October 15, 2018
What do we do when two Christians disagree as to whether a particular behavior is acceptable or not? The obvious answer is to go to Scripture. If God condemns a certain practice the conversation becomes very short. It's a sin. But, what about things the Bible does't specifically address? If we are going to be honest with ourselves and the Scriptures, we cannot be dogmatic where the Bible is silent, nor can we pretend to be sure when inference or conjecture are all that we have. in our approach to this we must love and respect one another while staying faithful to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Romans 14, and the the truths taught in that chapter will be very fruitful in this discussion. The problem Paul was confronting was a disagreement among believers regarding the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. When these believers went to the market to purchase meat, that meat was the remains of what had been sacrificed to idols. Some Christians had no issue with this. They ate the meat and retained a clear conscience. But, this was not true of all Christians. There were a significant number of Christians who felt it would be sinful to eat that meat. Paul referred to this group as being weak in the faith. Not that they were lesser Christians or loved the Lord any less, they simply had a weaker conscience. The dispute between these two groups became sharp enough that the Apostle felt it needful to step in to preserve the unity.
Christians face similar issues today. When I was a boy, we were taught that Christians didn't play cards, go to the movies, listen to secular music, drink, or smoke. I remember one preacher who went as far to say having a pool table in one's house would be sin. In many cases these issues were the test of fellowship and orthodoxy. Now, there are a few groups that still hold to these views, but most Christians have moved on from these things. But, there will always be issues, not spelled out in Scripture, that will prove to be contentious among believers. So, we must go to God's word to understand how we should approach these matters.
The interesting thing is that Paul didn't tell those who refused the meat to just get over it and eat up. Nor did he tell the others to just go vegan. The apostle did affirm in verse fourteen that nothing is unclean of itself, but his goal was to build unity rather than to convince people they were wrong. We do not have the time or space for a full exposition of this chapter, but we will highlight a few key thoughts. In verse one, Paul tells them not to quarrel over opinions. In the next several verses, he commands that each party respect the other. That is, we should not despise or pass judgment on those who have developed a different view. As verse 6 declares, the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord, and the one who partakes, partakes in honor of the Lord. That is, we must view our lives with the glory of God in mind. This is why Charles Spurgeon declared he would smoke a cigar to the glory of God.
But, it's not as simple as do what you want, respect those who do the same, and leave each other alone. We are called to walk in love. That means, as Paul emphasizes in the later portion of the chapter, we are not to flaunt our liberty in the face of the weaker brother. We are to go out of our way, not to offend a fellow believer. For example, if you were to go to a restaurant with one who abstains from alcohol for conscience sake, then you should not order a drink. It is important to note that even though a particular thing may not be sinful, it is sinful for a person to defile their conscience. But that doesn't mean the weaker brother gets to impose his standards on all other believers. The same Paul who commanded us to walk in love, harshly rebuked those who would force new converts to keep the Mosaic law. In fact, when speaking of those who were compelling new believers to be circumcised, he said in Galatians 5 that he wished they would emasculate themselves! No one has the right to flaunt their liberty, but conversely, no one has the right to bind the consciences of God's people where God has not done so.
This was a brief handling of such an important issue, but I pray we learn to walk in love with our fellow believers. May we always love and respect one another and realize the Kingdom of God is more than meat and drink. I pray we have the wisdom to stand on God's truth and refuse to separate over non essentials. Soli Deo Gloria!
July 17, 2018
Tattoos are quite popular in our culture today, so it's natural for Christians to ask whether the practice is acceptable or not. The question is certainly valid, but it is vital for us to approach the question properly. For the Christian, Scripture is our final authority. We all come from different backgrounds and traditions, but we must all submit our will to the authority of Scripture. It is certainly wrong to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture. But, it is equally wrong to pretend inference and tradition is authoritative. So then, what does the Bible say about tattoos? The rest of this post will seek to answer that question. Before going further, I should add in the interest of full disclose that I have a tattoo.
Most Christians who believe tattoos are wrong use Leviticus 19:28 as a proof text. That passage reads, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD." But does this passage forbid the modern practice of getting inked? in order to make that determination we must understand the context of the passage. Let us never be guilty of lifting a verse out of context in order to use it for our own purposes. In the context of the Leviticus 19, The Lord is forbidding Israel from adopting the practices of pagan nations, especially as it pertained to their worship. More specifically, verse twenty eight addresses the funeral rites and ceremonies of heathen nations. As Matthew Henry pointed out in his commentary, "The rites and ceremonies by which they expressed their sorrow at their funerals must not be imitated." The pagans would cut and make marks on their flesh in order to pacify their false gods. One may object here and insist that tattoos are then sinful because the practice is mentioned in the context of ancient pagan practices. The logic here is that a thing is wrong because unbelievers do it. But, to claim a thing is wrong simply because unbelievers do it, is a logical fallacy. As Matt Slick pointed out in a similar post, we do not conclude the VW Beetle is an evil car because it was developed by the Nazis. Obviously,a thing cannot be wrong simply because unbelievers do it. So then, it is easy to conclude the passage in question doesn't not address the modern practice of getting inked.
Another important issue to mention here is that we must take the entire context of a passage into consideration. That is, we can not cherry pick one verse in a chapter and simply dismiss other verses in the same chapter. For example. if one concludes from Leviticus 19 that tattoos are sinful, they must also conclude that shaving our hair and beard are equally sinful. So why do we follow some laws of the Old Testament and not others? it certainly isn't because we like some and not others. We don't have time to delve into this issue very deeply here, but theologians divide the law into three categories; the civil (or judicial), the ceremonial, and the moral. The civil law governed the civil life of the nation of Israel which was under a Theocracy. The ceremonial law regulated the worship of ancient Israel, and the moral law detailed the duties of all men toward God and fellow man. For a further explanation of this see the following two links: For the second link, see questions 91-150.
So does this mean the Christian is free to get a tattoo at will? While tattoos certainly do fall under the category of Christian liberty, there are a couple things things that should be considered before attaching something permanent to your body.
1. Does the tattoo you desire to get glorify God? This may seem like an odd proposition, but we can glorify God in every area of our life, even those things which seem trivial such as entertainment and tattoos. (See 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17)
2. Does the tattoo you desire to get violate the law of God in any way? For example, profanity or lewdness would be a violation of the Scriptures (Eph 4:19; Col 4:6). Images of members of the Godhead would also be a violation of God's law (Exo 20:4-5). More examples could be given here, but the point is well made.
More could be said regarding regarding the practicality of tattoos, but our interest here is Scripture. I trust this post has been helpful. May we all seek to please God in every area of life, and never be hateful or contentious in areas where disagreements are found. Soli Deo Gloria!
May 15, 2018
Every year around Mother's Day it is common to see a flurry of social media posts in which people declare their mom to be the best ever. Some folks may make this declaration on their Mom's birthday or some other special day when niceness is expected, but Mother's day seems to be the preferred day to bestow the honor of best ever on one's mother. To be sure many of these ladies are good moms. Some are even great moms. A select few of these without a doubt belong in the Cooperstown of Motherhood. Logic, however, dictates that there can only be one best ever. So then, the question remains as to who is the best mother ever. My dear friends, today you are blessed to be reading this blog because today I shall answer this age old question and settle this debate once and for all. Today, the actual greatest mother ever shall be revealed!
Many of you have already made up your mind that this post will reveal my very own mother to be the best ever. If you think I would be so obvious and predictable in my most accurate and irrefutable choice of best mother in the history of ever, you should know one thing...you are correct! My mother was the best mom ever and it's not just because she tolerated and even loved me with remarkable skill. She truly has the credentials to make her worthy of this honor.
One of the reasons my mom was the best ever was because everyone loved her. Granted, there were a few people who didn't love her, but they were clearly terrible, horrible people who probably hated puppy dogs, rainbows, kittens, and ice cream as well. No truly sane and moral person could have found a way to not love my mom. Perhaps an even greater testament to greatness of my mom was not everyone loved her, but that she loved everyone. She seemed to see the best in everyone and was sure they meant well. Even when I was sure someone was just a terrible person, she was sure they just hadn't had the opportunity to be nice yet. Given her deep capacity to love, it was no shock that she took time to love people even while she was dying of cancer and enduring treatments.
My mom was extremely loving, but another thing that added to her majestic greatness was her magic kitchen. Few cooks are able to maintain a streak of continuously perfect meals, but this lady did. Every meal was perfect and that's hard to pull off when you are pairing spaghetti and green beans. Most culinary artists would be able to make such a paring delight the taste buds, but my mom served this meal with confidence and perfection. But, every meal was perfect so it was just another day in the kitchen for the Kuykendall mom. Not only was every meal a feat of splendor, the portions were always right on. This was the case whether it was just the family or if five people just happen to show up at meal time. Mama would always says, "There's plenty. The more the merrier!" Ten extra people along with their pets? No problem!
In all seriousness, one of the things I appreciate most about my mom was her love for the Lord. No one who met her was left questioning whether Cathy Kuykendall loved her Lord or not. I am thankful that she wasn't just dedicated to external religious practices. When she sang the song, 'Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus, the tears and the joy were real. When she prayed, Heaven paid attention. And when she spoke of the Lord, she wasn't speaking of an abstract principle. My mother's faith was unfeigned. She truly was one of the greatest people I ever met, and I was blessed to be her son.
May 10, 2018
My daughter is weeks away from graduating high school, a clear sign she is growing up. My son graduated last year so it ought to be easier this go around. It ought to be, but it isn’t. The reality that my little girl is growing up and will soon be away from home more often than she is at home still doesn’t seem real. I suppose it will feel very real when we drop her off for college and head home, but for now she is still right here with us.
Last year, when my son graduated, I found myself wishing for a rewind button, a pause button, or at least something to slow things down. But, we can’t roll back the hands of time and to be honest I don’t want to anymore. I guess in that respect I am a little better at watching my children grow up.
When I declare I don’t want to go back, it’s not because there aren’t great memories that would be great to revisit. There certainly are! I cherish the memories gained from watching my dear daughter grow up. She was born tongue tied and that prevented her from clearly pronouncing the letter R. She has since outgrown this slight malady, but it was a lot of fun asking her to say “Red Robin rocks.” That little voice declaring “Wed Wobin Wocks” will be forever etched in my memory. For as long as I live I will cherish those times she would sit me in my chair and encourage me to “Freelax Daddy, freelax.” It was common place for her to play police woman and proclaim, “Daddy, you are under the rest.” Many times, she would stand behind me and fix my hair so I would look cool. Other times she would get her fisher price doctor kit and make me all better. When I wasn’t preaching, she would sit in my lap in church, roll my tie under my chin, and whisper, “don’t move.” I always moved, and she always fixed it back.
We’re still making memories though. Watching her play Volleyball and Soccer, watching her do so well in school, and just watching her interact with friends are all memories that will last a lifetime. The memories of the past are great, but we can’t let those memories prevent us from cherishing the moments we are given right now. For that reason, I have enjoyed watching her chose a college and an intended career.
So, if you were to ask me if I want to go back now, my answer would be a resounding no. I wouldn’t want to go back because I am enjoying the gift we have right now, the present. But I am also looking forward to what the future holds. What I want right now is to make the most of the present. I want to enjoy each moment I am given now so that one day I will look back on the memories being created right now.
Time does indeed fly. The book of James warns us that our life is a vapor, here today and gone the next. For that reason, we must not waste our time wishing to go back or dreading what lies ahead. We can’t prevent time from moving along rapidly but we can trust the paths of providence and rest in the fact that every good gift is from above.
The truth that time moves so quickly ought to also make us aware of our mortality. Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes that God has placed eternity into the heart of man. The Sovereign King of the universe has given us this life to enjoy and has made it possible for us to know Him. Our entire duty is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and there’s no better way to spend time and eternity than in His presence. Coram Deo!