Monday, December 28, 2009

Trusting a Compromiser

James 1:8 "he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

Nancy and I had a wonderful Christmas, and we wish all of you a Happy New Year.

Part of Christianity is dealing with compromising Christians. Folks who are genuinely born again, but who want to be "nice guys" and not offend anybody, sometimes reach leadership positions because of their ability to get along.

Can you trust people like that during a crisis?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peter Ruckman Sets Us Free--Really

Peter Ruckman had no problem ripping into his alma mater. Some of his accusations were true, some were false, none were Christ-like, and all of them were irrelevant. But independent Baptists were surprised to learn that you could attack BJU, criticize its wrongs, and reject its authority, even though they had been taught that this was impossible.

Having been driven into steadily-smaller, hostile camps that spied on and criticized each other, independent Baptists had no one to champion BJU, and its leadership over the group virtually disappeared.

Whether disciples of Peter Ruckman, members of the Southern Baptist Convention, practicing Biblical Christianity without the word "Baptist" in their name, or even continuing as they always had been, independent Baptists rarely send their students to BJU today.

The third reason why God allowed Ruckmanism to gain such influence over independent Baptists was to break Bob Jones University's control over them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fighting for the Lead

Bob Jones University had a well-organized network that kept track of various Christian publications, conferences, and churches. They began attacking Christians who were not in obedience to BJU, denouncing them across America and forbidding God's people to have anything to do with them. They took a new and strong stand for "secondary separation," teaching that we were to disobey the Biblical commands to fellowship with Christians who would not obey BJU. Eventually, they expanded this false doctrine to forbid Christians from associating with anyone who associated with anyone who associated, etc., with anyone whom BJU did not approve of.

Drunk with power that neither God nor man had given him, the president of BJU forbad any Christian anywhere to criticize him or his practices, and forbad Christians to fellowship with anyone who did. And with large numbers of fundamentalist churches being pastored by BJU grads, strong, fundamental evangelists who had already been rejected by moderate Christians found themselves unable to get speaking engagements if they did not did not obey him. He drove deep divisions into fundamentalists, isolating them from Godly Christians and groups who realized BJU's errors, as well as isolating them from each other.

Their new magazine, "Faith for the Family," spread this fighting into congregations whose pastors would not obey BJU, and he invented the word "pseudofundamentalist" to describe Christians who obeyed the Biblical commands to love one another.

And then it all backfired.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Key Wrong Stand at the Key Wrong Time

As independent Baptists grew rapidly under the blessing of God, they formed careful alliances with Godly fundamentalist soul-winners from other groups that were not quite as conservative as they were.

At the same time, Bob Jones University was a large, successful, strongly fundamentalist institution with high academic standards. They taught and demanded strict loyalty and obedience from their students, and helped churches and evangelists with recommendations. Their graduates pastored a large number of fundamental churches, many of them independent Baptist. And the obedience of those graduates to BJU was fading.

BJU watched as their independent Baptist graduates fellowshipped with individual preachers from groups that BJU did not approve of. Already weak in doctrine, BJU couldn't compete with the powerful preaching and teaching of the independent Baptists, who were now starting to form their own colleges.

The fragile bonds that held fundamentalists together were growing stronger, while the powerful bonds that held BJU and its graduates together were growing weaker. And BJU decided to take its stand.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Did God Do It?

I have three overlapping reasons why Ruckmanism spread so strongly among independent Baptists. God deprived their leaders of wisdom and He wanted to break the power that editors of their publications had over them. The third reason is going to take a while to explain.

During their heyday in the 1960's, independent Baptist leaders cautiously reached out to fellow Christians whom they disagreed with. They invited soul-winning, fundamentalist preachers from the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and others, to be friends. They printed their sermons, let them speak in independent Baptist churches, and spoke at Christian conferences with them.

Godly, soul-winning men had few problems with this. It was frightened, angry denominational leaders who fought this kind of Biblical fellowship. As a result, this unity was fragile and carefully-balanced.

All it would take was one key man, in a key position, saying the key words at the key time, to shatter this unity.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Did God Do It? Part 2

Ruckmanism spread rapidly among independent Baptists, causing them to have a major decline. God caused it to happen, by depriving their leaders of wisdom. Why?

Independent Baptists are not supposed to have any human leaders higher than a local pastor. But over time, various publications emerged, usually controlled by Godly men, and independent Baptist churches urged their members to subscribe. The editors of these publications gained power that the churches never meant them to have.

Decades later, these publications had turned Ruckmanite, and large churches and their pastors found themselves being attacked in these publications if they would not obey the editors. Pastors who wanted to depart from man-made rules found their people reading publications attacking anyone who departed from the rules. Conferences and radio broadcasts played a smaller part, and overall, independent Baptists were steadily being put under the authority of leaders whom they did not elect, who ruled through the authority of unscriptural offices.

These publications kept up active spy networks, accusing various preachers who associated with Christians who would not obey the editors. Pastors who wanted to learn and grow from unapproved Christians had to do so secretly, or avoid doing so altogether.

Sick of the fighting, many churches joined the Southern Baptist Convention, many individuals left for other churches, and many independent Baptist churches avoided the title "Baptist" in order to get away from these editors. Keeping the Word of God without the man-made rules, they are generally doing well, while Ruckmanites continue to separate into steadily smaller, hostile groups.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Did God Do It?

Why did independent fundamentalist Baptists turn so heavily against the Word of God and become disciples of a false prophet so quickly? Because God did it.

Isaiah 15:13 Therefore the Lord said: " Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden."

Because independent Baptist leaders had replaced Biblical holiness with man-made rules, God deprived them of wisdom. Working to bring independent fundamentalist Baptists closer to Him, God let their leaders become disciples of a wife-stealing enemy of Godly men.

Why did God do such a thing?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why Did God Allow This to Happen?

The spread of Ruckmanism among independent Baptists churches contributed heavily to their downfall and lessened their soul-winning influence. Why did God allow this to happen?

Surprisingly, the results indicate that God did not merely "allow" this to happen. He did it deliberately. Independent fundamentalist Baptist churches continue to dominate the list of America's greatest mega-churches, but they are calling themselves "Community," "Bible," "Fellowship," "Neighborhood," and other names. Yet their statements of faith clearly show that they are independent fundamental Baptist churches.

So the question becomes "Why did God do this?" I can give three overlapping reasons. One is from the Bible, and two are only based on observation, but the simple answer is "Because it worked."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Man-Made Rules Prevail

After the largest independent Baptist church in the world turned Ruckmanite, attendance went into a two decades long plunge. No longer the world's largest Sunday School, it eventually reached the point that it wasn't even Indiana's largest Sunday School. While their other man-made rules hadn't actually violated specific Scriptures, Ruckmanism did.

And a series of sex scandals started striking other independent Baptist churches as well. Believing that obedience to their rules was proof of holiness, they had a tendency to trust anyone who obeyed those rules, no matter how ungodly the person was in other areas. Many of them then turned to Ruckmanism, but the amount of scandals in Ruckmanite churches continued to be higher than in other groups. Regarding themselves as superior due to their man-made rules, they isolated themselves from other Christians who tried to warn them of what was going on.

It was the Word of God, not the rules, that had made independent Baptists America's greatest soul-winning group. And when they rejected the Word of God and kept the rules, their massive decline began.

The current pastor of First Baptist is a Godly man who has moderated their Ruckmanite position, bringing the attendance up to about 15,000, and causing many Ruckmanite preachers to turn against him. Hopefully, he will continue on the path he is on.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Refusing to Face The Truth

During the 1960's and 1970's, Jack Hyles pastored the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, which was the world's largest Sunday School. I graduated from their college, and they were running 40,000 in Sunday School when I left.

His son David had an extremely large and successful youth ministry, but reports kept coming in of Dave's wide-spread immorality. Looking at David's strict obedience to the church's lengthy list of man-made rules, Jack didn't believe the charges. When he finally accepted that they were true, he tried to cover things up while he worked on getting David to repent. Finally, everything blew up in his face, and the scandal became public.

And then Jack preached one of the most important sermons in Christian history: "Logic Demands the King James Bible." A strict fundamentalist who had cracked under the strain of his son's wickedness, Jack rejected God's Word in favor of a man-made translation, but he did keep the man-made rules.

Did it work?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Does God Bless? His Word, or Our Rules?

Independent Baptists hit their heyday during the 1960's and 1970's. At one time, the largest church in 17 states was independent Baptist, and in another 17 states, the largest non-Catholic church was independent Baptist. They had a fast-growing number of Christian schools. Through their bus ministries they were reaching more new lost people than every other Christian church in the US combined. Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention, representing over half of America's Baptists, declined steadily.

The independent Baptists offered two explanations for why God was blessing them more than the Convention: their loyalty to God's Word, and their obedience to man-made rules. And, to put it bluntly, they had the numbers to back up their claims.

Today, only one of those 17 independent Baptist churches is the largest in its state. Most of their schools have closed or merged, and their bus ministries have dropped heavily. Many of their churches have joined the Southern Baptist Convention, which has shown good growth since the "fundamentalist take-over," when Christians managed to oust most non-Christians from leadership.

What went wrong?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fearing God Without the Rules

What happens if a Christian fears the Lord, but rejects man-made rules? Many sincere Christians will insist that such a Christian cannot be used by God. Let's see what God says:

Ps 25:12 "Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses." This Christian doesn't need a list of man-made rules, because God Himself teaches him what he should do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What the Fear of the Lord Does

Proverbs 16:6 tells us that by the fear of the Lord, one departs from evil. Proverbs 8:13 sheds more light on this: " The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;"

Some sincere Christians have lists of man-made rules that they follow. They believe these lists are necessary, because they won't know how to live holy lives without them. Furthermore, they believe that obeying these lists will keep them out of situations that will bring them into sin. Yet, these groups have as many scandals in their leadership as other groups. One such group, the Ruckmanites, have more scandals than most other Christian groups.

The fear of the Lord does for Christians what man-made rules fail to do. The lists don't make you hate evil (many people under the authority of those lists don't want to obey them, but their church makes them). The fear of the Lord, on the other hand, makes you hate evil and makes you depart from it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hating Evil Without the Rules

Proverbs 16:6 tells us that by the fear of the Lord, one departs from evil. Proverbs 8:13 sheds more light on this: " The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;"

Some sincere Christians have lists of man-made rules that they follow. They believe these lists are necessary, because they won't know how to live holy lives without them. Furthermore, they believe that obeying these lists will keep them out of situations that will bring them into sin. Yet, these groups have as many scandals in their leadership as other groups. One such group, the Ruckmanites, have more scandals than most other Christian groups.

The fear of the Lord does for Christians what man-made rules fail to do. The lists don't make you hate evil (many people under the authority of those lists don't want to obey them, but their church makes them). The fear of the Lord, on the other hand, makes you hate evil and makes you depart from it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We have seen that reading the Bible and getting understanding produce holiness. There are other things as well.

Proverbs 16:6 tells us "And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil." Some commentaries and study Bibles are quick to state that "the fear of the Lord" refers to "reverential awe." But when I looked up the Hebrew and Greek words, I found that the words translated "fear" mean "fear."

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it is a springboard from which many other strengths can eventually grow. An interesting Bible study would be to take a colored marker, and the next time you go through the Bible, mark every time the phrase "fear of the Lord" appears. God pours out many blessings on a Christian who fears the Lord. But there are no blessings promised to those who obey a list of man-made rules.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is better Than Man-made Rules?

Some years ago, a Ruckmanite pastor took a church running 19 people and built it up to 400 in two years. He established a Christian school, teaching a strict set of man-made rules in both his church and school. About a year ago, he began an affair with one of the married teachers, while both of them continued to follow the man-made rules. Three months later, a high school student saw them kissing, and while lying and slandering the student, the two of them continued to obey the man-made rules. Six months later, they got caught and he was forced to resign, still without having violated the rules.

How was this possible? Proverbs 6:32 tells us: Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding

The woman later wrote in to a Christian hate site, blasting both the pastor and the student, claiming that the pastor had deceived her. How could that have happened? Proverbs 2:11-12 tells us that "Understanding will keep you, To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things"

The man-made rules didn't make either one of them holy, but understanding would have. Job 28:28 tell us " depart from evil is understanding." So how do you get understanding?

Ps 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.

Ps 119:104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Ps 119:130 ¶ The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

Reading God's Word will give you understanding, and understanding will separate you from sin. Let's spend more time in God's Word today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How does the Bible make you holy?

Folks, I have to apologize. My computer died, and living in Mexico, I needed two weeks to get it fixed. I'll continue to post about twice a week, and I appreciate your patience.

We've seen that holiness is obtained by reading God's Word. How and why?

1Th 2:13 ¶ For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

This next part is important, so please pay close attention. When you practice obedience to man-made rules NOTHING HAPPENS. When you read the Bible, it WORKS EFFECTIVELY in you. God uses the Scriptures to deal with specific problems in your life. He uses His Word to make you grow as a Christian. Reading the Word of God produces results in your life. Following man-made rules does not produce results in your life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to Become Holy

There are sincere Christians who strongly believe in man-made rules, insisting that we need these rules in order to know how to live holy lives. Yet Colossians 2:20-23, clearly states that these rules will not make you holy.

In John 17:17, Jesus prayed "Sanctify them through your truth. Your word is truth." The passage could also be correctly translated "Separate them through your truth," or "Make them holy through your truth."

Now we see that God's Word (which does not contain man-made rules) does make you holy. The next question is "How?"

Monday, September 21, 2009


We have seen that holiness cannot be obtained by obeying a list of man-made rules. So, how do you obtain holiness?

The words "holy," "sanctified," and "separate" are all the same words in the Greek and Hebrew. "Holiness" means "separation." It does not mean "spiritual" or "religious." The Bible uses these three words in only two ways: separation from sin, and separated to God. To become holy, you need to separate from sin.

Okay, how does this happen?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do Man-Made Rules Make You Holy?

Is it possible to obtain holiness by obeying a list of man-made rules?

Col 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations--
21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,"
22 which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul explains that these man-made rules only appear to have wisdom, because they cause you to sacrifice. But they do not improve your flesh or keep you from sin.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Fundamentalists Accepted the Rules

"Modernists" are people within Christianity who seek to turn their church or denomination away from Christ. In the early twentieth century, they were opposed by the "fundamentalists," who believed the fundamental Christian doctrines. The fundamentalists were not a new group; Christianity had always believed in the Deity of Christ and His virgin birth, the literal Second Coming of Christ, His literal resurrection from the dead, salvation by faith alone, and the total innerrancy of the Bible.

Having rejected Christ, modernists also rejected holy living, which is a natural product of the new birth (which they also rejected). Fundamentalists over-reacted, preaching holy living (which the Bible commands) but adding man-made rules that dealt with the current situation.

They preached against movies, cards, women wearing slacks, and various other offenses. At one time, some of these rules might have made some sense. But as the decades rolled by, the "current situation" that had produced these rules changed. Fundamentalists found themselves stuck with obsolete rules that their own people did not want to obey. Their response? Preach heavily on these rules; it was the only way to keep them in force.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How the Rules Began

It helps if you understand where, when, and how today's bunch of man-made rules began. In the early part of the twentieth century, Hollywood found that movies provided a lucrative method of introducing immorality, glamor, and worldliness to the general population. At a time of strict government laws against indecency, Hollywood fought for sin, and wealthy producers made a fortune doing so. A small number of rebellious women began wearing pants in public. Playing cards provided opportunities to gamble, drink, and neglect families.

A small number of churches objected, but these objections were not well-organized....yet.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Strict Rules Fail

A successful Ruckmanite pastor would post on the internet, insisting that Christians had to obey a list of man-made rules in order to live holy lives. The list included various dress codes, restrictions on music, places where Christians were not allowed to go, and others.

Another pastor, who had graduated from a strict Bible college that had commanded those same rules, wrote in to ridicule him. He had turned against those rules, and he now practiced scorn and ridicule on those who obeyed them. Later, it turned out that the second pastor was having an affair while still pastoring his church.

The first pastor went on in triumph, until his wife caught him having an affair that had lasted nine months. A few weeks later, he was back on the internet, teaching with authority, as if nothing had happened.

While there have always been scandals in the ministry, Ruckmanites (people who believe that the King James Version IS the Word of God, and it is sinful to use any other translation) have had a far heavier share than most; yet they have stricter rules than most.

In the next few weeks, we'll be discussing how to live a holy life without obeying a list of man-made rules.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jealous leaders, fearful of losing their power, are generally incompetent. They often realize the danger of having their people build lateral support, because they have difficulty controlling it. A common method of destroying lateral support is to teach people that they chould not listen to "critics." Surprisingly, words like "critic, critics, criticize," etc., do not appear anywhere in the King James Version, and therefor, there is no Biblical definition of these words. Therefor, I'll give my own definition of a critic: "a person who criticizes frequently, whose first response to any situation is to criticize without hearing all the facts."If you have lateral support, and these people are helping you, and suddenly they all start urging you to get out of a certain organization, they are not critics. The Bible does warn against "scorners," and a person who goes around ridiculing others should not be part of your lateral support. But a person who goes around helping people, who believes that you are in an abusive situation, is not a critic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Building Lateral Support

How do you built lateral support?

1) It really helps if your spouse and you can agree that your family is more important than your church. People who won't tolerate seeing their family members being abused are less likey to get abused.
2) Cultivate friendships with Christians at work or in your neighborhood who don't go to your church. If those friendships become strong enough, you'll have lateral support.
3) Keep in touch with friends from previous churches.
4) In your own church, attend social functions, such as church dinners. Cultivate friendships that can exist outside the church walls.
5) Get onto Christian forums, where you can explain your situation to sympathetic listeners anonymously.
6) Seek out fruitful Christians. The Bible talks about the fruit of good works, the fruit of giving, and the fruit of converts.
7) Be supportive of other Christians, because some day you might need to reap what you sow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lateral Support

We have seen from both the Bible and real life that jealousy and envy are difficult to overcome. How do you overcome these two evils when you're on the receiving end?

One way is to develop "lateral support." This means that you have other Godly Christians as friends, and you can go to them for advice. Lateral support is important enough that most churches pay to allow their pastor to go to ministers' conferences, realizing that they help the preacher improve in his service. It is also important enough that Christian school teachers are not allowed to have it; their conferences are tightly controlled by pastors, and even their newsletters are actually pastor-controlled.

Is "lateral support" Biblical? You need to know, because abusive pastors either forbid or discourage lateral support.
Pr 11:14 ¶ Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Pr 15:22 ¶ Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
Pr 24:6 For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.The Apostle Paul followed this pattern, usually having Godly companions with him.
Ac 20:4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia--also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.

So what kind of people should you go to for lateral support? And how do you develop lateral support?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Strong is Envy? Part 3

Pr 27:4 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

It IS possible to defeat an envious person, but it can be difficult. A small Baptist church had a very badly-written church constitution. It permitted children to vote, and on every anniversary of his hiring, the pastor could be fired by 25% of the vote. No joke; 25% of the membership could fire him. New members couldn't vote until they had been members for one year, so it didn't even take 25%.

Two men with large families controlled the vote, and they routinely fired every pastor on his anniversary, often over the objections of the majority of the tiny church. Without being elected, they controlled the church, and they envied the popularity and success of any pastor who could take their power away. Then, my friend Mel became the pastor.

Under Mel's leadership, the church tripled in attendance in a matter of months. And as the anniversary drew near, the two men assured everyone that they were going to fire him, although the rest of the church didn't want to. One month before the anniversary, the two families took a vacation together, and Mel got to work.

As I said, this church had a badly-written constitution. They could have a surprise business meeting any time a quorum of members was present, and they could amend the Church Constitution at any business meeting. Mel called all the members on the phone and told them he was having a business meeting on the Wednesday night that these two families would be absent. There, they amended the constitution to require a 50% vote to fire the pastor.

The two families returned to find out that they had lost their power. When one of the men threatened to give Mel a beating, Mel demanded that he keep his promise. From then on, any time the man started something, Mel demanded that the man keep his promise to fistfight him, and the problem disappeared.

Months later, the last I heard of them, the church was doing well, was growing steadily, and had a happy congregation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Strong is Envy Part 2

Pr 27:4 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

About thirty years ago, a good Baptist church was running about 175 in children's church, mostly due to their bus ministry. The pastor asked me (I didn't ask him) to be in charge. Several of us worked hard, and attendance grew to around 300.

Meanwhile, the pastor's wife held a lot of authority in the church, mistreating secretaries and other staff, and often forcing her husband to carry out policies he disagreed with. I was called into the pastor's office one day, where she told me that she was a mature Christian and I was an immature Christian, and therefor God had called her to take over the children's church.

When I pointed out that she had nothing to do with the blessing God was giving us, she replied that God hadn't called her to work on bus routes; He had called her to rule over people who did. I refused, her husband over-ruled me, and three years later, she had taken the children's church from 300 to 10.

Earlier, I had pointed out this same problem with jealousy: if you're in a family-run church, your church probably has incompetent leadership. And if you start being blessed and used by God, that family is going to start moving in to take over your ministry.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Strength of Envy Part 1

Pr 27:4 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

Who is able to stand before envy? - The rabbins have a curious story on this subject, and it has been formed by the moderns into a fable. There were two persons, one covetous and the other envious, to whom a certain person promised to grant whatever they should ask; but double to him who should ask last. The covetous man would not ask first, because he wished to get the double portion, and the envious man would not make the first request because he could not bear the thoughts of thus benefiting his neighbor. However, at last he requested that one of his eyes should be taken out, in order that his neighbor might lose both.

From Adam Clarke's Commentary

Thursday, July 9, 2009

2Sa 6:16 And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

Michal had been the princess when her father was king. Her brother had been next-in-line for the throne, and she had married a top military leader. But now her father and her brother were dead, and she was a member of David's small but growing harem. Michal's career had definitely taken a bad turn, and now she despised her husband David. Granted, David might have been partly to blame for the situation, but Michal was envious of him. David was receiving honor and acclaim that Michal felt were rightfully hers. After all, her father Saul and her brother Jonathan had been the ones who promoted David.

2Sa 6:21 And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD.

David shows us how to handle envy within the family of God. He pointed out to Michal that it was God Who had chosen David over Saul, Jonathan, and Michal's other relatives. Going to the palace hadn't been David's idea, and his promotions came from others, not from his own plots.

If you are being blessed in church work, and someone suddenly demands to be put in charge, your answer ought to be that God had given you the position and the blessing, choosing you over the person who seeks the position.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Envy in the Workplace

While researching this series, I read an article by a psychologist on dealing with envy at work. A person will get a promotion, and someone is bitter, feeling that they should have gotten the promotion.

The promoted employee tries being nice, but it doesn't work. Why not? Because the envious person feels that he is a victim of the successful person. The envious person doesn't have to take it personally, but he feels that the promotion is rightfully his (or hers) and the friendliness of the "winner" doesn't change that.

So what should the victim of envy do? After being nice and not succeeding, the person with the promotion needs to go on. But if there is a conflict, the person might need to say "I got the promotion because I'm better than you."

But you can't do that in Christian service; we're supposed to be humble, remember? So how do you deal with envy in the church?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Long Will Envy Last?

Ec 9:6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, an older and wiser Solomon looks back wearily on his life of failure. Given great wisdom and a great kingdom by God, he squandered away his blessings with sin. But he never lost his wisdom, and he passes it on to us.

Throughout the book, Solomon states repeatedly that almost everything done on earth will eventually perish. He concludes that we need to live for God, Who will reward us for obedience. In this passage, Solomon points out that the envy of people who die perish with them. Any bitterness, jealousy, envy, hatred, etc., that we have will die when we do, and the aged Solomon points out that nobody cares about them anymore.

Live for Christ while you can, and leave evil emotions to others.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Harmful to Your Health

Pr 14:30 ¶ A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.

Doctors pretty well agree that taking care of yourself before you get sick is better than having to go to a doctor because you made yourself sick. And science has proved that stress actually lowers your body's ability to fight off disease.

An envious person will always suffer stress, because he'll always see someone who has something he wants. In the church, it could be a position of leadership that the envious person feels he should have. My own observations confirm that handing positions to these people in order to placate them is like handing territory to Adolf Hitler. After a while, he always wants more. Eventually, the person's ever-growing envy pushes him into positions he cannot handle, or it reaches the point that people are willing to fight him in order to keep him from getting more.

Job's friend, Eliphaz the Temanite, had observed that "... wrath kills a foolish man, And envy slays a simple one." Job 5:2 In addition to health problems, envy can push a person into foolish actions that get him into trouble.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is "Envy"?

When the King James Version was translated in 1611, the translators used the word "jealousy" to describe a person who has something, but is fearful that someone else will take it away. Surprisingly, words, like "jealous" and "jealousy" are usually used to describe God. He has us, but He is afraid that He will lose us to something else.

However, God's Word gives far more attention to "envy" than it does to jealousy. The King James translators used "envy" to refer to a person who does not have something, but feels that he should have it. The envious person often regards himself as the victim of the person who has something. And God's Word describes envy as a more dangerous trait than jealousy.

Psychologists use these same two definitions to describe jealousy and envy. Envy carries two victims at a time: the person who is envious, and the person who is being envied. We'll be going into a study of how to deal with envy from both directions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Pastor's Family

The next part is based on psychology and experience, rather than Bible.

Some years ago, a Godly pastor made his son-in-law assistant pastor. The son-in-law quickly distinguished himself as a blatant incompetant in every area but one: holding on to power. He carefully crushed any successful teacher in their Christian school, as well as any successful lay person. If anyone did anything successful in the church, the son-in-law took charge, running it into the ground, but holding on to his power. The pastor co-operated fully, being cowed by threats of losing his daughter and grandchildren. After the two of them had run their once-successful church into the ground, they left, and the church recovered under another pastor.

Too many other Christians have told me similar stories: the pastor hires incompetant family members who then destroy anyone they see as a threat to their power. Sometimes, it is the pastor's wife, grasping all the pastoral authority she can. Sometimes his children get postitions in a Christian school or in the church.

Other times, it might be the principal, or it might be important people in the church who put their family members into unearned positions of authority. One Christian college president made his daughters professors as soon as they had received their bachelor's degrees.

There are always exceptions, but these cases pretty well produce situations in which any Christian blessed by God will be stopped by jealous and incompetant family members who hold leadership postitions. Sadly, the best thing to do when you see a Christian organization that is "family-owned and operated" is to go elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dealing with Jealous Authority

David had a problem dealing with King Saul. No matter how hard David tried to please him, King Saul remained jealous. But David did the best that he could. He played his harp to successfully drive the evil spirit away from Saul, until Saul tried to kill him for it. As commander of the army, David defeated the Philistines wherever he went, so Saul unfairly demoted him. Demoted to command of 1,000 men, David continued to defeat Saul's enemies.

At last David realized that Saul would eventually destroy him, so David fled. So David turned disloyal? No, David twice refused to kill Saul in delf-defense, and Ahimelech the priest told Saul that David was Saul's most loyal servant. Yes, David's ministry suffered. He fought against less enemies than he had before, and when Saul needed him the most, David wasn't there to prevent a massacre of Israel's army. But David went on to become a great king just the same.

The point? Sometimes, the best way to deal with jealous leadership is to leave peacefully.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Are You Great?

Around 1970, a high school student was running the largest church bus route in the world. When he graduated, he attended the college I attended. Other students had bigger bus routes, though, and another student becamse leader of the world's largest bus route, bringing in over 1,000 riders to church. Most Christians would respond with awe at the Godliness of these two, but both of them were eventually expelled for various offenses. How was this possible?

It is a common Christian error to believe that a person with a big ministry is automatically Godlier than a person with a small ministry. While it might be true, it doesn't have to be so. God is working out a plan to redeem His creation, and He uses people to carry out His plan. Saul was actually chosen as king because God's people had rejected God's plan, wanting a kingdom instead of being ruled by judges.

When God's plan calls for a large ministry in a certain geographical area, it doesn't prove that the Christians involved are spiritual giants. They might be, or they might have gifts and abilities that fit into God's plan. Your job, as a Christian, is to grow in grace and knowledge, and then to submit to whatever God tells you to do. If you do that, you are a spiritual success, regardless of what God calls you to do.

King Saul failed to acknowledge that God had called David to replace him. He might actually have discerned sins in David that would cause problems later, But his refusal to accept God's will for his own life produced the jealousy that eventually destroyed him.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Some Christians are So Great

Why didn't King Saul just accept God's will, make David king, and help David in any way that he could? One key reason is that Saul did not realize why he was such a good king: because God gave him the ability to be a good king.

1Co 4:7 ¶ For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Was Saul a good king? 2 Samuel 1:23 tells us that "Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives..." Saul did not take bribes or corrupt justice. He did not steal another man's wife, murder her husband, and provoke civil wars, as David would later do. But Saul made a key error in thinking that he was king because he was better than David. Saul was king because God made him king, and God had the right to give the kingship to somebody else.

"Covetousness" is wanting something that God doesn't want you to have. "Jealousy" is wanting to keep something that God doesn't want you to keep.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Saul's Jealousy

Saul was less astute than Jonathan, but more astute that young David. He appreciated David at first, but when he heard the song "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands," he discovered the key to successful jealousy:

The leader saw evidence that God had chosen someone else over him.

Saul understood that God was blessing David more than Saul. In fact, much of Saul's success was due to God's blessing of David. Although he wasn't sure at first, Saul rightly suspected that David was the king who would replace him. He unfairly demoted David, and David continued to excel in a lower position, gaining favor among the people. Whatever Saul did, he could not defeat God's plan to make David king.

So why didn't Saul just face the truth, as Jonathan had, and help David? Because...

Sunday, May 31, 2009


King Saul and his son Jonathan were facing a serious problem. There was a giant Philistine blaspheming God and frightening their troops. As the tallest Israelite, Saul was under pressure to battle the giant, but he knew he couldn't win. Jonathan had been involved in starting this war, and he was next in line to be king. But, like his father, he was unable to solve the problem.

Then a pink-cheeked boy walked out and killed the giant, getting both Saul and Jonathan out of a bad situation. Jonathan had an idea of what was coming: the boy would be the next king, not Jonathan. So Jonathan made friends with him and helped him. After all, being second-in-command to a successful king was better than being a king who got killed by the Philistines.

Jonathan had the correct attitude towards jealousy. When an underling can do something better than you can, that underling may very well be a gift from God; someone to be appreciated and cared for.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Envy and Jealousy

Psychologists make a distinction between envy and jealousy. "Jealousy" is "I have it, and you don't, but I'm afraid that you will take it away from me." King Saul was jealous of David. However, the most common use of jealousy in the Bible is to refer to God, Who fears that He will lose us.

"Envy" is "You have it and I don't, but it rightfully belongs to me." The Bible uses words like "envy," "envious," etc., to describe people who want something that someone else has.

Most website articles dealing with jealousy and envy are written for people who have one or both traits. I'm going to be dealing with people who are victims of these traits as well; in other words, someone is jealous or envious of you.

I'll be posting about twice a week, and I hope that you'll feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jealousy and Envy

When Saul has slain his thousands, and David has slain his ten thousands, Saul is going to have to deal with jealousy.

I'll be doing something new here, combining Bible, psychology, and real-life experiences to discuss jealousy and envy. More than one successful Christian has been surprised to find that his or her church leadership is unexplainably hostile. But you can't go around blaming all your personal problems on jealousy. Can you?

I'll be posting about twice a week, and comments and personal experiences are appreciated.are appreciated.

Friday, May 22, 2009

News Update

Greetings, Gringos! I hope your week wasn't as interesting as mine. "Godly Grandma" attended a very strict church in the area; loved by many, she had quite a large family, all the way down to her many great grandchildren. She went to be with the Lord last week. Her teen-aged granddaughter had rebelled against the church rules, and  now, four illegitimate children later, she is trying to live for God. She lives with the father of the last two children, who is trying to be a good father and a good Christian. But he can't marry her, because he can't afford to divorce his wife. He is working at the orphanage now, and she is working at another orphanage, but they are having financial problems.

The funeral was held at the strict church, where hardly anyone would talk to them. Her grandmother, however, had never stopped loving her. I was the only Gringo at the funeral, and I was also the only friend they had there. Unable to afford cars, they usually walk to the cemetery for the burial, where the grave had been dug by family members. I drove my friends, as well as the grandfather, to the cemetery.

While I obviously am not as uptight as the strict church, I admit that they have a point. They had warned the teen-aged girl about not living for God, she had rebelled, and she has reaped what she has sown. Television presents sin as being glamorous, but in real life, television is lying to us.

The government lifted the swine flu quarantine, and we were able to pick up 36 kids on Saturday. Altogether, Community Bible Church had 75 people in five services.

We had another incident at the dog shelter. Same old story: a dog attacked someone, they knew that reporting it meant the death penalty for the dog, so they didn't report it. The next day, the dog attacked me, biting me three times, but without injury. As a dog-lover, I hated to report it, but we can't have people adopting a dangerous animal.

Meanwhile, the orphanage is a garden paradise. Gringos have formed a group that pays for upkeep, and they have got all the gardens looking bright and cheerful. "Kitty," the German Shepherd watchdog, is large and friendly, and the older kids love her. They have built a large, sturdy tree house, complete with rooms, along with swing sets, rockers, sliding boards, and
athletic fields.

Last Friday morning, the Taliban ambushed a convoy that my son was in. The usual procedure is to drive through the ambush, then return to fight, but the Americans chose to fight it out where they were. Using a light machine gun, my son held down two fortified Taliban positions while other soldiers advanced on them. They found blood, but no bodies, as the Taliban had fled. The Americans took no casualties.

Adios, Vicente

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Worst Procedure

When the leadership turned corrupt, two Godly men, Jonathan and Ahimelech, stayed loyal and tried to do right at the same time. Both were destroyed. Two other Godly men, Samuel and David, deserted, and they survived. And then there was Doeg...

When King Saul sentenced Ahimelech and the other priests to death, Saul's soldiers refused his order to kill them. It was obvious that the priests were innocent of any plot to kill Saul. Doeg, knowing that the priests were innocent, obeyed Saul's order to murder them.

Doeg was what some Christian leaders want--on the outside. He obeyed orders blindly, ignoring the fact that they were wrong. But Doeg's "loyalty" didn't come from Godliness. Doeg had "set up" King Saul to murder the priests, and Doeg's loyalty was the result of evil, not good.

Don't ever show that kind of loyalty to a person. Get fired, get demoted, get slandered, get expelled, but don't ever show that kind of loyalty to a person.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Correct Procedure

David also found himself caught in the middle when King Saul turned corrupt. He had started out by driving an evil spirit away from Saul. Then he had killed Goliath. Then he had successfully led Saul's army. But as Saul looked at David's success, Saul didn't see a young man who was a blessing to him. He saw a rival for the throne.

Church politics is one of the ugliest parts of the Christian life, but you have to learn how to deal with it. When David was unfairly demoted, he behaved himself wisely, and he continued to be a blessing to Saul. When he finally had to leave, he allowed Jonathan to bring about reconciliations between himself and Saul.

But David eventually made a final decision: he left Saul for good. In doing so, David deserted an army that needed him. He lost his chance to be a good influence on Saul. For years, he was separated from his wife. And when David's best friend needed him the most, David wasn't there.

Did David do the right thing in leaving Saul? He continued to serve God in exile, but on a smaller scale than he had before. Eventually, though, God raised up David to be king  for forty years, defeating David's enemies on every side.

Many of those who stayed loyal to Saul were destroyed, but David, who separated from Saul, was successful. As painful as it is, when leadership turns corrupt, you need to leave.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Correct Procedure

1Sa 16:1 ¶ Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons."

Realizing that Saul had become hopelessly corrupt, Samuel separated himself from Saul. But Samuel didn't go around fighting Saul. He didn't go around "warning people about Saul's sins," or "exposing the sins of King Saul." Samuel mourned for Saul; he didn't hate Saul, he loved him. Incidentally, I have personally observed that the people who leave a church because of sin in the leadership often love the pastor more than the "yes men" who tell him what he wants to hear.

It could be argued that Samuel should have stayed with Saul. Samuel could have been a good influence on him. That's the course that Jonathan took, and God did bless Jonathan. But Jonathan also got destroyed along with Saul.

After a while, God gave Samuel a newer and greater ministry: to make David king. Your Christian life will not collapse if you leave a church for the right reasons. If innocent people are hurt by your leaving, that is the leaders' fault, not yours. Your Christian success ultimately depends on God, not men. The fact that someone is angry at you for doing what is right does not obligate God to stop blessing you. God blessed Samuel after he left a bad leader, and God can do the same thing for you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Not a Great Man, but a Good Man

When Israel rose up to fight off the Philistines, Ahimelech really didn't know what to do. He was helpless to stop King Saul from offering a disobedient sacrifice, but he stayed loyal. He stood faithfully on the side of King Saul, while Saul's army was deserting him. He remained faithful as David slew the giant, although he was unable to do anything himself. David would later say that Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, but if said that about Ahimelech, it is not recorded. Ahimelech was loyal enough to King Saul that he didn't want to help David, until David deceived him into believing that David was still serving Saul.

Later, under the influence of his evil servant Doeg, King Saul believed that Ahimelech was involved in a conspiracy to murder Saul. And so, King Saul, a leader gone corrupt, faced faithful Ahimelech the priest. He challenged Ahimelech for his lack of loyalty, because Ahimelech had helped David. 

1Sa 22:14 So Ahimelech answered the king and said, "And who among all your servants is as faithful as David, who is the king's son-in-law, who goes at your bidding, and is honorable in your house?

King Saul thought that he spotted disloyalty in Ahimelech when Ahimelech told Saul the truth. The truth was that David was Saul's most loyal servent, who had delivered Saul from the power of an evil spirit, who had delivered Saul from Goliath, and who had smote Saul's enemies everywhere he went. But because Ahimelech didn't tell Saul the lies that King Saul wanted to hear, Saul believed that Ahimelech was disloyal.

Ahimelech was destroyed, but he was destroyed while doing what was right: telling a corrupt leader the truth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Loyal and Successful

When King Saul became jealous of David, Saul set out to murder him. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, found himself in a difficult situation. It was Jonathan who had delivered Israel from the Philistines before David came along to replace him. But Jonathan appreciated David's victory over Goliath, and recognizing that God was going to make David, not Jonathan, the next king, Jonathan helped David.

In the 1970's, a popular Christian seminar taught that authority is an umbrella of protection that God puts over Christians. But when the umbrella has holes in it, the Christians assigned to be under that umbrella have little that they can do. Thirty years later, I have seen that this is true. When Christian leadership goes bad, the followers are going to have problems.

Jonathan struggled to stay loyal to his father, King Saul. Neither a spineless "yes man" nor a rebel, Jonathan reasoned with Saul and sometimes succeeded in getting Saul and David temporarily reconciled. Eventually, Saul found out that Jonathan was lying, as Jonathan tried to be loyal to both Saul and David. Jonathan was pushed away from leadership, as Saul turned to less Godly "yes men" for help.

Still loyal, however, Jonathan was destroyed with King Saul in a battle with the Philistines. All that remained to Jonathan was his crippled son, who lost all his family's property. Later, after Jonathan was dead, King David (a picture of Christ the King) restored everything that Jonathan had lost, but that didn't change the fact that Jonathan had been destroyed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

When David Slays Ten Thousands

1Sa 18:7 So the women sang as they danced, and said: "Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands."
 8 Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?"
 9 So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

One of the key failures for some Christians is not recognizing the principle being taught here: people blessed by God might face jealousy from the leader. David was totally loyal to King Saul, delivered Saul's kingdom from Saul's enemies, and was faithful in every assignment that Saul gave him. Common sense tells us that Saul should appreciate David.

But Saul also understood some spiritual principles. He knew that ultimately, it is God Who sets up kings, and he suspected that God was in the process of doing so. He would also fear a conspiracy by David to murder him, but one way or the other, Saul regarded David as a threat to Saul's power.

So, why didn't David's loyalty work? Why didn't David's good service persuade Saul to appreciate David? Because sin was a factor in Saul's life, and Saul misjudged David as having the same sin. David stayed loyal to Saul just the same, and God blessed him. But I want to show you what happened to some people who got caught in the middle.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pr 18:13 ¶ He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

A common problem when I taught school involved students lying to their parents about why they got into trouble. Smart students quickly learned that if they could get to the parent first, they could get the parent into a rage against the teacher, the parent would complain to other parents, and then the parent had a hard time backing down when the teacher told what actually happened. Some parents would then refuse to back down and would launch telephone smear campaigns against the teacher. What the parents didn't know was this:

The students, especially their own child, regarded the parent as stupid.

If it got serious enough, the school board would look into the matter, and they would try to solve the problem graciously. But among themselves, the school board believed:

The parent was stupid.

Some parents prided themselves on how afraid the teachers were of them. They would have been less proud if they had known what the teachers thought about them when they discussed the situation among themselves:

The parent is stupid.

If you want to succeed in the Christian life, you will need to influence other Christians by your good example. You will need to have other Christians trust you to handle problems. You cannot do this if you make decisions without hearing the entire matter first, because if you do, other Christians will regard you as stupid.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Your Entire Duty is Really SImple

Ec 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Over the decades, I have met hundreds of Christians who went into full-time Christian work, and then didn't last for more than a few years. Most of them went four years to Bible college. Here in Mexico, we have had several that came to work full-time at the orphanage and then left within a few months. And when I was in college, I realized that there weren't enough churches to hire all the students who were studying for the ministry. Five missionary families, who had raised support, arrived here after I did and have quit and left.

When I taught Christian school, I quickly saw that less than half of all Christian school teachers enter their third year of teaching, despite four years of college. (For the record, I taught Christian school for ten years). Churches quickly fired teachers, sometimes unjustly, because there was always a steady supply of newcomers.

I also observed that Christians who held secular jobs, and who could afford to leave a church and go elsewhere, got treated better than the people in full-time service. From those people, not from the Bible college graduates, long-term church leadership emerged.

Your whole duty to God is to Fear Him and keep His commandments. Going off to Bible college or into a full-time ministry takes a very special call, and almost all who accept that call do not succeed. Most Christians need to go to a good church and serve God from there.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Keeping His Commandments

Ec 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

The only true way to keep God's commandments is to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. When you do this, Jesus gives you His Own righteousness. However, the context indicates that Solomon means that we are to live lives of continual obedience to God.

Joh 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

One of the great blessings of obedience is that Jesus manifests Himself to Christians who obey Him. Christians who feel that they need to lie and scheme in order to advance in church authority sometimes find themselves serving in the flesh, because God will have nothing to do with their service. Christians who leave their religion behind them when they leave their homes often find themselves living powerless lives, because God does not want people to associate them with Him.

Do you want to be used by God? Then do it His way, not your way. Obey Him, and then trust Him to show you where to serve.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Fear of the Lord

Ec 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Man's entire duty to God is to fear Him and keep His commandments. And one of the most widespread errors in Christianity is the belief that the "Fear of the Lord" refers to "reverential awe." A study of the Hebrew and Greek words translated "fear" show that they mean "fear." And  over the decades, I have been amazed at the number of  people who hold positions of Christian leadership, yet do not fear the Lord.

First, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge Proverbs 1:7 and of wisdom Psalm 111:10. A person who does not fear the Lord does not even have the beginning of knowledge or wisdom.

Second, you should be friends with people who fear the Lord Ps. 119:63  ¶ I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts. Notice that obedience, the second part of the duty of man, is connected with the fear of the Lord.

Third, remember that people who don't like other Christians don't fear the Lord Ps 119:74 Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, Because I have hoped in Your word. People who go around criticizing Christians and demanding that you have nothing to do with them might be saved, but they do not fear the Lord.

Fourth, the fear of the Lord is to hate evil Proverbs 8:13 The verse goes on to explain that pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverse mouth are things that a person who fears the Lord hates.

Fifth, And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. Proverbs 16:6 A Christian who fears the Lord doesn't need a bunch of man-made rules; he'll depart from evil on his own.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're Going To Be A Layman

We have to face reality: most Christians will never enter full-time Christian work. In addition, most full-time Christian workers will spend most of their lives as lay people, because they are not going to be able to stay in their ministry. And if you are going to learn how to be blessed by God, you need to learn how to be blessed by God as a lay person.

Solomon possessed more wisdom that any man who ever lived, and while he served God, Israel reached great success. When he turned to other gods after his many wives corrupted him, Solomon watched as Israel fell backwards. But God never took away Solomon's wisdom. Solomon had the unusual ability to see the work of God through a man's success and failure, and he had the opportunity to use his wisdom in both cases.

Later, when he was old, tired, and discouraged, Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He had the wisdom of a lifetime to record, and he recorded this:

Ec 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If God Ain't In It, You Ain't In It

1Ki 1:5 ¶ Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king"; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

As King David lay on his deathbed, his oldest surviving son plotted to make himself the next king. He hired messengers. He consulted with leaders. He formed alliances. He hatched plots. Finally, he threw a great feast to celebrate his ascent to the throne, inviting most of the leaders and all of his brothers except one: Solomon.

Solomon, as far as we know, did nothing to advance himself. If he knew that his life was in danger, he did not do anything that we know of to protect himself. Meanwhile, Nathan the prophet told the aged King David what was happening. He reminded David of David's word, and God's Word, that Solomon would be the next king. David quickly had his loyal servants and leaders publicly anoint Solomon as king, and the people, loyal to their beloved King David, eagerly accepted Solomon.

Hearing the news, Adonijah's loyal followers quickly fled for their lives, leaving Adonijah to plead with Solomon not to kill him. With no known plots or schemes, Solomon had become king.

Christians sometimes hurt themselves by plotting to gain positions of leadership in the church. When they do succeed in backstabbing their way to the top, they often find themselves unable to handle the job, because God isn't with them. More than one successful rebel has watched the congregation dwindle as God led His people to go elsewhere.

Adonijah was definitely a man of ability, who might have gone far if he had obeyed God. He later tried another plot to become king, and this time, Solomon killed him. It is God's responsibility to raise up leaders of His people, not yours. Fear God, obey His commands, and serve Him. After that, it is God's responsibility to decide where to use you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

We have seen that the most important command for a Christian is to have a fervent love for other Christians. This love is more important than other issues, even though the other issues are important. In the above passage, we tend to emphasize verse 35, but there's something in verse 34 that we miss. When Jesus commanded us to love one another, He explained "as I have loved you."

We're to love each other just as much as Jesus loved us. Jesus doesn't become enemies with Christians over dress codes, music, or non-Gospel doctrines. He didn't commit sin in order to get along with Christians, but He didn't become their Enemy, either.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is the single most important things that you need to do if you want to follow Christ closely? Is it belonging to a certain Christian group? Believing a certain doctrine? Dressing a certain way?

1Pe 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Some Christians are surprised that the Bible tells us that loving one another is the most important thing for us to do. But while you can make mistakes on doctrine, loving other Christians is never a mistake. Fighting among Christians is to be avoided. The idea that we have to warn others against a certain Christian is an excuse for disobeying God's clear command.

Nancy and I are members of a megachurch in Texas, and we watch our pastor every Sunday on the internet. We disagree with some of the dress standards of our church, but we don't disagree with the large numbers of people who are getting saved, nor do we disagree with the spiritual growth that we are getting from listening to our pastor. Because love is more important to us than a dress code, we aren't cut off from getting these blessings.

Don't go to war with every Christian you disagree with. Concentrate on loving one another, and trust God to handle the other problems.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Angry Preachers

In following Christ closely, we have to be careful that we don't wind up following a man or a small group of men. Proverbs 22:24-25 warns us " Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul."

Some Christians make a ministry out of blasting away at Christians whom they disagree with. But James 1:20 tells us "for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Ripping into other Christians is not the way to follow Christ.

Ecclesiastes 7:9  warns us: "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools."

A ranting, raving preacher might be interesting, but he's leading you away from the direction that God wants you to go.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who to Follow

In obeying Jesus's command to "Follow me," we often have difficulty not following someone else.

Some time ago, A Godly Mexican charismatic started laughing at me because I had never heard of a certain popular woman preacher. I looked her up on the internet and found that she lives in a mansion, has servants and expensive cars, and that all of this is being paid for by donors. She was currently being investigated by a Congressional committee for income tax fraud. To make things worse, when I explained this to the Mexican charismatic, she admitted that she knew of Mexicans who lived in concrete houses, whose main food was beans and rice,  who were sending this woman money.

2Pe 2:3 ¶ By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Preachers who teach "the prosperity Gospel" claim that their wealth (accumulated from donors) is proof of God's blessing. 1 Timothy 6:5 speaks of "men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself."

If you want to be used of God, you need to stop following glitzy performers and instead, closely follow after Jesus.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In obeying the command of Jesus to "Follow me," we often run into problems. What do you do if a successful pastor or preacher starts selling his own books and commentaries? How closely can you follow a man without disobeying Jesus's command to "Follow me"?

1 John 2:27 tells us: " do not need that anyone teach you..." The context of the verse tells us that God Himself teaches us, and when someone teaches us to go against God, we are to turn away from that teacher.

It is a common thing for "teachers" to arise within Chistianity who tell us to disobey the many commands to love one another. They warn and explain that if we do not separate from Godly people who disagree with these teachers, we will become corrupted. We must instead become close followers of these teachers, reading and listening to no one except those whom these teachers approve of.

But God's Word tells us differently. It tells us that God Himself teaches us. If you follow Jesus closely, He won't let you get corrupted and ruined; He'll make you a fisher of men. And following Jesus closely means that you love all of God's people.

Php 4:21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Follow Who?

In Matthew 4:19, we have Jesus saying  "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." And, as teachers often do, I explained that the word "follow" means to "follow closely."  But we often miss the point, that Jesus said to follow "me."

Christians often decide that since their own group is correct, they should not listen to other groups. While there is some wisdom in this, there are also problems. I believe heavily in soul-winning and witnessing. What do I do if someone from another group is winning large numbers of souls, and he wants to offer me advice?

In Mark 9:40, Jesus said  "For he who is not against us is on our side."  Someone who couldn't get along with the apostles had been casting out demons in Jesus's Name, and the apostles had forbidden him to do it. But Jesus claimed that man as one of His own. Following Jesus closely means that you can get along with other Christians. It doesn't mean that you refuse to fellowship with, or have anything to do with them, because you think that your group is right.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Follow How?

In Matthew 4:19, we have Jesus saying  "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

In the Greek, "follow" is actually two words. They mean "Follow closely behind." Half-hearted Christians have something wrong with them; they are not closely following Jesus. That's why they win few, if any, souls to Christ.

And there's something else in this verse that we often miss: it is Jesus's responsibility to make you a fisher of men. YOUR responsibility is to follow Christ closely. Then Jesus works in your life to make you more successful.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Something is Wrong Part 2

We're now going to tie in  2 Chronicles 7:14 with Mt 4:19:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

If you are not a fisher of men, something is wrong. Jesus explained that if you follow Him, He will make you a fisher of men. The problem is not with your talent, ability, or even your spiritual gifts. It is the responsibility of Jesus (not you) to turn you into a fisher of men. If you are not doing this, then you are not following Jesus. You need to admit that something is wrong.

Some Christians turn to Calvinism, attributing their failures to the sovereignty of God. Other Christians point to the failures of successful Christians, praising themselves for not having fallen into the same sins, while ignoring the fact that they have not had the same successes. Some Christians turn to busy work, fumbling about church business without accomplishing anything that wouldn't have been accomplished without them.

Brethren, if you are not a fisher of men, you need to admit: something is wrong.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Admit That Something is Wrong

2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

We have seen some ways to humble yourself: seek lower positions, rather than higher ones; and submit to God's ordained leaders. Now, here is another one: admit that something is wrong.

The previous verse shows the context: 2Ch 7:13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;

 God told Solomon that if things were going badly, it was because God was not blessing His people. God wanted His people to respond by admitting that something was wrong, not pretending that everything was all right. If there were a drought, God didn't want His people pretending that everything was fine, because there was still water in some of the wells. When locusts devoured the land, He didn't want His people to pretend that everything was fine, because indoor plants were still growing. When people were dying in an epidemic, He didn't want His people pretending that everything was fime because someone just had a baby.

When people aren't getting saved, and Christians aren't growing, God doesn't want us to pretend that everything is all right. He doesn't want Christians to pretend that things are fine because they hold leadership positions. He doesn't want churches to pretend that things are fine, because they are giving spare money to the poor.

God wants His people to admit that something is wrong, humble themselves, and turn in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What is "Grace"?

1Pe 5:5-6 ¶ Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.

We have seen that a key to success in serving Christ is humility: we are to seek low positions, not high ones; and we are to submit to the human authority that God puts over us. Doing this gives us humility, and humility gives us grace.  So, what exactly happens when God gives you grace?

Paul explained what grace did for him: 1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Paul wrote that grace had changed him, and it made him work hard for the Lord; grace gave Paul the desire and ability to do God's work. Have you tried to serve God, but failed? Did you eventually give up trying? If so, you need grace, which God gives to the humble.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Rules Over Us?

Heb 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

1 Thess. 4:9 ...for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

We have seen that humility is a key to spiritual success, and that submitting to authority is a key to humility. We also saw that the people whom God has put over us are able to teach us His Word; if they are not able to do this, God has not put them over you, regardless of their titles. Now we see that the people God has put over us "watch out for your souls."

A person who has seized leadership in violation of Scripture often finds it necessary to engage in church politics in order to hold onto that leadership. The person has to work against feared opponents, justifying his sin by claiming that it is necessary in order for him to carry out God's work.

One hallmark of a dying church is criticizing other Christian churches, because the leadership fears that their people will go to those other churches. The result is that when some of God's people finally do get out, they don't go to church anywhere. God, however, teaches us to love one another. A person who teaches you otherwise does not have authority over you, regardless of his title.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heb 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

2Ti 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Hebrews 13:7 is rarely preached on for two reasons: it offends the followers, and it offends the rulers in a church. The verse clearly teaches that people who have not taught a congregation the Word of God cannot be their leaders. They don't have to be the best teachers, and it doesn't require than to teach every Sunday, but before God makes a leader out of anyone, He makes a teacher out of him.

We have already seen that God tells us to take the lowest rooms in a church and to trust Him to advance us if it is His will. People who maneuver their way to the top through back-room church politics have not trusted God by obeying  this command. They don't have a faith that we should follow.

And then it continues: "considering the outcome of their conduct." When people seize leadership out of God's will, failure often follows. Attendance declines, soul-winning declines, baptisms decline, and the quality of God's Word being taught declines.

These people can hold any office or title they want, but they don't have authority over you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to Become Humble Part 2

Jas 4:6-7 ... God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God...

1Pe 5:5-6 ¶ Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time

Over the years, I have met  Christian rebels who claim that God has told them to continue in a sinful path. Writers on Christian hate sites sometimes claim that God has called them to warn people against certain Godly men or Godly institutions. And despite their failures in obeying the Great Commission, they claim success, because they are obeying God's will for their lives....But they're not.

The two previous passages show us that submission to God includes submission to the human authority that God has ordained. Many sincere Christians will object that these authorities are often evil. Are you willing to submit to God? He told you to obey those authorities. There is no such thing as a humble Christian rebel. And a Christian who objects to the idea of God speaking to him or her through God-ordained authority is not submitting to God.

The second part of obtaining humility is this: Abandon the idea of  being  a Christian Lone Ranger, too good to answer to anybody but God. God has established leaders for you to obey. Which brings up a problem: How do you recognize the leaders whom God has called you to obey?

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Become Humble Part 1

Lu 14:11 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

I know of three Scriptural ways to become humble. The first is given in Luke 14: do not seek high positions for yourself at church. Seek low positions, and then trust God to elevate you if it is His will. 

One meagachurch has successfully started over a dozen other churches. A group of men were cleaning up after the morning service in one of them when a stranger walked in. He enthusiastically told them that he liked what they were doing, and he wanted to be a part of it. They agreed. Then he explained that he wanted to be a leader. The assistant pastor agreed, and told him to get a vacuum cleaner out of a closet and to start on the main auditorium. Afterwards, they would need his help cleaning the rest rooms.

Surprised, the man explained that God had called him to take a leadership position in their church. The assistant pastor then explained that if that were true, then God had called him to start working as a servant, because that's where their leaders came from. The man refused, and the church grew and succeeded without him.

Did God call him to be a leader there? If He did, then the man failed; he didn't follow the teachings of Luke 14. And if God has called you to be a leader, He has called you to seek positions of service as well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Recognize the Right Approach

After using the illustration of people who are invited to a feast, Jesus concluded with His explanation of WHY He was correct:

Lu 14:11 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Notice what  Jesus said : "Whoever" exalts himself will be humbled. Jesus did not say, "Whoever exalts himself, unless he is right," or "Whoever exalts himself unless God told him to do it," or "Whoever exalts himself except those with decades of experience in leadership positions." Jesus taught that ANY Christian who exalts himself into a possition of leadership is going to get humbled.

So, how do you humble yourself? How do you know if you are humble? How do you not know that you aren't so proud that you think you're humble, when you're not? Despite all the jokes about "Humility and How I Obtained It," the Bible really does gives ways to become humble, and ways to tell whether or not you are humble.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Right Approach

Lu 14:10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.

We have seen that people who will only take positions of leadership usually fail in their Christian service. But Christians who are willing to take low positions succeed because any advancement they make comes from God, not themselves. Are you willing to go to your pastor and volunteer to do any task that needs to be done? What if the task is setting up chairs, mopping floors, cleaning rest rooms, washing dishes after church meals, or tending to the church grounds?

One large Baptist church that we were members of always had plenty of nominees for deacons, but the pastor had to plead nearly every Sunday for nursery workers. Everyone who ran for deacon could not possibly have been called to do so, but everyone who volunteered to work in the nursery had genuine opportunities to serve God. In another large Baptist church, some men who were not elected as deacons were so upset that they were put on the school board as a "consolation prize," where they hindered the work of our Christian school. In other churches, people would fight and scheme to be put in charge of an adult Sunday School class, while refusing to teach a children's class; and although it may have happened elsewhere, I know of no instance in which such a person did a good job teaching the adult class. In yet another church, we had a successful teen-age Sunday School class, because inexperienced young Christians were bringing their friends; meanwhile, older, more experienced Christians seized the leadership, and ran off 3/4 of the attendance in one year.

Do you want to serve God to get results, or do you want to serve God to glorify yourself? If you want results, seek out opportunities to SERVE, not opportunities to rule.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Wrong Approach

Lu 14:8 "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him;
 9 "and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.

Walking into a church and demanding a position of leadership is the wrong way to serve God. "Backstabbing your way to the top" often works in the secular world, but not in successful Christian service. All kinds of Christian ministries have been hurt or crippled when unsuitable people, who were not being blessed by God, became leaders. The Greek for "the best place" refers to the best reclining place; it is a place that does not require work or service. It is a place for a person who is too important to work.

God can demote these people in various ways. Sometimes, church attendance plummets after the wrong people seize leadership. Sometimes Christian ministries even shut down as the result of bad leadership. Generally, God's people leave, because they do not want to be under that person's authority. The ones who stay usually do so because they hope that things will get better.

Jesus warned that when God does demote someone, that person "with shame" begins to take the lowest place. The Greek word "shame" can also refer to dishonesty; the demoted Christian lies to himself and to others about what went wrong. When you see a Christian "on the way down," it is likely that you shouldn't believe his explanation of what happened.

In the next post, we'll see the right approach to serving God.