Friday, December 30, 2016

A Short, Helpful Video on the Political Situation in Modern Israel

Regardless of what you think about the modern state of Israel from a religious perspective, you will benefit from this excellent video's explanation of the political turmoil between Israel and its neighbors. While the video's name is over the top, the actual content is solid.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Is Not Killing People

The older I get the more tired I grow of people offering up mindless platitudes when other people die. This is happening quite a bit right now as several celebrities have died within the past week. This blogger provides some helpful, sane, realistic, and truthful thoughts regarding what has brought about many of these celebrity deaths: substance abuse.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Small Groups Shouldn't Have to Exist

I found the above graphic on a random church's website. The clear implication is that their church needs small groups in order to do life together because "We can't do life alone." Another (I'm sure unintended) implication is that their other church activities do not involve doing life together.

It is a sad thing that so many churches in our country feel the need for small groups. The reality is that small groups shouldn't have to exist. When a church gathers, mutual edification and fellowship should automatically occur. However, churches that express the need for small groups are admitting - albeit inadvertently - that their worship services, for example, do not foster community.

When any church comes together, it ought to feel like a family gathering. Assuming that you had a nice Thanksgiving Day with family, that is how a church get together should be. You hang out, talk a lot, eat a bunch, discuss life, and maybe even watch some football (especially if an awesome team like my Buffalo Bills is playing). Christ's body comes together for the very purpose of the mutual upbuilding of the body.

In the context of church gatherings, the Apostle Paul writes, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up" (I Cor. 14:26).

Paul also says the following, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Eph. 4:15-16).

Mutual edification is not some by-product of church meetings. It is the primary purpose of those meetings!

Small groups should not be needed because every church activity ought to be doing life together. That's how mutual edification occurs. If that's not happening, then those other activities should be quickly jettisoned.

Large churches embrace small groups (or "Life Groups" or whatever else they are called these days) because their large worship service/ceremonies do not bring about mutual edification. It's that simple.

When we follow the pattern for church life that God has given to us in the Bible, then there's no need for small groups. This is because the small setting, with meetings ideally occurring in homes, naturally leads to mutual edification and healthy body life.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Well, this post is a day late but I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas day yesterday. I also hope that you have some time off work this week to spend with family and friends. Against all odds, I actually have twelve (12!) days off in a row. It is glorious.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been in a blogging rut of late. I love Christ and His church and am (I hope) living this out. However, I can’t find much to write about. Therefore, my post frequency has dropped. I’d rather only blog a couple of times per month than post a bunch of filler. We’ll see what happens as 2017 approaches.

Speaking of that, I hope you have a blessed New Year and a great beginning to January!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Can I Do? What Can You Do?

I confess to lamenting too much about what the church in this country is not. When I look in the Bible I see so much modeled for us, not to mentioned commanded to us, that the church fails do to and be. This can get demoralizing after a while.

While not ignoring the obvious problems in the body of Christ, I’d like to focus at least a little more on what the church can be. Christ’s body has great potential for good specifically because it is in Christ. Through His power we can glorify Him through edifying each other and serving the world. I’d like to spend time thinking about what I can do to make the church stronger.

It’s just so easy to point at what others are failing to do. It’s much more convicting to muse about what I can do differently. For one, I know that I need to take my focus off myself and place it upon the needs of others. I’m not saying that I necessarily like that idea, but frankly it needs to happen.

I encourage you to think along with me. What can you do differently to greater serve the body of Christ and/or the world?

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Nation Shocked, Horrified As Christians Hold Christian Position"

Satire is best served when it comes very close to reality. The Babylon Bee manages to do this again and again. A recent post entitled "Nation Shocked, Horrified As Christians Hold Christian Position" is one of their best.

Click here to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peter's Story

I'd like to thank Peter for sharing his story with us. Like many of you (and me), Pete is a follower of Christ but does not attend an institutional church. He's the first person to take me up on the offer of posting his story on my blog. Thanks Pete! Everything below is word-for-word what he emailed to me:

First, let me share with you that I do believe in God, Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I do not neglect reading and studying God's word, and I do fellowship with other believers on a semi-regular basis. With that said, I'll move on down the road.

It all started when a friend asked our pastor "how do you address the needs of seniors in our congregation." Well, he said, "they just kind of fall through the cracks." When our friend told us that, it really started me thinking, "something is wrong here. It's about relationships right?" So, our friend suggested that we start a home fellowship. I wish I could paint a picture that everything went smoothly, we started a home fellowship and we lived happily ever after, but it didn't happen. I was riddled with guilt about not attending the "Institution" on one hand, and on the other hand, in retrospect, I wasn't being led by the spirit.

However, these events set the wheels in motion for me to research and find out the truth about the Institutional church and how it had become a system cloaked in the "traditions of men" after the first century.

So, where am I today?" Do I attend a home fellowship?" Nope! "Do I fellowship with other believers?" Yup! "Am I excited about reading your stories of how you transitioned out of the Institution to meeting as the First-Century believers did?" You betcha I do! "Will we make some connections with each other?" I sure hope so!

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Opportunity to Tell Your Story

Since you are reading this blog, you probably have some sort of unique church story. It's likely that you at one time were part of the institutional church model, but have departed from that for simpler waters. Or, you may be struggling with institutional practices, but have not left because you love the people with whom you meet. Or, it's possible that you've never been involved in the institutional model and have no intention of doing so. Or, you stumbled upon this blog and have no idea what you are reading about.

Assuming that you are not part of the last option I mentioned, I'd like to share your story on this blog. I find it fascinating to read about others' church journeys. While we of the departed often have similarities, the details are frequently different. Not only does it encourage me to read about it, but it often helps people to put their own thoughts together on paper (or a computer screen). Therefore, if you would like to tell your story, here is your opportunity. Please just let me know in the comments section of this post; we can then get in touch via email with the details. I'm not hoping for books, but rather just blog post entry length articles telling the main points of how you have arrived where you are concerning the church. After we discuss it, I'll post your story right here on this blog for all to read and be edified. Thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Need a Christmas Gift Idea? Try This.

(WARNING: somewhat shameless promotion below)

Two years ago at about this time Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity hit print. This book, which I edited, was written by over twenty different contributors. Each chapter deals with a different issue related to theology, faith, and church life. Although we certainly do not agree on everything, the authors all stand united in two things. The primary is that Jesus Christ is Lord. The secondary is that church life ought to be informal and follow the model given to us in scripture.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift idea for someone else, or if you need something to ask for yourself, why not try this book?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Informal Gatherings Are Such a Relief

Did you grow up getting dressed up for church in your Sunday best?

I did.

I also did most of the other stuff that goes along with institutional Christianity. The normal Sunday included getting dressed up in uncomfortable clothes, attending a Sunday School class, attending a worship service (ceremony), going home for a few hours to hurry up and relax, then returning to the church building to do much of the same all over again.

I do not fault my parents in this; it's just the tradition that had been handed down to them. Even after I became an adult I kept doing this same stuff for many years. I even went to seminary, and then became an institutional church pastor for a few years. I was at the core of institutional church activities.

What a relief simple gatherings are! Sundays are now something I genuinely look forward to. On most Sundays we get together informally with some friends. Sometimes it's at our house, sometimes not. I can wear shorts and a T-shirt if I want to. We almost always study the bible and pray. We also do a lot of hanging out and eating. Sometimes we even watch some football. It is so relaxing. What a relief from institutional trappings!

When you meet with other believers, is it a relief? Is it a Christ-centered get together? Are you relaxed? Do you look forward to it? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Introverts Unite

This past week we celebrated my 46th birthday. Of the variety of gifts I received this T-shirt is my favorite. Quite honestly, it describes me very well. Although I have a blog, I'm generally pretty introverted. Maybe you are, too. In that case, go ahead and get this shirt. We can unite in our introversion (we just won't ever talk about it).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why The South Is The Most Dangerous Place To Live On Earth

The final vestiges of Christendom reside here. That's why they call it "The Bible Belt."

At a physical level, the most dangerous places to live are probably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, North Korea, or any inner city of the United States. However, if we're talking about spiritual danger, then the southern U.S.A. has got to be the most dangerous. That's because it's one of the few locations on earth where it's still more socially advantageous to be a Christian than not be.

Persecution, while unpleasant to say the least, has a way of purifying the church. It separates the wheat from the chaff. When trial comes, those who aren't truly in Christ bail out quickly. This type of thing is happening increasingly across the United States (albeit to much smaller degree than the persecutions many of our brothers and sisters in Christ face overseas). The South remains different, at least for now. Many folks continue to have some sort of vague connection to both the term "Christian" and an institutional church of some type. They may even be a "local church member."

As most of you know, I call Savannah, Georgia my home. I was raised in Western New York State, so I know what life is like outside of the Bible Belt. When I was about twenty-five, Alice and I moved south. I soon realized that almost everybody called somewhere church. The odd folks were the ones with no church home. This despite the fact that many only "went to church" on Easter and Christmas.

Things are changing. As our culture in general becomes increasingly secular, the South does as well. It's just that the South is, in my opinion, two to three generations behind the rest of the country in its movement away from Christendom. Because of this, many Southerners continue to believe they are fine spiritually despite the lack of fruit (evidence) in their lives.

And that's what makes the South so incredibly dangerous. A person who thinks he is in Christ but who is not is in a more dangerous place than a person who knows he is not in Christ. A false sense of salvation is a terrible place to be. This type of person sees no reason to repent and believe because he thinks he's already fine. However, Jesus made it clear that His followers will bear fruit. No fruit = no salvation.

I love living in the South. However, it is an odd place. I'd bet that no other spot on earth has such a high percentage of cultural Christians. This is a tragedy because they think they are fine but are in fact doomed. Some persecution might do them some good. Persecution is coming; however, since it's still a few years away it might be too late for them.

The South is indeed a dangerous place.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Why I'm Not Taking the Time or Spending the Energy to Debate the Trinity

Most commenters on this blog stay on topic. I appreciate that. One of the unwritten rules of blog interaction is that the topic of the post should also be the topic of the comments.

A few times recently at least one commenter has repeatedly called into question the doctrine of the Trinity. This would be fine if I had, in fact, been blogging about the Trinity. However, I was not (and thus I did not post all of the anti-Trinity comments). It has been a long time since the Trinity was the primary focus of any blog post of mine.

While I love the Trinity, I have no intention of taking the time or spending the energy on debating this doctrine. Why not? There are several reasons. First and primarily, I believe the doctrine is very clear according to scripture. One great example occurs at Jesus' baptism. I could go on and on. It is so clear that debating it is pointless.

Furthermore, within the church as a whole this is a largely settled debate. The church has agreed on the truth of the Trinity for hundreds upon hundreds of years. This is different, for example, from the debate about ecclesiology. Numerous dissenters have always existed against institutional Christianity since very early on (see here for more on that). Not so for the Trinity. I'm not suggesting that all Christians have always been convinced of the truth of the Trinity, but rather that no significant number has failed to adhere to it.

I'm also not going to debate the Trinity because plenty of other paces exist to do so. If you desire to bring up the topic, please do so there. Beyond that, I simply see no benefit in the debate. I don't know what can be gained by discussing in detail something that is, at least in my mind, so clear scripturally. I'd rather talk about, and wrangle over, something that needs to be discussed: the state of the church.

So there it is. If you want to debate the Trinity please do so in other forums. This is not the place. Thank you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

If You Knew Nothing of Christianity, But Then Found a Bible and Read It, What Would You Expect Church Gatherings to Be Like?

In this particular post I'm simply asking a question of you. Please put your answers in the comments section. Maybe we can begin an interesting and edifying discussion. My purpose in this is not to discuss what's wrong with the institutional church, but rather to focus on what can be right when we follow the Biblical pattern for meeting.

QUESTION: As much as you can, pretend that you know absolutely nothing of Christianity. You find a Bible and begin to read it. Based on what you see instructed to us and modeled for us in scripture, what would you expect church gatherings to be like?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Marathon Finished!

This morning I ran in and completed the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

I'd like to thank all of you who prayed for me. My feet did in fact hurt for over half the race. At one point I prayed to God to relieve the pain. Soon after my lower legs and feet went numb. No joke. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but God's answers to prayers are far wiser than ours would be. Although the feet issue slowed me down a bit, I was still able to achieve both of my primary goals: 1) finish the race, and 2) finish fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2018.

Boston has set standards based upon age and gender. Males ages 45-49 have to complete a marathon in under 3 hours, 25 minutes. This morning I semi-staggered across the finish line in 3 hours, 20 minutes, 33 seconds. Woo-hoo! I came in third in my age group out of 169, and 53rd overall out of 2225.

This has been a journey that began for me in February 2015. That's when I decided to live a more healthy life. One of my first goals was to finish last year's RnR Marathon. However, as I've chronicled previously, the weather last November was so hot and humid on race day that the directors and city officials cut the race short. Ugh. For the last 365 days I've anticipated today.

God delivered an added bonus. Earlier this week it was hot, with high temperatures in the mid 80's. However, this morning it was about 55 degrees with low humidity. I had been praying for weather like that for weeks. Thank you God for answering. It made for perfect race weather.

Additionally, this morning was even more fun because my wife Alice and daughter Mary tag-teamed the half marathon in relay form. Mary ran the first seven miles, and Alice walked the final six (she couldn't run due to an ankle sprain from five weeks ago). They were waiting for me at the finish line. It was awesome.

Thank you again for praying. I very much appreciate it.

A Quote for Today

"If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down, because that means I didn't run hard enough." 

-Steve Jones, former marathon world record holder

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Hi, fellow followers of Jesus. Today I'm writing with a specific and somewhat self-centered prayer request.

In two days I'm running in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. This is something that I have been looking forward to for a year. However, my ability to participate at all is now in question.

To put it simply, both of my feet are hurting. Although I do not have a diagnosis, my guess is that my right foot has a case of Plantar Fasciitis. My left foot, on the other hand (please excuse the terrible pun), feels more like Achilles Tendinities. Both stem from over-training.

I'm asking you to pray for me to be able to run in the marathon. I may have to take a break from running for a while afterward. If that is the case, so be it. However, this particular marathon, in my home city, is a goal I've had for 365 days. Please pray that God will extend His mercy toward me by relieving the pain for the race.

I don't want to hyper-spiritualize this event. It's just a marathon after all. However, since it has been something I've anticipated and worked toward all year I would hate to miss it. Thank you so much for praying.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sola Feels?

In keeping with yesterday's Reformation theme, I hope you are familiar with the 5 Solas of the Reformation. These are Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

In our increasingly postmodern, truth-hating society the above Five Solas are not valued. This is not surprising for a God-despising culture. What is surprising and troubling is that a significant number of Christians are now making decisions not based in fact and truth, but in feeling. This is a great danger for the body of Christ.

Babylon Bee has done it again. This piece of satire entitled "Sola Feels" introduces us to this new doctrine in the church. Yikes!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day!

The Protestant Reformation was not a perfect movement, but it certainly did a lot of good. Specifically, God used it to wrench the biblical Gospel out into the open. The Roman Catholic Church was no longer allowed to shroud the Gospel of grace under its false, works-based teachings.

Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany was a significant event. It occurred on October 31st, 1517 (as an aside, next year will hold lots of 500 year celebrations of Luther's act). However, it wasn't the most important thing to happen. Rather than one big thing, the Reformation was a conglomeration of many different, semi-related little things that happened over the span of a few hundred years. In the end, the true Gospel was freed from the clutches of those who hate it.

If not for the Reformation, I doubt that I would know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That's why I cherish the Reformation.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Running Update - Marathon in One Week!

The high point of my running year is the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. This race, which is by far our city's largest, is one massive event. Over 20,000 runners take part (about 3/4 in the half marathon, 1/4 in the full). It all concludes with a free concert in Forsyth Park. Tourists/runners from all over flock to Savannah for this race.

I've been training for this for almost a year. My personal journey began in February 2015 when I decided it was time to lose weight and get in shape. With much help from my wonderful wife Alice, I changed the way I eat and began running seriously. My weight is down from 225 to 175 and holding. My running goal was to complete the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in November 2015 in under four hours.

Everything progressed well until race day. That's when the weather decided to be abnormally hot and humid for that time of year. As I approached the 21 mile mark of the 26.2 mile race, I was informed that race organizers and city officials had decided to cut the race short due to the heat (two runners actually died). It was extremely disappointing. In the end I ran about 24 miles in 3 hours, 35 minutes. Therefore, I likely would have finished solidly under four hours. But I didn't get to complete the 26.2! Aarrgh!

Since that debacle I've been looking forward one year. However, this time it's going to be different (and I'm not referring to the weather). I have no idea how hot or not it will be. The difference this year is that I'm trying to run a time fast enough to qualify for the granddaddy of them all - the Boston Marathon. In order to do that, I've got to finish in under 3 hours, 25 minutes. That's a 7:40 mile pace for 26.2 miles.

Next Saturday I make my attempt. The distance will not be the problem; it's the time that is the challenge.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Christian Postmodernism Run Amok: "That's Unchristlike."

Christian #1 speaks the truth on a difficult topic. Christian #2 does not like what Christian #1 has said and/or it makes him feel uncomfortable. Christian #2 either knows that Christian #1 speaks the truth, does not know whether or not Christian #1 speaks the truth, or does not care whether or not Christian #1 speaks the truth. Christian #2 says to Christian #1, "You're being unchristlike."

Wham! The trump card has been played! Game, set, and match to Christian #2.

The above scenario happened to me recently on social media. I said something against homosexuality or some other prized topic of the Progressives. A Christian brother soon informed me that I was being "unchristlike." Since it was social media, I think I just let the conversation drop. I figured there was no point in pursuing it.

This a prime example of the postmodern poison that has crept into the church. Postmodernism is so dangerous because it not only attacks truth claims, but it also attacks the concept of truth itself. It calls the very essence of truth into question. In that regard, it (ironically) makes a most staggering of truth claims by asserting that objective truth does not exist.

Christianity is a belief system founded in truth. God truly exists as Father, Son, and Spirit. God truly made the world and everything in it. The Son of God truly came to earth as the God-Man. He truly lived a perfect life and died a perfect death. He truly rose from the grave on the third day. I could go on, and on, and on. Christianity is real in space and time. It is both truth and fact.

To borrow a term from Christian theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, Christianity is "true truth."

Apart from truth, Christianity simply falls into the waste bin of man's false religions.

It is a sad thing that many in the church today are embarrassed by some of the truth claims of Christianity. Some are embarrassed by the creation account in Genesis. Some are embarrassed by the virgin birth. Still others are embarrassed by the resurrection of Christ. However, my guess is that the most are embarrassed by what the bible has to say regarding moral/ethical issues.

When we speak the truth about issues of this sort, in particular homosexuality, we are flying in the face of all sorts of increasing social pressures. Christians, and I use that term loosely here, who do not like these sorts of statements simply fall back on their trump card: the claim of unchristlikeness. Since they do not want to deal with the issue of truth at all, they resort to postmodernistic claims that focus on feelings.

At the same time, they may say something like, "Remember to speak the truth in love." What they really mean is, "Stop speaking the truth at all you bigot. You are being mean."

In the postmodern world the only love is one that accepts all behaviors as valid (as long as they fit inside the Progressive, liberal, socialistic narrative). For the postmodern Christian, the label of "unchristlike" is their ace in the hole. Since it is not well defined, they can throw it around willy-nilly. It's sort of like another ridiculous term that the left wing loves to use: white privilege.

Back to "unchristlike." The term heavily implies that the person speaking the truth is not being like Jesus. Of course, to the Progressive person Jesus was simply a guy who walked around healing people and loving on them, but who never said anything about nasty topics such as holiness and repentance. However, we know that Jesus actually said lots about those things.

Jesus also spoke some fairly harsh words from time to time. They were also true. Read Matthew chapter 23. Jesus referred to the scribes and Pharisees as children of Hell, blind guides, blind fools, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, and brood of vipers among other things. According to the postmodernists, Jesus Christ sounds "unchristlike"!

The fact is that we, the body of Christ, must indeed speak the truth in love. But we must speak the truth.

We are not of Pilate who asked in John 18:38, "What is truth?" Rather, we are of the one who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6a). Truth is loving because it is ultimately from God, and He is the source of all truth. Political correctness and postmodernism are evil because they aim to suppress the truth. Postmodernism would have us believe that everything is relative. Jesus tells us otherwise.

Sometimes it is difficult to listen to the truth because it exposes sinfulness in our own lives. However, it's far better that we hear it and act upon it than never hear it at all. It can at other times be difficult to speak the truth. This is especially the case when confronting someone we love with their sin. We must show tact and grace, but we must speak the truth no matter what the cost.

It is never unchristlike to speak the truth.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Truth is Revolutionary

Interestingly, this quote actually may not have come from George Orwell (author of the famous and troubling classic 1984). Regardless, the quote rings true as our culture sprints farther and farther away from the truth every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Four Excellent Books on Biblical Interpretation

Some Christians struggle to interpret the bible correctly but wish they could do so. Others don't interpret it correctly and don't seem to care. Additionally, some passages are tough for just about anybody to comprehend. Because of all this, it's critical that we, Christ's church, do our best to understand what God is saying in scripture. One reason for the general impotence of the church in this country is that many Christians fail when interpreting what the bible means.

I'd like to recommend four excellent books that focus specifically on biblical interpretation. None are boring textbook types. Rather, they are enjoyable reads that you can work through without undue effort. I benefited from all four. I've previously written about them individually on this blog, but I'm grouping them together here in case you want to study a few at the same time.

In no particular order:

Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

This book is a classic. Part of that is because Carson is a both prolific and wonderful writer. In this short text (only 140 pages) he covers word-study fallacies, grammatical fallacies, logical fallacies, and presuppositional and historical fallacies. A basic knowledge of New Testament Greek helps quite a bit when reading this book; I wouldn't say it is required, but it is a large benefit. If I could recommend only one book on biblical interpretation this would be the one.

40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

I love the layout of this book. The author asks and answers forty specific questions as the forty chapters. This is superb because it allows the reader to easily pick and choose which chapters to read. I'm also pleased that Plummer deals quite a bit with genre, which is an often ignored but critical issue.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff

This book is a lot of fun to read. Bargerhuff's text is composed of eighteen chapters that focus on eighteen common, incorrect biblical interpretations. For example, he tackles "Do not judge," "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you," "Where two or three are gathered," "If my people who are called by my name," "Money is the root of all evil," "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and several others. This would be a great book for any Christian to read, especially those who are first wading into the issue of biblical interpretation.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

Urban Legends of the New Testament by David Croteau

Croteau's book is similar to Bargerhuff's but a little more advanced. Urban Legends deals with forty poor interpretations specifically of New Testament passages. If you are more than a beginner in interpreting the bible, then I recommend this text over The Most Misused Verses in the Bible. Think of Bargerhuff's book as being more fun, but Croteau's as being more beneficial.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

For other reading on biblical interpretation, take a look at two blog series I've written on this subject:

Church, Bible, And Interpretation - It's Not So Simple
Old Testament Interpretive Problems Always Lead to Church Problems

Finally, enjoy:

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Wife's Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew

My wife Alice is an awesome woman. Truly she is. God has greatly blessed us with over twenty-five years of wedded bliss.

Alice is also an excellent writer. Click here to read her musings about our night with Hurricane Matthew.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog Series Favorites

As the years have rolled along I've written several blog series. Some are better than others. My four favorites are below. I encourage you to take a look and tell me what you think.

Church, Bible, And Interpretation - It's Not So Simple

Homosexuality - an appropriate Christian response

Twenty-Five Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign

Unavoidable Church Principles

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Adopted, Redeemed, and Sealed!

My favorite section of Ephesians is 1:3-14. In these twelve verses, which are actually one sentence in Greek, Paul describes for us a vast array of spiritual blessings that God has bestowed upon us. It is truly amazing.

The three blessings that jump off the page at me are adoption, redemption, and sealing. Because of God's grace and that alone, we are made His children, we are bought back from our sin debt, and we are secured for eternity. This is accomplished through the perfect working together of the Trinity. God the Father adopts, God the Son redeems, and God the Holy Spirit seals.

God's grace is stunning. Let's never cease being awestruck by the gift of salvation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We Survived Hurricane Matthew

The photos I'm posting tell you all you need to know about the situation in Savannah right now. The picture above is terribly ironic; that should be dry ground under the sign. Savannah is currently littered with large, fallen trees. One of our fair city's nicknames is "The Forest City." When a hurricane strikes, some of that forest comes down. The trees are actually a much bigger problem than the flooding, which has been limited. I thank the Lord for keeping anything bad from happening to my family and my home. We are all safe, and we now have power (the electricity was out for about 65 hours). For a litte while early Saturday morning it looked like the large pond behind our house (pictured below) might flood. After much prayer and frequent forays by me into the wind and rain to check, the pond receded. Thank you so much for praying for us. I'm glad that Savannah rarely gets hit with storms like this. I'll be happy to never see another.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Back to School...Sort Of

Today I begin a voyage back to school of sorts. Specifically, I'm taking a "mini-mester" class at Armstrong Atlantic State University (ASU). Armstrong is located just five minutes from our home here in Savannah; it's also where two of my kids currently go to college. Our third child has already graduated from ASU.

I've already earned a Bachelor's degree (from here) and two Master's degrees (from here and here). So why return to school? The answer is simple. In order for me to become re-certified as a school psychologist, I have to take a couple of college classes. I'm taking one this fall, and another in the spring. My goal is to become re-certified through the state by next April and then apply for a school psychologist position in the local schools. I worked as a public school psychologist from 1996 to 2002, so the transition would not be difficult.

I'm pursuing this not because school psychology is a wonderful thing. It has plenty of pros and cons. However, it would be a life improvement over my current situation at JCB. I'd have a much nicer schedule, including a large chunk of time off during the summer. I'd also be on salary, which would allow us to set a budget. Additionally, it is an occupation that I could do until I'm 70ish (almost no physical component).

The class should not be too difficult since it is just entry level. However, it is fully online. I've never done that before. It should be interesting. My kids can help me since they are of the technology generation.

My schedule is about to go insane for the next month. Not only am I starting this class, but I'm also in training for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. I'm hoping to not only complete the 26.2 miles, but also to do so fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. We'll see about that.

Due to all of the above, I have no idea how much blogging I'll be doing between now and Thanksgiving. It may have to take a backseat for a while. I'm certain that the world will not come to an end because of it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Update: So Far, So Good

Hurricane Matthew continues its slow slog up the east coast, with the eye currently south of Jacksonville. On the above map Savannah is located where the black mark is. We are getting consistent rain and some wind. There have been a couple of tornado warnings, but none have been too close to us. So far, so good.

As with most hurricanes, the primary danger is not the wind (even though that's what generally makes the headlines). The real problem is the combination of storm surge and high tide. For the Savannah area that will occur early tomorrow morning around one o'clock. It's difficult to predict how much of the area will see flooding. One nice thing is that the city was originally founded on a bluff above the Savannah River. Because of this, the entire historic district is located at one of the highest points in Chatham County. No flooding for them.

As for our family, we think our home should be O.K. All the projection maps we have seen show us staying dry. Other residents of our fair city may not be so blessed. One way or the other, it's going to be a long night ahead.

I will attempt to update in the morning if we have power.

Thanks again for your prayer.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Approaches

Here it comes.

Hurricane Matthew is gradually creeping toward the southeastern coast of the United States. Although the slow-moving storm could still deviate from its present course, the projections have been fairly consistent over the past few days. Florida is going to take a beating. We in Savannah won't get it that bad, but it's still going to be unpleasant. The worst of it for us should occur between tomorrow morning and mid-day Saturday. We'll almost certainly have at least tropical storm force winds, multiple inches of rain, and power outages.

I'm thankful that we won't have to deal with anything like the poor residents of Haiti. While we may have a hot house for a few days due to a lack of air conditioning, many Haitians probably now have nowhere to live and nothing to eat. In light of that, I'll try not to complain too much.

On the positive side, JCB closed down for today and tomorrow which means an unexpected four day weekend! That means time to hang out with family around the house. Sweet. While some Savannah residents are evacuating, most are going to stay put like us.

Savannah is usually spared from hurricanes because we sit relatively far west. Our longitude is almost the same as that of Cleveland, Ohio. Hurricanes sweeping up the coast almost always miss us as they barrel into the Carolinas somewhere. I guess Matthew didn't get the memo.

I'll likely be off the blogging grid for a few days. Therefore, if you leave a comment please don't expect a quick response. I may schedule some posts a few days in advance, but that doesn't mean I actually have internet access.

I appreciate your prayers to our sovereign God for me and my family. Matthew shouldn't end up being that big of a deal; however, a storm of this nature has the potential for quite a bit of damage, especially from flooding.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ephesians Times Ten

Over the past month I've read through the epistle of Ephesians ten times in ten different bible translations. I did this for two reasons. First, I just love Ephesians. It is a treasure trove of glorious truths about both God and His church. Second, I wanted to see the different nuances of the various translations.

The translations I selected were (in alphabetical order) the ESV, HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and YLT. I would have read the epistle in languages other than English, but sadly I am monolingual (at least I'm not monosyllabic).

I attempted to keep an open mind about all the translations. Each has its positives. That said, I do prefer some much more than others. The ESV and NKJV are my favorites. I also like the HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NET, and YLT. I tolerate the NIV. The NLT is too simplistic (these, of course, are all my personal opinions; feel free to disagree).

I gained from all ten readings of the letter. Each time God showed me something different. I thank the Lord that we English speakers are blessed to have so many good translations available to us. I highly encourage you to select a book of the bible and read it through in various translations. If you are a relatively slow reader like me then I suggest a shorter book like Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, James, I Peter, or I John. After that you may decide to bite off something longer such as a Gospel account or Romans. Also, don't forget the Old Testament.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Series Summary: Ten Bad Reasons for Returning to the Church Institution

Some Christians who depart institutional Christianity struggle with the temptation to return. You may have been in that situation in the past, or perhaps you're there right now. It can be a difficult time.

Although I cannot think of any valid reasons for going back to the institution, it's not difficult to think of bad reasons for doing so. In this series I've listed ten specific reasons I've heard for followers of Jesus returning to the tradition-laced model of church they once left behind. None of these reasons are valid. They fail the validity test because none are based in scripture.

Most believers who go back to Rome choose to do so because it's easier. Don't fall for that trap. Stick to the often lonely, more difficult road that is simple church life. Follow God's plan for His body. In the end it will be far more rewarding than the alternative.

The posts:

Series Introduction
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Personal Guilt
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Family-Induced Guilt
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Failure to Find a Small Group
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Kids
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: It's Easy
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: You've Been Told You Are Being Disobedient
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: You Like a Particular Pastor
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: "Well, the New Testament is Simply Descriptive."
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: It's Where Your Extended Family Attends
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: the Lure of the Mega Church

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: the Lure of the Mega Church

This is the final installment in my series Ten Bad Reasons for Returning to the Institution.

The mega church is a fairly modern phenomenon. Massive churches with thousands of attendees meeting in a massive building did not exist even 100 years ago. However, today (at least in the USA) every city has at least one. And that one has an inordinate impact on all the churches around it.

My home, Savannah, has one mega church. That church acts as a giant magnet, attracting believers from other local churches. All the others fear it because they don't want to lose their people. Mega churches like this one don't generally grow from conversion but rather just from believers switching churches.

But why do so many Christians these days end up at mega churches?

I can only speak from the American experience; I do not claim to be familiar with church situations in other countries. In this country, bigger and more expensive is often seen as better. Most mega churches have nice, large, comfortable buildings that cost millions (literally) of dollars. "They must be better than the other churches since so many people attend" so the thinking goes. If nothing else, mega churches make church entertaining for kids. Because of this, children pull to go there. I vividly remember one time visiting what I would call a semi-mega church soon after we moved to seminary. It had a very nice wooden Noah's ark outside that the kids could play all over. My son wanted to go back the next week to play on it some more. We didn't go.

Mega churches are, above all else, comfortable. When you arrive, somebody from the "parking ministry" directs you to a spot. After you drop off your kids at the fun house, you can get your caffeine at the coffee shop (the "coffee ministry"). Then it's off to sit through a Sunday School/small group and then a worship service. After that, go home. Easy-peasy.

I guarantee you that if you give in to the pull of the institutional mega church you will gag at yourself. Stay the course in following the biblical model for church life even if you have to walk alone for a while. The worst thing you can do is follow the lure of the mega church.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: It's Where Your Extended Family Attends

It's completely normal for Christians to hope to meet with extended family members for church. After all, church gatherings should be much like family gatherings. A friend recently told me that when the church comes together it should be much like Thanksgiving afternoon, but with Christ as the central focus. I concur.

But what happens if your extended family attends an institutional church or churches? That is likely the case for most of us. I'm blessed that the vast majority of my extended family follows Jesus. This gives me great joy. However, all of them go to institutional churches of one flavor or another. None of them (zero) agree with me on what the model of church should be.

Should I, therefore, return to the institution to be with extended family? Should you?

In a word: NO!

If you do so you will be miserable. Worse, you may even end up resenting your family because of it.

You will be miserable because all of the reasons you departed the institution remain valid. It is a man-made framework that has no place in the bible. It is based far more in Rome than scripture. It is humans' ideas about "what works" as opposed to God's plan for His people. How do we know what God's plan is? Simple: look in the bible, especially the New Testament.

Please make time to see your extended family. Get together here, there, and everywhere. Don't try to recruit them to simple church life, but certainly discuss it if they are interested. Above all, do not surrender your convictions just so you can see them on Sunday mornings.

It's better to be a little lonely and be following God's path than it is to be with the crowd headed in the wrong direction.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: "Well, the New Testament is Simply Descriptive."

You may have departed from the institutional church framework because the bible shows something far different. However, would it bring doubts to your mind if another Christian said to you, "Well, the New Testament is simply descriptive."?

Again and again and again I've heard, read, and been told by believers that the New Testament narrative passages are only descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, narratives simply tell us what happened, but do not call us to behave in that same manner.

When I departed from the salaried pastorate I ran into this argument repeatedly.

But is it a valid argument?

We learn much from the entire bible. In particular, the New Testament tells us many wonderful things about who God is, about what He has done, about what He is still doing, and about what our response should be. Because it is a book, the bible is literature (true literature). It is composed of all sorts of writing, from poetry and prophecy to narrative and epistle. It is all for our instruction.

If the narrative passages are only descriptive, as the above argument goes, then we lose a great deal of important information about how we are to live. Since much of the information in scripture about church life is, in fact, in narrative form we'd have little to go on if we toss the narrative sections aside. If that was the case, then churches could basically do whatever they want when they meet (which is what is happening in most churches today).

Interestingly, I've yet to meet even one Christian who consistently treats all narrative accounts as simply descriptive. Rather, the tendency is to say that the passages they agree with are prescriptive, but those they do not really like are only descriptive. We all have a tendency to fall into this trap and ought to be wary of it.

Much of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are narrative. Do the passages that tell us about how Jesus lived not apply to us because they are narrative in form? What about the majority of the book of Acts?

I believe that one of the main reasons the church in this country is generally in disarray is that the New Testament narrative passages have been largely ignored. This has led to churches doing whatever they think is a good idea whenever they think it. This has led to abject disaster.

The entire bible is breathed out by God and useful for our instruction. Because of this, the narrative passages do in fact carry prescriptive weight. They are models that we should follow. Of course, we must let scripture interpret scripture. Also, we would never follow the narratives that show us people behaving in a sinful manner. We should, however, do all we can to learn from the narratives that show us positives.

If someone tells you that narratives are simply descriptive, ask him why he thinks that. If he actually answers you, follow up by asking how this applies to the narratives about the life of Christ. That should bring an end to his argument very quickly.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Different Color Scheme

Despite their failings, I still love my Buffalo Bills. However, I'm just not happy with the red, white, and blue theme for my blog. Every time I look at it I'm reminded of the issue of patriotism. That certainly has its place, but it's not one of the things I want my blog to reflect. Therefore, I'm changing to the current colors. I prefer the clean, simple look. Additionally, green is my favorite color. So there it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: You Like a Particular Pastor

This is part seven of my ten-part blog series entitled Ten Bad Reasons for Returning to the Institution.

I've met many very nice pastors in my lifetime. My guess is that you have, too. A particular pastor's niceness or likeability, however, ought not be a reason to return to the institution.

When I worked as an institutional church pastor lots of folks made it clear that they liked me. I liked them as well. This was not fake; rather, it was real affection. I believe the majority of pastors have this type of relationship with the people in their churches. Pastors have a tendency to love the Lord; this results in a love for the people in the pews. Of course I'm generalizing here; we could find negative examples that show pastors with ill intent. That's the vast minority.

Once you have departed from the institution you may struggle to find fellowship (at least right away). This can be discouraging. You may be tempted to go back to Rome to a church where you like the pastor. When this feeling arises please recall why you left institutional Christianity in the first place. You left because the Bible shows us a vibrant body of Christ that looks vastly different from what we generally see today. The modern church structure is foreign to scripture, full of man-made ideas rather than God's plan.

A pastor may be an extremely likeable guy. He may be kind, loving, and a great preacher. He may be all the things he is supposed to be (according to the pastoral search committee profile). He may even be this man, this man, or this man. In the end none of this matters. A pastor cannot alter the fact that the institutional church structure is blatantly unbiblical.

Don't return because you like a particular pastor. Eventually you will begin to resent both yourself and him for your decision.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Too Good to Not Share

The Christian satire site The Babylon Bee has posted numerous funny articles over the past several months. One reason many of the pieces are excellent is that they come so close to reality. One of the best I've seen so far appeared a couple of days ago. It's entitled Local Progressive Church Hosts Informative Q and Q Session. Enjoy!