December 31, 2011

Hard Sayings XXIX: King Me!

“And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” ~1 Samuel 8:7-9

A questions arises here: Is God condemning Israel's request for a king? If so why are there rules for selecting a king were given by God in Deuteronomy 17:14-20?

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:14-20

The truth is that Scripture affirms the fact that God had planned for Israel to have a king in Deuteronomy 17. So why does God frown upon the people of Israel? Its not because they sought a king so much as it was the poor condition of their hearts. Their motives where are messed up. They wanted a king because they wanted to be like “all the other nations” or as 1 Samuel 8:5 states: “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They didn’t do it because it was a desire to be closer to God, it was a desire to be more like the surrounding culture(s). They didn’t want God’s king they just wanted a king to keep up with the Jones’. Geez…how condemning is this for some Christians today? They want to do the “hip” or “trendy” Christian thing(s) that others are doing so they can look “more Christian” but sadly, they may be copying or emulating poor role models or worse apostate roll-models. Many seeker-sensitive churches and formulaic evangelicals are patterned after this concept. They are designed to capitalize on what people want that attend their services, to draw the numbers but not on what God wants…thereby making God secondary or irrelevant in the equation.

Instead of turning hearts towards God people turned them to other people. After David we see the kings of Israel and subsequently Judah do the same as the people did here. They would do it also when Jesus came. They expect their kind of king not the King that God had planned for them...so they killed God's King...Jesus. Once their hearts went astray it was only a matter of time until everything else would also. God knew this and He knew it in advance. This is why there is a brooding nature in this passage.

Sadly we also see Solomon the immediate heir of David violates the stipulations of the kingship within one generation when he begins to, “acquire many horses for himself” and “acquires many wives” also. The people then, just like the people now mistake people’s acts of administration for God working through those people…when there is little or any of God present in those leaders. People end up worshipping a “cult of personality”. It is not you pastor, king, president or parent that protects you…it is God. Nothing happens in God’s universe without His knowledge or allowance of it. As such, the people thought they were rejecting Samuel but God reminds Him that it is the people rejecting their God…not him

In this story we also see a complete failure to seek God for rule over them. Many today do the same, especially in secular leadership positions. The elders or the aged men (supposedly wise) came to Samuel they just request a king of Samuel. God doesn’t appear to be anywhere in their thought processes for acquiring their king. This flies directly in the face of what God commanded in Deuteronomy when He said he would chose a king, "whom the Lord your God chooses”. The people of Israel had rejected God wholesale. The same as many do today who will suffer the same consequences as Saul, Israel and Judah in the long-run.

It shouldn't be surprising that "like" gravitates towards "like", man gravitates to man. What should be surprising here is that man chose the wrong methods to make it happen. God has rules and expectations…and he expects them to be adhered to and followed. Especially when he has spelled it out for them.

December 30, 2011

Hard Sayings XXVIII: Habitual Sin & Seeds

“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:8-10 (NIV)

There it is right there in the text…”no one who is born of God will continue to sin”. Christians can no longer sin right? Bzzzzzzzzz! Wrong. Let’s look closely at the Greek in this one for clarity. The NASB and ESV capture the intent and meaning in the first clause here pretty well.

(v.8) They essentially state that “the one who practices sin” not “does sin”. The practices portion correctly captures the word ποιῶν / poion is a present active participle. It means one that consistently sins and is still currently doing so. It is a prolonged or elongated form or something that is done. In other words: a person who habitually sins. This clue should immediately begin to point us in to where this passage is going. When we read this in direct correlation and comparison to the Devil himself there is an implied intent being compared to Satan. Satan does sin by his nature and by habit in a very deliberate manner. A person that does the same has taken up the same tasks as the Devil. He is the Devil’s coworker and Satan is his “pusher”. This type of sinner has literally made sin his job- a professional or vocational sinner. Sinning is his business and when associated to Satan, business is good (or lousy depending on how you look at it).

This statement isn’t necessarily being directed at the Christian. It is creating a demarcation point to show that a person who sins habitually is most likely…not in the faith at all.

We see the same type of pattern attributed to the Devil. He has sinned since the beginning and continues to sin in the present time. There is a consistency and endurance of pattern for the Devil and the habitual sinner that is like his father the Devil. Regularity of sin like a person that goes to work every day knowingly goes and punches the clock. He goes and does what he does for a reason…premeditated.

The most literal understanding of verse 8 is then, “The one who is habitually doing sin is from the devil as a source [for his deeds], because from the beginning the devil has been sinning [as a template and role model].

God sends his Son Jesus then to break the bond and slavery sin has over the sinner, Jesus severs our servitude to the bonds of Satan.

“For this purpose there was manifested the Son of God, in order that He might bring to naught the works of the devil.”

(v.9) The words "is born" is γεγεννημένος / gegennemenos in Greek which is a perfect participle and therefore denotes a completed action that has already happened in the past and continues to have effect into the present. A completed act of rebirth and we have received a deposit on eternal life in the form of the Holy Spirit.

So if everyone who has been born out of God does not habitually do sin the “seed" refers to the principle of divine/eternal life in the believer who is being made more holy and sanctified. It is this principle of divine life that makes it impossible. This holiness or nature imparted to us by the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ makes it harder for true Christians to sin. A true Christian will end up hating sin and embracing righteousness. As Christ-likeness grows in us like a seed / σπέρμα /sperma it pushes out the remaining desire to do sin and replaces it with righteousness. The spark of what we will become, the very spark of what we will be in eternity is implanted in us at conversion like a seed. Just like an apple seed cannot produce an orange tree, neither can the seed of God bring a harvest of sin. The seed will germinate and grow and the growth may slow to a crawl but it will not stop if it is in Christ. It may be retarded by sin or stunted but it will not stop. If it stops it is dead faith.

Just as “the one who practices sin” is present active, so too the “cannot sin” is infinitive in the present tense so it is referring to continuous action: habitual action. The person is not able to habitually sin. This is not an injunction for being sinless, for a human being this is quite impossible.

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:10

(v.10) So how do we know God’s seed is in us and we abide in God? The manifest a divine type of self-sacrificial love to their brother and sister in the Faith or ἀγαπῶν/agapon. It is the love we should expect as a fruit of the Spirit.

The bottom-line is this…if we are not habitually doing things in righteousness we are doing them in sin. We either serve sin or we serve Jesus. Man cannot be a slave to two masters. If we are serving Christ there will not be habitual sin in our lives without remorse and repentance. This doesn’t mean we will not slip-up but what we should see is a definitive pattern of righteousness from a true Christian, not a pattern of habitual sin.

December 28, 2011

Hard Sayings XXVII: Perseverence Until The Bitter End

"They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it." Mark 15:22-23

"The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar...” Luke 23:36

Jesus is thirsty and twice we see the episode of His merciless suffering in the Gospels and a desire to drink. We see it mentioned in Luke who refers to it as wine vinegar and in Mark where it is called wine with myrrh mixed in. Jesus was clearly thirsty and suffering, why didn't he take it?

Vinegar of biblical days actually was soured wine and as such as not very pleasant to the taste. Anyone ever try to drink vinegar? I did and it’s disgusting. It was the beverage of farmers and field hands. It was the beverage of the soldier (hence the soldiers at the foot of the cross having it readily at hand). In arid climates like Jerusalem, believe it or not, it quenched thirst. Prior to the 20th century it was added to military water supplies to act as a supplement to water supplies and as an antiseptic. Ironically, apple cider vinegar is rich in…potassium which would’ve postponed fatigue and or muscle failure. Can anyone say rehydrating sports drink? Would this have been enough for Jesus to stay alive longer rather than expire on schedule? Hmmm…maybe, but that’s unlikely considering Jesus “gave up His Spirit” (John 19:30)

Vinegar is mildly acidic (therefore bitter) and apparently may have proved to be a bacterial inhibitor, for it was used in the treatment of wounds and bruises. The uses of vinegar are endless. Mixed with clay, it is a poultice for swollen joints. It can be gargled for sore throat and an application for skin ailments. Any young mother or pet owner knows that the pungent odor of the soiled diaper (urine) may be prevented by submerging the diaper in water with vinegar. It can also be sprayed directly on a carpet to neutralize the ammonia in urine…without staining the carpet.

Many claim that Jesus didn’t drink it because it was alcoholic. Maybe, but this is improbable as this was most likely a diluted mixture, 20:1 ratio or less. I believe this speculation is driven by a failure to research and understand the historical/cultural context of 1st Century Roman soldiers and practices of the time. If it was the drink of others like Farmers and Roman Soldiers to sustain them in a dry or arid climate why wouldn’t Jesus at least have wet His palate to quench parched lips and what would’ve probably been a swollen tongue from dehydration?

So why did Jesus refuse this “wine”?

I believe Mark not Luke the Physician offers us the strongest clue when he writes that it was a wine mixed with myrrh.

In the 1st century there was an analgesic effect of “wine vinegar” that was mixed with myrrh (or frankincense, mandrake, or gall). It is quite probable that a vinegar wine that had been mixed with myrrh may have very well been mixed with the others especially gall as it is directly mentioned in Matthew 27:34…and this may be why we see the refusal by Jesus. Although the Gospel writers differ on the exact ingredients of the wine offered to the Messiah, there is an extremely high probability considering the practice of Roman soldiers of the time that it had multiple ingredients. This is why Mark is so diligent to note the myrrh in his passage and Matthew notes gall in his. By doing so Mark and Matthew essentially confirming that this “wine” was “spiked” or  not just wine but a narcotic cocktail. Gall (or bile) essentially comes from a poppy-like plant (a narcotic). In a combination with ἐσμυρνισμένον/ “having been myrrhized” or “having been blended tinctured with myrrh" we have a rather potent “deadener”

So let us think about what Jesus turned down here. Relief. Jesus turned down relief from excruciating torturous pain. A mortal pain or the pain of the dying. So…the next time you see a suffering or dying loved one already sedated with narcotics still writhing in pain…please understand it was vastly worse for Jesus Christ hanging mercilessly on a cross. I imagine there may have been quite a few witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion shaking their heads in disbelief when Jesus turned down this ancient “painkiller”. They probably figured he had already lost his mind from the pain. He turned it down twice (Mark 15:23 & 36). We also know as Christians that Jesus conversed in a cognizant manner with the thief on the cross and then willingly laid down His life in the bitter end. All the while He was completely coherent. I believe he turned down this drug cocktail so that His wits were with Him until he relinquishes His spirit.

The often pitiless soldiers in a form of marginally charitable mockery see Jesus as pathetic man near death and offer a “fix” to relieve the pain. Jesus refuses and endures until the end. Sorry folks, I couldn’t do this. For me, that is what makes this saying so hard. Being a compassionate man I have difficulty reliving the murderous and torturous death of my Savior knowing He suffered enormously. Jesus didn’t cut any corners, He trusted in God and  persevered until the end staying obedient to the will of God. Who are we to do any less if we call ourselves disciples of Christ?

Onward saints!

December 27, 2011

Three Denver Muslims Cheer For Tebow

DENVER-This is the story of three sports-loving Muslim brothers and how they boosted the career of the NFL’s most famous Christian.

The Suleimans - Tariq, Ali and Mohammad - are responsible for “the Sign,” the towering electronic billboard that captured national attention when it began running messages in September urging the Denver Broncos to start Tim Tebow as quarterback.

Read Original Article Here

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Many pluralists and interfaith ecumenical pastors and laity are most likely touting this as a "win" for their camps. A situation where love wins out over differences and division between faiths. Perhaps...perhaps not. What I do see this as is an opportunity to tell people about the Islamic faith and some of its finer and subtler nuances...and the danger that lies within them. The truth is people need to start educating themselves and realize just how deceptive and subversive the Islamic religion at its very core. While I do not necessarily believe the three gentlemen in this article are rabid Islamic Fundamentalist out to destroy everything not Islamic...the possibility is that they are. To openly embrace all Muslims in an ecumenical group hug is naive and dangerous. We need to educate ourselves in other religions and stop listening to everything others say about them. Many Muslims don't even understand the true tenants of their own faith (to say nothing of those naive of other faiths). If these men are devout Muslims (which I doubt as they are wearing westernized garb in the pic) this is called it "al-Taqivya". The word "al-Taqiyya" literally means: "Concealing or disguising one' beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury." In English we call it: "Dissimulation."

If for any reason these gentlemen are indeed devout adherents of the Islamic faith then they are willingly and knowingly engaging in al-Taqivya. Many Muslims will argue that this is a twisting of the Qur'an by the Shiite Muslims and vice verse, the truth is that its practiced on both sides. As such, this means a legal variant allows a believing Muslim to deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are under those perceived risks. When adhered to by extreme adherents of the faith, who perceive they are constantly under duress and persecution...they apply this doctrine in perpetuity or constantly so as to become indistinguishable from the real person.


As educated Christians we must discern carefully the source of people's beliefs.
 
1 John 4:3 ~ "...but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
 
2 John 7 ~ "I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist."
 
Christians must understand that concealment of one's "true" beliefs does not necessitate an abandoning of these beliefs. The distinction between "concealment" and "abandonment" must noted here. Also, this practice is contextual and subject to circumstances. How it is used must be judged according to the situation that one is placed in. Muslims will use the guise of diplomacy to move their agenda forward only to turn on you later. Its called being a "sleeper". A proverbial Islamic Manchurian Candidate. A Muslims belief system tells them it is okay to lie if it propagates their faith and furthers their cause...
 
The truth is I am not sure which these three men fall on. Willing duplicity or unwittingly deceived about their worldview and faith. Regardless of what they feel, it is clear the media in this situation have their own agenda. To create a blended interfaith ecumenicalism whether it is intentional or not. The problem lies in the fact that it is blending faiths that cannot be evenly matched up. It makes Christians and Muslims look like "buds" (i.e.: Oprah Winfrey, "Islam is a sister religion to Christianity"). It as been my experience that when this type of interfaith ecumenicalism is tried or forced it is always the Christian that ends up being compromised because of the antagonistic nature of Islam.

What I do know for sure is that this most likely will be used as excuse to further pull down walls between two faiths at the cost of Christian doctrine in the long run...as is nearly always the case. In the end Christianity and Islam are NOT compatible. One is a religion of works that does not believe in the deity of Christ and the other is a relationship with the living God of the Bible whose Divine Son entered time and space incarnate, was crucified, was buried and rose again the third day according to Scripture.

Sadly, this article will also be used to show how Christianity and Islam are "pretty much the same" and they are "just like us"...when they are nothing of the sort except in a pluralists' or liberal theologians dream. Regardless, it is our call as Christian to make a discernment. If not we very well may be inviting the spirit of antichrist and therefore the sworn enemy of Christ...directly into our homes or in this case...on our tailgate without first having them acknowledge Christ as the Son of God.

December 26, 2011

"He Tabernacled Among Us..." : Part II


So we jumped ahead to Pentecost. Pentecost can be seen as the birthday of the Church and the initiation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in power and authority in the believer as individual and corporately. Let me be very clear, the Holy Spirit was not created or had began His existence here but it was Pentecost that the Holy Spirit procured a “Body”. The Church...what was Jesus’ in terms of possession is also the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” ~1 Corinthians 12:12-14

At Christmas we talk about and celebrate Jesus’ birthday as being 2000+ years ago. As Christians we in no way suggest Jesus existed before then. It is between 6-4 B.C. that Jesus takes on the attribute of humanity. Flesh.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

“…made His dwelling among us”…dwelling / ἐσκήνωσεν…He tabernacled among us.

In the Old Testament Jesus came as a theophany or the appearance of a human but these were often short-lived transient manifestations. We celebrate the coming of the physical/flesh attribute of Jesus on Christmas. We celebrate His departure of when he was crucified, buried and resurrected on Easter. He was resurrected in a permanent glorified body. In similar manner the Holy Spirit came and departed before Pentecost. It is at Pentecost that the Spirit comes to reside/indwell permanently in man. Subsequently, a collection of these individual indwelt believers constitutes the Body of Christ-The Church.

So what we see on Pentecost is that fact that Jesus through the Holy Spirit allowed a new tabernacle for the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had tabernacle physically/bodily among believers. Regardless, Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem on that ancient first Christmas initiated a new reality in that God would forever dwell among His believers from that point forward…either bodily or through the Holy Spirit. He would be Immanu’el/עִמָּנוּאֵל or God with us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

The words "we were all baptized" in Greek are written in an aorist tense. Aorist is something that has happened in the past and is done and complete in the past as opposed to being done over and over, again and again. A literal translation would say, “In one Spirit, we were once and for all baptized by Jesus Christ into one Body".

On the day of Pentecost, as a gift from Jesus, the Holy Spirit came down to form His Church and to dwell in it. At the time of the Church inception there were only a few hundred members that constituted Christ’s body. This pretty much amounted to an infant body in terms of size that the Church would grow through the ages. A small weak newborn church that would need to be strengthened, grow and mature over time. God knew that the church would start in an embryonic and infantile state and He also foreknew and saw all of the spiritual Body consisting of all the members who would still be added in the centuries to come…including us…including you. We were all baptized in the past in a “once and for all” completed action into the Body of Christ.

So…when we repent and believe in the work of Christ and are saved by the work of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is not poured out upon us like it was at Pentecost but rather a believer is instantly brought into the already Spirit-baptized Body of Christ. God adds more muscle and size to the body to make it more robust and full of life.

December 24, 2011

"He Tabernacled Among Us..." : Part I

God’s First Tabernacle

In the beginning man is created…and man falls. God had no dwelling place on earth for what amounts to a real long time. Although He manifested Himself in visible forms and interacted with mankind, He had no earthly dwelling place until His chosen people come on the scene. God commands Moses to build a tent (a.k.a.: tabernacle) designed by God Himself. This simple tent would be God’s dwelling place in the world among His people. This tent/tabernacle would be God’s “house”. The Holy Spirit literally comes to the craftsmen who constructed it so that every part has its own significance given to it by God. Let me state that another way so that the underlying truth comes closer to the surface so it can be seen clearer. Every “individual” piece of God’s house is designed by God and has its own unique significance given to it by God to play a role in the house/dwelling. Just as God creates every individual in the Church with a unique role or gift to give to edify the body.

Without God in the Tabernacle/Temple it would’ve been just a dead “lifeless” dwelling place. An empty house…lights out, no one’s home! The Spirit of God comes and takes up residence. We know from the Bible that when God shows up at the party…he does it in style. BOOM! Booyah!

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34-35

I don’t suppose it is an accident we see supernatural demonstrations in these places too.

God’s Second Tabernacle

At Solomon’s dedication of the Temple which amounts to God’s second house.

“When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.” 1 Kings 8:10-11

God’s Third Tabernacle

At Christ’s birth we actually see God Himself come in person in the form of Jesus.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:8-14

Jesus also refers to his body as a Tabernacle/Temple.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19

God’s Fourth Tabernacle

At Pentecost we see the Spirit return in power and authority to dwell among us permanently.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ~Acts 2:1-4

Wherever we see the presence of God enter our created order we see stirrings and powerful supernatural events. Why? Because the Kingdom of God is encroaching on the world and the proper order of things begin to manifest themselves to the glory of God. Things begin to revert back to a form or state of being that was before the fall of mankind. Wherever God rules in people’s hearts and comes in power…strange things are afoot. They are strange to us because we are so use to a fallen state that we know little else. We actually now live in an abnormal world. The way the world currently is, is not the way things were meant to be. When God comes close, things begin to normalize. This is why we truly see grace, peace and love where God reigns.

December 23, 2011

Fragile Earthenware & Human Lanterns

"For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

I have a few thoughts on this passage.

All Christians generally know this passage. We are the earthen vessels and Jesus Christ is the treasure within in the vessel in the form of the Holy Spirit.We can be flawed, cracked and imperfect but the treasure that dwells within us is of surpassing value.

I myself usually find the most non-descript container or object in my house to hide my valuables in too. It makes it hard to determine where they are. The difference with us as believers is that we speak and interact with our surroundings in a cognizant manner. It is when we do this that we reveal what is in us. The more of Christ or the more light we have within us the more we radiate that essence out into the world.

My second thought is where this gets really interesting. Jesus is the light of the world (John 9:5). Paul seems to draw on this idea and then ups the ante a little. The opening passage is written to Corinth about overcoming his sufferings and the very weakness of the physical body shows the life of Jesus within the Christian is from God and not inherent to humans. Paul (and we) are persecuted and beat down but we do not recant the Gospel nor does the world snuff out the light that is within us. It may damage the vessel or lamp but the flame within the lamp stays lit, it stays strong and shines out into the world of darkness. Like a glimmering treasure or a beacon to the lost.

Additionally, storing precious things in common or ordinary containers was not an uncommon practice in the ancient word as noted be Herodotus in The Persian Wars:

"Such was the revenue which Darius derived from Asia and a small part of Libya. Later in his reign the sum was increased by the tribute of the islands, and of the nations of Europe as far as Thessaly. The Great King stores away the tribute which he receives after this fashion - he melts it down, and, while it is in a liquid state, runs it into earthen vessels, which are afterwards removed, leaving the metal in a solid mass. When money is wanted, he coins as much of this bullion as the occasion requires." [Herodotus 3.96-The Persian Wars]

The idea here is that the boundless riches are specifically placed in the earthen vessels exactly because they are dispensable and temporary. When someone would need the gold or silver within the vessel they would simply break the vessel to get at the treasure. The treasure within the vessel filled the vessel and took the shape of the vessel or was an and exact image or impression of it. Once the vessel was destroyed the treasure would retain its shape and still maintain its value without the vessel.

It is also ironic than man makes vessels to store his treasure in from the very thing than God made man from...the dust or clay of the ground. 

It is a paradox that, like the precious treasures stored in earthen vessels, God chose to allow His Spirit to reside in something so frail, damaged and broken as mankind.

Regardless, this would also explain Paul's subsequent elaboration on being hard-pressed yet not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed..."always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." of 2 Corinthians 4

Our bodies like Paul's groan and crack under the abuse this world puts them through but they are temporary. Paul tells the Corinthians to not lose heart because, "...even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

We will eventually be clothed in a body of immortality (πνευματικὸν) when we slip this mortal coil and are glorified in Christ whom is the treasure.

In my studies I have come across another additional and rather interesting historical fact. By using this analogy, Paul is most likely alluding to the Corinthian's cheap pottery lamps that they made for walking around in the dark with-just like the Christian is a light in a dark world. These Corinthian lamps were renown for their utility...and frailty. Just like the believers Paul compares them to. These lamps were made exceptionally thin and often cracked in spots and for all intensive purposes they were disposable. It is this very feature of the pottery lamp, its thinness, that would sometimes allow the lamp to give off more light and cause the lamps to appear to glow similar to a paper lamp. The lamps would also emanate light from inside right through the walls of the lamp like shining a flashlight through the skin of your hand due to chips, cracks or hairline fractures in the broken lamp. The very fact that they were cracked (damaged) allowed them to be more useful for radiating light into the darkness...after which they were disposed of. Hmmm.

To me this is a rather vivid analogy from Paul and it paints a mental imagery that is perfectly apropos with Christ, the light of the world, dwelling in the believer. The believer then becomes a flesh-n-blood lamp or lighthouse for the Gospel calling ships into shore or guiding people out of the darkness or guiding their path in the darkness so they do not continue to stumble and fall. We are the candles at Christmas. We are the search lamps that find the fallen and lost. We are the ones God uses to signal the ships adrift in a sea of sin to guide them into safe harbor. We hold a radiant flame and resplendent treasure within us that we can barely contain. It is only because God allows us to hold His Spirit inside us that it that it is possible. This radiant treasure obviously stands in stark contrast to the dirty flawed object that holds it.

December 22, 2011

Jesus Christ: Focal Point of Faith

Jesus is not just the focal point of the Christmas season, He is the focal point of everything seen and unseen. He is given authority over all and sustains all things by his powerful word. Having said this  we now look at the first portion of Colossians. It is considered to be an extremely early Christian hymn. I will not be doing a complete interpretation of the passage but rather pulling thoughts out of it within their context.

Supremacy of the Son of God

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:15-20

As if there is any question of Jesus Christ's headship/authority or position in the Church or in Creation, it is squelched here. First place or the head belongs to Jesus. He is Primary, He is Primacy, He is Perfect. Our lives should center on Him. History centers on Him. The Bible centers on Him. Time centers on Him. He is and without Him, everything is not.

Nowhere should this Christ-centeredness be more evident than in The Church where His people openly submit to Him as Lord. He is the only proper and legitimate head of the Church. That means all leaders of the Church are to submit and serve Him, thereby they become servants of the Servant King or Suffering Servant. If He served how much more should we? Denial of this fact is nothing more than apostasy. To make one's self the center of attention in the Church is to displace Jesus at the center and putting one's self in His place. This idea is abhorrent. Grandstanding and self-aggrandizing leaders and pastors take note.

When it speaks of Him being firstborn. This does not mean Christ is created. It is a phrase that expresses Christ's sovereignty over all creation. This phrase proclaims Christ’s preeminence. It does not make Him part of the Creation it makes Him Ruler and sovereign over it.

He will reconcile people with their God (Himself). He will also reconcile non-human things also as evident from the "all things" statement. The aim and end result of this reconciliation is holiness...that is the whole point. To bring man and creation back into the proper relationship with God. For humans this reconciliation will require a obligation. An obligation to stay obedient and faithful to the statutes and requirements of God.

On Christ's Behavior & Fruits of His Ministry

Jesus' kindness toward spent, burned-out sinners regardless of social standing, wealth or race was unending. Jesus did not however extent the same compassion and patience to hypocrites, liars and false teachers. When faced with false teaching and religious error Jesus was quick to correct. Sinners are sinners by their very nature and are incapable without the work of God to correct their ways. Many of their sins are often unintentional. Hypocrites, liars and false teachers commit their sins on purpose to achieve and illicit ill-gained end. When Jesus addressed the liars and hypocrites he was eloquent but never arrogant. He was forceful but never unloving. He was firm and uncompromising but always gracious. Christ's ministry laid out perfect template of how we are to deal with and confront sin, false teaching and engage the culture. Behavior that reflects the reality contained within...and an abundance of Life.

Summation

Do we give Christ the center in our decision-making process when we deal with the modern culture or do we attempt to shuffle Him aside thinking our methods for engagement are more proper for today's culture? Are we allowing Christ to do the work our are we trying to do it? The Gospel message is preeminent. Is it coming out through our actions and words or words only? I do not want to hear you tell me you are a Christian, I want to see that you are. If we have Christ at the center it will reflect in all aspects of our life and it will bear evidence of our salvation. We will walk in Christ as He will be in us and like a seed He will grow in us and push out of us what does not belong.

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." 1 John 3:9

Seed above is "σπέρμα/sperma" something sown (including the male "sperm") by implication, offspring; specially,or ironically something that will create something new that, as it grows, pushes outward from the center and replaces the old object that once occupied the space (sin) with something more/better (holiness). New growth, fruit, etc. Interestingly, we see that the Holy Spirit does this too. At our justification when we convert to Christ a down payment is deposited in us in the form of the Spirit that works with us to "work out" our sanctification (Philippians 2:13). It works from within us outward. In manifests in the form of fruits (of the Spirit). Fruit being an abundance of life previously mentioned. Like most all fruits the vehicle to create progeny or pass on this life is within its own abundance of life in the form of a seed that grows if we cultivate it. Otherwise it dies or stays dormant if we do not cultivate. Life that sustains. Life that gives life.

I am in no way saying that Jesus had an inception anymore than I am saying He is literally a seed that you plant in the ground. What I am saying is that the work He does in us will, like a seed once planted and cultivated properly, bring forth abundance of life and fruit which carry within it the ability to regenerate itself into more abundant life (seed/sperma). It is no accident that the Parable of the Sower and Faith of a Mustard seed and Fruits of the Spirit are used when referring to believers faith, whether it is effective and manifests itself in a believer's life. These agricultural metaphor are closer to the reality of the spiritual life in Christ than most realize. The continuity is perfect...it's as if it was planned that way. ;)

December 21, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XLIV: Praying Scripture


This is my last post for Spiritual Disciplines. Somehow it got lost in the Christmas shuffle during the last few weeks of studying, sermon prep and general all-encompassing mayhem and chaos. Allowing for the Scripture to pray for me is commonsense. I know that if I have the same faith of those that wrote the Scripture I have a high probability of getting similar responses. Then again, I may get absolutely no response too. I know that I should at least pray in a manner similar to Jesus as I was told that “...and when you pray” (Matthew 6:7). It is assumed that I would. Patterns laid out in Scripture are good templates and we can learn from them.

Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance, prayers similar to Jobs, Jesus’ prayers to the Father before His crucifixion. You think you got it hard? Think of David's pain from his own sin. Jobs affliction through little fault of His own. The Son of God about to take on the sins of the world, after a scourging that would bring Him within inches of death...and then being forcefully pinned to a tree...

Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

If it be Your will...

Praying Scripture helped me hold my own during the death of my father and the ensuing days and weeks afterwards. They helped me piece back together the frayed ends of sanity so to speak when the mental torment of a prolonged drawn out dying takes its toll over months. After the hell of losing a parent over a grueling macabre endurance session of slow death (Stop smoking people! Your death will be extremely painful and ugly...you suffocate to death over the period of days, weeks and years).

I really wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do anything but lament the loss. In the end I prayed the Lord would take my father as I could no longer endure watching him suffer. This is where prayer from Scripture is pivotal to spiritual health and mental health. I had enough sense in the numb state that a death sends you through to look to God’s word. I pulled up to the misery depot and parked in the lament Psalms, Job, Lamentations and the Crucifixion portion of the Gospels and stayed there for a long time. There is strength in praying from Scripture (and suffering of others) and during a time of dying it is when a person truly needs to draw on all options open to them.

Dying really stinketh with a capital "S" (and that ain't the "s" word I wanted to use either).

Especially when it is someone close to you going excruciatingly slow. You get through it any sane way possible. When you have the spouse (my mother) of the deceased that needs your help also, the burden doubles. I prayed for the burden(s) to be lifted because at times I felt I was in the bottom of a hole and any attempt to extricate myself from the hole only served to dig it deeper. If I had not had the option of praying Scripture to God I would've started cursing Him...I ain't Job.

The first rule of holes is: When you are already in one, stop digging. The Bible was the only thing that could help reconcile the loss and help to come to grips with the pain and suffering. It is the only thing that offers hope. In similar situations many turn to pharmaceuticals and alcohol to dull the pain. As a Christian I view this as a “non” answer, only another trap to ensnare the believer into another psychological maze of no-return. 

Sometimes life gets you to a point where you have nothing to say so instead of saying something stupid...it behooves us to go to His word so we have something productive to say. The Scripture helped me through more hell(s) than this but the loss of my father was the most recent. It will see me through others also. It will see me through until the end.

It will see you through too.

December 20, 2011

Entertaining Strangers With Turkeys

In a benevolent and big-hearted deed my neighbor who is Christian, dropped off a ton of food that we could definitely use because we are still strapped. The problem is that we ran out of freezer space for two turkeys...BIG ONES. So I call ahead to a church and asked if they can use the turkeys. The guy on the other end caught off guard says, "Uh, yeah". So I go to them and drop off two 20 pounders. When I walk in a man meets me at the door to help carry in the turkeys. It turns out it is the man I called and he explains why he was at a lack for words and sort of still is. He was struck dumb by the circumstances and totally caught off-guard by the immediate unfolding of events.

He said the ministry literally needed supplies at that very moment, specifically they needed turkeys and tells me they ran out today because...they were handing out turkey dinners to the homeless today and their supplies ran dry. It’s been a challenging year for everyone, especially ministries. They were going to need to head down to the store to and pay out of pocket (which they really can’t afford) to help feed the last dozen or so remaining people that had showed up. The people that I pulled up next to in the community shuttle were the last few people to the shelter and they had left empty-handed. As I walked out the one's that missed had been let out of the shuttle and returned to the building.

The last old man in the car looked at me as I drove away, smiled and nodded. As I drove away I thought back to what my parents used to tell me...

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [KJV/NKJV: entertain strangers], for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:1-3

Yeah ma, grown men cry (many just don't do it in public).

[Thank you God for working through Mike to allow this to happen]

December 19, 2011

The Poor, The Downtrodden & The Disenfranchised

Originally Printed in The Pottstown Mercury:
CLEAN SWEEP: Police Clear Debris From Homeless Camps
By Brandie Kessler
POTTSTOWN — A month after the area’s homeless who live in tent cities got notice a new borough ordinance renders their campsites illegal, Pottstown police coordinated an effort to enforce the ordinance and cleanup the woods.
Read remainder of article here.
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Jesus cared about the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, orphans, widows and the lost of the world.

So do I.

This past year in all its trials, sufferings, deprivations have made me acutely aware of those that are "without". I seem to have goggles for the broken of the world now and so does my wife. Strange.

As such I cannot stand injustices allowed or caused by godless or mindless actions or moral bankruptcy. I cannot stand injustice and the subjugation of the poor and downtrodden that do not have a voice. I had to comment on an article in the local paper near my home, The Pottstown Mercury.

I will give these people a voice. This article is littered with half truths by the Borough or outright deceptions.

The Borough will do nothing to help these people only offer "advice", solicit help from others for them and then drive them out of the borough with little or no options. Otherwise they sit on their hands and claim that there is no homeless "problem" in Pottstown. Pottstown officials cares nothing for these people. They claim they do care about these people but actions speak louder than words. They view them as an eyesore and a scourge that needs to be removed. I personally believe these are people created in the image of a divine God. It is local ministries that are trying to help many get back on their feet. These people could easily be your family members, loved ones, friends...or it could be you. In such a horrid economic environment in the country, you should be thankful it isn't you.

The borough claims that they are helping these people and what they are doing is good for them but the truth is that the Borough provides no shelter for the homeless as noted in this article also from the Pottstown Mercury: Advocates: Pottstown Needs Permanent Homeless Shelter

Chased out of a meager existence. A week before Christmas no less. How charitable. I'd hate to see them in a bad mood. How hardhearted and cold-blooded can civic "leaders" be? Leaders fix problems, not pan them off on other people. These actions are not the product of a Christian mind or heart. No true Christian or even a "good" person would do this to another human being a week before Christmas. Come to think of it, I know atheists and agnostics that wouldn't even do this to pagans a week before Christmas...and they don't even believe in the holiday!!! Logical deduction tells me this is the product of a godless leadership with a godless agenda that are more concerned with their "image" and "saving face" than helping the community and "saving" taxpayers money. If they were really trying to do the correct thing they would spend money on a true community shelter instead of shuffling homeless off to private ministries to get them off radar and out of a line of sight. They would invest money in community programs that will either help these people get back on their feet or help the acquire jobs they are capable of doing. What are they doing with the money they're saving the taxpayers anyway?

Pottstown over the last few years has build a sprinkler/spray set in Memorial Park for the summer which was subsequently vandalized. The borough also has a dog park for walking dogs that has been integrated into Memorial Park also (they have a link here: Pottstown Park & Recreation Bark Park). Treating dogs like people and treating people like dogs. I am not the smartest guy in the world here but I'm sensing a dichotomy. I suppose the irony of this all is that we just went through months of protests in metropolitan areas nationwide with Occupy Wall Street (OWS) that saw people setting up "campsites" and "tent towns" and living in them and they were allowed by the authorities. Yet, we have some people that have little choice because of an atrocious economy and have fallen on hard times. They are being drummed out of existence at least in Pottstown under the guise of "health concerns" and abiding by "legalities" yet the borough does nothing to help them. Nice. What was even more reprehensible is some of the negative commentary from readers like: “ticked_off” who wrote this absurd and rather disturbing unedited comment: “round up the homeless, ship them to the dump where they belong.Plenty to eat there too” that comment can be found here...lovely.

...and we wonder why our country is struggling and we appear to be under judgment? Pottstown is like a miniature cross-section of the moral failure of our nation...in microcosm.

Like my wife said, the so-called "debris" and "garbage" like the tents you see in these pictures are people's homes. These indentured community servants (inmates) for the borough are being "used" by the community to throw lives away based on the command of callous local leaders. We should be ashamed. My guess is they used prison inmates to scare the remaining homeless that were still in the area. One needs only look at the jackets of the people in this article to see "PRISON INMATE" emblazoned in their jackets. Frankly, it looks awful suspicious if this was not the desired intent of the borough. Especially when you consider women are in these areas too. Looks suspiciously like intimidation wrapped in community service.

Officials from the borough acknowledge that these habitations, "... are not suitable for human habitation, especially with the winter months approaching” (The Mercury). So why isn't the borough offering them a viable alternative instead of offering them lip service, platitudes and a foot in the rear. It is clearly the people of God are stepping up to help these people. The civic authorities seem to be trying to whitewash this issue and sweep the homeless "non-problem" under the carpet. 

The article also claims that the borough is, "not trying to persecute them or make their lives harder. We don’t want it to seem that we’re out there tyring to kick them out of their home (but) there’s an ordinance and we’re trying to enforce it and trying to get (the homeless) in the shelter and back on the right track."

What they are doing in reality is nothing like this article claims they are. How is kicking them out of what little they have and not providing viable living provisions not considered railroading already destitute people? Why hasn't the motivator of the evictions provided viable alternatives? How is pushing the problem on someone else like the local ministries solving the problem and getting people on the right track. It appears people's thinking processes are not very clear here.

No one wants to see these people live in tents but running them off with nowhere to go during the week of Christmas in the dead of winter is heartless and inhumane. The article claims that these tent "towns" and "campsites" are illegal but robbing them of their remaining dignity as human beings is nearly criminal and ethically bankrupt. They say that these people who are merely trying to exist are breaking the law but what the authorities are doing is vastly more blameworthy, culpable and unrighteous.

The Pottstown Borough officials should be ashamed for their hard-heartedness and cold-blooded attitude.

As for The Pottstown Mockery's Mercury's original heading for this news article, it was "CLEAN SWEEP: Police Clear Debris from Homeless Camps". As if these people are garbage...The Pottstown Mockery Mercury should be ashamed for their poor choice of wordage and characterization. Tsk-tsk.

Psalm 82:3-Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed

Psalm 140:12. I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.

Isaiah 25:4. For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress.
 
Help these people they need it. I am only one man, I can only do so much. Our missions are in our own backyards 3 miles away not always on other continents 3000 miles away. They need our help everyday and now, not once in a while and tomorrow somewhere else.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:40-46

My apologies to my regular readers that usually expect some type of witty, humorous or clever post. I apologize for the biting sarcasm and frustration in this post. I am still a victim of my own flesh and I still become quite angry with peoples stupidity and lack of compassion. Things like this make my wife and I indignant. Hopefully it is in righteousness...
 
To help the homeless and less fortunate in Pottstown donate to these ministries.
Ministries At Main Street
Pottstown Bible Church & Mission
Northpointe Community Church

The Charlie Brown Family Tree: Matthew's Genealogy

Jesus' ancestory...clearly a lineage of blockheads...

When we talk about the birth of Christ at Christmas it is usually good to start with the Genealogies of Matthew or Luke. When we see how great a treasure comes from the lineage of broken and sinful people we should sit back in reverential awe. The lineage of Jesus stretches the limits of imagination and shows once again that God works through the low things of life over long periods of time to make those in lofty places appear foolish.

Abraham was the father of Isaac: The father of the multitude. The first Hebrew patriarch and the primary example of the Jewish faith. Originally known as Abram (father is exalted) but changes to Abraham in Genesis 17:5. His unbelief and unfaithfulness sires Ishmael, his faithfulness and belief sires Isaac.

Isaac the father of Jacob: His name means laughter (Sarah's). The only son of Abraham and Sarah. He is a child of promise born when Abraham is 100 and Sarah 90. Isaac marries Rebekah who bore twins, Esau and Jacob. Isaac is deceived into giving birthright to Jacob over Esau.

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers: Jacob is the original ancestor of the nation of Israel. His sons are the 12 ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob's earlier conniving and manipulation revisits him in the form of mostly petulant sons, minus Benjamin and Joseph.

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar: The fourth son of Jacob and progenitor of the tribe of Judah. His mother was Leah. Although his narrative often takes a backseat in Genesis 28 we see the seduction of Judah by his daughter-in-law Tamar. Their union results in the birth of Perez and Zerah. Perez born of an illicit affair is the father of Hezron who is the father of Ram. Ram is the father of Amminadab who is the father of Nahshon the father of Salmon who is the father of Boaz the kinsman-redeemer who marries Ruth a woman that is actually a Moabite which is the line of descendants that came from the illicit affair between Lot and his daughters.

Boaz the father of Obed the father of Jesse who was the father of the the famous and infamous King David the anointed king of God after Saul failed to live in accordance with the Lord, goes mad and eventually fall on his swords after loosing his sons in battle. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife. Uriah killed by David to cover his sin with Bathsheba. Solomon on the other hand is basically given immense wealth and wisdom but it all comes to not because of the 700 wives that eventually lead him astray into idolatry and he lives the remainder of his days in self-made apostasy.

Solomon is the father of Rehoboam who decides foolishly to reign with and iron fist and oppress his people mercilessly. These actions inevitably divides the kingdom in two between himself and Jeroboam (in the Northern Kingdom (Israel). Rehobaom fathers Abijah who follows in the sins of his father. Abijah the father of Asa who unlike his father is actually a pious man and is one of the few good kings in the Southern Kingdom. He removes foreign Gods and is succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat who in most cases was a faithful follower of Yahweh but is foolish and makes one disastrous decision: An alliance with the evil king Ahab of Israel (Northern Kingdom). His son Jehoram marries the daughter of Ahab, the Evil Athaliah and her influence in Judah is horrific. Jehoram's son Uzziah comes to the throne when he is 16 rather than have King Joash installed as a puppet king who is the infant son of Ahaziah who survived the bloodbath perpetrated by Queen Athaliah.

Uzziah the father of Jotham reigns for 16 years until he contracts leprosy and could not fulfill the needs of his office as royalty. Although he was an effective ruler his rule is taken over by Ahaz who was an extremely evil king and participated in some of the most idolatrous and monstrous practices of Judah/Southern Kingdom. Because of these abominable acts he never gets buried in the royal tombs due to atrocious behavior. Ahaz in turn produces one of the most devout and obedient kings Hezekiah.

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh brought religious reform to Judah, and refused to court favor with Assyrian Kings. He destroyed the bronze serpent of Moses so the people would not worship it. Due to Hezekiah's faithfulness, Sennacherib of Assyria did not prevail against Judah when it was nearly a foregone conclusion that he would.

Manasseh was the longest reigning king of Judah, unfortunately a long and unfaithful reign. The blame for Judah's ultimate destruction and exile is placed on his shoulders (2 Kings 21). Manasseh fathered Amon who followed in his father's footsteps of idolatry and was killed in a palace revolt. Good King Josiah succeeded to his throne at age 8 and at 18 the "Book of the Law" is discovered while doing repairs to the Temple. Josiah's goodness assured God's destruction of Judah would not come during his reign but after Josiah, the Southern Kingdom of Judah does a long slow burn to utter annihilation.

Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel the grandson of King Jehoiachin taken to Babylon in the first exile. Daruis the Persian emperor granted the right for the Jews to start rebuilding the temple during this time and then disappears from the Bible but not before fathering Abihud. We then have a long succession of generations without much information: Abihud fathers Eliakim who fathers Azor who fathers Zadok father of Akim who is the father of Elihud father of Eleazar. Eleazar the father of Matthan and Matthan the father of Jacob who is none other than the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary is a woman who, by the worldly standards of her time, had conceived under shadowy and mysterious circumstances. From God's and a believer's point of view she conceived in shining and miraculous circumstances. Mary...the mother of Jesus Christ who is called the Messiah. Savior of the World.

Not a very vainglorious family tree to say the least but a perfect example of how God can use the foolish things of the world to shame those that are too high on their horse. All this leads to a child in a stable that probably stank and was filled with flys in the town of Bethlehem two millennium ago. From humble and nearly invisible beginnings we see the birth of the Son of God. Amazing.

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:4-14

This family tree literally looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It is only love and the crowning of the top of the tree in Jesus that salvages this thing...

Come to think of it...it is only Jesus Christ that salvages us all.

December 18, 2011

In The Spirit of Giving


As I mentioned in the post Personal Jesus, the first step in a believer’s salvation is God’s foreknowledge of them in relation to salvation. In Acts 2:23 we had:

“…delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I would like to revisit this passage and specifically the words “determinate counsel and foreknowledge”.

As I also mentioned in Personal Jesus, they are a deliberate Greek syntactical and grammatical construction by Luke. When I translated them the first time I tried to apply the best usage of English words as possible to the given context (which I believe I did successfully then). Like any piece of written communication, there is a “window” or “swathe” of acceptable meanings that can apply when translating call the norms of language. This passage is no exception. As a matter of fact there is more “color” that can be added to this passage that I missed the first time that I will “color in” now. I will be using other Scripture to bolster the storyline. Like any English translation from the Greek our English Bibles are accurate in a way that a black and white TV projects a picture to you. It is accurate in detail...but sometimes the color and subtle shadings are lacking. I try to fill them in where I can after looking in detail at theological dictionaries like Kittels, etc and applying them to the context.

The word "foreknowledge" refers to the same thing to which the word "counsel" refers. The Greek word for "foreknowledge" is best understood "to designate before" to a position for a certain reason. The word "counsel" means to exchange opinions, to plan together, to reach an informed conclusion. As you would with a multiplicity of individuals or persons (*hint*). The word "determinate" modifies or is a descriptor of "counsel" and it means (here’s where it gets neat): "to draw a boundary around”. It can also mean to “divide” and to “separate from”. The logical question here is: Separate or divide from what? What is God drawing a boundary around?

These words create a “fixed limit” encompassed by a boundary. Whatever God is putting a boundary around He is doing it to set them apart. This of course sounds strangely familiar. The Greek word that means to set apart is ἁγιάζω / hagiazo. In other words: Consecrated…sanctified which comes from the cognate ἅγιος / hagios or to "make holy". 

A clear picture should be beginning to form in your mind now...in color.

God designated a believer to a position of having been a saved person before Creation was created based on deliberation. These are the same words and intent in Ephesians 1:4’s “chosen”. It’s also the same idea seen in Romans 8:28-30’s "foreknow” and 1 Peter 1:2’s “elect”, “chosen”, “foreknowledge” and “sanctifying”.

In the eternity before the Creation was created, God had it in His being to make someone(s) in the image of His Son Jesus. Living breathing beings created in His image. He didn’t choose the angels…

“For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” Hebrews 2:16-18

He chose us…the sinful fallen messes to be conformed to Christ. He picked the basketcases and the ignoble so that when we did do a turnaround it brought glory to God and mesmorized those who saw it. Perhaps even motivating those that did see it to do the same.

One additional thought as it is Christmas...

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

The words “predestinated” again means "to fix the limit or boundary beforehand." God knew we would be sinners ahead of time and still expected us to be conformed to the image of his Son: Holy. A mighty task but not too mighty a task for a Almighty God. As such we need to be sanctified and set apart from the world to allow this to happen. So there is a boundary set up and we are cordoned off (like a hazardous waste dump or a fine work of art, take your pick). We are His and we are off-limits to the world no matter where we are at on our journey. God grabs us out of our sin and drags us to Him kicking and screaming. We're His...hands off! We’re appropriated and earmarked to be conformed to Jesus…by the Holy Spirit.

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cornithians 2:21-22

We were put in the Reserved Bin folks. He wanted us so He gave us a downpayment so that we would be sure to collect what we were promised and so we were assured of our salvation in eternity with Him as His. The downpayment or seal (ἀρραβῶνα) of the Holy Spirit was so He would be sure to collect what was His, it was so what was His would be assured that He was coming back for them when the time came due. 

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

It’s just like when you put something aside for later that you want for a specific use…like a Christmas gift stashed away. You own it, you are saving it and will deliver it when the proper time comes due. This thing you set aside stays aside until it can be utilized for the purpose it was reserved for. Shovels dig dirt, hammers hit nails, Christmas gifts are for Christmas and people speak and evangelize the world with the message of the Gospel until their time comes to go to the Lord and enter glorification. We are reserved by Him to spread the message of Him for Him. What better time to evangelize then to do so during the Christmas season?

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” John 17:1-2

We are a gift from the Father to the Son…and from the Son back to the Father. The implication is that it was predetermined since before the foundations of the world or pre-time in eternity past. A sinner (you and I) were kept for this purpose. Surprisingly even we are extended an undeserved gift in this transaction: Grace.


Please note this is a predestination for those willing to obey His call, not against but with God’s will to do so. It is a concurrence of wills not a conflict of wills, like two rails on the same railroad track heading in the same direction at the same time. Albeit for possibly different reasons...the train will arrive at its intended depot on time as determined. It’s an effectual call. The one called responds. By grace we are saved that is the gift of God.

We see gifts all around in this. Set aside for the exact right time, for God and for us.

To think it really didn’t start at Christmas is amazing. Christmas was just the commencement of the culmination. The decision was made long long ago.

“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 2:6-12

Merry Christmas

December 17, 2011

Women In Ministry X: Biblical Pattern Recognition

[This will be the last post in this topic] I guess what this issue really boils down to is what one Christian over another considers a pattern. I personally don’t believe a handful of imprecise and non-uniform references condoning women in leadership of specific early churches are validation for wholesale acceptance across the board for female leadership in the Church. Specific churches that were written to in the Bible clearly appear to be the exceptions (since they have letters written to them). The very fact that they had letters written to them tells me that they are exceptions...most of them had some serious problems that needed to be addressed. I believe it is dangerous to take these letter's egalitarian references referring to the entire body in a generalized manner (Galatians 3:28) and assume they give irrefutable evidence for female leadership/ordination in the church (Harkness 213, Tucker et al 65). As a matter of fact, one would be hard pressed to ascertain with certainty that Paul is referring specifically to women in leadership in Galatians 3:28. In its context, Galatians 3 appears to be referring to the equality of salvation in Christ as it is no longer based in the Law. It is not referring to leadership per se.

As positive, stirring and meaningful as the new faith of Christianity was for the advancement and treatment of women it is clear to me that the overwhelming burden of the truth of Scripture points towards male leadership in the church…even this though this is in no way absolutely decisive either. I have agreed with the Assemblies of God position papers on the role of women in ministry (Assemblies of God “Role of Women”) and the often unclear nature of the exact roles of women in given situations. The thing that I disagree with is the conclusion they have drawn from the data and information. 

To that end I must state that I am in no way misogynistic or chauvinist. You can ask my wife. I adore my wife and put her first wherever I can. I give glory and honor to those that give glory and honor to God as their default mode male OR female. What does not bring honor to God is what I now frown upon and that includes all Scriptural issues that people disregard. I am a simple man that lives by simple rules based in the Bible. It is one of the reasons I went through this exercise of determining exactly where I stand on this issue. Now you know where I stand also. Because of where I stand I realize I am in direct opposition of 95% of the cultural mindset and probably about 75% of the "proclaiming Christian church mindset that has slowly inexorably drifted towards moral ambivalence away from the Bible and towards the culture and the "wisdom of the wise" of this age (1 Cor 1). This has been caused predominately by Bible illiteracy. No doubt I will be viewed as "fanatical biblethumper" and a "chauvinistic pig" by a morally misguided and reprobate culture...so be it. It isn't about that as much as that fact that I needed to know with precision so that I could educate others. So that I can draw closer to glory in Christ. This is something I could never explain to the unbeliever as it would be foolishness to them. My calling is pastor/teacher and at some point I will be asked the hard questions. I needed to be prepared with conviction to meet these issues head-on or people will go elsewhere for the answer. Based on the math above, many will be sorely misinformed or purposely led astray.

All things considered I believe the evidences throughout the Bible weigh heavier on the side of Complementarianism than Egalitarianism and if pressed, that is the way I will lean. The pattern for this starts as early as Genesis 2 not only in the narrative can it be found but in the syntax and grammatical structure. It is then elaborated on and spelled out in more specific detail in the Torah Law. Many will say that the ceremonial laws and civil laws that kept women in subjectivity and/or subjugation were abrogated in Jesus Christ but we must also remember what Jesus said in relation to the Law.

“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 5:17

Jesus fulfilled the obligations of the Law but the principles and patterns of the created order behind the Law (since the Creation) still hold sway or at least should in our Christian thinking as they are still beneficial to all Christians and humanity at large. We see the principles and patterns elaborated on and outlined in places like Ephesians descriptions of the family unit and the Church corporate (Big "C"). As the world has drifted away from these principles it has done so to its own detriment and in some cases...demise.

In addition, a closer look at the letters from Paul reveals that they are occasional documents. They are occasioned or caused documents that have salutations and conclusions addressed to 1st century individuals. They are letters whose purpose is to primarily address issues in the body of the letter not to address theology and doctrine in their salutations and conclusions. Letters are written to convey the ideas that are “meat” or “main topics” in their center not necessarily to address tough issues on the periphery of the letter. I suppose the same argument can be raised about the complementarian view being defended by verse from the occasional letters of 1 Corinthians and 1Timothy but there is a distinct difference. Paul addresses male leadership as an issue in the body of the letters of 1 Timothy 2 & 3 and 1 Corinthians 11. Conversely, this does not say that theology and God's truths cannot be "gleaned" from the edges. All Scripture is, "God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" 2 Timothy 3:16

Interestingly, outside of Acts, the strongest evidences gleaned from the prose of the letters to support egalitarianism are taken not form the “meat” of the letter but rather it is taken from the intro-salutation or outro-conclusion to Romans and Philippians. these areas of a letter are not necessarily dealing with the main issues in the letter but contained lesser or peripheral pieces of information. Not the driver but the filler. I realize Paul often used his salutations as places to establish his Apostolic credentials. Understanding this I also do not deny that even introductions and conclusion in the Bible are of immense value to teach us the things of God. What I am saying is I would rather have the meat of the passage in a letter as the mitigating factor in forming my orthodoxy, not interpretations of conditionalized peripheral comments relative to the Church the letters were written to. Salutation's and conclusions to me are more like "apostolic afterthoughts". They are still Scripture but in context they are not quite as topic or issue intensive as the bulk of the letter written. Since most all of the Churches and people Paul wrote to had rather unique circumstances that they were dealing with, they themselves were probably exceptions to other churches. They were not rules in terms of a pattern in the overall Church. Special circumstances mitigated the need to improvise and specialize.

My question to the read of this post is: How does this specialization or uniqueness of events constitute a pattern to base doctrine or dogma off of?

An Unconventional Alternate View

Having reviewed all this detail I would like to posit an unconventional theory. It is based in (1) The idea that the primary sources for the doctrine or theology that says women should be in the leadership of the Church comes from letters written to churches with known “issues” making them exceptions not the norm. (2) It is also based in part in my belief / conjecture that early Christianity was based in a culture and social mindset of male gender bias and primogeniture. (3) The following idea(s) also stems and springs from the idea that Jewish and Hellenized Roman/Jewish culture that saw men as infinitely more valuable in a social situation. This had a heavy influence on the new Christian church that grew out of and simultaneously away from Judaism.

When I say male gender bias I mean that women general were viewed as second-class citizens in first century culture. When I say primogeniture I mean the Jewish law or custom, of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate and the right to become the patriarch. This cultural mindset produced two distinct features of the New Testament church. I figure it this way: (1) If the enemies of Christianity, that thought in a primarily a male biased/primogeniture mindset could take out the “head” or the patriarchal figure, they had a better chance of eliminating the faith. As such, men are targeted more fiercely as evidenced by early martyr accounts (i.e.: Stephen, James, other Apostles, etc.). (2) In this vacuum we see the role of woman increase in the absence or death of men. This role and sense of egalitarianism is of course encouraged by the new found elevation of woman in status and standing in the Christian faith based in a Romanized/Hellenized culture (at least initially). This is evidenced by the egalitarian passages of unity in the Bible such as:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

As such, men tended to be targeted and singled out more quickly and aggressively as the leaders of a divergent sect of Judaism that ended up being persecuted and martyred. As such male leaders would’ve been in shorter supply. Add to this the new freedom and status given to women in a relational religious system that viewed women as equal in the body of Christ in nearly all matters except church leadership.

In the end I return to my introduction and my comparison of the nature of the roles within the Trinity. Jesus deferred to the will of the Father in functional subordination but not subordination of nature and it brought glory not only to Himself but also the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is excellent company to have when making a comparison. Because Jesus went to the Cross obeying the will of the Father in a passive obedience His name was lifted above all other names. Of course this will not happen for women but isn’t it ironic that the one that willingly submits to service in love with no expectation of glory ends up being glorified and honored and held in high esteem in God’s economy. Unfortunately, because of human’s prideful and sinful nature we have a hard time seeing subordination as anything other than a “put down”. Subordination is not a position of inferiority it is willing divesting of a role…just as Jesus submitted to the Father.

Addendum

I suppose many will not like this examination of the biblical and historical data and that is a matter of opinion just as that one I have presented here. That is fine. I have simply presented the information, analyzed it and processed it into as biblical a worldview as possible. I have presented it as humbly and accurately as I could...as a servant faithful to my call and in submission to my Lord. Never once have I tried to exalted anyone or anything except God in this. We must never forget that in God's economy, lowering is exalting and self-exalting is lowering...and He is above us all.

The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility. Proverbs 15:33

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
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