Word Up, Timmy

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

The public reading of scripture was of such importance to Paul that he told Timothy to devote himself to it. It’s clear from the context that Paul was telling Timothy to read large sections of scripture and teach and plead with the people on what was being read. Paul was not telling Timothy to decide what he wanted to give a sermon on and then choose 3 or 4 scriptures to back up what he was teaching on.

My oldest daughter is taking a comparative religions class in college and as part of her assignments has had to attend a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church service. This morning was the day she needed to attend the Catholic service, so her and I attended a service at the Catholic church in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. We had never attended a Catholic service. I’ve spent most of my life in a couple of Pentecostal denominations and have pretty much raised my kids likewise.

As probably most people are aware, a Catholic service contains a lot of rituals, common prayers, and the like. In other words, the service is more formal than anything I’ve ever been a part of. We saw a lot of different things this morning. Much of it I was expecting, like the huge backlit Virgin Mary statue hovering over the platform…..at least 3 times the size of the Jesus below her.

The one thing we say that I wasn’t expecting, however, was the large amount of scripture being read. There were large portions from Acts, 1 Timothy, and 1 John. For lack of better words, the priest read and explained at length the entire chapter of 1 John 1.

I spent eight out of the last ten years in one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. A denomination that prides itself in the inerrancy of scripture. As well, I spent a great part of the last two years searching for a new church home. We tried all kinds of churches in our journey. The one thing that stood out in our church search was the almost complete lack of exactly what Paul instructed Timothy to do….the public reading of scripture.

Now I know if any of those pastors of the churches we’ve attended were asked, they would be certain that they were devoting themselves to the public reading of scripture and teaching. But they weren’t. Sadly, neither are very many in the U.S. churches of today. A 45 minute sermon where a few scriptures are used to explain or back up what you are teaching is not teaching through scripture.

Obviously, I’m not advocating the beliefs of the Catholic church. Their beliefs regarding salvation, the Pope’s earthly role, the forgiveness of sins, among others are just plain unbiblical. However, I listened intently to the priest’s teaching on 1 John, chapter 1, and it was pretty spot on.

It’s a pretty sad testament to the state of the American church when I heard more scripture being read and explained verse-by-verse in a Catholic church than can be heard in the overwhelming majority of Evangelical churches in America today. How can we expect anything else other than unbiblical nonsense when the shepherds of God’s flock won’t allow almost as much of God’s written word to flow from their mouths as their own words?

If Paul said not to neglect the public reading of scripture, then why is your pastor or church doing it?


Just for your entertainment pleasure, below is a typical example of a sermon outline used in churches that have been trained by Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren in Southern California. This sermon delivery method is designed to be focused on the felt needs of the congregation rather than the true biblical Gospel. Notice how little of the Word of God is used. Remember, this is basically a 45-minute sermon that is used to teach a subject of the pastor’s choosing with Bible verses used to back up his teaching.

Typical Seeker Sensative Sermon Outline


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As I’ve written on my blog before, I’m an introvert. It’s something I’ve come to terms with and something I’ve struggled to understand my entire life. For a majority of my life I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an “introvert” or an “extrovert” personality type and that they were actually the way God created us. Growing up I saw all of the people who were the “life of the party” type of people and thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve always enjoyed solitude and easily get stressed out in the noise and crowds.

I know people have often thought of me as aloof and somewhat arrogant. I don’t enjoy making “small talk” and in fact find it really boring. I have a hard time chatting about the weather and similar things. However, I’ve always enjoyed deeper conversation and when I’m paired off with someone of similar interests as mine I tend to dominate the conversation because I enjoy talking about certain subjects so much.

In other words, because I’ve never been a “life of the party” type of person; I’ve been told much of my life that I’m anti-social. To some extent this is true because social situations give me anxiety, but when in smaller more intimate conversational settings I enjoy myself, which is far from “anti-social”. I just never will be the guy dancing on a table at an office party.

I recently finished reading a book by the name of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book is an in-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts and focuses on the traits of extroverts. The writer, Susan Cain, describes in-depth what she calles the “Secret Power of Introverts”. The quietness of an introvert allows for creativity, thoughtfulness, and introspection. Most, but not all, of the worlds greatest minds were introverts. People who literally changed the world. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther, and the like were all introverts.

Quite interestingly, the book has a section dedicated entirely to extrovertism in the American church and it’s effect on mainstream Evangelicalism. Susan Cain, in my understanding, is from a Jewish background and isn’t a professing Christian. Of all places she chose to use as an example of an American church that idolizes extrovertism, she chose Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California.

In the section of the book mentioned above, Susan Cain met with a man who was a Presbyterian minister for an interview at Saddleback. They attended a service there in order to get the look and feel of what a service was like at Saddleback church. The basic gist of the interview centered around how “extrovertism” has gripped the popular American Evangelical church culture and how church services of quiet contemplation, prayer, and scripture reading are no longer a part of most of the American church.

 In order to draw the multitudes into the American Evangelical church of today there has to be plenty of excitement and programs to keep people interested in attending church. Saddleback church and Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Life method of doing church has arguably had the largest impact on the latest church culture of “extrovert” idealism.

 As I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I enjoy reading and quiet. Although I’ve struggled with thinking there was something wrong with me all of my life, I now no longer do. I’ve come to understand there’s a place for solitude, prayer, and Bible study in God’s church.

However, for many years I attended an Assemblies of God church that had fully implemented Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life “seeker sensitive” church growth model. As time went on, I was considered “odd” and was cast aside. I enjoyed Sunday School. It was cancelled. I enjoyed Sunday night services. They were cancelled. I enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study service. It was cancelled. Once a month prayer rallies were cancelled in lieu of bi-yearly “praise rallies”.

In other words, all of the things than an “introvert” would enjoy about church, things like learning, Bible study, close relationships with a tight-knit group, suddenly vanished. In their place came large social events and activities designed to “pump” the congregation and build excitement with the church. Things to cause “seekers” to want to come to church. Programs to make it fun for the kids but little in the way of teaching them the Word.

I now know that God created me with the gifts he gave me. I know that I am a member of the Body of Christ. I may not be a hand or a mouth in His body, but I am a member nevertheless. I also know there are many others like me (my oldest daughter, for instance) who have become weary of the “rah rah rah” of the American church. We worship God with all of our minds, bodies, and strengths. We love to serve behind the scenes without much fanfare. We long to share insights into God’s word with others. We want to give without others knowing.

Today’s American churches make very little room for this. Much of the American Evangelical churches are geared more like high school pep rallies where the “cheerleaders” and the “band” are worshiped. The quiet and the contemplative and the faithful are increasingly moved aside for the new, the excited, and the vocal. The quiet ones are now looked at with suspicion as having some sort of spiritual issue because they aren’t “on fire for the Lord”.

I know this is the way it is, because I lived it for 2 years while looking for a home church. My family and I visited many churches across many denominations and to find one that actually was centrally on the Word, prayer, and music with sound doctrine was virtually impossible to find. And there are over 60 churches within a few miles of my home…….Hey, I live in Texas, you know.

Next Sunday, look around. Has your church become a social club? Is there room within the congregation for the quiet among you to serve and worship? Is there a balance between “excitement” and “reverence, awe, and solitude” before the Lord as a congregation or is it all “celebration. all the time”. Is your fellowship actually a true “body” of Christ that makes way for all parts or are only the “mouths” esteemed?

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Filed under Books, Church, Church Search, Churchianity, Life

Context, Context, Context

How many times have you heard of an argument between two people where one person accuses the other of taking their words out of context? Or how many times has some public figure been vilified in the media for a comment he or she made and their defense was that their comment was taken out of context?

The context of anything we say, or do for that matter, must be taken into account in order to understand the true meaning of our words or actions.

For instance, what about the words “Justin! I could just kill you!”? Or what if someone overheard something racist come out of your mouth but failed to hear the part about it being a comment a coworker had made and how you had chastised the coworker for the comment?

What about certain behaviors? What if a girl had been sexually abused much of her life and as a young adult became promiscuous? In light of her past, could her behavior at least be more easily understood? Would you be more inclined to excuse some of her bad behavior when understood in the light of her past? Additionally, what about cultural context? Words and actions that are appropriate in one culture can easily mean something else in another culture.

Context is everything. When we fail to understand people’s words and actions apart from the entire context of the conversation or culture, misunderstandings easily occur.

Most American churches today are being led by pastors who are handling the Word of God the same way a journalist might take a politicians words out of context and tell a story to suit the journalists own political viewpoints. They hand-pick one or two verses out of the Bible and preach an entire sermon based on those two or three scriptures while rarely returning to the Bible. Additionally, it’s not too hard to turn on any “Christian” TV show today and find a televangelist who has built and entire framework of doctrine around just one single verse.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 (ESV) states the following:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The entire Bible, from cover to cover, is the Word of God. Just like taking one sentence out of the President’s speech and trying to explain the entire meaning of his speech based on just one or two sentences, you can’t take one or two sentences out of the Bible and expect to completely explain the meaning of the text.

While writing to Timothy about how to be a good pastor of the people, Paul states:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)

Paul understood the likelihood of error being introduced into Timothy’s teaching by simply reading one verse and giving an hour-long talk on what it means to the congregation. Paul understood that the context of any given verse was of utmost importance.

Taking one or two verses, or even three, out of the entire context in which they were written and preaching for an hour is exactly what is happening in much of the churches in America today. Particularly those of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and “Purpose-Driven” variety.

A common method of sermon preparation for these pastors would look a little like this: First they would determine a “theme” for a series of sermons. All of the sermons for several weeks will center around this central sermon theme. For instance, the central theme may be about “Wise Stewardship”. the pastor would then develop several points he would like to teach his congregation about wise stewardship. Each of these points would be an entire Sunday sermon and would teach a particular aspect of using God’s resources wisely. As an example, one Sunday would be about giving to the poor, another would be about giving of your time, another sermon would include tithing, and so forth.

Thirdly, while preparing for a particular Sunday sermon, the pastor determines what he would like to teach the congregation about “Giving”, for instance. Using his knowledge of the Bible, he would determine which passage of scripture best fits what he would like to teach his church and he uses this verse or two to back up what he is trying to teach the people. As he preaches along, he may quote a verse or two as he preaches to further establish his points.

This method of sermon delivery actually has a name. It’s called a topical sermon. The topic is chosen by the pastor and then scripture is then used to establish the credibility of the sermon. While there certainly is a time and place for topical sermons, this is a bad choice for most sermons. Topical sermons lend themselves, by nature, to introducing too much of man’s opinion into the sermon and too little of the Word of God.

The proper way of handling the Word of God is called expository preaching, or inductive teaching. These methods basically take an entire section of scripture and “expose” its meaning. By going through an entire book of the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse only then can each individual scripture be properly understood in light of its original intent to its original readers, its cultural meaning when it was written, and what the scripture is telling us today. There is no other way to properly interpret scripture and it’s one of the reasons we have so much goofy doctrine being taught today.

When a pastor is committed to the public reading of scripture, as Paul commanded Timothy to be, and he teaches through the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse there is far less likelihood that error will be introduced into his teaching. Though pastors are still human and errors will still be made, it’s easier for the average Christian to spot errors when the scriptures are taught in this manner. Additionally, the difficult-to-interpret scriptures aren’t glossed over, as most pastors tend to do when teaching topically.

When scripture is taught by reading through it verse by verse, we get a good balanced diet of God’s word each week. I used to attend a church where each year we focused on the “vision” and our “mission” at the beginning of the year and as the year progressed we moved into sermons about “serving” the body of believers. Towards the end of the year came the sermons about “giving”. Year after year this “topical” style of preaching continued. It did nothing more than keep the people in spiritual infancy feeding on spiritual “milk”.

There are many pastors and churches committed to verse by verse teaching. Even many pastors in denominations that have abandoned this type of teaching still teach in this manner. Calvary Chapels are churches that are all committed to teaching verse by verse. Churches that identify themselves with 9Marks are also churches that are committed to teaching in this manner and there are many others out there.

Although I’m not suggesting that anyone leave their church they are attending, I am suggesting that you take a long hard look at the manner in which your pastor is handling the Word of God. If topical preaching is the order of the day, I would almost guarantee that the people aren’t being fed the Word properly. If you need to find another fellowship, look for one that teaches line by line through the scriptures…….your very soul may just depend on it.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, Church, Pastors

Shifted Blame

Nearly 12 years ago my wife and I lived next to a couple that had built a custom home that was twice as nice and twice as large as ours. Additionally, they had bought two new cars as well as had a pool installed a couple of years later. The man was an audio-visual teacher and the wife was a public health nurse for the city. Neither occupation rakes in the cash, at least not the kind it appeared they had.

Although it certainly wasn’t any of our business we just couldn’t help but wonder. We just chalked it up to an inheritance or a windfall from their last house. Over time, however, as my wife and I began to get to know them better, the wife had confided to my wife a little more about their finances. She confessed to my wife they were over $38,000 in debt on their credit cards alone! Gag and choke!

Along about that time is when the last housing boom was in full swing and new homes were popping up everywhere here in North Texas, and I guess all over the U.S. Additionally, as circumstance would have it, my wife had two other friends who told her they were also $30,000 in credit card debt….credit card debt, not total debt.

It was then, 12 years ago, that I realized just what fueling our economy. It was nothing more than consumer spending. Electronic stores, home improvement stores, shopping centers, and high price restaurants were appearing seemingly overnight. The reason there was a housing boom, and what appeared to be an economy that was on fire, was because people were spending more and saving less than any time in America’s history.

We could get into homes with no money down. We could buy cars with no money down. We had several credit cards with $10,000 dollar limits……..and we were taking advantage of every one of them.

Over and over again I saw young couples getting into homes they couldn’t afford. Mortgage lenders were pre-qualifying people for homes that the payment alone was 50% of their montlhy income as well as various schemes like low payments for the first three years while tacking the difference on to the end of the loan. These young couples never thought about higher electric bills versus that of an apartment. Nor did they think about the expense of landscaping, watering, and fertilizing a lawn much less the expense of a lawnmower to begin with. Additionally, because the new home was much larger than the apartment, new furniture was needed. Out comes the Visa with the $10,000 limit. Sadly, two years later, these homes were on the market and as time went on more and more people defaulted on their loans.

I remember telling my wife nearly 12 years ago that what we needed in this country to get this kind of recklessness in check was a good recession. People were never going to learn to discipline themselves unless they were forced to……and then the “Mortgage Bubble” burst and drove this country along with the rest of the world into a recession.

Much has been made in the news lately about the “big bad mortgage companies” taking away the poor little people’s homes. Laws have been passed and programs established in order to keep people in their homes. It has done little more than prolong the inevitable, the loss of the house anyway. The housing market continues to fall and people are still defaulting at astonishing rates.

Much of the blame has been passed on to the mortgage lenders, which some is deserving. Additionally, some of the blame has been laid at the feet of our current president, although the bubble popped under the leadership of our last president. The one thing I have yet to see much of in the news is that the blame might possibly lie with the American people and our reckless financial habits.

As I read this article here on MSNBC.com about the latest effort to help keep people in their homes, I couldn’t help but get a little aggrevated. The title and the opening paragraph are as follows:

Mortgage settlement leaves most homeowners to fend for themselves

The landmark $25 billion settlement reached by the federal government, 49 states and the nation’s five biggest banks will provide long-overdue relief for hundreds of thousands of homeowners who have been struggling to navigate the mortgage mess created by lenders.

The title along with the opening statement clearly imply that the mortgage mess we’re in is solely the fault of the lenders and the responsibility of correcting it rests on the federal government. Might I suggest that had the American people not been in such a rush to jump into houses they couldn’t afford, and not been so quick to fill them with furniture on credit, and maybe not been so quick to agree to “zero-down no proof of employment” mortgages, maybe they wouldn’t be in a position of financial ruin to begin with? After all, if I go out and purchase a car on credit and can’t make the payments, whose fault is it really? The big bad salesman for convincing me I needed the car?

Now I fully realize that there are many people caught in the middle of this mortgage mess because of a job loss due to this current recession. People who weren’t originally in over their heads. I myself lost my job in December 2010 and didn’t get full time employment until October 2011. But I’ve purchased a house that is far less than what I can “afford” and I’ve been diligant not to spend every dime I’ve made on vacations and furniture. It was tough, but we made it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like had we purchased a house that was equal to the amount the morgtage company said we quailfied for, which was nearly twice the cost of the house we purchased.

What we all need to come to understand is that mortgage companies sell mortgages. Car salesmen sell cars. Furniture salesmen sell furniture. It’s in all of their best interests if they convince you to buy their stuff. It’s our responsibility to be sure we aren’t buying more than we can afford. Of course these guys are going to sell you something you don’t need….It’s their job.

We need to stop blaming others for the mess we created ourselves because of our wasteful and lavish spending. We need to understand that having a new home full of new furniture , although it may be the American dream, isn’t a guaranteed right. And lastly, we all need to be good stewards of the resources God gave us and spend them wisely.

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Filed under Economy, Life

Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

I’m not a movie buff nor am I a movie critic. Because of my critical nature in general, I have a hard time not picking any movie apart and I have a difficult time sitting still and watching anything for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I do, however, know when a movie meets the kind of standards my family and I need to be feeding our eyes on.

This past Christmas day as we’ve done for the last few years, my wife and kids went out to see a movie. The movie we saw was a movie named We Bought A Zoo.. The movie stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johanassen. In a nutshell, We Bought A Zoo is about a family consisting of a father raising two children, a 14-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, without their mother. The mother has passed away approximately 6-months earlier and the family needs a change of scenery in order to help with their grieiving. The father, Matt Damon, had inherited some money from his father sometime earlier and buys an old dilapidated zoo in the country. He feels that fixing up the zoo and helping save some endangered animals would be just the sort of distraction his young family needs to distract them from their grief and allow them a level of healing.

In general, I thought the movie was a little long and drawn out and certainly could have been condensed somewhat. However, the general plot of the movie was good and piqued the interest of my wife and daughters when they were deciding which movie to watch. But that was where I feel the goodness ends. This movie was a PG movie and was billed as a family movie. We won’t watch PG-13 movies with the family and even my wife and I are generally selective with PG-13 movies we watch by ourselves. We won’t watch movies with excessive cursing, extreme violence, nudity, etc. There are certainly exceptions to this, an example being the movie Schindler’s List. The nudity, violence, and cursing in that movie was historically accurate and added to the gravity of the Holocaust.

Back to the movie at hand. During the course of the movie there was very little rough language. However there were pockets of filthy language and the sad part of it was the large part of it was used by the children. The language was very strong and was absolutely not something my 10-year-old had ever heard. The saddest part was the little girl in the movie was a cutie, but used one of the foulest words in the movie….it turned my stomach.

In addition to the foul language, there was a little teenage crush between a 13-year-old girl that worked at the zoo and the 14-year-old son of Matt Damon. Toward the end they were telling each other they loved each other and were kissing passionately…..I know this is what’s going on out there in the world, but it has no place in a Christian’s life.

And finally, the zookeeper, played by Scarlett Johannasen, was a 28-year old woman in the movie. Matt Damon was approximately a 45-year-old man in the movie. Toward the end they ended up falling in love and sharing a passionate kiss. I know this is minor, but this was just icing on the cake of an already edgy movie. In the grand scheme of things by today’s standards I guess it was a pretty tame movie. But with all the foul language and the young teenage love affair I feel like it was more like a PG-13 movie. The movie could have been a good family-friendly movie, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to any family with young kids.

By the way, we didn’t walk out….hindsight is that we should have. We had too much “PG-ing” to do to our 10-year-old afterwords. I’m a little disappointed in myself for allowing us to stay.

It disgusts me that Hollywood can take a rather innocent movie and turn it into something that’s too rough to watch…….I guess that’s why in the early days of movies the church resisted movies and television.


Filed under Entertainment, Family, Movie Reviews