February 25, 2016

Pressing On Toward the Goal

Facebook Cover - Psalm 111:2-3

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February 22, 2016

Meat, Bones, and Mushrooms

I have heard more than once that when it comes to subpar, confusing, or false teaching that we should "chew on the meat and spit out the bones." In other words, we should take what's good and helpful and throw out the rest. That sounds like good advice, but is it biblical? What does the Bible say? In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote a stern rebuke to them for falling under the influence of false teachers and their teachings:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!" Galatians 1:6-9 NIV
Notice that Paul doesn't say, "Take the best and throw out the rest." No, he rebukes the Galatians for "turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all." He says that these teachers are perverting the gospel of Christ and they are to be under God's curse (condemned). False teaching mixed with truth is dangerous.

My youngest son has special needs: he is legally blind, nonverbal, and cognitively delayed (among other things). I NEVER give him meat with bones. If we're having chicken, I give him slices of chicken breast. If we're having pork chops, I always use boneless pork chops. Why? Because he is incapable of discerning that he should not eat the bones. He may bite on the bone and throw it aside, or he may bite on the bone and break a tooth, or he might swallow a bone and choke. Because I am concerned for his well-being and I'm charged with protecting him, I do not give my youngest son meat with bones. A good preacher or teacher will not feed false doctrine to you or mix truth with error because they care about your spiritual well-being.

My problem with the meat/bones metaphor is that it assumes that false teaching is always obvious. Friends, instead of using meat and bones, I'd like to offer a different metaphor to describe the mixing of false teaching with correct teaching: mushrooms. Imagine a bowl of mushrooms on the kitchen counter. Some of the mushrooms are familiar to you because you have probably eaten them, such as: the button mushroom, the oyster mushroom, or the exotic chanterelle mushroom. Other mushrooms in the bowl are not familiar to you. One of them - the jack o'lantern mushroom - looks like the chanterelle, but not quite. The aptly-named destroying angel looks harmless. Still another mushroom, Amanita phalloides or death cap, looks as though it could be just another button mushroom, but it is absolutely deadly. With this bowl of mushrooms in mind, what should you do? Do you:

  1. Grab a handful of mushrooms from the bowl and start cooking?
  2. Recall that some mushrooms are poisonous and since you can't tell which one is which, you leave the entire bowl alone?
  3. Sift through the bowl of mushrooms to find the good ones, confident that you can tell the difference between edible and deadly mushrooms?

The correct answer is #2. You may be able to recognize the edible mushrooms, but if you mistakenly choose a jack o'lantern mushroom thinking it's a chanterelle, you could become ill. If you mistakenly choose a death cap mushroom, you could die. Friends, we should never assume that we can't fall prey to false teaching. False teaching can be way more subtle than meat and bones. False teaching can pose as a harmless edible mushroom, but in fact is a deadly poison. A little bit of error mixed with truth makes the entire teaching false.

So what is the remedy? Read your Bible. Every day. Know what the Bible says about Jesus and about the plan of salvation. Read the Bible's warnings about false teaching and false teachers. (Note: I have linked to OpenBible.info which is a topical Bible search engine. Type in a topic and it will return relevant Bible verses. Use these as a starting point for further Bible reading.) Compare every sermon, every devotional, and every Bible study with God's Word. Also, you should pray and ask God for discernment and wisdom:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5 NIV
For further reading on how to recognize a false teacher or false teaching, GotQuestions.org has some helpful articles, such as the one below. May the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Further Reading: "How can I recognize a false teacher/false prophet?"

February 18, 2016

Facebook Cover - Ephesians 2:8-9

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February 15, 2016

Selective Sacrifice

Lent is something that I no longer celebrate mainly because I'm no longer Catholic. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely believe there is value in fasting, prayer, and reading more of the Scriptures. However, I often don't know how to react when people tell me what they're giving up for Lent. Often what they're giving up is the same type of thing that I gave up for Lent as a kid while growing up Catholic: things like sweets, TV, and pizza. Adults nowadays will add coffee and alcohol to that list. Honestly, I don't mean to be judgmental, but I have to ask "Why?" Giving up these things really isn't much of a sacrifice, is it? Especially if it's only for 40 days. I never hear anyone saying that they're giving up a prideful heart or gossiping for Lent.

Why doesn't anyone want to give up those things that hinder their relationship with God as outlined in Paul's letter to the Galatians and in his letter to the Ephesians:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." - Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV 1984)
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." - Ephesians 4:31 (NIV 1984)
Coffee, tea, chocolate, and pizza don't come between you and God. Pride, selfishness, bitterness, gossip, rage among other things do hinder your relationship with God. What good is giving up coffee if you are still full of bitterness? What good is giving up sweets if you are filled with envy and gossip? And honestly, if you can  recognize that a certain type of entertainment contributes to lustful or otherwise impure thoughts, why not give it up permanently? It's true that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus - meaning we're to give up our pride, our way, our dreams, and even our life if necessary, all for the cause of Christ. But we're to do that every day not just during Lent. Giving up something for Lent doesn't make you holy or righteous and it cannot add to the finished work of Jesus' perfect sacrifice on the cross. With this in mind, maybe it's time to reevaluate those things that we truly need to give up, by the grace of God.

Edit: One final thought - giving up coffee, TV, or chocolate are all things that I can do without God's help using my own willpower. Ridding myself of bitterness, anger, and other forms of malice, cannot be done without God's help. I must depend on the grace of God to be rid of these things. May it be so.

February 12, 2016


February 10, 2016

Know the Words of Jesus

In an earlier post about devotionals, I recommended that you do not read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. In that blog post, I linked to an article by Pastor Tim Challies entitled "10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling". If you are currently reading Jesus Calling or thinking about reading it, I highly encourage you to read "10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling".

If you are currently reading Jesus Calling, I am asking you to test it against the Bible. Search the Scriptures. I challenge you to compare the words of "Jesus" in that devotional with the words of Jesus in the Bible. An easy way to do this is to read just the words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Revelation. If your Bible has the words of Jesus in red, it will be that much easier. If your Bible does not have the words of Jesus in red, go to BibleGateway.com. Type in "Matthew 1" without the quotation marks, select your preferred Bible version and click the search icon. When Matthew 1 appears, click on the gear icon and select Red Letter (see image below). Ask yourself if the words of "Jesus" in Jesus Calling match the words and the tone of Jesus in the Bible. If they don't match up, which are you going to trust? The correct answer is to trust the Bible.

(Note: I am not a Red-Letter Christian. I believe that all of the Bible is the inerrant word of God. However, for the purpose of comparing the supposed Jesus in Jesus Calling to Jesus in the Bible, I am asking you to specifically focus on the words of Jesus in the Bible because Sarah Young claims that Jesus spoke to her and she simply wrote down what he supposedly said to her.)

Friends, the Bible is God's word and it is all that you really need. If you choose to read a devotional, then keep this in mind: a good devotional will always point you to God's word. A good devotional can be a helpful tool, but it is no substitute for the Bible. Remember the words of the apostle John:
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. - John 20:30-31
Jesus did many other things, but everything that you need to know about him and what he said - so that you may believe that he is the Savior so that you can have eternal life - is written in the Bible. Friends, you do not need extra messages from Jesus. You do not need more. You have all that you need in the Bible. Get to know what Jesus has already said. Read the Bible today and every day.

February 8, 2016

What Does the Bible Say?

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." - Colossians 2:8

Christians should get into the habit of asking themselves this question: "What does the Bible say?" Every time you hear a teacher, a preacher, or read a religious or spiritually-sounding meme on Facebook, ask yourself, "What does the Bible have to say about that?" What does the Bible say about joy and happiness? What does the Bible say about pain and suffering? What does the Bible say about who Jesus is? What does the Bible say about there being only one way to God? Why does it matter what the Bible says? Because the Bible is God's word and it is truth. In my opinion, the more of God's truth that we know, the better we will become at filtering out and distinguishing worldly wisdom from Biblical wisdom.

One of my favorite tools is OpenBible.info. Type in a topic that you want to learn more about (like 'false teachers'), and OpenBible.info will retrieve Bible verses related to that topic. Read through each of the verses; better yet, read the verse that comes before and after that verse; better still, read the entire chapter from which that verse is taken; even better, read the entire book in which that verse is found.

I know I'm repeating myself, but take the time to get to know God's word and start reading the Bible today. Absorb God's word like a sponge so that you can squeeze out false teaching and worldly wisdom. May the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

February 7, 2016

For God So Loved The World...

February 5, 2016

Facebook Cover - Psalm 103:8

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February 4, 2016

Facebook Cover - 1 John 2:15-16

Speaking of love...1 John 2:15-16 reminds us of what not to love. Enjoy!

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February 2, 2016

Facebook Cover: John 8:12

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February 1, 2016

This is Love

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