Christians have always recognized common core beliefs that are essential to Christianity doctrines that should be guarded: faith, repentance and submission to the will of God. Anything less significant is not worth fighting about, especially when it leads to quarreling over who is “more spiritual.
The Scriptures were written by holy men of God (about 40 in all) “as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” While in no way denying the personalities of the human writers or rejecting the uniqueness of their different styles, the Holy Spirit controlled the process of bringing things to the writers’ memories (John 16:13) and ensuring what they recorded was the very Word of God. (See “Inspiration,” 2 Tim. 3:16.)
 
Here’s a couple of examples: Jeremiah once became so frustrated that he wanted to quit, but God’s Spirit compelled him to go on (Jer. 20:9). Likewise, Jonah at first refused to take God’s message to Nineveh, but later obeyed God’s second call (Jon. 3:1).
 
How to apply it to our lives: As Christians read the Bible, they can be confident that it is the very Word of God. (First Reference, Judges. 2:1; Primary Reference, 2 Pet. 1:21; cf. John 10:35.)
So, to wrap it up, we cause more damage to the Christian faith by arguing over silly little things that don’t matter to our salvation, than we do by remembering the basics that we have in common. Pick your fights wisely.
I find it interesting that during the delivering of the 10 commandments, there was a strong emphasis placed on working six days, then taking the seventh one off (The Sabbath). On the Sabbath, the cattle and other animals were allowed to come in and graze off of the fields that you had worked so hard to cultivate during the previous six days. So how does this become culture versus Christianity?
 
Americans don’t know how to relax. In our society, the less you work, the less your social worth becomes. On my recent trip to Europe, I found that Europeans take a lot more time off than we do, and are generally more laid back. In Spain, workers are given two hours in the afternoon to take a Siesta, then come back to work. These things sound crazy to us, but the reality is that they are just as productive as we are because they are rested.
 
Here in America, we know that one of the 10 Commandments is to observe a day of Sabbath, but a vast majority consider it a day to work around the home rather than to rest. God does not condone this, he abhors it. God’s Words are to be taken seriously, and ignoring them because they don’t fit into our cultural ideology, or because we see getting a chore done more important that what our Lord says to do, is just wrong.
 
If you are not observing a day of rest, then you are breaking a very important part of the 10 Commandments. Learn to chill out and relax. Learn to trust God. There’s nothing wrong with taking a day off and observing Sabbath. Remember, the Cultural way of believing is not as important as observing God’s laws.
 
Shalom,
Pastor Mike

In some people’s minds, being homosexual is as much outside one’s control as the color of your skin and your height. On the other hand, the Bible clearly and consistently declares that homosexual activity is a sin (Genesis 19:1–13Leviticus 18:2220:13Romans 1:26–271 Corinthians 6:9). This disconnect leads to much controversy, debate, and even hostility.

When examining what the Bible says about homosexuality, it is important to distinguish between homosexual behavior and homosexual inclinations or attractions. It is the difference between active sin and the passive condition of being tempted. Homosexual behavior is sinful, but the Bible never says it is a sin to be tempted. Simply stated, a struggle with temptation may lead to sin, but the struggle itself is not a sin.

Romans 1:26–27 teaches that homosexuality is a result of denying and disobeying God. When people continue in sin and unbelief, God “gives them over” to even more wicked and depraved sin to show them the futility and hopelessness of life apart from God. One of the fruits of rebellion against God is homosexuality. First Corinthians 6:9 proclaims that those who practice homosexuality, and therefore transgress God’s created order, are not saved.

A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as some people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person’s choosing to sin by giving in to sinful desires. Just because a person is born with a greater susceptibility to fits of rage, that doesn’t make it right for him to give in to those desires and explode at every provocation. The same is true with a susceptibility to homosexuality.

No matter our proclivities or attractions, we cannot continue to define ourselves by the very sins that crucified Jesus—and at the same time assume we are right with God. Paul lists many of the sins that the Corinthians once practiced (homosexuality is on the list). But in 1 Corinthians 6:11, he reminds them, “That is what some of you were. 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” (emphasis added). In other words, some of the Corinthians, before they were saved, lived homosexual lifestyles; but no sin is too great for the cleansing power of Jesus. Once cleansed, we are no longer defined by sin.

The problem with homosexual attraction is that it is an attraction to something God has forbidden, and any desire for something sinful ultimately has its roots in sin. The pervasive nature of sin causes us to see the world and our own actions through a warped perspective. Our thoughts, desires, and dispositions are all affected. So, homosexual attraction does not always result in active, willful sin—there may not be a conscious choice to sin—but it springs from the sinful nature. Same-sex attraction is always, on some basic level, an expression of the fallen nature.

As sinful human beings living in a sinful world (Romans 3:23), we are beset with weaknesses, temptations, and inducements to sin. Our world is filled with lures and entrapments, including the enticement to practice homosexuality.

The temptation to engage in homosexual behavior is very real to many. Those who struggle with homosexual attraction often report suffering through years of wishing things were different. People may not always be able to control how or what they feel, but they can control what they do with those feelings (1 Peter 1:5–8). We all have the responsibility to resist temptation (Ephesians 6:13). We must all be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We must all “walk by the Spirit” so as not to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Finally, the Bible does not describe homosexuality as a “greater” sin than any other. All sin is offensive to God. Without Christ, we are lost, whatever type of sin has entangled us. According to the Bible, God’s forgiveness is available to the homosexual just as it is to the adulterer, idol worshiper, murderer, and thief. God promises the strength for victory over sin, including homosexuality, to all those who will believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 6:112 Corinthians 5:17Philippians 4:13).

One of the most commonly asked questions by atheists is, who was Cains wife? Usually when they ask this question, it’s a set-up for a fight, but that doesn’t release us from the responsibility of answering them. So what is the answer?

 

The Bible does not specifically say who Cain’s wife was. The only possible answer is that Cain’s wife was his sister or niece or great-niece, etc. The Bible does not say how old Cain was when he killed Abel. Since they were both farmers, they were likely both full-grown adults, possibly with families of their own. Adam and Eve surely had given birth to more children than just Cain and Abel at the time Abel was killed. They definitely had many more children later. The fact that Cain was scared for his own life after he killed Abel indicates that there were likely many other children and perhaps even grandchildren of Adam and Eve already living at that time. Cain’s wife was a daughter or granddaughter of Adam and Eve.

Since Adam and Eve were the first (and only) human beings, their children would have no other choice than to intermarry. God did not forbid inter-family marriage until much later when there were enough people to make intermarriage unnecessary. The reason that incest today often results in genetic abnormalities is that when two people of similar genetics (i.e., a brother and sister) have children together, there is a high risk of their recessive characteristics becoming dominant. When people from different families have children, it is highly unlikely that both parents will carry the same recessive traits. The human genetic code has become increasingly “polluted” over the centuries as genetic defects are multiplied, amplified, and passed down from generation to generation. Adam and Eve did not have any genetic defects, and that enabled them and the first few generations of their descendants to have a far greater quality of health than we do now. Adam and Eve’s children had few, if any, genetic defects. As a result, it was safe for them to intermarry.

 

Remember, sometimes the answer is obvious but clouded by those who doubt.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
 
What does this verse say to you? I see it broken down into two components.
 
1. What sin ensnares us? We need to take stock and evaluate what sins we are held captive to. Once we confess those sins, we need to focus on getting out from under them. This can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. Confession first, recognizing we need the strength of the Holy Spirit second. Then thirdly, leads us to the second component of this verse that’s so important.
 
2. Perseverance! We need to learn to run this race that we call life as marathon runners, not sprinters. Our lives are a constant struggle between good and evil. Between Satan and Jesus. We all know who will win the race if we stay committed to our Lord, but there are times when we need to be patient and let the Holy Spirit work things out for us. We need stamina, not speed.
 
I hope we can all apply this passage to our lives today, and I will be lifting you up in prayer.

How to handle a crisis!

Posted: July 26, 2020 in Thoughts on God
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
I like to describe life as a calm sea interrupted by violent storms. It’s never smooth sailing forever. We always have to face challenges and trials. The question is how we will handle the hard times? Will our faith carry us through with the peace of Jesus, or will our lack of faith produce the fear of the world?
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It’s never easy going through trials, and it’s certainly not an enjoyable experience. When faced with challenging times, we have to remember that they will always make us stronger. We’re bound to see hard times again in the future, and this strength will produce a stronger faith.
James 1:19 – Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
 
Can you imagine what would happen if we all took the time to put a buffer between our anger, and the event that triggered it? If we just slowed down, prayed on it, then reacted? Secular Psychology has been saying that we should take a breath before reacting for a few decades now, but the Bible has been saying it for many Centuries.
 
Most of our anger comes from a point of self control than logic. When we are told that we have to do something, or it doesn’t go the way we want, then we get mad. That’s not Biblical because everything that we do is ordained, and controlled by God. So if we get angry because we lose control, then what we’re really doing is getting mad at God because we don’t think His way is good enough for us. This is why we see so many cases of tragedy throughout the Bible, because people didn’t have faith in God’s way, and got angry.
 
Avoid anger at all costs, it only produces sin. Make sure that you don’t fly off the handle when you feel that urge to react angrily. As soon as you feel it, walk away, pray on it, and by that time, you will give a more Godly response. A Godly response will be much more peaceful.
 

Turn on the news. Scroll through your favorite social media platform. Talk with your family and friends. It won’t take too long until you notice some anxiety. Maybe some uncertainty and gloomy predictions. Every once in a while, some encouragement and good news.

Then, all of a sudden, there it is:

Anger.

Maybe it’s from you. Maybe it’s from others. But it probably exists in everyone right now—in one way or another.

Is it really unexpected though? Are these joyous and happy realities?

  1. Losing our job for the foreseeable future and having to rely on unemployment benefits (if we can get them).
  2. Taking a pay cut or significantly changing how we do our jobs for the foreseeable future.
  3. Seeing news updates showing national and local elected officials all arguing about what’s the best thing to do, and all blaming each other for making things worse.
  4. Having to take on the role of primary educator for our children, when we were happy having the professionals in that role.
  5. Having friends and family say we shouldn’t take this all so seriously. And having other friends and family say we should take this all more seriously.
  6. Being restricted by stay-at-home orders that limit social contact and weekly routines to the point that children are climbing the walls … going stir crazy … feeling cabin fever. (Personal experience here.)
  7. Realizing that events like this are weathered fairly well by the “haves” and are generally catastrophic to the “have nots.”
  8. Being unable to visit loved ones in nursing homes or get together in groups with friends.
  9. Needing essentials like toilet paper and hand soap, only to find that the closest store with these essentials in stock is in a small town in the middle of Montana.
  10. Oh, and adding this deadly new contagious virus to the flu and all the others we already knew about.

The list surely goes on. Can realities such as these be dismissed merely as complaining and whining? Perhaps yes for some (who have the resources to ride this out), but no for others (who don’t have those resources).

For the majority of us, though, these realities are enough to make us … well, mad (at least at times).

Ways to deal with anger during the crisis

What do we do with the anger that comes from the overwhelming helplessness of being at the mercy of an invisible virus, confusing media coverage, government orders, a besieged economy and panic hoarding?

Here are some things we can do:

1. Broaden our perspective of what we can control and how we think about it.

With so much we cannot control, proactively doing more that we can control aids in battling the helplessness that can lead to anger. This does not mean hoarding physical supplies such as toilet paper (which asserts control in a selfish manner). It means finding what we can do more of to regain some of the control that we have lost. Here are some examples:

  • Set up new routines you can control. Instead of retreating to anger (or addictive/compulsive behaviors, which are also aggravated by feelings of helplessness), set up new routines that foresee and deal with what might lead to anger (Proverbs 22:3). Some ideas of things to do include:
    • Scheduling some “alone time” for thought, meditation, study, etc. (especially with everyone sticking around the house a lot more than ever before).
    • Allowing yourself a specific amount of time (but no more) each day to research things you are concerned about. Don’t allow a large percentage of your day to be consumed by TV news coverage of the situation—which largely just repeats and talks about the same facts over and over again.
  • Reframe the “negative” experiences of this crisis into “positives.” The apostle Paul tells us to “rejoice always” and “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18). We can apply Paul’s words through this crisis. We can fight anger with positive thoughts like these:
    • I can finally use the free weights collecting dust in my basement and start getting in better shape.
    • I have time to make small home repairs that I’ve been putting off.
    • I can text, email, call or video chat with old friends and family I haven’t communicated with in years.
    • I can use the extra time to read a book I’ve been meaning to read for months (or years).I have time to go through clutter that has been accumulating in my closets and basement and get rid of it,

2. Accept and acknowledge that none of us can control everything, but God can.

What about the stuff we cannot control? By putting the first point into practice, we can focus on the positive things we can control. However, there are still plenty of things we will have absolutely no control over. How do we deal with the anger that comes from feeling so powerless? Here are a few ideas:

  • Remind yourself that nearly everyone else is in the same situation, experiencing the same frustrations and limitations. Unrighteous anger can sometimes make us think “everything happens to me!” But, in fact, everything happens to everybody (1 Peter 5:9). Everybody has a story about loss, about misfortune, about tragedy and especially about how COVID-19 is negatively affecting them. This doesn’t invalidate our feelings of helplessness, but can guide us into seeking support and a warm listening ear from people who understand what we are going through, but maybe in a different way.

    Remember that God is ultimately in charge. We do not understand everything happening right now from God’s perspective. We may wonder: Why is He allowing this to happen? Did He cause this to happen? But we don’t need to fully understand now. What we do need to remember is that God cares for each of us individually and wants what’s best for us (Jeremiah 29:11). As far as the big picture, we can rest assured that God is playing the long game, doing whatever is necessary to move His plan forward to bring people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). “Big-picture thinking” helps us deal with experiences that don’t always seem to make perfect sense.

God is fully aware of the situation and understands our frustrations and our strong emotions. We can practice the wisdom Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” There is no better way to deal with anger.

We can use this as a perfect opportunity to practice the virtue of patience and imitate Jesus Christ. This is a time when exercising character is important.

If the devil were to write his beatitudes, they would probably go something like this:

1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians – they save me the effort of trying to keep them from God’s blessings.

2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – it’s pretty easy to keep them from working for God.

3. Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church – they are my missionaries.

4. Blessed are the trouble makers – they shall be called my children.

5. Blessed are the complainers – I’m all ears for them.

6. Blessed are those who are bored with the minister’s mannerisms and mistakes – for they get nothing out of his sermons.

7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church – for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.

8. Blessed are those who gossip – for they shall cause strife and division – that pleases me.

9. Blessed are those who are easily offended – for they will soon get angry and quit.

10. Blessed are those who do not give their offering to carry on God’s work – for they are my helpers.

11. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister – for they shall be with me forever.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves in sinful places because we weren’t paying close attention. We got lazy and ended up in a whirlwind of terrible choices with terrible consequences. Other times we knew what we were doing when we chose to disobey God.

 

The prophet, Jonah, was told by God to go to the city of Nineveh to preach so that they’d repent and turn to God. Clearly, Jonah was far from thrilled at this command because he literally ran away from God and headed for Tarshish, a city in the opposite direction of Nineveh. He ended up boarding a ship to get as far away from Nineveh as he could.

 

Unfortunately, his poor choice in evading God’s command didn’t turn out well for him. Within a short time, a storm came upon the ship and threatened to kill the entire crew. Immediately, Jonah knew that his disobedience to God was the cause of the situation. So, he told the crew it was his fault. Jonah 1:15 NIV says, “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”

 

If that wasn’t bad enough, he was swallowed up by a giant fish once he was in the sea. And he would spend the next three days and three nights in the belly of that fish before being vomited up on dry land. Once he was no longer camping out inside the fish, he chose to obey God and preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

 

Here are two takeaways from the life of Jonah:

 

Face It, Don’t Run From It

When God commanded Jonah to preach repentance to a large city of sinners, he wanted nothing to do with it. So he ran. Had Jonah just obeyed God and done what he was supposed to do in the beginning, he wouldn’t have had to deal with the consequences of his actions, including camping out in the disgusting belly of a fish for an extended weekend. Often, we experience hardships in life and we’d rather ignore or deny them, than face them. So, let’s deal with our difficulties and struggles head on and allow God to meet us in the midst of them.

 

God’s Plan Prevails

While the people in Nineveh were wicked and living lives full of sin, God desired for them to return to Him. That was His plan in the beginning and it came to pass. Regardless of our own plans and dreams, we have to understand that God is sovereign. This is His created world that we get to reside in. We are here for His purposes, not the other way around.

 

We’ll all have to do things we don’t want to do. Instead of fleeing from our responsibilities and callings, let’s obey God the first time and watch how He works to transform lives. He’s sovereign and we should consider it an honor to participate in His work on earth.