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Showing posts from 2022

Undetected Idolatry

What is idolatry? We see the word  idol  at the outset of the word, tipping us off to the idea that idolatry involves idols. Webster defined idolatry as “the religious worship of idols.” Fair enough, but what are idols? Let’s ask Webster again. He says it is “an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.” The dictionary goes on to say an idol may be a figment of the imagination, or any person or thing regarded with blind devotion. We often think about a thing in relation to idolatry, such as the Baals in the Old Testament or the kachinas of the Native Americans. But idolatry can also exist in the mind.  In the classic theological work  The Knowledge of the Holy,  A.W. Tozer wrote, “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.”   We see this played out in Romans 1, where Paul noted, “For although they kn

A Great Multitude

  Dr. King famously dreamed of a world in which people were judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. But never did he dream that we would become a colorblind society. The goal is not to pretend that there are no differences in skin color, but simply not to treat people differently because of those differences.    John the Apostle also had a dream, and he recorded it for us as the last book of the Bible. Revelation 7:9 says in part, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…”   In his book titled  Advocates,  Pastor Dhati Lewis wrote about that passage, noting, “Even at the heavenly worship service, God still recognizes different ethnicities.  John didn’t see a multitude ‘who  used to be  from every nation, tribe, people, and language…’”  (emphasis added)   We are not going to lose our identity in heaven,

Headless Turtles

  Pastor Steve Gaines once repeated a story he heard from his friend. This man was by himself doing some bass fishing when he suddenly had a sharp tug on his line. He became excited and began to reel in his catch.    After some struggle, he was finally able to discover what it was that bit his hook—not a bass, but a turtle. He laid the reptile on its back in the grass and tried to remove the hook. He even tried giving the back of its head a little thump, hoping to jar the hook loose. He soon realized his efforts were futile, and there was only one option left.   I apologize for the rest of this sentence, but the man took out his knife and removed the head of the turtle, putting it out of its misery. Within minutes he had a new hook on his line and had recast. But then he heard some rustling in the grass behind him, which was alarming since he was by himself. He turned around to see that turtle—headless—trying to walk. Like a snake that refuses to die, this turtle’s nerve endings were c

How Jesus Handled Criticism

  If you haven’t figured it out by now, Christian, you are being watched. The world keeps an investigative eye on us, looking for any molehill they can make into a mountain. This isn’t new. When Jesus was on earth He was endlessly scrutinized by His critics, the religious leaders that were always on the hunt for dirt to use against Him.    One such example of this is seen in Luke 6. On a Sabbath Day, Jesus and the disciples were walking through a wheat field, and His followers were hungry. To satisfy their craving, they picked some wheat and ate a few handfuls as they walked. The Pharisees were incensed. No, this was not an act of theft, as the Mosaic Law allowed for the poor or hungry to do this very thing; the only restriction was they could not fill a container.   The Pharisees were not mad that the disciples ate someone else’s grain, but that they did so on the Sabbath. This was not against the law, but was against their manmade tradition. The outraged Pharisees demanded to know wh

Peace and Quiet

Do you want peace and quiet? That is probably something that most of us desire, and yet it remains so elusive. My brother and I are only eleven months apart, so you can imagine how much noise we made growing up. When we were young I know we had to have driven my poor mother crazy at times. She would tell us she was going to go into her room and shut the door because she just wanted "five minutes of peace and quiet." I had no conception of time when I was little because my mom would disappear for an hour and call it five minutes. I was a teenager before I realized how short five minutes actually is. Now that I am a parent myself I understand that desire for just five minutes of peace. But we can certainly do so much better than just five minutes, or even an hour. How would you like to have perfect peace?  In Isaiah 26 the prophet said these words to the Lord: "You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever,

Farewell Union County

    When our U-Haul arrived on Wesley Chapel Road in January of 2008, it was just Alicia, me, and our dog. I had been called to serve as Pastor of Students at Philippi Baptist Church. We had big dreams, and we were excited to see what God had in store for us. I was two days shy of twenty-three years old.    Almost fifteen years later, we find ourselves packing up once again. We have outgrown the small U-Haul, and that old house. Our daughter became a teenager this year, and our son is three weeks shy of turning nine. Union County is all they know. They have gone to school here, played soccer and took dance lessons here. Their whole lives have been spent here, and nearly half Alicia’s and mine have been as well.    That is what makes leaving so difficult. Our eight years at Philippi and six years at Putman have introduced us to so many wonderful people that have become like family. As we pack our belongings into boxes I cannot help but reflect on the memories that we will also take with


    I recently heard that there is an annual survey conducted to determine the most annoying word of the year. For multiple years running (I didn’t catch how many) the people have spoken and deemed “whatever”as the word they least like to hear.    People don’t like this word because it is usually said with a bad attitude. When two people get into an argument and one has run out of things to say, they just sigh loudly and say, “whatever.” It is a word of indifference; rather than thinking of something even remotely clever, we just shrug and utter this tired cop out.    But whatever doesn’t have to be an annoying word. It has the potential to do the opposite; it can lead us to rejoice. It can be freeing rather than frustrating. Consider how Paul used the word.   Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise

Paul the Parent

    The Apostle Paul never had any biological children, but that didn’t stop him from comparing himself to a parent. He famously called Timothy his son in the faith, but he also used the analogy of both a mother and father when he wrote to the church in Thessalonica.     After defending his ministry in their city, Paul reminded them of how he conducted himself. First he wrote, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children (I Thessalonians 2:7).” The language used here has been used elsewhere to describe a mother bird covering her eggs with her feathers, protecting her young. The Greek phrase literally means “to warm with body heat.”    This is about as hands on as you can get. Paul was not some scholar locked away in his ivory tower. He shared more than the gospel, he shared himself. Like a mother nursing her dependent infant, Paul generously and humbly gave of himself to meet the needs of the young church. In the next verse he says he was “affect


    The number 666 has come to be associated with anything evil or relating to the end of the world. This triple six is associated with the Antichrist because Revelation 13:8 says the beast has some sort of cryptic number: “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” This code has been hotly debated for centuries, and I do not aim to weigh in on what I think the Apostle John was trying to convey; the reality is that the prophecy will make sense only to those who are alive to watch it unfold.    Rather than attempting to crack the mysterious code, I want to focus on the number itself. People are always looking in every nook and cranny to find recurring sixes, and then branding that thing as the mark of the beast. For all that we do not understand, we all seem to agree that 666 is bad. So I thought it would be fun to look at the only verse in the Bible that is a 6:66, and that is found

Planetary Motion

    Just like Earth, the other planets in our solar system are always in motion. The strong  gravitational force of the sun pulls the planets towards it, causing them to move in an elliptical pattern in their revolutions.     When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, he compared certain people to planets. The fourth chapter of the book begins with these words: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”    You probably didn’t see any comparison to planets in that verse, but it is there. The Greek word translated as  deceitful  gives us the English word planet. These deceitful spirits have already wandered from the truth, and now their goal is to cause others to wander as well. In the end times people will listen to the deceptive words of these demons, and will follow them rather than the true words of Christ.    Evil spirits are wanderers. They don’t hold still, but move in t

Delilah’s Lap

  The story of Samson and Delilah is one of the most intriguing in Scripture. Samson’s weakness for women is displayed in his first marriage, and then his rendezvous with a lady of the night in Gaza. But when he met Delilah his weakness became a physical weakness.   Samson’s enemies, the Philistines, had spent years trying to subdue the man with superhuman strength, but he continually got the better of them, as he routinely wreaked havoc on their entire city. In Delilah Samson saw a beautiful woman, but the Philistines saw a golden opportunity. They promised to make her rich if she could find a way to enslave their bitter rival. And she tried. She asked him the secret of his strength. At first that may have appeared to be small talk, but even a bonehead like Samson should have realized that something was off.    The first time she asked, Samson told her that one only needed to bind his hands with seven fresh bowstrings, and then he would be like any average Joe. He drifted off to sleep

You Will be Happy

    About one-third of the psalms are categorized as psalms of lament; that is, they contain honest prayers from people who feel that God has treated them unfairly. The beauty of these laments is that we can probably all identify with them during difficult moments in our lives, and they usually end with a renewed perspective. For example, here are the first three verses of Psalm 13. Notice the depth of David’s anguish in his honest question to God:   “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” But then the psalm turns on a dime with the conjunction that begins the fifth verse: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me (v.5-6).”   All at once he has gone from worry to worship. He has gone from pouting to praise

The Lonely Frog

    There was once a bullfrog that was feeling lonely. After an extended period of rejection, the frog decided to visit a fortune teller to see if he would ever find true love. The psychic studied the frog’s palm and then told him she had some good news: “You are about to meet a young lady that will take a very special interest in you. She is going to study you and get to know you in a real and personal way.”   “That’s great!” exclaimed the excited frog. “When will I meet this girl?”   “Next semester, in her biology class.”   Sometimes things can go from bad to worse in a hurry. The Old Testament book of Ruth opens on a bad note and gets even worse right away. The opening verse tells us the events took place at the time that the judges ruled and there was a severe famine in the land. That was bad. The time of the judges was characterized by the oft repeated phrase, “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes,” and the famine only added insult to injury.    But then it gets worse

The First Waterbed

    Do you remember waterbeds? I don’t hear much about them anymore, but when I was a kid I remember wanting one. It seemed like something fun when I was young, but there is no way I would enjoy that now. I’ve never read any reviews on waterbeds, but I know someone who had one and did not like it. That person was Israel’s King David.   In Psalm 6 he wrote of the turmoil he was enduring, using verbiage that included the words  languishing  and being  greatly troubled.  The English word languishing translates a Hebrew phrase that literally means, “I am one who droops.” We do not use the word droop too often, but it makes me think of the old cartoon character Droopy Dog.    The white basset hound was known for his trademark lethargy; everything was slow motion and monotone. That seems like an appropriate word to describe David while he was languishing. He was Droopy David.    Then in the sixth verse he said, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my c

Glowing Faces

    There is an old story about the great preacher D.L. Moody. One of his pastoral students once tried to impress his mentor, so he told him how he and a group of his friends had stayed awake all night in a prayer meeting. The student approached Moody and said, “Do you know where we have been? We have been talking to God all night. Don’t you see how our faces shine?”   The preacher was not impressed with this display of piety, and responded by quoting from Exodus 34:29, “Moses did not know that his face was shining.”    Moody was referring to the time Moses ascended Mt Sinai to receive the law from God. The verse that follows the one quoted above says, “Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.” But as Moody reminded his arrogant disciple, Moses was unaware of his own glowing face. Everyone else saw what Moses could not see.    When we do something spiritual, like spending the night in supplication, it d

Confession is Worship

  When we think about worshiping God, we probably think happy thoughts. We might envision ourselves in a sanctuary, hands lifted high as we sing powerful choruses. We might even think back to miraculous moments where God came through for us, and we couldn’t help but burst forth in praise.   These are good and important moments of worship, but we need to remember that worship can take place in the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. The moments described above could be classified as adoration and thanksgiving, worshiping God with a grateful heart because of how good He has been to us. And He has been very good to us.    But the Bible gives us snapshots of people who worshiped God in their lowest moments as well. For example, when King David’s infant son died, II Samuel 12:20 tells us, “Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house.” Similarly, when Job los

A Welcoming Church

  We probably all want to think that our churches are welcoming. By that we mean our churches are friendly to the regulars, and when visitors come in, we greet them with a smile. Saying good morning, handing someone a bulletin, and offering to show someone around are all nice gestures that we hope makes us welcoming.    Paul told the Christians in Rome to be a welcoming church. Near the end of his letter he wrote, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (15:7).” Paul’s instruction to be welcoming, though, is much more than just greeting first timers that come into the building.    First, notice that Paul said to welcome “one another.” This means he is speaking to the regulars about the regulars. One another excludes those outside the fellowship. As church members, we need to be welcoming to our fellow members, our brothers and sisters in the Lord.    But also notice that the verse begins with the word therefore; whenever you see  therefore,  go b