Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FAQ: Homosexuality

Homosexuality is referred to many times in the Bible, some of which you may be aware. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 18:22 it says, “You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.” (New English Translation). (The reason the Old Testament is cited in this manner is because this is a moral aspect of the old law. The moral aspects are based upon God who does not change. What God “detested” in the OT he detests in the New Testament.) Likewise, in Romans 1:26-27 Paul notes that homosexuals have abandoned their natural sexual relationship for an unnatural one. (Side note: Darwinistic Evolution struggles with a reasonable explanation as to why homosexuality occurs in nature; as it is counter-productive to natural selection.) Then also in 1 Corinthians Paul makes a point about homosexuality that isn’t quite understood by seculars in the Christian/Homosexual dialog.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NET) says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

The point is that Paul makes is Christians don’t view homosexuality as different as any other sin. They are all morally reprehensible in God’s eyes, and for the Christian that means conforming their lives to what God asks of us (not unreasonable). It’s not like homosexuality is a special sin to Christians, we are just as against pride, sex outside of marriage, greed, hatred and jealousy (for example) as we of homosexuality. It’s all sin! God has nothing to do with sin; sin disqualifies you from Heaven and fellowship with God. James wrote in James 2:10, “For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” James is saying by committing that one sin makes you just as guilty as someone who has committed thousands of sin. You are both equally in need of forgiveness from your sin. That forgiveness can only come from turning from that sin (whatever it is) towards Christ.

Homosexuality is difficult to handle today not because the truth is difficult to understand but because of how Christians have historically handled the issue. Over the past decades Christians have, in my opinion, misbehaved in their approach towards Homosexuals. Instead of trying to win them over to Christ with love many engaged in persecution and shunning of homosexuals. That, in turn, was counter-productive and has spawned a lot of hate from the homosexual community towards the Christian community. Even some Christians still don’t understand that it’s not about winning the argument; it’s about winning the soul.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FAQ: What is the Prosperity Gospel? Is it biblical?

I’m not a big fan of the prosperity gospel. Personally, I have not been influenced greatly either way with the prosperity gospel but there are several considerations we should notice and reflect on. So, I’m going to try not to be harsh, but observant and faithful to the message of the Bible.

The first consideration we should take is, “What is hiding in plain sight?” Think about it for a moment: What is hiding in plain sight about the prosperity gospel? If the prosperity gospel was the Gospel itself, we wouldn’t have to call it the prosperity gospel; we would know we are all talking about the prosperity gospel when we say the word Gospel. But we don’t. We have to indicate that we are talking about a different kind of gospel. A different kind of news. This distinction already sets the tone for the wary Christian. “What’s different about this gospel than the regular Gospel?”

The second consideration follows from the first, “What is the prosperity gospel?” Fortunately, this is not difficult to unpack. The context that this word normally is associated with is drawn from other synonyms that clarify the meaning. You’ve heard of the, “Health, wealth and prosperity gospel.” That is what the prosperity gospel is defined by: receiving health, wealth and prosperity. The idea is that God provides material prosperity for those he favors. Also, according to Wikipedia’s entry on “prosperity theology,” it centers around the idea that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings.”

The third consideration we should take as Christians is, “Is this taught in the Bible?” Notice the consideration is NOT, “Are there bible verses that teach this?” or “What verses can I find that will back up my position?” The reason we believe what we believe in the Bible is because of the intention of the author(s) who wrote it. Some verses that the prosperity gospel proponents advocate in support of their view are Malachi 3:10; Deuteronomy 8:18; John 10:10 and 3 John 1:4. Do these verses teach that the believer in Christ is entitled to health, wealth and prosperity? Not as the leaders of the prosperity movement would have you believe. In each of these verse’s respective contexts there are unique situations that are driving the writer to say what he says. (Side note: The Bible also does not teach that God absolutely does NOT provide a degree of “health,” “wealth” or “prosperity.” So, please don’t misunderstand me.) In these contexts God is either providing a certain way for a certain reason or is promising spiritual “prosperity” that is found in Christ.

While it may seem that I am going easy on the prosperity gospel, you need to know that it is absolutely not taught throughout the Bible. As a general rule doctrines or teachings of the Bible should be established by their continued teaching and affirmations or examples found throughout the Bible. We should not create an idea and then feed it using whatever Bible verses we can find. Remember: the contexts determine the meaning of the verses and the verses that are used to support the prosperity gospel are not aligned with their proper contexts. That is why they are able to say what they can say: they have changed what the Bible verses actually meant by the original authors.

Promising health, wealth and/or prosperity to a believer when the Bible does not promise such things is dangerously misleading to the “un-Bibled Christian.” The promises from alleged health, wealth and prosperity verses are GREATLY outweighed by the verses that promise troubles, trials and suffering!

Consider promises such as “in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33); “consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2); “do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering” (1 Pet 4:12). The Bible never denotes money or celebrity status as a sign of God’s blessing (2 Cor. 6:3–10). Trouble or struggle in our lives does not evidence the lack of God’s blessing upon us or our families.

In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 Paul writes, “We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Paul understood that the true Gospel is not the possession of wealth, material or prosperity; whatever that means. But the true Gospel is the possession of Christ and repentance within the believer! The prosperity gospel takes the focus away from Christ, away from the Cross and puts it on possessions and our status within our lives: the very thing Paul warned the Corinthian church to stay away from. Read Paul’s letters to Corinth and you’ll see evidenced that Paul is fighting a lot of what the prosperity gospel people are promoting.

In short, the prosperity gospel is bankrupt of truth and power. The prosperity gospel short changes the believer into thinking that he/she should be in possession of prosperity when rightfully they will be in possession of persecution because they have purposed to please Christ in all aspects of their lives regardless of possessions or position or power.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

FAQ: Epicurus

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Then why call him God?" -Epicurus

My opinion is that Epicurus' quote has a couple of logical fallacies hidden within it. Not only that but he doesn't seem to understand who God is.

"Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent." This is a Non-Sequitur. You might be familiar with the funny comic strip but a Non-Sequitur is Latin for "it does not follow."

Here are a few examples of a Non-Sequitur: "If you buy this car, your family will be safer." or "If I buy this cell phone, all people will love me." How about, "All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates likes girls."

Basically, the two points that Epicurus made aren't connected. God's willingness to prevent evil does not necessitate that He is malevolent (evil). As expressed in the Bible (Isaiah 55:8-9) that God's ways are above our ways.

There is evil in the world today, sure but that evil is a result of sin or even sin itself. Sin is disobedience to God. God allows that disobedience within a person's life so that they would have a chance to repent instead of being instantly judged for sinning. (Infinitely preferable).

Sin is rebellion against God and although it is being tolerated a day will come where it is not. Jesus will return and judge and destroy all sin.

This is the promise for the believer: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away," - Revelation 21:4

The unrepentant nonbeliever does not have this hope.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

FAQ: I frequently fail from time to time from impure thoughts. Help!

Paul understood the inner struggle that you are battling with. He wrote in Romans 7:18-20, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.” You are experiencing the inner struggle that we all face as Christians. Your flesh is at war against the Spirit and it is a difficult battle no matter what you are at war over. For you this is manifesting itself in at least this particular area of your life. Certain Christians will struggle with certain issues throughout their Christian lives (like gambling, extramarital flirting, over indulgence of alcohol, homosexual urges, etc) and this may be that particular issue for you.

If you sense that this is a key area of struggle in your life then you should keep in mind what Paul exhorted Timothy to keep in mind. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:1-4, “So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.” You have been enlisted into the army of the Lord. Do your best to be found faithful and completing your duty. Don’t fraternize with the enemy (your flesh in this case) and don’t be found loitering around in the enemy camp. But instead kill the enemy.

Paul explained the battle against the flesh in this manner to the church in Rome. Romans 8:10-17, “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.”

I would also add that you should heed what Paul wrote in Romans 13:14 – “Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.” One way you can kill the flesh is to starve it. When you eat food your are providing nourishment to your body to grow stronger and mature. Likewise, if you feed your flesh with sensual lust and physical stimuli your flesh will overtake the Spirit and the war will be in favor of the flesh. On the other hand, if you feed the Spirit with righteousness, holiness and Jesus the balance of war will be in favor of the Spirit. The question now becomes, who do you want to win this war? Do you want the Flesh to overtake the Spirit or do you want the Spirit to overtake the Flesh?