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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

October 5, 2022

It is my suspicion that if you have never questioned what you believe, you may not actually believe it. Well, perhaps that's not fully accurate, but the truth is that we always act on what we truly believe. James has an interesting phrase that we very often hear but don't take in. He says "the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:3). If you haven't had your faith tested, there is a good chance that you lack "steadfastness." Believing what you believe is easy when it's not challenged. The question is what do you do with what you believe when…  ( Click for more )

September 28, 2022

The Bible regards Satan as a real being. He isn't a myth, a feeling, generic "evil". He is an actual angel who fell from his first estate (Luke 10:18). He is real. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about Satan. He was in the garden of Eden in the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:1ff) 1. He is called "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and other terms indicating a certain measure of power. He brought about Jesus's betrayal (John 13:27) and has "dominion" (Acts 26:18).…  ( Click for more )

September 21, 2022

"Why, God?" It isn't an uncommon question. It isn't even a wrong question, at least not necessarily. The Psalms have several passages where people ask God why He allows the wicked to advance or why bad things happen. "Why do You stand far away?" (Psalm 10:1). "Why have You forgotten me?" (Psalm 42:9). "Why have You rejected me?" (Psalm 43:2). "Why are You sleeping?" (Psalm 44:23). And on and on. (Do a search for "why" in the Old Testament and you'll find ahost of these types of questions. In a similar vein, the Revelation…  ( Click for more )

September 14, 2022

The Jesus we all know and love is a kind, gentle Jesus who accepts the poor and the wicked and is kind to everyone. He isn't mean or loud or far too pointed. He's just ... nice. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the biblical Jesus. You know, the one in the Temple with whips overturning tables and chasing people out. Or the one in the public square talking about the Pharisees -- the local, highly respected religious leaders. Indeed, Jesus's harshest words were reserved for this group of people. We've come to equate the term "pharisee" with a certain type of person.…  ( Click for more )

September 7, 2022
1 A Psalm of Praise, of David. I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. 4One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. 6 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness. 7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your…  ( Click for more )
August 31, 2022

One of the most startling biblical stories to me is the story of the escape of Israel from slavery in Egypt. You remember that one. It has been done even in the movies. (Who can picture Moses today without imagining Charlton Heston?) Moses kills an Egyptian in defense of a kinsman and ends up on the run in the desert for 40 years. There he encounters ... God. The burning bush that didn't burn sends him back to Pharaoh to tell him to "Let My people go." And Pharaoh -- shock of shocks -- says, "No." What follows is a display of power never before or after…  ( Click for more )

August 24, 2022

Recently I've seen two of the Sherwood Pictures movies, Courageous and Fireproof. If you haven't, you ought to. Sherwood Pictures is the "movie arm" of Sherwood Baptist Church. They are movie makers who make Christian movies with very good Christian messages. Flywheel, believe it or not, is about a Christian used car salesman who decides to be an honest used car salesman for Christ and ends up, through all the difficulties that entails, having a booming business because people respect honesty. Facing the Giants is about a Christian football coach that leads his team…  ( Click for more )

August 17, 2022

What is God's will for my life? Most of us have asked that at one time or another. Sometimes I think it's clearer than we realize. In Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica, we read this: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It all flows together there -- rejoice, pray, give thanks. And it's all in superlatives -- always, without ceasing, in all circumstances. "This," Paul tells his readers, "is the will of God ... for you." …  ( Click for more )

August 10, 2022

Read through the Gospels and you'll find story after story of Jesus healing people. It seems as if He healed people wherever He went. Why did He do that? You might say, "It's because He loved them." Not in the way you are thinking. "It was because He wanted their best." Again, not in the way you are thinking. "It's what a good God does." Not ... at all. (Think about it. God is good ... and lots of people, even people of faith, are not healed.) Despite the claim by many "health and wealth" teachers, He didn't do it because people are supposed…  ( Click for more )

August 3, 2022

Why do we go to church? Have you ever asked yourself that? I know I have. When I was a younger Christian, I was quite sure that it was an institutional thing. I didn't see it as some sort of evil (like too many disaffected folks do these days), but I thought it was more of ... an unnecessary good. It wasn't a command, to be sure. You could be just as a good of a Christian without it -- of that I was sure. Maybe it's the product of years. You know, "Wisdom comes with age" ... that kind of thing. Maybe it's the product of too much experience of my own misguided ideas. You…  ( Click for more )

July 27, 2022

Theodicy is the defense of God in the face of evil. The question of the skeptic is how a good God can allow evil. The accusation is that He is either not powerful enough or not loving enough to fix that problem. Open Theists try to excuse God by saying that He doesn't know what Free Will Humans will do and, so, can only respond to them, not prevent them. Others argue only slightly less offensively that God has limited His Sovereignty to Man's Free Will and is "forced" (they would never use that term) to let them sin. The Bible has a different response to the problem. …  ( Click for more )

July 20, 2022

The "social justice" types who are urgently attempting to make Christianity into a "do-gooder" society and Jesus into our chief "do-gooder" will quickly point you over to Matthew 25:31-46, the "Sheep and the Goats" passage, as a quick prooftext. There we read, "I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did…  ( Click for more )

July 13, 2022
Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

A "word of the day" entry: "anthropocentric". We can find a dictionary definition, but let's see if we can figure it out from its roots. "Anthropos" is the Greek word for "man" -- primarily "man" as a group, not a gender. You know ... humans. Then there is the "centric" part. I think most of us can figure that out. So, simply put, "anthropocentric" means "centered on humans". On one hand, it is fundamental to humans to be anthropocentric.…  ( Click for more )

Ever consider the effects of television on your home and family?

Before the content there is the medium. Studies indicate that children under the age of 3 are very likely to have ADHD by the age of 7 if they're exposed to the medium of television. Content doesn't matter. It's the screen, the images, the constant inundation of input. Try to compete with that in everyday life. They also find it stunts their brain growth during the time that they're learning basic functions like depth perception and hand-eye coordination. But the medium is also detrimental to adults. One study indicated…  ( Click for more )

One of the hottest topics these days in churches is the topic of music. All sides are deeply entrenched. "God doesn't like that kind of music." "God is glorified in music regardless of the style." "We need to use music in church that is respectful of God." "We need to use music that reaches people." And the argument, unspoken generally, is that the Bible doesn't really say. So ... is that true? I took a survey of biblical music and here is what I found. The main goal of music in Scripture is to express a response to God, not generate a response…  ( Click for more )

June 22, 2022

There are those today who suggest that the concept of the church choir is outdated. However, if we look at the history and purpose of the choir, I suspect we will find that this ought not be the case. The “church choir” has its origins not in Roman Catholicism or in Christianity at all, but in the Old Testament. The first “church choir” was appointed by King David some 3000 years ago. These choirs were far more serious than anything we have today. Now these are the singers, heads of fathers' households of the Levites, who lived in the chambers of the temple…  ( Click for more )

June 15, 2022

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Jesus concludes many of His parables with this somewhat amusing little comment. I mean, come on, how many people do not have ears? Now, the truth is we all know that Jesus is not referring to physical ears. Nor is He referring to the auditory reception of sound that we often call "hearing". We all know that what He is really saying is that those who are really listening will understand what He was saying in His parable. Now, consider this diagnostic. You're a "doctor" of sorts, and this statement is offered.…  ( Click for more )

June 8, 2022

Heresies are a bad thing. Any orthodox person knows that. But I see some value in them. Orthodoxy is defined, at its root, as "right belief". Heresy is defined as "at variance with orthodoxy". Thomas Aquinas defined heresy as "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas." In other words, it takes a profession of faith to qualify as a heretic. It also takes a "right belief". Heresies cause all sorts of problems. They cause division and schisms. They lead people from the truth. They lie and deceive…  ( Click for more )

June 1, 2022

Christianity is the only religion that operates under the belief that you cannot earn your way to heaven. The "bad news" of Christianity is that we're all sinners beyond the capacity to be good enough to make it. Our "good news", then, is that salvation is by God's unmerited favor (grace) through our trusting in Him (faith) and unequivocally not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul says without any lack of clarity, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Rom 3:28). Does it get any clearer than that? As a result…  ( Click for more )

May 25, 2022

Have you heard that one? "What's my motivation?" It usually comes from an actor playing a part and wants to know better how to play the part, so asks the director, "What's my motivation?" because knowing why you do something helps you to do it better, more authentically. In Romans 12, Paul beseeches his readers (where "beseech" is more of a command than a plea) to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice." Now, you have to admit, that's quite a command. You see, a "sacrifice" is not small. It is costly. (A "sacrifice"…  ( Click for more )

May 18, 2022

One of my very favorite stories in the Old Testament is found in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat (whose name alone is funny to me) was the king of Judah. He was a good king, endeavoring to follow God. In this story, Jehoshaphat gets news of a "great multitude" assembling against him for war. It didn't look good. Jehoshaphat was no fool. The text says that "Jehoshaphat was afraid ..." Normal, understandable response. It goes on to say "... and set his face to seek the LORD." Not the normal response, but an excellent one. As the story goes, Jehoshaphat…  ( Click for more )

I remember once sitting with a fellow who was an agnostic but wanted to know the Gospel. So I gladly shared it with him as carefully and clearly as I could. "We're all sinners, guilty of Cosmic Treason against God, and we all deserve eternal punishment. But Christ died on our behalf so we could be saved from that punishment. If you put your faith in Him for that salvation, you can live with Him for eternity." Something like that. "Well," he said, "I'm working on it." Working on it? What does that mean? In a recently overheard conversation, I…  ( Click for more )

As I said when I started this story, most everyone knows the story of Jonah and the Whale1. Even unbelievers have heard that one. Indeed, that whole "fish" thing is what really throws people off, believers and unbelievers alike. It gets in the way. It is a distraction at best and a point of contention at worst. Why? Well, because it's not normal. It's miraculous. I mean, even if it is actually true (as I would contend) that Jonah really was swallowed by some sea creature and spit up on the land three days later, it would be a one-of-a-kind event (you know, like the…  ( Click for more )

This third entry is more a bit of conjecture. Don't take it as any more than that. But I thought it was interesting conjecture. Look at the account of Jonah preaching in Ninevah. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them (Doesn'" target="_blank">Jonah 3:4-5).Doesn't that seem odd? I mean, it appears that Jonah spent a day preaching and Ninevah instantly…  ( Click for more )

Okay, so we have a prophet of God who decides to run. Bad option, right? Not a good thing. Have you ever done that? Oh, of course not the whole "sail to Tarshish but get eaten by a fish on the way" thing. I mean where you don't do what you know God wants you to do. Ever done that? One thing we all know about that: bad choice. God wants something from us, and we stand in His way. Not a safe place to be. And the guilt is incredible. God could have accomplished something, but I refused. Really, really not good. Fortunately for us, we don't have such a poor God. He's…  ( Click for more )

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