Seeker Series, Why… Christian “Intolerance”

toleranceBanner1

​In 2013 a nationwide phone-poll research study was commissioned by now shuttered Mars Hill Church. 913 thousand calls were dialed, 70 thousand conversations occurred and of that, one thousand, twelve minute individual interviews were conducted. This data, taken from the age ranges of 18 to 44, told us that the number one objection if Christianity is that, “it is intolerant”. Significant information from the culture in which we live in, but what is the definition of tolerance? Are we talking about the same concept of toleration of others?

Dictionary from 1828 Webster’s dictionary: TOL’ERANCE, [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring

Dictionary.com 2013: tol·er·ance, 1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry. 2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own. 3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint. 4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance

• In our modern culture, we have modified the definition of tolerance.

By the definitions above, somewhere the meaning of tolerance has changed. In my own Christian walk, I have always felt this tension, but never understood where it originated. As Christians, the Bible tells to “love our neighbor, as we love ourselves” (Mark 12:31). We our told in our churches, to “go out, and be disciples for Christ” (Matthew 28) and to love people and share the way we view the world, but when we do our culture pushes back. We are told we are wrong, old fashioned, uneducated. Even worse, we are called hateful, raciest and bigoted. Why is this case?

I would argue that it is the changed definition of tolerance (or intolerance) that is a critical diversion of two completely opposing worldviews. As Christians, we are sharing our faith with the assumption that the receiver will understand our message. We take for granted that when sharing the way we view the world; it is received, mentally processed and understood. This is assuming too much.

On one hand, a non-Christian views the world as “getting better”. This view could be traced back to the Enlightenment age, when human achievement through scientific discovery pushed the boundaries of authority. The non-Christian might feel that with further education and self-discovery the world we live in and how we treat one another will continue to improve over the course of time. However, Christians do not view the world under these enlightenment knowledge conditions. Our view can be traced back to Genesis 3 and the “fall of man”. We view that the world is not getting better, but worse. Stated in a theological term, a “total depravity” that stems from a heart that is separated from God. This Christian doctrine of the fall of humankind understands the Bible teaches, as a consequence all people born into the world are morally bankrupt, imprisoned to sin and is, apart from God’s grace unable to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.

“10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

• So where does this new definition of tolerance leave us?

It leaves us with two people, who are literally facing completely opposite directions on how the world works, and how we are to interact with it. Two completely different belief systems, that each seem outlandish and unbelievable to the other. When we share beliefs or worldviews we are assuming the other person views the world as we see it, or at least, close to it. We are not even in the same ballpark!

So, if we are viewing humanity completely differently, where does the tolerance come in? The definition of tolerance, as discussed above, has changed from “capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring”, with someone who has a different viewpoint to “affirming someone” who has a different viewpoint.” When we tolerate we endure, we love, we have patience, we have steadfastness, and sufferance with their opposing viewpoint.

The tolerance definition has moved to full affirmation of the opposing view; anything less you will appear intolerant of the opposing viewpoint. This makes no sense, and goes against the very meaning of the word tolerance. Unfortunately, in our modern culture we now must believe in everything, (or affirm) every belief or run the risk of being labeled hateful, raciest or bigoted. This leaves little room for the Christian to share their worldview of the redeeming offer of salvation in Jesus Christ and further exacerbates the privatization of faith from the public square.

Of course, isn’t the non-Christian being “intolerant” of the Christian worldview? The answer would be yes! It would be a self-refuting statement. A self-refuting statement is defined; “a statement is one that fails to meet its own standard, as an example, I cannot speak a word in English.” Other examples of self-refuting statements are; “You shouldn’t try to convert people.” The non-theist is trying to convert you to their point of view. “It is arrogant to claim to have the truth.” The non-theist is making the claim that they have the truth. “You should be tolerant of all views.” Again, the non-theist is claiming that all views are acceptable, but showing no tolerance to your opposing view. Exactly who are the intolerant groups here?

• What does this mean for me?

As the Bible teaches us throughout Christianity’s history culture has made every attempt to push it to the sidelines. Repeatedly, the truth of the word never fades, never changes, and never fails us as the enduring truth. Christians must continue to lovingly share the gospel, and actively live out their faith, to do anything less is dishonest to ourselves and goes against the gospel. Christians must push back against culture and treat everyone with love and respect. This does NOT mean we should be tolerant of sinful deeds, elicit behavior, or activities that are not grounded in a biblical understanding of the world we all live in. On the other hand, it does mean that we are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a world that is desperately searching for meaning and understanding of human nature. The gospel is Jesus Christ is that coherent and tolerant worldview to answer society’s inquiries about itself.

Seeker Series, Why? How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?

quote anselm

The foundation of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the cornerstone of the faith.  Without the resurrection Christianity is a social club gathering on Sunday mornings to discuss steps to a better marriage, job, or other life skill. Christianity is something more, something deeper than a 12 step program to improved living.

The resurrection is about humankind and sin. You might be thinking, “hold on, I’m a good person. I haven’t killed anyone or robbed a convenience store” Unfortunately comparing yourself to your neighbor, Hitler or Mother Theresa is not the standard.  The standard should be someone who is perfect, flawless and never sinned. Perhaps that is someone who was raised from the dead. That is the standard. It’s about an unwavering standard that does not change, forever.

  • How do we know the resurrection happened?

Jesus Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate and the disciples of Jesus maintained to have seen risen appearances Him, and that forever altered the course of their lives. New Testament scholars that are both Christian and secular agree on some facts of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We will briefly outline the top three details that a majority of scholars agree on.

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

In addition to the Bible, other writings are available that document that Jesus was killed by crucifixion. Evidence from Tacitus (55-115 AD), a Roman historian wrote about Jesus in The Annals, XV: 44.  Along with Josephus (37- 100 AD) referred to Jesus and his death in his writings called the Antiquities. Josephus testifies, “About the same time there lived Jesus, a wise man for he was a performer of marvelous feats and a teacher of such men who received the truth with pleasure.  He attracted many Jews and many Greeks.  He was the Christ.  When Pilate sentenced him to die on the cross, having been urged to do so by the noblest of our citizens; but those who loved him at the first did not give up their affection for him.  And the tribe of the Christians, who are named after him, have not disappeared to this day.”

These writings from outside the Bible confirm much of what the Bible says about Jesus. The manner of the way Jesus lived and died was unique. It also asserts he performed “marvelous feats” and He had many followers. With this fact confirmed both inside the Bible and outside using other historical writers it is safe to say that Jesus Christ lived, performed some type of awe-inspiring acts, had many believers, and was killed by crucifixion.

  1. The disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them.

“14 afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:14)

The Gospel of Mark is one of the earliest gospel writings to resurrection (33 A.D) of Jesus Christ and this verse is a reliable and accurate account of what the disciples believed happened. The appearance of a risen Jesus is a life altering event. Imagine you were sitting around the dining room table and a friend that had passed away appeared and started talking to you, you would remember this event! The disciples truly believed they had witnessed him, they had to tell people and they were willing to die to spread the message of Jesus Christ. People are not willing to die for a something they know is not true. You may be thinking, “What about the people who committed the acts of terror on September 11th 2001?” The distinction is between knowing something is a lie and dying for it, and believing something is a lie and dying for it. Best articulated by Dr. Gary Habermas PhD, of Philosophy, Liberty University, “Liars do not make martyrs.” The disciples would have known the resurrection appearances Jesus were a lie if the resurrection account was made up. Why would they be willing to die for a fabricated lie? By comparison, the September 11th terrorists did not know their ideology to fly airplanes in to buildings was/is a lie. They believed it, and were willing to die for an incorrect belief.

“19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

  1. Paul, a persecutor of the early church was converted when he believed to have seen the risen Christ.

Imagine Paul’s clear recollections of the day that changed his life dramatically. In an instant, he went from an eradicator of followers of Jesus Christ to one of the greatest champions of the Christian faith.

How did Paul know what occurred at the resurrection? Because he received it directly from the eye-witness accounts from the Apostles who were there. (Galatians 2:1-21) The apostle Paul took this confirmed and trustworthy information and wrote 1 Corinthians 15 somewhere between 54-57AD. At most Paul’s letter to the Corinth was authored 27 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, again a very early account by historical standards so that verse was written incredibly close to the event. You may remember that the writings of Plato were 1200 years after the events documented. So 27 years removed is credible for documenting what occurred during a specific time period.

Consider this; do you remember where you were when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after launch? Challenger’s last flight was January 28th, 1986.  It has been almost 30 years since crisp winter day, back dropped against a clear blue sky. I can remember exactly where I was. I was sitting in a high school auditorium watching the history event on television. At the time I didn’t know that this brief moment in time would be burned into my memory, so clearly that I can recall the hush and shock that came over my classmates. The feeling of joy brought on by being out of my regular class schedule rushed from me as the white smoke trails from the rocket boosters fell from the sky. The day of September 11th, 2001 has the same effect. Life altering incidents transform someone. It formulates memories, beliefs and opinions on how we view and interpret the world for years to come.

  • If Jesus rose from the dead, what does this mean for me?

The resurrection confirmed by Biblical narrative from eye-witness accounts, early historical writings from first century authors, and facts agreed upon by both Secular and Christian New Testament scholars, formulates the Christians belief today that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This means that God cares for you so much that He has provided a way for you to be reconciled from your sin by believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You are not lost. You have been found and a miracle has been provided to you so you can believe. You can continue to doubt and wrestle with hard questions.  That is natural and expected, but you have to look honestly at the historical evidence and come to your own conclusion. Keep seeking and asking questions the answers will come.

“12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”  (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)

 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mk 16:14, 1 Cor 15:12-14, Jn 20;19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.,

Seeker Series: Why? The Bible…

quote anselmHow many Bibles do you own? None or perhaps you may have multiple electronic copies on your mobile device?  How do you know that Bible is correct?  Christians believe the Bible is a manuscript containing sixty-six books that are the divinely inspired word of God. Has it been changed in the past 2000 years?  We should all desire have beliefs that are true. 16th century Philosopher Blaise Pascal wisely said, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”  If an investigation to find proof is required then one must explore what sets apart the Christian Bible from other historical texts.

  • Was the Bible translated correctly?

A common argument heard is, “the Church biased the Bible translations to make it say what they wanted it to say.” Normally, this rebuttal is from a basic awareness that there are different translations of the Bible. The New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) are translations commonly used in the present day. This is a good question. In the first century the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The reason different Bible translations exist is simple. Different versions translate the original texts in either a “thought for thought” or a “word for word” method.

In a thought for thought transcription such as the NIV Bible, the precise dynamic equivalency of the text is interpreted for use. See the example of 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:36.

20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”(6:20 NIV)

“36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.” (7:36 NIV)

In a word for word translation the precise meaning of the original words is emphasized in the translation.

“20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (6:20 ESV)

“36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.” (7:36 ESV)

Both versions retain the accuracy of original texts while emphasizing different areas of present-day English language usage. Both Christian and secular Greek scholars specializing in the study of historical texts, agree that our English Bible is an accurate translation. What does this mean for us?  Each Bible translation is accurate to the original historical documents (more on that later), but provides an easier to read document updated to contemporary language styles.

  • Is the Biblical manuscript corrupted?

Biblical scholar’s estimate the Gospel of Mark was written around 65-80 A.D.  This places the Book of Mark as one of the earliest gospel writings to life, death, and resurrection (33 A.D) of Jesus Christ. This book of the Bible is a useful place to start answering this question. When comparing the Gospel of Mark to other historical manuscripts, the Gospel of Mark fairs very well in how quickly the events were captured in early writings and how many manuscripts are available for comparison.  There are 140 years between the original events and the earliest manuscripts regarding the Gospel of Mark and his account of the life of Jesus. By comparison, writings from Plato have a 1,200 year gap between the originals and the earliest copies.  Other books of the New Testament only have a 25 year gap!  If we consider Plato’s writings historical, accurate and true with a 1,200 year pause, it follows that a reasonable person seeking truth can be assured the Bible has not been corrupted in a brief timeframe of 140 years.  You may ask, “But how many copies of the manuscripts do we have?” Great question!  Remember Plato was written 1,200 years after the event, and there are only 6 copies in existence. However, there are thousands of copies of the Gospel of Mark to compare, evaluate and judge the accuracy of the Bibles we have today!

“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.(John 1:1 ESV)

  • If the Bible is a true historical document, what does this mean for me?

It means any honest spiritual researcher wrestling with life’s difficult questions needs to take into account that the Bible is a dependable source of historical events that took place 2000 years ago.

A truthful seeker of the Christian faith needs to evaluate ancient documents from identical criteria.  It’s dishonest to declare, “I trust the writings of Plato and not the writings of the Gospel of Mark based on number of manuscript copies and early dating of those manuscripts. Assess both documents on equivalent evaluation standards and move forward from that point.

“6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6 ESV)

If the story of Jesus Christ is true, everything changes.  If it not true, than it holds no weight in how we live now or what happens after this life is finished. An individual can continue to believe in contradictions and alternate spiritualties that have no foundation in reality.  I invite you to genuinely search for answers. (Jeremiah 29:13) Read the Bible, investigate thoroughly and ask questions. As many questions as you can come up with. (Mark 9:24)

Christianity is a historical verifiable religion that for 21 centuries has withstood continuous pounding from governments, naysayers and other faiths. (Matthew 23:34-37) And it will continue to endure further until our risen Savior returns. (Revelation 22:20)

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 7:36). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
  2. Geisler, N., & Turek, F. (2004). I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
  3. The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 7:36). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Seeker Series, Why? Is Jesus the only way to God?

quote anselm6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

Bold words for a rural carpenter whose extremely countercultural opinions for first century prevailing thinking. What was Jesus talking about?  Who was he to make such a claim that all people should look to him to be reconciled to the one true God? He was God himself. His position as the second person of the Trinity allowed him to make demands that others must consider. He had credibility to speak like this; he performed miracles the world had never seen. He turned water into wine, healed an invalid and walked on water. Still with this information available to people, why would they not place their trust in him?

  • Sin is the fundamental problem.

Society is damaged. It is damaged due to broken people that make up that society. Every one of us has a heart of stone. (Ezekiel 11:19) It is this hard heart that makes us indifferent to the truth.  When we cannot hear truth, any truth we hear sounds like animosity towards the person as a whole.

Sin closes the mind to truth. Christians are often accused to be narrow minded by claiming Jesus is the only way to God.  I cannot dispute that some Christians are very narrow minded. But, there is a larger issue in play here. Christians imperfectly attempt to follow where the evidence leads. Christianity is a testable religion based on evidence and reality. We look at the world through a lens of the Bible. We are not opposed to science and pragmatic theories. We desire to follow the information to where it leads us. If that information leads us to the biblical creation account or the evolutionary theory, so be it. Both accounts will not remove a creator God from the picture. God needs to be considered when contemplating about how we fit into His creation and plan. Compare this to an atheistic worldview. They claim that there is no God and this non-god did not create anything, but the world a nothing more than a random causation of atoms. These atoms collected at just the right amount and the right time to create all we see in the material world. The material world is all that exists by their interpretation. To transform this worldview is very difficult. They refuse to study any other evidence outside of the material world. Christians consider information from both sides. Christians are the open-minded group; perhaps the atheistic can be deemed the narrow-minded crowd.

“12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Whether you believe in God or not it takes is five minutes with the evening news to understand that society is in trouble. There is a sin problem not just in our culture, but in the world as a whole. A materialist will say, “All we need is more education and society will behave in a kinder fashion towards their fellow man.”  The Christian will say, “Yes, education is a part of the solution. However the dark selfish heart of man cannot be remedied only by education, but by a conversion of the heart through Jesus Christ.” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26) A Christian holds both sides in a tension, of this world and the world that is to come. (John 8:23, 18:36, 18:32)  We know how the human heart is, depraved. This is apparent for basically two reasons. First, it is the reality of which we live.  We see through war, starvation, and sexual exploitation that we do not treat each other very well. In the second place, the Biblical account states that we are people separated from God by sin.  No matter how good we try to be we cannot remove the hardness of our hearts on our own. (Romans 7:17-20) The Bible is confirming the facts we already knew, that our hearts are corrupt and evil because of sin. However, the Bible outlines the solution for our brokenness and does not leave us on our own. (Romans 3:23-25)

Other religions claim this world is a non-reality (Buddhism), appeal to views that this life is a payment for mistakes in another life (Hinduism), or demand a system of works to appease a God that is unknowable. (Islam) Each of these beliefs is a manifestation from inside the human heart. None of these addresses the problem as it lies before us. We cannot be reconciled to the creator God of the universe without Christ Jesus.  Dr. Paul Copan Ph.D. philosophy, Marquette University remarks: “The founders of the world’s great religions made no claims as extravagant as Jesus of Nazareth did: to forgive sins, to be the judge of all, to always be present with his followers throughout the ages, to hear their prayers. Because of Jesus’ claims the earliest believers were even referred to as being members of The Way.”

 “27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

  • If Jesus is the only way, what does this mean for me?

Followers of Jesus Christ are many things. Some of them are very good, some of them not so good. Nevertheless, narrow-minded we should not be. We imperfectly look at both sides, all the evidence and direct our hearts to where it leads. To do otherwise would be closing humanity off to the greatest narrative the world has ever seen. The one true God that created the universe sent the redemptive salvation of Jesus Christ for us all!

 

 

Powell, D. (2006). Holman Quick-Source Guide to Christian Apologetics (p. 324). Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Acts 4:12 , Mt 11:27, John 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Seeker Series: Why? Believe in God…

quote anselm

Should someone believe in God? The Christian Bible asserts,“11 Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, foryou created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”(Revelation 4:11) Christians believe that God is a personal creator, loving, merciful and knowable. The Bible tells us about God, who he is, what has done and will do. Can we know God exists without the Bible? Yes, there is very good evidence for the rational belief in the existence of God. We are able to know God exists without using the Bible!

· Does the universe exist?

Of course it does, we are all here functioning, enjoying our families and friends in this world. We see the created world all around us. Where did it come from? The modern education system teaches the Big Bang theory and then evolutionary theory over billions of years created all that we see. That is avoiding the answer. Take a step back further, to what started the chain of events. In everything in our lives, we know it had a cause. It had to come from somewhere. The computer you’re looking at, the chair you’re sitting on originated from somewhere. It didn’t just spontaneously pop into existence from nothing. Imagine for a minute how funny the world would be if items just popped in and out of reality that we live in. If a pink pony unexpectedly appeared next to you on the couch, you would be looking for an explanation of where that pink pony came from! Consequently, both the pink pony and the universe all around us must have a cause.

The line of reasoning it would look like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

We know that all things that begin to exist have a cause. That is reasonable. The universe began to exist. This is attested to by the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe, again reasonable to believe this point. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The question remains as to what is that cause.

For the universe and everything in it, including time itself to be created, that creator is required to be outside of time. The universe must have been created supernaturally by an “uncaused creator being” that can create on its own free will. This “uncaused creator being” must beoutside of the time that was created when the universe began. By definition the “uncaused creator being” can be a God that is transcendent, infinite and eternal creator. Anything that is created into an existence cannot be god, thus God is the uncaused, cause of the universe!

· Why does this universe support life?

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” Scientists know our universe is a very special place. If any of the physical properties of the universe were just slightly different, the universe and life would not exist! Here are a few examples:

1. After the Big Bang, if the universe expanded at a rate of one millionth slower than it did, expansion of the universe would have stopped.

2. “If the thickness of the earth’s crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life. If thinner, volcanic activity would make life on earth impossible.”

3. Jupiter’s planetary gravitational pull acts as a cosmic buffer protecting the earth from bombardment from asteroids and comets moving around our solar system.

There are many other environmental constants (over 100) that need to be “just right” in order for the universe to sustain life. If any are just slightly different, no life on earth exists. Stating the argument formally, it looks like this:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either; physical necessity, chance or design.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Could the finely tuned values to create the universe be what they are due to an unknown physical necessity? No, the constants and quantities are not necessary. They must have the values they do in order to support life. How does random chance fair? Not well, if left to chance any number of random variables of the universe could have occurred if the cosmos spontaneously originated out of nothing! Could it be design? Yes, that is a reasonable conclusion. God is a designer. An eternal creator of the universe specifically setup to sustain life for His creation. Does this support that belief in God is plausible? Yes, a universe that was created by a transcendent, infinite and eternal creator can have the “just right” attributes for a universe that sustains life.

· If universe began to exist and it is a special place. What does this mean for me?

“19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the
things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

Utilizing these two lines of reasoning above
we have good reasons to believe God exists without using the Bible!

There are more reasons I would encourage you to investigate. I invite you to genuinely search for answers. (Jeremiah 29:13) Read the Bible, investigate thoroughly and ask questions. Asking questions like these defines what it means to be human. They deserve consideration. If there is an omnipresent, omnipotent eternal creator God who created the universe, than why is it so incompatible that he sent Jesus Christ to redeem us? We will cover that later…

“16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things
were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Re 1:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2. Geisler, N., & Turek, F. (2004). I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist (p. 95, 105-106). Wheaton, Ill.:
Crossway Books.

“Take care of your Mother…”

Driving Away

Two men, who had succumbed to their own sinful desires, presented me with that final emotional statement prior to their departure from my life. The first time it occurred at age 7, the other time I was well into adulthood. Each time it deeply hurt. Who tells a 7 year old boy, to “take care of your Mother”? I didn’t understand what it meant. My Mother and Father were supposed to take care of me. During the second occurrence I empathized with the concept of, “take care of your Mother”. I had a family of my own, but the painful sting of the finality of the situation struck cords of anguish within me I thought were long since buried. My Fathers of this world had twice failed me in spectacular fashion and left me with a poor example of love, marriage and trust. This is the end result of porn use and sinful desires. This is where years of pornography consumption the leads. This is the ending.

Here is the beginning.

Pornography is an uncontrolled virus of our culture. The statistics are appalling.

  • U.S. pornography revenue: $13.3 billion. $4 billion more than mainline Hollywood films in 2007
  • Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
  • U.S. adults who regularly visit Internet pornography Web sites: 40 million
  • Internet users who view pornography: 42.7%
    http://erlc.com/issues/quick-facts/por/#sthash.N2DdVq8T.dpuf

And it gets worse.

Is it any surprise that the two men that were placed in the position of responsibility to raise me failed miserably in maintaining a marriage founded on an intimate relationship with one woman?

A pornographic culture is compelling men, both young and old, away from the biblical doctrine of the Imago Dei. Simply stated, the Imago Dei is that humanity is created in the image or likeness of God. “27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) Conversely, this doctrine is NOT articulating we are “gods”, or can be “gods”, but that both males and females have been created IN the image of God. God the Father has imputed his commutable attributes of spirituality,knowledge, goodness, love, holiness and other attributes, to his created beings. (Genesis 5:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15:49)

  • When men are allowed to consume women as a collection of body parts to be displayed and fantasied about, they fail to consider that within that individual is a soul. A soul that is created in the image of God! (Matthew 5:27-28)

Within this pornographic fantasy perishes the sanctity of a marriage covenant. (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:2) Hardcore, graphic pornography is intensely encouraging man’s sinful desires to view women in a way that is not healthy. The statistics above outline the conclusion that the money follows the pornographic demand.

If you’re a man addicted to images where does pornography use end? If you’re lucky you repent your sin to God, confess to your spouse, pray deeply for forgiveness and together you move forward in healing reconciliation. (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10) Refraining from use of erotic images by continually working on sanctification with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 6:11)

Most men are not that fortunate to receive an ending as described above. (Mathew 7:13) The lines between fantasy and reality are distorted. Escalating from the anonymity of solitary porn use, to strip clubs, and who knows what else, causing a splintering of all your relationships to occur. Lies and secrets breed to cover the traces. No longer will “regular” porn suffice, but with an ever increasing appetite more explicit pornography must be consumed creating new neural pathways in your brain. This modifies the way the brain functions to perceive what is real and not-real disabling the ability to formulate relational bonds. This will drive a deeper wedge between you and your spouse removing any traces of intimate connection from the relationship.

Still not convinced? The scientific research confirms these findings with a research study published in the Journal of American Medical Association: Psychiatry. It concludes that “the more pornography a person watches, the less gray matter, connectivity and activity they have in their brain.” http://pornharms.com/wp-content/uploads/K%C3%BChnGallinatJAMA.pdf

“9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

Many men are in this dark place of exploiting pornography and are unable or unwilling to find the light. (1 John 1:5) Whatever the situation, I plead with you to want better for yourself, your spouse and your children. No child daydreams of becoming a porn star. No one imagines that the only way they will be able to survive in this world is to become a detached tool of lust for someone on the other end of a computer screen. I implore you to look at your children, especially your daughters and want more for them! Teach them that there is more to this world then the desires laid before us by an over sexualized society. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

No sin is too dark, to hidden, too horrible to escape the atonement work of Jesus Christ.

24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)

You haven’t astonished the Lord by the choices you have made. He knows your heart. (Romans 3:12-17) Forgiveness is available and freely provided to those who pursue the grace offered. A new life and beginning is open to you and your family. (John 3:3-8)

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1)

I plead with you to receive open invitation from Jesus, thus breaking the cycle of telling your children to, “take care of your Mother”, before you leave the shattered remains of your secret life for someone else to clean up…

Are you still trying to change on your own?

Your New Self Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

This time of year brings a flurry of new aspirations and New Year resolutions. Thoughts drift to creating a better you, a slimmer body, or new lease on life that will catapult you into the coming months. Possibly you’re desired transformation is from a dark place and comes with a higher cost. Perhaps you must stop using pornography, mend a broken relationship, emotionally heal or surrender a physical addiction. The list could go on and on. Recently, I’ve been wondering why God created us as He did. We seem to have this fascination for self-improvement. So we attempt to modify and change ourselves, often failing miserably at the task. Any change we perform comes from the head, not the heart. This “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” attitude rarely amounts to much behavioral modification in the long haul.

We are incredibly broken people with quirks, anxiety, attention deficit disorders, controlling natures, and various mental proclivities. I weary of my personal quirks. I grow tired of fighting my heart, but also struggling with my head. (Ps. 139:23) The heart is where the change needs to occur. “The heart is the source of motives, the seat of passions, the center of the thought processes, and the spring of conscience.” (S.G.F Brandon, 1967) Realizing that you are broken with a heart that is depraved and deceitful (Jer. 17:9) is the first step in renewing your mind so change can occur. The heart is the center where the Holy Spirit will act to regenerate and continue the progressive work of God centered sanctification. (Ezek. 11:19)

I exhaust myself pleading with God to “fix” me, so I try to do it on my own. Perhaps the better answer is I confess my brokenness and repent of it. Repentance is the rejection of sin, a commitment to abandon it, and an action to follow Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) While outward appearances lead us to believe following Christ is easy, the truth of the matter is, it challenging. Culture continues to close in modern day Christians making the inward personal struggle to follow Christ a very lonely place. Where is God when we cry out in pain that no one sees from the outside? He is there. The Holy Spirit is the comforter that walks along side, and will be present with you during your darkest hours. (John 14:16)

“2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Jonathan Edwards (1703 –1758) was a 17th century Christian preacher and theologian. Early in his life he wrote a series of personal resolutions in his diary. Edwards’s hoped that these resolutions would serve him as a reminder of spiritual principles to live his life by. While each statement said something about how he wanted to change his heart and mind, there was a focus on the eternal that would do us well to remember now. I consider these below my favorites from Edwards writing.

• “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”

• “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”

• “Resolved, to examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.”

The anxieties in this life only matter for a short period of time and no doubt, our brokenness is frustrating. Strive for self-improvement, but complete this task in a way that is God honoring and works towards the One who knows your heart. When you ask for forgiveness the Holy Spirit will come. (Matthew 6:8-13) Place trust not in your effort, but in work and effort of Christ. Live fully, knowing you’re broken with the full assurance that Jesus paid the debt for your sin, quirks, anxiety, controlling nature, and all other personal characteristics you may be trying to change. (Galatians 2:20) Stop exhausting yourself and place your trust in Jesus, the one who knows how broken you are. Perhaps this is his task to complete, not yours…

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Brandon, S. G. F. (1967). Jesus and the zealots. New York: Scribner’s.

Acts 15- What must we do to be saved?

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16)

lightstock-50827-grace-bible-verse

What is the final destiny of life and how are we “saved” to receive that destiny? These could be the greatest questions that everyone needs to answer. The end of this life will find each and every one of us. There is no avoiding it. Individuals attempt to create an answer to what happens after this life ends. Culture also speaks strongly as to how or what our focus should be on during our life. Just live in the now, do “right” by people and everything will work out fine. Focusing on “living our best life now” provides a vain attempt to avoid the providing any answer. But, avoidance is not an answer. Living for the “now” does not contain the power to provide salvation from your sin and bestow admittance to enteral life in glory with God. Each religion or worldview (a worldview is a person’s fundamental orientation of looking at the world around them) must be held to the same critical standard. The all need to answer the same question; “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?”

What Paul and Barnabas answered in Acts 15 addressed an early argument within the first century church. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2) Christianity believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5) Other religions and worldviews must address this difficulty. No one receives a free pass not to provide a solution. Let’s consider three other common belief systems.

An individual who adheres to Mormonism will consider this the path to salvation:

• There are three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion, expressed by our obedience to the Lord’s commandments. It will depend on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:51; see also D&C 76:74, 79, 101)

In this Mormon doctrines and covenants (D&C) passage we see Mormons believe there are “levels” to heaven and that inheritance into “heaven” will depend on obedience or works completed in this life.

Devotion to Islam also claims a route to eternal life.

• In Islam salvation is achieved through good works and including “honorable deeds” such as, keeping five “pillars,” of Islam: witness for Muhammad, ritual prayers five times daily, alms giving, fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Koran states in Sura 21:47, “On the day of judgment Allah will have a set of scales to weigh one’s good deeds against his bad deeds.”

Completing enough “good deeds” to win favor with an impersonal and unknowable god is an impossible task and obedience to this leads groups and individuals down dangerous paths. In both religions, works are necessary to gain favor with god and entrance into heaven or paradise.

Finally, let’s look at Pantheism a worldview that is commonly seen in Western Washington.

• Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one. The “God is everything, and everything is God” approach of Pantheism creates problems as it removes the personal identity and relational attributes of God.

Without a personal identity, there cannot be a relationship. It follows there would be no human destiny of the soul after this life with god if a relationship does not exist. Some forms of Pantheism assert the divine is an illusion, therefore making a god unknowable. Pantheism doesn’t answer the question of, “What must I do to be saved and have access to the afterlife?” It appears to avoid the question entirely.

All three worldviews are in direct contradiction to the personal and knowable God of the Bible.

“4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

“26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” “9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (Hebrews 7:26 and 5:9)

So, what must we do to be saved?

“30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

The apostle Paul and Barnabas are refuting a basic question that remains for us today. Who is included in God’s saving grace? Apostle Paul argues that the saving grace that Jesus provided is for all, both Jew and Gentile, provided by Jesus on the cross, and is God’s alone to impart. “8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8) Paul references back to Peter in Acts 10, because the “gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44) ensuring that God’s saving grace was provided by the Holy Spirit for all, both circumcised and uncircumcised.

How should we connect with others of a different belief system so they may have access to eternal life? Always with love, grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:39) For all that come to the cross, hear and believe the true words of God are invited into His infinite grace. This is very good news! Someone who believes they need to “earn” their way into heaven should find a tremendous amount of relief and comfort knowing that God loves them and has provided the way for salvation! No amount of “works” or “deeds” will appease a god or defend a god that is detached from his creation.

To the believers, pray continually asking for the Holy Spirit to use you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus, doing the hard work that needs to be completed for the Lord. Witness boldly to others showing them God’s everlasting grace as it has been shown to you.

To the unbelievers, may we pray for you? We pray you find that your work placating God is unnecessary. We want you to know Jesus came to atone for your sins, transgressions, and failures. We, as Christians do not stand above you, but beside you, as sinners deserving of God’s wrath. We are all sinners. Jesus alone is the perfect sacrifice for you and for us all. Rest from your unwarranted works, my friend, they are not needed…

“29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)