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kaelynnemichelle

Sharing the Gospel Vs. Living the Gospel

May 29, 2017

Today while at work I was walking past a man who was changing the tire on his car. For a brief moment, I had the urge to stop and ask him if I could stand by him and just simply watch him change the tire on his car because I didn’t know how to.  I thought that if I just watched without asking him to explain each step of changing a car tire or what tools he was using I would learn the ins and outs of tire changing without disturbing him too much.

I ended up deciding against saying anything because I realized that if I just watched him without getting any verbal instructions as he was working on the car then I would still not be able to change the tire on my car even if I did have a slightly better understanding of how tires are changed.

As I kept walking, my mind drifted to thoughts about how Christians often are too intimidated or uncomfortable with sharing the Gospel with other people and will resort to the ever-familiar phrase; “I don’t do religion, I just live out the Gospel and people will know I’m a Christian by how I act.” This statement is only half of the equation and unfortunately many Christians use this as an excuse to get out of doing something that will take them way out of their comfort zone (ie. actually talking to someone about what they believe).

A non-Christian may be able to see that there is a difference in the way a Christian acts but would not be able to tell you the ins and outs of becoming a Christian or the good news of the Bible just by watching you give $5 to a homeless person. In order to effectively reach people for Christ, our actions need to line up with our words but it is very key that we (yes even those of us who do not have the gift of Evangelism) need to be sharing the Gospel and explaining what it means to be a Christian and how to become a Christian to the people God has placed in our lives. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

 

Oral Traditions: Are They Reliable?

March 5, 2017

I do not believe this blog will answer the question posed as the title but I would like to simply explore the idea of oral traditions as they have come to my mind more frequently as of late. This post will likely just be me opening the door to my thoughts and getting them out there.

With that said, I have lately been having a hard time finding validity in claims people make regarding the reliability of oral traditions. In particular, my thoughts have focused on the Bible and the extensive portions of the Bible which were written many years after the time in which the events happened and most likely by someone who had the stories passed down to them. Taking aside the fact that I believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God and therefore the authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit in their writing, they still relied heavily on the oral tradition that had been passed down for generations. I think particularly of Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy. The stories found in these pages cover a span of a couple thousand years and therefore many of the fathers would tell stories of their forefathers to their children in order to preserve their history.

I have heard many people explain that because we do not live in a culture of oral tradition, we find it hard to understand how the information passed along could stay accurate. This, for all I know, could be a fair argument. My only issue is with the feebleness of the human mind and that is why I find it difficult to know for sure if oral traditions are as accurate as some make them out to be. Think, for example, of the notorious “fishing story”. Everybody knows that when someone comes home from a fishing trip, their stories should be taken with a grain of salt as the size of the fish they caught could be a good 15 inches smaller than expressed in the story. People love to embellish stories and create a story that is exciting or dramatic in order to capture the hearers attention. Either these things occur intentionally, or unintentionally but I think everyone at some point in their life has embellished a story (or skipped parts of a story) for one reason or another.

Not only is there the issue of the storyteller making minute changes in their story, when one is passing a story down from generation to generation there is the issue of someone else down the line also adding their own dramatic flare to the story. It is a sort of “broken telephone” that is being played as the stories are told and history is shaped. Likely the original acts that are being accounted in the story are slightly altered and could even be drastically altered, after years and years of them being retold.

I do not wish to cause someone to feel distrust in the Bible or in the stories accounted in the Bible, because I do honestly believe that the Holy Spirit guided and inspired the authors to preserve the truth. I do believe that what the Bible says is true but I think we can believe it to be true only because of the Holy Spirit, not because of the human tradition of retelling the stories and passing them on to generations. It seems to me that the unreliability of oral traditions can once again, like many things, point out our inability and God’s ability to work through us for his divine purposes.

 

 

Is Our Perspective Wrong?

November 1, 2016

Last night, my husband and I were talking with my brother on the phone. He has been disenchanted by his understanding of the “God of the Old Testament”, concluding that this God who seemingly pours out wrath on innocent people is not someone he wants to be associated with. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned a number of times that it seems disturbing and horrible to believe in a God who would kill his own people or cause them pain or harm if they chose to disobey him. He has no interest in believing in someone who could “smite him” at any second if he makes one wrong step.

In my attempt to grasp his view of the OT God, I suggested that instances where God’s wrath is poured out on his chosen people (focusing on the people of Israel specifically in this post), should not be viewed as senseless acts of anger but can be viewed as the discipline a parent has for a disobedient child. I understood these accounts in the OT as God disciplining the people of Israel after having warned them of the consequences. My brother then asked where the line can be drawn between discipline and abuse.  Many parents who abuse their children by beating them with a wooden stick over the head, subsequently causing a concussion could justify their actions by saying they were disciplining their child.

His response made me to think and I saw my perspective begin to shift. I could understand his point, but could it be that God’s warnings are not that of a parent warning a child of impending punishment should they disobey, but instead are the warnings of a parent who loves their child dearly and does not want to see them harmed by an external party. The parent can foresee the results of the child’s actions and is trying to help by telling them in advance what such a behaviour will result in.

Take, for example, a parent commanding their child not to touch a boiling pot of water on the stove. The parent knows that if this child touches the pot, they will be burned. The child chooses not to listen to their parent and touches the pot regardless. The pot falls on the child, scalding them with hot water that blisters over their entire body and the child screams out in pain. Anyone looking in on this scenario would agree that the parent did not cause the boiling pot of water to fall onto the child, but instead tried their best (imagine they pleaded and stopped the child from touching the pot multiple times leading up to this incident) to keep the child from harms way. It would be foolish to suggest that the parent inflicted this pain upon the child – it was the heat of the burner which was boiling the pot of water that caused the pain. The parent knew there would be a painful result and it is precisely because of the parents love for his child that the warnings were given in the first place.

By understanding how God loves and cares for his children and warns them of the dangers of disobeying, we can see that he is not set on killing people at the first mistake they make but instead, it is through his grace and love for us that he issues the warnings that are evident throughout the OT to the people of God.

 

 

Reflections on the Book of Lamentations

February 15, 2016

This morning I decided to read the book of Lamentations and was once again reminded of the incredible mercy that God had for his people. There are many people who assume that the people of Israel were punished and taken into exile because God in the Old Testament was pure wrath and anger and took joy in seeing his people suffer. What many people believe (as I mentioned in a previous post) is that God evolved from the God of the Old Testament to the forgiving, merciful Jesus Christ of the New Testament. This simply isn’t true, God is just as merciful and forgiving in the Old Testament as he is in the New Testament and his message for mankind never changed.  God wants our full obedience and he wants it through a heart and attitude of thanksgiving and praise, not one of obligation.

The people of Israel were constantly on a pendulum of extremes between serving the Lord wholeheartedly and rebelling against him wholeheartedly. God sent prophet after prophet to warn the people of their destruction should they choose not to reform their ways and follow God once again. The people knew what would be the consequence of their disobedience because it had been told to them over and over. They were not caught off guard when the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 587 B.C. God, in his mercy, sent these prophets to the people in order to point them back to the path of deliverance. God sent the people into exile due to their own disobedience, not because he enjoyed seeing them suffer.

The book of Lamentations is filled with gruesome images and very sad struggles that Israel was going through during the exile. Virgins were being raped (L. 5:11), mothers were eating their own children (4:10), men were forced into hard labor (5:13), infants were fainting in the streets from starvation (2:11), and the people lived in perpetual fear of their captors (4:18). This short book is filled with the terrors and appears like an utterly hopeless situation. Lamentations 2:2 shows God as being “…without mercy…” and verse 4 speaks of his, “…fierce anger…” Gods wrath is being poured out upon the people for their rebellion. Their destruction is even described as being worse than the destruction of Sodom  (4:6) because of the prolonged suffering they experience. There seems to be no room for God to act in mercy.

Thankfully, the book does not end with this and it is clear to see God’s hand at work in the lives of Israel even through their destruction. The people of Israel speak in 1:18 saying, “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word.” Jerusalem sees the destruction around her and cries out for comfort, but will not receive any. Her own rebellion has brought this upon herself and she must live up to the consequence of repeated rebellion despite God’s repeated warnings.

God’s mercy is brought into focus when the author speaks of the hope he has in the Lord despite his sufferings. L. 3:19 – 25 says,”Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”The hope that is evident amid the destruction is inspiring. There is a clear shift in the author’s attitude as he chooses to continue his steadfast hope in the Lord. He does not deny the terrors going on around him, but understands why they are happening and trusts that God’s faithfulness with continue and will bring them through (3:31-33). The author also calls for the people to return to the Lord and examine their hearts (3:40-42).  The author promises that by examining their hearts and returning to the Lord, he will redeem their life (3:58).

God  had mercy on the people of Israel before the destruction as he warned them and instructed them on how to avoid their own demise.  When they continued to rebel, he  released the anger that they had caused in their sin. Following their destruction, the author of Lamentations indicates that the end of their suffering will be because of God’s great mercy on them.

The Justice of God

January 3, 2016

A major flaw in the Christianity of our culture is the belief that God is solely a God of love, and any accounts of wrath or justice in the Bible are deemed as either, (1) a misinterpretation by the people of God at the time – they thought they were doing what God told them to do but were just confused or, (2) the culture of the time warranted acts of violence but God is not that type of God anymore – he has evolved into a purely loving God. I will not dig too deeply into the flaws with both of these mentalities – that is for another post. Instead I would simply like to explain how God can be a God of love and justice and how the two are compatible.

In Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God, he points out that people can be filled with wrath (or justice) because of their love for someone, not because they don’t have any love. We would all agree that if you saw someone hurting your child, you would feel a sudden surge of anger at the injustice occurring and would likely do everything in your power to stop this person from harming your child. You love the child deeply and therefore you feel angry at the injustice done to them. This example can likewise be used if you saw your child doing something to hurt themselves, you love them and want whats best for them so you would do everything in your power to have them stop harming themselves, even if it meant doing something drastic. If you found someone you loved in a harmful situation, either being harmed by someone else or by themselves, your least loving action would be to do nothing and tolerate their bad decision. You react in anger at the injustice because it is disrupting the wellbeing of someone you love.

Likewise, God has this reaction to the sin that is present in humanity. His wrath is in response to that which is destroying what he loves. His desire is to see creation restored and in order for this to happen, sin must be eradicated. In reality, God’s justice is one of the most loving qualities he can have because it is in response to his desire to restore peace and integrity to creation. Jesus’ atoning death on the cross absorbs the wrath of God so that we no longer have to experience it. Without Jesus and his death, God would continue to pour out his wrath on mankind. Jesus offers a chance to choose salvation in him and with this, God’s wrath against our sin is laid on him. Belief in the power of Jesus’ blood covers our sin so that we might become conquerers over our fallen human nature.

How the Old Testament Can Point to Christ

December 3, 2015

A few months ago, I met a Muslim man who, after hearing I was a Christian, was only too eager to explain to me the issues he had with Christianity. One of his major points being that Jesus Christ cannot be God as there is only one God and Jesus himself never claimed to be God, therefore Christians believe in a polytheistic religion – worshiping both God and Jesus. Believing that Jesus is God is part of the basic foundation of Christian doctrine, yet there are many believers who don’t realize that Jesus himself never made the  exact statement; “I am God.” This is where Muslims believe they have trumped Christian doctrine and many Christians are left stumped at this seeming contradiction. It is true that Jesus never said the exact words, “I am God” but to say that the entirety of Scripture and his ministry did not point to his divinity is a misconception. The Old Testament pointed towards his coming and speaks of his divinity and the New Testament builds off of what was written in the Old Testament and shows how Christ fulfilled all of those prophesies. This post will not go into the details of how those prophesies are fulfilled (coming soon!) but is simply intended to show why we can read the Old Testament scriptures as foreshadowing the coming of Jesus.

Everything written in the Old Testament was written to point to the incarnation of Jesus. It can all be seen as Christocentric/Logocentric and it is all fulfilled in the coming of Christ – in his death and resurrection. Many of the Church Father’s read the Old Testament in light of the fulfillment in Christ. When the Old Testament is read with this in mind, there is clear evidence to see that Jesus was God and was the one the prophets spoke of. Now some could make the argument that people who read Christ into the Old Testament are not looking at the text in it’s original context and are thus seeing the scriptures through a tinted lens, distorted by the images we want to see in the text (ie, reading Christ into the text). Contrarily, the Old Testament can be read with Christ in mind because Jesus is the eternal word of God, the creator of the world (John 1:1-5). If Jesus is the creator of the world, and is eternal, then it would not be an issue to see his presence in the Old Testament. With this in mind, that Jesus is the eternal God and his incarnation was approaching, it would make sense to see the Old Testament as a buildup towards this moment in time. The Old Testament prophesies towards the time when Jesus will become incarnate; God in the flesh (John 1:14).

We know that Jesus was present and active at the beginning of creation through various texts such as Colossians 1:15-20: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” The verse also refers to the eternality of Christ, as he is before all things and in him all things hold together. Without Christ  to sustain the world, everything would fall apart.

We can read the Old Testament with Jesus’ coming in mind because he was present throughout the entire history of mankind as he is above all time. He was presently acting in the Old Testament and it was not until the New Testament that he took on the fullness of man alongside his deity. Jesus did not begin existing when he became a man, he has always and will always exist, he simply took on a human nature at the time of his birth on earth to bring to completion the plan for human salvation.

 

 

 

About Me

I am a recent graduate of Tyndale University College in Toronto, ON. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and English. My passion is to study the Bible and enjoy God fully by growing deeper in my faith and understanding of Him. I also enjoy biking, skating, painting, cooking, reading and swimming. The purpose of starting this blog is to help me better organize my thoughts as I continue to study the Bible.

Purpose of Blog

The usefulness of having all my thoughts and ideas in one place where I can easily find previous thoughts at the click of a button is too tempting to pass. I am starting this blog simply for the sake of archiving research that I do on various theological topics, for the sake of being able to go back over my posts when I need to refresh my memory. It is not an exhaustive overview of the religion and I am no genius; just a believer seeking truth. It is for convenience sake and not for the intention of acquiring avid readers, but if you do end up stumbling upon this blog; welcome! I hope the thoughts and research I post here will help you understand more about the story of Christianity, the development of theology throughout history and the character of God. I pray that it will shed light on topics you may be wrestling with.  May God be glorified through my ramblings.

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