Botham Jean Justice —Now what?

Botham Jean Justice —Now what?

Now that Amber Guyger has been found guilty of murder, what will be the church’s reaction?

I had the pleasure of meeting Botham Jean’s family recently at the Annual Caribbean Lectureship. In fact, Botham’s father spoke during the lectureship and his tears and pleas for justice still ring in my ears. For those unfamiliar with the case, Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean in his own apartment, thinking she was in her own.

botham paradise

All mankind has been invited to be forgiven and have a home in heaven.

A few minutes ago Dallas police office Amber Guyger was found guilty. So here’s my question: Who is going to step up and study with Amber? How do we find her contact information so that New Testament Christians can teach her the Truth? Who will go and talk with her and build a relationship that might bring her to a knowledge of the Truth?

Botham’s soul is in a place of paradise—I have confidence in that. I listened intently as individuals shared how this young Christian had made such an amazing impact on so many. They are even setting up a non-profit–—to continue his amazing legacy. We know where he will spend eternity.

But what about Amber’s soul? If she were to die today where would she spend eternity? What about the mental torture she will now endure each day knowing she took the life of an innocent man? What will be the church’s reaction to her?

Who will step in and demonstrate Christian love to her family? Who will wipe away the tears of her parents? Who will take them food as the grieve the loss of their daughter who will probably remain behind bars beyond their deaths.

Christians talk about not being conformed to the world and having our minds transformed (Romans 12:1-2), but are we really transformed enough to reach out to those who have hurt us? Are we able to demonstrate the type of love Jesus commanded to our “neighbors” (Matthew 22:36-40)? Do we honestly feel blessed when people persecute us? Do we really pray for our enemies?

I think the most powerful message that could emerge from this horrific event would be for Botham’s Christian family to now offer forgiveness, and Amber be baptized into Christ! Hear me out—I believe Amber still needs to face the consequences of her actions, but I hope the Jean family is able to forgive her. Difficult? I can’t even imagine the magnitude of strength it would take for them to do this. But can you imagine the Christian message that would be sent out to the world from such an amazing act of love? What the world would see—if only for a few minutes, is the love that Jesus Christ has for each and every one of us.

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Hezekiah and His Prayer not to Die

Hezekiah and His Prayer not to Die

Many know of that time when the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah who was seriously ill. The message was simple.  Isaiah told the king that he was to die. “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kgs. 20:1). When the prophet departed, Hezekiah prayed so fervently to God that before Isaiah had left the palace God told the prophet to return to the king and deliver the message that his life would be lengthened fifteen years. There are some vital truths we must learn from the details of this wonderful story.


To live or die… that is the question.

Hezekiah’s Ingratitude

You would think that Hezekiah would have immediately responded with a heart filled with thanksgiving for all that God had done. Such was not the case. “But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown to him, for his heart was lifted up” (2 Chron. 32:25).

Now before you react too quickly, how often have you prayed about matters, and your prayers were answered? How did you respond? Adversity leads us to prayer, but we must learn to repay God for the favor he has shown.

Hezekiah’s Gratitude

No details are given, but that verse in 2 Chronicles shows that God’s wrath was looming over Hezekiah and over his kingdom. It never became a reality because of the king’s response. “Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”

Hezekiah was one of the great kings of the Jews, and it impacted the lives of all those in Judah. It is obvious that their petitions of God changed what was about to happen. God heard Hezekiah’s petition to spare his life and his petition for deliverance from the impending doom.

Don’t Live Too Long

God did lengthen his life fifteen years. What happened in those years? You may not be aware of the ungodly impact the next king had on Judah. His name was Manasseh, and he ruled for fifty-five years. During his reign, the Jews totally forgot about God and temple worship stopped. That glorious temple Solomon built fell into disrepair, and the Bible kept in the temple was completely forgotten and lost.

Who was Manasseh, and what was his relation to Hezekiah? He was Hezekiah’s son who was born to him during the fifteen years God added to his life. It would have been far better had Hezekiah died than to have lived and fathered evil Manasseh. The point is obvious. Better to die young and faithful than to live too long and create evil!

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Raising Hands

Raising Hands

One frequently sees people raise one or both hands while singing, listening to preaching/teaching, etc., in denominations today.  Could this practice be related to “raising holy hands” in the Bible?

No, for several reasons.

First, “lifting up holy hands” was said specifically to be done while praying, not while singing or while listening to preaching, etc., and only by males, not by both men and women as is seen in denominations (1 Tim. 2:8).

Hands lifted

Is your practice authorized in the Bible?

Secondly, “lifting up holy hands” is likely an expression Paul got from the Old Testament practice of raising one’s hands while praying (1 Kings 8:22; Ps. 28:2; Is. 1:15).  Yet, the Bible also records people praying while standing (1 Sam. 1:26), kneeling (1 Kings 8:54), prostrate (1 Kings 18:42), with bowed head (Gen. 24:26), and with uplifted eyes (John 17:1).  Thus, it’s clear that a particular posture in prayer is not a binding pattern.

Thirdly, literally speaking there are no such things as “holy hands.”  “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech known as the synedoche (the part put for the whole.)  “Holy hands” stands for a holy person, just as “haughty eyes” refers to a haughty person and “lying lips” refers to a liar.

Fourthly, and related to the last point, those in denominations cannot truly lift up holy hands because they are not truly holy people.  Only Christians are holy (sanctified, set apart), and people in denominations are not Christians according to the New Testament definition (John 17:17, 20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The point being made in 1 Timothy 2:8 is that men who lead in worship must be holy men.  Wayne Jackson points out that while there is nothing inherently wrong with men raising their hands when they pray in the public assembly, one should still be cautious about the practice for several reasons, namely the possibility of leaving the impression that one is inclined either towards the emotional, charismatic worship of the Pentecostals and others like them or the more emotionalistic, less reverential worship found in more liberal congregations, and also the possibility that doing so might create a distraction for others as they are trying to worship.  While these are all judgment factors, a wise Christian might want to reflect upon them.

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Practice Makes Us More Perfect

Practice Makes Us More Perfect

There are very few areas of expertise achieved by men apart from diligent study and practice.

Olympic athletes and other individuals considered to be at the peak of physical human ability are not born that way. They have a regime they have followed, and most of them practice, and practice, and practice, devoting hours a day to improving themselves. Our physicians and surgeons are not considered competent to take us apart and put us back together again without first undergoing years of study and training. There are many more examples that could be given.

practice calm

What do you want? How are you getting there?

There are not many activities where constant practice does not improve ability. And there are few activities where, with enough practice, most people can not achieve some competence. Generally, when an individual says, “I could never do that,” what they really mean is that they don’t want to spend the time and energy to learn how to do a thing. Sometimes such thinking is borne out of fear, but if we were to be honest with ourselves, frequently it’s just laziness or a lack of proper motivation on our part.

Why should we think that it is any different in matters of spiritual achievement?

The Bible reminds us concerning spiritual ability, maturity, and our ability to understand the Bible: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14; NKJV).”

Let us first notice that it is possible to be “unskilled” in God’s word; implying that it is fully possible to be “skilled.” This skill is achieved, not through the passage of time, but through, “reason of use,” and, “exercising” the senses to discern good and evil. In other words, spiritual ability and spiritual talents get better with practice and exercise, just like any other skill.

Have you considered the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made like us in every way, and partaking of the full human experience, had to study to get better with God’s word? We find Him engaged in a Bible study at the age of 12, and when found doing so, He identified the study as His Father’s will (cf. Luke 2:46-49). Thereafter we read that Jesus, “increased in Wisdom and Stature (Luke 2:52).” Jesus grew to be a wise man, because, from a very young age, He applied Himself to obtaining that wisdom. He became good at doing the right thing because he practiced constantly doing the right thing, so that He could say of His relationship with God, “I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:29)

But someone will say, “Well Jesus was God in the flesh, I could never be like Him.” As in so many other things, however, such a statement is more of an excuse not to try than it is a valid argument.

God wants us to try to be more like Jesus. The term “Christian” means, “Christ-like.” The Scriptures encourage us, telling us that we should look to the example of Jesus as our model for love, forgiveness and many other things (cf. Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 2:21; etc.) In fact, God very clearly tells us in His word that the goal is to grow spiritually, to reach the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). You might want to declare that you can’t grow spiritually, but God says you can, and that you should, even if such an endeavor is going to take effort on your part.

Sure, chances are pretty good that if you begin the process of spiritual growth, at some point you are going to falter. But it is only when we stop practicing that we stop improving. Don’t sell yourself short. God sees great potential in you. Don’t let laziness, fear, or indifference prevent you from achieving that potential. It takes practice, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.

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Hell is for Real

Hell is for Real

Hell is for real.” When was the last time you heard someone say that? When was the last time you heard some money or power hungry televangelist teach that soul-searing truth (2 Ptr. 2:1-3; Acts 20:30)?

hell olsteen

A smile won’t get you to heaven. Seek the truth.

Some number of years ago a book came out about a little boy’s supposed experience of dying and going to heaven for a few minutes (said experience itself later publicly confessed to be fraudulent), proclaiming that ‘heaven was for real!’ Now, of course we already knew that based on much better and more reliable testimony because God in the flesh – Jesus Christ Himself – very clearly and plainly told us so (Jn. 14:1-3 and etc.). But my point is, why isn’t there a popular, best-selling, and well-known book out there proclaiming that ‘hell is for real?’ The reasons should be obvious: Because the thought of eternally ongoing punishment in the flames of eternal hell make most people extremely uncomfortable (And why not? The Bible says that it is ‘the many,’ or the majority of people who will choose the easy way that leads there – Matt. 7:13-14). Because Satan continues to do everything in his nasty and deceptive power to keep unsaved people so preoccupied with the things of this world that they have neither the time nor the interest to truly explore the horrors awaiting them there (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; Rev. 14:9-11). Because few want to face the fact that hell is every bit as real as heaven. In fact, many have pointed out that Jesus actually talked and taught more about hell than He did about heaven! So why don’t we do the same, as those who claim to be following in His footsteps?

This fact is, that people who are totally oblivious to the fact – folks that neither know nor understand – that they are sick and soon going to die without proper medical treatment have no reason to seek help from a physician. Likewise, those who are kept totally in the dark about the horrors of hell that await all sinners who have not received God’s grace and forgiveness through their faith, repentance, and gospel obedience (Acts 2:38-41; 2 Thess. 1:7-10), will typically find little reason to take us, or the salvation we offer, very seriously (if at all), as long as they have no idea of what it is they need to be saved FROM.

Let us make sure, as those who claim to be following in Jesus’ footsteps to heaven, that we too, make sure that people know the hellish reality of their eventual eternity that they desperately need to be saved FROM, before trying to teach them that they need to be saved at all. Otherwise, if they feel they are fine as they are, why would they listen?

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