Authentic Truth vs Popularity

Today is Thursday, February 28, 2013. Last day of our shortest month. Blessings to you!

Today is National Public Sleeping Day. So if you use public transportation to get to work, go ahead! Take that nap on the way to work! However, if you are like me, and you are, sometimes, (shoutout to John Rody) and drive yourself to work, please don’t take part in this “holiday,” at least not until you get to work. Probably not a good idea to do it during the morning staff meeting, though.

Yesterday went even better for me at work, but it was a pretty light inbound day for us. Nevertheless, I’m getting better at managing my time with the new responsibilities. Stephanie and I made it to the gym (we almost didn’t, but that’s not something I will share about today), for Stephanie’s 16th workout in the month of February. I’m frustrated, as I have hit a bit of a plateau this week. I’ve been very good diet-wise, and worked out three days so far this week, and haven’t lost a bit for the week. I am, however, two pounds down from my last contest weigh in, and I plan to get by there this morning to contribute this week’s entry.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1854, “a small group of abolitionists, Free Soilers and former Democrats and Whigs met in a church in Ripon, Wisconsin, to join forces in fighting the extension of slavery into American territories. Under the leadership of Alvan Bovay, the participants adopted an anti-slavery resolution and agreed to meet again the following month. From this slight beginning was born the Republican Party of the United States.” The name “Republican” would not be formalized until March 6, at a meeting in Jackson, Michigan. They “positioned themselves as descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party, with its emphasis on equality for all, blithely ignoring the fact that their hero Jefferson had owned 250 slaves.” 😀 In two years, they nominated John C. Fremont for president, shouting this rally cry: “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont.” Really? Ugh. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln would be the first Republican president. At some point in time, they began referring to themselves as the “grand old party,” which eventually became what we see today as “GOP.” Of course, the Democratic Party was formed 22 years before the Republicans…

Today’s birthday is Joe South, born on this date in 1940. South was a singer/songwriter, probably most famous for his song, “Rose Garden.” That was far from my favorite of his, though. He also wrote a song called “Games People Play,” which was included (along with “Rose Garden”) on his Introspect album in 1969. Lynn Anderson had a monster hit with “Rose Garden,” though it was never released as a Joe South single. “Games People Play” reached number 12 on the US charts. He apparently also had a song in 1958 called “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor.” Also making it to number 12 on the charts was his single, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes,” released in 1970. Here’s a clip of “Games People Play.”

I couldn’t find a decent live clip. I did, however, find a recording of “Purple People Eater.”


As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! Psalm 40:11
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Psalm 57:7
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 54:22

My soul thirst for you, O living God, and all that is within me cries out to you! Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.

Today, I’m reading Isaiah 29:17-21.

17 Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?
18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off,
21 who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right.

The judgment of God brings about severe reversals, such as forests becoming fields, and vice-versa. When Jesus comes, he brings hearing to the “deaf” and sight to the “blind.” Those who humbly seek will find “fresh joy” in him. There is great news in verses 20-21, as the oppressed are given hope that their oppressors will, one day, be brought to justice.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “False Prophets.” The scripture reading is 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:17-18.

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Our environment, as well as those with whom we choose to associate, will inevitably shape us, either for good or for bad. Peter shows concern, in this passage, that “the skewed biblical interpretation and lifestyle of the false teachers” will have an adverse effect on his readers’ ability to discern truth from error, and even cause the views of the false teachers to be seen as acceptable. “Repeat a bad idea or praise a sinful behavior often enough, and the entire cultural and moral landscape will eventually shift.” He therefore exhorts his readers to retain their stability “in the midst of spiritual and moral chaos.”

We have seen this happen in our culture, and we have seen false teachers rise up and become extremely popular. There are well-meaning pastors who have amassed thousands in their “churches,” by watering down the gospel to the point that it has no power. However, it is a “popularity gospel,” so it draws crowds because it makes them feel good about themselves. Peter warns us about this kind of thing in this passage, albeit not specifically. Who knows what kind of falsehood he was dealing with in his day? In our day, we must be no less alert to false teachers than Peter. We must compare the teachings of anyone who would have authority over us to the teachings of scripture. But we fall prey to pretty sounds and impressive orators. Just the other day, I heard a song on a popular Christian radio station. The song stated repeatedly, presuming to be the voice of God, “I won’t give you more than you can take. I might let you bend, but I won’t let you break.” Of course, that first sentence is one of my pet peeve points of bad theology that is still making the rounds in today’s church. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Whenever I hear that, I truly want to slap whoever said it up side the head. This idea is found nowhere in scripture! If God would not allow me to experience more than I can handle, I would not need God, would I? This is a perverted interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. But this is only referring to the area of temptation, and I believe the truth of this verse, which tells me that there is never a temptation that I don’t have the ability (still provided by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit) to resist. In regard to the second sentence in the above song quote, we must be broken before God before we can be of any use.

*Steps off soapbox*

As we think about who our teachers have been over the course of our lives, it is always good to continually ask God for wisdom and guidance, especially as we think about who our teachers and influences will be in the future. In the words of Thomas a Kempis, “Grant me, Lord, to know what I ought to know, to love what I ought to love, to praise what delights you most, to value what is precious in your sight, and to hate what is offensive to you. Amen.”

Father, I ask for your wisdom as I consider who I will allow to influence me in my life, both in the spiritual realm and the natural realm. May your Spirit dwell within me daily, constantly giving me guidance in everything I read and hear, that I might discern truth from falsehood, always checking your Word against what I hear and read. Let me never accept something just because someone popular said, wrote, or sang it. May I be diligent and zealous for the truth of your word. I pray for all who would call themselves a “pastor” or “preacher” of your Word, that they might have the wisdom of your Spirit and not lean on their own understanding. May they not fall prey to the trap of being popular. Popularity feels so good…but truth feels better. There is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it needs no addition or subtraction from men to help it.

I pray for this day, Father, asking again that Christi’s pain be relieved. I pray for healing for her, that she might walk without pain. She is strong, Lord, and endures the pain, without much complaining. But how long, O Lord? Dare I ask that of you? How long? Give us patience while we wait. Help us understand the purpose behind this. Above all, never let us forget that you work all things for the good of those who love you, and are called according to your purpose. She is expecting stress at work today. I pray that you gird her with extra strength to face this day. I also pray for my work day today, that it will go smoothly, without incident. I pray that you continue to help me adjust to the new hours and responsibilities of each day, managing my time wisely. Help me know what is important and what is not important. That goes for my whole life, not just work. I pray for Stephanie today, that she have a good day, and that you would draw her close to you, in your loving embrace. She is so excited about tonight, when she will get her reward for meeting her workout challenge for February.

I lift up a friend, Steve, whose wife had sudden loss of vision last week. I pray that her vision continue to improve, as thoughts seem to be that she experienced a severe migraine. May your healing hand be on her.
I pray for a friend, Lindsey, as her and her husband have important decisions to make. Give them guidance.
For Melody and her husband, I pray for guidance in work situations.
And I lift up another friend Jennifer, whose father passed away Tuesday night. May you comfort her and her brother in their loss.

As we consider who we allow to influence us, it is best to compare their teachings with the ultimate truth of God’s Word.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Fiery Furnace (or, “I Love the Bunny”)

It’s Wednesday, November 30, 2011. Hump Day. Last day of November. 25 days until Christmas. Of course, we have not started Christmas shopping yet. We should probably get on that.

We had a little bit of a breakthrough last night with Stephanie. I don’t know if it will hold or not, but, after coming to the conclusion that there was nothing left to do but drop out, we called her teacher. This wonderful person asked if we thought it would help if she came over and just talked to her, without planning any work. Stephanie said, yes, that would help. She has a cold this morning, with some fever, so it won’t happen today. We are planning for the teacher to come over tomorrow (unless the cold is still going). We also have some wonderful church friends who have issued a challenge to Stephanie to stick with it, with promise of reward during Christmas break. I also made a commitment to reward her if she finishes and gets her diploma. So, for the moment, it’s hopeful that she will stick with it. Of course, she was changing her mind ever couple of minutes last night, so we will see. I just wish I could get inside her head and figure out what’s going on in there.

Today’s Bible readings:
2 Peter 2; Daniel 3-4; Proverbs 31:10-31

Peter warns against false prophets and teachers “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” We see that today, in the “church.” Preachers who publicly proclaim that the idea of God using trials and tribulations to discipline and strengthen us is unbiblical. Preachers who go on record saying that cult members are “Christians.” Authors who write books that say that, in the end, God’s going to save everyone anyway, so “love wins.” Peter warns about things like this. Then he compares those false teachers to angels who sinned and were cast out of heaven (v. 4), the unrighteous world from which Noah was saved (v. 5), and even Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 6). Peter states that God “knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (v. 9)
Peter goes on, making it clear that he has little tolerance for people who willfully mislead the people of God. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (vv. 12-14) I’m with ya, there, Peter. I feel exactly the same way. In fact, according to the rest of the chapter, there is even evidence that these people were never even truly Christians!

Not long after King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and proclaimed that the Lord is God of gods and Lord of kings, he decided that, no, he was god. So he built a sixty cubit high statue of himself. Wait…you know, it doesn’t say that the image was of HIM, does it? It just keeps speaking of “the image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” Now, a cubit is technically the length of the forearm, so its exact measurement is not known. I believe that it is generally accepted to be, on average, about 18 inches. So, if this golden image was 60 cubits high, that makes it…um…hang on…about 90 feet tall. 30 yards, if you’re looking at a football field. That’s fairly tall, more than ten times as tall as a person.
Anyway…King Nebby declared that, when all of the instruments sounded (KJV includes a sackbut, which is, of course, unlikely…there were no sackbuts in ancient Babylon…the predecessor to the trombone did not appear until the Renaissance and Baroque eras), everyone was to bow down to the big chocolate bunny that had been made, then they were to all sing the song that had been designated, “The Bunny Song.”



Sorry…I got confused. I can’t read this chapter without thinking about this:

Here’s an overview of the entire “Rack, Shack, and Benny” episode of Veggie Tales. It’s adorable.

Back to seriousness. Of course, we know that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the image that King Nebby had set up, so they were, in fact, thrown into the fiery furnace. In fact, when challenged by the king, they gave him this answer: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (3:16-18 ) They were confident that the Lord would deliver them, but even if he didn’t, they were still standing by their decision to do what was right. This made the king so mad that he had the furnace heated up seven times the normal heat! So hot that the men who threw Rack, Shack, and Benny into the furnace were consumed by the heat! When the king looked into the furnace, he was astonished. He did, in fact, ask how many men they had thrown in there. They had cast three into the furnace, but now, four were visible. And one of them was reeeaaal shiny! I mean, one of them looked like “the son of the gods.” (v. 25) They were unbound, walking around in the furnace! The king had them come out immediately. Their clothes weren’t burned; their hair wasn’t even singed! They didn’t even smell like smoke.
Once again, Nebuchadnezzar decided to support God and promoted the three men.

Chapter 4 is interesting. Nebby has another dream and gets Daniel to come in and interpret it. The problem was, this dream was about the king, and how his kingdom would be taken from him, and he would be driven out into a field like a beast. Daniel was actually a little afraid to give him the interpretation, but he trusted in the Lord and told him anyway. Beginning in verse 29, this all took place. Nebby’s downfall was that he was on his rooftop, looking at the beauty of Babylon and said these words: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (v. 30) While the words were still ringing in the air, a voice came from heaven and said, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (vv. 31-32) It took place immediately. However, at the end of the days, the king lifted up his eyes and praised and honored the Lord, and was restored to his kingdom.

You see, we ought always give God the glory and honor due his name. But even if we have not, and have suffered for it, there is still a possibility that we might come around and change our ways. God is gracious and long-suffering.

I’m going to let Proverbs 31:10-31 speak for itself.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Pro 31:11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

I hope you will indulge me while I say that I have found such a woman! Christi, my love, you are a blessing! “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all!” I am, of all men, the most privileged. I love you with all my heart!

Father, I have much to be thankful for today. I am thankful for my wife and family, and that you have kept this marriage strong for over 26 years! That is truly amazing to me. I look back at the storms that we have endured and I praise you, because we could not have done it without you.
I thank you for your protection in life. I have never had to face anything like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to face. I have not even been threatened with so much as a slap in the face for standing up for my belief in God. The worst I have ever had to face was some ridicule. I pray, Lord, that, should that day ever come, that I will be as strong and confident in your grace as those three men were.
I pray that you protect your church from false teachers. May there always be strong, faithful people who will stand up and expose false teachings that creep in, so that your people will not be deceived. I pray, though, for restoration for those who bring in false teaching. It is possible that they mean well, and don’t have the actual purpose in mind to deceive. If that be the case, Lord, please show them the truth by your Spirit. However, if their main purpose is deception, then their judgment be on their own heads.

Father, I pray for this day. Most of all today, I pray that Stephanie would feel better. I also pray for Rachel, who is suffering either from a bad cold or the flu. I pray your healing hand would be on them both, Father. Show your love and grace to my daughters today. I pray that Christi and I will have good days at work today.

Thank you for good friends and especially for this fellowship of believers that you have led us into at The Exchange. May your grace and mercy shine in them, Lord. And in us, as well.

Stand up for truth. Don’t bow down to the bunny!

Grace and peace, friends.

Love That Issues From A Pure Heart

It’s Saturday morning, and we’ll be heading out to help set up for the worship celebration at The Exchange in about 40 minutes, so I have to hurry this morning. I don’t really like to be rushed, but it’s either that, or wait until after noon today. It’s much more peaceful in the house right now, so it’s more conducive to “devoting.”

The saga with Stephanie continues to progress. The school faxed forms to the psychiatrist’s office yesterday, for him to fill out and return, and an ARD meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, November 1. I’m impressed that they are actually trying to work this process quickly. I kind of thought that they would buck at the “homebound” idea, but they seem to be working toward it for us. Things have been better at home, too. Until Steph decided to ask for ice cream last night. Anyone who knows us knows that Stephanie, just as a lot of autistic kids, has a low tolerance for milk and ice cream. She can do cheese without major consequences, but straight milk and ice cream, for some reason that seems to baffle doctors, causes major behavioral issues with her. So we had a small meltdown last night about whether or when she could have ice cream. The good news is that this one only lasted about 30 minutes. The turning point seems to be when I came in the room and asked Christi if she wanted to go spend the night in a hotel room. It wasn’t a major one, though, not like past ones that have gone on for over an hour. And we didn’t yell at each other. Voices got a little elevated, but no yelling.

On to the Bible readings.

First, I want to revisit a couple of verses. Proverbs 3:5-6 are my verses for 2011. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. These verses have had a serious impact on me numerous times during this year. Most recently, came the realization of the truth of the last phrase, “he will make straight your paths.” God is the one who can make my path straight. I can’t do it. This goes hand in hand with what I am reading in the Richard J. Foster book, Sanctuary of the Soul, in which Foster reminds us that only God can change our hearts. We work so hard sometimes to do something that only God can do.

Psalm 86:11 is my “life verse.” I chose this verse close to 10 years ago. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. This is a constant prayer to the Lord. And I believe that I can pair this up with the verse in 2 Thessalonians 3 that I came across yesterday, as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (v. 5) I think this is a great verse to pray for each other, as well as for ourselves, and when paired up with the prayer in Psalm 86:11, is even better.

Today’s Bible readings:
1 Timothy 1; Jeremiah 25-26; Proverbs 22:24-29

Paul’s letters to Timothy are unique, in that they are not to specific churches, but, rather to an individual. He pretty much hits the ground running with a warning to Timothy to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (vv. 3b-4) Immediately, Paul is warning against false teachers, which may have been not intentionally false, but had wandered off the path of truth. But it is also very important for us to note the reason for this charge in verse 5. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. I have to confess that I have said some very derogatory things about people that I believe to be “false teachers.” It wouldn’t be so bad, but I don’t think my motives were pure. My reason had nothing to do with “love that issues from a pure heart.” I’m beginning to be more careful about this sort of thing.
Paul also discusses people who have gone off into teaching the law. The law is good, if handled properly. But it is, he says, for the “lawless and disobedient,” not for the just. Paul is very clear to state that the law was given to show people where they had fallen short, so they could be receptive to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He even goes on to describe the ways in which he was a “lawbreaker.” In verse 12, he says he was a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” But he received mercy as “the grace of our Lord overflowed for ]him] with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ.” (v. 13) He even calls himself the “chief” of sinners (v. 15 in KJV). The ESV translates the word, “foremost.” He considered himself “number one.” Yet Christ showed him mercy. What a wonderful truth for us all!

Father, I pray that you would, indeed, teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name, and direct my heart to your love and to steadfastness in Jesus Christ. I pray that you help me obey the command in Proverbs 3:5-6. Why is it such a complicated thing to trust in you? I pray that you would make my paths straight. I also pray for grace and mercy, both in my life, in your dealings with my sin, but also in the way that I deal with people whom I perceive to be false teachers. May I approach these subjects with the same reason that Paul described to Timothy, love issuing from a pure heart. Let everything I do have this as its motive!

I pray for our setup this morning, that it would go smoothly and safely. I pray for our worship celebration tomorrow, that you would, above all else, be magnified and glorified.

I pray for this day of rest that we have from our work. Let the afternoon be restful and peaceful. Let my heart be drawn to you.

Let everything be done out of a motive for pure love. Show grace and mercy, as we have been shown grace and mercy by Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.