April 27, 2014

The Choke Hold On My Life, Part I: Who's In Control Here?

In an ongoing examination of sin in my life I keep coming back to anger and frustration. I find most often that the source of my anger is that my life or my plans are not working out. They are not going the way I wanted or intended them to go. This assumes I am sovereign over my own life. I of course, would be totally wrong. I am merely a steward over the things God has given me and put at my disposal. I am even a steward over my own body and life. How you ask? It is because my body and life are a temple of the Holy Spirit and I am a living sacrifice or testament to God as a Christian (1 Corinthians 6, Romans 12). Even non-believers serve God purposes as the Bible showed with Nebuchadnezzar and King Ahasuerus/Xerxes. I will be held accountable for my actions not only to others but even to my own person, body or soul. The bottom-line is I want to have control of things and think sometimes I might…but really I do not.

Why is it, that men like me have an issue with control? It is an issue I have struggled with trying to overcome since forever. It is another issue my wife has patiently tolerated for way too long. The idea of relinquishing control to me is frightening but I have had to learn to humble myself and when needed, be meek. I need to loosen my choke hold on my life. The tighter my death grip was on my life and others, the more I choked the life out of my relationships. Most importantly I was choking off my relationship with God and my wife in my marriage.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

The verse above says I cannot serve God and money but the truth of the passage (and its intent) is that we cannot serve anything of the creation in lieu of God or we make what we serve our god in God's place. We make it our idol. Making myself my own master made me my own idol. I became a golden calf. 

I am no longer to live for myself and I am certainly not to make myself an idol.

Romans 14:7-8 ~ “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 ~ “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Exodus 20:3-4 ~ "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."

I am therefore at war with God over sovereignty and control over my life. Even if say I am trying to control my circumstances to produce a better outcome or I attempt to control other people with their own freewill, I am in reality trying to outmaneuver God. If God is truly sovereign and acting in providence, this has to be true. No matter how this shakes out in the end, I lose. God either gains mastery over me in holiness because I have submitted to Him or He gains mastery over me in eternal punishment because I’ve not repented and have been condemned to Hell. Either way, it is clear to me that God will always be in control. Fighting from this perspective then seems pointless. By trying to usurp control I choke off the blessing in my own life.

It should not surprise us men then that we are in this battle when our culture and society has taught us to be self-sufficient. The quintessential American cowboy and rugged individualist. Men (and women) have been questioning God’s sovereignty, authority and right to rule over us since Genesis 3 and today is no different. I believe the exact words from the Devil were, “Did God really say?” Then the further temptation, “You will be like God.” I first try to question God’s wisdom and then I think I can replace Him. Typical idolatry. Typical sin. 

When I sit here and say that my plans have not gone the way I want them to, what I am really saying is that my plans were indeed better then God’s because mine were better quality and better suited to me. I guess what I'm saying is that I know what's best for me, don’t I? How could God possibly know me better than I do? Well, the fact is, He does. He has carefully planned my days long in advance (Ephesians 1:4-6, Romans 8:28-30). I can only approach each day one at a time. I can only live them like the minute hand ticking of time on a clock. God on the other hand knew the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

Where is the proof of this in the Bible. We see that Peter would one day serve the purposes of God in ways that not even he intended nor wanted to and he is told this by Jesus Himself.

John 21: 18-19 ~ “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter will not be in control of his own life when he grows old but knowing this in advance shows the Jesus is in control ahead of time. Knowing this, what does Jesus tell Peter to do? Follow Him. The question is: Why should Peter follow Jesus if it leads to death? Simple. Even dying for Christ, while being in Christ is gain and loss of this world is actually gain of eternal life. The best thing I can do by dying to self and giving my life for and to God...is to die. I will then be dying for God’s cause in glory and I will get my ultimate reward by entrance into glory with Jesus. Of course this is not a pretty scenario from this side of Heaven but I am not to live for what this life gives but rather what God gives in eternity on the other side.

Philippians 1:21 ~ “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The root of the problem with me is the flesh.

Romans 8:6-8 ~ “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

In the midst of what seems like a huge loss and debilitating dissatisfaction with life I have tended to fall back into survival mode that casts off moral restraints in favor of what I want. This was not Peter’s course and it most likely won’t be mine. I try to control everything in sight to try and steer what I view as an errant life back on course but to no avail. It is like fighting the tide when in reality I am fighting something even more powerful: God. When life throws fiery darts my way it is so hard to look toward the heavens and see the positive purpose of giving up one’s life even more than I already am to God. The sin in the flesh doesn’t want to and ops to fight for control anyway. Furthermore, in the middle of pain I am prone to question the validity and wisdom in God’s decisions for my life. I withdrawal into myself to protect myself from further disorientation and pain.

I have also tried to control (or manipulate) others around me which is an attempt to control my environment that had also gone awry. In an attempt to control my environment I end up manipulating others. Usually this is not intentional but rather an attempt to maintain what I believe is proper structure in life. Again, I am imposing myself in God’s roll and I am imposing myself on others and both are wrong. The manipulation of others is the end byproduct of trying to control my surroundings. What makes matters worse is I will then often take offense when people don't do what I believe they should have done which further deteriorates my relationship with them. I get frustrated and the people I am unintentionally trying to control end up feeling like objects. In particular they feel like puppets. I don't ever remember God making me feel this way so I should not be doing it to others either.

The Bible tells me that I am to do the opposite. I am to open my arms to God in faith and relinquish control over to Him, even if it means another punch in the teeth. I am not to treat others unfairly or manipulatively but to love and to serve them. This requires that I release control over my life to others to find out what they need done in theirs. This also requires that I allow them to tell me what to do. To allow God control over my life is to obey Him and let Him control. To love and to serve others means I have to give up my freedom to do what I want in my life so that I can do for them. I must actually turn control over to them too at least temporarily. Everything in my flesh screams at me to do the opposite. To run and hide. If I do not want to do for others I am being selfish, nothing more. It sort of ends up being a paradox.

So…when I feel impelled to control like many men (and women) are prone to do, I am being idolatrous, selfish and unloving…and so are you if you do the same. Sin compounded by layers of sin. Not such a great place to be in one’s walk with God. Come to think of it, if I had continued to do this there was a good chance I was not walking with God at all. If you are doing the same…neither are you. If I add anger (I did) to this because people are not doing what I want when I am trying to control them, I am just adding more sin to the mix. My sin then becomes manifold until it takes me over completely and spirals life totally out of control. I try to justify my anger by calling it frustration but it is still anger. This of course is the very opposite effect that I intended by attempting to control things. Instead of water on a fire, I toss on more gasoline which accelerates sin's destructive effects. God really does give me over to my sin at this point. What’s worse is the modern culture tells me that this is acceptable behavior (just like it does with anger, greed, sexual immorality, etc). You be in control of life! You have your best life now! Blah-blah-blah.

So what am I to do with this entrenched sin in my life? Guess we will need to unpack more in the next post…

[Continued in Next Post]

April 23, 2014

Deeds In The Weeds

I have to admit that I am disorientated at midlife. At 45 years old I’ve come to powerful personal and spiritual awareness and it is really messing with my interpretation of the world and myself. In the last five years I have begun to see myself having developed into a person I don’t always recognize. In some cases I have become stuck in certain ways and in others I have changed to be unrecognizable. Most of these changes have taken place unnoticed until now. Others have been purposely shaped and formed by sanctification through prayer, biblical study and spiritual persuasion.

In the past I had instinctively organized things into the little boxes that I carried around in my brain. Call it OCD, call it a need to control my life and surroundings. Whatever.  What I have found is that I have very little or no control over much of anything…especially my life’s circumstances. I have even less over other’s lives. This is where true awareness became evident to me about 6 years ago. These facts have pretty much rendered my categorizations and mental organizations useless. I guess my brain is too small. I had been so busy trying to keep up, pay bills to raise a family and do what I thought was required of me, I lost track of life. All of a sudden I was middle-aged and I realized I barely knew my wife, children or worst of all…Jesus Christ. I had depleted the secular fuel tank and I began to crash against the an invisible wall. I realize I had not correctly prioritized my life and the root of this disorder was that my moral core had been left to spin in a void without the guidance of the Bible or a relationship with God. Where I had been able to organize things I had found that the premise for my organization was flawed.

At some point I began to wise up and to see that my boxes or categorization were too little or too few in quantity. I had tried to make life simple and in doing so I had made my life chaos. I tried to squeeze my life and my family’s life into whatever box I felt like carrying at any given moment. Life doesn't fit in a box. I had misinterpreted actions by not only my friends but even my family. I wasn't driven and motivated I was selfish and narcissistic. I did things for me and not with the well-being of others. I was not biblical and that was my ultimate downfall. My life spiraled farther and farther into confusion and disorder until it all broke.

In doing these things I failed to see how important and influential my interpretive view and perception of life was. Life will always look like the groups and classifications that you bring to it. If I was too myopic in my outlook, my conclusions would be myopic and small too. How I act and what I do in any given situation would be determined by how I have organized my understanding of not only my surroundings but myself also. If I believe I am self-sufficient and am inherently a good person, I will not seek outside myself for help or fellowship with others. This of course is a recipe for disaster. In other words, in my old state, I would not have admitted I was a sinner in need of saving. Midlife forced me to take stock of my life and realize much of life just wasn’t adding up.

I had skipped like a stone over the top of my life without ever diving in more than a few inches. I had packed too much into my life to have spent any quality time on anything in particular. I had lived for just about everything and gain nothing but a depleted bank account and dysfunctional or damaged relationships. What made things worse was the culture told me I was right to pursue selfish desires even when I was dead wrong. Society tells us everyone’s opinions are truth even when they clearly cannot be. Therefore, not only are my measurements and categorizations for life inadequate…so are society’s. They are painfully insufficient and I learned this the hard way.

Crisis in midlife therefore is not only about our true identity is but it seems to expose weaknesses that have been there all along. I allowed them to tag along like a third wheel because they didn’t really hurt anything. The problem with this is that eventually, these problems did become exacerbated or come into sharper focus. Then they have to be dealt with and they are much larger than they should be. Compound this with a new acute awareness of one’s surroundings and BOOM, I had a monster in my life that could crush an 800lb gorilla to death. All these circumstances push towards dissatisfaction with life in general because things didn’t work out the way I had planned. Therein lies the problem. As a Christian, I am under the will of God, not my own.

So how do I turn this lumbering beast around?

The answer has already been hit upon in this post. God needed to be at the center of my life and decision-making. Not just in platitudes, but in the real deal. In my weaknesses that I have exposed or become aware of at midlife, I was strong. How? My weakness is where God can begin to shine through into my life. We see the same thing in Paul’s thorn in the flesh. In Paul’s inadequacies (and ours), we gain the most spiritual strength because this is where God’s grace is the most profound.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ~ “…there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

It was as if I suddenly begin to look around and I didn’t like my life. More specifically, I looked around and I didn’t recognize my life. There are the ever-present and possible job problems, stress or frictions in relationships or marriage. The new acute awareness made me see things in ways that I never had before. At times I looked at my life and it seemed purposeless, routine, and dull. In the haste of chasing everyday chores and duties…things got lost. Once held values lost importance. Things became devalued…even important relationships. Had the Bible and a relationship with Christ been the highest priority, these things probably wouldn’t have happened. Even now with Christ and Scriptures at the center of my life I still struggle.


It is because even though I tell you now that they are at center, the truth is my sinful fallen state assures that they won’t be. This is why I pray and meditate constantly and always attempt to keep God at center. I realize that right now I am extremely vulnerable. If I do not keep a clear intense focus on Jesus at this point in my life… I will miss the mark completely and probably permanently. This ironically…is the exact definition of sin. The word ἁμαρτία/hamartia or sin in the Bible literally means: “To miss the mark”. It is loss of reward for not hitting the target.

What target? The target is God’s standards which I have clearly mentioned above. Holiness. What reward? The reward is an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. The reward is Christ Himself, heaven is secondary believe it or not. The Kingdom is a by-product of our relationship with The King not vice-versa. I will not find contentment in Heaven, I find contentment in Jesus/God Himself. Why? Because I was created by Him for that exact purpose and it brings glory to the Godhead. He doesn’t need me, I need Him and when I am in Him…I am complete…I will be content. This is one of the reasons people (including myself) are so adept at creating idols. We are made to be in relationship with God. When we don’t have a relationship with the real God or cannot because our sin interferes, we end up making one that can adapt to our sin. Our sin therefore makes our god and because it is rooted in sin…we die in it and because of it. Fake gods cannot save, they kill and condemn. Only the Living God can give life.

In the throes of godless dissatisfaction I experienced one of many symptoms like consistent boredom, restlessness, discontent, or disillusionment. The bottom line is that I was not happy with my life's narrative. The lives of others around me seemed much more interesting and attractive in ways that they have not before. This dissatisfaction was not necessarily about a particular thing but a general feeling of discontent.

My midlife struggles had very powerfully revealed the things of my heart like nothing ever had before. My interpretation of events in my life had shown me a failed theology and a theology that had not been applied. My theology was still abstract and subjective. I now had to apply what I actually believed to real life. In other words: I had to walk the walk and talk the talk, not just give lips service. I needed an applicable and functional theology, not an inapplicable and dysfunctional theology. I needed to match up what was in my heart to my actions. They were two completely different things and until I got them together and both aligned to God…it was like having two different personalities (imagine Romans 7 on adrenaline). I had found the discontinuity in life and needed to bridge the gap.

The things I said I had been living for had to become the things I said I had been living for. I had to really live a life for Jesus. I had to really become humble. I had to become meek. I had to allow myself to be wronged without retaliation. I had to be willing to truly die to self. I had to read my Bible every day. I had to pray as much as I said I was praying. I needed to sacrifice. I had to participate in discipleship, teaching, rebuking and do it all in love. Life was about to get serious and seriously hard. What I was to do and live out in my life had to reign in my heart.

I had to stop being bitter about the things I had perceived has having been taken away from me: Jobs, love, money, junk. I also had to not be angry about the unwanted things that had been given to me: Deaths in my family, debt, poor health, pain. I had to get over the fact that things had been forcefully been taken out of my hands right at the time I believed I should be hitting my stride in career, marriage and parenthood. God unraveled it all to show me that He was in charge and until I relinquished any possible ownership of it…a life would not be given back to me. I had found that if I was faithful in the small things I would be given larger things to handle for His Kingdom. Having taken everything that was my life from me at middle-age, God was showing me I was not even capable of handling the things common to most all middle-age men. Humbling and educational at the same time.

When I did things not empowered of by God, my actions were based in my will, not his. I therefore shot a quiver full of arrows in the form of deeds into the weeds that had overgrown my life. I missed God’s intent for me completely. This led ultimately to my discontent and dissatisfaction at midlife. I reached a point where I had swung wide of the mark for half of my life and as a creature of God, I innately sensed that I was not doing what I had been created for. This then triggered a series of events that steered me back to target. Had this not happened I would’ve spiraled off into oblivion and death. It was time to take a mower to the weeds to make things easier to see and to clear the debris from life that didn’t need to be there. God in, junk out.

So now God has begun the rebuilding process and it is slow and in His time. This is a painful process too since I am impatient. This is probably because He is trying to adapt His education process to His student: me. I’m a little slow on the uptake. What else could you say of a man that has been drummed over the head for four decades for the relational basics to begin to take hold in my mind and behavior?

I have now found my lost identity and a little bit of meaning and purpose. It begins with the fact that I am a child of God. What I can no longer afford to do is react without thinking. Reflexive and knee-jerk reactions are what got me into the mess I spoke of. Reactive responses may seem logical, but they were only the twisted logic of hidden sinful desire. I was actually trapped in the turnaround of the thoughts and motives of his heart that were devoid of God. I need to be reflective now, not reactive. I had to think before speaking. I had to mediate on God before action. So this is what I chose to do and most times it works. Sometimes, but not always. It is an ongoing process. It is sanctification in Christ.

The Bible can no longer be functionally sidelined in my life when I struggle. It is a recipe for doom. I must cling to God in times of loss and failure. Sometimes, that is the only way through the destruction of what life can become. If Scripture is functionally sidelined, I begin to lose my identity, ethics, mission, and values. At that point…I am the devil’s plaything. This is just not acceptable for me as a Christian.

April 20, 2014

Raised The Third Day In Accordance With Scripture

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." ~1 Corinthians 15:3-11

Multiple Attestations 

If a God-man had died and was buried for a sustained period of three (3) days and then rose and appeared to people we should then expect to see and hear from those people that witnessed the death and resurrection, attesting to this fact. In the case of the Bible we see this exact thing. Not only are there multiple attestation where are multiple early attestations (within a decade through oral/aural tradition). For nearly two months after His Resurrection we see many people vouch for the fact they had seen the Risen Lord. In the Gospels we see the woman including Mary Magdalene were first in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16 & Luke 24. The disciples in the road to Emmaus also had an encounter but realized it after the fact. Jesus appeared in a Resurrection body to the ten disciples in the Upper room. We also see individual appearances to Peter and James. We also see Jesus show up as the disciples are fishing and then they subsequently eat the fish Jesus is cooking. We also know from Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:6-7 that Jesus also appeared to more than 500. He even appears to Paul last of all on the Road to Damascus.


The idea of a Suffering Servant King that would die as the Son of God or Messiah to overcome the world was so far outside the Jewish understanding of what their Messiah would be it made the idea dissimilar. The Jewish cultural and religious understanding was so different or opposed to this understanding it appeared contradictory. Therefore Christ and His Resurrection were an unacceptable outcome. Yet this is exactly what we see happen in the New Testament. Except in a few cases like that of the Disciples and early adherents of the Faith, the precursor religion (Judaism) that led up to Jesus and His resurrection and those within it completely failed to recognize Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

On the flip side we see the resultant belief system of Christianity. A band of tightly knit misfits ostracized by society and persecuted for their oddball beliefs. Beliefs that they held so tightly to that they went to tortuous deaths and their graves refusing to recant their belief of a religious leader that rose from the dead. These tightly held beliefs then become the core doctrine of the belief system that lasts until today that tells us to be distinct from the evil of the world system but to continue to engage it to spread the Gospel (of a man dead, buried and resurrected) even at the risk of persecution. 

What is even more profound is the fact that the first testimony of the first witnesses came from women-the Mary's. Women, who in Jewish society, were not viewed as being credible witnesses in a court, therefore the equivalent of slaves in society in terms of being suitable witness by the world's standards. But God in His infinite wisdom saw fit to first reveal Himself to the women of this new sect called Christianity and thereby immediately distinguish the importance of women's witness and therefore worth. This further creates dissimilarity from the Jews. Having women be the first to the tomb to bear witness is a completely unorthodox method to perpetuate and spread a new faith in a Jewish culture...yet the faith spreads like wildfire based on these first eyewitness accounts from women.


Nothing about Jesus death, burial or resurrection is immune from awkwardness and humiliation. A proclaimed King scourged and crucified naked on a cross by His own people. King of a Roman backwater called Jerusalem. Jesus goes through a miscarriage of justice that amounts to nothing more than a state sanctioned murder. During His crucifixion He is beaten to within inches of His life and mocked mercilessly and finally dubbed King of the Jews on a placard hung on His cross with Him. Even this placard mocking Him incenses the Jews and they want it removed. This supposed criminal named Jesus is so dirt-poor He has no grave or burial chamber to His name so one is donated by a recent convert named Joseph of Arimathea. Ironically, his is the known foundation for a faith that will, over a few hundred years pretty much take over the known world. The probability of these events happening are so far outside the bounds of reality as to be impossible…yet it happens and it happens quickly as if according to plan.

Context & Expectation 

This Jewish criterion for the Messiah and the Resurrection is similar to the idea of dissimilarity. The expectation from the Jews and the Jewish culture is that their Messiah would be a conquering King that would free them from the subjugation and oppression of Roman rule in a literal earthly sense. In a metaphoric way, Jesus did just that. Furthermore, in the context of time and over the long-haul of history, what Jesus did on the Cross inevitably accomplishes exactly what the Jews expected their Messiah would do…although not in their lifetimes. Instead of a conquering king on a war stallion we see a suffering servant on a donkey’s colt. Instead of the ushering in of an earthly Jewish kingdom we see the ushering in at least in part of the Kingdom of God spiritually.With such an uphill struggle to found a faith it is amazing that it would succeed with all these blots and smears against it.

Semitic Traces & Hints 

There are Semitic traces/remnants or Aramaisms which are words, phrases, idioms, or other characteristics of the Aramaic language occurring in the Bible which is written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. These Aramaisms are maintained regardless of the translation language. We see them in many places. Some familiar ones are "Abba"/Father, "Eli Eli lema sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 5:41’s, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise.”, Mark 7:34’s, “Ephphatha," which is 'be opened' and John 20:16’s, “Rabboni" which is to say, "Master". All of these Aramaisms point consistently to a Jewish or Semitic tradition even though a majority of the Jews at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion deny Him. Something more is going on here though. The Christian belief that Jesus was raised from the dead could not be account for by Jewish belief systems because Jews saw the Messiah more as an Elijah figure that would be “translated” bodily to Heaven, not resurrected in the way He was. Pagan beliefs comparatively are even more spurious with their pantheon of capricious gods. Nor could these claims of resurrection be a claim of Christian theology or doctrine at this point because “Christianity” as we understand it did exist at the point of the Resurrection. The only thing that exists immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus is the belief of the Disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead based on the fact they were/are eyewitnesses. 


We see a profound effect on individuals that were either not on Jesus’ side during His life like James or were actively persecuting the brethren like Paul. As a matter of fact the effect the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ was so profound that when people today have a dramatic unexpected conversion to Christianity that dramatic conversion is oft referred to as a Damascus Road experience. We see hundreds of people willing to risk persecution to spread the Good News. We also see conversions en masse in the book of Acts and since the first days of Christianity we see a continual and often remarkable change of people from the inside which is the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It is the work of Christ in people’s hearts. All of this based on testimonies of a small handful of original believers

Principles of Embellishment

This is the idea that later embellished accounts arise because of an inability to defend the Resurrection without later embellished. There is also the problem of trying to rationalize and backup and overly complex scenario to justify and tell the story repeatedly with known embellishments or lies layered on top of an already hard to believe story of a man that’s resurrected in a Resurrection body after three days in a tomb. Compound this with the fact that Jesus came as a form of King that His own people rejected and even fewer understood even after His Resurrection (i.e.: Road to Emmaus)


Christians have some pretty substantial and impressive evidences in the form of the historicity of an empty tomb, a resurrected God-man Jesus and many appearances. This is further validated by consistent and coherent accounts of Jesus appearances, further accounts later by Paul. The Scripture backs up the accounts in many places without contradicting itself. The entire story regardless of what angle it is approached from whether it be from Paul back to Christ or from Christ ahead to Paul’s explanations stay consistent and coherent. They do not come off like the ramblings of madmen. As we would say today, the story "gels".

Historical Congruence 

We see a consistency between the 1st century’s cultural milieu and the writings of the Gospel and New Testament accounts. Many of the idioms, practices and social mores recorded in the text of Scripture are consistent with what we know about the times Jesus lived in, died in and the time immediately thereafter. It is within this body of facts that we can examine and then support of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. Based on the information provided in the Gospel accounts we also have multiple fronts in which we can defend the truth of the Resurrection. Of course we can never be absolutely certain of the things we believe in the Faith because it is by faith that we gain the reward of eternal life through the atonement of the Resurrection. If it were a known fact our methodology for our salvation is blown asunder. We must be satisfied to accept these facts in faith as this is God’s requirement for us. The surprising thing is that these pieces of information that we can glean from Scripture are pretty close to fact anyway. Close enough for most believers to be comfortable that is.


The most profound arguments against Jesus’ Resurrection are put forward by people with what? Doubt…the very antithesis of faith. Because of doubt & lack of faith ideas more implausible than the raising of a man from the dead are advocated by those that are enemies and mockers of the Cross. Faith …the very thing we are called by God to use to believe in the Resurrection. At the core of peoples unbelief is a failure of obedience and lack of faith, not a lack of evidence and experiences in the Bible. Ironically, the best defense of the Resurrection is based in the experiences/evidences God allowed first. The most profound evidences of the Resurrection are eyewitnesses, events and their documentation in the Scripture seen through eyes of faith by people of faith. It defies all explanation...yet it is true, it defies all human rational, yet it is revealed as the righteousness of God. Why? Because it pleased God to do so, that's why! The fact is, Christianity succeeds in spite of the insurmountable roadblocks set before it.

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Happy Risen Christ Day!

April 18, 2014

Avoiding The Flashpoint II: Self-Immolation or Salvation?

I find in instances where anger and frustration are about to rear their ugly heads, I need to learn to breathe in these situations. I need to learn to breathe in and blow out the kindled anger within me that has been lit. If I dwell on it or circle it mentally it turns into a fire tornado or fiery whirlwind that spins out of control and damages things that it touches. It doesn’t always work out this way but my head has to at least be in the right place to get a positive outcome.

I need to learn how to be wronged in a meek or humbling manner and learn to walk away even if I feel I've been slighted because sometimes it is just my perception of what has happened. Others may have meant no offense. Yet the sinful man in me resists and a spark is struck. So I pray right then and there hoping to alleviate the sin before it reaches flash-point and bursts into an earth-scorching flame and peppering firestorm. Sometimes...it feels as if, in my anger, I actually unleash some of the flames of Hell in my misappropriated  sinful emotion. I feel like an arsonist that catches himself on fire. I burn myself with my own sin. To continue and allow anger to reign in my life could be an indicator that I may be in jeopardy of Hell's flame anyway as a non-believer...

Enter long-suffering again which starts with a single step. It is the hardest to recognize and most difficult to implement. I need to practice restraint and do nothing. Yes, do nothing. This idea murders me every time. It is at this exact point, I fail. My will wishes to do otherwise and this is where the battle engages for me. I suppose this is where is engages for most men. I should be doing nothing other than turning away from myself. It is not my will I should be seeking in these instances, it is God’s. I must engage the God controlled portions of my mind or at least get out of God's way so that He can. I then will then have a much better chance to act biblically. It seems so simple until it comes time to actually implement this process. If I react instead of thinking, the first thing that comes out is usually incendiary or caustic. The end result is disaster every time. I sabotage my own life. 

Proverbs 15:1 ~ “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Far too often I am more interested in winning the argument rather than fixing or repairing relationships. I am more interested in burning things down to the ground in a viking's pillage and burn mentality rather than protecting them. So instead of praying, I argue and pick at subtleties. I nitpick things to death that I didn’t like rather than find the things I do like in another person. I continue to circle mentally around something I should have just let go of and dropped long ago. I am like a sinful satellite orbiting my own fiery orb of anger and resent. I should be finding other ways to dampen flames. I should be finding ways to build people up not finding ways to tear them down. If I do see flaws or shortcomings I should be graceful and willing to help when I can. To do any less is to be hateful.

The times I have been able to do this (which are few and far between), I have only been able to do this with God’s help. I am just incapable of doing this alone. Fire is dangerous unless regulated or contained so I try desperately to submit to God (but usually fail). Impatience is just another name for a short fuse or short temper. Good intentions are great but if the heat rises too fast for me to be able to adapt to it, I am in a precarious situation and at high risk of a flash-over which is when the emotion escalates so quickly that anger discharges so fast that I don’t even have time to properly prepare. This is sin pure and simple. So what do I do? I need an emergency plan in these situations. I need to have an emergency exit with a panic bar close at hand. I need to have a plan long in advance so not to ever get into the situation where I am cornered by fire. 

Sometimes it feels like self-immolation. It feels like I burn down my own life.

This is where the whole concept of long-suffering come full-circle. I should’ve never gotten this close to flash-point. I should’ve diluted the flammable mix to make it less combustible. I must become flame-resistant. I must be impregnated with flame retardant. What is the flame retardant and where is it found? Ironically He is portrayed in the Bible as a flame when it descends upon the Apostles and disciple at Pentecost. I am speaking of the Holy Spirit...Jesus...God. As I said before, the Fruits of the Spirit work together to bolster and strengthen one another. If I wish to be impervious to outbursts of anger I must also be kind, faithful to God and have self-control. There must be love, joy, peace, and gentleness in my life. I have found when these are missing so is God in my personal life. I am severely off kilter. As soon as one of these things goes AWOL from my life I should be scrambling looking for where it went and why.

Part of maintaining these fruits stems from good godly interpersonal relationships. The first and most important relationship is the one I have with God. Without this relationship there is no Holy Spirit in my life and my sin attempts to squeeze him out of my life. Without this primary pivotal relationship, all other relationships in my life will suffer. It is like being cut from the vine if this relationship is not in my life. When cut from the vine…I wither and die as do all my other relationships…even my marriage. I will produce no fruit if severed from the Vine. I will die if cut from the source of my sustenance...if cut from the source of my life. 

To be a true Christian and true son of God I must be led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).

The Epistle of Colossians and Ephesians go into even more detail about a person truly guided by the Holy Spirit. The character of the new person in Christ (the elect) are to…

“…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” Colossians 3:12-13

Ephesians 4:1-3 ~ “worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So hear me when I make this next statement...our anger and outbursts are not solely our problem. They are the problem of my brethren too. We are to “bear with one another in love”. I need seek out my brethren to help me fight some of my battles with sin. Church is community. Church is Kingdom. God never expected me to be a one man army and mercenary in my own solitary war with temptation and Satan. No, we are to be in the unity of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Yes, I will be held accountable for my own actions but God has given me the Body of the Church to help me out when it comes time to battle some of the fires in my life. 

If there is no one in your church willing to help you, you’re in the wrong church. If you are not willing to go for help when it is obvious you need it…you are too proud or not Christian at all. The bottom-line is this…get help if you need it because it should be available to you in the true Body of Christ. This push to seek the help of others does not divest the angry man of the need to pray fervently with God and build a fireproof relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship so flame-retardant that it will withstand the infernal flames of Hell when Satan launches an all-out frontal attack on you.

So the last question I must ask is this? How does all of this play into the big picture? Where does eternity and eternal life fit into all of this? Well obviously it is as simple as those indwelt with the Holy Spirit are saved since the Spirit is down payment or a seal on a believer’s salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).

In this life…I am going to suffer. I will often need to wait for long periods of time or indefinite periods for things. Sometimes these waits and stretches of time will be extraordinarily painful and seem impossible to endure and that is exactly the point: They are impossible by my own will and works. The great thing is that they are not impossible to endure with God. Through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

The relationships we have with others will often be the source of waiting. The waiting for others will be a test of my patience and an opportunity to build patience. Many will fail as I often do. We will need to wait on God’s timing. This requires that we understand our timing is not God’s timing but God’s timing is perfect in accordance with His perfect will and perfect plans. For me, the problem is that I want all my problems solved right now. I want things perfect…right now. I have now learned that this is usually not God’s plan for me and nor will it be for you.

So hear comes the big ironic punchline. Our long-suffering, patience and trust that things will go well…start in the beginning with faith/trust in God and His plans. A trust in God’s sovereignty. A believer will have no ability to suffer over the long haul without a hope that there will be a reprieve or end to the suffering. It is a trust that God will make it worth it in the end that allows us to endure. If we believe in a just and righteous God…He will. Is this the God you believe in or is it some other god?

He will ultimately return in His second coming. More immediately for each Christian He offers individual salvation and blessing to those who obey Him now. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). The word endure in Matthew 10:22 is ὑπομείνας /hupomeinas or under remaining. At the heart of hupomeinas is the idea that we are to endure and the person enduring has to see the tribulation they are going through to its meaningful end. The inclusion of the word οὗτος /this one (he that endures) in this clause points out both the absolute necessity of endurance and the certainty of blessing to him who will endure.  In other words…there is blessing in the end for those who persevere through tribulation…for those who are long-suffering and maintain their obedience to God. For those that do not explode in wrath and unjustified anger!

Lastly, James tells us repeatedly to be patient for different things. 

James 5:7-8 ~ “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

He tells us to be patient for the return of the Lord which is both a spiritual and physical thing. He then mentions the farmer with his crops and the rain which is purely and earthly physical thing dictated by the sovereign plans of God. He tells his readers to be patient by strengthening their heart because the coming of the Lord is near. What does he mean? James is referring here to those that have been unjustly oppressed (mostly by the rich in this context). He is talking to those that have been wronged or suffered (in some cases for a long time). Those that have been long-suffering have reason to be patient because God will be the a judge and the wrath itself towards the wrongdoers and He is the reward for those that have suffered. Salvation folks, salvation!

In the end I must trust that God will set things right. In the end God will restore all things. If I trust, the long-suffering won’t be endless, only temporary. As I can see from the word long-suffering itself, it says long…not endless. It is my reward at the end of my perseverance that is to be endless...or my punishment will be endless for not believing. 

What do you believe?

April 14, 2014

Avoiding The Flashpoint I: Don't Add Fuel To the Fire

Welcome to Pain In Truth, Inc. Just as other posts in the past have torn me up and exposed my wretchedness and sin...so too this one. As I did this study, it hurt. As I did this study I was plagued with guilt. It was a painful introspective look at myself that I’d rather not have made. But God has forced me into many uncomfortable situations in the past and He seems to be continuing more of the same by marching me through the mire of my own sinful life. I was forced to look at my own sin in detail and in the end I realize I need to repent of it...continually.

Writing this I realize that I am guilty of not doing what I write here and that is exactly why I write. I am also guilty of doing some of these things that I should not be doing. It is a biblical study to improve myself first and foremost. To say this sin has been conquered in my life would be a lie and the utmost in Christian hypocrisy. To say this sin is still conquering me might be a more accurate statement. The only thing that leads me to believe otherwise is that the Bible says that sin will no longer have victory over me if I am a true Christian. So every day I battle my sin and attempt to reckon myself dead to it. I attempt through prayer and Holy Spirit bolstered restraint, to not let sin reign in my body and life. Every day I try to present myself to God as a usable instrument to further His glory. Every day I try...and every day I fail again.

So as you read temper your thoughts with this presupposition. You as reader should also consider you might be guilty also. Perhaps not with the same sin as I but a sin just the same. As a point of brutal honesty I must admit that I have often put others through long-suffering with my sinful and fallen antics. One needs only talk to my wife. It has only been through the help of the Holy Spirit that I have been able to gradually work through longstanding problems and attempt to dislodge entrenched sin to get it out of my life. It is clearly an ongoing battle that some days…just gets the better of me and kicks my rear end.

Long-suffering is such a strange and archaic word. It is no longer an everyday word. It has dropped dramatically from use and has been replaced in most modern Bible translations with the word patience. I believe it is because we are an impatient and disposable society. We want things now and we constantly want them new. Long-suffering is another word for long patience and is a virtue needed more than ever when impatience, intolerance, over-sensitivity, political correctness and rash anger has become so prevalent. We live in an age where anger that can escalate to violence and destruction if left unabated. Anger is rarely righteous anger as much as we try to fool ourselves that it is. Most anger is just a manifestation of our sinful selfish nature.

Galatians 5:22-23 ~ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (NKJV).

When we look at the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians they are listed as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The reason Paul groups these together is because they work together. Long-suffering in the Greek is μακροθυμία / makrothumia. This is a compound word made of μακρο/makro or macro meaning long, large or broad and θυμία/thumia meaning to burn slowly as if to produce smoke. In other words it is a low burning fire that is not prone to burst into raging flame or in the case of our context…an anger that is not impulsive and easy to explode and pepper everyone in earshot. In short it is a perfect illustration of long-suffering.

We are therefore not prone to spiral to high temperatures quickly or become ill-tempered. We are not of aggressive temperament. We are slow to burst into full-blown anger. We don’t blow-up or snap-out on people for trivialities. Understanding this I quickly arrive at the conclusion that my anger is not justified. There is no place in a Christian’s life for explosive and corrosive anger. I am mortified (as are many men) that I often battle with this emotion. As a matter of fact, Paul was abundantly clear that explosive anger is a no-no in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:20 ~ “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, back-biting, whisperings, conceits, tumults…”

Let’s face it, we men overreact. I certainly do. When we think we’ve been wronged we are quick to become defensive. Once a comment or remark is viewed as malicious or snide we are often on the defensive and prepared to strike back verbally to defend our "honor".

If you are like me, I carried a lot of inner anger from my past into my walk with Christ and there was no room for it here. Every small hurt or grudge that I didn't forgive added to a warehouse of anger I was keeping stockpiled unawares. The slightest frustration or irritation eventually started bringing that anger to the surface and into the open. This erosion of patience snowballs until the anger is no longer restrained and is left on full display all the time. Once anger trips over into the open, it is the nature of anger to exhaust itself before it stops. Eventually there was a cliff event or moment where I turned openly bitter and this just had to go, even if it meant getting help from others. Anger is a choice. Anger is usually always a sinful choice. God forbids retaliation and revenge. We are not to repay evil with evil.

Romans 12:17-19 ~”Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord

The Bible is absolutely clear, we are to forgive. We must forgive or we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).

Hardly anyone will admit they hate other people for something even though they are probably doing it on a daily basis (maybe even right now). Hate (lack of love) takes on many forms. It is rare someone does not at least detest someone else at any given moment. To not love is hate pure and simple. To not love is to not have forgiven. Therefore the one you have not forgiven...you are hating...period...end of sentence. In this situation you have pitted yourself against God...and you will lose. True love suffers long and kind. Anything less…well, it is hate. I’m guilty, I admit it. This is why I need Christ and I recognize this fact. What is worse is that I am guilty every day. So then I need Christ anew...every single day. Perhaps not in an extreme way everyday...but guilty none the less on all days. Sin is still sin no matter what window dressing we attempt to put on it. We're all guilty of sin and that window to the soul is a broken pane of glass just waiting to cut us every which way to Sunday and cause us pain. Don't let it!

Love on the other hand suffers. It will continue to suffer too. It gives love and expects none in return. It is often the case that love is indeed not reciprocated. I've been on both ends of this and both ends stink to high Heaven in God's nostrils. True love will continue to love even when none is given back. We see this in God’s love towards sinners and the sacrificial love of true Christianity when it is displayed properly. Just like it was displayed on the Cross.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ~ “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…

Often I wonder if what I feel for others is really love. These are stiff and uncompromising demands of love and they really aren’t even demands. These things should flow naturally from the heart that loves and I find that they often do not come from my sinful and fallen heart. Does this come from within you towards the people you claim to love and say you love?

Why does it matter? It matters because our thoughts precede our actions. Where the mind leads, the body follows. If there is no kindness in our hearts towards another person…there will be no love either. The good doctor Luke cites a statement from Jesus when he writes the following in his Gospel.

Luke 6:45 ~ “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It therefore makes it imperative that we examine ourselves with a fine-tooth comb and be critical of, or suspect of any thought towards another person that is not in some way bringing glory to God. Are my thoughts and actions motivated by respect and honor for another person? Am I being compassionate and understanding or impatient and intolerant? I find myself far too often on the wrong side of this question even with some people in my own family. If my motivations find their source in resentment, intolerance or bitterness…rest assured, Satan is close by snickering with festering yellow teeth and wringing his gnarled hands together. He and his minions know their job of destruction and chaos is in play at that moment. They need only feed and fan the flame until it is a complete conflagration.

I must be slow to burst into flame. I must more readily forgive. I must be full of grace and mercy and devoid of unkindness and spite. If I begin to lack the fruits of the Spirit in one form or another...I am probably beginning to lack the Spirit Himself.

Brother James was even more concise and to the point. James minced no words.

James 1:19 ~ “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”

Yet...I continue to struggle to believe I am being wronged on nearly a daily basis. I realize that I value myself too greatly if I believe I deserve any respect whatsoever. To believe I should be treated better by others assumes I have some intrinsic value. The only value I really have is what God gives me. I should probably humble myself most times and remain silent. Except when God Himself is being maligned or dishonored I generally have no reason to escalate to indignant anger. Even then…God is capable of defending Himself and defending the honor of His own name. Perhaps sometimes that defense of apologetic could be through me…but it isn’t like He really needs me to verbally duke it out with an atheist or a pagan. God’s arms are long enough to KO anyone or anything. Man’s arms are too short to box with God.

So what I find in hindsight is my anger directed towards others even in the form of frustration is never justified….ever. I must avoid the satanic accelerants. I should respond with alarm to my ire being raised out of control and extinguish the source of said anger or irritation. I must avoid combustible situations whenever possible and not start lighting matches and making incendiary comments.

Solomon knew these things and wished to pass on what he knew in his God-given wisdom.

Proverbs 14:29~“He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”

Proverbs 15:18~“A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.”

Proverbs 19:11~ “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.

So what do I do with this knowledge now that I have it? Guess I’ll have to write another post about it.

[The sad addendum to this post is that I failed again today three days after writing it. Sin stinks and can be nearly impossible to remove from one's life]

{Continued in Next Post}

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...