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Free Stuff

How is it anyone thinks its a good idea to take more from people’s paychecks in order to turn around and give them stuff, like free college education, etc, using the money you took from the paycheck? The people who think such a thing is a good idea must believe people are too stupid to manage their own money.

Some would argue a similar, more altruistic approach is to take from the wealthy and give it to the poor – the Robin Hood system. Politicians refer to this as the “Tax the Rich” solution. They need to pay their fair share (I’ve never met or heard anyone who could objectively define how much is the “fair share”).

Many would say, if you are Christian you would certainly be in favor of such a system. But is that what the Bible teaches?

If the Bible doesn’t teach this, then why would Christians be in favor of it? As Christians, our worldview is shaped by the Bible.

So what does the Bible say about this topic? Lets start with the greatest example of philanthropy, which occurs in Acts 2 and reinforced in Acts 4. At the end of Acts 2 we see a great moving of the Holy Spirit in the newly born church. The believers were in awe and were witnessing signs and wonders and people being added daily to the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit was working in their lives and they were filled with a spirit of fellowship and generosity. They sold their possessions and belongings and distributed the proceeds to anyone who had need.

They gave willingly. It was not taken from them. There was no rule or law or tax that forced them or even compelled them to give. They were exercising generosity. The result – everyone’s needs were met and people were drawn to Christ. Giving in generosity is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Where is the generosity in having money taken and then given to others? Where is the operation of the Holy Spirit in this?

The Bible often about generosity and helping those in need. It is an act of love and trust, not an act of of congress. In the New Testament church it was the people who helped those in need, not the government.

The Bible also teaches us that all who are able should work for what they have and take personal responsibility to manage it well as a wise steward. The apostle Paul even said, “If anyone is unwilling to work, he should not eat.” Proverbs 10:4 says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” As a man is repeatedly given free stuff he is robbed of something extremely valuable – his dignity.

I believe this direction from John Wesley sums it up well; in his sermon titled “The Use of Money”, Wesley said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can“. We work hard and diligent and we love our neighbor by helping those in need and those unable to work hard. When we allow the government to take over this role, we allow them to rob us of our walk in the Spirit.

Is Hate Really Learned?

To say that we are taught to hate and that it is more natural for us to love than hate is not only inaccurate, but it makes the cross of no effect. Without the cross, without the work of our Savior to not only forgive but to make holy, we cannot love as God commands us. This does not minimize the importance of teaching love to everyone in all stages of life. God uses these lessons as He draws us to Himself.

Is hate really a learned response or attitude or is a part of our nature? The humanistic worldview would tell us it is a learned response. But that is because humanism rejects God.

As Christians we base our worldview on the Bible. When we find ourselves in disagreement with the Bible, it means one of the two must be wrong – us or the Bible. The Bible is not wrong, so that leaves just us (I’ll write another article examining that concept deeper in the future).

The Bible teaches us that we are born in sin (be careful not to take this as conceiving a child is a sinful act). In Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. In Romans 5:12 Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The Bible teaches us that every human being is inherently sinful and separated from God. This is often discussed in the terms of original sin, total depravity or inherent depravity. Sin is not just defined as our actions, or even just our thoughts. It is our nature. Paul devotes much of the book of Romans to instructing on this topic, especially the first three chapters.

We like to think of children as being ‘innocent’ when they are born and in many ways they are, based on what we think of as innocent. But, again, our worldview does not limit itself to our opinion, but must be formed by the Word of God.

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Augustine, one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in history says in his book, ‘Confessions‘ “no one is free from sin in your sight, not even an infant whose span of earthly life is but a single day”. Paul says in Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one”. That statement does not leave room for exceptions, including children.

Common sense and experience tell us that we cannot attribute what we see as hate or greed or envy, etc in adults to children. But the nature of a child, just like that of an adult is corrupt by the nature of sin.

Hate, like greed, envy, covetousness and other attitudes are manifestations of sin. They are demonstrated in varying levels and different ways in different people. Similarly, God’s prevenient grace provides us an ability to love, care and be kind in some levels and ways. But even these positive attitudes are corrupted by our sin nature. As we go through life the things we experience and the things we learn, especially the things we choose to accept, form how these attitudes manifest themselves in our lives. Our nature develops as we grow and is shaped by our experiences and lessons.

As Paul tells us in Galatians 5, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These things are fruits of the Holy Spirit – in the life of the follower of Christ. It is important for us to understand the truth of being born again, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John, chapter 3. We are born again with a new nature. We “put on the new and put off the old”. Then as we walk in the Spirit we gain new experiences and and lessons that shape our new nature. We are then recognized by our love for one another – “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

To say that we are taught to hate and that it is more natural for us to love than hate is not only inaccurate, but it makes the cross of no effect. Without the cross, without the work of our Savior to not only forgive but to make holy, we cannot love as God commands us. This does not minimize the importance of teaching love to all people at all stages of life. God uses these lessons as He draws us to Himself.

Jesus Would…

Why do we presume to know what Jesus would do about a complex social issue? As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.

I had a discussion with someone the other day about the issue of immigration. Regardless of what side you come down on this issue you must admit it is complex. There are many moving parts and variables to consider. Its extremely difficult to know the right answers to for this issue. If it wasn’t difficult and complex it would have been solved already.

The most interesting takeaway from the discussion was when the individual said, “Jesus would…”. We do this often and frankly it is not only presumptive, but fairly arrogant on our part. Jesus is God. He knows much more than we do. He knows all the facts and all the factors involved; we don’t.

There was a book written at the end of the 19th century titled “In His Steps”. The book tells the story of a life changing event that hits a town. The town begins to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” before they made decisions or took actions about important matters. That question became popular again not too long ago when people began wearing ‘WWJD’ articles like bracelets, necklaces, etc.

The practice of asking what Jesus would do for the decisions in our life is actually a great idea. As Christians we are followers of Jesus. It is for us to live our lives the way Jesus lived His. So it is critical that we examine how He lived. How did respond in different situations? How did he treat people? What did the many lessons He taught mean?

But to try and apply this to complex social issues is to misuse this important self-discipline. As Christians we are responsible to live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus, following His lead. But complex social issues go beyond our own individual lives. They involve the lives of sometimes millions of people.

Paul took great care in addressing a social issue that was only slightly complex when he addressed the practice of eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). He warned against thinking we know more than we do. In this passage Paul tells us that some can with a good conscience eat the food that had been offered to idols, while others do not have this same liberty in their lives due to their experiences and current knowledge. Paul could have instructed by saying, “Jesus would eat the food offered to idols”. But he didn’t. He taught us to be patient and considerate of one another and if need be sacrifice our own liberty for the good of a brother. In this fairly simple issue Paul showed us there are different ways to address the issue.

Complex social issues like immigration have many fingers. Why do people want to come to the US from their home country? The quick answer given in almost every case ‘is to have a better life’. Is it possible Jesus would address the issue by improving their home country so they could have that better life there?

We absolutely should concern ourselves with the welfare of people all over the world and do what we believe God is instructing us to do in addressing the needs. That may differ for different people. When it comes to individual actions, ‘one size does not fit all’. But we mustn’t presume to know what Jesus would do to fix the issue. He is all knowledge, He is all power. We can be a part of His solution, but we cannot know His solution in such complex matters.

Your Life Speaks

In the midst of current events it has been said that “White Silence is Violence”. The intent of the statement makes sense. It has also been said that during the Holocaust the silence of so many contributed in allowing this tragedy to take place. In the 18th century, Edmund Burke said, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.”

But silence is not addressed by simply making a statement. Speaking is not defined by a few sentences we put out. Recently, organizations from churches to businesses, even sports teams feel the need to publish a statement about racism. On one hand they feel if they do not put out an official statement they will be judged as racist. On the other hand, some feel like publishing an official statement will solve the problem and be sufficient. What do we accomplish by ‘demanding’ a statement?

“Speaking” against evil, whether it is racism or abortion or human trafficking, etc, is not done by an official statement. Our “voice” is our life. It is the collective of our words, all of our words, and it is the actions we take. It is how we live our lives.

We must not judge people by a statement or the lack of one. One of the worst things about social media today is trying to define ourselves or someone else in a soundbite. Words posted are so often of misunderstood and misinterpreted. An organization or group puts out a statement and immediately people pounce on it for being wrong. Its ironic to watch the statement be judged wrong by both sides of an argument. “It’s too harsh.” “No, it’s too soft.”

In Matthew 15 Jesus teaches us that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a man (versus what goes into our bodies). Those things are manifest in both word and deed. It is also what is in the heart that defines a man. Now, it is nigh on impossible to fully, accurately judge a person’s heart, but as we hear what people say and view what they do, and try to understand, let us do it in the totality of their lives.

Jesus also said in Luke 6:45,46, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.” Evil is addressed by a change in our heart. This change is wrought ONLY by the working of the Holy Spirit.

He also says in vs 46, “then why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do the things I say?” Official statements are shallow words. It is one thing to call Jesus Lord, but it is quite another to DO what He says.

Should Christians Support President Trump?

I want to avoid making this article one of purely politics. I also do not want this to be an apologetic defense of President Trump.

Someone asked me recently why so many Christians support President Trump. As they put it , “it is nothing short of amazing the cult-like following/loyalty he has garnered from 1/3 of our country, and in particular, the Christian community.”

First, we should not have a cult-like following/loyalty toward anyone. We follow Jesus and Him only. So, if indeed any Christian does have such a loyalty to the President they need to rethink and re-calibrate their faith.

The struggle typically revolves what are perceived as major character flaws. As was stated to me, ‘a president should posses traits like integrity, transparency, empathy, patience, diplomacy, humility, accountability, trustworthiness, etc.’ I think all of us would admire such qualities in our leaders and we should hope for them and pray God molds them in this direction.

Many people struggle with this question, both believers and unbelievers. They do not understand how people (Christians) who value morals so strongly could support a person with such character flaws.

We must first consider how far are we willing to go to judge that President Trump does not possess any of these traits in an acceptable level AND how many of our presidents possessed them at any significantly greater level?Many of those traits mentioned can be faked, especially to the public eye. Satan is not bombastic but rather he is slick and smooth talking. Which matters more, saying what sounds good or doing what is right? Read Matthew 21:28-32, the parable of the two sons. When asked to do something by their father, one said ‘sure I’ll do it’ and didn’t while the other said ‘I’m not going to do it and ended up doing what their father asked. Jesus asks, “

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

Then goes on to tell them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”

In other words, the people that you don’t think have such great character traits were the ones that believed. I’m not ‘preaching President Trump into heaven’ and making no claims regarding his salvation. That is for He and Jesus. But this illustrates for us that what we DO speaks more loudly than what we say.

I would suggest that much of what this president has DONE in the last 3 years far more greatly reflects what Christians value than many previous administrations. Isn’t de-funding planned parenthood vs requiring churches and Christian organizations to perform abortions through their health care plans something Christian’s would want? Isn’t appointing judges who believe in the sanctity of life vs judges who strongly believe in a woman’s choice to murder a baby a Christian value? Isn’t allowing people to keep more of the money they worked for vs the redistribution of wealth to give handouts to those who are unwilling to work a good thing; Paul said, “If a man is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Isn’t criminal justice reform to achieve a more equitable system for those often overly targeted and prosecuted in line with the Christian value of justice? Doesn’t ending senseless conflicts in other countries make sense to Christians? Isn’t it a good thing to diminish our bondage to a godless, horrible, oppressive regime, China? Don’t Christians want the right to worship and serve God how they feel the Bible says vs how the government says they should? These are all related to things Trump has DONE since in office.

Does President Trump have flaws? Oh my yes. Can he change them? Hopefully so and I would like to see that. There is much about his character that I dislike and I do not think a large part of the Christian population have a cult-like loyalty to him. That is a fairy tale told by the news. Integrity is better measured by what a person DOES than by what they say.

So, can a Christian support someone in leadership who has character flaws? Well, guess what, we’ve been doing that in this country to one degree or another for the last 244 years.

Woe to the Obstinate Nation

“Woe to the obstinate children,”
    declares the Lord,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
    forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin who go down to Egypt
    without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection,
    to Egypt’s shade for refuge.” Isaiah 30:1
-2


God was not happy with his children, the people of Israel. They stopped listening to Him, stopped looking to Him as their light and and His words as their direction. Instead they chose their own ways. They bound themselves to Egypt instead of to Him.

On multiple occasions God had given the people strict limitations on their relationships with other nations and peoples. But their lusts and desires had caused them to ignore God’s instruction and bind themselves to heathens. Invariably these relationships caused compromises. The people God had called to himself to serve in righteousness would find themselves over and over again participating in the other nation’s idolatry and pagan ways. Instead of the protection and blessing of God they would find themselves in the eye of God’s wrath.

The recent Wuhan virus has shown us just how dependent we are on China. During this pandemic that spread here from China we found ourselves scrambling for supplies. There wasn’t enough PPE, enough ventilators and more. Much of the reason for this? We had tied ourselves to China as our primary supply line. While hiding the existence of the virus from the rest of the world, China went from a net exporter of PPE to a net importer of PPE and began hoarding the and profiteering on the equipment.

It goes beyond PPE though. So much of our overall supply chain in many, many of our industries comes from China. Why is that? Because it is so cheap. But we don’t care why it is cheap. We don’t care about the sweatshops. We don’t care about the oppressed peoples living poverty. We care about the insane profit levels. We care about having the newest smartphone. The coolest Nike shoes.

We bound ourselves to a nation that persecutes Christians by telling them how they can worship and when they do not comply, or even sometimes when they just want to shake them down, put them in prison and sometimes even worse. We must pray for and ask God to liberate our brothers and sisters in this oppressive regime. We bound ourselves to a nation that has over a million people in internment camps. We bound ourselves to a government that continues to steal technology from other countries. We bound ourselves to a government that lied to the rest of the world about a virus while it secretly spread across the globe.

“What fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Light and darkness have no fellowship. People who say they live by morality cannot fellowship with the immoral unless they discard their morality. In order for light to fellowship with darkness it must relinquish its light and become dark. We have done this in our pursuit of wealth.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” Proverbs 6:27-28

If you play with fire you get burned. It happened to us here and it will happen again. God has told us over and over again to depend on Him for our provision and protection. To follow His ways, His words. Over and over again we reject this instruction and we turn to our own ways and then to the unbelievers in compromise. Each time we do, it is only a matter of time before we get burned. Next time it may be worse.

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” Psalm 16:4

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you”  John 15:19.

“This road to peaceful coexistence with the culture is typically paved with a series of incremental compromises…. As the church becomes comfortable with the culture, its witness is compromised and it begins to forfeit the favor of God.” https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/the-results-of-compromise.html

Light has no fellowship with darkness. They are opposed to one another.

In an interview about the Wuhan virus, published April 8th, Pope Francis said “I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses”. He went on to say, “There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives,'”

No, nature does not forgive. That’s because nature is not a person and has no capacity to forgive. Nature will not, indeed cannot seek revenge . Nature does not have motives or feelings or reasoning. Nature is part of a description of God’s creation. As leader of the world’s largest sect of Christianity, why speak of nature as if it is personal?

Throughout history and still today there are many religions at least partially based on the personal characteristics of nature. Man has often tried to make gods from nature and even make a god of nature. Christians are to have nothing to do with such beliefs. They are an abomination and insult to God.

It is not the role of Christians to meet the world and its other religions (yes, everyone has a religion, even the atheist) half way. It is often said that most all religions have a lot in common. No, Christianity has very little, minuscule amounts, in common with other religions. The differences far outweigh the similarities.

 “So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.”

—Kurt Vonnegut, American Writer (1922-2007)

The cardinal virtue of today has become compromise. It is more important to get along than to stand with truth. The truth is often not popular. We must never compromise the truth with the false gods and religions of the world. Spiritual compromise happens when we view salvation as a human endeavor rather than as an act of God. The world’s religions, in one way or another, all teach us to walk up the mountain to salvation. Christianity is about a Savior who came down the mountain to us to save us.