Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Posts tagged ‘Bible’

‘Women Are Emotional’ -Biblically Debunked

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One of the fallacies perpetuated in the church is that women are emotional while men are not. While, in truth, this statement does more to deprive men from healthy emotional expression, it is also commonly used to put down and undermine women in the church. So let us look at scripture, as it pertains to emotion:

1. Women cry, men do not.

Men in scripture cry, a lot. And for many, many reasons. Being reunited with estranged relatives (Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers), for the death of loved ones (Jacob, Abraham), because people are speaking badly of him and life seems to be overwhelmingly (David), when their inheritance is lost (Esau), for the state of a nation (Jesus) and when they are in real danger or pain (Jesus, David). Weeping is not reserved for women, and there are more scriptural examples of men crying loudly about life’s injustices than we have of women doing the same.

Men Weeping In Scripture (usually loudly): Gen: 23:2, 27:38, 29:11, 33:4, 42:24, 45:2, Num. 14:1, Jdg 20:23, 1 Sam 20:41, 30:4, 2 Kings 8:11, Job 2:12, Is. 16:9, 33:7, 38:3, Jer. 9:1, Lam. 1:16, Hos. 12:4, Micah 1:8, Mal. 2:13, Mt. 26:75, Lk. 19:41, 22:62, Jn. 11:35, Acts 20:37, Rev. 5:4 (This is an abbreviated list.)

2. Women are easily deceived.

Although Eve was deceived, Adam sinned purposely and brought death into the world. Sinning on purpose is always worse than sinning because one was deceived, so it makes little sense that this is used as an argument for why men are more fit to lead. But deception in scripture is not limited to the female. Jacob, Isaac, Laban, multiple kings who believed Abraham or Isaac’s wife was their sister etc were also deceived. There are also lists for what to do when you realize you have sinned unintentionally. Being deceived is not limited to the female, nor are the majority of examples in scripture of people being deceived of women. Deception seems to be an equal opportunity problem. Perhaps this is why a man is to choose a wife who is wise and offers good counsel….

Examples of deception in the Bible: Paul Rom. 7:11, the church 2 Cor. 11:3, James 1:16, Eve 1 Tim. 2:14, Laban Gen. 31:20, Kings Gen 12:13, 26:7, Isaac Gen. 27:35

3. Women do not have the fortitude to lead.

There are many examples of women in scripture demonstrating leadership qualities and saving the day while the men were somewhat confused. Samson’s parents (Judges 13): The Lord speaks to Samson’s mother, not his father, first. When the Lord appears again, his wife takes him along to hear what He has to say. The husband then freaks out a bit, and his wife uses logic to reassure him that the Lord would not give them a prophecy then cause them to perish from being in his presence. There is also Deborah, who leads in battle when Barak is overwhelmed, the daughters who build the wall with Nehemiah while some elite men deem themselves to be too good for physical labor (Neh 3:12). Then there is the women who throws the millstone to save the city (Judges 9:53), as well as the one who has Sheba’s head over the wall (2 Sam. 20:22). The Queen of the South is also used as a witness to the wisdom of Solomon as a result of her testing (1 Kings 10:1, 2 Chron 9:1, Lk 11:31, Mt 12:42). Even Abraham was told by God to listen to his wife Sarah even though her wishes regarding Ishmael were in conflict with his (Gen. 21:12). (Sarah’s role as a parent becomes even more apparent when one realizes that Abraham had many sons, while Sarah had just the one. Gen 25:1-6) Women, good women, are typically portrayed in scripture as having wisdom, and making sound decisions that people respect and obey.

4. Women are nurturing, while men are less so.

God Himself uses feminine, nurturing adjectives to describe Himself. If Jesus Himself weeps and uses nurturing imagery to show Himself as a man who longs to gather His people to Himself, then a true man, walking in His footsteps should be able to do the same.

Paul too uses traditionally feminine imagery to describe himself and the others with him. (1 Thess 2:7 They were like nursing mothers.)

God as a nurturing mother: In labor Is. 42:14, Dt. 32:18, Suckling children Num 11:12, Is. 49: 14-15, comforts children Is 66:12-13, as a mother who births and protects Is. 46: 3-4, maternal Ps 131:2, Job 38:8, 29, Prov. 8:22-25, 1 Pet. 2:2-3, Acts 17:28, as a seamstress Neh 9:21, midwife Ps 22:9-10, 71:6, Is 66:9, as a mother bear robbed of her cubs Hos. 13:8, and a hen gathering her chicks Mt. 23:37

For more Biblical references to God exhibiting  traditionally feminine characteristics go to: http://clubs.calvin.edu/chimes/970418/o1041897.htm

5. A woman’s role is to teach other women and children.

There are more admonitions for men to teach their children than there are for women to do the same (though there are enough examples to prove that both are to instruct their offspring) and God states that on the new earth He will teach the children himself, indicating that teaching the children is the most important job there is (Is. 54:13). The Queen of Sheba tests a man, Solomon’s, wisdom, Priscilla co-teaches Apollo with her husband, Phoebe delivers the letter to the Romans and Julia is an apostle. The women are also the first to be charged with the message, ‘He is Risen.’ Women throughout scripture do more than work with children. They are a vital part of Jesus’ ministry, supporting the men financially (Lk 8:3). Women also run vineyards, work as shepherds, build cities, lead wars and make brave, quick decisions that lead to the defeat of the enemy (Judges 5:26). They also serve as leaders, prophets and have jobs at the Tent of Meeting (which seem to disappear after Eli’s sons rape them, not the women’s fault.) Women are more than capable of emotionally handling much more in life, and there are women in scripture for them to look up to as they do.

Further Jesus gathers the children to Himself, even though the disciples tell them to go away. Jesus, a single man, loves and is comfortable with kids. He also allows them to be present when He teaches (something not done during this time in history). Paul also has children he is close to who pray for him (Acts 21:5).

6. Men are stoic.

The psalms contain some of the best examples of worship and praise as well as examples of crying out loudly and emotionally to the Lord. And ironically, they were written by men, and many by a great warrior named David. He poured out his heart and soul in everything he wrote. Strong emotions resound, yet David is a man…

7. Women are better at relationships than men.

Many women do excel at relationships, but men in scripture are not lacking in this department. Isaac is caught caressing his wife in public, David and Jonathan are often used as an example of true friendship and the greatest love song ever written, The Song of Solomon, was written by a man. Men have relationship skills and, if allowed, may excel in this area as well.

8. Men are protective, while women are nurturing.

Except the Bible describes women as the protectors as well. It is the mama bear, robbed of her cubs who is fierce (Hosea 13:8) and God describing Himself as a mother who rescues you. (Is 46. 3-4) While men do feel a need to protect their young, it is not limited to the masculine.

Joke: A comedian once said, ‘Women traditionally have had no interest in auto-racing, but if you strapped a baby needing to be rescued to the pace car, no man in the world would be able catch up.’ Women too are protective.

9. Women are weak.

While men tend to possess more physical strength (though this differs on a case by case basis, and women tend to survive harsh conditions better so there is a trade off) the type of weakness attributed to women is often not a physical, but a psychological weakness. Again, referring to scripture, there seems to be more cases of men falling in the area of moral fortitude than women, especially when it comes to the female. Lust takes down more men in scripture than their female counterparts (though we do have Gomer…). It is therefore the male, not the female, who has much to learn in this area. But that is the point. We are to learn. We are to mature and overcome. Scripture is not about staying weak, but about becoming a mature, stable, capable human being. And this admonition to emotional maturity is not limited to the male.

So, men, as well as women, are to be fully emotionally equipped. But those emotions are to be handled maturely, and there are examples of mature men and women who showed both wisdom and self-control throughout scripture. To say that ‘women are emotional’ is to not address her need to mature out of petty things. To say that men are not emotional is to deprive a man of his right to express what he feels. Neither is good. Emotions, when handled appropriately, are a God-given gift that every member of the Trinity also possesses. To deny or belittle their place in the human experience is to be less than the image-bearer of God, and to deny that we are to love Him with all of our strength, mind, heart and soul. (Luke 10:27) Emotional maturity is therefore the goal for all Christians, male and female.

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Hijacking the Bible

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Somewhere along the way the church, our church of which we are all part of the body, allowed scripture to be ‘hijacked.’ No longer was it wisdom for a way to live, but instead, in many congregations, it became a set of rules to bash people over the heads with. And many of the rules are so twisted they no longer make scriptural sense. Let me give you a sense of what I am referring to.

The Slippery Slope:
Today many will warn you to stay far away from people committing sinful behavior or you will surely fall. (This argument amuses successful people who have done much better in life than those who are issuing this warning without ever falling into the sins these people say their associations will surely lead to.) This is also not scriptural. Let’s use alcohol as an example. (Though you could also use some of the current arguments about men working too closely with women.) Jesus drank wine, and spoke to and ate with sinners. There are even times the Bible tells us we may drink (which are typically conveniently left out of the slippery slope argument) . There were also drunkards who existed during Biblical times, so their existence is not a call for abstinence. While we are not to tempt those who have issues in this area, nor are we to put others in danger by driving after we have had something to drink, complete prohibition is not Biblical, nor is it a sound argument. What prohibition leads to is a separation of Christian from non-Christian that more resembles the rules of the Pharisees than it does the behavior of our Savior. But people continue to use this argument to keep Christians from witnessing in bars, on the streets and in other places where people are obviously in need and could use a loving Savior, as well as a loving relationship with a caring human being.
What is a sound is that we are to live joyfully, and help those who are falling. Unless we have a weakness in the area they are failing in, we are to get close. We are to help, not avoid the person in trouble. We are to be like a brother and help them out of whatever sin is destroying their lives (which may mean that at times we give up our rights in order to not tempt their weakness, as Paul gave up meat). And we are to continue helping as long as they keep repenting. Sure, there are times the Bible tells you to avoid someone, but these times are when they are rebellious and stubborn in their sin. When they want help, as messy as it may be, we are there for them.
Real life: Our church has a women’s group that goes to the strip clubs. The women bring presents and get to know the employees. At first it was weird, but now the staff loves them as much as the women love the staff and lives are being changed. No good Christian woman has been tempted to get on a pole, and the men of the church have an added reason for not showing up; their wife’s friends might be there!

Avoid the Appearance of Evil:
Surely we are not to pretend we are doing wrong in order to appease the crowd and avoid confrontation, but today this phrase is commonly used to mean a bit more than that. People who commonly use this phrase seemingly forget that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, because, unlike John the Baptist, He drank alcohol, and He explained to the crowd that there was no pleasing them. If He abstained like John they would accuse Him of having a demon, if He did not abstain, they accuse Him of being a sinner. (Mt. 11:18-19) Most of the time, when people are told to avoid the appearance of evil, this is choice they have: Either they are not to fit in with common culture, and alienate the sinner who is seeking Christ, or they risk being called a sinner by those in the church. Does this mean you must drink or engage in other things that become vices when done in excess? No. John the Baptist was clearly correct in not drinking because that was the life God called him to live, but it is not everyone’s call, and we must be sensitive to that truth.

There are No Grey Areas:
There are many, many grey areas discussed in scripture. There are times when something is right to do, and times when it is clearly wrong. Here are a few examples:
David and his men were given the bread of presence, which is reserved for the priests alone to eat and they did not sin. (Mk. 2:25-26)
Aaron’s sons were smote for not following God’s commands regarding the incense at the Tabernacle, yet Aaron’s other sons were shown mercy when they did not obey the rules regarding the meat. Why? Because one set of brothers was rebellious while the others were trying to be humble. Motives matter. (Lev. 10:1-2, 16-20)
God does not punish the women when they become prostitutes because the culture of the time has pushed them into it. (Hosea 4:14)
Samuel is instructed by God to not tell the whole truth about his trip to Bethlehem. (1 Sam 16:2-3) Rahab and the midwives who save the Hebrew babies are also praised and rewarded for their lies. (It seems the scriptural admonitions about lying are do not do it unless someone is trying to kill someone and then you may mislead them.)

No Foul Language or Name Calling:
The Bible is full of not-so-nice language. Why do we not see it? Because most translations clean it up to conform with today’s Christian Correct standards. Here are a few examples:
In Philippians 3:8 what Paul considers ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish’ should actually be translated as ‘excrement.’
The ‘filthy rags’ in Isaiah 64:6 are used menstrual rags.
God will smear people’s faces with ‘dung’ in Malachi 2:3 for what they have done.
Jesus and others call the legalists of the time ‘white-washed tombs,’ ‘broods of vipers (demons),’ and told them that their true father was the devil (John 8:44). I’m sure they enjoyed that….
So while we are to avoid being crude for the sake of crudeness or merely to injure another, it does seem that using strong language is appropriate at some times in scripture.

The Rules Are The Rules:
Isaiah 28:9-10 ” “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that [fn]; a little here, a little there.”
Mature Christians are to rely on wisdom and understanding, not strict rules that say do this/ don’t do that. Further, the weak are those who need extra rules and restrictions. So while those who are mature are to avoid doing things that are permissible in order to not cause the weak to stumble, it is the weak who need the rules who are the less mature, indicating they are not to be the ones in charge. (1 Cor. 8)

Men and Women Must Maintain a Proper Distance:
In the New Testament Jesus had female followers who supported His ministry and whom He called disciples. (Mt. 12:49, Acts 9:36) He ate at their houses and allowed a woman to dry His feet with her hair (a very inappropriate thing to do at the time). He also spoke to women in public (also extremely risqué behavior for a man). Paul had many close co-workers who were female, and John wrote a very personal letter to a woman in 2 John. Prophets also stayed in widows (no men in the homes) houses, some of whom were young enough to have dependent children living with them.
The scriptural admonitions are not to sleep with the women, and if you are tempted, to maintain a distance because you are weak. But only the weak need these rules. In society today doctors, police and firemen deal with naked women as part of their job, and we expect them to be appropriate. Men can obviously obtain a level of maturity necessary to do this, and it is sad that many in our churches teach that they can’t.

Women Cannot Lead:
The issues with many churches current views on women are numerous, but let us examine a few of the whopping lies that are out there:
Women cannot be in charge of men, yet Deborah was in charge of Israel, Samson’s mother and Rebekah were given prophecy from God even though their godly husbands were around (and Samson’s father wanted to learn more. Judges 13) Abraham is told to listen to Sarah regarding what to do with Ishmael even though Sarah’s wishes are in conflict with his. (Gen 21:12) Women supported Jesus’ ministry financially (Lk 8:3), and were the first to proclaim that He is risen.
Women are also not perfectly suited to housework according to scripture. The Proverbs 31 woman has servants for that and works outside the home, even to the point of managing a vineyard, which we can assume has males working which she must supervise. She is a wealthy woman in her own right and she is to be praised. Sheerah too is credited with being a working woman, building at least three cities that stood for many, many years. (1 Chron. 7:24) Women helped rebuild the wall during Nehemiah’s time (when the elite men would not)(Neh. 3:12), were assigned jobs at the Tent of Meeting (Ex 38:8, 1 Sam 2:22), and many were shepherdesses (not a safe, or dainty profession).
Men too get the shaft in these teachings when they are told they are not nurturing and are to be less emotional. (Have you seen how many times men cry in scripture! ) Instead what we see in scripture is that men are to be highly involved in the rearing of their children, and that even God chooses female imagery to describe Himself.(Is. 66:13, Mt. 23:37) The line between what is male and what is female is not as finely drawn as we are sometimes led to believe, cheating the man out of activities that build a strong relationship with His children. (Further, the teaching of children is something God will do when the earth is renewed, making it the most important job in the church! Is. 54:13)

We Are the Moral Police of the World:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that we are not to judge those outside the church. Why? Because they are not followers of Christ and therefore we should expect them to sin! Instead our focus should be on cleaning up the problems within the church, and probably not the ones you are thinking of. Among those we are not to give the Christian name to are: the sexually immoral- with an emphasis in other places on those who do not care for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), the greedy, the slanderer (so many Christians spend so much time putting down other people for how bad they are this would clean out the church!), the unrepentant alcoholic and the swindler (those who use Christ to gain money? Living off the church in ways that are not quite right…). This is not to say that we do not try to help these people before we stop calling them ‘brother in Christ,’ (Matthew 18: 15-17- the three strike law- is still in effect.) but we do not allow our church to become a cloister for mean people who do not treat others well. The church, like Israel, is to be a beacon to those who are lost showing them that there is a better way to live, and it involves a relationship with a God who loves us. How can we do that if our relationships with others in the church suck?
Instead many churches focus on the sins of the world. Who cares what the world is doing? What matters scripturally is what we are doing. Was there any class of sinner Christ refused to forgive? (No.) Then our mission outside the church is to show people Christ’s love in the same non-judgmental way He did. He ate with sinners, conversed with prostitutes etc. (But today we put down those who try to preach in bars and do not lovingly accept the immodestly dressed woman into our midst when she shows up on Sunday.) What He did not do is call the overly religious, legalistic people of His time His followers. Today too many in the church spend much of their time complaining about how bad the sinners are, and not enough time figuring out how to love them and help them into a relationship where a powerful Holy Spirit can do more for them than rude remark or disdainful look ever will. So WWJD? Judgmental attitudes and nasty labels were for the religious who thought they were better than everyone else; let’s follow His example.

But we keep putting legalists in charge (where they admittedly like to be) even though the Bible tells us not to…
The mature in the church, the ones to be called ‘elders’ and have positions, are to be respected in the community. They are not to be the weak, who need extra rules, but those who have shown wisdom (including mercy) in doing justice. These are not to be new believers, yet many times that is exactly who we put in charge. Like the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, the legalists are the ones we look up to and revere. This is not to be so. Let us do a better job, putting people who have gained wisdom are respect into position, and let us stop beating each other up with what people suppose is the Word, but truly is not.

Is Sin Relative?

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Micah Murray asked a few questions on Twitter that I felt should be answered. Unfortunately, to answer responsibly will take a lot longer than 140 characters, and probably longer than most blog posts should be…
He asks about Rahab, and it being seemingly okay for her to lie about the spies hidden on her roof, about the God-commanded genocide in Canaan, and whether sin is relative. These are all excellent questions, and they are often answered with platitudes that convey very little that satisfies that asker.

So here we go…

The first question is: Is there any time when it is okay to lie? And the answer is yes. In my sarcastic/snarky way I usually sum it up like this, “For the most part, God does not condone lying. In the Bible the devil is known as the Father of Lies, and the need to tell the whole truth is heavily stressed. BUT, when a crazed psychopath bent on killing someone barges into your house and asks where someone is in order to kill them you can lie your bottom off.”

How do I come to this conclusion? When the midwives lied to Pharaoh to save babies, they, childless women, were blessed with children of their own. (Ex. 1) When Samuel goes to anoint David as the next king of Israel, and Samuel expresses his fear of Saul to God, God tells him to tell Saul he is merely going to make a sacrifice (which he does do). Why? Because Saul will likely try to kill the next king in order to secure the throne for his children, which he does when he finds out. (1 Sam. 16) Rahab too lies to save lives. We have a bit more trouble with this one, since these men are spies, a job we do not usually consider ‘innocent.’ There are extenuating circumstances here. (Remember, the prostitute is the most godly person in this town.) Canaan and Jericho are not good places. (More on this later. Right now just take my word for it.) It would not be proper to destroy a place without seeing how the people behave for yourselves, so spying, by responsible individuals is proper in this situation. (Jos. 6)

This leads us to the next question: Why is genocide okay in the Old Testament?

What we see in the Bible, during the time of Canaan, are a large number of tiny communities bent on destroying one another whenever possible. Here is a list of their heinous activities:
1. Raiding for fun. (1 Sam 13:17-21)
2. Going to war every spring. (2 Sam 11:1, 1 Chron. 20:1)
3. Killing the wives and children of others. (2 Kings 8:12)
4. Enslaving anyone they wish to oppress. (Judges 2:14)
5. Rape and torture. (Dt. 28:30)
6. Stealing food so the people will starve. (Judges 6:11)
7. Destroying fields and crops so the people starve for fun. (Judges 6:3)
8. Orgies and forced prostitution. (1 Kings 14:24)
9. Sacrificing their oldest child to gain blessings from their gods. (2 Kings 3:27)
10. Burying their youngest child in the foundation of their homes (most likely alive) to bless their house. (archeology)
11. Leaving unwanted babies on rocks to die in the weather or from animal attack. (old writings)
12. Heinous tortures before killing prisoners. (archeology)
13. Killing the old, young and pregnant at the back of a caravan for sport. (Dt. 25:18)
14. Ripping babies out of pregnant women’s bellies while they are still alive. (2 Kings 15:16)
15. Watching baby animals slowly die as they are boiled in their mother’s milk. (Ex. 23:19)
16. Putting their children ‘through the fire’ to see if the gods meant for the baby to live. (Dt. 12:31)

Remember Gideon, who was hiding in a wine press trying to thresh grain where no one would see him? There was a good reason for this. If the neighbors the Israelites did not kill when they were told to saw him they would take the grain, or destroy it, and his family would starve to death slowly that winter. These were people who did evil for fun. (Judges 6)

God does not condone, even during this time, the mass extinction of just anyone. The Israelites are to remain within their boundaries, and are not to keep a standing army. (1 Sam 8:12) They will only have a volunteer force of men 20 and over for defense. (Num 1:3, Dt. 20:8) The rest of the time the men will be at home working their land. (1 Sam 8)

So why did the Israelites need to kill the women and children as well? Aren’t they innocent?
The Bible gives us some answers to this in the story of Haman, and another child that was left alive.
Haman is an Agagite, meaning he is descended from Agag, the king Saul was supposed to kill. Tradition tells us that between the time Saul captured Agag, and Samuel arrived, Agag escaped, hid with a concubine and she conceived. The result was the line that produced Haman. Haman was not part of a group that wished to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. (1 Sam 15, Esther 9:24) 1 Kings 11 also tells us about a baby who grows into a man who causes great trouble for Israel, though in his case Joab was wrong for killing his people…

Further, many remind us that the innocent go to heaven. If they had continued to live here, learning to hate, this would likely not be their eternal fate. We also see, in the rescue of Lot, that God does save the righteous from destruction when there is hope.

Still, the genocide we see in the Bible occurs in extremely limited times, and for extremely limited reasons. Abraham is told that the land cannot be his because the sin of the people in the land is not great enough to warrant eviction. (Gen 15:16) We see that the people who fled Canaan were not killed, only the ones who stayed. (Gen. 9:4) And we see, once the era of warlords and terrorists ceases in this area, the Biblical instruction is to obey the laws of the oppressors and work to bless them. (Jer. 29:7, Lk 6:28) Orders to wipe everyone out are only for those who are extreme in their cruelty as a society, and, it seems, only with a very clear mandate from God.
So, is it all relative when it comes to sin? Not in the way most people speak of it today, but in many ways, yes, it is.

We have seen that you may lie to protect the innocent, but let us look at a few more examples.

Aaron’s oldest sons offered incense of their own design, instead of doing what God told them, and they were smote. Right after this Aaron’s younger sons did not eat the portion of the offering as God told them to, but instead burned the whole thing. They disobeyed, but were not smote. Why? Because their motive was to please God. They felt they were not worthy to eat part of the offering due to what had happened to their brothers today. (Lev. 10:19-20)
We then see the priest giving the Bread of Presence to David and his men to eat, even though it is set aside to be eaten by the High Priests alone. Jesus emphasizes that this was not a sin. Why? Likely because David’s men were truly in need of food. They had come to the Tent of Meeting hoping to share in a fellowship offering (which was typically offered and shared with all who were there). There was no food, even the regular offerings seem to be missing. Why? Because the people were not sacrificing as they should. The priest is now in a bind. He can either refuse hospitality, and refuse to feed truly hungry men, or break God’s rule. God’s rule was likely meant so the priests were provided for. Here David and his men have a greater need, and it is apparently okay to prioritize that need. (Mk. 2:25-28)

We also see in Hosea 4:14 that God refused to punish the women who turn to prostitution and adultery because of the actions of the men that lead to this corruption.

This does not mean that we allow everyone to do whatever they want. Jewish theologians point out that these situations typically occur when one commandment is in conflict with another, so one must weigh the two and decide which is the more important one to follow. We do this today.

No one calls an ectopic pregnancy that is treated by removing the embryo growing in the fallopian tube an abortion. Why? Because the baby will not survive if left to grow there, and it will likely kill the mother, cause her serious problems, or affect her future fertility if left alone too long. Would it be nice if we could relocate the embryo and allow the pregnancy to continue? Sure, but we are not there yet, so we have to make a choice. And since the choice is baby and mom die, or just baby die, we choose to remove the baby.

We also allow police to enter a home if they have reason to believe someone is being attacked without a warrant. Preventing a murder supersedes your right to privacy.

So, how did we all learn that there was never a time to lie in most of our churches, and that morality was black and white, when the Bible clearly teaches it is not always that way?

Most people point to a man named Immanuel Kant. Despite his name he was not a Christian, but a philosopher who taught a very absolute view of morality. This philosophy leaked into he church, and has remained part of many sermons. The Jewish people do not appreciate his teachings, since many Jewish people were saved because of the lies told by their Gentile neighbors. Kant would have been honest, to the detriment of the Gentile and the people they were protecting…

Gandhi had a similar problem. His teachings of non-violence worked well in India, against England, a country that had a few people in charge at the time whose morality could be appealed to, once one got their attention. Gandhi then wrote to England advising them not to resist Hitler, telling them that their non-resistance would cause Hitler to see his sin and change his ways. The Jewish people were not impressed by this advice either.

As we see, there is a time for certain actions, but other times completely different means are necessary. It takes wisdom to know when to do what. This is why we must study our scripture, talk about it, and debate every option in depth before situations occur, because life is not easy. It is not an ‘if this then this’ style of existence. Sure, there are things one must absolutely not do, but then there are the extremes, when life is so full of sin and wrong choices that it is hard to know how to work your way out. This is why we need to study, and pray, and remain close to God, not so much for the easy days, but for the days when nothing seems like a good choice.

An Election Year Parable (Judges 9)

Abimelech (Gideon’s son) then goes to his brothers and tells them to ask the people of Shechem whether it would be better for 70 brothers to rule over them, or just one. He reminds them that he is their flesh and blood. The brothers agree, and the people are ‘inclined to follow’ him, so they give Abimelech 70 shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, which Abilmelech uses to hire ‘reckless adventurers.’ He then murders all of his brothers except Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, who hides. The people then gather and crown Abimelech king.

FYI: Killing your brothers when you become king is a common practice during this time. When Abimelch went to his brothers for support and reminded them that they were his brothers, he was likely implying that he was going to become king, and was reminding them what would happen if they did not support him. He killed them anyways to ‘secure’ his throne. Many of his brothers likely have more of a claim to a throne, since Abimelech is the son of a concubine, and not a wife, if you believe royalty should pass from father to son. (Though the name ‘Abimelech’ implies that his father meant for him to succeed him. Not that Gideon was ‘king’… but Abimelech has delusions of grandeur.) In this time uprisings against a king often involved the people getting behind a relative of the king and claiming that this relative had more of a claim to the throne than the current ruler. Abimelech was trying to guarantee that this would not happen.

Jotham (Gideon’s youngest son who escaped) then climbs to the top of Mount Gerizim and tells the people a parable. He says that the trees wanted to anoint a king for themselves so they asked the olive tree to be king, but the olive tree produced oil that was needed. The olive tree decided that it would be wrong to give up doing something so necessary just to ‘hold sway’ over the other trees. The fig and the vine are asked to be king as well, but they too do not feel it is right to give up producing important fruit in order to be in charge. Finally the thorn bush is asked. The thorn bush is not a good king however. He tells the other trees to take refuge in his shade. (This is how a thorn bush kills other trees. By outgrowing them when they are young and weak, the bush deprives them of sunlight, and ‘chokes’ them out by using up all their resources. The trees then whither and die.) When the trees will not ‘take refuge’ in the thorn bush’s shade, the thorn bush catches fire (another thing thorn bushes are known to do, especially in the desert where they dry out easily) and the fire consumes even the sturdiest trees (the cedars of Lebanon).

Point to Ponder: This parable applies today. Too often the people best suited to run the country are too busy producing and running their own businesses. Instead we are left to choose from a group of people who can easily leave whatever they are doing, and want the job. This is not ‘the best’ group of people to be choosing from. A good ruler (or in our case ‘representative’) of the people is one who has succeeded in other aspects of life. Unfortunately, these people are difficult to get as they are often busy with productive work that is important too. If we want our country to run well, we need to pry more of them away from their jobs and convince them to serve us for a time!

An excerpt from: A New Believer’s Bible Commentary: Joshua-Job (Click on Books By Me in the sidebar for more details)

Photo by Matija Barrett


Some Not So Usual Suggestions for Studying Your Bible

Creation

1. Do not start with Genesis. I know this sounds like bad advice, but the truth is most people who start Bible reading programs do not finish them, and Genesis is the book they already know the most about. A Bible reading program is supposed to increase your knowledge of the Bible. To most effectively do this begin with the books you know the least about.

2. Read the footnotes. Most Bibles contain footnotes. They are great sources of information that most people overlook. They will help to explain what is going on in each passage and give you the information you need to more fully understand what you are reading. Footnotes are like a free mini-commentary, so use them.

3. Choose a Bible translation you enjoy. While there is much debate over which Bible translation is best, most of them are excellently translated. Choose one that you can read and understand easily, then look at the footnotes. Different Bibles have footnotes that focus on different things. Some are focused on ‘life application’ and will try to relate the Bible reading to something in your life so that you can more easily apply the Bible to your own situation. Others are ‘study Bibles’ and the footnotes focus more on giving you background information about the passage you just read. There are a lot of different styles of footnotes so spend some time finding ones that are right for you.

4. Use a Bible reading plan. If you know that you know that this time you will in fact read through the entire Bible use a Bible reading plan. (Google ‘Bible reading plan’ and find one that looks good to you.) Bible reading plans keep you accountable, and also put passages of the Bible together so that you can see how different books viewed similar teachings.

5. Mix it up. If you have already read through the Bible at least once in your life do not use the same plan, or the same Bible to read through it again. Different footnotes will broaden your understanding, and a different plan will put different passages together allowing you to see things in greater context.

6. Use the verses listed in the margins. In most Bibles there are verses listed in the margins beside each passage. They are references to other places in the Bible where similar things are taught. When you get to a topic you are unsure about use them to look up what the Bible says about this in other places. They typically do not contain every passage on the subject, so look at the verses listed next to the passages you look up for even more information.

7. Read with friends and plan to discuss what you have read. Accountability works, which is why Weight Watchers does so well. If possible, find a group of people who are willing to read along with you and encourage you to stay the course. Further, their insights will help bring into your life more than you noticed while reading alone.

8. Use Bible studies that force you to look up scripture and read it for yourself. Commentaries are good. (I have one that is currently being released now, so I am not against them.) But, the best learning is done when you do most of the work yourself. My favorites are Kay Arthur’s Precept Upon Precept studies. You will need a concordance, and these studies require much of your time, but they are worth it.

9. If you know you have limited time, choose a book of the Bible that relates to what you are going through right now. Every book in the Bible focuses on a different theme. Leaf through them and decide which book will speak to you and your situation most right now.

10. Bring your Bible everywhere. Life is busy and most people fail because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to get done. While waking up early and simplifying your life are good ideas, most of us will not make that change, so bring your Bible with you. Whenever there is a moment of downtime take it out and read. Do not be afraid of getting ahead. You will probably need a day off soon, and any ‘getting ahead’ you did will now come in handy. Life vacillates. Some days we have more down time than others. Use yours wisely.

11. Choose a Bible reading plan that gives you days off. These are not really ‘days off,’ they are days to catch up. Most people quit reading through their Bible because they have missed days and are now too far behind to catch up on the arbitrary goal they set for themselves. Days off give you time to ‘catch up’ so you do not feel frustrated and quit quite as easily.

12. Keep things in perspective. The Bible is a big book. It is actually 66 books. Most people would not set reading 66 books as a goal to do in a year. Thankfully many of the books are short, so it is not as bad as it sounds, but reading through the Bible in a year is a big commitment if daily Bible reading is not already a part of your life. Have mercy on yourself and know that if it takes a little longer than you planned it is still worth it, so stay the course.

13. If you have the time, take notes. Journal about what you have read. Writing things down helps you to remember and relate things to your life. Reread your notes frequently to remind you about what you have learned. But, if your time is limited, forget what I just said and keep reading through. Once you have covered the entire Bible more than once there will be time for more leisurely strolls through its pages.

14. Read even if you only have a few minutes. Many people make a big deal about their Bible reading time. This can be helpful, as it becomes a daily habit, or it can be limiting, since you feel you can only read in the right place at the right time. Take your Bible out as if it were a novel. Every little bit adds up, and reading short sections allows you to think about what you read more than you may have if you had read more at once.

15. Make an effort to think about what you have read throughout the day. Even if you do not have time to read more, think about what you have read while you are driving or doing any other task that requires little thought. This will also help you remember things better.

16. Go for the audio version. While the audio version lacks footnotes and other helps, it is better than not reading at all. Audio versions are great for joggers, time in the car etc so they often fit into your life more easily. James Earl Jones does a very nice job with the King James Bible, if you can handle the vocabulary and word order in the King James. There are also theatrical versions of audio available where different speakers assume different roles and try to make the Bible come to life.

17. Incorporate what you are learning into your daily life. This is more than just doing what the Bible says. If you are an artist, take a verse that speaks to you and incorporate it into your art. If you love to cook, try following the dietary laws when you read through them. If you love maps, look up the places mentioned. If you love the outdoors, imagine the terrain you are reading about on your next hike or bike ride. If you are a parent, think about what it must have been like raising children under the conditions described. If you are a nerd/geek, make outlines and lists, or maybe even a computer game that incorporates what you have learned. (You should see the outlines I have accumulated! But only do so if you find this fun.)

18. Pray. Always pray. Pray before you read. Pray when you are dealing with a difficult passage. Pray when you find an instruction and realize that you need the strength to change something in your life. Pray that you find the instructions you need and realize there are things you need to change in your life. Then, when you are done, meditate peacefully on what you have learned and thank God for everything He has revealed.

19. Set up an environment you enjoy to do the majority of your reading in. Making Bible reading time a treat, rather than a chore will help you do it more often. There can be candles, soft music, nice food and drink, a comfortable chair etc. Your routine should invite you to want to read. Even a bathtub can be set up with a bar for reading, so figure out what you like and get creative. Just don’t spend so much time setting up that you never find the time to actually read.

20. Reward yourself when you meet your goals. The Word of God is sweet like honey according to scripture. The Jews took this to mean that there should be rewards for learning it and rewarded children with treats. Most people are motivated by the thought of reward, so set goals for yourself and celebrate when you reach them.

Bible reading should never be a chore, but for those of us who did not grow up doing it, it is something extra to fit into our already hectic lives. Hopefully my suggestions will help you find the time, learn more and succeed. Remember, they are only suggestions. Take the ones that work for you and throw the rest out. And enjoy!

photo art by Kristin Andraka

How To Help The Poor

Image

It’s an election year and everyone has strong opinions. The problem with most opinions today is that they define the problem using one very limited example. Recently I responded to a tweet that attacked people by stating that if you think the problem with the poor is laziness then you have not met anyone who is poor. This is simply false since there are people whose problem is that they do not wish to work. Some of my favorite ‘lazy’ people include the person my sons worked with who thought the boss would not notice that he was not washing dishes when the boss was not looking. That the ever-growing pile of dishes might give him away never occurred to him. Another woman cleaned hotel rooms. She assumed she just needed to fold the toilet paper into a triangle and no one would know the difference. The management tried and tried to help her be successful. When people were watching she did a wonderful job, but when their backs were turned she folded the toilet tissue and left.

The Old Testament actually describes more than one type of poor person and gives us different instructions regarding how to deal with them.

First there is the ‘roosh.’ This person is poor because they make poor decisions. They will not listen when corrected, are lazy and make other poor people’s lives miserable. We are to feed these people, but because they ruin other people’s lives with their decisions they are also generally avoided.

The next type of poor person is the ‘dal.’ They are weak and cannot help themselves for some reason. Typically, this person’s situation is temporary and if given proper help they will do well. These are the people we are rewarded by God for helping. We are also cursed if we take advantage of them.

Another group of poor are the anav and aniy. They are the poor and needy. In the New Testament these are the people Jesus refers to when he gives instructions on how to treat the poor. These are the people who are poor because of a more permanent condition such as low IQ or severe disability. It can also be because of a more permanent situation like being an elderly widow with no family. They too are to be helped, and we are to be generous to them. They are the ones that the laws regarding gleaning were made for.

There are also a few other types of poor, which occur more briefly in scripture. They are the machcowr, a person who becomes poor because they spend recklessly on their own pleasure. He is best exemplified by the prodigal son. Remember, the son’s father did not send care packages, but did accept his son back fully when he returned in a repentant state.

Then there is the muwk. These are people who have made vows carelessly, or become in debt to the point of not being able to repay what they owe. They do have to work off the debt as a servant, but we are not to take advantage of them.

The ‘ebywon is a beggar. We are to treat him fairly. If we are doing things right there should be no beggars in our land.

The michen is poor through his own foolishness. All we are told about this man is that we are not to listen to his advice.

If we are ever going to truly help the poor we need to realize that there are many different reasons for being poor. Deciding that all of the poor are hard working people who just need a little help is just as destructive as deciding that all of the poor are lazy. It is just not true. Some people just need a little help and they will be fine. Others need education and wisdom. Still others have problems that may never be solved. And of course some are just unwilling to work. All of these situations require different solutions. Until we actually get to know the people we are helping we will not be very effective. The hard working poor will have a difficult time accepting help. The lazy poor will do all they can to gobble up the free stuff. And the people with lower IQs and other disabilities will fall through the cracks unless someone advocates for them. Just throwing money at the problem, or refusing to give any money is not the answer.

Photo by Matija Barrett

My Encounters With the Holy Ghost (Con’t): Mercy

Mercy

Can’t tell you. I have none. Okay that is not entirely true, but I do resemble Bones (from the TV show) just to give you a clue as to who I am. The gift of mercy involves knowing when to punish and when not to punish. I need a definition to follow, and mine is, when the person repents stop the punishment. Punishment is to bring the person to repentance so they will not repeat the act. When the purpose, repentance, has been accomplished, no more is needed. People with the gift of mercy do not need a definition. They instinctively know what a person needs in order to be right with Christ, and can show love and compassion as soon as it is needed. That does not mean they condone sin. It just means that they are the first to see when punishment should change to much love and are quick to give it.

Don’t worry if this is not you, just be aware and jump on board when you see someone you know who flows in this gift lavishing praise and comfort on someone you recently wanted to kill and know you need to change as well. Now there are people who want to love everyone all of the time. This is not mercy, this is indiscriminate affection. It is immature since it often enables people to believe that it is okay to sin and hurt others. These people are annoying because they get in the way of others who are truly trying to help the person overcome whatever it is that is affecting their lives. A person who flows with mercy does not do this. They do not enable people. They just know exactly when to show love, how to show it so the person best receives it and when it is inappropriate to do so. They are awesome people to be around, since they are very affirming. And they are good for you since they do not flatter and lie to make you feel better. This is why it is a spiritual gift. Many can flatter and lie, or give ‘love’ to everyone, but the Bible tells us that flattery is wicked, and that there are times to punish, reprimand and leave people alone in there sin. People with the gift of mercy know this, and can give ‘love’ without forgetting that these other things need to be there as well.

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