Forgiveness

How should Christians think about forgiveness?

Christians should be forgiving towards one another. They should not continually hold grudges or make people pay for past offenses.

Christians should be characterized by love. This does not mean they should refrain from speaking out about sin, but it does mean that they should act lovingly towards people in spite of their sin.

God is still working on me to change my bad habits and wrong attitudes. All Christians are in the process of becoming more Christlike. God changes people as they come to know him more. We must remember this when dealing with people.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Colossians 3:12-14 reads, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Ephesians 4:32 states, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Romans 5:8 reads, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

From these passages we are reminded that Christ dies for us while we were in our sins. When we choose to believe that Christ is who he said he was and that he did what the Bible says he did, we enter into a relationship with him and our sins are forgiven. When we accept Christ, all of our past, present, and future sins are forgiven. If God has forgiven all that we have done, it makes sense that we would need to forgive others when they sin against us. We must be patient and kind, and walk in humility remembering what we ourselves have been forgiven of.

We must be quick to pray for others in their struggles, but slow to judge them. We must remember that God has extended to others the same forgiveness he has given to us.

What about boundaries?

Christians are not doormats. While we are to forgive others, we are not to allow people to continually use or hurt us.

Even Jesus set up boundaries for himself.

If someone uses you, you should forgive the individual. If someone hurts you, you should forgive the person. However, even if you forgive someone, you should not put yourself in the position to be hurt again. If someone breaks your trust, it is conceivable that the person would need to earn your trust back. This process takes time.

We are all responsible for our actions. As such, we must recognize the fact that our actions bring with them consequences. It is important for us to think through the consequences of our actions prior to making choices.

When you wrong someone, you need to personally ask them for forgiveness. If someone wrongs you, you need to forgive the person, whether the person asks for forgiveness or not.

When you carry anger around in your heart, it will tear you apart from the inside out.

Forgiveness mends relationships, it covers over offenses, it reminds us that we all need to be forgiven, it reminds us of what Christ did for us on the Cross, and it helps us to grow in our fellowship.

Who do you need to forgive today? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from?

Why can we trust the Bible?

The First Question:
 
In a response to yesterday’s post someone asked me, “If human beings are flawed, full of sin, then how do Christians grapple with the fact that prophets were also human, and therefore subject to the same flaws? What if the interpretation of divine inspiration was inherently flawed from the beginning?”

In short, the person was asking how we can trust the Bible and Bible translations.

I hope to speak to those questions in this post.

First, the Bible was written over the course of 1500 years. There were multiple authors with varying skill in writing, and the text was written in 2 languages: Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek.

The prophets and apostles who penned the text were in fact flawed, so how do we know they accurately wrote down the words God wanted them to write? This question gets into our understanding of inspiration. We believe that the Words of the Bible are the very words God convicted the authors to write, but we believe that God allowed them to write in their own style and on their own writing level. We do not believe that God dictated the words to the authors. If he had, the Bible would read more like a book with a single author than one with numerous authors. So while we believe that God is the divine author we do not think that the prophets and apostles were just being told exactly what words to write.

Secondly, the Gospels and other parts of Scripture paint a picture of what God has revealed to humanity about himself, about our world, about truth, and so on, but they do not include everything there is to know about these issues.

Anytime someone reads a text, he or she is bound by his presuppositions. While it is easy to say that we trust that the flawed authors of the text wrote without error because God was convicting their hearts about what to write, we can agree that they may not have accurately understood everything they wrote down.

Today we have translations of the Bible in English. While we do our best to translate passages accurately (and to reflect the authors original intent) we sometimes find passages that can be understood in more than one manner. When this happens, the translator must make a choice. Like readers of the text, the translator is also bound by his or her presuppositions.

Presuppositions are any ideas or baggage we carry with us when looking at the text. For example, I am a white American male, who is among the middle class of society, and who lives in the South. No matter how much I would like to read the text from the perspective of an African American female from Boston, who lives in the lower class, I just cannot do it.

Does this make our interpretations flawed?

I do not believe that all of our interpretations are flawed because there are things that virtually everyone sees the same when we read Scripture. However, there is room for gray. As a theologian I regularly read books from other authors about how to understand parts of Scripture. Sometimes I find that I have been thinking incorrectly about a specific passage and that I need to correct my interpretation. The closest I can come to reading Scripture from another perspective is to simply read someone else’s perspective on the text.

We now have 2,000 years of church history to look at how others saw and understood the text. We also have more scholars from more perspective than ever before writing about the text.

While Scripture itself is trustworthy, we must remember that we are always in need of bringing our beliefs into better alignment with Scripture. We must also leave room for gray areas where different conclusions about how to interpret certain passages are inevitable.

The Second Question: 

How does the translation of the Bible affect contemporary understanding?”

Contemporary translations do affect contemporary understanding, but translators today are familiar with past translations. They are also familiar with how words used in the Bible in their original language are also used outside of Scripture. We believe that context is one of the most important factors for choosing how to interpret and translate the Bible into our modern languages.

Looking at how others have understood and interpreted the Scriptures throughout church history, we are better able to ensure that we are being faithful to the original meaning of the text when we write modern translations today.

As a side note, different translations are intended for different audiences. The NASB is closest to the original language. The ESV is second closest, but it uses English grammar rules while the NASB uses Greek and Hebrew Grammar rules for sentence structure. The NIV is written on a lower reading level for younger readers.

The Third Question:

“I’m curious about one of the rhetorical moves you make in the post. At one point, you mention that Christians should not judge, that they should spread the Word of God to nonbelievers in order to save their souls. Some have taken that same rhetorical stance to advocate their treatment of homosexuals. That is, they use the same rhetoric to justify truly horrible actions, all in the name of saving the soul of the homosexual, for their own good.

How effective is it to simultaneously state “Don’t judge” and then say “Save souls by introducing nonbelievers/non-Christians to Jesus”? There seems to be an element of judgment in such a stance. I only bring this up because the conflict between Christians and non-Christians hinges on this very point. There’s frequently a hint of “I know better than you” within Christian rhetoric, which undercuts the stance of “Don’t judge.” And so, to finally reach the question I want to ask, do you think it’s possible to employ Christian rhetoric that avoids a judgmental stance when engaging with nonbelievers/non-Christians?”

First, let me just apologize for the way that many homosexuals have been treated by Christians who believe that condemnation is the way to save souls. That has been a problem with numerous cultural and religious issues throughout the history of the church.

When I state not to judge what I mean is that only God is the judge. We can hold Christians to a specific standard because the Bible tells us how we are supposed to act. We cannot force our standard on non-Christians. Jesus modeled how we are to act towards non-Christians. He ate with them, he talked to them, he was kind to them, and he offered salvation to them. He did not lower his standards for anyone, but he realized that we are all sinners and that what we need only he could give. He knocks, but he never forces entry into the lives of people.

When I state that we should be about saving souls, I am interested in introducing people to Christ. I believe that we share Christ with others because he loves us and wants the best for us and desires to have a relationship with us. I think we should be about helping people develop their relationship with God, not just get fire insurance.

I hope that when I write these entries people will not view me as saying “I know better than you…” I know that the issue of homosexuality is incredibly complex. I know that with abortion the issue is incredibly complex. With most any significant issue, there are no easy answers. We cannot just say, this is how it is and everyone should agree with me and do what I say. Life is too messy for that to be the case.

It is not my place to judge the way that non-Christians live. I can tell Christians how they are supposed to act, because they claim to follow the same book I do. But I cannot tell non-Christians that they must adhere to Christian standards. In the same way, a Muslim cannot require me to uphold Islamic standards. Though there are many ethical issues where Christians and Muslims are in agreement.

The church has clearly handled many situations in the past very poorly. Part of the reason I write this Blog is to help Christians do a better job of living out their faith as we move forward.

The reasons Christians have a reputation for being legalistic hypocrites who are judgmental and mean spirited is because that is how many of them have acted in the past. But the actions of those people are diametrically opposed to the way that Christ wants us to live. He threw the money changers out of the temple, but he did not throw the prostitutes out of the bar. Christians need to focus on how we live…meaning those of us who practice Christianity, not how others live.

The Final Question:

“1 Corinthians, in addition, also seems to focus on uncontrolled urges and desires, instructing Christians to find balance in their lives. While this seems to suggest that same-sex relationships are to be avoided, it’s important, I think, to note that uncontrolled fornication is seen as a negative, not necessarily stable relationships built upon the foundation of balance and controlled desire. Fornication is the sin, not necessarily relationships.”

With this analysis I am somewhat in agreement. Paul is speaking about uncontrolled urges and desires and he notes in vs. 1-13 that those in the Corinthian church lived that way before they were saved but that they were no longer to live that way. One can make a case that the passage has moderation in mind. However, in the exact verses I quoted he mentions adultery and stealing and idolatry and no one would argue that those are only to be practiced in moderation. I believe he is saying that everything he mentions in vs. 9-10 is to be avoided in total. However, Paul also mentions greed in those verses. While we should avoid greed in total, many Christians struggle with being greedy. So while we are to avoid these things, many of them remain struggles for Christians throughout their lives. Christians must constantly make sure they are not making idols in their hearts and putting those idles in the place where God should be.

Conclusions:
I want to thank you for writing me and asking such good and thought provoking questions. You may not agree with all of my answers, but I hope that you have a better understanding of where I am coming from. I believe that these kinds of discussions are healthy and necessary in our culture today. I value you as a person and know that you are a good thinker. I would go so far as to say that you make a good philosopher (a lover of wisdom). I wish that everyone could converse about such topics without resorting to personal attacks and name calling. There is really no place for that kind of behavior among Christians or anyone with cognitive faculties.

Here is a great resource on different views related to homosexuality and Christianity: https://www.gaychristian.net/

This site has really opened my eyes to some of the vast issues with regard to homosexuality and the Christian faith. It also deals very specifically with your questions about Bible interpretation.

If anyone else has questions or comments with regard to this topic, I would love to converse further.

LGBT

LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. It is the term used when referring  to equal rights for this community of people.

In this post I will attempt to share my beliefs and Scripture about several important issues concerning how Christians should think about and react to LGBT issues.

First, all people are created equal. All humans bear God’s image. The image of course is broken in all people, but the fact that we are all broken and tainted by sin does not negate our value as human beings.

I have stated in another post recently that Christians are to love their enemies (meaning anyone who persecutes Christians). In addition to loving enemies, Christians are not to persecute others…becoming like enemies themselves.

It is never acceptable to treat others poorly or as less valuable humans because they are different. This principle extends to mental and physical handicaps, gender, ethnicity, age, and lifestyle practices.

It is not acceptable for Christians to hate people who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or who are transgendered.

What does the Bible say about the homosexual lifestyle?

Leviticus 18:22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

This verse reveals that before Christ came and fulfilled the Law, homosexuality was condemned.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 reads, “Or 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.”

This verse occurs after Christ came and fulfilled the law. It was also written by Paul to believers in Corinth, a town that was already accepting of same sex practices by the time this verse was written. Some have argued that the Bible references to same sex partnerships are cultural, but this is actually counter-cultural. The text suggests that Paul viewed homosexuality as an unacceptable lifestyle for Christians, even when the rest of society embraced the practice.

There are a number of other verses in Scripture that speak against same sex relationships, but none that affirm these relationships.

Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. As such, Christians are to live in accordance with what the Bible teaches about how to live.

***Therefore, it is not acceptable for Christians to embrace same sex relationships as an acceptable practice.***

That being said, Christians are not perfect. They are sinners and they are always in need of mercy and grace. They should extend that same mercy to others.

Just as muslims subject themselves to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and as Mormons subject themselves to the teachings of the Doctrine and the Covenants, and just as followers of other religions subject themselves to the teachings of the writings that they consider to be holy. Christians must subject themselves to the teachings of the Bible. Religions do not change their Holy Books if they believe those books actually contain the words of God. Humans have no right to alter God’s Word.

We are All Broken

We do not get our lives fixed so we can become Christians, we become Christians so God can help us fix our broken lives. The process of fixing our lives is the process of sanctification. This process is a lifelong pursuit.

We all have things with which we struggle. Some struggle with gluttony, some with lying, some with cheating, some with stealing, some with lust, some with pornography, some with using harsh words, and the list goes on.

As Christians, we cannot treat same sex attraction as something that is more offensive than other sins. Practicing Christians cannot openly say that they are liars and that they will continue lying because it is just who they are. Likewise, practicing Christians who are attracted to other people of the same gender cannot say that they will just continue living that lifestyle.

But even though Christians cannot embrace things the Bible speaks against, they may continue to have inclinations towards those things. If a drug addict becomes a believer, he or she is expected to stop using cocaine, but the desire to use cocaine may never go away. If someone becomes a Christan who is attracted to people of the same gender, that attraction may not go away either.

According to Scripture, God intends for Christians to either have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, or remain celibate.

That being said, God also hates divorce and it is a shame that so many people who claim to be Christians are willing to get divorces. Scripture is clear that Christians should only marry Christians not unbelievers. Yet, some Christians marry people who belong to other religions.

We need to seriously consider the implications of our choices and how they speak to the world when we condemn same sex marriage, but still find so many people getting divorces. Our own actions should speak to us about our fallen nature and our need for humility.

Conclusion 1: It is clear that Christians should not be practicing homosexuality, but it is also clear that Christians should not be singling out this practice as worse than other practices the Bible condemns. It is also clear that all humans are equally valuable and it is wrong for Christians to make those who practice homosexuality out to be our enemies. We are to live at peace with all people in as much as it is possible.

Transgender Issues

Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual all speak to a persons inclination towards relational attraction. Whether it be women being attracted to women, men being attracted to men, and men or women being attracted to both men and women. Transgender is a bit different.

Someone who is transgender believes that his or her identity does not match his physical gender. Thus a person in a man’s body may believe that he identifies better as a female than as a male. The same can be said of someone in a woman’s body who believes that she identifies better as a male than a female.

Some believe they identify a neither male or female, and others believe they identify as both.

I believe this is due in part to the way that society has defined gender roles. Men like hunting and fighting and gathering food. Women like pink and princesses, and frilly things.

We must understand that there is a difference between gender and being masculine or feminine.

We must also recognize that influence of virtuous males and females is important to gender identity.

The Bible does not address the issue of living as a woman in  man’s body or living as a man in a woman’s body. It also does not speak about people who are born with some male and some female physical parts.

Conclusion 2: We live in a fallen world where many things are not as they should be. As such, some people believe they are not as they should be. God is interested in redeeming all people. He desires that all come into his fellowship and become adopted into his family. God takes broken people with all their sins and in spite of all their sins and he works on fixing them. No people are as God is making them to be until the resurrection. Only then will we all see things as God desires us to see things.

While I do not believe that people who become Christians should in rebellion to Scripture practice homosexuality, I do believe that those inclined towards it can become Christians. May we all have the humility to realize that we are each flawed and that we are all continually in need of God’s grace and mercy.

I pray that Christians in this generation will learn to love those in the world the way that Christ loved us while we were still dead in our sins. I pray that we will stop vilifying people and be about the business of sharing hope. I pray that we will see all humans as being intrinsically valuable regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. I pray that we will show the world the love of God and not just the wrath of man.

While I do not agree with the practice of homosexuality, as a Christian, I do not find it wise to insult and hurt those who choose that kind of lifestyle. I am called to love all people, even when I disagree with some of their practices. Their choices do not keep me from being kind, helping, conversing with, or befriending them.

Just as Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, so we should love those who are different. Just as Jesus never lowered his expectations for calling sinners to salvation, neither should we lower or change our standards for offering that same salvation to lost and hurting people in our world today.

Questions? Comments?

God and Evil

The Tank Man in Tiananmen Square

Why did God create a world that contains evil?

Could God not create a world without evil? Or is he wise enough to know that without evil there is no need for good?

If God created a world without evil, would there be any free choice? If there is no free choice, would God actually be good? If everyone had no choice but to serve God and believe in him, wouldn’t God be more of a tyrant than a loving Father? We can’t make other people love us, and when we try we have to question the sincerity of the other person’s love.

We know that when humans commit evil and hurt other people God grieves for his creation. We know that when we suffer God is there beside us. We know that evil was introduced into the world by the devil in the Garden of Eden. Ever since the fall in the Garden, humans have been inclined to make bad choices.

But since the fall in the Garden humans have also been choosing to follow the Lord.

Natural and Moral Evil

When Adam chose to eat of the fruit in the Garden, his choice caused a curse to come over creation. This curse introduced both natural evil and moral evil into the world. Natural evil includes earthquakes, tornado’s, fires, hurricanes, etc. Moral evil includes murder, violence, lies, taking advantage of others, etc.

The world contains both natural evil and moral evil and both exist because of a bad choice made by Adam, the first man.

God has a Reason

While some evil seems pointless, Christians believe that God allows evil to exist and has a perfectly good reason for creating a world with both moral and natural evil.

When Job asked God why he suffered so much, God answered him by saying: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding (Job 38:4).”

Job did not receive an answer from God as to why he was suffering, he was only told that he would not understand because he was not there when the Lord created the earth. The rest of the chapter involves God asking Job more questions about all of God’s vast knowledge.

The existence of evil is a mystery we will never fully understand in this life, but we believe that God has a good reason for allowing evil to exist.

Questions or comment????

Marijuana Use

What does the Bible say about using Marijuana?

The Bible never mentions marijuana or smoking any kind of plants. But it does give us a good principle in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Christians are to take care of their bodies because we have been bought with a price and belong to God. This verse speaks to virtually anything we can do to our bodies.

So should Christians smoke marijuana? 

I would argue that they should not because it is not a proper way to care for the body that God has given you.

Some have argued that verses support the use of marijuana such as Genesis 1:29: “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” But this verse speaks to the issue of food and it was spoken prior to the fall. Since the fall, we know that some plants are not good for food. Some berries are even poisonous to humans. The text here says nothing about using plants for anything other than food so while it does not condemn the use of marijuana, it certainly does not support it.

What are the health benefits?

Medical use of marijuana can help treat glaucoma, epileptic seizures, it slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,  it helps people with Parkinson’s disease, and may help in stopping the spread of cancer.

Use of marijuana for medical reasons can yield positive results, but we must also ask ourselves what other types of medication yield the same results without causing dependency or changes in a persons emotions or memory.

What are the hazards?

Marijuana blocks memory formation; the feel good effect can overstimulate the brain and cause dependency; it negatively effects the areas of your brain that regulate posture, balance, and reaction time; it increases the risk of depression; intense fear, distrust, panic, and anxiety are common side effects of using the drug; it causes some to see hallucinations; use interrupts REM sleep;  it increases your heart rate; and it causes the blood vessels in your eyes to expand.

Conclusion:

I do not believe that Christians should smoke marijuana. The hazards outweigh the benefits for most people. Most medical conditions can be alleviated with other medications. Recreational use is not an acceptable practice.

Loving Enemies

What does it mean to love an enemy?

It means that one is to refrain from hating someone even when the person does you wrong.

What does the Bibel say about loving enemies?

Luke 6:27-36 reads, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Here Jesus tells his hearers to do good to those who hate you, and to pray for those who abuse you. He goes on to suggest that when someone persecutes you that you are to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and give the tunic. These are forms of non-violent resistance that would cause the person treating you badly to realize they are in the wrong. It gives them an opportunity to apologize and change their behavior, though it is not a guarantee.

Jesus reminds his hearers that everyone treats their friends well, but treating enemies well is something that sets Christians apart from other faith traditions.

In Romans 12:19-21 Paul writes, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul is in full agreement with the statements Jesus made in Luke. Paul does not believe that Christians should take vengeance on their enemies. Paul then gives his readers similar advice. He says to feed your enemy if he is hungry or give him drink if he is thirsty.  Paul says to overcome evil with good.

The idea again is that by showing love to your enemies, you will bring them under conviction. They will see a difference in you not found in others…namely love. And through this love, they will hopefully come to repentance, change their ways, become a friend and even a brother or sister in Christ.

Application:

Christians today should love their enemies as Christ commands. This means that when people do things contrary to the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith, instead of throwing stones, they should pray for those people. They should do good for them and help them as they can. Christians can express their opinions and can tell non-Christians when they disagree with their actions, but they should always do so in love. Christians must be kind when dealing with those who have different standards and values.

If you have been wronged by someone, work on forgiving him or her. Do not wrong that person in an attempt to “get them back” or “get even.”

If someone you know has been wronged, help them learn to forgive.

We have all been victims at some point. Many victimizers are themselves victims of past abuses.

Sometimes relationships cannot be mended and sometimes boundaries must be formed for emotional and physical protection. There is nothing wrong with forming boundaries, but we must remember to build them in love. We should not ever be hateful or mean towards others even when putting up a fence.

In the Christian Bible we are told to treat all people as our neighbors; we are told to love our enemies; we are told to wish harm upon no one.  It can be pretty difficult to do these things, but when we learn to love others and treat them with kindness (even when we have disagreements with them), then we will be much happier individuals on the whole. 

I want to encourage you to put yourself in the shoes of everyone you meet, try to see things from their perspectives.  Before you lose your temper with someone, try to understand why they are doing or saying whatever is upsetting you.  Be slow to judge others, but quick to listen and offer a helping hand or a gentle hug.  Make it a point not to Gossip about others.  And more than anything, try to be patient with everyone, especially people you don’t get along with.

Through these kinds of actions, Christ’s love becomes real to the world around us.

Making Good Choices

As human beings we should try to make good choices in life. Some might say that those who regularly make good choices are wise.

Wisdom can be understood as skill in living.

Parents want to teach their children to make good choices.
Teachers attempt to teach their students how to make good choices.

But how do we know how to make good choices? How do we know when we are making a good choice?

How do we know we are rightly teaching children, students, employees, and others who look up to us to make good choices?

For starters, we must learn to think through decisions that we make.
We must evaluate the consequences of our actions before acting.

We must weigh the options and choose between them.

We must on occasion seek the advice of others, do research, and most importantly, pray for guidance.

What does the Bible say about making good choices?
Proverbs 3:1-35 reads, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Here the writer of the Proverbs reminds us to follow God’s ways. We are to trust him and seek peace.

Deuteronomy 30:9-10, states “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Again we see the importance being obedient to the Lord. Obedience to God helps us to know when we are making good choices.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

This passage reminds us that we need to lean on the Lord for help in making good choices.

Psalm 32:8 states, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Here God reminds us that he will lead us and instruct us.

Philippians 4:7 shares, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When we focus on God, he will guard our hearts and bring us peace.

Proverbs 14:12 reminds us that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

When we do not rely on God and choose to do things on our own, we run the risk of making choices that do not yield good results. This is especially true with regard to spiritual death which comes from relying on ourselves for salvation.

Proverbs 11:14 speaks concerning wise counsel, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

When we look to others for advise, we are less likely to make decisions we will regret later in life.

Finally, in 1 Peter 3:15 we are told, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

We should honor God with our hearts and when we do, our actions will show what we believe. God calls us to have pure hearts and by result, to make good choices in how we live.

Conclusion

To make good choices we must:

  1. Trust in the Lord for wisdom and guidance.
  2. Ask for counsel from others we look up to when making important decisions.
  3. Be obedient to the commands of God as they are meant to help protect and guide us.
  4. Way our options and evaluate the possible consequences.
  5. Pray and give your concerns to the Lord…and then listen for his conviction in your heart, in the Scripture as you read it, and in the words of others.

How do you live? Do you rely on yourself, or do you see the value in looking to God and others for help?

Do you believe you have skill in living?

Leadership

What does the it mean to be a leader?

A leader is someone who has followers. A leader must be able to motivate others to get on board with his or her vision. Good leaders are willing to get their hands dirty. They are willing to make sacrifices and be willing to live knowing that they cannot please everyone.

What does the Bible say about leadership?

Titus 1:7-14 reads, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach”

In short, leaders must be people characterized by virtue.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul a leader of the early church states, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

Good leaders are servants. Servants are guided by something. All Christians are to be servants of God, including Christians in leadership. In fact, the idea of leadership in the church is really the idea of servanthood. Church leaders are to use their gifts and skills to serve the congregation so as to lead those in the congregation to become more like Christ.

How can leaders in other venues serve their employees, teams, and followers so as to lead them forward?

Greed

Smaug…the Greedy Dragon

Does it seem that people are more greedy these days? Could it be because there is more to be greedy about? Every year many products are marketed and sold in America. People are conditioned to value what they cannot afford and to desire what they do not really need. Additionally, they are told that they should buy things for the bargain. But in order to get the bargain, people often spend more money for more things than they intended to spend on the one thing they really needed to begin with.

It is clear that Capitalism is a way of life that depends upon consumerism. America is a consumer driven culture. In some respects, this is very good. People make new innovative products that are better and that increase quality of life. In some respects it is negative. People are never satisfied with what they have and are always looking for the next big thing.

I am not actually sure that people are more greedy these days, but I do think that in general the American population places too much value on material possessions.

What does the Bible say about Greed?

Luke 12:15 reads, “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Proverbs 16:16 states, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”

Scripture is clear that greed is a sickness in the human heart. Those driven by greed lose sight of what is most important in life.

Conclusion

This week, I want to encourage you to think about the ways in which you spend your money. Do you throw it away buying things you don’t really need? Do you save it up not ever really buying even the things you do need?

I want to encourage you to think about how you can wisely use your finances. How you can use them to meet the needs of your family, how you can use them to give to others who are less fortunate, and how you can save some wisely for the future.

How can you keep from being driven by greed?

Friendship

Bonding over Legos would be a friendship based on a pleasure (#2 below)

Aristotle described three kinds of friendships.

  1. Friendship based in utility: This is a shallow form of friendship based on a desire that one has and that someone else can meet. An example of this would be a person who wishes to go to a concert so he befriends someone who can get him a free ticket. This kind of friendship rarely lasts long.
  2. Friendship based on pleasure: This is the kind of friendship that is based on commonly shared interests. For example you may have friends at work or in a club or organization that you are connected to because of a shared enjoyment.
  3. Friendship based on virtue: This kind of friendship occurs when someone wishes for the best for someone else regardless of shared pleasures or a person utility. This is the kind of friendship where both parties want what is best for the other and where neither gives to the relationship expecting something in return.

What does the Bible say about friendship?

The Bible teaches that humans were created for community. In Genesis 2:18, God states that it is not good for man to be alone. One of the first commands God gives humans is to be fruitful and multiply.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Here we see that friends can build each other up and hold each other accountable in their walk of faith.

John 15:13 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John places value on our willingness to give of ourselves for others.

In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul reminds believers, “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Paul  recognizes the importance of choosing friends carefully.

How should we choose friends?

First, to have good friends, we must be good friends. We cannot befriend someone just so that we can get something from the person. We should not befriend someone just because we have a similar interest, though it is always nice to have similar interests among friends. We should wish for the best for others and be willing to give of ourselves for them. We should seek friendships of virtue.

Seeking the best for others means helping when they are in need, correcting them when they are in the wrong, it means encouraging them to do what is right and to pursue what is good.

Guarding Ourselves

While it is important to give of ourselves in good friendships, we must also guard against being used by others. We must not choose friends who only want to associate with us for their own benefit. We must not choose to align ourselves with others who have low moral values.

This does not mean we cannot be cordial to those trying to use us or who have different values, but our closest friends need to be people who share our value system. Neglecting to do so puts us at risk of having our own morals corrupted.

What kind of friendships do you have? Do you find yourself trying to make friends with those who can provide you with things? Those who share similar interests? Or those with whom you can openly be yourself? Do you seek friendships of virtue?

How do the decisions you make and the morals you live by affect others? Do you find yourself lifting others up, making them better, or corrupting their good character?