Monthly Archives: August 2018

Vomiting in Church

Being that I misread the RCL Lectionary for this Sunday and pondered about Ephesians 5:10-15 instead of 5:15-20… I got hyperfocused on Ephesians 5:11-12 as while 12 passes the common sense test, it seems totally out of whack with the rest of the chapter.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

Now, taken literally, verse 12 easily leads one to think we ought not to talk very explicitly about the evil perpetrated by some. From a common sense point of view, we’ve all said, egads, I didn’t need to see this, or I didn’t need to hear this, or from a biological point of view, I really didn’t need to smell this. One of the things I see cycling through the news cycle is the horrors of sexual abuse and the church… and some are saying illuminating evil is just too hard, its too scandalous, they don’t want to hear it… so just say evil was done in the church and let it lie at that. I even heard someone quoting James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I think such folks are totally missing the point. When evil is left in partial darkness or so sugarcoated to limit its impact, it will often continue, perhaps not in the same form, but when not fully illuminated, festering is a possibility.

I think there are some parallels with folks experiences during WWII. I remember a WWII vet telling me about stacking up dead bodies like cordwood. He told of his experiences with tears in his eyes. Another WWII vet friend got shot down over Germany and said he saw so much horror, it took years before he could leave the bottle alone. These men experienced the horrors of evil up front and personal and carried it the rest of their lives. They would not try to sugar coat it or limit the lights illumination, as it was more important to them that such horrors not happen again.

Granted no one wants to see sensitive folks vomiting in church, or having nightmares, so there needs to be some level of language discretion, but it should never go so far as to leave things in secret, or through vagueness reduce the impact of such when it comes to prevention.

Related to this is that not everyone is going to have a voice, some folks will be unable to speak and thats ok, as even a little light from others can go a very long way. Consider a handful of victims at Willow Creek which has now grown multifold due to the light they shone. Consider the findings of ~20 person grand jury in PA, whose actions have lit up the phones with even more victims calling in. Contrast this with the scandals of fifteen years ago, or the hidden nature of evil within small independent churches…. when illumination is covered over by well meaning folks so as to protect the church from scandal and/or folks constitutions.

I think Eph 5:12 is probably telling us how bad the evils were, ie that they are so evil, it is disgraceful to speak of them… and despite this, it is even more critical that they be fully illuminated and therefore exposed.

Do It Now Ephesians 5:16

In my first semester as an undergrad, I had a professor similar to Professor Kingsfield in the TV series Paperchase. You had to be prepared, you had to have your wits about you, and you had to be confident in your answers. If you blew it due to a minor mistake… he’d go off on a rant about his class being idiots, and would then give everyone more homework, or would decide it was quiz time right then and there. If you weren’t prepared, he’d chew you out, and then ask you to leave and only come back when you were caught up and prepared to learn.

He seemed to have a belief that the entire class should bare some level of responsibility for the errors and actions of its individual members. Part of that comes out of the socratic method… ie if a given student is not prepared to engage, the whole class suffers from their lack of participation. Another part of it was real life, as in the business world, a bad employee can required 3-5 more employees fix the problems created by the bad employee, do said employees work, plus do their own as well.

Granted, his class had pretty high attrition rates as a fair number of students couldn’t handle the stress levels. In today’s world, such an approach would be considered highly abusive. You’d have helicopter parents hovering all over the place, he’d have complaints, on ratemyprofessor.com, and he likely would have never gotten tenure. Then again, he was part of the greatest generation, he fought in WWII and had risen from Private to the rank of Major, he’d taught for decades, he knew a lot not only about the subject material, he knew a lot about life.

The amazing thing is, that despite the pressure cooker aspects of that class, the life skill taught have long exceeded the usefulness of the course content itself.

One of those skills was time management which often came across as:

DO IT NOW if you don’t do it now, its probably not going to get done…

The big quesion with this of course is do what now? And in the case of the professors class, it was pounding through the hard to understand material, he was very clear as to what he was referring to with his DO IT NOWs.

And just as he was clear, I think Paul was pretty clear too wrt to DO IT NOW in his letter to the Ephesians.

Eph 5:15-17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Youthful lusts, Its really not about sex

I came across 2 Timothy 2:22 in my previous writings on temptation, and wondered what Paul was talking about when he brings up youthful lusts. As such, I pulled up Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown to see what they had to say.

There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight (Ge 39:12). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy (1Ti 5:23) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men (1 John 2:14-16), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.

Which then prompted a further study on the matter. Like a lot of things contest is key… this verse is in the midst of a lot of context, none of which, even when pulled and stretched seems to connect with sexual morality, or as the commentators state animal indulgences.

It seems to be reasonably clear this section of scripture is about dysfunctions related to youthful exhuberance. Ie, jumping the gun, trying to teach before one is ready, or has earned the right to do so, being overconfident, or focusing on appearance rather than substance. Paul Penley seems to knock this out of the ballpark with his The “lust” all young people have, and how we missed it do to bad Bible interpretation. As an older guy looking back at his younger days, his post seems spot on.

Fortunately there were some exceedingly patient oldsters who pulled me aside and said hey, think about this. Had they not stepped up, I might well have become one of those Bible bashers, the ones who angrily say, the scripture clearly says…. except that the Greek to English translation is a whole lot more grey than black and white so say nothing about the bit where we see things dimly, even apart from translation issues.

Consider the ramifications of 1 Timothy 1:6 with respect to youthful lusts. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

Even beyond warning against such, 1 Tim 2:22 is also a very clear warning against lone rangering (to go it alone), rather than to study and practice Christianity in community. I think of the extreme out there conspiracy theories and strange theology types I used to run across when I co-led CF. Such folks often believe they have the absolute truth, and only theirs is the correct path even though, in most cases, such is a repeat of failed ancient beliefs or practices… Its as if the promoters of such never studied history, or perhaps worse, never had a person call them aside to say hey, you know XYZW taught something like that way back when and it didn’t work out too well.

I’ve seen related issues of overconfidence and lone-rangering play out in some deliverence ministries, where in folks get in very far over their head and get really jammed up. Its not just missing medical or psychological issues either, deliverence much less major exorcisms are nothing for the unprepared to mess around with . I even had a pastor friend who despite decades of education and experience in said arena ended up in a whole lot of hurt.

A unique aspect of studying and practice in community is challenge and engagement with failure. As a young long ranger, its pretty easy to coast along, and not get tested a whole lot. However when studying and practicing in community, ideas will get poked at prodded at. In such a model, errant theology is more likely to fall by the wayside, or at minimum, ideas will be highly scrutinized. Another aspect of study and practire in community is that its usually broken community. The temptation to power trip, to quarrel, or even to throw selected words of Jesus under the bus is a clear and present danger #churchtoo for example… but such is also where community can pick itself up and dust itself and its members off. Granted, there is a fair bit of idealism in that statement. Some communities can and do shred their must vulnerable members.

1 Cor 6:10 not popular on Christian Radio

So I’m listening to Christian Radio on the way back Friday night, and there is some radio preacher hyper focused on sexuality in 1 Cor 6:9… so much so, that the latter parts of 1 Cor 6:10 were practically obliterated from his sermon. I get the point, the last thing he needs to do is divert his audience attention. Then again, its also not telling the whle truth… and considering Jesus talked about greed a whole lot more than he talked about sex, its crazy making. Sure, no one wants to think they are coveting, thieving, or extortionist individuals, but when the majority of the world lives on under $5/day, and in the US, such is what many spend on coffee… it makes one wonder.

Granted, its not just coffee, its our economic system. Each quarter needs to have better performance from the prior one to keep investors happy. And said investors aree not just the wealthy wall street types and venture capitalists, its folks with 401K’s and retirement accounts too, its most everyone in some capacity.

In companies which operate under forms of pay for performance compensation, its even the individual worker. As a business consultant years ago, I’d walk into an outfit and get the lay of the land so to speak… and if there was pay for performance systems going on, you can bet there were all sorts of games put in place to jimmy it, or in less political correct terms, steal it. And perhaps while not truly a criminal matter, things like keeping dual sets of books, bypassing automated systems, or plain and simple accounting games to make one look good at the exception of others are forms of stealing. And while one may think, hey its fine, its the way business has always been run…

Does anyone have any outrage over the following:

  • Consider teachers who either inflated test scores, or shared the answers to standardized tests with their students to make more money.
  • Consider VA employees who played accounting games with the system to make vets time to be seen numbers look really good, even if said vets were actually hung out to dry.
  • Consider the VW employees who played games with their test methods / results, in order to get their cars accepted into the US.
  • Consider Federal Pacific employees who faked UL safety testing and records to sell their electrical panels, which then burst into flames.

My guess is most folks will take issue with the above in one way or another… but if there much difference between the above folks and those who:

  • Keep a double set of books, one to provide on-demand, and one which reflects the truth? It’s not just those out to play a fast one with their taxes, consider today’s electronic trucking logs which prevent truckers from tweaking their driving time. When the electronic logs became mandatory, the outrage was incredible, truckers said they couldn’t make money, shippers said its going to cost them more, and deliveries were going to take longer, and the above has all come to pass. Pretty much most of the industry was faking logs to get by…
  • Bypass automation, by using pen and paper such that information can be tweaked to look good and make goals before being entered into the computer, even if its not really a true picture of what is going on.
  • Justify the theft of intellectual property, as its too hard or too expensive for a small church to comply it’sh the law. After all, they are using the music, print, or video to accomplish the work of God.

Such is why I tend to think 1 Cor 10 ends up being one of those hard verses to engage with. It’s everywhere, even if its not an overt thing… and the mindset that it’s not ok is a dangerous thing.

  • It can drive an audience away, and when an audience leaves, so goes one’s revenue stream, whether a pastor of a church or a Christian radio preacher. It’s easy to preach against forms of sexual immorality, as folks engaged in such will self-select out of specific churches and media audiences. Such is why it’s much easier to preach against teenage premarital sex than it is to preach against adultery in the church.
  • A culture of subtle theft and greed is seemingly impossible to change, as the economic upheaval to do something different is beyond the pale.
  • Scripture doesn’t return void. And when scripture returns, collective consciousness gets poked at, and eventually light ends up shining in places which are dangerous to the life of organizations, which include Christian radio and churches.

Lead us not into temptation, what gives with that?

In James, it says God doesn’t tempt man.

And yet, we also have the Lord’s prayer directly from Jesus where he directs us to pray “lead us not into temptation”

In a related vein, we have the spirit leading Jesus up to be tempted in Matthew 4.

We also have Paul stating that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can withstand in 1 Cor 10:13

We also have the book of Job where God allows Satan to nearly destroy him.

Is this one of those hard questions that might be left as something to be glossed over rather than one to be dug into? Many fear going in depth on this, as it is a hard thing to ponder. It’s perhaps all too easy to say its an issue of the precision of language. Ie, God doesn’t tempt us, he allows us to be tempted. Such an approach leaves us an out, and perhaps we should just take the bit about God not truly tempting us on a matter of faith. Ie, God is good, God would not tempt us… and we must not question God’s goodness or his sovereignty.

But, it sticks in my craw.

What is the ultimate difference between God doing the tempting vs God allowing the tempting. It still happens, and ultimately is not God responsible, even if he doesn’t do the actual tempting? It seems like the gamesmanship a lawyer or politician would try to use to pull a fast one. How does that square if God is truly good as the scriptures say he is? How are we to square this with the Jesus words about millstones and causing a little one to stumble? Is allowing Satan to do so vs doing it Himself really that much of an out?

I believe there are some times and places for leaving hard issues like this as a matter of faith… but I don’t believe such applies here. Rather, I think their might be a path to navigate through it, albeit the below is just my opinion

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I believe God does lead us to temptation as a means of testing and growth, but we must also remember that Satan can just do it (1 Peter 5:8) and (Ephesians 6:11-12), plus I think we might seek out temptation all on our own. The later is I believe what Paul is referring to in when he tells us to flee from idolatry in 1 Cor 10:14, flee from the temptation of riches in 1 Timothy 6, flee from youthful lusts in 1 Timothy 2:22, and flee from sexual temptations such as prostitution and adultery in 1 Cor 6:18

And for other matters, God gives us to the tools to overcome temptation via 1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The way of escape looks to be a couple things, standing firm on the one hand and pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness on the other.

Ephesians 6:15 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

1 Tim 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

It would do no good for God to keep us in bubblewrap, leaving us to our own devices to eventually wiggle out of it on our own, only to be swept up in evil as we have never exercised, or perhaps even been aware of the tools God gave us.

We grow when we learn how to overcome temptation as Peter talks about in 1 Peter 5:9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.