Monday, December 19, 2011

Jim Bob, Michelle, and Jubilee Duggar

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose family is chronicled on the hit TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, recently lost the baby that Michelle was carrying. Jubilee Shalom Duggar was stillborn on December 11th when she was 19 weeks along; she weighed just 4 ounces. 

This family is obviously mourning the loss of their daughter, and they should be given time to grieve. I have debated blogging on this issue because I believe in privacy, but yet it is the need for privacy that has compelled me to write this. I have been disgusted by the criticism this family has received.

This family has many critics for the same reason Tim Tebow does: they are successful Christians, and non-believers can’t stand that. They passionately love Jesus, live holy lives, and enjoy life. They are proof that Christians don’t need filthy TV, sexual music, or alcohol to have a good time, and for that, liberal Christians have become their critics as well.

The 19th Duggar baby, Josie, was born early and spent a few months in the NICU. There were harsh comments made then about how careless it was for them to continue to have children. So last month when the Duggars announced that Michelle, now 45 years old, was pregnant again, the blogosphere erupted with more of the same.

I’m having trouble reconciling these comments of concern for the loss of a baby with the political agenda that says Michelle could have aborted this baby if she wanted to. These people are saying that the Duggar family’s selfish desire for another child has caused this tragedy, but since the majority of their critics are liberals, these comments are being made from people who would be just fine (some even delighted) with her choosing to abort.

The family has even been criticized for having a memorial service for little Jubilee. At the service the family passed out a black and white picture of Jubilee’s feet in Michelle’s hand, and an inscription that read, “There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on the world.”

An article in The Daily Beast reported on this event: “It just seems too public and almost seems like, ‘OK, we’re stars, everybody wants to know abut us.’ From what I know of parents who have lost children, it’s horrific. It’s not something you want pictures of. There are people who will argue with me and say it’s a way of coming to terms with the death. But given the Duggars’ history, their television show, and the way they exploit their children, I just find this a cog in the same wheel. I find it rather distasteful.”

What I find distasteful is a woman who hasn’t lost a child trying to weigh in on how the parents are supposed to grieve. The woman who said that, a psychologist named Susan Newman, should know that there is not a textbook way to deal with a loss. A frequent critic of the Duggars, she is putting her professional skills aside to take a stab at this family. She assumes that parents will not want pictures of their lost children, so I wonder how she explains organizations like Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which take pictures especially for families that have lost a child.

When my aunt and uncle had a stillborn daughter they took many pictures, some of which are still displayed in their house along with their other children’s photos. They also had a memorial service. For this psychologist to claim that the Duggars are only doing those things to exploit their children is absurd.

The real reason why this is disturbing people is that these beautiful pictures of tiny hands and feet hurt the abortion issue. An overwhelming percentage of women (every survey puts the number in the 90%’s) who have aborted said they were given very little information about how abortion works and about the life that was developing inside of them. Pictures like these might help young ladies realize that it is not a “glob of tissue,” but a tiny human. This scares liberals.

As I explain in my book Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery, life begins at conception, and these babies that were lost too soon are immediately ushered into heaven. The Duggars’ strong faith in the Lord assures them of this, and they know that they will see Jubilee in heaven.

I hope that no professing Christian is criticizing this family during this time of tragedy. As Christians, let’s take this opportunity to pray for them. Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will provide the Comfort that He promises, and pray that this family will continue to be a light for Jesus Christ to millions of people every day.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Was Jesus Born on December 25th?

Christmas is the Christian holiday that remembers the birth of Jesus Christ, but was this whole idea just borrowed from other religions?

I was told last week that Christianity is a hoax that has taken bits and pieces from other religions and created its own. Consider some of these other ancient gods:

Dionysus (Greek) was born on December 25th. He was known as the son of Zeus, and his followers symbolically ate his body and drank his blood in the form of bread and wine.

Attis (Roman) was born on December 25th to a virgin. Attis was sacrificed through crucifixion on a tree, and he spent three days in the underworld. On the third day, Sunday, he rose again. Later, his body was symbolically eaten in the form of bread.

Osiris (Egyptian) had his birth announced by three wise men, and his followers ate his body in the form of cake.

Other gods claimed to have been virgin-born, like Ion, Pythagoras, and Hercules.

If these things are true than it would seem as if Christianity were nothing more than a chapter from mythology. Is Jesus just another ancient god along with Dionysus, Attis, and Osiris?

Let’s look a little closer at these similarities. Starting with the virgin birth accounts, none of these supposed births came from a human. While Jesus was born to the human Mary, these other gods were born to other gods, which tarnishes the whole miraculous part. Anyone can write a story of a fictional god producing another god; the biblical account of Mary could be validated by all who knew her.

But what is more important is the date of these events. Proponents of these conspiracies teach that these gods were “pre-Christian,” meaning that they happened before Christianity, and thus, Christianity copied them. But Christianity did not begin with the resurrection of Christ, or even His birth.

Consider that Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be born to a virgin more than 600 years before the event came to pass. Even more impressive is that God Himself told Adam and Eve that the Son of a woman would bring salvation (Genesis 3:15). Every other child in the Bible is referred to as being from the father, but Jesus was from the mother.

These prophecies about the virgin birth predate any religions of antiquity, so if anyone is doing the plagiarizing, it would seem that others have ripped off God’s story.

The same case can be made for people eating bread to symbolize the body of other deities. Jesus first told His disciples to remember Him when they ate the bread in the year 33, long before other followers began to eat bread to symbolize their gods. Even still, the meal that Jesus was referring to was the Passover, a feast that Jews had been eating since the Exodus. This was a centuries old practice for the Jews, which certainly doesn’t “pre-date” Christianity.

For the ones who claim that Attis was crucified, there is no record of that report until 150 years after the resurrection of Jesus, meaning that all the Gospels were in circulation when this report first surfaced. Attis was known of before the birth of Christ, but his crucifixion and resurrection came much later.

Other claims of resurrections do not hold up either. Osiris was murdered by his brother, who mutilated his body and chopped him into 14 pieces. Isis, who wanted to give Osiris a burial, was only able to find 13 of his pieces. He never resurrected, but instead was declared to be the god of the underworld. This doesn’t look like it was stolen by Christianity, does it?

In fact, no ancient gods ever claimed to have been sacrificed for sin, and none ever claimed to have risen back to life. Attis came back in the form of the sun god, not to a bodily resurrection.

Osiris’ birth was announced by 3 wise men, but that does not mean that Christians stole that detail. For one thing, Jesus' birth was announced by angels. For another, wise men visited Jesus, but not until He was about two years old. Tradition puts 3 wise men in the nativity, but the Bible does not.

And so that brings us to December 25th. Was Jesus born on that day, or is that copied from ancient religions? We have already seen that other pagan religions have stolen from Christianity, so the case about His birth is not under fire any more, but let’s look anyway.

December 25th coincides with the winter solstice. On that day the night is longer and the day is shorter than any other day of the year. The night gets progressively shorter while the day gets progressively longer on the proceeding days. Ancient pagans created gods to be born on December 25th and said that as their gods grew, so did the day. The sun gods were especially common to have been born on the winter solstice, and that is why older gods claimed that day.

(The winter solstice is officially December 21st, but in ancient days December 25th would have been the first day that people would notice the changing of the length of the day)

Was Jesus born on December 25th? No. But did Christians plagiarize that day? No.

This is similar to Halloween, which is filled with pagan practices. While ancient pagans were out indulging in their holiday, Christians began to find ways to combat it. Consider how your church might utilize a “trunk or treat,” Fall Festival, Judgment House, or Halloween Alternative (I have been to Hallow-Teens, for example). This doesn’t mean that Christians stole October 31st from pagans; it means that they are combating what is sinful with something holy.

We don’t know the date that Jesus was born, so early Christians began to observe His birthday on the day that pagans were observing the birthday of their gods. When the pagans were celebrating, so were the Christians.

Jesus was most likely born in the fall. The fact that Joseph had to return to his hometown to be taxed is a good indication. These taxations took place after the harvest when people had the most money on hand, so many believe that Jesus was actually born around late September. The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) was also at this time, and travel was not unusual.

The shepherds in the field with their flocks is also important. In December the fields would not provide grass for grazing, and shepherds usually gave up on the fields after the fall.

Christmas literally means “Christ-mass,” which refers to the Catholic mass, or their rendition of the Lord’s Supper. Since the date of the birth of Jesus is not known, the Roman Catholic Church established that a Christ mass would be observed on December 25th while the pagans were celebrating the new sun.

So Jesus was not born on December 25th, but I have no problem celebrating that day. As Christians, we say that we actually celebrate His birth every day, just as we celebrate His resurrection more than just at Easter.

So let me wish you a Merry Christmas, and let us wish Jesus a Happy Birthday, for both take place in the lives of believers every day of the year. 

(Read Happy Holidays and Christmas Music)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rachel Dowd Book Sponsorship Program

Several times over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to sit down with people and hand them a free copy of Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery. These people were parents who had recently lost children to infant mortality, and I was directed to them by mutual friends.

While there are no easy words to say in these situations, it is an honor to be able to provide a free book that will hopefully answer some questions they are facing, and that will definitely present the gospel.

Even though I am the one sitting on their couch and giving them a free book, I am not the only one who plays a part. These books that I have donated have been paid for through the Rachel Dowd Book Sponsorship Program.

Rachel Dowd was stillborn on May 31st, 1995, to Chuck and Carol Dowd in Alabama, and their story can be read in the Testimonies section of Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery.

The Rachel Dowd Book Sponsorship Program was created to provide free books as a ministry to those who have lost a child. A gift of just $10 will put a book into the hands of one of these grieving parents.

Your donation is tax deductible, and it can be made in honor of or in memory of someone. Gifts made in someone’s memory or honor will be listed on the Tommy Mann Ministries Facebook Fan Page.

Thank you for your generosity! 

(Read Asleep in Heaven's Nursery

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll: A Leader We Shouldn't Follow

(Please read Mark Driscoll, Apology Accepted here)

As a young pastor I keep getting told that I need to learn from the leadership training of Mark Driscoll, who is the leader of the Acts 29 Network and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He is considered to be a leadership guru for young church leaders, but I believe that his methodology is dangerous.

To Driscoll’s credit, he teaches a lot of good theology. Most of Driscoll’s fans seem to be in the emerging church, but Driscoll himself is no fan of the emerging church. He is the first to point out the fact that they do not believe in absolute truth, and that they care more about handing out “muffins and hugs” than they do about preaching the gospel. In a day where the emerging church spends more time giving happy pep talks, Driscoll is a teacher of theology. And while I do not agree with all of his theology, I do appreciate that he is teaching it. Unfortunately, it is guys like him that say just enough good stuff to give themselves credibility.

First of all, he admits to and even brags about committing theft in his book Confessions of a Radical Rev. He boasts that he never had to pay for electricity in one of his first buildings because “the building was illegally hooked up to the power grid and all our power was stolen (p.125).” And in case you think that is no big deal and I am just being picky, consider that he stole something tangible as well. “I stole an unused sound console from my old church, along with a projector screen, which were sins Jesus thankfully died to forgive (p.62).”

Talk about making a mockery out of grace! He is bragging about being a thief and making a joke about the blood of Jesus! It would be a different story if he premised these accounts by saying he regrets what he did or he has repented, but it is this type irreverence that makes him too immature to be considered a good leader.

I also disagree with him on the issue of drinking alcohol. I am not going to use this blog to make the case for abstinence from alcohol, but I certainly believe in it. Driscoll feels differently, making comments that “God has come to earth and kicks things off as a bartender (The Radical Reformission, p.30)” He makes comments about drinking beer frequently in his books and sermons, but the thing that gets me is that he requires the people he trains to brew their own beer at home. He has a chapter titled The Sin of Light Beer in The Radical Reformission where he makes the case that light beer came about to please feminists, and that good Christians should oppose feminism by drinking “good beer.”

With that knowledge of good beer versus sinful beer, Driscoll says in Confessions of a Radical Rev. that he holds boot camps to teach guys how to “brew decent beer (p.131).” He also says that he became convicted of his “sin of abstinence from alcohol. So in repentance, I drank a hard cider over lunch with our worship pastor (The Radical Reformission p.146).”

I also have a problem with the way that he uses the secular to make his points. I know that Jesus and Paul made illustrations of things like fishing, running, and farming, but those things are not sinful. In Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission he includes examples of radicals on mission with him. Among them are David Bruce from Hollywood Jesus, who calls himself a missionary because he takes clips from movies and uses them to make comparisons to Christianity (I have been a long time critic of using movies that are full of curse words, sexual content, and God’s name in vain as “witnessing material”). He also features Icabod Caine, a country music DJ in Seattle, who said we are “basically clueless” as to the difference between the secular and sacred, and yet he views himself as a missionary even though he daily plays music that is filled with drunkenness, divorce, and profanity.

Another example of Driscoll using the secular in place of Scripture comes from his owning and operating of The Paradox, which was a venue that was designed to host concerts. Driscoll said he rarely used the venue to host Christian bands because his goal was to get unsaved people into the building. But the problem is that the gospel was never presented to these unsaved kids; they would basically pay secular bands to come perform (thus supporting what they stand for), then let the crowd leave unchanged. Instead of being a pastor, this makes Driscoll nothing more than a concert promoter. In his own words, Driscoll never “preach[ed] at the kids” or did “goofy things like handing out tracts (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.127).”

The basement of the building, he says, was a place where local junkies would do black tar heroine, and the back is where junkies would “shoot up drugs and poop on the ground (p.125),” and he laughs about the Japanese punk band that randomly stripped naked during the show. Don’t worry though, because during these concerts Driscoll saw “many kids come to faith through relationships (p.127).” This might sound elementary, but relationships don’t save people, faith in Jesus and repentance does.

He also has one of his church leaders routinely lead discussions on movies they watch, including “unedited R-rated” movies, to teach people to think critically (Confessions, p.157). Humans are totally depraved; why do we need to look at sin in order to critique it?

But what drives me crazy about Driscoll is his crudeness. I will break down this final point into three areas: his general crudeness, his obsession with crude sexuality, and his crudeness when referring to my Lord.

His language is foul, crude, and offensive. I can’t even do justice to how crude he is because I refuse to write most of the words he uses. He makes no apology for the time he “cussed out the poor guy” who came to him for counseling when he was having a bad day (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.128), or for the fact that he “cussed a lot” when he was frustrated (p.129), including cussing at the bare offering plate (p.47). On page 133 he uses a crude word for prostitute and a crude word for an illegitimate child.

In The Radical Reformission he uses yet another crude term to refer to a loose woman (different from the one mentioned above) on page 29. In Vintage Jesus he quotes Brad Pitt from the movie Fight Club, where he uses the longer form of being P.O.’ed (p.201).

His crudeness is also sexual. In Confessions he refers to intercourse as “banging (p.128).” On the same page he admits to being burned out in the ministry due to “an unspectacular sex life,” and he makes a reference to a woman being “hot like hell.” On page 96, when admitting that he isn’t like most pastors, jokes about using words in sermons like a term to refer to the male reproductive organ, as well as having “an aluminum pole in the bedroom.” Some of those “sermons on sex were R-rated (p.134).”

One of those R-rated sermons was when he gave all the guys two stones to symbolize what they needed in order to be real men (p.129). His lingo was cruder.

In Radical he says that Adam and Eve were “horny (p.28—on that page he also uses a crude term for a prostitute)” and he makes a joke about a gay orgy on page 33. He makes wisecracks about people using Viagra on pages 75 and 165. There is also a joke about a vasectomy on page 76.

Driscoll talks frankly about a threesome on page 92, and about girls’ tight pants making their backsides look big on page 95, about a girl having “junk in her trunk” on page 119.  On page 187 he references a man’s genitals, and on 185 he brags about teaching on subjects like the different ways that a woman can climax.

In Vintage Jesus he refers to intercourse as “knocking boots (p.11) and “shagging (p.41).” While attending a Monday Night Football game, he writes that “half-naked young women provide eye candy (p.164).”

On page 169 he says that our culture worships “good old-fashioned naked crazy-making” and he makes yet another reference to eating Viagra on page 183.

He also makes references to graphic sexual practices that take place, both as couples and alone, dozens of times. Not only does he talk about these topics that shouldn’t be mentioned, he does it in such a crass way. These references do not include his forthcoming book which will deal with these topics and much more (

But the worst of all of his crude comments comes in a conversation he felt the need to include in Confessions when a member of his church called him during the night crying, and told him that he had just watched a dirty movie. Driscoll asked him, “Was it a good porno?” When the young man asked for prayer, this is the prayer that Driscoll records: “Jesus, thank you for not killing him for being a pervert. Amen.” Driscoll then told the man not to call him at night when he is sleeping, and said he didn’t have time to be his accountability partner.

But it gets worse. When the man asked for advice, here is Drsicoll’s reply: “You need to stop watching porno and crying like a baby afterwards…a naked lady is good to look at, so get a job, get a wife, ask her to get naked, and look at her instead (p.60).”

Not exactly a good leadership technique.

Mark Driscoll is also crude when speaking of Jesus. In Vintage Jesus he has a four-word sentence: “Jesus was a dude (p.31).” This dude “did things that normal people do, like farting, going to the bathroom, and blowing boogers from his nose (p.32).” 

On page 43 he says that Jesus acted as if He needed Paxil, that He was cruel for calling the Pharisees hypocrites, that He needed sensitivity training, and that He commissioned His disciples to “take a donkey without asking like some kleptomaniac donkeylifter.”

On page 44 he says that Jesus yelled at his disciples for sleeping “as an obvious workaholic who needed to start drinking decaf and listening to taped sounds of running water while doing aromatherapy so he could learn to relax.”

I don’t care who this offends: I’m not taking leadership advice from a “pastor” that calls my Lord a pill-popping, cruel, insensitive, workaholic kleptomaniac dude who farts and blows boogers out of His nose. And neither should you.

I know Driscoll defends himself by saying that humor is his thing, but there is nothing funny about belittling the King of the universe. Jesus is not a dude or my homeboy, He is my precious Lord and Savior. I would not let anyone talk about my wife that way, so why would I let him talk that way about the one who has saved me?

But that is just one book. In Radical he refers to “the God-Man” going “through puberty” and speculates that He had to have received at least one wedgie (p.29).

I have called Mark Driscoll a pervert from the pulpit, and will do nothing less here. If you are a pastor or leader who looks up to this man, or if you are a believer who reads or listens to him, please consider who he really is. I know the hip thing in churches is to be edgy and be the opposite of your grandparents preacher who wore a suit, parted his hair on the left, and used the KJV exclusively. And that is fine. But if you are looking for a good preacher, look for one who loves and respects the Lord and His Word, and do not turn your ears to these shock and awe men who are ear pleasing.

Consider Paul, who was a godly man that the young pastor Timothy looked up to. Paul warned Timothy to preach the Word because the day would come when people would recruit teachers to say what makes them feel good, and Driscoll is one of those men.

Finally, consider these paradoxical excerpts from Vintage Jesus. On page 159 he explains that lordship means that “Jesus has authority over the… shows we watch.” Then on 160 he says that we are to “say no to ungodliness in all its forms.” And on page 167 he uses the TV show South Park as an illustration, even referring to it as “hilarious.” If you know anything about that show you know it has the worst language on TV; South Park was actually the first show to ever use the “S” word on TV, and after weeks of advertising that they were going to do it, they kept a counter on the screen that kept track of each time the word was used, totaling 162 times on a half hour show.

Real hilarious, Mark.

And if Jesus has authority over the shows you watch, and you say no to ungodliness in all its forms, then how does South Park fit into that equation?

I wonder if Driscoll ever preaches from Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.”

Pastors, if you want real leadership I have a suggestion. “Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”


Monday, November 21, 2011

Literal Translation vs. Dynamic Equivalence

When it comes to deciding which Bible to purchase, use, or trust, there is a good test to use. Since a new translation seems to come out about every fifteen minutes in this country, there is no way to have a memorized list of which translations to trust.

The test is simple: open the Bible and see if it is a literal translation or if it is a dynamic equivalent. This information will be located somewhere on the inside cover or in the first couple of pages. This final installment of the Bible Blog will show the difference between the two.

Literal Translation

For the last 2,000 years the textus receptus, also known as the majority text, has been one the most trusted and accepted set of documents that we have. In the first century the Bible was just our Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew but was already available in Greek. So as the New Testament was written, it was written both in Greek and Latin. Therefore, the earliest Bibles were written mostly in Greek. Some of the best and most trusted documents made up what would later be known as the textus receptus.

It was from these documents that other translations came to be, including the 1611 King James Version. The reason that I am such a big supporter of the King James Bible is I am a big supporter of where it came from.

The KJV translators did a meticulous job of translating word for word, making sure that they had the best English translation of the Bible. They even continued to meet for almost two hundred years (other people, obviously) to make sure they still had the best. This word for word rendering is what is meant by the term literal translation.

In 1971 the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was produced by the Lockman Foundation, but instead of using the textus receptus, they used the Biblia Hebraica and Nestle’s Greek New Testament, 23rd edition. This project took over a decade, and this is considered by most scholars to be the best English Bible available.

A hundred years passed without an update to the KJV, and in 1982 Thomas Nelson Publishers commissioned 130 people to produce an updated version of the Bible. This team went right back to the textus receptus and translated what came to be known as the New King James Version of the Bible. They simply took what had been done in 1611 (and the next 200 years) and updated the English words, not the meaning of the document.

Other good literal word for words translation include, but are not limited to, the American Standard Bible (1901), and the English Standard Version (2001).

Dynamic Equivalence

While the literal translation takes a word for word translation approach, the dynamic equivalence (or “functional equivalence”) takes more of a paraphrase approach. This method is not as concerned with getting the word for word message, but for just getting the message across. The obvious problem with this is that key words can be left out, we are not getting the Bible the way it was inspired, and we can lose a lot of the cultural heritage.

The most notorious dynamic equivalence is the New International Version (NIV), which debuted in 1978. I have problems with this translation for the reasons stated above, and also for the fact that this was a gateway translation in that it opened the door for more liberal documents to emerge. Not the least of these liberal documents was the NIV’s daughter, Today’s New International Version (TNIV, 2002), which was like a feminist’s rendition of the NIV.

The dynamic equivalence also gets messy when one considers that in 1971 The Living Bible (TLB) came out, which was not a translation of an ancient text, but a paraphrase of the KJV. TLB’s author, Kenneth Taylor, simply took his KJV and rewrote it.

It is a very dangerous game when we embrace a book that calls itself a Bible, and yet that book was not translated literally word for word. The margin of human error becomes magnified exponentially, and liberalism begins to creep in. This whole notion of just translating the gist is what eventually gave way to the heresy known as The Message.

When it comes time for you to make a decision on which Bible you will trust as the Word of God, use this little test to see if it is a word for word rendering of God’s Word, or if it is just the basic idea.

As one who has read many of the dynamic equivalences out there, believe me, there is nothing dynamic about it.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

KJV Only

Is the King James Version of the Bible the only translation of the Bible that we should read? As a child I was taught that it was the only accurate Bible, and my BA degree in Bible came from a KJV only college. I love the KJV, and it is the only translation I have ever taught or preached from. But is it the only Bible we should read?

Before I begin, I want to be clear that this is by no means an exhaustive review of this topic, for that could go on and on. This is just designed to point out a few surface level points.

The KJV only crowd likes to criticize the newer translations by asserting that they are leaving out words, phrases, or verses, and that they change words. The problem with this line of thinking is that they are comparing these newer translations to the KJV and not to original texts. For example, when the KJV-onlies criticize some for leaving out verses 9-20 of Mark 16, they are missing the fact that those verses do not appear in any ancient texts. Those verses were actually additions by the KJV translators who were worried that Mark’s gospel didn’t include any eye witnesses of the resurrection.

Other words and phrases that were allegedly left out are actually just phrases where the old English of the KJV was unnecessarily repetitive. 

KJV only defendants use verses like “I am the Lord, I change not” to defend their point. If that verse means that we should not change from the Bible that we have, then we had better all become fluent in ancient Hebrew and Greek. As I will point out here, they make the mistake of believing that the KJV was the first Bible ever produced.

They also use biblical commands to not add to or take away from the Word of God. They use these verses to usher in strong warnings about these newer translations, but again, theirs is the one that has added to. [1]

So the question isn’t whether the NIV left out verses, but whether the KJV added them. It isn’t fair to attack a translation for leaving out something that was not inspired in the first place.

Websites like have a list of verses that are left out of the NIV, but the reality is that these verses were added by the KJV.

In the same way that the KJV translators added verses for clarification, they also tweaked other words to please King James. John the Baptist should be known as John the Immerser, but King James did not believe in immersion for baptism, so the word was changed.

KJV-onlies like to say that theirs is the most formal translation. They believe that there is more holiness in their thee’s and thou’s and their adding “eth” to every other word. The King James Version has many words that have other meanings today, and all of this together makes the document difficult to understand.

On this point, I once had a KJV only pastor point in my face and scream at me, “If you can’t understand the KJV with a simple dictionary, you have problems.” But the real problem is the fact that the KJV requires a dictionary. The New Testament writers chose to write in a style of Greek known as koine, which was the most common and understood form in its day. It would be the equivalent of an elementary school comprehension level.

So while I agree that the KJV is very poetic in its sound, especially in the Psalms, that is not a reason to condemn other translations. The Bible was never meant to be something that required a Master of Divinity to understand; it was written by common people for common people.

Even though I preach from my King James, when I come to a passage that mentions a donkey, I say donkey out loud, but we all know that there is another three letter word used for donkey. The king James also refers to men as those who “[urinate] against the wall.” Of course, their word for urinate is a word most of us would wash our children’s mouth out with soap for using. On this passage I once heard a pastor say that those words aren’t foul because the Bible says all the words of Christ are wholesome words. Once again, this mindset shows that the KJV-onlies think that Jesus spoke King James. The Holy Spirit didn’t inspire those words, He inspired them in Greek and Hebrew, and now, hundreds of years after their English translations, those words have a different meaning.

Other words in the KJV are different. The KJV uses the word conversation to mean lifestyle, and it makes a huge mess out of Hades by always translating it as hell.  When newer translations try to update these words, the KJV only proponents get upset. But this is contradictory because the KJV translators themselves used to do this.

1611 was the year that the KJV was authorized and translated into English. Every few years a team of scholars met to update the words in that translation, always being careful to make sure that the words had their true meaning and that it was on the common man’s level. But 1798 was the last year that this happened. So when the New King James Version (NKJV) was released, it was nothing more than what the KJV scholars had done for almost two complete centuries, and yet the KJV-onlies were against it. All the NKJV did was change the thou’s to you’s and leave off the eth’s (they also corrected the hell/Hades problem).

To be clear, I do not support every translation that comes down the pike. My last blog (The Message by Eugene Peterson, shows that, and my next blog will as well. I am a textus receptus fan, which I will blog about next, and that is where the KJV came from. A KJV only pastor, who was one of my college professors, said that he supported the KJV because it came from the textus receptus. I asked him if he would support a newer translation if it came from the textus receptus, like the NAS, and his reply was, “Just stick to the KJV.”

It has become apparent to me that the real reason that people are KJV only is that they were raised that way. When confronted with simple logic that refutes their beliefs, they become explosively angry and spout out verses like, “Forever, oh Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (That verse in no way proves their point, and once again shows that they think that Paul and Peter directly wrote the King James) There is no logic that affirms that the KJV is the only accurate English translation.

This blogeth wast copyrighted; thou shalt not add unto nor taketh away from, lest thou be smitten with copyright infringement.

[1] To be clear, these commands are in reference to people changing God’s Word for their own gain. When translating a document from one language to another, there will always be words added or subtracted. There are thousands more Greek words than there are English words, so entire phrases have been added to English Bibles. Good translations will italicize those added words. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Message by Eugene Peterson

The Message by Eugene Peterson brands itself as “The Bible in contemporary language,” but is it really a trustworthy easy-to-read Bible? I intend to show you why this book is dangerous and should not be considered the Word of God.

Every English Bible had to have come from somewhere; that is, they had to be translated from something since the Bible was Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin long before it was English. The opening pages of each Bible will tell the potential reader where this translation drew from.

For example, translation like the KJV, NKJV, and NASV are literal translations from the textus receptus, meaning that they are literal word for word translations from Greek to English, Hebrew to English, etc. Translations like the NIV are dynamic equivalents from English Bibles, meaning they took someone’s English Bible and simply updated words. There is no literal word for word translation, just taking the general idea and tinkering with it. I have long been critical of this line of translating, and I do not trust any dynamic equivalent.

But which method did The Message (TM) use? Its publisher, NavPress, isn’t really sure. Their description and advertising material begins: “For the first time, all sixty-six books of the Bible are now available in one book!”

Not to sound picky, but I’m pretty sure all 66 books of the Bible have been together in one book for quite some time. This handy all in one version of the Bible is called The Bible.

But the description continues: “Translated directly from the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts…” So it must be a literal translation, right? But the problem is two-fold. First, it doesn’t tell us which texts, which can mean literally anything, including Gnostic texts. Second, it doesn’t claim to just be a literal translation. The publisher’s description invites the reader to “join the millions of readers who have been drawn to God through Eugene Peterson’s…paraphrase.” In one paragraph the publisher says it is both a literal translation and a paraphrase.

This might sound like small potatoes (sorry The Message gets me the mood for some idioms), but this is a big deal. There is no Scriptural authority or support for anything found in TM. The Publisher knows better; they are aware that Bibles are judged by their cover, or inside cover, for that important information. They cleverly chose to slip both methods into this one. This information sets the tone for the rest of this review, because it shows that Peterson isn’t giving us any way to check his facts. We are just relying on the fact that he is smart, most people don’t read Greek or Hebrew, and he used ancient texts.

One of the loudest criticisms for this book is that the Bible tells us not to add to or take away from its pages. Verses like Proverbs 30:5-6 warn against this: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words...” Look how Peterson conveniently side stepped this warning:

“Every promise of God proves true…so don’t second guess him.”

Instead of “every word of God is true” Peterson tells us every promise of God is true. Don’t add to His words becomes “don’t second guess him” There is a huge difference here. And unfortunately for Mr. Peterson, he is not the only one who reads Greek and Hebrew. The word used for words in these verses actually means “utterance, speech, or word,” not promise. Likewise, the command to not add to the Bible also means exactly what the Bible said it meant.

He also leaves out part of the exchange between Jesus and Satan in Luke 4:4. The Bible says, “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Peterson rendered this passage this way: “It takes more than bread to really live.” The problem is that Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy verbatim, and Peterson left out the command to live by every word.

So with the groundwork laid (unclear origin and no command against altering the Word), Peterson is now free to write whatever he wants.

There are weird insertions, like characters named Madame Day and Professor Night in Psalm 19:2, and a person named Syzgus to Philippians 4:3. These are both bizarre because nothing in Scripture indicates that these characters should appear here. There are also a host of alleged omissions, but these cannot really be confirmed, because again, Peterson doesn’t tell us which texts he directly translated his paraphrase from.

Peterson’s book changes God’s plan of salvation. John 3 is a great passage to show the need to change one’s life for salvation, that we must be born again. In the 17th verse of that chapter, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God sent not His Son into the word to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” But Peterson uses this verse to say that Jesus “came to help, to put the world right again.”

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again; Peterson is telling him that Jesus will just set things right. This is universalism, not biblical salvation. It is also Gnosticism.

Gnostics believe that we are all gods at the core of who we are, and by enlightenment we will come to recognize our true selves. We don’t have to do anything to be saved except to realize who we already are. His rendering of John 17 is in keeping with that idea.

So is his translation of Matthew 5:45 and John 1:12. The Mathew verse tells us that we can become the children of God (ginomai in Greek, which means to instantly become). TM says that if we love our enemies, instead of becoming the children of God, you are “working out of your true selves.”

The John verse says that “as many as received [Jesus], to them [God] gave the power to become (ginomai) the sons of God.” TM says that these people who said they would believe in God, God made them “to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.”

These references to true selves are not just some cool terminology from the man who didn’t want people to be bored with the Bible; this is central to Gnostic theology.

Peterson’s seeming obsession with the word luck is also Gnostic. As Christians, we commonly say that we don’t believe in luck or coincidence, but it is clear that Peterson believes in luck. TM uses the word luck in 31 verses and lucky in 32 verses. He uses the phrase “bad luck” in 11 verses, and luckless or unlucky in 13 verses. 27 times he replaces “blessed” with “fortunate” or “fortune.” An example of this is in Psalm 25:22 and 73:14 where the discipline of God is referred to as “a run of bad luck.” (Footnote #1)

In Luke 23:29, speaking of the end times, Jesus said, “For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.” Peterson’s version uses the word lucky three times in this verse.

This is important because anyone familiar with Gnostic literature would see what he is doing. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (v.79) says, “A woman in the crowd said to him, Lucky are the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you." He said to [her], "Lucky are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, ‘Lucky are the womb that has not conceived and the breasts that have not given milk.’” Peterson altered the Gospel by directly quoting a Gnostic gospel!

In further Gnostic style, Peterson reduces the deity of Jesus. Instead of having Jesus say that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), he has Jesus say “My Father and I are of one heart and mind.” He also has Jesus say that the Father “is his goal (John 14:28).”

He has clearly reduced Jesus into something less than God. He has presented Him as a child of God, no different than everyone else, according to the Gnostics. This is further evidenced by his descriptions of Jesus. TM never uses titles such as Lord Jesus, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or Our Savior Jesus Christ, despite the fact that those titles are used over a hundred times in the Bible. More shocking, while the Bible uses Lord or Jehovah almost 8,000 times, those words appear a total of 62 times in TM, and not all of those even refer to Jesus (Footnote #2).

We also see Gnosticism in other places. The model prayer begins Hallowed be thy name in Matthew 6:9, but Peterson begins it with “Reveal who you are (enlightenment).” “Lead us not into temptation” in that prayer is changed to “keep us safe (because we aren’t sinful),” and his use of the term “as above, so below” is more Gnostic theology.

Peterson himself had something very interesting to say about Gnostics in his 1991 book Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. On page 76 he says that for Gnostics “metaphor is an affront to their gossamer immaterialities and inner-ring whispers, a loud fart in the salon of spirituality. Metaphor is the psalmic antidote to the dematerializing venom of the Gnostic.” While his language is harsh on Gnostics in 1991, he points out that their weapon is their pen and their ammunition is their use of the metaphor. And his Message, which is heavily Gnostic, is teeming with metaphors. If he isn’t a Gnostic, he has certainly taken a page out of their playbook.

I could go on with more offenses he has committed against the Word of God, but I believe the point has been made. Peterson wanted to create a bible that wasn’t boring, one that was easy to read with “no distracting verse numbers.” Which I appreciate, because we all know how distracting those pesky verse numbers can be. But what he created was a Gnostic’s version of the Holy Bible. To prove my point, the book’s publisher has a single review posted on their website. It says:

"After all the time I spent reading the Bible, nothing has enlightened me more than The Message. I now feel I am worth something to God."

Did you catch the word enlighten there? I’d say Mr. Peterson has accomplished his mission.

I don’t believe The Message by Eugene Peterson is the Word of God, but the message of Eugene Peterson.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Repent: The Shortest (and Best) Sermon Ever Preached

The word repent means “to change one’s life for the better.” It carries with it the idea of making a 180 degree turn, of totally changing directions in your life. In short, repentance is a command for the thief to quit stealing, the drunk to quit drinking, the fornicator to quit fornicating, the gossiper to quit gossiping, etc.

But that doesn’t sound like a good sermon. Aren’t sermons supposed to make the listener feel good? Maybe talking about repentance every now and then is ok, but just during an invitation or somewhere near the end of the message. We should never begin a sermon with a call to repent, and we should never harp on it the whole time. After all, won’t all that repent talk offend the lost or turn them off from Christianity?

For starters, if a person is not a Christian, a sermon, no matter how bold, cannot make that person any more lost. But what about the claim that we have to warm people up to the idea of repentance? Let’s look at how some of the greatest preachers of all time dealt with the subject of repentance.

John the Baptist. Jesus once said that his cousin John was the best person who ever lived. Here are the first recorded words of this great man: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2).”

Jesus. God became flesh and lived among us. When He was thirty years old He began His ministry by being baptized, then spent time alone fasting in the wilderness. After that event, the first recorded words of Jesus to begin His ministry are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4:17).” This verse says that Jesus “began to preach” this message, meaning that it was the message He kept coming back to, which is what we see in Luke 13, 16, and 17.

Peter. The great apostle and New Testament church leader was present when the Holy Spirit fell from heaven. Christians began to present the gospel message, and each person was hearing it in his own language. Peter stood up to explain what was going on, and he did so by telling the crowd that they were responsible for murdering Jesus. The question was asked, “What must we do?” The first recorded words of Peter in response was, “Repent, and be baptized (Acts 2:38).”

Jesus, again. In Revelation John received a vision of Jesus speaking to seven churches. In these accounts Jesus would tell the churches what they were doing wrong, and His remedy was the same: Repent (Revelation 2-3).

In Acts 3, 8, and 26 the early church leaders are still preaching repentance, and in Acts 17:30 we are told that God commands people everywhere to repent. And while it is true that Paul never used the word repent as a command to others, the bulk of his writings were telling people, usually in a confrontational manner, that they needed to turn from specific sin.

So why have we become so afraid to use this word? I have two possible theories.

#1, we have no moral authority.

#2, we want to be popular.

We have no moral authority to call out sin when we are living in it, so instead of repenting ourselves we just keep quiet about the speck in our brother’s eye. If I am watching TV shows that take God’s Name in vain, then I can’t preach that you should not use those words yourself. If I am living in adultery, then I cannot preach that you shouldn’t lust.

But Jesus never told us to have a “live and let live” approach to each other’s sin. Yes, if there is a beam in your eye, you shouldn’t call out the speck in your brother’s eye, but the Bible commands us to remove the beam in our eye so that we can help our brother remove the speck from his (Matthew 7:3-5).

We also want to be popular. Let’s face it, who has more fans, Joel Osteen or John MacArthur? The guy who tells you God is a genie in a bottle who can’t wait to give you a million dollars draws a bigger crowd than the guy who says God wants you to move out of the house of the lover you aren’t married to. We think that if we can disguise what God is really like than maybe people will like us more, we can draw a bigger crowd, then win the respect of the religious community.

I like how Francis Chan put it in his book Erasing Hell. He said we need to stop apologizing for God and start apologizing to Him for trying to repaint Him into a more user friendly deity.

I find it amusing that the emerging church hates the word repent, and yet they miss it right there in Acts 2. While they are busy building their theology around having all things common and meeting in houses, they miss the very thing that led to that: Peter’s call to repent. And while they love to talk about the kingdom of heaven, they don’t realize that there is no admittance without repentance.

God calls all men to repent, and I am not ashamed to declare that same message. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that leads to salvation (Romans 1:16). I couldn’t care less if this blog makes you think I’m a conservative legalist; it might help someone experience the power of God unto salvation, and that is all I am interested in.

Do you need to repent of not telling people to repent?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Asleep in Heaven's Nursery: Why Every Christian Needs to Read This Book

“I believe in the traditional Baptist doctrine on that subject.”

That answer came from a pastor when I asked him what the Bible says about the age of accountability. He clearly had no idea what he believed, and instead of taking time to research the matter, he simply deferred to the Baptist doctrine.

Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery is not just for people who have lost children, although that is a major part of it. I want Christians to know why I wrote this book, and why I think it can be helpful to them. This might sound self-serving, like I am writing this to just sell books. But I never would have written the book if I didn’t think it would serve a purpose. And as a not-for-profit ministry, I don’t make a penny off of these books, so this is not about financial gain.

This book looks at the age of accountability to see if it is biblical. It also lists the major criticisms for the age of accountability and gives a rebuttal for them. For example, if Jesus said that no one gets to the Father except through Him, then how can infants get to the Father? People use this logic to refute Christian truth, so it is important to know their arguments and what the Bible says.

This book also looks at the very sensitive issue of when a baby is considered to be a life. Is it at conception, at birth, or somewhere in the middle? On this extremely important topic we must know what we believe.

Can people be forgiven for having an abortion? Is the baby punished for the mother’s sin? Can that mother go to heaven?

Is abortion ok if the mother was raped? What if her life is in danger? What if it was incest? What if the child will have a deformity?

Is adoption really a good option? Won’t these children have miserable lives in an orphanage? (By the way, as the world mourns the loss of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, did you know that he was adopted? He is even mentioned in this book)

What will babies look like in heaven? Will they be angels? Did you know that the overwhelming majority of mothers who have lost a child believe their babies are angels?

What should I say to my friend or relative who has lost a baby? Can I cheer them up?

These are all pieces of information that are good for Christians to know, even if you have not personally lost a child.

If you have not lost a child but know someone who has, buying them this book is a great way to show them the love of Christ. This is especially true if that person is not a Christian, because this book lays out God’s plan of salvation.

If you have lost a child, this book will hopefully answer every question that you have asked yourself.

Pastors and counselors, this book is a good resource to give out to people you minister to who have lost a child.

If you would like to donate a book in memory of or in honor of someone, you can do that through the Rachel Dowd Sponsorship Program for just $10. That will allow us to supply a book to someone who has just lost a child. This donation is tax deductible, and you can do that here:!rachel-dowd-sponsorship-program

From now through October 15th, 10% of book sales will go to the March of Dimes.

You can get a copy at Facebook users can like Tommy Mann Ministries and use the store tab for special Facebook only deals.

(Read Rachel Dowd Book Sponsorship Program)
(Read blogs about my other books Who is God? and All the Law)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Disney Music: China Anne McClain and Allstar Weekend

When I was a child Disney music was harmless. In fact, one of the first cassette tapes that I owned (remember those?) was the soundtrack to The Lion King. The lyrics were always harmless, usually funny, and any music videos were animated. In those days, the only criticism of Disney music was that Elton John provided some of the vocals.

Like most things, though, Disney music has evolved. Thanks to Radio Disney, and their hit TV show Next Big Thing, and the fact that almost every character from the Disney Channel has their own band, Disney music is now pop music with real people and real music videos.

That is not what concerns me. My issue is with the lyrics. China Anne McClain (star of Disney Channel’s newest comedy show Ant Farm) is one of those actors who also also sings. Her debut song is called Dynamite, which is a catchy song with a harmless video. The chorus of the song says, “We gon’ rock this club, we gon’ go all night, we gon’ light it up like its dynamite.”

China Anne is not even in high school yet and she is singing about rocking a club all night. The majority of her fans will not even be old enough to enter a club for another decade, so that is a little confusing to me as a song choice by Disney.

Where it gets even weirder is when I found out that two other artists had previously recorded the same song. The original artist, Taio Cruz, who wrote the song, has a trashy music video to go along with it. The original Cruz version also has the f-word in it. Why would Disney have their newest and youngest star sing this song?

If you type “Dynamite lyrics” in Google, guess whose version comes up? China Anne’s doesn’t come on the entire first page, and her name doesn’t come up in the suggestions. Most of the hits are Taio’s version.

Then there is the group Allstar Weekend. These guys rose to fame on Disney’s Next Big Thing, and they have a song on the soundtrack to the newest Disney movie Prom. The song is called Not Your Birthday, and it is written to everyone who is not celebrating their birthday so they can party too.

Like with Dynamite there is another version, but unlike the other song, Allstar Weekend does both versions. Allstar Weekend’s original version contains both the b-word and the d-word (twice), and it glorifies drinking this way:

“Take a sip of the high life, chase it down until you fall.”

“Drop your calls, lose your keys before the drinks are gone.”

“Life is tough so fill them cups, one life to live so live it up, drinks go up, drink ‘em down, turn it up, wake up the town.”

In the music video the band is singing at prom, which is lame before the band arrives. Once they start singing people are drinking the “punch” and they begin to loosen up and have fun (including the school faculty).

In the Prom version the lyrics are altered:

“Take a moment of the good life, chase it down until you fall.”

“Drop your calls, lose your keys before the night is gone.”

“Life is tough so loosen up, DJ, turn that Weekend up, get down, get loud, everybody stand up, everybody go nuts, throw your hands up.”

In this video the punch drinking is replaced with scenes from the movie, but the rest is the same. If you type “Allstar Weekend Not Your Birthday” in Google, once again, you get the original version. “Clean version” comes up in the suggestion box, but even after I selected that, the first one to come up was not the clean version.
Disney owns the copyright to both versions.

If a child watching the Disney Channel or listening to the radio station decides to use the internet to watch their music video or buy their song on iTunes, they will most likely end up with the “unclean” version. And since most children these days have smart phones or unrestricted internet access, this is a recipe for disaster.

These two songs are designed to glamorize drinking and the club life. For their music videos, instead of having alcohol make everyone have a good time, they should show what drinking and the club scene really look like. They should use real footage of the vehicular accidents, homicide, suicide, rape, hangover, broken marriage, abandoned children, and ultimate misery that comes from rockin’ the club likes its dynamite.

And before you leave a comment about how a glass of wine won’t send you to hell (Moderationists are always so classy with their “glass of wine” when they really mean “6 pack”), let me point out that these songs aren’t about moderation, they are about a party lifestyle.

As parents we need to make sure that we don’t glamorize sin that can destroy our lives like dynamite.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Alicia's New Kidney

As many of you know, my wife Alicia had a kidney transplant last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. I wanted to take a few minutes to brag on God and record some of the details that are nothing short of miraculous.

When Alicia was 12 weeks pregnant with Reagan she was diagnosed with a specific kidney disease called FSGS, or focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which is hereditary. This disease was thought to only be passed on to males, so we were shocked to learn that Alicia had it. I have reported before that Alicia’s doctor thought that an abortion would be the best plan because the pregnancy would fast-forward the kidney disease, but we both have strong convictions against aborting a baby.

The fact that Alicia’s kidney function level stayed the same from the time she was diagnosed until the time she delivered (33% function) is a miracle in itself. But after Regan was born the disease began to pick up speed, and we began the process of getting approved for the transplant list.

A patient cannot get his name on a transplant list until he has declined to 20% function, and that day came for Alicia in April of 2011. She had already spent months going through orientation, testing, and dieting, so when her name went on the list she had done everything else she could do. Now we just needed to wait for a new organ, which we were told would take 3-5 years.

We had been given living donor screening packets to send out, but with the disease being hereditary, Alicia’s immediate family was ruled out. Next of kin make the best donors, so we didn’t expect to find a living donor. Just two weeks after being approved for the transplant list, we got a call that there was a match.

Sean Dietz, a man in our church, met the preliminary requirements (his wife Kelley was also tested but was not a match). He then went through months of testing to make sure he was healthy enough to donate and to live with just one kidney. In mid-August Sean was finally approved, and on September 13th his kidney was successfully transplanted into Alicia, whose kidneys were almost totally non-existent.

In most cases the patient will be on dialysis, which is a difficult procedure that does the work of the kidney for the body. A person on dialysis will have all the blood drained from his body, cleaned in a machine, and then funneled back into the body. There are several ways to do this, but each takes several hours and must be done several times each week. Alicia was told that she would probably start dialysis several times, but that day never came. She made it from December of 2008 to September of 2011 without having to go through dialysis, which was another miracle from the Lord.

As I mentioned, this disease is hereditary. Alicia’s father had his own transplant 10 years ago this November, and her father’s father received a transplant in 1969 during the early years of transplanting. Her grandfather’s body rejected the organ after 2 years, and he eventually succumbed to the disease. A generation later her father was able to undergo a much better process due to advances in the science. This generation’s advances helped to not only give Alicia a new kidney, but to also keep her off of dialysis. This incredible science is yet another testament of how great our God is. There is a 50-50 chance our daughter will have this same disease, but we know that our Lord will do what is right for her.

Alicia’s dad is a business manager for Frito Lay in the Dallas, Texas area. He has traveled occasionally, but rarely, for company training. The very day that we were told that the surgery was going to be scheduled, Alicia’s dad was told that he had to travel for training. Out of any city in the world where this training could have taken place, he was told to go to Charlotte, and was put in a hotel about 6 miles from the hospital where Alicia’s surgery would take place.

Obviously he would have been here for the transplant anyway, but this way his travel and hotel expenses were paid for by his company. And not being one to believe in coincidences, this was just an out of the blue reminder that every detail is in our sovereign God’s hands.

A surgery like this naturally comes with a high price tag, but we have been blessed beyond belief to be at such a great place like Philippi, and the insurance that they provide for me is incredible. And after Sean found out that he would miss 8 weeks of work without pay, the kind people of Philippi took up a special offering, during a recession, that would cover his lost wages.

I believe that this account preaches a wonderful sermon on who God is, and that the words of Matthew 6:33 are true: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things will be added unto you.”

Sean, the donor, is at home recovering, and Alicia’s kidney function is medically perfect.

I am from Orlando, Florida, and Alicia is from Dallas, Texas. The Lord moved us to Union, South Carolina, where He had prepared for us a perfect match, in more ways than one.

What a great God we serve!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alcohol for Revenue

This was an article I wrote for the Union County News.

I have heard some talk lately about the possibility that our county will increase alcohol sales to raise revenue. In this economy we should certainly explore options that might increase revenue, but are we willing to compromise our standards to do it?

The state of Minnesota recently contemplated the same issue. Just last year the state put out a fact sheet to see how much revenue was brought in through the sale of alcohol, and it was a staggering $296 million.

But the interesting part came when they calculated how much the sale of alcohol cost them.

After they calculated the cost on the state from alcohol related homicide/suicide, falling and other accidents, drowning, cancer, liver disease, other chronic illnesses, vehicular accidents, unintended pregnancies, birth defects, and alcohol dependence programs, Minnesota found out that they paid out $5.06 billion because of alcohol sales.

That is 17 times the amount of “revenue” brought in by alcohol.

Increasing our venues that can sell alcohol may bring in money off the top, but it will cost us far more than we want to pay.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is "Heaven is For Real" For Real?

In Todd Burpo’s new book Heaven is For Real he recounts his son Colton’s medical problems, which included an emergency surgery that almost ended his life. According to Burpo, his four year old son later told his father that the angels sang to him during his surgery. From there, the rest of the book is devoted to the father retelling the son’s story of his trip to heaven.

This book was very well written and the story was captivating. Anyone would have to be heartless to accuse this cute toddler of lying or being wrong about what he claims he witnessed. While I am not prepared to accuse him of lying, there were some questions that I have. According to Burpo on page 66, his son’s story “matched Scripture in every detail,” and in order for this story to have been true, it would indeed have to match in every detail.

One of the first things that Colton told his father is that Jesus rode on a rainbow colored horse. To match Scripture in every detail, it should be noted that Scripture never mentions Jesus having a rainbow colored horse. It does, however, mention that Jesus will ride a white horse (Revelation 19:11).

Colton also told his father that everyone, including his Papa, had wings in heaven. The problem with this, as I describe in greater detail in Asleep in Heaven’s Nursery, is that people do not become angels once they get to heaven. Humans will still be humans in heaven, just with glorified bodies, and angels are separate beings. Matthew 22:30 and Hebrews 12:22-23 both make a distinction between angles and humans (“spirits of just men made perfect”).

Colton slowly shared details with his dad over the course of three years. Among those details were things like Jesus giving Colton homework to do in heaven, which again, doesn’t match Scripture.

On page 107 Burpo said that Colton’s description of the colors of heaven reminded him of the description of heaven in Revelation 21. The problem here is that Revelation 21 is a description of the New Jerusalem, not heaven. That is not to say that heaven isn’t colorful, but again, it is not fair to say that his description matched Scripture.

Colton said that while he was there he saw Jesus “shoot down power” from heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit to give his father the power to preach. This bit of news came more than a year after Colton started telling his father about his visit to heaven; when his story first started, this visit had taken place while Colton was in surgery and his parents were in the waiting room. His father was certainly not preaching during this time, he was in the waiting room “chastising God” for his son’s illness, so that whole story seems outright false.

Three years after Colton’s surgery, their family was at home watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on DVD. After the movie was over Colton’s mother asked if there were swords in heaven, and Colton told her that there were. He said that the angels carried swords in order to keep Satan out of heaven, and Colton asked if he could have a sword, and Jesus told him no because that would be too dangerous. This makes me wonder how heaven could be dangerous, especially since it is a perfect place where the humans have glorified bodies. Could Jesus not let this child have a sword for a little fun? Could Jesus not keep him safe?

When he told his parents that Jesus wouldn’t let him have a sword, he was “dejected” and “slumped toward the floor.” He was also disappointed earlier when his angel wings weren’t as big as the other angels’ wings. My final concern with this testimony is that I can’t imagine anyone going to heaven and feeling disappointment due to lack of possessions or fun.

The whole story is also fishy because it took three years to get all the details. And those details didn’t start right after he woke up from surgery, like any natural person would expect. The first details about this visit first emerged four months after the surgery. Once he gave these first details, his parents waited a week before they asked him to explain what he was talking about. I don’t know how any parent would wait a week, or even 30 seconds, to ask him for more details.

I’m not accusing anyone of lying, but if Jesus really took this child to heaven, then as his father admitted, every detail would have to match Scripture. If there are extra biblical details then it is a new revelation, which Paul warned us about in Galatians 1:8-9.

In my opinion, Heaven is For Real is not for real.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tortured for Christ

The Voice of the Martyrs founder Richard Wurmbrand wrote about the 14 years he spent in a Communist prison. In his book Tortured for Christ he recalls the night that he and his wife were in attendance at a special congress called by the Communists to discuss Christianity.

At this congress Joseph Stalin was elected as honorary president (Stalin, who was a mass murderer of Christians, was currently “serving” as president of the World Movement of the Godless). The leaders of this congress declared that Communism and Christianity were one in the same and that the church should tolerate Communism and all its evils.

Wurmbrand’s wife, Sabina, told him, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ. They are spitting in his face.”

What would you have done if you were in his situation? Richard knew the penalty for standing up and speaking out against Communism.

“If I do so, you lose your husband,” he told her. His wife’s reply was, “I do not wish to have a coward as a husband.”

Wurmbrand stood up and began to praise Jesus Christ as the only one we should pledge loyalty to. His speech was broadcast throughout all of Romania. Listen to how he summed up what happened next:

“Afterward I had to pay for this, but it was worthwhile.”

Paying for this consisted of 14 years in prison in which he was beaten without mercy, starved, brainwashed, and faced many other horrors.

This is a book that every American Christian should read. Too often we take our freedom for granted. We can preach the whole Bible, share our faith, pray in Jesus’ name, attend a local church, and buy or download a Bible at almost no cost. These are all luxuries that the persecuted church risks their lives for.

We deny our faith just so that people won’t think we are crazy for not watching TV shows that take God’s name in vain. People who won’t stand up for what they believe now would never stand up before a Communist congress.

Are you willing to be tortured for Christ?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Free in Christ

As our nation celebrates her freedom I cannot help but to stop and think about my freedom in Christ. That is an expression we might hear in our churches—freedom in Christ—but I hope we understand what it means.

For over a hundred and fifty years the United States of America understood what freedom meant. Free speech meant that no person could be censored by the government for talking to or about God. Free exercise meant that government could not force a single religion or denomination onto the people, and that the people were free to worship as they saw fit. Freedom in general was understood to be God-given, and therefore used to be God-honoring.

But beginning in the ‘60’s, thanks in no small part to the very liberal Warren Court, our nation began to redefine freedom. Freedom of speech changed to mean that we can say or do the most immoral or perverted things, but we dare not pray to or talk about Jesus. The only exceptions would be to take His name in vain or to insult Him. Free exercise began to change into a legend called “separation of church and state,” which has no Constitutional bearing. Under this new freedom, Christian principles like prayer or Bible reading in public are a violation, while a Muslim can miss work to pray, an atheist can demand the removal of nativity scenes, and the media industry can roast Christianity on any given channel each day.

Freedom in Christ has been redefined in the same way. For centuries the church understood that Christ came to give us freedom from the power of sin, but in recent years we are seeing that brought into question. For many, freedom in Christ means freedom to sin, not freedom from it. As America can embrace any immorality and call it free expression, so the church is embracing immorality and calling it grace, freedom, tolerance, and acceptance.

Jesus wants us to be free. That is why He said “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).” Here is what He did not say would make us free:

You shall be sincere, and your sincerity shall make you free.
You shall be on a journey, and this journeying shall make you free.
You shall probe and question, and this probing shall set you free.

Jesus was clear: knowing the truth will make us free. And the definition of the word for free is “free from sin’s dominion.” How can we know the truth?

One of the new “in things” in the emergent church is the idea that the gospel is a mystery. I have read extensively the writings of the emergent church leaders, and book after book comes down to the idea of this gospel being a mystery to us. They cite Pauline expressions about this mystery and, like all good emergent leaders, fail to actually study what it really means.

In Romans 11:25 Paul said he did not want the church to be ignorant of the mystery.
In Romans 16:25 Paul said the mystery was revealed unto them.
In Ephesians 1:9 he said that Jesus made the mystery known unto us.
In Ephesians 3:3 he said that Jesus made the mystery known unto him.
In Ephesians 6:19 he said he was going to make the mystery known with boldness.
In Mark 4:11 Jesus Himself said the disciples could know the mystery of God.

I could go on and on here, but suffice it to say that the mystery has been revealed. In I Corinthians 1:26 Paul says that the mystery that had been hidden was now being revealed. The gospel was primarily accepted by the Jews, but Paul was revealing the mystery to us Gentiles, who could not understand it until the Spirit of God came (I Corinthians 2).

The gospel is not some big, clouded mystery. And yet I am so often criticized for claiming to know the Word of God with certainty. Now I realize that there are some things that I will never understand, like the actual working concept of the Trinity, or some of the imagery of the Revelation. But to not understand the black and white nature of sin or what the Bible says about the need to forgive, well that is simply from a lack of Bible study. Those things are written therein, and they are not mysterious.

So it baffles me when someone gets bent out of shape when I make an absolute truth claim. “You just think you’re right!”

Uhhhmm. Yeah. If I didn’t, then I would make some changes. And once I did, then I would think I was right again. What is wrong with that?

That line of reasoning doesn’t work anywhere else. Tell that to your doctor when he writes you a prescription for life saving medication. You just think you’re right. His response would probably be, “I’ve just studied this.”


So it is no wonder that we think freedom in Christ means we can live however we want to while Jesus sits back in heaven and says, “That’s why I died. So they can live however they want to.” We think that is what freedom in Christ is because we hide behind the mystery of the gospel, and brag about not having it all figured out.

Hey man, we’re all just on a journey.
We just need to probe and question and push back.
We’re just trying to be sincere, and we have to tolerate and accept all opinions.
What’s true for you is not necessarily true for me.

If you want to be sincere, do what Jesus sincerely said. In that same passage where Jesus said knowing truth can make us free, He continued: He that sins is a servant of sin, and the servant does not abide in the house (v.34-35).

So then freedom is freedom from the power of sin. But as long as we are still committing those sins we are not free in Christ. We are not even abiding in the house!

In America we are actually losing our freedom when we are told that we cannot pray in schools, mention Jesus in public settings, or say “under God” in our pledge. In the same way, Christians are losing their freedom when they embrace sin in the name of grace; they are becoming slaves to sin and excusing themselves from the house.

If you have really been set free in Christ, then you are free indeed! Don’t forfeit your freedom for the sin that is only fun for a season. Be free!

(Related post: Can We Be Americans and Christians?)