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Tuesday

A Delicate Heirloom

I do not possess too many items of great value. Most of my possessions that I hold dear have more of a sentimental value than a numerical one. One of these items I hold dear is a pocket watch which belonged to my Great Grandfather Carl Otto Sabroe. Carl Sabroe was a sailer in the late 1800’s and spent many years sailing around the the world till he settled in California. There have been times I have held that watch in my hand while picturing him standing on the deck of a sailing ship while gazing at that very same watch.

I take special care when holding that watch. Its glass face could be easily broke, it’s hands could be bent if played with, and although I have the keys to the watch, none in my family have dared try to wind the watch for fear that it will break. Although the watch is not made from valuable materials or by a famous watchmaker, to me, it is a delicate heirloom to cherish, protect and hold dear. 

In in the book of 1st Peter, the recipients are encouraged to treat their wives with love and kindness. The text reads:
Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as a delicate vessel, and with honor as fellow heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 BSB)
When I hold my Great Grandfather’s watch, I do so with great care and gentleness. It is my prayer that I will always treat my wife with the same concern. Husbands should view their wives as “delicate heirlooms”, to be protected and cherished. A husband should never be cruel, rude, harsh or rough with his wife. Husbands often take their wives for granted. A wife is a precious gift, a delicate heirloom, and should be treated as such. 

What does the Bible say about Sexual Harassment?

There has been a great deal of discussion lately about sexual harassment and assault. Hopefully, this discussion will result in a greater awareness of what is and what is not appropriate behavior. Because of this discussion, many are asking “what does God say?” Although the Bible does not use the phrase “sexual harassment”, there are some passages that speak to the topic. Please observe a few:
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”  (Eph. 5:4)
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude” (1 Cor. 13:4)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-4)
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom. 13:9)
In all of these passages it is very clear that Christian should live a pure life and treat others with love and kindness. 

One book of the Bible that very clear about treating the opposite sex in a godly way is 1 Timothy. 1st Timothy is a letter from an experienced older preacher (Paul) to a young single preacher by the name of Timothy. Timothy is serving the church in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was noted for immorality and the worship of the fertility goddess Diana (which included erotic behavior and ceremonial prostitution). 

One would imagine that in a community like Ephesus, sexual harassment and impurity was commonplace. Timothy, however, is encouraged to live differently. He is told to not let “anyone look down upon” his youth and that he should be an example of “purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). When dealing with his congregants, he is encouraged to “treat the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). He should not view the women as objects of lust, but instead as “mothers” and “sisters”. 

A godly son would not sexual harass their mother, but instead would respect her. Likewise, a godly brother would protect and cherish his sister. The solution to sexual harassment is to view each-other as family. You do not harass or exploit family. Family is to be loved and protected. 

The book of Song of Solomon may also speak to the idea of loving and protecting family. Although the book is a love song between as husband and wife, there is an interesting scene in chapter 8 that reads:
We have a little sister, and she has not yet reached maturity. What will we do for our sister to prepare her form her engagement? If she’s a wall, on her we will build a battlement of silver. If she’s a door, we will enclose her with planks of cedar. (Song of Solomon 8:8-9)
The imagery is of older brothers protecting the sexual purity of their young sister until marriage. Despite the fact that this passage is highly poetic, the idea of brothers protecting sisters is the expected behavior. Timothy was to treat women as sisters, and according to the Song of Solomon, sisters should be loved and protected, not harassed and exploited.

We are all children of the same Creator. All people, young or old, male or female were made in the image of God. All people should be treated with love, kindness and respect. All people should be treated like family. 

CS

Friday

A Generation Betrayed (Keeping it Real: The Need to Build Trust When Reaching Millennials)

No generation wants to be lied to, especially those who would be classified as “millennials”. The millennial generation (to which I identify) would attest to the fact that they have personally been affected by the deceit of those in power. Politicians, religious leaders, educators and even our parents are not excused in this matter. You might say that the millennial generation is a generation betrayed. 

This generation has been betrayed by the church through the glaring hypocrisy in many places, betrayed by teachers who promised great opportunities through higher education, but yet only resulted in the opportunity to have large student loans and no employment with which to earn income to pay them off. Sadly, many in this generation would even say they feel betrayed by God. They believe in God, but through false ideas and presuppositions about His nature, they are let down. They soon realize that Christianity is not always like their teenage youth group, the spiritual highs of summer camp and youth devotionals fade into the reality that sin is always a ever-present struggle and many do not overcome.

This group of young adults is the future (and present) of the church. If as a church we are to reach them, we must work to build trust and make sure we are trustworthy. They would refer to this as “keeping it real”. How can this be accomplished?


It must be recognized that God’s Word is always true (John 17:17) and it must always be trusted. To build trust with millennials. the church must allow the Word to work without our dishonesty and hypocrisy standing in the way. Millennials are often characterized as being only concerned with “what works”. Christianity does work! The church is God’s plan, however, we need to demonstrate to these young adults how “it works”, and to do that we need to first get them to trust us. It is hard to develop trust with a group of people so heavily betrayed. This article seeks to present three areas in which we can be more “honest” and thus develop trust with the millennial generation.

Honesty in Bible Study
The greek philosopher Epictetus is recorded as saying “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”. Part of being honest with Bible study is a willingness to admit that we may not have it all figured out. It is very troubling to a millennial when a person is not willing to at least consider an opposing view point.

The church needs to do a better job in this area. We need have sound exegetical practices and we need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of proof texting our pre-existing opinions. A knowledgeable millennial can quickly see through poor argumentation. 

Be honest, admit we sometimes bring baggage into the text. Our backgrounds, wether cultural, experiential or religious all shape our approach to Scripture. Most everyone would declare that they are being honest with Scripture, but yet with so many differences in doctrine, some would have to be incorrect. Let’s not fool ourselves, let’s be honest and admit that oftentimes we allow preconceived ideas to shape our understanding of the Bible. Often we go to the Bible looking for support for a practice or an idea we already believe is correct as opposed to just allowing the Bible to speak to the reader. Of course, we would most likely vehemently deny such an accusation. 

How can we approach the Bible with more openness and honesty? Let’s not go to the Bible for support of ideas we already believe, instead we should approach the Bible as if it were the first time we ever opened it’s pages, as if we were unchurched, unreligious and had never read a verse before. Ask yourself when reading “If I were living on a deserted island and had never read the Bible before, what would I probably think this verse is saying?” If we had never been to a church service before, how would we organize worship? If we had never heard an invitation, what would we say is the path to salvation? These types of questions need to be asked constantly as we study. Millennials welcome and respect such questions as they help develop trust. Most of all, we need to be willing to say “I don’t know”, when we are presented with questions we cannot always figure out. At times “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” is the most honest answer you can give.

Honesty in Church Function and Practice
Although it may be painful to admit, we are at times very much bound by tradition. Let’s not get angry when this is identified. We must not try to vehemently defend practices that cannot be defended. A millennial can tell when they are being lied to and they hate fakes. It you want a millennial to trust you, be trustworthy. If a Sunday evening service or not clapping after a baptism is not doctrine but tradition, admit it. Be willing to say that you may like wearing a tie to church, but that formal dress in worship is nothing more than a preference. Admit these inconsistencies, develop trust and possibly save a soul. 

Another area where we need to be honest with our church practices is in outreach and community service, or our lack thereof. The millennial generation is very socially conscious and this is not a bad thing. Jesus made it very clear when He said “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and we as a church have always preached that we need to love the lost, but often it is only in word and not deed. 

We need to show we actually care about the lost. Millennials have been betrayed by those in the church who said they cared about the lost, but later were adamantly opposed to using church funds to help the poor. They have sat in services in large multimillion dollar church buildings while down the street they have seen people struggling to have a meal or a coat on their back.

Christians are to be the ministers to the poor, but sadly we have not been trustworthy in this way. The result has been that millennials betrayed by the church in this regard gravitate toward political leaders to help meet the needs of the community, but this too is to no avail. We need to show these compassionate young adults that if an individual cares about the needy, the church is the place for them to develop relationships and involve themselves with other caring individuals.

Jesus sat at the table of sinners (Matthew 9:10), millennials know it, they read it in the Bible! If we are going to develop trust with this group we must be honest in recognizing that we have a tendency to avoid sinners altogether. The church is to reach out and love all. We cannot mock homosexuals and then claim to love them. We cannot preach “no jew nor greek” and still have black and white churches. Let’s be honest and admit that we are not as loving as we claim to be and know we should be. Ask young Christians to help lead the church to reaching those we have neglected to reach in the past. This will allow for greater involvement from members and work to develop trust with those who feel betrayed.

Honesty with Self and Sin
No one likes a fake, and as has already mentioned, millennials especially despise them. We should keep it real by admitting and confessing our flaws. This is a biblical idea (James 5:16). The media is always replete with stories of the secret lives of politicians and religious leaders. We should do everything we can to make sure we never portray ourselves as “better”. Be willing to admit your sins and talk about them. 

Trust can easily be developed through confession, honesty and openness. Do not ever act like you are above needing to keep God’s commandments. Because of social media it is real easy to develop a persona that is not entirely factual. Millennials know this, they are well aware that a picture can be photoshopped and rebel against it. Christians, especially church leaders, often live “photoshopped lives”.

Young adults are looking for something real and authentic. They are hurting and in need of Jesus, if we act like we have it all figured out, we will never reach them. If we develop relationships with these young adults through openness we will help in creating much needed trust that all (especially millennials desire).

Final Thoughts
In a world full of betrayal and distrust, the church needs to shine forth as a beacon of honesty and truthfulness. We need to develop trust with millennials, we need to... “keep it real”.

By Cliff Sabroe - Originally appeared the Gospel Advocate - March 2015 Vol.17, No. 3

Tuesday

Why did God give so many strange rules to Israel in the Book of Leviticus? Is a Christian supposed to follow all of the Old Testament today?


Answer
Whether or not a rule is “strange” is a matter of perception. In my house, my children are not allowed to eat in the living room. Children often spill, my living room has a large rug in it, so it is very likely that my carpet would end up stained. A single man, living alone might view this rule as strange, but his perceptions are different because he does not have children, nor is he aware of the messes they often make.

I will admit, that to the modern reader, many of the laws of the Old Testament seem strange, especially since so many of them do not have an equivalent in the New. God gave Israel laws about sacrifice, what food to eat, what to do with sick people, what clothes to wear, how not to trim your beard, even when and when not to have sexual relations. Many of these rules are very specific while others are more broad. 

The Purpose of the Laws of Leviticus
Understand that all the laws given in Leviticus (and other books of law) were given specifically to the Israelites, for a specific purpose at a specific time. As for “why are there so many strange laws?”, I believe the answer is found in (Leviticus 20:22-26).
‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. ‘Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.‘Hence I have said to you, “You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
Conclusion
God wanted Israel to be holy and pure. He wanted them to be completely different from the extremely evil pagan nations around them. Some of the laws promoted good health, some kept them from immoral practices, others taught lessons about holiness and others prevented them from doing anything that resembled an idolatrous practice. There are some laws that are hard to understand, but remember, the reason that particular law was given, was to keep them “set apart” as God’s holy people.

What about the Other Old Testament Laws?
The Old Testament Law (including the book of Leviticus) was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were also designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. 

Notice what the book of Galatians states: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26).
The Old Testament Law fulfilled its purpose at the death of Christ. It was not abolished (as if it were not good), but instead it was fulfilled by Jesus.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
In the current Christian age, we are not subject to the requirements of the Old Law. The Old Law was only for a specific people (The Jews), for a specific purpose (To prepare the way for Jesus). Now, all people, (Jew are Gentile) are accountable to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)
"He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. (John 12:28)  
Final Thoughts 
The Old Testament should still be studied, but with the understanding that it is not a law we will be judged by. 
(Romans 15:4)For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB, Image from WikiPaintings  

Will I still go to heaven if I am cremated? Is it a sin? What does the Bible say?


End of life decisions are often difficult to make. This is especially true when it comes to one's final resting place and funeral. This question is a common one and although the Bible does not specifically mention cremation, I believe that one can conclude that there would be nothing wrong with the practice.

God is a powerful God! The Bible teaches that “the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). At the time of the resurrection, our mortal bodies will change. (1 Corinthians 15:50-55) describes this amazing transformation.
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
When Jesus comes again, the dead Christians (in whatever form they are in) will be raised to life eternal with God. God does not require a body to be whole for Him to resurrect it. During the early years of the church, Christians were often fed to lions as a punishment for their faith. Although it is a morbid thought, one would imagine that their bodies were no longer intact. What about one who was burned at the stake? God has the power to transform these mangled corpses in the same way that He could one who has be cremated. 

It is illogical to believe that one would not go to heaven if they are cremated. What about one who donates their organs to another? What about one who donates their body to science when they die? This physical body will be changed during the final resurrection into an immortal body. If God could form man from the dust of the Earth He can also raise up an individual from their cremated remains.

By Cliff Sabroe (References from the English Standard Version Bible)

Does Revelation 19:16 teach that Jesus has a tattoo on His thigh?

The Text: 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:12-16)

Background:
In this section of Revelation you have Jesus being presented as coming in judgement with power greater than any king that has ever lived. One one the ways Jesus is presented with all power is with the phrase “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” on His thigh.  The question is often asked, “Is this phrase an actual marking or tattoo on the flesh of Jesus?”

Answer:
Most likely this is not a tattoo as we know them today. A person should not use this passage to make the claim that Jesus had one or more tattoos as some have tried to do. Consider these two points in order to better understand the meaning of this passage.

Point #1: The book of Revelation is highly figurative - In this same passage Jesus is portrayed as having eyes that are a “flame of fire”, on His head He has “many diadems”/crowns and from His mouth “comes a sharp sword”. This imagery is very symbolic in nature and one should use caution when trying to draw a specific dogmatic conclusion about the Lord’s appearance from a figurative passage.

Point #2: The text is possibly on His robe not on His skin - One should not assume that Jesus’ thigh is exposed, but instead, that this is a statement of authority woven into the robe itself. A ruler would often have embroidery on his garments or even an engraving on his armor. This author is of the conclusion that this writing is not on exposed flesh, but on an outer garment or armor as a powerful warrior would have. 

John Wesley writes: “That is, on the part of his vesture which is upon his thigh. A name written - It was usual of old, for great personages in the eastern countries, to have magnificent titles affixed to their garments”. 

There is no more magnificent title than “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”! It may be that the NLT represents this passage better, as it states “On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords”.
Conclusion:
It is within the realm of possibility that the symbolism here is of an actual exposed thigh (as one might have when riding a horse), with actual writing on it. The evidence, however, seems to be to the contrary. Also, one must remember that this passage is not intended to support or condemn tattoos in the same way as it is not intended to give an endorsement of having a “sharp sword” in your mouth (see 19:15). This is a symbolic passage designed to show a powerful Jesus coming in a scene of judgement upon the nations.

What if I sin after being saved?...am I lost?



Church leaders are often afraid to speak on topics such as grace and continual forgiveness do to a fear that those hearing the lesson may misunderstand grace as a license to sin. Such an idea is clearly against scripture, in fact Paul once wrote to the church in Rome “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid!” (Romans 6:1). We know we should not sin, but the reality is, that even after becoming a Christian we will sin.

What about when we do sin after we becoming a child of God, is there still hope? 
So often it is easy for a faithful child of God to become so saddled with guilt over sin in their life that they quite trying. This too, is not the attitude that one should have. Christians should abhor and avoid sin, but not give up trying when they do continue to sin.

In his letter to some troubled Christians, the apostle John writes:
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)
This passage presents two very important teachings. 

#1 Grace and forgiveness should never be viewed as a license to sin. 
Yes, it is true we are forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice and not our own perfection. However, the forgiveness that we have received motivates us to try to live perfect. We will fall short time and time again, but the ultimate goal of every Christian according to John is to “not sin”.

#2 There is hope for us when we do sin
I have talked to several Christians who have lost the hope of salvation because of their continual struggle with sin. To that John would say, don’t worry, hang in there, help is available and His name is Jesus. It is true that we are unrighteous at times, but Jesus is always righteous and He is our advocate and our propitiation. Jesus makes it possible for us in our sinfulness to still be declared sinless and pure. John would later write to these same brethren that he wants them to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Conclusion: 
Christians should never approve of sin in their lives. God wants us to stay in the light by constantly turning away from sin. When we do sin, we can still feel confident in our salvation by placing our trust in Jesus as our Advocate and our propitiation.

CS- Scripture quotes from the NASB