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Archive for the category “Essays”

What I Believe

This post is designed to be a confession of what I believe. Everything in here represents what I believe Scripture says. As time goes on, I will probably be doing many changes and updates, so please, feel free to disagree. Since this is what I believe Scripture says, let’s begin with the authority of Scripture.

Scripture

The Bible is the Word of God. It was written by men under the influence of the Holy Spirit, writing the inerrant truth of God. As the Word of God, Scripture is the truth of God, and has no mistakes in it. The Bible is also final, with no other book able to add to or supersede it.

God

God is a Trinity. He is one God, yet three separate Persons. God the Father is the Yahweh of the Old Testament, the Creator, the Lord of History. God the Son is the Sacrifice, the High Priest, and our Salvation. God the Holy Spirit is the Counselor and Guide while we walk on this earth.

Man

Man was created in God’s image, able to choose to follow or disobey Him. We have an inherent ability to choose our path, yet the choices we make are affected by the Fall. We are unable to save ourselves, and unable to do anything without God to help us. Sin is the reason for this problem.

Sin

Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standard. Anything that is not what God would have us do is sin, and as such, is punishable only by separation from the pure and stainless God. Unless paid for, sin causes us to want that kind of existence. Salvation is the only cure.

Salvation

Salvation is only by the blood of Christ. There is no way to God except by the saving grace of His blood. Only God can make this available to us, and only God can complete the work of redemption. Salvation is absolutely necessary for a life with Him in Heaven, instead of one without Him in Hell.

Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell are the only options for the afterlife. There is no Purgatory, and no reincarnation. Heaven and Hell are eternal. They will never disappear, nor will anyone in them be moved from one to the other. The joy of Heaven and anguish of Hell are determined by the respective presence and absence of God.

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Tom Buchanan

Tom Buchanan is a character in the book (now a movie) The Great Gatsby. He is the epiphany of hypocrisy, carrying on an open affair while simultaneously denouncing interracial marriage. He claims that the “inferior” races will eventually overrun the world, but when asked to prove it, he says that a book he read said so, and proved it by Science. The whole time, he is carrying on an affair that is so open, his lover calls him in the middle of dinner to demand that he see her the next day. He hates the word “hulking”, but when someone talks too much for his liking, he shows the applicability of that word, and breaks their nose. He also shows us the blindness of hypocrisy, since he sees himself as the last defender of righteousness. This seems amusing, until we realize that this was written in the 1920s, meaning that the problems we see in our government today were foreseen nearly a century ago. What I am about to say is not an attack or defense of one side or the other, but a view of the whole system. With that being said, let’s look at the example. Recently, our President has admitted that millions of people will be unable to keep their insurance, even though he made repeated promises that they would be able to keep whatever insurance they wanted. I am not attacking this specific instance, but I do wish to point out that his followers are very quick to defend him, saying that he misspoke. The other side is just as quick to attack him, saying that he has repeatedly lied to the Americans about his policies. My point is that neither side is correct. Both sides have made similar promises in the past (such as “read my lips: no new taxes”), and neither has been very good about doing what they promised. Their hypocrisy is just like Tom Buchanan’s, and was denounced by Christ (“Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No). The problem is not with one side or the other, but with human nature in general. Until the power of Christ renews the minds and hearts of men, they will be doing the same thing. Let us pray that the day will come quickly, and continue to request His help in defending ourselves from the sin of hypocrisy.

Can we throw rocks at unbelievers, or do we save that for the Pharisees?

This essay deals with Deuteronomy 12. The question is whether or not we should kill unbelievers, in light of this passage. This passage is where God tells the Israelites to wipe out the pagan nations when they enter Israel. The main danger here is to make sure that we put everything in a Biblical context. This means that we can not take one passage without taking the rest of the Bible with it. Please comment on this and tell me how you think I did. I’m going to tell you right now that I do not believe that we are to kill unbelievers, just because they are unbelievers.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were about to enter what was arguably one of the most depraved nations on the face of the planet at that time. God knew that if they did not kill all the inhabitants, they would be sucked into the same depravity. They did kill most of the inhabitants, but not all. All you have to do is look at the Bible’s account of their history to see that those few were all it took to lead to the annihilation of Israel.

The years until Christ’s arrival were dark ones for Israel. However, they did their best to follow God’s law. Every time they came out of exile, their joy would lead to more disciplined following of the Law. The problem was that the next generation, who did not have that joy, would follow the law with the same discipline, but with no heart. This led to the Pharisees, who made their own rules, and placed them above God’s word. “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?’ For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and your mother”;  and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.”But you say, “Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’ — then he need not honor his father or mother.” Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:3-6, NKJV) More rules meant more punishment, and that was something Jesus condemned.

We hear the law in Deuteronomy, and wonder at the seeming change of heart God had when Jesus said that the death penalty should only be inflicted by those who are without sin. The answer I am about to give may be grossly, horribly wrong, but it is all I can come up with. When God spoke in Deuteronomy, He was trying to emphasize the fact that the penalty for sin, which is being legally wrong in God’s eyes, is death. When Jesus told the Pharisees that only the sinless should kill the sinners, he was showing that only God truly has that authority. In light of this context, I think that it is safe to say that we are not to kill unbelievers.

Loyalty

I have a couple of questions to address in writing this post, and here they are. Where should our loyalty be? Should we act vengefully in the name of loyalty? These questions seem to have obvious answers, so my main problem will be to get these into enough words to qualify as an essay. I will be putting these forth with Christian answers, so they look like no-brainers. However, my opinion may change when I am looking for the answer. Please comment and tell me what you think about this essay.

When I speak of loyalty, I mean whose commands you follow, and who you place above others. The technical definition is “The state, quality, or fact of being loyal; fidelity; allegiance.” For those people who dislike using the word in the definition, here is the definition of loyal. “Constant and faithful in any relation or obligation implying trust, confidence, etc.” Now that I have the definitions out of the way, let’s look at where our loyalties should lie.

Our loyalty should be to God first, our country second (usually), and then comes family. This may sound horrible, but looking at it from my point of view, if I had to choose between saving my family and saving my country, the country has more lost people than my family. There should be no questions as to who should be number one on our list.  Our God’s commands come before any other orders or requests from anybody. He is the One who created, and He is the one that the Bible declares to be King of Kings.

The government is the next in line for our loyalty. The nation is represented by the government, and is where God has placed us for whatever work we are here for. Christ stated that we are to give Caesar what is his, and give God his due. This means that, so long as it does not break God’s commands, the government determines the laws. The (increasingly numerous) times that it doesn’t follow God’s commands, we should do as God says.

The family is God’s way of providing some stability to a nation. Therefore, we should view it in its place. We should obey the Creator of it first, and the reason it was created second. Putting the family first is like making a car more important than both the designer of the car and the place we are going. It is blatantly against the laws of God, and is contrary to common sense (and is a very humorous idea). To use a more Biblical example, this would be like the Pharisees and their following the law before they followed their God.

The answer to the question of whether or not we should act in revenge because of our loyalties is a just as clear as where our loyalties should be. Jesus said to love your enemies as yourself, and that you should pray for those who persecute you. This does not mean that you should pray for your enemy to have a heart attack and die. It means that you should treat them with love and respect. There is no reason, except anger, for attacking someone else in revenge. And doing something out of anger, on the spur of the moment, always leads us down the wrong path.

God speaks very clearly about the idea of revenge. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord”, and it should stay that way. If we follow the God of the Bible, the first of our loyalties, then we will not take what is His.

An exergesia. (Gesundheit!)

Alright, alright, first things first. I will answer the obvious question of “What!?!” An exergesia is another ancient Greek writing exercise, in which the writer repeats the same idea over and over again, using different words and styles. See! You learned something new today. This way of writing sounds like a class in redundancy to me, but since this is my schoolwork, I’ll do my best. This exergesia (that’s fun to say!) is going to be on Romans 1:18-23. Please comment on this essay, as this is the first time I am going to have to try to be redundant, while still writing well.

First, in order to get things going, I am going to quote the passage, word for word. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23 ESV). I told you word for word, and I meant word for word.

In just a wee bit smaller space, I’m going to reiterate Paul’s words. The main point in this passage is that sinful men suppress God’s truth, so God releases them to do as they wish in the cold, dark, sinful nightmare known as Earth. The sinfulness and foolishness of man know no bounds, unless God suppresses them. Man is going to do as he wishes, lest he be “unhappy” for a single second. He does this knowing somewhere, deep down inside, that he is going to get the full measure of his punishment. As C.S.Lewis said in his book The Screwtape Letters, a man may know that he still has one last chance, even on the brink of hell, yet still will turn from God, because some petty resentment or miniscule pleasure seems more important at the time.

Another way of looking at it would be to apply it to the nations of the world. At one time or another, each nation has suppressed the truth, whether by direct persecution of the believers, or by indirect attacks on the belief. You can probably come up with plenty of examples for the first. The second deals with the middle of Paul’s passage. The scientists, in studying nature, have ample proof for the existence of God. In fact, God’s style of creation has prompted the scientists specializing in biology to consider evolution a dead theory. Lee Strobel’s Case For Faith deals with that aspect of science. To look at the last part of the passage from Romans, it can deal with today’s wise men, also known as gurus, fortune tellers, witches, and many other names that bring up ideas of the occult and dark magic, at least for me.

To sum it up, it looks like I have successfully completed my exergesia. Thanks for listening to my course in redundancy.

Healing the Church

Healing divisions is urgent in any scenario, but especially in the Church. The Church is to be the single, unified body of Christ, not a bunch of muscle and bone, bickering over the color of the carpet. I’m not positive, but I could believe it if someone told me this scenario has led to a church splitting in two. Since human nature will not allow us to completely rule out divisions, the next best thing is to learn to heal these divisions. The same thing applies to family, friends and society. Please comment back on this. Also, I apologize in advance for any unnecessary ranting that shows up.

First, I am going to define some terminology. When I say the Church, with a capital “C”, that means the body of Christ as a whole. I am going to do my best to mean the body of Christ, understanding of course that may not include all I personally consider the saved. When I use a lowercase “c”, that means an individual community church, or a denomination. When I say division or split, that means a disagreement large enough to make some of the members of the church (or Church) angry enough to leave. It might only be one, but that person will mean the difference between joy and judgement in heaven.

When dealing with this, we need to remember Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. There, he compares the Church to the body, showing us that we need unity throughout. To apply this to the subject, let’s look at how the human body works together. First, when one part of the body is hurt, the entire body feels it and does what it can to rectify the situation. In the same way, the body of Christ hurts when one part has something wrong with it, and tries to help the erring member out of their problem, whatever it is. We should also remember that each of the members of the body has its place, and cannot function correctly anywhere else. The same applies to the Church.

Unity is necessary for several reasons, and here are the two that I think are the most important. First, division in a body leads to death. Looking at the body of Christ as the kingdom of God, it is much easier to find examples in our world. The most obvious split in a nation is the War of Northern Aggression, also known as the Civil War. The bloodshed and horror in that war were magnified by the fact that it was brother against brother. This is much like the Church.

Looking at the divisions that often happen in families, between friends, and in society, it seems that if the churches could get its act together, many of them would be solved, if for no other reason than that all those professing Christians would be shaping up. I do not mean this to be accusatory to those that are doing their best to do as God wants, but as for the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, they can take it however they want. The reason I say this is because not everyone who says they are a Christian is a Christian.

Looking back on this post, I see that it has done one of two things. Either it has shown the need for healing in the Church, or it has ranted about subjects related to that. I’m not sure which. I hope that it is the former, or that it has at least done a little of both. Please tell me which.

Overthrowing the government: Is it justified?

When governments go wrong, what should the Christian response be? This question is very important, especially in countries where the common person has little or no power. Some people think that you should lead a revolution. I belive that bloodshed should always be avoided. Others would say that you should be silent and wait for circumstances to change, but that doesn’t help us now. I think Christians should always have one eye on heaven, and the other on today, so solutions like this do not help much. I think that we should attempt to reform whatever has gone wrong. One way I have heard it put is this way: if you had to change a painting, you could just rip it apart and start over. But there is another way. You could scrape a bit here, add a bit there, and change the painting while still keeping the good parts. I think that is the best way, so long as we are doing it according to the Scriptures.

Overthrowing the government is not something that Christians should worry about. We should always stand up for what we believe, but we should not do so with malice. When we stand up against the government for what we believe, it should be civil disobedience, not angry disobedience. Assassinations are never a good thing. Look at when Saul was chasing David. David had several chances to kill Saul, and yet he never did. Why? Because Saul was the Lord’s anointed. All governments are placed by God, and so we should never violently attempt to change them. For this reason, I feel that the Biblical standing of the American Revolution is debatable.

Overall, I hope that I have shown that we are to see the government as it is, but at the same time, we should never forget that it is anointed by God. He is the One who raises up the nations, and He will be the One who casts them down. He does not need our help.

American idols: The government

This is the first post in a possible series dealing with what I feel are popular idols in America. I took the title from an extremely popular show called by the predictable name of American Idol. I think this should be a series, because there are far too many idols to effectively cover in one or two posts. This one is a trial run, so tell me if you like the idea, and if you do, please give me some ideas. I am going to attempt to look at this from a Christian point of view, so please also tell me if I missed something.

I think I should start with a definition of what I am calling an idol, and also what I mean by government. What I think the Biblical definition of an idol is very simple; An idol is any man-made thing that draws or worship away from God. The ones usually cited are money, celebrities, and cars, although these are by no means the complete and final list of idols. This essay is going to be confined to the government. What I mean by the term government is anything that is seen as a symbol of the nation.

The first thing to realize is that the Constitution and the other founding documents are considered to be the Holy Scriptures by some. We should realize that there is no such thing as an authoritative document apart from the Word of God. One of the biggest problems with the constitution is that it can be changed, or amended. I think that this just means that the Constitution of America has no real authority, because it can be changed by a few hands raising. Interestingly, the process of determining what the constitution actually says is entirely up to a judge’s opinions. While some would consider this a strength, because it means that we can change with the times, this is actually one of the worst weaknesses of the government as a god. What god can’t speak for himself without a priest deciding what he wants to say?

The American flag is another idol, and one that we go through all the motions of a pagan worshipping it. Just listen. First, everyone must assume the proper form of submission, by saluting it as if it were in command. Next, we are expected to pledge allegiance to the flag, and then, almost as an afterthought, to the government. Nowhere is there a mention of God, except as the protector of our country, which is what most of the pagans thought of their gods as. I realize that there are many patriots who won’t like this. Please don’t understand this as an attack on them, as I just wanted to show the way it appears to me.

Finally, we are to make sure that we follow all the laws of the nation, even at the expense of our relationship with Christ. Just look at what you are not allowed to do in public schools. A teacher can’t read their Bible in class, can’t pray in class, can’t do anything openly Christian in class. The only time a teacher is allowed to be Christian in the school building is if they are asked about it, but even then, they can only answer the question, and are not allowed to go anywhere beyond that point, at the cost of their job. Don’t you agree that the government is an idol?

 

How should we respond to manipulative “friends”?

This post is going to be about the question at the top. I am going to confine the answer to this to those “friends” of ours who are always taking advantage of us, manipulating us to suit their own needs. I hope that none of us have that sort of friend, but whether you do or not, please tell me what you think is the best way to deal with this. I am going to attempt to answer this question by presenting a scenario and us ing that as a launch pad. I am also going to attempt to answer the question of whether or not we should have non-Christian friends, as these are much more likely to be manipulative than biblical Christians.

To start this let’s consider the following: One day at lunchtime, a friend of yours tells you that they forgot their lunch, and were hoping that you would share some of yours. You are happy to share. A few days later, the same thing happens, and a few days after that, it happens again. A pattern has started, and you are considering packing more food on a permanent basis. What would make you keep sharing, and what would make you stop sharing?

The first question to ask is: are they having a real need? In other words, are they really either forgetting their lunch or don’t have enough food? If the answer to this is yes, then we as Christians should continue to share, at the same time letting someone who can help them more permanently know.

If they don’t have a real need, the next question is: why are they asking you to share? The answer to this is probably that they have decided that your lunch tastes better or something of that sort.

The last thing to consider is: what are we going to do? The first thing is to gently let them know that you will not let them manipulate you any more, and then stand by your decision. Being nice to people doesn’t mean that we should let them walk all over us. We are to give to those who need it. Jesus himself said that he came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

Whether or not we can have non-Christian friends is a question that is asked because people are dragged down much easier than they are pulled up. This means that it is easier for someone to pull you away from Christ than for you to pull them to him. I think that the answer to this is simple. You can have non-Christian friends, but you should not make them your best friends that you do everything with.

Myths, legends, and the Bible: how do they fit together?

When myths and legends come our way, what should our response be? Some would say to reject all of them as products of an ignorant imagination, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others would say that they should be studied as clues to the archaic man’s thinking, but that doesn’t help us much today. I think that the answer is to study them to help us learn what is good, and what to avoid. Myths and legends can also help us gain a greater appreciation for the Bible’s message by looking at what it would have meant in that day.

We should first look at what a myth or legend is, and the difference between them. A myth is defined as a traditional story, usually concerning the early history of a certain people. It can also mean a widely held, but false idea. A legend is also a traditional story, but it is usually much closer to the here and now. We should also remember that defining something as a myth or legend is a purely subjective decision that depends on the judge’s beliefs. For instance, an atheist will call the Bible a collection of myths, legends, and fables, while a Christian will look at the Bible as the inerrant book to follow for life.

When trying to determine whether there is anything of value in a myth or legend, we should always remember to view it through the lens of the Scriptures. If we follow the guidelines of the Bible, we may discover either virtues that we are missing, or fallacies in what most people believe were the beliefs of ancient men. We should also remember that all of mankind has a measure of grace from God, and so no man is entirely without a set of Biblically sound morals somewhere in his life. When I say this, I mean that all men have a built-in moral compass. This means that man’s myths and legends will always have something done correctly, even though not everything will be the same way.

I now want to give a few examples of modern-day myths and legends. One of these is the theory of evolution and the Big Bang, whose followers are forced to believe that ths incredibly fine-tuned universe is the product of random chance. Both of these are more outrageous and require more faith than any other account of creation I have yet heard. Another is today’s New Age philosophy. The idea of a “force” that binds the universe together and exists within everyone is great, and even partly true, but I think Star Wars is cooler. These are the two that came to mind right off the bat.

All together, I hope that I have shown that our attitude towards myths and legends should be that of a gentle student of God. We should remember to worship God, and learn from him in all that we do. We should also remember that people’s beliefs can always be places to evangelize from, as eventually, something can always be found that relates back to the Bible, and from there to Jesus. Please comment on this, and tell me what you think about it. Type to you later!

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