June 30, 2011

Prisoner For Christ IX: Spiritual Whack-A-Mole

Having finished reading Philippians chapters 3 and 4 the applications in my life are clear and the first of them resides in Philippians 3:12-16 and its call for a reader is obvious-to press on. All of us as Christians if we are still alive are called to press on to the goal of glorification in Jesus Christ.

If all Christians do not have this as an overarching understanding of the “end of the trail” in terms of achievement we are misguided or perhaps not Christian. What we are is shaped by where we think we are going. Where we think we are going affects what we do and how we behave in this life. Those that do not believe that they will eventually need to answer to a just God live life accordingly. I as a Christian understand that I am called to have a complete knowledge of Christ and a main portion of my day therefore a main portion of my life revolves around getting to know Him now to the best of my ability. So much so that I have now been called teach and preach to others so that they too will come to know Him better. I believe God has called me to “one up” the norm and do more. Otherwise I would not be doing undergrad work for a Masters in Theology. Otherwise…I would not be typing these words now. I believe God is expecting me to do something else. Not to solidify my salvation. Christ has already done that work for me.

Everything… and I mean every single thing I do right now is preceded by prayer and it appears all of my family’s actions are preparing us for the ministry whether they are intentional actions or not. Even when we think things are contrary to the will of God and we think they are actually taking us away from the ultimate goal, we end up being wrong. Even our mistakes are moving us closer to the crux of the issue and we end up exactly where God wants us anyway. It’s nutty. I can feel it in the very depth of my bones. Like Jeremiah, I try to stifle the urge not to talk about Jesus to other people about it but it ends up being a spiritual Whack-A-Mole.

“But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9

I could suppress and push it down in one place only to see it surface somewhere else at a different time and in a different form. Pressing on to a complete knowledge of Christ has now become unavoidable for me. Funny, but I am starting to feel as if I could double for Jonah right now. Something tells me that if I purposely walked in a diametrically opposed direction straight away from Jesus in my myopic point of view, it would just end up being a circle to God’s perspective and I would end up 360 in a matter of days. Not that would ever do such a thing but…I’m just sayin’….ya know? I would figuratively head for Tarshish only to end up in Nineveh anyway. Lots of laughs. I know that Jesus is the end result. It is He that I aim for. He is the one at the finish line. It is by his measure that I will be judged. He is the measuring stick, the Canon, the Word. To me there is nothing else that I care to aspire to. My life is now dedicated to showing others the joy the knowledge of Christ has brought me. My sins are forgiven. My Master awaits me when this life is over. I need nothing else. Praise Jesus. I find myself walking in lockstep to Paul's example.

So now I move on to the truth of the sinful side of my nature and it will appear almost schizophrenic compared to my last application. We all suffer this dual nature and to deny it makes us liars and we are deceiving ourselves if we do not acknowledge it exists. In a word: Anxiety. It is a place where my sinful and reprobate mind used to like to reside. For nearly four decades it is where my thought processes default to. If there was a worse-case-scenario, I would've been the one who had thought the most thoroughly on it and arrived at a conclusion about it the fastest in a crowd of people. At least this is the way it used to be. The evidence that this is no longer the case is my family’s current state of affairs. I use to pride myself on always having things “under control”. I had a good career, a great job and I definitely knew where my next paycheck was coming from. Philippians 4:6-7’s imperative tells us do not be anxious (v. 6) …. but in everything pray. Since 2009 this has been turned on its head and I have not always been calm about it or not anxious but I have definitively turned to prayer to maintain my obedience and faithfulness to a faithful and immutable God. As it became more and more obvious that life is getting farther out of my control, I have resorted more often to prayer and a trust that God would do what was best spiritually and eternally for my family. My trust in God was and is not misplaced. Our initial faith just continues to get further strengthened and grows even more. The more out of control things seem the more active God appears to be in our lives. Situations that once seemed insurmountable are being surmounted usually easily and in unforeseen ways. Money is there to pay bills; we have our health, food in the table and the like. Things are not always comfortable but they are not uncomfortable either.

We have learned to get use to “flying by the seat of our pants”. Most importantly God is helping support us in a midlife change of career so that we can actively and effectively move into proclaiming His Gospel. I could elaborate on the near miraculous events if not outright miracles that have occurred in very short order that have allowed me to get to a junior year of seminary undergrad work but it would end up being a book. The truth is we entered into this endeavor blind just as Abraham when he left Ur. When we left our old lives it was similar. We left “Um”. As in, “Ummm…what do we do now?” God has laid it out before us as we needed. Apparently we were on a need to know basis and we are just now beginning to need to know. We are now rounding a bend and it is clear the hand of God works profoundly in my family’s life. I remain faithful to the call and faith and obedient to His word. Outside of this there is no room for the wishy-washy nonsense propagated by that punk the Devil.

The next portion of Scripture is carryover from anxiety and it is a place that is constantly under attack in my life and is a recurrent area that needs address is my thought life. I tend to be more cerebral than most so my mind often gets the best of me and I think orbitally or over and over. This is a trap of the devil and lends itself well to doubt. I have needed to forcefully take hold of this flame and extinguish it before the fire in my head rages out of control. Over the last two or three years I have applied what Paul says in Philippians 4:8-9. The very first thing that comes to mind before taking action (a majority of the time) is Christ. This is obviously not the case when I slam my thumb with a hammer but 95% of the time I out my mind towards the Son of God. Depending on how agitated or anxious I have become I may then need to step up my defenses and resort to Paul’s list of thinking on the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

In many if not most of the episodes where the world has gained an upper hand in my mind it works to think on Christ or the noble and honorable things Paul speaks of. I believe this is the case for a few reasons. (1) I don’t believe people can truly “multi-task” I believe they usually only think in a linear manner. When we begin to think we are multi-tasking we are in reality dividing our attention and thereby not devoting our attention and care to the things that we should in the way that we should. Instead of giving all towards a given task we are giving 50% to two tasks or 33% of our focus to three…and so on. Paul had it right. “…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Paul has a singular solitary focus here and itemizes them one-by-one. If man truly focuses most efficiently on one thing at a time which I believe is the case then thinking on the good things makes all the difference. Why you ask? Because it you are focused on Christ or true, noble and pure things…evil thoughts are held at bay. Then doubt is kept at arm’s length. The more you think on these things the more doubt is prohibited from breaching the defenses. Evil loses in the long run. It cannot build up a fortress or stronghold if its front lines are always being pushed back in a spiritual Battle of the Bulge. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”, in my case it is "out of thought, out of mind”. Not only did Paul model a healthy Christianity for the Philippian church, he did so for me (us) also and it was a good role-model.

June 29, 2011

The Bible: Quality Control & Continuous Improvement

I posit that, among other things, the Bible is a quality control manual for holiness and sanctification. For all the people out there that are part of an organization that is quality certified, has a process in place for quality and continuous improvement and or those that understand the concept of corporate quality.

Part I

By definition a comparative study (biblical comparisons in parenthesis)

Mission Statement: (Repeated multiple times for good measure)

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. ~Leviticus 11:44

For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. ~Leviticus 11:45

"Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. ~Leviticus 19:2

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

The quality (holiness) of something can be determined by comparing a set of inherent characteristics (sin, morals, conscience) with a set of requirements (the Bible, the Law). If those inherent characteristics meet all requirements (God's exacting standards), high or excellent quality is achieved (sanctification, glorification). If those characteristics do not meet all requirements (sin, unrepentant, depravity), a low or poor level of quality is achieved (corruption, sinner, condemnation).

Quality is, therefore, a question of degree (of sanctification). As a result, the central quality question is: How well does this set of inherent characteristics (sin, lack of sin, morals, conscience) comply with this set of requirements (the Bible, the Law)? In short, the quality of something depends on a set of inherent characteristics and a set of requirements and how well the former complies with the latter.

According to this definition, quality is a relative (to God) concept. Quality is always relative to a set of requirements (God & The Bible).


Part II

Now that I've drawn the parallels, now read some further definitions and concepts.

Quality is not something that just "gets done". It requires a change to mindset of not only the individual but the corporation as a whole. Corporate is another word for community or a collective body. The idea of quality is to be built right into the culture so that it becomes part of life or the practice of doing things normally. It is a continuous process that continually improves upon the last attempt...unless of course there is backslide.

A Quality Plan
A quality plan is a document that is used to specify the procedures and resources that will be needed to carry out a project, perform a process, realize a product, or manage a contract. Quality plans also specify who will do what and when.

Sound familiar? Sacrifice, atonement, specific times of the year, high priest, adult males, resources: heifers, lamb, grain, bread, blood, wave offerings, etc. Contract? Contract is another word for a covenant or agreement. Specify who does what when. Sounds a lot like a Suzerain Treaties & Vassal Covenant (God & Israel, Gentiles & Christ). God specifies, man obeys. Thou Shalt, Thou Shall...All of these are imperatives or absolutely necessary requirements. hence the reason for word "Shall" not "Should". Either meet the requirements or you are not high quality (holy), you are low quality (sinful and corrupt). The fact that you even get a chance to correct yourself is leeway that's built into the system. In the Bible it is called mercy and grace. He gives us feedback and we try again...and again...and again.

The quality control requirements for holiness and sanctification are all over the Bible...Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Romans, Ephesians, just to name a few of the more prominent.

Some people do better when they have an example to follow. In quality control jargon this is called a benchmark. They are sought as examples for us to emulate and model our behavior after. In the case of the Bible we model our holiness after certain people in the Bible and we all know their names. Jesus Christ was the perfect benchmark but He was the exception in that He was the God man and no other man will ever be perfect like Him but we are encouraged to try (Leviticus 11:44). There are other people that God thought well enough of that they were included in the Bible as examples. Were they perfect? No way! They were human! Abraham, Moses, David, The Apostles, Esther, Ruth, Paul...

The bottom-line is that Bible shows us how to get back to God. It then tells us how to maintain this high level of quality and integrity through a morally based sanctifying Christian life that leads to our eventual glorification in Christ.

A process for continuous improvement is built right into the system also to continually try to improve the quality. The system also gets checked at intervals to see if it is out of whack. If there is a catastrophic failure the systems are stopped immediately and things are fixed. If there are not catastrophic failures the controller continues to work with subjects or materials to try and continue to tweak the system until the subjects get as close to perfect as possible which is also called zero defects (repentance, sanctification & glorification).

BTW...Do you know what they usually do in a quality control system when something doesn't meet requirements and can't be fixed? It gets inspected (judged) and tossed (condemned) because it is a non-conformity. Separated from the good ones and trashed. The only thing it is good for is to serve as a bad example. Hmmmm? The final inspection and judgement on whether you met the quality standards for being holy comes after you die. You don't get a second chance. You end up on the scrap heap...Gehenna or Ge Hinnom the dump for Jerusalem. Gehenna...another name for HELL.

All these corporate types believe they have stumbled onto something in the last fifty years when they instituted procedures for assuring these practices. I have news for them, God beat them to the punch with His idea embedded in Torah and the Law that it was to lead His people in a corporate and indiviudual sanctification. A process that would later be perfected in the Holy Spirit. His idea was actually vastly more perfect since what God was striving for in the demands of this system was holiness and trying to shape his people to be like Him.

June 28, 2011

Dog-Eared Bibles

People often ask questions like: "Is it critical for me to believe that the Virgin Birth is true?" Another question I often get is, "Do you think Adam and Eve really existed?" and I even get the prerequisite, "Do you really believe Jonah really got swallowed by a whale and even if I don't believe it, why would it matter?" What I see is intellectual arrogance and/or apathy and complacence. Enemy of Christian and friend of the Devil.

When faced with these type of questions the first thing any Christian should ponder concerning doctrine before actually answering is: Does it affect my salvation if I do not hold to this belief? That being said I believe the virgin birth is critical to Christianity as is any other statement of fact in the Bible. Yes, you heard me correctly, any. It is all worth arguing for. Not necessarily a literal interpretation of everything but anything that is an absolute truth statement. Figurative, allegorical and other types of interpretation are a matter of hermeneutics and a topic for another post. But things like the virgin birth, Adam and Eve and Jonah should be considered truth. Jesus validated Jonah and Adam and Matthew and Luke attest to the virgin birth as do extra-biblical sources in the early church fathers.

But what is even more important than historical or external (to the Bible) evidences is internal (to the Bible) evidences. Jesus used them and this is all the authority we will ever need as Christians. If Jesus deemed the Scripture suitable for backing up actions and statement - so should Christians.

This is the way I view it. The virgin birth fulfills Scripture or prophecy just as the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus did. We will later read in the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”

Paul wasn't so concerned with offering evidential or historical as he was Scriptural. Scripture is truth and backs itself up. Scripture validates Scripture. Whenever Jesus, Paul or Christians in general needs/needed to validate or substantiate a given tenet defense of a biblical position they went right to the God’s word, not to the Internet, not to Science, not to other men...Scripture. Scripture validates Scripture. We need look no further. Period.

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

If we neglect the Virgin Birth then Isaiah and Jeremiah’s assertions about the Messiah's birth through a virgin become invalid. If Matthew and Luke's assertions about angelic visitors to Mary telling her of a virgin birth though her...become invalid. This thereby puts the validity of the whole of Scripture into question. This then damages the Doctrine of the Inerrancy of Scripture. If I can question the virgin birth…then I can question the Crucifixion and Resurrection. We then can potentially question everything in the Bible. This is situation that can easily lead to the damning of the soul.

The only thing better than a Bible? Two dog-eared Bibles that have had plenty of use. Sweeeeet!

Having noted what I have said above I will note what I see as a glaring weakness I see in many Christian's presentation of the Gospel or other doctrines and tenets of the Christian faith. I don’t like that fact that we often open discussions by taking arguments “to the man” by pointing out what others of a liberal persuasion do or don’t believe or even those that do not believe in what is stated in the Bible. Who cares what those that are not Christian believe? As Paul said in Romans 1:14-17

"I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Not only does Paul say it is our obligation or duty to preach the Gospel, he tells us that righteousness is by faith just as it is written, "The righteous will live by faith."

We now have leadership within many churches that do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and they probably should not even be considered Christian any more than a Mormon or JW. That being said…I view it as irrelevant to the argument. If one has a valid argument for a belief, it shouldn't need to be bounced off of what other’s do not believe to prove its validity. It lends too much credence to errant thought processes that hardly warrant a second glance.

Conversely, if someone that wants an inroad to the mind of someone that either has errant belief/presuppositions about Christianity or is not even Christian, sometimes the approach of explaining where someone's belief is wrong does become necessary. This is often the case when dealing with those that are intellectually arrogant. They will not even consider your point a valid view...so you are forced to go to their point of view and tear it down and show how it is either contradictory, illogical or...idiotic and nonsensical. In these cases you almost have to go to where they stand in their beliefs because they have gone so far off course. You need to gently but emphatically steer them back to what is commonsense or sound reason or they will remain forever lost in their ignorance.

What do both of these topics both have in common? A good comprehensive knowledge of the Bible from long hours in the word. Not for the faint of heart or the weekend worshiper. If your Bible still has its gilded edges or it is covered in dust you haven't opened it enough and studied it.

June 27, 2011

Virgin Birth of The Messiah

The view among modern critics is that the Virgin Birth has no historical basis. They say that the early believers invented the Virgin Birth to first, prove that Jesus was the Christ of prophecy, and, second, to prove that Jesus was God, on the assumption that it was more reasonable to view Him as the Son of God if He was not the son of a human father. Five (5) lines of argument clearly set this view in the trashbin of academia.

There Were/Are Corroborating Circumstances

Things that back-up the claim. If anyone today said that he was conceived in a woman before she ever knew a man, and that his conception was, in this respect, a unique phenomenon, his pretense would probably soon collapse.

Contrary evidence would be forthcoming if he had at least one older sibling by the same mother. Jesus was indisputably the eldest in His family, which, like most families in that day, was rather large. He had at least six brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3).

It also so happened that no one could show that His parents were married at least nine months before His birth.

The Gospel of Luke reports that His conception occurred more than three months before Joseph took Mary as his wife (Luke 1:38-39, 56).

The teaching of the Virgin Birth was not silenced by opposition from Jesus' family. Since His family was prominent in the early church (1 Cor. 9:5), this story must have had their approval.

The Credibility of the Apostles

It is preposterous to imagine that a new doctrine could have been introduced in the late first century without encountering stiff opposition. There is no record of any early disputes or schisms concerning the Virgin Birth. If the doctrine did not emerge in the last fifty years of the first century, it must have originated when the church was still dominated by the apostles and Jesus' family. Any presumption that these people were liars clashes with the abundant evidence of their earnestness and high character.

Jesus' Two Allusions to the Virgin Birth

Statements from Jesus show that He regarded His birth as a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15

Wedding at Cana:Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” John 2:4. So what does He mean? Why does He announce that His mother is "woman"?

There is a high probability that He means that she is the woman prophesied in Genesis 3:15

Therefore, He is the woman's seed—the virgin-born

Paul's Allusion to the Virgin Birth

Nearly all Bible scholars today, liberal as well as conservative, agree that Paul's epistle to the Galatians is an authentic work written no later than A.D. 65. Paul’s words in Galatians 4:4 "made of a woman" is peculiar. The meaning of "made" is not "born," but "cause to be" or "begotten."

If Paul were speaking of any ordinary man, we would expect him to say, "born of a woman," the expression that Jesus used with reference to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).

The Accusation that Jesus Was Illegitimate Right Within the Text

Primarily: The exchange in John 8

Earlier in the same exchange, when Jesus said that His Father stood behind His claims, the Jews responded by asking, "Where is thy father?" (Matthew 8:19).

When Jesus, in reply, said of Himself that He was not of this world (John8:23)

…and that they did not know Him because His Father was not theirs (v. 38)

They taunted Him by saying, "We be not born of fornication" (v. 41)

The cutting edge of the jibe is the implied accusation that although they were legitimate, Jesus was illegitimate.

As their anger mounted, they cast subtlety aside and jeered that He was the offspring not of His legal Jewish father, a well-respected carpenter in Nazareth, but of some unknown Samaritan.

This is probably based in a rumor of Mary's pregnancy out of wedlock.  

A pregnancy must have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to conceal from gossiping tongues.

Motivated to stop His ministry and also political to undermine His claim to the throne.

If your trying to claim that a person is not virgin born would you lend credence to the fact that the person you are accusing was potentially illegitimate thereby bolstering their claim?

The idea of a Messiah, a Priest for eternity coming on behalf of humans as human in the form of an infant through a virgin is brilliant. It brings a tear to my eye in its simplicity and profoundness. The innocent sinless God man that takes on the our transgression comes as a cute defenseless newborn.


June 25, 2011

Gospels At A Glance

People often struggle with the differences between the Gospels. I have created a quick-and-easy tool for characterizing and distinguishing between the Gospels. Below I have outlined the main characteristics for each.

-The Gospel of Matthew-

Key Verses:

Matthew 5:17 "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.

Matthew 20:28 "...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many."

Look for these while reading Matthew:        
Strong Jewish orientation: Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
Equally strong denunciation of the Jewish religious leaders.
Emphasis on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
Shows Old Testament law & relationship to the followers of Jesus.
Five long discourses of teaching material.
Alternating discourses and narrative.
Topical arrangement; related material grouped together.
Emphasis on Jesus' as Messiah.
The messianic titles Son of God, Christ, and Son of David.
Emphasis on Jesus as the presence of God -"God with us."
Jesus portrayed as the new Israel and the new Moses.
Jesus portrayed as Wisdom incarnate.
Greater role for Peter than in other Gospels.
Emphasis on the mission to the Gentiles.

-The Gospel of Mark-

Key Verse:

Mark 10:45: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Fast narrative; use of immediately (euthys) & historical present tense.
Vivid descriptions of persons and events.
Prominence of Galilee as the locus of Jesus' early ministry.
Strong emphasis on Jesus' authority in teaching and in miracles.
Amazed reaction by others to Jesus' authority.
Challenges to Jesus by the forces of Satan & His defeat of them.
Jesus portrayed as the authoritative Messiah and Son of God.
Jesus: Suffering Son of Man, death as sacrifice for the sins of his people.
Outsiders become insiders by faith; hints of Gentile salvation.
Negative portrait of the disciples; shows how not to follow Jesus.
Lengthy passion narrative; emphasis on Jesus' death.
Brief and enigmatic resurrection narrative.

-The Gospel of Luke-

Key Verse: Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

Historical notes & dating w/reference to secular & religious leaders.
The universality of the Gospel message: it is for all people.
References to Jesus as Savior, Christ, Lord, and Prophet.
Old Testament allusions to Isaiah & promise of salvation for all people.
Emphasis on promise and fulfillment.
The presence, or "today," of salvation in the words and deeds of Jesus.
Jesus' special concern for outsiders: the poor, sinners (Acts: Gentiles)
The theme of reversal of fortunes: The rich to poor and vice versa.
Special emphasis placed on women & their needs & concerns
The coming of the Holy Spirit as a sign of the new age.
References to Jesus' prayer life and his teaching on prayer.
Praise, joy, and celebration at the arrival of God's salvation.
The importance of Jerusalem and Jesus' extended journey there.
Emphasis on the present reign of Christ following his ascension.

-The Gospel of John-

Key Verse: John 20:31 "...but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Simple vocabulary but deep theological significance.
Key thematic terms: Life, believe, abide, light.
Strong dualistic perspective: People are either "of God" or "of the world."
Miracles identified as "signs" revealing Jesus' identity.
Symbols and metaphors: Water, light, bread, shepherd, gate.
Jesus' "I AM" or “εγω ειμι” statements.
The motif of misunderstanding; people misconstrue Jesus' words.
Irony, especially concerning misperceptions of Jesus. 
Personal interviews (Nicodemus; the Samaritan woman).
Dialogues and debates between Jesus and the religious leaders.
Chronology based on Jewish festivals, especially Passover.
The "disciple whom Jesus loved," a key but enigmatic character.
Clear statement of purpose: a call to faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
Teachings concerning the Holy Spirit as counselor or advocate (paraclete) who will mediate Jesus' presence.

Strauss, Mark L.. Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2007. Print. 

June 24, 2011

Prisoner For Christ VIII: Sometimes Love Is All You Have

Having read and re-read Philippians 1 and 2, I come to the conclusion involving certain applications in my life. I resolved in 2008 that no matter what happens I was going to carry the torch for Christ whether He needed me to or not. I applied this modus operandi then-and I continue to apply it now. My intent was and is in line with Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:27 that, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” As it will be revealed over the next few paragraphs, I consciously and consistently take time to reach out to those disenfranchised and marginalized by the world. I make it part of my schedule, I make it part of my life. I plan it that way and I will continue to do so. I will be helping out at the Pottstown Sports Camp on the last week of June. It is a camp for urban and inner-city youth that have broken homes and the like. This is only one aspect of a complete change in my way(s) of life. I have become the guy I had always heard about:

“Oh yeah, you know the dude... Andy Pierson from the second floor engineering department at Mack Trucks? He left his career at 39 years old and went back to school to get a Masters in Theology to become a pastor.”

That was always someone else's father or someone other dude, not me. I left a career of 22+ years to pursue the ministry and I am already starting to see the fruits and the changes in my life in the form of speaking engagements in different churches in different denominations. These churches realize that my theology is sound. They know I love the Lord. They know I will not compromise my character because I will not do anything to bring shame to myself that will subsequently bring shame to the Church and my family. It is in conjunction with the support of my wife, fellow members of the Body of Christ and friends that any of these speaking engagements are possible. As more opportunities arise to preach and teach the word of God, I am continually confronted with the fear of delivering God’s word to people. It is a hefty responsibility and I do not want to mess it up, so I do the best study and interpretation I can and I continue to do so. I am always delving into God's word or studies of it by those I trust. I then exegete or interpret the audience I will be delivering to so that I can figure out the best way to give them God’s message whether it be in the form of a sermon, Sunday school or a men’s Bible study. This is an ongoing and constant process. This work has now turned into the chance to speak in front of congregations (even to my surprise). This takes a load of planning and ironically…application. For me it is consolation to know that the Spirit is with me in these situations and I pray that He stays on me through it all…and to somewhere far beyond. I don’t know that there is anything else I would be happy doing anymore.

The paramount application and embodiment of a piece of Scripture (for me) lies in the Kenosis of Philippians 2:5-11. I latched onto this passage not long after my conversion. Although I didn’t initially understand it, it was working in and on me from that point forward. It wasn’t until its work had already begun to change and morph my heart and mind through the Spirit that I was able to actively participate in its rework of who and what I am (i.e.: sanctification). It is in the act of humility that I have really begun to sense dramatic paradigm shifts in my new existence in Christ. Although I have not suffered persecutions similar to early Christians, the idea of emptying self to be filled with God and lifted is profound and real. The act of humility dramatically accelerates the killing off of the old self and the growth of the new. Humility is the stimulant for growth of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

I now purposely set forth in my interactions with people to serve not be served. It begins in my home. I have asked my wife directly, “What can I do to bring you honor in the Lord?” I have also discussed with my wife the best behavior to approach the kids with so that I do no exasperate them and provoke them to anger. What tact best lifts them up and exhorts them in the precepts of the Lord without bludgeoning them over the head (Ephesains 6:1-4). I purposely step outside myself in emotional situations and make deliberate conscientious efforts to take nothing personal. To take something personal implies a self-worth that thereby gives birth to an attitude and often times this attitude is a bad one.

I have also taken this outside of my home into the world-at-large. I have served others within the Church. I frequently chaperon in children ministries, lead adult growth groups as a teacher/mentor, teaching Sunday school, Bible studies, community mission/outreach to the homeless in Pottstown and surrounding area, etc. This is changing me at the core of my very being. I cannot even look at society through the same eyes anymore without seeing the irreparable damage sin is causing at the individual and community level. This act of willing service to others inevitably serves me in the task of becoming more Christ-like. I will continue on this path since I believe these actions refine my purpose in Christ and by doing this I am “working out my salvation” that the Lord has already deposited in me. I believe these things are part of the sanctification process. They are a reflection of the condition of my heart. Many of these things I would’ve never even  have considered doing in the past because I felt I was “too good”. Now…I cannot fathom doing nothing, it is not a reasonable option for me. Inaction and apathy are not Christian traits. This then segues and leaps over to the next application in the very following units.

For my third and final application I will now combine the ideas of Philippians 2:12-16 concerning obedience and how they produce the sanctification previously mentioned. I not only obey in my individual personal deeds and disciplines I have begun (and it appears the Lord has also) to take the next step of refining and improving my relationship with Him and His body. I am beginning to see more direct actions of God in my life towards others at a communal level of the Church. It is here that I begin to see the tiny minutiae of everyday life that leada to God’s purposes for the Church as a whole. It seems the more involved I have become with the Church and its functions the more aware I have become to things I have not seen or dealt with before. More and more people are coming to my wife and I for support, counseling and advice both biblically and every day issues, even those notably older than us. People seem to view us more as sources of sound biblical knowledge and reasoning. We have decided to devote even more time to the needs of the Church (both ours and others) at all different levels. I am now acting in a capacity of intellectual and emotional support for three churches. As can be expect it started in my own home congregation and has now spread to Harvest Fellowship Cafe who have asked me to speak on June 4th in the evening and a new church plant in Boyertown that is of the Lutheran persuasion…even though I am Baptist. I am not quite sure how much of this application is actually me and how much is the Lord. It feels as if the Lord is quickly moving pieces behind the curtain so that they pop up at exactly the right place at the right time to keep be moving forward at an accelerated pace. I pray often to assure these things are the correct actions to take since it is clearly unsettling to a person who, until recently, hadn’t seen a lot of active movement by God in his life. It feels as if I am now standing in the center of a whirlwind. I guess the true application here for me is that the process of working out my sanctification directly corresponds to my increasing work in the body (as mentioned in application involving Phil. 2:5-11). My ability to do this properly directly corresponds to my relationship with Christ. That relationship directly corresponds to my prayer life. These things are intrinsic to one another and work symbiotically. It is indeed a progressive and ongoing process. It also appears to be accumulative. As Jesus said, “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

Fee, Gordon. Philippians. Ivp Academic, 2010. Print

June 23, 2011

Scapegoat: Marked For Death

So you think you got it bad? Don't think you deserve the bum rap you been getting? You feel like you have been unjustly hammered on? Dissed by society, by so-called friends, abandon by those closest to you? I've got news for you...could be worse.

Once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei) a Sabbath was proclaimed and atonement was made for the sins of the whole nation (of Israel). It is otherwise known as the Day of Atonement (modern Jews celebrate this as Yom Kippur). The main part of the ceremony was when the High Priest would take two goats for the community. One goat was marked by lot as belonging to the Lord and the other was a “scapegoat”. The goat belonging to the Lord was offered as a sin offering for the community and its blood was taken and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat (Ark of the Covenant). Its purpose was to to make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the people if Israel and because of their transgressions (Sailhamer 341).

After the sacrifice of the Lord’s goat the second live goat was presented. The High Priest would lay hands on one of two goats that was still alive and confessed all the sins of the nation (v.21). This “scapegoat” would then be allowed to wander away from the camp into the desert wilderness bearing with it the sins and “iniquities” of the Israelites (Sailhamer 341-342). More than likely it would wander to its death in the scorching desert heat.

These goats foreshadowed the coming of the sacrifices the Lord Jesus Christ would need to make as propitiation for the sins of humanity as a whole.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted" ~ Isaiah 53:4

Comparatively, the sacrifices of the goats achieved atonement for Israel’s sin. They were a small and encapsulated form or what Jesus would do in His sacrifice for all of humanity, for all of their sins, for all time.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:11-14

The Sin Offering goat and scapegoat were not guilty of the sins committed by the Israelites just Jesus was innocent of the sins commit by all of humanity but because they (Jesus and the goats) had no sin, only they were acceptable as propitiation for God.

Often times sacrificial animals need to be “without blemish” to show symbolically that they were pure or without sin (like Christ). The blood or the life of the innocent living being was the atonement. Christ shedding His blood and dying on the cross bearing the sins of the world as a perfect man that never sinned acted as the blood sacrifice and scapegoat simultaneously in one act and it the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament Day of Atonement (McGee 400).

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” Hebrews 10:1-7

Jesus Christ, a final once-and-for-all sacrifice that was acceptable propitiation now and forever and acceptable in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ’s death was approbation and fulfillment of the ceremonial law. No further offerings would be necessary to please God after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen! Hence the tearing of the veil upon Jesus’ death. All believers would now have access the the Father when ever they needed to through Christ. Because of Jesus we had a perfect High Priest that ascended to the right hand of the father to act as our mediator with Him (Hebrews 4).

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:11-14

McGee, J. Vernon. "Exodus." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 400. Print.

Sailhamer, Dr. John H.. "Chapter 3: Leviticus." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 341-342. Print.

June 22, 2011

Prisoner For Christ VII: Happy Happy, Joy Joy

A Precursory review of Philippians...

These are the insights and precursory thoughts that I have gleaned from reading straight through the Letter of Philippians that the Spirit placed on my heart. Please understand these are a general feel of the letter and are not meant to encapulate the entire meaning of the letter.

We must never forget that Paul is under house arrest in these prison epistles. Paul is under guard and is restricted it his ability to move about freely. Hardly a condition or situation conducive to joy and happiness. At least you would think this is the case. Strangely, as I read Philippians, this is not what I find. Instead I see (dare I say it?) joy. At least it is a happiness that is effervescent enough to have transcended two millennium and jump from Greek to English and still look like Paul is writing this letter in a positive frame of mind. No matter who you are, whether Christian or non-Christian, this has to be intriguing to the reader. How can a guy with such a sorry lot in his life at the time be so optimistic? Paul tells us right in Chapter 1:

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” ~Philippians 1:12-13

Paul’s primary focus is the advance of the Gospel. It should be mine (ours) also today. I lose sight of this often as I attend to the ordinary day-to-day tasks of existence and perhaps that is part of the Devil’s trap in this world’s system. It is the trap of “too busy” in combination with the incidental tasks of life or what we all call the “little things”. We convince ourselves that the tasks are required for our survival and well-being when in reality many of them a fluff and bluster with no value other than to take our eyes of the “prize” that Paul will later go on to speak of in in Chapter 3:

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” ~Philippians 3:14

Like Paul we need to “Forget what is behind” and straining toward “what is ahead” (v 1:13). So that God can complete a good work in us (v.1:6) and so we can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (v. 2:12).

The next thing that is striking or attention worthy to me is the idea of unity through humility that shines like a torch in Philippians 2. I have known of this passage before but have somehow managed to miss its lead-in. The portion I refer to is Philippians 2:5-11 where God takes on the attribute of humanity is made in the form of a bond-servant. He humbles Himself. Not only does he take it on the form of a bondservant but He condescends and allows Himself to be humiliated and crucified on the Cross. What I failed to see in this passage is the context. Paul is talking about making his joy complete (the joy he has mentioned in Ch. 1) by “being of the same mind, maintaining love, united in spirit”. How? The how is what Paul explains in verse 5-11, by having the “mind” or “heart” of Christ. To make ourselves of “no accord” or to be humble. We are to do nothing from selfishness. If there is any single character trait that is completely unbecoming for a Christian or at odds with who and what Christians are to be, it is selfishness, self-centeredness and their ilk.

Lastly I see something that cannot be read without pause in chapter 4. As Paul did with Ephesians, he does the same here. He ties the holistic nature of the letter together in a required action. It is required of the reader not only for themselves but for Paul also. We see in the following verse that Paul is indeed “practicing what he preaches” not just blabbing nonsensical words. He is applying the philosophy that he has expounded upon in the very letter he has written to the church on Philippi.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:4-7

Paul is clearly rejoicing in this letter as is evident in the first two chapters. The general feel of love and joy is evident first, for the circumstances Paul is in and then for the church of Philippi. This theme pervades the entire letter. Perhaps the word “saturates” is more apropos? This letter as a whole carries with it a unique unity in prose and it is all based in Christ Jesus. Paul is really good at writing to capture the “feel” or what he wants in words. The letter of Philippians itself is a model of what Paul wants with the people. Coherence, unity and continuity both in purpose and intent.

June 20, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let us go through a brief set of equations to drill ourselves on the concepts, shall we?

God/Christ = Holy Path
No God/antichrist = Worldly Path

Holy Path & Righteousness = Life
Worldly Path & Unrighteousness = Death

Holy Life = Lifestyle
Worldly Life = Deathstyle

Christ's Death gives life
Worldly Life gives death

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

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

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

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

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

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

The adversary has a bullet with your name and your sin on it and its aimed straight at your head (mind) and your heart (conscience). The whistling sound you hear is not someone trying to hold a tune...its a a stray bullet of sin ripping past your skull. You may have dodged one but there are others coming...

Your only protection from it is the word of God and prayer. You need to suit up and prepare for war. This war never ends and your enemy never sleeps. You are enlisted the day you are born and you are discharged when you die. There is no reprieve. You either keep your guard up and fight or you are destroyed. Whether you get an honorable discharge or a dishonorable discharge is up to you. You need only obey the commands given and stay obedient to Christ...or you can defect and head for the enemy lines hoping you do not get shot in the head in the process. The enemy will even use you to get to others. For the enemy it is just a body count and collateral damage. For the good guys it is like loosing a child, your child. Its like losing someone close to you in your family...

Obey Him. Obey His word. Walk in His ways and you will find yourself on the right side of eternity. Even if you get hit here... you will survive on the eternal scale of things.

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
Hosea 13:14

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 

In Christ...
You're bulletproof


June 19, 2011

Gain Is Loss & Loss Is Gain

The paradoxical story in the letter to Philemon and how it ties into the Bible at large.
Freedom isn't as free as you think it is and slavery in Christ isn't what you think it is either.
Philemon was free
Onesimus was a slave
Paul is prisoner

Paul is in chains literally but is free figuratively
When a valuable or property (Onesimus) was lost he was not quite as valuable
When the valuable or property (Onesimus) is returned he was of unsurpassed value
Loss is gain
Gain is Loss

Philemon lost his property but gained a brother. He lost what was commonplace but gained something in its place of much more value. What was lost monetarily was regained ten fold spiritually. When Onesimus ran away, spiritually he as worth little. When he returned he was priceless. All because of the work of God.

...no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord." ~Philemon 16

He had to temporarily loose to gain much more in return. A recurrent theme in the Bible. We loose our old lives of sin in exchange for the much more valuable gift from Jesus Christ, eternal life. To loose the world is to gain God, to gain the world is to lose God.

Philemon temporarily lost Onesimus when he ran away from his master. He lost the slave and lost the productivity of the slave in his absence. Runaway slaves in the time of Philemon and Onesimus was essentially a capital offense and worthy of stoning. For Philemon to accept Onesimus back and not punish him would have at least been uncommon but for Philemon to accept him back as a brother in Christ would've been unheard of.

Paul not only encouraged him to do the latter by taking Him back as a brother, Paul also sung the praises of Onesimus and strongly remind Philemon that if it hadn't been for Paul he really wouldn't even have himself.

Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. ~Philemon 11

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. ~Philemon 19

Paul is asking essentially for leniency on behalf of Onesimus if not outright freedom now that the former slave is a believer and part of the body. He is also asking on account of Onesimus' utility and usefulness for the Lord. Onesimus initially ran away because his "utility" and "usefulness" were being used and taken for granted as a slave. He is now returning for the exact same reasons he left. The difference is Onesimus left serving as a slave to man, he returns serving as a slave to Christ.

The tremendous irony in the letter is Paul himself. Paul on the other hand being and excellent servant of the Risen Christ, is still a form of slave himself as a prisoner to the world's system for serving Christ.

"I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel." ~Philemon 13

The real truth is neither Paul nor Onesimus was truly guilty of a crime of immorality or moral violation. Paul was preaching the word of the Lord and Onesimus was a slave but according to the world system (which is corrupt), they had violated mans laws.

This entire small letter is riddled with quirks of fate, irony, juxtaposing and is layered thickly with analogies. It is an often overlooked book in the New Testament but it speaks volumes by saying little which is another of its interesting contrasts.

In the end, what looked like a disaster from man's point of view was a great outworking of God's grace and providence. It is also a wonderful example of the Christian's new life and the change it should have on the believer. A small but very mighty book. The longer the letter to Philemon is studied the more value it produces. The return is vastly greater than the time put into it.

They are paradoxes that our day and age have a hard time getting their heads around. Paradoxes are situations or statements that leads to a situation which defies intuition. Our intuitions are often defied because they are flawed. Paradoxes require us to rethink our presuppositions. They are completely counter intuitive to our individualistic me-me-I-I society. The more I see paradoxes like these in the Bible, the more it amazes and astounds me.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. ~Luke 17:33

And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ~John 12:23-26

The loss of Jesus' life was necessary for God to grant propitiation for our sins. In allowing Himself to be crucified God highly exalted His name above all names. Jesus Christ. In our humblest service for God and fellow man we exalt Him and He in turn rewards us whether it be in this world or the next. When we exude the "mind of Christ" we best exemplify what it is to be Christian. Serve others and you will be lifted above by God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
~Matthew 5:3-10

To the world they appear as paradox but they are not so much paradoxes as they are a need to embrace a way of thinking that is not of this world or its system. Where we end, He begins. When we die to this world of sin it is then that we truly live in Christ as it was intended a long time ago. Praise God.

I rarely ever reference Eugene Peterson's "The Message" Bible paraphrase but his paraphrase of this passage is excellent in today's jargon and sums up many of these paradoxes nicely:

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God." ~Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Little is much when God's in it. We need to realize that there are no paradoxes from God's point of view. He is the source of all knowledge and truth. Being so he knows all and doesn't base His thoughts on intuition or presumptions. He is all, and we should praise and worship Him.

Sometimes our ideas of what is proper, what is right...its not being seen correctly through God's eyes. It is only when we see things the way the Lord wants us to that we can truly see things they way that they're suppose to be seen. When we finally start to see things the way God intended, it may very well stand everything we understand on it's head.
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