Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giving Good Service

Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free.
 — Ephesians 6.5-8 World English Bible

I do not want to write this. Not very much. But it is a teaching I have learned, and it is a conviction that the Lord has given me.

"Why don't you want to write about this, Cowboy Bob?"

Because I have to change my evil ways. Lemme 'splain, Loocy.

Although this was written about slaves (and the next verses regarding masters), it also applies to employees and employers. Most people who were slaves did not exactly wish to be slaves. And most people I know do not wish to be doing the jobs they are performing, but they have to make a living.

It is easy to take on a bad attitude when the work conditions are not optimal. Even more so when the boss is a jerk(ette). (I dare not tell you the things that anger me in my current employment!) The problem is that we feel justified much of the time. I was cheated, the boss owes me, "give and take" means I give and they take, all the work I do gets unappreciated. And so on.

Several teachings have come to mind for me. Some were heard, others watched on TV or video, a few were read. It's all a blur, frankly. What does come into sharp focus is that being a follower of Jesus involves your attitude as well as your actions. While we all know about the need to control our unjust anger or lustful thoughts, the workplace is extremely important.

Remember, we are to be armed and ready soldiers for Christ. Our primary mission is to be witnesses, to seek and save the lost. While I am not a great fan of "lifestyle evangelism" (hoping our lives will be such a witness that people will come up to us and say, "What must I do to be saved?"), we are witnesses with our lives, our words, our actions and our attitudes.

Where can any of this be more evident than at the workplace?

People are watching you, especially if you are not an "undercover Christian" (Rom. 1.16), and you do talk about Christian matters. You're on the spot, so you'd better live it. I know people who detest Christians because of the "showy" types they work with, all mouth and no actions, those so-called Christians are reputed thieves, gossips and liars. But that does not apply to you, of course. Or me (sigh). Yes, yes it does. I am not as bad as some I have heard about, but I grumble and complain about unfair things. Perhaps I may feel justified in stealing some extra break time because "I deserve it". Not that I would ever admit to such a thing, of course.

Again, we are to be witnesses. People are watching us, and we can have good attitudes and work ethics. Sure, the earthly employer may be a clown. But ultimately, we are working for Jesus. If we — I — keep that in mind, and know that we are working to please and glorify him ("do all to the glory of God"). He sees, he understands, he hears, he helps us.

God has put us there for a reason. In his time, he'll move us on into something better. But for now, let's give our work our best, because The Company is not our ultimate employer. With that in mind, check and see if things seem so bad after all.

I have to come back and read this myself, again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fundamentalist and Literalist

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 
Edited September 13, 2016

 "Be a clone and kiss conviction good night.
Cloneliness is next to Godliness. Right! . . .If you want to be one of his, gotta act like one of us!"
— Steve Taylor, from "I Want to be a Clone"

What is a Fundamentalist? If you ask around, you will probably receive several different kinds of answers. In the most basic sense, it is someone who believes in the fundamentals of the faith. In that way, most people who call themselves "Christian" are "Fundamentalists". One definition said, "Of or relating to or tending toward Fundamentalism". Thanks, that's very helpful, old son.

I like this one: "Christian fundamentalism refers to a set of religious beliefs within the Protestant community which emphasizes strict adherence to Christian beliefs, including a belief in the literal truth of the Bible." I agree with that definition for the most part.

As you probably know, "Fundamentalism" is another word with a great deal of connotations and emotional baggage, often used as a pejorative. People may think of the late (and often unfairly maligned) Jerry Falwell. Or that generic dour church where nobody seems happy. "Fundamentalist" implies ultra-strict, narrow minded views on Scripture. In the definition that I liked, it mentioned "the literal truth of the Bible". When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I cringe. That is another loaded term, often a set-up for mockery. "Hey! This Fundie jerk takes the Bible literally. I bet you believe in all fairy stories, haw haw haw!" I don't cotton to owlhoots using labels to manipulate the emotions of others.

Someone said a useful phrase that I remembered for many years (unfortunately, I forgot who said it): I take the Bible seriously. People who want to mock us for believing the Bible use extremes and caricatures, and have a double standard for themselves (they will not complain about the use of the word "sunrise" for instance, because the sun does not actually "rise"). You see, in many ways, you can read the Bible as you would read a newspaper. When the text is using poetry, speaking authoritatively, describing real events, narrating history — read it accordingly.

Back to the Fundamentalist bit, now.
People use the word "Fundamentalist" a great deal. Unfortunately, they do not really understand its meaning, only their emotional reactions to it.
Image credit: morgueFile / ArielleJay
My father, a United Methodist Pastor, did not like Fundamentalists very much. One time, he referred to them as "fun-damn-mentalists" (I think this was because of their emphasis on the fires of Hell). I have found through experience and reading that Fundamentalists are very strict. Although well-intentioned, they are often legalistic, expecting adherence to extra-Biblical rules of conduct and so forth. From that springs judgmental attitudes towards other Christians:
  • He's not a true Christian, his hair is too long
  • They're not Christians, that music is rock and roll
  • She's obviously a false Christian, she's exposing too much skin
  • And she's wearing make up
  • No, brotherrrrrr, going to movies is a sin
  • A deck of cards has 52 soldiers in the Devil's army — but we can play the game of "Rook"
  • [Whatever] is not allowed here, it's worldly

If you've been reading this weblog, you know full well that I am downright enthusiastic about defending and presenting the faith. Man-made traditions, rules and regulations, I don't cotton to defending those. Do we judge people because they do not look or act in a way that we want them to look or act? Are we presuming to know the hearts of others (1 Sam. 16.7)? Do we use scriptural principles? Do we exercise righteous judgment (John 7.24, Matt. 7.20 NASB)? Are we walking in love (Eph. 5.2 ESV)?

I believe the fundamentals of the faith. And I take the Bible seriously — literally, when applicable (see this article on that subject). But I do not identify myself as a "Fundamentalist" because of confused definitions and connotations, savvy? I probably am a Fundamentalist according to some definitions.

You may want to see my follow-up article, "Christian Fundamentalism and Anti-Intellectualism".

ADDENDUM 4-23-2016: There is an outstanding lecture by Phil Johnson called "Dead Right — the Failure of Fundamentalism". Don't let the title throw you, he's not anti-fundamentalism per se, but there are problems with the Fundamentalist movement itself. He echoes some of the things I've said (interestingly, he came from a United Methodist background as well), but naturally goes much deeper. It's definitely worth your time. To download the MP3, go to this link and click on the tiny "Media Links: MP3" on the lower left. The PDF is available here.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Should Know Part 2: Cult Busters

"And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;
for false Christs and false prophets will arise,
and will show signs and wonders,
in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance."
Mark 13:21-23 NASB

In the previous article, I was ranting that Christians need to know what and why we believe the way we do. 1 Peter 3.15 tells us to "be ready" to explain the hope that is within us.


Learning our doctrines and the basics of our faith can be a bit of a daunting challenge. It takes time and perseverance, plus a great deal of reading and listening to good, solid, Bible-based teachings.


One thing that made learning the basics of the faith more interesting for me was studying the cults as well as aberrant teachings. Again, I want to clarify that honest people disagree on certain nonessentials. We must walk in love as well as truth. Disagreements on nonessentials does not mean that someone is a heretic or a cultist. It has been rightly said that the Word of God is a sword, not a club; we do not beat people over the head with the truth. Stop looking at me like that...


Many people have been drawn away from the faith because they were not grounded in the Word of God. Cults recruit church people away from their church. Those nice, clean, pleasant people at the door want to offer something that many people are not getting from their churches. Often, it is because so many churches today are simply religious social clubs and have very little to offer. However, it is also because too many church people (I am reluctant to call them "Christians" or "Followers of Jesus" because their commitment is so nominal) do not know what the Bible teaches. (And not only cults that claim to be Christian, but other religions entirely.)


Helen Hulse, from the Mormon Missions Midwest Outreach, said:
Sadly some are converted into the LDS Church and are members today because they did not read nor study their Bibles for themselves. People as Rocky has stated over and over in our seminars around the country "Run to your Bible"; if you know... what is between the pages you'll be prepared when a knock comes at your door selling a false religion. If you meet your nice neighbors or co-workers and they invite you to their church, you'll know false teaching when you hear it. You must know what you stand for or you'll fall for anything that sounds and looks good...Cowboy Bob, thanks much. It's important to remember Rocky's advice of "Run to your Bible" it's what he does and has always advised others to do when we are speaking in churches. How is it possible to just sit in any church and be told what to believe? We all need to know what we believe and why we believe it, in order to share the hope that is within us.
When someone tells you that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostal, Christian Science and others are cults, that should stir your interest. When you hear that someone is going to present a "different" or "better" religion, that theirs is the "one true church", you had better be prepared. As Rocky and Helen say, "Run to your Bible". (Quick tip: If you are in a discussion and they show you a verse that is a proof text, read the verses aloud in context. That bothers them.) As always, "speaking the truth in love". These people are lost and on their way to Hell, and God does not take it lightly when another gospel is preached (Gal. 1.8 NKJV, Rev. 22.18-19 NIV).  They sincerely believe that they represent the One True Church and are doing you a favor by having you read their special books and magazines, without which you cannot understand the Bible properly. That is something that should set off an alarm bell in your spirit!


I learned quite a bit about my own beliefs when studying cults. By far, one of the best possible references is Dr. Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults. Also, there are many resources available online, and I have given you a few links. If you were checking the links I gave, one of my favorites kept recurring: The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. There is a wealth of material there on cults and false teachings. At the top of this page, I have "Resources for Christians" that can keep you busy and informed for quite a long time.


Let me add that "Answers in Genesis" can not only give you a good basis on refuting evolutionism and compromise with evolution, but they have other good teachings as well.


It is my recommendation that you avoid letting the cultists into your home until you are well prepared in knowing what and why you believe. Then, you can witness to the cultist, the believer in false doctrines and others. But never buy their materials or give them money!

Friday, January 14, 2011

You Should Know

"I might believe in the Redeemer
if His followers looked more Redeemed."
— Fredrick Nietzsche
"But in your hearts honor
Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to
make a defense [apologia]
to anyone who asks you
for a reason
for the hope that is in you;
yet do it with
gentleness and respect
1 Peter 3.15 (ESV)
 
I have a bit of a rant for you. Hopefully, it will motivate people. A few months ago on Stormbringer's Thunder, I wrote a piece about areas in which atheists are right about Christians. Not surprisingly, it drew no comments from either atheists or Christians. (My guess is that it took the wind out of the sails of the atheists, and that Christians were embarrassed.) I will probably rework it and present it here sometime.

Still, I have to talk about two things tie into the quote at the top and what I just mentioned: Know what and why you believe. This is where the atheists are right, that too many Christians are ignorant of the Bible that they claim to believe. Not only what it says, but background as well.

I have been listening to and reading apologetics materials, something which has long had appeal to me. An associate of Ravi Zacharias mentioned that today is the most important time for apologetics because people are looking for explanations and meanings.

Suppose you are doing your part and being obedient to Jesus (Matt. 28-18-20) by sharing the gospel message. Then, you are stopped cold by a question. Looks like you were not "ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you".

I should mention that the Greek word apologia is the basis for apologetics. No, it has nothing to do with the modern use of "apology", which has become, "I'm sorry" (often followed by an excuse). The real use of "apology" is "an orderly explanation", or a "defense" in a legal sense.

It was pointed out that it says, "anyone who asks you", followed by a very good question: What is there about you that would prompt someone to ask in the first place? Are you living in the Spirit, obedient to God's will, walking in love and kindness? Are you acting "redeemed"?
(Wait right there for a minute. I need to go back and read that for myself!)

In addition to "being ready to make a defense" (or plead your case), which is important in itself, are you ready? Can you explain why you believe the Bible's teachings?

One time I was in an apostate United Methodist Church and making a similar appeal. A woman said to me, "We can't all be Bible scholars like you!" Well, I am not a Bible scholar. But I do know some things, and I make a point to get a bit more involved in learning apologetics than some people. That is fine, we all have our niche, as well as various spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12.4, 11). However, we should have not only a working knowledge of what the Bible actually says, but why we believe the Bible in the first place.

You are not going to be much good to God if you do not spend time in his Word and in prayer, as well as putting into practice good teachings that you have heard. I am not talking about specialized information about the history of Christianity or traditions. First, learn what the Bible clearly teaches.

Yes, there are differences of opinion on interpretations. But for the most part, we must be knowledgeable about the basics of the faith; most Christians are in agreement about those. We have all sinned (Rom. 3.23) and deserve death, but God offers us eternal life as a gift (Rom. 6.23). Jesus died for our sins and was bodily raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15.3-5). Salvation is by faith alone (sola fide, Rom. 11.6, Eph. 2.8-9). We cannot earn our salvation (Eph. 2.8-9), or maintain it, by our own efforts (Rom. 4.5, 2 Cor. 5.17); it is only through faith in the atoning work of Christ (1 John 4.10). When we are in Christ, we are born again (John 3.3) and have become new creations (2 Cor. 5.17), and the Holy Spirit lives in us (2 Cor. 1.21-22 ESV). (By the way, I know that there are sincere people who believe that you can lose your salvation. I will not debate that here, but will say that I have found much stronger Scriptural support for the security of the believer than for the idea that you can undo what God has done, Phil. 4.6).

I am not going to do all of your work for you. This is to begin laying out the basics for you, and I gave you some links at the beginning of the last paragraph so you can continue. As for the apologetics aspect, I have many links available to you here, as well as resources and Weblogs in the right-hand column.

Let me caution you with one important thing. In the scenario above, I mentioned being stopped cold by a question. Don't fake it! If you do not know the answer, admit it. "That's a good question, and I do not have an answer for you." Of course, if you have an idea, you can say, "I think the answer could be..." or something similar, making it clear that you are offering possibilities.

Again, we are not all required to be experts. But there is no good reason to be completely lacking in skills and wisdom (James 1.5 NASB). There are good books available, and the Internet is a powerful tool for equipping the believer.

By the way, Fredrick Nietzsche, quoted above, promoted the "God is dead" belief. He died in a madhouse, and we have a pretty good idea about his eternal destination. Do you care about where your friends and family will end up?

I just had to continue this here, with "Cult Busters".

Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Old Touchy-Feely Jesus

An article was posted elsewhere about how Jesus used some rather harsh words. There are people who have an unscriptural view of Jesus that I detest: Wimpy. That comes from a preference-based view of love. Jesus is God incarnate (and, therefore, love incarnate), so how should he act? Perhaps it depends on your definition of "love". For that matter, your definition may differ from mine, and both of us may differ from a child's definition. If you grab Junior to stop him from wandering into a busy street and then give him a stern warning, he may say that you do not love him because you restrained him, got his attention and spoiled his fun.

You expressed love with your words and actions, even though they seemed harsh to the child. He will understand, eventually. But at the moment, it seems unkind and unfair.

Jesus was not always Mr. Nice Guy. He expressed righteous anger, spoke harshly and even acted physically (for example, John 2.15-16). People who are not all that familiar with their Bibles are surprised to hear that Jesus "acted that way". For that matter, the thinking patterns of some atheists work like this: Jesus was full of wimpy love. You acted in a stern manner. Therefore, God does not exist. Similarly, some church people can judge us: Jesus was full of wimpy love. You acted in a stern manner. Therefore, you are a bad Christian because you do not fit my uninformed preconceptions. (By the way, John the Baptist was not Mr. Nice Guy, either, Matt. 3.7-9 NIV. Or the apostle Paul, Gal. 5.12 ESV.)

But back to the topic at hand. Jesus is gentle, of course (Matt. 11.29, Luke 18.16, Luke 23.34). But our Savior got a bit rough at times, you see. Does this give the Christian license to speak or act harshly?

Be careful! Remember, the Bible does say, "Be angry and do not sin" (Eph. 4.26). Anger itself is not a sin (contrary to some opinions), but we have to be very careful not to sin in our anger. We should examine just how Jesus used harsh words and anger.
  • He got their attention
  • He spoke the direct truth of what they needed to hear
  • He never sinned or acted outside of love
  • He did not do it frequently
  • He usually targeted "religious" people that were burdening others with man-made rituals
  • He never allowed anger to control him
  • He did not act in haste or under impulse
My goal is to stir people into thinking, get their attention, speak the truth. I will not kid anyone, I am a sinful man and have misused anger and harsh words when I let emotion take control. When we walk in the Spirit, we are not carrying out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5.16), and one of these is "fits of anger". We should seek to walk in the Spirit and show the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23). Then, when we need to show anger or speak in less than gentle (or coddling) terms, we can help the cause of the gospel, not harm it. Always walking in love, and in the Spirit.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Foundations

"The feare of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:
but fooles despise wisedome and instruction."
— Proverbs 1.7 (Geneva Bible, 1587)


First, a recommendation: Get into the Word for the New Year. Make a commitment to read it every day. One thing I do is add one chapter from Proverbs each day. After all, there are thirty one chapters to keep you covered.

I think we should start of 2011 with a look at our foundations — all the way back to square one. Greg Demme of Creation Ministries International has an important article that I hope you will read. Click here.

By the way, the illustration on that page is a smaller variation on this one, from Answers in Genesis (click for larger size):