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

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

Judge Dread

The idea of judging really trips people up. Many know their own faults or past sins and feel they have no right to judge others about anything as a result. On the other hand, some people behave as though it’s their duty to inform everyone around them of every act they feel is contrary to God’s Word. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Are we to judge at all? Definitely! But, let’s take a look at what the word judge means before we go any further. It comes from the Greek word kree’-no, which means to ‘call into question’. Of course, we can’t call anything into question if we don’t know what should be questionable or why. Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those who aren’t Jesus’ followers – and Jesus will judge followers at His return and the end of this current age. Meanwhile, we’re to hold one another accountable for growth and moral positioning.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst . . . Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. —1Corinthians 5:1-13.

So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We are to be careful and gentle, basing the ‘questioning’ on adherence to the Christ’s commandments and not on emotion. The goal must always be to help those followers who are ‘sinning’ to turn back to the truth and be reconciled with the church (e.g. James 15:19-20).  The text below not only confirms that but also reminds us that we’re not to tolerate the unrepentant practice of sinful behavior within the Church.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Want to ‘love’ your brother or sister in the Christ? Then judge them according to God and our Christ’s commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for those who are practicing sinful behavior that will earn them a one-way ticket to God’s judgment!

To Drink or Not to Drink. Is that the Question?

As with so much in God’s creation, we can use something for good or abuse it in rebellion. Alcohol use can be risky and one should always be aware of how much they’re drinking, how it’s affecting them, and why they’re drinking in the first place.

            With few exceptions that are primarily related to religious dedication and behavior in the ancient temple of God, Scripture tells us these things about alcohol use:

  1. It was common in ancient Israel and in fact, the entire Mediterranean region. There were (and still are) good reasons for responsibly consuming alcohol; here are but a few:
  • Positive health effects and relaxing qualities
  • Bacteria-free drink in areas without good drinking water
  • Being an integral part of festivities
  1. Intoxication (drunkenness) through alcohol abuse is sinful behavior that can result in separation from God and ultimate judgment.
  2. While its use isn’t prohibited, we must abstain when there’s a chance our partaking may cause someone else to stumble (sin) (cf. Romans 14:20-21).

Here are a few supporting Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments.

  • Some wine, but not too much, is acceptable. “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” —Deuteronomy 14:26. And “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” —Luke 7:34.
  • Don’t become intoxicated. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit —Ephesians 5:18. (See also 1Timothy 3:3 and “nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” —1Corinthians 6:10.

How should we address alcohol use by others in the church? First, understand that the potential for addiction and abuse of a variety of what might otherwise be useful things exists in everyone. Some will be able to responsibly consume alcohol and others won’t. Some will be able to gamble as occasional entertainment and others won’t. And yet others will responsibly eat food while their neighbors will be gluttonous. We should always be on the lookout for our fellow followers of Jesus, correcting them as necessary (more on this later when we address the question of judging). But otherwise, we aren’t to judge others regarding their use of alcohol as long as it doesn’t cause them to sin.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day —Colossians 2:16.

            Do you enjoy God’s creation in moderation? Or do you abuse some things, turning the good into bad?

Tolerating the Detestable?

Want to know what God finds disgusting? Just look for the use of abomination in the Old Testament and you’ll find a short list made up mostly of sexual immorality to include homosexuality.

Yes, God finds sexual acts between members of the same sex very disgusting (cf. Leviticus 18:22). It’s easy to understand why: God created man and woman to become physical and emotional mates. We’re made differently and fit together well in both realms. Engaging in sexual acts with another member of the same sex is in direct contradiction to God’s desire for us and is pure rebellion that won’t go unpunished if continued. Just look at what happened to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah in roughly the 19th century BC ( Genesis 19:4-5 and 24-25)!

I realize this behavior is very acceptable today (even by the Christian culture) but tolerance doesn’t change God’s view of it. We find homosexuality not only in the world around us but within the Church itself. This is despicable and something that must be reversed if we expect God’s blessing and salvation. Ever hear the phrase, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.”? Please remember that true love – agape love – is actionable. In the case of rebellious and unacceptable behavior within the Church, that action must be to tell the offender that they’re acting contrary to God’s ways and that consequences await them if they continue. And homosexuality is definitely rebellious (sinful) activity that will keep the offender out of God’s kingdom and invoke His end-days wrath.

In fact, Paul discussed this with prospective Christians in Rome (Romans 1:26-27) and Thessalonica (1Thessalonians 4:3), and with Timothy (1Timothy 1:9-10). There was a common theme: those practicing homosexuality will not see the kingdom of God but will suffer wrath at the last-days judgment.

Paul also wasted no words in telling an assembly of Jesus’ followers (the Church in Corinth) to remove someone involved in sexual immorality (1Corinthians 5:1-13). Why? Because immoral behavior is contrary to God’s ways. If someone is practicing immorality, their presence can corrupt the rest of the group in the same way that a single rotten apple can spoil an entire barrel full or bad yeast can spoil an entire batch of dough.

So, homosexuality is disgusting to God and a behavior that will guarantee His wrath at the end of our world. There’s no other way to put it, nor should it be justified in any way. If you’re practicing this abhorrent behavior, admit to the wrongdoing and stop before it’s too late! If you’re a church leader, then don’t tolerate this behavior in your congregation!

Is there anything offensive to God that you tolerate in your life or within the assembly of Jesus’ followers?

Which ‘Racial Persuasion’ Checkbox Would Jesus Choose?

What color was Jesus’ skin? Ask around and the answers will vary from white, brown, or black. Although it shouldn’t matter, I thought I’d remind everyone of some basic information that may help solve the puzzle and put things into perspective. The timing is awesome considering many people are about to celebrate His birth!

First, remember that Jesus only had DNA from one human: His mother, Mary. And she was a Jew born and raised in Israel. Her skin would’ve been olive-colored and her hair black. Her eyes probably were brown. The rest of Jesus’ genetic makeup came from God through the Spirit. Who knows what our creator engineered to complete Jesus’ physical outer shell; however, He looked enough like a Jew to be accepted by His countrymen. So, suffice to say, he would’ve had an olive complexion, dark eyes, and dark hair. And, in keeping with physical characteristics of other Jewish men, Jesus’ hair was probably curly, not straight, blonde, or extremely long.

Second, remember that Jesus was indeed a Jew by birth and religion. He was very familiar with the Law of Moses and Jewish faith, and He lived accordingly. So, Jesus (Jeshuah, actually) looked like a Jew and acted like a Jew. But, are complexion and demeanor that important? I don’t think so. In the immortal words of Paul Harvey, let’s find out the rest of the story.

Anyone stressing about Jesus’ nationality and color is definitely worried about the wrong thing. Again, He was a Jew by birth and religion, and his complexion was darker than fair framed by dark, curly hair and dotted by dark-colored eyes. His nationality was important to the fulfilling of prophecies related to the salvation of mankind, but that’s where the criticality stops. Jesus could’ve been any nationality, color, or racial persuasion and still have offered mankind the same choice of eternal life because of His sacrifice and resurrection.

So, the spirit that inhabited the earthly body of Jeshuah is now in heaven with the Father of Spirits. The physical body with a Mediterranean hue is no longer needed and has been gone for centuries. While in the flesh, Jesus might’ve checked a box next to “Jewish” or “Not Caucasian” or “Other” had He been completing a job application in the first century AD. What would He check now? Perhaps a box titled, “Not of this world”? Maybe one that states, “Of the Light Persuasion”?

Which “Racial Persuasion” box will you check if asked to after your body becomes dust?

Intent Matters!

Jesus taught that our reason for doing a particular act matters a great deal. For instance, He said there wouldn’t necessarily be a reward, other than perhaps a feeling of personal satisfaction, for being kind to someone just because they’re kind to you (Matthew 5:46). The flip side – showing kindness to those who mistreat you – will yield heavenly reward. On a related note, Jesus also taught as read in Matthew 6:1-18 that doing religious things (e.g. fasting, praying, or giving) for the purpose of being spiritually elevated in the eyes of others’ is equally pointless. So, intent will determine whether an action will be fruitless or rewarded.

Intent – the reason for doing a particular deed – can be as important as the act itself and is a key ingredient to sin! In fact, Jesus reported that the intent to do something can be as bad as the intended action – even if it isn’t carried out. In the following passage, He informs us that if we intend to commit adultery, we’ve done it even if the act wasn’t completed. I know that some people have exclaimed that the passage implies we’ve committed adultery if we privately acknowledge that a woman is ‘hot’ in a fleeting thought, but that wasn’t Jesus’ point.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her [desires to have her] has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” —Matthew 5:27-28.  (The comment in brackets was inserted by me and is based on the Strong’s definition of ‘lust’)

Again, Jesus’ point was to teach that once we intend do take sinful action, it’s as good as done.  Understand that a thought in itself isn’t wicked as long as it doesn’t give way to an intention to take action.

How do we ensure a thought doesn’t mature into lustful intent? Internalize God’s ways through study, prayer, meditation, and fellowship so that they become a force greater than physical desire.

Jesus also taught that the heart (mind) gives birth to all kinds of sinful things; this serves as a reminder that rebellion/sin is intentional and begins the mind.

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” —Matthew 15:18-19.

We must always be aware of our intentions and how what we’re going to say or do will affect others. Having a good understanding of God’s ways will help us to know whether something we intend to do or say can result in sinful behavior. That understanding is gained through physical exposure to God’s instructions and spiritual communication through His Spirit.

How do you maintain righteousness and a pure intent?

What’s in Your Wallet?

A wise man once prayed something like: “God – please provide enough for my family and me so that I’m not tempted to steal, and not so much that I’m tempted to forget what it’s like to be in need.”

Our spirit was created by God for fellowship with Him and for good works (Ephesians 2:10). One day, we’ll be judged on how well we used that spirit to guide our flesh toward doing good deeds for the “Father of Spirits” and our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments with two statements: treat our God appropriately and our fellow man charitably (Matthew 22:35-40). We get to choose how we’ll use our resources (e.g. time and money) to please God and satisfy His desires. But, that freedom comes at a cost: give now to live later, or live it up now and suffer later.

We find two extremes in benevolence: those who give generously for their fellow human and those who love wealth. In the former group, we find the likes of Jesus and other servants who have given their lives for people they often don’t know. You’ll also find people who give generously to help feed, clothe, or house others. These people reflect the face of our God who created the spirit within us; they’re focus isn’t on self and material things.

What about the latter group? There, you’ll find people who horde resources despite the suffering around them. They love money and stuff and that’s where their focus is. Perhaps they’ll give a dollar to charity and spend a thousand on a new shiny bobble or the latest electronic thing. These people reflect not the face of our creator but the passion and self-serving nature of flesh and emotion.

If we want to look more like the former than the latter we need to be content with what we have. We also need to avoid the love of money, which is the “root of all sorts of evil” according to the Apostle Paul (1Timothy 6:6-11 and Hebrews 13:5). It also helps if we stay out of debt to avoid becoming a slave (Proverbs 22:7) and not store up treasures for ourselves on earth, but be benevolent (Matthew 6:19-21). In this passage, Jesus also reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What’s in my wallet? There, you’ll find a balance of things – some for me, some for others. I give to the hungry and helpless on a regular basis. Much of my resources go to children, rescue, and ministry. But, I don’t neglect my family. We’re comfortable and satisfied.

So . . . where’s your heart? What’s in your wallet? Money earmarked to help the needy? Or would we discover bountiful plastic or lots of cash destined for food, drink, and the latest shiny thing?

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 4 weeks 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 2014) 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. As a result, they weren’t near a manger kept in the lower part of a typical Jewish home where the animals would’ve been housed during the colder months. 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. 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 is: a time of feasting, family, and indebtedness with little actual regard for our Christ. Let’s change that – even if for only 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.