Thoughts on Ferguson

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20 (NKJV)

I’ve held off on commenting on the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, because I wanted to listen to what others had to say before I commented. I’ve listened to the comments of blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, Michael Brown supporters and Darren Wilson supporters. What I’ve found is that very few people actually care about the truth. Whether Brown actually had his hands in the air surrendering, or was attacking Wilson, is a moot point to most. Whether Wilson was really a bad cop acting out of racial hatred, or in actuality a good cop fearing for his life, is irrelevant to most commentators. The truth doesn’t matter; what matters is how the truth can be manipulated to gain points in the ratings, donations to causes, or votes on election day.

I do not know what it is like to be a black man in America. I’ve never been pulled over simply because I am white, or questioned by police because I’m white. I acknowledge that I do benefit from a certain amount of privilege simply because I’m a white male. There isn’t really a question about whether certain people have advantages over others. It’s been a fact of life since Old Testament times. The question is, what if anything can be done about it?

I believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men, as well as other minorities. Racial profiling, job discrimination and abuse of power by whites are the most commonly cited issues, but I would include violence, criminality, and immorality from within the black community itself as systemic. Both conservatives and liberals are constantly playing the “race card,” although each group plays it very differently from the other. Network news reports – both liberal and conservative – claim to be against racism, while at the same time fanning the flames of racial division. Racial hatred, riots, looting, and police brutality all raise TV ratings. Politicians of all persuasions use racism to manipulate voters. Companies routinely reject resumes with names like Jamal, DeShawn, or Tyrone in favor of resumes with names like Scott, Connor, or Bradley. Despite the advances made during and since the Civil Rights Movement, systemic racism is alive in America – less blatant, but still thriving. Such systemic racism and discrimination is clearly immoral, but again, the question is, what if anything can be done about it?

A Biblical Response

The underlying issue that gives rise to racism is sin.

Sin is not just something people do; it’s who we are. People are not inherently good or neutral; people are inherently sinners. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5, through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. We are all born with the tendency to reject God and to embrace sin. No matter how hard we try to be moral, ethical people, we all mess up. It’s our very nature to be immoral. The answer to racism isn’t to denounce it, or try to change the system. We need to have our very natures changed. And, Jesus Christ is the only way our natures can be changed. Please understand, I’m not saying religion can change us – it can’t. Religion simply hides our sin, or convinces us that our good outweighs our bad. Religion cannot change our fundamental nature. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can fundamentally change our nature. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Again, please understand, I’m not in any way claiming that knowing Jesus Christ makes anyone a perfect person, at least not in this life. Knowing Christ begins a process in this life that starts changing us in the here and now, but this process won’t be completed until we arrive in Heaven.

Ultimately, the plague of racism will never be eradicated until Jesus returns. We live in a sinful world, full of sinners. We face an adversary known as Satan who uses our prejudices to divide us and to turn people from the truth. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, ” we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There is nothing we can do to eliminate sin, including racism, from the world. However, this does not mean we simply quit and give in to racism.

So, what can we do?

First, I believe Christians need to begin by following the principle given in James 1:19-20. We need to shut up, until we’ve taken the time to really listen. Those of us who are white need to listen to what blacks and other minorities are saying about the reality and the pain of racism. Too often, we spout out Biblical platitudes without really understanding what the real problem is, and we often sound like hypocritical idiots.  Listen before speaking.

Second, the answer to racism isn’t to change the system. Jesus never commands us to change the culture; He commands us to preach the Gospel. The system is controlled by the devil, and this will only end after Jesus returns. The answer to racism is to bring people to a relationship with Jesus, because only Jesus can change our fundamentally sinful natures.

Third, we need to examine our own lives to make sure we have dealt with our own prejudices and racism. There is only one race. We are all descendants of Adam through Noah. “…There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Colossians 3:11).

I’ll finish this post by quoting Benjamin Watson, a black wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints of the NFL. It’s a rather lengthy quote, but I think he sums it all up rather well:

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

-Benjamin Watson

 

Mercy and Compassion Toward Gays

inigo-montoyaIn reading comments and blogs by so-called “liberal” Christians on LGBT issues, I have noticed a common thread: Many of the arguments are based on the belief that in order to show homosexuals mercy and compassion, Christians cannot condemn homosexual behavior, but must accept their behavior as normal. They argue, gays cannot help being gay, so the merciful, compassionate thing to do is to accept them for who they are.

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya in the classic movie The Princess Bride: “You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”

What is Mercy?

According to Merriam-Webster.com, mercy is:

1
a
:  compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also
:  lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
b
:  imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder

2
a
:  a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
b
:  a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>

3
:  compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>

Let’s consider the primary definition first. Mercy is “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender…” Mercy is shown to someone who is guilty. Mercy cannot be shown toward someone who is innocent.

If you appeared in court on a charge of shoplifting, and were found to be innocent, it would make no sense for the judge to say, “I have found you innocent; but I am going to show you mercy, and let you go.” It would only make sense for the judge to show mercy if you had been found guilty.

To argue that Christians must accept homosexuality as normal (not a sin) in order to show mercy, is like arguing that a judge must declare shoplifting to not be a crime in order to show mercy to a shoplifter. Such an argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of mercy.

What is compassion?

All three definitions of the word mercy include the word compassion or compassionate. What does compassion mean? Again, according to Merriam-Webster.com, compassion is:

: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

In the case of homosexuality, what the source of this distress? From the perspective of those who try to justify homosexuality, the distress is caused by society’s refusal to accept gays for who they are. If society would simply accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and embrace gay marriage, the distress would be alleviated.

I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. True, many homosexuals have been bullied, attacked, and rejected, often by self-righteous Christians. This is where the third definition of mercy applies: compassionate treatment of those in distress. Bullying gays is clearly wrong, and shows a complete lack of true mercy and compassion by those who perpetrate such actions. However, there is a much deeper source of distress for homosexuals. It’s called sin. All sin separates people from God, whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, pride, arrogance, hatred, lack of compassion and mercy, or gluttony. All sin needs to be alleviated. The only true alleviation for sin comes from Jesus Christ, who died in our place to take our guilt upon Himself. True compassion for the homosexual, or anyone else, for that matter, means confronting them with their sin and showing them Jesus Christ. The distress of sin can only be alleviated through repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is where the second definition of mercy applies: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.

To argue that compassion requires accepting homosexuality is to misunderstand both the meaning of compassion and the seriousness of sin.

How should Christians show mercy and compassion to homosexuals?

There are several points that should be kept in mind as a follower of Jesus Christ in order to show compassion and mercy to homosexuals:

  1. James 5.11Homosexual acts need to be recognized as sin. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual acts are sin (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 1:7; and others). Don’t listen to those professing “Christians” trying to convince you that the Church has been misinterpreting Scripture for 2,000 years and that the Bible really doesn’t actually condemn homosexual behavior. Yes, it does. Read it yourself, and trust God’s Word, not people’s opinions about God’s Word.
  2. All have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). Embracing homosexuality is no different than embracing any other sin. All sin separates us from God. You and I are just as much sinners as any homosexual, and we all need the Savior.
  3. Combat anti-gay hatred. Christians should be deeply troubled about people being bullied for being gay and do all we can to combat it. In fact, Christians should be leading the way by showing Christ’s love to homosexuals.
  4. Be willing to admit that we don’t fully understand homosexuality. All sin is highly addictive; acknowledge that those who struggle with homosexuality may not have any control over who they’re attracted to. Isn’t that the point? We cannot control sin. Some people are compulsive liars; others have chemical or eating addictions. Others are addicted to other types of illicit sex, or power, or wealth. Some of us are addicted to pride. Everyone has areas of sin in their life, and none of us can stop it. There are undoubtedly deep psychological issues involved with many homosexuals, and there is much we still don’t know.
  5. Share the love of Jesus Christ. Get to know homosexuals the same as you would anyone. Build relationships. Make friends! Invite them into your homes and churches, go into their homes, share meals, have deep discussions, go to ballgames, whatever. Accept these people – not their actions – as you would anyone, and love them unconditionally, as Christ loves you.
  6. Share the Gospel. The only solution for homosexuality, or any other sin, is the grace of Jesus Christ. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do for a gay person, or any other person, is to explain how to obtain God’s mercy and compassion through the blood of Christ.

When followers of Jesus unwaveringly hold to the truth of Christ, while extending the love of Christ to the lost, including gays, hearts can be softened and changed. While Christians must be adamant about extending mercy, compassion, and a humble attitude toward the gay community, it’s also imperative that we be just as adamant about standing firmly in the truth. Homosexuality, like any sin, destroys our relationship with our loving Creator. Mercy and compassion do not mean denying the truth. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do is to share the truth about sin and the truth of the Gospel, while loving the sinner, as Christ first loved us.

Honor Your Father and Mother

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 5:16 (NKJV)

What does it mean to “honor?”

I looked up Deuteronomy 5:16 in the Hebrew to see what the word “honor” actually means. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated as “honor” in Deuteronomy 5:16 is כָּבַד (kabad or kabed), which literally means “to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome.” I did a little more digging, and found this explanation on BibleStudyTools.com:

The root of kabod [כָּבַד] literally means heavy or weighty. The figurative meaning, however, is far more common: “to give weight to someone.” To honor someone, then, is to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one’s life. A person grants honor most frequently on the basis of position, status, or wealth, but it can and should also be granted on the basis of character.

The command to honor our parents means, then, to give weight to their authority over us, and to show them respect.

Some have argued that the Fifth Commandment means that we are to obey everything our parents tell us to do. However, this is not what the word כָּבַד means. As children, we must obey our parents, but as we reach maturity, we are commanded to give weight to their authority, but not necessarily to blindly obey. If your parents are godly and faithful followers of Jesus Christ, then the wisdom they have in Christ and the experience they have in knowing you should be very carefully and weightily considered. Many Christians, however, have parents who do not know the Lord, or do not honor Him. Although we are still to give weight to what they tell us, if it conflicts with the Bible, we should absolutely not do what they say. We still must show them respect and honor, however.

Why should we honor parents?

My Mom and Dad, 2003

My Mom and Dad, 2003

Deuteronomy 5:16 says to honor your parents so “that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

Some skeptics have claimed that since this verse promises that everyone who honors their parents is guaranteed a long life and that all will “be well,” the Bible is obviously contradictory. Some people who honor their parents die at a young age.

However, there are many instances where the Bible speaks in terms of generalizations—things that are usually, but not always, true. Deuteronomy 5:16 is an example. The book of Proverbs contains many such generalizations. It is not a contradiction to have some instances where the general rule does not apply. When someone claims Deuteronomy 5:16 contains a contradiction, they are committing the fallacy of a sweeping generalization—applying a general principle as if it were a universal rule. Deuteronomy 5:16 is not intended to be taken as a universal rule, but rather as general principle that is true most of the time.

In most cases, our parents are a lot more wise than we like to admit. If they are godly parents, they have experiences and years of wisdom from the Lord that we have yet to gain. Generally speaking, if we follow the advice of godly parents, we will tend to live longer, happier lives.

Another reason to honor our parents is found in Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” It pleases God when we honor our parents. God appointed them to be our parents, and gave them authority as our parents. Whether they have been godly parents, or horrible parents, it pleases God when we show our parents the honor they are due, simply because they are our parents.

The bottom line

I haven’t always honored my parents as I should. Especially as a teen, I dishonored my parents greatly. I gave very little weight to their position or authority. As I’ve grown older, especially after I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, this has changed considerably. I also have a whole lot more respect for my parents, now that I’m a parent.

As a parent, I haven’t always deserved my children’s honor. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and have let my kids down far too many times.

However, the command to honor my parents is still wise advice from my Father in Heaven. He used my parents to help shape me into the person I’ve become, and is using me to shape my children into the young adults they are becoming, despite my shortcomings and sin.

If you have not been honoring your father and mother, maybe because they’ve hurt you, or simply because of your own sin, please consider the words of Deuteronomy 5:16 very carefully. God wants us to honor our parents, not because they deserve it, but because it pleases Him when we do. We all need to forgive our parents for the wrongs they have done to us, and honor them despite their shortcomings, no matter how severe. It’s not always easy to do, and for many people, may take a lot of time and healing, but it’s the right thing to do, as God has commanded.

Live Long and Prosper

Remember the Sabbath

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Fourth Commandment says:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11

moses-tenI started this series on the Ten Commandments some time ago. I sort of got “stuck” when I got to this one. I know what I believe, but, quite honestly, I have a difficult time backing up my beliefs on this issue with solid Biblical reasoning.

Unlike with the other 9 of the 10 Commandments, the New Testament is strangely silent on the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. With the exception of keeping the Sabbath, all of the commandments are retaught, and in most cases, expanded upon in the New Testament. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Here, Jesus not only confirms the Sixth Commandment, He expands it to include unjustified anger. The same is true throughout the New Testament with all of the Commandments – except the commandment to keep the Sabbath.

The New Testament records that Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not as the scribes and Pharisees said it should be kept. Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath – He picked grain and healed on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-12). Jesus attended synagogue on the Sabbath, as did His disciples. After the resurrection, Jewish followers, including Peter and Paul, continued to worship on the Sabbath. However, non-Jewish Christians apparently did not. I can find no place in the New Testament where worshipping on the Sabbath is either required or denounced. Historically, the practice of worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday) was slowly replaced with worship on Sunday by most churches. Again, I can find no place in Scripture that either requires Sunday worship, or denounces it. While the New Testament repeatedly teaches that Christ’s followers are to meet regularly for worship, it appears to be silent regarding which day of the week Christians should set aside for the practice.

In light of the absence of New Testament teaching requiring worship on a specific day of the week, I believe it is entirely up to the discretion of the church and the individual Christian.

There is considerable disagreement within the church regarding the Fourth Commandment.

Some churches are adamant about only worshipping on the Sabbath, and while I disagree, that’s fine. Most churches worship on Sunday, and again, that’s fine, too. An increasing number of churches now offer worship services on other days of the week, allowing folks that are required to work on weekends the opportunity for corporate worship. Again, I think that’s fine.

I’ve read a number of arguments that the Sabbath is still to be followed by Christians, and that Sunday worship is a pagan heresy. However, I’ve yet to find any that can justify this belief with solid Biblical exegesis. Every argument I’ve seen commits exegetical mistakes, makes unsubstantiated historical claims, and/or contains other logical fallacies. The same can be said for those arguments I’ve seen positing Sunday-only worship.

The key, as I see it, is that all Christ-followers are to set aside time regularly for corporate worship with other believers. We are to regularly meet with others for the teaching of God’s Word. We are no longer under the letter of the Law; we are under a New Covenant. However, we are still to follow the spirit of the Law. The Fourth Commandment says to set aside one day out of every week for worship and rest. The New Testament is silent regarding which day should be set aside, so I believe it is up to each one of us to determine with God’s leading which day to set aside. As the writer of Hebrews states,

“… let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25.

Worship

 

 

 

Ice Bucket Challenge

Over the last few weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with videos of people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Ice Water ChallengeThe rules are simple: A participant who has already taken the challenge nominates someone else. Within 24 hours of being challenged, the nominated participant is to record a video of completing the following: First, they are to announce their acceptance of the challenge. Then, a bucket of ice water is to be lifted and poured over the participant’s head. Then the participant calls out a challenge to other people. The participant is expected to donate $10 to the ALS Association if they have poured the ice water over their head, or donate $100 if they have not.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a horrific progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure. Through the Ice Bucket Challenge, millions of dollars have been raised for ALS research.

While I wholeheartedly hope a cure for ALS can be found soon, I have already decided that, if nominated, I will decline the challenge, for a number of reasons.

First, I have a limited budget. I only have a certain amount I can afford to give to charities. Although I agree that ALS is a horrible disease that needs to be cured, there are thousands of other causes competing for the funds in my charitable giving budget. I choose to give to other causes.

Second, there are concerns about my money going to fund research that uses stem cells from aborted babies. According to the Northeast Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Consortium website, at least one clinical trial used stem cells that were engineered from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation. The tissue was obtained with the mother’s consent. While I absolutely hope and pray for a cure for ALS, I cannot condone nor fund research that involves the murder of an unborn child to obtain stem cells. While I understand that only a small percentage of funds go to such research, and I could probably designate that my money would go to other research, I still find giving to the ALSA to be problematic, especially since there are so many other important causes to support that have nothing to do with embryonic stem cell research.

Lastly, I question the idea of giving to a charitable cause simply because someone dared me to do it. If I give simply because someone calls me out on Facebook, and I have to post a video of myself doing something silly to broadcast my participation, then why am I donating? Is it because I truly care about ALS, or just because I want to show off? From the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus warns about giving to charity in order to be seen by others – He calls it hypocrisy. The reason to give is not because someone calls me out on Facebook, and I shouldn’t be showing off by posting a video of myself getting ice water dumped on my head. I should be giving because God has given me the resources to give, and the glory should go to Him, not to me.

IceWaterWhatAlthough I have not yet been challenged to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, if I am, I will politely decline. The money I decide to give to charity, I will give privately, not to show off, but to glorify God.

Here’s my challenge to my readers: Pray about what God would have you do to support charitable causes and ministries. Research organizations that follow Godly principles. Seek His will for your giving. Then, obey by giving to those organizations that He lays on your heart. But, do so without bringing attention to yourself. Don’t post a video on Facebook, and don’t tell me, or anyone else, about it. Then, thank God in private that He gave you the resources to be able to help others.

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.

Do not take the name of the Lord in vain

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me10 Commandments
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Third Commandment says:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

curse_bubbleTaking the name of God in vain is more than using it as a curse word. Any time we use God’s name flippantly or disrespectfully, we use it in vain. Jesus restated the Third Commandment by flipping it around: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9, NKJV).

Why does God care if we use His name in vain?

God’s desire is to have a loving relationship with us. In relationships, when we show disrespect for the other person, it interferes with that relationship. When we use the name of God or Jesus in a disrespectful manner, it interferes with our ability to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that we were created to have. Taking God’s name in vain doesn’t change how God thinks about us; it affects how we think of God. It reflects disregard and indifference on our part toward God. When we use God’s name in vain, it inhibits our ability to love Him the way we should.

What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?

Names of GodIn the Hebrew, there are four consonants used to spell God’s name. In English we see them as YHWH. We pronounce them as Jehovah or Yahweh. We also use many other names for God: Jesus, Lord, Savior, Father, Christ, and so forth. The Bible actually lists over 300 titles for God, many of which are commonly used as names. Using God’s name “in vain” means using it in any way that is disrespectful, false, or trivial. We can do this by using it as a curse word. We can also use His name in vain by claiming God says something that contradicts or isn’t supported by the Bible. An example that’s getting considerable attention right now is the claim that God thinks homosexuality is acceptable to Him. This belief is clearly and repeatedly refuted by the Bible, yet many people, even Christians, claim it’s true. Invoking the name of God in an attempt to justify sin is using God’s name in vain. We also use God’s name in vain when we make false promises, such as “I swear to God that I’ll do such-and-such.” When we do this, we are lying in the name of God, and using His name flippantly. There are any number of variations on using God’s name in vain, far too many to describe in depth in a brief blog. The point it, we all at least occasionally use God’s name disrespectfully, falsely, or irreverently. We all have missed the mark of the Third Commandment.

What is the consequence for taking God’s name in vain?

“…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

As with any sin, taking the name of God in vain interferes in our ability to love God. It separates us from Him. It does not change God’s attitude toward us, but rather, changes our attitude toward God. For those who have never placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, sin prevents them from knowing God and from spending eternity in His presence. For those of us who have been saved, it interrupts our fellowship with Him. Using God’s name in vain reflects disrespect for God in our hearts, and the consequence is broken fellowship with Him.

What can we do about it?

VainFirst, if a person has never received forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, never been saved, and never made Jesus Christ Lord of their life, that’s the place to start. Everyone has sinned, and the only way for God to forgive is by our receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

For those of us who are saved, we need to begin by cultivating a love and reverence for God’s name. We need to grow in our relationship with Him. We need to value God’s holiness and give God the respect He is due. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we will begin to respect and revere the name of God and the name of Jesus. Taking the name of the Lord in vain will become the exception rather than the rule. Although we will never obey this commandment (or any other, for that matter) perfectly this side of Heaven, as we grow closer to Jesus, our sinful tendencies will become less and less.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers