I Lost My Faith. I Began to Doubt. I Became a Disciple.

“If you die tonight, and you are not 100% sure that you will go to heaven, pray this prayer with me!”

“If you are 99% sure that you are saved, you are 100% lost!”

Of all the things I heard in my youth group and camp experiences growing up, these two quotes stuck out to me the most. They are used all the time. Usually, to follow it up, the evangelist/preacher that says these kinds of things will post on twitter afterward “54 saved tonight! #booyeah!” Why? What is so good about saying any of that?

Christian culture is obsessed with numbers. “Get ‘em saved, and bounce.” That’s basically the model that we follow. But it goes a little further than even that. Christian culture distorts the meaning of biblical Christianity by doing things like this. It doesn’t work. The majority of the people that I knew growing up who got saved under the guidance of an evangelist who said things like this dropped it and went back to doing whatever else it is they do, sometimes not even returning to church. That’s a problem, and it creates a lot of cognitive dissonance among Christians. I don’t think evangelists are intending to do any of this, but it is harmful, for a LOT of reasons. There are two main components that are missing from evangelical culture: 1. The freedom to doubt not just your salvation, but Christianity as a whole. 2. Discipleship.

Losing My Faith

I lost my faith when I was in seventh grade. Not because I didn’t believe in God anymore, but because I decided that there was no way to fully know, with complete and utter certainty, that I had been saved. Yeah, I had accepted Christ when I was six, so I really was a born again Christian, but I went through a painful moment where I couldn’t reconcile my salvation, which was in fact true, with the degree of certainty that many evangelists and pastors wanted me to. So, I felt that by their definition, I wasn’t a Christian.

Doubt

 

The next step is a big one. Doubt. Oh yeah, you better believe I doubted the truth of Christianity. But it didn’t last for long. It was just an early high school thing that I more or less kept to myself. But even so, during that time, I was anxious. I was anxious because I was still hearing the 100% message that I had been hearing my entire life. This caused me to believe that I wasn’t a Christian. Yeah, I genuinely believe it. I was so scared to continue doubting, but I longed to be open-minded and learn the truth. But as I began to question certain truths of the faith, I began to become more comfortable with it. I mean, after all, Habakkuk did it, and God was fine with him.

Doubt is powerful. Without considering it, it can be difficult to learn. It is okay to go through periods of skepticism. God would much rather you gain knowledge than hide in ignorance. But don’t make doubt the center point of your life. I still go through periods where I doubt God, His motives, and other things. It’s part of human nature. We doubt. And it’s okay. I would say that the 100% message is most harmful in this category. If someone hears the Gospel at a summer camp, gets saved, and begins to doubt some small aspect of their Christian walk later, they will leave the Christian faith. No doubt about it (well, I guess there’s SOME doubt J). Evangelists, instead of trying to get numbers, should focus on teaching people to learn. They should teach people not to worry in times of doubt and frustration. Let me assure you of one thing, if you are 99% certain you are saved, you are most certainly not lost.

Discipleship

Finally, here is the most important step. Discipleship doesn’t happen. Christianity is not confined to ten minutes of your morning devotional or the moment you get saved. Christ has called us to become true disciples that walk with Him daily. This means that Christ should be radiating throughout every moment of our lives, not just a few. Evangelists need to teach people to continue to follow Christ, and not just live for that one moment of salvation. Being a Christian is not the moment of your salvation. Being a Christian is your life.

“Even the disciples doubted Jesus’s power — and that was after Jesus performed miracles in front of them, but, ultimately, faith invites us to trust and, more importantly, to look back over our lives and see God’s activity throughout.”

-James Martin

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Love From the Almighty

Today is Valentine’s Day.  That can mean a lot of things for a lot of different people.  It can be a celebration of the love of you and your significant other, it can just be a day where you and someone you’re infatuated with go on a date, or it can be totally renamed to something like “Single Awareness Day.”  Regardless, Valentine’s Day is rooted in love.  Love is a concept that we sometimes have a hard time identifying in a satisfactory way.  For some, it’s just a reaction to chemicals in our brains.  To others, it’s much more than that.  From the biblical perspective, love is necessary.  It’s necessary for many reasons.  For one, we live in an evil world.  Nobody would deny this.  Love is necessary for us to function properly in society.  Human beings were not designed to be alone.  We are designed to be with one another, whether that be in a romantic manner or just a simple friendship, this idea of love is everywhere.

But here’s the sad part:  Love is overcomable.

Our world is messed up.  It’s infected by sin.  It is in our DNA to fight off the love and affection that God has instilled in our world.  The divorce rate is higher than ever.  Love is easily broken.  People become distraught over love.  So what do we do about it?

Loving someone comes with a temptation.  You can easily place the basis of your love in that other person.  Is this bad?  Well, yeah!  If love is going to succeed, then we have to recognize two central things:

1.  God is love.

2.  We are created in God’s Image.

The real problem is that we root love in things that we shouldn’t.  Being created in the Image of God means that love should be in our nature.  But if we are going to have healthy relationships with the people in our lives, shouldn’t we place the basis of our love in its source?  God is love.  That’s so easy to say, yet so difficult to grasp.  Every relationship that we have ever been in, and will ever be in, should be rooted in the transcendent love of God.  This Valentine’s Day, we should remember the love that God has displayed for us to see.  We should find satisfaction and fulfillment in Him.  Love doesn’t come down to pure chemistry, but the way that God views us, the way that we should view God, and the way we ought to view others.

“What is man that You magnify him,

And that You are concerned about him,

That you examine him every morning

And try him every moment?”

Job 7: 17-18

Atheists Can Be Pseudoscientists, Too

A few years ago, Ben Stein released a documentary called Expelled. In this documentary, Stein advocates Intelligent Design as an alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory. At one point in the documentary, Stein interviews popular atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, being sort of a poster-child for modern day atheism, made the point that he believes a rational explanation to the origin of life on earth was that it was planted by aliens. “Aliens? Really? And this is coming from a guy who is supposed to advocate reason?”

That’s what most theists would say if a comment like this were made. I, however, don’t find anything inherently irrational about what Dawkins said. He may be right. Personally, I don’t think he is, but he did propose an explanation of some kind in order to solve the ongoing problem of abiogenesis. My beef with Dawkins doesn’t lie in exactly what he said but the entirety of Dawkins’ argument as a whole. You see, Richard Dawkins is one of those guys who advocates an atheistic worldview because he believes that theists are making radical pseudoscientific God-of-the-Gaps assumptions and taking away from the good work of science. To Dawkins, science is the key. To a degree, I think he’s right. I don’t advocate young earth creationism or Intelligent Design, as I see evolutionary theory to hold a lot of weight to it. But, it seems that Dawkins is committing the same crime that he is accusing theists of doing. He’s advocating pseudoscience. There’s nothing scientific at all about assuming that aliens planted life on earth around 3.9 billion years ago. Even if he’s right, there’s no testable hypothesis to assume this. And even if there was, there’s still the problem of abiogenesis occurring on another planet. And even if this could occur on another planet, you still have to weigh the mathematical probabilities of evolution successfully taking place on another planet as it has done on ours. (I am no expert on this stuff, so I’m trying not to go into it much. My point is that Dawkins has simply raised more questions that he seems to be answering with the same pseudoscientific principles that he is accusing theists of using.)

A recent study has indicated that more people in Britain believe in ghosts and aliens than in God. But so what? Does this matter? Only if you take into consideration that most atheists accuse Christians/theists/etc. of holding pseudoscientific beliefs. But creationists and ID proponents are not the only Christians/theists accused of pseudoscience. In an article he wrote on Karl Giberson, Jerry Coyne says:

“I gave the answer above to why the middle ground is losing: accommodationism doesn’t work, nor does converting naturalists into theistic evolutionists. So there’s no reason that middle ground should increase. The reason it’s decreasing is palpably obvious: America is becoming less religious as young people either lose their faith or fail to embrace any. Further, as they become less religious, they become more pro-science (being religious is a barrier to accepting science). And if you’re pro-science and a “none,” theistic evolution simply isn’t credible.”

It’s not that he blatantly says anything against the theistic evolutionist camp as being a group of pseudoscientists, but he does make his point very clear that embracing modern science will diminish one’s faith in a deity. This is demonstrably false. Coyne doesn’t seem to take into account that there are MANY scientists who do believe in God, and, while many young people do lose their faith, many young people also grow in their faith by embracing a love and understanding of science.

Another pressing issue in the whole “Science and Religion” discussion is the multiverse theory. Does the existence of multiple universes exclude the need for a creator? Possibly, but let’s think about what we’re dealing with here. The principle of uniformity states that all natural laws that operate in the universe now have always operated in the same way, and they also operate in the same way all the way across the whole of the universe. This is a totally reasonable principle, and there are scientific reasons to accept it (pretty much everyone accepts this principle). The problem is that when you start throwing multiple universes into the mix, you lose the uniformity principle. Why? Because there is no reason, especially no scientific reason, to assume that the same uniformity that exists in our own universe (the only realm of existence that we can actually study, I might add) exists in other universes. The multiverse may not, in fact probably doesn’t, have the same natural laws that exist in our own universe. If they don’t, then the laws of the multiverse may not be natural. They may be supernatural. My point: there is no way to make scientific claims about the multiverse. It is unobservable, it cannot be experimented on, and it may not even behave under natural law. It’s all pseudoscience.

(Just for the record, I personally do not believe in the multiverse. There are Christians who do, however.)

The bottom line is this: embracing science is not a one-way street to atheism. There are many Christians, most notably Francis Collins and Alister McGrath, who converted to Christianity from an atheistic perspective and now believe that God gives much more beauty to their scientific endeavors.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize the fact that not all atheists believe in pseudoscience. At the same time, neither do all theists. There are rational theist perspectives and there are rational atheist perspectives as well. My point of writing this post is to simply show that atheism should not be conflated with science.

Book Review: Reoriented

I don’t read much on the topic of homosexuality. One of my main reasons for this is because it is difficult, no, almost impossible to pick up a book on the topic without the author’s biases completely skewing the purpose of the discussion. That was not the case for Reoriented. I found this book very enlightening in so many different ways. The book is by Tyler Francke, a journalist and avid blogger who also runs the page God of Evolution. Not only did I find this book enlightening, but I found that Francke had a way of making it very personal.

The story takes place on a college campus where a gay student, D.J. Martinez, plans to start a school club called “New Day” to help further the discussion on homosexuality. I won’t go too much into the details of the story, as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but there are three “main” characters, if you will: D.J., Ally, and John. D.J. holds the view that homosexuality is not a sin. Ally, who supports D.J. and what he does for “New Day”, does not take a position on whether homosexuality is a sin or not. John takes a pretty hard conservative stance, claiming that homosexuality is definitely a sin and the Scriptures make this obvious.

Now, I’m not going to talk about my views on homosexuality for two reasons: 1. I’ve already written on it a couple of times, and 2. It doesn’t really have much to do with this discussion. Actually, I read the entire book and still don’t know what Francke’s position is on homosexuality, and frankly, I don’t really care either. The reason why is that I believe he wrote the book for an entirely different purpose than to persuade someone of one view of homosexuality over another. This being said, there are three big things that I got out of this book:

  1. Homosexuality might be a sin but that’s not the point.

The book is much more about a community of believers in Christ than anything else. This book brings together people who have many different views on homosexuality and they show love and support for one another regardless of what their personal views are. This is so very important, because if the church cannot show the love of Christ to one another, then we cannot even begin to have a rational discussion about topics like homosexuality. What’s more important: that we treat people with the love of Christ or condemn them because of their sexual orientation? Reoriented brings out the big picture in a brilliant way. New Day members are full of people who do not necessarily support homosexuality, but they are willing to be there because of their love for the homosexual community; something many Christians can’t seem to do for some reason.

  1. D.J. Martinez

D.J.’s character is one that anyone can get attached to. It showed me, personally, that even though he’s gay and I’m not, he is a normal human being just like me. I know this is intellectually easy to grasp, but when you read about someone living it out in a normal lifestyle, it gives you a whole new perspective on it.

  1. Grace

This was the most important part of this book. The recurring theme throughout is that no matter what you’ve been through and how much you have had to endure, Christ’s grace is still sufficient for all of us. If we are going to follow Christ and still persecute homosexuals, then either Jesus was a terrible evangelist or we just have to admit that he was full of love and we just don’t want to live like that. Either way, it’s bastardizing to God’s Word, and it’s evil. The message that we SHOULD be preaching is that of the grace of Jesus Christ; “the unearned, undeserved gift- it cost us nothing but cost Christ everything.”

Overall, this book was fantastic.  Highly recommended to all Christians and non-Christians alike.

God, Grace, and the Beautiful Season of Christmas

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

The above is one of my all time favorite quotes. However, it is not just a quote, it is a prayer. The Muslim saint Rabia Basri prayed it. I do not follow Islam, but read the prayer a couple times and try to grasp the meaning of it in Christian terms. Along side this, I read a tweet from pastor Brian Zahnd last week that sort of went along side this:

“I’m a Christian” should mean approximately this: “I’m trying to replicate Christ in my own life.” Not “I’m going to heaven when I die.”

What is the real reason we worship God? What is the real reason we celebrate this upcoming holiday called Christmas? Is it for satisfaction of knowing God, or to escape eternal fiery pits? I don’t want to be that guy that tells pastors to stop preaching about hell, because it’s certainly important. But as I read Scripture, I do not see a trend of Jesus saying things like “Accept me or die!” I see Jesus preaching the Word for the purpose of trying to get people to find satisfaction in God.

So, Christmas is coming up soon. What does this mean for Christians? We often talk about the fact that Jesus came into the world on this day to purge it of sin and death. This is true, but let’s redirect our focus. Our focus should be on grace. I would argue that Christmas is completely about grace. Nobody wants to spend eternity in the biblical picture of hell, but at the same time, we ought to recognize and appreciate more of what’s going on in the big picture. Grace is what separates Christianity from every other worldview. It shows a Savior who came down to earth, died for something that was completely OUR fault, and none of it was His fault. It was totally undeserved and unearned. Until we grasp the fullness of this, we will never be able to appreciate Christ for who he is. John 10:10 says,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

These words are straight out of the mouth of Jesus. We need to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ came so that we could engage in a satisfactory relationship with Him. Christ went through the most pain and suffering any human being could ever endure, and it would be foolish and selfish of us to ignore that aspect of it simply to avoid hell. We ought to be more scared of not having the prize than suffering the punishment.

What is the real thing we should be focusing on this Christmas? Grace and sanctification. That’s it. Focus on what Christ did for us…. Not just so that we could escape punishment, but so that we could one day grasp the entirety of God’s love.

10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview

The Bible can be a tricky book. Much of what I study is how to properly interpret it. However, to make things simple, I’m just going to post ten different passages that have had a significant impact on my life:

  1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                     Romans 12:2

This verse is fairly well known among many Christians, but there’s just something deep about it that really sticks out to me. For one, to be conformed to Christ, by definition, is a moment of radical change that cannot be achieved by means of anything else. Also, it shows the powerful, life-transforming power of Christ to change someone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

  1. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a]whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4

One thing that my dad always told me growing up was to try and figure out what God is teaching you during any given hardship. While this is difficult to do, this verse is speaking to that kind of situation. When I have this kind of perspective, it not only makes hard times bearable, but it also gives me a tremendous amount of comfort, knowing that God will make all things work together for good. It is a method of spiritual growth that cannot be achieved any other way.

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

People have different ways of connecting to God spiritually. My particular way is through being out in His creation. This helps me to connect to God in a way that no other method does. This verse just helps shed light on God’s beautiful handiwork.

  1. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

James 1:19

Try this. You would be amazed the amount of wisdom, insight, and joy you can get from listening to others (particularly those who have more life experience than you).

  1. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:39

To turn the other cheek when you are slapped in this culture is a sign of shaming the other person. Do so in love, not in hate or an act of revenge. A non-violent behavior can go a long way with people who cause conflict in your life.

  1. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

This verse is simply speaking about focus. The human struggle revolves around a constant anxiety, and sometimes even depression that can hinder people from living the abundant life that God has meant for them to have. The main cause of this is focus. Have your focus on things that are good, things that are of God, and not things that are meant to cause you harm.

  1. One who is full loathes honey,
    but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

Sometimes it’s good to throw in a metaphor. I like this verse because it puts the satisfaction of God in simple human terms. This sort of connects to John Piper’s idea of Christian hedonism. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

  1. he predestined usforadoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:5

Adoption is a beautiful thing, one that I have had the privilege to witness first hand in my own family.

To know that Christ had the intention to adopt us, children who were lost, is a powerful message that fully grasps the sovereignty of God.

  1. “If your brother or sister[b]sins,[c]go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Matthew 18:15

Need help solving problems in your personal relationships? There you go. That’s as simple as it gets.

  1. He will destroy death forever.
    The Lord God will wipe away the tears
    from every face
    and remove His people’s disgrace
    from the whole earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The knowledge that Christ will defeat death in the end is what gives the most powerful feeling in the Christian walk: Hope.

Biblical Literalists Need to Be More Critical of the Bible

biblical literalism

Biblical literalism is a very unfortunate result of post-Enlightenment thinking.  This kind of thought seems pretty attractive on the surface, but if you really want to get a grasp as to what the biblical writers were saying, it would be much more sophisticated to look at the ancient meaning of the text.  The big problem with biblical literalism is that nobody actually takes the whole bible literally.  I have recalled many different Facebook conversations that I’ve had with different people in which they claim to take the Bible literally from beginning to end.  This is just plain false.  The Bible literally says to gouge your eye out if you look upon a woman lustfully.  The Bible literally says to sell all of your possessions and give to the poor.  The Bible literally says that the earth is held up on four pillars.  The Bible literally says that there is a solid dome covering the earth.  The Bible literally says a lot of things that are just simply not true in the Post-Enlightenment literal sense.

The main problem with this line of thought sort of transcends over into the way that biblical literalists actually live their lives.  The Bible says that it is God’s Word.  I agree, but why should we assume this?  The literalist assumes right off the bat that the Bible is the Word of God without even questioning the actual content in the Bible.  This is problematic just as much for the Christian who withholds the view as it is for the non-Christian who’s trying to rationalize the Bible.  Here’s where I’m getting at.  We are not to question the Bible simply to get understanding about it.  We are to question it in order to tear Scripture apart into it’s little bits and question even the validity of the thing we are reading.  This is how we gain true understanding.

One thing that many Evangelicals don’t seem to understand is that there are actually people who simply don’t view the Bible as divinely inspired.  Why is this?  Because it makes sense.  It actually makes sense that the Bible is not divinely inspired…. From a LITERALIST point of view.  Taking every scientific, historical, mathematical, and sociocultural aspect of reality that we have discovered into consideration, it just simply makes no sense to think that God divinely inspired Scripture to be read literally.  If the Bible is either literal or false, many people are going to choose that it’s just false.  This is where Biblical criticism comes into play.  Biblical criticism allows one to see the Bible through a much more objective lens where we study the anthropological mindset behind each and every verse in the Bible and learn how to properly interpret it.  This is good hermeneutics.  If we were to educate the average layman on how to interpret the Bible critically, much of these problems and misconceptions about Christianity will fade away.

My Dearest Marcela, Welcome Home

Marcela Baby

As many of you know, my family chose to adopt a couple years ago. There are many people who feel as if they are called to adopt, and this is seen as a beautiful thing by our society. Adoption IS a beautiful thing. It pulls children from a hopeless world into a hopeful reality. It helps better the human condition. As an anthropology student, one thing that I strive to do is help better the human condition. As a Christian, I am able to take this to a whole new level.

My sister’s name is Marcela.

As a Christian, I feel that I am called to not only help people better improve their lives for the sake of rights, pleasures, etc. My ultimate purpose would be lost if I were not furthering the Kingdom of God. This is my passion. It is my calling. If I were to be sitting around doing some sort of anthropological research without having the Kingdom of God as my basis for gaining understanding and applying it to the human condition, then I would feel that my calling is dubious. As a Christian, THIS is my calling. As a member of the Crawford family, our calling is to adopt. But not just adopt in order to give a little girl an earthly family, but a heavenly relationship with God as well.

My sister’s name is Marcela. She grew up in a nominally Catholic family, with little to no understanding of the Gospel message. Her future did not look so bright.

Adoption is what gives the Christian life meaning. It is what fuels Christian’s lives in order to persevere on and keep going. For Ephesians 1:5 claims that God predestined us to be ADOPTED into His kingdom. If it weren’t for the act of adoption, nobody would see the entirety of God’s glory. Adoption is an essential part of the Christian walk.

My sister’s name is Marcela. She is happy, talkative, and full of energy.

From the dawn of creation, man has cursed itself with the inevitable conclusion of destruction. For God created us in His image, and that image has never been so twisted and torn. The thousands of years of humans fighting, torturing, starving, crying, trying to fight on for one last breath as the universe that they were created in is now trying to kill them, seem like an endless chasm of pain and suffering with nothing in sight.

My sister’s name is Marcela. I now know that she has hope.

For within this gawd-awful, bastardized creation the Creator Himself, God Almighty, allowed Himself to be born into this world and live a life as one of us. He was beaten, tortured, ripped apart by the very people that He created in His very image just to help man see the light of day. He was hung on a tree as He took upon the weight of every single sin and dastardly deed that man had ever and will ever commit, JUST to give man hope that he would be adopted; just so I could receive a text from my dad on November 15, 2014 that Marcela had accepted Christ’s gift of eternal salvation. Now, Marcela is truly adopted. This is grace, and this is peace. More importantly, this is love. To be loved by God despite Him knowing every single flaw and detail about you is a gift that allows us to keep going, and fight through the trials and the hardships of this world.

My sister’s name is Marcela. Welcome home.  🙂

Christians, It’s Time to Stop Saying “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

judgementday

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is one of the most abused phrases in the evangelical circle. Many Christians think that, in order to treat homosexuals “properly,” they should use this phrase. Now, it’s not that the phrase in and of itself is wrong, it’s that our culture has done such a bad job at treating homosexuals properly in the first place. I have written a few posts on homosexuality, so my views on the subject are pretty clear. However, I really don’t care who you are, if you claim to be a follower of Christ, it’s time to stop treating gay people different from everyone else.

I have seen pastors handle this issue the wrong way time and time again. First of all, and this should go without saying, the way that John MacArthur and people like him handle homosexuality is blatantly unbiblical. If someone comes out of the closet and professes to be gay, shunning and isolating them is evil, sick, and twisted. Nobody deserves this kind of behavior. Now that that’s on the table, let’s go to the bigger issue.

I see pastors and theologians say things like, “the homosexual community is a community of sinners, and we should reach out to them.” Now, once again, the content of the message is not necessarily demeaning, it’s more due to a cultural problem. Why is it that we say this to homosexuals, and NOBODY else? Why is it that homosexuals are looked upon as different from everyone else? This is something I will never understand. People who say things like this do not necessarily hate gay people, but they go about the issue with a non-Christian attitude. It would be one thing if we said “love the sinner, hate the sin” about everybody else, but nobody feels the need to do that. There are a couple of very important aspects we need to look at in order to determine how to properly handle the homosexual community.

Scripture

 

Jesus never once said anything about homosexuality. This doesn’t really mean anything about homosexuality being a sin, but it’s interesting to note. Jesus did not care about what kinds of sins people were committing, but he cared much more about reaching out to people of all different kinds of sinful backgrounds. This is very significant. One of my favorite verses is Matthew 7:1-5,

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

I love this verse because it captures a big part of Christian discipleship. Christians often get so clouded in their own sin that they cannot see clearly into other people’s lives. Why do Christians judge in this manner? I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to love those sinners and hate their sins. Luke 6:37 says,

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

In the context of this verse, using the phrase “love the sinner, but hate the sin” is asinine. We have taken one specific community of sinners, labeled them as “different”, and we have built entire phrases built of the backs of these groups. It’s really disappointing.

Why are people gay, and how should we recognize this as Christians?

 

“People choose to be gay” is one of the most ignorant statements I can think of. Nobody chooses to be gay. Homosexuality is a tricky field to get into. So Christians, how do we handle this tricky field? First of all, understand that none of the homosexuals in your life chose to be gay anymore than you chose to be straight. I guarantee you that you will never find a homosexual who has consciously chosen to be gay. Second of all, recognize that there ARE biological factors that play into homosexual behavior. There are many genes that can cause, for instance, a man to be attracted to masculine traits. Simply ignoring this because you don’t want it to be true will not cause it to go away. Third of all, and most importantly, recognize that the Kingdom of God and Christ’s love transcends far beyond the sin in this particular individual’s life, no matter what kind of sin that is. Treat them as anybody else, and focus on how you can help use the Kingdom to build their life in a positive way.

A couple of final points

Remember, the Kingdom of God should be our focus here, and if it is, homosexuals will not be treated in a hostile way like they currently are. Secondly, gay marriage, whether you disagree with it or not, will not affect your own personal rights and liberties. That being said, be careful how you protest. And lastly, follow closely to the teaching of Jesus. Live amongst the sinners as opposed to preaching to others about them.

Make your ways known upon earth, Lord God,
your saving power among all peoples.
Renew your Church in holiness
and help us to serve you with joy.
Guide the leaders of all nations,
that justice may prevail throughout the world.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Make us instruments of your peace
and let your glory be over all the earth. Amen

Christianity and Suicide

suicide picture

Amidst the deeply theological/philosophical stuff I usually post on here, I like to occasionally speak to the Christian community as a whole, and how we should handle sensitive issues like this. This post in particular will be about suicide, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among teens. This is a sensitive issue, in fact one of the most sensitive issues. Suicide in one way or another affects many people, whether it is struggling with suicidal thoughts themselves, a loved one, or even a good friend committing suicide.

Suicide has affected me personally, and this is spread out among four very specific instances that have taken place in my life. When I was in seventh grade, there was a student in my history class named Joe. Joe was a nice guy, even though I never really knew him that well. But one morning, I came to school to find out that Joe had taken his own life. This was the first time I had ever encountered anything like this. Even though I did not know Joe very well, it deeply affected me. I could not imagine how much of a low point a 14 year old kid had to hit to do something like that. It was a tragic event, and it affected many people in Joe’s family and many people at his school.

On my 15th birthday, I got news that a local pastor’s son, Aaron, had taken his own life. I never actually met Aaron, but I knew many people who knew him very well. This affected me primarily because my dad was a pastor, and Aaron was very close to my age.

The third event, and definitely the most personal, happened on December 26, 2011. It was the day after Christmas, and I was sitting in my room enjoying the video game I had received as a gift the day before. My dad walks in, sits down, and tells me to turn the game off. He proceeded to explain to me that my good friend, Zane, had passed away. When my dad got back from meeting with Zane’s family, he told me that Zane had taken his own life. I immediately broke down crying. I couldn’t help it. Zane, one of the happiest, most joyful, most adventurous people I had every known, was gone. Zane was so caring. He loved everybody in his life, and he even donated his time to helping people with physical disabilities. He was one of the strongest believers in Christ I had ever met. I was in a daze all week leading up to his funeral. At his funeral, I saw more pain in the souls of the people surrounding me than I had ever seen before. It was at this moment that I realized that suicide is the most one of the most detrimental things human beings can experience, not just for the person who it is directly affecting, but for the people around that person as well.

The final event happened just this last July, when I received news that pastor Ergun Caner’s son, Braxton, had taken his own life. This one sort of began to anger me based off of the Christian community’s response to it. A pastor up in Montana, JD Hall, was getting all kinds of flack for engaging in conversation with Braxton on Twitter just weeks before. Let me say this real quick, JD Hall and I have gone at it before on his own blog, and we have had our disagreements, but he is NOT responsible for the death of Braxton Caner. Hall even came out two weeks later and repented for his sin, which is all we can ask of him. To have this kind of attitude toward people like Hall is not only a false accusation, but it is making an assumption that one fully knows what Braxton was going through, and NOBODY knows that.

Now, these four events did have a significant impact on my life, but I need to say some things about suicide from a Christian perspective:

Suicide is the single worst decision one can make.

 

Please don’t misread what I am saying. Suicide may be the worst decision one can make, but you have got to at least partly understand what suicidal people go through. They hit the absolute lowest point they could ever hit in this life, and they feel as if they have no other way out. We often try to figure out why someone would do such a thing, which to a degree is healthy. It helps us to better understand the situation that is at hand.

Our culture influences suicide.

 

Christians, we have got to be aware of the fact that we live in a day and age that borderline encourages suicide. You don’t believe me? How many times have you heard somebody say, even if it was a joke, “go kill yourself”? Christians all over the world talk about how selfish suicide is, which is insulting and degrading to someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts and actions, and it does absolutely no good. Euthanasia is becoming increasingly popular. Involuntary suicides are beginning to take place in certain countries around the world, and voluntary assisted suicides are being encouraged, not just for people who are severely disabled, but for people struggling with anxiety and depression as well. It is a poison that is affecting the very world that we live in, and it is madness. We have got to become conscious of this fact, and spread Christ’s love and offer help to people to prevent it from taking place.

And my last point…

 

Handling suicide from a Christ-like perspective.

 

Let me make this very clear. Suicide does not prohibit one from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Many Christians try and make this claim, and it is not only perverting but bastardizing the Word of God. It is literally adding a false doctrine into the Bible. Suicide is a sin, but God doesn’t get mad and throw you in hell because of it. It breaks God’s heart, and He mourns for you. My good friend Zane made a terrible mistake, but I follow closely to the words of his uncle, who spoke at his funeral. “I cannot allow a single act of sin to outshine an entire life devoted to God.” I cannot help but find so much truth in that. Just because we may have been saved by God’s grace, doesn’t mean that we will not struggle in this life. We must allow our lives to flourish in God’s creation, and to spread His good message to the entire world. We should help Christians and non-Christians alike if they are struggling with suicide thoughts, and we should be there to support one another through the hard times. God did not create us to be lonely creatures, but to be interactive and to support one another. This is discipleship, and it is Christ-like.

“O Lord, we call upon You in our time of sorrow,

That You give us the strength and will to bear our heavy

burdens, until we can again feel the warmth and love of

Your divine compassion. Be mindful of us and have mercy

on us while we struggle to comprehend life’s hardships.

Keep us ever in Your watch, til we can walk again with

light hearts and renewed spirits.”

Amen