Friday, March 18, 2011

Dreams and Mental Disability 3/16/2011


The question was what causes your dreams.  I’m no scientist, so I’m not going to get too deep into that one.  I’m sure we dream for a bunch of different reasons.  Some people say it’s something you ate before going to bed.  Some say it’s what you were thinking about before you fell asleep.  It could be just a subconscious thing.  Then sometimes it is God speaking to us.  The Bible is full of examples of God speaking through dreams.  Sometimes He was giving direction to His people like in the case of Jacob (Gen 28) or Joseph (Gen 37).  In Abimelek’s case it was a warning (Gen 20:3).  Sometimes God would give dreams to ungodly leaders in order to reveal His glory through God’s servants like Joseph (Gen 41) or Daniel (Just check out the whole book of Daniel).  So what do we take from a dream?  Is it always God speaking?  Not all the time, but if He is speaking we need to be listening.  The Bible is very clear that in the last days God will speak to us through dreams (Joel 2:28).  When God does speak it will be for a purpose, it will line up with scripture and ultimately it will bring glory to God.

Mental Disability:

Then the discussion turned toward our mental ability.  It started with a question about a situation where a woman was treating a doll as if it were a real baby.  A student asked if that was a sin.  I’m not sure if it’s sin or just plain weird.  But we looked a little deeper and the issue here is an obsession.  Anything that we allow in our lives to rule over us or take our attention away from God becomes sin to us.  It is basically idolatry at the heart of it (Ex 20:3-6).  We continued on this thought to the question of people who are mentally disabled.  How will God hold them accountable if they are not able to grasp the concept of salvation?  We believe in an “age of accountability.”  In other words there is a point in our lives at which we are mentally able to grasp the concept of salvation.  It’s not some arbitrary number.  It’s just the point where we can understand that we are all sinners (Rom 3:23) in need of God’s grace.  We understand the penalty of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and that God paid that penalty.  When we ask forgiveness of our sins and choose to live our lives for Christ then we are saved (Ac 2:38; Rom 10:9-10).  Until a child reaches the age that they can understand all of this we believe God in His infinite wisdom will judge accordingly.  The same would apply to a mentally disabled person.  We are dealing with a mental age here, not a chronological age.  We must be faithful to minister the gospel in all situations.  Children and those with disabilities may be able to grasp more than we give them credit for.  And God has a way of developing a relationship with His children that we may not understand.  I do find it interesting that Jesus said these were the ones that made up the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:14).

The follow up question arose, “what about people who live a normal life and then are disabled by an accident?”  The simple answer is that they had the opportunity to accept or reject Christ before they were disabled and God will judge accordingly.  It would be just as if they had died at that moment of disability.  God would judge them on where they were spiritually at that moment.  We can take comfort in knowing that our God’s plan is always perfect, He always does what is right and just, and his love and mercy are infinite and everlasting.

The following is a quote from the Assemblies of God’s statement on ministry to people with disabilities:

People with disabilities are essential to the wholeness of the Christian community. In a culture that worships physical perfection, devalues human life, and takes pride in disposability, the church must protect the helpless, vulnerable, disenfranchised, including people with disabilities. They are people created in God’s image, possessing dignity, value, and purpose.
The church must extend open arms of invitation and fellowship. Those with mental disabilities can respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul reported the answer he received when he asked that his thorn in the flesh be removed: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’”(2 Corinthians 12:9). We can trust God to reveal His power through the weakness of those with disabilities.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do Clones Have a Soul? 3/9/11

Tonight we had a very interesting discussion.  The question was:  If scientists successfully cloned a human being would the clone have a soul?  Now, just for clarification, we are going to stick completely with the question at hand.  This is not a debate about the ethics of cloning.  We are only questioning whether a clone would have a soul.  We debated this issue for a while and both sides had some very good points.  I had never really thought about it too much, so I didn't really have an answer right off.  I also thought it would be difficult to find an answer, but a little research proved this one to be a slam dunk.  Here is a quote from a website I came across in researching this.  Unfortunately I didn't save the web address, so I guess the source is unknown:

"The answer is undoubtedly “yes.” James 2:26 tells us that if you are alive you have a spirit, a soul: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Just because everything begins with one cell but then yields two persons doesn’t mean one of them does not have a soul. Identical twins, nature’s version of cloning, begin from one cell: “Multiple births in human beings arise either from the simultaneous impregnation of more than one ovum or from the impregnation of a single ovum that divides into two or more parts, each of which develops into a distinct embryo.(7) Is anyone going to realistically argue that one of the twins is short a soul? Let’s tell the truth: we don’t know everything about souls, how God puts it in there, and those kind of matters. But we are sure that God does that, and takes care of it. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)."

Rather than just look at this from an academic standpoint.  What does this mean for each of us?  First off, science has yet to make something from nothing, so we're going to address this as still part of God's creation.  Anyone that God gives life to He is personally concerned for (Ps 139:14).  He cares for each of us.  We are made in His image and we have tremendous value (Gen 1:27).  The fact that God has given us a soul and wants to have a real relationship with us shows us the value He places on us (Ps 95:6-7).  Don't ever let anyone or anything convince you otherwise.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Does God Hate Sinners? 3/2/11

Tonight in r@Nd0m we discussed the supreme courts decision in the case against Westbobro Baptist Church.  In case you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t pay attention here’s the link to the story:  
There are several questions to consider here.  Was the decision right?  Is what the church is doing right?  What would motivate them to do this?  What does it mean for me?

Is it Legal?
Westboro Baptist Church has not broken any US laws (I’m not sure they would pass the test on the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” law of God).  Legally the supreme court made the right decision, and I am immensely thankful that they did.  As crazy as it sounds this is a legal win for the Church.  They have set a precedent that free speech is protected by the first amendment – even when that speech is telling the truth about sin when it comes to things that might offend some.  We are free to teach what the Bible says and it’s protected by the first amendment right to free speech.

Is Westboro Baptist Right?
Absolutely NOT!!!  This is not what God has called us to do in fulfilling the Great Commission.  Their protest signs send a message that God hates the sinner.  I took the time to read every scripture in the KJV with the word “hate” in it.  I only found a handful of references that said God hated something.  Here are a few of them:  Proverbs 6:16-19 says that God hates a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart the deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, speaking lies and sowing discord.  Notice here God hates the action of the sinner, not the sinner.  Again in Zechariah 8:17 God mentions the “things” that he hates, not the people that He hates.  Finally Revelation 2:6 and 15 talks about God hating the doctrine and teaching of the Nicolaitans.  It does not say that He hates the Nicolaitans.  The key here is that we need to realize there is a difference between who I am and what I do.  When we sin God hates what we do, but he DOES NOT hate us. 

What’s the Motive?
What would motivate a church that is supposed to be serving a loving God to do something that seems so cruel.  I can’t speak for them for sure, but here is my guess on the motivation.  I think their desire is to have people come to Christ and repent of their sins.  They are trying to keep people from an everlasting torment.  I get that.  Let me illustrate it further.  I shared this in our meeting, but I think it’s worth repeating.  The other day I yelled at my two year old son and scared him to the point that he started crying.  On the surface it seems that I’m just a mean dad.  Now let me fill in the details.  I yelled across the room as I saw him reaching for an electrical outlet.  Now it makes a little more sense I hope.  In my attempt to protect him from great pain I caused temporary pain.  He didn’t quite get it and thought I was being mean.  But he also didn’t stick his finger in an electrical outlet.  The apostle Paul started off the same way.  You can read his story in Acts 7 – 9.  He was persecuting the church and even stood by while Stephen was stoned in an effort to worship God.  His motive was pure.  He was just a little misinformed.  God straightened him out on the road to Damascus.

What Does All This Mean For Us?
We need to make a stand for Christ.  We need to be honest when it comes to areas of sin.  People may not like what we say, but we still need to give them the truth.  When it comes to truth on this issue you can check out Romans 1.  God is very clear that homosexuality is a sin.  Does that mean that God hates homosexuals? 
!!!  He wants them to be free from that and come to Christ.  The problem here is that we have a group of people that missed the instructions in Ephesians 4:15.  We are told to speak the truth in love.  Our goal is not to beat people down and tell them God hates them.  We need to lovingly bring truth in hopes that people will turn to God and live a life free from sin.  Be honest.  Be loving.  Remember God is the judge, not us.  We are all sinners deserving of judgment.  Thankfully God is rich in mercy and sent His Son to die for us so that we could have eternal life (Eph 2:1-10; John 3:16-17).