Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Christians, Stop Arguing with Idiots

 I subscribe to a couple of Christian forums , and if you sit back dispassionately and watch the going on, there are definitely some observable trends. One of the trends is that people hostile to the gospel  or hostile to the Bible in general will post things  intended to insult or belittle Christians.  Sometimes the scoffers will  originate a post, or sometimes they will simply weigh in on someone else's post. The end result is that Christians ill-equipped for the battle will charge on ahead, and the discussion quickly gets out of hand and off-topic. I've even seen Christians get 'in the flesh' and  speak unadvisedly in these matters. I've seen professing Christians resort to obscenities.  Meanwhile, the skeptics and gainsayers are high-fiving each other as they use you for their entertainment.
  I was told years ago by a much wiser man "Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  I don't know if I have ever received better advice.
  With that in mind, and as part of a small service to the body of Christ, let me present with you some points to keep in mind as you scoot about the internet or talk to people in person.

1. Arguing with idiots is not contending for the faith.
  Jude 1:3 reads "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." but the counterbalance for that commandment is found in places like "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." ( Prov 26:4) and "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes." (2 Tim 2:23). You are not required to entertain the incessant questioning and scorning of fools.  In fact, the Bible tells us in Titus 3 "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."  According to Romans 1:29, debate is a work of the flesh anyway, and you certainly aren't required to hold endless discussion with  insincere people.

2. There is a difference between a seeker and a scorner 
  Prov 1:22 says "..scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.." and Prov 14:6 adds  "A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.".  A scorner isn't asking because they want an answer; they are asking because they love the act of scorning. According to the Bible, if they wanted the truth, they would find it. The Bible says in John 3 "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil".
  Compare the scorner to men like Nicodemus in John 3 or Cornelius in Acts 10. These men weren't believers, but they weren't scorners, and because they came to God on His terms, and not armed with  endless array of smart-aleck 'objections' founded out of the darkness of their own heart, God granted them repentance.
  In dealing with people, we should use wisdom to discern after two or three interactions whether this is a person that is sincerely seeking the truth or a God-hating scorner who will trip over the truth all day long no matter how well it is presented.

3. They hate God, but they can't get to God, so they take it out on you
 Hebrews 11: 6 says "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."  If a man comes to God with an imperfect heart, God refuses to deal with him.  You see in the gospels where Jesus Christ had time for people full of devils and lepers, but no time for the self-righteous or the foolish. Prov 1 tells us  "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
  If you pay careful attention to the rantings of most 'skeptics' it is obvious that at some point they got mad at God.  Most will even tell you of their early church-going background, but somewhere along the way something happened.  Either God didn't do something they thought He should have or He didn't stop something from happening that they think He should have stopped. They decide that they are right, and God is wrong. Bitterness and anger harden their heart towards God and since they can't get to God, they will try to spew their vitriol on God's people.  The Bible tells us "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul." (Prov 22:24-25).  Their issue is with God, not with you.  Don't get caught up in their issue.

4. Proving God is not your job.
  I am thankful for the people who have devoted their lives to apologetics, and  I don't mean this as a slight towards them, but frankly, most apologetics is a waste of time.  God gave us a Bible, and as much as I appreciate the fact that, as the Creator, He left His fingerprints all over creation, its the Bible that is our proof, not  'creation science'.
  Nowhere in the Bible are we told to run around trying to find Noah's ark or Solomon's temple . If they find that sort of thing, I must admit its interesting, but if it never gets found, I still have a Bible written by One who cannot lie. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to use human reasoning or philosophy to make God's case for him.  Nowhere are we commanded to use our own experiences as the cornerstone for God's existence.
 We are simply told to "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel".  While doing that we will run into sincere people , and to those people we preach the gospel. We will also encounter insincere people, and to those people we preach the gospel. A man that rejects God doesn't reject God due to an insufficiency of evidence; he rejects God because he has a dirty heart.  Were you to somehow find 'proof' outside of the Bible and present it to him, according to scripture it wouldn't change anything because his heart is still dirty towards God. In Luke 16, the rich man is told "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." The issue wasn't proof or lack of proof, it was their heart.
  A man told me once "If only God would show up on the earth and appear to man, then we would believe." He did, and they didn't.  By rejecting the gospel, a man blinds himself, opposes himself, and ultimately condemns himself. No amount of 'Back to Genesis' articles will change that.

5. The word of God is our only weapon.
 In Psalm 119:130, the Bible says "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." In Ephesians 6, when listing the 'whole armour of God', the only offensive weapon listed is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:" That sword is said to be ".. quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" in Hebrews 4.  The Apostle Peter, after recounting his own eye-witness experiences in 2 Peter 1, appeals to the scriptures as being "a  more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts"

   So when a person comes to you with an objection, you tell them what the Bible says. When they try to hem you up and belittle you,  tell them what the Bible says. When they resort to name-calling, tell them what the Bible says. After two or three admonitions, they have proven themselves to be a scorner and a fool and you are no longer obligated to deal with them. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Dumpster Pizza Is the Best!"

 I was on my way the corner to preach when I saw them; a young couple dressed in tie-dyes and jean shorts holding a sign on the side of the road. Technically he was holding the sign and she was laying on her back in the roadside grass, propping herself  up against a backpack and tending to a dog of indeterminate breeding.  I walked maybe 40 yards to the  right of them on my way to the corner. By then he had retreated from his post alongside the road into the scant shade and he waved weakly. I waved back and headed to my usual Sunday afternoon preaching  spot.
  I preached my way through one red light, and then a second one, when I saw him making his way across several lanes of traffic to talk to me.  I assumed he was going to ask for money, but he didn't. He told me that he just wanted to thank me for my 'service' ( my hat gets a lot of this). He glanced at my sign and then without further ado, he wandered back across the street and resumed his own sign holding activities.  Once in a while someone would slow down and hand him money through a rolled down car window, but for the most part he just stood there in the brutal Georgia sun while his blonde girlfriend reclined in the grass.
  I told myself I would preach for  a few more lights and then I would go talk to them, but then an odd thing happened; the traffic stopped. By that I mean , for the next 3 lights, there was absolutely nobody sitting at the light when it was red.  When it turned green a herd of cars would come rumbling through, but by the time it turned red, the lanes would be empty. I don't know if I have ever seen anything like it before. I took that as a 'sign' and broke down my banner so that I could head back across the street to where they were.
  Some guys have charisma, and great conversational ice-breakers. I am not one of those guys. I walked over to them and told them that I would be remiss in my duties as a preacher of the gospel if I didn't at least give them a gospel tract. He took it and I asked him his name, which was Greg.  For the next 20 minutes or so I stood there and talked to them about Jesus.
  They were homeless, both barely in their 20's and referred to themselves as 'traveling kids', which apparently is a thing. They claimed to be part of a much larger community ("family" is the word they used) of people who wander around the country from place to place in the tradition of the old rail-riding hobos, under society's radar, outside of the system and free from the grind of the 9 to 5 life.  She took great pride in declaring herself, at least philosophically, a a modern day hippie.They sleep wherever they can, and eat whatever they can. One of their favorite things to do is to camp outside of the Little Caesars pizza chain after hours because, as she  said with absolute sincerity "Dumpster pizza is the best!" 
  Eventually came the big question; where will you go when you die? Greg said that he would be placed in a box and he would then proceed to rot. He then told me that wasn't entirely true, but he was  simplifying it for my benefit. The young lady told me she believed she had a soul, and based on her own goodness she expected to go to heaven.  That caused him to amend his own statement and tell me that he believed in positive and negative energy but he wouldn't exactly call it a 'soul'. He believed that something  of him would  carry on, but he didn't claim to have any certainty in the specifics.  Her mother was a ex-druggie who had experienced a jailhouse conversion to Islam which had helped her get clean. His dad was a scientist and he admitted he would have more confidence in science if they didn't keep changing their minds every few years. His mom had taken him to church as a kid, but he quit going when he was 16.
  He admitted he had left home a harsh skeptic, but he had seen so much inexplicable provision on their journey that he had to  conclude that 'something' was functioning in the universe and that Something was a benevolent Something, but he said it probably wasn't the God of the Bible.
  We talked about sin, righteousness and judgment. I told them what Jesus had done for them. I tried to correct some of the horrible misinformation they had picked up along the way about God, and about the Bible. They were friendly, they were genuine, they were frank. They were also horribly confused.
  I realized my family was waiting for me, so I thanked them for their time, shook his hand and left.  As I was heading out he asked me if I could throw some of their trash away for them, since he hates to  litter. I told him I would and then I gave him my home number. I told him that if he was ever in the area, give me a call and I'd buy them a cup of coffee or something and we could talk some more. I don't expect to hear from them, and I don't expect to see them again.  But I can stand before God and say that I did what I could, and that at least one man cared for their soul enough to tell them.

  Knowing that doesn't really make me feel any less ineffectual, though.  So often I stand there and look people in the eyes and wonder why I can't make them see.  So often I walk away and wonder if I could have explained things better or answered their questions more clearly.  Intellectually I understand that I did the job the way the Bible says do it, and the rest is up to God.  But it doesn't make it any easier.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Trey Pearson Is Wrong

As a disclaimer, until the recent news about Mr Pearson, I had no idea who he was.  Not only am I not a fan, I was as unaware of his existence as he is of mine.  I have no axe to grind in regards to him, and I have no real desire to try to achieve some sort of  cheap victory off what must a be a very trying time for his family.  I don't see the point in kicking a man while he is down, especially if that man is a brother in Christ
  But Trey Pearson is wrong.  He's not just wrong in his behavior, but he is wrong in his theology, and that  horrible misunderstanding  has given the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme. I assume by his testimony he is a saved man, but he is still wrong.
  Mr. Pearson, in his letter to his fans, says;
 "I had never before admitted to myself that I was gay, let alone to anyone else. I never wanted to be gay. I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it never was an option for me. I have been suppressing these attractions and feelings since adolescence. I've tried my whole life to be straight."
  Repeatedly in this very candid letter, Mr. Pearson references his feelings and his emotions. He recounts his struggle to have a healthy relationship with his wife, or to be the man that he knew he was supposed to be.  I have no reason to believe he is being disingenuous and I believe his struggles, as he explains them are very real. I believe his decision to come forward with these struggles was undoubtedly agonizing.  But he is still wrong.
  Mr. Pearson isn't wrong because he's a sodomite, he's a sodomite because he's wrong. His theology is inherently flawed in that it makes his feelings or his proclivities the standard instead of the word of God.  That bad theology, resulted in bad behavior, and that bad behavior now seeks to justify itself. Make no mistake, Trey Pearson will be welcomed by the world as one of it's own. Already the  gushing testimonials from other deviants have come out, proclaiming his 'courage'.  In the middle of all this, Mr. Pearson is wrong.
  I don't know at what age Pearson  put his trust in Jesus, but at whatever age that happens for everybody that it happens to, we all have some things in common. We all bring some baggage with us.  Our flesh still longs, on occasion, for the life we left behind.  Your issue might have been lying, or drink, or women, or self-righteousness or pride.  Whatever your baggage was, there is still a haunting comforting familiarity to it, and that struggle is not unique to Mr. Pearson.  If Mr. Pearosn, before his conversion, had a proclivity towards unnatural affections, then I am hardly surprised that a shadow of those appetites lingered to some degree for the rest of his life. In other words, we all have feelings where we want things we know God has told us we aren't supposed to have.
  If your feelings  are the standard, then your flesh will wear you down to get what it wants, and you will eventually give in. Once you give in, you will seek to justify yourself, usually by referring to those same feelings that led you to betray God. It won't mater what the Bible says, you will do what you want and convince yourself that God either doesn't care or is in favor of your  personal happiness at the expense of obedience to His word.
  But the Bible says "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,...". To borrow a phrase , the struggle is real, and the Bible acknowledges this struggle, and then tells us to obey God anyway.
 Paul had this same issue, saying " For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."   There is no benefit to  pretend the struggle doesn't exist, but we should obey God anyway.  We don't sin against God by still having a desire, we sin against God be acting on that desire.  After all, according to 1 Cor 15 "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. " Jesus Christ has already won the victory and the  feelings you deal with are just echoes of the past that, through God's help you can lay aside so that you can run the race.
  Mr. Pearson, by his own words, had some struggles, and had had these struggles for years. But rather than walking in the Spirit, and resting in His Saviour, he gave in to the demands of his flesh and now lives the life of a reprobate.  He claims to feel 'free', but just like his other feelings, this freedom is an illusion, because the Bible says "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."

  The Bible is more true than your feelings.  Whatever the issue is, don't do what Mr. Pearson has done. Acknowledge the issue before God, confess it as sin, and go forward in the victory God has promised you.