October 31, 2010

Nameless But Notable XI: Faith That Goes Thru Walls

"When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." Matthew 11:2-6

A message in the form of a question coming from the man that paved the way for Jesus, that made His ways straight. The voice that cried from the wilderness that baptized Jesus and started His ministry now issues questions of doubt through messengers.

Was Jesus the One or had John been mistaken? If Jesus was the Messiah why would he allow John to languish in prison. I suppose when you're locked in a dank, dark and menacing prison unsure of your destiny you begin to doubt and the Devil attacks in you time of weakness. These messengers, John's disciples come to Jesus and He was performing His ministry. He was giving the blind sight, healing the lame so they can walk, curing lepers, giving hearing to the deaf, raising the dead, and spreading the good news to the poor.

Jesus tells them to go back to John and tell John what He [Jesus] has been doing. Did Jesus give John's disciples the cold shoulder because they were John's disciples? Of course not. Look what He tells them. Jesus tells them to tell John what they have heard and seen. Jesus was doing miracles. Jesus was manifesting supernatural healing ability which should've very clearly indicated to John that Jesus was indeed who John thought He was when he baptized Christ. With all the supernatural healing events in Jesus' ministry it was obvious that the Kingdom had arrived.

So John carries out his mission and is beheaded after sitting in jail. But before he is killed it is assumed that these men deliver their message to John. That message? Jesus brings the lost souls into the fold, cures the sick and heals the lame both physically and spiritually. John suffers his death but is glorified in Christ. Locked away and separated from Jesus, the only way John could get word from Jesus is though his messengers. John's situation is surprisingly similar to ours. We are prisoners to a world system until we get The Word from the Lord. Instead of stone walls between us and the Savior, we have a separation of centuries. The one unifying factor in both situations that saved John and will save us? Faith. Faith in the face of doubt. Faith in adversity. Faith in uncertainty. Faith when staring death in the face.

Who were these messengers? Unknown. What do we know? We know that the message Jesus sent back to john through these messengers also made it into the Bible for future generations including ours. The message of the Kingdom, the message of salvation made it through prison walls and it traversed intervening centuries to reach us in the Gospels. That is powerful.

October 25, 2010

Nameless But Notable X: Widow of Zarephath

"Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread. "As surely as the LORD your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die." Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land." 1 Kings 17:7-14

"I tell you the truth," he [Jesus] continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon." Luke 4:24-26

A foreigner approaches a widow under unusual circumstances with an unusual request. A request that she go home and bake/make a small cake of bread and little jar of water...and she even gets to make something for her son and herself. This is being asked of a woman that (1) has little or no food for her or her son and she is now in the process of gathering sticks to cook a last meal for themselves and (2) is a widow that has no person to support or protect her which is pretty much a death sentence in this society. This is not unusual if the person you are asking is not on the verge of starvation or if you know the person but this is not the case. Her response isn't so much incredulity as it is a rational evaluation of the situation and a decision that the resources for three people just were not there. It took a supernatural portion of faith to trust that this stranger would pull through on his promise, "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land."

Things went well until the widow's son dies. Then she wavers. What does this stranger which she now knows as Elijah do? Elijah prays and God answers that prayer. We must understand that this was done for a woman and her son who were from Sidon and it was done during a time when God was only dealing with His own people. So what we see is God giving grace and mercy to people that, at the time, were not His people in the same way that Israel was. He was giving grace and mercy to Gentiles. A shadow of things to come.

For contrast I add the passage from Jesus referring to this widow and her son. Just as Jesus did for His hometown. Jesus depicts the widow and how she comforted and fed a complete stranger (and foreigner). And why did Jesus bring this up in Luke? Jesus had returned to His own people (not foreigners). People that had been privileged enough to have been able to be in His presence, the Son of God when He was growing up as a carpenter's son. Do they bring Him bread? Do they bring Him water? No. They bring Him derision, scoffing, ridicule. Ostracizing and trying to oust him from their presence. Some even wanted Him dead. Being this inhospitable to even a stranger in Jesus' day would've been unheard of and shameful. To the people of Nazareth, He wasn't even a stranger He was their native son.

This is also a challenge in our day. In light of all the evidences and changed lives people continue to reject Jesus and the Gospel in staggering numbers. They do so while simultaneously embracing other worldviews that are clearly inconsistant or irrational while at the same time accusing Christians of the same thing they are guilty of...being ignorant (blissfully so).

Nameless But Notable IX: Mortis Interruptus

"Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. ~ Luke 7:11-17 notable

Doesn't stuff like this usually knock you totally off your "A" game? A dead guy is being carried out of a gate from the city and then sits up in his coffin and begins talking. I don't know about you but if I am walking into a town and I see a dead guy sit up in his coffin and start yammerin' I would either seriously consider doing an about-face and running or I would definitely inquire and find out "how'd dat happen?" We see it is again a miracle of that "Great Prophet" named Jesus. "Young man" he had said, "I say to you, get up!"...and a man is raised from the dead. You would think this was an everyday occurrence the way it reads but in reality it is almost beyond reality and words, isn't it? "Get up!" He's up. Done. No magical incantations, no potions and definitely no illusions but rather a command from the Son of God and the power of the Almighty. It is good that God directed this power to this man in particular or all the dead young men within earshot would've been sitting up. I mean this post is primarily in humor but is the possibility of every dead person within earshot sitting up that far fetched? Seriously. A command from the Almighty Living God that the dead can hear. Think about that...the dead can hear it. The dead cannot normally hear anything. But this one did. Wow! Power that the dead can hear and respond to. Sadly, reprobate sinners cannot hear this type of call and responded to it because they are too immersed in their sin and transgressions and seared by them. How dead in your transgressions do you have to be to not be able to respond to the word or command of God when even this dead guy can? Sinners must indeed be pretty dead...and deaf.

For perspective: Think of what follows: "news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country". Considering this is the 1st century, that is an enormous area for news to spread so quickly. The implication here that this news spread to people that probably wanted to get to him as soon as possible for what else? Healing. this means he would still need to have been alive to do so. If he could raise the dead he could most certainly heal them too.

We hear nothing of what happened to either the young man or his mother after this event. To me these narratives always floor me. The same with Lazarus and the resurrected saints. People literally come back from the dead and no one deems it important enough to follow-up on and track these people to see what eventually becomes of them. Many secular folks or non-believers would posit that this is because these resurrections from the dead never happened thus they were myths. They state that anything of this magnitude would've been so out of the ordinary that it most certainly would've been followed-up on or "tracked" had it actually happened.

I would like to suggest and alternate hypothesis.

I believe that within the entire range of Christ's entire ministry, these type of miracles were not that uncommon or out of the ordinary. Please note that I just quantified something critical here: "during Christ's ministry". I also believe that the importance of these types of stories lies in the fact that it is the people's faith, God's/Jesus' grace or other factors similar to this that warrant making these stories part of the canon, not necessarily the miracles per se.

Having postulated this, it explains two things to me. One, that the sheer magnitude and volume of Jesus' miracles probably dwarfs what we read about in the Bible. We know for a fact that not everything Jesus said or did is documented in the Bible (John 21:25). The Bible would've been too enormous to compile if that was the case. If this is so then the most important aspects or Jesus' ministry (miracles included) as deemed by God made it into the Scriptures. Probably because of their value to teach believers spiritual truths, not necessarily to continue to impress them with His divine power (even though his power was indeed amazingly and impressive). The volume of Christ's miracles must have been colossal. There were just too many spread over too large an area to keep track of accurately. That's my theory anyway. Take it or leave it. It seems more Biblical than...Jesus was myth. I guess some dead people you just can't reach. It is definitely a failure to communicate but it isn't the sender that's the problem, its the receiver.

Nameless But Notable VIII: A Righteous Criminal

"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43

Two sides to the same coin. Two sides of mankind. The lost and the saved. The reprobate and the redeemed. The mercy-minded and the malefactor. One of these criminals would be taking his punishment into the next life, the other, as Christ said would be with Him in paradise. The condition of the heart. Even on their death beds, even in their foxholes some refuse to give mercy to others and to have the mind and heart of Christ. It is the searing of a lifetime of sin and evil. They are case-hardened by the world until their exterior allows nothing in unless it is more harsh, unmerciful our unyielding then they are. Just as the criminal said, "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence?" This criminal realized that this man's heart had back slid so far that he was literally incapable of even realizing the power and might of God and being capable of fearing it or being in awe of it. This is a very numb and calloused person.

So what changed the heart of the one criminal who was most certainly hardened by the world also as he too had ended up on a cross like the other? Something had changed him because now, in these verses, there is a clear delineation between the two. One is caustic, sarcastic and divisive and the other willing to give the benefit of the doubt, give mercy and forgive? Was it the graceful manner in which Jesus endured His suffering? Was it the guilt brought on by a slow painful and torturous death. Was it the reflection of his sinful deeds in contrast to the innocent man that you see before you on the other cross knowing that He had not deserved this death for anything He had done?

When you are nailed to a cross or held bondage by anything good or bad you can become a prisoner to to that "thing" or you can become a prisoner to your own mind. This is the problem with many today. Their sins and transgressions hold them hostage. Everyone has forgiven them including God but they have not forgiven themselves and released their soul from self-inflicted slavery. In this way they are still slaves to their sin. Sad really. This man was not held to any additional penance in this situation. What did Jesus say. Apologize some more? No! He said, "today you will be with Me in paradise". If you have baggage, doubt, fear...let it go! Accept Christ once, continue to repent when you do something wrong and stop beating yourself up over and over.

Of course I am speculating at this point but is it possible that this thief in his misdeeds over the last 3 or 4 years had "gotten wind of" or heard the words of Christ? And now...just now, they had finally sunk in right at the very end? It isn't a matter of when you are saved but that you are saved. It is not a matter of when you first heard the message but a matter of when it finally sank in and you responded to it in a positive manner. Regardless, it is clear the Holy Spirit began working on this criminal's thoughts.

In contrast to this we have people that see this story and think "I have all the time in the world to make the decision to turn to Christ, that criminal knew death was near so he panicked and quickly repented to save himself". Do people that say these types of things or think about them really have that kind of time? To those reading this that have not found Christ and formed a meaningful relationship with Him I ask one question. How do you know that driving home today or walking across the street you will not be struck dead by a car, lightning or even from a stroke? What makes you so sure?

In the end the only thing we know for sure about this criminal is that he died that day and he entered glory with Christ...heaven. A place where Christians see their destiny and as believers, they look forward to a perfect relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end this righteous criminal made that same decision that we made but he made it in the "nick of time" to guarantee his salvation. As Christ alluded to though in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the order and the timing is not important, the saving is. As long as you "git' er done" before you're done in. As Jesus said, "...the last will be first, and the first will be last."

October 24, 2010

Nameless But Notable VII: Going to Macedonia

"And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. The Conversion of Lydia. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days." ~Acts 16:6-12

Wherever Paul and his companions wandered in Asia he was hindered by Judaizers but also he seemed to be in friction or hindered by the Holy Spirit. He was forbidden by the Spirit to speak in Asia. When attempting to enter Bithynia, the Spirit in Jesus did not allow them. So they pass by Mysia and make their way to Troas. It is in Troas that Paul has a dream of a man that beckons him to Macedonia (Greece). So here we have our first nameless and contemplated/pondered man. I believe, if Paul had recognized the man in his dream he would've identified him to the others he was traveling with but this fact is not disclosed in Scripture. He may have been symbolic of all the people in waiting to hear the Word and the message of salvation in Macedonia, we do not know for sure. The Scripture does sort of speak directly to this fact though. The exact passage states, "Come over to Macedonia and help us /ημιν"

Us who? This "us" designates a plural so this man might very well have been a representative of a group needing the Word. Whether real or imagined, singular or symbolic it was "we" or specifically "immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia". Paul and those with him (Silas, Timothy, Luke, etc) decided as brethren and as a group that they would immediately go to Macedonia as they all concluded this is the message or sign the had all been waiting for as opposed to being hindered by the Spirit.

Over and over down through the centuries this message and signaling from the Holy Spirit has been motivating and convicting believers to "go to Macedonia" or "go to Rome" or "go to the New World" , "go to the frontier", "go to the mountains", "go to California", "go to the inner-city", "go to the projects in Chicago", "head out to Brooklyn or up to the Bronx", "to the east side", "the west side", "the south side" and so on and so on. We are motivated by the Spirit to go out and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20) in some shape or form according to our gifts and filling by the Spirit. In the same manner the Spirit shows us how and what to do through different vehicles and ideas. In Paul's case it was a man in Macedonia beckoning and saying "us". Where is the Spirit calling you? Is He calling you away from where you think you should be and telling you to go somewhere else. Are you fighting Him? Are you trying to figure out why every time you do His will, you keep failing? Are you really trying to do what He wants...or are you trying to do what you want?

October 23, 2010

Reaching Forward, Reaching Back

In the sermon outlines of Acts it is blatantly obvious that all of these allusions reach back to prophecy or (types) in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was pointing ahead to Christ in some shape or form. The types make no sense unless they are attached in some manner to Christ, His mission and redemptive work or His resurrection. I will place the New Testament reference first and then the Old Testament reference it reaches back to.

The New Testament Fulfillment Acts 3:13-26

We see the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus. The Jews delivered Him over and denied in the presence of Pilate. Instead of selecting Jesus to be released they disowned Jesus and asked for a murderer. He was put to death. They acted in ignorance having Him put to death. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

The Old Testament Type or Foreshadowing: Isaiah 53:4-5

The announcements of prophets from Samuel onward are too numerous to mention. I'll list the most profound in Isaiah's suffering servant: Isaiah 53:4-5-He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

The New Testament Fulfillment: Acts 4:10-12

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

The Old Testament Type or Foreshadowing: Psalms 118:22

Primarily this points to Psalm 118:22 and "the stone which the builders rejected" has become the chief corner stone. The cornerstone is the first laid and it is the stone off which all the other stones in an edifice are based. This mention also turns up in all of the Synoptic Gospels and in a few letters/epistles. There is only one cornerstone of our faith and it is only through Christ which we are saved. The savior had come and the Jews rejected Him.

The New Testament Fulfillment: Acts 5:30-32

"The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

The Old Testament Type or Foreshadowing: Deuteronomy 21:22

Israel treated Christ as nothing more than a criminal, possibly the lowest of Criminals. God on the other had exalted Him to the highest position to forgive sin. Deut 21:22 If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day he who is hanged is accursed of God...

The New Testament Fulfillment: Acts 10:36-43

God sent message to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. John the Baptist: baptized and preached—God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus then went around doing good/healing all who were under the power of the devil "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

The Old Testament Type or Foreshadowing: Deut 21:22, Jer 23:6, 31:34

In doing all this God foretold of what He would do and He carried it out through His Son Jesus Christ. Perfectly. Not only what was foretold but the power of God was in Jesus while he was on Earth and it moved in Him in Power and was manifested by miracles and healing. He showed that He had power over the powers of this world and the the Kingdom (at least a portion had finally arrived. The Jews response as mentioned before was to hand Him on the cross/tree. Deut 21:22 "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree..." Jer 23:6 "In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.' In reference to the judge of the living and the dead and forgiveness of sins..." Jer 31:34 "No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: Know the LORD, for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them"—the LORD's declaration. "For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin."

October 22, 2010

Nameless But Notable VI: Embracing An Anchor

The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' "So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well."
John 5:1-15

An invalid or handicapped man sits beside the Pool At Bethesda. He has been ill for 38 years and is clearly hoping to be healed somehow or he would not be beside the Pool. As stated in the narrative it was believed he was waiting for the water to "stir". It was believed that when the water stirred it was and angel and when it happened the water was to have healing properties for the first that entered. The Bible never validates this claim though. Every time the water stirred though the invalid had..."no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." This thereby supposedly negated the healing effects of the water. The fact that this unnamed man was so incapacitated that he couldn't even move quickly enough to beat other invalids into the water shines a light on just how bad his condition was.

Jesus healed this man without laying a hand on him. He only stated a command, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." So how do the Pharisees view this? Legalistically and contentiously. They tried to nail the former invalid with violating the Sabbath by picking up his bedroll and carrying it. The invalid's reply: "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" The Pharisees reply pretty much alludes to a witch hunt at this point. Jesus slips away into the crowd. Later Jesus sees that sinner again and warns him of the danger of his sin and the newly healed man spreads the news of Jesus' miracle. What can be implied here is that this man's invalid condition may have been the direct result of his sin. We do not know how old he was but we do know he was in the condition he was in for the 38 years mentioned.

First, we must realize that Jesus' asked this man if wanted to be healed. Wouldn't every person with a handicap or anchor like this holding them down want to be healed? The answer to this is NO. Some people like their anchors, in most cases they are called sin. Some chose to hold onto their sin rather than accept their Savior, their healer. In this case the this man wanted healing.

As for those repulsive legalists (Pharisees) they again only concerned themselves with violation of their illegitimate legal code rather than the mercy and grace exhibited by Jesus. Pathetic...but we see it every day even in this day and age. Sadly, we again see a negative response from a person positively affected by Jesus' miracles and showcases of mercy. The now newly healed man shifts the blame for his violation of bogus laws onto the very One that allowed him to violate the Pharisees overly restrictive legalism...Jesus Christ. Jesus can't catch a break with either the people he performs miracles for or these thickheaded religious leaders. What made it worse for this invalid is he eventually rats out Jesus to the Jews.

It is obvious to all that can correctly read and interpret this passage that, even though Jesus healed him, the invalid found it more important to get back into the good graces of a twisted religious elite rather than take the chance of being punished for bringing glory to the only One that matters. The very One that healed him. How messed up is that? There is a word that sums up what this man did. Betrayal (and senseless). It is astounding that some will gleefully wallow and drowned in the depth of their depravity and ignorance. They are content to stay in threatening waters never once reaching for a life preserver. Instead they only push it away and flail in the other direction to embrace an anchor (sin). Some have eternity so close to them they can touch it, literally within their grasp...and they let it go and they turn away. They have the truth and embrace lies. They can see the light but prefer dwelling in darkness. They could have life but they chose death. Makes no sense to me but the Bible said there would be people like this didn't it?

October 20, 2010

Nameless But Notable V: Overexertion On The Sabbath

"Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." Mark 3:1-6

Why did the man come to the synagogue? Did he come in an honest attempt to worship? Did he come in the thin hope that the "Miraculous Healer" would be there to heal his shriveled hand. Did he realize that he would be used by the conniving Sadducees and Pharisees to try and "expose" Jesus' violation of the Sabbath?

The legalists were out in force this day (Pharisees). They actually ask Jesus, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" (Matthew 12:10) Jesus responds with a biting rhetorical question, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:11-12). Jesus then tells the man to stretch out his hand and Jesus instantly restored it and it was sound just like his other hand.

The Pharisees reaction? They wanted to kill Jesus so badly they plotted how they might go about it. Who was really working on the Sabbath here? Seriously. I imagine they expended much more energy on that Sabbath to work against Jesus and plot his death as opposed to Jesus simply asking a man to extent his hand to get it healed. I can imagine these shrewd snakes were breaking out in sweats trying to formulate an acceptable murderous plan. You also begin to see just how hardened the hearts can become in evil men and how twisted their thinking. There is absolutely no inkling in the text that these men saw their hypocrisy (as was always the case with the Jewish leaders in their confrontations with Jesus). They do not seem to see the contradiction in their actions as opposed to the accusations they level against Christ. They are blind as a bat.

What is disappointing in this episode is the man with the shriveled and the Jesus healed. He takes no stand either way in this situation. He knew what had been done for him yet he appears to have stayed neutral. How many believers do we know like this? They know the power of God. They have seen Him work mighty and powerful deeds in their lives to their benefit...and they are either ashamed of professing His name or they inadvertently keep him a secret. How can believers do that and still call themselves believers? Doesn't the fact the many people are loosing there eternal salvation due to never hearing the Gospel convict these people? I'm sorry but this is one of the very first things that shot onto my radar when I became a believer. If I could've been duped by the world for so long thinking "good was good enough", how many millions of others think/thought the same? Knowing the truth and knowing others don't shuld break poeple's hearts that love their fellow human beings. This should convict people and if it doesn't I seriously question if these folks have a heart for Christ or the mind of Christ. As Christ said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Who's your neighbor?

The one you need to have mercy on...

Who needs more mercy and sympathy than one who is lost and does not believe and is doomed to damnation and eternal seperation from our Holy God?

Because this nameless benefactor of Jesus' miracle had no real opinion on on the miracle or Jesus per se, he basically allowed himself to be manipulated and used as a tool for evil. It is an excellent example of one who can have enough faith to be healed but just enough moral ambivalence or apathy to be used for purposes against the kingdom. Had he cared and spoke up he could've been an excellent witness to countless others. Instead he can be used only in hindsight as an example for other reasons, some of which do not put him in a good light. Instead of being a gleaming beacon of faith be becomes a dim flashlight locked away in a dark room.

Nameless But Notable IV: Busted

"God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (One day) the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas." ~Acts 19:11-19

Here we have Sceva the Jewish High Priest and his seven sons who were nothing more than hucksters. How they were related to the Sadducean Party or if they were is unclear. What is clear is they were not followers of the Lord Jesus Christ based solely on their conduct. They were "going around" with a group of Jewish exorcists more than likely preying on peoples weaknesses for profit or notoriety (or both). Seeing the miracles Paul was performing in the name of Christ, they probably figured, they could too. This also indicates that their own form of necromancy or sorcery was clearly a failure. Dopes. Even WITH Jesus' name they still couldn't get it right.

We now reach the crux of the issue at this point. Paul was casting out evil spirits to the glory of God, his motives were righteous. These seven knuckleheads had other dubious motives. They were trying to manipulate evil spirits with Jesus' name but for shameful or questionable motives. Their interests in performing these miracles was not to heal or move the Kingdom into the limelight but rather to perform their own scamboogery and goofy antics (probably for profit and self-gain). They saw it work for a Roman plebeian like Paul, it most certainly should work for them too, right?

Wrong. Busted.

They approach a demon-possessed man and proclaim, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." It appears that they picked a person possessed by an evil spirit with a "chip in his shoulder" and was having none of this mamby-pamby hammerheaded nonsense. "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" The man possessed by this evil spirit proceeds to jump them and pretty much hands their pride back to them on a silver platter. I can see it in my mind now...seven opportunistic hacks sprinting out of a house screaming with a notable shortage in the apparel department. Talk about a wardrobe malfunction.

Even though these men lost their dignity and their clothes they offer us a silent piece of advice. There are many not in a right relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ and it was evident in the case of these seven. We see it nowadays also in those fiercely independent types that claim they are getting by and thriving with no help from the Lord or very little. They totally fail to understand that the reason they even exist and breath is only because of the power of God's Word (Heb 1:3). Just because they haven't had their pride and arrogance handed back to them yet like this misfortunate and bumbling crew doesn't mean it won't happen. God does things and allows things in His own time. What everyone can be assured of is: If you have it coming to you...you're gonna get it. Good or bad. God is perfectly just and we should expect nothing less. Often, punishment and rebuke is not even waiting around a corner to pounce on us as God is abundantly patient and could, and often does try to work us through the rough patches in our life. He is just but He is also merciful and full of grace.

The beauty of this story is these hucksters got what they had coming to them. God in His omnipotence can work concurrently through evil & evil spirits to benefit of all involved (Gen 50:20). It is the beauty and irony of poetic justice. Being rightfully punished in turn by the same unrighteousness that you are guilty of. Its like a thief breaking into a house only to find out he forgot to turn of the ringer on his cell phone. Priceless.

Nameless But Notable III: Christ & A Doggedly Persistent Canaanite

"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour." ~Matthew 15:21-28

Bold is the first word that comes to mind when I read this passage about this Canaanite woman. The Lord had just withdrew from the crowds with his disciples for rest to Tyre and Sidon. He was also attempting to temporarily get away from the tormenting and heckling Jewish leaders. The news of their presence in the area clearly got out to the people of the area they were in.

Needless to say, any intrusion by anyone in this situation would've ruffled feathers so it is not surprising that the disciples emphatically urged the Lord to shoo her away so they could get their much desired rest. What probably made them view her at an even more condescending and downward angle is that she was a foreigner, a woman an what's worse, a Gentile and a Canaanite. Descendant of the people that, having failed to measure up to God's standards, were to be replaced by Israel. This woman literally had everything culturally and stereotypically working against her.

This of course didn't deter her even one step. Her persistence though wasn't defiant but rather zealously earnest. "Lord, help me!" This is not the demand of a demanding belligerent person but the appearance of someone who knew the tougher side of life and had been humbled by it yet still yearned for something better knowing full well that Jesus could provide it if only she had doggedly persistent faith.

And what was Jesus' response? "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." We need to understand that this is a proverbial statement. Jesus is telling this woman and those within earshot that he "was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel", not to Gentiles. Additionally, the word dog was a commonly used derogatory term for Gentiles but what is said here is the diminutive form of dog or [κυναρίοις/kunariois] the neuter of a presumed derivative of [κύων/kuon] referring to much treasured house pets (puppies) not the nasty street scavengers that were often referred to and used as insults by Jews. Also, the delivery of such a word most likely would've been delivered with either a sneer or a smile. I am betting Jesus said this with a smile meaning it was delivered with wit and in jest not as a slander to the woman as this would not have been in line with Jesus' character.

The woman being of quick wit herself immediately replies back, "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Instead of being deterred by what seemed like a derogatory response from the Lord she replies with tact and cleverness. Jesus appreciates this woman's faith, tenaciousness and is delighted by her quick wit. "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."

Point of the story? Have abundant faith and don't be so quick to give up at the first sign of resistance or bad news. If things were meant to be easy, everyone would be doing them, wouldn't they? God wants those that will stand ramrod straight in the face of adversity not get weak-kneed and cave it under the slightest of pressure. It is also called being spirited and hopeful...the signs of a faithful servant.

October 16, 2010

Nameless But Notable II: Human Torches

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family." Acts 16:25-34

Ah yes, the suicidal jailer who thought he had lost his prisoners. We need to understand that any soldier or guard that lost his prisoners at this time would've more than likely been put to death, probably a painful one to serve as an example to others. It is not surprising given his assumed circumstances that he was ready to fall on his own sword to spare himself a torturous death that would've inevitably ensued had Paul, Silas and the other prisoners actually left after they escaped.

"Don't not harm yourself, for we are all here!"

Probably the most blessed words this jailer heard in his entire life. The jailer either through reverence or respect fell at the feet of Paul and Silas and what are the first words from his mouth?

"What must I do to be saved?" ...and is literally converted on the spot. Not only him but his family too. We see two things take place following this episode. We see the Word acted out in the behavior of Christian integrity in Paul and Silas. We also see the audible Word working with its authority in the hearts of the people after the Christian behavior and acts drew them in through its importance and appeal. Regardless, it is the Word working both times either through hearing it directly or through the actions of believers that have internalized the word and "live it" like Paul.

The midnight ceremony of conversion of these new converts is then followed by baptism, a love feast and confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. Man! It don't get no better than that. I could only hope that some of my potential conversion prospects would be this easy to win to the faith. It usually ends up like pulling teeth from somebody that wants to keep them.

Another thing we see in this amazing conversion is the Holy Spirit already laid the ground work and paved the path for the Word directly into the jailers heart. Wake up people! This was only instantaneous and so exacting because of the divine work of God. The actions of Paul and his cohorts was only the catalyst to make it happen or the match that lit the fire that had all the fuel there ready to burn...like a torch in the darkness for others to see. God used Paul to win the jailer, God used the jailer to win his family. How many more do you suppose were won through the jailer and his family because of a simple act of integrity followed by a simple act of belief and a confession of faith?

October 15, 2010

Nameless But Notable I: A Dead Prophet, A Passive Lion & A Dopey Ass

This will be the first post in a series on nameless but notable characters throughout the Bible that we do not know the names of or do know the names of and know little about. Hence the name, Nameless But Notable. They enter the narrative of the Bible and then duck back out never to be heard from again. Some of them are genuine enigmas others less so but they all have something in common. They are in the Bible for a reason and that reason I will try to exegete or draw from the text. Some of them are downright quirky in their inclusion in the Christian's Holy Book but that quirkiness is the exact reason I am drawn to their stories. So lets see what we can learn from them, shall we?

"And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, "It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the LORD spoke to him." And he said to his sons, "Saddle the donkey for me." And they saddled it. And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey." ~1 Kings 13:26-28

So who was this unnamed prophet. A prophet lying in the middle of the road while his "ride" stands idly by staring mindlessly over the body as if nothing has happened. Next to the vapid donkey a lion also standing beside the body of our quite deceased friend "the nameless prophet". A mystery indeed!

Having read the surrounding text it turns out God had sent this prophet to Jeroboam to warn him of his political strategy, the doom of the altar he had built and his bogus priests. To add urgency to the situation God has instructed the nameless prophet to return immediately to Judah and not to stick around for even food or drink.

The prophet delivered his designated message and started home. He was detoured by another prophet of Israel (different from the first) and invited to dinner. When the first prophet declined, the second prophet claimed he had a much later message from an angel (a dubious excuse) that he was to invite the first prophet to his home. In this culture, to have turned the second prophet down would've nearly appeared as sacrilege from a human standpoint...and here is where we begin to see the crux of the problem. Confusion of whom to please and what takes priority. During the meal the second prophet that had duped the first informs the first that he had deceived him and also prophesied that on his way home a lion would kill him.

So...we are again at this scene and even after the back story we still have one dead prophet, a passive lion and a dopey ass. So...why? I really don't see this narrative as being rocket science in terms of its complexity and what it is trying to teach us. There is no hidden message here and it is quite simple. God is not to be trifled with. What He says, goes. His commands at the time of Moses had been carved in stone. Why stone? Because God expected them to be around for a while. A long while in the exact state that they had been etched into the stone by the finger of God. God does not change. God is immutable. If anything has been commanded by God it still stands in some shape or form (i.e. ceremonical law = Christ). It will be obeyed at some point or justice will be served for disobedience.

Often we we sit in the middle of roads of our own making and ask,"What happened, I had no warning?!?!" In reality we did have warnings, plenty of them and they were ignored or unrecognized. These are times we need to be especially attentive and use discernment. Just like children we need to stop, look & listen...and obey before it is too late. The other side is the willful ignorance or neglect and the thought that, "it couldn't possibly happened to me". In this instance we would be well advised to learn from misfortune of our nameless and lifeless friend. We should seek to avoid lions sent to punish us for our presumptuousness and or defiant sinful human will by paying attention to what is often obviously the Lord's will smacking us upside the head. Whack!!!

As for the dopey ass...well, its just a dopey ass too lazy to run from a lion that just "bumped off" its owner and it should consider itself lucky to be alive (all things considered).

October 12, 2010

Salvation Characteristics: Evidence of True Faith

Evidences of true Faith fruit of a Christian life comes in all different shapes and forms. The list and outline in this post is by no means exclusive but it the best comprehensive list I could make based on my references. The evidences will vary in intensity and different amounts for different people. All people are different and the manifestations of the indwelt Spirit will look certain ways in certain people. What is certain is that they will manifest some of those listed here.

Love for God

Psalm 42:1
"For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God."

Psalm 73:25
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you."

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

Romans 8:7
"...the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so."

Repentance from Sin

Psalm 32:5
"Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD" —and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah"

Proverbs 28:13
"He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

2 Corinthians 7:10
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

Romans 7:14
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin."

1 John 1:8-10
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

Genuine Humility

Psalm 51:17
"The sacrifices of God are [a] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

James 4:6
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Devotion to God’s Glory

Psalm 105:3
"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice."

Psalm 115:1
"Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."

Isaiah 43:7
"...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."

Isaiah 48:10
"See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."

Jeremiah 9:23-24
This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

1 Corinthians 10:31
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Continual Prayer

Luke 18:1
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."

Ephesians 6:18
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Philippians 4:6
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

1 Timothy 2:1-4
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

James 5:16-18
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."

Selfless Love

1 John 2:9
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness."

1 John 3:4
"Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness."

1 John 4:7
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."

Separation From the World

1 Corinthians 2:12
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."

James 4:4
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

1 John 2:15-17
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."

1 John 5:5
"Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

Spiritual Growth

Luke 8:15
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

John 15:14
You are my friends if you do what I command.

Romans 16:26
"...but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him..."

1 Peter 1:2
"...who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance."

1 Peter 1:22
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart."

1 John 2:3-6
"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God's love[a] is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Hunger for God’s Word

1 Peter 2:1-3
"Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

Transformation of Life

2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Salvation Characteristics: Bad Evidences

I get this question ALL the time. “Can I lose my salvation?”

We as humans too often deceive ourselves into believing things or are deceived into believing things by Satan that just are not true. The worst of these deceptions is the belief that we are actually saved. I have heard it asked quite a lot, “Can I lose my salvation?” My usual instant reply is, “That is not the question you should be asking.” What I then tell people is that they should be asking themselves, “Did you ever have salvation?” This avoids the Arminian and Calvinism debate outright and makes a believer focus on what matters. They are forced to focus on the inner person and their inner and outward behaviors that are manifestations of the inward reality.

Unfortunately, many assume because they “did something" they were told to do by the church or performed some rite of passage like saying the sinner’s prayer when they were 7 years old and were told they’re good as gold. First off, doing anything other than having faith gets you works and nothing more. Secondly, saying a prayer when you were a child and then doing nothing else to maintain a relationship with a “LIVING GOD” and ignoring Him for the last 30 years signifies little or nothing. What it does show is that you said a prayer to God at 7 years old and it meant little or nothing. If you are not showing manifestations of your salvation (which I will outline in my next post) you had better evaluate your standing before the Almighty God. The question is not, “Can I lose it…it is…did/do you have it? Sadly I have found that many folks do not know whether they are coming or going sometimes because they have not rooted their beliefs in the Bible but rather bad teachings of the advise of others that are partially or fully Biblically illiterate.

The list I have typed here is by no means complete but it should give reader a general idea of where they are at from a salvational point of view. Some of the following are evidences that do not prove or disprove one’s faith and/or salvation. Please do not use them as the sole gauge of your salvational standing before God. By themselves they are not good indicators.

Outward Visible Morality

The Rich Young Man

‘Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." ~Matthew 19:16-21

The Hypocritical Pharisees

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. ~Matthew 23:27

Intellectual Knowledge

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. ~Romans 1:21

“Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God…”
~Romans 2:17

Religious Involvement & Active Ministry

Sermon On The Mount

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’~Matthew 7:21-23

Conviction of Sin and Wrongdoing

Trial Before Felix
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you."~Acts 24:25

Assurance (by mental human assessment)

"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. ~Matthew 23:16-24

Time of Decision to Come To Faith

Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.~ Luke 8:13-14

You cannot continue to be a sinner in any form and frivolously assume that you are saved. You must truly assess yourself and discern with spiritual eyes based in the Scripture. In addition to this list another indicator of whether you are truly in the faith and on solid ground is in 1 John. More on this next.

We must be cautious as believers to examine ourselves and assure that we are and remain in the faith for our own eternal well-being and for others. We must assure that we are for others because we also serve as examples to the brothers and sisters in Christ that look to us as anchors when they are unsure of themselves or when their faith flags and wavers. We cannot allow ourselves to be blown wherever the winds of doubt blow us so that we end up like a ship adrift on the sea or wandering in circles trying to get out bearings. We know where we are...we are In Christ, all points of the compass point out from there. More on this in the next post.

Transhumanism...Smells Like Gasoline

Welcome to brave new world. We are now entering a new realm where man has the technology and the means to integrate with the technology they create. We have entered a realm that is a slippery slope and lines begin to blur. The question is not "how far will man go?" Man left to his own devices will pursue sin and reprobate thoughts until the cows come home. They are not so much the issue. You are. How far are you willing to allow them to go? How far will you allow the technology to infiltrate and directly affect your life. Designer babies? Implants? Augments?

Transhumanism is a set of ideas which represents a world view to improve the human condition. They support critical thinking in the development of sciences and technologies to extend the human lifespan, eradicate aging, solve problems of disease, and encourage and enhance intellectual, creative, physical and mental well-being. In this regard, it is essential to be aware of the possible dangers that lie ahead. The examination of potential dangers affect not only transhumanist, but the entire world. The use of technologies and biotechnology must be looked at with a critical and ethical observation (1).

Transhumanism can be said to stem, in part, from humanism. "Humanism is a "philosophical system of thought that focuses on human value, thought, and actions. Humans are considered basically good and rationale creatures who can improve themselves and others through natural human abilities of reason and action.

Many scientists that adhere to evolutionary science (which is most of the them) see transhumanism as just the next logical step for advancement of man. As believers we can already see from these descriptions the build-in stumbling blocks for its failure. People are not basically good, they are sinful. As such they are worthy of the death put on them by the curse. Transhumanists actually toy with words like immortalism. As if man could override God's mandate. What is worse is evolution is not compatible with Christian doctrine and because of this Christians need to very closely scrutinize this no phase of humanity. I personally do not see transhumanism as an evolutionary step as I see it as an evilutionary step. We are not moving on to the newest form of human has a higher life form but rather moving backwards and taking away from God's creation. We moving to more sinful uses of science. How many animals and people do we continue to sacrifice in the name of science to perfect bioimplants. How many animals get tortured to gain single bits of data to tell us whether or not an implant will be detrimental to humans? This is the area we enter when we talk about stem cell research. Science claims the only place we can get the proper stem cells is from aborted fetuses. Japanese scientists have already proven this is a fallacy since we can get them...from our own teeth!

This is not evolution of humankind. It is devolution. Humans are now adapting to regression of morals and ethics. It is a step backwards to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Personally, I find it reprehensible that so many are willing to become Borg-ian (as in Borg from Star Trek). We are already starting off on the wrong foot with this when we claim it is for the overall advancement of mostly good people when the Bible is very clear on why we are not "mostly good people" and why we die to begin with. We are turning Biblical thought processes and doctrine on their head when we pursue something less than God's "very good" creation thinking we can improve on it. We are trying to be like God. I imagine some of these science types...believe the are gods of some sort. I say we are now flirting with technologies we understand little about and only disaster can lay down that road. Its like giving a man a match to light a pitch black room that smells of gasoline.

Go do your homework and read up on this. It is already effecting you more than you realize or probably wished it did. It has become as big an ethical minefield as the genetics/cloning issues and that issue doesn't look like its going away any time soon either.

How much is too much and do you really think that man has the ability in him to make the right decision once we start down this path? Will man know how to restrain himself. If history has been any indicator, especially in light of the genetics arguments...we are in trouble. What if it is your terminally ill child that needs a morally questionable augment to survive? Your wife? Your husband? Are you prepared to say no if it violates the moral precepts and implications outlined in the Bible? This won't be the Six Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman. It'll be your kids or your spouse. There are legitimate uses of technology but what are they and when do they get used? When is it acceptable to augment? Amputations? When does man stop being man? Do you make the decision? Do corporations? Do we allow atheistic scientists that do not even believe in your God (or any god for that matter)?

Just a few thoughts that have been going through my head about this topic.

(1) "Transhumanist FAQ." Transhumanism's Extropy Institute - Transhumanism for a better future. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

October 9, 2010

Perotin: The Hilliard Ensemble

Wow. I don't know what took me so long to find the style of music called polyphony but this is the second album in a month that has absolutely floored me in terms of multi-layered vocals. This music is simply mesmerizing in its depth and beauty. The last album I reviewed containing polyphony was Utopia Truimphans and it was Renaissance Polyphony (1400-1600) but this album is considered Medieval Polyphony (500-1400) or in the 1100-1200 range. Its old. The music on this album is in excess of 800 years old. It is vocals with no musical accompaniment although you'd swear someone was playing something in the background like a hurdy gurdy or some other medieval instrument but I guess that was just my imagination playing games with me. It is from a composer called Pérotin (circa 1200). He was a European composer, believed to be French, who lived around the end of the twelfth and beginning of the 13th century. He was one of very few composers of his day whose name has been preserved, and can be associated to compositions.

When speaking of polyphony and Perotin, John of Salisbury (1120–1180) Bishop of Chartres once wrote:
"When you hear the soft harmonies of the various singers, some taking high and others low parts, some singing in advance, some following in the rear, others with pauses and interludes, you would think yourself listening to a concert of sirens rather than men, and wonder at the powers of voices … whatever is most tuneful among birds, could not equal. Such is the facility of running up and down the scale; so wonderful the shortening or multiplying of notes, the repetition of the phrases, or their emphatic utterance: the treble and shrill notes are so mingled with tenor and bass, that the ears lost their power of judging. When this goes to excess it is more fitted to excite lust than devotion; but if it is kept in the limits of moderation, it drives away care from the soul and the solicitudes of life, confers joy and peace and exultation in God, and transports the soul to the society of angels"
My only complaint is that the disk is a tad short at 56 minutes. It mostly makes up for the lack of music by the quality of music as it is crisp and clear. Sometimes these polyphonies can be quite muddled and distorted. Thankfully this one is not.

Rating 98/100

Here is a sample of one of the better tracks on this disc

Viderunt Omnes


The Good News & Not-So-Good News

At times I find it incredibility hard not to take a recent news article off the Internet and type an opinionated diatribe about it. Okay, it is just about impossible and sometimes I barely restrain myself from hitting the "PUBLISH" button on the blog's dashboard. Usually I hit delete. I try desperately to obey an agreement I made with the Lord. It has become so hard to avoid political and cultural commentary because of the absurdity of our culture. It seems nowadays that very few can actually discern the difference between right and wrong, ney, righteous and sin (lets call it what it is for once). The Lord knows there is plenty of fodder out there to rip on. If it wasn't for the fact that some of the garbage out there is a direct affront to Christian faith I wouldn't give a rip about it anyway.

So why don't I comment on the political nonsense? First, people need a break from it and I wanted to make my blog a space for edification, education and evangelism not politics, pundits and polemics. I also had a long time to think about how I wanted to present God's message through my blog long before I started it and I did not want to do it in an attacking negative manner that I have seen from so many Christian blogs. This does nothing to improve relations with the ones we are suppose to be trying to reach.

1 Peter 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us

I made a covenant with the Lord to stay positive and be a bolstering force for a Christian (although it sometimes kills me to keep my silence on some current societal issues). I told myself when I started this blog in February that I would not fall victim to taking sides in things non-doctrinal or non-salvational. I would not throw myself into the fray in non-Biblical/non-Christian polemics unless they directly attack the body of Christ.

Where Christians or Christianity has been attacked I have been nearly merciless in pinpointing the point of attack, making a critical assessment, isolate it and then spared little righteous anger at their expense. There is no room for mamby-pamby oscillation when confronting sin no matter what mask it wears today (or tomorrow).

Although my posts are often laced with contemporary topics people would consider divisive (Christians do not live in a sinless vacuum), I try to address the divisive topics with surgical precision and tact. If readers look closely at the posts, they will see that all have a Biblical bend or are comparatively matched up against God's Word. Many times there are actual Biblical precedents if people look close enough. If there is a suitable comparison that I am aware of I will outline it so readers can see the contrast or similarities. The good thing about history repeating itself means we already have an answer to the problem in the Bible. The bad news is the mankind has learned nothing, Jew and Gentile alike. When you think about this it is quite sad. Man's nature has always been the same and continues to be into the future. Sinful. The cultural issues that bombard Christians at every turn in our world are addressed here at SoulJournaler. What I will not be sucked into is the Hegelian Dialectic of politics in the United States or abroad. I will speak to them when I need to as Jesus did when referring to Caesar or as Paul did in Romans 13 but outside of this I tread like a man with clown shoes in a minefield, gently trying to avoid hitting a mine. It is not my place. Let the professional politicians do that job. Let the pundits be pundits getting people all fired up. I'll preach and spread the Word since I consider it vastly more important and more valuable to mankind than spreading mostly godless political ideologies in all quadrants of the political spectrum. Yuck...

I do not believe my call is to be a pundit for this side or that side. I will not waste the tools God has given me to promote the idolization of a man or men unless that man or men are promoting God as defined in the Holy Bible. That is a short list by the way. Also, I will not compromise the message of God. I will not smooth the edges of the Gospel so not to offend the seeker sensitive types with weak stomachs. If you want a church of ministry with the edges taken off...look elsewhere because you are not going to get it here. I give it to people straight. There are plenty of posts on this blog clearly stating my positions and watered-down Gospel is not my forte. Some of my posts have already been deemed hateful, intolerant or polarizing by my more liberal-minded brethren. I seriously doubt they fully grasp the full detrimental impact of the words that they misuse when they say "hater" or "intolerant" anyway. I wish them well in their ministries but they are teaching heresy and apostasy if they do not teach the Bible or if they add to the Bible.

Conversely, I will not split non-salvational hairs. Too many...TOO MANY of our brethren are ready to be critical of one another because they will not walk under our banner or banner and the only difference has to do with form and and not substance. Conversely, I am not ecumenical in my approach, I am just not willing to shut down a legitimate conversation because I think someone is wrong. As a matter of fact I purposely maintain a conversation with someone because I believe they're wrong. How can I try and rectify what I believe is wrong if I immediately shut them down? Makes no sense to me. Does that make sense to you?

Wow, boy have I gone down a rabbit trail...

Anyway, back to the news. Over the last year I have avoided almost all public political commentary and have not spoke to these type of issues, even on Facebook. I have diverged from the culture to immerse myself in my studies and the world seems slightly more distant than it use to. This allows me more time for what is important. God, family, studies, peace. I am waging my own little battles against the encroaching enemy and the sin that is pervading society at all levels on all continents. I will stand my ground and plant my pike in the bedrock of the Word to fend off threatening aggressors out to do harm to the Body or myself.

I have always believed I am pursuing truth. This quest will lead me to glory in the Lord as truth IS the Lord. I will kindly disseminate the Good News (εὐαγγέλιον / euangelion) out to the world but I need to filter and discern the so-called good news from the world coming in trying to pollute me since it is often corrupting and twisted by its very nature. If we do let things in from the outside culture they need to be let in with a heavy filter to strain out the dregs that come with the messages.

October 8, 2010

απολογιαν : Apologetics Not Apologies

απολογιαν noun: apologia ap-ol-og-ee'-ah: a plea (apology) -- answer (for self), clearing of self, defense.

"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [απολογιαν] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

I tried my hand at teaching from the Bible a year or so ago and I ceased doing it because it didn't feel right and many things lead me to believe I was too new in the faith or too immature a believer to properly shoulder the task (a la: 1 Timothy & Titus). This changes again on Oct 10, 2010. I am doing this to meet the requirements of my Systematic Theology course. It is the service learning portion of my syllabus. I'd have done this anyway had the opportunity presented itself as I am inexplicably being drawn towards pastorate, teaching, or both. This is a chance to hone the blade on the Sword of the Spirit and better present a defense (apologia) for the Faith while simultaneously helping others do the same. I'm jazzed to do so.

I will begin teaching an apologetics course at church. I have had formal correspondence and have finalized the plans to present a course initially on logic and the foundational first principles of logic such as the Law of Non-Contradiction, The Law of Identification and The Law of the excluded Middle. I will not be elaborating on them here other than to say that I hope I am giving these believers in attendance additional reasons to proactively go out into the world to make disciples. I pray that that something I do over the next few weeks will embolden or motivate folks to fulfill the Great Commission.

As I had stated to the spiritual leadership of the church I believer there are many positive advantages for Christian believers to engage the culture at their points of sin. To meet them at the point of consternation with their own belief systems. Through Presuppositional Apologetics I want to show my brethren where we need to address non-believers. By showing them how their worldviews are nonsensical or in some cases internally inconsistent.

The benefits to believers is manifold.

It will better define their own position in their walk. Anyone that is prepared to meet the world (often on its own terms) needs a solid self identity and solid Christian worldview when discussing things of the secular aspects.

It will give the attendees a solid launching-off point for discussion of worldly or Christian based discussion and not to be uncomfortable defending their Christian faith or those they represent in the face of hostility or confrontation from other worldviews.

In addition to the solid teaching of Jesus Christ and the Bible that the church already provides to cultivate a loving relationship with Him, apologetics can act as a reinforcing and encouraging tool for inter-congregational growth. It can also act as an intellectual defense of the biblical worldview or act as a method of engagement with a non-believing culture since apologetics often speaks to worldly issues, current ideas and current thought processes.

It allows for a common ground on which to base discussion with those outside your church to win new converts to Jesus Christ. Since most non-believers will not always understand or respond immediately to a Biblical or Christian based message it is always useful to have other avenues of discussion to lead into the Gospel or a Biblical worldview. Apologetics can provide this avenue. The person having taken this seminar will understand how other worldviews relate to the Christian worldview. Some of these other worldviews being: Atheism, Pantheism, Agnosticism, etc. In the case of Atheism and Agnostics these belief systems are often based in a methodological naturalistic or existential worldview that says, “If I cannot see it, validate it, it doesn’t exist.” An apologetics seminar will give rudimentary paths for a member of your church to begin to infiltrate these types of myopic non-Christian views to allow the seed of the Word to be planted for the Kingdom.

Overall this approach may very well aid the members to become more efficiently equipped in engaging the culture (people of today’s world outside the church). Hopefully this will allow members of the church to have more tools in their toolbox when they go out into the world to do the Lord’s work.

I am doing the best I can to put the Word out their. Are you?

October 6, 2010

A Truly Repentant Heart

I've posted this Psalm before and it is being posted again. First, I love it because it is the perfect prayer for a repentant heart. It is the aftermath of Nathan having confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba. David having felt the true weight of his sin is convicted of it and loathes himself and sees the depth of his depravity. The psalmist prays for mercy, humbly confessing and lamenting his sins in Chapters 1 through 6. He pleads for pardon, that he may promote the glory of God and the conversion of sinners in Chapters 7 through 15. God is pleased with a contrite heart, A prayer for the prosperity of Zion in Chapters 16 through 19. What should be noted closely is not only the introductory repentance but also the follow-ups to the prayer. Not only does David seek God's pardon he looks forward to the benefit of Gods people and their ultimate prosperity. David goes from having focused on himself and doing what made him selfishly happy but then turns 180 degrees and seeks to openly do God's will. Strangely, as I read this my mind begins to wander backwards to 2 Samuel and the Lord telling David in 7:12 & 13..."When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever". My mind then jumps forward in time to Isaiah and "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." in Isaiah 11:1. Inevitably my thoughts begin to settle on things like the birth narrative in the beginning of Luke, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and thinking about Jesus in His ministry in Israel and the fact that He was crucified according to Scripture, was buried and rose again on the third day as stated in prophetic Scripture. I realize that David is essentailly apologizing to the Lord for putting Him in a situation where He will need to come incarnate to justify mankind and David is mortified by it. His conviction from sin breaks him apart like hammer blows until any linkage to that sin is riven to dust. He then asks the Lord to create in him a new heart that will be the basis for a renewed relationship with the Lord.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
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