Quit Trying to Live Like A Super Christian

A short time ago, I, along with my family, watched the movie Avengers: Endgame. As we watched we all cheered the Avengers on hoping and waiting for the forces of good to overcome the forces of evil. For the evening at least, these superheroes captured our imaginations and our hearts. Then we went to bed.

Why are we so enamored with superheroes? At least our culture seems to be even if you as an individual aren’t. I think it’s because it’s in the superhero stories where we see good always winning over evil, where people are saved from horrible fates and bad guys always get punished.

Superheroes give us hope in a world where we are bombarded by bad news and sadness.

Superheroes give us hope in a world where we are bombarded by bad news and sadness. But also, the truth is that they are just so cool. Try wearing spandex and look good at the same time. For most of us that is utterly impossible, but these superheroes always look amazing and so downright cool.

But superheroes aren’t real. They’re a fantasy. That’s why when we see someone dressed up like Spiderman we know that he or she is either heading to a party or they’re half a puck short of a goal. And if they really thought they were Spiderman, well then, we’d know for sure that they are unbalanced in their minds. That’s because we know that superheroes don’t exist.

How come then, when it comes to the Christian life so many try to be super heroes in the Christian realm? I don’t mean the hero who saves people from death, Jesus did that on the cross already. Rather I’m talking about the self-acclaimed Super Christian who comes across as better than everyone else, as someone who is out to single handedly fight the evil they see in every corner.

Truth be told, no one wants to know a Super Christian. And just like the super heroes of Marvel & DC, they aren’t real. And we know this because too many of us have grown up in broken homes. Too many of us have been disoriented by tragedy in our lives. Too many of us have lost faith in cultural institutions, including the church. Too many of us have grown up wondering if anyone really cares about us.

There is no such thing as a ‘Super Christian’. They are fake, yet we have all been hurt by people wearing those labels. What we are all longing for is to enter into relationships with people who are not just shiny and pretty on the outside, wearing the correct clothes and cutting their hair just right, appearing to be ‘all that’. Instead we are looking for those who are real and authentic with the life that God has given them, as messy as it may be.

But here’s the thing. Too many of us, if not all of us at some point or another try to be that Super Christian. We do that in the way we’ve struggled to ‘prove’ our worthiness before God.

I’m not interested in showing you how to be a better person. Nor am I interested in showing you how to be a good or even great Christian. And I’m certainly not interested in helping someone become a Super Christian. What I am interested in is showing you how to give your life over to Jesus so that he can change you and live through you.

Because unless he does the changing and unless he does the living through us, we’ll never get this Christian life thing down and we’ll never be free to live the life we we’re created to live. Which is accepting the gospel as a part of our life. The gospel or the good news that we can live a life free from the penalty of sin, free from the power & hold of sin, and ultimately free from the presence of sin.

Paul said in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” – Galatians 5:1-5

To Paul and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, understanding the true gospel is vital to living the Christian life because without understanding what it means to be a real Christian by embracing the true gospel, we end up living lives that are angst driven.

But when we understand and embrace true Christianity, and understand what the gospel is really about, it frees us up from the anxiety of religiosity, and the angst of trying to prove our worth before God, other people and ourselves, of trying to be a super Christian. It’s only when we understand the gospel for what it really is that we can be free from anxiety.

We can be free from anxiety

The surface issue, which threatened to divide the church, was circumcision. There were forces in the Jerusalem church who taught that circumcision was necessary to be in church fellowship. Paul described them as “false brothers,” who were brought in to bring them into “slavery.” What does he mean by slavery? He means that by making circumcision necessary for salvation, the false teachers were dragging the church back to adherence of a system of laws.

According to them we all needed to keep all of the Torah that contains 613 specific regulations & commandments. And you’d keep them if you really wanted to be a disciple of Jesus’ and really wanted to prove your worthiness to be saved and approved by God. How hard would that be? To keep track of them all – let alone do them all, you needed to be some sort of Super Christian. And we already know that there are no Super Christians because following all those rules and regulations are impossible for any human to do.

So, Paul’s argument was that we didn’t have to keep trying to fulfill the law anymore because God knew we couldn’t do it. Paul pointed out that God was doing a brand-new work that superseded all of the old rules and relationships. Most of us would agree with Paul, and we look back at these false teachers causing problems in the early church and we tsk tsk them.

I wonder how often we unconsciously add “extras” to the gospel message? 

But I wonder how often we unconsciously add “extras” to the gospel message? Extras that make us think that we can earn God’s favour by affirming certain teachings, following prescribed rituals, dressing or acting a certain way, listening to and singing the right music, speaking the right lingo, or avoiding taboo behaviour  And sometimes we get to the point where we smugly believe that we are better Christians because we don’t do this or that thing.

It’s like we think that the motto to live by is; I don’t smoke & I don’t Chew & I don’t associate with them that do! But anyone who trades freedom in Christ for a set of rules or a list of does and don’ts so that they can be considered a better Christian or a “Super Christian” is in reality accepting the handcuffs of spiritual slavery.

It’s so important to get the gospel right. That’s because the true gospel provides freedom, not slavery. Before we were in Christ, before we became a follower and disciple of Jesus’, we were in slavery to sin; now we are free in Christ from being forced to observe what often amounts to incidentals. Those activities we hold onto will not save us, and in the end, it is like being chained to the law. If we base our salvation and standing before God in a list of do’s and don’ts, we will grow very tired very fast.

Tim Keller, in his book Galatians For You, refers to this as emotional freedom, and says that when we apply a list of rules and regulations to the gospel it can become an “endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity.”Paul’s concern for the Galatians was to get the gospel right so that they could live in freedom. This needs to be my concern daily. It needs to be the concern of every Christian man or woman.

Promoting a gospel with extras is no gospel at all, and in the end, it robs us of the joy and freedom in Christ that is ours through his sacrifice and by becoming a part of Christ, united to Jesus as a disciple of his. We only can become filled with increasing anxiety, when living the old way of trying to justify our existence by our own work.

Union with Christ tells us, “you have died to yourself”. Which means that you’ve died to the angst that comes from feeling like you’re not allowed to fail, or to the feelings of inadequacy that come from feeling like you have. To those questions “Am I significant? Have I done enough? Am I accepted?” the answer is “Your life is now hidden (united) with Christ in God” – Colossians 3:1

This is the beautiful, biblical truth of justification. You no longer have to justify your life. You don’t have to worry, like Jay Gatsby in the story the Great Gatsby, about others thinking you’re a nobody. Christ marries himself to you and in a wonderful exchange, you give him all your sins, and he gives you all of his righteousness. It’s like he says to you and me “My life is perfect, right? Well yours isn’t. How would you like to trade?” The good news is that Jesus offers his life for those who are willing to turn from their own imperfect life and embrace his perfect one.

It’s like he says to you and me “My life is perfect, right? Well yours isn’t. How would you like to trade?”

In Christ, you are significant – ‘he’ makes you so. In Christ, you are secure. In Christ, you are accepted. But that acceptance no longer has to be earned or maintained; it is granted by grace and guaranteed in Christ. This doesn’t mean you stop working, but it does mean you now work in a totally new way. You no longer work for approval; you work from approval.

 American Idol was one of the most popular television shows of all time, and for the contestants, one of the most nerve wracking. A single missed note could cost you the competition, but winning could change the course of your life. At the end of each season, when the contest was over and the winner had been crowned, she or he took up the microphone and sang one more time. But it was no longer singing to win; it was singing because they’d won.

It was no longer a contest. They had nothing more to prove or earn. Instead, the chosen and honoured performer could sing with all his or her heart, delighting in their gifts for the benefit of others. That’s the freedom from anxiety the gospel gives.

You, dear Christian, have already been chosen and crowned in Christ, so now you can do what you do with all your energy, delighting in whatever gifts God has given you for the benefit of serving others. That is living life knowing you don’t need to be the hero, super or otherwise. That is living life without anxiety.

War On Christmas?

The question that comes up every year at this time is whether or not there is a war on Christmas. Before we get to that question, let me share with you a part of the Christmas story that I love. It’s when the angels came to announce Jesus’ birth.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:8-14

Here we see good news of great joy being presented to the common person in the land. Great news guys, the long-awaited Saviour is finally here. You could almost feel the rush of excitement that would have filled the hearts of these shepherds who then went to meet their baby king. 

This is a wonderful and very appropriate message for the season – Good news of Great Joy for all people. It’s Good news of Great joy even for the whole year because of what it means. There should be happiness in our hearts, dancing in the streets and joy in all our homes. So isn’t it interesting that instead of doing what the shepherds did, focusing on the Good news of Great joy, there are many today who view this season as a time for war instead. 

Here’s what I mean. I’ve observed that many have been caught in the throes of a war on semantics. We are seeing and hearing more “Happy Holidays” and less “Merry Christmases.” The “Christmas tree” has turned into being a “Holiday tree.”One television ad plays regularly with carollers singing: “We Wish You A Happy Holiday” to the tune of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

You can certainly see why a general mood of fighting back could prevail. I have seen numerous emails floating around with pictures of Christmas trees lamenting the secularization of Christmas. The underlying tone of these messages so far has been one of anger and partisanship, as if to say: “They can’t take our Christmas away from us!” 

It’s an interesting situation and one we need to consider seriously. If this is a battle, on what level do we fight it? If someone wishes us “Happy Holidays,” do we respond with a hearty “Merry Christmas,” thus striking a blow for the kingdom of God? But I wonder why we expect those who don’t know Jesus personally nor believe he is the son of God, why is it that we almost demand them to celebrate Christmas anyways? It’s not their holiday after all. 

Here’s the thing, the message that the shepherds received was about a baby being born, not a holiday to be birthed. The good news is about Christ, not the fact about whether we call the holiday Christmas or not. I am not in any way saying that we should ban the holiday or even to change the name, but I don’t even think Jesus cares very much about what we or anyone else call an evergreen with lights on it in December.

The fact is that there is and has been a war against God himself ever since Adam sinned in the garden. The attempt from the world to, in the very least ignore the Christmas title and at the very worst attempt to get rid of the Christmas holiday, is really an example of the rejection of Jesus’ gospel message of hope to a lost world. That is why Jesus came – to end the war and to redeem lost mankind. Look at Luke 1:35… 

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy.” – Luke 1:35

What’s in a name? It was William Shakespeare who popularized this question. The line is found in Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is wishing Romeo would change his name and so renounce his family who had been in opposition to their romance. She tries to convince him by asking, “Tis but thy name that is my enemy; O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”Juliet got it wrong, because a name is important, and can’t be just taken off like a piece of clothing. 

In the Christmas story we see a baby who is born being called ‘Holy’. That is a significant part of the story and here’s one of the reasons why. Holy means pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. God is both sovereign and holy. Sin is incompatible with God’s nature. The penalty for rejecting God’s sovereignty is separation from God, separation meaning both spiritual death and physical death. 

The tragic story of man’s disobedience is told in Genesis chapter three. Immediately after Adam & Eve disobeyed God’s command they both realized they were guilty. Adam and Eve tried to cover their guilt and shame from God, but they chose a poor cover up, a bunch of leaves that only covered a portion of their bodies. 

Their sin was still exposed & God, being Holy, can’t look on sin. So, God chose skins to completely cover Adam and Eve. “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21. The coats of skin that God provided for Adam and Eve represented the righteousness they needed so that they could be in God’s holy presence. 

The animal sacrificed was usually a lamb that had no blemishes or obvious imperfections & was an innocent substitute, an innocent victim. The problem was that this was all temporary and had to be repeated over and over again. What was needed was a perfect, lasting sacrifice because no matter how unblemished the lamb was; it was never going to be perfect enough and was certainly not everlasting or holy. 

Finally, God steps in and provides his own perfect sacrifice to cover our sins once and for all and provide us his righteousness. And we are introduced to this thru a little baby named Jesus who is called Holy. The only one who could be pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. Now when this baby grows into manhood and gives his life in sacrifice, because he is holy, perfect, without blemish, we can be clothed with his perfect righteousness. 

What’s in a name? In this case it’s the Saviour of the world. That’s the good news of great joy the shepherds received. Not a declaration of a new holiday with turkey and trees covered in lights. 

I don’t know if you ever thought about Christmas in that light before. We usually think of it in such a light sense, after all it’s about a little baby and a jolly happy man in a red suit and we always talk about peace on earth and the fact that it’s Good News, Great Joy! But is that the meaning of the Christmas season? What was the purpose of the Angels’ message to the shepherds? 

Just the other day I put myself in a very dangerous position by climbing up and down ladders onto rooftops, reaching and stretching for boxes in high up shelves in the garage. All this dangerous activity for what? Christmas is coming and Debbie had a list which I had to check twice just to make sure that I did everything on it. Today if you come by my home you will see three Christmas trees in the house, decorations both upstairs and downstairs and stockings hung over the fireplace. But is that what Christmas is about? 

We have this wonderful picture of a baby in a manger, feathery snowflakes, and soft lights all aglow over the fields, and complete Peace on earth as we all join hands around the cosmic tree singing Silent Night, not unlike the Who’s of Whosville. Not that I’m saying that that is a bad picture of Christmas, rather what I’m saying is that Jesus didn’t come into this world to make us peaceful citizens, he came to save us from sure death and the way he was to do this was by coming with a definiteness of purpose – his death for us. That is what the message the angels’ shared with the shepherds is truly about – death. More accurately it’s about Jesus coming to die. Good news of great Joy? Death? 

There was no other way to save us. He had to die, that was the only plan. You see, I was, am and always will be unacceptable to God. I came into this world a sinner, I am a sinner today and on the day that I die I will be a sinner. Out of my heart has, can and will come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God. 

Except for one amazing fact: The Lamb of God came to earth as a little baby boy, grew up to die, and took away my sins. I’m guilty of breaking the whole law when I break one, but now there is no condemnation for me, because I’m a follower of Christ Jesus. I am a sinner and a saint at exactly the same time because of the redemption that came through Jesus. That came that very first Christmas day 2000 years ago. It’s not about the deer on the lawn, rather it’s about the Lamb on the tree. 

Here’s how you keep Christ in Christmas: you celebrate him as Lord of your life and ruler of your heart, and you love even those who want to take Christmas out of the Holiday equation. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). He came to forgive sins – mine, yours, everybody’s. 

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Let’s not let religious pride get in the way of the core message of the gospel. It’s never been us againstthem; it’s us forthem. We mustn’t forget that Jesus came to die for the very people who are trying to secularize our country. 

In our zeal to keep Christ in Christmas, let’s be careful not to go to war against the very people who need him the most – those who don’t know him – which would only serve to alienate them from a relationship with ourselves and with Jesus. People are more likely to be set on the road to salvation by loving, caring believers who are secure in the hope of the real Christ living in their lives, and whose faith is brighter than any Christmas tree

That after all is the message given to the shepherds, and to us – Good News of Great Joy! 

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated.

It’s Really Paganism In A Different Skin

One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. I spent a lot of time searching for reliable information on this topic but found it quite difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Traditions like bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the histories of pagan worship, but the use of these items in your home certainly doesn’t indicate a return to paganism.

While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas. Bells are played to ring out the great news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world, a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind.

Even still, one of the reasons given to not celebrate the season does seem to carry weight. It seems that the day we currently celebrate the birth of Christ is connected to a pagan festival known as Saturnalia. Keep in mind that often, in these types of arguments, supposed facts are thrown around without establishing the truth behind a claim made.

Such is the case with the argument used to support pagan roots with Easter. The argument against the celebration of Easter is that the word Easter itself, and as a consequence the celebration of that holiday, comes from the worship of the goddess Ishtar. The problem however is that there is no evidence to support that claim, they are just two words that sound similar and so has entered into a kind of ‘Christian urban legend’ as though it was a piece of factual history even though it is not. But in the case of Christmas, the claim that Christmas is connected to the pagan festival Saturnalia, is actually true – but not for the reasons most would think.

The Smoking Gun – Saturnalia

Given the connection, there are some who claim that the ancient celebration of Saturnalia is the smoking gun that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christmas is pagan.

Brief history lesson: The Saturnalia holiday was a week-long Roman festival to honour the god Saturn, starting on December 17, it fell within what we now call the Christmas season. For most of history, debauchery seemed to dominate celebrations of the holiday; in fact, the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing.

Still, though the Christian understanding of Christmas is not about immorality and carousing, some Saturnalia customs do come across as hedonistic perversions of Christmas traditions to the modern eye. For instance, singing from house to house naked (glad we don’t do that one in Canada), feasting excessively, eating baked goods shaped like people, and exchanging bawdy gifts. The truth is that in reality, there’s good historical evidence suggesting that these events were actually reformed, absorbed, and transformed over time as a result of Christmas’ popularity overtaking that of Saturnalia, not Saturnalia customs influencing the Christmas celebrations.

I found it interesting as I did my research, that the early Christian’s motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern Christians and churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Parties” on October 31. In other words, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what is perceived as a pagan celebration. Back then, over time as the Roman Empire ‘Christianized’, customs associated with Saturnalia were ‘cleaned up’ and absorbed into the celebration of Christmas.

And it wasn’t just Saturnalia – another Roman holiday, Sol Invictus, was also gradually absorbed by Christmas. Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) celebrated, on December 25, the renewing of the Sun King and was linked to the winter solstice.

It’s no secret then that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Yet, like a modern Canadian family celebrating a harvest festival and dressing up like a bible character or great reformer of the past on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means. Early Christians chose December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that decision of theirs continues to this day. So, though Christmas and Saturnalia may be historical neighbours with indirect connections, they are not the same holiday, never were, and of course never will be.

Since We Don’t See December 25th In The Bible, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Christmas On That Day 

Furthering the debate are those who point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth – which is certainly true. December 25th may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. While none of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, the fact remains that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.

Christmas Has Become A Worldly Celebration, So We Should Avoid It As A ‘Set Apart’ People

Finally, some say that because the world celebrates Christmas – though it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”- Christians should avoid it. But let me point out that’s the same argument made by cults that deny Jesus altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny his deity. I personally see the occasion of Christmas as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations, including those trapped in cults.

Ultimately, there’s no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas, while at the same time, no biblical mandate to celebrate it. So, in the end, whether or not to celebrate Christmas really comes down to a personal decision. Whatever you decide to do regarding Christmas, your (or my) views should not be used as a club to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honour inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from God who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views.

Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen a phrase being used which simply says ‘Love is Love’. The meaning behind the statement is that falling in love is not about the gender of the person, nor important if it’s monogamous or polyamorous. The sentiment is that you can be gay, bi or straight and pursue a monogamous or polyamorous relationship as long as you’re getting the love, affection and companionship that you need to be happy and fulfilled emotionally as well as satisfied sexually.

The understanding is that when someone makes the statement using the three words, ‘love is Love’, that should settle the matter. After all, how can you argue with someone else’s choice to love? For that matter, it might not even be a choice anyways if I have ‘fallen in love’ because that’s an uncontrolled physical and emotional response to chemistry between two people that just happens. Is it though?

There are a few issues that need to be addressed that come along with the blanket statement ‘Love is Love. For instance; where do we draw the line? Does it only include ‘love’ between two consenting adults or could it include love between an adult and a child or a human and an animal?

To most of us, including those who promote the current idea of the phrase ‘love is love’, those suggestions would be unthinkable. However, only a few short years ago the majority would have been aghast at the idea of the love is love ideology as it is promoted today. Yet there are movements afoot to normalize both pedophilia and bestiality as we speak, who’s to say that one day they wouldn’t be ‘normalized’? It’s happened before in past cultures – Rome & Greece are just two examples of many.

Who set’s the boundaries of this love is love ideology anyways? After all, ‘Love is love’ isn’t it? It comes down to the simple pursuit of happiness and that sense of being needed, wanted and cared for – isn’t that what we all want? If the answer to those questions are in the affirmative then I’d say ‘go for it!’.

But what if it is not an enlightened way to live but is instead a foolish lie? What if it leads to unhealthy places for one or both involved; emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically?[1] If that’s the case then we need to be extremely careful in making a case for what we might think should be normal and accepted in our culture.

Before we go on, let’s look at this falling in love idea…

IS FALLING IN LOVE A REAL THING?

I’ve heard the statement used, “Well you can’t help who you ‘fall in love’ with”. Falling in love is an expression describing someone’s emotional state when those puppy dog, googly eyed, happy feelings of what’s assumed to be love, start to grip the soul and make you feel like you just can’t breathe another moment without that person being in the same room with you. But I think we need to ask whether or not ‘falling in love’ is even a real thing.

The idea of “falling in love” relies on warm emotions and (more than likely) surging hormones. However, the idea that love is all about feelings is more of a western cultural, 20th century invention than anything else. The biblical view of love is that love can exist apart from feelings. Think about it, no hormones are needed to obey the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” – James 2:8. In other words, we choose to love; that is, we commit ourselves to act in the best interests of another person.

Of course, nice emotions often accompany love, and we naturally have warm feelings toward someone we’re attracted to. And of course, it’s good and proper to have positive feelings and surging hormones when in the company of your spouse. But if that’s all there is to “falling in love,” then we’re in trouble. What happens when the feelings fall away? What about when the hormones stop surging? Have we fallen “out” of love?

Love should never be seen as dependent on feelings or expediency or romantic attraction. The “falling in love” concept places undue emphasis on the emotional condition of those involved. The wording of the phrase almost makes it sound as if love were an accident: “I can’t help falling in love with you” makes a nice song lyric, but, in real life, we are responsible to control our emotions. Many marriages have been ended (and many foolishly begun) because someone “fell in love” with the wrong person.

Love isn’t a state that we stumble into; it’s a commitment that we grow into. It’s probably more accurate to say that those who “fall in love” actually “fall in lust” or “fall into infatuation” or “fall into co-dependency.”

So my answer to that question, ‘is falling in love a real thing?’ can only be no, but rather an invention of the western world’s infatuation with a ‘fun’ emotional sensation.

LOVE IS LOVE STILL…ISN’T IT?

Even still, someone may not have experienced the emotional sensation of falling in love but have instead grown into a love commitment with someone other than their spouse, with more than one partner at a time or with someone of the same gender. If that’s the case then can we not say that for them at least, love is love? If loving is a choice that means I can still love someone of the same gender, or more than one person… after all love is love – right?

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church.”

The union of one man and one woman in marriage is a mystery because it presents a parable, a true story, a picture of Christ and the church. And hidden in this allegory of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between his Son Jesus and the church. In other words, marriage Is not simply an ancient cultural definition that we haven’t ‘evolved’ away from yet, nor is it an accident that marriage between a man and woman provides the church with a language to explain Christ’s relation to the church.

God had purposefully designed human marriage to be an earthly reflection of his celestial plan. Do you see that picture? God willed it that Christ and the church become one body, and then willed it for marriage to reflect that pattern. That is why we see the blessing and encouragement of a husband and wife becoming one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24.

Paul paints the picture for us even further about this being the image for the church when he says, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2

Now, understanding that – when people say that “love is Love” – we can’t help but see how it cheapens what true love is. It doesn’t allow for the full expression to be experienced as God intended, and we see it for what it is (or is not). It’s not an enlightened understanding of love at all, but is in truth a bad copy at best.

Of all the ways we might think about love being expressed, biblical love gives us the best definition. In fact, it’s described as “the most excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind” – 1 Corinthians 13:4. I don’t think that it should be lost on us that we don’t find too many people, if any at all, “falling into” patience or kindness, do we?

“Falling in love” or saying that “love is Love” are nice phrases and make for great soundbites to use in the moment or in songs on a soundtrack. They appeal to the emotions and give us nice fuzzies, the goosebumps, the enjoyable feelings of having entered the ideal romance. Please understand that I think that those feelings are fine, in and of themselves, and it’s possible that those who are “falling in love” have actually found a perfect match.

But we need always remember that love is more than emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s more than finding a person or persons to ‘enjoy’ experiences with. Truth is that those who are falling in love are sometimes blinded to the reality of their situation and can easily mistake the intensity of their emotions for genuine love.

But there’s some good news…

REDEMPTION BRINGS RECOVERY

God created marriage to be THE image of Jesus’ relationship to the church. But the problem has been that sin has so confused the image as to make it unrecognizable. If contemporary culture succeeds in redefining and reimaging the purpose of love relationships, the meaning of the image we are to reflect to the world of Christ & his bride, seen as love between a husband and wife will be obscured for many years to come.

That is why we, who are committed to God’s definition of marriage, must live out the true meaning of authentic, committed love relationships, with our spouses if we’re married, within the church in authentic ways, with our neighbours representing Jesus to them, and even more importantly with Jesus Christ himself, growing to know him intimately.

As we grow in these love relationships, we need to commit to living out our true love publicly and joyfully, so that the world sees it and begins to recognize the depth of love they are missing out on. We need to live it out in such a way that our love displays Christ in all his beauty. That’s the Gospel being put on display! And pray that those who see our love in action will be so attracted to Jesus that they soon become counted among the redeemed and recover the life they were created for – a love relationship with our Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus, accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

True story – It’s only as our lives are redeemed that true recovery back to reflecting the image of Jesus can be realized just as those ‘some’ were redeemed and recovered who Paul wrote to in the Corinthian church so long ago.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[1]A telling statistic is that HPV infection is found in about 90% of people with anal cancer: https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-anal-sex-lead-anal-cancer-3-facts-and-myths-400561

Is It Unloving to Not ‘Integrate’ Same-sex Couples into The Church?

Increasingly the church is being confronted with the idea that the time has come for Christianity to accept monogamous same-sex couples as normal and & beautiful expressions of love within the church. Mainstream culture (and much of the mainstream, old-line church) seems to have come to this conclusion already and thus we ‘other’ Christian’s need to catch up. The logical step, it is assumed, is to integrate same-sex couples into the life stream of the church and if we don’t, but instead keep on saying that homosexuality is a sin, we are unloving and thus not living up to Jesus’ command to love one another.

In many ways I understand where culture is coming from. Modern culture’s ideology is rooted in Postmodernist thought, which questions (even denies) morality, absolutes, reason and of course God. This is where things get interesting. The prevailing thought currently out there is that we must not question nor judge the tastes, desires, practices, or beliefs of others. Sounds ultraistic and peaceful so far. Here’s the problem (and I’d even suggest the hypocrisy). That argument is always used in their favour but dare speak out against it or state an opposing viewpoint and watch the fireworks.

Do you see why our biblical world view creates such waves in the Postmodernist’s world? These ideas absolutely clash with each other. Publicly present a Christ centred world view and they can’t stand it. I believe the problem stems from a denial of God. If there is no God (or at least a God who is involved in human affairs), then the question begs to asked; Where do we get our moral directive for anything we do? The short answer is that culture gets direction from the collective – each other (where they get it from initially will be another blog).

In my humble opinion that hasn’t always worked out so well. Just look to history with culturally influenced ideological movements such as Isis, Nazism, Communism, KKK, Fascism, Trudeaumania. Ok maybe not so much that last one but you get my point.

For the Christian who believes in the authority of scripture however, we do have a clear foundational starting point on this morality question – God. And we discover what he says about homosexuality from scripture. Which is what confuses and saddens me so much about my ‘evangelical’ friends who claim to believe in the inspired word of God as well yet deny what scripture clearly says about homosexuality. (I smell another blog down the road).

At any rate, to answer the challenge presented about us needing to catch up to culture and prove that we the church are obeying Jesus’ commands to love our neighbour at least as good as culture is, let’s go to the word of God and see what God says about all this.

But first, I think that we need to answer the question “Is being gay itself a sin?” To do that I think that we need to challenge some assumptions upon which the question is based. Within the past fifty years, the term gay, as applied to homosexuality, has exploded into mainstream culture, and we are told that “being gay” is as much outside one’s control as “being short” or “being white.”

So, the question is worded in such a way that it makes it almost impossible to adequately answer in that form. So, let’s break this question up and deal with each piece separately. Rather than ask, “Is being gay a sin?” let’s ask two questions first, the first one building a foundation for the second, “Is it sinful to be same-sex attracted?” And then, “Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?” Then we can finally address the initial question, “Is it unloving to not integrate monogamous homosexual couples into the Church?”

Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?

Concerning first question, “Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?” Let me just say from the outset that the answer is complicated. First, we should probably distinguish between (actively) sinning and (passively) being tempted:

Being tempted isn’t a sin otherwise Jesus would have sinned before even starting on his ministry, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Then there was Eve who was tempted in the garden. She found that the forbidden fruit was definitely appealing to her, but it seems that she didn’t actually sin until she took the fruit and ate it. “So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” – Genesis 3:6-7

You and I might (and probably do) struggle with temptation, and that temptation might lead us to sin, but we need to remember that the temptation itself is not a sin.

So here’s the problem with same-sex attraction, or the feeling of “being gay,” as I understand it. It’s an attraction to something God has forbidden, and any desire for something sinful ultimately has its roots in sin. Our natures have been so infected with sin that what is evil often looks good to us. Sin causes us to see the world and our own actions through a warped perspective. Our thoughts, desires, and dispositions are all affected. That helps us understand the bent of our culture’s move away from any Godly moral foundation.

Scripture says we are sinners by nature So, same-sex attraction, per se, is not always an active, willful sin, but it springs from that sinful nature. So, in the end, same-sex attraction is on some level, an expression of the flesh, or our fallen nature. No wonder the culture has the worldview it does. Sinful humans living in a sinful world are pelted with curiosities, interests, and opportunities that lead us further from God. Our world is filled with forbidden fruits, including the enticement to “be gay.”

A happily married man can be suddenly smitten with attraction for his new female associate and wrestle with those feelings every day. A sober alcoholic can struggle with the ongoing desire to drink, even years after she becomes clean. Those desires don’t represent an active choice to sin, but they do have roots in the sinful nature.

We might not always be able to control how or what we feel, but we can control what we do with those feelings along with the responsibility to resist temptation. “Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:13

And along with that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 while being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?

The second part of this question, “is it sinful to engage in homosexual activities?” has a more straightforward answer. Being drawn toward a morally forbidden relationship is not an active sin; it is a temptation. However, sin occurs when we yield to the temptation.

Our culture says that homosexuals were born gay and thus must be accepted, and that gender dysphoria is to be celebrated, not overcome. But I need to challenge that thought. Even if someone was ‘born that way’? Why does that make it ok? We’re all ‘born that way’… that way being a drive to sin in any number of ways. We all have this pull in our hearts to lie, gossip, cheat, live selfishly – looking out for number one.

There are even those who are born with a desire to murder, or commit acts of pedophilia. That’s a current reality of this sinful, God hating world we live in. Yet somehow, we all (or at least most) would agree that these other things I mentioned are not acceptable even if we are born that way. So, what makes homosexuality different in our cultures mind set then?

I believe that Paul tells us why… “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” – Romans 1:24-31

Because of this, we now have an entire generation of children and teens who never knew a time when homosexuality was considered unusual. In fact, in elementary and high schools, it is now fashionable to call oneself “gay” or “bi” or use any number of other faddish sexual labels without any real understanding of their meaning – or more importantly of the moral and eternal implications. And the growing sentiment is that if homosexuality is called for what it is – sin, that the individual(s) making that claim are unloving, homophobic, bigots who are merely shadows of a long ago, soon to be forgotten past who can be ignored at the very least or hate (speech) promoters deserving of jail at the worst.

Is it unloving to not ‘integrate’ monogamous same-sex couples into the Church?

One thing I’ll say on the outset. When speaking about not integrating same sex couples, I’m talking about not allowing for membership and leadership roles. Outside of that I welcome (and have welcomed) homosexuals to join us at any of our weekly services. At LifeBridge we recognize that people come from all different places of journey’s into faith. God has, and I know in the future will, bring people who need an accepting place that is committed to loving and sharing Christ with them. The hard facts are is that we are all sinners in need of grace, no more no less than anyother person in this world.

However, I do argue that it is unloving not to speak the truth about what God’s word says regarding homosexuality or any sin for that matter, thinking that by not speaking the truth or by accepting non truths we’re being loving. That is why I believe that it is unloving to integrate monogamous same-sex couples into the life of the church… because to do so would be to lie about something that leads to extreme harm for the couples in question as well as the church as a whole.

Think about this. If I tell my son that it’s ok for him to shoot hoops on the busy highway because he loves basketball so much, and the reason I encourage him to do so is because It’d appear to be unloving in discouraging him from what he loves so much, you’d call me foolish (or worse).

It’s foolish to not identify sin in our lives or pretend it doesn’t exist because we’re afraid it might come across as unloving, especially given the eternal implications, let alone the very specific and tragic phycological, medical and social problems that homosexuality has introduced to the world. Love without truth is hypocrisy and a lie and is damaging (temporally as well as eternally) to those who receive it.

Saying all that however, we must also remember that truth without love is brutal and harsh. If we speak truth without love for others then all we are doing is making a lot of noise which obviously doesn’t make any sense for the person on the receiving end (I Corinthians 13).

Tim Keller said it this way… “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Please remember that homosexual behaviour won’t damn a person any more quickly than pride, gossip, greed or adultery. Without Christ, we’re lost, whether we be gay, straight, or asexual. But, when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, he gives us a new nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And a wonderful part of the continuing gospel narrative is that Jesus doesn’t stop there, he also destroys the power that sin once held over us (Romans 6:1-7). That old nature that once dictated our actions has been conquered in a born-again child of God. And though temptation still rages, and weaknesses still torment, the incredible loving truth is that the power of the Holy Spirit helps us to resist Satan and overcome the sins that once held us captive. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

If Jesus Said I’d Do Greater Works Than These – Why Then Can’t I Walk On Water?

Recently, while visiting at a friend’s fellowship on a Sunday morning, I overheard a comment made in the foyer following the worship service. A young lady was excitedly talking to her friend about a ‘truth’ that she recently discovered while at her small group meeting and was excited about the upcoming opportunity to see it come to fruition in her life. It seems that she, and for that matter all Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have the ability to walk the streets of our cities and preform amazing, superpower like miracles, in this way becoming the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. We just need to first claim the amazing words of Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12 

Sounds amazingly cool and so helpful to a hurting world. Is she right? If she is then why don’t we see these words coming to fruition, on the streets of Toronto, Seattle, Perth or Beijing as a regular occurrence? After all, Jesus did say those words and he always means what he says. Jesus raised the dead, walked on water, and fed thousands – all amazing miracles. So, if it is true that those who have faith in him will perform “even greater” works than those miracles just mentioned then we should be in for an amazing show of power. Here’s the thing though; we just don’t see the evidences of this in the life of Jesus’ disciples, certainly not since the days of the Apostles. But a question I think begs to be asked is, “Should we?”“Should you and I be able to walk on water?”

Now I’m not going to argue someone’s personal experience, and I don’t doubt that God couldn’t and hasn’t healed someone through the laying on of hands and through prayer. I’ve personally seen it happen and believe and expect that God could do so again. The claim I’m specifically addressing here is that we should be the agents of “greater”things than these – meaning we should all be in the process and practice of preforming greater miracles than Jesus did.

At the risk of alienating some of you I must tell you that I don’t believe that is what he meant at all, and in fact I don’t see any evidence to substantiate it as a norm in the church’s experience – ever. Even in the days of Pentecost we didn’t see it occurring as some may argue Jesus meant it to happen. There are some who would point to the heady days of the early church such as when Peter’s shadow touched people and they were healed in Acts 5 as evidence of this happening. But when we read the passage in context, it never actually says people were healed because of Peter’s shadow. In fairness, it could have happened, but it’s speculation at best – we just don’t know.

An argument I’ve heard for why we’re not seeing amazing miracles like Jesus did today is because of other people’s unbelief or the result of the lack of faith of that pesky cessationist in the room we all know. Here’s the thing though, Jesus experienced a lack of faith from others too, even being accused of preforming demonic trickery by a room filled with faithless people. And then there are clear examples where miracles were performed on behalf of people who evidenced no faith in him at all. I mean think about it, how much faith does a corpse have?

But what about Mark 6:5 where Jesus could do no mighty work? In view of his wide range of supernatural abilities, it is hardly conceivable that Jesus failed in power on this occasion. The truth is that Jesus did perform some miracles in the territory at that time. Even Mark specifically says: “He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” – Mark 6:5b. His power, therefore, was not the problem. Matthew actually explains it, “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” – Matthew 13:58. Bottom line? Jesus chose to limit his miraculous demonstrations in his old neighbourhood.

Still, Jesus did actually say that not only would his followers do the same works as he did, but they would do “greater” works. So, are we missing something in the translation then? Obviously, it’s important to understand just what Jesus meant by those words of his before anyone goes about applying a worldview and then subsequently claiming promises about things that might be or might not be promised.

Here’s what we need to understand. Jesus wasn’t referencing to the works’ being greater in “power”. Simply look to the story of his friend Lazarus. Jesus had raised his friend, who had been dead already for four days in the tomb, yet later on, not even the Apostles during the days following Pentecost did a greater miracle than that. Bottom line? No one has ever exceeded the power or majesty of Jesus’ miracles – ever. Even practically speaking, we must conclude that Jesus wasn’t saying that every single Christian would walk on water, raise the dead, and bring sight to the blind. I still find it telling that with the technology we have today that allows us to record events, we have yet to see a verified raising of the dead or an individual walking on water on YouTube.

Granted, the Apostles performed some miracles that were similar to Jesus’ works, but even they didn’t walk on water or feed multitudes, as far as we know, and they most certainly didn’t transform spiritually dead souls to a new changed life or forgive sins – and what could be a greater work than that?

So, what did Jesus actually mean then that his followers would do greater works than he? Quite simply Jesus was referring to the greater “extent” of his works than what he had accomplished to that point. It’s important to understand that Jesus’ earthly ministry had been largely limited to Galilee and Judea; his disciples, however, were going to extend his ministry to the uttermost parts of the earth. The morning of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers numbered 120; forty days later, in response to the preaching of the Apostles, that number swelled into thousands and by the end of Acts, the gospel had made its way to Rome.

With some of that understanding let’s look at the words of Jesus again in the John passage. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12

Jesus was about to be arrested and suffer a cruel and unjust death. The disciples themselves are going to be scattered that very night. So, these words were of tremendous comfort for his men that night, assuring them that even after his earthly ministry ended, his work would go on. The Disciples of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would continue to help and heal people but it’s the fact that the gospel would now have a worldwide impact that was greater than the limited geographical scope of Jesus’ ministry.

No longer limited to Israel, we see Jesus’ work continuing in far off places like Canada and Chile, someone is finding a new life in Christ in Japan as you read this, and a life is being transformed in Denmark even while you’re getting ready for your next appointment. Every hour, even now, the great work that Jesus began is continuing all over the world. As God’s people pray in Jesus’ name, answers come, and the greatest miracle of all is now common place – nothing less than the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ – the transformation of a sinful heart to the glory of God.

So, will we perform greater works than these? I think the evidence speaks for itself – unquestionably yes. But it’s not to be able to say we have amazing superpowers, rather it’s all to bring Glory to God. And that my friends is a wonderful reason to get excited about in any foyer after every worship service from here on in.

Why Christians Should Not Tithe

Should a Christian tithe? Many people think that Christians should tithe 10 percent of their income every month to their local church or at least share it between a number of mission and church agencies. If you’ve spent longer than two Sunday’s in any local church you’d have at least heard the language of “tithes and offerings” in a worship service. For many who haven’t grown up in the church (which is a growing number all the time), the word ‘tithe’ itself is a foreign concept to begin with. So how in the world would you go about doing something that you don’t even know what it is anyways?

Before we go any further in answering the question about whether a Christian should tithe or not, let’s learn (or re-learn) what this tithing concept is first.

Tithing in the Old Testament

Quite simply, a tithe is a percentage portion of something, such as money, or crops, or something else used in payment or as a contribution to a religious organization or even compulsory tax in order to show support or devotion to that religious organization, priest, prophet, or even government.

Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils of war to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20, and the book of Hebrews appeals to this account to support the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over Levi’s. God met Jacob at Bethel and promised him covenant blessings; Jacob then promised God a tenth of everything granted him.  “And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” – Genesis 28:22

God established that Israel’s tithe would operate as payment to the Levitical priests for their services. “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting.” – Numbers 18:21From the income that the Levites received from the tithe, they were still responsible for giving 10 percent off the top for the chief priests seen in verse 26 of Numbers 18.

Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.“But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.” – Deuteronomy 12:5-6

The tithe was not a volitional offering. The 10 percent off the top belonged to God and the Israelites understood this as simply repaying it. But this wasn’t the only obligatory tithe. They also tithed to support a special jubilee festival and took a third tithe every three years to take care of orphans, widows, and the poor. These mandatory offerings averaged out to about 23 percent a year. On top of these compulsory tithes, there were regular opportunities for freewill offerings. These were generous gifts that expressed the Israelites’ gratefulness through voluntary giving in response to their devotion.

At a bare minimum, they gave 23 percent a year, but there was no ceiling on their generosity. They could – and frequently would – give exorbitantly out of their excess. In response to Moses’ call for contributions to the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites literally gave so much that Moses had to command them to stop giving.

“And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, ‘The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.’ So, Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, ‘Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.’ So, the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.” – Exodus 36:2-7

In that time period, those who didn’t tithe were threatened with a curse, while those who did tithe were promised blessing. “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” – Malachi 3:8-10

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

So, the question remains, should a Christian tithe today? Does the Old Testament directive continue into our time and place? I argue the answer is no because the commands stipulated in the Mosaic covenant are no longer in force for believers today. It’s true the moral norms of the Old Testament are still in force today, and we discern them from the law of Christ in the New Testament, but tithing is not among these commands.

In fact, the New Testament not only nowhere commands, it doesn’t even recommend, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. The New Testament only says that gifts should be “in keeping with income”- 1 Corinthians 16:2

Certainly, some defend tithing by saying that Jesus praised the practice, even if he said it was less important than other things. This argument appears strong, but it’s not persuasive. If you think about it, Jesus also mentioned offering sacrifices in the temple, but we don’t think – even if the temple were rebuilt – that we should do that. We must always consider the words in their proper context. Ask what was Jesus’ context, and situation in redemptive history? Jesus spoke about sacrifices and tithing before the cross and resurrection, before the dawn of the new covenant. He used tithing and sacrifices as illustrations when addressing his contemporaries. Further to that, we know that he kept the law because he was “born under the law” – Galatians 4:4.

Jesus was an obedient Jew who kept the law. But we know that he later fulfilled the law and as a result, the rest of us are no longer under the law. In understanding and recognizing the context it makes sense then that we can no more take his words as a commendation for tithing today than we can his words about offering sacrifices.

 And then there is the fact that when Christians are instructed to give to the poor, they aren’t commanded to give “the poor tithe.” Instead, they are instructed to be generous in helping those in need. As an example, read what Paul said.

Now concerningthe collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.” – 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Here’s what I wish to point out to you. This is a passage often cited in popular circles in support of tithing in the New testament church. However, it doesn’t even mention tithing. All Paul is talking about here a one-time gift for poor saints in Jerusalem.

TITHING MAY NO LONGER BE A REQUIREMENT,  BUT GENEROUSITY IS  

Though we don’t see a requirement for a tithe we do see a requirement to be generous in giving. Just because tithing isn’t required today, it doesn’t follow that believers should hoard their possessions.

As an example, we are commanded to support those who preach the gospel, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain, and, ‘The labourer deserves his wages’.” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18

We’re also called to be generous to those in need, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Wealth can so easily become an idol, leading us to abandon Jesus and his mission. And since God is to be our treasure, believers are to give generously and freely, as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the body of Christ.

Obviously, the New Testament Scripture doesn’t command Christians to give a tenth – and Scripture, not tradition, is our rule and authority. But for those who insist on advocating tithing as a rule to follow, the number in the Old testament was certainly more than 10 percent and closer to 23 percent as noted above. That being the case, I’d suggest that they should probably settle on 23 percent. Just putting it out there if that is you.

In the end, every disciple should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of giving, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

So, should a Christian tithe? No, because we are no longer under the law. However, a disciple of Jesus’ should want to give gifts and service to the ministry of the church, and to meet the needs of the poor. That being the case, let’s give generously, gladly with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

How Do I Talk To My Kids About Homosexuality?

I only have one major point in this article, and it’s this: the best way to talk to your kids about homosexuality is to first talk about healthy sexuality.

In our ministry we’ve recently been preaching an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. I just preached on Judges. Since there are some pretty spicy topics in this book, I sent a PG-13 warning to parents pointing out the rape, murder, and mutilation of the concubine (Judges 19). One mom didn’t read the email. Afterward she confided in me that she hadn’t yet talked to her child about sex, let alone its worldly distortions. Her fears about raising her boys in this world came trembling out as she explained the complicated tight-rope she walks with her lesbian neighbors, their kids, and her own.

How do I talk to my kids about homosexuality?

As a 27-year-old father of a 3-year-old, it seems both unwise and presumptuous to tell godly, mature parents how to talk to their kids about this issue. Nevertheless, if I’m not talking about it, everyone else is. I have an obligation to give some kind of Christian response to secular wisdom, even if it’s tempered by my lack of parental experience.

Questions like the one above will only increase in frequency in today’s cultural climate. But this shouldn’t discourage us. Such questions provide unique platforms to talk about healthy marriage in general. Throw in the divorce rate in the church, and it becomes clear many of us are failing to teach our young people about marriage in any form.

Confused By Love 

I encourage you to watch this Jimmy Kimmel Live video from last summer before reading the rest of this article. It’s funny, fascinating, and demonstrates our world’s view of marriage.

Kimmel’s point is that kids are sophisticated enough to handle the throes of modern love. When asked why people get married, the kids answered, almost universally, “Because you love someone and have a connection to them.” Kimmel—and CNN—were proud to hold this up not only as the final definition of marriage, but also as an apologetic for the legalization and self-evident virtue of same-sex marriage.

After watching the video, it occurred to me that we can’t marry for love anymore. At least, I can’t tell my children that love is the ultimate reason I proposed to their mom. “Because I love her,” though true, is to give an answer the world has thoroughly co-opted. As expected as it seems, “Because I love her” might actually confuse them more than the biblical answer would.

According to Ephesians, Christian marriage isn’t finally about my love for my spouse; it’s about Christ’s love for his.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (5:31–32)

If the world believes our children are sophisticated enough to understand the realities of modern love, let’s one-up them. Let’s show them our kids are capable of understanding the truth of an ancient, eternal love—that marriage isn’t only our response to another’s love, but ultimately a response to our Savior’s sacrificial love. (Though one article can’t address this issue exhaustively, I should also add that Genesis 2 presents all marriage—including non-Christian marriage—as a divinely commissioned creational good. Marriage isn’t only a gospel mirror, then, but a blessing for all humanity, which God established in Eden when he united Adam and Eve.)

Five Ways Christ’s Love Recalibrates Our View of Marriage

1. It elevates marriage beyond something we initiate and sustain to something God initiates and sustains.

“What God has joined together,” Jesus declared concerning marriage, “let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Marriage is God’s work, God’s idea, God’s plan. It’s not something we get to co-opt, redefine, or bail on. Marriage is a divine work woven through creation to display God’s creative glory and incredible love.

2. It makes marriage ultimately about the gospel.

If the gospel is such great news, our children need to see it work its way into all parts of our lives—including how we see and value our spouses. I desperately want my daughter to know Jesus loves her and died for sinners like her. And I want her to catch a glimpse of that kind of sacrifice in the way I love her mom, so that when she asks I can tell her, “How could I not love your mom this way in light of how Jesus has loved me?”

Additionally, viewing marriage through the lens of the gospel shows our kids marriage isn’t about feeling 100 percent in love 100 percent of the time. Scripture makes clear that marriage isn’t a life of warm fuzzies sustained by the loveliness of our spouse. Rather, it’s sustained by a love that continues even when we become unlovely, bitter, and aged. Gospel marriage is a recapitulation of our salvation—we are deeply sinful yet deeply loved by our Redeemer. Moreover, it relieves us of trying to be perfect husbands and wives by pointing us beyond ourselves to the perfect love of Jesus.

3. It helps us see marriage is a calling to love and serve, not an institution for self-expression and self-fulfillment.

Marriage today is seen as a universal right. In reality, though, it is a gospel-fueled sacrificial responsibility. Through sacrificial suffering for the sanctification of our spouse, marriage reflects Christ’s sacrificial suffering for the glory of the Father.

4. It displays our union with Christ, the essence of our salvation.

Marriage involves two unlike beings—a man and a woman—joining together as one. This mirrors the way God and a sinner—two very unlike beings—become one through the saving grace of Christ.

5. It primes our children for inevitable conversations about the corruptions of godly marriage and sexuality.

It lets them know God has established a standard for marriage and sex, even as they interact with gay neighbors, a friend’s divorced parents, or a buddy having premarital sex. God has already set the standard for what our conversations and relationships should look like, no matter one’s sexual sin. (We are all sexual sinners, after all.) And the Lord’s standards are finally about love, not judgment; for our good, not our harm. As John Piper beautifully writes, “God does not forbid sexual sin because he’s a killjoy, but because he opposes what kills joy.”

When we respond to questions about same-sex marriage in this way, we cut through much political punditing and religious noise. We frontload youth with a view of marriage that is more robust, more profound, and more beautiful than any “because I love her” line. And we give them a biblical perspective that will strengthen and enhance their own marriages one day, if God calls them to it.


Editors’ note: An earlier version of this article originally appeared at RootedMinistry.com.

Depression: A Biblical Understanding

I had a great and stimulating conversation with my chiropractor today. That’s not unusual, it seems we normally do. Today however was greater than other times. I think it had to do with the topic. He’s not a church guy and has been clear on the fact that he’s not a Christian. However, he likes to discuss a wide range of subjects whenever I go in, topics such as politics, finances, family and even spirituality.

I’m praying that he will discover Jesus through all our ‘chats’. Today he asked me what my blog topic was about and so of course I told him it was about whether or not it is a sin to be depressed. He asked me if that’s a real question among Christians, and when I assured him that yes it was, he stopped what he was doing, looked at me for a moment, and then asked, “Isn’t that what faith is about”? He’s much closer to knowing Jesus than he knows.

So, is it a sin to be depressed? Does being depressed mean that somehow there is something wrong with our faith? Depression is somewhat of a charged issue among disciples of Jesus. Some flatly declare it to be a sin. The thinking is that depression reveals a lack of faith in God’s promises, or that God would never allow a Spirit filled – Spirit led believer to fall into a state of depression. Some will even say that it is God’s judgment on sinful behaviour, or the depressed individual has done something to invite spiritual oppression.

Some others will claim that that it’s just laziness, because – as the thinking goes – we know that God is good and loving and that we are secure in him, so what is there to be depressed about? We hear things like, “Stiff upper lip and get on with life.”or “Tough it out.”Not really helpful.

Then there are those who declare depression to be nothing more than a medical condition, a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. In other words, depression is really no more wrong than having the flu.

Several others (probably most Christians), aren’t really sure what this ugly beast of depression is. Faith seems somewhat related, but so do brain chemicals. Caught in all of this is the depressed Christian, left to feel guilty, defensive, confused, lost, or simply too depressed to even care what the church thinks. So, is it a sin to be depressed?

To begin to answer that question, I believe it is helpful and I’ll admit encouraging to know that there are many examples of biblical champions struggling with sadness, even to the point of depression. David wrote, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” – Psalm 56:8.

David, a man after God’s own heart, did not gloss over his sadness; he expressed it to God. You’ll even find strong heroes of the faith such as Moses and Elijah, confess to God that they preferred to die rather than live in their current reality (Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:3-5).

Interestingly, neither of these men were rebuked by God for their feelings; instead, they all were met with God’s love and provision. Even great church teachers and leaders of the past few centuries were known to suffer from depression, some for most of their lives. Men such as Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther faced the dark depths of despair at various seasons of life and yet were used greatly by God to further the work of the church. It seems that the Bible isn’t shy about admitting that sadness and finding oneself in a deep funk is part of life, and it is not condemned.

I am not claiming that I am an expert in treating or diagnosing depression. In fact, I wish to emphasize that the purpose of this post today isn’t to definitively define anyone’s condition. I am not about to tell you if your’s or a loved one’s specific case is a result of something clinical, spiritual, physical or a combination of any of those. If you are struggling with depression, allow me encourage you to seek the council of a professional, a pastor who knows you or talk to a close friend. What I am attempting to do is biblically determine whether depression itself is a sin or not.

Truth is, the word depressed is a fairly loose term to begin with. It can refer to a diagnosable medical condition (clinical depression), but it can also refer to a temporary feeling of sadness or apathy or to a nebulous, lingering malaise.

For some people a chemical or hormonal imbalance triggers a depressed state. Having a medical condition is not a sin, however, what brings a person to that condition could berooted in sin. For instance, it is not wrong to have diabetes, but it is wrong to be a glutton (and the two are sometimes related).

Occasionally depression is situational, caused by adverse circumstances such as life changes, a spiritual crisis, etc. Our emotional response to those changes or crises can in turn trigger a chemical imbalance. Knowing that we humans are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist said in Psalm 139:14, it should come as no surprise then that our biology interacts with our emotions and vice-versa.

Once a person is depressed, the cycle of hormonal imbalance and negative emotions can be difficult to break. Whether the emotions cause the biology to change or the biology causes the emotions to change, the resulting symptoms are the same.

We live in a world of pain where tears of sadness are common. Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). I think it’s safe to say that there’s no need to always put on a happy face and pretend that things are okay when they are not.

But does that mean then that we are to submit to sadness or depression as the inevitable state? No, we don’t. Even when we’re sad or depressed, disciples are encouraged to see the greater reality of God’s plan. Yes, this world is fallen and often painful. It can be depressing. But God is far greater. He is at work, victoriously.

Moses and Elijah received God’s provision and experienced his refreshing care. Shortly after pouring out his sadness, David praised God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”– John 16:33

Taking heart does not mean pasting on a smile or ignoring the feeling of emptiness that depression brings. It does not mean neglecting to treat depression through counseling or medication. It does not mean ignoring the relational hurts or the misperceptions that have led to depression (Satan’s lies, if we believe them, will lead us to despair). It does not mean denying the fact that depression could be a lifelong struggle.

What taking heart does mean is bringing all our pain to God. It does mean continuing to trust in him. It does mean believing that what he says about himself and about us is true, even when we don’t feel like it is. It does mean getting the help we need, battling depression rather than giving in to it. We acknowledge the depravity of the world, but we also acknowledge the sufficiency of God.

If you are depressed there are some things you can do to alleviate your anxiety. Make sure that you are staying in the Word, even when you don’t feel like it. Emotions can lead us astray, but God’s Word stands firm and unchanging. Maintain strong faith in God and hold even more tightly to him when you undergo trials and temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will never allow temptations into our lives that are too much for us to handle. Do not hide away from people and forsake the fellowshipping with other believers. God knows we need community for encouragement and to be loved on.

Is depression a sin? No, it is not, however know that we are still accountable for the response to the affliction, including getting the professional help that is needed. It is not a sin to be depressed, but it is a sin – and not especially helpful in overcoming a depressed state – to give up on God when we are depressed. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God” – Psalm 43:5.

What Is The Meaning Of Life?

What is the meaning in life? Have you ever wondered? Why are we here and what is our purpose? We work and play and strive towards our goals, in the search for fulfilment and satisfaction.

Albert Einstein was one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers, influencing scientific thought immeasurably. He was also not shy about sharing his wisdom on other topics, writing essays, articles, letters, giving interviews and speeches. In his collection of essays and ideas “The World As I See It” Einstein speaks to the question of the purpose of life, and what a meaningful life is on several occasions.

In one passage, though not a Christian, he links it to a sense of religiosity.
“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it many any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life,” – Einstein

What is it about humanity that we desire purpose? What is it, exactly, that we are looking for? When relationships are failing, careers start feeling empty, or tragedy strikes, questions like these begin to bubble up in our minds.

Sometimes we work towards a goal for years only to find that the end result – the money, power or recognition we’ve achieved – doesn’t give us that sense of purpose and peace we were seeking to begin with. Those who haven’t yet reached their goals may look up to heroes who have made it to the top. But when asked what he wished he had known starting out, one successful athlete said, “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s nothing there.”

Most people at some point in their lives, like Einstein, ponder the meaning of life. Some look for meaning by doing good deeds for others or trying to make the world a better place. Some people look for meaning in pleasure, fun or relaxation. Others pursue business success, wealth, power or politics. Others search for meaning in family or romantic relationships.

Ultimately, a deep emptiness remains. Why is that? Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” – Ecclesiastes 3:11. In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is. As a result, the human heart can’t find meaning in anything less than infinite because the need in a heart is infinitely big. And so, once God, who is that infinite piece, is taken out of the possible answers to discover meaning, the human heart can’t help but try to fill more of what we think brings us meaning and purpose. The problem of course is that we try to find more in finite things such as more money, more stuff, more friends, more love, more religion or more success.

We believe that if we could only do enough, be enough, achieve enough, we will be worth something. And we desperately want to be worth something, don’t we? But what more do we need? How much is going to be enough? And so, we live for the moment, whether that moment is miserable or magnificent. But God created us for a purpose that goes far beyond anything we can even imagine here on earth. And that purpose is found in living out our role as image bearers of God, that is only possible in the restoration of a relationship with our heavenly father through his son Jesus.

That is why the Easter story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is so important… because in reality it presents to mankind the meaning of life itself. Allow me to explain. By the time Jesus died, his disciples were devastated and discouraged beyond belief. How could God’s purpose continue? What would keep this new way to God, its flame barely burning at this point, from being completely snuffed out?

Obviously, it would have been a very confusing time for the disciples. Right to the end, they thought that Jesus the Messiah was going to redeem Israel as a nation. However, Jesus ended up instead being crucified like a common criminal. How dark their outlook must have been? Where was the meaning in all of that? So, they did the only thing they could do in the circumstance… they put his body in a tomb and sealed the entrance with a large stone. Done! Nothing left but the crying.

Later on, the women come looking to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices, this is where the story gets really interesting, they’re met by an angel who says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6 That’s a game changer if there ever was one. “He was raised from the dead! It’s over, he’s gone. And by the way, it happened before you got here. Come on in and see for yourselves.”

Interestingly the angel didn’t roll the stone away to let Jesus out, the stone was rolled away to let us in. If we think about it, Jesus didn’t need the stone removed to get out any more than he needed the door opened to get into the upper room when he appeared to the disciples. That speaks to the invitation of almighty God extended to each of us that Easter morning, he has removed the barriers that you think are insurmountable in order that we can come to him uninhibited. The stone, a dark future, a blackened past, and certainly death are now no longer in the way of a restored relationship with God because of the resurrection.

Once the disciples saw the empty tomb, everything changed! They now realized that the meaning of life was no longer in the building of their own futures here on earth, which was only temporal anyways.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.” – Matthew 28:18-20

The meaning of life is found in a grand purpose which is to proclaim a new hope to a lost world – to proclaim a risen Saviour, to reintroduce an infinite God to our finite lives. The meaning of life is found in now giving ourselves completely to Jesus’ mission and to a God who proved his love to us by not only dying for us but also rising from the grave, defeating sin, evil and death and then staying with us.

Jesus really is alive. And what that means is that there’s a future, a purpose, a meaning to life. It’s not all darkness filled with despair. This isn’t the end, we’re not in a cul-de-sac or at the end of a black tunnel that closes in with a final wall. Truth is that there is a thoroughfare through death that Jesus went through showing us that there’s something on the other side.

Ultimately, we have a choice. We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and become his image bearers, joining in his mission with a whole heart. This will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met, finding contentment and satisfaction, as we discover the meaning of life revealed through the risen Lord.