January 31, 2011

Minor Prophets II: Unfaithful Whores

In Hosea 2 God used the metaphor of marriage and adultery to characterize His relationship to Israel. Off the top of my head I can mention at least three other Old Testemant texts outside of Hosea that use this same kind of metaphor to portray this same relationship. It is a common metaphor and a powerful one that is often analogous of man's relationship with a faithful God. In other words...man is a cheater and violator of covenant.

Nearly the entirety of Ezekiel 16 is dedicated to the metaphor of God’s covenant/marriage to His people being violated with a form of adultery/idolatry. The actual sexual act or behaviors tied to the sexual act being described and elaborated on in rather risqué terms. “spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by” and more lewdly “You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbors with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity” . The repercussions and penalty for these atrocious acts is spelled out in detail in the middle to latter portions of Chapter 16. God will gather all the “lovers”, with whom “you” [Jerusalem] found pleasure. God will gather them against “you” [Jerusalem] from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see you stark naked. [Perhaps stripped bare and left barren?]. They will be sentenced in a manner similar to women who commit adultery and who shed blood (the Biblical punishment for someone caught in adultery is stoning-Deut 22:23-24) . God will bring on you the blood vengeance of His wrath and jealous anger and then deliver them into the hands of your lovers [enemies/surrounding nations]. They will strip you…take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked, bring a mob against you, stone you, hack you to pieces with their swords, burn down your houses and inflict punishment. Andy’s translation: They will be raped, pillaged and plundered (Collins 160).

The second metaphor of an unfaithful marriage that I found resides Ezekiel 23. It actually deals with two sisters becoming prostitutes in Egypt from their youth, Oholah, and her sister was Oholibah. They were the Lord’s and gave birth to sons and daughters. Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem. Oholah being the North engaged in “prostitution” while she was still mine [the Lord’s]; and she lusted after her lovers, the Assyrians (simultaneous with Egypt) so God handed them over to the Assyrians. Oholibah being the South or Jerusalem lusted after the Assyrians (and Babylonians). So God “turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from her sister”. So the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, the men of Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians will be sent against them and they will be brutalized by them.

Last but not least we have a third metaphor of the adulterous marriage in Jeremiah 3 and it also takes up a majority of the chapter. Although it is not as explicit as Ezekiel it is damning to Israel. During Josiah’s reign of Israel, “has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there and Judah her unfaithful sister saw it also (v7). So, God “gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries (Assyria in 722 B.C.). Judah having witnesses this “had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery”. Judah was then essentially guilty of the same adulterous behavior as her sister Israel. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah “did not return to me [God] with all her heart, but only in pretense”. This action on Judah’s behave inevitably leads to their exile to Babylonian captivity.

So...I guess that makes them unfaithful whores? If it made them this raunchy of a person/nation imagine what it makes the unfaithful today having had this lesson to learn from if they would only read the Bible collecting dust on the nightstand?

Collins, John Joseph. "Part Three: Prophecy." A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. 160. Print.

January 29, 2011

The Sabbath: A Palace in Time

He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our souls belong to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self....
Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipline, one must abjure slothfulness.
We often feel how poor the edifice would be were it built exclusively of our rituals and deeds which are so awkward and often so obtrusive. How else to express glory in the presence of eternity, if not by the silence of abstaining from noisy acts?
Spiritual life begins to decay when we fail to sense the granduer of what is Eternal in time.
We must never forget that it is not the thing that lends significance to the moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.
The Sabbath teaches us that there is a holiness in and of time.
The Sabbath is a santurary in time.

~Abraham Joshua Heschel~

A. Heschel is (2) people to the right of MLK in front row

-Andy's Addendum-

Time is cathedral or church of moments. The Sabbath, or for Christian's The Lord's Day is a time/place set aside by God Himself as holy either by direct decree or by the work of Christ. It is the Holy of Holies in chronology. This makes time sacred and how we use it is imperative. What we do in this time dictates whether or not we glorify God or defame Him as Christians. When God saw all that He created and said it was "very good" He was also referring to time. Most agree that time did not exist before the Creation at least not the way humans understand it. It is after the creation that we see linear sequences of events or time unfold as we understand it. Even though God sees all of time as a whole "now", man cannot. It is my belief that time is indeed sanctified. This is especially true of the time we spend in worship of a holy timeless God...and we will have eternity to do so.

I completely and highly recommend Abraham Joshua Heschel's book The Sabbath. It will change your life and change how you view the Church, the time you spend in humblness before God and other human beings. I will not numerically rate this book because the quotes above stand on their own merit. It is a very short book perhaps a hundred pages. Read it.

January 28, 2011

Minor Prophets I: Whoring After Other Gods

Last year I went through a 150 posts that spanned the entire Old Testament but I did not go into depth in any one portion unless it had profound theological implications for the entire scope of the Bible or God's revelation/progressive revelation of his Son. That is about to change. I would like to delve into one of the more neglected portions of Scripture: The Minor Prophets. Hopefully the study I will do over the next few months will shed brighter light on an often misunderstood or misinterpreted area of the Old Testament.

So, what are the dates for the kings' reigns listed in Hosea 1:1 and why do we care? Come along an find out.

This is the superscription portion of Hosea. Like other prophetic books Hosea begins with a notation that anchors the ministry of the prophet in history. As was the case in most dating in the Bible it was done in terms of a king’s reign. Because of this it was usually easy to get a ball park estimate of when books were written or when characters within said books had their day in the light of history. As for the dates of reigns for specific kings in v.1 we must do a little hunting. The text is quite a-matter-of-fact but pinpointing a set of specific of dates proves evasive. Text referenced: (Myers 8, Chisholm 21). Dates varied by source.

Southern Kingdom-Kings of Judah (96 yr period/ Min: 27 overlap)

Reign of Uzziah (783-742 BC approx. our text is 792-740 BC)
Reign of Jotham (750-735 BC approx. our text is 750-731 BC)
Reign of Ahaz (735-715 BC approx. our text is 735-715 BC)
Reign of Hezekiah (715-687 BC approx. our text is 716-686 BC)

Northern Kingdom-King of Israel

Reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 BC)

We see a prophetic ministry for Hosea that was at least 27 years based on the latest and earliest reigns of the Kings of Judah. We should also note a case of quick succession of thrones in the south also as opposed to a rather solid single reign in the North. When we look specifically at the dates we can see a parallel in Scripture in another subscription: Isaiah’s:

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Isaiah 1:1

Hosea and Isaiah were contemporaries and their ministries overlapped. It is also worth noting that Jeroboam II was the last of the great kings of the north before the fall of the north in 721-720 B.C. that was comparable to Judean Kings and that is probably why he is the only king of the north mentioned and the end date of his reign stops 59 years premature of the southern kings (Myers 8). These dates are significant because Hosea was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel. So the prophecies that Hosea spoke and lived out were of pending judgment that waited “just around the corner” for Israel who had a idolatrous/adulterous relationship with polytheistic “gods”. In short: They were “whoring” or prostituting themselves to other gods.

Myers, Jacob Martin. "Introduction." The Book of Hosea ; The Book of Joel ; The Book of Amos ; The Book of Obadiah ; The Book of Jonah . Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1978. 8. Print.

January 26, 2011

Another Contradiction Shot Down in Flames

When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious— that you, LORD God, might dwell there. Psalms 68:18

This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” Ephesians 4:8

Someone at my church asked me, sincerely concerned about Ephesians 4:8 and why it was cross-referenced with Psalms 68:18. When you read them the main verb in Psalms 68:18 it says "receives" and the main verb in Ephesians 4:8 says "gives". Paul clearly borrows the Psalm 68 passage but the verbs are different and seem contradictory at first glance.

So what gives? Why are they "contradictory"...or are they???

First off I pose that they are not contradictory for a few reasons. Paradoxical, yes, contradictory, no. As a matter-of-fact the Ephesians passage may even be a deliberate play on words by the Apostle Paul utilizing ideas from Hebrew poetry. I had to do a little homework on this one but once you draw out a few facts the passages get interesting. At first glance they appear to refer to the same thing but are worded in a way that makes them appear contradictory. As any good Bible believer knows....this is not true as the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God. So what is going on? Lets go take a look.

My first recommendation before reading this post is to orient yourself. You should really read the entirety of Ephesians and Psalms 68 for context. Ephesians is a letter and like any good letter you do not start reading a letter in the middle. Trust me, it isn't that hard. It only takes about 20 minutes.You need to get the entire feel for the letter. Same for Psalms 68. Each individual Psalm is a single interpretive unit.

Psalm 68:17-18 state:

(17) The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
(18) When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious— that you, LORD God, might dwell there.

The key to v.18 is in the end of v17. The words "the Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary". Sinai signals a time after a victorious completion of the Exodus. After the wilderness wandering and conquest of Canaan the Lord returns to Heaven (so to speak) to celebrate His kingship (a la: Psalms 47:5-7). The divine warrior subjugated His enemies...and doing so has "received" tribute from conquered nations.

Now go to Ephesians and Paul's writing having read the entirety of Ephesians or at least chapter 4. What is he writing about in Chapter 4? Unity in the Body, unity in The Spirit...unity in Jesus Christ. Look closely at the text surrounding v.8 specifically...

"(4)There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (7) But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (8) This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”

(9) What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? (10) He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (11) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, (12) to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (13) until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:4-13 

In this unit of Ephesians the key is again the surrounding verse. The words "apportioned it" in the Greek (and other English translations is: Gift). Grace is a gift. The gift itself is in the form of Jesus' work on the cross and the message of the cross through His disciples (v.11-12) which is just another name for The Church...us.

Christ came incarnate and then ascended to Heaven (In Acts) having given gift(s) (grace/Himself through his disciples and believers [v.11]). He gave them to the world. What He is giving by giving His disciples (v.11,12)---is Himself---if only humanity would receive that gift---Him.

We would then have One Hope-One Church-One God-One Faith-One Baptism-One Father of all.

Paul is drawing a comparison to the Old Testament as a point of reference for these new Christians in Ephesus and the other cities in Asia Minor that this circular letter would've circulated to. Many of them would've formally been Jewish and understood the parallel.

This can be seen one of two ways and both are rhetorical devices used purposely by Paul.

(1) Paul is either making an antithetical statement in poetic verse---Ephesians 4:8's "gave" in relation to the Old Testament passage in Psalms 68:18's "received" of gifts. Thereby showing one side (receiving) and then showing the flip side (giving) both to reinforce the same point. A practice that was utilized quite often in Hebrew poetry---which ironically---both of these passages are....and of course Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews. He would've had mastery over the Old Testament that he borrowed.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. It is possible as God that the Lord can embody this duality. It is firmly based in our choice to obey or disobey though.


(2) These two passages could also be viewed as a Testament-bridging poetry - antithetical parallelism, which also shows one side and then another to drive home the point of giving and receiving gifts...with the intermediate being the division between the Old and New Testament: Jesus Christ.

A Conquering King that conquered death for His people but to gain us this eternal life He had to give His. For us to receive life He has to give. Conversely, through our behavior in obedience to the King we give Him glory through obedience. Obedience...just as Jesus was to the will of the Father. Why? For His glory.

January 25, 2011

Describing The Indescribable God

In theophanies it is the same God. Yet each theophany gives a different description of the same God. Sometimes he has human attributes (anthropomorphisms) sometimes not. Why? Because God is a mystery. Because human language is too limited an falls short failing to describe the unlimited and omnipresent, omnipotent and omni-everything God. Because there are only approximate ways for us to visualize God's transcendence and transendant nature and none of them are adequate in themselves. If we reflect on the Bible as a whole, the assignment to reveal God is a big challange not because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or God but because of the limitations of the human vessel. To reveal Him in a truly systematic way is literally impossible because God by His nature is to vast to be systematized. He is outside the system(s). Glimpses in many different settings and in extreme over-the-top terms come together in a montage of mystery, imagery to understand a transcendent diety. More often than not the Bible resorts to metaphor because God defies direct concrete descriptions because He is even beyond our langauge to describe. There is a seperation in words and His reality. The amazing thing is that He choses to bridge that gap.

...and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters ~Genesis 1:2

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. ~Genesis 3:8

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. ~Genesis 15:17

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. ~Genesis 28:12-13

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. ~Exodus 3:2-3

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. ~Exodus 13:21

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. ~Exodus 19:18

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. ~Revelations 1:12-16

...and of course my personal favorite:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16

The list goes on by I will not. My point is made.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Genesis 32:24-25

January 24, 2011

A Hypothetical Theological Mountain Bike

People ask me why I have a problem with the "Power of Positive Thinking" Preachers. I don't have a problem with them, I have a problem with their message. If I speak it and convince myself, it will happen. If I think positively things in life will automatically be ___________  <----Fill In the blank with whatever you want, stronger, prayerful, holier, etc.

Don't be so silly.

Only if we adhere strictly to Biblical principles and did not stray and sin were we even promised blessings in this life. The truth is we all stray and occasionally when we are obedient (very occasionally) we are blessed but more often than not these blessings are all by God's grace and mercy anyway. Positive thinking has nothing to do with it.

Although it helps (so as a man thinketh, so is he), "positive thinking" or "self reaffirmation" is not the vehicle that gets you to the goal. Just because you think you are more holy, are you? Are you the judge of that? If I am a mountain biker and I am only capable of a beginners trail, what happens when I attempt to do a downhill trail for professionals or advanced rides? I tell you what happens, I end up in the middle or at the bottom of the hill in a crumpled broken and bloody heap. Hopefully I will only be about 8 minutes from an Emergency Room and traction too. Positive thinking did not help me navigate the hill...it got me seriously injured, new dental work and perhaps a few metal screws in my leg.

These scenarios require a "process". Holiness is not just given to you but justification in Christ is. We are immediately made righteous in God's eyes because of the work Christ did for us which assures us of salvation and eternal life but we are far from being holy. The is a process that continues throughout our lives in varying degrees and intensities. Processes in this life are prone to failure so they should constantly be monitored by us with the help of the Holy Spirit to assure they are in proper alignment to our benchmark or measuring stick: Jesus. When we realize we've veered off the marked trail, the one blazed by Christ we need to steer it back on course or risk wrecking into a boulder or tree of unrighteousness. Often times we do not even realize we are off the trail until...

"Hey! Who the heck put that giant rock there?!"

Just like our mountain bike ride the ability to navigate an advanced trail requires us to not only to ascend gracefully but sometimes we need to also descend gracefully into valleys, ravines and pits in our lives to be able to master an entire trail, journey...our life. This trail though has been thoroughly marked off by the One whom has blazed the trail before us. We know the Path, we need only follow the markers left for us and listen to the helper our companion given to us who has come along for the ride.

Additionally we cannot jump from 1st gear to 4th gear. It takes time, energy to be expended to get up to speed and then the correct tools, mechanics and timing to shift the gears so that everything works properly and we make the most efficient use of the energy and spirit allotted to us. If we shortcut processes that were meant to follow we either strip gears, stall out or end up hurting ourselves/others or causing us to stubble or crash in flames (literally).

The one hundred mile trek to holiness begins with one step...and then another and another (and so on ad infinitum). In this manner we become more holy. Our development and progress will not always be positive and upward it will be littered with the burned out wrecks and marked by nosedives caused by sin. The good news is that those that believe God's promises and believe Christ died for their sins will survive to reach their intended destinations because we have been promised this by God. The journey on my hypothetical theological mountain bike will not always be pretty and may be interspersed with faceplants  and endos, but at least I 'll get to the end to trade-in my ride when I reach my destination for a new and improved model since I have ridden in a way in which to complete the trek.

Anybody see my Bible and a bone splint? I think I've hurt myself thinking this hard.

January 22, 2011

The Wonders of True Science and Real Facts

It is a marvelous thing to be able to have a relationship with the Prince of the Universe. Almighty God. Although we cannot study Him directly we can communicate and fellowship with Him. We can praise Him and seek His mercies and grace. We can have joy and peace in Him. We can sense the solicitations of His Spirit. Surprisingly, had He not revealed Himself to us we would not be able to do any of these.

God reveals Himself to humanity through Divine Revelation. This can be done in two different ways.

General Revelation: The things that God reveals to all people everywhere at all times.

Special Revelation: That which God reveals specifically to particular people at particular times (i.e.: Israel).

 Jesus' incarnation and the Holy Bible would be considered special, the things of the earth, universe are general. If we are serious to consider that all of nature and history itself are also aspects of God's revelation we begin to see a much broader picture that what would've been seen at first glance. It is reasonable to conclude that all there is to study in our universe...is God's revelation. Just like every action we commit if it is done with God in mind, is biblical and is righteous can and should be considered a form of worship. Scripture backs up the fact the God has revealed Himself in His creation like and artist technique or signature style is reflected in his art.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Not everything that has existed or will exist has been revealed...

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.  Deuteronomy 29:29

Even though it continues to pass away, the universe is from Him and through Him.

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

Here is where the definitions of words becomes crucial. Since the so-called "Enlightenment" many bedrock or fundamental definitions of how humanity have viewed reality for centuries and even millennium changed to suit and adjust to a godless worldview. The true primary definition of science goes something like this: (1) A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws. Secondary definition here: (2) Knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study. The word science from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge". This definition has been change in the last 200 years (since the Enlightenment of course) to be defined as:  An enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.  This definition in-and-of-itself sorta contradicts itself by adding the word prediction but I guess I am hairsplitting. In other words...the modern definition as been changed to encompass and include only empirical evidences or predictions based in empirical evidence, it is a definition honed by the scientific establishment to avoid mention of the supernatural or divine. Metaphysical is not even considered a legitimate avenue to pursue knowledge anymore.

Aristotelian philosophy which is the rudiment of all modern thought and is still in use in most/many intellectual circles today says of knowledge: "An older meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained. The Bible and systematic theology properly understood do and excellent job of logically and rationally explaining God and how He has revealed himself in space and time.

Now... let us jump down to the underpinnings of knowledge to those pesky little critters called...facts.

Facts or that which science is based on has also morphed meaning and is no longer what it once was. Actually there is a much more detailed explanation of facts used in conjunction with the word truth but the definition below will do for now. Millennia of unchanged word meaning was turned on its head to promote an scientific (agnostic/atheistic) view of reality. The word fact derives from the Latin factum, and was first used in English with the same meaning: A thing done or performed, a use that is now obsolete. This definition ironically dovetailed nicely with the structure of God's universe and God's Self-revelation throughout Scripture as God was constantly entering space and time to perform things or do things. Remember...this was an Aristotelian definition not a biblical one that had been around since time immemorial. Then, all of a sudden we smack into the what? You guessed it: The Enlightenment (like a car wreck BANG!). These meanings have since been bastardized and the generally accepted definition of fact in our postmodern godless age is: "findings derived through a process of evaluation, including review of testimony, direct observation, or otherwise; as distinguishable from matters of inference or speculation." More specifically: "A scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation [and here is where this gets laughable]. The scientific establishment's measurement for what is acceptable fact? The new definition of fact has been cleverly craft to exclude its ability to describe anything related to the supernatural...the miraculous...the divine...God.

For things to be considered facts by the new scientific definition...they must among other things be observable, God is Spirit therefore not observable unless He chooses to reveal Himself. Often times, what God chooses to reveal of Himself is only one, or possibly a few of His limitless attributes. If science doesn't even know what to look for when it comes to identifying God (because they are spiritually blind)...perhaps, just perhaps, they have already seen attributes of God and just cannot recognize them because of their intellectual arrogance and spiritual blindness? What is worse is their sensory filters are clogged with worldly junk. Until they sweep out the twisted  presuppositions from their interpretive filter...all they will continue to get is junk data.

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. ~Romans 1:21

Having elaborated on this I would like to make a few statements. I do not believe that "true" science and "true" examination of the creation through proper channels of learning is in any way anti-God. The problem arises when we pursue these things with a sense of wonder and zeal without God in the picture which is the new methodology based in the new definition of science and facts. Then it just becomes a pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake. When we study things properly in science and study with the intent of learning and  glorifying God this is a form of worship of God. Scientific things are then are not purely isolated to the worldly, humanistic or secular aspect and activities to be viewed as evil or demonized. This amounts to nothing more than misguided zeal and uneducated scamboogery. By examining and studying His creation we are showing that the things of His creation are amazing and worthy of admiration and adoration. The fact that we can examine them again and again and still not understand their full scope and importance attests to their miraculous intricacy and complex design.

One final quote from the godless scientific establishment for contrast purposes:
"In addition to these considerations [what is considered scientific fact], there are the social and institutional measures, such as peer review and accreditation, that are intended to promote factual accuracy (among other interests) in scientific study.
Social, institutional measures, peer review/accreditation to promote factual accuracy? Hmmm? I smell a rat. All man based. All subject to man's fallibility. All make man, not God the final judgment of what "fact" is. God is nowhere to be found and by science's very underlying principles...they will not even let him in the door if He was pounding on it. I actually heard a scientist a professor at Lehigh University quote this once,

"In science we limit ourselves to what is observable, repeatable or verifiable through measurement otherwise it cannot be considered fact."

They purposely limit their field of investigation to the purely physical realm and totally disregard the metaphysical realm. Sounds like they have tried to totally hedge out God in their imaginary worlds. Silly rabbit, Divinity and Holiness is of God.

January 20, 2011

Alongside Not Upside the Head

Someone half my age told me something that hit me like a brick. It has been in the back of my head for 2 or 3 weeks in different forms. I have had a dream about it as it has been in the forefront of my thinking. Then along comes one of my friends from my Greek class...

"You don't need to know everything. It's good that you know the Bible so well but...you don't need to try and learn it all. People won't remember whether you knew something or not or if you knew everything but they will remember whether of not you loved them."

It felt as if I had been hit with a divine 2 x 4. He did it in such a manner that I had to smirk at his tact but he did it in a way that had enough of an impact for me to stop dead in my tracks. I personally believe God in His perfect timing used this young man at just the right time to get my attention. I had bee told this before by others but it had stuck a little but either my sin pushed through again or I was being shaped gradually. Patience has never been a strong point for me. Neither was humbleness but over time I have realized I'm a sinning idiot and this has helped with the humbleness part. I've missed the mark on patience though. I have missed it totally. I have shot wide and landed off target.

The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves. ~Luke 22:26

What I am about to say is obviously not an excuse to be Scripturally ignorant, it just means that there are ways to reach people other than bludgeoning them over the head.

I figure if we actually do try to learn and know everything we have a few issues that may put us in conflict with God. Control and supplanting ourselves intellectually or just plain being a know-it-all. To me both of these make me rather uncomfortable. God wants us sharp, no doubt about it, especially when it comes to salvation issues but everything else requires grace.


We are to come alongside others and gently exhort them, not bash them over the head. Love them with actions not batter them with our dogma. It is the same thing we would do with our very own children. We need to come up along side people to guide them, gently nurture them to teach them, not constantly rip into them until you break their spirit. You can win the argument and still lose the person. Conversely, you could win the person by loosing the argument, especially it is a non-salvation issue.

So I pray that I learn how to better come up alongside brethren and non-brethren alike rather the cracking people upside the head with the Word. Trying to help people by showing them I know how to answer their questions does nothing more that let people know I have answers..not whether I care or not.

This was my reality cross-check for the month. I one statement this young man revealed two truths. He has more of a heart for people than I do and I have some more work to do in the sanctification department. Clever and insightful. God bless him.

We need to come up alongside them with Jesus, not bludgeon them over the head with Jesus. I must admit that I have struggled with this one.

January 19, 2011

Book Review: Plowshares and Pruning Hooks by D. Brent Sandy

The subtitle on this book pretty much sums up the scope of this book-"Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic". This is important to me since I have become quite weary of entrepreneurial types misappropriating Revelation to make a profit or making predictions that are no better than tabloid fodder. This is especially true since it leads a ton of people astray. Although I do not fully agree with all the hermeneutic principles outlined in this text there is enough here to have people rethink what they have often assumed to be "rock solid" interpretation of prophecy. Since a lot of the Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled we know that in some cases we can interpret the prophets almost exactly, in some cases we need to view what they said and wrote through a "soft" or "fuzzy" lens. Complete literal interpretation of prophecy just doesn't fly and is pretty much a misreading of the prophecies in the Bible and this is where this book comes in handy. It runs through all the figures of speech and how you do not need to be an expert on all of them to be able to realize that some passages are nebulous and sometimes need to remain that way because in the much larger scope of things, analyzing explicit details takes away from the overall larger holistic picture. When the prophets attempt to describe the divine as in the case of Isaiah 6 human language and human words totally fall short. Mankind is limited to their ability to describe God and the limitation stems from our vocabulary and means of communication. How do you describe the infinite with a finite set of word symbols (i.e.:words)?

The section that is exceptionally impactful is "How Will Prophecies Be Fulfilled?", in particular pages 188-194. These six pages may make you rethink your presupposition and position on prophecy altogether. Am I condoning heresy or a heretical view point? Only to those that are probably misinterpreting unfulfilled prophecy already. I will leave you with a quote from the book that warrants close scrutiny.
"Tension naturally exists between the notions that the faithful should be ready for the end and that they cannot be ready. The end is expected at any moment, but will come at an unexpected moment. This dualism is due in part to the ethical dimension of the apocalyptic. The call to purity is strengthened if the end will occur imminently, and is strnegthened if the end may catch us off guard. Because we expect it soon, we live accordingly. Because we cannot expect it precisely, we live accordingly. It is expected to be unexpected. Just like the second coming presumably could've occurred in the first century--as many Christians expected--or in every century since. Was the Lord's return imminent across the span of two thousand years? What about the events of every generation that were identified as sure signs of His coming...Current events simply cannot be claimed as the sign of his coming, no matter how many wars and rumors of wars there are."
Another brilliant quote from the conclusion:
"It is often in retrospect or in the present that biblical prophecies achieve their greatest importance."
On the night of Jesus' betrayal He twice gave them [disciples] the important perspective on all that He was saying to them. He told them so, "that when it does happen you will believe that I am He" ~John 13:19. Knowing this we can then realize that it is not always the intent to reveal the future as much as to confirm and explain the past and illuminate the present conditions surrounding the reader.

Although some events could be interpreted as signs of the Lord's imminent return (and in a sense, they are) to draw definitive conclusions on metaphorical apocalyptic language that is not often meant to be taken literally is to do and injustice to the intent and real meaning of the prophecy.

This book may not follow my exact hermeneutucal grid or theology to the letter but it is well worth the few days to read through. It is a quick read. Take those few days and it will bless you the rest of your life.

Rating: 92 Pruning Hooks Out of 100

Authority & Hypocrisy

I was presented with a question at the gym today and it is one that I have dealt with in the past. I have dealt with it by trying to figure it out myself and reasoning through it and also by answering someone else’s question in the past.

If we need to discern things about people and make judgments about them to determine whether or not they are right or wrong, if they are biblical or unbiblical. When we make that decision as Christians, what makes us any different than hypocrites that are judging others when they themselves are guilty of sin? Does it make Christians hypocritical because they were and still are sinners? If that’s that case then all people judging others for anything that is sinful makes everyone hypocrites right? Wrong.

There is a small nuance missing here that needs to be addressed to straighten out people that would make this accusation. It is a rather clear cut distinction that if, anyone thought critically about, would realize it almost instantly.

It is called source of authority.

If I tell you "I" do not like your sinful behavior because “I” think it is wrong, I have made myself the highest authority of judging what is right and wrong. If I tell you that the Bible says it is wrong and it is sin I have made the Bible the highest authority. It then is not my opinion but deferment of authority to pass judgment on someone else to a higher authority…in this case God. God being perfect in justice and righteousness and holiness is in the best position to judge and is the only one in a position to judge. I, thereby, remove myself as the authority in this situation and also remove the tag of “hypocrite”. It is then that I can only be accused of being a “Cretan Bible banger” or a “religious nut”…but not hypocritical.

Case-In-Point #1: Modern society and culture. To borrow and excellent quote about authority or lack of it I will quote this verbatim from Bryan Chapell's "Chirst-Centered Preaching" [items in brackets emphasis mine]:
"Who has the right to tell me what to do?"... This question, typically posed as a challenge, is really a plea for help. Without an ultimate authority for truth, all human striving has no ultimate value, and life itself becomes futile"
[Ecclesiastes anybody?]
Modern trends in preaching [and life] that deny the authority of the Word in the name of intellectual sophistication lead to despairing subjectivism in which people do what is right in their own eyes---a state whose futility Scripture has clearly articualted.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. ~Judges 21:25

Case-In-Point #2: Where does a police officer draw his authority from? If he just pulls you over for no reason and arrests and fines you because he things you “look guilty” and he uses his gauge of unlawful and thinks you look like a “criminal type” he is relying on himself as the highest authority in this situation. Fraudulently too I might add. Who is he held accountable to? The “law of the land”. Who determines the Law? In the case of the USA it is people elected to office by the people meaning that the highest authority for the police officer is civil or positive law drawn from the fact he obeys man’s laws. If the police officer is immoral and a hammerhead and subsequently arrests someone for disobeying the “law of the land” is the police officer guilty of being a hypocrite? What makes more sense in this situation is to understand he is just doing his job even though he too has his own human foibles and faults.

The real question here is when does the law or statutes of man trump God’s law? More specifically, when does positive or civil law trump moral/God's law? If you believe the Bible: Never. If you do not: The answer changes based on what you the observer deem proper or improper. Which seems more unreliable, whimsical and capricious? Which one by its very nature makes more sense? As a Christian or non-Christian you make these decisions more than you realize. Do I abort a child? Do I live with my spouse before I marry them? Do I have sex with them before marriage? Do I cut that dude off in traffic because he’s driving too slowly? Do I approve of same-sex marriage because everyone has the right to marry whomever they “love”? Do I buy things on credit until I am so over-extended that I will either be in debt until I am 80 or need to file for bankruptcy because I couldn’t budget my money? All these examples are examples of disobedience to the Bible the culture either doesn’t care about and ignores or outright approves of. Where does you authority lie?

"Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar’s." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Matthew 22:16-22

If you live by the law of man when God’s law clearly trumps it and then stand in judgment of your brother or sister, you are a hypocrite. If you solely live by the law of God and make a determination of judgment based in God's law you are on solid footing. What higher Judge is there than God Himself? When Jesus spoke whose authority did He speak with: God’s. Why does he call the Pharisees in this passage hypocrites? Because they had the audacity to ask God incarnate this question with the deliberate intention of entrapping Him in a Catch-22. Instead he turns the question back on them and makes them determine the source of THEIR authority. Man's or God's.

When we speak with the authority of the Bible (if we speak with the authority of the Bible) we are speaking with the authority of the Holy Spirit.

When I post, I want people to not only understand the words I repeat from the Word I want them to simultaneously to understand the idea that the words represent. Understanding the words is fine but the Word is used to convey the idea. An idea is meant to be internalized. Where do ideas reside? In your head silly rabbit. Once in your head they become part of your psyche and conscious. Once in there they become who you are. Your moral core. They are the framework and fuel for your actions---your life. You can tell what type of ideas and ideals people have internalized and made part of themselves by their behavior.

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. ~Matthew 12:33-34

January 18, 2011

Sweating: A Trail Of Flames

Sometimes in our search for some deeper meaning or deeper truth in the Bible we overlook the obvious smacking us square in the face. Often their are deeper meanings and multi-layered precepts in the Bible and we should be astute and vigilant to note and learn them. Sometimes we need only look at the actions or verbs in plainly stated passages to have the passages speak to us as readers. Please note the actions and verbs in these passages and then contemplate the title of this post. Simple, direct, easy to understand. People that cannot read this and comprehend are either illiterate, willfully ignorant or they are so far gone in their sin only God will be able to pull them out of their pit of disarray.

"Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning."
Jeremiah 9:5

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:24-32

Look at these two previous passages. How much of them are highlighted blue to identify sinful or disobedient actions perpetrated by a sinning person? Half? Two-thirds?

Many say that God is cruel to condemn and damn people by sending them to Hell and eternal separation from His presence. To say this is to wrongly accuse God of malicious motives. God only fulfills the desires of sinful unrepentant man as an end result. God only allows continuance of a state that unrepentant sinners have pursued their entire lives. God doesn't send sinners to Hell, sinners send sinners to Hell through their own actions. It is only by God intervening and pulling depraved people out of their downward spiral of increasing sin that any have a chance at glory. Instead of hammering and badmouthing a Holy God we should be praising Him for His amazing forgiveness, amazing mercy and...amazing grace.

People that go to Hell don't sweat necessarily because of the heat that is there per se, they sweat from the efforts that got them there. Its as if they leave a trail of flames in their zeal to reach their destination.

January 17, 2011

Echoes Into Eternity

I have been under the impression that I left my previous life as an engineer because God had called me to the ministry. Although I believe that is still true I have done an honest assessment of myself and realized that I have driven towards ministry first to learn for myself. I have always been able to read. Some would say that I have been spiritually gifted to pick up on the subtle nuances within the text that are often flown over in haste. Unfortunately this isn't exactly the case. I orient on the details but I have read and not always understood it. This is where my pursuing of education comes in. I wanted to learn from the seasoned veterans. I wanted to learn original languages, historical contexts and a plethora of other things only a fine-tooth comb picks out. With just the little bit that I have gleaned from that last few semesters has opened my eyes to a world I didn’t see clearly before.

If after this, the Lord would then bestow a ministry on me, it would be an abundance of blessing that I do not deserve. If a ministry would come some day it would show me through God’s providence that He would entrust me to help shepherd His people. I would be honored and pursue it with a zeal that only the zealous understand.

The turning point and linchpin in this story was when I realized that I first needed to get my mind right with The Boss. I needed to know for myself the things of the Bible and of the Lord. If a man or woman is to have a ministry for the Lord they must first marinade in the Word. It not only must become part of them intellectually...it must become them...period. It requires more than just positive thinking many times, it actually requires effort and you must go through a process of learning (more on this in a later post). Because of the requirements of where God is leading me I am now being entrusted to teach others and will need to start preaching multiple times. I take this as serious as a heart attack just like every other time I have been asked to do teaching or preaching of the Word or ideas of God. Those that teach are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17) but so too they will be held to a more exacting standard of judgement. The Bible is replete with examples of leadership and teachers being singled out for specific judgement because they do not only lead themselves astray, they do so to others. (Hosea 4:4-10,18; 5:1-5, Luke 12:48; 1 Timothy 5:20, etc).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4

I take it serious when I attempt to raise my boys because they are my first priority. I have lamented that I am often harder on them than I am on anyone else because they are my children. In reality, they are God's children and I am only given stewardship over them in this life for a very short time, at most 22 or 23 years. Just like the people of a ministry, my children have been entrusted to me by God to raise and teach them in the ways of the Lord. When I attempt to teach God's children I take the same tact I take with my own. I am often hard on myself to make sure I have totally done my homework before delivering the information. I am also demanding of the mental rigors I expect of the listener. I want to move past the milk stage whenever possible and get to the meat and potatoes. I try to paint vivid pictures to put the listener/reader in the action itself. To disciple them in the Way that I am being discipled for I too am a child of God entrust to deliver a message. It is no different then if I would hand my son a task to complete to help his mother. In some shape or form we are all servants. Any believer of Jesus Christ is just this: Servants of the Servant of God. This is especially true of a teacher/preacher.

I now realize that my gift to the body lies somewhere between teaching and preaching. I know that they are gifts that are not the same but I also know that they are not mutually exclusive. As the Lord has done in the past…He is making me wait to determine the end result. So be it...He knows best.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” ~Deuteronomy 6:7.

To wrap this up I will say this:

Before you can teach others you need to know what you believe because what you believe is what you teach. You may not teach it through your words though. If you have internalized and accepted a truth or The Truth and believe it, it becomes you and manifests itself in your actions. If it comes out in actions and behaviors those behaviors will speak louder than any words you could ever speak. Once those actions have spoken they will resonate outward to others like the sound of music in an echo chamber. Teaching that will echo through eternity...because a Christian's teaching is an echo of The One. Jesus Christ.

"I AM the resurrection and the life..life...life....life "

January 15, 2011

Thee Won't -Not- Thee Can't

When those that have any understanding of the terminologies in Christian theology speak to one another it is often lamented that many, even those in the church environment do not even know what words like sanctification, glorification and justification mean. I recently made a serious inquiry concerning this with people in and outside the church. I guess the real questions is: When have people ever been familiar and comfortable with these words or ideas? I believe understanding and comfort using these words has never been an issue of being "comfortable". I do not believe that these words just recently fell out of fashion and are no longer used. I believe they were never fashionable and no one except a few enjoyed using them.

It is the following same excuse in a different form, "I don't read the Bible because it is to hard to understand". The old style English is confusing, who talks like that anymore? My answer is that these people are right, the older versions are harder to read, so go get a new one like the ESV or NASB. These people do not complain because it is intellectually too hard to understand. It is too hard because it is (1) spiritually discerned and (2) it is too hard because they are sinful. For people to accept and use these terminologies there needs to be an ascent to what they mean.

To ascent to what these words mean or agree that words like this need to exist...is to describe an existent reality in a person's life (theirs in particular). That means that anyone who ascents to these terminologies also ascent to the reality of the thing/things the words describe. Examples below:


The truth be told...no one wants to admit they are any of these things: Sinner, reprobate or wicked. So it is easier to say, "I don't understand what it is trying to tell me." In this situation ignorance of the law/God's Word is an excuse in their minds. People figure if they don't know it they will not be held to its exacting standard. The problem with this is not true. They are without excuse.
So...this is why people need...

To be made righteous in the eyes of God or God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous before God. Why? Because man is clearly not. Justification is done by faith in what Jesus' did on the Cross it is not by works lest any should boast of their own efforts

A need to be made holy. Why? because man is anything but holy...if anything just the opposite.

It is the completion, the consummation, the perfection, the full realization of salvation. For Christian it occurs after death of the person. The elect become perfected in Christ.

So there...I've just given you a bunch of the definitions of these words and you have read them....you now have no excuse for being ignorant of them.

"...the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  ~Luke 12:48

I do not buy the excuse that it is too hard to learn. We as sinners do not like the words. It is not an issue of not being able to understand or learn them. It has nothing to do with turns of phrase, idioms or colloquialisms of a given time period or century or a label given by a denomination. If people want there are plenty of pieces of reference materials to go back an reconstruct what people meant when they see all those "thee" and "thou". If anything is going on here, it is an unwillingness to learn them. It is an issue of "thee can't" or "thou won't'". The concept is simple, the ability for a sinful mind to be accepting of them is not. When you tell someone that they are lost you are telling them they have a need to become "unlost" and they need to seek and accept a Savior. People's sinful nature is to not like being told what to do or to admit they are wrong.

The concept is called perspicuity or the perspicuity of Scripture. As defined in Theopedia this is:
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the "perspicuity of Scripture") teaches that "the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will...ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there.
Many will have us believe, including the Roman Catholic church that Scripture is actually imperspicuous(unclear) apart from the interpretative framework of the Catholic church and tradition. This is nonsense and the Bible is quite clear about this. I will mention only two in the New Testament.

"For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge--just as you did partially acknowledge us, that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you." (2 Corinthians 1:13-14)

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The farther we go into the past the more we realize it wasn't an issue of not even being able to read...most could not read. It was that they wouldn't even listen. These people couldn't even use the excuse that it was too hard to understand when reading because they were illiterate. Then then just ended up blaming the preacher or teacher for his failure to convey the intent and the meaning of passages. We are beginning to see this again in today's culture also. The infiltration of postmodernism tells us the we can not be certain of any meaning anymore.

The words of the Bible have never been incredibly popular with culture and the closer the words of the Bible come to telling the truth about the sinful and depraved nature of the person they are discussing the more likely they will be "too hard to learn". In my mind the issue has never been with the medium or method of communication but with the recipient of the message. Most people's "inbox" are purposely set to either filter this stuff out and quarantine it. People mentally filter what they do not want to hear and purposely play dumb to have plausible deniability. They treat the Word of God and God's statutes like junk mail. Their storage capacity is deliberately set so low so they have an excuse that they were overwhelmed and didn't have enough memory to receive and understand the message. Yet when you ask them a question about it they have an opinion. The truth is that they find the Gospel offensive and we are told specifically by the Gospel that this would be the case. People would find if offensive and foolish.

Sorry folks, its too hard to understand doesn't float with me. Especially if you are intelligent to have an opinion of it. Sounds more like willful ignorance or purposeful blindness. I believe the unwillingness to learn starts with the Scripture itself and extends to the surrounding terms around the Bible that help us understand concepts in the Bible such as sanctification and the like. If it requires any effort or any thought, it is too hard. Its the same problem that those folks have that complain they have to go to Church once a week on Sunday and how much of a struggle it is to "fit it in" to their schedule. Priorities people. It isn't about "how smart" its about "how willing".

Scripture Twisting - John MacArthur

"What can you do for me" or "What have you done for me lately?"

"If it doesn't aid me in what I think is right...then I am not interested"

One of my pet peeves. People misappropriating the Scripture to serve their own selfish needs. In a pair of sermons from John MacArthur I am trying to show how society and culture had done such a thorough job of confusing the truth that even the learned of the church are becoming unsure of themselves. I believe part of this is because they are not firmly rooted in the word to begin with. They do not hold Scripture in the highest regard (please note I said highest, not high). Scripture is God's special revelation of His character and what is expected of us. It is inerrant. It is is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. It is truth. Believe it or not it is the only absolute truth that man will find in this life. Being such it is the benchmark and measuring stick for our behavior. People say they do not what to believe anymore. They say there is no absolute truth, things are all subject to peoples individual opinions, education levels and...lifestyles. This is just wishful thinking. In the Bible God offers the measuring stick for man. Ignore it to your own demise. Just as a preacher understands that his highest authority available to him to take out into the world is the Word, so too this authority is available to the believer. Like the first post, this second post will come as a slap in the face to today's society and culture and what most have come to accept as "normal" and "acceptable" behavior.

As for the misappropriation of Scripture, John does good job of expounding on this topic here. The reason I post this sermon now is because the previous sermon needed context so that I did not appear as an incoherent rambling backwoods homophobic. It is clear that the sin of homosexuality becoming a cultural "norm". The advocates of this "norm" are now actually trying to claim that the Bible says nothing adverse or against homosexuality. What has become even more clear is that Scripture is now being twisted by advocates of homosexuality and every other sin under the sun that believe the Bible actually condones there sin in particular because they can find a verse that says so in the Christian's Holy Writ. How often have we heard this misuse of Scripture.

"You shouldn't judge because the Bible says, 'judge not lest ye be judge'. Anyone that reads the following two verse realize that this verse refers mainly to hypocrisy. "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Some of the underlying error is addressed in the sermon in the previous post by John MacArthur. These error stem from various reasons that include poor hermeneutics, exegesis, Bible interpretation and a backlash against twisted legalism. Pharisees and teachers are the target of the passages here in this post but the understanding is that these are the "learned leaders" and the ones that should be leading the flock towards God not away.

We can see the same parallel today in our churches. Entire denominations are not only condoning illicit sexual relationships they are actually catering towards them. In the worst case some of the leaders of churches are involved in questionable relationships themselves. They label themselves, "tolerant", "open-minded", "alternative lifestyle friendly" or even more brazenly marketing themselves to the culture as adaptive to "cultural need" or "come as you are" and don't worry about changing. This is all easily translated to an acceptance of sinful behavior by the church which itself is a sin. This is called enabling and appeasement. If there is any doubt I recently pulled this quote off of a local church's website in the borough adjacent to mine. Much of the wordage is cryptic and obfuscatory but the intent is clear. One needs only to do a little homework to see that some of these "churches" are part of a much larger network of religious organizations condoning illicit sexual behavior in contradiction to their own Holy Bible. If they truly believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God they would not be condoning these sins. The advertisement for the Church in their website: I've italicized the duplicit language in their mission statement to draw attention to how subtle it is.
If you're looking for the chance to be a seeker--to explore life's meaning, to examine spiritual and social questions, to find ways of living more constructively as a multicultural society, then we're looking for you...

If you're looking for a creative worship experience--to share your joys and concerns, to hear provocative preaching, to lift your spirit in song, to share in worship which is regularly planned by church members along with the pastor, then we're looking for you...

If you're looking for a church which is "autonomous"--where a congregational vote is the highest authority in church affairs, and where every Christian is free and responsible to interpret scripture and faith according to his or her own experience and intellect, then we're looking for you....
So not to purposely demonize this church I have abstained from actually naming them but it can be found on this page of Gay Affirming Churches in Pennsylvania which is a national organization for gay advocacy. Make no mistake about it. The largest threat to Christian's religious freedom will come from a minority bent on making our religion into "hate speech" and their concerted attempts to normalize illicit sexual behavior. On the same side of the coin we must fully understand that this is only one of many sexual sins plaguing the culture today-the worst of which is adultery. We are to despise the sin not the sinner. These people can be saved but if channels are not opened up and kept open for discussion no ground can ever be gained and no inroads made to save people...people God loves but because of His justice...must punish for their sin. The two sides will get farther and farther apart with no chance of meeting if these walls continue to be erected by those bend on alienating themselves from the Christian faith.

This sermon and the previous should be view in conjunction with one another. My advice to those that believe I am out of line posting these types of posts is this: Instead of trying so hard to hold on to the sinful logic or the logic of our culture's that has strayed from truth, I recommend that you go to the Word that Jesus Christ came to fulfill and embody in and of Himself. The Bible.

Oh, one more thing. Please note that I never directly attack homosexuals in the last two post, I went after the sin of homosexuality. There is a difference. I care about God's creation. If you read back through the last 500 or so post... there is a pattern in this blog to hammer the sin...not the sinner. God loves them as I do. The Bible commands me to love my neighbor. That means everyone outside me. That means all sinners and saved alike.

January 14, 2011

Thinking Biblically About Homosexuality - John MacArthur

Here is a sermon from John MacArthur that is sure to ruffle the feathers of many in the culture and even the church that have fallen into lockstep with the cultural mindset. Regardless of what culture is currently trying to drop on Bible believing Christians, the Bible is explicitly clear. Sexual immorality in any form is a no-no. Many Biblically illiterate "experts" say that Christ never mentions this in the New Testament. Nonsense. He came to fulfill the law not overturn it and the Law was explicitly clear on illicit sexual behavior.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Matthew 5:17-18

As for what Jesus said we need only look at is comment farther along in Matthew Chapter 5:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30

By implication, if Jesus found that men just thinking about women illicitly in a heterosexual relationship as a sin (adultery) how much more would any other sexual sin be frowned upon outside of this? If just the thought of perpetrating the act constitutes sin, what of the actual act? How this passage could be interpreted any other way is beyond me. To assume Christ said nothing about sexual deviance is willful ignorance or Biblical ignorance.

Anyway...I'll Let Johnny Mac finish this discussion. The next post will be another sermon concerning the twisting of Scripture to suit peoples needs. This is relevant to this topic as many often take things out of the Bible out of context or twist it to promote their agendas or bias. Properly understood the Bible leaves no doubt that any sexual relation outside of a a heterosexual relationship between a man and woman in a marriage is sin. Period. To say that the Bible implies anything else is to misappropriate Scripture or to assume things that are not said in the text. That makes things like adultery, homosexuality, premarital sex, bestiality and numerous other convolutions... all sins and reprehensible to God Almighty.

Let me be clear. I personally wish people would obey God, it would make things easier for them. If they choose not to it is my position to tell them what is awry or errant. I personally hold no animosity towards those that have difficulty with sexual sin but I do have problems with the sin itself and people's justification of it in the face of overwhelming biblical evidences condemning it. I am especially convicted to say these things because it has now gotten to the point that if I mention these things in public I am deemed a malicious "hater" for trying to stay convicted to my religion and religious beliefs. By offering up my opinion based on my convictions which are drawn from the Bible I am now deemed a ignorant backwoods Biblethumper (as if that's a bad word). It will not be long before I will be arrested for posts like this in an overall concerted attempt to silence any dissent from the "hater" Christians.

Additional posts that state my position and hermeneutic/interpretive method can be found here in the following posts:
(1) The Effeminate and The Abusers of Themselves With Mankind
(2) Examining The Scripture LXXXVII: Righteous Sexuality vs. Unrighteous Sexuality
(3) God Haters: Darkened Hearts & Reprobate Minds

Evil & Suffering XXVI: Potential Mutations & Permutations

Having completed this I have made one additional observation in retrospect. As a commuter to Valley Forge Christian College I need to drive past Limerick Power Plant on a daily basis. On one of these trips after completing the bulk of this work my mind paused on an interesting analogy.
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 timeframe. 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 me 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 hadn't counted nor had I been assured of at the start.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

January 12, 2011

Evil & Suffering XXV: Jesus: The Suffering Servant-Part II

The last biblical defense I would like to pose as the need for suffering in a human’s life is again found in Hebrews. It is in this passage that we see the solid connection between the life of Christ and His suffering and the parallel in our lives as Christians striving to be like Christ.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5: 8-10)

What we see in this passage is that Jesus needed to learn obedience (in His human body) through suffering. This doesn’t mean he was disobedient but rather that He learned lessons just as others in a human body that can only be learned through suffering. Temptations, exhaustions, mental anguish because of the limitations of the human mind, etc. Having suffered these things (and the crucifixion) Jesus could better identify with what it is to be human. Having done this He was made perfect (through suffering). He became the only suitable source for eternal salvation for those that obey Him. If it was deemed appropriate that the God-man should suffer to be made perfect it is almost obscene to think that we should not. Why should mankind be excused from suffering if we are the source of the evil and sin that Christ had to suffer and die for? This is an abhorrent thought to me that is a vanity and conceit that approaches blasphemy and should be rebuked. Suffering is intrinsically part of what it means to be Christian (and human for that matter). It is through the lens of Christianity that we begin to see through the glass (albeit darkly) a suitable reasoning for the need of suffering, pain and even God working through the evil. We see God has purposely extracted that reason directly out of sin we’ve created (and which He has allowed) to shape a workable scenario for our eventual eternal benefit and salvation. The ultimate paradox and juxtapose of ontological opposites: Eternal joy and glory that needs to be preceded by a “trial of fire” or enduring evil, suffering and pain. The evil and suffering that needed to proceed the Crucifixion which inevitably brought glory.

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" Mark 8:34-36

In the end we see that through a supreme act of sacrifice and endurance of suffering, evil is once and for all defeated at the cross. It is still appointed to man to die once and then be judged but thanks to the sufferings of Christ, we will be judged righteous because of our faith. As for answering why God allows evil and suffering I didn’t find a conclusive reason why because it is not for me to know the mind of God. What I have done is offer the best conclusions based on my research and understanding. What I have learned is that He is indeed all-powerful and benevolent for Scripture tells me so. At the same time He allows evil and suffering for a multitude of reasons. To even be able to comprehend why God allows evil and suffering, one must start with the right worldviews and presuppositions. I believe the only worldview that can provide a satisfactory reasoning is the Christian worldview. It is a view that allows for some form of free will to choose between good and evil. The Bible supports this hypothesis. Whether or not God can or will work providentially through choices of evil is evident in the Crucifixion of Jesus, the story Joseph, and the traitor Judas. How it is done isn’t necessarily the main point. Why it is done is. That underlying main point is how all the actions and movements within the Creation invariably bring glory to God.

To be truthful, I did not get any farther than Job or his “friends” did when they questioned or presupposed God and His motives for doing things. For me to question God even further than Job only serves to continue to darken the Lord’s counsel with more words from my mouth that are without knowledge. So I remain humble and contrite in His presence even if it means suffering to the point of death.
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