Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"God Wants You to be Rich."

Then why did Jesus tell people to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor, then follow him? (Luke 12:33) Why did he say to not store up treasures on this earth? (Matthew 6:19) Why did he say that it’s very hard for a rich man to enter heaven? (Matthew 19:33)

No, earthly riches are not to be the goal of a follower of Jesus but seeking his kingdom, which will at times cost us everything we’ve got. Of course, I must point out that neither did Jesus say that he wants us to be in poverty since he continually pointed his followers to taking care of those in need. In fact,in the early church there were "no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34) because they took care of one another.

“Jesus never said we shouldn’t defend ourselves.”

Oh but he did. When Peter sought to defend Jesus against those who came to arrest him by cutting off a man’s ear—Jesus told him to put away his sword. (Matthew 26:52) Jesus later told Pilate that if his kingdom were of this world his servants would fight to prevent his arrest. (John 18:36)

Jesus also said that if you draw the sword you will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)
Do not resist an evil person (Matthew 5:39)
Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21)
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)

How can you overcome evil with good when you only mirror evil back to a person? When one returns evil for evil, evil increases. (Further discussion is beyond the scope of this blog but trusting God for our protection or other eventual positive outcome is the only response Jesus accepts from his followers. (John 8:31)

“You’ve got to yell at the devil!”

“You’ve got to yell at the devil to let him know you’re mad so he’ll know you mean it!”

No. Man’s anger doesn’t serve God. (James 1:20) It’s the authority and name of Jesus that cast out the devil. Jesus “drove out the spirits with a word” (Matthew 8:16) Nothing fancy or loud, most likely “Out”. Some demons though, Jesus said, need extra prayer for a person to drive them out—not extra noise or anger. (Mark 9:28, 29) Simply “resist the devil and he will flee.”

Perhaps more importantly are some little known scriptures that emphasize our need to respect celestial beings—even the devil.

Jude said, “In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand…” Jude vs 8-10

Peter said, “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand.” 2 Peter 2:10, 11

So, it’s not a good idea to teach children cute songs that mock the devil such as the one saying, he “can sit on a tack.”

“It’s impossible to keep the Law of Moses”

In the 21st century and every century since 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple—yes, since sacrificing at the Temple is a large part of the Law Moses gave (from God) to the Hebrews. However, to say that it was always impossible is to overlook a number of passages in the New Testament:

Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah (the parents of John the Baptizer) were upright, “observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly”. (Luke 1:6)

The “rich young ruler” said he had kept all the commandments since his youth. (Mark 10:17-23)

Paul said that he, himself, had been blameless in regard to the Law. (Philippians 3:5, 6)

But those who followed Jesus learned “a new and better way” in the New Covenant of following Jesus’ teachings and coming under his atoning grace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”

This is a true scripture (Proverbs 13:24) quoted to cause Christians to believe that they must “spank” or “cause pain” to their children who don’t do the right thing--in many cases to excuse abuse. But it was given under the Old Covenant or Mosaic Law and is not repeated in the New Covenant or its record in the New Testament. It in no way relates to “Fathers do not exasperate your children.” (Ephesians 6:4) or “love believes all things…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

We teach children that hitting is not the way to resolve issues; then we hit them.

While it’s true that a qualification of being an elder is to be one “whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient”, the same scripture also states that a qualified person is not to be a “striker” (literal Greek translation). (Titus 1:5-7)

When a large child on a playground hits or in other ways hurts a smaller child, what do we call the larger child? Right. A bully. We tell them to go pick on someone their own size. Yet many teach that a man who is five or six times larger than a small child should hit the child when he or she doesn’t live up to expectations.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“Everything That Happens is God’s Will"

“Everything that happens is God’s will because God is sovereign.”

Yes, God is sovereign—ruler of all but that does not mean that everything that comes into our lives is good or from him. The Bible makes it clear that we have an enemy, Satan who would like to “devour” us (1 Peter 5:8) and who comes to “steal, kill and destroy”. (John 10:10) We are to resist the devil and he will flee,” (James 4:7) If the things of the devil are good and God’s perfect will, why is it that we are instructed to resist and “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18), which includes a shield to “quench the fiery darts of the devil”? We would be resisting God’s will!

No, God in his sovereignty allows these works of the devil to come through so we can fight them off! We’re to fight the devil not people! (Matthew 5:39)!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Unconditional Forgiveness?

When John the Baptizer was sent to “prepare the way of the Lord”, he preached repentance. (John 3:1-12) According to the gospel of Mark, the first thing Jesus preached was, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14)

Jesus instructed his disciples to go to the brother who has sinned against them, show him his fault and hope he listens—or repents; if not, he outlines more steps to take. If after all that, the sinning brother still won’t listen, he is to be treated as a “pagan” (non-believer). (Matthew 18:15-17) Jesus further told them, “If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3 emphasis added) Repentance as a qualification for forgiveness is a major part of the framework of the Bible in both Old and New Testaments.

A second qualification for forgiveness is that the sin must be forgivable. Jesus said, “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit (calling the Holy Spirit’s ways evil) will never be forgiven, he is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:29, 30) John said, “There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.” Since he didn’t specify which sin that is, I can only conclude that he referred to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

So no, God’s forgiveness is not “unconditional”. However, in his mercy he may occasionally grant forgiveness without repentance just as he “sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. (Matthew 5:45)

Forgiveness is often confused with God’s love. Followers of Jesus are to love each other, their neighbors, those who insult or persecute them and their enemies—that would seem to be everybody.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


“Jesus taught in parables to make his teachings easier to understand.”

No, Jesus specifically said that he taught in parables so that the people would NOT understand (Matthew 13:10,11) in fulfillment of a specific prophecy (Matthew 13:13). Even his disciples had to ask him what he meant by the parables. Later one exclaimed, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech”.(John 16:29) Jesus’ meanings were hidden to the Jewish people with the exception of the few(relatively) who followed him. (Matthew 13:10,11)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Use Words If Necessary

“Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.” St. Francis undoubtedly meant that you have to live the gospel, which is very true though his radical lifestyle would have really stood out. However, Francis was no Trappist (of course) and had plenty to say or we wouldn’t have so many of his quotes!

Today (amazingly) words are always necessary in proclaiming the gospel. I’ve met very nice and helpful Hindus and Buddhists. I’ve known Muslims who believe in being very moral and hospitable. So unless you tell people why you do what you do(and don’t do) they won’t necessarily know that you serve Jesus and that they can serve him too. However, words alone aren’t enough and can quickly lead to hypocrisy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

“Forgiveness, An Act of the Will”

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, just make up your mind and do it whether you feel like it or not.”

Yes and no.

Yes, we disciples of Jesus are commanded to forgive (those who repent-Luke 17:3b,4) but to settle for a determination of the will is to stop dangerously short of Jesus’ command.

Jesus summed up his parable of the wicked servant who, though he had been forgiven refused to forgive his fellow servant with this stern warning, “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34; emphasis added) The apostle Paul added that everything we do must be done in love or it’s nothing—worthless. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

“The Wonderful Cross”

Imagine, if you will, that you had an older brother with whom you were really close. One day you began crossing a street without seeing a speeding truck that was headed straight for you. But your brother saw it and threw himself at you to knock you out of the truck’s path. You thankfully were saved but sadly, your brother was killed by the speeding truck.

In the realization that you were saved by your brother’s sacrifice you’re at the same time thankful yet devastated by the loss. The pain is dulled slightly by the discovery that your brother had named you as the beneficiary of a great inheritance.

In your desire to always remember what your brother did for you, do you wear a gold truck around your neck and proclaim, “O wonderful truck”? Of course not, you would tell everyone about your wonderful brother!

So why focus on a cross? The early church understood that our focus is to be on Jesus and not the cross as they did not use the cross for symbolism or art; some sources say that such use was forbidden. They saw the cross as what it was, a cruel instrument of tortuous execution by an oppressive empire.

While Jesus said that he laid his life down—no one took it from him, (John 10:17, 18) he didn’t like the idea of dying on a cross and asked his Father for another way (Matthew 26:36-44). If anyone were to have a spiritual ecstasy over the cross, you’d think it would be Jesus but no, he was miserable at Gethsemane, miserable when he was beaten and miserable on the cross. It was “for the joy set before him [that he] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”(Hebrews 12:2) The cross was neither the object nor the end; Jesus endured the cross for what was on the other side! Yes, Jesus did say that we are to “take up [our] cross” (Matthew 10:38) as parts of the popular song that has the line “O the wonderful cross” say--to deny our sin nature and to rejoice when we’re persecuted for his name. But chances are that if you’re thinking the cross is wonderful--you’re not really carrying it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

“If We Could Understand God, He Wouldn’t Be God.”

“If We Could Understand God, He Wouldn’t Be God.”

God IS. Nothing we do or don't do determines God's being or character. The Bible is choc-full of admonitions to "Get wisdom, get understanding, though it cost you everything you have."(Proverbs 4:7) The Good News is a revelation--a revealing of God, not a hiding. The point at which people get confused is they think that any understanding of God must come from their own brains’ reckoning (they also forget that God created our brains) rather than from the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

“Spiritual Healing is the Ultimate Healing”

“Even though he didn’t receive physical healing (and died), he got the ultimate healing—a spiritual one.”

If a person is a follower of Jesus, we can rejoice that when he dies, it’s not the end and his spirit will continue in Jesus’ presence though his body was not healed. (Take your questions about why he wasn’t healed to Jesus and his word—not to the “traditions of men” or your imagination.) However, the idea that the physical body (and thereby physical healing) is less important or unimportant, that only the spiritual counts, doesn’t come from the Bible but from Gnosticism, which taught that material things are evil and only the spiritual is valuable. Paul warned Timothy about such teachings. (1 Timothy 6:20, 21)

“Death is the Ultimate Healing”

“Death is the Ultimate Healing”

If a person has died, (sorry to have to put it so bluntly) his body is not healed; it is dead until the last day when it will be renewed.

The Bible does not portray death as healing— Jesus never said, Ah because this person has died, she has received the ultimate healing. In fact, Jesus raised every dead person he encountered! The Bible does say that death is an enemy—the last one for Jesus to destroy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) While death is not our friend, Jesus removes the sting of death by receiving his followers’ spirits on the other side of it.

Hezekiah’s Second Round of Life

“It would have been better if Hezekiah had gone on and died and not asked to be healed since his son, the extremely wicked King Manasseh was born during Hezekiah’s extra fifteen years.”

God told Hezekiah his time was up at the age of only thirty-nine (2 Kings 20:1) but Hezekiah cried out to the Lord to remember his faithfulness and heal him (v.3). The Lord heard his prayers and tears (vs. 4-6) and healed him—he even gave him a sign (vs. 8-11).

From a very narrow view, I can see how some might thing that it would have been better if Manasseh, a king who led the Israelites into horrendous idolatry (even sacrificing his son in the fire, 2 Kings 21:6) had died instead of being healed, but God has a broader view. First of all, to say that Hezekiah should not have been healed is to say that his faithfulness (to God) or his prayers should not have influenced God. Next, it is to say that God made a bad decision in healing him.

Though Manasseh’s son Amon was also evil (21:20) Amon’s son Josiah was a righteous king who restored the Book of the Law and renewed the covenant. Then we fast forward to the gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and in reading Jesus’ human genealogy (Matthew 1), we find not only Hezekiah (v.10) but the troublesome Manasseh and the righteous Josiah!

So while this was not Jesus’ direct bloodline but Joseph’s, though not his birth father, Joseph was the man selected by God to raise Jesus to manhood here on earth. God used Joseph’s lineage to place Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the City of David in fulfillment of prophecy. (Micah 6:2; Matthew 2:6) Without Hezekiah’s extra fifteen years there would have been no Joseph.

To sum it up, God made the right decision in honoring Hezekiah’s faithfulness and healing him. Yes, his son Manasseh was very evil but that was his personal rebellious choice (and that of the Israelites in following him). God still had a plan for good King Josiah, the faithful Joseph who watched over Jesus as he was born and grew, and the fulfillment of prophecy concerning Jesus. He also had a plan for all who would follow Jesus—to rescue them from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of light and eternal life! (Colossians 1:12,13)