April 30, 2010

Pondering God XI: Holy One [ קָדוֹשׁ ]

We are exhorted in Scripture to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:44; 20:26). To be holy means to be morally perfect, pure and set apart from sin. He tells us this because a holy God cannot look upon sin, it offends Him.

You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. ~ Habakkuk 1:13

In other words He cannot excuse it and it separates us from Him. Sin cuts us off from relationship with God and that is a place people do not want to be. Because He is ultimately just God cannot ignore it either. It must be judged and accounted for. That accounting took place for us once and for all through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sin. We in our limited minds fail to understand holiness like God’s holiness. We can understand in a limited way what holiness is but I believe that no man in this life can fully grab onto it before our glorification. Holiness is really the antithesis of evil or should I say evil is the antithesis of holiness? They are like opposite ends of a magnet. They can never touch. If true holiness touched evil my guess is that evil would be annihilated. Holy is a special state of being. When it enters our realm it is honored with special acknowledgement and reverence. The Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place) was a place the High Priest could go only once a year on the Day of Atonement with bowed head, no sandals on his feet, and bells. If the high priest wasn’t pure, he was as good as dead. It was the place God's presence would reside in the temple/tabernacle on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant.

“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” ~Hebrews 9:7

There was a reason the Holy of Holies was so separate and isolated and it was to identify that man and God are so separate in respect to holiness. The veil covering the Holy of Holies was to shield man from a radiant and Holy God. The veil was also a barrier to remind man that God was not to be trifled with and so man would not carelessly enter God’s presence. This of course changed with Jesus Christ’s sacrificial offering on our behalf. His sacrificial offering made us co-heirs in Him (Christ).

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

Upon Christ’s death the temple veil was torn in two and was a indicator to the world that through Christ we have direct access to the Holy One of Israel. Jesus has entered it on our behalf.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. ~ Hebrews 6:19-20

Then Jesus ascended to be seated at the right hand of God in heaven. The Holy of Holies was a representation of God’s dwelling place in heaven. It was an example of His place there in Heaven, down here on Earth.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. ~Hebrews 9:24-26

Man is unholy and a sinner and God is holy and it is only God that can help man become holy or sanctified. It took God’s Son dying on the cross to even give us a path back to His holiness. Sadly, I believe this might be lost on many people, even professing Christians. Poor unchristian actions or failure to manifest the the fruits of the Spirit often scream at a high volume. People that truly understand this sacrifice would not continually act the way they do.

There are others that do understand and it is apparent and observable. It is my firm belief that anyone that has a true encounter with the living God cannot walk away unchanged.

April 28, 2010

95%, 99.9% or 100%

I have a trouble reconciling in my mind those that say the Bible is not inerrant. Do you beleive it is inerrant? I have trouble understanding folks that say they are Christian and only apply 50% of the Bible to their lives or believe that the other 50% applies to someone else. I have an even bigger issue with those that believe 95% of the Bible and then try to massage the last 5% and try to bend it or ignore it because it suits their tastes. They brush off Genesis 1 & 2, Revelation or the fact that Christ is the sole mediator to God.

Am I deliberately trying to be devisive by this post? No. I am genuinely confused by what I hear from some people and what I see from them.

Does apostasy enter as full blown shocking change, or does it creep in undetected until it has overcome the church? Does the devil come as a big smelly and scary monster or an angel of light playing a lyre and flutes? Does he come through your enemies or through the people closest to you. Do you think people need help and advice the most when someone close to them is ill and after a tragedy occured or when they just landed the best job of their lives and their oldest kid just got admitted to an Ivy League school?

Subtleties folks, subtleties.

I have problems with folks that say they don't need doctrine or don't need to read the Bible, they just need Jesus. I have one question. Which Jesus? There are denominations that deny His dual nature of completely human/finite and completely divine/infinite. There are others that don't believe in a triune Godhead. Which Jesus? Is He a prophet, king, savior or just a king and prophet? This is core essentials to our faith. Mess these up and you get messed up, bad.

I have trouble understanding people who say they are Christian but forsake gathering together in a church with other believers when they are perfectly able to do so. This one really bothers me because I know a lot of people like this...and they are very close to me. That is like saying you are a fish but you refuse to get in the water and swim.

I feel bad when people need to control themselves and others through man-made rules and regulations in the form of legalism. Once they have implemented the legalism in their own lives, they stand in judgment of others because others haven't done the same as them. What is even sadder is these people don't realize they are apostate too. When you add to what Jesus said or the Bible told us we needed to do, you are not doing what Jesus or the Bible told you to do. That means you are slidding away from the faith. I hate to break it to people this way but...that's apostasy.

I can't figure out how people can say we are not to judge other people, at all...when the Bible clearly warns us of false teachers & false prophets and tells us to be discerning. To hold fast to what is good. How are we to know what is good unless we make judgements about things that are clearly bad? Is it that those people don't want to judge or are they just afraid of offending someones sinful sensibilities? Or perhaps they are just afraid to say anything? They just want to be liked.

What is the difference between disobeying everything in the Bible or just disobeying one thing? Nothing. There is no difference. We believe everything...except one thing? That's okay, right. One little disagreement with the Bible or God is okay, right? WRONG. What plunged the entire universe into chaos, a billion nuclear bombs? A billion unjust deaths? Murder? Rape? Incest? No to all of these. It was the disobedience of one command from God. Biting into a piece of fruit. Fruit that was forbidden to be eaten.

Do we obey God when we feel like it is best for us or do we obey because God knows what is best for us? Do we obey most of the time or sometimes. Do we obey 75%, 99% or 100% of God's statutes, commands and precepts? If we don't accept Jesus 100% and have a legitimate relationship with him but still obey 99.9% of God's commands are we still saved? Are you willing to take that risk to see if you're wrong? If we accept Christ and don't obey commands are we really saved? Do you know what your future looks like? Do you know where you are spending eternity?

You should know the answers to these questions, not just your pastor. And if you need to ask your pastor what he thinks you may be in more trouble than you realize. Most of these questions should be easy questions for people of faith to answer. If they are hard for you then you need to sharpen your pencil and do some homework. Your eternal future and where you spend it depends on how you answer.

War of Ideas

Folks want to know why I am so particular with my words. When I write and when I speak. Yes, I speak nearly the same as I write. I like painting pictures through wordage. It keeps life interesting and I believe it is one of the gifts I was given by Christ to help build up and edify the body/church.

Words written/spoken are symbols/sounds that represent ideas. We as Christians are in a war with the world to define and shape the culture we live in. The Bible doesn't say that "have" to live in a worldly culture it just said that we were not to conform to it. As a matter of fact the Bible didn't say that we weren't allowed to try and shape the culture either. In an effort to try and spread the Kingdom we are encourage to do exactly that: Shape the culture.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Trust me, the other side is doing this same exact thing and they're doing it well. Their ability to do it doesn't come from a Godly origin either. It is from a nefarious source and its intent is not for the long-term good or well-being of society (or you). It is for its eventual destruction.

We need to acknowledge in the church that not only do we want to reach the world with the message or Christ and the Bible, we want to change it with the this message too. How are we to change it and with what tool? Words or more specifically, The Word. Writing and verbalization of it either through speaking or more powerfully, in worship.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

Our faith and our world is our Word (at least it should be). That to be a Christian is to create our own culture within a culture or to affect the culture with ours. We are never to become the culture, we are only to engage it but by engaging we are hoping in faith that the Lord will use the Word that we speak to change those who hear it to make the world more like Him.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.~Romans 12:2

To be Christian is to be included into a culture or as the Bible puts it citizenship. A culture or citizenship of heaven.

One reason there are often distinctions drawn and dividers put up between denominations is that there is an internal struggle within the body to answer a certain question. It is the same struggle that takes place between the Church and the world. The question? Who gets to name the world? How you identify things is how they are seen. Is abortion choice...or is it murder? Is a government handout free or does it enslave? Evolution or Creationism? Alternative lifestyle or perversion? Freedom or choice or sinful?

A word in the worlds culture and The Word in Christian culture helps form beliefs, beliefs form practice, through these actions we demarcate ourselves as Christians from the world (James 2:14-18). I is also how the world sees us. We know that it is the work of the Lord in us.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." ~Romans 10:17

"and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain." ~1 Corinthians 15:2

"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." ~1 Thessalonians 2:13

"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." ~John 17:14

So why am I beating up the idea of words and culture? Words become ideas, ideas become actions. These actions if they are ungodly infiltrate culture and culture often begins to infiltrate our churches. They are flooding our courts and changing our laws one word at a time until the laws no longer resemble laws. They are ransacking our lives and are becoming staples in our vernacular & vocabulary. Please not the definitions abortion and murder.

Please note the distinction that murder is unlawful killing of a person. Why do you suppose the pro-abortion advocates are so torqued about getting unborn children considered "not human", "not people" or call them pregnancy tissue or some other ridiculous nonsense. Conversely, please note that nowhere in the definition of an abortion is there any mention of legality. Additionally, the word murder or taking of defenseless life is clinically referred to as "termination". Hmmmm...Arnie was the Terminator in his original 80's movie. What was his characters sole purpose as the Terminator? To kill. Terminate. End lives.
"Sarah Conner?"

We need to at least stop the infiltration of the churches...infiltration of the body. Do we stop it at the door of the church on Sunday so other congregants won't see or do we stop it at the point where it tries to enter our minds where only God can see it entering? These words and ideas are a disease that once they infect the mind, they spread. We must stop them from entering and if we can't we must try and take them captive.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The world's words are building up fortresses in our minds like squatters illegally setting up houses on stolen land (no offense to the poor and disenfranchised). These word-ideas-actions must be evicted and sent away before they get too powerful and take over other areas of our mind like our opinions on other things. Before you know it you have an entire village of debased and corrupt squatters setting up shop in your cranium.

Words and terminologies are critical in or culture. Whether or not we get to practice our beliefs or are marginalized and persecuted in this world depends on usage of words. It depends on how well we can state our case. More specifically, how well we allow the Lord to articulate through us by keeping our relationship as close to Him as possible. The further we stand from the creator of truth, knowledge and words the more confused the meanings of words become. From the other side bad ideas are often passed on by purposeful omission of words, failure to tell the entire truth or confusing the truth so badly that no one knows for sure what truth is. That is a major difference between Christians and the world. Christians believe in absolute truth claims because we have The Truth. The world on the other hand doesn't believe in an absolute truth claims because they don't have The Truth. If they did agree to aboslute truth claims they could potentially be told they are wrong also and that's a no-no in their postmodern society.

The world in a temporary materialistic sense (not eternal or in reality) belongs to those who name it. So when people debate or discuss what terms to use for certain events that take place what we are really doing is trying to convince others to view the world through a particular lens. Are we going to view the world through God's lens or through Sin Goggles? How or if we able to convince others of God's point of view dictates whether or not an already fallen world culture gains the upper hand of the discussion or we do. If the world culture controls the terminologies it will inevitably continue to descend into reprobation. If the Christian's right to define the terms succeeds it can possibly bring a semblance of order back to a disobedient world if we continue draw on the Lord.

Words convinced Eve to bite the fruit that crashed man's system. The devil convinced Eve to question God's word. Eve's words convinced Adam to disobey also. The words, "Did God really say...?" threw the entire universe into disarray that has lasted until this day.

If the world culture continues to dominate the terms in-utero murder will still be a "choice", deviance and perverted lifestyles will still be "alternative" and Christians will remain "haters". Because the world's arguments are often not under girded by facts but rather emotions and opinions their arguments often fail right out of the box. The world will then resort to ad hominem attacks, appeals to fear, generalities, straw man arguments, oversimplifications, demonizing Christians as Neanderthals or uneducated idiots or just outright deception. We as Christians need to be ready to deal with this, diffuse it and provide a rational and sane rebuttal in the face of this adversity.

It is a war out there and it starts with words being launched over the wall and embedded into the fertile ground of the human mind like poisonous darts. We must be prepared to either block these words/darts or deflect them by correctly defining them and making them harmless.

April 26, 2010

The Naked Young Man At Gethsemane

"...And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. ~Mark 14:51-52

Although I always found this passage quirky and the mental imagery initially caused a reflexive amusement, it deals with the seriousness of salvation that transcends time and the things that led up to the Crucifixion. This incident would've actually been rather humorous in just about any other context but because it portended the most horrific miscarriage of justice in history the imagery this conjures up must be tempered with thoughts of solemnity. So...why is this item, that appears to be almost an aside, placed directly in the middle of Jesus' arrest?

I pondered this for a couple of days before typing. It is almost quixotic in its usage and placement in this passage. As if it was put in this passage just to add a note of impulsiveness. But as we know from reading the rest of the Bible, nothing is an accident in God's world nor is it impulsive. Everything has its reason and is part of God's plan. I will do my best to deliver my point of view on this derived from the evidence(s). You are free to disagree.

We are never told who this young man is. Probably because the personal identity is irrelevant. It is his associated identity that is important. He was associated to Jesus Christ at the time of his arrest. He was the same as all the others that had followed Jesus in that they either betrayed, denied or deserted by Him. Judas, Peter, and a meagerly clad and eventually naked man in the garden. The "unidentified naked man" or "UNM" as I will officially dub him from this point forward is interesting in that, well, he had no clothes and was nearly caught. If it wasn't for fancy footwork and a little physical dexterity with his minimal apparel, he would've been nabbed by the authorities.

What was it that made this unnamed man "hotfoot" it into the darkness of the night? What caused him to flee into the dark shadows of the garden at Gethsemane? Fear. The Way, The Truth and The Life had been apprehended and was being arrested by the world and it made no sense to any of them. It defied all their understandings of who and what they thought Jesus was and what He was here to do on Earth. So much so that Peter denied Jesus because he was scared and caught completely off-guard. It is clear from "UNM's" wardrobe that he was not expecting to be accosted or assailed either and reponded accordingly by sprinting into the darkness unclothed.

Sadly, this mindset was in all the followers of Jesus at this point even after the fact that Jesus had just told them and explained to them what was going to happened. Peter's denial was told to Peter, Jesus predicted Judas' betrayal in front of Judas, and Jesus foretold his own persecution and death. They didn't or couldn't accept what The Truth said was the truth. They either doubted or were incapable of comprehending it. Even after the Crucifixion and Resurrection had taken place. Even after all the prophecies had been fulfilled, the prophecies they had learned as believer's of the Old Testament. They still didn't understand it. And it caught them totally flat-footed and it blindsided them.

Do you really suppose "UNM" wanted to be immortalized in the Bible as the "naked guy" sprinting through Gethsemane? To be perpetuated though history as "that guy" who was caught so unprepared that he fled without his attire? Somehow I don't think that's the case. I don't believe this is the way he would've liked to have been remembered. Like other examples of Jesus' contemporaries and followers we see an image in our minds of humanness to the point of being commonplace. The only thing unique and fantastic about them is their association with God incarnate, Jesus Christ. We see "UNM" with all his foibles and faults or as I've heard others say about the Apostles, warts and all.

This event reads like an eyewitness account in the Gospel of Mark. I would guess John Mark knew of this firsthand or had it reiterated to him by a first party to the incident. Why report an incident like this in a two verse blurb otherwise. A two verse inclusion right in the middle of the story of Jesus' arrest? Additionally, the inclusion tells us that "UNM" escaped by the "skin of his teeth".

What else stands out in this context? Jesus does. Specifically His foretelling of these events beforehand. The other startling attribute of our Savior is His unflappability. He exudes an unshakable composure as the world disintegrates around Him. He doesn't run. As a matter of fact, by his demeanor He controls the anxiety and disruption leading to His apprehension (Peter, Malchus healed). By His outward behavior He controls the "tone" of His own arrest. He is the measure of resoluteness and the image of calm during the entire unfolding of events. This is in stark contrast to the scatterbrain behavior and disarray all around Him. His presence even holds sway over His captors.

"Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." ~John 18:4-9

Alone Jesus is left to face His enemies just like he would bear the weight of the world's sin...alone.

What do we learn from this?

We need to trust in the Lord and what He says is true. What the Lord lays on our hearts is to be taken deeply to heart, reviewed and understood to the best of our ability. If we ignore the Lord or His commandments or statutes we do so at our own peril. We are then left to our own devices to try and extract ourselves from what is often a dilemma of our own making. Some of these "devices" to extract ourselves are dubious to say the least. We can all attest to this fact by using some of our own failed attempts to do the right thing and failing miserably. Best intentions, atrocious results. When man relies on his own devices we will never get the optimal results we would've gotten had we obeyed God. Inevitably, the means of escape and the path we need to take may get quite embarrassing as was the case of the "UNM". In the case of Peter, it dealt a nearly catastrophic blow to his psyche and in the case of Judas, it was deadly.

Turning our backs on Jesus will lead to chaos and disarray. The light he gives us for our lives illuminates our path and keeps us on a steady keel. When we walk away from this light (His truth) we head towards darkness, tripping and groping. In the case of our ungarmented example he most likely did all of this bereft of clothing. Forced to stumble around in the darkness with no protection from the elements.

And now...a Souljournaler Disclaimer

I've been asked a few times why my posts are too long. I've also have been asked a few times why they are too short.

I type these for the edification of believers and non-believers alike. Believers are not always going to want to continue to read over what they already know just as non-believers are going to have problems with doctrines of sanctification, justification, predestination, etc. I mix it up. I try to work with as many people as I think I can reach with the Lord's message. It is a method the Lord has laid on my heart to spread the Good News. If messages seem a little bit redundant it is because I am trying to reach those new in the faith and build them up enough to understand important doctrine or more complex ideas that don't surface through one or two sittings with the Bible. These are the readings and understandings that require one to read the entire Bible an begin to tie the Bible together at a 30,000ft level before explaining the individual ideas (i.e.: covenants, long-term faithfulness, centrality of Christ, etc)

I also realize that people do not have a ton of time during the week to be reading this and I care about glorifying God, spreading Gospel of Christ, reaching the lost and sinners (people like me) of the world. For all intensive purposes, when I reach out to believers on this blog I am reaching to congregants of distant bodies (Australia, Asia, Africa). IF these people are not part of flesh and blood ministries and churches, they should be because the Lord charged us with physically meeting and fellowship with other believers.

"...not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrew 10:25

I attend my own church Northpointe Community Church in Limerick PA but at the same time I try to apply the second part of this verse in this blog "encouraging one another" and I also revisit and try to apply the previous two verses (and the whole Bible) daily...

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works..." ~Hebrews 10:23-24

I am solely attempting to bolster and build up the people that read this blog in the interim between their visits to their local "family". If people are relying solely on my blog for their fellowship and education of the Bible they need to rethink their modus operandi as noted in (Heb 10:25). People should meet people, not pound keys and put fingerprints on plastic TFT liquid display screens.

Conversely, although I always try to keep these posts under 2000 words, sometimes the topic and idea run long and I will not abbreviate explanations of what I believe the Lords word is telling me or cut an idea short that I think is important to expound on. Additionally, I go through great pains to assure what I put in print is absolutely accurate in terms of interpretation and historical, cultural, and other contexts. Obviously my application or how I describe it in today's terms with today's examples is sometimes a little goofy and unorthodox but I do it in a way to assure getting my point across.

If I believe something is errant that I have written I will not post it. If you think something is errant and I have posted it please respectfully inform me and we will discuss the issue. I am not the end all that is all, the Lord is. I am solely a messenger of his mercy and grace and because of this...I do make mistakes. If you flame me or publicly flog me I will ignore you solely based in principle. I am a peacemaker or at least I am trying to be. I can take the heckling but if you are being non-biblical in your behavior I will not honor the solicitation.

Other Scripture References:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. ~Matthew 5:19

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3:18

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

April 25, 2010

Pondering God X: Shipshape or Shipwrecked

Yes, this is another nautically themed post and it borrows a little from my "Welcome To Reverse World" post. I like the seas.

In the end, all we know and all we do only means something of importance if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ. You can have head knowledge of the savior and still not be saved. Book smarts do not get you through to stand face to face with our precious redeemer. Spiritually discerned things can have their beginnings in head knowledge but that knowledge needs to trickle down from our heads in a distilling process until it reaches our heart. When it does reach the heart it is pure knowledge of the Most Holy and the gift that is freely given. Salvation is not something that is dangled like a carrot that forces us, like the horse to walk forward or work for it to attain it. It is a gift freely given by a righteous and ultimately just God in His mercy and grace. A true product and manifestation of us having accepted this gift are outward signs of a conversion from our old sinful selves into a new creation in Christ. When we do sin (which we will) it will haunt us and convict us because of the spirit that is in us. The Spirit will convict us to live more holy lives.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. ~1 John 3:8-10

We are in God’s grace the best when we are like Christ. We can be most like Him when we are holy and righteous. We can know that we are righteous and new creations by faith through grace when we show manifestations of it through the fruits of the Spirit or the “works” mentioned by James:

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. ~James 2:8

If we truly have the mind of Christ we reflect a behavior similar to the Kenosis in Philippians:

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. ~Philippians 2:5:11

We become servant leaders or more specifically servant of the servants of God or as Gregory the Great said, “Servus servorum Dei". At the table of the Lord the servants at the table are the Body of Christ itself. Jesus was the perfect example of this when he washed the disciple's feet and offered up His life as propitiation.

The idea of this post has taken the path of a servant leader serving the Body or the Church, which is basically God’s work here on earth for the Kingdom. I need to mention one more verse and comment on it and it is borrowed from a post on my blog "Welcome To Reverse World". In reference to an apostle-apostleship or disciple-discipleship of Christ, Paul says:

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants [Greek: huperetes] of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." ~1 Corinthians 4:1-2

The Greek word "huperetes" was the particular type of slave that was chained or tied to others in a ships galley (Willimon). It is no irony that there is a parallel between the connected nature of these slaves and the Christian tied together in Christ to other Christians...in a common bond like brothers and sisters. All of the “huperetes” rowing in the same direction as directed by the new Divine Holy Captain steering the vessel and everything in it heavenward towards it’s originally intended destination. I say new Captain because the ship was originally mutinous and under command of a flawed and sinful crew all individually controlled by a sinful nature. Since coming aboard the New Captain has forced sinful natures to walk the plank and is working the crew into shipshape capable of reaching the distant shore of Heaven. Thank God we have all been “keelhauled” by the Lord. I for one am glad that I remain at “close quarters” to Him rather being between the Devil and the deep blue sea. ;)

April 24, 2010

God Haters: Darkened Hearts & Reprobate Minds

I can already hear the accusations of "paranoid Bible-thumper", "intolerance" and "ignorant" and maybe even "hater" for the views expounded here but I digress. If I do need to go into explanations about meanings based on original languages I will but I prefer not to because those that don't believe or those that view the Bible as an ancient irrelevant outdated book or piece of fiction, my explanations will fall on deaf ears and are pointless. Besides, its not like I take some twisted pleasure in writing about an inevitible collapse and doom if people don't find their way to Christ. I am compelled to do so because of what I see around me in society.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. ~1 Corinthians 1:18-21

We are starting to see America going into a self-induced exile from God's divine grace. If man continues in his sinful ways God will give him over to their warped pursuits. Similar to Israel into Babylonian exile, although I do not hold America in anyway comparable to Israel of the Bible in terms of us being "chosen people". God's chosen are those that accept Christ. The punishment comparison I do hold in parallel. I do not see people rejoicing in this country and prospering en masse. I see a small collective of aristocratic elites prospering by treading on the backs of the poor.

You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times,
for the times are evil. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. ~Amos 5:11-14

I see leaders doing what they want to do not doing what they are asked. I see lamentation of large portions of the country lamenting what we are compared to what we were. I see this as being painfully reminiscent of Jeremiah's time.

I see a country that was (generally) obedient to God's Word. Perfect? No. But definitely a lot more obedient than we are now. We are no longer obedient. Not by any measure or stretch of the imagination. We are actually overtly disobedient. There are still many outcroppings and hearths of Christians and Christian behavior but by and large the majority of Americans have turned their backs on God or are apostatizing.

No one wants to hear it (like Jeremiah & Isaiah), they only want to point fingers to the other side. In some cases absolute ignorance of the problem and denial of it is often the tact many take. When all of the birds come home to roost these people will have a hard time adjusting. Sadly, no matter which side points in which direction, fingers still point at Americans. Some are more or less American than others but American none the less. We stand at a cultural divide and instead of trying to get ourselves back to a point of holiness we are being given over to a reprobate mind. This "giving over" is increasing in speed. I believe our fiscal undermining is a direct reflection of our obedience or lack of it. We need only go back to Deuteronomy 28:1-68 to begin to see the Law as it was issued to Israel and see the striking parallels between Ancient Israel and America. It was the blessings for obedience and disobedience. These laws were not just given to Israel, they were given to us too in the holistic picture.

Curses for Disobedience...

...if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies...you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth....The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you. You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and ravish her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. ~Deuteronmy 28:15-31

These judgments continue on for another 30+ until verse 68, but you get the picture.

For those that are unsure, Jesus Christ abrogated or fulfilled satisfactorily the ceremonial law (the system of sacrifices, etc). The other laws and commandments about obeying and conforming to items that help us maintain a moral rectitude...they still apply. Examples of these regulations and moral rectitude? The Ten Commandments, things concerning sexual impurity in all forms, wickedness, righteousness, obeying authority, etc. Failure to obey these non-ceremonial commands constitutes disobedience. Actually, failing to obey the ceremonial ones fulfilled in Christ, by accepting Christ is disobedience also. America is not only ignoring most of these laws it is openly "flipping off" God via their behaviors. We have industrialized the slaughter of the unborn and "health" care policies being implemented will use pooled public tax money to pay for it. Rampant sexual immorality in every shape and form. Society basically condones the behavior and it is paraded around on television, print, Internet, etc. Instead of trying to rein it in and control ourselves we glorify and promote decadent and immoral behavior. Things that would've been considered abhorrent and completely unacceptable in the public forum a few decades ago are now openly shown and flaunted and discussed publicly. In some cases it is done right in front of our children. It has become so acceptable that peoples consciences and standards of what is acceptable are becoming seared like a burnt hand to the point of deadening the nerves and twisted so badly that we cannot even tell what normal once looked like. We returned to the decadence of Rome and have now trumped it.

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. ~Romans 1:21-32

Normally I exegete or do exposition on text like this but this one is self-explanatory.

So what do we do? I figure a good place to start is to...

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ~Deuteronomy 6:5

"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

Amos also gives us the answer if we revisit the verses already stated. It says, "Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you...". How do we seek God? Through Jesus Christ, The Bible and prayer. What are you to do with Jesus and the Bible? Obey and love. How do you know you love God?

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." ~John 14:15

Its pretty simple if you actually read the Bible. Applying it is the problem because of man's sinful nature. The farther we turn from God the more we fall away and are separated from Him. The more separated we are from God the more apparent the sin and decadence is in our lives. If what I see in the media is any indicator of the moral state of the American culture, we're in deep trouble

April 23, 2010

Speaking About The New World

As a Christian we are a new creation. If we are also commanded to bring others forth to the Kingdom we are really being called to help further create what the Lord initiated by His coming and which He will complete in His second coming. We are to lead people to a new world in the image of Christ. If we don't continue to move towards this new world and encourage and exhort others to do the same they and we will remain as artifacts in the old. We can be a new creation but still retain much of the former outward shape. So much so that often times people can barely notice a difference. We must train ourselves like and athlete trains for running the race of endurance exposed to the elements. Intentions and motives behind actions and the actions themselves mean everything in our belief system.

Although we are charged with spreading the Word to the world, as John Piper said, we are not professionals. It isn't so much because we have some form of amazing human education unavailable to others but rather we have a transendant accepted doctrine that we need to confess to others through our words and our actions. Words that change lives internally and exxternally. We have yoked ourselves to Truth in the form of Christ Jesus. We are to live in this world/kingdom that is now started and was created when Jesus was born and inevitably gave death a great big handful of NOTHING.

Unlike the intrepid travelers of old we have a description of what lies beyond the horizon and instructions on how to get to it. We have had our King go before us to trace the path for us. He the first of many. He paid the dues for our passage and has already planned the accommodations for our arrival in the new world; the Kingdom. Although we have never seen it we trust by faith that it is as He has stated because He is infinitely trustworthy.

Unfortunately, on our way their if we do not stay on the path that He has traced we may go astray. If we wander we will make ourselves susceptible to fiends and wickedness in the form of continued sin or evils that dwell in the shadows waiting for us to lose our way and wander off the path paved in stone and sprinkled with blood.

We also need to allow the Lord to use us to create this new world here now. The Kingdom on Earth. The "Already" portion of the "Already but Not Yet" Kingdom ushered in by Jesus Christs first coming. If you do not allow the Lord to use you to create this new world you'll probably be utilized to maintenance the old. Of course being used by God is infinitely more appealing than any work for the devil.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. ~Psalm 84:10

...but we can be so much more if only we empty ourselves and allow the Lord free reign in us.

Our evangelizing to the world and the believer isn't to enable people to adapt and adjust to difficult or decadent world, it is to help them help themselves. By explaining to them that they need to let God move them to the new world and new life promised in our salvation and new nature. We must stay the course and not be tossed to and fro in the storm.

Where possible we should steer around storms that look like they could sink us and try to find safe harvor in God. Where these storms are unavoidable we must pray and cling tenaciously to the Lord, batten-down the hatches and reinforce the bulkheads. The storm will eventually pass and we will eventually reach the far shore.

April 22, 2010

The World's Lifestyle is a Deathstyle

Any lifestyle that does not have Christ at the center or lead to Christ is a deathstyle.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~John 14:6

The more we sin the more we die. The atoning act of Christ justifies us. This get us back to the "0" line. Sanctification moves us into the positive side of the line.

Death/Sin (-10 . . . . 0 . * . . +10) Life/Holy

Increment by increment we move closer to holiness in our relationship with Jesus. Please notice I said relationship. It is a love of person/God not a religion. In our Christian walk we should be moving closer and closer to Christ in action and deed. It is not the deeds that save us they are only manifestations of the Spirit at work in us. Removal of God from our lives allows death in. Allowing sin in kills us because sin is worthy of death.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~Romans 6:23

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

It is rather simple to deduce from the readings. If it isn't life, the eternal life promised us for our faith through grace, it is then death. The death that condemns us to eternal separation from a holy & magnificent mighty God. Putting it into practice everyday is another story. When we call on God to assist us in this pursuit of life it should remain easy...but we don't always do that do we? No. We cave in to the flesh. The fleshy nature of our fallen being wants to take charge and we stumble.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

Man is dead in sin (spiritual) but when he approaches Jesus on the cross and accepts what Christ did man becomes dead to sin. For no man continues to sin habitually/willingly after being saved because he has Christ in him. We can best avoid our "slip-ups" by staying in constant relation with the Lord.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world... ~Ephesians 2:1-2

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in Him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. ~1 John 3:9

Like the analogy of a seed. His seed (God's) germinates in us, grows and like the seed in nature it pushes outward forcing everything else out that is in you (corruption, unrighteousness) until there is nothing but what the seed produced (holiness, righeousness). If the seed was Jesus than only Jesus will be in you if you allow it to grow to full fruition. You will also produce fruit. Fruit that a plant produces is actually an overabundance of life in the plant or self. Fruit also carries within itself the mechanism to produce more life also.

God/Christ = Holy Path
No God/antichrist = Worldly Path
Holy Path & Righteousness = Life
Worldly Path & Unrighteousness = Death
Holy Life = Lifestyle
Worldly Life = Deathstyle
Christ's Death gives life
World's Life gives death

Supposing we do finally accept what Jesus did for us, this still isn't the end of the story...

Christians will all stand before judgment by Christ and give an account of what we did in the body/flesh after being justified and receiving salvation. Our works will be tested with fire, which means tested according to God’s righteous standards and what remains, if anything, will be our rewards. 1 Corinthians 3 makes this abundantly clear.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

The foundation we build on is Jesus; (v. 11) and what we build on this foundation will be gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble. (v. 12) The wood, hay and stubble (done in the flesh) will be burned up with fire. (v.13) Gold, silver and precious stone (things in the spirit) will withstand the judgment of fire because these will be the things done in the spirit with the right motive. Some may have nothing but wood, hay or stubble, and will have no rewards other than their salvation.

The true and real danger lies in-wait when we begin to adapt to the surrounding deathculture instead of just trying to engage it. We begin to allow the world's deathstyle to infiltrate our churches and fellowships. We are warned throughout the Bible either by analogy/metaphor or direct statements that we are to be on guard against getting sucked into this mindset. Toning down the impact of the gospel to appeal to non-believers is dangerous. To not preach and speak what is in the Bible is well...not biblical. Preaching a Bible emptied of miracles and supernatural events because it insults people's scientific "sensibilities" is foolishness. Starting the Bible at Genesis 12 and ignoring the stories of creation, the flood and the tower of Babel because it sounds too far fetched undermines the entire unity and cohesion of the Bible. We need to know what we believe and why because the world will challenge us...on our own ground. Stand firm.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. ~1 Corinthians 16:13

April 19, 2010

Be Strong In The Lord

Paul knew his days were numbered here. He wrote these passages to encourage Timothy to stay in the faith and walk the line. To stay strong in the face of grinding adversity and doom. Paul's death was eminent and he prepared his brothers for his inevitable demise. I can't help but think that these words were also cathartic for him also.

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it (AB)eternal glory." ~2 Timothy 2:1-10

Four things are mentioned here that stand out in distinct contrast to the other wordage in this unit of Scripture. Four distinctly painted pictures of perseverance and purpose.

There will be suffering and a need to endure certain things in this life. We were never promised a pleasant journey only a pleasant destination. We were not promised a rose garden only the seeds to spread in the field so that they too can bear fruit and flower. Regardless of this suffering and need to endure, Timothy (by proxy us) is exhorted by Paul to persevere through these hardships. He illustrates this in three distinct analogies.

The noble & obedient soldier. A soldier does not shrink back from his duty. We as believers need to be willing to suffer hardship or persecution. A military man currently engaged in military duty does not get involved with civilian aspects of life. The same is true of the believer doing the work of the Lord or work for the Kingdom, they should not get involved directly with the worldly aspects of the world. We engage the world we do not become it. By doing his military duty the soldier pleases their commanding officer, in the case of the believer it refers to a divine commanding officer: Jesus Christ. If the soldier fails to complete his duty to his fullest capacity he is letting down his fellow soldiers and this is a violation of soldierly etiquette. So not only is the soldier obliged to his commanding officer that enlisted him but also to his brothers/sisters in arms or in spirit.

The resolute striving of an athlete to compete to win and to win within the guidelines of the event they are competing in. Rules must be obeyed to stay within the guidelines to win. If an athlete does not stay within the guidelines he disqualifies himself from winning the wreath or the prize. For the believer we are to teach the truth, exercise discipline and do this in love or he does not gain the wreath of righteousness.

The exertion and labor of a farmer. A believer must toil and suffer for what is right. He cannot be slothful and a bum. When a farmer works his field he is usually the first to reap the reward and yield from the fields for his efforts. Paul is telling Timothy that if he labors hard for the Lord in his God endowed spiritual work with his spiritual gifts the first person to be reward will be Timothy. His spiritual aspects will be bolstered, faith, hope, love. It will act as a bellow to feed the flame of his spirit or act to ripen the fruits of the spirit. Nothing compares to the character that is built in suffering and toiling. Bend over in the heat of summer hoeing the fields. If he doesn't weed a little the weeds will overtake his crops. A pastor or one committed to service of the body does not work on the clock. Their job is 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is no down time once the seeds are planted. Farmers need to be patient. There efforts will not produce a yield immediately. It takes time for fruit of crops to grow. As the farmers fruit grows to maturity those crops will in turn produce seed for the next planting and subsequent harvest.

Submit our will to the Lord. Obey and perform our duty as if our life and other's lives depended on it (because it does). Work within the guidelines and strive with all of our might to win the race in a fashion fitting for one who has trained to finish strong. Finally, put our shoulders into our work and lean into our efforts. Be thankful that we are even allowed to break a sweat on our brow to glorify the Lord with our efforts. There is no greater endeavour. To labor for the Lord with all perseverance, determination in acts of love to win souls to the body of the church. In the end we will hear Jesus reward us for our perseverance. "Well done, my good and faithful servant"

In the end, according to the measure of the world, Paul is a loser. In the end, according to the measure of God, Paul is a winner. The only judgment that matters is God's. The world's opinion means nothing. The victory and wreath is his to claim when crosses the finish line.

Regardless of what you have been told, this life isn't going to be easy. Whatever you do, do not shrink back from your responsibility to pursue these duties with all human diligence. If you do not then sin and evil begins to get the upper hand. Stay strong in the Lord. Stay the course. Do not forsake the cause of Christ. When the world pushes your back, lean into it with your shoulder, grunt and know that the power of Christ compels you forward towards the the reward. Towards the fruits of the harvest. To victory.

April 16, 2010

God Is Faithful, Man Is Not

In the Old Testament, man/Israel has an immature relationship with God because man/Israel needs to grow in God. In the New Testament the relationship with God matures in Christ. It changes on man's side not God's because He is unchanging. He is always faithful to His covenants. Israel and man in general has not. Like children they and we learn and grow to eventually think like our fathers, like the Father. We mature In Christ. God separated Israel and Christians to be His people. A city on a hill. He chastens them and rebukes them as necessary to keep them pure. Our pain sometimes purifies us and suffering builds character...

"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." ~Hebrews 12:4-6

He keeps us separate to try to make us holy in a fallen world. He keeps us separate so we can proclaim and explain God and the events around the cross to the rest of the world.

The whole purpose of the Old Testament law to show man's need of forgiveness and failure to conform to God's statutes and commandments. Man is constitutionally unable to do so. The New Testament through Christ fulfills the Law in a single act. All that man was required to do is accept this fact. The fact that there is an utter and absolute inability within ourselves to become holy and righteousness on our own. If we accept this we can have it all, happiness and eternal life. Nothing man does can gain him salvation other than accept what Christ has already done. Salvation is a gift.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." ~John 1:12-13

"...nor the will of man, but of God". There is nothing man can do to save himself. We are not saved by our own righteousness but by Christ's. It isn't about being a good person per se it is about accepting the only acceptable atonement for our sin. Sometimes I feel that people including believers just don't understand how horrible their sin is and how repulsive it is to a holy God. This is because of how far most humans are from being truly holy.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~Romans 10:3-4

As a matter of fact man doesn't even have the natural will to want to save himself. This is man's natural inclination.

"...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

No worries though. God knew we were hopeless and offered us a chance and a gift in His Son Jesus Christ.

"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ~1 Corinthians 1:9

Welcome To Reverse World: Part II

To fully understand the cross we need to understand the reversal that took place. Jesus, God incarnate, humbles Himself and makes Himself of no accord or notoriety, humble to the point of crucifixion on a wooden cross. Not just any death sentence but one of the most torturous, excruciating and humiliating known then or now. Jesus did not only suffer for us, He suffered with us. He knows what it was like to be tempted and tried through life. He knows what it was like to have His back under a flagrum or Roman scourging whip and to pay innocently for another's guilt with His life. The cross when understood correctly can't possibly be used to encourage the downtrodden to simply accept violence. When Jesus suffers in the scourging, humiliation and crucifixion for us he is honoring God's justice. When he suffered with the human race He is synonymous with the meek and those crushed underfoot by the world.

Life altering love is a trade-off and a juxtaposing. A switching of roles, a reverse. Jesus wins for us eternally by losing what is temporary in this world. We sacrifice our lives to serve God in this life but by doing so we gain life in this world and the next. An eternal triumph through a earthly beating and crucifixion. We gain everything through Christ when He gave everything away. Those who allow themselves to be brought low in serving the Almighty are then lifted and greatly exalted by Him also. When we self-empty we allow for Him to fill us. When we die to self He replaces us.

Of course this is absolute lunacy to the world, they just won't get it. It is our job to try and explain it to them in a gentle manner. To the members of the church Peter says:

"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

Most importantly Jesus said:

"The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12

April 15, 2010

Welcome to Reverse World: Part I

Many are currently living in reverse world. Much of what the Bible teaches and exhorts has been reversed or the world has temporarily tried to turn these ideals on their head. The true way things are suppose to be are outlined in the Bible and Christ was the perfect role model. You as a spiritual leader in the Body or Church are to be a servant of the servants at the King's table [Greek: diakonoi] which the word "service" is derived from. It also is the derivative of a word that essentailly means waiter or butler. No leader or pastor in the Kingdom rises above being a butler or waiter to the Body that sits (like Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 9) at the King's table. A true leader loves those he leads. A true leader serves the needs of the servant or as Gregory the Great wrote: "Servus servorum Dei" Servant of the Servants of God.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." ~John 10:11

At the table of the Lord the servants at the table are the Body of Christ itself. Jesus was the perfect example of this when he washed the disciple's feet. The servant leader serving the Body.

"Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. "But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant [Greek: diakonos]; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave [Greek: doulos] of all. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

These terms of servant and slave are intentional and no accident. We do not build the Kingdom on the backs of the poor and downtrodden. We ARE the poor and downtrodden as servant leaders. The leader is to be a leader, and example, a teacher but he is not to be a king. Servant of the king yea, but a king, nay.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 in reference to an Apostle of Christ, Paul says:

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants [Greek: huperetes] of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

The greek word "huperetes" was the particular type of slave that was chained or tied to others in a ships galley (1). Tt is no irony that there is a parallel between the connected nature of these slaves and the Christian tied together in Christ to other Christians...in a common bond like brothers and sisters.

(1) Willimon, William H.. Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry. New York: Abingdon Press, 2002. Print.

April 14, 2010

God's Wrath & Judgement

You hear it constantly when people refer to a wrathful God, "The God I believe in would never do that". My response from now on will be, "of course he wouldn't because your god that you're describing doesn't exist". God has a unitary being which means He is perfectly loving and is capable of perfect wrath. All things in equal measure indivisible. People that say that God cannot be wrathful and judgemental aren't thinking logically. It is the same as asking someone, "Is God in Hell?" Most would respond with a resounding ,"No!". If this true, it means there is a place God can't be and would negate His omnipresence. This cannot be possible and still be omnipresent.

So the correct answer would be yes. How is this possible? God's anger and wrath are present in Hell. Obviously His mercy and grace would be in short supply there though. When God smiles on you your cup will overflow. When he turns His back on you, you will be an absolute desolation. I need not belabor the point because it would be more beneficial to read what Jesus said about Hell in the Gospels. If what He says doesn't dissuade you from sinful ways no amount of additional revelation or prophets will change your mind either. Jesus knew first hand what He was talking about when He talked about Hell. His judgement and wrath are there. We would be wise to take his words to heart and obey. If not we will reap the reward of a rebellious life. God will give us up to our perverse pursuits eternally. He has too much respect for His own creation to force them to love Him. He gave us all a choice to freely love. When we go to Hell it is because we chose to love our sinfulness more than Him. Sad.

In addition, if we solely view God's wrath alone without a counterpoint we can quickly be overwhelmed and steamroller by His fierce power and anger. Quite frankly it can get intimidating and scary but we must temper the thought of God's anger with His justice and righteousness. He is perfectly just and righteous also. No one will get punished that doesn't deserve it. He has laid out the plan. We need only obey to stay in His awesome unmerited grace.

April 10, 2010

Precious Jerusalem [יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ]

My Human Geography textbook states (based on their research) that cities began to form from settlements (cultural hearths) that were no longer self-contained entities but were individual villages that began forms of trade and became systems of communities over time. When does the text say this started? 4000 B.C. It required the development of non-agricultural surpluses. In other words city dwellers needed to have vocational (work) pursuits that were non-agrarian in origin. Those in these embryonic cities who were not involved in farming specialized in skills such as stone-cutting, metalwork, pottery making, weaving, etc. As these areas continued to develop so did the need for more finely tuned skills including educational, technical vocations such as scribes, merchants, soldiers, priests, etc. Defined power structures reflected in a religious hierarchy and civil administration flourished. Ancient cities were located on elevated plateaus or hilltops that were easy to defend. Nearly always walls were built around entire communities on the perimeter. As cities expanded outer walls would need to be constructed to accommodate the expanding populations because tearing down older walls would've been impractical.

Do you know something? This sounds awfully familiar. I just can’t seem to put my finger on where I heard this before. Oh yeah, now I remember...

"Thus says the Lord GOD, 'This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her." ~Ezekiel 5:5

"and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, "Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite." ~Ezekiel 16:3

As noted in Wikipedia (not the greatest reference but it will do), Jerusalem has a history that goes back to the 4th millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. Israel and the land that Jerusalem is located on originally was in the hands of the Canannites and the Amorites. Canaanite origins begin in the proto-Canaanite period which is dated to, you guessed it, 4000 B.C.

"Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha." ~Genesis 10:15-19

I do find it interesting that this is Genesis 10 and the description of the nations. It is also the precursor of Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel, the confusion of language and dispersion and explosion of nations/states/cities in ancient history...which is well documented in the Bible.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. Genesis 11:1-8

Must be just a coincidence then that the tower of Babel stopped being built and it wasn't until God initiates His idea of what nation is to be that a nation again begins to be built in Genesis 12 and God used Abram/Abraham from the Euphrates River area in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) to do it. A nation that will eventually produce in power God's Holy city Jerusalam. Although its intial population and founding can be dated back to 4000 B.C. Jerusalem didn't begin to be considered a city of significant regional importance until it was conquered by the Israelite King David a millennia later. It is at this point it becomes an important political and significant religious center.

The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. ~Genesis 12:1-2

Obviously this all points inevitably to Christ as the culmination of the linage and the city. It's primary focus centered in Jesus, both genealogy and Jerusalem.

Crossing "T"s and Dotting "I"s...Jots and Tittles

I was watching my son play a word game on the computer while I was studying for school this morning. He was learning about idioms.

I was never that good with rhetorical devices, parts of speech, grammar and the like. I will begin to need to relearn or refresh my abilities in these areas as I move forward in my Theological Studies major in Seminary/School. The study of languages like Greek and Hebrew require it. I find it absolutely amazing that my oldest son Seth will be going through this for the first time in parallel with me. The Lord has seen fit to allow me to work together with my son as a team to learn this stuff again. I couldn't have picked a more important study buddy. My son. We will learn this stuff and will use the Bible as the basis for the learning not some modern revisionist tripe.

Nothing, no matter how simplistic escapes God's attention when it comes to His chosen and His word, even grammar and punctuation. Many including myself use to look at things like grammar and punctuation with disdain. I viewed them as insignificant. I no longer see it this way. I scrutinize everything when I read the Scriptures. Our Lord did not consider anything in the Bible insignificant including the punctuation and denotations and stated as much. In the case of the Bible everything is critical.

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." ~Matthew 5:18

It is important to note one particular instance that will never allow you to look a comma, metaphor, proper noun or conjunction the same way again. The seemingly insignificant parts of a sentence that convey a magnitude of truth infinitely beyond their humble appearance.

Background Knowledge:

The "Jot" is the Hebrew word "Yodh". It is also the smallest letter. It's english equivalent is the letter "Y" as in Yahweh or in Hebrew YHVH since there were no vowel's used in ancient Hebrew. The word "jot" is a transliteration of "iota" which is the 9th letter of the Greek alphabet. "Iota" is the nearest Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "yodh".

The "tittle" is the decorative spur or point on the upper edge of the "yod". If you can imagine a tiny letter with a nearly visible decorative mark. These are also called "cantillation".

The actual name of GOD, "YHWH", is spelled similarly to a form of the Hebrew verb, "to be". Most scholars believe YHWH is related to a root word meaning "to be present" or "to exist" and probably meant either "He creates or causes" or simply "I AM", meaning that God did not depend on anyone or anything for His existence. This comes from Exodus 3:13-14, where Moses asks God what His name is, and God says "I AM WHO I AM."

The difference between verb tenses in a Hebrew is a single spur or point in a Hebrew letter that could designate the difference between a dead and non-divine man claiming to be a god and a omnipresent and eternal God man in the form of Jesus. Jesus referred to Himself as "I AM" in the Gospel of John seven times in the "I AM" statements. In particular He says:

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!" ~John 8:58

He did Not say "I was". He said "I AM" in the present tense. How Jesus said this IS His claim to diety. He uses it as a personal pronoun in present tense. Had this been written in Hebrew (instead of Greek) in the New Testament like it had in the Old Testament the difference between the statement "I AM" and "I was" would have been a single cantillation or tittle.

One of the reasons why not a jot or tittle "will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled". Jesus was very specific. There was no room for error either in His divine statements or his exact fulfilling of prophecy. That little marking or yodh could make that much difference.

We are basically talking about what in the english language looks like an apostrophe with a hook but serves the function of changing tenses. In the case of Jesus' claim of deity it makes all the difference in this world...and the next.

April 8, 2010

Pondering God IX: Pondering God Rightly

I will start right from the get go by saying I could've named this post Pondering God Correctly but the word "rightly" directs us to a specific verse to lead off us off and sets the tone I am looking for.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

We need to be approved and be acceptable to God as His workers. It doing so we are to rightly divide the word of truth. We are to divide "cut straight" [orthotomeo], dissect metaphorically (as is it is used here). Basically we are to carefully perform a task. This is also how we "rightly" understand God because what He wanted humanity to understand about Himself He revealed through His Son and the Bible (word of truth). If we are going to dissect something it should be His word not Him. He is not dissectible. Let me clarify here also, when I say divide I do NOT mean take things apart and use what you want out of context. I mean pull it apart, hash over it until you understand ALL of its true meaning and true intent as it was intended by the auther God working through men. In the case of 2 Timothy it was God working through Paul.

It is human nature in this scientific and modernistic age to try to measure, compartmentalize and dissect God. God does not get measured because He is immeasurable. God cannot be compartmentalized. The idea of a compartment implies measurability and a size that is tangible. God has immeasurable love, mercy, grace, strength, wisdom, patience and the list goes on indefinitely and infinitely because his attributes are limitless. God has these limitless number of attributes and picking Him apart is to no avail because He is spirit and dissecting or picking assumes we could…we cannot even physically see the spiritual unless He allows us to.

We are finite beings trying to quantify the infinite nature. We would need to transcend our limitations and that is not possible. Methodological naturalism does us not good when trying to assembly the pieces of the picture that is God Almighty. How do you pull the Trinity apart if they are one God? If we can’t truly fathom and firmly grasp the nature of the Trinity’s multiplicity of persons being one God what makes us think we could actually pull them apart mentally and figure them out? Our arms are too short to get them around God. It is enough to know that He can get His (anthropomorphism) around us. The Bible only gives God human attributes or humanly knowable characteristics so that humans can understand Him yet he is all of those things described ad infinitum. He is also more than words could ever describe.

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? ~ Numbers 23:19

God measures, quantifies us and gives us our worth. He tells us what we are and gives our intrinsic value. He is the measure of holiness and we are measured up against His holiness…and we are continually found wanting.

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." ~1 Peter 1:15-16

We are allowed to understand God but only through what the Son and the Bible has revealed to us about Him. He revealed to us He chose to reveal to us. He has told us how to think and we need only to maintain a relationship with Him in prayer, meditation and read the Bible because these acts help make us think more rightly. If we don’t think rightly about Him it may not be Him that we are dealing with.

April 7, 2010

Pondering God VIII: God's Omniscience

Knowledge is one of those unique characteristics that isn’t easily verified. We know an intelligent person when we see and hear them. We know knowledgeableness when it is being demonstrated. It is sort of like spirituality. You know it, you can see it and in some cases you can even feel it but it isn’t really tangible. It is a form of observable intangible. Some people are more knowledgeable (and spiritual) and we can gauge it. How? We need to compare it to the benchmark for intelligence and spirituality which is God Himself.

We know Jesus is/was wise and He is God incarnate. Even non-believers acknowledge that He was a wise sage, wise teacher, wise community organizer or wise whatever. It is the divinity thing and the required obedience that comes with the “wise teacher” part that they don’t care for. Not only does God know everything but everything He knows is perfect and perfectly known. He knows all things that have been and will be. He knows what we will do before we do it and He works through our actions to determine the course of things in our lives and other’s lives. So if God knows everything, there is nothing He can learn nor was there ever. This stands in complete contrast to man.

The sad irony in this lies in the fact that man thinks he knows everything. So much so that we feel that we don’t need God. Yet time after time we with our unsurpassed intelligence (sarcasm intended) get ourselves into situations we cannot get ourselves out of. Who do we usually turn to in these times to help us, to save us from ourselves? Who is it that even non-believers call on even when they don’t believe in Him? God knows when we are going to sin before we sin. It is why He sent the law through Moses. It is why He made obedience so important for us. It is so important He associated obedience to love for Him.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” ~John 14:15

He did this because He knows what’s best for us. It may seem like He is trying to be some cosmic killjoy but what He is really doing is preempting our own stupidity that will hurt or condemned us unless we do what He tells us. We don’t need to know everything, we just need to know who does.

In addtion to God's omniscience it is apropos to speak of His wisdom and His ability to bestow it on His faithful. Wisdom for humans is a form of knowledge that is a “step above”. Wisdom is a preferred type of knowledge that takes time for humans to attain (hard earned) but is inherent in God. The reality is wisdom comes from God as noted in 1 Kings

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. ~1 Kings 3:9-12

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. ~1 King 4:29

I believe the closer we come to Godly wisdom the more in-line we are with what God wants for us. There is an entire portion of the Bible dedicated to wisdom: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Solomon. Considering how much significance is given to wisdom and how much space is allotted to it in the Word of God we need to assume it is of supreme importance to God in His relationship with us and for our relationship with Him.
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