Sometimes it seems if it weren’t for billboards I wouldn’t have any topics for this blog. Poor theology can be found anywhere, but especially on the roadside. I think this is the case because good theology cannot be condensed enough to fit on roadside signs that are read while you are driving 60 to 70 miles per hour. A good summary of the gospel would result in print too small and too much to read in the few seconds the billboard is readable before you pass it up. This is similar to Twitter. You can tweet a short statement that is true, but you can’t say all there is to say about a particular topic in 140 characters.
I recently attended a local theology conference. As one who is called to teach God’s Word, the speaker made a statement that really resonated with me. The speaker said it is time for the church to move from biblical literacy to biblical fluency. My first thought was “Absolutely, it is way past time!” However, my second thought was “Have we even reached the level of biblical literacy?” It seems that so many in the church are just at the level of biblical familiarity, and I’m referring to people who have been in the church for years, not new converts. This is not a new problem. Hebrews 5:11-14 says
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV)
Recently I heard Michael Horton say on the White Horse Inn podcast, “The method reveals the message.” At first I just let the comment pass, but then it began to gnaw on me. The methods he was referring to are the methods and activities engaged in by churches. This includes worship service activities, outreach methods, fellowship activities, and so on. But do the activities of a church present a message? Surely the message is independent of the method. Isn’t this what we hear or read? For example, when it comes to church music I have heard it said, “The music style isn’t important. What is important are the lyrics.” Also, “It doesn’t matter whether sermons or topical or expositional as long as they meet the needs of the people.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what a church does or how it does it as long as the gospel message is presented. But can the methods and activities of a church obscure or change the gospel?
I am so blessed to be able to sit under sound preaching of God’s word each Sunday. My pastor just began a new series through the book of Acts. As he was discussing verse 6 of chapter 1 he mentioned God’s timing. You know the verse. Before his ascension the disciples ask Jesus a question.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 ESV)
As my pastor pointed out, this question reveals that the disciples still misunderstood quite a few things. However, my attention was drawn to the disciples asking about something happening “at this time.” Jesus replies in verse 7.
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7 ESV)
In his own eloquent way my pastor told us Jesus was telling the disciples to mind their own business. Continue reading
Truth seems to be in short supply these days. I think many would agree with that statement, but, in order to agree (or disagree), one must understand what I mean by truth. When I speak of truth I’m speaking of something that is objective. The words “constant,” “solid,” “unbending,” and “unyielding” come to mind when I think of truth. When we say the bible is true we are not simply saying it is factually accurate. We are saying what the bible teaches is accurate and true for all time. In other words whatever God has said in the Scriptures is just as true today as it was when written and will forever be true. Now, that is just fine if we like what the bible says. But what do we do if we do not like what the bible says? Continue reading
A common saying I hear today when someone has been going through an extended period of distress is, “They deserve some happiness.” The implication is, based on how bad things have been, it’s time for some easy living. The idea that we deserve some happiness is a gross misunderstanding of our true situation. No one deserves anything but God’s wrath and judgment. Anything we experience other than that is due to God’s mercy and grace, both the common mercy and grace he shows to all people and the special mercy and grace he shows to his elect. When it comes to believers that are enduring some type of suffering, many times the expectation is, when the particular difficult circumstances end, life will be better. After all, when Job’s suffering was complete God restored to Job twice as much as he had before (Job 48:10). This is not always the case, though. One of the churches mentioned in Revelation is an example of this.
So the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5 to 4 that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right; thus, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. We used to say much ink will be spilled but I suppose now it is more appropriate to say many bytes will be consumed over this. It is a sad day on the one hand and a day to rejoice on the other. I’m sad because marriage has been completely redefined. According to Scripture marriage can only be defined as the union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-5). For the whole of human history, up until this generation, marriage has been defined the same way. So, it is folly for any government to legalize same-sex marriage since same-sex and marriage cannot coexist. By legalizing same-sex marriage the Supreme Court has redefined marriage, and, by extension, become the ultimate authority for the definition of marriage. When my wife and I were married, marriage was defined only as the union of one man and one woman. The definition did not include the union of one man and one man or the union of one woman and one woman. Including same-sex couples is a new definition of marriage not an expanded definition of marriage. The definition of my marriage originated with God. The new definition of marriage originates with the government.
Many churches have signs that display messages. Sometimes the message is the scripture passage and title for next Sunday’s sermon. Other times the message is announcing an event at the church. Many times, though, the message is meant to inspire or encourage the reader. Unfortunately these messages often cause me to sigh and shake my head.
Recently while driving home from out of state we passed a billboard with the message “Lust will drag you down to hell – James 1:15.” As one who does not want to go to hell I found the billboard’s message interesting. In particular I wondered what was the goal of the billboard. Did the person or persons who erected the billboard hope to keep people out of hell, stop people from lusting, or both? Also, what type of lust is being denounced? Typically when I see the word lust without any context I think of sexual lust. Is this billboard against pornography and other sexual sins? The referenced bible verse says
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15 ESV)
The King James Version uses the word lust instead of desire.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15 KJV)
Evidently the creators of the billboard were thinking of the KJV rendering. However, using the word lust on the billboard without the original context of the verse misses the true meaning. Continue reading
God blessed me with a wonderful father. He went to be with Jesus when I was just 27, which is half my current age. Memories fade over time, but one thing in particular I remember about Daddy (yes I’m from the south) was his wit. Between my sophomore and junior year of college he and I traveled from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Las Vegas, Nevada to help a new church with Vacation Bible School. The Vacation Bible School lasted a week, and, instead of heading home, we decided to tour California. From Las Vegas we went to San Francisco, drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles, then went to San Diego. While in Los Angeles we went to see the game show Password Plus. Game shows record a week of shows in one day. The same audience is used for the first three shows, then a new audience is used for the last two shows. We were in the first audience. As we were leaving the studio we passed by the people waiting to enter for the final two shows. All of a sudden a voice cried out, “Cecil Carpenter!” Well as it turned out a couple that lived in Hattiesburg and knew Daddy were waiting to enter the studio. The woman said, “What in the world are you doing here?” Daddy replied jokingly, “Well, everybody has to be somewhere.”