Christianity at work...for the most part, we all need to support ourselves. That self-supporting system generally comes in three phases. First is the education phase, where we are supposed to choose what self-support direction to take and then how to do it. Second is the work of making ends meet, which for most of us, occupies the majority of our adult lives. It is our thinking and actions in this phase that define our lives. Third is the benefits stage. It is hard to get to but can give us choices and control of our time. Whatever stage of life we might be in, we as Christians are always required to carry our beliefs and principles with us. The question then is simple. How well are we defining ourselves by our thoughts, words and actions while in these environments? Do we look like and act like the follower of Christ we profess to be?
What part of the Gospel did Jesus most focus on teaching? For many of us the answer would be simple. Jesus taught love – love one another as he and God love us. While this is a beautiful and profound answer, it is surprisingly incorrect. Jesus actually focused probably three times more on teaching about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven! As a matter of fact he taught about the kingdom more than he taught about anything else. Amazing and true! Now, if Jesus was so laser beam focused on the kingdom, it is probably smart for us to know what he was talking about. By the way, the several ways he described the kingdom seem to be in contradiction with one another. So, what is the kingdom, where is the kingdom and when is the kingdom?
Praise God! Psalm 34 says “Magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!” As Christians we often think of glorifying God as an incredibly positive exercise in expression, excitement, joy and passion. Our praise and worship usually bring us to feeling His love and power, and this in turn opens us up to a convicted sense of security. All of this is good, but is it the complete picture of what glorifying God is supposed to be? Do our praise and worship sufficiently satisfy the "glorifying God equation" in our daily lives? What if there is a whole different level of extolling our Creator’s character? What if that different level could actually have a profound transforming effect on us? You’d want to know about that, right? Me too!
Everyone loves the idea of being free, and in America we especially are reminded of the privilege of liberty at this time of year. Unfortunately I think many of us do not really understand what freedom and liberty are, and even more so what they are not. In reality, true liberty by very definition has limitations - several limitations. Liberty is NOT license. Because we live in a time were possibilities seem limitless, we don’t like that kind of talk. Who are you to tell me that there is a limit on my freedom? Well, it turns out the exact same struggle with defining liberty and license happened way back in biblical times. What IS liberty? What IS license? Am I really supposed to not only know the difference but live the difference?
See Episode #1021 Part I and Episode #1024 Part II. Understanding the truth of the hellfire teaching is difficult. On one hand, we have powerful Christian tradition that has for over 1500 years emphatically taught that all who do not come to Jesus will suffer eternal torment and torture for their sins. Hard teaching - strong stand. On the other hand, we have those (including ourselves) who stand against this tradition with all of the force we can muster. We don’t challenge it because it is not convenient. We don’t refute it because we can’t emotionally accept it. We speak out because we believe that it has no legitimate place within Christian teachings. We believe it to be wholly false. Today’s part 3 of this series will feature our hopefully clear responses to those who uphold the Hellfire doctrine and have presented their scriptural challenges to our view.
Let’s start by stating the obvious. Sin is bad. To act in accordance with sin is to act in a way that is not only contrary to the will of God but is also damaging to our standing before God. It is obvious that if we want to be pleasing to God then we need to really focus on managing our misdeeds. So, how do we do that? Are some transgressions worse than others? Can we find solace in the thought that “at least my sins are not as bad as that guy over there!” What do we need to do to reign in our misdoings and to continually clarify our conscience? Should we be focusing on totally avoiding what we think are really big sins or on avoiding all of the little trespasses that never seem to quit?
The world is not a peaceful place. It seems to have become especially hostile in the arena of thoughts and perspectives. For some reason we can no longer tolerate a dissenting opinion – rather than respectfully listening to disagreement, we instead resoundingly lash out with personal attacks, sarcasm and a self-righteous indignation. Pretty sad, huh? Even we as Christians are guilty of this – even in light of Jesus teaching us thatpeacemakers are blessed! So, what does it mean to be a peacemaker? Is it different than being a peacekeeper? How far are we supposed to be reaching out to make peace and does it ever involve compromising our Christian principles to do so?
"The end result of God’s judgment upon those who do not accept Jesus is eternal fire and torment." Such is the serious warning of many Christians of many centuries before us and of our day as well. Their studied claim is that Jesus was specific,and his words are the words of the Gospel and are therefore not subject to question. While we agree with the unquestionable nature of the words of Jesus, we DO question our Christian friend’s interpretation on this very serious matter. Our questions we respectfully ask about a New Testament hell are these: What if Jesus’ teachings about God’s judgment did NOT point to a burning hell at all? What if that doctrine was borrowed from ancient heathen teaching (as we discussed in Part 1 of this series) and illegitimately planted into what became known as the Gospel – centuries AFTER Jesus spoke? What if careful scriptural reasoning coupled with post New Testament history could PROVE this?
Israel – it is a country that only covers about 21,000 square kilometers (not even in the top 150 countries – about the size of New Jersey) and houses about 8.3 million people (which figures to be about .11% of the world’s population). Yet for its insignificance, this land is always in the news and always seems to be in trouble. Why are there so many questions about and issues with this tiny nation? Are they really occupying land that is not theirs? Is Israel really mean and over-the-top harsh with their neighbors, or are there important details about the constant conflicts that we are always missing? Should we just be fed up with what they do and what they stand for, or should we be respectfully looking up to Israel for what they do and what they stand for?
“Just be yourself, no can ask any more of you than that.” This is such free and easy advice – someone has probably said it to you, and you have probably said it to someone else. But what does it mean? Is being yourself just reacting to whatever comes your way with a knee-jerk impulse? Does being yourself mean that your personal preferences and feelings should be stated and followed? Do each of us have different selves that we can be? And what about Christians? Are we even supposed to be ourselves? Is our call to Christ a “leave it all behind” call with sacrifice or a “take it with you and we’ll build on it” call? How do we better understand and apply our best selves to our Christian walk?