Category Archives: culture

Cultural Impact: A Biblical Response to Racism

It doesn’t take the word of an Ivy League professor for us to see that our nation is just as divided now on questions of race as it has ever been. From the events that took place in Ferguson, MO to the recent events in Charlottesville, VA, America has been shaken by divisions that we once believed were settled decades ago. We have seen that bigotry and fascism continue to be alive and well and racial superiority is still the motto by which many choose to live. Undoubtedly, most Christians today would say that racism is a sin and is condemned in the Bible. However, if we are truly being honest with ourselves, we often fail to take an unequivocal stance against racism as we do against homosexuality and abortion. Often it is the case that we allow racism to go on in our midst without taking the stance that Jesus would have us to take.

As followers of Jesus, it is vitally important that we stand just as strongly against any form of racism as we do against any other hot topic of our time. The Bible speaks clearly and unequivocally against racism in any form. For example, the book of Galatians states:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. –Galatians 3:28

What is the Apostle Paul saying in this passage? He is saying that, in the eyes of God, the divisions that we create for ourselves do not exist. He is saying that if we are one with Jesus Christ we are one with one another. When God looks at the world, He does not see Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, etc. Instead, He sees the work of His hand in each individual. The question that we must ask ourselves is this:

If God does not allow race to be a source of division in His eyes, how can we say that we are justified in doing so ourselves?

    The point is, the book of Genesis tells us that we are all made in the image of God. This is not an exclusive statement. It is not just whites, or Hispanics, or African Americans, or Jews that are made in the image of God. We are ALL made in the image of God and have been given our unique characteristics from the hand of God. This includes all races of every nation.

Now, we may say that racism is far from us and that we in no way participate in the divisions that are taking place. However, we must realize that when we see racism taking place before our eyes and fail to take a stand against it, we are guilty through our apathy. God expects us as His disciples to take a stand for and against the things that He would take a stand for and against. To overcome the divisions that exist in our generation, we must look at all races through the eyes of God.


Cultural Impact: Beauty and the Beast

g_beautyandthebeast2017_08_78bde778If you have a young daughter at home, then you have probably been asked, “Can I go see Beauty and the Beast?” I know that my 8-year-old daughter has been asking my wife and I this question since the day that she discovered Disney was sending this childhood movie remake to theatres! Starring such huge names as Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor, Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to come out in theatres on March 17th. The movie is set to be a Box Office hit and will undoubtedly have numbers of parents standing in line with their daughters. However, my wife and I will not be parents standing in that line. Why, you ask? Is it because we are trying to deprive our little girl from the joys of childhood? Are we just simply anti-Disney? The answer to both of those questions is NO! So, what is the big deal?

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2017,  Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post wrote an article entitled, “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment” (Izadi, 2017). Yes, you read that right! As if our children have not been confused by our sex-crazed culture enough, Disney has decided to take the long-anticipated opportunity to create its first openly gay scene in one of the most anticipated children’s movies of the year. According to Izadi, the scene involves one of the movie’s openly gay characters named LeFou and another male character name Gaston as LeFou begins to discover that he has “feelings” for Gaston that go beyond friendship. The director of the movie, Bill Condon, states, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston…. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie” (Izadi, 2017). With that simple statement, Mr. Condon treats the scene as a “nice and delicious” moment that should be anticipated with excitement by all. It should be a moment that gives us all hope and promise, right? The problem is, through incorporating this character and scene into The Beauty and the Beast, Disney has not brought hope or promise at all. Instead, Disney has shown to us the depraved spiritual and sexual condition of a culture that has turned away from the God in whose image we are made. This is the same condition that the Apostle Paul described in Romans 1:26 when he wrote, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were confused with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

This will not be “politically correct”, but Scripture is clear in its condemnation of the practice of homosexuality. Paul clearly said that homosexuality is dishonorable and contrary to nature. Not only in Romans, but 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are additional examples. Now, I do want to address this very important point that we as Christians so often get wrong: Homosexuality is sin just as lust is sin and just as greed is sin. We so often put homosexuality in a category all its own and we act as if those that struggle with it are irreparably condemned. This is not the case! God is more than willing to forgive all sin when we come to him in true repentance (1 John 1:9). We are to love those that struggle with homosexuality as we would love anyone else with struggles of the flesh and we are to lead them to repentance. At the same time, saying that homosexuality is an innate form of love that should be accepted by all is completely against the Truth of Scripture. But that is where we are in our world today. We live in an era in which the lines are so blurred that everything we believe is relative and there really is no moral truth. That is why it is so vital that we as Christians take a stand and say, “I will not be forced to accept what I know is against Scripture!” Be prepared! We will be called intolerant, judgmental, intellectually primitive, and more. But didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When we stand up for the Truth, we are going to be ridiculed and rejected but that should not detour us. If we don’t teach our children to take a stance that aligns with Scripture, then we will find them taking a stance that aligns with the world.

Works Cited

Izadi, Elahe. “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment”. (1 March 2017) The Washington Post. Web. Accessed on 6 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/03/01/beauty-and-the-beast-to-have-disneys-first-ever-exclusively-gay-moment/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.df6b0d13060a


Cultural Impact: Have We Lost Valuable Communication?

textingDo you remember the days of visiting someone at home and spending hours in conversation? What about the days of writing a letter to someone that didn’t require you to be limited to “140 characters or less”? For those of us that grew up before the age of the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, we can recall those days. But for so many, the text has replaced the voice of a friend or loved one and Facebook Messenger has replaced face-to-face conversation. Why is this a problem? Well, just have someone hide behind their smartphone and send you a text that says, “I’m fine”, when in reality the look on their face is full of sadness and pain. Behind the smartphone or tablet, we can’t see the hurts, concerns, and pains of others. Forbes reports that 7% of all communication is spoken or written language and 93% is body language (Forbes, 2012). In today’s world of emoji’s, OMG’s and BFF’s, we need to ask, “How do I really know what another person is going through when all I can see is a text screen?” Don’t get me wrong! I believe that technology and social media have extraordinary benefits and that today’s world provides wonderful opportunities for the spread of the Gospel. However, I also believe that we are lacking in so much of the personal, meaningful conversation that we once had.

In Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV, the Scripture says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This Scripture speaks of the importance of the gathering of Christians. Today, we as Americans typically gather together on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesdays. However, even this is coming under attack in our age due to the belief that we can “get the same thing from home by watching the preacher on TV”. This viewpoint is harmful to Christians in ways that we so often overlook. The question is: Why does Hebrews say that it is important that we gather together? The simple reasoning is: to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to gather together, whether it’s in one-on-one conversation in our homes or in a church setting, to encourage one another to grow in love and to grow in ministry. When we are able to sit and look into the face of someone we are communicating with, we are able to show multitudes more care and concern than through an electronic device. Simultaneously, when we choose to limit our communication to the one line text or the 140-character tweet, we are depriving ourselves of the mutual encouragement and love that comes from spending time with one another as Christians. When we choose to let the sermon on TV be our church service for the week, we are depriving ourselves of the encouragement and accountability that comes along with gathering with other believers. (I do want to throw in a disclaimer: It is completely understood that there are those that are unable to attend services due to disability.) The point is, we sincerely must evaluate our lives and discover whether we have allowed today’s technology to rob us of the beauty of personal communication.

So, ask yourself this question: Am I still allowing time in my life for the kind of communication with others that truly matters? Now, don’t go and throw your smartphone or tablet in the trash! Instead, try turning them off for 24-48 hours and spend some one-on-one time with someone that you can encourage in the Lord.

 

Works Cited

Tardanico, Susan. Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication? (30 April 2012). Forbes.     Web. Accessed 2 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/is-social-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#2ad297202b62


Should I Worry?

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Have you ever found yourself lying in bed, watching the hours roll by because you are overwhelmed with worry? Then, you wake up the next morning, exhausted, and the worry game starts all over again. The American Psychological Association survey states that the top three stressors in our lives are finances, work, and family responsibilities respectively (APA, 2017). Many of us are living testaments to the truth of this survey. It was once said that ulcers are not caused so much by what you eat but by what is eating you! The question that we as Christians need to be asking ourselves is: Should I worry?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-26 ESV, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” These words are some of the clearest of any words throughout Scripture on the topic of worry. What was Jesus saying? First, we need to understand what Jesus was not saying. Jesus was not saying that we can go through our lives without planning. Second, despite what many prosperity preachers say today, Jesus was not saying that if we trust God enough our lives will be problem free. The hard lives of so many faithful men and women in Scripture put a huge hole in prosperity gospel theology. So, again, what was Jesus saying?

Jesus was telling us in these verses that before we waste the hours of our lives with worry, we need to understand the power of His provision. We need to understand as children of God that He is more than willing and able to provide the necessities of our lives. The comparison that Jesus makes between you and the birds and the lilies of the field could not be more of an exaggerated comparison. The reason Jesus did this was to show that, if He cares and provides for something so insignificant as the lilies of the field, then we can be assured that He will care for us. See, the birds and the lilies are here today and gone tomorrow. Yet, they are provided for by God’s hand. You and I have so much more than the birds and the lilies could ever have. God has given us supreme dominion in His creation, the promise of everlasting life, the status of adopted sons and daughters, and the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have been given so much more, will we not be provided for? In Matthew 6:31 and 33, Jesus makes the most important statement of all, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’….But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

This is the central message: We are to plan, work hard, and be good stewards of what God has given to us. We are to refuse to waste away our lives worrying about what tomorrow might hold. We are to refuse to live materialistic lives in which our desires are always for more. Instead, we are to focus our eyes upon the salvation of the Lord and realize that He is our Provider. He is the perfect Father that never fails to care for His own. Take your focus off your worries, and focus your eyes upon the salvation of God.

 

Works Cited

“2015 Stress in America” (2017) American Psychological Association. Web. Retrieved 27 Feb 2017 from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx


Do We All Worship the Same God?

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Do Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Christians, and believers of other faiths worship the same God? This is a question that is commonly raised today in several circles across the U.S. Recently, Professor Lyrica Hawkins chose to wear a hijab during the Catholic Advent season to show that Christians stand in solidarity with Muslims. (Gjelten, 2015) She quoted Pope Francis in saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Is this true? Do we all just have different ways of worshipping the same God?

It must be made clear that there is NO place in our world today for Christians, or people of any faith, to express hatred or any form of degradation to people of other faiths. We must remember, our goal as Christians is to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) This mission is not accomplished through hate or force, but is accomplished through prayer and the Word and the love of Christ. With that being said, it is without hesitation that I say that we as Christians do not worship the same God as Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Hindus, and people of other faiths. Briefly, I will seek to explain why.

First, to say that Christians worship the same God would be to say that two distinctly different individuals could be the same person. Even though I may have similar characteristics as another individual, that does not, in fact, make me that person. The same could be said for the God of the Bible. The God that we serve as Christians is very clearly defined and characterized in the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. Religions such as Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have foundations that are based upon taking the Christian Scriptures and “correcting” them according to the words of their founding prophets. For example, the prophet Muhammed received the “correct” truth from Allah that men should follow. This corrected many of the “mistakes” that the Christian Bible had made. In the same fashion, Mormons claim that their founding prophet Joseph Smith received the “correct truth” in the 1820’s that men should follow. This corrected the “corrupt” nature of the Christian Bible. The fact is, in making these “corrections”, religions have taken the Bible and have replaced God’s Truth with man’s wisdom. 2 Timothy 3:16 in the ESV Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God”. This means that, for a Christian, the Bible is correct, not because man wrote it, but because the Holy Spirit wrote it through man. The Holy Spirit has ensured that the Scriptures have been maintained and passed down in a form that is correct and holds its original Truth. As a result, when man claims to have “corrected” the Bible, he is claiming to be able to “correct” the Holy Spirit of God.

Second, one of the major differences that exist between Christianity and other religions is in relation to Jesus Christ. According to John 1:1 in the ESV, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Also, John 1:14 ESV states, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” What does this mean? This means that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God and no less. He is equal to God, is the Son of God, and is God along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Other faiths, such as Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe that Jesus Christ is not God but is a good man or a prophet. For example, the Quran in surah 5.75 states, “The Messiah, son of Marium (Mary) is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away.” As a result, we simply cannot worship the same God, because the God that we worship is Jesus Christ who is the God of our salvation.

Third, and I believe most importantly, the God that Christians serve is not a God of works but is a God of grace. In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This is a primary difference between Christianity and other faiths and that is that other faiths believe that it is necessary to work your way to salvation. For example, the Quran teaches that salvation is based on purification by good deeds (Quran 7:6-9). Also, the LDS (Mormon) Articles of Faith state, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (Pearl of Great Price: Articles of Faith). This is completely against what the Apostle Paul and others fought for in the Scriptures regarding what salvation really means. The fact is, we cannot save ourselves by our good works. We can only be saved by God’s amazing grace.

In conclusion, while other religions may have elements that may resemble the God that we serve as Christians, their god is not our God. There is only One, True, God, and He is the God of the Bible. God stated in Exodus 20:3 ESV, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Unless we worship God as He truly is, then we are not truly worshipping God.

 

Works Cited

Gjelten, Tom. (20 Dec 2015) Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?. NPR. Accessed     on 21 Feb 2017. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2015/12/20/460480698/do-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god