Monday, May 03, 2010

I'm Moving to Wordpress

Find me at or

After ten import tries, it's all there: all 700+ posts and 3800+ comments from this blog. At least, I think it's all there.

I like the fact that Wordpress has a built-in format for mobile, and Blogger doesn't. In the end, that was the deciding factor.

Unless something goes excruciatingly wrong, I won't be posting here at Blogger anymore. Still, I have no plans to erase this blog; it will still be here.

Change your links, and meet me there!

Sunday, May 02, 2010


"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11

For the most part, I was a good kid. I behaved.

Noting that, one of my grade school teachers let herself be overhead telling my parents that she thought I had an "old soul." I still don't know what that means, but I liked the sound of it.

In junior and high school, I didn't have an urge to rebel or act out or express my teenage angst, and as a result there were not very many rules in my house. Call when you're going to be later than you thought; let us know when you're out with the car; that sort of thing. There really wasn't much need for rules.

Then I went to college. There really wasn't much need for rules there as far as I was concerned, but there were plenty of them anyway. Rules pretty much regulated everything about a student's life except how many times per minute one should breathe.

(During banquet season - we had banquets instead of dances; it was a very conservative Christian college - the dean of women had a letter read to all of the girls in the dorms beforehand, detailing how wide the straps of gowns {straps were required} had to be {1-1/2"}, and so forth. She closed it by saying, "Women who fail to abide by these instructions will be asked to change in front of their dates.")

I was not a flagrant violator of rules at college, but because there were so many - and such a large number without any apparent value in preventing perfidy - I was unaccustomed to the onslaught of temptation to commit an infraction from time to time. I discovered that working technicals for drama productions gave a person some leeway on having to sign in to one's dorm at 10:00pm, and actually made it possible to leave campus and have some two-or-three-day-old coffee (the best kind) at the truck stop near the highway during the wee hours of the morning.

That was about as wicked as I got. Sorry if that disappoints. But I still felt a little guilty.

I quickly became acquainted with the Romans 7 frustration felt by Paul about law.

And since then I've come to terms with the conflict of law versus grace in scripture on the theory that some folks just need rules. Some of them just like rules. They're comfortable with rules. Rules let them know where the boundaries are. Some folks need rules to help them control themselves. Some folks need rules to help them control others. For them, rules rule.

So, of course, when they read scripture, they see what they like ... and they see rules.

But then Jesus comes along, followed soon after by Paul and others, and everything gets messed up. The rules don't sound like rules anymore. There are very few "thou-shalts" and "thou-shalt-nots." Instead, there are beatitudes ... words of comfort for people who are struggling with living a life pleasing to God; people who basically don't need any more rules; people who have been marginalized and terrorized by the rules built upon the rules built upon the commandments God intended as instructions to help people live peaceably with each other and to express His love and holiness.

People who are being ruled to death: by Rome, by their own collaborating local government, by their own religious leaders.

They didn't need any more rules to rule them. They needed love, healing, encouragement, comfort, respect, forgiveness, freedom, faith. They needed an Example of what God meant to convey with all those rules, a perfect Example to imitate and respect. They needed a Redeemer who could be perfect when they couldn't be, and take their guilt away through His guiltlessness. They needed a mature older brother to point them back to the loving Father from whom they had fled and taken and squandered.

They needed fewer rules, and better instructions: Love deeply. Don't judge. Forgive. Give. Share. Go the extra mile. Serve. Believe. Live fully. Die faithfully. Live eternally.

That's exactly what Jesus brought, taught, shared, lived, died and brought to life again.

It's called "grace."

So when folks who like rules read the New Testament, they're confused. They can't find as many imperative rules there, when they were so easy to find in the Old Testament written when humanity was young and immature. Surely, they think, the rules must be there. If most of the old rules were abrogated by the authority of God in Christ, then there must be more and tougher rules to take the place of the missing ones.

Some folks reason that the rules must be hidden in scripture, and that with superb and unjaundiced logic, they are capable of ferreting out the rules and proclaiming them loudly and enforcing them on everyone else (and often, even themselves).

And - right or wrong - I've come to the conclusion that this reaction is simply immature. It's foolish. No one has perfectly unprejudiced powers of logic and reason (fictional character Mr. Spock notwithstanding). The conclusion that rules are hidden in scripture is not a conclusion at all, but an assumption that is treated as fact. It's based on a preference for rules over grace. That's hardly unbiased behavior.

The old rules still have value: like a schoolmaster, they teach us what behavior God wants us to understand as good - and why (~ Paul, Galatians 3:24). But the old rules do not have ultimate value: like a prison warden, they enslave even the kid who wants to do right ... by presenting temptations that are unlegislated under grace (~ Paul, Galatians 3:23).

And grace provides what law cannot: it saves us. Rules can only condemn us, because none of us is perfect (~ Paul, Romans 3:23).

Grace also provides help: the very Holy Spirit of God and His Son Jesus, invested in our hearts to guide us into all truth and empower us to live Christ boldly and comfort us when the world gives us our licks for doing so - eventually even breathing into us the eternal life that completes the life we've exhaled for the last time here in this world (~ Paul, Romans 8:11).

God, of course, still wants our obedience. But He wants our obedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus - which is parallel in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 to "know(ing) God." Rather than following an old law about sacrificing lives in worship, He wants us to lead sacrificial lives of worship (~ Paul, Romans 12:1-2), just as Jesus did.

He does not expect perfect obedience to law, especially to law that consists of doctrines contrived by men (~ Paul, 2 Timothy 4:3). In fact, when people do that and try to pass off their laws as God's, He says it invalidates their worship (~ Jesus, Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7).

The message of law is "Shape up - or else!"

The message of the gospel of grace is "Grow up in Christ."

At some point, we really need to outgrow the infantile craving for rules, the desire to rebel against them or use them against others ... and accept the love and grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, Who brings maturity, completion and salvation:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ~ Paul, Ephesians 4:11-16

Saturday, May 01, 2010

How God's Holy Spirit Relates to Us Is Important

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." ~ John the Baptizer, Matthew 3:11 ... "I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." ~ Mark 1:8 ... "John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." ~ Luke 3:16
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," ~ Jesus, Matthew 28:19
"Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." ~ Jesus, Mark 13:11 ... "for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." ~ Luke 12:12 ... "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." ~ Jesus, John 14:26
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" ~ Jesus, Luke 11:13
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." ~ Acts 2:38
"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." ~ Luke, Acts 4:31
"We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." ~ Acts 5:32
"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord." ~ Luke, Acts 9:31
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." ~ Luke, Acts 13:52
"God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us." ~ Peter, Acts 15:8
"I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." ~ Paul, Acts 20:23
"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." ~ Paul, Romans 5:5
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~ Paul, Romans 15:13
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:19
'Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.' ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 12:3
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit," ~ Paul, Ephesians 1:13
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." ~ Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1:6
"Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." ~ Paul, 2 Timothy 1:14
"... he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit," ~ Titus 3:5
"God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." ~ Hebrews 2:4
"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." ~ 2 Peter 1:21

How God's Holy Spirit relates to us is important.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How We Relate to God's Holy Spirit Matters

"Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them." ~ Isaiah 63:10
"But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." ~ Jesus, Mark 3:29
"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." ~ Jesus, Luke 12:10
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?" ~ Acts 5:3
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" ~ Stephen, Acts 7:51
"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:14
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." ~ Paul, Ephesians 4:30
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire." ~ Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:19

How we relate to God's Holy Spirit matters.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anyone Still Remember 'A Christian Affirmation'?

Just curious.

If you never heard of it, this is where it's found these days:

(Its original domain name was evidently allowed to expire.)

A Christian Affirmation is coming up on its fifth anniversary. It was originally published as a paid advertisement in the May, 2005 Christian Chronicle, which thereafter instituted a policy to review the content of advertising before accepting it ... even full-page advertising.

It was seen by many as an attempt to draw a line in the sand, a line of fellowship among Churches of Christ, by those who saw the introduction of worship services featuring instrumentally-accompanied vocal music in worship in some sister congregations as a threat to the distinctiveness of Churches of Christ, a product of the Restoration Movement.

Soon after its publication in this journal, the Affirmation was also posted at an appropriately-named Web site. There, it was possible to send in comments and, eventually, to add one's name to the list of signatures on the document. This feature was abused in a very un-Christian way by immature detractors - and since identities of signers could not be easily verified, the feature was removed - but the dialogue had begun.

One thing nearly everyone could agree upon: the issue of a cappella-only / instrumentally-accompanied music in worship had been promoted by the Affirmation to the same level of importance as immersive baptism and the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week.

Discussion continued in church bulletins and blogs and discussion boards on the 'net. The discussion was often heated; sometimes cordial, sometimes acidic; but in the end, its effect was like that visited upon the hapless Ralph Mellish in the Monty Python sketch: suddenly, nothing happened.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I'm sure it depends on whom you ask. The body of Christ was not further subdivided and vivisected as a result, and I see that as a good thing. People talked about what really was essential in the life and worship of believers, and I see that as a good thing.

However, no councils were proposed to prayerfully discuss the matter and ask for the direction of the Holy Spirit together. No lectureships nor publications volunteered to air scholarly or even self-published works representing all points of view. No consensus was reached. No unity was restored.

In short, suddenly nothing happened.

And I see that as a bad thing.

The unresolved issue of a cappella-only / instrumentally-accompanied worship remains - not the unspoken elephant - but the great, gaping seismic fault line between two camps of God's people under the banner of the same tribe and the aegis of congregational autonomy and the comfort of pretending that everything has gone back to the way it was and should be.

And - just as is happening in politics, social association, and virtually every other aspect of life in the American nation - the chasm keeps growing wider as it becomes more and more effortless to associate only with those who share one's fondest preferences.

We have become segregated - not so much racially as philosophically - in spite of the fact that we proudly proclaim that we wear the designer label "Christian" (without the "Dior"), referring to a Christ who associated with the meek, poor and lowly as well as the wealthy, privileged and powerful.

It is almost beyond question that Jesus worshiped with the likely-a cappella cantor's songs of the small synagogues in Nazareth and Capernaum ... as well as with the instrumentally-embellished psalms of temple worship in Jerusalem.

He is a both/and Savior.

We are an either/or church.

There is nothing about that worth affirming.

3:00 p.m. - Time To Pray

Acts 3:1 -
"One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon."

What might happen if Christians everywhere took a few moments in the 3:00 hour to pray every day?

Acts 4:31, maybe?
"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."

In this instance, it seems, one thing just led to another ....

If I set my iPhone's calendar alarm or my watch to remind me, and commit to doing this ... would you join me?

Wherever you are?

Whatever time zone you're in?

Whether you're ready for what might happen or not?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Question of Faith

Is there any New Testament scripture which explicitly says (or even implies) that the faith of believers that led to salvation is in anything other than - or in addition to - the facts that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) and the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31, 11:27; 1 John 5:1-5) ... that He came from God and was going back to God (John 16:27-28); ... that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 4:24; 1 Peter 1:21) ... and that God will bring, with Jesus, those who have died in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14)?

Is belief in any of those facts regarded by scripture as optional?

Isn't a teaching which denies or refutes any of these tenets of belief called heretical?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Taking A Risk; Knowing the Master

I find it curious that folks who are willing to assume the existence of Noah's tools - never mentioned in scripture - in order to illustrate their defense of a doctrine of expediency (also never mentioned in scripture) ... that those same folks blanch at the possibility that God might have indeed told Nadab and Abihu and Moses and all of Aaron's sons that only the fire He had authorized could be used in worship to Him.

Just because that instruction never appears (as such) in scripture.

Though it is also quite possible that the reason why the two oldest sons were bringing their own fire was because they had disobeyed by letting the fire go out (Leviticus 6:9-13 which had come from the presence of the Lord a few verses before (Leviticus 9:24). So fire came out from the Lord again and consumed them (Leviticus 10:2). Why else would they be bringing fire in their incense censers, if it had not gone out on the altar?

It's also quite possible that they were schnockered at the inaugural worship ceremony (prompting God's otherwise-irrelevant observation in 10:8-11), violating after one year the 40-year fast from bread and wine that God had imposed so that Israel would depend upon His providence (Deuteronomy 29).

Or possibly they committed the most heinous act of all: serving as priests before God without understanding or recognizing what He wanted of them, even after seeing Him on the mountain, seated above a transparent sapphire pavement (Exodus 24:1-11). Imagine that. Seeing God Himself. Eating and drinking in His presence. Hearing His voice. Rehearsing His commands for this crucial worship assembly ... but not knowing Him; not recognizing the holiness He wanted them to display.

I guess those possibilities would not be expedient to the argument of the Nadabites and Abihuettes.

Their argument is that God will utterly destroy anyone who disobeys Him by doing something that is not specifically authorized (especially in worship). That's how they picture God: keeping His will secret from His servants, at the edge of His throne watching for the moment that He can cast fire down from heaven to consume them at their first and slightest infraction of it.

And that, sadly, reminds me of the way that the steward entrusted with one talent envisioned his master: solely wrathful, greedy and vengeful. He was afraid to do anything with the talent that he hadn't been specifically authorized to do. As Matthew re-tells the story, the master didn't leave specific instructions. So the third servant did the no-risk, nothing-ventured-nothing-gained thing to do: he buried it (Matthew 25:14-30).

(Of course, he hadn't been authorized to bury it, either.)

The first two stewards took some risk, transacted some business, put themselves out there to honor their master's house and to increase the esteem of others at its assets - and his wisdom in choosing and investing in stewards for it.

They were generously rewarded.

Why? They knew their master and what He wanted. They knew what they needed to do to please him, and make his business thrive. (And what would sharpen their skills and acumen to serve him even more effectively, later on.) He didn't have to tell them what he wanted. They just knew.

The third servant did not know his master, maligned his nature to his face and then hoped he would obtain mercy for his cowardice.

In this story - in this life - God is our Master. His business is the gospel of His Son, Jesus, the Christ. It is the ultimate treasure: the salvation of our souls; the restoration of our hearts to His.

He knows how much He can entrust to each of us, because He gave us our trading talents as well as the talents to be traded.

Don't we know what He really wants?

Shouldn't we put ourselves out there when we're transacting gospel business for the chance at gaining the maximum return on His investment?

Shouldn't it be that way every day of the week we're in business, instead of just one day (which is all it takes to bury something)?

Let's face it: We're not specifically authorized to sit or stand motionless singing in four-part a cappella harmony with hymn books in our hands, following only one song leader with a pitch pipe or a tuning fork, in a nice big comfortable church-owned building, either. So if we decide to start forbidding how hearts gifted by God want to worship Him, where do we draw the lines that scripture doesn't?

At one day a week? At one day a week, plus maybe a Wednesday night? At one person speaking, rather than two or three? At one cup? At projected lyrics and/or music? At clapping? At a praise team leading? At accompanying instruments? Which instruments? At whatever I think is decent and orderly? At what my brother or sister thinks is decent and orderly? Do we draw the line at what does or doesn't praise God, because we think we know Him so well through His silence?

Here's the picture I have of God, and I get it straight out of scripture:
  • One who wants us to express His praise, His wonder, His love and His power fully and with all our hearts (and be blessed by doing so!), whether we are gathered in worship, or worshiping by serving, or serving by sharing, or sharing by teaching - giving up what we want to do in favor of what He wants for us to do every day of our lives.
  • One who reveals through this testing what His good, pleasing and perfect will actually is.
  • One who knows that we we blessed by doing so, built up in faith, empowered by His Holy Spirit, transformed into the image of His Son.
  • One who wants us to put ourselves out there - way out there! - and take some risk. Love deeply. Live purely. Transact some gospel. Give it up. Give it all. Don't hold back (Romans 12).

Because that's what He has done and does for us.

That's what I find Jesus doing, and later, those who followed Him.

And if we picture our God and model our vision of Him before others as being miserly and stingy and secretive and vindictive like the third servant did, He will indeed become the God we fear ... but do not love and trust.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congregational Autonomy - and Isolation

They go together. Maybe not at the beginning of an autonomous congregation's history, but eventually. When a gathering of believers becomes so convinced of their own righteousness - and of the unrighteousness of other believers in other churches - their circle of friendly fellowship churches shrinks until its diameter becomes a noose around their own necks.

Because - sooner or later - their membership dies off and their conviction with them.

(Example? My home church, I'm told, is listed on the bulletin board in the lobby of a small rural congregation in eastern Arkansas under the heading of "scripturally unsound.")

Churches with such a spirit cannot have the Spirit of God.

They display the traits of the man described in Proverbs 18:1:
"He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom."

You can tell them by their fruits: condemnation of others, revoking of fellowship, isolation, a conviction that they are the "only true church." There are other fruits, described in the middle of Galatians 5:20-21:
"... hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy ...."

You can see it in their Web sites, when they have them. There will be pages and pages devoted to doctrinal soundness on issues like congregational autonomy, and only a few scattered acknowledgments of the saving grace of Jesus Christ revealed in the gospel story ... if any.

Compare those displays of heart to the ones in the next verse:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." ~ Galatians 5:22-23

These are not just characteristics of individuals anymore, but have become the culture of entire churches. They survive through the stubborn spectre of fear: each member terrified of a just but merciless God whose wrath might be called down upon them for the slightest infraction (or questioning!) of doctrine by one of their own brothers or sisters!

These churches shrink because most people do not find a life of fear to be attractive, nor something they are willing to sign up for.

Yet they persist because a culture has been established. It has been reinforced through publications and lectures and, now, the Internet.

The overwhelming irony of the "congregational autonomy" they espouse is that it does not restrict them in any way from telling other congregations exactly where they are "wrong" and why they are going to hell!

Some will not cooperate with other congregations - even of their own set of beliefs - because the established culture has declared that to violate congregational autonomy. Better that widows go un-cared for and orphans go hungry and nations go un-taught than to cooperate with other churches in bringing good news to the poor.

This is the sort of behavior that Amos (chapter 5) prophesied about in quoting the Lord as saying:
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies ...." ~ Amos 5:21

The people had denied justice to the righteous and trampled on the poor.

Where do you draw the line on congregational autonomy? Where does your congregation draw it? Because once you invent a term like that, and weave it out of whole cloth, you have to decide how far you will go with it. Will you loom enough to cover yourself completely, a whole suit with hooded veil, so that you are completely cut off from everyone else? Or just enough to cover your butt?

I'm speaking plainly because I believe the time to dance around the subject with polite terms has long since gone.

The Bible talks about kingdom. The apostles talk about kingdom. Jesus talks about kingdom.

That means churches - as outposts of the inbreaking kingdom - need to start seizing territory forcefully, and together, and under the direct operation of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the scripture He inspired.

It cannot be a kingdom if all of the outposts refuse to talk to each other, won't cooperate with each other, won't show respect and love for each other, won't even communicate with each other. Or, worst of all, won't stop biting and devouring each other.

"If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." ~ Mark 3:24

What Jesus said is just as true of God's inbreaking kingdom as it is of the one Satan is trying to establish - and might, if we're just willing to give him a toehold on our hearts.

So I believe it's time for more people to speak boldly and prophetically, like Amos did.

Time to weep like Jeremiah over the lost and the clueless and the rebellious and the isolated-from-God.

Time to speak like Isaiah; with authority about the Messiah who is to come again, and the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace which must prevail until He does.

Time to proclaim the onrushing day of the Lord, like Joel did.

Time to repent of soft words and soft concepts and soft-heartedness toward the isolationistic and the exclusive and the divisive.

They do not speak softly, and they do not hear soft words over the sound of their own shouting.

Still, there might yet be a few listening who will turn away from the self-centered congregational concept which turns away so many others from Christ.