Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Discouraged About Encouragement

We're in the middle of Vacation Bible Camp at our church this week, and it's been going so well so far! We've had a decent, if a little small, number of kids coming out, doing crafts, playing games, marching around the church auditorium, and learning about Daniel and his friends. One of the goals we want to accomplish with this endeavour is not only reaching out to the kids, but to the parents as well and hopefully get the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

I was talking afterwards with my pastor's wife, a very godly and insightful woman, who is also a blogger way more widely read than myself, so I suspect that she'll have a post sometime in the near future along the same lines. Anyways, we were talking about the conversations she had gotten to have with a couple of the moms who were there this morning, and she talked about how one of the conversations had been a good conversation, but the mom was a believer, and so she had sort of discounted it.

This brought to my mind some experiences that I've had in evangelism. It's happened on a number of occasions, always very unexpectedly, that I've struck up a conversation with a random person on the street or wherever it is that I'm evangelizing, and I've had every intention of sharing the gospel with them, only to find out throughout the course of the conversation that they are, in fact, already a believer, or at least they claim to follow Christ. Coming from a background of claiming to follow Christ but not actually being a genuine believer until my early teens, I'm acutely aware of the fact that just because a person claims the monicker of "Christian" that does not make it true. So, I start asking pointed questions  to see if they actually believe the true gospel, and by the end of the conversation, as far as I can tell, their faith is quite genuine.

So at the end of these conversations, which are typically very encouraging both to myself and to the brother or sister I was just speaking with, and also typically fairly lengthy, I walk away feeling a pang of discouragement as well. I mean, I just used up a large chunk of my time which was meant for evangelism, and rather than reaching out to a lost soul with the gospel, I wasted it talking with someone who already knew Christ. I've failed in my duties as an evangelist! Right?

There are numerous occasions in Scripture, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:10, where we, as Christians, are commanded to encourage one another, or to build one another up, to pray for one another. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul addresses the Corinthian church, which was apparently quite zealous in seeking out "manifestations of the Spirit," citing speaking in tongues as an example. What Paul does in this chapter is urge them to shift their focus away from the manifestations, but instead, as he says in verse 12: "strive to excel in building up the church." Charismatic manifestations of the Spirit's power were certainly a sight to behold, and a remarkable experience, but they are as nothing if they do not carry with them something of edifying value. He says earlier in the chapter: "Now brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?" (vv. 6).

The conclusion that both I and my pastor's wife came to is this: while it is certainly a clear command in Scripture to evangelize, and even while that may be the utmost duty of the church, it is also very clearly commanded in the Scriptures that we be encouraging and building up one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is no waste of our time to encourage a brother or sister. My pastor's wife this morning said that the conversation she was having with this mom who was there was not evangelistic, but it was deep, it was real, it brought tears to both of their eyes at points. It was a conversation built around the love of Christ. How can that ever be a waste of time? So don't be discouraged when an evangelistic encounter instead ends up being a conversation with a brother or sister in the Lord. I personally find sharing the gospel with a random non-believer a much easier thing to do than encouraging a fellow believer. So if God has brought a brother or sister into your path and you were able to share with them, and encourage them, then take heart. You are still being faithful to the Lord, and doing that which, in one very real sense, is a more difficult for some than just sharing the gospel with someone.

Don't be discouraged about encouragement.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Blessing Behind the Pulpit

I've had the privilege over the last few months of being part of a great congregation in Toronto working as a pastoral intern. I can't even begin to express how much this has been a blessing in my life, and how much God has used this to work in my heart and teach me all sorts of incredible things!

One of the most fantastic of these privileges that this opportunity has provided for me is that most glorious of privileges: preaching. I started "preaching" (if it could even be called that) when I was only seventeen years old. Looking back, those sermons were pretty rough. No really, they're not good! But in this last while I've learned so much and grown so much, and this time around, several years after those first feeble attempts at preaching, I've gotten back behind the pulpit a couple of times. Were these sermons perfect? Far from it. Were these sermons a benefit and a blessing to the congregation? I hope so! Did God use these sermons to help me in my own understanding and my own walk with Him? Absolutely. And for that reason alone, I am thankful to God that I had that opportunity, and I hope to have many more such opportunities in the future.

There's something about when you are studying a text with the intent to communicate it to others that really makes it "click" for you that much better. I mean, there is a great benefit to personal study for the sake of personal study, but I always find that those times when God's Word comes together so much more clearly is when I am prayerfully approaching the text with the intent on understanding it for the benefit of others, to help them understand it.

Here's the thing, preaching, by its very nature, is one person explaining the Bible to a group of people. This is with the intent that the preacher, someone who, ideally, is learned in the area of theology and biblical interpretation, to some degree either formally or informally, so that they are able to take the text and express and articulate its truths in a way that is digestible for the general public, and will have some sort of direct application to their lives. Now, when I say that we want to make truths "digestible," that does not mean cutting anything out, watering anything down, or diluting the truths of Scripture in any way, shape or form. God forbid that that should be so! Rather, we are trying to take those truths and present them in a way that all of your listeners, from the least educated to the most, will be blessed and edified, and will understand what a particular verse or passage is saying in a greater way, and will be able to take that truth and apply it to their own lives. We are vessels, intended by God for the purpose of teaching and communicating what His Word says so that people understand it better.

In this process of seeking to present the truths of Scripture in a way that is understandable and applicable, something very important needs to happen: we need to understand the passage, and know how it applies to us! We can't preach to others what we don't understand. Many people try to do this, and it shows. When you look at their lives and the lives of their congregants, it is plainly and painfully obvious that something has gone wrong, and that something is, more often than not, that the preacher has not been preached to by the Word.

Our goal is to help others to grow in Christ, and what is so marvellous about this is that, if we are faithful in our duty and responsibility, we will grow also! There is a double-blessing available to preachers, if they a diligent in their efforts, and prayerful in pursuits. Not only do they have the joy of helping and encouraging their congregation with God's Word, but they also have the joy of the Word first helping and encouraging them! So let's make a real effort, preachers, to be faithful and diligent in our sermon preparation. Let's try and apply what we study and learn to our own lives so that we can help others do the same. I guarantee you, you won't regret it!

Back on Track

So...it's been a while. I feel like almost every post I make on this blog starts off with something to that effect. I'm so terribly inconsistent with this whole "blog" thing. As much as I love to write, I expend most of my writing efforts on school assignments and things for my church. And I've always felt in the past that I was lacking in biblical literacy to such a degree that each one of my posts would have to be researched thoroughly. Now I think I've reached a point in my life where I realized that this was more about pride than anything else. I was afraid of being wrong, especially in such a public forum. However, a couple of years of seminary, practical ministry experience, and a whole heck of a lot of grace and work of God in my own heart, I now think it's time for me to get back on track with this blog. When I started this blog, it was because I thought I had something to offer the world. I thought that my thoughts should be made public because they were pretty clever thoughts, and thus should be read. But now I know that my thoughts are terrifically irrelevant. The words I write are only significant insofar as they are not my words, but as I am communicating God's Word to you. So now I want to try to keep up this blog not so I can show off how skilled a writer I am, but because I sincerely find that I am able to organize my own thoughts better when I write them down. I want to use this as an outlet to get my own thoughts out of my own head, so that I can see how they look out there in the big ol' world. My hope and prayer is that God would use this blog for my own personal growth and sanctification, and hopefully for yours as well. I hope for us to grow together in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, are you with me?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why are Fire Engines Red?

Carson begins the chapter on Logical Fallacies, in his book "Exegetical Fallacies" with this fun little illustration of flawed logic:

Why are Fire Engines Red?

They have four wheels and eight men;
Four plus eight is twelve;
twelve inches makes a ruler;
a ruler is Queen Elizabeth;
Queen Elizabeth sails the seven seas;
the seven seas have fish;
the fish have fins;
the Finns hate the Russians;
the Russians are red;
fire engines are always rushin';
       so they're red.

How d'ya like that logic? Though I have to admit, this argument makes a whole lot more sense then some of the ones I've heard!

Wading through Murky Waters

For one of my classes, I have to read this very small book called "Exegetical Fallacies" by the well known Bible scholar D. A. Carson. It's a tough read, let me tell you, and it really brings you face to face with your own inadequacies as a handler of the truth. From word studies, to grammatical issues, to flawed logic, Carson takes the reader through an expose of the most common, and most dangerous errors in scriptural interpretation committed not only by scholars, but also propagated through many pulpits.

The study of error can seem like something of a pessimistic endeavour. Some christians raise concerns over such study, as they think that to dwell in the realm of the darkness of error and heresy for too long will lead to getting sucked in by the allure of worldly thinking. Certainly, this can be the case if the Christian does not hold the proper mindset whilst wading through these murky waters.

But in fact, such a study is of tremendous value. And as I examine the courses that I am taking at Bible College this semester, I have realized that all of them, to one degree or another, focus on interpretational error, and heretical teaching. Certainly I did not plan for this to be the case, but such it is. And to be quite honest, I am looking forward to the year as a tremendous time of spiritual and intellectual growth.

Historically, it is through the categorical analysis and rebuttal against heretical teaching and erroneous hermeneutics that many of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith have been articulated so carefully and so beautifully by orthodox scholars and theologians throughout the ages. In order to rightly defend one's faith, one must understand their opponent. Any great military leader will tell you the same. To know one's enemy is to know their weaknesses so as to be able to focus the attack, but also to know their strength and thus be able to fortify one's own defences.

Perhaps the book of Ecclesiastes can be something of an example. Now, do not misunderstand me. Striving for a better understanding of the wrong way of thinking should not include such experimentation as Solomon endeavoured upon. Certainly the book is an example of God taking man's sin and using it for His own greater purposes. However, think of why we have the book. It is to say: "Here are the ways of man. They are empty. Do not go this way but rather turn to God." That is Ecclesiastes in a nutshell. Understanding a wrong worldview, how it was wrong, and why it was wrong, meant that Solomon clung to the Lord more tightly than ever before.

An understanding of fallacy, heresy, and error can be a depressing study at times, and can suck the unprepared mind into a world of despair or perhaps even draw them away from God. But if with a critical mind and the Sword of the Lord in hand one journeys into this wasteland of thought, then one might emerge even stronger than before.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Working Together for Good

Hey there all you out there in the internet world!

It's been quite a long time since I posted anything. But given personal circumstances, I wanted to do a post talking about my favourite verse from Scripture, Romans 8:28: "And we know that, for those who love God all things are working together for good, for those who are the called according to His purpose."

I mean, to just read that verse is a real blessing in and of itself. The clarity of the plain meaning of Scripture (perspicuity) is one of the key historical doctrines of orthodox Christendom. I recently, however, had the opportunity to preach from this verse at my home church, and I will tell you that as with any study of scripture, it was extremely rewarding.

The first thing to note is that context is key to understanding this verse. The verse is found in the book of Romans, one of the most theologically packed books in all of scripture, and particularly of the Epistles. Paul spends the first few chapters of the book driving home the doctrine of total depravity (or radical fallen-ness for those Sproul fans out there). Having left no room for the reader to misunderstand his point about the depraved and hopeless state of humanity, he then gets into an exposition of redemption as it is accomplished by Christ on the Cross, and applied to our lives, particularly what theologians refer to as the doctrine of justification by imputation brought about by repentance and faith in Christ. He then explains that, having been justified we are no longer under the law's power to condemn, but have a desire to keep the law as in our regenerate state our chief desire is to never want to sin again. However, as the full work of the process of redemption has not been fully accomplished (i.e. we are not yet glorified, but remain in our unredeemed flesh) we still continue to sin. There is then a struggle, a battle raging within the believer as they look forward to the day when their sin is fully dealt with, and grieve over the sin which they commit daily.

This the brings us to 8:28. We know carries with it a connotation of certainty. The tense which Paul uses with this word carries with it the sense that, the truth he is articulating in this verse is something that, based on all that we know of God and His sovereignty over all things, and His plan of redemption established before the foundations of the earth, we should know already. He is simply writing it here to emphasize it. To point out the comfort which comes from this truth.

English is funny with its use of words. In a variety of contexts, if you were to see the word "all" then you could interpret it any number of ways. It could mean most (hyperbole), or all of a particular group, or the entirety of something. The word Paul uses here actually means everything in its totality with emphasis on the individual parts. In other words, all things in this verse really does mean all things. But not only that, there is an emphasis on the fact that literally every single little thing that happens is encompassed by this verse.

And so every little thing that happens is working together for a common end, that is, good. Good is a rather ambiguous and difficult word to define. However, when this verse is put in light of the context, it is very simple. The good is victory in the struggle with sin. It is the process of sanctification and the final victory, glorification, which is the good to which this is referring. And so when we read the main body of the verse, it actually says that "It goes without saying that we are certain that every single thing which happens is working together for the common good of our sanctification and ultimately, our glorification."

The final piece of the puzzle is the question of "to whom does this assurance belong?" There are two pieces of evidence given. Those who love God, the word used implying a very specific kind of love, and those who are called according to His purpose, which the verses following 28 go on to describe, painting for us a picture of a very exclusive group indeed.

Life is a day to day struggle. We are all met by persecution, tragedy and strife with each passing day. But for those who are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, we need not be concerned about what happens to us, and what is caused by us. We need not be bogged down by our persistence in sin, but rather we can rejoice in knowing that we serve the Sovereign, Almighty King, who is transcendent above all creation, and yet who calls us His children, and who we may call "Father."

I've experienced trials of late, things happening in my life that I really wish would not happen. And yet, I have peace in knowing that no matter how bad it is, God is in control and He means it ultimately to draw me closer to Himself. Those bad things may even lead to our deaths (and no, none of my personal life circumstances are life-threatening. Inconvenient and very upsetting, but not life threatening) but even if that were the case, to die would simply hasten the ultimate victory over imperfection.

So oh you followers of Jesus Christ, take heart in knowing this: From circumstance to circumstance, God is in control!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Secured by Christ on the Cross"

I have been reading over the past couple of weeks a fantastic little book by D.A. Carson entitled "Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus" (Crossway: Wheaton, IL 2010).  I just wanted to share this fantastic quote from it with you pertaining to the absolute centrality of the cross:

"Do we have the gift of the Spirit? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Do we enjoy the fellowship of the saints? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Does he give us comfort in life and in death? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Does he watch over us faithfully, providentially, graciously, and covenantally? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Do we anticipate resurrection bodies on the last day? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Is there a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Do we enjoy new identities, so that we are no longer to see ourselves as nothing but failures, moral pariahs, disappointments--but as deeply loved, blood-bought, human beings, redeemed by Christ, declared just by God himself, owing to the fact that God himself presented his Son Jesus as the propitiation for our sins? All is secured by Christ on the cross and granted to those who have faith in him."

What a great reminder of both what we have in Christ, and the fact that the only reason we have it is that we are in Christ. And if you are not in Christ, this is what you're missing. This and much more.


Sith Lords DO Exist!!

Okay, not everyone may appreciate this video. For those of you who don't know, Benny Hinn is a crazy faith healer guy. People have actually died at his super intense "healings." Does this strike anyone else as a little...backwards? Anyway, this is a hilarious YouTube video that my good friend and housemate Josh Stauffer sent me, and it just goes to show you that the Sith do exist!

In all seriousness, can one seriously look at people like Hinn, or Todd Bentley (who, I am ashamed to admit, is a Canadian pastor) who have these crazy "healing sessions" where they cast out demons and heal people through receiving special power and messages from the Holy Spirit, occasionally instructing them to kick elderly women in the face (Bentley)?

Many would try to make this case that "miracles are found all over the Bible." Actually, this is not so. With the exception of maybe one or two special circumstances, all of the miracles in the Bible are concentrated to four, very brief periods of time. I am indebted to my Old Testament Theology professor, a genius scholar by the name of Dr. Peter Gentry, for teaching us this in one of our recent classes.

These are the four time periods in which we encounter full on, genuine, out of this world miracles:

1. The Exodus
2. Elijah and Elisha
3. Jesus
4. The Apostolic Church

Okay, so things that we may perhaps deem somewhat "miraculous" can happen everyday. However, these "miracles" are never associated with the actions of a person. The miracles that occur in the Bible all occur with a specific purpose, they have a lesson behind them, or a reason for being. While each may have a specific purpose depending on context, in the Old Testament, the miracles occurred as signs establishing that Yahweh is the Most High God, the Great I AM, the Almighty One. They proved to the Israelites, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, Balaam, etc. that Yahweh is the one and only God.

Likewise, when Jesus was performing miracles during his ministry, they were to establish Him as God. As with the Old Testament, there is individual significance to each of the miracles, and not all miracles were done to convey exactly the same message. However, they were all, ultimately, demonstrations of Jesus unique Godhood. Some of His miracles were mirrors of those done by the prophets of the Old Testament. But others were things that no OT prophet was capable of. And the miracles of the Apostles? These were to validate that they were messengers sent by Christ, who is God. You should note that while certainly the Apostles performed many miracles, the emphasis in the text is not on their miraculous deeds, but on the proclamation of the Gospel. Their miraculous works simply validated that the message they proclaimed was of God, and so the text does not linger on the miracles, but the message.

An easy, and perhaps over simplified, way of looking at these "Miraculous Eras" would be as such:

1. The miracles at the time of the Exodus are predominantly done by God, with little use of human prophets. This was God establishing Himself as supreme in the face of the Israelites and their enemies.

2. The prophets Elijah and Elisha performed miracles in the name of God, and they did so to point to God as the Sovereign One, and to validate their message as being of God.

3. Jesus performed miracles to establish that He was God. His miraculous power is not God working through Him, but rather is His own power, merely subjected to the will of the Father.

4. The Apostles did miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, and subject to the will of the Father in order to validate their Apostolic authority, and the validity of the blessed evangel.

So, with all these miracles found in the Bible, and with all of the historical validation the Bible has received what need is there today for miraculous signs? The physical healing in the Bible is not physical healing for healing's sake. This is not important. Our bodies are temporary. We need not worry about them such that we seek after miraculous works of God. Why do we flock to so-called "faith healers" when we have a Sovereign God who is in control of all things? What power does a healer have? What makes him so special? To give credence to such men is to set them up as men of higher standing than the rest of us. It elevates them to super-heroic status, and sets them high above the average Christian. But this is clearly contrary to the Biblical account of equality among believers. Sure, some people are more or less mature in faith than others. But nowhere does this say that this maturity of faith brings with it supernatural power.

So now, if this "Spirit" is not of God, then where? Here's what the Beloved Apostle had to say about these sorts of people:

"1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:1-6)

Now, to apply some hermeneutical principles here, we cannot simply read this passage outside of the context of the rest of the Canon. When it says that all who testify Christ are of God, we have to understand what is meant here. Elsewhere in Scripture Christ says:

 "21'Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Just because someone claims they are working in the name of Christ does not make it so. So when we test those things that people say, when we look at these teachers, or any others for that matter, we are encouraged to evaluate whether what they are saying is from God or not. How do we do that? We consult the Word. We are encouraged by the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who listened to what Paul had to say, but did not simply accept what he said at face value. They would take everything he said and test it against what the Scriptures, God's revealed word to humanity, said and see if things lined up. This is commended by the author, saying that what they were doing was "noble." The People will claim that what they are doing is in the name of Jesus, but Christ affirmed in the passage above from Matthew that there would be many who would do great and wondrous things in his name, but he would turn them away at the day of judgement, saying that he never knew them. So the lesson, then, is to test all things you hear against the Bible, and if what you are hearing doesn't line up with Scripture, then reject that teaching.

Now, sometimes it is all an act, and there is nothing supernatural there at all. Sometimes, and this has been proven in many cases of faith healers, that all of the "healings" are pre-rehearsed and staged in order to get money. But other times I believe that people may be sincere,  but I believe that the forces of darkness come in to play, and through possession and other such deceptive tactics they make themselves to appear as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), but they are not on the light side, they are of the dark side. Dark side? Working to deceive? Power hungry? Unnatural abilities?

See...they really DO exist.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Health, Wealth and Prosperity

So, now that I'm in seminary, and my sleep schedule is pretty well destroyed anyways, I am going to make an effort to post here more often. Like, maybe more than once a year.

I've got a whole load of ideas for posts, but to get this ball rolling once more, I want to share this video by the ever-passionate John Piper talking about the so-called "Prosperity Gospel."

I have to say this: Coming to Christ will make you prosper. The payout of following Christ is HUGE, as big as it could possibly get, the rewards are innumerably vast, and the wealth is immeasurable.

However, the difference between Christianity and the "bunch of crap" that Prosperity Preachers will try to sell you is the definition of "prosperity." If you are looking for God to keep you financially secure, in perfect health, safe from loss, and make sure every little detail of your life on this earth is perfect, then you will be sadly disappointed.

People who say that God provides health, wealth and prosperity on this earth if you simply follow Jesus display an incredible ignorance of both the Bible and Church history. How many Christians have been poverty-stricken, persecuted, thrown in jail, beaten, tortured, maimed, brutally and heartlessly slaughtered? I tell you, the answer is almost incomprehensible.

The prosperity provided by God is not temporal, but eternal. It is an unquenchable fire in the soul, it is an unfailing joy (not an uninterrupted feeling of happiness, though), it is a hope everlasting, and peace that the direst of circumstances does not dampen, and it is a promise that will never die.

I am reminded of a great song by the group Kutless called "Promise of a Lifetime"

I know you're always there
To hear my every prayer
Inside I'm clinging to the promise of a lifetime
I hear the words you say
To never walk away from me
And leave behind
The promise of a lifetime

God has promised us an eternity with Him, and that, truly, is the greatest promise we will ever receive, and our prosperity lies in the fact that, despite our direst of circumstances "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The "Danger" of Faith

I have recently been challenged, though not personally, on the issue of using God as a justification for sin. What I mean by this is that there is a tendency to disregard any form of organized belief system ont he presumption that to do so is to open yourself up to come under the control of fanatics using God as a justification of evil actions. This is a very dangerous way of looking at faith because people begin to become closed off from being witnessed to, even if they do not see you as a fanatic. They may believe that you are simply a victim of brainwashing.

Let me say this: People who have become frightened of religion are not simply picking the fears out of thin air. Sadly there have been many instances of men and women professing various religions, christianity included, who have committed terrible atrocities. Jim Jones, for example. He was a type-A charismatic leader who convinced his entire congregation to commit mass suicide. Note: he did not physically kill them, but he used God as well as his own powerful speaking abilities to convince people to kill theselves for religious reasons. Of perhaps we look at 9/11, a group of Muslim fanaticists who drove planes into the sides of highly populated buildings.

Let's even look on a slightly smaller scale. People who use the Bible to justify murdering abortion doctors, beating up homosexuals, or even just to just to be mean. Fanaticism is a major put-off.

But let's step back and look at the facts. The Bible CLEARLY teaches us that such actions are a moral evil, abominable in the sight of God. In the Old Testament Law, as it was given to Moses, it states that we are not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11). While some have tried to apply this as being simply a refraining of using the word "god" in place of a swear word, the actual meaning is much broader than that.

In that time period, a person's name encompassed the entirety of who they were. This principle carries over today, in a way. I mean, just think about how many people will flock to see a movie just because Steven Spielberg produced it. Or an example from my own time working for a major book retailer, it is almost frightening to see how popular a book becomes once it has been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey!

Names carry weight to them, and God's name carries the greatest weight. In attributing His name to a certain act, or event, or even person, we put that thing forward as representing the Sovereign Creator of the Universe. Now, when I say I am acting on behalf of someone else, I had better take great care in how I act, so as to avoid the repercussions of misrepresenting them. I know that in my job I am expected to act and treat people in a certain way, because in that setting I am a representative of my company. To misrepresent said company could mean a termination of employment, or worse!

To say that we are speaking or acting on behalf of God means that there is an expectation on us to live in a certain way, as representatives of the Lord Most High. This is not to say that our salvation depends on our actions, but rather, as regenerated people, made new creatures because of the work of Christ, we should live like it.

My dad provided me with a wonderful example of this that I love to draw on in these discussions. I was hired by my dad to work for him in his bookstore. Going into it, my dad pointed out that I would be there as the boss's son, and all eyes would be on me. Anything I said or did wrong could be counted against his good reputation, and so there was an expectation placed on my shoulders to conduct myself in a particular way. Now, if I had messed up big time (which, thankfully, I haven't yet!) I may have lost my job, smudged my father's name, and ruined my own reputation. But I would still be his son, and that would never change.

Anyone who claims to be operating on the authority of God, if they take His mighty name on themselves, the onus is upon them to live in accordance with what he wills. Thus, the expectation is that said individual is constantly checking themselves go insure that they are in the right, they must study so that they may present themselves approved before God (2 Tim. 2:15). One of the key themes of the book of Colossians is found in the ninth and tenth verses of the first chapter, where Paul appeals to us to "walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him."

For someone to profess Christ, and then go against the clear and explicit commands of Scripture is to mis-represent His name. While I do not condone abortion or homosexuality, the Bible makes it clear that the way of taking a stand against such things is not through violence, but in the proclamation of the gospel to the nations.

So to those non-Christians out there, do not be put off by those who would misrepresent the name of God, as these run counter to His teachings, and they will answer for what they have done. Instead, focus on what the Bible says to be true, namely, that "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you [can be] saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you [can be] saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Despite the depravity and sin of our fallen condition, God's love and grace can extend to each and every one of us, and save us from destruction.