Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Job When God is Angry

Why did God destroy Sodom? That seems like a simple question to answer. The Lord himself said in Genesis 18:20, “because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous.” Then in the next chapter, we see some of that sin when the men of the city come to Lot’s house, intent on raping the messengers of the Lord. Many people would answer the question by saying that it was because of the sin of the city and especially the sin of homosexuality.

Now another question, why didn’t God destroy Nineveh? Again, the Lord gave us the reason why he should destroy the city when he said in Jonah 1:2, “for their wickedness has come up before me.” Nineveh was very much like Sodom and I expect you would’ve seen some of the same sins in both cities. But the path of the two cities took went in opposite directions. The Lord sent Jonah with a warning for the city of Nineveh and in Jonah 3:10, we see why they weren’t destroyed. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. And God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them, and He did it not.”

Back to the original question, why did God destroy Sodom? Was it because of their sin? Yes, but there’s more to it than that. You recall that in Genesis 18, Abraham pleaded for the city, for the sake of the righteous in the city. He even got the Lord to agree not to destroy the city if ten righteous people were found there. In the end, only three people made it out alive. When you compare Sodom and Nineveh, it comes evident that the reason Sodom was destroyed is because there was no one to humble themselves and cry out to God on the behalf of their city.

We look around us and we see great wickedness in our country and in our cities. Homosexuality is promoted as something to be proud of. People are even proud to be proud. Judges are declaring laws that outlaw immorality as unconstitutional. On television, sex outside of marriage is treated as if it is the way people ought to behave. And if you look around you, some of your friends are doing the same thing. Abortion is treated as a woman’s right instead of the murder that it is. Sin, it seems, has become an unstoppable force. We that fear the Lord keep thinking that the Lord will soon pour judgment down on our land. Though we realize it is deserved, none of us really want to be caught in the crossfire, like Lot was.

What if? What if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if there is something we can do to not only protect our country and our cities from the wrath of God, but something that will turn this thing around. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise from the Lord. This is something you can put your faith in. The Lord said it, so if we do what it says, he will do it. If we humble ourselves before the Lord, repent of our sins, and cry out to him on the behalf of our country and our city, he will do it. Telling people the homosexuality is a sin has its place. Telling people that they are risking judgment has its place. But if we really want to save these people and turn this thing around, what we really need to do is to place ourselves between the Lord and our city. When the Lord looks upon our city in anger, he should see faithful men and women on their knees before him, pleading on the behalf of our city.

But are they worth it? Why not just let the Lord send his judgment upon our city and our country? Again, the Lord answers the question for us. Look at Jonah 4:9-11. “Thou hast had pity on the gourd for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also many cattle?”

Think about that. We might question, why would the Lord be concerned about cattle? Aren’t the people of Nineveh going to eat them anyway? Of course we know that the Lord’s eye is on the sparrow, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he is concerned about cattle also, but I think the point the Lord is making is how messed up Jonah’s view of the situation was. Jonah was more concerned about a plant than he was the people of that city. If nothing else, Jonah could’ve been concerned about the little children or even the cattle, since they had done nothing worthy of destruction.

Are we not lot Jonah. If you look at Facebook, there are many Christians who are obsessed with their cats and dogs. These little animals that will bring joy into their lives for a few years and then die. And if their pet was injured, they would pray for that pet, pleading with the Lord to give them a little more time with it. If our pets are worth it, then certainly the people of our city and country are worth it. Has not God made them in his own image? Their worth it. So why don’t we humble ourselves and plead with the Lord on their behalf like we ought to?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Is This a Gift From God?

Apple CEO Tim Cook will go down in history as having said, "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me." For those of us who have studied the Bible, that statement raises our hackles. How dare he say such a thing? Clearly, the Bible says that God is opposed to homosexuality and God doesn’t disagree with his word, so it can’t be a gift from God.

When we look a little closer at what Tim Cook is saying, he says that his experience as a practicing homosexual has given him a better understanding of the experience that minorities have had. I think we all can agree that being able to see things from the perspective of other people is a good thing. I expect that the good Tim Cook has gotten from his experiences, mixed with his belief that he was born homosexual, is why he is attributing this as a gift from God. (We need not debate whether he was born with same sex attraction or not because the truth is complicated and in the grand scheme of things, it does matter. Are we all not born with a desire to eat? And yet, God calls gluttony a sin.) Many people have the idea that if a good thing comes from something, then the thing it came from must be a gift from God.

Let’s look at an example we can better understand. Suppose a woman is raped and as a result she is impregnated. Nine months later, a precious child is born into the world. By the logic that Tim Cook is using, the rape is a gift from God because it produced something good. Of course, this is ridiculous. We know what Romans 8:28 says. That doesn’t mean all things are good, but God is able to use the bad things to bring good things into our lives. So, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that Tim Cook’s experiences with dealing with bad choices has given him the ability to better understand people who have been dealing with similar situations by no choice of their own. This is similar to saying that the drug addict who chose to take drugs has an understanding of children who became drug addicts in their mother’s womb.

As we consider this, we might want to consider whether some of the other things people call gifts from God are truly gifts. I’ve often heard about “the gift of singleness” as being a gift from God and I’ve said that it is the gift that no one wants. It is based on 1 Corinthians 7:7-8. But it seems like people (usually married people) have to work very hard when they try to explain how singleness is a gift. To me, it seems more likely that the ability to handle singleness is the gift, while singleness itself is not. That’s not to say there aren’t things to value about being single. As Paul pointed out, a single person has more freedom to focus on the things of God. If I, as a single person, want to stay up all night working on something, I don’t have a wife coming in and asking, “When are you coming to bed?” If someone calls and asks for my help, I don’t have to say, “My wife has made plans.” In the situation the Corinthians had asked Paul about, it appears that singleness was ideal, but that doesn’t mean that it is ideal right now.

Why would I say that? Well, because there was a reason why God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” It is a lot easier to explain why that is true than it is to explain why singleness is a gift. It isn’t good to spend too much time alone with your thoughts. They tend to fester into things they ought not to be. It isn’t good to have no one you can confide in. A several years ago, something happened at church. I don’t remember what it was, but it didn’t go my way. It may have occurred in a committee meeting or something and afterward I said something about it to another church member who was aware of what was happening. As far as I was concerned, I just needed to vent. I made my comment and went on about my business. But a short time later, someone in the church leadership (fortunately, I don’t remember who) took me aside to talk to me, because they’d heard, “Timothy’s upset.” So now, I had to explain my position on this thing that I was ready to put behind me and forget. After that, I had to listen as they talked about it. Had I been married, my comments would’ve likely been made to my wife on the way home from church or at the dinner table. She would’ve either helped me see where I was wrong or we would’ve come to a mutual agreement that there was nothing that could be done about it and it would’ve been over. Lesson learned. It is not for singles to vent, if you don’t want people to worry you’re about to leave the church.

Consider the Proverb, “The blessings of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) We should not feel compelled to call things that bring sorrow a gift of God. God is able to use those things to bring us good things, and that is a gift in itself, but the things that bring sorrow into our lives are not gifts from God.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

8 Things Your Pastor Will Never Tell You About the Bible (Or some such nonsense)

Disturbing is the only word I have for it. I stumbled across an article written by an atheist who is a former Methodist minister. It listed several things that the author says your pastor won’t tell you about the Bible. Things like “Unlike Luke and Matthew, Paul didn’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.” Really?! Where did this guy get that? He gets it from Romans 1:3-4. The rest were of a similar nature, so let’s look at this one and not waste our time on the rest.

Consider what Paul is saying in Romans 1:3-4. “Declared to be the Son of God…by the resurrection of the dead.” Amazing! You tell me; which more clearly reveals that Jesus is the Son of God, that he was born to a woman who knew no man or that he rose from the dead? That fact that the resurrection of the dead is mentioned here is not evidence that Paul didn’t believe in the virgin birth. If Paul didn’t, then why did Luke? Luke was one of Paul’s closest friends and traveling companions. Based on what we know of Paul, if Luke was teaching something that Paul believed was heresy, they would’ve had a falling out.

What I find disturbing is that atheists are grasping at reasons not to believe the Bible. If this were any other book and they found something that didn’t quite match up from one chapter to the next, they would dismiss it as a simple mistake and accept that it didn’t invalidate the primary truth of the book. The Bible is different because they can’t find stuff like that. Instead, they have to fabricate things by taking verses out of context or by drawing upon assumptions that aren’t supported by the events.

I wish there was something we could do to wake them up and show them what they are doing. If they could just see how weak their arguments are. But they don’t see. Until the Holy Spirit shines his light into their hearts, they won’t be able to see. And the bad thing is that some have had the opportunity to see, but they have rejected God. I pray that it is not too late for them.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Didn't the Lord Say...?

"Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded…?”

Barak gets a bad rap. For one thing, people tend to forget who he is and what he did. (Admittedly, he did bring that on himself.) People are more likely to remember Deborah than Barak, and they certainly can’t forget the actions of Jael when she killed Barak’s enemy, Sisera. We tend to think of Barak as the judge with weak faith, if we remember he was a judge at all, since he wouldn’t go into battle unless Deborah went with him. But when we look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32, it is Barak (not Deborah, not Jael) who is held up as our example of faithfulness. It makes me think that we should look a little closer at Barak.

In reading Judges 4:4-7, it appears that the Lord had already spoken to Barak, in some way, before Deborah called for him. It doesn’t tell us how the Lord spoke. It may have been through a prophet or an angel, it may have been that the Lord spoke directly to Barak, but the Lord had spoken and Barak knew the will of the Lord. How like us. How often we know the Lord’s will, but we ignore it.

How do we know that the Lord had already spoken? Because Deborah used the words “Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded?” She wasn’t telling Barak something he didn’t know, but she was reminding him of his duty. That’s part of why we fail to see the faithfulness of Barak. Somewhere inside of us, we know that we shouldn’t have to be reminded to do what the Lord has asked us to do. If I miss church one Sunday, I shouldn’t need someone to call me to remind me that I should’ve been at church. If I make a commitment to the church or one of the church leaders to perform a certain task, I shouldn’t need someone to remind me of what I’ve committed to do. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t remind people of their commitments. God takes it very seriously when we don’t honor our promises to him, so our reminding someone to honor their commitments may save them from chastening from the Lord. I see this as the role that Deborah played.

But Barak wouldn’t go without Deborah. On one hand, I get this. One of the things I struggle with is serving the Lord alone. More often than not, I don’t have a choice. But Barak didn’t really have the same situation as I do. For me, even though I would rather have someone help me, it is easier to do things alone than to go find someone who isn’t busy with their families. For Barak, even if Deborah hadn’t gone, he wouldn’t have been alone. He was leading 10,000 men into battle. Barak may have thought that he would get out of going because Deborah wouldn’t go. But she did go, and because she did, Barak lost the honor of being the one to kill Sisera.

Where is the faith of Barak? He stood on Mount Tabor and Sisera positioned his host and his 900 chariots. We don’t know how many foot soldiers Sisera was leading, but 900 chariots is a lot, when you consider that Judges 5:15 tells us that Barak was on foot. Think about that. Barak, on foot, led 10,000 men against an army with 900 iron chariots and likely, superior numbers of foot soldiers. Barak had some courage to face a situation in which the enemy had better technology and outnumbered Barak’s army. The thing that makes it faith is that Barak did it because the Lord told him he would succeed. Yes, it took some prompting, but Barak had some faith.

So, Barak should serve as our example and as a warning. Barak is our example in that he trusted the Lord and led the army according to the instructions the Lord gave him. He is a warning to us, because like Barak, when we rely on people to hold our hand or to goad us into doing what we know the Lord has told us to do, we won’t receive the complete blessing that the Lord intends for us to receive for completing the task. Someone else will receive the recognition. Someone else will receive the reward. If we want to receive what the Lord has in store for us, we had better honor our commitments and do what the Lord has asked us to do without the Lord having to send someone to remind us.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

When you see one, you see several. And since I’m on a committee that is the first line of defense against creating a similar situation at our church, I’m paying even closer attention than I normally would. I find it both disturbing and bothersome as I think about what we need to do to prevent it from happening to us.

Two days ago, Travis Reed was convicted of fondling a boy. As if that isn’t disturbing enough, Travis Reed was one of the youth workers at his church. About a day earlier, Derek Hutter, a youth minister at another church was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. I’ll leave it to the courts to decide whether he actually did it or not. (I actually find it just as disturbing that it is possible for a youth worker to be falsely accused.) But I think we can say that we’ve seen enough of these situations to realize that it is possible that he is guilty. What I really want to know is, how can we avoid hiring people like this?

There are some similarities between these two guys. They are both in their thirties. They are both married. They both have one child. In the Travis Reed trial, sixteen character witnesses testified on his behalf. I’m not sure if Derek Hutter will have the same level of support, but he has worked at a number of different churches. I mention these things because they give the appearance of the type of men people expect would make good youth ministers. In their thirties, so old enough to be an authority figure, but not so old that they can’t do things with the youth. Married, so they have no reason to look for sexual gratification elsewhere. Have a child, so their marriage must be a happy one. Well-liked by the people who know him.

But that’s only what we see on the outside. What we really need to consider is what was happening in secret. That’s difficult, because these are things that they may have been hiding from their spouses as well. One youth testified that Travis Reed had looked up his shorts during a mixed martial arts class at the church. I don’t know if anyone from the church was made aware of that when it happened, but that should have raised a red flag.

Derek Hutter appears to have had porn on his computer and he is also accused of online solicitation of a minor. It’s easier to do something with that than an accusation of looking up someone’s shorts. I remember making up some stuff when I was a kid because I knew it would get someone else in trouble. It was nothing of this nature, but kids don’t always tell the truth. We don’t want to ignore what they say, but there are some things that are hard to prove one way or the other. Ironically, things done in the virtual world are more tangible. People who are addicted to porn have trouble limiting when they look at it. If they are looking at it at home, they’re probably looking at it on their computers at church. If they are sending e-mails with their church funded e-mail accounts, they risk and administrator spotting what they’re doing.

While church should certainly try to avoid hiring someone who has a sexual interest in boys or who is addicted to porn, I think there are things churches can do to help prevent things from happening if someone makes it through the initial filter. An open door policy for all who work with youth and children is a good start, but there needs to be more. That open door needs to exist outside the church building as well and it should extend to electronic communication between the youth worker and the student. And when it comes to church assets, such as computers and e-mail accounts, there is value in allowing a trusted third party to have open access to this information.

Monday, September 29, 2014

“I am not ashamed…this is my body”

Without a doubt, this woman will become the lastest poster child for what is wrong with abortion. This woman won’t tell you why she believes abortion is wrong. Instead, she makes the claim, “I am not ashamed.” She demands, “don’t put murder on me.” And the basis of her argument, “this is my body.”

If you don’t watch this video and feel sorry for this woman, something is wrong with you. While I can’t agree with her choices or her argument, she gives us a clear view of a world that is wandering around in the darkness of sin. Jesus died for her, she just doesn’t know it.

The first thing I have to ask is, if she is not ashamed, why does she make such a big point of telling us that she isn’t ashamed. Clearly, she doesn’t want to be ashamed, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t. She doesn’t want this thing that she has done called murder. Somehow, the message has gotten through to her that she has killed a living human being. The government isn’t calling it murder, but she knows it to be so. And yet, she makes her argument. Perhaps this is to convince herself as much as it is to convince others.

“This is my body.” Isn’t that the claim of every sinner? This is mine. It isn’t yours. I get to decide, not you, and most certainly not God. How sad, and yet we all do it in one way or another. Do we not say, “This is my money,” or “This is my time,” or “This is my car?” What we ought to be saying is, “This is God’s money, I will invest it and spend it for his purposes.” We ought to be saying, “This is God’s time, I will use it to serve him.” We ought to be saying, “This is God’s body, it is his to do with as he pleases.”

While the woman in the video is wrong and every bit the murderer that she doesn’t want us to label her as being, she is not that much different from us. She, like us, needs someone to die for her sins. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover her sins as well as it is ours. He calls for her to repent of her sins and put her trust in him for salvation, just as he called us to do the same. Jesus can change her life so that she can go from claiming that she is not ashamed to having nothing to be ashamed of.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On the Dangerous Facebook Messenger App

People are concerned about the new Facebook Messenger app. The fear is that Facebook is trying to use our personal and private information in ways we never intended. Imagine being in the restroom and the camera on your phone taking a picture without you realizing it. That is something to give consideration to, but what is really going on with Facebook?

To begin with, people’s concerns are not really over the possibility that Facebook might turn on the camera without their knowledge, but rather that Facebook asked permission to turn on their camera, use their location, access their contacts lists, etc. It happened when the app installed. Facebook asks for permission and people began to question, “What do they intend to use this information for?” If Facebook hadn’t asked, people wouldn’t have given it any thought that the app would be using stuff like that.

I’ll prove my point by saying that you probably have a flashlight app on your phone. If it is like mine, it turns on the focus light and keeps it on so that it acts like a flashlight. The one I have also gives information about whether the phone is facing North, South, East, or West. In other words, it is using the camera and accessing location information, and the only permission it needs is that I run the application. Facebook messenger is somewhat different because it is running as a background task. But consider all the apps you install on your phone. Any one of them can access the same devices on your phone that Facebook Messenger can.

Do you trust the apps you have on your phone? It is ironic that people will install a flashlight app written by someone they don’t know without giving it a second thought, but people are concerned about the Facebook Messenger app. Think about it. Facebook already has access to your personal information. They know where you live. They know who your friends are. They know what you ate for breakfast. They know where you went on vacation. If you trusted them with that, then why are you concerned that they might take pictures or track your movements?

But they asked permission to do things I’m not sure they should be doing. Yes, but that is actually for your protection. Have you noticed that when you visit a website with your phone that it might give you a popup that asks if it can use your location? There are rules in place that prevent websites and mobile apps from using location information without the user’s permission. Anyone can write an app for a mobile phone, including some unscrupulous people. You don’t want them to know where you are, but you do want companies that tell you how to get from point A to point B to know where you are. Suppose you are in a department store and open their app. Wouldn’t you want it to be able to tell you that the item you’re looking for is two aisles over? But computers are dumb. They can’t tell the department store that you trust from the person you don’t. By asking permission, you make the decision of whether to trust the app or not. Facebook was just following the rules.

So, you do what you want to do, but I plan on keeping the Facebook Messenger app on my phone. If I’m going to give that kind of information to someone, I would rather give it to someone who already has it. That’s not to say that I trust Facebook completely, but I think they realize that they would risk destroying their company if they start exploiting the information inappropriately. On the other hand, we would probably be safer if we would remove some of this software written by fly-by-night software developers.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Homeless Giving Back

There are several videos that show someone inside a restaurant asking the patrons for some of their food. After they refuse, the scene changes to a street where a homeless man is sitting. Someone gives the homeless man some food, such as pizza or a couple of hamburgers and walks away. A few minutes later, the person who was asking for food before comes by and asks the homeless man for food. The homeless man gives the person food. Then the video ends with “Sometimes, those with less give more.”

There is some truth to that. People who have been doing without have a better understanding of the difficulties that causes. I’m reminded of the woman Jesus told of who gave all she had while the rich religious leaders were just making a big show of giving.

But the videos are flawed. The way the guy approaches those in the restaurant and how he approaches the homeless guy are very different. In the restaurant, he ambushes people. “Can I have a slice?” How do you expect people to act in a restaurant if a stranger comes to their table and asks for their food? The way he is dressed gives no indication that he is unable to pay for his own. Why doesn’t he just go buy his own?

Out on the street it is different. The homeless man has finished eating. The homeless man probably still thinking about how nice it was for someone to give him food. The video guy approaches him and doesn’t ask “can I have a slice” but rather, “do you have any left?” After the homeless man understands the question he asks, “Do you want some?” After take a slice of pizza from the box, the guy making the video sits down with the homeless man and eats half the pizza. He gets up, gives the homeless man a weak handshake, while looking in in the direction he wants to go rather than in the man’s eyes.

This is an aside, but let me just say that if you’re going to shake hands with someone, given them a firm handshake and look them in the eyes throughout the whole handshake. Nothing aggravates me more than an improper handshake.

But back to the video. I’m not sure how I would respond if a fashionably dressed person ambushed me in a restaurant to ask for food. I can, however, think of a similar situation. I was buying gas one day. A man carrying a four gallon gas can came up to me and asked if I could spare half a gallon of gas. I suppose he would’ve asked several people until he got as much as he needed. I hesitated for a moment, but then I stuck the gas nozzle in the can and filled it to the top.

I avoid giving money, but when there’s a way that I can provide for a need, that’s different. Despite what is shown in the video, I think many people are willing to give to people in need, but they have to understand what the need is and it has to be convenient. I don’t expect many people will give strangers food off their plate, but if they had some left after they’d eaten, they might have. Or if the person had asked before they ordered their meal, they might have gladly ordered extra. The video tells the story that the videographer wants to tell, but I don’t believe it is the complete story.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Praying on the Armor of God

There is a concept among Christians to “pray on the full armor of God.” Every morning when they wake up, some people will say a prayer like the following:

Lord, as I wake up this morning, I put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness to guard my heart. I put on the sandals of the gospel of peace to protect my walk with you today. I take up the shield of faith to protect me from whatever Satan my throw at me. I place the helmet of salvation on my head and take hold of the sword of the Spirit of God. Strengthen me for the battles I’ll face today. Amen.

The typical version is much longer than the one I’ve shown here and many of them start with the helmet of salvation rather than the order they are in the Bible. I’m not sure if that’s because they want to go from head to toe or maybe they’re thinking that salvation should come first since that’s what we think of as the first event in the Christian walk. Paul probably put these in the order he did because he’d watched Roman soldiers put on their armor and that was the order they went.

While I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with meditating on the armor of God why you wake up each morning and going to the Lord for help in putting on the armor of God isn’t a bad thing, I doubt Paul was thinking that people would pray prayers like this when he wrote Ephesians 6. I think he would tell the people who do this, “You missed the point.” Some people have this thought, “The kids were cranky today, but I prayed on the armor of God this morning, so I was able to let it bounce off.”

But look at Ephesians 6:12. The purpose of the armor of God isn’t to protect against cranky kids. In Ephesians 6:13-14, Paul uses the word “stand” three times. And he had already used it in Ephesians 6:11. Do this so you can stand and once you’ve done everything you can to stand, stand. This is about taking a stand for the cause of Christ.

Imagine you are facing the modern day equivalent to some of the people Paul faced. These are people who may not realize it, but they are servants of the devil. “You Christians are wrong and I’m going to force you to do things you don’t believe are right.” How do we stand against these people?


Our first form of protection is that what we say is true. I’ve been in a lot of arguments with people who don’t want to believe. I try to listen to their point of view, but I’ve never been concerned that something they way will cause me to question my faith, because my position is based on the truth.


When we think of righteousness, we immediately think of God’s righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ. But let’s also consider the righteousness that others see in us. The opposite of righteousness is sin. When we sin, it removes the breastplate that protects our heart. The spouse who commits adultery opens up their heart (at least in part) to the person they commit adultery with. Satan can use that person to encourage the other to do things they ought not to do. But look at Daniel. Even though he faced persecution, his righteousness protected him from falling into the trap of sinners.

The Preparation of the Gospel of Peace

People often shorten this to say that we should put on the sandals of the Gospel. They imply that the good news will protect the way you walk. A better understanding might be that we are to be prepared to share the Gospel with those we meet along the way.


Paul compares faith to a shield that protects against fiery darts. He also uses the phrase “above all.” I’m not sure if this should be taken as most importantly, or if he means literally “above all.” If the darts are raining down from the sky, where are you going to hold the shield? Above your head and everything else, obviously. But our faith protects us because we know that whatever Satan may send our way, God is still in control and nothing will harm us without His permission.


Salvation is shown as a helmet. I wear a helmet when I ride a bicycle, in part because I realize that if an accident caused me to lose an arm or a leg, it would be inconvenient, but a head injury could cause be game over. At the end of the day, even if God allows Satan to kill us, we have salvation there to protect who we are. The very worst thing Satan can do won’t prevent us from the future the Lord has promised us.

The Bible

He compares the Word of God to a sword. Of everything on the list, this is the only offensive weapon we see. As with any weapon, it takes training and practice to be able to use it. That means you need to spend time in church listening to preaching and taking part in Bible study. You also need to read it for yourself and memorize scripture. So, when you encounter unbelievers, you will be able to tell them what the Bible says.


Prayer isn’t listed as part of the armor, but it is something that we’re supposed to do. The armor of God doesn’t do us much good if we don’t have a relationship with God. Paul asked them to pray that he would have boldness to preach the gospel.

If you get up in the morning and tell God you’re putting on the armor of God, I suppose that's okay. But once you’ve prayed about it, you’d better put it on.

Monday, July 28, 2014

And Out the Door They Go

I stood I the foyer as kids and parents walked through the main entrance of the church. The kids stopped off the VBS check-in table where they answered a few questions and then made their way into the auditorium. The parents stood in the foyer with me for a short time, watching to see that their kids got to where they needed to be. They talked with a few of the other people in the foyer. But then, they turned, walked back through the crowd gathered around the check-in table and out the door. They would return a couple hours later to collect their kids.

Missed Opportunities

Time and time again I saw this scene repeated with family after family. This is the age group that we’re not reaching. When you look at our church attendance and when you look at the professions of faith in our church, you see a gap between the young and the old. It isn’t that we don’t people in this age group, but the numbers are down in comparison to other age groups.

Some people say that young adults just aren’t interested in church. That’s one way to look at it, but I saw these people bringing in bags of clothes and canned goods to donate to Texas Baptist Home for Children. These people gave their kids money to give for the cause. That doesn’t seem like “lack of interest,” but they turned around and walked out the door.

What I find disturbing is that we got these people through our front door and they didn’t stay. Let me repeat that. We got these people through our front door. But where are they now? We talk about people who wouldn’t darken a church door. These aren’t them. We got them inside, but couldn’t keep them.

Baby Sitters and Social Clubs

Realistically, many of the people who came and left attend other churches on Sunday. They brought their kids to VBS because we invited them. But to me, it highlights a problem. We want to reach kids and teens, so we have programs for them. We have this idea that we might reach their parents by reaching the kids. The problem is that these parents don’t see it that way. These parents see value in these kids programs because it teaches their kids about God, or because it is a free babysitter. While we’re teaching their kids about God, they may be at Wal-mart doing the weekly shopping.

On the other end of the scale, we have the old folks. While we do have a few programs for them, they get something else out of church. I’ve often heard older folks say things like, “even if a song wasn’t sung, or a sermon preached, I would come to church just to be with God’s people.” That sounds more like a social club. And it makes sense, because when people get older their kids have moved away, they may have lost a spouse, and they’ve retired, so they don’t go to work every day. Going to church staves off the silence.

Something More

There is great value in kids programs. There is value in giving parents an opportunity to have time away from their kids. There is value in providing empty nesters with opportunities to around other people. But if we want to reach young adults, we need to do something more. If we aren’t preaching to these people, how can we hope to see them saved? And if the longest time they stay in our church building is during VBS wrap-up, Awana closing ceremony, and when their kids are in a Christmas program, we’re not doing much preaching to them. We need to do something more.

We can’t bribe young adults with candy and pizza like we can with kids and teens. Young adults have jobs and can buy more candy and pizza than they need. And we can’t get them by being a social club, because their jobs put them around people all day, and if they have kids they are around people at night as well. If we don’t find something for young adults to stay for, we’ll continue to see them walk in but head right back out the door.

Why I Stay

I can’t speak for all young adults, but I’m pushing the upper edge of young adulthood, so I’ve had lots of experience as a young adult. So, why do I stay? Why don’t I turn around and walk back out the door?

Honestly, I’ve considered it a few times. Come to think of it, I’ve done it a few times. Never when there was preaching, but I’ve skipped some services when it was just going to be a movie, or a concert. And I have a real hard time attending Wednesday night services during the summer. It isn’t that the lessons aren’t great, but after I’ve spent all day at work, I don’t have the mental fortitude to listen to all the prayer requests for people who are going through health problems and then to listen to a lecture.

But when Awana is going on, it is totally different. With kids running around and things to do, it is invigorating. I much prefer to be doing something. And when I look at the young adults who come through our doors and stay, they are the ones who are doing stuff. I remember when I first joined our church that it was a struggle for me because I wanted to be much more involved than I felt like I had the opportunity to be.

So, if I had to guess what it would take to keep young adults from walking out the door, I would say we need to invite them to do stuff with us. Of course, we have to be careful about what we ask them to do. Some tasks should be reserved from church members. And they may really need the time to run to Wal-mart without their kids. But if there was a project they could work on instead of driving back home and turning on the TV for an hour before driving back to church to pick up the kids, they just might stay, even if they won’t stay to listen to a lecture.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When It Ain't Obama's Fault

The Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Texas as 47 of 50 when it comes to the quality of family and community for children. One of the driving factors in that is the percentage of kids who live in a single parent home, which contributes to the education level of the head of the home, the wealth of the bread winner, the education level, etc. In Texas, 36% of children live in a single parent home.

Of the four factors Annie E. Casey looked at, Texas could use improvement on all of them, but Family and Community is the one that hurt our ranking the most. This got me to thinking. I see a lot on Facebook about how terrible the government is and how Obama needs to be impeached and all of that, but you can’t blame Obama or any other government leader for two and a half million kids living in single parent homes. There isn’t much the government can do about that and it isn’t their responsibility.

So, whose responsibility is it? The kids parents, obviously, but only if you look at individual families. When you look at the figures statewide or nationwide and ask who should be trying to do something about it, it is the churches who ought to be doing something about it. Even though the government likes to stick its nose in, it is the churches that have a responsibility to teach people the difference between right and wrong. It is the churches who ought to be looking for ways to help couples resolve their differences. It is the churches who have a responsibility to tell people of the man Jesus, who is able to change their selfish heart to a heart that loves others and especially their spouse.

It ought to wake us up when we see that a Bible belt state like Texas is one of the worst states when it comes to single parent homes. We Christians are falling down on our job. While the primary blame must rest with those who are creating single parent situations, I can’t help but think that part of the problem is that we aren’t telling them that what they are doing is wrong. At one time, women were shunned for having a child out of wedlock, and that might have been too much, but today we bend over backwards to tell people that whatever their sin is God loves them anyway.

While I don’t have all the answers for what we can do to correct this problem, the numbers speak for themselves. What they are saying is that we Christians in Texas have some work to do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Church, Kids, and Numbers

A friend of mine quoted the following statistic, “85% of the people saved in the United States are under 17.” Okay, but what do we do with that? Often, we hear things like that when someone wants to encourage people to work in youth ministry. I see nothing wrong with that. I work with kids in Awana and I can say that I’ve seen far more of them accept Christ than the adults I’ve taught in Sunday school. What I don’t like is when people take that statistic and say, “If we don’t reach them when they are kids, we’ll never reach them.” Is that really what we should take from this statistic?

To answer that, let me ask you, what percentage of the people saved would we expect to be kids? Someone might mention that 18% of the population is between 5 and 17, while 76% of the population is adults, so anything over 18% is pretty good. But is it? Let’s use easy math and say we have an average church with 100 people in attendance. There are 6 children under age five. We’ll assume they aren’t saved, but we don’t expect they’ll accept Christ until they are at least five. There are 18 kids between 5 and 17. We don’t know how many are currently saved, but there were 18 lost at age five.

Now, how many lost adults does this church have in the services? Most of these people are church members, but perhaps there is a man who attends with his saved wife. There’s a girl who used to be in the youth group and still comes, but she isn’t saved. There’s a woman who thought she was saved as a child. And maybe one more. Three or four doesn’t sound like an unreasonable number.

By my count, that means there are 21 or 22 lost people in the service and 18 of them are kids. (It is more complicated than that, but statistically speaking it will do.) Divide 18 by 21 and you get 86%. Divide 18 by 22 and you get 81%. What that tells me is that 85% of the people who are saved in America being under 17 is right in the ballpark of what we would expect if the only people we are reaching are the people who come to church.

And I don’t know what to do with that. There are churches that are reaching people other than those who are in the families of church members, but most of the programs are geared toward reaching kids. So, that will tend to retain the “85% are kids” statistic. I’m glad churches are reaching kids, but when I realize that 76% of our population is adults, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t failing to do enough to try to reach adults.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bottled Mission Trip

Paul, in his writings, gives us this picture of a church in which the Lord has placed many people with different abilities, each doing their own thing, but together accomplishing the purposes of God. While I see this all the time, nowhere has it been more clear than on Mission Trip. At the time of this writing, we've seen eight souls saved. We had a couple of gifted soul winners on this trip and the Lord put their gift to use. But they wouldn't have been able to do that without other members of the team identifying people for them to talk to, and that was made possible by members of the team gaining the trust of these people by helping them with home repairs. Of course, all of this was made so much easier because of a gifted administrator leading the team.

As we near the end of our trip, there is talk of "Why do we do this on mission trip but not at home? We need to continue this back in Fort Worth." While I understand the sentiment, I think we tend to encapsulate things like Mission Trip as if it were an experiment in evangelism that can be used to tell us what the church is doing wrong. We ought not think that. If we truly believe that the church is like a body working together, we should realize that the short-term mission team is bigger than the eighteen of us who loaded our tools on a trailer and drove to Albuquerque. Of course there was planning and fund raising that took place before we went. But there were other things that had to happen as well.

Most of the young people on this trip are people I once worked with in Awana. I had some impact on their development as did many others in our church. When I hear talk of doing stuff at home that is similar to Mission Trip, I don't see how I can do that without dropping some of the other things I'm doing. But part of our effectiveness on Mission Trip is due to training that has taken place in months a years leading up to it.

So what am I saying? Mission Trip isn't something we can bottle up and take home. That whole concept is backwards, because Mission Trip is the harvest that follows a lot of planting and watering. What the Lord enabled our team to do was to bottle what has been going on at South Park and pour it out over a dry, barren mobile home park. That's not to say that South Park has no room for improvement, but without the things South Park does, we wouldn't have been able to accomplish much.

Let's make improvements where we can, and let's pray to see a harvest in Fort Worth, but let us not fail to continue teaching or we won't have anything to bottle for future mission trips.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Problem With Wednesday "Prayer Meeting"

Churches used to call the Wednesday evening service “Prayer Meeting.” The church I attended when I was young didn’t have a “Prayer Meeting.” So, when I asked my mother about other churches who listed “Prayer Meeting” on their church sign, I got an image in my head that is very different from what I see in our church. In our church, we sing a song, and then we go over the prayer list. Someone prays a short prayer and then someone gets up and lectures for the remaining time.

As a child, I pictured people gathering in a room and spending an hour or more doing nothing but praying. I couldn’t grasp how anyone would willingly spend an hour or more doing nothing but praying. What a shock it was when I attended my first “Prayer Meeting.” And yet, I wonder why churches don’t spend more time in prayer at a “Prayer Meeting.”

But I see things wrong with both the idea I had as a child and the way we handle prayer meetings now. If all you do is have everyone pray the prayer they’ve memorized to pray during worship services, it might take an hour, but it misses the concept that prayer is to be a conversation with God. And while having another opportunity for someone to teach a lesson may be a good thing, teaching a lesson is not prayer.

Consider the “prayer list.” People surely don’t intend for it to be this way, but more time explaining the nature of the illness a friend has, or what is being done to treat it than the amount of time spent praying for the person. We always have the President and other leaders mentioned on the list, but when was the last time we spent a significant amount of time praying for them?

Both in Wednesday Evening Prayer Meetings and Sunday school prayer lists, we have the problem that after we’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to people talk about their problems or the problems their friends are having, we cut the actual prayer short because we know that we need to leave time for the person who is going to bring the lesson. In Sunday school, it makes sense to cut out prayer time in favor of the lesson, but it is much too rare for us to have a time of corporate prayer that isn’t rushed. Perhaps my childhood concept isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Imagine, a group of people gathering, not to listen to someone lecture, or to gossip about their friend’s illnesses, but to spend an hour in conversation with God. Having a conversation with God isn’t about us telling God what we think we need, but rather it involves finding what he is telling us in his word and responding in prayer. It isn’t about adding “if it is your will” to the end of our prayer. Rather, we should be digging into his word, so that we know that what we are asking is in his will. Having a conversation with God isn’t about general blanket statements that cover whatever requests might be on the list, but is much more specific in what we are asking him to do. I see nothing wrong with a church gathering for a third preaching service, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a true “Prayer Meeting” where the whole church gathered before the throne of God?

Monday, June 2, 2014

When the Executioner Knocks

When I was a kid, I remember learning about the Christian martyrs—people who were burned, or torn apart, or stoned—and I remember thinking, “It would be cool to die a death like that.” I’ve since lost some of my desire for that kind of death, but I remember having these thought of standing before someone (in my mind it was always a king) and being asked if I believed in Jesus. To live, all I would have to say is, “No,” but I would answer that yes, I do believe in Jesus Christ and I will not deny my faith in him. For that cause, I would die a martyr’s death. I remember talking to my mother about this and her saying, “We could face something like that one day.”

The persecution that I imagined as a child was nothing more than a fantasy. And yet, the executioners are at our doorstep. A discussion we had at church on Sunday made me realize that we are already being asked to deny Christ in exchange for our lives, but it isn’t by a king in the king’s court. What will our response be?

On Sunday, when someone suggested that we in America wouldn’t respond as well as the martyrs we see in other countries, I responded to say that we shouldn’t assume that. My reasoning—and I believe I was right—was that we have the same Holy Spirit dwelling in us that they have in them. Anyone who is following the leadership of the Holy Spirit will respond well. Don’t believe me? Read Luke 12:11-12. While we might think we will respond poorly when faced with that situation, Jesus had confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide us.

But someone made the comment that if she were given a choice between denying her faith and the lives of her children, she would deny her faith in an instance. I want to say that I would rather my children see that Jesus was more important to me than them, but that hollow, since I have neither children nor a wife. In any case, her response made me realize that the question, “Will you deny your faith in Jesus for your life?” has taken on a different form than standing before a king or a judge.

Consider Danny Cortez, who over a long period of pastoring a Southern Baptist church, decided that he no longer believes the traditional teachings concerning homosexuality. I listened to some of what he said about how he came to that decision. No one put a gun to his head and said, “Stop teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality or die.” Instead, over a fifteen year period, he had numerous people come to him and admit to having same sex attraction. As a novelist, I can tell you that every good story begins with the protagonist dying. But the death is of the form that if something doesn’t happen in the protagonist’s life, he would rather die than continue doing what he is doing. Danny Cortez being told by so many of his friends that they were having homosexual temptation and realizing that they could never allow themselves to get intimate with the object of their affection is a good example. For him, that realization was a type of death. Of course, it wouldn’t have been for me. I’m single, so if Danny Cortez had told me how sad he was that these people could never have sex, I would’ve said, “Get over it! I may never have sex either.”

But the point is that for Danny Cortez it was a type of death and he was given the choice between denying the teachings of God’s word and experiencing that death that he felt. That is not so different from the mother at church. For her, the death of her children was a far worse death than her own death. Of course we know that anytime we place anything before God, it is idolatry and it is very dangerous. We may think it simple. If denying God will save our children, then deny God. But we have more to fear from God. If God so chooses, he can protect our children from the sword of the persecutor. But if we deny our faith in Jesus, God may take the lives of our children anyway. And worse, he may leave us here to think about what we did.

It isn’t just the issue of unconsummated homosexuality or the death of our children. That is the one that is in the news, but other things may seem worse than death as well. I see people who give in to their children’s desires to be involved in immodest activities, because seeing their children cry is worse than death. People get involved with gambling, because not being able to support the lifestyle they desire is worse than death. People turn to drugs because they fear pain of various kinds as if it were death itself. People divorce their spouses, because see death as preferable to putting up with them. Single people turn to sex without having first been married, because being alone feels like it is worse than death.

For Christians, it may not be these things, but have you considered what you would do if the company you worked for began firing people who opposed homosexuality? I expect we’ll see that happen very soon. And what if the government tries to force you to pay for abortions? That is already happening. It is easy for us to say that we won’t deny Christ, as long as there is food on the table, but as Peter discovered, when we’re surrounded by the enemy, it is difficult to take a stand.

But I still believe that if we spend time in God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we have an advantage that Peter didn’t have. The executioner may be knocking at our door, but the Holy Spirit is there to guide us to the right answer, if we will just seek him and let him do his work.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Worship Wars

Why does one person pick one worship song while someone else picks another? On Sunday, we were asked to turn in a list of our favorite hymns. My list is likely to be very different from some of the other lists that are turned in. Why?

The worship wars have been going on for a long time. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember people debating the value of traditional hymns versus contemporary choruses. Today, people are still complaining about contemporary choruses, even though very few of the contemporary hymns sung in churches fall in the category of choruses.

All I can tell you is that when I chose the songs to list, they were songs that had special meaning to me at the time that I was making the list. If I were making the list at this moment I might pick other songs. I would probably pick Jesus Is In This House because that happens to be the song I’m listening to at the moment. But when I consider the songs I did list, some of them are on a CD that helped me when I was going through a funk a few years ago. At the time, I was struggling with something that God had allowed to happen and I didn’t understand why. I still don’t and I may never understand it this side of Glory. (Which is actually kind of depressing, but I’ve come to accept it.)

I look at some of the songs other people pick and they are often songs they learned when they were children. But I suspect that there is something more than that. It may be a song they remember their mother singing. It may be a song that was sung at a special event, such as their baptism, or the night they accepted Christ. It may be a song that reminds the person of the power of God to help through a difficult situation they are facing right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Things You Know That Ain’t So About Parliamentary Procedure

1. Every motion requires a second

While most motions require a second, when a member of a committee makes a motion on the behalf of the committee, no second is required. Also, in a small committee, motions do not require a second.

2. The chair isn’t supposed to vote

As long as the chair is a member, the chair retains the right to vote.

3. The chair can break a tie vote

Because the chair must maintain an appearance of impartiality, it is advisable for the chair to refrain from voting. The exception is when his vote matters, such as when there is a tie vote. But he isn’t really breaking a tie. When the vote is even, there isn’t a majority, so the motion would fail if the chair doesn’t vote. If he votes in favor of the motion, a majority is achieved and the motion passes. But likewise, if the vote has one more in favor than against, the chair can exercise his right to vote against the motion, thereby creating a tie and causing the motion to fail.

4. A motion is required to adjourn

When the next meeting has already been scheduled and there is no pending business, the chair can say, “If there is no objection, the meeting will be adjourned,” thereby adjourning the meeting by unanimous consent without a formal motion. It is also the case that when a meeting has a fix time to adjourn that the chair can mention that the time has arrived and close the meeting without a motion.

5. To kill a motion you should move to table it

The purpose of tabling a motion is to lay it aside while other items of business are being handled. The body can remove the motion from the table. The correct motion to kill a motion is to postpone indefinitely. A significant difference is that the motion to table is not debateable, while the motion to postpone indefinitely is. It is important for the assembly to be able to discuss whether they want to kill the motion or not.

6. Calling out “Question!” means discussion must end immediately and the chair must put the motion to a vote

Calling out “Question!” is a shorthand of “I move the previous question.” Calling “Question!” is out of order. To be in order, the person would have to stand, be recognized by the chair to speak, and then say, “I move the previous question.” At which time, someone could say, “Second!” from a seated position. The chair would explain that this would end debate on the motion being discussed and then would take a vote on the call for previous question. Only if that motion succeeded with two thirds vote would discussion cease. If it failed, the chair would recognize the next person who rose to speak.

7. A motion can be quickly amended if the person who made the motion and the second agree

Once a motion has been stated by the chair (essentially, repeating what the maker of the motion said), the motion is the property of the body, not of the person who made the motion. So if during debate the person who made the motion sees how he could’ve worded it better and offers to change the motion, it is out of order to do so without an amendment. There is, however, a degree of leeway between the time the motion is made and the chair states the motion. It may take a little effort on the part of the person making the motion to get the wording to what he would like and that is in order. But once the motion is under consideration, it requires an action of the body to change the wording.

8. The highest number of votes wins the election

Yes and no. For a person to win the election, a majority is required. Suppose there are three nominees. One gets 40%, one gets 35%, and one gets 25%. Some believe that the first one would win, as would be the case for some political offices, under the concept of the majority rules, another vote would need to be taken. It could be that some of those who originally supported the first two guys might change their vote to the third guy and reach a compromise vote of 10% for one, 20% for one, and 70% for the last guy. So, yes, he is the guy with the highest number of votes, but he wasn’t originally.

9. A motion to elect the person with the second highest as alternate is in order

If people don’t truly care who is the alternate, the second highest may get the alternate position anyway, but there are a number of problems with this approach. In the example above, the second highest never had more than 35%. Assuming the same list of nominees, minus the winner, it may be that those who voted for the third guy will vote for the guy with the least since their favored candidate is out of it. And it may be that someone has someone else they’d like to nominate as an alternate that wasn’t in the original list.

10. A motion is valid as long as people understand what is intended

In a meeting, someone gets up and makes the some comment about something that he thinks the group ought to do. From the back of the room someone calls out, “So move!” The chair asks for discussion and then takes the vote. This scenario is not in order. To be in order, a motion must have precise word. If it doesn’t, the clerk doesn’t know what to record in the minutes and the people who are voting may not be voting on what they think they are voting on. In cases where the wording is lengthy, the person may be required by the chair to provide motion to the clerk in writing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to Lose an Argument

Raising your voice is one of the worst things you can do when you are trying to persuade someone. We often see situations in which a company or someone in government does something that someone doesn’t like. Hoping they will reverse the decision, the person goes to them to state their case in a public forum. As they begin to talk, their emotions overwhelm them and they begin to yell.

The natural reaction is to view this as a challenge. Consider a situation in which the decision maker made the decision without looking at all sides of the issue. The decision maker may not be attached to the decision he made. When presented with a well stated reason to reverse the decision, he might be easily persuaded. But suppose someone comes to him and says, “How could you be so stupid?” His natural reaction is to grasp for things that will support his original decision. Faced with a challenge, it becomes mentally painful for him to change his decision. To side with the challenger is equivalent to him agreeing that he is stupid.

A better approach is to have the attitude that the decision maker had what he believed was a good reason for the decision he made. If possible, come to an understanding of what that reason was before attempting to persuade the other person. You may find that you would’ve made the same decision if you had been in his shoes. Once the reasoning is known, identify reasons why you believe the reasoning is flawed, but do so in a non-challenging way. When the decision maker sees you as trying to help him make the best decision, it is easier for him to listen to your point of view and givens him freedom to change his decision.

Raising your voice or calling a person names is equivalent to saying, “I’m more important than you, so you have to do what I say.” Unless you are a person in authority over the person, they will not listen. Think about how much more effective it is for a coach to yell at his players than it is for him to yell at the other team.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Christians Should Support Separation of Church and State

Not many years ago, I began hearing people say, “The word separation isn’t in the First Amendment.” They would then go on to explain how they believed the concept of a separation of church and state is the work of the Devil to keep churches out of politics. Christians have been shooting themselves in the foot by defining Separation of Church & State as something it is not.

We see the words “separation between Church & State” in an 1802 letter. If you go back and read the letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, you’ll see that it says more than just that the First Amendment builds “a wall of separation between Church & State.” He also makes the statement, “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God.” Thomas Jefferson goes on to define the powers of government with the statement, “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions.”

In Thomas Jefferson’s way of thinking, what a man believed was solely between the man and his God. The fear of the Danbury Baptist Association was that the First Amendment was creating a situation in which the Government was authorizing religion, but then could later take it away. They obviously didn’t realize how difficult it would be to repeal an amendment in the years to come. Thomas Jefferson’s use of the phase “wall of separation” was to give them a mental picture of what the First Amendment does.

One side of the wall is “make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Taken by itself, this gives religion free reign. If a child wants to pray, or carry a Bible, or offer incense to Buddha, this clause prevents the government from saying he can’t. The other side of the wall is “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This is what prevents the government from giving special treatment to one religion over another and limits individual religious groups by preventing them from having special power within the government.

So, whether you like the phrase “wall of separation” or not, the First Amendment clearly builds a wall between the power of the State and the power of Church. The question remains, is that something that Christians should favor?

In practice, things get a little fuzzy. People talk about the good ol’ days when teachers used the Bible to teach reading and led the students in prayer before class started in the morning. I have no way of verifying that that kind of stuff happened, because that wasn’t going on when I was in school either. And then you have teachers telling students they can’t bring their Bibles to school, even though they asked students to bring their favorite books. “That’s what ‘separation of Church and State’ gets us,” some people say. The problem with basing on opinion on what we see happening or what we think used to happen is that those things may not be pure examples of separation of church and state.

What many people don’t realize is that Baptists have historically stood in support of the separation of church and state. In the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833) it is worded like this:

We believe that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed; except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.

The Doctrinal Statement of the Baptist Missionary Association of America spells it out in more detail:

Human government was instituted by God to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. It is separate from the church, though both church and state exercise complementary ministries for the benefit of society (Matt. 22:21).
Christians should submit to the authority of the government under which they live, obeying all laws which do not contradict the laws of God, respecting officers of government, paying taxes, rendering military service, and praying for the welfare of the nation and its leaders (Rom. 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13, 17; I Tim. 2:1, 2). They should vote, hold office, and exercise influence to direct the nation after the principles of Holy Scripture.
Civil authority is not to interfere in matters of conscience or disturb the institutions of religion (Acts 4:18-20), but it should preserve for every citizen the free exercise of his religious convictions.
Churches should receive no subsidy from the government, but they should be exempt from taxation on property and money used for the common good through worship, education, or benevolence.

It is a doctrine that has been forged through much persecution. There was a time in history when the Catholic Church (which was a product of the Roman government) held much power in the government, and they used that power to persecute those who opposed their beliefs. Many of the persecuted held the beliefs that we Baptists hold. In some parts of the world, Islam controls the government. While there are Christians living in those areas as well, it is difficult for them to practice their religion. When the wall of separation is weak, persecution comes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Most Valuable Quality in a Leader

An recent poll asked the question, “What a quality do you value most in a leader?” The possible answers were:

  • Builds effective relationships
  • Delivers results
  • Energizes the team
  • Models personal excellence, integrity and accountability
  • Shapes the future

The results (from least to greatest) were:

  1. Shapes the future - 4%
  2. Delivers results - 8%
  3. Energizes the team - 14%
  4. Builds effective relationships - 23%
  5. Models personal excellence, integrity and accountability - 51%

What fascinates me about these results is that the things the leadership gurus push the most are the things that are the lowest on the list. But a majority view integrity as the most important. And building personal relationships also is significant.

That doesn’t mean we can say that the others aren’t important, but modeling personal excellence, integrity and accountability is just so important that most people favor it over all the others. Too often, we see leaders who want results, no matter what. Even if it costs them their integrity. Clearly, it is the opinion of those who took the poll that leaders like that have missed the boat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Would You Trust a Four Year Old Over God Anyway?

The book Heaven is for Real came out a few years ago. Now, there is a movie based on the book. I won’t be watching it. If you read the review of Heaven is for Real, you’ll see why. In brief, I saw nothing in the book that I couldn’t attribute to the imagination of a four year old, and too much that was inconsistent with what God said about heaven. I’ve seen the trailer for the movie, and even if I’d liked the book, I don’t think I could stand sitting through the movie.

But a lot of people have purchased the book and it is likely that a lot of people will watch the movie. In this age when so-called scientists are promoting the religion of evolution as proof that heaven isn’t real, people are looking for evidence of its existence. People are looking for the smoking gun that they can point to and say, “Look, we have proof that heaven exists.” That is why they turn to stories about people who have visited heaven and came back.

Haven’t you ever asked, “what if?” What if we could look up into heaven and see what’s there? What if someone who died could come back and tell us about it? What if we had something that could only come from God, so we could show it to people as proof of heaven?

I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “with spiritual things, God expects us to believe without proof.” That may sound spiritual, but the Bible doesn’t say that.

Suppose you heard the voice of God. Suppose you saw people who had gone to heaven and came back. Do you suppose that would be enough evidence for heaven? I think so. Other people might doubt that you had seen what you saw and heard, but it would likely settle it for you.

Peter had that experience. Look at 2 Peter 1:16-21. What is he saying here? Peter heard God speak. You recall that God spoke when Jesus was baptized. He also spoke on the mount of transfiguration. Peter was so excited about what he saw on the mount of transfiguration that he was ready to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It was a significant experience in Peter’s life. But look at 2 Peter 1:19. “we also have a more sure word of prophecy.”

What could possibly be more sure than the experience Peter had on the mount of transfiguration? In 2 Peter 1:20, we see that it is the Scripture. That Bible that you carry to church with you and maybe pull out a few times during the week, under the inspiration of God, Peter is telling us that it is more sure than the experience he had on the holy mount.

We don’t have to talk to people who have returned from the dead. We don’t have to be able to look into heaven. We don’t have to hear the voice of God in our ear. We already have proof that is better than that. Though many people have tried to discredit it, the Bible is evidence of God and heaven. It is easy enough to make up a story about going to heaven and seeing stuff, as we see with Heaven is for Real, but that story can’t be verified without going to heaven. The Bible, on the other hand, is so astonishingly accurate in every detail that when we compare it to historical facts, scientific facts, and observations of about the human condition, we find no evidence that it is wrong in any area that we can confirm. If a book has never been proven wrong on any detail, then it is wise to pay attention when the author tells us about things we have no ability to verify.

To put it very simply, why would we trust the stories of a four year old over what God said in Scripture?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lord, Where's My Stuff?

“Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

I don’t suppose there’s anyone who has looked at that verse who didn’t wonder why God hasn’t given them the desires of their heart. All of us have had something that we wanted more than anything else and though we prayed long hours with tears streaming down our faces, it didn’t come. Where was the Lord? Why didn’t he answer? Did we somehow fail to delight ourselves in him? How does one delight himself in the Lord anyway?

If you read the rest of Psalm 37, you’ll see that even as he was writing this song, David was struggling with some of the same thoughts. Look at verses 1 and 2. Do you think he would’ve said something like that if he’d never questioned why evil people appeared to prosper, even as the just suffered at their hand? (Psalm 37:12) The saints of David’s day were facing the same problems as the saints of today.

When we begin to look at it in context, we being to realize that the promise of the desires of our heart doesn’t necessarily mean right now. We don’t have standing to go to God and say, “I’ve delighted in you, so where’s my stuff?” Though some preachers will tell you that’s exactly what you ought to do. Psalm 37:7 uses words like rest, wait, and fret not. And then Psalm 37:10 states, “yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.”

What’s David saying? Don’t worry about all this bad stuff that’s going on because of the wicked, because the day is coming when they won’t be here, but you will. That’s not that the Lord won’t give us a partial fulfillment of this promise now, but the ultimate fulfillment will come when Jesus takes his proper place as King of all heaven and earth. The wicked will be cut off and nothing we desire will be denied us.

Of course, our desires will be much better than they are now. That’s why it is important to consider what it means to delight ourselves in the Lord. If we’re going to get a partial fulfillment now, we need to learn to delight ourselves in the Lord and we need to manage our desires. Not everything we desire is good for us.

Psalm 37:3 gives us a hint at what it means to delight ourselves in the Lord, “Trust in the Lord, and do good….” As does Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him….” But we can look at the rest of the Bible for help as well. When we look at the other places the word delight is used, we often see it used with the concept of obedience to God and meditating on the law of God. Obedience and trust go hand in hand. If we delight ourselves or take pleasure in someone, don’t we trust that person? Don’t we trust that if we do what they ask us to do that good things will happen?

The word delight is used once in the New Testament. Look at Romans 7:22. Here again, we see this concept of obedience to the law of God. So often, we hear people talk about our freedom in Christ and how we don’t have to follow the law. But what many of them really think is that we can ignore the law. Such is not the case. The saints delight in the law of God, even as we struggle with our fleshly desire to sin. We delight in the law of God because it is the instructions that God has given us. By delighting in the law of God, by obeying the commandments he has given us, by meditating on his word, so that we know what he has told us to do, we are delighting in the Lord. Only then can we expect any fulfillment of the promise to give us the desires of our heart.

But what you discover when you begin to obey the Lord and to meditate on his word, your desires start to change. That’s not to say that God will tell us what he’s willing to give us and our desires will be only those things. What God is willing to give us is far more than we can comprehend. Rather, as we draw closer to God, the things we shouldn’t desire will become less important to us. And the things that are left will be things that it won’t be offensive to God for us to ask for. We may not receive everything we desire, because God is still allowing evil to exist on earth, but we can be sure that the Lord desires to give us those things.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's None of Our Business

You may have heard that Mark Driscoll is having problems right now. Without going into the details, his book marketing strategy has been seen as unethical, and perhaps, illegal. I’ll let others sort that out. Now, a letter of apology has been making its way around the Internet. I’ll let you read the letter, if you like.

But what I find more interesting than the letter is the response that some people have given it. While my doctrinal views don’t completely align with those of Mark Driscoll, I felt the letter was very appropriate for the situation. Others did not agree. One person suggested that Mark Driscoll make himself accountable to someone outside his own congregation.

While there may be people outside his congregation that deserve and apology and an apology doesn’t remove any legal obligations that might exist, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything in scripture that says a pastor must be accountable to anyone other than the church and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. And when I say church, I mean that local visible body of baptized believers that he pastors. There are differences in how individual churches choose to govern themselves, but it appears that, at Mars Hill Church, it is the Board of Advisors and Accountability that is authorized by the church to hold their pastor accountable.

Short of any legal concerns, for those of us outside of that church, it is none of our business. Mark Driscoll is accountable to that church and he wrote a letter to that church. It is not my place to criticize the letter he wrote to them or to question his sincerity.

That’s one of the things I hate about the view of “the church” being everyone who ever accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. People take that as authority to stick their nose into the business of a church they have nothing to do with. You won’t find them visiting the sick of that church, or even attending their worship services, but they’re all too eager to tell them how long the rope should be to hang their pastor.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about the things we can learn from this situation. Don’t do what Mark Driscoll did by allowing a ghost writer to plagiarize material, for example. Or when you do something wrong, do like Mark Driscoll and apologize. But unless you are a member of Mars Hill Church or some other institution that has authority over Mark Driscoll, it is not your place to decide what should be done to him. That is especially true for Christians. If Christians can’t recognize the value of forgiving someone after they apologize, no one will.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sinning Baptists

A few decades ago, Baptists were known for their hellfire and brimstone preachers who spoke of the evils of drinking, dancing, and going to the movies. People were excluded from the church frequently “for heresy” and many eventually apologized to the church and were welcomed back into the fellowship (though some did not). But today, the world is a different place. No longer do the Baptists who drink hide it, just in case the preacher comes around, they post pictures of it on Facebook. And many have lost sight of why dancing was considered wrong. Many people have the idea that as long as the dancing doesn’t happen in the church building, it is okay. If you read Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4, it seems like that if there is anywhere that dancing is okay, it ought to be “in the congregation of the saints” (Psalm 149:1). And as for movies, now churches bring them in and show them on the big screen in the auditorium.

It’s a kinder, gentler church environment, but are we better off for it? I’m not sure how to answer that. Some say we are. Some say that it really wasn’t necessary for the preachers of the past to take such a hardline approach, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and our responsibility is to love people. Telling people that what they are doing is wrong will just run them off—perhaps to a church that doesn’t teach the truth, or out of church altogether.

One approach that seems to work for pastors is to take the high road. Just preach through the Bible. Pick a book and preach what it says. When a pastor gets to Matthew 19:9, he’s going to preach about adultery and divorce, no matter how many in the church have been involved in those things. And it isn’t he who is picking on them; Jesus is the one who said it.

It doesn’t work that way on the Internet. Even if you write posts by moving chapter by chapter through the Bible, people will pick and choose what they read. If you write about the Book of Jude, people are going to read what you say about homosexuality, not what you say about “[giving] all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation.” And if you participate in social media, others will pick the topic and you are left to either participate or not. If you mention what the Bible says about what people are doing, it may be seen as “judging.” But if you say nothing, either they won’t realize you are reading their posts, or they’ll assume that you approve of their actions.

I struggle with this every time I post something on the Internet. If I post what I really think about some of the things I see, I’m likely to make someone angry. If all I do is post things that are all touchy feely and nice, I might as well not post anything at all, because people don’t read that stuff. So, since I don’t know how to answer my own question, I’ll end with a quote from the first Baptist, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why Would God Make Man?

When I was a kid, I used to play in the dirt. I had a few favorite places. I had a spot on the hillside. I had a hole in the chicken yard. Sometimes I would go over to the neighbor’s house and play in the pigpen. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

As you get older, you begin to realize that dirt is something people avoid. People who make lots of money don’t have to play in the dirt. They pay other people to do the dirty jobs. A few will play in the dirt, just for the fun of it, but having money and respect means you get the choose when you get dirty. The boss never gets dirty. That’s for the common worker.

We know that Jesus, who is God, chose to humble himself as the lowest human being he could be. (Philippians 2:5-11) We also know that God sent his Son because he loved the world. (John 3:16) But why did God create man in the first place? And what does that have to do with dirt?

Some people will tell you that God’s creation of man had something to do with God’s glory. Though God is glorified by man, I have a hard time believing that is why God created us. He had plenty of glory without us. And we’ve been an awful lot of trouble. And yet, Jesus humbled himself and made himself obedient to death, just so we could be saved. He will be glorified because of it, but it is the love of God that caused him to make that choice.

Now think about that dirt again. And think about when God created man. Look at Genesis 2:7. God formed man from dust and then he breathed into that dirt the breath of life. I’ve often looked at this passage and thought about how low man is. We’re nothing but the dust of the ground. But think about how low God had to make himself, to give us life. We have this image of God stooping down and shaping the dust. Then he bends over it and breathes into it. Man is the only part of creation that God had to touch, and we were nothing but dirt. Where is the glory in that? And if it weren’t bad enough, most of us will reject him. Where is the glory? What makes it worthwhile for God to humble himself to make us, and then humble himself to pay our sin debt? Why didn’t he make something else?

When we look at it in terms of God’s love instead of his glory, it starts to make sense. Unlike us, who don’t experience love until we get to know someone, God loved us before we were made. In fact, God has the ability to make those he loves. So it isn’t farfetched for us to say that the reason God would stoop down to form man from dust and breathe in to his nostrils is because of God’s love for man.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm Going on a Mission Trip...Probably

Our church is planning a short-term mission trip this summer and my intention is to go. I’m excited because we’re going with the intent of helping a BMAA church planter. The BMAA is where much of our church’s mission money goes, so helping a BMAA church planter with a project is one way to multiply the effectiveness of the money we’re already sending.

I’ve helped church planters and churches before, but not with quite the level of organization it appears we’ll have for this trip. This will be a new experience for me, because when I’ve helped church planters in the past, I’ve just shown up with tools and work clothes. I don’t remember there ever being a T-shirt, and there wasn’t a fund-raiser because you paid your own bills.

For this trip, the cost is expected to be $400 per person. The handout we were given says that participants are expected to pay only $200 of that and the rest will come from fund raisers and existing funds. If I go, I intend to pay my own way. I realize there’s something to be said for allowing others a blessing by giving for part of the expense. But I have sufficient funds to pay my own way, so maybe those who give will receive a greater blessing by giving to support those who can’t.

I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a vacation that didn’t involve visiting family or sitting through meetings. Not that those are bad things, but this will be different.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Blessing is Like a Package

A blessing is like a package. Someone tells about something good in their life and others say, “What a blessing that is!” Or someone will ask how a person is doing and that person will say, “I’m blessed.” We throw the word around, but what does it really mean to be blessed? And what does it mean to bless God?

Jesus said, “Bless them that curse you.” This was in the sermon on the mount and a few verses earlier he had named off the blessed—the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek… And then he had talked about the need for us to live in such a way that we are a stark contrast with the sin that is going on in the world. One way we do that is to bless the people that curse us, but what does that mean.

A blessing is the opposite of a curse. An example of a curse is, “I hope he wakes up and can’t talk.” Someone might say that after learning that the lead in a play went to someone else. A similar example of a blessing would be, “I know he’ll do a good job.”

You may be thinking, if that’s all a blessing is, that doesn’t sound like what people are talking about when they say they are blessed. A blessing, as with a curse, is only as powerful as the person who backs up the words. Consider a witch who is trying to curse someone. In witchcraft, this is done by invoking the name of some being of the spirit realm. Their belief is that if you know the name of the demon or spirit, it must obey. The curse would only be powerful if that demon has power to carry it out.

Enter God into the picture. He spoke and the world came into being. He is incapable of lying, because when he speaks, what he says is so becomes so, if it wasn’t already. If God were to say, “that man isn’t going to be able to talk when he wakes up tomorrow,” That man wouldn’t be able to talk when he wakes up. If God says, “that woman will be healed tomorrow,” that woman would be healed. We can't force God to do something by calling his name, but if he says it will happen, it will happen.

So a blessing is like a package that is coming in the mail. We’re going to get it eventually, but it may not be here yet. While it may be true that a person who has some nice things going on in their life is blessed, the same may be true of the person who has some nasty things happening to them. Look at the people Jesus mentioned, again. “The poor in spirit, those that mourn…” Though we may not feel very blessed when we mourn, we are. The blessing is there in the Bible for us to see. “…they shall be comforted.” Comfort has already been promised for those who mourn. The package is on the way, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Personality is no Excuse for Bad Bible


he article is titled Why English Majors Make Lousy Fundamentalists and is written by Morgan Guyton. Morgan is a Methodist preacher. He begins by saying that is personality type is INFP in the Myers-Briggs system and so doesn’t “like to deal with hard facts and logic” and doesn’t “understand or believe in the validity of impersonal judgment.” He also equates this with an English major. He then lists and comments on seven instincts of English majors when reading the Bible.

  1. Unsubtle communication is bad writing
  2. Narrators are supposed to have agenda
  3. It’s all about the metaphors
  4. We make analogies
  5. We expect characters to be complicated
  6. Poetry trumps grammar and history
  7. Every text has multiple voices

I’ll leave it to you to read his comments concerning each one. I think you will find that there is some truth to what he says. Large portions of the Bible are written as poetry. So, if we’re going to understand the Bible, we’re going to have to put our poetry hat on. And when you look at the gospels, we see the same story told from slightly different points of view. Metaphors are also important to our understanding of the Bible, or we’ll never have any hope of understanding the parables of Jesus. Analogies are important if we are going to use what we know from one part of the Bible to understand another part. As for characters being complicated, there can be no greater complication than a holy God who cannot look upon sin, who loves sinful man so much that he wants to have fellowship with him, whatever the cost. Is it significant that ekklesia is a compound word? I don’t think Jesus picked that word by accident. Can we say that the Bible has multiple voices? Take a look at the Book of Job. Of course the Bible has multiple voices.

But we also need to understand that the Bible has some cold hard facts. When you get over into the genealogies, for example, you can’t turn that into a metaphor. There is danger in trying to turn things into metaphors when God didn’t intend for them to be metaphors, just as there is danger in trying to take something that God intended to be a metaphor and forcing it to mean something that God didn’t intend. Part of the Bible is subtle, but some of it is as subtle as a Mack truck. Galatians 5:21 isn’t very subtle when it says, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

It is ironic that the writer justifies turning Genesis 1 into a metaphor by saying a literal interpretation is a “contradiction of modern science.” The best that science can do is look at the way things are now and speculate on a way in which those things could come to be. There are many scientists who believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. If you want to know what happened during World War II, you would ask someone who lived through it, not someone who has only read about it. So, if you want to know how the world was created, don’t you think you should ask the person who created it? Besides which, the order of creation in the Bible and the order that evolutionary scientists suggest don’t match. If the Bible is the infallible Word of God, metaphor or not, the order of creation tells us that “modern scientists” have it wrong.

I’m not sure why the writer goes into a discussion of the word ekklesia under the heading “poetry trumps grammar and history,” but that’s what he chose to do. His claim is that it is more significant that ekklesia is a compound noun from ek (out) and klesia (calling), than it is that during the time of Jesus the word ekklesia referred to “an assembly.” But proper interpretation isn’t one or the other, but we’ve got to consider both. Take the words “horsefly” and “dragonfly.” A horsefly isn’t a horse that flies, but a fly that we often see on the back of horses. But a dragonfly isn’t a fly that we see on dragons, rather it is a fly that looks like a dragon. It takes more than just combining two words to understand what it means. So, an understanding of what people thought of when Jesus used the word is important. But there’s more to it than that. We also have to look that the context in which it is used. The vast majority of the times it is used in the Bible, the word ekklesia is referring a local assembly. Don’t take my word for that, go look. There are a few instances where it is used and the context doesn’t make it obvious that it is a local assembly, but nowhere is it used in such a way that using the word “assembly” to interpret it would not fit the context.

Our personalities may influence the things we notice when we read the Bible, but one’s personality isn’t a good reason for bad doctrine. Maybe you don’t enjoy reading “the facts” of the Bible as much as someone else, but that doesn’t make them any less true. And maybe someone doesn’t get as much out of the poetry as someone else, but that is no excuse for skipping it. God didn’t give us the Bible so we could pick and choose what we want to read. He gave us the whole thing. Just as the words are from God, the literary form of the books is from God. Let’s take the time to understand what God is saying, even if he says it in a way we don’t enjoy reading.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dangerous Backflow

The Oscars were last night. I didn’t watch it, and it appears I didn’t miss much. If the reports on the new are anything to go by, the highlight of the evening was that a bunch of actors huddled up for a group “selfie.” The Oscars, like all awards shows, are about people in the industry congratulating other people within the industry for how well they did. Why would they do something like that? Ultimately, it encourages people working within the industry to do a better job.

But for the rest of us, it is a reminder of how much influence Hollywood has. It is understandable that the people in the motion picture industry are interested in who won what, but why should anyone else care? By the time The Oscars happen, people have already spent the money they’re going to spend on the movies that have been nominated. You can attribute it to hero worship, glamour, fancy clothing or several other things, but the fact remains that Hollywood has influence.

Sadly, Hollywood has significant influence. The people with the most significant influence are the actors—the liars, the people paid to pretend to be someone they are not, the people selected more because of how they look and the sound of their voice than for the intelligence in their heads. Predominantly, the Hollywood people we see are well-spoken, attractive, likable people, so people listen to what they say, even when they are completely lacking in wisdom.

Cartoonist Gary Thomas showed it as the sewage of Hollywood being dumped into the minds of the American public. Though it wouldn’t help the cartoon any, a more accurate picture would show that sewage flowing back into Hollywood as well. Hollywood feeds on its own waste. The garbage that comes from the minds of those who have made it into the upper ranks of Hollywood feeds into the minds of the people who hope to make it to that level in their careers. The moral compass is broken. People define their own morals based on what seems good at the time and then they promote it like it is the truth. The people looking to make it in Hollywood listen to these people because their success is seen as evidence that they know what they’re talking about. By the time they do make it, their minds are full of the same sewage that fills the minds of the rest of Hollywood.

To make it worse, there are a lot of Christians who are turning to Hollywood as their source of truth, rather than looking to the real source of truth. And many don’t realize that is what they are doing.