All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 NKJV
Christians have a tendency to cherry pick the verses they like, and ignore many others which they either don’t understand, or cannot agree with. There are some verses which go against our lifestyle, and these are the hardest ones to deal with, because they go to the very heart of our faith, but more importantly our response. These verses remind us that ALL scripture is there for a reason, even the parts we don’t like or understand!
I was reminded in very direct language, through the comments of a recent blog, that some parts of society just don’t want to accept large parts of the Bible. In fact, they think the Old Testament is contradictory, and not relative to our modern day living, and the Apostles say too much about lifestyle in their epistles to be acceptable. That leaves the four Gospels, thus making a very short personal Bible. Oddly, the reasons for this kind of cherry picking, can be the things that are clearly written which we don’t like. In truth, we don’t get to use the Bible like a ‘pick and mix’ selection. We must take it all, even the parts we don’t like or understand.
It is clear then. If we are going to name the name of Christ, and call ourselves ‘Christians’, we must accept the fact that the whole Bible is for our complete life in Christ. Accepting anything less makes us ‘Christ-less’,and it doesn’t matter who we are, or what our lifestyle is like. My suggestion is to read the whole Bible, and try to understand the underlying question of ‘why’ when we come to parts we are not familiar with. I have found that so called ‘contradictions’ become clear when we read with a prayerful heart. The Bible taken as a whole is not really confusing, but it may not help if a person is looking for an excuse for sinful living. We must read with what faith we have, after all: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 KJV
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV
We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
1 Timothy 1:9-11 NIV
Steve Chalke, the well known Baptist pastor, who is often seen on religious UK TV chat and discussion shows with celebrities, has recently written a paper called “A Matter of Integrity” which explores the subject of same sex relationships in the church, and in the eyes of Scripture, as he sees it. Basically, Steve has opened up a can of worms, because his interpretation of Bible passages does not go along with any mainstream thinking. In fact, he sees long lasting and committed homosexual relationships as equal to heterosexual couples in all aspects in the church, but also in the eyes of God. Basically, he rewrites all scriptural and fundamental theology on the subject, saying we have it all wrong and he is right in his reading of the scriptures on the subject. I am not a lettered theologian, but I know what I read in the Bible, plainly and simply. I don’t see the subject as complicated, although there are those who would have us think so. Steve is well known and has a platform for his statement, and has taken a great risk in using it.
Steve does a bit of juggling and Biblical somersaults in his interpretation. At the moment he is a lone evangelical voice when he talks about “homosexual Christians”, but the debate is open and the upcoming Government changes to ‘upgrade’ the definition of marriage to include any combination of men and women will ensure we will not be ignorant of the ramifications of change. Steve Chalke has successfully set himself up in the vanguard of a move to downgrade sin as described in the Bible. Undoubtedly the homosexual lobby group Stonewall will be delighted, and will be happy to welcome this new convert to their ranks.
This running sore will not go away anytime soon, and we will have to take a personal stand on the subject while we can. I trust we can speak the truth in love, while recognising the Biblical definition of sin when it is clearly stated, no matter the celebrity status of anyone else who speaks with apparent authority. While Steve Chalke speaks in support of homosexual marriage, other equally sincere pastors have moved out of their parishes, and in fact some have been moved out involuntarily because they took a stand against same sex marriage. This hot topic is certainly a can of worms, or a minefield. Either way, churches, pastors, and members will have to make some tough decisions about the definition of sin, while speaking the truth in love, and that my friends will not be easy!
World renowned cyclist and record holder Lance Armstrong has finally come clean, and admitted taking performance enhancing drugs over a long period of time, and during his seven Tour De France title wins. He was under immense pressure to tell the truth, because there had been a lot of evidence put into the public domain, that he was hiding a big lie. To cover up his wrongdoing, he bullied others to help him hide his actions for a long time, but as we all know, the truth will out in the end. It was only a matter of time before the lie he was living would be exposed. He believed that retelling the same lie on and on, would make it believable and even the truth!
Let’s not be too hasty to judge him, or anyone else who may be living a lie. Not one of us is the person other people think we are. We all, without exception, hide something, the only difference is a matter of scale. Lance Armstrong deceived many people, and achieved many trophies during his own chosen lie, but can we truly say we have not deceived others to some degree? Perhaps not in such a public way, but deceit it is none the less.
Eventually, the truth will come out, and we may not be able to control how or when. It may be a slight embarrassment, or a massive scandal, but it will come out at some point. We tell our children to always tell the truth, but before we know it, we are peddling our own protective stories to help us save face with our friends and work colleagues. Our exposure may not hit the headlines or the 10 o’clock news, but it will dent our credibility and integrity, perhaps even for the rest of our lives.
The answer is quite simple. Just be yourself. The way God made you, and the way God accepts you. Isn’t it good to know we don’t have to impress our loving Father? After all, He knows us better than anyone, and better than we know ourselves. So stop trying to be someone else, that position is already filled. You are unique, so accept who you are, just the same way that Jesus loves and accepts you! It’s a shame Lance Armstrong didn’t know that little truth, isn’t it?
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35, and then John continues his theme.....Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13 NKJV
I am puzzled, and not for the first time. Maybe you can help me to understand, so here is my confusion: The overriding theme of the New Testament of the Christian Gospel is love. Love for God, and the supreme love of dying for a friend. Occasionally, the news media carries the story of the extremes of the Christian faith, and the result is that we wring our hands, confess our sins and repent. We usually try to put our failings right, and we use the example of Christ to make ourselves better Christians. the problem is that church attendance in the UK is falling, and people are less likely to believe in God, as they once did. We have sad and unacceptable extremes in the Christian religion, but these are usually well reported and repentance offered.
Then the news media is also filled almost daily on Islamic extremists, or jihadists who have no scruples in taking hostages and life: that is any life (usually ‘western’) who can be used to further their cause. The ongoing situation in Africa where Muslim Islamists openly attack Christian churches, and then say that the loss of any infidel's life is worth it, and within their religious rights. All in the quest for a perfect Islamic state like Iran. You may also be familiar with the recent atrocities in Mali and Algeria where Muslim Islamist jihadists took hostages and their lives to further their aim. These people are truly terrorists in every sense of the word.
Now here is my puzzle. Why is it that the Christian faith of love, repentance and forgiveness is failing, with church numbers in decline, but the active and involved Muslim Mosque population is on the increase? I would have thought that the good base of that religion would desert in droves, so as not to be associated with terrorist activities. After all, these extremists are a very significant part of the Muslim faith group. This much I know (as far as anything can be known) if anything even close to the level of murderous activity was levelled at the door of the Christian Church, there would be very few Christians left to attend any church of any denomination.
So in a nutshell: Why does a barbaric religion grow, but a loving religion fail?
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matt 13:45 NKJV
It’s a familiar story from Jesus, and He tells it for a good reason. We are guilty of skimming the surface of parables, but allow me to prompt your thinking.
What would be the ‘pearl’ that would mean so much to you, that you would make every effort not only to get it, but keep it? It doesn’t have to be a pearl, or some kind of expensive jewellery, so how about these suggestions of things that are truly priceless?
Your pearl might be the family reconciliation of parent and child. It may be the gift of a child into your life. Your pearl may be the wife or husband who shares your life. It may be the return of good health through healing, whether spiritually, physically or emotionally. Or maybe, just maybe you are still looking for that pearl, and have been looking for many years so far unsuccessfully. I can only say keep looking. The verse suggests that the merchant was looking already, and kept looking until he found what he needed.
Business people don’t risk everything for one venture. They will usually, wisely, make sure their other businesses are kept safe and out of danger, so their risk is minimised. However, the merchant in our verse risked everything to make sure he was able to keep the pearl he had found because he recognised its true value. We should be no different. We are dealing with eternal and essential matters, and God would not steer us wrong, so when He shows us the pearl He wants us to have, we should risk our reputation and pride to accept it with thanks. So whether it is a family matter, love or health, keep believing and take a step of faith while holding firmly onto the extended hand of God. He won’t let go, and neither should we.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26 KJV
The old saying goes, “All good things come to an end”, and there is always the fear that it is true. You know when something is going so well that you don’t want it to stop? It doesn’t seem to work that way for bad things, because they seem to keep popping up, even after their ‘sell by date’ is well past.
How about looking at it another way? If something is so good that you have a fear it will end, then how about taking steps to keep the memory alive, long after the good time has ended. That is not hard to do, and it is very effective. After all, we do it all the time when we are growing up by looking at old photos and videos to remind us of the special times which have become a part of history, and cannot be brought back.
So, do I really think all good things always come to an end? Only if we let them, and don’t take measures to keep those special days alive in our heart. With that in mind, I would say it is very important to hold family and special friend’s memories dear, and keep them alive, even though you may be separated by great distance. It doesn’t have to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ after all, unless we let it happen. Let’s not fall into that trap! As it says in the Message translation of Esther 4:14:
Who knows? Maybe you were made…..for just such a time as this.”