Why Hide Who You Are?

Identity is pretty important. There are aspects of all of us, including our nation, of which we are embarrassed and ashamed; but it’s pretty radical to desert your roots and heritage because of a few bad apples and because the times have changed. There are a few corrupt law enforcement people and some bad doctor; but God forbid that we damn them all! America is sin-sick, on a collision course to disaster; but I’m an American, and not ashamed to say so. Even when I’m in Europe or Egypt! There are some REALLY corrupt preachers; but I’m a preacher, and not about to hide it by calling myself spokesman or messenger or some other watered-down name.

There’s power in a name. It’s a distinctive. It tells people who you are, what you believe and lots of other information about you. On a check, on a legal document, on a marriage license, on a tombstone! It’s you. It’s your church. It’s your moniker. It identifies you, sets you apart! It brands you.

Jesus has a name. No other name carries more scorn, has been hated more. This name has been mocked, ridiculed, prostituted, abused and smeared. Every imaginable godless thing you can imagine has been done in the name of Jesus. The Conquistadors pillaged, conquered and murdered in the name of Jesus Christ. This day millions hate Him and the truths that are uniquely and distinctively His. Should we change His name? Should we rename Him to something without so much controversy and baggage? Should we hide who He really is in hopes of attracting people when our real goal is to bring people to Him?

I don’t mind telling you that Jesus is the sweetest, most precious name I know. I don’t say that arrogantly or defiantly; I say it humbly and sincerely. I want to bring everybody I can to Him. I don’t want to hide Him; He told me to put Him on a candlestick and exalt Him. I know the name of Jesus turns off multitudes of people, there’s a built-in offence in the cross; but we dare not change His name or His message. There is no hope anywhere else.

These days there is a wave, a move among good people to vail who they really are. The motive seems to be noble; we want to reach more. Since so many people are turned off and want nothing to do with Christians of strong convictions, the growing trend among churches is to hide or mask who they really are. The idea seems to be that we don’t want those we hope to reach to be turned off by our name.

There’s a lot of baggage in the name Baptist especially Independent Baptist. Oh yes! It is sadly true that some of us have been pretty ugly: cantankerous and ill-tempered, mean-spirited, negative and critical, unreasonable, anti-intellectual, extremely judgmental, self-righteous, harsh and lots more. Some of our brethren want to shun that image. That’s understandable; but to erase name, your identity and vail who you really are? I have observed that most of those bad and repulsive characteristics cut across the board: Baptists of all stripes, Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Bible churches; and yes, atheists, homosexuals, Americans and the populace in general. The grass always seems to greener on the other side of the fence, but it rarely is. It’s easy to jump out of a frying-pan and land in a fire.

There’s a deceptive ring to hiding who you really are in order to reach people. Maybe your name no longer fits, and you need to change it; but to basically be who’ve always been, and hide that reality so that prospects won’t recognize you till you’ve got ‘um somehow flies in the face of integrity and fundamental honesty. I see no justification of deception anywhere in the Bible.

I’m a Hutson, an American, a Christian and a Baptist. In all of these areas of my heritage there have been some really godless people; but I’m still a Hutson, an American, a Christian and a Baptist. I’m not about to let God-dishonoring people in either category drive me away from my heritage, my name. It saddens me to see Baptists dropping Baptist while calling themselves baptistic. What kind of mind and word game is that? I for one am glad to be identified with that long heritage of men and women who since Christ have stood for the Bible at a great price. I’m not ready to disassociate myself from them in beliefs, practices or name.

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

Old things: old coins, old furniture, old thunderbirds and corvettes, old churches, old people, old preachers, old songs, old doctrines. What about libraries and museums which are full of old books, microfilm and other historical artifacts? Is a Holocaust museum important? Should we revise our Constitution and our history textbooks? Is the Constitution an evolving document? How about the Bible? Should we listen to Einstein, Henry Morris and Spurgeon? Is it time to abandon “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Should we throw caution to the side and buy the new catch phrase, “If you keep doing the same old thing you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting the same old results you’ve been getting?” Is there something fatally wrong with the beliefs and practices that got the message of Christ to this generation in spite of 2,000 years of overwhelming odds? What’s so wrong with preaching, praying, singing, giving and the Lord’s Supper? Should we be so ready to desert an English translation of the Bible that has single-handedly had a greater impact upon the whole world for the last 4 centuries than all other books combined?

Age alone is not the determining factor in whether or not something is good or bad. Claims or words alone do not determine the truth or validity of anything. It has been well said that things are not always what they seem, but they are always what they are.

God has weighed-in on this subject. Big time! In His 10 Commandments (not suggestions), He said great weight (that’s what honour means) should be placed on fathers and mothers. That includes immediate parents, but also the wisdom of the ages. This commandment was to all Israeli children about their immediate parents, but it was also to the nation corporately (Exodus 19:3). “That thy days may be long upon the land which The Lord thy God giveth thee” is a promise of national longevity in the land, not merely a promise that any obedient child would live to a ripe old age. For Israel (or America) to prosper and survive from generation to generation in the land, she would have to master respect for the wisdom of the ages. (In the context in which God gave these commandments the thinking of God must remain society’s central authority and guide.)

Dad and Mom are not infallible or right on everything; neither is your beloved old pastor or forefathers in the faith. But, beware lest you flippantly toss them aside. Doctrine and practices that have stood the tests of time and lasted for centuries merit serious consideration. All of them are not bad. People have been getting saved, worshipping God and mentoring a next generation quite successfully for a long time. Yes, there is considerable baggage in much that’s old, but it’s never good to throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.

There is a new battering ram on the scene for beating up old churches, old preachers, old music and many things long held sacred: “If you keep doing the same ole things, you’ll keep getting the same ole results.” The man currently in the White House was swept into office on the promise of change. Like the Pied Piper he piped and the multitudes fell in line without thinking through what change really meant. Obviously things have not turned out very well. It’s pretty easy to jump out of the frying-pan right into the fire. It’s always wise to look before you leap.

There is old baggage, but there is new baggage too; and old baggage can turn up as new baggage in different clothing. You don’t get away from cantankerous, mean-spirited Pharisees by changing names or locations. Hypocrites, bullies, the rude, the unprincipled and those without integrity seem to be everywhere. Such things are human-nature, character problems. They are universal and not limited to Baptists (Independent or otherwise).

“Honour thy father and thy mother” is a part of God’s bulwark against change for the worse. Idealism does not always bring about improvement. Just look at Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and a world that has embraced Darwinian Evolution. These days old-line churches, old men like me with old Bible beliefs like mine and the way we’ve done church for a long, long time are taking a pretty bad beating. The seekers, the emergers, the millenniums and others have a better way. Many are leaving the old paths that somehow got the glorious truths of God to us. The verdict is still out; but I suspect that when the final word is spoken and God’s appraisal of what was glitter and what was gold is made, those who gave serious consideration and weight to the thinking and positions of their fathers and their mothers will be glad they did.

While We’re Talking About Bibles

The Devil has a reputation for being evil; not dumb or stupid. He ever seeks to use the chief tools of Christians against them, especially the Word of God which is commonly called the Bible.

I spoke of translations in my previous blog. That ole deceiver has flooded the market with translations of the Bible all claiming to be the best, the real deal. Imagine the message to children and to unbelievers who don’t have a clue about source texts and translation methods. Here we are in church where the claim is that we have the Word of God and that it is inerrant, inspired of God and 100% true and consistent in all it says; however the copy in my hand does not match what the preacher says, and several people around me have copies that are different from either mine or the preacher’s. Now that’s a strange message to get in church!

But, that old Devil is at work on other fronts too. He’s working to get Bibles out of church. Yeah! Really! Why bring your Bible to church when everything is right on the screen in front of you? You don’t need the extra baggage. Look around in your church. How many Bibles do you see? They’re vanishing! I suspect Satan is pretty happy about that. It’s an ominous sign that they’re vanishing from homes too.

When you can barely find a used copy of the Word of God in the house of God, it’s not hard to understand why more and more people have trouble locating the books of the Bible, especially those like Obadiah and Nahum. Yes; basic stories are fading from the collective mindset of society even in the Christian community. There was a day when at church people were exposed to the Bible. They learned its books, chapters and verses; and most Bibles were full of highlights, underlined passages and notes in the margins placed there by people of God who deemed them as especially precious. My mother’s Bible had tear stains all over the pages. She read it and wept.

Video projectors and screens are great tools. Power Point presentations are powerful learning aids. But, they cannot replace the Bible as the central document in church. Let us project our sermon outlines and list references to the Scriptures we use; but God forbid that we create an environment in church where people don’t need the Bible! “And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD,” 2 Kings 22:8. You’d think that of all places, the Bible would always be found in the “in the house of the LORD” which is the church. Increasingly that is not the case; however, technology (like smartphones and eReaders) does provide new ways for people to bring the Bible to church and other places. The issue is not the format; the point is keeping the Bible in church and in the hands of the people.

Few things are more precious than used Bibles. There was a day when the Bible was not available to the common man. That day is called the Dark Ages. This day in America it’s harder to find them in churches. Yes, of all places churches. Let us always beware of what we’re doing and of the impact on us what we’re doing is having. May the Word of God never vanish from the house of God!

The Bible You Use

There was a day when the Bible was believed by most Americans to be the final word on any subject. That’s been awhile!

Is your Bible reliable? How do you know? After all, in most churches everybody seems to have a different Bible: the NIV, the NASB, the RSV, the KJV, the New KJV. The list is long. The preacher or teacher reads from his Bible, but your Bible is different. You look a little deeper and realize that the difference is not merely a choice of words; there’s a difference in meaning, a substantial difference. Wow! How many Bibles are there? They all claim to be the Word of God, but they don’t all say the same thing. How many Bibles did God write? I thought there was only one true Bible. How can this be? How do I know which one to believe?

The devil is a master at creating doubt. He does it right in church! Really! With the pastor, my Sunday school teacher, the people who are supposed to know, those who’ve been to seminar and are learned, “scholars!”

It is a bit unsettling to know that the Bible translating and publishing business is driven primarily by dollars and cents, not the need for a better translation. Publishing houses make money by selling; they’re not in business to produce a better, more accurate translation of the Bible. They are somewhat like those who build automobiles and other machinery. They can’t afford to build a car that lasts a long time; they have to build cars to wear out soon. They make money off parts and selling more cars. One car for the ages is a bad idea. And, so it is with Bibles. To stay in business publishers have to keep selling Bibles. Since God gave only one Bible, publishers found their fountain of youth in translations. Your Bible is old-fashioned, out-of-date, antiquated and written in English that is obsolete. You need a new and better translation. Oh yea, and the trick keeps working! It doesn’t seem to work with Shakespeare or the Canterbury Tales, but it works with the Bible. And who are the shakers and movers who convince the masses that they need a new Bible? It’s mostly the scholars: seminary professors, language experts, theologians, professionals and often pastors. Ironically most (yes, you read it right: most) of them do not even believe the Bible. They don’t believe the Bible’s claim of divine creation, that Adam and Eve were literal, that the account of Jonah is literal, that Jesus Christ is divine, that He performed miracles or that He’s coming again. They think God should be referred to in the neuter, think women should be preachers, approve homosexuality and endorse same-sex marriages. Yet deep, sound Christians snap up their new and better translations like they were candy. Go to Lifeway and see for yourself. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an old translation of the Bible. We can’t wait to get our hands on the latest, newest version of the Bible. The driver? That “old English” is just too hard to understand; I want something in today’s English. My teacher, my preacher said this is really good, better.

It’s never a bad idea to look before you leap. Anybody who exercises even the slightest amount of brainpower realizes that God wrote only one Bible. Not many; just one! He wrote it in Hebrew, Chaldea and Greek. History proves beyond reasonable doubt that by end of the 16th century a Greek standard of God’s original Bible had been established. (No, there is no original copy of any book of the Bible. There are thousands of very old copies, mostly in part and a few in whole.) For several centuries credible scholars have been in essential agreement that the standard Greek text is almost an exact replica of the original autographs which God gave to the prophets and apostles. The original Bible emerges from the agreement of the vast number of copies. God gave His Bible one time. Serious, thinking people know that our objective is to get a translation that is as close to the Bible God gave as possible. (If you know Greek and can read it for yourself, you don’t need a translation. Most of us can’t read Greek and must get the Bible in a translation.) The scholars of our day (real and pseudo) are in almost universal agreement there has long been an English translation that captures God’s Greek Bible very well. It is the King James Translation which has been around for right at 402 years. In spite of their considerable baggage, the King James translators got it pretty well right; even the critics admit that. Yet, the flow of new translations never ceases.

I am a King James Version man and I’m not ashamed of it. However, I am not saying that it is the only good English translation of the Bible. I know the KJV is just a translation and that it has shortcomings. I also know that so far there is not a better, more accurate English translation of the Bible than the King James Version. It’s a plenary (word for word) translation; not a dynamic equivalent (some person’s summary of what God said). The King James translators were honest enough to italicize words they added for clarity’s sake; others don’t tell you what they changed. Our God who gave the Bible has not finally lost it in a maze of translations. However when you go to church and hear several conflicting Bibles all claiming to be the one revelation of God it surely seems He has.

It is obvious that a seedbed for doubt is created when any person (and especially a church) cannot settle on a translation which is as near to the original autographs as is humanly possible.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  When a truly more accurate translation of the Bible from Greek into English comes forth, I will be very interested in it. I’m not holding my breath; the money is not there. The multitudes are not hungering for truth; they are far more interested in easy-reading and watered-down concepts even when truth takes a beating in the process. I am amazed at how successfully Satan has blinded the minds of so many pastors and teachers to the mixed message of many translations in a church. The doubt in the integrity of the Bible created thereby is enormous. A rapidly growing number of people do not believe a true Bible any longer exists. After all, their pastor and church leaders have different Bibles. Right there in church they hear many differing voices all claiming to be the Bible. Yes, a seedbed for doubt! Perhaps there used to be a Bible. Long ago God gave His Word; but it got lost. Now we don’t have it. We hear about it and what our pastor and other scholars think it said, but we can’t be sure. We really can’t be sure about anything because we don’t have a copy of Bible. We just have something close to it. And where did we get that idea? We got it in church where they really don’t have one standard Bible that they hold to be true.

The Bible you use, personally and in church; it does make a difference. It’s always good to figure out things and settle somewhere.