Life & Learning, The Church, The Gospel, Theo...

The opposite of freedom is tyranny

IMG_2306I’ve had many conversations with believers who hold socialistic views from a seemingly biblical standpoint. While the marriage of church and state is disaster, it is essential for both to be in the public square. The marriage of church and state is disaster, yet too many vouch for that idea. Secularism/socialism is also disaster. What is a biblical solution to this seeming paradox? Freedom! Freedom is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. Ultimately, tyranny is the absence of God whereby humanity rejects God and is unable to govern itself. Socialism has the appearance of justice, but in the end it is anything but just.

Socialism is government codified legalism
Are you for or against legalism? The answer is obvious, a whole book of the Bible decries the false gospel of legalism. Why then, if for freedom’s sake Christ set us free, would we yield to a governmental structure that is legalistic? The common thread I am hearing from “christian socialists” is not congruent with biblical thought. This is often couched in the “tax the rich” or “universal healthcare” discussions. For, those with more should help those with less. Such is a true biblical principle, but not when mandated. Forced outward conformity does not produce inward change. Besides, there are selfish socialists too. Further, people can covet power as much as money.

Socialism is stealing not generosity
“Tax the wealthy to lower interest rates for college students.” If one were to take money from a wealthy person to pay for a nobel thing such as education, one would be in jail for stealing. The money was not theirs. If one could get the government to tax that money away, which is still not theirs, such is considered ‘noble.’ This coercion may give the appearance of generosity, but lacks the heart change God is concerned with. It is forcibly taking one’s private property and giving it to another. The justice of this is questionable at best.

Self interest is not selfishness
The problem with “christian socialism” is the merging of self-interest with selfishness. The acquisition of wealth to leave an inheritance is wise. Being stingy and lacking generosity is unwise, especially concerning the poor, as one is to love their neighbor. If by coercion we take what is not ours via the government, how then does a person have the resources they desire to help their neighbor, friends, and family? When you or I are forced by coercion our compassion decreases, not increase.

Ponder this…
Write down a couple of people or families you wish you do more to help. With that in mind, about 40-50+% of our money earned goes to taxes. Moving more towards socialism means more will need to be taken from you. Pretend you’re rich, and in the name of justice the government takes more of your revenue, inhibiting your ability to help your neighbor. By having less of your money, you’re ability to build a business to employ others is diminished. Ask this question: How do African-American families, who have been gravely wronged from past sins of our country, build up generational wealth? It is in the self interest of our families to build wealth and security. It is also in our self-interest to be generous with our wealth to those in needs. Socialism inhibits both.

The Big 10
The Bible teaches private property. Do not steal, and do not covet make little sense without such. People have equal dignity or do not murder, the Sabbath, and not bearing false witness makes little sense. God will judge, or the first couple commandments make no sense. In his judgments both nations and people are included. The core is actions based on an inward belief system. If we become a “christian socialist” nation, does our outward performance match the nation’s heart or will our nation be judged for taking that which was not ours? Will we be judged for ruling as the gentles do?

Acts and all things in common…
Acts describes sacrificial generosity, not socialism. The church started with nothing and holding to “the way” was socially unacceptable. The radical sacrifice from a changed heart, not governance, allowed the church to be established. Because of this Gospel a greater concern- people’s salvation- was at heart. Now whether a prisoner, slave, workman, employer or rich, the issue was mutual respect under the equality of the Gospel AND to use one’s station in life as a platform to share the Gospel.

The Gospel is shrewd
In the Gospel and becoming more like Jesus, the issue of slaves submitting to their masters and teaching on contentment is not an endorsement on slavery to the neglect of freedom. It is a keen shrewdness centered on heart change. Submission to government is not a blind thing, but rather a shrewdness of “overcoming evil with good.” Why? Ultimately the Gospel is the truest source of freedom. And the promotion of that freedom doesn’t come from claiming rights, but rather in loving submission. Not blindly, but with wisdom and shrewd living. In the Gospel we have freedom. In that freedom we willingly set aside rights and property to spread the Gospel. Not by compulsion, but as free people.

The bottom line:
Freedom is an efficient mess and tyranny is inefficient graveyard. Only God can rule justly, and given our fallen state, only freedom can pragmatically counterbalance our propensity to tyranny. Socialism, as a Christian choice for governance, is essentially codified legalism. It may give the outward appearance of justice, but it fails the heart. The inefficient reality of socialism will ultimately lead grave injustice. In the name of justice, socialism will erode our ability to love our neighbor, and act in the self-interest of our family and friends. Let’s be a voice for freedom.

Book Reviews, Life & Learning

Why a hard copy Bible is best

I tried the tech thing for a few years. It’s not working. I do not think this is an issue of generational shifting. I got scolded in elementary school for handing in a printed essay, I grew up techy when it was know as being a nerd. Some things are not replaceable. A tech Bible is such a thing. We need a hard copy Bible.

1) A hard copy has the benefit of legacy. It is much harder to toss a meaningful book away than digital notes.
2) Tech is often distracting when there is pressure against being still and knowing He is God. Stillness with the word is huge for sermon prep.
3) You can make the Bible digitally accessible and even preach from a tablet while still having a hard copy as your main Bible.
4) Hard copy Bibles don’t crash and are instantly available when the power is out or a recharge station is no where to be found.
5) A hard copy Bible inspires beyond your earthly life. Think beyond conscience and thing longer term.>

Prayer Mentoring

Prayer Mentoring: Jesus

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ~John 15:5-7

Jesus is key to our prayer life. Our identity, our power and our effectiveness is Jesus. Often if our prayers seem to hit the ceiling if we feel overwhelmed or if we think we’re bigger than we are, it is time to go back to basics: Jesus.

In Christ
The greatest weapon we have in the spiritual warfare of life is Jesus. Too often we think it is about us. It isn’t. It never is. When we remember who we are in Christ, ministry is tremendous, prayers powerful and God moves. Why? God acts to glorify his name.

Jesus is present
When Jesus gave the church it’s mission to make disciples of him, he promised his presence. Jesus didn’t die and raise again and then that’s it. Jesus is still involved in leading and building his church. Jesus is the boss and CEO of the church. Elders, deacons, trustees, etc work for Jesus. He rescued us and enables us to serve.

The word
Sam Wolfe in his book “Building the House of Prayer” states this: Christ in us – Presence. His word in us- Power. Jesus said If my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Living out the Word of God is key to an effective prayer life. It means being so in tune with God’s wishes that it’s a no brainer for him to act on our request.

Jesus saves, Jesus sends
Getting our focus back on Jesus isn’t just about Jesus saving us; It’s about Jesus sending us! God sent the son to reach us. Jesus sends us to reach others that belong to him. You cannot separate the mission from the savior. If our hearts are not about the mission, we’re not letting the words of Christ abide in us. Jesus saves us and then he sends us to proclaim what saved us.

In Jesus’ name
We close our prayers in Jesus name because Jesus is our great high priest who went and goes before the father on our behalf. Our fruit, success, power, effectiveness is in Jesus and the finished work on the cross. Because of Jesus we have a relationship with God, access to God and are able to effectively serve God. Abiding in Jesus is central to a great prayer life.

Life & Learning

Forgotten Gifts of the Spirit

Church is team. It takes diversity for a unified church body to work, both within the local church as well as the universal church. Smoldering in the back of my head is the issue of Seminary, thanks in part to Pastor Tim Raymond. Back in May, Pastor Tim, a peer in seminary and a man of God I had the privilege to growing up with, wrote a series on the importance of seminary (Part one Part Two Part Three Part Four). Here is the opening to the series:

“For decades, seminary education has endured the slings and arrows of bad jokes, unkind mockery, and downright slander.  If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard a disillusioned preacher intentionally misspeak, recalling his years in “cemetery, I mean seminary,” I might be able to buy something edible.  It would be easy for the average Christian to think wrongly, like Nathaniel did with Nazareth, that nothing good can come out of seminary.”

Wisdom & Knowledge
Wisdom & knowledge seem to be neglected gifts. Bill Hybels mentions often how leadership is often not developed or neglected in churches. For a long time, I believe that to be true. As I look over the course of my lifetime, it seems wisdom and knowledge are largely neglected. Churches rarely promote the life of the mind. Wisdom and knowledge feeds solid leadership and solid pastoring. It gives tools to evangelism and mercy. In the fear of heresy, apathy and/or elitism, we’ve neglected two vital gifts.

Seminary is vital
The church both local and universal need places of scholarship where those gifted with wisdom and knowledge can develop and build the body of Christ. I believe it is a duty of a pastor to be a theologian. Having the gift of leadership or shepherding doesn’t give us an excuse to be lax in our theology. It does mean we need to lean on those gifted in ways we are not. I’d be lost preaching through Romans if it were not for those gifted with wisdom and knowledge. While true knowledge can puff up and love edifies, Paul also argues for the importance of the mind in 1 Corinthians 14.

Disciples were diverse
Often the argument against scholarship, like seminary, is the disciples were average men. This is partly true. They were also men who went through a rigorous three-year training program by a master teacher, Jesus. Afterwards the Holy Spirit instructed them. While peter was “blue collar” Paul was clearly an intellectual. While John spoke profound truths simply, Luke and the writer of Hebrews were academically astute. We need all gifts. The formation of God’s Word illustrates this.

The Bible
Biblical and theological literacy are at an all time low. The need for biblical counseling stands at an all time high. There is a relationship between these two things. Perhaps the church is reaping the costs of neglecting the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. What good is leadership or shepherding if it’s not on the firm foundation of God’s Word? Confusion on the Gospel, in worship and the church relationship to culture flow from not heeding wisdom and knowledge. We need to heed Hebrews 5:11-14.

The bottom line:
We need seminary and seminaries don’t need to be places where people lose their faith or passion. Like Tim, I found this to be quite the opposite. I’m immensely grateful for the discipleship Baptist Bible Seminary provided. While I understand that not all will or can attend seminary, I do think one should if at all possible. We need places where we can benefit from those gifted with wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer Mentoring

Prayer Mentoring: Praying through challenging times

Life in a fallen world means we’ll be facing hard times. Often these hard times are a means God uses to draw us to Himself.

We say prayer should be a first response not a last result. Prayer is really both. The challenge of hard times comes when all we can do is wait.

Pray Scripture
The Bible gives us many patterns for prayer. Paul particularly records prayer thoughts for our benefit. The Bible says that if we ask according to the will of God we know we have that what we ask. Praying through Scriptures is helpful in this regard.

When going through a challenging time the best word of advice I received was to find a Psalm, grab hold of it, and pray through it regularly. So, step one- search the Psalms and find one that speaks to your situation.

Biblical meditation is filling our mind with Scripture. It’s an act of focus on God’s Word. This is different from Eastern meditation that focuses on emptying one’s mind. Choosing a Psalm helps in filling our minds with Scripture. So, step two- read and focus on this Psalm regularly.

This can take on many forms, but one thing you want to do is to record God’s faithfulness. By choosing a Psalm it can guide you about what to write. Step three- write what Gods is doing.

The bottom line:
Prayer is key to navigating hard times. Often we don’t know what to pray as we wait for God to show up. Pick a Psalm and grab hold of it. It will guide and sustain you through challenging times.

Prayer Mentoring

Prayer Mentoring: How

Just talk to God as if He’s right there with you, because He is. Communication involves three key things: the sender, the message, and the receiver. Prayer is communicating to God. It’s that simple.

God talking to us
God’s communicates to us through creation (Psalms 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23), the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21), the Spirit (Romans 8:14; 1 John 5:6) and God’s people (Ephesians 4:15; 5:18-21, Colossians 3:16). We’ll explain these areas further in the future.

Us talking to God
Prayer is the means we use to talk with God. We already looked at the various words for prayer. What is amazing is God hears our prayers and wants us to communicate with us!

Elements of prayer
When we pray we address God the father (Matthew 6:6,9; John 17; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 3:14). We are able to have access to God the father because of Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-7; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16). Jesus and the Holy Spirit help us in our prayers, the Spirit even acting as an “autopilot” when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26-39; Hebrews 7:25)! Because of these things, we close our prayers “in Jesus’ name” (John 14:13-14).

When praying, we should ask in faith (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26). God’s Word is key to this. Even more so as we should ask according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). When we pray according to the Bible and in harmony with God’s promises we should expect to receive (1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 7:7-11). If we do not ask or ask with wrong motives, we should expect nothing (James 4:2-3). A bulk of future posts will deal content.

We can pray anywhere. But, I’d take to heart the message Bill Hybels shared about “the chair.” Find a place where you regularly meet with God for Bible reading and prayer. It’s the foundation for growing your relationship with God. Relationships take time. Find your chair.

The bottom line:
Prayer is simply talking to God. We address God the father because we have access to Him through Jesus. Not only that, but the Spirit also helps us in praying.


  1. Pray.
  2. Find your chair. (Place to meet with God.)

My guide to becoming a recovering fundamentalist: The conclusion

“Be holy for I am holy” ~God
“We can make God’s Word say what we want if we’re not careful” ~A Mentor

I want to close this guide with the final two good things that come from fundamentalism. Granted these two areas have been tainted by what was discussed earlier. We should still look at two key things. Holiness and a love for God’s Word is the baby. Legalism is the bath water.

God wants us to be holy. While the pursuit of holiness and the process of being set apart for God may be distorted by legalism, any movement that at its core seeks to be holy is commendable. Jesus came to forgive us our sins. Jesus is in the process of purifying His bride, the church. An emphasis on holiness isn’t legalism, it’s a focus on godliness. “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound” is a struggle all Christians face. I commend fundamentalism for its desire for holiness. We all should.

The Bible
Authorial intent of the Bible, a significant tenet of fundamentalism, is an essential element to the faith. We can make the Bible say what we want if we’re not careful. Along with sticking to the Bible, however, is the adage you can’t make everyone happy. As Jesus’ life proved, sticking to God’s Word can cause conflict. The Bible is critical as faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Too often movements play fast and loose with the Bible. It should be the authority for faith and practice.

Now what?
Every movement has or will have issues. Throughout church history movements have risen and faded. We must be careful to not treat a movement as a strawman. Rather than reacting we should seek God and the Scriptures and act accordingly. Reacting instead of acting is often what sets movements in the wrong direction. Writing off fundamentalism is just reacting. Looking at heart issues and identifying what is good and what needs to change is acting with proper measure.

The Cross
Any error is covered by the cross. As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is opportunity for repentance. I understand that many have been abused or deeply hurt in highly (hyper?) fundamentalist churches. For one thing, not all fundamentalists are like that. For another, people can get hurt by other churches and movements too. Why? Because Jesus isn’t done with us yet. We must ask ourselves this: Is there a sin so great that Jesus forgave it at the cross but we can’t? The cross covers all, and our hurts should be left there as well.

The bottom line:
We have two choices in what we can boast in: the cross or ourselves. It doesn’t matter the movement. Fundamentalism promotes the Gospel, pursues holiness and highly views the Bible. These are essentials to the Christian faith. The lack of humility, legalism and unbalanced view of separation may have clouded fundamentalism. For sure there is a need for “self-policing” that needs to happen. Again, this is true for any movement for they’re issues of the human heart. We all struggle in these areas. To become a recovering fundamentalist takes three key things: 1) Boasting in the cross, not self. 2) Choosing grace. 3) Keeping the Gospel first and central.