Spiritual Profiling (IBTR #45)

How fast can you size up someone as a dedicated Christian or not? Can you do it with a mere glance? If so, you may have a problem that pervades all of Christianity. It really thrives in the Independent Baptist world too. We too often become expert spiritual profilers!

Strangely, the idea for this post came from a family discussion we had in the van driving along. My son remembered an episode a few years back where we once just saw some people and said they must be Christians. It was based on how they were dressed. Then we saw them do something and said that we must have been wrong. My son remembered that episode and thought how silly we were. He was right!

We never spoke to them, nor really knew anything about them, but felt qualified to label them as sincere Christians. Then in a knee-jerk reaction, a few moments later, we felt equally capable of labeling them the opposite on the flimsiest of evidence. We have probably been more guilty of what I write of here than anything else, though we have dabbled in many of them.

It happens so often. Our pride convinces us we can tell with a glance, though somewhere deep inside we know better.

People are outraged when the police profile. As it usually goes, those who get profiled get far more angry than those who have the look the profiler finds acceptable. I could see the sense of it in radical cases (someone with a quintessential jihadist look in an airport), but beyond that it is only an inaccurate exercise at best.

In spiritual matters profiling is doomed from the start. It arrives at its conclusions with the wrong criteria. It’s like trying to add without arithmetic! Two people could walk by and one be dressed far more conservatively than the other, but how could that one thing prove which one is truly the dedicated Christian? The less conservative one may have prayed sincerely or just witnessed to someone while the more conservative one may have just yelled at some helpless sales clerk. I am not saying that one could not dress in a truly immodest way, nor am I suggesting profiling in the other direction either.

No, I am suggesting that we stop profiling all together. Jesus actually spoke of it in other terms. He said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He was not saying that you could not call something sinful that was biblically defined as such, but that you must not size people up by outward appearances. You do not know someone’s heart, and the things we often use to try are all the wrong things!

How do you think spiritual profiling would have gone had you tried it with the Pharisee and the Publican? Probably not a good idea, is it?

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Biblical Portriats of Creation by Kaiser and Little

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Is the discussion of creationism now regulated to apologists only? Or is there still a place for expositors to open biblical texts and bring the discussion right off the pages of Scripture? Are such texts limited to Genesis 1-2? If you, as me, answer “no”, you will relish, then, this new volume by Walter Kaiser and Dorington Little and published by the Weaver Book Company.

Beyond two sermons from Genesis, the authors took us to Proverbs (3,8), Psalms (8, 19, 29, 33, 104, and 148), Job (my favorite of the sermons), Isaiah, Matthew and 2 Corinthians. The beauty is that the texts were not strained to draw out the story of creation, but it came out naturally in the course of solid exposition.

I love the passion in the sermons. They really are well done.

The name Walter Kaiser may ring a bell. He has been writing as a conservative scholar for many years. I have personally used several of his writings at times and believe him to be a thorough, trustworthy, and respected scholar. In this work, somehow, I saw more of the man. In addition to being a scholar, he appears to be a simple believer too. Mr. Doolittle is his pastor and Kaiser brought him into the project. His sermons are fine and it is enjoyable to see pastor and scholar working together.

I heartily recommend this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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The L Word– Liberal (IBTR #43)

It is an old trick. When a label takes on a life of its own, threaten to attach the label to one not quite toeing the line to manipulate them to fall back in line. If they cross the line, destroy them with the label to instill fear in others. The unfortunate part of it is the utter dishonesty involved. It really isn’t about the rhetoric now attached to the label at all, but only an ugly control mechanism.

In the 1950s a version of this phenomenon went around that later was called McCarthyism. The label of that episode was “commie”. Were there communists working undercover in those days? Of course there were. Was what communists stood for a bad thing? Of course it was. The sad part was that many were found to be communists who were not at all. Maybe it was only that they had been kind to someone who was, or they held an opinion that some didn’t like, and the most formidable weapon around was that label. So it got thrown around.

All kinds of groups use these tactics. In our day, labels like “bigot”, “homophobe”, or “fundamentalist” can mean a lot of things to different people, and many are terrified of these labels.

Another such label, this time in Christian circles, is “liberal.” In the Independent Baptist world this label holds the most sway. In some unfortunate instances it has dramatically altered the ministry of those where the label stuck.

Are there situations where the designation “liberal” is both fair and accurate? Absolutely! For years it referred to a distinct theological position of denying the great, historic tenets of Christianity–things like the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Inspiration of the Bible, or the Blood Atonement.

But the word “liberal” became a cheap label when it was thrown out, not for a disbelieving theological position, but a disagreement over standards or worship styles. You know, something like having a screen in the church and, presto, you are a liberal.

It is time we see through this labeling. This is not about the glory of God, or about honoring Christ, or even about Scriptural accuracy; no, this is about control. This is about holding the party line or paying the price. It is the politics of a Union Shop!

We ought to be concerned with labeling. There is sin in the dishonesty of it, as well as the destruction done unjustly to brothers and sisters in Christ. We ought not originate it, nor propagate it if others do so. We ought to counteract it by repudiating it when others employ this slimy tactic. There is no place in God’s work for cheap, misleading labels!

Find all articles in the series here.

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Stepping Down For An Abuse of Power? (IBTR # 42)

Perhaps you heard the recent news that Mark Driscoll, well-known evangelical pastor of an influential megachurch, was stepping down from his pastorate, for at least a time, for “an abuse of power.” I know nothing personally about the situation, but it is clear that he was held to account by those in the circle he ran in. There was no charge of immorality, just that he was too harsh with those he ministered to.

Could Independent Baptists learn something here? We have lost a few to sexual sin or financial impropriety, but our cases of “abuse of power” are rarely held to account. Many in the Independent Baptist world seem to think those who ask for the abuse to stop are the criminals. Those who know better often enable others to propagate this warped thinking.

It is true that some church members charge pastors with abuse when it is actually the other way around. Still, there are some serious cases of abuse that should force a pastor to step aside.

I am personally aware of pastors verbally attacking someone from the pulpit, yelling at someone in the church hallway, churching someone for simply disagreeing, breaking confidences of especially personal problems, lying on a church member, starting a gossip campaign and destroying someone’s reputation. These things ought never be so for someone with the high calling of shepherding souls.

We have been known as a group for loving and respecting our pastors and that is a good thing, but that must be balanced with accountability for clearly unacceptable behavior. Good pastors will never be afraid of it. They will, in fact, relish the dignity of the office being upheld. Lord, help us learn from others.

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Fake It Till You Make It (IBTR #41)

Have you ever been given this advice–fake it till you make it? Or have the words been unspoken, though the pressure just as real? On some level this problem runs rampant throughout Christianty, but my up close and personal experience, including my own forays into it, have been in the Independent Baptist world.

You do know what I am talking about, don’t you? This necessity that I appear to have it ALL together? To be human must not be admitted. The admission that my sanctification is not complete must never happen.

We have been led to believe that all good Christians have continually awesome Bible reading, an incredible prayer life, no personal struggles with any particular sin, and unbroken victory and joy. Then we are asked to believe that all the Christians around us (at least in the key group) are those type of good Christians. Finally we are told that for God to be happy with us we must be in that group. Since the first evidence that this is not true in us will mean our expulsion from the group, we figure we simply must fake it and hope we can spiritually catch up later.

The disaster of this approach is shown in the severity of the consequence–you don’t make it. You grow ever more the mere husk of a vibrant Christian. And ever more the fake! Appearances require all we have and there is nothing left for real growth.

The problem is that this approach is the very anthesis of Christianity. You have never had, and never will have, what it takes to make yourself a trophy Christian. If you could please God and man, why did you need Jesus the Savior in the first place? Your connection to real Christianity happened the very moment you realized you could never make it. Faking it now is a denial of Christ Himself. He never liked fake. It was when you were real about yourself that He got involved.

So you must be real. You must feel free to admit that what you want to be is not quite what you are. God’s workings on you are still very much in progress. Here is another secret. If you are real, Christ is there to help you go forward. You will actually get closer to what you want to be. Faking would never bring that to pass.

One more warning–don’t let the fakes make a fake out of you. They are not what they say. The feelings of inferiority that they pour on you are a farce. They hold up an insincere benchmark. And if you could ever get exactly what they have, you would have absolutely nothing. I started out there and so see no reason to fake my way to the same place. So the real advice is–cast yourself on Christ and make it when you make it. Leave the faking to the fakes.

Find all articles in the series here.

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Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles Quarles

Outside of Christ, who’s life is most critical in the big picture of the New Testament? I imagine we would all answer the Apostle Paul. In that case, we will need a composite description of his life. For that need enter this fine volume by Mr. Quarles and published by B & H Pubplishing.

There are several famous, yet thick scholarly volumes on the life of Paul, such as those by Conybeare and Howson, Farrar, Bruce, and Pohill, but perhaps this accessible volume will better serve most Bible students. It will definitely help to connect the Book of Acts with the Epistles of Paul in a most helpful way.

The work is biographical and chronological and pleasantly fits in each Epistle to events of Paul’s life. That really brings the text alive! We know something of Paul’s hardships but seeing what he faced where it happened is even better. You will read what scourging for Jewish people was like as well as Roman flogging. His details on life in a Roman prison were more horrifying than I ever thought.

The first chapters on Paul’s earlier days filled in many blanks for me. Explaining the routes, either sea or land, that Paul traveled made sense of many biblical statements. All in all, there is much helpful information and Mr. Quarles writes well.

The only suggestion I would offer is a comprehensive chart relating his
life and the Epistles.

The visual aspect of the book is icing on the cake. The pictures are outstanding as are the maps that may look familiar if you have the well-done Holman Atlas of the Bible. This is a valuable resource!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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The Quick-Start Guide To The Whole Bible by Marty and Seevers

Have you ever looked for a book to give newer Christians, or those who are struggling with understanding in Bible reading, help with grasping the Bible? You might want to check out this volume by Drs. William H. Boyd and Boyd Seevers and published by Bethany House.

Their stated aim is illuminating the big picture in each of the 66 books of the Bible. Most of the books of the Bible get 3-6 pages to help you get oriented before you begin reading. Key books, like the Gospels, get a little extra coverage. The volume covers setting, summary, and significance for each book. Setting and summary are helpful while significance by necessity is selective.

Space constraints mean they are selective in what they share. Some aspect you feel should be discussed might be missing, but the most critical ones are mentioned usually.

I do not feel this is a volume pastors or experienced Bible students will consult as much as some others, but for its real audience–beginners in Bible study–it is quite valuable. As a pastor, I would gladly recommend this book to those who come for help in getting more out of personal Bible reading.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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1 Samuel For You By Tim Chester (God’s Word For You Series)

Can 221 pages give us real help on a book the size of 1 Samuel? You better believe it! This volume by Tim Chester packs a punch that will aid the Bible student or the pastor preparing messages.

After a brief introduction, he dives into the familiar, but divine drama. He insists we not see these stories as told “to illustrate ordinary life”, but the bigger picture of God at work among His people.

For example, he describes Hannah’s story as Israel’s story. He provokes thinking by analyzing Hannah’s song as not at all what you would expect from a mother rejoicing over baby. Watch how deftly he shows Samuel as the coming prophet and compares it to the rarity of God’s Word in that day with it now coming.

His tying in the transition from the time of the Judges to the the developing Kingdom was particularly effective. He makes sense of Saul’s life from beginning to end. The importance of David and his difficult rise in spite of Saul is given due weight.

Some parts are brilliant. His comparison of Saul’s early and later life and how he became a parody of himself (page 139) is incredible. His description of Saul’s encounter with a medium was equally helpful. There are many other nuggets along the way.

Personally, I think he even surpassed his volume on Titus. Perhaps the thrilling nature of 1 Samuel was part of it, but this is a truly impressive work. The God’s Word For You series maintains its high standard here as well. You will want this volume!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Spiritual Gestapos (IBTR #40)

Could there be a more terrifying modern-day nemesis than the Gestapo? Who hasn’t seen a movie or read a book on Nazi Germany? The tension ratchets up every time you see the long trench coat on the guy spying nearby. When the main character notices, you can see the panic in his eyes. To fall into the hands of the Gestapo is to have your life in jeopardy. There will be no acceptable explanations, no concern for the truth, just the deadly consequences of preconceived guilt.

Carry that mental image, if you will, to some Christian circles today. Although you may find it in many places, I have seen it rear its ugly head among Independent Baptists on several occasions.

There are those who watch. They also report. Then they become the enforcers who will see that consequences come. They scrutinize Facebook newsfeeds and pictures, they listen in on conversations or internet reports, they keep those eyes open. Then, in back corners of churches, or around the table at a preacher’s fellowship, or in emails, they report.

Perhaps you think the Gestapo analogy a little strong, or that childish tattle telling is a better description. Still, ministries have been ruined, individuals slandered, and division prevailed.

Here is where the analogy is strongest:

1. The Gestapo was blindly supportive of one group.

What Hiltler did was never analyzed by the Gestapo. Whether it was right or wrong was of no consequence. Their mantra was only supreme loyalty to Hitler and his Nazism. They blew off moral dilemmas like a child blows petals off a flower. How many today blindly follow their clique, even if it takes them over the cliff!

2. The Gestapo employed strong-arm measures.

The ends justified the means and so the means became brutal. In our day character assassination, getting a missionary to have support dropped, or sabotaging someone getting a new ministry are all fair game.

3. The Gestapo scared good soldiers.

Many Germans were just soldiers serving their country in the trenches of war. They were just trying to do the job they had been given. These soldiers, the real fighters, were scared of the Gestapo too. The Gestapo never helped win a battle, but sure kept their eyes on those who did. They punished some of the soldiers and took them out of the fight too. I submit that some real soldiers in the cause of Christ have been so treated too.

4. Gestapo used those who would play both sides.

Some did not agree with the Gestapo but would cooperate and report for them. To save their own hide they would throw others to the wolves. Today some have some of their own issues that the Gestapo would not agree with, but they are so good at reporting others they are overlooked. The saddest part was that this saved no one, but only empowered the Gestapo more for their dastardly work. To report one person for some supposed infraction to cover one of your own is treachery. We will never be rid of the Gestapo with those tactics!

Here Is Where The Analogy Ends

Spiritual Gestapos do not have their power unless we give it to them. When we no longer fear their threats, or care what they say, their weapons will turn to smoke and waft away. When we ignore them, they become surprisingly small. It is time spiritual Gestapos have the tables turned on them, and you and I should take control away from them. Let’s just say the Allies have arrived!

Find all articles in the series here.

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Hopeless Inconsistencies (IBTR #39)

Sometimes when we institutionalize rules that are not actually mentioned in the Bible, nor can be honestly inferred from its pages, we can fall into the most hopeless inconsistencies. Likely many Christian groups have their own set, but as an Independent Baptist, I can share several that I have seen in that group. None on the list apply to all, and we would hope they were only on the fringe. Some will ridicule some things on this list and hold vehemently to others.

While I realize the list might make us laugh, and that is one of the ways error can be broken down, it could really be sad if you thought about it. By the way, I am NOT criticizing you holding a position on any of these issues, but that you and I DO be careful to be consistent if you are holding it strongly enough to make an issue out of it with others.

In any event, here goes:

1. It is wrong to watch a movie at the theater but the same movie can be watched on a disc from Redbox.
2. It is wrong to wear a fireman costume on Halloween and go trick-or-treating but it may be worn in the church basement if called a harvest party.
3. It is wrong to listen to Christian music containing drums but you may listen to other music with drums.
4. It is wrong to go into a restaurant that sells alcohol but you may go to a gas station that does.
5. It is wrong for a woman to wear pants unless she cuts them off at the knees, shows her calves, and calls them culottes.
6. It is wrong for a man to wear shorts at the mall, but he may wear them at church athletic events.
7. It is wrong for a woman to wear man’s apparel unless it is shirts, socks, jackets, etc.
8. It is wrong to listen to contemporary Christian music but you may listen to Southern gospel.
9. It is wrong to have a non-independent Baptist in your church to minister unless they are part of a really good singing group.
10. It is wrong to have a guest preacher that some have labeled “liberal” unless approved by your favorite leader.
11. It is wrong to have a divorced man teach in your church, but you may have a divorced woman come and teach on Bible versions.
12. It is wrong to…

Would you who have seen such things in our Independent Baptist world offer your choice for what should be number 12 in the comment section below? I am asking my readers to finish this article for me!
While we laugh, however, let’s ask the Lord to deliver us from hopeless inconsistencies!

Find all articles in the series here.

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