We’re All Going To Die and I’m Having Tea

Issues, issues everywhere and not a drop to drink!  Ok, not exactly true, I’m guzzling sugar free iced tea right now… But where to start?  Hell or the imminent second coming of Christ?  Let’s start with hell!

These days the idea of hell seems a non-starter with most.  In fact, as a society we are in the midst of concluding that the idea of a God who sends people to hell is simply dangerous. Unfortunately, the “Church” has not always helped.  Instead of actually following the teachings or example of Christ (Christians right?), the “Church” has sometimes burned people at the stake.  It’s a past that contributes to a dangerous image, one that is often exploited today by those who oppose Christianity.  That’s to be expected of course.  It’s just a fact of life that when some of those who claim to follow Jesus do such horrible and anti-Jesus things, Christianity itself gets associated with evil.

It has come to the point in our culture, that make no mistake, basic Christian beliefs are being looked upon with suspicion.  No longer are heinous acts of the Dark Ages being blamed on a corrupt church or power-hungry leaders, now it’s the Bible itself, the traditional religion itself.  Maybe it’s imbedded in our belief system?  Seems silly to most Christians who regularly give to help the poor, or work in the soup kitchens and slums of the world.  But nevertheless, despite our actions we are being painted as something more sinister, even by those who call themselves believers.  As Rob Bell said in his book “Love Wins” :

“Inquisitions, persecutions, trials, book burnings, blacklisting – when religious people become violent, it is because they have been shaped by their God, who is violent.” (For you Kindle users, that’s at 88% through the book, chapter 7)
 
Don’t miss the logical conclusion of such reasoning.  Continue reading
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Osama Bin Laden is Dead: Hooray?

Today in America, or on my Facebook at least, Christians are torn. The natural reaction for a human being when a mortal enemy is destroyed is celebration. A sense of victory. Relief.  But should we join in the celebration?   The western world may rejoice in the death of Osama Bin Laden, but we are not of this world.  Should believers in Jesus feel guilty for feeling good about the death of someone?  It is difficult not to “feel” something.  But what should I do with those feelings?

Questions like these are part of being a Christian.  Following Christ is not a matter of eating, drinking, wearing certain kinds of clothing, repeating particular phrases at church, voting a particular way, or any of those outward, surface things.  I have my own opinions on what food is worth eating, what drinks are worth drinking,  and what kinds of clothes look good.  I have favorite phrases I use, and I have plenty of opinions on political things.

But that’s not what following Christ is about.  The Bible says when it comes to following Jesus, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” -Galatians 5:6

It’s faith in Jesus, trust in Jesus, expressing itself in our lives through putting God ahead of ourselves, and putting others ahead of ourselves.  See, that’s the Biblical definition of love, and the example of love when Jesus made Himself nothing, took the form of a servant and obeyed the Father by dying on a cross for the sins of everyone else.  Everyone.  Even Osama’s if he would only have taken hold of that forgiveness.

So for a believer and follower of Jesus, because we are to love God by putting Him first, and because He lives in us through the Spirit that He gave us, we should honor God with our reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Therefore we should be thoughtful with how we conduct ourselves and careful to guard our hearts.  God did say:

‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. -Ezekiel 33:11

And in another place:

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. -Proverbs 24:17-18

I think it is worth noticing that the above verse instructed us to conduct ourselves humbly so that God would continue to pour out His wrath on our enemies.  In fact, desiring wrath on mortal enemies is found in several places in the Bible where it is not condemned by God.

In Revelation 6:10, martyrs asked God how long before he “avenged” their deaths. In Revelation 18:20 it says to rejoice when Babylon the Great is destroyed for she killed God’s people.  And regardless of what someone interprets “Babylon the Great” to be, the end result is destruction that involves people.

In the Psalms, David often appealed for his enemies to be destroyed or put to shame by God.  He would write things like“Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword.” -Psalm 17:13  

In that Psalm, as in Revelation, and other places in the Bible, it was God who received the praise for His justice in destroying the wicked.  It seems that God accepts that praise, even though as He said in Ezekiel, he takes no pleasure Himself in the death of the wicked.  He would rather that they repent.

Thus, it follows that Proverbs would warn us not to gloat over the death of our enemies because God does not destroy the wicked to feed our desire for power and pride.  God brings justice, but at the same time, He sacrificed His Son for the likes of Osama Bin Laden as well. Anyone can be forgiven if they turn to God as we all know. And a sobering reminder for us is found in Luke 13:1-5. If not for Jesus, we all face judgment.

      Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

      Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”-Luke 13:1-5

In many ways, the death of Osama Bin Laden is merely the natural result of his own actions.  Jesus said that those who choose to live by the sword, will die by the sword.  But I believe that Osama’s death at the hands of his enemies was also an act of justice by a Holy God, avenging the death of thousands of people.  I praise the Lord for His justice and His judgment on our enemies.  But it is also a sobering reminder which makes me grateful for the grace of God through Christ which is available for all, that all might be forgiven and receive eternal life, if they will call upon the name of the Lord.

Was the Holocaust God’s Wrath?

I got asked this question by someone who wanted me to say yes. They wanted me to say yes, because they wanted the opportunity to mock me for claiming that God loves us, while being forced to admit that God also wanted to gas millions of people.

How do you reconcile a good God… with stuff like this? If it’s OK with you, I’d like to avoid for now, the tedious philosophical arguments and just look at the big picture. By that I mean, if the God of the Bible exists, then understanding Him requires understanding what the Bible says is going on with God and the world in general. Calling God “good” or “loving” sends people off on tangents because we think of various depths of meaning when those terms are mentioned. It’s better just to stick with the source without getting sidetracked.

So back to the Jewish holocaust, was it God’s wrath? Continue reading

Will God Send People to Hell When They Were Raised in Other Religions?

Of course. Class over.

No, I’m kidding. It’s a really good question. I’ve wondered about it constantly, and of all the questions that are out there, this one has been the toughest for me to come to grips with. Doesn’t seem right that people would grow up being taught different religions, never hearing about God the way I do, or Jesus, and then go to hell for eternity. I have no problem with the really bad people going to hell, of course, but what about the well-meaning folks who just didn’t know? It doesn’t sound fair.

I know the usual answers. Here’s a couple of them: Continue reading

Contradictions on Anger in the Bible?

Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” -Matthew 5:22

And yet the Bible also mentions a time when Jesus faced some of the religious leaders and the Scripture says, “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts,” –Mark 3:5

In Ephesians, Paul wrote: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” –Ephesians 4:31-32

Yet after being arrested and brought before the ruling council of religious leaders in Jerusalem where he was punched in the mouth at the command of the high priest, Paul shouted “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” -Acts 23:3

That sounds a bit angry to me.

And God himself is described as angry several times in the Bible:

David wrote in the book of Psalms: O LORD God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?-Psalm 80:4

Isaiah 30:7 prophecies that “the Name of the LORD comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.”

So what gives? Is it ok to be angry or not? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical of God or Jesus or Paul to say one thing and do another? Continue reading