Monthly Archives: June 2014

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 3)

I pray my last post was helpful to you. Today, in part 3 of this 5-part blog series, we take a look at a very popular saying that many believe is found in the Christian Scriptures. It has been screen printed on shirts, graffiti tagged on walls, placed on coffee mugs, and even tatted on people’s bodies. And here it is:

“Money is the root of all evil.”

money evil pic

But before you run to your favorite tattoo shop and get this inked on your arm or wherever, you might want to double check to see if it squares with what the Bible actually says. Many of you probably already know that this prominent statement is actually a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10a, which says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (English Standard Version) As we read this sentence slowly and carefully, two points emerge:

1. It is not simply money that is in view here, but rather the love of money.

Money (like food, the internet or television, sex, etc.) is not inherently sinful, evil, or wrong. It is amoral in nature. It is our inordinate desire for, attitude towards, and attachment to it that is the problem. Paul speaks of this in verse 9 of 1 Timothy 6, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (emphasis mine; ESV) When you take the particular Greek word for desire used in this verse into account, you understand that Paul is speaking of a deliberate setting of the mind and affections on becoming rich. This is not just a simple and occasional desire to have more money; rather, it is a constant preoccupation with making more of it – my mind on my money and my money on my mind – to the point where one casts off biblical wisdom and common sense, resolving to obtain more money by any means necessary, even if those means are foolish or sinful. As someone once said, “There is nothing wrong with you having money as long as money doesn’t have you.” The love of money is when money has you.

2. The love of money is a root – not the root – of all kinds of evil.

When you look at the vices in our western culture, one would be hard-pressed to not agree with this truth. We’ve turned what would normally be classified as gluttony into a sport of sorts, cheering on men and women as they gorge their bellies with various types of foods all for, you guessed it, a cash prize. Men walk into sperm banks, pick up a porn magazine or watch a XXX video, and lust themselves into some loot. People sell their bodies in exchange for the almighty dollar. Hitmen or enforcers for hire. We adorn gossip in a dress or suit, pay an individual handsomely to be its mouthpiece, place him or her behind a camera or microphone in a studio and broadcast it across the country. Some deceptively panhandle for that paper, conning people for cash. Others unethically siphon money from their baby’s father (or mother’s) child support checks for their own personal use.  And the list goes on and on. Our incessant infatuation with money has created a cesspool of iniquity; one in which we wallow with revelry, all the while dismissing its toxic effects on our souls and in our society. It is indeed a root cause for all types of evil.

I believe Trip Lee sums up well the perspective we as Christians should have regarding money (as well as sex and power) in his song entitled “Heart Problem” from The Good Life album. Take a listen and take heed.

So, enjoy money and the benefits it affords, but don’t become enamored with it; and definitely don’t exalt it over the God of grace.

Advertisements

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 2)

Two weeks ago, I began a 5-part blog series with this article, and today I want continue with part two.

So there I was sitting in the adult Sunday School class as a young 20-something year old preacher at my home church in Austin, TX. I don’t recall what lesson or text of Scripture we were discussing that day. All I do remember is one of our church members raising his/her hand to respond to a point that the teacher had just made about the need for us Christians to live godly lives. “Yes, brother/sister so-and-so, you have something to say?” the teacher asked. The member replied, “Yes, brother teacher. I agree with you that we as Christians should live godly lives…” Nothing too controversial there, right? Well, just wait for it. He/she continued, “because after all the Bible says God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.” I distinctly remember having this confused look on my face, thinking to myself, “Are you sure about that?” So after a few people nodded their heads in agreement, I, along with a couple of others, spoke out in disagreement. And a spirited debate ensued.

“God won’t dwell in an unclean temple.”

So what does this whole “God won’t dwell in an unclean temple” concept mean? Essentially this: Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should live clean or holy lives because to do otherwise will cause God the Holy Spirit to not remain in us. To say it another way, living incongruent with Scripture jeopardizes the indwelling of the Spirit in our lives. God will depart from us if we keep disobeying Him.  I am in support of the truths that surround this statement because they are biblical: 1. Christians – specifically our bodies – being temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and 2. Living holy or clean lives (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 1:14-16); but I do not agree with it for two fundamental reasons.

The Permanent Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

In his upper room discourse with the disciples – minus Judas Iscariot – Jesus informed them that in the near future the Holy Spirit would come to be with and in them forever (which now becomes an objective reality for all of us post-Pentecost Christians at the moment of belief in Jesus – see Ephesians 1:13):

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine; ESV)

Nowhere in the New Testament do we see any teaching on the potentiality of the Holy Spirit departing from us due to our sinful behavior. We can grieve him (Ephesians 4:30) and quench him (1 Thess. 5:19), but we can never evict him. This is in no way a license for us to sin.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies, transforms, or conforms us to the image of Jesus (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), which implies that there is a constant putting away of sin and striving to live obedient lives for Jesus to the glory of God (Colossians 3:5-17).

The Sealing with the Holy Spirit

According to Ephesians 1:13, at the moment of salvation we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” This idea of being sealed has various nuances in Scripture. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives some helpful insight here: “The word ‘seal’ indicates security (Matthew 27:66; Eph. 4:30), authentication and approval (John 6:27), certification of genuineness (John 3:33), and identification of ownership (2 Cor. 1:22; Rev. 7:2; 9:4).” (pg. 619)

As those in Christ, you and I have been stamped, if you will, with the Holy Spirit, indicating that we belong to God. But notice as well that the Holy Spirit himself “is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (1:14).  That word guarantee means a down payment. The Holy Spirit is God the Father’s initial deposit – for our lives now on earth – of what He has in store for our lives in heaven for eternity.

That’s not all though. Paul continues, “until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:14). Does this say that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance unless we disobey? No. It says until we acquire possession of it. The Holy Spirit is our assurance that we will receive all that God has in store for us in eternity – the resurrection and transformation of our bodies, an eternal place in heaven, etc. The Holy Spirit, my brothers and sisters, will never leave us in this life because it has been determined by God the Father that he remain in us from now until the consummation of all things when Jesus returns.

So instead of living in pseudo-fear of losing the Holy Spirit due to our sin, how about we focus on what the Bible actually commands us to do and that is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, ever presently yielding to His controlling influence in our lives, resulting in our obedience to Jesus in accordance with the word of God (1 Peter 1:2; Ephesians 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16).

Beyond the Dream – Republished!

BTD frontcover

I never thought I would see the day, but in February 2012 it happened; a God-given dream of mine came to pass. I published and released my debut book, “Beyond the Dream: Transitioning from a Dream to its Fulfillment in Your Life.” Here is a brief synopsis:

Has God given you a dream? Has He not yet fulfilled it? Do you wonder what to do in the meantime? If you are one of thousands of Christians who can answer yes to those questions, Beyond the Dream was written for you. Discovering the dream that God has for you is an amazing experience, but when He doesn’t bring that dream to fruition in the way you want it to – or as quickly as you want it to – despair, disillusionment, or desperation can set in. But God’s Word gives the encouragement you need to make it through this season in your life.

Beyond the Dream is a down-to-earth, Old Testament character study of Joseph – a man who had big dreams but had to endure hardships, and experienced some twists and turns in the road before God brought those dreams to fruition. Ed Johnson III draws out four simple lesson from the life of Joseph to help you see what God desires of you in the time of transition from dream to reality.

Although the process of writing and publishing was, at times, painstaking and laborious, the end result was well worth it. “So, if you published this in 2012, why are you posting about it again?” Great question. Without delving into all the details, my book has recently been republished and released again. My experience with the former publishing company (Winepress Publishing) was pleasurable. They did a good job on my project and were very professional. But due to some unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances on their end, our publishing relationship came to an end earlier this year.

But in all of that I see the providential hand of God at work because now I am with another great Christian self-publishing company that is under the umbrella of an outstanding and reputable traditional publishing organization. I am grateful to announce that I have joined the Westbow Press (A Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan) family! As I type this post, my author copy is sitting on the desk next to me. Although the cover and content are virtually the same as before (with some minor tweaks, along with the obvious publishing company notation and logo changes), their editing and formatting work on my book is exceptional, making it more clean and crisp.

If you are looking to self-publish, click here for more information about Westbow Press.

If you haven’t done so already, I would love for you to have a copy or copies of my book in your hands. The book is available for purchase in both softcover and e-book format at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Westbow’s online bookstore (which has a Google Preview of the Contents, Foreword, and Acknowledgments pages). Though my book has been read by and benefits adults of all ages, I have found that it is especially relevant to high school and college students, and working young adults. Thanks for your support.

P.S. – I am currently writing my second book. Please be in prayer with and for me that I may complete this project by year’s end.

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure?

Being a pastor now for over 10 years, and having been in church since I was a boy, I have occasionally heard people make statements or repeat popular sayings and mistakenly attribute their source to the Bible. They usually preface them with, “Well, you know the Bible says…” To which, in many cases, I would think to myself or say, “Are you sure about that?”

Early on, when I was young in the faith, I would just take what was said at face value. But as I grew in the Lord Jesus and in my knowledge and understanding of the Bible, I came to discover that a few of those proverbial sayings were either not in the Scriptures at all, or are there (conceptually in some cases) but were inadvertently misread and/or severed from their literary context and thus misapplied. Although the ones I have chosen to address in this “The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? series of brief blog posts are not eternally detrimental and damning, they can and do impact to varying degrees the lives of those who accept them. Here is the first of five:

 “God won’t put more on me than I can bear.”

Those of us who are listeners and supporters of urban contemporary gospel music know that this idiom was further ingrained into the minds and hearts of believers across the U.S. back in 1997 with one of the hit singles, “More Than I Can Bear,” from the high-charting billboard album God’s Property by God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation.  “Play the song, please.” Why certainly.

Did you catch the main verse of the song? Take a look:

I’ve gone through the fire
And I’ve been through the flood
I’ve been broken into pieces
Seen lightnin’ flashin’ from above
But through it all I remember
That He loves me
And He cares
And He’ll never put more on me
Than I can bear

Before we continue, let me be absolutely clear: I am in no way disparaging Kirk Franklin (or the musical genre) or calling into question his ability to interpret Scripture and write songs accordingly. The body of his work speaks for itself. To the contrary, I am tremendously grateful to God for the gift Kirk has used in service to the church worldwide.

The question on the table is does “God won’t put more on me than I can bear” comport with Scripture? Simply put, does the Bible say that? It depends. Depends on what? Exactly. “Wait, now I am confused.” Let me explain. It depends on what the “more” is in reference to. In other words, God will never put more of what on us?  The words “fire” and “flood” in the above verse can be ambiguous. But I would venture to say that most people (including myself) would understand them to mean suffering, trouble, or distress of some kind. Who would hear or read “seen lightnin’ flashin’ from above” and not think that is metaphorically speaking of the storms of life? So, if the more is related to trials, then the answer to the question of does the Bible say that would be no.

Some would push back and say that I am incorrect and would direct me to 1 Corinthians 10:13 as proof of the contrary, which says (what follows is the King James Version because that is where the language of this saying comes from): “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But upon a closer reading, one will discover that this verse is not dealing with trials (hardships, suffering, trouble), but rather with temptations (note the word temptation – including the verb form – is mentioned three times). Yes, the Greek word for temptation is the same word used for trial, as is the case in other passages of the Bible (e.g., James 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:12); but, according to the immediate context of 1 Corinthians chapter 10, it refers to the former (i.e., temptation: an enticement to sin) rather than to the latter (i.e. trial: an evaluation, or proving, of/for our sanctification). Essentially, what Paul is saying then is God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability by providing the way of escape, so that we will be able to bear or endure it. I would humbly submit that the focus of this verse is not on our ability to bear but on God’s ability to provide. Therefore, our success in not succumbing to temptation is contingent upon God’s ability to make a way out, not our ability to not tap out.

Furthermore, after a cursory look through the Old and New Testaments, one can’t help but to see how this saying doesn’t exactly match with what we find in the word of God. At times, when it comes to trials, God does allow or permit more to be placed on us than we can humanly bear. Consider this short list of examples of those who experienced the crushing weight of trials (even those trials that came as a direct result of obeying God’s calling on or purpose for their lives):

  • The People of Israel in Egyptian bondage (Exodus 5)
  • Moses leading the Israelites out of the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 11:10-15)
  • Elijah facing Jezebel’s death threat and the deplorable spiritual condition of God’s people (1 Kings 19)
  • Naomi’s loss of her husband and two sons (Ruth 1)
  • Job loses his property, children, and health (Job 1-2)
  • David’s anguish over his enemies (Psalm 22)
  • Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (Jeremiah 15:10-21)
  • Jesus incomparable agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46)
  • Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Yes, God won’t ever put (in the sense of permit or allow) more on us than we can bear as it relates to temptation; but He will, at times, when it comes to trials.  Because, after all, it’s not about displaying our own strength, but rather that of our God’s.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9; ESV)

The Witness

A Black Christian Collective

Trillia Newbell

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

Cam Triggs

For God's Glory

Henry Ballard, Jr.

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

D. A. Horton

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

Stephen G. Brown

Be encouraged by the preaching + teaching + writing of Stephen G. Brown

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

Desiring God

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

Ligonier Ministries Blog

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

Vertical Church

Just another WordPress.com site

Tim Challies

Informing the Reforming

H.B. Charles Jr.

Living, Leading, & Loving Like Jesus

Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey.... On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.