April 20, 2014

Raised The Third Day In Accordance With Scripture

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." ~1 Corinthians 15:3-11

Multiple Attestations 

If a God-man had died and was buried for a sustained period of three (3) days and then rose and appeared to people we should then expect to see and hear from those people that witnessed the death and resurrection, attesting to this fact. In the case of the Bible we see this exact thing. Not only are there multiple attestation where are multiple early attestations (within a decade through oral/aural tradition). For nearly two months after His Resurrection we see many people vouch for the fact they had seen the Risen Lord. In the Gospels we see the woman including Mary Magdalene were first in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16 & Luke 24. The disciples in the road to Emmaus also had an encounter but realized it after the fact. Jesus appeared in a Resurrection body to the ten disciples in the Upper room. We also see individual appearances to Peter and James. We also see Jesus show up as the disciples are fishing and then they subsequently eat the fish Jesus is cooking. We also know from Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:6-7 that Jesus also appeared to more than 500. He even appears to Paul last of all on the Road to Damascus.

Dissimilarity

The idea of a Suffering Servant King that would die as the Son of God or Messiah to overcome the world was so far outside the Jewish understanding of what their Messiah would be it made the idea dissimilar. The Jewish cultural and religious understanding was so different or opposed to this understanding it appeared contradictory. Therefore Christ and His Resurrection were an unacceptable outcome. Yet this is exactly what we see happen in the New Testament. Except in a few cases like that of the Disciples and early adherents of the Faith, the precursor religion (Judaism) that led up to Jesus and His resurrection and those within it completely failed to recognize Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

On the flip side we see the resultant belief system of Christianity. A band of tightly knit misfits ostracized by society and persecuted for their oddball beliefs. Beliefs that they held so tightly to that they went to tortuous deaths and their graves refusing to recant their belief of a religious leader that rose from the dead. These tightly held beliefs then become the core doctrine of the belief system that lasts until today that tells us to be distinct from the evil of the world system but to continue to engage it to spread the Gospel (of a man dead, buried and resurrected) even at the risk of persecution. 

What is even more profound is the fact that the first testimony of the first witnesses came from women-the Mary's. Women, who in Jewish society, were not viewed as being credible witnesses in a court, therefore the equivalent of slaves in society in terms of being suitable witness by the world's standards. But God in His infinite wisdom saw fit to first reveal Himself to the women of this new sect called Christianity and thereby immediately distinguish the importance of women's witness and therefore worth. This further creates dissimilarity from the Jews. Having women be the first to the tomb to bear witness is a completely unorthodox method to perpetuate and spread a new faith in a Jewish culture...yet the faith spreads like wildfire based on these first eyewitness accounts from women.

Embarrassment

Nothing about Jesus death, burial or resurrection is immune from awkwardness and humiliation. A proclaimed King scourged and crucified naked on a cross by His own people. King of a Roman backwater called Jerusalem. Jesus goes through a miscarriage of justice that amounts to nothing more than a state sanctioned murder. During His crucifixion He is beaten to within inches of His life and mocked mercilessly and finally dubbed King of the Jews on a placard hung on His cross with Him. Even this placard mocking Him incenses the Jews and they want it removed. This supposed criminal named Jesus is so dirt-poor He has no grave or burial chamber to His name so one is donated by a recent convert named Joseph of Arimathea. Ironically, his is the known foundation for a faith that will, over a few hundred years pretty much take over the known world. The probability of these events happening are so far outside the bounds of reality as to be impossible…yet it happens and it happens quickly as if according to plan.

Context & Expectation 

This Jewish criterion for the Messiah and the Resurrection is similar to the idea of dissimilarity. The expectation from the Jews and the Jewish culture is that their Messiah would be a conquering King that would free them from the subjugation and oppression of Roman rule in a literal earthly sense. In a metaphoric way, Jesus did just that. Furthermore, in the context of time and over the long-haul of history, what Jesus did on the Cross inevitably accomplishes exactly what the Jews expected their Messiah would do…although not in their lifetimes. Instead of a conquering king on a war stallion we see a suffering servant on a donkey’s colt. Instead of the ushering in of an earthly Jewish kingdom we see the ushering in at least in part of the Kingdom of God spiritually.With such an uphill struggle to found a faith it is amazing that it would succeed with all these blots and smears against it.

Semitic Traces & Hints 

There are Semitic traces/remnants or Aramaisms which are words, phrases, idioms, or other characteristics of the Aramaic language occurring in the Bible which is written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. These Aramaisms are maintained regardless of the translation language. We see them in many places. Some familiar ones are "Abba"/Father, "Eli Eli lema sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 5:41’s, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise.”, Mark 7:34’s, “Ephphatha," which is 'be opened' and John 20:16’s, “Rabboni" which is to say, "Master". All of these Aramaisms point consistently to a Jewish or Semitic tradition even though a majority of the Jews at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion deny Him. Something more is going on here though. The Christian belief that Jesus was raised from the dead could not be account for by Jewish belief systems because Jews saw the Messiah more as an Elijah figure that would be “translated” bodily to Heaven, not resurrected in the way He was. Pagan beliefs comparatively are even more spurious with their pantheon of capricious gods. Nor could these claims of resurrection be a claim of Christian theology or doctrine at this point because “Christianity” as we understand it did exist at the point of the Resurrection. The only thing that exists immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus is the belief of the Disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead based on the fact they were/are eyewitnesses. 

Effect(s)

We see a profound effect on individuals that were either not on Jesus’ side during His life like James or were actively persecuting the brethren like Paul. As a matter of fact the effect the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ was so profound that when people today have a dramatic unexpected conversion to Christianity that dramatic conversion is oft referred to as a Damascus Road experience. We see hundreds of people willing to risk persecution to spread the Good News. We also see conversions en masse in the book of Acts and since the first days of Christianity we see a continual and often remarkable change of people from the inside which is the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It is the work of Christ in people’s hearts. All of this based on testimonies of a small handful of original believers

Principles of Embellishment

This is the idea that later embellished accounts arise because of an inability to defend the Resurrection without later embellished. There is also the problem of trying to rationalize and backup and overly complex scenario to justify and tell the story repeatedly with known embellishments or lies layered on top of an already hard to believe story of a man that’s resurrected in a Resurrection body after three days in a tomb. Compound this with the fact that Jesus came as a form of King that His own people rejected and even fewer understood even after His Resurrection (i.e.: Road to Emmaus)

Coherence

Christians have some pretty substantial and impressive evidences in the form of the historicity of an empty tomb, a resurrected God-man Jesus and many appearances. This is further validated by consistent and coherent accounts of Jesus appearances, further accounts later by Paul. The Scripture backs up the accounts in many places without contradicting itself. The entire story regardless of what angle it is approached from whether it be from Paul back to Christ or from Christ ahead to Paul’s explanations stay consistent and coherent. They do not come off like the ramblings of madmen. As we would say today, the story "gels".

Historical Congruence 

We see a consistency between the 1st century’s cultural milieu and the writings of the Gospel and New Testament accounts. Many of the idioms, practices and social mores recorded in the text of Scripture are consistent with what we know about the times Jesus lived in, died in and the time immediately thereafter. It is within this body of facts that we can examine and then support of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. Based on the information provided in the Gospel accounts we also have multiple fronts in which we can defend the truth of the Resurrection. Of course we can never be absolutely certain of the things we believe in the Faith because it is by faith that we gain the reward of eternal life through the atonement of the Resurrection. If it were a known fact our methodology for our salvation is blown asunder. We must be satisfied to accept these facts in faith as this is God’s requirement for us. The surprising thing is that these pieces of information that we can glean from Scripture are pretty close to fact anyway. Close enough for most believers to be comfortable that is.

Conclusion

The most profound arguments against Jesus’ Resurrection are put forward by people with what? Doubt…the very antithesis of faith. Because of doubt & lack of faith ideas more implausible than the raising of a man from the dead are advocated by those that are enemies and mockers of the Cross. Faith …the very thing we are called by God to use to believe in the Resurrection. At the core of peoples unbelief is a failure of obedience and lack of faith, not a lack of evidence and experiences in the Bible. Ironically, the best defense of the Resurrection is based in the experiences/evidences God allowed first. The most profound evidences of the Resurrection are eyewitnesses, events and their documentation in the Scripture seen through eyes of faith by people of faith. It defies all explanation...yet it is true, it defies all human rational, yet it is revealed as the righteousness of God. Why? Because it pleased God to do so, that's why! The fact is, Christianity succeeds in spite of the insurmountable roadblocks set before it.

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Happy Risen Christ Day!

April 18, 2014

Avoiding The Flashpoint II: Self-Immolation or Salvation?

I find in instances where anger and frustration are about to rear their ugly heads, I need to learn to breathe in these situations. I need to learn to breathe in and blow out the kindled anger within me that has been lit. If I dwell on it or circle it mentally it turns into a fire tornado or fiery whirlwind that spins out of control and damages things that it touches. It doesn’t always work out this way but my head has to at least be in the right place to get a positive outcome.

I need to learn how to be wronged in a meek or humbling manner and learn to walk away even if I feel I've been slighted because sometimes it is just my perception of what has happened. Others may have meant no offense. Yet the sinful man in me resists and a spark is struck. So I pray right then and there hoping to alleviate the sin before it reaches flash-point and bursts into an earth-scorching flame and peppering firestorm. Sometimes...it feels as if, in my anger, I actually unleash some of the flames of Hell in my misappropriated  sinful emotion. I feel like an arsonist that catches himself on fire. I burn myself with my own sin. To continue and allow anger to reign in my life could be an indicator that I may be in jeopardy of Hell's flame anyway as a non-believer...

Enter long-suffering again which starts with a single step. It is the hardest to recognize and most difficult to implement. I need to practice restraint and do nothing. Yes, do nothing. This idea murders me every time. It is at this exact point, I fail. My will wishes to do otherwise and this is where the battle engages for me. I suppose this is where is engages for most men. I should be doing nothing other than turning away from myself. It is not my will I should be seeking in these instances, it is God’s. I must engage the God controlled portions of my mind or at least get out of God's way so that He can. I then will then have a much better chance to act biblically. It seems so simple until it comes time to actually implement this process. If I react instead of thinking, the first thing that comes out is usually incendiary or caustic. The end result is disaster every time. I sabotage my own life. 

Proverbs 15:1 ~ “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Far too often I am more interested in winning the argument rather than fixing or repairing relationships. I am more interested in burning things down to the ground in a viking's pillage and burn mentality rather than protecting them. So instead of praying, I argue and pick at subtleties. I nitpick things to death that I didn’t like rather than find the things I do like in another person. I continue to circle mentally around something I should have just let go of and dropped long ago. I am like a sinful satellite orbiting my own fiery orb of anger and resent. I should be finding other ways to dampen flames. I should be finding ways to build people up not finding ways to tear them down. If I do see flaws or shortcomings I should be graceful and willing to help when I can. To do any less is to be hateful.

The times I have been able to do this (which are few and far between), I have only been able to do this with God’s help. I am just incapable of doing this alone. Fire is dangerous unless regulated or contained so I try desperately to submit to God (but usually fail). Impatience is just another name for a short fuse or short temper. Good intentions are great but if the heat rises too fast for me to be able to adapt to it, I am in a precarious situation and at high risk of a flash-over which is when the emotion escalates so quickly that anger discharges so fast that I don’t even have time to properly prepare. This is sin pure and simple. So what do I do? I need an emergency plan in these situations. I need to have an emergency exit with a panic bar close at hand. I need to have a plan long in advance so not to ever get into the situation where I am cornered by fire. 

Sometimes it feels like self-immolation. It feels like I burn down my own life.

This is where the whole concept of long-suffering come full-circle. I should’ve never gotten this close to flash-point. I should’ve diluted the flammable mix to make it less combustible. I must become flame-resistant. I must be impregnated with flame retardant. What is the flame retardant and where is it found? Ironically He is portrayed in the Bible as a flame when it descends upon the Apostles and disciple at Pentecost. I am speaking of the Holy Spirit...Jesus...God. As I said before, the Fruits of the Spirit work together to bolster and strengthen one another. If I wish to be impervious to outbursts of anger I must also be kind, faithful to God and have self-control. There must be love, joy, peace, and gentleness in my life. I have found when these are missing so is God in my personal life. I am severely off kilter. As soon as one of these things goes AWOL from my life I should be scrambling looking for where it went and why.

Part of maintaining these fruits stems from good godly interpersonal relationships. The first and most important relationship is the one I have with God. Without this relationship there is no Holy Spirit in my life or my sin attempts to squeeze him out of my life. Without this primary relationship, all other relationships in my life will suffer. It is like being cut from the vine if this relationship is not in my life. When cut from the vine…I wither and die as do all my other relationships…even my marriage. I will produce no fruit if severed from the Vine. I will die if cut from the source of my sustenance. 

To be true Christians and true sons of God I must be led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).

The Epistle of Colossians and Ephesians go into even more detail about a person truly guided by the Holy Spirit. The character of the new person in Christ (the elect) are to…

“…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” Colossians 3:12-13

Ephesians 4:1-3 ~ “worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So hear me when I make this next statement...our anger and outbursts are not solely our problem. They are the problem of our brethren too. We are to “bear with one another in love”. We need seek out our brethren to help us fight some of our battles with sin. Church is community. Church is Kingdom. God never expected us to be one man armies and mercenaries in our own solitary individual wars with temptation and Satan. No, we are to be in the unity of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Yes, I will be held accountable for my own actions but God has given me the Body of the Church to help us out when it comes time to battle some of the fires in my life. 

If there is no one in your church willing to help you, you’re in the wrong church. If you are not willing to go for help when it is obvious you need it…you are too proud or not Christian at all. The bottom-line is this…get help if you need it because it should be available to you in the true Body of Christ. This push to seek the help of others does not divest the angry man of the need to pray fervently with God and build a fireproof relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship so flame-retardant that it will withstand the blast furnace flames of Hell when Satan launches an all-out frontal attack on you.

So the last question I must ask is this? How does all of this play into the big picture? Where does eternity and eternal life fit into all of this? Well obviously it is as simple as those indwelt with the Holy Spirit are saved since the Spirit is down payment or a seal on a believer’s salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).

In this life…I going to suffer. I will often need to wait for long periods of time or indefinite periods for things. Sometimes these waits and stretches of time will be extraordinarily painful and seem impossible to endure and that is exactly the point: They are impossible by my own will and works. The great thing is that they are not impossible to endure with God. Through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

The relationships we have with others will often be the source of waiting. The waiting for others will be a test of my patience and an opportunity to build patience. Many will fail as I often do. We will need to wait on God’s timing. This requires that we understand our timing is not God’s timing but God’s timing is perfect in accordance with His perfect will and perfect plans. For me problem is that I want all my problems solved right now. I want things perfect…right now. I have now learned that this is usually not God’s plan for me and nor will it be for you.

So hear comes the big ironic punchline. Our long-suffering, patience and trust that things will go well…start in the beginning with faith/trust in God and His plans. A trust in God’s sovereignty. A believer will have no ability to suffer over the long haul without a hope that there will be a reprieve or end to the suffering. It is a trust that God will make it worth it in the end that allows us to endure. If we believe in a just and righteous God…He will.

He will ultimately return in His second coming. More immediately for each Christian He offers individual salvation and blessing to those who obey Him now. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). The word endure in Matthew 10:22 is ὑπομείνας /hupomeinas or under remaining. At the heart of hupomeinas is the idea that we are to endure and the person enduring has to see the tribulation they are going through to its meaningful end. The inclusion of the word οὗτος /this one (he that endures) in this clause points out both the absolute necessity of endurance and the certainty of blessing to him who will endure.  In other words…there is blessing in the end for those who persevere through tribulation…for those who are long-suffering and maintain their obedience to God. For those that do not explode in wrath and unjustified anger!

Lastly, James tells us repeatedly to be patient for different things. 

James 5:7-8 ~ “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

He tells us to be patient for the return of the Lord which is both a spiritual and physical thing. He then mentions the farmer with his crops and the rain which is purely and earthly physical thing dictated by the sovereign plans of God. He tells his readers to be patient by strengthening their heart because the coming of the Lord is near. What does he mean? James is referring here to those that have been unjustly oppressed (mostly by the rich in this context). He is talking to those that have been wronged or suffered (in some cases for a long time). Those that have been long-suffering have reason to be patient because God will be the judge and the wrath towards the wrongdoers and He is the reward for those that have suffered. Salvation folks, salvation!

In the end I must trust that God will set things right. In the end God will restore all things. If I trust, the long-suffering won’t be endless, only temporary. As I can see from the word long-suffering itself, it says long…not endless. It is my reward at the end of my perseverance that is to be endless.

April 14, 2014

Avoiding The Flashpoint I: Don't Add Fuel To the Fire


Welcome to Pain In Truth, Inc. Just as other posts in the past have torn me up and exposed my wretchedness and sin...so too this one. As I did this study, it hurt. As I did this study I was plagued with guilt. It was a painful introspective look at myself that I’d rather not have made. But God has forced me into many uncomfortable situations in the past and He seems to be continuing more of the same by marching me through the mire of my own sinful life. I was forced to look at my own sin in detail and in the end I realize I need to repent of it...continually.

Writing this I realize that I am guilty of not doing what I write here and that is exactly why I write. I am also guilty of doing some of these things that I should not be doing. It is a biblical study to improve myself first and foremost. To say this sin has been conquered in my life would be a lie and the utmost in Christian hypocrisy. To say this sin is still conquering me might be a more accurate statement. The only thing that leads me to believe otherwise is that the Bible says that sin will no longer have victory over me if I am a true Christian. So every day I battle my sin and attempt to reckon myself dead to it. I attempt through prayer and Holy Spirit bolstered restraint, to not let sin reign in my body and life. Every day I try to present myself to God as a usable instrument to further His glory. Every day I try...and every day I fail again.

So as you read temper your thoughts with this presupposition. You as reader should also consider you might be guilty also. Perhaps not with the same sin as I but a sin just the same. As a point of brutal honesty I must admit that I have often put others through long-suffering with my sinful and fallen antics. One needs only talk to my wife. It has only been through the help of the Holy Spirit that I have been able to gradually work through longstanding problems and attempt to dislodge entrenched sin to get it out of my life. It is clearly an ongoing battle that some days…just gets the better of me and kicks my rear end.

Long-suffering is such a strange and archaic word. It is no longer an everyday word. It has dropped dramatically from use and has been replaced in most modern Bible translations with the word patience. I believe it is because we are an impatient and disposable society. We want things now and we constantly want them new. Long-suffering is another word for long patience and is a virtue needed more than ever when impatience, intolerance, over-sensitivity, political correctness and rash anger has become so prevalent. We live in an age where anger that can escalate to violence and destruction if left unabated. Anger is rarely righteous anger as much as we try to fool ourselves that it is. Most anger is just a manifestation of our sinful selfish nature.

Galatians 5:22-23 ~ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (NKJV).

When we look at the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians they are listed as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The reason Paul groups these together is because they work together. Long-suffering in the Greek is μακροθυμία/makrothumia. This is a compound word made of μακρο/makro or macro meaning long, large or broad and θυμία/thumia meaning to burn slowly as if to produce smoke. In other words a low burning fire that is not prone to burst into raging flame or in the case of our context…an anger that is not impulsive and easy to explode and pepper everyone in earshot…in short we are discussing long-suffering.

We are therefore not prone to spiral to high temperatures quickly or become ill-tempered. We are not of aggressive temperament. We are slow to burst into full-blown flame. We don’t blow-up or snap-out. Understanding this I quickly arrive at the conclusion that my anger is not justified. There is no place in a Christian’s life for explosive and corrosive anger. I am mortified (as are many men) that I often battle with this emotion. As a matter of fact, Paul was abundantly clear that explosive anger is a no-no in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:20 ~ “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, back-biting, whisperings, conceits, tumults…”

Let’s face it, we men overreact. I certainly do. When we think we’ve been wronged we are quick to become defensive. Once a comment or remark is viewed as malicious or snide we are often on the defensive and prepared to strike back verbally to defend our "honor".

If you are like me, I carried a lot of inner anger from my past into my walk with Christ and there was no room for it here. Every small hurt or grudge left unforgiven added to a warehouse of anger I was keeping stockpiled unawares. The slightest frustration or irritation eventually started bringing that anger to the surface and into the open. This erosion of patience snowballs until the anger is no longer restrained and is left on full display all the time. Eventually there was a cliff event or moment where I turned openly bitter and this just had to go....even if it meant getting help from others. God forbids retaliation and revenge. We are not to repay evil with evil.

Romans 12:17-19 ~”Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord

The Bible is absolutely clear, we are to forgive. We must forgive or we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).

Hardly anyone will admit they hate other people for something even though they are probably doing it on a daily basis (maybe even right now). Hate (lack of love) takes on many forms. It is rare someone does not at least detest someone else. To not love is hate pure and simple. To not love is to not have forgiven. Therefore the one you have not forgiven...you are hating...period...end of sentence. True love suffers long and kind. Anything less…well, it is hate. I’m guilty, I admit it. This is why I need Christ and I recognize this fact. What is worse is that I am guilty every day. So then I need Christ anew...every single day. Perhaps not in an extreme way everyday...but guilty none the less on all days. Sin is still sin no matter what window dressing we attempt to put on it. We're all guilty of it.

Love on the other hand suffers. It will continue to suffer too. It gives love and expects none in return. It is often the case that love is indeed not reciprocated. I've been on both ends of this and both ends stink to high Heaven in God's nostrils. True love will continue to love even when none is given back. We see this in God’s love towards sinners and the sacrificial love of true Christianity when it is displayed properly. Just like it was displayed on the Cross.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ~ “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…

Often I wonder if what I feel for others is really love. These are stiff and uncompromising demands of love and they really aren’t even demands. These things should flow naturally from the heart that loves and I find that they often do not come from my sinful and fallen heart. Does this come from within you towards the people you claim to love and say you love?

Why does it matter? It matters because our thoughts precede our actions. Where the mind leads, the body follows. If there is no kindness in our hearts towards another person…there will be no love either. The good doctor Luke cites a statement from Jesus when he writes the following in his Gospel.

Luke 6:45 ~ “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It therefore makes it imperative that we examine ourselves with a fine-tooth comb and be critical of, or suspect of any thought towards another person that is not in some way bringing glory to God. Are my thoughts and actions motivated by respect and honor for another person? Am I being compassionate and understanding or impatient and intolerant? I find myself far too often on the wrong side of this question even with some people in my own family. If my motivations find their source in resentment, intolerance or bitterness…rest assured, Satan is close by snickering with festering yellow teeth and wringing his gnarled hands together. He and his minions know their job of destruction and chaos is in play at that moment. They need only feed and fan the flame until it is a complete conflagration.

I must be slow to burst into flame. I must more readily forgive. I must be full of grace and mercy and devoid of unkindness and spite. If I begin to lack the fruits of the Spirit in one form or another...I am probably beginning to lack the Spirit Himself.

Brother James was even more concise and to the point. James minced no words.

James 1:19 ~ “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”

Yet...I continue to struggle to believe I am being wronged on nearly a daily basis. I realize that I value myself too greatly if I believe I deserve any respect whatsoever. To believe I should be treated better by others assumes I have some intrinsic value. The only value I really have is what God gives me. I should probably humble myself most times and remain silent. Except when God Himself is being maligned or dishonored I generally have no reason to escalate to indignant anger. Even then…God is capable of defending Himself and defending the honor of His own name. Perhaps sometimes that defense of apologetic could be through me…but it isn’t like He really needs me to verbally duke it out with an atheist or a pagan. God’s arms are long enough to KO anyone or anything. Man’s arms are too short to box with God.

So what I find in hindsight is my anger directed towards others even in the form of frustration is nearly never justified….ever. I must avoid the satanic accelerants. I should respond with alarm to my ire being raised out of control and extinguish the source of said anger or irritation. I must avoid combustible situations whenever possible and not start lighting matches and making incendiary comments.

Solomon knew these things and wished to pass on what he knew in his God-given wisdom.

Proverbs 14:29~“He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”

Proverbs 15:18~“A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.”

Proverbs 19:11~ “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.

So what do I do with this knowledge now that I have it? Guess I’ll have to write another post about it.

[The sad addendum to this post is that I failed again today three days after writing it. Sin stinks and can be nearly impossible to remove from one's life]

{Continued in Next Post}

April 10, 2014

Imago Divinus + Imago Data = Imago Dei


When we talk about God or even heaven, we are speaking of things that we have not seen with our own eyes. What did the Bible say? It says we are to have faith. It is by faith that we are saved. What does faith imply? Believing in something, sometimes in “something” that cannot always be directly observed. Sometimes we can only see portions of reality or the effects that these "somethings"have on the things that we can see. We can see the effects the Holy Spirit has on believers. We can see the more holy lives people lead after their conversion and regeneration. It is not always a pretty nor straightforward process but it is a visible process that shows visual progress forward over the long haul.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." ~Hebrews 11:1-3

Because we are finite and God is infinite we can never fully grasp God. Jesus refers directly to heaven (which isn’t even God) a few times (Matt 13:31, 33, 44 & Mark 4:26). He tells us heaven is, “like this”, “like a mustard seed”, “is like leaven”. When dealing only with heaven, not God He refers to the unseen in heaven comparatively to things we can grasp. The Bible tells us clearly:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” ~Exodus 20:4

God is not like any of the things in earth or in heaven, He is infinitely more. How can the human mind even begin to comprehend these things? The truth is we cannot. We can only understand what He has revealed about Himself through His Son or the Bible and these are only pieces.

It is like trying to send a file through the Internet that exceed the bandwidth for the line that you are trying to send it through and is too big for the receiving computer's hard drive. The computer can accept parcels of information or small portions at one time but if the entire file is forced on the receiver...it crashes the computer. If downloaded in small parcels it is easier to store the information away for later use. In smaller parcels or packets it is more manageable.

The Lord was gracious enough to give knowledge of Himself to us in pieces, bits (or bytes) that we could understand. We are all like little limited capacity jump drives walking around but until we plug into the Master we are all just isolated islands or nodules of data/information (life) that have no meaning. Until we are filled with what we are meant to be filled with (Holy Spirit) we are essentially empty, not configured (sinners) and useless except when it comes to "common" tasks. If we do become loaded with bad data (sin) it can bog our systems down. Really hostile or bad sin can act as a virus and wipe out entire portions of our existence as if they had never existed. Having not flirted with or got involved with the sin…we could’ve avoided the spiritual virus all together.

In a worst-case scenario we need to empty out the corrupt data (sin) and reconfigure or wipe (save) the drive because it has become so corrupt it is unusable. Damaged goods people. You literally have to start over from a blank slate by rebuilding the drive from scratch. Because data (life) can continually become corrupt and fragmented (riddled with holes) the drive needs routine defragmentation (routine repentance) otherwise you end up back in a corrupt state that requires another massive defrag again.

The question for you is: What kind of storage are you? Will you retain things pure & uncorrupted that can be retrieved and be useful. Can you retain something corrupt that needs to be corrected (sanctified) or will you only build up fragmented data that will later need to be discarded altogether (condemned)? Will you be righteous and an image bearer of God the way you were intended to be or will you choose to be unrighteous and become a corrupted image of the Master useful to no one? A corrupted file is fit for judgment and relegated to a trash bin.

As they say in computer lingo: Junk In, Junk Out.

Personally, I prefer to contain retrievable data with integrity even though the mainframe occasionally overwhelms me with its file size. We are human drives that are a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are tools that have been partitioned and set aside for specific use. We work within the system but are not part of it. In this way we are sentient but aloof. Integral to the proper functioning of the overall system but we do not need the earthly system to survive. We only need the Master Programmer who is the God of our operating manual, the Bible. We all work together in a giant network called the Kingdom and when one part of the system is bogged down within the existing corrupted and broken world system there is another portion of the network that can take the load off the burdened portion and carry the majority of the load.

So I guess the only real question you need to ask yourself is: Who or What are you plugged into or linked up with?

April 6, 2014

Immutable Does Not Mean Uncaring



Some individuals have incorrectly concluded from Scripture that God is unchangeable in all senses of the word. When this is said of God, it is in reference to His character. There are some who would say that when it comes to real emotions like anger, and joy, and grief...they are impossible to God because these would involve variations within Him and we all know God is immutable. Yet we also saw Jesus weep at Lazarus’ tomb, didn’t we?

There are many theologians that the Biblical writers attributed human feelings to God in order that they might reveal Him to us. In this way they believer that man anthropomorphized God (gave Him human characteristics) so that we could grasp and understand Him. Many learned Bible readers would say that God is all seriousness and completely emotionless. It is said that a sinner places himself in the jurisdiction of God's wrath because God’s wrath is God's ageless attitude toward sin. These same people will say that the person who receives Jesus Christ places himself in the realm of God's love. We get an image of God as a stoical, humorless rigid Being. An acrylic bulletproof God.

This is just not the God described in the Bible. The Scriptures are clear that God is personal and no place is this better exemplified than in Jesus. Jesus who was the God who could be touched, He could be touched physically, emotionally and even spiritually. He knew our infirmities, our temptations, our sufferings….our death.

In Song of Solomon we see many verse but one stands out in Song of Solomon 4:9. Song of Solomon is a book pure poetry speaking of God’s love for the Church or believers or at least that is one of the ways it can be interpreted. Once someone has been able to decipher the poetic song, it will break a believer’s heart due to the disclosure of how much God truly loves us and longs for us to be with Him. Once we understand how greatly He loves is it is heart-rending to see how we have so lightly treated His excitement for our relationship with Him. It is a disgrace to see how we have tread carelessly and callously on His "heart".

Song of Solomon 4:9 ~ You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.

The words in this verse are not words of a being that does not care or is an emotional stone. This is a loving relational God. The Hebrew word לִבַּבְתִּ֙ינִי֙ / libbaḇtini and comes from the root word levav. This word is in a Piel perfect form. There is a double Beth in use here also. The Beth represents the heart. Therefore, this double Beth in this context represents God’s heart and our hearts joined in a loving intimate relationship. It is a picture of two hearts opening up to each other and becoming equally as vulnerable. Two beings/people in love in the truest sense. 

God may be this immutable, impervious, unchanging and sovereign God of Scripture but He is simultaneously allowing Himself to be hurt by putting Himself in a relationship with a fickle and capricious being called man/woman. God purposely makes Himself vulnerable to believers by opening up His heart to us. He even allows Himself to have His heart betrayed when we turn away like a cheating spouse and we chase after idols on nearly a daily basis. God didn’t have to do this but He chooses to anyway. This should affect the way we behave as Christians at all times. We should be ashamed and mortified by our behavior.

This is also why God takes great joy and pleasure in mercy and grace. It is why he rejoices when one sinner repents and turns back to Him. It is why Jesus participated in our temptations and sorrows but overcame them. God’s call for us to repent are as zealous, jealous and true as they were in the days of Ezekiel when God called on His people to turn back to Him.

Ezekiel 33:11 ~ “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Shouldn't we at least try and reciprocate this intense burning love instead of spurning God? Immutable does not mean aloof and heartless. God's immutability should be a reassurance to us for our salvation, not a scary attribute of a brutish God. Not cold and distant, warm and imminent. This warm God is exactly what is described earlier in Ezekiel 8:2...

Ezekiel 8:2 ~ I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal.

A glowing metal or aglow as in the color of amber/copper (literal). This figure like a man was aglow in a warm copper hue. What Ezekiel is probably seeing here is a feeling through his field of vision or a feeling that paints a warm image of God in a visible manner. We see what is a shadow or type of the episode with Jesus on Mount of Transfiguration. It should not then be surprising that the Transfiguration is actually a culmination of the Law and the Prophets promises in Jesus. God wishes to be reconciled to us and this is exactly what the Law and Prophets points us to...reconciliation in Jesus. He is even willing to abrogate our sin if we would only trust in His Son, His promises and repent by turning back to Him in faith.

Bentorah, Chaim (2013-07-24). Hebrew Word Study: A Hebrew Teacher Explores the Heart of God (Kindle Locations 163-167). WestBowPress. Kindle Edition.


April 3, 2014

Strange Cuisine II: Poor Man's Banquet

Matthew 3:4 ~ “Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 

So here we see John the Baptist and his eclectic diet of bugs and honey. At once we are struck with the oddity of not only his sustenance in this passage but also his wardrobe too. He eats bugs and honey which comes from bugs (bees) and he dresses in robe or cloak made of camel hair and girded by a leather belt. Inquisitive minds will want to know…why the peculiarity and unconventional nature of his not-so-normal existence? It should be noted immediately that John wears the garb of the Old Testament prophet when it tells us he wears a camel’s hair garment and leather belt. Even Jesus tells us that John is indeed a prophet in the mold of the Old Testament. He will be the last, and he will be the greatest. Jesus speaking to the disciples says as much….

Matthew 11:9-11 ~ “What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. ’Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

What’s more is it stating this Jesus is recalling or quoting the prophet Malachi and the prophecy of the Messenger of the Covenant. Which is also a herald mentioned in Isaiah 40:3

Malachi 3:1 ~ “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

Isaiah 40:3 ~ “A voice cries:“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

The Old Testament prophets not only told of the coming of the Messiah but they also foretold of the coming of the last of their kind in John, and Jesus confirms this (Luke 16:16). If we refer to the original Hebrew of Malachi 3, the Hebrew tells us the messenger is [mal’ak] “messenger-of-me/Me” or literally “a messenger; specifically, of God. Whomever this is that is coming …the one the messenger foretells of will be directly from God himself. This first messenger will also prepare the way for God or in this context/case Jesus Christ and as suddenly as this messenger will come, the Lord they are seeking will come to His temple. This verse is the Old Testament counterpart to Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27. It is also the Old Testament companion to Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.

The Messenger is clearly John the Baptist.

Knowing this makes the identity of the One that will usher in the New Covenant and the One who will abrogate the Old Covenant obvious in hindsight. It is Jesus Christ or the One who will prove He is God by purifying His people like a “refiners fire” (v.2-3) and punishing sinners. So we have clearly connected John to the prophets of old here both through prophecy and Jesus’ own words.

So why the bugs and ascetic and frugal lifestyle?

Well, first we should note that John came preaching (v.1). Preaching what? The same things the prophets of Old had alluded to: A Gospel of repentance and an exhortation to turn back to God. This is what prophets do…they exhort people to return to God that have gone astray. Repentance or μετάνοια / metanoia literally means to turn one’s mind. Why? Because the Kingdom of God was at hand…literally Jesus was at hand and near. Kingdom is where the King is and Jesus was here! How could anyone turn their back on the Son of God? Well, easy…sin blinded them. The quintessential message of a prophet. A prophet like Elijah. Why is this important? The Gospel of Matthew is intent on showing that Jesus is the Messiah foretold of in the Old Testament and John plays directly into those foretelling being the predecessor of Jesus. What is even more important is that John, being a type of Old Testament prophet breaks a 450 year prophetic silence over the land of Israel. A silence that started at the time or Malachi…the exact prophet that foretold of John!

If we look closely at the emphatic pronoun αὐτὸς or “himself” in verse 4 we see Matthew as writer draws our attention to John and that fact that John’s manner of living in this verse was in accord with prophecy of the forerunner of the Messiah. John is literally depicted as a type of Elijah who wore the same wardrobe in 2 Kings 1:8.

2 Kings 1:8 ~ “They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

John’s personality and method of preaching is indeed exactly the same as his predecessor’s. No holds barred and in your face regardless of who you were. Elijah confronted and went head-to-head with Ahab and his disgusting wife and John went toe-to-toe with Herod and his disgusting wife. What is further ironic is that the evil women behind the kings in these stories did more to steer the bad behavior of the kings than the kings themselves. What we see here is God’s chosen going against those that apostatized from God. Jesus even makes the direct correlation between Elijah and John by name.

Matthew 11:13-14 ~ For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 

Matthew 17:12-13 ~ “But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

The eating of the bugs though leave us puzzled. Couldn’t John have just killed a bird or some other animal and eaten somewhat normally? Well, we should probably without judging what John ate. Why? Because locusts are still eaten to this day in the Middle East. Although his diet sounds meager, it was actually nutritious and healthy considering how little he ate. I believe the term is nutrient dense. It was also the diet associated to the very poor. We see shades of the “last being first and the first being last here.” He is dressed in poor man’s clothes and eats poor man’s food but in terms of spiritual importance, there would be none greater than him other than Jesus Himself. Like Jesus we see a man that seemed to have, “no place to rest his head.” He lived in the wilderness and was essentially a wild-eyed prophet living at the fringes of society. A man that dresses ruggedly and eats even more harshly, like he lives in the desert wilderness somewhere between God and man but not firmly in either camp. Prophets…men ostracized by their calling and God’s will for them. Ostracized by the tone of their message and a world that rejects them because they don’t want to hear the message of the God behind it. They would rather dwell in their sins.

We should probably also mention that John’s diet eating of locusts is not only permitted in the Old Testament law, it is actually encouraged by God in Leviticus. Locusts and similar insects almost seem to be singled out as acceptable clean animals in the dietary laws.

Leviticus 11:20-23 ~ “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

Also, just because the Bible says John ate locusts and honey does not mean that these are the only foods he ate. Again, these two culinary items are mentioned by Matthew to draw the parallel to Elijah which we have already alluded to earlier in this post.

So what we see in the end is not necessarily the physical human significance of John in this passage so much as the spiritual aspect that is being drawn out by Matthew. Yes, John is probably a wild-eyed man in the wilderness drawing people to him and pointing them towards the One he foretells of by his enigmatic behaviors and words…but it is what is at the heart of these words and actions that is the telling sign for Matthew. John is preaching a baptism of repentance and the parallels of wardrobe and diet are to align him spiritually to His predecessor Elijah and these dietary parallels are drawn to show the spiritual significance more than the physical. Matthew isn’t telling us John eats bugs to gross us out, he is doing it to show that the Old Testament spoke of him first and this is how you would know. That means the One whom John had spoken of…had come too!

March 29, 2014

Atheism: Intellectual Cowardice and Lazy Thinking


If life is to be meaningful ethically there needs to be justice and what amounts to a perfect judge after death. Without this judge inevitably, those that suffered unjustly in this life receive no justice and that is unethical. Without that judge, the moral sense of right and wrong and the internal ethic of man makes no sense. Why some would do ethical things even though it doesn't benefit them makes absolutely no sense. ~ Andy Pierson paraphrasing Immanuel Kant.

Therefore the assertion by Foydor Dostoyevsky would hold true: "If there is no God (judge), all things are permissible."


This would mean that ethics are only subjective preferences based only on human emotion, volition and sentiment. This would leave only (2) two viable explanations for human existence...



Theism or a belief in God
-or-
Non-theism or Atheism

People ask me why I get so impatient with middle-of-the-road agnostics and humanists that say that there probably is no God but humans are somehow more important or instilled with a dignity that animals don't have even though we are supposedly from nothing and returning to nothing after a momentary meaningless existence. They are not consistent in their argument and they don't even realize this most times. It is intellectual cowardice pure and simple. At least hardcore atheists are consistent in their militant consistency although their logic leaves much to be desired. The rest are just people that have not thought through their position correctly in a logical manner.


As for atheists themselves...


The principal and perhaps sole intellectual driving force behind the rise of the militant westernized atheistic jihad has been the false idea that concrete, testable data is the exclusive portal to reliable beliefs. This is false and irrational. Nonsense remains nonsense; even when it is uttered by world-renowned scientists and so-called "highly educated" people. Nonsense uttered by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and their ilk...or the murderous Sam Harris known for his religiously zealous comment:

“Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” Sam Harris-The End of Faith
If we look into the recent past we would've seem more rational, reasonable and logical statements from respected scientists like Max Plank... 

Plank, the patriarch of Quantum Theory wrote the following words: 

“Anybody who has seriously been engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with… Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. That is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of nature and therefore a part of the very mystery that we are trying to solve.” ~Max Plank
So, how is atheism inconsistent?

Throughout history it was believed that the highest form of knowledge, and indeed the highest form of science, is one that admits the yielding of the senses to human reasoning and creativity in a truly symbiotic harmony. In other words, we need all of our faculties for cognition in order to exercise our full intellectual capacities, not just one or the other by itself. By isolating and emphasizing one half of the equation as in being purely empirical and ignoring another such as spiritual or metaphysical - a person literally becomes rationally and mentally deficient. They literally become crazy or irrational. (Jinn 605-608)

So atheism at its core can be broken down into a concise syllogism showing its illogical flaw(s).


Thesis 1: Human understanding is at once rational, intuitive and empirical. 

Thesis  2: Science (the scientific method) is purely empirical. 
Thesis  3: Therefore, science alone is insufficient for human understanding, especially metaphysical. 
Thesis 4: Belief that science is sufficient for all human understanding is a fallacious epistemology. 
Thesis 5: Scientific atheism maintains that science is sufficient for human understanding. 

Conclusion: Therefore scientific atheism is based on a flawed epistemology that is not logical.

Science itself has admitted that it cannot even answer all questions posed to it. Nor is it even adequate or accurate enough at times as a tool for answering questions of the natural realm let alone the supernatural. Yet those in the scientific realm will have you believe they are an expert on metaphysical epistemology and physical/naturalism epistemology. This is why they tell you with certainty that God does not exist EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEIR CLAIM! In other words, they are all bluster and no substance. The emperor has no clothes. All it really takes to silence the fallacious arguments is someone with a firm grasp of reason, speaking (rhetoric) and rationality to expose their pantomime for what it is. Illogical and religiously zealous unbelief. 


Religious zealotry very thing they abhor.

Even Charles Darwin himself (many atheist's beloved hero) ultimately denied atheism, and furthermore considered it absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist.


Jinn, Bo (2014-01-13). Illogical Atheism: A Comprehensive Response to the Contemporary Freethinker from a Lapsed Agnostic. Sattwa Publishing. Kindle Edition. 
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