Visits From A Man Named Nobody 22

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 22

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 //

The car rumbled to life, and Paul put it in reverse. He set to work backing up carefully. Then he turned around. All the while his mother gave soft words of encouragement. Occasionally, Paul would stall out or cause the car to jerk around again, and his mother would offer an occasional giggle with a gentle word of correction. 

After a while, Paul realized he had a smile plastered on his face. I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been.  

“Did you want to stop?” she asked.

Paul realized he’d stopped the car, thinking about what a great day it had been. The sun was quickly approaching the horizon, but there was still a few minutes of daylight.

“I suppose we can keep going a little while,” Paul said. A part of him felt weird, but he didn’t want to reveal how much he wanted this day to last longer. Can I make every day feel like this?

She’d taken to playing video games with him from time to time, and that was fun. She’d glance at his homework, but she’d never really understood half of it. She mostly just looked at it to offer praise for doing it. Those were good times, but driving around, just the two of them, he realized it was so much better somehow.

“Oh.” She chuckled again, as if she knew he was only pretending to be frustrated. “Well I guess if you can put up with me for another few minutes, I’ll try not to be too annoying.”

Yeah, she definitely knew he was having a great time. He still refused to admit it for some reason. He was afraid that admitting he was happy would cause something terrible to happen. 

That’s the way it always went before Paul’s father was arrested. Things would seem good, and he’d explode over the dumbest thing. Even after he went to jail, Paul himself would find some way to cause drama. 

This day was different. They drove until the sun finally fell behind the horizon. Paul pulled over and switched spots with his mother. 

“I think you’re just about ready to drive on some quiet streets. You got the basics down, so now it’s just practice.” His mother smiled and ran a few nimble fingers through his hair.

“Can we play some video games when we get home?” Paul asked. 

She shook her head. “I’m actually planning to meet Bill tonight.”

Paul frowned. Bill. Paul hadn’t gotten to do much more than meet the guy, but his mother had been spending quite a few nights with Bill, and it annoyed Paul.

“How late are you going to be?” Paul asked.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t think it’s your job to ask me when I get home.”

Well, it wasn’t, but he still wanted to know. “I just want to know if you’re going to be all night.”

Her cheeks flushed, and Paul realized he’d implied a very different question than the one he meant to ask.

“Gross! No! I don’t want to know if you’re doing that,” Paul said. “I’m just wondering if you’ll be there in the morning.”

Paul realized it was, in a way, the same question. Why else would a woman stay with a man through the night.

“I won’t be out past eleven,” she said. “I trust you to have some food and get to bed on time, but I’m not leaving my sixteen-year-old son home alone overnight.”

“I can take care of myself.” Paul hardly made the comment before he realized he didn’t exactly want his mother thinking he wouldn’t care if she stayed overnight with Bill. Because…Bill. 

“You can take care of yourself, but I have no intention of staying out that late,” his mother said. 

To Paul, it sounded more like she said, “Don’t worry, I’m not sleeping with him.” 

Paul thought about it. Should he care? Didn’t he want her to be happy? Did what made her happy have to be Bill? Why was he so annoyed by his name? His name was just about the only thing Paul knew about him. 

“Does it bother you that I’m dating?” The question came from his mother as little more than a whisper, and Paul realized her concern. Would she really stop seeing Bill if he said, “Yes”? 

Paul took a breath. He opened his mouth to say he liked Bill. 

“Don’t lie to me!” She added a finger point to the shout just to give it a bit more sting. How did she know?

He let out a breath of air. “I like it how it is now,” Paul said. “We spend time together. We talk.”

She gently cupped his face with her hands. “No matter what I do, you will always be my son, and I will always love you.”

“I know.” Paul pulled away as if she made him uncomfortable. “Look, I want you to be happy, and that’s the truth. I’m not sure about Bill.”

“Why’d you say his name like that?” she asked.

“Like what?” Paul asked back.

“You just said his name like it was an insult.” Her tone wasn’t angry, but she did make it clear to Paul that he needed a good explanation.

“I don’t know him.” Avoiding the name might be best. “And that’s the problem, and no, I’m not asking to hang out with him. You’re dating, and that means you’ll have less time.”

Paul let a few moments pass before finally admitting, “I was just getting used to how much time we were spending together.”

His mother nodded. “I don’t honestly know what will happen with Bill. I won’t lie, I want to spend more time with him, and I want him to start spending time with us. But I promise to try and make sure we always have time for just us. It might not be as much as you want, but we’ll make time to hang out. Who knows. Maybe after a while you’ll start wanting to spend more time with him.”

The hope practically dripped from her tone, but Paul doubted he’d ever want to spend any time with Bill. 

… to be continued …

Book Review: Finding The Right Hills To Die On by Gavin Ortlund

Book Review: Finding The Right Hills To Die On by Gavin Ortlund
The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Finding The Right Hills To Die On by Gavin Ortlund is a book that makes a case for Theological Triage, a concept in which Christians should establish a hierarchy of issues ranging from those which can not be disputed, to those that are less important and, therefore, should never lead to separation or doubt of salvation.

A Note: This book came up because I’d listened to Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund, who turns out to be Gavin’s brother. I was a tad confused for a moment, and wanted to be up front with this information.

This book is for Christians who are either searching or a church home or find themselves at a potential crossroads with a brother or sister in Christ. This is actually a very important issue to me. When I was younger, I was quite frustrated by the division I saw in the Church. I’d heard some churches say others “aren’t true churches,” and the argument simply still hurts my heart. I’m not ignorant to the possibility that some institutions that claim Christianity may not be. False teachers can be in a lot of places. But the struggle for me was truly identifying the line. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was a source of help.

Gavin (using his first name to distinguish from my previous review of his brother’s work) doesn’t so much as try and affirm which doctrines are truly worth fighting for (1st rank) and doctrines that remain important, but should’t divide a the body of Christ.

While I won’t go too far into Gavin’s book, I will say that the thing I appreciated most is the standard on which Theological Triage should be based: The Gospel. The more directly and critical something is to The Gospel, the more one should defend it. I feel this is an indisputable point on which I can agree.

This image of Gavin was taken from his WordPress Blog for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I will say I don’t necessarily agree with his arrangement or even some of his stances with regard to certain doctrines, but what I can say with joy is that I agree, these different perspectives do not conflict with Gospel Essential Doctrines, nor should the be a point of division. That is the value the idea of this book brings. I’m also happy that Gavin did a fantastic job of explaining his views on various doctrine without being confrontational or overly emphatic. They were simple examples of his views as a point from which to evaluate issues.

I appreciated the reasoned approach. I also appreciate the manner the author provides to establish one doctrine above, alongside, or below another.

This is a book I’d recommend for churches not necessarily to use as a doctrinal stance, but as a way to study how such a doctrinal stance might be established without making some things (as important as they might be) more important than they should be.

Thanks for reading,


Visits From A Man Named Nobody 20

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 20

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 //

Paul looked at the highlighted verse. For all he knew, Nobody was listening upstairs when Paul argued with his mom. That didn’t seem right though. Arguing with his mom didn’t seem so right at the moment either. 

Paul turned and walked out his door. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard his mother crying. He took a deep breath and continued down the stairs. 

“I said go to your room!” She must have heard him.

“I did, and I will,” he could tell she was about to shout again, so he just spoke as quickly as he could, “but I wanted to apologize.”

He finished walking down the stairs, wondering if she would just send him upstairs. Instead, she said, “I’m doing my best.”

“I know. Look, I was a jerk, OK? I should have done my homework first.” Come to think of it, if Paul had done as she’d asked, would he have managed to avoid Dorney? How about the would-be bullies at the arcade? “I’ll try harder to listen from now on.”

She looked at him skeptically. “Not sure how many kids tell their moms that only to ignore them a second later.”

Paul shrugged. “Fair point, but you’ll be there to ground me if I do, and I know I’m still grounded.”

She cocked her head. “What shifted your mood so quickly?”

My possibly-imaginary guardian angel wrote me a stern letter. “I just had a few seconds to think. I know I still have a temper, and I know I still try to ignore you, and it’s wrong.” He thought for a few moments. His next words seemed to surprise him. “Can you forgive me.”

She chuckled and wrapped her arms around him. “That I can do.”

“What if I mess up again?” he asked, hugging her back.

“Then I’ll forgive you again.”

“What if I mess up another time?” He looked up at her and realized he was afraid. He was terrified that she’d get tired of him. He realized he never wanted to go back to the days she just let him do whatever he wanted. It made him feel so alone. 

She smiled at him. “No matter how many times you mess up, I’ll still love you, and I’ll still forgive you. Every time you come to me.” 

He gripped her harder, snuggling his cheek into her arm. 

“But you’re still grounded.” 

He looked up to see her smiling. “I know. I’m going to do my homework now.”

He darted upstairs, but she stopped him by calling out, “When you finish …” 

He froze and looked back. 

“Maybe you can play one of your games,” she said. “I’ll watch and cheer you on.”

“You’ll watch?” he asked.

“If you like.”

He smiled. “That’d be cool.” He turned and rushed back to his room. When he got there, another letter was waiting on his desk.

Paul again looked around. He searched through his closet and under his bed. He even looked out his window and around the hall into the bathroom. There wasn’t even a new wet spot on his carpet. Maybe he teleported back to the exact same spot. But how did he know when to do it? Why didn’t he just talk to me?

He looked at the note. 

“You’re mother has one of the most beautiful concepts of forgiveness. John 6:37.”

Paul tisked. He went to the Bible and rummaged around until he found the book and chapter. Then he used the new letter Nobody had left to scan the page until he found the right verse.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.”

Paul cleared his throat and blinked his eyes. He’d be dammed if he got all teary eyed just because he read a verse that made him think of his mom. 

“You’re right,” Paul said. Maybe Nobody was listening. “It’s wonderful to know she’ll always be there.”

Paul closed the Bible and set the letter face down. That’s when he saw more words. 

“… and so will Christ. You just have to go to Him.”

Paul froze. His heart seemed to pound in his ear. Nobody didn’t just travel through space. He seemed to know what Paul thought and felt. And, somehow, he knew what Paul would do and say even before he did it.

… to be continued …

Musings on Christianity 53

Musings on Christianity 53

What Must We Know?

As deep and detailed as the Bible is, Christians must always be sure of the most important thing. We look at the commands. We look at the law. However, none of us can ever hope to perfectly live those commands, neither the letter nor the spirit. 

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).”

The fundamental Christian principle is the person from whom the name of the religion is derived. Apart from Christ, we are lost. It is Christ who lived the perfect life we couldn’t. It is Christ whose death paid the price we couldn’t. It is Christ’s resurrection that justifies those who believe in Him. 

Wherever else one’s Christian walk takes him, the Christian walk does not begin until one confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

A Christian life begins in mourning, for indeed we morn our sins, realizing the price that must be paid and understanding that we need a savior. The Christian life transitions to joy when we see Christ for who He is, our God in the flesh who was made to be sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

This is a humbling position to accept. I, for one, wanted to earn my place in the world. I wanted to earn God’s love, and I wanted to earn my “right” to go to Heaven. Realizing that there was nothing I could do to justify myself to a perfect and holy God demanded the realization that I needed a redeemer because I could not redeem myself. But there is a joy in this realization. Our God who made us does not need us. He doesn’t have to redeem us. He didn’t send his Son to die for us because He had to, for God existed before all things, and He will always exist. So why, then, did He do it? The answer is simple. He loves us, and He wanted to redeem us, and doesn’t want any of us to be lost (2 Peter 3:9). 

Living a life seeking to earn love and earn a way into Heaven was exhausting and fruitless. It wasn’t until I realized that love is a gift that I realized God’s love was already there. 

God shows His love for me (and everyone) in that while we were lost in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). 

So rather than work to earn a thing that can’t be bought, I now work content in the knowledge that God loves me. The mind shift is critical. I don’t work to obtain a gift I’ve already been given. Who does? Instead, I desire to do everything, not for the sake of what I already have, but in gratitude for everything I have been given. 

This means that whatever happens, if we hold fast to this truth and remember it always, God will work in our hearts and mold us to be more fruitful and pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:13). 

We are still human. We are still trapped in our human flesh. We will live and suffer and rejoice and celebrate as every human does, but it is not the things of this world we rejoice, cerebrate and suffer for. Instead, a Christian does everything for the Savior who redeemed him. 

This message is only burdensome to those who would seek to earn their place in Heaven or those who seek to justify their goodness by their own right, which is impossible since no sane person would ever declare himself perfect. This message is freedom for those who hear it because it declares a path to Heaven that provides redemption through Christ’s death and sanctification though the earnest desire to be more like our great redeemer. 

It is this message that I leave you with, dear readers, because it is a message that tells us we need not judge one another if we remember we seek to do everything to the glory of God. It tells us we need not fear because whatever happens on this earth is nothing because it is but an instant compared to the rest of eternity. It tells us that we have an example to follow in Christ and an advocate when we stumble. 

I hope this message reminds believers of the fundamental truth that brings us all together as a body of Christ, and I hope this message finds those who are seeking truth in a world dominated by lies. May our lord Christ watch over us and guide us all the days of our lives. May His peace and truth be a light that shines within us all the days of our lives. 

For our panel: What is your parting message to any who may be reading this?

The End.

Musings on Christianity 52

Musings on Christianity 52

How Do The Ten Commandments Fit In?

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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 bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me an keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 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, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:1-17).’”

We finish our analysis of how Christians should act with the Mosaic (and it’s important to note it as such) covenant that most know as the Ten Commandments. Something we must acknowledge before hand. We live by grace, not by the law. The law condemns us, but grace brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

I say that not to negate the law, but to remember that one could obey these commandments to the letter and still fail. Indeed, no mortal man has or can actually live by the letter (much less the spirit) of the law. 

The commandments start where every command starts, with the most important law. I spoke about loving God with all your mind, heart, spirit, and strength in a previous chapter. The next two commandments are really just deeper ways in which we show our love for God. If you loved your parents, you wouldn’t make new parents for yourself. If you love your parents, you wouldn’t take their names in vain. A God we love with our entire being is one we don’t try to cram into an idol, and we certainly don’t create for ourselves another god to worship when we already have the one, true God to serve. Ironically, God may be the only name so frequently taken in vain. None of my sons have ever said, “Matthew darn you!” None of my sons have ever used my name as a swear. I don’t imagine any of your children or loved ones have done it either. Indeed, when we speak ill of someone, and that person finds out, we immediately recognize we were in the wrong. 

Rather than jump down a rabbit hole trying to understand why people feel so free to use God’s name so flippantly, we must simply recognize that regardless of the reason we may be tempted to do it, we should not.

I’m going to skip over the fourth commandment for just a while because it demands a certain perspective.

The remaining five commandments are simply better ways to love your neighbor, which we discussed in another earlier chapter. We begin by honoring our father and our mother. Indeed God places our parents over us to serve as a representation of the relationship we share with God. Several segments of the Bible (1 Corinthians comes to mind as well as Ephesians) expressed the representative nature of the family in that the father is the head, the wife is the church, and the children are to be trained. 

To honor our parents is to honor our God. One may quickly argue some parents are not worthy of such honor. My own biological father was one such parent. But this brings to mind the same paradox we face whenever we encounter temptation. We humans want to live in a world where our obedience to the law is somehow predicated on everyone else also obeying the law. From the time we were children, we proclaim, “But everyone else is doing it,” or “But this is the reason I am the exception to this rule.” There are no conditions to the laws.  I am not asserting that we should break one command even if our father and mother tell us to. My parents could never have ordered me to kill any more than I could honor them by doing something so deplorable. 

Are some of you remembering how God ordered Joshua to kill? God ordered several deaths of all sorts. Please remember, dear readers, that God is a perfect, holy being. It is his right to judge. Indeed only He could judge rightly who is to live and who is to die, who is to have eternity in Heaven, and who is to have eternity in Hell.

What about war and the military? I can understand one asking this, and it ties to the next commandment we must look at.

I took great detail to talk about murder, but I must address the spirit of this law to show just what murder looks like in the eyes of God.

“‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).’”

While no one ever disputes it’s wrong for one man to shoot another, we must look to the words of Christ to realize that a man who becomes angry at another is in fact guilty of that same crime. Please don’t be ridiculous. I am not saying a person should shoot whoever he is mad at because he is guilty of the crime anyway. Rather I am saying that a man with anger in his heart (a man like me), is in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Such a person as I must seek to change because we can not love our neighbors if we harbor anger in our hearts. That anger isn’t about the person. I assert that anger is quite usually far more about the person feeling the emotion than it is about what the other did. Indeed, if one were to articulate what they wanted to say, they would have to say, “He made me angry!” 

First, to say such a thing gives that person authority to change how you feel. Oddly, we cry out our right to feel and think whatever we want while, in the same breath, we give up that right by allowing what others do to change those feelings. If this paragraph has helped you see the paradox, I urge you to reflect on why you feel the emotion of anger. What were you denied, and is it really worth killing over? What was taken from you? Is it really worth killing over? 

There are circumstances where one may absolutely say it is worth killing over. But then we place ourselves on the throne of judgement. While I wish anyone wronged justice, I would not meet that justice out myself. 

The key to obeying this command demands one search his own heart and ask himself what is most important. For a Christian, this must be God. This means that one of what I may dare to say is only out of a few righteous forms of anger comes when proper worship of our God, the most important being in our lives, is threatened. I should be much more angry about a policy that denies me time to study the word than I am at my wife for wanting to talk to me about her day when I’m trying to read any other book. The letter of this law is obvious, but the spirt of the law is critical to understanding the value of love. Note the remainder of the verse. This same paragraph shows us how to address that issue righteously because Christ knows that we become angry. The commandment then offers the grace in that we can reconcile with our loved ones to save one another. So we should. 

But now I must come back to what I previously mentioned about the military. As one who served in the United States, I have always affirmed that I am not a killer. Perhaps I am unique in that viewpoint, but since I am the one writing this book, that unique perspective counts. You see, I never said I was a killer. I saw myself as a defender. I defended my brothers in arms. I defended my country. I never sought to kill. I never sought to harm. Many I served with felt similarly, at least to a degree. Luckily, I never had to kill. But I do not see the act of defense as an act of murder. To protect someone else is not to strike down one in anger, as Christ went on to explain. To protect is just that. There are other dangers in this path, but we are not in a nation that demands we serve in the military. Indeed, even in our military there are ways to serve that don’t require one to make the choice to kill or not to kill. I only offer my perception as one who served his country. Would I have killed in the like of duty? Yes, because I believe in the mission I was ordered to perform. Do those who oppose us feel equally committed under a similar belief? Perhaps. I this regard, I must joyfully seek the guidance of the panel.

The seventh commandment again is obvious on the surface and has deeper meaning.

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).’”

While I wouldn’t make this a statement where women can wear what they wish however they wish, I would say that a man who’s eye is drawn to a woman with lustful eyes is wrong. This works in the same way for women and men. A person may notice someone is attractive. However, when you stare or long for that person, you become guilty. I say again, modest dress is a consideration one makes to help one who may be tempted avoid such things, but the tempted must be resisted even a willing tempter. Do not ever fall victim to the idea that the temptation is responsible. When we succumb to sin, whatever the reason, however strong the temptation, we are to blame, and only us. 

The final three commandments then continue to offer actions we can avoid that will help us be more loving to our neighbor. Indeed, I would affirm that the tenth commandment is critical even though it is placed last. Indeed who commits adultery but the one who covets someone else’s spouse? Why would one steal if he didn’t first covent what another had. I affirm that if one could focus on being content with what he has, no matter how little, he would avoid a great many other sins.

At present, that’s very easy for me to say, and I admit it. I’m not a millionaire, nor do I have such wealth that I can be foolish with my money and not fall into debt. However, I have more than a homeless man and maybe more than some other working husbands. So if you read this and think, “It’s easy for him to say be happy with what you have when he has all he could want,” I must, in my current circumstances, agree. 

However, I’ve previously written about need and want. I think anyone can look at others and see what they have. But why? What reason does one have to look at another’s possessions or life if not for the strict purpose of being covetous over what someone has that he doesn’t or even covetous over what he has because others might want it? 

Please remember what we should always be seeking.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If rather than looking at what we do have or lamenting what we do not have, we instead look to serve and honor the God who created all things, we will be well. I am not promising prosperity. I’m also not declaring a socialist planet where people only have the very least of what they need. I’m simply stating that we will first have the most important thing: the promise of eternal life in God’s abundant kingdom.  After this, on this planet, we can trust that, at the very least, God will care for our needs. 

Now we return to the fourth commandment and what it implies. 

When this chapter began, I had to remind people that this was part of the Mosaic covenant. I had to do that to explain why this commandment is no longer enforced and others still stand. 

I must first explain the purpose. You see, while the first three commandments reign supreme as the most essential because we must love God above all, and the bottom five commandments stand firm because we must love our neighbor as ourselves, the fourth commandment is actually for ourselves. It is the one commandment that was put in place for the individual. It was not placed there for others to deny. Nor was it established as a way to honor God. Indeed to work to serve God honors him, so doing nothing for a day only allows us rest, rest God showed is good to take, rest God allowed us to have in the same way that he had it. 

How can I say such a bold thing? Christ told us.

“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not the man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).’”

Indeed, if one truly wishes to observe The Sabbath for the Glory of God, then good for him (a very personal paraphrase of Romans 14:5-9).

What I first stress is that The Sabbath was put in place to provide people a chance to rest, but we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath anymore because Christ fulfilled the covenant of Moses so that we might now live in His new and better covenant. 

Does this create a paradox? Not in my estimation.  In every covenant there were rules put in place for specific reasons that were accounted for in future covenants. Adam only had (from one point of view) one command. He certainly wasn’t given The Ten Commandments. There were reasons. You see, Adam was innocent, completely unaware of right and wrong. Indeed, pointing those things out would have made him aware. Once the fruit of the tree was consumed and Adam’s eyes were opened, that knowledge required further guidance. But we still didn’t receive the Ten Commandments for thousands of years. 

The only law that never changes is the original law to love God and obey him, indeed obedience is a demonstration of love and trust. Adam disobeyed, and so the curse fell on man. That disobedience was corrected not by any act of sinful man, but by the obedience of Christ, who died, as was His duty from the Father, and was raised again. 

But Christ serves as our example and the Spirt serves as our redeemed conscience. So we follow the example and commands of Christ because we hold fast to his promises. This means we still love the LORD our God and our neighbor as ourselves. This also means that we take the measures listed in The Ten Commandments to help guide us to do so. As for the day of rest? We may set it aside, but we are no longer commanded to do so. Neither should we judge the one who sets it aside for the glory of God. The explanation takes us back to what I said earlier. God didn’t establish that command as a form of honoring Him. He graciously gave us that command to provide for our rest. 

We may teach our sons to go to bed at 9 p.m. We do so to teach them good habits (I am here speaking about my own sons). However, my oldest already knows that I will no longer uphold that rule when he turns 16. I trained him to work and rest as is wise, but I did so not for my glory, but so that he had rest and energy to do what he must. He may need to work. He may even choose to stay up late to do something he knows needs to get done. He’s not dishonoring me by staying up to finish his homework or the dishes. 

This concludes the analysis of the laws that are either more well known or seen to be more important from my own human perspective. I must conclude by once again stating that one who honors God above all and loves his neighbor will instinctively conform to the lesser laws. For any seeking to honor God and be loving to his fellow man will do well.

In the next (and last) chapter, I will address that which every Christian must know.

For our panel: Is a person who serves in the military guilty of murder if he kills in the line of duty? Why or why not? How would you explain Christ as the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant? Are there other commandments I haven’t addressed in the previous few chapters that must be addressed?

Musings on Christianity 51

Musings on Christianity 51

What Are The Things God Finds Abominations?

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).”

I’m not saying that other sins aren’t sin. I’m not claiming that anyone can commit any sin without repentance and be saved. I’m not saying that there are things some people hate that aren’t on this list. But the word of God gave this expressed list as the seven things that are an abomination to Him. This, to me, implies that of all sins, these are the ones he finds most egregious. Indeed I willingly submit to more trained pastors to offer correction, but absent a degree in Biblical studies, I can only read and interpret the word as well as any other mortal applying basic hermeneutics. 

So I wanted to devote a chapter of this book to those seven things and offer application. I also hope others will contribute to the discussion. 

Haughty Eyes

Hebrew writers put a lot of stock in primacy. So I too feel we should pay close attention to that which is named first in any list in Biblical writing. To think of all the things I see in myself that I don’t like, my pride and arrogance may be what God finds most disdainful. 

Notice that all of these things speak to the heart and how one treats others (or looks at himself). Presented first is one who is arrogant or disdainful, for only such a person could look at others with haughty eyes. 

This changes my perspective a lot. I’ve spent my whole life constantly being indignant over some “wrong” I observed. Some may even want to say things like, “it’s ok to be angry.” But where does that anger come from? Where does any anger come from? In those times, I’m not righteously angry, disgusted over someone’s sins against God. I’m angry because I feel something was denied me; I feel like something was taken from me; I feel like I was belittled. 

All of those thoughts are self centered and based on a perspective as one with haughty eyes. People who feel enraged should carefully look at why they feel these emotions and challenge themselves to see it from a Godly point of view. If your anger is based on your own pride or desires, then your seeing through haughty eyes. This is what I tell myself these days when I’m angry (and I’m angry a lot). I don’t want to be an angry person anymore. I don’t want to be a prideful person anymore. I’m up against decades of practice where I validated my perceptions and opinions, seeking to elevate myself. This has to stop. This has to be purged from my life because I can’t love my neighbor if I look upon him with haughty eyes. Neither can anyone else.

If we are driven to “show” others how “right” we are, we no longer care about that individual. Working with this motivation doesn’t seek unity or understanding; it demands submission to your viewpoint. Christians should demand they submit to God’s viewpoint and no other’s. 

A Lying Tongue

I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve always found it odd that we will see protests against so many things (a lot of which are indeed sins against God), but I’ve never once seen a single protest against lying. I see people seek to justify white lies or lies to make others feel better. People lie to get into office or keep their office. People lie for entertainment. A lying tongue is one of seven things that are abominations to the Lord above, but it might just be the one thing everyone seeks to justify in their own right. 

Lying is wrong. There is no explanation that makes it right. There is no circumstance that makes it appropriate. There is no situation in which one should use it. 

So why then do people smile and nod their heads when others say, “Everybody lies”? 

Over and over again, Scripture tells us to seek truth. Love truth. Embrace truth. Fix your thoughts on what is true. 

This abomination is one that God even emphasized by placing in the ten commandments. In fact, one can argue this one abomination is repeated (though different in circumstances) three times (see below). 

When we live our lives, we should do so striving to never lie.

This doesn’t mean we are obligated to shout out whatever truth we wish. Shouting “fatty” to the overweight person on the street or calling someone who committed adultery a slut isn’t loving or honoring anyone. In fact, if you’re shaming others to elevate yourself, you’re looking upon that person with haughty eyes. Make no mistake, a demand to avoid speaking lies does not conversely demand one let whatever true words he wishes fly from his mouth.

Hands That Shed Innocent Blood

Here is where I probably offend a great many people. It’s obvious that society as a whole sees murder as wrong. This sin also has a place (a deeper emphasis) on the ten commandments. So I submit that most understand the killing of another is wrong.

This is why abortion is also wrong. The argument is based on the perspective of the term “life.” When does life begin? For those who seek to better define this concept, I have at least an intellectual understanding. If life doesn’t begin until birth, then an abortion isn’t the killing of an innocent child. 

However, I don’t really understand that line of thought. If we stomp on a cocoon, we don’t  say we terminated a cocoon. That butterfly or moth may or may not have died, but our act of stomping on it denied it that chance. 

Then there is the argument of choice. As a man, I’ve no doubt I’ll only be seen as another man telling women what to do with their bodies. Here’s the thing. I didn’t tell you to have sex. But this world sees sex as an activity like running or video games. To which I say, “OK.” But No runner blames the concrete for the blisters on his feet and no one with bad eyes ever condemns video games. 

It is my opinion that a woman and a man are indeed capable of having as much sex as they want. But sex seems to be the one thing everyone wants to do without being accountable for doing it. The thing I’m most against is abortion as a means of ultimate birth control.

Some men want to run off whenever any woman becomes pregnant. Some women want to have sex, but they don’t want to be parents, and I respectfully can’t see the difference between a woman who got pregnant without meaning to and the driver who hit a car she didn’t see. Sure, neither woman meant for it to happen, but no one expects the car to pay for injuries sustained in an accident. Some people shout, “pro-choice” as if they’re being denied the right to sex. No, they are not. But anyone who makes a decision of any kind must then accept the consequences of those decisions. You’re not being denied a choice, you’re being told to accept the path those choices put you on. Also, I would be the first to vote for a dead-beat-dad law, one that forces men who sire children to at least provide financially for the child he sired.

Naturally this leads to those who unfortunately didn’t choose. My grandmother was raped. She didn’t ask for sex. She didn’t choose to have sex. The choice was denied her. As a mortal man, I can’t express to you how sympathetic I am to those who had this most sacred choice stolen from them. My grandmother may not have had abortion as an option. I’m not even smart enough to know. What I do know is that she gave birth, and she died very shortly after. Her parents raised that child, and, unfortunately, that child didn’t grow up to be very good either. Some may see this as justification. I do not. To kill an unborn child is not denying the evil that person could become. To kill an unborn child is nothing more than killing an unborn child. What was done to someone was (in my human eyes) the worst thing anyone could do. If I were a political figure, I might not fight so hard against this sort of abortion. I can even admit that, but I will never say that action is right. At what point would any of us want to kill another for what someone else did? Should we kill the parents of a serial killer because they raised such child? Should a robber’s child be killed because his father was a robber? We should love, care for, and support victims of such crimes, lending them any help we can offer, but not matter how horrible the crime of the father is, does any child deserve to die? Would I turn my back on a woman faced with this unimaginable choice? No. Not at all. In this regard I just can’t imagine how difficult this would be. 

This also applies to pregnancies where one or even both parties may die. If I trust in God, I leave to him the choice to grant me life or grant me death. If I kill, I’ve lost my faith in God’s sovereignty and tried (though no mortal really can) to thwart or overpower His will. If we are alive, we have hope. Death denies anyone a chance to live on this earth. I speak of bodily death. Spiritual life and death is also in the hands of God.  

You may disagree (passionately) with this position. If you are Christian, however, there is no such grounds. It is simply against God’s wishes for any innocent blood to be shed for any reason. One may wish to debate this further, but once the word of God speaks, the real debate becomes whether or not one is willing to submit to God’s (not my) authority or not. Even there you do, in fact, have a choice to make. That right isn’t actually denied you. Some people say to make abortion illegal would only mean people would have illegal abortions. I’m of the opinion that abortion is already illegal in God’s eyes. Making it illegal in this nation would only align with God’s law. People do illegal things in this world. If one were to make murder legal, it wouldn’t suddenly make murder right in the eyes of God, it would only make murders feel free to do so. 

Does this mean I will personally lash out at you or condemn you? No. I don’t have the energy or time. I don’t have to judge you. If my words make you feel judged I would challenge you to ask yourself why. One only feels defensive when they already know they are wrong. If an unborn baby isn’t alive, then what is there to debate?

A final point of discussion I hear regarding abortion is one seeks to defend one’s rights “up to” birth. Pro life is more about pro birth. People only want babies to be born, but they don’t care what happens after the baby is born. 

These ideas may be the most ridiculous. If the world is responsible for every baby born than somewhere around seven billion people owe my children money for their college tuition. This argument assumes that every life is the responsibility of every other life, and that’s just not true. If we tone down this argument, claiming that we need more laws to help underprivileged children and more funding for such children, I can agree with that. I can petition and vote for such laws. In short, if the child is actually alive, I can fight for his rights, but before I defend a child’s right to prosperity or a happy life (something no human being is promised), I must first fight for the child’s right to live in the first place. I can do nothing but pray for a murdered child. 

This will probably be the most inflammatory portion of this entire book. This is absolutely a heated subject. Before anyone feels compelled to flood my blog with hateful (haughty) comments or take whatever other option they want against me, remember I’m nobody. I am one man with this opinion who feels that opinion is based firmly on the word of God. Maybe I’m wrong. The best news you have is that I’m not the judge. I’m just a man who gave his frank opinion on a volatile topic. You may freely make your opinions on this topic known. You have that right (you were born). But I already freely acknowledge your right to disagree and your ability to do whatever it is you want. I can’t stop you. All I can do, and all I have done, is point out my interpretation on how God sees it. 

A Heart That Devises Wicked Plans

This actually ties to the above point and several others. I’m of the opinion that any time one devises a way to do what he wants regardless of what God wants, he’s guilty of this abomination. When one uses self-justification to do something, they’ve already taken God out of the equation. Now, not every independent decision one makes is sinful. However, what this speaks to is the one who knows he should do otherwise instead seeks a way to do that which is in his own heart. 

I originally thought to type out several examples of this, but I am honestly making an effort to transition from the tension I very likely created in the above passage. 

The correct action from a Christian perspective: Filter your intended actions through the Word of God. The Pharisees were guilty of this abomination. They denied God’s command, “Honor your mother and your father,” and selfishly protected their money, “What I would give you is given to God (Mark 7:1-13).” This means that one can not violate God’s law under the pretense of following God’s law. 

When I catch myself looking for a way to do what I want, I hope God works in me a heart to first challenge myself to see if if the thing I’m seeking is a thing I should do. As stated in a previous chapter, we should be God-centered in our thinking. So rather than looking to devise ways to do or get what we want, when should instead seek to do what God wants us to do.

Feet That Make Haste To Run To Evil

This is a heart that is eager to sin. This could also be someone who knows what they are doing is wrong, so they rush to do so quickly, seeking to do what they want before anyone might see. 

More interestingly, this might be considered a catch all to any who rushes to sin. Even if the sin they seek isn’t on this list, if they’re rushing to their sin, they’re guilty of this abomination.  

A False Witness Who Breathes Out Lies

One may say this is a repeat of having a lying tongue, and I don’t argue. However, this specific purpose for lying bears discussion. Lying is bad in and of itself, but to lie by false witness is another particular form of such an abomination. One may lie to make himself seem better or to avoid punishment for his own sin, but one who lies about another is especially abominable. It’s wise (as all God’s words are) to cut off one who would avoid lying for one reason, but freely speak falsely about another. 

To take this further, this does not necessarily mean one who knowingly lies about another. Indeed, I would think one who is quick to speak about another without first determining the truth of his words is still guilty of this abomination. How often do we feel free to offer our opinions about others without bothering to see if we’re just rumor mongering or gossiping? Which brings us to our last abomination.

One Who Sows Discord Among Brothers

Call it what you want. Call it stirring the pot, playing Devil’s advocate. Call it venting or getting your thoughts off your chest. If you’re spreading rumors or speaking ill of someone who isn’t there, you’re sowing discord. 

To rebuke one or speak to someone to gain understanding and come closer together is good. However, if your goal is to justify yourself or convince others to see someone through your (perhaps haughty) eyes is to commit this abomination. 

In these abominations I notice a trend. Most of these abominations have everything to do with one’s viewpoint. Indeed many of these can be tied to a person thinking about his own desires. This means that one devoted to loving God and his neighbor would easily avoid these seven issues to begin with. But these sins are also (for the most part) easier to hide. One would have to verify everything another says to find the lies. And we are often haughty or prideful in our actions or viewpoints. 

I’ve been guilty of almost all of these abominations. I can only say I’ve never shed innocent blood. Even then, Christ tells us that one who hates his brother is guilty (Matthew 5:22), so in this, I’ve also proven my actions abominable. I don’t offer these from a position of one who’s never done any of these things. Instead, I confess my guilt and urge others to look at their actions to see if they are guilty of the same. It is the heart that loves God above all that resists the temptations to do these things, and the more one seeks God, the more likely one is to turn away from these abominations. Indeed the one who loves God can not do such things. 

For our panel: What are your thoughts on these seven abominations? While given special attention and named as abominations, does making those distinctions truly mean these sins are the greater sins? If these aren’t the greater sins, what are? What does someone like me (one who acknowledges he struggles with pride and arrogance) do to turn away? How does someone who’s exercised such pride and arrogance into his life even start to seek humility and respect?

Musings On Christianity 50

Musings On Christianity 50

What Does It Mean To Love Your Neighbor

People today are far more interested in the manner in which they are loved than the manner in which they give love. People cry out, “You’re supposed to love your neighbor!” I typically see that when their goal (the reason they’re throwing that commandment in someone’s face) is to actually say, “Just let me do what I want!” The next most common reason for throwing that verse in someone’s face (observationally) is when there is a disagreement about some course of action or lifestyle choice.

Before we look up to Christ for his example on neighborly love, let’s just take a look at where these paths would lead if we take them to their logical conclusions.

Is love letting people do whatever they want? If the answer is yes, then any parent who ever denied their child a single thing is unloving. If this is true, then any manner of crime is really nothing more than an opportunity to love criminals because everyone (an absolute term) should be able to do whatever they want (another absolute term). This means that any act, no matter how despicable or detestable is permissible because it’s what the person wants to do, and it’s “unloving” to deny someone something they want. 

I hope that when you see it put this way, you can see how utterly ridiculous that notion is. Love is not, nor has it ever been, letting people do what they want. It can’t be. So the idea that one should, “live and let live” falls apart on its face because some people are ignorant of the harm their actions could lead to (children) or simply uncaring about the consequences of their actions (criminals). 

Naturally, some would would argue, “You know that’s not what I mean!” They argue that one should indeed be allowed to do whatever they want, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” 

That’s all fine and good, except what people don’t understand is that sin always hurts. We can’t try to live in a world where “hurt” is only evaluated by visible effects. After all, I am fully capable of doing whatever I want and be willfully ignorant of the consequences of those actions. That again wouldn’t make me loving, it would make me a psychopath. 

There is no situation in which love can in any way be defined as the act of just letting people do what they want. 

Some reading this may then say, “But you’ve said several times (even in this book) that you’re not telling anyone what to do.” 

I’m not. I’m not however condoning those actions either. This book is designed to be a cooperative Christian evaluation to better understand Christian living. The fact that I don’t feel the need to repeatedly argue over every commandment every moment of my life doesn’t make me unloving or unChristian. If we define love by the manner in which we perceive love, we don’t actually understand what love is. Love is an action verb. One can be loved, but grammatically that person is the object of the love. The only way everyone can love is by loving, so we can not be loving by demanding to be the object of it. 

Those reading this have the choice to accept what I am saying or deny it, and I’m not the judge to determine their righteousness. Christ is the righteous judge, the rest of us folk are just folk. With this in mind, I share my thoughts, using the truth of scripture as well as I know how to form those ideas and admitting that my human mind can never perfectly comprehend God’s sovereign design. 

This leads me to that second commonly implied phrase: Some people believe that they should be able to say what they want to say and be left alone. 

This nation has a freedom of speech that we must defend.  This nation has a freedom of protest that we must also defend. But the right to speak and protest do not come with the requirement of the hearers to agree. Some would even say something to the effect of, “everyone has a right to his or her opinion.” 

I don’t really want to debate that phrase (but it would be interesting to discuss), but even if it is true (I’m not sure either way) that still doesn’t actually imply that everyone must therefore agree with those opinions. In fact, that’s impossible. If we grant each person their right to an individual opinion we must, therefore, recognize that those opinions can’t en-mass agree with each other. The idea that everyone has a right to his or her individual opinion demands that people recognize that not everyone will agree.

Then I look at social media. I can’t look at social media for very long. Sure, there is some beautiful conversation, and exchange of beliefs and ideals, but more often than not, I see something like the following:

“I have an opinion! If you don’t share my opinion, unfriend me now because you’re a horrible human being! This is the opinion, and those who disagree with me aren’t worth knowing.”

Now how, exactly, is anyone supposed to be allowed to express their opinion with a blanket statement like that? People who post comments like that have already established that they’re God, and none who disagree with them are worthy of being in their presence. Ironically, some of those individuals then deny the existence of God even while acting like they are God. A comment like the one above is a beautiful example of how to be unloving. Only a perfect and Holy God could make laws for people to follow and then justly deny His presence to those who don’t follow those commands. Ironically, people balk at God’s laws, but feel perfectly justified establishing their own laws. People debate the existence of God, but have no problem denying other people into their circle.

I don’t see how that makes sense. If God must be one who’s tolerant of everything and would allow anyone to do anything, how then is that person justified denying anyone of anything? If God is just, and He can make commandments and then justly deny His presence to those who don’t obey those commands, then we must follow God and obey His commandments, careful to be sure we don’t try to overthrow God by establishing our own laws. In neither case can any human justify a stance like the one above.

Of course there are those who aren’t that oppositional in a post.  

“I have an opinion,” they say. 

Maybe the first reply is something completely rational.

“I disagree,” they may say. “Here is my contrary opinion.”

But that’s when all pretense of polite society vanish. Further replies are full of vitriol and anger. The discussion withers away from an exchange of ideas and beliefs (the beautiful marketplace of ideas) to personal attacks and accusations that sometimes have nothing at all to do with the original opinion. 

If love is the right of people to share their opinions, you must then allow everyone to share those opinions.

Our very freedom of speech and protest in America is a perfect example of that. I hear things I vehemently disagree with. I see protests for things (or against things) I stand against (or for). The beauty of this nation’s freedoms is that they allow for people to be heard. It still doesn’t demand others listen, nor does it require such. The marketplace of ideas (a phrase coined by Justice William O. Douglas in the Supreme Court decision United States v. Rumley in 1953), only ensures that ideas can reach the market. This puts the onus on people to accept or reject them. 

This chapter has reached the 1,300 word mark, and some may be thinking, “I thought we were talking about love.”

Welcome to my point of view. People who want love to be about what others allow them to do or what others allow them to say are not talking about love. This is because love isn’t defined by the recipient. 

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

There is the definition of love. Love is sacrifice. Love is a gift. Love is not a requirement. Love is not based on the person receiving it. Love is an action. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).”

So how then do we obey God’s second command an love our neighbor. Christ gave us an example of this during one of His debates. 

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live (Luke 10:25-28).’”

He were see Christ affirming the importance of the great commandments. If we do just those things, all will be well, but that doesn’t actually show us how. The Lawyer saw that gap and challenged it.

“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay when I come back.” Which of theses three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise (Luke 10:29-37).’”

There is so much more to pick apart here than just the application of love. However, I don’t want to get caught in debates on whether this is an endorsement of socialism or universal healthcare or any other political distraction. Christ wasn’t talking to a ruler about how a nation should be run. Nor was he talking about how a country should be led. He was answering a direct question about who a man’s neighbor is. Using that as context, we can look at this for what it essentially is.

We love our neighbor by caring and providing for them. Note that Jews and Samaritans were bitter rivals. Jews had such distain for Samaritans that they would walk around the land just to avoid it even if going through would help them reach their destination more quickly.  

Love is sacrifice. Love is a man using his own supplies to help someone beaten and robbed. Love is sacrifice. Love is a man using his own money to provide someone a place to rest and heal. 

Again some may want to distract from the message to pursue another message. We’re talking about a man who was robbed and beaten. We’re not talking about someone who threw himself into debt or a person who hasn’t gained experience to get a better job. We’re talking about a specific event in time and how it shows love. 

We show love by treating others how we want to be treated even if they don’t treat us that way. This means love isn’t reciprocal. Love is not dependent on being loved. Romans 5:8 (quoted above) shows us how selfless love is. While we were at enmity with God, he still sacrificed for us. Even as they drove the nails into His hands, Christ did not cry out for justice or vengeance. He did not curse them as the executed him. He didn’t do any of that. Nor did he charge his apostles to seek justice for his name. Instead, while they were driving the nails into His hands, He asked God to forgive them. His great commission was not a campaign against anything, but a command to teach others. 

“‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).’”

Too often we demand love and yet are unwilling to offer it. We cry out in general for human rights and equality, but we deny the sick or homeless person we drive by. Even in this, we can fail. We toss out some change to a homeless person, which doesn’t actually help. At best, it only provides a momentary comfort. 

But to love our neighbor as ourselves demands persistent action on our part even if we are denied love by everyone else. This can be hard. Even in relationships, people desire reciprocal love rather than offer love. 

Does this mean a wife who’s been cheated on 16 times should just “sacrifice” and let her husband cheat? No! Even Christ allowed for divorce in that regard. Love, therefore, is not the willful ignorance of transgression. This means we are allowed rebuke. We are allowed dispute. Love allows for a person to address grievance.  But even a lawful divorce of that sort doesn’t demand the husband (who should) repent and stop cheating; it just allows for the wife to leave an unloving marriage (for the reason of sexual immorality). 

But more important than relationships where there is an expectation of love is the acknowledgment that “our neighbor” is not limited to “people we like” or “people we associate with.” 

Our neighbor is anyone to whom we show mercy. Our neighbor is anyone to whom we show compassion. Our neighbor is anyone. 

Does this create a sort of circular paradox in which we must then allow others to do what they wish? No!

That’s because love isn’t tolerance. Love isn’t willful ignorance. 

There may be even more to peel back here. On this Earth, God has provided us all things. While we are on this Earth, we are given choices. God, who can justly cast us away, lovingly allows us the choice even if it might cost us eternity with Him. He didn’t do this without caution or warning. He’s provided the truth through His word. He’s provided us salvation through Christ. God has given us every opportunity to love, honor, and serve Him. It’s up to us to do so.

We do that by loving others. We do this by loving our neighbors as we would be loved. And the more we Love as God loves, the better we will be. This means we love with grace and truth. We love with generosity and discernment. We love with integrity and patience. This is a start to loving our neighbors.

For our panel: What other examples of neighborly love can we find in Scripture? Does love obligate tolerance? How do we apply these lessons in our life? Does this lesson on neighborly love apply to a nation’s laws? How do we step away from the desire to receive love and step toward the path to be loving?

Musings On Christianity 49

Musings On Christianity 49

How Does One Love God With All His Heart, Soul, and Strength?

“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).’”

In the last chapter, we discussed the most important commandments. There are more, and a Christian should always seek to grow and improve. However, if we’re not focused on the most important things, the little things probably don’t hold much weight. 

In fact, we need to understand that following all the other commandments is meaningless if we don’t love God. It is our hearts that God judges. Our actions should reflect our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). 

I was sitting with a friend discussing this command. I’m an absolutist, which isn’t a point I care to debate. This is relevant because I know these commandments very well. I casually lifted up a glass of water that was on the coffee table and said, “When I drink this water, I’m drinking because I’m thirsty. How the heck does one honor or love God while drinking water?”

Way back then I was on to something, but I didn’t understand what my problem was. I do now. I was using self-centered thinking. 

When we normally accuse someone of being self-centered, we think of someone completely selfish. This is someone who’d leave all the work (including and especially their own) for others to do because they want to go home.

My own growth demands I be less selfish. Does that statement mean I’m completely without generosity? Actually I’d hope most people who know me would be quick to say how generous I am. That’s because I’m selfish with my time. I’m selfish with my goals. I’m working to grow in this, but the realization of my problem is what led me to the solution.

I need to think not of myself, but of God, in all things, at all times. Back when I made my declaration of why I drink, I didn’t understand I was pointing out a critical mindset that helps one determine what their heart is set on.

Back then, my thoughts were focused on my thirst and my desire for water. Don’t misunderstand; of course, we have needs. We get hungry and thirsty. But rather than think, “I am thirsty. I want a drink of water,” I should instead think, “Thank you, God, for caring for my needs and providing me with water.

To love God with all your heart, soul, and strength doesn’t mean you don’t do anything but pray and read the Bible all the time. God didn’t demand that of anyone. He chose David and Solomon to rule. He gave Job animals and land to care for. What needs to change is your heart. 

Sometimes that heart change will mean you step away from things that have no place in God’s eyes. It’s just the nature of it. If you imagined a world where your biological father could always see everything you said and did, you’d probably stop doing a thing or two. Your Father in Heaven can see everything you do. When we keep this in our minds, we do a better job of avoiding the other things. 

This is why keeping that commandment first in your mind is critical. If you truly are able to spend more and more of your day thinking about God and how what you’re doing does or doesn’t honor Him, you’re moving in the right direction. 

I’m not pretending or even claiming I’m doing this. As self-centered as I’ve always been, I constantly catch my thoughts focused on the wrong things. I’m human. We’re all human. That doesn’t change what we should do. 

So that’s what I’m trying. When I play cards with my grandparents, I thank God for the time he gives me with them. When I eat, I thank God for the food he provides. 

We can use this to weigh what we’re doing in our own conscience as well. If you’re not wiling to thank God and praise him for what you’re doing, it might not be something you should be doing. 

The goal is to always align what you’re doing and what you’re thinking to God. The more you do that, the more you’re setting your thoughts and heart on Him. 

Does that mean we can’t have any fun? Not at all. God allows us time for work and a time for rest. God allows us time for leisure. Just check what you’re doing for fun against his law. One also should avoid letting the gifts God gives become more important than the giver. I’m not aware of any commandment that demands constant prayer and reading of scripture. However, if you’re never doing anything to serve God, which is a pretty impressive list, how can you, then, truly assert you’re seeking Him?

This heart condition is the most important, and maybe it’s the least considered. People can do all kinds of nice things. They can feed the homeless and volunteer at church. They can do any number of things to look good, but if those works are done for the praise of other humans or done simply to check a box, I’d challenge you to check your heart because that is what Good looks at. 

Some may feel accused by this. I don’t know your heart, and I’m not pretending to. If God is at the front of your thoughts, then you are serving Him to His glory and your reward. Looking at yourself and ensuring that’s what you’re doing isn’t going to change it. However, think about how you respond. If you’re like me, you might use a lot of “I” statements. I give this much every paycheck. I volunteer this many hours at church. I did all these things. 

If your justification is yourself, you fall short. Even as I type this, I feel convicted. Again, I already know I have to improve here. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this. If I can help myself grow, maybe I can share that journey with others and help them grow. 

I never want anyone to feel like i’m writing this from the perspective of an expert. I’ve always affirmed I’m growing. However, in my growth, I sometimes feel discouraged or overwhelmed by people who are experts. They’re so far ahead of me (at least as far as my mortal eyes can see), I feel like I have no hope of catching up. Even that is measuring to a standard that might not be fair. 

We seek to imitate people in our lives. In business, I try to imitate people who are successful in business. At work, I try to take ideas from other teachers I respect. However, I’ve found through my life, there is also a lot of wonderful help to be found from those who are where you are in your journey. We can encourage one another. 

If I’m training, I might want a trainer to give me wisdom, but I certainly don’t want to work out with him. Rather, I’d like my trainer (if I had one) to provide guidance while I work out with someone similar to my current state. 

The other hard truth, however, is I probably don’t want to spend too much time with people who are not interested in (metaphorically) getting fit. If I’m trying to diet and live better, spending time with a person I know is going to eat out for every meal and spend hours in front of a screen isn’t going to help me move in the right direction. 

Did I just say you can’t ever hang out with people who aren’t of the faith? No. I don’t really think it’s possible to be apart from the world. But the metaphor holds up over the long haul. Good influences lead you to the places you want to go. Bad influences might seem fun to hang out with in the moment, but what happens months or years later when you realize you haven’t achieved anything you were after? So am I telling you to never hang out with anyone who isn’t Christian? Absolutely not! But if you claim to be Christian, but you never hang out with Christians or spend time serving the body, are you really Christian? 

Again, I expect some will find this very stand offish, and I’m not trying to be. In this case, I’m used to it. As a writer, I’ve had several people talk to me about writing. I’ve been in some writing groups and even formed one or two. The thing is, they weren’t writing. So after a while we just sort of fell apart. I don’t think less of them. it was just clear that they weren’t interested in being writers, and I am. I want to talk about writing. I want to brainstorm. I want to ponder great works of fiction and analyze them. Some people are into that for a month or two, but only people truly committed to the craft are willing to stick with it.

The same is true of the faith. I’m very comfortable around non-writers. I have several dear friends who aren’t interested in writing and aren’t even that invested in where I am at with my writing, but we’ve never gotten in a fight or felt our relationships were threatened because I’m a writer and they’re not. 

Part of that is because I have writer friends. I have fellowship professionally with them. I can always reach out to them and communicate with them. They recharge my writer instincts and hone them. 

If writing is something I love this much, how much more so should it be with Christianity?

I will acknowledge that there is some scripture that might (at least at my level) indicate how Christians may or may not associate with non-Christians. 2 Corinthians 6:14 comes to mind here. However, I haven’t studied this as carefully as I’d want. People do this too often. They read a single verse and run with hit. They also read one verse without reading others that might give it more context. Consider, for instance comparing and studying that verse with 1 Corinthians 5:10. There’s a lot to consider there that I don’t feel confident in making proclamations about. Consider also that we are commissioned to go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). It would be impossible if we only associated with non-Christians. So please do not misconstrue what I’m saying. We need fellowship. We are commanded to love and honor God in all that we do. We receive grace when we stumble because our hearts truly seek for God even as our flesh tempts us. 

What I am saying is that we should strive to invest in our faith just as we invest in anything we care about. Consider again my writing. I’ve told several people honestly that I don’t think they really want to be writers. “Why not!” they’d ask, indignant that I’d dare challenge their love for writing. “Because you never make time to write.”

Of course, then all the reasonable justifications come out. “I work a full time job. I have a wife and kids. I have to keep up with my housework. I have school.” 

Of course you have things you need to do! However, how many video games have you played today? How much television have you watched? 

“Don’t I deserve free time?”

That’s exactly my point!

We spend our perceived free time doing exactly what we want. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten pretty rude when I think my free time is being threatened. 

However, our time is not ours from a Biblical perspective. It’s all God’s, and He gave us this time on Earth to honor and glorify Him. He graciously allows us secular actives and tenderly cares for our rest even from the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). 

But if we see life as an obstruction to life, we’re contradicting ourselves. If we see being a parent and doing our work as obstructions, then we’re not appreciating the children we’re given or the jobs we have. Some may even challenge me on the statement that these things are seen as obstructions, but they’re not the words I use; they’re the words people use when justifying why they’re not doing what they want. They do this to hide the other things. They use the things of their lives that are easily more important than any hobby or career ambition, and they do it to cover up the other things they do that they already know they could stop doing to make time to write. Those are the precious few hours where we truly have no Earthly responsibility. 

I challenge people who claim they want to be writers to see how much actual time they spend not writing. I equally challenge people who claim to be Christian to see how much time they spend not growing in the faith. It is your time from a certain (humanly-centered) point of view. How are you spending it? To be anything requires commitment. As we’ve previously discussed, you’ve either chosen to follow Christ or you haven’t. That means you’re spending time doing what He wants you to do. 

A Christian understand this is the first commandment and contemplates that commandment. It’s the center-point of a Christian’s thoughts and actions. Am I perfect? No, and I never claimed to be. There are moments in every day where I feel so ashamed because I was half way through a fantastic temper tantrum, during which I never once thought about how God would actually want me to handle that situation. 

Then God mercifully helps me see what I’m doing. I realize I’ve been angry because I’ve seen some of my time taken away, and I’m angry because I saw it as mine. Then I pray, and ask God to help me remember that I want to follow His plan and walk in His path, and so the time I have is not for me, but Him.  

This is what I hope you take from this chapter. To truly love God as he should be loved, we must fix on Him as the center of our thoughts and actions. This should honestly make even the most devout Christian feel a degree of conviction. I don’t know a single person I go to church with who wouldn’t confess their thoughts don’t drift. This doesn’t mean they’re not saved, by the way. It simply means all of us could do more, and we should seek to do more. 

Because if we do just this, it would be worth more than any other offering or sacrifice (Mark 12:33). 

For our panel: What are ways we can ensure our thinking is God-centered even when we’re at work or at home? Is there some Biblical guidance on how much time we should spend studying? Colossians 4:2 tells us to continue steadfastly in prayer, how do we do that? Does the slightest deviation from our hearts and thoughts condemn us? Is there a point at which a self-proclaimed Christian should challenge him-or-her self if they realize they’re not spending a lot of time thinking about God?

Musings on Christianity 48

Musings on Christianity 48

Are All Commandments Equal?

Some ten years ago, I wrote a short story called Entrance to the Light. The story was about a group of people on a bus that crashes. After they die (not a Biblically sound premise by the way), they see God and understand their sin, repenting and receiving salvation. Again, you actually have to repent before you die, but my message was more about the last person in the story. He was a liar. The killer and the adulterer had been admitted because of their repentance, but the liar was denied because he never repented. The point was that unrepentant sinners go to Hell. 

This is true. Whatever your sin, no matter how bad or how small, if you do not repent of your sins and (according to my faith) turn to Christ, you will go to Hell. There is no sin you can commit that is so “minor” that a perfect and holy God will simply let it pass. Christ died so that whoever believed in Him and followed Him would have salvation. He did not die so that we could go on living our sinful lives however we wanted because He picked up the bill (a very broad paraphrase of Romans 6:2). 

However, while every unrepentant sin results in damnation, not every sin is equal in God’s eyes. The first five books of the Bible have several names. The Pentateuch simply identifies them as the first five books of the Bible. They are sometimes called the Laws of Moses or even (since Moses was God’s chosen spokesman) called “The Law.” 

Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy have the most extensive list in terms of the Old Testament. The sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 expands on a number of those laws. Galatians has more information.  

First, not all of those laws from the Pentateuch are in effect. Christ declared all foods clean, so humans can really eat pretty much any animal they want (Mark 7:19-23). Christ declared that the sabbath was for man, not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27). There is no Christian requirement for a day of rest. With each representative (even Adam) there was a covenant, a promise made by God to His chosen representative. Christ brings a new (and the best) covenant, and through him we have an updated list of commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).”  

So again, Christ did not die on the cross to allow us humans to live however we want and still go to Heaven. Instead, we show our love for Him by keeping His commandments. 

But if we analyze the history of each covenant, we see God responding differently to some sins than others while people are on the earth. Some sins He is (or even has been) far more patient with than others. Some sins required physical punishment or even the death penalty. 

We know we should strive to be perfect because God is perfect (Matthew 5:48), but we can not attain that perfection while we are still in the cursed flesh we inherited all the way from Adam. Ultimately, the combination of salvation and eternal life is a free gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  

What all of this brings us to is the realization that there are some sins that are far more egregious than others. And here is where my limited knowledge becomes a source of frustration. From the day I wrote that short story to today, I’ve been far more concerned with the most important concept of Christianity. I was aware of the sin in my life, and horrified that my sin would lead to damnation. I wasn’t worried about the severity of that sin. I hated its presence in my life, and so I tried and tried to eradicate it, afraid that any sin, no matter how small, still led to Hell. 

That mindset would be true if we were still bound by The Law, but we aren’t. The Law brings death, Christ and grace bring life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

So my mindset has shifted, as any who walk the path eventually see. We are unfinished works. 

In Salvation, we became new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But while we are new creations of Grace, we are not yet complete and perfect works. God is working in us (Philippians 2:13). 

When confronting sin, the temptation is to respond to all sin in the same manner. If Christians respond to all sin the same, we’re missing some critical points. 

First, with the exception of repentance vs refusal to repent, God Himself did not treat all sin the same. If God responded to all sin with immediate and permanent death, we’d all already be damned. God did not kill Adam and Eve and then start over. Do you realize he could have? I do. It boggles my mind trying to figure it out. God had the power. There certainly wasn’t a lack of dirt to form a new man. But rather than destroy what he had already made and made well (Genesis 1:31), he redeemed man through Christ. When God gave Moses the Law, it came with various punishments for various crimes. Some theft required monetary replacement while some other crimes required stoning. 

Second, if we treat every sin the same way and lash out at it in the same way, that anger (even if it’s Biblically righteous) will just come off as noise. Think about the guy at work who’s always mad about his company. After a while, don’t or wouldn’t you eventually get to a point where you see him or her and think, “Oh, here he comes again. What’s he pissed about this time?”  When we elevate all sin to an extreme, we leave ourselves shouting and lamenting, and we just become noise. 

Third, treating all sin the same requires either elevating one sin to a status God didn’t give it, or degrading another sin below how abominable it is in God’s eyes.

This means we must seek out and work on all the sin in our own lives, paying close attention to those which might be bigger problems than others. This is a blessing. God is more patient with some sins than others. This allows me to focus on the issues in my growth that are more important first. Then, I can begin to work on the smaller issues.

I’m still not permitted to continue in my smaller sin just because it is smaller. Neither am I permitted to covet or practice one sin just because I’ve turned away from a more egregious sin. It simply gives precedent to the issues that are more important.

This means we have to be more diligent to the bigger things. This means we have to focus far more on some issues. If we allow lesser issues to overtake larger ones, we’ll inevitably fall into those issues and be lost. My pastor at church says, “If you make the little things big, you inevitably make the big things small.” The big things must always be the big things. We don’t ignore the little things. We just don’t let the little things become more important than they should be.

So what are the big things?  This is my failure. I am, regrettably, among those who looked at all sin the same. So I frankly don’t know the answer with confidence. However, the word of God (as always) provides some insight. 

The most important: Christ Himself gave us the two most important laws. These are the commandments we must ensure we’re following every day, all day, not matter what. If we’re not doing these two things, we’re already lost. But these laws are not simple tasks. It’s not like, “Mow the lawn, and make your bed.”

Indeed, these laws are about our hearts, and what we seek with them. 

“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).’”

There we have, straight from our Savior, the two things we must never fail to do. I’m of the opinion that if anyone can simply follow those two commandments, all would be well. God, our loving, merciful heavenly Father, knows our hearts. He is patient with us. His discipline is done in patience and love, to make us more like His son. 

Next chapter we will look at those two commandments more closely, but I first wanted to provide an overview on what I found in the Bible as the more important commandments and more egregious sins. 

Since we’ve already looked at the most important commandments, let’s look at egregious sins. Did you know that God expressed seven sins He hates in particular? As people continue to protest, debate, argue, and philosophize what things are worse than others, God kindly gave us a list. 

See Proverbs 6:16-19:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breaths out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

We will study those in particular in future chapters as well. 

You see, I don’t have an exact count on all the commandments from God. Sure, there are the ten commandments, which we will look at as well. But if you just read Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you’ll see just how extensive The Law really is. Read the rest of the Bible and study Matthew 5-7 and Galatians, and you’ll see the Law is hopelessly extensive. We can’t follow it perfectly. Even if we were in some way able to start following every law perfectly from the moment we read it, we can’t go back and erase what we did in ignorance. This is, again, why the grace offered us through Jesus Christ is ultimately the only rational method of salvation. No human I’ve ever knowns has earnestly said, “I’m perfect. I’ve never done anything wrong in my whole life.” I’ve never even met someone who’s said, “Well I wasn’t born perfect, but since I’ve ready the Bible, I’ve never done a single thing wrong.” 

So if we’re all ready to acknowledge our imperfection, what way is there to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God? The only possible reconciliation we can have is if someone who was able to be perfect and did live a perfect life paid the price required so that His righteousness could be credited to us (Romans 4:5). 

How can I proclaim to be perfect if I can’t even offer to you the extensive list of commandments that must be followed? I can’t even provide you the number. 

It’s horrifying. I’m supposed to honor a perfect God by following His commands, and I don’t even know what they are! Wait. Be patient. Remember, some things are far more important. God has revealed to us the things that matter most. As we grow, we will see more and more how we might honor God in what we do.

Does that mean anything outside of the nineteen (seven abominations, two great commandments and ten commandments) things I articulated here are simply “fair game?” No! Just because theft isn’t inherently listed there doesn’t mean theft isn’t wrong. In fact, I urge you to remember that one of the abominable sins is feet that make haste to run to evil. That one abomination accounts for any who rush off to a sin just because it’s not one of these listed. 

Also, if you’re using this book to structure your life, I’ve failed and even sinned against God. This isn’t the book you’re supposed to use to base your life on. The Bible is. This book is nothing more than one Christian pondering the only book that really matters. If more people just read and studied the Bible more every day, working to apply it in their lives, the world would be well.

How can I make such a blanket statement? I’ve already gone through the logic diagram. If you don’t actually believe in a God, nothing I say really has any importance to you anyway. 

The more valuable question is, “Why do I believe that statement above is true?” 

Well just go look at those nineteen things. Are they really so bad? I challenge you to think about a world where everyone treats each other as themselves. Where would police brutality go if every police officer treated a suspect the way they would be treated? Where would racism go if every white person treated every black person like, you guessed it, themselves, people? Where would we be if no one ever wanted to shed innocent blood or make haste to do evil? 

I dare say even if you didn’t believe in God and simply avoided those seven abominations, the nature of your salvation may still be a point of dispute for some (not for those who are Christian), but the condition of this planet would still be much better.  To rephrase, the world would be a better place regardless of who goes to Heaven or Hell. Here I must digress and point out that no matter how great this world could be, it would pale in comparison to Heaven. No matter how bad this wold could be, it would pale in comparison to Hell.

Yes, the first commandment still demands a whole-hearted love to God, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac .Remember I’ve already acknowledged you either agree with that, or you don’t. This is a Christian belief. But God is patient. He’s shown His willingness to let humanity go where it truly wants to go (a paraphrase of Romans 1:24-25). This means though that we can turn away, but we can turn toward Him as well. On this world, we can hold fast to these principles and enjoy a more peaceful earthly existence.

This is a wold that could be. We could live in a world where everyone follows these commands regardless of where their hearts lie, and the world would be a better place. We wouldn’t look upon one another with haughty eyes and judgement. We’d simply live, and God would judge. We would judge ourselves and others according to the same standards, which is so much better than any system we have now. 

In future chapters, we’ll study this list more carefully. 

For our panel: What is the actual, comprehensive list of commandments a Post Pentecostal Christian should seek to follow? Are there other, more important commands or more egregious sins I failed to mention? How does one apply these commands in one’s own life? Does the committing of any of those sins immediately condemn a person? Are there truly any unforgivable sins?

Musings on Christianity 47

Musings on Christianity 47

It’s As Simple As A Choice

The purpose of this chapter is to remind readers of the choice they made. It’s the same, ultimately-simple choice we discussed a few chapters ago. You can choose to be Christian, or you can choose to not be a Christian. If you choose to be a Christian, you have chosen to live a Christian life by Christian values. 

What happens is people get angry at those Christian values or rules. That’s always confused me. If you’re not Christian, you don’t have to follow the Christian rules. 

One possible explanation though is that some Christians strive to ensure all humanity follows those values. Christians believe certain things, and they vote in accordance to those beliefs. They support causes according to those beliefs. Some of those beliefs are in direct contrast to the way of the world. 

A major source of conflict is when people support their beliefs and others don’t. I was playing a video game one night. I didn’t do very well. This particular game requires teamwork. One of the people I was playing with didn’t feel as though I did a particularly good job. He sent me a message using language I won’t repeat. I don’t honestly remember all the details, but he eventually asked what my deal was. You see, he kept trying to get me to lash out in anger. On another night, I might have, but that night, by the grace of God, I didn’t fall for that temptation. In some mocking way he asked why I wasn’t shooting insults back his way. I told him, “I’m a Christian.”

His next message declared all kinds of things. I received things like “I’m a terrorist” or “666” (I remember that last one clearly). It dawned of me.

“This guy is just doing all he can to make me mad for the sake of making me mad.”

That’s when I realized that people sometimes get angry just for the existence of a different opinion.

I won’t pretend Christians don’t fall for this temptation. I see plenty of things that I fervently disagree with, and sometimes my anger gets the best of me. But this is where things come to a head.

I can tell you what I know (and I’ve never pretended to be more than just some guy working to understand the truth). You can choose to accept what I say, or you can choose to reject it. It’s ultimately that simple. Neither of us needs to loose our heads about it. When I say, “I believe this is wrong.” You have every right to say, “I believe that it’s right!” 

For Christians, we don’t judge the situation by our own reckoning. We believe humans are flawed creatures to begin with. What can my mortal mind reason out that the Almighty doesn’t already know? This, in my mind, should eliminate much of the debate. 

If you’ve rejected Christianity, you’re going to live the life you’ve chosen to live. I’m not able to stop you. I can, and will, continue to proclaim Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His commission. You can choose to listen or not. 

But if you are a Christian, we have a standard to turn to, to test and judge rightly (John 7:24). Christian debates, in my mind, should always end with the disputing parties looking to scripture. 

If someone shows me in scripture that what I am doing is expressly forbidden by God, then I need to stop. The person pointing out the scripture to me isn’t making me stop; God’s commandment is ordering me to stop. 

Yes, some people are out there twisting the word of God to make you do things or not do things you have every right to do or every right to refuse to do. I can’t stop them from speaking, and neither can you. But we don’t listen to men, at least not just any man. I’m a member of a church. I give deference and submit to their leadership by choice. I chose to submit to their leadership because I believe that they understand God’s word better than I. If there’s ever a question or a doubt, I can bring the matter up to them, and we discuss it with love and respect. We look to God’s word for clarity. 

What happens though is pride gets in the way. I see it all the time in all sorts of situations. Maybe I’m a work and someone says, “You’re supposed to document this interaction with a student.” Someone get’s called out, and rather than just accept the information and move forward, they get defensive. I’ve done it. 


I believe the desire is to elevate myself (when I do it). Ask yourself how often you’ve said something like, “Everybody does it” or “Nobody else does it.” 

That’s lowering the standard from God’s commands to that of the other mere mortals around you. Ultimately, who cares how you look in comparison to those around you? 

If you combine all the religions and philosophies of the world, you still only come to a possible three situations when you die.

  1. You go to Heaven, where there is only joy, love, and peace. Who cares how many people are in paradise with you? I’d be a bit more concerned with who isn’t in paradise if I’m concerned about anything at that point. 

2) You go to Hell, where there is eternal pain and torment. We’ve talked about this situation already, but if you’re suffering unimaginable pain and torment, I’d imagine you’d be more angry about those who influenced you than those who tried to convince you to resist temptation. Why do I believe this? I’ve been in trouble before. I’m sure you have too. That’s when I hear, “They did it too!” I’ve even said it myself. I’ve been so mad at people who showed me the wrong example. I’ve been angry that I never saw the right example. But even in times when I wasn’t punished alone, I wasn’t comforted. If all my brothers and sisters were right there with me while I was being punished, I wanted my punishment to end. I’d even turn in someone else just to end my punishment. We see it in court. We see it at work. We see it everywhere. Readers, if you’re suffering in Hell, the chances are, your biggest concern will be the fact that you’re suffering in Hell. No amount of others around you will ease your pain. 

3) Nothing happens. 

Those are really the only three things that could happen when we die. You ultimately believe in a Heaven, Hell, or both, or you don’t. But how you compare to other mortal people around you is meaningless in all three of those situations. If you’re in Heaven, it doesn’t matter what those who were with you on Earth did because you’re in Heaven. If you’re in Hell, it doesn’t matter what those around you did because you’re still in Hell. And if nothing happens, no one cares about anything because you’re dead.

So there’s no scenario when comparing yourself to another person really does anything for you. Whatever religion you follow, you should submit to the rules of that religion. Then, when we all die, the correct religion will be proven one way or another. Just remember it was you who chose that religion. If you don’t have a religion, then live as the Israelites in the time of Judges lived, doing what is right in your own eyes (Judges 21:25). Then, when we all die, we’ll find out. Just remember, you choose to live that way.

Why am I spending so much time on this topic? Because people want to argue, debate, or fight over beliefs, and it’s just not profitable in any respect. Sure, if someone asks why I believe a certain thing, I tell them. Every now and then, I see a meme that honestly hurts my heart. I might send a message to the person privately and ask, “May I explain why that hurt me?” or “Would you like to understand how a Christian sees that?” If the post is just there to anger Christians, I don’t bother. People who do that are seeking anger and argument, and I don’t have time for that in my life.

But we’re about to talk about Christian law, and I need you to remember something.

Do you want to be a Christian or not?

If you don’t want to obey Christian law, then don’t be a Christian. It’s that simple. You don’t need to fight about it. You don’t need to argue. You just choose.

However, if you choose to be a Christian, you then must learn how a Christian should live and behave. These rules shouldn’t burden you; they should set you free. You just can’t have it both ways. 

You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m going to go ahead and lie to my father.” You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I really feel I should spend my life with this person instead of the one I’m married to, so I’m going to divorce my spouse so I can spend my life with this other person.” 

But here’s the beauty of being Christians. For those who truly repent and seek forgiveness, we are already forgiven! The price is already paid! 

I’m indeed Christian, but I’m as far from perfect as I could ever imagine. I have sinned. I will sin again. I won’t do so blatantly and without remorse, but I’m going to mess up so long as I’m in this cursed flesh. But I won’t do so habitually. I won’t pick “that sin I’m going to do because no one is perfect.” I’m going to do my best to live as Christ wants me to live, appreciating the forgiveness and Grace He gives when I stumble. 

So when I talk about Christian law, I’m absolutely saying these are things Christians should strive to do (or not do) at all times. I don’t present them to accuse you. I don’t present them to condemn you. They’re simply the ways a Christian should live. They’re not presented as I think they should be. They’re presented from the Bible as the standard and word of God Himself. It’s not my opinion, God never asked for my vote or input. They’re just the rules I’ve chosen to live by, and you can choose to live by them too. If you choose not to live by them, well, I can’t make you. We don’t need to argue or debate. 

Some may want to. I can imagine someone asking me, “Who are you to tell me how to live?” Nobody! Again, I’m not the one who made the rules. God made these rules, and He’s the creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all the host of them (Genesis 2:1). How do I know what God wants? I study the Bible, to learn what He wants.

Again, I’ve answered the debate about the mortal authors of the Bible. I’ve answered the debate about those Christ chose to lead the early church. I’ve addressed all the conditions that apply when one ultimately chooses to obey Christ or not. That is the choice. If a person can actually choose to turn from God (and they can and do), then I’m certainly not going to make you listen to my mortal mouth. 

But it isn’t my goal to get you to listen to me. It never has been. My goal is ultimately to get you to listen to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who created the world. The God who loved us so much, He sent His only Son to die for us so that those who come to believe in Him can have eternal life (John 3:16). If you’ve already rejected that message, then go on about your life. But if you’ve chosen to believe in Christ, I urge you then to look at the things He’s told us, He’s telling us, to do. 

For our panel: Do Christians have the right to tell others how to live? How should a Christian respond to one who’s rejected Christ’s commandments?  What do we do when a conflict presents itself because of our faith? Why is it people react so passionately to Christian values (both believers and unbelievers)? How can one best present their viewpoints for mutual upbringing without turning it into an argument?