Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

In the November elections the state of Michigan passed a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Ten states now allow recreational marijuna us. Thirty-three allow the use of medicinal marijuana. In the two years since the following article was originally posted the legal landscape has changed significantly. For Christians, the major issue remains the same.

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using THC or CBD based substances that are prescribed and overseen by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the federal government and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

However, even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana Christians have a higher obligation that forbids their use of the drug. The Christian is not to participate in anything that would enslave him. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. The Christian must never be under the power of any addiction. The Christian must never be under the control of anything but the Holy Spirit. If the child of God is forbidden to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

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Was Jesus created?

A recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research indicated that over 3/4 of Americans believe “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father.” This finding is astounding because it shows that many Americans hold to a belief that contradicts one of the most significant tenets of Christianity. The doctrine of the deity is Jesus is shared by all Christian denominations except the Christian cults. From the very earliest days of Christianity, Christians have affirmed that Jesus is the eternal God.

The Athanasian Creed declares, “The Son is uncreated”, “The son is eternal” and “The Son was neither made nor created.” These statement are merely a reflection of the clear New Testament teaching that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) The words of John 1:3 make it impossible for Jesus to be created by God. If nothing was made apart from Jesus making it, then Jesus Himself could not be a creation. He must have eternally existed, as John 1:1 teaches. He was in the beginning with God because He is eternally God.

Why then does Colossians 1:15 describe Jesus as “the firstborn of every creature?” The word “firstborn” in Colossians speaks to rank, not birth order. Paul is saying that Jesus is the chief over all creation. This becomes obvious in the next couple verses as Paul goes on to say, “By Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by Him, and for Him . . . that in all things He might have the preeminence.” Jesus is Creator and He is supreme over His creation. This great position is His so all will know He is most important.

Why then is Jesus called “the only begotten Son” of God? Jesus is the Son of God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is not the Son of God because in eternity past the Father caused the Son to come into existence. Jesus is the Son of God because that is the title given to Him in Scripture which describes the eternal relationship which exists between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God because He is God the Son who was begotten of God as a human being. The begottenness of Jesus is not a description of how the Son came to exist, but of how the Son became a man.

The New Testament consistently declares that Jesus is God, the Creator of all things and the Savior of men. He is “the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) Jesus was not created by the Father. He had no beginning and will have no ending.

Can Christians Learn God’s Will by Casting Lots?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. Weeks later the disciples sought to replace Judas. The disciples chose two men out of the 120 people in the upper room and then they cast lots to see which of the two would be the twelfth apostle. This is the last reference in the Bible to casting lots, and the only time the New Tesament describes Christians making a decision by casting lots.

Casting lots was a regular practice in Israel during Old Testament times. God instructed the Israelites to cast lots as part of the prescribed ritual on the day of atonement. The high priest would cast lots to decide which of two goats would be sacrificed. Later, lots were cast to assign land to tribes and cities to families. When the temple was built lots were cast to arrange the service of certain Levites. The book of Proverbs seems to speak favorably of casting lots. “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.” (Proverbs 18:18) “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Casting lots in the Bible was the process of reaching a decision through the random result of thrown sticks, stones or bones. The most common modern parallel is flipping a coin– heads we go out to eat, tails we eat at home. Sometimes the coin is tossed to reach an impartial decision, sometimes to resolve a dispute and sometimes to reach a decision when a person cannot decide. Though the Old Testament used lots as a legitimate part of certain decisions, the New Testament church never did. Is it alright for Christians to roll dice, draw cards or flip coins to determine God’s will?

The Bible does not condemn casting lots, but the New Testament has no examples of casting lots after the reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Once Christians received the Holy Spirit they did not need to rely on external devices for guidance. When the church selected elders, deacons or missionaries they did not cast lots. When the apostles sought God’s direction in their ministry travels they did not cast lots. The apostles and early church made decisions through prayer, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s instructions. The Holy Spirit’s guidance of every Christian eliminates the need to cast lots.

Instead of casting lots, Christians are to learn the will of God. In the book of Colossians Paul prayed for the believers to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Prayer is a key element of learning the will of God. When Paul desired to go to Rome and then to Spain he asked the church to pray for him that he would be able to do so.

The will of God is learned through the Word of God. God’s commands are always God’s will. The wise application of Biblical principles also direct the Christian to know God’s will. In situations where the Biblical commands and principles leave room for a Christian to legitimately choose any of several options, then the Christian ought to make the best decision possible while trusting God to guide and protect in the decision making process. If God directs the fall of the lot, how much more will He direct His child who seeks to make a wise decision that obeys and honors Him.

How should we respond to the Brett Kavanaugh debates?

The strife regarding Brett Kavanaugh continues to hold America’s attention and promises to dominate the news for some time to come. Christians, like everyone else, are struggling to understand this long and contentious process. Few, if any, judicial nominees have been the subject of such a vicious conflict. How should Christian’s respond to this whole situation? Does the Bible give any principles to guide us through this ordeal?

This article is not intended to address whether or not Kavanaugh’s nomination should be confirmed, but how to think about and respond to the controversy of the situation. The before the Senate has moved away from whether or not Mr. Kavanaugh should be confirmed to whether or not he perpetrated various acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. The accusations against him are serious. Sexual violence is never excusable. God clearly forbids all sexual immorality and sexual violence (Deuteronomy 22:25). Assaults upon any person are evil. No Christian should brush such an accusation aside as unimportant because the accused shares our political leanings. If the events happened as described then Brett Kavanaugh committed a great evil. The statute of limitations has run out so he is not criminally prosecutable, but he and any who have sinned in this matter will be judged by God. God fully knows the truth and will bring every sin into judgment.

It is impossible for anyone to know the full truth of the matter, especially those of us who are getting their information second hand from news reports or online news feeds. Proverbs says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto Him.” (Proverbs 28:13) In this situation the average person will never properly hear the matter. The Christian needs to speak with care and reserve judgment or rigid opinion about the truth of the accusations.

In all things act charitably and graciously. “Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) No matter what happens, and how strong your feelings may be on this topic, always speak words that minister grace to others. Never speak words that defame, enrage, slander, embitter or belittle.

Regardless of personal opinions about the issue and the people involve, always speak respectfully of the appointed leaders. Speak respectfully of Brett Kavanaugh and the Senators involved in his hearing. They are the ministers of God appointed for our good and the good of the nation. (Romans 13) We must always treat them with honor and respect, even when we don’t think they deserve it. One way in which the Christian honors his government is through prayer. Pray for Mr. Kavanaugh, Congress and all who are involved in this process. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

In all the turmoil, do not lose sight the importance of the Supreme Court. Whoever sits on the Supreme Court weighs significant matters of law that deeply effect the lives of every American. Whether they be issues of hurman life and marriage or issues of healthcare and international trade, the Supreme Court is entrusted with a huge responsibility. The character of those who sit on that court matters. Righteousness still matters. Integrity in government matters. The principle of Proverbs 14:34 is still true, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Does God hate religion?

Alex Himaya wrote a book entitled, “Jesus hates religion.” He said that, “Jesus is about love and relationship, not rules and religion.” A quick search online turns up dozens of reasons why God hates religion. “Religion has started wars.” “Religion builds huge churches but fails to feed the poor.” “Religion sees people as the enemy, but Jesus sees sin as the enemy.” “Religion keeps people from God.” “Religion is a replacement for a relationship with Him.” This popular notion sets up a conflict between religious institutions and Jesus. With the problems in many churches, the failure of organized religion to address injustice and the sheer hypocrisy of many religious adherents it is tempting to believe that God really does hate religion.

God created religion. After man sinned, God began to teach sinful man how he could come to God in worship and fellowship. This way of coming to God is religion. Man immediately began to devise his own way to approach God. Cain’s failure in worship is the earliest example of human religion. Man’s attempt to come to God in his own way is also religion. If “God hates religion” means that God hates man’s own efforts to approach him, then yes, that statement is true. The Old Testament shows time and time again that God rejects all attempts to come to Him except according to the way He prescribed. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) If religion is defined, as one author said, as “a man made path to God”, then God hates religion. But if you mean God hates the religion He gave to humanity, then that’s just nonsense. Not only does God not hate His religion, He requires men to follow it.

The argument cannot be made that God liked religion in the Old Testament but not in the New. Jesus established New Testament religion that includes rules, rituals and doctrine. Jesus established the church (Matthew 16:18), appointed its leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12), defined its practices (Matthew 18:15-17, 28:19-20; Luke 22:19-20; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13) and established its doctrines. (Galatians 1:11-12) No one can argue that Jesus is all about relationship but not rules. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14) Jesus does not hate the religion He gave to humanity.

Many religious institutions have abused the teachings of Jesus. Religion has divided people and has been a major factor in a number of wars. Religion has been used to cloak the worst kind of abuse and depravity. God hates man-centered, self-righteous and man-devised religions. God gave religion to man as a good thing enabling the sinner to come to Him. Man has misused and perverted God’s good gift, but God still loves the religion He instituted when it is followed according to His instructions. There is such a thing as pure religion which all who seek to follow Christ must participate in. None can truly say they love Christ but not His religion. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

What about Reincarnation?

Many are intrigued by the teachings of the eastern religions, including the idea of reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that a departed soul will re-enter fleshly life in a new body. After millions (yes, millions) of cycles of birth and death, the person may be able to reach oneness with the universe and escape the reincarnation cycle.

Reincarnation is not based upon the Bible. Belief in a cycle of birth, death and re-birth is contrary to clear statements of Scripture. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says of death, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” The spirit returns to God, not to the earth to enter another body. Nothing can be more clear and contrary to the teaching of reincarnation than the declaration of Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”

Reincarnation is not a random cycling of a spirit through various lives. Reincarnation serves a purpose that is the very opposite of the Biblical teaching of salvation. Through the process of reincarnation the person is given the opportunity to work out bad choices from previous lives. In the cycle of karma the bad done in previous lives affects the present life, and the choices made in this one affect the next. Through reincarnation the person is able to gain good karma until he becomes enlightened enough to break the karmic cycle. The Biblical teaching of sin and salvation is nothing like the hope offered by reincarnation. Salvation is never achieved by works, whether in this life or one to come. Salvation is always the gift of God received only through faith in Jesus. Those who are saved by believing Jesus have no need of a future life to work out their sins. Those who do not trust Jesus for salvation have no chance of ever being good enough for heaven.

Reincarnation is not another way to describe the Biblical teaching of resurrection. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The comfort Jesus gave at the death of Lazarus was, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) Resurrection is the restoration of the deceased body and the reunion of the departed soul with the newly restored body. Except for the few Biblical examples of miraculous resurrection of individuals, the resurrection will be a mass event which will take place at the end of this age. Reincarnation is the re-entrance of an individual’s soul into a new body. The reincarnated person’s new body could be anything from an insect to a holy man depending on his karma. Reincarnation gives no promise of resurrection, but instead offers the hope of eventually escaping the endless cycle of birth and death.

Reincarnation is a belief of many eastern religions that is tied directly to their other religious principles. As a result, reincarnation is not a Biblical concept. It is instead completely contrary to the Bible.

Does the Bible say anything about near-death experiences?

The image of a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end has been received by many Americans as the standard description of what a person experiences when he dies. This picture has entered the American consciousness through movies and personal stories of near death experiences. Other accounts have included the spirits of family and friends encouraging (or in some cases, warning) the person. Some who suffered heart attacks during medical procedures have described floating above the operating table, watching the doctor operate on their body and listening to the conversation of the nurses. Those who have experienced near death experiences know the memories are real and vivid. Does the Bible say anything about how a Christian should evaluate these near death experiences?

Before getting to he Biblical answer, a couple practical points should be mentioned as an aid to rightly thinking through this issue. Any injury that brings a person close to the point of death, and especially one that stops blood flow to the brain, traumatizes the entire body. As death approaches, the body suffers so many things that the senses are often overwhelmed or confused. Caution must be exercised that reports from those suffering great trauma do not become the final authority on how we understand major issues like life and death.

Some results of extreme or life threatening trauma have been tested and their effects duplicated in controlled settings. For example, astronauts in training are subjected increasing g-forces until they pass out. The astronauts commonly report seeing just before unconciouscness a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end. This vision seems to be nothing more than the common experience of a brain suffering the effects of oxygen deprivation.

The Bible speaks of some who died and were restored to life, but never records a near death experience or tells of someone who experienced one. Aside from Jesus, the Bible describes 8 specific instances of a person dying and being raised back to life. No record is passed on of what they experienced in the moments just before or during their death. The Apostle Paul wrote a signficant portion of the New Testament. In all his writings Paul made no mention of what he experienced in death. This implies, at the very least, the experiences of the person transitioning from death to life are not that important.

The only Biblical reference to a journey from life to the afterlife is that of the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16. When he died he was “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” (Luke 16:22) On the other hand, the rich man who died was buried and woke up in hell. Lazarus’ angelic transport could have been a Jewish idiom. But if angels literally guide the soul from earth to heaven, then that should be the standard by which all claims of near death experiences are evaluated. However, when the Bible mentions the movement of the soul from earth to heaven the typical description is of immediate translation. Scriptures describes death in such a way that we expect there to be no delay between death and the afterlife. Paul’s statement that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord agrees with David’s words, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15) The soul has no conscious experience between the body falling asleep in death and the spirit awakening in the afterlife.

The Bible says nothing about near death experiences, but what it says about life and death makes it much more likely that the events experienced near death are not necessarily supernatural or spiritual in nature. They are probably the result of senses disturbed by the terrible trauma being endured. Hallucinations, vivid memories, partial awareness or oxygen defficient brain cells are ample explanations for near death experiences. Even if the near death episodes are actual experiences of real events, they must take a second place in importance and authority to the Bible. Exta-Biblical glimpses into the afterlife, if possible, are never necessary for the Christian life. God has revealed in His Word all that men need to know about what happens at death.

Should Christians study prophecy?

It seems that many Christians are unwilling to engage in serious study of books that speak of future events, like Revelation. Some do not even like to read those books. Christians shy away from the study of end times prophecy because of the difficulty in understanding the subject matter and the many different opinions taught about the end of the world. The study of the Bible’s teachings about the end times is certainly challenging, but is this a good reason to avoid the subject? Does the Bible give any reasons why Christians should study prophecy?

Christians should study prophecy because it is a significant portion of the Bible. Scripture contains over 31,000 verses and a quarter of them are prophetic in nature. Some of the prophecies have already been fulfilled, but there are many still awaiting fulfillment. Most of Revelation, large portions of Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel contain prophecies of the end times. One of the longest recorded sermons of Jesus (Matthew 24-25) speaks of the end times. To neglect the study of prophecy is to neglect the study of large portions of the Bible.

Christians should study prophecy because it shows the faihtfulness of God. The prophetic passages reveal the wrath of God on sin, show how God is going to fulfill all the promises He made to the saints of the Old Testament and assure the Christian that salvation brings eternal blessings. The study of prophecy shows that God has kept His Word and that He will continue to do so throughout all eternity.

One of the common objections against studying prophecy is the rampant speculations and crazy predictions from the prophecy “experts’. God did not tell us His future plans so Christians could attempt to figure out exactly when Jesus is going to return or could create crazy speculations about the relation of lunar eclipses to the end times. Christians should study prophecy so they will know how to live in this life in light of Christ’s return.

God has revealed how Christians are to apply the prophetic passages. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” (2 Peter 3:12) The return of Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom on earth, the judgment of the lost, the destruction of all things and the establishment of eternity should all motivate the Christian to live holy and godly lives in this world. The study of prophecy challenges the Christian to live today for eternity.

One caution must be given. While the study of the end times is good and profitable, care must be taken to not overemphasize its importance. The Christian ought to have an undersanding of all the Word. To neglect any portion of the Bible is dangerous. If a person only studies the prophetic passages, then significant and essential portions of the Bible will be ignored. The study of prophecy should not be neglected, neither should the study of prophecy cause the Christian to neglect the other doctrines of the Bible.

The difficult study of end times prophecies is worthwhile for every Christian. God promises, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3)