Thursday, October 21, 2010

If I had a Time-Traveling DeLorean

Yesterday, here in the Seattle area, the host of the conservative talk show I often listen to decided to talk about the movie Back to the Future and how the stars of that movie, Michael J. Fox, et al, occasionally travel around to Back to the Future conventions (I didn’t know such a thing existed). And how at these shows, they are inevitably asked this question: “If you really had a time-traveling DeLorean, would you go into the future or into the past? If into the past, who, when or what would you want to see?” (or some words to that effect)

A guest on the show said that he would go into the future and learn what sports teams and the stock market did, insinuating that he could then come back and get rich quick. Not a bad idea, I guess, but the question did what it was supposed to do and it got me thinking of the answer I would give, which is that I think I’d go back in time, not forward.

Now, you might be thinking, “Yes, so you could by stock in Microsoft or Boeing!” Well, that’s a great idea, but that wasn’t be my first thought. Or you might say, “You’d want to meet a famous person, like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Abe Lincoln, or such?” No, not my first thought either. Those who know me might then guess, “Well, it has to be Ronald Reagan that you’d like to meet; you named your daughter after him after all, so that’s it, right?” Again, no (although Jesus and Reagan are at the top of the list, behind the one person who I’d like to visit first).

So, if I had a time-traveling DeLorean, I’d go back in time and visit my dad. He died suddenly in an auto accident on February 13, 2001, at the young age of 60; and, by gosh, I miss him.

He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye as I was growing up, we had our moments when I didn’t understand what he was trying to get across to me. But, as an adult, I’ve said many times that I sure wish that I had listened to him more closely and followed his advice; maybe I’d have had a little easier go at this adulthood thing.

Here’s a good example: as a junior in high school, I was offered a wrestling scholarship to a local college, but as a senior, the college had to drop its wrestling program due to a lack of funding. When that happened, dad offered to pay my way through college, but, being the numbskull that I was, I told him, “Nope, I’ll do it on my own.” Well, it turned out that I was in my 40’s before I finally got my bachelor’s degree, working the whole time as I was taking a class here and a class there.

After high school, I didn’t see him a whole lot, I joined the military and traveled the world for the next 20 years. Then when I retired from the Air Force, I found a job about a thousand miles away, so as an adult, I saw him maybe once a year or so. I hate that he didn’t get to see me graduate from college and grad school, I hate that he didn’t get to see what successful adults his grandchildren have become and I hate that he didn’t get to see my fourth child or his soon-to-be-born first great-grandchild.

I tell my 7-year-old daughter, Reagan, about him all the time and she’s excited to see him someday in heaven – and so am I.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is it okay for Christians to drink Alcoholic Beverages?

Popping the top of a can of beer that’s just above the freezing point is a nice way to bring a hard day’s work to an end. A nice glass of wine with supper can make a good meal taste even better. There’s nothing wrong with Christians partaking in these alcohol drinking activities--or is there? Is it okay for Christians to drink alcoholic beverages?

From my vast experience with Christian churches (as an adult, I’ve lived in 3 countries, 8 states and 22 different cities, and I’ve attended churches in each of them), I feel safe in saying that most churches heavily frown on its members drinking alcohol; and most, if not almost all of them required their leadership to completely abstain from all alcoholic beverages at all times (although I did speak with one pastor who offered to drink a beer with me and I’m related to another pastor who will drink a beer or two). But, is this requirement biblical? Is complete abstinence from alcohol commanded by Christ?

Now, let me say up front that I do drink beer, I like it, it taste good, and it’s relaxing; I don’t like wine or liquor, but that’s a personal preference. So I say the answer to my question is a resounding NO. I think it is a game of “I’m holier than you” when Christian put down and/or forbid others from drinking alcoholic beverages.

I will present scripture that allows me, as a Christian, to drink alcoholic beverages and I dare anyone to point out scripture that forbids it. There is not one verse in the whole Bible, Old or New Testament, that forbids God’s followers from drinking any alcoholic beverage. I know because I’ve looked.

Let’s look now at a few verses that ALLOW us to eat or DRINK anything we want:

Colossians 2:16-17 – Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

And how about this one:

1 Timothy 5:23 - Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

People like to say, “Well, Paul was really talking about grape juice there, wine back then was only what we call grape juice today.”

Really? Then why did Paul write in Ephesians 5:18 – “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery?” It’s the same word and same meaning.

It even seems that Jesus drank wine on occasion, as in these following verses:

John 2:1-11 - Jesus Changes Water to Wine. The Word doesn’t say that He did in fact drink wine that day, but it doesn’t say that He didn’t either (what else would He have drank?).

Matthew 26:29 - I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.

This verse definitely says that Jesus was a wine drinker; and again, their wine was not our grape juice.

The main problem here is that some people like to add to scripture, as if they know better than God; they know better what people should do to be “holy”. They think of themselves to be wiser than the writers of the Bible. But look at what these verses say:

Matt 15:6-9 Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

1 Corinthians 6:12 – Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Cor 4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”

Rev 20:18, 19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Alcohol is not, in and of itself, sinful to indulge in. It is drunkenness and addiction to alcohol that a Christian must absolutely refrain from. We must know what the Bible says; know what our freedoms are and what our restrictions are. It’s better to follow the Bible than to obey man-made rules that add to the Bible, as the Pharisees did and were condemned by Jesus.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do the Unsaved Burn Forever in Hell?

Ask most any Christian what happens to the unsaved when they die, and most likely the answer you’ll receive is that they go to hell. By this they mean that at the moment of death, the unrepentive sinner will immediately be ushered into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity burning in the flames, suffering pain and anguish forever and ever.

Where do Christians get this idea? It may surprise you to find out that this scenario is NOT in the Bible! So why is this belief so prevalent today? I can only guess that it’s a mass misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says. I was taught this scenario my whole life in church; and I swallowed it without once looking to see what the Bible really said. It was this way until my studies became more Christ-focused instead of man-focus, more Bible-centric as opposed to extra-biblical writings. Now, I still read other people’s writings to help me to understand difficult passages and to get other perspectives of what I’m discovering in my biblical readings.

One of the topics God has prompted me to study more closely is this concept of the unsaved burning forever. The main crux of the problem that I now have about this is that in order to burn forever, is that the person in question would have to live forever; they’d have to have an immortal soul. So, the question becomes, does every single person who has ever been conceived have an immortal soul or spirit?

The short answer is no, they don’t. Here’s why:

The Bible only uses the word “immortal” once, in 1 Timothy 1:17 and is describing God, not man: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Bible only uses the word “immortality” five times.

1. Romans 2:7 - To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Eternal life isn’t a birthright, it’s something to be sought after.

2 & 3. 1 Corinthians 15: 53 & 54 – For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

It should be clear here that we are perishable and mortal, waiting for the imperishable and immortality to be placed on us like clothing. Only them do we have victory over death.

4. 2 Timothy 1:10 - but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Jesus brings eternal life through the gospel; again, it’s not something we are born with.

5. 1 Timothy 6:15b & 16 - God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Only God is immortal, man isn’t nor can be unless God clothes him with immortality through the gospel message.

I think that I’ve made a pretty good argument, by using nothing but the Bible, that man is not an immortal creature, and that he can only become immortal through accepting the gospel message and becoming a Christian. How can a person who does not accept the gospel of Christ live forever? He can’t; it’s impossible for him to live forever in hell or anywhere else!

Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Why should the word “destroy” mean something different in the Bible than it does for us now? It doesn’t, people are sent to hell, burned up and destroyed; they no longer exist.

I can hear some of you saying: but wait, the Bible says that hell is an eternal flame, its smoke rises up forever. Why would hell be eternal if everyone who goes there is burned up and does not exist anymore? The answer is very simple – angels. Angels were created in, and live in, eternity, they never die.

The flames of hell were never meant for people, Matthew 25:41 says, “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Satan and his fallen angels will burn forever, being eternal creatures, they won’t die. But humans will be sent to hell to be “destroyed”, not to live in pain for eternity.