“A Study of Distinguishing Between Essential and Secondary Beliefs of Christianity”

This study is a result of my Pastor’s sermon on Sunday, July 20, 2014 in which he dealt with how we handle secondary teachings. It was a good message. I asked him as I departed how do we determine what is primary and what is secondary. He smiled and thought that would be a good study so I set out to study this matter and share some thoughts!

Note: A framework for this graph came from a study by Matt Slick (see below for link to his page). Using Matt’s framework I have added to his and made my own points.

These are my views and you may disagree with me on both the points and how I categorize them but I believe everyone should develop a list similar to this.

1) Essentials beliefs that are foundational to being a genuine Christian

The Bible is the Word of God and His revelation to us.

There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8).

Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1, 14; 8:24; Col.
2:9
; 1 John 4:1-4).

Man is sinful and cannot be redeemed apart from the work of Christ

Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:1-2; 5:1-4).

The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:8-9).

Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:14).

Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6, Acts 4:10).

2) Primary beliefs are those that the Bible does not necessarily declare as essential to salvation; however, to affirm otherwise may be evidence of lack of regeneration since they are foundational to the Bible and the fruit of the regenerate mind and heart. I am sure there are strong arguments for moving some or all of these to the essential category above and some may feel they can be moved to a catergory below. These are issues that in my view require separation, that is if one does not hold to these I would have a hard time having genuine Christian fellowship.

God exists as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Non-Trinitarians deny this

Jesus was born of the Virgin

So often it seems once the Virgin birth is denied other critical doctrines are also denied

Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6).

 I could easily place this in the essential category

Moral integrity as expressed in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).

Can one willfully continue to ignore and break God’s moral law and claim to be regenerated?

Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships.

This is one that probably would not have been considered 10 or more years ago. It was practically universally understood that marriage was between a man and a woman. When I was growing up and in my younger years of ministry it was not even in the conservative/liberal continuum. Everybody understood that marriage was between a man and woman!

Failure to recognize the sanctity of life, including the unborn.

Indeed I do not believe that a person can knowingly accept the pro-abortion position and be genuinely regenerated.

The condemnation of sexual immorality.

Sexual morality when I grew up and for most in that generation was understood that sexual activity was moral in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Premarital, extra-marital, homosexual and other deviations were seen as immoral. I see no Biblical reason to change this understanding.

Inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

I hold to the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and feel it’s a solid foundation of belief. I feel once one begins to accept that the Bible may have errors it’s very hard to stop and becomes arbitrary as to what the errors are.

View of creation

I hold to the plain teaching of Scripture on this matter accepting Genesis account as literal. It seems to me once you begin to accommodate it’s very hard to stop. I struggle whether this should be placed in this category or in the category below. Within my own denomination many now hold to a Theistic evolution type view.

Whether water baptism is necessary for salvation (Acts
10:44-48
).

These are those who believe that baptism is essential (baptismal regeneration). I hold that it is the norm and should be practiced but is not essential.

3) Important: These are issues in which earnest Christians who hold to the above essential and primary beliefs may hold varying viewpoints on. These may be strong enough to require a separation but should still be seen as disagreement among genuine Christians. These issues vary by region and one’s background. These are doctrines and practices that one may consider very important but are not essential to salvation. Examples include:

Doctrine or practice

My view (which may differ from yours!)

The deeper issues of how God works such as predestination, election, limited atonement, and free will.

Certainly there have been denominational separation because of these beliefs but I am content to just believe God and get all this sorted out with the understanding I will have in the future!

Whether to worship on Saturday or Sunday

Strong views are held on this matter. My custom has always been Sunday worship. I am of the belief that the practice of the early church was to worship on Resurrection Day but I have met seventh day worshipers who I believe have earnest faith.

What one believs about the various endtimes viewpoints such as Pre-, mid-, post-trib rapture or Premill., Amill.,
Postmill., preterism.

Because of my background and who taught me I am pre-trib, pre-millinial but this matter should not separate!

Whether one holds that there is a continuation or cessation of the charismatic type gifts.

I have been influenced by and hold to the continuation viewpoint but nevertheless spiritually benefit from those who hold the cessationist outlook. Of course among what is considered charismatic there is a lot of variety

Whether baptism is for adults or infants.

I was raised in a church that practiced infant baptism and was baptized as an infant. I accepted Christ in high school and all my discipling has been of the belief in believer’s baptism (not necessarily adults)

Attitude toward divorce and remarriage (Still in agreement that marriage should be a livelong commitment but what to do about those who do divorce as Christians or come into the faith divorced)

This was a huge issue in our denomination about 30 years ago. Initially whether to accept into membership, then local church leadership then ministry.)

Whether to have musical Instruments in church.

All churches I have ever been a part of have used instruments but some Christians believe in singing w/o instruments.

How churches are governed (known as church polity), pastoral role, who owns the property, etc.

I have served churches governed congregationally. After seeing the property disputes of mainline churches that depart from the faith and then demand a huge settlement if a Bible faithful local church leaves the denomination to keep there own building I would not support such a method!

Moderate use of alcohol

We were both raised in homes and have practiced abstinence from alcohol. This was (and still officially is) the viewpoint of my denomination as well as many others. I realize now there is a current “liberty” outlook among many Christians, especially younger, now hold. That is drinking in moderation is fine. But we have no regrets in holding and teaching a view that abstinence is the best policy. I can see no evidence that drinking alcohol has become safer and makes life better but I have seen plenty of evidence otherwise!

Body tattoos and piercings

My have things changed! This may also go in the category below. I have several friends with earnest faith who have chosen this.

View of modern Israel

In my circles we tend to support Israel in part due to the Bible prophesies, in part due to the history of oppression of the Jewish people, in part a tiny nation surrounded by enemies although amazingly others are called them the underdog! I recently had a discussion with a man who sees Israel as the aggressor.

Justice/compassion view of liberal Christians

Liberal Christians tend to assert they hold the view of justice and compassion and thus conservative are not for justice and compassion. This is not true but rather what we see as just and compassionate. But it’s
easy, and sadly in our sound-bite age effective, for them just to assert, “you just don’t care about people.”

I am sure there are many other doctrines and practices that fit into this category

4) Secondary non-essentials (although I realize this is the 4th category) These are issues that people may have very strong feelings about and may even influence the type of church one attends. These issues vary by denomination and even within denominations, background, region and age. Some issues important to some are never even considered by others. However these are not issues that determine salvation.In my pastor’s message this last Sunday this is the category he was speaking of.

Whether to practice Communion weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.

This is a preference. In the denomination I served as pastor the custom in most churches was monthly. The church I presently attend it seems is quarterly. To me I prefer at least quarterly

Music style in church (hymns or choruses, traditional or contemporary, what types of instruments, etc, etc, etc!!!)

For the record my preference is congregationally dominant vocals, although I am not opposed to instruments (I can sure do without loud drums though!) I enjoy singing music from all generations including our own., that is old hynms and doctrinally sound contemporary

Dress: This covers a lot and differs from region to region and age to age. Early in our experience it was women not wearing pants. I have a pastor friend who was raised with a belief in not wearing shorts (something that never occurred to me)

Most would agree  that dress should be modest but of course this is a matter of opinion. I personally regret whatever happened in the last 15 or so years where people come to church in all manner of dress. I suppose I am old-fashioned but I still believe people should treat church as special at least Sunday morning

Headcoverings

This was never an issue in churches we have been in till we moved to the Lancaster area where it has been and for some still is an issue. Depending on where you live you may be thinking “What’s a headcovering?”

So many other examples could be used here and I am sure there are many in this category I have never heard of.

For instance when I first moved to the northeast Pennsylvania youth camp allowed “mixed bathing” (boys and girls swimming together) while the district to the south forbade it.

When Brooksyne grew up the women had long hair, often placed in a bun. This was considered part of expressing one’s faith.

The degree in which the Lord’s Day is kept consecrated.

This esteem has practically crashed in my lifetime. Still some hold it very sacred, others attend church and then feel free to do anything just as any other day. Of course many do not even attend church services and in many of the larger churches have an option to attend Saturday evening anyway. My view: I feel we were stronger morally when the day was set aside!

I came across the following resources in my study

http://carm.org/doctrine-grid (Matt Slick who gave me the idea of using the graph)

http://www.christianpost.com/news/when-mature-believers-disagree-on-secondary-doctrines-77254/

http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/primaryandsecondary.html

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/262246/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/So_what_are.aspx

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/06/22/getting-secondary-issues-all-out-of-whack/

http://www.reformationtheology.com/2009/08/primary_and_secondary_doctrine.php

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/03/eight-issues-that-do-not-make-or-break-christianity/

http://bengarry.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/primary-and-secondary-issues/

http://www.hieropraxis.com/2012/04/debate-in-apologetics-secondary-issues-of-primary-importance/

http://sharperiron.org/article/secondary-separation-should-christian-brethren-ever-separate

http://utown.org/~utown/cms-assets/documents/129289-969832.secondary.pdf

http://theworldfrommywindow.blogspot.com/2007/03/al-mohler-on-primary-and-secondary.html

http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/2013/08/is-gay-issue-secondary-theological-issue.html (Excellent perspective)

 

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“A Biblical Perspective On Gambling”

This message is an expansion of the Daily Encouragement message prepared for Wednesday, May 14, 2014 titled, “Who The Real Winner Are!”

Gambling is now massively promoted by our own government as a solution for “good causes” Initially PA lottery beginning in 1971. Now casino gambling as heavily promoted by our current government.

How do we “find out what pleases the Lord” v. 10

  • By examining what God’s Word commands
  • By examining what God’s Word prohibits
  • By examining Biblical principles on issues not specifically addressed.

The counsel of our elders
Danger of getting used to it.
Danger of reasoning everyone’s doing it.”

Ephesians 5 gives us some powerful principles regarding all issues:

Let us apply these considerations as we consider the appropriateness of gambling

1. We are called to be imitators of God 5:1

2. Among us there is not to be a hint of … 5:2

3. We are not to be deceived by empty words, “Let no one deceive you with empty words” v.6

4. Prohibition of ungodly partnerships “Therefore do not be partners with them.” (v.7)

5. We are called to live as children of light “Live as children of light” v. 8

6. We are to live by this “What pleases the Lord?” “find out what pleases the Lord” v. 10

7. We are to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness v. 11

8. We are to be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise v. 15

 


 

The following report was adopted by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God on August 10, 1983 and the points remain valid.

Gambling, both legal and illegal, is a phenomenon gaining unprecedented acceptance. Because it is so widespread, Christians must look at this activity to determine the ethical and moral implications.

Gambling Defined

Advocates of gambling often try to place this activity in the same category as other ventures which involve risk. They describe farming, business, insurance, and even investments as gambling because the outcome is unpredictable and losses can occur. In this way they hope to transfer the respectability of legitimate ventures to gambling.

L. M. Starkey, Jr., has made the following helpful observation: Life does have its normal risks which one must accept with faith and courage. These normal risks are in no sense equivalent to the risks in a game of chance. Gambling devises artificial risks in the hope of excessive gain far beyond what the investment of time, money, or skill would justify. In gambling the chance is unrelated to any creative effort called for by the farmer or the stockbroker in the responsible investment of his mental, monetary, and physical funds.

1. To distinguish gambling from risks involved in legitimate venture it will be helpful to recognize three factors integral to gambling:

(1) An incentive consisting of money or merchandise is offered.
(2) The prize is acquired primarily on the basis of chance.
(3) A payment of money or other consideration is required to become involved in the chance taken.

2. Gambling then is recognized as any activity in which wealth changes hands, mainly on the basis of chance and with risk to the gambler. Creative effort, useful skills, and responsible investment are not integral factors. Because gambling exists in many forms and people in increasing numbers are exposed to its temptations, the responsible Christian must form an opinion concerning its propriety. The legalization of gambling by government or its acceptance by some religious organizations cannot be a criterion for evaluation. The Christian attitude must be determined by the principles of Scripture.

God’s Attitude Toward Gambling

God’s people in Bible times apparently were not greatly tempted with gambling. It seems the vice manifested itself only when Israel was dominated by heathen nations. When gambling did occur God clearly indicated His attitude concerning it. During their Babylonian captivity the Israelites came under the influence of people who gambled. As a result some of the captives also became involved. To these people God through Isaiah said, “Ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number” (Isaiah 65:11, KJV). As indicated in some modern translations of the Bible, the Hebrew words translated “troop” and “number” were names of the heathen gods “Gad” and “Meni.” To the heathen, Gad was the giver of good luck. Meni was the god of bad luck. The translation of Isaiah 65:11 by James Moffat is as follows: “But ye who have forsaken the Eternal, ye who ignore his sacred hill, spreading tables to Good Luck, pouring libations to Fate, I make the sword your fate.” E. H. Plumptre, late Dean of Wells, has pointed out that Gad was worshiped as the greater fortune, the giver of good luck. Meni was worshiped as the lesser fortune. George Rawlinson, who at one time served as professor of Ancient History at Oxford, has indicated the name Meni “designated a deity who apportions men’s fortunes to them.” The sin for which some of the Israelites were condemned was trusting in luck rather than God. Isaiah made it clear that trust in God and trust in luck cannot coexist. If people rely on chance it is evident they do not rely on God. Isaiah described those who trusted in gambling as “they that forsake the Lord” (Isaiah 65:11).

Biblical Principles: A careful reading of Scripture makes it clear there are numerous biblical principles which indicate gambling is an evil to be avoided. When people recognize God’s authority they will honor the principles which indicate gambling is evil.

1. Gambling is wrong because it is a disregard of responsible stewardship.

The Bible clearly teaches that all things belong to God. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Since all things belong to God, people are placed in the position of stewards who must give a proper accounting for everything given to them in trust. The first step in a faithful administration of this stewardship is the giving of self to God. Believers must recognize they are not their own (1 Corinthians 6:19). They have been redeemed with a price, not of silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18,19). The churches of Macedonia set a worthy example of personal dedication when “they gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Life, with all it involves, is a stewardship to be administered for the glory of God. People who honestly dedicate themselves to God will also recognize that all they possess must be handled as a stewardship. The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30) indicates that the good and faithful servants administered the talents entrusted to them in such a way that the master was pleased. The wicked and slothful servant failed in his administration and suffered the appropriate consequences. When people recognize their stewardship responsibilities they will not consider gambling in any form a proper administration of divinely bestowed resources, time, and ability. Even the ethics of the world will not tolerate those who gamble with resources put in their trust. Christian responsibility transcends all other responsibility, and for the Christian, gambling is wrong. It is a total disregard of the principle of stewardship. It is a prostitution of God-given assets which should be used to glorify God and advance His kingdom.

2. Gambling is wrong because it involves a chance of gain at the expense and suffering of others.

The nature of gambling is such that a person has a chance of gain only because others have suffered loss. The economic benefits come only to a very few. The financial loss is borne by many who usually can least afford it. The fact that people involved in gambling are commonly referred to in derogatory terms by its promoters is an indication of the status to which they are reduced. Whether or not the financial loss is excessive, gamblers are basically the losers while the operators of gambling establishments are the winners. The suffering caused by gambling is totally inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture concerning love. Not only is the Christian to love those who are lovable, but even enemies. God’s people are to love their neighbors as themselves. The principle of love will prevent Christians from gambling because of the damage it does to others. The principle of love will cause Christians to oppose any effort by the state or any other organization to legalize any activity based on a weakness of people which degrades society. William Temple, late Archbishop of Canterbury, stated the Christian position well when he wrote: Gambling challenges that view of life which the Christian church exists to uphold and extend. Its glorification of mere chance is a denial of the divine order of nature. To risk money haphazardly is to disregard the insistence of the Church in every age of living faith that possessions are a trust, and that men must account to God for their use. The persistent appeal to covetousness is fundamentally opposed to the unselfishness which was taught by Jesus Christ and by the New Testament as a whole. The attempt (inseparable from gambling) to make profit out of the inevitable loss and possible suffering of others is the antithesis of that love of one’s neighbor on which our Lord insisted.

3. Gambling is wrong because it is inconsistent with the work ethic of Scripture.

Throughout Scripture the importance of work is emphasized. In several places the correlation between working and eating is stated. The Old Testament reminds us, “He who works his land will have abundant food” (Proverbs 12:11). In the New Testament the same principle is stated with great forcefulness. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “When we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’ ” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Not only does the Bible require that one should work for the necessities of life, but it also warns against the something for nothing, get-rich-quick approach. “One eager to get rich will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 28:20). “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil [envious] eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22, KJV). “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Proverbs 13:11). In the wisdom of God work was assigned in the garden of Eden even before the Fall (Genesis 2:15ff; cf.1:28). Though sin resulted in a change of the nature of work (Genesis 3:17,19), the responsibility of working was never rescinded. Any effort to circumvent the work ethic of Scripture can result only in failure. Gambling, whether to secure wealth in a hurry or to place bread on the table, is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches about work.

4. Gambling is wrong because it tends to be addictive.

Gambling, like other evils, has a tendency to become an addiction. As in the case of alcoholics and drug addicts, compulsive gamblers are dominated to the extent that they risk not only money, but everything meaningful in life. They have lost control of themselves. This condition is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. The Word of God points out that a Christian will refuse to be brought under the power even of lawful things (1 Corinthians 6:12). The person indwelled by the Holy Spirit will be characterized by temperance, or self-control (Galatians 5:23). Those who have studied gambling addiction seem to agree there are six symptoms characteristic of compulsive gambling: (1) The activity becomes chronically repetitive. (2) It becomes a mania which precludes all other interests, including the home. (3) A pathologic optimism replaces the ability to learn from previous losing experiences. (4) The ability to stop in a winning situation no longer exists. (5) In spite of initial decisions to gamble only so much the addict invariably risks too much. (6) The activity seems to produce an enjoyable tension consisting of both pain and pleasure. It is obvious that habitual gamblers are under the control of the compulsion to gamble. Rather than being servants of God, they are servants of a desire they cannot handle. Paul described the condition clearly when he wrote, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey?” (Romans 6:16). Because of the degrading possibility of addiction, gambling should be considered an evil.

A Summary of the Christian Responsibility in Relation to Gambling

When the various truths of God’s Word are considered, Christians cannot adopt a neutral stance toward gambling. There are responsibilities which they cannot ignore. When the Bible instructs believers, “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), it certainly precludes gambling. God is not glorified when people put their trust in chance rather than in the Lord. When God’s Word teaches that we should “avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) it precludes gambling. There is no way in which a practice can be considered anything other than evil when it violates principles of God’s Word concerning stewardship, consideration of others, and the dignity of honest labor. Those who want to live according to Scripture will refrain from participation in any form of gambling. As the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) they will also do all within their power to discourage the legalization of gambling, whether to raise money for charity, church, or state.

 

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Some Observations On “Obamacare”

These health insurance/health care observations are written from the perspective of a common sense consumer. I am not in the insurance or medical business nor am I a politician. This article describes my current experience and deep frustrations with changes in the health care in America.

I have managed to buy health insurance since I got married in 1976. Ironically I sensed a duty to do so in the event my wife Brooksyne got pregnant (although as any who know us are aware she never did). We were both healthy and had no motive other than that but of course life is unpredictable at any age with accidents and diseases never expected. At that time I had no assets and really, as many did then and do now I could have been irresponsible and not paid the bill or strung it out having a financial load on us for years. At that time I am sure the premium seemed high and surely it was money we could have used for something else. After all, there’s always been something else to spend money on and things a lot more fun and interesting than paying an insurance premium.

The health insurance policy I have had for several years and which works fine for our family was cancelled effective 12/31/13. I understand many are getting the same letter

Why are we being deluded as if it’s only since we have the new Obamacare system people can finally get health insurance? At times I’ve had to buy individual policies such as when I first got married, at other times covered through a group policy as I had through many years of full-time pastoring and through a group plan in our district here in PA. The last several years it’s been an individual policy purchased directly through an insurance company (Highmark) when the district canceled the group plan.

Policies under the law that seem “compassionate” such as raising the age of dependents to 26, no lifetime limits and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions seem to me to throw the whole concept of “insurance” askew. Under these policies how can premiums not increase!  Also should we go to a single payer government run system as I and many others suspect is actually the goal of the left will we really have the unlimited lifetime benefits that are now imposed upon the insurance companies because it’s “compassionate”?

A look at these three expressions of “compassion”. (The three that I can think of, there may be more)

1. Raising age to be a dependent under the parent’s plan to 26. Surely this changes the likelihood the insurance will be used and this premium, often company-paid, will be raised. You are not getting something for nothing. As I recall this had been through 22 years of age or four years of college, the assumption being at that time you would get a job providing health insurance or be responsible and buy your own policy. Of course kids now go to college through their twenties getting advanced degrees and so forth. If 26 is compassionate wouldn’t 30 be even more compassionate? As Nancy Pelosi says let the young pursue their interests w/o having to worry about healthcare! But why 30? Be really compassionate and make children dependent for life. (Oh wait, better not give anyone any ideas!)
2. No lifetime limits. Using any degree of common sense how in the world can this work in a true insurance sense? New and ever more expensive technologies are always being developed and if there was no limit no telling what could be possible both to extend and improve life. When we go single payer be certain this no lifetime limit will not be applied at least for the common man although I would not be surprised if certain political types would see it!
3.  No denial for pre-existing conditions. On the surface this seems reasonable, compassionate and fair. It’s presented as someone who lost a job which had health insurance provided and then due to a pre-existing condition cannot get coverage. But in this case there is already Cobra, yes it’s very expensive but available. I just can’t imagine how the system will be gamed with this provision. Wait till you need insurance and then go for it, save the premiums in the meantime. Also as I recall there is higher premium policies already for people who have high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. You just paid a higher rate. That’s the way all insurance works. However I do realize some are between a rock and hard place on this issue, who have sought to live responsibly and yet find themselves in a tough spot.

Why health insurance is needed:

1. Being able to pay your medical bills, which may be huge, unless you can self-fund. This should be a primary reason for a responsible person. A Biblical ethic is that we seek to pay our bills.
2. Protecting assets if you have a home, savings and other assets. If you don’t have any assets under the present system you still get care and then have to deal with massive bills you may never pay and they can’t imprison you for debt! I suspect many do this now. But we have sought to be responsible in life, owning our home and having some savings and retirement. W/O insurance this could be wiped out.
3. Based on my reading of the Explanation of Benefits (EOB’s) and an experience about ten years ago you don’t get the insurance negotiated rate if you don’t have insurance but rather pay the full “rack” price. Ten years ago I had surgery at Lancaster General Hospital. At that time I had a good Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy and prior to the surgery verified that LGH accepted the policy. However at that very time Blue Cross and Blue Shield separated and there was a short window that there was a lapse in coverage due to negotiations with some of the departments at LGH, which I found out later work independently of the hospital. Although my hospital and surgeon’s bill and other fees were covered two departments (anesthesiology and urology) did not have an agreement with Blue Shield in that short window (this affected many people in central PA for a several month period in early 2003). Turns out the top executive at the hospital at that time had a substance abuse problem and was on leave at this time and was later fired.  Although with good leadership all departments should have been required to accept the negotiated rate and they did so again about a month after my surgery. But the greedy business manager for the anesthesiology department insisted on the full rack rate, seeing this as an opportunity to gouge those caught in that window. He would not accept the negotiated rate which still would have been much more than the rate I would have paid if the insurance was working as it should have been. After several letters he sent the bill to collection and after having an attorney look the matter over and seeing what it would cost for him to intervene I just paid the bill of 3,000 dollars, although the negotiated rate would have been about $1200 as I recall and if the insurance was working as it should have been it would have been several hundred dollars. (The Urology department kindly accepted the negotiated rate.) The point is that having insurance, at least in my case, was needed to get the lower negotiated rate. I wonder how many that don’t have it at all are charged the full rate?

Ironically I see some merit in the concept of the individual mandate although I hate to see the government impose this. People should be responsible for their lives and prepare ahead. Presently many who could are just relying on government “compassion” to pay their bills which means many that are planning ahead actually end up paying their costs if they use healthcare. As mentioned above any of us can find a more exciting way to use our funds than paying insurance premiums. But I think there are other ways apart from forcing people to buy insurance although I haven’t thought through all the ramifications. For instance what if health insurance was strongly recommended and it was made known that if taxpayer funds were used to pay one’s medical bills due to failing to have insurance that the amount the government paid would be deducted from the paycheck until amount was paid. Of course this does not sound very compassionate! So many are conditioned that someone else richer should pay the bills.

Presently I pay my own health insurance premiums for a plan with relatively high deductibles, copays and co-insurance. I would sure rather use the money I pay for premiums ($1,041 per month in 2013) for something else, but it’s part of life. Many who have company paid health insurance are unaware how much this costs the company although some are now paying a portion and some companies inform what these costs are although many still would pay no attention to this. The health insurance premiums paid by the company are not taxable and the federal government presently gives those who pay for their own premiums a means of excluding these payments from the amount you pay federal income tax on. This does not apply to state and local taxes so self-payers do pay more in taxes than those who have company paid insurance. Of course a high end policy with low deductibles, copays and co-insurance is really valuable and I find it frustrating that salary comparisons usually don’t take this into account. For instance we are self-employed and offerings to our ministry and fees for our chaplain service comprise our gross income. From this we pay our ministry expenses as well as health care and retirement savings (when we are able to set aside funds aside for this).  What is left is the comparable equivalent for our “salary” in comparison to others who have company paid benefits. In 2012 that was $36,000.00 for our joint income which is $18,000 each yet thankfully we do well and don’t consider ourselves in need. I can’t fully explain why except we are thrifty and live a relatively simple lifestyle.

Why in the world is the healthcare.gov website such a big deal reportedly costing over 600,000,000 dollars! I suspect the amount of graft and corruption that went into this site is mind boggling. And of course that figure is probably way understated since it’s a government program!!! As mentioned above companies have been offering individual policies for years and already have websites and systems in place that actually work. Highmark actually has stores in our area. What’s more many insurance brokers are in business to sell insurance. (Private sector) Private websites typically work great and are far more complex than the healthcare website such as eBay and Amazon which surely handle millions of transactions daily and respond instantly such as eBay in bidding.

If they didn’t think people could manage to figure out how to get their own health insurance why didn’t they just develop a website that had links to insurance companies. As far as the “subsidies” based on income to help people afford it surely there’s a better way to handle this like a tax credit which would have utilized existing forms people are familiar with.

Like so many government programs even the bill’s official name is misleading (Affordable Care Act) with the word “affordable” yet many are seeing their rates go up and even more misleading is when the coverage is decreased such as higher deductibles. So even of your premiums do decrease the cost of your care will be higher.

I now understand that the mandate may be delayed for three months! That will work for those who do not have insurance and can delay. But I have insurance and want and need to keep it! Not having insurance and then having a major health issue could wreck or even wipe out many years of planning and saving.

Finally it really annoys me that anyone signing up for insurance through the website is counted as a score for the success of Obamacare. Wait a minute! My insurance was cancelled due to this law and now I must use the government website to get a policy. Based on my income I suspect I will be able to get a “subsidy” which I must use the site to get (unless someone corrects me). I wonder how many who have or will sign up are like me? It’s not an endorsement of Obamacare but rather a pragmatic way we are required to get insurance.

I suppose this remains to be seen but I wonder if premiums I pay for health insurance will be exempt from federal income tax as they are now. If not I just wonder how much of a net increase or decrease I will see even with the subsidy with higher premiums and deductibles and other costs.

Note: This article was written 10/29/13. Last night I tried to get on the healthcare.gov website and got this message:

The system is down at the moment.

We are experiencing technical difficulties and hope to have them resolved soon. Please try again later.

In a hurry? You might be able to apply faster at our Marketplace call center. Call 1-800-318-2596 to talk with one of our trained representatives about applying over the phone.

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Why did they eliminate the “old” NIV? (And the consequences of this action)

Shortly after our Bible College years the New International Version was published in the NT and then the entire Bible translation. We have read, studied and memorized from this version all through our ministry. I still use an early edition leather bound Thompson Chain reference Bible that Brooksyne gave me for Christmas in 1983. Through the years it was usually the first version used in preparing my sermons and then these messages. We have not only memorized many verses from it but due to years of reading and study may recall specific key words or phrases.

Specifically I was studying this weekend and recalled a phrase “a continual lust for more” in relationship to a topic I was studying. I went to an online Bible I often use (Bible Gateway) and searched to find a verse with this phrase in it but was unable to find it. I was frustrated since I knew I had partially memorized a verse like this but didn’t recall the reference. So I used another search method in this case through the daily encouragement archives and sure enough it is Ephesians 4:19.

As many know the NIV was revised in 2011 and the wording in many verses was slightly changed (they would say updated). I suppose that’s inevitable. What is frustrating is that I noticed some time back that the old NIV was no longer on Bible Gateway. This last weekend I did some study on this matter and came across a number of articles indicating I was not the only one frustrated (see below for links to several articles).

For some reason the publishers of the “new” NIV felt it necessary to remove entirely the “old” NIV from the market including internet editions!

But I do have some questions for the publishers such as:
1) Since the new version is substantially different why didn’t you just give it a new name and leave the old NIV alone? For many it had an established good reputation and as noted above removing it from online access and from publication creates many problems for longtime users.
2) Why did you remove the old NIV from the market as long as there is a demand for it? This demand will probably last through my lifetime and then some at least (should Christ tarry)

Others have explored this issue and no use writing what has already been written. Here’s what others are saying on this matter:

Have mercy on those who memorized the classic NIV

The NIV 2011 Forces a Choice

The Death of The NIV 1984 Bible (1984-2012)

Biblica kills online TNIV and NIV-1984

For those who may still prefer the “old” NIV or like me may be searching for a phrase you recall reading in it I was able to locate one online Bible that still has it http://www.biblestudytools.com

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“Preaching On Sin”

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine”(2 Timothy 4:2).  “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Preaching on sin; how the pendulum has swung even in my lifetime on this issue. Many my age and older will recall when sin was regularly addressed from the pulpit boldly and forthrightly. However now there’s (in my observation) far less preaching on sin and a great reluctance among many preachers to address sin specifically.  I have given some thought as to why this is so
:

1. Preaching on sin is seen as “legalistic.” Let me address several understandings of legalism as I have heard the word used:

  • Legalism is a system where it is preached or assumed that following a certain set of rules is the source of salvation. That is; what we do or don’t do in following these rules determines our eternal destiny. The faithful preacher must forcefully renounce this form of legalism.  The Biblical teaching is that we are saved by grace through our faith in Christ and His finished work.
  • Legalism to many means a varying list of man-made rules regarding all manner of issues such as dress, entertainment, technology, etc. These issues vary by geography, denominational background and age.  Brooksyne speaks of growing up with “clothesline” preaching where the preacher specifically addressed specific dress standards (usually focusing on the women).  She really didn’t understand grace till Bible College. The faithful Biblical pastor will see that any addressing of and denunciation of sin has a solid Biblical foundation and is not merely a cultural or personal preference.

However the man of God must be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God including addressing sin and its terrible consequences. Proclaiming the moral standards of Scripture is not legalism!

2. Preaching on sin may turn off newcomers or “seekers.” That’s true, particularly in this age of relativism in which we live. However the proclamation of God’s truth should not be motivated by this as long as the message also contains the gospel of redemption.

3. We need to focus on the positive and God’s love and grace. Absolutely, but again proclaiming the whole counsel of God will certainly include addressing sin.

4. This behavior is so popular and it’s now legal or “constitutional”. This is a major detriment to sound Biblical preaching. Many behaviors that were once recognized as sinful have become popular and  legalized according to the laws of man.  The law of God is far greater and our mission is to proclaim His law as truth rather than man’s.

5. We are not to judge others and we are to be tolerant of all. These are two of the dominant attitudes of our day. The apostle Paul, in practicing church discipline, passed judgment on the immoral brother and certainly did not tolerate his behavior in 1 Corinthians 5.

6. Addressing these behaviors is hateful and mean-spirited. This is silencing many preachers of righteousness. We are flooded with new meanings for hateful and mean-spirited, particularly if its addressing sins that are politically correct and have growing acceptance in society at large.

7. It will make those who may be involved in the sinful behavior feel bad about themselves. Better to feel bad and hear and hopefully heed a warning than live in ignorance.

8. Pastors may feel they shouldn’t address a subject matter unless they have it 100% conquered. Certainly we should expect our pastors to live a righteous life and not be a hypocrite. As the Spirit deals with them they should repent of their sin, seek to please God, and be an example to their spiritual flock.  However they should proclaim God’s Word even though they may not have fully attained.

A corollary attitude from the pew may be a feeling that the pastor shouldn’t preach on any subject matter unless he himself has no problems with it or any other issue.  You would have to wait for a perfect pastor (none exist) or more likely one who is proud and self-deceived!

9. People just don’t want to hear this kind of preaching anymore. Indeed some don’t. But our call to preach the Word and proclaim the full counsel of God is not based on popularity polls.  But let me speak here as one earnest Christian in the pew (as I normally am now since I am not in pastoral ministry at this time and thus regularly preaching from the pulpit. I feel I speak for many but of course not all.)

  • A strong denunciation of sin may not be the most “enjoyable” message but I am challenged and edified when I hear God’s truth proclaimed and sin denounced.
  • The issue addressed may apply directly to me.  Ouch! That can bring conviction, a healthy work of the Holy Spirit.   May the Holy Spirit keep my heart soft so that I may feel His conviction and deal with the troubling matter in my life rather than blame the pastor for preaching the Word. My discerning response should not be “this sure annoys me” but rather “is this true according to the Scriptures and what action should I take.”  If it is I need to deal with it and thank God for a preacher who cares enough and is bold enough to bring it to my attention.

10. The pastor may not have it completely right when seeking to apply a Biblical principle to a modern issue. That may be so but if you value your pastor you should also value his counsel, input, and thoughtful study on current matters. Listen as a Berean checking the Scriptures yourself.

11. Even issues very specifically addressed in the Bible may tend to be skirted around or in some cases reinterpreted from what has been their normal understanding. I am also wary of what some new translations and paraphrases are doing with words and traditional understanding of sinful actions.

May God help me and my many pastor friends to truly preach the whole counsel of God!

Stephen C. Weber

Please note: Certainly I am aware that many pastors continue to boldly address sin and my pastor has tackled many of these topics.

Also note that we expect to keep working on this article and welcome your comments/perspective.

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“A Good Minister”

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”  (2 Timothy 3:10,11)

One of the greatest means of ministry to others is our knowability.  I am thankful for the contributions that many have personally made in my life and through the years I have received spiritual input from a variety of sources.

Consider the typical Christian throughout most of the church’s history.  For the first 1500 years he didn’t own a Bible so he was totally dependent on a “cleric” for his understanding of spiritual things.  Sadly, many times this cleric himself was deceived and also led his people in deception.

With the printing press came the publication and availability of the Bible and other Christian literature.  Until the early years of the last century these were the sole source of input for most, apart from the ministry of the local pastor.  Then came the radio, TV, audiocassette and the videocassette, conferences and special meetings.  (I’m aware that with considerable effort some of our forefathers attended campmeetings and the like, which I suppose was an early form of conference ministry.)

We can now go to the internet and get spiritual food (and a barrage of deceptions as well).  Many of these additional sources have been good for the church and, overall, our people can be stronger in their faith as a result. (Amazingly however, I suspect that most Christians are weaker in their faith in our day than those of yesteryear!)

But we must remember the very distinct gift a pastor (shepherd) has to offer to a local congregation.  We know our people, and they can know us!  I can pick up little Seth on Sunday morning following the service and ask his Grandma how his asthma has been.  You see, I’ve prayed for little Seth and I visited him in the hospital when he had a serious flare-up.  I saw the burden this was to his Grandma and have called her several times inquiring about his condition.  This is a unique role of the pastor and no other “religious professional” will ever fill this position.

We need to remember, brothers, our ability to know and to be known by our people.  I’m not speaking of the cheap trivialization of this word so common today.  I once encountered an ardent follower of Oral Roberts who had received some letters when the “personalization” feature of word processors first came out.  His name was sprinkled throughout the letter so he was convinced that Oral Roberts had personally written to him!

2 Timothy is Paul’s final letter.  The recipient is his trusted long-time associate Timothy.  He writes “But thou hast fully known” (the NIV says “You, however, know all about”).  The underlying Greek word here is most interesting.  Paul does not use the typical word for “know” which is “gnosis” but a relatively rare one, “parakoloutheo”.  This word is used only four times in the entire New Testament.  Luke uses it in the introduction to his gospel where he is asserting the very careful research that went into his study and writing.  He writes “I myself have carefully investigated everything” (1:3).  The word for “investigated” is “parakoloutheo”.  For many years Timothy had the opportunity to carefully observe and investigate Paul’s life.  Our people are also investigating our lives as well.  What do they see?

The first recorded meeting between Paul and Timothy is in Acts 16:1 during Paul’s second missionary journey.  The young disciple joined Paul and Silas on this journey and we find him referenced abundantly throughout the remainder of Paul’s life.  Apart from the two letters written to him we find four other occasions in Acts where his name is specifically mentioned and he is referenced in eight of Paul’s epistles. (He’s also mentioned in the Book of Hebrews which some consider to have been written by Paul).  Paul knew Timothy, and Timothy knew Paul.

Now Paul is passing the torch and he calls to Timothy’s remembrance this long personal association with the words “but thou hast fully known…” The conjunction “but” places this verse in opposition to the false teachers and teaching referenced in the preceding verses.  The emphatic “thou” targets the charge right to Timothy.  Paul goes on to list nine characteristics of which Timothy had observed in his life.  I want to examine each of these characteristics and challenge you as to consider what people are observing in your life.

My doctrine – It’s interesting that Paul begins with this.  Paul teaches Timothy doctrine not only in the two epistles that he directed to him but surely all along their long journey together.  Pastors, are you teaching your people sound doctrine?  Do they know what you believe?  Do you have a plan to help you determine that you are presenting to them the whole counsel of God in His word?  Can you say to your people “You know my doctrine”?

My manner of life – This comes from time spent being together.  Some time ago I was speaking to a brother that related how he had sat across from a very well known Christian celebrity at a function. He made the observation that he was an altogether different person up close than he had presented himself publicly.  Timothy knew Paul up close and personally.  Men, do your people see your manner of life?  Have they seen you with your “sleeves rolled up”?  Have you been able to be transparent and bear your heart with them?  (Oh yes, I know some people want a mere caricature of a minister that is altogether ‘spiritual’ that they really don’t know.  And some ministers groom this image).  I’m touched by how real Paul is when he writes to Timothy.  Read these epistles with a filter on, looking for this realness in such phrases as; “do your best to come to me quickly”, “only Luke is with me”, and “do your best to get here before winter”.  Let God’s people into your life and see the overcoming, transforming power of Christ at work!

My purpose – Paul had adequately conveyed what drove him.  His purpose was clear.  The Greek word here literally means “a setting forth.”  Paul’s was not an aimless life, but one in which a sound determination had been made to fulfill God’s will.  Do your people know your purpose?  Do they know what matters to you?  Do they witness your passion for the work of God?

My faith – On the surface this may seem so fundamental that we may wonder why Paul felt a need to call it to Timothy’s attention.  Of course Paul had faith and was a man of faith.  Ah, the richness of the Greek word “pistis”, so diminished in our day.  The word means “a persuasion; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; and constancy in such profession.  Men, do your people see your faith in this light?  Do they understand the deep conviction you have in the Christian way?  Interestingly this word can also be translated “faithfulness” and surely Timothy had seen Paul’s faithfulness.  Do your people see yours?

My longsuffering – This is translated “patience” in the NIV and is another rich word comprised of two words, which indeed means to “suffer long.”  Wow, is this ever needed in pastoral work!  Do your people see your patience?  Do you demonstrate it to them personally and do they witness it in your life?  In our church we have a young lady (actually she’s in her late 40’s) who’s mentally retarded.  She can be a bit of a pest at times but is deeply loved by our church and has an earnest love for God.  At times her prayers have an unreal clarity that indicates she really does get it!  I realize the way I treat Sandy is being observed by our church and is a test of my character.

My charity – This is the old KJV word for love, which of course has morphed much since 1611.  The NIV translates it “love” and of course it’s the wonderful Greek word “agape”.  Do your people know that you love them?  Do they see your love for others, including the “hard to love”?  I once heard “Haven of Rest” speaker, Ray Ortlund, encourage pastors to periodically lean over the pulpit, make eye contact, and warmly tell the people that you love them.  It’s amazing the warmth that can come over the place when I’ve done this!  Many people are starving for real “agape” love from a pastor that cares.  Let’s give it to them.

My patience (“endurance” NIV)– Here’s another example of word confusion, likely due to the way language changes (sorry if we have any “KJV only” adherents out there!)  The Greek word used here is “hupomone” and conveys endurance, steadfastness or perseverance.  Paul was able to express his steadfastness in the next chapter when he wrote “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I increasingly appreciate ministers and ministries that endure.  In my 30 + years of ministry I’ve seen plenty of flashes in the pan, lot’s of glitz, and numerous fads (the fads that “You just gotta  see”).  I could mention some of them here and bring a smile to some faces but also might be misunderstood by others.  Men, do your people see your endurance?  You may not be able raise the crowd the way that flashy TV preacher does, but do you demonstrate the spirit of a plodder? Oswald Chambers has noted, “It is a great thing to see physical pluck, and greater still to see moral pluck, but the greatest to see of all is spiritual pluck, to see a man who will stand true to the integrity of Jesus Christ no matter what he is going through.”

My persecutions and afflictions – I’ll combine these two.  Paul calls to Timothy’s remembrance three specific times of persecution, perhaps typical of the many others he endured.  These specific persecutions took place on Paul’s first missionary journey before he met Timothy.  Timothy had likely heard these stories over and over, but there’s another reasonable conjecture here that I find interesting.  Paul’s first recorded meeting with Timothy is in Lystra, as recorded in Acts 16, and the record indicates that Timothy was already a disciple at this time.  Going back to Acts 14 we have the chronicle of that first journey and the persecution that Paul and Barnabas endured in Lystra.  Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city assumed dead (14:19). We also have a record of a small band of believers that Paul left, and on the return trip he strengthened in their faith (14:21-23).  Might Timothy have been among these believers?  I also find it interesting that Paul does not refer here to persecutions of which Timothy would have been a part, like in Philippi.

Men, how are you enduring persecution and affliction?  I doubt if any of us have the stories that Paul has but we all probably have some church stories to tell and may certainly disagree with the old phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones bur words can never hurt me”.  I know that words have hurt me!  Last year I went through the most painful period in my entire ministry and yes what people say about you does hurt.  But I wonder what others saw in me as I truly “endured” these afflictions.  Did they see the character of Christ being formed in me?  What about you?  How do you hold up under trial?

Let us realize the powerful impact we can have on God’s people as we are known by them in our special, unique position as pastor.  Let us hear this final charge from Paul to Timothy in this Pastoral epistle and let God’s people know us!  Let us, like Paul, demonstrate the character of Christ.

Stephen C. Weber

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