Archive for May, 2012
What is God like? Is He the equivalent of some cosmic kid pulling the wings off of a fly? Does He wear a radiant, white lab coat to conduct experiments behind the scenes on unsuspecting man? Does He place people in situations that He is fully aware they will fail at, only so He has a reason to punish them?
What are we to make of situations in the Bible, such as those found in Exodus where God “hardens Pharaoh’s heart”? Why would God create Adam and Eve and tell them not to eat of the fruit if He knew full well that they would? Does God set people up for failure and then penalize them when they mess up?
Some would say that arguments such as these make God a bully, but one does need to examine the broader context of scripture. Does the rest of the Bible point to a God that enjoys seeing people fail? The preponderance of scripture points to God as being loving, selfless, merciful, just, and righteous. I understand that someone outside the faith might view this as begging the question, but we need to examine the entirety of scripture before we construct a theology.
So what about “God hardening Pharaoh’s heart”? Exodus 9:12 clearly says, “The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” Then, once Pharaoh’s heart is hard, God sends a bunch of nasty plagues into his life for having a hard heart. Poor Pharaoh, he just can’t win.
The question we must ask is, did God literally give Pharaoh an unresponsive heart, or did Pharaoh become closed off to God due to his own volition? The truth of the matter is that Pharaoh chose to harden his own heart. Egyptian Pharaoh’s believed they were divine. For Pharaoh to bend the knee toward God would mean admitting that he was not God. Instead of submitting to God he chose to resist. God gave Pharaoh every opportunity to submit, but Pharaoh continued to resist and with each plague he hardened his heart more toward God. Norman Geisler puts it this way. “The sense in which God hardened his heart is similar to the way the sun hardens clay and melts wax. If Pharaoh had been receptive to God’s warnings, his heart would not have been hardened by God.” God did not override Pharaoh’s freedom of will, rather God worked within the choice made by Pharaoh not to submit and allowed his heart to be hardened towards God. The difficulties God sent into Pharaoh’s life caused his heart to be hardened, but Pharaoh could have responded by surrendering to God. Pharaoh was perfectly culpable for his actions and could have avoided taking his divine dose of medicine had he chose a different response.
So what about Adam and Eve? Of course God knew exactly how they would respond when He gave them one rule to abide by. This by no means implies that God caused them to break the rule He established. It really boils down to the decision of whether man should be free to choose whether he will follow rules, or whether God should have preprogrammed everyone to obey.
I have asked a multitude of people the question, “Would you rather have free will with the potential for suffering and pain or live a predetermined life devoid of any problems?” I have never had anyone respond with the desire to live a life without freedom. We all see the value in having our freedom, and this is precisely how God created us.
I think those of us that are parents really have a grasp of this whole scenario. When my wife and I decided to try and have a child we knew he would do bad things, mess up, and potentially choose a destructive path at times. Even in light of knowing the risk, we still chose to have a child. It was no different for God. You see, love takes risks. God knew what the plight of man would be. He knew some would choose to disobey and decide not to return His love. He loved man enough to give Him the freedom to choose.
But the story doesn’t end there. Even though God knew that man would disobey and death would enter the world, He made a way for man to be brought back unto Himself. He had a plan for full restoration and has sought man ever since the fall. Before Adam and Eve ever sinned, God had determined the way that man could be restored should they choose. Why? “Because God so loved the world?”
God does not set us up for failure. He simply gives us the potential to choose.
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” – Joshua 24:15
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Relationships begin with two people in pursuit of the other. It is an interesting, exciting, and always entertaining dance that two people engage in as they become better acquainted. We continually pursue the other person, that we might one day “catch them” and have them in our lives for the remainder of our journey. The courtship years are always marked with excitement as we revel in the joy of being pursued by our suitor. It is nice to feel sought after and desired. It is part of the magic that forms relationships.
The downside is that often after we “catch” the person we want to marry, we stop pursuing them. Many of the things that make the other person feel valued, desired, sought after, and wanted begin to trickle to a stop. Pursuing the person we have chosen to spend the rest of our life with tends to wane as time goes by, and it comes with a price. I came across an excellent example of what this looks like by Bruce Larson. It is a bit long, but it illustrates the point so clearly.
Marriages begin warm and intimate but over time they can become cold and business like. Consider the seven stages of a marriage cold.
The first year the husband says, “Sugar, I’m worried about my little baby girl. You’ve got a bad sniffle. I want to put you in the hospital for a complete checkup. I know the food is lousy, but I’ve arranged for your meals to be sent up from Rossini’s. It’s all arranged.”
The second year: “Listen, honey, I don’t like the sound of that cough. I’ve called Dr. Miller and he’s going to rush right over. Now will you go to bed like a good girl just for me, please?
The third year: “Maybe you’d better lie down, honey. Nothing like a little rest if you are feeling bad. I’ll bring you something to eat. Have we got any soup in the house?”
The fourth year: Look, dear. Be sensible. After you’ve fed the kids and washed the dishes you’d better hit the sack.”
The fifth year: “Why don’t you take a couple of aspirin?”
The sixth year: “If you’d just gargle or something, instead of sitting around barking like a seal.”
The seventh year: For heaven’s sake, stop sneezing. What are you trying to do, give me pneumonia?”
This is the pattern of how things generally progress when we stop pursuing our spouse once they have made the commitment of spending the rest of their lives with us. We make the mistake of thinking that when we “catch” our spouse, then we stop pursuing them. The truth is, once we marry that is when we should pursue them even harder.
This is such a challenge, because pursuing our spouse takes precious time and energy. Sometimes it takes energy that we feel is not even in our reserves. At times, I know I do a poor job of pursuing my wife, when she greatly deserves my best.
The Apostle Paul spells out for us very plainly how we are to love our wives in Ephesians 5:25. He urges, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Christ loved the church to such a profound degree, that he offered His life for her. That is the ultimate in pursuit. We are challenged to love our wives in the same way.
Now that we “caught” her, are we still pursuing her? Are we continually placing the priority on our spouse instead of ourselves? Have we stopped treating her like she deserves to be treated and demand that she treat us the way we think we should be treated? If we aren’t already, let’s return to making the pursuit of our spouse the priority.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Busyness has become a badge that is worn proudly on the lapel of our society. We work long hours and commit ourselves to deadly deadlines. We have people that depend on us to get things done. We get involved in many different activities, ministries and causes. We fill our over-sized commuter cups with cheap, legal, addictive stimulants so we can power through the day. We frantically pound on our keyboards and send messages into the depths of cyberspace. We find that we cannot be disconnected from our phones; to do so is a cardinal sin. We are busy people with no signs of slowing down. The train must keep rolling. More coal! Full steam ahead.
Even when we are not busy, we try to look busy. I have had people tell me that they leave the lamp on in their office with some of their personal items on their desk after hours so it will appear that they are working late. Busyness gets rewarded. Busyness means important. Who doesn’t like being rewarded and feeling important? We all want these things.
Hard work is a wonderful thing. In fact, the Bible promotes hard work. We should work hard. Laziness is frowned upon, as well it should be. But, we can overdo it. We can push ourselves so hard that it begins to cause us a host of diverse problems. Just like any machine, our batteries wind down and must be recharged. If we fail to take down time for refreshment, we will eventually be forced into it, though not in the way we might have preferred.
Rest is a Biblical principle. In the creation account God illustrates to us the need for tranquil moments in our lives. We find that God is active for six days of creation, but rests on the seventh. You see, Sabbath is not just something we observe, it is also something we practice. God commands us to take periods of rest. We need some time every week (and perhaps a small amount of time every day) to find rejuvenation.
This refreshment of the spirit looks differently for everyone. We must find those things which reinvigorate us and wallow out some time in our schedules to do them. There are several things that bring rest and refreshment to me.
Having Making some time to read a good book, watch an enthralling movie, or spend time with my family bring me rejuvenation. These things refresh my mind, body, and Spirit and allow me to attack my work with fervor. When I fail to take time to rest, it becomes apparent in my life. When we fail to find enjoyment within the world around us, chances are good that we need to rest.
We need to be reminded that just because we have time off does not mean we are finding rest and rejuvenation. Often, we fill time for rest with anything but that. As I said, we each find relaxation in our own way. One’s person’s rest may not seem very restful to another, but this matters little. We should find rest in the activities that allow our bodies and minds to have a holiday and that allow our spirits to be refilled and energized.
This is an area that I sometimes find difficult, I think many of us do, yet it is a reminder that I need. Are you practicing Sabbath? Does your soul need rest? It is an important discipline we must learn, and be okay with practicing. Rest does not equal laziness.
Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. -C.H. Spurgeon
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
So what do you do to recharge your batteries?
One question that has been repeatedly asked deals with the fate of those who have never heard about Christ. The question has been posed many different ways, but it usually takes the form of the following, “What about the people in the recesses of dark jungles that have never been exposed to the Gospel? Will they go to hell?”
Many will leverage this question against God or God’s sending people to hell by proposing that an all loving and all powerful God cannot be compatible with some people never hearing the Gospel and spending an eternity in hell. To fully address this question one must consider what is meant by the word “love” and how free will factors into the question. This topic has been addressed previously, and will not be dealt with in depth at present. For now, let’s stay focused on the question about those who have never heard of Christ.
When it comes to addressing this question, I do not find that there is a single, concise answer that squarely deals with the question and wraps it up in a neatly dressed package. I do, however, believe that there are many things to consider when this question is evoked, and that we can arrive at a meaningful answer.
One should take notice of the fact that man is a deeply religious creature. Throughout the ages man has sought to connect with God through various means. Why is this? Why does man feel the need to reach out toward God? Romans 1:19-20 answers this question. “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Through creation and the longing in man’s heart, God has revealed himself to mankind. This is called “general revelation”.
The difficulty is, man is wicked and seeks to turn from the truth. As Romans 1:18 mentions, “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Due to man’s natural inclination to turn from God and embrace wickedness, history is replete with example after example of man finding other objects or gods to worship. It is important to understand that those who are estranged from God and distanced from His teachings have been placed there by the suppression of truth, either directly by themselves or indirectly by their ancestors. Had mankind not embraced sin, no one would be without the direct knowledge of God.
So what happens to those that have never received the special revelation of God that we have in scripture? What happens to those who have not heard about Jesus Christ? One option is that people are only responsible for the “light that they have received.” That is, they will be judged based on what they had knowledge of. Those that understand there is a God will be judged on whether or not they sought after God. This sounds somewhat feasible, but what how does one then deal with passages like Acts 4:12 that state people can only be saved through the name of Jesus Christ? Passages like these pose somewhat of a problem for this view, although it is still tenable. Perhaps they are saved through what Christ did on the cross and by acting on what limited knowledge they have, though not knowing about Christ or fully understand what He did.
It has also been proposed that perhaps those who have not heard the Gospel message of Christ are not culpable. They are viewed as not being accountable in the same way that children or mentally ill people are seen as not being accountable. The difficulty with this view is that, unlike children or the mentally ill, people who have never heard the gospel are still able to reason and are thus “without excuse”.
Another solution that has been proposed states that God knows in advance who will and will not accept His offer of salvation when they are presented with the Gospel. Those who never hear the Gospel that would have been willing to accept it if they had will be considered saved, and those that would have rejected it if given the opportunity will be counted as lost. This argument is strongly appealing, but it has limited scriptural integrity and is more of a philosophical argument.
The aforementioned solutions to this question or very beneficial to understand and each contributes to formulating an answer to this difficult question. There is one more response to this question that is extremely meaningful and cuts to the core of the inquiry.
Based on scripture, it can be understood that God loves people, as is evidenced by passages like the familiar John 3:16. One can also know that God “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9) and He “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (I Timothy 2:4). God could not create a world in which both everyone was free to accept or reject Him and everyone would be saved and spend an eternity with Him, but it is reasonable to assume that God ordered the world in such a way that those who would accept His offer of salvation would be given the opportunity to do so. In other words, God created the best possible world given the fact that man is free to choose and “suppress the truth” and gives opportunity for those who will accept Him to do so.
It is also reasonable to assume that if a person truly desires to know the God who reveals Himself through nature, God will send that person a way to do so. There have been multitudes of stories reported by people living in remote villages that made inquiry to God and were given a means to hear the Gospel message of Christ. An example of this can be seen in the book I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh, in which she recounts her experience as a Muslim woman who became dissatisfied with the answers found in Islam. As she reached out to God, she was sent a way to come to the saving knowledge of Christ.
While this is a difficult question, there are reasonable answers. Due to our understanding of God through scripture, we can know that God is good, just, and loving. He desires that all should be saved and will make a way for the most people to come to know Him through the parameters that operate in a world of free will.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Getting to work with couples and families, I often get a unique, behind-the-scenes look into the lives of families. At times, it is encouraging, often it is amusing, but frequently it is deeply saddening. No physical pain is as distressing as the emotional trauma that occurs within the confines of family. Our utmost joys and deepest sorrows revolve around our family life. To watch someone struggle within the marital or familial context is deeply disheartening, yet it has become commonplace to witness family turmoil on a daily basis.
As John MacArthur reminds us, “The family was God’s first earthly institution. Before there was a government, and long before God instituted the church, He ordained marriage and the family as the basic building block of society.” It is family structure that is the bedrock of society. It is crucial that we understand the reason we are witnessing such great amounts of upheaval in society can be traced to the breakdown of family structure.
A piece appeared in the LA Times back in the 1970’s called “The Battered Wife: What’s Being Done?” Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but it paints such a telling picture of the state of the modern family. Keep in mind, this was written in the 1970’s, things have only continued to spiral downward since.
“A study done by the University of Rhode Island described the American home as the most dangerous place to be, outside of riots and war. Although exact statistics are difficult to obtain, all the other available studies had echoed the same sad story…Thirty percent of all American couples experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, and two million couples have used a gun, knife, or other lethal weapon on each other during their marriage. Twenty percent of all police officers killed in the line of duty are killed while answering calls involving family fights, and it’s estimated that anywhere from six to fifteen million women are battered in the United States each year! As one law officer expressed it: “This is probably the highest unreported crime in the country.”
It is disturbing to read that the home is one of the most dangerous places in America. It goes unsaid that when the family is experiencing issues to this magnitude, the emotional, psychological, and spiritual trauma are also there in abundance. It is also disheartening because we know that children that live in dysfunction and experience emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological abuse are considerably more likely to perpetuate the abuse within their own families.
There are many places where we might afford to withhold our undivided attention, but our families are not one of them. If we win anywhere, it must be in our homes. It is incredibly easy to be distracted and pulled in a million different directions, but statistics such as these should be incredibly sobering. We need not look very far to understand the importance of placing an extremely high priority on our families. Guard your marriage. Give your children the attention they need. Protect your home. Serve your family.
“Remember always that your work or ministry or position dare never keep you from your family. If you fail them, you fail your greatest responsibility – and you are a failure in life.” -Ted W. Engstrom
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
One question that is often discussed has to do with God and human suffering. If God is good, then how do we understand His allowing pain? This question has been approached from many different angles and will continue to be debated. A question that one rarely hears raised relates to God and the human experience in relation to pleasure.
Who doesn’t love experiencing pleasure? Isn’t to be happy what everyone wants? Of course it is. Don’t pleasurable experiences lead to happiness? That would seem to make since, right?
We certainly live in a culture where one need not look too far to find activities or items that evoke a pleasurable response. As late rocker, Kurt Kobain growled, “Here we are now, entertain us.” We demand to be entertained. We crave pleasure. Everybody wants their slice of the American dream and pursues anything that might bring pleasure, even with reckless abandon at times.
To state that there is a problem with pleasure would cause many to push back. Finding and experiencing pleasure is what life is about, many would say. So we find ourselves in an endless rat race to have more. It must be harder, better, faster, stronger! The empire of me must be expanded. We seek more power and greater prestige. Many seek to satisfy their lust with endless sexual encounters, all in the pursuit of pleasure. We look to enjoyable experience after enjoyable experience to bring us happiness.
Yet, in the midst of a culture where entertainment is big business, sex is a commodity, and one can find enjoyable activities readily available in many different venues, we find so often that happiness eludes us. Yes, pleasure has its own share of problems.
King Solomon, a man whose life knew no bounds. He had everything one can think of, and perhaps some of what one might not think of. There was no experience left untried, no desire left untasted, and no conquest left undominated. Yet, in the midst of his wealth, power, and experienced life, he uttered the words, “Everything is meaningless…completely meaningless…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
As G.K. Chesterton once so pointedly remarked, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain, meaninglessness comes from weary of pleasure.” Such great focus is placed on pain as that which ruins lives, but it is pleasure that is far more capable of dealing a death blow. When we attain our greatest pursuit expecting to find happiness and are met with disappointment, we are left with nowhere else to go.
There is nothing wrong with being happy and seeking pleasure. The difficulty comes when one seeks to find something of value apart from God. Pleasure alone will never satisfy our thirsty souls. Our hearts are like broken cisterns that can never be filled by pleasure alone. It is all just smoke and mirrors, a chasing of the wind, apart from the eternal, transcendent, all loving Creator.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
This past week, Federal Judge Michael Urbanski suggested reducing the Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus and given by Moses, down to six. This suggestion was given in order to mediate a conflict between the ACLU and the Giles County School District, due to the fact that one of the schools in the district has the Ten Commandments displayed. His suggestion made clear that if we remove the references to God in the commandments, then there should be no room for people that do not hold to the tenets of Christianity to take offense.
So, will this work? Can we cut the Decalogue by 40%? Granted, the Ten Commandments were written specifically to the nation of Israel, but the teachings are used consistently throughout scripture to instruct believers. Let’s take a look at exactly what the commandments prescribe, and which ones Mr. Urbanski suggests be cut (which are listed in bold).
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Obviously, it is only the commandments that speak of God, that are suggested to be removed. The problem is, it is the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” that gives roots to the nine that follow. It is only placing God as a priority that provides the foundation for how man should treat others. When the roots are excavated, the tree can no longer stand. Mankind only fails to uphold the last nine commandments when he ignores the first.
This suggestion by Judge Urbanski is very telling of our society. We want to divorce God from morality, and the two cannot be severed. It is God that provides the basis for what is moral. To deny a standard of moral law, one must appeal to man to establish what is moral. We begin to define morality based on ourselves, and this differs from person to person.
It becomes my morality against yours. Who are you to tell me what is right? And really, if the standard of morality is abolished, who are you to tell anyone else what is right. It is then up to man to do “what is right on his own eyes.” This can only lead to a decaying society due to the fact that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).
As Russian novelist Dostoyevsky famously said: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” When God is removed from the equations, the baseline for moral behavior becomes a moving target.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Can you imagine the chaos that would result if there were no center stripe on our roads and no divisions on our interstates? If it were simply a free for all, and anyone could drive wherever they pleased? Even worse, what if all traffic laws were lifted? It would be automotive anarchy! That center stripe is a boundary. It keeps us in our proper place. It keeps us from creeping into the space of others and causing damage to ourselves and those around us. Traffic laws are also boundaries. They keep us in check. They give us limits and parameters to operate within.
In working with couples, one issue that needs to be addressed more times than not is boundaries. In marriage, we often have difficulties with forming, maintaining, or balancing boundaries. Limits and parameters seem like common sense when it comes to traffic, but they are not always intuitive when it comes to our marriages. Yet, establishing and upholding proper boundaries are crucial to having a healthy marriage.
So what exactly is a boundary? A basic definition would be simply a divide that designates where one thing ends and another begins. We see them all the time. Think about fences, walls, and blockades; all of these are boundaries. Even our skin is a boundary. It keeps the important stuff in and the harmful stuff out. We rarely think in these terms, but boundaries are a necessity.
So how does this relate to marriage? A failure to either have or maintain proper boundaries is harmful to the relationship, and more often than not, other people as well. There should be a parameter around the marital relationship that separates it from the outside world. A husband and wife should have a “fence” that encloses their relationship that says “keep out”, because step over that boundary results in costing the couple.
Inside the couples boundary is what the couple holds dear and values. It reminds the couple of who they are, what is important, what they want out of life, and what is permitted and off limits.
There are multitude things that couples allow inside their boundary that should be kept out. Sometimes it is work. The demands of work can be taxing and creep inside the confines of the marital boundary. It is up to the couple to decide how much time should be devoted to the relationship and guard that boundary together.
Hobbies and pleasurable activities can also work their way past boundaries. It is up to the couple to establish what the parameters should look like for their specific relationship. How much time will be devoted to separate activities and how much to shared hobbies?
Sometimes other people seek to worm their way past boundaries. At times it is family members seeking to mind the couples business or giving unwanted advice. Sometimes it is friends that the couple allows to distract them from their relationship.
One of the more common areas that couples struggle with boundaries is in regard to their children. Kids are extremely important and there should be a boundary between the family and the rest of the world, but within this boundary there should exist a divide between parents and children. When the kids become included in the marital boundary, trouble inevitably ensues. If a couple starts to place priority on their children and the expense of their relationship, there will be a drift in the marriage. The trite analogy of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first and then your children when riding on an airplane rings true. If the couple does not place priority on the marital relationship, then problems will result within the entire family.
There should also be boundaries on how each spouse relates to members of the opposite sex and the entertainment content they consume. When no boundaries are set in place, unwanted guests will always come knocking.
It is of extreme that each couple communicates about boundaries. What are they? Do they need amending?? Are both in agreement and working to enforce them?
Life, work, hobbies, children and other people will always test the boundaries of a marriage. If you give and let people or things infringe on the boundaries they will continue to do so.
How are our boundaries? Any walls we need to build? Any fences we need to mend? Let’s make sure we keep a healthy circle drawn around our marriages.
Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. -Genesis 2:24
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
I recently watched your address at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention and wanted to give some thoughts about certain portions of your speech.
First, you mention that “some people point out that they can’t help but be anti-gay bullying” because of what it says in the Bible. I think we can both agree that people can choose the way that they act. Bullying of anyone is never acceptable. In all range of human behaviors we have a choice as to how we conduct ourselves. For those that say, “I can’t help but act this way” we can both agree that they choose how they behave.
Then you proceed to go on an acerbic rant about the Bible and Christianity. Your message is filled with imploring people to extend tolerance, yet you are unwilling to give tolerance to the beliefs of others and attack scripture which a great number of people consider sacred. Your platform is against bullying, yet you bully those whose ideologies do not coincide with your own. You resort to slinging mud at those who stand in contrast to you. I find that when one chooses to sling mud, one gets their hands dirty and loses a lot of ground. I would say this was the case with your speech. You have taken an extremely volatile issue and chosen to fan the flames by attacking. We must remember that hate begets hate.
Your reaction to Christianity is extremely overinflated. You generalize the beliefs of some to everyone. Not every Christian hates homosexuals. The interesting fact is that those who hate people of any stripe actually stand in opposition to the teachings of Christianity. Jesus taught love. In fact, scripture says that God is love. Perhaps you have had a very poor sampling of Christians who extend hate and incite violence. If this is the case, I am sorry. I do ask that you make a distinction between those who distort the teachings of Christ to harm others and those that do their best to abide by what He taught, though imperfectly.
I would also like to encourage you to come to a greater understand of scripture. You make reference to the Levitical code and Mosaic Law. I suppose there are those who seek to implement the aspects of scripture in modernity, but the fact is, those passages were written to a specific group of people at a specific point in history. What we find in these passages was meant to apply directly to Israel in their immediate context. We “ignore” these laws because they were not written to us. When we attempt to apply these we are essentially reading someone else’s mail.
You mention that the Bible is a pro-slavery document. I do not find this to be the case. I think when we read scripture in its proper context, taking into consideration its ancient milieu and gaining insight into the original language, we come to a much different conclusion. Again, scripture is radically a pro-love document. Slave owners very well may have “waved Bibles over their heads in the civil war”, but this does not mean it was legitimate to do so. Ignorance fuels ignorance. Their lack of scriptural understanding led them to endorse something that is counter to the Gospel. People can erroneously use anything to support their cause or ideology, and this is entirely the case with slave owners and Christianity.
Finally, we must ask, “what does the Bible teach about homosexuality?” It clearly teaches that it is an aberration of human sexuality. I think the problem is, many Christians want to stop there. They want to focus on this one aspect of sexuality and magnify it as though this is the only sexual no-no in scripture. While homosexuality is clearly deemed as sin, so are a host of other sexual practices, including: bestiality, fornication, adultery, lust, etc. I can guarantee you there are more people practicing adultery and fornication than homosexuality, many of them Christians, though this saddens me. I feel that Christians need not be so hyper-focused on homosexuality and give credence to what scripture teaches on the whole about sexuality. According to Christianity, sexuality is sacred and should be treated as such.
Christians would do well to learn that it is not hate, judgment, or abuse that leads people to Christ. It is only love. I believe that a Christian can hold to the view that homosexuality, along with the aforementioned sexual behaviors that scripture affirms as aberrant, is a sin, and still treat everyone with respect, love, courtesy, and kindness. No one is any less. We all have eternal value. Every single person is created in the image of God.
Let’s stop the name calling. No more bullying. No more hatemongering. Let’s promote love instead.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
If one has read much of the Bible, one quickly finds that some pretty shady events take place that are often graphic in nature. How can anyone refer to the Bible as boring? It has more action than a rated “R” movie.
The Bible is full of: murder, adultery, stealing, idol worship, perverse sexual practices, lies, incest, abuse, baby killing, etc. The Big question is, does God condone and approve of these practices? Perhaps that seems like a silly question, but as of late, there have been a number of people make the argument that God does, in fact, promote some of these horrendous acts.
To say that God promotes deviant behavior, enjoys seeing innocent people die, and relishes watching people suffer or be taken advantage of, can only be arrived at by ignoring scriptural context and having limited understand on who God is and what He is about.
One has to remember that along with teaching us about God (Theology), and providing instruction (doctrine), the Bible is also a book of history. Just because something is reported within the Bible does not mean that God gives his stamp of approval. Much of what goes on within scripture grieves God. Those who say that God approves of everything that happens within scripture would also have to agree that news networks and news anchors approve of every story they report. To posit this would be absurd. Just because one reports the events that happened in no way suggests that the person agrees with what happened.
So when we read scripture it is extremely important that we pay attention to context. We must ask ourselves, is this passage descriptive or prescriptive? That is, is God giving is directions on how to live or merely describing an event?
When we come across events like: David’s affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, Lot having sexual relations with his daughters, Israel involving themselves in pagan rituals, Cain killing Abel, the bashing of babies, the sexism toward Tamar, etc, we must understand that scripture merely reports what happens. It does not approve of these events or encourage the reader to act in similar fashion.
We find consistently throughout scripture that God punishes those who act in wicked fashion and desecrate what God created as sacred. We see that with sin, doing wrong, and harming others, God distributes retributive justice. He often laments over the wrongdoings of the people he created. We even find that He grieves over poor decisions that people make.
Now, do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that God never judges or takes life. He does, because life is his to take. As Millard Erickson reminds us, “God is under obligation to no one He brought into existence.” It must be understood, however, that His judgment is based on divine justice and not on human grudges. His decisions are always based on love and justice. We may not always understand how God holds these two in tension, but we can be assured that his actions are always good and correct.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
What are some things that you feel people falsely attribute to God or believe he approves of?