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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Jesus Turned Water Into Wine and Now You Can, Too!

cocktails

Did you hear about this news story?

A couple days ago I came across a news piece talking about a new FDA approved powdered alcohol called Palcohol. Of course, good Christian folk were upset.

What about the kids? What about the potential for abusing this product? You can drink it and get drunk or you can snort it like drugs! (kudos to Fox News for that spiffy white board in the news segment – way to go all out, guys).

But, alas, it turns out that everyone got hyped up for nothing.

The product is not a close to market-release as we were initially led to believe. USAToday followed up about palcohol.

So we can turn off the rage machine. Kids won’t be getting drunk from nor snorting powdered booze.

But it doesn’t really matter what form the substance comes in. People who will abuse it are going to abuse it. We’re quick to hop on the “ban the substance!” bandwagon because some people might go too far.

But isn’t that true in every area of life?

– Some people will go too far with eating (that thing we call gluttony) but we don’t ban food.
– Some people will go too far with sexuality but we don’t ban marriage.
– Some people will go too far with…

You see, everything that God made has the potential to be corrupted. It doesn’t matter if it’s powdered, liquid, visual, aural…whatever! Humanity has the ability to corrupt and abuse anything. Just because something is corruptible doesn’t make it evil. Food, beer, movies, music – you name it. The Bible doesn’t condemn these things. But everything taken to corruptible excess can lead to sin.

We should be more concerned about being in right standing before God and raising our kids (as best we can) to do the same. Let God be the judge of peoples’ hearts, and give others the freedom to enjoy their Vodka Kool-Aid (or whatever they’re gonna call it). 🙂

***UPDATE***

A friend who knows more of the science than I do told me:

Alcohol is a solvent similar to water with the three states of solid, liquid and gas like all matter (there is of course plasma, but unimportant here). However, powdering something like this implies removing the water from it (the H20) and leaving the solid elements behind. This is possible with other foods, because there is a great deal of matter that is solid at room temperature to be left behind. Ethanol is CH3CH2OH. If you chemically broke it down and removed two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom from it and recombined the remainder, you are left with CH3CH–a form of butane! The only way to ‘powder’ alcohol would be to take it down into its solid state–which with alcohol is -173 deg. F. That would be a bit hard to package for the shelf.

Is this whole thing a gag? Thoughts?

***Update #2***

Seems “powdered alcohol” isn’t quite the correct term. See this great article from Time about the whole thing…

Related Post:
Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty

You’re Not Really Saved!

salvation

So it started like this: an Anonymous friend of mine in an online group I’m part of made a comment that he was going to go watch a Dexter marathon.

I jokingly said, “You say you’re a Christian but you watch those terrible shows. You must not really be saved.”

Then it hit me. Let’s play a game! Let’s come up with all the ways Christians downplay the salvation of those who don’t fit the mold. Let’s face it ~ we’re masters at belittling the salvation and faith of those who don’t fit our own mold of what it looks like to be a Christian.

I called it: Not Really Saved

Then the game took off like wildfire. Dozens of people jumped in and came up with hundreds of ways we belittle others’ salvation. Here’s but a small sample of some of the things we came up with.

You say you’re a Christian but:

1. you like beer? You’re not really saved.
2. you like R-rated movies? You’re not really saved.
3. you struggle with addiction? You’re not really saved.
4. you have tattoos? You’re not really saved.
5. you got pregnant out of wedlock? You’re not really saved.
6. you got divorced? You’re not really saved.
7. you voted Democrat? You’re not really saved.
8. you don’t have a home church? You’re not really saved.
9. you don’t read the King James Bible? You’re not really saved.
10. you smoke cigarettes? You’re not really saved.
11. you smoke weed? You’re not really saved.
12. you enjoy sex? You’re not really saved.
13. you don’t listen to Christian music? You’re not really saved.
14. you think the earth is more than a couple thousand years old? You’re not really saved.
15. you don’t pray before every meal? You’re not really saved.

The list went on and on. Some were jokes (and quite funny). Some were serious. It was clear to me that many people have been hurt by others who claim to be Christian but, for whatever reason, don’t allow certain behaviors to be part of their theological circles.

Most of the list really comes down to this:

You disagree with how I interpret the Bible and live a Christian life? You’re not really saved.

And that’s a shame. The Bible is actually not as black-and-white about all of these side issues as Christians are. Salvation really comes down to faith in Jesus. Can you smoke weed and have a saving faith in Jesus? Can you vote a certain political party and have a saving faith in Jesus?

I think so.

In the end the “You’re not really saved” lists that we all have come down to us – what we dislike or disapprove of. Don’t get me wrong – the Bible does talk about sin and Christian behavior. But we seem to add a lot of things to the lists.

Won’t we be surprised when we reach eternity and find people who didn’t live the way we wanted them to live?

If you’ve ever had your salvation doubted because of this or other issues – I’m sorry. Christians mean well (usually) but we have a horrible way of judging anything that doesn’t fit our mold.

And if you’ve ever doubted or questioned the salvation of someone else because of some behavior you disapproved of it’s time to repent. The condition of someone’s salvation is really up to God.

The Mighty 100!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of television and movies. Often times after a tv show has been running for a while it will save production costs and time and commit a whole episode to clips from previous episodes – it’s called a clip show.

Today is my day. I hit 100 posts on my blog and I wanted to take some time to look back over the last 4+ months of writing. In that time I’ve had nearly 8,000 views and over 200 likes (thank you all for reading and liking).

Rather than highlight the most popular posts, though, I wanted to share my person Top 10 – the posts that I liked the most even if they weren’t the most popular to readers (although many were). So without further ado, here is my list:

My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black ~ In this post I talk about race relations from the standpoint of my kids. I find that there are a lot of ignorant people out there who say and think stupid things, especially when it comes to race. This was the first post where I literally felt compelled to write. It kept me up thinking about it – I couldn’t sleep until I sat down and hammered it out.

Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple ~ Here my wife and I look at racism from our own perspectives. As much as I know her I’m always reminded that her take on racism comes from a very different place than mine. I loved writing this post because I got to co-write it with my wife. I keep trying to get her to write more, but no success yet.

Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty ~ Christian freedom is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated issues in the church. What are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do?

Patriotism vs. Faith ~ We often confuse the two. It’s a personal pet peeve that many Christians equate patriotism with Christianity. You can be one without the other.

THAT OFFENDS ME! ~ Another pet peeve – people who try to manipulate other’s behavior through mishandling the Bible. Just because something offends you doesn’t mean the other person must stop doing it.

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent ~ Oooh, this one got me into some tense conversations. It seems that my own view of Gay Marriage was not clear. I had people question me as to why I was going against the Bible (I wasn’t, but people get hot-headed over sensitive issues).

Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf ~ A personal favorite of mine, this was a post where I was responding to another blogger. It doesn’t matter whether your Bible is leather-bound or on your smart phone – it’s still Scripture.

Shirt Sleeves ~ I love my son. Tremendously. I can’t even think about him without warming over on the inside. He’s my little dude. I love writing about him, too.

Jesus Loves Dinosaurs ~ This was just a fun post to write (and the idea of Jesus hugging a dinosaur always makes me smile).

Confessions From a Pastor: The Real Me ~ This is it: me.

So…how about you? Do you have any favorites from the Bible Blotter? What are the?

Related Posts:
Hitting Your Goal

Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love Big Macs. I don’t even remember the last time I had one, though – they’re really not good for you. One little hamburger. 540 calories. But it tastes sooo good!

It’s hard to believe that something like could cause problems in a church. How can one little burger cause division and tension among good Christian people? I don’t think anyone reading would object if I had this burger. Okay, my wife might object, but that’s purely for health reasons. But in the early church, whether or not you ate meat was a big deal. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes:

1Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to criticize another’s household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able to make him stand.

Can you imagine? All this fuss is over whether or not people should eat meat. The real issue is not exactly vegans vs. carnivores. You see, in the ancient pagan world, people would make pagan sacrifices to their gods and then that meat would be sold in the market. There were some Christians who said, “We should not be eating any meat that has been sacrificed to false gods.” And since it is nearly impossible to tell which meat has been a sacrifice and which meat is clean meat, we just shouldn’t eat meat at all.” It was a spiritual decision, not a health decision. Other Christians said, “Why is any of it unfit for eating? Those pagan gods are false gods, and meat offered to a false god will not hurt a Christian.” They felt free to eat meat from the public market. So they would go back and forth – “We shouldn’t eat meat from the market!” “We can eat meat from the market.” “It may have been sacrificed to false gods!” “We serve the only real God, and that meat won’t hurt us!”

This is what Paul addresses in Romans 14 – Christian liberty and freedom – and he’s trying to tell us, “Hey, it’s okay to disagree on whether or not certain behaviors are appropriate for Christians. If you feel free in your conscience and spirit to do those things, don’t look down on others who don’t have that freedom. If you don’t think it’s appropriate for Christians to engage in certain behaviors, don’t judge those Christians who do feel free.” This is the central thrust behind the idea of Christian Liberty.

Christian liberty is the freedom from God to do whatever you wish in any matter the Bible does not address. Christian liberty is not an excuse to sin, break biblical principles, start arguments in the church, or to give Jesus a bad reputation. Let’s be super clear here: what God commands, we do. What God condemns, we avoid. When God seems silent, we have liberty to behave according to our own convictions. How does this play out in real life? God repeatedly condemns and forbids adultery. That’s a no-no. You can’t say, “I have freedom in Christ, so I’m gonna fool around on my spouse.” Liberty is not an excuse to sin. God condemns drunkenness. You can’t say, I have Christian liberty to get smashed every weekend!” Liberty is not an excuse to go against what God has declared.  God directs us to submit to the governing authorities and live lives of obedience. You cannot knowingly engage in illegal behavior (cheating on taxes, stealing, dealing drugs, whatever). What God commands, we do. What God condemns, we avoid.

So what kinds of things might be areas of liberty – areas that are not directly covered by God’s commands or prohibitions? Here are some examples: watching R-rated movies. Pornography is never okay, but what about non-porn R-rated movies? Freedom. Drinking alcohol. Drunkenness is never okay, but there are places in the Bible where the writers encourage alcohol and where wine is seen as a blessing. Freedom. Smoking cigars. Make-up on girls. Plastic surgery. Voting Republican or Democrat. Tattoos. Clothing. Hobbies.

The Bible does not address these things and so, Paul says, there is freedom to act according to our conscience. And don’t fight each other over matters of freedom and conscience.

But get this: Paul says, “If it is a matter that God doesn’t address and your conscience, your own convictions, tell you it’s wrong, then for you it is a sin.” The Bible does not condemn having a beer, but if something in you says, “I think it’s wrong,” then for you to have one is a sin. Wild, isn’t it? Paul says in vs. 14, “I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.” Because what is acceptable to some of us might be a sin to others, Paul writes that we need to act in love towards each other.

Love is acting in the best interest of others. Paul continues:

15: If your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. 19 So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. 21 It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God.

God wants us to act in the best interest of the entire group. Am I free to engage in certain behaviors? Yes, and God does not condemn us for those areas of liberty! But if the exercise of my freedoms causes someone else to have a moral failure, then I have wronged that person and I have wronged God. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:13 that “if food causes my brother to fall, I will never eat meat again, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.” Wow! Do you mean to tell me that God wants me to restrict myself? Yes, for the benefit of others. You have the freedom not to exercise your freedoms! And if you can’t live without your freedom, you don’t have a freedom, you have an addiction.

I’ve tried to talk to people about this concept before. I’ve said to people, “Be careful about your public behavior because you never know who is watching and how your actions will affect others.” I’ve had people tell me I’m being a hypocrite – allowing behavior privately but restricting it publicly. I tell you what, I’m stinkin’ tired of being called a hypocrite. The people who label that hypocrisy are then calling God a hypocrite. Look again at Romans 14:22 ~ Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God.  I didn’t make it up – God did. So you have freedoms in Christ – you don’t have to flaunt them in front of everyone else. It’s okay to exercise your freedoms in private and show grace and love towards people who might not share your freedoms while in public. The guiding principle here is that God wants us to act in the best interest of the entire group, not just our own interest. Am I looking out for my fellow Christians? Am I acting in their interest?

It all comes down to this: What God commands, we do. What God condemns, we avoid. In all other areas we have liberty to follow our conscience. But God would rather that we restrict our own liberties for the sake of promoting peace and building each other up. Put love above your liberty. It’s time to make a radical shift. I think too many Christians do not put love first. We fail to think and act in the best interest of the church. We prefer to act in our own best interest. In the way we behave, in the way we talk to each other. In the way we talk ABOUT each other to others. It’s time to leave self-interest behind and act in the best interest of the church of Jesus Christ. It is time to do a 180 degree shift, to let God change us. Some of us need to repent for flaunting our freedoms in the faces of others. Some of us need to repent for judging and criticizing those who exercise certain freedoms. We need to repent for the way we talk to each other and about each other. It’s time to put love above our personal liberties and freedoms.

How about you? What freedoms do you judge others for exercising? What freedoms have you been judged for exercising?

 

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