Posts Tagged Christian faith

April 2-8 Workman Project

Christian Mission Week #2 (April 2-8)
(The first passage each day is intended to be a memory passage.)
Day 1: Romans 5:8, John 1:6-18
Day 2: Romans 5:8, Colossians 1:19-23, Ephesians 2:1-10, Hebrews 2:5-8
Day 3: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:21-25, Matthew 17:1-13
Day 4: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 2:11-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 8:18-27
Day 5: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 9:24-28, Luke 19:1-10, John 12:27-34
Day 6: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 10:1-10, Luke 19:28-38, John 12:35-43
Day 7: Romans 5:8, Hebrews 10:19-25, John 12:44-50

Workman Plus Week #2
Day 1: Acts 9:1-9, 2 Corinthians 11:26-33
Day 2: Acts 9:10-19, Galatians 1:11-24
Day 3: Acts 9:19-31, Galatians 2:1-10
Day 4: Acts 22:1-16, Romans 1:1-7
Day 5: Acts 13:1-12, Romans 1:8-17
Day 6: Acts 14:1-10, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Day 7: Acts 14:21-28, Philippians 1:1-14

Workman Reflection Week #2
Day 1: In 2 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul mentions several hardships he has endured; what would possibly motivate Paul to suffer such difficulties? Paul mentions his sufferings and then says he will only boast in his weakness… to what weakness does he refer and why would he boast of weakness?
Day 2: In the first chapter of his letter to the Galatian Church, Paul addressed some men who are ‘perverting the Gospel’, then he defended his own ministry by saying he received his Gospel in a special way. From whom did Paul receive the Gospel message and in what way did he receive it? How does this provide confidence in the reliability of his message for Christians today?
Day 3: Paul retold his interaction with some of the Apostles in Jerusalem and concluded with their approval, stating they recognized his being entrusted with the Gospel. To whom was Paul entrusted as a group to receive the Gospel he preached? According to Luke’s account in Acts 9:19-31, the early Christians were not accepting of Paul… why?
Day 4: Paul’s conversion to Christian faith was difficult to accept among fellow Christians. One Christian man, Ananias, obeyed The Lord by sharing with Paul (Saul) what he needed to do in order to be saved. What can be learned from Ananias’ example? Sometimes, people who seem most opposed to faith in Jesus are actually seeking answers to serious faith questions. Is there are friend or acquaintance in your life to whom you could reach out and share your faith? Following his conversion, Paul was known to establish a large number of Churches in cities & towns throughout the Roman Empire… perhaps the person you reach for Christ could have a significant impact in helping other people become Christians.
Day 5: The Church in Rome was very important to Paul and he loved the Christians there very much. Due to his missionary travels, he was looking forward to a coming time when he could visit with the Church there. Paul prays for the Church daily and looks forward to the encouragement they will share when together. In a similar manner, Christians today share encouragement in faith while we assemble together. How important is the assembly of Christians? Considering your interaction with other Christians, is there a special way you encourage others in their faith? How can you increase in encouraging others?
Day 6: In his first letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul mentioned the faith of the Corinthians in Christ was ‘confirmed’. In what ways could the faith of the Christians in Corinth be ‘confirmed’ or shown? In what way is our faith in Christ ‘confirmed’ today? While in Lystra (Acts 14:1-10) Paul did something very special which showed he was an Apostle… what did he do?
Day 7: In Philippians 1, Paul said his imprisonment has worked to benefit the Gospel… how is it possible for such a great difficulty to benefit the Gospel? Is it possible God can create a positive result from the difficult circumstances of our life? When we are faced with difficulties it is very beneficial to have the same perspective & outlook Paul had in his circumstances of suffering.

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March 26-April 1 Workman Project


Christian Missions Week #1
(The first passage each day is intended to be a memory passage.)
Day 1: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 9:9-13, John 3:14-21
Day 2: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 28:16–20, Acts 2:1-13, Mark 2:1-12
Day 3: Mark 16:15–16, Matthew 13:47–52, Acts 2:14-24, Luke 8:11–15
Day 4: Mark 16:15–16, 1 Peter 4:1–5, Acts 2:25-36, Matthew 19:13–15
Day 5: Mark 16:15–16, Luke 8:4–10, Acts 2:37-47, Titus 2:1–8
Day 6: Mark 16:15–16, 2 Timothy 2:1–2, 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17
Day 7: Mark 16:15–16, Luke 5:27-32, John 3:1-10, Romans 6:1-7

Workman Plus Week #1
Day 1: Matthew 10:1-15, Mark 6:7-13
Day 2: Matthew 10:16-23, Luke 9:1-6
Day 3: Matthew 10:24-39, Luke 10:1-16
Day 4: Matthew 10:40-42, Luke 10:17-24
Day 5: Matthew 16:21-28, Matthew 18:1-6
Day 6: Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 9:57-62
Day 7: Matthew 19:27-30, Luke 9:18-27

Workman Reflection Week #1
Day 1: Mark’s record of the ‘Great Commission’ cites Jesus command to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” How do we know Jesus wasn’t just commanding His disciples alone to do this? What does it mean to go into ‘all the world’?

Day 2: Matthew’s Gospel, as well as Mark’s account, mention baptism in conversion & disciple making. Both directly quote Jesus and reveal baptism is a part of the disciple making process. Who can baptize a person who wishes to become a Christian?

Day 3: When Jesus said the Kingdom was like a dragnet, what is He saying? What does the rest of that passage in Matthew 13:47-52 reveal about the types of fish caught in the net?

Day 4: 1 Peter 4:1-5 speaks of a former way of life (before we became a Christian) and the response of some people to our new life. From this passage, what should a Christian expect from those outside Christian faith? What does this passage cite as the reason for being treated so harshly by others?

Day 5: What did the seed represent in the parable Jesus told? What do the various soil types represent? The ‘good soil’ is representative of what type of person?

Day 6: Paul said (1 Corinthians 4:14-16) he was the father of the Corinthian Christians… what did he mean by that? Why should the Corinthians Christians imitate the Apostle Paul?

Day 7: According to Luke 5:27-32, to whom did Jesus come to call to repentance? For Christians involved in making Disciples today, how should we be encouraged by what Jesus said in this passage?

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No Substitution for Truth

A recent announcement by a high profile leader within the Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ has rocked our brotherhood. Since the late 1970’s this man has been at the forefront of planting new congregations as well as providing spiritual insight & instruction through articles and speaking engagements for many ministers who serve ‘in the trenches’, even as serving as editor for one of the major publications within the Restoration Movement (RM). His announcement of a lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria was made public via social media outlets and his personal blog. Sadly, this admission included the revelation he is choosing to ‘integrate’ male into female, and has already begun to identify himself as a woman, which is truly heartbreaking as it identifies a desire to intentionally rebel against God’s Word.

Scripture condemns a man denying his masculine traits by participating in feminine behavior, mannerisms, or even dressing as a woman.

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5, NASB’95

Such condemnation is not simply focussed on a woman putting on a pair of slacks, or even a man wearing a Scottish kilt. Condemnation comes when someone desires to present themselves as a gender other than the gender with which they have been created. Modern culture has enabled the concept of an individual identifying a gender based upon how they feel, or think heir gender ought to be. Such is the case with ‘Gender Dysphoria’.

The coming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) includes a revision from the forth edition 1. with the new identification of ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (formerly ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ 2.) as follows:

… people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder and is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults. 3.

To be clear, ‘Gender Dysphoria’ encompasses more than simple gender non-conformity as it involves a level of  distress for the person which is clinically recognized as significant. The DSM-IV identified the disorder by a different name (Gender Identity Disorder) and justification for the change in DSM-V is offered as follows:

DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name “gender identity disorder”with “gender dysphoria,” as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. 4.

Mental illness often carries a social stigma, and public admission of a mental illness or disorder is not often the path chosen due to the potential social impact upon the person. For some, the impact of public admission is so stressful it compounds the distress already being experienced. Living in a fallen world, racked with illnesses of all manner, we must remind ourselves illness is the enemy the patient, is not. Compassion is called for in such circumstances. Unfortunately, many in today’s culture have confused love and compassion with acceptance of a behavior, and grace has been replaced with ‘tolerance’, a buzz word for complete agreement.

How should Christians respond to those who have embraced ‘lifestyle’ choices which are outside the acceptable boundaries of Scripture?

Truth

First, we must recognize the Scripture as the only rule for acceptable practices. Nothing has changed in God’s expectations for mankind, nor have moral values ‘evolved’ to become more sophisticated or relevant.

Second, it is important to note these ‘choices’ are nothing new, but have been in the world since the beginning. The Old Testament gives account of cultures given to all manner of immorality and the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the New Testament, also lived in a culture saturated with sexual immorality. His disciples ministered in this same cultural context and Paul wrote letters (now contained in the New Testament) to Christians and congregations from within this culture. Yet, led by the Holy Spirit, he never endorsed or tolerated immorality. In fact, the Apostle was very bold in his writing as he called people from a life of sexual immorality to a life of purity in Christ. He called offenders out by name. He referenced specific and public circumstances of immorality. He even called for Christians to pull away from those calling themselves ‘Christian’ and living in unrepentant immorality. None of this made him popular among men.

Modern American culture seems to be very similar to the 1st century culture of Paul’s day. Open promiscuity is the expectation of even the youngest of students. Couples choose to co-habit rather than commit to marriage. Marriage as ‘traditionally’ known is being assaulted by those who desire not simply to ‘redefine’ but to eradicate. Immodesty is so common it has become a powerful tool for advertising. Pornography and all manner of deviant sexual behavior is not only accepted but actually able to leverage penalty upon those who dare to disagree.

Impact of such cultural changes are also bearing upon the Church, and it is not along strictly generational lines. More and more people, identifying themselves as ‘Christian’, find moral boundaries within Scripture as no longer applicable for modern people. In fact, Scripture has endured many assaults from both within and without the walls of the modern Church.

Finally, Christians must be cautious not to isolate themselves from those involved in embracing immorality. Although Scripture cautions not to embrace evil, living as aliens & strangers in the world, we are also expected to live as ‘salt and light’ in a world which desperately needs Christ. Christians must never condone, nor enable immoral behavior, and Scripture is clear in response to a professing Christian who continues, willingly, in such immoral behavior… such a person is to be shut out from fellowship. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13)

Our challenge as Christians in modern culture does not lie in the ambiguity of Scriptural instruction on the matter for such ambiguity does not exist. Modern Christians face the same challenge Paul faced in the 1st century… holding to truth, and expressing the love of Christ to those outside truth. While maintaining the delicate balance of love without acceptance of sin, we must condemn immoral behavior, urging repentance by the individual toward restoration.

 

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“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” otherwise known as “The Gospel of Glock”

Over the years, certain topics resurface and find popularity in arenas of debate. Christian faith is not exempt from such recycled discussions, with even well meaning, sincere Christians getting caught up in passionate appeals for a particular view. One such topic gaining popularity in the current religious environment is capital punishment with a close cousin being the question of whether or not a Christian should “bear the sword”, even in matters of personal defense, or in terms of military service. No doubt, this is a very emotional topic, making it difficult for individuals to wade through the emotion and allow Scriptural testimony and Apostolic model to establish precedent. Adding to the muddy waters is the trend of “emergence” and “relative truth” wafting through many congregations with ill equipped pulpits and lack of Biblical instruction on such matters further plaguing believers.

I do not profess to be an authority in Scriptural studies, nor do I submit this as an exhaustive handling of the topic. Rather, I submit the following for consideration in the midst of what I consider to be a dangerous trend of passivity overtaking the Church.

Please allow me to establish my position. I find no prohibition in Scripture of a Christian employing deadly force in personal defense or in defense and preservation of innocent life. Likewise, I am resolved in my belief the Scripture allows for, even commands, the use of capital punishment as proper response for a number of scenarios. Further, although I do not delight in the idea of having to use deadly force, I am not only proficient in the ability to use it, but am equipped on a daily basis should such a need ever arise. It is also necessary to point out the Bible does not mandate “taking up arms” as a means of evangelism, nor do I, although many objectors will continue to accuse me of doing so by my holding to this position. Such statements are purely based in emotion, and have no logical consideration as I reject the use of force as a method for evangelism, have never issued a weapon to a convert, nor would I ever assert Christians must own weapons.

A number of objections have been presented by well meaning believers in opposition to my position, some of which, at the very least, reveal ignorance of Scripture. I will list some of the more prominent objections now, and deal with them individually so as to provide proper instruction, and quell these voices.

Objection #1: “The Sixth Commandment prohibits killing.”
Nearly every conversation I have with folks who hold to passivity or non-resistance, involves their invoking this statement as though it were a trump card, all the while they fail to see the argument simply exposes their illiteracy of Scripture. Exodus 20:1-17 records the commandments for us. Commandment #6 is “You shall not murder.” (NASB’95, emphasis mine) This commandment has been improperly understood since the King James mistranslation of “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV, emphasis mine) as the word employed (ratsach/raw·tsakh) is not translated to mean killing in general, rather it is “to slay”, contextually used to communicate the idea of murder rather than general killing. This mistranslation lends itself to numerous misapplications and poor theology as one must, somehow, resolve OT killing and God’s command for utterly destroying regions… men, women and children… while maintaining God prohibits killing as a whole. The clear understanding of Scripture allows a distinction in types of killing, providing some types and circumstances as justified, while others are condemned by God. Under the proper application and translation of the word employed in the 6th command, no conflict exists in God’s character nor in Christian faith, with proper translation of the language solving the supposed conflict. As for personal defense, Exodus 22 answers the question by allowing personal defense. The Bible, simply put, does not condemn the use of deadly force except in malicious acts. Some might object by citing Romans 12:17-21 as support for non-resistance, which although it does provide a boundary of restriction for actions of personal vengeance, no restriction of personal defense is implied in the passage.

God is consistent throughout the Bible in condemning those who maliciously use force, who plot murder (as in the 6th commandment for not murdering) and who exercise vengeance of their own accord… however, none of these are the same as someone defending themselves or others. The account of the Samaritan is interesting to consider. If he were present when the robbers beat the man, would he have stepped in to stop them, or simply waited until they were finished and then play the role we read in Scripture? It is interesting to me that our culture has a “Good Samaritan” law which cites culpability upon a citizen witnessing a crime of violence and doing nothing to stop it. By my estimation, it is as dishonoring of life to allow a violent criminal to continue living as it is to commit the act of violence.

Objection #2: “Christians should have learned something from the Crusades, namely, violence does not work.”
First of all, I am not suggesting violence as a means of evangelism, nor of propelling the Gospel. Christianity is not Islam. Secondly, the Crusades simply prove my point. When men step outside of the Biblical model or its instruction, or are Biblically illiterate or rebellious, men will fill the void with traditions, practices and false teachings. To employ the Crusades as an argument against personal defense is laughable at best, as there is no resemblance of the two issues. The crusaders were so superstitious and walked so far outside Scriptural instruction, they only serve to evidence one cannot determine the teachings of any faith on the basis of the behavior alone of the professed adherents of said faith. Rather, one must understand the authoritative teaching of said faith. A similar mistake is made by those who argue Islam is a “peaceful religion” by appealing to the “friendly Muslim neighbor/friend/co-worker, etc” they know down the street. Violence is inherent in Islam, although some Muslims do not follow Islamic teaching as they ought… they may be “peaceful” and ignorant of Islamic teaching of waging violent aggression against non-believers. One cannot read the Koran without recognizing the violence inherent in its doctrines, so the behavior of Muslims is a secondary consideration at best. Likewise, numerous people profess Christian faith, yet they do not live according to the instruction provided in Scripture, therefore, the lives of many professing “Christians” as a model for faith and practice is equally invalid.

Objection #3: “Jesus commanded believers to turn the other cheek.”
True, and He also commanded His followers (moments before His arrest in the garden) to sell their coat and buy a sword to carry. (Luke 22) In likewise fashion, some protest by saying “Jesus condemned Peter when he pulled a sword and struck out by saying ‘he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword’, thus Christians cannot bear arms.” Actually, Christians have historically read into the text a chastisement, however, it is simply not recorded. There is no indication of Jesus raising His voice in condemnation of Peter ever using the sword, He simply prevented him from continuing to use it in that situation, citing the arrest had to be allowed in order to fulfill prophecy. (Jesus did not seem shocked at Peter carrying a sword, nor did Peter seem unfamiliar with it’s use, nor uncomfortable in showing it in the Lord’s presence.) Luke’s account indicates Jesus commanded Peter to “Stop!” saying “No more of this” in response to the current situation, not as an overall condemnation of force or resistance. It should also be noted, Jesus never commanded Peter to throw down his sword, rather, to “Put your sword back into it’s place.” (Matthew 26:52) If Jesus intended Peter to never use his sword again, wouldn’t He have commanded him to throw it down or away, rather than re-sheath it, which implies its future accessibility for use? Perhaps these same Christians are unaware of Jesus’ statement as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel… “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34, NASB’95) The text in Matthew 26 also establishes Jesus had twelve legions of angels at His availability, but His purpose for refraining from calling them into action was the fulfillment of prophecy.

The phrase “turn the other cheek” has been very poorly applied in our culture due to lack of maintaining context as established in the passage. First, we must look at the use of “eye for eye” as found in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 21:19. The Exodus and Leviticus passages deal with personal injury or loss, but, ultimately, they underscore the value of human life. Keep in mind, the Hebrews were going in among nations which held no regard for human life and God is calling His people out to ensure they will maintain proper regard and reverence for life. Odd as it sounds, the only way of preserving the value of this life is by the taking of the lives of those who treat life with ill regard. As further impression, the text in Deuteronomy underscores certain social indicators for capital punishment which include malicious rebellion, and disregard for authority, among others. Each of these serve as a prime consideration when approaching the concept of personal use of defensive deadly force, deadly force in regard to preserving life, and capital punishment as a cultural form of maintaining civil authority and harmony. With this context, Jesus is not doing away with the Old Testament teaching, if anything, He is enforcing it by pointing out how the law had been misused in His day. Jesus’ points out the need for “turning the other cheek” in the sense of personal insult… not in terms of physical, bodily threat, nor as a prohibition against protecting others. The practice of “striking the cheek” in the Jewish culture was employed as a means of further insult and was not an all out brawl or fist fight, as some inflect upon the passage. The context of the Gospel passage is further qualified in the illustration of providing your shirt, in addition to the coat (Luke 6:29) as collateral demanded by another. This is speaking of a legal agreement, and the ultimate idea presented by the Lord is for believers to make their “Yes, Yes” and their “No, No” by being reliable and trustworthy. These passages do not provide credible grounds for opposing deadly force.

Another passage which seems troubling to non-resistance advocates is Luke 22:36-38, where Jesus instructed His followers to purchase a sword to carry. Incidentally, although this instruction was under the law, and given only moments before Jesus’ arrest, it is an instruction for things to come in the time from the Old Covenant forward. In fact, a consistency is shown in both Old and New Testament teaching. Both John the baptizer and Paul addressed this theme. John, encouraged soldiers to be honest, not to steal and to be content with their wages in his conversation as recorded in Luke 3. In 2 Timothy, Paul used a “good” soldier as an example or model for Christians to follow. I have yet to have a pacifist provide a sound answer when I ask why Paul (inspired of the Holy Spirit) used such an example if Christians were not to respond to some situations with force. It would seem to me, if Paul understood military service as inconsistent with Christian faith, he would have stated so. If, as pacifists state, a Christian cannot use force (something a “good” soldier must do) then, Paul’s example would be as invalid as if he had used a prostitute as an example.

In similar fashion, Jesus had conversations with soldiers and never once is He recorded as condemning their military service as sinful… although He knew they carried a sword. In fact, He commended the Centurion for having great faith. In Matthew 24, Jesus used the example of a thief breaking into a home as an allegory for His unannounced return. He said in vs. 43 that if the head of the house knew the hour the thief would break in, he would have been alert and not allowed the thief to enter. Certainly, being “alert” and “not allowing” the thief to enter would (at least) imply the ability of the man to protect his home..? Any number of illustrations could have been employed by Jesus, yet He chose the thief and home owner, placing the obvious wrong doing in the thief’s hands and, at least by implication, allowing for the home owner to use force to protect his home. Was Jesus acting outside acceptable means when He braided the whip, overturned the tables, and drove the money changers from the temple? Was He motivated only in anger, or with personal vengeance, or is it possible He was motivated by love? Someone once suggested the use of force is only allowed when it involves a place of worship, or stealing from God. (wow)

Objection #4: “Paul’s use of military figures of speech indicates we are in a spiritual battle, and is not a call to arms, rather an apt analogy. It does not imply anything either way about the use of physical violence.”
One pitfall of Scriptural interpretation suffered by many is the “spiritualization” of a passage when a common understanding is provided by the text. Paul’s writing does address spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10ff), however, it does not ignore the use of the illustration as a valid example for a Christian. Paul was not addressing spiritual warfare, per se, in 2 Timothy when he urges believers to “… suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ…” (2 Timothy 2:3-6) or when he speaks of becoming entangled in civilian affairs. The emphasis is upon pleasing the commanding officer, and the ethic and dedication of a soldier, as traits of commendation for the believer. Although the text says nothing about the use of force, one need not stretch the imagination to understand the business of a soldier, which Paul could have condemned, yet, he did not.

Objection #5: “Evidence from history indicates little or no military involvement by Christians from ‘the end of the New Testament period to 170-180AD'” (according to Yale historian Roland Bainton)
One fact is overlooked in citing this as evidence for Christian non-resistance or passivity… Christians were a persecuted sect within Rome in this period. For a Christian to enjoin military service would involve, at best, a hiding of faith, most likely a renouncement of Christian faith altogether. Further, since Christians were being persecuted by Rome it would be a violation of conscience and Christian ethic to participate in the death of brothers and sisters in Christ. Roman law exempted Jews from military service in the times of Christ. Certainly, given the number of traditions found difficult in the NT era for Jewish believers to abandon, it does not go without reason to see merit in the possibility of Christians not enjoining military service in a mistaken perception of a conflict of faith due to their Jewish heritage. Further, due to persecution and the urgency of the Gospel commission, Christians were scattered abroad and more concerned with survival and evangelism than a military career, given the first century expectation of the imminent return of the Lord. Since Rome, and, subsequently, Rome’s army, were pagan, there would have been a number of practices found within the army life which would have been unappealing to Christian life values. This is not to say it would have been impossible for a Christian to be in the military without violating matters of faith and conscience, rather, it is to note the great difficulty with which a Christian could maintain faith in such conditions. Without doubt, given our cultural dynamic, the same could be said of American military service, yet, many Christians serve with distinction while remaining untarnished by such immoral practices. I suggest a number of factors would have reduced the probability of Christians serving in the military in early Christian history, however, the use of deadly force would not have been a reason for their exclusion of service. Although it may be true there is little evidence, especially presented by historians, for Christian military service in early history, there is likewise little condemnation by early historians for such practices. And, again, early historians are non-inspired and non-authoritative in terms of faith and practice.

In a further appeal to history for passivity and non-resistance, an article by Don Murphy (Spirituality Today, Spring 1986) entitled “Can a Christian Be a Pacifist?”, cites several examples of early century historians. However, the careful reader notices flaws in such an appeal as a final basis for sound understanding of Christian practice. Murphy’s article is available for download as a pdf copy by clicking HERE. Although early practice of believers is good to know, we must be cautious not to place undue authority in their practice alone. Many well meaning believers were caught up in practices and traditions in early Christian history which are not to be perceived as an authoritative model for practice. The final authority is Scripture.

I find no prohibition in Scripture for the use of deadly force as means of protecting or preserving life. Silence in Scripture is not a prohibition, nor is it, necessarily, a license for participation. Sufficient Scripture in both Old and New Testament provide for the use of deadly force, especially in light of no prohibition being employed against such use. In fact, when Paul and Barnabas appealed to the Apostles on behalf of the Gentiles, the prohibitions placed upon the believers as “essential” (as provided by the Holy Spirit) were to “… abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:28-29, NASB’95) Although this is not an exhaustive list of prohibitions, exclusions or acceptable practices for the believer, it is noted as yet another opportunity to condemn deadly force or military service as immoral… yet, no condemnation exists.

Corresponding to this topic is the question “What establishes the right of one person to take the life of another?” A more common way for this to be voiced is “Who gave you the right to play God?” Although it will make many squirm, the answer to this question is God Himself has given this right, and it is not to “play God” as some assert, rather, it is to cooperate with God in respecting life.

Consider the “10 Commandments” with me for a moment as they reflect this value of life and establish the God-given right to defend it. Each of the commandments (excepting the Sabbath observance) are a moral law or code of conduct, and, as such, are universal. To violate any of these commandments is first a violation against God, and secondly a violation against man. The New Testament agrees with this in that each commandment is repeated in form within the New Testament, excepting the Sabbath. Jesus Himself did not disagree with the commandments in any way, He further underscored their significance in man to man interaction and their direct impact upon an individual’s standing before God. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus further emphasized the impact of responsible human interaction by stating “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it (or did not do it) to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it (or did not do it) to Me.” Matthew 25:40, 45, NASB’95

So clear is this moral foundation, and so universal is its application that the founding fathers of America rightly recognized the commandments as the only structure for right government and the establishment of law.

Woven well throughout this universal moral law is the unmistakable value of humanity, such that to violate a fellow man in terms of covetousness, deceit, stealing, disrespect, false testimony or malicious violence is to invoke the wrath of God. Romans 13:1-5 rightly establishes government as bearing a sword which is designed to preserve the integrity of cultural moral fiber in respect to these matters. Additionally, the individual person is endowed with an ability to preserve and protect both person and property, as God established in the giving of His law. For any individual, or government, to cross these moral boundaries and violate anothers property or person is to violate God, and disrespect human life. Recompense is not only reasonably expected, it is demanded as a preservation of the balance of human dignity. In this we find one pitfall in the current American penal system… a lack of respect for law and a general disregard for human life because just penalty is not enforced upon the offender. To allow such disregard to continue is to expect further degradation of society.

This moral code is not only for the individual, it stands for kings and governments as well. God denounced the immoral actions of King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:15-19 for his committing murder and also taking possession of property which was not his. Ahab’s family suffered for his actions which further underscores the significant need for maintaining the law. When the law is disregarded, individual rights are repressed or human life is dishonored, God takes it personally and will respond accordingly. Our founding fathers understood the responsibility of each man to respect his fellow man, and further endowed American citizenry with the right to bear arms. This 2nd Amendment right is not for sake of shooting sports or hunting, as some today assert, but, rather, it is entirely to maintain a balance between the citizens and our government. The Constitution simply agrees with what God has already stated in His universal moral teaching with regard to human life. No one, not even government, has the right to violate the person or property of another. When such an offense exists there is an inherent, and God given right for the offended to protect themselves (and their property) even to the extent of ending the life of the offender.

So, who gives me (and you) the right to defend person and property with deadly force? God does. Anyone so violated by one who steps outside the moral law by aggressively violating them or their property, has the right to stop the perpetrator with any means at their availability. Exercising this God-given right, however, is under the sober discretion of the individual.

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The American conviction of Truth

I have always enjoyed American history… really, history in general. One of my favorite classes in High School was South Dakota history, and I loved every history course in college. My passion for history has thrust me into the category of fascination with historic facts often ignored or intentionally overlooked. My TV remote is seldom used to navigate from channels like History or the Military channel. However, I am bothered by the once subtle rewriting of history which has recently transcended into an aggressive and intentionally biased presentation of history against Christian faith.

Statue of Liberty under colorful sky

It has always been interesting to observe the tactics of such critics, which have become so predictable. Challenge the event or present doubt in its authenticity. Then, if this does not provide the desired results, turn against the figure of history or the authors involved in preserving the account. Recently, charges have been made against Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even Abraham Lincoln. Everything from sexual immorality, drunkenness and slave ownership have been thrown out against them… even purporting that Lincoln was homosexual. And there’s no shortage of “history experts” who share this taint of bias to exploit their claims and sell books in the shadow of their fleeting 15 seconds in the limelight.

As mentioned, one of the tactics of the “higher critics” of history is to attack the character of historic figures. It must be noted with no doubt such character bears impact upon the event, however, even if a historic person’s moral fiber is not of highest quality it does not remove their place in history. To attack the moral character of prominent figures in American history is almost always a smoke screen tactic employed to distract the common public from the moral standards these same figures embraced as a whole. I suggest it is entirely possible to have moral failings and, yet, not embrace those moral downfalls or try to justify them. Certainly, every leader in human history (with the only exception being Jesus) have had personal flaws. The current trend of culture is to exploit those failures or flaws into something they are not, to wield them as leverage against such individuals in an attempt to excuse modern moral failings or suggest such leaders would support these same behaviors.

Perhaps no greater charge has been made against American history than that against the influence of Christian faith on the founding and structure of this Republic.

Many have falsely claimed America as a “melting pot” of religious expression, and yet, our founders never intended such. In fact, our founders were quite unabashed about their contempt against other religions.

1796 Farewell Address of President George Washington:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

Washington’s Farewell Address

Notice Mr. Washington’s statement toward the end of the above quote:

With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.

He is, of course, speaking of the Christian faith. How is it possible our founding fathers could have “intended a culture embracing a melting pot of religious expression” while Mr. Washington celebrates the common faith? You see, American history nor the writings of our founders do not support the melting pot concept. In fact, they condemn other religions by pointing out the highest moral value of Christianity. Those who would suggest the melting pot concept have also twisted the “Church and State” concept presented by Mr. Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association to mean absolutely no Christian influence in American politics. The hypocrisy of such a position is easily shown in the climate of “political correctness” toward our “friendly Islamic” neighbors.

Modern social commentators love to call America a “melting pot” or “mosaic” of cultural and religious expression. However, such a description is not fitting America’s founding principles, nor is it supported in her history.

Simple put, America has the unique founding principles of a nation defined by Christian faith. Our model for justice comes directly from the pages of Christian Scripture, as is so prominently evidenced in the engravings upon nearly every federal building and monument in our nation’s capitol. Our founding fathers provide a wealth of material in support of their entire support of Christian faith, and the establishment of a wall of separation which prevented the government from imposing a particular form of religious expression upon the people. Even founders who have been redefined by history as “unbelieving” or “deist” have printed works which impress their support of Christian faith.

One need not look very far to realize the undercurrent of such a trend. To “dumb down” or remove faith from the pages of history simply opens the door wider for immoral living.

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In Christ, identified in His death

Logo banner for the "In Christ" sermon series. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “In Christ” a total of 87 times in his writings, as provided by the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition. Obviously, Paul in his use of this phrase, is speaking to the Christian and is referencing a number of truths.

When someone becomes a Christian, we refer to their placing faith “in Christ”, we mention them being “in the Church” and encourage them to walk “in faith”. Unfortunately, some seem to believe that this simply refers to participation in Church related events, ministries or programs, or in terms of attendance in services. Paul is speaking to something far greater than simple attendance… being counted in attendance is not going to do anything for us in regard to our legal problem with sin. Paul is providing an understanding of a change in our legal standing with God in relation to Christ, from being on our own to actually being identified by the righteousness of Christ.

The question at hand is how are we identified with Christ? Is there a specific point in time, or an event which can identify us to the person of Christ?

Paul’s writings provide for us clear identification with Christ in death, burial & resurrection. Apart from this unique identification, we are outside Christ, and thus, unable to receive the benefit of identification with Christ. It should be noted before entering into this study, that the Holy Spirit does not provide an exemption to this identification… everyone must comply in order to be identified as “in Christ”.

Perhaps the clearest text on this topic, from Paul’s writings, is Colossians 2:9-14. For the purposes of this study, we will use the New American Standard Bible.

9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Colossians 2:9-14, NASB’95

Paul is speaking of the fullness of Christ (vs. 9) and is very explicit in our need to be connected or identified with Him. His teachings are clear:

  • We are complete in Christ, inversely… we are incomplete apart from Him.
  • Christ is the source of Authority, and so He alone is uniquely and singularly authorized to establish qualifications for those identified as His.
  • We have been circumcised or marked by His hand & not by an action of our own.
  • We are buried with Christ in baptism… thus, we are identified with the death of Jesus.
  • Through our faith in the working of God, we share in His resurrection.
  • All of our transgressions are forgiven.

To be “in Christ” we must be identified with His death, burial & resurrection.

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Sons & Daughters #1: “Intimacy”

Young couple enjoying a walk along the beachThe topic of sex has been taboo for many years in the Church. Unfortunately, many preachers & teachers have strayed from teaching on the topic, apart from condemning misconduct in a general way. This void of responsible, Biblical instruction on Sex has created an environment of dysfunction, compounded by guilt and shame. It has also created the false understanding that the Church is opposed to human sexuality, condemning it as ‘dirty’ or ‘sinful’ in any capacity apart from procreation.

The American culture has become increasingly saturated with images & conversation regarding sex, yet, the Church has largely held to a Puritanical ideology in respect to the subject. The irresponsible, immoral teachings & practices advocated (propagated) by culture, coupled with the relative silence of teaching from the Church, have created a sense of “We can’t talk about that here.” For many Christians, sex is something which carries a negative connotation and is better left unspoken. For non-believers, the idea that Christians are celibate, or prudish, or hypocrites only closes the door for the Gospel. Their thinking is that they are unwilling to consider faith in Christ if it demands that they deny their sexuality. Who can blame them? After all, if we are going to be very honest with ourselves, we must admit that sexuality is a large part of who we are as a person.

Upon opening the pages of the Bible, and reading passages from Song of Solomon, one becomes frustrated. The frank manner in which sex is described within its pages leads a person to think that God is OK with human sexuality… even encouraging it’s practice within the right boundaries… yet, it remains an elephant in the sanctuary. When did Christianity come to the idea that sex is a ‘dirty’ topic? Why has this element of the human experience become so awkward a topic among the assembly? Is the Christian free to enjoy sex?

For many Christians, sex is something which carries a negative connotation and is better left unspoken. For non-believers, the idea that Christians are celibate, or prudish, or hypocrites only closes the door for the Gospel.

For the next four weeks (the entire month of February) I am covering the topic of sex in the morning assembly. The entire series is intended for all Christians… married & unmarried alike. We’ll address the Biblical perspective on sex, and delve into why it has become such a taboo topic over the years. My goal is to instruct and in so doing, remove the myths, misconceptions & false teachings on the topic. I will be respectful, but frank on the topic… as I believe any Christian should be. It should be noted that the assembly will be covering a mature topic, which I intend to handle in an open & mature manner. Therefore, parents are urged to use discretion in allowing their children to remain with them in the assembly. Our children’s programs offer unique, age appropriate learning during our assembly which will aid parents during this sermon series.

Due to the nature of the topic, I will be using a slightly different approach to this sermon series.

  • First, this blog will contain devotional information to aid you in discovering what the Bible says on the various topics. Typically, this info is posted by Wednesday evening.
  • Second, since questions are inevitable, and I wish to answer your questions, you are encouraged to bring your cell phone into the assembly & text your questions directly to me during the sermon. My cell number is listed in the bulletin & will also be displayed on the screen at various points during the sermon.
  • Third, all questions will be answered discretely on this blog during the following week.
  • Lastly, the final sermon will provide answers to text only questions in a question & answer session during the message. This final sermon will be the only one in which I will receive & answer text questions ‘live’ during the message.

For those of you who do not have text capabilities, or who do not like to text, I am also receiving questions via email. It should be noted that questions in text format have a certain sense of anonymity to them, in that unless I have your contact info in my cell, I will not know who has asked the question. The email format loses some of the sense of anonymity since I typically will know who sent the email. Having said that, I want to assure you that I will maintain complete confidentiality in the handling of these questions & answers.

The sermon series is entitled “Sons & Daughters” and is based upon 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5 and some other select passages. Sermon #1 (February 7th) deals with Intimacy. In preparation for the message, please read the following passages & consider the questions which accompany the passage reference.

    Genesis 2

  • What is the context & meaning of the term ‘suitable’ as used in vs. 20?
  • What was man’s response to the woman according to 2:23?
  • The expectation placed upon the man & woman by God was (is) what, according to 2:24?
  • What is the meaning behind the use of the term ‘one flesh’ as used in vs. 24?
  • Why were the man & woman naked?
  • How did God describe His creation in 1:31?
    1 Peter 3:6

  • What responsibilities are placed upon the sons & daughters of Sarah?

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The Nostradamus Effect

Projections & predictions of the coming destruction of earth and doom of mankind have been presented throughout man’s history. It would seem that, as with most things, there is somewhat of a cycle at play in the process. To be sure, what was once considered to be old & outdated in the world of such projections will be repackaged as ‘new’ in a coming age.

One such ‘prophet’ who continues to enjoy a resurgence of popularity is Nostradamus. Michel de Nostredame (December 14, 1503 – July 2, 1566) whose father was a merchant and notary, has generally come to be known as a ‘seer’ or ‘prophet’. His family “converted” from Judaism to Christianity in the early 1500s, under the demand of French King Louis XII who forced Jews to be baptized or leave the region. It is purported that Michel was educated in classical language, astrology and possibly even occult Jewish literature. As a young man he aspired to become a doctor and applied for acceptance at the well-regarded Montpellier Medical School. Followers ascribe the title of ‘Doctor’ to him, yet the only records available from the school indicate that he was expelled upon disrespectful attitudes toward instructors, though he is credited as being an apothecary.

Following his brief experience in the medical school, he preferred to use the Latinized version of his name, Nostradamus, and began traveling the country as a sort of surrogate instruction for medical school. In this period the black plague began to ravage his countrymen & he began to present himself as a sort of seer and healer. He is reported to have worked with many ill from the plague but attention was given to his claims when his wife & son contracted the illness and died, in spite of his best efforts to heal them. Once again, Nostradamus was exposed as a fake or a “poser”, in older terms… a con man. Adding insult to injury, the Church leveled charges of heretical teachings against Nostradamus, and he chose to leave the region rather than face trial. Subsequently, he traveled for several years before moving to Salon-de-Provence in 1547. The following year, he married Anne Ponsarde, with whom he would have six children. Following this move, his studies of astrology and the occult intensified and it is noted that he would work late into the night in his study, reportedly entering a trance-like state in which he’d have visions.

Nostradamus had his ‘visions’ printed in his first almanac, containing a very general, non-specific ‘prediction’ for each month in the calendar year. His publication proved popular and he set out to publish a new almanac each year until his death. His predictions & horoscopes created a loyal following, yet he is best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), the first edition of which appeared in 1555.

Certainly, this is not an exhaustive examination of Nostradamus… yet, it is detailed enough to determine the following about the man:

1. Nostradamus was a gifted charlatan. His ‘career’ is filled with exploits revealing his lack of dedication or discipline with only one exception… his obsession with the occult & astrology.
2. Though credited as a devout Catholic, there is no evidence of Christian faith in his writings, apart from his attempts to intermingle the occult & faith. Such a practice is condemned openly in Scripture. The conversion of his father & family is suspect at best, revealing a desire for self-preservation over sincere conversion of faith.
3. His writings are vague and non-specific. Such a tactic has been used for centuries by other ‘seers’, like those who gaze into crystal balls at county fairs, or read palms or tea leaves. By contrast, a true prophet is very specific & detailed in their predictions of the future.
4. His batting average of fulfilled prophecies is exceptionally low. His writing is so vague & mysterious that one becomes lost in his ramblings and must place great effort into ‘interpreting’ his predictions. Very few are bold enough to claim understanding of his predictions until after an event has ofurred & is ascribed to his writing as a prediction. By contrast, true prophecies offer a clear meaning & indication of specific signs to watch regarding coming events.

So, why does this matter? Well, for the Christian, it only matters because a number of people are led astray by such foolishness. Some will argue by saying “Some of his prophecies have come to pass”, to which I must ask “What about the others which have failed?” You see, true prophecy demands 100% accuracy… nothing less satisfies the Biblical definition of prophet. I will also note that the Bible has accounts of ‘seers’ who did not receive visions of events from God, but, rather through demonic sources. Such actions are clearly condemned in Scripture & Christians are sternly warned to avoid such influences. An old saying says “Even a hog will find an acorn every now & again” such is the case of anyone who makes wild projections of the future, almost always receiving money for such prophecies.

As we approach the study of Nostradamus’ predictions & others like them, study the following passages:

  • Deuteronomy 18:15-22
  • 1 Samuel 28
  • Acts 8:4-24
  • Acts 16:14-21

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Beginning of the End

Mankind has wrestled with the question of ‘The End” since the very beginning. From the first pages of Genesis, following the creation account, we find God clearly stating His expectations for mankind. The Creator also explicitly describes the blessing of obedience & the consequence of disobedience to His plan. Man had a choice, and he chose poorly.

From the moment of sin entering into the world, and the consequential curse placed upon humanity, mankind had made projections about what the end will look like and when it will actually arrive. As a result, man has also been susceptible to the exploits of those who boldly assert times/places as though they are a voice of authority. In recent years ‘scholars’ and ‘experts’ have wildly proposed formulas and codes which are supposed to decipher the final day of human history, all this in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself stated that no one apart from the Father would know the date.

Consider the following list (non-exhaustive) of failed dates:

  • During the Apostolic age men were teaching that the resurrection had already occurred. (2 Timothy 2:16-18)
  • 500 AD: A Roman priest determined this date as the time of Jesus’ return based upon the measurements of Noah’s ark.
  • 1000 AD: Due to the beginning of the ‘New Millennium’ many had great expectations of Jesus’ return.
  • 1033 AD: A revised date from the 1000 AD projection, which failed to consider the 33 years of Jesus’ life & count the millennium from the crucifixion forward.
  • 1666 AD: Speculation of the end occurring in London due to the plague outbreak and a devastating fire. Also, the date ends in 666.
  • 1836: John Wesley calculated the end based upon Revelation 12:14 (Time, times and 1/2 a time) to be between 1058 & 1836.
  • 1910: The appearance of Halley’s Comet caused ‘end time’ hysteria to the degree that “Comet pills” were sold to ward off potential cosmic harm.
  • 1977: Killer Bees were proclaimed to be a sign of the coming doom of mankind based upon Revelation 9:3-12.
  • 1982: The Tara Centers group placed ads in major newspapers on April 24 & 25 declaring the Messiah would make himself known within a 2 month window of time.
  • 1984: Jehovah’s Witnesses make another prediction in a long line of failures. (1874, 1878, 1881, 1910 , 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975)
  • 1988: Edgar Wisenant published a book entitled “88 Reasons why Jesus is returning in 1988” which enjoyed large sales.
  • 1989: When Wisenant’s prediction failed, he published a book entitled “89 reasons why Jesus will return in 1989”. Sadly, some were still buying his book.
  • 1991: Louis Farrakhan projected that the Gulf War would be Armageddon.
  • 1993: Projections of the beginning of the Tribulation, concluding after 7 years at 2000, based upon a 6000 year cycle.
  • 1994: Jehovah’s Witnesses make a return to the date setting method, which they swore they would not do following the last failure.
  • 1997: Based upon the 1260 days mentioned by Daniel, by adding from the signing of the treaty by Rabin & Arafat in 1993, ending on February 24th.
  • 2000: Renewed projections of the New Millennium, since the 1000 date didn’t work out.
  • 2011-2018: Jack Van Impe’s 51 year ‘Generation Cycle’ begins with 1967 restoration of Jerusalem + 51 (generation) – 7 (year reign of Christ) = 2011.
  • 2012: Date purported by ‘experts’ of Mayan calendar interpretation for the New Age, specifically, December 12, 2012.

But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:16-18, NASB’95

Those who set dates seem to enjoy using formulas ‘discovered’ in the Bible text, yet, there is no such hidden code or formula. For a hidden code or formula to be concealed within the Scripture would be completely opposed to the purpose for which the Word was delivered ‘once for all’. God’s desire is for all mankind to hear, understand & respond to the message of the Redeemer, Jesus. The Gnostics have held to the philosophy of many secrets, and those who project a specific date for the return of Christ are not new, having existed during the times of the Apostles. Jesus Himself stated that no one would know the day or the hour of the return of the Son of Man, not even the angels in heaven, only the Father.

Of this we can be sure, Jesus is the sole authority on this subject, and to ignore His teaching for the sake of following the ideas of man is nothing short of heresy.

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