Generational Sin Punishments & Works Righteousness

These verses from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel establish the important idea of individual and personal accountability for sin. This was a big CHANGE in how the Israelites understood sin & families. It also reinforced works righteousness, however. Jesus would later affirm the former understanding (don’t kill the children for the sins of the parents) but overturn the latter from a salvation / justification standpoint.

It is important to understand that God still calls us to live lives defined by acts of righteousness. We are called to abandon sinful ways: To confess our sins (which by our nature we continue to commit) and ask for forgiveness. We are saved through our confession of sin and profession of faith in Christ. Our righteous acts which follow these events are expected, required and natural, but they are NOT the cause or source of our salvation from God’s condemnation which our past sins deserve.

Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel. For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.

(Ezekiel 18:1-4 NLT)

Also:

“‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live. The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done.

(Ezekiel 18:19-22 NLT)

Discipline In The Church & Our Relationships

Discussion of these verses led to a lot of comments today in our Sunday School class. As Amy Schulke pointed out, this passage does NOT say “If your brother or sister sins, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector.” There are many things Jesus calls us to do when it comes to situations involving discipline.

I added that my experiences as a parent and father have really illuminated my own understanding of discipline and the ways God asks us to approach discipline in our relationships. As a parent I should never discipline my children with a heart filled with condemnation and punishment. My heart in enforcing discipline should always be filled with love. I discipline my children not because I am angry or want to bring them pain: I discipline because I want their behavior to change and come back in line with what is expected. If I did not love my children I would not discipline them. Instead I might ignore them or punish them.
I am called as a parent and follower of Jesus to discern right behavior and act properly in response to those behaviors. Sometimes this means making hard choices and doing difficult things which would be MUCH easier to avoid.
Matthew 18:15-17 NIV
“”If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”See it at YouVersion.com:

http://bible.us/Matt18.15.NIV

Clear Teaching on the sin of homosexual behavior

These verses from the apostle Paul are clear and unequivocal concerning the sin of homosexual behavior.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

See it at YouVersion.com: http://bible.us/1Cor6.9.NLT

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Putting the Passage of Amendment 10-A for Christians Worldwide in Statistical Perspective

Cross-posted from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.”

Back in August of 2006 I created the blog “Eyes Right” as a Christian team blog where I (and others) could share posts related to Christianity and our walks of faith. Since that time, I’ve generally shared posts focused on religious, spiritual, and specifically Christian topics there rather than here on my main blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” This decision followed a post here in which I shared my personal testimony of faith, which remains linked in the right sidebar of this blog. The reason for this separation of blog posts by topic is definitely NOT a lack of desire on my part to publicly profess and share my faith, but rather my sense that most readers of my main blog “are coming” not to read and learn about issues of faith but rather topics more closely related to learning, educational technology, leadership in 21st century schools, etc. With that ongoing understanding in mind, I’ll make this post brief.

As you may know as a reader of my blog, I am a Christian and a Presbyterian. The recent passage of “Amendment 10-A” by Presbyteries of the PCUCA denomination represents a significant change in the historic doctrine of the Presbyterian Church. The 11 May 2011 CNN article, “Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to allow gay and lesbian clergy,” highlights some of the events and actions which led to Amendment 10-A. This chapter in our denominational history represents and reflects a continuation of a broad cultural war which continues to be promulgated on many fronts. In this post I want to principally commend to and amplify for you two posts written by Dr. Mateen Elass, author of “Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book” and pastor of our Presbyterian church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Mateen’s two most recent blog posts, “Historic moments, Part 1” from May 14th and “Historic Moments, Part 2” from May 15th express multiple perspectives in response to the Amendment 10-A passage which deserve careful consideration. In the second post, Mateen attempts to put the ‘historic significance’ of this action in statistical perspective considering the numbers of professing Christians worldwide. He writes:

The PCUSA has joined 3 other American denominations (the UCC, Episcopal Church, and ELCA) in embracing homosexuality as a lifestyle blessed by God. Rounding upwards generously, this group represents a maximum of 10 million people. Estimates place the worldwide Christian population at roughly 2.1 billion people. There are no other major denominations or Christian movements worldwide which support the ordination of practicing homosexuals, but let’s add another 5 million to cover liberal, post-Christian Protestant Europe. That means that with our recent vote, the PCUSA has moved from siding in this matter with 99.8% of the institutional church on earth to that representing 0.2%. I’d say that qualifies as a momentous change and historic moment for the PCUSA, but it hardly registers on the scale statistically for the worldwide church. Even if you lump all 2 million Presbyterians in the pro-homosexual ordination category (which is obviously not the case), we account for less than a one tenth of one percent shift of view in the worldwide Church on this matter. Hardly historic.

While this decision of Presbyterian denominational leaders may not be statistically significant on a global scale, it certainly is (as Mateen points out) for our denomination. Jesus’ commandments to love the sinner but to hate sin are clear. We live in a world which, however, increasingly places the values of tolerance and moral relativism on a transcendent altar of worship. The definition and even existence of “sin” is contested and rejected by many. I share Mateen’s perspectives and passion in his May 14th post, in which he wrote:

My prayer is not for unity with a culturally syncretistic leadership, but that God will gather all orthodox, evangelical Presbyterians together to pool our resources and use them to forward the great ends of the church, rather than support a bureaucracy and system which has been manipulated regularly to blindly underwrite a post-Christian cultural agenda. I’m not sure exactly what such a gathering would look like, but I hope to find out. I’m not interested in leaving the PC(USA); I’m interested in our taking back the city, and instituting sweeping changes.

The culture wars of the 21st century continue, and the battle lines have been drawn across my front yard. Don’t worry, I’m not going to use “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” as my principal media channel for writing about this and other topics relevant to the Christian faith. The separate “Eyes Right” blog will continue for that purpose. I do want to share with and recommend to you Mateen’s posts, however, and observe that the passage of Amendment 10-A does not represent my beliefs or views as a Presbyterian.

Just in case you were wondering.

Vote!photo © 2008 Kristin Ausk | more info (via: Wylio)

How would you begin to respond to Fake Steve?

From time to time, I like to check in on the blog of the Fake Steve Jobs. Although I do not like and disapprove of his periodic use of profanity in his posts, much of what he writes is funny and on target with things happening related to Apple. The recent post, “Hate-spewing “Christians” need to listen up,” makes some good points but also leaves me asking, “How should I respond to this?” After starting with an initial denial of Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, fake Steve (a.k.a. Daniel Lyons) shares with a great deal of accuracy the stories of the good Samaritan, the woman at the well, and the prodigal son. His points on the first two stories are on the mark, he seems to miss that grace definitely IS a huge part of the prodigal son story, however. In his older post, “FWIW, Jesus didn’t always tell the truth, either,” he reveals a clear background in Bible study and awareness citing the scene of Jesus before Pilate prior to his crucifixion. His conclusion, that Christ lied frequently and was inconsistent in discussing his identity, is off base, but I find it noteworthy Daniel reveals some background in Biblical study but BIG misunderstandings about major points.

My goal with this post isn’t to debate Daniel Lyons’ ideas point by point, but rather to raise the startling point that in this widely read, written for laughs blog – Christianity is being not only discussed, but also brazenly attacked. Certainly Christ is maligned and mis-interpreted by Daniel. It strikes me as quite remarkable, however, that this kind of frontal attack on core ideas of Christianity and the gospel is being carried out on this blog. The 199 comments on this post (as of this writing) also reveal an engaged debate about many of the issues Daniel raises, with people chiming in from multiple vantage points.

My main response to this is to pray. It’s not ultimately up to me to change Daniel’s mind about Jesus and who He is, it’s in God’s hands. That does NOT, however, mean I should disengage from this discussion or shy away from sharing Christ with Daniel as well as others in my life. I know prayer is the right path in every circumstance, and these messages from Daniel are so challenging prayer seems to be the natural, reflective response. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to also pray for Daniel Lyons: That God would reveal himself to him, that he would read the Words of Christ in the Bible again and be transformed, that (like Saul who became Paul) he would stop persecuting the church on earth and instead be transformed to become its agent and champion.

Daniel is 100% correct that Jesus and the Bible do not command us to hate other human beings. We are, however, commanded to hate sin. He is also correct that the Catholic church historically strayed FAR from the teachings of Christ. I’m pleased indulgences are no longer for sale, but it’s understandable many are disillusioned by the checkered past of “the church” and those proclaiming to act in God’s name as well as the name of Jesus.

Overall, reading this post as well as others in which Daniel takes jabs at Christians as well as Christ reinforces my conviction that we must be vocal and speak out in the world about Christ and for Christ. This is a basic idea behind the “3 Minutes About Jesus” video campaign. In our lost, postmodern world, we need to shine as lights in the darkness.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 4-5

We’re not called to shine alone. We’re called to shine together.

Let Your Light Shine

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Initial Christian focused videos with Storyrobe

Cross-posted to BLASTcast.

Encouraging 10 and 11 year old students in fifth grade to think deeply about the ways God speaks to us in our lives, what the Bible means for our lives, and how we should respond to challenging situations in our lives using the words of Jesus is hard work. We are continuing to encourage our students to share their understanding, their thinking, and their questions about their Christian faith through multimedia in our 5th grade Sunday School class. Today we used the iOS application “Storyrobe” to create short videos about several topics. Students worked in pairs and were given the challenge of creating short videos (using five still images and finger puppets) which illustrated either:

  1. Bible Verses (explaining their meaning, application to their life, or special personal significance)
  2. A SINtuation (a real-life situation they have seen or encountered which involves fear, temptation, action, and consequences)
  3. Questions (challenging questions about God, faith, the Bible, or other topics related to faith)

Story Options

Students were required to create a plan for their story and write down some ideas, and explain it to one of our four adult teachers / shepherds who were present for today’s lesson.

Finger Puppets and Story Scripts

We had four groups out of eight complete their stories in class today. We’ll share and debrief these next week.

Kelly and Suzie created this video about “The Birth of Jesus.” December and Christmas time often presents confusing messages about the birth of Jesus as well as Santa Claus and consumerism. We’ll discuss these topics in upcoming weeks.

Another group (I didn’t get their names written down but will add them later – if you know please comment!) created this video which I’ve titled, “The Good Samaritan.” This story references Luke 10:25-37, which is very relevant to the way we live our lives and treat others. It also connects to questions one of our students asked last week, about “Who decided who got to go to heaven and hell before Jesus came?” We discussed that a bit in class and will talk more in the weeks ahead.

Sarah and Hannah created this video which they titled, “Building Problems.” This is based on Ezra 4. Rather than select and explain a verse they have studied previously and has personal significance, they chose to just select a random verse from the Bible and illustrate it. We’ll discuss next week how this example not only missed the purpose of our assignment, but it can also be confusing for people watching it. What does this mean? What is the main idea of this verse and the lesson we should take away from it? While this particular video didn’t meet our lesson objectives, it does provide a great opportunity to further discuss our purposes of doing this activity and how we want to both seek and share truth in our lives, rather than random ideas that can be confusing.

The last group to finish a video in class today was Gracie and Darla, who created “John and Lily.” They wanted to illustrate a situation which challenges faith, when a person is dying. In addition to illustrating the scene and the role prayer and faith can play in giving hope, they tried to explain this in the end of the video.

Overall today’s lesson was MUCH more successful than some others we’ve tried using media and technology, in part because we used mobile devices (iPhones with cameras and Storyrobe pre-loaded) to create our stories instead of more cumbersome, larger cameras and computers. Next time we do this I’m going to prepare an empty storyboard for students to complete, which lists spaces beside the five photos they plan to take and has room for character dialog planning. This may have been the first time many of our students had a chance to create a video project like this in Sunday school, and there is a LOT to learn both for students and adult facilitators. Next week we will definitely praise and recognize our students who DID complete their projects, because it took focus and work to get done in just 30 minutes! I’m hopeful this process will help us do even better next time. Many of our student groups worked hard in the time we had, but there’s a lot to do here in just 30 minutes!

If you have comments or feedback about this activity or this process please share them on this post!

Have a blessed week!

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Is Jesus the only path to salvation?

The following comment and question was posted on my main blog on a recent entry, “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Muslims are NOT our enemies.” The comment was:

I have one thing to ask of the people who claim their respective religion is the “only” path to God, and that is to ask themselves what happens to people who are atheistic or of the “incorrect” religion, but are truely [sic] good people? Does this mean that they are never saved, never loved by God in heaven (or whatever you believe happens when you die)?It is an interesting question, one that I have wondered often, especially when some christians claim that the path to God is only through embracing Jesus.
Jeff – a high school student who stumbled on this article

Here’s my response:

Jeff: Great question.

In the case of Christianity, I go back to what CS Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity.” A lot of people want to put Jesus in a box and say something like, “He was a good moral teacher but not the Son of God.” Lewis says Jesus was either a raving lunatic or exactly what he said he was: God on earth. Jesus in his teachings was clear about “the path to salvation” being through a narrow gate. This is a HUGE stumbling block for many people who consider themselves Christians today, but have a more unitarian / universalist view of salvation. It may sound much nicer to say “all religious roads lead to the same path” but that is not what you’ll read in the Bible. So a fundamental question to answer for yourself in this regard is, “Who do I believe Jesus was and is?”

Jesus, of course, did not endorse a terrible list of evils which have been perpetrated throughout time in his name: the inquisition, the crusades, actions by white supremacists, etc. These are big issues that keep many people from understanding Jesus and his message as well.

Christianity is differentiated from all other religions in the world in one significant way: Grace. In every other faith, you’ll learn about how you need to work and “do things” to earn your way to salvation. For the Christian, a transformed life is one filled with good works for God– but salvation is not a result of works. You don’t find this in Islam, Hinduism, or any other mainline religion but you do in Christianity.

My encouragement to you is to keep seeking the answer to the question you’ve asked here, keep asking other people, and keep praying to God to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you. Read the Bible and seek God’s spirit through it, especially reading the gospels.

Ultimately there are MANY things we don’t know and can’t answer with certainty, even when we have a strong faith and conviction in knowing God. He is infinite and so definitionally He’s beyond our limited abilities to fully understand. This is not a cop-out, I think it’s actually wisdom which you will find with many “religious” people, Christian and non-Christian alike. This does NOT mean truth is relativistic and “unknowable” either, but it does mean we aren’t going to get everything figured out while we’re still all mortals on this planet.

If you see or hear someone who claims to be a Christian espousing damnation and a condemning judgement on others, in a hateful spirit, be wary. When you read about the life of Christ in the Bible, you learn he never acted that way toward everyday people. He was most severe and condemning when he criticized the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees. Believing that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and the “narrow gate” through which we are able to be forgiven and accepted by God does NOT mean we are to go around condemning everyone we meet who doesn’t believe the way we do. Jesus simplified all the laws in the Old Testament in these two commands: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s not any condemning in those commands.

What would you say in response to Jeff’s questions?

Memorial at Ponte Vedra Beach
Creative Commons License photo credit: minds-eye

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Discussing Matthew 7:21-23

These were our discussion questions about Matthew 7:21-23 this morning in my men’s group. “What Does It Take to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?”

1) Jesus envisions conversations that will take place “on that day.” What is the day about which Jesus is speaking?

2) What role does Jesus envision for himself “on that day?” How does that affect your view of and relationship with him?

3) What sums up “the will of my Father in heaven” which one must do in order to enter heaven? How do you make sense of the messages that we are saved by the work of Christ on our behalf and that we are saved by doing the will of the Father in heaven? Are these not contradictory statements?

4) To prophesy, cast out demons, and do many mighty works in Jesus’ name seems like a strong, spiritual pedigree. Why would Jesus reject anyone who has done these kinds of works in his name?

5) What then do you think Jesus means by his response to such people, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity…”?

6) What do you anticipate you will say “on that day” when you stand before Jesus?

Humanity and Sin

These are my notes from Mateen Elass’ lesson on “Humanity and Sin” on January 27, 2010, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is using a curriculum from:

www.reclaimingthemind.org

This is the course “Humanity and Sin.”

Tonight we are going to talk about how and when the human soul is created, and when it enters the body, and other questions….

MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS, THE REST HERE ARE NOTES I TOOK THIS EVENING. I’M ABLE TO TO DROP IN ON THIS CLASS TONIGHT, BUT WON’T BE ABLE TO ATTEND AGAIN FOR SEVERAL WEEKS.

Psalm 8

when was the soul created?
What part, if any, do our parents play in the creation of the soul?
Is the soul “inserted” into our body? If so, when? At conception?

3 main theories about the soul’s creation
1- pre-existence theory
2- creation theory
3- traducing theory

pre-existence theory
– souls / spirits are eternal and pre-exist the creation of their bodies
– sin nature can be attributed to the former state of existence in which the person sinned

this view is not Biblically supported, but is a common outcome of Gnostic Dualism

John 9: People ask about a blind man, who sinned in his family past
– it was a common Jewish view that souls before birth could do things (sins) that would result in judgement, manifested as a disease

Romans 9: 11 (around there) Paul is talking about Jacob and Essau, God chose Jacob over his brother before they came out of the womb
– God’s choice is not a matter of human choice or decision, it

There is no Biblical evidence that the human soul pre-dates conception

Adherents to pre-existence theory include Origen, Delitzsch
– 3rd Century Church Father (gnostics)

this view holds that souls pre-exist in space before they inhabit bodies

even though this view isn’t Biblically based, it DOES undergird Morman theology

Gnostics view the body as the repository of evil

Creation Theory is #2
– teaches God himself creates each person’s soul individually
– then God places the soul in the body

Adherents: Grudem, Hodge, Berkhof, Calvin, and Roman Catholics

Genesis 2: God fashions Adam’s body out of the earth, and breathes life into him
– that looks like the insertion of a soul / life giving force

Traducian Theory
– comes from Latin “tradux” meaning “inheritance, transmission”
– teachers the soul is created in and with the body by the parents
– God is the ultimate creator, but uses people intermediately or as secondary causes
– at conception a soul AND a body is formed
– so in this view an abortion would need an extra-ordinary justification, because it definitively says at conception the body and the soul is created

Adherents: Tertullian, Luther, and Jonathan Edwards

Louis Smeed argues the Bible always puts its message down on the side of life
– you always need an overriding reason to take a life
– it is always better to err on the side of life

Others say life enters the baby at “the time of quickening” when the mother can feel the baby moving inside her body
– some used to argue you didn’t have life until birth, this may have been the Jewish tradition

Hebrew concept of foreknowledge means that God decided to enter into a relationship of love with us before we were born

Jonathan Edwards is one of Mateen’s personal theological heros

In Mormon theology, there are lots of pre-existing “spirit babies” as well as “spirit adults” who have ascended
– Jesus and Lucifer, in Mormon theology, are spirit brothers at the same meta-physical level
– they believe historically Lucifer had a plan that was rejected by God they call father, and Jesus’ plan was accepted

Gostic Dualism dovetails well with “creation of the soul” theory
– it makes a separation between the body and soul
– the union of the soul / spirit and body with body is viewed as a temporary, necessary evil

Zechariah 12:1
“The revelation of the word of the LORD concerning Israel, The LORD– He who stretches out the the….

Hebrews 12:9 “…the Father of spirits…”

MY OWN THOUGHT AND ASIDE: I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE BEING KEPT SECRET IN THE VATICAN LIBRARY 🙂

If God’s creation is good, how could the soul end up already tainted at the point of birth?
– reformed theologians argue our nature from birth is always away from God

Traducian theory better explains the inheritance of original sin and corruption as being handed down, in both body and soul, by Adam

In Roman Catholicism, infant baptism is the sacrament which is seen to deal with the problem of original sin
– this is why Catholic parents with a baby who is dying will ask for a priest to baptize the baby as well as perform last rites, the baptism is seen to clean the baby from sin s/he may have committed in their short life, while the last rites clean the baby so s/he will inherit the kingdom of God after death

MY THOUGHT: HAVING SOME FRIENDS WHO LOST A BABY IN THE HOSPITAL JUST AFTER BIRTH, THIS IS A SITUATION WITH WHICH I HAVE PARTICULAR INTEREST

Question: If God creates each soul directly, and each person is born sinful in both body and soul, then how did the soul become sinful? Did God create a sinful soul and then unit it to he sin corrupted body? This would make God the author of sin — not man.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a sermon about sovereignty of God, the conditions of life are not ultimately what destines a person to a particular fate
– look at Romans 9:18
– that sounds a lot like double pre-destination
– in the end it is a mystery, but God remains sovereign about the decision of who ends up in heaven and who does not

Biblical evidence, in terms of human beings charting our own course, sides with a view that humans are not born with a neutral nature with respect to God, but rather with a nature which turns away from God

total depravity means every part of human life is tainted by sin

in reformed theology, “free will” is defined as pursuing what you most want to do in life
– the nature of humans is to turn away from God
– we have all the freedom in the world to follow that master
– it is Christ who gives us the possibility of a new freedom, to no longer obey that old master (the flesh) and instead offer ourselves up to a new master (God)

we are slaves to sin until Christ sets us free
– until that day we think we are free, but our nature is cast or set in a direction that is opposite to God

There is field of thought which holds:
If you change someone’s behavior over time, you will change their way of thinking
– based in the idea of cognitive dissonance

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