Theology

Do You Struggle With The Concept Of Having To Fear The Lord? We Have A Patch For That!

fear-of-the-lord-2_dxo-1

Our fall Bible study has been centered on the Book of Proverbs and, a few weeks ago, the term ‘fear of the Lord’ came up for discussion. We examined the mystery of ‘fearing God’ as it often elicits thoughts of, or concerns about, a God who supposedly requires that we be frightened of Him. Our pastor, and facilitator of the study, wanted us to delve into what it means to ‘fear the Lord’ as it seems to stand in direct opposition to our being told that God is love. Is there a paradox here for the way we are to live – either ‘in fear mixed with love’ or ‘in love mixed with fear’ and do such dispositions affect how we feel about God?

As part of a New Year’s commitment, I hope to read more of the Bible and spend less time Internet-ing. Just yesterday, I came upon an interesting passage in Jeremiah that got me thinking about the topic at hand. I hope my personal discovery regarding this proves to be valuable to anyone who has struggled with the whole ‘fear of the Lord’ issue or teachings surrounding it.

Before I present the Bible passage, I’d like you to consider something rather interesting. Every good attribute of God that we as humans share – love, gentleness, kindness, self-restraint, etc. – is considered the ‘fruit’ of a spiritual life. But where does fear fit into all of this? Fear is not considered to be a fruit of the Spirit, so what is it to the believer and why do we need it? 1

Fear is interesting in that: a) God does not manifest or experience it; and b) it is a reactive response to an outside stimulus, something we share with the animal world, even.

If God doesn’t possess fear as a characteristic, then why does He regard it as a good thing for us (as per the writers of Scripture) and why would it make us more Godly?

Well let’s think about another good thing God doesn’t need. Repentance. God has no need to apologize for anything (although some prominent atheists would disagree). But without repentance (a change of mind especially concerning the will of God) we are clearly told that no human being can access God. And so, if repentance (like fear) isn’t an attribute of God, then what is it?

Fear and repentance both seem to be presented to us in the Bible as a reflexive action, harmonized with our response to God’s promptings or influence.

In the physical world, reflexes and responses can be honed and sharpened. Watch any budding martial artist working hard at their craft and you’ll see that come into play in a matter of time. Is it the same for those of us whose lives are focused on spiritual development? Can responding to everything life throws at us with a reflexive ‘Godly fear’ be of any benefit to His children? Will it have us thinking better of God’s character or disposition toward us in the long run?

And now onto the passage that shows us why fear of the Lord is not only important, but essential for living well.

” (36) … this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: (37) I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. (38) They will be my people, and I will be their God. (39) I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (40) I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (41) I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”
Jeremiah 32: 36-41 (NIV translation)


According to the above Scripture, it is only after God gives us a ‘singleness of heart and action’ that Godly fear can even enter into our lives. Further, the fruit or benefit resulting from this particular fear is, “that all will go well for us and our children”. Fear is, if we interpret this text correctly, a reactive or reflexive response to God that not only gives his people peace of mind but extends this promise to those we treasure dearly!

God then compounds the importance of fear in verse 40 by showing us that after something incredible (i.e., salvation) has been gifted to us, as well as promising to continually do good things for us, He will ‘inspire us’ to fear Him.

Why?

So that we will never turn away from Him.

This healthy Godly fear is like His word: ‘God-inspired’. It is furthermore something you cannot actively develop or appreciate in your own strength. This fear is more like a gift (once again similar to repentance) that is infused into our souls to keep us on the straight-and-narrow where, to put it simply, it is a safer and better place to be. Is it so wrong for Godly fear to hold prominence in our thoughts and actions so that all will go well for us and so that we may continually recognize, as the Psalmist said, “It is good to be near God.”? 2

I think it’s important, at this point, to distinguish between Godly fear and worldly fear.

Worldly fear is primal – programmed into our genetic code – and can result in one’s being frozen like a deer in the headlights or in the fight-or-flight response. It can prompt chivalry in some and cowardice in others and is rarely viewed as a desirable thing.

But Godly fear is fruit-of-the-Spirit producing. The more of it we have, the better (and more immediate) our response is to the moral quandaries presented to us by the world we live in and the better our ability to see our way through the many challenges we will face in our lifetime. In conjunction with holy fear, we are given oceans of hope that are fed by the springs of God’s many great promises – promises we’d be fools to forget or ignore lest we lose out on all the benefits God has already showered on us, His children.

Preacher George MacDonald once said, “A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” That’s very true, but our faith is not yet perfect. We are ‘in process’. We live in the ‘now and not yet’ because of our frail humanity. Fear of the Lord then, in its purest form, can do nothing but evoke our deep love and utmost respect for the God who rescues us from darkness every day we find ourselves still breathing.

Truly, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’ 3

© 2017 Flagrant Regard

1 See Book of Jude, Chap. 1, vrs. 23, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 5, vrs. 11
2 Book of Psalms Chap. 73, vrs. 28
3 Book of Proverbs Chap. 9, vrs. 10

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Spiritual, Spirituality, Struggle, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TRUE COLORS: What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

In light of two recent events; one being the declaration by mayor John Tory that June 2016 is ‘Pride Month’ in Toronto, and the other, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hoisting the pride flag at the house of commons in Canada’s capital just over a week ago, it’s understandable why traditional or conservative Christians are a tad ticked off.

Most evangelicals and Roman Catholics continue to maintain that homosexuality or same-sex partnering/parenting is not God’s default design for men and women and believe it to be an outworking of the sinful nature. And because of that, they are annoyed at how much attention the pride movement gets. We’ve gone from years of having an entire week dedicated to pride celebrations to a month long event and hey, the way things are headed, 2017 is setting up to be Pride year and 2020 ‘ll be ‘Pride Decade’.

Since the early days of gay activism, the Pride flag has stood as the primary token for anyone celebrating the movement that declares ‘we are separate and different in our sexuality and are not going to stay quiet about it’. The proponents of the movement claim it’s about the freedom to love whomever they want, but let’s be real here – it’s about being fully open in regards to what kind of sex you want to have and with whom.

Stretching from the last quarter of the 20th century and up to the present day, conservative Christians have been angered that the pride movement ‘stole the symbol of the rainbow’ from God or God’s word and that their using it in their parades or as decorations for their front porch was blasphemous and highly disrespectful of the religious community.

But is that really what’s happened? Is the Pride flag even what we think it is?

Here’s a little bit of history:

According to Wikipedia, gay icon Harvey Milk encouraged homosexual activist Gilbert Baker to come up with a symbol of pride for the gay community. His original design was a flag consisting of 8 colors, starting with pink at the top (not a big surprise there!). Apparently, due to fabric unavailability, pink was dropped from the design between 1978 and 79. The flag’s design was left with the 7 colors that corresponded with nature during the formation of a rainbow or when pure light is refracted through a clear glass prism. Those colors are, in case you wondered,

Red Orange Yellow, Green Blue Indigo and Violet.

But then something interesting happened. By 1979, the Gay Pride Flag (as it was referred to back then – there was no LGBTQIA) was reduced from 7 colors to 6! Indigo and turquoise (turquoise is not a color natural to rainbows, per se) were dropped in favor of Royal Blue.

Since then, this 6 color combination has represented the pride movement and has been presumed by most, to represent the rainbow – an atmospheric phenomena and symbol that the God of Judaism gave Noah after the flood. For those rare few of you who don’t know the history – the flood – a world-wide event referenced by many cultures throughout the planet via writings or oral legends – was a real event. The Jewish or Old Testament take on it was that the earth was full of wickedness and had to be purged via a one-off deluge that would wipe out humanity save for one family that would afterward be responsible for repopulating the planet with hopefully less evil than had gone before them. At the end of the flood, and at God’s bidding, the rainbow appeared in the sky to Noah – patriarch of the rescued family – and represented the promise made by God to never fully waterboard humanity again.

Even though this information is out there, there will nonetheless be a lot of religious folk who get bent out of shape whenever they see the pride flag, believing their cherished faith or perceived symbols of their faith (namely the rainbow) are being flouted.

Maybe a different perspective here will help.

ONE: The pride flag doesn’t represent a real rainbow! It isn’t reflective of what occurs normally and naturally in the physical world. It is a banding of 6 – NOT 7! – colors that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s promises or the bible.

TWO: Even if the flag WERE a real rainbow and LGBTQIA folks were deliberately ripping it off from the bible to annoy conservative Christians who don’t acknowledge the pride movement or who don’t wish to give ascent to their sexual proclivities, they shouldn’t be surprised!

Committed Christians are told in Scripture that:

“At the end of time, some will ridicule the faithful and follow their lusts to the grave.” These are the men among you—those who divide friends, those concerned ultimately with this world, those without the Spirit.”
Jude, v.8

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
1 John, chap. 3, v.13

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
2 Timothy, Chap. 3, v.12

Bible-adherent Christians should expect to be called out or persecuted by those who don’t like them because of their stance on the Truth of God’s word and the healthy, holy direction God wants His children – his people – to follow.

If you are a conservative Christian who is annoyed by the pride-Nazis (those in-your-face proponents of the alternative-sexuality lifestyle) and their influence on society or the pride movement parades – grow a backbone!

Throw a heterosexual pride parade, write a blog-post about your beliefs or write your local politician stating that you are not standing with them if they decide to ride the Tranny-float down the main drag in your fine city. There are probably many things you can do but kvetching isn’t really one of them. Nonetheless, if you’re going to speak out against or attempt to hamper the pride movement’s influence through legal, worthwhile means, remember this one thing: GOD HELP YOU if you don’t love with all your heart every single person – gay or straight – that wants to attack you for what you believe and WHO you believe in.

* We’re told to BLESS those who persecute us – ‘Bless and do not curse’. Love and be ready to serve any and every LGBTQIA soul who does not love you and your reward in the next life is great! Don’t forget that.

Lastly – relax when it comes to the rainbow. It’s still yours … all 7 colors. It was never really taken from you. It’s still there echoing God’s promise to not super-soak humanity in a watery death. I think it’s more important that we realize that through Jesus, we all have been offered the waters of life. Waters that if imbibed of deeply and consistently – will alter us from the inside out and ensure His true colors come shining through – in our every word and every action.

© 2016 Flagrant Regard

* Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chap. 12, Verse 14 &
   Luke’s Gospel, Chap. 6, Verses 28-36

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Didactic, Homosexuality, Human Sexuality, Liberalism, Religion, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“PROMINENT GOVERNOR TERRORIZED BY CHRISTIAN PREACHER”

200px-Antonius_Felix

Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and saviour of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defence.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publically, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or provide a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honour in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favourably toward him had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will remain there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Integrity, Liberalism, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Reasons We Can Be Sure Jesus Christ Wasn’t/Is Not A Zombie

Nope!

… yeah, uh no, not exactly …

This post goes out to the somewhat supercilious fellow on Reddit who expressed how proud he was of his young son who, completely uncoached, came to the conclusion that if the historical Jesus had risen from the dead (as Christians assert) then He was in fact a zombie.

There seems to be a growing fascination and/or association with Jesus’ resurrection and zombie culture. It’s time to put this silliness to bed.

Without further ado, here now are the

TOP TEN REASONS WE CAN BE SURE JESUS CHRIST WASN’T/IS NOT A ZOMBIE

1. When a person has been turned into a zombie, angels do not materialize to herald his reanimation with the words, ‘Do not fear – He is risen!’

2. Jesus had a hearty hankerin’ for fish after His resurrection and not disciple flesh or brains.

3. Jesus easily left behind the burial linens He was tightly wrapped in after He rose from the dead and somehow managed to roll away a nearly two-ton stone that sealed His tomb. On the other hand, zombies can be restrained with straight-jackets (if you can suit them up without being bitten) or be easily held in place by a length of chain.

4. Jesus was actually worshipped by people after He appeared alive to those He knew. Zombies aren’t worshipped by those they knew as they’re too busy fleeing from them in terror or scrambling for a 22.

5. Jesus had to prove to the disciples He was not a ghost (but rather, a physical reality) by showing them His scarred hands and feet. Zombies often have little left of their hands and feet after some advanced rotting has taken place, which pretty much establishes they’re more dead-ish than alive-ish.

6. When the risen Jesus appeared before people, He spoke very articulately whereas a zombie’s vocabulary is generally limited to, “Uuuaaarggghh!”

7. Immediately following Jesus’ proclamation of the ‘great commission’, He was taken up into the heavens fully intact. Zombies, however, are ‘taken out of commission’ by bullets/axes to the head and end up splattered all over the ground.

8. After Jesus’ resurrection, both an angel and Jesus Himself gave advance notice that He’d be popping up in nearby Galilee. Zombies fail to provide advance notice for anything – they are rude and pop up unannounced at all hours.

9. Jesus returned to life in a very-much-alive human body in order to display God’s incredible power that will one day be fully extended to all believers as a reward for their faithfulness. Zombies are considered ‘the living dead’ and have nothing to look forward to but further putrefaction or a coup de grâce that ends whatever ‘life’ it is they’ve been enjoying.

10. Several highly intelligent researchers who investigated the resurrection of Jesus started out as skeptics but became believers. No amount of investigation, as of yet, has been able to confirm the existence of zombies as depicted in popular cinema/television, ever!

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

1. Matthew 28:5-6 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:6 /
2. Luke 24:41-43 / John 21:9-14
3. Matthew 28:2 / Mark 16:4,6 / Luke 24:2,12 / John 20:5-7
4. Matthew 28:9,17 / Luke 24:52 / John 20:28
5. Luke 24:36-40
6. Luke 24:13-30, 38-49 / John 21:12-23
7. Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15,19 / Luke 24:51
8. Matthew 28:7 / Mark 16:7 /
9. Luke 24:36-43 / John 20:17,27 / John 20:31 / Acts 1:9-10 / Philippians 3:18-21 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 / Revelation 1:18, 21:1-7
10. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Frank Morrison, J.Warner Wallace, Nabeel Quereshi, Philip Vander Elst, Alister E. McGrath

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Religion, Theology, zombies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

On Baking Gay Cakes

In a recent news article, the proprietors of a bakery in Ireland, wanting to remain faithful to their conservative Christian values, refused service to a homosexual couple who wanted the words “Support Gay Marriage” inscribed onto a cake to be featured at their upcoming wedding ceremony.

The case is being thought of as a discrimination issue and was even brought before Prime Minister Cameron by a conservative member of the British parliament who wanted to defend the rights of religious individuals who aren’t comfortable with supporting something (in this case, homosexual marriage) that they don’t condone.

This is nothing new. Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a wedding photographer in New Mexico who, on religious grounds, refused to use her camera to capture the festivities at a lesbian wedding. The decision was upheld this past April when the photographer’s appeal was rejected.

Where should Christians stand on these issues of service provision to those we don’t agree with?

When this kind of thing first popped up some years back in the media (and in thanks, no doubt, to some very outspoken proponents of gay rights), we were of the mindset that Christians rights and freedoms were being taken away and that we should all take a firm stand for every believer’s right to not compromise on their faith or faith’s tenets, regardless of whether such views fit with the mainstream ideas proliferating society.

But after thinking this through, we believe that ‘violations of freedom of speech and/or beliefs’ are indeed at stake, but in the reverse. If ANY proprietor (and in particular, a Christian one) refuses to provide ANYONE service and/or products when such services/products are an expected part of a business owner’s offerings, they are acting in a discriminatory manner and violating the core principle of Jesus’ teaching – namely, loving your neighbour as yourself.

Picture for a moment that you own and operate a clothing store in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business – whether you want to or not. One day, into your shop walks ‘Roger the wife-abuser’ … a nasty dude. He comes in and cavalierly asks, “Hey, I’m here to pick up some more ‘wife-beater’ shirts! Whatcha got?” (Please don’t go bananas at this point thinking I’m comparing gay marriage proponents or homosexuals to wife-beaters. I am simply using this illustration to hold up for scrutiny the concept of ‘Christian tolerance’.)

We used to call 'em undershirts ...

We used to call ’em undershirts …

What are you gonna tell Roger, exactly? What will you say? Would you look at him disgustedly and repine, “I’m sorry, but since you referred to the shirts you want to purchase as ‘wife-beaters’ I refuse to sell any product to you”. Shouldn’t you, as a Christian, simply sell Roger the sleeveless shirts and try to open up a conversation with him in order to try and share with him the love of Jesus and set an example through your life, conduct and, if the opportunity arises, your beliefs?

If a gay couple comes into your bakery and wants to buy a cake and have you decorate it with the words, “Adam and Steve Forever”, why should you refuse to serve them? You have no say in what ANY customer is going to do with your products/services – including the icing sitting on your shelves that you are going to whip up and pipe onto the  top of a cake at your customer’s request.

By making, decorating and selling the cake, you’re not saying to the world, “I now support gay marriage”, just as you wouldn’t be in support of wife beating because you sell some unpleasant dude some sleeveless men’s shirts that have come to be associated with some (perceived or actual) evil.

You are not baking a ‘gay cake’.

A bakery is a place where the buying public has a reasonable expectation that the baker is there to whip up some eggs, flour and some sugar into a cake and then decorate it with words made out of icing and sell the entire package. You may not (or may) agree with gay marriage but your cake-making and associated script-writing on the cake does NOT represent your beliefs. If you feel you mustdo or say something, you might mention that you don’t necessarily agree with the words you had to squeeze onto a 12″ diameter dessert product. But if you do not provide the service that your industry promises to for the public at large, then you ARE most likely in violation of your country’s constitution and DEFINITELY acting in a discriminatory manner. And that is not very Christian at all, is it?

“But where should we draw the line?” you may ask.

Okay. Let’s say a person comes into your bakery and asks you to inscribe, in bright pink icing, “John Smith, owner of Smith’s bakery, supports gay marriage.” At this point, we have an issue. If you happen to be named John Smith and own the bakery that bears your name and this request is made of you, you may THEN invoke your withdrawal of service. If you don’t happen to support gay marriage, you shouldn’t be forced to say you do by the government or by anyone. Period.

Admittedly, the whole ‘separation of church and state’ conundrum surrounding gay marriage is a far more serious matter. Should a minister of a denomination that is wholly and only in support of traditional marriage be forced to officiate a gay wedding? No. Currently and generally speaking, the religious community does possess rights and freedoms associated with practicing their faith. And if by practicing their faith it means they don’t support the marriage of same-sex couples, then they should be allowed to carry on as they see fit. Would a minister be forced to marry anyone he didn’t want to in any other given situation? No. If the gay community doesn’t like ‘that denomination’ or ‘that minister’ for their lack of support, then simply don’t shop with them – just as a heterosexual male seeking a mate wouldn’t opt to spend money on dinner or drinks at a place called, “Dykes-R-Us Restaurant & Bar” .

As for your trade or profession, brothers and sisters in Christ, if your business is to provide a service, do so in full and don’t discriminate. By doing so, you will actually be fulfilling the law of Christ. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that ‘good Christian people’ thought they were fine and cultured for keeping ‘coloured folk’ from getting on white-only buses. And if that seems ultra-draconian in today’s light, what will baking cakes for gay couples seem like 50 years from now?

© Flagrant Regard 2014

“So no matter what your task is, work hard. Always do your best as the Lord’s servant, not as man’s, because you know your reward is the Lord’s inheritance. You serve the Lord, the Anointed One, and anyone who does wrong will be paid his due because He doesn’t play favorites.” Colossians 3:23-25 (The Voice Translation)

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 (The Voice Translation)

“May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.” Galatians 6:9-10 (The Voice Translation)

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (New International Version)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Homosexuality, Religion, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pope Francis Is A False Teacher … Seriously?

 

tim-challies-big

A Facebook friend posted a link to a recent article by well-known Christian blogger Tim Challies. The essay is one in a series dealing with false teachers in the Christian church.

I have read Challies’ work before and have always found his writing smartly-provocative and worthwhile.

Till today.

THE PROBLEM
A few short hours ago I learned that Mr. Challies believes Pope Francis, head of the entire Roman Catholic Church, is a false teacher or a heretic. This of course implies that Francis is not a bona fide Christian and, by extension of this, neither are his denomination’s millions of members.

For an individual supposedly committed to sharing the Gospel of Christ and God’s love, Mr. Challies just shot himself in the proverbial foot the same way fundamentalist hard-liners have been doing for hundreds of years.

A bit of background on Mr. Challies: he is a pastor asociated with Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto and has been blogging away for over a decade. He’s written three Christian books and states he is, “Christian, Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and Unfinished”. Unfinished? According to him, on his About Mepage, this means, “Though I find great beauty in traditional Protestantism, I realize that in some areas traditions may not be fully Scriptural. Where that is the case I am eager to change as the Spirit convicts me through the Word.”

Let’s start there – Mr. Challies’ ‘traditions’. His theological leanings may be one of those traditions that could use a healthy dose of re-examining.

Here’s the article in question:
THE FALSE TEACHERS: POPE FRANCIS

In summary, it’s a diatribe against Roman Catholic doctrine; Pope Francis is simply used as a prop for his platform and the Catholic Church is wrong about everything. The Pope is the messenger of – not just the poster-boy for – the religion.

To his credit, Challies states, “Those within the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced salvation (and I sincerely believe there are those who have) have done so despite the church’s official teaching, not through it.” Having come from a Catholic background myself and after meeting a munificence of souls in love with Jesus, via several church/prayer-meeting settings, I couldn’t agree more. It barely has to be stated that in any church, Protestant or Catholic, you’ll find fakes or non-followers; as Larry Norman once said, “God’s not fooled by those who believe and those who say they do.” Mr. Challies is also correct in stating that there are still many old-world traditions and practices (known as catechism) that deny (or at best, fail to fully endorse) the all-sufficient grace of God in favour of works-plus-faith-based salvation, and granted, that is not a good thing.

But that’s not what’s wrong with Tim Challies piece. The problem is that he has called out one man – Pope Francis – as a ‘false teacher’ and uses very little evidence to back up such a serious claim. How serious? Based on his strict fundamentalist leanings, the next step (not taken – gee, I wonder why?) would have been for Challies to imply that Pope Francis is bound for hell, will suffer eternal punishment and is taking a ton of folks there with him. Wow.

Now, I’d like to take the opportunity to first state that I would have appreciated the chance to address Mr. Challies’ thoughts directly on his blog, but apparently ‘comments are closed’. Bit of a chicken—– move, if you ask me, but just maybe he has some comment-limitation policies in place so ‘my apologies’ if this is the case.

WHAT DOES THE POPE SAY? (No, not a new song by Elvys)
I have to ask outright here: Mr. Challies, have you yourself ever heard a definitive statement from Pope Francis that denies the complete and total saving work of Christ? Have you heard him advocate that the Catholic Church, “officially damns those who believe anything else”? Don’t think so, sir. Therein lies the problem. You yourself quoted Francis as stating, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying—and this is the fundamental thing—that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” Seems very unjudgy to us. Looking at it another way, the pope himself doesn’t appear to fully subscribe to his religion’s subset beliefs! And if this is the case for the head of the R.C. church, how likely is it that your average church-attending Catholics also aren’t apt to buy into every doctrine tossed out during catechism class?

The remainder of the Pope Francis’ quote found on Challies blog appears to be a fairly close paraphrasing of Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically a few verses found in Chapter 2 of the missive. Compare:

“The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Pope Francis

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Romans 12:14-16, NASB **

JUST HOW DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE A FALSE TEACHER?
A false teacher – the type Christ warned us about – is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Whether from a spirit of ignorance or deliberation, he/she lives to deceive and draw people away from Christ’s Gospel of grace. Paul wished that any such ‘false teachers’ (or any angels teaching false gospels) be ‘forever accursed’. 1

In Jude’s one-chapter letter, Christians are warned,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Jude v.4 NIV

Paul warns of the latter days (which some Christians believe are upon us now) where,

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
1 Timothy 4:1-4 NIV

Mr. Challies, do you really feel Pope Francis is a ‘hypocritical liar’, ‘ungodly’, a sensuality-driven ‘grace-perverter’ or a ‘demon-influenced’ man? Has the Pope said anything about people refraining from marrying or stopped anyone from eating certain foods? Do you think him worthy of being ‘eternally cursed’? More to your point – have you personally heard him attempt to draw people into works-based religion while dismissing the doctrine of grace via his teaching?

Don’t think so.

Call me stupid, but I just don’t see Pope Francis as a false teacher. His life seems to embody the outworking of a life devoted to faith in God and Christ. I certainly don’t see him pushing anything contrary to the Gospel.

But should we even be judging the man?

THE CHRISTIAN JUDGMENT DILEMMA
Tim Challies, like a lot of fundamentalist watch-dogs out there, feel they have the right to expose false teachings and judge the men/women purveying errant doctrine. As Christians, we technically understand that there’s a very fine line to watch for when it comes to judging. But for some reason, some evangelicals like to hurl themselves across this line like a pole vaulter. Just as in a court of law there’s a difference between judging the evidence of a case and determining what judgment awaits a defendant on the stand, there is a difference with respect to how we Christians are to evaluate certain people and the things they believe. Sadly, we often get this quite wrong.

According to Scripture, we are not to judge those who are ‘outside the church’ – in other words, those who are outside of our faith. So if Mr. Challies believes Roman Catholics are basically ‘another religion’ due to their doctrines of works-plus-faith (which would be similar to Islam or Mormonism), then he technically has no right to pronounce judgment on Pope Francis (calling him a false teacher) or anyone else claiming to be of the Catholic religion!

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV

Oh but wait. ‘Roman Catholics claim to be Christians’, Mr. Challies might say, and therefore has the right to call the Pope a False Teacher.

Uh, no – no he doesn’t.

“You never know another man until you’ve walked in his moccasins”, say the indigenous peoples of North America. Without personally knowing Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mr. Challies has no right to assume how God will judge him. But that’s not the impression you get from Challies’ blog-post.

Jesus tells us,

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17 NIV

But rather than do this, Mr. Challies fires off his digital bullets that wound and maim, saying things like:

–  “… he (Francis) … remains committed to a false gospel.”
–  “He (again, Francis) is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone …”
– “Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul …”

And worst of all, Challies states,

“Even while Francis washes the feet of prisoners and kisses the faces of the deformed, he does so out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him. Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all.”

If this isn’t a heavy-handed implication that Pope Francis and his followers are bound for eternal punishment, I don’t know what is. Remember what we noted earlier; Paul warned that anyone teaching a ‘false Gospel’ should be forever accursed.

This kind of rant by Mr. Challies reminds me of a bully who throws stones at you from a distance. There’s nothing remotely Christ-like in Mr. Challies approach or evaluations.

WHY MORE CATHOLICS MIGHT BE CHRISTIANS THAN CHALLIES BELIEVES?
Ignorance is a funny thing. Sometimes it works in our favour and at other times it works against us (see John 15:22-24). On the issue of ‘Grace alone’ vs. ‘Works-Plus-Faith’, I propose a different view of things that may be considerably more gracious (and biblical) than the judgments offered by Mr. Challies who is ironically a pastor associated with ‘Grace Fellowship Church’.

Let’s assume the lady living next door to you is a Catholic. Believes baptism keeps babies from Purgatory, prays to Mary as well as Jesus and maybe calls upon a few saints now and then. She has crosses over every doorway in her house and believes in transubstantiation when taking communion at mass. She’s faithful to light a candle for her husband who has passed, and has a mass said for him once a year, hoping it’ll get him closer to God in the next world. Now as protestants, we realize a lot of this is just nonsense – to us. To them, however, it’s an important part of their religious practice. But aside from all of these rituals or practices, the dear woman truly loves Jesus. She believes He is The Saviour of all mankind. Believes He rose from the dead. And believes every word of the Apostles Creed when she offers it aloud and with her whole heart and soul on any given Sunday.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

Can anyone state with absolute certainty that this woman’s Christianity is false and more importantly, should anyone even venture down that trecherous road of judgmentalism? No. Sure, some of the church’s religious observations are questionable or out of whack with Scripture to most protestants, but that does not afford them the right to assume that the majority of adherent Roman Catholics are – as Challies states – heading in a direction “directly away from Him (Christ)”!

STOP THE BULLYING
Mr. Challies, I appeal to the grace of God that lives in you to be more considerate and less judgmental of individual souls while dealing with false teachers/false teachings through your essays. Yes, some wrong teaching out there needs to be exposed and it’s an important topic to delve into. But at present, your careless approach affects your quality of ministry and undermines the credibility of the all-encompassing grace you claim to believe is offered to us in Christ. I sincerely hope you take time to re-evaluate your thoughts on the matters discussed and leave judgments of an eternal nature in the safe and outstretched hands of the Eternal.

Grace and Peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ,

© 2014, Flagrant Regard

1. Galatians 1:8-9

___________________________________________________________________________________

** In our experience, this passage in Romans is one of the least explored or talked about parts of the New Testament. Many evangelicals shy away from it because it seems that Paul is indicating there is a separate and distinct judgment for those who haven’t received the salvation of Christ in their lifetime on earth. This is, in fact, EXACTLY what Paul was outlining. If one looks at the structure of Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is clear that right up until chapter 3 and verse 20 of his letter, Paul is providing a running commentary on the world ‘as is’ – a world that hasn’t been made aware of Christ, is unaware of His atonement via the cross and living without the assurance of eternal life the Christian believer is in receipt of, through faith. (From Chapter 3, verse 21 onward, Paul then explains to the Romans the nature of the Gospel and why it is superior to anything ‘law-based’, Jewish or otherwise.)

This passage clearly shows that God’s mercy, in Christ, is in some way extended to those who’ve not accepted the Gospel or (if you’re of the Calvinist ilk) who are not predestined to receive Christ’s unique, all-encompassing salvation through faith. These individuals, however, live with NO assurances of the coming rewards and/or punishments due them. Just as there are levels of reward in heaven based on one’s works while in the body, it would appear the same goes for souls that do not step into eternity’s glory at the moment of death. Apologists such as C.S.Lewis understood this; and his sentiments on justice in the afterlife were creatively expressed in his fictional books ‘The Last Battle’ and ‘The Great Divorce’.

Other authors – considered evangelical protestants – have also addressed the issue of the unsaved:

“The great prophetic discourse (Matthew 21-25/Mark 11-13/Luke 19:29-48 Chap. 20 & 21) worthily ended with a solemn representation of the final judgment of the world, when all mankind shall be assembled to be judged either by the historical gospel preached to them for a witness, or by its great ethical principle, the law of charity written on their hearts; and when those who have loved Christ and served Him in person, or in His representatives, – the poor, the destitute, the suffering, – shall be welcomed to the realms of the blessed, and those who have acted contrariwise shall be sent away to keep company with the devil and his angels.”
The Training of the Twelve, A.B. Bruce

“On a trip to Japan I found myself late at night in a pastor’s study in one of the largest churches in Tokyo (which isn’t saying much, since the average congregation numbers thirty in a nation where Christians claim only 1 percent of the population). … I wanted to check into my hotel room and go to sleep, but Japanese hospitality required this courtesy visit. For the next twenty minutes without interruption the pastor poured out the agony he felt over the 99 percent of Japanese who had not accepted Jesus. Would they all burn in hell because of their ignorance? He had heard of theologians who believed in people having a second chance after death and knew the mysterious passage in 1 Peter about Jesus preaching to those in Hades. Some theologians he had read seemed to believe in universal salvation although certain passages in the Bible indicated otherwise. Could I offer him any hope? Thinking aloud, I mentioned that God causes the sun to rise on the just and unjust and has no desire that anyone should perish. God’s Son on earth spent his last strength praying for his enemies. …

“I do not know the answer to your questions,” I said at last. “But I believe strongly that at the end of time no one will be able to stand before God and say ‘You were unfair!’ However history settles out, it will settle on the side of justice tempered by mercy.””
PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey

My wife and I have, over the years, conferred with several pastors from different backgrounds. Three of them – a Free Methodist, a Presbyterian and an Anglican – all concurred that there will be a fairness in a person’s judgment even if they’ve never accepted the Good News of Christ. None of these ministers supported the idea of ‘Universalism’ or ‘Inclusivism’, they just concluded – from Scripture alone – that God will be righteous in His judgments of every man’s soul.

We sincerely feel that those Christians who continue to assert that everyone who’s not a believer automatically burns in the fire of hell and suffers eternal torment in a lake of sulphur study the scriptures more deeply in order to determine and highlight the depth of God’s amazing grace, through Christ – Lord and Judge over all.

Some Bible verses to consider:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.”
John 15:22-24 New International Version

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. …

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:6,11-15 New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

If Evolution Is A Fact, Then How Come … ? (Part 1)

temptation_of_adam

Intro: Over the last 10 years or so, my wife and I have had many interesting discussions surrounding the whole creation vs. evolution debate. She and I don’t agree on every point with respect to some creationist concepts, but one thing we both are not able to wrap our heads around is the idea that we – at some distant point in our prehistory – were nothing more than pond-scum; that all humanity started out as some biological soup. Shakespeare once referred to mankind as the ‘Paragon of Animals’ and quite certainly, we humans are very different from than anything else observed in nature. Not every human trait or characteristic can be adequately explained by the scientist’s ‘go to’: evolution. And as for the rest of ‘creation’, it too maintains and displays a level of complexity that defies the premise set forth by modern science; that all animal species known today are the result of ongoing transitions from some other kind of species – the result of millions and millions of years of change. Feel free to join in the discussion. All we ask is that you stay on point and avoid a religious mentality that proffers a bullyish insistence that ‘science/the bible says it is this way and therefore it is more true’. Let’s keep it interesting, shall we?


IF EVOLUTION IS A FACT, THEN HOW COME WE HUMANS NEED CLOTHING?

Just yesterday afternoon, Nancy and I spent our time doing something we never do; watching a hockey game. It was the New Year’s Day ‘Winter Classic’ featuring the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. The temps in Ann Arbor were just frigid – minus 11 Celsius – and probably a lot colder than that if you factor in the wind-chill, yet the stadium was packed with over 100,000 fans! Not just Detroit fans either, Leaf fans as well.

As we watched in the comfort of our living room, the camera would often pan from the hockey players to the crowd where you’d witness their hopping up and down not to cheer their team, but to keep themselves from freezing to death. I suggested that, ‘maybe folks aren’t as cold we think thanks to the BTU’s being given off by their bleacher buddies’. Nancy just looked at me like, ‘Riiiiight’.

It was then I stated the simply obvious: “If evolution is a reality, how is it that we – the most evolved species on earth – haven’t anything in the way of natural defences against the cold, namely warm fur or feathers?” Nancy chuckled as she too recognized the conspicuous problem. Every creature known to man can survive its own environment (and sometimes far less favourable environments) thanks to either fur, scales, feathers or exoskeletons but we can’t! Plop us down naked in the middle of a snowstorm and we’re dead inside of an hour. Leave us in a desert and we’re toast in as little as 4 days. And even if you set us up in temperate climates, we can’t be ‘naked and afraid’ for long without something killing us due to our ‘parts’ being exposed. Think about it.

Central America could be considered the ideal climate for the human body. But 100’s of thousands of people died during the making of the great canal in Panama. From being over-worked? Nope – the culprit was malaria, a disease spread by a tiny insect that literally gets under our skin. Canada’s favourite humourist, Rick Mercer, has encouraged schools throughout the country every year to contribute to the ‘Spread the Net’ campaign that serves to protect people from the mosquito bites that can lead to certain death in places we oxymoronically refer to as ‘Tropical Paradises’. Malaria isn’t the only disease spread by mosquitoes in such places either, Dengue fever is another killer transmitted by them. Heck, a whole plethora of skin diseases are possible due to the many parasites that will find their way onto our epidermis or exposed orifices.

Here in North America, on a really nice summer day in the forest, one might think you could exist safely as a naturist/nudist but in reality you could pick up the tick responsible for carrying Lyme’s Disease and not know you have it ’til it’s far too late. West Nile (again, mosquito-carried) virus has led to several deaths in our part of the world too.

The evolutionist might say that humanity’s random demises caused by viruses, insects or plagues is the ‘cost of doing business’ with the planet and that even other mammals die from such diseases as well. The North American little brown bat populations, for instance, are threatened by a fungus that attacks their faces and wings and somehow confuses their hibernation cycles which results in their premature emergence into cold, wintry air instead of the warm spring climes. In this case, the animal’s being introduced into an unsuiting environment is affecting its numbers and survivability. There are rare but similar goings on with other species around the globe.

Though this may be the case, one cannot dismiss easily the fact that if it weren’t for humanity’s capacity to use logic/intelligent pragmatism and come up with some defensive coverings (we now call them clothes) we wouldn’t have survived ANYWHERE on this planet for very long. Sure, other animals construct nests, dig dens or sometimes even utilize their own bodies to protect themselves and their young, but in a high majority of cases the animal survives independently from its creations. Man does not.

Right from the get-go, we all begin this life as an ‘infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms’. 1 What other creature on the planet is born so utterly helpless (and remains that way for so long) save for man?

If we evolved to be the highest form of intelligence on the planet (dolphin-lovers are vehemently shaking their fist in disagreement with that suggestion), it seems rather incongruent that our physical selves didn’t catch up. We are not presently evidencing ANY new physical changes that would allow us to survive without clothing the way the rest of the mammalian world does. Your uncle’s disturbing abundance of chest hair may give you pause with respect to his mammalian origins, but he is very much human and his hirsute predisposition wouldn’t save him from dying of exposure after toppling his canoe in an icy lake. Toss your ‘stupid’ golden retriever into the same lake, mind you, and she’ll come out shaking half of the lake’s volume all over you and begging you to throw another stick to her in the freezing water.

All this points to one thing: we humans are a separate and distinct creation that were given unique bodies and intelligence that no amount of evolutionary time elapses or supposed beneficial mutations can account for. It appears that we were made to be highly dependent beings – dependent for survival first on our parents and thereafter on our ability to create things from our surroundings that protect our bodies from harm. Truly, we were initially constructed by some Supreme Intelligence that oddly wanted us to be both dependent and yet creative within the framework of our challenging world.

If anybody has any other way around this problem, we’d sure like to hear about it.

Until then, we will conclude our thoughts on the matter with the words of John Stewart,

“Evolution, Schmevolution”.

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

  1. Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world’s a stage]

Psalm 8:4-8 (The Voice Translation)

I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals—
sons and daughters of men—
specks of dust floating about the cosmos.
But You placed the son of man just beneath God
and honored him like royalty, crowning him with glory and honor.
You ordained him to govern the works of Your hands,
to nurture the offspring of Your divine imagination;
You placed everything on earth beneath his feet:
All kinds of domesticated animals,
even the wild animals in the fields and forests,
he birds of the sky and the fish of the sea,
all the multitudes of living things that travel the currents of the oceans.

Categories: Apologetics, Creationism, Evolution, Humor, Religion, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Who Is My Neighbour?”

I’ll tell you who – she’s an annoying old bat who wants nothing to do with you until the day she drops by to tell you how much you’ve ticked her off.

“Hello,” says she. Then with barely a breath between her saying hello and the ensuing plaint,
“Are you the people who are feeding the squirrels? Because they are getting into my plants!”
“That’s too bad”, I says. Apparently she didn’t hear me …
“I have many flowers at the back and the squirrels come and dig up my plants. It’s because you’re feeding them.”
“Have you tried raising your plants off the ground into planters?” I says.
“Yes, and they still get in there!” she moans.
After we suggest a few other rodent-discouraging remedies, Mrs. In-a-you-face then proceeds to gripe for 5 more minutes about her squirrel-affected garden. She ends the spiel with a request that we don’t feed the squirrels any more. My wife and I assure her with pleasant smiles,
“Sorry, we like the squirrels – we don’t plan to stop feeding them”.
And then the old lady walks away in a peevish huff.

Was that unchristian? Were we supposed to turn the other cheek? How would we do that … let me see. We could go and buy her plants to replace any damaged ones. Uh, no. We could not only stop feeding the squirrels, heck! we could put out poison and kill them all – that’d keep the old lady’s plants in pristine condition! No again.

That’s simply not what being Christian is all about.

Being Christian – loving one’s neighbour – has nothing to do with acquiescing to another’s gluttony. Our neighbour (in the literal sense of the word) wanted us to satisfy her selfish interests, her penchants. She didn’t ask us to walk a mile with her (presumably to aid her with something) nor did she ask us for a cloak or coat in order to make her life more livable through keeping her warm.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (1.), we read of a guy who got taken down by robbers while travelling down a road. In the story, the victim of the assault was a bloodied mess and left without a penny to his name after the incident. After two religious sorts passed by the injured man without as much as a word, a man of Samaritan background came along who didn’t ignore or avoid the injured soul and met all of his needs. The victim needed healthcare and wound-dressing. Done. He needed a place to heal; “Here you go hotel-guy, here’s some cash for a room and for continuing care costs until this dude’s out of your hair”. Going the ‘extra mile’? Done! The Samaritan comes out of this story smelling like roses, and rightly so!

In similar fashion, an opportunity to love our neighbour should stem primarily from our wanting to address serious, life-impacting types of concerns. But if we come to believe that serving the Lord means pandering to others’ selfish wants and tastes, we’ll end up as sycophantic masochists – not martyrs – and that’s really not what Jesus was calling us to do when he said, “love your enemies” or “love your neighbour”.

Paul the apostle, writing to Roman Christians stated, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (2.). In other words, Christians should do whatever it takes to come up with a peaceful or ‘mutually beneficial’ solution but it’s clearly implied that though this is the ideal, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

If Mrs. Squirrel-hater fell down in the parking lot outside her building we wouldn’t hesitate to help her to her feet. If she was short on change at Tim Horton’s we’d cover her whole tab. We relish opportunities to help others in need. But what we don’t have to do is make everyone feel good by giving in to their petty wants. Christians should not be about making people feel good but should be focused on caring for others sincerely whenever the authentic opportunity arises; and that may often mean doing so while carrying our differences, idiosyncrasies and personal disagreements in tow.

What about you? Do you agree? Do you think we should have tried so work out something with our grousing neighbour? How do you go about loving your (literal and figurative) neighbour when differences arise?

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:

“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
“Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37
New Living Translation

2. Romans 12:18, New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Neo-Pacifism The New Christianity? Part I

Does anyone remember pacifism?

You know, that fairly extremist position of non-violence held by certain Christian faith-groups who endorse that their members absolutely refrain from joining the military (for combat service), becoming a cop (as all police agencies mandate the use of lethal force when required) or even using self-defence to protect oneself or loved ones if it might lead to killing another human being in order to do so?

Well, it’s apparently back with a ‘non-vengeance’. This time around, however, pacifism’s re-emergence is no longer the theological territory of aloof, simple-life religious communities, but can be found in modern churches equipped with all manner of technology, multimedia tools and eye-catching backdrops. In these places of worship, passionate, enthusiastic preachers are making waves in the Christian community by extoling the virtuousness of old-world pacifism. At first, this might seem like not such a bad thing … after all, what’s wrong with a growing bunch of peaceniks, right? But here’s the rub: those delivering this message of ‘non-violence-at-all-costs’ are stating, in no uncertain terms, that unless all Christians everywhere submit to pacifism, they are failing to fully comprehend or represent the life, character and principles of Christ.

We believe that there is something very disconcerting about this latest push towards a collective peace-initiative – something we’ve dubbed ‘Neo-Pacifism’ – and contend that it’s just one more ‘ism’ that hampers our efforts to spread the true Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ.

What Does Neo-Pacifism Teach?

Answering this question accurately required quite a bit of reading/listening to several sermons from prominent figures associated with the movement. What we discovered proved to be both interesting and sometimes kind of disturbing. As already noted in the first paragraph of this article, Christian pacifism (which is rooted in the Anabaptist tradition that began about half a millennium ago) means a person does not engage in any act of retributive aggression or defensive violence that could cause harm or especially the death of another human being. Pacifism’s adherents believe their position represents the truest fulfilment of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain) with respect to His followers loving their enemies and taking the command of Christ to ‘turn the other cheek’ quite literally. It matters not an iota what the prevailing circumstances may be. You simply do not take lethal action against anyone – ever. The concept of ‘just war’ is regarded as scriptural and spiritual error. Though a nation could be taken into captivity by an invading force and its people suffer unnameable atrocities at the hands of evil men, pacifism demands that you are not to become a soldier in order to defend the oppressed or the innocent. Applying for a job in government? Not in the plan. Joining a police force is out of the question (for reasons already mentioned) and it can be assumed that signing up for Mixed Martial Arts doesn’t score any points with pacifists either.

(Why Neo-pacifism misrepresents Christianity will be covered in Part II of this article.)

Who’s Behind Neo-Pacifism’s Rise To Acceptance?

Several popular ministers, we discovered.

One individual who’s covering a lot of territory (and time) with respect to pacifism is Bruxy Cavey, a gifted, charismatic speaker and primary ‘Teaching Pastor’ for the far-reaching, momentum-gathering church known as ‘The Meeting House’. The Meeting House doesn’t hide the fact that it is rooted in the Brethren In Christ (BIC)/Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition, but is of late making a significant push to ensure that the pacifist agenda is tremendously close to being front and centre along with the Gospel message. In 2010, Bruxy engaged his congregation/listeners with a teaching series called, ‘Inglorious Pastors: Waging Peace in a World of War’, which was a seven sermon lecture on how to (and why all Christians should) get on board with pacifism. Right up there with Cavey are other proponents of neo-pacifism such as famous author/speaker Tony Campolo, Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd and ‘visionary leader’ Shane Claiborne. All of these speakers/church-leaders are connected with (and are scheduled speakers for) the most recent Christian peace-initiative venture called PEACEWORKS.TV, a group self-described as “a youth movement for peace bringing people from all over the world together for a single purpose…to turn every church into a peace church.” 1

Why You Should Be Concerned About The Neo-Pacifist Movement

When it comes to presenting your church’s doctrines, it’s one thing to state, “What we believe and teach has proven to be effective” but quite another to stress that everyone else not doing what you’re doing or believing what you’re believing has got it all wrong. What’s far more disconcerting is when any church group/denomination – their growth, solid doctrinal foundation or good intentions notwithstanding – comes right out and says that “Jesus is the model for our system of living and anything short of this model fails to fully represent Christian character”. Well, the Christian neo-pacifists are doing just that.

Here’s what Bruxy Cavey, author of the successful and provocative book ‘The End of Religion’, states with respect to those inquiring into pacifism:

“Something else we should think about just before we dive in … this is for those of you who are having to answer questions of others as we process through this … You should be aware that some of the questions people ask are asked ‘genuinely’ and some are asked just because they’re looking for an excuse not to have to listen to the teachings of Christ. In other words … people ask questions of Jesus’s peace-teaching in two ways, sometimes, first of all, in order to find an excuse to disregard it or sometimes to better understand and apply it.” 2

This statement shows Bruxy is making the assumption that those who question pacifism are questioning the way of Jesus. That kind of approach strikes us as ‘our way or the highway’ and has that familiar stench born out of theological arrogance; something I’ve been known to struggle with myself. (‘Takes one to know one’, as they say!)

It’s fine to detail your own position on pacifism and teach what it means; that it’s ‘okay to die for a cause, just not kill for one‘ or that it is ‘not a success strategy but a love strategy‘ etc., but Bruxy takes it to a whole other level by pretty much ordaining it as a religious
obligation for true Christians (which is kind of strange when you consider the title of his book).

Though Bruxy says that pacifism isn’t necessarily the best strategy in a situation where violence could be used as a solution, he states that “WE (the church’s members, leaders etc.) still believe it is the right choice because we choose this way because Jesus ‘called for it, commanded it, modelled it and then calls us to be the body of Christ – today – filled with his spirit – living as Jesus lived, presenting him to the world.’ In the same sermon he also elaborates, ” … we don’t follow the way of peace because it works, we follow it because it’s like Christ.” 3

Again, he infers that ‘the way of peace’ as per the pacifist’s stance is Christ-like, clearly intimating that one’s not being a pacifist is a failure to be Christ-like.

Not wanting to misinterpret the pacifist position of The Meeting House, I spoke to a representative of the church. I asked, “Would we not be allowed to be church members if we did not subscribe to your strong, pacifist leanings? The individual stated that we could be members, but that if we’d climbed the ladder into church leadership by any degree, we would not be allowed to voice our disfavour of or lack of allegiance to pacifism. That information revealed to us just how deeply entrenched the doctrine was. When I asked, “Do you think that those who do not subscribe to pacifism are deficient in their Christian walks or lives?” the person on the other end of the line – as politely as they could – acknowledged that you would be numbered along with those who ‘struggle with Christ’s teachings’. Upon my probing into the issue a bit further, the church representative strongly implied that you wouldn’t be as mature in your Christian faith without being a pacifist.

St. Paul MN’s Woodland Hills pastor, Greg Boyd, recently spoke at the Sunday service for The Meeting House here in Canada. In his sermon, entitled, ‘From Baptist to Anabaptist’ he stated:

“… the true Kingdom always looks like Calvary. … All over the place people are getting this vision … that what Jesus came to do and that it always has this humble, servant, self-sacrificial feel to it. And these folks are looking for … a tribe and a tradition – something that’s anchored and has witnessed in the past. And the only folks who have the tradition are the Anabaptists, the Brethren in Christ/the Mennonites. God’s doing a new thing … is pouring out new wineskin … a new tradition that they can call home and the only ones who have it are you guys!” 4

Once again, there is a definitive ‘us and them’ vibe going on that – I hate to say it – reminds me of a cult mentality. We are NOT SAYING THE NEO-PACIFIST MOVEMENT IS A CULT – please do not misinterpret us. But as it currently stands, the neo-pacifist leaders we are hearing from are stating that all branches of Christianity outside of their own are failing to fully meet the objectives of the Gospel by their not subscribing to pacifism. This is just not the case and is a much uncalled for sweeping generalization. There are many peace-loving, self-sacrificing, love-oriented and ‘mature’ Christians from ALL denominations who are fantastically Christ-like and yet are not pacifists. But try and get a neo-pacifist church leader to accept that and you may find you’re beating your head against a wall. I remember encountering this very same spirit in some evangelical protestant churches where they believe that all Roman Catholics are lost and bound for hell – an inane, judgmental position that’s doctrinally unfounded. It’s this very spirit of judgment, borne out of a faith group’s egotism, which subjects the Kingdom of God to public disgrace by the disunity it ultimately fosters.

The funny thing is that a great percentage of the time (here in the west especially) your pacifist or non-pacifist disposition exists almost solely in the realms of the abstract or theoretical. What I mean is that there is hardly ever a time where you’re provided an opportunity to live out your pacifist views in the same way a trained martial artist almost never finds himself going all Jackie Chan on a bunch of thugs after leaving the dojo. As this is the case, I have to wonder why the neo-pacifists are pushing the peace-agenda so hard?

And so, we would really like to ask the neo-pacifists out there to contemplate the possibility that you’ve let a doctrinal side issue become an agenda that takes precedence over the Gospel. The Gospel is about God’s grace extended to a broken world through the death and resurrection of Christ and about our living a life ‘worthy of the calling’ first and foremost. How you live your life in Christ and how I live mine is bound to be different, but the Spirit of God has given us both a measure of faith and will convict us of our shortcomings, including those that have to do with peace, love and practical real-life application. Harping on anything outside of this – the heart of the Christian life – will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. Things turn ugly when an interpretation of the Gospel (or some aspect of it) is presented as if it were the Gospel itself. Please, don’t make that mistake.

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. http://peaceworkstv.wordpress.com/ & http://youtube.com/peaceworkstv

2. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 6:42min)

3. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 5:10min)

4. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/one-church-2013/week-1-from-baptist-to-anabaptist-5475 – SERMON TITLE: “FROM BAPTIST TO ANABAPTIST … (at 29:02min)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Matter of Some Integrity – Unfortunately, Not My Own

After hearing a sermon on ‘The Integrity of Joseph’ at church last Sunday and then my meeting up with a dude this week who demonstrated ethics and/or integrity that superseded my own, I hereby feel it is my solemn duty declare myself an abuser of God’s grace.

What I mean is that even at the best of times I know my goodness doesn’t add up to a hill of holy beans. I live with that – maybe a bit too comfortably – because I’m ‘covered’ by Christ’s work on the cross to ‘save a wretch like me’. But when I encounter a fellow who hasn’t declared himself to be of any notable faith-based disposition/persuasion behaving or acting better than I do, I am bugged. My spirit becomes irritated because it’s then I realize how badly I’ve been using God’s grace as a free pass to write off my less-than-perfect attitudes, behaviours or actions; labelling them ‘growth areas’ or things that ‘God’s still working on’. Cop-out!

So THIS is what the Holy Spirit’s job is then – to ‘convict me of short-comings’ and ‘guide me into all truth’. What better way to do this than to show me up with a man who displays integrity in an area I do not. It’s like I’m being told, “Martin! You see that? That’s what you should be doing but you ain’t. What are we going to do about that?”

Being put in one’s place by a person who hasn’t professed any religious affiliations is like my considering myself a pro-ball player, only to have a guy who specializes in making doughnuts step up to the plate and hit a home run first time at bat. That kind of thing catches you off guard because you think YOU’RE the one with experience and know-how and then boom – you’re blown away by the contrast created by a single, remarkable act performed by someone you’re not expecting it from.

The day before I met up with ‘Mr. Integrity’, I had been reading in the Bible about the story of a particular individual Christ encountered in his travels way back when.* It’s a sure bet that the ‘people of the promise’ (those of the Jewish faith) who began to comprehend that their Messiah was among them thought that they were the most blessed and holiest people, had the right God, were full of all the right beliefs etc.. Then Jesus meets a Roman official – a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned – but of whom Jesus remarked, “In all of Israel I haven’t found faith like this” … all because he did the right thing at the right time with the right Man watching. As the story goes, the Roman official had a sick servant he cared about and whom he wanted to see healthy again. No biggie: go find this Jesus guy because he’s known to have a one-hundred per cent success rate with miracles and because He’s a no-nonsense authority on lots of things. Because our Roman friend believed in such a matter-of-fact way, Jesus healed the servant from an untold distance – a first as far as we know with respect to the wonders done by the Messiah. I wonder how many of the Jewish folks standing around hearing Jesus remarking about the Roman official’s unique, exemplary faith, looked down at their feet at that moment feeling somewhat teed off with either Jesus or themselves?

This past Sunday, pastor G. opened his sermon with, “Integrity is the kind of thing you expect from other people“. How true: we often want to see authenticity in others first before we offer it ourselves. But that will not do for this believer. It’s not a pride thing that drives me to better myself or to shoot for a higher standard, but the desire to be more Christ-like and to be, as Paul the apostle said, “above reproach” in the sight of believers and non-believers alike.

Who’s with me? Who wants to shine a little brighter in the light of the Son? Time to get out the polish (God’s word) and also to learn from every example of goodness we see that sets the stage for changes toward the better in our own lives.

© 2013 Martin D. of Flagrant Regard

* Matthew 8:5-13

1 Tim 3:1-13
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women — same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flagrant Regard Launches Thought-Provoking New Song ‘Reimagine’

Reimagine’ Now Available On iTunes

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today”
(from John Lennon’s 1971 song, ‘Imagine’)

For years, John Lennon’s song Imagine has always been one of those songs that leaves me feeling unsettled whenever I hear it. There’s certainly no doubt that Imagine is melodically beautiful, artfully recorded and musically uplifting.  Lennon’s voice is in its prime and the piece is sung with sensitivity and raw emotion. The words represent John’s (and Yoko’s) heartfelt desire to see a better world come about through unifying peace. (A poem by Yoko Ono initially inspired John’s lyrics for the 1971 recording.)

Imagine is over 40 years old now and we still hear it being ‘covered’ or played at memorials and peace rallies across the globe.  It’s also somewhat odd that though Lennon recommended that we “imagine there’s no countries”, the song received renewed word-wide attention at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics – a celebration that inherently lauds national pride and diversity in the wake of intense competition.

That said, as a follower of Christ, I feel compelled to take issue with the overarching message of the song. A good portion of the lyrics of Imagine are emblematic of the atheistic or humanistic idea of what it would take to bring true peace to mankind. According to Lennon, peace can come at a price that includes, among other things, that of forsaking belief in God, belief in an afterlife, and even the passion to live or die for something truly important.

Blogger Paul Wilkinson pointed me to an article in Christianity Today authored by David Neff that noted the following:

“… a friend reminded me of comedian Steve Martin’s comic tune, “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.” At the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Martin waved a single sheet of paper and told the audience, “This is the entire atheist hymnal, right here.” … “Martin is clever, but wrong. John Lennon wrote just such a tune in 1971. Lennon’s tune for “Imagine” is indeed inspiring. But Lennon’s text posits an existence with “nothing to live or die for.” With no countries, no possessions, no heaven or hell, no religion, Lennon promised, the world would live as one. Not likely. Perhaps Martin was right to ignore the song.”

Our pastor recently re-reviewed the lyrics of Imagine and made an interesting observation: “If you take out the first ‘verse’ of his song, he [Lennon] is actually describing heaven. The problem is that by ignoring the call of heaven (God’s Kingdom) and living for today, Heaven is only a dream never realized. The bitter irony of the song is that the call/desire of the first verse completely removes the possibility of experiencing the rest of the song’s desire.”

When people, beliefs aside, join their hands and light a myriad of candles while singing Imagine reverently (or at the top of their lungs) at some important gathering, it’s certainly not a bad thing. But there is a more excellent way.

God challenges us to ‘reimagine’ what the world and what the future is to be through the message of hope revealed to us through Jesus and his disciples. Some serious time spent reading the New Testament reveals that there is a God who is there and cares so deeply for us that He doesn’t want us to settle for the kind of peace that fades, but wants us to know a peace that is real, lasting and available to anyone by way of a dynamic relationship He is absolutely prepared to begin in each one of us. But take note, it will cost you – your preconceived notions about God, your level of comfort, your media-influenced beliefs or life choices, and possibly many other things along the way. But it will be well worth it in the long run.

Flagrant Regard, by way of this song, challenges you to reimagine peace, reimagine hope and reimagine what it means to truly experience life to the fullest.

It is our sincere hope that followers of Christ everywhere share this song whenever and wherever they can in order to open up discussion about or spark interest in the message of the cross.

In Him Who is Our Peace,

Flagrant Regard

Categories: Christian Contemporary Music, Christianity, Creative Writing, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Worship Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Nose Can See!

It was about 12:30am when I, chronic nighthawk that I am, decided to burn off my remaining energy and go for a long walk; a fairly recent habit I’ve gotten into since moving back to Uxbridge.

As I stepped out into the still night and mused over the beauty of the cheddar-tinted half-moon that hovered over the southern back half of the town, I began to stroll the many neighbourhoods that make up this wonderful little town and which my wife had once dubbed “Sweetville” shortly after our settling here the first time.

Halfway into my walk, I began to close my eyes and inhale deeply, saying a few prayers as I ambled along.  As I did so, I became electrically aware of something I’d never really experienced before.  My nose could see!  I mean, I know it’s always been able to smell stuff.  But I’d never actually accessed its lavish abilities.  I learned that when you really give it full reign, you can actually use your nose to assess where you are, what your eyes may or may not be perceiving and even what’s up ahead in your travels.  The olfactory proboscis bounces back information to your brain like a radar device and you find your self saying to yourself, “That’s a maple tree!” … “Oh, and that’s water – I smell the falls coming off the pond!” … “Apple blossoms are up ahead!” … “Must be recycle day – smell all of that card-board!”.

I got to thinking that a living and vibrant faith, once it’s been handed to us by the Creator above, creates within us the same kind of powerful awakening that would ensue upon our receiving say, a new set of eyes with which to view things, or in my case, a very awake nose with which I could identify my surroundings!

Unconventional thinking is how lives are changed.  If we always see things the same way, we can never grow or properly identify the world around us.  Faith is unconventional, and oft thought as being futile and ‘blind’.  But the faith Christ gives us is not that at all.  Faith in God is learning to see through His senses.  What was mundane to us due to our limited scope or that which might have been completely ignored by us before is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) thought of quite differently.  We begin to hurt over things that hurt our Lord.  We are enthralled by things that enthrall the Spirit of the Kingdom we become new citizens of.  Real faith changes our outlook and bridges the gap between what we’ve always known, and what we have yet to know about the familiar things in our lives.

If we learn to fully access the portion of faith God lovingly gives us, we’ll realize that it isn’t so much about our moving mountains as it is our allowing the mountains to move us.

1. “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

© 2011 Flagrant Regard

1. Words: Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride); translated from ancient Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and versed by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, alt.

NOTE:  This blog-post was from last summer (2011).  We’ve since moved from ‘Sweetville’ to just north of the G.T.A. where nature and beauty still surround us.  We are so truly blessed!

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boxing Day Musings on ‘Staying Grand’

In the course of my business day, I hear the latest and trendiest of corporate jargon (phrases such as ‘let’s consider the optics of that‘ and ‘let’s get alignment on this‘ and ‘let’s drill down‘ and ‘let’s unpack this‘).  We are definitely corporate cool when it comes to language. So much so that my uber-swank workplace even calls a Powerpoint file a ‘deck‘ which I personally consider a lexicon-fail because the word continually yanks my brain back to the gruesomely analog 70s where I sit on a floor subjected to watching an endless array of slides of my aunt and uncle’s seemingly incessant vacations, the horrible photography made worse by the excruciating clatter of 35 mm slides as they drop and pop and more-often-than-not stick as the deck turns. But I digress. The above highlighted snippets of pretentious vocabulary are my top nominations for 2012 Newspeak … or they were until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I attended a soiree after our church’s first annual (and incident-free) candle-lighting service at which the better half of FR sang a song he wrote some 30 years ago accompanied only by his adept guitar playing. It is a truly beautiful song which puts forward the notion that, between partying and socializing and gifting and re-gifting, it’s okay to say ‘happy birthday’ to Jesus at this time of year.

The church, which we have been attending since last August, is full of many wonderful, mostly retired people, including a nonagenarian general practitioner and his wife, whom I shall call TB and BB. We had the privilege of sitting with them at the after party, munching and chatting (as we had done once before at a local Tim Horton’s after church) and, when it was time to mingle, and we stood up to leave the table, TB told my husband to “stay grand” … huh? What was that? Stay grand? I must say it took some time for my ear-to-brain mechanism to reconcile what he said and what he meant.

By telling someone to ‘stay grand’, it means, in your eyes, they have achieved a level of grandness. Grand is not a word flashed about in normal conversation in 2012, or even in the last few decades for that matter, and is an adjective describing what is “impressive in size, appearance, or general effect; stately, majestic, or dignified in front of an audience; highly ambitious or idealistic; magnificent or splendid; and noble or revered.”

I always knew my husband was something special and indescribable in many ways. It has always taken me a myriad of words to describe all his wonderful attributes (as evidenced by his Christmas card that I crafted about this time yesterday) but TB considered the optics, drilled down, and unpacked that my husband is, in a word, grand. That is the word I’ve been searching for … for 14 years! Grand … it seems to me that using that word to describe someone can only come from one who really, really knows your heart and nature. How could TB, who has only met my husband twice, both times over coffee, come to such a conclusion that I couldn’t grasp myself in our years together? The Bible says we never know when we are entertaining angels and I’m starting to have a funny feeling about TB …

Now that I officially live in the shadow of bona fide grandness on a daily basis (and I do have my tongue firmly planted in cheek), albeit that he oftentimes goes around in sweats, unshaven and wearing his hair in a ponytail, I feel it incumbent upon myself to rise to the calling and stay grand myself. Jesus said in John 15:5, “… for without Me, you can do nothing”. So I cannot be grand … we cannot stay grand … without Him. As the song my husband sang on Christmas Eve boldly asks, “how ’bout you”?

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry New Year to all!

Link to A Christmas Song here.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The God Who ‘Sticks His Neck Out’

There was once a man who went for a walk in the fields near his home in the early springtime. As he began to make his way upon familiar paths, he eventually came up to a pond that he had passed by many times on his previous sojourns.

The winter had not been a heavy one and the pond was shallow enough for the man to see many rocks sticking partway out of the pond; some round, some more rough and angular.

The man decided to venture a little closer to the pond’s edge and noted that one of the rounder rocks in the water had a different sheen on it than the other ones. Not having the greatest vision, the man put on his glasses and was soon able to confirm that the rock indeed looked different from the others in the pond. Though mildly curious, he concluded nothing further and was certainly not about to waste his time getting his feet wet in order to determine why this particular rock was different.

He was about to tread up the hill away from the pond to resume his strolling through the fields when suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and the rock that he thought was an inert hunk of rounded stone moved!

A head, followed by a long neck slowly began to extend itself outward from one end of the semi-circular ‘rock’, eventually stretching its way out and above the surface of the pond and into the blazing light of day.

The man laughed at himself and said, “I should have known! That was no rock, it was a turtle all along! I guess if I’d made the effort to wade near the pond’s edge the creature might have stirred and I’d have known it was a turtle sooner. Heck, I could have picked up one of the long sticks that lay along the banks of the pond and reached out to prod the ‘rock’. Then I would certainly have known it was not a rock at all.”

Only the man didn’t.

However, the turtle did what turtles do: at just the opportune moment, the creature made his move – stretching out his head with eyes a’blinking – in order to bask in, absorb and reflect the light of the life-giving sun. Through this one act, the turtle revealed his true identity as a living being to a man who might otherwise have gone on his way thinking that he had simply seen a slightly different looking rock sticking out of a pond on a warm spring day.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in one of his famous detective stories, once stated, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes”. How true! We can often pass by a familiar object and not see any further significance in the object, other than the fact that it is there. A bit more investigation, if we’re interested enough, may reveal that the object we’ve thought as being one thing is in fact another thing entirely. Have you ever had a moment where it finally hit you that you’ve been seeing things wrong (or have maybe been oblivious to what’s directly in front of you)? That photograph you’ve walked by every day at the office, suddenly it’s, “Hey, that’s no photo, that’s a painting!” Or mom’s ‘fake’ plant in the corner of the living room – it turns out to be real (usually, right after you’ve accidentally ripped off one of its leaves in a careless moment). It’s times like these we realize that our perceived world is not always grounded in reality.

When it comes to our knowing what’s what regarding anything, we must agree that the goal of all humanity is to grow in knowledge in order to further benefit our existence and not to run on mere instincts. (When humanity does operate from primal or base desires, it often results successfully in filling up jail cells. Though correctional officers and police benefit from this via employment, no sane person would consider the situation utopian.) Growth in the area perception is one of those things that makes us truly human. With perception changes occurring as we mature, our creeds and philosophies are born and affect/frame our whole lives. However, there comes a point where we seem to settle in our ways and it’s at that stage where most of us are extremely disinterested in ‘re-perceiving’ our world or our views, religious or otherwise. We’ll look at things through the lens of our prejudices or from our set of perspectives and then comment on one issue or another (in attempts to find balance), often with tepid sayings like, “It’s all the same when you look at it,” or “To each his own,” or “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. But things are not all the same and there is an incredible amount one could learn about roses if they care to!

Is it possible your view of God is something like this? Maybe for years you’ve seen God in one way and one way only. Maybe you’ve always seen Him as an ‘amorphous blob’, having no definite shape, form or identity. Or maybe you view God as being like ‘the Force’ – a good or bad power as per George Lucas’ concept in Star Wars (and which was borrowed heavily from Eastern religions). Or conversely, you’ve always thought of God (or have been made to think of God) as the very opposite of ‘unknowable’ – that in fact, he’s very knowable: as an overarching, dominating being who arbitrarily picks and chooses who lives or dies, who’s saved or damned, and who is incapable of showing anything ‘humane’ or something akin to benevolent love to his creation? There are so many views of God that it would be next to impossible to list them all.

The only way we can become ‘unstuck’ regarding our view of God is through His Spirit (that personal extension of His very being) shining a light into our hearts so that we can clearly see that God is far more incredible, involved and interested than we think He is.  This applies to the unbelieving, the skeptical and even at times the religious-minded! If we’d only take (or make) time to wait for a ‘parting of the clouds’ – that moment when God reveals His true self to us – how much further along would we be? God has done this in the past for those who looked for truth and reality concerning Him and He can do this for us now. We so want God to ‘show up’ in this world and ‘do something’, but what if He already has (or still does) and some of us just haven’t grasped that?

Maybe you’re like Christ’s disciple, Philip, who in John’s Gospel, asks Jesus a ‘simple’ favour: “Show us (me and the rest of the disciples here) the Father (the God of Israel) and that will be enough for us!”

Jesus hands Philip ‘God on a platter’, so to speak, with the words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

These words of Jesus should encourage some serious investigation, if in fact they’re true. For me, Jesus’ claims have spawned such investigation and thanks to superb authors such as Phillip Yancey, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others who’ve delved deeply into the Christian scriptures that hail back to the first century, I believe that one does get to know God by knowing Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us via the Gospels and other New Testament documents. But I also maintain that it had to have been God who shined down his light into my mind in order for me to ‘get it’ or understand the significance of Christ’s words and life. And if this Christ of the New Testament is truly true, as I believe He is, then He did more than just stick His neck out; He gave his very life-blood for the this broken world – for you – so that you could have a unique relationship with God unlike anything else this world and its many other religions offer.

For anyone willing to ‘stand on the banks’ and wait patiently, God will reveal Himself once His powerful light illuminates those priceless and pure realities that are found only in Him. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little prodding into things and step out into the mysterious waters of faith; that is true. But ultimately, it will be an intelligent, loving and amazing God who shows His true self to you and propels you into wanting to know more and more about Him with every passing day.

May that wonderful and superbly enlightening moment be yours soon, I pray,

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“… the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, Chapter 2, verse 17

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter’s 1st letter, Chapter 1, verse 19

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shortest Christian Blog Post EVER!

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19

… Yup.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012


Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Love Our Hollywood Heroes

Zoolander

How many times have you seen this in a Hollywood flick: 

Man falls in love with woman, woman appears to have her sights on or a commitment to someone else. 

The smitten man – always the story’s protagonist – does his best to win the woman’s affections and to become her ‘one and only’.  But, as the plot goes, the woman’s potential suitor finds himself in a losing battle with the other man in her life, or so it appears. And then of course, there comes this powerful moment in the story where he relinquishes his pursuit of the woman he’s in love with and, burying his hurt, stoically tells her something like, “I love you so much, I can’t afford to see you unhappy.  I want you to be with the man you truly love, and if it ain’t me babe, then at least I know you’re content.” 

In some movies the protagonist gets another kick at love’s can as the woman in the story realizes what a truly unselfish man she’s throwing away and, forsaking the safe and familiar, falls hard and passionately for the new guy.  At other times (but is less rarely seen in modern American films) the pursuing male wanders off dejected and alone as he sadly accepts his destiny –  not being with the woman he’s in love with.

In either outcome, we value the protagonist as a true, unwavering and selfless hero who wants the best for the one he loves even at the cost of his own happiness.  Now that’s a Hollywood hero!

We cherish our silver screen heroic archetypes, especially in stories like the above, because of the selflessness involved; the sacrifice that springs from genuine love.  As we watch the drama unfold, we find ourselves wanting to believe in that noble kind of love because we know it’s the right kind to fully embrace and which also ‘sets the bar’ for ourselves.

But what of our heroism with respect to our following Jesus?  How much more should we be ready to sacrifice our selfish wants and desires – no matter how painful it is – in order to make sure the God we claim to love is pleased?  Are we willing to give up all or, like the rich young ruler that Jesus encountered who was not willing to give up that which he held most dear to him, we too walk away without God’s blessing or true fulfillment in our lives? 

My wife and I heard these wonderful words of Martin Luther from a preacher just the other day:

“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

In order to gain Christ, we are told it will mean us losing our very lives and sometimes walking away from the things we value most.  Will we walk away from a relationship that God’s word states is not right or will we blithely dismiss the clear instructions of the Scriptures in order to suit our desires or ideals?  Will we say in our prayers, “I want You to be pleased with everything I think, say and do, even if it means my sacrificing the things and/or beliefs I hold on to (which I think matter most).”? 

Loving God often means struggle and persecution, but it is ALWAYS about forsaking all in order to gain Christ’s blessing, once we’ve been saved by His grace.  If you view the Gospel in any other light, you are not yet a beneficiary of the truth.  Yes, God is all about love, but he’s also about holy living, exemplary behaviour as befitting His people and He expects TRUE REPENTANCE:  an about face in our hearts toward God and a resetting of our minds that enables us to seek out what God’s will is for every aspect of  our life. 

Do you want to be a hero?  Do you want to have the audience of angels and saints in heaven – and your heavenly Father himself – cheering for you?  Then be holy (sacred, morally upright, set apart), be seeking God’s will and be ready at all times to give your all no matter what the cost is to yourself.  This is how we win in this life and in the next.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“On His journey vast crowds attended Him, towards whom He turned and said, “If any one is coming to me who does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be a disciple of mine. No one who does not carry his own cross and come after me can be a disciple of mine. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the cost, asking if he has the means to finish it? — lest perhaps, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to finish, all who see it shall begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This man began to build, but could not finish.’ Or what king, marching to encounter another king in war, does not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand men to meet the one who is advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers and sues for peace. Just as no one of you who does not detach himself from all that belongs to him can be a disciple of mine.”
(Luk 14:25-33)

“Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses, let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet. And let us run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus, our Prince Leader in the faith, who will also award us the prize. He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame, and afterwards seated Himself– where He still sits–at the right hand of the throne of God. Therefore, if you would escape becoming weary and faint-hearted, compare your own sufferings with those of Him who endured such hostility directed against Him by sinners.”
(Heb 12:1-3)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Religion, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mathterlife Equations


Ever wondered if all the world’s religions or faith-groups (and what they believe regarding the afterlife) could be broken down into simple mathematical formulas?

Well, here’s an attempt at what that might look like.

VALUES

M = Mankind
W = Works (usually referent to goodness via thoughts, words and deeds)
D = Death (the constant)
U = Uncertainty (unknown or unknowable outcome)
B = Belief (faith in an unseen force or being)
AE = Ambiguous Eternity (includes reincarnation belief systems)
S = Substitutionary Death (of Jesus Christ)
R = Relationship (faith based communion/prayerful intimacy with God)
GE = Guaranteed Eternity


NON-FAITH BASED EQUATIONS


1. Atheists

M + W = D + Ø

2. Agnostics

M + W = D + U

The Algebraic Take
In case of the agnostic, they believe M or W (or both) have a value higher than do atheists, in order for U > Ø. However, since M + W are in fact the same quantities then D + U = D, leading to U = Ø at the very least.

The Theological Take
Agnostics and Atheists have to be the saddest lot, in that their non-belief consigns them to a life with temporary significance. Meaning and purpose is measured (or experienced) via ephemeral/fleeting notions of what is good or bad given a particular moment in time. There is no grounded universal with respect to ethics or morality. No foundation of belief regarding the spiritual exists. The afterlife, if there is one, is wholly unknowable.


FAITH BASED EQUATIONS


3. Nontheistic or Polytheistic Religions

M + B + W = D + AE

The Algebraic Take
D + AE > D only if B > Ø. If belief with no quantifier (something definitive to believe in) is the same as no belief at all, then B = Ø and again D + AE = D, leading to U = Ø at the very least.

The Theological Take
In nontheistic faiths such as Buddhism, some souls might enter the ‘hungry ghost realm’ (if they belonged to evil people) or will reincarnate into another person until all bad karma has been dealt with and one achieves ‘Nirvana’, which is essentially a successful transition to blissful ignorance!

In the polytheistic religion of Hinduism or Jainism, karma is directly linked to your past deeds and/or misdeeds. Your bad debts are paid off in transiting from life to life and you can never hope to know what type of existence will befall you upon your ‘next go around’. (One of the reasons the poorer classes (aka. Talits) of India are not well regarded or assisted by many of the well-to-do in society is due to the traditional and pervasive belief that the poor are where they are because karma is being meted out to them by way of their suffering!)


4. Spiritualist, Mystical or ‘Fringe’ Belief Systems

(M + B) | (M + W) = D + AE

Note: “|= logical or

The Algebraic Take
If (M + B) > (M + W) in conceptual value, we have no contradiction if from the previous case B = Ø (non quantified), and again neither can be > D, and so again, here B and W can be used interchangeably, and in the end, D + AE = D, and so again AE = Ø.

The Theological Take
Wiccans, serious practitioners of eastern meditation, New Age types or spiritualists all have one thing in common: a desire to be non-conformist in their approach to faith or religious practices. In other words, if a belief concept is considered ‘outside the box’ or non-traditional, it’s a candidate for interest. Multiple elements borrowed from Christianity, eastern mysticism, witchcraft, Buddhism, Jainism and even voodoo form a hodgepodge of beliefs and/or practices. Achieving harmony with self, nature and others is the primary focus while thoughts of the afterlife are of secondary concern; often a mish-mash of various ideas with no root concepts. The need to address one’s own moral evil or sinfulness and how it relates to ‘the next world’ is usually regarded as ‘old school’ and even offensive, while goodness is whatever one deems it to be. What unifies people in this belief category is their having no unified idea of what God or the afterlife truly entails.


5. Monotheistic Abrahamic Religions and/or Christian Cults

M + B + W = D + AE

The Algebraic Take
Same as case 3.  D + AE = D, AE = Ø.

The Theological Take
Religions such as Judaism, Islam and even Mormonism have a munificence of customs and beliefs based on holy books or sacred scriptures. Beliefs and customs vary somewhat, but what they ALL have in common is an understanding that the rights and wrongs committed in this life are what impact one’s ultimate destination; that being heaven or hell and particular levels therein.

Doing one’s best, along with a general or committed belief in God should or could result in a good outcome, but there is still no guarantee! (Incidentally, women do not share celestial equality with men in Islam and Mormonism.)


6. Christianity’s Equation

S + M + B + R = D – D + GE

The Algebraic Take
Here belief is quantified by S and R, giving the all-important GE quantity, and interestingly, the constant D is cancelled out on the right side of the equation thanks to the substitutionary death S = -D on the left side.

The Theological Take
Christianity is the ONLY FAITH system where the belief in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ supersedes man’s moral uprightness. Classical first-century Christianity contends that mankind cannot (nor will ever be able to) understand or attain a level of goodness that God would be impressed by or satisfied with. It further asserts that even the negative, dark thoughts of the mind count as spots on our souls. In order for God to receive us into his presence fully and completely (in this life AND the next), we have to be perfect. Realistically, this is quite impossible. To become perfect enough for God, a person must accept that they are morally and ethically a shifty, inept being who can never attain a full level of goodness that meets God’s requirements in areas of purity, holiness and right-standing character and that the ONLY solution to this dilemma is to be made perfect! Christ, who while on earth was perfect in every way, was indeed a great teacher and an incredible man but Christians believe he was far more than that. They believe that God, through Christ, revealed his intense love for us by sacrificing His very self in death in order to make us perfect and bridge the barrier that exists between a holy God and not-very-holy humanity. A further step was taken by this same God – to provide evidence of His power and ability – when He caused Jesus’ body to rise up and out of death’s grip within three days of His brutal execution. This miraculous event, witnessed by several hundred people, validated to these people (and those who would believe their testimony) that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be and that God’s seal of approval rests with Him and Him alone. (No other religious leader has ever left an empty tomb behind them.) When this is believed in wholeheartedly and whole-mindedly by anyone and a true one-to-one relationship between them and God ensues as a result, God determines them ‘fully qualified’ for entrance into a peaceful and purposeful eternity.

One may notice that the ‘W‘ (works) variable is missing from Christian math equation. The reason? A Christian’s relationship with God (as brought about through Christ’s saving work) is the only means by which we will ever be able to rest, let alone stand, in the presence of the Almighty. A turning away from things that are considered spiritually or morally unhealthy evidences true Christian belief and ‘good works’ will be the natural outworking that springs from the new life and relationship God begins in a real believer. Just as it is believed that in the next life evildoers will receive punishment that befits their crimes, Christians, upon entering their eternity with God, understand that they will receive some measure of reward for the good works that they have done while in their earthly bodies. (After opening and entering through the door of faith, it is very important to note that the Christian no longer maintains that any {or any amount} of their good deeds are what qualify them for an eternity with God and often reflects upon this, remembering that anything to the contrary strips away the true meaning and ultimate purpose of Christ’s death on the cross.)

My attempt to explain faith concepts using mathematical equations is certainly a feeble one, but fortunately God is not feeble. He is powerful enough to whisper into the deafest ear, “I am here – know my Son, know Me, know my intense love for you and believe”. Today, this may be you.

I pray anyone reading this will hear the call of the Master and come to know the truth that indeed sets them free.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012., with algebraic corrections and commentary provided by Boris D.


For further evidence of the above, please download a free copy of the bible (and a variety of helpful commentaries) from www.e-sword.net and review for yourselves, in context, the following verses.

Letter to the Romans 5:6-11
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
New American Standard Translation

Letter to the Hebrews 12:22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
New International Version

Letter to the Philippians 3:7-14
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
New Living Translation

Letter to the Hebrews 10:1-25
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—as is written about me in the Scriptures.'”

First, Christ said,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.”

He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,

“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says,

“I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
New Living Translation

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Religion, Theology, Worship Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.