Jeff Durbin on Street Level Apologetics

A pastor at Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona, Jeff Durbin gives a great presentation on some general apologetic approaches. I like his energy, his use of Scripture, and his willingness to be bold. He’s also got a lot of excellent points you could incorporate into your own conversations. Even if you are not as bold as he.

I don’t agree with all his positions. He misses the point of the Law, and tends to question Christian orthodoxy while holding on to many of it’s tenets with “closed hand.” But he still seems to have a great deal good to say; worth listening.

Shalom,
Bruce

New Video – A Whole Heart: Inherit Eternal Life

Well, we’re up to 55 videos now, with about 10 more in the works. This one is about the instructions of Jesus to inherit eternal life in Mark 10, Luke 10 and Luke 18. Did you know that Jesus wasn’t kidding around when He told the man/lawyer/ruler that they could inherit eternal life by following the Law? Do you know why He wasn’t kidding? Watch the video and find out!

Shalom,
Bruce

Granddaughter’s ASL Song

I can’t help it. I really like this for some reason. So I’m posting it everywhere I can. If you’ve already seen it, thanks for watching. If you haven’t you are really missing out. Even if I am a proud grandpa. Raine puts so much expression into her signing.

Off her left shoulder is her brother Isaiah, and the next spot further to Raine’s left (blond hair) is her sister Keira. So we got a bonus of all three in one song.

Of course, I absolutely do not approve of the person who wrote and sang the song – a guy by the name of Ray Boltz. After a long career as a “Christian” musician he recently declared he was gay. He is now divorced from a wife of several decades. Typically, this is modern Christianity. The church does not teach the Bible, only opinions about the Bible, and this is one of the results. I’m sure he was encouraged to sin this way by all the “affirmation” homosexuals are receiving in the church. This is the fruit of the anti-christ. The guy sings nicely, and composes some nice songs. The sentiment is nice. But all the singing about Jesus doesn’t mean a thing if it is only coming from the lips. If it is not in line with God’s Word, it doesn’t matter how much sentiment you put into it – sincere lawlessness is still lawlessness. And Jesus will still declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

I don’t like mixing these two things – my granddaughter’s excellent work in ASL and a singer who has chosen a destructive lifestyle change. But something needs to be said, even if it is not pleasant. As far as “affirming” the homosexual lifestyle choice, people who do so are just as destructive as the lifestyle itself. See our video ‘Am I A Homophobe?’ for just a start on the facts, statistics, and quotes from homosexual authors concerning the awfulness of this high-handed sin.

Shalom,
Bruce

Temptation to Give Up His Law

Accepting the whole of God’s Word as a lifestyle and discipleship method has its drawbacks. On the one hand I’ve got everything I need to pursue His living oracles and achieve perfection as Jesus directs in Matthew 5:48. In fact, since “perfect” means mature or lacking in nothing, then I am already perfect. On the other hand I find myself falling short on a regular basis. On any given hour or day or week I’ll do 98% of what I think God requires, working hard at trying not to do what I think is okay and instead doing what He thinks is okay. I wear my tassels. I rest on Sabbath. Pork is a distant memory. I don’t react in anger when insulted or cut off in traffic. Or at least not as angry as I used to be.

But there’s that 2% (my wife or kids might say it’s a little higher than that) where I blow it. I have patience 29 times out of 30, but at the 30th I falter and lose it. (It used to be perhaps 15 out of 30, but the improvement doesn’t seem to matter.) Or I might have to do a little work on the Sabbath. I get closer to actually living out the perfection for which God equips me day by day and minute by minute, only to fold at the weakest bluff from the enemy at the oddest times. It’s like dialing a phone number that is a hundred digits long only to enter the wrong value on the last one.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:21–23, ESV)

This is, I think, one of the things that make people re-interpret the Word to downplay the importance of most of the Law. His Law looks like a mountain that is hard to climb, and one misstep will send you into the abyss. The temptation is to comfort ourselves with the “nobody’s perfect” mantra and not even try. We change His Word to mean something different so we don’t really look like we’re not doing what He says. After all,” the enemy whispers, “why try if you can never get it right? Just give up and do what you want. Jesus covers all your sins, so you’ll be fine.” It’s definitely tempting to reduce the standard so it doesn’t challenge me as much. I start to reason that the usual church teaching of “we can’t be perfect” is very attractive. I almost succumb at times to the siren song.

In athletics, we practice and practice and practice. We might lose a game, but the following day we are right back at practice trying to correct mistakes and get better for the next game. We study hard for an employment test, or certification, and if we don’t pass we go back to studying and take the test again. A musician learns her instrument, conditions her body to form the notes in time and arrange them so they make an appealing song. If the song does not come together right away she keeps trying until her thoughts and feelings flow out as she wishes.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. (1 Corinthians 9:25–26, ESV)

The athlete has everything he needs for athleticism (arms, legs, brain). He is “perfect” in the physical sense. He doesn’t need more arms or legs. Or more brains. He has everything he needs to get the job done. Same with a job seeker or musician. Does he hit every single pitch? Catch every pass? Throw right on the mark every time? Does the musician write hit songs with every stroke of the pencil, or a job seeker pass an employment test the first time? No, they don’t. But they don’t give up or stop trying. Why is a walk with God any different?

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5, ESV)

How come a life with Him and His Law as the center is the only place where we get a steady diet of people telling us we “can’t be perfect?” The coach or band director or employer who wouldn’t accept less than perfect practice goes to church and calmly buys the idea that in his walk with God he won’t ever measure up? Can you imagine a coach who tells the pole vault athlete “You’ll never get over the rail?” A teacher of music who tells the student “You’ll never play that note perfect?” How frustrating that would be! How depressing! How much like slavery!

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (Galatians 4:3, ESV)

We wouldn’t put up with it in the fields of athletics or music or anywhere else, but the church gets away with it on a regular basis. And directly against what the Bible teaches, too. No wonder the church has the same suicide, divorce, and drug use rates as those outside the church. Whole Bible Christians try to avoid the two extremes of making up tons of new laws or deciding that the blood of Jesus covers everything so I can do whatever I want.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11–12, ESV)

When I falter, or am less than 100% doing what God wants, it’s because I do it on my own. It’s not that I lack something, or cannot be perfect. God has given me all I need. I have a new heart of flesh, the Holy Spirit, and His Word. I am perfect (complete, mature), though I don’t do everything perfectly. When I choose my own way, I don’t have to go very far down that path before I realize that I don’t want to keep going, either. I may have made a misstep, but God has granted me grace to try, try again, as opposed to sitting on my hands afraid to do anything or become better. Temporarily I might feel bad that I chose to go my own way, but as long as the bad feelings move me to repentance and renewed effort they don’t have to be permanent. I don’t have to get rid of the Law to help me feel better. It’s the other way around. Practice, practice, practice. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though I choose wrongly on occasion, His Word will perfect me.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:4–6, ESV)

Shalom,
Bruce

Opposite Day

I was thinking about what to call today. For pagans, it’s Easter Sunday. I know that’ll get me in trouble. I know I’m not supposed to actually connect people’s behavior directly with something that is not biblical. I usually don’t; I try to teach the truth and let people make up their own minds. But it’s tough in some cases to be neutral. Some people just make themselves an easy target.

So I was thinking we could call today “Ham Sunday.” But then we’d have to call Christmas, Ham (whatever day it falls on), but this might cause some confusion. Then I was thinking we could call it pagan Day but there isn’t enough discrimination there between days. All the other so-called Christian holidays are also pagan. We generally say “Merry Pagan Holiday” which is pretty good, but lacks a little oomph. Naw, I needed something more fitting. Something more descriptive. Something more flexible. Because after all that is the name of the Christian game they are playing. After considering several other names, I settled on Opposite Day.

Opposite Day is where we do whatever is opposite of what God wants. Does He want us to stay away from unclean meat? Well, let’s make it part of our tradition. Does He want us not to have images that might lead people to worship gods other than Him? No problem. We just use our freedom in Christ as well as the cosmic eraser of Christ to sanctify unholy things.

I know that the name Opposite Day is not particularly discriminating. All the standard Christian holidays, heck, every day, is Opposite Day when you have freedom in Christ to rub God’s face in our disobedience. But I capitalize the term so that we know that today is a SPECIAL opposite day where we deliberately pick opposites of God’s desires. Then we coat them in sentiment and tradition which we call “love” but are the opposite of God’s love, and comfort ourselves that our “intentions” are good though opposite of God’s. As long as we “think” it’s okay and as long as we don’t “intend” to do opposite, we can coat our perversions with the opposite of God’s intent and still call it good.

We do it all the time anyway. Immorality takes many different forms, but we can use the techniques we learn in Opposite Day to cover all the other opposites we do too. Sexual immorality becomes an alternate lifestyle. Marriage vows become marriage promises. Sentiment is substituted for love. We’ll just wash some feet to make up for all the theft, adultery, and other opposites we’ve accepted and confirmed.

Happy Opposite Day.

Shalom,
Bruce

The Bible TV Series Review

I just got done watching the first two episodes of the series made for TV last year called The Bible. There is only about 40 minutes worth of viewing in each episode, and 10 episodes total. The first five cover the Old Testament, and the second five cover the New Testament. They are pretty abbreviated in their story telling, but given the light budget, the standard Christian (wrong) viewpoint, and the amount of ground they are trying to cover they don’t do too bad. It’s kind of like a condensed version of a Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Some of the scenes are funny (to me). Like the two angels that visit Sodom and Gomorrah – one is black and one is Asian. Trying to be politically correct I guess, but I also guess it could’ve been that way. The funny part is when the Asian guy goes all martial arts on the inhabitants of Sodom with two swords. It’s hilarious that Satan looks just like Obama in a robe.

Some of the details are just wrong. Noah’s kids are way too young. Lot’s daughters are way too young. Instead of a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac, it’s a lamb caught by its foot. Pharaoh doesn’t die in the Red Sea with his army as he’s supposed to. Lots of minor details are wrong too. For instance Abraham doesn’t wander in a desert. It’s a good land with plenty of room for him and his family, and grazing for his flocks and herds. Probably would’ve cost too much in CGI money to make the land look as good as it was.

All in all, it’s not half bad. The producer’s standard Christian viewpoint is evident in the liberties taken with the text. They over dramatize some things and under-report others. On the good side they imply that the third angel talking with Abraham is Jesus (blurry shots, shots from the back). The not-so-good is seen in the skipping over of the Passover details. It’s as if it was made by someone with a knowledge of the key points of the Bible story, but little understanding. Which is why I say it’s standard Christian. Most Christians know the outlines of the stories, but very few have a real understanding coming from intimate reading and doing.

It’s not intended as a substitute for Bible reading. We should be so familiar with the real thing that we can easily identify where they went wrong. If this is all people will want to know of the Bible, then it is woefully inadequate. But hopefully it will encourage people to dig in to get the right of it. The book is much better than the movie in this instance. With all of the shortcomings at least the basics of the story are being told. A solid message that comes through loud and clear is “trust God.” For that at least the producers are to be commended.

Shalom
Bruce

Perfect

Not long ago I had an exchange on Facebook with a man who posted this little tidbit.

“WWJD. We can’t be perfect like Jesus so in addition to ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ we need to be like ‘what would Jesus have me do given my current situation and given what He did for on the cross'”.

It’s a fairly typical comment coming from a fairly typical church educated person. Not unusual at all, really. But I have a little different view of the subject so I asked him, “So what then do you do with the words of Jesus?”

“Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).

His response was “We strive to be perfect like Him but never can because of sin. At least not here and now.”

It went on from there with him getting typically more and more upset as I presented more and more biblical evidence to support Jesus’ statement, and equally typically ended with him removing me as a friend. This happens a lot when church Christians are confronted with the Bible they claim to follow. Give ’em some truth and they fold up their tents and run away. Instead of practicing the love they claim, they practice anger and pride and cut themselves off from the truth.

The standard church teaching is that we cannot be perfect. The Bible teaching is that we can. How do we resolve this conflict? Either Jesus was telling us to do something well within our grasp, or He is a harsh taskmaster asking us to do something beyond our ability. He clearly tells us to be perfect like God. There is no ambiguity. Seemingly it’s a tall order. But perhaps not so hard when we realize exactly what biblical perfection really means.

The word perfect literally means lacking in nothing. It also means “complete.” (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17 in both the AV and the ESV for instance.) Sometimes it can mean mature (compare Ephesians 4:13 in the AV and ESV). So when Jesus says be perfect as God is perfect, He means exactly what He says. We have the Word, the Spirit, and a new heart of flesh. What else do we lack? We are complete, lacking in nothing.

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, ESV)

So here’s the difference. The church says we cannot be perfect, which is a hopeless state of affairs. According to this teaching, we are locked into permanently displeasing God. They are saying that we cannot do better. We will never be able to please God. It is a subtle difference, and depressing, but it is also counter to what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that we certainly can do better. He is optimistic and encouraging. We have power in the Spirit. We have a love of God, and His Word to guide us. We can confess and repent and be forgiven. We can indeed be perfect.

We may not be “mature” all the time, but it is not because we CANNOT be mature. It is because we WILL NOT. We have it within our ability to perfectly follow everything God says, but we do not always choose to follow. This is the big difference. If we do not do something perfect, it is because we choose not to. We don’t like this, because our pride gets in the way.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7–10, ESV)

But it really isn’t a big deal, because we can rectify it as soon as we realize what we did. We can humble ourselves, confess and repent. We also keep working on taking in God’s Words and moving toward greater maturity. The standard church teaching of “cannot” robs us of motivation. It is a hopeless teaching. Jesus on the other hand is hopeful. His teaching encourages us; His Word provides all that we need. Thank Him that we have what we need to be “perfect,” and can get out of the rat race of imperfection easily. We just have to want it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)

This is a sobering thought. It doesn’t make the average human very happy, because instead of sitting in our comfortable mud pen of complacency we have to move out of the pen and wash ourselves clean with His Word. We “cannot” use the excuse of “cannot” to stay comfortable and complacent. Well we CAN, it’s just not really an excuse that God will buy. We have a goal. We can do better. We can bear more fruit, and practice the fruit of the Spirit better than we do. It is not comfortable, but it is doable. Of course it is doable. Jesus said we could do it.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce