April 13, 2009

A reminder to those who would reject Christ

Our president has declared that "we are not a Christian nation," and perhaps that is true. But none of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, should rejoice in that pronouncement. Eventually, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

While looking for videos to post for Easter Sunday, I came across this video of the sun rising behind the U.S. Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Marine Iwo Jima Memorial. Watching the sun rise while listening to the words of this song reminded me that our leaders may not recognize Jesus as Lord—but that does not diminish his Lordship.


  1. Why is it wrong for a none believer to ask Christians questions?

    I'm a preachers kid, raised Lutheran. Over the years I've come to realized that I wasn't believing in God based on facts, but instead based on a form of brain washing.

    Now when I ask questions I don't get real answers. I just hear things like, "Tim: Why are you rejecting God when he loves you so much?" Or my favorite is something my mom uses as a crutch, "Well honey, Sometimes Gods answer is NO". OH SHUT UP!

    Recently I was at a grocery store and some guy came over to evangelize to me. When I asked him questions he said, "What you need to do is read your Bible and hang around people who believe." NOOOOO I don't want to be brain washed. I want the facts. Why is that so difficult?

  2. Feel free to ask any questions here. I'm not sure I get the purpose of your comment since there actually isn't a question here--just a straw man casting those of the Christian faith in a bad light.

    It is not at all wrong for a non-believer to ask a Christian a question. The apostle Peter urged Christians to "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). It is actually a foundational principle of the Christian faith.

    However, if your intention in asking the questions is to be problematic rather than to seek the truth, you're likely to get answers from people that sound a lot like "Sometimes God answers, 'No'" and "you need to hang out with believers."

    You have said here that you "want the facts." That is what you will get here, so feel free to ask any questions you may have. I don't know how you were raised and perhaps it was simply brain-washing. I am also a pastor's son. But I was raised on the facts only, not on brain-washing. And I was taught that we should all continually seek the truth.

    I must say at this point in the conversation, however, that I have a foundational belief system that includes an absolute belief in the authority of the Bible in all matters--faith, practice, science, history, etc.,--all matters. So if you ask questions here, you're likely to get responses that bow to the authority of scripture. If my answers, or anyone else's answers here at this blog do not bow to the absolute authority of scripture, please point that out. And I would advise you at this point to reject those arguments. Any argument made apart from the authority of scripture has no authority whatsoever.

  3. By brain washed I just mean that from an early age I was only taught the Bible. I was never exposed to any arguments against the existence of God.

    My first question is this. Why is the Biblical description of God, SO different from the character of Jesus?

    As an example, I have a son who is now a teenager and he is at that age where everything I say is "LAME". If my son disobeys, what should I do. Here are the words of God...

    "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; Then shall his father and mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of the city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

    I realize that stoning was perfectly acceptable in Old Testament times. But doesn't it seem excessive to kill your own son for not obeying? I guess I can't imagine Jesus making the same demand.

  4. We make a mistake when we ask the question, "what would Jesus do?" We don't need to ask that question because we have a record of what Jesus did and what he said.

    Jesus said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt 5:17). He then goes on to say, "“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire" (Matt 5:21-22).

    Jesus did not relax the demands of the Law, such as the demand you quoted in your comment. He actually calls his followers to a higher standard. He says, in effect, "if you just harbor hatred against your brother in your heart you are guilty of murder" and "if you look at a woman you're not married to and think about sex, you're guilty of adultery."

    The Law and the thousands of years of Israel's history of trying to keep the Law is the pedagogical foundation for why we all need a perfect Sacrifice. We cannot keep the Law. We are not capable of the perfection that a holy God demands, and yet He demands it. In James 2:10 we are told, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."

    So if I tell a little white lie, or if I steal a Bic pen from the doctors office, I am as guilty as the most vile murderer and deserve to die "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

    But James goes on to say "So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:12-13).

    The Law was given to show that we cannot attain to the holiness demanded by God. And Jesus was sent to pay the penalty for our sins so that God's holy and righteous anger against our sinfulness would be satisfied. This allows us to have fellowship with God because God sees us clothed not in our own sins but in Christ's righteousness.

    So the "law of liberty" refers to the New Covenant that we have in Christ as contrasted against the Old Covenant of the Law. A summary of this comes from the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1-4, when he says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Thus, the Law of Liberty.

    Paul goes on to say to the Roman Christians, "if you live according to the flesh you will die" (like those children who were stoned to death for disobeying their parents). But we have been given the Law of Liberty, which frees us from the terrible demands of the Law. But only if we repent of our sins and throw ourselves at the foot of the cross calling on the name of Jesus to save us.

  5. I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree, so as impressive as your answer was I think I comprehended about 20 percent of it. Basically I think you're saying that sin is so wicked in God's eyes that we deserve to be punished by death. But because he had his son take the pain for us, then we deserve heaven if we repent and put our trust in him. Can I be honest and say that this just sounds crazy. I mean I love my own children so much that the thought of killing one of them as punishment for making a mistake is beyond me.

    So does God just go along with the laws of the land in the Old Testament. In Numbers 31, 32-41 the Israelites have conquered the Midianites. As a reward to the Priest, God provided him with 32 virgins to do with as he pleased. This means that God basically let young girls be used sexually. Is this because of some sin that made them deserve rape?

  6. Tim - you said:

    In Numbers 31, 32-41 the Israelites have conquered the Midianites. As a reward to the Priest, God provided him with 32 virgins to do with as he pleased. This means that God basically let young girls be used sexually. This is simply not even close to what the Bible says in Numbers 31: 32-41. God demanded two percent of all the plunder, which included cattle, sheep, donkeys, and people. God's portion of the plunder (that 2%) was given to the Levitical priesthood. There is no indication whatsoever that this was intended for sexual purposes. In fact, such use of these people would have been a violation of the Law that the Levites were charged with teaching and enforcing.

    These girls were probably made to be servants--maids, in essence--and not sexual slaves.

    Those of us who trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior are rewarded with heaven, but, no, we still don't deserve heaven. We all deserve hell, but because of Christ those who believe will not get what they deserve.

    I understand that it may sound crazy to you that God would sacrifice his son to restore fellowship with him to undeserving sinners. But your admission of this should be a cause for concern to you. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

    I will pray that God opens your eyes to His message of salvation.

  7. I had this conversation with my sister-in-law many, many years ago. It sounds crazy because it's inconceivable. You and I don't possess the kind of love that God has for us. Remember, His son didn't stay dead -- He rose again and is now in heaven with His Father. You should be surprised, because as you said, not one of us would give the life of our child or of ourselves for a criminal, yet according to the Bible, that's what happened.

    I have a couple of great books that I give to people with questions like yours. Lee Strobel, a reporter, investigated the claims of Christ as a skeptic. He recorded his journey in The Case for Christ. He has also written The Case for Faith. Another very good book with reasonable answers to the questions you've asked is More than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. Again, Josh McDowell set out to prove that the resurrection was a fallacy, but ended up convincing himself of the opposite. If you are truly interested in well thought out answers, these would be good resources.

    I truly do believe that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. I am one who has received His gift of eternal life. God has been doing amazing things in my life for more than 30 years. I surely hope you get to know the God I've come to know.

  8. Richard, so if I'm perishing, how do I change that? Whenever I ask for proof of a God, whether it be from a Christian, Morman, Jehovah Wittness, etc, I'm told that if I don't believe in their God I will have terrible things happen to me. I guess I don't fall for the scare tactics.

    The other day I had someone tell me he could prove to me in 20 seconds that God existed. He asked who made my watch and I said "a watch maker". He asked who created my car, and I said automotive company, then he asked who created the trees. I said I didn't know and he said, "It had to be God, because EVERYTHING needs a creator." I then asked the obvious question, "Who created God?". He said that God didn't have a creator. WHAT? This is one of those patronizing games that fundamentalists like to play on people. When someone is seriously looking for answers, I find it mean to mess with their heads like this.

  9. How can you be sure you haven't been brain washed?

    You are making arguments that support a God who treats women like property; giving them away along with cattle as a prize.

    You're claiming that God was Just in commanding that a rebellious teen be stoned to death.

    In Judges, Jephthah agrees to sacrifice his virgin daughter, by buring her to death. This was to please the lord. This girl did nothing wrong, she was just used as a way for Jephthah to prove his devotion to God. Shouldn't God have been able to know Jephthah's heart without this sacrifice?

    In Sunday school I was taught about a loving God. But in actually reading the Bible I see that "Love" is way far down on God's list of priorities. I believe God says that if I show love to my neighbor, but don't do it in God's name, he is disgusted with me. Basically it is more important to believe in God than it is to show love.

    I'm sure it's my "foolishness" that makes me unable to comprehend the nature of sin.

    In Leviticus God seems to be saying that people who are handicapped, should not be able to worship in church...

    "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. . . . a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous. Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire . . . he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the Lord do sanctify them." (Leviticus 21:16-23)

  10. You do have good questions, Tim. I would like to tell you that both Rich and I believe in interpreting Scripture with Scripture. In other words, no passage stands alone to itself. Just as we can take a politician's words out of context to make them say something he never intended, we can do the same with scripture.

    I'd like to deal with your question from Leviticus 21. First of all, God is setting up a Levitical priesthood. This passage is not referring the entire Jewish community. These are the men that would be offering sacrifices for the sins of the people. Just as God required no blemish on the animal that was brought, He also required that the one offering the sacrifice be without blemish. He was making a point to the Jews about sin and holiness, and used the "blemish" as a picture of that relationship. He does not say that the crippled or marred cannot come to worship. This rule was strictly for the men who would be serving in the temple. To further prove the point here, look at what Jesus told John the Baptist when he questioned whether Jesus was really the Messiah. He quoted from Isaiah's prophecy, "Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:4-6). Jesus' ministry included healing a blind man. "And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:2,3). Jesus did not see this blind man as one who deserved his blindness, but as one who had been created to bring glory to God. If you read further in the story, you will see to what extent God received glory in this man's life. This man did not end up hating God for all the years of his blindness, but rather gave glory to God that he was made to see. Instead of choosing bitterness, he chose gratitude. We have the same choice offered to us.

    So as you can see, the scripture you quoted did not prohibit those who were disabled from coming and worshipping. It was a symbol, however, of God's holiness and His desire for His people to be set apart from the nations.

    One more thing that Rich and I believe is that the Israel and the church are separate entities -- the church has NOT replaced the nation of Israel in God's unfolding plan. God chose the nation of Israel as His own special people for all time. Even when they rejected His son, He did not reject them. He will keep His promises to the nation of Israel. The church is a sidebar of sorts, in the history of man. The Gentiles have been "grafted in", as the apostle Paul says in the book of Romans. We have been allowed to fellowship on equal footing with God's chosen people because of the work of Christ. What was once unclean is now clean. How glorious!!

    So as you read the scriptures, you must remember that the nation of Israel was God's nation, set apart to show the nations His power and His care of them, and that some of the things you read in Leviticus are relating to the Levitical priesthood, and to people who were still waiting for the perfect sacrifice, (Jesus) that would cleanse sin once for all time. Paul tells us in Galatians that the law was our teacher, to show us that we could not live up to perfection, and that we needed a mediator, a perfect substitute.

    Again, if you read further in the New Testament, you will find that God set a place for women that was exalted. Jesus made sure His mother, Mary, was cared for by giving John the responsibility of taking care of her while they stood at the foot of the cross. Peter tells us in his epistle that if a man mistreats his wife, his prayers will be hindered. Paul says in Ephesians that a man is to cherish his wife and nourish her like he nourishes his own body. This certainly does not support your picture of God as a God who treats women like property; giving them away along with cattle as a prize.

    To be fair, one must take what the whole Bible says in its historical context in order to interpret it correctly. I do not disagree that the old testament law was harsh, but it had a purpose. Jesus himself fulfilled the law to the satisfaction of God the Father -- thereby making it possible for you and I to please Him, and to be welcomed as His sons. Where once we could not satisfy a holy God, we now can walk into His presence by the blood of Christ, guilt-free, and accepted as sons. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12) That, my friend, is a loving God -- who, instead of demanding righteousness, MAKES us righteous, and gives us a new heart that is able to obey.

    As I once told a friend, the difference between me and the "unsaved" person, is that I now have the ability to please God, and that because His Spirit indwells me, I desire to please Him and have less and less desire to please my flesh. Before Christ, I was not righteous, and nothing that I do, even now, is righteous of my own doing. But I am now capable of living right before God because I have believed in His Son.

    I believe, Tim, that the "brainwashing" you speak of was a result of churches that did not truly preach the gospel of grace by faith alone, but a gospel of works -- where you earn God's love and God's favor. I believe you are frustrated because you know you cannot satisfy a holy God, if indeed He exists. The fact is, Tim, that you are 100% correct. But, and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24). The scriptures also tell us that while we were STILL SINNING, Christ died for the ungodly. He didn't wait until we were good enough for Him, He came to make us good enough. I want to welcome you to the doctrine of grace, and to remind you that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). For the believer, condemnation is a thing of the past -- not because we obey, but because we believe.

    Sorry this is so long, Tim, but I do want to answer your questions. I don't want to be someone who gives up when the questions get too hard. Your questions are real, and there are real answers to them.

  11. Mary, THANK YOU for taking so much time to respond.

    I understand now that God was not saying in Levitcus that people with blemishes could not worship. However the message still seems a little mean spirited to me. Maybe I've been told too many times that it is what a person is like on the inside that matters. God appears to be saying that a person who is physically beautiful, is somehow more holy than a person with a blemish. In my mind, if we are truly God's children, then wouldn't a person with a blemish be just as pleasing to him as a person without. As a parent, I love me kids so much that in my eyes they are SO beautiful. Not a single blemish would make me think less of them.

    I recognize that the Bible does speak of cherishing women. Why do so many other verses speak of treated them poorly? There are men in the Bible, who by today's standards would be considered pigs, but in biblical times they are not denounced by God...

    "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites . . . And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines." (I Kings 11:1-3)

    King Solomon was never denounced for having sex outside of marrage. However, God makes it clear that a woman in the same position should be stoned to death or worse...

    "If any man take a wife, and go in unto her . . . and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid . . . and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die . . ." (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

    Even today there are churchs that will not permit a woman to preach. The church I belong to was punished by the ECLA and banned from its conference for ordaining a lesbian woman. I know I shouldn't judge all Christians by the actions of a few evil churchs, but it makes me think.

  12. We are told in the scripture that "man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart." So, yes, God is more concerned with our hearts than our appearance. But the Leviticus passage is dealing with a picture of sin vs. holiness -- using a picture that man could understand, imperfect vs. perfect, as God wanted to communicate that He was perfect and that sin was unacceptable to him. Let's be honest, if you and I got to choose between the gifts of a Royal Lipazzan stallion and a three-legged work horse, you know what we would choose and why. God wasn't saying that the three-legged work horse had no value. But when people were bringing him a sacrifice for their sin, He wanted it to cost them something -- the finest animal from their flock. This was so that they would take sin seriously. Think of it this way. God loves us so much that He wants to spare us from the consequences of sinning -- so He made it hard to excuse it. In fact, the perfect sacrifice was the highest cost of all -- God himself died to pay the penalty for your sin and mine.

    Too many times we get the idea that God wants to spoil our fun. But we know that naturally every choice we make has a consequence, whether good or bad. Living a godly life has it's benefits, too, including joy. That's not to say that there are no struggles in the Christian life -- follow me around for two days, and I'll show you otherwise. However, knowing that God has a purpose for EVERYTHING in our lives gives me great joy, because I can't wait to see what He's going to do. I may not be hopping around doing the happy dance, but deep inside, my faith bubbles up into confidence!!

    You will find that I believe the Bible is the standard by which we should live, and you probably would expect that. I think what has most often frustrated you is the inconsistency in the life of a believer; the seeming contradictions between what they say and how they behave. So for me, when the Bible says something, I should strive for that standard.

    I am a student of the Bible, as you might have guessed. And as a good communicator, I certainly would be able to preach well in any setting. I'm a trained educator and have a Bible college degree. However, because God said that the pastor should be the husband of one wife, and that the woman should not exert authority over a man (See 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to see a description of the qualifications for a pastor), I consider that a good enough reason for me to avoid the pulpit. But you see that it doesn't disqualify me from sharing my faith or teaching the Word. It is a matter of spiritual authority. And although I have many friends who are gay, and we accept each other's differences here on earth, the Bible is pretty forthright about sexual relationships -- not just between same sex, but between the opposite sexes. So for a BELIEVER, there are biblical standards that dictate our behavior. And after 21 years of marriage to a really super guy, I can tell you that the heterosexual, monogamous lifestyle isn't boring at all, I'm not missing anything. My gay friends know where I stand scripturally, but I don't demand that they live by my standard. But a gay believer needs to reconcile his/her behavior with the call of scripture.

    The redeeming value in this, is that either the Bible is true, or it is false and we ought to pick one and stick with it. I accept it as true, and when something doesn't gel with how I live, I have to change or know that I'm walking in disobedience. I don't lose my standing with God when I sin, but I do lose the joy of fellowship. To get a clearer picture of this, think of your relationship with your kids. When they really tick you off, you don't disown them, but neither do you have a playful, intimate relationship until the problem is resolved. Same with God.

    Finally, where did you get the idea that Solomon was never denounced for having sex outside of marriage? That's a new one on me! I'd be happy to show you that indeed the price for his disobedience was very high -- and it affected the history of all of Israel.

    Let me ask, though, are these passages you bring up things that have bothered you for some time? If so, I would recommend that you get a New Living Translation Bible and read through these passages on your own, with no commentaries at all. Write down your questions, but first, ask yourself these questions: What is the general purpose of the information in this passage? To whom is it written? What does it say about God's relationship with man, and what is required of man?

    Also, you REALLY need some time in the Psalms so that you can see some other facets of the character of God. You seem stuck in the books of the Law -- most, if not all of the passages you have questioned are only from 5 out of the 66 books of the Bible. You've missed a whole lot of God by just reading what you perceive as the problem passages. I challenge you to read more of the scriptures and look at the big picture. I'm certain you'll be surprised at what you'll find.


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