March 31, 2015

A Glimpse From The Bottom, Part II: God's Baffling Responses



Sometimes God's Answers Will Mystify Us

So, due to cowardice and indecisiveness, King Zedekiah allows for the lowering of the prophet Jeremiah into a cistern.


Jeremiah 38:6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. 

Jeremiah’s life is thrown into calamity and chaos for obedience. It is in this that we see that God does not always want us to rest comfortably under trees in Spring breezes. Sometimes He wants us to sleep on a knife’s edge so that we realize that we are only ever one second away from His presence. We need to realize that our lives are a balance between faith and unbelief, righteousness and unrighteousness, suffering and comfort, defeat and exaltation. 


What a dichotomy for Jeremiah and us as obedient believers... it was a cistern, hewn out for catching water during the winter months when it rained. this was done to preserve life. In August, however, it contained nothing but mud (like sin), sucking Jeremiah down to a slow death. Jerusalem (and much of the modern church) had/have forsaken the fountain of living water and had hewn cisterns of her own making. They had sold-out the precious and bought into the worthless like a cheap whore (Proverbs 5). The betrayal of truth was shocking. When the prophet of God was cast into the mire, society had reached spiritual and moral bottom. The one who should have been exalted, was instead lowered into a pit, much like preachers of the true Gospel today in society and many Churches.


Jeremiah 38:7-13 But Ebed-Melek [Ebed means slave, Melek means...of a king], a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.” 10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Here in Ebed-Melek we also see that sometimes answered prayers will not always be answered in the manner that we would anticipate. This is a case of a glorious Deus ex machina. Deus Ex Machina or dei ex machina drawn from the Greek ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós), means “god from the machine”. It is the idea from Greek tragedy plays. It was a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable insurmountable problem was suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, or object. It was usually always attributed to divine intervention directly from God.


In the case of Jeremiah 38, it really is God intervening unexpectedly to save Jeremiah from certain death in a dried-up well. But the rescue is anything but pretty. From the darkness of the cistern came a plea for escape and for someone to understand a neglected and abused prophet. One lone figure answered that cry. He was neither king nor prince. He was a heathen, an Ethiopian eunuch/servant by the name of Ebed-Melek. Old clothes and rags, quickly tied together by a slave and dangled into the deep stench of the cistern, formed the filthy escape Jeremiah most likely had prayed for. God intervened here but it was an unsightly intervention. It is not the answer I imagined Jeremiah prayed for but it was an answer and a rescue. He is looking up and he sees old rags and beat-up clothes being lowered to him by a common pagan slave and this is God’s provision for deliverance. I imagine Jeremiah was quite bewildered.


You've got to wonder if Jeremiah looked up and thought he was being hoodwinked. Have any of us ever been in this position before? We are sinking down into a spiritual hole into the muck of ours sin at the bottom and we pray for deliverance. We are then presented with highly unlikely ways out of our predicaments. Perhaps the unorthodox escapes show up in our lives when we are saved from financial ruin by God giving us two jobs instead of a single one that pays better. Sometimes it looks like answers to prayers for patience by being put into the most intolerable situations possible. Situations that we cannot get out of that force us to tolerate people we would rather strangle. Sometimes the ways of God are as unfathomable as the depths of a long dried-up well. 


What makes matters more insulting is Jeremiah in this story is somewhere near the riches of the Kingdom. It says Ebed-Melek took the thirty men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. So the financial wealth of others is somewhere nearby but out of reach and out of sight for one of God’s chosen in this story while he is suffering and under trial. So a common slave comes with dirty rags to pull a chosen man of God out of a hole while the wealth and prosperity of the world system surrounds him. It is almost insulting. The path to get out of his misery leads directly though other people's prosperity. Think about it, Jeremiah probably needed to walk past riches and prosperity he could not take part in to get out of his predicament.


That my friends...stings and cuts deeply...

March 29, 2015

A Glimpse From The Bottom, Part I: Making Things Happen

I have to be honest. Lately life has taken turns I never foresaw and has gone many odd places I would not have gone by choice. To not see it all as abject failure I have chosen to see many of the events as the unfolding plans of a sovereign God. I also must admit that I don't like 99% of the plans that have currently unfolded. To  at least try to momentarily understand what is actually going on in this life I have needed to examine the stories of Christ, Job and Jeremiah. This series of posts is a series on the study I did on Jeremiah 38.

Making Things Happen

In the next few posts I will be presenting what I believe to be an eye-opening look at the narrative of Jeremiah the prophet being lowered into a cistern. It is what we would understand today as a hand-dug well. As I studied it the Holy Spirit revealed things in it I had never seen before. Some of it astounded me in its depth and paradoxical nature. What is said about Jeremiah, king Zedekiah and the people of Judah...it says about us today also. There are many parallels that can be drawn due to our sinful natures and the immutability of God. I had to leave out some of my findings to maintain the continuity of the article. 

Here is my study.

Jeremiah 38:1-3 ~ Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3 And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’” 

It is clear Jeremiah was not preaching a Gospel of prosperity and primrose paths to the people of Judah. It is the same message he has been preaching all along. Obey and live, disobey and die. The end is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can escape with your life but you must surrender. The underlying message is clear. Better to surrender to a bad situation and live another day than to resist and die outright.

Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

The officials in Judah believed Jeremiah was being traitorous and undermining military and civil morale. The accusations by the officials were probably true. In any other given situation someone within your own ranks telling you to surrender would've and should've been viewed as traitorous and killed as verse 4 says...but this was different. The problem was that Jeremiah had been told by God that this aggressor had been specifically sent against Judah because of its disobedience and if Judah had become obedient they would’ve been spared the Babylonian onslaught. The king knew Jeremiah was a true prophet of God. We know this based on the position given him in the Zedekiah's courtyard. Therefore he should've listened to Jeremiah instead of the poor advice of the other officials.

Zedekiah had to have known that God was specifically sending Babylonians against His own people specifically because they were not listening to Him and obeying Him. The only reprieve would be if the king and nation reversed that trend of disobedience…which of course they didn’t. The Babylonian siege mounds outside Jerusalem represented the judgment of God. By resisting the council of Jeremiah instead of listening to him...the king and Judah were pitting their machines of war against God's divine wrath in a no-win situation. They wanted only a God of mercy and not a God of justice. They wanted a loving God that would overlook all their past sins and disobedience without repenting of those past sins. The Bible of course is clear, we cannot just have a God of love without a God of wrath. A failure to repent solicits wrath.

Jeremiah being influenced by the Spirit of God was mindful and concerned for the things of God. He saw that God had chosen Babylon in order to chastise or if necessary, destroy Judah. The prophet was in reality not a traitor at all but rather he was acting out of a higher form of patriotism than the officials mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 38. Jeremiah had gotten to the true spiritual intent of the Babylonian siege while the officials were spiritually blind. All that would save them was repentance and righteousness, not their own military devices. There is a world of people to this day who refuse to accept the concept of the wrath of God and want only a loving God. They are mindful only of the things of the world. They make decisions only on the basis of present circumstances and never on the basis of moral absolute and an eternal view.

We see this a lot today when you have a person(s) in a church that speak truth and that truth is in direct opposition or rubs up against the grain of the direction of that church. It often comes out in evangelical churches as, “You are not teaching or preaching in love. You are being too harsh and unloving. You need to soften your message.” The unfortunate thing is that by softening the message which is the honest and brutal truth of the Gospel (and what it says about our sin), the intent of Jesus’ message is lost and the truth doesn’t end up getting across. Therefore people stay lost and are not saved. That is why Jesus was known to have said, “You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…” 

Furthermore, Jesus told us that he did not come to make us feel good about ourselves and have warm fuzzy feelings but that his coming would cause division right within our own families and the Church. Why? Because not all of the Church is the Church. So not all of the “Church” will be unified in the Spirit because some of the “Church” will not be in the true Spirit of Christ. Wolves among the sheep.

So in theory, if a man that brings the brutal truth of the Gospel to a church causing division, it means you have wolves among the sheep. Some of them will not even realize they are wolves. Many will be passive agents of the Devil due to their biblical/theological ignorance. Jeremiah was not a man who was too harsh and unloving but rather this was a man guilty only of loving his people too much. He loved them so much because God loved them.. Jeremiah told them the hard truth. They just didn't have the mind, heart or the ears to hear the truth because they had turned their backs on God.

What the passage says about today's churches and their leaders is is the same thing it said about the king and the people of Judah. Zedekiah’s weak response was a sad commentary: “Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you” (v. 5). What a tragic thing to see a leader capitulate to cowardice by giving in to herd mentality and push aside the real truth in favor of myths. They gave in to teaching that tickled their ears. Again, this is also a sad indictment of many of our modern evangelical churches. In a Pontius Pilate type manner, Zedekiah spinelessly washes his hands of the issue and passes the fate of Jeremiah off to others. So too churches today abandon conviction to stand for the truth of Scripture in favor of cultural acceptance and not "rocking the boat" within their local congregations.

Here is the bottom-line. In tough situations there are only three types of people. Those who make things happen, those who let things happen, and those who say: ‘What happened?’  Jeremiah, all truth-tellers and Gospel preachers are the first type of person. Everyone else resides in one of the other two categories. 

An additional side note about Jeremiah is that we see a treatment of God's prophet that will typify the treatment of Jesus Christ Himself. He will be accused of political treachery. He will be abandoned by his peers. He will physically and mentally suffer for the well-being of others that are blind to why he is suffering for them. He will be rejected and maltreated by His own people. Although he is rejected by his own people, it will be a gentile that accepts him and first recognizes his innocence. In Jeremiah's rising from the cistern we see life being drawn from a dead dry hole in the earth (grave) and in so doing, it brings glory to God.

[Continued In Part II]

March 25, 2015

A Game of Thrones, Part II: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

This post is the second part of my study of Matthew 2 and the striking contrasts between kings and kingdoms. There is much more here than what I have written but I have attempted to remain focused on the theme of kings and kingdoms.

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”


In verse 7 we see the dark calculated strategies of Herod to try and gain the upper hand in God's plans. Herod tries to actually piggyback his evil deed into the good deed of the Magi to eradicate Christ. The evil of Herod is folded into the gift-giving or a proper call to worship of the true King. He literally adheres to the adage: If you can't beat'em then join'em.


9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Gold, frankincense and myrrh were the traditional gifts of homage to a ruler. They were prized for the delicious fragrance which they emanated.


12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


The fate that would eventually befall Herod was brutally ironic in his last days and death. He died by what amounted worms in the bowels. His bowels were eaten away by parasitic worms. Do not tinker or fool with God.


The Escape to Egypt


13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


Matthew quotes (Hosea 11:1). The quote is based in the idea that the bud for the New Testament resides in the old.


There are also echoes of infant Moses' escape from Pharaoh in Egypt when Pharaoh would slaughter children. Moses and Pharaoh who are another biblical example of an earthly adult king given power by men attempting to annihilate what appeared to be a defenseless infant who was in reality protected by God himself. This is perfect proof that you might appear alone and outnumbered in this world but if God defends you it is as if you have an entire army at your disposal (because you do). Moses was the one through which God would give man the Law. Jesus is the One through which God would save man from the condemnation of the Law.


It is ironic that God calls Moses out of Egypt to release his people from slavery and death. God's initially calls Jesus' family to Egypt to save Him from impending death to refuge.


16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.


The word "outwitted" actually means that he felt his authority had been mocked. His true fears were coming true. He was indeed powerless against God and this new King and it infuriated him. What ensued was called the "Slaughter of the Innocents". It is documented in non-biblical documents. Jewish historian Josephus also wrote of this atrocity. Instead of being angry at himself for being so stupid he flies into a rage and kills those that are innocent. Outwardly he appeared pious to the wise men but inwardly and out of the public eye he was a violent abuser.


My question is for us today. How many adults do this on their own home? A obedient religious image in church and an angry ogre at home. This is hypocrisy. This is a vivid indicator of anger left unchecked. Men are exceptionally guilty of this. I know at times I am.Years of dwelling in that sin or anger makes a person numb to their own stupidity. That which would be inexcusable becomes normal. Eventually abuse becomes the norm.


17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”


Here another prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled, Jeremiah 31:15. To understand this comment we must understand that Ramah was the border between (what else?) two kingdoms: Israel in the Northern Kingdom and Judah which was the southern Kingdom. We see a kingdom that contains God's true holy city and true temple in Jerusalem in the south and we see the impostor in the Northern Kingdom. Two Kingdoms from which all the prophets would either arise or go to.


Rachel in this passage was Jacob's favored wife who would give birth to Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim who represented Judah the southern Kingdom and Manasseh who represented the Northern Kingdom. Rachel is weeping because of the loss of her children Ephraim and Manasseh the Northern and Southern Kingdoms who are both destroyed in the 1st (northern) and 2nd (southern) exiles. The North would be destroyed by a kingdom named Assyria and the South would be killed off by a kingdom of the Babylonians.


Again, we see the concept of competing kingdoms here.


Matthew has drawn this parallel to Ramah and Rachel on purpose because it is repeating itself millennium later. God's children are again being killed. They are now both being killed in Herod's slaughter. The object of Herod's wrath is ironically driven into exile in Egypt, a former place of slavery for God's people. Jesus Himself is send to save us from the slavery of sin. It would be this child, the arrival of Jesus that would eventually reunite all of God's true Kingdom though so everything comes full circle as if it had been planned.


19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.


Herod would then be replaced by another appointed nut-job King Archelaus. Jesus ending up in Nazareth in his youth would be the fulfillment of prophecies all over the books of the prophets in the Old Testament.


In the end we see a war between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. A war between the spiritual and the physical, the righteousness of Christ and the unrighteousness of man. It is a comparison/contrast of sinless and the sin-stained. It is a blatant picture of God's holiness and man's wickedness which shows man's obvious need for God...the very reason Jesus came in human form. Matthew 2 shows two kingdoms (actually more), one is temporary and the other eternal. One will win and reign due to the righteousness of it's King and the other will fail and fall due to the wickedness of its king. One King's actions and obedience bring glory to God the Father, the other king's actions and disobedience bring shame to all associated to him. In Jesus we see the righteousness of God and we see the Father. In Herod and those like 
Archelaus we see wickedness and other resemblances of their father...the Devil.

March 21, 2015

A Game of Thrones, Part I: A Tale of Two Kings

I've just completed studying Matthew 2 and the striking thing that jumped out at me was the fact that it is a tale of kings and kingdoms...or a Game of Thrones if you will. Please note these are my observations and they become a bit thin at spots because my study focused more on the idea of kingdoms once I realized that premise kept arising in Matthew 2. Over the next two posts I will post the main points I pulled out of my studies.

Matthew 2:1-6


1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

From the first verse we see the birth of Christ is attached to an historical person. God literally entered time and space at a historical reference point. We know from the Bible and historians that Herod wasn't a true king he had been appointed by Rome. It had been 450 years since a true king of Israel had reigned.


The Magi in Persia were a special class who gave themselves to the study of the stars and to that of the occult arts generally. In Egypt and in Babylon they formed a recognised and highly honoured class (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2). It is clear from Matthew's Gospel that these men clearly had knowledge of Old Testament prophecies and may have been descendants of Jewish Babylonian exiles during the time of Daniel and Ezekiel or were influenced by the likes of Daniel and Ezekiel.


Regardless, they came to worship. The implication is that they were foreign pagans that had most likely become converts or believers based on the supernatural signs in the heavens which were General Revelation outlined in Romans 1. Perhaps not with a full understanding of who Jesus was but they understood enough to desire to worship infant Jesus. It is an ironic foreshadowing of Jesus' future minstry that this "Star in the East" or the Star of Bethlehem was manifested to Gentiles and laymen (the shepherds in the field), the exact people Jesus would save when his own people, the Jews, would reject Him.


2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The wise men came to see who would be born king of the Jews. The key word here is born and this is exactly why Matthew has placed this story here immediately after the genealogy of Chapter 1 a list of births. It is to show the lineage of Christ has been specifically engineered by God to produce salvation in His son. The Magi would have become familiar with Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17: “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”. This is a blatant mention of Old Testament prophecy.


There is an irony here. As Jesus is born as a King of the Jews. Herod is appointed as a king later in life and isn't even a Jew, he was a Nabatean/Edomite. The half-breed pretender tries to "off" the legitimate anointed of God here (similar to King Saul and King David).


It is here we see that men appoint other men who are fools and the world sees God's appoint King as a fool or nothing. The paradox is staggering in its complexity and completeness. It is done intentionally to show the contrast between holy God and unrighteous men. It also says a lot about people who the world thinks are nobodies. In the story of Jesus' birth we see the importance of the little things making huge differences. In this way God teaches even great men...humility. Good grief people, the Son of God came as a defenseless infant. God teaches the correct perspective to view life. It teaches us not to be ashamed of the downtrodden and those of low station in life. It teaches us not to favor one person over another...because one of those people might be you master. God cannot stand a proud and haughty heart.


1 Cor 1:27 ~ But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

God sent Jesus the King to save the children of Israel (and the world) through His own selfless death. Herod who is men's king slaughters the children of Israel and causes the death of others to selfishly save himself. In the beginning of Jesus' life he would be dependent on everyone for life. At the end of his everyone would be dependent on Him for life.


It is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity. The manifestation of greatest power of divinity comes in the profoundly weakest form...that of a defenseless infant. This divine infant grows like common man and by the end of his life, He changes the course of history forever. He manages to do it in weakness and submission to the will of God in the Crucifixion. Conversely, all the powers of Hell and man are turned on this infant in a concerted effort to annihilate Him and fail horrendously. Even in death, Christ reigns supreme. All those involved in this murderous attempt are only remembered for their evil and wrong-doing.


Thereby, Herod's kingdom represents a flawed political worldly kingdom. Conversely, Jesus' Kingdom represents the spiritual and holy kingdom always meant to reign on earth. Herod is the imposter, Jesus is the legitimate King. One king acts in hatred and fear, the other will act in mercy and grace. Herod is ruthless in his desire to control. Jesus manages to control through people's desire for Him.


3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

The word for disturbed is ἐταράχθη/etaraxthe which means he was so upset that he was visibly shaken and confused. Its in the aorist or past tense so the nervousness and confusion is adding to an already existing state from the past. Herod was already known as a loose cannon so it is easy to see why all of Jerusalem would've been nervous. Herod was a homicidal maniac on the loose.  Josephus was even quoted as saying that Herod was, "a man of great barbarity and and a slave to his passions." Herod is nervous not only because he is a slave to his passions, he also understands that he only has a loose grip on his kingdom because he was appointed to it by Rome.


4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

This is the second blatant reference to prophecy or God having entered history and foretold of the coming of the Messiah. The chief priests and a scribes are mentioning Micah....


Micah 5:2: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

This ironically goes even farther back to the time of David and 2 Samuel 5:2: "In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'"

So we see that the story of two kings interestingly parallels the tale of two other kings: Saul and David. One obedient king and another that is disobedient and murderous. We will see that this story-line goes even deeper into Israelite history to the dawn of the Israelite nation in Moses and Pharaoh as we will read later in the next post.


[Concluded In Part II]

March 18, 2015

Christian Manifesto IX: Crucifixion - Crossing the Threshold of Eternity

“And they led Him out to crucify Him.” ~ Mark 15:20

I believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins and my sins. Because of this fact, if we believe this is true, it requires that we die to self. The focal point of the Christian faith is the Cross. It acts as an “X” marks the spot target in the grandiose sweep of history. It was salvation’s bull’s-eye to which Christ would be nailed. It is the hinge point of eternity.

Paul boasts in the cross. It is in the preaching of the Cross, in the preaching of the Gospel that the power to bring people back from the dead lies. It does not lie dormant either, it is alive and active. The word of the Cross is foolishness to those that are dying in their sins but those that are being saved see it for what is...the true power of God. Then the concise statement of surgical precision about the Gospel from Paul dispels any further doubt and levels all that will stand in the way of what Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ~ “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Christians are a people of the Crucifixion. We both turn to the Cross for salvation and we turn to a Cross that we nail our lives to everyday. We take up the Cross or burdens of our lives and follow Jesus’ example in the Bible.

The Cross is the stumbling block of our Faith. In Greek the stumbling block is actually σκάνδαλον/skandalon from which we get the words scandal/scandalous. The Cross is scandalous to those that are dying in their sins. It is shocking, it is outrageous, it is reprehensible and appalling to them. It is the same reason you will not see a Cross in places like Joel Osteen’s “church”. The Cross is a theology of suffering and this is repulsive to people who would rather be exalted, people who feel they deserve things…people who feel entitled. Sorry, this sounds like too many people in our society. God doesn't necessarily want you happy (sorry Victoria O.), He wants you holy. Suffering doesn’t sell in today’s world. So, only a few will be chosen. It really isn’t an issue of buying but rather selecting. Specifically, it is your election by God.

The Cross is an offense both in its cruel bloody nature but it is also offensive because of what it asks people to divest themselves of. It’s really not human nature to give things up without a fight. It is a divine nature though as we saw in Jesus Christ’s selfless act in the Crucifixion. That is exactly why we are told in Philippians 2:6-9 that…

“…although 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." 

It is the divine nature to be willing to take the role of a servant and suffer for those that the One who suffers loves. Suffer gruesomely. This just defies the comprehension of those that are not believers. Jesus took upon Himself the outward expression of a servant/slave and did not relinquish His deity. He was a representation of glorified humanity. In Jesus we see a fully divine and fully human union of love in divine and servant form. When we look at the Bible text we realize that we are to “have this mind in us” in our relationships with one another in the Body of Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ (a slave) in our relationships to others (the body). 

Jesus, who was and has always been (even now) in a form or “being” which outwardly expresses His very core nature…which is/was and always will be Deity. Even having known this and after “weighing His options” considered it of infinite value to be equal with Deity but emptied Himself anyway of this expression and took on the expression of a slave instead which was truly representative of His inward nature when He took on the attribute of human existence. If we believe Jesus therefore died for us the weight of what this tells us and tells believers is staggering. It tells us we must be willing to sacrifice everything. Not all will have to, but many will. This is incredibly offensive to a naturally selfish sinful person.

Why? Because it exposes our sin for what it is: Wretched. It isn’t just the “slaughterhouse” aspect of the Crucifixion that disgusts people so much as it is the slaughter of an innocent on our behalf and what it tells us about our character and our sin. We are forced to accept that in many cases we cannot and would not do what Jesus did for others with unconditional love. We hate what the Cross tells us about ourselves. We are stinking selfish rotting upright corpses too flawed to fight our way out of the wet paper bag of our own sin. It speaks of judgment for an offense that we can commit but cannot gain atonement for on our own.  The only thing more offensive to humans than being told we are wrong or in error is to be told that we cannot do something. This is especially true when we want to do it for ourselves because we believe works will save us. Sadly, at our base level, we are still seeking self-preservation and frankly, we are selfish. Jesus on the other hand died not for Himself but for us and for the glory of the Father.

Divinity is where the second half of the crucifixion narrative needs to be viewed from. We are sinful and deserving of punishment and condemnation and on the other side we have God, Who is holy and just. He is also merciful and loving and that is why he sent His Son in our stead to take the punishment we deserved. 

He knew we couldn’t fight our way out of the sinful wet paper bag I spoke of earlier. We the elect are saved by the very Son Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Old Testament pronouncements about atonement for sin. He was cursed at the cross for our sins (Gal. 3:10-14). He was both the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). He became sin to be put to death that sinners might come to new, eternal life (2 Cor. 5:21). Without the historical fact and theological truth that Jesus was crucified, men cannot be saved. “And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Leviticus 17:11, Heb. 9:22).

The Cross is the exact threshold where holy God and sinful man touch and man is reconciled to holy God for eternity. It is where man’s sins stops and God’s holiness reigns supreme for all humanity to see. By God sending His Son to save us from our sins He also sent a piece of the Kingdom here to us on this side because wherever the King has been, so there is the Kingdom. The Cross...it is the threshold to the Kingdom, it is the threshold of eternity.

March 15, 2015

In Their Own Words XXX: It’s Miraculous!

"If you trace back all those links in the chain that had to be in place for me to be here, the laws of probability maintain that my very existence is miraculous. But then after however many decades, less than a hundred years, they disburse and I cease to be. So while they’re all congregated and coordinated to make me, then—and I speak here on behalf of all those trillions of atoms—I should really make the most of things.” – Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics.


Jameel Sadik "Jim" Al-Khalili is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is also the Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. From a theological perspective he has been President of the British Humanist Association since January 2013. The British Humanist Association is essentially a geographical sub-sect of the religion of Humanism, which promotes humanism and aims to represent people who seek to live good lives without religious or "superstitious" beliefs in the United Kingdom. In the operating philosophy of this organization we see the impetus by which Al-Khalili operates. He wishes to promote humanism or the religion of humanity separate of religious superstitious (mythologocal) beliefs which he views as synonymous.

I always find it ironic that atheists are so fond of using biblical terminologies and are so comfortable resorting to adjectives or descriptors that herald or indicate divine or supernatural actions or occurrence. Case-in-point for this post’s quote: Miraculous. Even by secular standards, the most common understanding or definition of the world miraculous is either…

“Performed by or involving a supernatural power or agency…” or “Having or seeming to have the power to work miracles…”

To understand how the atheists views miracles we must visit the past and the theories of David Hume. David Hume lived in the 18th century and was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. When it came to the issue of the miraculous, David Hume was real careful to separate the miraculous from the empirical world a few hundred years ago. Being a product of the Enlightenment and Newtonian World Machine, Hume believed and posited that miracles simple become unbelievable for those of the intelligentsia (so-called smart people: academics, etc). Based on the physical laws there appeared to be no need for the incursion or need for God’s providence. Hence the Newton World Machine and the deistic theory that God, like a watchmaker, makes the universe, winds it up and then let it go to function under its own influence no longer to intervene held sway. The logical end to this line of thinking usually terminates in atheism or at least agnosticism.

With this presupposition we see Hume and later, a majority of atheistic academia subscribe to a Hume-esque explanation of the miraculous that says:

(1) No miracle in history is attested by a sufficient number of educated and honest men, who are of such social standing that they would have a great deal to lose by lying.
(2) People crave the miraculous and will believe the most absurd stories, as the abundance of false tales of miracles proves.
(3) Miracles occur only among barbarous peoples
(4) Miracles occur in all religions and thereby cancel each other out, since they support contradictory doctrines.

Hume concludes that miracles can never be the foundation for any system of religion. I, Andy Pierson could not disagree more wholeheartedly with these assessments. It is the very unique characteristics of Jesus’ miracles in particular that we see the unique character of Christianity and a God that directly intervenes in the affairs of everyday people like you the reader and I. From the very beginning we see the disingenuous nature of Hume’s argument for the refutation of miracles from an a priori source (God). 

Hume demands a posteriori “experience or sense-based evidential” proof. He is asking for naturalistic evidences or experiences (things of this world) to prove or disprove the actions (miracles) of a spiritual source (God). In Hume’s case he wants a posteriori experience or posits a need to have people or witnesses of the miracle and they had to have been “educated" and "honest" men by Hume’s definition. Hume and those that would adhere to Hume’s philosophy of miracles essentially hedge their bets and stack the deck so that no one could ever positively identify a miracle per se unless they were atheists or naturalists. Being atheist or naturalist, they will never do so. Firstly, because it would go against their worldview. Secondly, they would interpret the miraculous evidences in a naturalistic light, therefore totally misinterpreting them as worldly or physical in origin.

By Hume’s (and atheism’s) definition of “educated and honest” it must be assumed that they met an atheist’s or naturalist's (like Hume) criteria of being “educated” meaning they were naturalistic, empirical and bias to Hume’s view. Again, by Hume’s definition this meant that they could have no proclivity or bias towards the supernatural. In short, miracles then merely become an issue of definition.

Conversely, real miracles themselves being correctly understood are to have originated from otherworldly or supernatural origins (a priori) but being manifested in this world. Although highly improbable, they are not impossible as the Bible shows. As such they can and potentially do violate the “laws of nature” in their incursion into the a posteriori realm (Earth or Creation). We see right out of the gate that Hume demands a contradictory proof that is unreasonable and frankly unattainable.  Therefore Hume’s postulation is absurd and acting with duplicity of purpose. For all intents and purposes Hume is a functioning atheist that claims miracles are possible but certainly doesn't believe that statement.
So back to Jim Al-Khalili statement. He is an atheistic humanist that views religious beliefs (that include true miracles) as superstitions. Yet, he comfortably shanghaies the term miraculous to serve his means to an end. The irony is thick here. He speaks to the probability of being “here” or existent. What he doesn’t elucidate is the probability of the miraculous. He is inadvertently toying with words here. He says his existence is miraculous while simultaneously denying the possibility of a supernatural miracle. Am I playing a word game here? No, he is. Let’s go back to what constitutes a true miracle. A miracle by definition is an event that is not explicable or explainable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being. Many will claim that the definition of a miracle is any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, this by definition is not a true miracle in the theological sense.


So whether he realizes he has done so or not, Al-Khalili is therefore claiming his existence is supernatural from a statistical standpoint. Otherwise he should have said his existence was statistically impossible. This terminology would’ve better followed suit semantically with his “laws of probability” statement. Instead he injects an etymological misnomer and confuses epistemologies. In doing so he is betraying the truth of what he really believes but won’t admit. He believes in what can be viewed by Christians as miracles but refuses to call it such. At this point it is just a game of semantics. 

He believes in what can be construed as a miracle he just refers to them or frames them under the heading of statistical probabilities / impossibilities. He knows how rare his existence is if it is a product of mere chance. His existence by the numbers is an impossibility and he knows it or he would’ve never made this type of statement and used the word miraculous smack dab in the middle of it. 

Sometimes atheists are funny because of the extent to which they will go to avoid admitting to God’s existence…even when the odds and statistics demand it.

March 11, 2015

Does It Hold Water?


This post is essentially a logic pit stop to assure that we have the equipment we need as Christians to properly finish the race. 

When I approach someone’s worldview I do not automatically assume what they say or believe is wrong. That is a decision process that comes in quick succession but it is still a decision process. I do not come to a debate assuming I will learn nothing or expect reaffirmation of existing personal bias. In truth I must first hear the person out. It is what comes out of their mouth’s that tells me what is in their hearts. I can never assume something because if I do I assassinate their character and intent and this is sin (James 4:11). If they are harboring resents, bitterness, anger or animosities, their mouth will always betray them soon enough (Luke 6:45).

I immediately begin to ask myself questions about what the person is saying about their belief system. I need to logically, rationally and biblically analyze the merit of their beliefs. In other words I will assume it is true until I hear contradiction, inconsistency, false information or duplicity. If I hear inconsistency I know that it has come from the person or a false worldview. How do I know this? If God is to be God He has to be perfectly logical, perfectly reasoned, omnipotent, omniscient, and all the other omni’s. If a person espouses a worldview and it is riddled with inconsistencies, irrationality and other mistakes of reason I know unequivocally that the person’s source (holy writ, god) is wrong and therefore not trustworthy. Why would I want to adhere to the tenets of a faith or belief system that is more error-prone and illogical than I am? What blessed hope is there in this type of belief system?

If a person insists that their view is more tolerant and more accepting I am immediately turned off by this type of god. Acceptance of every human view is exactly what I don’t want. Why? How could there ever be any type of reliable justice applied or metered out to those that would actually deserve it with such a capricious being. I already know that if I believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel I am saved. If I believe that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again the third day I will live eternal life. If the holy writ of others is inconsistent, irrational or illogical, what hope to I have that I will gain salvation or reach enlightenment when it tells me I will?

A belief system that bases its beliefs in incoherent logic or poor reasoning is not valid because it then inadequately describes the reality that I can logically interpret comprehend or visually see in my surroundings. If I cannot comprehend the message or it is illogical which is also a failure to properly or correctly communicate, why even send or give the message. The message would contain only nonsensical information and certainly could not have come from an all-knowing God.

So if the message is illogical, inconsistent, and irrational or fails the proper reasoning test, it must be dismissed from viable consideration. If the worldview is self-referentially defeating, or self-negating (postmodernism, pluralism, universalism) it doesn’t even warrant further consideration because it will invalidate itself.

This then leaves us with two last issues.

(1) It requires that the person who analyzes the view to be versed in logic and proper reasoning. The person must at least have a firm grasp in basic logic arguments, what constitutes logic flaws (law of non-contradiction, law of exclude middle) or they will never know when they are being deceived. The Bible aids in this because it gives and absolute measuring stick to bounce off but it certainly helps to teach oneself basic reasoning principles. If we know what is correct, then we know what is incorrect. Two views in the same context (religion) cannot both be true if they both make the same claim. It would violate the Law of Non-contradiction. 

The Holy Book that is internally consistent must therefore be the measuring stick for all the others because it is consistent, coherent and logical. That is the Bible. If God has to be anything, he needs to be logically consistent and properly reasoned or God isn’t God because of inconsistency. If we believe the Bible is true it must be true absolutely or the Christian argument unravels completely from the top down. If it is not absolute truth than the only claim that can be made from the Bible is relativistic and worthless for the purposes of showing someone why others are wrong. Why must we show someone they’re wrong? Because truth by its nature is absolute and exclusive (Isaiah 1:18, 55:8-9, John 14:6, Acts 17:2-3, 18:4, 1 Corinthians 13:11).

(2) We must be prepared to defend what we believe in the same manner that we demand others defend their view in a debate or argument. We must know our own Holy book at least better than the people that will question it or our examination and critique of their beliefs fall flat on their faces (1 Peter 3:15)

In layman’s terms we must ask ourselves two things:

(1) Does the person’s belief system or view hold water? Does it actually make sense, is it consistent and can it accurately describe reality?

(2) Does our belief system or view hold water? The reason we must ask ourselves this is because of the possibility of having diverged from the Bible into heretical belief, idolatry or unbelief (2 Corinthians 13:5).

If we’re not prepared to show a person (including ourselves) why a view is inconsistent we are at a severe disadvantage intellectual and spiritually. How do we assure we are prepared? We must reason from Scripture first and that is why I have insert Scripture references throughout this post to lead by example. 

Secondly, we must verse ourselves in the other person’s views which is how this post started. If we do not educate ourselves on why a person’s view might be wrong we will be caught flat-footed and look foolish. If we look foolish, so will the belief system we supposedly defend or tout. The additional plus is that when we learn another person's beliefs we can find points of commonality with them in which to engage them.

Lastly, we must be honest enough to admit when our path has diverged from the Bible we put ourselves and others in eternal jeopardy. In this situation it is not an issue of saving-face…it is an issue of saving souls. 

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ~ “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Please note in the verse above that we are to have the "mind of Christ". It does not necessarily say the emotion or feelings. Although these are God given characteristics and should be used, it doesn't necessarily mean we need to use them all at the same time. How can I say this? What is verse 16 here in reference to? It is in reference to the natural and spiritual person. The natural doesn't even accept the things of God but the spiritual man not only accepts God, he accepts the way God thinks

The reason the spiritual man can do this is because he can spiritually discern...or spiritually think and reason. Although the passage ends by saying that the spiritual person judges all things but can be judged or discerned by no one, He still has the "mind of Christ". He must therefore examine himself (2 Corinthians 13:5). We will all be held accountable.

March 9, 2015

Thinking Biblically About Overthinking, Part II

[Continued From Part 1]

In dealing with obsessive thinking I have concluded that I need to make cognizant choices and take responsibility for my own thinking and my own actions. This of course has to be aided with the help of the Holy Spirit.


I need to deal with the spiritual fortresses/strongholds mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:3. Behind fear and shame is a spiritual fortress that doesn’t belong in my life with Jesus and it is Jesus that will help me remove it. Prayer is the start point, mid-point and end point in this battle. This is the resupply depot for not only each individual battle it is the supply line for the entire war. The battles are minute by minute but the war lasts a lifetime.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon one of the greatest preachers of all-time who was known to have confronted his own issues concerning overthinking was once noted as stating:

“A man might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveler I have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you of the Scripture before us - "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
Spurgeon’s statement is quite revealing about what a man of God understood about this type of thinking. First, he understood they were his thoughts or his “own thoughts”. He was responsible for them and needed to eventually deal with them and take accountability for them. Secondly, they were also not just his thoughts but they were also “set upon by the Devil”. In this way I believe they were exacerbated and magnified by the spiritual sycophants and workers of the darkness. The Devil is a trickster and a liar. What do lies and tricks mess with? Your mind, your senses and how you perceive reality. If these facilities in your life can be manipulated in your life what is your preventative recourse? 

Scripture. 


Scripture on the written page remains unaffected by dark forces in this world. This is why our thoughts and actions must always be matched against it as a measuring stick for our lives. Where did Spurgeon find deliverance and relief from what appeared to be obsessive thinking or OCD? He found it in a correct understanding of the Bible. The same place I should if I have the similar issues.


I’ve found that when a person is struggling against sin, two different aspects of his inward self are at war. What are they? There is the spiritual man and the sinful or natural man illustrated in 1 Corinthians 

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ~ “…a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."


So spiritual logic tells me that a person like me who is losing the battle to obsessive thinking is too far adrift of Scripture and must re-anchor. It is also a visible behavioral contrast between the spiritual mind or spirit and the flesh of a man that are constantly at odds with one another. The spiritual man is the true inner man. The sober mind, the true you. It is called other things like your conscience or your Spirit driven will. It is the part of you that wants to do what is right. The problem arises with the flesh or the brain itself. It is of the flesh and being so has been corrupted as it is by the fall.


There is then the sinful nature. It is the part of me that is inclined to do what is wrong and against God. It has been called the corrupted nature, depravity or simply your flesh. So I see that the spiritual man must overcome the flesh to expect any victory over the obsessive thinking. A Christian which I claim I am is a child in Christ. A person who has gained control over his sinful base nature has a disciplined character. He becomes a spiritual or spiritually mature man in Christ. Herein lies the only reassurance that I am not fodder for Hell’s cannons. If I am fighting hard against my sinful nature but have not yet gained control, I should probably be encouraged. I realize now it is a sign of hope. It is a sign that I am not content to remain spiritually immature, but I want to become mature in Christ. One of the needs of the warrior to win a battle or war is the desire to do so.


Romans 7:20 ~ But if I do that which I desire not to do, it can no longer be said that it is I who do it, but the sin which has its home within me does it.


The deciding factor in victory though is not me, it is the Holy Spirit Who is fighting on my behalf. It is the Holy Spirit that can help me overcome most my sin if I only persevere (1 John 1:8). So in truth, all sinful thoughts and obsessive thinking may not be from the Devil. It is possible that the thoughts might even originate in my own head for whatever reasons. To actively fight them with Scripture and Holy Spirit is the corrective action. It is when we learn to live with the obsessiveness and become complacent with it…that we essentially approve of it by acquiesces. We cave into and yield to the sin that should be actively resisted and chased out (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Once you begin to honestly strive against them…they no longer are your thoughts but only manipulations by the enemy. By actively resisting and fighting them we remove their spiritual power over us and disown them.


Paul knew in Romans 7 that it was not his spirit, the true man that was doing sinful things, because he did not want to be doing them. Rather, it was our sinful nature that his spirit had not yet learned how to completely control. Again, like Spurgeon…it is clearly it is our choice to resist the obsessive thinking or rollover and play dead in front of it.


Obsessive or orbital thinking is sin…but I am forgiven. I am not perfect…but Jesus is and He died for my sins, even the ones I struggle with and currently have little control over. I still have the desire to overcome my sin and that is the sign of a repentant heart. I will now need to replace my thoughts with His thoughts. I must have Jesus’ mind. I must submit my imaginations to Him…somehow…someway. Even when everything in me screams that I can handle it…control it. History has repeatedly shown I cannot.


My obsessive thoughts do not define who I am, Jesus through the Holy Spirit does but only if I get out of His way. Instead of allowing an obsessive mind to keep searching for something to feel bad about I must be content in my current situation because it is where God wants me. I must be at peace in all situations. I need to stop allowing guilt and fear to steal my joy.


Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”


I need to stop seeing things in an all or nothing light. Life is not black and white. If I fail in one endeavor doesn’t mean I failed completely. Logic tells me that would be a fallacy of composition. I can make mistakes and not be a complete failure. I can do dumb things but not be dumb. Again, there is no need for me to be perfect, Jesus already did that and it is finished. I don’t need to overgeneralize. A single downfall or slip back to old sinful habits does not amount to complete spiritual defeat.


I cannot continue to conclude that a person's behavior is a negative reaction to something I’ve done or said. This is assuming too much and ascribing intent. By doing this I define how people feel and attempt indirectly (and perhaps unintentionally) to control them. I thereby assume too much. Along the same lines I need to stop making mountains out of molehills. I need to stop catastrophizing. By doing this I exaggerate the impact of actual failures or shortcomings and potentially cause more damage in a given situation. Conversely I minimize other’s achievements and trivialize other people and their accomplishments.


I am also not the cause of all problems and I should stop comparing myself to others as not measuring up. Also life may not be fair but it is the hand God dealt me to play with. I cannot blame-shift to others for my life. It is after all…my life, not theirs. God will not love me any more if I am a better person.  I do not need to continue to meet certain unattainable standards in order to feel good about myself. Jesus did that work for me. Just because I feel something doesn’t make it true. Because I feel inferior…doesn’t mean I am inferior.


Lastly I need to realize that I need to be the source of changes in my life. People do not need to change to make my life better. That is just a symptom of the blame-shift philosophy. People do not need to conform to the image I believe they need to be…they need to conform to the image of Christ…just like I do. In that unity of mind, I believe then I can have the mind of Christ. A mind like Christ’s that does not feel the need to obsess over trivialities and stupidity.


Again, I have allowed myself to be put in a position of ridicule and subject to criticism by exposing my faults so openly here. I also must admit that I continue to struggle mightily in this realm. I write these things like I do it because I believe that these words help others. I know this to be true because I have received replies from others that struggle through similar situations and are not ashamed to admit it. I believe that if I do not help build others up, I will only succeed in tearing others down. It's that two-sided nature again. I am of spiritual mind but my flesh gets in the way. This type of post is my way of obeying God and keeping sin in check. If I am obeying God's commands I cannot be sinning quite as much. That alone is worth the effort.
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