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hard questions : christianity, lifestyle



february 15, 2002 - "Won't becoming a Christian cramp my lifestyle?" 

well, that would depend what type of lifestyle you have to start with.  Most people, when they say this, mean they are afraid to lose their freedom.  They see Christianity as a restrictive faith removes their freedom and turns them into mindless zombies roaming the earth looking for victims.  The reality is Christianity does not “crap” style; it enhances it – deeply.  Think of it this way, when you are dealing with the world you are concerned about image, money, power and so many other “worldly chains” that hold you back.  When you follow Christ, those chains are broken.  When we are with Christ, we are free form injustice, from neglect, from wants (if we follow his teachings and not human desires).  If we follow his lead, our bonds of the human condition are broken.


What we need to remember is what we see as personal freedom, is actually personal bondage.  We are truly enslaved to this culture by our desires for money, power, work, family and so many other things.  But with God, we are set free – because God created us and he knows what we need.  Now, let me be the first to say, all well and good – but it’s hard to see it, and it is hard to let go. I know this because I still struggle with the freedom I have in Christ, everyday.  But then again, that’s what true freedom is about.


july 15, 2002 - "if i become a christian won't i have to give up my intellectual integrity?"

oh no, never.  paul tells us, in his letter to the thessalonians (the message page 2157) tells us to not be gullible and to test everything to see what is good and throw away what is bad - so intellectual integrity is important to faith.  in fact, jesus himself told us to use our intellect when it comes to faith and our desire to follow his teachings (the message page 1794, the book of matthew).  for us to truly be followers we are not to do so blindly, we need to look at it all and with an honest heart look at everything and come to a conclusion.


our faith, my faith, is not based on "nothing" or "wrong stuff."  i had to examine everything before i would follow, because that's just the kind of guy i am.  i like the "differences" people claim they find - i see them as wonderful God placed paradox' - God is so cool.  but the best thing to do is to not go into anything with a predetermined opinion - that's where the problems are found.  when i was looking into God and searching all he was and could offer - i looked into islam, hindu, buddhism, and other faiths before i came to the conclusion that christianity was truth.  my coming to the understanding that christianity was truth was not based on seeing the other faiths as "wrong."  i just read their books, and in reading them all - christianity just came out on top.  but, for that to happen i needed to openly and honestly explore and i needed an open and honest intellect to bring that to life.


august 15, 2002 - "how should i respond to a friend in such a circumstance:  he enjoys bagging on christians, and anything i say he replies with 'you better hope it's real.'  tithes seem to make a lot of non-christians stay clear of God, how should one reply to this?"

my first response was to answer the question of tithing, then i read it again and realized it is a question about dealing with those who like to give christians a "hard time."  for me, and this is all my personal opinion, is i would realize two very important things; first he is your friend.  most people who were that "anti" would not stick around to be a friend; second, while it may seem like he is not, and it may seem as if he is insulting you, he is actually seeking to know why you do what you do - he is a skeptic/seeker.  you see, i don't think (even though it may seem like he is) he is "anti" - he just wants to know "what you thinks."  tell him what you think, not what scripture says, not what the church says, and not what the pastor says - what do you think?  tell him your heart and why you believe tithing is important.  if you try to defend the churches view point against the scriptural view point you will have a problem - only because i believe most churches do not teach a scriptural view of tithing.  but that does not matter - you see your friend does not care about the "scriptural point of view" and he does not care about the "churches point of view" - he only cares about your point and why it effects you so much - personalize it and share your gut, no matter what it is - even if you think he could be a little right, but always add - it is my faith, and my relationship with God that is central to who i am as a person - so i do as i believe God teaches.


july 22, 2001  - what about gays in the church?

let me start by saying this - no matter what I write I will offend someone, and I am certain I will receive tons of email on this one - but I believe just because a question may offend some, and may not be politically correct - we should not shy away from it.  we must stand firm on the scripture and the teaching of God - it's just that simple.  with that said, here goes.


I firmly believe homosexuality is not an acceptable life style in the eyes of God.  there are too many scriptures that tell us that, romans 1:26-27; 1 timothy 1:10.  God's plan is for males and females to maintain sexual relationships with each other.  for me, it's just that simple - God does not approve of homosexuality - but what of them in the church?


I believe God welcomes all people into the church - all people.  there is nothing in scripture that tells us to keep them out of the church.  If we truly see homosexuality as a sin, we must place it with all other sins.  we would never think of kicking out a people who is living in a sinful relationship out of the church - or at least we should not desire to kick people like that out, because church would be a very lonely place - it would be empty.


the key is not to knick people out who are living in sin, the key is to help them find a relationship with God and in turn change their lives for Him.  Welcome the gay and lesbian into the church.  let them see what a God filled relationship is about.  don't close the door to them, because their lives will not change if we are not willing to welcome them in and pray the transforming grace of Christ upon them.


with all that said, I must add that a practicing homosexual can not hold office in the church.  just as a practicing alcoholic, or a person who purchases porn, or a person who is having an affair can not serve as a leader in the church.  leaders must meet the requirements found in scripture.  while no one is perfect, using that as an excuse to elect practicing homosexuals to the church board is ignoring God's will in the church.


august 11, 2001 -  i have a friend who has a female roommate.  my pastor tells me that i should not be hanging out with him because it gives the appearance that something is not right.  i know nothing is going on, what should i do?

while i think there are several underlining questions that could be dealt with in your question, like "obeying a pastor," i believe there is one central and underling question that needs to be addressed - that of the "appearance that something is not right."  that is what i believe you are striving to get an answer too.  i believe when we answer this central point, the rest of the underlining questions will take care of themselves.


over my time in ministry i have heard more pastors say, "the appearance of something inappropriate" is just as bad as doing something inappropriate.  well, i have to say, in all my studies i have not come across a single scripture that will support such a statement.  in fact, jesus himself speaks out against this understanding several times (message page 29; message page 46; mat 9 and 15).  for jesus it was the act, or thought of the act,  and not the impression that one was doing the act that caused concern.  for example, when he spoke of adultery, he also spoke that the thought of committing adultery was just and equally as wrong.  but he never mentioned that the "appearance of adultery" was wrong.  why?  simply put - appearances are nothing.


paul, in titus (message page 454), puts it in direct and powerful language.  he writes"


"everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers.  they leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act.  they say they know God, but their actions speak louder then their words.  they're real creeps, disobedient good for-nothings."


some may say paul is talking about the "unbelievers" but he is not, he is speaking about those of us who claim to believe and follow the teachings, but place our own dirty minds in the mix.  paul writes this:


"for there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk.  those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst."


you see, when we look at something and claim it to have "the appearance of inappropriateness" we are actually placing our own thoughts on the situation.  when we see people living together and say to ourselves, and others, that they are "living in sin" what we are actually saying is - "if it was me i would be living in sin in that situation."  


if you know nothing is going on in an inappropriate nature - don't stop seeing your friends.  the pastor needs to get a grip on his own limitations - but let me add this, in a great many cases like this the pastor is told by a "board" to "take care of the situation."  this brings to life another concern that the pastor is being lead by others, and is not the spiritual leader he needs to be.


i see nothing wrong with people living together - in a platonic relationship - regardless of their genders.  in a world where it is hard to make ends meet, having a roommate is important; in a world were friendship is valued, having a friend to talk with is important.  don't walk away from your friendship because others see something that is not there and they demand you do so - stand for your friends and for what jesus and paul both teach - "if you see something dirty, you are viewing it with a dirty mind."


october 21, 2001 - "i have a lot of friends who are not believers.  my believer friends tell me that i need to stop hanging around them, but they are fun and i really like them.  should i stop hanging with my friends?"

my first thought is for your believing friends and to pray for them.  while they are meaning well, they are wrong.  if your non-believing friends are ever to know who jesus christ is, they need to know a person who knows.  by hanging with your friends you can develop a lasting and true friendship.  keeping in mind, that is you truly like these people and truly care for them, sharing your faith - in a loving and kind way - is central and meaningful.  the only way a non-believer will ever get to know who jesus is, is if a believer shares with them.  - read romans, and get a kink out of what paul is telling those around him.


october 06, 2001 - "my boy friend has a tattoo and my pastor tells me that he is forever marked a sinner because God will not accept him with a tattoo.  is that true? "

  my quick response to the question is "no" - by the way, that is also my long response, "no."  i understand where the pastor is coming from.  in leviticus, 19:26, it says that we should not "pierce ourselves or tattoo ourselves." what they leave out is the next line that says, "for the dead or other gods."  so, in itself a tattoo is not "against" God, and God will accept someone with a tat.  what i find interesting is this, chapter 19 of leviticus also lists the following:


do not eat meat with blood still in it - there goes the rare stake.

do not cut the hair at the sides of your head - how long is your hair?

do not trim your beard - no shaving at all

rise in the presence of the aged - do you stand whenever an "older" people comes in the room?

do not mistreat any aliens in your land - this includes mexicans

you must pay workers daily - there goes the weekly pay check

no gossip, at all for any reason - church ladies, all over america are shaking right now.

do not wear cloths woven from two kinds of material - that includes that cotton-blend.


if we are to separate one group from God based on one section of this chapter, why not all of the separate all who violate a section of this chapter?  well, we now know that a tattoo is not "against" God's "law" (though i do not find "law" to work - read our position paper of the law for a better understanding of where we are coming from in connection with "law.")


the second thing that comes from your letter is the fact that a tattoo, or anything, will mark us as a "forever sinner" to God.  interestingly enough, your pastor must have forgotten one of the basics of the christian faith - we are all sinner, operating under grace.


august 05, 2001  -  I read a lot concerning the jews, does that apply to me today?

when I read scripture, especially romans, I read a lot concerning the jews and how they need to act - does that apply to me today?


a rewriting of romans?


well, i was reading romans a few months ago and felt God speak to me in a new way – a different way, but not a strange way.  all i kept getting was, “change a few words and you will see.”  my first thought, besides me being crazy, was to give it a shot.  thought the rewriting the reading would have a whole new meaning if I simply changed a word – check out this short clip from romans 2:17-29.  


“If you're brought up Christian, don't assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you're an insider to God's revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines!  I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God's revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God.  While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you?  I'm quite serious.  While preaching, "Don't steal!" are you going to rob people blind?  Who would suspect you?  The same with adultery.  The same with idolatry.  You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his grace.  The line from Scripture, "It's because of you Christians that the outsiders are down on God," shows it's an old problem that isn't going to go away.


Baptism, the water ritual that marks you as a Christian, is great if you live in accord with God's grace.  But if you don't, it's worse than not being baptized.   The reverse is also true:  The un-baptized who keep God's ways are as good as the baptized - in fact, better.  Better to be in God's grace un-baptized than leave it baptized. Don't you see: It's not the temperature of the water that makes a Christian.  You become a Christian by who you are.  It's the mark of God on your heart, not the water on your head that makes you a Christian. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.”


as you can tell, when we look at this set of scriptures with the changes we get a whole new look at what paul is saying.  while i am certain some will see this as "sacrilegious" i see it as an exercise in knowing where we stand in our faith.


as you can tell, when we change the wording we have a meaning that is a little more direct - a little more powerful.  over the next few months i will be working on the entire book of romans to give it the same relevant bit.


the message; romans, page 310,  copyright, (c) 1993 eugene h. peterson. all rights reserved. originally published in the u.s.a. by navpress, p.o. box 35001, colorado springs, co 80935, and in association with the literary agency of alive communications, 1465 kelly johnson blvd. #321, colorado springs, co 80920.  


september 15, 2002 - why are some christians so mean? 

this is a killer question.  the easiest way i can deal with this is to speak straight from the heart.  i believe "christians" are so mean (and i have to put the term christian in quotes because i want to separate them from followers of christ) because they just don't get it - and they may never get it.


there are many people who claim to be followers of christ who simply desire to follow their way of thinking, and they call it christianity.  they missed the reality that with christ we have a new life - one of joy, love, peace, and forgiveness.  many people seek to think that because they are "saved" they can act as they like, and then demand others live life the way they expect.  but to truly be change, one must act changed - one must be changed.  if you are being put off by other christians who insult and judge - remember, there are actually some out there who love and care.