March 30, 2010

Pondering God #7: The Trinity & The Self-Sufficiency of God

I have been stuck on paradoxes lately. Contrary to what people's assumptions are about the definition of a paradox, the correct understanding of what a paradox is:

A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that is or may be true.
An assertion that is appears self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises, is or may be true.

They are not contradictions as is often the assumption.

I wrote this in an earlier blog and it bears repeating because of its importance. People just assume God created man because He was lonely. The Bible tells us that God is self-sufficient and self-existent. It is called "aseity" which is Latin for "from Himself". God does not need us or anything in the creation. The three Persons of the Trinity have existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternally and are fully content and equal and each Person is fully God. There is one God. If He created us because He "needed" us, then we cannot say that God is self-existent or self-sufficient can we? It would imply God could not be happy without man. It would make Him dependant on something outside the Trinity. This idea of God is nonsense and borders on absurdity.

God created the creation and man for His glory. Glorification which had also been taking place between the Persons of the Trinity for eternity past to eternity future. ~John 17:5

Some other things that come to mind about the Trinity is the paradoxical complexity in the nature of their being: Three that are One. To a human being this is counter intuitive. How can God be three separate persons but one God? It isn’t as if this was a creation of man. In man’s logic and mind this seems impossible but there are many things that seem impossible and they only seem that way because humans are not capable of that type of thought. For things to make sense to us we need them totally quantifiable and finite. God is neither in absolute. He is knowable but not to His full extent. As long as God does not act contradictory to His nature (which He cannot) and it is His will to do so…

“…nothing will be impossible with God." ~ Luke 1:37

Since it’s true that God exists as a Trinity; Father, Son, Holy Spirit and there is a high probability that no human mind could’ve perceived this on its own…it suggests that this concept was only knowable through revelation or God revealing to man.

Additionally, when we try to apply loneliness as an attribute to God we are trying to apply a human trait to and omnipotent and omniscient God. It is applying a human shortcoming of loneliness to God. Conversely, I believe one of the main reasons man suffers from loneliness is because he was created to have a relationship with God but in our sinful nature we have been removed from this relationship until we seek justification through Jesus Christ.

There is a profound paradox in that God is self-sufficient but He created a being (man) that is not. This fact exposes itself in stark contrast when a man (like me) tries to discuss a topic about God like this. Because we are not self-sufficient we can only “depend” on God for this truth revealed in His Holy Word otherwise we could never know this for certain about Him.

The end result of our assessment of God is, as soon as we think we figured Him out, we’re wrong. We cannot figure Him out. As soon as we get there…we’re really not there at all. Words, thoughts and ideas fail in this area. What we can be certain of is the terms, words and ideas the Lord himself has revealed to us. On the other hand, God needs no knowledge from us because He is the source of knowledge. He is the source of love, goodness, and even beauty. He doesn’t need the physical universe because he is outside the creation and is a spiritual being. God is the origin of all and being so should be the focus of all that are able to focus on Him which means those that have freewill. When we turn away we are less than we could’ve been. If He turns away from us He is still fully God and always will be (and we would be condemned). One of the greatest things about God being self-sufficient is that ultimately, He is totally dependable. He is guaranteed security and we can rest comfortably in Him.

…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ~Phil 2:13

Paradoxical Life: Little Is Much

Philemon was free
Onesimus was slave
Paul is prisoner
Paul is in chains literally but is free figuratively
When valuable (Onesimus) was lost they were not quite as valuable
When valuable (Onesimus) was returned they were of unsurpassed value
Loss it gain
Gain is Loss

Philemon lost his property but gained a brother. He lost what was commonplace but gained something in its place of much more value. What was lost monetarily was regained ten fold spiritually. When Onesimus ran away, spiritually he as worth little. When he returned he was priceless. All because of the work of God.

" longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord." ~Philemon 16

He had to temporarily loose to gain much more in return. A recurrent theme in the Bible. We loose our old lives of sin in exchange for the much more valuable gift from Jesus Christ, eternal life. To loose the world is to gain God, to gain the world is to lose God.

Philemon temporarily lost Onesimus when he ran away from his master. He lost the slave and lost the productivity of the slave in his absence. Runaway slaves in the time of Philemon and Onesimus was essentially a capital offense and worthy of stoning. For Philemon to accept Onesimus back and not punish him would have at least been uncommon but for Philemon to accept him back as a brother in Christ would've been unheard of.

Paul not only encouraged him to do the latter by taking Him back as a brother, Paul also sung the praises of Onesimus and strongly remind Philemeon that if it hadn't been for Paul he really wouldn't even have himself.

Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. ~Philemon 11

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. ~Philemon 19

Paul is asking essentially for leniency on behalf of Onesimus if not outright freedom now that the former slave is a believer and part of the body. He is also asking on account of Onesimus' utility and usefulness for the Lord. Onesimus initially ran away because his "utility" and "usefulness" were being used and taken for granted as a slave. He is now returning for the exact same reasons he left. The difference is Onesimus left serving as a slave to man, he returns serving as a slave to Christ.

The tremendous irony in the letter is Paul himself. Paul on the other hand being and excellent servant of the Risen Christ, is still a form of slave himself as a prisoner to the world's system for serving Christ.

"I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel." ~Philemon 13

The real truth is neither Paul nor Onesimus was truly guilty of a crime of immorality or moral violation. Paul was preaching the word of the Lord and Onesimus was a slave but according to the world system (which is corrupt), they had violated mans laws.

This entire small letter is riddled with quirks of fate, irony, juxtaposing and is layered thickly with analogies. It is an often overlooked book in the New Testament but it speaks volumes by saying little which is another of its interesting contrasts.

In the end, what looked like a disaster from man's point of view was a great outworking of God's grace and providence. It is also a wonderful example of the Christian's new life and the change it should have on the believer. A small but very mighty book. The longer the letter to Philemon is studied the more value it produces. The return is vastly greater than the time put into it.

They are paradoxes that our day and age have a hard time getting their heads around. Paradoxes are situations or statements that leads to a situation which defies intuition. Our intuitions are often defied because they are flawed. Paradoxes require us to rethink our presuppositions. They are completely counter intuitive to our individualistic me-me-I-I society. The more I see paradoxes like these in the Bible, the more it amazes and astounds me.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. ~Luke 17:33

And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ~John 12:23-26

The loss of Jesus' life was necessary for God to grant propitiation for our sins. In allowing Himself to be crucified God highly exalted His name above all names. Jesus Christ. In our humblest service for God and fellow man we exalt Him and He in turn rewards us whether it be in this world or the next. When we exude the "mind of Christ" we best exemplify what it is to be Christian. Serve others and you will be lifted above by God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 5:3-10

To the world they appear as paradox but they are not so much paradoxes as they are a need to embrace a way of thinking that is not of this world or its system. Where we end, He begins. When we die to this world of sin it is then that we truly live in Christ as it was intended a long time ago. Praise God.

I rarely ever reference Eugene Peterson's "The Message" Bible paraphrase but his paraphrase of this passage is excellent in today's jargon and sums up many of these paradoxes nicely:

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God." ~Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Little is much when God's in it. We need to realize that there are no paradoxes from God's point of view. He is the source of all knowledge and truth. Being so he knows all and doesn't base His thoughts on intuition or presumptions. He is all, and we should praise and worship Him.

March 29, 2010

How To Avoid A Code Red

I don't know about others but I don’t like pretending to be in a good mood. First, it isn't authentic and quite frankly, it is a deception in the form of mannerisms. If I am in a good mood I'm in a good mood, if I'm not I'm not. Second, I don't believe the Bible expects us to be perfect components of the body 24/7 and repress our true feelings. I'm not saying we should be all over the place I'm just saying people have their "moments". Pretending they don't happen is ridiculous. There are moments in the Psalms that are examples of righteous anger. In particular Psalms 109. There are intermittent waves of anger and despair from David. David resolves his anger and despair by putting the self in the context of God's power. After he has cursed the wicked and all those who detest him, he returns to plead before God that he not be destroyed with those who vilify him. We are not to conceal these types of emotion nor do we shoot them outward and pepper people in fits of rage, but rather speak the truth of our pain to God and the fellowship.

On the other side of the coin I don’t like being pigeonholed as a downer or a negative person because I occasionally manifest the true nature of my moods or poorness of spirit because I am being oppressed by the world system for days(or weeks). Being in the body and adhering to the Bible and Christ’s teaching encourages certain behaviors and assures us that the overall condition of the believer is to be in accordance with the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They should be the general behaviors over the long-term but we cannot and are not always perfect. I never claimed to be perfect nor will I. Is my overall demeanor to change in the long haul? Yes. I am to do away with the old me tied to the sins of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Additionally I am to be hopeful for the eternal life promised through Jesus Christ as stated by Paul when he wrote to the Philippians. A letter written even in the midst of suffering, Paul was joyous that the Gospel was being proclaimed.

"I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice" ~Phil 1:18

He wrote this statement during some very difficult circumstances. Yet in spite of the difficulties, Paul rejoiced in the ministry God had given him.

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." ~Philippians 1:20-21

Paul understood that it was possible to glorify God through not only his joy but also through his suffering and inevitable death. Things aren’t always going to be easy but we are encouraged to be of good spirit the best we can because of the promise of eternity with Christ.

…but even so…sometimes, I just can’t seem to pull up my collar and face into the storm. I need to turn to God in these situations and pray for endurance and perseverance.

Being part of the body also occasionally subjects us to trials or illnesses(figuratively) that otherwise would’ve had not affected us as single individuals. Disruptions and anomalies sweep through the church that disturbs the equilibrium and balance of the body. Often times they are simple things that at first appear harmless like rumors. They seem so harmless that they are ignored and then they spread and infect and drag down the body for a sustained period of time. Rumors become tumors and unchecked iniquities are detrimental to whole church.

This is where being “real” comes in handy and being “fake” or plastic hurts the entire body. When you act like you are “well” the entire body believes things are well and devote their energy to normal functions. As things continue to spiral downward for you and the mask you have on begins to wear away, your problems are no longer easily hidden. Rumors surface rearing their ugly heads like Piranhas. The need for the body to act becomes obvious because in many cases the problems become runaway and rumor runs rampant. The body then is forced to ramp up into an overreaction and emergency state to fix your issue AND quell the rumor mill. Everything goes *[Code Red]*, lights start flashing, bells, whistles, etc. What should've been a church turns into a circus. The body (church) now has a crisis that usually requires mobilization of more resources from the church than normally would’ve been required to arrest the situation and get it under control. I imagine church leadership would’ve liked to have prevented this calamity altogether. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventative rather than reactive is the name of the game. When a system needs to react to an emergency it usually tends to overreact to stabilize the system. Once it has the emergency under control a mop-up operation ensues and a nominal amount of energy is expended as maintenance. Meanwhile the body gets taxed to an extent that makes it unable to do some of what it should be doing which is reaching outward to the community to save the lost. Instead it needs to expend all its energy inward to stem the bleeding that was avoidable.

So how do we avert Def-Con 4 in the body? Be real and stay real! Be authentic even if it means occasionally being miserable. Please notice I said occasionally, if you are perpetually miserable you had better take a closer look at your self and your standing before God. Inevitably Christ gives us our reason for joy and hope but we are still trapped in the fallen creation. Be aware of your own situations too. Use discernment and know when you are being overwhelmed. Each successive wave that breaks on the shore during a rising tide is usaully higher than the last. Lose your foolish pride and know when to look and ask for help. We need to be diligent to stay the course. Jesus never promised a pleasant journey, he promised a pleasant destination if we accept, obey and love God.

The plastic façade endangers the church and yourself. It serves no purpose other than to deceive observers. Whether deception is the intent or not is irrelevant. We need to call on our brothers and sisters in fellowship. No one is capable of walking the road alone. Even Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and to work in fellowship in prayer in His hour of greatest need. Instead they did not stay vigilant, they fell asleep multiple times. (Matthew 26:36-46)

All Jesus asked them to do is “keep watch with me” and “watch and pray”. He wanted fellowship and support. More specifically He addressed his need beforehand (before going up to Gethsemane). Of course the disciples failed but the thing is… He continued to interact with them. He returned three times to check on them and to wake them. He communicated his true feelings because He understood the limitations of the flesh. We should do the same within the body. Continue to communicate truths even when they aren’t pleasant. We need to understand that all are subject to limitations of the flesh. In these times we turn first to God and second to fellowship with our brethren. I don't believe it is any accident that Jesus told us to:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself" ~Luke 10:27

He knew we needed Him and one another.

We also need to understand that in these situations of pretending most people do not maliciously intend to mislead people, they usually are afraid of pushing others away by exposing their true moods and feelings. This is caused because of a warped twisted and unreasonable expectation that only perfectly unnaturally happy behavior is expected in the body. How silly. Personally, I don't view these unreasonable self-imposed expectations as any different than the unreasonable self-imposed rules and laws the Sadducees and Pharisees imposed on themselves and others. We commit ourselves to our own prisons that God never intended for us. He wanted a relationship with us because He knew we would fail and knew we were human, subject to human shortcomings.

Most people don’t mean to drag other people down when they get in over their heads, they just fail to ask for help. Sometimes there is no sense in stifling the sneeze when you're sick. The quickest way to the cure is to admit you don’t feel well and address the problem. Putting it off makes things worse. Believe it or not when you raise your hand to God or to (true) brethren to get attention and help in these situations it won't be seen as bothersome or an annoyance. Usually true believers will reach back to lend a hand. In the case of God it goes without saying.

March 28, 2010

Is the Bible Really Oppressive to Women?

Lately I have heard more and more women, in particular feminists, say that the Bible was written by men for men to subjugate women and others. Feminism has come into conflict increasingly with Chirstianity due to perceptions of the church & due to past history and the perception that religion(s) treats women as second-class citizens...differentiation needs to be made to correctly view a picture that appears to have been knocked askew.

1. Jesus' commendation of the single state as a legitimate calling for those whom it was given stands in stark contrast to the traditional 1st century Palestinian views of a woman's human duty to marry and procreate. As a result women who chose to follow Jesus took on a role other than mother or wife.

2. Jesus treated women as human subjects rather than possessions. Jesus is seen engaging with women throughout His ministry, affirming them. Often they were women who were outcasts by contemporary Jewish society (i.e. prostitutes).

3. Jesus refused to scapegoat women in sexual matters. The patriarchal assumption that men are corrupted by fallen women is absent from Jesus' attitude, teaching. John 4 being a celebrated instance of this.

4. The traditional view that a woman was "unclean" during menstration was dismissed by Jesus, who made it clear that it is only moral impurity that defiles a person (Mark 7:1-23). Women were not to be excluded from worship becasue ot this once traditional reasoning.

5. Women were integral to the group of people that surrounded Jesus, often to the religious leaders dismay (Pharisees). Not only did women witness the crucifixion, they were the first to witness the risen Christ. The only Easter event explicitly accounted in detail in all four Gospels is the visit of the women to the tomb of Jesus.

6. The Gospels frrequently protray women as being more spiritually perceptive than men. Mark portrays men as having little faith (Mark 4:40;6:52) while commending women (Mark 5:25-34;7:24-30)

7. Christian baptism was for all, men and women. Traditional Judaism of the period only ordained men in this manner. The original initiation rite could only be men, circumcision.. but in Christ no distinction is made.

I could continue this diatribe but my point has been made. People that continue to hammer the Bible and Christianity was being anti-woman/women either have not read it or have not read it and interpreted it correctly which is usually the case in many misunderstandings or misconceptions about the Bible or Christianity. People should indeed eductate themselves before passing judgement. Otherwise they end up looking foolish and unread. A person that is willing to intellectually debate another persons point of view needs to understand that persons point of view before debating them.

March 27, 2010

Pondering God #6: God's Infinitude

In this attribute we as finite creatures are again limited right from the beginning. In an effort to describe or explain God’s infinitude we humans are immediately exposed to our finiteness. Our words and language fails us because it is a form of limited communication given to a limited creation trying to grasp and describe a being that is beyond it. Words by their very nature are firm and precise but at the same time they are nebulous and ethereal. Even with divinely granted tools such as a robust language we have difficulty creating an image of God. Because words are limited in their scope they are intrinsically unable to full their need to fully describe God.

We need to try not to go off on a tangent with a half-baked idea of God though. At the same time that he is infinite He is also personable. “True Christianity” is has an approachable and knowable God unlike the distant unknowable God of Islam and the self-deification or pursuits of godhood in some eastern religions. We are constantly reminded of Christianity’s approachable God through the cross and Jesus Christ. God sent His only begotten son so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. God may be difficult to depict with our languages when we attempt to illustrate His infinite state but we need only look to the cross to realize that He has made Himself available to us through the blood that was shed at Calvary.

The irony is that even in His human state, trying to describe what He did for us by becoming human leaves us speechless and without words. He made Himself human and ultimately approachable and yet the idea is so fantastic it leaves us breathless. The idea that God became a man is one of the greatest miracles of the Bible.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8

Because God’s mercy towards His finite creation was limitless He allowed His son to come and become a sacrificial atonement so that He could maintain a holy relationship on His “term(s)”. All of those terms and conditions for our salvation have been revealed and "spelled out" either through Christ or in the Bible.

March 26, 2010

God Can Exceed The Capacity of Your Jump Drive...The World Corrupts It

When we talk about God or even heaven for that matter 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 “somethings” that cannot be directly observed, we can only see portions or effects they have on things that we can see.

"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

We can only imagine what they “are” in whole. This is the case with God. 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 straight:

“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 so. How can the human mind even begin to comprehend these things? 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/or 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 force on the crashes the computer.

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 mainframe we are all just isolated islands 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, unconfigured (sinners) and useless except when it comes to "common" tasks. In a worst-case scenario we need to empty out the corrupt data (sin) and reconfigure (saved) the drive because it has become so corrupt it is unusable. Damaged. 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 hold something pure & uncorrupted that can be retrieved and be useful -or- something corrupt that needs to either be corrected or disgarded?

Personally, I prefer to contain retrievable data with integrity even though the mainframe occasionally overwhelms me with its file size.

March 25, 2010

Jesus Is Independent

***My apologies if anyone feels I've contemporized Jesus too much and made Him pop culture-ish but I am trying to put forward what I believe is the real hope and real change. I also apologize to the supporters of the President but the iconography of the most recent election is indelibly imprinted into the collective conscience of society and being such is useful for the purposes of getting my idea across to the readers***

I don't know how you folks feel about but...

I am seriously considering removing myself from the political fray even though I have extremely strong opinions concerning the topic. I realize that other than voting I can exact little change it that arena. I believe my calling is to exact a change one person at a time using the Word of God. Speaking the truth, I believe that I can do more to change the world. Additionally, by changing myself first the change I am trying to incorporate becomes more effective. I should try to live and lead by example. It isn't so much about the masses, it's about the people. Jesus could've changed multitudes all at once. He mainly taught handfuls or single people at a time. The Apostles were a perfect example of this. I maintain my integrity this way and I do not succumb to the temptations that will derail me and make me a hypocrite.

I believe we as Christians can exact more of a change as a group by living the life rather than politicizing it. I saw for too long the Evangelical Right attaching itself to the Republican party and it has spelled our partial demise due to "guilt by association". It isn't much different than the Crusades or the Inquisition. A bad plan, poorly initiated and extremely poorly executed (no pun intended). In the end the crusaders and members of the Spanish Inquisition were killers killing under the banner of Christianity. Christianity was tarnished because of the inability of the world to discern who is and isn't Christian. We never fully recovered from that debacle. History is a harsh judge on those in the wrong. But again, I must clarify. These were people who were claiming to be Christian..while they were killing. The Bible tells me that I will recognize Christians by their "fruits":

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." ~Galatians 5:22

Please note it did not say murderous, not peaceful, unkind, bad, violent and out of control, etc.

When people see us that have a bone to pick they head for these gaping wounds in Christian history that are untenable and undeniable. We need to explain to them that more often than not these people were not Christian. There is an enormous gap between walking the walk and talking the talk. Most often than not these politicized motivations either led to mass slaughter or subjugation of a populace in the name of Christianity. Being a Christian was to be a choice for man not an ultimatum. Inversely, we are all only a single decision away from being just like the Crusaders or the Spaniards of the Inquisition. This is why Jesus raised the bar for us in the Sermon on The Mount.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment..." Matthew 5:21-22

Having discussed this verbally with others most often the response is, "but that was the Catholic Church" or "that was the Jews of the Old Testament" or worst of all, "that was then, this is now, we're more civilized". Really? What was more civilized, the Crusades or the mechanized warfare and carnage initiated by the totalitarian political regimes of WWII -or- the godless political regimes of Communism? Everyone of these "systems" thought they were taking the "high road" and doing the right thing which made them more effective killers. What does the Bible say about the nature of man? He is sinful. Are we immune to it? The story of Israel is the story of us. We as humans are just as vulnerable as they were. The minute we deny that fact we condemn ourselves to repetition of the same error. "Those that ignore or forget history are doomed to repeat it". Sound familiar?

What does the Bible tell us about powers, principalities and the world system?

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~Ephesians 6:12

The concept of principalities in Greek is [αρχἠ] or "arche" meaning chief/ruler or sovereignties. These principalities are ruling devil spirits possessing executive authority or governmental rule in the world. This ruling power usually involves a particular nation, people or race. The Bible says we are to engage the culture, not become it. I believe this applies to politics too. What is more "of the world's system" than politics?

God will always outlive the system or the institution especially the systems or institutions of the world. Why would I want to align myself with them or even get bent out of shape over them? As many do about politics (including myself). They are a dying breed. The Book of Revelation makes it clear they have a limited life span. They have an expiration date already stamped on them. I need to realize that my pull towards this system of the world is my flesh controlling me.

"The Old Testament may be studied ... as an instructor in social Righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers ... to the world at large .... There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired ... not better institutions, but better men"
Aspects Of The Old Testament; The Bampton Lectures, Pg. 430 (1901)~Robert Ottley

I figure it this way. Politics forces you to take side in an ongoing argment that has two or more sides to it. Rarely does it cause unity between people which is the core of society. Unity. Even people on the same side of the fence often disagree. It causes divisiveness not unity. Someone needs to show me in the Bible that the Body of the Church is to be devisive. We should create better men through Christ not better masses. Convert the man you will convert society. Each individual relationship is exactly that...individual. God is creating His Kingdom one soul at a time based on a relationship between He and you.

Please note through all of this I did not say, "Become a doormat". Render to Caesar what is his but when Caesar requires more than what God will allow, Caesar is to be ignored or discredited. Yes, Caesar in this context is a euphemism. I just can't see Jesus politicizing things to the extent that they have been politicized nowadays. The ends now justify the means and the means have become rather immoral and unethical. The more I get Christ in me the more I get out of politics (and the world). It is holding less and less sway over my life. I want to affect a change in this life but it won't be through man's systems and institutions. They are all destined for failure.

Jesus is independent. Independent from the world. He came into the world to save us but He is not of this world (John 17:16) and when we are in Him, neither are we. Independent from sin. Independent from man's silly institutions. Jesus is independent in that He is Holy. Independent as in distinct. Self reliant, self-contained, sovereign. Amen.

[To put this in perspective it should be read in conjunction with Ozymandias~Percy Bysshe Shelley]

March 24, 2010

Gnowing Christ

Knowing Christ

I think I am truly understanding Paul's statement below and accepting it deeply. Until now I only heard it and understood it intellectually, now I've taken it to heart. It is a building block of what I am now. It has become part of me. Intellectually I knew the resurrection and Jesus Christ, it is the first part of this unit that strikes a resounding note now...

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.~Philippians 3:7-11

Even now as a believer it has taken time to allow this thought to permeate my being. Like dew can slowly soak into you until you are drenched. This is how this has thoroughly saturated me on a spiritual level. The word knowledge/knowing Christ here is [Greek: gnosis]...this is not an intellectual knowing as I previously understood it. Nor had I acted on it that way. It is a word that comes from "ginosko" which is to know in an experimental way. More specifically "ginosko" is used to translate the Old Testament word ידה [yadah], that word in the Old Testament speaks of a union of love like a child to a parent. It carries the meaning of absolute surrender as a young child does to a parent, "pick me up, I'm all yours". Intimacy. Surrender.

A Similar usage of the word: "I am the good shepherd, and I know [ginosko] My own and My own know [ginosko] Me..." ~John 10:14

Paul in Philippians 3 is referring to a relationship (of give-and-take). It isn't a relationship that needs to mature from His side it is my side that needs work. Relationships for most people take time they do not happen overnight. In my case it took time until my relationship with Him has matured to a point where everything began to pale by comparison. It took time for me to work the world out of the corners of my mind where it had taken up residence like an illegal squatter in my head. Paul also counted everything he had done to the point of writing this letter to the Philippians as a rubbish [Greek: skubalon]: what is thrown to the dogs--dung, feces! Why. Because of the surpassing worth of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

This situation is obviously not God's fault, it is mine. He could do it instantaneously but what would I learn from it. Through his death and Resurrection He has allowed me to again have the relationship that we all were created to have with Him. The type of relationship that we were suppose to have before sin entered the picture and helped ruin man. It isn't like I need help ruining things. As Paul said, even my best was worthless.

Pondering God #5: The Eternality of God

"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." ~Psalms 90:2

The Hebrew word for everlasting is עוֹלָם [o-lawm']: vanishing point; time out of mind.

God views all points in time simultaneously. Things like prophecy are not prediction for God, they are a plan. He already knows how things will unfold for man. If God lives outside of creation which I mentioned earlier it means He is not affected by the time constraints of His creation. We, on the other hand, are restricted to this universe so it’s time constraint holds sway over us. Our lives are short and are only a vesper on the cosmic time scale. Because He knows what will be and we do not, we should pray and confide in Him by seeking His consul.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."~ James 4:14-15

Time only has relevance to humans. Time affects God only because He allows it to and that is primarily because of His interactions with man. We are His beloved creation. He deemed us important enough that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus to save that we too could be His sons, daughters and heirs. So we could be free of the law that had become a curse. A law that was given because of our own sin.

"I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." ~ Galatians 4:1-7

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:16-17

In A.W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy uses and interesting analogy when referring to the phrase “everlasting to everlasting” when he speaks of God's timelessness. He parallels it by saying from “vanishing point to vanishing point”. Having taken art classes…a vanishing point is a theoretical point where non-parallel lines merge or vanish into the horizon based on the viewer’s perspective. Even in this definition by man’s standards we have an imaginary or theoretical point not a real one because it implies a point infinitely far away far out of our line of sight. Like God we know that it isn’t really there just like an end to God. Any attempt to quantify God’s eternity ends up being another effort in futility because we can only produce an imaginary point that doesn’t really apply to Him and we only do this so we can perceive Him from our perspective (how humbling). Like art I would also venture to say that God can have even more than one perspective or vanishing point. We in this universe on see time moving in two directions, either forward or back, future or past. How do we know that time is only capable of two vanishing points. We are again applying to restrictions of our created existence to an infinite God. I learned a long time ago not to assume limitations into my perception of God. I need only look at the miracles of Christ to realize that even the physics of our creation do not limit what God can do. Why do we assume time can remain uniform and linear?

March 21, 2010

Pondering God #4: The All Powerful God

God has the power to create the universe by bringing it into existence from nothing (ex–nihilo). Let’s just stop and think about that for a few seconds [tick-tick-tick]. This means He has the power to take it out of existence also and will at some unknown time in the future according to the book of Revelation. It is by His power that we exist and continue to exist.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…~Hebrews 1:3

God has the power to raise the dead from the grave and not only this; He has the ability to make the flesh incorruptible in a resurrection body.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.~1 Corinthians 15:3-5

We need only read the Bible for further astounding examples of His power and the list is awe-inspiring: The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, Jericho, the death of the firstborn, the Red Sea, forgiveness of our sins, the burning bush, Pentecost, etc. What we often underestimate is the power and will it took for a being of physical human construct (Jesus) subjected to the temptations of the flesh to resist these temptations by that skunk Satan. He resisted the temptations of the devil himself in the wilderness and on the Temple.

We generally think more of the items in the Bible that would require major special-effects in a modern movie. We skim over the miraculous superhuman reactions (or lack of reaction) to temptations that plague every human being, temptations that normal human beings succumb to everyday by committing sin. These examples of God’s ability to overcome are nearly invisible in the Bible but they were sublime. Dare I say, they are taken for granted by most readers. Most of us will not even bat and eyelash at the statements in the Bible concerning everyday challenges that plagued the "flesh" of men that plagued Jesus. He came down to us to know and experience first hand the travails of being human. He understood the shortcomings of the flesh firsthand, and He overcame them. He became one of us. I challenge anyone that reads this to consider the effort (power) that these feats of resistance took. Furthermore, not only did He resist the devil himself in the wilderness but He did it His entire life. Don't think that the skunk didn't try continuously to work his way into Jesus' life to try and derail His mission. The challenge to Christ started with infanticide (Herod) and took on a myriad of other forms through His entire life.

"But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." ~Matthew 16:23

"Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus." ~Luke 22:3-4

...and these were the blatantly obvious instances. Please be assured Satan was always working against Christ. The irony though is that Satan was always a part of the plan anyway. Satan played the unwitting fool that he always does. God is sovereign over all.

Jesus was also sinless. He did not err in the face of all this malevolent adversity, not even once. Think long and hard on this fact and then look at yourself. Had He not done this there would’ve been no suitable propitiation for sin and we’d have all been condemned. We often overlook the “unimaginable” power involved in the more subtle acts and episodes contained in the Bible. How much effort does it take to resist saying or doing something when we see a tragic injustice perpetrated on someone? How much restraint does it take when we are cursed and wronged by others when it was their own stupidity causing their problems (i.e.: Israelites, us)? How does it feel when you are blamed for something that was horribly wrong and all you did was correct but it was corrupted because of misuse by individuals with bad or ill intent (i.e.: God getting blamed for the evil in the world when it is Satan’s corruption of good)? Welcome to God’s universe. Sometimes I believe the greatest acts were not the “special effects” moments but actually the subtle nearly invisible movements of God in people’s hearts that changed the course of history. In the end it is all to God’s glory.

Finally, although God is omnipotent He cannot do things that are inconsistent with His character. He cannot commit evil, lie, etc. These are not inabilities for God they are shortcomings and characteristic flaws of humans and the beings of creation. Because we are flawed in our being and our thinking we mistakenly attribute these shortcomings to God. We attempt to reduce God and elevate ourselves to close the gap. It is an effort in futility and a fool’s errand. Yes, God wants a relationship with His creation but that relationship will be on His terms not the terms of His inferior creation.

How easy is it for you to say no to sin? Every single time? Yeah, I didn't think so...

Pondering God #3: The Immutability of The Unchanging One אֶחָד [Echad]

God is the Almighty Unchanging One. Quite frankly I wouldn’t want Him to change either. We now live in a country (and world) where truth, words and the idea that something can be absolute has become taboo. Because of this we as humans routinely kill unborn babies and call it choice. Liberal and liberation used to mean freedom not oppression. Laws were based on inalienable rights given to us by God not based on case law and decisions handed down by other judges based in their opinions and their capriciousness. Tolerance was a form of forgiveness and not an excuse for ignoring blatantly obvious sin or ignoring people that chose to live immoral lives.

We now have rampant premarital intercourse and out of wedlock intercourse that brings children into the world that effectively have only one parent. Truth has become relative. We cannot figure out what end is up. It is because we have lost any connection to absolute truth and connection to a moral absolute which is God. At the all levels we have lost our bearings. Since abandoning God, God is now beginning to abandon us. When the boat starts spinning in the storm and you start loosing your bearings you try to find something that is an anchor to stablize the boat or head towards shore. If we rely on man, we are throwing the anchor overboard without a rope attached to it and tossing the compass too.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness…~Romans 1:28-29

As a Christian I deny the lack of an absolute truth. I believe there are moral directions and absolute truths. I believe the basis for and the incarnation of truth itself is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is truth and the immutable truth that comes from Him is absolute. We need this immutability because it acts as an anchor in a chaotic & deteriorating universe (entropy) that otherwise has absolutely no hope. He is the lighthouse that beckons all the lost ships at sea.

-"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." John 14:6

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."~John 1:1-3

I take this whole "God thing" dead serious and so should you. When the world system or sin torpedoes your ship and the boat starts to go down, it isn't going to go halfway down and stop and then resurface...its heading for the bottom like the Titanic. Once sin finds the cracks it fills the hull until you can no longer stay above water, then you disappear below the surface into the depths. Forever.

You are not unsinkable and it is better to realize this and head for safe harbor rather than to try and ride out the storm.

We will not be able to convince God that sinful/deviant lifestyles are “alternative lifestyles” subject to choice. We will not be able to convince God that truth is relative to the observer. If we rely on God we don't just get an anchor to steady our boat, we get the harbor that is tranquil and safe. He is the light in the darkness that guides us to shore. He calms the waters and distances us from the chaos. When the entire world is in motion, in disarray and we cannot get our bearings…it is God that is the rock in this storm of postmodernism. He is the One we can moor our lives to in the churning ambiguity and chaos that the world has become.

Ponderings God #2: The Self-Existence of the Almighty God

I have long been plagued by the impenetrable thought: Where did God come from? Apparently this unsettles others also, not just me. It isn’t so much the fact that it cannot be figured out or known as much as it is a concept that is totally foreign to us. I was always drawn to the thought that everything needed a beginning or cause. Until recently I never grasped the fact and accepted that God always has been and always will be. He had no beginning. God is Aristotle's unmoved mover [κινούμενον κινεῖ] or the uncaused cause.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Rev. 22:13

It never occurred to me that by not accepting this I was limiting God and making Him constrainable in my mind. At a spiritual level I was sinning. I was trying to compare Him to the things of creation and this is a no-no. As humans we really can only do one thing in proper response to a being such as God and we do it well. Sadly we do it to everything but God sometimes. We should worship Him. He should be praised for His infiniteness. Instead many chose to be at enmity against God and the root of this enmity in particular is pride.

“…because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” ~ Romans 8:7

Self-proclaimed intellectuals and a sinner’s (in their sinning condition) are unwilling to acknowledge God and most guilty of this pride. The sinning man that is not in a spiritual frame of mind needs to explain away everything in non-spiritual terms. They need to pigeonhole everything, especially God. They need to make the distance between God and themselves smaller. They need to bring God down to their level so that He isn’t so intimidating. They elevate themselves while simultaneously trying to diminish God in their minds. By doing this they can also attribute all the attributes of the creation to Him. Since man can control many of the things in the creation, by proxy, he probably feels he can control God. In the worst cases they claim that if God cannot be proven by empirical means, He can’t exist. I believe they do this to create the illusion of control. Anyone with a discerning eye can see that they have no control.

A spiritually discerning man can see the behavior for what it is: SIN. To help themselves bolster this illusion of control they drag others into their state of delusion/denial. They give their flawed and contradictory beliefs names and mislabel them with words like: science & history. Because of this damaged way of thinking not only does the idea of God get perverted, so does the idea of science and history.

In the end the only thing that ends up being controlled are other men that are not spiritually discerning or people that want to be controlled. In the secular worldview it is claimed that God and science or God and history are incompatible. This is the greatest fallacy of all and it is created to mute any potential discussion of God in either of these contexts. If the creator created the objects or subjects being studies in science or history how could they not be compatible? It isn’t that God can’t be discussed in any of these contexts so much as it is because He is infinitely beyond them. It isn’t compartmental incompatibility so much as ontological transcendence on God’s part.

Sinners and non-believers act as if they do not need God for anything when the reality is just the opposite. He doesn’t need us for anything. This raises a question about man in particular. Is man trying to usurp God by claiming no need for Him? Is man trying to claim God’s throne? Is man trying to declare himself self-existent? The thought would be laughable if it didn’t have such tragic consequences. Inevitably, instead of worshipping God like it should be, sinning man worships other men or himself.

March 20, 2010

Pondering God #1: What Can Be Known Of God? Has He Revealed Enough?

His Holy Incommunicable and Communicable Attribute(s):

The Almighty God has a limitless number of attributes. The immeasurable extent of his power, knowledge, holiness and the wonder of all his qualities goes on forever. We can see pieces of many of his characteristics but we can never see all of them or the entire extent of them. If we limit God’s attributes or tried to measure them we are trying to limit and measure things that are not meant to be limited. The Lord God has revealed of Himself what He knew we needed to get by in this life. Paradoxically, although His attributes are infinite we need to also realize that He is also personal/personable and knowable also. If God showed us too much of Himself, more than likely we would not be able to handle it, we would be vaporized or overwhelmed. We are talking about a God that can resurrect the dead and create the entire known universe from nothing (ex nihilo). If He can do these things we can have faith in the fact that God has done these things for our benefit and that they are in the right balance and correct amount.

We could insist through prayer that He reveals more of himself but we would only be showing a lack of faith in His judgment and a lack of faith in God or His decisions is a failure to obey and disobedience is sin. Besides, it is primarily through faith that we see who God is and gain the benefit of what He has offered. Seeing more of Him Isn’t the way God wanted us to understand Him anyway. Our modus operandi is via faith.

"… 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

It is my belief that the Bible along with the revealing of His Son and the created natural order is sufficient for us to know God.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" ~ 2 Timothy 3:16

"For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." ~2 Peter 1:21

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." ~Hebrews 1:1-2

"The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." ~Psalms 19:1-2

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." ~Romans 1:19-20

What humans really need to do is study these things more closely to see the truth within the things that we have already been given. To own the Bible and not read it doesn’t mean you know God. You need to crack the binding on the Good Book and listen to it and question things like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). The guilding on you Bible should've been worn off years ago and the pages should be respectfully dog-eared. When we realize that the Bible is more than just a devotional guide, a theology text or a sourcebook for evangelism or apologetics, we will see it as it really is…the living link between God and man. Since I have viewed it His way it changes the way I read and understand it. To wonder if there is more that He should revealed about Himself is to question His authority and to doubt Him which amounts to complete lack of faith.

Spiritual Multitasking

What are the correct priorities? I use to say it was God, wife, kids, job, and whatever else…in that order. I stopped saying this and now take a slightly different slant. God still comes first (absolutely) but in a slightly different way. He comes first every time but isn’t always the main focus. I don’t know about you but I can only retain one major thought at a time in this melon of mine. When I am doing something like helping my wife, helping becomes my main priority. Am I putting God second? By no means! When I perform what is my main priority, I do what I do, say what I say and think what I think through the eyes of Christ.

When I am doing a task, it is to glorify God first and I focus on the given task with all my energy. It is done in a way so that others will acknowledge or at least think it was done well or that it was done with veracity so that an observer will not question the character of the person who did it. If they do question, it is to find out what drives the person that performed the task. When I do my job, I do it to the best of my ability not because I want the accolades but because I want people to think the person that did them had integrity, a good work ethic, and that I was a good representative of The Body of which I am a part. Performing a task in a way that best glorifies the Lord is an act of worship and reverence.

It is possible to bring glory to God and honor your wife at the same time. Honoring a righteous wife in a biblical manner is obedience to the Word which also honors God. It is what I would call spiritual multi-tasking. Simultaneously working to the glory of the Lord while performing the task for my loved-ones or while breaking a sweat on my brow. One serves the other. Since God is the primary motivation things will work out for the better. I try to preface my actions with the thought: “What is the best way to perform this task to stay in line with the will of God and bring honor to my wife or kids in the process”? It is a sensible approach to getting things done in a Godly manner every time no matter how it ends up. It just takes some forethought and a heart for God.

I try to wrap my task with the presence of God, He overshadows my every move. When I don’t approach it this way not only do I not bring honor to God I also blow it with my wife because it looks like I did things for selfish reasons. When I do it for God and others I do it with a servant’s heart.

My priorities now look somewhat like this:
1. God
2. God-wife-God
3. God-kids-God
4. God-job-God

March 18, 2010

Putting The Christ Back in Christian

At the risk of being accusatory of the brethren I must confess I do not understand some of them sometimes. There are claims of devotion, talking the talk but when push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road...the words I hear and the actions I see do not jive. I realize that we remain sinners even after our conversion but it is easy to see sometimes why Christians are viewed with a jaundiced eye.

I realize Mahatma Gandhi was referring to the butchery in European history, its close association with Christianity and the misunderstanding that the Crusaders were Christian but...his statement below speaks volumes about people that claim to be Christian but show little or no "Fruits of the Spirit" spelled out in Galatians.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." ~Galatians 5:22-24 contrast this to Gandhi's observation:

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." ~Mahatma Gandhi

This was a man that was a non-believer but saw the inherent goodness in Jesus Christ (obviously he didn't see the divinity) and saw the obvious contradiction in many self-proclaimed Christian's behaviors. There is often a sharp contrast between the two. From a non-believers viewpoint it is seen as hypocrisy...and rightly so.

When I have my own brethren passing harsh judgement on me (and I'm a fellow Christian!) I can imagine how non-Christians are treated by them. It is no wonder we are vilified as a whole. They may be non-believers but they all have the potential to become believers and many are very intelligent. Treating them like common plebeians and condescending is counterproductive and frankly, stupid.

We are called to have a servants heart. To humble ourselves and to have the mind of Christ as in the "Kenosis" or self-emptying of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11...

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Instead of servants we have many elitist in our ranks. They are raised or taught that they are to be different and the difference they learned or were taught is haughtiness or arrogance not Christlikeness and humility. We are to be set aside the way a clay jar is set aside to hold the treasure. It doesn't necessarily mean that we are to be the golden chalice that is the treasure. Christ is our treasure and by showing arrogance and elitism we are doing exactly what we are commanded not to do. We as the creation try to outshine the creator. Instead we just end up looking like pretentious buffoons. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said...

"Blessed are the poor in spirit"...not blessed are the lofty of heart.
He also said, "blessed are the meek"...not blessed are the arrogant.

Why aren't we to be arrogant and elitist? Do I really need to answer this? Because you end up not having the correct mindset for the Kingdom AND you will be a horrible example and representative of The Church! It is a shame but if one part of the body is defective the entire body is deemed defective. We are looked at like lepers, something that is to be avoided not approached.

When we see this type of behavior in our brethren we must be discerning of what manifestations of the Spirit they exhibit. If they show none we must seriously question their standing in the faith. When their behavior is clearly unscriptural we must call them to account based on Scripture. I can hear the lament already, "We're not to judge others". This is a standard misuse of Matthew 7:1. Many people quoting this passage fail to read the next one:

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." ~Matthew 7:2

We are not to judge others in a measure that we ourselves would not want to be judged. In other words, DON'T BE A HYPOCRITE. Don't become what you are trying to point out to the person in error. We as Christians need to judge sometimes, it is called being discerning. We just need to be careful not to judge others for offenses that we ourselves are guilty of.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ~Matthew 7:3-6

I lost my high horse a long time ago. I know their is nothing good in me but Christ. The more of Christ there is in me the better the chances of me not messing something up. As it has been said in the past: Where I end, He begins.

March 15, 2010

Expose the Enemy - Claim The Victory

I have found that the most vicious attacks on my family and myself come when I am exposing evil for what it is. The carefully crafted lies and deceptions take a lot of effort for the devil and when we meet him on his own turf and mess with his plans things can get downright ugly. I have found that if my mind is not solidly anchored in the Word and focused on God I almost instantly veer off at a high rate of speed and things quickly spiral out of control. I become overwhelmed and anxieties become unbearable. The devil tries to set up shop in my head. This world system is his and it is perfectly clear when I "get into it" with one of his toadies. The attack is vicious. This is especially true when their arguments have been defused through logic or I use their own argument to refute them. There is nowhere to go with the argument at that point and they get nasty, hostile and occasionally...violent.

My first tactic is to immediately acknowledge I am helpless in these (spiritual) matters on my own and I call on the Lord (Armor). Once engaged, I need to constantly stand back from these conversations and confrontations to make sure I am addressing them in a scriptural manner as Jesus did. I give myself pause to actually think about a rebuttal or whether one is necessary. The pause allows time for my emotions to diminish. Sometimes I leave silence fill the gap. My personal issue is being able to recognize in myself the same problems that I see in others. If I don't, charges of "hypocrite" confront me at every turn. Conversely, we need to realize when we are wrong or have misread the situation or we will inadvertently become the problem not the solution.

Increasingly I find myself being assailed every time I get into a situation where I am try to dispel myths perpetrated by people that are doing the devil's work but are calling themselves righteous. Some are within the Body. Unfortunately, the devil works through some of the things closest to me to distract me from what is primary or most important.

To one extent or another we are all pawns in the devil's game because we are all still victims to our sinful natures. Anyone that denies this is deceiving themselves. We do have power over this evil but and it its only through Christ. We need to realize what is happening when it is happening. Sometimes the damage is done by the time we realize it. As I was told when I was younger, you don't take a knife to a gunfight. Nor should we take material weapons and tools of our human nature to a spiritual battle. We need Christ. It is not so much a fight with the devil to gain ground so much as it is a million little battles of reclamation of what is rightfully ours through the blood of the cross. You only need to reclaim the victory that Jesus Christ has already won.

March 14, 2010

I AM -vs- I will: A Comparison/Contrast

Jesus Christ's "I am" statements:

They are all claims of divinity based on Exodus 3:14 when God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" There are clearly more to the meanings in these I AM statements but I wanted brief descriptions.

Before Abraham was, I Am ~John 8:58
Jesus is the foundation of life with God which comes through faith & righteousness. Jesus affirms His timeless and eternal nature.

I AM the bread of life. ~John 6:35,John 6:48
Jesus is the One who imparts and sustains life, eternal life. By union with Christ man attains everlasting life.

I AM the light of the world. ~John 8:12
It is only through Jesus that the brilliant attributes of of God shine most brilliantly in the midst of the darkness of the world.

I AM the door for the sheep ~John 10:7
Jesus is the only one through which man can legitimately gain access to eternal life in heaven. He is the door for the sheep not to the sheep.

I AM the good shepherd. ~John 10:11-14
The good shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep.

I AM the resurrection and the life. ~John 11:25
Both the resurrection and life are through Jesus. Because He lives, we will too. He is the first fruits of the resurrection. Jesus has conquered death. He went into the grave and came out the other side

I am the way and the truth and the life. ~John 14:6
Jesus didn't just show the way. He is the way. Only through a faithful relationship with Christ can we have salvation

I AM the true vine. ~John 15:1,5
Only when we abide in Christ will we produce the fruits of the Spirit.

The Babylonian king/Lucifer's "I will" Statements (in Isaiah 14)

These "I wills" are actually addressed to/referring to the king of Babylon but the analogy between the proud king of Babylon and the comparable fall of Lucifer is made in verse 12. They are so similar as to be indistinguishable. The act of gross insubordination and extreme sinfulness were quickly followed by severe punishment. Lucifer and one-third of the angels of heaven did not get a second chance. The megalomaniacal king of Babylon didn't appear to get much of a second chance either.

I will ascend to heaven...Isaiah 14:13 (lower than heaven)
I will raise my throne above the stars of God...Isaiah 14:13 (throne lower than the heavenly bodies)
I will sit enthroned on...mount of assembly...utmost heights of the sacred mountain. Isaiah 14:13 (not enthroned, not a divine king)
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds...Isaiah 14:14 (below clouds)
I will make myself like the Most High...Isaiah 14:14 (below/less than the Most High)

"I will"...denotes a need to actually do something because Lucifer isn't their yet. All of the aforementioned statements are claims to something that currently are not in possession. A desire to take something that is not theirs. Both of these beings are things clearly less than omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient. The "I wills" are essentially unconscious acknowledgments that the speaker is under someone else's authority or in subjugation to something (God). They are inferior beings claiming superiority.

What happens when he tries to attain or achieve without God in pride and envy?

Isaiah 14:11 All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you.

Isaiah 14:15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

This once lofty Babylon king's empire is now in ruins. He lacked nothing that humanity could provide in the form of material goods and power. He strove to take God's throne, instead he is condemned to the lowest Hell. His former greatest lies mostly forgotten except by those that read the Bible. Like Lucifer, his only contribution to humanity is to serve as an example of what not to be and how not to act in the face of Almighty God. "I wills" cannot stand in direct opposition to "I AM". Was it worth the moment in the at the pinnacle of the mountain? The moment in the limelight? A fleeting moment of pleasure for an eternity in Hell.

Do you have any "I wills" in your life or are you willing to submit humbly to "I AM".


Satan is a masterful counterfeiter. A master at spreading the disease of twisted truths. When he wasn't able to stop the crucifixion after unwittingly playing his hand in it he tried to stop the spread of The Message by counterfeiting the message itself. He tried to mimic God's handiwork just like he has always done. God has perfect designs and Satan knows it. Why change something perfect anymore than he has to, right? The closer he can keep it to the original the harder it will be to distinguish from the real thing. Blatant outright attacks came in the form of Christian persecution but subversive attacks also came in the form of subtle twisting of doctrine. We are exhorted all throughout the Bible to be on our guard to the wolves sneaking in among the flock to ravage them. He'll change and tweak the truth just enough to convince you error is true. Heresies and false teachers were trying to infiltrate "The Way" before many of the Apostles had entered their rest and eternal glorification in the Lord Jesus and others came after.

Neo-Marcionism, Marcionism, Judaizers, Gnosticsim, Arianism, Anomoeanism, etc, etc, etc...the list continues until today. Sadly, many of the infiltrators today aren't even doing something original. They are doing the same things that were done one or two millennium ago and calling it something different. It is another effort to dupe the uninitiated or uninformed. As believers we must be extremely discerning. Sometimes an internal injury to the Body is invisible but can be terminal.

It is the responsibility of those that know the truth to rebuke and correct when these partial truths or half truths twist the Word. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...its a duck.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but this is flattery that isn't needed or welcome in Christ's body. It is an imitation like a virus imitates normal cells in a human or programs in a computer. It mimics the wholesome aspects that are beneficial until it gains access to inner workings and control centers then it sends out more of its minions to infiltrate other hosts to continue to corrupt and destroy. The most useful and powerful counterfeits are the ones that are indistinguishable from the real thing. The closer the counterfeiter can make his ripoff to the original the better it does its job. We now have some infiltrators so deeply embedded in the body the only way to get them out is to amputate or nearly destroy the host.

The Devil does this with more than just doctrine too. He takes love out of the relationship but continues to call it marriage. He takes the word murder out of an abortion and it becomes Pro-Choice. He exchanges the natural use of the body for sex in marriage, moves it outside the marriage (or gender) and still calls it love. Tolerance is changed from a form of forgiveness and is turned into an excuse for ignoring blatantly obvious sin or ignoring people that chose to live immoral lives.

Do you know what a counterfeit looks like? Did you ever use something counterfeit unwittingly? Did you ever try to pass on something you knew was wrong as a truth? Did you ever tell a lie to gain access to something or someone? That is how the virus enters the system. Subtle and undetected. This is why we need to continually examine ourselves to assure that we remain in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). It isn't just to make sure we are in the faith, it is to assure that we are not ravaging the flock.

The Poster Boy for Grace

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4

Do we continue to sin so grace abounds? No!...but I am glad grace abounded in my life otherwise I'd have been dead and condemned multiple times over. Everyone needs grace but I needed extra portions of it. As Apostle Paul stated:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. ~1 Timothy 1:15

People like to hear the story of my precipitous fall and restoration. The booze, drugs, unrepentant heart, anger, bitterness, desensitization to the world, etc. It makes them feel good about themselves. It makes them realize that if a hammerhead like me can be reclaimed from the trash heap of life, anyone can. What is really frightening is that I considered myself a Christian through all of it because I felt was doing the best I could. Therein "lies" the problem. "I" was doing the best "I" could. Even at my best my efforts were dirty rags. You've heard it said before, "I'll get to heaven because I have lived a good life". ***Sigh*** That's just not true folks. There is only one way. The Way is Christ and the acceptance of what He has done and the faith in this fact comes through God's grace. Grace for which I am a poster boy.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. ~Isaiah 64:6

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:9-12

Am I better now? Hardly. At least now I realize and am honest about my sinful and corrupt nature. I realize that without Christ I am not capable of anything redeeming. At least now I have the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in me. The indwelling Spirit gives me a chance to sanctify my life so that I am in a more acceptable state when it comes to my final earthly demise and glorification. But it is still a war. I am better equipped to fight it now. I have the Armor of God at my disposal. I can utilize it to defend and stand my ground against the wiles of the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion looking to devour me (1 Peter 5:8).

...but I still fail. It is the way of the flesh. Paul's description of the sinner's nearly schizophrenic dual nature says it best...

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

This applied to me abundantly before Christ found me and it still holds true now.

To use an analogy of a whiskey bottle (which I spent so much time in the bottom of). You can pour out the liqueur and use the same container that held alcohol to hold pure water but the bottle will still reek of booze. As the new pure and fresh water continues to refill the whiskey bottle the stench of the corrupting liqueur eventually lessons until it becomes non-existent. What was once used to hold something that corrupts now holds something that imparts life. The outside label still says "Whiskey" but the contents are pure and clean.

It is the same as the Holy Spirit filling and refilling us. We can still harbor the stink of sin even after conversion to Christ but if we continue to use our bodies as a residence of Christ, refreshing ourselves with the Word we have a good chance of becoming vessels that contain something that can impart life to others. So how do we turn this vessel that held corruption into a vessel that can hold "living water"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. ~Romans 12:1-3

It is only through continued grace that we are allowed to continue these acts of offer the message of salvation to others until our final glorification in the Lord.

Praise His glorious name. The name above all names. Jesus Christ.

March 13, 2010

Charagma [ χάραγμα ]: "The Mark"

Revelation 13:16-17 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.

It never occurred to me why taking the "mark of the beast" [Gk: charagma tou therion] mentioned in Revelation is such a horrendous act. We know what the numerics are but why on the forehead or the hand? Why is it not acceptable? We need to revisit the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6 (the Sherma or Greatest Commandment) to find the answer.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. In Deuteronomy 6 it is "oth" instead of 'charagma". Both words are set forth with the connotation of being signs. When used in the context of Deuteronomy 6, "mark" and "sign" are interchangeable. Regardless, as with other signs of the Old Testament they are meant to be permanent reminders. Signs direct people towards other things. What are that those things?

Verses 4-5 above are Israel's doctrinal confession in its most distilled form. It is the core principle to covenant and even Jesus reiterated it in the New Testament.

Matthew 22:36-37 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment..."

The key to understanding the inappropriateness of taking the mark of the beast on the forehead or hand is Deuteronomy 6:8. The Israelites were to bind the commandments on these areas. God's greatest commandments. Modern devout Jews still do this. They are called Phylacteries or Tefillin. The little square boxes that they bind to their head and arms/hands contain small folded pieces of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 11:13-21 and Exodus 13:1-16.

Deuteronomy 11:13-21 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Instead of binding what God commands His people to bind in the areas of the forehead and hand, His people will instead take the "mark" in these areas. It is essentially mocking and belittling what God told the Israelites was to be done to remind them what He considered most important, which is love and obedience. It is the most disobedient form of disobedience and shows a complete lack of love for God and His statutes by taking "the mark". By placing the number of man or man's identifier in God's place it is an attempt to bring God down to mans level or elevate man to Gods place (both are absurd). It is symbolically giving God the middle finger. I don't know about you but I felt really uncomfortable typing this sentence just now. I can't imagine being stupid enough to get an "emblem" on my forehead but apparently many will have absolutely no qualms in doing so. I pity them. Additionally, the right hand was a symbol of power as is noted when Scripture refers to Jesus sitting at the Fathers right hand.

The Phylacteries/Tefillin direct man towards God. The Mark of the Beast directs man towards man or towards evil and system of this world. A system that has nothing to do with Biblical love or obedience.

Only God alone is worthy of worship. To obey God is to love God (John 14:15). To identify anything else in the place of God is a mockery of God. God's proper position is above all. There should be no other God's before him.
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