Thursday, September 21, 2006

By Definition, Who Are You?

A few years back, I was crazed about video games. I let them rule my life. When I would get together with friends, I would talk about them. When I would be at home with nothing else to do, I would play them. They were the most important things to me. They were all I talked about, all I did, and all I wanted to do. When I could have been spending time with my family, or in God’s Word, I would be up in my room playing N64 or Xbox, or some other computer game. It was my life. It was who I was…

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

I think that if I were to ask you, you would probably say that you don’t have a little golden idol hidden away in your room. You don’t go up there and bow down and worship it every morning and evening. You don’t pray to this statue, and worship it. Therefore, you’re already keeping this commandment, right?

Now this may seem like a silly question to some of you. I know that most of you know the answer. But it is something I believe we must all be reminded of constantly.

What does God mean when He says, “You shall have no other gods before me?” Does He mean, “Don’t go making yourself any golden idols and don’t worship them?” Well, sure He does. But that’s not all that this verse is saying.

What this verse is truly talking about is found in our hearts, not in our closets. What in your heart is taking the place of God? What in your heart are you focusing on more than God? It doesn’t have to be something bad. It can be something very good, but if it is taking the place of God, you have elevated it too high.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Is there anything that you love more than God with all your heart, soul, and might? If there is, it has become a god to you.

Look at how much we should love Him. We should teach these words to our children. We should talk of them when we sit in our houses, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.

Basically, He is saying that this should be your life. Your life should be lived for God. He should be the One true desire in your heart that you are focusing your entire life on.

Matthew 6:24 says, ““No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In this case, Christ is speaking specifically about money, but this verse can be applied to all aspects of our lives. We must realize that if we are not living for God, then we are living for something or someone else. If we love one, we will hate the other. If we love, say, money for instance, we will hate God. Now, God is not saying that money is evil (although the Bible does say that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil), but what He is saying, is that we cannot live for one desire and also live for God. We can focus our lives on one thing and one thing only. What is it going to be for you?

Now you may be saying, “I love God. I don’t have any desires competing with God.” This may or may not be true, but given our sinful nature, I would guess that for the most part, there will always be something at least fighting to gain control.

Scripture says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” What do you talk about the most? What do you most enjoy to talk about? Is it God, or is it something else?

The thing that you talk about the most will be the thing that you treasure most in your heart. If it is not God, then it should be seen as an idol or another god. You are treasuring it more than God.

What do you spend your free time doing? Playing video games? Spending time online? Watching TV? Hanging out with friends? Listening to music?

Or, do you spend your free time seeking out God, whether in fellowship, or in His Word, or in worship, or in prayer?

Now, I’m not saying that you should always be talking about God, and that it would be a sin to talk about anything else. But, what are you talking about most? What are you doing the most? How much time are you spending in God’s Word compared to the time spent doing other things? defined Christian in a number of ways. One of them was this:

Christian: a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ

Who are you? If your life were defined by what you do, who would you be? I was once a video gamer. Many things have changed. In fact, now, I don't even like video games. But there are always things competing for my heart. I pray for help, and strive to be defined as a Christian, as one who exemplifies the teachings of Christ. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. Are you defined as a Christian (according to


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

After further thought and discussion...

After this major discussion we've held here the last couple of days, combined with helpful input from Mr. Boisvert and Mr. Brewer, I have come to the conclusion that my view of lying as stated in the previous post was inaccurate.

One of the things that Mr. Boisvert pointed out was that the definition I offered can very quickly lead you into the slippery slope of relativism. It slides into situational ethics, with right and wrong depending on the circumstance. And Mr. Brewer pointed out that the definition is incomplete, leaving out what a lot of the Bible has to say about the issue. After looking at the many other verses in Scripture that condemn lying, I am firmly convinced now that lying is wrong in all situations. One of the best Scriptures brought to bear on the conversation was Romans 3:7-8:

But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

As Josh said, a lie is a lie. When you're tempted to lie so that good may result, it's still a lie, and it's still sin. One of the things that Mr. Boisvert also brought up, though, was that sometimes it's a question of the lesser of two evils. In a situation like the one with the Nazis, either choice is a sin (either you're betraying someone's trust and possibly participating in their murder or you're lying), and you just might have to choose one of them. But that brings me to the last point: both pastor's pointed out that such hypothetical situations are unhelpful because they completely take God out of the picture. When you're actually in a situation like that, you have a third option: pray, and let God work his will. You never know what God will do when he shows up on the scene.

And finally, Mr. Brewer pointed out that we don't live our lives in these kinds of situations (whether Nazis or surprise parties or whatever). We live our lives in the grey, and in the grey we need an absolute standard. A definition such as my old one is too grey, and it blends in too much and can be manipulated too much. That's why God gave us absolute standards.

So I thank everyone who particpated in that conversation for the biblical perspectives that were brought to the table. That's exactly what this blog is for, to allow for the honest exchange of ideas in a biblical context.

Hopefully our future posts won't be quite so controversial, but hopefully they will all force us to think about what we believe.

[Edit from Josh]: I would like to point out here Sam's humility. Thank you Sam, for being an example of a guy who is willing to admit that you made a mistake. That is a sign of humility in your life, and a sign of true greatness. Thanks for your example. -Josh

A Few Reminders...

Ok guys,

A few quick reminders about this blog...

1. We are all Christians here. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." This is a good reason for this blog. It will help us to discuss topics, and become more united in the same mind. However, we must all remember what keeps us united. We are all united through the Gospel. Let us never forget that.

2. This is a public blog. Because of this fact, I am simply going to ask once... Can we please refrain from making fun of each other on this site? What you are saying is in fact, being published. I'm fine with teasing and making fun of each other, but let's save it for another setting.

3. Do not accept everything we say. Absolute truth is only found in God and in Scripture, the Word of God. Do not just blindly accept anything said on this site. Go look for yourself. Find out what the Bible says.

4. Ask questions. We would love to hear your questions and suggestions for a new post.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Are you hiding Jews here?

The knock resonates on the door, pulsating through your already throbbing ears. The blood pounds in your head as you push the Jewish family into the secret trapdoor under the dining room table, and then you compose yourself and walk to the door, trembling slightly. You open the door slowly, and see the four Nazi soldiers on the doorstep. The leader looks at you with a cruel stare and asks you a very simple question: “Are you hiding Jews here?” What do you say to him?

I’m sure that you’ve heard this story in many different ways and many different situations, but the basic question is a crucial one for all of us. Is it ever okay to lie? And if so, when?

A good friend of mine and I were having this discussion a few days ago, and it got me thinking. The three main verses that are often brought up (and were in this discussion) are the following:

Exodus 20:16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Proverbs 6:16-18 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Proverbs 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

I’m going to address the subject using these three verses. The first thing to do is to find a definition of a lie. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of “lie” is the following:

1 : an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive
2 : something that misleads or deceives

I think we can all agree that this is an accurate description of a lie. So we are presented with this problem: Is it ever okay to “lie” (as we’ve just defined it)? Well, let’s look back at our scripture verses. We often quote these verses with the intention of showing that God hates lying in all its forms. But if we look closely at the wording used, one of the first things we notice is what it is exactly that God detests: lying lips, a lying tongue, a false witness, false testimony.

It seems that what God hates is a little deeper than just “something that misleads or deceives.” He hates specifically the lips that are lying, the tongue that is lying, the witness who is false, the testimony that is false. Now, if you learn anything about the way God views sin in general from the Bible, it’s that “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What you do on the outside isn’t what ultimately counts. If you’re respectful to your parents outwardly but are mad at them in your heart, you’re sinning just as much as the kid who starts yelling at his parents. This concept will help us as we look at lying specifically.

Let’s start by evaluating the two passages from Proverbs. They talk about lying lips and a lying tongue. The idea that these passages give us is more one of habit. For example, would you be considered to have lying lips if you told one white lie once in your life? No, but you still lied. But if you were known for telling outrageous whoppers, trying to get people to believe them, than you would be considered to have lying lips. It seems as though that’s what the passages mean when they say “God detests lying lips”: lips, and by extrapolation a heart, that is focused on lies and consistently lies. That’s what God hates.

But wait, you say, does that mean that God doesn’t mind the occasional white lie? Well, I think that’s where the other passage in Exodus comes in. It helps us to see exactly what kind of lie God despises. It says “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” And after considering this, it seems to me that the kind of lying that God detests is the lying that is intended to hurt somebody else. Whether you’re getting them in trouble or making them look bad or whatever, that’s what God hates. That’s what he specifically condemns in the Ten Commandments.

But what about the lie that you tell when you’re trying to get out of trouble, you might ask. How does that fit in to your definition of sinful lying? My response would be that you’re actually hurting them by depriving them of the opportunity to bring justice, and that is a real harm indeed.

Using this definition of lying, which I believe and have tried to show is biblical, it would be perfectly fine to tell those Nazi soldiers at your door that you are not hiding Jews in your house. You are not trying to hurt somebody else, but in fact you’re helping them and saving their lives, and I believe that you would have God’s support. The same would go for throwing somebody a surprise birthday party: you’re allowed to lie to them in the process of planning it in order to bless them in the future. You’re not harming them in any way.

There are stories in the Bible which I believe support this view. Specifically there are the stories of the Egyptian midwives and Rahab the prostitute. In the stories of the midwives (from Exodus 1), Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill all the Hebrew boys as they came out of the womb. The midwives believed this was wrong, and would instead deliver the babies and then tell Pharaoh that the babies were already born by the time they got there. And Scripture says that “God was kind to the midwives…because the midwives feared God.” Wait, they lied because they feared God? According to my view, that lines up exactly with biblical standards. They were lying in order to save lives, not to hurt somebody.

The story of Rahab shows the same principle. When the Israelite spies sought refuge with her, she hid them on the roof and told the soldiers in pursuit that they had left the city (does this sound like the Nazi scenario to anyone?). She was then rescued from the city and blessed because of her actions. Once again, she was helping people, not hurting them, and so her lie was not considered sinful.

In conclusion, I believe that Scripture supports the view that it is okay to lie at times. And like all other sin issues, it all comes down to the heart motives. What is your purpose in telling this lie? Are you trying to hurt somebody or deprive them of justice? I would venture that it is rare that we are presented with the situation where we can tell a lie without sin, but nevertheless I think the situations do exist.

Another topic that has been brought up is that lying can often be a lack of trust in God. If you aren’t trusting God to do what he sees best, then you’ll lie in order to make things work out the way you think they should. In the scenario with the Jews, your first response might be to think “There’s nothing God can do right now, so I’m going to have to do something.” In that case, you are sinning by lying, because you are not trusting in God. However, your first response might also be “These people have placed their trust in me to keep them safe, and if I betray them, then I have essentially murdered them.” If that is what you’re thinking, then I think it would be a sin to betray them. So if you’re lying because you don’t trust God, you’re sinning. But if you’re lying to save a life, then I don’t believe you are sinning.

The most important thing to remember, though, is this: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). It is rare that the situation will be as cut-and-dried as hiding Jews from the Nazis, and when it gets grey, our tendency is to think the best of ourselves and assume we’re doing it for the right reasons. So distrust your heart, and don’t assume you’re in the right. That’s the most dangerous thing you can do.

In other words, save the Jews, but otherwise don’t take the chance.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The following introduction was written by our good friend Peter Wilson, who was the one who came up with the idea for launching this blog. Sadly, he had to back out of being a contributor, but I still think his introduction has a lot of wisdom. I tacked on the bit at the end, but the rest is all Pete's.

As I sat in front of my computer thinking about what I should say in the first post on HoldFast. I wondered what would be the best introduction to the participants of this blog. The conclusion I came to was that the best way to introduce ourselves would be to introduce anyone who is reading this to our savior, Jesus Christ. Our identities that we hold to most dearly are not our names, our favorite football teams, or any other superficial object of this world. We identify ourselves first and foremost as children of God through adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-6).

This gift is the gift that we hold fast to. We have all been baptized in a public declaration that our life his hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-4). Lord willing, everything that is posted on this blog will be a reflection of our Savior’s heart.

I find that my own words fail when trying to speak of our savior so I find it best to use words inspired by God himself from Ephesians 2:1-10. [Text taken from the ESV bible.]

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is the kind of God we serve. Let our God be served by our conduct on this website.

So, who exactly are we? We're a couple of senior guys with a passion for the glory of God. We believe that God wishes for us to exercise our God-given thinking and reasoning skills to "test every spirit" (1 John 4:1), whether those "spirits" be related to media, politics, current events, or theology.

That's what this blog will be for: thoughtful evaluations of anything we can apply biblical thinking to. In doing this, though, we are not claiming to have any wisdom at all. Nothing we say on this blog is authoritative, so that's why we want to open this blog up to comments. We welcome your comments, critiques, and disagreements with everything we say.

Now, it would be helpful if you knew who we were. So here you are:

Sam Branchaw: 17 years old, high school senior. Born and raised in Gaithersburg, MD, by wonderful godly parents, and a life-long member of Covenant Life Church. Has three siblings, a sister and two brothers, of which he is the oldest, and also has a black lab. Came to Christ at age 10 after being in secret rebellion for two years. Loves history, reading, blogging, and watching a good movie. Known as the king of random information by his friends.

Josh Tucker: 17 years old, high school senior. Born and raised in Gaithersburg, MD, by wonderful godly parents, and a life-long member of Covenant Life Church. Has four siblings, three sisters and a brother, of which he is the second child, and also has a golden retriever. Came to Christ at age 13 after eight years of rebellion. Known as an incredibly passionate guy by his friends.

There may be one more contributor to this blog, but for now the name will remain undisclosed. He will be introduced in the event that he joins.

So that's us. A couple of regular guys. But, through God's grace, we are heirs with Christ and sons of God. So we seek to honor God through the medium of this blog. We hope you'll join us on this journey.