Posts tagged Religion

More Dumb Things Christians Say

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more Dumb thingsThere are certain things Christians should refrain from saying. Why? Because, well, they are dumb! Don’t feel bad. I have had my dumb moments too. Let’s make sure to scratch these three from our Christian vocabulary.

1. God told me to ______. We have to be careful here. God does speak to us through His word. He impresses thoughts and ideas into our conscience. He influences us through other people. Yet, sometimes Christians play the “God told me card.” If we are going to say “God told me too” we had better make sure that He really did, because if He didn’t that would be putting words in God’s mouth. Essentially, it becomes using God’s name without God’s consent. I have heard Christians say that God told them to do many different things, and some of the things that “God told them”, I am pretty sure, were in direct violation of His written word. So either God forgot what He said before or He didn’t tell you. Sadly, some Christians even use God’s false endorsement as a means to manipulate other people. Don’t say God told me unless you are 100% absolutely sure that He did, in fact, tell you.

2. I just have to leave it in God’s hands. Certainly, there are times in life where we have no choice but to leave situations in God’s hands. We have to trust that He loves us, is well aware of all we will experience in life, and trust His guidance. Yet, we must also remember that leaving things in God’s hands does not exempt us from doing our part. Leaving things in God’s hands is not an excuse for us not to apply ourselves and work hard. “I have a test tomorrow, and I am leaving it in God’s hands.” Awesome. So you have studied all you can, right? “I am leaving the results of my sermon Sunday up to God.” Great! So you prepared and rehearsed adequately? “I am trusting God with my kids.” Wonderful. So you have poured yourself into their lives and done all you can to prepare them for what they will face? Trusting God is working hard and applying ourselves to whatever task we are given, and then trusting Him with the outcome.

3. I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. This is absolutely correct! One does not have to go to church to become a Christian. A person is born in Christ by repenting and trusting in Christ. Case closed. It should be pointed out, however, that church attendance is a tremendous part of growing as a Christian. In fact, it is paramount. Think about how poor this logic is when applied to other scenarios. “I don’t need to spend any time with my spouse to be married.” No, but if you want that marriage to be anything special you had dang well better! “I don’t need to go to practice to play in the band.” True, but you won’t know the songs, and you won’t mesh with the rest of the band. You will be the bass player that is a beat behind the drummer, and that just annoys everyone. “I don’t need to go to school to be a student.” Nope, but if you want to pass the class you do! You get the point. Church doesn’t make one a Christian, but it is a big part if growing in Christ. We need other people. We need encouragement and accountability. We need to hear God’s word spoken (along with our personal reading), and we need to have a place to ask questions and explore our faith.

So, have you ever said “dumb things” as a Christian or heard someone else babble things that make you cringe? What are they?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Even Dumber Things Christians Say

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even dumberChristians say dumb things. Why? Because we are human, and humans say dumb things. Sometimes we just think before we speak, or we repeat things we have heard without taking the time to articulate the thought fully. Here are some dumb things Christians say from time to time.

1. Beginning our list of dumb things Christians say is “I am praying for you.” Have you ever been listening as someone confides in you with their current struggles or difficulties and responded with “I will be praying for you” and then went on without ever uttering a single word of prayer? Yea? Me too! It has almost become a catch word for us as Christians. We say it when we don’t know what else to say. We say it to let the person know that we care and empathize with them. We want others to know that we love them. We should definitely be communicating care, empathy, and love to others. What we should not do is say we will be praying and then fail to pray.

We need to pray for others, and we should strive to do so. It keeps us from being so focused on ourselves and we are told we can petition God for anything. Instead of simply saying “I am praying” we need to be sure we are actually praying. When it comes to praying for others we can pray on the spot with them, pray after we finish our conversation, or write down the request for later. But let’s not make the dumb statement of I am praying for you when we aren’t really serious about it. Deal?

2. “The King James Version is the only version you should read.” Why is that? If you specifically love thithers and thou’s you can certainly read until your heart’s delight, but some people struggle with the antiquated language. Now, don’t get me wrong, this version is a very strong literal translation, but at the expense of communicating the thought at times. Some treat the King James Version of the Bible as though it is the original manuscript, when it is just another translation.

There are other very good translations of the Bible as well. The English Standard Version and Holman are translations I greatly enjoy. Some translations are more literal, that is, the translation is word for word. At the other end of the spectrum is thought for thought. The translator paraphrases the original manuscript in order to get the thought across to modern readers. Both of these have their place. Some Christians get huffy about paraphrastic  translations, but it’s funny when you read many of the apostle’s quotations of the Old Testament they often paraphrase the verse they quote.  The point is that we actually open our Bibles and read them. So let’s do that!

3. “God doesn’t respond to email, but he does respond to kneemail.”Why does this make the list of dumb things Christians say? Well, because it is dumb. It’s cheesy. It’s cutesy. Along with this you can take about 90% of the cheesy sayings that grace a multitude of church marquees. Maybe you think I am being a little uptight, and maybe I am. But I can be a cheezy person. I like to have fun. I say silly things all the time. I make up goofy songs to the annoyance and chagrin of my wife, but I don’t do it under the umbrella of Christianity. Can Christians have fun? Well, I certainly hope so! Yet, I think we need to let the outside world see our grace in love in action instead of taking the time to come up with dumb sayings. Many people outside the faith believe that Christians are simpletons. Do we have to perpetuate that stereotype by saying dumb things or cheesy truisms? If we need to put things on church signs can we make it something thought provoking, the times our services begin, Bible verses or quotes that cause one to think? Please?

We all say dumb things. Christians are no exception. Let’s just do our best to learn from dumb things we say and not repeat them. Shall we?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: I Disagree With You = I Hate You

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Tolerance_PSChristians. Who do they think they are? Thinking they hold the market on truth. Who made them the arbiters of truth? They are all just a bunch of intolerant bigots. I think we have all heard claims muttered like this from time to time. This is not to say that there are no crotchety, bigoted Christians that spew vitriol with every other word. I see the people from Westboro Baptist church on the news like everyone else, and what I see is pathetic. True Christianity must not be confused with abuses committed in the name of Christ.

I am not sure exactly how it happened, but somewhere along the way people are no longer entitled to hold dissenting views. If a person has a view different than someone else it is interpreted as “well you hate me.” It is certainly possible to hold a divergent view and still affirm and accept the other person. Is it not? Disagreement and respect are not mutually exclusive.

Everyone in our culture loves to use the word tolerance. Everyone should be tolerant. It is repeated over and over. It would behoove those that use the word to first understand it’s meaning. Should people be tolerant of the beliefs of others? Yes. Should Christians be tolerant of other people’s beliefs? Absolutely. But tolerance does not mean accept or affirm the beliefs of others. If this was the definition we could simply use the word “accept”. It means to tolerate what you feel is wrong or illegitimate.

Tolerance means you can disagree with an idea, worldview, or lifestyle and still affirm, respect, and value the person. Many will say that Christianity is intolerant because it does not accept the beliefs of others, but one would be a fool to accept or affirm what one believes to be blatantly false, wrong, or immoral.

Those who claim that Christianity is intolerant do so on the grounds that Christianity claims exclusivity. Yet, at some level, every single worldview claims some amount of exclusivity. Somewhere, lines of demarcation will be drawn, regardless of what one believes. Even the inclusivist excludes the exclusivist. It cannot be helped.

Those that try to accept all beliefs to be true end up destroying all beliefs, because to affirm everything as true is to denounce anything as true. Every one worldview, religion and belief system cannot be correct because they all hold some amount of exclusive doctrine. Now, everyone could potentially be wrong, but they cannot all be right.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with testing the claims of every worldview, seeing which one best corresponds to reality, and then embracing that view as truth. This is why I hold to Christianity. But, just because the Christian disagrees with other people does not mean that he hates or devalues the other person.

We should also note, that just because a Christian believes Christianity to be true does not mean that the views of non-Christians are absolutely false. All truth is God’s truth. Truth is truth wherever it is found. Christians can agree with non-Christians on certain matters of morality or ethics. The golden rule is true regardless of what religion it is found in. The Christian only disagrees with ideas or principles that stand in opposition to Christianity.

Just because the Christian disagrees with others does not mean he hates them or devalues them. It means he is simply following what he feels best corresponds with reality. After all, as G.K. Chesterton said, “Tolerance is the virtue of men who don’t believe in anything.” I prefer to have beliefs that I have thought through myself. Others are entitled to do the same, but if they are different from mine I will not accept them unless I see compelling evidence to do so.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Love Never Fails.

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Love Never FailsDoes love break down and decompose, or is it the one thing that remains when all else is stripped away? Currently, most research shows that roughly fifty percent of people that exchange marriage vows will no longer be doing life together within the next eight years. How does that happen? When you say, “I do” it is supposed to be happily ever after. Can you fall out of love? Well, that depends on your definition of “love.”

Again, what is love? Different people have different answers to that question. Yet, we don’t get to define the word ourselves. There is no “this is what love means to me.” We cannot deconstruct the word and force it to fit within what is comfortable or easy to us. We can’t make love a convenience. Holy Scripture states that “God is love.” That is, to understand love we must understand what God is like. Love is a lifestyle. It isn’t just an emotion, it is also an action. Love is something you do.

Then Paul comes along, and he presents, in crystal clarity, what love is. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Paul’s writing reminds us that love places the emphasis on the person being loved, not on the one that “loves”. In other words, love isn’t about me.

Then Paul drives his point into the center of our hearts when he says, “Love never fails.” When we make love about how we feel it can fail. When love is reduced simply to an emotion it can become cold. When love is centered on getting our needs met, it can crumble. When love is equated with lust it always dies. Yet, when we really love as Christ loves, it can never be destroyed.

It is as though Paul is saying that if you love like this, then love cannot fail. If we loved as God loves, then maybe more marriages would stay together. Life is not about us. Sure, we get to enjoy all that life offers. Life and relationships offer their share of rewards. But when we make life, and how we love, about us we imprison ourselves. So many people build their own emotional and relational prisons by making themselves the sole object of love. We are freed only by loving others the way they were meant to be loved.

So how are we doing? Who is the object of our love? Is it us or our spouse? Are we loving as Paul said to love? Faith, hope, and love are all important. But the greatest of all is love. When we love our spouse as God loves, it will remain. Regardless of what comes, it will always remain. It can never be destroyed. We might lose everything else, but love, real love, can never be broken.

According to the world, we love in order to be loved. According to the Word, we love because God first loved us. Whereas the world falls in love, God’s people are established in love. The love that we possess, however, is not a fleeting whim that comes and goes with every mood and circumstance; rather, it is a love that is beyond ourselves. Our love, true love, has meaning, meaning that cannot be stripped away by any thing, any one, or any feeling. Our love cannot be shaken because it is grounded not in self but in sacrifice. – Burk Parsons

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Think

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think_apologeticsHere we find ourselves two days into a new year. The holidays are over. People are sliding back into their familiar routines, ready to embrace what the new year has in store. Many have made resolutions or set goals. For those of us that are Christ followers, might I add another goal to your list? Let’s all be thinking Christians this year. Let’s employ our mental faculties with concentrated effort as a collective whole. Why? Well, there are several reasons for this challenge.

First, as believers, we are instructed to think.  When asked, “What is the greatest commandment” Jesus responded with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It is less of a challenge for people to love or serve God with their emotions than it is their mind. So often, the mind gets glossed over in this commandment. How do we love God with our minds? We do so by employing them in learning, thinking, and application. God invites us to make logic a part of our everyday lives. He states, “Come, let us reason together.”

Second, let us not give people the impression that we do not think things through. It isn’t enough to simply say, “Here is what I believe.” We must follow with, “And here is why I believe it.” We must not exercise our Christianity with sloppy thinking.

Third, in order to share what we believe to be true we must be able to answer questions and objections. We cannot answer questions if we have not thought things through!

So there are a few reasons as to why you should be resolved to use your mind more effectively this year, but what are some practical ways that we can do this? What are some activities, exercises, or habits we can develop to better stretch our minds? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read your Bible. A recent study published by Lifeway found that 80% of church goers do not read their Bible daily. How can we expect to know what we believe if we do not study what we believe? Read your Bible! You can get through the entire New Testament in a year by reading for ten minutes, five days a week. If we can’t spare ten minutes in a day, we are booking ourselves way to tight. Don’t just say, “I will read my Bible.” Find yourself a plan. It will keep you focused and structured. If you have a smart phone download the Youversion app and browse their bible reading plans. It makes monitoring your progress incredibly simple.
  •  Limit the time you spend doing mindless activities. How much time do you spend reading pointless updates on Facebook or looking at pictures of friend’s lunches on instagram? I love social media as much as the next guy, but it does little in developing our capacity to think. What about pointless television shows? The average American will spend two solid months watching TV nonstop during 2013. That is a lot of wasted time that does not challenge us to think! Some shows actually lower your capacity to think. Jersey Shore anyone?
  • Ask questions. Find out what other people believe. What questions are important for a time such as this? During Bible studies, small groups and Sunday school classes think of questions that you can ask. All it takes is one person to break the ice for other people to start asking questions. You will be surprised the amount of learning that can take place if people would simply ask questions.
  • Everything you read, watch, or listen to ask yourself, “What worldview is being promoted here?” Rarely is anything  theologically or philosophically neutral in the arts. Some worldview is being promoted by the artist. What is it? This is actually a fun exercise, especially in cinema. When you watch a movie, ask yourself what question is being posed or answered here? Look for themes. How does what is conveyed on the screen interact with the Gospel?
  • Read books. It is alright to read some fun books. I think we can learn a lot through good fiction. I am not talking about the Twilight novels here. Also read some books that will challenge you to think. There are some wonderful books on Christianity, Theology, and Apologetics. Give some a try. I will be happy to recommend some if you would like! Set yourself a goal on how many books you would like to read for the year and aim at hitting the goal.
  • Think critically about what information is presented to you. Learn the difference between an opinion and fact. So many people peddle their opinions in the marketplace of ideas as a fact when they are mere opinions or conjectures. When people make a statement ask for resources or information to substantiate their claim. When someone says, “Well the Bible says _______.” Ask them where the Bible says it.
  • Volunteer to teach a lesson or give devotion. Preparing to give a presentation will help you learn a great deal about a certain topic. There is no better way to learn than to teach.
  • Be teachable. Learn from others. Don’t assume that you have every argument cinched up. Be willing to take benefit of the research and study done by others (but check their resources of course).
  • Take some time to put your thoughts into words. Write them down. When you read a book or the Bible write down, in a few sentences, what you learned.
  • Don’t let emotion drive your life. Emotions are wonderful, but they must not override a person’s thought life. So often we let our emotions take precedence over our thoughts. We are tempted to live our lives based off emotion when they can lead us down blind alleys. Giving credence to our thoughts can be extremely beneficial. As the saying goes, emotions make a wonderful caboose, but a lousy engine.

Christians, let’s find the intestinal fortitude and resolve to use our minds for God during this fresh new year we have been given. Christians that don’t think tend to get swept into the cultural current of false ideas and hollow philosophies. THINK!

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true. -William Lane Craig

What suggestions do you have to help us exercise our minds? Tell us about them!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Best of 2012: Straight Chicken, Gay Cookie

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Best of 2012_Chicken and CookieThis post, which originally aired  on August 2nd, was by far the most viewed/shared/popular blog of the year here at Walk Good. It wins the top spot by a landslide! I hope as Christians that we remember to love as Christ loved, and to always be kind to others. It is by our love the world knows we are His children, and it is His kindness that draws people unto repentance. Unless you were  living in your basement on a steady diet of government cheese this summer, you were fully aware of the food fiasco that took place. First, Oreo released their gay pride Oreo. Nabisco came out of the pantry and gave their support to the homosexual community. This sparked a great deal of discussion for a while and eventually died down. Just when the waters had calmed, CEO of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, expressed his personal support for the traditional view of marriage. It was the shot heard around the culinary world.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Not more about Chick-Fil-A. Do we really need one more person writing a post about it? Can’t we let this sleeping dog lie? Do we need one more voice adding to the noise?” I promise, I had no intention of addressing this. I didn’t want to do it. Yet, as I sit and watch all the controversy surrounding this debacle, based on a personal belief expressed by an individual, and the salvos fired from both sides of the fence, I felt the need to weigh in.

First, let me speak to the homosexual community. Let me remind you that some people are filled with hate, and they attach the word “Christian” to the venomous words they spew. Let me remind you that hate was never promoted by Jesus Christ. So, for every person or “Christian” that promotes hate and attacks you as a person, I apologize. Please remember to separate who God is from the people that claim to (and sometimes do) follow Him.

I also want to point out that Dan Cathy did not say anything that promotes hate. He gave his personal beliefs about what constitutes a marriage. He did not say he looks down on anyone. He did not say certain people groups should be discriminated against. His company hires people from all stripes of life. I share the same belief as Mr. Cathy. I believe that homosexuality is an aberration of sexuality, but this is where many Christians tend to stop. They fail to mention that the Bible also views sex outside of marriage, adultery, pornography and lust as sins as well. Christians do a great job of condemning homosexual lust and minimizing heterosexual lust. Last time I checked God says both are sinful. As a Christian, I can no more justify homosexuality than I can my proclivity to lust after a woman or step outside the bounds of my marriage.

Recently someone made the statement, “Do you seriously believe God will judge someone for loving a person of the same sex, but will not judge you for hating someone you have never met?” Let me say that God never judges anyone for loving, but we will answer to God for how we handle His commandments, both the heterosexual and the homosexual. If we desacralize sexuality, every one of us will be judged according to what God says. God will also judge us for hating others because we are commanded to love as He loves. In fact, the Bible tells us that God is love, so we too should exemplify love.

A big question we need to consider is, can it be possible to disagree with someone and still love them? Absolutely! People disagree with me on certain things and by all outward appearances they still love me. Just because I disagree with someone or something does not mean I hate them, or that I would even like to hate them.

What about Jesus? What was His example? Actually, Jesus was a friend to sinners. Jesus spent a lot of time around people that were not Christians. Jesus was also not shy about speaking truth. He didn’t even make the truth politically correct or sugar coat it, but sinners loved to be around Him. How interesting that is! Jesus spoke out against prostitution, but he loved the prostitute. He spoke against lying, but he loved the liar. He taught against adultery, but he loved the adulterer.

You see, Jesus spoke the truth, but he always did it with love.  This is extremely important to notice. Truth without love is abrasive and condemning. Love without truth is not really love at all, it is merely flattery. Love and truth most coexist, or they become useless. So, we can see from Jesus that it is possible to disagree with someone or something and still love others and affirm their value as people who bear the image of God.

I think it is extremely interesting that so many Christians went to Chic-Fil-A on August 1st to show their support of Dan Cathy and the company. Do I think it was right or wrong to do so? I say that all depends on the motive behind it. I like Chic-Fil-A. They have great food and I support the pro-family values of the company. I see no fault in the statement Mr. Cathy made, and I will continue eating chicken sandwiches by the sackload. Those that wanted the company to know they support them in the middle of this ongoing debacle, I say great. Yet, there could have very well been some people that wanted to press a point of “We’re Christians and we think we are better than homosexual people.” If the motivation to support Chic-Fil-A was out of love, then thumbs up, but if it was out of hate, two thumbs way down.

The sad thing is, millions of Christians will wait in long lines to buy chicken, but where are these same Christians when it comes to serving others and being salt and light? I think maybe the world looks on at us taking a stand against homosexuality (by eating chicken oddly enough), but they don’t see us  in such great magnitude taking a stand in feeding the poor, helping others,  or having the same concern for people that Christ did.

It really boils down to this for those of us that identify ourselves as followers of Christ. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Are we loving people? Is our motivation always love? Are we buying chicken sandwiches to show people that we are right, or are we in the trenches spreading the love of Christ?

Let’s make sure that before the world around us notices anything else, they see our love shining first. We might be surprised how many more people would listen to the message of Christ if we presented the Gospel in the same way that Christ did, by loving first and then speaking the words of truth according to God.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Best of 2012: Great Excuses for Skipping Church

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Best of 2012_Church ExcusesHere, we have the second most read and circulated post of 2012. It is one of my favorites, not because it is well written, but because many of the excuses here I have heard over the years. We are funny creatures. Sometimes, as Christians, it is good to laugh at ourselves. We need not take ourselves to seriously. We should also be reminded that we can talk ourselves into just about anything if we try hard enough. We can come up with excuses to avoid what we want to avoid. Whenever we look for the bad in things (like a church) we will always find it.
Let’s just be honest. Some Sundays, for whatever reason, we just don’t want to go to church. Even though I am a minister, and kind of get paid to be there, I understand that some Sundays it is just so hard to go. The only problem is, if you don’t go, well that looks bad on your Christian-ometer. You could get a bad grade and be blackballed if you just skip church without a good excuse. So, I decided to put together a list of great excuses for skipping and/or not going to church at all.

Majority of these I have heard with my own ears throughout the years (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme, I promise), while some have been heard by others that they shared with me. So, if you would like some good excuses reasons for not being at church, then feast your eyes on these.

  • It is youth Sunday.
  • God told me I needed to stay home this Sunday for some reason (this is great, who can dispute God???).
  • I worked 80 hours this week.
  • They are just serving communion, so I will just stay home.
  • The music is too loud/slow/fast/old/new/contemporary.
  • The music director wouldn’t let me sing in the choir.
  • They are having a guest speaker.
  • The pews/chairs are too hard/soft.
  • Someone made fun of my toes (no joke, heard it myself).
  • I’m just not getting fed.
  • I don’t know anyone there (because you never come, wait, did I just type that?)
  • It’s full of hypocrites (well yea, it’s full of people).
  • They try and get “rough” youth to come. I don’t want to be a part of a church that invites kids with problems (blank stare).
  • I don’t have anything to wear.
  • I can stay home. There are plenty of preachers on TV.
  • They just want my hard earned cash.
  • The preacher preached against Harry Potter (this is one of my personal favorites).
  • I can’t come without my spouse.
  • The preacher preaches too long.
  • They have drums there.
  • Our electricity went off.
  • Its too cold/hot.
  • No one checked on me after I missed three weeks in a row.
  • Someone I don’t like goes there.
  • The preacher yells too much.
  • There are too many old people.
  • They cater to the young too much.
  • My alarm didn’t go off.
  • I really needed to mow the yard.
  • The preacher gave a sermon directed specifically at me.
  • The church did me wrong about 15 years ago.
  • I can’t come because I might have a seizure crossing the street (this one was given by a gentlemen that lived across the road from the church over a decade ago).
  • I overslept.
  • I haven’t gotten to see my family much this week.
  • It’s the Superbowl.
  • Not a single person asked me how I have been doing.
  • The church is too mission minded.
  • I thought I might be getting sick.
  • Someone corrected my child.
  • Someone was in my seat.
  • I just don’t like church politics.
  • I just needed a day off.
  • I will go to church when things get right between me and God.

You know, some of these sound pretty decent, but aren’t they really excuses? When I was in college working on my undergraduate degree, I decided to find a reason not to go to church on Wednesday nights. I really didn’t have to work terribly hard. I convinced myself that it really wasn’t important for me to be there on Wednesdays. I went on to miss Wednesday night church for a couple of years, or went on and off. I mean seriously, college students are busy, right? The truth is, it hurt my spiritual life and I missed out on relationships that I could have greatly benefited from.

Sometimes we have good reasons for not being at church, I get that. Things come up here and there. A lot of times though, we find excuses not to be there. Certain churches are not a perfect fit for certain people, but that is no reason to not go. Find a church that teaches the truth, get involved, and go regularly. The cumulative effects will be worth it, I promise. Just remember, no church is perfect because they are full of imperfect people.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.  – Hebrews 10:25

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Josh

Best of 2012: Don’t Judge Me

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Best of 2012_dont judge meThis was the fifth most popular post of 2012 and was originally published on February 15th. We often hear the phrase “you shouldn’t judge.” Most people are familiar with Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This passage is often used as a justification for our own actions. “Who are you to judge me?” Recently, I was discussing a minister’s teachings that I believe to be inaccurate when held up to the rest of scripture, and was told “judge not.” Is that accurate? Is it wrong to judge? Well, that depends on what you mean by the word “judge”.

When someone tells us not to judge, are they not judging us for judging? Essentially they are saying, you are doing wrong for saying someone else is doing wrong. Evaluating the correctness of what others say and do is unavoidable. If we read further down from Matthew 7:1 we run into verse 6 which states, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” That sounds like a judgment. In fact, Jesus makes judging statements all through scripture. He reminds the religious leaders that outside they look nice, but on the inside they are dead men and filled with corruption (Matthew 22:35).

So what does it mean when we are commanded not to judge? I think we can draw several things from this verse. First, we don’t judge what others do or say by our own standards, instead we hold others to the same standard all Christians are held, God’s word. Judgments aren’t to be based on our own preferences or opinions. They should be made according to what scripture teaches. We must be reminded that we are held to the same standard. Jesus, in fact, told us to look at our own lives first. In Matthew 7:5 we are told, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” We have our own stuff to be dealt with, as well, that is in conflict with what scripture teaches. Let’s make sure we are examining our own lives and not pointing out what others do wrong so we can become self-inflated and minimize our own sins.

Judgment does not mean condemnation. It is never done to belittle. It is done out of love. As with anything, we must treat others the way we would like to be treated. There have been times I needed someone to inform me that I was doing wrong, and I was receptive to that correction because they addressed me with respect and kindness. We must also challenge what people say if it is incorrect and has potential to do damage. I certainly would want someone to point out to me if my teaching was incorrect and could potentially cause harm. We must not shy away from making moral evaluations. If something is wrong, it is wrong. Yet, we must remember that love cannot be divorced from judging.

Remember, making judgments only includes behavior and what others say. We are not to judge other people’s motives for we cannot see their hearts. We do not know for what reason others do certain things and should not doubt what they tell us.

Judge not by your own standards. Love others. Evaluate the accuracy of what others say and do in light of scripture, but evaluate your own self by that same standard first.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Best of 2012: Can You Argue Someone Into Believing In God?

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Best of 2012_Argue For JesusWe are counting down the most popular posts of 2012. We are down to the sixth most read post. It was originally published on April 18th. We must remember that presenting good arguments for Christianity is not the same as arguing. Giving a defense does not mean we get defensive. Apologetics is not about coercion, it is simply present the facts in a persuasive manner and tearing down obstacles and strongholds that block or distort the truth. I hope this post serves as a reminder that we are to present the truth with a healthy heaping of love. I hope you enjoy.

Sometimes, we as Christians approach apologetics and evangelism with the mentality that we can argue someone into becoming a Christian. So we get on our soapbox and we argue for Gaw-Duh (that is said with my best televangelist accent). Recently I heard someone say, “If you can argue someone into believing in Christ, then an atheist can argue them out of believing in Christ.” It is hard to dispute that statement.

So, where exactly does that leave apologetics? Isn’t apologetics about arguing a point so hard that unbelievers are forced to raise the white flag and surrender their Christ-resisting worldview? Well, actually no, that isn’t the case at all. Apologetics is about making a case for the evidence that supports belief in God. It is about showing that faith in God is reasonable. It consists of sharing who Jesus was and why His truth claims are valid.

I Peter 3:15 is the staple verse on what apologetics entails, “But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Apologetics consist of knowing what you believe, why you believe, and the evidence to support it. It is a call to engage the mind, but it also consists of answering questions with intellectual clarity when non-believers want to inquire about our faith.

Some people have intellectual or emotional barriers to belief in God, and the use of reason and personal testimony can do much to traverse these barriers. Some people, however, do not want to consider belief in God as an option. No matter how much evidence is presented their mind will not be changed and their resolve will not be budged. Some simply are at cross purposes with who God is and want nothing to do with Him. Those who have no desire to submit to God’s authority will not be budged by any amount of evidence. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, said speaking for Satan, “It is better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Sometimes people willingly choose to remain rebels until the end and hide behind their intellectual facade.

Jesus gave some advice for dealing with people who want nothing to do with Christianity. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” In other words, don’t consume your energy trying to argue people into believing in God. Instead, be prepared to give a reason or defense for the hope that is in you. Some people are willing to listen. Some just need more information or evidence to overcome objections. Some are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads. This is where apologetics is of great import.

There are thousands of false ideas and philosophies that compete in the marketplace of ideas. It is the Christian apologist’s job to fight for truth and dispel false teaching because many are looking for answers. Some are desperately hungry for the truth and it is the job of the Christian to make sure they receive it.

It is also extremely important to remember that the apologist’s motivation is always love. Generally, I find that those who “argue for Jeeezus (again with the televangelist voice, sorry)” are more concerned about being right than they are about sharing the love of Christ. Sharing the reason for the hope that is within us should always be done with “gentleness and respect” (I Peter3:16) or we are wasting our time. We may have all the answers and be brilliant philosophers, but if we don’t have love for others we are just making noise like an old, out of tune piano.

We should never give up on people that are resistant or adamantly opposed to Christianity, but we must keep in mind that we cannot argue people into belief. We can only provide evidence and give reasons for what we believe and we can reflect the love of God.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear! -Matthew 11:15

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Why Jesus?

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Why JesusRecently, someone asked me, “Why is it that you worship Jesus? What separates Him from the thousands of other gods one might pick?” What a great question! This is also an incredibly important question. While there is much to say about Jesus, one cannot do justice in adequately describing the greatness of this man/God. The things He did as he walked this globe leave one with a sense of wonder and fascination. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  (John 21:25) His life stands in sharp contrast to any other historical figure. He lifts our Spirits, but also reminds us of our shortcomings. His life drips with beauty, grace, humility, and majesty. Many people do not understand the life of Jesus and relegate his life story to the piles of fiction. We would do well to remember the words of G.K. Chesterton, “Truth is stranger than fiction because we have made fiction to suit ourselves…What we need is not a religion that is right where we are right, but one that is right where we are wrong.” This is exactly what the life of Jesus does. It shines light into the dark hearts of men and reveals to us who we really are: broken people.

So, why Jesus? First, He was an actual historical figure. He actually dwelt among us. (John 1:14). During His time spent on earth, Jesus made the audacious claim that He was God. This is a statement that anyone in His culture knew would very well carry a death sentence, yet He made the claim repeatedly. The very fact that Jesus is a historical figure who claimed to be God separates Him from the vast majority of other “gods”. Many gods have been conjured up by the minds of men to account for certain phenomenon when they lacked an explanation. Some are created by the hands of men into various graven images. God’s such as Marduk, Zeus, Vishnu, etc fall into this category. There is no historical context with which to give credence to the existence of such gods. We also have historical figures, such as Guatama Buddha, who never claim to be god but are venerated as such after their death. Jesus stands out having been a historical figure that also claimed to be God, even under the threat of certain death.

The life of Jesus rests on a bedrock of historical evidence. Mike Licona takes a “Minimal Facts” approach when it comes to examining the historicity of Christ, which considers only data that meet the following two criteria: 1. The data are strongly evidenced and 2. The data are granted by virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones. He then goes on to show that the following are unanimously accepted by scholars, even those hostile to Christianity: “Jesus died by crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them, The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed, The skeptic James, brother of Christ, was suddenly changed.” Licona also demonstrates that the tomb of Christ was empty, though this does not meet the first two criteria. Yet, there is strong evidence for it with roughly 75% of scholars accepting it as historical fact. As we can briefly see, Jesus was very much a historical figure, and one that claimed to be God.

Jesus is also creative. In the beginning, He created the heavens and the earth. He is a God of action. He is an imaginative artist. The vastness of space. The brilliant stars slung across the galaxy. Pristine blue waters housing colorful fish. Two million different varieties of insects (by conservative estimates). Beautiful landscapes. Each snowflake and fingerprint having their unique design. What about the complexities of human relationships? The act of procreation between husband and wife. He could have designed us to pollinate one another, but instead He chose this wonderful expression of intimacy. Jesus is creative. Not only in His initial act of creation, but also in how He lived His life on earth and the words that he spoke.

Second, we should notice that Jesus is the culmination of ancient prophecies. In Christ, over 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. This alone shows Jesus to be distinct from any other deity.

Third, we also find that Jesus is personal. He is not aloof and detached from creation. He did not wind up the world and leave it to function on its own. He desires that we seek community with Him. He wants to talk with us and have us share the most intimate details of our lives. He relates to us as His children. John 15:15 states, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Who are we that we should get the privilege of being the designer of the universe’s friend? “What is man that You are mindful of him.” (Psalms 8:4) Our relationship with God is uniquely and immensely personal.

Fourth, we would do well to be reminded that God is love. Not that God simply loves, but that He is love. His very nature gives meaning to the word. What does a person in love do? They give. I loved my wife, so I put a ring on it. God loved, so He gave us His son. Jesus loved, so He went willingly to the cross. John 3:16-17 reminds us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Love does not slap heavy burdens on people, it frees them. This is what Jesus has done for us. Through his death we live. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Fifth, through Jesus we find redemption. We are not stuck. He has made a way for us to have second and third chances. When we do wrong, we can make it right. When we fail, we are not doomed. When relationships are broken, they can be restored. No other worldview offers a person redemption. The concept of grace, redemption, and restoration are inextricably linked to the person of Christ.

Jesus. Unique. Creative. Loving. Relational. Powerful. All knowing. The fulfillment of ancient prophecy. The defeater of death. The designer. The bringer of order from Chaos. Friend of sinners. God.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. -C.S. Lewis

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

There is so much more that could be said. Why don’t you tell us Why Jesus?

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