Please Stop Abusing Scripture

Brethren – there is NEVER an appropriate time or circumstance to force meaning or personal views onto Scripture. It is never appropriate, regardless of your intentions, to pluck Scripture out of its context, then bend it back double to paint a picture or prove a point to “reach a hurting person”. The formal term for this is “Eisegesis“.
 
Just as I would never tell a grieving person who just lost a loved one that definitively their loved one was in “in a better place, despite having never professed to trusted in Christ. That would be an abuse. There are other paths to seek comfort than lying to them (don’t give them false hope, give them the Gospel – the ONLY source of living Hope!).
 
I don’t tell people that God won’t give them more than they can handle – despite generations somehow twisting 1 Corinthians 10:2 to mean such. Again – it’s a false narrative.
 
It would be an abuse for me to that God’s will is to always heal our loved ones of every form of sickness and disease – Because it is clear, Jesus often overlooked sick for more important purposes. (And no, Jesus didn’t bear our stripes and die on the Cross to heal my mom of Botulism, or my friend of cancer. He died to redeem the lost sheep. Yes, there is an eternal sense of perfect healing for those who die in Christ… but I can’t just reach out and “claim it”.
 
Likewise – when we are faced with the traumatic events of our day – whether a virus or injustice and rage… we cannot simply pluck verses of Scripture, bend them around, and force a modern-day narrative on that Sacred Writ – but there IS plenty of God’s record that DO deal with what we are facing today – that is just as true and applicable as it was IN IT’S CONTEXT when penned.
 
Want passages to deal with those who faced hate due to their ethnicity? What about Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26)? Or maybe the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)?
 
Want to help someone have a biblical, healing, and God-glorifying understanding of how to respond to the hate we see before us? Open up Romans 12: 18-21 (among many others).
I have been seeing an example of eisegesis spreading like a virus all over social media that uses Jesus’ parable of the shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one lost sheep. This parable isn’t in any way a race or ethnic statement. It is simply about God’s willingess (through Christ Jesus) to seek the lost of His flock and bring them home. Each and every sheep is of great value to the LORD. This is not some kind of statement about skin color. Quite the contrary, it is a clear picture of the value of ALL His sheep.
There is no justification for bending God’s Word, even “well-meaning” bending. God’s Word is not a toy to play with or to throw about like a rag doll. We must not trivialize it by throwing it around out of it’s context and actual meaning. Sadly, this is a product of several factors – but one of the biggest being too many years of “teachers” using the phrase “what does this verse mean to you?“.  What I want a verse to say, and what my defective fleshly heart would desire it to say is irrelevant.  Scripture says and means what it says and means – firmly established in its context. To ignore the context and meaning at the time of writing is to set the stage for every form of heresy. And ultimately, forced eisigesis is a form of blasphemy.
Please stop abusing Scripture! Jesus is the ONLY hope, not the twisting of Scripture.

Apologetics and the Christian Faith

Apologetics: A word that is often misunderstood. It does not in any way point to sorrow or grief or an “apology”. Apologetics is the defense of a belief or system.
 
When we, as Christians, fulfill the command of 2 Timothy 4:2 to “be ready in season and out to give reason for the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus” – we are giving a defense of what we believe (in this case, the “hope” that we have because of what Christ has done – aka “the Gospel”.
 
Apologetics is one of the most often forgotten aspects of what church ministry is supposed to be about. It comprises a major component of “equipping the saints…” (Ephesians 4:12).
 
Ask the typical “Christian” on the street what they believe about _____________, and you may get either a blank stare or a pat answer. But ask WHY they believe it – and the chance of getting a coherent, logical, and evidence-based answer is actually pretty unlikely. Most professed Christians really cannot defend what they lay claim to believing. I won’t delve into the many possible reasons for such an inability, but to actually take the blame as an unappointed, unelected representative of pastors and preachers. We have spent years (decades or more?) giving. information. Telling people what they should believe, and many have done so faithfully and given correct information. But sadly, we often fall short of explaining WHY.
 
In the realm of Christian Apologetics, we have two primary types of defense:
  1. Presuppositional – God doesn’t need to be defended, thus we begin with the “presupposition” that the Bible is God’s Word, His divine and perfect revelation of Himself and His will for mankind. All arguments are based strictly on this foundation (and any other presuppositions one can find).
  2. Evidential  – Like a professional investigator, you piece together the evidence, from not only Scripture itself, but you are able to, by the predominance of evidence prove the Bible is what is claimed, that the claims within its pages are true, and that therefore faith is a reasonable response to the evidence.

In fact, there is a pretty serious theological battle that has been raging for pretty much the entire history of Christianity over which method is the correct method. But when one follows the narrative of Scripture, we actually see both used. For the witness to the Hebrew people, a great deal of presuppositional work is done, beginning with the common ground of God’s law and overall revelation in the Old Testament. But we also see evidential defense made by Paul in many scenarios, beginning not with statement as fact, but building a “logical” case for Christianity based on his own life, the miracles witnessed, the eye witness accounts of Jesus and the other first-hand “primary” evidence, coupled with existing Scripture to “prove” the Christian gospel as correct and true.

But the bigger purpose of apologetics is not to build biblical academics or to give bragging rights to the prideful.  Apologetics serve two purposes that both build up that foundation of 2 Timothy 4:2 – First in that it is to give confidence to the believer. When we not only know WHAT we believe, but WHY we believe it – when we know how to defend our faith, we strengthen that faith and the hope that is in us glows brighter. But the second aspect of apologetics is the outward witness – we can make the case for Christ in a world that is by default against the gospel.

But regardless of the apologetic form you prefer to focus on, they both must begin with understanding WHAT we believe.  For those of us who cling to the biblical platform of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), we believe that the Bible is sufficient and complete for all instruction and defense – “All Scripture is inspired (literally breathed out by God!) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Read the Bible. Study it. Find new ways to engage with the Word through not only personal reading, but group study. Challenge yourself, be willing to spend time and effort really learning what God has recorded for our benefit.

Plug in to resources by people who have dedicated their lives and often ministries to defending the Bible and the Christian faith. People like J. Warner Wallace are contemporary apologetics, but there are literally hundreds who have, though history, worked extensively to build an incredible defense, both from a Presuppositional and an Evidential basis.

But the very best source of learning to be able to give a defense of your faith, the the Bible itself, for it is truly sufficient!

What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?

We in the Christian/Church realm use the term “faithful” a lot.  Why not? It is an extremely important term used across the Bible. Sadly, I believe our contemporary (especially American version) gospel realm has adopted the secular, wordly meaning instead of the Biblical definition and example.

Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 11.08.19 AM
Merriam-Webster.com, screen shot 11/19/2019

As the image shows, the Webster’s definition of “faithful” is divided into a definition of the term as an adjective and as a noun. Both are used in Christian terms, but again – let us compare the secular term vs. the biblical use.

Merriam-Webster defines the adjective faithful as steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence or observance of duty, or the meaning most closely connected to the biblical definition: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original. Sadly, it is this last (but most applicable in our context) meaning that is most forgotten.

I regularly hear the term mentioned in conjunction with funerals and memorial services, or connected to teachers, preachers, and writers. But I don’t believe the way it is used is always accurate.

Faithful does not imply (from a biblical perspective) perfection. Lets begin from the perfect example of “Faithful”.

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Deuteronomy 7:9-10

God is described in His own Word as the “faithful” God, with identifying fruits of that faithfulness as evidence: He keeps His covenants, His lovingkindness to the generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. But God’s faithfulness is also pictured as Him repaying those who hate Him – destroying them. God’s faithfulness here also (necessarily) includes His justice.

Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 1:21 as formerly faithful, but now a harlot. Why? Because they formerly were just (and from the larger context, had been a center of the worship and service to God).

Paul used the term often. One example is in the greeting of his epistle to the Ephesian church:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 1:1

Paul’s use of the term πιστός (pistos) implies yielding, believing, true, credible, trustworthy in their faith. The sense is that Paul had confidence that the believers to which he was penning this letter were solid believers who were sticking true to “the faith once delivered to them” (paralleled in Jude 1:3).

While the label “faithful” can mean a lot of things – when we use the term in relation to a professed Christian, the implication is more than them being reliable (they attend church regularly), but also presupposes that they cling to truth (the Word), that they stick to their faith and live it – it assumes fruits of said faithfulness.

Sadly, the term has so lost meaning that it is readily applied to those who are wildly popular and active in the “Christian” realm, yet are anything but faithful to the Word of God. Can we rightly apply the term “faithful” to a Christian speaker or writer who puts out good quotes, but holds to a blatantly heretical gospel?  Can we accurately call a professed Christian “faithful” if they deny the inerrancy of God’s Word? Does a person earn the faithful title because their name appears on a church roll and “faithfully” gave to the church?

Is a Christian “faithful” if their viewpoints are more easily shifted by cultural preferences than the black and white text of Scripture?

And are we being “faithful” when we jump to to the defense of those who teach and push false gospels and unbiblical teaching – hitching ourselves to these false teachers with the name badge of “faithful”?

And lest we forget, those individuals that God directly labeled as faithful were not simply mechanically reliable (in fact, some had reliability issues), but were counted “faithful” because they stuck to the foundation of truth God revealed and unwaveringly trusted in His Word, not man’s opinions and preferences.

The Bible vs Women In The Pulpit – Division

We Baptists, particularly conservative Associational Baptists, lay claim to the Bible as our sole foundation for belief and practice. Of course, we have stretched some aspects into tradition, but the foundation we try to keep is Scripture.

Yet one denomination of Baptists is about to pull itself apart (and I fear others that have historically held to an even more conservative reputation) over Scripture – including 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6, et all…

And at the epicenter of this division today is a woman named Beth Moore.  Mrs. Moore is arguably the most successful woman writer of Bible literature, books, etc.  Indeed, at one time, I would not have had serious concerns about her or her materials beyond its general shallowness (theoretically in an effort to make it uplifting and encouraging).  But if one pays attention to both her writing and her public speaking (as well as her social media), one can see a dramatic shift.  From moving away from and ultimately rejecting the biblical view of homosexuality, to working with and endorsing some of the biggest names and figures in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), prosperity gospel, charismatics (particularly Joyce Meyer)moorelead11102018a1. I believe this shift has been fueled by financial success, popularity, and a hyper-inflated ego that has driven her right off the tracks of biblical orthodoxy. Her current positions span the map of currently-trending false gospels and doctrines.  She promotes direct, ongoing, verbal revelation (prophecy given to her), all caged in language that sounds more like a boyfriend that the almighty God, to having her materials  edited to specifically remove homosexuality from the references to the need to repent. Further, in her rush into the Social Justice Movement, she basically launched the #ChurchToo hashtag – the church version of the #metoo movement to claim sexual abuse (even if via being “Oppressed”). Yes, Beth Moore has also joined the ranks of Feminism – which brings us to her position currently in the shakeup of the SBC (and to other Baptist denominations). Beth Moore is now promoting and encouraging women to not only preach in church (in direct contradiction on the matter found in the Scripture passages listed above). And when many addressed her bragging on social media, she again played the victim and stirred up her cult-like following.

Fast-forward to a recent conference where Dr. John MacArthur, a many who has spent more of his life studying, preaching, and doing theology than many of us have been alive, who has dedicated his life, his ministry, and his efforts at proclaiming and standing on the Bible, was being questioned in a somewhat light way. From this came a now infamous quote “go home”. EHHdZsHXkAAb0q_This quote was associated with the questioner’s throwing out the name “Beth Moore”.  You see, Dr. MacArthur is among hundreds of pastors and preachers who have been calling Beth back to the Bible, praying for her to find her way back to Scripture and out of her derailment – and most recently – to quit promoting a radical form of egalitarianism that promotes women preachers in violation of Scripture. She has repeatedly mocked Dr. MacArthur as well as many who have attempted to address her errors. MacArthur’s response, in-context, refers back to the entirety of her departure from Scripture, but with a focus on her claims to being a preacher (and her efforts to promote other women to do the same, and to even bill themselves as pastors). Beth Moore – go home.  Drop these unbiblical aspirations. Drop the efforts to usurp authority that is not yours (something you formerly use to actually respect – but have since thrown under the bus). Beth go back home to the truth – where you don’t partner with and endorse radical heretics. Beth Moore… go home.

And now we have a wide gambit within the SBC and other Baptist groups (mind you, Dr. MacArthur is not a Southern Baptist) casting Dr. MacArthur under that same bus – dismissing everything he has done for many decades for the cause of Christ, the thousands of pastors and preachers he has had a hand in nurturing and educating, and his unwavering stand on the Word of God.  And I suspect it is this latter that has caused the real stir. You see, John MacArthur has been a champion against the growing cancer of the Social Justice movement (a false gospel by any definition). He has stood on many a hill for the sake of truth and in the face of dramatic opposition. And more recently, has apparently lost some long-time friends who themselves have become infected by the insidious tentacles of false Social Justice gospel and the #wokechurch it creates.

And sadly, the most outspoken against Dr. MacArthur and his “go home” comment, remained completely silent as Beth degenerated from the Bible, as she drifted into full derailment. Indeed, they helped her along by their unwavering support and endless promotion.  They bought her books and reviewed them as near-Scripture jewels. And even has her doctrinal fallout began to directly contradict their own doctrinal positions – they simply promoted her more aggressively.

About 50 years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention nearly self-destructed. The radically liberal faction had overrun the denomination, questioning then completely rejecting the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. But before the denomination fell the way of so many others, faithful men set aside their theological differences on Soteriology (Traditionalists vs. Calvinists), and joined together into what became known as the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Through carefully planned maneuvers and strategic actions, those who still held to the fundamental truth of the Bible’s inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority “won the day”. That historic battle resulted in an SBC that cruised along in a relatively biblical course for decades. the “loss” was the spinoff of a group known as the Cooperative Baptists. This group were the holdout congregations that had rejected the full authority of Scripture, that had been proudly jumping into the far extremes of liberalism and doctrinal error.

Sadly, the SBC is again venturing into the dark place of liberalism but with a new name: the Social Justice Movement. Yet the root of this drift is the same as the previous – a low view of Scripture that places man’s thoughts and feelings above what God said, what God preserved, what God directly inspired.  It is the same old “I know what the Bible says, BUT…” mentality.

I know some women who can teach circles around about any man. Who have biblical maturity and wisdom beyond many pastors and preachers I have known. But they remain biblically disqualified from having authority over men (especially in the church), from “preaching”, and from holding the office of pastor, elder, bishop, etc. (or deacon, but that is another discussion). A godly woman who truly holds the Word of God in the highest of esteem recognizes her extremely important role – and that it is not, nor ever should it be, to usurp the authority over men and the offices God ordained for them.

And lest we forget, there was a time when Beth Moore spoke at conferences and events specifically for women, where men would sometimes attend – and she would clearly open with a thank-you to the men present, and strongly would say she had ZERO authority over them, and that she was speaking to and for the women’s audience.

This is the same Beth Moore who earlier this year, at a conference, commanded a man come down to the floor where she was, to get on his knees, and apologize for all harms men had inflicted on women:

Screen-Shot-2018-10-08-at-5.18.10-PM

There is no biblical case for women to serve as “preachers” or pastors. Does this in any way diminish their importance, their worth, or OUR need of women in the church? Absolutely not! Quite the contrary, it ought to reinforce their value and importance that God has ordained purposes for all of His people – rightly fitted together in the local body. But Beth Moore now rejects biblical gender roles and recently made no bones about it at a conference put on by the ERLC.

Let us not reject what God has said in His Word for the sake of a politically-correct pursuit of the false gospel of the Social Justice Movement. Seek the truth. Pray for those who hold a low view of Scripture.  Pray for Beth Moore- particularly that she would “go home” – go home to the Word of God, and to repent of her prideful and radical feminism that attacks the Bible.

Pray for the Southern Baptist Convention, the BMA, and any other denomination (or independent) that needs desperately to refocus on what God has already said and laid out clearly in HIs Word.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Why Your Pastor Should Say “No Moore” to Beth Moore
Testimonies of People who have broken free of Beth Moore
Beth Moore Relentlessly Attacks Straight White Men on Social Media

 

Is Your Church or Denomination Going #WOKE?

Do you think your church is biblically-solid and that it could never succumb to modernistic adulteration of God’s Word? You might want to think again.

Just a few months ago, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to recognize and implement “Critical Race Theory” and “Intersectionality” as valid measures and procedures for measuring the denomination’s “progress”.  For more detailed definitions and explanation of these two terms, click the links above, but in short – Critical Race Theory basically defines racism as solely committed by white people towards other races, that it is always systemic and always about power. Critical Race Theory when applied to churches is an assumption that churches are equally systematically racist if they are “white”. It is a parallel to the ancient cult of Gnosticism that assumed that everything physical is, by nature, evil and everything spirit is good, but in this case – if it is white, it is systematically evil and racist.

Intersectionality deals with gender and gender roles. Those who follow intersectionality despise complimentarianism and reject biblical gender roles.

These two ideologies are a part of the bigger cancer of the Social Justice Movement, one that is at its foundation, a false gospel. The Social Justice movement can take many forms, but nearly all reject biblical absolutes, diminish or even redefine sin. From “Christians” who are “pro-choice” regarding abortion, to those who support homosexual “marriage” on one end, to those who simply inject race and gender into every discussion, promoting “Justice” as the real purpose of the gospel. Many large, modern “churches” promote easy-believism for the sake of numbers, while rejecting the call to abhor sin. You generally will not hear Social Justice preachers call listeners to meaningful repentance, nor will you hear them condemn those who proclaim heresies. And the sad reality is – Social Justice #WOKE theology is rooted in Marxism, and is actually quite UNjust.

The reality is – all of these concepts and views fall under the trendy #WOKE mantra. If your pastor refuses to call sin, sin – if you have a woman who preaches or is the “pastor”, your church might be #WOKE. If your denomination is constantly apologizing for the past sins of previous generations – it might be #WOKE. If your church’s leadership refuses to call out those who are promoting and teaching heresies – they may be #WOKE. If the same people in leadership speak more of being “gentle” or the need to “tone it down” when others are addressing these falsehoods and heresies – they might be #WOKE.  If your leadership is calling for reparations for past injustices of a nation, they might be @WOKE. If your preacher constantly refers to the Gospel Coalition as a trustworthy source of biblical teaching – yep: #WOKE. If your church, pastor, or leadership consider Beth Moore to be a solid biblical teacher worthy of praise – they might be #woke.

And it is this last example that brings me to the latest Social Justice blow-up. At a recent biblical conference, Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church was ask (in the context of the above Social Justice issues – particularly intersectionality and Beth Moore’s promotion of women preachers – including bragging on her own pulpit-envy), Dr. MacArthur said that “Beth Moore needs to go home”. This has caused a giant uproar among those who hold to these Social Justice/#WOKE views. These purveyors of false gospels are attacking Dr. MacArthur as “unqualified”, and some even are calling him a heretic. Dr. MacArthur is among the most sound biblical expositors of our time who has dedicated a very long career teaching, discipling, and proclaiming the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a biblical responsibility of Christians, especially leaders, to protect the sheep by identifying and calling out false teachers. Indeed, Paul wrote to the Roman church specifically on this matter:

“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them”. (Romans 16:17)

Simply put, we are to exercise discernment and stand for truth and abhor evil. Those in the Social Justice #WOKE vein are more concerned with numbers (and usually money). I rejoice when churches grow rapidly because of the Holy Spirit’s movement to create transformed, repentant people who love the LORD with all their heart, soul, and mind! But when growth is measured simply by bodies in the chairs (worship attendance), and sacrifices genuine heart change – there is a problem.

Christianity of today, particularly in the United States, has presented a rather weak gospel for decades, but the current #WOKE trends under the guise of Social Justice are throwing the sin-hating, repentance-bringing, heart changing gospel completely under the bus. The Southern Baptist Convention is teetering on the brink of a massive meltdown because of it – but don’t for a moment think your “conservative little denomination” is immune. I sadly have witnessed the tumors of the Social Justice movement beginning to grow in my own denomination, the Baptist Missionary Association. When respected leaders and church planters begin promoting the very tenants of #WOKE theology, and calling out genuine men of God for speaking truth – we have a very serious problem.

So what is the answer? The same that spawned Martin Luther to pen his 95 Theses: seeking what Scripture really says and taking a stand on that, not on people’s feelings. Gospel ministry is not about popularity or making friends, it is about seeking lives changed by the transforming power of the gospel! Don’t be afraid to call out those who teach another gospel (Paul said they should be accursed! (Galatians 1:9). But above all – do not let it go unaddressed! Speak up. Call them to repentance. Point them to Scripture.

Responsibility, Decisions, Accountability, and Politics

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, from economic to moral, from spiritual to physical. When I was a child, my parents tried to be selective in when and how they would “bail me out” of the consequences of my errors, all with the intent of guiding me to learn from my mistakes.

When I graduated high school, I was able to secure a band scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas, but I had to find funding for the rest of the expenses – from room and board, to books and additional fees. I was able to secure the old “PELL Grant” most years, but had to fill the gap with fairly sizable loans from a private fund for most semesters, and even a Federal Guaranteed Student Loan for a few semesters to make ends meet.

When I finally finished my extended undergraduate time and received my degree, I quickly learned that education loans, whether Government guaranteed, or privately-funded, remain one’s responsibility no matter your economic situation. They just don’t go away. It took several years on the relatively low income of a public school teacher to finally get those debts paid off. I often looked back at my fellow students who chose to work many long hours to pay for their education instead of taking out loans and thinking “that was what I should have done”. But at no point did I ask for or demand anyone else pay off my student loans for me. They were my responsibility.

Since then, I have been in several areas of work and ministry that have truly opened my eyes to how our national mentality has shifted from personal responsibility. Just listen for a minute to many candidates for the 2020 Presidential election who are promising to “wipe out” student debt. We hear cries of those being “crushed” under the weight of 6-figure debt for relief. But we hardly hear a peep about the fact that they all voluntarily entered in to said debt. We don’t see much published about the worthless diplomas being “earned” at such high cost.

But is this really so out-of-character for our culture?

Absolutely not! Every day, it seems we see yet another demand for something to be an entitled “right” – unlimited health care (at no cost to them), handouts, panhandling by people making more than the average employee – it really is startling if you take an honest look. I cannot find the article now, as it’s been several years ago, but a local media outlet did a bit of actual journalism and found a panhandler who admitted to taking in an average of $1,500 per week simply standing on a corner with a sign asking for money. Pretty lucrative when you consider there are no taxes being paid on that!

Have you ever taken someone grocery shopping who came looking for food help, only to get to the store and they don’t want any staples and components that would stretch the dollars available? Frozen meals, name-brand products, etc. And it all has to be “heat-and-eat”.

I must admit that I have become a bit jaded when it comes to people asking for help. If you come to me asking for $10 for gasoline – and you have a lit cigarette in your mouth and a pack of cigs in the car seat – I see gas money being smoked up. If you come asking for diapers or baby food because your kids are hungry – but I see beer cans and lottery tickets on your floorboard – it is you who deprived your child of those needs via your priorities.

A tough lesson in grace…

I say all of this precisely because I have allowed myself to grow jaded, pessimistic even, when it comes to those who come asking for help. How does one balance demonstrating grace while at the same time trying to not enable and encourage abuse and ongoing defective decision making and priorities? Grace.

This is why the church I pastor sponsors what we call a Micro Food Pantry we call “God’s Kitchen”. It is a box set up outside one of our doors that is “self-serve” with the mantra “take what you need, leave what you can”. No questions are asked. No criteria or paperwork necessary. If you take from it, that is between you and God.

At the same time, we really should look at the biblical example. We can rightly look at Jesus command to care for the widows, feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst, clothe the naked, etc., but we must balance that with the Old Testament warning about those who do not work (do not eat!), as well as the “filter” given in the New Testament regarding those like widows who have other means of support (like family). And from a moral persepectiv, if you have the means or are physically able and choose to take take handouts (or even demand them), you are taking resources from those who do not have the means or ability ot help themselves.

When we have means to discern real need – exercise it diligently. When we do not have such ability, then exercise grace. Be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And remember – it is still about personal accountability. If they take from you but don’t really need it or are abusing it – that will ultimately be between them and the LORD, if you are simply being faithful.

Don’t expect or demand that the government/taxpayers bail you out of holes you dig for yourself. Step up, make sacrifices, and take ownership of your situation. Stop digging holes you can never fill in. Get the help you REALLY need (and it might very well begin not with economic help, but spiritual help!). Find someone to help hold you accountable.

And if you really need help – don’t be afraid to ask for it – but with the request, commit to making the changes necessary to fix the problem at hand by making the changes in priority, habits, patterns, and decision making necessary.

Immigrants, Immigration, and the Abuse of Scripture

Stop it… just stop!

What? Quit abusing Scripture to affirm your viewpoint and agenda – especially in the hot-button issue of immigration. I don’t care if your view point may very well be the “moral one” – if you are abusing Scripture to prove it – I can’t support you.

Here in the US, we have a problem – one that is growing in severity. A problem that has been rightly described as a crisis. One that side of the political isle claims is of recent manufacture (even thought their own party used the same terminology prior to our current President taking office). The problem is that of illegal immigration. You see – we hear often that America is a land of immigrants. There is some truth to that statement, and all but those who are Native Americans are at least descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants themselves. Indeed, in many ways, much of what has developed into this great “experiment” of a “melting pot” has been a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities coming together to build what was once called the ‘American Dream” – a former ideal that America was where one could come (through the proverbial front door), work hard, and become part of the culture.

But over the last several decades, an organized effort has been underway to literally stuff cities and towns with people who do not come in the “front door”, who choose to climb or cut fences, swim across waterways, risk their lives and the lives of children (in at least ⅓ of the cases, children not related to the adults they are apreheded with, many PURCHASED or abducted for the purpose– ie: human trafficking). A well-funded and organized campaign has been launched more recently by characters raging from George Soros, to state sponsors, and even a handful of US politicians – to train and equip migrants from Central America to cross the border illegally, and how to then play the system to delay deportation when caught (the word “asylum” is among the first words they teach them). These campaigns help fund busses and guides and provide aid along the way.

And as politicians from both political parties have talked big games regarding “fixing” the problem, neither seem all that willing to actually talk about it and to take real action. Those on the Left are primarily “Open borders”, no barriers, and give those who come here any way but the legal way a free pass to the front of the line, even before veterans and our own citizens who we are still falling short in helping with medical care, housing, and other needs. On the other side of the isle, we have politicians who want to build a wall along as much of the border as is possible, and to then re-build the immigration system to point all who want to come here through the front gate – like most past generations of immigrants from around the world were ushered through (think Ellis Island).

Sadly, these people – whether you see them as targets of social justice – people who should be able to come here to make a better life, or you see them in a far more nefarious light – have become political pawns. From the recruiting for the “caravans”, to the media-engineered “horror stories” of children dying in the wilderness or after being caught and detained. It is all being built up to divide, all while those who have the power to actually FIX the problem just sit back and use the issue as a weapon.

Real people, legally here or not, are suffering. Human beings – who every bit as much as I, are made in the Imago Dei – Image of God. And whether a person is here in direct violation of the law (which does make them a criminal – thus subject to criminal proceedings), or they are citizens, or they are legal immigrants – all people deserve to be treated like human beings.

That being said – there are many, especially professed Christians (or those who hate Christ, but try to use the Bible as a weapon against Christians) who are throwing Bible verses at this like a baseball bat. Sadly, they are abusing Scripture by doing so. The most common use is Leviticus 19:33-34

‘When a stranger resides with you in your land,you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

There are many problem with applying this passage to the current immigration issue – in fact too numerous to post in a single blog post. But I will address the biggest ones:

  1. The context: This was a set of instructions given to the young NATION of Israel. This is not a blanket rule for the world.
  2. Definition: stranger -from the Hebrew word גֵּיר (gêyr) meaning most literally – “guest”. It is the same word used to describe the Hebrew people themselves when they were “sojourners” or strangers in a foreign land. This is a reference to their time in Egypt. Were they unwelcome immigrants? No – they were invited guests, by the hand of God’s Providence in placing Joseph in the highest position in the country (other than Pharoah). But in a practical application, the concept is – those who are visiting, those who are your guests (hosptiality was considered an understood trait), treat them with respect – treat them fairly, just as you would want to be treated – like your own. The point being – this passage was not about those who were not invited, those who were not welcomed guests. But there is one bit of phrase in verse 34 that DOES point to a Scriptural basis that DOES fit our situation today:

Love your neighbor…

Jesus said “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Luke 10:27)

This goes back to what I wrote near the beginning of this – Immigrants, whether here legally or illegally, should be treated humanely. At the same time, they are violating the law, and they are not “welcomed visitors” as the term in Leviticus refers to. But prisoners also are to be treated as human beings. But breaking the law, is breaking the law. Endangerding children by dragging them across harsh wilderness and in horrible conditions is not good parenting. In fact, a case can be made that this is abuse, especially when 1/3 of the children being drug through these conditions are not even related to the adults bringing them.

So – where does this leave us, at least those of us who professed Christ? Can we find biblical prohibitions against national borders or the expectation that those entering a nation do it through the civil law of that nation? No. Is it immoral or even sinful for Christians to insist that our national borders be enforced and that said immigrants be expected to enter a nation legally, and to follow the laws of the land? No.

We as Christians should seek the welfare of those apprehended until the day they are deported. WE should seek “humane” treatment, especially of the children who had no voice or choice in being brought here. But even more human would be to insist that the borders be protected and that the entire immigration system be overhauled in such a way that it encourages immigration through the legal channels, and empowers those who come legally to find their place in the “American Dream” as productive members of the society.

But please – STOP abusing Scripture in an effort to shame Christians who just want things done legally and in a way that doesn’t further promote and reward lawbreaking.