Monthly Archives: April 2013

Alcohol

A few months after starting our new life group at church, the group decided to go to a pizza place here in town. Given that I can’t say no to a good pizza with friends, my wife and I happily joined the fun. Our waiter came to our table and we started ordering drinks. ” What would you like Sir?” “Water please.” “And you?” “Tea, thank you.” On and on it went until my turn. “Sam Adams please.” I would like to tell you that I ordered that drink as a thought out plan to educate my tea totaling Christian friends on the virtues of alcohol. In all honesty though, I just wanted a beer. To there credit, I didn’t get bombarded with sharp looks or awkward silence. What I got was a sigh of relief. When the waiter brought us our drinks, one of our friends who was with us said “I’d like a beer too.” Our host graciously trekked off to the bar only to return to hear, “I’d like one too please.” One at a time (I’m not kidding) we made this poor guy get all of us some form of alcohol. The result of our imbibing in frothy beverages……a greater and deeper sense of fellowship. We talked of our mutual love for the drink. Our favorite microbreweries were discussed in detail. In a literal since, the drinks loosed our tongues. It’s one of my favorite memories from that group.  I have since imbibed with them on numerous occasions. Alcohol and fellowship with these amazing individuals seem to go hand in hand. The real question though is why were we afraid to admit to each other that we enjoyed a good beer with our dinner? Christians are strongly divided on this issue. When we get together we are hesitant to even talk about it for fear of offending our brothers.  Lets set aside opinions for a moment and take the truth test. What does the bible say about alcohol? I do have a strong opinion on this, but I will try my best to push it aside. 

Truth Test 1  What does the bible say about alcohol?

Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. (Genesis 27:28 NKJV)

It’s a gift from God. 

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. (I Timothy 3:8, 9 NKJV)

There are rules associated with its consumption.

Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. (Ecclesiastes 9:7 NKJV)

But it’s not forbidden.

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:33, 34 NKJV)

Jesus drank wine

The truth is the Bible says both good and bad things about alcohol. It says “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise”. (Proverbs 20:1 NKJV) It also says, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities”. (I Timothy 5:23 NKJV) How do we answer this question then? Is drinking alcohol good or bad? The evils of wine are in its abuse. Wine can make the heart merry, but it can also lead to drunkenness. On top of that, wine can be addictive. If a substance is abused, is the substance itself bad or is the abuser the one to blame? Abstainers and Prohibitionist would argue that even a little wine leads to drunkenness, so the substance is at fault. I would argue that sex is also addictive and can lead to abuses, but that does not mean that we should abolish or abstain from sex. 

Another argument frequently used by abstainers is the meaning of the word wine. Did it mean the same thing as our modern day wine or was it a weak or nonalcoholic drink? For that we need a historic perspective. 

Weak forms of wine, as well as grape juice is found in biblical times. The deluded forms were actually quite rare however and most wine at that time was between 5 and 20% alcohol. Plenty to get someone drunk. There also was a type of kosher wine  that was common in Israel during the time of Christ and was fermented. Also, grape juice naturally turns to alcohol due to the natural yeast found on its skin. The only way to get grape juice was to drink it freshly crushed. Modern pasteurization has made grape juice more prevalent. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_in_the_Bible) There stands a chance then that Jesus drank the rare grape juice or weak wine, but it seems unlikely. 

Abstainers are right on one point. To alcoholics alcohol is sinful. The Devil has made them a slave to it. To break free from that slavery, they must abstain. To deal with sin Jesus said 
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—” (Mark 9:47 NKJV) Jesus is not advocating self mutilation here. He is saying, be willing to take drastic measures to deal with sin. Abstaining from alcohol, a good and joyous gift from God, is drastic. Addictions happen when the love for creation exceeds the love for the Creator. The slave to the addiction is using the behavior as a means of medicating problems in their own life instead of truly trusting in God to help them deal with it. The advantage of alcohol is that it is not necessary for life. You can abstain from it and live. Those addicted to food and money don’t have the same luxury. 

Truth Test 2: How should we as christians respond to alcohol?

Paul sums it up nicely.

“I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. (Romans 14:14-17 NKJV)

To put it another way: If you are with a brother who is an abstainer (offended by alcohol), or they are an alcoholic (made to stumble by alcohol), then abstain yourself for the sake of your brother. If you are with like minded brothers, then eat and drink to the glory of God.

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Gay Marriage

So in researching this topic I discovered something. Gay marriage is not in the bible, anywhere. When homosexuality is mentioned, it speaks of the act of homosexual sex, not marriage. Hummmm I thought the bible was clear on this point. Maybe we need to take another look. If the bible is silent on an issue, does that mean it condones it? Of course not. Silence tells us nothing. When the bible is silent on a large issue, the way to discover truth is to break it down into its parts and see if you can find something it does speak on. Sometimes the bible is silent because the problem didn’t exist at the time. That’s why we don’t have verses on the dangers of texting and driving….. Is gay marriage a new idea then? According to wikipedia it has been around for a long time. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage) It is debatable that the  writers of the bible were aware of it however. That leaves us still asking the question. What does the bible say on this issue? Let’s break it down into its parts and see what we find. 

Truth Test 1 : What does the bible say about marriage?

“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man”. (Romans 7:2, 3 NKJV) 

Marriage is life long.

“But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion”. (I Corinthians 7:8, 9 NKJV)

Marriage is the only righteous way to experience sex.

“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge”. (Hebrews 13:4 NKJV)

Marriage should be honored and partners should remain faithful to each other. 

Truth Test 2: When marriage is mentioned in the bible, who is it between?

“………..And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah………”(Genesis 41:45 NKJV)

“Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife.” ” (Judges 21:1 NKJV)

There are many more examples, but each one is between one man and one woman, or one man and multiple women. Now here is a problem. Not all marriages listed in the bible are righteous. We know that polygamy is sinful, but David, Jacob, and, Solomon to name a few had multiple wives. “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart”. (I Kings 11:3, 4 NKJV)  Just because it’s listed in the bible doesn’t make it right or wrong. We have to keep digging.

Perhaps we can find an answer by looking at the role of marriage. 

Truth Test 3: What does marriage do? What is its purpose? 

As we discovered earlier, marriage is a life long commitment to another person. Homosexual and heterosexual relationships can both fulfill that role. 

Marriage produces children. Ah. Here is something. Homosexual relationships can’t produce children. It  must then be sinful. “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children”. (Genesis 16:1 NKJV) Be careful of this argument. Many good God fearing people just simply can’t have kids. That doesn’t make their marriage sinful. 

Marriage is for sexual intimacy……..  Ok, we may be on to something. The bible does speak about homosexual sex. As we have seen in previous posts, homosexual sex is sinful. ” But heterosexual marriages are full of adultery, and others abuses that are also sinful”. That’s true, but adultery is when a marriage goes wrong. Sex with your spouse is when marriages go right. It’s a part of what marriages are. Sex with your spouse is one of the greatest joys of marriage, and it cannot be separated from a definition of it. Sex and marriage are closely tied in scripture. It speaks of sex for procreation “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1 NKJV) and for fun and intimacy. (Song of Solomon……the entire book) With this close connection of sex and marriage, homosexual marriages would have to include sex in order to fulfill its purpose. This is why I believe gay marriage is sinful. In order to exist it must include sin. 

Truth Test 4: Should gay marriage be legal?

Just because something is sinful doesn’t mean it should be illegal. However, I’m not certain it’s the governments place to redefine something as old as marriage. Since the current debate includes politics, I have to ask. What is the biblical purpose of government? “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil”.(Romans 13:3, 4 NKJV) It sounds like the governments role is an enforcer of morality, not the creator of it. 

This last portion is purely my opinion, but I felt it necessary to include it. Should homosexual couples enjoy the same legal status as the rest of us? First of all, I don’t think the government should be in the marrying business.  I cringe when I hear “By the power vested in me by the state of…..”. As if the state has a say in a covenant between two people and God. I do believe that the government should be in the civil union business, and I do think homosexual couples should be allowed to get a civil union. This gives them protections under law that I believe are good, such as a say in end of life care and the like. I’m not singling homosexuals out here. I think all marriages should be civil unions in the eyes of the government. Let the power of declaring a marriage be in the hands of the church. With that said, if the church does not recognize a marriage on the basis of sexual orientation, the government should not force them to recognize it either. Please leave a comment. This is a topic that needs to be debated.
 

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The Boston Marathon

How many times do we have to endure this? What is wrong with the world? How many times must we morn for our fellow man? Where is God in all of this? These questions come to our minds when things like this occur. I can’t imagine the pain, the sorrow, the loss suffered due to the actions of a few. These last few year have been exceptionally tragic. Movie theaters, schools, and now the streets of Boston. We need answers, and we need them now. I approach this with a humble and broken heart, fully knowing that healing comes from God. I want you to hear from a man after God’s own heart.

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion; May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice. May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose. We will rejoice in your salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright. Save, Lord ! May the King answer us when we call”. (Psalms 20:1-9 NKJV)

I don’t know why things like this happen, but what I do know is God fights for us. He hears us when we call. For those that see God as passive, remember this:

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O Lord, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me”. (Psalms 18:6-17 NKJV)

God is a warrior, and he is strong enough to save you. Call on Him. He will draw you out of many waters. 

So what is our call? What do we do? As Theoden from The Lord of The Rings puts it, “What can men do against such wreck less hate”? Love. That’s it. Simply love one another. Show kindness to strangers. Show mercy to those who need it. Prove to the world that hateful men are the exception, not the rule. It’s not your job to enact vengeance. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord”. (Romans 12:19 NKJV) It’s your job to love. Be the one who runs toward the blood and fire. Be the one who gives water and a place to rest. In so doing, you will be God’s hands and feet. 

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Homosexuality

Probably one of the most controversial subjects facing Christians today is homosexuality. Yep….I’m taking the bull by the horns. Hang tight and hold on. 

Some say that all homosexuals are going to hell. Others say its not even a sin.  So what’s the truth?  What does God say? Set aside your personal beliefs for a moment. Let’s look at scripture. 

Truth Test 1  Is homosexuality a sin?

A quick search for the word homosexual finds this:  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”. (I Corinthians 6:9, 10 NKJV) That seems pretty strong to me. It’s in a list with adultery,  stealing, and even extortion. Activities that most of us would agree are sins. It’s found in Timothy as well. “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9, 10 NIV). Here it is again in a list of known sinful activity. The answer seems clear. It is a sin. Isn’t that a bit unfair though? They didn’t choose that life. How can a good God say that who they are is wrong? Where does that leave homosexuals? “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, (Romans 3:23 NIV). Apparently it makes them human… and in the eyes of God that is a great place to be. 

Truth Test 2 Does everyone who is homosexual go to hell?

As we have already discovered, homosexuality is a sin and sin can be dealt with. The truth is all of us deserve hell, but…….. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. (John 3:16 NKJV) What do we need to do to be saved? It sounds like the only requirement is belief.  “But we also have to obey. We can’t just continue to live in sin and expect to get to heaven can we?” Let’s take a look. “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”. (Romans 3:28 NIV) It sounds like our eternal salvation has nothing to do with our behavior. There are still earthly consequences to living a life of sin, but if we believe our eternal destiny is secure. 

Truth Test 3 How do we respond to “militant” homosexuals?

We live in a time where certain groups are trying to change the very fabric of our culture. The phrase “Homosexuality is a sin” is considered by some to be hate speech. They are trying to redefine marriage. I’ll talk about that in a future post. They are trying to force Christian groups to accept their way of life as normal and not sinful. They look, act, and feel like an enemy. Let’s have a look at scripture. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.(Matthew 5:43-45 NIV). It looks like we are to love them and pray for them. Wow, scripture sometimes can be a hard pill to swallow. What does it mean to love them? “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”.(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV) Set politics aside for a moment. Take a look at your actions and words. Are they motivated by love?

So what have we learned? Homosexuality is a sin. Sins are forgiven through Christ. Salvation is not through works but through faith. Finally, the Christian response to homosexuality is love and prayer. Please feel free to comment. I’m not a biblical scholar, and I most certainly do not have all the answers. I just hope and pray that I have represented scripture in an accurate way. Take the truth test for yourself and see where it leads you. 

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Why I speak.

I went camping this past Monday night. It was perfect weather for it. The sky was clear, temperature was hovering around 70, and the night was promising to be crisp but not cold. I have never had a better night camping in my life.  There is something about a fire that gets me thinking. Watching the flames dance I was reflecting on something a friend said to me once. “The cause of many of the problems in the world today is that Christians are cowards.” He meant of course that we need to stand up and do or say something. My first thought was, I’m  willing to stand but what do I do? Do I march on Washington? Do I stand at a street corner and yell about immorality? What do I do? I prayed about it, I thought, I prayed some more. My answer….Speak the truth in love. Wow. That’s it? No campaigning? No fancy new idea? No. A very old idea. Speak the truth no matter what. So what is truth? Is it what is true for me? No…. Is it what society thinks is true? Heck no. So what is it? It needs to be based on something. It needs a foundation. The reformers held to a principle called solo scriptora, or only the scriptures (loose translation). They believed that scripture is the only foundation for truth. They believed that all beliefs, all issues should be weighed against scripture. If it passes the test then it is truth. Now we have our benchmark.  Truth is validated by scripture. Thank goodness truth isn’t what I think it is. That would be a burden far too big for me to bear. Truth therefore is the scriptures. Not my opinion or your opinion, but the word of God. So let’s take that truth test and see what it says about the issues facing us today. Let’s weigh the issues against scripture and see where it leads us. “But Kevin, the writers of scripture couldn’t possibly have foreseen the issues we face today.” True, scripture was written by fallible man. Don’t forget thought that it was inspired by God. He did know what we would face. He knew about it before He said, “Let there be light.” This brings about a second principle that I think we have forgotten. Scripture is God breathed. Man wrote it but God gave it life. “But I don’t agree with this passage of scripture.” That doesn’t  make it any less true. If we had the power to change truth based on what we feel is true, then we have tremendous power. We would be like God. This infallible, inspired, truth litmus test has only one flaw. Fallible man interprets it. Thats why we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These posts and discussions will be prayed over. I pledge to always be open to where the spirit leads.  So let’s dive in one issue at a time and see if our beliefs stand up to the truth test. I’m not here to give the final answer. I’m here to start us talking. The issues of the day are far too big, far too complex for us not to. Let’s as Christians surrender everything to the word of God, including our opinions. For those reading this that don’t share my faith, your thoughts are welcome. Feel free to join in. 

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