Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Introduction to Islam for Christians (A Sermon)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Can homosexuals be Christians?" A conversation with a friend.

Hello pastor David i have  questions to ask you. Now as Christians we do not agree nor believe in homosexuality. (1) However can homosexuals be Christians? (2) if god made us in his image why does homosexuality exist? (3) can you be born gay?

(4) if we should love our people as we love yourself should we love homosexual people as well? (5) why are fellow Christians so hard on homosexuals but we are suppose to love every?

I am curious about these questions because as a Christian i want to know how to act tore homosexuals. I know i shouldn't condemn them but what should i do? Or how should i act around them?

Hey brother!

These are great questions and evoke intense anger, frustration, and fear for a lot of people. I can't stand to think of all the homosexuals who have been hurt and killed out of stupid hate acts. So, I don’t talk about this lightly. I’ll just respond to each one in order if that’s cool.

(1) However can homosexuals be Christians? Yes. You said that “we do not agree nor believe in homosexuality,” which is true if nuanced: the Christian view according to the New Testament is that homosexual behavior is sinful. So, attraction is irrelevant ethically-speaking; the ethical issue only concerns behavior. (My desire to lie is not the same as actually lying.) Christians can most certainly be attracted to the same gender. This is no different from any personal preference. Our attractions to chocolate, pizza, or a particular gender are not ethical. Can you be a Christian if you actively participate in and embrace homosexual behavior? No. (I give verses below). The fundamental tenet of being a disciple of Jesus is denying our wills and picking up our crosses to live according to the Kingdom of God (Mk 8:34). What you have to "deny" and I have to "deny" depends on the person. No matter: we all have attractions to deny.

Now, some Christians have argued that it’s only because of the sinful state of humans that a person would even want to do what is sinful. Perhaps they’re right. In any case, what’s much more clear is that the behavior is the issue, not the attraction.

This is a very huge point to articulate well: The average non-Christian makes no distinction between attraction and behavior. Really based on the ground-breaking Kinsey Reports (1950s) which stated that if humans do it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, then it’s “only natural” to act out sexually however you want. And I would completely concur with them if I shared their worldview: If there is no God, then there is no higher design to human behavior, so it doesn’t matter what you do. Moreover, it is commonplace among many secular psychologists to suggest that if you don’t act out sexually how you feel so inclined, it is unhealthy for you; it damages you. Both of these views (that there is no distinction between attraction and behavior, and it’s unhealthy if you don’t act on your impulses) is clearly unchristian. 

**We must constantly remember that in nearly every single conversation you ever have with a gay person, that person will almost certainly assume that their inclination means they must act on it. They join disposition with behavior. This is huge distinction with the Christian worldview. (The truth is, this emphasis upon "only doing what comes naturally" only holds for certain acts of sexuality. You’ll find few non-Christians who suggest that if a person has an attraction toward his baby sister that he should certainly proceed in having sex with her (no matter how much they say they love each other). Pedophiles are kept in separate regions of prisons because they are routinely beaten and killed. It seems even the worst criminals believe that “attraction” doesn’t mean you “give in.”)

(2) if god made us in his image why does homosexuality exist? Idols/images in the ancient world were used to represent the god’s authority in that region. Being made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:26) only means one particular thing in context: humans represent God’s authority to rule over animals, plants, and the Earth. This is profound in the ancient world. Other creation stories said that humans were created to serve their gods as slaves. Not so among ancient Hebrews. So, this text has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

(3) can you be born gay? I think you mean by “born gay” that a person has a genetic disposition. If so, it’s certainly possible. There doesn’t seem to be a “gay gene” (no evidence of that exists at this point). However, certainly our brain produces various chemicals and hormones that affect our attractions. That, mixed with all kinds of social influences, no doubt affect our orientation (straight and gay). So, I don’t think it’s unlikely that our genetic make-up greatly affects our attractions. Again, they don’t determine our behavior, just our attractions.

(4) if we should love our people as we love yourself should we love homosexual people as well? Great question: YES! YES! Jesus didn’t say to love our heterosexual neighbor as ourselves. He said to love our neighbor (Mk 12:29-31). What did Jesus mean? To care for their good as much as we care for our own good. Care about shelter? Help them find it. Care about food? Help them find it. Care about healthy relationships? Help them find it. And so on. This goes for our enemies (Matt 5:44), gays, murderers, gossips, etc. If we only attempt to “love” people who don’t sin, or even don’t have inclinations!, then we won’t be loving anyone! Nor will anyone love you and me.

(5) why are fellow Christians so hard on homosexuals but we are suppose to love every? Another great question. I think it’s for two reasons:

(a) Certain Christians are simply keenly aware that homosexual behavior isn’t what God designed the human machine to do, and they get “worked up” about it. This can happen when we think about those who murder, lie, cheat, steal, whatever.

(b) Mainly, I think, it’s just easy to do so. Humans tend to pick on people who are easily definable. It’s one reason why it was easy for the Nazis to pick on the Jews. As soon as we can label a “group” as the “bad guy,” it gets the focus off of our sins. It helps us to change the spotlight.

One really sad thing about this fact is that the Bible doesn’t pick on homosexuals. While there is certainly a constant theme against that behavior (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Matt 19:3-12; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:8-10), that behavior is most certainly NOT considered one of the “biggies.” All sins are not on the same level of severity or influence as is made clear from multiple passages, like Jesus speaking vehemently against blaspheming (Mk 3:29) or causing a “little one” to sin (Matt 18:6). While all sins matter—yes!—Christians should remember which sins are actually emphasized in the New Testament. Again, notice what kinds of things are considered sinful in the repeated lists: Mark 7:21-22; Rom. 1:29-31; 13:13; 1 Cor 5:10-11; 6:9-10; 2 Cor 6:9-10; 12:20-21; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3-5; Col. 3:5; 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 3:3; James 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:1; 4:3; 4:15; Rev. 9:21; 21:8; 22:15.

I am curious about these questions because as a Christian i want to know how to act tore homosexuals. I know i shouldn't condemn them but what should i do? Or how should i act around them? Treat them as you want to be treated (Matt 7:12). Really, it’s that simple. Love them (= care for their good) as you love yourself (Mk 12:31). Lead by example. Pray for them. There is absolutely no room whatsoever for making fun of them, insulting them, hurting them, making jokes on their behalf, or any other insulting, demeaning, or devaluing behavior. If they ask you what you believe, then tell them the truth with gentleness (Gal 6:1). If a gay person lives out that lifestyle and embraces homosexual behavior, then you will disagree with them, yes. But, it sure is difficult to get that wood chip in their eye when you and I have our own planks to deal with (Matt 7:3)! Leave their behavior and what God does with them up to God. God designed us and only God will judge us in the end. So, get busy loving them, speaking the truth in love when needed, and leave the fate of their souls up to the One who owns us all: God.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Can Christians watch horror movies?...and what about free will?" A conversation with a friend

David,

Hope all is good for a Monday.. I have a few questions If you dont mind. No rush on answering them.

Question 1:  I was interested in entering this short film contest they do every year called Spaltterfest. Of course its horror type movie contest, mostly people do gorey type shorts. having always been a Horror/Gore-ish movie aficionado, curious on what your thoughts are on making a film like this? is it Un Christian? I guess depeneding on whats made. I told my wife I was thinking about helping someone out, and she replies " as long as its not a bad subject" ..my reply was.. well it is called Splatterfest. I would like to know what you think on this subject.

Question 2: Free Will, Growing up and also alot from my wife before, I would always here " God already knows your plans, before everything you do, he already has your life mapped out and knows what you will do"  In my opionion that wouldnt be Free Will, is there any truth to that by what you beleive?


As always.. Thank You 


Hey brother!

Good questions.

Concerning the #1: I don’t think it’s inherently bad to do it. A good question would be: does this build someone up, encourage them, serve them, get them closer to acting like Jesus, etc. At the same time, you could be a great witness for Jesus among all kinds of people. I’d say: if you can be real deliberate about being a Christian while working on it, then maybe it’s cool. Yet, if the movie encourages things that are clearly un-Christian, then I’m not sure I’d join in the party. I’m thinking more about who and how this influences more than I’m thinking of some dogmatic rule to follow.

Concerning #2: This is a huge topic and there are a few genuine Christian views that disagree with one another. My view is that God certainly knows exactly what we will do with our free will. In no way does this limit my freedom. It just means that God is able to know all events.

A loose analogy: I “know” what Elaine will order at the Cheesecake Factory if we go there (because I know her repeated patterns). God, on the other hand, not only knows our patterns and knows what we would have chosen if put in that position (like knowing what Elaine would have ordered had she gone or if she’d eaten at Chick fil A or wherever), but He also knows exactly what she will order the next time she goes because he sees the future. He “sees” or has awareness of every event in the universe at the same time.

To say it this way: God almost certainly has two kinds of knowledge: (1) what I would have done if put in any position (like what David would do if he got a flat tire or never met my wife or ate pizza for a year) and (2) what actually happens in every situation.

God’s knowledge of something doesn’t mean that my wife didn’t have the freedom to eat something else. God didn’t make her eat that. She chose it. He just knows what she’ll choose before she knows it. Why? Because God is not limited by sequential events in time like we are. Why? Because He’s not a creature in the space-time continuum. He stands on the side of the river bed seeing the whole river; we’re the ones in the water.

Make sense?

And here’s the incredible thing: God actually takes our request into consideration in the whole show! He actually grants yeses and no’s to our requests and works the Kingdom of God around our requests. It’s just that God already knows what we will pray for and what He will do in our lives because of our requests.

We can talk more in person if you’d like. I love talking about this stuff. J

Word,
DP


Thanks David.

I understand your response to Question 1, but There really isnt a Horror movie that would build someone, or Encourage them. or maybe. Id really have to give that alot of thought. I guess my wife's response confused me, I know she doesnt like gore or violent movies, but she does love The Walking Dead. .. This also brings another question. I know about Music and Movies with cusswords or promoting violence and bad unchristian things is something we should not participate in, But again like I said, I like Horror movies. Is that "unchristian" to like to watch those. Example: The Conjuring, not gorey violent, but about evil or movies based on true stories about evil spirits or ghost?

I like that response for question 2.. I would like to talk more about it. Growing up catholic I heard alot of stuff that would confuse me. Then hearing total oppisite or different stuff from my wife's family as they were raised Pentecostal.

Thanks


Hey bud.

Good questions/points.

I see movies, music, books, etc. as an issue of mental/spiritual “diet.” That is, what does it do to me internally? I can hear some cuss words and it doesn’t affect me much. I hear several and it gets to me. I’m more prone to talk that way because it’s being introduced into my mind over and over.

So, it depends on the effect it has on me. I sometimes like to watch thrillers and whatnot; I don’t watch bloody horrors because it doesn’t jive well with me. I used to watch more horror movies when I was younger but I got to where it really bothered me because it was so much violence and nonsense (like the Saw series and whatever). For me, I just decided that watching those movies didn’t get me to where I wanted to go internally. I do the same thing with other movies or music. I change them if they cause me to flinch or feel uneasy. Now, I really like some directors (like Scorsese), but I can’t watch most of his movies more than once because of violence and language and whatnot.

My only personal rule is (and I’m not perfect at this, but in general this is true of my choices): I don’t want to watch something that I would be embarrassed to tell someone else I watched it, especially during a sermon. If I’m that uncomfortable in talking about it, then it probably means it wasn’t good for my growth. :)

So, it’s not Unchristian to want to watch those movies. I just don’t think any degree of a steady “diet” of them is good for your growth, especially if it influences any of your thoughts or behavior, and certainly not if you’d be embarrassed for other Christians to know.

Since I don’t think it’s based on a simple rule (Jesus sure didn’t talk about movies in the New Testament!), I tend to apply these principles. And I’m not perfect!! But these are my general criteria…

Good stuff! And we can chat more about free will. It sounds like you’ve heard many different things!

Peace,

DP

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The "Dark Patches"

In Northern Chile there exists a very high plateau called “Chajnantor” (which means “place of departure”) located in the Atacama Desert. It’s higher than most of the Earth’s atmosphere, situated at around 16,500 feet.

At this incredibly high location, it provides perhaps the best location on the planet to build a telescope. In fact, that’s just what exists: it’s called the “Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array,” or ALMA for short. As a radio telescope, it is able to see and take pictures of various kinds of light waves that the naked eye can’t see. It allows scientists to see parts of the universe that no other telescope can see. The results are amazing.

There was an interesting news bit on this telescope. (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/alma-peering-into-the-universes-past/)

A local Chilean physicist, Eduardo Hardy, ALMA's director of North American Operations, spoke to the host about how the radio telescope uses the dark patches of the universe. In addition to taking pictures of places of light we already see, it also peers deep into the darkness.

As Dr. Hardy said it, “The Greek used the stars. The local populations used the dark patches, which is precisely what ALMA is looking at. And in these dark patches, they saw reflections of their daily lives...llamas, for example. They spun a whole mythology around them. Here, the Milky Way is a river. And it actually does look like a river. But it's a river that will take the souls of the dead people and take them to heaven.”

Then it hit me. This was really striking. I’ve never heard of that phenomenon. I know that nearly all other people groups around the world used the stars and planets—the “light places”—to be used as guides and help create narratives. I’ve never known that you could use the dark patches of the night sky to be used as guides or to be used to create images and narratives that symbolically represent the values of an entire community.

It is the same in life, isn’t it?

Our past is full of “dark patches,” isn’t it? Isn’t it easy to think back to all the events that happened to us—those times when we were genuine victims—and recognize how damaging those events were? And can’t the same be said of those times where we weren’t victims, but made really bad choices? What events haunt you? What people haunt you?

(You might be denying this last point right now because you’re not an integrated individual. You don’t acknowledge the pain you’ve caused others or to yourself. If you’re one of those persons who “has no regrets” in life, then I don’t trust you at all. Those with no regrets are dangerous because they don’t make appropriate changes when they blow it.)

What are your “dark patches” right now?

The Chileans looked at the dark patches and drew images of animals and events that helped narrate the values of their people. What about you? What do you do when you see the “dark patches” in your life?

·        Do you look at the “dark patches” and cry? (That’s healthy; you’re just grieving).
·        Do you look at the “dark patches” and get angry? (That’s healthy; you’re protesting, which is part of grieving.)
·      Do you look at the “dark patches” and blame others for your own bad choices? (That’s unhealthy; figure out why you can’t take responsibility for your choices. Is it too painful? Are you so prideful, above the rest of us, such that you can’t admit wrong choices? Etc.)

Or, do you look at the “dark patches” of life and see major turning points in your life?

As a Christian, it’s easy to be surprised that life is full of “dark patches.” Really. God is still good even though there are plenty of “dark patches.” Jesus faced them often. People were always using him to be healed or to eat (ever felt used by someone?). People were always trying to find something wrong with what he said so that they could get him arrested or killed (ever felt judged by someone when doing the right thing?). His closest friends typically misunderstood him, and when he needed them the most, they betrayed him and deserted him (ever been betrayed?). Of course, these events continually highlighted the generosity of Jesus, his forgiveness, charity, kindness, and love. The “dark patches” in his life were as instructive for his life as the bright spots. Through his "dark patches" we gain precious access into the incredible character of God.

What do you do with your “dark patches”? Do you see any kind of direction and narrative? Or, do you choose to only pay attention to the bright spots in your life?

Get to the place where you can look intently at the "dark patches." Process whatever feelings arise when you do with a trusted friend or counselor. And as you heal, use those "dark patches" as a guide: part of the great metanarrative of your life that gives you direction and purpose.



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