Snakes belly in a wagon rut


Although I have heard the phrase, “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut,” many times, I did not know where it came from.

From some very brief research, I found the phrase is used by pilots who fly “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.” It is also used as a description of a terrible comment or deed.

There are people who, when they are in their comfort zone, they are in a “rut.” They tend to do things the same way over and over and are comfortable that way. To defend the comfort zone, they say, “people are creatures are habit.” I’ve used the phrase myself, but now I’m not comfortable using it because I don’t believe it is necessarily true.

We humans sometimes love routine. We often live as a matter of routine. We wake at the same time, go to work at the same time, do the same tasks the same way, leave at the same time, arrive home at the same time, sit down in the same place, eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores. We may even worship God the same way in a kind of rote memorization that doesn’t require too much attention because it’s the same thing every Sunday and becomes part of a routine.

See, that’s wrong. This is something of which the Jews and the Gentiles were guilty. Their services at a temple were routine. They’re prayers were also routine. Jesus said of them, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7 ESV). The phrase, “empty phrases,” is from the word βαττολογέω, which means “to speak without thinking,” (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).

In other words, humans (who are famous for routine) sometimes get in a rut. This, we must NEVER do with God. God expects us to worship in “spirit and in truth,” (John 4:24). That means we must worship God in accordance with the right attitude and according to the truth. Mechanical worship, just like mechanical instruments, are an abomination to God. God wants us to THINK, not to speak without thinking.

God didn’t give the Jews the Tabernacle service to them so they could turn it into a ritualistic banality. So, Jesus said this same kind of thing in Matthew 23:5 in their hypocrisy. In both Matthew 6 and Matthew 23, the problem is the same: they do these things to be SEEN, not to truly worship God.

Jesus said, “Do not be like them.” We ought to remember that the next time we worship without thinking.

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About Teddy


Someone once said, “Don’t judge someone until you walk a mile in his shoes.” After reading three books about Theodore Roosevelt, I think I am closer to knowing the man a little better.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t read biographies to praise human beings as the be-all, end-all of everything.  I read biographies because they are usually the most well written books and secondly, good biographers show the good and the bad sides of their subjects.

 

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Roosevelt was one of  most prolific and intelligent presidents this nation ever had: he wrote no less than 36 books. Some of the books he wrote were dictated in less than 30-days, and even those show a remarkable scholarship and erudition. His “Winning of the West” was the definitive history of the settlement of the Western United States and is still in print (available on Amazon). His autobiography, too, is in print. Folks, we’re talking about a man who lived more than 100-years ago (1858-1918).

One of Roosevelt’s most amazing traits was his lack of fear. He was a weak and sickly child. When his father told him he needed to train his body and overcome asthma, he did just that. When he decided to attend Harvard and graduate with honors, he did just that. When he decided to win election to the New York assembly, he did it. When he decided to go to North Dakota and live as a cowboy, the bespectacled young man did. just. that. This little sickly child grew up to become a man who had no fear staring down a grizzly bear.

Was I impressed with him? Yes, I was. But, I was also saddened. Roosevelt never really gave God a chance. When his first wife, Anna, died, he entered a terrible time of grief but put his wife from his mind to go West. When he lost elections and had problems with others, we don’t know he ever sought out the Almighty for help.  When I think that such a remarkable man died lost, it makes me very sad, and it should make us all very sad.

There are many people in the world who are like or unlike Roosevelt but just like him they need God. If we are sad Teddy won’t be walking “When the Saints Go Marching In,” we ought to learn from it and teach others the gospel.

Another brother falls to liberalism


It was saddening today to hear of another brother preacher falling to the error of liberalism.

Liberalism in religion is defined as loosing where God has bound. It has to do with errors that arise in how God authorizes what must be done in work and worship in the church and how the Bible must be understood.

There is a great chasm that exists in religion. There is one God, but dozens of religious bodies in the world. How can that be if there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all,” (Ephesians 4:5-6). Liberalism says that because God has not specifically condemned a thing, that thing may be done. Liberalism looses where God has bound.

For example, the only music in the church God commanded is singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). No other form of music is acceptable to God for he spoke of no other. Yet, there are people who believe the use of instrumental music in worship is a matter of personal opinion. The problem with that idea is that it doesn’t square with what God has said and done in the Bible.

The confusion in so many religious bodies is because men either don’t know or don’t care how God authorizes. Because they don’t believe God has spoken to man today through his word in the New Testament has caused and is causing division. So many religious bodies observe baptism, but teach it is not necessary for salvation. If it isn’t, then why observe it? Many teach the Lord’s Supper instituted by the Christ himself may be observed any day of the week, although the church observed it on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). If the example is the first day of the week, then why observe it any other time?

Then, there are those who bind where God has not bound. They are against the church caring for the home, orphans’ homes and condemn those who wish to join together to preach the gospel. They are not happy when those who wish to do God’s work cooperate with others who also wish to do the same. Why? I’ve never understood why.

Unless men can shake their antibiblical and untrue ideas about the Bible, unless they learn to apply appropriate measures to interpret God’s word and unless they reject loosing where God has bound and binding where God has not bound, the religious world will always disagree and divide.

Write for readers


Businesses are about customers. Doctors are about patients. Writers must be about readers.

Writers who start their articles about “How I spent My Summer Vacation,” are doomed to fail. Writers who begin their articles with “the definition of love is…” are doomed to fail. Why? Because readers have short attention spans.

It’s just fine to include definitions in your writing, but not to begin with them. You want to get the reader’s attention, right? Then start by engaging them.

Writers want readers to read their entire piece. Reading a thousand-page book is not that difficult if the book captures the reader and holds that person. If the book (or whatever it may be) is dull, lifeless and uninteresting the reader will leave.

Some people will disagree that writers must write for readers, but think about it. Newspapers are about circulation. Newspapers can’t afford to print long, uninteresting stories because next time the reader will buy another newspaper. Good newspapers write for readers. They sometimes think they write for Pulitzer and Peabody awards, but they don’t. They write for readers.

Beginning any written work must consider the person who is sitting reading what you’re writing. If you bore them, they will go elsewhere.  A reader has absolutely no obligation to sit still while someone pontificates to them.

Do you want to write well? Do you want people to read what you’ve written? Then make it your duty to write for readers.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Your opening paragraph should be no more than 15-20 words. If it’s any more than that, you risk losing the reader.
  2. Engage your readers’ minds. Readers are asking themselves, “What’s in this for me?” Robby the Robot said, “See a need, fill a need.” You need to create a need in your reader and then fill it.
  3. You’re writing to a human being. What interests you will probably interest them. Speak to them not as an academic, but as a person.
  4. Resist writing at length. If your work is more than 350 words, you’re on shaky ground.

Since I’ve already written 348 words, I’ll stop.

Didn’t get it


 

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Something I wanted a great deal didn’t come my way today. I received an email notifying me.

I was sad about it for a few minutes, but then I remembered something. God has greater vision than I. He can see all sides of an issue and not just mine. In contrast, all I can see are my desires.

So, all I can say is, “May God’s will be done in all things through Jesus Christ.” He knows better for everyone involved.

Thus endedth the lesson.

Heal my loved one


PleasHealingHandse forgive me if this post offends you, but God cannot use miraculous means to heal anyone, not even your dearest loved ones.

He can’t do it because if he did, he’d show partiality. What if he healed your loved one and not mine? God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). If he used a miracle to heal one person and refused to do so for another, that’s favoritism and God does not do things that way.

Yet, at the store, in church and on the Internet I hear, “God please heal her/him.” Or, I hear, “God lay your healing hands upon so-and-so.” I realize people are under real stress when their loved ones are sick and I know how much we all want them to get well, but God just doesn’t perform miraculous healings like that anymore.

There was a time when God used his power to perform miracles, but there was a specific reason for doing that (John 20:30-31). To think that miracles still occur today is to miss the reason why the miracles were done in the first place: they were done to testify to the truth being preached.

I know. My cardiologist keeps telling me I’m his “miracle man” for surviving a heart attack last year. I keep telling him I’m not a miracle. God provided him, the hospital, the nurses and the medicines so that I could recover. It was not a miracle. It was hard work on their part, and hard work on mine, too.

Believe me, I wish everyone could lay claim to a miracle, but it just isn’t that way. God’s son and his apostles performed miracles in the New Testament to show God testimony to the truth they preached. Having done what needed to be done, miracles have gone away (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Happy Independence Day


It’s July 4th, and many people are extolling the greatness of our nation and rightly so. We should remember how close this nation came in 1780 to becoming a permanent satellite of England.

Because it’s Independence Day, preachers are trying to find clever sermons to preach that straddle the line between the Bible and the government of the U.S. I must admit early in my preaching I fell into the same kind of thing. I thought it was necessary for me to have some creative lesson theme that highlighted holidays.

Then I thought what am I trying to do? I have a responsibility to preach the gospel. Why would I compromise that duty by using my time to praise a government that has mostly walked away from the gospel? I realized how foolish I had become.

So, I don’t usually plan my lessons to highlight a holiday. I don’t preach about Christmas, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc. I have always been impressed by the apostle Paul who wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV). A.T. Robertson wrote of this verse, “Paul means that he did not think it fit or his business to know anything for his message beyond this ‘mystery of God.'”

I think preachers sometimes forget just how much Paul loved the “mystery” of the gospel and little else. He was emphatic in this love of the gospel when he wrote to the Ephesians, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,
which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,” (Ephesians 3:4-5 ESV).

But, it’s difficult to find preachers focused on the gospel. Instead, many of them are too focused on the world and how many compliments will be paid for their inventive speaking. I see vacation Bible schools where preachers dress up as cowboys and try to entertain rather than teach. I’ve attended gospel meetings where the focus was placed on how to help people through their financial problems. I wonder what Paul would have said.

Indeed.