Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I received the following response, disagreeing with a statement I made that true faith acts in love:

Good works are the *end result* of salvation. "We are saved for good works, not by good works" is a common quote.

Matt 7:16-20 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Meaning, they *will* do good works based on what They are, which is a result of the work of the Spirit.

One of my responses:
The reason it seems that way is because I absolutely insist upon a life that is following Jesus if one is in Jesus, without excuses. However, if you notice in my teaching as a whole, I insist upon the following principles:

1. The Christian life is impossible for any human to live. It must be lived in the Spirit. In fact, I had a whole series just talking about how to connect to the Spirit and intimacy with God as the source of our life.

2. Sin is dealt with in the Christian life by confession and repentance. No one sin destroys us, unless we fail to surrender to God afterwards.

3. But no Christian should excuse their sin as just being "under the blood" or some such thing. Sin can and will kill us. It is perilous. And so we must do all we can to avoid it.

Thus, I see the Christian life as a partnership between us and the Spirit. It is not always natural, because Jesus insists that we do things that are not natural, such as loving our enemies, to live a pure life, submitting to evil authorities and selling our possessions to give to the poor. The Spirit may prompt us to do these things, but the NT calls it a struggle, not a natural process. We fight with ourselves, we fight with "common sense", we fight with others telling us to do wrong.

For this reason, both I and the NT say harsh, stark words about the lifestyle of love we are to live. It sounds as if I'm saying just pick up and do it, and sometimes I am. Anyone in Jesus already has the Spirit, it is now a matter of submitting to the Spirit and living in the Spirit. That's a choice we have to make as well as a fruit we have the opportunity to bear.

And I know this because I see so many people in the Spirit who make unloving choices. Sometimes they just need reminding of what the stakes are. That if they don't act out love, then they don't have true faith. Etc.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is Suicide Sin?

A question I got via email. Nicely, it was given as a multiple-choice. But, as usual, I answered it with an essay:

Is suicide something that
a. shows that you are actually not a true Christian.
b. makes you lose your salvation.
c. neither.

First, you have to ask whether sin in general can make you lose your salvation. I would say it could, if you have a lifestyle issue that you do not repent of-- that would be Hebrews 10:26-27.

But is suicide a sin? My short answer is: it depends.

Suicide is rarely mentioned in Scripture. First of all, in a sense, Jesus' death was a suicide because he could have prevented his death many times, but refused to do so. To "willingly" go to death, as is mentioned of many martyrs, is a form of suicide.

And suicide is never mentioned in Scripture as a sin.

However, there are lots of issues here. First of all, what is the motivation for suicide? If a person is committing suicide because they "just can't take life anymore" then there are two ways to work it-- either they are a "coward" and so won't enter the kingdom because Rev. 21:8 says they won't, or they are depressed and not thinking clearly and so, ultimately they are sick and perhaps will be forgiven under God's mercy.
I had one friend of mine in high school who committed suicide and she left a note saying, "I just want to be with Jesus." So, rather than giving up faith, she actually committed suicide in faith and because of her faith, as misguided as it was.
Another aspect of suicide is loving others. A suicide is usually convinced that no one cares about them and they are almost always wrong. So their suicide harms a number of people, which goes against the basic law, "Love your neighbor as yourself." But, suppose the suicide is convinced that their death would bring a benefit-- like Jesus' did-- and so they think-- wrongly, usually-- that they are loving people by taking their life? Then wouldn't it be a righteousness on their part instead of a sin?

Is suicide an unpardonable sin? No, there's only one of those and Jesus says it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Suicide is not that, so it can be forgiven.

So I think suicide depends on the motivation, which is almost impossible for us to guess on this side of eternity. So, for the believer who commits suicide, all we can do is pray for God's mercy on them, and give them to His hands.

One last thing: The early church never declared suicides sinners because they saw the connection between martyrdom and suicide. Augustine, in the fourth century, is the first one to declare suicide a sin, and he said it was because suicide is a sign of despair, which is the opposite of faith. But that isn't always true. The Catholic church, in determining that suicide is an unpardonable sin uses the same logic, but, again I think they're wrong about that.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Conversation on the Homeless

This exchange is in response to my letter to churches in East Multnomah County about the need to open doors to the homeless:

Thanks for sharing your findings, your concerns for the homeless, raising awareness and asking tough questions. Asking churches to open doors to house the homeless is like putting a bandaid on a malignant carcinoma.
I'm not a betting woman, but I bet there are more than 500 churches within an hour drive of Portland.
500 churches to pledge $1,000 dollars a year for 5 years, amounts to a pile of money. Get volunteer labor (habitat for humanity does) and donated materials . . . and build a "hotel" with one, two, and three bedroom suits.
Better yet, why reinvent the wheel . . . ask Habitat for Humanity to spearhead this major project. Instead of building 20 houses during the next 1-2 years, invest in building a major hotel for the homeless.

Sharon L. Angelique Tata, B.S., LPN
Grace Haven Counseling & Rtreat Center

Well, I appreciate your comments. However, life isn't as simple as all that. There are stages.

First of all, there are organizations that are trying to establish shelters, but folks on the street need help NOW. Tonight, specifically. And next week. Not whenever the powers that be see the need, go through all their committees, lawyers, grant applications and city approvals. For that kind of (almost) immediate response, the churches are better equipped to handle it.

Secondly, for the long term, it is a simplistic notion that to "solve" the homeless problem one needs housing. The issues are more complex than that. I propose a think-tank of both the homeless and those who know the homeless and those who know the systems that offer help to take the time to really look at the issues and determine what is the best approach to helping. And my guess would be something less expensive than a "hotel".

Lastly, Habitat for Humanity doesn't help the poorest-of-the-poor in the U.S. They help those who can afford low cost housing. For years, my family lived on donations and we could never afford what Habitat offered. I'm not bitter. I'm just saying that Habitat is working with a different population.

There are actually a thousand churches in the North Willamette Valley. If each church just offered support to one or two homeless folks, it would change the outlook of the whole state. If we would love as Jesus called us to love, the world would be different. If we would understand what the real needs are and simply meet them, then nothing would ever be the same.

Perhaps you are opposed to the "organized church" doing anything of substance. But when I call the church, I call ALL of it-- house churches, church plants, organized churches, denominations, liberal, conservative, whatever. Anyone who desires to obey Jesus has a command to assist the poor and needy, wherever they may be. And in every church, no matter how weak organizationally or theologically, has people who just want to do what Jesus told them to do. That's who I'm speaking to. Those who understand that love requires sacrifice, and loving those who are unlovely requires more sacrifice.

If you know of anyone like this, please pass my email on to them.

Steve K

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Grammer v. Language

This was originally posted at the Filmspotting Forum's Pet Peeves thread. It was in response to a person complaining about people misspelling "door jam(b)" and an ensuing argument about whether the spelling being changed is a good thing or not.

There are two ways of looking at "correct" language: the grammarian's and the linguist's. The grammarian's approach is to say that there are a standard set of rules that everyone needs to follow and any exception to these rules are improper and reasonable to be irritated at.

The linguist's approach recognizes rules, but understands that they are flexible. Language changes all the time, and whatever is most popularly used IS the proper use in that context. That there are different contexts for a particular language and what may be acceptable in an oral context might not be acceptable in written, or what is acceptable in a journal article might not work in a personal essay.

I, and I suppose FLY, take a more linguistic stance. The spelling of "door jamb" could be changing, and "door jam" is neither better nor worse, just different. An older spelling of "door jamb" is "door jambe", but no one complains about that change.

I suppose if the gammarians want to complain about the popular "misuse" of language, that's up to them (my wife is one of those, and it is a common unheated argument we have). But I choose to complain about people who think that the popular notion of language is the wrong one.