Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Allegiance over Fear

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, we've seen all sorts of reactions on social media, on the news, and in out communities. When churches and other public gatherings were forced to suspend meeting for a period of time, one slogan that was bandied about a lot was "Faith Over Fear." 

The Greek word used in the New Testament that is most commonly translated into English as "faith" is the word pistis. As Matthew Bates has ably pointed out in his books Salvation by Allegiance Alone and Gospel Allegiance, pistis can often better be translated as "allegiance."

So I want to retool the slogan "Faith Over Fear" and think about "Allegiance Over Fear."

Friday, November 26, 2021

Drain of Young Pentecostal Brains | Whose Fault Is It?

The following is my translation of a post originally made in Spanish by Fernando E. Alvarado,  a pastor in the Asambleas de Dios of El Salvador, and blogger at Pensamiento Pentecostal Arminiano (Arminian Pentecostal Thought).

It’s common to hear pastors and leaders talk about how young adults and adolescents are abandoning the Pentecostal church thicken the ranks of other movements: “The Calvinists brainwashed them.” “He became reformed.” “She became a Mormon (or a Jehovah’s Witness or some other sect). ”How sad! Too much study drove him crazy, he ended up abandoning the faith.” “They shouldn’t study theology, they turn into liberals and think they know everything, then become apostate.” I’ve heard these many times, along with many other excuses.

Friday, November 19, 2021

How can a book I don't really know be my authority?

I've watched a lot of discussion online recently about biblical inerrancy and the authority of Scripture. An article by Australian theologian Michael Bird caused no small amount of discussion when shared on a Facebook group for discussion among scholars in my national church fellowship.

A couple of days later, I read the following statement in an article about biblical authority and divisions in American Christianity:

Perhaps in certain parts of academia – and in ministerial training in some denominations – historical criticism caused some to question the authority of the Bible, but for more than a century after the Civil War, the reading preferences and church affiliation choices of millions of American Protestants suggested that respect for the Bible’s authority continued undiminished, even if biblical literacy was not quite what it had once been. 

Note that last phrase: even if biblical literacy was not quite what it had once been. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Dealing Gently with the Wounded

Not too long ago, I saw the following posted on social media:

Ultimately people don’t quit church because of bad Christians or churches.  They don’t stop eating out after they go to a bad restaurant.  They don’t stop going to the doctor even though doctors make mistakes.  No matter how much they blame others, Jesus said they quit the body of Christ because of themselves:

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”  (John 3:20-21) 

While it is true that ultimately each individual's decision whether to follow Christ or self rests with that person, those of us who claim to represent the King of kings do bear a great responsibility. In Luke 17, Jesus said:

Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Relationship between Peace and Gentleness

Recently, our senior pastor spoke to the leadership team of the Latino ministry at our church. After giving us several lessons about leadership he has learned in his 20 years as lead pastor, he told us about a couple of verses of Scripture the Lord has been impressing on him over the past year or so.

The first one he mentioned is Philippians 4:5:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

He went on to raise the question as to whether this gentleness is tied to the peace Paul mentions a couple of verses later in 4:7:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I think my pastor is on to something here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Does Everything Always Turn Out How God Wants?

I recently saw the following statement on Facebook:

If things aren't turning out how you expected, don't worry, they're turning out how God wants. Amen. 

This sounds very spiritual and even pious when you first read it. But does everything really happen because it's "turning out how God wants?"

Did God really desire for a teenage girl, who loves and serves Jesus, to be beaten and raped, and get pregnant as a result?

Is it God's plan that thousands of women and children should be working as sex slaves in the red light districts of Calcutta, India?

Is a young wife and mother of three dying of breast cancer at 30 really God's best intention for that family?

Friday, September 24, 2021

Is This Not Idolatry?

 Just this week, I saw this graphic shared by a friend on Facebook.

I had seen a similar (or maybe the same) image several months ago.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

5 Roadblocks and 5 Aids to Communication

Dr. Darrell L. Bock's latest book, Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World, includes some timely information concerning five things that lead to cutting off dialogue and communication, and five things that can help foster conversation with those with whom we have foundational disagreements. Following is a quick synopsis of both sets of points, quoting excerpts from pages 62-66.

Truth in Meming

One of the major problems with communication in our modern era is the absolute glut of information. We're bombarded by 24-hour cable news, online news sites that send alerts about stories to our smart phones, and links and memes shared by family and friends on an endless list of social media platforms.

Every voice is competing to be heard in a very crowded, noisy room. The American public seems to have a very short attention span and to not want to take the time to read anything that does detailed analysis or requires deep thought and self-aware reflection. 

There's even an abbreviation for that -- TLDR, which stands for "too long, didn't read." (Consider the irony of shortening a four-word phrase to four letters, because using the full words would take too long for the writer to type and too long for the consumer to read.)

I suspect some of you, if you scroll down this post, may even say "TLDR" and move away without reading further. (But if you do that, you'll just be proving my point.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Preferring the Praise of Men?

Over the past year, I've advocated for what Langer and Muehlhoff call "winsome conviction" -- standing firm for one's beliefs, but in a less combative manner that seeks to actually engage others in dialogue rather than "score points" on the opposition and shut down the conversation with a "slam dunk."

While I'm not sure anyone directly accused me of wanting to be "liked by the world," I did see that accusation leveled at many Christians who were trying to tone down the rhetoric and move things back to a more civil level of discourse.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Good Resources on Holiness

The concept of holiness has been popping up a lot lately, both in my podcast feed and in a message at church. I figured I would provide some links here so others can access them from one place.

My pastor, Rod Loy, speaks on what holiness is and isn't in Take Out the Trash

Preston Sprinkle interviews Jackie Hill Perry about her book on holiness, Holier Than Thou

Dr. John Oswalt speaks at Asbury Theological Seminary on Holiness: What Is It?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Book Giveaway!

The Gospel Precisely by Matthew Bates

I believe in the message of this book so much, I'm giving away a copy. (Not a publisher promo -- I'm doing this on my own.)

To get your name in the drawing, simply comment on this post telling why it is important to you that we understand the gospel correctly.

To be eligible, comments must be posted by noon Central time on Monday, August 16.

I'll put every commenter's name in a drawing (one entry per person) and have the book sent directly to the winner from Amazon (U.S. mailing addresses only). I'll announce the winner here and reach out directly to him/her to get the address to send the book to.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Is Anyone Listening?

The more I listen to news commentary, read social media posts, and peruse other forms of media, the more I realize that the art of listening carefully, and reading closely, is extremely rare these days.

Just this week, I saw a Facebook post where the author was lamenting the fact that when, in an effort to better understand the arguments on all sides of the LGBTQ+ debate -- specifically where people use the Bible to support their positions -- he asked people for recommendations of books, articles, podcasts, etc. on both sides of the issue, almost immediately people started to label him as "affirming," when he had already stated that he held to a traditional Christian view of sexual morality. People didn't even bother to carefully read his post -- they simply saw that he was looking for resources, and proceeded to jump on him with allegations that were unfounded. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Who or what is the "real you"?

 I saw the following posted by someone on Facebook back in April:

Never forget- you are not a carnal creation who has momentary spiritual experiences. You are a spiritual creation who is living a momentary carnal experience.
I have also often heard (usually at funerals) statements such as,"That's not the real Brother Johnny, that's just a shell."

Monday, April 12, 2021

Were the tribes of Gad, Manasseh, and Reuben Out of God's Will?

In the past few years, I have sometimes heard (or read on social media) that the Israelite tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were disobedient to God's command and will for them when they took as their possession the lands of kings whom Israel conquered on the east side of the Jordan River, rather than settling in Canaan with the rest of the tribes. Well-meaning people have tried to use these three Transjordan tribes as examples of people who didn't "press into all God had for them," and instead settled for a lesser relationship/blessing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Totalitarianism Isn't Only a Tool of the Left


On a recent episode of the Alisa Childers podcast, Alisa interviewed Rod Dreher, author of several books, including his latest, Live Not By Lies. Their discussion centered on totalitarianism, and how immigrants from the former Soviet bloc point out that they see things happening now in the United States that they witnessed 40-50 years ago in the countries they fled, specifically the “increasing inability to say what you really think without risking your job, without risking your personal reputation, or some kind of terrible blowback.”

Dreher defines totalitarianism as “a system in which everything is politicized to where you cannot escape politics.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I'm not God (and neither are you)

In our current hyper-politicized moment in the United States, I've seen a lot of people say that so-and-so is "wrong about everything," or that a certain politician "has never been right on any issue." 

This type of rhetoric is unhelpful. As Muehlhoff and Langer point out in their book Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church

One of the telltale signs of bias is to view another group as being totally wrong on every issue. (p. 175) 

Friday, January 29, 2021

When the Prophets(?) Miss It

I'm not going to write anything original about the failed prophecies concerning the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but simply share links to articles, videos, and podcasts I have found to be helpful on this matter.

When Political Prophecies Don't Come to Pass article by Dr. Craig Keener

Failed Trump Prophecies Offer a Lesson in Humility article by Dr. Craig Keener

Las profecías no cumplidas sobre Trump brindan una enseñanza de humildad artículo por el Dr. Craig Keener

Making Sense of Prophecy and Politics video from The Remnant Radio

Everyday Theology: Prophets Don't Know the Future audio podcast with host Aaron Ross and guest Rick Wadholm Jr. 

Prophetic Accountability article by T. Allen Lucas

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Greatest Threat Lies Within

As Dr. Martin Mittelstadt pointed out when he was a guest lecturer in the New Testament Theology class I took in seminary, the book of Acts recounts alternating external and internal threats to the early church. First, after Peter and John were used by God in the healing of the lame man at the temple gate, the Sanhedrin threatened them not to teach in the name of Jesus any more. Then in Acts 5, the church faced the case of Ananias and Sapphira, in which two church members tried to make themselves look more pious and generous than they really were. In that same chapter (starting in verse 17), we once again find persecution and threats from the Jewish religious leaders. In Acts 6, a dispute over the Greek-speaking widows being neglected in the charitable food distribution threatened the unity of the church. The pattern of challenges from outside and inside the body of believers continues throughout the rest of Luke's account.

Friday, January 8, 2021

2020 Reading List

In the midst of all the craziness and confusion that was 2020, I believe I read more books than any other year in my life. While I read more pages per year during my time in seminary, most of those books were 300+ pages each (some over 1000 pages), so the actual count of books those years was lower.

In no particular order, here goes.

I read the whole Bible in about 100 days using the YouVersion Bible app's 90-day reading plan

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Put that verse back in its context

I've been listening to this wonderful review and analysis of words given at the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020 by people who claimed to have heard a prophetic message from God. The host are not cessationist naysayers who believe that the gifts disappeared with the death of the last apostle of Jesus Christ, but are themselves Pentecostal/Charismatic believers who hold to the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit into the current time. Also, the pastors and scholars they had on as guests to review and analyze these "prophetic words" are also continuationists (they believe the gifts are still valid and active today).