Category Archives: Nonfiction

We Are One – Release

It’s been nearly three years since I first began the journey of writing this book. It started as a simple discipleship study to help my church understand the personalities of each generation and how they interact with each other in a church context. The response was overwhelming. Not only did my church members respond enthusiastically, but I soon received an invitation to teach the material at an associational event.

That’s when I was encouraged to organize my material into something that could be published. It’s taken a while. It’s gone through several drafts. It’s even grown to include new information about generational and historical cycles. Then end result is something I think everyone can enjoy and something that I believe can help lots of churches unify on a basic generational level.

The book will officially be available on May 3, 2017. Look for links on social media or visit the landing page for the book here on my website – https://kevennewsome.com/published-works/we-are-one/

Also, make sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you don’t miss any updates! http://eepurl.com/caweBT

Hope you enjoy the book!

-kn

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All Christians Are Hypocrites

samandniaSam and Nia Rader are perhaps most recognizable as the couple behind the viral video where the husband announces to his wife that she’s pregnant. This launched them into the public spotlight in such a way that they’ve now been able to vlog on YouTube full time.

Oh, and did I mention? They are very outspoken Christians and use their channel to share the reality of their daily faith.

Yesterday, it came to light that Sam had a paid Ashley Madison account, and the critics have blasted them for being hypocrites. Despite the video they posted explaining the mistake, the reconciliation, and the forgiveness involved in this bad decision, no doubt there will be those that will brand this couple and their “Christianity” as hypocritical for all eternity.

First, I want to talk about what hypocrisy means. Hypocrisy is, according to Google’s definition, “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.”

When a Christian is caught in bad behavior, those who are not Christian, and even many of those “holier than thou” Christians, will brand that person, their past, and every future word or action as forever hypocritical. But the problem with that kind of blanket fatalism is that ALL Christians, by definition, are hypocrites.

The whole point behind the Gospel of Christ is that we cannot overcome our sinful nature. Not now and not in the future so long as we are bound to our sin-flesh and this sin-world. We will always make mistakes. I make mistakes daily, and I’m a pastor. Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15, It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Paul also talked about this whole hypocrisy thing in Romans.

For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin. Romans 7:18-25 NASB

We’re Christians because we can’t fix ourselves. Jesus died for our sins because we can’t fix ourselves. And everyday, every moment, that we have to live with our sins, past, present, and future, we are reminded of our inability to fix ourselves.

nothowthisworksChristians mess up. Sometimes they mess up big and we have to pay the consequences. We aren’t perfect and we never will be. We’re human just like anyone else, and to expect Christians to be perfect is completely unrealistic and a little bit hypocritical too. It doesn’t work like that. ALL Christians are hypocrites. We have a message of salvation through Jesus, we have a hope of eternal life in heaven, we have a relationship with the perfect moral law giver, and we try, we really try, to be the best we can be and to live up to all these things we believe, but those things are impossible to achieve, and we will always fail, always fall short of perfection, and always act in a way that contradicts what we’ve been telling people about our faith. And when we fail, it tears us up inside because we know just how deep that hypocrisy runs.

THAT’S EXACTLY WHY WE NEED JESUS. The only difference between Christians and non-Christians, is that Christians have forgiveness and grace and hope through Jesus. Thank God for that, or else we would be completely hopeless.

I, for one, stand with Sam and Nia. They’ve faced a tremendous ugly, they did it as a couple, they turned to God to help get them through it, and they’ve come out on the other side a stronger couple and stronger believers than they were. That’s the process of growth in faith, to face sin, face our inability to overcome it, turn to God, and then come out on the other side stronger than you were. (To Sam and Nia, if somehow in the great spaghetti plate of the internet you find yourself reading this, if you are ever in South Carolina you are hereby invited to speak and give your testimony at my church. God knows more families and more couples nead to hear that marriage is worth fighting for.)

(And by the way, if you’re one of those that think this couple is using YouTube in a prideful way and that God doesn’t need their viral videos, in two and a half minutes they shared their faith and the need for humanity to have a savior with THOUSANDS of people. What have you done today?)

Now there are other sides that need mentioning. First, to those “holier than thou” Christians who think they’re already perfect and that they should look down their noses at Christians, or pretty much anyone, who fails in life and then shoot them like wounded horses. Stop it. You’re not fooling anyone. You sin just like everyone else, and your pride is the most glaring of them all. Get over yourself.

Second, to those “Christians” who enjoy all the religious perks and attention, the “fire insurance” and the moral supremacy you feel, but behind it all you’re hiding an unrepentant nastiness just waiting to jump out and wave it’s arms at the world…**cough Duggar cough** …Your hypocrisy isn’t that you sin, it’s that you’ve never given your life to Christ and you’re not a true Christian. Get it right before it’s too late.

Third, to those constantly watching for hypocritical Christians to fall on their faces so you can laugh and point and shame them and their “stupid” religion. Grow up. Your hostility isn’t fair at all. How could you possibly expect Christians to be anything more than human? Christ was the perfect one, not us…that’s why we need him. That’s actually the WHOLE POINT OF THE BIBLE!

Christians aren’t perfect, Christians are forgiven. And it’s good to be forgiven.

-k

In Defense of Old Testament Law

With all the excitement over the SCOTUS decision over same-sex marriage, there has been a renewed push for an old view of the Old Testament law, one that says we are no longer bound by Old Testament law and it is therefore irrelevant in the context of Christ. Sure, it’s convenient to take this position when you fall on the side in favor of same-sex marriage, since the greatest condemnation of the practice comes from the Old Testament (never mind the NT scriptures that say the same things.) It’s also tempting for genuine Bible believing, God following, Christians to want to adopt this view, because it’s so much easier than challenging the new norm of our culture.

But to do this would be a mistake, and I want to write this blog, not as a dissent against same-sex marriage, but as a defense for the legitimacy of following Old Testament law alongside the cross of Christ. To understand this is somewhat complex and requires a multi-layered view of how scripture is to be interpreted. This isn’t a convoluted way to justify OT law, but is merely good interpretation practice. Scriptures vary by historical context, genre, writing style, audience, author intentions, and it takes understanding all of these to really get at the true meaning of scripture.

First, we must understand that the original audience of the OT law was the post-captivity people of Israel, who had been living as slaves in Egypt for some 400 years or so. Four hundred years of silence on the part of God, where there is no doubt that the Israelites had adopted many Egyptian lifestyles and religious habits. In fact, a deeper study of the ten plagues leading up to their freedom, shows that God systematically proved himself greater than all the Egyptian gods, the last two being attacks on Amon-Ra and the institution of Pharaoh himself.

This was a people who knew nothing about God, how to worship him, what he expected of them morally, socially, and theologically; and they had lost their concept of absolute morality, sin, separation from God, and the consequences. The OT law was necessary to teach them these things. They had to be retrained, reconditioned, to be the people of God. It is no coincidence that at the beginning of the New Testament we see the Israelites have finally figured out the law, albeit taking it to a legalistic extreme. It’s when they’ve learned the lessons the law was meant to teach that Jesus finally arrives for the next phase.

The law represents God’s expectations of us, socially, theologically, morally, religiously, and teaches us the meaning of sin, repentance, justification, and forgiveness. It is all good, it is all beneficial, and the person who suggests throwing it out, saying the “old covenant” is over, Jesus is the “new covenant” doesn’t understand the purpose of the law or the covenants. (The covenants have nothing to do with this. That’s another topic for later.)

This is our context for understand the law. We must ask, “What was God trying to teach the Israelites?” and “How can I apply this teaching to my life now?”

One example I find quite humorous and often infuriating, is found in Leveticus 19:28, ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” There are Godly people who use this verse to preach AGAINST tattoos. Yet at the same time these same Godly people shave regularly and the verse just before this, v.27, says, “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”

You can’t have one without the other. So what do we do? Context tells us. The majority of that passage speaks of proper ways to express religious worship before God. What is God trying to teach the Israelites? Not to worship him with practices they learned from pagans. How can i apply this? Don’t worship God the way other religions worship their gods.

Every part of the law can be interpreted like this, and should be. When it comes to statements against homosexuality, the context is proper social and moral behavior. It’s pretty clear what God intends, though the consequences are pretty harsh (leading us to believe that Israelites really had a problem with proper social and moral behavior). Which brings us to the next point…

How should we interpret the law in the light of Jesus and grace? So many people want to throw out these very valuable laws about learning what God expects of us, instead saying that grace tells us we don’t need them anymore. This just isn’t true. Let’s review what the New Testament says about the Old Testament law.

Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus himself says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Romans 8:1-4 says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

There are a few other scriptures that talk about Jesus being the fulfillment, or end, of the law, that grace is now the new standard and so forth, but those don’t give the full context of what’s at stake. These two above, together, help us understand what’s going on so that we might better interpret those other scriptures. Approach them holistically…don’t pick and choose. Bring these two, and you’ll understand those others better. What Jesus put an end to, what grace replaces, is the PUNISHMENT.

What Jesus says in Matthew 5 and Paul is trying to say in Romans 8, is that Jesus does not mean the strictures of the OT law are to be replaced by grace, but that he fulfilled the REQUIREMENTS of the law. Grace takes the place of our punishment. The law still teaches us how to live, how to understand God and morality, but the consequences and the expectations that were near impossible to bear or achieve, were all taken care of by Jesus.

And Jesus was pretty adamant that we continue to teach people to obey these laws. Jesus himself says the law still stands. It is still good and profitable. He tells his disciples to “teach them to obey all things (Matt 28:20),” a reference to the law because no part of the New Testament had yet been written.

Sure the law may be complicated to understand, it may take time to fully comprehend the context of what God was trying to teach the Israelites’ post-captivity world-view, but the OT law is still important and should still be taught and followed. We don’t have to worry about being perfect, because grace has covered the consequences. But we don’t throw the law out either.

There are scriptures in the law that have some steep penalties…like stoning. Guess what? The penalties are paid for, but that doesn’t mean we are free to break that law anytime we want…we are expected to still obey it within the context of what God is trying to teach.

Imagine if you received a memo in the mail from your state government, that declared from here on out all traffic tickets would be forgiven and no one would be required to pay any future traffic tickets. Does that give you permission to throw out all the traffic laws? No! Does that prevent the police from pulling you over and holding you accountable for keeping those laws? No!

That’s how it is with the Old Testament law. Jesus has paid the price…there will be no more requirement to pay our sin “tickets.” But that doesn’t mean we throw the law out, it doesn’t mean we should not expect Godly leaders to hold us accountable for keeping the law.

And when it comes to the complicated sacrificial system, ask the same question:  What was God trying to teach the Israelites? He was trying to teach them the consequences for sin, the necessity of repentance and forgiveness, and the impossibility of being perfect. Jesus BECAME that sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. Since he was the perfect sacrifice, no others are necessary. Did he negate it? No. Did he remove the requirement? No. He WAS the requirement, and no other is now needed. Once again, the law still stands.

Take the sacrificial system, and replace it with the cross of Christ. Take the penalties for breaking the law, and replace them with grace. In neither case, do you take the laws themselves and say they no longer apply to Christians.

If we begin to pick the Bible apart because of inconveniences to our cultural beliefs, then that’s a slipery slope to rejecting the authority of the Bible as a whole. The New Testament doesn’t override the Old, Jesus doesn’t abolish the law. The New Testament and the sacrifice of Christ gives us a new dynamic with which to understand and follow the law without fear of imperfection.

I hope this helps you to have a little more integrity in following God, a little more courage to stand up for what you believe, and a little more curiosity to stop avoiding those random weird laws and to really dig in to figuring out what God wanted to teach the Israelites and what we can learn from those lesson.

Happy studying!

-k

Mormonism, Moroni, and Madness

Brief Introduction

Here is another academic research paper I did this semester. It too is rather lengthy, but not as lengthy as the previous. I won’t give you any spoilers this time so you’ll have to actually read it yourself. But I promise this paper is much better than the last. You might actually enjoy it. No doubt there will be many people who will disagree with this paper and also many people who will agree with it. If you don’t agree with this, perhaps I’ve raised enough question to warrent your own personal research into the topic. After all, your faith is not your own until you’ve doubted and learned it for yourself. Otherwise, you’re simply believing the things someone told you to believe. That’s not good enough for me, and I hope it’s not good enough for you either. I also want everyone to realize that this paper is not a criticism of the Mormon belief system or the Mormon church, rather it is simply an objective critique of Joseph Smith’s revelatory claims.

Please note that the following material is copyrighted by me. Do not use or cite without permission. My sources are listed at the end. Please go to the sources rather than trying to quote me. This paper reflects an objective opinion based upon my research, and is not necessarily the opinion of NOBTS, its students, or of the professor. Please feel free to refute, but do so in an objective scholastic manner.

There are four pages to this article. Look for the Page number links to progress. They are at the bottom beneath the share buttons.

THE MENTAL HEALTH OF JOSEPH SMITH

A Research Paper Submitted to Dr. Robert Stewart
Of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements of the Course
PHIL5300-01 Christian Apologetics
Division of Theological and Historical Studies

Keven Newsome
B.M., William Carey University, 2002
November 29, 2011

Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in 1805 to parents Joseph, Sr. and Lucy Smith. They lived in the western New York area, primarily near the town of Palmyra. Joseph’s experiences at the age of twenty-one would turn the Christian community of that time on its ear and set into motion one of the greatest religious movements in history. Joseph Smith, Jr. was the founder of the Mormon Church, today known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But does anyone fully understand what happened to young Joseph? Either he was telling the truth about his experiences, or he was the greatest conman who ever lived. This has been the position of many Mormons seeking to defend their faith, citing basic questions concerning Joseph’s motivations as evidence that he was not a conman. If he were a liar, why put his family through so much persecution? How could a man like that perpetuate a lie so convincingly for so long, even unto his death? No rational person would think Joseph was a liar, and so he must have been telling the truth. Serious errors in the translation process point to Joseph as not being legitimate as a translator, calling into question his other claims. Legitimate or not, Joseph believed that what he had to say was the absolute truth.

There is another possibility worth exploring that allows for both positions to exist together. Perhaps, Joseph suffered from a high-functioning form of schizophrenia, and was thoroughly convinced of the realness of what he claimed. Skeptics in the past have tried to pin various forms of psychosis on Joseph Smith, but were dismissed by Mormons because diagnosis of a mental illness is impossible without having the patient present. No doubt this paper will be likewise dismissed. However, there are legitimate clues in Joseph’s story that point to some form of psychosis, and at least the idea is plausible. These things should be taken into serious consideration. If Joseph’s mental health and claims are questionable, then his entire religion is also questionable. Mormons who are serious about their eternal souls, owe it to themselves to take these clues and explore them to their utmost, testing Joseph Smith’s legitimacy until it breaks down or weathers all scrutiny undoubtedly.

About the time that young Joseph was an early teen, revival broke out in the land. This outbreak may have been in part as a response to the pervasive superstitions of the region.[1] Each denomination had its own revival, and there wasn’t a community or family in the region that was not faced with the religious teachings.

Young Joseph became anguished at the varieties of religious teaching. His family inclined toward the Presbyterian beliefs, but Joseph himself inclined to the Methodist teachings. Joseph retired to a grove of trees where he lay down in anguished prayer. This is the point, sometime between the ages of twelve and sixteen, at which Joseph Smith had his first experience. Various accounts give different ages. Joseph Smith himself seemed to not remember the exact time, and during different writings or tellings of the story, the age would fluctuate.[2]

Muhammad and the Demonic

Brief Introduction

For those of you checking out this post because of the title, you should know that the following is a research paper I did this semester. It is rather lengthy, so I don’t expect all of you to read it. What you really want to know is what my title means…so, my conclusion in essence is that Muhammad had a real experience with a demon. There. Now you’re interested enough to read it all. But even if you don’t agree with my conclusion, perhaps I’ve raised some questions that you should look into yourself. Please note that the following material is copyrighted by me. Do not use or cite without permission. My sources are listed at the end, anyway. You’d do better to go to my sources instead of trying to quote me. This paper reflects an objective opinion based upon my research, and is not necessarily the opinion of NOBTS, its students, or of the professor. Please feel free to refute, but do so in an objective scholastic manner.

Note – there are five pages to this article. Look for the Page number links to progress. They are at the bottom beneath the share buttons.

THE REVELATION OF MUHAMMAD:
EVALUATION, CRITIQUE, AND BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

A Research Paper Submitted to
Dr. Mike Edens
Of The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Course
THEO6333 Islam and the Doctrine of Revelation
Division of Theological and Historical Studies

Keven Newsome
B.M., William Carey University, 2002
November 28, 2011

Muhammad lived from 570 AD to 632 AD. He spent his life in various regions of the Arabian peninsula, from Mecca to Medina and the trades routes throughout the region. The revelations and prophetic experiences of Muhammad are the foundation for all Islamic beliefs. Without the experiences of Muhammad, the Koran would not exist nor would the Muslim religion. Islam has grown into one of the largest religions and is one of the oldest existing religions still practiced. But does anyone fully understand what happened to Muhammad when he entered the mountain cave and encountered the angel for the first time? Either he was truthful about his encounter or he was a liar. And if he was a liar, then his religion is a fraud.

Continue reading Muhammad and the Demonic