Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weeklong Vacation

For those of you who keep up with my blog regularly, I'll be out of town September 28-October 3. So, obviously, there won't be any articles during that week. I just wanted to let you know.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Tying Up Loose Ends

The theme this week will be "Raising Children God's Way." Each day, I will post a new article covering a different aspect of parenting (i.e. discipline, training, teaching, etc). For those of you who are parents, I hope that you especially benefit from this series of articles. If you disagree with anything that I write, please comment below.

This is going to be the last installment in my series of articles on "Raising Children God's Way." In this article, I'd like to discuss a variety of points that I either forgot to mention to the previous four articles, or couldn't fit in. You might say that I'm tying up loose ends.
  1. First of all, we need to discuss the importance of positive reinforcement. While it is essential that we discipline our children, it is equally important that we encourage them. If all we ever do is discipline and chastise them, they're going to feel overwhelmed. They may even begin to resent you, the parent. After we discipline them, it is important that we show them love. Usually, they will come to you (especially when they are younger) for consolation after you've disciplined them, but if they don't, you need to go to them and remind them that you love them very much. Also, it is crucial that you praise your children when they do something right. Give them verbal praise, and reward them when they do good. This way, they will behave properly not to evade discipline, but to please you, and that is ultimately what you want. As they grow older, their motivation for obeying you should be that they love you and want to please you.
  2. What are your priorities when it comes to your children? What do you stress to them as important? In our society, we tend to be overly focused on financial prosperity and this often affects how we raise our kids. Instead of teaching our kids that faithfulness to God is the most important thing, we focus more on how well they do in school, what their college plans are and what they want to do with their lives. Don't get me wrong, I believe we ought to encourage our children to do their best in school (Col. 3:23), and as parents, we may even stress to our children (especially our sons) the value of a college education, but there comes a point where we stress financial success more than spiritual success...and that's what we have to guard against. Doesn't Jesus tell us that if we serve Him, we will be taken care of...our physical needs will be met (Mt. 6:25-33)? It's not like if our kids don't go to college that they're going to end up on the streets, or that they're going to die of starvation. No, if we teach them the principles of God's word and they obey it, they will be just fine. So here's the question that all of you parents need to consider: What do your kids feel you are stressing the most, spiritual or physical prosperity?
  3. Keep the lines of communication open. Your kids need to know that they can come to you with anything and it's your job as a parent to take charge when it comes to communication. There are two ways that parents can go about this (and they're not both right): the first way is to demand that your kids tell you everything, to snoop through their diaries and journals and treat them like ax-murderers when they do something wrong); the second way is to lovingly nurture them from the beginning, to spend quality time with them, to show interest early on, to be not a STRICT, harsh disciplinarian, but a loving guide and counselor who balances his discipline with encouragement and understanding. I guess you can tell which path I think parents ought to take. Kids are going to make mistakes, and sometimes they're really going to mess up bad...and yes, you ought to punish them when they rebel and disobey, but there is a difference between outright disobedience and immaturity, or simply making a mistake. As a parent, you need to see the difference. If they mess up, be there to advise them. Be a shoulder to cry on. After all, isn't that what you'd expect from your loved ones if you made a mistake?
  4. Have a no tolerance policy when it comes to lying. You need to be able to trust your kids. So from the beginning, you need to punish dishonesty every time. Never let it slide. One of the six things that the Lord hates is "a lying tongue" (Prov. 6:16-17). Tell your children that if they disobey, they will be punished, but if they lie about it, they will receive double punishment. Also, reward them when they do tell the truth (this goes back to the point on positive reinforcement). And even though you need to punish dishonesty, don't come across as overly suspicious and paranoid. If your kids are being honest, yet they feel that you don't trust them, it will only create bitterness...and in the end, they may decide that it's not worth it to be honest if you're not going to trust them anyways.
  5. One of my pet-peeves is when Christians let their kids participate in secular activities that conflict with church services. We let them miss church services for things that we would never let them miss school for. That's backwards, isn't it? I mean, what are we teaching our kids when we miss church services for a football game or a play? Are we not teaching them that the football game or the play is more important than assembling with the saints to study God's word? If your children want to join the team, that's fine, but make it contingent on them being at all the church services. If they are going to get a part-time job somewhere, they need to tell their boss up-front that they will not work during the times that conflict with church services. If that causes them to lose the job, fine. Our kids need to see that sacrifices must be made for the Lord, and that the church assembly is very, very important (Heb. 10:24-25).

I know that there are other things that I'm forgetting to mention, but this ought to do for now.

I hope that you've benefitted from this series of articles. If you have any questions, comments or disagreements, please enter them below. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spending Quality Time With Your Kids

The theme this week will be "Raising Children God's Way." Each day, I will post a new article covering a different aspect of parenting (i.e. discipline, training, teaching, etc). For those of you who are parents, I hope that you especially benefit from this series of articles. If you disagree with anything that I write, please comment below.

We've talked about the importance of both discipline and teaching so far this week. Today, I'd like to discuss another oft-neglected aspect of parenting: relationship-building. Yes, we are to be parents, and that involves being strict when we need to be. We have to set rules and sometimes that is sometimes going to make us unpopular (especially when our little babies become teenagers). But there is also a real sense in which we need to befriend our children. There is a fine balance between the two, and it is easy to lean towards one extreme or the other, but as parents we need to do our best to find that balance.

How much quality time do you spend with your children? If your life is comparable to the lives of most Americans, you are a busy, busy person. We rush from work to pick up our kids from soccerball practice, and then we get dinner from McDonald's, and then it's home so that our kids can do some homework before bed. Even our weekends are jam-packed with activities and obligations. We are so busy, and we neglect our families so much that we try to make up for it by going on annual family vacations to places like Disney World and Myrtle Beach.

But it's okay, right? After all, our kids have cell phones with which they can text-message their friends. They've got computers in their bedrooms with internet access. There is Myspace and Facebook and's not like our kids are bored. They've got plenty to do...once they're done with their after-school activities and their homework. And sure, kids enjoy these things, but does it benefit them? Not at all.

Parents sometimes justify their neglect by saying, "I've got to work so much so that my kids can have nice things." And they do have nice things. A house that's way bigger than it needs to be. Brand-spanking-new SUVs that are too big and too expensive. Big-screen TVs with surround sound and all of the accessories. Nice new furniture. The newest gaming consoles. And the list goes on.

But let me ask you this question: what is more important? It is more important that they have all of these unnecessary luxuries? Is that really what life is all about? Or is it more important that they're able to spend quality time with their parents who, in turn, will teach them and train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Folks, we need to slow down and, as parents, we need to get our priorities straight. We need to stop competing with all of our neighbors and friends. Life is not about keeping up with the Jones'. We need to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life.

Instead of watching TV tonight, we not play a board game? Instead of everyone retreating to their bedrooms to do their own things, why not go play in the yard or go to the park? Why not have a Bible study with your kids or take them out for ice cream? Talk to them. Get to know them.

You'll soon discover that your kids are pretty awesome...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaching Your Children

The theme this week will be "Raising Children God's Way." Each day, I will post a new article covering a different aspect of parenting (i.e. discipline, training, teaching, etc). For those of you who are parents, I hope that you especially benefit from this series of articles. If you disagree with anything that I write, please comment below.

Monday and Tuesday, we looked at the issue of corporal punishment. Today, I'd like to focus on the importance of training and teaching your children. When I say teaching, the obvious implication is that something is being taught; that there is a teacher as well as a student (or students). As parents, we are to teach our children.

So often, parents do not teach their children. When it comes to spiritual training, they let the local church do the work, and when it comes to teaching our children secular knowledge and basic life-skills, they leave it to the public school system. Today, we can throw our kids into the public school system as early as four or five, and they stay there until they are legal adults at the age of eighteen. We see them very little during the day, usually just for a few minutes in the morning before school and a few hours later in the day between school and bedtime. Our evenings are sometimes hectic as well, and so we're ultimately left with very little personal interaction with our kids. But this is something that we need to avoid at all costs, for again, the Bible commands parents to train and teach their children. As parents, we need to take this work seriously and we need to take an active role in our children's spiritual growth.

Let's consider a few passages that emphasize the importance of training and teaching...

Of course, there is Deuteronomy 6:6-9..."And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." What I love about this passage is that it instructs parents to not only teach their children, but to surround their children with the word of God. It's not good enough that our children know that we're a "Christian family." They need to be engulfed in the word. Instead of having entertainment magazines strewn out everywhere, why not have Bibles and spiritual books? Instead of having posters of Britney Spears and other celebrities, why not have framed Bible verses? Instead of spending hours every evening watching TV and surfing the internet, why not have family Bible studies? I'm not saying that we can't watch TV or get online, nor am I saying that we need to spend hours every night studying the Bible with our kids, but what I am saying is that there needs to be a strong emphasis on spiritual things. What is being emphasized in your home?

Another passage to consider is Proverbs 22:6. Solomon says in this verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when is is old he will not depart from it." Now, we tend to focus on the last part of the verse a lot due to its controversial nature, but let's set that aside for now and focus on the first part of the verse. We're to train up our children in the way of truth. This implies a lot of hard work, but it is vitally important that we commit ourselves to this work. This kind of training is not limited to spiritual training. As we see in the book of Proverbs, it is also important that we teach our kids life skills, that we teach them wisdom and help them to be good people. We need to teach our kids how to use money, how to make wise financial decisions, how to be neighborly, how to resist sin and temptation, how to get along with others, how to be humble, etc. Parents need to look for opportunities to teach their children these kinds of things.

Paul adds in Ephesians 6:4, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." No commentary is necessary here.

Again, we cannot delegate these responsibilities to the local church and public school system. Yes, the church is a good source of spiritual edification, and yes, public schools may teach our children about U.S. history and algebra, and all of that is fine, but parents need to be the primary teachers in their children's lives.

Much, much more could be said, but let me close this article by issuing a few challenges:
  1. Instead of turning on the TV tonight, sit down with your family for a few minutes to simply read God's word.
  2. Have your kids draw a picture and put a Bible verse on it. Hang their artwork on the fridge for all to see.
  3. Pick out a memory verse each week for the family. Test each other every night at dinner. Don't be too strict about it (otherwise your kids will hate it), but offer rewards and incentives for memorizing scripture. Encourage them.
  4. Look for at least one opportunity to use some situation in society to teach your kids a valuable lesson.
  5. Pray with your spouse before you go to bed tonight.

Expand this list yourself. Add to it. Set spiritual goals for your family. Take a more active role. In the end, your family will be so much stronger because of it. Solomon says in Psalm 127:1, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it," and again in Proverbs 24:3-4, "Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Common Discipline Mistakes

The theme this week will be "Raising Children God's Way." Each day, I will post a new article covering a different aspect of parenting (i.e. discipline, training, teaching, etc). For those of you who are parents, I hope that you especially benefit from this series of articles. If you disagree with anything that I write, please comment below.

I will admit to you that when I wrote the article yesterday on corporal punishment, I was a little rushed. It worked out alright, though, because my point in that article didn't require a lot of elaboration. Simply put, the Bible instructs parents to spank their children for the sole purpose of driving foolishness from them. In other words, parents are to teach their children right from wrong, and a part of that training process is discipline. According to Proverbs 13:24, if you love your children you will spank them.

Today, I'd like to overview some of the common mistakes committed by parents when disciplining their children. This is a valid issue to address for there are many parents who have unruly and disobedient children even though corporal punishment is executed. In other words, it is not necessarily true that all "spanked" children are well-behaved children. The reason here is that many parents do not disipline their children properly, and I would suggest to you that improperly disciplined children can be worse than undisciplined children!

So let's review some common discipline mistakes...
  1. One of the most pressing problems is inconsistency. Many parents discipline and even spank their children, but they do not punish the transgression every time it is committed. Today, little Johnny may be disciplined for lying, but tomorrow it is overlooked. Today, little Sally may be disciplined for hitting her brother, but tomorrow she is only warned. This causes children to be confused, and the confusion eventually turns into disobedience. If a child knows that he can get away with something six out of ten times, he will do it. Yes, this DOES mean that, as parents, we have to be persistent and yes, this requires a lot of work, but really, it will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run. Consistent discipline will lead to better behaved children who don't have to be spanked as often. So parents, be consistent!
  2. Another problem is what I call sissy spanking. All too often, I see parents walk over to their disobedient child and softly tap the back of their hand or their bottom (which is cushioned with a padded diaper and pants). There is no pain. There is no crying. The child may sometimes pitch a fit because he knows he is being disciplined, but it is only for show, for the child immediately returns to the forbidden act as soon as the parent walks away. Folks, if you're going to spank your children, let it mean something. Get the message across. Yes, your child will cry out because of the pain, but let us not forget the words of Solomon in Proverbs 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." Think about it, if your child is weighing the pros and cons of disobedience and the only con is a light tap on the behind that tickles more than it hurts, what is he going to do? But if he knows that disobedience will yield pain, he is less likely to give into the temptation.
  3. One of the biggest problems that I see among parents is that their discipline is motivated by anger when it should be motivated by love. I'm sure you've seen the following scenario play out before. "Johnny, please stop that...Johnny, I said stop it," the mother's voice begins to rise as does her temper. "Son, I'm not going to tell you again...Johnny, do you want a spanking?" Now the mother is really getting angry, but she is in the middle of something and doesn't want to take the time to discipline her son. "Johnny, I'm going to count to three, you better stop it. ONE....TWO....TWO AND A HALF...Johnny, please don't make mommy spank you...JOHNNY!" By this time, the mother has lost her temper as she rushes over to her son spanks him and throws him in his room. The child learns that he can get away with something for quite a while before incurring the wrath of his parents, and he learns that it's okay to lose his temper. Usually, parents who discipline this way are also guilty of inconsistency. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:24 that corporal punishment is to be motivated by love, and in the previous scenario, the motivation was not love but rage. So here's what you need to do. If you're child disobeys you, don't waste any time. Call him over to you and patiently explain to him what he did. "Son, you know better than to hit your sister. Daddy's going to have to give you a spanking now." Turn him over your knee, calmly pull down his pants and spank him. Occasionally remind them that you're spanking them because you love them and you want them to be a good boy/girl. If you discipline your children this way, you will see a tremendous change in them.
  4. Finally, many parents do not discipline in public. They will spank their children at home, but not at church or not at the store. As a parent, I can understand this. We don't want to cause a scene. We don't want someone to call CPS...and I agree that we've got to be careful when we're in public. But there are ways to discipline them without causing a scene. First of all, effective discipline begins at home. Don't expect your children to behave in public if they don't behave at home. Second, find ways to discipline them in public. Maybe it is that you have to take them away from the public's eye. Go to the car. Go outside. Go to the bathroom. Or, instead of spanking them (which DOES cause a scene), pinch them. Now, I know that to some that sounds mean, but a light pinch will cause enough pain to get the point across. I've known many parents who use this method and it works beautifully. I might suggest that you pinch yourself to see how it feels before you do it to your kids. Whatever method you use, the point is this: your children need to know that if they misbehave in public, they will be promptly disciplined.

Certainly, more could be said here, but I'm convinced that if you follow these simple steps and avoid these four discipline mistakes, that you will see a tremendous change in the way your children act. It may take time, but don't relent. In the end, it will improve your relationship with your children and they will ultimately thank you for it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Proverbs & Corporal Punishment

The theme this week will be "Raising Children God's Way." Each day, I will post a new article covering a different aspect of parenting (i.e. discipline, training, teaching, etc). For those of you who are parents, I hope that you especially benefit from this series of articles. If you disagree with anything that I write, please comment below.

As we begin this series of articles, I'd like to first of all emphasize the importance of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is a fancy way of referring to physical punishment (i.e. spanking). So really, the question is: should we spank our children? We live in a society that is growing increasingly antagonistic towards corporal punishment. Nowadays, many view spanking as mean and cruel. In some places, CPS (Child Protective Services) is alerted when a parent is seen spanking their if the parent is physically abusing them. Some parents have said things like, "I love my child too much to spank them." But is this view consistent with the Bible? No, it is not. Let's consider the following verses from the book of Proverbs...

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Prov. 13:24) "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Prov. 19:18) "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Prov. 22:15) "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." (Prov. 23:13-14) "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Prov. 29:15)

Does the Bible sanction corporal punishment? Not only does the Bible sanction it, but according to these verses, it is recommended and esteemed as the best way to raise your children. (I have heard some parents argue that spanking doesn't work on ALL children, that other methods of discipine are sometimes more efficient. This may be true, but generally speaking, we see that God encourages corporal punishment.)

Let it be understood here in the beginning that there is a HUGE difference between physical punishment (i.e. spanking) and physical abuse. In no way does God sanction abuse. We cannot take these verses in Proverbs to justify the mistreatment and abuse of children. Is that clear enough? Okay, good.

Now, let's return to the verses listed above. What do they mean and how do they relate to our discussion of corporal punishment?

First of all, Proverbs 13:24 says that if we love our children, we will spank them. This one verse deals a death blow to the ones who say, "I love my children too much to spank them. No, according to the Bible, if you love your children you will spank them...and you will spank them often (as the latter part of the verse indicates).

Proverbs 19:18 tells us not to relent from corporal punishment just because the child is crying. I've seen so many parents just give into their children as soon as they start crying and pitching a fit. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mommy shouldn't have done that. I won't do that again." Sure, we should apologize to our children when we are wrong, but don't back down just because they don't like the punishment. When parents begin to grow soft in this regard, their children quickly become disobedient, manipulative crybabies. They will learn that they can get away with anything so long as they pitch a fit at just the right time.

Proverbs 22:15 emphasizes the reason for corporal punishment. Children don't know the difference between right and wrong. If you don't correct a child when he/she is wrong, then how will they learn what is acceptable and unacceptable? That is the reason. Too often, parents punish their children for the wrong reasons (which I'll get into tomorrow), but if we discipline our children God's way, it WILL work.

In this article, we've done two things. We've established the importance as well as the meaning of corporal punishment. Tomorrow, I want to address common mistakes that parents make when disciplining their children.

Friday, September 18, 2009

God Is So Good To Me

Sometimes God speaks to us in subtle ways. I'm not saying that He speaks to us audibly, in some still-small voice, but there's no question in my mind that He speaks to us. For example, I've been struggling lately with contentment. Of course, I know what Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content," but let's all be honest, this is easier said than done sometimes.

Then this morning, as I was reading Psalm 1, I heard my oldest daughter, Jenna (she's four) singing in the other room. She was singing, "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me..." For those of you who don't know this song, it's in our song books at church. We tend to think of it as a kid's song, because it's so basic and simple. But the simplicity of the song has always impacted me as an adult. Some of our songs can be so eloquent and descriptive, and sometimes we get lost in the complexity of the songs we sing. It's nice to occasionally take a step back and focus on such a simple statement: God is so good, He's so good to me.

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Jenna was singing this song around the same time that I read Psalm 1. Notice the words of the Psalm below...

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seats of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." (Psalm 1:1-3)

Now do you see what I mean when I say that God speaks to us. I mean, is it a coincidence that Jenna sang that particular song right when I was reading Psalm 1 right at the time that I was struggling with discontentment? Perhaps it was, but I'd like to think that God was subtly reminding me of how blessed I am. I have no reason to be discontent for the Lord has given me more than I deserve. I have an amazing wife and three beautiful and healthy children. I have a comfortable home. I'm part of a strong congregation that supports me. I live in America, a land of freedom and prosperity. And besides all these things, God has blessed me spiritually through Jesus Christ. I mean, seriously, what right have I to complain?

I think the problem is that, too often, we live in the past and in the future, instead of living in the present. My problem is that I tend to focus a lot on the future, about where I'll be and what I want to do and what I'll have one year...five years...ten years down the road (even though I really have no idea what will happen). This leads to impatience. I want it now. This impatience grows into discontentment, because after all, what I have now is not as good as what I'll have next year. In the process, I forget about all the good things God has given me now.

God is so good to me. I'm like a tree planted by the rivers of water. I need to learn to trust in the Lord and patiently await the unfolding of His plan for my life. Thanks for communicating these things to me this morning, Lord.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Amalekite Affair (1 Sam. 15)

When it comes to the commands and the law of God, must we obey every detail of what God has set forth or are we permitted to violate His will and remain in fellowship with Him? In other words, is it really that important that we strictly adhere to the teachings of God's word? Must we seek Bible authority for all that we do, or is it only important that we have faith in Jesus?

Romans 15:4 says that the Old Testament was "written for our learning." While we're not bound to the law of the Old Testament (Gal. 5:1-4), there are many, many things that we can learn from the stories found therein. In this article, I'd like to consider one story in particular that will help us answer the questions set forth in the first paragraph above. Let's turn to 1 Samuel 15 to establish the importance of obedience to the commands of God.

Saul was king of Israel. God commanded Saul through Samuel, saying, "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" (1 Sam. 15:3).

King Saul assembled the army and attacked the Amalekites just as God commanded, but notice what is said in verse 9: "But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed."

Did Saul obey the command of God? I think the answer is pretty obvious. While they utterly destroyed all the people, they spared the king as well as the best of the animals. One might argue that they did "good enough," that they mostly obeyed God's command, but as we're going to see, partial obedience really isn't obedience at all.

Between the time that Saul went to war against the Amalekites and the time that he returned from war, God told Samuel, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments" (vv. 11). You see, even though Saul partially obeyed God, God counted it as disobedience. But what's even more telling is Samuel's conversation with Saul afterwards. Skip down to verses 13-14...

"Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, 'Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.' But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?'" Samuel knew that Saul had disobeyed God, but Saul clearly believed that he had done all that God had commanded him to do. Before Samuel could even say anything, the king blurted out, "I have performed the commandment of the Lord." What does this tell us? It tells us that self-confidence is not enough. One may feel justified and saved, but that doesn't mean that they are. One may view himself as a faithful follower of the Lord, but that doesn't mean anything.

But the story doesn't stop here. Go to verse 15: "And Saul said, 'They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." I get the impression here that Saul is on the defensive. His self-confidence has been replaced with self-preservation. To get himself out of trouble, he blames the people. Then he tries to soften Samuel by saying that the animals are for sacrifice. Sounds good, right? Sure, they didn't utterly destroy everything like God commanded, but their intentions for not doing so were good and wholesome. They did it for God!

But Samuel replied, "Be quiet!" (vv. 16). He goes on to say (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Listen, you're the king. You're the one in control. Therefore, you're responsible." Saul goes back to the same argument he used earlier, "I HAVE obeyed the voice of the Lord...I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal" (vv. 20-22).

And here we find the famous statement spoken by Samuel to Saul: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams" (vv. 22). As a result of Saul's disobedience, the Lord rejected him from being king over Israel (vv. 26).

There are many lessons that we learn from the Amalekite affair...

First of all, we learn how critical it is that we fully obey the commands of God. Even though Saul warred against the Amalekites as God commanded him, and even though he utterly destroyed the people, he spared Agag and the best of the animals. His partial obedience was considered to be outright disobedience. God didn't say, "Well, at least he did most of what I commanded him to do." No, God condemned Saul for his disobedience. This reminds me of James 2:10, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."

Second, we learn that good intentions don't matter. Even though we may say that what we're doing is for God; even though we may call it worship; even though we may connect some activity to our service to doesn't mean that God accepts it. The people spared the best of the animals that they might sacrifice them unto God. While God was pleased with sacrifice (He had commanded it in the Law of Moses), in this case God had commanded them to destroy all the animals. So their sacrifice was the result of disobedience. Hence the statement, "To obey is better than sacrifice."

Instrumental music may sound great and religious people may view it as a wonderful way to worship the Lord. Churches may think that by building gymnasiums and fitness centers that they are doing a wonderful thing for the kingdom of God and for the lost. A person may convince himself that he is saved because he has prayed the sinner's prayer or because he was baptized as an infant. But instrumental music is not authorized in the New Testament. The church is not authorized to promote social and recreational works. The sinner's prayer and infant baptism are both unscriptural practices.


Must we fully obey the commands of God? Absolutely! As Christians, we need to strictly follow the doctrine of Christ. Partial obedience isn't good enough.

Let us learn from the Amalekite affair...

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Social Gospel

Most churches today have fellowship halls and gymnasiums. They have co-ed softball leagues, and some even have fitness centers and bowling alleys. I remember when I was active in denominational churches that I participated in all kinds of church-sponsored recreation and social activities. At one of the churches I attended, there was a teen dance club in the basement of the church building where hundreds of young people would come every Friday night to play pool and groove to the latest hits from Britney Spears. There were pizza parties, pancake breakfasts and I even heard of cappuchinos for Christ.

These social and recreational activities are justified in two ways. First, it is argued that these activites promote edification and fellowship among the people of God. The second argument is that such activities are really works of evangelism. That is, they draw people to the church and ultimately to Christ. In this article, I want to refute this "Social Gospel" and affirm that the church has absolutely no authority to engage in such activities.

I want to begin with Romans 1:16. Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes." This is a principle with which we should all agree. The gospel, or good news, of Christ is the way to salvation. In order for someone to be saved, they must hear the gospel. Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." How do we bring people to Christ? How do we grow in our relationship with God? The common denominator here is God's word. Basketball and pizza have nothing to do with our salvation. Cake walks and pool tables do not increase our faith. Swimming pools and carnivals will not lead us closer to Christ. According to the verses above, it is the gospel, the word of God, that lead to spiritual edification and salvation.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly what we find in the book of Acts. In Acts 8:5-6, we're told that "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did," and then in verse 12, "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." When Philip came to Samaria, he did not organize a Greco-Roman wrestling tournament to draw the multitudes to Jesus, nor did he set up a Pitas for Christ event. He simply preached the gospel and as a result, multitudes of people were converted.

Later in the same chapter (Acts 8), Philip was given the opportunity to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 8:35 says, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him." Acts 13:5 says, "And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews." Many other verses in Acts could be cited, but here's the point: whenever the apostles and evangelists of the first century sought to convert the lost to Christ, they simply preached the word of God. Not once did they organize some social or recreational event. When the churches were established, they did not build gymnasiums and have fellowship meals. Instead, when they assembled they studied God's word (Ac. 20:7).

If this is the New Testament pattern, then why do so many churches today insist on promoting the social gospel? Why are churches not content to simply preach and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ? If basketballs and chicken dinners have nothing to do with salvation, then why do churches build gymnasiums, kitchens and dining rooms? Perhaps it is because these activities make church "more fun," or maybe it is because they are afraid that sinners will not want to come to church if all they do is study the Bible. Both lines of reasoning are saturated with a lack of faith in the power of the gospel. Furthermore, when we use such temporal pleasures to draw people to the church, any growth that occurs is superficial. Finally, the end does not justify the means (Rom. 3:8).

Before I bring this article to an end, there is one other point I want to make. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 11. Here, Paul is rebuking the church in Corinth because it had perverted the Lord's supper. He tells them in verse 22, "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise teh church of God and shame those who have nothing?" and then in verse 34, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment." According to this passage, there are certain things that we CAN do at home that we CANNOT do when we go to church. This is true of social and recreational activities. If you want to play basketball, go to the park. If you want to eat some chicken, go to KFC. If you want to work out, go to the YMCA. But the church should not be transformed into something that God never intended it to be.

Let us follow the simple pattern of the New Testament. Let us maintain the purity of the local church. Let us be not only content but happy and willing to study the word of God and promote the gospel of Christ only.

Are you part of a church that has left the simplicity of the gospel of Christ to pursue social and recreational activities? If so, please consider these things. Let me know if you have any questions or disagreements. Comment below. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Instrumental Music in Worship

I spent five years in the Baptist and Methodist churches. That's right, I attended the services of a Southern Baptist church as well as the services of a United Methodist Church. Needless to say, I was exposed to instrumental music in worship during that five-year span. I remember the religious concerts, the solos, quartets and choirs. I remember the many prayers that were accompanied by softly played melodies on pianos and guitars, and I remember how I felt when I heard and experienced this kind of music in church. I felt really good. I felt spiritual and closer to God. I felt that God was certainly being praised, that He must have adored such music.

When I first attended the University Heights church of Christ in Lexington, Kentucky, I immediately noticed that they didn't use mechanical instruments of music in their worship. No pianos. No organs. No guitars. Nothing. They just sang, and while I remember thinking to myself, "This sure is strange," I also remember thinking, "But hey, it really is pretty. I like it."

It wasn't until later that I came to realize the truth of the matter: they didn't use instruments in worship because they felt it was sinful to do so. When I heard this, I was floored. I mean, how could ANYONE really believe that it was a sin to incorporate such beautiful music into worship? How could any reasonable person condemn the use of guitars and pianos in church? Every other church used instruments in their worship, so how could it be wrong. Were these Christians in Lexington really condemning every other church over something as trivial as the kind of music used in worship?

I dated a girl who was a member of the University Heights church of Christ, and I remember arguing with her, "If you'd only come with me to the Baptist church this Sunday, you'd see how beautiful instrumental music in worship really is, and you'd realize that it can't be wrong." Of course, she never did go with me to the Baptist church, and as I'm sure you've already guessed, I eventually changed my position.

Yes, I now believe that it is wrong to use instruments of music in worship. It is my firm conviction that if we want to worship God His way, then we MUST praise him in song without the accomaniment of guitars, pianos, organs, trumpets, harmonicas, etc. Before you call me some brainwashed (or brainwarshed, if you're from the south) lunatic, please hear me out.

First of all, it is important to establish that we must seek Bible authority for all that we do. If the doctrine of Christ authorizes the use of instrumental music in worship, then that is exactly what we should do, but if the doctrine of Christ does NOT authorize the use of instrumental music in worship, then we must abstain from it. Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." When Paul says that we're to do all things in the name of Jesus, he is saying that we're to do all things according to His authority. The New Testament is the revealed will of Christ (Eph. 3:3-5), and as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the scriptures (the written word) are God-breathed. Peter adds in 1 Peter 4:11 that we're to speak "as the oracles (sayings) of God," and Paul again says in 1 Corinthians 4:6 that we're "not to think beyond what is written." So if the New Testament is the will of Christ, and if we're to do all things according to the authority of Christ, and if we're not to go beyond what is written, then we must conclude that in order for a thing to be justified, it must be authorized by the doctrine of Christ, the New Testament.

Furthermore, if we fail to follow the biblical pattern, there are consequences. Matthew 15:9 says, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." If, instead of worship God HIS WAY, we choose to worship God OUR WAY, the result is vain worship; worship that is unacceptable to God. Consider Leviticus 10 as an example...

"Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had no commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." (Lev. 10:1-2)

Nadab and Abihu were worshiping God, but they were not worshiping God according to the revealed pattern. Because they transgressed the law in this matter (which is sin, 1 Jn. 3:4), they were condemned. People today might argue, "But at least they were worshiping God," or "At least they were sincere," but none of that mattered to God. Yes, God wants us to worship Him, and yes, He demands sincerity and zeal, but He also demands that we worship Him HIS WAY!

So here is the question: is instrumental music (in worship) authorized by the doctrine of Christ? If so, then God will receive it. If not, then God will not receive it for it is unauthorized and thus unacceptable to Him. So what does the New Testament reveal about the matter? What kind of music does the New Testament authorize? Let's consider all the verses in the New Testament that address music in church worship:

"For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name." (Rom. 15:9)

"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hyms and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Col. 3:16)

"I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to you." (Heb. 2:12)

"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Heb. 13:15)

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." (Jas. 5:13)

As you can see, the New Testament doesn't say a whole lot about music in worship, but what it does say is rather telling. None of these verses say anything about instrumental music. Instead, they all consistently teach that we are to SING praises to God. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less. We're authorized to sing, but we're not authorized to praise God with instruments of music.

What's more, instrumental music was introduced into church worship by the Catholics in the seventh century. At first, there was much opposition to this inclusion, but eventually, the organ was accepted. Later, the piano was added. Now, nearly every church has instrumental music in their worship services. It's so prevelent that we've come to think that it's really, really weird NOT to have it. But folks, we've got to get back to the unadulterated doctrine of Jesus Christ.

Either instrumental music is authorized by the doctrine of Christ and it is right, or it is not authorized and thus it leads to vain, unacceptable worship (Mt. 15:9). Are we going to learn from the story of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2)?

I know it is beautiful. I know it sounds good. I know that nearly every church uses it. I know it's hard to imagine that it could be wrong...that all those sincere religious people could be wrong. Perhaps the whole debate seems trivial. I made all these arguments several years ago, but eventually, I had to acknowledge that my reasoning was rooted in the Bible, but in my own emotions and feelings (read Prov. 14:12 and Mt. 7:21-23). Please, consider these things, and if you disagree, please comment below.

Instead of writing a new article today (Friday, 9/11) and forcing this article on instrumental music further down the list, I'm going to leave this one at the top since it has gendered some interest. I'll add another article Monday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Simple Questions

Today's message is going to be short and simple...

Psalm 119:97 says, "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."

Psalm 119:104 says, "Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way."

There are two questions that I want you to consider today...

1. Do you truly love the law of God?

2. Do you hate every false way (those things that are opposed to the law of God)?

If you love God's law, then you're going to diligently study it, meditate upon it and obey it. You're not going to turn to the right hand or to the left. Instead, you're going to seek book, chapter and verse for all that you do.

If you hate every false way, then you're going to utilize every opportunity you have to teach those who are in error. You're going to appreciate sermons and studies which examine and condemn doctrinal error.

So do you love God's law and hate everything that opposes it? Or, like most people in the world today, are you lax in your attitude towards these things. Are you the kind of person that builds your life around the word and will of God, or like most people, do you rarely think about the teachings of the word of God? Which is it?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Greatest Blessing of All

Someone asked me not long ago to preach a lesson on the joy of being a Christian. I've preached lessons like this in the past. Usually, I focus on the blessings that we have in Christ. Of course, Ephesians 1:3 says that all spiritual blessings are in Christ, so I usually begin there and build on that idea. I discuss the fact that the church is a blessing, not a burden; that prayer, likewise, is a wonderful privilege that we have. Then I talk about the value of the word of God, and of course, I deal with the peace that we can have because our sins are forgiven in Christ. Indeed, when you take all of this into consideration, it is a great joy to be a Christian.

But as I've read the beginning chapters of Job this morning, new light has been shed on the subject. Yes, we as Christians have joy because of all the things God has blessed us with, but the greatest sense of joy comes in simply knowing that we serve an awesome God.

In Job 1, we are introduced to Job who was "blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil" (1:1). In other words, Job respected and deeply appreciated the authority and power of God (I would suggest that it was Job's fear of God that motivated him to shun evil, and not the other way around). Then, we find a scene in which Satan comes, along with the sons of God, to appear before God. God asked Satan, "'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?' to which Satan replied, 'Does Job fear God for nothing?'" (1:8-9). Satan believed that Job's faith was superficial, that he only served God because God had blessed him with riches and comfort.

God allows Satan to test Job and I tell you what, Satan did a number on this faithful man. He caused the Sabeans to steal Job's livestock and kill his servants (1:14-15). He caused fire to rain from heaven and destroy his sheep and some of his other servants (1:16). Satan then caused the Chaldeans to steal his camels and kill more of Job's servants, and finally, he caused the wind to blow a house down on top of Job's children, killing them (1:18). Think about it. Everything Job had was taken from him. His wealth, his servants and his children were all taken from him in a very short period of time. Can you imagine the pain and heartache that Job felt?

But how did Job react?

"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed by the name of the Lord.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong" (1:21-22).

In the midst of the trial of his life, Job found comfort in God. In fact, he worshiped God; he acknowledged His power and sovereignty.

What is the point? The point is that, as children of God, our joy does not come primarily from the things God gives us in this life. Sure, God takes care of us, and that is a blessing. But our greatest joy comes in knowing that God is in control, that He loves us and cares for us, and that we can always find rest in Him. When everything was taken away from Job, he found comfort in God. While his wealth and his family provided him with joy, that joy was ultimately rooted in God.

So what about the church, the word, and the avenue of prayer?

The church is a blessing because, in the church, we can band together with other Christians to acknowledge and worship God. The Bible is a blessing because it allows us to learn more about the awesome God we serve and His plan for us. Prayer is a blessing, not so much because God answers prayer (although He does), but because we are able to communicate to the almighty God who made the heavens and the earth. You see, the joy and comfort that we derive from these things ultimately is rooted in the fact that we serve an almighty God. So the joy is not in having but in knowing.

Don't think that just because you go to church, pray and read your Bible that you're automatically going to have joy. You must first obtain joy by fearing and adoring God. Then everything else will fall into place.

That helps me today. I hope it helps you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Cause of Suffering

It should come as no surprise to anyone that there is much suffering in the world today. Just watch the evening news and this fact will become abundantly clear. Natural disasters ravage coastlines and flatlands. Diseases sweep across third-world countries, killing thousands, sometimes millions. Many people live in areas of violence and war, and they have to watch as friends and neighbors are gunned down. In addition to these extreme forms of collective suffering, there are also the hardships that we all deal with from day to day: sickness, loss of employment, the deaths of those dearest to us, car wrecks, and the list goes on. Needless to say, life is not always easy, and for some it is harder than others. The question is not, "is there suffering?" Certainly, there is! Instead we ought to ask, "what causes suffering?"

Many conclude that suffering is the result of one's personal sinfulness. In other words, if something terrible has happened to a particular person, it must be that they have offended God. Lule 13:1-3 says, "There were some present at that very time who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." We find a similar story in John 9:1-3. It says, "As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" In both stories, it was assumed that the individuals were suffering because of their own sin, and in both stories, Jesus emphasized the error of such an assumption. Just because something terrible has happened to a person or group of people doesn't automatically mean that God is judging them because of some sin(s) they have committed.

The assumption of the Jews in the previous two stories was also the assumption of Job's three friends. Remember, God allowed Satan to afflict Job...not because Job had sinned but to test His faith in God. Job lost everything: his wealth, his servants and even his children (Job 1:13-22). Then, to top it all off, Job was afflicted with painful boils (Job 2:7-8). Job was not being punished by God, but that's exactly what his friends thought. In Job 4:7-8, Eliphaz said to his suffering friend, "Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same." While this is the assumption of many today, the book of Job tells us that this is not always the case. Ecclesiastes 9:11 sums it up well: "time and chance happen to them all."

While suffering is not necessarily the result of the sinfulness of a person or community, it is also true that all suffering is the result of sin. There was no suffering the garden of Eden. They didn't have to deal with physical death, sickness or violence of any sort. It wasn't until they sinned that physical death and suffering entered the world. The woman was cursed with painful labor and childbearing (Gen. 3:16) and the man was cursed with physical toil and sweat (vv. 17). Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned."

Sin leads to suffering. Think about it. When people are sexually immoral, venereal diseases result. When people are cruel and violent towards one another, the result is pain and death. When people are greedy and power-hungry, the result is oppression, theft and persecution. We also know that God sometimes punishes us in this life when we sin against Him (Heb. 12:9-11). So clearly, suffering is the result of sin.

Earlier in the article, the point was made that suffering is not always the result of sin, but now we have made the point that all suffering is the result of sin. At first glance, this may appear to be a contradiction, but it is not. Generally speaking, all the suffering in teh world is the result of sin. Because of sin, hardship exists. But at the same time, we cannot assume that every particular hardship is the direct result of something that person or community has done. It may be because someone else has sinned, or the suffering may be the result of chance. In Job's case, he suffered because God was allowing his faith to be tested. In the case of the blind man in John 9, he suffered so that God's power might be manifested. You see, there are MANY causes of suffering, and while they all are rooted in the sinfulness of man, we cannot assume that when someone suffers it is because they are being punished.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans many years ago, it was often asserted that God was punishing the sinful city. Perhaps, but perhaps not. We do not know. When the earthquakes hit China two years ago, it was once again assumed that God was punishing the paganism and communism of the Chinese. Perhaps, but perhaps not. We ought not think that we know exactly why every hardship is happening. Instead, we ought to heed the words of Jesus in LUke 13:3, "No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Let us use periods of hardship to examine ourselves, and when others are suffering, let us use the opportunity to help, not condemn them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Did Jesus Turn Water Into Alcoholic Wine?

Yesterday, I wrote an article on the dangers of drinking. Using passages like Proverbs 23 and Ephesians 5:18, I made the point that God not only condemns drunkenness, but also the process of drinking which leads to drunkenness. Solomon said it best when he said, "Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper" (Prov. 23:31-32). DON'T LOOK AT IT! If we're not to look at it, how can we justify drinking it?

But many do attempt to justify drinking. One of the most commonly used arguments is derived from John 2, the story of Jesus turning water into wine. Let's read the story together...

"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."

Many use this story to teach that Jesus went to a drinking party where He proceeded to turn six stone waterpots of water into waterpots of intoxicating wine. "If it's wrong to engage in social drinking, then why did Jesus turn the water into wine?" they ask.

First of all, we must first of all understand that the word wine does not always refer to fermented wine. That may be how we use the term, but in the first century, the word wine could refer to fruit of the vine that was either fermented or unfermented. For example, Isaiah 65:8 says, "Thus says the Lord: as the new wine is found in the cluster..." This is an obvious reference to unfermented grape juice, not alcoholic wine. The only way to determine whether the wine is fermented or unfermented is to consider the context where the word is found. Here's the question: what in John 2:1-11 indicates that the wine is alcoholic? Again, we cannot assume that it is alcoholic just because the word wine today is used that way. There must be something in John 2:1-11 to demand fermented wine if we are going to assert that it is fermented.

The fact is, the context of John 2:1-11 indicates the opposite, that the wine is unfermented. Once again, let's notice John 2:10. This is the reaction of the master of the feast when he drank the wine Jesus had miraculously produced. "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now." This is the key to understanding this story. If we can understand what kind of wine the ancients preferred, then we can determine whether Jesus produced fermented or unfermented wine. Consider the following quotes from recognized scholars and authorities (these quotes derived from an article written by J.H. Kellogg):

Dr. Jacobus says, "Those were considered the best wines which were least strong."

Prof. M. Stuart says that the ancients regarded unfermented wine "as of a higher flavor and finer quality than fermented wine."

Kitto says of wine which had been preserved from fermentation by boiling, "Such was esteemed [by the Jews] the richest and the best wine."

Lastly, Dr. Isaacs, an eminent Jewish rabbi, bears the following testimony: The Jews do not, in their feasts for sacred purposes, including the marriage feasts, ever use any kind of fermented drinks."

If the ancient Jews preferred unfermented wine, as the above quotes clearly indicate, then we MUST conclude that Jesus made unfermented grape juice in John 2, not alcoholic wine. After all, the master of the feast called the wine Jesus produced "the good wine." This seems pretty open and shut to me.

Someone has correctly observed as follows: “If Jesus made fermented wine for people to drink, there is nothing wrong with drinking alcoholic beverages. Also, if there’s nothing wrong with drinking it, there’s nothing wrong with giving it away or selling it. Furthermore, if Jesus supplied it we ought to do the same, and follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).”

J.H. Kellogg makes a similar point when he says, "If the wine referred to above was of an intoxicating nature, then the brewer and the distiller have, as they claim, a sufficient apology for their nefarious business; for in manufacturing alcohol with which to poison their fellow-men, ruin their constitutions, squander theft property, and render their children homeless and their wives widows-- in all this work of evil, they are only imitating the example of their divine Master! Such a position is too unreasonable to be tenable; for the work of rum savors more of a Satanic than of a divine origin. No; it is impossible for any one but the veriest infidel to regard it consistent for the Saviour of mankind to lend his influence, his example, in favor of a practice which even human wisdom can see is an unmitigated curse to the race."

Think about it folks. Why would our Savior attend a drinking party and then make six waterpots of alcoholic wine? Such would condone not only drinking, but drunkenness as well as the sale of alcohol. This is inconsistent with His character in every way!

Did Jesus make alcoholic wine at the wedding fease in Cana? Absolutely not! Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant of the facts or so desparate to justify social drinking that they will revert to dishonest and misleading reasoning. As Christians, we ought to abstain from alcohol completely. Don't even look at it, as Solomon warned.

What say you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Should Christians Drink?

When I ask the question, "should christians drink?" I'm not talking about the consumption of soda, kool-aid, milk or water. Just thought I'd clarify that in case someone concluded from the title of the article that I was advocating complete abstinence from all liquids.

No, what I'm talking about is the consumption of alcohol. Should Christians drink beer, wine, bourbon, vodka, whiskey, etc? Is it right or wrong for Christians to get drunk? What about moderate drinking, such as an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a few beers with your pizza? What should be our attitude towards drinking in general?

I want to tell you where I stand right from the beginning. I firmly believe that Christians should not consume alcohol for recreational purposes. It is, I believe, wrong for Christians to drink beer and wine and other such fermented beverages, and I take this position because it is what the Bible teaches. Now, you may disagree, but all I ask is that you prayerfully read this article. If, after reading this article, you still disagree with me, then I ask that you write a comment below or send me an email explaining where I missed it.

Let's begin by looking at a few passages of scripture that condemn drinking. Then I want to address some common misconceptions and arguments used to justify drinking.

Turn to Proverbs 23:29-32. Solomon says, "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder." The wise man is addressing here the dangers of alcohol. He clearly says that alcohol causes woe, sorrow, strife, complaining, wounds without cause and redness of eyes. He goes on to say in verse 32 that in the end, alcohol will get the best of you; it will "bite like a serpent and sting like an adder." But here's what I want you to notice. In the middle of this passage, we're warned, "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup..." How can we justify drinking when Solomon, who is here inspired by God, says DON'T EVEN LOOK AT IT? Yet despite this divinely issued warning, people who profess to be Christians go about drinking and getting drunk, and they act as if nothing is wrong with it. For me, this is a powerful argument.

Let's skip forward to the New Testament now. There is one particular verse that I want to focus on here, although many could be considered. Ephesians 5:18 says, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." First of all, we need to understand that the New Testament condemns drunkenness (Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3). It is wrong for a Christian to be drunk, or intoxicated. But here in Ephesians 5:18, Paul is not saying, "Don't be drunk," he's saying, "Don't get drunk." The phrase "get drunk" here is from the Greek word methusko which literally refers to the process of becoming intoxicated. You see, there is another Greek word for the state of drunkenness and that is the word methe (as in Gal. 5:21). So what is the point in all of this? The point is that God not only condemns the state of being drunk, but He condemns the drinking process which leads to drunkenness.

What does it mean to be drunk? When we think of someone who is drunk, we picture a person who is falling on the floor, a person who can't walk straight, a person who has consumed so much alcohol that they have turned into some wild, out-of-control party animal. But that is not how the Bible defines drunkenness. The Bible defines drunkenness as mere intoxication. A person is intoxicated when their judgment is impaired, when they are physically affected by the substance which they're consuming. Let me ask you this question: when is a person physically affected by alcohol? At what point in the drinking process does one's judgment begin to be impaired by the alcohol? Is it at the point of all-out drunkenness? Of course not. We understand that a person's judgment is impaired long before they are falling on the floor drunk. There is, for example, something called a "buzz." At the point of a buzz, a person's judgment is already visibly impaired. How much does it take for a person to get a buzz? Not much. But really, a person's judgment is being impaired before they get a buzz, and thus the intoxication process has already begun. The point is that biblically speaking, a person is drunk, or intoxicated, long before we would say that they are drunk. And biblically speaking, we're not only to abstain from drunkenness, but also the drinking process by which we become drunk, or intoxicated. And this is all in addition to Solomon's command not to even look at wine when it is in the cup.

So the case FOR drinking is not looking too good, is it? And we've only considered a portion of the scriptural evidence that speaks against recreational and social drinking. As Christians, we need to stay away from alcohol. That means no more getting drunk, no more drinking parties, no more beers with the guys and no more wine coolers with the girls.

Tomorrow, I'm going to look at the story of Jesus turning water into wine. While many believe that Jesus made alcoholic wine (which then would justify drinking), the fact is that Jesus did no such thing. But you'll have to wait till tomorrow for the full explanation.

For now, comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.