Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Biblical Lifestyle: Money

One thing that marks authentic Christianity in the life of a believer is the way she thinks and how she lives her life. It affects how she views and handles money, personal and social responsibility, politics, and the environment.

The most obvious behavior is in how a person handles money. Even people who are unbelievers can have good money habits, but who — other than a genuine believer — would spend their money on the things of Christ. Here's an example:


  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Give to godly causes in keeping with one's income. (1 Corinthians 8-9)
    • Don't give what you don't own.
    • Don't promise to give what you don't have.
    • Don't give under compulsion.
  • Pay your debts. (Proverbs 22:7; Proverbs 13:11; Romans 13:8)
  • Take care of your responsibilities. (1 Timothy 5:8 and 6:17-19)
    • Your family's needs.
    • Giving to God's work.
    • Savings.
  • After taking care of your responsibilities, enjoy what you've legitimately earned, because it is yours.
If you see a believer who does these things, you get the good idea they just might be authentic.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's The Truth?

I am not asking what is the nature of truth. I will assume that truth is the authentic nature of all things. Truth is the way things really are, and the basis for the way things are. With truth we arrive at solutions, deal with reality, and are capable of navigating the world the way it actually is.

The title question is something much different. It sets the stage for true discussion and genuine dialog. Rather than angry diatribes, ad-hominem attacks, and evil suspicions. The question follows the agreement that truth can be had or arrived at. We have the ability to know and abide by truth. Therefore, the title question is the natural result.

Since something is true about the nature of reality, what is that truth? What school of thought is in line with this truth? What way of living is consistent with this truth?

Let's Just Get Along By Skirting the Issue?

I know some folks want to skirt the issue by saying either there is no real truth, or that truth cannot be arrived at. My question to that line of reasoning is, How do you know? If you claim that you don't know, logically my evidence should trump your lack of any evidence. If you claim that you do know, then you have arrived at truth yourself. And you've just contradicted yourself.

So, let's leave this immature attempt at not accepting responsibility. For everyone has the responsibility to work at arriving at a consistent worldview, and live by it. This work involves dealing with real events, their consequences, and their implications. We need to deal with our observations of reality, and line those observations up with a consistent overarching principle. Even if someone were to believe there is no overarching principle, that in itself is an overarching principle &mdash by the way, is the principle of chaos.

The Fear of the Truth

The overarching principle is called a Story by some. But I don't think that is accurate. Stories tend to be subjective in interpretation. And when we talk about stories in this manner, we tend to personalize stories or meld them with our own personal stories. And we get weird ideas about culture and community that are wholly devoid of a unifying principle. This attempt tends to lean more toward a lazy communal-ism rather than a serious arrival at truth.

I understand people's reluctance to discuss matters of truth. For truth invites arguments about matters that matter. Truth invites pain and struggle. Truth resists error. Truth can be hard to face. And truth can split families and communities. That is an essential nature of truth. It excludes other claims to it.

But truth is also beautiful. Truth lights our path through life. Truth can give genuine hope. Truth can adjust our course. Truth gives us wisdom and a sound mind.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's So Good About Good Friday?

Courtesy demondimum of

Today is the day Christians celebrate the suffering and death of Jesus, the Christ. Although some people have chosen to celebrate Earth Day in lieu of this, believers from all over the world recognize the significance of remembering the day Jesus gave his life for the life of the world. However, some people celebrate with no real understanding of its true significance other than a powerful gesture of love. So, what sort of significance is it suppose to hold?

First of all, Jesus is God in human flesh. This is both an exclusive claim and an inclusive claim. It is exclusive in the sense that God is clearly only One God. There is no other. (Isaiah 45:5; Isaiah 45:14-22) God, Himself, discounts the existence of any other god besides Him. (Isaiah 44:8) He is the only Savior, and every knee will bow to Him. (Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:20-23) Yet, Jesus shares not only the glory of the Father, but His authority. And as such, holds a place of worship along side the Father. Jesus is fully God. (Philippians 2:5-11; Acts 4:8-12; Colossians 2:9-10)

It is also an inclusive claim because he came in human flesh. He shares our humanity, thus is a perfect substitutionary sacrifice (being fully man, and fully God). (Hebrews 1:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18) He identifies with our sufferings, our temptations, and our limitations. Yet, he was without sin or guile. (Hebrews 4:15-16) He understands what everyone is going through, and offers a hope and peace that he knows we need. He is the hope of the whole world. Yet, the world doesn't accept him.

Second, Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God. As previously said, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. Whether we have realized it or not, when we were non-Christians, we were God's enemies. (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21) We were at war with God. Yet, God loved us and every non-Christian. But God is not mocked either. There will be an accounting which we will all have to pay. And pay dearly. But, God made a way to both satisfy His righteous retribution and to offer us freedom from judgment. (Romans 8:1-2) So, upon Jesus, God in human flesh, He made a way out of no way. He sacrificed Himself in our place. The wrath of the Father upon His Son for the life of the world. (Isaiah 53:10-12) Now, for those who become disciples of Jesus — who place their total trust and allegiance in him — there is salvation..

Last, Jesus rose from the grave. This is one of the most attested to account in all of history. It is the most scrutinized too, because it sounds so fantastic. Yet, it is virtually undeniable that it happened. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) This leaves a powerful testimony that Jesus is not only more than a mere man, but that he is telling the truth. (Acts 17:29-31; John 14:8-11) And this truth is that he is God in human flesh, giving his life for the life of the world. His followers may experience physical death, but they will never die. (John 11:23-25)

For some people Jesus is all about their organization, denomination, or affiliations. They place their hope in these things as a replacement for following Jesus. But Jesus is the hope. His sacrifice is the only act. His resurrection is the proof. And no organization or affiliation can do that for you.

Now, that's what I call good news.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No More Sacrifices Left

Courtesy clarita at

Many people are celebrating the Passover this week, which started yesterday. People are commemorating it in different ways. Some people see it as a time to annually watch The Ten Commandments. Some people view it as a time to look forward to the Easter celebration. And Jewish people see this time as a very sacred remembrance of God's deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. For them it also a time to remember the prophet Moses, God's deliverance through the Red Sea, and the giving of the Law. Even the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb has special significance. It is through this that the Jewish people are "passed over" when God strikes down all the firstborn of Egypt.

But around 2000 years ago, Jesus did something even his own disciples didn't fully understand at the time. During his last Passover on earth, Jesus told his disciples that, from now on, the Passover is all about him. He didn't focus on what God did in the past to deliver the Jews out of slavery. He didn't focus on Moses. He didn't even focus on the Law. He said to focus on his suffering and sacrifice. The giving of his body (his suffering) and the giving of his life (his sacrifice in blood). This sacrifice would bring to his disciples what no other sacrifice could ever bring: a new covenant of peace with God.

You see, this sacrifice supersedes all others, including the Passover Lamb, because it is greater and it is final. There is no longer any sacrifice for sins left because Jesus' sacrifice eliminates the final consequence of sin — eternal death in Hell. Jesus' disciples are "passed over," if you will, from sin's consequences by the blood of Christ.

So, whether it is the Passover season, Easter, or just another week, the Christian is always to remember how they stand — only by what Jesus did. And there is no other faith, no religious practice, no moral actions, or no deep desire that can save mankind other than the sacrifice of Jesus. His sacrifice is our only hope.

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Inconvenient Christianity

Photo courtesy cohdra of

I was casually listening to a Christian radio talk show, when suddenly a woman called up with a problem that I found rather peculiar and unexpected. She said she had been a Christian for 17 years, but spent a few years in rebellion to Christ because of some personal problems. Now, she is in the process of being more dedicated to Christianity. However, she fell in love with a guy who is a Jehovah Witness. He is now asking to marry her, but her sister does not approve, saying it would be a very bad idea. Now she is confused as to what to do.

The radio hosts asked a series of questions. And she eventually admitted that the Jehovah Witness was not really committed to his faith, but believed hers was wrong for sure. She said she felt she could overlook that, since their love is so strong. But she was worried because of what her sister warned. And she wanted to know if she was making a mistake, or can she just overlook some of the differences.

The hosts went on to encourage her to investigate the beliefs of the Jehovah Witnesses at the very least — whether or not he was committed didn't make a difference. Then they wanted her to look at the day-to-day problems of valuing different religious activities, and to consider what it means to be committed to a belief.

I'd have to admit that would go beyond this advice. I wondered if this woman actually believed more about Christ than in Christ. In other words, she may have believed the information, but she wasn't committed to the Christian faith. I went on to wonder, what does she thinks makes someone a Christian? Is it simply accepting information about Christ? Is it joining a church or a Christian community? Is it deciding to do Christian activities?

Then the very next day, my oldest daughter and I were reading a Bible passage in the Gospels where Jesus told the demons to be quiet while they were proclaiming that he was the Messiah. My daughter was confused by this. "Why would Jesus tell them to be quiet, if they are acknowledging who he really is?" I explained that Jesus wanted people to come to him by faith, and the demons didn't have faith, they just have accurate information. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the Christ of God — and they shudder at the fact. I went on to show her the passage in James that discusses this very problem. (James 2:14-26)

Then we ended up talking about the problem of confusing the Biblical, saving, faith with empty faith. Saving faith produces actions. Empty faith produces nothing. Saving faith prompts acts of faith. Empty faith produces no corresponding acts at all. The most I can say about empty faith is that it fools the one who has this type of faith. They think they believe because they have the right information. In fact, earlier in James, it says that people who read the Bible without doing what it says are deceived.

So, what's the point? Well, it's possible to be deceived about our salvation. If the fruit isn't there, there may be a problem. And the problem isn't solved by getting more religious. The problem is addressed by adjusting whom we trust, what we value, how we respond, and where we are headed. If we didn't become a Christian without this repentance, we are not Christians. But if we believe Christ, we will obey and follow Christ.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Does God Really Want?

Everyone has an opinion about what God wants. Some people believe He simply agrees with them on every issue. (God just wants what they want. Just be sincere.) Some people believe God wants everyone to "just get along." And then there are people who believe that God is too demanding. There is nothing worth doing if not done perfectly. He can't be pleased.

In Matthew 9:9-13 Jesus invites a tax collector, Matthew, to follow him. Matthew agrees to leave his current life to be a disciple of Jesus. So, he invites Jesus to his home for a party to celebrate. This caused a bit of an uproar from the religious leaders because tax collectors, and their sinner friends were not the kind of people the Messiah should be associated with. The Messiah, according to Malachi 4:1-3, is suppose to condemn sinners and come for the righteous "with healing in his wings."

Curiously, Jesus answers his critics in an unexpected manner. He said that he came as a doctor for the sick (sinners) not for the well (righteous). In other words, the religious leaders saw a problem. Jesus saw his mission.

But Jesus doesn't stop here. Jesus goes on to explain what God wants: He wants mercy, not sacrifice. Here, Jesus quotes the Old Testament prophet, Hosea. There, God's message is a plea for Israel to repent, and He would forgive them. God wanted them to understand that their religious sacrifices cannot save them. And the only solution was to come to Him to have life.

Essentially, Jesus is saying that this is what he is all about. He has come to fulfill what God wants. And He wants people to repent and give their allegiance to Him. And Jesus is the means. For in Hebrews 10:5-8 it states that Jesus offered his body in replacement of the sacrificial system, to bring sinners to God.

This is good news. Our efforts at being acceptable to God, other people, or even ourselves will never cut it. But, by grace and mercy (through Christ's sacrifice) we are invited into relationship with God. We only need to repent and give all our allegiance to Jesus; letting go of our efforts, striving, and self-hope. That's what God wants.

Is that what we want?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Christian Boundaries Are Necessary

Yeah, we all want to be welcoming and friendly like Jesus. And yeah, we can be cautious about dealing negatively with other people. In fact, we may believe that agreeing with people is the best approach for dealing with differences.

But the truth of the matter is that Jesus wasn't a pushover either. He was very clear about who he was, and he wasn't backing away from that. He was clear about what he was about (seek and save the lost), what he would do (die despite what Pete thought; Matthew 16:13-28), and where people stood with him (he didn't trust them; John 2:23-25, John 6:25-27). He was kind and gentle with people, but he did so in truth (John 13:1-5). He didn't back away from what he stood for. And that made some people very uncomfortable.

People either loved him or hated him. He didn't allow for any middle ground. There were no centrist or reasonable accommodations. "You are either with me or against me," he would say. This included folks who were on the periphery — observing him from a distance, afraid of being associated with him, but believed his message (John 12:42). Jesus did not allow people to believe whatever they wanted to concerning him or God the Father.

So, what business is it of the church to be embarrassed about Jesus in order to not "offend" other people? What sense does it make for the church to be off mission in order to make peace with the world? How should the church respond to people who hate what it stands for?

Whether individuals or a corporate body of believers, we have to have boundaries. Even if we choose to relax those natural boundaries of beliefs and practices, we still erect boundaries unconsciously. We choose to sacrifice our allegiance to Christ to win the approval of men. Or we sacrifice our integrity to "go along to get along." In doing so, it causes a great amount of pressure internally — even if you choose to ignore it. So, why not just be real.

Let's just be the church. Let's just be truthful about Jesus identity. Let's just say that the message of salvation is critical to all mankind. Let's accept that not everyone will agree.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Hero is More Than a Sandwich

After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — and the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration — it got me thinking about the idea of heroes. What is a hero? What makes a hero? How do we decide who a hero is?

Some people would call those, who eventually stopped the gunman's rampage, heroes. Some may even call Ms. Giffords a hero for fighting to survive. Though others would disagree and say she was simply a victim. This discussion was also around right after 9/11. Who are our heroes? Were our heroes victims, or just those who risked their lives to save others?

I think the national discussion misses an important point. If we define heroes by the demonstration of courage to bring about a social good, we have to ask what we mean by "good." What is good? How do we determine what is good, if we do not consider God? And if we do consider God, doesn't it only matter what God thinks is good, not what we say is good? Because we don't all agree. If we don't agree in what is good, how can we agree on who a hero is? We may have some consensus on public servants such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers as heroes. But what about people like Carrie Prejean, Sarah Palin, Margaret Sanger, Barak Obama, or George W. Bush? We can't agree on them.

I think the best definition for a hero is whomever God would commend. And specifically, whomever Jesus commends. That is our best objective criteria. Otherwise, we pick our heroes by opinion polls, likes, or political alignment. God doesn't see it that way. That's why people such as poor widows or working parents can be heroes — worthy of emulation.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Why The Reason for the Season Isn't Jesus' Birth

I was in a Christian book store not too long ago. And an older woman was in there talking on her cell phone quite loudly. It was very annoying. I tried to ignore her, because I am nervous about approaching an older woman. But she had very bad manners, and the conversation was way too loud. So, I started to approach her when, thankfully, she hung up. I quickly went back to browsing the books as I was before, relieved that I didn't have to talk to her.

I think sometimes we live our lives oblivious to how we come across. We get so engrossed in our own worlds we don't notice how our behavior affects other people. Sometimes we just don't care because our concerns are so important to us at the time. And we do this on a grand scale as well. We don't realize how our thoughts and behaviors offend God. We assume our actions and attitudes are minor infractions (if any) to a busy God.

During the Christmas season I was struck with the thought that the season has little to do with Jesus' birth per se. Rather it has more to do with who Jesus is and why He came. God came because our sin was going to damn us. And he entered the human race to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin — to divert what was coming to the whole world. So now we have the opportunity to be at peace with God through Jesus, only because of who Jesus is — the Son of God — and what Jesus did.

To truly understand the reason for Christmas, we must understand the reason for Easter.