Friday, September 29, 2006

Careful Exegesis?

Kevin Bauder, the president of Central Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MN, who writes a regular column on Central's internet site which is normally posted at an online forum called SharperIron, recently authored an article, "The Flock and the Fold: A Paradigm for Unity," with this first line:

Careful theologians do not build their doctrine of the church merely around the use of the word ekklesia.

If writers want to gain attention with an arresting statement, he put the cuffs on me with this one. I couldn't go on without wagging my head in amazement.

The doctrine of the church is called ecclesiology after that Greek word ekklesia. By making his statement, Bauder opened up a small nation to drive through with his ecclesiology. One could get a sufficient knowledge of Scriptural teaching on the church by studying how the word "church" is used in its context. If someone wants to understand the church then he really would want to let God tell him what the church is by looking at the passages where He uses that word.

What he will find is that in a large majority of the usages of ekklesia, the Bible is referring to a particular assembly of immersed believers. In pre-NT extrabiblical literature, ekklesia is an assembly. People in that day would have understood it as an assembly. Therefore, we take the meaning of that word derived from how it was used by men contemporary with the New Testament and by the NT authors, and we build our doctrine of the church on that. Men were called out of their homes for public gathering. That meeting was an ekklesia---visible, physical, and local. Other passages which are not clearly referring to a church are interpreted in light of those texts which do mention it. We let the Bible formulate our disposition about the word.

The chapters and verses of Scripture that use "church" are about "church." The references without a mention of "church" do not guide those which do have the term. In the next two sentences of his essay, Bauder writes:

The New Testament uses many images or word pictures to reveal truth about the church. One of the most instructive is the image of the flock, found in John 10. It occurs in one of the few parables in John’s gospel.

John 10 doesn't have the word "church." To start, one can only determine that "flock" of chapter ten of John is "church" by means of speculation. We shouldn't speculate to get our doctrine. Doctrine based on speculation is at best Speculative Theology, not even a close relative of Biblical or Systematic Theology. Bauder isn't being a careful theologian when he bases a doctrine on his own speculation, even if he is president of a seminary.

Beginning with a predisposition based upon what the Bible actually says about "church," one reads John 10. A church is made up of immersed believers (Acts 2:41). The "flock" and "fold" of chapter ten of John relate to salvation (John 10:8, "he shall be saved"). John 10 is a soteriological passage, not an ecclesiological one. Jesus' sheep are secure in His fold (John 10:28, 29). A church member can be loosed from the assembly (Matthew 18:15-18). If the church is a fold, then there is a contradiction between John 10 and Matthew 18. Water baptism is not a requirement for entrance into the "fold," but it is for the "church" (besides Acts 2:41, also consider 1 Corinthians 12:13). At the most, John 10 shows how that future members of the church are converted---through Christ alone. We conclude that a careful theologian will not include John 10 into his ecclesiology.

Why does Dr. Bauder bring the church into John 10? That view supports his predisposition about the church, which doesn't come from passages with the word ekklesia, but from theologies written by reformed Catholics. John 10 isn't ecclesiological. When someone makes salvation the entrance into the church by reading in his own opinion into John 10, he isn't doing careful exegesis. He's only giving you uninformed speculation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Which Comes First? THEOLOGY or LIFESTYLE

Attempting to persuade Judah to trust in God and stop trusting in Egypt, in chapter 28 Isaiah revealed the dire condition of the political and religious leadership of her northern neighbor Israel. In describing her prophets and priests, he shows how their self-indulgent lifestyle affected their vision, judgment, and teaching (vv. 7-9). Their desire for gratifying themselves overshadowed their carefulness with God's Word. Which came first? Their theology or their lifestyle?

Peter warns of an enemy in his second epistle. It is an foe who attacks the Bible. This opposition says Scripture is a collection of fables. He also scoffs at the second coming of Christ. Peter informs in 2 Peter 3:3 that the enemy is "walking after his own lusts." He says this mocker of the return of the Lord "walk[s] after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise[s] government" (2 Peter 2:10). Which came first? His theology or his lifestyle?

In 1 Peter the apostle warns that "fleshly lusts . . . war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Lusts affect the soul. Our thinking can change based upon our feelings. Instead of walking by faith, we can walk by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Evil companions can corrupt good behavior (1 Cor. 15:33). We can change what we believe and practice based on our desire for certain friends, particular things, or craved relationships. Or is it the other way around? Our theology came first--a weak one that led to bad practices, or a strong one that led to the right way of living. Did it or didn't it?

Early in Israel's history there was no king, so every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Without a controlling legal authority, men did what they wanted instead of what God said. When no one is there to take a stand on God's Word, people will just run around living for the gusto. On the other hand, leadership folds from the pressure exerted by those they lead, clamoring for bread and circuses.

The world is getting worse. Theology is changing. Standards drop. This hasn't come because of better exegesis. Instead of liberties being about God, they're now about us. The popular interpretation and application of Scripture is the one that allows the most self-indulgence. The best church is the one that makes us feel the best. The listener becomes the sovereign of the sermon. The most popular theologians and preachers have some hierarchy of truths that dismisses worldliness and practical holiness and segregates the truth of the inward from the reality of the outward. So which comes first? Theology or Lifestyle?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

They Say They Are Believers, But They Don't Get It

If you have been like me, you have wondered why there seem to be so many versions of Christianity and yet only one Bible. If we have a Bible, one of them, it came from God, and it is perspicuous (plain), then it would seem that everyone would believe the same thing. If all these professing Christians have the Holy Spirit Who is teaching them, then how could they believe differently than one another? I have recently had dealings with alleged believers who I think are very much wrong on some important doctrines, and yet they say that I'm the wrong one. When I have tried to show them, they don't seem to listen, and they give very weak arguments that actually sound like dodging the truth. I think that many of these are truly born again, are converted, are truly saved from sin and Hell (some are not). That means they have the Holy Spirit, yet are wrong on what the Bible teaches about the church, preservation of Scripture, separation personally and ecclesiastically, divorce and remarriage, and more.

How does the situation described in the first paragraph occur? I don't think I could have given it a good explanation or any at all until I looked very closely at the words of Jesus in Mark 4:23-25. Let's let Him explain it for us:

23 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. 24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. 25 For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

What Jesus had told the multitudes (v. 9) He now repeated specifically for His disciples—they could hear, so they needed to use that ability by paying attention to what Jesus had just said (v. 23). He expands on the "ears to hear" theme with them. The degree to which they gave heed to what He said would be the degree to which they would profit from it (v. 24). God would graciously bless attentive disciples with even greater benefit than the effort they expended in heeding His words; their blessing would be disproportionately large. The spiritual results which the disciples realized were to be based upon the amount of effort they put forth; they would reap as they had sown. The one who has learned spiritual truth and applied it diligently will receive even more truth to faithfully apply.

If a person works hard to obtain something good, he or she normally receives other good things in addition (v. 25). If a disciple pays attention to and assimilates the revelation God has given, God will increase his or her capacity to understand and appropriate more revelation. However this principle works the other way too. The person who does not use his or her ability to understand and respond to God's revelation appropriately loses that ability.

These verses say that even His disciples will not receive some of His truth. They're either taught wrong and are not using discernment, they refuse to listen when told, or they won't start practicing or proclaiming what they now do know. Many of these sadly are pastors who have a loyalty to a non-Scriptural institution or a group of friends above God and His Word. Instead of submitting to Scripture, they stick with private interpretation, sometimes buoyed by an author that will footnote their position. They hold on to the teachings of men instead of God. Pragmatism is often the influence. Whatever may be the cause, as a result, they remain deficient in Biblical understanding. They range from evangelicals to fundamentalists and everywhere in between. They say they are believers, but they don't get it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Pope and Islam: Friends?

I hate this when these major religions are fighting. Can't we all get along? The pope recently came out with something very Catholic and now he's apologizing to Islamics for it. Well, sort of apologizing. I think his apologies have been kind of funny. I can't laugh too hard at them because a Catholic might think I'm making fun of him and then I might have to apologize. Anyway, just to make it easier, here is a link to the offensive speech the pope gave in Resenburg (make sure you have a hot beverage and plenty of fresh air as you read it, or zzzzzzzzzz). And here is the highly offensive paragraph of the address:

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threaten. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without decending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably (συν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

I, um, highlighted the particular offensive part. Certain Islamics don't like that interpretation of Mohammed. Of course, the Romans Catholics did the same thing. Does the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre come to mind? 100,000 French Huguenots killed in one night by Roman Catholics. The pope forged a new coin in celebration. Putting that aside, here's the word from the Vatican on the address:

The pontiff was "very upset that some parts of his speech could have sounded offensive to the sensibility of the Muslim faithful and were interpreted in a way that does not correspond at all to his intentions," Bertone said in a written statement. That Benedict quoted from Paleologus does not mean the pontiff thinks like him, Bertone said.

Two words: Carefully worded. He's backing away and yet not backing away. Part of the reason he must back away is because people just don't take doctrine seriously any more. It's either the truth or it isn't. This is the pope. Catholics aren't supposed to think that what he says is up to a vote. The New York Times thinks that they should be the pope, so they wrote an editorial to the pope. Here are the words of the NY Times editorial on September 16:

There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims, quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

In the most provocative part of a speech this week on “faith and reason,” the pontiff recounted a conversation between an “erudite” Byzantine Christian emperor and a “learned” Muslim Persian circa 1391. The pope quoted the emperor saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Muslim leaders the world over have demanded apologies and threatened to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican, warning that the pope’s words dangerously reinforce a false and biased view of Islam. For many Muslims, holy war — jihad — is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that Benedict meant no offense and in fact desired dialogue. But this is not the first time the pope has fomented discord between Christians and Muslims.

In 2004 when he was still the Vatican’s top theologian, he spoke out against Turkey’s joining the European Union, because Turkey, as a Muslim country was “in permanent contrast to Europe.”

A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue.

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.

I think the New York Times may have the most arrogant group of editors on the planet. What does anyone expect a Roman Catholic to say about Islam? Perhaps the pope should just say: "We're all closing up shop, donating our property to Mecca or Medina, and admitting that Islam is the one and true religion." Shouldn't he be able to outline some differences? I would respect him in a small way for doing so. Caving to political correctness bothers me. What about you? But I guess this is what we must expect.

I don't agree with the crusades, because I don't agree with state religion. I believe we are in a holy war for the souls of men, but it is a spiritual one fought against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). However, as a historian, I believe God providentially spared Europe for a reformation by stalemating Islam at its borders by means of those crusades. Those pilgrims left Plymouth to a free, Protestant Leiden, Holland and then ultimately to the Mayflower and to Cape Cod because the crusades kept Islam from taking over Europe.

Spiritually, it's a coin flip between Roman Catholicism and Islam. They're both false religions askew of the truth of the Bible, readily condemning anyone who believes their doctrine. Politically, however, we aren't presently threatened by any Roman Catholic back-pack bombers, hi-jackers, or WMDs. I don't think the pope should apologize.

Shouldn't the New York Times defend free speech? If they want to shut down vitriol, they should think about ending their opinion page. I can't see how anything is more inflammatory than Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, and Maureen Dowd, which you get, if you read that paper, on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Aren't we a pluralistic society that defends the free competition of ideas in the public marketplace? Do not these competing ideas by nature proclaim their superiority? After all, as a friend of mine mentioned to me, Coke doesn't advertise for Pepsi. Just because one thinks it's better, doesn't mean the other gets to blow it up. In this society we are free to proclaim the doctrine, and as long as it is just words, we get to keep doing it. We even get to say that what we believe is the truth and what others believe is error, that what we say is good and what they say is evil. The other side can declare just the opposite. And that's the way we all get to keep believing something and still get along.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Scorners and Scorning

"Scorner" is the strongest negative term which the OT uses to describe the wicked. It is diametrically opposed to the faithful (Psalm 1:1,2). Not only does the "scorner" choose the wrong way, but he mocks the right way. He is not merely misled, but he delights to mislead others. This is very opposite to the wise man, who understands the order of things (Prov. 15:12; 21:24; 22:10; 29:8). Calling a believer a "scorner," just because you don't like how he says things, is extremely serious, much worse than if you called them an "idiot" or a "knucklehead" or "ignorant."

It is serious because it perverts Scripture. Doing some of the same things that a scorner does, does not make a person a scorner. For instance, Proverbs 21:24 says: "Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath." Someone who exhibits pride and gets angry is not necessarily a scorner. Not to defend pride or selfish anger, but sometimes they are actually confidence and righteous indignation. Sinners don't like strong convictions about and anger over their sins. Proverbs 3:34 reads: "Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly." Someone may perceive another not to be lowly enough. When making a theological point, he does not fold under it in submission. That might be because he confidently disagrees with it. He may offer Scriptural proof against it. That would make everyone that disagrees with us a scorner, and that isn't true. God knows that the scorner is someone who rebels against Him and His Word, not human opinion. When we look at all the passages on scorners, we find that the scorner is someone who rebels against God and won't listen to His preachers. When we alter the meaning of the word "scorner," we twist God's Word.

It is also serious in that it slanders people and even worse when it is God's people. A real love for Proverbs is seen in people who use it to obey and honor God. It helps them walk in wisdom, pleasing the Lord. It isn't for selectively labeling people. "You're a fool because Proverbs says a fool....." You're simple because Proverbs says that the simple...." "You're a scorner because Proverbs says that a scorner...." Satan is an accuser of the brethren. Satan also uses Scripture (cf. Genesis 3; Matthew 4). Adding Proverbs to a false accusation doesn't lend authority to accusation; it blasphemes God's Word.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Is He a Scorner or Not?

Do you think that Stephen was a scorner in Acts 7? After all, he did enfuriate a crowd of people with his rhetoric. They were religious people with good intentions and they couldn't all be wrong, could they? He said this to them in vv. 51-53:

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Some today might call him a "vocal and abusive personalit[y] that dominate[s] and inflame[s] given situations with vitriol and scorn." Isn't "stiffnecked," "betrayers," and "murderers" a bit over the top, or at least flying right below the radar? And then what about Jesus in Matthew 23? Just as a tiny example of a whole lot that He says there, what about v. 13?

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

That is kind of harsh, inflexible, and dogmatic isn't it? And then "blind guides," "fools and blind," "full of extortion," "whited sepulchres," and "generation of vipers." Rampant name-calling. Harsh speech. And He just wouldn't stop. Someone might even say that "when confronted publicly [He] bluster[ed] and rant[ed,] pointing the finger at all but [Him]self."

Weren't the religious leaders, who were in the majority in each of the above situations, the actual scorners? You know they were. The very verbal minority is telling the truth. That makes a difference.

Proverbs 22:10 reads:

Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.
I want us to consider a little Scriptural logic as we think about this verse. First, however, let's discover what a few of the words are about. "Strife" (diyn, pronounced "deen") is used many different ways in Scripture. The base meaning of the word is "judgment." Is all of this diyn wrong? In Deuteronomy 32:36, God is involved in diyn, when it says, "the LORD shall judge (diyn) his people." He also participates in this same activity (diyn) in 1 Samuel 2:10 among many other places. If God does it, it surely isn't all wrong, and all of it shouldn't be stopped. Only the kind caused by scorners should cease. Psalm 9:4 says:

For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.

My "right" is diyn. This diyn certainly shouldn't be eliminated, but should be maintained, and God has done that. The people against this kind of judgment or discernment would be those whom God is stopping in order to protect it. If only the "scorner" kind of diyn is to cease, then we should know what a scorner is. The "scorner" (luwts, pronounced "loots") is someone who brags, speaks boastfully, puts on airs, and derides (see HALOT lexicon). So, the kind of judgment that comes from someone bragging, putting airs, etc. is the type that should cease.

Can we conclude that all strife (judgment, debate, arguing) comes from a scorner? That's where the logic comes in. If strife ceases, and it ceases because we cast out someone, can we say that it is good? We may want strife to cease, but what if the strife is coming from God? God also judges (diyn), if you remember. He has His spokesmen who do the same. I think we can all agree that we want to get rid of the ill effects of a braggard who causes problems because he puts his opinion ahead of God's Word. However, if someone comes with an open Bible and doesn't back down, so strife ensues, does that constitute scorning? No way.

I have noticed today that often during theological debate, a person who does not have an answer for a Scripturally documented point will attack the style of the rhetoric. Is it possible that the style has been wrong? Sure. But if it were true that they didn't like wrong style, they would admit the style was wrong even when they saw it practiced by someone with whom they agreed, wouldn't they? Doesn't that make sense to you? In other words, they see someone as a scorner as only someone who dogmatically asserts a position different than theirs.

Consider this scornful sentence:

At any rate, accepting what these men (such as D. A. Waite, David Cloud, and a host of like-minded lemmings) affirm in principle, let us examine how it plays out in practice.
Could this response to that statement be scorn as well?
Regarding Mr. Kutilek's use of the word "lemming," some may view it as an insult. However, I view it as truth.
People against scorn and vitriol would probably stand up against this. Right? When they don't (and they didn't), this is tell-tale. And how about this reaction to a fellow believer who was attempting to answer questions about his book on the gospel:
Oh've got to be kidding...For my part, I have never heard of you or your book, and this thread is my introduction to both. However, to this point I am not inclined to spend hard earned money on it.
He didn't attempt to help the man understand what was wrong. He just humiliated the man in the worst possible way one could to an author, and unapologetically. Of course, he wouldn't need to say he was sorry---he was in the majority. It is only the minority that can scorn, right? The same man writes in shameless self-promotion:

I couldn't agree more with Dr. Bauder's comments! It reminded me of some thoughts that I posted after they announced the T4G conference at last year's Shepherd's conference. Here is a summary of that post.

And he links to his blog. That was all he had to say on an entire article---essentially, "I posted something already about this and here's the link to prove it." That sounds like "putting forth airs"--part of the definition of a scorner. I don't think this above statement necessarily makes him a scorner, but it would by his own way of defining the same word. The scorners don't want to take the blame for their own problems. One "young fundamentalist" writes:

"We" have our problems, no doubt. But they are rooted in the inconsistencies of those that preceded us.

To which one of his cronies, the same self-promoter as above, replies:

Interesting...I just posted on my blog to that effect...
Again, I just posted on my blog, so "I kind of beat you to excusing our own problems, buddy." And what about this?

You are like the "dogs" Paul describes in Philippians 3. You are very much like the Judiazers. You are like the Pharisees. You are like those in Galatians 3 who were attempting to add to their sanctification by man-made religious rules. And like the dogs of Philippians 3, I'm not at all surprised by your teeth, disease and bark. I don't care how you view this note.
This was someone who did not go in private before he went in public. He later apologized, but those who defended his action haven't. Who are the scorners?

If you have a whole bunch of people in a room that take one position and just a few support something contrary, who do you think the scorners will be? Of course, you know who the majority will say they are. And yet, who are the real scorners? They are the ones who will not admit when they have a position that is indefensible. James 1:19 would call them antithetically slow to hear and quick to speak and quick to wrath. Democracy doesn't determine truth. God is absolute authority. What He says goes, even if we can line up opposition that circles the globe.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


My, oh my, could Jesus draw a crowd. They clamored for Him. Several times He had to get out the special throng boat to stand on near shorelines. The first time in Mark, He asked for that boat, then after that it became standard prodecure in crowd control. It was very bad when He was in a house. No one could get to Him, so one time they went on the roof and dismantled it to lower someone through the top. Those are drastic crowd measures. By the Sea of Galilee, He didn't have room to maneuver, they pressed in so hard. People could get hurt there were so many. It was a thing of mercy for Him to separate Himself in the throng boat. They were hum-dingers of a crowd. Large numbers of people gathered for Jesus.

Once you have a crowd, you want to keep the crowd. You want to keep that back door shut; don't let anyone out. You like to have them coming back week after week, and even more of them. You don't want them leaving, because a crowd is success. That's the thing, isn't it? Getting a crowd, then keeping it. That's blessing. The bigger the better. Invite them. Market them. Promote them. Make them show up. Whole seminars and books and conferences and retreats are dedicated to drawing a crowd. I just thought that someone might call one of them the Ants to Honey Conference.

You can offer them things for coming. You can do special things for them. Special days. Big days. From A to Z. Anniversary Sunday. Big Sunday. Carnival Sunday. Donut Sunday, Education Sunday, Friend Sunday, Goldfish Sunday, Harvest Sunday, Ice Cream Sunday. . . . You want the lower class? Candy, toys, soda, and games. You want the upper class: Cappuccino, comedy, comforts, and conveniences. You want anyone? Pop Music. At least something fast paced, exciting. And lots of programs. Something for almost anyone. As long as it isn't exactly sinful. Don't offer things the Bible says are clearly sinful. And, of course, no drugs. Nothing that is harmfully addictive; only things that are addictive. The building should also be a draw. Build buildings that look like a place that people want to see and be in and to be seen in. Once with incredible architecture, stained glass windows, and amazing art. Now shaped like a theater with soft, padded pews, and lots of extras. Just get them there, get them in. Then Katie, shut and bar the door.

And then if they come, you've got to do something with them. You've got to preach your best, most fiery message to them. Or perhaps your most powerful, funny, entertaining routine/sermon. When you've got them there, you want to get them down the aisle. At least get them in the club. Make them feel a part. Create some suspense. Get them wondering what might happen next. Make it seem like a happenin' place, somewhere they want to be. Very easily, with this big crowd you could get a whole bunch of people "saved. "

Let's pause for a moment to consider what Jesus did with crowds. He healed people. Sure. He did miracles. Right. They flocked to Him. Yes. When they got there? Most of the time, He tried to get rid of them. Here's what He thought of them:
Matthew 12:39, "But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas." Matthew 16:4, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."
Jesus was not impressed with people who came for the show. He didn't try to reward thrill seekers. He didn't feed their flesh with more tricks and more things. He surely wasn't attempting to attract them that way. Here's what He did to a crowd:

Mark 4:1, 2a, 9, 10, "And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables. . . . And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. " John 6:1, 2, 60, 66, 67, "After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. . . . Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? . . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?"

In Mark, he spoke in parables so the crowd wouldn't get what He was talking about. In John, He told them that free meal time was over. When people said they wanted to follow Him; this wasn't new. He heard it all the time. When they did, this is the kind of thing that He said to them:

Matthew 8:20, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Luke 9:60, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Luke 18:22, "Lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
Quite a promotion man, huh? Think of Let the Dead Bury the Dead Sunday. Or No Place for Sleep Sunday. And then Sell All You Have Sunday. Or maybe Deny Yourself and Take Up Your Cross Sunday. Think any of those would work at getting or keeping a crowd? He would flunk a lot of personal evangelism classes today. The Lord Jesus Christ did not depend on those kinds of methods. He wasn't interested in a crowd. He wanted true disciples, true worshipers, and if we are to get those, we need to get them the way that He did.

If they didn't want Him and His message, Jesus wasn't going to try to keep them another way. He did miracles. They fulfilled prophecy, showed His compassion, and revealed Him as King and the nature of His Millennial Kingdom. Nothing and no one is greater than Jesus Christ. No one should think otherwise. No one should be encouraged to think any way else. People will, however, when our churches and their leaders become so consumed with crowds.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Things Look Good

In preparations for the school year, one of our teachers cleaned the junior high class room and was removing a wheelbarrow full of old books. She wasn't throwing them away, just removing them to make more room to keep things neater in her room. With the wheelbarrow parked by the door, I started looking through them one by one and got excited. Without searching long, I found three or four I thought would be great for my twelve year old daughter---books about horses and dogs by outstanding authors fifty to one hundred years ago. We've had all of these books in that jr. high room for ten years. I was able to observe something about myself in a moment of self-revelation. Things look good when we are getting ready to throw them away. We have a difficult time parting with our things.

I know I have boxes at home with belongings that I might not look at again the rest of my life. Some of them I will only look at. They will be of no use to me. And yet, I don't want to throw them away. Why do we save these things? They mean something to us. We're afraid that we will miss them if we throw them away. We attach sentimental value. We smile when memories flood our minds upon looking at and touching these things. They connect us to our past. They take up space. Ooops. Did I write that? Do we value the space more than we do the object? I guess not, or else we would throw away the object.

I have at least five four- or five-drawer filing cabinets full of materials. I usually say that "I don't want to reinvent the wheel." If I've done it once, and file it, I won't need to do it again. They have come in handy in some ways. Sometimes I think that I have wasted too much of my life filing them or having them filed, while I could have been doing other things. Of course, then the computer came along, and we save so much that in our lifetime we could never even reread the articles, let alone use them. OK, they are a reference. You don't read reference books; I don't think, unless you have some strange syndrome. You use them.

Did I say anything about rummage or garage sales? Some people with way too many things go look for treasures in someone's front lawn or drive-way. I can judge, I guess, because I don't do it. I realize, dear readers, that some of you have made-out like "bandits" at garage sales with heavy documentation of the worthwhile nature of these pursuits. And we have had the sales themselves at times. We sell old things that we bought new, but now we don't need. I do believe that some of them were given to us. We accepted them at some point or at least agreed to possess them, and then later sold them after storing them for awhile. When I see people so excited to buy these items, I sometimes wonder if I should be keeping them. I quickly block that thought, flush it from my mind. No way. Good decision on my part. After they're gone, I don't feel anything for them and haven't missed any of them. I guess that's proof that I didn't need them or even want them.

The feeling I have for things might just be a lie. Things just look good. Haven't you gone through a store and had an impulse for something that you didn't need and shouldn't even want? You shouldn't have even entertained the thought. But you did. Because things look good. Food does too. That can explain the need for diets and a huge chunk of exercise works off food we shouldn't have eaten that we thought we wanted. I think this all started for me at Ben Franklin's dime store in Covington, IN, walking up and down those rows of things. Caps. Little green army men. Super bouncy balls. Harmonica. 1000 piece puzzle. You can stop salivating. You know what I'm talking about.

How many times have you walked through one of those 99 cent stores? They are an excuse looking for a place to happen. I bought it for only....a ridiculous price. You just got the deal of a century that will end up in a box, then in a garage sale. Good job! I really don't need high powered binoculars. They still look good. So did that power stapler that I walked by at Home Depot today on the way to get a toilet part to fix something in the tank. I bought one extra counter light, one more than what I needed. Why? Others are sure to burn out. Plus it looked good.

Friday, September 01, 2006