Real Christianity?

There is an old song that says: “Everybody talking about Heaven ain’t Going!” The meaning behind the words of the song is that just because a person talks about Heaven or talks about going to Heaven, that doesn’t mean they will actually go! Well, the same is true for everyone who claims to be a Christian: Everyone who claims to be a Christian is not actually a Christian! And just because a person says that he or she is a Christian, that declaration does not make them one! I wanted to bring this out because there are many today who are calling themselves Christians, but their actions are so anti-Christian that their actions are causing those who are not Christians to despise the name of Christ! Now of course, this is nothing new: The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, cites Isaiah 52:5 in Romans 2:24: “ For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (ESV) The word ‘blasphemed’ means, ‘to be spoken evil of.’ There are many people in the world today who want nothing to do with Christianity or the God of Christianity because of the acts and attitudes of people who ‘say’ they are Christians! So, for the record, let’s find a simple answer to who and what is a Christian.

Simply put; a Christian is a person who follows (is committed to imitate) Christ. A Christian is a person who faithfully represents the beliefs, actions, and attitudes of Jesus Christ. A Christian is a person who does what Jesus would do! A Christian is a person who follows (obeys) the principles and teachings of Jesus by faithfully following and enacting those principles and teachings in his or her own life within their present cultural context. The term ‘Christian’ is not a political term in the sense of party affiliation or platform. Therefore, those who attempt to use the name; Christian to promote a political or social agenda other than righteousness and justice are illegitimate imitators of the faith!

Let me put it in the kitchen so you can cook it: The vast majority of people, making to the most noise in the name of Christianity on the political scene in America today ARE NOT true biblical Christians! They are merely using the name to promote their political agendas! The Jesus of the Bible would not be in agreement with the mean-spirited racist rhetoric that is coming out of the mouths of many who claim to be Christians in America today! The Jesus of the Bible would NOT endorse the KKK, DID NOT endorse American slavery, and is NOT please with many of the policies of the present administration in Washington! Now, this is not to say that Jesus was pleased with all of the actions of the past administration, but to highlight the fact that just because you hear people say they are acting in the name of Christ; that doesn’t mean they really are! The Jesus of the Bible IS NOT pleased with America’s systemic racist injustice system that is bias against the poor and people of color! The Jesus of the Bible IS NOT in favor of white privilege and the oppressive practices of the rich and well-to-do! The Jesus of the Bible would NOT rubber-stamp the actions of our current president the way many so-called evangelical Christians  are doing! And speaking of the so-called evangelical Christians, I just read a report from Pew that asked Americans if the U. S. had a responsibility to accept refugees. No group – racial, by age, religious or political – was less supportive of the idea than white evangelical Protestants! The group least likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees is the group that claims to follow the ONE who would most likely think the U. S. has a responsibility!

The problem with so-called American Christianity is the fact that many of its followers tend to compartmentalize their faith. They have separated their faith from their politics and see no connection between one and the other. They espouse the possibility of being politically evil and morally good at the same time! But real biblical faith is not divorced from politics; real biblical faith shapes politics! Real biblical faith demands a political agenda that demands, letting justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24 ESV)

The problem with so-called American Christianity is the fact that, for many of its proponents, faith is submissive to economic, politics and ethnicity. The ‘Jesus’ they serve is a reflection of them as opposed to them being a reflection of him. Hence, when one creates a ‘Jesus’ that reflects one’s own personal, political, and social beliefs, that ‘Jesus’ is an idol and NOT the Jesus of the Bible!

If you want to know what real Christianity looks like, don’t look at what you often see in America today; take a look in the BOOK! Now, we all sometimes fall short of the glory (the perfect idea) of God, but real Christians are honest about their short-comings, repent and strive to get better. Real Christians are submissive to the demands of Christ and seek to be molded into His image instead of seeking to making demands of a Christ they have made in their image!

How I Use Biblical Software To Prepare Sermons

I have been preaching for nearly forty (40) years and my research and study has been tremendously accelerated by the use of biblical software for almost half of those years. There is much debate today among preachers and scholars as to which is better; electronic books or paper books? With me, it all depends. Some of my resources are in both forms. Sometimes I like to sit and read with a physical book in my hands and then, at other times, I like to sit in front of my computer to do my studies, sermon preparation, and research. But I want to share in this post, how I use biblical software in the study, research and preparation of sermons and/or biblical lessons. I have tried several across the years, but the three that are my bread and butter tools are: Logos 7, BibleWorks 10, and WordSearch 11.

After much prayer and meditation, that usually begins on Monday evening, by noon Tuesday, I usually have made a general choice (unless I am in the middle of preaching a series) of what I am going to preach the coming Sunday. After selecting a biblical text, I read the text several times in several different (I read the text at least 3 to 4 times in at least five, sometimes as many as eight different versions) English versions of the Bible. I do this using the BibleWorks software. BibleWorks is excellent for doing this because the program allows you to arrange the various versions side-by-side or vertically to quickly note differences in the versions. There is also a tool within BibleWorks that will color-highlight the differences for you. I do this to get a general feel of the flow and meaning of the text. After completing this step, I then do the same thing; comparing the various Hebrew (if it is an Old Testament text) and Greek (if it is a New Testament text) Bibles that are available in BibleWorks. By the way, in BibleWorks, there are over 200 Bible translations in 40 different languages, over 50 original languages and morphology databases, with dozens of lexical-grammatical references, plus a wealth of practical reference works, all available in the standard package at no additional costs! It is during the comparison-analysis of the original languages that I also conduct my word-studies. My first goal is to establish the integrity of the text. I especially want to do this if it is a familiar text because I want to find out, as best I can, what the original author actually said and/or meant, as opposed to the popular or common ideas of what the author said and meant. The only way to do this is by a thorough investigation of the text in the original languages. Now, if you have not studied the original languages, BibleWorks will greatly aid in overcoming that deficiency because, even as you look at the various English versions, you can hover your mouse over the English words and BibleWorks will display the corresponding Greek and Hebrew words and meanings in pop-ups and in the analysis window of the software. This information is available in an instant! It would take at least five to ten minutes per word to do this manually with paper books! Now, I use BibleWorks, primarily to establish the integrity of the text and for my initial word-study analysis, usually this process takes about a day of study or about 3-5 hours. As a pastor, husband, and part-time student, there are also many other demands upon my time. But usually the first day of study is devoted to establishing the integrity of the text; using BibleWorks as my primary tool.

The next phrase of study is where the Logos Bible Software comes into play! Although BibleWorks has an extensive selection of Bibles in English and in the original languages, there are still some that are available in Logos that are not currently available in BibleWorks, such as the Amplified Bible, for example. So when I first open Logos, I continue some of the work that I started with BibleWorks. This also includes consulting various lexicons and biblical dictionaries I have that are in Logos, but not in BibleWorks. In some cases, it is not a matter of these resources being available in one software and not in the other. In some cases, I purchased resources in the Logos format, rather than in BibleWorks because of how Logos cross-indexes and integrates the various resources. Plus, I’ve owned Logos longer than BibleWorks, so there are some things I know how to do in Logos that I have not learned how to do in BibleWorks. At any rate, I type the passage in and click go and within a matter of seconds, Logos pulls up every Bible, lexicon, dictionary, commentary and any other resources from my Logos library of resources that I have purchased across the years! As of the writing of this post, there are over 3,000 resources in my Logos library, representing an investment of over $13,000 in 15 years! The first tool I use with Logos is the Exegetical Guide. Type in the text and within a matter of seconds, every Bible (English, Hebrew, and Greek), lexical resource and Bible dictionary in my library is displayed; already cued or located at the text and the words of the text! Logos brings up in seconds what would take hours to do in paper books!

By the time, I’ve finished establishing the integrity of the text, using BibleWorks and Logos, it is usually late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The plan is to spend study time Thursday consulting what various commentaries say about the text. Now, by this time, I already have a pretty good feel of the author’s original intent and where I want to go with the text, but I consult commentaries to compare my findings with what other biblical scholars say about the text and also to gain additional insights. I was taught, and I strongly agree, that preachers should never consult the commentaries before the completion of their own personal work of research and study. Going to the commentaries first will short-circuit the development of your own investigative and research skills and severely compromise what the Holy Spirit wants to say to and through you to your listeners. But even in dealing with the commentaries, don’t just read the ones you agree with or the only the ones of your own personal theological slant. Read commentaries that challenge and as well as confirm your findings, thoughts and views.

Most of the commentaries I own are found in my Logos software (nearly 1,500 volumes). To access my commentaries in Logos, I click on the Passage Guide tool, type in the text, click go, and every Bible, commentary and any other resource in my library that deals with the text instantly opens to my text and/or pulls up pertinent information about the text; all in a matter of seconds! However, some of my favorite commentaries are only in my WordSearch software, such as The Preacher’s Sermon and Outline Bible, Barnes Notes of the Old and New Testaments and a few others. There are also times when I consult commentaries that I only have in book-form. As a side note, there are some books that I own in book-form that I have also purchased in various software platforms. Some of these, I purchased years before I became computer savvy and once they became available in software form, I purchased them again because of the ease of use and the speed of research the software provides.

Well, Friday is the day I usually write the sermon! Yes, I am (as my Daddy used to describe preachers who use manuscripts) a paper boy! I have detailed that process in a prior post (From the Mind to the Manuscript: 5/2/13) But I just wanted to share with you a little bit about what biblical software platforms I use and how I use  them. If you are serious about biblical studies; whether you are a preacher, teacher, or just someone who loves the Bible, I strongly suggest you look into investing into a biblical software program. Of the three I use, each one has strengths and weaknesses. There are some tasks I do in one that can’t be done (I have not learn how to do) in the others and there are some task that could be done by any one of them with equal ease. But as I use them, they don’t compete with one another; they complement one another. You can check them out at their various websites for pricing and more exact details. You can find out more about Logos Bible Software at: www.logos.com BibleWorks at www.bibleworks.com and WordSearch at www.wordsearchbible.com.

Good for Goose and Gander; One and All?

There is an old proverb that says: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander! The meaning is: ‘What is good for a woman is equally good for a man.’ The principle is: What is good for one type is equally good for another type, despite any irrelevant differences between the types. Well, we live in a culture and society wherein it seems the rights of the individual are being promoted and respected over the good of the group, even if those rights are detrimental to the group of which the individual is a member.

I’ve been thinking about something that I am trying to ‘flesh-out’ to see if it is a universally applicable principle in view of the insistence of individuals to demand the right to express themselves, even if their expressions are contrary and harmful to the group. Here’s the principle I’ve been investigating: ‘If it is good or right for one or some; it should be good or right for all!’ Now, let’s see how that works with some of the issues that are being debated in our society today.

Let’s start with racism. If it is good or right for one or some people to be racist; it should be good or right for all people to be racist! But, what kind of world would it be if everybody was a racist? Would it be a world that anyone would want to live in? I don’t think so! I think it would be Hell! If everybody thought and acted like they were better or more privileged than everybody else, we would have the recipe for a chaotic and dangerous society!

And speaking of danger: What would society look like if it was good and right for everyone to own and carry guns? Well, we really don’t have to imagine what it would look like; we’ve already been there and done that: It was the era of the wild, wild west! You can see milder versions of what that was like by looking at old episodes of Gun-smoke, Rifleman, and Bonanza! As I am typing this post, I am recalling news reports of shoot-outs between gang members and law enforcement that rival and surpass the famous gun fight at the OK Corral!

At the risk of being labelled hateful and insensitive, I dare bring up the issue of homosexuality! If it is good and right for one or some people to be homosexual; it should be good and right for everybody to be homosexual. But what would our world look like if everyone was a practicing homosexual? In fact, perhaps an even greater question is: Would there be a world at all? It takes a man and a woman to have a baby. Would we really be at ease and satisfied with a generation of test-tube babies; all produced by artificial insemination? I don’t think we would!

What about criminal activity? If it is right and good for one or some people to be crooks, then it is good and right for all people to be crooks! But what kind of world would it be if everybody was a crook? If everyone was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a devious person, a pervert, or whatever? Do you see my point?

The point is this: Whether we like it or not, there are moral principles and guidelines that have been instituted by a Higher Power! Man, in his arrogance, likes to think of himself as being his own god! But, if everybody was their own god; society would break down into chaos! (By the way; since we have thrown off the yoke of the true God, this is exactly where we are headed!) Just because you may not like or agree with these moral principles, that doesn’t exempt you from their jurisdiction! People think it is OK to break God’s laws, but in the final analysis; they really don’t just break the law; the law breaks them! Our world is filled with people who are broken, disconnected and lost because of their attempt to be their own god! In the final analysis: What’s good for the goose may or may not be good for the gander, but it is not the right of the goose or the gander to decide what that ‘good’ is! That right is reserved only for the Creator of the goose and the gander! The Creator of the goose and the gander knows that there are some things that are good for the goose and the gander, but there are also some things that are good for the goose but not for the gander!