Author: Bryan Garrison

My name is Bryan Garrison. My wife Jackie and I are foster parents as well as adopted two of the children placed with us. We’re constantly on the go, so my posting may be a bit fewer and further between than I’d like, but we’ll get there.
The Cosmic Temple and the Young Earth

The Cosmic Temple and the Young Earth

The Cosmic Temple Inauguration theory of creation as recorded in Genesis chapter 1 explains that the text itself, in conjunction with the ancient culture, would indicate a non-material creation but rather describes the functional creation of the cosmos. This theory holds to many of the same views as that of Young Earth Creationism, though they diverge at the point of material vs functional creation. In comparing the two to each other it is possible to see that there is more in common when it comes to the theology of creation, and more difference when one views the actual creative action of God directly.

Overview of the Cosmic Temple Inauguration

John H. Walton is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and has written several books on the subjects of Israel and the Old Testament as well as other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Walton proposes eighteen areas of interest in his book The Lost World of Genesis One that stand apart from many traditionalist views of creation. Walton’s studies have led him to the understanding of Genesis 1 as one of non-material creation. The culture of the Israelites to whom Genesis was written understood the world and universe in a different way than today’s reader.

The ancient Israelites did not look at the sun and understand or think that it was a large ball of burning gas in the sky, instead they looked at the sun as a light source in the expanse of the heavens.[1] Just like we today don’t view the cosmos in the same way that society will 500 years from now. New things are learned every day and will continue to be learned. Viewing cosmology as the ancients to whom Genesis 1 was written forces a change in the understanding of the text. No longer is the text about the material origins of the cosmos, but rather the text focuses on the function of the cosmos as it relates to mankind.

Consider Genesis 1:2 “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”[2]. Walton asks a simple question in a presentation on the subject, “Where did the water come from?”[3] He also goes on to explain that the Hebrew words translated here as formless and void are not relating to material emptiness, but rather lacking function and unproductive. (Walton, 47-48)

Walton does adhere firmly to a 24-hour day cycle in Genesis 1 as “This has always been the best reading of the Hebrew text.” (Walton, 90) Walton also agrees that these seven recorded days actually happened, making them historical. Unlike young-earth creationism the Cosmic Temple understanding of creation does not require the earth to be young, and as such some sciences to be flawed. It also does not require that the earth be old or ancient. Understanding creation from a functional view rather than material allows for science to explain certain things that the Bible does not. In fact, it allows for Christians to say “fine, that helps me see the handiwork of God” when science presents a solid finding. (Walton, 163)

Because this view removes the material understanding of creation from Genesis 1 it does limit how one can use Genesis 1 in refutation of other creationist beliefs and scientific findings. However, Martin Hanna states “[T]heology-science dialog can result in a stronger theology grounded in biblical revelation and a stronger science grounded in God’s general revelation in the cosmos”. (Hanna, 185)

Response to the Cosmic Temple

           
            Unlike the Cosmic Temple, Young-earth creationism (YEC) understands the emphasis of Genesis 1 to be the material creation of the universe. As the name suggests the Young-earth theory requires that the earth be young, somewhere between six and ten thousand years. An idea held by leaders of the Church throughout the ages like Lactantius who stated “the six thousandth year is not completed” (Mook, 28) or Augustine in his statement that “we find that not 6,000 years have passed” (Mook, 37).

Along with the age of the earth, in the same way that Cosmic Temple states, YEC requires that Genesis 1 is describing literal 24-hour day cycles. As was already stated the understanding of a literal 24-hour day is the best understanding of the text as it is written. (Walton, 90) Again in line with the Cosmic Temple, YEC considers the text of Genesis 1 – 6 and beyond to be historical narrative explaining events that actually transpired. It was in the same vein that Jesus taught His disciples and followers. (Mortenson, 318) The understanding that Genesis contains more than just an allegory or metaphor is clear both in the Young-earth and Cosmic Temple theories.

Where the two theories divide is the understanding of what exactly Genesis 1 is describing. As Walton points out the ancients (both in Israel and the rest of the near east) did not look at the sun as a burning ball of gas, but today it’s understood and common knowledge that the sun is just that, a burning ball of gas. YEC seems to be looking at Genesis as if it were written to people today and not to ancient Israel.

This divergence has led the YEC to focus on re-evaluating the sciences related to creation in areas such as proving that radio carbon dating is flawed (DeYoung, 42), that the earth experienced significantly different environmental factors (DeYoung, 142), or even that rock layers in the Grand Canyon were placed there by flood waters. The Cosmic Temple theory does not require re-evaluating the sciences in order to make them fit the Bible, but rather leaves the science open to interpretation by the reader. Neither view, the Young Earth nor the Cosmic Temple theory have at their core a requirement for a change in theological standards or even biblical timelines.            

Conclusion

It would seem possible, after comparing the two theories of creation, that one could easily find themselves reading Genesis chapter 1 in the way that Walton describes, function over material, and still find themselves holding to the earth being less than 10,000 years old. Nothing in Walton’s reading of Genesis precludes one believing this, though at the same time nothing forces the same belief. The reading of the text clearly lays out that a day is a 24-hour cycle, the teachings of Christ show that it was an actual event that occurred, the early Church held (for the most part) to these beliefs, and there are issues with some of the old-age sciences. Just because one holds to the Cosmic Temple view of creation does not also mean that they must be evolutionists or old-earth creationists. In both cases, God still had to create the earth and all that is in it out of nothingness, the issue lies with how exactly one reads the text.  


[1] Seedbed, “Origins Today: Genesis through Ancient Eyes with John Walton”, YouTube video, 1:30:48, Posted May 2014,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR82a-iueWw

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible

[3] Seedbed, “Origins Today: Genesis through Ancient Eyes with John Walton”

The First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening

The eighteenth century brought about a tremendous revival throughout the colonies of America. Though there were many small localized revivals leading up to this revival, known today as the First Great Awakening, this revival left its localized beginnings and spread throughout the region. Led by great men such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Samuel Davies the Great Awakening brought about newness of life to believers. This revival took Christianity out of the intellectual sphere by bringing it back to the spirit. Changes in the way preachers taught helped to reach more individuals for Christ, and new movements of believers began to take shape. The First Great Awakening with its reach and spiritual regeneration brought the colonies closer to God than ever.

            In 1727 a great earthquake struck New England sending people running into churches looking for answers. Clergy and ministers took advantage of this opportunity to remind the populace of their need for piety and pointing to the sinful nature of the people as being the cause for this judgement.[1] Jonathan Edwards saw the beginnings of a return to piety in his own church and continued to preach the same style of message. What started as yet another call for piety became The First Great Awakening.[2] This Awakening can be considered to have started in a small town called Northampton, Massachusetts in 1734 because the preacher was uniquely qualified to reach the masses beyond his congregation.[3] This preacher was Jonathan Edwards, the minister of the local Congregational church. Up to this point, colonial Christians had begun to relegate church and Christian matters to the academic or intellectual sphere instead of keeping it in the spiritual realms.[4] In spite of the freedom allowed for the citizens to choose their own path of religion, and non-religion, many individuals became attendees of churches rather than members. They likely considered the regulations and requirements for membership to be for the academics or intellectuals instead of for all people.[5] During this period of time, revivals received significant coverage by media sources, it is likely that this fact aided the spread of the revival far beyond what one or two preachers would be able to accomplish.[6] Once the First Great Awakening revivals broke out this idea began to shift back to the spiritual realm from the intellectual.

            Jonathan Edwards was born into a spiritual family filled with ministers and leaders. One would be hard pressed to see how he could not have become a great speaker and minister. His preaching began shortly after graduating from Yale. He preached in New York and became an assistant minister in his grandfather’s church. After his grandfather’s death, at the age of 26, Edwards became the sole minister in the church.[7] Edwards, being a Calvinist, stressed that God must receive the glory due to Him in any sort of revival.[8] This idea was the foundation for his thinking on revival. Edwards preached a sermon on justification in 1733 sparking a small revival that continued to grow in popularity well into 1734.[9] This revival brought with it questions and concerns over the authenticity as many people reacted in visible and vocal emotion. Edwards had to defend this move of God in 1737 and as such wrote A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton.[10] The revival begun by Edwards led others to preach revival among the people. One of the greatest of these preachers was George Whitefield took up the task of spreading the revival throughout the rest of the colonies.

            George Whitefield was born into an impoverished family in England. He worked his way into and through schooling at Oxford as an assistant to other students. While studying at Oxford Whitefield met and became friends with the Wesley brothers and their Holy Club. Whitefield became an Anglican deacon and began preaching to all who would listen.[11] Whitefield came to the colonies in 1740 on a preaching tour that coincided with the revivals begun by Edwards. One major benefit that Whitefield experienced was his movement. Instead of speaking in one place repeatedly Whitefield moved from place to place speaking and preaching which in turn spread the revival far and wide.[12] While Edwards focused significantly on the glory of God through revival, Whitefield seems to focus on the new birth and regeneration of the believer. His idea of personal experience is emphasized throughout his sermons.[13] This emphasis seems to stem from his own personal experience of new birth. According to Applington Whitefield discusses his conversion in this way, “After a long night of desertion and temptation, the Star, which I had seen at a distance before, began to appear again, and the Day Star arose in my heart. Now did the Spirit of God take possession of my soul, and, as I humbly hope, seal me unto the day of redemption.”[14] Both of these great leaders fanned the flames of revival and brought spiritual rebirth to the colonies. Though their methods and even sermons were different, the end goal for both was to see believers strengthened in Christ.

            Though both men wanted to see believers revived they each went about reaching this goal in different ways. Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” reveals that he commonly sought to focus on the depravity of man and divine judgement. Though this revelation in and of itself does not bring about salvation, it is by Edwards the first step in salvation.[15] While Edwards focused primarily on sin and the coming judgement of God, Whitefield focused more on the new birth and regenerative ability of the Spirit of God. Whitefield constantly sought to break down the denominational barriers by pointing people back to the transformative power of God.[16] Even though these men approached the subject of salvation and conversion from different angles, they both sought to bring men and women to the point of desiring salvation. Beyond just the content of their messages and sermons Edwards and Whitefield differed in the presentation of their message. Edwards sermons were read from the pulpit off of his notes. This reading, while effective in his day, stands in stark contrast to Whitefield’s no-notes, theatrical preaching. Whitefield, during his tour of the colonies, did not always have a church or congregation to preach for and as a result often found himself preaching in the fields and streets. Whitefield’s ability to improvise a location to preach gave more people the ability to participate in a single event than that of preachers like Edwards who preached in the church buildings behind pulpits. Though their preaching styles and messages may not have been the same, God used both men to build up His Church and strengthen the colonial believers.

Other men such as Samuel Davies, David Brainard, and Gilbert Tennent aided in the spread of this revival. Each of these men contributed to the revival efforts in their own ways. Samuel Davies became one of the “New Light” ministers. The Presbyterian church was divided during the Awakening between the Old Light and the New Light. The New Light ministers and leaders saw this movement of God and pressed to continue in it while the Old Light wanted to keep to the traditionalist strict form of Presbyterianism leading to a seventeen-year schism in the church in 1741.[17] Davies was sent to Hanover, Virginia after a call for a request for a pastor. Upon arriving, he found the church in disarray due to disputes and the need for a leader.[18] His settling in Hanover would form a radiating point for the spread of Presbyterianism in the South. [19] These men in addition to Edwards and Whitefield brought the revival to the people, and the revival brought about a new movement of believers, Evangelicalism.

Evangelicalism, a movement centered on the conversion of people and their need for a relationship with God, began to spread through the colonies. The revivals and meetings that spread throughout the colonies were often accompanied with emotional outbursts, mass conversions, and visible acts of worship.[20] This spurred on the growth of evangelicalism as more and more began to see mass conversions. The idea that Christianity was not just an academic project, but a spiritual change took hold. Evidenced by the response to the revival meetings, evangelicalism spread throughout the colonies. As evangelicalism spread there was an increased desire for these types of revivals filled with conversion. However, not long into the movement and revivals opposition began to be displayed. The Old Light ministers opposed this idea as being against the traditional church structure and format.[21] Samuel Finley responded by arguing in his sermon that God often reformed the church in its dark times and that the emotional response did not disqualify the hand of God at work but rather was evidence for it.[22] Though evangelicalism started with opposition, it spread through the colonies and continues to this day.

Finally, the First Great Awakening brought about great changes to the colonies in the eighteenth century. With great preachers like Edwards and Whitefield bringing masses of people to repentance and revival came change from Christianity as academia to Christianity as a personal experience of God. The growth of evangelicalism, though opposed, has stood the test of the last couple of hundred years and remains strong today. Without the First Great Awakening, the United States of America would be a completely different place.


[1] John Howard Smith, The First Great Awakening : Redefining Religion in British America, 1725–1775, (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press), 17, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=1943259&ppg=1

[2] Smith, The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725–1775, 18

[3] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, (Nashville: Wordsearch Academic, 2018), ch. 9, p. 111 WORDsearchBible App.

[4] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 111

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dinu Moga, “Jonathan Edwards and His Theology of Revival”, Perichoresis 17, no. s1 (2019): 56. Accessed October 26, 2019, https://content.sciendo.com/configurable/contentpage/journals$002fperc$002f17$002fs1$002farticle-p55.xml?tab_body=pdf

[7] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 111

[8] Dinu Moga, “Jonathan Edwards and His Theology of Revival”, 55

[9] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 111

[10] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 111

[11] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 112

[12] Ibid.

[13] Rod, Applington, “George Whitefield: Revival Principles from the Preaching and Practices of a Great Revivalist” (PhD thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2011), 11, https://www-tren-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/e-docs/download2.cfm?CFID=22507736&CFTOKEN=ff96e525fe138b66-6DFC05D4-163E-6956-D661A6B3D1949485

[14] Applington, “George Whitefield: Revival Principles from the Preaching and Practices of a Great Revivalist”, 4

[15] Dinu Moga, “Jonathan Edwards and His Theology of Revival”, 63

[16] Applington, “George Whitefield: Revival Principles from the Preaching and Practices of a Great Revivalist”, 28

[17] George H. Bost, “Samuel Davies, Preacher of the Great Awakening”, Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 26, no. 2 (June, 1948), Accessed October 26, 2019, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23324154

[18] Bost, “Samuel Davies, Preacher of the Great Awakening”, 81

[19] Bost, “Samuel Davies, Preacher of the Great Awakening”, 83

[20] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 111

[21] Jonathan M. Yeager, ed. Early Evangelicalism : A Reader. (Cary: Oxford University Press USA – OSO, 2013). 60, Accessed October 27, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[22] Yeager, Early Evangelicalism : A Reader, 60

Reformation of Martin Luther

Reformation of Martin Luther

Martin Luther’s contributions to the Protestant Reformation continue to have a major impact on Christianity in the West and, as missional efforts continue from Protestant groups, in the East as well. Luther’s reformation efforts were brought on by his life experiences, several issues within the Roman Catholic church, and even his own understanding of what the Scriptures really say. Examining the reasoning and causes of Luther’s reformation attempts is vital for Christians today in order to understand where Christianity was, and where it is going.

            Martin Luther was born in Eiselban, Germany in AD 1483 to a mining family. Shortly after his birth his father chose to move to Mansfield in an effort to go from being a miner to owning his own mine and company.[1] As the family began to make more and more moves out of the lower working class, Luther’s father made the decision to send him off to the University of Erfurt in order that Luther would become a lawyer. Luther’s studies were quite successful, and he completed his master’s degree within four years.[2] However, as Luther traveled back to Erfurt after a summer home he was caught in a tremendous storm. So powerful and terrifying was the storm that Luther feared for his life, and in his fear called out to the patron Saint of miners, Anne. Luther vowed that if she would spare his life that he would enter the monastic lifestyle and dedicate his life to be a monk. When the storm subsided, and Luther remained he followed through with his vow.

Luther joined an Augustinian monastery as soon as he made it safely to Erfurt.[3] Luther spent the next several years in the monastery following all of the monastic rituals and growing in his education. During this time Luther, in following with the sacrament of confession, would give his confession daily to his superiors. However, he eventually found himself wondering why he never felt as though he’d confessed enough.[4] This scrupulosity of Luther’s eventually got the better of his superiors and in an attempt to help his constant fret over his sin Luther was sent to the University of Wittenberg to continue in his study.[5] While at Wittenberg Luther began to teach and lecture. Many of his lessons and lectures focused on the Psalms and Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Galatians. It was one day, in 1515, while reading through the letter to the Romans that Paul’s statement, “For in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”(Romans 1:17)[6], that Luther began to see the errors in the actions and theology of the Roman Catholic church of his day. Luther began to teach that God’s grace isn’t imparted because of the number of good things or actions that the people do, but rather His grace comes through faith in Jesus Christ.[7] Two years later Luther posted his 95 Theses to those in academic and theological positions in order to begin the debate over these issues.

            During Pope Leo X’s continued renovation of St. Peter’s basilica, in order pay for the renovations, he offered yet another indulgence. It was during the sales of this indulgence that Luther began to see the errors in theology of the Roman Catholic church of his day. The 95 Theses that Luther presented focused heavily on the sale of indulgences as an attempt to attain grace. Luther’s 95 Theses begins with a call to any and all who would to debate these issues at Wittenberg in a public setting.[8] What follows is a list of statements Luther intends to debate and have debated in order to bring about the change in the Church that it so desperately needed at the time. It does not appear that Luther’s intention was to break away from the church let alone to have an entire sect of the Church named after him.[9] Instead Luther was striving to bring things to light and combat the evil that had infected the Roman Catholic church to the highest degree.[10]

            In the midst of Luther’s beginning debates on indulgences additional areas of contention became apparent such as the Eucharist and Mass, the authority of the Pope, and the role of faith in salvation. Up to this point in the church the Eucharistic sacrifice was seen not as a gift of thanksgiving but of an act of reconciliation for man.[11] Luther understood that the Eucharist could not be a sacrifice if it were not taken by faith. [12] His treatise On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church addressed several areas of the Lord’s supper including the Roman Catholic practice of only serving bread to the laity.[13] In this document Luther goes into great detail regarding a teacher who had attempted to explain the reasoning behind only using one element instead of both the bread and cup. This teacher tried to use John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”, in order to prove his point that in the bread alone is Jesus Christ and the cup is not required. Luther’s response to this shows his understanding of the Scripture and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.


“The most learned fellow not only refers these words to the Sacrament of the Altar, but because Christ says: “I am the living bread” (John 6:51) and not “I am the living cup,” he actually concludes that we have in this passage the institution of the sacrament in only one kind for the laity. But here follow the words: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55) and, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” (John 6:53). When it dawned upon the good friar that these words speak undeniably for both kinds and against one kind— presto!”[14]

Luther wrote another document Address to the German Nobility Concerning Christian Liberty in which he begins first with a statement to Pope Leo X calling upon him to repair the damages that have been done to the church. In his statement Luther states that Leo should be aware of the sirens singing in his ear that he, the Pope, is above the authority of a council and the universal church.[15] It would appear that Luther was aware of the ever growing desire for the Pope to be the sole authority for the Church, and he was warning of the dangers that would come from such a situation.

Luther’s understanding of faith being the key to salvation (sola fide)led him to see any and all religions that presented any form of salvation by works to be a part of the false religion.[16] This distinction between the true religion and false religion came down to faith. The false religion is inspired by evil.[17] Even going so far as to declare the Roman Catholic church a part of the false religion and declaring publicly that the Pope was the antichrist.[18] The church’s bishops and cardinals defense of the indulgences, in Luther’s eyes, was the same as defending a salvation by works and thus should be resisted and combated to the highest degree and highest levels.[19]

During his reform movement Luther wrote several books and documents in an attempt to spread his message even further than his preaching could. On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church

While Luther may, or may not, have originally intended to break away from the Roman Catholic church the more that Luther examined the ways of the church, the more a separation became necessary. In 1521 Luther received that separation when was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church.[20] Luther’s contributions to the Christian faith continue to resound to this day. No longer do Christians feel the need to work in order to earn their salvation, the authority in our lives rests in the Scriptures instead of a man, and communion in faith remains about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Luther continued to preach salvation by faith alone to even his dying words. When asked on his death bed if he wanted to die in the faith he’d preached so heavily, his only response and final word was “Yes”.[21]


[1] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, (Nashville: Wordsearch Academic, 2018), ch. 5, p 70 WORDsearchBible App.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, (Nashville: Wordsearch Academic, 2018), ch. 5, p 71 WORDsearchBible App.

[4] Bruce D. Marshall, “Martin Luther After 500 Years”, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and

Evangelical Theology 27, no. 1, Accessed October 5, 2019, https://go-gale.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=vic_liberty&id=GALE%7CA553166024&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon

[5] Ibid.

[6] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the NASB

[7] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 72

[8] Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell editors, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, (Fortress Press, 2012), ch 2, p 8, Accessed October 5, 2019, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=3380966&ppg=33

[9] Bruce D Marshall, “Martin Luther After 500 Years”

[10] Ibid.

[11] Katarína Valcová, “The Theology of the Worship Service According to Martin Luther”, E-Theologos 3, no. 1 (2012), Accessed October 5, 2019, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1322268452?pq-origsite=summon

[12] Ibid.

[13] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, (Nashville: Wordsearch Academic, 2018), ch. 5, p 74 WORDsearchBible App.

[14] Lull and Russell, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 198

[15] Martin Luther, Address to the German Nobility Concerning Christian Liberty, Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg. Accessed October 5, 2019. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1085290&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[16] Wilhelmina Shaw. “Theology of religions in Martin Luther” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, Volume 73 Number 6 (27 November 2017), Accessed October 5, 2019, https://hts.org.za/index.php/hts/article/view/4882/11279

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bruce D. Marshall, “Martin Luther After 500 Years”, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and

Evangelical Theology 27, no. 1, Accessed October 5, 2019, https://go-gale.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=vic_liberty&id=GALE%7CA553166024&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon

[19] Ibid.

[20] Mark Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, (Nashville: Wordsearch Academic, 2018), ch. 5, p 74 WORDsearchBible App.

[21] Nickens, A Survey of the History of Christianity, 75

On Judgmental Christians and Sexual Ethic

On Judgmental Christians and Sexual Ethic

We live in a fallen, broken world. Some of the evidence of the fall can be seen all around us in man’s hypocrisies, unwarranted judgment of one another, unnatural desires, and lack of true fulfillment. The world around us continually strives to use the hypocrisy of Christians as an attack on the faith, without also examining its own. Culture yells from the rooftops that Christians must bow to the current culture’s desires or be labeled as bigots and judgmental. People have begun to view their bodies as merely playthings to do with as they please and continue to miss out on a truly fulfilling life. There’s a cause for all of this, and it starts with the fall of man in the very beginning. There’s also a great solution, provided out of true love for mankind, Jesus Christ who chose to leave the glory of Heaven and die on the cross in order to bring us back to relationship with Him[1].

The claim that Christians are just a bunch of judgmental bigots and fundamentalists is one that gets thrown around quite regularly. It’s brought up by various groups from atheists to secularists to eastern religions, even the Native Americans[2]. It seems that the view that Christians are judgmental is fairly common, and sadly in some respects it’s true. There are times when Christians in the past, and in the present, have judged others based on some perception that is flawed. This isn’t right, no one should be judging another on perceptions without evidence, and certainly Christians should be beyond even that. However, just because we can admit that some Christians have a judgmental flaw doesn’t mean that all Christians do.

In fact, when placed under the microscope of the experience of many, many of these groups mentioned above, in fact all of them, have individuals who judge others based on perceptions. Sadly, it’s become a part of the human experience to look down on another in judgment. Christians, who claim to be a part of a culture beyond this world, should be beyond this judgmental nature. In fact, adherents to Christianity were commanded by Christ to love the Lord and their neighbor[3], but also warned to avoid judgment of others[4]. Paul expanded on this in 1 Corinthians 5 that it was not his place, nor ours, to judge those outside the fellowship, that was left up to God.[5] The love of Christ, that is not judgmental, is what Christians are supposed to strive to exhibit. His is a love that goes far beyond just being indifferent to another’s problems or struggle. It’s a love that exhibits the very passion of Christ.[6] Christians are expected to be different than others around, but we too struggle.

            The struggle that Christians face is the same that everyone faces.[7] The Christian’s explanation of the source of the struggle goes all the way back to the very beginning and the fall of mankind in the Garden. Christians can trace the trend of culture and society that leads to this level of judgment on all sides as starting with the fall. Because of this fall, all mankind has suffered. This suffering, because of sin, brings about the desire for man to rise up against another in an attempt to be better, or to look down on another in order to feel superior. It’s this fall and subsequent struggle that Christ came to defeat.

            A common struggle in the current postmodern era that mankind, at least in the West, contends with is the idea of sexuality. The current secular view of sexuality views the person as being not much more than just a body with which to do as we all please.[8] As one begins to view the world through this lens, the importance of healthy, monogamous relationships goes out the window. If one only views the body as a toy to be played with, then everything is on the table. From polyamory to homosexuality to pedophilia as well as the idea of just “hooking up”, it’s all allowed.[9] There’s no guide to determine what is acceptable beyond what the current culture or society approves. The lack of an objective guide today may permit these sexual desires, but tomorrow may shift dramatically and deny the very same.

Indeed, Christians do have a clear and concise belief on sexuality. However, the point of this idea and belief is not to limit sexuality but instead to accept it as having a purpose given by God. The belief that God placed man and woman together, both with the necessary anatomy to fulfill each other, enforces this idea of sexuality. In the beginning, when God created man and woman they were called “very good”[10] as they each served and fulfilled the necessary functions to populate the world.[11] Not only was mankind given the functionality to go and populate the world[12], but mankind was made in the image of God[13]. Humanity, therefore, has a higher purpose than just to be born, work, and die. We were created in order to bring God to the world.[14] This understanding leads Christians to understand that the person is more than just a body, but both body and soul. As such, Christians have a higher view of the person.[15] This higher view leads to limits on sexuality that follow in accordance to what God intended in His creation.

            A question that begs an answer would be “does sex truly fulfill all?” This idea that fulfillment comes from sex has its own issues. In just examining the “hook-up” culture, it’s expected within this framework of sexuality that there are no strings attached, no emotions transferred between the parties.[16] But remember that mankind is more than just a body, we do have a mind the center of thinking, a heart the center of emotion, and a soul that longs for more. This fact of being more is what leads to the transfer of emotion and feeling, even when we strive to avoid it. In an article in the Washington Post, a young girl was quoted as being depressed because her “hook-up” had just broken the relationship.[17] There was a transfer of emotion and a desire for fulfillment there. There’s clearly a lack of fulfillment in just the physical acts of sexuality. Just as Christians believe that Jesus came to defeat that sin and struggle, He came as well to bring fulfillment.

            Fulfillment in Christ a form far greater than just the physical desires of our body. Christ’s love, as displayed by His willingness to suffer and die[18], completely satisfies the needs of the whole human person.[19] By following His example[20], being transformed into His likeness[21], and letting His life shine through[22] Christians can experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth[23]. That relationship, far more than physical, goes back to the Garden where man walked with God and God with man.[24] Fulfillment, while not truly experience in sexuality, can be truly experienced in active relationship with God through grace.             As, hopefully, it can be seen there are issues today that still come from the fall in the very beginning. Yes, Christians can seem, and even be, judgmental at times, but they are not alone in this. All mankind is fallen, and some strive to regain that footing by looking down on others in judgment from all walks of life. Sexuality, as expressed today, can be connected to the separation of the body from soul and spirit making it just a plaything with no objective guide. Fortunately, for all mankind there is a solution presented in Jesus Christ who not only defeated the fallen nature of man giving us a path away from sin, but He also provided for us at the same time a path toward God and good relationship with Him.


[1] Philippians 2:5-11

[2] Discussion with Native American Pastor in Window Rock, AZ, June 2016

[3] Matthew 22:37-40

[4] Matthew 7:1

[5] 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

[6] Richard John Neuhaus, “You Are Loving, or You Are Judgmental”, First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 186 (October, 2008), https://go-gale-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&u=vic_liberty&id=GALE%7CA185486557&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon

[7] Romans 3:23

[8] Nancy Pearcy, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism”, Christian Research Journal 34, no. 4 (2011), https://www.equip.org/articles/sex-lies-and-secularism/?fbclid=IwAR3nQPW8eiKUCiQXsDyjV9yDn_POObMpL0RFBaoySWrp0Y_uhN1md-foKOE

[9] Hank Hanegraaff, Truth Matters, Life Matters More, (Nashville: W Publishing, 2019), 209

[10] Genesis 1:31

[11] Pearcy, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism”

[12] Genesis 1:28

[13] Genesis 1:26

[14] John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 68

[15] Pearcy, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism”

[16] Pearcy, “Sex, Lies, and Secularism”

[17] Ibid.

[18] Romans 5:8

[19] 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Peter 1:3, and others

[20] Matthew 16:24

[21] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[22] Galatians 2:20

[23] Luke 17:20-21

[24] Genesis 3:8-9

Jesus Is King – Kanye West

Jesus Is King – Kanye West

I never imagined writing the following, but God has a way of doing things far beyond our own understandings. If you haven’t heard, which would surprise me, Kanye West (yes that Kanye) has released a Christian music album. Several friends on Facebook this weekend commented and posted about it. I had to take the time this morning to listen.

The content of the music reflects a change of heart for Kanye. He is not intending to teach deep theological concepts through this album. Rather he seems to be announcing his newfound faith in Jesus Christ. A “Coffee With Jesus” cartoon I saw makes the point the music is not “Christian”, but very much Kanye. The music has the same style and feel of secular music, but the content, the words, show a deep change of heart.

As I listened on the way in to the office this morning, God spoke in a way that “music” hasn’t done for me in a while. It took my spirit back to the beginning and the joy of Christ’s love. My spirit was moved deeply to pray for him and his walk, far beyond the normal prayer for those who are leading. You know the kind of prayer I’m talking about, the “and we pray for those leading” and that’s it? Not this morning, deep powerful prayer was to be had for Kanye West and his family.

God also prompted me to write and help others see the same. Do you pray for those leading the fight in a deep, powerful, and moving way? Or do you gloss over it? Go and listen to Jesus Is King. When you’re listening remember to let it take you back to the beginning of your walk, which is where he is, and let God teach you. Here’s a link to the full album on Youtube.

Our Response to Kanye

I’ve been reading posts and thoughts about Kanye’s conversion. I have noticed in a few of them people seem to claim it’s fake. Maybe not directly or overtly, but it is implied. I want to call on you to not be that person. Paul tells the Corinthian church that no man can claim “Jesus is Lord” without the Spirit. We need to remember that Kanye is very much declaring Jesus as Lord and King. As such we must, as brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for him.

Jackie made a good point on the way home from church yesterday as we were discussing this. She pointed out how often Christians turn on each other. She said that there are going to be people that are watching Kanye just waiting on him to mess up so they can say “see we told you so”. If that’s you, you’re a part of the problem in the Church today. There I said it.

Our responsibility as believers is to be a family, a community, a single unified body, the very Body of Christ. Paul was clear when he talked about parts of the body claiming to not need others. The body of Christ cannot thrive in the way it did at first if we’re all looking to find the fault in another. It’s time that the Church returns to unity, and Kanye may just be the catalyst.

Next Step

Make time today to pray for Kanye West and family. He has chosen to follow Jesus Christ as his Lord in the middle of a culture that despises Christ. He is going to be attacked for his faith, people are going to spit on him and persecute him. We as believers should be praying for his faith to remain strong. Right now, he has the ability and influence to reach MILLIONS of people. The first song on the album, linked above, has just shy of 1.5 million views since Friday.

Pray that God would make Kanye a beacon of light into the darkness. God can do amazing things with anyone, He may well have chosen Kanye to bring revival back to the world.

In Response

In Response

A friend of mine reached out to me about 6:15 or so this morning with a link to a video on Facebook. Many of you probably haven’t seen this video and I am not going to link it here the language is far beyond what I ever care to hear. It is not something that we should be seeking out, it’s only going to cause issues for the Church in Texarkana. I do however want to respond in love for both the two presenters in the video and the Church at large in Texarkana.

This video seems to be focused on one primary goal, to name names of individual church leaders who have either been caught in sexual sin or are being accused of such. If you listen closely you can hear in the presenter’s voices both sincerity toward the situations in the fact Christians should be better and at the same time a disdain for Christians in general. The presenters seem to have the mindset that all clergy and Christians behave this way, but consider themselves as “holier than thou” pretending that it doesn’t happen. I noticed a few things in the very beginning of the video that stand out as red flags on both sides of the argument. These red flags need to be addressed both in respect to the presenters as well as toward those whom are named and the Church at large. 

The first red flag for me was very early in the video. The called out the “Church” for the many different offerings that are taken. They called out the tithe, the ministers offering (not sure what this is exactly), the gifts offerings, and others. They implied, if not outright stated, that these offerings were compelled upon the people. This is an area the Church needs to address, as difficult as it is to keep the doors open we must ensure that we are following Paul’s guidance to the Corinthians “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.“ (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB) Giving to God is to be done in a manner that is cheerful and not grudgingly or out of necessity. The Church as seen by the presenters seems to ignore this guidance of Paul and has been grabbing at their money. The presenter’s statement of this issue immediately caught my attention in the fact that much of this video was likely to center around the money issue, and in fact it does. Whether the issues presented further in the video are accurate or not does not negate this very first issue. This is a situation that we’ve seen time and again in the Church that the unbelieving world sees us as only out to get more and more money. We must be sure that we’re addressing the needs of the people and allowing God’s grace to “provide sufficiency in all things” (2 Cor 9:8 NASB)

The presenters go on to talk about a lady prophesying to one presenter about her father’s death. She claims that a woman told her that God spoke to her and said her dad would recover and be well on one day and the next her father was dead. She claims the same woman approached her and stated “God knows best.” This single act set this presenter down the road toward abandoning Christianity. This is an ongoing issue that must be dealt with in the Church, and I don’t doubt this presenters statement as I too have seen such. This style of prophecy is taught far too often that if you merely speak it will be so, but if it doesn’t happen you were either wrong or lacked faith either way it’s no big deal. In fact it is a big deal, it’s a very big deal. Prophets of God should be tested and tried (1 John 4). This concept has brought many to the point of allowing false prophets to speak as if they’re speaking for God, and when they’re wrong they’re not declared as false but rather they misheard God or were just wrong. We must be careful when allowing prophecy into the Church, it must be tested and tried before it should ever be considered by the masses.

At this point the presenters go on to start naming names of pastors and leaders who are in sinful situations of cheating, homosexuality, and even pedophilia at one moment. I am not going to relist all of the names here as none of this is verified by us, but I do notice one thing about ALL of these names. They’re each pastors or leaders of African-American churches. Considering the presenters are African-American they are likely focusing on these churches and leaders because of their own history of hurt. They claim that each of these names presented to them are coming from their followers and supporters. While that may be true, the way each of these are presented sound a lot like personal attacks. It’s as if the presenters are trying to get back at the Church for their own hurts in the past and now have a list of names they can call out trying to damage the Church in Texarkana. I’m not stating that I don’t believe any of the claims, because I know well that man is fallen and can sin. I do however believe many, if not all, the statements go beyond the truth, but still contain some semblance of the truth. I know pastors and pastor’s wives who have cheated and been cheated on, it happens. Far too often it happens.

As I said in the beginning many times money is brought up. The presenters ask the question on almost every issue of “people of [such and such church/ministry] did you know the money you’re giving is going to buy [whatever sexual thing they could come up with]?” These presenters most likely were taken for what they view as a substantial amount of money in their past. This hurt has lead them away from the Church as they now view the Church as only focused on money. It has lead them to a point of hatred toward anyone who claims to be a minister or leader in the Church. A hurt however many years ago to these women committed by people claiming the Church has lead them to this point today.

Finally, this video is only one of 4 or 5 videos going around Facebook doing this exact thing. These are all churches and leaders within Texarkana. Whether the accusations are true or false, apparently the leaders have likely not abstained from even the appearance of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:22). It’s entirely possible that each one of these accusations is false, but the accusation is out there. These churches are going to be damaged for the rest of their existence in Texarkana. The Church within Texarkana is going to be damaged. Christians in Texarkana are going to be hurt, not physically hopefully but emotionally and mentally. We in Texarkana’s churches need to be ready for any backlash that we may receive as a result of these videos. Pray for each other, love one another.

Bryan

The Transformed Christian

The Transformed Christian

True Christianity, true belief in Jesus as Lord, true following of Christ’s teaching, and true acceptance of the grace of God stems not just a transaction occurring, but a transformation taking place throughout the life of a believer. It’s this transformation that Paul talks about in Romans chapters 12-15.

Side note: Yes that’s 5 whole chapters, I’ve found that when reading Paul’s letters you don’t just read one chapter at a time, but rather one thought at a time. When they were originally penned there was no chapter markers, no verse markers, these things have been added to make it easier to reference for us. However we often times find ourselves relying on these markers to break apart ideas and sections and as such fail to keep following a thought. You can see this in several places in Romans especially where Paul’s train of thought keeps going long past the original chapter and verse. When you’re reading Paul, or any scripture, you have to make sure that you’re not stopping in the middle of a thought just because that’s where the verse or chapter ends.

Let’s pick up in Romans 12:1. I’m not going to read all of these chapters to you, but I will pick out certain key verses and texts to elaborate on, I do suggest going back and reading all of these at the same time in your own time. I believe that you will get a lot out of it as I have.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

Many of you already know these verses by heart I’m sure, but let’s break them down real quick as we press on toward the goal. If you’re a keen reader you will have already noticed that Paul starts this chapter with a connecting word “therefore” ουν a word translated often as therefore or because of, in many use cases it was a marker of the continuation of a previous line of thought: “As I was saying…” So given this continuation you probably want to add chapter 11 to your assigned reading. In chapter 11 Paul explains how the rejection of the Jews has allowed for the Gentiles to be grafted into the tree of Christ. He goes through several times explaining how grateful we should be for the grace of God, and so because of that grace, that grafting in onto the tree, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We’re able to do this to God not because we’re perfect but because of His mercy towards us.

This first verse seems to be have a few key points the first being physical, that not just our hearts and minds should be given to God but our very bodies. The second being living, our sacrifice wasn’t just one time and it’s done, it should be a constant sacrifice. Our sacrifice should be an expression of our living and continued faith. This sacrifice should be holy, it should be set apart from the world towards God. It is a picture of the heavenly worship that is constantly going on (see Isaiah and Hebrews). We offer this sacrifice not just in the offering of it, but by following the very next verse that we are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed and different. When many think of being conformed to the world, they immediately jump to the obvious sins and troubles in the world, but Paul here is talking much deeper than that. To be conformed to the world yes is sin and strife, but it’s also to pursue the world’s values and pleasures. We all know someone or have have known someone so worried about making the most money in the neighborhood because they want to drive the best cars, have the biggest house, send their kids to the nicest schools, but this is all just worldly desire. There’s many more that we could discuss, but I want to get to the heart of this verse, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What in the world does that mean? In this verse the mind νους is more than just the thought process or the conscience but rather everything that makes you, you. So the way you think, your worldview, your habits, you character, your personality, literally everything that makes you unique. Your walk with Christ should have your mind νους being renewed daily, transformed daily to be more and more like Him. If it’s not daily changing and growing then there’s something wrong with your walk with Christ.

So how does one go about this transformation by renewing one’s mind? First you have to know where you currently stand. Are you perfect? If yes, you can leave because there’s nothing more I can show you, if not let’s look at some of the attributes and characteristics of a Christian according to Paul. As I said earlier Paul’s thought process often carries on well beyond our section headings, chapter markers and verses, this is very much one of those sections. Look at verses 3-5

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

You can see here first off Paul reminds the believer no to think more highly of themselves than they should. Pride can be a major stumbling block for a believer, in Rome or in the US. It’s easy to begin to think and act a certain way as life goes your way, but Paul here (who had every reason to think of himself higher due to his social status) reminds the reader to think sensibly. He also begins to point out here that as a believer we’re no longer individuals, but a singular part of the greater Body of Christ. This isn’t the only place he talks about being a part of the body or community, but it’s definitely a clear statement here. He says that we are one body in Christ and individually members of one another meaning that if one falls we all fall and when one rises we all rise. As members of one another we should strive to lift each other up that all may rise with them. He then goes on to talk about gifts given by grace that if we have a gift it should be used in accordance to our faith.

One of the more difficult sections, especially in today’s world starts at verse 9

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

For in so doing

you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Notice here that so far there have been very few “do nots”, Paul isn’t writing a rule book for life full of all the things we can’t do, but rather he seems to be writing an instruction book for all the things we should do as believers. Love without hypocrisy, detest evil, cling to that which is good. These are simple “hey a believer looks like this” kind of instructions that we should all be reading and learning from on a very regular basis. What’s more is Paul continues this train for several, several, paragraphs. Let’s jump to 13:8

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments:

Do not commit adultery;

do not murder;

do not steal;

do not covet;

and whatever other commandment — all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Do you see a bit of a common thread here? Love. Love should flow from a believer like the rivers of the Amazon flow into the ocean. There should be so much love flowing from us that we change currents around us and people begin to wonder what is so different about that person. All of the law is summed up in one word, Love, Jesus summed up the law into two statements, Love God, Love your neighbor. Brother David mentioned it briefly this morning that God loves everyone, where they are at, who they are, and desires that all come to Him. We all know that not everyone is going to turn to Christ, but we are called to love them anyway. Jump with me to chapter 14, Paul returns to the “you’re one family, one body” idea when he begins to talk about how we are to behave around other believers.

Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him…Romans 14:1-3

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Romans 14:13-15

This chapter has caused many discussions around our house on what exactly does it mean to put a stumbling block in someone’s way? I think the key element here is that Paul is reminding us as one body that we are to look out for each other as much as ourselves. We’re supposed to be individuals of each other. A great example of this is Augustine (I think) who wrote in one of his many many books that when he would go to Milan they would fast on Tuesdays and so he would fast on Tuesday, but when he went to Rome they fasted on Thursdays (or whatever days) so he would fast on Thursdays. His point, and I believe Paul’s point here is that instead of tearing down a believer over something so small he would join them and celebrate the Lord. What good does does it do to tear someone down over something as small as what day they fast or whether they eat meat or not. Is it not much more important to celebrate the Lord? At the same time, Paul tells us not to put a stumbling block out there, if someone says they’re fasting on Tuesdays don’t invite them over to watch you eat a steak. Be considerate of each other and remember that building each other up lifts us all. Paul once again returns to love as the key. We are to walk in love every day. We are to consider others before ourselves, lift others up, pray for others, strengthen others, pursue peace with others, praise God with others. Our lives are no longer our own, individual, lives, but rather a life as a part of the Body of Christ. Renew your mind today, go and remember that Paul gave us a full instruction list of things to do as a believer. Go and read all of these chapters 11-15 together in one sitting and see how Paul told the Roman church how to be transformed and be a different creature than the rest of the world.

Forgiven

Forgiven

Think back to the moment you realized that Jesus was God, that He died in your place for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, why you changed your mind and believed? Do you remember that feeling of burden and weight being lifted off of you? That is the feeling of forgiveness. You had been carrying a burden your whole life up to that point, a burden that only after it’s been lifted do many realize that they don’t have to carry it. The moment you decided to leave it at the cross with Christ He traded his burden, the one that’s easy and light, and took that burden of yours and carries it for you. Notice that I said you didn’t have to carry that burden. Let’s look first at 1 Peter 3:18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,

the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.”

Jesus died once for all sins, it doesn’t say that He died for just your sins or my sins, it doesn’t say He died for the Jews sins, He died for ALL. The burden that you carried, and some still carry, was paid for nearly 2,000 years ago, we just had to let it go and accept God’s grace and forgiveness. Let’s look at another passage, of several, that say this same thing Hebrews 9:24-26 “For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Christ entered into the Heavenly temple and made the payment for the sins of everyone who was, is, and will be. From the moment Christ said “It is finished”, your bill was paid. You just had to accept it.

So what does that mean for our daily lives today?

For many of us we struggle day to day with some sin or another. The issue is that this struggle often times hinders us from serving as we should, but what we have to do is remember each day that we’re already forgiven of these issues! Does that mean we should just keep on sinning? Of course not, Paul was pretty clear in Romans 6 (a few times) that even though grace may abound when we sin it doesn’t mean that we can just keep on sinning. He even went so far as to tell the Roman church “not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Let go of the chains that so easily entangle us, when Christ set us free I don’t believe that He intended for us to go back and bind ourselves up again. We often times decide that these chains are where we belong and as such go back and pick them up. Let them go! Leave the chains where the belong, at the foot of the cross and serve God today!

When we finally recognize and begin to live like we’re truly forgiven then we can let them go, we can run the race with joy and gladness, we can be that new creation that we’re meant to be. Do you recognize the forgiveness of God in yourself? Do you still bind yourself with the chains of the past? Give them up, place them at the cross and leave them there where they were paid for long ago. When you do recognize a sin in your life, it’s not to be ignored, but don’t let it bind you up and keep you from serving as you should. Go and be the new creation that you are! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

If you haven’t reached a point in your life where you recognize that Jesus is Lord, you’re carrying a burden that hasn’t been yours to carry since Calvary. Stand up today and declare that Jesus is Lord, believe on Him and let him have your burden and free you from the chains that bind you!

New Beginning

New Beginning

New growth

I’m sure you’ve all figured it out, but I struggle to keep this thing going… Well starting today I’m going to do my absolute best to post a little something at least a couple of times each week.

I like the photo I picked for this post because it’s such a representation of what life is, what growth is, and what this page is supposed to be. Every idea begins as a seed. Whether it was planted by someone else directly or indirectly, it was planted at some point in the past. Life is full of seeds in the daily routine, our weekly trips to the store (or daily if you’re like me…I always forget something), they’re present in our conversations with friends, and they’re vital to our growth. What’s more as they begin to grow and take root they bring about change. Change in our thought process, change in our actions, and change in our beliefs. If we recognize that our day to day lives are full of seeds planted in ourselves, how much more should we recognize that every action or word to another is also planting, or in some cases watering, a seed.

Paul explains that the gospel is kind of like a seed in that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” – 1 Cor 3:6-8

In our day to day walk are we planting gospel seeds, are we watering gospel seeds planted by others, are we watching God cause growth among our friends, family, neighbors? It is our responsibility as believers to lead others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of an end to sin and a new beginning in relationship with the Father. Plant and water the good seeds in others! Notice here however that Paul didn’t say that he planted, Apollos watered, Matthew came along and pulled roots, John did the pruning. No he simple says that they planted and watered and God handled the rest. It’s God’s job to bring about growth by removing the weeds and dead limbs, not ours. It’s our job to plant and water the seeds in others. But it’s also our job to look at ourselves and our own “garden”.

Before you really dig into what seeds you’re planting in others, it would be worth asking which seeds are you watering within yourself? There’s all the seeds that we have planted of goodness, kindness, love, and patience that we see and witness in those around us that get planted, but at the same time there’s all the seeds of sin and darkness that come from those around us all the same. Are you allowed seeds of goodness to get planted, watered, and letting them grow by spending time in environments, with people, taking in media (books, movies, TV, etc) that bring about those seeds? Or are you letting seeds of darkness and sin get planted and sprout up by spending time in environments, with people, taking in the wrong media?

Relationships

Relationships

The Bible study group I’ve been a part of on Sunday nights likes to dig deep into topics. We’ve been discussing Heaven over the last couple of weeks. We’ve talked about “where are believers who die today?”, “what did Jesus mean when He talked about Paradise with the thief on the cross?”, and “what about Lazarus and the Rich man, what was that parable or actual events?”. Well this next week we’ll be discussing relationships in Heaven. I emailed some thoughts to our fearless leader, and he pointed out that I should write about it here. He knows that I’ve struggled this last couple of months to get something written here, so I think it was a ploy to get me back and running. Either way, I’m glad he did. I don’t think I’ll go into much detail into my thoughts yet, as they’re still floating in my head, but I think this may be something I write on a couple of times this week.

Relationships in Heaven

I know one topic that will be discussed is Jesus telling the Sadducees that after the resurrection there will be no marriage. I sat down and did some reading from various authors on this topic this evening. I have to agree with them, Jesus is pretty plain in His statement. So the question becomes, “why?” Why is there no marriage in Heaven?

My question first is “Why is there marriage on earth?” Two things come to mind, one Adam and Eve were each given a purpose, but at the same time given a purpose together. Adam was to tend the garden (or orchard depending on your choice of texts), Eve was to be his helper. Together they were supposed to populate and subdue the earth having dominion over it. Individuals are given a purpose. Couples are given a purpose. What one man cannot accomplish alone, the couple together often can. We’re to help each other complete our tasks, and together fulfill our purpose. Another reason that comes to mind is that marriage is a representation of the relationship between us and Christ. Our first love, our first priority in this world should be toward Christ. He sacrificed Himself so that we could be redeemed to Him. He paid the price for our sins, so that we could walk in relationship with Him. Our marriages on this earth are supposed to represent that same love that Christ has for us. We’re supposed to love our spouse the way that Christ loves us, treat them how Christ treats us, and lead as men in the way that Christ leads us.

So, that doesn’t really answer the whole “why is there no marriage in Heaven” issue does it? No, but it does give us some insight. One of the early church fathers, St. John Chrysostom, wrote a Letter to a Young Widow (that’s actually the title of it) where he explains several things to her relating to relationships and Heaven, but I want to pull out of his thoughts one thing in particular. In Heaven we have no need for friends, family, lovers because we’re with God. The most intimate relationship possible, and we’ll experience for eternity. That doesn’t mean that we won’t know each other. Quite the opposite, we’ll have a deep intimate love for each other that finds it’s source in the Father’s love. We’ll have the same love for each other that God has for each of us.

Insight

So where do I get that my thoughts on earthly marriage are insightful? Let’s look at CS Lewis first, then I’ll explain. CS Lewis wrote in one of his many writings about a young boy learning of sexual activities and asks “do they get chocolate too?” (paraphrased). You see in this boy’s mind could only comprehend that chocolates were the key. He had no idea. And so it is with us, we fixate on the things we know and so struggle with understanding how something could be better. It’s hard for us (if not impossible) to imagine a life, one without sin, where our love for each other runs as deep as the Father’s love for us. Because of this we struggle to figure out why, “why can’t I be married to my wife”, “why can’t we help populate the new world”, “what do you mean we won’t live together”. You can have chocolate in your relationship, but that’s not the key. You can have friendships, spouses, family, but in Heaven the love will be and intimate love straight from the Father and our relationship will be with Him and to others through Him. You see, as long as we continue to place this life’s greatness on Heaven, we can’t begin to understand how great Heaven really can be.

Application

I’m going to try and offer some application in my blog posts going forward, not sure how well it will work out, but I’ll try!

We Christian couples like to say that “Christ is our first love!”, but then we go on and live our lives as we do. How many of us honestly truly place Christ as our head relationship? I’m not going to say that it’s OK to place another relationship ahead of your’s and Christ’s, but I can say it’s easy to. It’s hard for us to, on a daily basis, say and truly live out “Christ is my spouse, His needs come first”. So I’m asking you today, do you live like Christ is your spouse? Maybe as an application exercise spend some time examining your relationships with others, and then look at your relationship with Christ. Which one do you give more time and effort?