Who Loves Self-Righteousness (hint: we all do)

Self Righteousness… does anyone like it? You know the type… those who walk around like they’re holier than thou, judging everyone else for not being as godly as they are.

And yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all love self-righteousness. We believe that we are better than others. If I think ABC is right, and you think ABC is wrong, then I’m probably not changing my mind anytime soon. Why is that? Because our default setting is self-righteousness. We are the kings and queens of our kingdoms, and what we desire is almost always viewed as good and right and beautiful. Those who oppose us are grabbing for power, judgmental, or they’re just plain wrong.

But here’s the thing… you can’t be a Christian and be self-righteous. Christianity looks to the righteousness of another. The gospel calls us to confess our unrighteousness and to trust fully in the righteousness of Christ. The Christian is fully dependent on Christ’s righteousness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Continue reading

Weird Bible Stories: When God Sent the Bears

bear

The Bible has some really strange stories in it. There are some that you read and think, “Wait a minute. What?!” Yesterday at church I told a friend I had just written a post about this story and he said, “I have that story highlighted in my Bible. I have no idea what it means though!” Let’s explore one of the weirdest stories in the Bible.

He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
2 Kings 2:23-25, ESV

I remember reading this as a teenager and thinking, “What in the world is going on here! God had a bear eat 42 kids because they called someone bald?!” As always, reading this story in light of what came before and what comes after is the key to understanding what happened. We also need to know something about Bethel’s relationships with the prophets of God.  Continue reading

Can God Out-Vote You?

We all want to rule our lives and call our own shots. It’s just reality. This is where our trouble with God comes in… Because we grasp for the authority that only He should have.

The question we each need to ask, especially we who call ourselves Christians, is this: Can God out-vote me?

When my opinion differs from God’s Word (yes, I’m assuming you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, trying to prove that is subject for another post), will I stand corrected, or will I bend Scripture to my opinion?

We can bend a Scripture to our own wills in a few ways:

  1. Simply ignore that passage in favor of other passages we like more. This isn’t always intentional, but it happens when we only read portions of Scripture we like and avoid the parts we don’t. It also happens when we only read the New Testament and ignore the Old.
  2. Claim the verse only referred to people in that culture but doesn’t apply today. Sometimes this is actually the case, but be careful about jumping to this conclusion before taking the passage seriously and doing your homework.
  3. We simply assume that our opinions are biblical, and therefore don’t need to actually read it. Maybe you grew up in church, so you think you know “enough Bible” to get by, but that’s just it… the Christian life ought to be about treasuring and honoring God our Savior… not just “getting by.” Often, this mentality reflects a misinformed faith, and leads people to think they are spiritually “fine” when they aren’t (let Jesus’ words here be your warning).

I suspect that most American Christians fall into the third category. National polls have shown that although most Americans consider themselves Christians (see here and here), very few actually read the Bible despite affirming their belief that it is the Word of God (check this out), and only 9% have a “biblical worldview” on a theological and a variety of lifestyle issues (see here).

This tells me that although many people believe the Bible is the Word of God, they simply assume that they understand it well enough to say “My opinion is the Bible’s opinion.” This is a position which is increasingly difficult to hold, especially as sexuality continues to hold front-stage in national debates.

Who Holds Veto Power?
So… When it comes to discerning right from wrong… Can God overrule you? Can He out-vote you? Or do you hold veto power?

How you answer that question reveals who really has authority in your life. And there’s no such thing as a Christian who serves himself first. The call to follow Christ is a call to put yourself aside.

Can the Bible Correct You?

I had a conversation a while ago with a friend who a Christian and is struggling through some difficult doctrines. In the midst of our conversation he said a few things I’ve been thinking about:

1. “I just don’t like it when people have an ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ attitude.”

2. “I just don’t want to believe it.”

Ultimately, I think these comments come down to this question: Will you allow Scripture to correct your thinking. Here’s why I think this is the foundational question.

1. As Christians, we must be people who stand upon God’s revealed Word (the Bible) rather than our own opinions. 

2. When our opinion and God’s Word seem to be at odds, we need to be honest as we dig into Scripture to unveil the original intent (exegesis). Yes, there are cultural differences between our lives today and the culture of the Bible, but we need to be honest and have the integrity to resist merely saying, “Oh, well that was for them, not for us.” We need to honestly examine why it was for them and not for us and dig deeper than “Because that’s how I want it.”

3. When we refuse to believe what the Bible reveals, what we claim to believe about Biblical Authority and what we really believe are at odds with each other. It’s good to affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture, but if we will not allow God’s Word to correct us then we do not really believe what we think we believe.

4. Truth brings joy. Yes, there are times when it is difficult and painful to believe some things in Scripture, and there are times when I wish I could believe differently because it would be a whole lot easier. But God’s truth brings joy… eventually. Once we see God for who He is and we understand what He has done and what He is doing then even in the midst of the difficulty of faith, we rejoice in who God is and what He has promised.

If you are wrestling with something in Scripture that you do not want to believe… that’s ok. I think we should all be in that position, because it shows that we’re being honest about our beliefs and our preferences and we’re bringing them before God.

A few tips on wrestling with Scripture:

1. Pray. Ask God to increase your faith in Him and not in yourself or in your own preferences. We need to be people who are finally and ultimately devoted to God. We may know that, but are we truly willing to be that kind of person?

2. Interpret Scripture through Scripture. That may sound confusing, but the best way to understand difficult things in the Bible is by understanding what other verses/portions of the Bible have to say about that same thing. Interpret what is obscure or unclear through what is consistently and clearly taught. This also means we should interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament (but that’s a whole other blog post for another day).

3. Dig Dig Dig. God gave you a brain, he wants you to use it. Study, research, and read what has been written. There are many sites online that provide free Bible Study tools (crosswalk.com is probably the most well known; GotAnswers.com has great Q&A type of articles too).

4. Don’t think you’re alone. You are not the first person to ask the question your asking or to study the passage you’re studying. Read what others have written, but also talk to other Christians about this. Maybe they’re wondering the same thing but think they’re alone… study it together.

5. Finally, have faith. There are some things we will simply never fully understand because we aren’t meant to. That’s not an excuse to avoid intelligently pursuing truth. Instead, it’s a call to remember that God is infinite and you are finite. God is mysterious, but He has made Himself known… in part. If you think you can explain everything about who God is and what He has done (and will do) then either your wisdom is infinite or you have made God finite. There comes a point where you may need to humbly say, “I don’t know everything I want to know, but I know enough to confidently trust God.”

One of the greatest ways we can honor God is by trusting Him when we don’t want to.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Trinitarian Authority & Submission

I had a short but interesting discussion the the man who leads our church’s prison ministry today. He referred to the mutual submission within the Persons of the Trinity as a model for how we all should relate to and submit to one another in the Church.

He’s definitely right, and it’s not a new thought to me. The servanthood and submission we see between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is astonishingly glorious. And yet, while we need to learn and be humbled by this, we also need to resist an anti-authoritarian mindset that insinuates leadership and authority are bad.

Afterall, the Trinity is not the Brother, the Brother, and Holy Spirit. Scripture affirms the Father and the Son. Jesus himself says, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). There is authority, there is submission, and yet there is equality.  This is something worth chewing on as you consider the church, leadership, and ministry.

What implications do you see the Trinity having for Christian leadership?

What theological nuggets am I missing as we consider the authority and submission between the Persons of the Trinity?

A Biblical Foundation for Life

How we live matters… Deeply.

It matters so much it has eternal ramifications. What we do really truly matters.

I have always loved the book of Ecclesiastes because it has such a simple way of putting life into perspective. “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless” is a common refrain throughout the book. Lovely, right? How encouraging and uplifting. I don’t like the book for its positive effects; I appreciate it for it’s word of caution. I often find myself reading through Ecclesiastes on my birthday, helping me to remember how easy it would be for me to waste my life… Afterall, who wants to live a meaningless life?  Not I!

The Hebrew word (hbl) that’s translated as “Meaningless” is a word that more literally means “vapor, breath, vanity.” I don’t want my life to be as significant as my breath on a cold morning.  I want to build on a foundation that is secure and enduring. Thankfully, the author of Ecclesiastes wants the same for me, and he urges his readers thus, (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14)

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them…. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

I choose to build on God’s revealed Word, for it is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God given to man. By it we discover who God is, who we are, what God has done, what He is going to do, and what He expects of us.  Holy Scripture is the only sure foundation that I trust to build on. This doesn’t mean it’s the only book I read or consider, but it means all others are measured by that Book.

If God has spoken, I want to make sure to listen.  As this blog gets under way, I hope you’ll listen along with me…