Ever heard that one?  Oh, my hand is up.  I heard that.  I heard it all my years growing up in a Christian home.  Christians aren't to hang out with non-Christians.  Why?  Because that's what the Bible says.  Duh!  1 Corinthians 15:33 says it plainly...“Bad company corrupts good character.”  There it is.  Christians are not to be hanging around with sinners...lost people...unbelievers...people who don't follow Jesus.  It will corrupt their good character.  So, just say no!
 If you're a Christian parent ...a good Christian parent, you'll get your kid in a Christian school, playing in a Christian T-Ball league, playing some good instrument (that is appropriate for use at church, of course), make sure their radio only tunes into KSBJ (God's Listening, right?), and most of all, DO NOT LET THEM HAVE FRIENDS THAT AREN'T CHRISTIANS...from good Christian families.  Real Christians.  If you don't watch their every step, I mean every step, they'll make friends with some infidels and it's all down the drain...and, it's all your fault.  You failed and their bound for Hell.  Feel better?
Say what?  Jesus called himself what?  Friend of sinners?  Must be a misprint.  You say what?  Jesus said we were to be in this world, but not of this world?  OK, I'm confused.  Are we "in"or "not of"?  Which is it?  He needs to pick one.  And the one needs to be "not of" AND "not in".

OK, everyone just stop for a minute and take a deep breath.  Don't hang with anything un-Christian is so much easier.  It's neat.  It's clear.  It's not convoluted.  Bad people with bad people.  Good people with good people.  Black and white.  Good and bad.  It's a dirty, creepy world out there and if we can just keep the lines of demarcation intact, I think maybe we could pull  this off.
What?  There's more?  Seriously?  I haven't filtered the first stuff yet.  OK, let me have it.  "And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and Samaria...Samaria? one likes those guys...and to the ends of the earth".  So, you're saying we gotta hang with those folks?  Like, actually hang?  We have to like them?  Be friends with them?  They're going to mess us up.  They're really going to mess up our kids.  We've got to ISOLATE ourselves from them or they'll start to influence us.
What's that?  You say Jesus never intended us to ISOLATE ourselves so they don't influence us.  Instead, we're supposed to INSULATE ourselves with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who lives inside us and influence them?  But, can't we just do that from a distance?  That's not the way Jesus did it...and we're supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  Yikes!  That's pretty challenging.

So, you're saying Jesus never locked eyes with a human being he didn't love?  And, as his disciples we won't either?  So, to be his disciples...his witnesses, we have got to be in the world.  To be fishers of men, we gotta get out on the water.

OK, I'm with you, but what about the "Bad company corrupts good character"?  Where does that come in?  It's gotta come in somewhere.  You say it's a warning?  "Don't be misled.  Bad company corrupts good character".  In other words, Paul is warning us that out in the ugly, sinful world, we can be influenced by it if we're not careful.  We have to be IN the world, in order to influence it like Jesus did.  But, while we're IN the world, we've got to be careful that we're not OF the world.  Jesus' distinction was that he was the friend of sinners.  That he ate with tax-collectors and publicans.  That he pardoned prostitutes and simply told them to sin no more.  That he showed mercy to adulterers and adulteresses.  That he was a glutton and a wine-bibber (anyone know what a bibber is?  Whatever it is, it sounds bad.)

IN THE WORLD...rubbing elbows with people far from God...but, NOT OF THE WORLD...loving them like Jesus did, but not becoming them.  INSULATED, but not ISOLATED. 

This is way harder...but way more powerful.  I'm gonna need some help.  Oh, that was the idea all along!



I've read innumerable posts and been asked more questions than I can remember about the Pope's visit to America.  Two things have been surprising to me:

1.  How much media coverage has been allocated to his visit.  It seems that every show on television has been preempted at some point for coverage of the pope doing something.  Landing his plane, shaking the president's hand, riding in his Pope-mobile.  Everything he does is a major breaking story.
2.  How everybody...I mean everybody, has an opinion on his visit.  Some think it's the greatest event in their lifetime.  Other's are less impressed, but still put a really positive spin on it because it draws attention to Christianity, even if it doesn't happen to be their particular brand of Christianity.  Kind of the "all publicity is good publicity" mentality.

So, what's my take on this papal visit to America?  OK, I'll play along.  Here's some random takes:

*I like this guy.  Let's face it, as pope's go, he hasn't had much competition.  His predecessors haven't been the most likable guys.  Popes? Yes.  Personalities? Not so much.  Saying a lot of good things, getting rid of those ridiculous red shoes (brilliant), leaving the palace for a hotel room, acting like a real approachable person...all brilliant moves.  He's likable.  He's human.  As the single most visible representative of the Catholic Church, he has brought positive attention to Catholicism.  That's a good thing.

*He's talked a lot about grace and mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation.  I'm encouraged by that.

*He has the guts to stand for politically incorrect issues.  He stands up and says abortion is wrong.  He believes in the dignity and sanctity of every life.  Some of my protestant brothers could learn a thing from him.  He believes in the sanctity of marriage.  Preach it, pope!

*For those who think he's brought great attention to Christianity, well, that's a matter of opinion.  In his mind he is doing that very thing, because, as the leader of the Catholic Church, he believes that Catholicism and Christianity are synonymous.  In other words, that outside the Catholic Church, there is no Christianity.  So, he's here bringing attention to Catholicism, not Christianity in general.

*I do like that his visit is bringing attention to the Church, and there may be some reciprocal effects that come to all of Christianity.  But, it's hard for me to get excited about a guy coming who thinks when I die I'm going to hell.  As the pope, he totes the party line of Catholicism, which believes that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.  If you were raised a Catholic and you decided you would rather be a Baptist or a Methodist or a Non-Denominational Christian....sorry, you left your Christianity behind when you left the Catholic Church.  That's not one of the places you can find faith in Christ.  It's the ONLY place!  I just can't get excited about a guy coming and addressing Congress that believes I'm going to Hell when I die.  Call me picky, but I just can't.  In fact, I actually think he got it wrong.  And...if he got that wrong, what else has he gotten wrong?

*Oh, and if you use or have ever used contraception, your salvation is in question as well.

*Yet, when he speaks ex cathedra...he speaks for God.  His words have equal authority to the Word of God, the Bible.  How do you speak for God AND get things wrong?

*Unlike him, I don't think he's going to hell when he dies.  I don't know.  But, I'm not writing him off because he doesn't wear the same brand as I do.

*Maybe I'm just jealous of the TV coverage he gets.  Who knows.  I am a little ticked that he keeps preempting the things I'm trying to watch.

Is there good that can come out of this?  Absolutely.  Is it all good?  I think not.  If you're listening to him as a man who loves God and has some personal opinions...Great!  Feel free to agree or disagree.  If you're listening a man who speaks for Christ, Christians and the Christian Church...not so much.

I'd say to him, "Welcome to America, brother.  We're glad to have you!"



That's what we've been told...a sin is a sin is a sin...  Very democratic.  All sins are created equal.  That's what so many believe.  That's what I believed for most of my life.  So, we had to get that idea from somewhere.  So,...where?

James 2:10 helps us out there.  "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."  There you have it.  One sin.  All sins.  Equal guilt.  Equal sins.  I rest my case.

But, is that what James is saying?  No, I don't think so.  In fact, James isn't talking about the equity of sins at all.  His point is a simple one.  Once we sin, we are sinners.  We are guilty in the eyes of a perfect and holy God.  Holiness and sin are like oil and water.  They just don't mix.  People who have been contaminated by the virus we call sin have a number of consequences directly related to that sin.  The major one, being a broken relationship with the God who made us, loves us and desperately wants a relationship with us.

But, at the same time listen to what Paul writes to the church at Corinth..."Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body."  Paul says, "Not all sins are the same.  Not all sins have the same consequences".

Every sin has one thing in common...they break our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Every sin is different...they all have different consequences in regard to its effect on the world around us, the people around us, and on ourselves, as well.

Think of a sin as a stone dropped in a lake.  Every rock has something in common...they send out concentric circles...ripples, if you will.  But, likewise, every stone is different.  The larger the stone, the farther the ripples go.  Or, in our case, the more destruction happens and the more people's lives are impacted.

Sins are all the same.  Sins are all different.  It's that simple.



POOR GOD...That may sound a little strange to hear, but it really is true.  Seriously, He has to be the most misquoted guy who's ever uttered a word.  His words are even written a book...that's God (for Pete's sake!).  And He doesn't get a chance at rebuttal.

For six weeks we'll take a look at a few of the misquotes, misunderstandings, and out-right misrepresentations of what God has said.  Obviously, we can't cover them all in six weeks, so we'll take a shot at a few others during the week.  How about this one...

"If you had more faith, God would answer your prayers"

Have a marriage that's on the rocks?  Well, if you have enough faith, it will all turn around.
Get diagnosed with some life-threatening disease?  Enough get well.  Not enough faith...well, nice knowing you.
Need a job?  Pray hard.  If you've got big faith, then employment is just a prayer away.  Not so much?  There's always welfare.

BOTTOM LINE:  It's all about how much faith you have.  Got faith?  You can write your own ticket.  Don't quite measure up in the faith department.  Well, let's face it...God's answer is "No".  But, don't blame God.  It's you with the wimpy faith.

It's SIMPLE:  If you have enough faith, the answer is always, "YES", but if you don't, then it's always "NO".  Right?  When the apostles prayed God answered, God healed, God set free, God did miracles.  So, just ask one of those faith-filled apostles.  They'll tell you.  Right?  What?  They're not here?  They're not around any more?  They're all DEAD?  That can't be.  They had faith...a lot of it.  They must have all died at ripe old ages after fun-filled lives full of health and wealth and all things rosey.  What's that you say?  They lived hard lives and with the exception of John they all met untimely, horrific deaths?  Well, that blows that FAITH=YES idea.

Apparently, sometimes you can have all the faith in the world and God still says, "NOPE".  Doesn't quite fit into a nice, neat equation.  But, God seldom fits into any equation or box we try to fit Him into.  

Remember the story of the man who desperately needed Jesus to touch him and heal him.  Problem was, he couldn't even get inside the place where Jesus was.  In fact, there's not even any evidence that the guy even believed in Jesus.  But, his friends did.  They believed so much that they wouldn't take "NO" for an answer.  They cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down to where Jesus was.  And Jesus...healed him.  Not because of his faith, but because of the faith of his friends.

It would be so neat and tidy and simple if it were just MY FAITH + GOD'S POWER = YES to whatever I ask.  But, sometimes, with all the faith a man can muster up, God says "NO".  And, other times, God chooses to say "YES" to those who have no faith...who aren't deserving...who earned a "NO".  Why?  Because He's God and you're not and His plans are bigger than our plans and his ways are higher than our ways.

TWO THINGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW:  1) There is a God, and  2) You're not Him.