Question #1: Hello Bob! The situation we discussed earlier at my church has gone from bad to worse, but in my search for more meaningful study and growth, I have been blessed to find 2 other like minded Christians. We regularly meet for prayer and encouragement. We even sing together. I jokingly refer to our meetings as hittin' the gas station…you know…fill ourselves up before setting out on the road trip God has planned. Bob, the more I study and the more I learn, the more urgently my spirit groans to help others who are still lost. I believe I am growing in the Lord for a number of reasons, but one of the most convincing to me is the increase in love I express to others, and my burden to help in some meaningful way. You may be able to tell by now that I am generally a sprinter, not a marathoner in life. The urgency I feel tells me to run, go, do more, people are going to HELL, while my common sense tells me that I must learn to pace myself and seek assistance (like Moses did with the administrative tasks of the people). Have you found a way to balance your life? How do you know? How can you tell when you are out of balance? That is my biggest question for the day. Bless you! In Him,
Response #1: Good to hear from you. In spite of all you have had to face, I draw encouragement from the fact that you are carrying on with determination, prudence, and joy in the Lord. I think His blessings to you are answers to some of your questions, past and present. He has provided you with Christian support and opportunities to serve, even as you continue in your quest for spiritual growth. That is the Christian life. That is "balance". It will never be a "clean" process because the true Christian way of life is more like negotiating a battlefield than some TV version of the American suburban dream – and that is true even when it is being played out in an American suburb! The truth is that real spiritual growth and genuine service to the Lord of the sort to which you have committed yourself and in which you are engaging will never be allowed by the evil one to proceed in peace and quiet. Just as any determined enemy will always make a point of reinforcing and counterattacking anywhere and everywhere their opponent is making progress (but will generally ignore those points on the battlefield where the other side is just sitting in its positions), so you may expect that life on the high road to Zion will always be "interesting". The more you trust God, the more you'll need to trust God, the more you grow, the more you'll need to keep up and intensify all those good things that contribute to growth, and the more effectively you serve, the more you can expect this service to opposed in all sorts of unexpected ways. Satan likes to keep us off-"balance", and, since none of us will ever be completely perfect and completely consistent in our application, in our "combat procedures", there will be times, many times, when we do get thrown off-balance, occasionally to a very great degree. Therefore every believer needs to develop and at such times quickly and resolutely apply good spiritual techniques for regaining our balance: repentance and confession of sin; removal of all obstacles to and reinvigoration of our orientation to our Lord through prayer, through scripture, and through reminding ourselves of the truths of the Bible we have learned and believed; then it is critical to get back up and regain balance through starting again to do all we know we should be doing, and to build up the momentum and speed in our spiritual growth and service we have been called to accomplish. Ideally, we would sprint all the way to the end of this Marathon, but whether we are more inclined to be short or long distance runners, in this race we are running we often find that it becomes a "Marathon of sprints" as we get thrown off balance and stumble and have to get back up and shake it off and build up to a good pace over and over again. The important thing is to keep running – and ideally to learn from every experience, so that while we never get to the point where we have perfect "balance", and will certainly never get to the point where the devil is not "bumping" us in all sorts of unpredictable as well as predictable ways (cf. Eph.4:14-16), we will over time gain in consistency and in our ability to "roll with the punches", living one day at a time in the light and in the hope of the prize for which we run, until before we know it we cross the finish line to a wonderful reward which will glorify God forever and receive a "well done" from the Lord Jesus we love so much.
Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. And again, everyone involved in competition (agonizomenos, i.e., participating in the agon or contest) exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. I'm "pummeling my body [into submission]", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27
In the Name of the One for whom we run this race, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Question #2: Robert, I am making it my objective to refrain from listening to contemporary music with questionable lyrics which I suspect lead to no good. I am also staying away from watching from watching the Olympics as it seems like more idol worshiping, it seems to be more of a Satanic ritual when you look at the whole picture. What do you think?
Response #2: Given the contents of much contemporary music, it's not hard to see how it could influence people into all sorts of bad behavior. People like to think they are above such emotional manipulation, but none of us is entirely superior to our emotions at all times, and especially not if we have a particular weakness then listen to music (or watch movies/TV/websites, read books/art etc.) that pushes us in that direction. In fact, the more we think we are in control, the more vulnerable we are making ourselves in truth.
I also agree with your take on the Olympics. After all, it started as a Greek festival with serious pagan religious aspects, and the universalism of the present "Olympic movement" (as they like to call it) certainly has some disturbing aspects to it. Glorification of human athletic achievement is in any case a waste of time at best (God "takes no pleasure in the legs of a man" Ps.147:10), and something as you point out approaching idolatry at worst. Physical exercise is of some benefit to the person getting the exercise, but not to be compared to spiritual growth and spiritual exercise (1Tim.4:8). Watching sports is at best a complete waste of time (even if an enjoyable one to many); but there is something about the internationalism of the Olympics and the continuation and emulation many of the original pagan forms (the torch race, for instance) that have always set off warning bells for me personally. In any case, there are better uses for your time – no question about it.
Keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus,
Question #3: Some of my friends seem to think that Yoga is unbiblical and cultic. I do however don't think the Yoga concept of meditation is anything like the Biblical concept of meditation. Meditation in Yoga is emptying the mind while Biblical meditation is filling it with the Word of God. But what's the problem with getting involved with stretches? can yoga be Christianized? My friends seem to think that it is too mystic or new age. What do you think?
Response #3: I am certainly no expert on Yoga (or anything close to that). In what little I do know about it, however, it seems to me that it is impossible to separate Yoga from Buddhism. And since it is impossible to separate Buddhism from idolatry (i.e., Buddhism is not just a "philosophy" but a religion which worships pagan gods), I'm not sure how it would or could or should ever be "Christianized". I think in the process one would find instead that one's Christianity had become "Buddhized". There is nothing anti-God in stretching, but if it is a case of a system of stretching, meditation, and religious doctrine which cannot be disassembled or compartmentalized (since the idolatry produces the ritual/meditation which in turn is the origin of, and motivation for the physical maneuvers), then this is something from which I would stay a million miles away. This is one of those areas where "a little leaven" can leaven the whole lump. Just my opinion, for what it's worth.
My wife and I are questioning a certain activity that happens each year in our church. Being the spiritual leader of our home this causes a small controversy in my life and so I thought I would turn to you for some needed advice. I am wondering exactly what the biblical duties of a Pastor or a Senior Pastor are. I go to a church were our Pastor gets permission each year to head-coach a High School football team. Unfortunately we seem to suffer at the pulpit when it comes to his biblical teaching and what we call adult leadership each year when this happens. I realize some Pastors are forced to take outside jobs because of lack of income but in this case it is a matter of choice. I have always been taught that after his family the spiritual leadership of the church body, he has been given by God, should be the next priority a Pastor should devote all his time to. Maybe it is me, maybe I am to old fashion but I feel that this side job is outside his pastoral duties. Any help would be appreciated.
Sent with His love
This is definitely a question of "application" rather than of scriptural exegesis. Every Christian has to make certain decisions for themselves which demonstrate the depth of their dedication to the Lord and His service. That is true of pastors and teachers (how deep are they willing to go in the Word?; how much time are they willing to spend in preparation?; do they dare to actually teach the Bible in depth, even if prepared and willing to put in the time?); it is also true of parishioners: are they willing to move on if what they are getting is not up to snuff? Clearly, to follow Jesus in a solid and deep way requires risk and sacrifice, and few on either end of the equation are generally willing to do so. As to the individual situation about which you write, please keep in mind that I know next to nothing about it so that whatever I respond here is offered in near complete ignorance of the facts. To use an analogy, I am reluctant to see a tax increase go to either our state or local municipalities, not because I couldn't afford it and not because they don't seem to be in a genuine fiscal crisis, but because I have enough personal information about the way both governments work to know for certain that a big influx of money would never end up going to the places of real need and more and worse inefficiencies would most likely be the only result. In the case of a congregation which may not be all that interested in deep, detailed and substantive Bible teaching of the sort likely to challenge shallow understanding on the one hand, and a pastor who may not be prepared or interested or courageous enough to take such a risky albeit glorious road on the other, more time, more help, more resources would likely not make much of a difference anyway. As I say, I don't know a thing about your church or your pastor, but in the case of most churches and pastors with which I am familiar I think I can say with some confidence that doubling the salary, adding a lot of administrative help, liberating the pastor/teacher's time etc., etc. would not result in the sort of substantive Bible teaching that I personally have devoted my life to and personally feel is what "church" should be all about – and if it did, the congregation would most likely rebel and fire the person (since most Christians are very indifferent to substantive Bible teaching but highly defensive about their superficial approaches to following the Lord and unlikely to take any challenge to it sitting down).
True spirituality is not a matter of resources. What we value, if we truly value it, dictates and conditions the decisions we make in life. I had the opportunity to become a denominational pastor, and I can say for certain that if I had taken it, and if I had wanted to keep my job above all else, I would never have been given the grace, the opportunity and the help I have been given to produce the things that I have been blessed to produce. Teaching the Bible is more important than football just as learning it is, but in most cases most people are truly interested in neither teaching nor learning the truth of the Word, football or no football.
Best wishes in all your future endeavors in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We had bible study last night and one of the members had said that he never watches TV and that it's wrong because it can indoctrinate us with all types of bad thoughts and ideas. I said that I watch TV for the news and to keep up to date with what's going on in today's world. He then said then said that it would be wiser to listen to the radio for news and discard the TV. Now I just feel bad as if I am sinning because I have a TV set. Is he right?
Television is like any other technology: it can be used for good or evil. There is certainly a lot of sin and evil on TV, but we don't have to watch it. If a person has an addiction to TV or to certain detrimental shows and finds him/her doing little else but watching the tube or cant' keep from watching what they know is not good for them, then it might indeed be a good idea to go "cold turkey" at least for a while. Many people in this country and I suppose in the world waste a good deal of time on TV, but that is no more sinful than wasting time observing other vain pursuits such as virtually anything "cultural" (of which the world is full) or "athletic" (doing is of some value though not comparable to spiritual exercise, cf. 1Tim.4:8; watching others doesn't do anybody any good). However, I can see no spiritual difference between watching the news on TV, or listening to it on the radio, or reading it in the newspaper for that matter. The quality and the depth and the slant may be different, but I really think that outlawing television is throwing the baby out with the bath water. One could make exactly the same argument about the Internet (one of the best sources for news now). Without the Internet, this ministry would not exist, and of course there are many pastors and teachers who use various forms of mass media to get their messages out. Even the Amish use technology, just not 20-21st century technology in many cases.