The Truth, Grace, and Forgiveness

The Truth, Grace, and Forgiveness

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we as Christians (namely in the US) need to relate to the people around us. How do we tell people the truth without offending them, yet leave them with a sense of conviction about sin and point them to the cross? How do we tell people the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and love in a culture absorbed with their rights to do this and that, when that message requires repentance (a change in your life). It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, and the truth is, no matter what we do, someone is going to be offended. But we don’t have to be obnoxious jerks.

So how did Jesus deal with truth, grace, and forgiveness in His day? As He walked among all sorts of people, how did He relate to them?

If we look at His life, it actually depends on who you’re dealing with. Jesus was a master at discerning the needs of the people around Him: the people who would be receptive to His love and gentle call of forgiveness, and the people who He needed to shoot real straight with. Jesus never minced His words, and at the same time, He was gentle and compassionate toward people.

John 8 records a great example of His gentleness:

The religious leaders of the day brought this woman who had been caught in adultery to Jesus. They said, ‘Moses commanded us in the law that she should be stoned to death, but what do You say?’ Really they were trying to trap Him by showing He was a law-breaker (another post for another day). He didn’t say anything but began writing something in the sand. When they kept pressing Him about the matter, He said, ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ He just went back to doodling in the dirt. All those people were convicted, dropped their stones, and left. The exchange He had with this woman is awesome:

“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”

For people who have been forgiven much, this resonates deep within us. Although we have sin, and we have no excuse for it, and we deserve the punishment for it, Jesus shows His great love for us by offering His grace and forgiveness.

He offers forgiveness, but note the second part of His statement to her:

“…go, and sin no more.”

There’s grace, and then there’s the call to change your life. This is the basic gospel message, offered to this woman in compassion and love.

At the same time, Jesus shot really straight with the religious leaders of the day in Matthew 23. He pronounced several “woes” on them, called them fools and blind, serpents and vipers, whitewashed sepulchers. You might think He wasn’t being very loving toward them, but if you read that chapter you’ll realize why He had such a beef with them. (And by the way, it is much more loving to call people out on what’s wrong on this side of eternity than to never call them out) While Jesus was usually very gentle with the worst sinners He encountered, He never shied away from telling people how things really are.

May we get this delicate balance of truth-telling and gentleness down in this day and age. God knows we need to.


Does the Bible Promote Slavery?

There’s a passage in Leviticus 25 that refers to Israel taking permanent slaves for themselves once they enter the land of Canaan. At first glance, it’s kind of a disturbing passage, seeing that the Lord Himself is telling Israel to own slaves. But a closer look reveals there’s more to the story than the Lord promoting the enslaving of a people.

I recently ran across a blog where the author attempts to show the Bible and its precepts to be outdated, absurd, and even hateful by citing difficult scriptures from Leviticus, such as the one about slavery from chapter 25. The author’s argument is actually about homosexuality and goes something like this:

Christians like to cite Leviticus 18 for God’s view on homosexuality. But what else does Leviticus say? In chapter 25 Leviticus actually promotes slavery. Since Leviticus promotes something as barbaric and hateful as slavery, can we really listen to what Leviticus says about other things, including homosexuality?

The author attempts to paint the picture that Leviticus (and the entire Bible in general) is an absurd and outdated book, and because Christians like to cite Leviticus for God’s view on homosexuality, Christians are as out of touch with reality as Leviticus is.

The unfortunate thing about the whole situation is, I would venture to say that an exceptionally small number of Christians would even be able to attempt a decent answer to this scripture-wrangling. I wonder how many Christians could even find Leviticus in their Bibles, let alone offer an intelligent answer to this argument.

So I decided to do a little digging of my own to find out if there is more to the story. Turns out there is more to the story than what this blog author is letting on.

To understand the passage in question, it would be helpful to look at the actual wording:

"And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have--from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property." Lev. 25:44,45

Who are these people? Whose land is this? And why is God bringing Israel into this land to possess it, when there are already people there? Isn’t it an injustice in itself that God is taking someone else’s land and giving it to Israel?

The land that God was giving to Israel belonged to the Canannites, the Amorites, the Jebusites, and a whole host of other “-ites.” And as it turns out, these people were up to their necks in exceptionally perverted sexual practices. Note what God says of these people in Leviticus 18:

“According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.” (v. 3)

“Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.” (v. 24, 25)

We need to understand that God was judging the people of this land for their sin. We also need to understand that each of us is responsible before God for our own actions. If we choose to follow after unrighteousness, God will take action sooner or later. In today’s society we think we can do whatever we want because we are accountable to no one. This simply is not true.

What exactly were these people doing to warrant God’s judgment? All we need to do is look at the context of the verses cited above to get an idea. Leviticus 18 prohibits several types of sexual relationships (not just homosexuality). God is telling Israel they are not to have sex with:

Their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, step-brothers, step-sisters, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, mothers and daughters (you can’t have sex with a woman then go have sex with her daughter), their neighbors’ wives, people of the same gender, and animals. You’re also not supposed to have sex with a woman who is having her period.

So many people say the Bible’s prohibition of homosexuality is absurd, but what about the prohibition of all these other sexual acts? Is the prohibition of bestiality absurd? Is the prohibition of having sex with grandchildren absurd? Is the prohibition of having sex with your own dad absurd? Then why is the prohibition of homosexuality absurd?

There’s one other practice of the people of Canaan I’d like to look at. Leviticus 18 refers to not letting their descendants “pass through the fire to Molech.” Why is this such an abominable practice?

This is a reference to sacrificing children to a god named Molech, or Moloch. The people of that land, who were engaging in all those perverted sexual relationships were also burning their children alive in sacrifice to their god, Molech. The image of Molech was hollow so a fire could be built inside. Molech’s arms were stretched out, and when it was extremely hot, they would place their children in Molech’s arms until they would die.

These are the inhabitants of the land that God was judging. What we need to understand about the slavery passage from Leviticus 25 is that, if we continue long enough in following after unrighteousness and abominable practices, much like the Canannites, judgment (which may include slavery) will ensue.

People get the idea that slavery and racism are very closely linked. In some cases they are, but the Bible does not promote this type of slavery. Nowhere in Leviticus does it say that Israel is allowed to take slaves of the Canaanites because they are an inferior race. Remember that Israel had just been delivered from centuries of slavery in Egypt. If you look closely in Leviticus 18, you’ll see that it doesn’t matter what your nationality is, if you follow after unrighteousness, destruction and slavery will be your reward:

“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit [any] of these abominations…lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that [were] before you.” (v. 26, 28)

If you know Israel’s history, you know that actually happened to them during the divided kingdom era to Israel first (with Assyria judging them), and Judah second (with Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon judging them).

What scares me about all of this is, the United States is starting to look like this. We are allowing abominations listed in Leviticus 18, such as homosexuality and adultery (yes, taking your neighbor’s wife is just as wrong as homosexuality). We even allow our children to pass through the fire to Molech (our god is named “Convenience” and the fire they pass through is called abortion). If we don’t get our act together soon, we’re headed for destruction and slavery as well.


Some Survey Thing

100 Things Survery

This was on one of the websites I like to read, thought it looked like fun!

RULES: There are 100 statements and you bold the ones you have done. Grab it and play for yourself!!

***I refuse to bold the ones I did. I will just mark with yes or no.***

1. Started your own blog - Duh.
2. Slept under the stars - Y
3. Played in a band - Yeah Right.
4. Visited Hawaii - no
5. Watched a meteor shower yes, cool, but not worth getting up at 3am
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. - I can't afford anything, so yes.
7. Been to Disneyland - Yeah, boring.
8. Climbed a mountain. - The big rock at Thompson Park, yes. Mt. McKinley, no.
9. Held a praying mantis - plenty of times.
10. Sang a solo - n
12. Visited Paris - n
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - n
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - yes, if CNC programming is an art
15. Adopted a child - n
16. Had food poisoning - y
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - n
18. Grown your own vegetables - no but i threw a pumpkin out one fall and had a pumpkin in the spring
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - n
20. Slept in an overnight train - n
21. Had a pillow fight - y
22. Hitchhiked - n
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill - n
24. Built a snow fort - y
25. Held a lamb - no, this one is dumb
26. Gone skinny dipping - gross.
27. Run a marathon - n
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice - no, but i rode in my brother in law's fishing boat
29. Seen a total eclipse (solar) - i forget
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - y
31. Hit a home run - once in kickball in middle school gym
32. Been on a cruise - i own a 1971 Viking Yacht (google it). i don't need a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - y
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - yes, I've been in West Virginia
35. Seen an Amish community - yep, just looked out the window
36. Taught yourself a new language - since i live in an amish community, dutch.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - y
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - n
39. Gone rock climbing - big rock, Thompson Park
40. Seen Michelangelo's David - I've seen other people's Davids.
41. Sung karaoke - n
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - n
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - no, how many questions are left?
44. Visited Africa - n
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - n
46. Been transported in an ambulance - n
47. Had your portrait painted - n
48. Gone deep sea fishing - n
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - n
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - n
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - yes, swallowed saltwater in Jamaica, almost barfed
52. Kissed in the rain - brooke won't let me
53. Played in the mud - brooke won't let me
55. Been in a movie - n
56. Visited the Great Wall of China - n
57. Started a business - y
58. Taken a martial arts class - n
59. Visited Russia - n
60. Served at a soup kitchen - y
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies - i'm a dude
62. Gone whale watching - n
63. Got flowers for no reason - my wife did ;)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - n
67. Bounced a check - no, just use the cc
68. Flown in a helicopter - n
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - y
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - n
71. Eaten cavier. - whatever. no way
72. Pieced a quilt - n
73. Stood in Times Square - n
74. Toured the Everglades - n
75. Been fired from a job - n
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London - n
77. Broken a bone - y
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - y
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - n
80. Published a book - n
81. Visited the Vatican - n
82. Bought a brand new car - y
83. Walked in Jerusalem - really want to, will someday
84. Had your picture in the newspaper - y
85. Read the entire Bible - y
86. Visited the White House - n
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - y
88. Had chicken pox - y
89. Saved someone's life - y
90. Sat on a jury - n
91. Met someone famous - n
92. Joined a book club - n
93. Lost a loved one - yes, Lacie
94. Had a baby - i'm a dude
95. Seen the Alamo in person - n
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - n
97. Been involved in a lawsuit - yes, we won. dorky renters
98. Owned a cell phone - still do
99. Been stung by a bee - y
100. Read an entire book in one day - do that with my kids all the time


Tell 'Em No

I've been thinking about this economic crisis lately. I've come to the conclusion that many, many people don't want to be told they can't afford something. We need to learn that there are just some things we cannot afford. We need to be told no. We need to tell ourselves no. And for heaven's sake, let's tell our kids no every once in awhile.

I heard a phrase several years ago that I think is appropriate for the day: "delayed gratification."

We won't save now to pay cash for later; no, we will use credit to buy now and pay over time. Or in many cases, we'll run up a bill and not pay at all. No wonder we are where we are.

I'm guilty. But I'm working on it. Are you?

Hard Questions

I ran across a "blog" the other day (not really a blogger blog, but a Facebook note) where this person is really questioning using the Bible (especially the Old Testament) to refute homosexuality.

The basis of her argument is this: 'So you want to use Leviticus to tell the rest of society that homosexuality is wrong...okay, let's see what else Leviticus says." She then gives a couple of scriptures from Leviticus in an attempt to ruin the credibility of the Bible as a whole.

One of those scriptures is this:

"And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have--from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property." Lev. 25:44,45

Wow. I've read through the Bible before, and I don't remember this one. At first glance, this gal has an excellent point. Leviticus says homosexuality is wrong, and at the same time, it promotes slavery.

How does a Christian offer a loving answer to an extreme skeptic about a verse like this?

Trust me, I'm working on this one, and I think I've got the answer. But what about the church in general?

When people ask hard questions, are we willing to accept the challenge of getting an answer? So many times we as Christians look like dufases because we are not as well-read, nor do we know the Bible as well as skeptics.

What I got from the Lord is that I need to be diligent in getting answers to hard questions. And if that means research, reading, digging into my Bible, then I need to do it.



But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all [kinds of] evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9,10)

These are some great words from Paul. I've often thought about two phrases from this passage:

"But those who desire to be rich...." Do I desire to be rich? Is this what my life is all about? You can really work yourself to death trying to get rich. We can make money our god, following after it like our lives depend on it. And have you ever noticed that when it comes to worshipping false gods, we're really good at it?

"...peirced themselves through with many sorrows." Notice it doesn't say 'peirced themselves through with sorrow,' but "many sorrows." If you love money, and this is what your life is all about, you may as well go find a knife and stab yourself several times in the gut. It's pretty much the same thing. Following so hard after money can really do you in.

Several weeks ago I happened upon a show on TV called, "I Love Money." I maybe watched a total of 3 minutes of that show. I don't really know what it's about, but I don't think it would be worth my time to watch it, so I never have. But come on, really, I Love Money? Are you serious? That is the dumbest name for a show ever. But it just goes to show you where this country's heart is. And given the current economic status, I think we're peircing ourselves through with many sorrows.