Should the Church have Closed and Is It Time to Reopen?

My friends daughter said “dad why are they closing churches, no one gets sick in church” a simple child’s faith but it gave me pause so I can’t judge a pastor that has decided to keep their Church’s doors open.  I don’t know if the Spirit called him to stay open or not. God will judge and we may be able to infer something from the results.  If a word is from God one should expect the results to bare fruit.

I believe that the church is a miraculous place that God made for us. Yes God is everywhere and you can meet Him at home but the church is set apart and sometimes home for many can seem much less so, hence God created houses of prayer for all people (Matthew 21:13).

In the beginning while the world was getting a handle on this outbreak of the Wuhan Flu suspending some ministries and moving to online services makes sense. However I don’t know if the church should have completely shut its doors with the staff doing web streams from home. Jesus said “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” This is a command which seems hard to fulfill if the doors are locked to everyone no matter the circumstance.   Scripture also command in Hebrews 10, “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  As part of our Christian witness and neighborly duty we need to be flexible to meet requests of those in authority to fulfill Roman’s 13. But at some point and some degree we also have to follow what Peter said “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide”.  There is a tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4.  Now after the recovery rate has been determined to be 99% and the at risk groups are more clear there should be ways the church could open up a bit more with safety measures while at risk groups watch from home or from cars in parking lot services.

It has been utterly reprehensible that abortion clinics have been deemed essential while the church has not.  We can even see a targeting of Churches and Synagogues in New York by Mayor de Blasio while others have not been.  In John 4 Jesus is compared to bread and water and therefore just as important as these therefore the church is just as essential as food and water.  Below is a link to an article and two videos which I believe may be helpful to pastors and churches as they navigate the questions to reopen along with legal considerations that may need to be addressed.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You

The Bible, The Church and Psychology

This may be the first post where I don’t really draw a conclusion nor state a strong opinion. That is because it is one thing I have been struggling to get my arms and head around for years. I’m hoping this post may be useful to start some dialogues toward a better understanding. The issue is this. The bible talks about behaviors and also addresses why we misbehave. It even addresses extreme behaviors identifying spiritual and demonic causes. On the other hand psychology studies behaviors, mental and emotional states and also proposes reasons and solutions. This to me seems to be a large overlapping grey area.

Many churches and Christians now defer to psychology placing more faith in its “scientific approach”. But many fail to realize that as a science it lacks many of the rigors of physics, chemistry and even biology. For example in those struggling with depression they find a chemical imbalance in the brain. One would think, “Oh well there is the cause”, but it is really an assumption of cause. It could very well be the effect of something else. Because emotional states cannot be measured; they must be communicated. Therefore cause and effect relationships cannot be rigorously established.

In modern psychology the naturalistic paradigm assumes that all behaviors must have physical experiential causes and therefore physical solutions. From personal experience dealing with my own children struggling with ADHD, after years of denial and mistakes I had to accept the reality of such a mental disability having behavioral consequences.

Naturalistic psychology denies the metaphysical but as Christians we believe in the metaphysical. Though the metaphysical or spiritual cannot be measured it can and does often affect the physical.

innerbeing

In this diagram Christians accept what is both above and below the physical divide. Naturalistic psychology only accepts what is below the divide. In the past Christians may have tended to lean toward metaphysical causes for behavioral issues while giving less consideration to the effects of the physical which wasn’t the best course. Now many are leaning the other way. So then how are Christians to discern what is caused by that which is above the divide from that which is caused by the physical below the divide.

Let us consider some examples.

In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus comes upon a boy who is mute, has seizures, and often tries to throw himself into a fire to cause personal harm. Jesus commands the unclean spirit to leave. The disciples ask why they couldn’t cast it out to which he says “this kind only comes out with prayer.” Today this child might have been diagnosed with epilepsy and self-injury disorder.

In Mark 5:1-2 Jesus comes upon a man living in a graveyard. The man is violent and when bound he breaks even chains used to bind him. Jesus talks to the unclean spirits and then commands them to come out. Today this man may be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or some other disorder. I heard of a middle school student diagnosed with spectrum disorder who is often agitated and violent and tore a drinking fountain off the wall.

Does Jesus response necessarily infer that these symptoms are always prescriptive of an unclean spirit? Maybe not necessarily, but then how are we to discern? If we always defer to a physical or mental cause then some may be condemned to a life of spiritual torment. These are some examples of extreme circumstances. Other less extreme ones include:

In James 1:13-15 speaks about temptation to sin. In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus tells of a son asked to work who says yes but then doesn’t and a second son who says no but regretted and did the work. Jesus asked which obeyed to which they all agreed the second son. I’ve experienced this in Boy Scouts working with scouts having ADHD off to do what is asked and later found distracted by other things. The bible speak of discipline in Proverbs including both penal and verbal rebuke to dissuade bad behavior. But some schools of Psychology propose that all psychosis or tendencies to bad behavior are the result of past trauma. Therefore discipline such as punitive action is traumatic and only positive reinforcement and encouragement should be enacted.

There are more examples in scripture which may be compared to modern society and psychology. And in many cases there are contrasting views and responses between scripture and psychology. But many questions still remain how to discern spiritual from physical causes. How to discern whether punitive or positive redirection is required. How to discern spiritual causes for behavior along with or apart from those caused by mental disabilities. Its a difficult topic but one the church should address while not giving in to the temptation to defer to modern sensibilities.

Migrant Caravan Reaction

To be honest I don’t know what to think about a caravan of thousands of people from Honduras and Guatemala. I’m wondering how something like that gets started, how they are getting resources to travel and how so many people are drawn together. When I think about 1909-1916 when my family came over to Ellis Island there was economic depression and the spread of communism and people heard that America was looking for immigrants to work in factories. Many sold everything to buy passage on ships and came over and I remember seeing pictures of poorly hand made American Flags because they were excited about becoming an American. Many others were turned away by the shipping companies due to sickness.  There was little to no government assistance so my great grandparents went to the church who housed them and helped them find employment.  My grandparents had to take immigration and naturalization classes and take an oath casting off all other allegiances. Leviticus 19:34 definitely calls us to treat sojourns as one of our own and Mal 3:5 says that God is against those that refuse to help immigrants. But the bible also says in Num 15:16 that there will be one law for everyone indicating that naturalization is also expected.

With this in mind there are things that bother me with the current state of immigration in the US. For example my parents live on the South Side of Chicago and many undocumented immigrants live by them. They are friendly people but my parents are bothered by the fact that many of them do not up keep their property and its actually causing damage to my parents property. Its not that they don’t have resources but many send their money over to Central America to maintain homes they own there or buy/maintain homes for their relatives. Further when my mother went to vote back in 2012 an undocumented immigrant came in to vote just yelling a candidates name and they rushed her over to a booth and helped her vote in Spanish without asking for any ID.  My niece saw the same thing in the November 2018 elections at her polling facility. 

My cousin is a Chicago police officer and he says several times a week he gets called in where an undocumented immigrant has wrecked cars and property while drunk, or gotten into drunken brawls and assaulted someone and what bothers him is that because Chicago is a sanctuary city they just let the guy right out the back of the police department and he is told to keep his mouth shut… They say that there is low crime rates related to immigrants but its hard to tell how true this is when so many sanctuary states aren’t filling out police reports and are just letting them go. When I saw pictures of the caravan I saw many flags from these other countries which seems to be in contrast to the Ellis Island pictures of people with hand made American Flags. They say it takes long to go about immigration legally, I’m not sure how true that is as I work with a guy from Mexico who just got his citizenship which took him 3 years after working here on a visa, I suppose it might be related to coming over with some kind of working skill set versus not.  But it would seem that there should be some expectations for immigrants to meet some requirements and make a shift in their allegiance.  It seems to me that one side is painting this as all rainbows and butterflys while the other-side seems to paint it as a march of terrorists and plague carriers; the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Christian Response to Cake for a Gay Marriage

Christian Baker Under Fire for Refusing Wedding Cake for Gay Marriage

A Christian bakery owner is under fire for refusing to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple participating in openly gay marriage ceremony.  The couple alleges that the bakery owner told them “they were abominations to the Lord”.   Scripture tells us that Jesus was full of both grace and truth. If this statement with the term abomination was used then that wouldn’t have been with grace, however the baker has indicated that he didn’t make such a statement. There are many issues here:

1. For Christians there is no separation of faith and life. We are not to have a public business face and private Christian face.
2. Eph 5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  We are to take no part in deeds contrary to God’s moral standards and purposes.

3. Mt 5:19 says that if we ignore God’s law and teach others that its OK to ignore Gods law we shall be considered least in the kingdom of heaven. We are not to act in such a way that we leave any impression that any part of God’s law is something to be ignored. While everyone coming for cakes has some sin in their life this is a step further because the cake itself would be participating in an act of open rebellion to God’s law and design for marriage and therefore its creator would be doing so as well. Such a participation would constitute an infraction against the commands from God in scripture and here in Mt 5:19.  I have seen this justified by comparing it to a gun shop owner being responsible for the murder committed by a customer who bought a gun.  However just because someone buys a gun doesn’t infer that they are going to commit murder.  It is not the same thing as providing services for an event in direct opposition to God’s word since you know how it will be used beforehand.  Another example would be if I am a contractor and a gentleman’s club wants me to build their stage I would have to refuse; participation in or enablement of behavior contrary to the Word of God is not justifiable.
4. We are to extend grace and avoid enacting a judgement against others. The word judgement has two meanings; it is either a statement indicating a determination regarding correctness or it can mean a prescription of action to be taken, a prescribed penal response. We are to avoid penal responses and we are to avoid coming to our own determinations regarding correctness. But we are not to remain silent about God’s already stated “judgments”, His statements about whether something is right or wrong. Telling someone, making a public statement or taking a public action in line with God’s commands and design is not making a judgement our-self it is informing someone of God’s judgement. It might not be received well as people want to rebel and don’t want to have God’s word point out that they are in opposition to God and that God considers their actions wrong. But it is necessary because Romans 7:9-13 shows us that the law is part of the gospel. The good news is not so good unless we are aware of its contrast with the bad news of our sin.

It is clear from the law in Genesis 2:24 and reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Further 1 Cor 6:9-11 indicates that those practicing homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  I have people in my life that fall into this category and they are people I love very much.  Problem is since the law acknowledges same sex marriage and many in society either are indifferent or now are in support of this those practicing feel as if this “life style” is now legitimate and they will never think twice about it.  This if frustrating because it encourages those I love to continue on a path which puts them at odds with God and His law and under the penalty described in 1 Corinthians 6.

I suppose if it comes down to a judicial ruling or specific legislation compelling Christian’s to render services in support of such an immoral practice, as long as no one is physically in danger, than I believe the moral responsibility would transfer to those forcing compliance. Until such time or circumstance we are compelled to follow God’s principles and policies first.

The Noise of Our Sin

Jesus Christ with children

Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 18:10

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

The face that no one can see and live because of His holiness. The burning ones who serve God before the throne cover themselves with extra wings because even they would be consumed by the holiness of God almighty. The face of the all consuming fire. Before that face each child has angels (more than one) who get an audience. And moment by moment these angels come frustrated, weeping before the Father scores upon scores of angels for scores upon scores of children killed in abortion, abandoned or murdered by selfish parents, and a church barely raising a fuss over all of this. The noise of our sin must be such a din.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”  Hebrews 10:31

Is All Sin the Same?

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Image via Wikipedia

Does the Bible say that all sin is the same?  I can’t think of a specific verse which makes this statement so where does this idea come from?  I believe this idea is drawn from several passages.  The first being the Sermon on the mount where Jesus addresses the ideas of justifying one sin because of a similar yet more heinous sin.  The religious leaders had given them instructions but Jesus was contradicting their teaching.  Jesus would say “You have heard that it was said”.  Jesus was essentially saying that its not about finding a way which is convenient for you, the measure is holiness for God said “Be holy because I am holy”.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus compares murder to hating your brother and even being angry with your brother.  Jesus seeks to squash justifying sin but does not mean to infer that sins are equally bad or unacceptable. To do so ends up with the same problem; it minimizes sin and opens doors that shouldn’t be open. For example; If I am attracted then why not flirt and since it’s all the same and we are consenting adults then what’s wrong with the next step of adultery.  The second place is in 1 John.  In this epistle John calls the church to purity and holiness.  The focus here is on the doctrine of regeneration.  It is expected  that if a person is truly born again they will not make a practice of sin but abiding in Christ will be transformed into His likeness.

Matt 5:21-22 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ESV
1John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ESV
James 2:10-11 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.   ESV

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