 2, 2016

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

U2 is one of my favorite bands. I enjoy almost all of their songs, from the oldest to the most recent. One of my favorites is entitled, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Not only is it a good song, but the title also describes exactly where I am when it comes to the church. I know what I'm looking for, but I haven't found it. My hope is to gather in community with other followers of Jesus Christ who live simply and radically for our Lord. My desire is to follow the model for the body of Christ that God has given us in scripture. Let me be clear: I'm not searching for perfection. Rather, I just hope to someday be able to grow close to other believers who acknowledge God's plan for His church that He has provided in the bible.

For now my wife and I get together weekly with a few other folks. It is nice, but it's not what I'm hoping to find. I realize that part of the problem may be me. I'm more than willing to change if someone can convince me through scripture that my thoughts about the body of Christ are incorrect. Until that time, I'm going to keep looking.

What about you? Have you found what you're looking for?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Modesty is Not a Dirty Word


I expect nothing good from secular culture. Minds closed to the things of Christ will never live according to biblical standards.

I expect a lot of good from the church. Minds enlightened by the Holy Spirit both can and should live according to what God desires. As with so many things, however, the church often disappoints. One particular area where this is the case is with modesty. In particular, I'm referring to modesty of dress.

How is it that just about any Christian who brings up modesty is almost immediately accused of being a legalist or a prude? One time I actually dared on social media (my mistake) to speak out against women wearing bikinis. I of course received a ton of push back along with the all too frequent question, "Do you expect women to wear burkas?" It is sad that any suggestion that men and women dress modestly is rejected by (it seems) the majority of believers.

Paul tells us in I Timothy chapter 2:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (I Tim. 2:8-10).

The only explanation I have for this phenomenon - that of the church rejecting modesty of dress - is that the church has largely adopted the values of the world. This is not news; we've seen it all our lives. It is simply a very troubling thing.

A basic reading of the New Testament teaches us that followers of Christ will live far differently from the world. We will, in fact, be a peculiar people. Peter actually refers to us as aliens. When the body of Christ looks and acts like what it is (something unique), that pleases God. On the other hand, when the church looks and acts like secular culture something is very wrong.

Modesty of dress is not legalism. No one is calling upon Christian women to wear burkas. What I am calling for is the body of Christ living as what we are - a holy people. When it comes to dress, we should not be flaunting our physical bodies for the world to see. Rather, when we dress modestly it allows God to be glorified through what stands out - our acts of righteousness and service.

Please brothers and sisters, let's all embrace a lifestyle of modesty. When it comes specifically to dress, let's fault on the side of covering up as opposed to showing it off. There will certainly be some gray areas in this; we will not all agree, for example, what constitutes shorts that are too short. However, if we will strive to please Christ and embrace modesty we will look far different from the world around us. This pleases our Lord.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Without the Bible You Can Know about God, But Not About His Plan of Redemption

I grow increasingly tired of some Christians acting as if the bible isn't all that important. I've read some followers of Christ saying that all you need is the Holy Spirit and the world around us to know all you need to know about God. They speak as if the bible is nice to have, but not critical to living as God would have us live.

This is hogwash wrapped up in poppycock.

Of course the bible is important. After all, we would not have any idea who Jesus Christ is if we didn't have scripture. How many people, for example, do you know who heard about Jesus directly from the Holy Spirit? How many learned about him from nature? How many learned about him from the world?

On the other hand, how many learned about Jesus Christ either on their own through the bible or from someone else teaching them from the bible? My guess is a conservative 100%. In God's wisdom, we are able to deduce something of his existence and goodness through nature. However, it is through his written word that we learn critical specifics about exactly who he is, what he has accomplished, and what he expects of us. Psalm 19 spells out for us the difference between God's general revelation (19:1-6) and special revelation (19:7-11):

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

The Holy Spirit is faithful to illuminate our minds to assist us in understanding scripture correctly. The Spirit also regenerates our hearts to enable us to repent and believe. Additionally, the Spirit leads us day-by-day to live according to God the Father's desires. However, the Holy Spirit is generally not in the business of explaining to people God's plan of redemption apart from the bible.

The fact is that without the bible the vast majority of us (probably somewhere between 99 and 100% of us) would have no clue about Jesus Christ. And if we didn't know the Lord, we would have no opportunity for salvation. It is truly that simple.

Therefore, whether some Christians like it or not, the bible is absolutely essential to the Christian life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Republic, Not a Democracy


I don't generally post about politics, but the above graphic is too good to pass up. With religious liberty in this country increasingly under attack, we need to know the difference between a republic and a democracy. My guess is that most Americans don't have a clue. That said, our hope ultimately rests in Christ as opposed to man. Therefore, even if our religious liberty is completely stripped away God will remain faithful. Life will just become much more uncomfortable.

Monday, March 21, 2016

From Columbia to Charleston!

Friday and Saturday were challenging days, but challenging in the good sense.

I participated in the Palmetto 200, a relay race from Columbia to Charleston, South Carolina. As part of a twelve-person JCB team, I ran three of thirty-six total legs that took us from the middle of the state all the way to the coast. My mileage sum was about twenty.

I'd never taken part in anything like this event before. As a team we collectively ran more than 200 miles over the span of about thirty-one uninterrupted hours. We used two vans, alternating between running and sleeping (sort of). One very enjoyable aspect for me was that all three of my legs were far different. On the first, I ran six miles in the early evening from out in the country into a small town. Second, at five in the morning in the dark I ran eight miles through a largely barren section of a national forest. It was so dark! My final leg, in the afternoon of the next day, took me over a huge bridge in the middle of downtown Charleston. That last segment was a long five miles.

The best part of the relay was the camaraderie. Prior to this I did not know many of the other team members very well if at all. It was a blast to spend over a day with people who love to do what I love to do. We had a lot of time to simply talk about all sorts of things. I already cannot wait until next year's relay.

Below are pics of A) me sprinting to the finish line of the relay in order to beat the guy in the banana suit (you simply cannot let yourself be beaten by a banana), and B) the entire JCB team.





Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Primary Reason Simple Church is Simply Better

The simple church model for church life is not just another model. It is the best model. It is superior to any and all of the man-created, tradition-laced models of church life that dominate the Christian landscape. Simple church, in its various forms, bypasses the shackles that the institution places upon the body of Christ. It frees the church to be what Christ intends for it to be.

Many reasons exist for why simple church is better. However, one particular reason stands out as most important. The primary reason why simple church is simply better is that it recognizes Jesus Christ as its one and only Head.

Objectively and positionally speaking, Jesus Christ is the Head of his church no matter what anyone else does or says. For example, Ephesians 1:22 tells us, "And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church." Later in that same epistle Paul writes, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (4:15). Likewise, we read in Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent."

One of the core aspects of simple church life is that the entire body is active. Everyone uses his or her gifts to serve the church family. No one person is elevated in any manner over others. All are equal in the eyes of God and live this out through sacrificial service (at least this is the way things ought to be). The priesthood of all believers is embraced, all teach one another, and no one is treated as any sort of elevated intermediary between God and man.

Therefore, within simple church life Jesus Christ is not only the objective Head of the church, but he is treated this way on a daily, moment-by-moment manner.

It's not so simple within institutional Christianity. While Christ is often given lip service as Head of the church, pastors confuse the fact. Just go to any worship service (denomination doesn't really matter). Who stands up front on an elevated platform? Who does most of the talking? Who leads? Who has a special title? Who does most of the teaching? Additionally, what are most of the people doing?

You know the answers to the above questions. A small number of folks do almost everything. The church views them as the religious experts. These are almost always the pastors. Everybody else generally sits quietly in rows, singing when told to and speaking to one another for a minute or so if given permission. However, generally what is going on is that the majority of the church sits and watches a performance put on by a small group that is paid to do so. This happens week after week after week.

Within the above institutional framework the pastors act as the daily, functional heads of the church. Jesus Christ fades into the background as the pastors lead the way. Christ is clouded, almost as if a sort of curtain is pulled closed in front of him. Ironically, many pastors have decent intentions. They may even speak about Jesus quite a bit during their sermons. However, their sermonizing often places them in the way of Jesus.

In light of all this, the institutional model must be rejected is favor of a simple one. Is simple church life perfect? Of course not. After all, the church is composed of people. Despite this, the model itself promotes and recognizes Jesus Christ as the one and only Head that he is. Because of this, simple church is simply better.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Danger of Separating Romans 13 from Romans 12


Each Sunday morning our family gathers with some fellow believers in our home. As part of these meetings we've recently been studying through the book of Romans. It has been a joy.

As we looked at Romans chapter 12 and then chapter 13 I was struck by the importance of not separating the two in our minds. Of course, it is all too easy to do this since most bibles make a fairly big deal out of the man-made chapter divisions. Even we, as a small group of Christians, tend to study chapter-by-chapter each week. For example, one week we read through and discussed Romans 12 and the following week Romans 13. It would have been simple to miss the relationship between the two if we didn't pay active attention.

The beginning of Romans 12 is a well-known transition point in the book. The previous eleven chapters focused mostly on what God has done in His grand plan of redemption. Romans 12-16 looks primarily at what man's response should be in light of what God has accomplished. Paul sums this up well in Romans 12:1-2, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Paul expects us to be "living sacrifices" to God. But what does this look like? The apostle teases this out through the remainder of the epistle. In chapter 12 Paul lists various expectations of the Christian life. Toward the end of the chapter he tells the Roman Christians to "repay no one evil for evil" and "never avenge yourselves." His language is clear. The chapter ends at this point.

This is where the danger comes into play.

In chapter 13 Paul discusses the importance of being subject to governing authorities. Verses 13:3-4 say, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."

The danger to the church, if we separate chapters 12 and 13, is that we might fall into the trap of over applying 13:3-4. I've seen this again and again as Christians point to these verses to support our government's nasty habit of invading other countries whenever we feel it is in America's best interests. I've also heard these verses used to defend self-defense to the point of vigilantism.

We cannot ignore what Paul said at the end of chapter 12. As Christ's followers, we are not to avenge ourselves. We are not to repay evil for evil. This hearkens back to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies." When we keep these things in mind, we are forced to see that Romans 13 has a much smaller application than what has been popular in modern evangelicalism. In Romans 13 Paul is simply saying that government uses its power to discipline those who would break the law. The apostle is discussing how a nation state functions within its own borders. It has nothing to do with invading other countries. It's got even less to do with any sort of self-defense.

For whatever reason the church in the USA has a tendency to support the military almost no matter what it does (at least as long as there's a Republican in the White House at the time). Romans 13 is frequently used as biblical justification for doing so. This is extremely poor interpretation of scripture.

We do much better to keep chapters 12 and 13 linked (which is what Paul intended). While the beginning of chapter 12 serves as a significant transition point in the letter, the beginning of chapter 13 does not. Paul's thought flows directly from 12 into 13. Therefore, everything in 13 must be read in the context of us being living sacrifices, repaying no one evil for evil, and us not avenging ourselves.

Avoid the danger of misinterpretation. Keep 12 and 13 linked.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The 25 Golden Rules of Running

When it comes to running you may not know where to begin. This could be because you just don't know that much about it. That's fine. Now is as good a time as any to learn. Although running is not complicated, there is more to it than simply putting on an old pair of sneakers and heading out the door.

Click here to read an excellent article that focuses on twenty-five of the most universally accepted rules of running.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dear Institutional Christianity, I Beg You To Stop Crediting Your Foolish Activities to the Holy Spirit

Institutional Christianity is an odd mix of things based in scripture and things based in man's ideas. For the most part, the aspects of the church institution that are founded in the bible are solid (this of course depends on whether or not they are New Covenant-based ideas, but that's for another post).

The massive problem embedded within institutional Christianity is all of the practices that cannot be supported by scripture. The three-headed monster of the church institution have been, are, and will continue to be worship services/religious ceremonies, salaried pastors, and massive buildings. These three prongs do not invite questioning or challenging by anyone or anything. Trust me, I've tried. It usually doesn't go over very well.

How, then, do those within the institution, especially the leadership, justify their man-made practices? Some make the sad and pathetic attempt to go back to the Old Covenant to support the things they do. This is absurd in light of the fact that Jesus came to usher in the New Covenant, and we can/should all be greatly thankful for that. To point to the Old Covenant as the "way to do church" is mind-bogglingly backward.

Another tactic used by institutionalists is to say that the Holy Spirit led them to do what they've done. I write this post today as a call for this to stop and desist immediately. Please institutional Christianity, stop crediting your foolish, unbiblical activities and practices to the Holy Spirit. You have absolutely no biblical reason for doing so. To do so is to rely on your own imaginations, desires, hopes, and dreams.

It's clear from the outside looking in that some institutionalists see crediting the Holy Spirit as a sort of trump card to silence all debate. After all, who can argue with what the Holy Spirit has led? I'll happily argue, not with the Holy Spirit, but with those who blame the Holy Spirit for their sound and light shows, their puppet ministries, their capital campaigns, their youth groups, their children's church, their massive building debt, their women pastors, their choreographed meetings, their nurseries, their altar calls, their ordinations, their seminaries, their budgets, their fund raisers, etc., etc., etc.

I realize and readily admit that many with the church institution are my brothers and sisters in Christ (however, many pew sitters have no knowledge of God). It is to my brothers and sisters that I send this call: please stop giving credit to the Holy Spirit for the things you do that have no biblical basis. Instead, simply have the chutzpah to say, "We do these things because we like them. That's our basis, that is all, and we're sticking to it."

Thanks.

Friday, March 4, 2016

An Excellent Statement on Christology

I'm not generally a big fan of statements of faith. Although they assist with clarity of belief, far too often they are used to separate Christian brothers and sisters instead of uniting them. However, statements can be helpful if they force us to think about not only what we believe but also why we believe it.

Blogger Tim Challies recently pointed out an excellent statement on Christology by Ligonier Ministries. I encourage you to read it.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Series Summary: Church, Bible, And Interpretation - It's Not So Simple

Understanding the bible correctly is neither particularly easy nor difficult. Rather, the task falls somewhere in between.

The body of Christ as a whole is not particularly good at biblical interpretation. This stems in large part from the church's shameful lack of scriptural knowledge in general. Coupled with this is Christians' tendency to use all sorts of odd and random methods for understanding the bible. If the church would be consistent in using proper methods of interpretation it would be able to avoid many of the problems it faces today.

My purpose in writing the series Church, Bible, and Interpretation - It's Not So Simple is to help fellow believers understand scripture better. I hope it has been of benefit.

Click below to read any of the posts in the series:

The Bible is a Book That is Meant to be Understood
The Biblical Writers Meant What They Said
The Biblical Text Has Meaning; We Do Not Bring Our Own Meaning To It
Biblical Meaning Stems from the Book, Not the Verse
The Bible is Full of Eyewitness Accounts
The Bible Does Not Read Like a Myth or Fairy Tale
Genre Must Not Be Ignored
Descriptive Differs From Prescriptive
The Bible Was Written in Hebrew and Greek, But We Can Generally Trust Our Good English Translations
The Gospel is the Key and Jesus Christ is the Center

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Gospel is the Key and Jesus Christ is the Center

This is the final post in the series Church, Bible, and Interpretation - It's Not So Simple.

The bible is not an end in and of itself. We obviously do not worship the bible. However, the bible is the way we know who Jesus Christ is, what he has accomplished, and what he expects of us. Without the bible we'd have no way of knowing God personally.

Psalm 19, among other things, beautifully points out the difference between general revelation and special revelation. Apart from the scriptures we might be able to discern that God is Creator and that he is good. However, we would have no clue about the gospel.

As we seek to interpret scripture correctly we must remember that the gospel is key. It is a golden thread running from the beginning to the end of the bible. It is what binds it all together. At the center of the gospel is Jesus Christ himself. All interpretation must flow through him and keep him in mind. To fail to do so puts us in danger of coming to conclusions divorced from the primary message of the bible.

As we read the bible let's constantly ask ourselves the following question, "What does this have to do with Christ and his gospel?" This question acts as a plumb line against which to compare our conclusions. The question also functions like a magnet, drawing us back to him who really matters.

Because we are human, and thus fallen even if redeemed, we will occasionally come to incorrect conclusions about what the bible means. However, when we keep the gospel in general and Jesus Christ in particular at the forefront of our minds we have an excellent chance of arriving at the meaning God intends.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

15 for 45

To celebrate the fact that I am 45 years old I've decided to run in 15 races this year (one race for every three years of life).

Racing can be addictive. The danger comes when racing is an end in itself. I hope to avoid this at all costs. My purpose in racing is that it motivates me to run, which in turn keeps me healthy. It's physical health that is the end in all this.

Most of the races I've selected for 2016 take place in the greater Savannah area. They range from 5Ks to one marathon. The most interesting is probably going to be the Palmetto 200, a JCB team relay from Columbia to Charleston, South Carolina where I will run three different legs totaling 20 miles.

Here are the races (four of which I have already completed):

Critz Tybee 5K
Critz Tybee 10K
Critz Tybee Half-marathon
ESPN Diabetes 5K
Shamrock Run
Palmetto 200
Skidaway Island Half-marathon
Nine Line Run for the Wounded
JCB Mudrun
Firecracker 5000
Run for the River 5K/10K
Summer's End Trail Run
Pacing for Polio 5K
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Marathon
Savannah Bridge Run

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Bible Was Written in Hebrew and Greek, But We Can Generally Trust Our Good English Translations

As we seek to understand the bible correctly we must remember that it was originally penned in Hebrew and Greek (and a little bit of Aramaic). While we don't need to be able to read Hebrew and Greek to comprehend scripture, it remains important that we respect how it was first put down on parchment.

This is part nine of my ten part series Church, Bible, and Interpretation - It's Not So Simple.

The original languages are important. This is because all languages have certain quirks and idiosyncrasies about them. All are unique. Additionally, languages change over time. For example, the Greek spoken in Greece today differs significantly from the Koine Greek of the New Testament. Because of these things the church needs a significant number of believers who can read and teach biblical Hebrew and Greek to the next generation. If for no other reason this is important for apologetic purposes. It would do great damage to the body of Christ if no one could say with certainty what the Greek and Hebrew mean.

I'm generally not a fan of seminaries (even though I attended a fairly good one). However, I am glad that most evangelical seminaries in this country strongly support the teaching of Greek and Hebrew. Many require classes in both. Until the church gets to the point of teaching Hebrew and Greek one to another we need seminaries to keep doing what they are doing.

The Reformer Martin Luther said the following:

We will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments….

I am exceedingly glad that I speak English. The reason I say this is that the bible has been translated into English in many good forms. We have an abundance of excellent translations, for example the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, NET, HCSB, ISV, and YLT. With modern technology it's even easy to compare translations by using a site like Bible Gateway. Because of all this we English speakers can feel confident that we know what the bible truly means even if we cannot read the original languages.

This brings us to another issue: the importance of bible translation into all languages. While we English speakers have lots of choices, some Christians around the globe have only one relatively poor translation or no translation at all. I encourage you to consider giving to those who spend their lives doing translation work; Wycliffe Bible Translators is a wonderful example.

One final thought: some of the English translations do not handle leadership issues well. Because many of those doing the translating are enmeshed in the institutional church framework they tend to translate in a way that gives pastors more authority than they actually should have. In my opinion this is the biggest weakness of many English translations. Therefore, if you are dealing with church leadership/authority issues, I highly encourage you to read multiple translations and consult numerous commentaries prior to coming to any significant conclusions/decisions.

To sum up: let's always remember that the bible was written thousands of years ago in Hebrew and Greek. Despite this, we can know what the bible means.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Actually Won a Race on Saturday!


Well, this was unexpected.

Racing is a funny thing because where you finish has much more to do with who shows up than with how you actually race that day. On Saturday nobody truly fast participated. Hence, I won.

Saturday's race was the ESPN Diabetes 5K, a fund raiser for (obviously) diabetes research and support. I'm always glad to support a good cause while running. Just before the start of the race I looked around and didn't see anyone I recognized from previous races as being particularly fast. Soon after the starting gun went off I found myself in second place. At around the half mile mark I pulled alongside the runner in first place and asked, "Where are all the fast runners?" He replied that they must not have heard about the race.

At the one mile marker I was alone in first place. That's when I decided to go for the win. I knew that the guy I had passed was younger than I was; I didn't want him to out sprint me at the end. Therefore, I tried to push the pace as much as I could for the entire race. It was uncomfortable and somewhat painful. However, in the end I won by about 45 seconds. Sweet.

My finishing time was 18:51, but several of us runners believe the course was short by a tenth of a mile or two. We all had significantly faster times than we were expecting. One other interesting note: we old guys crushed the younger ones. The top six male finishers were all over thirty years of age. We put those youngsters in their place!

To see the race results click here.

I do not expect to win any more races. However, I have to admit that this was a lot of fun.


(FYI - I added a specific Running page to the blog. You can find it on the pages bar above between the Links and Why I Resigned pages.)