Is Smoking Marijuana a Sin?

Is smoking marijuana a sin? Well, you used to be able to say "Yes, because it's illegal," and that would be that. But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin? Yes -- 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."

Often marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk, or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But if you take one puff on a joint or take one bite of Aunt Mary Jane's special brownies, you get high.

The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning. While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the Spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us! Yeah, there are plenty of poisonous plants you don't apply that logic to. Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?

1 Peter 4:1-5 says to no longer live for human passions but for the will of God. Unbelievers live in sensuality, passions, intoxication, and lawless idolatry. "They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you. But they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."

The Bible says to "Be sober-minded" (1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8) and "have the mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). Your mind should not be mastered by anything else, when we understand the text.

Should Christians Make New Years Resolutions?

Ah, the new year! Time for a fresh start. New beginnings. Bogus prophesies that don't mean anything! (Seriously, watch out for those yahoos declaring, "This is the year of your breakthrough!")

By now you've  made a few New Years resolutions of your own. Perhaps you want to lose a few pounds or break a bad habit or learn a new skill. And then two weeks later when you epicly fail at your resolution, you'll say, "Eh, there's always next year."

Is it a good idea for Christians to be making New Years resolutions? Sure, why not? There's nothing wrong with setting personal goals. Just remember that whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)! Er, unless your new years resolution is to diet, in which case don't eat and don't drink to the glory of God...?

Consider also these words from James 4:13-16. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,' yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the  Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."

Yeah, it's straight-up evil to think that you control your destiny. But as Job understood, the days of a man are like the days of a hired hand. His days are few and pre-determined, and God has appointed our limits that we cannot pass (Job 14:1-6).

Jesus said not to be anxious about anything, what you shall eat or drink or wear. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you (Matthew 6:31-34), when we understand the text.
Special thanks to Nate Pickowicz, who let us pick on him in this video. Find his book on the five solas of the protestant reformation here.
Thank you also to Rob Stiles just for being cool.

Should Christians Celebrate Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga (formerly Ronald Everett). The holiday draws from African rituals and black national ideology to create the seven principles of Kwanza, called the Nguzo Saba. Among these principles are racial and national unity, self-determination, and faith in humanity.

Decorations feature colorful art and foods that represent African idealism. Ceremonies include showing gratitude to ancestors, drink offerings and feasts, and reading the African Pledge and Principles of Blackness.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of humanism, in which human fulfillment and values are the focus. This mindset is of the flesh and hostile toward God. The seven principles teach that people can improve their lives by sheer will and self-determination. For the holiday's founder, apparently that means abusing drugs and women. In 1971, he was sentenced to prison for the sexual assault and torture of two women.

In the 60s, Karenga founded a black power movement called Organization US (as in "us vs. them"). The group was so radical, they killed two members of the Black Panthers in on January 17, 1969, on the UCLA campus. So much for unity. Karenga is a fraud and a dark reflection of his humanist ideal.

Humanistic traditions never unify. Jeremiah 17:5 says ,"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength." Titus 3:3 explains that before coming to Christ, we were enslaved to our passions and pleasures, full of malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

It is God alone who saves, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy. Peter explains that in Christ, we are a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for His own possession. Apart from Christ, we are not a people. In Christ, we are God's people.

It is only Jesus Christ who gives unity, not man-centered holidays. Christians should have nothing to do with Kwanzaa. We must stand firm and hold to the traditions that we are taught by the word of God, when we understand the text.

Was Jesus Born in a Barn?

Luke 2:7 says, "Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." This one verse is why we think of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem at the last minute, being turned away by an innkeeper, and then giving birth to the Savior of the world in a barn! But none of that is accurate.

Due to the census decree, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem, and verse 6 says, "while they were there, the time came for her to give birth." So they'd been there for a while. It wasn't like she arrived in labor pains. Joseph didn't drag his wife from Nazareth nine months pregnant. Because they went back to the place of their lineage, they would have been staying with family.

We get the idea that because the inn was full and Mary laid Jesus in a manger, He must have been born in a stable, but scripture doesn't say that. The Greek word for "inn" is kataluma, which also means "guest room." The word comes up again in Luke 22:11 to describe the upper room where Jesus and his disciples had their last supper.

The typical first century Palestinian* home had two levels: the upper room was for dining and sleeping, the lower level for work and fellowship. At night, the animals would be brought inside to ensure they wouldn't run away or be stolen, and that's where the manger would have been. Mary probably preferred to have her baby downstairs because the guest room was full of people who were there to register for the census. But Jesus was born in a home, not a barn.

Now, if that ruins your perspective of Christ's lowly beginnings, it shouldn't. Instead of being born in the palace, which would have been visible from Bethlehem, the King of kings was born in a peasant's home, in the part where the animals sleep. Though he was God, He made himself nothing so that through Him we might have everything, when we understand the text!
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." Philippians 2:5-7
*The word "Palestinian" is most commonly used to describe a region of the Middle East that includes Israel, and has been in use for 2,500 years. Palestine was not referred to as a state until more recent years.

Is Christmas Pagan?

Is Christmas a pagan holiday? No, it's a Christian holiday, a celebration of the birth of Christ! If that wasn't what Christmas was about, our secular culture wouldn't be so afraid of the name Christ-mas.

But didn't Christmas start out as a pagan holiday? Probably not. There have been many pagan festivals around the winter solstice, including the feast of Saturnalia. In 274 AD, Emperor Aurelian chose December 25 as the birthdate of Sol Invictus, the Roman sun-god.

Prior to that in the early 200s, Hippolytus of Rome, in his commentary on the book of Daniel, tried to calculate the birth of Christ and mistakenly came up with December 25. This was long before Rome was Christianized or December 25 in particular was associated with any pagan festival.

It's probably just a coincidence (or divinely providential) that a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ ended up on the same day as a festival celebrating the birth of the "Unconquerable Sun." Just because pagan winter festivals are in close proximity with Christmas does not mean one caused the other. Correlation does not equal causation.

The winter solstice was once a celebration of darkness on the darkest day of the year. It has since become a celebration of light when Jesus came into the world.
"The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:9

"Again, Jesus spoke to them saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12
But aren't all these Christmas traditions a rip-off of former pagan customs? Some of them aren't. Christmas carols are rich with biblical truth and have impacted the world over. Giving presents comes from the magi bringing gifts to the Savior, and also the gift of the Savior himself to mankind.
"And going into the house, [the wise men] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life." John 3:16
The Christmas tree has roots in paganism (no pun intended). But so what? Redefining pagan symbols is in the Bible. In ancient Rome, Caesar rode on a white horse. In Revelation 19, Jesus returns on a white horse to show He's greater than Caesar. So at Christmas, some formerly pagan symbols have been Christianized to celebrate Jesus is greater than darkness.
"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war." Revelation 19:11 

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5
The Bible says nothing about Christmas, but it does say not to argue about days (see Romans 14). Don't look down on the person who celebrates, or the person who doesn't. Let us agree that the advent of our Lord is worth celebrating every day, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), when we understand the text.