July 31, 2013

Terminating Employment or Firing Biblically

This is just a short post about my life outside of the ministry. When I am not voraciously consuming the word of God, preaching or teaching or raising a family with my wife I am bi-vocational and earning a living as a Quality Specialist/Engineer. Part of my duty is input with management concerning inspection and quality of output of mechanical parts from a precision shop. The parts we make are to high tolerance blueprints and go on military vehicles. As they say in the military, “There are no unimportant parts in the heat of battle.” The truth is that we cannot afford to make mistakes as people’s lives are on the line in every part we make.

So… a person was laid off from where I work today. They tried every which way to Sunday to try to help her get the hang of her job. I suspect she may have over-sold herself in the interview as being more than she was. At this point, I guess I'll never know for sure. In the end, she couldn't do the job she was given so she was released. 

So I have a question.

Is it Christian and biblical to remove a person from a job if they cannot do the job? Is it still biblical if the employee’s inability compromises the output quality of the product or compromises a positive end result? A compromise that in the end...could cost someone their life. Is there biblical grounds for firing someone or removing them from your payroll? Remember, the company really did all they could to give her work she could handle.

Additionally, I inadvertently had a hand in the process of removing her when I insisted that I could no longer do my job and constantly help do this other person’s also. I wanted to be as biblical as possible in my review of this situation. In good conscience all was done to preserve employment. That being said, I believe love, patience, grace and stewardship is what this boils down to. The Bible instructs that the default attitude throughout our decision-making process must be one of patience, forgiveness and grace. The owners are clearly Christian as are some of the workers (myself included) and none of us took this lightly or liked it.  

As Christian managers, like any managers, there is a duty not just to the employee in question, but to all employees as well. I believe responsible stewardship sometimes dictates that under-performers (based on a work description clearly laid out for them) have their relationship with the organization involuntarily severed. I see no sin in this, provided people first allow for an abundance of grace and forgiveness which means allowing for many mistakes and teaching them, not just terminating them ad hoc. If the termination is unavoidable, it needs a gentle hand.  I guess in the end Acts 15 might be a good model for not keeping someone on too.

Acts 15:36-39 …later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. 
Paul refused to take John (called Mark). Paul knew that he needed the right person for the job (having deserted earlier…i.e.: unreliable) and John (Mark) didn’t cut it because he was unreliable/unpredictable.

The truth is this employee was gainfully employed for 6 months, given a sub-par review which was appropriate for the lack of quality in the work done. She was told she needed to improve and didn't. She was then moved to less mentally taxing work and still boon-doggled it. When approached about errors she would never take ownership of them always blamed other coworkers, the system, the weather, etc. When I was asked for help I would advise her on methods for doing things. It would often turn out that the advice I gave (which was only advice) was misappropriated or misused. When confronted with her errors the response to her error would be, “Andy said to do it that way, blah, blah, blah.” I would then need to clarify that I offered only advice and the decision she made was her own, not mine. This became quite aggravating and I eventually stopped offering advice.

Other Scripture that speaks to this could also be the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. It is clear in this passage that Jesus holds people accountable and they should not be irresponsible. It is relating mainly to the Kingdom and faithful servants being ready for the Kingdom coming but it can also be seen as a story of profitable and unprofitable servants/employees. All are given responsibility.  In its essence, God assigns responsibility to people according to their ability. The responsible servants took the resources allotted to them and put them to good use to profit the Lord. The irresponsible squandered or wasted the resources by not using them properly.

This carries over to employers. If they are responsible Christians they should be putting time and monies from God to good use. To pay or give money to people that are not giving proper productivity back in return for wages due, well, that employer is not using monies given them by God efficiently and frugally. The unfaithful or unproductive servant is then “unrewarded”. In my example they are laid-off or terminated from employment. It is the proverbial and biblical: Be faithful in the small things and greater things will be given, be unfaithful and you will have everything taken away from you. If you are given a task and do not faithfully or properly execute that task, there is a price to pay…in this case…loss of gainful employment. I mean seriously…if you cannot effectively discharge a duty given to you in employment, should you really expect a reward or commendation in the form of a paycheck in the long run? I think not, it is an ineffective use of resources.

This being said, having been a business/quality manager at Mack Trucks, Inc., I believe certain things should always be in place from and employer and in this case, there were. A person needs a clear job description. They need to know what is expected of them. This includes a clear set of standards for performance. These expectations need to be clearly communicated. When there is a failure to meet expectations, there needs to be a clear, swift written communication of lack of performance. After this a trial correction period needs to be given to fix the problem (or perhaps a few). It is after these secondary and tertiary expectations are not met then a respectful exit for the employee should be considered valid.

In this case there were many more chances given and it seems the same end result occurred. The errors were nervously laughed off or blame was placed on everyone but the culpable party. I believe this was the root of the problem with this person also. If a person is not teachable or cannot admit they’re wrong, they’ll be dead in the water.  All should aspire to become experts in their field of endeavor. Almost by default if a person becomes an expert or master of their trade they become teachers. By becoming teachers they become leaders. What does the Bible say about leaders in the Church? It says they need to be beyond reproach, morally upright, teachable and by default they need to be responsible. These same qualities carry over to other leadership roles which are the end result of mastering a trade.

There are other principles that could come into play when needing to end and employment relationship with an individual. One that comes to mind is that idea that you are only as strong of an entity as your weakest link. This carries over into the body of the church. We are called to be diligent and strong in our faith in the church as the weaker members become more of a liability to the holistic strength of the church. At the same time we are to do things to bolster the weak members. The ones in entrenched sin that do not wish to willingly change and are reluctant to try are to be given over to the system of the world (1 Corinthians 5).

This is brutal but necessary for people to realize the gravity of their error. People cannot be continually let go and to pursue a life or lifestyle of non-accountability. The bible is clear that we are all to be responsible for our actions. We are all held accountable for our sin and behavior in general. We are all held accountable to repent and find our own individual salvation. We are also to accountable to work with the Holy Spirit towards our own sanctification too. Blaming others for our failure to do something is just irresponsible and frankly, childish in its approach to life.

Christians are a reflection of the God they believe in. Sadly, the terminated employee in this situation is a self-described Christian and admits to weekly church attendance. Notwithstanding, as Christians we are called to give our best in all situations because when we misbehave or act poorly, we are a poor reflection on the One we owe our salvation to and the One we call Lord. Part of this is taking accountability for poor behavior or in this case, poor work performance. This demands that we do everything possible to rectify a bad situation, not laugh it off as inconsequential or defer responsibility.

In the end, terminating employment is stressful and unpleasant. I prefer not to see it or be involved but a true leadership personality needs to be able to do it and do it properly. Even though it is unpleasant, sometimes it is biblically warranted if not required. It is especially required in instances of insubordination or behavior that is divisional or divisive and subverts the authority of those in charge (Romans 13). There should be no shame in having to follow through on it though. Conversely, we should take no pleasure in doing it either. If we do, we had better check ourselves or we may be the next one on the outside looking in.

July 27, 2013

Pulverized to Perfection: Purification Through Punishment

I want to deal with a single thought in this post. The thought that in judgment and chastisement God pulverizes things of this world that we would hold on to rather than reach out to Him. Yes, God loves...and sometimes He pulverizes you exactly because He loves you. Said another way, it is through our crushing and divesting us of the earthly or worldly dependencies in times of suffering that God clearly brings Himself into the sharpest focus in the sight of the believer. Sometimes in pain, truths become the most painfully evident. Through painful lessons, lessons of life are best gasped and absorbed. 

Hebrews 12:6 ~ "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”

James 1:2 ~ "My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials"

The word trials here being πειρασμοῖς or that which  examines, tests, and proves the character or integrity of something)

1 Peter 1:6-7 ~ "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”

The word trails is used along with the word distressed/δοκίμιον here which means to prove by testing as with gold to see if it is real gold. In addition it is in the present passive genitive singular which is to say that the believers are/were currently going through sufferings inflicted on them by others as that is how they were/are being addressed. In other words, temptation and trails were an ongoing issue in the believers life as of the writing of 1 Peter. If they could expect it then, so too we should expect it now. Just as we saw in the Old Testament. Surprisingly, many of the suffering or trials are brought on by the believers own actions/sins.

We see this clearly in Israel’s exile and the destruction of the Temple. Because the Israelites valued the Temple and the things of the land in their country more than God, God took them all away and sent them into exile. They are then purged of all they had relied on earlier. They are stripped of all the materialistic and physical dependencies and forced to turn to God alone as they have nowhere else turn once they are in Babylonian captivity. It is no different than the premise for Christian salvation. We need to turn solely to God as there is no other source of holiness and salvation. The way is singular and exclusive.

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

What’s more is there is nothing we can do to affect our salvation either.

Titus 3:5 ~ “...He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…”

We need to turn totally to God, to Jesus Christ. I believe this is exactly why the meek and the downtrodden in this life have a much higher probability of seeing Heaven than the arrogant and rich. These types of people have nowhere to turn and nothing to depend on whereas the rich and resourceful turn to plans and schemes that avail them nothing. The meek and humble realize their need for God and the rest do not.

We see the same in the narrative of Moses and the Israelites in Kadesh Barnea. The spies are sent into the promised land in Numbers 13:18-25. After forty days of exploration there were ten of the spies that had a bad report: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than us…all the people we saw were of great size…we seemed like grasshoppers to them”

Numbers 13:31-33 ~ But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Only the obedient and faithful Joshua and Caleb disagreed...

Numbers 14:6-7 ~ Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 

Instead of believing God and the report of the two obedient servants of God, the people believe the report of the ten doubters. The people then lose heart and rebelled. In this situation they are relying solely on what they think they can do and seem to totally preclude God from the equation. The Lord’s anger is kindled and He threatens to strike them down with a plague and destroy them.

Numbers 14:11-12 ~ 1 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

Moses intercedes for them and instead of destruction the people face wilderness wandering for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land.

Numbers 14:32-34 ~ “But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 

They are then purged of all they had relied on earlier. Then...the entire exodus generation itself is then purged from the ranks of the Israelites (including Moses) through death until only Joshua and Caleb remain. It is then and only then that the Israelites are permitted to enter the promised land. In the wilderness they became dependent on things of God like manna, the brazen serpent during another period of rebellion and in the case of Moses striking the rock…even bare essentials such as water. God even goes to the extent of assuring that they would only need their sandals and their existing clothing as we read in this startling passage. We see here the amazing nature of supernatural provision believers became accustomed to even in their suffering.

Deuteronomy 29:5 ~ “I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot.

In the very heart of God’s punishment we see that God provides for the very necessities we need. It is in these pulverizing periods and “burn-off” periods that humanity becomes totally dependent on God. It is in these purge periods that God gives exactly as we need while simultaneously removing all the superfluous garbage that impedes our way to holiness. These pulverizing periods are not so much punishments as they are spiritual holiness building. It is God putting in our lives the very things we need to persevere towards glorification by working in our sanctification. It is God stripping is of the sinful things and the sinfulness of the world and making us run lean on holiness.

At the root of all these pulverizing periods is unbelief and apostasy from the One True God. Ironically, it is then God working directly through this unbelief and sin in an act of punishment that helps the rebellious believer to see exactly what is necessary for our own good. In so doing God grinds to dust anything that we might be tempted to latch on to in this world for support instead of latching on or turning to Him. Instead of then grasping on to something of substance...we grab only dust and things turned to waste. In all situations faithful believers are dependent believers…dependent on God. We should always be turning to God in dependence and thanks.

We saw the same in the book of Job. God allows the Devil to destroy Job’s life and Job’s reaction is immediate if not a bit melancholic. The direction Job turns is clear. He turns to face God in his pulverizing losses.

Job 1:21-22 ~ “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Even when Job’s wife tempts him to curse God he does the right thing. He tells her to shut her trap because she’s talking like a nincompoop.

We see more of the same in the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk sees the sin of the world around him (just like I do today) and is thoroughly disgusted with it. The direction he turns for an answer is the same as Job. He turns to God and laments the condition of society around him (just like I do).

Habakkuk 1:2-4 ~ “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

Again...whom does David turn to after his infidelity with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite? The direction David turns with a repentant heart is clear. First we see the self-loathing in his punishment in Psalm 38…

Psalm 38:1-8 ~ “Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

David even says it. When God has not turned and smiled kindly on us we are literally וְנִדְכֵּ֣יתִי broken, pulverized or crushed emotionally, spiritually and physically. We are left desolate and alone with nowhere meaningful to turn. David’s repentant contrite response surfaces most clearly in Psalm 51. This psalm might be the most significant bible passage illustrating a repentant heart in the entire Bible. Like Psalm 38, Psalm 51 is a penitential lament psalm. It is a prayer or psalm asking for forgiveness of sins and a psalm of restoration. We as believers know that David was forgiven and eventually restored. To some extent it is consolation for sinners like us that God indeed forgives even after such a horrible criminal act. If David did what he did and could be forgiven we too can be forgiven for our sins also. But to get to this point where David really needed to be in relation to God, he needed to be pulverized in punishment and brought quite low. Psalms 51 is the ultimate sinner’s prayer seeking forgiveness and repentance to help restore a relationship with the one true Almighty God...and that is the key. 

We must turn with a repentant heart back to a relationship with God.

There are many other examples from Scripture but you get the idea. All of these biblical examples in their punishment or strife whether it be physical, psychological or both have the correct response, they turn. They turn to God. It is no surprise than that we will see a call to repentance from John the Baptist when he becomes the forerunner of the Messenger of the Covenant: Jesus Christ. The very word repent/metanoeo/μετανοέω means to turn in the form of changing one’s mind or to change the inner person. In terms of holiness it means to turn from sin and face holiness, to turn from the world and face the One and Only Holy God. It takes the prodding and pushing of God to move us on our way in the right direction. Sometimes it takes God taking away everything from us to show that we need to turn elsewhere for an answer: Him. Sometimes that “taking away” requires that everything we used to know is either change unalterably or pulverized. To pulverize everything we once trusted so we no longer have it to trust…so that we will turn to the only One we can trust that cannot be pulverized.

We turn to Christ. Jesus Christ in whom we turn to and place all our trust in for our salvation. It is only when we come to the ends of ourselves and our abilities that we are truly capable of seeing exactly how much greatness God is capable of in our lives and those around us. A greatness that is like a light that shines most brightly when we don't block or inhibit it. It is then that we see the fullest manifestation of the Kingdom of God in this mortal life. Until we reach this end of ourselves and fully turn it over to God, the things of the world continue to blind us to the truth of His true greatness and keep the Kingdom of God at arm’s length. We are never quite able to fully embrace it.

What should also not surprise us as believers is just how difficult things might get in our lives. We will indeed suffer deaths, pains and miseries. They are not only inevitable…they absolutely required in a Christian life. It is only those who persevere to the end that get the reward.

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

Revelation 14:12-13 ~ “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

We will often need to face what seem to be insurmountable mountains of grief and suffering. We will face the refiner’s fire but we will be purified coming out the other end. It is indeed the heat of the crucible that burns-off the impurity of an unholy life. It is in the pulverizing of the hammer that a diamond is broken from a stone, and the sculpture forms in the sculptor's hand. It is done specifically to sometimes make us suffer because it is in that suffering that we learn what is really necessary and what really matters. Like the cancer that sin is, sometimes a piece of the sinner needs to go with the sin to eradicate the sin from the sinner’s life. This is part of what it is to be sanctified or made holy through punishment, chastisement or suffering. The things that seem beautiful are transient and temporary. The things that seem most enduring and durable are easily shattered under the hand of God’s judgment and that is to show that it is God, not the things of this world that we should cling to.

It is when the building blocks that our life used to be made of are pulverized and crushed into powder that the dust can be then be reconstituted and remolded into the new bricks for a new creation. We then can be rebuilt from the fallen image to that of our God. We become a new creation, a creation that knows that the proper direction to face in this life is towards a holy God.

This is a really hard truth for most people to accept including Christians. At times it seems like a divine version of the, "This is going to hurt Me more than it is going to hurt you." In reality it is an outworking of God's justice to His glory and our eternal benefit as it drives us closer to Him. Part of the glory of God is in our struggle to wrestle ourselves from from the things that bind us to this world and to pursue God with reckless abandon. In this truth we can find peace even in the midst of our most severe punishments and sufferings.

July 24, 2013

A Connection Between Tubal-cain & Ancient Electricity?

Riddle of 'Baghdad's Batteries'

Thursday, 27 February, 2003

Arran Frood investigates what could have been the very first batteries and how these important archaeological and technological artefacts are now at risk from the impending war in Iraq. (Read Full Article Here)

I came across this ten year old article on the BBC website concerning a rather odd ancient artifact found in Iraq called the Baghdad Battery (or Parthian Battery). It has been dated to at least the early centuries AD or as far back as 200 B.C. It was discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a near Baghdad. These artifacts came to worldwide attention in 1938 when Wilhelm König, the German director of the National Museum of Iraq, found the objects in the museum's collections. In 1940, König published a paper speculating that they may have been galvanic cells or batteries.

Our non-believingand skeptical neighbors have approached this artifact two different ways when dealing with this enigma. The first is to deny it outright and attempt to build a case of poor archaeology against it. They then further attack the "science" behind the construction of the artifact stating that it would take multiple adjustments on the design to make it a workable battery. Never mind the fact that exact replicas have been made that have indeed produced a substantial amount of electrical current. When all of the batteries were linked together, they produced upwards of 4 volts. 

When this aforementioned methodology of discounting the batteries origins has failed (which it seems it as lately), more (ahem) peculiar explanations come to the fore. We get the much more plausible rationalization that this technology came from none other than aliens. No, not the ones from other countries...the kind from outer space. 

In some cases I have even heard many Christians justify the source of this technology through similar unlikely sources (although not always firmly based in Scripture). I have had some Christians assert that this knowledge or technology came from angelic/demonic supernatural sources. Although I am not foolish enough to fully rule this speculation out, I am not gung-ho at taking this suggestion fully at face value. Why? There is no Scripture to support the theory other than negligible reference to what appears to be angelic beings (fallen) of supernatural origin mingling with humanity in Genesis 6:4 and even this is questionable depending on how one chose to translate the term "sons of God" from the Hebrew.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

I have seen this single piece of Scripture abused every which way to Sunday. Unless I read between the words in the blank spaces between the words, there is nothing here in Scripture to make me believe supernatural beings with supernatural knowledge divulged their knowledge to human counterparts. Did they have sex with them? Probably based on this passage and Jude 6 and 7. Did they give a bunch of esoteric knowledge in the form of technology and supernatural magic? Why would they? It would allow humans to become intellectually equivalent and therefore pose a threat. No, I am going for a much more plausible Scriptural elucidation here. Sorry to those looking for a much more sensationalized clarification here. I suggest you go elsewhere if that's what you really want. My biblical suggestion about this technology comes from a much more mundane and non-threatening passage in Genesis 4.

Genesis 4:16-22 ~ “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.”

So you ask, "How does this explain the possibility of technology to create and ancient battery?" Simple really. Probably too simple. But you know what they say, sometimes the simplest answer is the most plausible. I believe the answer lies in the longevity or lifespans of people in the pre-antediluvian (pre-Flood) Old Testament.

When you live hundreds of years it would not be surprising that people would become an expert on a certain skill or craft. A person would have centuries to perfect a given specialty or craft to almost a supernatural level of efficiency. We sort of saw this principle put into play a decade or two ago in the Highlander movies and television series. Outside the morbid end many would come to in the episodes, they seemed to have become masters of certain skills and tasks. Having made this modern analogy I now point to passages of Scripture to show some of the same.

First, it says that Cain went away from or left the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod east of Eden. This would geographically put he and his descendants where? It would put them in all probability on the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. What major ancient city was founded there? Babylon and the future home of the Tower of Babel, the first archetype of a modern city. It would be a city that would bring together the resources of the entire surrounding area both material and human in a cultural hearth. So not only do we have people living extraordinary long lives, they would be doing so with numerous resources at their disposal and they would do it in tightly tied cultural hearths conducive to sharing of ideas and invention.

It would be in this very area where this artifact was found. The passage above says three things about three people that are direct descendants of Cain who wandered and eventually settled in this area…and they all allude to a level of expertise in something.

(v.20) Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock

In this field of expertise we would see the progress of animal husbandry and genetic modification that would allow for heartier lines of animals. It would allow for domestication of animals. It is also quite possible that the longevity seen in humans may have also been in animals too. The “living in tents” is the type of abode one would expect of herders and those dealing with animals. It would be a field of expertise in labor tasks also.

(v.21) His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.

In this field of expertise we would expect to see progress in music and an understanding of harmony and music’s interaction with human and animals. We would see a level of proficiency and invention that would allow for not only stringed instruments like the Kinnor (harp) of David’s time but also wind instruments or reed instruments like the pipes mentioned and percussion instruments for keeping time required for harmony. These would be intermingled in different arrangements in an artistic manner perhaps even symphonically. It would be a field of expertise in artistic and aesthetic tasks.

(v.22) Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. 

This would be a field of expertise in guild-like utilitarian tasks (trades). These levels of expertise will most likely include an understanding of physical characteristics and properties like metallurgy (properties of metals, substances) and their reaction and interaction with their environment. What is really interesting is that one of the mentioned metals brass/bronze depending on the translation are in reality both alloys made of copper. Bronze is copper and tin and brass is copper and zinc. This means Zillah's descendants would've been quite versed in metallurgy. Of course copper is one of the main constituent parts of the Baghdad Battery for conductivity reasons. In actuality the Hebrew word for "bronze" in this verse is נְחֹ֖שֶׁת and is more properly understood to literally be the specific metal copper (not brass or bronze). In addition the metal iron is mentioned. Iron is also a critical constituent component of our ancient battery. So what we have is an iron rod with a copper-bottom for conductivity reasons contained within an isolated grounded earthenware jar (common in biblical times) so that the electricity generated within the jar discharges only through the conductive metals out through the top of the jar...just like a terminal on a modern battery.

I believe that it is within Zillah's field of expertise compounded with extraordinary longevity of the descendants of Cain will arrive at the invention of an earthen battery that will be found millennium later in the land of Nod...modern day Iraq. It was a battery design that has been dated as far back as the time of the prophets in the Bible or perhaps even to the time of the patriarchs. It would be an invention that pre-dates Alessandro Volta’s 1800 invention of the voltaic pile in 1800 A.D. by thousands of years. Not to mention that it is not incredibly difficult to make a battery from ordinary items such as potatoes and citrus fruits like lemons. It just would've required a little tenaciousness and focused determination over a long time to figure this out.

If one believes the Bible (which I do), it should not come as a surprise that mankind would quickly garner extraordinary levels of intelligence therefore extraordinary technologies long before the time periods when experts of our modern age say they could’ve happened. These surprising inventions need not be attributed to aliens or even angelic beings. Unfortunately, because we have essentially abandoned the validity or the truths of the Bible, many of the possible assertions that could be made from the Bible’s facts are totally disregarded. They are disposed of in favor of more far-flung and ridiculous explanations like aliens.

Furthermore, it would also not be surprising that over intervening centuries and millennium and through the processes of wars and shortened life spans...much of this extraordinary knowledge would become lost to time. As a point of reference, we know for a fact that the Library at Alexandria in Egypt was one of the most significant libraries of the ancient world. It prospered under the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC. It is suggested that at one time it had 200,000-500,000 scrolls. Besides being famous for being a virtual compendium of the entire ancient world, the library is also famous for having been burned to the ground, resulting in the loss of most of the accumulated knowledge in the form of scrolls and books. Entire swathes of history were eradicated by fire.

The truth is this. We do not need to believe in far-flung and ridiculous explanations when Occam’s Razor (the simplest answer is the best) applies quite well here. I find it ironic that people will often attack the Bible as a book of myths and fanciful tales written by goat herders. It is funny when this so-called book of myths and fairy tales offers a more plausible solution to an ancient enigma than all the goofy suggestions from the highly-educated godless masses.

July 20, 2013

Sowing Seeds of Discord Reaps Only A Bitter Harvest

Even in the recent rips of our social fabric I see the glory of God peeking through. Even in what looks like a once great country in steep decline (United States), I suggest we see inklings of the Kingdom of God approaching. Where man fails, God most certainly triumphs. In the heated exchanges between the old and the young, men and women, black and white, rich and poor, governing and governed we see a much larger picture unfolding. We see a sovereign plan just as we saw the leaders of nations under God’s control in Daniel (and will see in Revelation). I see the unfolding of plans too grand and great for me to fathom fully as I am too finite and God is too infinite. When we show ourselves as humanity which is incapable of living together in peace with one another, we build the case for the need for Sovereign God to enter our lives and make it happen through His unity of Spirit. It is exactly because we're flawed creatures and cannot get along that we will assuredly need the intervention of Jesus Christ. The more we try to usher in unity through man-made social constructs the more we realize our inability to do so. Like the Jews of Jesus time we have a preconceived notion of what we think God's Kingdom and rule is (or will be) and we attempt to impose our view on God and other people through political, military and worldly ideological means. God had none of this during his time on earth in during in the Roman empire and He certainly will have none of it now. God is more powerful and much more subtle than that.

In it all we see the glory of God.

So…I continue to ponder the division in society this week and I am disappointed but not surprised at the incendiary rhetoric launched like mortar rounds from both sides. As Christians we were warned this type of thing would happen if Jesus was not fully reigning in society and in our hearts. We were warned it would get worse before it got better. The very act of Jesus coming into the world caused division and partitioning of society (and still does today), how much more would His followers be effected by this fact. We are also told that it would be in His Spirit after the Ascension that true unity would come.

Matthew 10:24 ~ “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Luke 2:34-35 ~ “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

In it all we see the glory of God.

I think about the social engineers and those within certain churches that would have us believe that it is through man that change for the better for all mankind will come and we will see the arrival of God’s Kingdom in full (The Social Gospel). Sorry folks, not sure where you got that theology…but it’s not in the Bible, at least not stated that way.

Then we see the current society at-large. We see the sum result of centuries of humanism and social/scientific tinkering and we must realize based on blatant evidence to the contrary, that not only is man not capable of improving society to usher in the Kingdom…we are hopelessly inept at producing any meaningful or lasting positive social outcome. The obvious truth is that without God we are condemned to forever repeat the errors of the past. We are perpetually in a loop of failure that drops us right back where we began. We end up recovering from another revolution, insurrection or war. Again, we see the ultimate failure of human efforts.

Again, we see the true glory of God in it all.

We think we have mastered our evils and learned from them. We put processes and plans in place to prevent the problems of the past from occurring again in the future. A generation or two goes by and the newer generations believe they are more technologically and intellectually evolved. They believe they know better than the previous generations. These new generations view the implementations of older preventative measures as remnants of a bygone era so they tear them down in the name of “progress”. The “new improved” generation, in an attempt to move on from the relics of the past end up becoming a watered-down and dumbed-down version of the last. Instead of moving on to greater things, by removing the admonitions of past mistakes they remove the very things that will instruct them when they begin to err again and history repeats ad nauseum. It is social entropy. Instead of moving higher towards God and more order, we move downward away from God towards chaos and disorder. The Devil laughs heartily from his stinking abode. These historical repetitions are usually much more violently than previous generations since technology continues to grow while morality decreases. We need only look at honest and factual history books to see this pattern. We need only look at the Old Testament.

It is clear we are on the same footing now. What is disturbing is that many politicized Christians believe they are doing the right thing by trying to use the political system or global US hegemony to do the work only God could do through Jesus. In doing this, what is really happening is that mislead people are using the very system(s) of the world that is antithetical to the Kingdom of God. The world system is of the Devil, therefore opposed to God’s rule. The world may be God’s but the kingdom is currently in rebellion against its King. Even though the Devil and his monkeys can be bent to the will of God unwittingly, there is the probability that those using the system of the world to bring God’s kingdom to power are doing nothing more than fighting fire with fire. They’re deceiving themselves that something positive will come out of Satan’s system. Of course there is always the possibility that something good can or will arise from evil (Genesis 50:20) but it is probable we will only see more chaos and destruction because the mitigating element is usually sinful man, not holy God.

It’s better to view God working in sovereignty through obedient biblical Christians that adhere to biblical philosophies. God will work through man’s stupidity if He has to (Joseph's brothers, Pharaoh's heart, Judas' betrayal, Moses, David)…but the Bible is clear that He prefers working through His people that obey His commands and statutes. Either way, He is glorified. He would much rather use the example of obedient Christians than use a bumbling disobedient follower (i.e.: Jonah, ironically Moses and David again). Why? It is because although both paths can bring glory to God, at the end of the day an obedient Christian brings more glory to God. Why? It is because it shows that God’s way was right all along. This is an expression of His goodness and love as it upholds His faithfulness to His believers and ultimately shows God to be trustworthy and honor the blessings He has assured those who will obey His commands (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). It shows the covenant God on prominent display in the modern age. This is most evidently seen in the very fact that God will judge the unrighteous. The fact that God will indeed punish transgression shows that not only is He just…He is perfectly consistent /constant or immutable (therefore trustworthy).

In it all we see God’s glory.

Where the unrepentant world sees only a hateful mean God (and even many Christians do), true Christians see a totally consistent, totally unchanging, faithful Sovereign that will hold up His end of the bargain. He will be steadfast, unwavering and resolute even when we are incapable of doing the same or too stupid to. God is indeed a rock of Salvation. He and His holiness are a place where we can lay down solid foundation or drop anchor.

We need to stop turning to one another or other men for the answers. How many more times do we need to go down the unproductive route before it sinks in that it is a dead-end? Man will not nor cannot bring in the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole point is that it is only Christ that can do this. We obey God and it is He that sanctifies us. The only source of holiness is God. If God is the only source of holiness then it stands to reason that true holiness and therefore the arrival of the Kingdom can only come from and through God if it is He that sanctifies us. In reality it is only us getting out of our own way to allow God to do His work in us that allows us to be sanctified. It is the proverbial, “Where I come to my end, God fully takes over my life.” It is in our humbling and meekness where we truly allow the Kingdom to break through. This is totally counter-intuitive to the idea of aggressive political activism to make a change now whether it is on the right side or left side.

Matthew 15:9 ~ “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

The more I think on these things the more apolitical I become. Being political is divisional. It puts us in either this camp...or that camp. There is to be no division in the coming Kingdom because we will all be unified in Christ. Aligning to a “party”, organization or identifying myself with an man-based ideology only serves to align me with the forces of darkness in this fallen world. My comment stands regardless of how philanthropic or humanitarian those organizations or parties seem. The lesser of two evils is still evil and I am to disassociate myself with all evil and pursue holiness. I am to be holy because the Lord God is holy.

Titus 3:10-11 ~ “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

Romans 16:17-18 ~ “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

Furthermore, when we see these very same divisions in the church they are nearly always caused by unbiblical behavior being pitted against biblical behavior. The world having crept into the church fights the truth of Scripture. I have seen this with my own eyes and have had it happen to me. The higher the deception the harder it is to get out of the church. The proper view is that of the Bible. Those with the unbiblical view will never see that they are wrong and usually always blame the biblical teaching for being divisive in an attempt to gain the moral high ground and win the argument while simultaneously maintaining their unbiblical behavior. The bottom-line is that we need to filter all behavior and feelings through Scripture or they are subject to scrutiny.

This goes for all that would use race in the form of racism, sexuality, feminism, sanctity of life or other moral issues to promote their agendas in or outside of the church. Actually I should clarify…it is especially those that would use these moral issues to promote their warped and misguided agendas. What's more is when we see politics enter the church. This is abhorrent as it is pure syncretism along the lines of Baal/Yahweh worship. When people use these issues to profit themselves or gain power we see insidious evil because it is a wanton and deliberate evil in the form of idolatry. We also see divisions based on superficial surface judgments therefore we see unbiblical partiality (James 2:1-13). We have seen this quite a bit in the media /society lately and even in churches. These deliberate manipulations of other people due to characteristics given them by God (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) is exceptionally horrid as it shows a gross ingratitude towards the most Holy One’s grace and is an abuse of God’s glorious creation and their/its attributes (made that way by God). It shows a gross misuse of God-given attributes to use them against others to gain an edge. This is high-handed sin and it is unrepentant sin. It is intentional when the sinner refuses to repent of it and callously continues it for selfish evil purposes. This is thumbing one’s nose at the righteousness of God as God is the source of righteousness. For these there will is a more severe judgment reserved. It is abuse of God’s grace shown to us on the Cross.

Meanwhile, the poor are still poor and the disenfranchised of society are still marginalized by most all of us except for a small handful. These poor people who float just below radar or on the periphery of our vision don’t play any substantial role in the grand scheme of things when it comes to the agendas of this world so they stay marginalized and ignored. In God’s economy they are substantial and vital. These are the ones that will inherit the Kingdom. It will not be the social activists attempting to change society by force of will. It will be those marginalized by society taking their rightful place at the front of the line. The zealous social activist trying to bring in the Kingdom in grand style through their satanically under-girded theories will move to the back of the line. The last will be first and the first will be last. The ones trying so hard to make the kingdom come “now” in-full will only succeed in postponing it for themselves.

Thinking that someone will bring in the Kingdom of God through political activism based in lies, racism, murder, injustice, deception and truly hate filled rhetoric and manipulation is at best delusional...at worst it is a path to condemnation. We need to stop turning to false salvation in other fallen men in the form of man-made courts, man-made religions and man-made organizations. We need to realize that our deliverance and salvation is of divine origin and for Christians it ends in a divine destination whose name is Jesus Christ, Messiah, Lord of Lords.

The Kingdom is of Christ and the Kingdom is where Christ is, not man.

Stop looking to your neighbor(s) for salvation. Stop looking to your neighbor as your enemy. Look to your God and love Him and look to your neighbor and love them too. Everything else falls out from these two. In these two principles we see the death of division. In them we see the Kingdom’s root. Like a root system, the kingdom will continue to grow out of sight and allow the Kingdom to thrive with life mostly unseen in the spiritual realm. If the seed of God is planted in the correct soil the fruit or harvest will be wondrous.  If we sow only seeds of discord in bitter soil (fallen man) we will only reap bitter godless fruit or no fruit at all when harvest time comes around. If God is a God of order and unity it can be concluded that God will not dwell among His people when they are in division.

...and the tree that does not produce fruit...will be cut down.

Luke 13:6-9 ~ "Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?" “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Soli Deo Gloria

July 14, 2013

Reconciled Through the Gospel

In light of the overt and palpable division in society today I felt compelled to post on unity today. I will not comment directly on the Trayvon/Zimmerman court ruling as it serves no purpose but to interject another opinion in a volatile debate. What I will interject is the Gospel and Christ Jesus as He is the only path to true unity and the Kingdom. The true Kingdom is where the King is and where He will be. Division and disunity is not of God.

Supernatural Reconciliation

Anyone that now knows my conversion story know that I was reconciled to my neighbor after 12 plus years of hatred and animosity towards my neighbor and it happened in a matter of days. My neighbor actually joked that until I found Christ he had never seen a miracle. That is supernatural reconciliation. Since that day years ago I have seen many other things happen that I cannot account for through naturalistic or evidential means. Some things are just not explainable without attributing them to God acting providentially in my life and other’s lives. Sometimes the only explanation is supernatural.

As we are often sinful and selfish in our outlooks in life we sometimes alienate people from ourselves that really should be close to us in a fellowship capacity. If we have driven them away it will usually require reconciliation. Human relationships are anything but perfect, too many sins get in the way, pride, envy, arrogance, etc. Because we cannot have perfect unity even as Christians there will be times when we will certainly need to lower ourselves in humbleness to achieve harmony with others by serving others in the faith that we do not see eye-to-eye with (Ephesians 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30). If we are doing what we should in a biblical manner in the faith it will be rare as Christians that we will need a supernatural reconciliation with others within the faith. I certainly imagine it is happening when trying to convert the non-believer. Why? Because every person that comes to Christ is a supernatural reconciliation of a fallen and condemned person back into the presence of a holy God! You don't actually think its anything you do, do you? I mean seriously people. In our conversion we achieve eternal life through Christ. Is there any other supernatural reconciliation that is more important?

Prayer For All Believers In Light of A World In Division

Jesus prayed for unity in the Body of His disciples and all that would follow in His footsteps.

“I do not pray for these alone , but also for those who will believe [all believers] in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them" John 17:20-26

It is here in these six verses in Jesus’ prayer for all believers that we see the heart of the New Commandment, the Greatest Commandments. It is rooted in the concept in the Shema. The unity of the body in Christ is the pattern. Why? It mimics the unity of the Trinity. It is the perfect completeness of the Godhead. The closer man can get to this in their relationship with other disciples/believers the better the probability of righteousness and avoidance of sin. The more likely believers are to stay holy and it has its roots in a communal relationship with other holy sanctified beings. To have a holy relationship with God and repentant believers that all have the mind of Christ. This is clear from Jesus’ earlier statement: “I in them, and You in Me…that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds and awful lot like a Kingdom.

In short, Jesus prays that God's glory will be revealed in these things so…the nations may worship Him also. So the disciples and believers including us are tied together in unity of mind and purpose to participate in Jesus’ ministry. It is paradoxical that this prayer will come just previous to Jesus' own suffering and death. Even in the shadow of injustice and impending doom Jesus still prays for unity. That my friend is heavy and seriously profound stuff to contemplate.

We see this command exemplified one more time before Jesus gives up His spirit on the cross. We see it in one of Jesus’ comments from the cross. This comment comes in John 19:

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27

Those who are closest to Jesus that are able to look upon Him on the cross are given a charge or command as He looks upon them from the cross in His agony. Jesus tells them to look upon one another and care for each another. His words put a ball into motion. Jesus’ new (old) commandment (love your neighbor) now has wheels under it. He gave it to His disciples so that they could love one another. This is exactly why we should know and others should know that we are His disciples. It all ties together quite nicely. As if it was planned that way.

The fact is I do see a lot of division in society today, even within the church. It saddens me but I am not surprised. The Bible is clear. Man will not be the source of unity with other man. Christ Himself in the Spirit will be.

Ephesians 4:1-6 ~ I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

There is also unity in our diversity. (1 Corinthians 12:12-30)

We all need to care for one another.

1 Corinthians 12:25-26 ~ "...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 

By implication...if one part is dishonored...all are dishonored thereby dishonoring Jesus.

My parting thought comes from Chapter 21 of John. Jesus makes a statement in the last chapter of John that wraps up nicely this entire concept. Earlier Jesus had said to love one another as I have loved you, By saying this He was implying that they should emulate His example. What is the last thing Jesus says to Peter in His walk on the beach with the disciples?

"Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-23

In other words: In following Jesus we also obey the new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you...as He said...follow me.

I love you brothers and sisters regardless of what the world system wants me to do. The world system (κόσμος) be condemned for its behavior...because it will be. I want no parts of it because it reeks of disunity and disingenuous. We work and relate better when tightly wound around one another in strength but when we are frayed apart we become weak or in some cases worthless for what God wants to use us for...which is as an example of His unity before the unbelieving world. If we do not act as the salt and light (or rope) to the world and instead act as the example of a frayed rope, who does the world turn to as an example....other unsaved sinful humanity?

Jesus reconciled us to God by overcoming the most heinous thing in the world: Sin. It is sin that separated us from God. Jesus overcame sin through the most horrid suffering known to ancient man: Crucifixion. Through Christ's suffering the wrath of God due to sin was taken care of once and for all. Sin's grip on humanity was over and done. We must attempt to maintain unity in humility and meekness based in that very work that He did to keep that unity in place. We need to maintain unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The division I see today is not speaking well to this unity. I don't know much but what I am absolutely sure of is this: Disunity is not of the Spirit as God is a God of order and peace. We must pray for unity.

1 Corinthians 14:33 ~ "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace--as in all the congregations of the Lord's people."
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