November 30, 2010

Standing In The Gaps

Every now and then I like to show my gratitude to the readers of SoulJournaler. This thanks and gratitude is extended first to the Almighty God-Jesus Christ. The reaction to the posts have been quite fantastic and I always enjoy comments good or bad from people since it keeps me on my toes and helps me hone the edge I will need in my ministry.

To me the reaction to SoulJournaler has been astounding and I am dumbstruck. There have been 400+ joins in only 10 months and these are the people that I know of due to the joins and friendings. I know there are many others that have not joined but still read. It started as a place to air thoughts but recently it has had a cathartic nature and has helped me through some narrow and unforgiving corridors of my life (and my family's). It allowed be to lament the passing of my father and the weeks of pain that led up to it. As I had learned a long time ago in AA and NA in my rougher days, unloading a burden to others that are willing to help shoulder the load makes the burden vastly easier to carry. Putting things online for the world to see and sift through helped me clear my head and see things clearer, not muddled in a jumble of pain and emotions.

On this count I must also thank those that have supported my mother, my wife & me in my own church: Northpointe Community Church of Limerick. My mother is a complete stranger to the church but they stepped forward anyway to support her. The Women's Ministry and The Meal Minisitry, The men that I stand shoulder to shoulder with in the gaps when they form. People pulled together and it made all the difference. The fact that they cared took away some of the pain.

I must also thank an extended family at the Men's Ministry/Bible Study of Harvest Fellowship of Boyertown that supported my as if they were my own (they are; we are all in Christ)

I especially want to thank my neighbor and his wife. My neighbor who, like a true Christian soldier stepped forward to preside over my father's funeral and did so with a power and authority that could've only been of the Spirit and was of great comfort. It was indeed a profound and poignant reminder that God is indeed in charge and nothing happens in His universe without Him knowing about it or actually allowing it to happen.

I want to thank all of my friends, friends of friends, my family and extended families, all of my wife's friends that helped and ministered to us in our dark days. I would also like to thank my mother's friends and the wonder people of the Harleysville Walmart and all associated with that Walmart in particular. Also all of the good men at Miller Pump Service in Cedars, PA. which was my father's life work. Getting water to people to help them survive.

You're all God sent and righteous people. May God bless you this Christmas season each and every one (As Tiny Tim would say).

November 26, 2010

Biblical Femininity II: A Godly Woman's Intuition

You have been informed that 400 armed warriors are about to descend on your husband to kill him and all of his servants, what do you do? Scream? Run? Warn him? Warn him and then fight by his side? Tell him to run and then run with him? Chances are you will be caught in the process and raped and killed or you will be kidnapped along with your children and either subjugated or sold into slavery. What to do, what to do?!?!

Nabal had it coming to him and fully deserved his impending punishment. But what of his wife Abigail? Why did she just capitulate and beg for her life in front of David? Perhaps she saw through this into the providence of God? She knew that if she survived this ordeal she would get out from under the onerous yoke and oppression of being in Nabal's house, being his wife. Consider the Bible's description of Nabal and his house:

"A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite." 1 Samuel 25:2-3

A wealthy and wicked man. Not the kind of guy you want as a husband ladies. The kind of guy most good parents would steer their daughter away from if possible. This is in contrast to the description of his wife: An intelligent and beautiful woman. And all the honorable, loyal and good wives and women of God said ...___*AMEN*____?

Nabal was obnoxious, a drunkard, a fool. The name Nabal actually meant "dolt" or "fool". Realizing that her husband had created a catastrophe she does just the opposite of her apathetic and pathetic husband, she launches into action. By initiating the actions that she did she showed her faith that God would deliver her from her lousy predicament. Instead of dwelling on things she knew she could not change she aggressively pursued the things she knew she could. She knew she could affect a change in her life by doing certain things...and she did them intuitively and driven by faith in God.

"When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the LORD your God lives and as you live, since the LORD has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you. ~1 Samuel 25:23-27

Abigail succeeds because her actions are immediate, forthright and honest. Her actions were done in good faith towards David. The things she gave to David took time to prepare. It shows she was thought-out, organized and was a good wife/woman at her core. She kept/keeps her house well. How many people do you know that can whip up 200 loaves of bread and five dressed sheep (prepared) on little or no notice? Her pattern of behavior to have been able to manage such a meticulous and tidy home is reflected in the diligence with which she reacts to Nabal's buffoonery to correct the problem. It is easy to see that the reason Nabal's home was in such good order had nothing to do with him but rather Abigail. Great wife, dopey husband.

"Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys." 1 Samuel 25:18

David's reaction is concise and virtuous based on Abigail's plea.

"David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” 1 Samuel 25:32-34

We see a combination of two other things that worked in Abigail's favor.

"Abigail acted quickly..." She had her priorities right. She knew exactly what she needed to do and she needed to do it fast. She knew how to channel her energies to get it done. She wasn't worried about primping and preening but rather practicality and purpose. She wasn't worried about the superficial and fleeting but the meaningful and enduring.

"...she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground" (1 Sam 25:23) She was humble. She wasn't defiant. Again she shows humbleness in David's proposal to her in marriage. "She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife." ~1 Samuel 25:41-42

Six times in her plea to David she refers to herself as a handmaid. The acts of humility and grace under fire are what most men would find appealing in a strong woman. Meek NOT weak, just as the people of God are descibed in the Sermon on The Mount..."Blessed are the meek". Men generally want companions that are their equal intellectually and maturity wise not their inferior (I do, thank you God for my wife). Emotionally solid women are appealing to men because of the fact they become the true helper and "other half" that God intended, not another dependant that acts more as an emotional ballast to flight rather than an assistance in life. David recognized Abigail's immense value and did what any intelligent man would do...he proposed to her and tried to claim her before anyone else got wise to her value. Nabal on the other hand showed just how stupid and true to his name he was by ignoring and neglecting his wife.

Last but not least be must mention how Abigail's behavior honored God and her future husband. Seven times she says the word LORD when referring directly to God in her talks with David. She uses the honoring title of lord to David twelve (12) times. These totals vary depending on the version you read but the point is clearly made in Abigail's actions and speech. She reveres God's order/Law and she reveres God Himself. She gives the honor due to God and she is one of the first people to honor God's anointed (David) in the proper manner. We must not forget that David was God's anointed king and he had not been recognized by many people as such up until this point. Not only was Abigail, Godly, quick on her feet, humble and organized...she was also perceptive and astute.

God bless all righteous, smart, humble and God-fearing wives (and women) out there. Amen!

God bless you Sharon. You are wise counsel and my best friend.

Biblical Femininity I: A Spiritual Jumpstart

I considered putting this in my Nameless But Notable series but the fact that this story finds its origin in the young female servant of the wife of Naaman, I chose to launch my series on woman in the Bible called "Biblical Femininity" because it was an interesting story that should focus attention more on the servant girl than on Naaman.

With inauspicious humble beginnings God often works amazing and miraculous feats. Baby Jesus, baby Moses, a young shepherd boy named David, a youthful Jeremiah and here in this story. At the beginning of 1 Kings 5 we see a small seed of truth waiting to germinate out of its seed coat and grow into full blown faith. This tidbit of truth resides within a non-descript, nameless servant girl of Naaman's wife's.

"Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 1 Kings 5:1-3

The obstacles that she needs to overcome are tantamount to absurdity to be able to release the truth.

Obstacle #1: Her status as an Israelite slave in Syria (Aram).
Obstacle #2: She was a young female
Obstacle #3: a time when females were viewed as second-class citizens
Obstacle #4: Women's witness was worth little even if they were privileged.
Obstacle #5: There opinions were worth even less.

She was literally a possession of another female. Possessions do not talk, they serve. Possessions of another woman in society were suppose to speak and be visible even less. It is not ironic God would choose to speak truth through a person of such low social status as it appears to be God's modus operandi throughout much of Scripture.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." ~1 Corinthians 1:27-29

She was virtually non-existent to those in power in society (Naaman). What do you suppose were the chances that a young foreign slave girl would gain an audience with someone that had the status of Naaman? 5%...0%?

We then need to look at the linear steps in which the statements of this slave girl needed to travel to further understand just how much God's providence is working in her and Naaman's life.

Step #1: She needed to speak with Naaman's wife.
Step #2: Who needed to speak with Naaman.
Step #3: Who needed to speak with the King of Syria.
Step #4: Who sent Naaman with a letter to his enemy, the King of Israel.

As an example of stories changing over time and ending up totally different from how they started we have the case-in-point of the message that the King of Israel received...

“With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 1 Kings 5:6

The King of Israel is more than likely scratching his head at this point thinking out loud, "Huh? Why is this hammerheaded dope sending this diseased abomination to me? ...As if I can do anything about his condition anyway!" Sensing a plot of stratagem to undermine him...or just suffering from spiritual blindness, the King of Israel proceeds to freak out and rend his garments in desperation.

"Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” ~1 Kings 5:7
Anyone that understands a linear process like an electrical circuit understands that if any of the variables have been removed or disconnected, the current stops. In this case the message put in motion by Naaman's wife's servant girl would've floundered into oblivion. It did not. Well sort of, we need to read the next few verses to see the light that will be shed from this completed circuitous path.

"When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” ~1 Kings 5:8-10

Elisha began working through the other end of the circuit...the grounded or "positive" end depending on which way the current was flowing. The connection is made and the circuit completed. The Spirit going through people until all can see the current of the Spirit in the form of "light" and "illumination" or a manifestation of the Spirit having worked in people.

Naaman eventually is healed after wranglings with Elisha. But that is a story for another post. I wanted to focus on Naaman's wife's servant girl and the impetus of the Spirit of God working in her to send a charge through the entire system all the way up to the king(s). A charge clearly sent from true King and the source of all power and illumination (wisdom).

Yehowah Witnesses or Jehovah Whatsthis?

In the past you would hear the name Jehovah quite often. One of the only reasons the name is still in heavy use in 2010 is because of the Jehovah's Witnesses. In most of the contemporary English versions and even the King James Version you will not find it. So what's up with that?

In the Old Testament God went by and was addressed by many designated names. God, LORD are two of them. God is how we translate "Elohim". LORD with all capitals/uncials is a translation of YHWH (the tetragrammaton). YHWH was the Old Testament name of God without the consonants. The truth is YHWH is akin to the phrase "I AM WHO I AM". Names were taken with deadly earnest back then, especially God's. Names were not just pretty sounding embellishments but had specific meanings. They revealed something about their possessor. God was telling Moses in Exodus that He was quite real and an active God.

Having no vowels only consonants, Hebrew scholars eventually went back to sacred writings to clarify and and add vowel points since there was the potential of loosing the proper translation. Unfortunately, because of the sacredness of God's name and the fear of accidentally enunciating it improperly or at an improper time, they did not put vowel points on YHWH. They just didn't want to tamper with God's name out of fear.

Whatever YHWH actually means it does not mean LORD but LORD has been used for centuries, perhaps a millennium. When the Hebrew was translated into Greek in the Septuagint there was no attempt to find a translation of the tetragrammaton so the Greek word κύριος/Kurios was used which meant Lord. This in turn caused problems with the Hebrew word Adonai/ אֲדֹנָי which guessed it: Lord. So what happened is there are places where the words/names Adonai and YHWH are adjacent one another and you end up with lord LORD or LORD Lord. A little redundant, eh?

Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10

In Hebrew the name LORD and Lord are right next to one another with no punctuation: אדני (Adonai) & יהוה (Yahweh) in Exodus 4:10

To add even more confusion we must understand that lord is a title not a name like YHWH.

So...centuries ago the Jews began to feel the name YHWH was too holy to enunciate so it fell out of favor and ceased being used. Yes, the actual name revealed to them by God Himself (minus the consonants). They began to replace YHWH with Adonai. The name Jehovah is a rather clumsy translation of YHWH or Yahweh. If we go back to the Middle Ages and the use of middle English we see that the letter "J" had a "Y" sound and the "V" had the sound of a "W". So in Medeval Europe Jehovah would've sounded more like Yehowah. Yehowah isn't that far removed from Yahweh. If you consider that we're not even sure how it was suppose to be pronounced, it was close enough, right? In the 14th century though, many Bibles began to use Jehovah in the Old Testament. The name and pronunciation that is a butchering of the original real name.

The only version that now contains this name which is a butchering of the name Yahweh which we are not even sure is the correct translation/enunciation is the New World Version. It is the version used by none other than...the Jehovah's Witnesses.

So sorry, no consolation prize. They didn't even get the butchering of a possible mispronunciation right. They did not get God's name wrong just little, they got it totally wrong. Oops.

Lex Talionis

We often look at the Old Testament's mandates of retribution as being mean-spirited or even barbaric but we are seeing it through modern eyes and contemporizing it. We are trying to move it into the context of the 21st century and this is not fair nor is in accurate to portray the decrees of the Old Testament this way. We do a tremendous disservice to God and to our ancient brethren.

Nowadays if someone buys too much alcohol at a bar and gets drunk then wraps their car around a tree they themselves have a lawsuit. They will more than likely be awarded a large sum of money too. Not because of a bartender's negligence but because of the drinkers stupidity and an unwillingness to take accountability for their own actions.

...anyway...on with my post.

Lex Talionis is the Bible's law of retaliation. If someone injures his neighbor the same shall be done to him. If someone takes his neigbor's animal's lives, one of their animals lives will be taken in return. Broken bone for broken bone, eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth. Whosoever injures will be injured equally in turn.

"When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. "When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth." ~Exodus 21:22-27

"Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:17-21

We view this as allowance of violence or reciprocal aggressions but what we really should be doing is also seeing them as "limits". What is really human nature in terms of violence or retaliation? It has never been to get even but usually to get "more" even or get the upper-hand. Please note that Leviticus says, "as he has done it shall be done to him". This is not sadism and a demand for vengeance but a command that retribution should not and will not exceed the damage inflicted. If theses types of violence are not limited we see what happens. Feuds erupt between families, clans/tribes between clans/tribes, nation against nation leading to civil war or just outright war between nation-states.

We must also keep in mind injuries like this today would be painful but more than likely, many would be repairable or treatable. Chances are, if someone lost a tooth or and eye back then they had no recourse for medical treatment. If they lost their sight, hand or arm they may have become incapacitated and invalid requiring them to become beggars or worse, dead.

These are also some of the reasons we read of the the cities of refuge in Deuteronomy 19 and the exacting lex talionis in the end of the chapter to assure that a continuing cycle of deception in false witness does not ensue also. It is very poignant and very precise (v.21), they must purge the evil from their presence and " Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Why? Because by someone bearing false witness against someone else they are literally assassinating the character of an innocent person and this could more effectively destroying a person's life than cutting their arm off or blinding them. In Bible times a "murdered" character could very well have been the equivalent of a death sentence in terms of one's reputation. Even today we have laws against defaming someone or slandering them. If you destroy a person's reputation you can destroy their ability to make a living in many cases.

When we move on to the New Testament we see Jesus raise the bar to the umpteenth level and He leveled a higher morality on people that would come after Him calling themselves His disciples.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." ~Matthew 5:38-39

Jesus Christ was asking them not to seek vengeance at all but rather to "take it on the chin" so to speak. He never said that the "eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" was bad, he only asked believers to step up their game and move to the next level. They needed to try and exceed what the Law required, not just meet the requirements of the Law. The trick is not to see how little you can do to be holy, it is to try and be as holy as you possibly can so there are no questions or doubts.

So the next time someone criticizes lex talionis ask them whether they would prefer a limited retribution or a $10 million lawsuit reward to someone with a serious drinking problem and no commonsense.

Lucifer: One Evil Jerk; Legion: Many Evil Jerks

Yes, another post on Beelzebub. I realize this jerk is getting too much air time on my blog but I guess it is for a good reason-educating the Body. He is a worthless and slanderous character in the Bible but he is pertinent and does serve one purpose, to serve as a bad example. The Hebrew word for him in the Old Testament meant "adversary". The story of the Garden of Eden does not identify the serpant with Satan but later generations of Jews and Christians have deduced that the serpant was indeed him.

In the time of Jesus people believed that the Devil was the leader of a horde of evil beings, evil spirits, unclean spirits or demons. Not only were they tempters of the church but they also caused physical and mental harm as evident by the stories of demon oppression/possession in the Gospel/Acts. In Christ's ministry, He broke Satan's grip on humanity. God's will for mankind was to be holy, whole and healed. Satan's plan for mankind was evil, affliction and pain. Not only does the scumbag Satan tempt man proper, he even has the audacity to try and tempt the God-man Jesus. He of course was an abject failure on this count. Jesus' resistance to the temptations is a symbolic undoing of mankinds failure in the Garden of Eden because of thir failure to resist and turn to God.

Jesus is not content to just impede Satan's work against Him personally but Jesus also extends power to frustrate Satan to His disciples. The disciples also deliver people from demon oppression and possession. It is in Luke that we hear statements like, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-19

Jesus is sure to temper their enthusiasm with a word of caution at the end. "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus wanted them to understand that it is this self-glorification and pride that was Satan's downfall and can be ours too if we do not focus our sense of wonder on the One who makes it possible instead of mistakenly focusing it on ourselves.

In Jewish tradition Satan was of Heaven's courts. He thought so highly of himself that he no longer wanted to serve God, he wanted to be God. He and a third of the angels in heaven rebel, and they are exiled from God's presence. What was once beautiful is now hideous, what was once proper is now iniquitous, what was once whole is now defective and damaged. Isaiah 14:12-15 appears to refer to Lucifer's [lightbearer; son of dawn] fall even though it appears to be addressing the King of Babylon.

(12) How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

(13) You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

(14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

(15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit [Hell].

A passage that condemns self-centeredness and egotism. King of Babylon (Lucifer) or Satan (proud angel). Either way the principle underlying both falls is the same. Pride. The names change but the idea stays the same. In context, Lucifer is clearly the King of Babylon and is probably an inapproriate name for Satan. This is why there is confusion that Lucifer is the name of the original heavenly being that fell becoming Satan. Satan has always been Satan no matter how he trys to confuse people with the label or word-symbol that identifies him.

He is still evil and still a jerk. Perhaps that's what we should call him? Evil Jerk. How do you spell jerk in Greek BTW? πονηρός κόπανος?

Since we are on the topic of The Evil Jerk and demons we should probably clear up the difference between the terms "devil" and "demons" too. I like my readers to go away from these posts better able to discern as a payoff for their efforts. There is only one Devil and it is Satan himself (the evil jerk). The word devil comes from the Greek word diabolos/διάβολος and means slanderer or accuser. The Hebrew word הַשָׂטָן ha-Satan means accuser also. In Matthew 4 Jesus encounters Satan and is tempted by the Devil (himself). There is only one (singular) Devil/Satan. There may be only one Devil-diabolos/διάβολος but there are a multitude of demons-daimon/δαίμων. Two different things and two different words yet in their character very much alike. Evil jerk or jerks; singular or plural...still jerks none the less. The best example of a multitude of demons is Mark 5:9

"Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."

November 25, 2010

Be Thankful: God Is Good

Psalm 118

(1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

(2) Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

(3) Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”

(4) Let those who fear the LORD say:
“His love endures forever.”

(5) When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
he brought me into a spacious place.

(6) The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

(7) The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.

(8) It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in humans.

(9) It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

(10) All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the LORD I cut them down.

(11) They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the LORD I cut them down.

(12) They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them down.

(13) I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the LORD helped me.

(14) The LORD is my strength and my defense[a];
he has become my salvation.

(15) Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!

(16) The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;
the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”

(17)I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

(18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

(19) Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.

(20) This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.

(21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.

(22) The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;

(23) the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

(24) The LORD has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

(25) LORD, save us!
LORD, grant us success!

(26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.[b]

(27) The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up[c] to the horns of the altar.

(28) You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

(29) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Isaiah 12

Songs of Praise

(1) In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.

(2) Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense[a];
he has become my salvation.”

(3) With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

(4) In that day you will say:
“Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.

(5) Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.

(6) Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Psalm 75:1

"We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds."

1 Chronicles 16:8

"Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!"

November 21, 2010

The Corner of Brimstone Ave. & Hellfire Rd.

Scary horned demons reeking of hellfire and brimstone (what is brimstone anyway?). They have smoky reptilian skin. Cloven hooves and glowing eyes of a snake. Maybe a pointed tail and a pitchfork for turning victims while roasting them over the fires of Hell? Human souls screaming in eternal torment while simultaneously taking a bath in the lake of fire?

We long ago resigned ourselves to a concept of Hell and its occupants. We see in our mind's eye the unfortunate souls that never accepted Christ and repented of their sins. All these fanciful and vivid descriptions are captivating and influential but they are a tad bit disconnected from reality and what is stated in the Bible. Unrepentant sinners will still end up there as will Satan and his cronies. It's an issue of timing. Hell is not currently where the evil jerk and his evil jerk friends take up residence right now. Jesus was very clear on the existence of Hell, He spoke on it more than any other subject other than the Kingdom of Heaven. God's justice, love, sovereignty and the cross of Christ demand, nah, scream for the need of a place called Hell. In Scripture Hell is referred to as a "wandering star, a waterless cloud, a perpetually burning dump, a bottomless pit and and everlasting prison". It is like being left outside in the darkness forever away from the presence of God. Unbeleivers will, sadly go directly to an eternal state of punishment after death. Their bodies will be resurrected for final judgement on the last day and judged by Christ Himself. Believers absent from from the world will be present with the Lord.

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ~2 Corinthians 5:8

When reading the Bible it is clear people of Jesus' time believed in demons. Jesus believed in demons! He cast them out of people as did His disciples! Jesus came to trounce Satan's kingdom and it is clear in Hebrews and Ephesians that Hell was not what Jesus or Paul was talking about.

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." ~Hebrews 2:14-15

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." ~Ephesians 6:11-12

Lucifer and his acolytes are active here, now, on earth. Many infirmities and afflictions mental and physical are attributed to their work here. Jesus Christ was sent to release people from this subjugation and oppression.

"But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." ~Matthew 12:28

"You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." ~Acts 10:37-38

Demons are where people are. Satan is referred to as the "prince of this world" and "prince of the power of the air"

"Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." ~John 12:31

" which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." ~Ephesians 2:2

In the Old Testament we begin to get an idea of where Satan is currently.

The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” ~Job 1:7

Peter makes a similar statement, where he admonishes:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". ~1 Peter 5:8

Satan is locked in a form of mortal combat that he is destined to loose with Christ's Kingdom and this is made clear in Jesus Christ's ministry and His power over the forces of evil in 1st century Israel when the Kingdom literally pays mankind a visit and then branches out like a vine throughout the entire world after Pentecost.

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves..." ~Colossians 1:13

We also know that demons can reside in people. It was Satan himself that entered Judas Iscariot in Luke 22:3-5. So where did the idea come from that these jerks current residence is a flame broiled red picket fenced house in Hell on the corner of Brimstone Drive and Hellfire Road? The New Testament is clear that the ultimate destination for Ole Nick and his cohorts would be squished...under the foot of the God of peace.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." ~Romans 16:20

Jesus also informed of a rather warm and unpleasant destination also in the Gospel of Matthew. Hebrews also has a vivid explanation of a toasty end too.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." ~Matthew 25:41

"...but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." ~Hebrews 10:27

When we arrive at the Book of Revelation we see the Grand Finale of Hell references.

"And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." ~Revelation 20:10

Satan will not be alone either. Humans that face the final judgement will be keeping Satan company.

"Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." ~Revelation 20:15

Who gets the dishonor of this final destination?

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

Revelation then goes on to tell of the glorious destination of the believer of Christ which is the New Jerusalem/Heaven (Revelation 21:9-27) and where "nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."

Final Score: God & The Saints - 1 (one), Satan/Slugs - 0 (zero)
Saints win, Satan looses.

But this score is in the future, in the meantime Satan and his cronies are on the prowl looking for those which they can devour. They are creating havoc and perpetrating mischief on the unfortunate residents of Terra Firma. Prepare accordingly. Please understand that Jesus gives all believers authority to rebuke demons and command them to depart.

November 20, 2010

Strange Creatures In Scripture

Ah yes, the famous (or infamous) passages about unicorns in the King James Version of the Bible. Most of the newer translations translate this wild ox and rightfully so. So what we are talking about here is a rather ugly bovine not a full-size version of My Little Pony® . We need a history lesson for this one so we can clear the waters once and for all.

God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Numbers 23:22 (similar in Numbers 24:8)

His glory [is like] the firstling of his bullock, and his horns [are like] the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they [are] the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they [are] the thousands of Manasseh. ~Deuteronomy 33:17

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Job 39:9

But my horn shalt thou exalt like [the horn of] an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Psalm 92:10

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. Isaiah 34:7

What is known for sure is this animal was strong and horned. The author of the Hebrew texts would've probably known exactly what this animal was but I am betting one thing: It was probably not a unicorn. When the Hebrew was translated to Greek in the Septuagint the word chosen was monoceros/monokeros μονοκερως. When it was eventually transliterated to Latin it guessed it: unicornis. We must keep in mind that the translators of the KJV were natives of 15th century England and probably had never left their local region let alone England proper so when they came across a Hebrew Re'em רְאֵם or a Greek μονοκερως they were hard pressed to find an English equivalent so they did the best they could with the Greek. Too bad the best they could do was a bit too creative and relied heavily on folklore and imagination.

The Aurochs

The beast may have been a rhinoceros. Strong, single horned and its name even ends in ceros or horn. The problem with this theory is the Greeks already had a name for the Rhinoceros: ῥῑνόκερως. More than likely this "unicornis" was an Auroch or a wild ox. Aurochs were immortalized for their brute strength and “elephantine” size by Julius Caesar in Gallic War , Book 6, Chapter 28:
"...those animals which are called uri [Aurochs]. These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, color, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; they spare neither man nor wild beast which they have espied. These the Germans take with much pains in pits and kill them. The young men harden themselves with this exercise, and practice themselves in this sort of hunting, and those who have slain the greatest number of them, having produced the horns in public, to serve as evidence, receive great praise. But not even when taken very young can they be rendered familiar to men and tamed. The size, shape, and appearance of their horns differ much from the horns of our oxen. These they anxiously seek after, and bind at the tips with silver, and use as cups at their most sumptuous entertainments."
Powerful, fast and horned. Once real and legendary in their time, they are now extinct.

An Auroch, a more feasible explanation...but boring (**yawn, a cow **). Were there ever unicorns. Who's to say for sure. Scientists are digging up new fossils of spectacular beasts everyday and wildly speculating about how they evolved from this or that and who we are related to them. Perhaps some day they will dig up a unicorn fossil?

Were the old versions of the Bible wrong to include what they knew might be too fantastic to believe? Before we leave behind the "Land of Eccentric Biblical Creatures" we should probably clear the air and mention the other more whimsical items of the Bible.

We have the Satyr שָׂעִיר mentioned in Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14 (KJV of course).

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. Isaiah 34:14

This was probably a shaggy or hairy goat.

We also have a Cockatrice, the chicken-snake with looks that kill.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. ~Isaiah 11:8 (KJV again).

The Cockatrice was suppose to have been some type of serpent that can kill with its glance. The context leads a reader to realize that this is a snake of some sort most likely an asp or an adder.

...and of course we must mention the Dragons. The Dragon of Revelation is really suppose to be a dragon or some form of nightmarish beast. The words of the Old Testament are not so clear (Psalms 148:7) δρακοντες or תַּנִּין tannim/tannin. They were clearly large and unpleasant terrifying brutes. We can also look to nearly every euro-asian culture and see a form of this beast. All cultures have this creature in common. This is similar to the story of a massive flood. Many, if not all cultures have a story of mankind going through an antediluvian period (pre-flood) and then a massive deluge. It is highly unlikely that these stories were pervasive myths and spread but it is more likely that in actuality...they happened and became part of the culture. Cultures do not readily spread to other peoples without force but stories within cultures do. That means many of these stories came from the bottom-up (past to present) not from outside (other cultures). Similarly the story of dragons spread the same way. I mean good grief, we believe that dinosaurs exist, is the existence of a dragon that much of a stretch? I guess the same can be said of the unicorn but there is much more evidence in the case of the unicorn to suggest this was another form of pastoral animal. It is mentioned in the context of other pastoral animals such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys and horses.

Where we are pretty sure these beasts are the product of 16th century misuse of words we should absolutely go back to visit the original languages or at least consult multiple versions to gain a consensus of what we are really dealing with. If we do not explain how fairytale creatures can reside in the pages of the Bible (mostly KJV) we do a horrible injustice to modern readers/believers. We also do a terrible injustice to the translators of the King James Version as they did not have at their disposal all the resources many have today like National Geographic and the Internet. At the same time we really should make sure that we stay as close to the original manuscripts as possible. I still use the KJV but I always match it up against the Greek and Hebrew in a word study since these tools are so readily available in software packages in our computer age. If you do not have a computer, a Strong's coded interlinear Greek and Hebrew Bible and a Strong's coded Greek and Hebrew dictionary usually do the trick. The second thing I would need to ask is: How are you reading this now if you do not have a computer? ;)

A Single Cubit

When anxiety arises do you hold onto it or hand it over to God? Do you believe thinking and dwelling on something bad helps you think rightly? Anxieties have a way of suffocating you and cutting you off from your life. If you dwell on them they murder your life and waste time. Usually what you worry about never comes to pass and if it does it rarely is as bad as you imagined. The Powers and Principalities of this world and your own head successfully routed you into a diabolic runaround. You ended up chasing figments of your imagination. Thinking makes people believe that they have control over a problem. People figure if they think about the problem they are dealing with long and hard enough they can gain control over it. Why would we even need to do that if we have the One who is in control of if it acting as our advocate?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” ~Philippians 4:6-7

Philippians tells us exactly how to deal with the fears that creep into our lives and our minds. When we sense the anxiety coming on or fear surfaces we pray and petition. We pray in adoration, devotion and worship. If we focus on the goodness and greatness of God how can we focus on our fear and anxiety, right? RIGHT? We give thanks to God and present our requests to God. We also give petition and place our fears and problems at the foot of His throne. The peace of God can then descend on us. In place of these fears, anxieties and angst we need to assure our mind stays where it belongs...on God. Paul also tells us how to stay focused on Him.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

We often build mountains out of mole hills. We tell ourselves that the task(s) ahead of us will "kill us" when in reality it is not that big of a problem. As we chose our language we frame the problem in overblown words making it larger than it really is. Our minds go down every possible avenue that it conceivability can trying to figure out every possible scenario so that we can be prepared for the worst. Sadly, we worry incessantly gaining for ourselves nothing but more stress, doubt, lack of faith and eventually heart disease. It is all for not. God is in control. Yes, sometimes the problem is quite large and seems insurmountable but if we break small pieces of it off, sometimes we can "eat the elephant one bite at a time". We must remember that from God's perspective (He is so high) mountains can look flat to Him. Have you ever see a satellite picture or mountains from space? They appear quite insignificant. In terms of God's ability to surmount our problems, our problems appear the same to God. The problems appear small to God but they are important enough for God to be concerned for our benefit because He loves us as His children. There are no problems too big for Yahweh. He holds them in the palm of His hand and can crush them with a thought.

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” Psalm 34:4

Instead of dwelling on the problem or stress that is reeking havoc in our lives we need to focus on Jesus Christ. We need to internalize Christ. When we internalize the mind if Christ it becomes part of us. He becomes part of us. I do not believe this is an accident.

"Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?" ~Luke 12:22-26

“According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life. To ignore danger is foolish and wrong. But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry and fear. Such worry must be committed to prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves.” (Dr. Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling, p. 66.)

Nameless But Notable XVIII: Out of The Mouths of Babes

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear. “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn." For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon." The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matthew 11:15-19

How often have we seen kids (perhaps our own) say something in mixed company or public that absolutely mortifies us. Immediately after they say it, an intense sense of shame comes over us as parents as we realize that our children are only repeating something that they have already heard...from us, the parents. What is even worse is they my not just make a derogatory or questionable comment, they may actually act out or behave as the parent behaves. Behaviors that we thought were only behind closed doors. It teaches us a lesson on the spot. If we are embarrassed with their behavior and it is only a imitation of us...perhaps we should stop the behavior they are emulating?

Jesus gave us this tale of a children at play in the marketplace mimicking the elders. First they pretended to play flute and then play funeral or a dirge but no one would mourn within their group of playmates. Finally they give up in disgust and and basically we get the impression that they just sat their and said, "What the...?", "What's a matter with you bumps on a log?" In effect, what Christ is saying is that these analogous children are not acting like the adults and mimicking them but instead these adults were acting like the children!

Jesus had been reminding them of the coming of John the Baptist and how John had to prepare the way for Jesus and they did not believe but instead acted as these children He had just described who refused to respond. Now that Jesus had actually made His appearance and many signs and miracles could be observed they still ignored or denied the obvious. So Jesus levels the painful truth at them. They accused John of being a whack job and they accused him of being in league with the Devil. Jesus comes eating and drinking and He is automatically a glutton and a drunk. He was not saying they were being childlike but rather they were being childish. Fickle, peevish and quarrelsome. Never satisfied. The Pharisees and the other followers at least used to be filled with enthusiasm about John but now they are just they say he is/was too harsh and his message too severe...he must be possessed. They reject the Asceticism of John and the way of freedom offered by Jesus.

In the end Jesus tells them that these bitter and backbiting criticisms will get them nowhere. It is the wisdom of God that is vindicated by the actions it produces. It is in Christ's works that it is conclusively demonstrated that the Kingdom has arrived.

How often do we do this in the Christian faith? This spirit of petulance and disharmony remains in our faith today and it is the work of Satan within our own ranks. We attack others for things we ourselves do or are guilty of. It has always been peculiar to me to see Christians essentially "killing their own wounded". Instead of going out to lend a hand to those of the brethren that have fallen on the field of evangelism or spreading the Gospel we stick a gun to their head and pull the trigger. Whatever happened to Jesus' very clear statement in the Gospel of John:

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35

Brothers don't shoot brothers in the back or defame someone. This is a murder of a fellow Christian's character and that is a no-no. Not to mention it is just plain ignorant and I have seen even non-believers behave in a more dignified and honorable manner. Tisk-tisk!

Unlike the children in the Lord's story, Jesus wasn't playing games. What does He end up saying? It will have been more tolerant for Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for those who were listening to John and then Jesus yet did not respond. The ones that were behaving like the children in Jesus' story. In actuality, they were doing worse, they were trying to figure out a way to do away with Jesus.

Why did they not listen and respond? Why do people today not listen and respond to the story of the Gospel?

I do not believe it was an irony that the story contains an episode where the children are performing a funeral dirge. Did it occur those listening then or now that those children performing that dirge may very well have been doing so for a funeral?

A funeral for those back in Jesus' time or those now that do not listen and respond?

PC Jesus or Tactful Jesus?

We live in a politically correct society that is governed by the buzzword "tolerance". As nearly every Christian understands, this tolerance is extended to everyone except Christians. So when people stumble across the story of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery we see what the PC crowd offers up as an incident or perfect example of Jesus being "tolerant". It is latched onto as a shining example of Christianity being tolerant. It is paraded around by those that misunderstand the passage, "Look! See! We really aren't backwoods counterculturish snobs! We can adapt to the modern culture!"

Unfortunately, this would be a misappropriation of the passage and a major misunderstanding/misuse of the passage and of Jesus' words and intent. It would be a contemporization of the passage to adapt to the culture of the 21st century for starters. Secondly, it would be a total massacre and botch of the original purpose of the lesson taught in this episode. It would be akin to saying that Moses parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites wouldn't get wet or Adam and Eve ate the apple was because they were hungry.

According to John 8 the scribes and Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus who had been caught in the actual act of sexual relations with a man (makes one wonder where they were to be able to catch her). We can assume she was actually guilty.

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him". John 8:3-6

We then get Jesus' brilliant rebuttal to the Jewish leaders. "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” and he again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. One by one they disappear from the oldest to the youngest.

Jesus the tolerant and wise teacher! Right? Tolerant how? Tolerant the way the world today means it? Playing things loose, allowing people to be promiscuous, having a live and let live attitude? Or is His tolerance akin to the fact that He didn't strike people down with intentionality for their sin and smite and destroy them immediately as they deserve for their sin? He allowed them time to realize the error of their ways and allow them time to repent? Was Jesus on the side of sinners because they were the ostracized of the Jewish society and picked on because they were the little man which nowadays is so hip and chic? Or...was He supporting the sinner because they are the underdog or supporting sinners because without this/His support they were condemned? Condemned to Hell. Condemned just as many of the Jewish leaders would be (as Jesus pointed out with His statement of their sins). Was Jesus being tolerant of this woman's sin and telling the others to back-off because they were just jealous and being hypocritical to her and murderous towards Jesus...or was there something more here? These could be loose interpretations of this passage from folks with poor hermeneutical skills or a liberal presupposition but they would be wrong.

If Jesus had ended this discussion with the scolding of the Jewish leaders the previous conclusions would hold water but it doesn't end there does it? What does Jesus do after these leaders trickle away? He straightens up, turns to the woman and with two questions He totally changes the direction of this passage and probably the woman's life. "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Her reply is simple, "No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

It is the very last sentence that changes the tone of this exchange. It causes an aboutface in the storyline and turns directly to face the sin underlying the woman's portion of the narrative. Jesus makes a specific statement that is an imperative or an absolute necessity that must be done. He does not equivocate or beat around the bush. Jesus was not being evasive here He was being invasive. He surgically reaches into this woman's life like a surgeon and pinpoints the source of her problem. He then tells her how to address it. He is also reaching into our lives as readers and vicariously telling us the source of our problem. He was not passively allowing things to exist as they were but essentially demanding a change of behavior. Not a live and let live attitude is it? Not very PC either. It is a call to action to change behavior not allow existing bad behavior to continue. He imposes a standard of living on a person that will require them to change to be able to accommodate.

The initial reaction by Jesus was not so much a momentary acceptance of the woman's bad behavior as it was a rejection of the devious and duplicitous plot by the Jewish leaders to trap Jesus in a position that would demand a stoning. A stoning that would bring Jesus under fire of the Roman authorities since capital punishment except by the Roman authorities was illegal and punishable itself by death in many circumstances. Jesus was in no way condemning or overlooking this woman's sinful actions. He only postponed addressing it until the hypocritical leaders left. He could then deal with her indiscretions in a more discreet and tactful manner...unlike the Jewish leaders treatment of the woman. He also cleverly rebukes the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders and tactfully, with an indirect allusion, informs them they should not sin or be hypocritical either.

"Let he that is without sin cast the first stone". Which is to say: Don't judge others of the sin you are guilty of -or- if you do judge be sure you are not committing the sin you pass judgement on since you will be judged in the same measure.

What is truly amazing in this passage is the time frame in which Jesus determines the outcome. At best we are talking perhaps seconds. These Jewish leaders came in search of accusation and confrontation with Jesus as they often did in the Gospels. It most likely required time-consuming and concerted efforts of many "wise" Jewish leaders to come up with these stumbling blocks or traps to try and ensnare Jesus. He defuses and shelves this incident instantly and with a minimum of words. With a single statement he draws into question the actions of every man standing there and exposes their hypocrisy hopefully changing the attitudes of some of them. With a single line of inquiry he draws into question every action of one woman and exposes her sin and insists she change. The Jewish leaders come with the intent to convict the woman and to convict Jesus but instead walk way convicted. A woman humiliated by her own sin is given another chance if she would only change and repent of her old ways.

Brilliant. What else would you expect from Jesus?

Uncle Fester & The Whale

This is another of my attempts at humorous but legitimate apologetics to spread the validity of the Bible but to do so in a unique or unusual manner. To quote Winona Rider's character Lydia from the movie Beetlejuice, "...people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual." To add to this I have always found strange and unusual things interesting so oddities (like myself) have always held a strange fascination for me just by their nature. Quirky stories in particular. The unique stories in the Bible are no exception.

We all know the story of Jonah. Many chalk it up to allegory or myth. A highly spiritualized story about God's grace, patience and mercy and man's ability to ignore God or repent and run to him. So what of the story of a man being in the belly (stomach) of the beast? Hogwash? A vehicle to get a point across but absolutely unbelievable in the 21st century because we are "enlightened intellectuals" and products of the scientific age that could never subscribe to this child's bedtime story or fable. Even some Christians doubt the legitimacy of this story even after Jesus Himself draws reference from it when rebuking the Jewish leaders looking/asking for a sign.

"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. ~Matthew 12:38-40

Enter...the story of James Bartley and the whaling ship "Star of The East". The year is 1891 and men from the ship are in hot pursuit of a sperm whale in the South Atlantic. The Sperm Whale is the largest mammal on earth and largest supplier of lamp oil in the 19th century before the ubiquitous use of petrol products. They pursued the whale off the coast of the Falkland Islands in/near South America. After being harpooned the whale proceeds to submerge to evade further attack and tries to dislodge the harpoon. It resurfaces suddenly under one of the pursuing hunting boats tossing men into the air like rag dolls and scattering them in chaos and disarray. The harpoon having pierced vital organs does its deadly work and the whale eventually succumbs to its wounds a day later. Surfacing near the ship it was hoisted along side the whaler and cut into pieces for its oil and other resources.

When the whale is cut open and eviscerated the stomach gets laid upon the deck to examine its stomach and intestinal contents for scientific/hunting purposes by the ships doctor. Before slitting it open...the stomach moves in a nearly imperceptible manner. The good doctor opens the stomach and out rolls one James Bartley into a fetal heap. He is unconscious but very much alive. He is bleached white by the whales stomach acid and his hair had been burned/melted off is body. He is partially blinded. I am figuring he looked strangely akin to a blind Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. Total elapsed time in the whales stomach under the sea? 15+ hours. How far of a stretch would it be to implicate a miracle in the same type of situation and extent this from a Friday afternoon to a Sunday morning (i.e.: 3 days)?

James Bartley remembered being flung into the air and passing over the whales teeth before loosing his visual because of darkness (inside of whale). Due to insufficient (but not absence of) air he passed out. According to ship's manifest this was Bartley's first passage as a whaler and it should come as no surprise to find out that it would be...his last. In Gloucester England his grave site can still be visited. As an epitaph on his tombstone it reads "A Modern Jonah".

November 19, 2010

Evil & Suffering: Book Recommendations

My thesis on Theodicy which is a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil is now complete. In the process of completing my thesis for theology I used a large number of books as my resources. The ones below are quite thorough and highly recommended. Since there are multiple I will not be doing detailed reviews of each.

What I will say is that I compiled a resource list in excess of 40 sources and whittled it down to approximately 30 that I actually cited. Of those thirty the three below were the most clear, easiest to understand and closest to my presuppositions. I strongly recommend them to help people get a grasp on why there is evil in God's creation. To some extent they help grasp why there is suffering and pain also (that may or may not eventually lead to death). Since I have just gone through watching my father suffer greatly before his death last week, these books help give perspective of a painful and hard to understand subject.

How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A.Carson

Good comprehensive overview of evil and suffering from an evangelical point of view. Carson is an excellent author and explains himself well. Does a great job of explaining things from different points of view such as the eschatological (last things, the end). He also has a lengthy portion on social evils such as poverty and war and how they do indeed coincide with a biblical worldview

The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil by John S. Feinberg

This book is more theologically and philosophically dense than the other two posted here but it is still readable. Author posits most of the legitimate and internally consistent arguments in existence that explain how evil could exist in a creation ruled by a omnibenevolent and omnipotent God.

Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey by Deborah Howard

Generalized outline of pain, suffering and things like death and bereavement. Written by a certified hospice and palliative nurse with gut-wrenching sincerity but done so compassionately. Writing style is easy to read but topic is difficult to stomach emotionally as it deals with painful topics and issues close to those that have lost a love one(s).

Most of the other references that I used were too dense or complex for an easy read on such a tough subject so I avoided other books in this post. Start with these. If you do not get a broadened view of sin's roll in our fallen world and why God allows evil and suffering after these reads, I will be surprised.

When researching and writing on this topic I needed to do it in a measured and incremental basis. Dealing with a topic like this is like handling radioactive materials that can radiate and kill or disfigure a person. It can only be endured in limited exposures without being poisonous to it handler. The problem with this topic (especially the evil) is it might actually be more damaging to a person’s health than radioactive waste as it can also permanently alter or affect one’s mind if they are exposed for too long a time frame. The evil and suffering pondered upon during my writing had the potential to mutate (or transform) my soul for good or bad. When I needed to acquire information I used theological grappling tongs and tried to insulate myself in prayer to pull from sources that could be potentially toxic. From some of them I took what I needed and dropped them as quickly as possible to avoid exceeding the fatal limit or exposure that causes deformation until I understood fully what the outcome of these mutations would be.

I personally needed to restore myself in Christ every single time I dealt with this paper and did so for my spiritual, mental and physical well-being. I knew doing this topic would leave be exposed to spiritual attacks and prepared accordingly. In the end I believe my faith is stronger for it and that is a residual effect or permutation that I had not counted nor had I been assured of at the start.

November 16, 2010

Nameless But Notable XVII: Servant of A Servant of God

"Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac." ~Genesis 24:1-4

The first question that usually gets asked is, "Why is a man touching another man's thigh?" This is simple. Offspring (males mostly) were prized as progenitors of the family lineage. Offspring of both genders were looked at as surplus workers, shepherds or farm hands so to speak. When a man placed his hand on another man's thigh he was swearing his "seed" that he would follow through on an agreement or his future or livelihood.

Long after the incident where Abraham nearly sacrifices his son we encounter another gem of Abraham's faith. It is the narrative that tells of Abraham trying to secure a bride for Isaac. Isaac was not to marry a bride of Canaan. So Abraham commissions his most trusted servant to go to Abraham's homeland to do just this. Abraham sends him and he will not be released from this commission unless the woman refuses to marry. This commission is indicative of Abraham's trust in His faithful servant. This servant makes careful plans and gathers supplies and diligently selecting the proper gifts for the bride and the family.

Upon arriving at Nahor he realizes he needs something more…he prays to God…in very specific details. He had just completed this prayer and along comes Rebekah who he requested a drink from and he stood waiting in anticipation. God has answered the prayer to the letter. To the letter! Not coincidence folks. While the answer to his prayer waters his camels he does he voices his sincere gratitude to God. Do we do this when we know that God has entered into our lives to work wonders? Do we even recognize when he has or are we too desensitized in our modern age?

What is even more remarkable about this faithful servant’s behavior is the expedience with which he wishes to fulfill his commission. Instead of tarrying for ten days as requested by Rebekah’s family he wishes to depart to tell his master of the wonderful outcome of his journey and more than likely God’s participation in it. I definitely would tell people of God’s direct actions in my life!

We do not know this man’s identity. He had an enormous impact in the Bible and the lineage that led to Jesus. Think about it. The entire lineage of Abraham down to Christ and our salvation pivoted on and unnamed servant of Abraham. Not only is this a story of obedience to God but also a profound example of a servant of the servant of God obeying to the letter and being faithful to his master(s). The servant of a servant of God is what all in the church should do. It is in this humbleness and willingness to serve God that we capture a glimpse of Jesus. This man’s roll was critical in the entire flow and story of the Old (and New) Testament…and we don’t even know his name.

We see this pattern "servant of a servant of God" continued even today in Godly relationships like that of a Christian father and son/daughter, and a mother and a child. We also see it (should see it) in the patterns of discipleship in our churches also. It is an order and method that is acceptable to God. In the case of discipleship it is ordered and commanded by God (Matthew 28:19-20). Why should we do different if the situation warrants. Entrusting things of great value to others builds a sense of esteem in people that they can actually "get it done" for the Lord. This is a behavior we should always encourage.

November 15, 2010

Nameless But Notable XVI: Inquisitive Aliens

"Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. ~John 12:20-22

Over the period of Jesus' life, especially during His ministry, people came from far and wide to see, speak with, or be healed by Jesus. So what makes these guys different from the others? They were Greek...and Judeans always were cautious around those of foreign lands.

What is also interesting is they were in Jerusalem during Passover which meant Jerusalem would've been crawling with Jews not necessarily Greeks. It could be concluded that they were proselytes [προσήλυτος/proselytos] or "someone who has found his/her place". It was a general title given to a person who has switched totally to embrace a certain religion, in this case it was Judaism. They were also usually gentiles. By this point Jesus' fame would've preceded Him and it is clear these Greeks knew who Jesus was since they respectfully requested and audience with Him. Everyone wanted an audience with Him, why wouldn't proselyte Jewish Greeks? Did they beleive this might be the promised Messiah? Why did they approach Philip first? Is it because of his Greek name?

We do not know the answer to any of these questions. What we do know is the effect it has on Jesus and what Jesus does next.

"Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." John 12:23-26

Jesus' moment of truimph and suffering is now at hand. He is troubled by the experience to come yet this is the exact reason He has come. This is just the opposite of saved humans. For both Jesus and us the purpose hinges on death. By His death we get salvation by our death we get freedom because of His salvation. At our death we are freed from the bondage of sin but only because of His death.

If we jump back to the Greeks we see that Jesus is about to fulfill the promise made by God to Abraham. That he would make Abraham a great nation but through this nation all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18)...even the Greeks...even Americans. It leaves one to wonder...did these Greeks again inquire about Jesus after His death? After he had died and was raised again on the third day? Did they become Christian converts too?

November 14, 2010

He Reigns

In the life of the believer we see the reign of Christ already. In the consummation of the ages Christ will reign in everyone’s life. Of particular interest in this Psalm is the last verse and its statement that, “Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.” Again we are looking a situations totally controlled by God. He is in control at all times. His creation (mankind), are expected to adhere to God’s statutes. He is greater than all these things. So powerful He can overcome death. I see this in my life already as mentioned before. I still have battles with sin and in non-believers sin reigns supreme but in general, believers allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives. We still live in the flesh so this battle is not totally won. This will not take place until our glorification at death or if we are called up to be with the Lord. The Lord is firmly in control. Rejoice and be glad in his strong arm upholding his righteous people.

Not only should God's reign in mankind be evident but as Romans 1 also tells us, it is evident in His creation. The Lord established kingship when he created (Hbw: tebel). This doctrine is in stark contrast to the chaos and random happenings of the ancient pagans and today's secular evolutionists. Yahweh is the creator God and He has established (Hbw: tikkon) the world.

Just as God has established His sovereignty over the created order so that His throne was established long ago, He also has made a "firm" covenant with Israel or His chosen people (i.e.: your statutes v.5). This wholly "other" God has made his dwelling among His people in the Old Testament in the form of the temple. In the New Testament He makes His dwelling IN HIS PEOPLE! God's covenants are eternal, "firm", or "for endless days". This was confirmed in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He reigns!

Psalms 93

(1) The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

(2) Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

(3) The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

(4) Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

(5) Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.
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