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Archive for the month “June, 2014”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

In our society and cultural debates these days, this one comes up often. I’ve used it a lot myself. To me, it just sounds “right.” But what sounds right to us and what the Bible declares as truth isn’t always the same. I was really eager to look into this saying to determine its truthfulness. The phrase itself is actually a quote from Mahatma Ghandi. So is it Biblical?

A lot of the time I’ll find one of these sayings. As I’m looking into the history of it and comparing it with the Bible I’ll find what others have said about it. This is one of those where I feel like someone has already explained it, and has provided good Scripture to support their explanation.

This link explains the truth behind “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” While this article is simply their interpretation and opinion, it’s one I agree with.

Truth takeaway: We tend to treat people based on what they’ve done wrong. This is wrong in itself. No matter how heinous the offense they’ve committed they are loved by God. The same God that loves you and me. Their actions/behaviors that are incited by the Evil One are to be hated, but not the people.

Freedom takeaway: If we could remember to see people the way God does – as children needing loved – how would we deal with those we’d normally shun? What would it be like to be able to deal with people without having disgust for their actions cloud our dealing with them or praying for them?

ThingsWeSaw

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Idolatry in America – Are we guilty?

In the verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 it says “…seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;” I think this is where Christian Americans are falling short.

Last time, I said I’d get back to the matter of idolatry. Idolatry is letting anything else take priority in our heart, thoughts, actions, over God, his will and his commands. Idolatry is wickedness to God – a wicked way we’re supposed to turn from. Idolatry is also the opposite of seeking his face. We might ask, what do God-fearing Christians put before God?

Entertainment – When we know more about pop-culture and stars’ lives than what the Bible says about our life and the life of Christ.
Sports – When we know more sports stats than Scripture, and the conversation standing the line to receive communion is about the game later (yes I witnessed this more than once).
Political party – When our behavior towards the opposite party doesn’t exhibit fruit of the Spirit; our party views contradict the Word of God; when our ability to love and reach out to a member of the other party is clouded by anger and resentment.
Patriotism – Using worship service time to sing patriotic hymns to our country instead of solely to God; an attitude of praise, worship, and reverence to the flag.  I’m not knocking patriotism in and of itself. I am knocking the practice of using worship time to sing songs that are more patriotic (“National Anthem”, “America the Beautiful”) and less worshiping of God.

God does not share allegiance. God is not American. While he has blessed this country, he doesn’t owe the U.S.A. any special loyalty. He has a people and they are not Americans. Regardless of how God has blessed us, we have squandered that blessing by lifting up the flag and the nation of the U.S. over the Kingdom of God. And what we’re seeing is him slowly take that away from us. Our source of pride and true object of worship in our hearts is being removed. God doesn’t want “God and country.” He wants “God!”

Why should he answer our prayers? We ignore “lesser” sins while railing against other sins.  He condemns jealousy alongside homosexuality (Gal 5:19-21, Mark 7:21-22). Also, Christians are stereotypically unhealthy enjoyers of the Potluck, which is gluttony. In Isaiah 9:8-12 it tells the story of the tribe Ephraim. They were attacked and with arrogance and stubborn defiance essentially said “We will rebuild everything bigger and better than before.” Does this not remind us of America’s attitude after 9-11? God ended up punishing Ephraim because instead of repenting humbly and turning to him, they declared, “We will rebuild!”

This is a call to return to God. Not by pressuring our local politicians to have prayer in schools or posting the Ten Commandments in public. Return to God by fasting (yes, not eating – Matt 6:16, Joel 2:12). By seeking God’s forgiveness because we put God with country. Because we love our lives and freedom more than His will. Because our pursuit of personal happiness means more to us than giving our lives for the good of His Kingdom. Our very identity is in Christ . Our citizenship needs to reflect our eternal citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not in the United States.

How do we need to live? Cast away everything that entangles us and dedicate our hearts – all that is us – for whatever He has us do (Jer. 24:7, 29:13, Joel 2:12; 2Kings 10:31; Luke 9:23, 10:27). No matter the cost. We do this as individuals first. Not for America but for the one who Created us.

Please prayerfully consider what I’ve said. Please consider what attitude God would have you hold on to. Thank you for reading.

 

“God wants me to be happy.”

How many times have we heard about, read about, or know someone who excused a decision by this phrase: “God wants me to be happy.”

Does he want us to be happy? Within the bounds of his standards, I believe he does. He wants us to find our happiness in Him. Unfortunately most of the time when people say God wants them to be happy, they’re pursuing happiness apart from God’s will for us.

Biblical happiness isn’t found in stuff of this earth – physical, material, or even emotional. Nowhere in the Bible does God look fondly on one who rebels against his standards. Including for one’s own happiness.

One word that conveys happiness in the New Testament is “makarios.” It’s usually translated as “blessed.” God does want to bless us. But that blessing is most often dependent on our obedience (Ps 103:17-18; Jn 8:31; 2Cor 7:15). “Makarios” is found in the the Sermon on the Mount, and the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Another Greek word is “euthymei” which means “be of good cheer.” This is found in James 5:13. In the OT the Hebrew term is “ashre.” It means “blessed,” “happy,” “elated.” It’s found in 2 Chronicles 9:7. That will be all for today’s ancient language lesson.

God has often asked those that truly follow him to make decisions that will make them unhappy. Choosing not to deny Christ as you’re being martyred doesn’t sound very happy. There are times when exacting revenge on someone would’ve made me a lot happier than forgiving them. This idea of “I deserve to by happy because… And if I’m not happy, I should be allowed to do whatever to be happy. Nothing else matters,” is ridiculous! And I’m talking about born-again believers here.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if someone else is going to get hurt, people will still think that God is blessing their decision. “But God gave us free will.” Yes, he did. We have free will, but it’s not without consequences. If you choose to have unprotected sex with multiple partners, statistically, you will get a non-curable STD. That’s a consequence of free-will. If you choose to be unfaithful to your spouse (even in an internet chat room) you may likely face the consequence of losing your family and home in an ugly divorce.

Truth takeaway: God wants us to be happy in following his will; staying within his standards. Because he knows that’s the the only place real peace and contentment are found. Outside of that, your happiness is irrelevant. What God really wants is personal sanctification (set-apartness) from us.

Freedom takeaway: By living a life where our happiness comes from walking with the Lord in personal holiness, we’ll be truly happy and blessed. We’ll be free from chasing happiness that leads nowhere.

ThingsWeSaw

 

Idolatry in America – Do we hold up our end of the deal?

In my intro post I suggested that maybe 2 Chronicles 7:14 may not be applicable to the United States in the context we often think it is. But let’s suppose it is. How have we been holding up our end of the promises in 2 Chronicles?

“If my people, which are called by my name…” – That’s born-again believers who have salvation only in Jesus Christ and are called to follow him. Who “my people” are not are nominal Christians or unbelieving American citizens who identify their faith with their national citizenship.

“…Shall humble themselves…” – Are we humble? Or are we proud? We hear “Proud to be American;” “Proud to be a ‘Christian’ nation.” We have a reputation for arrogance by most of the world. We’re quick to say “This is the best country in the world.” The Bible says a lot of things about pride – none of them positive. Jesus said over and over again in different ways, that the first on this earth will be last in the Kingdom. “Humble” is defined by Websters as “not proud or arrogant; having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience.” Does this definition describe Christians’ perception of America?

“…and pray…” – What do we pray for? Our nation’s success or God’s will? Are we more about the uplifting and furthering of America? Or are we more concerned about furthering the Kingdom of Christ? Do our prayers focus more on the other party losing elections or on their salvation? What does God want us to pray for? What we want for America or what he wants for his Kingdom?

“…seek my face…” – Basically this is seeking after God and putting His will before everything else. God before country. God before sports. God before political affiliation. God before our ambitions. God before hobbies.

“…and turn from their wicked ways;” – What does God consider wicked? Idolatry is wickedness to him. I’ll come back to this idea later.

What is God’s response to these actions? 1) He’ll hear us. 2) He’ll forgive us from our sins. Third, and last, is He will heal our land. I find it interesting that healing our land is the last thing God will do, as if it’s the lesser of His three actions. Which one do we consider most important? Healing our land or forgiving our sins?

Stay tuned next time as we continue to look into this.

“Conquer your demons.”

In a discussion with someone, they told me that they hoped I conquered my demons someday. I have an extremely addictive past and they knew the struggles I had been through. At the time of this conversation I had been walking in freedom unlike I had never experienced. Their statement made me ponder if my demons were conquered. Or did I still have conquering to do?

1 John 2:13 says, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.”

Romans 8:37-38 agrees with this: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…”

Truth takeaway: Biblically I can’t find where those redeemed by Christ have anything unconquered. We struggle. We may have to fight but our victory is assured in Christ.

Freedom takeaway: Your demons have already been conquered! Walk and live in that freedom!

ThingsWeSaw

Idolatry in America – What is God’s plan for us?

This subject has been on my heart for some time. I wasn’t sure how to address it because it seems absurd and yet also hits close to home for many. We often hear:

“America needs to get back to God.”
“We need to repent so God will save America.”
“Let’s bring God back into our country”
…so much in the Christian community. There are books, websites, videos, and movies all speaking the same message: America, as a nation, needs to return to God. How often do we hear this verse spoken:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2Chr 7:14 HCSB)

This verse has become a banner for American Christians who want to see America, as a whole, live and be governed by Judeo-Christian values. Believers have been praying for this for over a decade.  Even with all the prayers for a repentant nation I think we can all agree that the U.S. is moving further away from Christianity as a whole.

Is This Promise for Us?
Is God promising this to Americans? There are a lot of Old Testament passages that can be applied to us in the 21st century. Some were written for specific people at that time. What about this one? This passage was spoken to Solomon, regarding the Israelites, after building the temple. Verses 7:19-22 make it pretty clear that the oft quoted passage in 7:14 was written to those people for that time. My opinion: To say 2 Chronicles 7:14 applies to Americans takes it completely out of context.

What do I think is happening to America? Just as every other empire has came and went, according to God’s overall plan, the United States is going to do the same. God has allowed nations to rise and fall with the end goal of Christ’s return on the horizon. In the big scheme of things I think our nation is no different.

Now my opinions have often been wrong. So for the sake of the discussion, we will look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 next time. Let’s compare at what it says vs what we’re really doing.

What do you think about the future of America?

To read the rest of this series, here are the links:

Part 2

Part 3

“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

This saying has been used to defend corporal punishment for centuries. Is it in the Bible? Is it a Biblical principle?

Bibleornot.org says the actual quote was written by Samuel Butler, a 17th century poet. It is probably inspired from Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs goes on to mention the rod a few other times:

22:15 “Foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth; the rod of discipline will drive it away from him.”
23:13-14 “Don’t withhold discipline from a youth; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. Strike him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from [Hell].”
29:15 “A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a youth left to himself is a disgrace to his mother.”

New Testament verses about disciplining children include:

Heb. 12:6-7 “for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?”

Eph. 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate you children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

I’m not going to get into a debate on here on whether or not these verses about “the rod” mean corporal punishment or gentle guidance like a shepherd’s rod. While “spare the rod, spoil the child” isn’t a Biblical quote, the principle of disciplining your child is. I think what Gill’s commentary says about Proverbs 13:24 makes for a good truth takeaway: “Who withholds or withdraws his rod of correction, which is in his hand, which he has power to use, and ought to exercise at proper times; he, instead of loving his son, may be said to hate him; for such fond love is no better than hatred; and, if he really hated him, he could scarcely do a more ill thing by him than not to correct him for a fault”ThingsWeSaw

 

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