In Case You Were Wondering, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ In Case You Were Wondering: Wise Men, Astrology, and Horoscopes

Originally published June 25, 2015wise-men

I’ve heard that Christians shouldn’t read horoscopes or get involved with astrology, but weren’t the wise men who came to see Jesus astrologers? Maybe there’s something to astrology.

Well, if we were to say that, then we could also say maybe there’s something to stealing, too. Because, after all, that’s what got the thief on the cross to Jesus, and Jesus said that he would be with Him in Paradise that day. And maybe there’s something to persecuting and murdering Christians, too, because that’s how Paul came to encounter Jesus. But we don’t say those things because that’s not the way we rightly handle and apply Scripture.

There are two broad categories of Scripture: descriptive passages and prescriptive passages. Descriptive passages are descriptions of something that happened, like the story of the wise men visiting Jesus, or Noah and the ark, or David and Goliath. Prescriptive passages could also be called commands or direct instructions, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”

When we have a question about whether or not it’s OK with God for us to do something, say, consulting horoscopes and astrologers, we look first at the relevant prescriptive passages, such as Deuteronomy 18:9-14:

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.

While this passage was obviously written as a command to Old Testament Israel, we can still draw out some applicable principles for today by asking ourselves why “the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” God calls these practices an “abomination” several times and links them to paganism. Verse 14 is reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and 1 John 2:15-17, which tell us not to love or partner with the dark things of the world and to separate ourselves from such things.

This is a clear, prescriptive passage that answers our questions about following horoscopes and astrology, so this is where we get our instruction, not from a descriptive passage about someone who was an astrologer.

Additionally, there’s good reason to believe that the wise men who went to see Jesus were not astrologers in the same horoscope/tarot card/palm reading/fortune teller sense in which we use the word astrology today. The Greek word translated as “wise men” is magos (magi). Its primary meaning is “Oriental scientist,” a term which was also applied to teachers, priests, and physicians, among others. It would seem that the wise men were much more akin to astronomers than astrologers, and were learned in the Old Testament messianic prophecies as well.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, here are some good resources:

Should a Christian Consult Horoscopes?

Astrology and the Visit of the Wise Men

Were the Wise Men Astrologists?

Ezra Bible Study

Ezra: Lesson 6


Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Ezra 5

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, hegave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Questions to Consider:

1. Ezra 5 continues the story of events from chapter 4. Review Ezra 4:1-5, 24 (you may also wish to review lesson 5, link above). What event or activity is this passage dealing with? Cyrus issued the decree to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. According to Ezra 3:8, how many years did it take the people to get started? What year would it have been when they started? What does 4:24 tell us happened to the work on the temple, and when did this happen? The second year of Darius’ reign was 520 B.C. How long had work on the temple been at a halt as chapter 5 opens?

2. Which two prophets declared the word of God to Israel? (1) (You may wish to stop and read their books right now to grasp God’s message to His people.) What was Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s response to the word of the Lord? (2) How is this an example of God’s instruction to Christians in James 1:22? Do you approach Bible study and the preaching and teaching of God’s word with the willingness to be a doer of God’s word and not a hearer only? What is the most recent action you have taken as a result of hearing or studying God’s word?

3. What happened once the rebuilding of the temple started up again? (3-4) What did the elders do despite this opposition, and why were they able to do so? (5) What attribute(s) of God’s character and nature does verse 5 display? How do these attributes apply to Christians today? Take a moment to thank God for His love and care for you.

4. How would you characterize the tone of the letter Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai sent Darius (businesslike, attacking, deceptive, etc.)? (6-17) In verse 8, they refer to God as “the great God.” Why might they have called Him that in light of the thousands of other gods worshiped in the ancient world? How might their view of God have been a cause of concern that Israel was building a house for Him?

5. Re-read verses 11-16, keeping in mind that this was a “might makes right” world. How might the leaders of a secular nation, wishing to make a show of strength to neighboring nations, have responded to these inquiries? Yet, how do the elders of Israel respond? What do they lead off with in their response? (11) How might verse 12 have made Israel look in the eyes of their neighbors? For what spiritual reasons might the elders have chosen to respond this way? Political reasons? What are some ways we can point our adversaries to Christ through humility and by crediting God and His sovereignty in our lives, churches, and the world?

Politics, Tragedy

Eternal Lives Matter



As many of you know, I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the Alton Sterling shooting took place two weeks ago. Since that time, multiple intense, but peaceful, protests have been conducted.

On the coattails of these events, Sunday morning, as you may have seen on the news, we had an ambush shooting about seven miles from my house in which six law enforcement officers were shot and three were killed. Investigators subsequently discovered that the shooter had traveled to Baton Rouge from out of state with the specific intent of killing police officers.

I haven’t commented on these events until now because I really haven’t known what to say. Like everyone else, I’ve had emotional, gut level reactions to these tragedies, but it’s not always wise, or necessarily godly, to express those raw reactions in a public forum. I couldn’t think of a way to share my thoughts in a way that would build y’all up in Christ, so I just remained silent.

But now, having had a little time to process everything, I wanted to share the following thoughts and observations with you:

• Pour the gospel into your children, grandchildren, children at your church, and any other children in your circle of influence, that they might come to know Christ as Savior at an early age and walk in His ways all the days of their lives.

The same day Alton Sterling was killed, my 20 year old daughter was in a serious car accident. She could have been killed. It struck me later that, in a moment, my child was spared while, in another moment, another mother lost her child that day. If my child had died, I know she would have stepped into eternity with Christ. I don’t know if Alton’s mother had that same comfort.

We can’t guarantee our children’s salvation, but we should do everything we can to raise them in a Christ-centered way. We never know when their last day will be.

• When someone loses a loved one – whether that loved one is sinner or saint, cop or criminal, black or white – it hurts. Deeply. Those of us who belong to Christ must reach out to people who are hurting and minister the love, peace, and comfort of the gospel to them, regardless of their circumstances.

• “Herd mentality,” so to speak, has to stop. We have to stop seeing people – whether we’re talking about “the black community” or “the police” or any other segment of our culture – as groups and start getting to know, love, and share the gospel with people – one on one – as individuals.

One of the things I’ve observed in the past two weeks is intentional, proactive acts of love, kindness, friendship, and neighborliness between individual protesters and police, between individual citizens and police, and between individual black and white citizens. Viewing people as impersonal groups rather than as individuals distances us from them and even allows us to feel superior to them. Christians view people as Christ views people- individually created in the image of God, individually loved and cherished by God, and individual sinners in need of a Savior. We must – individually – invest in the lives of other people, loving them, caring for them, sharing the gospel with them, discipling them.

• The election isn’t going to solve the problems we’re seeing in our communities. Neither are laws. Neither are protests, speeches, community unity events, ecumenical prayer vigils, care packages, celebrity opinions and appearances, community improvement grants, or any of the other usual responses to these kinds of events, even though some of them may be temporarily helpful.

We seem to have the idea that, “If we would just _____, the world would be fixed.” And I’m not so sure that’s the case. As I mentioned in this recent article, the world is the way it is because of sin and the Fall, not because of our failure to “do something”. No matter how busy the church gets, the world is generally going to continue to get worse. Our job as Christians is not to fix the world, it’s to stand firm in Christ wherever He has planted us and to rescue as many people around us as we can with the gospel. Our message to our neighbors is not that we can make the world a better place, but that Christ is our only hope regardless of the state of the world.

In these perilous times, Christians must be completely focused on Christ. Worshiping Him, trusting Him, proclaiming Him, and reaching out to others in His name.


The Mailbag: I’ve been asked to teach a Beth Moore study…



I’m part of the women’s ministry leadership at my church. We did a Beth Moore study last year. A lot of things bothered me about it, but I kept my mouth shut because all of the women who participated loved the study. Now that I have read your article, and others, on the theological problems with Beth Moore, I understand why I had so many issues with the study. Today, I was given a copy of another Beth Moore book so that I could prepare to teach it in the fall. I can’t do it, and I feel like I’m the only one in my church who sees a problem with Beth Moore studies. How should I handle this situation?

I always want to be very careful about making definitive statements about how people should or shouldn’t handle specific scenarios with people I don’t know and circumstances I’m not familiar with. Instead, I’d like to share with you what I would do in a similar situation. I encourage you to think and pray about it and ask God to help you decide if this would be the wisest approach for your situation.

First, I would spend some serious time in prayer. I would pray for the the other members of the women’s ministry leadership, as well as my pastor and elders, and ask God to open their eyes to see, their minds to understand, and their hearts to embrace and desire biblical truth. I’d ask God to give me the wisdom to know how best to approach this situation and the right words to say. I would ask Him to make my motives pure, biblical, and loving.

Next, I’d gather the leaders group, or the main leader, or whichever people I felt were appropriate, and kindly, gently, and biblically explain the problems with Beth Moore. At some point before or after this meeting, the pastor or appropriate associate pastor or elders would need to be given a heads up as to what was going on.

Finally, I can’t tell you how often I hear from women who say things like, “My church is offering six small group Bible studies right now and they’re all using book studies (Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, etc.). I just want to study the Bible itself, but they won’t offer a class that just studies the Bible.” I would express that to the women’s ministry leadership during the meeting and, if they continued to insist on using a Beth Moore book, offer to teach a class on a book of the Bible as an alternative for women who might prefer studying the Bible itself. Churches usually like to be able to offer various options to their members.

I would also be prepared for strong opposition. While I would be hopeful that the women of my church would love Christ and His word more than they love Beth Moore, this, sadly, has not been my experience when dealing with diehard Beth Moore disciples. My experience has been that when you topple an idol, her worshipers will defend her at almost any cost.

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected



Is It Really All Our Fault?

all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?


It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.


Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.