Archive for the ‘ Bible ’ Category

Black Mark

There is the belief among most Christians that since Adam and Eve all of humanity is under the curse of sin. Many argue that it is inherited through birth. Many others argue that it comes through our own decisions in life. Many others still do not care enough or feel they are not smart enough to grasp the concept; it is enough for them to know that the Bible says we are sinful (see Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20; Romans 3:9-12) and in need of a Savior.

How could it be possible to carry forward sin?

Is it not as though God is condemning everyone for the fault of two?

Consider:

A woman does drugs for years. In a time of desperation, she has sex with a dealer to get her drugs, and this act led to pregnancy. The woman is so dependent on drugs that she continues abusing them throughout her pregnancy. Her baby is then born addicted to those drugs. The child did nothing wrong, but must suffer for the sins of the mother. It was passed along.

A man acquires AIDS through his promiscuity, but he does not realize it until he is married. He and his wife now have AIDS and then have a child. This child is also born with AIDS, again at no personal fault. It was passed along.

A single dad plays the lottery with the dream of making the life of his family better. He squanders his money on lottery tickets to the point of neglecting bills. He dies as his child comes of legal age. The child inherits the father’s debt and follows the example given and gambles to attempt to raise the money needed. The child did not create the financial mess. It was passed along … as well as the behavior that created the mess.

Is sin something that is genetically passed on? Quite frankly, I do not know. However, we can see evidence that a sinful nature is present early on in the way our children only think of themselves. Granted, they cannot help it too much. Children are born rather powerless to change their situation and require a lot of help.

A friend of mine shared a story a few years ago. His family runs a business making plastics. People have to help the system along and inspect the final product. Part of the process is to move some containers from one part of the machine to another, but they have to be careful to not touch them with their hands otherwise a black mark appears on the plastic. It is also possible that touching part of the machine that handles the plastics can cause each of the containers to get identical black marks. Another part of the process is for the inspectors to watch for damaged, misshapen, or tarnished items and pull them off the line. If they miss one, it ends up going out on the market where someone buys it, takes it home, and discovers the problem. The only way to remove the stain or fix the impurities is to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of cleaning the machine and sending the product back to be melted down, refined, and sent through the process again.

Our actions always have consequences. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad. Our ancestors took an action that they technically knew was bad. Ever since, we are all stained with a black mark. It is as though they took God’s creation, us, and handled it improperly. Their fingerprint stained us.

God, however, inspects every single one of us. He was not content to let us remain with that stain. He sent His Son to show just how rough the remaking process would be. He took the time and paid the price. His blood cleansed the dirt. Our part is to let Him work us through the furnace that removes that black mark we carry, to let Him reshape us in the image of His Son.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 07/24/2011

It is time for a poem about getting along!

friends
daniel m  klem

my best Friend lives in heaven
but at the same time lives in me
He could live in you if you believe
that He died for your sins on a tree
understand that He loves everyone
even if they say something against He
who saved the souls of all mankind
and if they do not believe we are free
because my Friend knows all people
He wants to be friends with everybody
especially the people who talk against
He who came to help you and me

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 110.

Apologizing or Using Apologetics

President Obama has received a lot of flak for apologizing for the United States of America. I recently read an article that brought up the subject. It got me to thinking about Christian apologetics – giving a reason for why we believe what we believe.

In my short 27 years, 8 months, and (roughly) 2 weeks of life I have noticed that there are a lot of Christians who spend their time apologizing for declaring truths or offending people or the Crusades. They tend to act like a puppy who pooped on the floor and do everything they can to hide from the shame of past offenses and being friendly. Some people just ignore the sin topic entirely and sometimes ignore Jesus Christ, because these are the top two issues that offend people.

Why are you a Christian, then?

If Jesus is not our central focus, if His death and resurrection did not happen and our sin is a non-issue, then why even call yourself a Christian? Did you know there is a name for this Christian? The “Christian Atheist” is one who goes to church … maybe … does all the right things, is a generally good person, and helps people. Yet these people rarely mention the cross, Jesus, or sin.

There is another name for that: Atheist. So, you might as well own up. We will miss you, but you cause more harm than you realize.

If you truly wish to live a God-honoring life, speak for your faith and your God. Yes, it can be tough talking with people about sin and the need of a Savior, but that is actually the one thing a Christian is supposed to do (see Matthew 28, especially verses 17-20).

So, give a reason.

Peter, the Apostle, told us “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV). The greek word used for “give an answer” is where we get our words “apologize” and “apologetics.” We were commanded by our Lord and reminded by one of His closest followers to share the message, to know what we believe and why, and to share these reasons.

But we can do it “with gentleness and respect.” We do not have cram “You are sinner and you need Jesus!” down the throats of people. One of the best definitions for gentleness I have ever heard is “controlled strength,” and for respect “loving patience, service, and humility.” Yes, you should find times to share your faith, but the loudest message will be faithfully living your life for Christ. If you are living well in a God-honoring way, you study His Word regularly, and are always willing to listen and help and humbly live your life, people will ask you about why this is. Then you can share your story and the story of Jesus Christ. It does not have to be all fire-and-brimstone, follow Jesus or suffer talk. In fact, a simple and straight-forward explanation usually opens the door to further conversation.

And do not worry if you do not have all the answers. You can ask your pastor or friends for advice or even refer the asker to one of them.

If want some help, here are a couple of common questions and answers that may come up:

“Faith is abandoning reason and believing for believing’s sake! So why have faith?”
“Actually, faith is reasoned belief. I have faith in what I do not see or understand, because I have seen enough evidence that what the Bible says is true enough places to trust the others.”

“How can you believe in a God when there is so much evil on the planet?”
“Evil can be defined as “the absence of God.” If most of our world wants nothing to do with God and often pushes Him away, you would expect to see “the absence of God” in many places. If some people do not want His help, why would He? Should we not be more amazed that have not destroyed ourselves? Our continued existence can be seen as evidence that God is good and gracious in keeping us from destroying ourselves.”

These are just a couple of short, quick responses, and by no means full rebuttals. It takes practice reasoning skills to become proficient.

Another reminder: Anyone who says the Christian life is easy is trying to sell you something. Jesus warned us there would be difficulties, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Do not apologize for the faith we hold. If we truly believe we have access to the truth, there is nothing to apologize for. We should acknowledge the sins the Church has committed, but we should explain the difference between what has been committed and what Christ has called His Church to do. And we live it.

What do you think? Do you see more apologizing or apologetics? Do you have any stories of your own?

The Gospel According to Bill & Ted

In 1989 and 1991 some movies were introduced to the masses: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

If you have not seen either of these totally excellent movies, you should. Why?

Bill & Ted tell the Gospel

For starters, look at their two famous quotes:

  • “Be excellent to each other.”
  • “Party on, dudes!”

You may be asking “What do those have to do with the gospel?”

“Be excellent to each other” is clearly a rewording of “Love your neighbor as yourself;” and “Party on, dudes,” is clearly a call to live a righteous life, and I will argue for “Love the Lord your God with [everything you are]” as being included in living a righteous life, dude.

As far as the story of Jesus Christ …

Here is how Bill and Ted tell the story of our Lord

First, they enter time … travel.

Second, they interact with humanity in amazing ways and teach many people truths about life.

Later, they are killed and go to Hell (a “non-non-non-non-NON-Heinous!” place … which, really is wrong unless you add one more “non” in there).

After defeating Death (at board games!) they ascend to Heaven.

They have a helper (Station!) who equips them to fight evil, whom is beaten.

Through their “ministry” (rocking out!) they change the world which eventually becomes a utopian place of peace and prosperity.

In case you missed why this is relevant …

God entered time as Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus performed many miracles and performed many amazing things, and He taught people truths about Life.

He was later crucified by the very people who should have worshiped Him (those people are really all people, but specifically the Jews in this instance) and many believe (though, in fairness, not all do) that He then descended into Hell.

Three days later, Jesus overcame death and the grave once and for all proving He is God and justifying all who believe in Him in faith.

Forty days later He ascended into Heaven, and ten days after that sent a Helper (Holy Spirit!) to equip the saints (all who believe in Christ).

Through the ministry of His people the Church He has changed the world, and He will one Glorious Day return to change this world into His Paradise!

I may be a little crazy, but you have to see the connection!

My real point today is that we must always be ready to share the gospel using whatever means we have available. The Apostle Paul did it. I just shared an example.

Now that I have had some fun, what are your favorite stories that remind you of the Gospel?

The Great Banquet

I cannot let go of this rapture thing quite yet.

Yep, my wedding reception!

What about the Great Banquet?

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:12-24, NIV

Is the Church doing its job? Are Christians  acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God as He requires? Are we clothing the naked, giving shelter the homeless, or visiting the infirm or imprisoned as we ought?

It seems the world is doing more of this than most Christians. In fact, I know and know of more people outside of churches who act justly, love mercy, cloth the naked, give shelter, visit, heal, encourage, and support others. Problem? Definitely. It looks like our world is doing a better job at being salt and light than those who have been called to be the salt and the light.

So what do you think? If the rapture were to occur tonight, would we be surprised to see a third of the world gone and almost all of the Christians still here? Should we be surprised? Am I being too heretical? Or are you as convicted as I after reading this?

Seriously. Check yourself. I am.

My What Big Sheep You Have!

Now that we know how to deal with false prophets (and other Christian-sinners), it is time to ponder people patronizing the pews of pesky perjurious prophets … and other bad teachers.

So fat ... so lazy ... don't wanna move ...

How is it that so many people can fall for such obvious mis-truths and blatant problems with hermeneutics (bible interpretation)?

First off, I am going to state that it is not all on these false teachers. We have had quite a stint of poor preaching and teaching in this nation (and through much of Western culture for a long time) that many people who go to church struggle with the basics of Christianity. When less than half of us know Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection and a third of us think Jesus sinned, there is a problem. This means the Church at large has been failing them.

Years of not receiving solid teaching keeps people spiritually malnourished.  We could call these people the seeds that grew among the thorns or are (or can become?) weeds.

The thing is, what most people are getting is the equivalent of junk food. Eating junk food can keep people going for a while, some even appearing perfectly healthy, but eventually from that most people will grow fat and tired and unable to even handle good food. When people get poor teaching, it is much the same. They can start out loving the message and may even produce some good fruit in their lives, bu they often become spiritually lethargic, unable to discern what is truth.

This, then, is how people can fall for lies, half-truths, and scriptural fudgings.

Bringing in Jillian Michaels … for souls …

As with those who lead them astray, we need to love them towards truth. Calling them morons, idiots, heretics, blasphemers, retards, snakes, wolves-in-sheeps-clothing, blah, blah, blah, on and on (I have heard/read all of these and more in the past few weeks, so there are too many to link!), only pushes them further away. You may actually be doing more harm than those poorly teaching them! You become just as guilty as the false teachers!

Telling them of their error is necessary, but it can and should be done with gentleness and respect. They deserve the same grace and patience we have all been given by our Lord. We just may be working through years of spiritual and psychological abuse, so it is needed! As Paul reminded us, it must all be done with love! Sometimes that means putting these poor sheep through some “The Biggest Loser: Spiritual Edition” with Jesus hosting and us working as trainers, guiding them through spiritual exercises and feeding them with healthy teaching. It will be tough on all of us, but it takes hard work and perseverance.

There have been great thoughts shared over the past couple of weeks! What else have you? Am I right? Am I being too nice? Am I naive? Have you dealt with anyone who has been sucked in by sneaky false teachings? How long should we work with them?

Balancing Our Prophet Deficit

Over the weekend the Rapture did not happen. I just thought I would fill you in case you were wondering. (For the record: Harold Camping is now saying that everything is happening on October 21. There is no longer a final Tribulation period, just the final act.)

Now we are faced with the question:

What do we do with Harold Camping?

Really, the question is “What do we do with false prophets and teachers, heretics, blasphemers, sinful brothers and sisters, and every other supposed Christian who messes up in some way?”

I have poked some fun at our friend Harold. I even do that for people with whom I agree! It is just the kind of great guy that I am. I must say, however, that I am quite put out by the number of people raking this guy over the coals. Do you not realize that this public display of renunciation in such a manner helps prove right those who want nothing to do with Christianity?

Do not get me wrong. He has done something that should not be condoned, and we should denounce his actions and teaching concerning this past weekend’s non-event. To ignore it or even praise it would send the signal to those outside the Church or those struggling within the Church that we are okay with dissenters and those who misuse Scripture and the name of God, and we are therefore deserving of their ridicule. To publicly call the guy names and attempt to smear his reputation is childish and exactly what we see happening in our culture with people every day. How is that the Church being better than the world?

Instead, we have two biblical models to follow:

  1. Tell the man to stop. If he refuses, simply have nothing to do with him. We should “hand him over to Satan” in hopes he will actually be purged of his sins (read the link). Then we respond to his claims so that the world knows what is going on, but we also make it clear he does not speak for all of us. Done. No name calling. No character assassination (admit it, a false prophecy is enough to do that). No helping the non-Christian masses with defaming our faith and our Lord.
  2. Tell the man to stop. If he refuses, treat him like a sinner. What are we supposed to do with sinners? Love them unconditionally in the hopes that they see their error, but we do not condone what they are doing.

Once again, I am guilty of what I am speaking against. I have joked around at his expense, albeit I kept it between myself and friends. I am not saying it is any better in God’s sight. I might still be guilty of leading others astray. However, we should strive to win over as many as possible through our love and loving actions towards each other.

Any thoughts on how we should treat Harold Camping, and any others who consistently sin? What does it mean to excommunicate a fellow believer in this day? Should we excommunicate him? (Quite honestly, it seems he already was by many Christians)