Motive or accuracy – which counts most?

cross3.jpgSome people think that motive (“he really means well”) trumps the need for accuracy, but that is not the Biblical view.

Paul points out that people preaching the Gospel with wrong motives didn’t bother him as long as they got the message right:

Philippians 1:15-18 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

But he whales on people who do not preach the correct Gospel, regardless of the motive:

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Of course, proper motive and accurate teaching is the best combination.

Isaiah 19-20

is19.jpgGreetings!

Israel was considering an alliance with Egypt against Assyria.

A Prophecy About Egypt

19     An oracle concerning Egypt:

See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud

and is coming to Egypt.

The idols of Egypt tremble before him,

and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.

2 “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—

brother will fight against brother,

neighbor against neighbor,

city against city,

kingdom against kingdom.

3 The Egyptians will lose heart,

and I will bring their plans to nothing;

they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,

the mediums and the spiritists.

4 I will hand the Egyptians over

to the power of a cruel master,

and a fierce king will rule over them,”

declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

5 The waters of the river will dry up,

and the riverbed will be parched and dry.

6 The canals will stink;

the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up.

The reeds and rushes will wither,

7 also the plants along the Nile,

at the mouth of the river.

Every sown field along the Nile

will become parched, will blow away and be no more.

8 The fishermen will groan and lament,

all who cast hooks into the Nile;

those who throw nets on the water

will pine away.

9 Those who work with combed flax will despair,

the weavers of fine linen will lose hope.

10 The workers in cloth will be dejected,

and all the wage earners will be sick at heart.

11 The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools;

the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice.

How can you say to Pharaoh,

“I am one of the wise men,

a disciple of the ancient kings”?

12 Where are your wise men now?

Let them show you and make known

what the Lord Almighty

has planned against Egypt.

13 The officials of Zoan have become fools,

the leaders of Memphis are deceived;

the cornerstones of her peoples

have led Egypt astray.

14 The Lord has poured into them

a spirit of dizziness;

they make Egypt stagger in all that she does,

as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.

15 There is nothing Egypt can do—

head or tail, palm branch or reed.

16 In that day the Egyptians will be like women. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. 17 And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the Lord Almighty is planning against them.

18 In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord Almighty. One of them will be called the City of Destruction.

We are so spectacularly comfortable in the U.S.  We can’t imagine not having endless supplies of food and clothes.  But we only have what God has provided here and it could go away so quickly. 

19 In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. 20 It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. 21 So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. 22 The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

This is a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.  Jesus is the Savior who will answer those who seek him.

A Prophecy Against Egypt and Cush

20     In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it— 2 at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.

3 Then the Lord said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared—to Egypt’s shame. 5 Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be afraid and put to shame. 6 In that day the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?’”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What an unusual passage!  I file that in the “Bible lessons they didn’t teach you in Sunday School” category.  One reference I read noted that Isaiah just took off his outer garment and sandals and that he was not completely naked.

Bad ideas in Christianity

circle-slash.jpgThe world is getting worse and worse and Jesus is coming back soon, so let’s withdraw now.  Let’s pull all Christian influence from business, politics, education, entertainment, the arts, media, etc.  Then let’s act surprised and wring our hands as society declines.

That is a bit of a caricature but not completely.   Of course we should avoid anti-Christian enterprises (you don’t redeem the drug culture by becoming a Christian drug dealer).  But many people reflexively avoid professions where they could be using their gifts and advancing the Gospel.

And some people buy the myth that we shouldn’t let our religious views inform our political views.  What do they expect us to do, vote the opposite of the 10 Commandments?  That would make for some interesting platforms. 

It may be a long time before Jesus comes back (try to look busy just in case), so we should do what we can to help the world .

A godly young woman who used to take dance with my daughters was thinking about going into theater but was a bit sheepish about it because it wasn’t completely “Christian.”  Not that there couldn’t be temptations or issues there, but I encouraged her to consider how she could pursue that and add a Christian influence.

Let’s be salt and light while we can.  You may have 50 more minutes or 50 more years to work for the Kingdom in this life.  We’ll have all of eternity to reflect on what we did or didn’t do.

Survey says . . .

family-feud.jpgA new Pew survey had made headlines recently:

A new map of faith in the USA shows a nation constantly shifting amid religious choices, unaware or unconcerned with doctrinal distinctions. Unbelief is on the rise. And immigration is introducing new faces in the pews, new cultural concerns, new forces in the public square.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, documents new peaks, deepening valleys and fast-running rivers of change in American religiosity.

The findings are being presented in two segments. One looks at religious affiliation (here used to mean identity) and demographic characteristics. The other, to be released in late spring, delves into beliefs, behavior and political views.

I’m looking forward to the second segment, because this one doesn’t seem that newsworthy.  In my experience, people check boxes such as “Christian,” “Baptist,” “Buddhist,” etc. based as much on cultural / family history as anything else. 

When sharing the Gospel with a guy recently, he explained how he was baptized Catholic as an infant then baptized again as a Baptist when he was a teen, and that he hadn’t attended church for years.  As with many people, his basic belief was that “good people go to Heaven.” 

After a fairly thorough explanation of the Gospel and how we are saved by grace/faith and not by works we asked if that was different than he expected.  He said it was completely different.

This isn’t a judgment on him either way.  But he could have checked “Catholic” or “Baptist” on this survey and it would have skewed the data.

I’ve also read about surveys where lots of people who claim to be Christian hold foundationally non-Christian beliefs (i.e., reincarnation).  These folks are either “saved and confused” or are checking the wrong box.

Isaiah 17-18

is17.jpgGreetings!

Isaiah continues his prophecies of what God will do to nations surrounding Israel. 

An Oracle Against Damascus

17     An oracle concerning Damascus:

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city

but will become a heap of ruins.

2 The cities of Aroer will be deserted

and left to flocks, which will lie down,

with no one to make them afraid.

3 The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,

and royal power from Damascus;

the remnant of Aram will be

like the glory of the Israelites,”

declares the Lord Almighty.

4 “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade;

the fat of his body will waste away.

5 It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain

and harvests the grain with his arm—

as when a man gleans heads of grain

in the Valley of Rephaim.

6 Yet some gleanings will remain,

as when an olive tree is beaten,

leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches,

four or five on the fruitful boughs,”

declares the Lord, the God of Israel.

7 In that day men will look to their Maker

and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.

8 They will not look to the altars,

the work of their hands,

and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles

and the incense altars their fingers have made.

Asherah poles were images of a Canaanite goddess associate with Baal.  There are many Old Testament references to the Israelites having these poles.  Asherah and Baal worship involved sexual immorality, and you know their adherents just hated that. 

God often leaves a remnant of people and rescues them.

9 In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.

10 You have forgotten God your Savior;

you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.

Therefore, though you set out the finest plants

and plant imported vines,

11 though on the day you set them out, you make them grow,

and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud,

yet the harvest will be as nothing

in the day of disease and incurable pain.

12 Oh, the raging of many nations—

they rage like the raging sea!

Oh, the uproar of the peoples—

they roar like the roaring of great waters!

13 Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,

when he rebukes them they flee far away,

driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,

like tumbleweed before a gale.

14 In the evening, sudden terror!

Before the morning, they are gone!

This is the portion of those who loot us,

the lot of those who plunder us.

A Prophecy Against Cush

18     Woe to the land of whirring wings

along the rivers of Cush,

2 which sends envoys by sea

in papyrus boats over the water.

Go, swift messengers,

to a people tall and smooth-skinned,

to a people feared far and wide,

an aggressive nation of strange speech,

whose land is divided by rivers.

3 All you people of the world,

you who live on the earth,

when a banner is raised on the mountains,

you will see it,

and when a trumpet sounds,

you will hear it.

4 This is what the Lord says to me:

“I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place,

like shimmering heat in the sunshine,

like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

5 For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone

and the flower becomes a ripening grape,

he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives,

and cut down and take away the spreading branches.

6 They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey

and to the wild animals;

the birds will feed on them all summer,

the wild animals all winter.

7 At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty

from a people tall and smooth-skinned,

from a people feared far and wide,

an aggressive nation of strange speech,

whose land is divided by rivers—

the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

There’s something about the Virgin Mary . . .

virgin-mary.jpg . . . that seems to cause people to err in one direction or another.  Catholics pray to her and appear to worship her (at least in some cases), and Protestants sometimes react by minimizing her.

One of the most unusual views held about Mary is her alleged perpetual virginity, based on a work written in the 2nd century that is not contained in the Bible.  If they want to hold this view that is one thing, but to take something without direct Biblical support and to put so much emphasis on it makes no sense to me.

Aside from the verses below and the fact that the Bible never claims perpetual virginity for her, it would have been a sin if Mary had never had sex with Joseph. 

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Sex in marriage is not sinful!  To put such emphasis on the myth of her perpetual virginity is to be make Puritans look downright worldly.  A subsequent link made a tortured effort to rationalize away this verse, but the context couldn’t be more clear:

Matthew 1:25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The author of the web article claimed that the word “until” was unclear and said, “Consider this line: “Michal the daughter of Saul had no children till the day of her death” (2 Sam. 6:23). Are we to assume she had children after her death?”  That is a completely different usage, of course.  If Matthew had wanted to say Mary was a perpetual virgin he could have just said, “But he had no union with her ever.” 

They also try to rationalize away these verses by saying that brothers/sisters meant cousins or other relatives.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.

Matthew 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

Mark 3:31-34 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Mark 6:3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Luke 8:19-20 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

John 2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

John 7:3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.

John 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

John 7:10 However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

1 Corinthians 9:5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

Comments are welcome, but no gratuitous Catholic-bashing, please.  I disagree with many of their core doctrines but broad-brushing isn’t productive.  I’m glad that they do uphold the concept of the virgin birth.