Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm in the process of giving a couple of suggestions for the avoidance of the creation of idols in your life whether in the arena of sports or any other venue. This is the third and final such post. 

[A personal word...I'll be away from the ability to check the comments made for a few days , but I'll eventually respond to all.] 

The first suggestion, in the last post, was that we learn to see ALL things as gifts from God [1 Corinthians 4] and as resources for making life better, but only God is the source for what makes life worth living. That means that all things in our life will have a proper place, whether it's some activity or a relationship, but they [things or relationships] will neither suffer from neglect nor control you. In other words, they NEVER become a substitute for God in your life.

Now for the second suggestion to help us with idol making. It is that we learn to understand that  Christianity is NOT something you do, Christianity is who you are by the grace and life of God Himself. He is NOT FIRST in some hierarchical list of things you do, but He is your life.  

To reinforce and illustrate this point, I'm going to change metaphors in this present post from the last two. You may recall the illustration of the hub and spokes that I used in the last two posts, I want to use an old illustration now that I first heard in a message by my friend Rich Anthony, pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church, in Norman Oklahoma. No illustration is perfect and, in fact, any would leave something to be desired. But they help I think. 

Think of a one gallon jar. [Picture this in your mind as we go along.] Think of a number of stones laying beside it. Each stone has a name. Wife, [or husband] kids, job, church attendance, financial giving, recreation, physical exercise, school, paying debts, social activities, favorite sports teams, you name it, it's there. Now place all the stones in the jar. [Do you see it?] 

Let's assume the jar is big enough to hold ALL of them although the stones may be of differing sizes representing differing levels of significance that each may have to you. 

Now, [in your mind] slowly pour water in the jar until it is full to the brim. What you wind up having is a jar, stones, and water. Now the interpretation.

The jar is YOU in union with Christ. [You are Christ's and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 3:23.] He IS your life and He is your source for life worth living. He's your all and in all because He is the essence of life itself and you are IN UNION WITH HIM. 

The stones are things you do and relationships you have with people and possessions like money, time, marriage, job, church people and so forth. No one is saying each is the same in importance. They're not obviously. But you will see in a moment that all are to be viewed as sacred because of who you are. 

The water is the Holy Spirit [in you] who permeates and touches every thing and every relationship that is part of your life. He touches everything. There is no separation from anything that is you. Because He is the essence of your life ALL OF YOUR LIFE IS SACRED. [Remember, no illustration is perfect and cannot completely show the truth of spiritual things.]

Now___whatever it is that you DO, you will always be DOING it as a Christian. Where you GO, you will always be GOING there as a Christian. The Christian experience is NOT doing different kinds of THINGS such as bible reading/prayer as opposed to movies, golf or yard work, or going to different kinds of PLACES, such as church/revival meetings as opposed to work, sporting events, or fishing.  

This is why the things done in life or places you go in life CANNOT be called sacred as opposed to secular, because all of your life experiences are sacred experiences by virtue of WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST. This was made clear in my last post. 

Some things you could choose to do and some places you could choose to go might be chosen against, it is true. But this is NOT because they are secular as opposed to sacred, evil as opposed to godly, or unchristian as opposed to Christian. You and I would do or not do, go or not go, because of something entirely different. We do all things we do for His "glory." [Doxa] That simply means we recognize Him present and real in it all. You are free to go or do on that basis biblically. It is NOT declaring things good or bad.

Paul the Apostle clearly had this understanding when he warned against adultery or fornication as a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 6:15 he says this, "What? Know you not that he who is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, said He, shall be one flesh." Then in verse 20 he said, "for you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God's."

Sex is neither sinful nor holy within itself. For the Christian, if sex is performed as the celebration of marriage, it is a holy action. [Hebrews says the marriage bed is undefiled.] For the Christian, if sex is performed outside the celebration of marriage, it is an unholy act. 

 So it is whose/who we are that makes something good or bad, right or wrong, helpful or hurtful, not whether it's a sacred or secular thing or place. That kind of dualistic thinking may make it easy to measure how YOU think you're doing spiritually, but it DOESN'T measure anything spiritual in reality. Paul the Apostle declares in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 that you ARE spiritual.

So seeing all things as gifts from God to you, and seeing that being a Christian is NOT something you do, but who you are, which impacts ALL you do, will keep ANYTHING from being a substitute [idol] for God in your life because He IS YOUR LIFE. [Read this statement again.]

I will summarize with this concluding word....

1___All things are yours as a Christian. [1 Corinth. 4]

2___Nothing is to be done out of FEAR, [If He's not first He will be angry, if He's not first, I won't be blessed.]  but because of FAITH. [Perfect love casts our fear]

3___Sports and sporting events are, as are all other things, just tools or resources for the Christian and can make life a little more pleasurable, but are not secular or evil things within themselves.  

4___Religious things like church attendance, bible reading, giving, are just tools or resources for the Christian to make life a little better but are not sacred or spiritual things either. They have their time and place in your life but don't measure your spirituality by them. 

[If you go to church MORE or LESS than you go to football games for example or if you read your bible MORE or LESS than you read the newspaper you're more spiritual than someone else.]

5___The Christian life is Christ as my life. Now I can choose to go places and choose to do things not because some are sacred and some are secular, but because I'm a Christian in ALL THINGS and NO THING will be an idol in my life.  I can do ALL THINGS for His glory. 

Paul B.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Lists!!  I've never been a fan of them, but at my age and with my lack of memory capacity, they are almost indispensable. 

EXCEPT when that list is used to measure my commitment to God or my being spiritual or pleasing God. That kind of list can rob me [or you] of my memory of grace and what a relationship with God is all about. 

You've heard them. Those people who list the way your time, money, activities, should be prioritized as a Christian. God first, then wife, [or husband] family, church work, job, recreation, etc. This is premised on the idea that God is to be FIRST in your life and then you have an ever declining list of what is important and to which you give attention each day, but He is to remain__FIRST

The problem is such a list fails in its idea of Christian living entirely. It winds up being a clear and present measurement of your commitment and spiritual growth which makes the list idea very dangerous indeed. This is not because it's wrong to make a list of what you desire to do on any given day or what is important to you. That's quite often helpful. It's wrong because God isn't FIRST in your life as if He's something you've added and now have to make Him a priority or FIRST in all things you do. God isn't something you DO period. He IS your life. Not a THING in your life, not even the FIRST thing. 

A different metaphor than the list might be of some help. Rather then thinking of God as the FIRST on a list of things to do or even important things to remember, think of God as the HUB. Remember that old bicycle you use to ride? The wheels had a hub. From it went the various spokes that enabled those wheels to create what was necessary for that bike to function according to its purpose or intention. That is an inadequate illustration, as all illustrations are, but a much better way of thinking about our relationship to God than the list IMHO. It moves us from what we DO IN life to who He IS AS our LIFE. Moving from "doing" to "being" when talking about the Christian life IS FUNDAMENTAL if we are to correctly understand what the scriptures say about living as a Christian.

He is the HUB [source] from which every other thing in my life finds the ability to function__ in tandem__ with NOTHING failing to have its good and proper place when thinking about things like time, emphasis, money, needs, as all are evaluated and done or experienced at different times. But, while every spoke [thing/relationship] in my life is of greater or lesser importance to me, my life is held together because of my resting in the HUB [God] who is my source for ALL of life.

It's interesting to me that the word, source, [Gk Kephale] is what is used in Eph. 5, 1 Corinth. 11, Col. 3, when Paul talked about our relationship to God, Christ, husband, wife, and even to the Church. God is the source [Beginnings] of it all and, as such, we relate to each other and all things with that reality in mind. So to think of the HUB as the source or beginnings of what is needed for the bicycle wheel to fulfill its purpose is a great way to think of God. He is the source for ALL I need for my life to be life abundant, even eternal! 

So, I'll now give a couple of suggestions to guide our thinking about all this with only the first one today and the second coming in the next post.

My first suggestion is that, as a Christian, I'm to see all things__including this world__ as Paul saw them and stated to the Corinthians. He told that church in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 that they were to see all things, [the world included]  as gifts from God. He had just been saying that the Corinthians were to see all their former Pastors as God's gift to them, whether it was Paul, [himself] or Apollos, or Peter, but he doesn't stop there. He goes on to say the world [of all things to say] or life, or death, or the things present, [whatever those things or moments are in life] or things to come, [whatever those things or moments might be] all are yours.  

Think church attendance, giving of offerings, revival meetings, bible conferences, all those are some of the things that are your opportunities and gifts from God for sure. But then think wife, kids, job, recreation, mowing the lawn as well. They are gifts and opportunities too. Don't even rule out the NBA finals, or a national championship run by your University of choice. [Just different spokes in your life] All things are simply your opportunities and gifts from God, but HE IS THE HUB. So, all things are yours to embrace and enjoy because they are given to you by God. 

You see, life ISN'T to be viewed as being divided into the SACRED and the SECULAR as if what you do on Sunday or when you read the bible, witness, pray, is a sacred thing, and everything else is a secular thing, and if you really love God you will not spend a great deal of time or money on the secular at all. 

Let me say it again___ you ARE NOT to see the things that have a connection to the church institution as sacred and things that have a connection to your job, or baseball, or a school concert, or any other activity in which you choose to participate as secular. ALL ARE YOURS AS A CHRISTIAN. Enjoy!

When viewed in this fashion, church attendance, offerings, things of that nature [spokes in your life] will NEVER suffer, but will never CONTROL either. They will have a place in your life that is good and reasonable, but they don't measure your commitment or spirituality as a believer. That measurement is based on who God is to you and who you are to Him because of the grace relationship you have with Him that is based on the merit, work, sacrifice, and presence of Christ in your life.  Then how you live out that reality with other people and things in life will be because He is your life.

Everything in your life is related to God and is a gift from Him for you to experience. No one thing is ever MORE important than it should be, AND, no one thing will ever CONTROL you. You are living out of the abundance of your life and the source of your life is God Himself. Your family will not suffer__ or control you. Your church attendance will not suffer__ or control you. Your sports events or golf games or whatever you choose to do will not suffer__ or control you. All are simply resources for making your life abundant and you are a resource for other's lives, BUT HE IS THE SOURCE FOR ALL OF LIFE.

Always remember, if ANYTHING, even attending church or reading your bible regularly, [a quiet time] becomes a substitute for God being real [the source of what is needed for life to be worth living] in your life, the thing you're doing will be an idol as surely as the things before which the Romans bowed in Paul's day were idols. 

Next time a second suggestion that I think will help.

Paul B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It happens with regularity. It's happened this week. I've read it on some blogs. I'm just glad the blogs were not written by any one I know. That way you'll know what I'm writing isn't personal. It's just personal!  You get my meaning! 

When Christians join with a segment of our society in getting excited about a sporting event like an NBA finals run as a Thunder fan, [or Heat fan]  or a national championship run as a Sooner or Cowboy fan, or even getting excited about seeing their children or grandchildren play baseball when the summer rolls around, some preachers begin to label those Christians who join with them in the excitement of the sport, idol worshippers, because what they're doing takes so much time and money.  [This is especially true if their game falls on a Sunday.]  Because it has become obvious, to the blog writer at least, that they are putting those things before the Lord in their life.  [They skipped going to church of all things and that's bad, but not giving an offering before they skipped is worse.  LOL]  

Such thinking is based on a hierarchical list of things to be done by any Christian with God number one, then church attendance, family, job, or a varied alignment of things deemed important. And, to top it all off, if God isn't first, those preachers say, He won't bless. And until and unless He is first in a Christian's life, He won't be pleased. [And, boy is He ticked with those sports fans right now.]

Well, YES!  Idolatry IS wrong. About that there is no argument. It is certainly seen that way in scripture. Also, sports CAN  become an idol to a Christian, most definitely!  Declaring something an idol in someone else's life, however, presents at least a two-fold problem as I see things.

One problem is that calling something an idol may__all too often__be based on what the accused [ other Christians] are doing with their TIME AND MONEY as opposed to what the accusers [blog writing preachers] are doing with their TIME AND MONEY. But is that wise?

You see, I'm not sure but what time and money spent in costly traveling from conference to conference or from one pastor's meeting to another in churches, might, for a pastor, and I know this from experience, often begin to take priority over having a real personal relationship with the Lord. When this happens, it's no less idolatry than is sports for someone else, by their own definition. 

Then I have my own personal definition of what constitutes an idol and mine varies from their's a little. I believe it's often easier to WORK for God than it is to KNOW God and anything that becomes a SUBSTITUTE for knowing God is an idol__ by my definition. That would include, potentially, church attendance and even giving of money. You can even see that, by my definition, one's "preaching ministry" can become an idol. It did for me.  I said it this way, "One day I discovered I loved preaching about the Lord , more than I love the Lord about whom I preached." Who would have thought that preaching could become my idol. But it did!

I'm even wondering if church attendance and giving__especially when used as a measuring stick for spirituality__might not be a BIGGER form of idolatry than sports for some. This would be because that particular idol tends to allow for an elevation of the guilty party to the place of God in the lives of others. [judging/condemning them]. 

When you read this you will need to remember that I pastored for forty years and enjoyed it all the while__ including the pain and problems that occur within the pleasure of pastoring__and I'm not without the experience of low attendance and a great need of finances as an organization. But this isn't about going to church or to a sporting event. Neither of those is evil within themselves. It's about making them idols and both can be made that as I will show.  

You see, I'm wondering if church attendance and giving [time/money] to an organization called the "church" for many of us who have pastored or are presently pastoring, or even people who measure their spirituality by their service to that organization, have not become idols in our lives. 

This is because church attendance and giving an offering are not biblically SYNONYMOUS with being a Christian or even with being spiritual. One can actually do either of those and not even BE a Christian. And, AS a Christian, they certainly can become a poor substitute [idol] for the experiencing of a real relationship with the living God that is a moment by moment experience whether you choose to go to church three times a week or not. 

The second thing I see as a problem with the before mentioned declarations of idolatry by blog writers is that those kinds of statements are__ all-too-often__ made with words that reflect FEAR and a kind of RETREAT from the "world" [society] rather than a true love for the Lord, His people, and even the world. [People outside His Kingdom.] It certainly reflects people who've lost a desire to be light and salt where they live. Retreat and fear are two things that are the antithesis of what biblical Christianity is all about. 

What that means is for a Christian [or blog writing preacher] to RETREAT from culture out of FEAR of being tainted by sin, is as far from what is seen in the life of Jesus in the New Testament as anything imaginable. The FEAR of being tainted, being worldly, losing reputation, or even yielding to temptation, is still FEAR driven, and "perfect [mature] love casts out all fear" according to scripture. 

In those same scriptures the fact is made clear that the opposite of faith is not unbelief, but fear. "Oh ye of little faith, why are you so fearful?" was spoken by our Lord to a boat-load of disciples that were doing what they were doing because they were afraid. 

Our faith isn't to drive us AWAY from our culture because we're fearful of it, but, rather, we're, in fact, driven INTO our culture with our faith intact so that our Lord can make a difference in our lives everywhere we find ourselves.

So I have two suggestions that will help shed some light on all this and, if heeded, might at the same time keep us from idolatry, whatever form the idol takes. [In other words__able to be in the world but not of the world whether it's the secular world or the sacred world, which is a misnomer by the way as I will show next time.]  

I will elaborate on those suggestions in the next couple of posts.

Paul B.

Monday, June 04, 2012


Harold Camping, a minister from Arkansas, is quite well known for having predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21st, 2011, and on that day all saved people would be raptured to heaven which would be followed by five months of fire and brimstone accompanied by plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day. It would all end, Camping said, on October 21st, 2011, with the final destruction of the world. Camping had previously predicted it would all end on May 21st, 1988 and September 6th, 1994. 

I don't know whether he's finished with his predictions or not__probably not__but the sad part is people will likely listen to him if he does and, even worse, take him seriously.

I want to say something about that kind of end times mania. 

First of all, when thinking about the day of the return of our Lord, a priority should be to ALWAYS look to the scripture for knowledge of that day. When we do that, to believe that ANY one would have ANY right to say with ANY kind of specificity about when that day would be, obviously, nipped in the bud. Jesus warned us that false prophets would, indeed, arise speaking about end times and any person who would attempt to set an EXACT day or date for His agenda to be accomplished has identified themselves as such. [Matthew 24:24]

 So what does the scripture say about being able to pin-point the day of His return? NOTHING!  If you go to Matthew 24 and try to show that the signs of His coming can be read, we'll have to agree to disagree because of my present conviction that Matthew 24 is, when properly understood, a declaration of the coming destruction of the Jewish age and NOT a prediction about the end of all time. [Obviously, I'm no longer of the dispensational persuasion.] 

I say this because when God made His covenant with Israel He described it through Isaiah the Prophet this way..."I Planted the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, and said to Zion [Israel], You are My People." [Isaiah 51:16]  What a descriptive, apocalyptic way of speaking of Israel and her covenant with Jehovah. Remember this when you read Matthew 24. 

But that covenant was violated and so it is said that judgement came upon her. [Israel] God describes that judgment with the same kind of apocalyptic language used in Isaiah with words like the "Destruction of heaven and earth." [Matthew 24]  God says that "earth and heaven" [Israel] will reel from His judgment and describes how it will be so severe, He believes it necessary for Him to assure Israel that "heaven and earth" might pass away, but His Word will remain forever. [24:35] 

He also said  [24:34] that the generation then living, [His contemporaries] would not pass until this judgment upon the "heaven and earth" [Israel] would be finished. It was finished in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the ending of the Jewish age. The fulfillment of the Jewish system of sacrifices and the establishment of a New Covenant were all accomplished at Calvary. The Old had truly grown obsolete and had fulfilled its purpose clearing the way for the New. 

That NEW COVENANT, having now been established and ratified by His blood on the Cross, is NOT based upon race, gender or age, and even has a new law, given by the new Lawgiver, the Lord Jesus Christ, written in the hearts of His New Covenant people. [The Law of Moses having had it's place in the Covenant with Israel.] But now a new day has dawned and a new era has begun. 

This new era will, indeed, see Him coming again one day. That is seen clearly stated in Acts 17:31. A day has been appointed when Jesus will return as the appointed judge and will judge the world in righteousness. But His "coming again" holds NO FEAR for believers as He will at that time come for them with no reference to sin at all. [See Hebrews 9:28.] 

It is true He came for sin the first time, being the final sacrifice, the High Priest who offered Himself and took His own blood into the Holy of Holies and placed it there on the mercy seat,  thus, ratifying the covenant with His broken body and shed blood. But His Second Coming will have no reference to sin for the believer whatsoever. He will be coming as King of Kings. 

His coming again will be to establish His Kingdom on this earth which has already been established in the hearts of His people. When He returns the new heaven and new earth will be seen for what He has always intended. Since His ascension He's been preparing a place for us. Then, because the first heaven and earth will have passed away as stated in Revelation 21:1, the "meek," those broken in repentance and faith yielded to Him called "Christ-ians," will truly inherit the "new heaven and new earth." 

So, what value is there in getting caught up in any "end times" controversies such as trying to say when it will happen or even listening to a false prophet who tries to give a date? NONE!  We simply live proclaiming the words of John who ended his Revelation record with that powerful personal exclamation in Revelation 22:20 that is so famous. THOSE are the words we  listen to and have ringing in our hearts____"Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

Paul B.