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THOU SHALT NOT KILL

Thou shalt not kill

I have written about this before, but it bears repeating, given the current state of the world.

Christians do not kill people. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. Not for any reason, including self-defense or defense of property or loved ones. (more…)

BE GOD-FEARING AND WORK HARD

work like toy models.jpg

I have had a few lively discussions lately on the topic of political leaders and the state of nations. As I can’t help but come at this topic from the perspective of a born-again believer, I invariably have grated against the nerves of nearly everyone I’ve spoken to.  I’m used to being attacked (water off a duck’s back), so that aspect of it doesn’t bother me, but what does stick a bit in my craw is how people refuse to take personal blame for anything that’s happening in their country. It’s as if they have no life experience at all, and only know how to point a finger of blame at everyone but themselves. (more…)

TGIS

TGIS

I was “baptized” a Roman Catholic when I was three weeks old, but I was raised an atheist. I mention this because, when I was born again at age 36, I had no idea whatsoever what it meant to be a Christian. I wasn’t, as they say, “raised in the faith”. Everything I’ve learned about being a follower of Jesus has come from the Bible, my conversations with God and Jesus, and my own experience as a born-again.

This is why I’m always a wee bit surprised when I come across doctrinal arguments that have already been dealt with and resolved by Jesus in the gospels. If Jesus has already resolved these issues, why are people who call themselves Christians still arguing about them?

One favorite issue that rigid legalists like to bring up again and again is the concept of “keeping the Sabbath”. They argue over which day is the ‘real’ sabbath day. They argue about what is and is not permitted to be done on that sabbath day. And then they warn that if you don’t strictly adhere to their interpretation of “keeping the sabbath”, you’re going straight to hell, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect 200 dollars.

What did Jesus have to say about the sabbath?

He said: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

He said this in response to some rigid legalists (in this case, Pharisees) who were peeved that he and his disciples had picked and eaten a few ears of corn while walking through a cornfield. Jesus used as a justification how David and his men had eaten food offerings from an altar when they were hungry and had no other food source. In eating the food that was meant only for priests, David was breaking a rule. Jesus’ point here was that expediency and urgency of human need are greater even than altar rules. Jesus and his disciples were hungry; the corn was there; they ate it. End of story. Just like David and his men were hungry; the food was there; they ate it. God had put the food there not to tempt them but to satisfy their need.

Jesus reiterated his stand on how human need trumps the rigid rules around “keeping the Sabbath” when later the same day he healed a man in the local synagogue (I’m using Mark’s gospel here, the end of Chapter 2 and the beginning of Chapter 3). The same Pharisees were there to witness this “Sabbath violation” and it set them off on the warpath to “destroy” Jesus. Even after Jesus had explained to them in simple terms that it was better to do good than evil on the sabbath and better to save a life than take it, they still didn’t get it. All they could see was their beloved rule and that Jesus had broken it.

Jesus was totally exasperated with their “hardness of heart” and their inability to grasp even the simplest concepts of who God is and how we are to serve him. This kind of rigid legalistic interpretation of “keeping the Sabbath” persists to this day, despite Jesus having dealt with it once and for all. And not surprising, the same type of people who gave Jesus grief all those years ago are still giving Christians grief about the sabbath today.

As I mentioned, everything I know about being a follower of Jesus, I learned from the Bible or directly from God and Jesus. Regarding the sabbath, I usually take one day off a week, and it’s usually Sunday, but not always. If I end up having to work on Sunday, I take the next day off that I can. I know that if I don’t get my ‘day of rest’, I’ll be a nightmare to be around, just like I’ll be a nightmare to be around if I don’t get my 8 hours’ sleep. I’ve tried splitting my sabbath day into two by taking two half-days off, but that doesn’t work as well. I don’t get the same level of rejuvenation as I do when I take a whole day to ‘do nothing’.

Because I’m a follower of Jesus, I prefer to spend my entire day off just hanging with God and Jesus and the holy rellies (you know, that cloud of witnesses Paul was talking about). If I had my druthers, I’d spend every day doing nothing but just hanging with God and Jesus and the holy rellies, but that’s not advisable, since we do still have work that needs to be done. God loves it when we just spend time with him for no other reason than that we love him, but we can’t do that 24/7. We still have work to do during our time here, just like Jesus had work to do during his time here.

I’m not telling you what to do or not to do on your sabbath. That’s up to you to decide. As for me, I look to Jesus and my own conscience as to how I spend my weekly day off. Jesus states quite clearly that the sabbath is meant for our benefit and that it’s not so set in stone that it can’t be altered if the situation calls for it. I’ve worked through days that I should have taken off, and I’ve suffered for it by getting tired and cranky. I look forward to my ‘day of rest’ once a week, but if an emergency comes up that can’t be put off (and I get clearance from God to deal with it), I deal with the emergency. I don’t think twice about it, and neither does God.

For any of you legalists out there reading this and tearing your robes – lighten up. Get to know God and Jesus better. Read the gospels. Jesus said that “the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath”. Anyone who’s a born-again follower of Jesus is a “Son of man”, meaning a prophet (meaning, a revealer of God’s truth). If Jesus could dictate what could and could not be done on the sabbath, so can we. Jesus didn’t arbitrarily and just for the sake of it do whatever he wanted to do on the sabbath – no. But if circumstances were such that he had to do something that could not be delayed, he did it, and so should we.

And yes, I do know the commandment about keeping the sabbath day holy. Nothing I’ve said here violates that, any more than anything Jesus said or did violated the holiness of the sabbath day. As a born-again, you should live EVERY day in holiness, not just one day in seven. Jesus certainly did. Living in holiness just means keeping your will aligned with God’s so that you make the right (God-inspired) choices. This isn’t possible without consciously being in God’s presence, through his spirit. So, in a sense, born-agains, who by definition always have God’s spirit with them and should always be conscious of his presence, “keep the Sabbath day” all week long, and every day is a holy day.

Even so, I’m still looking forward to my day off!

THE TOP TEN IN 2015: PART 3: THE ONE ABOUT YOUR MOM & DAD

The Stones

This is the third in a ten-part series on the most important set of guidelines in human existence: the Ten Commandments. I’m not covering them in numerical order or even in order of importance. This isn’t a count-down; it’s a refresher.

(If you’ve already read this part, you can skip down to the horizontal line.)

The Ten Commandments are as equally relevant today as they were when they were given to Moses. In fact, they’re even more relevant. The main attack against the Commandments is that they’re “old-fashioned” and out of step with current realities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s truth doesn’t change. Hemlines change; beauty ideals change; scientific theories come and go, but God’s truth remains as fresh and clear and refreshing as ever. And the worse it gets down here on Earth, the more we need God’s help and guidance.

Thank God for the Ten Commandments! They’re both your first and your last line of defence. They’re meant to be memorized as a “To Do” list and a “To Don’t” list; you should know them as automatically as you know your name.

The commandments aren’t meant as a way to interfere with your pleasure, but to keep you from making choices that will lead to pain.

If you find yourself wondering what you should do, look to Jesus, because the solution to every problem we’ll ever face during our time here on Earth was modeled by something Jesus either said or did. And, as we know, Jesus based his teachings on the Ten Commandments.


I’ve been born-again for nearly 16 years. During that time, I’ve heard some pretty wacky things from Christian preachers and self-professed born-agains. But some of the wackiest things by far are the long drawn-out sob stories, with gory details, about how abusive their parents were to them when they were kids. I’ve heard it from televangelists; I’ve heard it from local pastors; and I’ve read it on blogs by people who say they’re born again. In other words — I’ve heard it from people who should, as my grandmother would say, “know better”.

Honor thy mom and dad.

As born-agains, we should NEVER speak badly of our parents, no matter how horrible they were (or are) and no matter what crimes they’ve committed. If you have issues with your parents and they don’t want to discuss those issues with you, take them to God.

If your parents abused you in some way when you were minors, it’s past history now. Don’t speak of it. Don’t even think about it. Just choose to forgive your parents and pray for them. Pray hard, like they were your children.

If you don’t pray for them, who will?

If your parents are still abusive towards you, keep your distance from them. God doesn’t say to suffer abusive parents; he says to honor them. You honor them by not being rude to them. You honor them by not speaking badly about them. You honor them by choosing to forgive them. You honor them by not digging up the past. You honor them by praying for them.

Consider Noah. He got drunk and passed out naked. His drinking binge is now part of Old Testament lore, but when it happened, it was a family issue. One of Noah’s three sons (Ham, the youngest) found him drunk and naked and ran to tell his older brothers. When they heard what had happened to their father, the two elder sons took a blanket and walked backwards into the room where Noah was passed out. They gently laid the blanket over him without looking at him, and then left the room. They covered their father. They honored him physically by covering him, and they honored him spiritually by covering for him.

When Noah sobered up and found out what had been done, he blessed his elder two sons and cursed his younger one. His blessings and curses still hold.

We are following the commandment when we choose to cover for our parents. For most unbelievers, this is well nigh impossible, but for us born-agains, it should be done without question. What the loose-lipped televangelists and pastors don’t seem to realize when they’re regaling us with stories of their childhood abuse is that it’s a sin to speak badly of your parents, even in your heart. Dishonoring your parents is just as great a sin as murder.

Many of us are blessed with amazing parents whom we honor without thinking twice about it, but many of us have suffered parents who are less than ideal. The next time you speak of your mom and dad, be kind, even if they weren’t kind to you. If you have only one happy memory of them, share that memory. Cherish that memory. Use that memory as a means to pray for them.

If you have no happy memories of your parents, pray for them anyway. Honor thy father and thy mother with your prayers, and with your silence.

The Ten Commandments Exodus 20-7-17

STAND UP FOR GOD, NOT YOUR ANTHEM

The Stones

God commands us to worship no-one and nothing but him. In fact, God is such a self-professed “jealous” God, that he made this commandment to be the first and foremost of all. Jesus reiterated the commandment’s importance and fleshed it out as: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. This leaves little room for misinterpretation, and yet every time you recite a pledge of allegiance to your country or salute your flag, you’re breaking this commandment.

When you pledge allegiance to your country, you’re worshipping your country. When you salute the 100% polyester ‘graven image’ of your flag, you’re likewise worshipping your country.

Most people don’t see it that way. They see saluting a flag or swearing an oath as a show of respect, and showing respect for your country isn’t the same as worshipping your country, is it?

Or is it?

Jesus told us not to swear any oath whatsoever, and that includes pledges of allegiance. And in God’s eyes, saluting a flag is the same as bowing down before it, which God told us not to do before anyone or anything but him.

When your country asks you to support your troops or to take up arms to kill an enemy, but God says “Thou shallt not kill” – who will you obey?

When your country demands that you treat all religions as being equal, but God says there is no God but him – who will you obey?

When your country makes it illegal for you to openly speak or write God’s truth, but Jesus says to go out into the world and preach the Good News – who will you obey?

If heaven is your goal and doing God’s will is your means to get there, then you’d better make up your mind that when it comes to choosing between God and your country, you’ll choose God.

Sadly, many countries have twisted the notions of “serving God” and “serving country” to appear to mean the same thing. That’s a slick trick of the devil. Catholicism does the same, so that in serving “the Church” and being obedient to the pope, Catholics believe they’re doing God’s will. But nothing could be further from the truth. Stripped to its core, Catholicism is demon worship, just as, stripped to its core, patriotism is demon worship.

God should always take precedence over any construct of man, whether that construct be a country or a religion. Those who purposely confuse the issue by equating God with a country or a religion will get their reward, and it won’t be the one with the cherry on top.

What does this mean, then, in everyday terms? Serve God, not your country. Your duty as a citizen is to obey the laws of the land, not to bow down before a flag-draped entity. And wherever the laws of the land conflict with God’s laws, always choose God, regardless of the consequences.

Countries that guarantee their citizens freedom of religion also guarantee their citizens the freedom from having to salute a flag or recite a pledge, if those acts conflict with their religious beliefs. This right is inherent in religious freedom and should be freely exercised. So, for instance, if you hold US or Canadian citizenship, the freedom not to salute your flag and not to pledge allegiance is your right as a citizen. In exercising this right, you ultimately show your obedience to God first and foremost. As a born-again, the only one you should ever stand up for, salute, or bow down before is God.

THE TOP TEN IN 2015: PART 2: HEAR, O ISRAEL!

The Stones

This is the second of a ten-part series on the most important set of guidelines in human existence: the Ten Commandments. I’m not covering them in numerical order or even in order of importance. This isn’t a count-down; it’s a refresher.

(If you’ve already read this part, you can skip down to the horizontal line.)

The Ten Commandments are as equally relevant today as they were when they were given to Moses. In fact, they’re even more relevant. The main attack against the Commandments is that they’re “old-fashioned” and out of step with current realities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s truth doesn’t change. Hemlines change; beauty ideals change; scientific theories come and go, but God’s truth remains as fresh and clear and refreshing as ever. And the worse it gets down here on Earth, the more we need God’s help and guidance.

Thank God for the Ten Commandments! They’re both your first and your last line of defence. They’re meant to be memorized as a “To Do” list and a “To Don’t” list; you should know them as automatically as you know your name.

 The commandments aren’t meant as a way to interfere with your pleasure, but to keep you from making choices that will lead to pain.

If you find yourself wondering what you should do, look to Jesus, because the solution to every problem we’ll ever face during our time here on Earth was modeled by something Jesus either said or did. And, as we know, Jesus based his teachings on the Ten Commandments.

_____________________________

HEAR, O ISRAEL!

 When Jesus told the rich guy to sell all of his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him, what exactly did he mean? Was he saying that driving a Maserati is a bad thing?

 

Jesus explains further on in the verse that being rich can make it impossible to get to heaven.

 

Keep in mind that this was the exact opposite of Jewish wisdom at the time – it was assumed that if you’re rich and have high social standing, God is blessing you, and if God is blessing you, then you must be on your way to heaven.

 

When Jesus suggested that the rich guy should give up his wealth in order to go to heaven and then said that it was next to impossible for rich people to get into heaven, he blew people’s minds.

 

So what did Jesus mean by all this? Didn’t having wealth and social standing mean that God was blessing you?

 

Maybe under the Old Testament it meant that, but not under the New one.

 

Let’s look at the passage. The rich guy approached Jesus, asking what he should do to be saved. Jesus took a long hard look at him (even without an advanced degree in sociology, Jesus was excellent at sizing people up by appearance, attitude and situation) and perceived that he was well-dressed, well-spoken, and clearly wealthy. The rich guy was a ruler, too, so along with enjoying the privileged social standing of wealth, he also enjoyed a position of authority.

 

But Jesus also saw and heard in the rich guy a sincere desire to please God. He had come to Jesus asking for help, so obviously, despite his wealth and power, he felt that something wasn’t quite right. Had he been certain that he was being blessed by God through his wealth, high social standing and adherence to the commandments, he wouldn’t have asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved. Yes, the rich guy knew something was wrong and he figured Jesus could tell him what it was, but probably the last thing he wanted to hear was that he would have to give up all his wealth and power.

 

The lust for money is framed in the Bible as being the root of all evil, so from that we can assume that the less money we have, the better it is for us. Yet money on its own is just inert matter; it can be neither good nor bad. The problem is our relationship to money – or, better said, our desire to gain money for the power, privilege and pleasure it can afford us. Lust here means that we make an idol out of money for the things it can buy us. Rich people tend to focus on money and use it to solve their problems rather than focus on God and ask for his help.

 

When Jesus told the rich guy to get rid of his wealth, he was not telling him that his wealth was the problem but that his relationship to his wealth was the problem. His wealth had become his idol, and this idol needed to be smashed (by selling all his possessions and then giving the money from the sale away) so that God could assume his rightful place in the guy’s life. Instead of relying on money and the things it could buy, the guy needed to rely on God.

 

When asked which of the Ten Commandments was the most important, Jesus unhesitatingly responded that it was the one that affirmed that the God of Israel was one God, and that we are to love God with everything we’ve got (heart, mind, soul, strength). When we put the love of something else before love of God, we’re breaking this commandment. Probably not meaning to (he had, after all, followed the other commandments to the best of his ability), the rich guy had put his wealth and power ahead of doing God’s will.

 

Most of us are like the rich guy, in that we consciously or unconsciously put other things or people ahead of God. But if you know God’s will and choose not to do it, you’re going to have problems. When the rich guy left, depressed and dismayed over what he’d heard from Jesus, the disciples then asked Jesus how they fared, since they’d already given everything up to follow him. Jesus replied that everyone who puts God first, ahead of wealth and family ties, is likely to receive rewards both on Earth and in heaven.

 

So, what or who is YOUR idol? What or who means more to you than God? Or, better said – what or who would you have a hard time walking away from, if Jesus told you that that thing or that person was keeping you from getting to heaven?

 

Could you give up your family and friends? Jesus did. He was alienated from his family (they thought he was crazy) and former friends throughout most of his ministry.

 

Could you give up your job? Jesus did, and turned into an itinerant preacher with no fixed address and no fixed income.

 

Could you give up your hometown and your past? Jesus did. As reviled as he was for being a Nazarene, the Nazarenes threw him out of town when he ‘came out’ as the Messiah. He just walked away from it all without a backward glance.

 

Could you give up your possessions? Jesus did. His only belongings appear to be the clothes on his back.

 

Could you give up having children or spouse? Jesus did. Despite the nonsense written about Jesus and Mary Magdalene getting married and having kids, Jesus never married nor had any children. In fact, he counseled people not to marry, knowing that spouses have the tendency to want to please each other and leave God out of the equation. By the same token, parents tend to want to do whatever it takes to make their children happy, so this can also lead to turning away from God. Their children can become their idol.

 

So I ask you again: WHAT OR WHO IS YOUR IDOL? What or who would you have a hard time giving up if Jesus told you that you had to, if you want to get to heaven?

 

There should be nothing or no-one that you wouldn’t walk away from, right here, right now, if Jesus told you that these things or these people were coming between you and heaven. Think of Matthew and how he walked away from his tax-collector job. He just got up and left.

 

Nothing and no-one should come between you and God. Nothing and no-one should be more important to you than doing whatever it takes to get to heaven.

 

When it comes to keeping the commandments, let Jesus be your model, not the rich guy.

The Ten Commandments Exodus 20-7-17

THE TOP TEN IN 2015: PART ONE: ADULTERY

The Stones

This is the first of a ten-part series on the most important set of guidelines in human existence: the Ten Commandments. I’m not covering them in numerical order or even in order of importance. This isn’t a count-down; it’s a refresher.

The Ten Commandments are as equally relevant today as they were when they were given to Moses. In fact, they’re even more relevant. The main attack against the Commandments is that they’re “old-fashioned” and out of step with current realities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s truth doesn’t change. Hemlines change; beauty ideals change; scientific theories come and go, but God’s truth remains as fresh and clear and refreshing as ever. And the worse it gets down here on Earth, the more we need God’s help and guidance.

Thank God for the Ten Commandments! They’re both your first and your last line of defence. They’re meant to be memorized as a “To Do” list and a “To Don’t” list; you should know them as automatically as you know your name.

 The commandments aren’t meant as a way to interfere with your pleasure, but to keep you from making choices that will lead to pain.

If you find yourself wondering what you should do, look to Jesus, because the solution to every problem we’ll ever face during our time here on Earth was modeled by something Jesus either said or did. And, as we know, Jesus based his teachings on the Ten Commandments.

_____________________________

 

THOU SHALLT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY

 

The commandment I want to talk about today is the one concerning adultery. We are not, of course, to commit adultery. Sounds clear enough. But what exactly is adultery?

Jesus made himself more than a few enemies and even lost some followers over his clarification of what constitutes adultery. Adultery means to engage in sexual relations with someone you are not married to. It also includes fantasizing over someone (who may or may not be aware of your existence) and becoming “emotionally involved” in a romantic way with someone who is not your spouse. Adultery extends to relationships you have after you divorce your spouse. Jesus explained that if you divorce someone and then remarry while that person you divorced is still alive, then you’ve committed adultery and the person you marry commits adultery. And if your spouse remarries while you’re alive, your spouse commits adultery, as does the person your spouse ‘marries’.

From this, we can see that divorce is wrong because it almost always leads to multiple instances of adultery. Jesus explained that divorce only became an option because the people in Moses’ time were so hard-headed and hard-hearted. In other words – it was meant to be an option for people who weren’t obedient to God, meaning mostly everyone (but that shouldn’t include us). Divorce is only acceptable in God’s eyes if the spouses involved live celibately until the other dies.

Being obedient to God is only hard when you have a disobedient mindset. God’s rules aren’t difficult either to understand or to follow; as Jesus said, his burden is light. If you find God’s commandments difficult to follow or out-of-step with today’s world, that’s because you’re out-of-step with God and Jesus.

Mainstream Christianity has, of course, embraced divorce, which essentially means they condone adultery. The Catholic organization has even tried to camouflage the sin as a ‘re-do’ by offering to annul marriages that allegedly were not consummated. Annulling means legally treating the marriage as if it had never occurred, as if the marriage vows made before God can be rescinded or made null and void. In this, Catholicism is fooling no-one, least of all God. Jesus said that what God has joined, let no-one tear apart.

Marriage is for life. That means, you stay married until you or your spouse dies. If you find yourself in an abusive or love-less marriage, you separate from your spouse and live celibately. Meanwhile, you pray that God will help you find a way to heal your marriage. But you don’t divorce and you don’t remarry, not as long as your spouse is still alive.

Jesus didn’t mince his words, and neither do I. The world will not only tell you it’s your right to divorce for any number of reasons, and then the world will seduce you into remarrying while your spouse is still alive. General rule of thumb here is: If the world encourages or approves it, it’s almost guaranteed to be the wrong choice.

Jesus explained that the sole grounds for divorce is fornication. Now, for fornication to occur, there has to be a non-marital situation, otherwise it’s adultery. A good example of fornication as grounds for divorce can be found in Jesus’ parents. Mary showed a pregnancy shortly after her marriage to Joseph but before they had consummated their union (meaning they hadn’t yet had sex). Joseph knew that Mary hadn’t had sex with him prior to their marriage, so he had clear grounds to divorce her. However, because Joseph was obedient to and loved God, God told him the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy, and he agreed to continue with the marriage. What appeared to be fornication (Mary having sex before marrying Joseph) was instead a miraculous conception. Isaiah said that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, and so he was.

Mainstream Christianity has skewed Jesus’ sole exception (fornication) to mean adultery. Catholics readily receive permission from “the Church” to divorce as long as they can prove adultery. But adultery was NEVER meant to be grounds for divorce. We see this in John 8, where Jesus forgives the adulterous woman while warning her not to commit that sin again. He didn’t advise her husband to find a good lawyer and file for divorce; he warned the weeping and repentant woman not to sin again.

As an escaped (and hopefully soon to be excommunicated) Catholic, I can honestly state that the problem with Catholicism is, well, everything. Catholicism consistently misrepresents the gospel because those in charge of that organization and those who laid the ground rules for it are blind and deaf; they aren’t born again; they haven’t got a clue what Jesus said. People who follow the advice of Catholic or other mainstream Christian organizations regarding divorce and adultery are classic examples of the blind leading the blind.

Someone out there needs to hear this today. Someone out there is “involved” where he or she shouldn’t be. You know that Jesus says that even to look at someone with lust is already to have committed adultery with them (if you or they are married). The best way to avoid this trap is to ask God to help you, to sincerely ask God to help you. Not in a lukewarm or half-hearted way, but to sincerely ask for help. Sin is not only knowing that you’re doing something wrong; sin is consciously persisting in doing something wrong even after you’ve been warned. God gives you second chances (think of the woman in John 8), but at some point, time’s up.

____________________________________

If you’re being tempted to sin, ask God for help. Don’t ask a minister or a friend; ask God. Ultimately, God is the only one who can really help you, so you might as well go right to the source, just like Jesus did when he was in our shoes.

The Ten Commandments Exodus 20-7-17