Tag Archives: Lord

About those claiming Jesus was just a good teacher . . .

Have you read all of what He said lately? Do you believe He is divine as He claimed to be? If not, how could He be a good teacher? If so, then He is the author of all scripture, including Paul’s letters.  As C.S. Lewis noted, if you claim to believe what He is quoted as saying in the Gospels then He must be a liar, a lunatic or the Lord.

Do you believe his teachings that:

  • Unrighteousness anger leads to Hell?
  • False beliefs about God and his word should be rebuked?
  • Lust = adultery?
  • He is the only way to salvation?
  • He is divine?
  • That marriage is the union of a man and a woman?
  • We should stop judging based on mere appearances and make right judgments?
  • The Old Testament turned out just as God wanted it to? (He unapologetically referred to all of it, including currently controversial passages such as Adam and Eve as historical figures, Noah, Sodom and Jonah.)
  • Hell is real (He taught on it more than He did on Heaven), with eight references to weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc.
  • You should give your money rather than petitioning “Caesar” to take from your neighbors at the point of a gun to “give” on your behalf?
  • Other religious teachings are wrong? (leaven / Pharisees / Sadducees)

Jesus was very blunt in his name-calling. Was He being a good teacher then?  A few examples: Jesus called Pharisees “wicked,” “adulterous,” “sons of hell” (Matt. 23:15), “blind guides,” “blind men,” “white-washed tombs,” and even “snakes.” For those who didn’t believe Him, Jesus said they were “foolish” and that they were “of their father the devil (John 8:44).”

I encourage you to read the Bible carefully and place your trust in the real Jesus, not the one of popular culture and the wolves of the “Christian” Left.  Making a god in your own image will never work.

 

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I don’t know, but I’ll find out

question-mark.gifA favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

The title contains seven really important words for evangelism and apologetics (defending the Christian faith).

1 Peter 3:15-16 gives the following command to Christians:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

So we must be ready to graciously explain why we believe in Christ. But there will always be questions we don’t have the answers to. Sometimes when we get stumped we resort to poorly made arguments such as “Because the Bible says so!”  Or worse yet, we avoid conversations completely because we are afraid of looking bad.

But when we don’t have well reasoned answers to share we should not make them up. This is a corollary to the advice about the first thing to do when you have dug yourself into a hole (Stop digging).

Consider the following benefits of being willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

  • It is a humble response. You burst the stereotype that Christians are smug know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen.
  • It takes pressure off of you, and most importantly, gives you the confidence to engage in conversations without thinking you must know everything.
  • It keeps you from giving bad answers. Remember that one bad argument can undermine ten good arguments. Skeptics will seize on it and use it to justify their position.
  • It gives you time to prepare better answers.
  • It lets you make an appointment to come back later to talk about God. This is invaluable, as you can approach the person later and say, “Remember when you had that question about ______”
  • You will build your own confidence when you research the issues and realize that we’ve been answering tough questions with intellectually satisfying answers for thousands of years.
  • By taking the objection off the table temporarily, you can shift back to the Gospel, as in “While I can’t answer that right now, here is what I do know . . .”

Of course, you may use different words to convey this. You might say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it and get back with you. Thanks for giving me something to think about,” or something similar. The main thing is to humbly convey that you listened to what the other person said, that you don’t have a ready answer and that you care enough to do some research and get back to them.

Keep in mind that just because you don’t have an answer right then doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true. If the essentials of Christianity are true (e.g., Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), then they are true regardless of whether someone can explain them or not or whether someone wants them to be true. All you need to know is where to go find the answers to the tough questions. You can maintain your confidence in what you do know to be true. In fact, when we respond graciously to critics we come across more confident than if we get overly excited and emotional.

This works on other topics as well, such as pro-life reasoning.

Hat tip for parts of this: Stand to Reason

Step 1: Listen to false prophet instead of God. Step 2: Get killed by a lion.

Have you read 1 Kings 13 lately (see below), where a “man of God” initially obeyed a direct command from God but then believed a prophet who falsely claimed that God told him something different?  It didn’t end well.  And by “didn’t end well,” I mean he got killed by a lion.

Now am I saying that if you listen to false teachers about what God “really” says rather than the Bible that you’ll get killed by a lion?  Of course not.  You probably live in North America, so God will use a bear instead of a lion.

Just kidding!  Probably!  While God often uses examples in the Bible to show how serious sins are, such as with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, by his grace and mercy He doesn’t give us all what we deserve.  But that doesn’t mean we should confuse his patience with his approval.

We are commanded to love God with our minds and we should use good discernment when listening to people make claims about God, regardless of their titles or reputation.  Remember to be like good Bereans and test everything in light of scripture (Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.).  But how can you do that if you aren’t reading the Bible regularly?

If people claim to have heard from God then the burden of proof is on them to back it up.  If they are teaching things that disagree with the Bible (e.g., Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation, we don’t know what God really said in the Bible, pro-abortion, pro-“same-sex marriage,” etc.) then they should be ignored.  If they hold those views and say that God spoke to them then they are lying, just like the old prophet in 1 Kings 13.  False teachers are deadly — not always physically, but certainly spiritually.

Read the Bible, then read it some more.  Every day.  Then you’ll be much more likely to spot the false teachers.

One of the reasons to go through the Old Testament is that otherwise you’ll miss great stories like this!

1 Kings 13 (ESV)

A Man of God Confronts Jeroboam

13 And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ ” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’ ” And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’ ” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

The Prophet’s Disobedience

11 Now an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. 12 And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. 14 And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15 Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16 And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, 17 for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’ ” 18 And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” But he lied to him. 19 So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

20 And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21 And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, 22 but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’ ” 23 And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.

26 And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him.” 27 And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled it. 28 And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey. 29 And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying, “Alas, my brother!” 31 And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

33 After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. 34 And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

Obama knows the mind of God?!

When politicians on either side make claims like this you should be skeptical.  If they quoted some actual Bible verses, in context, then that would be relevant — although in theory, the “separation of church and state” crowd should be going nuts about Obama’s statements [crickets chirping].

See Obama: God wants Congress to pass my jobs bill « Hot Air.

Urging Congress again to pass a portion of his jobs bill, President Obama claimed Wednesday that God is on his side.

Mr. Obama was standing at the D.C. side of the Key Bridge, calling attention to America’s crumbling infrastructure and the need to put more construction workers back on the job. He criticized House Republicans for ignoring his legislation while approving a measure that reaffirms “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

“That’s not putting people back to work,” Mr. Obama said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”

It’s hard not to ever-so-slightly suspect that, in Obama’s mind, God’s will ought to conform to his and not the other way around … but I’m trying very hard to banish that suspicion. Humility might not be Obama’s strong suit, but surely not even he is that arrogant.

At the daily press briefing, when a reporter asked Jay Carney whether Obama’s invocation of God might not have been a bit much, the press secretary defended it with this: “I believe the phrase from the Bible is ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.’” Not so, Mr. Carney, not so. Nowhere in the Bible does that adage make its appearance.

Ugh.  Looks like his press secretary knows as much about the Bible as the President.

Grudges

John MacArthur noted in a Podcast this morning how we are most like God when we forgive.  Someone once said that unforgiveness is like taking a little poison every day and hoping that it hurts your enemy.

I once held a grudge against my boss’s boss, who I felt had done some serious wrongs to a good friend (among other things).  He was like the pig character in the comic strip and I was like the rat.  He was also a bully to nearly everyone in various meetings, including my team.  I knew how to stand up to him, but others didn’t.  Then one day I realized that I had to let the personal stuff go and just forgive him.  That was liberating.

But with respect to how he treated my team I realized I had a different obligation.  I let him know that his bullying, swearing and yelling were counter-productive to the results we both wanted to achieve because they were stifling discussions.  People were afraid to speak up and solve problems because of his shoot-the-messenger approach. The appeal to his self-interest worked, and he made a surprisingly rapid change in his approach.  And I didn’t get fired!  (I wasn’t a Kamikaze; I let Human Resources and my boss know ahead of time that I was going to confront him.)

Things don’t always work out that well but parsing the issue into the personal (forgive and let it go!) and the professional/ethical (turning the other cheek on behalf of those getting injured isn’t noble) made a huge difference.  God’s approach really works.  Go figure.

This is a sobering passage about unforgiveness:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18: 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servantfell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The longer you live the more things you’ll have to forgive.  If you hold grudges you’ll just become more and more weighed down with bitterness.  Really, let it go.

As MacArthur noted, the sins of others offend God way more than they offend you — just as your sins offend God way more than they offend others.  Let him deal with it.  You’ll love the freedom that comes with forgiving others, and your relationships will improve.

A great overview of the Book of Job

The Book of Job can be challenging to read, but it contains many timeless truths.  Having God come on the scene and turning the questioning on Job is worth reading the whole book.

This article at Pyromaniacs: The Patience of Job was the best overview I’ve ever read on Job.

Human emotions don’t help us make sense of these things. If you want to sort through the problem of evil, you have to think sensibly, and theologically, and biblically, and not let your emotions rule your mind.

Job was a wise enough man than to know better than to respond by reflex on the basis of his feelings. If he had responded according to what he felt like, he might have cursed God. If he had just given vent to his feelings, he could easily been consumed with bitterness, self-pity, anger, and frustration—and he might have been tempted to take his wife’s advice: “Curse God and die!”

But Job’s very first response was the response of someone who knows something about God: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Job had filtered his feelings through his theology. It still did not make sense to him why he had to suffer like this (and that is why Job is 42 chapters long; because it records the dialogue Job had with his friends as he tried to sort this out). But even though it made no sense to him, even though he was overwhelmed with painful feelings, his immediate response made no mention of those feelings.

. . .

This cannot be stressed too much: It was sound theology, not his feelings, that enabled Job to weather the immediate shock of the news that his children and everything he owned were gone forever. This is why sound theology is so important—and so intensely practical.

Notice what truths Job clung to. These were the things Job knew for sure about God. These were the truths that became his anchor. And throughout the book of Job, amid all his complaints and pleading, he never once let go of these principles. Here are three truths Job clung to in order to see him through his grief:

I encourage you to read it all.  I agree that Job was a staunch Calvinist and it made a big difference to him.

Casting stones

As nearly every Bible translation points out in the footnotes, the passage in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery isn’t found in the earliest manuscripts.  Therefore, it may not have been in the original writings of the Bible.*

It is a memorable passage and doesn’t contradict other doctrines, but neither does it add anything that isn’t taught elsewhere.  The problems start when people twist the passage to say things that aren’t there.  Here’s the text:

The Woman Caught in Adultery — John 8:2 – 11

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst  they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her,”Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

If someone drew the conclusion that Jesus was once again clever and outwitted the Pharisees who were trying to trap him, that would be fine. Or that He upheld the law on capital punishment (you must have two witnesses). Or that He outed their hypocrisy in not bringing the man. Those would all be good.

The main misuse of the passage is by those who exclaim, “He who is without sin can cast the first stone!,” when trying to shut up anyone making a judgment they disagree with.  But as you may have noticed, that objection is self-refuting and ironically hypocritical: They imply that all judging is wrong, but they are judging you for judging.  But there is more.

Jesus was referring to real stones that would kill the person. Real stones thrown at a real person until he or she was really dead.  Criticizing someone else hardly rises to the level of killing him by stoning. Flippantly equating death by stoning with mere criticism is beyond hyperbole.

And even if Jesus said the part about not casting the first stone, it wouldn’t have meant, “Never say adultery is wrong!”  Note that the passage also says, “Go and sin no more.”

Those advocating the “judging = casting stones” view typically make all sorts of judgments, including advocating hate speech / hate crime laws.  But shouldn’t they be consistent and not judge anyone for anything, ever?

The passage is also misused to oppose capital punishment in principle.  But again, Jesus upheld the law: If there had been two witnesses present, stoning would have been appropriate at that time.

Keep in mind that any criticisms of this post will be considered stone-casting on your part.  And you know how wrong that is!

* Skeptics like Bart Ehrman like to say that this passage and the “long ending” of the Gospel of Mark reduce our confidence that the original writings were the word of God, but they are really proof that the system works.  Based on the work of textual critics on literally thousands of ancient manuscripts, we can be very confident about what the original writings said.