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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

June 17, 2020

Well, it has happened again. Another "Christian singer" has defected, has "deconverted," has declared his allegiance to "no God." He's done it in typical "deconversion" style by not only saying, "I don't believe anymore," but adding, "And neither should you." Or, to put it more clearly, "I no longer have any hope, and neither should you." How should we view this? Jonathan Steingard, frontman for the "Christian rock band" Hawk Nelson, was a pastor's kid playing in a "Christian band" and "having…  ( Click for more )

June 10, 2020

I was looking at an article the other day entitled How to Become an Expert. Generic enough. Not "an expert in" anything particular. Just ... an expert. The overarching answer they gave was "deliberate practice." This refers to practicing whatever it is in order to improve your skills more and more with specific goals, feedback, etc. Interesting. So ... what if we want to become "experts" in being a follower of Christ? I read the other day, "Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped up…  ( Click for more )

I think I've mentioned this in the past. All of my life I've had a problem with poor self-esteem. Now, of course, I'm one of a very few that despises the term, "self-esteem." It's not the same as self-image. Self-image refers merely to how one views oneself without regard to valuation. Self-esteem refers to how much one values oneself. That's entirely different, and I'm pretty sure that our self-valuation is not accurate. But I've struggled all my life with "not good enough" and "a failure" and that kind of self-talk. Many loved ones have tried to correct…  ( Click for more )

It's a common complaint among many. "I've looked for a good church in my area, but I can't find one." Maybe the music is too loud or too boring. Maybe the preaching isn't ... whatever. Not enough of the Word. Too much of the world. "I'm not being fed." "I'm not able to worship." "I don't feel welcomed." Lots of things. I've seen both "They're King James Only" and "They're not King James Only." Lots of things. So what do you do if you can't find a church? There is a tendency among many to join the "Nones", the…  ( Click for more )

May 20, 2020

When Barack Obama was in office, he famously quoted Scripture for a cause of the moment. He referred to Jesus's words, "As you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) It is part of the Social Justice mantra. "The least of these." "Look," they say, "it refers to the needy." Because, in context, Jesus speaks about the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-36). "So we're all supposed to care for 'the least of these,'" they tell us. But…  ( Click for more )

May 13, 2020

It's a simple fact. do need prayer. And I mean that in two different ways. I'm sure the first that comes to mind is, "Oh, he has something he needs people to pray for him about." Yes. That's one. I have lots of things and concerns about which I pray and I need people to come alongside and join me in that prayer. We all need that. But I mean it in the other sense as well. I need prayer. For me, for my life, for my well-being, I need prayer. That is, prayer itself is something I need. And so does every believer. Perhaps you haven't run into this yourself, but, as it turns…  ( Click for more )

May 6, 2020

Everyone ... it seems like literally everyone ... knows what we call "the Golden Rule." They can even quote it word for word from Christ's lips. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Complete with King James language. It's not in there, of course. You can't find that phrase in the Bible. In the actual text Jesus said, "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7.12" data-version="nasb95" data-purpose="bible-reference" target="_blank" style="text-decoration-line: none;…  ( Click for more )

Okay, so it's somewhat of a large passage. But it's necessary, so I'll put it down here and then refer to it as we go: Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands,…  ( Click for more )

April 22, 2020

Some time ago I was leaving my family at home while I drove to the airport for a business trip overseas. I prayed as I went. "Dear Lord, please watch over my family while I'm gone." It was one of the few times I felt like I actually heard a response from God. "Did you think it has been you watching over them when you were there?" And I was reminded of my own arrogance. It has always been God. We live in difficult circumstances. We're rightfully concerned (to varying degrees) over this whole "How many are going to die from this virus?" problem. Our…  ( Click for more )

April 15, 2020

In this COVID-19 panicked world, my wife posted a (very brief) video recently that showed our "watching party" -- us two and 6 other people gathered from our church to be together in small fashion to worship during the online service. We didn't exceed any suggested limits. We didn't come in close contact. We just were in the same place worshiping together. A small "communion of the saints." Because one of the absolutely bottom-line key components of Christian ethics is "one another." We are, at the core, supposed to love one another, to bear one another's…  ( Click for more )

April 8, 2020

This week we have the convergence of two events. One is the pandemic crisis and the other is the celebration of the Resurrection. How do these relate?

Paul was writing to the church at Thessalonica. He wanted to reassure them about those who had died. He wanted them to know that because Jesus died and rose again, "even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:14). What Paul is saying here is significant. We know that Christ died for our sins. His death demonstrated God's justice (Romans 3:23-25). That's good. We…  ( Click for more )

April 1, 2020

"You're not understanding that text correctly." I've heard it; I've said it; I've been told it. Now, some will argue that the Bible is not a reliable book. Setting that idea aside (because "You're not understanding that unreliable text correctly" is a pointless concept), is it possible to get at least a portion of the Bible to be clearly understood by God's people? I think so. I don't even think it's that hard. So here are some thoughts on properly understanding the Bible. 1. The Bible is the God-breathed truth. It is written by human authors under the inspiration…  ( Click for more )

March 25, 2020

We who have placed our faith in Christ are saved. That's what Scripture tells us (e.g., Acts 16:31). Let's just all agree with and start with that premise. But for what purpose? We understand what we are saved from -- wrath, hell, eternal torment, etc. -- but what are we saved for? I suspect we have an idea, but I'm not entirely sure that it's the same idea that God has. We like to think that God saved us because He likes us. Okay, too simplistic. But certainly because He loves us. I mean, isn't that straight out of John 3:16? And that's it, right? Saved so we can spend eternity…  ( Click for more )

March 18, 2020

Since we are told not to love the world (1 John 2:15) and that the world will oppose us because it opposes Christ (John 15:18), it stands to reason that some, perhaps a lot, of Christianity will be countercultural. It will run against the grain of the world's point of view. And, to the extent that we've bought into the world's point of view, it will also run against the grain of our own ideas. This is an example. In his epistle to the church at Ephesus Paul explains about how we should become "imitators of God" and "walk in love as Christ loved us" (Ephesians…  ( Click for more )

March 11, 2020

She's a good ol' gal, but too many of us don't know her. She has been around a long time, but too many of us wouldn't recognize her if she slapped us in the face. Who? Wisdom. Solomon portrays wisdom as a woman to be heard and highly valued. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?" (Proverbs 1:20-22) Get wisdom; get…  ( Click for more )

I've been reading through the Psalms of late. Not a short read (150 chapters, including the longest chapter in the Bible: Psalm 119). I came across this interesting prayer from David. Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their…  ( Click for more )

February 26, 2020

It's not a common term. To "whelm" means "to submerge or engulf," thus, "to overcome utterly." As such, "overwhelm" seems like an overstatement. Like "to really, really whelm" or something. But we get it. Like massive waves rolling over a small boat in a storm, we can experience being overwhelmed. One place we rarely do is in relation to God. Most of the time we're fairly ... underwhelmed. No, no, He's good and all that, but ... not necessarily overly impressive. He's kind of in the background, so to speak. Not like some of the…  ( Click for more )

February 19, 2020

Paul told the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) That seems to be confusing to some people. "Hang on a minute," I've heard people say, "works have nothing to do with salvation." Well, yes ... and no. We know we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but it goes on to say that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Works are not the cause of salvation but they are definitely the effect. So Paul is not saying that they need…  ( Click for more )

February 12, 2020
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:35-38)

"Distressed and dispirited," those are the words used in this translation…  ( Click for more )

February 5, 2020

I've traveled recently up the West Coast where recreational marijuana was "legal". (That's in quotes because it's still illegal by federal law, but I guess no one is looking.) In the lobby of a hotel we stayed in where they have all those brochures on things to do in the area, there was a brochure on where to find weed as well as enlightening information about cannabis in its various forms and effects. Coming from a state where it is NOT legal, of course, this was shocking. For my entire life where I grew up in the era of the drug culture I've had no problem answering…  ( Click for more )

January 29, 2020

Warning: Rant Alert! There are, as it turns out, lots of things I don't understand, but something is nagging at me right now. Turn to any of the current TV sitcoms, movies, whatever, and you'll find out that the main goal of every man on the planet is to have sex with girls. Now, of course, this is a product of an exaggerated media bias toward sexual immorality, but, still, who doesn't know that, at least with young males, between hormones and culture they are heavily pushed in that direction? Certainly most young men know it. And older men who were once young men know it. Mothers…  ( Click for more )

The standard definition for the doctrine of Christian Liberty is something like this. Believers are free to do that which God has not commanded them not to do or to not do that which God has not commanded them to do in accordance with faith. That is, if God didn't say anything about the subject, your conscience (guided by the Holy Spirit, of course) should be your guide. The doctrine comes from a couple of biblical passages. One is Romans 14 and the other is 1 Corinthians 8. And most Christians who have heard of this principle are rather pleased with it. Odd thing, however.…  ( Click for more )

January 15, 2020

While it is not true that God hates rich people, you would still find a reasonably large number of people who affirm that He does. Well, maybe "hate" isn't the right word. How about "despises"? You know, something like "is really unhappy with" or the like. Because, as everyone knows, "Blessed are the poor", right? I mean, doesn't James say, "Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable Name by which you were called?" (James 2:6-7) He goes on to say, …  ( Click for more )

January 8, 2020

You've heard of these, right? It's a reference to those handy Bibles where they put Jesus's words in red. It's not as if the red letters are inspired, you know. For instance, some Bible scholars are unclear in John 3 where Jesus's words leave off and the words of John (the writer) begin. You see, Greek didn't employ the helpful quotation marks we have today, so did Jesus say the world-famous "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) or did Jesus end with verse 15 and John expanded…  ( Click for more )

January 1, 2020

Every year New Years brings the pressure to make resolutions. You know, things you promise to do to make yourself better ... or something like it. And every year we know we won't keep them. It's a given. Indeed, the one who does keep that kind of a resolution is the anomaly. What kind of resolutions, then, might be helpful? What would be worth actually pursuing? Not like "I'm going to work out" or "lose weight" or "quit smoking" or that kind of thing. No, something more helpful, more useful, more ... biblical. Like, "Create in me a clean heart,…  ( Click for more )

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