Category Archives: Pushes from the Paraclete

Holy Spirit: God Walking Along Side

Moody Radio Didn’t Warn Me in Advance!

I am angry with Moody Radio. They don’t follow John MacArthur’s rule. Yes, today I was listening to inspiring and well-evinced Bible study, but Moody didn’t warn me! Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth was teaching. John MacArthur has warned me about women preaching and teaching. Oh, the shame.

Why didn’t Moody remind me in advance that I’d be learning from a woman! I am a man—I’ve got nothing to learn from them—unless their name is Hannah, Deborah, Lois, Eunice, Mary or June. Moody needs to be more careful about women preaching and teaching. Paul makes it quite clear women are to cover their heads when prophesying, or teaching.  And, when they’re on the radio, who can tell if they’re appropriately garbed?!!!

Furthermore, Beth Moore and Janet Parshall are on Moody as well. We need advance warnings, Moody! Our fragile male egos need not be savaged by their wisdom. Everyone knows if you don’t have one of those things (you know what I’m talking about), then you can’t baptize, preach/teach, or exert influence. On behalf of my gender, I apologize for Moody Radio.

When asked about this entry to The Scoop, a pastor friend of mine said this:

…it really disturbs me that we’ve become so sidetracked in Christendom talking about something as meaningless as “Who should preach the Gospel.” It just once again reminds me that the greatest threat to the church is not from without, but from within. “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

Let us neither bite nor devour.

Being Right Doesn’t Solve the Problem

philmixerPhil Robertson’s beard got caught in our culture’s Mixmaster® of sin tolerance. The Duck Commander had the audacity to reference Scripture which calls the practice of homosexuality, adultery, gluttony, greed, etc. as what it is … sin—down home, crude & rude, God-wrath inducing sin.

Sin is not a popular idea today—it suggests someone actually knows what is really righteous and what is not. Phil made it clear Who makes that decision. But our world doesn’t like being ruled from on high. After all, this is the age of ME (aka, Sheilaism, Habits of the Heart).

In an  article in GQ (not for the faint of heart), Phil was asked about his attitudes toward homosexuality and a variety of other issues. Rather than couch his answers in socially acceptable ways, he talked like he is, by his own description, “white trash.” Neither gentle nor respectful. His family released a statement calling his answers coarse, but nonetheless consistent with Biblical truth.

The whole incident demonstrated God’s wisdom. God told how believers must respond to questions like those in the GQ interview. But, rather than being “gentle and respectful” (see 1 Peter 3:15), Phil tried the “I’ll shock them into reality” approach.
One can be so right, but simultaneously so wrong when how the right is presented–so much so that what is right is overlooked.

Being right does not solve the problem.

As you may recall, I love Duck Dynasty (see The Scoop). The show is replete with God-fearing values exemplified by a God-fearing family. I have laughed so hard I’ve cried, and I’ve swelled up so much with pride I was embarrassed. (Willie and I are both alumni of Harding University, “the west point of evangelical Christianity.”  Nope, we didn’t overlap, but Ken Starr and I did share a year at Harding together.)

So, it is with regret that I hear Phil was threatened to be “suspended” from the show by the A&E network. I would have missed Phil. He shoots straight whether at ducks, or at the truth. Both shots startle me, but now I will always have a great example of why God is so brilliantly wise…

… in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect … [1 Peter 3:15]


My mother is only 86. I say “only” for a variety of reasons. When I went off to college, so did Mom; she got straight A’s.  Me? Not so much. When I went off to graduate school, Mom started her practice as a nurse; she stayed on the same cardiac floor of St John’s hospital for her entire career.  Me?  Not so much. I moved from New York to Purdue to USF; and within USF, I had titles which ranged from professor to dean to director. When she retired and moved to Virginia, Mom took up serious Bible study.  Me?  My seminary training started a couple years later.

Now she teaches the Scriptures at her local Senior Citizen’s center—she has a retired Methodist pastor, a Jew, several Roman Catholics, and a few curious ones as students. Me? I teach members and guests of the church @ MyrtleLake. She reaches out with the gospel; I reach in. She delights in her studies and her teaching. Me too!  No wonder we both feel young.

When Paul was teaching about the desire of many to be comfortable with the traditions of the Law, he made it clear that the mother of slavery was their Jerusalem, “but the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” [Galatians 4:25]  Were it not for the mother above, the new Jerusalem, we would neither be free from the Law’s condemnation, nor have hope above.

Timothy would not have been Timothy were it not for Lois and Eunice, his grandmother and mother. Samuel would have been just another Hebrew were it not for his mother, Hannah.  David Thomas Porter would have been just another retired professor were it not for Florence June Leslie.rubies

“She is worth far more than rubies…”

Jesus Was Crazy

Recently in Thursday Night Wrestling I became puzzled.  According to what Holy Spirit breathed into the authors of Scripture, Jesus has said some crazy things. They make me very nervous. They challenge my intellect. And, they make me crazy. Let me tell you why.

  • First, there’s the contempt thing. Jesus said that if I show contempt for my fellow human being, I am in danger of hell fire itself. Show respect for my enemies, and even the enemies of the Lord God? I don’t think so. Jesus was crazy. How can I do that?
  • And then there’s the anger thing. Jesus said it was more important to help my brother with his anger toward me than it was to worship. Help a brother with his anger directed to me first, and then worship? Jesus was crazy. How can I do that?
  • And oh, don’t forget about the adultery thing. Jesus: you created me to be attracted to women, and then You charge me with adultery for “looking?” Jesus, how can I do what you want?
  • Jesus was crazy—He said I was not only to avoid killing my enemies, I was to pray for them, especially those who persecute me for His sake. Pray for members of Isis and the Osama Bin Laden’s of the world? I don’t think so. It’s just not rational. How can I do that?


My Jesus once said, if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father; the Father and I are one. Does this mean Father God is crazy too? The answer is a resounding YES! (1 Corinthians 1:22-23)

It is crazy for the God of the universe to become a human so we could understand Him. It is crazy for Father God to offer His son so I could be reconciled with Him. A great Christian friend of mine, Curt Hinson, said it well: we’re all scum buckets. Why would a holy God do so much for an unholy creature? God is crazy—blessed be the name of the Lord God!

But, I am still angry. I still have contempt for others almost as much as for myself. I still look. I am still more concerned about me than others. How can I do this?

Philippians 4:13

Did Jesus Lust for Glory?

holygrailDuring the production of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the producers were incessantly asked by reporters, “What’s your next movie?” Tired of responding, Eric Idle flippantly responded “Jesus Christ’s Lust for Glory.” Well, that shut up the reporters, but given the serious implications of satirizing our Lord, the Monty Python troupe eventually rendered a milder title, although nonetheless a rather questionable movie entitled “The Life of Brian.”

Recently, in Thursday Night Wrestling we’ve been learning about the supremacy of Christ. If there were anyone who ever deserved glory, it would indeed be the One who created the universe (Colossians 1:16), demonstrated publicly the righteousness of Father God (Romans 3:25), and built a heavenly domain for all His believers (John 14).

Sprite 6this is the great thing about my Jesus. He always gave glory to other persons in Trinity. Once, when a questioner called Him “good,” Jesus said no one is good except Father God—the Son gave Father God the glory (Luke 18:18ff). When His disciples were worried about His departure from earth (John 14), He told us about sending Holy Spirit in His place, and through Holy Spirit even greater things would be done to glorify.

My Christ was not about glory. In fact, He presented Himself as human, as a servant, obedient even to a cross, not seeking His full status while on earth (Philippians 2). As a result, Father God elevated my Christ to the highest, gave Him a name above all names, and at that name every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus the Christ is the Lord of lords, and King of kings.

Someday, Eric Idle, and the whole world will fully understand Christ came not to seek glory. Counter-intuitively, glory came to Him because He sought it not. To whom do you give glory? Is your story full of His glory?

Gotta Check My Glass: Half-Full or Half-Empty?

half-full-glassThere’s a lot of evil in the world.  And, there’s a lot of good in the world.  But, is the glass half empty, or half-full?

The definitively evil is easy to spot—words, thoughts, and acts which hurt the innocent.  For example, no one can ignore, without some angst, hungry children, mangled children, and blind children.

But what about unborn children?  Why are they so easily ignored, especially when inconvenient to the prospective parent, or embarrassing for the grandparent?  Is this obvious evil, or subtle evil?  Is the glass half-empty, or half-full?

IMG_2290The obviously good is easy to spot—words, thoughts, and acts which protect the innocent.  For example, why are we so full of joy at the birth of a new child?  Why do we giggle with delight when seeing those laughing babies on YouTube?  Is this obvious good, or subtle good?  Is the glass half-empty, or half-full?

But what about the less obvious?  Does the glass contain good when the good being done is doing good to look good?  For example, when I give money to the poor to feel good, is that good?  When I spend time in the soup kitchens of the world to assuage my guilt, is that good?  Am I fooling myself, and perhaps others, that I am good?

Does the glass contain evil when I do good to look good?  To avoid the consequences of evil done elsewhere?  Oh my, how my glass is murky.  Is my glass half-empty, or half-full?

Once, when Jesus Himself was called “good,” He made it quite clear that only Father God is good (Mark 10:18).  Yes, He deflected praise from others to give praise and honor to the Father.  But, if God’s goodness is in me and that goodness feeds the poor, even though it also assuages my guilt, is that not good?  If I don’t even believe in God, or fail to give Him credit for the good I do, is that good?  Perhaps, even the unbeliever’s good is motivated by good for he too was created in the image of good God.

Yes. The glass is half-full!  Let’s work on filling it up—may God always get the glory for good, regardless of our finite motives, or even our unbelief.

Avoiding Cultural Hegemony

Without compassion, even Biblical orthodoxy is ugly.  Without Biblical orthodoxy, compassion is merely an artifact of human culture.  Compassion is good for humanity, for sure, but compassion compelled by cultural norms is just another human attribute, just like greed, affection, or hairstyle.

The Christ came to earth as human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.  Key among His human attributes was His gregarious compassion.  He “sighed” before healing a deaf mute (Mark 7:34).  Jesus cried at the loss of a friend (John 11:35).  With nails in His hands and feet, He expressed compassion for His mother (John 19:26).

TheFather'sPerspectiveBut, why was Jesus the Christ compassionate—simply because He took on human form?  Not at all.  Jesus was compassionate because He came to glorify Father God.  For example, when He intentionally waited until His good friend Lazarus was definitively dead, He re-assured His critics “…it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

Showing compassion is easy.  Doing compassion, however, is not easy.  When we’re confronted with those who “should know better,” we want to look the other way.  Or, if compassion is needed for those of a different club, clan, or country, we feel bad for them, and do nothing because they are not “us.”

The compassion we seek as believers is the compassion which comes from following the Christ—always to glorify the Lord God, always for all people, always.  Not to glorify ourselves, our clan, our country, or our club.

When we are compassionate, it must be because He was compassionate first.  It must be because He was compassionate for the leper, the unclean woman, the prostitute, the rich young ruler.  His compassion for the sinner must be our compassion for each other.  We must be compassionate because His compassion demonstrated the righteousness, the justice of Father God (Romans 3:25-26).  Compassion demonstrates God’s righteousness.  If  our compassion comes not from God’s compassion, it is mere cultural hegemony.

Just Who Is this “Jesus” Anyhow?

One time when Jesus was teaching His followers, He needed to clarify for them just who He was.   Jesus asked them two questions.   First, “Who do others say the Son of Man is?” Answers included John the Baptizer, Elijah, Jeremiah, or another one of the prophets of old.   All these answers assumed Jesus was a resurrected prophet, but they were wrong.

Then my Jesus turned to us and asked, “Who do you all* say that I am?” Peter answered for us—“You are Christ, God.” While Peter didn’t understand Who taught him this, Jesus made it clear to all of us that His body, the church, was founded on this principal principle—Jesus is the Christ, God Himself.    And … the gates of hell shall not overcome His church!!  Yes, us, the church.  Even hell shall not overcome us.

So who is Christ to you?  A convenient curse word?  A great teacher? According to Hebrew, Islamic, and Christian scriptures, He is indeed the greatest prophet.   The last name of Jesus?  No, a thousand times no—Christ is His title, not His name.   Christ is the Lord God Jehovah.   (In doubt?  Compare Isaiah 45:12 to Col.  1:16)

But where did Jesus have this conversation with His followers?**  When you know that, only then will you fully understand His declaration—“the gates of hell shall not overcome” His church.   Attend Bible study on Sunday mornings and learn even more.   It mends the mind and soothes the soul.


*Yes, “you all” is correct; the Greek 2nd person is plural. 

**In the same area where the “mouth of hell” was presumably in Caesarea Philippi, at least as thought by the culture at the time.


How Faux-Literacy Hurts the Cause of Christ

FauxLiteracyI am disturbed.  Not really news to you?  Just ask my wife—she’ll support this confession.  But, regardless of my mental health, I am still disturbed.  People are becoming more and more illiterate, or more correctly, faux-literate.

The literacy about which I am disturbed concerns reading, simply the act of reading.  People simply don’t read anymore—notice the size of the Tribune or the Times?  How about Time or Newsweek?*  We’ve become a homeostatic amalgamation of bullet-listing, logo-induced information consumers.  You see it on the web, in The Church Bulletin, and in our printed media.

Why am I disturbed?  We need to read—words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books.  People have become addicted to bullet lists, cute narratives, and adorable jingles, and have become—functionally illiterate, or worse faux-literate.  To wit, we dumb down ideas to simplistic lists, not simplifying ideas, and create deep pits of ignorance.  We create cute little stories which tickle the ear, but leave out nuance, substance, and essence.  Our adorable jingles clang throughout the social intellect, creating a cacophony of competing sounds.

What’s this got to do with Bible study?  The Scriptures are also composed of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books.  The Scriptures have also been reduced to bullet lists (e.g., the “A, B, C’s of salvation”).   The Word of God has been relegated to milk-based narratives, good for initial growth, yet toxic when fed to the milk-addicted (c.f., Hebrews 5:12-13).

The Bible’s truths have been turned into adorable, but misleading jingles—e.g., “once saved, always saved” or “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”  The security of the believer is more than a jingle.  The grace of the Lord God Jehovah is the only thing which keeps us out of hell itself—it is the power of God unto salvation, not a catchphrase for Madison Avenue.

Some edgy ideas have been articulated here; ironically, I doubt few will read them.  We’ve become a people who don’t read.

*Ironically, Newsweek went out of business shortly after this was written.

Lessons from My Youngest Daughter


Image by DTPorter, Photos at Your Place

Recently my youngest daughter was expressing her passion for worship—she lives and breathes it.  People often kid her about how she removes her shoes when leading worship at church, but she quietly reminds them of Joshua 5:10-15. Once when discussing how different people worship differently, she taught me something special, something very special. “DaddyTom,” she said, “you worship through your Bible study.”

I was taken aback. Yes, I’ve always enjoyed Bible study, but I’d never thought of it as worship.  Recently, my Pastor, Dr. Joe Alain, taught a lesson about worship at Thrive.  He showed from Isaiah 6 that worship was a response to the Lord God Himself.  Wow. Yes, Bible study usually pleases me intellectually, and sometimes in Bible study He awakes in me the very presence of God. As a student of the Word, I shouldn’t be surprised, but here was my 26 year old teaching me something special—worship’s reward is God’s presence. Wow, again.

Of course, I turned to the Scriptures. Wow again. About studying the Scriptures, the Psalmist said,
       How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  and
Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light for my path.

No wonder.  My God enriches me with His sweet words, and He lights my path.  Praise to the Lord God!