Probably Not as Intended

At the end of devotional reading today, the author of the book through which I’m currently reading and using as a study-guide wrote:

 Now, one last question. How has God spoken to you today?

My response? Probably not in the way the author intended….

I did something new today. I did the usual pour a nice hot cup of freshly made coffee and shut my computer to avoid that as a distraction. Today, I also turned down the volume on my phone to mute and flipped it over so I would not see the flashing green light alerting me to a new message. Normally, I just leave it on the counter behind me, but the beeps of the new messages still serve as a distraction from focusing on the Word of God.

I began reading about Jehovah-raah, the Lord my Shepherd.

The author had some solid insights that caused me to pause and reflect on how what she said applies or is observed in my own life. “New” verses to look up and post around my house and on facebook as a reminder throughout the week. So far so good.

Then we get to the main Scripture passage for this morning – John 10:1-17, 26-33.

The author wanted us to make some observations about the different characters in the passage, compare and contrast different actions, etc. I began reading.

The first thing I noticed or that struck me was verse two:

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

The power of this verse, the confidence of the shepherd in this statement caused me to pause. The first verse had a thief and robber climbing up the back way trying to avoid being seen in a cowardly, underhanded way. The shepherd just walked right in to the fold of his sheep. Picture it.

Then we get to the part where Jesus very clearly and patiently spells it out for His audience who were not quite comprehending what He was saying.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (vs 11-12).

This is the part where my train of thought left the path the author probably intended for it to follow.

A lot of pastors refer to their congregation as their flock that they need to shepherd, to guide. As of today, I think that is something they probably should not be saying.

John is part of the New Testament. These words are coming straight from the mouth of Christ Jesus – He is the Shepherd! Go back to the Old Testament, and we have David saying, “The LORD (Jehovah-raah) is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). If we follow the chain of command, that means pastors are the hirelings – the help.

It makes sense. How often do we hear of pastors who left a church during a split of congregation or who back down from preaching the Word of God because it’s not the popular opinion of the world? They’re fleeing when the wolf comes for the flock of the Shepherd. Good help is hard to find….but it’s not impossible. There are many good pastors who stay to fight the wolves who enter the church with a mission to scatter and devour the flock. I am certain not every hireling in biblical times abandoned their post when a wolf came near the flock of which they were charged with protecting.

Look at the TV preachers and churches or religions with their thousands of followers…of what man is saying. They are not preaching salvation. They are not preaching that yes, God is loving, but He is also holy and just. They have just enough bits and pieces of the Bible – usually/always out of context – that they sound like they are working for the Shepherd. In reality, they are leading a group of sheep closer to the side of a cliff to fall.

 

A Lesson From 2 Timothy 4:2-5

In the Baptist, Evangelical, and really any Bible-believing church these days, there is an alarm being raised about different well-known leaders in Bible study materials. My Facebook feed has been flooded with articles and pictures and thoughts and the spiritual battle-cry about ban these authors from the materials used in church in for Sunday school, Bible studies, and recommendations from personal studies.

I am actually, partially disgusted by this.

To a point, I agree. If there is questionable theological content in their books, then that should not be included in study material given to new or young believers who need a solid foundation before they start sifting through the work of false preachers. However. To completely ban an author eliminates what could be a good learning experience for older believers, a chance to go from eating hamburger to eating steak. Allow me to explain.

For starters, just because an author has recently published questionable material does not mean their earlier writings were not spiritually, biblically sound writing. They may have only recently been taking in by a false preacher and been led astray as Satan decided they were becoming to great a threat to his plans. To ban and disregard what has already been taught after being studied and deemed appropriate in the church could have damaging effects such as believers who took comfort in those writings might be questioning decisions made based on that comfort and study. A believer who came to Christ through a message in a study written by that author might now be questioning their salvation.

It also gives more mature Christians the chance to sift through tactics of the devil. Recognize the truth in the false writings to see how it has been warped so they may be better prepared in the future in an instance when they have to determine for and by themselves whether or not something is true per the Bible. They can use it as a study tool. For example, this morning during my devotions, I came across a paragraph with which I took issue. Instead of throwing away the whole book, I instead wrote in a note at the top of the page reminding myself when I read through the book again later that there is something on that page that is not necessarily biblically sound. That paragraph did not contradict Scripture per se, but the idea behind the paragraph was on shifting sand. I noted it and moved on to the rest of the chapter.

I read a book which I highly recommend (Cold Case Christianity, a Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace) and loved with the exception of a single concept near the end of the book regarding celibacy. It was not even that the author was promoting or stating that concept was absolute per the Bible; it was more that he was simply stating a viewpoint of another person to contribute to that section of the book. Again, I just wrote a note on the side of the page and kept reading.

Banning books or teachings of someone previously accepted just because you disagree with their theology is taking things to the extreme. This is what the Catholic, Muslim, and other churches do to control their members. It’s also not trusting of the teachers to discern the difference between the truth and false teaching nor is it giving them the opportunity to take a concept or topic provided by the banned author and turn it into a biblically sound lesson.

Part of the growth of each believer should include learning how to study the Bible on their own looking at context (verses and chapters before and after the section being studied), word origins, what scholars of old have written on that passage, etc. If that is being done correctly, and the believer is growing in their relationship with their God, they should be able to discern false teaching on their own.

Again, using evil for good, using the change of writing of a well-known author from truth to false teaching as a teaching opportunity is much better than simply banning that author and becoming like false religions attempting to eliminate free will and control the actions and beliefs of their members.

Time of my Life…

I’ve been reading through a book about the names of God in the Bible for a couple months now. The book should have been done in one month, but, for possibly the first time in my life, I’m not just reading through this devotional book to complete it. I’m actually reading through it to learn about my God.

Last week, I was attempting to understand – and, please note, I’m chuckling to myself as I write that – Adonai. As I was reading through the chapter on that description of God, I was growling to myself about how it was poorly written. Why on earth would the writer throw Adon into the chapter without explaining the difference between Adon and Adonai? I don’t really understand what this verse has to do with this name…and so on.

Then I quit growling with one more thought: Maybe I’m having trouble understanding the qualities and nature of God we can know through this name because I have not yet had to call on God using this name.

When I first originally started this study several years ago before getting distracted and feeling the need to begin it anew, El Roi – the God Who Sees – was the name that jumped out at me. That is the name that I have used quite often in my personal conversations with God when I don’t understand what’s happening in my life, in the world, in my family, etc. I’ve called on the God Who Sees, a quality first made known in the life and account of Hagar.

Most everyone who has grown up in church or attended a Christian school for any number of years has likely heard of the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson reportedly butchered his Bible, cutting out verses or passages that he did not like or with which he did not agree. I am by NO means advocating such actions. When you choose to place your faith and hope in the Holy God, you don’t get to pick and choose which words of God apply to you. They all do; every word has a truth, a lesson, a challenge, a command by which you must live.

However. Just like my daddy has different ways of communicating, disciplining, teaching myself and my siblings, I can’t help but think that God started that method. Make no mistake: when God says via inspiration of the writers that something is wrong, He means it’s wrong for everybody. There should not be any debate or question about that. But most people have a verse they may call their “life verse” or just their favorite, a verse that challenges or encourages them, a verse that seems to speak to them more than others. Mine is Proverbs 24:10 followed by Ephesians 4:1. My favorite book of the Bible is the book of Proverbs.

Listening to a podcast of my favorite pastor to whom I listen, he mentions that growing up, he would much rather read through the book of Revelation than the book of Proverbs. I was the exact opposite. I still dislike reading through Revelation. Love the book of Proverbs. I read through that book and am challenged with how I should be living, behaving.

Going back to the study on the names of God. For whatever reason, El Roi and El Shaddai (essentially, the Provider or the God Who Provides) are two of the names of God which I use when I call upon Him for anything, even just regular conversation. I have no problem or struggle recognizing Him as Adonai, Lord or Master. I have not had any problem standing strong when more or less telling a former employer, “no, I serve and obey God; I’m not doing this” when they wanted me to follow their (unwritten) policies that clearly compromised what we as Christians have been instructed to do regardless of how major or minor it might appear. I just struggle with need or occasion to call on Him with that name.

I call my dad “daddy” whereas my brother and sister use “dad.” My brother occasionally calls him “pops” just like he called his dad at different times. Maybe, just as everyone is challenged differently or is taught differently by different passages of Scripture, everyone goes to their heavenly Father with a different name based on where they are in their spiritual life. It makes sense, to me at least.

Sunday School

This morning, while getting ready for church, I wrote a – in my opinion – brilliant post in my head about slavery. I was super pumped to type it out here.

At church, while watching a video about the sanctity of life, I started writing a post, again in my head, about individual world-views. I was excited about.

After church, ran into my parents in town for lunch where we started discussing Sunday school.

Background: I grew up in a church that was quite sizable. Children’s Sunday school was divided by school grade and age. Youth group was youth group, 7th-12th grade. College and Career was essentially everyone out of high school into their late 20s/early 30s. After that, I’m not entirely sure on all the different classes. I know there was a class titled “Homebuilders.” You picked which class you wanted to attend. (You could pick right out of high school, maybe in senior high too, but most chose to go with age we transitioned from kid to adult.)

Back to today: The question was brought up: do churches need or should have a college and career aged Sunday school class? Why can’t the young adults join the older adults in a group Sunday school?

My thoughts: Yes. Here’s why.

  1. If all the adults are sitting in the same area being taught the same lesson, how is that any different than the main church service? Especially in smaller churches?
  2. Sunday school classes typically have more interaction when smaller. A quieter person might be able to work up the courage to give their thoughts on a topic or passage of Scripture when there are only their peers in the room but remain silent when faced with talking in front of “older” Christians are adults they’ve grown up listening to in church.
  3. Graduating high school can be overwhelming to a teenager; why have that stress or overwhelming feeling at church too? A college and/or career class allows that teenager to transition from high school to adulthood a bit easier. They can learn with their peers facing the same struggles or those who have recently gone through the same struggles – budgeting, relationships, new co-workers – how to handle those specific challenges Biblically in comparison to sitting through a lesson on how to handle disciplining young children according to the Bible and trying to focus on that instead of their new trials.
  4. Sunday school does not take the place of morning worship service, evening worship service, or Wednesday night prayer meeting. Those are all still combined – all ages – when the younger adults fellowship with other believers across the range of ages.
  5. New members or those visiting a church for the first time might feel more at ease with their own age group, be less concerned about what that senior saint is thinking about them, and actually focus on the lesson.

I realize the college group could hold Bible studies apart from church, but, in my experience, those studies are sporadically attended by this age group due to work and school schedules.

These are just the reasons I could think of today for why churches shouldn’t dismiss the idea of a college/career group. I’m sure I will think of more over the next few days. Feel free to comment your thoughts on the subject!

Social Media Choir Preaching

This one will be relatively short here tonight.

I see a lot of my friends and family members posting things about topics like anti-abortion (which I am) and anti-LGTB (again, I am against that as well) on facebook. That’s great. Here’s the problem with that: I also know those people have very few friends outside of our Christian circle.

I have actually gone through the friends lists of some of them to find they had maybe 20 people that I don’t know personally, but we have 50+ mutual friends from some Christian college. It is absolutely great that they’re sharing those posts on facebook for their Bible-believing friends who hold the same values or beliefs on those different topics to see. My question: how is preaching to the choir helping anything or anyone? Unless you actually get out and talk to real people who are lost, I don’t know if it really counts as you standing up for your Biblical beliefs.

Now, post something about feminism in a Christian circle, sit back, and enjoy the drama that follows. Yes, I do in fact start such things when I am bored.

Words

Who gets to decide which words are “bad” words? I have wondered this for years, since the first two times I got in trouble for saying bad words.

Story time.

The first time I said a “bad” word, it was the word “shit.” I did not and still do not understand why this is considered cussing. It means the same thing as “crap” which is considered acceptable in Christian and non-Christian circles. Personally, I prefer the word shit to crap. Why? I do not know, but I do. It seems to sound better in a sentence. Others however, did not agree with me, and I ended up being punished.

The second time was the word “bitch.” I’m a country girl. To me, a bitch is a female dog (and according to the dictionary, also a female otter. weird). So, calling someone I do not like “a bitch” is more of an insult to my dog, who happens to be female. According to the dictionary, the informal of that word is “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman.” Again, not really deserving of being a cuss word, but I was punished a bit more severely. Embarrassment is seriously the most effective punishment for a teenager.

Now. Because I try to be understanding and respectful of others, I do not use these words or other words around children because their parents do not want them to be exposed to them. I try to follow Acts and Romans and other NT teachings about not causing others to stumble, so if I know another believer has a problem with cussing then I do not use those words around them.

But seriously. Who gets to pick and choose which words are wrong, vulgar, cussing? Some, I understand, are not polite or at the very least should not be taken out of context or be used in mixed or young company.

Ass is originally what donkeys were called. It’s in Christmas carols and older translations of the Bible and other old writings. Why is it wrong? It’s commonly acceptable to use the word “butt” to reference the same anatomical region. You hear people say, “don’t be an ass” or “get your head out of your ass.” You also hear people who consider “ass” a cuss word say, “don’t be a butt” or “get your head out of your butt.” SAME THING!

I’m about to consider this another case of political correctness. You’ve probably figured out by now that I am not huge on being politically correct. There are words that I will not say because they should not be used in mixed company or around little ears, but the three discussed above are the three that drive me the most crazy when people gasp and declare them bad words. There are no bad words just bad intentions.

Oh, and, taking the Lord’s name in vain at any time is not ok. I cringe and am saddened when I hear people – especially children – say “oh my God” when they’re not praying.

 

**All definitions used above were taken from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

Bible vs Constitution vs Friends

I am a born-again, Bible-believing follower of Christ. I’m not perfect and am the first to admit that. I place the word of God above my beloved Constitution. I have friends who are gay.

You might be thinking: wow, that’s incredibly random.

It’s not.

Tonight a friend broached the conversation I have actually been anticipating: do I know they’re gay (yup), and will that hinder our friendship (nope).

How can I be friends with a person who is gay? Easy. I can be friends with them the same way I can be friends with a drunk or a druggie or a slut or a divorcee. If these people do not claim Christ Jesus as their personal Saviour, if they do not claim to follow God’s word, I cannot judge them (think back to iron sharpening iron) as I would a follower of Christ Jesus who decides to sleep around or drink themselves to oblivion or give up on their marriage.

Jesus came to this world to save those who are lost. He associated with prostitutes and tax collectors. He promised a robber He would see him in heaven! Am I better than Jesus? No! No, I am not! So why would I not associate with those lost in various sins? How will they hear without a preacher?

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that someone can go without knowing the plan of salvation, but if they were born into and raised in a church which twists and butchers the Bible to fit the agendas of their church leaders, they might have read bits of the Bible and still be lost.

I have other friends who was raised Catholic. They randomly call me up at various times in the morning (we live in different time zones) to ask what do I believe about an issue and can I back it up with the Bible? They ask the same questions of  family members in their churches and leaders of those churches. They cannot support their answers with the Bible. They’re lost because they were purposely led down the wrong path. Granted, now they are without excuse, but originally, they were ignorant because he trusted false prophets.

If I’m too busy judging to share the gospel with them, I firmly believe I will be held accountable for partial responsibility of their presence in hell.

Now. Christians who have strayed…well, that’s for another day.

For the Constitution part of this post (don’t worry, it’s brief). The Bible says that gay marriage is wrong. If the Constitution is altered to allow for gay marriage, I am to follow God before man which means in my world, it will still be wrong. Currently, the Constitution of the United States of America does not advocate or prohibit gay marriage which then allows it to become the rights of the individual States to decide. The federal supreme court recently completely disregarded the checks and balance system. They completely disregarded the Constitution and ruled that gay marriage should be legal. They are breaking the law (literally the Constitution by ignoring the rights of the States) and advocating illegal activity with their attempts at forcing elected officials to allow gay marriage even if it is in a state where it is illegal.

So. In the United States of America, the issue of gay marriage still follows the Biblical principle of no, it’s wrong. But, I will still have friends who are gay because I have friends who are divorcees. Because I don’t want anyone to burn in hell for all of eternity because I thought myself perfect and unable to tell them the good news.