June 30, 2010

Examining The Scripture XLIV: The Weakness of The Strongman

I've been asked before which character/personality of the Bible I am most like. For those that know me this choice will seem like a no-brainer because I have lifted weights for the better part of 25 years. Although I've answered differently from time to time. Right now I feel as if Samson is the best fit...and it isn't because of strength and being a big dude but because of his flawed character. I personally don't believe Samson was a big guy anyway. If he was big his feats of strength wouldn't have been that impressive anyway. It would've been a big guy doing what big guys do, lifting and moving big objects. I believe Samson was a normal sized guy (perhaps a little bit muscular) but powered by the Lord. An average Joe, not a Jewish Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno. Besides, I don't care how big you are, nobody carries the gates of Gaza 40 miles to Hebron without the power of God.

Quite frankly no one wants to admit they are often a “really” bad guy but the sad truth is that all people including those in the Bible are bad when viewed by God’s perspective. We has humans want to see ourselves as better than we really are. Often times we attempt in vain, to elevate ourselves while simultaneously trying to bring God down to our level. We try to capture him in a bottle and put Him on our mantle like a sculpture or decorative plates so we can admire Him and tell people He is ours. Many of us are not villainous in our motives but we are still a lot like the flawed characters that populate most of these books I 've exegeted up to this point. Sadly, many of us are quite flawed without realizing we are. I think there are good attributes even in the worst of us but we are all sinful. Having stated that I am mostly comparable to Samson I would like to add that I am not quite as deluded in my denial of my sin.

I believe Samson often thought he was doing things correctly but human sin and foibles trumped common sense and eventually led God to remove his spirit from him. By allowing Delilah to shave his coif. Human weakness allowed the world to creep in sometimes unexpectedly but often in plain view and Samson was powerless to stop it becuase of his sinful nature and failure to stay close to the Lord. His true Godly spirit was manifest prominently at the end of his life in his brokenness as is the case in many people's lives. It takes hitting absolute bottom to realize that we need God. When broken and emptied God can then rebuild us and we are easier to shape in His image. As a student attending seminary in my early to mid 40’s I am also learning late to use the tools granted to me by God by grace to better glorify him. At best my motives in the past were dubious and were not God glorifying. I can now honestly say that I am fulfilling this a little bit better now. Thankfully I won't have to commit to an act that will end up killing me to have some type of redemption, Christ has already done this for me. Well, off to the gym for a workout...

Examining The Scripture XLIII: The Babe, Ruth, Boaz and Naomi

In the very beginning of Ruth in Chapter 1 we find that Naomi is bereft of family. In an attempt to secure some type of husband/food for her daughter–in-law she decides to return to Bethlehem. Ruth being kind returns to Bethlehem with Naomi from Moab.

In today's world in-Laws on both sides could learn a lesson from this. Is the only connecting factor between a son or daughter in law the spouse or is there a deep meaningful extended relationship between the in-laws? In Ruth and Naomi's story the connection through marriage was Mahlon but he had since died. It is evident that there was still a lasting and deep bond between these two women even in the absence of Mahlon. We see a definitive and progressive relationship between the two in the aftermath of his death. This should give pause to married couples to consider their relationships with the parents of their spouse and consider what it means to have a healthy relationship with them.

Ruth ends up in the fields of Boaz gleaning the edge of the fields (eventually with Boaz’s permission). He actually gives her permission/protection to be in his field. He is being very generous, probably more than the law required. Eventually we end up seeing a scenario unfold that is laid out that allows Ruth to be in the right place at the right time when Boaz ends up intoxicated on the Threshingfloor. Because he is her kinsman redeemer, Naomi tells Ruth she has the right to claim him. When he awakes he finds Ruth at his feet. In situations like this people like to talk. She remains till morning the leaves before “one could know another” (too dark to see, not "know" meaning sexual relations). Ironically this wasn’t because she was worried about being accused of sexual immorality it is because they probably didn’t want other kinsman to know and become "competitors".

Ruth and Boaz marry and Ruth gives birth to Obed. Naomi essentially adopts Obed as a foster son. Hence verse Ruth 4:14 “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer”. Boaz had redeemed the family inheritance. As we all know not only was Obed a blessing to Ruth, Boaz and Naomi, he was a blessing to all believers that call Jesus the Son of the One True living God. From this line would come the Savior, Christ.

June 29, 2010

Examining The Scripture XLII: A Morally Debased Nation

To this point, what we have learned of Israel is that it is a really messed up nation. It clearly doesn't see this fact either. Not unlike America today. I'm sure there are a few that realize it but not enough to make an forceful difference at the human level. A totally apostate and backslidden nation. What makes this scenario even more sad is it is God’s chosen people. We painstakingly enter the Chapters of Judges 19-21. All of these chapters center around the Tribe of Benjamin. They were involved in gross immorality that inevitably leads to an Israelite civil war.

Chapter 19:
1. Personal or individual moral bankruptcy.
2. A Levite (priestly lineage marrying a harlot)
3. They travel and end up stopping at Gilbeah a city of Benjamites
4. People of the city demand the man for homosexual gratification
5. His concubine is substituted instead, she's subsequently abused/raped to death
6. The rest of Israel reacts in outrage.

Chapter 20-21:
1. Political anarchy and national moral bankruptcy
2. Benjamites offered chance to turn over offenders, Benjamites instead declare war.
3. The other 11 tribes fought the single Benjamite tribe
4. Stubbornness beyond reason or common sense. We see here a group of people given over to reprobate minds mentioned in Romans 1 here.
5. Benjamites are nearly destroyed. So much so that the other tribes weep at the near eradication of the tribe of Benjamin.
6. So too the backslidden nature of the other tribes is now exposed. There is a failure to consult God on what to do and end up killing Jabesh-gilead people because of failure to participate.
7. All tribes agree that kidnapping woman for the remaining Benjamites is the proper way to get them wives. Say what?!?!

Israel is broken and spiritually destitute as is evidenced by their total and complete failure to acknowledge God in any way shape or form. They rely on their own discernment and motives which lead to complete disaster because their reasoning and discernment is flawed. What a mess they were. Sadly, we think the extreme and sordid details of this narrative are sick and disturbing. We think, “oh, that’s the Old Testament, they were backwards then, we’re more advanced now”. Really? Not according to the news that I read online and in the news. They…are us, only a few thousand years removed. The parallels to modern day are striking and if God poured out His wrath in those situations back then who are we to think that we will escape unscathed. Murdering the unborn in the womb. Legalizing prostitution. Legalizing illicit drugs that profoundly affect peoples judgement and more often than not leads to abuse or neglect of children. God has been removed from our institutions of learning, society, our culture.

As much as our culture wants to believe that we have moved on from old myths and as Nietzsche once claimed, "God is dead", they are just being foolishly arrogant and bold. The longer God holds back His wrath the more people believe that he either won't act or He doesn't even exist. By doing this they are building up even more wrath. A self-perpetuating cycle of disobedience and incurring of pending judgement from the Lord. It is not a matter of if it is a matter of when. We are already seeing the punishment begin in the form of God giving people over to their reprobate minds. If this has already happened, punishment is already upon us. It means God has already given man over to a mind or mindset without absolute truth, without sound reasoning...without Him. The last I checked, true punishment like that described about Hell is when man is seperated from God.

June 28, 2010

Examining The Scripture XLI: In Those (and These) Days...

A phrase shows up towards the end of Judges in three places, in Judges 18:1, 19:1, and 21:25

“In those days, when there was no king in Israel”.

This phrase speaks volumes about Israel’s lack of faith. How the Israelites trusted in themselves and not God. Out of sight out of mind. This is very much like today in America and the world in general. If man cannot figure something out, they have already discounted God or prayer and move on to credulity. Instead of believing in the God of the Bible that has clearly revealed Himself in history most people will now believe in anything besides the God of the Bible.

Judges was the book of “no king” (Wiersbe 170). Neither God as a Divine King or a human as king. Israel was looking for or desiring a king that they could physically see and potentially touch. They had rejected the Lord as the rightful King. They had lost faith. By 1 Samuel 8 the Israelites were practically screaming in unbelief demanding a human king from elderly Samuel “such as all the other nations have”. This is also where it is cleared up for Samuel in terms of understanding the demands of the people by the Lord. It is not Samuel the people reject but rather the Lord Himself. This is why, when God inevitably allowed a human king, that king's benchmark to follow was the Lord himself. As with every human their shortcomings soon become apparent.

The other pertinent statement is in Judges 21:25 “everyone did as he saw fit” which is to say, they were spiritually bankrupt. God was pretty much removed from the picture in terms of spirituality. No God, no Law, no rules. Practically anarchy. These people couldn’t be much more removed from God than they were. They were dead spiritually. Kind of like today.

Wiersbe, Warren. “Looking Back and Looking Around." Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 170. Print.

June 27, 2010

Don't Trust Deceptive Words & False Circumcisions

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord : "Stand at the gate of the Lord's house and there proclaim this message: " 'Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers forever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. ~Jeremiah 7:1-8

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…~Philippians 3:2-3

What are the similarities between these two verses? Some would say there are none. I say that you should look closer. If we look at material and physical things like the temple and the circumcision we are looking in the wrong direction, an insignificant direction. We need to look more closely at the spiritual things that these phrases and bodily signs represent. These verses speak to a person’s heart or about their heart. Jeremiah is telling the people of Israel that God sees right through them. They may believe they are fooling other men by revering the temple and claims to piety but the truth is they are only in the Temple in body, physically and mentally they are miles away.

Jesus too mentions this “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:8

We are no more Christians by baptism than the Jews were by the circumcision. It is not rituals or signs that save it is an accepting knowledge of Christ and the work done on the cross.

What does Paul say earlier in Romans?

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Romans 2:24

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. Romans 2:28

We can also jump back to Jeremiah for a similar statement:

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds." Jeremiah 4:4

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised—Jeremiah 9:25

What is being conveyed here? Man is not saved by outward actions or by his acts or works. It isn’t the baptism or circumcision that saves the person. It is cognizant recognition of Jesus Christ and an ongoing progressive relationship with Him that allows us to grow in Him and be like Him. The works, acts, and the actions are outward manifestations of the internal change as mentioned in James 2.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” James 2:15-18

This isn't so much spiritual hypocrisy as much as it may be a misunderstanding of what God expects from people and what it takes to be saved. I believe this was the case in Jeremiah's time, the time of Christ and today because man's rituals have polluted the intent or original meaning of what true reverent worship and love of God really is. Mans extra ritual and rules piggybacked onto God's requirements. Rituals that were attainable and doable by people as opposed to the Law and requirements from God that actually do man good. Jeremiah even alludes to this with the statement "Do not trust in deceptive words", "do not follow other gods to your own harm" and "you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless". Sometimes people just don't know any better. They just want to do right by God and right by their church because their church has told them that "this is the way it is" and they trusted them. So they go through the motions like reading off of que cards because they were told that this is how they stay "tight" with the "Big Guy". A religion of ritual, works and a unhealthy portion of reprobation. So it was in the time of Jeremiah and Jesus, so it is today in many churches and denominations.

In short, the passages in Philippians. Romans and Jeremiah are calling for an inward change of the heart. The power to affect change comes from God either through nature in the form of miracles or through the Holy Spirit in man, not through the volition of man. Not through things man wills but through things God wills. We are only potter's clay in the hands of the potter. It is about a willingness to obey not chant phrases, show up once a week at church, or pay our dues to keep in the good graces of the Church. We are to tithe out of joy not out of obligation. We need to be creative with our prayer life and approach God in different ways with different intents like joy, happiness, repentance, lament, etc. Not to reiterate the Lord’s Prayer as if it is a ritual but to pray like the Lord did in the Lord’s Prayer. It is okay to say the Lord’s Prayer, just not every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday as a part of a ritual pattern. To me this would then constitute vain repetition. God is clear all throughout the Bible that He wants a close relationship with us. He doesn't require that we say a million Hail Mary's in our lifetimes. Besides, the only intercessor to the Father is Jesus Christ not Mary. He wants us to want Him, not feel obligated out of terror and regret. Fear and awe yes, terror no…unless of course you have died without repentance. It is clear and spelled out in patterns all over the Bible, obey him and he will act on your behalf in His own time as He sees fit so that it will benefit your eternal salvation. This pattern is no more evident than it is in Deuteronomy 28: Blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience.

Examining The Scripture XL: Gideon: From Squirrelly Man to Godly Warrior

I have chosen to list the fears and successes of Gideon no matter how trivial they seem to me and regardless of who they are attributed to. I have found the the things that appear minuscule or insignificant to me are to God, major things spiritually that I have overlooked. I have placed them in chronological order on purpose. You will see and understand why later.

Israel was under the fear and oppression of the Midianites. They terrorized the Israelites and ruined their food for the year by destroy crops planted and killed their livestock. They were so distraught they cried out and pleaded with God to save/help them and God sent them a prophet even though they had worshiped the gods of the Amorites and disobeyed God.

• Fear/Doubt: The angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." (Judges 6:12) Gideons response: "But sir,if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." (Judges 6:13)

Because God says He will be with Gideon this particular fear and doubt turns into a success for Gideon. Obviously this is not of Gideon's own doing. It was God's providence working here.

• Success: I don’t know if you would consider it a success when the Lord calls on you out of the blue to help and entire people (and you reject the command) but this is exactly what happens to Gideon. I personally would consider it success it the Lord picked me for anything to glorify Him (but I digress). It is only through God's sovereign choice and His grace and mercy that this happens to Gideon so this success is rightfully attributed to God.

• Success: The LORD immediately and chidingly exhorts him and says, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

• Fear and Doubt: Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel?” because he belongs to is the weakest: Manasseh.

• Success: The Lord assures he will strike down all the Midianites together. God is most assuredly on his side.

• Major Success: Gideon worships and offers to the Lord by preparing a meal for Him, just as Abraham had. went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. Gideon had the correct heart (this is what God really wants, not the meat and broth)

• Fear: It is at this point Gideon realizes he is actually dealing with the Lord and not some unnamed angelic messenger.

• Success: The Lord assures him he will not die. Entirely attributed to God.

• Success: Gideon built an altar to the LORD

• Fear: “At night” Gideon took ten men to tear down alter to Baal “at night”.

• Success: He tore down his father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole

• Major Success: Built an altar to the LORD on the height using the wood of the Asherah pole. *Note: Took what was once bad and used it for good (Genesis 50:20)

• Success: Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.

• Fear & Doubt: (After His appearance to Gideon as the Angel of the Lord). The two incidents with the wool fleece on the threshing floor.

Ultimate Success: (unquestioning faith) I read chapter 7 to find the doubts and fears again. I expected to find them because I already knew the story of Gideon and human nature expects to find doubts from Gideon when he sees his massive force being whittled-away to a force of “outward” insignificance. To my surprise I found no fears or doubts by this point in the storyline. I expected them, I looked for them but they were not there. After the miracle of the fleece, Gideon no longer questions God, he is emboldened by the Spirit. We have a new man in God. The Spirit began to do its work right about the time of the fleece incident. The modus operandi after this is: God commends-Gideon obeys-Gideon triumphs in the Lord. Even when God whittles his massive force of soldiers down to 300 men. The Lord takes what appears to be a “squirrelly” and reluctant man and turns him into a steadfast warrior for the Lord.

The funny thing is this: The man called to "save" Israel was himself initially riddled with doubt. It was God and God's actions that eventually turn this prototype of Thomas into a ideal of unquestioning faith. Do you understand what this means? It means that there is hope for you and I through God's mercy and grace. He will gradually event after event build out faith until it is a high tower untouchable by the things of this world unless we allow them to be touched. Be strong in the Lord! We have an example right here that even a man of little faith can be changed in the hands of his Creator. Instead of doubt we need to turn to God in trust and worship Him as we were built to do.

By verse 17 of Chapter 7 we know that God is now working with and through Gideon so this verse holds a particular interest for the people or Israel whom it is direct at and to us as believing Christians.

"Watch me," he told them. "Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. Judges 7:17

Gideon is pretty much God's vessel at this point. Since he is God's man, by proxy and through a chain of command this can be considered a command from God. "Follow my lead...do exactly as I do". When we look to Christ in the New Testament this holds profound implications. By following Him and doing exactly as He does we will survive what appears to be insurmountable odds and go on to victory. OohRah!

June 26, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXIX: Fighting Women 1.0 & 2.0

In the pattern of Israel apostatizing and God raising up a judge, this would be Israel’s 3rd apostasy out of 7 in the book of Judges (McGee 45). The root of the spiritual apostasy was the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth (Judges 2:3) because the Israelites had not driven out all those that were in the land before them (Judges 1). Every time the Israelites called on God even though they had backslid, He had mercy on them. He sent the Judges. What we have in Judges 4 & 5 are two different versions of Deborah and Barak’s (king of Kadesh) victory at Kishon and Taanach over Jabin king of Canaan and his men. The victory should rightly be consider Deborah’s because Barak seems reluctant to be involved and is commanded by Deborah. When told to deploy troops Barak basically refuses unless Deborah accompanies him (v. 8-10). Deborah solely being a woman of God for God shunned or is ambivalent towards the accolades for victory.

Version 1.0

Chapter 4 appears to be the actual present tense or shortly thereafter eyewitness historic account whereas Chapter 5 is clearly a recounting of the confrontation and victory at the Battles of at Kishon and Taanach over Jabin / Sisera, after the fact in a psalm form (see more on this below). Because of the apostate situation in Israel and the dire straits they are in, Chapter 4 takes on a dark tone. Having secured a victory in Chapter 5 the overall tone turns a little positive and upbeat for a while until Chapter 6.

Version 2.0:

Chapter 5 is Deborah and Barak’s victory song or more properly “The Song of Deborah” it is written as a psalm (or song/poem) of triumph sung to God. It is also the one of the earliest psalms to occur in the Bible (Auld 155). It celebrates the works of God but it was not intended for the sanctuary as the actual Psalms are collected together in the Psalms. Chapter 5 sings of the People of the Lord triumphing over the kings of Canaan. Against the Lord the kings do not stand a chance verse 31,” "So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!” (Auld 151-159) By Chapter 6 in Judges it is starting to feel like a roller coaster of apostasy.
After the battle(s) Deborah did not claim the honor of the victory. Her song is a psalm/song of prasie to God. She takes little or not credit for the victories. She manifested the greatest faith, but the honor of slaying the enemy captain was to go to another woman, Jael who drove a tent peg through Sisera's skull with a mallet, and not to Deborah. Deborah’s faith was in the LORD alone, while Barak’s faith was partly in the LORD and partly in Deborah’s faith.

In the end, unfortuntely, Israel would again backslide because...

"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25

God would raise a few more Judges until Samson. Then we would see the entry into the proto-kingdom with Saul. The transition and change would begin the arrival of Samuel who becomes the bridge between the era of the Judges and the Kings/Kingdoms. Samuel was a little bit Judge and a little bit Prophet but no nonsense.

Auld, A. Graeme. "Moses Is Dead-Long Live Joshua." Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (OT Daily Study Bible Series). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006. 151-159. Print.

Mcgee, J. Vernon. "Contact of Spies with Rahab." Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol 2 Joshua - Psalms. New York: Thomas Nelson/ Thru The Bible Radio, 1983. 45. Print.

June 25, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXVIII: Pattern Recognition

In Judges 3 we begin to see a spiritual pattern in Israel that begins to take on a foreboding significance in the future after the time of Joshua. It is most pronounced and first outlined in Judges 3:7-11 during the period of the judge Othniel, Caleb's nephew. The truth is it is a pattern we can see before this but it is not as pronounced, repetitive and obvious as we will see in later chapters of Judges and the Old Testament as a whole.

"The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died." Judges 3:7-11

We go to the very next verse during the period of the judge Ehud and we see Israel backslide...

"Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel." Judges 3:12

God tries to give Israel a chance to see their sin Judge after Judge. Israel's continued to be unfaithful to the Lord. The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth and abandoned the God who had done all these wonderful things on their behalf up to this point in their history. They went after other gods from among the peoples who were around them. Spirituality and religion abhors a vacuum, man needs a religion and when they don’t have the real God they chase false ones. More than likely the people they were told to totally destroy upon entering the land. We could take a lesson from this today. Our secular society's push to remove Christianity from everything, government, schools, etc under the guise of "separation of church and state" is creating a vacuum. It is a vacuum that will not stay empty for long. We see this in Europe and we will eventually see it here. In the absence of Christianity in Europe after its secularization we now see a massive influx of Islam and Eastern religions and they are happily filling the void.

We also see this today in people that do not know Jesus Christ, they chase a myriad of other gods, some of which do not even have names because their "religions" are a disembodied spirituality.

Invariably, like Canaan religion and the Israelites and also like sin that isn’t totally gotten rid of, it continues to resurface in a person’s life only to haunt them later like a bad habit. This caused continued disobedience and provoked the Lord to anger in the case of Israel. The Lord in due course gives them over to their plunderers who plunder them and he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies (slavery), so that they could no longer withstand their enemies (diminished their numbers so greatly they could muster and adequate fighting force or resistance force). Whenever they went out, the Lord was actually against them as He had warned.

The Lord would then raise up Judges who saved them from those who plundered them. But as usual the Israelites were a stiff-necked lot of people and they did not listen to their judges and they “whore after other gods”. The Lord used and worked through judges and saved them from their enemies because He pitied them and had mercy on them and grace. The judge would die and they immediately reverted back to abominable behavior.

In Chapter 3 we see the pattern shift. Israel sold into slavery to Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia and Israel served him eight years. Again Israel cried out to God and He raise up a deliverer/judge Othniel, Caleb’s nephew. Like all the judges the Lord’s spirit came upon him, he judged Israel and went to war and delivered Israel from Chushanrishathaim. The age of the Judges had begun.

So the basic pattern for Israel forms: Obedience-Disobedience (did what was right in his own eyes)-Punishment-Repentance-Obedience-Disobedience-Punishment-Repentance [repeat ad-nauseum]. It is a downward spiral though they take 1 step up and 2 back eventually totally apostatizing.

It is clear no one back then heard of the term/phrase "pattern recognition" other than God or those close to Him (Ezra, Nehemiah, prophets). The aforementioned pattern began occurring so often and so regular that you could practically set your watch by it. By the time you are halfway through the Old Testament as reader, you begin to get sick of it or you are sick of it.

June 24, 2010

If It Walks Like Sin and Talks Like Sin...

Sin has fallen off radar in our modern culture when it comes to fashionable terminologies. In the Church’s battle over ambivalence with our postmodern culture it has become unfashionable to use words like sin, repent, apostasy, and in due course…salvation. The world doesn’t seem to care and doesn’t seem to notice sin. Only backwoods anti-intellectuals use words like sin or so the culture says. We are sending a huge portion of our recent generations directly to Hell never having known better because many people that do know or should know do not correct misconceptions. It is all because certain words are not trendy and all because certain ideas are so “yesterday”. People are too busy trying to make friends instead of trying to convert them and correct their misunderstandings. The churches that do bend to the trend end up sacrificing a huge portion of proper doctrine and proper theology catering to people that are often times indifferent and only looking for meaningless spirituality that has no god behind it. Either that or they want a god that fits their schedule and their needs so that it doesn't inconvienience them.

Sin is no longer a moral or spiritual bankruptcy, it is now a disease or a condition that is an outcropping of our ego, superego or our id (or whatever the shrinks/quacks are calling it this month). According to the experts it is a disorder that is not our own fault. We need not take accountability for this disorder because it was brought on by parents that overindulged/underindulged us with materialism because they didn’t know any better. Good thing we do, right? Sin is now a medical condition treatable with antidepressants, psychotropic drugs or just plain narcotics to help you either forget about it or dull your senses the same way wine would have "back in the day".

The love affair with sin didn’t end, it just changed names. When it changed names it stopped having a relevance and connotation as something negative. It no longer required an atoning sacrifice according to our culture (if they had their way they would say it never was necessary). It no longer required judgment. If an action really wasn’t wrong in the eyes of the people why would it need to be judged? Why would it require justice? Man defined the terms and thereby defined the meaning. If men said it was okay, then it was okay, wasn’t it? If its meaning was morally neutral who would care what you did. Does this sound familiar?

"It's a victimless crime."

Things have ceased to have any solid meaning thereby not requiring a definitive and decisive reaction or a decisive punishment. If you haven't gotten punished then you're not wrong, right? According to our cultures twisted philosophy the perpetrators have all become victims. No one is at fault for anything anymore. Our disorders are not the by-product of our actions but rather a product of a society that neglected us or treated us unfairly. No one ever directly gets blamed at and individual level and held accountable for their actions. Only large nebulous generalized entities are blamed, "they", "them", "the right", "the left", "the fundamentalists", etc.

...and so it goes. The terms change and out goes division and divisiveness, and in comes diversity. Out goes God’s grace and mercy and in comes man’s “rights” and self-aggrandizement. Out goes love for your neighbor and in comes “every man for himself”. Out goes optimism and in comes cynicism. Love is out, hate is in. Tolerance is acceptable but only until you start infringing on my opinions, my life and my well-being…never mind you. The "I" and "me" are more important than the "you" and the "we".

In our consumer society we must always have the “newest” everything even the newest terms, slang and jargon. Unfortunately, along with these terms come ideas that are destroying us and doing it with as smile. Diversity, fairness, tolerance, rights, etc are some of these terms to name a few. These terms in many cases were originally created and used for good purposes but like everything else Satan has gotten his unholy claws on, they have become twisted and misused.

It is just like a consumer society to toss something in the garbage can after it has lost its appeal or perceived relevance. When something is worn out or deemed old it is thrown out and replaced. These current terms will change again in the near future. Evil never rests and continues to change and morph so to be unrecognizable except to an extremely discerning eye. We as believers must stay vigilant and call people out when we know what somethings is. This is especially true when our culture tries to call it something it is not and mislabel it purposely to serve their own end (or the Devil's). Evil is still evil. Good is still good.

"Woe to those that call evil good and good evil" Isaiah 5:20

Moving away from God instead of moving towards Him is still apostasy. Sin is no longer called sin but it IS STILL SIN whether the world likes that word or not. Sin still requires an atoning sacrifice. Sin still requires that we repent. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Without the work that Christ did on the cross, you're doomed to seperation for eternity from the glory of God and Jesus Christ.

It may have a thousand other "nicer" and "trendier" names or technical diagnoses but if it walks like a sin and talks like a sin...

It is also like the three monkeys holding their eyes, ears and mouth. You can pretend sin doesn't exist, you can pretend not to hear it, you may deny speaking it, or seeing it...but it is still there.

June 20, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXVII: Sowing Seeds Of Destruction

Judges: Chapter 1 and the settlement of Canaan:

What is the first thing we see happening in Judah after Joshua's death? We see the story of the settlement of Canaan in Judges 1 and Israel fights the remaining Canaanites and holdouts...fighting them rather poorly I might add. We have a distinct contrast between verse 17 where Judah did what God commanded and wiped out the inhabitants and then we have a host of verse that say things nearly the opposite in the same chapter.

"Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city" Judges 1:17

The contrasting statements to verse 17 are below (I'll quote the first few):

"They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots" Judges 1:19

"The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites." Judges 1:21

"But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land." Judges 1:27

The list continues with similar statements in remaining verse 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 & 35: Of the thirty-five verses in Judges 1, (11) of them or 31% directly or indirectly refer to the tribes of Judah or the Israrelites not wiping out or failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land as commanded by God (Numbers 33:51-52).

"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places." Numbers 33:51-52

Disobedience is a sin. By not obeying God’s command to they sinned against God. Over time they were duly punished. Many of these enemies or their descendants merged into Israelite culture and went incognito only to surface later like a disease (sin) that lay dormant to wreak havoc at a later time. These enemies fought or clung tenaciously to what they had and they were not overcome by the Israelites. This tenaciousness is a testament to their enduring sinful character which would inevitably contaminate the Israelite culture with their false gods, pagan idols and pagan rites through marriage and other intimate social interactions. This tenacious sinful character is also the exact reason the Lord wanted them eradicated and /or driven out. Unless they were totally destroyed and removed, even the smallest iota of their sinful culture (like a virus) could infect Israel again with idolatry and similar sin. By not driving them out completely they had already sown the seeds of their destruction right into their culture. All it would now take is for these stray seeds to come to light and begin to spiritually contaminate Israelite society like tares among the harvest.

Between Judges 1:35 and Judges 2:2 which is 3 verse, we quickly find in the next chapter of Judges, Israel again falls quickly into pattern of apostasy and disobedience.

"...and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?' Judges 2:2

This apostasy owing itself to the failure to not drive out non-believers, probably even allowing them into their worship. This always leads to beleivers "falling away". They have even made some type of covenant/treaty with the people of the land:

“and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." Judges 2:2

God sets aside for holiness for a reason. If he doesn’t, we get sucked back into the sin of the world. You cannot have half of one and half of the other. God wants us totally separated for a reason. We cannot have just a little bit of sin because we continue to pursue it because of our sinful nature. God has called believers to be seperate from the world. We are in the world but not of it just as Christ is not of this world. This same principle applied to Joshua and the people he led for the Lord. By not adhering to the principles laid down by God and obeying in half measures the seeds of destruction are sown. Once this happens the only thing left to do is to repent or prepare for reaping the harvest of the seeds you've sown. Much of that harvest will either have produced bad fruit or no fruit at all.

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:16-20

Anything in this world that is not of Life is of death. As Jesus had answered, " I am the Way The Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" if people sow things that are not of God what they reap in the end is death.

June 19, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXVI: Divide, Conquer, Occupy

Joshua pretty much defines the military strategy of dividing and conquering. Joshua’s first campaign deploys from Shittim and drives directly ahead across the Jordan River into Jericho and as far as east Ai and Bethel, Joshua then moves slightly north from Bethel to Shechem. This is considered the Central campaign and it effectively cuts Israel in half dividing Northern Canaan from Southern Canaan so that the two cannot act as co-belligerents (click on map above for closer view of Central Campaign in yellow).

Joshua then mounts a southern campaign based out of Gilgal. He proceeds south and in a broad zig-zagging loop around Jerusalem and systematically takes cities/settlements in order geographically either by treaty, warfare or divine assistance. The cities incapacitated after the death of the five kings in order appear to be: Gibeon, Beth-Horon, Ajalon Valley, Azekah, Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir. They then return to Gilgal (click on map above for closer view of Southern Campaign in red).

The Northern campaign is then mounted and the Joshua’s forces make a B-line for Hazor one of the largest cities in Canaan. With God on Joshua’s/Israel’s side Hazor doesn’t stand a chance basically dismantles Hazor’s defenses and chases the remaining forces. The city is then burned (click on map above for closer view of Northern Campaign in red). As mentioned above it is only Hazor that is razed by fire. Hazor was located in the Upper Galilee region approximately 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee in modern day or the very northern extent of modern day Israel just below the Lebanon border (Aharoni 48)

Joshua and his men destroyed the "people" in the other cities. I believe the following statement shows up in most of the accounts of conquest in some shape of form: “On that day Joshua took […enter city name here…], and and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them. I believe that is a fairly good summation of all of the cities eventual fates. We must also note that during the conquest of all the cities mentioned in the Southern campaign, I see absolutely no statements about Israelite casualties, not one! Execept at Ai obviously but that was mitigated by Achan. What we do see in Joshua 11:14 is a statement where it can be implied that the physical resources of the cities Joshua conquered such as buildings and cisterns, and wells were spared. It served no purpose to destroy the resources if it was the people that needed to be removed.

"The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed.” Joshua 11:14

"all the plunder and livestock of these cities...". To be able to have a place to take "plunder' and "livestock" from...implies cities still had to be standing and not razed to the ground. As we see later, Israel would eventually take over the cities they conquered and inhabit them.

I imagine this is the reason archaeologists have problems with dating the book of Joshua is because there wasn’t much physical evidences left of the former culture to date after the complete destruction of the Canaanites themselves and assimilation of the culture hearths or cities of Canaanites and others by the Israelites. Regardless, since the Bible is inerrant it is just a matter of time until the historicity and science begins to validate and back-up the Biblical account.

There were still places left untouched and unconquered at this point but the bulk of Canaan was now in the hands of Joshua and the Israelites.

Aharoni, Yohanan. The Macmillan Bible Atlas. Revised ed. Indianapolis: Macmillan USA, 1977. 43-48. Print.

Examining The Scripture XXXV: Rooting Out Evil

The walls of Jericho have come down and Rahab and her family has been spared the fate of the other inhabitants of the city. The young men that were spies have already gone in, brought out, Rahab, her father, mother, her brethren, and all that she had. Joshua's men have torched the city and razed what is left of it. The city has been cursed and left in the dust of their departing footsteps.

We are now introduced to Achan who was a man from the the tribe of Judah. Joshua: Chapter 7 clearly alludes to the fact that Achan had broken faith and taken some of the “devoted things” (Strong’s H2764: חֵרֶם cherem) “cursed; things that should’ve been utterly destroyed” from Jericho. Achan even admitted as much by telling Joshua when confronted about that he took, a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels because he coveted them. They were hidden in the earth inside his tent.

Israel had been told before that basically, Israel’s enemies will essentially flee before them when they go in to take the land promised (I’m paraphrasing) or as chapter 1 states it, “you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess". Joshua sends 3000 men up to defeat Ai and Ai turns the tables on Joshua’s men causing them to flee killing 36 men in the process. Israel is swiftly humiliated at Ai and Joshua is perplexed why, so he rent/tore his garments (in anguish or mourning, unstated which) and petitions God. God immediate informs him of Achan’s sin. The entire nation was punished for the sin of one man because believers are to be “one in the Lord” (Wiersbe 49). Any one person who is weak or infected in the Body of the Church affects the entire Church.

Ironically, it took time to find the evil in the encampment (lots are drawn) just as it is difficult to root out evil and problems embedded in our churches once it digs it’s claws into the Church. It takes quite a bit of spiritual discernment and this appears to have been lacking then and it is lacking in our churches today. Achan is “found out” and the stolen objects are “spread out before the Lord” who was the true owner (Campbell et al 345). Achan is summarily executed for his disobedience by stoning him to death. His coveting cost him his life. Israel eventually goes on to victory against Ai but it takes until chapter 8 for this to happen.

One of the main things I see as a lesson here is failure to use spiritual discernment and what happens when it is not used. Second, it is the obligation of spiritual leaders to tend to the whole flock not just part of it. Spiritual leaders, pastors, elders should get involved with people’s lives if they truly care about them. To some extent the blood and damnation of fellow believers is on our hands if we do not at least tell them the truth or rebuke them about the error of their ways. This is mentioned in Ezekiel 3:16-21 also. Third, obviously coveting things is clearly bad and assured Achan’s demise. Fourth, the Church or Israel needs to work together as a whole and synergistically for the good of the whole body. A single small “infection” of sin can bring an entire body to its knees if the infection festers.

Campbell, Donald , John Walvoord, and Roy Zuck. "The Conquest of Canaan." Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 1985. 345. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "A Convert In Canaan." Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 49. Print.

Examining The Scripture XXXIV: Heaping Water & A Microphone

God performs a major miracle at the crossing of the Jordan River as he has done in the past for others that serve Him. The affect on the people of Israel is profound. When the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord rested in the waters of the Jordan, God cut the water off. The waters stopped flowing and stood in a heap or in this context they stood up as a wave a great distance away. Joshua was as the Lord had told him he would be “exalted in the sight of Israel”. They now understood that the Lord was with Joshua the way He had been with Moses.

God then speaks through Joshua as noted by the two following statements in Joshua 3:9-10:

(v9)-And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.”

(v10)-And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you…”

Joshua says God will speak and the immediate following proclamation is God speaking through Joshua in the “you shall know” statement that is made in present tense. The words “Joshua said” are the same in both verses but (v. 9) uses the word “listen” [Strong’s H3893] shama’ “to hear intelligently w/implication of (immediate) attention, obedience” in this context because it is waw consecutive, qal imperfect which means this verb applies: for actions continuing into the present or future and is said in active voice demanding obedience.

This is that same pattern we saw when Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the new generation about to enter the Promised Land after the previous generation (minus Caleb and Joshua) had met their demise in the wilderness. God makes direct statements through His chosen vessel to His chosen people. He uses Joshua as a human microphone and amplifier (conduit). I imagine that might have been like standing in front of a wall of amplifiers if it was coming directly from God. God could've condescended as a Theophany but chose to use Joshua instead. It was done this way probably to instill a sense of confidence in him. If God deems Joshua fit to act on His behalf who would challenge God's wisdom in using Joshua? (Answer: No one in their right mind)

I fairly certain this is an accurate translation of the intent of this passage. That means what comes next is the proclamation or announcement and (v.9) has already told us to “listen to God’s words” and because we are talking about God, to obey Him immediately. An announcement in present tense after being forewarned that God was going to speak. This is a very very powerful statement of God working in "realtime".

Examining The Scripture XXXIII: Prostitute to Paragon-By Faith

The harlot of Jericho in Joshua 2 exercised saving faith in the one true God. In doing so she becomes a shining example of faith in the Bible. Rahab is in the genealogy of Christ as are a long list of other believers. She put her faith in God before the spies arrived and trusted that the God of the Israelites would spare her.

She Had Courageous Faith: She was not like the other people in the city which makes her like believers and what they are called to do, to be separate from the world, to be dedicated to God, to be holy. She had a background as a sinner (prostitute) and had turned her life to God. She risked her life for what she knew was right to help other believers in the one true God.

She Had Confident Faith: Rahab showed that she had confident faith when she said, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you…” in one sentence she affirmed what 10 spies denied 40 years before and affirmed what God said He would do for the nation of Israel and Joshua.

She Had Concerned Faith: She had a concern for more than just herself. She had a faith that made her concerned for the welfare of others. If there are two major obedience that come to the surface even when Jesus was questioned they are to love God with all you heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Rahab did this for others. She cared enough for complete strangers that she risked her lives for them by taking them in and hiding them. they reciprocated by sparing her and her family

She Had Covenant Faith: Before the spies had left she made them swear (through covenant) to deal kindly with her and her family in Joshua 2:12-14. She had also upheld what was required by God to be in a relationship with Him also (Wiersbe 23-28). A sign of this covenant when the men entered the city would be the scarlet cord.

Because of Rahab's impressive faith she is mention no less than three times in New Testament. The references to Rahab are: Matt.1:5 is the genealogy of Jesus Christ and Rahab’s place in it, Hebrews 11:31 is a direct reference to her outstanding faith, James 2:25 is part of James discourse on works being a manifestation of faith just as Rahab’s was a manifestation of hers. Please remember this is an example of holding a woman in high regard in a time and a culture that normally looked at woman more as possessions that companions and compliments in marriage. That truly shows the counterculture nature of the Bible in the New Testament and the minds of Matthew, James and the author of Hebrews. They viewed woman not only as equals but in the case of Rahab, a paragon of the faith.

Wiersbe, Warren. "A Convert In Canaan." Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Wisdom and Poetry (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 23-28. Print.

Examining The Scripture XXXII: Taken Before His Time: Muwth [וימת]

After a long and meandering road though Mose's life I am about to bring his story to an end for my series Examining The Scripture. My ending will be a bit more subtle than God's ending for Moses. There is no way more fitting to depart from the amazing story of Moses and how God worked through him than by talking about his earthly departure.

Moses climbed Mount Nebo and he is shown the Promised Land from the top of Nebo and God states that He will give it to Moses descendants but Moses himself will not enter it. At this point...for all intensive purposes, he disappears from Scripture in Deuteronomy 34 in rather enigmatic terms and means. {*POOF*}. To add even more credence to that fact that Moses' departure was more akin to being a disappearance than a death I will elaborate further below.

The Scripture says, Moses then "died" at 120 years old and is buried in an unmarked grave by none other than God Himself. The word died here is וימת [Strong's H4191] the best I can transliterate this is "muwth" or "mooth" and it usually means "to kill; be killed" or "to die prematurely; before one's time". When I say prematurely I am not saying that he died at a young age as much as I am saying that something or "Someone" intervened to cut it short and end it. Obviously sin was the mitigating factor as is the case in all human death but the active Agency/Agent that "removed" him from earthly existence was God. The text pretty much tells us this indirectly in verse 6, "and He [God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor". The implication here is God took his soul and buried his body. This is unlike Elijah who also is taken before his time but is taken body and soul.

Interestingly, the Scripture also tells us that when Moses died, “his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone”. There is a good probability that God “called Moses home” and may have taken Moses “before his time”. The words “strength gone” is(Strong’s H3893: leach) “freshness, vigor or natural force” had not fled him or vanished away from Moses. Moses wasn’t dying nor does this sound like a dying man. To my recollection most dying men do not climb mountains either and the Bible specifically tells us that Moses was fairly healthy at his death climbing Nebo on his own.

All indicators point to God "taking" Moses in death before his time and it appears he departed in fellowship with God because the last thing we see Moses "doing" is listening to God speaking the promises of the Promised Land that He made to the Patriarchs. This monologue from God to Moses is ironic because Moses is essentially going to the place that the Promised Land is a typology of-Heaven.

Of course the Scripture doesn't specifically say that God "took" Moses before his time but a strong case could be made by the indirect and circumstantial evidences that God did just that, especially when we consider the Hebrew word used to designate Moses' death: "muwth".

Of course the Israelites grieved the loss of such a great man of God and the end of the Pentateuch now arrives. God’s Spirit has entered into Joshua because of the “laying on of hands” by Moses and "Joshua did what the Lord commanded Moses". So ends the first portion of Israelite/Hebrew history and Moses' contribution to it passes into history. We have seen God's story of creation, the Fall and God's plan to recover and redeem man. We then see Moses' story setting up and establishing the Law and Sinai covenant to be told generation after generation into the future. Reiterated, added to and fulfilled by the glorious Messiah Jesus Christ generations later.

Next on deck...the conquest of Canaan.

June 18, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXI: Hammering A Point Home

Exodus: Chapter 29 is a covenant renewal after the covenant has been ratified. The previous chapter 28 has just delivered the blessing/cursing portion of the Suzerain/Vassal Covenant. God then renews it with a new generation not about to wander the wilderness but with a generation about to enter the Promised Land. We are reminded here and we will see later in the Old Testament that it only takes a single generation to lapse into the same exact bad judgment. We can see it then and we see it today. God knows this and forces/emphasizes that Israel should remember and obey, remember and obey, ad nauseum. Obviously to no avail as we see by Jesus’ comments about a mother hen gathering her chicks

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Luke 13:34-35

We also see Israel’s failure in Paul’s lament for Israel in Romans 9-11.

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 9:30-33

Repetition, repetition, repetition like the pounding of a hammer all throughout the ages and the Old Testament to drive the point home and Israel just didn’t get it. Some people(s) are just incredibly thick-headed and stiff-necked (all of us). Often times God even shows people where their shortcomings are and where they will fail and because of willful ignorance or denial, we ignore Him. We either think we know better or are just plain sinful and stupid, I’m not sure which. So through Israel’s failure the chance is then offered to the Gentiles to be grafted into The Vine.

After the covenant renewal Israel is subsequently warned (again) against turning away from God and the judgment and punishment that will ensue if they do. Then they have the blessing restored to them. After a stern or harsh rebuke, like a loving father, God coddles and “fusses” over His children and lets them know He loves them. No one knows true love and how to love His children better than our Father does.

June 17, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXX (30) : The Second Ten Commandments

The repeating of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6–21. Some people do not even realize that the Ten Commandments are itemized and stated twice in the Holy Scriptures. So? Many will ask. What's the big deal? Why list them twice? Simple. History repeats itself. Those that do not know or understand the past are doomed to repeat it. Moses proceeds to deliver again with divine authority the Decalogue. They are ethical and moral and still apply to believers. Jesus Christ abrogated the Ceremonial Law. The ceremonial laws of types and shadows which pointed forward to the death of Christ, had no meaning after the cross but the moral/ethical laws still stand and still apply just as many of the non-ceremonial laws in Leviticus still apply too (sorry folks deviant sexual immorality is still sin). Think of it this way. Anything that continues to make you holy or prevents you from sinning is a good thing. The Ten Commandments prevent you from doing things that incur God's wrath and judgement as do many of the edicts and laws in the Pentateuch. Do you suppose God wants you to have another god or murder any more than He did in 1400 B.C.? Of course not. By His own obedience to the law, Christ testified to its immutable character and proved that through His grace it could be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam. So long as heaven and earth exist, the holy principles of God’s law will remain as a blessing to all who chose to hear and obey out of love for Him.

•You shall have no other gods before me.
•You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
•You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God (take the Lord’s name in vain)
•Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
•Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
•You shall not murder.
•You shall not commit adultery.
•You shall not steal.
•You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
•You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The commandments are repeated here for “all” of Israel because it is a new generation of people Moses is speaking to. It is also in continuance of the idea that Deuteronomy is a second reiteration of the Law for a new generation about to enter the Promised Land. To pass on the law to the next generation and subsequent generations. The Decalogue being part of the commandments hinted at in the Chapter 6:4-9

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.." Deuteronomy 6:4-9

All the Law including the Decalogue was to be impressed upon the hearts of those who loved God.

The interesting thing about the second delivery of these commandments in Chapter 4 is the word “you” or “you shall”. God is delivering the commandments to the new generation exactly the same way He did to the first so that they will have no excuse to disobey. He delivers them directly: God to People (God is talking in first-person through Moses). “You shall/shalt not” not “God said” or “the Lord commands” (Payne 36-37).

Present tense people. Just as you read it today. Present tense. "YOU SHALL NOT". These passages are speaking to the second generation removed from the Exodus and they are speaking to us, the reader...the believer.

So the next time you hear someone say, "Oh we don't need to adhere to the laws and rules of the Old Testament"... think before you speak. Jesus didn't overturn the Law he fulfilled it. The Law wasn't the thing that was flawed. Nothing that comes from God is flawed. As we learned in Genesis, it is good or very good. The Law was perfect. Had anyone been able to obey all the Law they would've been a perfect man. Please note the only one to perfectly obey the Law: Jesus Christ. All the rest of humanity on the other hand were the imperfect ones and it was because of them that the Law was instituted so that they would know what sin is. Man was dead to his sin and wouldn't have recognized it if it smacked him in the head.

YOU SHALL NOT...they weren't polite requests or suggestions people. They are called commandments for a reason. They are not optional, nor are many other moral/ethical precepts in the Bible. Things that do not add holiness add sin. Things that add sin incur God's wrath or judgment. Because God is ultimately just he must judge wrongdoing and iniquity. Who dictates what constitutes iniquity and wrongdoing? He who has the authority to judge and punish. Who do you suppose that is? Certainly not men as capricious as they are. So who is predicable. Who is immutable and unchanging. Who is the Rock that never wavers?

Payne, David F.. "Introduction." Deuteronomy (Daily Study Bible-Old Testament). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. 36-37. Print.

June 16, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXIX: Densely Packed Theology

Although not all of them have been posted, I have now written in excess of thirty "Examining The Scripture" posts. I must admit that, of those I've written, this is my personal favorite so far. It really is a sermon(s) waiting to be preached on the glorious attributes of a mighty God. Perhaps some day I will better flesh them out and do just that. These few verses about to be outlined are so rich in theology that it is like marinading in holiness and wonder. When I say theology I mean exactly what theology is defined as: the study of God. We have a healthy window to God's attributes here. Obviously, it isn't all of them because God's attributes are infinite in quantity and infinite in quality. We do get a deep glimpse into the nature of God Himself. Glimpses that were available to the Israelites centuries before the incarnate arrival of the Messiah Jesus Christ. What a strange (in a mysterious way) and wonderous God we have. How great it is that He has chosen to reveal himself to us in this manner. It is a shame that words limit Him and don't do Him true justice but as flawed finite beings we get a vivid picture here.

There is a lot going on theologically in Deuteronomy 4:32-40. A smorgasbord of holy goodness, eight verses of densely packed theology. What we primarily learn here is that The Lord Alone is God. We also get a lot of his attributes and character in a very short space. I have broken them down to the best of my ability in an outline form. Where there is a repeat of a theological themes I have repeated it in its context. Seeing it once will allow you to recognize it elsewhere. Wow, this would make a great sermon!

(32) Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? (33) Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? (34) Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (35) You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.(36) From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. (37) Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, (38) to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. (39) Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (40) Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:32-40

1. Verse 32: “from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other”

1a. God is all omnipotent and creator of all
1b. God is omnipresent no matter where we are in the creation

2. Verse 33: "Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?"

2a. A rhetorical question about a Theophany or a preincarnate appearance of God in the Old Testament
2b. A statement indirectly of the fact God is the only God

3. Verse 34: “Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation...”

3a. God has made Israel/Moses people a chosen people

4. Verse 35: “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.”

4a. A direct monotheistic statement, there is only one God and he is omnipotent
4b. Sovereign/Providence/Grace: He has chosen to reveal things (shown) to the Isralites/Moses in His own time. He didn’t have to, it was by grace.
4c. "by testings" punishemnt of a just and merciful God that knows we are worthy of death for our sins
4d. "by miraculous signs and wonders" Miracles: a less common kind of God's activity in which he arouses people's awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself
4e. "by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds" An Omnipotent God, a God that cares about those he has created and who acts as a Suzerain over in a Suzerain-Vassal covenant (Sinai).

5. Verse 36: “From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you.”

5a. Israel was to obey Him and if they didn’t punishment was justified
5b. God is a just God
5c. Obedience is for Israelite’s own good because they are fallen and sinful
5d. God wants man holy because He is Holy
5e. To have a relationship with God as stated earlier.
5f. God cannot look upon evil without judging it as a just God

6. Verse 37: “Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them…”

6a. God loves because God is [perfect] love
6b. We love Him because He first loved us.
6C. "chose" denotes soveriegnty and/or providence

7. Verse 38: "to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance"

7a. God is forever faithful to his side of the covenants. To Him they are eternal.

8. Verse 39: "Acknowledge...that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below... there is no other."

8a. God is Omnipresent
8b. He is unique

9. Verse 40: "Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you"

9a. Believers in God are charged to obey his commands (it is a sign you fear and love Him).
9b. Beleivers are charged to do this for their own good. God doesn't need to obey, He is the Law.
9c. "and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time" is another statement of the eternal nature of God's side of the covenants he makes with man. An indirect alluding to the immutability and His steadfast unchanging nature.

Like I said, densely packed and marinaded. There is probably more in there that could be unpacked but I believe I hit the main theological underpinnings in each of the eight verses. Feel free to find more and tell me about them if you'd like. I'm sure there is something I may have missed. Unlike God, I am fallible.

June 15, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXVIII: My Generation

The word Deuteronomy means “second law” or more specifically it is a second reiteration of the law or a second reconsideration of the covenant with God albeit for a second generation. It records the Moses instructions (God's) to the Israelites concerning the ways of God from generation to generation. In the case of Deuteronomy 1-3 we see Moses giving the Law to the next generation. The new generation that never saw Egypt or experienced the Exodus. It is important that they know where they came from so that they can better appreciate where they are going and what they are gaining. They are to consider and/or remember God and what He has done for them, love God, to fear God and to hold fast to God and not turn to other false God’s (Williams, Westbrook 336-338). Good advise for any believer, to be reminded of their spiritual roots, their beginnings in the faith. It allows a better perspective of what they are now. Paul also alludes to this is 1 Corinthians:

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Moses exhorts the new generation entering the land of Canaan to:

To Remember God: To remember what God did for them, as we are reminded what Jesus did for us. To remember indicates that He is the God that led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt in miraculous ways. They were to remember the past so they would not be condemned to repeat it as we have learned painfully in this day and age (nothing new under the sun). The Israelites were to remember His faithfulness and steadfastness (unchanging immutability) (Williams, Westbrook 336)

To Love God: They are exhorted to love God, as we are reminded to love Christ with all our hearts, souls and minds. It indicates a relationship both personable and close. The obvious visible sign of this love was to be an obedience to God’s commands in a deep compassionate understanding not cold clinical adherence. On God’s side he would continue uphold His promises (Williams, Westbrook 337)

To Fear God: They are exhorted to fear the Lord their God, just as we are to maintain a fear of God now. It also indicates a reverential fear of God as one reveres a higher authority or gives credence to one higher in stature. In other words they were to have an extremely healthy respect for God and to not take Him for granted or take Him lightly as is often the case with man. God is great. Greater than man’s feeble attempts to understand Him and because of this they needed to tread lightly in His presence and obey Him.

To Hold Fast to God: Finally Moses exhorts them to hold fast and not waver, just as a modern believer is encouraged by Paul to: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13. A reminder to hold fast indicates man’s proclivity to drift away and wander after things of the flesh, things of this material world. Man has a sinful inclination that lets them choose to wander away from things of God in the spiritual world. We are of this world and because of this we are often times subject to the sins of this world that draw us in through our flesh or the failure within or flesh. That failure is that exact reason we are to cling so tightly to Him. When he takes up our entire lives there is no other room for things of this world.

In the end we must realize that when Moses wrote this book he wrote it as a book of laws, a book of sermons and a book of history. It is historical narrative but is mostly speech from Moses but no recording of events per se and the laws are piggybacked into those speeches. Moses describes the nature of the law (as Jesus does for an even later generation) so that the new generation will understand the “undergirding” principles and not get entirely wrapped around the explicit details or each event that led to the deliverance from Egyptian bondage. This will eventually happen with the Pharisees adding to the Law and getting away from the Laws true intent as we see by the time of Jesus.(Payne 3-5).

"O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. ~Psalms 78:1-8

My generation and generations in general that have been born, lived and died since the time of Moses would've be well advised to do these things that Moses exhorted the new generation to do. Remember, love, fear and hold fast to the Lord. If we do not we have later books and chapters within the Bible that we can read to see what happens to people that forget and turn away from the Lord. That hate Him. That mock and scoff at the thought of Him. People that decided it wasn't worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved and warped mind. People that released their grip on God and his Word and God in turn released them unto their own sin. If I am not mistaken, many of them died painful or unpleasant deaths. Some repented and were salvaged. The Lord spared them to use as poster children for grace and mercy. I was one of them. All of them ended up being punished for being sinful. It isn't just those in the past, it is my generation, myself included. The Bible applies to all generations just as Christ's atoning sacrifice is available to all people in all generations that accept it by faith.

Payne, David F.. "Introduction." Deuteronomy (Daily Study Bible-Old Testament). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. 3-5. Print.

Williams, William C, Westbrook, April. "Chapter 8: Through The Vast And Dreadful Desert." They Spoke from God: A Survey of the Old Testament. Springfield: Logion Press/Gospel Pub. House, 2003. 336-338. Print.

June 14, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXVII: The "god" That Isn't and The World that Wants It To Be - Interfaithism

Part I: Laying The Ground Work

When I type posts I do not begin writing with the intent of being divisive but often times, to determine what truth is, I need to determine and define what it isn't. That which isn't truth in accordance with Scripture is non-truth. Often these non-truths are what people hold dearly as truth. When someone like myself explains why these untruths are are wrong (yes I said wrong), this gives a tone of divisiveness and is unavoidable.

Part II: Patterns In The Past-History Repeats

Having read through the story of Solomon we know that Jeroboam and the Northern kingdom break off from the South because of the oppressive yoke of forced labor and heavy taxation instituted by Solomon and tragically continued by his son Rehoboam. Once Jeroboam ascends to power he immediately became the benchmark for evil for all subsequent kings. The worst thing that could be said of any of the subsequent kings is that they “did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat" (2 Kings 10:29). We then see in the story of Jeroboam the installment of the golden calves in Dan and Bethel to further separate the Northern kingdom from the Southern physically and spiritually. In this way Jeroboam ”captures” their bodies and their minds. He set the calves up as symbols of God to negate the importance of Jerusalem in the south as a religious center. By rejecting the south as religious center the people of the north would inevitably forsake the monarchical system of the south too. Although he would set up these calves (idols) for worship, he continues to allow worship of Yahweh alongside these other “gods”.

What we have here in this story is ancient Interfaithism / Ecumenicalism (or Interfaithism for short) and a watering-down of the faith in God with a myriad of other false religions with false gods. We see the same thing happening today in Christianity, a gradual and slow erosion of truths in Christianity until laypeople are uncertain of their doctrine and core beliefs. Once this is achieved we have a slow methodical infiltration of other faiths into our churches for either political reasoning or something more sinister and evil and it begins as claims of “fairness”, "tolerance" and “diversity”. The intent of those claiming use of those terms (fairness, diversity) couldn’t be farther from the true definition of these words. They could care less about fairness and giving equal time to all religions and they want diversity only if Christianity is one of those religions NOT included in the list.

Satan doesn’t care that his false religions are indistinguishable from Christianity. As a matter of fact I am sure that he prefers they are as similar as possible so that a majority of people including Christians do not know the difference. This is why many of the books in the New Testament deal with apostasy, false religions, false prophets/teachers (1,2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, Jude) and their ilk permeating the church. The warnings are throughout Scripture but they are more heavily concentrated in the letters of Peter, John and Jude. As early as the first century we see twisting of Jesus’ words and misapplication of scripture to promote false religious teaching. Satan couldn't stop Jesus so he tries to stop his messageor at least twist it. It also isn’t long before we see the corruption of Christianity (as Judaism in the Old Testament) for political purposes and to manipulate and control people either individually or en masse. Sadly, because Christianity was used as a tool by non-believers to achieve political/power ends (Hitler, later Crusades, etc) Christians in general get a bad rap. Murderers killing in the name of Christ and not really Christian at all.

It is why God calls Christianity to remain distinct. It is one of the reason teachings within the Bible has always had Jews and Christians as a people side aside as a nation of holy priests and demanded they be a holy nation. Christianity by its very nature is not inclusive to the culture. It is why the world views us as "intolerant". We won’t play by their rules or play their game. Nor will they accept our rules. They won’t accept our rules because it forces them to take stock of themselves and see themselves as they really are. If understood correctly it requires one to humble themselves and "kill" the old self. Tell that to most Americans in this culture and they'd laugh at you in your face or stare at you in disbelief. Besides the Bible clearly states that:

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

Additionally, embracing the Christian faith forces a person to take responsibility and take accountability for their actions because the Holy Spirit will convict them to do so. Our westernized culture does not like that. They want God but they don’t want His rules because it makes them realize they are flawed and, God forbid, sinners. So they settle for religion that does not force them to change. Religion without the requirements. A Christianity that doesn't require them to change. Please let me state now: A Christianity that doesn't require you to change isn't Christianity.

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" 2 John 1:9.

Interfaithism adheres to the postmodern philosophy that words do not have definitive meanings. That terms themselves have no true absolute meaning or bearing in our lives. To postmodertists terms and words, at best, are abstract and nebulous concepts. To better explain this philosophy please review one of my former post called: "Postmodernisms". It would suffice to say that postmodernism likes to deny absolute truths and to deconstruct words until they have either no meaning or a meaning not in adherence to a correct definition. It has long been understood that if you can control the terms or words you control the beliefs and ideas. If you control ideas you control the way people think. If you control the way people think you can control their actions. Its what Jeroboam tried to do and it is what modern culture is trying to do. What do they have in common? They are corrupt, reprobate and have totally alienated themselves from The Lord.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20

Interfaithism blurs the lines and makes Yahweh the equivalent of and idol and I believe this is the intent. Either that or it makes God, well...not God. Different things such as shortcomings or flaws from the other Gods and religions creep their way into the Christianity effectively neutering the perfect and divine aspects of Jesus because people get confused. If the “worshipper” eventually learns or understands that the fake gods they’re worshipping can do absolutely nothing to help them they will associate this impotence to any god including Yahweh also. Instead of an omnipotent God they then get impotent gods. If they don’t understand God exactly the way He is put forth in the Bible then they formulate an idea or image in their head of a god that really isn't God (Yahweh). They then proceed to worship a false god never realizing they are doing so. The truly scary thing is this is done in a lot of “Christian” denominations that the world views as Christian. They are not Christian, haven’t been in a long time...or they never were.

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." Romans 16:17

"The undiluted preaching from God's Word and an authoritative stand on truth seem to be on the decline. What we're seeing instead is a broadening of the gospel, a redefining of what it means to be a Christian, and a growing emphasis on inclusion and tolerance. Ecumenism has come to mean "reducing all elements of faith to the lowest common denominator. God's Word is neglected, experience is valued above truth, a false and selfish "faith" is promoted, and sound doctrine and correction are despised as "divisive" and "unloving." (1)

Part III: Modern Application-Rubber Meets The Road

Sadly, this is where the Coexist Foundation and Bono from U2 supporting Coexist, get it totally wrong (a shame to because I like their music). You need only read some of the comments on the website for Coexist to realize that this organization is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at syncretism. The irony is that it is being passed off as distinctly not syncretistic on websites like Wikipedia. Like I said, he that controls the terms; controls the ideas (even I reference Wiki for convenience). What we see in organizations like Coexist is a modern form or what Jeroboam created by allowing Yahwehism and Baalism (worship of Baal) simultaneously in the places of worship at Bethel and Dan.

It begins with a deliberate watering-down to try to "get along" and find common ground and then it turns into trading doctrine for "diversity" and "fairness". It has been my experience that the only religion that ends up trading away beliefs in order to maintain peace and relationships is the Judeo-Christian religions. Some of the statements about the organization from those involved are below.

I am convinced this is one of the most helpful methods of improving integration." [referring to Coexist]
Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra

Integration by definition is: Incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups. These religions are NOT equal nor do they describe the same God/god.

"God has given us many faiths but only one world in which to co-exist. May your work help all of us to cherish our commonalities and feel enlarged by our differences." [referring to Coexist] Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations

God gave us many faiths? No, he didn't He gave us one. His Son Jesus Christ. To deny this is to deny the Christian faith. In this man's case (being a Rabbi), he is denying the one true G-d. It is a shame that a "learned" man of a faith doesn't recognize an obvious manifestation of Universalist Theology that believes "all religions lead to the same God"...or perhaps he is willfully blind? Not only is this belief considered apostate for Christians it is apostate for Jews also! This may not be what the Coexist organization advertises itself as but it is clear that adherents of it are clearly using it as an ecumenical "land grab" or in this case "mind grab" to merge different religions that are not even remotely alike.

Additionally, liberal mainline Catholic and Protestant denominations pretty much hold to the same philosophy and beliefs. We have begun to see the major shift in mainline liberal Protestant traditions, with the "emerging church" and liberal Catholics churches after councils like Vatican II. We also see it in certain denomination's cultural acclimation to appeal to current cultural mores such as liberal sexuality/alternative lifestyles. We also see it manifested in "easy-believism" or "seeker-friendly" congregations that have "tone down" Scripture by taking God's wrath out of it to make it more palatable for weak-kneed people. All of this amounts to nothing more than apostasy. To add to, to take away from or to twist Scripture is apostasy (regardless of what Wikipedia tells you)

The doctrinal constraints of "Christ is the only way" have largely been cast off. Many theologians, pastors, and lay people from these traditions do not hold to uniquely Christocentric understandings of how God was in Christ. They engage deeply in interfaith dialogue as learners, not converters, and desire to celebrate as fully as possible the many paths to God. As if there was more than one way. Absolute and utter nonsense and even my 6 year old understands the ludicrousness of that statement.

Any Christian that claims that their is a possibility of approaching God other than through the cross and Christ either read the Bible and misunderstood it or they are deluding themselves. If this is what they truly believe then they wouldn't even be Christian. Why do they suppose the word "Christ" is in Christian? Why do they suppose the cross is the iconic symbol of the Christian faith?

Again, I will add that this organization may have been started with good intent(s) to increase dialogue between faiths, to avoid misunderstandings or violence but it has now morphed into a syncretistic entity. Let me be clear: If an organization is formed solely to discuss the marked differences of faiths so that ignorance or "real hate" is not passed along because of poor information or misunderstanding, I am supportive of this type of dialogue. But if the organization crosses the line into distinct syncretism and blending of religions into a universalist God, I am dead against it. It is pretty clear from reading excerpts from those in groups like Coexist that this is not the case. Ironically, that is also like some of the kings of the Old Testament too. They started out well and looked promising (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah) but their power and reign either ended in disaster or tragedy befell them. Why? They drifted gradually away from Yahweh. Gradually sacrificing what they held as truth for lies either about other gods or lies about themselves (pride, ego, etc). Whenever we put another idea ahead of God we run the risk of apostasy and begin the long slide of decline and ruin.

Any organization that attempts to blend religions or water them down into constituent parts deconstructs the whole intent of Christianity which is meant to be viewed as a complete whole and inspired revelation of God about God in the Bible. You cannot just page through a Bible close your eyes and point at a verse and make it apply to you out of context. This is improper interpretation/hermeneutics. When we only attempt to take a portion of it or take single aspects of it to allow it to meld with another faith we are apostatizing in a deconstructive manner. We are dismantling God into parts and this defies the God of the Bible. Well intentioned but totally misguided. It is religious pluralism (or even polytheism) with a new name and a snazzy looking bumper sticker.

Note: Interfaithism and Ecumenicalism to me are nearly the same. I believe certain closely related denominations can possibly be more unified because their differences are in non-salvation areas but anything that requires changing or accepting something that directly affects a person's salvation is a no-no. Trying to merge entire religions is errant and counter intuitive to a person truly being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. At the same time I do not believe in painting with a broad brush because of either the errant beliefs of a few prominent bad teachers or due to lack of correct information. I have learned that there are some people within errant denominations that can be saved and attacking them is not the way to do it.

(1)"The Spread of Ecumenism." Bible Prophecy | Christian Apologetics at the Jeremiah Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2010.
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