Sunday, 27 April 2014

Drunken Anti-Christ Christians?

I've been meditating on this verse a little bit lately:

"Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God's presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame."
(1 Corinthians 15:34; Amplified).

What are we to make of that? I couldn't help but wonder how many of us today perhaps also need to heed the same advice? This in turn begged the question, Have some of us been living a lie when it comes to our faith professions? Ouch! Thankfully God alone will be the judge of that! Still, I confess that I did ask the question.

As I was musing over that, I was suddenly reminded me of this verse: "... even now many anti-christs have come" (1 John 2:18; NIV). Again, what are we to make of that?

  • Do these two verses even logically fit together?
  • Can a person be a Christian and be an anti-christ at the same time?
  • Why or why not?

Drop me a comment. I'd love to hear your take on this. Peace.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Whose Child Are You?

Credit: Neil Smith
Flickr Creative Commons
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5; NIV)

Recently one of my brothers shared with me a situation that resulted in some introspection on his part. I am not going to get into all the details here, except to say that he was concerned with how to respond to a rather unpleasant situation. As a result he asked himself, "Whose Child Are You?" The answer was obvious; he's a child of the King. No question about it!

As a child of the King, then, he saw that his response to the unpleasant situation was probably best mirrored to how the King would have responded. How would Jesus have responded? Introspection is a wonderful, and sometimes, painful thing. I suspect that in this instance, for him it was both as well.

How do we respond when the going gets tough? Fight back like the world usually does? For many of us, myself included, that would be easy. Or do we take the high road, and strive for the same attitude as that of King Jesus? As "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17), that would seem to suggest that we have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Whose child are you?

So without further adieu, please join me in welcoming my little brother, Waldo Rochow, as a guest blogger to Rethinking Faith and Church. Thanks for sharing, bro.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
But what does it mean to love one another? The standard response lies in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. …” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is very easy to read that passage and just speed through it (as I have done repeatedly). But if we are supposed to love one another, then we should be able to say:

  • I am patient;
  • I am kind;
  • I do not envy;
  • I do not boast;
  • I am not proud;
  • I do not dishonor others;
  • I am not self-seeking;
  • I am not easily angered;
  • I keep no record of wrongs;
  • I do not delight in evil but I rejoice with the truth;
  • I always protect;
  • I always trust;
  • I always hope;
  • I always persevere; and
  • I never fail (to do the above).

That’s quite the list! Before standing up and saying “I do all that”, or even “I do most of that”. Let’s look at the implications.

  • Do I ever sigh when the line-up at the bank or grocery store is long and the clerk is visiting with someone at the front of the line? How about when the traffic light turns green and the driver in front of me doesn’t notice right away?
  • Have I ever joked about someone’s weight, hair colour, ethnic group, or regional ancestry?
  • Do I truly celebrate with the colleague who is promoted ahead of me? Am I really thrilled to hear what a wonderful time someone had on his or her Caribbean vacation?
  • Am I really praising God when I “share” about my new car, house, stereo, or TV or whatever?
  • Is my success at work because of my skills and abilities? … Only my skills and abilities?
  • Do I laugh when someone trips and falls? Do I point out when someone’s wardrobe needs renewing?
  • Do I let the other guy win in negotiations? Have I ever haggled the price for something down to the lowest rate I could get?
  • Do I stay calm when a distracted driver cuts me off on the highway? How about when people push and shove while in a line-up? How about when the kids (or spouse) walk through the house with muddy boots?
  • Have I ever said: “That’s the fourth time you did that to me!” or “You always do …”; how about: “I will never do business with him again…”
  • Have I ever watched a thriller movie involving the occult, or zombies, or gang violence? Did I enjoy it?
  • Have I ever watched an abusive situation and done nothing about it?
  • Have I ever doubted someone at his or her word?
  • Have I ever changed my plans because the “odds were against me”?
  • Have I ever given up?

These fifteen aspects of Love are really fifteen ways to show the world whose children we are. Next time you find yourself in one of the situations above, I pray that you have the strength to show those around you true love.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
Thank God we do not have to be perfect to receive salvation!
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

of Pet Sins and Subliminal Messages

I have to confess that I chuckled a little bit when I saw this sign. I don’t know if it’s real or not, and ultimately, that doesn’t even matter. However, while I was amused, at the same time I was also troubled by it. Why?

It reminded me of the following quote that has been attributed to Philip Yancey: “Christians get very angry towards other Christians who sin differently than they do.”

This really has nothing to do with whether we agree or disagree with the idea of gay marriage. It also has nothing to do with whether or not we agree with the more common societal norm of divorce and remarriage. The way I see it, there are three much larger messages that this sign is communicating, and for the sake of this post, I’m purposely leaving out all the biblical arguments that can also be read into it.

Message #1

The way I see it, the first message being communicated is that there is an obvious lack of unity and love in the Christian community. The church, the body of Christ, has long since become so factioned (Galatians 5:20) that for many of us, disunity is now viewed as normal. We don’t even see it as the “acts of the sinful nature” as Paul describes it (Galatians 5: 19-21). This happens all the time in other “signs” too, such as social media walls and the like. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen Christians (assuming they really are Christians) slandering others who think differently than they do. I am sure we’ve all seen it a time or ten. Maybe we’ve even done it ourselves.

In my humble opinion we (myself included) would all do well to ask ourselves a question: Dare we dis-fellowship ourselves with others for whom Christ also died, and especially if they too have professed faith in Christ, just because of differences in opinion? If we were to do that, I wonder who is the greater “sinner?” (Forgive me for being a little facetious).

Message #2

The second message being communicated is that some Christians seem to enjoy airing out their dirty laundry in the public arena for the secular world to see. This reminds me of what Paul said concerning believers taking each other to a secular court for justice in front of a non-believing judge (1 Corinthians 6:1-6). Should the church not settle disputes and differences amongst itself, out of the view of the unbelieving masses? That seems to be what Paul is saying.

What do you suppose our non-believing neighbors think about Christianity when they see signs like that? Do such signs not make a laughing stock out of us? More importantly, why would the non-believer want what we’re selling when all they see is this trash-talking through our church signs?

Message #3

Perhaps what it comes down to is that many of us have “pet sins.” While we don’t see them in ourselves, we do see them in others all the time, and for some reason what we see irks us greatly. For one it is gay marriage, whereas for another it is divorce. As an aside, I’ve read how now there is apparently a higher divorce rate in the church than in the secular world. Hmm, if we really wanted to get technical, what does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage? Ouch!

Likewise, what about smoking, drinking and obesity? If we wanted to we could make biblical admonitions against all of them too. By way of example, if the body really is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), then it could be argued that smoking, drinking and eating too much can all play havoc on our physical health, and thereby play havoc on the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” The point is, some Christians have no problem lighting up a smoke after an oversized platter of high-calorie nachos and a few beers, where as others seem to have a lot of trouble with it.

Please understand, I am not interested in belittling anyone’s point of view on any of these things, and I certainly mean no offence. I have my own views, and sometimes I have certainly aired them as well. However, maybe sometimes we would all be better off to “keep between yourself and God” (Romans 14:22) some of those pet sins, and especially if those views do not lend themselves to mutual love and edification.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1; NIV).

Are you tired of all the religious and pseudo-Christian noise? Me too. Maybe we all would do well to lighten up a little bit and practice a little more grace with one another. Just a thought.

Peace and Blessings.

Picture Source: Unknown (via Facebook)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Abandoned by God?

Credit: Erik Mauer,
Flickr Creative Commons
This morning I came across a verse that made me stop and think a while:

For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions” (Romans 1:26; Amplified)

Does God abandon people?

What a frightening thought! Three times in the same paragraph Paul said that God gave them up. Does that seem odd to you? I suspect that many of us quickly pass over verses like these.

Perhaps the problem that many of us have with this is that we would argue that, since God is love, He could not possibly abandon anyone regardless of whatever other baggage we come packed with. After all, did God not say, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)? Could it be, however, that many of us miss the bigger picture of God’s holiness and justice? God will never abandon a true child who comes to Him with faith in the Lord Jesus, but He will ultimately abandon those who continually refuse to accept Christ by becoming His sons and daughters. God is the Creator of all, but He is not necessarily the Father of all.

As I thought about this some more, I began to wonder if there are not at least two different ways to look at abandonment by God. There is a situational abandonment and a positional abandonment. Both are unfortunate, both involve non-Christians, but only one has eternal consequences.

Situational Abandonment

In Romans 1:26 Paul is referring to a situational abandonment. These people have rejected God’s truth and believed a lie. They essentially worship themselves (Romans 1:25) and do whatever they want to do, regardless of what God wants for them, and regardless of what God’s holiness demands of them. Ultimately there is no excuse for this (Romans 1:20), but by their actions they prove that they simply want their own way more than they want God’s way. Such people, some of which ironically also claim to be Christians, have in truth turned their backs on God and become little more than idolators. Harsh? Maybe.

Donald Grey Barnhouse once said, “Man away from God is always an idolator.” As we all know, idolatry can take all sorts of forms, and as such there are many things in life that can cause us to be guilty of idolatry. Essentially, if God plays second fiddle to anything else in our lives, that then makes us idolators. This is not about being legalistic and preaching Law instead of Grace; it’s about discerning God’s heart. While God is love, He is not into idolatry. He wants the first place, not the leftovers.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10; NIV)
Does God abandon people who deliberately keep on ignoring the teaching in verses such as the preceding, and thus, ignoring His will? I think He does in the sense that He gives them over to their own will. The thing I find strange is that many of us still look to God to bless us and answer our prayers when all the while we’ve deliberately ignored His will. When everything is going well, many folks ignore God. However, when things begin to go amiss, they superficially come running back, at least until the crisis of the troubling situation has resolved itself. But God is not fooled; He knows the heart.

Still, like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), God is always looking for our return, but He doesn’t force our hand. In situational abandonment God simply gives us a free will to do our own thing and leaves us to face the consequences for our own choices and depravity. It pains Him to see us in the cesspools we’re in, but He will not force a Saviour upon us that we do not really want with all our hearts.

The offer of adoption into the family of God, and all the blessings that go with it, is unfortunately often left on the table by many who prove by their lifestyle choices that they prefer to be idolators and not give God the glory and worship and thanksgiving that is due Him. “For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions” (Romans 1:26; Amplified). Still, there is hope; repentance can still happen, and that is my prayer.

Positional Abandonment

At the risk of sounding like a “hell-fire and brimstone” blogger (which normally I am not), left unrepented, there then ultimately follows a positional abandonment. This is eternal and happens at the individual’s physical death. God is now no longer looking for the return of the prodigal, yet they will briefly meet again at the final judgment following death (Hebrews 9:27). Salvation is now no longer even an option if we wanted it, as there now is a “great chasm” (Luke 16:26) permanently fixed between heaven and hell. In positional abandonment a form of Russian Roulette has been played and lost, as the player’s deathbed caught up with him before he took the time to make peace with God through Jesus Christ. Now it’s too late, and as someone once said, there’s all eternity to live with the regret of it all.

Positional abandonment is a horrible thought, and yet the Bible does teach it. It is not a popular message, and maybe it’s even become a politically incorrect message, but as Christians we would all be negligent if we did not seek to help our friends and loved ones to avoid this positional abandonment by God. How do we do that? We do it by genuinely and unpretentiously loving them and introducing them to life in Jesus. There is no other way (John 14:6). It is not about “fire insurance,” as some have suggested, as much as it is about helping others to discover the love of God in Christ Jesus that you and I cherish so much.

Is God unjust?

I know there are a lot of folks who still struggle with this. They prefer to only look to the love of God at the expense of ignoring His holiness and justice. And yet ironically, we often cry to God for justice when we’ve been wronged. As the old saying goes, “we want our cake and eat it too.” We want His love, but we seem not to want His sovereignty. We want salvation for all, but we don’t want to have to give up a sinful and worldly lifestyle in the process. We want it our way, and we do not want anyone else to tell us how to live our lives, including God.

But then we’re faced with these verses: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:14-16; NIV). What are we to do with that?

Maybe God’s abandonment of some is a blessing for others.

I do not want to dwell on positional abandonment, for it scares the daylights out of me. But maybe God’s abandonment of some is His justice and blessing for others. What do I mean by that? Imagine a heaven in which everyone equally is destined to the same eternity. The murderers, the thieves, the evil dictators, the Hitler’s and Stalin’s, the child molesters, not to mention everyone who has ever rejected Christ, are all seated with you and me in heaven. If anything would seem unjust of God, perhaps it would be that. If that were the case, it might then even beg the question of why someone should even bother being a Christian at all. To make matters worse, the way I see it, such a heaven would essentially make Jesus out to be a liar when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Perhaps such a heaven would actually be more of a hell for those faithful believers who here on earth faced all sorts of atrocities by evil men, and who in eternity now have to face them all over again. Such a heaven would ultimately even have room for the devil himself. But we do not believe in such a heaven, for even the souls of the martyrs under the throne of God are depicted as crying out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10; NIV), we too cry out for deliverance from evil.

God is love, and through Christ He gives us the choice to receive that love. However, let us not be so na├»ve as to think that God’s love means that we have license to ignore His holiness and justice by continuing in a deliberate lifestyle of depravity and rejection of His only provision for our sin, Jesus Christ.

So where do we go from here? We ask one final rhetorical question: What have we done with Jesus? Each of us alone must answer that. Peace & Blessings.

Recently I purchased yet another Casting Crowns album, “Thrive.” While I would be hard-pressed to name a song on that album that I do not like, one struck me as quite profound and is perhaps among my favorites. As I listened to the lyrics over and over again, it occurred to me that perhaps this song is the perfect conclusion to what I’ve felt God burden me to say in this post. Enjoy, and God bless.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Adultery and the Cocktail Hour

Do you ever wonder about the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery? What happened to the man who was caught with her?

I’m sure many of us have asked that question. If, as the old adage says, “it takes two to tango,” where was her dance partner? Was he not equally guilty? Of course he was. According to Leviticus 20:10, “both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

Picking up the story

Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery [talk about embarrassing!]. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8: 1-11; The Message)

The cocktail hour

As some of us reflected upon this story one evening, we found ourselves also discussing a related passage of Scripture that in some Bibles has been subtitled as “The Test for an Unfaithful Wife” (perhaps there also needs to be a test for an unfaithful husband).

To paraphrase this, basically the way it worked was, if a husband suspected that his wife was unfaithful, he could take her to the priest who would mix up a concoction of holy water with the dust from the tabernacle floor. The priest would then put the woman under oath as he pronounced a curse. She was then made to drink the cocktail of holy water and dirt, and if she was guilty of adultery, her thigh would waste away and her abdomen would swell as proof of her infidelity. If, on the other hand, she was not guilty of being unfaithful to her husband, no harm would come to her from drinking the muddy water (Numbers 5: 11-31).

Suddenly we noticed that here was Jesus writing in the dirt, perhaps in some of the same dirt that had once been carried out of the tabernacle floor by the sandals of countless people. Let’s take this a step further. Here was Jesus, the Living Water (John 4:10), stirring up the dirt and making the poor woman’s accusers drink their accusations. Wow!

Sit down and have a drink … of Living Water

Philip Yancey once said, “Christians get very angry towards other Christians who sin differently than they do.” C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” Are you sinless? Do you have something to forgive? Hmm.

Maybe in one way we’re all guilty of adultery. Jesus said, “You heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But as for myself, I am saying to you, Everyone who is looking at a woman in order to indulge his sexual passion for her, already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28; Kenneth Wuest, “An Expanded Translation”)

If I even look at another woman with lust in my eyes, Jesus says I am an adulterer. Likewise, if a woman even looks at a man with lust in her eyes, she too is an adulteress just as surely as if she had actually slept with him. That’s a somewhat sobering thought, isn’t it?

Perhaps next time we’re inclined to be a little too self-righteous, be it concerning sexual sin or some other sin that we think we see in others, we may need to stop and have a cocktail of Living Water and tabernacle dust. What is the Lord saying to us as He writes in the dirt of our lives? Before we throw too many stones because of our perceived shortcomings of others, stop and have a drink of what Jesus is offering. If He has not condemned, then dare we?

May they go in peace and sin no more, and may we do likewise. Something to think about.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Celebrate With Us

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born …” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2; ESV).

Celebrate with us!

Today Rethinking Faith and Church has moved into new and uncharted territory. Like with Facebook, it now officially also has its own Google+ page, which we would invite you to check out. Be sure to also notice the snazzy new badge on the blog. We think it's pretty cool.

With so many of our friends now on Google+ it seemed logical that we should be able to join them there too. We’re excited about this new addition to the Rethinking Faith and Church family and look forward to how God might use it to His glory and honor. For those faithful friends on our Facebook page, rest assured that we’re still there with you as well.

Peace & Blessings.