Are We Preaching Down?

Is it good to reach the lowest common denominator? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking recently about the way sermons go in churches. Most of the time when I attend a church and hear a sermon, it’s really basic stuff every time. Normally, we think that we don’t want to go too deep. After all, we don’t want to confuse seekers that are coming in wondering what Christianity is about.

Now I understand the concern. You don’t want to go over people’s heads. However, I think w have overdone it. I am not saying you get up in the pulpit and act like you’re talking to PhDs. I remember once hearing about William Lane Craig speaking at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics and how many of us are educated at the conference, but it was said afterwards that only two people in the audience understood everything said.

But if we keep staying at a low level, we give nothing for people who want something deeper. Sometimes people who are seeking and wanting to know about Christianity want to know if it has any substance to it. Does it have anything worth saying to the world today? If we go and hear a sermon that is largely just self-help and how to treat your fellow man, well there’s a place for that, but most people can get that at the bookstore even in secular books.

Some people might wonder about those who do want to know the basics of Christianity. Here’s an idea. Let that be in a class a pastor or a church leader can regularly lead. If you want to know the basics and just that, then have a remedial class on Christianity where that is where you go and give the basic information.

Sermons need to have some depth to them. Church leaders in the past were normally highly intellectual and educated. This wasn’t just in theology, but in many other subject matters at the time. Education was prized as something valuable to have.

In the pulpit, we should be going deeper. We need to give people something they won’t get just anywhere else. We need to give them something they would not get on their own basic study. A pastor is paid not just to speak an hour every Sunday. He is paid for duties outside of that like counseling, church visitation, but also so he can be free to study and provide for his own family without having to do extra work. That time is meant for him to get the best stuff he can find on his subject so he can give it to his church members.

Here’s something to consider to measure if you’re a pastor how well you’re doing. Contact the people of your church on Tuesday and individually ask them what the sermon was about. How many of them remember? I suspect few will remember. Ask them about what happened in their favorite TV show or sporting event the prior week though and they will tell you. There was more for them to remember there. If people find something worth remembering, they will make an effort to remember it. If they don’t, they won’t. If they don’t remember what you said in your sermons, it could be because you didn’t say anything worth remembering. Heck. There are times I forget what the sermon was about before Sunday is over.

If you don’t give your congregation anything to think about, they won’t. Give them something about Jesus they won’t find in basic Bible study. Give them something that you got from your years of Seminary. Show them that you yourself are a real student of Scripture. For those who are wanting the basics, set up a class for that.

People generally become the way you talk to them. If you talk down to them, they will become that. If you treat them like they are capable of learning, they will become that as well. If we want a church that has intellectual grounding, we need to talk to the people like they’re capable of it.

Talk up to your congregation and not down to them. They’re capable.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Why Don’t We Hold False Prophets Accountable?

How should we treat those who claim to be prophecy experts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You get the news one day and you hear a story about a pastor having an affair at a church. The usual cry is that the pastor should step down. Absolutely. Sexual sin should be taken extremely seriously.

You read something about the pastor stealing from the offering plate. The pastor needs to step down. Absolutely. Theft is something very serious and should be taken that way.

You read about a pastor who claimed that the Bible says that the world will come to an end on such and such a date and we need to be ready for the rapture. The date never comes. The pastor is asked to step down immediately because false prophecy should be taken seriously.

Whoa. Wait. Hold on. That last one doesn’t really happen. Too many prophecy experts have written books about who the antichrist is and when the rapture will take place and they’re not held to account for it.

I thought of this looking at my Facebook memories last day when I asked if anyone saw when John Hagee had repented for his Four Blood Moons nonsense. Of course, I made the post in jest pointing out that I wanted to make sure I hand’t missed anything. Nope. Hagee never repented. He never recanted. I know of no record of him giving back money from the book sales. He was still teaching and still broadcasting.

So let’s get this straight.

We deal with sexual sin and we deal with theft and other such sins. If a pastor had a problem with a harmful addiction, we would at least demand he get help. However, a pastor makes very public statements about prophecy that real people respond to and suffer real losses from and bring real shame on the body of Christ and we do nothing?

Keep in mind, in the Old Testament, when you had adultery, that was grounds for death. It was the safe for false prophecy. However, we treat false prophecy like it’s just a matter of missed interpretation and that’s it. It’s not. Many people can give up on going to college or getting married or sell retirement accounts or anything like that. Are they being gullible and naive? Yes. Does that justify what the prophecy experts do? No.

Not only that, but we embarrass Christianity to outsiders. Those on the outside looking in decide that if the faith tolerates that kind of thing and believes foolish things like that, they want nothing of it. We already believe enough things that we have a hard time convincing outsiders of. I understand a proper skepticism. Let’s not add to it with demonstrable things. A skeptic has to research the resurrection of Christ to really be able to argue against it effectively. For a false prediction, he just has to wait for the day to come and he has all he needs. Many will sadly, and wrongly, take the false prophecy as a grounds for rejecting the resurrection.

Instead, hold them accountable. If a book by a prophecy expert makes a prediction and gets it wrong, don’t buy them again. Don’t listen to them anymore. Someone like John Hagee should have lost his platform immediately after making a national deal about blood moons and then having nothing come of it. If we disregard it, we tell the world truthfulness really doesn’t matter to us and if it doesn’t, then why should they listen to us on any other such matter?

Also, prophecy is different from many other areas because someone can be demonstrably shown to be wrong. We all believe some wrong things about Scripture, but with prophecy, we are making predictions and claiming that this is what God is saying. That’s dangerous grounds indeed. Those who make such claims need to be held to the highest standards.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

A Centurion and a Feast

Who will take part in the banquet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we look at eschatology in Matthew, we see next that Jesus is approached by a centurion for the healing of a servant. The centurion makes a statement that indicates that He knows Jesus is a man of authority and all He needs to do is speak a word and what He wants will be done. This is someone who really understands more about Jesus than Jesus’s fellow Jews did.

So the eschatology in this comes when we see what Jesus says about this man who would be seen as a pagan at worst and a God-fearer at best. Nothing is said about his circumcision status. The only thing we know about him really is how he saw Jesus.

You might want to think that this is just a guy pandering, like a politician might. There’s no reason to think that either. He really has a sick servant. He really wants Jesus to come to Him. He really believes Jesus is capable. This is a man who understands the authority that Jesus would have in relation to the God of Israel.

Jesus is amazed at the faith of this Gentile man and then says that many will come to feast with the patriarchs but they will be cast out. What a shock this must have been for the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. They, the ones who have the blood of Abraham in their veins, will not get to dine with father Abraham in the new Kingdom?

Yes. They won’t. Jesus is now saying at this point that your lineage doesn’t determine your status before God. God is looking for something else besides who’s your daddy. He’s looking for those who have faith in Him. Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say that this Gentile is coming.

No. He says many will come from all over the world, hence the references to the directions. They will take part in that feast. They will be the recipients of the Kingdom.

Not only this, but how does Jesus know this? He doesn’t tell us, but there’s nothing that says, “This is what I think will happen.” Jesus is not giving any hint He’s giving an opinion and frankly, He never does. This is something else amazing about Jesus. Jesus always speaks every time as if He’s 100% right and yet we still genuinely and rightly see Him as a man of humility.

This also will show that my interpretation about the narrow and wide gate is likely right. Jesus says few will find His way and then right here says many will come. Jesus consistently says few of His generation will see the Kingdom. It’s when we get after His generation that we see people who will see the Kingdom more and more and these among the Gentiles.

This would be staggering to a Jew to hear. Gentiles could come into the Kingdom, sure, but they would have to become Jews first. Jesus says nothing about this man becoming a Jew. What do we know about this man’s faith? It’s in Jesus. Jesus is setting this up as the new standard. Your position in the Kingdom is determined by how you see Him.

More and more we have to realize that Jesus said the most incredible things that have been said by any human being ever. No one ever spoke like Him and if any of us tried, we would not be able to do it. Try and speak like you’re the one that all reality should focus on and everything you say is not an opinion but pure fact. See how well you do.

Jesus tells His disciples at one point to strive to enter into the Kingdom. We know it is by faith in Christ. Let us have that faith in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Why How A Leper Is Healed Matters

What difference does it make how Jesus healed a leper? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our look at the Sermon on the Mount was meant to not just teach us good ethics, but good eschatology. Jesus is telling us how people in the Kingdom are supposed to live. Now continuing our look at eschatology, we will keep going through Matthew and see what we can see in there.

One truth that will hopefully come out for you is that eschatology and Christology are closely intertwined. Finding out about the Kingdom coming and already present shows you a lot about who Jesus is. If you have a heretical eschatology, you will also have a heretical Christology.

So Jesus comes down the mountain and there’s a leper wanting to be healed and Jesus agrees to heal Him. Now we know that Jesus could have healed by the saying of a word. He does this with the ten lepers in Luke. However, in this case, Jesus does something amazing. He touches the leper.

What makes this incredible is that leprosy was unclean and if someone touched a leper or if a leper touched someone, that someone would be unclean. If they touched an object, that object would be unclean. The leper spread uncleanliness wherever he went.

However, when Jesus touches the leper, Jesus does the opposite. He takes His cleanliness and passes it on to the leper without receiving the leper’s unclean status. Jesus is still fully clean and now, so is the leper. In doing this. Jesus is acting as a purifier apart from the temple. This is the kind of thing He means when He says one greater than the temple is here.

This is also not just healing of a disease. This is healing of a status. Jesus is allowing the leper to be reintegrated into society. Jesus is telling us that in the Kingdom, there will be no social outcasts because no one will have a reason to be outcast. Leprosy will not be part of the Kingdom. The only ones not in the Kingdom are those who wish to have nothing to do with the King.

Jesus wants these people in the Kingdom and when His kingdom comes, those artificial barriers will be gone. People will be able to enter the Kingdom freely and live in it with King Jesus. Jesus will not be contaminated by uncleanness because He is greater than it is. Jesus is the purifier that undoes uncleanness. The cross and resurrection will eventually show He does the same with sin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Another Bad Atheistic Argument

Does the size of the universe prove there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I check writings of atheists often and I got a blog notification this morning of an atheist blog that will remain nameless. I commented once in response to a post here and soon found my comments being moderated while my opponents got to keep going on. Underhanded movements in comments are something that cause me to ignore someone very quickly.

But today, I see a post about proof of atheism. Hey. I gotta see what this stellar argument is. As I expected though, I was gravely disappointed. This argument as not stellar at all, other than that it was about space.

The idea was about how vast the universe is and we can’t explore it all and how many stars there must be out there. Why would a being of omniscience or omnipotence do this? Now that is a good question. I leave it to the more scientifically minded to address it. However, the author made no attempt to answer and just said that we don’t know what brought about the Big Bang, but it sure wasn’t God.

Because, well, reasons I guess.

Now notice this. This argument just points to something we don’t know and assumes right off that there can be no good reason for this. Considering how limited our knowledge of the universe really is, isn’t that a hasty conclusion to make? Why should we think there’s no good reason for it?

Not only that, suppose I have several philosophical arguments for God, like the Thomistic arguments, that are deductive arguments such as the conclusion is reached with certainty from the premises. If so, then those arguments trump an “I don’t know” argument any day of the week. I can just as well say back, “I don’t know either” and still have my strong case for theism.

We’re also often told that religion stops people from answering questions and science goes “Let’s find out!” Well where is that scientific attitude here? Instead, it’s just “I don’t know” and then “It’s not God.”

The argument is also actually theological. “If there is a God, He would not create this way.” Really? How is that known? Where is this data coming about that if a god exists of any kind, He wouldn’t create in such and such a way?

Even if we granted the challenge to monotheism, couldn’t we hypothetically say that perhaps polytheism is instead true and atheism is still false? After all, the world of comic books is a world populated with several planets and universes and such, and yet it is often a world teeming with gods. Of course, I don’t think that is true, but that would still be enough to show atheism still has work to do.

If you’re an atheist, please don’t engage in such lazy thinking. If you want to make a claim about how God would or wouldn’t do something or why He would or wouldn’t, bring some data. Where do you get this knowledge of God and what He is like? Also, it is not effective to say, “I wouldn’t do it this way.” Okay, but I think we can all agree you’re far from omniscient and omnipotent and it’s just ridiculous arrogance to think you can come anywhere close to that.

A lot of self-respecting atheists would not make this kind of argument out there. They’d actually be agreeing with a lot of what I say in this post I suspect. There are bad arguments for theism and bad arguments for atheism. We should make it a point to eliminate both wherever we see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

FF XIV and Trusting God

Do we really trust the promises of God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, a friend told me that the basic game of Final Fantasy XIV was free on the PS4. I went and got it and we have been playing it with a friend of mine who started playing ten years ago on PC. Why wait? Because I normally have not really been one for PC games. I prefer console games instead.

So here I am, a character who’s relatively weak at the start but working my way up, and then my friend who has played for years who if he wanted to could obliterate me with just a wave of his hand. Nothing I encounter at this point would make my friend blink at all. Of course, later bosses and battles would, but for right now, nothing I face.

So last night I get home and decide to get some gaming in before I go to bed and go and fight a battle on the overworld that is called a Fate battle. This is one that gives some good experience bonuses, but has a harder battle against several smaller enemies or one larger enemy. My friend had helped me with one the day before and it worked out well. He’s not there now, but I’m a good player. Let’s just see how I do.

So I go and before too long remember that discretion is the better part of valor as I am getting my tail kicked. As I run hoping to find a place to recover, I notice I am being followed by a few creatures and fear that I will be defeated before too long. Then, in that moment, most of the creatures around me get defeated immediately.

Unknown to me, my friend had been on and showed up right at that time to defeat the creatures chasing me and provide the healing my character needed. What do I do then? Run straight back to that battle I had fled and go and kick tail this time. After all, I have my friend with me who will be making sure nothing happens to me. Why do I need to be afraid?

This wasn’t a first-time occurrence. Every time I do these battles now when he’s with me, I keep thinking there’s good theology right there. Why don’t I have that same kind of trust in God? If God says He is with me, why do I live my life many times in great fear?

Granted, there are ways the analogy breaks down. I am never told God is with me so therefore I can rush into anything whatsoever and God will make sure that nothing happens to me, but I am told that no matter what happens to me, if I love God, He will work it for my good. It’s easy to say when things are good, but as soon as something happens that I think shouldn’t happen, it’s easy to think God’s not doing what He’s supposed to do.

But in general, I find it’s often easier to trust people that I know who are fully capable of letting me down and have let me down in the past instead of trusting the one who has never let me down, even though there have been plenty of times I thought He had. I have numerous past experiences of thinking “Well if God was working here, this is what He would do.” (Obviously, I, a finite human being with highly limited knowledge have the wisdom and knowledge to tell God, who has infinite wisdom and knowledge, what He should be doing.) Give it some time and before too long I’m saying, “Okay. I see I was wrong again. Won’t happen again.” Well, we all know it does happen again.

Every time I rush into a battle with my friend there fearing nothing will happen to me, I hope I will approach God in a similar way. Will I trust Him just as much with my well-being? Will I believe Him who has never failed in His promises?

I hope.

(And if you want to find me in game, my character is named Phoenix Skywing)

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Building A House

Upon what do you build a house? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, He talks about how to build a house. He says if you hear His words and obey them, you build your foundation on the rock. If you hear and do not obey, you are building on sand.

Listeners would think of the temple.

The temple had that kind of strong foundation. Jesus is telling His listeners then about how to build a new temple. What will the new temple be founded on? The words of Jesus.

Take a moment to consider how Jesus is speaking. He doesn’t say “Thus sayeth the Lord” or anything similar. He speaks on His own behalf. We could understand if someone like Isaiah or Elijah gave this message and ended it with hearing the words from God. Jesus doesn’t do that. He says “My words.”

As discussed last time, either Jesus has a massive ego trip, or He’s severely deluded, or again, He is claiming to speak as God and He means it. God is the one responsible for the temple ultimately and Jesus is now claiming authority over a temple structure. This temple structure won’t be something physical. The language is metaphorical and the temple is built on His words instead.

This is why when the message ends, the people are amazed. Jesus speaks as one who has authority. The teachers of the law could teach, but they did not speak on their own behalf. They would reference numerous others to back their opinions and authority. Jesus didn’t do that, save for when He pointed to God Himself.

Just picture what you would think if a new nominee for pastor of your church got up and spoke the way Jesus did. It would be seen as super egotistical or severely deluded. Jesus did speak this way. Every thing He says and does leaves us with a reminder that we must question who He is at every point. What manner of man is this?

As we end the sermon and go on to see eschatology in the Gospels, that is the question we have to ask ourselves.

What manner of man is this?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

I Never Knew You

How should we respond to this fearful announcement? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Towards the end of Matthew 7, Jesus tells the crowd that many on that day will point to many signs and wonders that were done in the name of Jesus and He will say to them, “I never knew you.” The only ones who go in will be the ones who do the will of the Father.

First off, before we get to the scary part, let’s consider something about this. How is it that Jesus gets up and speaks to a crowd as if He is the final judge that will tell people what their destiny is in the end? How is it that He speaks of people coming to Him and calling Him Lord? How is it that He speaks of people casting out demons in His name and doing miracles in His name and prophesy in His name?

Either Jesus is severely deluded in this passage, severely wicked, or He is rightfully in the place of God. It’s easy to point to explicit passages on the deity of Christ. I think a lot of these more subtle passages can be far more powerful.

So now let’s get to the concern. A lot of Christians get absolutely terrified. What if I am one of those on that day? What if Jesus tells me I never knew you?

So let’s ask a question.

Why does that scare you?

If your fear is never getting to be in Heaven because you won’t see your loved ones and you will be in Hell forever, then you have a wrong perspective. It doesn’t mean you won’t get in, but I have a fear that many of us want to see Heaven for so many reasons and throw in as an afterthought that God is there, or else we just want to avoid Hell.

If you say though because you want to be with Jesus, then I really don’t think you have to worry. In reality, most Christians I meet concerned about not being saved I have no doubt really are saved. The fact that they ask the question shows that they have a deep concern for Christian matters.

That being said, we should always examine ourselves to see if our behavior is being what it ought to be. Are we truly living a Christian life? Do we need to repent of anything? Are we loving one another as Christ loved us?

Note also that Jesus’s requirements are not seen in what we consider grand achievements. It’s seen in doing the will of the Father in Heaven. What is that will? Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself.

When people ask me what God’s will is for their lives, I always tell them the same thing, because it’s the same for everyone. “Conform you to the likeness of Christ.” “Yeah, but what about who I marry or where I work or what I study in school?” “Do what you will provided your goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.”

Instead of worrying so much about if you are saved or not, which accomplishes nothing, live as Christ would have you live, which you should be doing anyway. When you fall down, repent and seek forgiveness and move on. There is a proper fear to have of God, but remember He prefers to show grace rather than judgment.

And if you think you have grace, show it. Even if you don’t think you have it and fear you don’t, show it anyway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Pain of Suicide

Why does suicide hurt so much? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I knew Troy in Middle School. He was shy, like me, and seemed to be an outsider to most kids, like me, which is probably one reason I gravitated towards him. I knew what it felt like to be rejected after all. I remember him wanting to buy my Turtle Blimp from me, which I let him, and it was like Christmas for him. I knew he didn’t have much. We drifted apart in high school. Recently I thought of him. I wondered where he was in the world.

Then today I got a text from my Dad. Troy had killed himself Sunday.

In the midst of messages back and forth about it, my Dad told me one of his friends from church had also died. Now I didn’t know this friend so well, and that really got lost in the background. With my Dad’s friend, I thought he was older and it was probably his time.

Not with Troy.

With Troy, I found myself wondering, “What if I had stayed in touch in high school and college? What if I had been a friend all those years? What if I had never lost touch with him?”

Yes. Rethinking about 20-25 years of living based on one truth that had been revealed. That’s what makes suicide so different. When it happens, most people who knew the person involved always think “Could I have done something to help?”

It’s survivor’s guilt. It’s pointless to think such things. Even if you could think of something you could do, you can’t hop in the time machine and go back and do them. If you come up with something, you’ll just feel guilty for not having done it.

Yet we do that. Why? Because we have a permanent pain now because of the loss. I have met a number of people who have lost someone close to them to suicide and the pain doesn’t go away. Oh it gets more manageable, but it does become something they deal with everyday. I have heard of a man in his senior years whose father committed suicide. The suicide happened while the boy was five years old and years later he still asks why his Dad didn’t want him.

You see, it never truly takes the pain away. It passes it to everyone else. It is what is seen as a preventable death. If only we could have helped them. If only. If only we had been there. If only we knew. Did we miss the warning signs?

My wife had a friend who went out of her mind and wound up killing herself a few years ago and for quite awhile, she kept wondering if she should have seen the signs. She wasn’t there in person though, so there’s no way she could have known really. We have no way of knowing how everyone else sees it though who was even closer.

In many other cases, when the person is still around, we can talk to them always and see if we can work on things. However, when it’s suicide, it’s permanent. That’s it. We lose them in our earthly lives forever.

Now if we’re Christians, we can anticipate the hope that we will see them someday, but Scripture doesn’t say that death becomes automatically less painful because we’re Christians. We still mourn. We don’t mourn like those who have no hope, but we mourn. Suicide just brings an extra level to that mourning since it is such a violent action that is always seen as preventable.

While I was out, I was spending so much time processing the news and that was for someone I hadn’t interacted with in a couple of decades. How much more is it for those who know someone much closer? Suicide has that effect and it’s an awful one.

If you’re struggling, please get help. Please. Reach out. People do care regardless of whether you feel like they do or not. Call the National Suicide Hotline. Get someone who will talk to you. Please.

If not for yourself, do it for someone you care about. If you suspect someone is suicidal, please don’t take a chance. Take action.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

By Their Fruits

Who will we recognize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My interpretation of this passage is really different from many others. This is the one that says you will know people by their fruits. Many of us apply that to regular Christians that we meet everyday, but I wonder if since the next section talks about those claiming to speak in Jesus’s name if Jesus has more in mind prophets claiming to speak for Him and that those you will know by their fruits.

In other words, look at the kind of lifestyles leaders will hold as those would also be seen as prophets in the sense of teachers who speak with authority. While Christian leaders should often lead the best lives, too often we seem to live the worst lives. Naturally, the media loves it whenever a scandal breaks out involving a Christian leader.

If a person is a Christian leader truly, their lives will reflect their devotion to Christ. This doesn’t mean perfection. None of us have that and it’s ridiculous to demand it. It means overall that that person produces far more in character with Christ than the other way around.

This would also I think include the reliability of their statements, especially along the lines of when someone claims to hear from God. My advice to you is when someone tells you God told them something or the Spirit is showing them something, be on guard. I wouldn’t believe it unless they tell you something specific, not vague, that they couldn’t have known any other way.

I would also include the more subtle ideas of this. I see no basis for the idea that the Spirit leads us through our feelings, but many Christians will say that regularly. I remember in an old church I used to attend that the associate pastor at the time of offering used to say “Give as you feel led” and I was tempted to go up so many times and very publicly put in a penny and say “That’s what I feel led to give.” Who could argue against me?

Jesus’s warning is a serious one. At the next entry, we’ll see that not everyone who claims to speak for God really is speaking for God. Look at the character of the person you encounter and the way they claim to speak. Do they line up? Many people have been damaged by people claiming to speak for God.

Above all, watch yourself. How is your life? It’s easy to complain about the rest of the church, but that just takes our eyes off of ourselves, the one person we can do something about directly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)