Category Archives: Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss

Blogging about real-life stuff where we apply God’s guidance

The “A-B-C’s” of Christianity

Absolute Belief Creates action . . .

What True Christianity is NOT:

  • A self-centered culture focused on pleasing the senses through music, dress, and ear-tickling self-help messages.
  • Founded on blind faith.
  • A belief system without action.
  • Appealing to most humans in its truest form because of its narrow and difficult way shaped by discipline, self-control, and benevolence.
  • A gateway to the giant Jinni, slot machine, one-way gift-giver, or however most people look at God these days.
  • Entitlement for sinful ‘do-overs’.
  • Promises of an illness-free materially-prosperous life where we will never suffer consequences of our actions or the actions of others while we wait to go to Heaven.

What True Christianity IS:

  • Action out of faith.
  • Born of faith that comes from confidence.
  • Ever-increasing confidence gained from prayer, fellowship, discipleship, and study.
  • A system of ‘paying it forward’ whereby those who are mentored and discipled do the same while also proclaiming what God and our Christ Jesus have done for us.
  • Representative of those who have entered into a two-way marriage-like relationship with God through Jesus.
  • Potential hardship and death on earth; Reward and life later.

~ Getting There from Here ~

Belief is the first step to obtaining salvation, which is available to everyone – not just a chosen few (Mark 16:15-16 and John 3:16-18). If we believe with all our heart, then a change of heart that results in a change of behavior – repentance – must follow.

  • Repentance is absolutely necessary for being rescued from coming judgment (Acts 17:30-31)!
  • Sinful behavior keeps us from God; repentance allows us to draw near to Him (Acts 3:19).
  • True belief and repentance lead to good fruit that comes out of obedience (Acts 26:20).

We’re also told in the Gospel to be baptized by water.

  • A person is born initially of water (through the womb) but must be spiritually born as well to enter God’s kingdom (John 3:5-6).
  • Baptism has become the symbolic of the washing away of sin that Christ offered through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).

Because true faith comes from the heart, a person must believe completely that Jesus died for them and then confess this belief. Faith – belief – is obtained and strengthened from experiencing the testimonies and fulfilled prophecies contained in the Word of God. They serve to ‘convince’ men of the truth and build faith (Romans 10:17 and 1 Peter 2:1-2).

To obtain and keep salvation (which, by the way, is a ‘rescuing’ from God’s wrath to come):

  • Believe in the gospel – the good news of salvation through Jesus. True belief will bring a new heart.
  • Repent by using that new heart to change sinful behavior.
  • Be baptized as an outward sign of your new faith.
  • Increase faith through continual exposure to teachings contained in the Bible.
  • Don’t practice sinful behavior – those things that are counter to God’s ways!!

While the gift of salvation is given by faith and not because of anything we can do to earn it, faith must lead to obedience and therefore production of ‘fruit’. In fact, James tells us that faith – or belief – without obedience (works) is useless (James 2:14-20). So, learn, grow, care for others, and follow God’s ways . . . and live!

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Chasing Pleasure? Wake up and Smell the Smoke!

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. —Galatians 5:19-21.

Sensuality by its definition is licentiousness – filthy behavior, lasciviousness, and wantonness – according to Strong’s concordance (from the Greek aselgeia). In biblical context, it’s generally associated with immorality and sometimes with sexual feelings or behavior.

Chasing pleasure of the senses in pursuit of immorality is distasteful to God and will certainly invoke God’s judgment and hell in the last days! It also leaves little or no time for actually pleasing God . . .

But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married. — 1Timothy 5:11.

and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of [Sodom and Gomorrah’s] unprincipled men . . . — 2Peter 2:7.

. . .  excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. —Ephesians 4:17-19.

. . .  having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. . . .  but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. —1Peter 4:3-5.

Engaging in sensual activities like viewing pornography (including publically-acceptable media with erotic images) or entering into ‘racy’ discussions or crude joking epitomizes what the Bible reveals about sensuality, immorality, and fornication and related consequences. Dabbling by viewing sensual images or verbalizing sensual topics can produce unnecessary sexual arousal that will most likely need to be satisfied.

So, why do I associate sensuality and pornography? Because pornography reflects filthy and immoral behavior that appeals to the senses. It can be a trigger for the commission of sexual sin since it certainly causes physical and perhaps emotional arousal that must be satisfied in the end. There’s no disguising the purpose of pornography: it’s meant to stimulate the senses and cause arousal for the ultimate goal of sexual satisfaction.

Indulging in pornography is certainly sinful and dangerous. While Scripture doesn’t directly reference the word ‘pornography’ it does address fornication and the pursuit of sensuality – all of which are pervasive in pornographic material and behavior that will bring judgment from God. Do we really want to be guilty by association?

It’s important to point out that pornography or sensual stimulants don’t have to be visual in the form of pictures or video: they can be present in sound and word.  Erotic speech and noises can stimulate sexual desire in the same way viewing an erotic picture or film can. And sensual stories such as stereotypical romance novels or the recent 50 Shades of Grey book can evoke emotions and sexual desire no less driving than pictures or sound. This is why women can also be ensnared by pornography or sensuality even though they’re not normally driven in the same way men typically are.

Our choices: Animalistic, immoral sensual pleasure now with its judgment and hell later, or balance in accordance with God’s ways now and unimaginable reward and eternal life later. Choose wisely!

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. —Romans 13:13.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Crisp air, crowded malls, and credit cards a-flying can mean only one thing: the holiday season is upon us! In fact, Christmas is a mere 1 week away. My, how time has flown since the last bout of bustling buyers scrambled for trinkets and travel arrangements! Yep – it’s definitely time again to ponder the ‘reason for the season’ and, indeed, the season itself.

Read the Q&A titled, “Holy Days: Christmas” from my book Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss (available in 2015) and you’ll learn some little-discussed facts about Christmas. For instance, Jesus’ birth took place in a warmer time of year when the animals were grazing. And the actual number of wise men is anybody’s guess. Read the Gospel accounts closely and you’ll also notice that Jesus would’ve been about 2 years old and not a newborn baby when the wise men finally arrived with their gifts. Simultaneous with that ah-ha moment may be the sudden realization that the gifts were necessary to see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus through a 2-year exile in Egypt.

If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How, then, did Christmas come into being and assume current traditions?” Most likely, a well-meaning fourth-century Church established the holiday to acknowledge Jesus’ birthday but coincide with pagan recognition of the winter solstice on December 25th. Why? Perhaps it was to attract those pagans to the Christian faith. Look around and you’ll see we do the same even today through churchgoer actions, speech, and approaches to entertainment and worship as we attempt to attract new consumers by modeling what they like. But, we can go down that rabbit hole another time.

You may be getting the idea that I’m not a proponent of Christmas. The truth is that I think the holiday is fine when recognized for what it actually is: a time of feasting, family and indebtedness with little actual regard for our Christ. Let’s change that – even if only for a fleeting moment – by imagining together what a Christ-centered Christmas could look like.

I see clothes and food for the less-fortunate, without indebtedness, delivered by children and their parents. After all, this is how our Christ said we’ll be judged in the last days. And we’d sing songs about redemption, forgiveness, and expectation of amazing things to come – not about Frosty, Santa, chestnuts, or elves.  We’d share stories about Jesus from the Gospels and imagine what His life was like. There’d be feasting and drinking (in moderation, of course).  Our Christ gave the greatest gift of all to us: the choice of eternal life. We’d celebrate it as the gift that ‘keeps on giving’, adoring the gift-giver all the while.

But, Christmas reality along with its gaiety and materialism are upon us. Are those your real reasons for the season? If so, dare to be different and give the Christ this Christmas!

Donuts and Electric Guitars?

We know from the Old Testament that Israelites praised God with instruments and voices (e.g. 1Chronicles 15:16) as the whole earth will one day (Psalm 66:3-4). And, according to Paul, the first-century Church also sang songs together in praise and worship (e.g. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

There are two ways to handle music in church: listen to the music and enjoy it, which may make us feel good but does nothing for anyone else. Or . . . we can actively participate in singing and playing as instructed by the Bible. This outward expression is a great way to adore, honor, and revere our God and Christ! After all, true love (agape in the Greek) is actionable and the kind of love we’re meant to have for God and our fellow humans.

There’s some concern these days around the use of multimedia and the replaying of Christian entertainment during church services as a form of praise and worship. Whether there’s reason for concern depends on the intent of the performers and hearers.

Are the sessions prideful regurgitations of Christian top-40 music meant to evoke the same kinds of emotions you’d find in a bar over weepy love songs or among lighter-waving teens in a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert 35 years ago? Or, is the music truly a vehicle for outward-bound praise of our Lord and savior?  Only the performers and listeners know for sure.

As a praise and worship lead guitarist for roughly 34 years, I can honestly say I’ve seen it go both ways, although the trend seems to be moving away from a participatory worship to more of an appeal to the senses (in my experience and opinion).

Just remember that obedience to God’s commandments is the greatest form of true worship – assigning ‘worth’ or ‘value’ to our God. According to the Bible, this is what God desires over religious activities, and Jesus said this is how we prove we’re His. No amount of donuts in the foyer, weepy worship band music, electric guitar solos, or church programs will save us from God’s wrath to come. However, obedience out of faith will.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Where will we go when we die?

The spirit of a deceased human will go into a holding place upon death. That location will depend on whether their name is recorded in heaven as being among the righteous. The unrighteous will await judgment and a fiery consequence at the end of days. On the other hand, the spirits of the righteous will await their bridegroom – Jesus – to gather them and ascend to the “third” heaven, where God exists, at His appearing.

One of only two earthly choices will affect us after death (at least for those who’ve had a choice): follow God and His Christ and live; choose not to follow and die. Each choice will result in a consequence. The spirit of Jesus’ deceased followers (following implies action and obedience, by the way) will rest in a holding place Jesus called Paradise. They’ll wait there for His return and their gathering, often called ‘the rapture’. I know this is generally contrary to what many churches and their doctrines teach, but you’ll discover that it’s what the Bible reveals.

We’re usually told that our spirit goes to heaven at the time of physical death, yet we won’t find a single biblical reference (in context) to support that idea and plenty to the contrary. The Book of Enoch tells of a holding place for the spirits of the righteous. Jesus told the thief on the cross that He would see him in Paradise that day (Luke 23:40-43), yet Jesus didn’t ascended to heaven until three days later (John 20:17). Paul explained to the Thessalonians that the spirits of the righteous deceased will ‘rise’ to meet Jesus at His appearing and that the living followers will be ‘translated’ to join them.

Also, we know from the story of Lazarus and the rich man that spirits of both were in locations apart from heaven – Lazarus in ‘Abraham’s bosom’ and the rich man in Hades – and yet they could see each other (Luke 16:19-62).

Finally, Jesus told His disciples that we’ll be gathered and taken to heaven – to His Father’s house – upon His return. This supports what Paul said later (e.g. 1Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1Corinthians 15:52). Paul explained to the Thessalonians that spirits of the righteous deceased will rise to meet Jesus at His appearing and that the living followers will be changed to join them. While on earth, Jesus had told His disciples about the future time when that gathering Paul mentioned will happen (cf. Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28).

I realize some readers may still be holding onto traditional church dogma that insists our spirit goes to heaven immediately upon death, so allow me to ask a rhetorical question based on Paul and Jesus’ statements: “Why will Jesus need to return to earth to gather the spirits of the righteous deceased if they’re already in heaven?

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. —John 14:2-3. (See also Matthew 24:30-31 for a reiteration of this gathering)

 

Summary: Our spirit will go to one of two places when we die: a holding area where we’ll await escort to heaven or to an unpleasant holding place where the spirit will await judgment and wrath.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Demons with Job Titles & the ‘Spirit’ of Biblical Abuse . . .

Sometimes, unwilling to accept that we may be the cause of sickness or feelings such as anger, depression, or sadness, we seek to blame other people or specific demons with job titles. This is unfortunate because it makes possible the shirking of personal ownership and repentance as well as the growth of grace in us as we deal with difficult people and difficult circumstances.

The idea of naming spirits in an effort to place blame for our bad circumstances comes from a few Scriptural references that, in context, only refer to a state of mind or personal attitude.

For instance: Numbers 5:14 refers to a spirit of jealousy; Deuteronomy 34:9 introduces a spirit of wisdom; Isaiah 19:14 introduces a spirit of distortion; Isaiah 61:3 mentions a spirit of fainting; Romans 8:15 warns of a spirit of slavery; 1Corinthians 4:21 describes a possible spirit of gentleness; Ephesians 1:17 reveals a spirit of wisdom; 2Timothy 1:7 includes a spirit of timidity.

Some people name other spirits such as ‘heaviness’ or ‘depression’ or ‘jezebel’ to make sense of how they feel or others behave. Remember that all spiritual beings are creations regardless of whether they’re demons or the spirit within us, and all have a leader – either God or Satan. So, what about Satan? Perhaps another time . . .

For anyone who believes they’re being hounded, possessed, influenced, or hindered by a demonic spirit of ‘this or that’: Just remember that those of us who truly have given ourselves to God through faith and obedience have nothing to worry about – we’ll remain beyond reach of any temptation or oppression demonic spirits can initiate. In addition to God’s protection, we also have wisdom and guidance through His Spirit.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Ghouls, Spirituality, and Jesus . . . Compatible?

Christians are often conflicted over whether to celebrate Halloween.

For some, Halloween is a harmless time of fun when everyone can dress up and party. Their children love this time of year because of the costumes and quest for candy.

On the other hand, a growing number of Jesus’ followers are uncomfortable with the festival. They choose not to participate in it to avoid the appearance of a double standard once they learn of its origin. So, where did this contentious holiday come from?

Halloween is an ancient festival born of paganism and Christianity (Samhain for the pagans and Hallowmas for the Catholic Church – both 3 days long beginning on October 31st). The holiday was brought to the United States by European immigrants in the 19th century.

What does this have to do with God and our Christ? Embracing or condoning any kind of spiritualism, witchcraft, divination, or communication with the dead will bring certain judgment from God at the last days and open the door to demonic oppression or possession in the meantime. This could include the religious practice of praying to or for the dead, séances, or the pursuit of magical or astrological arts (i.e. consulting mediums, use of tarot cards, reliance upon horoscopes, etc.).

Should a follower of the Christ, celebrate the holiday? This is a personal decision that should be made carefully after consideration of its origin, current practices, and damage to a potential witness for Jesus.

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Suicide . . .

Is suicide a sin? Will those who commit suicide go to hell? There’s little in Scripture related to the taking of one’s own life. Nothing condones it, but neither is there anything that prohibits the act. What we’ll most likely discover is that, as with nearly everything else we do, intent is important to determining the eternal fate of someone who has committed suicide.

What does the Bible say about suicide? Very little, actually. What little information there is can be found in one of two categories: verses that tell us of a few individuals who killed themselves and others that may reflect an unfulfilled desire of some to end their lives.

Acts of actual suicide in Bible and history:

  • Samson. After being captured and blinded, he took advantage of an opportunity to kill not only himself but 3,000 Philistines by ‘bringing down the house’ (cf. Judges 16:25-31). It’s possible that Samson martyred himself as opposed to committing suicide. Only he and God know of his intent at the time of this final act.
  • King Saul. Seriously wounded, he asked his armor bearer to kill him. When the assistant refused, the king killed himself (according to at least one account). The armor bearer then committed suicide as well (cf. 1Samuel 31:1-6; 1Chronicles 10:2-6; 2Samuel chapter 1). In context, Saul sought death to avoid abuse by his enemies.
  • King Abimelech. A woman mortally wounded him by dropping a millstone on his head. Knowing he was about to die, the king had his armor bearer finish the job because he didn’t want it said that a woman had killed him (cf. Judges 9:50-54).
  • King Zimri. This king reigned only 7 days before committing suicide. King Omri of Israel besieged Zimri’s city of Tirzah and, probably out of fear, Zimri killed himself by burning the house down around him (cf. 1 Kings 16:15-20).
  • Ahithophel. King David’s counselor turned on the king in support of his son and enemy, Absalom. When his advice against the king wasn’t followed, he returned home and killed himself (cf. 2Samuel 17:23).
  • Judas Iscariot. This disciple of Jesus killed himself out of guilt for betraying the Christ (cf. Matthew 27:3-5).
  • Hundreds of Jews at Masada. Roman soldiers breached the walls of this hilltop fortress in 73 CE, compelling nearly 1,000 Jews to commit suicide. Husbands killed wives and children out of fear they’d be sexually abused and turned into slaves. The males then drew lots to determine which ones would kill the others.[i]

 

Possible unfulfilled desires to commit suicide:

  • Moses. In despair over the burden of caring for the Israelites, he asked God to kill him (cf. Numbers 11:12-15).
  • Elijah. . . . and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” —1Kings 18 and 19:4. Interestingly, this request came just after God had enabled a great victory over the prophets of Baal. Now that Jezebel was seeking his life, Elijah despaired and went from what was probably an extreme high to quite a low. This is common even with today’s followers of Jesus.
  • Jonah. This prophet was angry enough at God’s mercy with the Assyrians and discouraged at the lack of protection from intense heat that he asked God to take his life (cf. Jonah 4).
  • Those about to suffer during God’s end-times wrath.  At the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars of the sixth seal of the Revelation in the last days, Jesus’ followers will be gathered and the remainder of humanity will prepare for God’s impending wrath (cf. Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:12-17). Those left behind will cry out for the rocks to fall upon them because of the realization that God’s wrath is upon them (Revelation 6:16-17).
  • Those who’ll suffer during God’s end-times wrath. The fifth angel of God’s last-days wrath will cause the release of locust-like creatures from the abyss. They’ll torment men for 5 months (cf. Revelation 9:1-10). The pain will be so severe that the victims will wish for death, but it will elude them (Revelation 9:6).

 

While there’s nothing that directly condones or prohibits suicide, some insist you’ll find proof that suicide is wrong in the commandment that prohibits murder and in 1Corinthians 6:19-20 and 3:17:

You shall not murder. —Exodus 20:13.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. —1Corinthians 6:19-20.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. —1Corinthians 3:16-17.

In the case of the commandment to not murder, remember that it’s one of 5 that tell us how to treat our fellow man. Regarding Paul’s admonishment to glorify God in our body in 1Corinthians 6:19-20, as with many of his words to a sin-riddled church, the message exhorts the followers in Corinth to rule the flesh with the spirit and honor God through purity and not the other way around. It’s not specifically addressing suicide.

What we’ve learned so far is that many people in Scripture and history have committed suicide for what they believed to be good reasons: to avoid worse fates or get relief from excruciating pain and certain death by more unpleasant means. We see this kind of activity today for similar reasons. Is it wrong? Will the act result in a sentence of hell? The answer may depend on the state of mind and therefore the intent of anyone who has committed suicide. Internal chemical/emotional and external factors can overwhelm an individual and temporarily cloud their judgment.

Most people understand the potential lack of accountability that can stem from blocked rational thought and an inability to use sound judgment. We often talk about something termed the ‘age of accountability’ whereby we believe God will accept and save from judgment the spirit of a child until it’s old enough to fully understand the need for God’s salvation through Jesus. The youngster would need to decide from that point onward whether to follow the Christ.

The lack of emotional and mental maturity keeps one from being able to make this choice regardless of whether it’s due to age, disease, or intense physical or emotional pain. Only God knows the heart of someone who has committed suicide and whether they were able to make right choices. And, since He’s a good and righteous judge, we can trust that God will judge each person according to their heart’s condition.

Two extremely unfortunate side-effects of suicide are grief and finality. In some cases, family members understand that death provided relief for the deceased. But in most cases, the grief produced by the loss of a loved one is overwhelming. And death is certainly final. If God’s plan had included a part for the deceased, then the chance to fulfill that role has been forever removed. Therefore, suicide is also a serious matter with possible heavy and lasting consequences.

Summary: The Bible says little on the subject of suicide. What it does report is strictly historical in nature. As a result, we’re left only with opinions on the subject and personal desires. Mine is that the act itself won’t condemn a person to hell – that condemnation depends alone on the individual’s heart including the presence (or absence) of faith and resulting obedience up to the time of death. My prayer and belief is that God does indeed consider the heart condition when determining the fate of someone who has committed suicide.

“Taking the Mystery out of Communion”

Communion is defined as sharing; intimate fellowship or rapport (Merriam-Webster).

What do Christians so intimately share and why? What you’ll discover is that our communion ritual has its beginnings in God’s covenant with Israel and the Passover celebration – something we’re certainly encouraged to participate in.

In fact, Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder when He announced that His body would be broken and His blood shed for a new covenant with God. Jesus then encouraged His disciples to remember His coming sacrifice whenever they partook of the Passover elements – probably because of their fulfillment with His coming, death, resurrection, and salvation.

The Passover flat bread and lamb’s blood had significance then . . . and now. Let’s take a quick look at the communion components before discussing how they’ve been used to represent God’s actions and fulfillment of fulfillment of His words through the prophets:

  • The bread: from the Passover, and as our ‘bread of life’ – Jesus.
  • The wine: blood the Passover Lamb and Jesus shed for salvation.

Old Covenant/Passover fulfillment:

  • The bread – matzo – had no yeast and represented the urgent departure of the Israelites from Egypt. Its holes and stripes represent OT prophecies about the piercing and beatings our Christ would endure (Isaiah 53:3-5).
  • The wine represented the blood of the old covenant between God and Israel. Today, Jews celebrate the Passover with a Seder meal that includes matzo and four cups of wine: Sanctification, Deliverance, Redemption/Blessing (1Corinthians 10:16-17), and Hope – usually associated with the return of Elijah.

New Covenant fulfillment:

  • The bread represents the ‘bread of life’ (Jesus) broken for us to offer salvation from God’s judgment to the world (John 6:35-58). The matzo bread was broken and hidden in a specific manner during the Passover celebration. Jesus did this and made His comments about being broken for the forgiveness of sins while conducting the Seder. God asked Him to do this and He accepted the assignment: inhabit a human form, live a perfect life as a blemish-free sacrificial lamb, and then be sacrificed at the exact time the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed.
  • The wine represents the blood Jesus shed for salvation as our ‘Passover Lamb’ (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 5:7). It is the Seder Cup of Blessing and the covenant cup (like in a traditional Jewish wedding). One of the many prophecies and ‘dress rehearsals’ Jesus fulfilled (and is still fulfilling) was that of a traditional Jewish bridegroom. Let’s look at these things in greater detail.

Wedding – Covenant – fulfillment:

God called Israel His ‘bride’. We are called the ‘Bride of Christ’ because He and we have been fulfilling the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as that of a husband and wife, so the comparison makes sense. Here are but a few steps that have, and will be, completed:

  • Choosing of a bride: The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. We have been selected as a pure bride for our Christ (2Corinthians 11:2).
  • Contract (covenant) – first cup of wine (Matthew 26:27-28). When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the potential union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of covenant”.
  • Separation and the building of a home (John 14:2-3). After vows, the giving of gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like the baptism we experience), the couple would separate for a short time. The boy and his father would prepare a home for the couple. This betrothal separation would normally last a year in a traditional Jewish wedding process; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, and He’ll wait until the number of those who’ll accept His mercy has been met.
  • Marriage and second cup timed by the groom’s father. This is also the final Seder cup and the second covenant cup in heaven: Matthew 26:28-29; the gathering for the marriage: Matthew 24:21-36; the marriage: Revelation 19:5-9). The father of the groom, at a time known only to him, would summon the groomsmen to announce that it was time for the marriage ceremony, which consisted of a supper and second cup of wine. The groomsmen made their announcement with shouts and trumpet calls.

We now understand that communion is a way of remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and reiterating our vow in the new covenant with God through Jesus. Should everyone take communion? No!

First, only those who have promised their lives to God and our Christ should consider engaging in the ritual.

Second, there are unsuitable ways to take communion (remember that drinking the cup of covenant serves as a reiteration of our vow to ‘be a faithful bride’ until our groom returns).

  1. With an impure heart (1Corinthians 11:23-28). Taking the cup during communion while practicing sinful behavior (akin to being an unfaithful bride) is a contradiction and a lie. This is why we must be careful!
  2. For the wrong reasons (1Corinthians 11:20-22). In this case, some of the people in Corinth were using the communion table for eating and drinking – even getting drunk! This was a total abuse of the ritual, which is meant to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and our covenant. It also reeked of gluttony . . .

In summary, Jesus’ sacrifice of flesh and blood mirrored the Passover Lamb of the old covenant with God and paved the way for the salvation of all mankind in a new one. Followers of the Christ remember His sacrifice and the new covenant (synonymous with a human marriage relationship) by taking symbolic bread and wine together.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

“For the Love of Money . . .”

There’s plenty in Scripture related to money management. In a nutshell, we are to work hard and pay our bills, avoid debt if we can, not cosign for others, pay taxes, care for fellow followers of Jesus, and save a portion of our resources. It’s also important that we’re content with what we have.

Understanding what Scripture has to say about these topics is important for a variety of reasons. For instance, debt turns one into a slave (cf. Proverbs 22:7) and can produce unnecessary stress. This may affect relationships with humans and God alike. The pursuit of money can result in the same negative consequences (see below). Yet, we must earn a living, pay taxes, save for the future, and help others. All of this must be done in a manner that promotes healthy relationships, lack of worry, a caring environment, and security. Of utmost importance is that we’re content with what we have (e.g. Hebrews 13:5). This will help us avoid the temptation to strive for things outside our financial grasp or take from others to get what we want.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” —Hebrews 13:5.

As we will see below, a focus on working hard will reduce the likelihood of ‘idle hands’ and the mischief that can follow. Avoiding debt will allow us to keep more of the resources we earn. Paying bills and taxes is a biblical principle that, if followed, will help keep us out of trouble. Giving to others out of what’s left of our resources is also a biblical principle that is absolutely necessary for being obedient to God and His Christ. Finally, setting aside some of the balance of our bounty will ensure we can weather financial lows when they come our way. Let’s explore each of these principles in more detail.

  • Work Hard. God’s instruction clearly states that those who can work but don’t shouldn’t eat! Remember the children’s story about the ant and the grasshopper? Do you know it’s based on a biblical proverb that uses the ant as an example for one who isn’t lazy and works hard? You can read more about this and the fact that laziness will result in hunger in Proverbs 6:6-11 and 19:15.
  • Avoid Debt. Going into debt moves an individual from freedom into slavery (cf. Proverbs 22:7). They must now pay a minimum amount of resources to another person or face consequences. Is debt contrary to God’s ways? Not necessarily, but there are risks and consequences (like the financial slavery I mentioned above). Here are a few tips to help reduce risks associated with going into debt when it’s necessary to do so.
    • Don’t borrow unless it’s absolutely necessary. God doesn’t prohibit borrowing and actually condones the charging of interest for money leant (cf. Proverbs 28:8; Matthew 25:27). But remember that borrowing turns us into a slave and any money we borrow will probably cost a lot more than imagined. The Bible tells us to consider the cost of anything we do; borrowing should be no exception.
    • Put ‘skin in the game’ – as much as possible. Insert as much of your own cash as you can to reduce the total amount of debt. This will keep payments lower and help ensure you have equity that can be taken back or used to pay off the debt should you need to sell whatever you borrowed for.
    • Never cosign for a loan!! First, the Bible tells us not to do this: Do not be among those who give pledges, Among those who become guarantors for debts. —Proverbs 22:26. Second, it’s just plain risky. Understand that, when you cosign, you’re guaranteeing the debt of another person. It’s as good as borrowing the money yourself since you’ll be responsible for the debt and its payments if the primary signer defaults. Another disadvantage cosigning may bring is that it can significantly stress or ruin close relationships.
  • Pay Your Bills (Including Taxes) in a Timely Manner. God and His Christ have made very clear that we’re to care for others and honor the authority of those placed over us. We do this in part by paying others what we owe them and satisfying our tax requirements (cf. Luke 20:20-25). Paul tells us to pay our debts and therefore owe nothing (cf. Romans 13:8) and we learn in Psalms 37:21 that those who don’t honor their obligations are wicked.
  • Be Benevolent. Jesus gave us two commandments: serve God appropriately and treat man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). The 10 commandments are summed up by these admonishments, and we’ll be judged by our obedience to them (i.e. Matthew 25:31-46).

Being ‘nice’ doesn’t count. No amount of money paid into the church building fund or given in offerings will save us in the end. However, obedience in the form of faith that leads to action and is seen by others as ‘fruit’ of God’s Spirit dwelling within us will. The display of fruit is how Jesus said others will know we’re His disciples. What is this fruit? According to Paul, they include love (charitable action), patience, kindness, and goodness – all lend themselves to honoring the Christ’s commandment to love others (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).

Children are to take care of their elderly parents. Jesus’ followers exhibit their faith best when they charitably support the faithful poor such as orphans, widows, the incapacitated, etc. In fact, early church offerings were specifically given for taking care of the needs of the faith community – NOT paying for a building, buying land, or funding religious staff.

  • Save. Lastly, I’d like to stress the importance of setting funds aside for a ‘rainy day’. Many, if not most people, live paycheck to paycheck, praying that they don’t lose their job or suffer a catastrophic event. This lifestyle leads to stress and broken relationships – both of which can be mitigated by living within our means and regularly saving some of our resources. Also, we’re admonished to consider the cost of anything we undertake, which may require us to save an appropriate amount to accomplish goals.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!