Tag Archive: doctrine

The Majority Fools

The “majority rules” way of picking sides is not always smart. Especially when it comes to the things of God and matters of the kingdom. Often, as the majority rules, the majority fools.

We’ve all seen examples of this in the world, such as when kids side with the bully in a school yard fight, or when juries convict innocent men to life or death sentences who are later exonerated.

I saw this happen to a pastor once. Not in a court of law, mind you, and not quite on a school yard. But this pastor was wrongfully accused of being a “striker brawler” by the unanimous vote of his deacon board even though they knew he had never even threatened to hit anyone let alone actually hit anyone. All it took, apparently, was a grossly embellished story by one of the deacons who knew it would be his word against the pastor’s because there were no other known eyewitnesses to the incident. Couple that with the fact that this deacon always prided himself on his ability to talk anyone into the ground until they cried “Uncle!” — except the pastor, who knew it takes more than sheer quantity of words and cleverness to make good ministry decisions. 

Despite the overwhelming lack of independent evidence, the deacon’s powers of persuasion worked on the other deacons. The pastor was quickly dismissed from his post and banned from the church with one day’s notice, without his back pay or severance pay, and without an opportunity to give his side of the story to the congregation.

Many of the church members and other collaborators with the ministry took the deacons’ unanimous vote as evidence enough of the pastor’s guilt. Most did not. Either way, the majority rules mentality caused a devastating church split. An eyewitness to the incident later revealed himself to the pastor to corroborate the pastor’s account. But it was too late.

As the majority ruled, the majority fooled.

This “majority fools” concept is of course not new. One of the best biblical examples is found in Numbers 13 and 14. God told Moses He was going to give a certain area of land to the people of Israel, but first He had him choose twelve men to go and spy things out. All twelve men came back agreeing it was a rich land, but the whopping majority of them doubted they could take it — and convinced all the people of the same. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, had faith to believe God would be with them to give them the victory.  All the people picked the side of the majority, to the point that they even talked about stoning the two dissenters!

So, what happened? God got angry because of the people’s contempt and decided everyone of that generation would not ever enter the promised land except Joshua and Caleb and their families. The ten men who spread the bad report, causing the people to grumble and rebel against The Lord, were struck down with a plague. It was at that point that the people decided to go and try to take the land, but it was too late. God had already withdrawn His will for them to succeed and they were attacked and chased away by the enemy.

The most obvious and notorious example is that of the Passion of Jesus Christ. After being betrayed by one of His closest disciples, Jesus stood trial in a kangaroo court as the religious leaders presented false witnesses against Him. He was convicted, beaten and then scourged within an inch of His life. Worst of all, the same people who had just hailed Him as King during His Triumphant Entry were now zealous for His death! They mocked Him, spit on Him, struck Him repeatedly and cursed at Him as He carried His Cross all the way up the hill to Calvary. The crowds who were once praising Jesus, now wanted Him dead. Just like that.

I’m not using these stories to prophesy or even hint anything about what did, should or might happen to those deacons and the church members and collaborators who sided with them. All I’m pointing out is that, when it comes to matters of God’s Kingdom, in some form or another: 

When the majority fools, destruction often follows.

Of course, the only way the majority fools is because people let the majority rule. Not that people want to be made fools. But people are either lazy enough to let the more vocal or prominent do their thinking for them; or they’re naive enough to think “majority rules” is a reliable way to tell right from wrong; or they have their own selfish ulterior motives.

Or, they just always automatically follow the crowd without a second thought.

That happens a lot among God’s people, especially today. Unsuspecting sheep blindly follow unsuspecting sheep who blindly follow the most popular “shepherds” — i.e., pastors, teachers, authors, life coaches, conference speakers and talk show personalities — who can then lead the sheep any way they want.

One pastor I admire described a spot-on parallel between God’s sheep (believers) and real sheep. In a flock of real sheep, the ones behind automatically follow the ones ahead. That’s why it’s easy to lead a whole flock to the slaughter, or at least to the shearing. Sheep are short-sighted and gullible because they by nature just follow each other without checking to see where they’re headed.

In addition, their wool is sheared because if it wasn’t, infection could spread quickly. Since sheep tend to stand and move tightly together in a filthy environment (they stand in their own and each other’s excrement), long wool attracts the filth and gets transferred easily from one sheep to the next.  Keeping them clipped and periodically moving them forward helps protect the whole flock. Plus, sheep dogs, while often a scary annoyance to the sheep, are invaluable for protecting them from ravenous wolves and preventing the sheep in front from straying in the wrong direction where the whole flock will follow.

See how important the sheep are to the shepherd? That’s why there are all these efforts to keep them safe and healthy. They are invaluable even if they are vulnerable.

And that’s why, in the church, a good shepherd of God’s flock understands the level of responsibility his job holds to keep the sheep safe and healthy in light of their tendency to kind of go with the flow of the whole crowd. He recognizes the value but also the vulnerability of the sheep God puts in his care. So, he uses the purging and pruning and forward-moving (spiritual growth) effects of God’s Word, the Bible, to keep them free of “infection” so that it won’t spread to the whole flock. And he supplements his sermons with ministry tools used like sheep dogs — Bible studies, Bible reading programs, Christ-centered worship, counseling, Bible workshops, his own example, etc. — to help prevent the sheep from straying and to equip them against ravenous wolves.

Of course, some Christians will still be fools for the “majority rules” way of thinking in church. Despite even the best shepherd’s efforts, there will still be those sheep who stray and take some of their unsuspecting fellow sheep along with them. There will still be some sheep in the church who will get wooed by the wolves in sheep’s clothing who manipulate them with clever words, or “infect” them with false doctrine, or lure them with empty promises, or blind them with their bling, stadium-sized congregations and endorsements from celebrity demi-gods like Oprah.

Part of the solution is to remind the church that, even though we are indeed God’s precious sheep, we are still more than real sheep. (This may be obvious, but why don’t we act like it?) God has given each of us the mental, emotional and intellectual ability to think, to discern, to investigate and to make reasonable and fair decisions about matters of the Kingdom. He has given us the power to resist the mindless draw of the crowds and those who woo, lure and blind them. And He has given us the instructions for measuring right from wrong based on what His Word says and not on what the majority says. Because God’s Word is what really rules.

Please remember, the majority was wrong in the case of Joshua and Caleb versus their fellow spies; and the majority was wrong when they demanded Christ’s brutal crucifixion. Hold on to the truth that God’s Word rules over the majority — especially in this day and age when the majority of people around you, even some fellow believers, are becoming less and less tolerant of your strong faith in Christ and your reliance on the scriptures. (See the Why I’m Not Reluctant page.)

Let this be a regular refrain as you keep your focus on Jesus the Lord: When it comes to matters of His Kingdom, as the majority rules, the majority fools; and as it fools, it can lead to the fool’s destruction.

Please share your thoughts by commenting below. I will endeavor to respond as soon as I can.

Candy

My youngest son was only two years old when he told his dad, “I hate the devil — but I don’t hate his candy!”  Somehow he was able to put together the evils of the devil and the “goodness” of candy — and still feel no shame!

Isn’t that typical of all us? Maybe not exactly like a two-year-old. But for all of us to some degree, personal pleasure is priority. This is reinforced at a lot of our user-friendly churches, too (the core message of the Prosperity “Gospel”).  Sure, we know the devil is bad. And sure, we know that often too much of a “good” thing is also bad. We may even know that the things that please us the most are sometimes the things that can hurt us the most.

But whether pastor or pew warmer, we still like what we like, and we still want what we like, and we still, most of us, go for what we like — with the added boost of the pastor’s teaching and lifestyle.

But how many of us also know, as my son seemed to have stumbled upon back then, that a lot of things we like most in this world are the very things the devil himself uses against us?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10a).  The devil wants your soul; and if he can’t have that because it already belongs to Christ, then he’ll kill your witness. Either way — and indeed with the help of many pastors, teachers, counselors, conference speakers, authors, prayer partners, song writers, life coaches and “reality” show celebrities — the devil’s tactic is to turn your eyes away from the things of God and toward the things of the world. Your heart and life will shortly follow (Matthew 6:19-21,24, NIV):

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Consider candy. It tastes great. And once you get a taste, you always want more. If allowed and without a balanced diet, you’ll eat it ’til you’re sick and toothless.

Same with the pleasures of life in this world. Aside from vices like drugs, our “candy” may be material wealth, attention, status, work, recreation, food, sex, whatever. There’s nothing wrong with wanting genuinely positive things in life, especially if they were purposefully created for our enjoyment within the proper context ordained by a loving God (e.g., sex in marriage). But leave it to the master of all deceit to distort priorities and pervert those things into objects for our overindulgence. ‘Cause once you get a taste, you always want more.

As one televangelist has wholeheartedly endorsed: “Too many houses, too many cars, too much money!”

Any overindulgence has its corresponding price. The more “candy” you consume without a proper balanced diet of God’s Word and without self-control, the more price you’ll have to pay. Your life will be fed to the full on “empty calories” with no real nourishment to sustain your spirit, bear good fruit and affect the lives of others for the sake of God’s eternal glory. You’ll indulge ’til your spirit gets sick and your witness lacks teeth.

As just one example, 1 Timothy 6:10 says (NIV), For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Consider this even more: The same warning we give our kids about don’t take candy from strangers should also apply in how we all make decisions for our lives (including what church to go to). This is true for non-Christians, as well. The devil entices us with all the various pleasures of this world until we’ve been lured right into his cleverly-disguised trap. He distracts and distorts and deceives until the saved become ineffective in this world and the unsaved remain eternally lost.

To prevent this, we all must be discerning and live by God’s will for our lives. As 1 John 2:15-17 shows us, “candy” corrupts, but God’s will is food for life:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he that does the will of God abides forever.”

I’m Afraid of the Dark

I’m afraid of the dark. Not the kind that keeps little children awake at night, hiding under the covers.  The dark I’m talking about is real and is causing great harm to Christians, our families and our churches. 

The dark I’m talking about is spiritual darkness that saturates the world around us and has been seeping into our churches for generations, but today seems to be spreading like wildfire among us, and even within us, at an alarming rate.  

We do need to be aware and awake about it, not hiding under the covers from it but being vigilant against it. 

I think of what the Apostle Paul said at least three times in his second letter to the Christian church in Corinth – a bustling metropolis in his day that was very much like Los Angeles and other major cities around the world today. 

At least three times Paul told them, “I am afraid.”

First, he said he was afraid that the Corinthian Christians were falling for false doctrine (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Then later he said he was afraid about their attitudes and lifestyles — specifically, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder (12:20). Then he said he was afraid he would find them in unrepentent impurity, sexual sin and debauchery (12:21). 

In all three instances, if I can say it this way, the Apostle Paul was afraid of the dark. 

He recognized the shadowy influences of the world – the lack of discernment, false doctrine, pride, lack of repentance, lack of self-control, and shameful carnality – that had found their way into the Corinthian church and the hearts of many of its members.  These things reveal spiritual darkness in any heart and church where it is tolerated.

Like Paul, we need to fight against it.

How?  First, by not being afraid of it like naïve little children who think putting the covers over our heads makes it go away, and by not being so ignorant or so self-absorbed into our own prosperity to think it’s those folks’ business or problem and not ours. 

Second, by letting the light of Jesus Christ shine brightly through us to the rest of the church and the world. 

In other words, let the Son shine!

The more that people and churches let their pastors shine, or their self-appointed apostles, or their ministries, or their contest-winning choirs, or their material wealth, or their vast memberships, or their “new revelations,” or their doctrinal “movements,” or their favorite talk show idols; and the more they tolerate marital infidelity, and financial manipulations, and back-biting, and deception, and heresy; and the more they put victims in bondage about forgiving without accountability, the less they shine the light of Christ to hurting, backsliding or fearful Christians, or to lost and dying souls. 

On the other hand, the more we fight against the darkness by trying to let the Son, Jesus Christ, shine through us – by our humility, brotherly love, sincere worship, good stewardship, biblical knowledge, Spirit-led wisdom, chaste lifestyles, edifying dialogues, sound doctrine, careful counseling, and good deeds – the more our precious, dark-destroying Lord will be glorified!

Do you think spiritual darkness has seeped into today’s Christian churches? To leave a comment, click on the article title or the number next to the comments icon just under the title, and then scroll down to the end.

The Emperor has no clothes!

What do you do when you know someone is wrong about something, but they are just so convinced that they’re right? What should you do?

Now, let them have some sort of higher status than you — more popular, more experienced, of higher rank, an expert, more highly esteemed. Now what do you do?

But let’s not stop there. What if not only is this greatly esteemed person so convinced they’re right, but so are all of their adoring fans?

How are you supposed to handle that?

Here’s how a lot of people handle it: they just don’t say anything. Or, they just go with the flow and affirm it along with everyone else. Nobody wants to be labeled the odd man out, or a hater, or a troublemaker. Nobody wants to make themselves a target of the ridicule of the masses.

Remember the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? The king of the land allowed himself to believe that his new royal outfit would only be invisible to the common person, the less sophisticated, the less important. Only the elite of the land would be able to actually see the king’s clothes and appreciate its exquisite, superior quality. In fact, he decreed it across the kingdom, so everyone was given the heads-up: If you can’t see the clothes, there’s something wrong with you.

So, what happened? As the proud, self-important king paraded along amongst his citizens, showing off his new regal duds, everyone exclaimed in awe how absolutely divine he looked. Of course, what they were really thinking is what was really the truth, that this dude was strutting in his underwear. But everyone was afraid to displease him and to disagree with the rest of the crowd who were all shouting their praises.

Except for one young boy who was pure enough to just tell it like it is: “Look! The Emperor has no clothes!”

Immediately, everyone realized their folly, with the disgraced king running for cover — literally.

In the Christian church today, sometimes somebody needs to be straightforward enough to just say something. You don’t have to be some special somebody to do it. As long as you have the truth as measured by the Word of God taken in proper context, and as long as you’re truly not a hater or a troublemaker, the truth is all you need to qualify you to simply tell it like it is.

The goal is to help people see things the way they really are so that everyone can grow in their understanding of God’s Word and thereby be able to apply it effectively. The motive in saying anything should be brotherly love and encouragement, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. See 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:1; and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

But too many people in the kingdom don’t want to be seen as common. Many of us can see that the emperor — that is, our beloved pastor, our favorite televangelist, our popular reality show guru, and our top psycho-inspirational speaker — is misinterpreting a scripture, teaching damnable heresies, mistreating the sheep, or guilty of unrepentant sin. But because of the emperor’s status, and/or because of his or her adoring fans, we’d rather rationalize their folly away, tell ourselves, “Oh, God will handle it,” or be intimidated to “touch not God’s anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22).

It’s not easy to speak up. I know first-hand, it doesn’t matter how gently you approach it or how clearly you can show it from the scriptures (e.g., the context of 1 Chronicles 16:22 shows that the “anointed” is the whole nation of Israel), some people just won’t accept the truth. Not only that, they will then somehow try to diminish you for saying something about it in the first place.

For instance, recently a Facebook friend — another pastor’s wife whom I only met online — posted something and I sent her a private message saying how I appreciated her heart behind the post, and that I wasn’t trying to start anything, but that it wasn’t quite biblical. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but I do know it was important enough to point it out to her. We dialogued nicely about it for a minute, and I purposely kept saying to her I wasn’t speaking on any authority except what I could see from God’s Word.

She soon said to me, “Oh, you’re one of those bible-toting, scripture-quoting Christians.” To which I replied, “Aren’t you?!” What else has any authority for matters of the Faith?

Her last message to me told me I was making her want to unfriend me, which she then immediately did.

Less dramatic than that but still troubling, a very likeable inspirational speaker, published author and life coach in the Los Angeles area told me via Facebook that Romans 3:23 — which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” — is actually telling us that God wants us to live out our full potential in this life so that we can give Him more glory. She included a reminder that she’s been in ministry and teaching on this for many years. I didn’t feel it necessary to list any of my little credentials. (If you’re interested at all, please see the Who She Think She Is? page.)

I told her I thought the context was about eternal salvation through Christ, but I promised to go back and check, because I want to make sure I’m on the same page with God.

And that’s what I did, not just starting at Chapter 3 verse 1 but Chapter 1 verse 1 all the way to the end of Chapter 5. I already knew I was correct, but I need to practice what I “preach” about using scripture in proper context.

Why bother? Because her many fans could be led down an attractive but ultimately destructive path if they misunderstand the Apostle Paul’s message about man’s fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves, and our need for a Savior to rescue us from eternal punishment and bring us to awesome fellowship with our Heavenly Father forever. To get anything but that out of the context of Romans 3:23 — indeed, to even read that very verse any other way — is to ignore what is otherwise so easy and so eternally crucial to see.

So, I felt compelled to say that the emperor has no clothes. Not like that, of course. But I went back a few days later to this lovely person and told her what I had discovered. Her response was that she did not remember our dialogue.

“No worries,” I reassured her. “But still, what do you now think about that verse?” She never replied. We remain FB friends, though, so that’s good, I guess.

You don’t need to be of high status, esteem, rank, experience or expertise to be able to say outloud when the emperor has no clothes. All you need is an open bible, basic reading comprehension skills, faith for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to you, the willingness to be corrected yourself, and most of all a heart for fellow believers.

People will reject you, call you names, belittle you. But as long as you are relying on God’s Word and not your own or your pastor’s or some other man’s or woman’s, you can be at peace about it because their issue is really with God and not you.

More and more there are people and preachers and popular personalities who put themselves on a pedestal, and the gullible will blindly affirm them or in some other way, even with their silence, enable them. Who is willing to say with me, by the authority of the Holy Bible and for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone, please, open your eyes!

Leave a comment, and I will endeavor to respond as soon as possible.