Tag Archives: sin

Church discipline; most churches get it wrong…

Church discipline is one of those areas that is misunderstood and abused even amongst the churches.   There are two views on either side, both incorrect.  One view is that the church is to be the police of it’s member’s sin against God, and if a member is sinning against God, they have to be taken to task, and then shunned if there is no “repentance.”  The other view is that there is no such thing as church discipline; that fellow believers have no right to speak out about sin in the congregation.

The fact is, Jesus taught about discipline, esp. here:

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

But notice something important, it is if someone sins against you, not against God.  We are to be concerned when someone does something wrong that effects us directly.  So, say there is someone in the congregation that is trying to sleep with my husband.  I now have a legitimate gripe and have been given the steps to take to stop it.  Say one member steals from another, again, we have the steps to work through.

Elsewhere, Paul tells us not to judge another, save whether or not that person is causing another to stumble.  So, what is being established is order in the physical church, not a judgment on that person’s salvation, nor their “sin” against God.  Notice there should be something that has been witnessed by at least one other person.  It is apparent we are establishing a case of earthly import, not a spiritual state of salvation.

In scripture we see that it is the Holy Spirit’s job of convicting and changing a person in regards to sin against God, it isn’t my job.  We are humans, we are going to fight and have disagreements, church discipline is supposed to keep order and safety in the church, settling earthly disputes between believers.  Another reason for this, is that we are not supposed to get the government involved when there is a disagreement between believers.  I’m not supposed to sue a fellow believer, so how am I to make sure I don’t get taken advantage of by one?  That is what church discipline was for.

We have to read the cases in scripture about church discipline and make sure we see the entire context.  Take Paul’s admonishments in 1 Corinthians.  He is talking about issues within the church itself.  So, when the Corinthian believers were sinning, it involved other members of the church with whom they were either sinning with, and against.

The other very important aspect is correct teaching of the gospel.  In a church, you do expect members to behave, not because of themselves, but rather because of the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God; IF the true gospel of faith and grace, and Jesus Christ is being taught, the individuals will respond to that.

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Christians and Alcohol…

Oh, boy.  Yes, I’m tackling this totally non-controversial issue.  This is one of those issues that I urge my readers to research for themselves directly from scripture and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  With this issue there are actually multiple things to consider when trying to answer the question, ” is it permissible for Christians to drink alcohol?”

The first thing to consider is, what does scripture teach?  Is ingesting alcohol inherently sinful?  The plain, straightforward answer is, no.  If a person approaches scripture with an open mind and not some dead set agenda to prove that alcohol is from the pit, it is quite straightforward that alcohol is not sinful, and neither is drinking it in moderation.  Jesus Himself drank alcohol, and He also turned water into wine, and no, it wasn’t grape juice.

Quite simply it is bordering on silly to think that the wine drunk at all the various Jewish festivals, including Passover, was really grape juice.  The Bible, cultural tradition/history, and the state of agriculture and storage at the time all contradict the grape juice idea.  We are also told in the Psalms;

Psalm 104:14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

Who is ultimately to be thanked for the things in these passages?  The Lord.  What you will notice as you study these things for yourself, is that when you are reading an author that disavows drinking any alcohol that the passages that clearly support yayin (a Hebrew word for wine), or hold it up in a permissible or even a good way, are said to refer to juice and mysteriously yayin changes meaning when it causes trouble in scripture, then it is suddenly alcoholic.  I would point out that another form of alcohol is indeed usually warned against; strong drink or shekar.

Obviously what this is building up to is a warning against addiction and drunkenness.  But to try to force scripture to be against alcohol in any strength or form doesn’t line up.  Here is another reference to both yayin and shekar;

Deut. 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

There is clear permission to buy both, and ingest it at the God-prescribed festival, though notice that it does not permit drunkenness.  Wine is clearly held up as being something that can be a part of being merry and rejoicing, and it is given by God.  Too much, however, and it leads to sin and trouble.  This is where a very important analogy can be made; and it is with food.  Food is a good thing, it is a blessing, and a gift from God.  If we partake in moderation there is nothing sinful about liking the food we eat.  However, if we eat too much or become addicted to food that is a sin…it is gluttony.  Gluttony does not make all food evil, or wrong, just as drunkenness and addiction to alcohol does not make every drop of alcohol evil.

The scriptures are indeed equally clear that misusing alcohol is a big no-no, and that drunkenness and addiction can lead to bad situations and bad choices.  I will add here that it is fully possible that the wine consumed during OT and NT times was mixed with water to cut the alcoholic effects, and I’d also point out that that means more could be consumed without feeling its effects; for example there are several cups of wine to be ingested at a Passover meal, not just one.

Next, another scriptural truth; we are not to eat or drink anything in front of another that would cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.  If your friend is an alcoholic who does not drink, and you drink in front of them, how is that loving and respecting your sibling in Christ?  We are to make sure that we don’t offend someone in our freedom, while at the same time, we are to teach the truth; that we are indeed free in Christ, and truth as presented in scripture.

1 Cor. 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

There is also another important matter to consider here; the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  As we walk and live by faith, each of us, as individuals, should be paying attention to the leading of the Spirit for each of our own lives. It is quite possible, and I do believe this happens, that the Spirit will convict certain believers not to drink at all.  For example, for the alcoholic fighting their addiction, total abstinence from alcohol is sometimes the only possible way to go.  It is  very very important to seek His guidance in such matters where scripture neither prescribes nor prohibits certain things; in this case imbibing in alcohol.  Perhaps the Spirit guides certain people to abstinence from alcohol, not for the person themselves, but for someone around them, or one of their children, or for health reasons.  For others, the Holy Spirit may not guide into total abstinence from alcohol.

It is also important to note that the Bible mentions wine in a manner that touches upon health issues.  Many people that preach against any alcohol claim that it is bad for the one’s health; however, modern science has modified its tune and now recognizes some health benefits from very moderate intake of things like red wine, which actually seems backed up by scripture.  The wide access to alcohol in our culture simply means we need to monitor the amount, our health, and our motives when it comes to purchasing and consuming alcohol.

My opinion, that I obviously feel is backed by scripture, can be summed up like this; alcohol in and of itself is not evil.  The simple ingesting of alcohol is not a sin either; however, drunkenness and addiction is clearly taught against in scripture.  We need to study this and let the Holy Spirit guide each of us in our own personal actions.  We should each do as He guides; for some that means imbibing alcohol in a responsible and respectful manner in moderation will be ok, for some, He’ll guide away from it for their own good.  Emotions run high over this issue because we each know someone who has been adversely affected by alcohol…but we also have to make sure our stances on it are scriptural and that we are seeking guidance for ourselves from God.

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Human beings; neither angels nor demons…

I’ve been thinking on something recently; and that something is the tendency of humans to either put other humans on pedestals, or else so far in the dirt as to not warrant a second thought.  We tend to bestow some kind of odd sainthood on some, whilst having extreme negative feelings toward others.  I believe that we should aim for a realistic balance.

There are people that we like, that we love…and sometimes we can put them up on a pedestal.  There are people that we somehow believe don’t struggle with this earthly life like everyone else.  These thoughts can, and do, cause problems.  First, the person up on the pedestal can get rather tired of it.  Secondly, if we put someone up on the pedestal, that means they can fall off, instead of letting them be on even ground like everyone else…we humans have enough trouble maintaining our balance as it is (even on our knees sometimes).  Adding the extra burden unrealistic expectations on someone isn’t a good idea.  It’s also got to get really tempting to jump off that pedestal.

Also, those people that we seem to think don’t have problems and struggles in life are sometimes neglected because we all expect them to be the strong ones.  Let’s face it; every human is a sinner, everyone has troubles, everyone needs friends, everyone need someone to talk  things over with.  We are all hurtling around the sun on the same ball of mud as everyone else, and life is life.  We are all in desperate need of Christ, and even when we become a part of The Church, even when we become believers, we are still human beings, and in fact that joining of The Church should be something special indeed betwixt all our brothers and sisters.  We believers need to make sure we are there for each other.

The danger in painting someone as “perfect” in our own minds is that no one is perfect except Christ.  Therefore, all humans will disappoint us at some point.  That’s not a pessimistic statement at all, just a statement of fact.  Even if it is something small, we do disappoint others.  People in those phases of infatuated love often think the object of that infatuation is perfect…then it really hits the fan when they find out they are not.  Kids often have an idealistic version of “parents” in their heads and it can be a punch in the gut when they finally figure out their parents are just as human as everyone else.  Same thing goes with parents and their view of their own kids.

On the flip side, we sometimes view someone we dislike or are mad at as something other than human.  The truth it, that person is in the image of God, just as we are.  They are going to face the same types of things in this life as us (like death and taxes…and life and taxes).  We mentally throw mud on others, when it might do us good to remember their humanity.  And, yes, I’m talking to myself here too; I tend to do the exact same thing, and it would be very hard to change.

I think it is interesting that when someone does something truly heinous, we often term it “inhuman.”  The scary thing is that it is indeed human.  Sometimes we don’t like to face human faults because it reminds us of our own…or, rather, it reminds us of what humans are actually capable of. It adds a lot of meaning to the phrase, “There but for the grace of God…” or for the smaller things we should actually be able to connect with the person, because we’ve all sinned. I guess the thing to remember is that there is a person involved in those heinous events…not “only” demons or Satan, but a willing flesh and blood human is indeed involved.

We are human beings, and being human means we are all sinners and we will all have our faults.  We will all sin, without Christ, we are all deserving of judgment.  We are all also made in the image of God…each one of us.  Elevating people to “angel” status, or shoving them in a pit to “demon” status robs them of the fact that we all have to face; we are a bunch of humans dealing with a bunch of other humans.  Praise God, He’s above all things, and still deals with us too…or else we’d really be screwed.  I also praise Him because when He does the elevating, He holds us up in His hand and He begins to change us and work on us…it’s the only way any of us have a chance.

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.” – CS Lewis, Prince Caspian

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Musings; Familial responsibility…

I believe in absolute freedom in Christ, but freedom with responsibility, as I feel Paul clearly teaches.  I was just thinking about sin and mulling it over from the POV of having that freedom in Christ (which I really must blog about more later).  A lot of people wonder at that freedom, and really they cannot believe it…but it’s true.

So, if it is true, and it is, then why should we contain ourselves when we are faced with a choice of whether or not to sin?  I’m not talking about those times when we really and truly slip and sin without thinking; I’m referring to the times when we are sitting there going, “Ok, wow, yeah, I really have a choice here.   If I do thus and so, that’s not going to be good for me, nor, apparently, my relationship with God…but I know that we have freedom and forgiveness.”

We have freedom, so what is the consideration here beyond “don’t sin willfully,” which I admit is a very big deal in and of itself, but not part of my musing right now.  I have been musing that it has a lot to do with familial responsibility.  Most people, esp. unbelievers would read that and think I was referring to blood family, but I’m not.   All of my brothers and sisters in Christ are included in the idea of “familial responsibility.”

There are innumerable sins that are not only going to affect you.  And there are many sins that must include another human being for them to be carried out…the ever popular fornication springs to mind.  So, in reality when we are contemplating certain sin, the question isn’t just about us, or our freedom, but also the question of how you’d treat family…would you really do something that would seriously harm your “real” family, your blood relation? Oftentimes we’ll do things that would harm ourselves, but never do those same things to our loved ones.

I think that Paul’s teachings back up this musing as one of the ways we should help to contain ourselves and keep yielding to righteousness; think about our family first…so much so that we are not ever to judge.  That’s right; we shouldn’t judge another believer’s salvation in any respect, but what does Paul watch out for?

Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

And I think that is my very point…if we find ourselves struggling with something, it should help us to keep others in mind, not just ourselves.  If all of us brothers and sisters in Christ would watch out for one another by watching out for ourselves, we may be able to control ourselves a bit better (all with the help of the Spirit of course).

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Why the Tree of Knowledge?

I’ve had several conversations with people lately surrounding the idea of the Tree of Knowledge.  Why was Adam given the choice, or opportunity to disobey God…or rather, to not have faith in God?

That answer is quite obvious; Adam had to be given some form, or kind, of choice in order to truly have free will.  It is plain that God does not want humans as robots, or else He could’ve very easily made Himself a bunch of automatons to populate the earth.  So, in order for there to be free will, there absolutely must be a choice available; The Tree of Knowledge was that choice.

Now, I in turn ask the question; Why was the Tree of Knowledge the choice?  Why didn’t God just say; “You see that tuft of purple grass…don’t step on it.”  Would that not have been a free will choice between obedience and faith or disobedience and a lack of faith?  So, why the Tree of Knowledge in particular?

We are not directly told…but just mull it over a bit.  Here’s my opinion; if we were going to fall, which God knew we were, we needed the choice to be the tree.  If we fell, in other words, something about the choice itself would aid us in the future to get back to God.  I believe the Tree served that function.

If the Tree itself provided us with an idea of Good vs. Evil, then that absolutely helps us find our way back to God.  For one simple example, The Moral Argument for God is basically derived from that very idea.  The fact that humans know there is right and wrong (even if we disagree on the details) gives evidence of God.  A true and meaningful sense of morality only makes logical sense if there is an absolute and objective source for that morality.

The Tree did not create that morality within us; God did…but perhaps the Tree let us tap into it.  If the choice had not been that tree, it may have been much much harder for us to return to God because we would not have recognized right from wrong internally.

We have to has that internal sense of right and wrong in order to recognize our sinful state, and that is the beginning of the realization of our need to “get right” with God (which can only be done ultimately through Christ, of course).

In short, I do believe that Adam was “funnelled” to the Tree if he was going to disobey in order to derive some benefit from it, even though that choice resulted in the fall.  On a side note, it is important to remember that everything revolves around faith.  It is faith, or a lack of it that results in sin.  So, beyond eating of the Tree, Adam and Eve lacked faith in God and what He had told them…that was the foundation of the sin right there, not just the “work” of eating the fruit, and only through faith do we get back to God.

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Publicans and Harlots; Tax collectors and Prostitutes…

Matthew 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Read it again, slower this time and really understand what the Lord is preaching here.  There are people sitting in the pews of churches, or watching preachers on TV, or listening to them on the radio that need to get this in their heads…as well as non-believers rejecting the gospel.

Do you know how many people are turned away from the church because of the self-righteousness of the members?  And, I’m not talking about those church goers that hearken to the Spirit, live a life of faith, recognize their own sin, but fight it with the help of the Holy Spirit, that teach faith and live it (yes, they are out there, and I’m privileged to know some).  I’m talking about the people that make up their own lists of sin and then try to make everyone live up to that.

Don’t dance, don’t play a musical instrument, don’t listen to Rock’n’Roll…don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t wear pants if you are a woman, even if they are made for a woman, don’t don’t don’t…don’t don’t.  Find me any one of those in the Bible, and that is but a small example.

Who is Christ talking to here?  The Chief Priests, and the Elders.  And what does He say to them?  In “American,” the cheating, mean, deceptive tax collectors (publicans) and the whores/hookers (harlots) are getting into Heaven before you Priests and Elders.  Why?

First, the Priests and Elders had tacked on all this man-made tradition to the actual law of God.  They had also made the very law of God about following the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law.  Then, they lorded it over people, and acted “holier than thou.”  What was their most fatal flaw?  They failed to listen to God, who was teaching through John and through Christ.

Who listened and believed?  The Tax guys and the whores.  Why?  I have my guesses; they were under no delusion that they were “good people.”  They lived their lives amongst those that I’m sure reminded them of their sin daily…so, they knew instantly that they were sinners in need of saving…they knew that they could not get to God on their own through any amount of work.  They had to have faith, and trust, and they needed cleansing…and they knew it!

What’s the Greek word there for they “believed” him?  Pisteuo, they had faith in what John was teaching.  We all need to make sure that we are listening to Christ here, after all, look at the words He’s using and who He’s communicating with…can you imagine the reaction of the Priests?

And as far as any of my fellow Christians who look down their noses at people with a past…you should start by examining your own internal thoughts, and flaws…judge yourselves, that the logs out of your own eyes.  People struggle, people slip, people are a bunch of sinners, as am I. It’s no excuse to yield to unrighteousness, to wallow in sin, nor to call evil “good.” However, Christ has covered us and God has provided us a Help, a Comfort, and a Guide in the Holy Spirit…yield to Him; He will change you.

And for anyone who hasn’t yet commited their beings to Christ; take another look.  He’s it; He’s The Saviour that is able to cleanse us all from any level of sin; ANY level of sin.  Look to Christ; He never slips, never stumbles, never sins…He gave His life for us, and He is indeed Lord.

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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Righteous Anger…

There is an odd conception amongst some non-believers, and some Christians that anger, in and of itself is sin; that anger is always a bad thing.  This is not the case.

If God Himself lets us know He is “angry” in our sense of the word, then it quite simply is no sin to be angry, but how and why someone is angry matters very much.  Let’s look at a few passages:

Psalms 78:21Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

Should people be afraid of the anger of the Lord?  Yes, in the scared sense if one is not a believer, and in the awed sense if one is.  We also have to recognize that someone, or something, such as a nation, has to be doing something seriously wrong to face the righteous anger of God, for:

Psalms 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

If people turn to God with an acknowledgment of their wrongdoing, He quick to forgive.  OK, but those are Psalms right?  Perhaps David and the other writers of the Psalms were being figurative…

John 2:13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

I once read a review from a person who said that CS Lewis should not have chosen a lion (Aslan) to represent Christ in The Chronicles of Narnia…it is comments like that that make me realize that many people don’t actually know anything about Jesus or Christianity.  Look at the first bold part above in scripture, here is a bit of info a lot of people rush past; there apparently was no whip on hand so the Lord Himself made one, notice too that it was a small one, probably causing a bit of sting with no actual physical damage. Hunh.

It was indeed a Righteous anger; it was in response to a slight on God Himself.  It wasn’t about hurt pride, or a purely emotional outburst, it had reason.  Notice also what Jesus does afterward; He uses the scene to teach the people the Truth of the Father, Himself, and the resurrection.

Anger can indeed be a sin;

Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…

People have to watch it; anger can be an all consuming fire, an addiction, a self-serving, self-righteous response.  Humans through out history also have used God as an excuse to abuse (especially in the sinful act of physically abusing another human being under our protection; spouse, children boyfriend, girlfriend, etc…) and to persecute.  God knows precisely why someone is acting out in anger, and the overall tone of scripture guides us to the fact that, as with other things, we ought to leave the anger, especially the acting out of anger, to God Himself…it is yet another responsibility we humans muck up.

But, there are times when there is a place for righteous anger;

Ephesians 4:21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

We must always search our hearts and watch our actions and words carefully when we are angry, even when we have reason.  We also need to read and study (and pray about) the whole of scripture talking about anger and how to “answer” evil, also responding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit on these things.  And also, we should never think we can fool God into believing our anger is righteous and on His behalf, when it is really self-serving, out of control, and hypocritical.

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Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality…

There is an interesting debate which crops up from time to time amongst my fellow Christians.  It has to do with all three of the things mentioned in the title of this piece; Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality.

The Olympics in China have actually brought this back into my thoughts, as well as some discussion on a Christian message board.  The debate usually starts (just as one example of a larger phenomenon) something like this, “Is it ok for Christians to do yoga?”  There are many many different POVs on questions such as this…I have one too; it depends.

It’s going to be my standard answer right off the bat; what you do and don’t do is between you and God.  Remember, freedom in Christ, but freedom comes with a lot of responsibility.  But, to get more detailed, I would say it totally depends upon what form of yoga someone is talking about, who’s teaching it, is it aimed at spiritual matters, or merely physical?  Can you as an individual separate the spiritual aspect from the physical? etc…

One side of the issue is that yoga began as a Hindu practice, and some of the forms are indeed aimed at certain “gods.”  But the thing that gets me, is that for most Christians who are against yoga, they say that if the forms are changed slightly and accompanied by scripture (just as an example) then it is ok.  I understand this point of view, because that is exactly what the Roman church did with things like Christmas and Easter.

Take a pagan occurrence, practice, celebration, etc… and take it over, change it, Christianize it.  It is all a very interesting discussion, one which I’m not going to go into any any great depth here, I’m more just thinking out loud, so to speak.

How about meditation?  How about Tai Chi?  How about any martial arts?  I know you know what is coming from me at least; it depends.  What are you meditating on?  Are you chanting, or even repeating a vain “prayer?” Then no.  Are you simply calming you heart and meditating on God’s word…why not?  But, again, some people will be able to completely divorce the spiritual aspects of things like Tai Chi from the purely physical or mental.  The Holy Spirit is there to guide each one of us; some should stay completely away, and some can and will handle it.

If you are going to an instructor, or a dojo, or a studio; use your eyes and also talk to the instructor.  Is there a shrine?  Then stay away.  Do they force you to participate in the meditation exercises and you don’t really want to?  Don’t go back.  The Holy Spirit does guide us, and God gave us common sense…well, most of us, anyway.

It is a heart matter.  You know if you are offering up something to false “gods” or if you are simply trying to maintain your physical flexibility.  Now, of course, as in the rest of life, there are certain things that no Christian should “mess with” such as playing around with  an ouija board; there’s nothing to “separate” there folks, it isn’t a mere board (or bored) game…you are asking questions to whom exactly whilst “playing” with a ouija board?

So, I do think there are some “black and white” issues; should you light a “punk” and place it in front of a statue of Buddha because the rest of your family is Buddhist and wants you to because it is a part of “your culture.”  Probably not a good move.

Anything that the Bible explicitly touches upon and instructs us to avoid, we should.  If you are in doubt about something, stay away from it.  If you are feeling guilty about something, don’t do it again, or find an alternative.  Long discussion short; pray about it, read any pertinent scripture, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture?  Romans 14 speaks to issues such as these I believe.  We should indeed always keep our “witness” in mind as we either participate or refuse to participate in certain activities.  We should not help to cause a brother/sister to stumble in the exercise of our freedom (look over 1 Corinthians chapter 8).  As always, don’t trust my ideas on all of this, I’m a fallible human; dig into it on your own and pray about it…I would be interested in any thoughts on this subject if anyone cares to comment.

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We are not as we should be…

The human condition, the “old man” or “old nature,” original sin, the fall of man…some of these concepts are deep theological issues.  But, the underlying idea is one that most of us grasp fairly easily.

There is a line in a song by Switchfoot, Meant to Live, that captures the point:

We were meant to live for so much more

Have we lost ourselves?

We were meant to live for so much more…

Most of humanity sees that humans are indeed meant to be “more.”  Sure, every now and then we glimpse something either in ourselves, or in another human that “clicks,” where a human seems more…truly human…an act of selflessness, an act of physical near-perfection, someone in a state of peace, etc… but, even during these rare moments we don’t get to see within others, and are mostly even blind to our own inner workings.

I often ask my students a question just to get them thinking, or talking, that lets me get to know them a bit better (or lets them get to know themselves…). One light-hearted question I ask is, “If you could choose one super power what would it be?”  Every now and then I get someone who says, “I’d want to be able to read other people’s minds.”

But, would one really want to be able to do that?  We see people’s actions clear enough, but we often don’t actually glimpse someone’s true mind, heart, or soul; it’s even hard for us to “see” our true selves most of time.  The human mind is not often a pleasant place to peer into…

Every aspect of a human was and is affected by the fall; Adam and Eve’s slip from perfection, their sin paved the way for all kinds of troubles.  We are affected physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc…

First, our minds and wills were affected, Paul says it best, Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do

I don’t care what your religious persuasion, all humans go through this in their lives.  There are certain things that we know are the right things to do, yet we cannot make ourselves do them, for whatever reason.  Same thing on the other side of the coin; there are things we know that we should not do, and yet we persist.

Second, our hearts.  You take the most “innocent” acting amongst us, and they are just as capable of devising something “wrong” as anyone else, even if they don’t carry it out.  This is no surprise as none of us are righteous on our own.  Not one of us.  Our hearts comprise more than just our actions.  Genesis 8:21…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

There are some really “good” kids out there; well behaved, sweet, loving, etc… but if we adults are completely honest, we know that there is no perfect child, esp. when it comes to morality.  Lying is one thing that fascinates me, for example.  You work with a child to teach them language, and how to communicate, you work hard teaching them how to hold a spoon, etc… buy lying is amazing, you, as a parent, don’t even have to teach lying, it just happens.  There are those that even come right out and say that lying is a part of normal human development, and that is just one example.

Third, the physical aspect of humans was affected as well.  The evidence of this has impacted each and every one of us at some point.  We become sick, some humans are born with physical abnormalities, our DNA can get messed up, we grow old, we die.

CS Lewis once talked about evidence that we are more than our mortal bodies.  And I have, unfortunately, come to understand what he was referring to through many first hand examples.  When we look at a dead body, even children notice this, it isn’t as though we are looking at the person.  It does indeed look like an empty shell that the person inhabited.  “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body,” is one way that Lewis phrased it.  We are indeed immortal beings, and are often made uneasy by death, or, even dead human bodies.  But, as I was saying, even those of us that aren’t make uneasy can clearly observe the difference between a living body and a dead one; the soul has flown the coop.

Finally, our spiritual state was affected as well; how could it not be?  We had, in Adam and Eve, direct access to God; He walked with them, talked with them, formed them Himself.  There was no sin to mar the relationship.  We also know that every aspect of man affects the other aspects; they are all interconnected; the physical affects the mental, affects the emotions…the spiritual affects the emotions, affects the physical, etc…

I’ve met people that deny the fall…yet, they can clearly see and agree that we humans are not as we should be.  They appear to be in a state of denial about a “theological” issue, but are perfectly fine with it when rephrased in a more secular manner…yet more evidence for the fall of man?  Despite these things, and the clear evidence that we humans are presently flawed, there is indeed hope…hope in Christ that we humans can truly become more, as we were meant to be.  I’ll be touching upon ideas that go along with this in the near future.

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X-Files; Movie Review

I Want to Believe is the subtitle of the new X-files movie, and has several meanings within the story.  The first part of my review will be spoiler free, the second half will contain some spoilers, but I’ll let everyone know where the transition happens.

If you’ve never seen the X-files, I think you’ll be lost.  The movie was billed as a stand-alone story, but it doesn’t really work out that way.  I have a feeling that you won’t be as connected to the characters, and as emotionally invested if you haven’t followed the series.  I have read several reviews from non-fans who did like the movie, however.

If you are an X-files fan, I’ll tell you exactly what the movie is like; an extra long TV episode.  Admittedly it is a good storyline, it fits right in with the X-files universe as far as sub-plot episodes go.  And, unlike some recent movies, this one managed to really keep my interest, and made me want to stay with the movie to find out what happens next (unlike, say, Hellboy II).

This is a movie you can wait for until the DVD comes out if you wish, but I think fans of the show will enjoy it, as long as you don’t go in with really high expectations (again, it isn’t an X-Files main plot storyline).   If you’ve got the gas money, and money for tickets, and the time, it is a good mystery/suspense movie to go see.  For my Christian readers, and those that care about such things, the movie is rated PG-13; it had violence, “distrubing images,” sexual innuendo, and mild language.  I will say that some of the themes and plot devices may offend some Roman catholic believers.  The acting was well done, esp. by Billy Connolly.

Now, onto the part of the review that contains some SPOILERS.  The relationship between Mulder and Scully takes center stage in this movie; it shows us the depth of their relationship, and lets us see a turning point for both of them.  The themes covered in this movie are perfect for The Christian Scribbler; Can someone that has done something truly heinous make up for it in any way?  Can they be forgiven?  Does God hear their prayers?  What role should our faith play in our pursuits and relationships with others?  Are modern medical advancements morally acceptable, if so, where do we draw the line in testing and implimentation?  And it manages to contain just about every sin known to man; pedophilia, murder, fornication, pride, etc…

The movie quickly shows us what has become of Scully; she’s a doctor at a Catholic hospital, and yes, she still sports her ever present cross necklace.  As the story draws in our leads, Mulder and Scully, we find out that a kidnapping has occurred and someone has gotten visions of the brutal act; a former priest by the name of Father Joe…did I mention he is a pedophile?  Admittedly, he is a convicted pedophile, meaning he was caught and charged, and apparently released.  He knows it was wrong, and is seeking forgiveness, as well as joining a community of sex offenders who monitor each other; in the plot we are lead to believe this is so they will not slip since they hate each other as much as they hate themselves.  I have to say that some of the humor in the movie would make me mad, and ill, if I were a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest…

Anywho, “I want to believe” is a mantra taken up by several characters either directly or indirectly: Mulder wants “mystery” and intrigue back in his life, Scully wants to know if she can rely on God and stay connected with Mulder, as well as believe in the visions Father Joe is having; and Father Joe himself hopes and prays he can be forgiven, and that God still hears his prayers.  These themes are all connected by the main plot: it is an FBI agent that has gone missing, and no one can find her.  Due to some of the odd aspects of the case, mainly the fact that the former priest is helping to find clues through psychic visions, the FBI sends an agent to cajole Scully into cajoling Mulder to come back as a consultant on the case.

I have to say that I was surprised at some of the questions Chris Carter (the director) raises in the movie, and leaves the audience to ponder over.  As I said, for me, the one that really jumped out is God’s power of forgiveness and if everyone has access to that forgiveness through Christ.  I do believe everyone can be forgiven through Christ, and I think the movie, while not answering the question directly, hints at this while still showing that we still suffer the effects of our sins here on Earth.  Our sins will also change how others perceive us, which is completely understandable.

“Big” SPOILER: My favorite moment in the film is when Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) makes an appearance, and sums up my feelings in the film by pulling a gun and taking names…at that point, it is a relief to see that someone has enough brains to go into creepy places with a loaded weapon (why exactly did Scully and Mulder not have their guns as I believe West Virginia is a Conceal and Carry state?).

I believe I’ve managed to give a review without revealing the biggest plot line of “who did it.”  If you would like to leave a comment or ask a question, would you kindly indicate if it contains spoilers.

If I was to grade the movie…I think a B+ fits pretty well.  It was a solid Mulder/Scully story well acted.  If you don’t go into the movie with high expectations you should enjoy it well enough, but as I said earlier, you can easily wait until the DVD comes out.

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