Thursday, August 30, 2018


The Danger of Believing Scripture Does Not Mean What It Says

I grew up in churches of Christ.  One of the great blessings of that heritage is a deep and passionate commitment to Scripture.  To this day I am thankful for Bible class teachers, preachers, memory verses, Bible reading, and all the other disciplines that led me to Scripture.

But there is a dangerous tendency among some churches today.

They sometimes insist the Bible does not mean what it says.

Not just interpretations drawn from a study of principles found in Scripture.  I am talking about making your conclusions have more weight than what the Bible actually says.

One example is the discussion about male authority.  Not about what functions in the church are authoritative and can be performed by either sex.  Or debating what might constitute authority.  But that it is wrong to believe in or practice male authority. 

And the problem is that the Bible says the husband is the head of the wife.  Elders are married men.  The twelve apostles were men. 

I agree the principle of male authority has been abused.  And we have made it apply to things that are not matters of authority.  But Scripture is clear.  It speaks of male authority.  So to advocate for equal authority is to say the Bible does not mean what it says. 

Lately I hear this same argument about marriage.  That God will sanction, for example, a marriage between people of the same sex.  Except the Bible says differently.  So you have to maintain the Bible does not mean what it says. 

You may want to argue that these are positions for then and there, not here and now.  You may want to say that I am misinterpreting what God meant.  But do not tell me the Bible does not say what it plainly says.  Don't tell me we just read Scripture differently.  Of course we read it the same.  The question is does it mean what it says.

It bothers me when people attempt to say God did not mean what he said.  It is as if he needs a modern day editor to explain why what he said is not correct.

And this view leads to problems.

Churches split over this.  When you insist that God's Word does not mean what it says and I am wrong to believe it, we are not going to be able to continue in fellowship.  So you better be sure God really does not mean what He said before you divide the body.

You can begin to interpret Scripture in ways that fit our beliefs and feelings. So feelings, culture, and our experience become the determining factor as to whether we believe it really means what it says.   And anyone that does not agree with us is narrow and wrong.  It becomes hard not to be arrogant about our beliefs and to look down on those who disagree.

It is hard to study the Scriptures with someone when we have to explain that this verse means what it says but this one does not.

And young people growing up in this environment sometimes decide to leave it.  They want real authenticity concerning Bible study.  At some point you realize your church really doesn't stand for much anymore.  You want to know their is a solid footing for your faith. 

Let me be clear.  This does not describe everyone that holds some of the positions I mention.  I know people that hold to these positions that are loving, committed, and passionate about following Jesus. 

But there is a real danger in deciding that we know God did not mean what He said.  That we can absolutely and without a doubt explain that what you read is not what God really meant.  Your interpretation is not the same as truth.

Be careful.  I try hard to remember that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what he was doing when he inspired Scripture. I am not sure he needs me to correct it for him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


The Danger of Believing Scripture Means What It Does Not Say

I grew up in churches of Christ.  One of the great blessings of that heritage is a deep and passionate commitment to Scripture.  To this day I am thankful for Bible class teachers, preachers, memory verses, Bible reading, and all the other disciplines that led me into Scripture.

But  there was one dangerous tendency among some to the churches I knew. 

They sometimes insisted the Bible meant what it did not say. 

I am not talking about conclusions drawn from principles taught in Scripture.  I am talking about making your conclusions drawn from Scripture have the same weight as actual Scripture.

The most obvious example is when some insisted the Bible condemns instrumental music in worship.  Not that singing only might be a better choice.  Or after studying Scripture they concluded that singing only is a better choice.  But that instruments were wrong and that is what is taught in the Bible.

Except of course the Bible does not say that.  And by the way, I am strong advocate of non-instrumental worship for a number of reasons.  But not because that is what the Bible says. 

We did it with the Lord's Supper also.  Insisting that a Christian has to take it every Sunday.  And only on Sunday.  Even if you had to take it by yourself on a Sunday night.  You may decide those are reasonable conclusions.  Just don't tell me that is what the Bible absolutely teaches unless you can show me the passage that says it. 

It is concerning when someone says they know what God meant even tho he did not say it.  As if God needed an editor to clean up his oversights.

And this view leads to problems.

Churches split over this.  When you insist I am wrong and worshiping in error, we are not going to be able to continue in fellowship.  You better be sure that is what God meant before you divide the body. 

You tend to start thinking there is truth about everything and anything.  We can determine it and if anyone does not agree they are wrong.  And this leads to drawing smaller and smaller circles of fellowship.  Christianity is reduced to getting everything right. 

It is easy to revert to a system of why everyone else is wrong instead of explaining what you believe to be right.

The Bible becomes a proof text.  Every verse has a absolute meaning.  It is like a rule book or collection of laws for the Christian.

And if not careful, we become mean and judgmental.  As if God entrusted us to decide who is in and out. 

It is hard to share good news when we are so paranoid about getting something wrong and so arrogant to think we have everything right.

And young people growing up in this environment often decide to leave it.  They want authenticity concerning Bible study.  So at some point, your church withers and dies. 

I do want to be clear that this does not describe everyone that believes some of the things I mentioned.  I know people that hold these positions that are loving, committed, and passionate about following Jesus and bringing others to know him.

But there is a danger in deciding we know what God meant when it is not what he said.  That we absolutely and without a doubt can say what God not.  Opinions and judgments are not the same as truth. 

Be careful.  I try hard to remember that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what he was doing when he inspired Scripture.  I am not sure he needs me to edit it for him.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Living as a believer in a non-believing world.

I talk quite a lot about how Christians are counter-cultural.  That is, our world view -- and the way we live that out -- is often at odds with the people around us.

People occasionally ask me what that means.  So here are three convictions I hold that are are counter to the culture I live in.

I believe Jesus is the only way to God.  Not a way or one of many ways. I believe He is the only way to God.  Jesus himself said no one comes to the Father except thru Him.  We cannot be good enough or work enough to save ourselves.  Jesus died to save us from our sins and restore our relationship with God.  No one else.  The Jesus way leads to heaven.  That is not a popular or prevalent view in our culture.

I believe in male authority in the home and in the church.  Not a view that would be endorsed by our culture.  But I think Scripture is clear.  The husband is the head of the wife.  Elders shepherd the flock and they are to be married men.  It is not a matter of spiritual superiority or power.  In fact, Scripture is very clear on how husbands are to lead their homes and how elders are to lead their churches.

I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  Sex outside of marriage is wrong.  God makes his view of this very clear in Scripture.

And these are just three areas where I am out of step with my culture.  There are others. 

Counter cultural.

Christians may not always live out these convictions perfectly.  I don't.  But that is my world view and I believe it is truth.  And so as a Christians I work to align my life with truth.  It is not just to be taught and believed.  It is to be lived.

So we try to live more like Jesus.  We work to have homes of faith.  We commit to bring our behavior in line with what God wants.  Not perfect.  But forgiven.  But the rationale for how we live is at odds with what most people in our world believe.

The world can think that makes us -- me -- judgmental, or narrow-minded.  They can say I am not loving or that I am hateful.  But it is hard to say that when they see how we treat people.  How we serve others.  Even those in our world who are -- oddly enough -- judgmental and hateful to us.

Peter said it best in I Peter 2:12

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

This world is not my home and I will never be comfortable here.  But I am not here to be comfortable.  I am here to follow Jesus and to lead others in my world to become followers.

Till I get to my real home.  Forever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


What to Say When There Are No Words

She decided to stop all treatment for her cancer and made the decision to enter hospice care, realizing she would probably not help her daughter plan a wedding.  Never hold her future grandkids.

Their 23 year old son died suddenly in the middle of the night.

The young mother of four diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.

Living rooms we have been in over the past couple of weeks.

All of these situations where there are no words.

But many times these are the lives of people we love.  We desperately want to be Jesus for them.  We long to know what to do.  We are their preacher, or elder, or friend, or family member.  They are in our church, our small group, our Bible class.

You know them too. You have crises in the lives of those you love.  When you want to say something.  When you are expected to say something.  But there are just no words.

So here are a few things we do.  They help.

Pray for ourselves first.  To seize the holy moments.  To know what to do.  Or what to say.  Lots of times we have been in shock also.  So first we dry our tears, pray for strength and courage.

Then we ...

Show up.  Just be there.  Bring a meal.  Or a pie.  Make the coffee.  Volunteer to make phone calls.  Clean the house.  Mow the yard.

Touch.  Hug.  Hold a hand. 

Pray.  Short is OK.  Ask for God's peace and to have his presence felt.  And when you do this, lay hands of them.  Hold hands in a prayer circle. 

There are words to speak.  I love you.  I'm so sorry.  We're here.  You do not have to explain everything.  Or even make sense of everything.  Not at first.  Keep it simple, short, and focused.   

Read Scripture.  If you want to say something, use God's words. 

There are words not to speak.  If you are the one they are looking to for answers, or spiritual guidance, there will be a time for that.  Let the dust settle.  Get past the initial shock.  There will be a time that is right to talk about faith, love, repentance, confession, and living for Jesus.  And use Scripture here also.  If you are not sure when the time is right... listen.  They will let you know. 

Repeat.  Don't forget about them.  Edit:  I need to confess that I am not as good at this as I should be.  Great in the crisis and in the midst of the storm.  Tend to move on to the next crisis.  But the best ministry is often done in the days, weeks, months, and years after the crisis.

So obviously it has been a long couple of weeks.  Lots of holy moments.  Lots of tears.  Lots of hugging, praying, and God's words.  And the deeper conversations are starting.

So just a few thoughts for the people that ask what we do in crisis.  And how we do it.     

Thursday, August 09, 2018


And today our youngest grandchild, Austin Ridgell, turns 8

Happy birthday to Little Man, Austin Ridgell.  He is 8 today and here are some of the reasons I love him and am proud of him.

He talks.  A lot.  All the time.  And it doesn't even matter if anyone is listening.  That's why he is sometimes called Pops Jr.

He loves big.  Hugs and laughter and smiles. 

He is absolutely fearless.  He will try anything.  I have watched him wake boarding and he is amazing.  Watched him jump off a cliff at the lake while the other four were talking about who should go first.  He just climbed to the top, took off running, and jumped in. 

I love that his first attempt at packing for family vacation a couple of weeks ago including nine Nerf guns, one large toy snake, and one pair of socks.

And I love that he always volunteers to pray at our family meals.

Loves his family.  Loves pets. 

He is funny.  Hysterically funny. 

He is fun.  It is almost impossible not to have fun if Austin is in the group.

And he loves God and Jesus.

So I love Austin. 

Keep loving life and having fun. 

Love God. 

Oh yeah... and keep talking.  I like it.

So thanks God for Austin.  He reminds us that life is full of fun and laughter.  Watch over him and do great things thru him.  

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


I Have a Teenage Granddaughter... Anna is 13!

My granddaughter Anna Claire turned 13 a few days ago.  Does not seem possible but it is so amazing to watch her grow into an awesome young lady.  Here are just a few of the reasons I love her and am proud of her.

She loves her Mimi and Pops.  Especially her Mimi.  She is quick to hug, tell us she loves us, and she still likes to hang out with us. 

It is really special to watch her friendship with Jake and Avery, her cousins.  She makes an effort to be friends, not just relatives.

Really good athlete.  I know very little about volleyball, but evidently she is really good.  I know a lot about basketball.  She is good.  Most proud of the way she competes.  No fear.

She is really involved in her youth group at church.  Has a tight group of friends that go to church and school together. 

Very smart.  Makes good grades but I can talk to her and tell she is going to excel academically.

But here is the thing I love about her the most.  She is a committed follower of Jesus.  Loves God, loves others. 

So excited to see what God will do in her -- and thru her.

So thanks God for Anna Claire.  Protect her from the evil one.  Use her in your service.  Let her always glorify you.

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