Getting rid of some statues is biblical

The Bible endorses monuments of some kinds and condemns others.

They erected a pile of stones a day’s journey from the Jordan as a reminder of God’s leadership during the Exodus.  In fact, they even set up a similar pile in the middle of the Jordan so that, in times of drouth when the water level dropped, everyone would see that as a reminder that God led them through those dark days.

They set up a stone memorial and called it Ebenezer, “stone of help,” as a testimony to God’s provisions.  They had no “graven images,” of course, but they had plenty of other memorials.

They tore down altars to false gods, statues of false gods, and relics used in worshiping those gods.

And they sometimes destroyed something that had been good and noble and holy.  Yep.  Sometimes, they destroyed a good thing.

Please read on.

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What lazy preachers and other Bible students do

“Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1749. Yet because of opposition from local clergymen–man should not dare ‘avert the stroke of heaven’–the lighthouse did not receive protection from God’s thunderbolts for more than two decades.” –The New York Review, May 26, 2016

Imagine the thinking of some people: We shouldn’t protect ourselves from lightning, lest we interfere with God’s judgment.

Abandoning their responsibility, criticizing those trying to help, and blaming their warped thinking on God.

“This is how God set things up.”

Interesting theology, I think we can say.

If we carried that reasoning to its natural lengths, no one should wear seat belts or repair the brakes on cars just in case the Father in Heaven had planned to kill us that morning.

God should always be given a free hand in these things.

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Biblical ignorance and spiritual immaturity: How to tell

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the sayings of God.  You have come to need milk and not solid food.  (Hebrews 5:12)

By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one–baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! (paraphrased from The Message)

What I’m about to do here is no fun.

I’m about to accuse some Christian friends of spiritual ignorance.

Earlier today I was looking over my wife’s textbook on effective writing for college classes.  Bertha has been teaching English (literature, composition, etc) all her adult life, either in high school or on the college level.  And I was struck by something…

The authors of the textbook, both college professors, gave examples of essays written by students and then subjected to intense editing and improvement by teachers.  They showed the first draft, how a professor critiqued it, the second article, and so forth.  The final results were excellent examples of effective communication.  The point being…

Editing and rewriting is painful. But editing and rewriting are necessary. (Case in point: This little article of mine.  I’ve worked on it several days–deleting, adding, changing, pasting.)

Editing and grading are hard work for the teacher and sometimes offensive to the student.  Those who “know” point out the errors in those who are learning and suggest ways to improve.  This is basic education. We do it from kindergarten and up.

Why then do we shy away from that in church?  When is the last time you heard a veteran teacher or preacher pointing out the errors in a young Sunday School teacher’s presentations, a young believer’s prayers, a young warrior’s witnessing?  I know the answer:  You’ve never seen it.

It does not happen.

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What the Bible does not need from you or the government

A Louisiana state legislator had a bright idea. Since that state, like all the others, has an official state bird (the brown pelican), an official flower (the Louisiana iris), plus an official fossil (the petrified palmwood, whatever that is), why not have an official book and make it the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Great idea, huh?

He must have thought so.

The (presumably) well-intentioned lawmaker introduced the bill to make this official and promptly announced it to the world. Most everyone seemed to react in surprise and some with a good deal of negativity. “This is the last thing we need,” many felt.

And they were right.

But this being Louisiana, not my state of origin but the one where I lived for a full 30 years, the bill actually cleared a house committee even though opponents predicted it would attract lawsuits. “Adopting the Bible as our official book is tantamount to making Christianity the official religion,” one representative said.

I imagine that was the whole idea.

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Why I turned off that radio preacher

On the highway I was flipping through the radio dial and came across a Seventh Day Adventist preacher in the middle of his sermon. Within five minutes, he had made two errors that revealed either his biblical incompetence or his intentional deceit.

So I turned him off.

In the first instance, in trying to make the case for Christians today keeping the Sabbath, he equated the Ten Commandments with all our Lord’s statements in the Gospels about “keeping my commands” and “breaking these commandments.” In John chapters 14 and 15, for instance, several times our Lord says things like, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15,21,23 and 15:10,14). That preacher said Jesus was referring to the Ten Commandments.

Not even close.

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How to be a Christian who never offends anyone

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous or extortioners or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  (I Corinthians 5:10)

They accuse me of stirring the pot, of introducing subjects sure to draw fire, of intentionally being controversial.  Nothing I say convinces them otherwise, even when all I did was to state something God’s people hold dear.

Almost all the key doctrines of the Christian faith someone will find objectionable and some will take offense at.

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Things I wonder about Holy Scripture

I love God’s Word.  Love to read it, think about it, talk about it, and preach it.  Oh, and yes, I love to “do” it.  Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  That’s John 13:17.

Even so, I wonder some things about God’s Word.

This might be a good time to pass along something given me a generation ago from a New Orleans lady who had a lapful of questions: “The Lord knows I’m only a wondering child, not a wandering one.”  There is a huge difference.

One: I wonder if the Lord ever wants to put beside particular scriptures the Facebook line: “Just saying.”

I sometimes wonder when to take a teaching literally and when the statement in Scripture was intended to be less than a command, or even simply a side remark.

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God’s Word: There are not accolades enough

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  –Romans 10:17

If I were Satan, I would do anything and everything possible to keep you from reading, enjoying, studying, and most of all, obeying God’s Word.  I would work overtime to undermine your confidence in that Word.  And for this, I would use two main ploys.

–I would tell you, “You already know this Bible.  You’ve read it.  It’s old news, and boring.”  That is a lie.  You do not know it.  You may know a lot about it, but you no more know this Bible than a scuba diver knows the Atlantic.

–I would tell you, “No one can understand the Bible.  It’s contradictory. It’s man-made.  It’s a harsh book of gruesome murders, a demanding God, and mean people.”  Again, that is a lie.  Even a child can find much to understand and love in Scripture, while a seminary professor may devote his entire career to one book of the Bible and come away knowing he has only touched the hem of the garment.

Those two lies are contradictory.  Satan says “you already know this Bible” and “no one can know it.”  He will do and say whatever it takes if the end result is to drive a wedge between you and God’s Word.

Unfortunately, his tactics are working on far too many.

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A Bible test for pastors and long-time teachers

This is not a test to give someone else.  We’re not so much interested in gauging someone else’s Bible knowledge as we are trying to encourage Bible learning.  So, this is an exercise for those of us who have preached God’s Word for decades and/or taught it in classes, Sunday School or otherwise.

I. NAME THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ORDER.   Write it down in a vertical column. That’s simple enough, right?  Give yourself 10 points for getting it right.

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Five questions every preacher should stop and ask

It’s good to stop and look around sometimes and ask ourselves some questions.  We can think of a hundred such questions to ask ourselves: Where are you going? How did you get here?  Are you doing what the Lord intended when He sent you here?  Can you do it better?  How can you do it better?  Are you preaching grace, the cross of Jesus, forgiveness and love or something harsh and unyielding?  How would someone who had never heard of Jesus react to your message?

On and on. There is no end to the questions.  But I am not suggesting that we burden ourselves with a constant barrage of self-doubt. Only that once in a while, we should stop and take inventory.

Here are five questions that occur to me for every minister to ask ourselves…

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