The Gospel in Genesis (Bible Coincidences)

A non-believer would have to care enough about the study of the word of God to affirm there are indeed “coincidences” before he or she would have to deal with them intellectually. While it is true that some higher critics do this on a small scale, it is my opinion that there are so many so-called “coincidences” that seem to align perfectly throughout biblical history, that it becomes quite clear that the word could not have come about by accident, or fable, or from the simple imaginings of an ancient people. Sadly though, most who want the bible to be false will not take the time to consider its treasures.

For one looking for the truth of God, the NT instructs them to knock, to seek, to ask;

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7),

and in doing these things, one may indeed find faith-building evidences in the text, and in our human history that verify what the bible has stated all along. If a student were to come across such a serendipitous realization, that person would have to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there, dismiss it as coincidence, convince themselves it is a fabrication, or accept that it verifies the truth of the word, the promises of God, and actualizes His will. Easy enough to pick the first three reactions when one, or even two things are happened upon, but with hundreds of prophecies, and collaborative archaeology, it of course becomes increasingly harder to hope that it all means nothing.

As stated, there are hundreds of things we could allude to, but I thought I would share one of my favorites:

Adam Seth Enosh Kenan Mahalalel Jared Enoch Methuselah Lamech Noah.

These are the first ten names in the long line of names leading to Christ. The Bible actually tracks the lineage from Adam all the way to Jesus, the Messiah. The line of redemption, if you will. At first glance they appear like boring lists that no one reads; so and so begat so and so, and lived this many years and he died, and on down the list it goes. Adam begat Seth. Seth begat Enosh. And so on. Each of the lists is what we call a toledoth, which states a group of generations. Genesis consists of ten toledoths, but this one is the first ten men that make up the line of Christ. Here is the text from Genesis 5:

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father[b] of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16 After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah[c] and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.”

As it turns out, these ancient, but seemingly innocuous names are no accident, and are very special. But no one can explain how this happened, for each name actually has a meaning in ancient Hebrew. They were of course named by men, in their free will, and according to their wishes. So, how then could the names mean anything collectively? The meanings are as follows:

Adam           man

Seth              appointed

Enosh           frail or mortal

Kenan           sorrow

Mahalalel     blessed God

Jared              shall come down

Enoch             teaching

Methuselah   his death shall bring

Lamech          the despairing

Noah               rest or comfort

A non-believer must now ask this – how did the Christian gospel message get presented in the the first toledoth? Do you see it?

“Man is appointed mortal sorrow; but the Blessed God shall come down teaching that His death shall bring the despairing rest.”

You will never convince me that Jewish authors conspired to hide the message of the Christian gospel right there within the Torah.

 

Old Earth Christians

From Prior article on SES National Conference on Christian Apologetics: “…and of a most interesting conflict among the scholars was of course young verses old earth opinions. I may do a follow up article on that, as it was quite unique the way scholars who believe in the big bang theory have to explain themselves under the paradigm of a creator. They certainly have rebuttals and evidences all neatly decided upon, however, to me (though I am no astrophysicist), these explanations fall very short, and completely contradict what we find in God’s word. You can play interpretation games all day long, but as Ken Ham said quite correctly at the conference, you do not get the idea of millions of years from a simple reading of bible. It is a man-made worldview, which must then be shoehorned into the text to make it seem to fit.”

Two  apologists whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and hearing speak, are both adamantly resigned to the “facts” of the Big Bang, and therefore are forced to explain the creation in a seemingly convoluted way, in my opinion. Dr. Hugh Ross, one such apologist, an author of many books, including Improbable Planet, is a proponent of a version of the Day-Age theory, whereas billions of years of prep and design happened during the overlapping “days” of creation. It is impossible to reconcile a plain reading of the bible text as a whole, and not be at the very least, inconsistent in understanding it when you try to force man’s world view into it. Though some of these old-earth Christians are learned scholars, have advanced degrees, and are smarter than I am, (I realize this puts me in precarious waters, though I’d also point out I met many doctors and scientists with my shared opinion as well), they also simultaneously  deny macro-evolution, Darwinism, and abiogenesis. (These processes, if given any serious thought without the philosophy of naturalism, have way too many holes to be viable, so much so that even the great atheists of our day are forced to kick the can of responsibility down the road.) This means they have to somehow imagine a scenario where God lays the groundwork of creation in stages, or steps, leading up to the existence of man, and during the great lengths of time, He must intervene intermittently in order to spur along the groundwork for mankind’s arrival at some later date.

This certainly conjures up many important questions about God, His infinite power and abilities, and why such a lengthy, slow, and clumsy process would be utilized. As stated, the bible certainly doesn’t even imply this process, and we have stated a “good” world in the beginning that stands as an example of what should have been, and that we will one day be redeemed to. This supposed history that led to our “good” and perfect Eden was apparently arrived at through, chaotic volcanoes, cosmic explosions, millions of years of death, carnage, flooding, cancer, thorns, and suffering. Not exactly a lion laying with the lamb scenario.

The problem is exacerbated when a Christian spends some time studying the actual history of evolution theory, Charles Lyell and his hate for God, how Chalmers reacted to save face for the church, and how over the years, coming up with naturalistic causes for creation and design has allowed for man to use theory in order to assert his own godhood, and how these theories have slowly become axiomatic facts that should not be questioned. (For an amazing book on that subject, read In the Minds of Men, by Ian Taylor.)

Bottom line is, I am not necessarily smart enough to argue with a doctor of astrophysics, and I’d point out that when I read his book, I can see not only his love of God, and Christ, but also his extensive knowledge about astrophysics. But it is obvious that all of his conclusions are based on the presupposition that the Big Bang is true, and that the days of creation are overlapping eras; a problematic position when one considers the importance of resting on the sabbath in the Old Testament, a particular day to honor God, not a roving, malleable representation of His glorious work (imagine an OT Hebrew resting on the 5th and 6th overlapping days in order to work on the seventh as a representation of creation week). So, if the Big Bang is true, then……

(for example) …. if it is true then we explain the collision that created the moon this way, its craters were formed this way, and Mars must be this size, and Jupiter must have formed first in our solar system, and the asteroid belt must have… etc etc, all based on computer models. One model states that there is, based on star observation, a conclusion that the Milky Way tilts up and down every 66 million years, and that the edges of this tilt are too full of radiation for mankind to live, so, of course it is ordained by God that we just happen to be in the center of this tilt process after billions of years at the exact time man arrives on the scene. A whole string of intelligent thoughts, conclusions and theories, based wholly on the fact that the group explaining it is dedicated to a Big Bang model creation. The easiest answer, from a seven day creationist standpoint is, this is where we were placed in the galaxy, and things can simply be observed moving.

Big Bang “proofs” are full of fudge factors, and faith based premises as well, and its problems are glossed over, and not addressed most times in speeches or books presented by Christians. The smoothness problem, dark matter theory, the horizon problem, all serve to discredit an already unscientific theory that challenges logic, laws of causality and energy. Ross even invokes the ridiculous Oort Cloud theory as if it were accepted fact, primarily because it needs to be in there to explain the Big Bang model, our comets, and our solar system, despite it being literally imagined (this passes for science in evolution theory). These issues are sufficient to make any Christian question this as the method in which God used to bring about mankind. But most damning to the theory is of course the bible itself, and how it clearly stands irreconcilable next to the theory, without presenting a myriad of verbal gymnastics, interpretation tricks, and imaginings.

… the earth was formed out of water and by water.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

The suggestion, therefore, is to once again, stick to the bible as authoritative, as always, in matters of history, and forensics, for as it has time and time again, despite thousands of years of criticism, it will prove true, and man’s hope that it will be proven false in its accuracy will continue to fail. If we do this, we are less apt to look foolish in retrospect, even if our current contemporaries consider us foolish now. This was the case with many kings listed in its pages, ancient cities, civilizations, and scientific observations up to this point. It will continue to be the case moving forward.

God vs god

I welcome discussion on this, and look forward to thoughts, so please share, and invite people to like the page, and join the discussion:
I asked  fellow Christians about whether or not the God of the bible and the gods of other religious writings were the same, and got some scary answers, as if Americans got to heaven one way, and the Japanese another, and Islamic states another. The crux of the issue is, are other religious writings from God too? Let us take a look at the Quran as a comparable.
We launch from the pre-supposition that the bible is fact, and was inspired by a holy creator, and we look at the question logically. God cannot contradict himself or lie, and therefore another holy book that contradicts the bible cannot be inspired by the same God. We could do this with the Vedas or Buddhist writings easily, and no one would challenge that they are speaking of the same paradigm. But what about Islam? Some verses to consider:
Does the Quran agree with the bible that Christ is God in the flesh, the only son of God, a considerable doctrinal truth in Christianity to say the least.
Surah 4:171 – …The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son…
Surah 23:91 – No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!
Furthermore, where is it that Christ will spend eternity according to the Quran?
Surah 3:45 says – Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah
yet
Surah 21:98 says – Indeed, you [disbelievers] and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to [enter] it.
indicating that believers “and what (they) worship” will be firewood for hell, which would include worship of Jesus Christ.
Let us remember that Jesus was worshiped by the apostles as Lord, and
John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Col. 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Rev. 1:17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’”
Rev. 2:8, “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.”
John 8:24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NKJV)
John 8:58, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!”
Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
I would ask, with this disparity between the two works, would they both be written of the same God? would one so fully exalt Christ above all things, and the very same author deny His deity, position, omnipotence, and importance?
Whether you follow one school of thought or the other, that is your choice, but we must logically conclude that when it comes to what the author was trying to convey, the two are diametrically opposed. We also must conclude that since God cannot lie or contradict Himself, the Quran cannot contain the same god as the God found in the bible.
puts it this way, which I thought was a most logical and succinct way of viewing the entire issue:

Premise 1: Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not.

Premise 2: If the Bible is the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.

Premise 3: If the Bible is not the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.

Conclusion: Therefore, the Qur’an is not the Word of God.

For a link to his article explaining this in greater detail,  click here.
(For reference, here is a list of Quran Scriptures that affirm the bible:

Surah Al-E-Imran 3: “He has revealed to you the Book with the truth [i.e. the Qur’an], confirming what has been before it, and has sent down the Torah and the Injil.”

Surah An-Nisa 136: “O you who believe, do believe in Allah and His Messenger and in the Book He has revealed to His Messenger and in the Books He has revealed earlier. Whoever disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Last Day has indeed gone far astray.”

Surah An-Nisa 163: “Surely, We have revealed to you [i.e. Muhammad] as We have revealed to Nuh and to the prophets after him; and We have revealed to Ibrahim, Isma’il, Ishaq, Ya’qub and their children, and to Isa, Ayyub, Yunus, Harun, and Salaiman, and We have given Zabur [i.e. the psalms] to Dawud.”

Surah Al-Isra: “Your Lord knows best about all those in the heavens and the earth, and We have certainly granted excellence to some prophets over some others, and We gave Dawud the Zabur (the Psalms). Say, “Call those who you assume (to be gods), besides Him, while they have no power to remove distress from you, nor to change it.”“

Surah Al-Anbiya: “And We have written in Zabur (Psalms) after the advice that the land will be inherited by My righteous slaves.”

The Qur’an  also assert that the prophet Muhammad is prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments, although he is never mentioned. Consider the following verses:

Surah Al-Araf 157: “Those who follow the Messenger, the Ummiyy (unlettered) prophet whom they find written with them in the Torah and the Injil and who bids the what is fair and forbids what is unfair, and makes lawful for the good things, and makes unlawful for the impure things, and relieves them of their burden, and of the shackles that were upon them. So, those who believe in him and support him, and help him and follow the light sent down with him, those are the ones who are successful.”

Surah As-Saff 6: Remember when Isa, son of Maryam, said, “O children of Isra’il, I am a messenger of Allah sent towards you, confirming the Torah that is (sent down) before me, and giving you the good news of a messenger who will come after me, whose name will be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with manifest signs, they said, “This is a clear magic.”)

Renewal of My Mind

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

Living with joy is not always an easy endeavor, and yet, as a Christian, I know that my life is supposed to be a letter to others:  2 Corinthians 3:3 “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

This joy that Paul discusses over and over, and the reason he is able to praise God in even dire circumstances is due to the transcendent purpose of Christ in His life, and in the lives of those whom he cares for. This allows for a person’s heart to be filled with gladness, and love, and hope, even when all earthly pleasures have been stripped away. But our daily thoughts can be consumed by things we want, things we lack, people we are envious of, false idols, people or powers that stand above our love of Christ in our minds. So how do we renew our minds, and focus on the only thing that truly matters? (For why it is the only thing that matters, check out this blog from last year.)

I would state first that this is something I have not mastered, and am presently working on. My goal is to eventually live with the joy of Christ fully, and for my life to be a letter, a testament to that hope I have in Him. But putting away all the messy darkness must start with prayer, and there are several verses I pray and meditate on daily as I work towards keeping Jesus Christ as the transcendent purpose of my life:

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In regards to putting the past behind me, old idols, old hopes, old sadness, old worries, I use this: Philippians 3:13 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Him alone? Psalms 62:1 “For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

All those things we attempt to gain by our flesh, do we someday realize that God intends to give us these freely, if we but humble ourselves:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6

This is so powerful. This is freedom from all anxiety, all regret, all pain. I’ve tried to establish my life on my own, my heart on my own. I failed. All was impasse, what love I could muster was selfish, half measures, and insufficient to establish anyone, least of all myself and those I loved. I died there, at the dead end of my decisions, my will. Luckily the mighty hand of God is expert at resurrection. I am thankful for my failures, for there is nothing more humbling than the death of all the best efforts of my heart.

So… the question is, are we humble enough to be truly care-free? I ponder this, and how to walk forward with a renewed mind, singularly focused on the only source of lasting joy. I am free then, to love others as He would have me love others, under His power, and because He first loved me. I hope this is a renewal of my mind, for I need the will of God to replace my own. My own is flawed, and only hurts. I trust His far more.

The Power of Simplicity (abstract)

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing.

This idea of transcendent purpose has affected me as of late, a clinging to a purpose I can serve, one that is larger than the vanities of our day. King Solomon told us that “All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). If not but for God, it would seem that Solomon ended up a nihilist. He felt what we all feel eventually, that the toil of life mixed with the purposelessness found in the perfunctory grind of our daily action is the legacy of dead men walking.

We work diligently in thought and deed for great swaths of time towards goals we find give us a sense of relevance. These are different for all. Maybe you are saving the manatees. Perhaps you follow the political battles of Washington D.C., working hard each day to know and understand your platform, so you can defend it, prepared to forgive the trespasses on your side, and militantly oppose the other. You may march with signs. You may work towards a financial goal, or strive to build a business. Perhaps you pursue love, and escape in the delirium of intense desire. You build a world around a hope, an earthly hope that has no choice but to crumble under the weight of your expectations. No matter your interest, as it pulls you from ecstasy to the depths, and back again, any achievement or reciprocation received is short lived, and leads only to bitter unrest at the knowledge that any joy it brings will not endure.

Does this foreknowledge of failure make you negative? A pessimist? Being able to see the collapse of hope in the distance, and unable to stop it often makes us even more dedicated to our dream. It could even be stated that doubt and uncertainty are part of a recipe necessary for coveting that which we cannot live without. It is shocking the violence that takes place in the mind when our desires and fears mix. Compulsive daydreams infect how we perceive reality, and despite the real understanding that all will burn, along with the knowledge that we are helpless to stop it, we choose to run headlong towards an ecstatic finale we know is not there.

So then, what purpose transcends this inevitable disappointment? Further, what transcends our lives? Fame? Sex? Power? Glory? We would need a purpose that exists beyond our time here. One that makes us part of something much grander than our accomplishments. Robert Lewis wrote: “A transcendent cause must be truly heroic, timeless, and supremely meaningful.”

Upon reflection, there is only one thing in the universe that qualifies. That is Jesus Christ. And lo and behold, He has offered to make us a part of His transcendent story.

So these items we cherish, wine, love, money, they as blessings cause enjoyment in one who’s focus is on Christ. They are merely things He has placed in your path as you live and grow in sanctification. But, as idols, they take, and they keep taking, and no permanent  satisfaction will ever be attained from them. The idols like those I have sought to validate me, instead have devoured me, and refusing to admit they were there, it was to the depths I went. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3)

But to acknowledge this? How good I perceived myself as being versus how broken my actions had become? So twisted that God had to actually save loved ones from me? Deliver them from me, as I had become a catalyst for pain and lack of peace?  Who was this man I never meant to be? My heart desired what I dare not speak aloud, much less pray for. I coveted. I had false idols. I wished to steal (not just material things, but love, dignity, respect of others, time, freedom, for the most dire things stolen are not things at all). I am angry. I lust. This all means I bear false witness. A liar, especially to myself. One then who is blind to sins known since childhood, sins known to have been written by the very finger of God. What a pretty picture of a Christian.

And the result? Distance from God. Silence in prayer life. Anxiety. Inability to properly love others. Self-loathing. To be the clanging cymbal that has no love in his heart. Despair. And how much more, in these depths, did I rail against the world for my causes, or grasp harder for my purpose, my secular validation? Or, how much more did I escape, self-medicate, choose negligence, indifference. Has the man who militantly blames society for his pain examined his character?  Do the high ideals in the public square extend to his wife and kids? Does he bring the whole of himself home each night, as priest of it? Does he grab his wife’s hand and pray with her, or teach his son or daughter why the bible is true, or how to love? Does the daughter witness from him what she should expect out of a husband someday, or is this not a consideration the father should concern himself with? Can he put himself last and still hope for fulfillment when all the magic he desires is rationed to the fortunate unworthy standing in the wake of his life’s disintegration? Look in his eyes; he is simply not there.

Unfortunately, recognition of who we truly are must proceed change. When we all started this journey, we thought to ourselves, I will be this type of Christian, or this type of spouse, or this type of parent. My intentions are to be purposeful and knightly, and full of honor. But all is vanity; and distractions erode us; and idols fill us; and it isn’t long before we have forgotten how to love, because we have forgotten who loved us first.

The simplicity of life: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) The Alpha, the Omega, and your transcendent purpose. It need not be more complicated then this. All else, blessings to be enjoyed, or not.  In a world of distractions, and the great whirlwind of lives to compare and contrast yourself with, and the pressure of forcing idols to answer wishes for love and money, what if we take Christ at His word. What if it is enough? And in this power, as it allows you to love properly again, you live out the life you were meant to?

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. Starting at the center of myself, and working out. The parts I could control. I could be thankful for the music, and the steam, and be blessed to feel the satisfaction of a proper shave, and the calm in which this romantic chore took place. Like an artist who paints a leaf, there was beauty in the smallness of the moment, and I was “allowed” to be part of it. From here, what man would I chose to be? I could step out and complain about money, or Washington D.C., or be anxious for investment returns, or escape into a fantasy of love never actualized. Would these actions help me love others the way they needed to be loved? The way they deserve to be loved by me?

Or can I step outside the walls of my bathroom and be a different man; a simpler man, and not concentrate on the periphery of the world, but on my walk down the hallway, the embrace of my child, the prayer that my loved ones deserve, the health and wellness my body deserves, the study of scripture that my God deserves. I could ask God to teach me to love others better, and then make efforts to do that. Imagine it! Edifying others without seeking gain!

But I wanted them all to think I was smart, and special, and attractive. I wanted to be worth something to everyone.

But would my worth, according to them, change at all how I could love them, if I was loving them properly? Can I change that? No. I can change only me.

This will change my home. Which will change my church. Which may change my town. Which may change the state. Which may change the country. Which may change the world. But I leave this to God. I won’t yell at you about who you are supposed to be. I will do better at what I should have been doing. Overtime, perhaps I can be forgiven for having loved so badly, and so selfishly. But, it was coming from my flesh, not Christ, so it was bound to an inherently faulty foundation. If I can truly make Christ first, then how I see the world, how I love the world, everything changes. And everything is simplified into one transcendent purpose. Suddenly, I feel blessed just to be allowed to enjoy any of this silly old world at all.

Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Isaiah 49:4 – But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

And so, I was just shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. And I thanked God.

Dark Streak

Romans 7: 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

How many times have these verses been used to rationalize sin in a Christian’s life. For myself, the verse occurs to me all too often. I, panic-stricken, will scan the horizon of my journey for fruit of the spirit, and will quickly tally righteous action or heartfelt attempts at ministry to weigh against a hidden darkness. But when God shines the bright lights of holiness like a spotlight  upon the part of yourself you were unwilling to face, the part you refused to humble, the dark streak to which you held fast, it is shocking how paltry the offering of good works seems. As we have learned from Isaiah, these works are filthy rags, each one a complexity of self-serving, accolade seeking, pride boosting liabilities, that crumbles like dust in the searing light of holiness. What’s left is the desperate cry for grace.

A cry for grace, because you know you need it, and because you realize you’re not worthy of it, and you fear a God who may not give it.

A mentor has said, “If you don’t choose to humble yourself, God will choose to humble you.” So to scripture then, when God asked Pharaoh through Moses, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” Or how about 1 Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” But as Paul said in Romans, “But this evil I keep on doing…”

Every person struggles with sin, many struggle specifically with that one thing, that one thing they keep for themselves, that they won’t die to, that they fight to retain, that darkness that no one is allowed to see. But it will get comfortable to feed it, and it will be easier to ignore the expanding edges of that dark place, and it will seem sane to rationalize an unhealthy paradigm you’ve created for yourself. It will start to not matter that you have to lie to yourself every moment, and eventually you will grow to feel empowered by this thing. You think I jest? Tell me it doesn’t sound powerful to be in control of darkness, to navigate the perils of secrecy for just one more day, so that each titillating result was a pleasure earned, and a temple to your own desires you were able to  guard. You took back control, didn’t you? It felt good to immerse yourself in it, didn’t it? To push the boundaries of reality, and euphorically realize reality hasn’t stopped you? How could you not keep pushing?!

Your sin will hurt you, but what’s worse, it will diminish your relationship with God, and it will harm your testimony, sometimes beyond repair. In the midst of darkness, we can rationalize hurting ourselves, but soon the darkness will begin to hurt others, and that will be hard to watch. The fall out is typically preceded by warnings, but in the end, for a holy God, it is better to ruin your life and save your soul, then to gain your darkness and lose it. We see the verse in Matthew, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Hence the great light of Christ, the devastating blessing, the humbling exposure to holiness, the loss of all your power…

But you are not alone, and I am not alone, and so we turn back to God, damaged and free, humbled and grateful, with a fuller understanding of what grace means, and an appreciation for how it saves a wretch like me. We look back through biblical history and take comfort in how God used the broken to carry out His will. We pray thanks for a justification we don’t deserve, and hope that understanding makes us that much better at telling others about the good news.

As for me, I have a dark streak, it has always been there, and I don’t think it will ever go away, but I know that I am not alone. The solution is simple; just keep shining light on it. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

For I know the plans I have for you… or does He?

Do you know this one?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Of course you do! Favorite verse? Hanging on your wall? Grandma cross-sticked it in your throw pillow? Memorized for inspiration, and hope in your life? I have seen it often as of late, and I do agree, this verse will aid and inspire you greatly… if…. if what? if you are who he is talking to, more specifically the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon! (Jeremiah 29:1)

The bible does not actually have verses, and chapters. They are there as a quick reference. Jeremiah was not talking to you.

A rule of biblical interpretation: The bible cannot mean today what it didn’t mean when it was written, especially just because you want it to. Does God know your future? Yes. Is He omnipotent, and omnipresent? Yes. But He uses many things to accomplish His will, and furthermore does not necessarily impart welfare and goodness to all who believe in Him.

Quite the contrary, many further His work and His will for a future kingdom by suffering hardships, loss and pain. Does He know these plans as well? Yes. And yes, there is hope in that. But we must be careful not to ignore the context of a passage when we simply scripture-grab for our own personal peace of mind. One apologist goes so far as to say, “Never read a bible verse!”

In this way he emphasizes the importance of getting context with your statements, and of not imparting historic descriptive passages with prescriptive powers upon our lives.

You can see the error of this method much more clearly if we approach it from a different angle. For example, your friend or loved one approaches, and says, “man, I am having such a rough time. I am so anxious, and depressed lately, I just need to seek God.”

And you respond, “Hey, just remember, friend, Jeremiah 6:11-12 says to us, ‘Therefore I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the Lord.'”

Hang that on your wall! Thought you were feeling bad before? How about applying this verse randomly to your situation?

You can see the point here. We cannot just pluck and plug things that make us feel better. God was using His prophet to speak with the elders at that time. It is historical, and instructive, and does teach us about the Israeli nation, and further bolsters our understanding about the line of redemption and His good works. But again, unless Nebuchadnezzar took you into exile 2600 years ago, and you are a surviving elder of this time period, you cannot simply apply this to your life. It may feel good, but as stated many times in these articles, we aren’t Christians because it is easy, or because of an emotional payoff. We are Christian, simply because it is true.

There is a great and bloody history in the bible. The thin red line of the redemption of Jesus Christ is fraught with many a fallen person, doing many unspeakable things. There is murder, rape, incest, war, prostitution, theft, idol worship. These are there for us to learn truth. These are not prescriptions on how to live.

Did I ruin your favorite verse?

Let us respect these verses in context.

Christians are Hypocrites

“I don’t go to church, because Christians are nothing but hypocrites!”

This charge is often levied against churches, or the people who attend them.

“I know a guy/girl who goes to church, and acts Christian, but they did this, or that.” “I talked to this pastor, and he was a jerk.” “At least I’m real and true to who I am, Christians pretend like they are perfect or righteous.”

Let’s cut past all the subterfuge and subtlety. Are Christians hypocrites? Yes. Every single one. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. By definition, Christians have moral beliefs, set forth by God’s word, to which we desire to adhere. But every single Christian fails in this task. Every single one falls short, and I dare say this happens daily in the heart and minds of each, if not in actions.

Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The moment this expectation, demanded by a holy God (for what else could infinite perfection demand), has failed to come to fruition, even in the smallest of ways, we have by definition become hypocrites and in fact, lawbreakers. We have failed to live up to a moral standard we accept as right.

But let us consider an atheist, who by definition, has a subjective moral code, derived from either ones own opinion, from popular opinion, or from the opinion of those who are in charge and can force a citizenry to exercise a particular behavior. In these instances, a moral code also exists, albeit one that is not handed down from a perfect creator, but is instead decided upon by mankind. If we reflect on the results of these subjective moral laws, depending on the flexible moral code of a given society, then two results  can generally be expected:

  1. If you live in a morally stringent society with heavily girded laws, as a citizen subject to these agreed upon codes, any violation of these codes renders you a hypocrite, and a law breaker, i.e. anyone who disagrees with Sharia.
  2. If you live in a morally relativistic society, defined by anarchy, nihilism, or lawlessness, or if you have determined within your own subjective mind that your behavior should fit no moral code (i.e. sociopath, or in religion – New Ageism), then you have absolved yourself from consequence to escape guilt. Anything goes.

Number 2 is extreme, and approaches mental disorder, however the reality in everyday life is a combination of the two. Often one who wishes for the freedom to be flexible in beliefs finds themselves to be militaristic towards anyone who holds to an opposite view, like during an abortion or transgenderism conversation, thereby pitting one set of subjective beliefs against another, if there is indeed no standard, and neither of which has more merit.

The reality is, therefore, to escape being a hypocrite against whichever moral code you reside under,

you must either operate perfectly within that framework – nigh impossible, or

you must adopt a framework with a moral bar set so low that you can’t help but live up to its standard, and then defend it militantly to escape any shame and guilt associated with those behaviors, or

you must constantly be ‘moving the goal posts’ within an ever changing set of standards, which is by definition, not a standard at all.

With careful, logical scrutiny, one could conclude that every acceptable moral set of beliefs would inherently have as its members nothing but hypocrites, all of whom are constantly trying, and re-trying, to live up to the expectations they believe in. As it is with every pursuit in life, from sports, to education, to religion, to parenting, human experiences are riddled with failures, and shortfalls. We strive for excellence in these pursuits, though we may never achieve perfection, and in so doing we work to better ourselves. It is the same with our walk in Christ, and for this walk we use the word sanctification, a lifelong and constant goal. The alternative, in Christianity, as well as sports/parenting/education, is to set the standard so low, that you feel validated by sub-par character and performance. This is no way to enrich a life, or the lives of those around you.

The result of this constant falling short is accepting the reality of hypocrisy. This is why Christians should gather in churches, as it is a place not only for worshiping the one person who set up the holiest standard possible, and then lived up to it, but also to surround yourselves with those who cannot, and are there to love and support each other. This is the essence of the body of Christ. Those who recognize that despite all human effort, they are in need of grace and mercy from a holy Creator.

Let me save you the trouble of pointing it out. You will not find perfect Christians in church. Christians struggle with anger, alcohol, sexual immorality, hate, depression, gossip – oh Lord the gossip, among a myriad of other sins. Yes we hide them, yes we don’t like to announce our struggles and shames from the mountain tops, and yes we pray for forgiveness constantly for not being as good as we can be. But there is peace and joy in Christ, in grace, and in knowing that we can let go of all of our missteps and focus the next day on how to love better. And despite these struggles, there is a concerted effort (or should be in a healthy church group) to do good works, to support others, and to be generous with the gifts that we do have.

If you are a non-believer that has had an unpleasant experience with a Christian, please realize that this person is struggling daily to do what is right, or may be going through his or her own temptations or trials, just like you. To dismiss thousands of years and mounds of evidence of revelation from God, to dismiss all His good works to bring about a savior, and our relationship with Him, and to dismiss the reality of eternal life with that Creator, because you interacted with someone who fell short in their walk is to dismiss the very reason we need Jesus Christ. In fact, as an unbeliever, are you not claiming to have a problem with a belief to which you do not conform? Is that not hypocrisy?

So if someone finally reaches the conclusion that he or she has fallen short of God’s perfect moral standard, that they are ready to admit that they are a hypocrite in their own right, based on the moral law written on their heart, then they can safely come to a church of believers. They are in good company, a place full of hypocrites, who all have fallen short, and all wish to experience freedom from their sins. If I see you there, I will do my best to lift you up, and do life with you. But I am a hypocrite too, so I may fail, and need forgiveness from time to time.

 

Supposed Final Words of Steve Jobs

Widely reported as the last words of Steve Jobs, though inspired and interesting, is most likely a false deathbed speech. We can easily imagine thoughts such as this passing through our minds at the end. Though most likely not genuine, it is interesting to consider them, and how they reflect our hopes for our lives:
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world’s most expensive bed? The hospital bed.
You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.
Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.”

I have never personally faced a life threatening illness. But I have had my life threatened, as well as watched the life of a loved one deteriorate. I have watched helplessly at a bedside, when the only power I had was to pray to God. And the only hope that I had in my heart was that if that loved one passes from this world to the next, I will get to see them again, and stand with them before a God who saved us both through His mercy and grace.

These final words go far, and they are serious, and wise, but do they go far enough? The author mentions God, but if there is one and only one infinite God, He alone is to be sought. And if that God has declared the one door to Him is through His son, Jesus Christ, then I would lovingly declare this statement does not go far enough by any stretch of the imagination. An atheist who lived out Steve’s advice would die with memories, and still with no hope. And those who remembered them, would also perish, and so the love that had been attained in a lifetime of wholesome philosophy would be lost to history. This alone is not the answer. That is why I often repeat my favorite verse in these articles, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

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

This may seem narrow-minded to some, or dogmatic, and I assure you it is, unless it is the truth.43dc6e87710d1c4d4f780482f310a7df If it is the truth, if God entered His creation to die for our sins, and that sacrifice resulted in the legal and moral substitution for a judgement we deserve, then it would indeed be the only way, and the truest act of love. The author mentions God, and speaks of the importance of love in this life. True words, sir, and a very fine philosophy for living. Yet those with money, and those with loving memories both still stand to lose all if they do not address the truth of salvation.

The bible is not ambiguous on this point. There isn’t one way for Christians, one for Muslims, one for Buddhists, and another path for New Agers. There is one door, which is why Christ Himself includes that He is the truth, as well. It is a warning, given in love, and providing hope for all, for all are fallen, and all face death. To Mr. Steve Jobs, I say, boldly and beautifully said, a sad and grave wake up call against the things that drive us. But, I also say, your love and memories cannot save you. Living for a fallen version of love will still leave you wishing and hoping in a hospital bed. There is only one door. Though it is now, more unpopular than ever to state, and offends many, we cannot be so timid as Christians that we cannot claim the truth, and that is that Jesus Christ is our door to salvation. It is said that this speech, despite its lack of authenticity, has inspired many. But we must ask, does talk like this truly help? or does it give a false sense of meaning, and therefore provide a complacency more dangerous than the position of men who admit they are evil. Change is only possible when one realizes it is necessary.

 

The Feelings That Drive Us

In studying forgiveness this week, we delved in to Luke 17:

3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you,[b] saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

The interesting thing about forgiveness is that here Christ commands it, as a duty, which is especially noteworthy in a society that cultivates self-gratification, the fulfilling of emotional desire, and the alleviation of consequence from duty or action. The pleas for help against the strength of emotion are not merely a product of today, but of the weaknesses of all mankind, and is illustrated here by the apostles themselves, when they ask Jesus for increased faith. They wish for a greater faith to overcome the emotions set against forgiving others. It is as if they are saying, “no one can forgive someone over and over on their own!”

Jesus’ response? It is your duty. Don’t hem and haw and finally decide to forgive, so that you may then turn around and ask for praise and adulation for simply doing what is commanded. If you follow me, if you love me, then you will forgive, because that is what I have done for you. It is your duty.

Society will absolve guilt and duty with phrases and mantras such as:

“You shouldn’t have to apologize for your feelings,”

“We can’t control our emotions,”

or even

“We should allow for our feelings to guide us in our decisions.”

I admittedly am an emotional person, given to highs and lows, and do struggle with the discipline of not letting un-caged emotion drive my decisions. However, we must remember that we are Christians because it is true, and there is hope in truth. Yes it is emotional, but God has also provided a great many evidences, not the least of which is the reality of a resurrected messiah.

John MacArthur has said, “Pertaining to the bible, its prophecies are fulfilled. Its miracles are true and attested to. It is scientifically flawless and accurate. Its history and archaeology are verifiable to the smallest detail.”

He goes on to assert, “The basic task of the church is to teach sound doctrine. It is not to give one pastor’s opinion, to recite tear-jerking illustrations that play on emotions, to raise funds, to present programs and entertainment, or to give weekly devotionals.”

When it comes to forgiveness, it is described as a duty that should supersede emotional qualms. This also implies that forgiveness is not waiting on the emotion to join the intent, but instead is action taken despite emotion. But what action?

Forgiveness is simply releasing the right for revenge. The action of not disparaging a person who sins against you. To not gossip about them. To even speak well of them. To not seek or hope for their demise, or punishment, or just desserts. These are actions. These can rise above emotion.

Put another way, the act of forgiveness can be carried out as a duty until the emotions match the actions. If however, we wait on the emotion, the weakness of our flesh, to entice us to follow God’s command, would it ever happen?

Another instance of an emotionally driven construct of today is the transgenderism issue, a delicate one, and one that not only defies God’s will for us based on emotion, but also defies very real and understandable science and genetics. Scientifically stated, there is no such thing as transgenderism. It is  a construct of our society. We see similar psychological disorders with anorexia and the like, a person who perceives reality and the biology of their body differently than what is real. Consider this denial in who you are, this rebellion against how you were made, total denial in the identity of yourself. This is akin to suicide, the end of your life as what you were designed to be. Couple that with the mutilation of one’s body to fulfill the emotional desire to not be oneself, and you have not only physically harmed the body, but have harmed chances of a marriage, of having your children with a spouse, to connect with people of the same and opposite sexes on a meaningful level in many ways. This is why those in the transgender world are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than other people groups. A group forever forced to adopt the persona of what they are not.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, is the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, and is the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles. He states that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.

“This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken – it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.” Regarding his willingness to reassign gender through surgery, he said this: “And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”

We could go on and on with this subject, discussing an “everything is normal sex education”, child abuse, etc. But the point here and of this article is, we must be aware that truth and morality are objective things. They are verifiable things, and therefore, we must make a choice not to fall into the tempting pattern of blaming and cultivating emotions not anchored to truth, in order to absolve ourselves from reality.

Especially with the support of society, it can be easy to simply blame emotion for all of the situations we find ourselves in, but those not squarely rooted in God’s will tend to leave people in tumult, whether it be in anger, or anxiety, or depression. As we mature in Christ, it should become clearer that the discipline of our actions define who we are. Galatians lists fruits of the spirit in chapter 5, one of which is self-control. Ephesians 4:14 says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” We must ask ourselves, when society plays on feelings and emotions to convince us that reality is false, do we consult the word for truth, or succumb to the continued and pervasive relativity of popular opinion and PC pressure. If we allow our emotions to be victorious over reason, what do we gain? What do we lose?

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