Pepper Grinder: Comments

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Regarding Ministry for the Average Person - Part 4

Thank you so much for this series. In addition to being fascinating I think it is a great corrective to our tendency in American culture (and the Christian variations of American culture) to value the heroic over the ordinary. In general we assume that getting up each morning and being faithful in ordinary ways does not count as much as doing crazy things. My question for you is, how might this interact with Ephesians 4:11-13 which talks about how God has given different gifts (for that matter is the list exhaustive or representative? The only talks that I can remember tended to assume exhaustive but I suspect they were wrong) to the church in order that the church may be built up for ministry. Whenever I've heard people talk about this the tendency is to take it for granted that ministry that people are built up for is of the whacky heroic kind. Thus we're building people up to go to the Amazon or to hold a weekly barbeque for their neighborhood which results in a revival. I'm not saying those are bad, but how might one build up God's people for ordinary service, like being faithful in trust and prayer and love with the same people over and over? What does Paul think?
-Joshua   February 26, 2017

You bring up a lot of good questions. I probably left some unanswered, but I took a stab at an answer in the piece I just posted: Equipping.
-Pepper   May 27, 2017


Regarding Comments

Seems to me that I got what I said I wanted. One of my children got it. :-)
-Susan   January 2, 2017


Regarding Comments

So apparently all your comments are going to come from family, but I wanted to suggest that I would love to see a post looking at the genealogy of Genesis 5. The argument is often made (and I tend to agree) that the genealogies shouldn't be understood too literally since they may leave out (multiple) generations. But how are we to understand one where we are told how long each party lived? Is Moses trying to tell us the time span between Adam and Noah?
-Joshua   December 31, 2016

Hmm. That's an interesting idea. I'll think about it, but as of right now, it isn't something I've given thought to. Let me cogitate on that one. Thanks for the suggestion! (Note: Joshua is one of my sons and is currently a seminary student.)
-Pepper   January 1, 2017


Regarding Comments

Well, I think it's cheating when your wife comments, but I thought I'd try... Seriously, though, I think you should give my prize, assuming I win, :-) to one of the children. I like your blog. I read the posts first, right?
-Susan   December 26, 2016

Maybe it's nepotism, but it doesn't bother me! (For those of you who don't know, Susan does double duty as wife AND editor. She does both very well.)
-Pepper   December 27, 2016


Regarding Let a Woman Learn

I think you made an excellent point about about God causing the punishment to fit the crime. Thanks for clarifying this passage.
-Elisabeth   November 14, 2016


Regarding Fruit Happens

Really good article! Congrats! And thanks for the choice of the tomatoes pic :-)
-Samuel   February 26, 2016

Note: Samuel is one of the excellent photographers who post their photographs on and allow people to use them for non-commercial purposes with minimal restrictions. Many of the photos I have used in this blog are posted on rgbstock. If you want to see more of Samuel's photos, you can view them at .
-Pepper   February 27, 2016


Regarding Legalism Blues

You mentioned that Paul said you didn't have to give up bacon if you had been a non-Jew and converted. You are mixing up the kinds of laws in the Old Testament. There were ceremonial laws and feasts that pointed to Christ's first advent, and the judgment. But there were also health issues, and these had nothing whatsoever to do with the faith. Take a step back and ask yourself what was symbolic about not eating coneys? Or pigs? God was concerned with the health of His people, and He was telling them which meat was safest to eat. And He was very clear on the matter. None of the animals given for food were scavengers or copraphagic. There is a text about Peter's vision that is twisted to mean we can eat everything, but Peter himself provided the interpretation of that text. There are others that have appeared out of the blue - can't remember the reference of one that says something like, 'Thus he declared all foods clean' - or words to that effect. Even if that text was a genuine interpretation, not all animals were to be regarded as 'food'. There are many Protestants today following the health laws, and benefiting from them. The Seventh-day Adventists in California are the longest lived people on the planet, and they follow bible principles. Even the bible points out that the body is the temple of God. When Jesus talked about not defiling the body by not washing your hands, He wasn't referring to the fact that e-coli can be spread on the hands, as we know. He was talking about spiritual defilement. This is a study you should do, and read broadly about it. The original diet didn't include meat. In heaven there is no death, so meat would not be on the table. The carnage and cruelty to animals is not approved by God - 'The righteous man careth for his beast'. There was none of this industrial horror in the past. We cause this because we like the taste of animal flesh, not because we need to eat them for health. Even the numbers of animals taken onto the ark were two of each unclean and seven of each clean animal. The bible narrative is given as an example to us, and we need to think about it in practical and every day terms, too. So I suggest you do a full study - prayerfully - on the subject of the health laws as something separate from ritual law. I suggest you go into it with a completely open mind, asking God to make your heart receptive if He wants to point out something you have missed. Remember, there is always something in the pages of the bible for us to see in a new light. The depths are unimaginable, and the lessons are multi-faceted. It is His word, after all. If you are certain you know everything, you will drag out the few favored texts - the one about the weak man eats only vegetables is a very deep one, and must be understood in context. Read commentaries from a whole range of thinkers and see if they gel with the Holy Spirit's promptings. Consider that it might be time for you to gain a deeper understanding of things. God says he wants us to prosper and be in good health. Kind regards.
-Lisa   January 17, 2016

Hi Lisa.
Thanks for your reply. Let me say right at the outset that I firmly believe that the whole subject of how we should eat is not something on which our salvation depends. You and I may disagree on how some Old Testament laws should apply to us, but I think that is totally okay--it is all within the sphere of what Paul calls 'disputable matters' (Romans 14:1, NIV).
I've heard the argument before about some Old Testament laws being decreed for health reasons, rather than religious ones. I think this is an appealing position, because it makes some of the laws which sound more baffling to us be nice, common-sense proclamations, made for the Israelites' own good. My biggest problem with this position is that I see no hint of this in the Old Testament. For example, when I look at Leviticus 11, where a bunch of the Jewish dietary restrictions are spelled out, I don't ever see God saying, 'Don't eat these unclean animals; they'll make you sick.' Instead, here are the verses that seem to sum up that chapter:
Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:43-45 NIV)
This sounds to me like God's primary concern in giving these laws is the holiness rather than the health of his people.
Another problem I have is that I don't see any clear distinction made between one type of minor Old Testament law and another. I can see distinguishing between the Ten Commandments and other OT laws, or between laws that were re-iterated in the New Testament and laws that weren't, but it is hard for me to see why a law not to eat pork is different than a law not to sow a field with two different crops, to name one example. To me, it seems like a case where people have elevated certain OT regulations above others because they like them better.
I completely agree with you that Peter's vision of the animals in the sheet was primarily giving a message about preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, rather than about diet. On the other hand, I do think when Mark adds the comment, In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.' in Mark 7:19 (NIV) that it means exactly what it says.
This doesn't mean I think all foods are equally healthy. My wife was a vegetarian for seven years, and we both started our marriage as vegetarians. We still eat a pretty low amount of meat by American standards (and mostly just chicken and turkey). We also cook almost everything from scratch and try to avoid things with additives. But, I don't feel that I can put a religious stamp of approval on how I eat. I think that someone who eats fast food five days a week may not be treating his or her body with the honor that the temple of God deserves, but I also don't think God cares nearly as much about that as he does about our hearts.
I also agree that peoples' original diet didn't include meat. However, I haven't found anything in the Bible which implies that being a vegetarian is required now. In Genesis 9:3, God explicitly tells Noah that he is now (after the Flood) giving him animals as well as plants for food. I don't understand why God would say this if what he really wanted was for Noah NOT to eat meat.
I would not want to go too far with using Romans 14:2 to say that a vegetarian has 'weak faith.' (The phrase 'weak faith' sounds very negative to our western ears, but I really don't believe Paul's main point was to paint a picture of people who didn't eat meat as second-class Christians.) I think we see Paul's real point in the very next verse where he says, The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. I just don't see how you can get from that to a point of view that says Christians should be vegetarians. All I am comfortable saying from this is that I shouldn't hassle vegetarians, and they shouldn't hassle me. We should both focus on pleasing the Lord.
Like you, I also doubt we'll be eating meat in heaven. On the other hand, I'm not sure we'll be eating anything at all. Whatever we do or don't do in heaven, I have doubts about how much we can use that as a pattern for how we should live now. Just to give one example, I don't believe I'll have a computer or a smart phone in heaven (I sure HOPE not!), but I don't think that means it's wrong for me to use those tools here on earth.
I am in the process of re-reading the Old Testament. I am praying that God will open my eyes to anything I may have missed previously (something I always try to do, and a prayer which God has answered MANY times). My prayer is that both of us will see whatever it is the God of the universe is communicating through the Bible.
Thanks again for writing!
-Pepper   January 18, 2016


Regarding He Gives Sleep

Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it. You both greatly clarified a passage I never quite got a handle on (Psalm 127) and challenged me to analyze what I do, and why.
-Elisabeth   March 4, 2015


I really like the way you put that story. God's going to bless you for spreading his word. Keep on keeping on my brother or sister.
-Ronnie   March 1, 2015

Thanks, Ronnie! I really appreciate the encouragement.
-Pepper   December 11, 2016


Somebody posted this on facebook and I found it absolutely fascinating. I think that what he says about men and women and how men are more likely to access their emotions through ideas and women are more likely to access ideas through their emotions was fascinating (and certainly I do emotions strongly through ideas) but more than that he talked (almost in passing) about how we try to attract men into our churches they same way we try to make Big Macs popular again, which is okay if we are trying to sell something and much less okay if our goal is one of discipleship. I thought you might find it interesting too. Baptizing 'Masculinity': The Real Reason Men are Leaving the Church
-Joshua   January 27, 2015

This was an interesting article. I found it especially fascinating what the two pastors said about their success in offering serious intellectual content to men. I really do wonder if what we see in church is some form of 'students will rise to the level of our expectations.' The way it seems to me is that churches often don't expect much of kids, women, or men. Churches may expect and pressure them to put a chunk of time they don't have into church programs but they often don't seem to expect people to be really serious about the Lord. They don't expect them to be thoughtful and intellectually alive. They don't expect people to have their own callings and ministries (if they did, how could they devote themselves to all the wonderful church programs -- shudder).
It seems to me that very often the ideal church member from the perspective of pastors and leaders is a kind of bland but committed person. We don't want someone who thinks too much because then there might be disagreements and arguments (gasp). We don't want someone who is strong-minded (unwilling to be led--tsk, tsk). We want a person who will just go along with the program, follow our rules, and be a good boy. How many men are there who, deep-down, want to be like that?
Although I tend to be very suspicious of 'men are like this, women are like that' pronouncements, the article's idea that men tend to access emotions through ideas and that women tend to do the opposite is very interesting. I have to say that although I do not consider myself at all a typical male (I don't watch sports or eat wings!!), I think that when dealing with an emotional issue, my impulse is very often to formulate some theory about why things are the way they are or why someone acts the way they do. So, speaking for myself, it feels true.
Your timing in sending me this is very interesting because I just started re-reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. One of his big themes is that the church is miserably failing men by emphasizing the need for men to be tame, when there is something inherently wild and adventurous in a man's soul. I like Eldredge's basic message, though I sometimes think he sees HOW men can be wild in too narrow a way. I think that any time men are creating or bringing order out of chaos, they are being masculine. Sure sitting behind a computer all day can be mind-numbing and soul-crushing but I don't think it has to be. I think that when we are fighting to make things better or to make something good, it can be enlivening, even if the thing is a spreadsheet or a web page. I mean, I would LOVE to get into the Rocky Mountains for a few days, but if I can't, I sure hope it doesn't mean I'm doomed to soullessness. To be fair, I don't remember the book too well from when I read it before and have only just started rereading it so I am probably over-simplifying.
What's interesting to me though is the agreement of the Christ and Pop Culture article and Eldredge's book that the church is failing to attract men because it is expecting men to be like women. For what it's worth, I think the same is true of many schools. If a boy can't learn by sitting quietly, he needs to be drugged so he can learn the way we know he should. In any case, thanks for sharing the article--I liked it.
-Pepper   January 29, 2015


I can't remember if you've ever talked about this so if this is old hat or if you can't see how to make it work feel free to scrap it, but I was wondering about the possibility of a blog post on the topic of how people tend to act like they need to personally be so nice that people come to faith. I was thinking about this because Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham's organization) put a billboard up in Times Square during New Years which is supposed to have said, 'To all of our intolerant liberal friends (fade to an image of a massive cross) Thank God for freedom (fade to) Brought to You by AnswersInGenesis.org' I can't find that particular one, but I can find several other AiG billboards from various places of a somewhat similar ilk. That citation is from a article in a Christian hipster magazine called Relevant (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/problem-fighting-christian-culture-war) which took issue with the AiG billboard.
Somebody I know at seminary posted something on their facebook about how much they loved this post and I almost responded before I thought better of it (among other things I was arguing with subtext more than the text of the article and it was turning into a LONG paragraph and facebook is not the place for that.) But the gist of the Relevant article was that fighting a culture war is a bad idea because a war requires an enemy. Underlying that claim was the conviction that the AiG billboard was a culture war move rather than a provocative evangelistic attempt (which AiG claimed). Revelant's opinion was that once we treat people as our enemy we stop trying to win them over, and end up forgetting that 'when it comes to the Gospel, there really is only 'we.'' I'm not sure what that means. If they mean that one of the things the Gospel demonstrates is that apart from Christ's work we would all be enemies of God, then yes, I agree. If they are trying to do some half-assed relativism (which I doubt because however much I may take issue with them, Relevant magazine is usually orthodox enough) which is what it sounds like to me, then I totally disagree.
Either way they cite Jesus command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us from Matthew 5:44. I would love to hear your take on this.
I would also love to hear something about one of two related things that I see in that sort of article (not sure if they really apply or not). One of them is this idea that seems to say that loving people precludes disagreeing with them -- except maybe over a latte after you know them really well -- and even there the ideal is if they disagree with you and you just sit there and nod compassionately. I'm being a bit sarcastic, but I really do think that we have forgotten that if sin is really a cancer that is destroying its practitioners the most loving thing we can do is whatever is best calculated to jar them into some awareness.
In addition it seems to me that we have this myopia which says that if people are going to be saved it is to be through our actions and therefore we can do NOTHING which would conceivably lead to communication lines being closed off. At heart is, I think, a lack of belief in God's sovereignty and a lack of awareness that when ANYONE is saved that is a miracle of God. I'm not saying that God doesn't use means (people) to reach most people, and I'm not saying that we should go around trying to be obnoxious, but I am saying that it seems to me that most of us American Christians are far more likely to be watering down the truth in an effort to be winsome (and make people like us!) than we are to be needlessly burning bridges with people.
I think that both of them are contrary to a LOT of the gospel proclamation that is seen in the NT. You see Jesus being really confrontational, and Peter accusing people left and right of having crucified Jesus, and Paul is confrontational enough that most places he went ended up with a riot at some point. I'm just saying that they didn't seem to be trying too hard to keep on people's good side.
With that said, I tend to disagree with the AiG poster mostly because I don't think that posters are an effective way to reach the vast bulk of people. Further it seems to me that even if the epithet of 'intolerant liberal' is justified it is probably giving offense over something other than the gospel.
Sorry to rant at you at such great length. I hope this isn't too much of a waste of your time. And I would love to hear your thoughts on Matthew 5:44. It doesn't seem to me that Jesus is talking about spreading Christianity as much as he is about personal opponents (which might relate to the AiG billboard or it might not!).
-Joshua   January 10, 2015

Well, I wrote a long rambling response to Joshua's email (note: Joshua is one of my sons) but I thought my reply was confusing and not well thought out so I don't really want to post it here. Suffice it to say that I am not totally comfortable with the Answers in Genesis billboard (though I do agree with that group in many areas), but I am also not completely happy with the response to it which Joshua mentions. I DO want to dig into the whole idea more, focusing on Matthew 5:44 as suggested above. My plan is to work on this once I finish my current research project and post it in a month or two.
-Pepper   January 11, 2015

It took me more like three months, but here is the post I wrote in response to Joshua's comment.
-Pepper   April 19, 2015


Regarding Did Mary Say Yes?

I just happened across your blog and read a few posts. I appreciate your interest in discovering what Scripture says, and then how you communicate the plain sense you discover in it. Regarding your recent post on Mary, I applaud the fact you didn't take your pastor's lesson at face value, and then studying it for yourself found a slight but significant discrepancy between it and what the text actually says. I have no disagreement with your take, but suggest a further nuance: if Mary would have responded differently, do you think that her participation in God's plan would have changed? When Israel needed water in the wilderness, God's plan was to supply it. To that end, he instructed Moses to speak to the rock; in his anger, however, Moses struck the rock. Even though water burst forth and satisfied their thirst, God forbade Moses from entering the Promise Land. Was God's purpose accomplished? Yes. Did Moses play an essential role in that purpose? Yes. Did Moses choose to participate righteously in God's plan? No. Which is why he was punished. The same is true of Zachariah. Because he did not believe the word when first delivered to him, he was punished. Nine months of being mute, I'm sure, was no walk in the Ol' Palestinian Park. Mary, being mortal, could not interrupt God's Sovereign plan to bring His Son into the world for the purpose of redeeming it, but Mary it seems could have radically altered her participation in that plan, in a great number of ways. I say all that to say this: a lot of people (very interested, God-seeking people) go heavy on either God's Sovereign Will or man's will (that while not sovereign can still trump that of the Almighty). I try to avoid both and let the Lord speak through text -- as I can tell you do too. So, yes. No disagreement here -- just a suggestion of further nuance to consider. Again, I greatly appreciate your thoughts that I've read so far, and look forward to reading more in the days to come. Peace!
-Justin   December 27, 2014

Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I really like what you say about Mary. I think that, as with many areas of Biblical truth, there is a balance when talking about God's sovereignty and man's freedom. God IS the ruler and I believe that Christians really miss the boat when we act like he has somehow limited himself for the sake of our 'free will.' On the other hand, the Bible DOES act like peoples' decisions matter. We are not just automatons. I think what you said hits that sweet spot between the two extremes. Our decisions cannot ruin God's plan but they certainly do have the power to make things better or worse for us.
-Pepper   December 28, 2014


This is not a long involved comment. I just thought (based on something Hilarie commented on/asked about) that it would be interesting sometime to hear your thoughts on Matthew 5:22. Specifically, how would that relate to the (hypothetical of course!) situation where somebody cuts me off in traffic and I angrily inform the air inside my car of what an idiot this person is? Thanks!
-Joshua   June 16, 2014

Excellent idea! My response is the posting, Idiot!
-Pepper   June 16, 2014


Apropos of nothing

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