Monday, December 23, 2013

A twist on a quote by Rick Warren

Rick Warren has been being quoted around the internet with his "Two lies" comment. I read it and it seemed off. After praying about it, here is my version.

Our culture has accepted two lies: The first one is that Christianity is a lifestyle. The second is to reduce groups of people to a generic "lifestyle" when the people are just... People. While you may not agree with other people, that does not mean you need to compromise compassion as a Christian, as that is what we are called to be -- compassionate. We are all sinners who need Jesus. We are to live His Life, and not settle for group-think for our attitudes and values. We are to value others as Christ values all humanity. Stand with me on the conviction of being a compassionate Christian this year. ~ Carlos Shelton

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If "God hates fags" is true, then the Bible is a lie.

If "God hates fags" (or even stated in its mildest form), is true, the Bible is a lie. Jesus did not come to condemn already condemned humanity; He came to save us all equally by Grace. If you preach the gospel of condemnation, you preach a false gospel.

So many "Christians" preach the gospel of condemnation. Paul wrote addressing this as being a minister of death and not life. Jesus came to give us life and save us from death. You hate GLBT people? You hate Jesus and what he came to do. You also deny the teachings of the bible that speaks clearly against 'hating" others, and instead love them. Read your Bible... I do... Do not be all caught up in controversies that have no eternal value! Speak boldly, but with love and with knowledge of the Truth. Loving others is greater than tolerance. We are called to love. It is a commandment of Jesus to love others. This commandment also comes with the warning that if you do not, you never knew God nor does He know you. 

John 3:16-20

New International Version (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

2 Corinthians 3:4-18
New King James Version (NKJV)
4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We told our kids there was a Santa

We told our kids there was a Santa.

We explained that just as the Spirit of Christ lives in us today, the same Spirit lived in St Nick and still lives. Our God lives... And the Spirit of Christmas is Truth. Why hide the Truth from my kids?

The funny thing is, I was once in a debate with an atheist who held the "anti-Claus" view. "If you believe in Jesus, you might as well believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I said, "while the bunny is fictional but based on Paganism however, St Nick did exist as a historical person... " The atheist still mocked me for believing in a historical person! LOL!

The point is, if one takes time to look at the "Spirit" behind Christmas, (not the Walmart part), it centers around Jesus. Santa Claus, is not to be feared or hated by Christians, but should be taken back from commercialism. The truth of his life should be taught to our children as an inspiration how Jesus changed a man named Nicholas who followed the way of Jesus who in turn loved others. 

Here are a couple of sites that 

Friday, December 13, 2013

I'm dreaming of a white, Jesus. Just like the one I used to know!

While stating Jesus and Santa as being "white" is bogus, there was a historical figure named St. Nicholas though much of his story is legend and myth.

"The Legend of St. Nicholas

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland."

So, yes, there was a St. Nicholas who later became the legendary Santa Claus. The fictional character in the red suit giving polar bears coca cola is based loosely on that historical figure. But in fact, he was a true historical figure.... Was he white? I think that misses the point of the Spirit behind St Nicholas' motivation to love others and live his life. While Turkey is now a melting pot having a variety of different skin colors, hair, and eye color, it traces back to the Mediterranean type of people... Meaning darker (olive) skin and most likely brown eyes...  So, if we go back to the time St Nicholas was born in Turkey around 280 AD, he most likely looks as I just described. Jesus was middle eastern, so again, darker skin tone, and dark hair... Not even close to being the white, blonde, English speaking, Jesus we see in too many movies. Megyen Kelly is stupid and Fox News is apparently racist. And a little bit of research on Fox News' part would go a long way in rebuilding their reputation... Letting ignorant people speak only shows the level of integrity and lack of education these idiots have.  

Friday, December 06, 2013

God so loved; but do you?

You think you need to point out other's sins? How about loving others as Christ loved you instead? If Jesus did not come to condemn (already condemned humanity) then why do you think condemning others works? You who condemn others are wasting your time. Why condemn the condemned when you can bring Light and Life to those through the same love that Jesus gave you. Read the verses below carefully, and let the words sink in. Just maybe, the understanding of being a moralist versus a Christian may come to you before you point out others "sin".

John 3:16-21
New King James Version

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Is the Bible for kids?

I have been toying with the idea of reading the Bible to the kids every day... not the "kiddie" Bible, but the one that is un-sanitized (mostly) and would be the one they would read as adults. Most people seem to be satisfied with giving the kids the sanitized version; however, that seems to me, those versions often miss the point. For instance, you miss the nuances of the backstory of Samson’s prostitution issue that leads him later to lose his hair, eyesight, and strength.[1]

Another example would be Lot’s daughters getting their father drunk to have sex with him so they could have children. [2] I know my kids have no idea what incest is, nor would need someone try to explain why Cain and Able could take their sister’s as wives, but it is wrong now. [3]Need I even bring up Ezekiel and the “genitals were like donkeys”? [4]

I am at a crossroads to let my children be children and as Paul states, “put away childish things” later, or begin the horrific journey of speaking to my kids of the violence (though they get that as they watched “The Bible” on the History Channel) and sexual content of the Bible. I mean, I am diligent to make sure my kids do not watch shows that are, as I say, above their pay scale as far as content. I do confess we now allow them to watch movies with more violence as we allow an occasional PG13 movie.

So, parents, where do you stand? Do you read the sanitized versions that may lose the core truth the Bible is stating? On the other hand, do you have an age you will begin the journey to read the bible, as it is, to your kids? Alternatively, do you weed out or ignore the portions that may not be kid appropriate? I know my son wants to read 1 Kings and I am fine with that, though I think the Gospel of John would be a better start. He is turning 10 in January, and my daughter is eight.

[1] (Judges 16:1)
[2] (Genesis 19)
[3] (This is a common explanation of where Cain and Able found their wives)
[4] (Ezekiel 23:20, NIV)

Friday, October 25, 2013

The person and work of Christ

The person and work of Christ


Writing about the Person and work of Christ is a major endeavor. It would be arrogant of anyone to think he or she could write a comprehensive and detailed work that would truly and accurately portray Jesus in His fullness. Truly, only by means of revelation can a person come to begin to understand who Jesus is. So prayerfully and with great humility, this paper will try to unpack the work and Person of Jesus with the writings of Paul. It would be a major challenge to stay in one letter to unpack Paul’s thoughts on the Person and work of Christ. Though Romans will be mainly used, it is necessary to pull from all of Paul’s letters to gain a fuller picture of how Paul understood Jesus and his works. All scripture quotations are from the NIV or NKJ unless otherwise noted.
Who do you say I am?
While the question was asked in Luke 9:20, “Who do you say I am?” is in the Gospels, it is here the core of Paul’s writings begin. While Luke may have copied from the other gospels, he was a traveling companion and chronicler of Paul and his journeys. Believing Luke faithfully, and accurately, portrayed all the adventured, there seems a straight shot to many of the concepts Paul presents as an answer. Paul’s conversion story in itself is based on the revelation of Jesus imparted by Jesus to Paul directly the road to Damascus. While Luke tells the story of Paul’s conversion three times, Paul, himself never actually gives details in his letters. We have glimpses of Paul’s conversion in a couple of letters:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (1 Cor. 15:3–8). [1]
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being (Galatians 1:11-16). [2]
While the point may be a little belabored, the idea of revelation is a major part of Paul’s understanding of Jesus. Understanding this point allows for a relational view that opens up Jesus as a person. It is a foundation that builds on the idea Jesus is alive and “relatable” unlike the “gods” before.
Jesus the man
Paul talks of Jesus as a man, however a man like no other man. This man “who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh”, was also, “declared to be the Son of God with power”. [3] This verse also points out another declaration about Jesus the man; He was from the linage of David of whom the promised Messiah would come. Here Paul makes bold claims that, if challenged as lies, could seemingly be disproven. However, Paul often takes the human “Adam” as a contrast to the human “Jesus”. While Adam is lifted up as all that is wrong with humanity, Jesus is lifted as all that is right with God and through whom all humanity is now set to right. As Stower acknowledges, one must understand Paul’s use of the analogy of the contrast between Adam and Jesus is about a set time between Adam and Moses as all humanity was under the curse of Adam’s sin until Moses when the Law added transgression to individuals.[4] However, to return to the point Paul was making, using Adam, as summed up in Romans 5:14-19:
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.

More than a man who would be king
Jesus according to Paul was the exemplary example of the perfect man. However, Jesus fulfilled the Jewish idea of the coming Christ (or Messiah, King). According to Romans 9:5 Jesus was of the Israelites who were “the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God”. In that verse, it is obvious that something more is happening than a declaration of an earthly king. While earthly kings may have declared godhood, few would declare to be the “eternally blessed God”. Here, according to N.T. Wright, is a launching pad where Paul begins to retell the story of Israel around the Person of Christ Jesus.
The best example of Paul’s retelling the story of Israel around the Person of Jesus would be Galatians 3 and 4. Here as N.T. Wright again argues, “God made the initial promises to Abraham; subsequently, he gave the Law through Moses; but was always a strictly temporary stage, designed to keep Israel under control, like a young son, until the moment maturity.”[5] By retelling the story of Israel Paul puts the spotlight on Jesus in such a way that Jesus becomes the point of the story. Jesus is to be understood as the endpoint and the reason for all God did in and through Abraham, and Israel.
The issue of sin
Romans 8:3-4 shows how Paul explains Jesus’ work as well as the ramifications of what Jesus has done:
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Paul explains that Jesus did what the Law could not do. N.T. Wright states it this way:
God had, it seems, called Abraham and his family to be the solution-bearing family knowing that, because they too were ‘in Adam’, they were themselves bound to become part of the problem, and that the shape of their own history was thus bound to bear witness  their own share whose solution the none the less carry.[6] 
Paul personalizes this dilemma of the “solution-bearer” in Romans 7:22-23 “22.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (NKJ). Paul exposes that while he was faithful to the Law, the Law only revealed his most inner being as captive to sin. However, Paul cries out to Jesus as the solution, as N.T. Wright may say, against evil.[7] The eradication of evil being, of course, is core of the work of Christ Jesus.
The God who humiliated himself
Here we must bring in the “Christ Hymn” of Philippians 2:6-11:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
            The claims Paul makes of Jesus would, by any means, be a major overstepping of a description of a mere human, let alone a great king. Here Paul demands attention to the Person of Jesus and what He accomplished. Christopher R.J. Holmes sums Karl Barth’s view succinctly as, “The twofold action of Jesus Christ, ״ in terms of his coming low and his being lifted high, is one work, which fills out and constitutes His existence in this twofold form.”  Paul shows that while Jesus does not grasp for equality with God, (being God), that to empty himself of deity would accomplish more with humility. Here is appears that Jesus, being God, does what no descendant of Adam, let alone anyone under the Law could do. That the very act of humiliation, becomes the pivotal point of exaltation.
It should be noted that Paul is also stating in the Philippians passage, that Jesus was pre-existent.[8] Paul pushes this idea further in Colossians 1 15-20 by stating “he [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God”, as well as declaring Jesus the One who creation came, while furthering his claims with “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (NKJ). As noted above with the thoughts of Karl Barth, the humiliation of becoming a man that is to die out of obedience to The Father cannot separate Jesus’s humility and his exaltation any more than anyone can separate Jesus’s humanity from His deity. However, in Christ Jesus we have true humility overcoming evil out of a loving servitude toward humankind. Jesus, “being in very nature God”, as revealed by and through Paul shows us God’s love in action. 
God’s work through Jesus
Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.[9] For Paul, Christ’s death as the demonstration of the Father’s love for humankind and becomes part of God’s work through Jesus as Messiah. This act of grace becomes the center of Paul’s theology and as Penner states, “The effect of God’s love and grace is reconciliation. By nature he is a reconciling God”. [10] This reconciliation did not come without God being willing to take on human suffering. In the willful suffering of Christ Jesus, all made right. Here we dip into 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Man alive!
While all this was happening on the Cross, it is easy to overlook the power of the Resurrection. Jesus did not just die, for messiahs come and go even today (as in the case of the Sun Myung Moon). However, people die every day, even good people. With Jesus, there was something different from, other messiahs – He rose from the dead. We may not grasp the astonishment of those first hearing the Gospel though there is a record of Paul addressing the Areopagus in Acts  17:19. Some of the greatest Greek minds gathered there either mocked Paul or asked, "We will hear you again on this matter.'' The resurrection is often the most overlooked topic, yet the most powerful when its importance comes to realization.
Paul writes in Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”. While forgiveness and reconciliation came at the price of Jesus’s death, the resurrected life of Christ is what saved us. Without the Life of Christ in us, we are the forgiven dead. It was how God declared Jesus “to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. [11]  After Jesus was glorified and was seated by the right hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the seal of promise that we are alive in Christ. [12]
The choice
Once again, the ultimate questions is, “Who do you say I am?” in regards to Jesus. When one looks at the claims made by Paul, as well as others in the New Testament, there can only be two choices, to listen again and try to grasp the reality offered through Christ Jesus or sit in mockery. Paul’s sophisticated argument was enough to capture many of the greatest minds in Greek thinking, and that alone should enough to make anyone take some time to consider the question Jesus asked.

[1] (Emphasis added)
[2] (Emphasis added)
[3] (Rom: 1:3-4)
[4] (Stowers 1994, 254)
[5] (Wright 2005, 44,45)
[6] (Wright 2005, 126)
[7] (Wright 2005, 96)
[8] (n.a. 1993, 356)
[9] (Romans 5:8, NKJ)
[10] (Penner, 2012, 73)
[11] (Romans 1:4, NKJ)
[12] (Ephesians 1:13)

Holmes, Christopher R J. 2013. "The person and work of Christ revisited: in conversation with Karl Barth." Anglican Theological Review 95, no. 1: 37-55. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed September 21, 2013).
n.a. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Edited by Ralph P Martin, Daniel G. Reid Gerald F. Hawthorne. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Penner, Erwin. 2012. "Christ died: love, grace, and the reconciling work of God." Direction 41, no. 1: 72-79. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 8, 2013).
Stowers, Stanley K. A Rereading of Romans. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1994.
Wright, N.T. Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.